Blades of Light

Tal's Journal, Entry 55
Ghost Ships are Dicks.

We were able to skirt the Wreck, but we had to go through Stonehold. It took longer than we thought. When we got to the village around the castle, there was an old man standing on the corner, shouting about the end of time. He seemed like a regular madman just ranting and raving, but I caught references to the return of the False Champion, the rise of the Sunken God, something about dwarves, raven gods of the north, and the Old Ones. Something about a revelation from the god of fate and the end times of Midgard.

Greeeeeeeeeat.

It also somehow sounded like the references to the ‘dwarf who would not die’ tied into references about auctioning children in a land where the sun will not rise.

Ahahaha fuck.

Other than that, it was a fairly nice little town. And a wonderfully uneventful few days to reach Triolo.

When we got there, Miaako and Keshemet went to go arrange passage. He almost had a heart attack at the high fare, but negotiated something he could at least live with. It left early the next morning.

I elected to to stay as much out of the way as I could; I don’t have the first idea what to do with a boat. We were at sea for a week, about halfway through the trip, when there was a heavy fog one morning, and the crew seemed nervous. I suppose it was too good to last.

This was something to do with rumors of a ghost ship that was meant to be sunk in these waters. With an apparently limitless supply of flaming ammunition. I can see how that might make them nervous.

Miaako mentioned he heard something, and then suddenly it loomed out of the fog at us. I don’t really care if this is the ghost ship or regular pirates, don’t care.

Though the skeletal crew on the other ship skewed the odds heavily in favor of the former.

And, of course, in normal fights we’re worried about just ourselves, but we need quite a lot of crew for this damned ship…

Then the skeletons started pegging our sailors with their crossbows, and someone planted a flaming bolt coated with some sort of tarry substance on the deck. This will be unpleasant. Miaako darted across the boarding planks because he’s best in close combat. I think I will be staying put.

You need a captain to steer a ship, let’s see what I can do about theirs. I made the captain of our ship a little nervous with the fireball, but I was careful. Reeshka, meanwhile, was taking care of the flaming arrows. She also told the captain to get the crew below decks… which prompted one of the zombies to start firing at the rigging.

We kind of need that.

They were also doing some pretty awful damage to our crew… curiously, focusing on them, rather than on us, who are intent on fucking their shit up.

Most of the crew started heading below decks, though one took the ballista to the enemy ship… to their total disdain.

Miaako and Ceor ended up directly engaging the enemy captain… gods know what that thing is. It seemed content to bite and claw, even though Ceor hit it with the force of a large dragon hitting a small castle wall.

There’s a really malignant arcane aura around the ship, like a really powerful curse. I think they’re trying to destroy more ships, to spread the curse and make more of them. Well. Shit. The ship itself is keeping them animate, but we’ll focus on the captain first. We did manage to put it down, but by this point the ship was a bit on fire.

The only way to destroy the ship is to bring a legion of priests, but if we could remove the crew, it would disable it long enough to get away. But we do need a ship to sail away on. Water elemental form isn’t my forte, but it ought to help.

Of course, I’m a rotten climber and always have been.

Fortunately, Reeshka knows Air Walk, but dammit, I have got to learn Summon Elemental for future use. Between her, me, and Keshemet, we might have the fire under control, while Miaako and Ceor deal with the bastards. They took a few out, when we noticed that the other ship seemed to be leaving, or turning, or both.

Leaving, as it turned out. Miaako and Ceor got back on board just in time. As soon as the ghost ship left, it took the fog with it. Of course. We actually managed that without losing any of our crew. That’s nice.

The crew and captain were appropriately grateful, though of course they didn’t waive our fare. Ah well. We managed to make it the rest of the way unmolested. Which was also nice. We landed in Zagora without issue. There was another raving madman, much like the one in Stonehold.

That’s unsettling.

So is the fact that I heard a child giggling under my window at the inn at night… on the third floor. And Ceor said that his portcullis amulet was starting to feel warm.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 54
A Burning Tower of Rage

We stopped in one of the towns on the path to get some armor for the horses, and Rupert… it doesn’t do for brigands to shoot at our horses. Then we headed south to the Bridge of Glory.

It might’ve been glorious once. Most of it was falling down now, and parts in the middle had actually collapsed, creating an artificial hill.

We poked around a little, as this was where the evil shadow wolves were found. Miaako found a crevice that led into the hill, big enough to get into. The part of the tunnel at the outer edge was mostly debris leaning against more debris, but presently it was like going into an actual hill. The passage smelled musky or smoky, and wound downwards. Miaako must’ve slipped in when we weren’t looking, so we followed. There were torches burning on the walls, though they must’ve been burning a long time.

Miaako was not in evidence, but we’re getting used to that.

There was a fissure in the ground that seemed to be leaking some sort of white vapor, but I had no idea what it was. Miaako must’ve been a short distance ahead, because all the sudden there was an indignant squawk, and a bottle of fire briefly outlined him.

Oh good, I was wondering when we’d get jumped.

It turned out to be a goblin, somehow capering about on the ceiling. I burned the hell out of it. It shrieked, and scurried over to drop a clay pot on my head. Fortunately, the actual fire didn’t hurt. There are a few upsides to infernal blood…

I thought I heard something further back in the cave, but I wasn’t sure. Keshemet started singing, as Keshemets do, and I definitely heard something, like a large animal. Reeshka was also visited by the alchemists fire fairy. I didn’t want to waste a spell on it, so used my magic missile wand. … The goblin responded by exploding.

That’s nice.

Ceor managed to fletch another one of the little nuisances, but that was about the time that I saw another one of those shadowy wolves heading for us from the back of the cave.

Well, at least we’re in the right place.

Ceor got a jar dropped on his head, and I’m not positive that he noticed. I could sort of trace Miaako’s path, judging by the flares of missed jars of fire in the back of the cave. I didn’t have the range to deal with the approaching shadow wolf… so Ceor went and completely obliterated it while I focused on the goblin.

The cave seems to be positively infested with the dratted things… Two of them were focusing on the kobolds, and a swarm of them seemed to be trying to drench Ceor in flames… I’ve done worse to him when he woke me up at three in the morning with his drunken singing.

Of course, there was something else in this cave that was significantly more threatening. Ceor was shot by half a dozen arrows that damn nearly knocked him off his horse, a thing I didn’t think possible.

OH. FUCK. NO.

The goblins can wait. I am not going to tolerate this bullshit.

There was a hobgoblin on the ledge at the back of the cave, with another of those wolves. Don’t care. I set off possibly one of the biggest fireballs I’ve ever managed. It put the wolf down, and the hobgoblin was left considering his poor life choices.

At least, if he could think through the third degree burns.

The goblins seemed to think it all great fun, but I am not paying attention to them just yet. The hobgoblin, having somewhat recovered himself, let some arrows fly again. Two went right past me, but Ceor was pegged again, and actually knocked out.

I have never seen that happen.

I never will again. I am going to fucking murder this fool.

A second fireball put the fool down, though I’m not sure he’s dead yet, which I will see to just as soon as we get rid of these goblins. Which shouldn’t take too long. Especially since once Reeshka was done making sure Ceor didn’t die, she dropped fire resistance on us. And then she cast air walk on herself and Ceor.

This is going to get grimly entertaining.

Once the goblins had been taken care of, we looked to see what might be found of interest. Miaako had recovered the hobgoblin’s massive bow, which should be interesting when I get around to identifying. By the time I got around to where the hobgoblin had been, his body was gone.

This could be troublesome.

Given what I’ve seen, I’m pretty sure one of of the goblins was a summoner. Which explains where the wolves came from. They didn’t have much worth taking… I think they were mostly alchemists, but their formula books were ragged pictoglyphs, hardly worth taking. They were on the ceiling probably due to some sort of spiderclimb effect. We did get six masterwork obsidian daggers.

Ceor mentioned he heard some creaking in the chasm at the back of the cave. Not sure what it means.

Well. This was fun.

The bow turned out to be an endless ammunition, frost darkwood, composite longbow (plus 2). No wonder it tore Ceor up. It’s in much better hands now; Ceor is the only one of our group strong enough to draw the damn thing. Later that night, Miaako brought me a pair of bracers and an amulet he’d hidden. The bracers turned out to be Bracers of Armor (plus 5). The amulet was a Frost Amulet of Mighty Fists (plus 2). Might be useful on either Anusk or Rupert, as silly as it sounds. After some consideration, Miaako decided it wasn’t so silly, and traded it to Ceor for the Amulet of Natural Armor Anusk had been wearing.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 53
Necromantic Wolves. Just what we needed.

After some discussion, we decided the best course of action was to cut overland to Triolo, and then catch a ship from there to somewhere in the general vicinity of Kammae.

For certain values of best, naturally.

After leaving Feymott, we were able to travel a couple of days before seeing what appeared to be a hunter on the road. For his sake, he might not be waiting to start shit.

Of course, that was before he tried demanding a toll from us, saying he needed it to pay for him and his companions to ‘protect the path from bandits’. If anyone was the bandit, it was him. It was a bit early in the journey to start hurting people, which we tried to point out. Unfortunately for him, Miaako lost his patience before he saw the light.

It was really early for this nonsense…

Between Miaako’s favorite tactic of teleporting all over the damned place and Ceor and Anusk doing what they do best, the one blocking the road isn’t long for this world, though he has some friends and a pack of wolves.

I’m not all that fond of the smell of burning fur. But something needs to be done, especially since one of the wolves savaged Miaako’s horse Cygnus. Turns out there were quite a few of these assholes… and what is their fascination with attacking our horses?! That’s just rude…

Burning fur smells as bad as I remember.

Miaako was stabbing the hell out of another wolf… they’re more of a threat than the damn archers at the moment. Once they’re down, we’ll worry about the others. Fortunately, they’re not bright enough to get out of my line of fire.

Literally.

One of the wolves did finally have enough and bolted, but the rest didn’t seem willing to bugger off and leave us alone. Oh well. One of the archers was getting savaged by two sudden birds, Anusk caved a wolf’s head in, it was a mess.

Just another Day In The Life, up until we noticed some weird dark energy building in the middle of the road, like a spontaneous summoning, and the wolf corpses seemed to be giving off black smoke.

That’s just fantastic. At least we’d taken out the wolves and could focus on the morons. If we’re lucky, we’ll take them out before whatever is happening with the wolf corpses does happen. They’re not normal wolves, anyway. There’s some powerful dark magic here.

Naturally, that was about the time an enormous shadowy wolf swirled into existence.

This day just keeps getting better and better.

It was pretty horrific, but at least my horse didn’t try to bolt like Anusk… I suppose sudden fires right in front of it have hardened Brimstone a bit. Reeshka was on foot at this point, and got mauled pretty badly. The thing howled, which was… unpleasant. Mostly it just pissed me off, but it bothered Ceor and Anusk to no end.

I get crabby when shit like this happens. Ended up blowing a hole straight through the wolf and the tree behind. And that took care of that.

We managed to come up with three masterwork rapiers, three magical longbows, three belts, three cloaks, three chain shirts, and three bucklers, as well as 34 gold. And one live prisoner to politely ask what the FUCK was that. The giant wolf disintegrated, leaving a patch of fine black grass, which if left unattended I’m pretty sure will grow into some sort of necromantically inclined tree. Might need to burn that…

The one remaining bandit indicated that the leader was named Marak, and the wolves were his. He’d found them under the Bridge of Glory, as pups. Apparently he didn’t know much about them, but could control them well enough to hold the bandits to him by fear. They didn’t like him and tried to flee sometimes, but he’d always set the wolves on them. The one time someone tried to take over, the wolves brought back his head. But Marak is out of the picture now. Ceor offered him a place in Feymott, and since he was perfectly sincere in saying that he’d been trying to get away for six months, I saw no problem in letting him have his gear back. He’s on his own, and if he gets there, that’s fine. If he doesn’t, we’re not going to worry too much.

We do probably need to swing by the Great Bridge and see what’s there that we ought to put a stop to.

It has occurred to me that he might have had other groups at his beck and call who could become troublesome, so we checked for anything distinctive we could use as proof. He had what we first mistook for a birthmark was a necromantically charged piece of black skin that was almost as hard as obsidian, shaped like a wolf. I’m sure that’s not connected to what just happened, he said sarcastically.

The black grass didn’t want to burn properly, and it took Reeshka becoming a being of pure positive energy and rolling around in it to get rid of it. That’s… worrisome. And now Reeshka needs a bath.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 52
A continuous mental scream.

Well, we did make it back to Feymott in one piece. We got a rough idea of the blighted area, about twenty five miles in area. Fabulous.

The guards greeted us when we got back, and seemed to be somewhat discomfitted. While a dragon had been seen flying overhead, they were more concerned about a visitor who’d shown up.

There was a hut in the middle of the square.

A hut on chicken legs.

Fuck my life.

The guards told us that the hut’s owner was waiting in the town hall. We really shouldn’t keep her waiting.

The first order of business was apologizing for keeping her waiting. Gods know we don’t want to offend her. She mentioned that we were dealing with someone she had an interest in. Cindersong, of course. And that she had certain resources we didn’t.

Fuck I don’t like where this is going.

She’s always had a reputation for liking unique things; there’s a sword Ceor doesn’t like to use which is at least a starting point, considering it was found in the realm of a god. She did seem interested, so Ceor promptly went to go get it. I also have a scroll I haven’t been able to decipher, and while I’d lose the opportunity to find out what it means, getting her out of here with minimum offense is worth it.

As Ceor returned, I gave her the scroll. When she read it, she actually seemed a little surprised and annoyed.

Fuck my life.

She said it was a contract, and explained why the slippery little toad could call those “little slugs”. She took it as part of her payment. Then she examined the sword, and mentioned that she’d had a hand in making it, and implied that Mavros had asked her to do it. It buzzed something awful, but she didn’t have any trouble holding it. She took that as well.

In exchange for what we’d offered, she offered a choice of three things. The location where Cindersong was last seen (the place where the Ocean God was trapped, the City of Kammae), the location of one who consorted with the dead (also in Kammae), and one calling herself an oracle of death (who is, unsurprisingly, That Bitch, in Friula, seeking out recruits and why the champion of Mavros isn’t doing the champion the of Mavros thing.) At the last, she patted Ceor on the head, and happened to notice the stealth ring he has. She mentioned that it was an interesting place to see it, but she supposed it was a safe enough place for it.

This bears closer examination. As far as I can tell, it’s just a simple iron band that makes him somewhat more stealthy. But that was weird. We’ll have to keep an eye on it.

She finished up with the remark that if we were able to find out more information about the gnomes, we could feel free to call her and let her know, because she would always be interested in that, especially knowledge of their capital. Then she took her leave for now.

FUCK MY LIFE.

Once my nerves settled down, I got to work identifying the things we’d recovered. The leather armor turned out to be studded leather… made out of angel skin. Fuck no. The glaive was simply a flaming glaive. The scimitar was a flaming unholy Reinforced Viridium scimitar. Viridium can cause leprosy. That’s nice. The adamantine was equivalent to a nice heavy steel shield ((2)), the armor was light fortification fullplate ((2)). It was too heavy for Ceor to use properly, or he’d have kept it. The belt turned out to be a Belt of Physical Might, which Ceor claimed. There was also an Amulet of Natural Armor that was better than what I have, so I kept it. The boots turned out to be Boots of Striding and Springing, which Miaako already has; there was also a Cloak of Quick Reflexes ((2)). We gave that to Reeshka, and I kept her slightly better cloak of Resistance. The lenses were Eyes of Keen Sight, which can help one see in poor light. Since Ceor is a pure human, he can use that. The ring was a nice Ring of Protection ((2)), which was better than the one Keshemet had.

As I was doing the identification work, I noticed that the hilt of the scimitar felt hollow. I couldn’t figure out how to open it, but Miaako did. After some fiddling, he popped the end off, revealing a scroll. There were two spells on it. Permanency and Transmute Mud to Rock. I don’t know why a dedicated melee fighter would have that, but I’m not complaining. Those are getting added to the spellbook.

The angel skin armor is promptly getting taken to the temple to be disposed of in the least blasphemous way possible. Gods know we don’t need any more gods or demi gods or other things taking an interest in us. We chucked the unholy scimitar as well, because that would be a disaster in the making.

Once we get everything sold, I think the next order of business is heading to Kammae. We know where one of our targets is, and another was last seen there. And I’m not too terribly worried about That Bitch.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 51
TEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENSOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOR!

It took us a week to get to a point where we could see what was causing the smoke. There was a band of dark land, which transitioned into just…. burned land. Funny how this was still smoking after such a long time…

Reeshka and Miaako were of the opinion that the burned area we’d found was the natural aftermath of something else; whatever it was had started wildfires, and Reeshka could smell sulfur. We elected to go on.

What can possibly go wrong?

It took another six hours before I started feeling uneasy, and Miaako noticed the sky was turning an ugly greenish color. An hour later, we crested a hill to see a town of sorts still standing. This was not where the fire had started, we hadn’t reached the cause yet. The gates were standing open, and I could smell something like iron. There didn’t seem to be any activity, and when we came in, Miaako found a symbol charred into one of the support beams. Skull in flames.

Cindersong. Naturally.

The ground was soaked in gore and blood because of course it was. Ceor went to check if there were any survivors, though I could have told him there wouldn’t be. He did find body after body after body after body after ad nauseum, all arranged in decorative if mundane tableau. We were pretty sure that they were dead long before they were arranged, and Reeshka determined that they had all had their hearts cut out. The fountain in the town center was overflowing and filled with disembodied hearts; I think the little asshole had used it as a sacrificial altar, trying to either summon something or punch his way through to the Eleven Hells.

Ceor found a bloodstained doll in one of the houses, but we didn’t find any childrens’ bodies. None of the possible reasons for that really makes me happy.

There’s going to be quite a lot of murder when we catch up to Cindersong. Possibly more than we were already going to visit upon him.

That was about the time that Miaako vanished, and I heard what I can only describe as a childish giggle. I heard it twice, and cast See Invisibility just in case. I didn’t see anything that could have produced the giggle, but I did see Miaako skulking around behind the buildings. I’m more concerned with the other; if Miaako wants help, we’re within earshot. He seemed to be looking for something, but didn’t find it.

He’d heard something, and I’d heard something… but the others hadn’t. I expect they might be preoccupied because of Reasons, but… well. I’m a bit worried.

I have a feeling this might be connected to the cradle we saw in the house that had formerly belonged to Cindersong. It would make entirely too much sense.

Reeshka, in the meantime, performed some sort of last rites, and exploded into positive energy. The air smelled cleaner, at least. There’s not much else we can do here, so we left.

We had to make camp once, but the next day we came over a small rise to find the ground had been cracked and scarred, and some of the cracks were full of molten, glowing rock. The place was full of sulfurous steam, and the boiling rock was releasing gas. There was a burned out building nearby, probably what had once been a farmhouse.

Keshemet, Ceor and Miaako heard something like chanting to the south.

Really wish I could be surprised.

We made our way around a ridge to the source of the chanting. As usual, Ceor was as subtle as a cupboard full of dishes falling over. We got close enough to see a group of… well, blubbery things, as well as what looked like animated corpses. Naturally.

After some hurried discussion and the realization that the chanting (in Infernal, of course) seemed to rising to a climax, we elected to do something about it. Unfortunately, Miaako had slipped ahead, invisible, to do some scouting… right about where I set my fireball. I’ll have to apologize later.

Ceor charged in, of course, and Miaako managed to do quite a bit of damage before popping back over close enough for Reeshka to see him. I had enough time to set a second fireball, which eliminated all of the corpses in that group, at least. The chanting didn’t quite stop, and judging by the unholy racket, there was something really strong behind a rock that Ceor was tangling with.

Miaako was doing his best to cut some of the monstrosities down. I could see another group of the melted lumps of lard, but there was too much smoke for me to see beyond them. I assumed there were more anyway, since I’d heard the racket before. I let them have another fireball. Fortunately, Miaako managed to get out of the way of that one. In the meantime, Keshemet was making excellent use of the magic missile wand I’d lent him. Between my fireballs, Miaako’s whirling blades of death, and Reeshka’s abuse of an Inflict Serious Wounds wand, whatever was chanting stopped and ran.

Unfortunately, the remaining creatures were proving tougher than we’d generally like. Ceor was having quite a bit of trouble with his opponent, and Reeshka managed to get herself stabbed by a zombie. And the ground was starting to bulge in a really worrying way.

Reeshka managed to run out of the way and heal herself and Ceor just before the ground split open and something hideous emerged.

This day just keeps getting better and better.

At least Ceor seemed to have put down his opponent.

My god, that thing is ugly.

One of the devils we’d been fighting stepped up to the monstrosity and stabbed the horrible thing… I thing we interrupted a ritual to seal a planar rift. Hrm.

Oh well. We’ll just have to kill it.

Though I do want to know why devils would be sealing a rift to the Eleven Hells.

In the mean time, Reeshka got the everloving hell thumped out of her, and the devil that had attacked it got knocked out. I jammed some more scorching rays into it, to some small success. Keshemet tried to use Glitterdust to blind it… which might have actually worked. Between my fire, Miaako’s blades of death, and Ceor’s ride-by, we did manage to drop the awful thing… which promptly explodes into a cloud of acid.

Lovely.

Miaako, Keshemet, and Ceor and Anusk were too close, though at least they were able to get to Reeshka in time for her to heal them. The thing then melted. The devil that had tried to fight the thing also got away. Which I suppose means we have one to interrogate.

It said that they had sensed the qlippoth coming, through a portal that had formed (for which I blame Cindersong). They had run for the portal, since they could only close it from the side it was opened from. Qlippoths are from beyond even the Eleven Hells, so the devils weren’t too keen on it. And then we got in the middle.

This devil didn’t know where Cindersong was, only muttered that they never should have contracted with him. He did say that one of the contract devils might know where Cindersong was… but asking them isn’t an option. He also made the comment to Miaako that he wasn’t part of Mamnon’s bunch and had nothing to do with his big book. Miaako seemed like he didn’t know what he was talking about… but I’m not sure. In any case, Mamnon is one of the Princes of the Hells. He keeps an enormous book full of the contracts he’s made, and another of defaulted debts. This could take some looking into.

We collected some equipment from the fallen devils; I decided to let the living one go. He said that as soon as he was able, he’d return to the Hells, notify his master about the rift, and probably they’d see if there were any more. I don’t particularly care, though it might be reasonable to check things out from our side.

We got a creepy suit of leather armor, a glaive, a scimitar with a green glow (which apparently gave Ceor a case of leprosy which is fortunately in the very early stages), an adamantine shield, adamantine fullplate, an amulet, a belt, boots, a cloak, crystal lenses, and a ring. Also the leader turned out to be a half-fiend. I’ll identify the items later. Right now, the first priority is getting Ceor back to a temple because Reeshka doesn’t know how to remove disease.

And then we have a gnome to murder.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 50
Well, that was fun.

We found a more or less intact building to rest and recover in. It was still what I expect was the middle of the night, we were woken by something scraping against the stone outside. Naturally.

We thought it smart to start getting out of the building, but there were some skeletons outside.

Why am I even surprised anymore?

I set one on fire, and another came charging in, flailing at me with a rather impressively shiny sword. That was about the time something massive hit the back wall. We seem to be a bit surrounded.

And by a bit I mean there are probably twenty skeletons and ghouls in the building with us and gods know what outside.

I did manage to make it a bit easier to deal with by setting no few of them on fire. That was about the time the back wall caved in and a figure surrounded by cold and frost and wielding a big fuckoff axe came in.

Because things were getting boring.

And, of course, we were getting fucking swarmed, and the walls were starting to be more hole than wall. Ceor elected to pull me up on Anusk, and I cleared out a few more. The one in the exceptionally heavy armor was doing her best to murder Miaako, though he was able to dodge out of the way. Good thing too, considering the gouges she left in the floor.

Ceor was busy handling the never ending tide of undead from the front door, while Miaako was trying not to die and Reeshka was getting surrounded by undead that were flailing ineffectually at her. Since the undead hordes were so much trash, and Miaako could only dodge so long, Ceor overran the ones surrounding Reeshka, and proceeded to do horrible things to the one with the axes. Miaako wasn’t having much luck, so it’s probably just as well.

Reeshka had turned into a glowing pillar of energy, and seemed to be enjoying running into the things. Ceor did horrible, horrible things to what I expect was the leader, and I ended up finishing her off with some well-placed burning aggression. After the bitch dropped, Miaako apparently saw something alarming, because he promptly bolted through one of the many holes in the wall. I expected it was the building white-blue glow coming from the pile of armor.

We elected to book it too.

We got out of the building just as the armor detonated. It covered everything in ice an inch thick and sent shards of ice into anything even close to solid.

At least the walls were in no danger of collapsing any more because of the ice.

There was a pillar of ice roughly the size and shape of a human. I had no idea what happened, and neither did Reeshka. We think it was the half-orc we’d left behind before, anyway. But no clue as to what caused it.

I think it’s time to go now.

We made our way out of the Wastes, at one point picking up our goblin escorts again, who shadowed us through their territory.

It was nice to get to the edge of the Wastes, though when we did, we smelled something unpleasant, and Miaako spotted a plume of smoke on the horizon.

It has to be a hell of a fire, to be visible from this distance.

I suppose we ought to check it out.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 49
The Crystal Cracked

After we cleared out Bloodstone’s stronghold, we continued on into the Goblin Wastes. As we found the track that lead in the general direction of Taltreni. There were goblins on the road, though they didn’t seem inclined to attack. Their territory seemed to have drifted across the road. They called themselves the Sootleaf clan. The spokes… goblin said that they had also been ‘blessed’ by the gods, in order to guard one of the Great Old Ones. He also confirmed that the rumor that the goblins had once been humans that were twisted by the Wastes was true.

He also indicated that he knew where the Crystal Citadel, the Order of the Pure’s base, was. This could be useful. Apparently it’s a rite of passage for their tribe for their young ones to sneak into the encampment and come away with some of their tokens. The leader said we’d need an army to take care of them.

Might be willing to provide that, if it comes down to it.

There was some discussion, mostly focusing on whether or not I was capable of banishing the Old Ones. I’m willing to try, at least. But it worked out amicably, and the leader offered us an escort through their territory. Granted that there were quite a few more than we realized, I’m glad it worked out.

They’d also seen Cindersong at some point, being dragged into the Crystal Citadel. There’s no way of knowing when, if it was before or after he started working with them or if he’s still there, but it’s a place to start.

The goblins lead us through the Wastes without much incident, and kept their distance from all the horrors dotting the landscape. As we traveled, we spotted what looked like a ridgeline… except it wasn’t. The last time Ceor and I saw it, it was charging the city of Taltreni and we were dreaming.

That’s unsettling.

But we did reach the broken city of Taltreni; didn’t look like anyone had been here since we were the last time, save the half-orc that had elected to stay behind, that meandered around in no directed fashion. The goblins wouldn’t enter the city, naturally. But as they left, one of them mentioned that the symbol on Ceor’s sword wasn’t so much the symbol of Taltreni… it was the personal symbol of the Captain of the Guard of Taltreni. It was a very old sword.

I wish I could be surprised.

Once we started making our way into the city, Sanguine joined us. He wasn’t entirely pleased with how long it was taking, but we couldn’t do much about it. We made for the center keep, though it took us a little while to get our bearings. I think we came in a different gate the last time.

The interior of the keep was a lot more dust-free than one would think. Reeshka thought that someone had been moving around, stirring up the dust. Getting Sanguine down the stairs past the traps will be difficult. Especially since Sanguine’s presence was twisting the lines of magic that were floating around and darkening them.

If there’s anything to be stirred by necromantic energy in this city (and why would there EVER be something like that in this city?!), it’ll start soaking it up.

We need to do this fast.

And once we start… everything that will start soaking up the power will start coming after us. Most notably Sanguine, who won’t be able to fight. And I’ll have to maintain the ritual…

This is going to be ugly.

There was another trap that we’d missed the first time, apparently by chance, and a load of new corpses. Fabulous.

We reached the crystal chamber without incident, and Miaako and Reeshka set about trapping the entrances into the room, while I gave Keshemet the wands I had. That being done, there was nothing for it but to start.

The response was immediate. As we started, shadowy distortions appeared on the wall, manifesting into living shadows. I can only hope this goes as well as we want it to. Another appeared on the other side of the chamber, and it sounded like really disturbing whispers. As Ceor hit one, the symbol on his sword started glowing, and the piece he carved off disintegrated. Miaako was taking care of another… but there are only so many of us, and this room is large.

It was a disturbing sensation, to feel all the dark energy gathering around me like streamers. But I suppose that means it’s working.

However, one of the shadows got around the others, and actually got close enough to enter the cloud of darkness that was forming. That will end well.

And really, this would be so much easier if I dared stop to burn these fuckers.

I was so busy with it that I didn’t see the one behind me until it hit me. It was a horrible, creeping cold.

I didn’t like it.

If I’d been smart, I’d have done it before, but I didn’t think of it. But better late than never. Elemental Body is a spell that has its uses.

Naturally, even more of them were drawn to start trying to drain Sanguine… and it’s hard to miss a dragon.

The denser, darker column of ‘fucked up’ seemed to indicate that we were making progress, at least. And it seemed like there was another centered on me…

The others managed to keep the shadows at bay long enough to finish. There was a lot of negative energy that I was wrestling with… the only way I knew to dissipate it was to spread it across everyone present in the room. Us, Sanguine, even Rupert.

It was exhausting. I barely had enough energy to will Elemental Body away before Ceor hugged me. Sanguine also passed out.

He came around about ten minutes later. Reeshka, of course, promptly attached herself to his tail. As soon as he was able, he was on his way. Reeshka invited him to stay in the city, but he doesn’t particularly want to. We bid him safe journey.

After he had gone, Ceor and Miaako noticed that the crystal had a long, deep crack running through it. The crystal’s ability to channel magic has been compromised, though another massive and exhausting ritual could probably repair it by channeling more magic into it. Using it to channel magic right now would certainly make it finish cracking. I’ll worry about fixing it later.

For right now, we’re getting topside. When we got there, the sky was blue.

First time we’ve seen a blue sky in the Goblin Wastes…

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Tal's Journal, Entry 48
Oh joy. More undead.

After some discussion, it was decided that the dragon is the most current problem. Which will mean a trip to Taltreni. I think I can split the power up into smaller fractions, and neutralize the necromantic effect. At least four chunks, more to be safe…

Miaako heard some rumors about some anomalous activity somewhat north of Savoyne. Not exactly on our most direct route, but not that far out of our way. Something about things coming in and out of cave systems, but the rumors are vague in the extreme. We’ll check it out.

There’s something else out in the wastes, something called the Gates of Dawn and Dusk. Legend has it that they combined positive and negative energy there, for unknown purposes. It’s not too far from Taltreni, either. It’s a place to look, anyway.

We left one of the city councilmen as the regent since we don’t know how long we’ll be gone. Then we started heading north. We skirted Savoyne because we didn’t feel like screwing with them. We were generally left alone because we had a dragon following us and landing in our camp each night.

When we reached the mountain ridge where the caves were located. There were a lot of confused tracks around, roughly human shaped and sized, though they’d left some sort of foul smelling goo on things they’d brushed past.

It didn’t take much searching to find a cave mouth with a lot of gunk around it. It was nearly big enough for two of us to go side by side. Miaako went first, because he’s good at that. He heard something that after a moment Reeshka identified as possibly a minecart.

Well, that’s comforting.

We kept going, though it looked like a lot of things had been moving along in here. Also comforting. Miaako found what looked like the mostly-skeletal remains of some sort of furry animal. And further down was a set of minecart tracks. We elected to stay put, and presently saw the minecart. It appeared to be moving on its own at a slow speed, but not full of much. It wasn’t magical. Reeshka said this smelled like it used to be an iron mine, but nothing had been mined in a long time.

We took one of the turnings, and Miaako and I saw what might’ve been some sort of greenish glow. Miaako slipped ahead, only to find some sort of skeletal figure coated in greenish glowing goo.

Fabulous.

They were undead, of course, because what else would they be? That was about the time that I heard something behind us, clicking on stone.

Miaako decided it was time to retreat. I was so busy watching where Ceor was going, since he usually sounds like a box of loosely packed cookware, and ended up walking into him.

Naturally.

I can’t tell much about these things, except they’re nastier than normal skeletons. Ceor lunged at it, knocking several chips out, and it seemed to surge with energy. I set it on fire, which also seemed to have some sort of weird interaction with the green glow. More showed up, of course. I don’t know why were surprised by hordes of undead anymore.

Miaako also knocked a chunk out of one, only to be buffeted by the same wave of force that hit Ceor, but he didn’t lose his footing. That was when Reeshka exploded into sparkles and light.

It’s fun when she does that. The undead all spontaneously combust. They don’t crumble, mind, but they do start smoking. It also made quite a lightshow. Ceor then put one down. It’s spot was immediately taken by what seemed like some sort of armored skeleton, but he promptly knocked it back where it was. It retaliated with a ray of black energy that completely missed.

More of the skeletons showed up, including two more of the armored things that I could see. That won’t do.

Though, of course, getting within melee range of either Miaako or Ceor is a poor life choice… albeit for vastly different reasons. Miaako simply turns into a blur of motion and sharp objects. Even if each hit made them emit waves of force. He just shredded one.

Reeshka darted at the large group and burst into positive energy again… which totally blinded her for a few seconds. She was already mostly blind… Reeshka thought the coating had something to do with the violent reaction to positive energy. And the construction had something to do with why they let off waves of force. It also made her really, really obvious, and got whammed. Significantly.

There was another armored figure coming up the hallway, which, uh, no, that’s not cool. So I melted half its armor and burned quite a lot of it. Milky white energy seemed to leak out of it…

That was about the same time that one of the skeletons exploded on Ceor, showering him with razor sharp shrapnel. There were even more skeletons coming up from the other passage… so I set a fireball off in their midst. Which at least dropped one of them, and badly damaged the rest. True, the tunnel walls were glowing ominously… I’m sure we can manage.

Another skeleton exploded on Ceor and Miaako, but they managed to dodge the shards. Keshemet was somehow managing to keep the enemies from the other tunnel mostly at bay. One of the skeletons tried to do something about it by detonating itself… but Keshemet is so small that everything missed. But one of those goddamned armored skeletons hit me with one of their ray attacks.

It hurt like a bitch.

Keshemet had to step back, but Reeshka was able to put a force chain across the passage so they couldn’t get across.

I picked up a new spell before we left Feymott. It’s called Fire Snake. I managed to drop several of the things… though I got clawed and blasted in return. They finally put the group ahead of us down, and the others came to help us with the group behind us. Ceor was most displeased.

Now that we were all together, it was easier to start putting them down, and they started dropping much quicker. Once we took them down, we had a moment to catch our breath. Reeshka was able to tell that despite the damage, the tunnels were still structurally sound. We looked around, there were quite a lot of ingredients for creating undead lying around, as well as an altar with an obxiously familiar symbol on it. He didn’t appear to be here at the moment, but at least we’ve found one of Bloodstone’s little strongholds.

We also found a sack of 1160 platinum coins and 73 fist size onyx gems. Reeshka thinks they were being used as animating foci. I was also able to tell that while there was a leyline within the area, it had been corrupted. Badly.

Which was actually rather disturbing.

Reeshka’s knowledge of mining let her find the appropriate weakspots… and my souped up fireballs let me bring the place down.

Because fuck Bloodstone.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 47
Now they've pissed me off.

Ceor decided to spend some time training the troops. I begged off, because I wanted to get some more research done and I can think of few things I’d rather do less than watch training exercises. Miaako wasn’t so lucky, and went with Ceor at his request. I’m not sure if he knew Keshemet was coming along or not.

In the middle of some sparring drills, Ceor was suddenly incapacitated by a splitting headache, which Miaako connected with a strange figure halfway up a tree. That is of course when things got messy.

He was apparently some sort of mage. Miaako started climbing the tree, while Ceor produced his bow for once. He also had an entire squad of archers at his disposal.

That was about the time the idiot in the tree summoned a humongous wolf.

At least it gave Ceor something to charge.

Things Ceor charges generally do not have a long lifespan.

It is, however, fortunate that Miaako has learned how to basically teleport a short distance; the mage was abusing short range ice attacks. Also probably not entirely a living creature and had Bloodstone’s symbol branded into it, according to Miaako’s report.

Ceor really needs to work with this squad on their accuracy. Did horrible things to the tree the mage and Miaako were in, not one arrow struck the actual target.

The one advantage the mage had was that it was up a tree where Ceor couldn’t get to it… which he promptly rectified by charging the fucking tree.

It had a pronounced lean to it after.

The mage fell out, but then created a bunch of black writhing tendrils on the ground between it and Ceor because he wasn’t entirely stupid. Of course, he was also now where the squadron of eager recruits could get at him. Miaako promptly jumped out of the tree and landed on the mage sword first. And then Ceor exploded it as is his way.

The thing was in full plate with a necromantic effect, and a spear it never bothered to use. They brought it back for identification and looting. The spear turned out to be an unholy frost spear with a slight enhancement. The armor turned out to be putrid fullplate. It had an Amulet of Natural Armor, a Belt of Incredible Dexterity, Boots of Striding and Springing, a pair of red crystaline lenses that turned out to be Deathwatch Goggles, a Headband of Alluring Charisma, and a Ring of Protection with an obnoxious skull and bones motif.

It was well kitted out for taking on Ceor, actually.

Miaako found another crystal skull scrying device on this one. Miaako wants to take a sledgehammer to it, I’m tempted to just put it in a room with a large poster that says ‘Fuck You.’ I was originally thinking we could use the one we’d already recovered to set a trap for Bloodstone, but he’s going to realize we’re onto him because we took out his assassins.

As we were discussing this mess, Jenkins showed up, saying he had a message from Sanguine. The dragon’s in the area, but thought it would be best for us to announce it before he showed up and panicked everyone. Probably for the best. Though Reeshka seemed convinced that Jenkins was some sort of agent of an elite dragon hunter faction… that as far as I know doesn’t actually exist. Her paranoia’s in overdrive.

We had missives posted around town indicating what was going on, and Reeshka wanted to make a formal proclamation. Also apparently wanted to charge admission to visit Sanguine.

As Reeshka finished her speech, one of the townspeople stood up and screamed something about the Order and the dwarf sending their regards. He then revealed some sort of monstrosity he’d had in a cart, and a fiend charged out of another tent.

I am not amused.

I’m afraid I traumatized a few of the townsfolk, but there is no better way to say hi than a fireball. Of course, there were more fiends. Bearded devils (and why the fuck is the Order working with this), and the big thing was an eidolon. They promptly started trying to murder guards and townsfolk.

This will NOT DO.

If we take the summoner out, the eidolon will vanish. Accordingly, I set him on fire. Unfortunately, he had a potion that he swigged, flipped Ceor off, and ran into a tent. The shadowthing charged at Ceor, which proved to be a poor life decision.

Miaako was helping some of the guards who were being pressed by carving chunks out of one of the fiends. Ceor charged another with the expected results. As he ripped his lance out of it, the backswing took off another’s head. One of the guards had figured out that the fiend he was engaged with was trying to push past him to get to my self and Keshmet, and was having none of it. I set a couple of ball lightning globes to keep them busy.

The summoner was rethinking this. Apparently, it was harder than he’d been led to believe, and he pulled out a teleportation scroll and buggered off.

It won’t save him. He will be ashes.

MIaako carved one fiend apart handily. Ceor popped another one. The guard was still keeping still another fiend from the stage… and I burned it back to hell. He’s getting promoted.

That only left one… and Miaako shredded it. We lost one guard and none of the townsfolk. So really, it could have been worse.

Still, I am not going to tolerate this.

Jenkins was involved with another group by the docks and managed to drive off another group. Reeshka started spouting more paranoid bullshit. I’m not in the mood.

I don’t care if we go after the Order or Bloodstone first, but I am going to burn every single man and woman in either’s employ until there’s nothing left to even be buried.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 46
The plot thickens and we set a house on fire on purpose this time.

Reeshka received a scroll written in Mharoti, some sort of diplomatic missive from the dragon empire, written by a dragon, which meant that she promptly demanded to have it framed in gold and became impossible for all but certain dogs to understand. She also received an enchanted metal rod. Keshemet decided it was a lesser metamagic rod. Useful little trinket. Then she and Keshemet promptly got attacked by a flock of undead ravens.

Naturally.

I suppose there are stupider things to do than sending undead to attack an oracle of life, but not many. Between the general fragility of rotting ravens and a frankly irresponsible use of charges of a cure serious wounds wand, they weren’t much threat. The guards arrived after they’d been dealt with, but apparently, there were two dozen more that had come in over the walls that they’d already destroyed. Reeshka was unamused and unimpressed by the assassination attempt. Each bird had the symbol of the skull with the ring of bones that is oh so helpfully associated with Bloodstone.

I’d been researching in the meantime, and one night after I went to bed, I woke to find myself on a dock on a river, with crates bound for various celestial or infernal planes, that looked like the’d been there for years. Nearly as old as the dock. The river was also dark, darker than you’d see normally. Like the Everriver. A bell tolled on a boat nearby. And at the end of the dock was that Asshole Allain. His outline was colorless, compared to everything else. He reacted to my presence enough to turn to look at me, but his entire attitude was one of apathy. It looked like he was waiting to board the boat to his deserved afterlife, but a silver chain seemed to go back towards the shore. Something binding him here, maybe… Some kind of divine, or possibly necromantic effect, but I’ve never seen anything like it.

I decided to try to sever the chain. A magic missile knocked a chunk out of one of the links. He showed a bit of emotion then, asking if I was there to release him. I don’t like him, but I don’t want him coming back again.

And in spite of myself, I might feel a little sorry for him.

He said that he was held there, by his sister and Bloodstone, and that they’d find a way to drag him. He also said that some of the dark gods came to him and his sister. The Hunter came to That Bitch, and Czernabog came to him and wouldn’t take no for an answer. That’s where he got the dog, which apparently kept trying to convince him to put a knife in my back.

I never did like that dog and it never liked me.

I ended up burning through the chain to release Allain. He said that he’d always been jealous of me and my ability.

Which I suppose explains a lot.

I did manage to start working out the beginnings of a ritual to transfer the power from Sanguine; Taltreni is the best place, using the crystal as a focus, but I still don’t know where to put it or if the ritual will kill Sanguine, or if it’ll even work in the Goblin Wastes.

Reeshka managed to work out that it wasn’t so much a curse as the god of death taking all of the knots of necromantic energy that were stripped off countless abominations and they had to be put somewhere, and the dragon seemed the best (and strongest) candidate.

A few days later, Miaako received a cheap scrollcase in the middle of the night, which contained a drawing of the spy that Miaako had arrested some time ago, standing in front of the broken down shack we’d found him and that disturbing crib… dated two days ago. Cindersong’s house. I went with him to check it out, and there was something moving around. The door had a new lock and it had been reinforced, too.

But a new lock didn’t stand a chance when Miaako started poking it.

There was a large, hungry looking dog in there. Or to be more precise, an abnormally large wolf. Nearly a dire wolf. We decided to slip in. Miaako did so flawlessly… but I attracted the wolf’s attention. Fortunately, it was more interested in its bone… or at least it settled down when I hushed it. There was another one on the table in the next room. Miaako slipped in unseen, but I tripped over a goddamn stool. MIaako scared the hell out of it. But the noise seemed to rouse someone upstairs.

There were more books here, on the history and geography of the Septime region, and a nice set of cutlery. The desk seemed to be listing, and when I looked at it, it was covered with wax hand prints. Like either someone had moved the desk with wax-covered hands, or a golem. There was a rolled up parchment in the desk with the skull and ring of bones seal. I’ll take it with me to examine later. There was another wolf in the hallway, desperately trying to get out. I used the open/close cantrip to let it out, and it took off. But I had to say it pretty clearly, and I’m sure whoever was on the second floor heard me.

We slipped back into the main room, while something large and heavy coming down the stairs. Someone muttered something about ‘damn dogs’, shut and barred the door, and went back upstairs. We could smell something like beeswax…

We made our way upstairs. The smell was stronger up here, and Miaako heard muttering in the bedroom. He was able to open the door without causing any noise. There was a man standing in there, with his back to the door… and from what I could see, he looked exactly like the man that’s still locked up. He was ranting about not being able to sleep. The smell was almost overpowering, but it was too dark to see much.

We could see that he had a falchion strapped to his back… which Miaako managed to lift somehow. I have no idea how. Then he drew his attention, after being sure to step out of my line of fire.

I mean that literally, of course.

I hit him with a pair of scorching rays, which just made his body… run. Wax golem. Thought as much.

Fire was far more effective than Miaako’s blades… especially since the ice effect on his blade seemed to… well, cauterize isn’t the right word, but close enough. That was okay, though. I had plenty of scorching rays. We ended up setting the building on fire because of course we did. I found a small glass or quartz skull and Miaako found some sort of book written in cipher. We checked out the other room. The crib wasn’t there anymore, which was something. Didn’t look like anything else had changed.

The first bedroom has a puddle of flaming wax in it, that’ll probably burn out the bedroom, but stop there. I was originally inclined to let it burn itself out, and station a guard… then we got to the bottom of the stairs and Miaako said he heard someone laughing at our misfortune. I didn’t hear it… but I smelled talcum powder.

We changed our minds. Miaako let the wolves that were still inside out, and I set a fireball off in the middle. Because fuck this shit.

The journal proved to be a double substitution cipher, documenting comings and goings for the last three weeks. He seemed to have just been tracking comings and goings at the harbor, paying particular attention to loads of magical components. The scroll proved to be a series of commands, ordering what I expect was the golem to keep track of shipments and report back every full moon using the skull. It can be used three times a day to send a message back, and also it can be used as a scrying device. So we don’t want to take it anywhere important. It’s about a week to the full moon, so we have some time to plan. It was originally shut up inside of a desk drawer, and if I understand this correctly, when used as a focus, it would only be able to see the inside of the drawer. I had it shut up in another desk in an out of the way house for now; we don’t want Bloodstone getting wind of this just yet.

Though I’m inclined to message him myself with the world’s biggest middle finger.

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