Category Archives: Celestial Voice

Raven’s Keep: T’yog’s Journal

It is not dream—it is not, I fear, even madness—I lived too long, I’ve seen too much, and I am far too guilty for the innocence that might entail; there is no credence to the merciful doubts of insanity. I alone bear the full responsibility of the utter ruination that my life has become; the desolation of my human morality, the choices I have made and the paths I have trod; those unlit and illimitable corridors of eldritch phantasy wherein I pursued the black, shapeless Nemesis of immortality that has ultimately driven me to the brink of my self-annihilation.

May you find it in you to forgive yourself in your own time, perhaps you or the others with you will find all that which you are seeking, but for me the folly and morbidity into which I have led not only myself but my sister too, for that monstrous sin, there is none. It is true that I did not force her, neither of us could have accomplished the deed alone, but neither of us could bring ourselves to settle upon the dreadful commonplace of a prosaic world, not even the common joys of romance and adventure were too stale for our more discriminating palettes. We followed the darkness of our souls enthusiastically, every aesthetic and intellectual pursuit that promised any respite from the devastating ennui. Only in the somber philosophies of the Yellow King did I ever find any measure of satisfaction that lasted, and in the end that too proved false. Now, in reflection my zealously led us with unmeasured gradually into ever greater depths of diabolism, and our penetrations drove deep, deeper than you might ever imagine; only the more direct stimuli of unnatural personal experience and the increasing perversions of the Unnamable kept me focused. It was my frightful emotional need which led me eventually to the detestable course which even in my present state I mention only indirectly, and with both shame and timidity—the hideous extremity of my human outrage, the abhorred practices of which I was a willing participant and to which I subjected my sister Ophelia.

I illuminate you to these circumstances that you might comprehend that which led me to my self-imposed exile within this unhallowed place, I am aware that you will or should hold my narrative with some measure of natural doubt, both to its authenticity and its purpose, it is an unfortunate fact that you cannot see, the bulk of humanity is too limited in its mental vision to weigh with patience and intelligence these isolated phenomena, seen and felt only by an intellectually gifted few, these wonders that lie outside the common experience of the common man, but as men and women of broader intellect and potential, individuals such as you and your friends, I do hope by now you realize that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal; that all things appear as they do only by virtue of the delicate individual physical and mental media through which they are comprehended; it is our unique flashes of super-sight which allow us to penetrate the common veil of obvious empiricism of the masses.

For example, I know that you have already utilized the scrolls I provided, and having done so, you have drawn the five concentric circles of fire on the floor of the great hall, and having placed yourself at the center within the innermost circle, you will have chanted the monstrous litany therein transcribed, a ritual even I scarcely understand, a thing delivered to me by the messenger of the Faceless one. You see, somehow he knew that you were coming, and it was he who declared that you would put the ritual to good use. He offered only this description … He said it would melt the walls away from your inner power; opening you to the black wind of the Crawling Chaos that the wind might carry you through the gulfs of the fathomless grey until you found yourself amidst the needle-like pinnacles of mountains known only to him; he said there the winds would carry you until the mountains lied miles below you so that you might choose the means of your destruction, and that when that was done, you would return from the utter blackness to where send you so that you might share that which you gain with all. And so now, having passed through the strange glow of a myriad of alien stars, stars formed in strange, unknown constellations that you had never seen or imagined, and having passed through the house’s twisted towers into the arena of the other gods, you have returned, and so I found you, all of you, sprawled unconscious upon the floor, back within the five phosphorescent circles you had drawn there in the great hall, each of you to your own circle. I screamed and struggled with the knowing of what your return means. Hereafter, you should be more cautious with your incantations, lest you find yourself someday cut off from your body, cut off from the earth, trapped within hitherto unknown abysses from which you might never return.

I have not the time to explain this to you now, there is scarcely any time left for me at all, but know this … When age fell upon the world, and wonder went out of the minds of men; when our grey cities reared high into smoky skies, tall towers grim and ugly, in whose shadow none might dream of the sun or of spring’s flowering meads; when learning, science, the sorcery of the day, stripped earth of her mantle of beauty, in that time when poets sang no more save of twisted phantoms seen with bleared and inward-looking eyes of the truly self-centered, narcissist that ruled the world of that day; when those things had come to pass, and childish hopes were washed away seemingly forever in the passing a a smattering of days, there were a handful of men whom with the help of two women travelled out and beyond this realm, on a quest into the spaces whither the world’s dreams had fled.

You must now find the lost the key of that gateway of dreams, it is the key to the strange and ancient cities that lie beyond time, beyond space, wherein lie the lovely, unbelievable garden lands wait across the ethereal seas; but there is little time, and you have not crossed into this land alone. Your liberties have already begun to slip away little by little, until eventually you too will be cut off altogether, and on that day you will understand the doom I know too well. The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on upon placid islands of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage so very far as you already have. Our studies, each straining in their own directions, have it within them to piece together of dissociated knowledge of man to the extent that it must ultimately open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and the revelation of our frightful position therein, that we should all either all go mad from the understanding or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age, so better would be now for me had that happened, but it did not and I suffer for it, as will all humanity.

You are on your own now, separated, but too your life is now unmundaned and for at least this moment you might feel that your lives have meaning. The forces aligned against you, are not in truth, allies. They are great and unimaginably powerful, but your concerns are not theirs, and as important as they might be to you, they are insignificant to the Old Ones, and therein lies your only fragile hope. l have wondered why the majority of mankind never pauses to reflect upon the occasionally titanic significance of their dreams, so trapped are they in the obscure world to which they belong. It is my hope that you will strive to be different. From my experience I cannot doubt but that we, when lost within our terrestrial consciousness, but in our dream we are indeed free and able to sojourning in another incorporeal life of far different nature that which normally constrains us, and it is in our blurred and fragmentary memories of those place we travel from which we may infer much; matter, and vitality, as the earth knows such things, are not necessarily constant; and that time and space does not exist as our waking selves comprehend them, but rather it is an illusion forming an all but impenetrable barrier the Old Ones use to contain us. I think it might be possible for you to find the means of traversing these mazes. Whether or not you will succeed, I cannot say.

You are of a very old people, old even compared to me, and I have reigned here for better part of 300 years. I have looked forward impatiently to the day of your arrival watching the cryptic signs within the star of our blindly impersonal cosmos. You find yourselves far from home, and I am not the only one who knows that you are here. You have enemies near and far, they are legion waiting in dank pastures of the wastelands, and deep in the caves of leviathan hidden beyond the triton’s grottoes and the seaweed cities of the Elder Ones. I could never bring my think of the deep sea without shuddering at the nameless things that are at this very moment be crawling and floundering upon its slimy bed, worshiping their ancient stone idols and carving their own detestable likenesses on submarine obelisks of water-soaked granite. I have dreamt of the day when they will rise above the billows to drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind – of the day when the land shall sink, and the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium, but that end is not to be mine. I have created my own, and it waits for me now, festering in the cursed ground beneath your feet; I hear their dead thoughts, their desire to live anew, both in and out of their odd bodies— Oh the inescapable evil of their minds, thoughts held by no head. It is a happy tomb where no wizard hath lain, and a happy the town whose wizards are all reduced to ash. It is an old truth that the soul best sold to the devil is bought by him not with coin but with gifts, the finer works of his charnel clay, from the fats that instruct, the worm that gnaws; till its corruption swells to breed the horrid abomination of life, thing that spring out of the minds of men, the dull scavengers who will ultimately consume themselves. Many are the gifts of the Great Old Ones, and many are their great secreted holes both above and below the earth, and beware for their creations are strange things that learnt to walk that ought to crawl; the witchcraft terror that is a horrible ray of light stewed in woman’s corrupted brain, but even that is a trifle. There is no beauty; no freedom – I can see, no escape in the poisonous sermons of the cramped divines of the other gods. We are all trapped together with the same rusted iron straitjacket that is this world. It is a place of lurking, gibbering hideousness, perversion, and diabolism. Here, truly, we share in the apotheosis of The Unnamable. Avenues of limitless night radiate outward in every direction chose that which you will, but know the root of a contagion lies not upon your path, but rather it is deeply embedded within you all. You are all destined to sicken and swallow cities, and engulf nations in the fetor which you carry within you. The cosmic sin is yours, just as surely as it is mine; yours is all its festering unhallowed majesty. 

So go, embark, commence your grinning march of death, spread the rot of your own fungous abnormalities, like Bastion, you already bare the mark, the bloodstain of the innocent youth is upon you, the leprous limbs of phosphorescent Shub-Niggurath have sought you out; incubi and succubae howling praises to Hecate. Our World, and Nature, both are helpless against the assaults of your unsealed wells of night. Were there a formula—a sort of list of things to say and do—I would have recognized it, but they are and they should have stayed, black and forbidden; yours are the same furtive paragraphs I myself studied, and me with mixed abhorrence and fascination penning and repenning both my own works and those of the strange ancient delvers who came before me; those you like you sought out the universe’s guarded secrets. Once too I believed there was a key—a guide—to certain gateways and transitions of which mystics have dreamed and whispered of since our race was young, and from which we might discover new freedoms that might carry us beyond the three dimensions and realms of life and matter that we know. Not in my three centuries had any man of this realm ever more dutifully researched these awesome antiquities than I. 

I cannot sleep at night now, and have to take opiates when it thunders. After your departure the things came abruptly, but they were announced first by their hellish grunting, that is what saved me. The daemon swine-things rose from the pit, and then I again caught wiff of my blackest of conjuration, Brown Jenkin as he burst out beneath the chimney in the kitchen, that leprous, loathsome night-spawn; the sound of his hideous titter and the shallow pant caused him by the ash; I gave chase, but he disappeared in a wee hole, a newly gnawed in the cellar wall. I hear them again now … seething, stewing, surging, bubbling up like serpents’ slime as the roll up and out of that yawning pit; they are coming for me, and they will come for you too; hopping, torrential shades of green luminescent chaos, coming for you all, one after another in an endless procession. They too are formless phantasms, ghoulish mutations, monstrously over-nourished, servants of The Unnamable, the earth’s verminous cannibalistic dev


Victavious and Amra

Victavious and Amra

Tavious When I met Amra it was a springtime chance encounter in one of the outlying provinces of the Grey Empire, the prosperous albeit hardworking township of Anspach; a place situated near the Schwartzwald border but still wholly contained within the Reichlands of the Old Grey Empire. The antiquated township houses roughly 5000 souls, and it lies crouched picturesquely in the lap of hills which lie to the north and upon the bank of the River Bogen.

But first I suffered our chance encounter with another, and only after having nearly split my crown as the result of a spill I’d taken from a most unruly nag. I had myself been on the move at the time, and I was still trying to place as much distance as possible between myself and those ruins that nearly had been the death of me; as such, I was still very much out of sorts having very nearly lost any derisory grasp I might have had on reality at that time, and by that I refer to reality as I understood it prior to my descent within that antiquarian abyss, but as much of what I had held sacrosanct had been proven false and I had yet to comprehend my own mind’s expansion I had taken to wallowing in despair with the realization that the world and the place I held in it had been dreadfully diminished by what the ruins had revealed to me. With all that had occurred within those newly discovered ruins, and more specifically my encounter with the gem, my perceptions had been expanded and some might even suggest that they had been warped, and to this day I can profess that my sense of time, the transgress of days, has indeed seemed distorted. Whether or not this is due to my own confusion or some enigmatic manipulation of time and space by the gem I cannot say, but I perceive it as if my every move were somehow larger and less within my control, as if I am walking forward but moving subtly sideways at the same time. In truth these thoughts still weigh heavily on my mind, but I have at least come to terms with it even as I struggle with my expanded comprehension, but then I was still quite a bit more fractured, and lacking focus until the nag I had borrowed threw me from my saddle.

At that moment, I was the unfortunately quarry of pursuit; I was being chased by advisors of one imperious Count Gumbert, the man for whom Castle Gumbertburg is named. To my way of thinking Count Gumbert is an odd man, seldom seen in public and prone to displays of what some would call erratic behavior and other would call outright bizarre. As it were, his men were giving chase which ultimately caused my skittish mount to buck while I were trying to cross beneath a low-hanging, but full-heavy bough which did at such time strike the crown of my head and cause me to lose consciousness. I awoke sometime later, no less than four hours by my best reckoning when I found myself a guest of the Count.

Master Smith of AnspachMy eyes opened to the proud green and yellow shield of Anspach, quadrants spread about a circle in alternating colors, each section marked appropriately top to bottom bell, antler, grain and flower, and then I saw not the Count but his advisor, Master Smith, or to be more accurate, the mask which hid his face. Master Smith is reputed to be a strange and terrible man known to wear an obscene plum colored hood and cape over a mask of iron that he uses to conceal his face. And on those occasions when the servitors of said advisor are very well beyond hearing, ’tis also whispered that the advisor’s face is so horribly scarred and ugly that those who chance upon him are much better off for the mask that he wears. As I woke, the advisor had begun questioning me incessantly, and I tried to explain that even before my fall I had already been addled and so the fullness of my recollections might at best be expected to be highly questionable and as such were likely to be very much in doubt; a fact which quickly drew the Master Smith’s ire and his sternest disapproval. He seemed to believe that I might be lying, and he seemed to believe that I might know a particular elf maiden by name of Amra and of whom he mentioned in passing might be a priestess of Freya. Needless to say while admitting nothing I acknowledged outwardly that I was certain that he had been right all along after I came to understand that the he correctly or not meant to hold me responsible for such information. As I understood it, my choices were either to admit everything I knew about the girl or to be dispatched immediately to the Count’s private asylum. Jokingly I acknowledge that it might not have been my finest moment, or even the wisest choice, but I offered up my own vague description: “Oh you mean that girl, Amra, a fair-haired elf, slight of form, who was more than easy on the eyes” … For so aren’t all elven maidens I thought to myself, without saying as much … By such deception I convinced my jailor that he should release me immediately so I might find Amra for him; a thing to which he agreed with the caveat that I must be accompanied by some of his men. Of course, I objected for all the good it did me, and in the end I was freed albeit with a small company of the advisor’s enforcers.

And so it was that I began to lead these strange gents through the backstreets of that town hither to unknown to me, Anspach. As we travelled together I began to regale my keepers with a fictional account about a guileful collection of miscreants known to me only as ‘The Hood’ of whom the members were spoken of only in the quietest whispers, and who, for better or worse, were by my best guess likely to sheltering our quarry …

Before I go on let me digress for a moment in regards the strangeness of the Master Smith’s men; it was not only the nature of their service that was unusual, but also the docile vacated way they followed the advisor’s every whim, and also in the weird way they had been marked. Each bore the same unique brand upon their foreheads; I might call it a wizard’s mark but in truth I hadn’t seen it before though I imagine would recognize it now if I were to see their like again. These men were made up of a combination of elves and dwarves; an uncommon collection in and of itself, but due to their inherent lack of curiosity evidenced by the dullness of their empty gazes it was clear my tale was having little effect, and it had failed to hold the ruffians attention for very long. Too soon they insisted that I deliver their prey immediately making another means of distraction a sudden necessity.

At that time I found myself at the head of a table within the worthy establishment appropriately called ‘The Wealthy Devil’ and while this place was not overly crowded, there was a smattering of regulars, the earthy folk of Anspach, and one of these was a young man I now call my friend, this being Quinth, but at that time I didn’t know him. Also up until that moment I hadn’t realized the nature of my most basic power, but I found it triggered, perhaps due to the combination of the boy’s openness and the desperate seriousness of my plight, but for whatever reason Quinth was quickly able to pick-up upon my earnest desperation as I discreetly panned the tavern searching for the means of my escape. Up until that moment I had never been able to reach directly into anyone’s mind, but there in the tavern I suddenly found that I could communicate all I needed to say to Quinth with just a glance and the firm press of my willful intention. Quinth, having never met me still readily agreed, all in silence, to give me aid. Perhaps it was because like me, he was no friend of Master Smith or maybe it was due to some other personal reason as of yet unbeknownst to me, regardless of why, he moved positioning himself between me of the door. Then it came upon me to risk pressing my new found ability even further, and by force of will alone I used my telepathy to implant a vision of unimaginable horror, a reflection of one of my recollections from my own descent, into the empty mind of my company’s leader. He reacted immediately wetting himself and quickly withdrew from my presence; as the eyes of his fellows followed his progress I ran. They reacted immediately giving chase, but I already had a step upon them, and that lead was made wider by the use of Quinth’s well-placed shoulder, thus I made my way out of the tavern ahead of my pursuers and used my lead to lose my attendants in the bustle of the town’s activity.

AmraAfterwards I began my own earnest search for Amra thinking I owed her fair warning in that her own plight had proved useful as the means of my escape, and in due time I was successful; I found her plying her altruism upon a distracted drunkard who had toddled over behind a rotting, fell-smelling box of soured vegetables within one of Anspach’s alleyways. The drunkard was a simple victim of his own excess, yet she had found him there in one of the poorest of Anspach’s locals. As I watched she placed one hand on the drunkard’s broken arm and one on a heart shaped necklace about her neck. I heard her pray to the gods for mercy for this man and for him to find love in the arms of his family instead of the demon bottle as she healed him. It was a wonder to watch as the bones knit back together beneath her healing touch.

Having found her I called out using the elf maiden’s name in hopeful anticipation that its hearing might confirm my success, and Amra rose turning towards me as I crossed through the alley. Without hesitation she reached out to me extending her pretty hand, even as I saw what I thought to be a hint of disappointment in blush of her cheeks. I imagined that she had been expecting someone other than I, but no matter for I was thrilled in that I had found her, and regardless she was generous enough not to recoil as she first saw me, a thing I would have been expected from a less enlightened soul. Her generous reaction caused me pause, as I thought to myself that such a woman should never be troubled by one so noisome as the Count’s advisor; especially given all that I had discovered about the miscreant’s fell purposes as I searched for Amra. During my search I had discovered that the advisor had meant to turn over my maiden over to the nefarious purposes of the Count himself, but I could not discern that man’s true purpose in seeking the girl, though I overheard rumors that he might have found fault with Amra’s predilection of offering unsolicited aid to scallywags such as the drunkard and myself, and I did confirm Master Smith’s stated complaint in writs that I had found posted throughout Anspach while I search for her. These writs stated she had been performing unlicensed marriages without the Count’s given acquiescence; a practice forbidden because it forestalled the Count’s established system; one in which he reserved the right of first conquest for himself or for his favored surrogates. A practice by which they rationalized the violation of a maiden’s chastity on her first night of matrimony … a repugnant practice even in the eyes of one such as I; moreover I believe this nebulous Count meant to bed the young priestess himself. Finding Amra I implored her to follow me at once lest she caught up in their tangle of defilement. Thankfully Amra heard and took my warning to heart, and despite some initial reservation, agreed to follow me out Anspach. I like to imagine that she was as taken by me as I myself had been enchanted by her. She was on that day not unlike a ray of sunshine upon that otherwise dreary day, a thing unchanged to this day for that is her true nature.

After the events of that day I took to hiding in the outskirts of Anspach, but I stayed close thinking that I should track down the boy who had helped me, he being Quinth; it is enough to say that ever since that day I have found myself enthralled by the young elven lass Amra, and of whom it turns out I had been right along, for she is fair-haired and slight of form, and more than easy on the eyes.

Victavious, the Ruins, & the Stone

Victavious, the Ruins, & the Stone

TaviousBefore I start, I admit, I cannot with any certainty convince either you or even myself, that I am not mad, and you would not be the first to question my sanity, nor I think the last. And I acknowledge my own strangeness, even considering that we are all amnesiacs in the least and some of us are worse, even far worse than that.

I trace the origins of my mental fatigue to the night I drew nigh some nameless ruin; upon sight I knew it was accursed. I had been traveling across a parched, dry valley under the light of the moon, and I was already an exile due to my questionable heredity and my appearance and hence I was quite literally outcast. For this reason and more I was alone I had left the port city of the Harbor of Grace in Bretonia moving through and beyond the wild brambles of the marshlands, and I had already worked my way over the jagged hills that surround them. I was afar from any civilized place when I first saw the ruins protruding uncannily above the newly cracked surface of an otherwise dry and parched plain. My reason for leaving and the new revelation of the ruins was the same; a recent trembling of the earth had given rise to concerns among the more superstitious folk of Bretonia, leaving them anxious to find a scapegoat upon whom to focus and vent their ignorant accusations. Given both my diabolic nature and my outward appearance I was the perfect choice, and so I opted to leave their company in a hurry rather than to press my luck staying where I wasn’t welcome. I think it likely my ruins had been exposed by these same trembling’s. I found them there, on the far side of the hills in the middle of an otherwise desolate plain that locals shunned for reasons unknown to me. The ruins stood out before me like the skeleton of some long lost people the earth was only now suddenly anxious to expunge. They stood out, rejected like the unhallowed portions of a forgotten corpse left protruding from an ill-made grave. Fear spoke to me from those exposed, age-worn stones which I saw projecting there, hoary survivors of the deluge which still to this day drowned the wetlands south and west of me, but along with my initial repulsion, the exposed ruins also fascinated me, bidding me to continue with taunts of their hidden secrets, secrets long lost, and covered beneath the earth of this place. Silently I imagined to myself that no one living had even been witness to what was now before me, and so I could not bring myself to turn away having stumbled upon this one chance to explore a place where no one living had ever seen and fewer yet would even dare to approach.

I am no hero, and to be honest, I have fewer worries than most with no one to answer to but myself. Even like now, I was a foreigner, a traveler with no real home, and a more encumbered, wiser man would likely have turned away, but without these concerns I rejected any worry I felt and determined to explore the ruins, and so began my descent not only into that dark crease in the earth, the gulf where the ruin lied having been revealed by recent days of upheaval, but also my descent in that which you perceive as my inane madness.

Sparse RuinsAt first the ruins were sparse and unrepresentative of the majority, that which yet remained hidden deeper, crumbling and inarticulate beneath the ground. There were some low walls mostly hidden by the dirt, all newly exposed; they were partially covered with drying mud, the remnant of moisture previous trapped far beneath the surface were it had remained hidden for uncounted centuries from a time when the wasteland had been a part of the fertile plain before the first stones of the still living cities of the Hell Hound had been laid. I reasoned that the ruins must be ancient, from a forgotten age, an age that came before the first bricks of Bretonia had ever been baked for even now I know of no legends so old or sage so studious to give my ruins a name, or any sure knowledge of any people who claim to have lived there, but I have heard told among whispers around campfires and muttered about by sages that these lands were cursed long ago and it is said that is why they are so shunned, even when those who are now living can’t tell anyone why. I didn’t know it at the time, but these same ruins were to be the place that I first dreamed of those things I have been loathed to describe to you or to any other, and to which this couplet implies:

“That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons death may die.”

I should have known there was good reason to shun this forbidding land, the same good reason so few before or after me had bothered to test my story, and as I’ve described, I was alone, and so only I saw it. That is why neither you nor any other knows what I know or bears the burden which I alone carry. You will find no one else who can confirm my tale, nor will you find anyone else who is tormented by visions such as me. Even now, I have only offer you the merest hints regarding my nightmares, and you should really count yourself lucky. It was what I found within the ruins that gave rise to my fearful delirium; a thing, or things you should be thankful that you haven’t seen things of a sort that you can never unsee. I am not by nature a fearful man, neither am I driven to frequent squeamish flights of needless fancy, or bouts of exaggerated imagination; it is not these sort of terrors that cause me shivers in the night. It is only that I know a deeper, darker truth; things of the type I believe now based on your responses, might truly be left best unspoken. And so my friends I ask you, now while the choice is still yours, should I go on?

Part II

QuinthQuinth half-feinting disinterest answers saying, “You’ve already started, and nothing you’ve said has been so very frightening yet. You might as well tell us so we can be done with this.”

“I will continue, but understand the point of this is not to scare you for this is no fireside tale. There will be no dark elf with a hooked hand sneaking up behind you to open your throat. This is not a tale of random physical horror; the fearful thing about that which I am speaking are the grim ramifications of these things of which I speak. There are things that exist, older than your gods, darker and more forbidding than demons or devils, more twisted than any fairytale; things that exist beyond any of this, and they don’t care about you or your beliefs or plans. They exist beyond us, be they patient or sleeping, and yet at least I can no longer deny their existence, for all around us I have seen their handiwork. And now you tell me you would understand the source of my distress, and because you are my friend, so shall I tell you. Whether you will be thankful or not, I do not know.”

Since my adventure in the ruins I have not slept fully or wholly through a single night without at a measure of at least some restive shivers, of a type caused by visions, too horribly and overwhelming to ignore, and so while I, yes … am of devilish stock myself, still at most times now I find myself dreading the approach night while most others welcome the sweet release of the dreams that come with each night’s embrace. For me that is the worst time, the time my defenses are at their lowest; it is then that they most often chose to come for me but I will tell you more of that later.

As it was I had come upon the ruins and as I did they were ghastly still; they were still caught within their own unending, uninterrupted sleep. I found myself suddenly chilled as I neared, my way was lit by the pale rays of the moon, but it was cold, even considering the warmth of the surrounding plain. And as I climbed down amidst the ruins I soon forgot any fleeting feeling of triumph at having found this place as I began to reconsider my present course. Quickly I determined it would be better to wait for the coming dawn before proceeded further, and so, I ended up waiting several hours, till the West grew grey and the stars faded, and the grey transformed into rosy colored light, edged with gold, but then I heard a deep moan and saw a stirring deep among the exposed stonework, a blasted brown cloud of dirt, erupting from the ruins even as the sky above me was clear; then the cloud was gone as if it was drawn, sucked downward by the rent in surface of the ground marked by the ruins.

Ancient wreckageThe pull of the wind was significant, so much so that it could not be ignored; it was as if it the ground was breathing, sucking down one last desperate breath, a hidden titan buried in the endless depths below. I crouched low shivering in the cold morning air where I was stationed, just below the gutted earth having already begun my descent during night. The press of the wind passed quickly, well before the blazing edge of the sun dared show itself above the crevice peering in brightly lighting my way, but at that time when the winds stopped, upon its termination I fancied that I heard the faintest grating sound just before the ground shook once more violently; the wind vanished with a trailing whisper of almost musical yet sinisterly piping from somewhere deeper in the remote depths of the fissure, but the sound faded quickly and when all was silent I proceeded, but my goal had changed. I was no longer anxious to delve deeper; my inclination was to search out an escape from the cleft. My instinct had finally kicked in informing me that I should be on my way and far from this place, but in my rush I only managed to lose my footing and so I found myself sliding swiftly down a steep incline.

This fall was beyond my control, rather than stopping I was gaining speed, sinking deeper still, falling for an interminable period of time until I finally stopped at a depth unknown to me. I was both shocked and relived to find myself still alive as debris rained down about me. I clenched my teeth, for long moments huddled in the dark, pressing myself to the nearest dark wall, as the ancient wreckage continued to fall from above both behind and to either side of me, and when it did I imagined I was hearing another undertone, the insuppressible sound of the horrid piping. After the debris finally settled I found I was trembling uncontrollably, but then still kneeling I realized the piping was gone and I found that by focusing on labored breaths, quieting them and allowing time for my diabolic eyes to adjust to the darkness I was soon able to calm myself for in dark places of the world my eyes have always served me well, and looking about a pathway was revealed.

With my eyes adjusted I found that the ruins had opened up before me exposing the base of shapeless foundations, but I couldn’t find any carvings or inscriptions to tell me anything about the men that had built this place, if men they were, who built this hidden place so long ago. The very antiquity of the spot seemed somehow unwholesome. I longed to find any sign that might provide clues to what had come here before me. Being a tiefling, things of either a diabolic or demoniac nature held for me no great dread, and certainly much less so than either might for a gentler soul, yet in this place I had already begun to perceive that there were things worse and more horrible than anything I had previously imagined; yes, and even things older and more terrible than anything within either Hel or the Endless Abyss offered. There I found myself within that structure wherein I found there were certain proportions and dimensions that I did not like. I took an accounting of my gear, noting much of it had been lost during my fall, and so I had very few tools with which to work, and so I was forced to dig myself free by hand making my progress slow, and after I finally extricated myself I still could find nothing of any significance, and by that I mean nothing that might help me escape.

Hours passed and I had begun to wander, but even so I found no egress; nowhere from which I might ascend from the depths to which I’d fallen. Soon I became thirsty, but discovered that I had also lost my cache of water; with my throat already dry and parched, I quickly tired, and long before I was ready to stop.

The sun had quickly worked its way past the alternate edge of the cleft, and as it passed the ruins were once again cloaked in the deepening shadows of the afternoon which only added to my difficulties, and all but ending any hope I had of a quick or easy escape. It was thus that night and the moon eventually found me, and with them came a sudden crash, the doomsday chime of metal on stone and with it the sudden rush of a chill harsh wind, strange enigmatic and more powerful than ever before.

My concern quickly turned to a gnawing fear that began to tighten within my core, coiling like a living thing. Having surrendered any hope of escape, I sought whatever shelter I could find and closed my eyes tight as the mournful press when the piping began, that damnable alien sound rising up from the open, depths of nether blackness; rising with the wind, a violent, purposeful blast belching savagely and frigidly from that abominable gulf from whence the obscene whistling came. The very sound of it threatened my sanity trapped as I was within the smothering dark of the ruins. I have never been a believer in prayer, but I if I had been, I would have pleaded for the sweet release of unconsciousness; instead I steeled myself against the cold, pressing into the old grey stones certain in knowledge that there was still a world above me lit by the bright light of moon hanging in the sky somewhere far above me, and that under that moon the night was clear and unmolested even while in the depths I was being tormented by the unnatural storm.

NightgauntsAncient PyramidsEventually, I did fall asleep, but I was worse for it, because my dreams had become polluted, just as they have been every night since. I was greeted by a legion of black rubbery things, horned, and slender. The phantasms fell upon me lifting me easily out of the crypt in to which I’d fallen, and they carried me over ghastly landscape dressed in visions of a time before man; they carried me retracing my path, flying over the hills and past the marshes. These things that had me bore a vaguely human shape, but they had diabolic, with membranous wings, clawed hands and barbed tails, all of which seemed familiar enough, but worst of all this was their faces, for where they should be they had none; I was carried aloft in their obscene clutch, a grip that both titillated and stung my flesh horribly; it caused my shoulders to burn like acid oozing in an open wound. The monstrous journey carried me over the grey world as it had existed before time was counted, and it was a place drawn deep from Nightmare’s well. All the while the servants of the night were deathly silent and heedless of my cries … Below me I bore witness to the land of Yig, and of the primitive lizard-folk and the serpent-people they worshipped. Yet somehow I also knew that my own ruins where not at any time theirs, but rather the ruins were older still, and feared as much by the fell folk toiling below me as the same land was now shunned by the people of my own day.

Then with a sudden start I awakened just at dawn from my pageant of horrible visions, my ears ringing as from some forgotten metallic peal. I was thankful in that the wind was gone, and that I did not hear piping. I saw the sun was again peering redly above me and as I took note of the marked quietness of moment. Tentatively I rose, finding myself weakened, and even thirstier than before, and for the first time I thought I might die of drought before anything else; seeking to avoid such a fate, I braced myself and renewed my quest to find any available egress from my brooding ruins.

Again I found my hope dwindling as the ruins swelled around me; they were like an ogre trying to drape itself with an overly small coverlet; everywhere I looked they expanded. Vainly I searched for a clear path, and at what I guessed to be noon I rested. In the afternoon I continued spending more time retracing my earlier steps and taking time to study the walls. I had begun to begrudgingly acknowledge the greatness of the ruins for they had once been mighty indeed, and wondered anew at the engineers who had designed them. I tried to picture the ruins in all the splendor of their age, but I could not in truth imagine it struggling as I was with the growing sense that I was doomed and fated to die amid these grey carven stones. For a moment then I almost gave up when I discovered a place where the bedrock descended starkly forming a low cliff, there upon the cliff was I saw the first traces of the primeval people who had lived here hewn crudely upon the face of the cliff above and below the unmistakable facades of several small, squat rock entrances whose interiors might yet preserve answers to the mysteries of the ruins and or the means of my escape. Unfortunately, the harsh winds of this place had long ago effaced the carvings to such a degree that I could not in fact make any sense of that which had been left so without much delay I made for the nearest opening hoping to drive deeper for the answers I was seeking.

Carefully, I started working my was down to the openings, the first of these I found had a very low ceiling, and a dirt-choked aperture, it having been the entrance nearest to me as I descended, but the entrance was so clogged I had to clear the egress as best I could using only my dagger and having done so I crawled through relying on only my darkvision to reveal whatever mysteries it might hold. When I was fully inside I found that it opened up massively, having the appearance of a low wide temple, and for the first time I beheld plain signs of the former occupants whom had lived, and likely worshipped there back in a time when the plains above were fertile. Soon I found what looked like a primitive altar surrounded by pillars and niches, but the entire chamber was curiously low, and given the limits of my vision I couldn’t make out any of the sculptures or frescoes, but I did find many singular stones clearly shaped into unrecognizable symbols by determined and skillful if primitive craftsmanship. The lowness of the chiseled chamber was very strange, for I could only hardly kneel upright and the area was so large that I could not take it all in at once and so I had to move searching the chamber in sections, hunching over, checking each section, one corner at time. Uncharacteristically I found myself shuddering, and not due to the temperature which for the moment was comfortable enough, but rather due to a lingering air present within the room an aura that suggested forgotten rites of a terrible revolting and inexplicable nature that caused me wonder as to what manner of men could have put such a temple to use. After I had seen all that the place contained, I crawled out again, still anxious, even drier … my tongue heavy and parched, my head aching, and yet with my hope renewed even as I grew dizzy and faint.

Outside the night had approached, a thing no longer which was given my location easily discernable to me, somehow my curiosity was peaking and had grown stronger than my fear, I was tired, desperately thirsty, but still restless; I decided to continue with task at hand, presently focused on finding more of the vague stones and symbols, hoping that they might provide some means of deliverance, but instead searching a second chamber I found another broad low ceiling, but this new chamber ended in a narrow passage crowded with more obscure and cryptic shrines. About these shrines I was prying when the noisome moaning began anew and a cold wind started to blow breaking the stillness of the air; given its direction and aspect that source of the wind was suddenly clear that being a narrow tunnel on the far side of this very chamber. Just the thought of which was enough to cause my heart to skip a beat making me fearful to follow its source, but knowing what I must do, I dropped to my hands and knees and I began crawling like a frightened beast as quickly as I could down the narrow low passage hoping to pass entirely though it before the wind came in force.

I would not have entered had I any choice, not against the terrific force of the icy wind, but where I was I had no cover were and instinct had taken over driving me forward, and somehow I had known I would have only that one chance to cross. I knew if I hesitated in anyway, I would have been undone, and I would have never been able to pass. The passage was infinitely dark. I clawed madly at the ancient stones; their rough surface tore at my clothing as I scuttled through crab-like. The air beginning to move faster as it sighed uncannily, and then I heard the telling crash of metal on stone and immediately the wind struck me head-on like a hammer and I began to slide backward as the harsh icy wind furiously ripped through my hair; my heart was racing in my chest, my breathing became labored, and too shallow, leaving me breathless as I scurried. Maybe it was because my body had already been starved of moisture, or maybe it was some aftereffect of thickening blood circulating in my veins, but I began imagining terrible phantasms of delirium such that any other man might suffer in such a descent as deprived of moisture as I. It seemed the narrow passage had slanted downward steeply into the infinite darkness; I was losing track of time and distance, lost in the frigid press of the winds that had begun to drive me backwards; the same winds that had been powerful enough to wear away at the stonework defacing the frescos.

I knew I needed to find cover, in the dark I began shuffling, side-to-side, creeping hither and thither randomly searching at narrow passage’s walls. I found the passage to be lined with cases that felt like petrified wood with glass fronts. It felt strange to imagine such things as polished wood and glass in such abundance in a place like this; I shuddered at the implications. The cases were apparently ranged along each side of the passage at regular intervals, and they were oblong and horizontal, hideously shaped like coffins in design and size. When I tried to move two or three for further examination, I found that they were firmly fastened and far too heavy for me to move, sheltered as they were within sleeves of heavy thick stone, and thankfully I found there was just enough space in-between the cases for me to squeeze myself in taking a modicum of cover from the biting wind; tucked within one such niche my consciousness quickly fled as I heard a voice whispering evil counsel, soothing my damnable insentience with a rhythmical promise that it repeated over and over until I yielded to its embrace:

Slumber, watcher, till the spheres,
Six and twenty thousand years
Have revolved, for my return:
From this spot where now I yearn;
Other stars anon shall rise
To the axis of the skies;
Stars that soothe and stars that bless
With a sweet forgetfulness:
Only when this round is over
Shall I emerge to disturb thy door.

Vainly I struggled in my sleep until suddenly I was awakened by a crash, and in my mind’s eye I saw a heavy circular trapdoor, sealed shut, banded by metal bands, and this vision filled me completely with an inexplicable sense of peril. Seeking to connect the strange words with some lore regarding the trapdoor my head rang out, heavy and reeling, drooped to my chest, and when next I looked up my eyes had found some method of defeating the ruins endless reservoir of darkness. At first I asked myself if I was still dreaming. Taking further measure of my surroundings with indescribable emotion I realized that I could see. Whether by my imagination or by real sight I couldn’t be certain; but there came a gradual glow ahead, and all at once I saw the dim outlines of the narrow corridor and the cases, they were revealed by some here before unknown subterranean phosphorescence. For a little while all was exactly as I had imagined it, since the glow was very faint; but as I mechanically fell out of the niche I’d occupied, enough begin a new struggle as I renewed my stumbles, I crawled slowly ahead seeking after the source of stronger light and I came to realize that my previous fancy had been but a feeble attempt to comprehend my surroundings. The hall was in fact not the relic of crudity as I had imagined, but rather a monument of the most magnificent and exotic art I had ever encountered. Rich, vivid, and daringly fantastic designs and pictures formed a continuous scheme of mural paintings whose lines and colors were beyond my ability to describe. The cases were of a strange golden wood, with fronts of exquisite glass, and containing the mummified forms of creatures outreaching the grotesqueness the most chaotic dreams I had ever imagined.

MonstrositiesTo convey any idea of these monstrosities is difficult, but they were of reptile kind, with body lines similar yet different from our lizardmen suggesting sometimes the crocodile and other times the serpent, but in all cases at least more or less like a man; their fore-legs bore delicate and evident dexterity like human hands and fingers. But strangest of all were their heads and bodies, which presented a contour violating any known principles or patterns. To nothing I know can such things be well compared, in one flash I thought of comparisons as varied as the cat, a frog or other mythic beasts, along with the human portions. Some had horns and others were almost noseless or with alligator-like jaws, and still others I would place outside any known category. In my delirium I debated for a time on the reality of the mummies, half suspecting as I’ve said prior that I might still be sleeping; but in my pain I came to believe that I must be both alive and awake. To crown their grotesqueness, most of the mummies were gorgeously enrobed in the costliest of fabrics, and lavishly laden with ornaments of gold, jewels, and unknown shining metals.

The importance of these crawling creatures must have been vast, for their history had been captured within the designs of the frescoed walls and ceiling and done with such matchless skill to describe the cities and gardens which they had fashioned to suit their dimensions. The artwork seemed to be allegorical, demonstrative of their progress through the time in which these creatures had thrived. These creatures, I said to myself, had been the men of their day. Holding this view, I could trace roughly the epic of their metropolis, a place that existed, ruling the world before you or I had ever been imagined.

I saw their triumphs and their defeats leading to a terrible fight against a thing that had come from the night sky above and during this final battle they had turned against each other in the most vicious and horrible ways imaginable; in ways no sane person would dare consider. It was as if they were an allegory for me now, these grotesque reptiles – were driven to chisel their way down though the rocks in some ingenious manner necessitated by the chaos of their world above, digging deep beneath the surface whereof their prophets had told them to go. It was all vividly weird and realistic, and its connection with the awesome descent I had made was unmistakable. I even imagined that I could even recognize the passages I had crossed in their murals.

I continued creeping slowly along the corridor following the brighter light I saw later stages of the painted epic – the race whose souls shrank from quitting scenes of their bodies; these marvelous engineers fall into abject barbarism and the most primitive acts of cannibalism, but never ceasing their fell worship of their dark elder gods, gods that seemed not to care in the slightest of their plight. Many of things described were peculiar and inexplicable. Their civilization, which had at one time included a written alphabet, had seemed to have risen to a higher order immeasurably more advanced than that of all modern civilizations with many of the glyphs and symbols I recognized from my earlier examination of the symbols, or perhaps even from the most ancient writing have seen elsewhere but have never truly comprehended, and maybe other wiser sages, or perhaps the elves could say otherwise, but for me at least their writings seemed flawless, amazing and beyond anything I had even seen, yet there also seemed to be curious omissions. I could, for example, find no pictures to represent deaths or funeral customs, save such as were related to wars, violence, and plagues; and I wondered at the reticence shown concerning natural death. It was as though an ideal of immortality had been fostered as some cheering illusion among the people of that time.

DecadenceAs I drew nearer to the end of the passage the painted scenes began to contrast with their early extravagance in line with the peoples fall and the growing spread of their ruin. They had hewn their way through stone and the world above them had been abandoned, the valley was deserted as they began their slow descent in their artistic anticlimax. The paintings became less skillful, and much more bizarre than even the wildest of the earlier scenes. They seemed to record a slow decadence of the ancient stock, coupled with a growing ferocity toward the outside world from which had driven them underground. The forms of the people – always shown as advance reptilian stock – appeared to be gradually wasting away, though their bodies suffer some corruption in measure with the spirit of the once proud people as they were consumed by the very ruins they had designed. And in a final scene their emaciated priests, displayed as primitive reptiles in ornate robes, with little to distinguish them from the lizardmen we just fought, cursed the upper air and all who breathed it; and one terrible final scene shewed a primitive-looking man of a type with which we are all familiar, in which they tore him to pieces, a sacrificing him to their fell elder gods.

Lost in this all had been my weakness, but it came back upon me threefold as the pageant of the mural history ended and I approached very closely to the end of the low-ceiled passage, just as I became aware of another opening ahead of me. I paused again reconsidering the skill of those who had built this place, perhaps even surpassing the skill of dwarves edifices of exorbitant grandeur which at least to my way of thinking had never matched the centricity of this place to those for whom it had been designed, or within which had been demonstrated the artistry located with these ruin’s frescos especially considering the uncounted aeons that the ruins had lied dormant beneath the earth. Then I recalled the horrific wind, this time in its absence, noticing that it had once again blown out after I had fallen faint and ill for lack of water, and suddenly I felt again as dry as the crypt bound mummies I’d passed.

Trembling, and still stumbling, I made for the tight exit from the passage, but my body defied me, and involuntarily I dropped down on all fours, my body quivering. I, a tiefling, a wanderer, a haunter of far, ancient, and forbidding places, could not at that moment bring myself to step forward. I beheld the low arch, beyond it the phosphorescence spread lighting the chamber beyond more clearly than the passage wherein I lied, and the chamber beyond was clearly more expansive, but at present my mind was whirling with mad thoughts, and with the words of the warning from my recent nightmare until finally I could take it no more and by the greatest act of my will forced first one hand forward with as much care as I could muster, and then the other, followed by a leg and so on, and thus in silence I advanced.

As I crawled through the opening, I cried aloud in transcendent amazement at what lay beyond; for instead of another brighter chamber there was only an illimitable void of uniform radiance, such one might fancy when gazing into a sea of sunlit mist. Behind me was the passage had been so cramped and dark that I could barely see or stand upright, it compared starkly to this new wide, rounded chamber of infinite, blinding subterranean effulgence, so bright was it that until that moment that I entered I had failed to see the great brazen gate affixed to the center of the wall on the opposite side of the chamber from the point I had entered, nor had I seen the trapdoor set askew by the earth’s recent heaving’s, the trapdoor waiting in the center of the chamber’s floor.

Any ability I had to track time had been lost to my delirium and so I had no comprehension of the length of time that had past while I had examined the murals. For me time had quite ceased to exist. Then suddenly there came another burst of the same acute fear which had intermittently seized me ever since I first found the ruins. Again it was no physical horror, not the terror I had felt crawling through the dark in that cramped corridor of dead reptiles, but rather the horror of the obscure, the indirect voice of my dream, that thing almost heard, an indistinct calling, a thing converging upon the trapdoor that somehow I knew had been built never to be opened for it was sealed down not only with metal bands attesting to its special peril, but also by a mystic seal, an elder sign I did not recognize. I felt it mocking me, challenging me to open it that it might blast my soul asunder. Even given this fell-portent and my dilapidated condition; perhaps as the last act of a devil’s arrogance or my own regrettable ignorance, I found it in myself to ask might that door be the key to my escape.

I had, by this time, surrendered that world above me; it was lost to me, for even if I had known the way out neither my body or what was left of my mind were in any condition to make the ascent; I knew both were at that moment failing. I was miles below the surface of the world I knew encapsulated within another world of eerie light and mist, but then, with a start my ruminations ceased as my circumstance again came into sudden and clear focus; frightfully issuing through the brazen gate I became conscious of an increasing draft of cold air, and at the same time the still greater shock in the form of a definite sound – the first which broke the utter silence of chamber. It was a deep, low moaning together with hint of a distant melodious piping; together these sounds along with the cold breeze filled me with almost lethal dread.

As my knees buckled I sank prone to the stone floor, my mind was also aflame; it was as if my death-like exhaustion chose that moment to overtake me. My strength ebbing, I scrambled for the trapdoor. As I reached the door I know I glared upon the ancient sigil or glyph etched upon it, but I was blinded by pain and I was beyond caring. I grabbed the door’s recessed handle and pulled at as I stood, pulled with all my might. To my surprise the door opened easily, it was as if it wanted to be opened. Extending down passed the trapdoor sank a dark abyss revealed as a series of steep steps – small numerous steps lit near the entrance for a few feet by the glowing vapors, but beyond the glow everything was still concealed in complete darkness. I commenced to climb cautiously down the steep passage, feet first, as though on a ladder. As I descended into the darkness there flashed before my mind fragments of my cherished treasury of daemonic lore but nothing I had ever read or studied had prepared me for that which I was encountering or offered any hint as the purpose of the glyph which I had ignored.

The GemstoneI was trembling as I thought about the countless ages through which the trapdoor had kept its silent vigil here deep in the depths below the deserted ruin. I was crossing into ancientness so unknowable that it would never be counted or measured. In the chamber above the sounds had grown louder, they were reverberating such that I could feel it through the stonework as much as hear it. I didn’t realize at the time that I had already pinched my eyes shut against it as if by doing so might help me ignore it which of course was ridiculous in the inky blackness of my pit, but people do foolish things when they are scared. I don’t know how far I descended, but the pit was deep and the way was difficult, almost impossible given the weakness of my body; eventually I lost my grip and I fell; I was buffeted by the stone step and I imagined again that I was about to die, but sooner than I expected I crashed upon a solid bottom and I realized that my eyes had been shut, after the shock of my landing forced them open.

I found myself standing on the bottom of a seamless black vault about sixty feet square, wherein rose a curiously angled stone pillar some four feet in height and two in average diameter stood; it was covered on each side with bizarre, crudely incised, and wholly unrecognizable hieroglyphs. Upon this pillar rested a metal box of peculiarly asymmetrical form; its hinged lid was already thrown back and the glow of something inside the box was lighting the chamber. I stood and approached, limping feebly as I did so. I could see that the interior of the box held what looked to be an egg-sized crystal, the thing that was the source of the chamber’s illumination. When I was close enough, as if I were in a daze, I reached down and grabbed the gemstone to which a curious pageantry began to play in my mind. I saw processions of robed, hooded figures whose outlines were inhuman, and looked on endless leagues of desert lined with carved, sky-reaching monoliths. I saw towers and walls in nighted depths under the sea, and vortices of space where wisps of black mist floated before thin shimmering’s of cold purple haze of a great nebula. And beyond all else I glimpsed an infinite gulf of darkness, where solid and semi-solid forms were known only by their windy stirrings, and cloudy patterns of force seemed to superimpose order on chaos and hold forth a key to all the paradoxes and arcana of the worlds both known and unknown.

Then all at once the spell was broken by the introduction of a sudden gnawing, indeterminate panic fear with the sound of a thunderous clang above. Almost instantly I was beset by thousands of new terrors and apprehensions, things not born of my imagination, but those issued by the malignancy of the blast above. Quickly I awoke from my stupor, the last fancy of which had been an internal comparison in which I had placed myself in the position of the only human image I had seen in the frightful murals located in the ruins above such that I was the man who was being torn to pieces by the nameless reptilian race that was depicted there with me within the chamber came the fiendish claws of the swirling currents, they were there in the wind, abiding with endless vindictive rage. I realized at that moment I had taken the gem in hand and I was holding it out before me, and for the first time I noticed that it had been set upon a base of metal, the fabrication of some unknown alloy; the base circular at the top immediately beneath the base of the stone, but below that it ended in a sharpened, pointed, two and half inch dagger-like base which up until that moment had been concealed by the fabric the gem had rested upon in the box.

Unconsciously I had already angled the sharpened base at the center of my chest, and I think I screamed frantically at my end, but I was very nearly mad and if I did my cries were lost in the hell-born babel of the howling wind-born wraiths that had effortlessly descended down into the pit. I was backing away in the face of their approach, shrinking away from that murderous torrent, with gem in hand I could finally see them, see them in all their horrendous fury within that rushing wind – cacodaemoniacal – their voices filled with the heinous pent-up viciousness born of a desolate eternity. Presently their voices, while still chaotic before me, seemed to my beating brain forcing it to give them some articulate form as they circled around me in that swirling wind, and in that moment I recognized them; I knew them for what they were, the unnumbered aeon-dead kept there leagues below the dawn-lit world of men. I heard their ghastly cursing, in the snarl of these strange-tongued fiends, and with my eyes-wide open I saw them outlines within the luminous mist drawn from the abyss, I saw that which I could not see elsewhere – a nightmare horde of rushing half-human reptiles; distorted by hate, grotesquely panoplied, half transparent spirits of the race there was no way I might mistake – the crawling reptile-things of the world before man. And heedless of the consequence I thrust the pointy end of the gem’s base into my chest and the clear crystal took on a crimsoned hue as I mouthed these words reflexively:

“That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons death may die.”

Sleight of Hand ManThe world around me went silent, the wind died away; I was plunged into a pool of darkness, and then I rose out of earth’s bowels; behind me there one final note, the great brazen door clanging shut with a deafening peal of metallic, sweet music whose reverberations swelled out from the ruins joining me for a moment in the darkness. My shoulders were burning under the pressure of the nightgaunt’s claws lifting me into the air and then I fell once more into darkness and as I did for the first time I felt his eyes upon me; he was coming, coming out of the deep inner desert. The strange dark One, and as he approached wild beasts followed him, licking at his hand as he answered:

Slumber, watcher, till the spheres,
Six and twenty thousand years
Have revolved, for my return:
From this spot where now I burn;
Other stars anon shall rise
To the axis of the skies;
Stars that soothe and stars that bless
With a sweet forgetfulness:
And now my wait is all but done
And now with your death the end’s begun.

After the crash of the gate, after my fall through the ebony dark, and beyond the shrieking of the things which had not been men, I felt a tempestuous wind blowing, chilling me; I opened my eyes staring in the face of the morning breeze which was coming out of the East. I was crouched upon an ancient slab of stone which had been surrendered by the underworld in the wake of the earth’s recent writhing. It was morning, and I was awake. Absently I reached for my waterskin and drank greedily, admittedly too fast, cold water in good measure poured overflowed from my mouth and spilled upon me; somehow I had escaped. Addressing myself, it seemed I was whole, though my clothing was ripped and torn including a small hole in the center of my chest and I was not alone, and I fear I shall never be alone again.

Pictures of You (Part 2)

Pictures of You (part 2)

The lizard man stopped and yelled something in draconic.

Tavious, disguised as a lizardman turned back to the rest of the group and called out, “He’s stopped and coming back this way.” The rest of the group caught their breath and Dúlinnor dropped his heavy pack as it looked like they were about to engage the libardman. It had been challenging keeping up with him once they had started to enter the swampy underbrush. Tavious continued, “And it looks like he’s got some friends coming with him.”

Soon the party was engaged in a small skirmish with a group of almost a dozen lizardmen. Tavious tried out his new Stone of Fear to great effect and found that it created a cone of arcane energy that opened up the perceptions of the targets to the horrors that he had experienced in the ruins. Soon a few of the lizardmen were running for the lives while a couple of the other started to run in terror but mastered their fear after a few moments.

Dúlinnor also was enjoying the recent magical discovery that he had received as he ran across the water treating it as if it were solid ground. From this vantage he was able to launch his ranged attacks with near impunity and so Quinth would knock the lizardmen off balance and then Dúlinnor would pierce them with an arrow to deadly effect. It was an efficient and deadly combination.

Things seemed to be going the party’s way until they were beset by a tree spirit and a swamp spirit. The tree spirit seemed intent on taking out the spell casters and was only mildly affected by the Stone of Fear. The swamp spirit, while not particulary vicious, sufficiently harrassed Dúlinnor as to make his attacks against the lizardmen slightly less effective.

Quinth had just managed to take out the leader of the lizardmen and Tavious the tree spirit at great personal cost to them both. Had Amra not been there with her new Healing Heart of the Three Ladies they might all have fallen. As it was, just as the two of them were about to fall to lethal blows she called upon the power of the Lover to empower the necklace and healing energy flowed out suffucing the entire party nearly restoring them all to full health.

The party was flush with victory, but the sky had clouded over and the trickle of rain that had started during the fight was now turning into a serious downpour. Tavious realized that the rapidity with which the storm was coming on and the appearance of the spirits did not bode well and that there must be a spellcaster nearby. Advancing slightly further the group saw not one but two shamen ensconced in their lodge. Realizing that, while they were at near full health due to the blessing of the goddess, they were also nearly depleated of their own magics and a wise retreat was in order. As lightning started to fill the skies above the swamp, the group quickly returned to town to report back to Officer Crain.

– 05/15/2015 –

Cast: Tavious, Quinth, Dúlinnor, Amra

Pictures of You (Part 1)

Pictures of You


On the ship, the group discussed their next plans and the crew offered to see if the other ship was in port while Tavious searched the city of Corbilo, Bretonia, astrally. While astrally searching, the crew came back to report that the other ship was not in port, but that someone matching Ruak’s description was being held in the local jail.

Upon his return, Tavious hears of this and after a brief rest to recover his strength journeys forth again in astral form searching for the jail. Finding it, he quickly finds that cell with his friend who is sharing the cell with a young woman.

Before Tavious had arrived Ruak had awoken to find the girl looking at him with quizzical eyes. She looked vaguely familiar, “Who are you?” he croaked.

She laughed and it was a laugh that he found familiar and comforting, “Spider! What are you talking funny? It’s me, Joanna.”

Ruak searched his memory, the name sounded familiar. Something to do with Morvelus and the town militia but nothing else, “Do you know me? I seem to be at a disadvantage with my memory.”

“Sure, you are friends with my dead. You must have gotten hit on the head harder than you think in that fight.”

“Maybe. Friends with your dad? Why do you call me Spider?”

“Sure, you and my dad were in the militia in Nanciacum together. Well not my dad, dad. But, you know. As for, Spider, that is what the other folks in the unit called you, ‘Deadly as a phase spider’ their secret weapon they said.”

“Who is your dad again?”


When Tavious arrived, he wasn’t sure if he should reveal himself to the girl so he positioned himself so that she wouldn’t be able to see him when he manifested himself and spoke telepathically to Ruak. Ruak quickly told Tavious that she was safe to talk to and the three of them discussed a plan of escape.

Tavious returned to the ship. There the group discussed bribes, outright attack, other options and eventually settles on a plan to disguise Tavious and Toombs as guards on orders from an Officer Crain to retrieve the prisoners for transport to the court house. The plan goes fairly well, though they are asked for their names, which they give as Quinth and Toombs, which seem to raise no alarms.

As they are returning to the ship, they see Officer Crain approaching, Ruak and Joanna quickly duck below deck. Tavious goes to meet Crain and asks his business. Crain replies that it is with Captain Aiden. When Tavious questions Crain as to his business with the captain, the officer takes umbrage that one of the captain’s crew members has the temerity to question his authority to speak to the captain and threatens to put the crew member in the stocks if he doesn’t stop impeding an officer of the law. Besides which, the captain will want to know what he has to say so you are infringing on your captain’s right to know as well. Unable to dissuade the officer, Tavious goes to deliver the message to the captain.

While he does so, Morvelus is introduced to his daughter. Upon first hearing that he has a daughter he seems incredulous of the idea as he had no memories of the girl, but upon seeing her a flood of memories return. To say daughter is not quite correct as she was actually his ward. Morvelus recalled more of his time fighting with troops on the Bretonian border. The girl, Joanna, was actually the daughter of a fellow war wizard, Nicholas Wylde. Her mother had died in child birth as is all too common. Nicholas had died during one of the raids that their company had engaged in when Joanna was only eight years old. As she had not other family and Morvelus and Nicholas had been close, Morvelus took her on as a ward as best he could. He had some assistance from the other men and women in the unit, but he was her primary caretaker. When he asked her how she had managed to land hersefl in jail, she explained, or rather didn’t really explain, that it was a misunderstanding involving an illusion, a dupe, and a charges of obscenity in the first degree and coercion in the second degree. She asked if they had any spare harps laying around as the guards had confiscated all her belongings and all she had at the moment were the rags on her back.

Captain Aiden speaks with Officer Crain and finds out that it had nothing to do with the prison escape, but rather Officer Crain was concerned that one of his crewmen might have been killed in a brawl or some such. That wasn’t the case however and so there is something else that Crain now would like his First Mate, Ela Tariro, to look into. There is a dead body that looks just like her.

The group asks if they can assist and the captain, gratefully, takes them up on their offer as the First Mate could use the assistance.

The group travels to a bad part of town and find the body. After examining it they notice that the hands in particular smell strongly of urine. They discuss various theories for why that might be eventually deciding that perhaps she might be a dyer woman as they use urine to set the dyes in clothing. They also discover a scrap of paper tucked into her blouse with Officer Crain’s name written on it. They attempted to discover if there were other hidden writing on the note, but were unsuccessful in discovering any further writings on the note. They were all concerned that the name might mean that Officer Crain was involved in her death somehow; however, Ela did ask why Crain would come asking for our help if he was involved.

They next went to the mercantile district where the woman was recognized as a seller of dyed clothing from a nearby village. Traveling to the village they spoke to a village elder who will tell them that Blanche was one of the unmarried women of the village who lived with a group of other women. She was promised in marriage to Luke the apprentice blacksmith. She was one of the more responsible girls who was good with numbers and so was given the task of taking the goods to market in town every week.

Talking to Luke, he is distraught upon hearing of the death of his betrothed. He asks who did it how she died. While the group doesn’t answer immediately, they ask him about possible lovers and he sobs and tells of his theory that she was seeing a secret lover. He wonders why they ask and they give him the name of Officer Crain. Enraged, he vows to kill Crain. Quinth and Tavious taken aback, caution the headstrong youth against such rash actions realizing that their incautious slip of a name might have doomed this boy to his death, but he seems deaf to their pleas.

The group then investigates where Blanche lived with the other maidens and the girls say that she was looking forward to her betrothal to Luke and that she was in love with him, she probably didn’t have another lover, but that she did like to go for walks down by the swamp. They point out a vase that has flowers she picked from the swamp edge.

The group follows the path that Blanche walked to see if there might be clues along her path and when they reach the edge of the swamp they are ambushed by a small group of lizardmen. They take an initial beating as the creatures jump out of the muck with surprising quickness. Dúlinnor quickly retreats to a safe distance where he begins firing bolts into the lizardmen.

Quinth and Toombs begin a pattern of double-teaming the lizardmen. Toombs setting them up and Quinth taking them down as they move from creature to creature. While they do so, the two mages, Morvelus and Tavious work their arcane magics and blast them with beams of force or whisper corrupting verses into their foes. Soon the foes lie silently dead at their feet. Searching the bodies, they find a crude map of the nearby road with an X drawn on it.

Returning to Officer Crain with the information and conferring, the group finds that be a fine point for an ambush and that that road is soon to be the location of a caravan carrying highly sensitive cargo. Officer Crain also lets them know that not long ago he lost a scout who was scouting the route for the caravan. The scout was presumed lost due to an accidental death. It appeared that he ran afoul of a wild bullette, but perhaps there is more to the death than it first appeared.

Joanna also had heard information relating to the caravan. She had heard of a shady individual asking for any information relating to its path and departure time. This was about a week or perhaps a little more ago and she hasn’t hear since. Though she’s been in lockup the past three days so it is hard to hear much from there.

The group asks her to see if she can find him and set up a meeting. She can’t find him in the city anymore but was able to get a contact to get a message to him to set up a meeting. During that time the group works with Officer Crain to draw up a forged caravan schedule with an altered timeline of six hours earlier and they make their plans to meet the lizardman contact.

– 04/24/2015 –

Cast: Tavious, Quinth, Ruak, Morvelus, Toombs, Dúlinnor


Who Do You Want To Be Today? Interlude 2 (3.5)

Interlude: The Wind’s Mistress

As Ruak swims towards the Wind’s Mistress, he is greeted with jeers and taunts such as, “Look! We’re being invaded by frogs!” and “Hey, I think I see my dinner swimming nearby, we’re having froglegs tonight!” The amphibious assassin dives under the water and then with a prodigious leap from the water lands on the deck of the ship, knocking back the nearest hobgoblin landing with his foot on the crewman’s throat ready to crush it if he chose. He croaks, “Ruak!”


A few of the other hobgoblins had drawn their swords reflexively, but the captain was approaching and calmed them down. Glancing at the Celestial Voice quickly sailing away he asked, “Where are the others?”


Ruak shrugged, “Over there. Not coming I don’t think.”


The captain continued, “But you came?”


Ruak said, “We had an agreement and I trust you to honor your as well. Le Fey’s agents, while sometimes harsh, are honorable, are they not?”


The captain nodded, “That is true. Do you know where they are going?”


Ruak answered, “They said they would take them where ever they wanted to go. My guess would be Bretonia and after Dr. Mirabalus.”


The captain said, “Thank you…what is your name?”


Ruak answerd, “Ruak, just Ruak, if you please.”


The captain summoned one of his crewmen, “Take Ruak to his quarters and show him where the galley is.” Turning do Ruak, “As I mentioned you won’t have free run of the ship. Keep to your quarters, the galley and the main deck and we’ll have no problems with having you as our guest.”


Ruak acquainted himself with his room and the little bit of the ship that they had given him access to and got an idea of what the crew was like. While most of the crew was hobgoblin there were two ogres on board and at least one pixie.


After a few hours, one of the hobgoblins came to see him, “Greetings, Ruak isn’t it? I am Tomlik, the ship’s head mage. I sent word of our situation to our queen’s agents in Bretonia and I have been asked to take you there more quickly than our ship could travel. If you would be so kind as to follow me, we are going ashore to travel the fey road.”


Curious, Ruak followed the mage. After disembarking, the two wandered through and out of the city and entered a small grove of trees not too far from the edge of the city. Once there, the wizard told Ruak that he was going to begin a short ritual that would summon a fey horse for them to ride to Britonia more quickly. The ritual was short as far as rituals go and Ruak busied himself gathering a few roots and herbs from the area while the ritual was going on, they would be useful in creating a poison he thought to himself. As the ritual completed a phantasmal horse stepped out of the mists that arose from the smoke of the ritual components. The mage motioned for he and Ruak to mount and so they did. Then the two of them felt a sensation of movement that was like riding a horse, but yet unlike riding a horse. It started at a normal pace and Ruak was able to discern the wood around them and then the coast but then the speed increased and everything became blurry as if they were not entirely all there themselves. The mage cautioned that Ruak hold tight, for if he fell off at this point he would be lost in the lands of Fey unable to return and by contract of the ritual he would not be protected in those lands once he left the back of the horse. It did feel to Ruak as if there were…things…pulling at him trying to unseat him, but holding tight he didn’t falter in his grip. He lost sense of time and place as the creature of magic and mist moved beneath them. Eventually, it slowed and he was able to make out their surroundings again. They were in another wood, different from the last one, the trees here were of a different variety. Tomlik and Ruak dismounted and the horse dissolved into the mist it was made of.


Tomlik exhausted said, “There is a town nearby where I need to meet a companion of mine and then we will travel to the capital.”


As they started to head towards a the nearby road, they were startled by a rustle in the brush behind them when suddenly they were assaulted by a group of lizardmen. The beastmen threw javelins as they charged; one of the javelins struck Tomlik in the belly; it looked like a mortal blow, but Ruak couldn’t be sure. Ruak dodged the javelins and rolling forward, pulled out his dagger and sliced one of the lizardmen across the belly. Tomlik croaked an arcane word and the lizardman Ruak was fighting suddently went rigid paralyzed. Ruak took advantage of the opportunity to slice his throat, killing the creature. Two of the other lizardmen, had now come up to surround Ruak and trapped they were able to land blows with their clubs on him dazing him almost into unconsciousness. He glanced over at Tomlik and saw that another lizardman had reached him and finished him off so he wouldn’t be getting any more spell assistance. He thought he heard something in the distance that sounded like horses. He slashed at one of the lizardmen that had surrounded him, but his dagger bounced off the creature’s shield. Then he was hit again and he felt his consciousness slipping away. He was sure he heard horses however.


When he awoke, he was in a jail cell; sitting next to him was a human girl who looked vaguely familiar. “Hi, Spider. Fancy meeting you here. Is Dad with you?”


Who Do You Want To Be Today? Part 3

Who Do You Want To Be Today?

(continued, part3)

As the group was preparing to head to the docks, Toombs came back from the common room with some breakfast. Dúlinnor hadn’t woken up yet so Quinth went over to wake him. Shaking him awake, the elf looked up in confusion. Then pulling the sheet up as if to hid behind, he poked his head out and asked, “What is the meaning of this? Where am I and who are all you people?” Then standing up and wrapping the sheet around himself like a robe, before the others could respond he continued in a more forceful tone, “I demand that you take me back to my people at once! I don’t know what you were planning, but you have made a grave mistake. Do you not know who I am? Or perhaps you do and you are fools! I am Queen Isabella Donatella Helena Rosa Gratia Yasmina Maria Luisa of Luba, Protectorate of Wakanda. If you do not return me to my court this instant you will all suffer slow, painful deaths at the hands of my elite Montesan guards when they find you, which they will!”

Quinth dumbfounded for only a moment, laughs and then replies, “Perhaps if you checked your pants you would notice a discrepancy with your claims ‘your majesty’.”

After a series of questions regarding Dúlinnor’s claims to be the Queen the group eventually gives up on trying to dissuade him of the belief that he is this other person. Toombs pointed out that he did indicate that he might indeed wake with altered memories and that when the group had awoken with missing memories in Red Oak, Dúlinnor had claimed to have experienced something similar in the past. With this knowledge, the group decided to proceed as if Dúlinnor’s change in memories was normal for him and that perhaps his previous memories would return. In the meantime, they “agreed” to take the queen to the docks where a ship could take her back to her people.

They found The Wind’s Mistress where Le Fey’s agents had been seen waiting at the docks. The ship was being manned by hobgoblins hearing the colors of Le Fey. The group was concerned as they had a feeling that such creatures might be enemies of the state. Asking some of the dock workers they were able to determine that the ship was considered sovereign soil and that they were completely free while on board the ship but that truth be told most of the wharf folk didn’t mind them as long as they minded their own business.

Dúlinnor is about to walk out to the hobgoblin ship when Quinth cautions, “Your majesty, if I may be so bold as to propose a change in our course of action…… can’t possibly go to the ship filled with hobgoblins……’s swarming with enemies of the realm!”

Concerned for the safety of “the queen” the group decided to send Dúlinnor back to the inn with Gurtrud and Toombs while the others initiated a plan to investigate the ship. They decided to have Tavious disguise himself as a mercenary and negotate with the hobgoblins.  While Morvelus hids behind some of the crates on the dock. Amra would hold Quinth as a prisoner at the end of the dock.

Quinth not sure of the plan says, “Yes Tavious, your plan is brilliant…..right up to the point where it actually starts to work! And then what happens when you turn me over to the hobgoblins?!?!”

Tavious replies, “You are too cautions. My plan will work. Amra will have your sword hidden. We’ll draw them out off of the ship. Don’t be such a worrier. It will all work out.”

Tavious approached the ship and calling out to the crew demanded payment for his prisoner; refusing to speak to just any crewman, he waited for the captain.

The captain called down from the railing, “I see you have captured one of the witchbreed we put a bounty on. Our thanks! Bring him up and we can pay you.”

Tavious called back, “What are you offering me for him?”

“We’re paying 10 gold each for these people.”

“I’m not sure that I’m entirely comfortable bringing my prize into your ship without a guarantee that I’ll get my gold. Plus, my efforts are worth quite a bit more than 10 gold. I think perhaps we should discuss a way to come to a better agreement on terms.”

The captain nodded and a group of hobgoblins appeared on the railing aiming crossbows at Tavious, “I had a standing price of 10 gold, but if you want to negotiate, I’m happy to only give you 8 gold for this one and agree not to fill you full of crossbow bolts. As a show of my good faith however, I’ll be glad to come down and collect the prisoner from you.”

“Ah, yes, 8 gold seems very reasonable. And yes, if you came to get him that would make us feel much more comfortable.”

As the captain started to descend the gangplank, “Tell you what, bring me all the rest and I’ll give you the 10 gold each after all, but only 8 for this first one.” A few other hobgoblins came down the gangplank with the captain to pick up Quinth.

Amra inched Quinth forward slightly, giving the impression that they were advancing, but kept him still well back from the ship.

As the captain and his crew members passed through the area where Morvelus was hiding behind the crates, the captain noticed that something felt off and he turned slightly and started to ask Tavious something. As he did so, however, Morvelus loosed an eldritch blast at one of the crew members and then hopped off the dock into a dingy. Tavious backed away from the captain and whispered arcane words that slithered through the air and wormed their way into the captain’s head. The captain clutched his head, screamed and ran back towards the ship.

One of the crewmen, not quite as surprised as the rest swung his sword at Tavious as he backed away from the captain, but missed hitting only the space where Tavious had been moments before. The crewman’s companion however, taking advantage of his fellow’s attack throwing Tavious off balance, stabbed at Tavious and struck him a doughty blow.

Quinth grabs the sword that Amra had concealed for him and advances to attack. As he does so, Amra moves forward to heal Tavious and then backs away keeping out of the middle of the fight.

Suddenly, a hail of crossbow bolts land in the fray with a couple hitting Quinth. Looking up at the archers, the group sees not only the crossbowmen, but also more of the crew descending the gangplank.

Morvelus fires off a series of magic missiles at the remaining crewmen that the group is fighting. Tavious fires a few eldritch blasts and Quinth lays into them with his sword. The manage to drop two of the crewmen and seriously injure one of the others. But the captain and reinforcements have arrived back and while the captain is also heavily injured the group isn’t sure that dropping him will cause the others to flee. While they are telepathically debating this, an ogre appears on the deck of the ship and begins to head towards to the gangplank. The group agrees that a strategic retreat is in order and so that quickly leave, thankful that the crew doesn’t follow them past the end of the dock.

Back at the inn they rest up and heal and come up with a plan B. Quinth says something about the plan not working out like it was supposed to. Tavious brushes off the jibe and suggests that he can give the captain a telepathic suggestion to search the docks for one of the missing people from the earlier combat and while he is alone they will ambush him. After some debate the group decides that Tavious will give his suggestion from a vantage point on an adjacent pier just within range of his telepathy. Tavious implants his suggestion once the captain gets close to the edge of the ship who then proceeds to head for the dock.

The group waits for him to get far enough onto the dock so that he is partially obscured by crates so that his crew are unlikely to see him, then they spring out from the shadows and attack him. Ruak leaps down from above knocks him out with a single blow. The others stand ready should he rise again, but he is out cold. Quinth and Ruak pick up the unconscious body and they take him back to the inn.

The captain wakes in their darkened room, securely tied to a chair with a sword lightly poking into his chest, Ruak croaks, “Rakey, rakey.”

Quinth starts the interrogation, “Let’s start with something simple, what is your name?”

The captain looks around as he gets his bearings, “Lex, my name is Lex, Captain of The Wind’s Mistress.”

Tavious interrupts, “Tell us what you know!”

The captain looks confused then sneers, “You’ll have to be more specific or else you’ll need a tutor not a ship’s captain.”

Tavious’ hands glow with eldritch energy and he sneers back, “We can kill you you know and we will if you don’t like your answers.”

The captain relaxes in the chair, “I’ll gladly die in the service of my queen.”

Quinth asks, “Which queen do you serve?”

The captain looks at Quinth, “Le Fey.”

“She ordered you to capture us?”

“How did you recognize us?”

Ruak adds, “You say we are witchbreed, how do you know this?”

The captain says, “We were given pictures of you and were told that you would likely have magical powers and that you were witchbreed.”

“Why were you supposed to capture us?”

“Who am I to question my queen’s orders.”

Tavious was frustrated with the captain’s answers and so asked, “Why shouldn’t we kill you?”

The captain countered, “Why should you, are you murderers?” He paused a moment then continued, “You probably should though. At this point you are likely to get into quite a bit of trouble regardless of what you do. You have kidnapped a member of Le Fey’s military.”

Quinth interrupted, “You attacked us.”

“Only after you attacked me. Do what you want. As I said, I am happy to die in my queen’s service.”

Tavious transformed into a likeness of the captain, “I could take over the ship as you and go back on my own.”

The captain laughed, “And what do you know of running a ship? You’d be dead in the first squall and the ship a wreck.” Tavious scowled.

The party conferred amongst themselves. The considered killing him and sneaking on again. The discussed going with him and eventually proposed that.

Quinth offered, “Captain, what if we went with you as quests, would that be possible, not as prisoners?”

The captain considered, “You wouldn’t have free reign of the ship, but you wouldn’t have to come as prisoners. Yes, that would be possible.”

The group cut him loose and he started to take them to the ship.

Ruak said, “Wait, we need to get our stuff.”

The captain looked irritated, “Will you be long? Hours, days, weeks perhaps ‘gathering your stuff’?”

Quinth said, “No, we’ll be at your ship later today.”

The captain nodded and left, “Very well, we’ll look forward to your peaceful arrival then.”

The group arrived at the docks later that day, but as they approached the piers Toombs noticed something strange as another group of uniformed men started getting closer to their position. Suddenly, one of the uniformed men, pointing at the group, shouts out, “There they are. She was right, they did go to the docks. Get them!” The soldiers break into two groups, one group heading directly for the party and another group  heading closer to the pier to cut off their escape that direction. As the party starts to engage the jackbooted thugs they quickly realize that while they might be able to hold their own against the group that broke off to detain them, they won’t be able to fight off the group that went to cut them off at the pier and so they begin discussing another retreat strategy. As they are doing so, a halfling woman appears from the piers and begins casting spells on the group that blocking their path that way. Half of the soldiers fall into a deep slumber. She calls out to the party, “This way, quickly before more of the Steam King’s servants arrive.”

The group begins moving in her direction. Quinth drawing the attacks of the nearest jackbooted thugs to create an opening for his allies. A few of the soldiers blows glance off Amra’s blessed robes and land unluckily on Dúlinnor in his befuddled state. The ‘queen’ falls to the ground and pleads for mercy as another soldier knocks ‘her’ unconscious. Gurtrud quickly scoops ‘her’ up and carries Dúlinnor after Quinth. Morvelus magic missiles the soldier blocking his way and then rushes out from the alley his was hiding in following the voice of reason as well. Soon all racing after the halfling mage who blasts more of the soldiers with a cone of freezing cold. As she does her eyes go wide and the others look to see a giant automaton start lumbering in their direction. “We must leave quickly. I can assist with the soldiers, but I am defenseless against a SteamJack,” says the wizardess.

As the party boards a waiting ship that the mage directs them to, crew on board are laying down covering crossbow fire to discourage the pursuit of the soldiers. The SteamJack however ignores the bolts and continues to advance. “We have nothing on board that will significantly slow the SteamJack,” says the mage, “we just tell the captain and lift off immediately!”

The crew quickly gets to work and the captain orders the ship to set sail.

As they moved away from the pier, Quinth and the others turn to the lady and say, “My lady, we thank you for your timely arrival. Were it not for your assistance, we’d likely be captured or worse. How is it that you came to see our plight? And what caused you to be moved to assist us?”

The mage answered, “One of our crewmen thought that he had seen you in town, but hadn’t been sure. But we were keeping an eye out just in case. I saw you on the dock and when the Steam King’s men started attacking you, I alerted the crew and rushed to your aid.”

Ruak interrupted, “While I also thank you for the timely rescue, friends, do you not recall our promise to the other captain that we would join him. Should we not be joining him?”

The halfling offered, “Of course, we’d be happy to take you where you want to go. You are welcome to travel with us; or, we can take you to where you would like to be dropped off. We only suggest that we continue to move away from the dock here where the Steam King’s men can get to you.”

Quinth said, “Your offer is very kind. Ruak, are you suggesting that we leave these fine folk who have just risked their lives to save us and go with the hobgoblins who wanted to capture us and take is as prisoners to Bretonia?”

Ruak, “No, I’m suggesting that we keep our promise to meet with the captain to go as guests to Bretonia with someone who we know rather than travel with total strangers.” Ruak climbed up on the rail of the ship. “You are welcome to make your own choice. As for me, I’m going with Captain Lex.” So saying, he jumped into the water.

Stunned at their companion’s action, the rest of the party rushed to the edge of the boat but couldn’t see their friend in the murky water. Tavious reached out with his telepathy, “Ruak?”

Ruak replied, “Join me or not. We’ll meet again if it is fated will we not? I trust these ho…” And he was out of range.

Tavious voice spoke to him Fate or folly follows the frog, you will rejoin him after the fog.

Tavious looked back at the others, “He is all right; he’s on his way to meet the hobgoblins. I think we’ll be okay leaving him to his own for now.”

Morvelus asks, “You said ‘one of your crew though you’d seen us in town.’ That sounds like you know us. Is that so?”

Quinth adds, “Yes, for that matter, who are you all and why did you rescue us?”

The woman laughs, “No, no, it wasn’t just out of the goodness of our hearts, you are right. Welcome to the Celestial Voice. My name is Voirrey. We saw you were under attack from forces of the Steam King and recognized you as some of the people who were with Dr. Mirabalus. Though we were surprised to see you up and about as you were catatonic when last we saw you. We are servants of His Majesty King Seamus (in absentia) and Queen Bodicia. Though there are official representatives from the country of Lantis on board as well.”

“What is your connection to the Doctor? Who is he to you?”

“We transported him from the new world to the old. He is respected as a great physician, wizard, and inventor in the old world. The king trusted him as does the queen.”

“Do you know what he was doing with us?”

“He had crates with your bodies in them. You appeared to be either dead or sleeping. He said that he needed to be taken to the new world for a great experiment, not sure what that was if it involved you or not. He did unload the crates with your bodies as well as some other personal effects when he got here. We were expecting that he would return with us but had not heard from him until recently when we found out that he had been escorted back to the old world with agents of Le Fey.”

“Have you heard anything about entire villages disappearing with evil runes being present, including possibly a gate to an alternate realm?”

“No, this is nothing we’ve heard of. Is this something that you have run into?”

The group proceeds to tell them of their experience in Red Oak.

“Villages are abandoned from time to time. I suppose that it is possible that some of those abandonments could be due to something like what you describe. Usually it is attributed to plague or attack or lack of resources. But what you describe is something more drastic and ominous.”

“Do you know a woman by the name of Margery Eyre?”

“I am afraid that I don’t know that name,” she looks around at some of the other crew that have joined the conversation and all shrug their shoulders in ignorance.

“As you now know, we’re having trouble with our memories. Can you tell us anything of Anspach?”

She’ll say, “I’ve heard of it, but haven’t been there myself. Perhaps one of the others?”

The ship’s purser, Andrei, answers, “I’ve been there. It is a nice trading town on the River Bagen in the Reichlands. The local ruler, Count Gumbert, keeps to himself in a castle not far from the town. They trade in wool and wine mostly though the nearby mountains produce lead and silver so they see a lot of that in the town. It is on the coach route for, which was it now…Royal Stag and The Empire Express, if I recall correctly so they see a lot of travelers. There’s an Abby that has a fine school and some finer students, Franciz Lionheart for example.”

Voirrey interrupts, “Ah, is that the same school where Mariam Simias studied?”

Andrei continued, “It is and the Transmuter Ernest George.”

Morvelus asked, “And where are the Reichlands?”

Andrei smiled, “Yes, your memory is definitely faulty if you’re not recalling the Reichlands. The Reichlands are one of the provinces of the Great Grey Empire.”

As they were talking, the captain of the ship approached the group and introduced himself, “I am captain of the Celestial Voice, Captain Nels Aidan at your service. Glad we could help get you out from a bad situation. I believe I heard Voirrey offer our services to take you where you want to go and I don’t disagree with her enthusiastic promise, though we have other duties that we must attend to as well. We will do our best to accommodate whatever destination you desire as a way of assisting Dr. Mirabalus and of seeing you to better circumstances that where we’ve found you. You are welcome guests. We have room at the moment and so you are welcome to stay until we have more paying passengers.”

“Are you a passenger ship?”

“No, our primary duties are exploration and courier duties for the crown. But we have guest quarters for occasional passengers, whether then are paying or not.”

The first mate approached the captain, she asked, “Sir, shall we set sail for Albion as originally planned?”

The captain nodded, “Let’s stay damp until our guests have had a chance to get their bearings and then we’ll set a final destination. But for now keep to our course.”

“Aye, sir.” She set of and barked orders to the Boson who then relayed orders to the crew who began scurrying around the deck like children late for class.

Over the course of the next couple days, the captain and crew presented the group with various options for destinations taking them: back to Garl’s Town, to Albion, to Bretonia, or to Luba (for Dúlinnor had awoken with his own memories again, though he retained some of the Queen’s memories of Luba as well). Eventually they decided that if they wanted to have their best chance to meet up with Ruak again, they should head to Bretonia. Quinth pointed out that it was also where Dr. Mirabalus was and was as good a place to start as any. While they were considering, the captain informed them that their own plans had changed and that they too needed to head to Bretonia so it seemed that the best course of action was to head there first.

The captain ordered the ship to lift sail and moments later the group was amazed to feel the ship sway under their feet as it broke from the swirling waves beneath them and gracefully took to the air. Now free of the water, it began to race towards the horizon. The ship was able to fly around a storm that barred their way at one point, but otherwise th journey from then on was largely uneventful. The sights from the ship where amazing and the group enjoyed the peaceful journey.

During the trip Quinth was sparring on the deck and one of the other passengers approached him, “Do you mind if I practice with you? My name is Guntar Helbaern. I notice that you using some of the basic moves of the von Sarpe school. I have also studied that school. Do you know any of the advanced maneuvers?”

Quinth nods and asks as they begin sparring, “I’m not familiar with the name of the school. These moves are ones that seem familiar to me, but I don’t recall where I picked them up.”

Guntar continues, “The von Sarpe school of combat is a style of fighting that is common in the Empire though it is occasionally seen elsewhere. It is based on a series of progressively more difficult moves that give a warrior an edge in combat over his opponent. If you want I can show you some of the maneuvers that I am familiar with.”

They continue to spar for a while and as they finish Guntar adds, “You should go to the school’s headquarters in München to continue your training, you have a natural talent.”

Quinth says, “I thank you for the compliment and may well do that.”

Guntar grows more serious for a moment, “Once one begins training in the von Sarpe school one does not leave off. I would advise that you visit the school within the year.”

As Guntar left he glanced at Morvelus and seemed to recognize him but acted as if he didn’t. Later that evening there was a crashing noise in the passenger bunks and when the crew and the party came running they found Morvelus standing over the dead body of Guntar.

Morvelus held up his bloody hands which had slashes where he had clearly defended himself from the blade that was still in Guntar’s dead hands, “He came at me claiming that I was an enemy of the Empire. I said that I didn’t know what he was talking about and that he had me mistaken for someone else. He wouldn’t listen but came at me with his dagger so I had to defend myself. I blasted him with a few magic missiles, but that knocked him backwards and he tripped and hit his head on the edge of the bunk.”

The first mate examined the body and seemed to agree with Morvelus’ story, “Are you an enemy of the Empire?”

Morvelus said, “Not that I know of. But we’ve people hunting us so who knows what’s going on or has happened.”

The first mate started going through Guntar’s pockets and pulled out a note, “This looks like a letter from the ambassador of Bretonia to the Empire, but the seal has been broken.” She hands it to Morvelus, “He thought you were an enemy, perhaps there is something in here that marks you as an enemy of the Empire.”

Morvelus scans the letter and as he does so there is mention of a town, Mettis. The mention of the town sparks the memory that he and Ruak had shared earlier. This was the town that the two of them had garrisoned as part of the militia. The letter mentions consession and reparations regarding a border skirmish three years ago, though no fault is claimed by either party.

Later during the trip, Voirrey was talking to Quinth in the galley, “You were asking about the witchbreed earlier and I couldn’t help but notice that you have a gift yourself. Is that why you were asking?”

Quinth replied, “It is in part. We have been, I’m not sure if the word I want is accused or not, but labeled at least, as witchbreed. And we are in the dark as to what that means. But what do you mean ‘I have a gift’?”

Voirrey said, “Witchbreed are as a whole as we discussed with the others at dinner the other night. Some, most, witchbreed have but minor gifts; some few, rare, witchbreed have greater gifts. But your particular gift is a natural ability with sorcery. I am able to recognize that gift in the witchbreed that have it. I can help you release it if you are having difficulty accessing your gift.”

– 03/20/2015 –

Cast: Tavious, Quinth, Amra, Ruak, Morvelus

Who Do You Want To Be Today? Interlude (2.5)

Interlude: The Tower Inn

Shortly after the adventers leave, the guards come to the Tower Inn. After taking statements from various people who are cleaning up. A couple of the guards approach a barmaid who is still cradling her fallen fiancé. They eventually are able to extract the dead body from her her arms. She is still in shock as she looks up at them with a forlorn glance her eyes as if to ask why.


One of the guards says, “Sorry miss.”


The other guard just shakes his head and says, “Tough luck.”


Tthe tears, dry on her face, start flowing again. She says, “He was only trying to help, and then he was just trying to get away. Why? Why didn’t they let him get away? He was…that the creature…he was an elf, just like you and I and then he changed into a the Dragonborn and lightning…it flew from his mouth and now…my Tomas is dead. Why wouldn’t he let him get away? Why did he kill him?”


She starts sobbing uncontrollably. The guards leave her sitting on the floor.


Shortly thereafter more armed man entered a tavern; these men are dressed in the garb of Steam King. The tavern owner shakes his head and mumbles under his breath, “This is only going to be trouble,” then to the visitors, “What do you want?”


One of them replies, “We’re looking for the witchbreed.”


“As you can see we have recently recovered from an assault involving them.”


“Do you know where they went?”


The tavern owner replied, “No, they left before the city guard came and we don’t know where they went.”


Suddently, the woman looks up, fire burning in her eyes, “That is a lie! We know where they went. The said they were going down to the docks area.”


The soldier looked from the woman to the tavern owner considering which was telling the truth and eventually tipped his hat them them both and left the tavern, “I thank you all for your assistance in this matter of importance to the Steam King.”


Who Do You Want To Be Today? Part 2

Who Do You Want To Be Today?

(continued, part2)

Gurtrud assumed his elven form and stepped out into the hallway and saw Morvelus and an elf that he didn’t recognize also entering the tavern hallway. The place was unnaturally quiet. He recognized Morvelus and his initial reaction was that perhaps this was all his fault, but he saw the confused look on his face and realized that he too couldn’t remember anything. The elf was saying, “I don’t understand. Where am I? Do you know what has happened? Please, my name is Amra. I’m a…a…I can’t remember anything, could you please help me?”


Morvelus said, “My head is splitting. I feel like I just woke from an week-long drinking contest. Perhaps the two of you were involved in the same?”


Gurtrud added, “That would not be mete with my function so your assumption is unfounded. We must seek answers elsewhere.”


“Hello, is anyone there?” A voice called out from another part of the tavern. The three of them headed into the common area to discover a odd collection of individuals who introduced themselves to the three.


Ruak and Morvelus looked at each other and at almost the same moment and Morvelus said, “The battles…” and Ruak added, “…a red and blue uniform.” And then they shook the cobwebs from their heads as the memories flitted away unable to be held onto.


Amra smiled when she saw Tavious, “I recognize you. But I don’t recall your name.”


Tavious replied, “Tavious, and yes, I recognize you as well. We have been looking for each other.”


Amra seemed a little unconvinced as if that didn’t seem like the entire story, but it was close, she could feel that much was true.


She approached Dúlinnor, “Sir, is there anything that you need?”


Dúlinnor answered, “Amra, correct? I’m not sure why you are referring to me so formally, but you are among equals, friends, here.” It nagged at him however that perhaps she was not incorrect to refer to him that way. But he wasn’t any sort of noble, was he?


She answered, “Of course, sir.”


Toombs walked up to Gurtrud and shook his hand, “It is good to see you again. I remember being in a town called Canterbury with you.”


Gurtrud returned the strong grip, “Yes, it was a fine battle. Good people.”


Amra asked, “Do you know why we don’t have our memories?”


The group that had awaked first then explained what they knew of Dr. Mirabilus and the various theories of why they might have lost their memories. How they had been accused of kidnapping the villagers because of being witchbreed and then finding the elven camp and the sacrificed villagers.


Quinth concluded, “We have now returned to find that it seems that everyone in the town is missing with the exception of you three.”


Tavious added, “We’re not sure of that. We need to do a more thorough search.”


Ruak added, “Even animals seem gone.”


Dúlinnor, “But only the domesticated animals. If you listen you can still hear the birds and insects.”


The party paired up and searched the village more thoroughly to confirm that everyone had indeed disappeared. All the people and all the domestic animals. There were a few signs of struggle, some overturned chairs and tables, but no bodies and not blood.


In a few places they found a remnants of the darts that the elves had used to incapacitate the villagers before.


At first the group wondered if the people had been ushered into hidden caverns, but looking at tracks determined that people had come into the town but not left.


They did find in the center of the town a series of glyphs and sigils made in the ground. Morvelus was the first to find them and he examined them first and told the others about them. The symbols were written in an elven hand and had been used to create a mystical portal or gate of some nature.


Gurtrud opened his divine senses to the portal and could tell that there was a faint taint of evil present, but that it was slowly fading.


As Tavious approached, The Voice spoke to him, “Ah…sacrifices…if you feed it, it will open again and you can follow through…give it life and it will open to you….”


While The Voice was speaking to Tavious, Gurtrud’s senses reeled with an overwhelming sense of evil such as he had never felt before. He was nearly doubled over in pain, but as quickly as the feeling came it was gone again.


Gurtrud added, “I think that this portal is something that we should leave alone. It is a thing of evil that we should not tempt.”


Ruak suggested, “Should we try to destroy the runes?” He was rubbing at one of them with his webbed foot as he said this.


Morvelus cautioned, “I’m not sure that I would suggest that. You might lose something if you break a mystical seal.”


Ruak quickly stopped what he was doing.


The party decided to collect some supplies and then seek out the orc shaman Jaky to see if she might have any insight as to what had happened. They also picked up the money that the missing villagers were no longer using being pragmatic or otherwise inclined to take things that weren’t bolted down.


Arriving at the orc shaman’s hut they found her tending to her herbs. After catching her up on what had transpired at both the elf cave and back at the Red Oak settlement she slumped against the side of her hut, “An entire village gone? How is that possible? Gods!”


Tavious, disguised as William Dare, suggested, “Perhaps you should go somewhere safe? These swamps do not seem to be safe to any of us anymore.”


“I appreciate the concern and for yourself I would agree that heading to Garl’s Town would be the wise course of action. But the swamp has kept me safe all these years and I trust it to continue to do so. This is my home and I will not leave it.”


She sold Ruak a batch of Assassin’s Blood that she had recently brewed up and then the group headed for Garl’s Town as she had suggested.


Three days later they arrived at the city gates and were met by the city guard. Again Tavious disguised as William Dare presented his case as the sole survivor of his devastated town. The guardsmen sent the party to speak to the watch captain who assured them that they would send a detachment to investigate including mages in the group since there was clearly foul magics involved. The party asked if they could speak with a wise man on the matters at hand to get more insight into what had happened and the captain indicated that he would try to make an arrangement and would send a runner to the inn that they chose to reside at when he had secured an audience for them.


The group then settled in at the Tower Inn a reasonable establishment near the city gates that was well known for catering to visitors and providing a decent rest for a reasonable rate. Tavious, as William, was immediately greeted by the proprietor as he entered and the two started to discuss recent happenings. Tavious almost slipped up in his disguise but covered his error with the story of his town being attacked by the elves. The innkeeper, Baleen, shocked, had heard of nothing similar in all his years as an adventurer before he lost his hand nor as a barkeep since. After a quick meal a few of the others decided to see if they could find out anything on their own.


Amra went to the temple district and the first and largest temple she saw was the temple to the Church of Universal Truth. She considered heading inside and making her devotions there but looked around and saw that this city was large enough to support other smaller temples clearly dedicated to the individual gods within The Church. She continued to search the district to see if there was a temple to the Lover and was delighted when she found it. The building was beautifully crafted with open pillars and stained glass in the higher reaches that caused the light to dance across the outside and inside of the temple. The temple was filled with fresh flowers and the sound of music.


She was greeted by young acolytes and when they saw the pierced heart symbol that marked her as the Lover’s matchmaker she was quickly brought before the high priestess.


“It is an honor to have you among us, Matchmaker,” said the high priestess, Julian. Julian was a beautiful young elven woman with flowing white hair. She wore a silver gown that both marked her station as a leader, but led on to wonder about her sensuality. Her white cape billowed about her like a cloud as she moved.


“It is I who am blessed to be among others who are in love,” replied Amra.


“Is your visit one of business or pleasure?”


“I have recently come from the nearby village of Red Oak,” the priestess nodded in comprehension, “but I bring bad tidings. Everyone in the village is gone. They have disappeared without a trace. My traveling companions and I woke up in the village with no memories. Though a few of them woke before the people had disappeared and the say that a group of elves who practiced foul sacrificial magics must have been involved in the disappearance. The mage with us feels certain that there is dark magic involving a portal that is involved as well.”


The high priestess crossed her heart and quietly murmured, “All is love.” before continuing, “What a blessing that you were not taken as well. The Lover must be watching out for you. Clearly she loves you as no other, though she loves us all equally. I have heard of something perhaps similar though not in these new lands. It was in the old kingdoms.” She paused in thought.


“Yes, it was in Old No Jaw…but I can’t recall where. And also a town in the south of the Hell Hound, in the lands of Morgania. I believe that we can find the name of that town if you are interested as if I recall correctly there was a shrine to the Lover there which was lost when the town disappeared and so it was noted in our church records. If not here, then surely in the records in Morgania. However, I think that you will find that the information about the disappearance of those villages is more scanty than what you know. From what I remember nothing was discovered or known as to what became of the missing villagers. As you say, they just vanished without a trace. You seem to have more information in this instance.”


“How horrible! Was this very long ago?”


“Not too long ago. Perhaps within the last year or two.”


“Thank you for sharing this with me.”


“To share is to love and to love is to share,” the priestess smiled, “I wonder…might you do us a favor while you are here?”


“Of course, what is it?” Amra asked.


“We have a wedding about to start and I was going to perform the ceremony. But, as Matchmaker, it would mean so much to the couple if you would do us the honor of presiding over their marriage.”


“Oh! I’d love to. Do you think they wouldn’t mind?”


“Of course, not, they will be delighted! Come let’s get you ready.”


While Amra was gathering information about the vanished towns and was performing the marriage ceremony, Dúlinnor and Toombs set about looking to see if there was a local thieves’ guild. They wandered throughout the poorer parts of the city offering occasional beggars an alms for any information and inquiring at taverns that looked promising. Eventually they found a lead. One beggar offered a passphrase to use at a nearby tavern. Using it there, they were told of a safehouse and another passphrase. As they made their way to the safehouse they were walking down a dark narrow street when a group of four thugs intercepted them.


“So, we hear you are looking for thieves? Well, it appears you have found some. Now how about you hand over your belongings and perhaps we won’t slit your throats,” said the lead thug. The others snickered as they all held out their clubs menacingly.


Dúlinnor replied, “We’d be glad to pay you for your services. We don’t mean to cause any trouble. We’re thieves ourselves, come to give our respects.”


The thug said, “Thieves eh? Well, why didn’t you say so. In that case we’ll only take most of your money. But all of your clothing and gear for being such fools as to wander about our town uninvited.”


Dúlinnor continued, “Look there’s no reason to be an ass about this. Just because your mother lay with one to birth you doesn’t mean you have to act like one. My friend Toombs and I are willing to pay a fee as traveling thieves or the like, but we want to speak to someone who has half an ounce of sense…if you know anyone like that, that is.”


The thug bristled at the insults, “Oh, now you’ve done it. We’re going to have to take all your money after all. And, I don’t think we’ll be nice about it. Boys, I think we should rough them up a bit as we get their goods.” He seemed to be addressing not only the three with him but someone behind Dúlinnor and Toombs. The two of them looked behind themselves to see that an additional four thugs had snuck up on them surrounding them. Any thought of taking them out in a nearly fair fight of two on one had been dashed now that the odds were four to one.


Toombs rolled up one of his sleeves, whether it was in preparation for the fight or as part of displaying a series of tattoos was unclear, but then in a quiet voice asked, “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to reconsider your position?”


The thugs’ attitude immediately shifted, “M..m..master Toombs, we didn’t mean to insult. Please accept our apologies for a simple misunderstanding.”

Another added, “Yeah, we was just havin’ a bit of fun. We didn’t mean any harm. You don’t need to tell your boys anything about this.”


Toombs glowered, “Maybe and will and maybe I won’t, but you’d best be taking more care in choosing your marks. Now, it looks like perhaps you aren’t as ignorant as you first let on. Are we to believe that we might get some actionable dox from you or will we be seeking out your bosses?”


‘What are you looking for?”


Toombs looks over at Dúlinnor encouraging him to tell the story. Dúlinnor explains, “We’re looking for a man going by the name of Dr. Mirabalus. We were told he came here from Red Oak to get supplies a little over a week ago. He would have been dressed as a well-to-do gentleman, middle-aged human as we understand.”


One of the thugs nods, “I know the guy you’re talking about. He was staying at the Brass Bell and as you say was purchasing supplies and what not. We were tailing him in preparation for a good fleecing as he looked a good mark. Him not being from around here and tossing foreign gold around rather freely.” A downcast look fell on the thug’s face.


Dúlinnor prompted, “But, something happened…”


The thug nodded sadly and he made a sign to ward off evil, “Right before we were going to make our move a group of The Fey’s men came up to him and escorted him to the docks. I didn’t hear everything they said but I heard them say something about Le Fey,” again he warded off evil, “needing his services and when he protested saying that he was needed elsewhere they made it clear that it wasn’t a request he could refuse.”


Toombs asked, “Did you follow them?”


“We started to, they were headed in the direction of the docks. But one of their escort noticed us and alerted the others and then one of them started casting spells so we high-tailed it out of their vicinity figuring that a mark lost is better than a life.”


Toombs nodded in agreement. The two of them agreed that they needed to get the information back to the rest of the group and left the thugs with a warning and their thanks for the information.


They arrived back at the inn shortly after Ruak was walking away from a group of beastmen whom he had been sitting with.


Toombs asked, “New friends?”


Ruak croaked, “Ha! No, I was asking if they knew anything about disappearing villages and they didn’t. They seemed to think that all their troubles could be blamed on a group of extremely wealthy gnomes who apparently run this town…and if they can be believed secretly run all the towns along this coast. They’re logic–who else could afford the magic to pay for something that could make an entire town disappear.” Ruak cocked his head quizzically.


Toombs looked thoughtful as if, while he didn’t know whether to believe the beastmen, he might be thinking that they likely had a point underneath their discontent.


The group had gathered and was comparing their notes, drinking and eating. Quinth got up to use the outhouse. While he was there a drunk started banging on the door telling him to hurry up as he was about to get sick. Quinth grabbed the moss and finished up his business as the drunk pleaded more loudly. Quinth was still attaching his buckles as he opened the door and the drunk pushed past him. Quinth did his best to dodge out of the way, only to find that doing so put him off balance and landed him straight into the waiting arms and blade of a woman who had been waiting for him. The drunk had been setup. He felt the blade press gently into his throat as the woman’s strong arms held him firmly. The smell of daisies filled his nostrils and immediately a memory returned to him.


He was lying on a hillside with a beautiful woman by his side. They had just finished a picnic and walked through a field of daisies and she had made a crown from the daisies that was still in her hair. Suddenly they were talking about something …and now she is running away. He is chasing after her, but then they are attacked by goblins warg riders who carry her off and leave him bleeding in the field.


She whispered into his ear, “If you struggle, I will slit your throat.” He recognized the voice, Margary Eyre, the woman from his memory, but he could not recall any more about her. “We are going to walk back into the tavern and you will do what I tell you or you will die a quick death.”


The “drunk” had recovered and was pulling out a weapon of his own and walked ahead of them as they headed back into the tavern.


At about the same time a group of soldiers walked into the tavern. The lead soldier held in his hands a group of billfolds that he was examining, comparing the images on them to the faces in the room. After a moment, he pulled out a gold coin and holding it up said in a loud voice, “A gold coin to any who will assist us in apprehending these renegade witchbreed,” pointing to the group of heroes sitting in the corner. The other soldiers had drawn crossbows and clubs while he had been speaking.


Amra stood up and quickly moved over to try to reason with the leader, “Kind sir, I do believe you have us mistaken for some other renegades. Surely we can clear up this matter without resorting to violence. Who is it that you are looking for?”


Flipping one of the images around so that she could see a likeness of herself the leader of the soldiers barked, “You girl! We’re looking for you!” He laughed, “Sure we can avoid violence, just toss your weapons over here and have your wizards lie on the ground with their arms held behind their backs and everything will go smoothly.”


As he was saying this Tavious noticed Quinth entering the room with his captors and was about to blast them when Quinth warned him off. Tavious sent a mental query to his friend, “Are you injured?”


Quinth replied, “I’m fine for now, but she’s got this dagger lodged in my neck and one wrong move and I’ll be bleeding out. I don’t think she means to actually kill me. I recognize her from my past; but, I think she may be part of this group that is here to capture us.”


“You’re the one with a dagger in your neck, what is your call?”


“If you can create a distraction I think I might be able to break free.” Their mental communion over Tavious made his plan.


Tavious called out, “If any of you think about attacking us you will regret it as will your children and your children’s children.” As he said this he held out his hands and the entire room started shaking with a minor earthquake. A few of the locals who had seemed ready to assist the soldiers now started ducking under tables and quietly ducking out of the room.


Quinth took advantage of the disturbance to throw his head back into Margary’s nose causing her to lose her grip on him and the dagger at his neck. He pulled his own sword as he tumbled away from her towards one of the few locals who was still considering siding with the soldiers and who had pulled a dagger to stab Morvelus. Glancing back at Margary, she tips her hat and mouths, “Next time,” as she slips out the back door.


The leader of the soldiers called out, “Take them!” The soldiers were rushing into the room, some of them firing their crossbows and taking up positions behind the furniture others coming to engage the party. The leader swung his mace at Amra and would have caved in her skull had she not been tripped by one of the bar patrons who was trying to grab her. The leader pointed at Morvelus, “Dorothy, the wizard, quickly!”


The soldier’s own wizard moved closer to the group and calling out arcane verses fire burst from her hands engulfing the group in front of her. Quinth was protected by Morvelus who took the brunt of the blast. The bar patron was instantly killed with the withering blast. Gurtrud was only on the periphery of the blast and so only suffered a minor burn.


Tavious turned his attention to the leader and blasted him with an eldritch bolt trying to distract him from Amra. While the rest of the group retreated to a side corridor to regroup and avoid the hail of crossbow bolts.


Tavious soon follows the others down the corridor to avoid the bolts. Dividing his attacks between Dorothy, the soldier’s wizard and their leader, he and Quinth are able to take down their wizard first. Then with a growl filled with rage, pain, and triumph Gurtrud rushes out from the corridor to attack the leader. Gurtrud transforms into his draconic form and lets loose a breath of pure lightning. The bolt smashes through a remaining bar patron who had yet to flee, two of the solders and finally slams into the leader knocking him off his feet, staggering him. Tavious, seeing an opportunity, cloaks himself in shadows to conceal himself from the waiting crossbow bolts and also rushes out to attack the leader. Gathering up the shadows and flinging them at the leader, he saps the leader’s life force though the process of doing so steals a bit of his own. The leader down but not out howls in rage and yells, “Kill them all! No prisoners!”


A fusillade of bolts flies in the direction of the party and nearly kills Gurtrud but a divine glow suffuses him as the wounds almost instantly close and he growls back, “Not today!”


Quinth leaps from his current foe, climbs over a chair aiming his sword at the leader’s chest says, “We’re not dying today!” Then knocks him out with his pommel.


Seeing their leaders captured, the remaining soldiers begin running off.


As the dust of the battle settles, a quiet sobbing can be heard as a bar maids cradles one of the dead patrons in her arms. Beyond saving, the woman in shock, Amra is only able to guide her to a table off to the side of the room as comfort.


Some of party gathers the two soldiers that they had knocked unconscious and bring them to one of the guest rooms, while the rest of the group helps to clean up the common room. Questioning Dorothy and the leader, the group is able to discover that they are mercenaries hired by people working out of a boat docked in the harbor. They were to capture the witchbreed and bring them to the boat. They were given the pictures and told to expect that they would be capable combatants and likely would have mages amongst their group. Each of the pictures is on paper that carries a symbol that Morvelus and Ruak recognize as belonging to Bretonia as more flashes of memory return to them–memories of being in the Bretonian army.


One of the bar maids interrupts the interrogation to warn the party that the city guard is about to arrive and that if they don’t want to answer a bunch of questions and get detained for disturbing the peace, even if it does turn out to be temporarily, they might want to leave the prisoners here and not be around when the guard arrives.


The group heads to the wharf district and rents a room in a discreet inn, tending to injuries and studying and praying. A few questions quickly determine that there is a Bretonian boat in the harbor and so the group discusses options regarding their next plan. Tavious offers that he could easily sneak aboard as one of the mercenaries, to determine where or if Dr. Mirabalus is on board…or perhaps he could take everyone onboard as faux prisoners.


Ruak cautioned that any decision was ill-met without seeing what they were up against and advised that they should scout the ship first before coming to any decision.


Morvelus, recovering from his near-death experience, thought that the ale in this inn was lovely and sparkly and that a good rest was the most important decision to be made first. All agreed and they decided to make plans in the morning.

– 02/20/2015 –

Cast: Tavious, Quinth, Amra, Ruak, Morvelus, Dúlinnor, Gurtrud, Toombs

Who Do You Want To Be Today? Part 1

Who Do You Want To Be Today?

They all heard it at the same time, “Wake up!

The tiefling thought that the voice sounded familiar and opened his eyes looking around for the voice realizing as he did so that he had heard the voice in his mind and might not be able to place a face to the voice. In the room with him were an elf, a human, a frogkin beastman, and a Halfling all in states of wakefulness. There was also a dragonborn in the room, but he appeared to still be sleeping. Whether he had heard the voice or not was unclear to the tiefling. Each of them were looking around trying to get their bearings as they rose from their slumber. Each examined himself, apparently looking for possessions, and finding only ill-fitting clothing but no injuries.

The elf spoke first, “I…” he paused at a loss for words then continued there was something about the situation that felt familiar, “I am Dúlinnor. Do any of you know what is going on or how I got here?”

The tiefling answered, “My friends call me Tavious.” It looked as if he was going to say more, then he too paused before he continued, “I am actually at a bit of a loss as to our current situation, perhaps one of the others. Though I recognize Ruak and…,” he furrowed his brow then his face brightened, “Quinth.”

The beastman hopped onto the head of his bed and started croaking, within the croaking the word Ruak was clearly heard, but other words were horribly garbled. The Halfling moved over to the frogman and laid a comforting hand upon him and spoke, “I too know Ruak. Be calm my friend, I understand your distress. We will find out what has happened and get to the bottom of this. If anything has been taken from us, we can always take it back. This is the way of things.” Looking at the others he continued, “I am Toombs and something has been taken from me and I will get it back; this I know. Someone has taken my memories. From what Ruak has said, I believe that his have been stolen as well. Is that the case for us all?”

The human replied, “Yes, I can tell you that I am Quinth, but more than that is a blur. As you have said, I recognize Tavious and Dúlinnor, but not you others.”

Ruak croaked, “Ribunny Clothibit?”

Toombs nodded, “Yes, why these clothes that do not fit well? I feel like I am missing something do you not all feel the same?”

Quinth suggested, “Could we have been robbed?”

Tavious answered, “Perhaps, but that seems unlikely as we all seem uninjured.”

Toombs new that injuries could be healed and words came unbidden into his mind as he realized that he could heal with his touch, “Perhaps…but injuries can be healed, can they not?”

Tavious looked confused, “Can they? Without scarring? I’m not sure I would know even if I could recall anything with any detail.”

While the group was continuing to ponder their situation, Ruak went to the door, the smells of animals and unwashed bodies faintly underlies the more welcome smells of food that snake from under the door that leads from the room. As he opens the door the smells penetrate the room and everyone’s bellies growl with hunger as they realize that they must not have eaten in the recent past. Moving out into the hallway, they hear sound of people eating, drinking, and partying in the distance. They discover that they were at an inn and cautiously approaching the common room, they decided to send in the “normals” first before letting the frogman and tiefling enter the common room.

The tavern common room was filled mostly with humans, though there was a lone dwarf present. As the human, elf, and Halfling entered, the conversations paused briefly as people looked up to see who the newcomers were. Seeing that there was little disturbance the tiefling and beastman entered as well. They too caused little more disturbance, though the dwarf said some sort of warding curse and spit to the ground when they entered. The group overheard one of the tavern patrons whispering, “They don’t look any fiercer up and moving about as they did sleeping on the cots do they?”

After a moment the tavern owner approaches the group, “Ah, you are up are you? Good day to you then. Welcome to the Red Oak Tavern. I’m called William Dare and am the owner of this fine establishment. I am led to believe that you may be feeling a bit confused or disoriented. Dr. Mirabalus said as much before he left on his business. You are welcome guests here, the good doctor paid for your stay here for a fortnight until his expected return. You must be hungry and thirsty. Please seat yourselves and one of the wenches will bring you victuals.”

Quinth asked, “Do you know why we’re confused and don’t seem to have our memories?”

Dare shrugged, “I don’t know anything other than what Dr. Mirabalus said. He dropped you off two day ago and you’ve been sleeping the sleep of the near dead since. He didn’t say what had happened to you or nothing. Just that you may be feeling strange or confused when you woke up and that I should make you comfortable and get you what you need. My guess, perhaps you were accosted by brigands and he found you or you had too much to drink at a party or maybe some Fey played foul with you?”

While Dare went back to the bar and the tavern wenches brought the group food and drink the group overheard some of the nearby patrons discussing various topics ranging from crops to hunting to weather to child raising and who is dating who. One conversation revolves around witchbreed and how they can or can’t be trusted. Another about how witchbreed have magical powers, one person claims that they are all shapechangers another decries this, a third points out that they all have magic powers but they are all different, a fourth says that only some have magic powers at all. Finally, this group of four screws up enough courage to come over to table of the group enjoying their meal.

“My friends and I are having a debate and we were thinking you might be able to settle it for us,” says one.

One cringes in the background but nods.

Another adds, “Do all of you have magic powers or just some of you?”

The one who was cringing adds, “And please don’t answer us by turning us into news.”

One of the others kicks him in the shins and adds, “Ignore him, we’re not trying to be rude, we’re just curious. We don’t get many of your kind here.”

Tavious starts speaking directly into the minds of all of the four, “We all have great power and turning you into newts is the least the things you should be worried about.

Dúlinnor asks, “How is it that you come to call us witchbreed?”

The four look at each other as if they had been asked how they know that they are human. Then one answered, “You have an…I guess you would call it an aura? I mean sometimes witchbreed are obvious, there is some sign that marks one as witchbreed and everyone sees it plain as day. But, for some of you it isn’t a physical mark, but it is still obvious if you look for it. Though I hear tell that it can be disguised, at least that is what the witch hunters say. You all clearly aren’t disguising the fact that you are witchbreed so we thought we’d ask.”

Dúlinnor continued, “So I have this aura and you don’t. And that makes me a witchbreed?”

The one who was speaking looked confused. But this time the proprietor had come over. Dare added, “The way I understand it, one is or isn’t a witchbreed. Just as one is or isn’t an elf, or dwarf, or human. But witchbreed are in every race far as I hear. And yes, as these folk said, there is something that identifies witchbreed—sometimes it is physical, sometimes it is more subtle but it is there if you look for it. There’s stories of witchbreed having power. Some stories say they have power from demons some from Heven. As a tavern owner, I need to keep an open mind, but more than that, my daughter, Ginny, took ill as a babe and witchbreed saved her life and so I recognize that not all of your kind are evil in their motivations. Power is what it is, it is the people behind it that is good or evil.”

The group went back to their table to finish their meal. As the evening wore on Ruak joined a game of darts and managed to swallow one of the darts during the game much to the amusement of his opponents. Dúlinnor engaged in a friendly game of cards with some of the locals and came away with a small winning after stacking the deck in his favor. Toombs had been watching Dúlinnor and realized that he had seen him playing cards before somewhere and knew what to watch for when Dúlinnor altered the deck to his favor. Toombs smiled at the memory, it was a good one. Tavious found himself getting lost in the swirling pattern on Ruak’s chest. At first glance it appeared to just be an intricate tattoo. But as Tavious watched he noticed that the position of the dots moved slightly. The more he watched the more it seemed to him that this pattern was of vast importance to him. This was why he knew Ruak! But what was the pattern and why and how was it moving?

Quinth slapped Tavious on the shoulder and asked, “Tavious, what are you looking at? You gaze as if you’ve seen a ghost.”

Tavious shook himself free of the hypnotic pattern on the frogman’s chest, “It is nothing, just trying to recall something I had seen before.”

Quinth could tell that Tavious was hiding something and he knew that this wasn’t the first time that the tiefling was being evasive with him, but he let it pass as he felt that this man was a person to be trusted at the end of the day.

The night was starting to set and suddenly a man runs in waving a spear, he is followed by a group of villagers; he is shouting, “They’ve taken them! I knew they were up to no good!”

Pandemonium ensues for a short while as people are yelling and shouting to try to understand what the commotion is about. Weapons are drawn, a few people duck under tables. Eventually, William calms everyone down enough to get the man to speak his mind more calmly.

He begins again, “The witchbreed that you have here, they’ve taken my daughter and almost a dozen other people from the town this afternoon. They are gone, taken right from under our roofs and out from our fields. I don’t know what foul purpose they had for them, but they will pay as all their kind should pay. You were warned that keeping witchbreed would lead to no good and here is the proof.”

William answers, “Morgan, I understand that you are worried about the missing people, especially your daughter and we need to do everything we can to find her and the others. You need to not leap to an unjust accusation because of your fear however. These guests have been here the entire day and so can’t have been part of any abductions as you claim.”

Morgan continues, “Liam, how can you be sure? Did you see them every moment? Did they not leave the room ever to ‘go to their camber or the water closet’ or some other excuse? Or who knows what foul magics they might have that let them perhaps look as if they are here when really they are somewhere else. I may be quick to accuse, but you seem quick to defend. Do they have you enchanted?”

Again the room starts to erupt into a babble of voices which Williams eventually calms down. Eventually everyone agrees that it is unlikely that the group are the villains here but they cannot be entirely sure of that and that more investigation is in order.

Quinth offers, “I believe that I speak for the rest of the group when I say, Morgan, we give you our word that not only did we not have anything to do with your daughter’s abduction, but we will make it our duty to see to her safe return or die trying.” The others nod in agreement.

All agree that even though it is late, the sooner they track the kidnappers the better the chances of recovering the missing townsfolk. They go to Morgan’s house first to see if they can find any clues as to his daughter’s disappearance. One the way, they stop by the general store to gather a few supplies that they determine might be useful in the investigation putting them on Dr. Mirabalus’ tab.

At the house they first noticed that the lock to the door had been picked rather than smashed in. Surrounding the building were many footprints, but Ruak noticed in one of the footprints a bit of swamp moss which was strange as none of the villagers would be likely to have gone into the swamp recently. The girl had been taken from her bed with no resistance and so there had not been a fight or other disturbance.

Turning their attention to the first area in the fields where villagers where taken they again found many footprints and Toombs thought that if he needed to me might be able to track them, though it would be difficult. While he was gauging the difficulty he came across a small dart that was discolored and giving it to Ruak, the beastman identified it as being poisoned with a sleeping agent.

In the second area where field workers were taken more tracks were found and Toombs consulted with a local hunter to confirm that they led to the swamp area. They also asked if there was anyone in town that knew anything about poisons and were directed to a witchbreed orc shaman who lived in the nearby forest not too far from the swamp.

The group reported their findings to the villagers and set out to ask the shaman about the poison before heading into the swamp. A few hours later they arrived at a hut of sorts. It was constructed of branches and tree limbs and other detritus, but seemed solid enough. They had the frog peer in through the window-like opening while Tavious went to the front door. The frogman saw the orc woman sitting on her chamber pot in a flimsy night shift. She screamed. He screamed and ran off.

Tavious knocked, “Madam, are you all right? Do you need anything?”

The orc shaman, Jaky, answered, “No! There’s peepers at my window! And strangers at my door at midnight. I need to be left in peace.”

“I apologize for disturbing you at this late hour, but it seem fortuitous as I seem to have scared off whatever strange creature was looking in your window,” continued Tavious through the door.

Jaky made some grunting noises and then the sound of running water.

“Madam?” continued Tavious.

Jaky had put on a robe and opened the door, “Enough of your malarkey. I knowed that were your familiar that was peeping on me. Get in here and state your business. An orc’s got to get her beauty sleep.”

They showed her the dart and asked her about the poison. Jaky explains to the party that she did sell the poison to a group of elves, enough for about two dozen doses or so. It is a poison that causes an individual to sleep for approximately an hour if not woken before that. Toombs asks her if she knows of any poisons that can cause memory loss and she indicates that she can’t make any such poison, but that she has heard of something called Essence of the Pale Vale that might cause memory loss. She bargains with them for some antidote and they get two doses in exchange for Tavious helping her get to sleep while the others wait outside. As Tavious is leaving Jaky adds, “The elf, Path, that bought the poison had about half a dozen others with him but they talked as if there were more back at their camp. Be careful. He was a cold one.”

The party headed into the swamp and were fairly easily able to pick up the trail that the elves had left. By evening of the next day they reached an area of the swamp where there were stone outcroppings and Toombs held up his hand and pointed. Nestled in the trees ahead and behinds some rocks were a small group of elves who were suddenly firing arrows upon the group.

Tavious blasted one with his eldritch blast while Dúlinnor and Toombs circled around to the elves behind the rocks. Quinth rushed the elves in the trees while Ruak attempted to circle behind them. Neither the elves nor the party fared well against each other in the initial volley with the exception of Tavious’ mystic blasts.

Tavious followed up with an incantation, “By the whispering winds of Watoomb; I now pronounce your doom. By the Dark Lord whose name is not said; Hear now the voices of the dead.” The elf who Tavious had targeted with his incantation screamed and then ran off disappearing into the trees. Toombs and Dúlinnor quickly finished off the other elf who had been hiding behind the rocks.

Quinth traded blows with one of the elves hiding in the trees, neither gaining much ground against each other. However, an eldritch blast from Tavious gave Quinth the opening he was looking for and he was able to get in a killing blow. The last of the elves was ambushed by the beastman as the man-frog snuck up on him within the forest and quickly stuck a dagger between his ribs.

They quickly followed after the elf that had fled and discovered that he had teleported away, however, they were able to follow the tracks that the elves had used to arrive at their watch point back to a small cavern complex.

Quietly entering the cave they were attacked by elven guards. The fight went quickly and they silenced the guards, but during the fight Quinth was badly injured and so Toombs called up on the healing power of his god to repair the injury that Quinth suffered. After a quick discussion of discretion vs. valor the group decided to press on and entered the cavern with Quinth leading the way.

As they rounded a corner that lead deeper into the caverns Quinth fell through a false floor into a pit. As he did so the group was rushed by another group of elves. Tavious easily leapt over the pit as did Toombs and Dúlinnor climbed around the edge. Ruak hung back and began to sling the enemy providing cover fire for his companions.

At first the battle seemed evenly matched with the elves and heroes evenly trading blows neither gaining much ground, a slight cut here, a glancing blow there. But then the battle turned as the elven leader, Path, tossed a vial at Tavious surrounding him in a cloud of darkness preventing the warlock from targeting his enemies and simultaneously the elf snagged him with one of their poison darts and the tiefling slumped to the floor unconscious.

The heroes had managed to wear away at one of the elves during this time and so were faced with two elven guards, one of whom was a hulking brute. Quinth left himself open in a desperate gambit to draw the large elf in and set him off balance so that his companions would be able to take him out. The move was successful, but at a dear price knocking him unconscious and perhaps killing him were it not for the quick ministrations of Toombs.

While Toombs saw to Quinth, Dúlinnor killed the remaining guard leaving only the elven leader who was relatively uninjured and advancing menacingly upon the sorely injured party. Ruak took careful aim, however, and planted a sling stone squarely in the forehead of the elf killing him with a single blow.

After stabilizing Quinth, Toombs rushed over to Tavious who, while injured, was but sleeping soundly from the poison and applying the antitoxin they were able to revive him.

After treating other minor injuries, they searched the rest of the cavern and found no more enemies, but they did discover what had happened to the missing villagers. In a large chamber they the living chambers for the elves and determined that they were likely home to twice as many elves as they had already encountered. They also found a locked chest that contained some magical potions. They also discovered a series of arcane glyphs scrawled on the ground and the remnants of scrolls, mostly illegible now that they had been used. They recovered a tiny scrap that they were able to still make out some word on:

…Age Thine Poet
Wake not elves
Heist say thief
Renew ever…

As Tavious heard the verse The Voice whispered in his head, “Yog-Sssothhothhh…the Opener of the Gates, from him is great power. A dangerous gift; ware the destination.

Mixed within the glyphs were signs of human blood. And further in, in another pit-like chamber they found the remains of the villagers—sacrificed for some horrific ritual. Most had been mutilated beyond easy recognition, but it was clear that one was a young girl, Morgan’s daughter.

The heroes discussed various plans for retrieving the bodies, burying, getting the villagers, etc. and eventually decided that they would at least bring back the girl’s body so that Morgan would have some closure and then they would be able to lead back the rest of the villagers to retrieve their loved ones.


– 01/30/2015 –

Cast: Tavious, Quinth, Dúlinnor, Ruak, Toombs