Blades of Light

Tal's Journal, Entry 85
Standing Here At the End

We arrived at the Citadel without much issue, and were able to surround it. It was decided that we’d take a few units to help us push in, since we did have a map of the place, and it looked like they’d committed all their forces to defending the wall. Once we get inside, we’ll see if we can make straight for where the trouble is.

We dreamed that night, though we didn’t remember of what, save that the orichalchum weapons we’d created were named. Reeshka’s was the Queen’s Fang, and Ceor’s was Destiny (which pleased him not at all). Someone clearly had a sense of humor, and mine was Talisien’s Barb. Because of course it was.

The sun rose normally for once, though the comet seemed like a candleflame on top of the tower. This is nice.

We did have some old and new allies show up… Sionna and Sanguine, the minotaur we’d found under Friula, too many others to name. They elected to help us charge the Citadel, which will help. I hope.

After a really stirring speech by the Champion of Mavros, there was nothing else but to charge. So we did. Despite some really fierce resistance, it only took a few minutes to get us through the front lines, to the entrance to the Citadel.

If we’re going to be heroically stupid, we might as well go all the way.

The doors to the citadel were ajar, and I reached them first… there were a pair of very alarmed looking dwarves, who did not seem inclined to abandon their post… though good gods did they want to. I’ll be willing to give everyone one chance to bugger off… though them being dwarves, Reeshka is not inclined to be as polite. She practically bull rushed them.

They did seem inclined to think that this was NOT what they’d signed up for… though, granted, I don’t think we’re what anyone signs up for.

Reeshka seems inclined to take no prisoners… can’t say I’m much surprised.

At least the guards on the entrance are more inclined to get out of our way than fight… which is probably a good thing. If we can get Reeshka to stop stabbing people.

There were more guards in the hallway, and while the ones with swords were smart enough to step away, the archers elected to shoot at us… which they really shouldn’t have done. A fireball took two of them out. Ceor took another one out, which just left one… who wisely surrendered.

At least there was no real resistance offered as we opened the next chokepoint… particularly as Ceor’s horse kicked down the next door. Reeshka did let us know that one of the men we’d killed’s spirit was going up to power the comet. So we shouldn’t kill as many people…

If we can help it.

The next guards seemed less inclined to be intelligent… a fireball took care of it. They’re slowing us down, which isn’t good… particularly since it felt like the ground shifted in a way I didn’t like. It’s starting to slope upwards in the direction of the comet…

Fantastic.

Someone opened the door behind me; I don’t particularly care what he does as long as he doesn’t decide to fuck with me. We proceeded further in; the guards here were more determined, but godawful stupid.

Such as the case who decided it was a splendid idea to charge Ceor… and impale himself on Ceor’s lance. Maybe a set of Scorching Rays will change their minds… Regardless, we don’t have time for this. Ceor thought the same, because all four of us ended up on Anusk. We’ve got to get up to the tower, and these guys just keep getting in the way.

Though we do seem to have gotten far enough in that we don’t have regular guards, but horrific abominations in the hall.

Because of course there are.

At least the guards decided to fuck off once they saw them.

How nice of them to be in a straight line. Fire snakes are wonderful for that.

They all died, but let out this horrible noise as they did so, which set my teeth on edge. And then, of course, more showed up. Reeshka popped one, and Keshemet killed a thing, after Ceor introduced himself. We reached the tower, which was groaning and creaking, as dust and debris started falling down. This is just lovely.

We got up the tower, and Reeshka indicated there was something big on the other side… okay. We can manage it.

Ceor kicked the door open, and shoved his orichalchum blade straight into the horrible jelly-like monstrosity on the other side. It is worth noting that in addition to the lightning enchants I’d put on it, it was wreathed in a silver-white flame. Interesting. It screamed at him, leaving him dazed. I hit it with the strongest scorching ray I know… and it mostly shrugged it off. Great.

And there were more of those hound things, which by the way can teleport. One of them bit me. It hurt. A lot. At least we managed to put down the huge thing… but the smell was so bad it nearly made thinking impossible.

Fortunately, Ceor was able to reduce three of the hound things into piles of ichor, and the remaining three were close enough for a fire snake to do horrible things to.

Also, the giant monstrosity regenerates. Of course. Ceor took care of it. Again. At least it seemed to be dead this time.

We made it up to the top of the tower. It was infested with cultists, of course. And what looked like control orbs that seemed to both be holding the comet directly overhead and funneling power into it. Not exactly sure what’ll happen if we break them, but let’s find out.

For the first time, I used a melee weapon, to attack the closest orb. It seemed to be leaking ugly purple and green energy. Nice. One of the cultists stabbed me, which was highly unpleasant.

And then they dropped a fireball on our heads. Which I don’t give much of a shit about, but it’s highly annoying. Of course, there are no railings on the tower roof… Apparently they don’t have feather fall. Silly.

I did manage to fry two of the cultists. Of course, doing so opened myself up to getting hit by some nasty ray attacks. And those damned orbs are going to cause a problem. One of the cultists tried to heal the cult leader, but Ceor put him down and gave another more flying lessons.

The orb closest to me, though, it’s causing me severe problems. It feels like it’s trying to rip my mind apart. Fuck this shit. My rapier seems to do some good against it, so, let’s try that.

At least I’ve almost destroyed it, and Ceor and Reeshka have knocked pretty much all the cultists off the roof. Ceor then took a chunk out of another.

I finally managed to break the orb I’d been focusing on… a huge fountain of energy poured up at the comet, but didn’t appear to change anything. Ceor then shattered a second one at Reeshka’s behest. Then we both hit the third, which resulted in it shattering as well. Reeshka managed to destroy the final orb.

Just then, Sionna arrived, accompanied by a pack of the shining hounds. She told us that they’d given her a message… the comet was merely a passage way that would allow Mara to enter the plane. We have to confront her, but we have a choice. We can either let her come into the plane, unbound and at her full power… or they can bind her into a mortal body, which would lessen her power. The only candidate would be Sionna herself.

We couldn’t do it.

It’s not the stupidest thing we’ve done, I suppose, fighting the mother goddess of all abominations at her full strength.

Fireballs are always a classic way to say hello, anyway.

We managed to do something to the bitch, though not as much as I would have liked. Reeshka suggested hitting her all at once… she might have a point. The orichalchum does seem to do more to her, anyway… I took leave of my senses and stepped into melee with her, and surprised myself with how much damage I did.

Reeshka even charged into battle, screaming like a banshee… and carved a nasty chunk out of her, doing a tremendous amount of damage… with a dagger. This is beautiful. Doubly so since she’s been on fire as a positive energy being since nearly the moment we started this.

Ceor then did the same, leaving a smoking scar behind.

That was about the time the shining hounds vanished into a beam of light, wrapping around the three of us. This is interesting.

We do seem to be doing a significant amount to the bitch… we may actually win this thing.

Though it does help that Sionna apparently picked up healing somewhere.

As Ceor was busy lopping tentacles left and right, Reeshka took a flying leap into Mara’s mouth…. and hit something vital. The abomination…. liquified and ran down the sides of the tower. The comet shattered, the everpresent yellow tinge to the sky faded to blue, reality seemed to reassert itself, and when we looked at the battlefield, the abominations that had been fighting with the Order of the Pure had vanished as well.

Every one, thousands of people fighting in the plains below was screaming our names, so loud we could actually hear them from our position.

Then we heard a somewhat metallic cough and turned to see Rava, the Clockwork Goddes was standing behind us. She told us that Mara was gone for good, that by morning only those of us who’d been on top of the tower would remember that she ever existed. The rest would remember some other great threat that we’d led them to triumph over.

It was her that was using every iteration of Miaako, who she called Eeyrieminder, to assemble a group capable of putting her down. Others had tried… but it was us who did it. She also mentioned that when we were done with mortality, we’d come into contact with the gods again… and that when I reached the end of time, to not go walking outside.

I think I’m okay with that.

We’ve broken the curse of the Wastes, banished all the Old Ones… things are right for the first time in time immemorial.

It’s a good place to start.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 84
Big Pile of Fuck No

The next room we tried seemed… off-kilter somehow. It wasn’t like the room with the void, but it did seem like reality is…. smudged. Like either an experiment in binding reality with a planar binding went awry, or a powerful extra planar being squeezed its way through. I’m not particularly sure I want to test it…

Going around the room, the one door that wouldn’t open for Reeshka wouldn’t open for me either, and when I touched it it burned my fingers. Moving on.

The next room was an infinite starry void, and I got an impression of poetry about the Ravager of the Ways, he who would throw the world in to the eternal dark. Closing that door fast…

The room after that was so cold that I couldn’t touch it. Reeshka got frosted over as well, though didn’t seem to have any ill effects. It appeared to open into a hollow globe of ice. Reeshka got lines about the swallower of ways. That’s nice.

Since it seems indicated, I asked Ceor to try the door that burned me… the entire tower gave a jolt like an earthquake, and the door split in half and slowly toppled inward. It looked largely like it had the last time we saw it, except it was all matte white.

Moving on.

The top floor was where we’d fought a so-called necromancer king… there’d been a throne of bones, but it had disintegrated into dust. There was another door up here, also etched in a similar fashion as the story on the first floor, showing the disc of Midgard hovering over some sort of vortex… and something I’d never seen before at the bottom, but I could tell it definitely looked hungry.

The door opened easily enough, and there was a rough circle inside where some of the stone surface was missing, and reddish light was shining through. Looks like a planar breach of some sort. Which is weird, considering we’re already in a planar pocket.

Reeshka picked that moment to tell me that she’d noticed some sort of vibration. I didn’t notice anything, but I expect she knows what she’s talking about. The best that I can come up with is that the demiplane is starting to destabilize… which is alarming because this has been here for centuries, maybe even millenia.

Ceor said he could hear something like singing… coming from the stone of the tower, apparently, that seemed to be some sort of dirge that sounded like a corrupted version of a Mavrosian chant. That’s nice.

I explored the room a little, with airwalk because I didn’t trust the holes in the floor… just as well, there was no traction whatsoever in those spots. There had been a fairly standard binding pattern inlaid in the floor, but it looked like something had hit it from below, and shattered it inwards. I couldn’t identify the material it was made of, though it was of wildly varying weights.

There’s one more floor to check. When we got there, it looked like the walls and roof had melted. The door was untouched, though it opened easily enough. There was also a stylized depiction of the thing referred to on the floor below. The gears that had been scattered around in this floor had completely melted into puddles.

There were all sorts of warding glyphs on the next door. Funny enough, Ceor was the one who saw the spell written behind the wards… looks like it was a conjuration spell, written in such a way that either a divine or an arcane caster could use it. Which is odd. It’s not supposed to overlap like that…. it was really intricate and detailed, and it took half an hour for both me and Reeshka to copy and learn it. Something about warding or getting rid of things that don’t belong…

Once that was taken care of, Reeshka pushed the door open, and proceeded into the corridor. Reality is pretty badly warped in there, though that won’t stop Reeshka… it looked like someone had tried and failed to fuse the doors shut.

We shouldn’t open that.

Not that it’ll stop Reeshka.

There was… something in there. Looked an awful lot like that image on the doors…

It was also surrounded by little motes of light that also seemed hostile. Wonderful. This is also where that warped funeral dirge is coming from.

This is my life. In a pocket dimension that’s coming apart at the seams, with gods know what about to murder us all and then rampage through the planes.

The little motes seemed to attack with varied energy types that ignore our natural resistances to it… splendid. Let’s not even bother ramping up. We need to hit it hard and fast and take it down as soon as possible.

The big pile of ‘fuck no’ in the center of the room lashed out, hitting me and Ceor… it was highly unpleasant and gave literal meaning to the term ‘mind numbing’. And it seems to be able to heal itself…

We killed one of the motes, and the energy it was made of started swirling around the thing in the middle. That’s nice. The thing then tried to set us on fire, but we managed to dodge. Reeshka set off a holy smite which fortunately popped the remaining motes, so at least now we only have one target to deal with. Though now all of the energy is swirling around it.

It doesn’t like me, and I don’t like it, either. It’s… disturbing. Very disturbing. And painful. It really hurts when it hits…

Fortunately, Ceor then did what he does best and laid waste, and seemed to at least knock it out… and then I set that bitch on fire. Repeatedly.

With it gone, we were able to investigate the room. There was another symbol here, inverted that was in the room below. From what I can tell, that thing was called from the Outer Dark, and the seal was holding it here while it gestated.

I don’t want to know what would have happened if we’d left it longer.

Also, all of the angles of the symbol were just slightly…. off… in a way that made my head hurt.

And we all heard a distant, vaguely feminine scream of rage that came from nowhere, and we all knew exactly what the source was.

Mara. We’ve finally done something to seriously inconvenience her and set her plans back… which is good because we’ve inconvenienced her… and bad because we’ve now personally gotten her attention and pissed her off.

The last thing to check is the room we skipped over on the second floor, where reality was blurred… It’s probably not going to be dangerous… It was still disorienting. And Reeshka opened the door at the end… to find another void. And then she decided to fly out into it. There was no gravity… Fortunately, I have a robe of twine and mage hand. And Ceor is pretty strong. Though it took some hauling before we could get her in…. it was hard, and clearly not healthy in there. Reeshka was a little wibbly ball by the time we got her out.

It is clearly time to GTFO now.

I planeshifted us back to the Material Plane, and we landed at the golden tree near Feymott… and we could hear what she was hearing in her head. This was not a fun experience. So, teleport back to town and to the temple of Mavros to get this fixed. Which was fortunately simple, if a bit concerning for all involved.

About that time, we could feel a ripple in the planes… Ceor said it felt like something pulled away or fell away. Probably that was the destruction of the demiplane the Twisted Tower was in… all things considered, probably the best outcome, and good riddance.

I do want to know what that spell does… it took Reeshka and I a week and a half to get it worked out in detail… it’s an extremely powerful banishing spell, that might could even banish one of the Great Old Ones… though of course the catch is that it’s a touch spell… I need to find a way of converting touch spells to projectile, if only charging a rock with it and throwing the rock.

The metal fragments from the destroyed ward turned out to be alloyed order and chaos… which is supposed to be impossible but we’ve been running into a lot of that lately.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 83
What could go wrong?

I got another challenge from that idiot in Friula again. I didn’t even bother to respond this time, I’ve got too many things to do.

Reeshka returned, and we started making plans to go out to the Twisted Tower, to see if there’s anything of use there… I’d really like to not have to go to the planar bazaar to buy the things I need to forge orichalcum. And if there’s anything useful to fight the intrusions of the Outer Dark, we really ought to bring it back with us.

Before we could get going, Ceor heard the bell on the Temple of Mavros tolling, which usually only happens when something big happens… turned out the Champion of Mavros had arrived and presented herself to the high priest.

It was mostly formality, though she did relay a message to me from Mavros… I’ll need to forge three orichalcum blades, though she didn’t know why; apparently Mavros hasn’t deigned to explain. Something to keep in mind, anyway.

And it’s probably best if we introduce the Champion to the army and let them know she’s in command of what is already being called the Grand Army. It was possibly the most awkward speech I’ve ever heard.

So, so awkward.

Though it did seem to do some good; the city seemed to be in a very good mood the next morning as we were leaving. We elected to ride out a ways, then teleport to the edge of the wastes. I’m not sure teleporting into it is a good idea…

The transition between the normal land and the Wastes was obvious and very jarring. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. We elected to give the town we’d passed through before a miss; that place was creepy.

There was a ravine in our path, that did have a bridge… but Ceor said he could hear the stones creaking as if something was hanging from it, and when he looked, he definitely saw something. It was big, but we couldn’t tell what it was. It was alive, and somewhat unsettling… because of course it was. And then Reeshka said that something else was coming up the cliff, fast.

It looked something like a meatball crossed with a spider. I have no idea what it is, but I know what it’s about to be.

Charred.

My fireball just completely fizzled off of it. That’s comforting. It’s a fast abomination, too. It snapped at both me and Reeshka; it hit Reeshka pretty significantly, but missed me. Ceor charged it, and lightly bounced off.

This could get problematic.

And, of course, a second one had been hiding under the bridge. Lovely. It’s time to stop playing with this thing.

Well, an empowered fireball as strong as I could make it did hurt it, but it didn’t kill it. The appearance of the second one did give Ceor two targets to charge at, which really helped… then, of course, the second one tried to bite my head off. They bite hard. I was able to finish the first one off, and managed to get away from the second without further issue.

Ceor hit the second one, and it scrambled down the cliff face… I managed to catch it with a fireball, but it looked like it was going around to come at Ceor from behind. He moved accordingly… and the thing literally exploded through the bridge.

Ceor got clobbered by a chunk of the bridge… and I responded by demonstrating why it is a poor life decision to fuck with a fire mage’s friends. It made a nasty squelching sound when it hit the bottom of the chasm.

Now that we had a moment to catch their breath, I realized they seem to be a form of something called dweirgeists… they’re a sort of dimensionally warped chaos entity. Nasty things. If it had swallowed Reeshka, it would have been unpleasant… its gullet is its own pocket dimension.

The bridge was ruined, of course, but between airwalk and the mule simply not giving any fucks, we made it across. Naturally, it fully collapsed once we were all across.

After that, we made some good time… we cut a little closer to the frozen Old One than we had before, in order to miss the town, and we could see the giant crystalline thing in the distance was noticably bigger.

This is such a lovely place.

We reached the planar gate, where the hundred eyed guardian was still lurking around. It had healed from our last encounter, and it was chattering to itself in a way that made my ears hurt. I am technically the master of the Twisted Tower, maybe it’ll let me past this time.

It was speaking a random stream of nonsense in Caelmaran… and it didn’t seem inclined to let me past.

Oh well, I tried.

The fireball did do significant damage to it. Then it got a lot closer, and the constant babble of nonsense was highly unpleasant, and confused the shit out of Keshemet. Ceor then just slammed his lance into it, and that was the end of that. Its death was a nasty spectacle… and it smelled awful.

This seemed a lot more threatening last time.

We made it through the planar boundary without much issue; Keshemet and Ceor seemed to be disoriented, but there didn’t seem to be anyone else around. I expect the other people who had been here before either fell or jumped through the planar boundary. Though it was a little strange… we didn’t even see the remains of the hydra we’d killed.

At least getting into the tower this time was easy… the entrance was simply the entrance, and there was no bizarre overlapping of reality. The guardian was gone as well. The first floor didn’t seem to have been changed at all, though I don’t remember if we left the doors open or closed, but they were closed when we came back. Reeshka couldn’t push it open, but I could, easily.

I suppose that makes sense… it’s my tower.

The crystal room on the first floor wasn’t the same… lines and grooves had been etched in an incredibly complex pattern, the whole length of the floor. If someone had done this by hand, it would have taken years. It’s clearly some kind of arcane manifestation, and I’m not entirely sure I’m happy about it.

The first room we checked was jammed full of bones. Completely, of all different species. And come to think of it, none of the people who were frozen in time were in evidence. Unsettling. And it wasn’t like that when we left.

Then Reeshka got the bright idea to cast boneshatter, so we could look in the room… I couldn’t hear a fucking thing after it went off. It’s a good thing I like Reeshka, or she’d be on fire right now.

The next room was the one that had large metal orbs with electricity cracking off them… now it was just cooled puddles of metal that had melted, and all of the desks have been destroyed, though the chairs were untouched. I saw glassy bits poking out of some of the brass puddles… when I got close enough to look, I got dizzy and had to back away. I did see enough to see that it was the most perfect crystalline structure I’d ever seen. Possibly, this is our crystallized order. Reeshka was able to get close enough to pull it out; it popped out like it had been socketed in. We need as much of this as we can carry; even if it’s not the crystalized order, it’s something. And if I can’t get closer than five feet from Reeshka, we can deal with it.

Once Reeshka backed off with the crystals, I was able to notice that the coppery puddles had a purplish, twisted mass of crystals… I was able to get them out, and it can be assumed that this is crystallized chaos. It visually resembled the sample we had earlier, though this looks like the natural state. And now I seem to have some sort of force physically pushing me away from Reeshka.

I didn’t want to even touch the next door… neither did Reeshka. I had a mental image of something black and smoky, with too many eyes… don’t know where it came from. Keshemet was able to open it, and we saw that the walls were covered with lines of glowing blue script. Keshemet made a copy of the script, though from what I could see, there were all manner of threats regarding the extinguishing of my eternal existence. Notably, the copy Keshemet made was unreadable…

I couldn’t open the next door, it simply refused to open, but Reeshka could. This room held several humanoid figures with enough features to suggest gender, but every other distinguishing feature was blurred out. They appeared to be made of stone… I’m going to assume they’re statues.

There was another statue at the back, of a figure with six arms that were designed to hold things, but those objects were not in evidence. I don’t remember seeing this last time… Reeshka said that it was a goddess of fate and warfare, but she couldn’t remember her name. And I knew who she meant, but I couldn’t get the name, either.

The last room on this floor was the one where the statues had been… they were all completely destroyed; they’d been broken open, and the bodies that had been inside were petrified. The table was untouched, but the chairs were all stuck to the ceiling.

Something really very bizarre is going on here…

Ceor noticed the pillar; it had been cracked and mostly rubble last time, but now it had smoothed out, and there was very fine scrollwork. It pictured a battle between at least gods, and the disc of Midgard tipping into a chasm.

I can’t tell if it’s history or prophecy.

We checked the basement next, and the pattern scored into the crystal floor above was visible, and mirrored on this floor. Every single statue here had been blown up from the inside… There were even shards of crystal stuck into the walls. One of the doors was shattered, and fell apart when I touched it.

Something came through here and tried to destroy everything that looked like a power source… but that doesn’t explain the scoring on the floors. Reeshka kept complaining of a really offensive musty smell, though we couldn’t smell anything. All of the force barriers on this floor seemed to have gone, at least.

One of the rooms had loopy scrawls etched into the walls, kinda-sorta resembling the script in the room upstairs, but it wasn’t glowing and it didn’t appear to actually be language. There were some gears lying around that looked shiny enough to be mithril, so those are going with us. Reeshka said that she was starting to hear whispers, and was getting increasingly agitated. She wanted to leave, and since nothing has tried to murder us yet, I didn’t see the problem. However, the teleporter wasn’t working for her… and when I went to go trigger it for her, I could hear the whispers too.

They seemed to be several dozen voices all pleading in an ancient form of Caelmaran to be released with a blessing. I suggested Reeshka perform a consecration. When she lifted her staff to do that, all of the gold markings on her scales lit up with golden fire, and the golden fire washed through the entire floor. There was a tremendous rush of wind that almost dragged us to the portal, and I heard a distinct whisper of ‘the way is open’ before it went silent.

The best outcome is that this opened a way out for the spirits trapped hear so they could get to the underworld. The worst is that it finished punching all the way through to the Outer Dark.

Welcome to my life.

The last room on this floor was absolutely encrusted with crystallized order and chaos. There is no way they should have been coexisting like this, it should have been a total maelstrom of conflicting forces. Maybe a god could have forced it into growing like this, but the gods haven’t had anything to do with this place in a long, long time. We did collect enough of both to make as much orichalcum as we can get mithril.

Reeshka was able to use the teleporter this time, which come to think of it was odd, because it’s an arcane object…

We proceeded onto the second floor. All the doors would swing open for Reeshka and swung back shut when she moved away. They seemed to open for me too.

The first room we checked seemed to be completely empty, and the longer I looked at it, the more I got a headache and my eyes wouldn’t focus…like I was looking into an actual void. I tried tossing a piece of rubble in, and I couldn’t focus on that either, nor did I hear an impact. Moving away and shutting the door now.

The next room felt as hot as a blast furnace, and there were glowing red lines carved into the walls, that seemed to indicate a god of fire and destruction ‘who will consume the world in fire’. I couldn’t tell if there was anything worth taking because of the heat distortion, so I just moved to the next one.

The room after that seemed to be containing a veritable hurricane of swirling winds… there were blue lines on walls, but I couldn’t read them. Ceor could, and said it was a paen to a god of storm and rage, ‘who would tear the disc asunder’. And something repeated often about the ‘sunderer of ways’.

The empty room I tried next was really something of a relief, though it was a little chilly. Ceor didn’t see anything out of place, but after the day we’ve had, I want Reeshka to take a look again. Surprise, surprise, she saw loopy spirals that were white. A hymn to a god of winter, who would freeze the world and shatter it, with a repeated phrase about ‘the one who would wreck the ways’.

I remember seeing a repeated pattern in the room that was hot, though the distortion was too bad to actually read it. It was probably something like the burner or immolater of ways…

That is a refrain that is starting to wear on me, and it has not escaped my notice that each of us could read one room… or even see it.

I really don’t like where this is going.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 82
Well, that was a thing. That happened.

I received a message delivered by an elemental from one of the magisters of Friula today. From some halfling or another, I don’t know him really. He wanted an arcane duel to see who would lead the arcane forces of the combined armies when we send them against the Order of the Pure. I really don’t have time for this, and I really don’t care. If he wants to lead them, that’s fine, I have other things to worry about.

My apprentices came up with a proposal to protect the city with the equivalent of a city wide Mage Armor… though I’ll need a massive arcane focus. There is that crystal in the ruins of Taltreni that might do, though there’s the problem of getting it here, and fixing the massive crack in it. One problem at a time.

In other news, I’m going to need adamantine and orichalchum for the wards… the adamantine is something the Temple of Mavros would have leads on, it makes fantastic armor. The orichalchum is an alloy of mithril, crystalized order, and crystalized chaos. I have crystalized chaos, but the order will be problematic. The planar bazaar would probably have it, one can find everything there, but I’ll check the Twisted Tower first… it’s mine, and it WAS the last place the biggest group of Mage Kings convened. Otherwise, I’ll have to mount an expedition to the ruins of the other kingdoms, and I don’t particularly want to do that. Not yet, anyway.

I got another message from the halfling demanding an arcane duel, and I really don’t have time for this. Does he really not have anything better to do?

Ceor mentioned that the scout that we’d encountered in the Goblin Wastes made it here, though Jenkins was a little non-plussed about it. And a contingent of merfolk also showed up, offering to help us with our stressed supply lines, by providing seafood… in exchange for being blessed by the Opener of the Way, which is apparently Ceor. I’m not entirely sure how well he’s taking it.

Also, they apparently want a blessing from the Binder of the Way… which is me.

Aah. Fabulous.

I think we need Reeshka here… I don’t know much about… blessings… and since they’d like Reehka’s blessing too… I just went and got her. I’ve been noticing that I’ve been having a lot of perfect teleports recently. While a perfect teleport every now and then is well within the realm of possibility, there’s usually an element of uncertainty in it. It’s odd.

Reeshka was more than happy to make a spectacle out of it… I think she might have enjoyed that too much. While most of it was standard histrionics from Reeshka, there was something odd… there was a flicker of gold light between the three of us as Reeshka finished her speech, which dissipated among the merfolk and everyone else around the harbor.

I think we might have just blessed the whole harbor.

I also think I need a very large drink. Possibly several.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 81
I suppose it is still the Seven Cities, then.

Reeshka had asked Ceor and I to come meet her in Friula, in order to provide details to the Champion of Mavros, who mentioned that Mavros had been babbling to her about a great danger, but had been rather non specific about the details.

I’m not surprised.

The next stop for Reeshka is Kammae… or what’s left of it, since they’ll be likely to know how to deal with planar bullshit. Ceor and I returned to Feymott… though as soon as Reeshka got there, she informed us that the city was just… gone. And had been replaced by what looked like some kind of green structure that the scouts reported looked like some sort of hedge maze. We teleported out to see what’s going on… to me, it looks like something a druid might do.

They do weird shit like that.

Two of her scouting party had vanished, apparently while the rest of their backs were turned, so we need to check that out obviously.

Where the city had been was now a sort of bowl-like depression in the ground, with the hedges in the center. There were an astonishing amount of flowers around, even considering it was spring. And the hedges don’t look like a native species to this area, though they don’t look particularly extraplanar. I suppose there’s nothing for it but to thread the maze. Though I did set a getaway spell outside it just in case.

And I have a literally endless supply of twine.

As we entered, Ceor heard someone chanting to themselves, and when he pointed it out, so could I. He ducked around the corner, and found a man whispering to himself, with a bow, and skin with a distinctly green tint. We’ll see if he’s friendly… or at least reasonable.

Ceor tried to pass, and got a warning shot directed at him. Upon closer look, the closest I can come to an explanation is someone made a simulacura out of plants…

After some discussion, we elected to see if we could just dart past it and continue on… it took a shot at Ceor, then screamed in a really horrible way.

Well, so much for a peaceable solution. Fuck this shit. Scorching ray, meet green man, green man, meet scorching ray.

And apparently, there were more inside. Lovely.

The one closest to the entrance seems capable of shooting off half a dozen arrows at a time, that’s nice. At least it’s not a very hardy plant. Though things would be easier if the hedges weren’t made of thorns. Of course, I got the next thing’s attention…

Those arrows hurt like a motherfucker. As I got past it, I could smell something sickeningly sweet, that made me sleepy… but I was able to fight it off. Also, these things do not seem to be burning nearly as much as they should be.

… the longer I’m aroudn that smell, the sleepier I get…

Since there’s bound to be more of these simulacura at every junction, and we don’t know if we’re wasting our time, Reeshka flew up to see if she could get an overview of it. She got the layout, and we elected to just use airwalk to get to the center. As we were preparing, I noticed that the body of one of the things we’d killed was rapidly decomposing into mulch… and a seedling was sprouting up. I also noticed that the higher we got, the nastier the brambles started looking.

And as we got over the wall, the seedling had grown into a new, if juvenile, green man…

We got over the wall, and put down another green man, and I noticed that the thorns seemed to be bulging towards us, as if they were reaching for us. And another one of those fucking things sprung up behind us. We took care of it and hopped the next wall.

As we got further in, I was able to smell fungus and rot elsewhere… it was highly unpleasant. And the wind through the brambles was starting to sound like whispering. And the thorns are DEFINITELY reaching for us.

We’ll check out the center, and hopefully find something… if not, we’ll have to check the rest of the maze and we still might not find our people.

There was an enormous horrible looking plant in the middle, that looks like some sort of carnivorous thing. Fabulous. Also the wall tried to catch us again and nearly caught Reeshka and Ceor.

I shall offer the traditional greeting of my people.

At least my fireball took out the green men in the clearing with it… but it just sort of… smoldered. But Ceor and Reeshka did some significant things to it as well… and then it proceeded to beat the shit out of Ceor. It also seemed to toss out some sort of pollen or spores… though fortunately those on the ground didn’t seem affected (I was still up in the air like a sensible person.) I let it have another fireball, and while the trunk was split open and it was leaking foul-smelling sap everywhere, it was still not actually on fire.

I should look into that.

Though between me and whatever Reeshka was doing, it rather suddenly collapsed into a pile of dead plants. Though I’m not taking any bets on it staying down. The walls of the hedge started rattling, even before Reeshka pulled out the consecrate. Then the hedges just started crumbling in on themselves. By the time she actually completed it, they had all died and collapsed, leaving rings of mulch that outlined the maze. We could also see dozens of green men around the maze, though they were inanimate now. There were also some giant mushrooms, but they didn’t seem to be doing anything.

We did find two green men that looked like the missing scouts… the spitting image of them, only made of wood. My best guess is that whatever was behind this essentially ate them and took their forms… We’ll see what we can do about it, but it looks like they’re dead.

As for what started this, it looks like the magical backlash from the Incident in Kammae probably mutated various things in fun and entertaining ways. The giant plant in the center did show signs of intelligence. And upon closer examination, what looked like flowers was actually incredibly delicate branching fungi that had spread throughout the whole area. I don’t think it’s dangerous, so long as it’s not eaten… setting signs that advise caution should be enough, and I’ll leave one of my scrying tokens here to keep an eye on it.

Kammae is just completely gone. As far as I can tell, the maze was where the center of the city should be, and even the land was deformed, leaving the bowl valley. If this isn’t a lake in twenty years, it’s going to look really fucking weird.

Reeshka elected to proceed to Capleon to see if they would join us, and Ceor and I teleported back to Feymott. The stockpiling for the greatest army the realm has ever seen is proceeding nicely, and the cavern I need specifically carved out so I can ward the ever loving fuck out of it so we can proceed with resurrecting Sionna. Though I do need Reeshka for that as well…

Well, at least this wasn’t as bad as it could be, I suppose. Yes, there was a giant man eating plant and we lost two people, but the plant’s dead now, so that’s one thing off our plates. Though I will have to keep an eye on the area; wouldn’t be surprised if the fungi fields turn into a fungi forest and it becomes more dangerous, or if the area is prone to wild magic.

Fun stuff.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 80
We're insane but not THAT insane.

Nearly every stone of the building we were confronted with radiated magic. It must’ve taken a thousand years to ward it that thoroughly; I can’t even tell what’s what. But as long as we don’t touch the walls or doors, it should be fine… Ceor’s not usually good at that, but that’s what Reduce Person is for. We managed to get in, only to find a guard and a… thing on the other side of a barred entrance. There were two doors off to the sides, which we managed to open without drawing attention. It was guarded on the internal rooms as well, because of course it was. We’re breaking into the base of not only a cult, but a paranoid cult.

Reeshka managed to slip around behind the guards, and used her favorite spell. At least, that’s why I assume that the human suddenly attacked the outsider hanging out with him. Which means that we are now going to have to kicks some ass. At least the outside was easy enough to deal with…. and when it was gone, I felt lighter, as though there had been something that caused a feeling of dread that was no longer there. Another guard ran out, practically onto Ceor’s sword. Which did not make for a good day for him. Another guard then appeared, and did terrible things to Reeshka. Who promptly did terrible things to him in return.

Naturally, more of them showed up. But Reeshka’s Murderous Command spell was still in effect, which meant that we had a temporary ally because the caster was murdering his friends. And we were able to make short work of the others.

And then the floor exploded. Which was very rude. I explained that to the mage the best way I know how. With lots of fire. Of course, by the time we got done with them, there was an alarm bell tolling somewhere further in.

Well, all or nothing, I suppose.

Fortunately, explosive entrances are our best trick. There were twelve opponents in the hall beyond; a fireball neatly got some of them. However, one of those horrifying outsiders screamed at us… it was just a low moan from where I was standing but it hurt like a bitch. And a couple of their fighters have learned Ceor’s trick of teleporting across distances to smack someone. They weren’t anything we couldn’t handle… but it is burning through a lot of my spells. And one of those fucking boogymen elected to run for the door, in a way I couldn’t help but interpret as getting reinforcements. Reeshka was able to Command it to come back, however… it can move at a really terrifying speed. But we managed to get it… Ceor hit it so hard it seemed to fold around his swords and disintegrate.

The building seems to be vibrating, and it got noticeably more pronounced when Ceor’s sword turned into pure light.

Fuck my life.

I’d easily used about half of the spells I’d prepared today, and decided it was time to cut our losses. Reeshka was already perched on Ceor’s shoulders, and Ceor was on Anusk, so I just grabbed Keshemet and made the decision for us. Reeshka was annoyed, but hell, we’re all alive.

I had picked up Greater Teleport, which is harder to cast but more precise… it should have been easier. But it was like wading through gelatin, or climbing up the pit of a steep, collapsing pit. It shouldn’t have been that hard. Something was interfering. …Seemed almost like a sort of inter-planar sinkhole.

Well, at least now we have first person reports from inside the citadel. We’ll contact some of the other leaders and see if we can assemble an army to lay siege to the citadel.

Once we picked up our horses, I teleported us back to Feymott… we did end up slightly off course, coming out where the tree had sprouted when we fought the Outer Monstrosities during the siege of Feymott.

I need to send letters to all of the other cities, and get whatever help we can. Reeshka is helping Ceor address the military leaders of the other cities. Reeshka elected to go appear in person in Friula… taking a complement of Mharoti and mages as an honor guard, and one of my scrying tokens if anything should go wrong. The Mharoti ambassadors have agreed to send runners to their empire and to the other cities to spread the word. I need to go to the Twisted Tower and see if I can find anything we can use in this situation… fortunately, it should be easier than going the first time was.

I also caught some rumors that the people that said the gods had commanded them to serve us had started exhibiting divine abilities. I’m just… going to leave that alone for now…

It’s going to take a lot of planning to pull this off. And a lot of preparation. The best estimate I have is a year before we can move… I need to have people start looking into ways to slow it down. And prepare for the worst… if I can

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Tal's Journal, Entry 79
Well, this is the stupidest thing we've done in a while...

It didn’t take us too long to get to a city… it was pretty massive, with what looked like it could have been vegetation once… it also had a lot of damage that might be akin to me having a bad day. The comet was hanging directly over a tower in the middle of a massive fortress in the center of the city, like a blue and purple flame.

Fabulous.

Upon getting closer, the city looked like it’s been through multiple rounds of combat (including siege combat), with layers of damage laid on top of each other. Some was so old it’s weathered into the wood and stone, and places with soot so fresh it could be wiped off. Some buildings were still smoking. There were some signs of repair… but not many.

There was a building that had been a shop of some sort… it appeared to have sold large panes of glass, bigger than I’ve ever seen in any building, except maybe a cathedral. it was all shattered now, of course. Ceor said the signs of destruction looked like a few armies had been going back and forth, or like a single battle had raged back and forth across it. There was a faint chiming coming from inside, and a sound like metal or stone cooling down.

We decided to investigate, because obviously nothing bad could happen. The building we elected to investigate had been a home at some point, and Reeshka said she smelled something rotting. When I looked, there were easily two dozen bodies stacked up along the back wall. Most had decayed into skeletons, but a couple had more mummified than anything else. The skeletons looked a couple hundred years old… the mummies were impossible to tell. I was able to tell that they’d been dressed in very fine clothes, there were still some tatters of silk with them.

Not entirely unexpected, but Reeshka, who has a better grasp of the whole idea, said that the corpses were practically the same… like the same two people had died and been placed in here over and over again. That’s pleasant.

Ceor checked the shop and said that the chiming noise was coming from an old, damaged brass windchime… swaying in no wind at all.

I suppose it’s to be expected.

There was a guard tower that we passed that should have never been standing… it was balanced on a third of the wall of the second floor, and the upper floors should have just toppled in. Reeshka said it was impossible… Ceor just assumed that a wizard that was not me did it. Reeshka tried her shatter spell… and some of the lower walls did break apart and shatter, but the rest of the tower didn’t budge.

Moving on.

As we made our way further into the city, we drew near a building that still had smoke coming out of it. It looked like it had been a temple of some sort, looked like it had been hit with a flaming catapult projectile.

Ceor proceeded, and stepped out onto a crossroads… and obviously didn’t like it. It was a bad feeling, apparently… Reeshka elected to investigate, and apparently she and the mule felt it too. Brimstone certainly didn’t want to move into that space… and I could understand why. It felt wrong, like the world had slid just a little to the left. It was wrong, even for the Goblin Wastes. The only way I can even begin to explain it is that the planes are broken here. Only Keshemet seemed to not feel it… which is odd.

Ceor spotted a symbol on the temple, a gate barred by two staves and a sword. Reeshka said it looked like her staff, my staff, and Ceor’s sword. The building itself seemed structurally stable, except for the corner that had been knocked in. We elected to move the mounts off the road that was bothering them, and investigate.

Besides the catapult stone, there was a mural at the back of the room that seemed to depict three figures… two humanoids and a little figure… could be us, if you squinted. The figures were standing next to a sort of swirling portal or energy vortex of some sort. I found a sort of drawer in the altar, with a statue of what appeared to be a smiling tailor. I have NO idea what deity this is meant to represent. The best Reeshka could come up with was an aspect of Rava… maybe, but it’s an odd portrayal. Reeshka found a very shiny, silver medallion on a kobold skeleton that was about to crumble to dust, that looked newly polished.

When we came back up from the crypt, we could hear a very faint whispering that sounded like a bunch of people chanting. It seemed to be a sort of chanted story, I understood part of it. It seemed to be about the Openers and Closers, though I couldn’t tell any more than that.

When we left the temple, the feeling of wrongness hit us again… funny how it didn’t bother us at all in the temple. It seemed to intensify as we moved further into town. And the destruction was worse in the center of the city… the buildings were just shells, and the road was ruined. We haven’t seen any living creatures, either… though we saw what looked like them from outside the city.

All of the buildings in the central part of town were demolished, save one watch tower that was over a hundred feet tall. There was a large building that looked like it had been probably a jail, that looked like it had exploded from within. The tower was the highest vantage point in this area; probably had been a garrison building, probably one that included casters, because the tower seemed relatively intact, and I could see some workshops inside.

We used airwalk to get to the top of the tower, and the comet was so close that we could see it visibly shift in our perspective as we went up. It was hanging directly over the keep in the center of the city. There did seem to be activity in the keep, but it was too far away to make out much. And we saw other movement in other parts of town… or at least, the suggestion of movement. The people in the keep were clear enough, but the others… well, I have some serious doubts as to whether or not they’re real.

We were discussing ways of approaching the keep, when it felt like the world turned upside down and inside out, and I just crumpled. At the same time, a wave of scarlet and black energy rolled off the central tower of the keep up to the comet. At a best guess, that was the sensation of a tiny section of the material plane sliding Outside. As I tried my best to recover, the shimmering effect from the tower faded, and black lightning started arcing off the comet, carving chunks out of the landscape. I expect that’s what’s destroyed most of the city.

This is only going to keep happening, and it’s probably going to be worse each time. Between that and the wards that will notice me as soon as I get close, we simply don’t have any more time, I think. We need to put a stop to this before they let in something they can’t put back. Reeshka had consecrated the area on top of the tower, which helped… and one of the bolts of black lightning hit the barrier, and deflected off.

They’re going to notice that now. We’re on a timer. So we elected to just go for it. We had airwalk and invisibilty, maybe that’ll give us just enough of an edge.

We got close enough to sense the wards… it seems like they’re designed to go off if something not of this world crosses them… I’m not sure how they’re not going off all the time with how wrong everything is around here… Reeshka was able to collapse one side of the wards, enlarging a small gap that we’d noticed.

We got inside the keep wall through a gap in the tower. The inside of the keep walls was carved with all sorts of blasphemous symbols, mostly depicting something like an island surrounded by fangs curving inward.

Why are these people so stupid?

They’d noticed the ward that failed, and there was a lot of commotion on the wall now. We could see black skeletal figures loping alongside humanoids, and black dog-like things. Though they didn’t seem to have realized the wards had been breached yet. The gate into the keep was ajar, and more or less unguarded.

We got inside, and there were massive stone walls, and a door that seemed to be ajar.

No turning back now.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 78
Nothing good ever comes of my being woken up in the middle of the night.

I’ve managed to get some research done, at least, as far as Sionna’s situation goes… the kobolds have dug deep enough now that I can start setting up the wards, and I might have even figured out a way to simplify them so that they only block things from coming in… less expensive and a little easier.

Also, the priests of Mnemosyne told us that they’ve been having recurrent dreams of a needle, a thread, and a finger bobbin. Whatever that may mean… though they’re not waking up in a panic so it’s probably not related to Grandmother. Probably.

About a day after the excitement involving the new mountain and certain people who had better fucking well stay dead, one of the scouts reported a single golden tree growing from the center of the shattered mountain. I suppose we’d better go check it out and make sure it’s not eating people.

There were giant shards of rock scattered everywhere, looking largely like the mountain had exploded. The tree wasn’t as impressive as I had been expecting, only about as tall as Ceor on his horse, growing in a circular clearing. It didn’t appear to start spewing lightning or acid or dragons griffins, so we got closer to look at it. Ceor went first, of course, and I followed. As soon as we entered the clearing, we were both very aware of each other… how well we were both armored, how healthy we are, and I probably could have known exactly where Ceor was with my eyes shut.

It was… odd.

The planar structure is a little odd here, too, but it doesn’t seem to be about to fall apart… there’s the potential to open a gateway to another plane or demi-plane, it seems like, but it doesn’t seem to actually be doing anything yet. I don’t think there will be any harm in leaving it as is. Reeshka came to investigate as well, and the same thing happened with her as had happened between Ceor and I… we were very aware of her.

I elected to leave one of my scrying tokens here, just in case.

Reeshka says that it’s the physical manifestation of our awesomeness. I suppose it’s as good an explanation as any. She wants to build a shrine. I’m not entirely sure that’s necessary. She had Keshemet take notes. She was talking about setting up some sort of coffer to transport any valuable objects into the city.

I think I need quite a lot of alcohol now…

A couple days later, I woke up to a tapping sound coming from the egg I found, and about half an hour later, fracture lines started appearing, and tiny little claws appeared. I helped it along a bit, and eventually it split in half.

It was odd, it looked like someone had carved a topaz into the shape of a dragon and filled it with mercury. And I felt a little tickle at the back of my mind, like what I’ve heard happens with a familiar. It was very curious, and also hungry. I don’t know what drakes eat, so I elected to carry it to the kitchen and see what it was inclined to like. Cooked meat seemed to do. Everyone seemed to think it was extremely cute… Reeshka wanted to hold it, and failing that, wanted to pet it. It didn’t mind being petted, but absolutely refused to let go of me, either clinging to my arm or scurrying up to my shoulder.

When they asked me what its name was, I said Quicksilver seemed appropriate, given the way it looks… it seemed to like that; at least, it nodded when I mentioned it.

We have a vague plan to go check out the Goblin Wastes and see what the Order of the Pure is up to… we at least need to know, if not completely wreck their shit.

When Ceor asked if I was taking Quicksilver, I pointed out that it was very likely that Quicksilver wouldn’t let me leave with out it.

After some discussion, we elected to try teleporting to the Goblin Wastes, then searching out the Order of the Pure encampment on foot. I’m most familiar with the ruins of Taltreni, and it’s close enough to the probable area. While the teleport spell is most effective with a place one is familiar with, there was some sort of resistance to it, and the Goblin Wastes being what they are, I was surprised that we arrived dead bang right in front of the castle.

The comet was very visible at this point, hanging over the west, in about the same general area that we think the encampment might be. It’s very violet and very big, and pretty goddamn ominous.

The sun didn’t move, but I could see little licks of fiery energy curling around it… it was disturbing.

We traveled westish, and finally came to a little ruined farmstead near some shattered cliffs and dead trees. The kobolds were getting tired, but Ceor and I thought we heard voices… and birdsong… which, given the area, is possibly the most disturbing thing about it. It sounded almost like a meadowlark. Which is the last thing that should be out here. Even Quicksilver was perturbed, and hissed at it.

Reeshka elected to go scout… I think she just wanted to show off her wings. She didn’t see anything of note, but that bird was still singing. I can’t think of any spell or creature that would produce that sort of thing… there is nothing that I know of that should be making that sound in this place.

Ceor said he heard a cow moo, and there is manifestly no cow there. Keshemet tried to open the door, and knocked the door off the hinges, the place is so decrepit. I wish I knew what was going on, besides this being the Goblin Wastes. Just for fun, I cast See Invisibility, and the air seemed to pick up a grainy texture I’ve never seen before, but I didn’t see anything, invisible or ethereal or otherwise. While Ceor checked the tree the birdsong seemed to be coming from, I heard a cow moo.

That’s nice.

Nightfall in the Goblin Wastes is another disturbing experience… the sun just guttered out like someone blowing out a candle, and the stars suddenly came out. And we saw what looked like a fire inside the building.

Yep, not checking that out.

Ceor took the first watch, and woke me up a few hours in because he’d heard something on the cliff to the south, and he wasn’t sure if it was ghosts or something actually there. Here, it could be either way. But since ghosts don’t usually curse when they trip over a rock…

We elected to quietly make our way around the building to see what was going on… or at least, that was the idea until Ceor also tripped over a rock. Which is really only to be expected. The arrow he took in the chest was slightly less so, since it seemed to do a lot of damage for an arrow and was a pure white color with no blood on it, despite the barbs.

Ceor, naturally, charged. He was able to see that there was a sniper up one of the trees, and for the second time, was able to charge a tree. It exploded pretty much everywhere, and sent the archer flying. He was stunned, naturally. I would be too. Naturally, there were more of them. They took a pot shot at Ceor and missed. I was not so lucky. And the second volley hit Ceor as well.

We were willing to find a non-fatal resolution to this… Reeshka ordered them to drop weapons, and Ceor said that if they fired on us, he’d kill the one he’d knocked out of the tree. I was willing to let it go if they were willing to be reasonable. Alas, they were not. And my response was fairly predictable.

Two of them were close enough together that a quick series of fireballs took them out, while Ceor blinked up the cliff to deal with the archers arranged along the cliff. One of them then shouted “Shit, it’s them, fall back!”

I do wonder who they thought it was.

And the house has started to vibrate and light is streaming from the windows. That’s nice. Moving away from it seemed the indicated course… though of course that put me in the line of fire of one or another of these idiots, and I got shot again. Ceor took offense, and charged across the cliff, blinked down, and promptly introduced the fool to his lance. And then Anusk kicked him in the head.

I do get so damn tired of getting shot. Another group had come around from the north, and seemed to delight in shooting at me. Fuck this bullshit. I have an empower metamagic rod and what can rightly be considered mythic fireballs. Three of them dropped on the spot and the fourth fired wildly to no effect.

My horse was utterly unconcerned.

Ceor, meanwhile, was making his displeasure known. Violently. He always takes my getting hurt so personally…

The house was ratting so much now that dust was swirling around it. It seemed to be getting worse, and it seemed to be turning into a cyclone. There were audible voices all laughing and talking over each other, which quickly turned into a wailing.

That seems healthy.

We’d put one of the assholes to sleep early on, and now that all the threats seemed to be taken care of, my next order of business is to see to securing him. I suppose I ought to get some use out of this robe of endless twine… Keshemet helped me, apparently he’d elected to turn invisible and scamper… which was probably wise.

The cyclone is getting worse, and even the light coming from it seemed to be bending into it. It looks like it’s becoming a vortex of energy and physical material, and shows no sign of slowing down. And it’s getting bigger. The wailing’s turning into more of a screaming sound, too.

I’m getting fairly alarmed here.

Ceor got back around to us and we managed to get our prisoner loaded… meanwhile I could see a glowing serpent shape inside the cyclone. It’s probably the accumulated mass of raw spiritual energy of people who lived around here… my educated guess is that it was triggered by people getting hurt and dying here. Feeding it life energy, essentially. It does not look like something we should have contact with. As we rode away, it seemed to head for the heavens.

I have no idea if it will dissipate on its own or not. I’m not sure I want to know.

We headed away, and made camp eventually. Miles away. Our new friend had a blackened iron medallion with the Order of the Pure insignia, and mithril armor that had been alchemically blackened. The bow was a composite darkwood longbow. It’s got a corrosive enhancement and a strength enhancement (+2), and the armor had resistance (10, 2 bonus) to every energy type. He also had a magical pitcher of some sort, though I’m not entirely sure what, and some other assorted small magic trinkets.

He woke up while we were studying his gear, and glared murder at us. Ceor glared murder right back. About ten minutes later, he started going into convulsions, which Reeshka put a stop to. Apparently he had a poison tooth or two.

We did get a little surprise once we got him talking, though. He’s not one of their zealots, he’s just a guy who was once an idealist and wanted to fight evil, and found out too late that their definition of evil was problematically broad. He couldn’t take being tasked with killing families who just had the misfortune of being born with the wrong blood. He’d even turned on one unit that had been given the mission of wiping out an aasimaar family to give them a chance to escape. It’s something I can understand.

He’d managed to get himself a position on a patrol, fighting the abominations of the Goblin Wastes. It wasn’t a position with a long life expectancy, and it was something that people only volunteered for if they couldn’t handle ‘pursuing the Order’s agenda’. He said that they hadn’t been looking for anyone in specific, but that the ruins had been one of their campsites.

It is, I think, fortunate, that he’s likely the only survivor and that there were no bodies due to the cyclone. No one will miss him. If there was a way to get word to other scouts, I suspect we’d find a lot who wanted to desert. We offered him a letter of introduction to get in to Feymott, if he can make his way there.

He said that the rank and file were to follow the orders of their patrol captain, or be executed as traitors. I’d believe it. He also said that when someone was promoted to captain, they were taken inside the Citadel and something changed. They looked darker, and their eyes were always green. It sounds like they went through some sort of binding ritual… and knowing them, it probably isn’t to an angel or a devil or a demon. Which leaves one thing.

Fuck my life.

He also said that the order summoners had entities didn’t look right, and that there were holy symbols carved into the walls in places, that looked like an impossibly huge island all alone in the sea, and that their litany included something to the effect of ‘all gods will be eaten’. Also talk drifting around about the ’Children’s Table’.

Fuck my life.

THEY’RE A FUCKING CULT OF MARA.

I knew that it was a possibility that they had ties to the Outer Dark, but this is somehow worse than I thought.

He gave us as much information as he could about the perimeter defenses in the Citadel, though he’d never been allowed inside. He also told us that the city is covered with wards that are designed to trigger if anyone with at least a quarter outsider blood approaches, and that they travel in patrols of twelve… counting him, we saw eleven. All the patrols are instructed to return to the Citadel and give warning that we’re in the Wastes if they see us, so we can’t assume that they don’t know we’re coming.

If we can identify the patrol captains first when we run into a patrol and take them out first, encounters with scouting parties might not turn into a fight to the death. He gave us all the information about them he could, and then handed over a literal fortune of gems over to Reeshka… apparently, that’s how the Order pays, though it’s functionally worthless because they can’t sell them. Then he promised that he’d contact Jenkins (more likely, Jenkins will find him) and let him know what signs and codes the Order moles are using now, and set off southward.

I hope he makes it.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 77
One does not simply fuck with an ill-tempered fire mage.

The bakers have been busy. Somehow, I don’t know how, they’ve been working on the biggest pastry anyone’s ever seen. So that’s a thing. And something about blackmarket pastries that I don’t want to know about. And there was a group of squatters that could have started turning the area into a slum; we elected to deal with it by hiring them as laborers to start working on housing; they get the second house they build. And some bandits have moved in, but things will happen about that… either someone will clear them out or they’ll be encouraged to set their sights on Friula instead.

And then the campaign season started. We got word that large contingents from both Savoyne and Friula were on the way… well, we expected that, I suppose. Though they seemed inclined to detour around Sanguine’s fort… can’t imagine why.

The Friulans arrived first, and surrounded the south side of the city. They weren’t able to bring siege weapons to bear… something about packages from the kobolds from Zobeck kept leaving nice little packages of extremely critical parts of siege engines every night and the siege engines falling apart in a castastrophic fashion.

I like them.

A week or two later, the forces from Savoyne showed up from the north. The two armies did not seem inclined to mingle, though that didn’t mean we wouldn’t be keeping an eye on them to make sure that no deals are being brokered. And we might want to see about encouraging the infighting.

The Mharoti groups are going to be tasked with harassing the enemy as much as possible in whatever way they see fit. And possibly make it look like they’re attacking each other. Given the competitive nature of the two groups, they’re probably going to be seeing who can outdo the other. The kobolds from Zobeck are going to get involved too. The idea is to cause as much trouble as subtly as possible.

This is going to be entertaining. Especially since someone set up a tally board…

About a month later, it was proposed that important pieces with identifying marks should be stolen and kindly left in the other camp, though naturally in a non-working state. The kobolds excelled at that. And it did seem to be having an effect.

That was about the time that Ceor told me he was sensing something unpleasant coming… including a faint hint of jungle rot. And once he pointed it out, I could feel it to. It was oppressive, like a storm coming in, but wrong.

Fuck my life.

Reeshka said it seemed to be blowing in from the east. And there was a sort of forest that had sprung up… Great. Sanguine is busy taking care of a contingent of troops from Friula that elected to get cute, and I don’t think he’ll be able to get to us in time.

I suppose it’s fortunate, in a way, that the east gate is where the gap between the armies is… I don’t want chance a teleport. I know the area, but gods know what it looks like now. I suppose riding straight into the mouth of hell isn’t the craziest thing we’ve done.

Close, but not the craziest.

The center looks like it’s fifteen miles away, and we’re going to be plowing through what looks like zombies made up of plant life. That’s nice.

We made fifteen miles in an hour at a gallop, but the horses seemed to have no problem whatsoever, and we noticed that their hooves had golden fire coming off them. It seems to be helping, so I’ll worry about figuring it out later. Reeshka said it was a divine manifestation.

While we’d picked up an honor guard made of combined Mharoti and Zobeckian troops, they’d ended up dropping back to deal with advanced shambling horrors, so it was just us when we made it… it was really creepy, with the blue, purple and green foxfire over everything.

There was a hill that actually looked new; the rocks were still steaming. We saw more groups of the zombie-things, standing in what looked like guard formations. They’re not going to let us up the hill without a fight, and that does look like where we need to be.

Fireballs it is.

Meanwhile, Ceor elected to charge into them and do what he does best. Which is to make them explode into little pieces. Anusk seemed to have a flickering golden outline, that almost seemed like another creature that was trying to occupy the same space. It doesn’t seem to be doing any harm, so it’s a low priority right now. One of the things managed to hit Ceor on his charge, but didn’t do much, despite the spray of acid.

The maniacal laughter on top of the hill is probably a bad sign.

Of course, we have their attention now, and two of the groups that I’d set on fire came forward towards me and Reeshka. I got hit in the face with a branch. It splashed acid on me. I didn’t like that, but the way they’d advanced meant that I could catch them all with a Fire Snake, so that was good. I finished off all but one, and Reeshka took care of that one. Ceor was having some trouble; that’s the thing about fireball. I don’t have to be all that accurate.

I set another Fire Snake on the group that was engaged with Ceor, while Reeshka made them explode with holy light. Ceor charged the next group… twice, because he’s apparently picked up the dimension door ability.

And the hill is growing. That’s nice. There were more zombies between us and the top, and I don’t think we’ve got time for this. So Reeshka hit us all with a fly spell. so we don’t have to. We flew the rest up the way up the hill.

I heard that laugh again, and a familiar voice asking what took us so long.

Cindersong.

Of course it’s fucking Cindersong.

Who the fuck else would it be?

There are not enough things on fire on top of that hill. This will be remedied. With extreme prejudice. I don’t use my empower metamagic rod often, but this is a splendid occasion to do so.

_Fuck you. Fuck you with a cactus. On fire.

Sideways._

It was a lot more fire than I usually fling, and it almost put him down. Reeshka finished the job. Maybe he’ll stay dead this time but I’m taking no bets.

His death didn’t seem to halt the horrible pillar of fire at the top of the hill, though. So that’s something else. I got up there while Ceor dealt with another group of zombies.

Oh god, it’s Bloodstone. Why won’t these fuckers just stay dead?!

Of course, the bastard shot me with the hell of a lightning bolt. It really hurt. I did repay the favor. With interest.

I believe the term ‘arcane temper tantrum’ was used at some point, though I’m not entirely sure by who.

He can stay dead too.

At least it seems like all the weird shit stopped when I immolated Bloodstone. The zombies crumbled, the fire stopped, and the hill started receding. So it looks like things will go back to normal.

Cindersong’s body just crumbled away, but Bloodstone left a seed like shape. That’s not going to do. Between my fire, Ceor’s sword, and Reeshka’s acid breath and consecrate, we seemed to take care of it. And golden light arced between the three of us, forming a field of golden fire that detonated and scoured the mountain top of all plant life. It did leave behind a staff, a few spindle ioun stones, and some tatters of clothes. The staff was a Staff of Necromancy… which is weird considering the way that would interact with Mara’s influence… an irridescent spindle ioun stone, and a clear spindle ioun stone. The irridescent one will sustain the bearer without air, and the clear one will sustain the bearer without food or water. Not entirely sure what to do with them.

There was still golden lightning coming from the horses’ hooves as we went back; Reeshka’s sure it’s some sort of divine effect and I can tell it’s some sort of bizarre planar energy, and that’s all we know. Neither besieging army elected to mess with us as we returned, and our honor guard was still alive, if in varying stages of injury. The gap between the armies was noticeably wider. Some were dead, but some had elected to desert and seek shelter in the city. Ceor gave orders that anyone wanted to fight for us was welcome; we won’t make them fight their own, but I expect there will be no issue with asking Friulan troops to fight Savoyne, and vice versa.

As the gates closed, a silver lightning bolt struck what was left of the hill and it shattered.

In the morning, there were a group of generals outside the east gate, with a flag of parlay. One of them had a group of swords, which were laid out in front of Ceor. Fourteen swords, to be exact. Six plus eight. How wonderful. They offered Ceor their surrender, and hastened to add that though they were following orders, they thought the circumstances and actions of the leaders of Friula and Savoyne were less than honorable. While we did make it clear that the standard rules of capture and ransom would be followed, it was understood that they had been following orders, and would be treated with all due fairness. I know they were expecting that they’d be executed, and were visibly relieved that that was not the case.

Twelve of the generals of the free companies elected to follow the standard ransom procedure and go home, but one from Friula and one from Savoyne elected to sign on with us, as well as about three companies worth of men. The twenty men who rode out with us will be given honors, and a permanent promotion to an official honor guard, if they elect to stay.

Ceor did mention that when he checked on Anusk, his coat had turned a golden color. That night, I had a strange dream that almost seemed meant for Reeshka; it involved having massive wings and a tail. When I woke up, there was a small golden egg on my pillow. I’m pretty sure it’s some sort of drake egg, and three or four days away from hatching.

So that’s a thing.

Also, apparently, a pair of treasure drakes have decided they liked Reeshka’s decorating taste, and moved into the castle. Well okay then.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 76
Fantastic.

We received a letter from Friula today, addressed to the ‘ostensible’ leader of Feymott. Once we calmed Reeshka down enough that she wasn’t advocating immediate war, we opened it. It was essentially an extortion note, saying if we sent them exhorbitant tribute, they wouldn’t send half a dozen companies at us.

Feymott is the City That Has Never Fallen. Granted, the story that would have been gotten back to the ruling class was that the company we were with was the reason Feymott paid tribute to Friula last season… not that it was us specifically. But even half a dozen free companies wouldn’t be much threat to us, and we have other things to do. One of our contracted companies should be able to manage the defense, according to Ceor, and since the Zobeckians don’t particularly care about sticking around, they volunteered for the job.

I’ve been doing some preliminary research towards a sort of set it and run item to close planar rifts… it’s possible, but I’m probably going to have to spend several months working on it, and consult several other wizards and scholars, because it’s going to be messy.

As far as the safety valve involving Mara’s power goes, the only way to do that is to travel to her plane and set it up in person, and tie it to an object in the physical realm. The other option is to wait fifty years for the book to repower itself. Neither is appealing.

Reeshka was doing some research to see if we can bring our vampire friend back to life. That’s the easy part. We have access to her and her coffin; we’d have to kill her, of course, but it would be comparatively trivial after that. The tricky part would be that she’d have to be really incredibly warded to keep the voices of the Outer Dark away from her. Fortunately, we do have some experience with wards designed to keep the entire multiverse out. Those were destroyed, but Mnemosyne was involved in creating those, and her memory has been restored now. Not to mention that we helped out a friend of hers and freed her husband from Kammae. She’s bound to be at least well-disposed towards us.

There’s a small priesthood devoted to Mnemosyne here, and they’re willing to perform a commune ritual for us. We asked if having the knowledge to build these wards would harm us; we got an unclear answer. I suppose it’s too much to hope that we’d get a clear answer for that. I asked if she could grant us this knowledge now, and she said yes.

It was like standing on a ledge over the endless ocean, trying to keep a full glass of water still. It was unpleasant, but I did have a perfect image of how the wards were constructed. I also fell flat on my back and stayed put until the world stopped spinning… it left me with a splitting headache.

Having even an instant view of true infinite knowledge is overwhelming.

I know that we’d had some other questions, but I didn’t hear the answers. Something about total divine knowledge being crammed sideways into my skull. We did find out that the Order of the Pure is in the Goblin Wastes, which is a good place to start, even if it’s not directly the way to them, and that it was unclear if they had ties to the Outer Dark.

We also had asked if there was a way to destroy Mara was in our grasp… which resulted in the goddess herself taking up residence in the priestess and addressing us directly, with the answer being “Not yet, but potentially”.

This is nice.

We’ll need a large area with solid granite, we’ll have to carve the cavern out to precise mathematical specifications. We’ll send the kobolds out to scout, they’d know it when they see it. Though not under our city. Somewhere else. Northish. Towards the dwarven cantons.

The comet kept getting brighter and more violet, and seemed to be hanging right over the Goblin Wastes, because of course it is. I guess I know where we’re going next.

More troops arrived, which was good, because we got a similar message from Savoyne as we’d gotten from Friula… though this one said they’d send eight free companies. Ceor is a little less confident that we can hold off fourteen free companies. But this is flagrantly disregarding the campaigning rules… we sent messages to Trombei, Valera, and Triolo indicating that this was a thing, and also if they had a lack of targets they could come here, we’ll be practically giving them away. Each city seemed unimpressed by Savoyne and Friula’s actions, and they’ll be sending a free company apiece to reinforce us. We also got a small band of volunteers from Goasta Cliffs.

Last we heard of the Champion of Mavros, he was raising a free company in Friula… so I suppose we ought to be expecting him.

There’s a lot of things we need to do… send a message to Sanguine and let him know about the armies that will be encroaching on his territory and that if they’re flying the colors of Friula or Savoyne he can handle them as he sees fit. Reeshka also wants to do some research into Mara, which is going to mean reading the book that is fortunately not driving people insane right now.

This should be fun.

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