20 Awakening 508
I, Alys Mournbow, Knight of the Shield, begin this journal of travels with the understanding that I am a woman of few words. I seldom have time for idle talk, much less words to spare to place on paper. However, my dear cousin (Azuredee Silverthistle) assures me that words are important, and so are our stories, so I will do what I can to record my deeds and the sights seen on my journey.
Today we arrive in the town of Falcon’s Hollow. It is a small village near the Hadurk River, nestled into Darkmoon Vale. My hope is that all that awaits us here is a good night’s rest after a decent ale. The lines of people waiting outside the herbalist’s shop tell me otherwise…
21 Awakening 508
This morning, Azuredee and I left Falcon’s Hollow for Darkmoon Vale. We have been commissioned by the local herbalist, a woman called Laurel, to go into the Vale to retrieve three ingredients in hopes of fighting a malady known as “blackscour taint”. This taint has apparently infected many in the town, an infection that eventually leads to death. We are to retrieve a root called “rat’s tail”, supposedly located in the shack belonging to an ancient witch; some elderwood moss from the oldest tree in the Vale; and some ironbloom mushrooms, a dwarven delicacy. Laurel believes that about thirty more people could die before the plague runs its course.
We were directed to go visit a ranger in the nearby logging camp by the name of Milon Rhodam. If anyone can direct them to the elderwood moss, it would be him. This morning we visited the taciturn ranger at the logging camp. It turns out that his nephew has been infected by the blackscour taint. He was willing to help us in any way that we could. He provided a rudimentary map to the oldest tree in the Vale. He was also able to point out Ulzimilla’s hut, the home of the crone that supposedly has the rat’s tail. Finally, he told us of an ancient dwarven monastery, abandoned, that may have the ironbloom mushrooms we need.
We then continued our journey deeper into the Vale. We hoped to get as far as the river tributary that dominates the region. Our journey was interrupted by an ambush by a hobgoblin. He was using a fox-like creature that Azuredee called a “firefoot fennec” as bait. It was trapped by a cruel trap and as Azuredee and I approached, the hobgoblin attacked with a bow from the trees. I managed to chase the foul creature off and we saved the fennec—which has now taken to following my cousin about.
We are now camping on the tributary, tired after a long day. Tomorrow we will venture to the oldest tree in the Vale and then to the crone’s hut.
22 Awakening 508
This has been a long and trying day…
We arrived at the tree in question after crossing the river tributary. The tree was several times taller than a temple minaret. Its roots were thicker than a man’s waist. This was truly the largest and oldest darkwood tree that I have ever seen. As we approached to collect the eldermoss, Azuredee thought she saw some metallic reflections high up in the boughs. Cautiously, we approached the great tree. Suddenly, a reptilian head sprang from deep within the branches, striking at us. We managed to finally dispatch the beast, but at great physical cost to both my cousin and myself. Finally we collected the eldermoss and climb up into the tree. It turns out that the metallic reflections that Azuredee saw was the equipment of the small wyrm’s previous victims.
We continued through the thick forest of the Vale toward the crone’s hut. Following the directions given to us from Rhodam, we came upon the meanest, ugliest little shack in the middle of this forest. It sat in an almost circular glade—all of the trees bent backwards to avoid the hut. The cottage itself was little more than a pile of twigs and roots with mud walls. From the thatched roof dangled bundles of gnarled roots, old dried beast carcasses, and knucklebone bangles, all clattering together like gruesome wind chimes. In the yard stood wooden fetishes in the shape of men, imps, and serpents, as if keeping guard over the wooden plank door.
We cautiously approached, calling out to Ulizmilla as we came. No one answered. I knocked on the door, which fell into the shack with a boom. Going in, our senses were assaulted by the smell of rot and the movement of shadows. Shelves lined the walls, covered in all manner of clay jugs, clouded bottles, strangely-cut rocks, rotted branches of herbs, and a museum’s worth of crude curios. A rusted iron cauldron dominated the room. It’s surface was shaped with a relief of capering fiends and leering devils. Across from the door, against the far wall, stood a high-backed chair made of wicker, the gigantic curved tusks of some monstrous beast, and thousands of human teeth. In the chair sat what looked like a corpse wrapped in filthy burial linens, its form padded with pungent herbs an sprouting patches of thick white mold.
As we entered the shack, my cousin used her arcane abilities to find magical auras, detecting something from the chair and from the cauldron. As we began to search the shelves for the rat tail, Azurdee cried out as she was swallowed by the now-animated cauldron. I hacked and struck at the thing, eventually forcing it to disgorge my cousin. After ensuring that she was alright, we continued searching, finding the root and a strange medallion as well. Azuredee insisted that the hideous thing was magical so we took it with us when we left the gods-forsaken place.
We headed northwest, towards the mountains, and hope to find the dwarvern monastery in the morning. Tonight, we camp here in the wilds, confident in being two-thirds completed in our goal. Hopefully we will recover the mushrooms quickly so that we may return to Falcon’s Hollow before too many lives have been lost.
25 Awakening 508
The past few hours have been most trying. I have only just gotten a moment to rest; a moment, and each moment after, for which I can thank my cousin Azuredee and her silver tongue.
The previous evening started off ominous enough, trying to sleep with the howling of wolves in the area. Two of those beasts accosted us in our camp. Fortunately, we were able to fight them off without too much trouble. My cousin and I fight well together—her singing supplies me with courage and my training does the rest.
The next morning, we ventured further through the forest, toward the mountains, and came upon the abandoned monastery. It sat squat at the foot of an imposing mountain— Droskar’s Crag. Made of simple stone blocks, worn smooth with the passage of time, the stout building was falling apart. Sections of the slanted shale roof had collapsed and portions of the outer wall had crumbled. Weeds and wild thorn plants ran rampant across the field leading up to the place, leaving only the slightest indication of a path that ended at the ruined front doors. Beyond, an overgrown yard sat in shadow. Razorcrows roosted atop the tower, cawing at all who entered their domain.
We entered the yard and started to explore the monastery proper. The yard was overrun tall grasses and stone debris. A wooden stable had collapsed into a mound of rotting timbers and moldy straw. We began our search with a small watchtower, deciding that it would be better to start with a small structure before beginning with the larger. We intended to thorough search this place for the needed mushrooms. Instead of mushrooms, we found a series of thick webs covering a collection of ancient crates and barrels that were stored in the base of the tower. As I made my way forward toward the rickety staircase leading up, a monstrous spider dropped down from the webs and attacked me! After a brief battle, the beast was properly dispatched. No mushrooms were found here, through we did find beautiful masterwork shortsword wrapped in oilcloth inside one of the crates. This went to Azuredee, as I already had a superior blade in my longsword.
Before moving on to the main building, we explored the tall grasses of the yard. We found an old well hiding in overgrowth, beside which was the corpse of a man. After a brief examination, we determined that the man had been devoured by a rather large animal. Though this had obviously been some time ago, the sight put us on our guard. The man left a few coins behind, which my cousin collected before moving on to the monastery proper.
Using Azuredee’s sorcery to light our way, we entered into a dark hallway. We ventured further inside, coming upon an ancient, empty armory. No mushrooms grew in the darkened corners of the room so we moved on. The next room we entered looked like it used to be a small study. Gnawed bones littered the floor and tufts of gray fur were distributed here and there about the room. An ancient stone desk dominated the center of the chamber and the smell of wet fur hung heavy in the air. Sitting by the desk were two more wolves, snarling and ready to attack.
We fought hard against the beasts. I managed to drive one away as the other kept fighting to the death. Once the beast was slain, we delved deeper into the chamber. We examined the desk and found some parchment and an old quill. Inside the desk, Azuredee found a secret compartment with a fair amount of platinum coins, a handaxe (which my cousin found to be magical), and a prayer book. I don’t speak or read dwarven, but apparently my cousin does. She determined that the book described the worship of a dwarven god called Droskar. Inside she found a note that said Skondir is no longer worthy of our devotion. Only Droskar can deliver us from the failings of King Garbold. Neither of us know anything of dwarven history so we tucked it away in case we found a dwarf who would find it of interest.
From the next chamber we heard growls. Remembering the wolf I had run off, we prepared ourselves for further battle and made our way inside. Gaping holes in the roof allowed faint afternoon sunlight to enter the ruined chamber. One of the stone columns that once supported the ceiling was toppled, its broken pieces littering the floor. A thick patch of black mushrooms hid in a nearby corner, giving the room an earthy scent barely noticeable over the stench of wet fur. But before we could make our way in to claim our prize, we heard a deep, guttural voice challenge us.
“Who dares disturb the rest of Graypelt?”
Inside the room was the largest wolf I have ever seen. A warg, one of the great, evil wolves of the mountains. My cousin, always quicker with a response than I, responded that we are simple wanderers, come for these mushrooms to heal the people of a village. The wily old wolf then, amazingly, offered to let us have these mushrooms if we rid the rest of the monastery of beast—especially one that lurked in the shadows beyond this room. The other wolf, the one that I had run off from battle before, lurked in the background.
Under her breath, Azuredee let me know that she didn’t think he’d keep his word—that he had no intention of giving up the mushrooms. At that, I did all I knew to do. With a roar of “For the Shield!”, I charged into battle.
The warg and the wolf proved to be too much for me and I fell. All was darkness until I awoke to find my cousin standing over me, begging me to wake and fight. I rose and the warg loomed over us. This time, he fell to my blade. He and his companion wolf.
As I rested, Azuredee told me how she cajoled, sang, and bargained with the warg to spare our lives until I could rise and slay it. For a day and night, she sang. She also told me of the sounds she heard from deep below the monastery, beyond a staircase she found when she tried to escape. And of a kobold that came from there and spoke of a bargain it had gone into with the warg. My mind boggled at the tale and I’ll leave that story for her to tell.
We are both weakened and not very ready to explore further. We gathered up the mushrooms and camped in the chamber. It is a gamble—time is of the essence for the village but we have to survive our return journey through Darkmoon Vale. So we opted for rest. I only hope that we’ve made the right choice.
26 Awakening 508
I am in mourning.
My trusted mount, Midnight, was slain during our stay in the monastery by ravenous wolves. Perhaps the gods will allow me vengeance during our long trek, by foot, back to Falcon’s Hollow. I feel as if an arm has been severed from me, so deep was the bond between myself and my steed. She will be missed.
Fortunately our walk through Darkmoon Vale today went without incident. It was a long and arduous trek through the thick forest—made slower by our need to carry what is left of our gear. I only hope this further delay does not jeopardize the people of Falcon’s Hollow.
Journal Entries for Growth 508