Lorin

Pell's 1st report to Captain Jassen

To: Captain Jassen

From: Pell (scribed by Guards scribe Nessor)

Re: Report #1 Brief expedition to Harbraen Castle

As ordered, I presented myself at Griffon House to report to the paladin in residence there. The paladin, named Bernard, was not there but two of his associates, spellcasters Doris and Hakon, were.

On their advice, and that of Guerny (an official of the University), the three of us set out to scout out an old castle, Harbraen, in Shorkyne, for the paladin. It is expected that his knightly order will be manning the castle in the near future, or so the spellcasters informed me.

The spellcasters had access to a magical wagon and horse that could fly. The wagon was filled with significant victuals. As neither spellcaster knew how to drive a wagon, I was elected to do so. This wagon can move at speeds faster than an eagle can fly. To control its movement requires some skill and practice, as it takes small, delicate, and deft movements. While making it go left and right are similar to the actions of a normal horse and wagon on land, going up and down are tricky. Speed is related to altitude: the higher, the faster. Giving the usual “giddap” will increase both speed and altitude, and a typical pull back of the reins and “whoa” will decrease both.

We set out from Seville and covered the distance to the town of Enselet in about one and one-half days of travel, including one stopover in the wilderness for the night’s rest. No significant enemy were sighted or encountered, and only a few campfires were visible at night. Tracks of a large number of humanoids were found near our campsite, but many days old.

Enselet had been hit hard by the hordes, and while there we received reports of further attacks on several other towns in Shorkyne, Emelrene, Trierzon, and the Azeryan empire (specifically Dumaness). The last of these was reportedly wiped clean by the Black Legion, who annihilated both the population of the town and the invaders (orcs and hobgoblins). That report came from Herger, one of the Riders of Shorkyne, and is believed reliable. In Enselet, we offloaded almost all the victuals for the townsfolk, and the spellcaster Hakon aided the reconstruction magically. We rested there until the following morning.

Traveling to Harbraen revealed a castle with much wear on it, and no obvious garrison. Both drawbridges were down. Scouting revealed that the gatehouse was guarded by at least 1 archer. With the spellcasters using magic, we entered the castle over the walls invisibly, and cleared out the enemy within it. That enemy turned out to be some 10 orcs plus one giant. Destroying them was largely done by the two spellcasters. My contribution consisted of two good arrow hits on the giant and cutting down one orc with swords. We explored the castle thereafter, finding it to be in some disrepair as if not garrisoned or maintained for considerable time. The only intelligence of any sort is that the orcs hands were marked, green on the left hand, red on the right.

A copy of the map I made of the castle layout is attached. Upon leaving, we closed both drawbridges and returned to Enselet, where we informed the troops there that the place was momentarily cleared of enemy. They may send a detachment to hold it until the paladin can bring his force to it.

The troops in Eneselet were as mystified as to how the enemy got by our scouting screens as was the case here. Backtracking the route of enemy units, easy to follow, simply ended in snow fields. Whether this was due to difficulty tracking in such terrain or to possible magic is not known. The matter bears further investigation.

We returned to Seville to await further orders from the paladin.

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Season 3 - Episode 1
New Faces, New Challenges

While Kethra and Bernard are busy healing those wounded in the recent attack, a small group deals with other matters.

Hakon secures a tongues spell to talk to the carpet. It turns out Jane is actually Jasmina, a djinn of the far east, who was cast into this form as a punishment. In her joy at being freed, Jane gifts the party with a horse and cart able to fly even faster than herself.

The group learns that several towns and forts in Shorkyne, Emelrene, Trierzon and even Azeryan were hit at the same time as Seville, all well inside the borders with Quarphor.

For the cart’s maiden voyage, Hakon, Pell and Doris fly far to the north-east to the town of Enselet, one of the attacked towns, to provide relief and comfort to the people there. Next they flew even further out to Castle Harbraen, an ancient post on the border with Quarphor, long since given up.

After eradicating an orc problem and dispatching a fire giant, the group reclaimed the castle for civilization and returned home. It was understood that troops from the Riders of Shorkyne would occupy and defend the castle until Lord Bernard was free to claim it.

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Alseera's Journal, 27th Entry
written while resting after the battle with the Dark Lord of Fear
Conditions steadily deteriorated as we approached the Crucible, turning dark and stormy. Kethra’s analysis of the weather found it to be not natural. No surprise there. We landed about half a mile from the keep itself, where forest was still green and growing. Further in all the trees were dead, the ground barren. The storm grew worse and lightning began crashing down quite nearby. Hakon used an Arcane Eye to scout ahead, and found only one way in to the central keep. The courtyard between the curtain wall and the keep itself was deserted. The whole place looked decrepit and long-abandoned.

Whurel moved ahead, using his powers to create a tunnel under the outer wall. We went through that and scouted around the central keep, only some 60 feet on a side and square in shape. Digging down found massive solid walls going far down underground. Two of the three entrances were bricked up very solidly as well. Having no choice, we went in by the one remaining door to find the inside largely decayed: forges, long gone cold, dry pits with reddish, greenish, and black crusts about them, old broken or rotted weapons, crumbling furniture, rotted out doors, etc. The only thing “fresh” was the torches, which were magical with what looks like Continual Flame on them. I am using one; Bernard took others. It was these that made it seem that the place was occupied, as they shone out through the arrow slits. Those slits, by the way, were magically warded and allowed nothing solid to go in or out. No creatures of any kind were found in the keep, not even rats and spiders.

We checked out the ground floor and the one above it. Nothing except as noted above. One stairwell going up was thoroughly blocked by brickwork. Bernard tried to crack through it and succeeded only in bending his crowbar a little.

Going down, the only option left, led to a room with 4 illuminated stained glass windows, one depicting Bernard, one Whurel, one Kethra, and one me. None for Hakon. They looked as if they were translucent, as if one could walk through them. Hakon detected magic on them, but found only the mix of necromancy, illusion, conjuration, abjuration, and divination that pervaded the whole place. (As at Domas Mostellaria, light was dimmed, vision restricted to perhaps half normal distance.) In any case, what happened next revealed this was a carefully planned trap. If someone attempted to go through a window not his own, they bounced off. Whurel and Bernard tried a trick wherein W was on B’s shoulders and they went toward W’s window. W went through, B bounced off. Moments later, K pushed her club (not herself) into her window, and it still sucked her through. I dispelled the magic on mine. B then smashed the glass, but no way through existed behind it. He then went through his window, leaving me and Hakon behind. We started looking for another way down.

We tried blasting the wall with dozens of Rays of Frost and Silver Bolts, but that didn’t seem to work. Or maybe it did, because not much later, the wall proceeded to crumble behind where my window was, revealing a curving hallway. As we went down, I felt strange, and the hallway began to become quite cramped. Looking at my hand, I noticed my fingernails turning into claws and hands into more like a dragon’s forefeet. I was turning into a dragon!

Hakon and I arrived in a large chamber. In it was an enormous white dragon, which said I had stolen its Drak-esk Ork, and killed one of its kin. I knew from reading the Draconomicon that she was Wintermute, the Queen of White Dragons. For some reason, I was a white dragon too, not a silver one. Much of this struck me as odd, but powerful magic must have been at work so ‘normal’ explanations may not be appropriate in analyzing what went on here. That the DLF could have persuaded Wintermute to sit in his room (with no exit big enough for her!) is unlikely at best. In any case, Wintermute opened the festivities by blasting me with its cold breath, but that, of course, did nothing at all. That too, did not make sense — a white dragon, especially one so experienced, must have known that all white dragons are immune to cold. I didn’t even try my breath, but figured my only chance was to be quicker and more maneuverable (it was far larger than I). So I flew behind it, and attempted to use claws and teeth. That did some damage, but was about as effective as hitting a stone wall with a pebble. Hakon hid behind me, finding some doors out and tried to get through them. Barred. I then attempted to smash my way through, while dodging the larger dragon’s attacks as best I could. It took a while, and I was rather bloodied, but I tore a hole in the doors. Hakon slipped through that and was able to unbar the doors. We hightailed it down a long corridor, the larger dragon being unable to fit. I barely fit! Being “small and slim” (for a dragon, anyway!) was a decided benefit.

We came out into a large room, and I was in my own form again, though still badly battered. In it were all of us, arrayed along one wall. Before us was a large empty chamber, then a wide opening into a second chamber containing a throne, some coffins, two stands with spheres floating above them (one clear, one black), and two black-armored figures in the shape of men. One of the two black-armored ones turned and said to the other, “I’ve done all I can. Finish this and meet us in the north.”

Bernard and Whurel charged, but before they got there, I was able to hit the remaining enemy with a Silver Blast, doing damage. After that, it blasted several of us with a huge spell or something; the next thing I remember was Whurel pouring a potion down my throat. I was still in bad shape but able to move and cast again. Battle continued, with Kethra (as a giant elk), Bernard, and Whurel surrounding it. I tried a Silver Bolt but missed. The three of them, taking much damage, managed to destroy it, with the final blow — an awesome, shattering one — delivered by Whurel.

Meantime, Hakon had discovered that the clear sphere was a crystal ball (and taken it from above its stand), and that the black sphere ate anything put into it. He tried moving the black one, and nearly got eaten, but he was able to dive out of the way when it came toward him.

Kethra cast a healing spirit spell that helped me get better, and eventually (after the fight was over)everyone else injured. Somewhere along in here I realized that Whurel had brought Wanda’s corpse, carried by Jane the Carpet.

We explored (I did detect magic twice) and found the six coffins contained poor children being sucked of life by necromantic magic, plus the throne soaked with necromantic magic, and a magic teleportation circle around the corner out of the chamber. We rescued the children, then destroyed the coffins by heaving them into the black sphere. Bernard and Kethra did as much healing of the children as they could; they did not awaken but seemed stable.

We all gathered up all the parts of the destroyed death knight (if that’s what it was, but I am fairly certain it was indeed the Dark Lord of Fear) and throwing every bit of it, all its armor and weapons, even the dust of its bones, into the black sphere.

Kethra had the happiest idea of the day: let’s get rid of the tainted gold in this sphere! We all agreed (with B promising to make up W’s share) and threw every single evil coin into it. What a joy to be rid of that worry!

Whurel and I then managed to badly damage, if not fully destroy, the throne by mentally “pulling” on the sphere. Each time I tried to move or control it, it would move about 10 feet toward me. Our method was to position ourselves so the sphere went through the throne as it came toward us; this was dangerous and eventually I realized that I just couldn’t control it well enough to do more damage than we had already done. The throne was not fully destroyed, but left spouting occasional gouts of necromantic magic that did not go far. It looked very broken, with the sphere floating just above the seat, and we left it at that.

Bernard found a bag of 130 rubies under the bowl of the teleportation magic circle, and after I dispelled magic on the 3 in the bowl, we had 133 very nice non-magical rubies. Further hunting around by everyone found one door out (concealed, found by me) and a piece of one of those ancient earth magic pillars…no magic on it (found by Kethra and Whurel, I believe, I didn’t see it exactly but they were over that way).

The corridor behind the concealed door led up and to an opening behind and outside of the curtain wall of the keep. We rested, did as much healing as we could on the abused children, and realized that we needed to seek better healing than we have to get them better. We then discussed the situation elected to go to the nearest town, Kirgan. Some risk exists of being branded “heroes” (a la Dumas) and ending up with more trouble; this made us desire to stick together.

Jane can make food! While we were resting and figuring how to get all of us to Kirgan, the carpet suddenly created a banquet for six. How convenient!

Our plan, eventually, was to get to Kirgan by putting Whurel (150 pounds), me (100), the six children (600), and Wanda (120) on Jane (total load, 970, about Jane’s limit). Hakon will ride his broom, while casting Tenser’s disks for Ketha and Bernard to ride on. In this way we can travel reasonably fast. For the moment, we are resting in the Leomund’s Tiny Hut, recovering.

The weather, by the way, is nice again; the evil gloom and unnatural storm are gone. Bernard, Kethra, and Whurel have not yet told me what happened to them after they went through those ensorceled mirrors/windows. I expect to be listening to some exciting tales while we’re flying along!

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Alseera's Journal, 26th Entry
The enemy is setting traps and ambushes. About halfway to the Crucible, we were suddenly set upon by air elementals or something like them. Many of us were nearly thrown from Jane and would have fallen to our deaths, but between some deft carpet maneuvers and Hakon’s catching Kethra with his magic broom, all of us got down safely.

The one elemental we saw first, outlined by the dust it stirred up, was enormous, far larger than one would expect. My spell of Banishment worked! Silver threads surrounded the monster, then began to spin into a vortex which sucked it away to nowhere. Thereafter the silver threads in the vortex condensed into a beautiful silver sparkle which vanished with a pop and was gone. I get the distinct feeling the banished monster was not an ‘ordinary’ air elemental, but something more powerful. Its exact nature is a subject for research at a later date.

However, two creatures were after us. The other one, also invisible but much smaller, suddenly attacked Whurel just after the larger one was Banished. Kethra had summoned an earth elemental with the horn, which then struck the invisible foe. Though we couldn’t see the thing, we knew roughly where it was. While the others rained blows on it, I tried Sorcerous Rays. Didn’t work, and I missed badly, one of them scratching Whurel by accident. Kethra then managed to outline it by covering it with webbing (she had morphed into a huge spider). Now able to see it, I shot a Silver Bolt which hit.

After this it was rapidly destroyed by numerous blows from all the others. When the combat was over, I suggested that we hide Whurel’s necklace (in the Bag of Holding) given to him by Wanda, as it may be used by the enemy to track us. We certainly tried to find out where she is by using it, and I suspect our enemy is smart enough to do the same in reverse. In any case, he refused to part with it, Bernard would not intervene, and my very reasonable suggestion was ignored.

Kethra discovered that the horn of elemental summoning does recharge, rate unknown. We have used it twice now, but have 3 charges remaining and it had 4 initially. Perhaps you can control which type of elemental it summons by the three holes it has…sounding a different note depending on which holes are covered —another item for future research. The smaller foe may have been an invisible stalker, but that’s only educated guesswork.

Putting this away now; we are approaching the Crucible.

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Alseera's Journal, 25th Entry
Duma is a grim place to visit. They had bodies swinging from gibbets at the gate we came in, with a sign warning everyone not to be a “hero,” which I take to mean not upsetting the apple cart of those in power. The presence of the military was everywhere.

We found the mageguild building readily enough, but it was late in the day and the guard at the gate, an extremely ugly fellow, would not let us in, in spite of repeated tries. We repaired to an inn.

While we were there, some of the military came in and arrested some more of these “heroes.” Hakon managed somehow to purloin a coin those arrested left behind. It has writing in Celestial on it and refers to the “Blue Templars.” Evidently this is some kind of anti-establishment organization.

Later in the night, some disturbance occured in the room occupied by Bernard, Hakon, and Whurel. Kethra and I were in the next room, and nobody really told us much of what went on. I suppose it must have been minor, as they didn’t bother to mention it later.

In the morning, we repaired to the mageguild and were let in by that horribly ugly servant, whose name was Caliban. He may have been a hobgoblin, from the looks. We discussed things with Miranda and she said to return later in the day for traveling papers, which she would prepare for us. I gave Miranda the letter Prospero had entrusted to me. There followed a long discussion about some aspects of the empire, the Black Legion, and the Crucible. She also had further information on death knights and the five sins of Dagda’s religion, both of which I read. The author of the sins scroll was someone called Oghun, scion of Oghma. (Is he claiming to be the child of a god?!!?? In any case, he was supposed to be living in the deserts in the southwestern part of the Azeryan empire). Oghun was expanding upon the scroll written by Enobarbus, whom Oghun called a “daft idiot.” In any case, this is what was written about the sins.

Wrath, combining anger and hate, and not surprisingly associated with the color red.

Avarice, combining greed, lust, and envy, or, if you will, “need beyond reason.” It is associated with the color green.

Cowardice, color yellow. This can be both the usual kind (excessive fear in the face of an enemy) or groveling to a superior power or authority…i.e. failure to stick up to principles by doing whatever is going to make the powerful ‘happy.’

Sloth, color gray. This isn’t just physical laziness, but apathy, complacency and conformity, again taking the “easy way out” instead of sticking to principles.

The fifth sin is “Obedience,” i.e. slavishly following the orders of a higher authority, even if doing so violates principles. It seems to be a more severe version of “sloth,” as its color black is more intense than gray, in that the sinner is willing to do things against principle rather than just go along. It is thus a sin of commission vs. sloth’s sin of omission…failing to do anything.

According to Oghun, this is so deadly a sin that it is not uttered by those of the Dagda religion. The scroll closed with an interesting opinion:

“The irony of the deadly sins is this – these conditions of the heart are not written about for the purpose of guarding oneself from these evils. In fact quite the opposite. This theology is a list of attributes to be groomed in a society for the purpose of subjugation. This is a recipe for domination! A wrathful man can be turned on his brother. A avaricious man can be lured by promises of rewards. A coward can be cowed through threats of punishment. A slothful people can be counted on to ‘go with the flow’ and not resist, choosing what is easy over what is right.”

To that I add that the over-obedience sin allows the formation of an amoral cadre of enforcers of the leader’s wishes, even if those wishes are entirely corrupt or sinful. The Black Legion might fit that description.

We mentioned the arrest in the inn last night and showed Miranda the “Blue Templars” coin; she immediately became nervous. In a slip of the tongue, she seemed to imply she was a member of it, and that we risked exposing them. Then she shooed us out as if afraid of us, not to come back until the papers were ready. As we had not been able to give her a full explanation of what we were about, I offered to write a summary for her of the entire affair since Domas Mostellaria.

We wandered about town some, bought a few things including some very fine and tasty baked goods, and then repaired to an inn called the “True Blue” (the co-incidence was hard to miss!). In that inn, it seemed that the clientele was anti-establishment, but subtly. The guards came in and threatened everyone once, too. Nonetheless I got the summary written while we were there.

We collected the traveling papers at the appropriate time, and I left the summary, written in Draconic, with her. This included everything from our initial visit to Domas Mostellaria up to the part about Whurel’s vision, sourcing entity still unknown, of the corruption invading Dagda. The traveling papers, by the way, said we were collecting magical components and might go anywhere. We left town shortly thereafter, about mid-day, and headed southeast.
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Alseera's Journal, 24th Entry

Alseera’s Journal, 24th entry (written flying from the ruined tower to Duma)

After leaving the Rakshasa the first time, we headed to Kesara to get proper papers, and I thought it a good idea to see Prospero, the guildmaster of the mageguild there, and find out what was going on and how to get those somewhat obscure ‘papers’ we will need if we are going into Azeryan territory.

I had warned the others about the corruption and extreme prejudices that we were likely to encounter, and that both got much worse in Trierzon the futher east you go. They discounted what I was saying, or didn’t care much, or both. Our arrival was mundane enough, including suspicious and corrupt gate guards making comments about the non-humans in our party. Invoking Prospero’s name (“came to see him about magical matters”) was not effective. Gold bribes and mentioning buying things in the town (‘city’ is too grand a term for Kesara) did work. Once in, we repaired to the inn the bribed guard mentioned; note that when paid a bribe his answer as to where to stay was different than his first answer to that question.

We went to see Prospero. His “guild” here is just himself, apparently. We tried out the cover story of consulting on matters of fiendish magics first, even to the extent of showing him the Gem of True Seeing and letting him look at the fiendish gold through it. However, dear Bernard acted far too intelligent and authoritative while this was going on, and Prospero — an intelligent man — saw through the cover quickly. We then proceeded to explain all about the Dark Lord of Fear, about our encounters at Domas Mostellaria and consequences thereof, and that we were here to rescue Wanda. He also read the accounts written in the books of the Knights Warden and of the Knights of the Shield. He was fascinated, and offered to help.

In the middle of all this, Whurel suddenly went into a kind of trance and began describing a scene of a magnificent white temple now diseased and gushing forth a foul black ichor. Humans, either dazed or unaware, did not notice this filth. When he finished, he appeared to snap back to being himself, but could not remember what he said, or even that he had said it. We reconstructed as much as we could from what the rest of us heard, but it is probably incomplete. Here it is:

“In the furthest distance, due east, is a city shrouded in gray and shadow. I see more detail than is possible from this distance. I see a tall, gleaming temple with a façade of white marble. Its doors crash open and an ugly black ooze pours forth. It spreads up and out, covering the white marble with a thick black coating. The black infection seems alive as it spreads over the temple engulfing it. My point of view pulls back to take in the masses of people who populate this place. Almost all are humans, but they seem to walk in a stupor. They don’t respond to the black ooze covering the temple. My point of view takes me in close on their faces. Their skin seems pale, yellowish. Their eyes are wrong – looking ‘bloodshot’ with strings of red and green infecting the whites. There is a smell of disease here.”

It sounded to Prospero like the Great Cathedral of Dagda in Mekopolis was being corrupted, something that he found to be unlikely, given the power of Dagda, but nonetheless horrifying. The prospect of the red and green fiendish creatures being weak compared to what “Lord Tymek” could do, from Kethra’s vision, came immediately to mind, and note the red and green in the eyes of the zombied humans in Whurel’s vision. While all this is based on visions, it bears thinking about; the Dagda hierarchy should be warned. Prospero spent considerable effort to inform us of the way of life in the Azeryan Empire. Some of this I knew, but some was new and informative. Here’s the gist of his comments:

The Emperor directly appoints the state governors. All city
and town ‘magistrates’ are then appointed by the governors,
with the population having no say in the matter. Most of these
magistrates are retired military officers, and the army is used
in place of what we would call city or town guards. ‘Peace’ and
order are maintained through naked force.

Any Azeryan guard or soldier is likely to challenge a
traveler. Be prepared to present papers. Demi-humans
(dwarves, elves, and the like) will be treated with suspicion.
Humanoids will be treated with disgust.

No one may speak freely, or against the established
powers; such ‘rabble-rousing’ and other public disturbances
are not tolerated.

The Black Legion is the most elite company of the Azeryan
military, the personal guard of the emperor and, occasionally,
his agents. The commander of the Black Legion is a larger-
than-life figure, by some called some the ‘Dark Lord of the
Legion.’

The Crucible, a large square keep, is the legendary fortress
where each individual Black Legion soldiers was ‘forged.’ That
is the myth, but the mundane reality is that the most elite
(Prospero did not say if that ‘elite’ had to do with social position
or military prowess) soldiers from each Azeryan company are
given the honor of serving in the Black Legion. However they
come to be in the Legion, no one has ever held a conversation
with a Black Legionnaire, or even seen one out of their head-
to-toe uniform.

Whatever the reality of the Legion, the fires of the Crucible
went out centuries ago, until now. The heart of the Legion
beats again. (Chillingly, rumors speak also of children disappearing
in that area, just like the tales of the Dark Lord of Fear from long
ago.)

The Cruicible itself lies about 60 leagues southeasterly of
Duma, but before you reach the town of Kirgen, also in that
direction, and is perhaps 180 leagues away by road.

He gave us papers that will get us to Duma, including a sealed letter for the Duma Mageguildmistress, Miranda. She should be able to help us further. He also wanted a report upon our return (he used ‘if’ rather than ‘when’) of what we found and what happened at the Crucible.

While we were in Propero’s home/guildhouse, Hakon was reading scrolls and books, and found a couple of interesting items about Death Knights (written by, of all people, the Enobarbus we met in Seville) plus some highly skeptical comments (e.g. “rubbish”) by a mage on what Enobarbus had written. The gist of the latter was that Death Knights were not fallen paladins but evil creatures right from the start. Prospero discounted the veracity of the skeptical author. Frankly, my take of that ‘controversy’ is that so little is actually known (i.e. facts: names, dates, etc), that all of it is suspect.

When we left Prospero’s that evening, and headed toward our inn, the other three suddenly went off to another tavern. I suggested strongly that we stay out of sight, but they were more interested in having a good time than being discreet. I am beginning to wonder about the judgement of Bernard and Hakon, not just Whurel. In any event, I went back to the inn and stayed with Kethra and told her what had transpired at Prospero’s.

After that I spent some time in the common room talking with locals, mostly the bartender. The news was all mundane items about taxes and schools and such, nothing of interest.

The others came back sometime in the night, evidently without any untoward incidents…thank goodness…anyway, they were there in the morning. We repaired to Prospero’s early to pick up the papers, and the sealed letter (which I have) for Guildmistress Miranda. We also got a full helm for Bernard, which helps disguise him by hiding his mouth. Hakon is good at disguises, it turns out, and was able to make Bernard look almost human.

We took the direct route to Duma, over the Rakshasa tower (the caravan routes, to avoid that area, go well north of it, and we wished to avoid contact). The tower was burning when we got there, and looked different. Going down to investigate more closely, we found the white tower to be gray stone, the two witches’ caps gone, the magical protective shell gone, the surrounding outer wall breached in several places, and (per Whurel) recent fire in the firepit. Going in the tower found the doors smashed open, and a dying Rakshasa in a broken chair in an otherwise plain room at the top of the stairs.

The Rakshasa told us “he” (we assume the DLF, but it didn’t say so) had come to remove whatever potential threat the Rakshasa was. It now would freely give Whurel the answer to three questions, and this was the result:

1. Where is Wanda? Below the Crucible, where “he” keeps his pets. He is waiting for you.

2. How can you defeat the Dark Lord? The Rakshasa didn’t know, but suggested using all your power to crush him. Bludgeoning was mentioned.

3. What is the best way to enter the Crucible? “He” will only let you in by the front door. (And it suggested we would suffer somehow by doing so.)

It would answer no more questions, and told us to leave. I offered to help it on its way to where it was going (it said Hell) with Banishment, but it more emphatically said to leave. We did.

As we took off, I did mention to the others that perhaps we should go straight to the Crucible now, surprise having been lost. We discussed this for a while, but the group elected to go to Doma first; they wanted to deliver Prospero’s sealed letter. Now that I think on it, at least giving information to the Guildmistress about the potential evil threat to the Dagda is also wise.

The matter of how the DLF found out we were here already, and knew we had talked with the Rakshasa, bears investigation. The DLF may have had agents at (or magical means of watching) the Rak’s tower, and they would have reported. The time from our arriving at that tower to now is about one day, not enough for any normal mode of communication to have allowed so quick a response. So our enemy no doubt has magical means (sendings, scryings, whatever) of communicating, plus the ability to move powerful forces over long distances quickly. And if any report of a flying carpet was involved, the DLF (who no doubt knows what his former possessions were) then certainly knows someone has arrived who took the carpet from Domas Mostellaria. Either that, or he had an agent in Kesara who reported us.

Other things are also unusual to an extent that demands investigation. Some power took over Whurel, and in doing so seemingly provided us with insight into the enemy’s plans to corrupt Dagda. Who is this power, and why does it work the way it does? Why does it not directly intervene, given its evident power to take us over from long distances?

The more I think about it, the more warning Dagda of the danger we have seen supersedes the mission of rescuing Wanda. While the latter is noble and worthy, stopping the Dark Lord’s attempt to corrupt Dagda is of far greater importance. We should go to Mekopolis first, to take care of that. This will also perhaps foul up the Dark Lord’s plans for us, if we go off in an unexpected direction and not directly into his planned traps.

We also need to think of a way to get into the Crucible besides his “front door.” Blow the horn until we get an earth elemental that can open us a tunnel into the spaces below the fortress? See if we can get some powerful magic in Mekopolis (with Dagda’s help if they choose to believe us)? Hire a Xorn? Mind control an Umber Hulk? The last two are ridiculous, of course, but if we can come up with a viable scheme, it is both good tactics and sensible to outflank the Dark Lord.

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What Whurel Said

In the furthest distance, due east, there is a city shrouded in gray and shadow. You perceive more detail than is possible from this distance. You see a tall, gleaming temple with a façade of white marble. Its doors crash open and an ugly black ooze pours forth. It spreads up and out, covering the white marble with a thick black coating. The black infection seems alive as it spreads over the temple engulfing it.

Your point of view pulls back to take in the masses of people who populate this place. Almost all are humans, but they seem to walk in a stupor. They don’t respond to the black ooze covering the temple. Your point of view takes you in close on their faces. Their skin seems pale, yellowish. Their eyes are wrong – looking ‘bloodshot’ with strings of red and green infecting the whites. There is a smell of disease here.

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Prospero's Advice

On the afternoon the party spent with Prospero, he spent considerable effort to inform them of the way of life in the Azeryan Empire. Among the points he brought up were the following:

  • The Empire is divided into states ruled by governors appointed directly by the Emperor. (Ambassador Wilhuff Typhon was the governor of the western territories before the empire withdrew.)
  • Local city and town governments are head by “magistrates” appointed by the governors. Local populations have no real say in their governance. Most of these magistrates are retired military officers.
  • The regular army is used in place of civilian police. “Peace” and order are maintained through force.
  • Any Azeryan guard or soldier is likely to challenge a traveler. Be prepared to present papers.
  • Demi-humans (dwarves, elves, and the like) will be treated with suspicion. Humaniods will be treated with disgust.
  • “Free Speech” is obviously not a thing here. Rabble-rousers and public disturbances are not tolerated.
  • The Black Legion are the most elite company of the Azeryan military. They function as the personal guard of the emperor, also occasionally acting as protectors of his agents. The commander of the Black Legion is a larger than life figure, referred to by some as the Dark Lord of the Legion.
  • The Crucible is the legendary fortress where the Black Legion soldiers were “made”. It is a large square keep with the mystique of a forge – the mythology being that the individual soldiers of the Black Legion were each “forged” here. The reality is thought to be more mundane – that the most elite of soldiers from each Azeryan company are given the honor of serving in the Black Legion. However, it is notable that no one has ever held a conversation with a Legion soldier or seen one out of their head-to-toe uniform. Whatever the reality of the Legion is, the fact remains that the fires of the Crucible went out many years ago…until now. The heart of the Legion beats again.

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Pell Report #1

Report on Pell #1,  by Cpt. Jassen

 

   Pell was sent by Master Hand to find out why Master Quizmet had not returned from an errand west of the University.

    The Master had been knocked out and taken by a large hill giant.

Pell and one Doris, evidently a wizard in residence here who had also been taken by the giant, were able to overcome the giant and rescue Quizmet. In the fight, Pell suffered some wounds, but not too serious and will be fine. Quizmet was brought back by using the giant’s sack and some wood to make a travois, with Pell pulling it.

    On the way back, after getting soaked crossing an icy creek, they built a campfire in an old stone circle with a low flat stone in the center, and were resting and rewarming. Doris took a rubbing of the writing on that stone. Two minor demons then appeared and attacked, claiming some “dark lord” did not want them there. Pell killed one (he showed me its head, which he took to the alchemists afterward), Doris the other.

   Upon return he reported first to Master Hand, and then to me.

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Alseera's Journal, 23nd Entry

Alseera’s Journal, 23rd entry (written after the encounter with Lord Tiberius the Rakshasa).

     An interesting, and too exciting, day.  Everything was just fine as we flew along east until we ran into a three-headed beast (I believe they are called “chimera.”) and got into a fight with it.  I hit it 3 times with Silver Blast and once with Silver Bolt.  That, plus the damage the others did was enough, but I got badly singed by its fiery breath. Kethra was kind enough to heal me, with some interesting new spell she has that summons a healing spirit. I cut off and have the monster’s dragon-like head and stowed it.

    Later, as we headed east, we spied a tower in the distance, in a place that Whurel recognized from his “non-vision.” When we arrived, it turned out to be a courtyard enclosed by a 15’ wall, and magically protected from aerial entry.  Whurel dug a tunnel under the wall, and entered.  He encountered a huge agglomeration of animated stones, and the rest of us rushed in after they attacked him.  Net result was that most of the fight was over by the time I got in there, although I did get in one Silver Blast, which was the finishing blow as it turned out.

    Oh…before I forget, we named the carpet. It likes to be called “Jane.”

    Back to the tower. After we defeated the animated stones (earth elemental?), we entered the tower, which was empty except for a winding staircase going up to one door.  Going in revealed a space that could not be seen from outside the doorway, evidently a magical portal of some kind into an extra-dimensional space that was larger in diameter than the tower we entered.  Inside was what looked like a man sitting in a chair, a couple of windows, a fireplace, and several bookshelves.  I glanced at the titles, which were written in a variety of languages.

    The creature, who turned out to be a Rakshasa, a kind of fiend, was glad to see us, and mentioned an invitation given to Whurel previously (he denied ever having received such) was to be extended to all of us.  That “invitation” was for a deal whereby we asked it questions (W. getting 3, the rest 1 each), it gave us the answers (Whurel being intensely interested in where Wanda is), and we left the door open for it to escape its imprisonment.  In the course of the conversation, it came out that “Lord Tiberius” (the name it used…never heard of any such name in all my history lessons) had been imprisoned by the DLF, that it wanted revenge on the DLF, that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend (i.e. us), and that it was a Rakshasa. Also evident was the fact that it could read minds, and know things about you it could not except by some kind of magical seeing/knowing/scrying. It called me a “dragon girl,” and Hakon a “drow” (what’s that?). So it had the advantage of us; a negotiation is difficult when the other side knows every bit about what our side knows and is thinking.

     This led to a debate about whether we should accept such a bargain with it, as doing so could release a huge evil upon the world. In the end, the possibility of gaining information about Wanda was just not worth the risk of releasing such a monster upon the world.

    Kethra brought up a very good point that the Rakshasa may have been imprisoned by the DLF before the latter turned to evil. (That’s based on the very sketchy knowledge that the DLF is a “death knight” and thus supposed to be a fallen paladin.)  In the end, although I felt that what it actually said was more or less the truth, it was nonetheless too selective about what it chose to tell us, and too secretive, so I elected to not deal with it. Bernard, Kethra, and Hakon also declined. Whurel was open to the bargain, but since we others would not guarantee to prevent the Rakshasa from leaving, even if W. was willing to do so, the entire deal was off. And we left.    

     I relearned a lesson: be careful about unknown magic.  When we were outside, I talked the others to going up to the roof of the tower, which had a flat space between its two witches’ peaks. The idea was that we’d found 1 staircase and 1 door, but obviously two rooms were at the top.  I got zapped by magic sparks when trying to step onto the roof, and that ended that.

     Whurel was obviously disappointed.  He also was unaware, apparently, that he had ever been offered any bargain by this creature. Mind control of some kind by it? Who knows!  And speaking of “who knows,” we are now back to knowing nothing specific about where Wanda is (except the vague “heart of blackness” east of Seville).  Tuallerton’s scrying failed, the love necklace failed (a great surprise to Tuallerton), Whurel’s non-vision leading us here did not work.

     Oh, yes, I forgot, but when we flew over the old druidic circle just west of Trobridge, it had been entirely destroyed with all the stones shattered and thrown down.  So whatever bad actor was after it is certainly still active.

 

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