Blackwater Adventuring Company

Log 21: The Corellon Crypts
Death below and a visit from the Feywild

Kraiven, Fenix, and his personal squad of Glasspine Guardians stood upon the ravaged bodies in the dark hallway as the others stood behind. It was with a mystic cloud that two women appeared at the whirlpool room’s entrance. Johann took to them without suspicion. He shouted a bit to the others in the hall and questioned the ladies gently.

Fenix sent in the guards to secure the room and he and Kraiven entered. One of the visitors was an elegant Eladrin named Aezriael. On her first visit to the Prime plane from the Feywild, she accompanied her friend Jasmine – a dangerous Halfing mage. They had met during Jasmine’s time spent on the Feywild plane as she made a pact with their dimensional powers to strengthen her own abilities. They looked for no accommodation. They wanted to help.

Honored by the Fey presence, Ferindar begged that they find safety. However, he did graciously accept their assistance eventually. The Halfling and Eldarin were concerned for the Elves and the place of magic that was Vanya’laide. The men lowered their guards and welcomed their new friends.

Fenix and Jasmine continued and inspected the Eastern door. As ornate as the others, it stood just as locked as well. Jasmine determined it would be a difficult one to pick, but certainly possible. They called for Kraiven’s skills, but he was distracted in the Northern hall.

He approached the door at the end of the dark hall to find the same. He offered a keen eye to it and leaned in. It was then that the ceiling began to emit light. The glowing started at his end of the hall and piece by piece began to light it until it reached the end closest to the others. Aezriael stepped in and examined the ceiling alongside him.

Looking up, they noticed the light was coming from what looked like rectangular tiles. Strangely however, they sat behind a pane of glass and looked to be made of some earthly material. The rogue deemed it safe, so Kraiven decided to pick the lock. He did so expertly, but received a spray of toxic gas to his face. He had experienced a trap or two in his time however, and did not fall unconscious despite the foggy stinging behind his eyes.

Fenix stepped through the crowding hall and poked a head into the room they now had access to. He emerged into a high-ceilinged, two-level room with an engraved wall standing isolated at its center. The second level was without a railing and was lined with hanged shields…and quite a few lumbering, heaving figures. He warned the others to ready themselves.

Johann stepped between the group himself to take a look and aim his staff. In the far, high corner, he picked out what looked a creature and it’s bored handler. The fireball exploded with searing heat and lit them ablaze. They howled in pain as the growls in the room revealed more creatures. The battle had begun.

Kicking the door open, Fenix bursted in and landed his mace into a ghast’s abdomen. It crushed the abomindation’s rib cage and took force to be removed. The room was full of them along with a dark Adept of Orcus. He ordered Kraiven forward who slid in and tossed his grappling hook to the corner with the blazing Adept and Ghast.

From the hall, Aezriael summoned her spirit companion with a similar “poof” that her own entrance brought about and sent the glowing stalker cat in. It galloped in deftly and began a striking onslaught. Jasmine channeled into the feeble minds of the creatures and fed them confusing images. The pain they felt left them blinded and debilitated as the others continued their attack. Her quiet low stature allowed her a stealth entrance into the chaos.

Kraiven found himself pinned on the second level by the Adept. Its accompanying ghast tore into his side. He fought with his back to the ledge when the Adept released a necrotic cloud of grave dust. The threat grew in danger as he stepped closer to the edge. Johann opened a portal behind Kraiven to hopefully allow him quick passage back to the first level, but the assassin was knocked unconscious.

It was Fenix’s inspiring words through the portal that woke him. Kraiven stood and buried a twisting dagger into the Adept before allowing him to fall to the level below. The ghast retaliated, but he used his grappling hook to drag him into the transporation portal and lay prone near his battling companions back on the first level.

Jasmine unleashed her psychic rain of pain and teleported herself under the blind gaze of the ghasts. She brought death upon creatures that never saw where their peril originated. Aezriael saw her feline companion fall, but brought it back without a bead of sweat and even offered Kraiven healing spirit.

Ghasts began to jump down from the high ledge. One grappled an odd spot on the wall that revealed its true nature. Clearing whatever clogged the spout, the ghast spilled down with raging water that ran into the now river-like dip in the rooms floor. It poured over the still prone Kraiven and slid him along the floor until the water calmed into a stream.

The fight raged on until the undead died once again in the brilliant flames, sharp blades, crushing blows, and mystic prowess of the company. It was a test of the newcomers strength that they passed with flying colors. This crypt was a place of great spiritual significance to the Elves and Eladrin alike, but was still overrun with the sickening taint of the evil undead.

It truly writhed under the gaze of the Dark Lord.

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Log 20: Into The Underground
Beneath the Temple

The party entered a pungent room lit only by what resembled a glowing well in its center. The pale, faint blue glow reflected off of what they realized were corpses surrounding it. They looked to be a mixture of Elven soldiers, orcs, goblins, cultists, and nondescript humanoids. They could hear the water constantly swirling within.

Despite it’s stable whirlpool, the floor remained wet. They noticed a pair of wet trails that led to the each doorway surrounding except for the left before returning to the well. It even seemed splashed onto those doors and surrounding walls.

Kraiven approached the door to the left. The carvings on the door portrayed a small army of Elves battling a towering dark shadow of a creature. Some werelatched onto it with ropes while others fired upon it with their bows. Beyond them, in what looked to be the skies, were two giant snakes. The tail of each snake pointed at the lock.

He was able to tell the door was not actually locked due to its give. A slight turn of the handle would allow entrance, but he sensed there was more to it than that. The lock’s design also seemed curious as its placement on the double door would ensure little protection to a brute force attempt to enter. His tools worked the lock smoothly and – while no latch seemed to finally set – something about the lock then felt “right”.

Godric neared the whirlpool. To him, it resembled a portal. One others must have stepped into in order to drag water nearby. He stepped in bravely.

He quickly felt the sharp pain in his legs as it began to suck him in mercilessly. He grabbed hold of the stone lining before Johann Van Der Pol created a doorway beneath him to fall into. Soaked, but thankfully alive, he appeared behind them on the room’s floor.

Following Kraiven, they revealed a narrow hall nearly a hundred feet long that spanned to their left and right. It was lined with statues of Elven warriors, some of which had real helms and masks upon their heads. A curtained doorway stood at the hall’s end.

Separating the deep red curtains led into a small, dead-end area. Before them stood a shrine at about shoulder-height. It’s soft white looked of ivory with gold trimmings and portrayed two armored angelic forms holding blades towards the heavens. They surmised it to represent the vigilance of the Elves deity, Corelon. This specific idol was a praying place for followers to regain strength and possibly reassess what they have learned from a battle. Some chose to pray and found new flexibility in their abilities.

Some then decided that the items placed on the statues were a waste to leave sitting. They took to different masks and helms before the entire structure began to quake. From the whirlpool emerged two large Naga, bent on protecting their home. They proved much weaker than the entirety of the party. They were left as cold, dead, and wet as sushi.

They continued to the Northern door that was pierced with holes from Artanis’s horns. His attempt to open it with his strength proved effective at loosing it to allow entry, but alerted whatever stood behind it. Pitch black inside, the party opened the door slightly to fire projectiles within. Inhuman, gurgling pain screamed from behind as bodies hit the ground.

The noises finally stopped and the door was then opened fully.

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Log 19: The Temple of Corellon
Spinning Temple Shifting

Ferindar and Seregil stepped out to the outside through the same doors the group entered previously. The sun beat down on Tessaran leaving a haze that remained even after Ferindar temporarily disabled the library’s ward. There seemed to be none of the sick in the roads as he pointed Northwest toward a tall, wood and stone built structure. It was not more than three city blocks away.

When they arrived near it, they revealed a long structure with towers on three corners. The windows on its side were tall, thin, and cracked. A simple, but elegant symbol stood tall at the tip of a tower. There were not at the building’s front, but the side had a forced opening anyway. A hole in the side of the structure surrounded by scorched rubble allowed entrance.

Seregil was quick to explain, “This is the temple of Corellon. The Warriors of Larethian made a stand here against the darkspawn and pushed them into the Ways. There was nowhere else to banish them to. The Ways would give us an advantage…until the Dark One accessed the gate in Irith. Now they fight a war on another plane that we have not heard news from in months.”

Kraiven almost instinctively pulled out his grappling hook to launch to the top of the building. The stealth assassin gained access to the rooftop flawlessly and made his way toward a glass skylight. He looked down to see what can only be described as a church. There were seats in rows, a front area for worship, and a statue. The only difference was the presence of fallen beams and rubble. And ten Red Cough victims writhing in the shade surrounding the skylight’s beam of Sun.

He signaled their presence to the rest silently as they approached the building cautiously. Erik, hoping to take the same path as Kraiven, attempted to reach the rooftop with his grappling hook, but did not have the benefit of his magical item. He decided to quietly enter along with the rest. Their view was much more obscured by the large wooden beam once they neared the opening.

The silence was broken once Kraiven broke a portion of the glass skylight to fire his crossbow at the unsuspecting creatures. His ability to weave in and out of their view kept them frustrated and flustered as Fenix coordinated the charge. Terrasque literally dove in head first, gouging an enemy with his horns as Godric bursted in with an explosive entrance. The rest moved in to a dark corner to take them on one-by-one. Kraiven rappelled to flank the enemies and finish them off with sinister slices. They were no match for the company’s prowess.

“We must get to the paths below,” Ferindar said. “The Waygate stands there…but I am afraid I have not seen it in some time. I have no idea what the warriors locked down there and left behind. Here, place this upon the symbol. It is the eye of Gruumsh.” Ferindar handed over a fautless jade stone.

A distant crowd of groans and screams echoed through the empty Tessaran streets.

“We haven’t much time!” Seregil shouted. “They know we’re here. I saw them led by a darkspawn!”

The stone fit loosely in the statue’s center but then held tight. It became darkly clouded before clearing and loosening again to be taken back. The statue noisily and heavily slid aside to reveal a dark stair case.

“Hurry!” screamed Seregil. She fired an arrow standing upon a pile of rubble. Only a second passed before a flowing dark cloak glided into view and skewered her on a black barbed blade.

It stood there, holding her in her stance as dozens of victims of the red cough poured in.

“Get the hell down there and shut this bloody thing!” yelled Ferindar.

The platform began to slide closed quickly, but allowed the horde to near. One reached halfway through before the momentum of it closed shut on its torso. Half of the sickly elf squished onto the cement flooring as darkness poured in.

Ferindar collapsed against the wall and punched it in frustration. “I can’t protect them. I couldn’t protect Tari, and I couldn’t protect Seregil.”

By the light of Johann’s flame, the wall read:

Bring forth the beauty that envelops and let the spirit gambol unfettered.
Ward against those that would destroy what they cannot create.
Commune with the natural and mystical world.
Be ever vigilant against the return of the banished darkness.

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Log 18: The Bringers of Dawn
A Tale of Two Nations

Blackwater wasted no time expelling of the sick surrounding the home. Fenix’s lightrod blinded them and even knocked a few over before they were engulfed in Johann’s flames. Kraiven slipped in to quickly dispel of the rest. It was child’s play.

The Elves hurriedly continued to direct them down another road that led to three way intersection. Straight ahead was a tall, lengthy building with a pointed roof. Its windows were boarded and it hazed in their vision as if surrounded by heat. Ragged Elves stood twenty feet away from it, facing the building and seemingly pressing up against thin air.

They crept forward before Fenix rushed and bashed one of the larger creatures. The Guardians followed him with an onslaught of their own, taking on even more of the more formidable enemies. Fenix kept his distance, but rained fiery death as Kraiven took to Fenix’s back. They fended off the lot, one by one. The creatures were ruthless and took the lives of some of Fenix’s men…but they did not die in vain. The company stood victorious.

The guiding Elves Mendir and Seregil continued their breathless rush to the front of the building to a set of ornate, tall double doors. Still standing twenty feet away, the haze prevented entrance until Johann opened a portal to the other side. The others stepped through with ease and found themselves facing the stunned Elves. To say they were impressed would have been an understatement – they were in utter shock.

Seregil spoke an Elvish word and the haze disappeared for a moment, bringing clarity to their vision. They continued forward to the doors and once they cleared the perimeter, she spoke another phrase to bring the haze back. It surrounds their view outward.

“It is to protect us. From ourselves,” Mendir explained grimly. “A ward that blocks any living being.”

Seregil opened the doors and beckoned them inside. There was less of a rush now and the men noticed the sense of relief found in a safe haven.

They entered a high roofed and gorgeously decorated library. Its tiles alternated a pearly white and a frosty cyan as carved bookshelves held thousands of books in long aisles. A white cloaked man stood at the far end, standing in dim candlelight.

“Explain this quickly, Mendir! From here I already see more now than I saw depart!” He shouted. Mendir looked upon his guests with a slight bit of regret as he whispered not to move. He jogged forward with Seregil to have a quiet conversation with the man at the end. It ended with an eventual, “leave us.” as he waved Mendir and Seregil away.

“Step forward strangers. I’ll only hurt you if you deserve it,” he said with a stern voice.

Some stepped forward, while others split away. Johann felt the pull of a book that piqued his curiosity. It was a deep dark red embroided in golden writing. A serprent consumed it’s own tail on the cover as an Ouroboros.

The man was Ferindar Roydiian and he had problems of his own. Once the ambassador for Mandragorran, he was stationed in Vanya’laide during the Goblin War. In fact, he was the only human to do so. It was his marriage to Carlinya, the monarch of the Elves, that kept their alliance cemented. Their love managed to unite two nations at war. It kept strength in the wall that held back an onslaught of darkness and death.

Until he lost her in the invasion of Tessaran late this past year. The dark forces of Turius continued their attack upon the nation of Vanya’laide until they finally broke into the walls. The battle in the city lasted for weeks before the Elves pushed the darkspawn into the Ways. There they would have an advantage and would preserve their beloved city.

But the soldiers found a wasteland already inhabited by darkness. The fight a war there, sealed away, protecting the nation they left behind of only merchants, craftsmen, children, and artists. Ferindar was all they had left.

And then the Red Cough came. Elves began to die by the hundreds until they dwindled down to enough of a population to fit in the cellar of the library. And there they cowered beneath a ward as a war they have heard no news from in months raged on another plane of existence.

“They think you’re here to save them, gentlemen," Ferindar said almost amused. "Ten minutes in their city and you’re goddamn folk heroes. The Kolindos en’Anoron. The Bringers of Dawn. Catchy isn’t it? I bet it would roll of the tongue if I had pointed ears. C’mere.”

He led them down the aisle Johann already stood in. Ferindar could only gape in wonder. Of all the books in the library, Johann had in his hands the one he meant to show them…and it was open to the page he wanted them to read. It was a prophetic poem that spoke of the healers of the Elven heart when it finds weakness. Of heroes that would save them.

Ferindar welcomed them to stay. Blackwater Adventuring Company needed access to the Tessaran Waygate and Ferindar was even willing to fulfill that need.

At a price.

Blackwater had to agree they would do two things upon entering the Ways.

1. They would need to rendezvous with the remains of the Elven military within the Ways. Inform them of what is occurring in Tessaran and urge them to return.

2. They would also need to collapse the Ways in order to cut off the Darkspawn that resided there and destroy a tactical tool that currently was serving as more of a weakness.

They agreed and some dispersed to settle in and explore as Godric continued with Ferindar. A short staircase brought them to what seemed a cellar, but had similar floorspace as the library with a much lower ceiling. Hundreds of Elves lay, sat, talked, and some even laughed. Some noticed Godric and could not help but stare.

Ferindar paused to reflect a moment and then said, ”Looks like you already have a couple of fans. I guess you’re their hero now. Good luck.” He returned up the stairs as a young Elven man and woman take notice and hurry toward Godric.

The Elf speaks excitedly, “It’s you isn’t it? You’re here! Just like the prophecies claim. The Bringers of Dawn. I am Kortahl and this is my partner, Nymil. We are to be bound. I request humbly…as in it would be an honor…if you would head the ceremony and if the others would speak,” he went on to rush to explain that he knew they had business to attend to and would be happy to do it the next morning. They would keep it very brief. The room became silent as others began to crowd.

Godric provided a simple, “sure,” before the crowd erupted in joyous shouts and applause. Some of the others came downstairs after the commotion and he filled them in on the wedding. There were no arguments, the Elves had provided them safety and supposedly a means to the Ways. It was no more than a minor inconvenience.

They all finally retired to their rest before waking the next day. No light came through the boarded windows, but morning was signaled by the bustle of dozens of Elves preparing the front area of the library for the wedding. A simple arch was placed, as were some cloths and dead flowers. They did the best with what they could. Ferindar approached them with a sheet of parchment.

“I took the liberty of writing the ceremony words in Common, well phonetically, and splitting them up for you. I gave the holy man the last words too, I think they’ll like that. Just pronounce them the best you can and you’ll be fine. I think they’re just excited you’re going to be there. Hell, I think they’re already setup to start.”

He asked them to follow him around the edge of the library to the now well candle-lit front area. Kurtahl and Nymil stood before the arch hand in hand in wrinkled, but clean long and flowing ceremonial garb. The large crowd gathered and filled the middle aisle as they fell silent. Ferindar said something to the crowd and then nodded to Fenix to begin.

They each spoke their lines to the admiration of the people. The ceremony was short, but beautiful as a bright moment lit the darkness of the times. It raised spirits and inspired hope. Love during war. Kurtahl and Nymil turned to each other and leaned in to kiss and mark their binding.

It was cut short as a scream came from the back of the library. It rippled into more screams as the crowd rushed forward, almost trampling one another. A center column cleared to reveal a head-twisted corpse and five Shades as they had seen in the Swaying Maiden Inn at Argrim. They floated down the cleared path toward them, black-cloaked and ghostly. They uttered unintelligible hoarse whispers.

The Shades moved deftly and sliced with barbed, black blades. They seemed genuinely uninterested in the Elves as they focused their damaging onslaught onto Blackwater. It took every ounce of strength they had to destroy the darkspawn. It left them wounded.

Besides the sounds of dwindling panic, they could hear the occasional cheer from the crowd and shouts of “Kolindos en’Anoron!” after their victory.

“I don’t know what those were," Ferindar said. "My ward should block anything alive…but those may not exactly fit that description. Gather your strength. If you still have half of it, the path to the Ways should prove a simple task.”

He approached the people and ordered the beginning of the cleanup. Kurtahl held a frightened Nymil on the other end of the room and nodded a grateful approval to Blackwater.

“We need to depart while the sun is high. The ill tend to hide in shade and that often takes them off some of the roads. We should be able to make it to the Temple without a struggle. The others will tend to burying Enaios…” he trailed off in the now quiet room when something interrupted him. A deep, pained cough from a young Elf in the aisle.

Seregil, the young Elf that first believed Blackwater to be heroes and followed them through the Dvanalison Sylvania fell to her knees coughing. She checked her hands to find them not yet red. Her horrified expression was followed by silence until Ferindar spoke again.

“Seregil…Seregil I’m so sorry. You…you can no longer stay here,” he said with genuine regret. His voice was shaky and his eyes were full of sympathy.

Seregil began to shed silent tears as Mendir and Eristor embraced her. Her eyes tightened and her lips pursed as she spoke with fiery determination. “Well since I’m leaving anyway…I’m coming with you.” She started after her bow and her belongings.

There was no denying her.

“To the Temple of Corellon, then,” Ferindar said. “May He protect us against the darkness.”

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Log 16: Elven Youth

Blackwater advanced carefully and silently making their way back down the stairs to a door for the first floor. Kraiven spotted shadows through the keyhole, but could not make out the words being spoken. Johann pressed his ear to the adjacent wall and heard the diction of Common and the voices of several men. Kraiven opened the door with deft silence and took a real look.

The Glasspine Guardians spoke amongst themselves as they stood behind three Elves kneeling in the middle of the room. Jordan Eran ordered two of the men upstairs to scope out the home. Their lords had come this way, but they have yet to seem them since splitting off at the river. The men advanced forward toward an already open door to come face to face with an initmidating Kraiven. He made it a point to let them know he could have killed them with ease.

Despite their initial terror, they were glad to see Blackwater safe and well. They quickly explained that they had been attacked during their combing of the forest by three Elves. Fenix was immediately wary of their treatment. He knew the Elves were captured, but he also knew this was their home and they were trespassing. The Guardians assured him they only used force that was absolutely necessary.

They continued down the stairs to examine the captives. Johann apologized for the circumstances, Fenix had them immediately untied, and Kraiven inspected them closely. Three Elves knelt on the floor:

Mendir was tall, even by Elven standards, and knelt straighter than the other two. His auburn hair flowed long and his sharp emerald eyes did not display the serenity you’d expect. He, along with the others looked to be very young.

Varandol withdrew slightly when looked at. He was brown haired and blue-grey eyed, but seemed meak compared to Mendir and softer spoken.

Seregil resembled Mendir in height, but was blonde and fairer than the others. She was also arguably more aesthetically pleasing. Her eyes were a fierce blue.

They collected that the Guardians had spotted the Elves in the Eastern portion of the forest before the three reacted violently, attacking the soldiers. The Elves also claimed they had a fourth, an even younger one, that they had lost just prior to meeting the soldiers. There was plenty of reasons for hostility and Mendir specifically seemed very upset by the outsiders.

Diplomacy brought them to a middle ground. They would help the Elves find their companion Eristor in exchange for passage to Tessaran. Mendir was reluctant and even claimed they could be no help of the people of Vanya’laide. They would not find what they seeked, but he did agree.

The group left the home and made their way East along the river. It brought them to the path the men and Elves had taken before. Three smooth white rocks dotted a dangerous bridge across raging waters. It seemed it would be a bit of a task to cross. Johann had no intention of using them.

His jump from a still, standing position was instant. He flew across the waters with ease and landed with a large margin of safety. With grace, he leaned on a tree and offered the other members an expression of self-assurance.

Fenix attempted the same, but with a running start. He proved that the heaviness of his equipment and armor did nothing to hinder his abilities. His jump was the perfect length as he landed on the other side comfortably, bypassing the rocks himself.

Kraiven relied on his balance as he made his way across the rocks. Although small and slick, his movements resulted in nothing close to a slip. His light, adept hops across were just as impressive.

The Elves made their way slowly with Varandol nearly slipping off the final rock. He held on however, but needed a moment to recover. His coughs indicated illness and weakness. Varandol was not well. He did make it across however as did the soldiers after a bit of time.

They examined the area where the scrape between the groups had occurred. Any chance of clues of tracks were decimated by the sheer amount of soldiers that stomped through earlier. They continued Southbound to a split in the forest. They split themselves as a result. Johann with Jordan and most of the Guardians; Fenix and Kraiven with the Elves and the leftover men.


Fenix, Kraiven, and the Elves

The warlord and rogue made their ways Southwest to another split. However, this one obviously led back to shore and the other curved back North toward the river and again to the East. They followed it in the only direction yet unexplored and found a dead end in the trees. It was round and clear with a discarded bag of sorts in the middle. Just past it, they spotted movement.

“Eristor! If that’s you, come out! We won’t harm you,” Fenix said. His assumptions were correct.

Eristor slid out of the tree line toward the bag.

“I saw it first! Get away from it,” the boy shouted back. He looked barely physically mature, standing short and lanky. His hair was a lighter brown and flowed ear-length over only one side of his face. Nevertheless, his appearance was one of determination.

The party made no attempt for the bag, but they neared him carefully. They noticed the bag was just a little too properly placed and seemed suspicious. Kraiven openly figured to let the boy test it out, there was at least something in it.

Before they could speak with the boy further, he picked up the bag. It barely swung around his shoulder before a loud crack sounded and he plummeted fifteen feet into a pit. A blunt rock awaited his fall and pounded into his abdomen leaving him unconscious at the bottom. The sky to the East then erupted in light in a signal, likely from Johann.

The other Elves rushed to Eristor’s aid and the others were ready to make their way toward Johann. In the chaos, only Kraiven noticed the charging bears before it was too late.


Johann, Jordan, and the Guardians

Johann approached the Southeast before reaching another split as well. One went farther South and he surmised with the others that it likely led back to the shore. The Westward path however led to an unexplored and wide open area. The grass was shorter and the fog was lighter. Johann easily determined it was not a result of the arcane.

“These look like hunting grounds,” Jordan warned. His suspicions were confirmed when Johann slid forward and recognized movement in the treeline ahead. The grass was shorter due to grazing – and shined with blood in patches.

“Large cats,” the wizard said. His knowledge of nature recognized the smooth, shrugging steps of felines. The Guardians froze in place. Any sudden movement could make them pounce. Johann brought a signal to the sky in hopes of support before facing these lions, tigers, or jaguars.

The response never came and Johann had no desire to deal with them face to face. He called upon his power of Ghost Sound and executed it perfectly. His resulting carnage of noise terrified even the men of Glasspine as the tigers and dire tiger bolted in pure fear and landed in the ocean on the other side. Their clumsy paddles were frantic.

Johann worried for the others and only made his way a bit more South before hearing the screams in the distance. The others were in trouble. He rushed back toward their original splitting place with the others and headed Southwest. He arrived at the dead end to see the other half of the partying battling two large, brown bears.


Fenix commanded his men and pounded on the bears; Johann lit them up from the grove’s end; and Kraiven sliced rotting wounds into them as he stepped and tumbled about. They were uncharacteristically sloppy in their fighting, but eventually killed the beasts while the Elves helped Eristor. When the battle came to its end, Eristor was awake upon the ground and Mendir showed some appreciation and respect.

He would keep his word and take them to Tessaran, though he insists it is not a good time for visitors. There hasn’t been an unplanned outsider in the city for many years and the he mentioned the terrors of war did never truly come to an end for them.

The forest proved increasingly gorgeous as they travelled a lightly beaten path South, deeper into the island of Vanya’laide. The previous shades of Evergreen merged with hues of yellow and purple. What was once fog became a cool mist, barely obstructing visibility. While the squad of Elves were able to navigate, Seregil explains that the trip to Tessaran was about a day-and-a-half’s journey. They needed to find camp.

Fenix found a perfect camping spot right off the bat and the men and elves began collecting brush and setting up camp. Before long, they sat beside a kindling fire to finally rest.

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Log 15: To Vanya'laide

The Glasspine Guardians awoke at the sounds of struggle, but only found Blackwater standing alone in the hallway. Their explanation was hard to believe, but their stress was undeniable. Fenix ordered shifts of watch over the halls to ensure they would not be surprised again. It proved effective.

The returned to their rest and awoke the next day in the later morning. Guards still manned the halls and they could hear the bustle of the common room below. Breakfast was served and they planned to have some themselves. Downstairs they found citizens of Argrim, crew from the Blackwater, and the Guardians eating comfortably and almost without worry. The effect of the news was apparent. Some of the worst men and women of the region had died in the ruins of the most infamous buildings. Those that did not know did not care how or why, they were just glad to be safer.

There were a few additional recognizable faces as well. Fenix spotted Jadzia Elon, thankfully unharmed from the incident at the Duras Mansion. She was there to thank the men herself for saving her and her half-Orc friend. They fled safely and promised to tell no one of their existence and operation.

They then all came to recognize a couple in the corner. Slowly, however. At first they were of recognizable frame and body. Then they were certainly a man and a woman. The man was impressively well hidden for an open area. Whoever he was, he knew how to blend in with a crowd. It finally hit them.

Callan Dor of the Brotherhood of Thieves and a great assistance at the mansion sat with Nia, childhood friend of Erik. He claimed the party kept him waiting and was about to burst with the amount of coffee he had drank during.

Nevertheless, he expressed his gratitude with their work while he flexed his informational muscles. He already knew the situation, where they were going, and why. He wanted Kraiven for the Brotherhood and safe transport for Nia out of Argrim. The party agreed and he left Kraiven with an encrypted letter to deliver to Giurland Laurent – his main contact in the Northeastern region of Mandragorran. He was in Wolfden Vale as well.

The men finished their breakfasts and loaded up for the journey to the Elven land of Vanya’laide. Coin found them plenty of food, supplies, and recreational drugs for the projected two-week voyage.

It began smoothly. Days passed beneath a beating sun as the men of the ship worked with efficiency. Blackwater was not expected to perform any of the day-to-day jobs and were treated as high ranking guests of their own ship until a cloudier day came.
The sound of distant, grumbling thunder was only slightly louder than the flapping of the masts in the wind.

“So inconsiderate is mother nature, is she not?”, Brasick shouted with a gruff laugh. “I’m going to need everything you’ve got! One of you to the rigging, one below deck, and one with me at the wheel! We’re in for a bumpy ride!”

Brasick’s experienced warning was worth heeding. Fenix took the wheel, Kraiven manned the rigging, and Johann coordinated below deck. The storm raged and the boat swayed. Fenix kept her well on path with the expert rigging done by Kraiven, but hit the occasional wave. The water failed to move the men from their posts on deck, but caused more trouble below. The damage previously done by Diurlig led to several breaches. Johann put use to the oars and prestidigitated wood to keep her afloat. His coordination of the crew ensured swift repair.

They managed the storm with skill and the crew acknowledged that with even greater respect. Food stores and supplies remained intact and plentiful for the rest of the voyage. Brasick informed them that it should only be another few days before they reach the Northwestern end of the island of Vanya’laide.

During the final leg of the voyage, Fenix dreamed of a woman’s voice that said, “I know who you are now. You and your father’s sins. It seems the power he never had is now the blessing and curse you bare. You will love me again. And you will die.”
He awoke unharmed and kept it to himself.


Vanya’laide

The ship neared the Northwestern tip of the island as close as it could. A little over a hundred yards away, they could see the foggy forested coast. The waters were unable to wear away at the green lands of the island surrounding Vanya’laide as nothing resembling sand awaited them. Just the edge of rocky land resembling one side of a giant river. The coast spanned over a hundred yards wide with a grovely beach quickly transitioning into thick grass and dense forestry.

They formed a plan with Captain Jean de Brasick. The Blackwater would sail back to Cenandira and transport Nia to safety there to then continue on to meet the company at Wolfden Vale. It was an order understood and well received. The party then took to the small boats to bring themselves and the Guardians to the coast.

The land proved a bit confusing. Paths were difficult to identify in the thick shrubbery, but eventually they discovered three dips in the treeline. It was the farthest one away that they chose on the other side of three-meter high rocks.

They climbed the boulders with relative ease, though the Wizard found them a bit slippery. The path on the otherside revealed to be wide and well-beaten, splitting in a fork. In one direction was the haze of fog and running water, the other was a bit more hidden. They moved forward to the river’s edge to discover yet more fog, raging waters, and a gargantuan tree on the other side.

There was no apparent way across, so they decided to turn around.

Doing so revealed a small, secondary path extending farther West. They cut through it to see a better view of the giant tree, but revealed another item of interest. It opened another beach-like area, rocky and more muddy dirt than sand. The mud was piled high upon itself as a result of a large beached vessel that leaned quietly on land. It was a simple boat, the wood dark and damp, and was significantly damaged. The masts above flowed lazily as a slight wind slipped through their rips. Its ramp dug into the gravel around it.


The Beached Vessel

The ramp brought them to the deck and immediately revealed four mast poles and a crow’s nest column surrounding the top of a raise roof, likely covering the area below deck. Fenix and Johann took a peek below deck to arrive at a door and Kraiven turned the far corner to inspect the top.

Approaching the corner brought him closer to a mast pole as well as the crownest’s column. He could see a rickety platform where the boat was once piloted from ahead. Only a couple of feet off the ground, the platform housed a damaged steering wheel. In the fog, he also perfectly spotted two dire wolves consuming a rotted corpse of a crewman. He called out to the others and the wolves attacked. The beasts moved quickly, but were no match for their prowess. Their wounds split and festered and they were tossed aside by their force.

They inspected the crow’s nest, but it rested 30 feet above upon a thick column. The last two or so feet of its rope ladder swang below. The rest must have been ripped away.
So they continued below deck. As they descended the stairs a pungent, damp musk hit them. Below deck were two rows of wooden bunk-beds for the crew covered in blood and surrounded by a mess of their previous items. The room continued forward and a portion at the end looked sectioned off.

They continued forward.

They looked into a small room, a bit more lavish compared to the rest of the ship. Well, if it weren’t thoroughly ransacked. The bed’s coverings were mostly coming off and bunched up as well as bloody. The table was covered in different nicknacks, thrown about and broken. A sack lay on the ground across from a heavily scuffed, wooden and bronze chest. Just in front of the chest was a long-dried puddle of blood.

Kraiven took to inspected the chest while the others checked the bag. In the sack was some gold, a thick rag with five holes in it, and three severed human fingers. It was a grim sight to share with the rogue. He continued inspecting the lock while they speculated on a connection. The lock was unpickable, blocked by a layer of steel just beneath the keyhole. Fenix took the lock in his hand to evaluate it himself.

The lock erupted in five spikes into his hand, wounding and poisoning him. It stabilized, but a man of lesser strength would need an amputation. Now they had to figure out what was in there.

They grabbed it in different ways, touched the severed fingers to it, and speculated further. Finally, Fenix had Johann grasp the bottom of the lock with Mage Hand, causing the spikes to eject into what looked to just be air. It released the metal block, allowing Kraiven to pick it with ease. The chest opened and revealed a single, expensive item. A magical grappling hook.
Blackwater took the item and returned above deck. The grappling hook provided them an easy solution to the distant crow’s nest where they found more dead and an unopened crate labeled, “To Argrim”. It would seem this was the missing vessel they heard about when they first arrived in the seedy city.

Inside were whetstones, a death rattle, and a bridle of conjuration. All useful for the coming days. The left the boat of the death behind as they returned to the forested island.


They ordered the Guardians to inspect the rest of the island as they worked their way across the river that once hindered them. The grappling hook grasped the other side and Fenix took hold to keep the rope taught. Kraiven glided across the rope with a deft ease, but Johann found it a bit trickier. He however made it across one Fenix took perfect hold of the rope and provided a surface as firm as ground with his strength. He swung across himself and climbed onto the other side of the river.

The area opened in a field to the East and coastline to the West. North was completely blanketed by dense fog and trees. A home sat in between. Small and modestly ornate, it was not nearly as impressive as the tree it was built beside. Standing well above 200 feet with a trunk width far wider than a home or inn, it dwarfed what now seemed a white shack at its base. Beside the home they found a stone at the base of the tree. It was written in Elvish, but they could decipher the name “Carlinya” and recognized it as a gravestone.

As they neared the structure, they noticed it had two floors, gold colored trimmings, and a painstakingly decorated door. It’s trim was lined with carvings of vines, various felines, and symbols. The two front-facing windows were small, but too had designs in their encasing wood. The entire structure looked fairly new and built with an artist’s attention.

Kraiven jimmied the bolt lock and they burst in to find a home in disarray. A table and chair were tossed to the side, a barrel set atop. The floors were dirty, and a chest sat in the middle upon a crumbled rug. It was open and empty. The home however was built along the tree, allowing it’s back-wall to be the tree itself.
They reached a similar sight at the top of the stairs. The room was barren and dirty, with its few contents pushed messily to the far end. Their search of the home revealed but one item still intact. The journal of a damaged man named Ferindar who lost his wife Carlinya during his time assisting the Elves in the Goblin War.

They read the few entries from the distressed man until they heard a sound from the floor below.

Current Date: February 12th, 1 AGW

View
Log 14: Endless Nights
Back to Argrim under a blanket of night.

The wall of ice left by the risen woman still blocked the exit of the cavern, fogging the darkness behind it like a cold window. At least three feet thick, it would have taken quite a bit of force to break. Johann did not see a problem however. Flame erupted from his hands and what was once a wall become but a thin sheet. Yet, after the flames stopped, a rumbling noise continued.

The blurry visage of a soldier appeared on the other side of the ice. He shouted a muffled question. He tapped on the ice and then barked an order to whom must be behind him. Other men came forward and begin to break through the ice easily.

The ice finally gave way and shattered onto the ground. It revealed three men at the opening, with more farther behind. One was especially decorated and stood taller than the rest. He removed his helmet to allow his shoulder length brown hair to fall. He had the scruff of a soldier, but a youthful face. To some of company he almost seemed familiar.

“Heroes of Glasspine, I am Commander Jordan Eran, son of Jasiat. It would seem my father did not underestimate your prowess.” He looked around the room at the carnage.

He scanned the company and when his eyes fell upon Fenix, he stepped down from his horse and knelt before him.

“It is our honor to the serve the Captain of the Guard, Glasspine, and all of Mandragorran. My Lord, we have traveled this distance to aid you and beg your assistance. We come with urgent news.”

The town of Glasspine, which they had once saved from the Warlock tyrant Liam Eldeen, was now under a new threat from the Northeast. Since the rumors of their evil leader and radical change of government had leaked into the rest of Mandragorran, the kingdom of Wolfden Vale had been subject to attacks from strange creatures and the erratic behavior of a stressed king…Allastair Bertram.

King Bertram had threatened war with Glasspine, claiming that which ails his kingdom as their fault. He preaches to the people that The Dark One rises again and resides in Glasspine’s walls.

Jordan explained that was simply untrue. Since the reform, Glasspine had become a peaceful home and was recovering well. Fenix and the company had inspired the people and they had found strength…but were not ready for the threat of the most militaristic nation in all of Mandragorran. This was not like King Bertram. This was not characteristic of the noble Wolfden Vale. They needed to get there as quickly as possible and extinguish the situation.

Blackwater agreed to again help the people of Glasspine, especially since they were under Fenix’s military leadership. Their first step was to head back to Argrim. Jordan had come to the mansion after making contact with their Argrim guide, Bashir – who awaits them at the Swaying Maiden inn with the others.

The same pebbled road they walked in the early evening led them back West toward Argrim. They left Mount Irith behind them through air much warmer than before, marching in front of the Glasspine Guardians.

Night had fallen much earlier. It was a blue and black thicket of shadows upon the path, lit by a full moon and bright stars. Ahead they could see the various torches of Argrim, its population still awake as it usually was.

The stroll was interrupted however by movement in the dark. A few said they saw it to the right, but Fenix focused his vision. Looking to the right with the rest, his periphery clarified. There was indeed movement…but to the left. Out scurried a stern-faced dwarf. His beard as long, black, and ornately braided as his hair. In tattered grey and darker grey garb, he stood straight, almost terrified to see them. They could recognize him as a member of the CS Blackwater’s crew named Diurlig.

He offerred no coherent explanation as to why he walked toward the mountain at night, but he was intent on doing so. Fenix’s hammer and Johann’s calm attempts at diplomacy made no difference. He struggled to get by and a shining twinkle came dangling from his chest. They snatched it away from him.

It was a small red garnet on a golden chain and whichever of the men who held it did not wish to give it back. It inspired an uneasy feeling, just as the garnet they found upon Wilhelm Van Der Pol, but it was intoxicating. They remembered this dwarf was present when they experienced a vision upon the original CS Blackwater, just as they had in the ice cavern. The garnets were a link.

Then they noticed a light rise from Argrim’s docks ahead. Pulsating light – like fire. Diurlig turned to it, turned back to the party, and lunged foaming at the mouth toward Fenix with his crude knife. It was his final action as he the hammer that once pinned him made a quick stew of his head. He collapsed onto the path a headless sack of bones. The Guardians almost gaped at Fenix’s strength as he ordered them to move ahead. Something was wrong in Argrim.

They rushed into town as Kraiven kept to the darkness between torches and alleys until they reached the docks. There the new CS Blackwater remained afloat, their reward from their voyage from Cenandira in yet another commandeered boat. However, its cabin atop was ablaze and was being tended to by the crew.

The party made haste, nearly snatching the buckets from the men. From the ramp, Johann attempted to deter the flames and did so quite well. The others spent buckets of water clumsily into the cabin’s window. Their efforts persevered and the final puff of smoke through the window was the fire’s last breath.

Questions flowed freely between them and their men. Who was on watch? Where was the captain? What exactly was going on?

The men stood timid, but answered the best they could. Diurlig was on watch, but was apparently missing as was the captain. They could not explain what happened, especially after hearing Diurlig attacked the company and lay dead on the outskirts. It was hard to believe. He was a dwarf of integrity, but they supposed he was getting a bit restless from being landlocked. The garnet he once wore proved the truth. Diurlig had worn it often, claiming he found it in a forest near Cenandira with his old mates.

It was the same forest the company had found the first small camp of the blood cult. The cult they followed all the way to Mount Irith where they harvested the sanguine innocence of young women for a demon’s summoning under Wilhelm’s vile influence.

More connections began to take form, but there was little time to ponder them. Captain Jean de Brasick was missing and the only lead they had was the Swaying Maiden inn. They rushed there, navigating the streets haphazardly to mistakenly end up where they had met Woljech and Mikel the day before. It took a second thought, but they remembered the inn was two blocks south.

They stepped in immediately. The common room was dimly lit and quiet. Only a few patrons nursed drinks or rested their heads on their arms upon their tables. Two men played a game of Dice Daemar as quietly as they could up against a wall. One was apparently winning more than the other. No one sat at the bar as Mistress Aybara tended to its cleanliness. She welcomed them all with a knowing smile as her eyes flicked to the left. She pointed out a room with an upturned nod of her head.

“They await you in the private room, Jordan. Let me know if you or your men need anything,” she said.

The company took relief in her statement and asked for the usual comforts. Spirits and food. She provided what she still had at such an hour and the men moved into the room.

Familiar men bickered around the table. Once they entered however, they fell silent and their eyes rested on the company. Their Cenandiran contact Bashrr, Captain Jean de Brasick, and Argrim’s Captain Woljech gave them approving expressions. Jordan Eran came around, grabbed a mug from the table and lifted it.

“To peace in Mandragorran and to Blackwater, the heroes of Argrim!” he shouted despite the time. The men erupted in a grovely cheer, raised their mugs and took hearty sips.

They discussed holding the alliance the war inspired together despite the uneasy politics. King Bertram’s actions against Glasspine were unacceptable and the Argrim and Cenandiran representatives agreed to help as best they could. But still, Wolfden Vale sat some two months away on the Northeastern coast.

Then they got the real bad news. Up to this point, the men had only an idea of the politics and crime involved in all that Blackwater had investigated, but the company finally revealed to them the true evil afoot. They explained what happened beneath the burned mansion; the harvesting of women, the blood cult’s power, and the ties to a Dark Lord they thought was truly myth.

It was a jaw-dropping revelation for the men. Goblins, Orcs, demons, sacrifice. War would no doubt come again soon. The story Blackwater told practically sounded of legends…and it inspired further thoughts of mythical tales.

“I have heard on the seas that the Elves have a path called the Ways,” said Captain Brasick.
“A place they created long ago that brings them closer to their God, but also closer to the soul of Mandragorran. It is said they span Mandragorran’s land in as many days instead of months. I…I do not know if the tales are true, burn my soul. But we may need the Elves anyway if what you say is true. We can be ready to sail by morning.”

It was a stretch, but their choices were limited. That could potentially get them to Wolfden Vale in less than a couple of weeks and possibly again the assistance of the Elves. They agreed to the idea as the men offered their final congratulations and left. The inn was half theirs, enough space for men to double up in various rooms. They played a bit of Dice Daemar for some easy gold and retired to their slumbers.

It was pleasant, much needed rest until Johann jolted awake. He sat up to see a vibrant blue and purple glow beneath his door. He woke the others in their own rooms with his whispered ghost sound. They all awoke to the same sight.

Fenix exited his room confidently and walked toward what resembled an amorphous whisp of darkness surrounded in brilliant glow. It crowded around Kraiven’s door. He offered it a question, but its only response was to split into three whisps that looked like hooded, floating men. They attacked.

Johann stepped out from his room and burned the whisps at the end of the hall as Kraiven attacked with his door and eventually his blade. It felt as if they hit nothing, but the creatures felt pain until they finally experienced death.

The dark whisps became nothing…and left the company pained and damp in the darkness of the inn’s hallway.

Current Date: January 27th, 1 AGW

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Log 13: Wilhelm's Last Stand
A frostbitten battle and a beautiful demon.

Her body raised to his chest. His incantations bent language and song. Once dead weights, her arms sprang at her side as her head jutted back in an audible breath. Her flight raised and brought her up straight as if being pulled out of water. Her presence became an aura and then her aura a glow powerful enough to repel their vision. It released from her in a wave. Their vision returned to the scene after what felt like snowblind faded away.

The beautiful girl, raven-haired in a red tattered riding dress, its high cuts at the hips, stood breathing steady, slow, heavy breaths. Each one emitted no vapor – her breath was just as cold as the cavern. Her eyes glowed as blue, but more brilliantly than the surrounding giant icicles.

Blackwater carefully approached the ledge, trying their best to not echo through the chasm. The woman began to berate Wilhelm. Their best attempts to follow along only brought the occasional recognized word. Whoever she was, she was angry, and was worthy of being treated like royalty. He welcomed her back as if she was once gone and spoke of another plane of existence. His sacrifices had made her reborn.

Johann had seen enough. He waltzed to the ledge and called out to his brother. Just what was all this? What had he become?

The woman was angrier than ever now. Wilhelm had certainly made a mistake and did not tie loose ends, but he welcomed Johann without anger. The War had changed him and he had found a new god. The shadow made his battered body and mind strong again and promised him infinite power in a rain of blood. He would help raise an army…and bring back an ancient demon.

He tried to share it with their siblings Femke and Arjen, but they would not serve The Dark Lord. It was unfortunate, but he had to display his newfound strength…and kill them. But he would not have to do so to Johann. They could rule under a shade of crimson, together.

Johann’s stance stammered in shock. His family was gone and all that was left was a broken man, consumed by evil. Power and knowledge was not worth the death of so many and a deal with a demon. No, he would stop Wilhelm at all costs.

Blackwater sprang into action as they hurried down the icy ramp. Hidden by shadows and ice formations, they approached the Orcs and Ice Mage. Wilhelm, in his tunnel vision of rage fired beams of ice in Johann’s direction while the battle ensued around him.

Orcs met the rest of them upon a bridge of thin ice. Fenix and Kraiven made coordinated, sleek work of them with mace and blade. Their heavy bodies thudded upon the ice, causing it to crack. Godric and Erik advanced swiftly, hoping to avoid the hazard. But Godric knew it was not the only danger. The ice creeped toward heat…and drained a man of life with its cold.

The woman simply watched as Wilhelm’s frustration elevated. She seemed distracted, almost uninterested. She glared at Fenix and finally, after pondering, spoke.

“I will leave you to your…family matters, Wilhelm.” She tripped over her words as she walked toward the cavern’s bright exit, "Do be sure you take care of them.”

She sashayed through the opening, almost disappearing on the other side of the glare. Her hand then appeared again, reaching back in to the cavern. After a “come hither” flick of the wrist the snow surrounding the door trembled and jutted high into the cavern in a wall of thick ice. The opening was sealed and the cavern made slightly dimmer.

Wilhelm had had enough. He raised his hands and looked to the cavern’s ceiling. A loud, thundering crack sounded as an ice formation the size of a pine tree fell. It splashed heavily into the frigid body of water and began to fall toward the men below.

Johann did not allow it. Flames erupted from his hands, perfectly executed and bright as a star. The snow lit up by his power and the structure of ice became warm rain. Wilhelm could only stand powerless below him. Shock set in his eyes as no words came from his gape.

The warmth brought a new weakness to the icy bridge as the final orc fell. It shattered beneath him, leaving Kraiven only half-footed on the ledge and Erik to be drenched in the river of slush. He held on to the same ledge, refusing a full a dive.

A hand of ice erupted above him that grasped Kraiven. It squeezed with an arctic pressure, but cracked under the picking of his dagger. Then a bash of Fenix’s shield made a worthless frozen stump out of it. Wilhelm was surrounded.

He erupted in a freezing cloud, but then took hit after hit as he bled and burned.

He gazed one last time toward his brother as Johann’s ball of flame engulfed him in a bright flash. He was serene and accepting. His form became only silhouette…and then ash that snowed into the stream to rush away.

All that remained was a staff he once wore on his back and a garnet upon a chain. It sat upon black snow. A staff of Fiery Might for his brother. A gift for his partner in conquest. Johann picked it up and sighed a steamy breath. He looked back to a red stone sat where Wilhelm once stood and reached for it. Each member of the party felt suddenly as if they were somewhere else…

The cold and snow faded away and flames crept in. They all sat in a trench eight feet deep that ran as long in each direction as they could see. Men sat beside them. They cried for their wives, their mothers, their brothers and sisters. They clutched their swords to their chests and prayed to their respective gods.

They heard the deep whistle of a large projectile rush overhead. A flaming boulder crashed merely yards away, barely missing their position.

The fear was real. The heat was real.

A figure walked calmly from the explosion toward the trench. He stood above and gazed down. His deep black cloak covered his body and face. His breath slowly steamed from his hood as if it were cold again. Behind him burned the city of Irith, collapsing in on itself. The ground at his boots and directly ahead of them became bodies and skeletons. The sword in his hand ignited in flame.

A blink and a man knelt before the cloaked figure, but faced Blackwater. His hair was long and white and his armor once shone, but it was dull then with a crack running through the wolf’s symbol on his chest. He clutched a stone in his hand that dripped blood upon what was again scorched earth.

The cloaked figure took the man’s head with his fiery blade.

He uttered a coarse whipser that was unintelligible.

But the snow returned. The cold returned. They were back in the frozen chasm overlooking what remained of Wilhelm’s ashes.

View
Log 12: The Crimson Cavern
A hive of torture, death...and new life.

The door’s opening pummeled them with a frostbitten wave of cold. The surrounding temperature dropped significantly; they could feel it in their bones (-2 check to all skills and attack rolls). A jagged hallway continued forward for a short distance before splitting left and right. The brave men chose left first.

A short path leds you to another heavy door. Getting close to it revealed a pungent stench as they notice it was closed shut. It did not have a locking mechanism however.

Fenix carefully opened the door to reveal an even darker room. The hum of maggots and flies became audible while the stench became almost palpable. Skeletons, fresher corpses, and separated pieces of the bodies lined a narrow room. They all seemed to be of women.

Nothing other than these bare bodies could be seen upon the floor until they looked upon the opposite wall. There were words, crudely, but almost ritually written in blood upon it. They could recognize it as abyssal. Fenix’s knowledge of Infernal allowed him to translate it, but he had to endure the disturbing surroundings for minutes that seemed an eternity.

“Gda nleeg ba gnootb me geam goomga eaen leng,” he read, “The blood we drink so does taste our lord.”

It was all they could muster. They had to continue.

They backtracked the way they came. The cave winded as they passed the door they had entered from. It widened and split left and right again. However, the right seemed to continue onward as the left already revealed another door.

A heavy, unlocked door just as before.

They could hear three voices, chanting in a synchronized whisper. Keeping his place at the front, Fenix opened the door with confidence. Within was a room only lit by a blue aura emanating from the ground. Three figures stood beside the circular source, entranced in their speech. They did not notice the opening of the door, but Fenix instantly began to feel tired…drained.

Kraiven knew the figures were thoroughly preoccupied and made child’s play of slipping through the door himself, a shadow to them. The fatigue and dread of what felt like hollow ground washed over him.

Johann wasted no time. He wanted to avoid whatever now ailed his allies, and sent a ball of flame between the figures, setting two completely ablaze. Fenix rushed toward the fiery blaze to crack the skull of a figure whose back was still to him. It turned the man around to reveal a robed and well-armored creature of glowing green eyes. A Deathpriest of Orcus. The assassin saw it as well and slid beside one of the Deathpriest’s companions for a stab. He revealed them as Crimson Acolytes.

The Acolytes proved slippery, shifting as they pleased and swiping with heavy scythes. The Deathpriest was more resilient, backing up for only a moment to release a pillar of sickly black fire from his hands. It grazed by the Warlord, reminding him of his own wounds. He called upon his power for newfound strength…but could only muster up a fraction of his potential. The Necrotic Ground beneath drained him of the sweet sensation, leaving him only a taste.

It made no difference. The darkspawn and worshippers of Orcus fell to fire, blade, and hammer leaving the company to take away their intimidating, but well crafted armor and weaponry. It also seemed they were performing a ritual. The scroll found amidst their bodies read “Endure Elements”. They decided to perform it atop the pulsating blue circle on the ground. The ritual seemed to allow them to fight past the bitter cold, releasing the pain from their bone to continue normally…but the circle amplified it further. The cold was a pleasure. They embraced it. It made them stronger.

The divine evil of the situation became clearer and the party continued on past the door to the right path. About to turn a corner, they heard two Orcs’ muffled shouting.

Voice 1: “Oi, it’s yo’ fault! If you didn’t bloody lose the note, we would be able to get in the room! Damn bars could be in any order!”
Voice 2: “I ain’t mean to! I was just washing me knives, they was stained with human blood. She screamed like banshee though, haha!”
Voice 1: “HAHA – that she did, but yo still an idiot. And be careful before you slip and crack your dumb head!

As they turned the corner they revealed a long, ten-foot-wide passage. Two orcs stood at the very end of it, leaning on opposite walls. They continued to bicker normally. Kraiven glided ahead, bathing in the darkness of the narrow passage. He made it to the middle of the hall and placed his last step upon a patch of ice with a slight slip. The hallway was covered in it. No matter, he pulled out his handcrossbow and placed an accurate shot through the head of one of the Orcs – killing it instantly. The other cried only have a roar before the fire mage made dust of him.

A handful of shouts answered from the next room as more Orcs poured into the hall. Fenix power-slid deftly through the ice to stand beside one and bludgeon it with his mace. Dead. He could see the next area now, circular and open with a larger Orc than they had seen so far stood at its center, rushing toward the party. Two leaner ones ahead shut a crude, spiked door to block further passage.

They fought on making festering, sliced, and burned corpses of the Orcs. The large Bloodrager stood last, hitting a wall accidentally to allow water to freeze beneath him. The ice hindered no one as the party surrounded him. A final blast from Johann melted his surrounding ice and set the Bloodrager up for a back-stabbing execution.

They forced the heavy door aside and continued their onslaught.

The cave went on and took a sharp turn left. The path then opened up to reveal a small pond of still, dark, icy water. The area just felt…strange. They could not quite put their finger on it. The path also still continued in a straight line much, much further and became dark before they could see an end.

Remembering the the argument between the Orcs, Fenix inspected the water and its surroundings. The water was slush, tainted with blood. The rocks beside however revealed a piece of flattened parchment. It was scribbled upon with clumsy hands. Five pillars with differing numbers of circles beneath them. The others stood to his right as they passed the opposite wall, ready to continue through the long tunnel.

Blood appeared on the wall beside them that drew itself into a large teardrop, halting them. This must have been what they were sensing. Their knowledge of the arcane told them the ritualistic blood drop of Orcus awaited the right words. They were unsure what they could say.

Fenix uttered, “The blood we drink so does that our lord.”

Nothing happened, but they could all feel he was close. Johann said the end seemed wrong…there was something about tasting.

Fenix tried again – “The blood we drink so does taste our lord.”

The wall dissolved. Behind it was a room locked away by five thick, metal bars. They were far too close together to be squeezed by. They rested a hand upon a bar…and watched it glow a brilliant white resultantly. In fact, each one glowed when touched, but when all five were turned on, they turned right back off.

They tried different orders of activation, even tapping multiple times. They referenced the parchment, finally flipping it upside down to feel they now had it in the right orientation, but their perception of the writing still proved incorrect. They allowed themselves time to study it further.

“The drawn bars are not necessarily the bars we see,” Johann figured, “they are just an order of operations. Steps.”

“I agree,” replied Kraiven. “The circles beneath each column likely indicate a bar itself.”

It clicked. They touched them in the outlined order. The first, the third, the fifth, the second, and last the fourth. They each glowed as before, but then dissolved to allow them access. The room was small and seemingly only used for hidden storage as they found a large chest in the corner. It was full of the Orcs’ spoils from murder and pillaging.

They found:
1. Collar of Recovery (AV pg 151)
2. Bloodthirst Bracers (AV pg 114)
3. Burning Gauntlets (AV pg 132)
4. Gloves of Agility (AV pg 134)
5. Ironskin Belt (PH1 pg 253)
6. Bag of Holding
7. 500 gold

They took their spoils and resumed down the final, lengthy tunnel. The remainder of the cave continued straight for several minutes until they finally reached an end. The small opening led into a gargantuan cavern, round and high. Icicles the size of trees hanged from the top as well as jutted up from the ground like frozen stalagmites. They refracted the sunlight entering from an opening seemingly far ahead…but they could see nothing beyond the towers of ice. Their breath smoked before their mouths. It was colder. They could feel the tingling in their bones, but it only strengthened their grasps.
Their first steps softly pressed upon snow, freshly fallen and undisturbed somehow beneath a ceiling of stone. They could hear the idle grunts, shouts, and labored breathing of orcs. They fought amongst themselves and argued over frivolous things. They sounded in great number.

And then a voice boomed that only one of them could recognize.

“Silence all of you! We finally have what we need. Now it is time for you to see just how capable our Lord is.” He began an infernal prayer of death, calling for blood and reanimation. His words were babbled, mixing tongues and dialects, slowly lowering in pitch. He spoke of lore and myth…and Mojadiin. A demon known only of children’s stories.

As they approached the frozen ledge about fifteen feet high, they revealed a more open area. A small body of frigid water sat below a bridge in its middle. On the far end, Orcs sat in a corner while three others gawked at the man speaking. Tall, bulky, with stringy black hair, Wilhelm Van Der Pol, brother of Johann Van Der Pol, stood beside a glowing circle in the ground. The corpse of a young lady lay in its center as it began to convulse and twitch.

He was reanimating her in the name of Orcus.

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Log 11: Mountain of Darkness
Where the party at?

All the fighting, researching, and questioning finally led to a simple knock upon the mansion’s door.

A servant of the home swiftly answered, recognized men of their hire, and welcomed them in. Of course he had to insist they provide him with their jackets and weaponry. Only Johann and Kraiven managed to keep their weapons with bluffs and concealment. The rest had their items placed into a room they merely got a glimpse of just beside the entrance.

The butler then escorted them toward the bustling ballroom. They passed a large living area with a gargantuan painting of a lovely woman in a pale blue dress. Erik immediately recognized her.

The love of his youth…Nia.
But now was not the time to allow himself to be vulnerable.

The ballroom was filled with dozens of attendees. They crowded in groups upon the beautifully tiled floor surrounding a fine red rug with gold trim. It was narrower, but the ceilings were high, and the room was the length of the previous hallway. To the left was the most important table, backed by a large fireplace to keep the valued attendees warm. To the right was a lovely spread of different foods expected of a port city. Lobster, salmon, shrimp, meats, cheeses – a delicious cornucopia of grub only further enhanced by a wall lined with ale and wine barrels. Jadzia minded the table and setup.

The company got to mingling, speaking to various guests and maintaining their cover. Their patrol disguise now unnecessary, they took to their drug-dealing personalities and made some friends. That is until Kraiven decided it was time for a bathroom break. He did have a ring to find after all. It took some convincing, but the servant finally decided to be his escort. It was a deadly mistake that lead to a blade across his throat and a blood-soaked nap in the bathroom’s tub.

The rest kept their cool in the stuffy room until Spencer Duras tapped a glass and welcomed everyone to the banquet. He introduced Callan Dor, the extraordinary Bard, and allowed the party to continue beneath the sounds of his lute. Fenix took the moment to warn Jadzia of the upcoming danger. Her and Mogh needed to slip away as soon as they could.

The olive-skinned Nia found herself at Erik’s side for a quick conversation, but the pressure of Duras’s gaze split them apart. Erik knew something, but had to stay back.

It was then that Spencer grasped at his chest, gasped for air, and fell upon the ground. Panic erupted as the company took the opportunity. They kneeled by his side and attempted to identify what ailed him. Fenix finally came to realize that it was no mere heart attack. Spencer was experiencing a poison. He convinced an older woman, Ms. Young, to fetch his hammer that yielded healing powers. A clever bluff. She obliged.

It was then that Callan Dor himself fell beside them.

“Forget your foolish mission, gawkers. There is much more afoot here than you realize. Go below and what you find – kill it. Or this war will start yet again!”

They understood at least partially. Callan provided them a cover and escorted them toward the exit of the room.

Kraiven found himself before the door to the stairhall. The ring would likely be in Spencer’s quarters since it was not upon his fingers. It took some skill, but he picked the lock and slipped in just before hearing a blood-curdling scream from the restroom he just “used”. He hurried back, found Ms. Young amidst his murder scene, and ended her life as well. Two down. He left her there with the butler and hurried up the newly found stairs to a crowd of guards arguing over cases of wine.

The company followed Callan to the room that held their weapons beside the entrance. It was as easily opened and entered as their items were to find. Fenix however examined a bust of Spencer’s father, Gabriel Duras, closely. He touched the blue jewel upon its chest and the wall before them slid aside. A secret room was revealed, apparently for Spencer’s private use. The spoils of gambling sat upon a table with a drunken guard in a wine-induced slumber.

Godric and Fenix put an end to his dreams, smashing his head into mush with their warhammers. They took the spoils, the guards keys, and a sword mounted upon the wall. Then they made their way back toward the main hall.

Kraiven decided against the stealthy route and made himself known to the guards. Still in his disguise, he convinced them a murder had been committed (which was not exactly a lie) and insisted they check the bathroom. They insisted he lead. So he did.

The two groups met in the halls, the disguised Blackwater Adventuring Company and Kraiven with the guards. He led them to the bathroom and allowed them in, signaling his friends to be ready. When all the guards entered, so did their firebombs. A moment later, they held the door shut while the men inside were burned alive.

Johann befriended their young pet wolf and they continued upstairs. Besides wine and gold, they found the Duras Family Ring and continued below by the Bard’s words.

The young woman in the painting, the lovely lady that spoke to Erik, stumbled through the stairhall entrance disheveled and weeping. Her mascara lined her cheeks in rivers of tears. She turned around and fell to her knees.

“You ungrateful little bitch!” a familiar voice shouted. “I shielded you from the goddamn war, kept you alive and how do you repay me? You dare poison me, you wench?! You and the child you carry are no longer worth anything to me. I’ll fucking kill you both!”

Nia begged for her life between babled apologies. A flick and snap was heard as a small hand-crossbow bolt pierced her chest and forced her to lay bleeding upon the hall’s floor.

Spencer Duras stepped slowly through the doorway, gazing down upon his bride. He looked up to see them standing on the steps.

“Bastards…” he coarsely whispered. He backed away toward the door behind him, obviously intimidated. He said shakily, “you’re next.”

The sound of a quick gust of wind interrupted him. He began to quiver and bleed from the mouth. He fell to the ground.

Callan Dor stood behind him, grasping a dagger. He quickly kneeled by Nia and checked her pulse at her neck.

“Get down there, goddamnit. I’ll take care of her…and the rest of them. GO!”

Kraiven provided him the Duras Family Ring and Callan tossed Nia over his shoulder. He bolted towards the main entrance and was cut off by three guards. He tossed three spheres at them and jumped through the flames they erupted in out of the company’s sight.

They continued below to the dark basement. Two wolves lay sleeping, but barely posed a threat to their onslaught. The cellar became a mess of blood, fur, and wine. Something was down there and they were determined to find it. Fenix made a hole in the ground to discover a hidden panel leading below. A crudely dug tunnel lead further down.

The tunnel continued on until they found it sealed by boulders. Godric had the strength to move one and even proved quick enough to avoid its trap. The pressure plate triggered arrows toward him that would only find the boulder beside him. The rest passed by unscathed as a result.

The small cave became a vast cavern jutting high into the ceiling and far below to dark, reddish, murky waters. Three paths lay before them: two lining the sides and one straight down the middle.

The left was jagged, rocky, and had two spots in which they would no doubt have to jump. The center was more solid, steady, but also had two gaps that lead to the murky fate below. The right looked well carved, well used, and even ended in a bridge.

They split down the middle and right, clearing one of the obstacles before them. Then, a door at the other side of the cavern burst open. Seven orcs rushed through, shouting about the triggered trap. Blackwater continued their advance and fought valiantly against the Orcs, sending most of them to the waters below. One of which even took care of the deed for them.

They made it safely across and passed through the door into a continuing, windy tunnel. What sort of evil was down here?

Just what would they find beneath the mountain?

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