Elx

Raven’s Keep: Chameleons

The group huddled close together and had a cold breakfast. Bran had warned that they not build a fire to warm their food else it might alert their pursuers from the day before to their location. The cleft in the mountain had provided limited shelter through the night, but the group would need to find better shelter soon, or they would not survive long.

“We should break camp and get moving quickly,” said Bran. The group quickly and without wasting energy talking followed his lead. He and Ankoma took the lead breaking a trail for the others to follow.

As the group traveled through the snowy mountains, they discussed the attack from the day before and their options for survival now that they were without the bulk of the equipment that they had been sent out from Raven’s Keep with, and without the skills that they loaded into their memories. In fact, were it not for the slight training that Bran and Ankoma had received at the hand of Clifton Raven they would be completely helpless.

“We are fortunate for your father’s foresight, Bran,” said Elx, “Your skills in these mountain passes have proved invaluable. We would surely be lost and frozen by now were it not for your and Ankoma’s abilities.” The other murmured agreement. They all paused to take a short break to eat some rations. “I feel that I should tell you all about some abilities that I have that may eventually be of use. They won’t be of assistance now while we are wandering through these mountains, but once we are among people again they will hopefully serve us.” So saying the features of his face started to blur and transform and then Elx was a different person. A moment later and his face blurred again and he was again a different person. He did this a few more times, “I am a shapeshifter able to assume the likeness of other people. I felt that informing you of this would help us to be more successful when we do reach civilization again.” Elx switched to using telepathy and continued, “As you were made aware, I’m am an accomplished linguist, but I also am able to speak directly to the minds of others using telepathy bypassing language should the need arise. This too may be a skill that will be of use once we find others.”

It took the others a moment to absorb the information that Elx had revealed, Sayberion was the first to respond, “Those are fascinating and to be sure useful abilities, Elx, thank you for sharing. Hopefully, we’ll run into people soon where we can put those skills to use.”

Bran started somewhat hesitantly, “My father spoke to me of a race of people called Chameleons. They were able to change their shape as you seem to be able to do. Are you a…are you related…” He seemed a bit unsure how to broach the subject as if it were something that might be taboo.

Elx seemed nonplused, “Yes, we are sometimes called that. Amongst ourselves we typically refer to ourselves as We Who Become, but to others we are often called Chameleons.”

Bran put his hand to his sword and took a defensive stance and continued, “My father also said that Chameleons are servants of Blern.”

Elx put his hand up in defense, “I believe you misquote your father. We are the creation of Blern. And as his creation, many of my brothers and sisters do serve him, but just as you and your hirsute companion have free will, so do all of my created family. I ask you to recall our recent incident from but a day ago, I was under just as much threat as you all and fought just as vehemently against Blern’s forces as you all. However, to be honest, when I was first created I did follow Blern and his teachings. I found, however, that he was inconsistent in his own teachings and that to be true to his espoused philosophy I must oppose him. To do otherwise would not be the noble thing to do. Does this answer your concern?”

Bran’s hand relaxed and he replied, “Yes, that does thank you.” He started to pack their meager lunch and pick up the dropped crumbs to prevent leaving a trail. “We need to break camp and get moving. However as we are traveling, and I hope you don’t consider this to be prying I’m just trying to gather useful information on our enemies, since you seem to know something about Blern what can you tell us about him and his use of Chameleons? Do you know the extent of Blern’s forces? His agenda? Anything that might assist us in fending off another attack of like kind to what we have already suffered against him or his lackeys? It seems likely that he would still have Chameleons in his service, correct, what can you tell us about them that could help us?”

Elx replied, “I’ll tell you what I know, but realize that Blern has been exiled from Raven’s Keep for many years and I was privy to his council only while he was still within Raven’s Keep. But, perhaps what I do know will be of assistance. We will talk while we move forward.” So saying they continued their trek into the frozen mountains.

Sisters

The Two Sisters

Once upon a time there was a poor hunter who had two twin daughters. Both were beautiful on the outside, but on the inside one, Naz, was twisted and vile while the other, Nox, was pure and virtuous. The hunter loved both of his daughters very much and took very good care of them both so that while they did not have an easy life, neither did they lack for the necessities.

When the girls came of age their father told them of their mother and the power that they inherited from her. She had died in childbirth and in her death had given the girls her magic. Naz immediately thought that she should have her mother’s full birthright and began plotting her sister’s death for she thought that if she killed her sister the power would all become hers. Nox, on the other hand, began to learn how to use her gift to help her father in the woods.

As the years passed the magic in the girls only got stronger until one day they met in a clearing alone. Naz saw her chance and she attacked Nox. Drawing mystic energy from all the living things around her, she felt a rush of power as the creatures in the forest screamed and screeched in pain. Nox fell to the ground stunned by her sister’s treachery before any spell could even be sent her way. However, as Naz began her spellcraft and launched spell after spell at Nox she was frustrated to see that Nox was able to counter each spell though it pained her to do so.

Exhausted, her energy depleted, Naz fled from the scene as she heard her father coming to aid Nox. Her father took Nox a young man who had recently come to tend the forest and had begun working with her father. The young man tended to Nox’s wounds and healed her injuries. Under his care, she quickly recovered physically, but her heart was broken at her sister’s treachery. The young man patiently encouraged her and eventually he brought her out of her downcast spirit. More, he brought her joy and the two fell in love and for a while Nox forgot of the dark incident.

But again, Naz found Nox wandering in the forest, looking for herbs for her new husband. Attacking with surprise, Naz began to draw on the life energies of the creatures around her only to find that instead her powers were reflected back on herself and she was draining her own life energies. Angered and frustrated she summoned her powers again and again only to find that her powers were each time reflected back on her and she was unable to summon her powers without draining her own life energies. Heedless, she attacked her sister and though Nox would not attack her sister, but only defend herself, Naz in a crazed frenzy continued to try to kill her sister until she had drained the last bit of life from herself. Nox, rushed to her dying sister’s side and the falcon in the tree who had observed the entire exchange transformed into her husband comforted her in her loss.

Ettin

Raven and the Ettins

One day Raven was flying over some mountains and was getting very hungry. Below him he saw a village of giants. He thought to himself that they would have lots of food so he went to visit them. The giants were very kind and welcomed him to their village, but there had been little rain recently and so they didn’t have very much food. They offered Raven a little bit to eat, but it didn’t really satisfy his hunger.

One of the giant families offered to let Raven sleep in their hut for the evening before he left the next morning. He woke in the middle of the night and his belly rumbled with hunger. Not thinking clearly he wandered over to the bed of his hosts and ate them both almost whole. Finally, his belly was satisfied.

The next morning he was awoken to the knock of the chief of the village at the door. Suddenly worried that he would be killed for eating his hosts he quickly pooped out his late night meal, but the giant and his mate were not completely whole any more. Thinking quickly Raven sewed them together and the couple woke up sharing one body between them. In walked the chief of the village. At first everyone was shocked, but Raven quickly convinced them that this was a good thing and that they couple was now together all the time and that was for the best. The chief agreed and asked Raven to eat him and his wife and then sew them up after they passed through his belly. Eventually all the couples of the village did the same. Then even the brothers decided that they wanted to be joined together and then the sisters asked to be joined together. Eventually everyone in the village had a companion. By the time he was done Raven’s belly was so full and so tired that he just wanted to fly away and sleep for a very long time.

At first these people were called The-People-Who-Have-Been-Eaten, but now we just call them Ettins.

 

Raven’s Keep: Episode 1 – Rydalka

Journal Entry Elx

15 Wynmoan 57323

After days of trudging through the freezing mountain passes, the settlement of Rydalka was a welcome sight. We had been making our way down, out of the mountains hoping for some release from the blistering winds and biting cold. Blern’s attack had left us with little in the way of supplies and Bran and Ankoma could do little with the meager materials that the environment supplied with our large group.

We had two injured people with us at first, but they did not survive past the first three days of travel. We lost Mirjam after the first night and Ziven two days later. To be honest it was in some ways a blessing when they passed. While we were caring for them our travel speed was hindered and we were constantly worried that Blern’s forces would reengage us at any moment. Once they both passed we were able to increase our travel speed considerably. It was disappointing that they were not able to recover, but with the lack of medical supplies and the hostile environment fortune was not with them.

Once we reached the village and its scattered farmhouses we felt a small measure of comfort and safety. The people of Rydalka are both warm and wary of us. We come from “The Great One,” as they called it, the tallest mountain peak in this range which they considered an omen–whether good or bad they have yet to determine. For now they are treating us as welcome guests. Well, all except for Ankoma. They aren’t completely comfortable with him, even given Bran’s assurances. While he is with us they seem to warily accept his presence, but at night and whenever the people are gathering they have insisted that he be chained in the basement of their central lodge.

24 Wynmoan

We have been with the people of Rydalka for just over a sennight now and they have been affable hosts. Bran and Ankoma have gone hunting with a few of the villagers and they have accepted Bran easily enough. Sayberion went with them yesterday and though he does not have the training that the others have, he has a natural aptitude that stood him well in the hunt.

We had been curious about their religious customs and so Nyssa and I spoke to their wise woman, Trella while the men were hunting. She explained that they paid homage to many gods as the need arose but that they felt that more accurately all things have a spirit or soul, not just sentient beings. These spirits persist even after death or destruction and one must take care to honor ones fellow creation lest they take revenge on you in death. There are certain rituals and taboos therefore that they practice to avoid angering the spirits of the mountain, the animals that they hunt, and so on to maintain their way of life and avoid extinction as has been visited upon some of their neighboring villages.

Two stories that I thought particularly interesting were the story of how Raven created the Ettins and the story of the Two Sisters. Soon thereafter the hunting party came back with a large buck and they gathered the village for a feast that evening.

The people here are constantly busy. The women who are not preparing the feast are either sorting and mixing eider feather and chopping straw to add to it or repairing fishing tackle and harness. The house-mistress, Thora, supervises the children who are busy plaiting wicks for candles and lamps. The hall is warm from the fire in the great hearth and many small braziers spread throughout the lodge and torches that light the areas where people are working.

Rol and the VillagersOnly the very youngest of the children are allowed any freedom from work such as the one they call little Rol who is often playing with the many dogs who the hunters use to help them in their tasks. One hound in particular, Tyr, is particularly picked upon by the child in a loving way.

As the feast was starting we noticed that one of the hunters, Christian, was missing. He had left earlier in the day to scout ahead of a bear hunt reminding the neighbors within the range of several leagues of the hunt scheduled for tomorrow morning. Christian’s mother, Thora, and his brother, Swayne, were not concerned by his absence and assured us that we should not worry about his lateness. Apparently, Christian and Swayne were the catch of the village in terms of eligible young men. They were handsome, strong, fast, and proud.

About half-an-hour into the feast we all heard a noise outside the door that caused everyone to pause their feasting and stop talking. Swayne suggests, “It is Christian see, he was just late.” At which point the there was a moment of silence and then an especially loud gust of wind. Then we all hear the sound of a child’s hand knocking softly at the door and hear a child’s voice, “Open, open; let me in!” And the latch rattles as though a tiptoe child has reached up to it.

Bran rushed to the door and pulled it open and looked out and seeing nothing there called out, “No one is here.” Then the dog, Tyr, lifted his head and gave a howl that was loud, prolonged and utterly dismal.

Slightly unnerved, we attributed it to the wind and overactive imaginations and went back to dinner. The boy, Rol, injured himself a while later and got a scolding. And then again we heard the child’s voice outside, “Open, open; let me in!” The wind might have caused the latch to rattle and the wood to creak, but what we heard here was not the wind and not our imaginations. Again the tapping at the door and the voice, “Open, open; let me in!” The dog flings up his head and offers a long, doleful howl. Before the echo of the sound can fully die away, Swayne springs across to the door and flings it wide, “Impossible, there is no one, again no one!” he says in an unsteady voice, his eyes staring startled and wild as he calls out.

Bran and Sayberion step outside with Swayne to investigate and see only a lonely expanse of snow, the clouds have sagged low, and between the two a line of dark fir-trees still bow in the wind; but, there is no sign of movement in the lay of the snow, absolutely nothing. The blanched faces of the villagers stare back at us hoping that we might have some answers to the enigma of the night.

Many of the younger girls moved over to Trella as she waved her hands over them, perhaps giving them some sort of blessing or a magical warding. The people are murmuring as we finally hear a man’s tread on the porch. “Christian!” yell Swayne and Thora simultaneously. Swayne moves to open the door as Tyr lets lose his appalling howl again and we hear a man’s voice and heavy pounding on the door, “Open, open; let me in!” The door shakes and rattles as if by a man’s strength beating against it. Swayne flings open the door to face an empty blank porch and beyond, only snow and sky, the firs still aslant in the wind.

Swayne reaches back inside for a great bearskin cloak. Thora calls after him, “Swayne, where are you going?”

“No farther than the porch, mother,” as he steps back toward the still open door.

Bran, Sayberion, and Ankoma grab their cloaks and join the warrior in his vigil. They nearly freeze while waiting for over an hour when a traveler approaches. The four men enter the hall followed by a woman. No wraith, a living-beautiful-young woman. As she approaches people starting talking but it is hard to hear as Tyr starts barking and gets lose from one of the men holding him. The dog rushes the woman but she lithely recoils from the dog’s sharp fangs while at the same time from the folds of her long fur robe she snatches a small two-edged axe from her girdle, and whirls it up with practiced ease in preparation of a blow of defense.

Just then Swayne catches the dog by the collar, and drags him off yelping and struggling against Swayne’s powerful grip.

The strange woman stood in the doorway motionless; one foot set forward, her hand with the axe still flung up high, until the house-mistress hurried over to her. Across the room, Swayne relinquished control of the furious Tyr to others and turned his attention back towards the girl quickly offering his apology for the fierce greeting the woman had received. Calmed she lowered her arm and slung her axe in its place at her waist and she began to loosen the furs about her face and shrugging her shoulders freed them of her long white robe–all with the sway of one movement.

White FellShe was a maiden, tall and very fair. The fashion of her dress was strange and very different than that of the villagers, half masculine, yet not unwomanly. A fine fur tunic reaching but little below the knee is all the skirt she wore below which she wore the cross-bound shoes and leggings of a hunter, and until now, a white fur cap had been set low upon her brow, and from its edge strips of fur fell lappet-wise about her shoulders; two of which a the moment of her entrance had been drawn forward and crossed about her throat, but now, loosened and thrust back, reveling long plaits of fair hair that lay forward on shoulder and breast, down to the ivory-studded girdle where her axe yet gleamed.

Swayne and his mother led the stranger to the hearth without question or sign of curiosity.

We gave her a moment to warm herself and than asked her what her name was, “My real name,” she say, “would be uncouth to your ears and tongue. The folk of this country have given me another name, and from this,” she lay her hand on her fur robe, “they call me ‘White Fell.'”

“How did you get here?”

“I have traveled very far, perhaps a hundred leagues…maybe more.”

Swayne asks, “Alone?!”

With a wry smile she answers, “Yes.”

“Over the hills and wastes! Why, the folk there are savage and wild as beasts,” insists Swayne.

She put her hand upon her axe and laughed, “I fear neither man nor beast; some few fear me.”

Suddenly, she bend over and scooped up Rol who had managed to sneak over to her and had begun to pet her robe. He was repeating it to himself as he stroked and patted her robe. “White Fell, White Fell.” He continued to stroke and pat her robe after she picked him up; just as surprisingly he hugged her tightly and as White Fell seats herself on the hearth, Rol settles into her lap.

Thora let go a little gasp as Rol’s audacity.

“Rol!” exclaimed his aunt; but, “Oh, let him,” suggest White Fell, smiling and stroking the boy’s head.

Perhaps half-an-hour later Christian finally arrived and the room was filled with bustle and movement. When he arrives he says that he was hunting a great wolf whose tracks let to the very door of this place.

An argument between the brothers led to some bad feelings and we decided to watch White Fell that night as Christian had concerns about her not being who she said she was. He claimed that she was a werewolf but Swayne assured us that it was impossible and a test was determined that if she changed form at midnight then we would know so we determined to look upon her at that hour.

The villagers all went to their lodgings and we settled down for a brief rest. White Fell was lodged in a nearby hut. We waited until midnight, keeping a watch on the hut. However, when we went to look she was not there.

In the morning there was surprise and conjecture about her absence, but we and Christian lacking any real evidence held our peace. Swayne and the others left to join the bear hunt along with Bran, Ankoma, and Sayberion. Christian said he was ill and stayed behind with Nyssa and myself.

The next few days saw Christian staying close to the settlement and Swayne being irritated by this. The villagers talked occasionally of the missing girl and Rol would frequently ask about her and the kisses that she gave him. One evening he disappeared and the villagers could not find him even after an exhausting search well into the evening. The next morning however, there was a whining and scratching of Rol’s put at the door and along with the puppy, little Rol’s head lay severed at the foot of the totem in the center of the village.

Christian saw the severed head and cried out, “A wolf did this!”

Sayberion picked up the head to examine it in more detail and suddenly it started to speak:

…And so, the Unspeakable, flung open all graves of the world, and unleashed his horrendous fury, wherein evil rules!
Now thou must return humanity to the past, but wolves reign below the starless skies,
In the service of the Yellow King! 

All you now in this condemned world must vie,
Run on the morrow lest you shall all die;
I’ll watch, and yes guide you, for the hour’s drawn near
For the fall of the Unnamed; a new King has appeared; 

Examine yourselves in this time of repent,
That you may not falter in the places you’re sent.
And when High Leng’s final bell on the last morning tolls
Pray that the Gray Lord does not take all your souls.

At the same time all the children of the settlement drew back together silently collecting as a mass; their faces placid, unmoved. Among the villagers, their faces along remained free of tears and absent of any response. As one the children speak:

“Rol is with the LORD of the WOOD.”

Curious I reached out to speak to one of the children telepathically and thought to probe the child’s thoughts. But, as soon as I touched that thing I was stunned and found myself lying on the ground with the only thing that I recall from the contact being, “Iä! Iä Shub-Niggarauth!” Whatever that means. From that point on however, the children are not themselves. They stop speaking amongst themselves, using their voices only infrequently to address the adults and older teens who are not a party to their strange behavior. They have ceased their play, taking to chores without request and combining their efforts whenever possible so much so that their actions rapidly become distressingly peculiar.

A few days later, White Fell returns to the settlement, as though assured of a glad and kindly welcome; and, in truth most do. However, Christian, whose face grows pale and as rigid as death blurts out, “What did you do to Rol?”

Not a quiver disturbs White Fell’s face though surely she had heard, she remains bright and tranquil as the young children of the village surround her and begin chanting :White Fell, White Fell, White Fell” but without any menace or strangeness at all, seeming for the moment as if her appearance had cured them of whatever was ailing them.

Swayne glared at Christian daring him to speak no more and Christian walked off refusing to hear White Fell’s story. We followed him as he headed to the Devil’s Home, the dwelling place of T’yog, a high priest of Leng. He was a strange man, living there with his sister, who was ill at the time. We passed by an area known as the Garden of Death and the Lake of Tears to get to the temple.

The Devil's HouseThe ancient structure hung, dark upon the bare rock perched as a great beast. At first we could see no egress to the keep past the Lake of Tears that we had been warned about, but Christian approached a metal post upon which rested a great horn and blowing it  sounded a loud, clear blast. Our course became clear as the lake itself began to drain away revealing a stair and path enabling us to move along a narrow pass into the garden and thence to the keep. There, T’yog gave us the holy water that we were seeking and told us that we would be seeing him again soon. Slightly unnerved, we quickly left that odd place to hurry back to the village.

When we arrived back at the village White Fell was entertaining the villagers with her beauty and wiles. Swayne was especially enamored. Most of our group went around to enter the building proper, however I looked in through the window and touched White Fell’s mind with my own. White Fell is singing and Trella seems to be particularly fascinated by the song she is singing:

“Oh, let me go!
Around spun wreaths of snow;
While earth sleeps below.

“Far up the plain
Moans on the voice of pain:
‘Where shall my babe be lain?’

“In my white breast
Lay the sweet life to rest!
Lay, where it can lie best!

“‘Hush, hush its cries!
Dense night is on the skies:
Two stars are in thine eyes.’

“Come, babe, away!
But lay thou till dawn be grey,
Who must be dead by day.

“This cannot last;
But, ere the sickening blast,
Till sorrow shall be past;

“And kings shall be
Low bending at thy knee;
Worshipping life of thee.

“For men long sore,
Due hope for what’s before;
Forgetting things of yore.

“Mine, and not thine,
How deep their jewels shine!
Peace laps thy head, not mine.”

As she finished, Trella says, “So she sang, my sister, my last and brightest. What is she like, she whose voice is like my dead sister’s? Are her eyes blue?”

I probe deeper into White Fell’s mind then to see what she is and search for information on Rol while her mind is distracted with Trella. I quickly sift through her memories, does she know anything of Rol’s disappearance?

“Blue as the sky,” answers White Fell. And then she stands up abruptly and looks out the window at me and sneers as I pull an image and full memory from her. She not only knows something but she was responsible! “He was delicious!” is the overriding thought that comes with the memory as I fragments of memory come with the thought–blood, fangs, bone–it is gruesome. I yell to my companions telepathically, “White Fell is Rol’s murderer! She feasted on him with the joy of a predator savoring a favorite meal! I just saw it in her memories!”

Things quickly became chaotic at that point. Swayne and the other villagers couldn’t understand why White Fell was leaving so quickly. We all moved as quickly as we could to stop her. She ran as quickly as she could to get out of the building–she was amazingly quick. In our haste, we were tripping over ourselves and so the woman-creature escaped for the moment.

Briefly Swayne and Christian argue about the woman and whether she is a true threat or if it is just jealousy but then Christian storms off in search of the beast. We join him and as we head towards the forest Christian points and says, “There, something moves against the sky along the ridge behind the homestead. Can you see it? It is White Fell.” And without another word Christian is gone. He takes off in a straight dash. We are quick to follow, but after a brief foray into the forest we are ambushed.

The sound falls away from us as we come to a place where the trees press in tight upon the path, causing us to lose sight of the trail then looking for a way through we caught a glimpse, a flash of reflective eyes hidden indistinctly amongst white dusted firs, the stealthy eyes of a large predator, camouflaged in the wood, its form indistinct, the sight of it filled us with trepidation.

Displacer BeastChristian had passed by before it was roused from its ambush, but the rest of us were not so lucky and the creature was most difficult to pin down and attack. Every time we tried to strike it we found that it wasn’t quite where we expected it to be. A blow would either miss completely or be a glancing blow at best. While the creatures teeth and barbs from its tentacles ripped into us with excruciating pain. Eventually, we realized that if we could land a solid blow on it, then the creature lost its concentration on its ability to distort its location and then we were more successful in striking it. Once we determined that, I pulled out my bolter and taking careful aim blew its head clean off.

Wolf attackWe continue to travel through the forest, now however instead of Christian leading us we are having to follow his tracks and so our going is slightly slower. Eventually, we catch up to him. We are unable to assist him immediately however as we are initially beset by a pack of wolves. They come from above us, where a fringe of trees hangs round a slope. There we see something dark moving, and we hear a yelp, followed by a full horrid cry, and the dark spread out upon the snow, a pack of pale wolves in pursuit. The three wolves leap first upon Bran and Ankoma while another circles towards Sayberion and Nyssa eyeing them to determine which is the easier prey. I had held myself towards the rear of the party and was safe initially. The wolves ripped into our warriors and Ankoma in particular fared the worst, but in the end we survived their attack.

We then descended the path, sliding down the cliff face instead of the slower safer route as we heard the sound of a man screaming in pain and the snarls of a great wolf. As we got closer we saw a piteous sight. Both of Christian’s arms were already maimed and the huge white wolf was tearing and dragging his maimed left hand through a hastily constructed blockade to give itself cover. In seconds the creature would have surely ripped off Christian’s arm.

As he is being torn apart we can hear Christian wimpering and then calling out, “Swayne, Swayine, O Swayne!”

TransformationThe leaning, leaping Wolf-thing looks back at the fallen Christian with a wild, fierce look half howling and half laughing in savage scorn and triumph. We launch a series of attacks at her with varying degrees of success, however, Nyssa throws a vial of holy water that strikes the creature dead center and splashes the creatures head. Briefly we see the wolf transform back into the once beautiful woman and then the form reverts to the white wolf and we watch as the blessed water drips from the creature’s snout and eyes we see smoke start to rise as it starts to crumble to the ground, the life leaving its body like a marionette with its strings cut.

We go to see if Christian can be saved but it is too late.

In the early grey of day Swayne appears, wrung out with no glimmer of hope, an engine driven on despair alone, in agony while reaching the end, however terrible, sick with the aching of the toiled path that had until now deferred it.

Daylight grows, in coming begins to blot out the uncertain stars lingering in the sky. He sees the two bodies lying close in the narrow space of the trail. Christian’s first, but the other not far beyond, White Fell’s only now a great white wolf.

At the sight Swayne’s strength fails; body and soul he is struck down to groveling, having dropped prone. Very feebly he crawls to his dead brother, and lays his hands upon him, and crouched so, he seems afraid to look or stir farther.

Cold, stiff, hours dead, yet Christian’s dead body is Swayne’s only shelter in this most dreadful moment. We can only watch as Swayne’s soul is stripped bare of any comfort, cowered, shivering, naked, and abject; Swayne clings to his dead brother out of piteous need for grace from the soul that has passed.

When finally he rises to his knees, he lifts Christian’s frozen body, the frost having made him rigid: strange, ghastly, unyielding to Swayne’s lifting, so that he has to lay him down again and he crouches with his arms fast round Christian as he lets go a low heart-wrung groan.

Cold, silence, darkness encompasses the strong man bowed with his dolorous burden; and surely he had entered hell, even though Christian had saved him, it is by Swayne’s own choices he has been undone.

We returned to the village all to recover from the unfortunate event.

Raven’s Keep: Episode 0: The Escape

You are the survivors of an exploratory force organized and dispatched from Raven’s Keep. It had been a well-armed expedition, and you had been implanted with all the skills and knowledge that had been deemed necessary to be successful. You were to be the emissaries of hope, and freedom; a new renaissance for abandoned Old Earth, The Wildlands, but almost immediately you encountered the unexpected, unimagined horrific resistance of a former exile.

As your group travelled through the harsh, uncharted snow covered mountains of the Wildlands, you encountered a group once known as the Friends of Entropy, a group led by a xenophobic leader, a Raven’s Keep exile named Blern. They approaching first as friends, under the guise of Red Dawn, but soon Blern’s army of violent thugs revealed their true nature as they began to intimidate you as they harassed your group, and when that ultimately proved ineffective, they erupted in violence as they terrorized you and the rest of your well-meaning expedition.

That was when their leader Blern the Stranger, reveled the full extent of his own great and deadly power, as they attacked and he manifest his true goal that of ending all life and all technology, the same flawed agenda that had caused his exile from Raven’s Keep so long ago, but ironically and hypocritically, to your eyes he and his forces seemed fixated on harvesting absolutely as much of your technology it as was possible. Now with the unmatched technology of Raven’s Keep, Blern’s new agenda, The Red Death can be identified by their black uniforms that typically cover their entire bodies and faces covered by some various forms of mask. Visions of them haunt your memories, memories of being hunted you through the mountains, attacked without mercy and of the horrid brilliant ear-piercing flash the precipitated Blern’s complete erasure of the skills and knowledge that had been preloaded in your minds prior to your dispatch from Raven’s Keep.

Fate was with you and the other scattered survivors of Blern’s cleansing, fate and Clifton Raven; Cliff Raven who had lived among the elves outside the shields of Raven’s Keep where he became known as Huma. He lived known as Huma, for several centuries prior to being chosen to lead Raven Keep’s outreach into The Wildlands, and among you, he had been the first to recognize Blern for who he truly was having been there a millennia ago for Blern’s exile, and most important that day, Huma’s skill and rare ability had been instrument to your salvation, for his talents were real and they could not be taken by Blern.

Huma reversed his course and with a phalanx of heroic martyrs he sacrificed himself some few of you might survive. Lost and suddenly nearly helpless, but with new purpose and more drive than you had ever previously known in your lifetime, running on the crest of the enormous sacrifice that had been made on your behalf, and knowing that you must survive to somehow counter the evil of Red Death, you ventured forth into the harsh, unforgiving environment of the suddenly unknown mountains, vulnerable and lost fleeing from Blern’s deadly forces.

Now, with a handful of survivors you have found their way to the shelter of a small mountain hamlet called Rydalka. Thus, ironically, those same people who you in your hubris had thought you might offer some vague salvation have saved you; the kind, well-meaning, hard-working, people of Rydalka have taken you in, offering you both shelter and saving you from the slow cold death of the mountain’s winter.

Raven’s Keep: Intro the Wildlands

The new campaign will be starting on October 24 on roll20

You are the survivors of an exploratory force organized and dispatched from Raven’s Keep. It had been a well-armed expedition, and you had been implanted with all the skills and knowledge that had been deemed necessary to be successful. You were to be the emissaries of hope and freedom–a new renaissance for abandoned Old Earth, The Wildlands–but almost immediately you encountered the unexpected, unimagined horrific resistance of a former exile.

As your group travelled through the harsh, uncharted snow covered mountains of the Wildlands, you encountered a group once known as the Friends of Entropy, a group led by a xenophobic leader, a Raven’s Keep exile named Blern. They approaching first as friends, under the guise of Red Dawn, but soon Blern’s army of violent thugs revealed their true nature as they began to intimidate you and as they harassed your group. When that ultimately proved ineffective, they erupted in violence as they terrorized you and the rest of your well-meaning expedition.

That was when their leader, Blern the Stranger, reveled the full extent of his own great and deadly power. They attacked and he manifest his true goal–that of ending all life and all technology–the same flawed agenda that had caused his exile from Raven’s Keep so long ago; but, ironically and hypocritically, to your eyes he and his forces seemed fixated on harvesting absolutely as much of your technology as was possible. Now with the unmatched technology of Raven’s Keep, Blern’s new agenda, The Red Death, can be identified by their black uniforms that typically cover their entire bodies and faces covered by some various forms of mask. Visions of them haunt your memories, memories of being hunted through the mountains, attacked without mercy and of the horrid brilliant ear-piercing flash that precipitated Blern’s complete erasure of the skills and knowledge that had been preloaded in your minds prior to your dispatch from Raven’s Keep.

Fate was with you and the other scattered survivors of Blern’s cleansing, fate and Clifton Raven; Cliff Raven who had lived among the elves outside the shields of Raven’s Keep where he became known as Huma. He lived as Huma, for several centuries prior to being chosen to lead Raven Keep’s outreach into The Wildlands, and among you, he had been the first to recognize Blern for who he truly was having been there a millennia ago for Blern’s exile, and most important that day, Huma’s skill and rare ability had been instrumental to your salvation, for his talents were real and they could not be taken by Blern.

Huma reversed his course and with a phalanx of heroic martyrs he sacrificed himself so some few of you might survive. Lost and suddenly nearly helpless, but with new purpose and more drive than you had ever previously known in your lifetimes, running on the crest of the enormous sacrifice that had been made on your behalf, and knowing that you must survive to somehow counter the evil of the Red Death, you ventured forth into the harsh, unforgiving environment of the suddenly unknown mountains, vulnerable and lost fleeing from Blern’s deadly forces.

Now, with a handful of survivors you have found your way to the shelter of a small mountain hamlet called Rydalka. Thus, ironically, those same people who you in your hubris had thought you might offer some vague salvation have saved you; the kind, well-meaning, hard-working, people of Rydalka have taken you in, offering you both shelter and saving you from the slow cold death of the mountain’s winter.

Amra

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