2 Illumination 508
Today we met another traveler, a human wizard by the name of Syward of Olvir. He is a kindly man and was able to help Azuredee identify some of the objects we found in the kobold lair back in Falcon’s Hollow. The crown that we took off the self-described “kobold king” is especially valuable and powerful. We were also able to identify some of the scrolls that Azuredee had found in the course of our journeys. He suggested that we speak to a magical item procurer in Ebongate to unload the items.
Syward will be accompanying us to Ebongate. He seems a companionable sort, friendly and easy to speak with.
5 Illumination 508
Today, my cousin, Istvan, and I were reminded of our mortality. We came upon a small cairn built in the wilderness with the name “Fenlo” crudely etched into one of the stones. I do not know who this “Fenlo” was, only that he has a living friend who carries his memory. My hope would be that the same could be said for all of us.
7 Illumination 508
This evening, we took shelter in a narrow cave—but not before displacing its previous occupants. A swarm of bats attacked us as we explored the stone crevice. Fortunately, it did not take long to disperse them.
We are only about a day outside of Ebongate. We can see the walls on the horizon.
8 Illumination 508
Today we arrived in Ebongate, capital of Borael. We actually entered the city through the namesake gate. The tall, obsidian edifice gleamed in the sunlight, a majestic example of dwarven ingenuity.
We have taken rooms in an inn called “The Ruddy Wolf”, a modest inn near the gate. The proprietress, Lew Coinspinner, is a loquacious sort but amiable. She has hired Azuredee and Istvan to entertain for the evening.
Speaking of loquacious, we have met probably the most talkative being I have ever encountered. His name is Jonstan Longstaff. The halfling is a traveling angler, attempting to fish all the major waterways of the known world. He is slowly making his way to Kalimsport to attempt fishing in the ocean. He is willing to talk about his travels, the weather, the condition of his boots, his amber “lucky charm”—anything that springs to mind and then some. It would be comical were it not so frustrating. Nevertheless, he is quite harmless.
9 Illumination 508
This has been a day filled with strange adventures and deep sadness.
We began the day with a mystery. The halfling that we had spent time with the previous evening, Jonstan, was missing. Mistress Coinspinner was concerned that something bad had happened to him. He was missing but his fishing pole was left behind—unusual for the passionate angler. Further, she allowed my cousin and I to search his room. We found his amber “lucky charm”, discarded beneath his bed. Something had happened to the halfling. We determined to find out what.
We asked around to see if anyone had seen or heard anything. A ruckus was heard the previous night, but someone heard the halfling complain that his room “reeked”. Another bar patron said that they saw two men leading the apparently drunk halfling out of the common room and that, from the smell, he had apparently shat himself. When Jonstan sat with us, he drank nothing stronger than watered wine.
Then we hit the streets, trying to see if anyone had seen two men leading a halfling about the previous night. Fortune favored us—they were seen, and moreover, the two men were recognized as Tam and Davit. It was said that they would do anything for a penny and that they frequented a dive tavern called “The Shattered Barrel”.
We made our way to the tavern to find Davit and Tam. Sure enough, they were inside drinking. They bolted as soon as they saw us. We gave chase as they fled through a backdoor and scaled the building to the rooftop. From there we followed them across the rooftops of the city, and were fortunate once again in that they took a wrong turn and descended from the roofs into a dead-end alley. There we engaged in a brief fight that ended in their surrender.
Whoever their employer was, they were deathly afraid of him, even if they didn’t know him. According to the two reprobates, they were hired to bring a “patsy” to a particular sewer grate near the wharves. That’s where they dropped Jonstan off last night.
Not knowing what his kidnappers had in store for him, we decided to let these petty criminals go and pursue Jonstan as quickly as we could. It pained me to do it, but we had only the halfling’s best interests in mind. With that in mind, we headed for the indicated sewer grate.
Deep beneath the city we encountered several strange creatures, including another of those strange gelatinous cubes that we fought in the dwarven monastery back at Falcon’s Hollow. Among those creatures was a strange, multi-headed beast whose wounds would heal as we fought it. It was hideous, it was foul—and it was deadly.
The creature slew our friend Istvan.
Pressing on, wanting to prevent another death, we made our way further into the sewers, carrying our companion’s body. As we searched out the tunnels, we happened onto a strange sight. Someone had built a sanctuary deep below the city. Its pillars bore carvings depicting mockeries of the forms of humans and demi-humans. Their features were stretched or compressed far out of proportion and were posed in bizarre attitudes—some could even be considered erotic if they were not so monstrous. The floor was covered in grime, ooze, and slime. The smell was atrocious—a mixture of sewer reek, bowel, and the sweet odor of incense. As we made our way slowly into the huge room, we passed grotesque statues of various demons. The sound of low chanting echoed off of the high ceiling. Ahead we saw close to a dozen figures, swaying in time to their moaning. At the head of the room, surrounding an altar on which a bound dwarf struggled, were three figures, their features hidden by grotesque masks. Before we could react, one of the figures plunged a knife into the dwarf’s chest.
With a battle cry, I charged into the room and started attacking the cultists. Azuredee charged with me and the melee ensued. Despite their greater number, the two of us managed to dispatch the cultists, even as the three at the head of room hurled spells at us that caused our blood to run cold with fear and confusion. Having defeated their followers, we charged the three priests. One cast an obscuring mist throughout the area and attempted to make an escape. One of his fellows, a female by the sound of her voice, announced that the caster would “not betray the master” and apparently slew the man under the cover of the fog. Despite the fog, we rushed the third priest and defeated him quickly. The woman disappeared in the mist.
Once the fog cleared, checked to see if the dwarf could be saved—he could not. He was dead. We also found a secret door beneath the altar. We ventured down into a stone corridor. Along the way, we found a secret side panel that lead back into the sewers. We reasoned that the last cultist probably escaped through there. Continuing down the corridor, we came to a locked door. We retrieved a key off of the dead cultist in the sanctuary and returned to the locked door. Beyond it, we found a series of cells and locked door. Within one of the cells was the missing halfling. He was frightened nearly to silence (nearly), but otherwise alright. We freed him and checked the locked door. It lead down another corridor and into an alcove that bore wall paintings of grotesque designs and another altar. We gathered up the halfling, made our way back into the terrible sanctuary, gathered Istvan’s body, and got out of the sewers as fast as we could.
Once we got out of that terrible place, we sought out the city watch. We told our story to a Captain Lorna Reddirk, who identified the cultists as those who follow The Nazul. We gave her directions to the sewers and the underground sanctuary; she assured us that guardsmen would be sent to check out our tale. We let her know that we were staying at the Ruddy Wolf.
Once we made our way back to inn, Mistress Coinspinner was kind enough to allow us to place the body of our friend back in his room until arrangements could be made. Then my cousin and went to our separate rooms to mourn and to rest.
10 Illumination 508
Captain Reddirk has just left. She visited us at the inn soon after the priests of Sadum came and collected Istvan’s body. The Captain reported that her guardsmen found the sanctuary we reported, as well as the bodies of the cultists we encountered. It turns out that the man murdered by his compatriot was Magnus Steen, a city magistrate. The survivors of the fight were gathered up by the watch and will be charged with kidnapping, murder, and the practice of illegal religions. The captain thanked us on behalf of the city for routing out the cult and made her exit.
Tomorrow we will re-provision and take our leave of Ebongate, heading for Jora. But, tonight, we celebrate the life of our friend. And mourn his untimely demise.
12 Illumination 508
One step forward, two steps back, the old saying goes…
A few hours after we left Ebongate, we happened upon a traveler whose cart had lost a wheel. This farmer, Balon Midarian, was traveling to sell his wares in the market in Ebongate when he had his mishap. We took escorted him back to Ebongate where he secured the services of a cartwright, who accompanied us back to the man’s overturned cart. All this occurred, of course, during a steady downpour.
We are now back on track and heading south. We have come across a shrine to the god Azumazran, which we left in peace.
14 Illumination 508
The springtime weather here in Yulania doesn’t seem to let up. Both Azuredee and I are soaked to the skin.
We met another traveler today, a merchant by the name of Dina Gregarian. She is traveling to Jora as well, though her journey is a return to that city. A fiercely independent soul, I think the scrappy merchant may have made a good cavalier, if she was so inclined.
16 Illumination 508
The weather has taken a turn for the worse and has slowed us down considerably. Thankfully, Dina allowed us all to take shelter from the storm and hail beneath her cart.
Dina describes the city of Jora as a wonderful place, though a place on which one must be on their guard. Sounds a lot like the streets of Khazak-Ur to me.
18 Illumination 508
It is still raining. By the gods, if I don’t see the sun soon I may go mad.
Today we met another traveler who has joined our entourage. This one is a man, a paladin of the god Azumartuk called Kaspar Dingarian. He is handsome, in his own way, and very disciplined. I’m surprised my cousin hasn’t pursued him, but perhaps the disciplined man isn’t her type. I certainly won’t give up my dignity by throwing myself at him—but I have to admit a certain amount of curiosity about the man.
Tomorrow, we should arrive in Jora. I look forward to spending the night in an inn as opposed to the wet and the mud.
19 Illumination 508
Jora is indeed, a wondrous site, made the more so by the sunshine that has finally graced the sky.
It is a noisy place to be sure. Merchants and other sorts constantly hawk their wares and other services. The streets are crowded with people and I think, along with Tradespeak, I’ve probably heard about five different languages being spoken. The Kuskar are a lively people, though I should have known with the passionate Istvan as an example.
In the northern distance we can see the Jorani Mountains. Though more compact that the majestic peaks of Hadurk-Sur, they are a beauty to behold.
We took our leave of Dina and Kaspar and have taken rooms at The Bottle and the Sword. My cousin had planned to make arrangements with the proprietor to perform for a discount on the room, but has found that they already have a bard in residence here, a man named Tavid Zygorvan. By all accounts, the man only knows three songs and is a terrible bard, but the innkeep doesn’t have the heart to run the man out. Azuredee attempted to collaborate with him somehow—much in the manner that she and the late Istvan would do as we traveled. But he would have none of it. I suspect he feels threatened by the presence of another, and probably better, bard.
20 Illumination 508
Today we met with a scholar by the name of Zsofia Zandervan. Mistress Zandervan was an eccentric sort with wild, curly hair and a disorganized air. Nevertheless, she seemed confident that she could help us discover what was meant by the cryptic message left in the key chamber back in Khazak-Ur.
She already knew of a village by the name of Dukane. It lies in the mountains north of Jora, maybe a day or more’s ride away. She was not aware of any associations with Ambrose Merrywick or Dhakranism, however. For that, she would need to conduct some research.
We will be staying the next few days here in Jora until Mistress Zandervan can give us more information.
23 Illumination 508
Today we received a message from Mistress Zandervan that she had uncovered more information for us.
It turns out that there is a an ancient Shandorian monastery near Dukane Village. By all accounts, the place is cursed and is no longer operational. Apparently Ambrose Merrywick would use monastery as a haven between adventures. Many years after the halfling’s death, the last head of the monastery, a man called Ishvara, grew to have a love of gold more than enlightenment.
During his tenure as head of Dukane Monastery, the city of Jora was in turmoil and on the brink of revolution. The Voivode turned to Dukane for help, hoping that their monks would supplement his soldiers and bring peace back to the city. Ishvara took the Voivode’s gold—-but sent no monks. The Voivode grew angry but could not send troops against Dukane, high up in the mountains, and maintain order in the city. Ishvara knew this and feared no reprimand.
Other monks advised Ishvara against this course, that the Eight Fold Path speaks against false intention. But Ishvara wanted only gold and the power that came with it. He enjoyed his hold over Voivode and would not be persuaded.
The Voivode did as all men do who have nowhere else to turn-—he turned to the gods for help. And The Three Who Are One answered. It cursed the peaceful temple of Dukane for its duplicity, casting it away from the light and toward the shadow. Ishvara was transformed into a being as greedy for life as he had been greedy for gold. The monks, who did nothing to stop Ishvara, were transformed as well, payment for their incapability—or unwillingness—to bend their master’s ear.
Since that time, the monastery has been known only as a place of death. Adventurers have ventured there in search for the treasure of Ishvara, but none have been successful in finding it. The nearby village that shares a name with the cursed place warns travelers away from the dusty halls of Dukane—-only death and shadows can be found there.
With this ominous story in mind, we plan to leave for Dukane Village tomorrow.
25 Illumination 508
The Jorani Mountains both beautiful and treacherous.
We have been traveling up a narrow pass toward the village of Dukane. This morning, as we traversed, we were assailed by a manticore. Fortunately for us, it had already expended its famous tail spikes and was already injured in some previous fight. The beast was dispatched, but not before it managed to bite both myself and my cousin.
Now it is evening and we have finally arrived in the tiny village. There was literally only one inn, the Jade Dragon, run by a man named Xander. Azuredee has been making eyes at him since we arrived.
We’ve been warned away from the monastery but are determined to see our quest to the bitter end. Not only because we hope to see this perfect lute, but for the sake of our fallen companion. It lies just outside of town. We aim to enter it in the morning.
27 Illumination 508
It has been an eventful two days since we arrived in Dukane Village.
Yesterday morning we ventured down the pass that lead to the monastery. The pass had not been used in many years and was not well-worn. As we approached, we could see the outlines of buildings emerging from a rocky valley. We did not know what we would meet in this place, reputed to be cursed, but our determination kept us moving forward.
We finally arrived at an entry into the monastery complex. Two wide pathways emerged on each side of three large garden spaces. The plants had long since died and withered, leaving only grey husks in place of vines and blooms. Sitting side by side in front of the center square were two stylized statues of dogs, each nearly identical to the other, and standing approximately three feet high at the shoulder. The dogs’ faces were eerily human and their eyes glowed with a soft blue light.
Then the beasts spoke! One warned us that the monastery was cursed and to turn back. Another asked us our purpose. Azuredee, being the better speaker of the two of us, strode forward and addressed the statues. She told them that she was but a humble bard and that we were on a quest for our late companion. Upon hearing that, one of the statues said, “Then you come for a different purpose that claiming Ishvara’s treasure…if you break his curse, then we will help you in your quest.” We asserted that if we could break the curse, which was apparently done by finding and defeating whatever Ishvara had become, we would.
The monastery complex was made up of a series of low long buildings, some up to three stories in height. At its center was a large round sparring ring. Here we the skeletal remains of some of the monks, which sprang to life and attacked us. We managed to fight them off and they returned to the death to which they had earned.
Inside the buildings, we encountered a series of shadowy beings that sucked the life from us as we fought. Only my magical axe was able to effectively defeat the creatures. Still, no sign of this Ishvara or his treasure, only these shadowy remnants of his monks. The only treasure that we found was a hideous dagger that Azuredee found in the attic of what appeared to be a library. The blade was small and the handle designed with a grotesque, slightly reptilian, motif.
We searched each and every building of the complex, encountering more of those shadowy forms, and found nothing. No sign Ishvara or of Merrywick’s key.
We then decided to rest, as the shadows had sapped a lot of our energy. Determined to find what we had sought, we searched the buildings again. This time, Azuredee found a secret door inside the library that held a staircase leading down.
This staircase lead to a small, square room and a door. The door lead to a curved, descending hallway. There was a door further down the hall, though it continued to curve and descend and ended at a second door. We ventured into the first door and found a short corridor. The walls of the corridor bore carvings similar to the two dog statues we found outside the monastery grounds. The corridor was trapped, through Azuredee managed to find the trigger. It ended in another door which opened into a large circular room. At its center was a pedestal on which sat an ancient tome. It was large and heavy, written in a text that neither of us understood. Its heavy wooden cover bore the symbol of a ring of interlocking dragons. Beside the pedestal, on a table, were a series of magical scrolls, which neither my cousin nor I could decipher. We took the book and the scrolls and ventured further down the curving, descending corridor.
We entered the final door, which opened into a short corridor, similar to the other we had already explored. Azuredee found another trap down the corridor, which ended in another door. This opened into a large, round chamber—similar to the one in which we had found the tome and the scrolls. This one contained a chest, a masterwork suit of full-plate armor in the Acheran style (complete with mesh veil), a masterwork quarterstaff (etched with dragons), and a potion. As we approached these treasures, a wraith emerged from the shadows and attacked. It looked like a shadowy man with glowing blue eyes. Its face was frozen in a hideous expression of hatred. Its touch drained us of life, like its shadowy brethren, but it was grasp was much colder. Its unnaturalness sent shivers down my spine—but I persevered and fought on. Finally, it fell to my blade. Was this what became of Ishvara, trapped with his treasure and seeking the life-force of others? We didn’t know.
We gathered what we could of the treasure and made our way out of the secret compartments. Outside we were met by the dog-like creatures that guarded the entryway into the monastery. We had defeated the ancient monk and freed the monastery of its curse. They were apparently no longer bound as statues to the front of the complex. As promised, the creatures proceeded to aid us in finding what we sought—Merrywick’s key to Anglorion.
The creatures lead us toward the back of the complex where a long-empty pool sat. At the center of the pool was a metal panel. There were no handles, latches, or other indications of how to move the panel. The creatures then told Azuredee to play, to play at her best, and that, in this way, would we find what we sought. So my cousin unslung her harp and played a beautiful tune, one of the best I’ve heard her play. Sure enough, the panel rose, revealing a metal box in which one person could step inside. The two of us embraced and she entered the box. Then, it descended back into the chambers from whence it came.
I waited for what seemed like an eternity for my cousin to return. I wish I could say I waited patiently, but I paced what I feared would become a trench around that pool. Finally, the metal box rose from below and my cousin, tired but otherwise unharmed, emerged. With her, she brought another single pitch pipe and ancient bit of parchment bearing the following message:
I hope you’ll forgive me that my note doesn’t rhyme—I never much had the ear for it, really. If you’re here, then you will have already made it through Kargan’s Run. Congratulations! You are half-way there. Perhaps we have found a worthy successor to our bardic friend yet. Now, I bet you are wondering where the next pieces of the key are. Well, wait no more. The next piece can be found Skraelaterix’s lair. You’ll need more than bardic prowess, I’m afraid. Good fortune to you and perhaps we will meet sometime when the wine is sweet and wind is fair. —Ambrose Merrywick
We had our next piece of the key, such as it was. And more mysteries to solve to boot. As the day was already on the wane, we decided to camp inside the monastery and make our way back to the village in the morning.
Azuredee described her time inside the key chambers. This set of travails was definitely designed with a bard in mind. I would have been of little use, even if I could have fit inside the strange metal box to descend with her.
First, the box descended into a small, square room with a door. On the door was a sheet of bronze etched with musical notes. Letting her instincts lead her, she set up learning and memorizing the tune. She then entered the next room.
The door shut behind her. At the other end of a long corridor, another door stood. Suddenly, she found herself being buffeted by intense winds. On a hunch, she began playing the tune from the previous door. The door at the other end of the corridor began to open. She fought her way down the corridor, trying to play the tune while being beat about by the wind, until she finally made it through the door. Once she passed through the door, it shut tight behind her.
She now found herself in a room filled with various axes, bludgeons, and blades affixed to a series of stands and pivots. She could see, at the other end of the room past all of the hurtful implements, a lever. Posted on the wall by the door through which she entered was another sheet of bronze etched with musical notation. Then the various blades and bludgeons began to pivot and twirl! She noticed right away that they moved to a certain rhythm—the rhythm of the tune presented to her. She used that make her way carefully through the room, dancing with the various implements, until she made it to the other side. Once there, she pulled the lever, which ended the dance and opened the door through which she entered. A panel opened in the wall revealing the pitch pipe and note. These she took; then she walked back down the corridors to the strange metal box and returned.
We are now back at the Jade Dragon and we have announced to all that will listen that the curse of the monastery has been lifted. Xander gave us free drinks as a reward for our heroism. It is a good night—I have a fine ale and Azuredee is making eyes at Xander. Tomorrow we will leave for Jora, but tonight we will each celebrate in our own way.
29 Illumination 508
We now find ourselves back in the city of Jora, despite the machinations of a certain pair of goblins who attacked us in the night.
The two sneaks entered our camp as Azuredee stood watch. She was able to wake me up as she was being attacked and, together, we managed to slay the beasts. There is no doubt that they would have robbed us and left us with our throats slit, otherwise.
We decided to take up residence in a different inn this time, as Tavid Zygorvan had staked his claim on The Bottle and the Sword. We are now in the Goat and Goblin. Tonight, they are hosting a band of traveling folk from Yulania who play music. They are very good, and, despite her disappointment at not getting to play, Azuredee is enjoying them as well. They will be moving on tomorrow and Azuredee has the word of the proprietor that she will be the next entertainer to grace their common room.
We plan on spending at least a few more days here. We are awaiting word from Mistress Zandervan on this “Scraelaterix” that Merrywick’s note spoke of. Further, we are cashing in some of the goods that we have collected as treasure and are turning some of our excess coin to jewels. Azuredee is also thinking of purchasing an enchanted weapon to aid her in our adventuring. I think this is a wise move on her part.
30 Illumination 508
Today we met a purveyor of magical goods by the name of Andreas Gyorgivan. He is a half-elf and very handsome. He has even turned my head a bit—you can imagine how Azuredee is behaving. He is a shrewd businessman and runs a tight shop. He has two half-orc body guards by the names of Dansk and Kord who help him keep an eye on his customers. Probably for the best as his shop is full of tempting wonders. He and my cousin are negotiating the price of a certain sword based on the trade value of the crown we have acquired and the magic scrolls. Of course, we have no idea of the value of the scrolls, but I feel that we can trust Andreas. At the very least, we have little choice but to do so.
We also met with a Shandorian monk called Master Jafir. There is a small monastery here and they were quite pleased to here that Dukane Monastery was free of its curse. They were also pleased to have that large tome returned to them. Apparently it is chock full of various martial arts techniques that have been lost since the day of Ishvara.
Tonight, my cousin entertains at the Goat and Goblin. I am looking forward to her putting our exploits to song. I envy her talent, at times. She can put together works of beauty while all of my skills lean toward violence. Nevertheless, they are what I need to fulfill my mission to protect and for that I am proud.
Journal Entries for Ardor 508