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
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-
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
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.