- Journal 1 - Gnolls of Quain
- Journal 2 - Temple of Sallius
- Journal 3 - The Alchemist's Tower
- Journal 4 - Dark Wood
Another day has wound down and another tavern has been found. I cannot quite say I sit in peace as I write this, as Jebbedo is on his third song of the night. He keeps throwing money at the barmen every time they ask him to stop—nothing new. Looks like we are in for a long night, I may as well sip a drink as I write.
Our trip with the merchant ended this afternoon when we dropped him off in Mughamara at the Adventure, Incorporated compound. I had heard the name before in passing, but some of the others were much more familiar with its pull in the adventuring world. Apparently if one is to be a ‘professional adventurer’, this is the ideal place to end up. They provide a consistent stream of contracts if your group is capable enough, and the money is much better than what we have been making so far.
I am not convinced our group is capable; we have never had to face anything of real skill or danger and I am afraid for when we do. Keth, of course, is capable of anything. He is strong and composed, and I am sure he could lead us through any danger we faced. I am not sure if Jebbedo could stop talking long enough to take part in a fight that were happening around him, though he is quick and sneaky, and can slide into places Keth or myself surely could not. Plus he can do a backflip. I am not sure how that may help, but he has shown us several times and seems quite impressed with himself. Gillick I still have trouble reading. His intense faith in the Divine Court is unsettling at times, though that may be a bit of jealousy on my part. I have nothing to believe in. Perhaps his faith will prove useful. Maybe we could be capable after all.
Anyway, we arrived at Adventure, Inc and met with a fierce looking one-eyed half orc—who had little patience for our self-appointed spokesman. He asked our company name….it was not something any of us had thought through before. We have been traveling for some time together but I think today was the first time we have actually started to think of ourselves as a real band of adventurers.
The music is getting rowdier and Keth has started singing! I feel there is much ahead of us, but perhaps I should enjoy this moment and join in; it does look like fun.
All money gone after last night. Saw many shops this morning that could have supplied useful materials—wish we had explored more before the tavern, but hopefully Adventure, Inc can set us up with a contract and we can start to spend our money more wisely. Also! After a brief yet tedious discussion this morning where Jebbedo just started throwing out inane idioms, we have settled somewhat absurdly on “The Many Pennies” as our company name. I am not looking forward to seeing how a serious, experienced adventurer takes this—we will find out in a moment; we are heading up the hill…
It is difficult to believe that we are on our way to complete a contract for Adventure, Inc. We were met by Master Klug (who seemed much more amused at our name and Jebbedo’s jokes than I expected he would be) and taken into the courtyard to meet two other Masters, to see what they thought of us. The first, Maerifa, was undeniably powerful, although it is difficult for me even now, shortly after leaving, to remember any distinguishing feature about her…Perhaps that is why she is the Spy Master. She approved Master Klug’s intention to provide us with a contract. The second though, was much more skeptical. Her name is Master Redbridge and she is terrifying. She is the Animal Master, wearing pelts of creatures she has killed, and the entire time we spoke with her I could not help but think that she viewed me as a creature, as prey, as something lesser and undeserving. Growing up in the library underground with only my father and books to surround me, I was sheltered from stares. In the first few months out on my own I learned how hard it can be to blend in and how frustrating it can be to exist in a world outside of fantasy. The way Master Redbridge stared at me this morning brought back the intense feeling of worthlessness and helplessness that I had been starting to shed, having found a team of companions who have made me feel protected and accepted. When she asked what I brought to the table on this team, I could barely speak. To be sincere, I was doubting that I brought anything at all.
She relented though, and has put us to a test. She gave us a contract to travel to a town called Quian that has been raided by gnolls. The gnolls have stolen mundane items like wagons and rakes, and we are to retrieve those items—300gp if we succeed! It seems simple enough, though I am uneasy as we make our way west through the swamps. Perhaps it is still a lingering pain from Redbridge’s stare, but I know I must shake it before we arrive.
We are approaching Quian and from here we can see the cave that must be the source of the trouble. The town is quiet so we will see if we can find Elder Roderick, the signer on the contract, to give us more information.
As I watch Gillick perform his Lay On Hands on a bloodied Jebbedo, I cannot help but accept that I may have been wrong about his devout faith, there is a real benefit I am seeing as bits of brightness slowly ease back into Jebbedo’s cheeks. Keth is sitting across the cavern, removed from the group, looking troubled, and I can barely breathe. My heart is pounding from what we have just done and my hands tremble as I write this. The machine in this room is deafening and I am watching goblins race up, down, and around it while trying to compose my thoughts. We have survived our first combat together, but there is more to come in just a few steps and I do not know what we have left in ourselves to face it.
It seems like ages ago, though it has only been a few hours, when we met with Elder Roderick who told us the trouble with the gnolls had increased in severity since the town had sent their contract to Adventure, Inc. Many villagers had been taken captive. We confidently assured Roderick that we would retrieve the villagers and their tools, and went off in the direction of the cave we had seen earlier.
At the cave, Jebbedo created a trip line and in doing so, noticed one had already been set up. Instead of just stepping over it like the rest of us, Jebbedo did a backflip. I think he just wanted to prove that it was a useful skill after all. We went into the cave and after several twists and turns saw smoke. Jebbedo snuck around the corner and notified us there were two gnolls around a fire who seemed poorly on guard. We had never had to address an issue like this, where fighting was an imminent possibility, and it was difficult to get our heads clearly around the situation. In the end we decided to sneak out of the cave and provide some sort of diversion to draw the gnolls out. We all made it out back over the trip line until Keth, behind us, stepped on it and dropped the metal trap onto the ground. The gnolls, hearing the noise, came charging out of the cave behind us and we prepared to fight.
The whole fight went by in a blur and yet felt like an eternity. The only one who really made an impact with the first attack was Keth, which was of little surprise to me. I panicked and my acid splash just shot forward, but the gnoll was able to duck out of the way. The second gnoll ran out of the cave and tripped over the trip wire Jebbedo had set up. Jebbedo started celebrating the success of his tripwire, and I started to warm up a bit with my crossbow. Eventually, Keth chopped the head off one of the gnolls, and I was able to land a crossbow arrow into the other to kill him. When the action settled, I thought Jebbedo was still just dancing in celebration, but it turned out he was severely injured. I am not sure we will be able to convince him that dancing every time he makes a hit is not the best strategy in a time of action.
As soon as he realized the gnolls were dead, Jebbedo started looting through their pockets. Then Keth did the oddest thing I have ever seen. He knelt down over the gnoll he killed and cut off a piece of his flesh, putting it in a pouch. We all stared at him in a mixture of disgust, awe, and confusion, as he has always professed his hesitation to kill.
We went back into the cave, passing the cavern where the fire had been burning, and down a path further where we could hear a gnoll yelling and the crack of a whip. Jebbedo snuck in to investigate and told us that in the next cavern there was one gnoll keeping charge of several goblins. Also in the cavern was a rock face and on top were all of the town’s missing supplies. Jebbedo took the lead in action, barely consulting the rest of us, by casting a minor illusion of a goblin yelling. He thought it would make one of the goblins come out to investigate, but instead, the gnoll came charging out at us. Jebbedo spread caltrops and immediately jumped behind us, not able to risk more injuries.
In my first combat injury ever, I was struck with the gnoll’s whip. The pain was enough to back me out of the fight, but I was able to catch Gillick’s swing with the war hammer to destroy the gnoll.
Then Jebbedo shot an arrow into the dead gnoll. And was very proud about it…
We proceeded further down the tunnel and came across the three goblins in the cavern—they came towards us but after the damage we had just dealt to the gnolls, we decided to wait and see if they were intending on attacking, which eventually they did. They were much easier to fight than the gnolls were, and we killed two of them quickly before the third stopped, seeing the gnoll’s whip Jebbedo had taken. Fearful of the whip and with a promise we would let him escape, the goblin told us that there were three gnolls left in the cave.
When we moved into the room we are in now, with the giant machine, we could not figure out any purpose it might hold. There were two gnolls with their backs to us, and Jebbedo decided to shoot an arrow right over the shoulder of the gnoll who obviously turned to see where it came from.
Being first to attack was incredibly stressful, and again acid just shot out. One day I will learn to control this, but at least this time when it hit it was in an attack situation against an enemy, not like before…We significantly improved our fighting abilities in the few battles we have experienced in this short day so far, and successfully killed both gnolls. Keth took another bit of gnoll skin from the one he killed….
The goblins could not give us any information about the machine that they are building, even now they run around tinkering with it, but have no concept of its purpose. They seem terribly fearful of a ‘master’, who they say will be furious if the machine is not finished by the time he returns. Since the machine does not seem to be within hours of completion, we decided to take a bit of a rest to allow ourselves to heal and prepare for what lies deeper in the cave.
I see Jebbedo standing up, looking much better than before, and am going to take this as a sign that our rest is over and we are about to move forward.
We survived, I, barely, and completed our first contract for Adventure, Inc. The weight of the gold in my pocket seems light though, compared to the task we have to look forward to.
Before we moved on in the cave, Jebbedo took his crowbar and threw it into the machine, causing an incredible mess. There was smoke billowing out of the machine and metal pieces bounced around all over the floor of the cave. Even though the machine is intended for something evil, I still almost felt badly for the goblins whose work had been severely stunted.
We dropped down a hole, moving into a bigger cavern lined with cages holding the captive villagers. Goblins ran about the room, and in the center were a gnoll and lizardfolk. Jebbedo whipped out a thunderstone, deafening most of the room—except the lizardfolk. I attempted to speak to him in draconic, but my ability to speak convincingly to people when I am not under stress is poor enough, it was no wonder I only succeeded in making him angry.
I watched him charge at me, felt a searing pain, and the next thing I remember is opening my eyes to Gillick’s hands bringing me back to consciousness. I feebly threw my Magic Missiles, slightly injuring both the lizardfolk and the gnoll, and watched as the action continued blurrily across my vision. Keth finally killed the lizardfolk (again with the skin cutting….) and Gillick, looking incredibly hurt himself, dealt a killing blow to the gnoll.
With all of us back up on our feet, and the goblins no threat—having run out of the cave in fear—we approached the cage at the back of the room. In it was a man who did not look like a villager. He introduced himself as Grimlock Ironshaper and after Jebbedo (who had found the keys in the gnoll’s pocket) finally trusted him enough to let him out, he urged us out of the cave and Quian as quickly as we could go. We helped the villagers, still deaf from the thunderstone, retrieve their town’s tools and escape the cave, trying to pull more information from Grimlock as we walked. He seemed very concerned about the machine but also did not know its purpose.
We made it back to Mughamara in silence, but Grimlock had no interest in following us to the Adventure, Inc compound. He told us of a great enemy, Gorm Tintreach, who was the reason he had been locked away in Quian. It did not seem as if Grimlock really knew anything specific about Gorm’s plans, besides the fact that they are purely evil and he that wanted Grimlock to craft magical weapons for an army to destroy the races.
Grimlock is trusting us enough to task us with defeating Gorm, though it seems impossible-especially at this moment in time. He has agreed to craft a magical weapon for each of us with a dual purpose: killing Gorm, and one of our choosing.
It’s an easy choice for me. I left home so long ago with one clear mission and I have gotten so far off of that track after my initial failure. I felt around in my bag, clutching the ancient tome within and replaying my father’s dying words. I need to find Adonan Gellantara; he alone holds the answers to my past and to he alone can I deliver this book. I told Grimlock quite confidently the purpose I wished my magical crossbow to hold and he agreed to craft it.
After I had spoken, I could not believe the secrets and the truths that came from my companions. We have known each other for quite some time, but I could not have guessed the depths of pain and struggle from which they each have come. Jebbedo, so bright and carefree on the surface, is purposed to freeing his guild from an oppressive family. Gillick, whose unshakable faith seems to give him all the knowledge he needs, has not been able to find the truth behind a dark family secret. And Keth, usually so quiet and strong, shared his darkest moment with us. I found myself on the verge of tears while he spoke; he was more vulnerable and open than any of us had ever seen him as he told Grimlock of the quest for a repentant revenge that has defined him for so long.
Grimlock agreed to craft each of these weapons, and left us alone with this newfound knowledge of each other. I had never been so grateful for Jebbedo’s need to break silence with laughter, and we made our way to the Adventure, Inc compound.
We were met by Master Redbridge who asked us to relay the story of our job. She seemed incredibly troubled by the story, but paid us our 300 gold pieces each, and gave us basic freedom around the compound.
As I’m sitting in my new quarters reflecting on our first battles, I am uneasy about the task assigned to us. Selfishly though, I remain hopeful and excited that it will help in my own quest. There will be no singing tonight as we all absorb the instant severity of our future assignments, but tomorrow is another day and hopefully contracts from Adventure, Inc will keep us occupied in the time it takes to ready ourselves for the war to come.
It has been weeks inside the Adventure, Incorporated compound, and while the others have grown restless, I find a certain sense of home here. I spent my whole life in the library, underground in the tunnels of Ishtarra and all I wanted was to be free, to live in the world. After the latest adventure, seeing death so close and giving way to a destructive nature that I’ve felt growing inside of me for quite some time, I cherish the solitude and time that I can spend in these libraries and halls regaining my sense of self. I cannot explain the feeling to my companions, that there is a darkness inside of me that I am frightened to explore. I see a bit of it in Keth’s eyes as he fights, as if he is almost ashamed of what his strength can do. I wish I could say that our biggest fights are behind us, though the warnings of Grimlock have made it clear our investment in danger is only just beginning.
Sitting in the library in the North Wing of the compound, I can close my eyes and almost feel myself back in Ishtarra, except the dull muttering of my father while he worked on the other side of a thin wooden door has been replaced with the clanging of metal and shouts of action in the courtyard below.
Jebeddo has just come in and told me that Grimlock is here to see us, he must have our weapons ready.
Well, we are off on another contract, making our way slowly across Carapath, through Bradmont, to the edge of Emberfall where we are supposed to meet a scout to assist us.
We all have our new weapons with us, as well as a fifth: a scimitar for an owner unknown. Grimlock said we should not ask questions and would know who to give it to when the time was right, and I am willing to trust him. Etaha is the name I have given my crossbow—a constant reminder of its personal purpose to find Adonan and in finding him to find my past—is the most intricately beautiful weapon I have ever held, its beauty defying Grimlock’s purpose for it to kill. The bolt shoots through the mouth of a dragon like fire; it is balanced and light in my hands and when I hold it I feel a surge of energy coursing through me. I hope that this will help me in future combat, being more accurate in aim and helpful to my friends. Jebeddo, in true Jebeddo fashion, has named his rapier “My Swishy”; he has not stopped making swishing noises this entire trip. He has barely touched the rapier, but has been audibly sound designing potential battles. Keth’s short swords have been named “Redeemers”, a single blade that pulls apart into two, and then melting back into itself. Gillik’s war hammer “Verdum” looks too light and fragile to amount to any damage on impact, its head carved with fine metal threads in a puzzle-like design, but I am sure the magic imbued into it will bolster its strength.
After Grimlock gave us our weapons, Master Klug (who apparently had been watching our interaction) approached us. He told us that he is familiar with Grimlock’s work and even has a sword of Grimlock’s in his office, which he hopes to be able to use one day. He was so giddy and excited about our new weapons, even moreso than I think we were, being overwhelmed with the serious business ahead of us, that he gave us this contract in secret. He said that it would be a quick “grab and go” job, retrieving a locked, leather bound Shi’ay Tome from a deserted Temple of Sallius.
We’re to meet with a scout on the edge of Emberfall, which we will soon be approaching, and he will hopefully help guide us around the rumored bandits to the temple. I hope Master Redbridge does not find out that Klug gave us this contract, I would hate to see the repercussion from that.
I see the Ashen Observatory in the distance, we are almost there.
A HYENA. OUR SCOUT IS A HYENA. When I accounted for possible danger we would face on this journey, having our ally be a giant, raging hyenaman was not on my list. When we approached, we were worried that maybe the sleeping hyena had eaten our scout, but no. He transformed in front of us and after what I saw him do to the bandits we just faced, I am hoping that he trusts us and we can remain allies.
After brief introductions with Asher, we went to face the bandits he had been supposedly studying (not very well, he did not seem to know much about them besides the fact that they would want money…). After an unsuccessful attempt to convince them that we were sent from their bosses and a disagreement on how much it would take for us to cross through Emberfall safely, we had to do it Jebeddo’s way and fight our way across the bridge. I admire Keth’s dedication to attempt dealing with opponents civilly first, but I wonder if this will ever prove to be a successful tactic. Maybe Jebeddo’s ‘fight first’ mentality is worth something after all.
The battle was swifter than some of our previous altercations with the gnolls. Our new weapons are working nicely for us and with the added rabidness of Asher in hyena form, we killed all of the bandits more easily than I would have thought.
We are now continuing our trek into Safehold, disguising ourselves in the bandit’s clothing in hopes to blend in. I have to say that while slaughtering a half dozen bandits is as far away from ‘fun’ for me as possible, watching Jebeddo sauntering in front of me in a giant bandit shirt tied up into a knot at his chest, constantly rerolling his sleeves and pulling up the pants that could fit three of him, is one of the most ‘fun’ things I have witnessed in our travels thus far.
As we approach Safehold, ironically named as it is a den for thieves and assorted other criminals, the tension starts to build between us. None of us has any idea where to go from here and hope that our disguises are not betrayed by our obvious obliviousness. Gillik is whining that there are no apparent temples, but his general frustration strikes in us a similar fear that we will not be able to find the Temple of Sallius.
Maybe we can just trade Jebeddo out for hyenAsher. Good ol’ Oneshoe found a fellow guild member who pointed us towards the Guild Hall and a man named Horton, very much in charge of Safehold. Our plan was to blend into the Guild Hall and see if we could overhear some discussion from ‘fellow’ bandits, maybe jump into a conversation or two and see what we could find out about the layout of Safehold. We saw Horton as we walked in, a dwarf on a giant throne with hats to rival Jebeddo’s selection—all stacked on his head. In order to begin to blend in we went straight to the bar, but that is where everything fell to pieces.
Jebeddo ordered milk, and with the raised eyebrow of the barman, asked to add grog to it…A “white American” he called it. He drank it and then ordered five more—one for each of us. No. Keth managed to hold his down, but poor Gillik threw up immediately after he drank his. Of course, Jebeddo found it hilarious and began rolling around on the floor laughing loudly. This, coupled with the heaves of Gillik, of course attracted the attention of the entire Guild Hall—Horton included.
Thankfully we managed to convince him that our purpose was as honest as any other thief’s and promised to give him 20% of the treasure we find in return for protected and uninterrupted access to the Temple of Sallius.
Right now we are waiting for Gillik to regain his composure and after calming down about the way that it happened, I suppose I cannot be so mad at Jebeddo. We will get the guidance we need and it happened faster than we would have figured out on our own. Giving up 20% of what we find is not so bad, as long as the tome is not the only treasure inside.
I am immensely grateful to Grimlock and the added effectiveness of our weapons for getting us through these fights and hoping that we continue to absorb and be influenced by their power as we face what is on the other side of this door. We are taking a rest after a series of intellectually and physically draining challenges. The Temple is riddled with traps and puzzles, zombies and skeletons.
First of all, I am glad for the assistance we had in finding the Temple. We never would have seen it among the rest of the buildings in Safehold. An unassuming front led into a massive temple that must also be taking up the interiors of the two building front surrounding it outside. Banners hung down and rows of desks led to the altar which was backed by a giant stained glass mural. As we walked through the desks laden with stacks of old documents, I wanted so badly to spend time in this room, soaking up knowledge of those who had been here before.
But, dead bodies rose. A mixture of zombies and skeletons attacked. Gillik’s hammer proved its incredible power by smashing the skeletons to dust. Through a team effort we defeated the zombies, as they kept surviving more damage than we could have believed.
Alone in the temple, we began to investigate our surroundings, assuming that the tome would be more heavily protected. Jebeddo managed to slide the altar and expose a large stone button in the floor. Without pausing to assess the danger it could pose, he pushed it. Two of the six banners rose into the ceiling, and we set about trying to discover any other buttons in the room. Keth found one behind a chair, and I found the third under a set of desks. Before I could even push it, Jebeddo ran over and basically jumped on it. If I could roll my eyes through pen and paper….
Once all of the banners had risen, a section of the stained glass swung open revealing a hallway behind it. We walked through and down the hallway in front of us stood a giant door with an intensely intricate locking mechanism blocking us from entering. There were two hallways that went in either direction, seeming to surround the inner chamber.
We chose to go right first and found a chamber that was empty except for a pile of bones in the center and a pedestal at the back. On the pedestal was a button enclosed under a locked glass case. Jebeddo began rifling through the bone pile and finally popped up with a large bone which he stuck in his back pocket. Then he walked over to the pedestal and began tinkering with the locking mechanism on the case. As soon as he touched it, the door slammed shut and the bones began to tremble.
A giant minotaur skeleton rose, as well as two others—one now missing a bone in its leg thanks to Jebeddo’s early thinking—and they attacked. The sheer size and power of the minotaur and its axe, which stood as tall as Keth, was overwhelming. Gillik disintegrated one of the skeletons before being knocked unconscious by the minotaur’s axe. Asher proved himself more useful than just in combat as he healed Gillik, bringing him back to life with strength enough to demolish the second skeleton. I took over trying to unlock the puzzle, letting Jebeddo jump into the fight. I was glad for the reprieve, a chance to use my brain instead of my crossbow, and it was a good decision. Jebeddo killed the minotaur and I unlocked the case, revealing the button. I pushed it before Jebeddo could reach it.
The door opened and we could hear the sliding of metal through metal. Part of the door in the main hall had been unlocked, but since it was not completely open we knew we had another fight ahead of us, waiting down the other hallway.
Walking into the second chamber we saw the same type of button set on a pedestal (whoever designed this temple was quite enamored with buttons), but before we entered could hear groans from above us. Arms of zombies were reaching through a grate in the ceiling and Jebeddo’s quick thinking helped us gain an incredible advantage over them. He set up a trap with burning rope and caltrops so that when they fell, they would be instantly injured. Maybe we can keep him.
This battle was big for me; over our weeks confined to the Adventure, Inc compound I had been working on my spells and trying to gain confidence in using them. Fighting the zombies I finally used my fire breath. It was not as successful as it has potential to be, but it is a start. We struggled; the battle took a lot out of us, but we succeeded, I unlocked the button, and here we are back in the main hallway in front of an unlocked door.
It looks like Asher’s berries and Gillik’s divine magic have begun to take effect and we are ready to enter the inside chamber. Jebeddo is slamming himself into the door to try and make it open. I hope that the book is just sitting inside, but as Keth begins to push the door open I hear the low growl of something very familiar.
The disappointment of our journey is tangible; we are traveling in silence for the first time—even Jebeddo is quiet. Not only did we fail to retrieve the Shi’ay tome, but we let Viltroth escape.
As we entered the chamber we saw a sorcerer, Viltroth, with his back to us and the young black dragon slowly approached. Viltroth was holding the Shi’ay tome and Asher tried to thorn whip it out of his hands. On this assault he commanded the dragon, and two skeletons that had just appeared, to attack. The dragon hurled acid at us, and although it wounded me badly it was nothing compared to how badly it affected Keth and Asher. I responded, unable to bring myself to use my inherent dragonborn abilities towards another dragon—evil or not—and directed acid of my own at the skeletons. Through a frenzy of fighting the dragon was killed, and when it dropped I felt a rush of emptiness flood through me-more than it should at the defeat of an enemy.
I shook it off and tried to direct a new spell at Viltroth. In the library at Adventure, Inc, I found a book of jokes which made me laugh and helped bring me out of worrying so deeply about Grimlock’s predicament. I focused them into a spell that would (hopefully) leave the hearer unable to operate due to intense laughter. I tried a few jokes on my companions at the compound; they did not seem to find them as funny as I did, but I was so excited to try the spell on an actual opponent.
I used the spell to attack Viltroth and his expression barely even changed. I still cannot believe it did not work. I will write the joke here, so I do not forget it.
“How does a wizard get from place to place?”
…….”A flying SORCERER”.
Anyway, Viltroth is terrible and did not laugh at my joke and also was protected by a giant shield that surrounded him. That was probably shielding his sense of humor. Asher in hyena form eventually broke the barrier and I threw my True Strike spell to know exactly where to hit him. Before I could use it though, he cast Dimension Door and vanished with the book.
We failed; it was over. We did manage to pick out several items that stuck out to us from the many shelves of artifacts and items. They include a ring that encases the feather of an owl, a bottle of grey, swirling mist, a ring with 3 gemstones, a cape with an embroidered design of a vial with gold liquid, a helm with twisting horns, a packet of dust, and another vial containing a potion.
Horton showed up and we bartered for him to only take 10% of the gold we found as well as whatever he wanted from the items on the shelves as long as we could keep the items that had appealed most to us. He agreed and we parted ways.
As we approach Carapath the mood has lightened-Jebeddo has broken the heavy silence and given us back a liveliness—but I am still very nervous. What will we tell Klug, how will he react to our failure? It certainly was not the ‘quick and easy’ contract he had suggested. Could he have known? Was Viltroth just waiting there for someone to attempt to retrieve the book? …Or did he know we were coming? Something is just not sitting right with me, but we fought our best and hopefully that will be enough for Klug.
Well, on the heels of one disappointment and our first failure as an official team, we are off on our way to attempt to redeem some of our standing as adventurers.
Almost to the border of Carapath we ran into a merchant who told us he was heading to Adventure, Incorporated with a contract. He offered to pay us to take the contract to the compound, for it would save him days travel. We accepted and took the contract from him, but after looking at it Jebeddo suggested we just take on the contract ourselves. The town the merchant had come from was less than a day’s walk away—the contract was dated just this morning—and we had experienced the lag in time that the Adventure, Inc processing could take. If an alchemist had been kidnapped as the contract said, we could be the difference in making it in time to save him. Besides, this was a good chance to potentially redeem ourselves from our last mission. If we returned to Adventure, Inc having saved an alchemist, maybe Klug would not be as angry that we do not have the Shi’ay Tome and that we let Viltroth escape into the portal.
As we are walking towards Tanner Hill, we have a renewed sense of determination. On the journey back we learned much about our new companion Asher and realized that the extra blade-the scimitar-that Grimlock Ironshaper had given us must belong to him. Looking back, we should have realized that it belonged to him much earlier, as the first weapon he used in a fight was a scimitar…but at least now he will have it to aid him in future fights.
I also am in possession of a new and fascinating magical asset. The ring that I picked up from the Temple of Sallius holds three rubies which will each cast a powerful spell without using my own energy. I am hoping that on this adventure we will not need the aid of such magic, but my companions each have an object of their own to assist if we do meet any danger.
It weighs somewhat heavily on my mind that no one at Adventure, Inc will know as quickly about the existence and escape of such a powerful wizard as Viltroth seems to be, but hopefully we can rescue this alchemist with haste and return right back to the compound.
We met with the tavernkeep in this seemingly deserted town and he gave us the details of the man who is being held in his tower by goblins. It rests uneasily with me that this alchemist has had an account with Adventure, Inc and told the townspeople to go to them if anything should ever happen to him. It seems as if he knew danger may follow him, so I cannot help but worry as we approach the tower. In the heat of the midday sun as we walk towards the tower, we can see several shapes in the distance that must be guarding their prison. We will soon find out what monsters await us.
The first of the battles has ended, but there is much more still to come. As Asher heals himself with his berries, as Jebeddo and Gillik explore the room, and as Keth takes his time cutting skin from the goblins he just killed, I am sitting on the bottom step of the staircase hoping to steel myself for what we will fight on the floors above us.
Before entering the tower, Asher displayed his new ability to turn into an owl and reported back to us that a hooded figure, presumably the alchemist, is strapped to a chair on the top floor but on the floors below are several bugbears, gnolls, and goblins.
We spent a good deal of time trying to figure out the best way to approach the tower, Jebeddo, as usual, throwing out any idea that crossed his intensely creative mind. If we want to avoid mistakes like we made in the Temple of Sallius, we must work on our communication and try to get better at planning. We decided rather weakly that we would simply walk up to the tower and be on guard to fight, but partway through the walk Jebeddo had another idea and began pointing at the contract like a map, pretending he was a tour guide. We ignored him, but the goblins and bugbear that were guarding the door suddenly ran inside.
That was surprising, but we made our way to the door and were quickly forced up against the tower as arrows rained down from windows above. Jebeddo was able to make his way through one of the locks on the heavy wooden door, but he was not able to make it through the bolt that was securing it shut. Keth stepped up, and within two tries had completely kicked the door down.
As the splinters of wood exploded into the room, Jebeddo jumped in and looked to be performing a spell of sorts, but to no effect and we readied our weapons. As we stepped in for a closer look, we saw that the goblins were glowing with different colors. They seemed to be encased in an aura of a color that was swirling around them. The bugbears though, looked perfectly normal and perfectly ready to fight.
I have to say with no small amount of pride, that my second attempt at casting my laughing spell in battle worked brilliantly. For posterity:
What do you call a bugbear with a broken leg?
A hob(lin) goblin!
The bugbear remained on the ground laughing hysterically through the rest of the battle-sustaining gruesome injuries and sputtering laughter through it all. Part of me almost felt bad, but my confidence in my spells is growing and I refocused back to the fight at hand. Asher, with astonishing force, threw a thunderwave and killed three of the goblins immediately, as well as the bugbear under the influence of my spell.
I was keeping fairly good track of the fight, seeing Asher get struck hard with the bugbear’s mace, when a goblin’s arrow sunk deeply into my leg. I managed to see Keth easily cut through the remaining bugbear and I made my way back into the action, breathing fire onto the three goblins. Two of them fell instantly, but interestingly enough the goblin that was covered in an aura of red seemed resistant to my fire. Jebeddo easily killed that red goblin and here we are. Asher looks quite refreshed and Keth has slipped all of the newly cut skin into his pouch, I think it is time we move upwards.
We have fought through four floors and if Asher’s initial surveillance is correct we have only two gnolls standing between us and rescuing the alchemist. We are so close; I am certain that we will succeed.
On the second floor we found six different orbs sitting on pedestals that are glowing in different ways-one has flames twisting up in the air around it, another is covered in frost. One is crackling with lightning, one swirling with a purple gas, another shining with an intense white light, and the final bubbling, hissing, and smoking with a thick, green liquid.
I was drawn to the fire orb immediately and when I walked towards it I felt heat rising through me. I am no stranger to fire, but this was a heat that seemed to be pushing me away. I felt the crystal orb rejecting me and pushing me away, so I backed down before getting too close.
We all watched as Jebeddo approached the frosted one and he tentatively moved closer and closer to it, until finally he was able to place his hands on the orb. He started to glow blue for a moment but then regained his normal coloring.
Asher tried to approach the lightning and the white light, both of which seemed to reject him in the way the fire rejected me. Gillik almost immediately attuned to the orb with the blinding light, glowing with a white aura for a moment before returning to normal, just as Jebeddo had. Keth also quickly attuned to the orb with the purple liquid.
I decided to move towards the second orb that stuck out to me, the one hissing with the green liquid. I was able to move closer and closer, with each step feeling like my strength of character, my ability to interact and connect with others, was being challenged and tested. Jebeddo afterwards said that he felt, when he attuned to the frost, that his intelligence was being tested in the same way. I did not feel a rejection though, and pushed my way to place my hands on the orb. With that attunement, I realized that I had gained a resistance to acid—a power already within me, but somehow I still felt the new strength within myself.
After Asher attuned to the fiery orb, we moved up the stairs to where we encountered five goblins. While their backs were still turned, Asher entangled them which gave us a head start in our attacks. In the ensuing battle, I found myself intensely focused on killing the goblin glowing with green. Something within me knew that he was endowed with the same acid resistance as I now was, and I felt an intense hatred and deeply seated need to destroy him. In my blinded focus I was able to kill him, and only after that did I notice that my companions had killed the remaining goblins.
We quickly moved up to the fourth floor where three gnolls were waiting. Jebeddo ran into the middle of the room and a spout of rainbow glitter emerged from his rapier. The four of us (and the three gnolls, also) stared for a moment in utter confusion, but as Jebeddo quickly backed out from the center of the room, we readied ourselves again to fight.
I was able to use my chromatic orb ring for the first time, but it missed its target. In this battle, as I had been focused on the green goblin on the floor below, the gnoll that was glowing green seemed to be just as intent on killing me. It hit me once and knocked me back quite a bit, but I was able to focus all three of my magic missiles at him, wounding him severely in retaliation.
Keth was able to finish the green gnoll, Asher in hyena form began biting as many gnolls as he could, and Gillik crushed his hammer into another. Jebeddo shot something sticky across the room, and trapping a gnoll in its web made it easier for Asher to rip out its throat.
We are tired, but we have been lucky. Our weapons are strong and our injuries have been light; we have two gnolls left to fight and one alchemist to rescue. I feel a sense of happiness surging inside of me at the closeness of our success, and we are ready to move up to the last floor.
My hands are shaking. My mind can barely hold or process this all and I am unsure how legible this entry will be, though nothing in the universe could make me forget what has just happened. I look ahead of me at the man we have rescued. We have completed more than a simple contract today; I have received so many of the answers that I have been searching for my whole life and yet somehow I am left with even more questions surging through my entire body.
When we reached the top floor of the tower we encountered two gnolls, but in a moment they were dead. I killed one with a second stone from my ring and Keth easily sliced through the other. When we unbound the alchemist from his chair, it sent me reeling with awe when he recognized me and introduced himself as Adonan Gellantara.
I have been looking for this man ever since the day my accidental acid splash dissolved the life out of my father. With his dying breaths he gave me a book which I have carried with me through all of these adventures and told me to find Adonan. He told me that Adonan would be able to answer all of my questions, tell me why I felt such power and magic inside of myself. If I had only been able to harness it earlier and control my temper, control my power, my father would still....
It does not do to dwell, and yet the familiar pangs of guilt at the thought of his death turned to piercing stabs when Adonan inquired about my father. I had to tell him, but having to speak those words and relive that moment is painful beyond belief.
Adonan told us he had been kidnapped by Gorm and expressed his surprise at the fact we had attuned to his spheres. He then mentioned that the process could only be found in a very specific alchemy book, one of which was in my father’s possession. I could not restrain my questions any longer and I began to speak to him in draconic, knowing that my friends could not understand. I did not want them to know the answers to the questions I had waited so long to hear.
I tried to keep my composure as I was finally given the reason my father had been banished so many years before. Adonan told me that he and my father were friends and alchemists who had been working together to help protect their clan against the black dragons that had been raiding them.
They thought that if they could infuse the blood of their young with the blood of black dragons, they would be able to strengthen the lines and protect future generations. My father made a mistake though; he chose a black dragon that had been cursed and when he infused that blood into mine, I was in turn tainted.
He told me, so plainly and so calmly, that this is where my sorcery came from and that I am part black dragon. I felt as though the world around me began spinning out of reality and yet strangely at the same time I felt comforted. My father had refused to destroy my egg and was exiled for that; I will never be welcome back to my clan until the curse is lifted.
I pulled out the book from my bag and handed it to Adonan. He began to speak of the secrets the book holds, at which mention Jebeddo suddenly became very interested. As their words buzzed through the thick air I went to a corner of the room and crumbled onto the floor. The darkness that has hung over me for my entire life began to dissipate ever so slightly; knowing where my power came from and knowing the new enemy within my blood has given me an absolute purpose and direction to move towards.
Adonan passed the book onto Jebeddo who held it as if it were the most precious gift he had ever received. I felt slightly upset as he slipped it into his bag, knowing that it was the last of my father’s possessions that I had with me and suddenly wanting it back. I was able to stop myself though, only having gotten to my feet; the book in Jebeddo’s hands would at least be used. I have no skill in alchemy and I know that my father would not have wanted it to just sit in a bag-Jebeddo’s commitment to learning and creating is exactly what my father would have wanted the book to be used for.
We agreed to help Adonan find the other two Manuel de Alchems, but as we started to leave a portal opened and a dark, evil looking man appeared. Before we could even register what was happening, Adonan yelled “that’s Gorm!” He had time enough to twist the bodies of the dead gnolls into a giant flesh monster before disappearing and closing the portal.
We fought in a frenzy of yells and clangs of steel; I threw a cloud of daggers into the creature while Gillik used his divine smite. It was difficult to kill and our energy was drained, but the final blow by Keth sent it down for good.
With a mixture of exhaustion, surprise, and happiness in the successful retrieval of the prisoner, I watched as my friends led Adonan down the steps of the tower and back out into the fading light of the evening. We had been inside for only hours, but my entire life had changed.
At this point I feel I could believe anything anyone tells me; I have heard so many fantastical stories in the past few days that my head is a constant well of confusion.
We arrived back at Adventure, Inc to the fury and suspicion of Redbridge, Maeriffa, and Klug. There was a mix of anger at the fact Klug had sent us on a contract to begin with, and then our failure on top of that did not help our cause. Jebeddo was explaining why we failed, and when he mentioned Viltroth, Redbridge looked even more maniacal than I have ever seen her before. I very quickly backed out of the way of her wrath, but Klug calmed her down and explained to us that Viltroth was a member of the original Adventure, Incorporated.
He explained that he fell into a portal when they were fighting years ago, but that the contract is still open. Maeriffa, who had been listening intently, spoke suddenly and informed
us that there was a plan but that it would take time to bring about. Maeriffa left, Redbridge stormed away, and Klug was left to excitedly question us about the adventures and pay us for the rescue of Adonan (once he got over the initial shock and anger that we took it without telling anyone in the first place).
We left the compound to find Ironshaper who then revealed more unbelievable news. The number of things that have been thrown at us this week is incomparable and I find it almost difficult to write this as the idea is so preposterous.
Ironshaper told us that he has come back from the future to warn us and try to help us defeat Gorm before he rises to the power he has in the future. He says that in the future, Gorm had brought the entire kingdom to its knees and we were the only adventuring group to ever even come close to defeating him. We did not succeed though….which even now thinking back on the conversation leaves a grim feeling about our future deaths.
Grimlock continued to describe how the dragons combined and overthrew Gorm, but their leading New Meritta was no better than Gorm’s had been. Gorm had found Grimlock and demanded his help in crafting weapons to overcome both the dragons and all of the races of New Meritta. He refused, so Gorm punished Grimlock by killing his family and sending him back in time.
All of this led Grimlock to us because we, in his timeline, did not have the magical weapons that he has provided for us now. He hopes that the addition of the new magic will help us succeed in defeating Gorm before the worst of his power is displayed.
We sat in silence for a moment, trying to soak in what Grimlock had just told us. I took that moment to ask Grimlock the question that had been on my mind all day. Since the original purpose of my crossbow had been to find Adonan—something that I had achieved well before Grimlock made us believe we would be able to—I wanted to know if it would still possess its magic.
Grimlock inspected my weapon and, seeming surprised, told me that it was showing him a new purpose. The new purpose of Etaha is to fight the corruption of the black dragons. Not wanting to tell him more than I had to about my newly discovered bloodline, I accepted his explanation and retired quickly back to the compound.
I cannot imagine that Klug will send us out on another contract very soon, so I will take this time to try and absorb the obscene amount of information that has been thrown at me. I need to process, I need to try to wrap my head around the stain throughout my blood, but more than all that right now I need to sleep. I am weary from this long journey and hope that as each dawn rises I will find solace and strength in my new mission.
They say no news is good news….but after the intense amount of news I received days ago, I am aching for something new to direct my purpose. I know what it is I have to do now, but trapped in the Adventure, Inc compound I seem to have fewer means to get there than I did before.
I have spent the majority of my time in the library researching the strain of black dragons and the curses that have followed through their bloodlines, but the library has yielded few results. My companions have done their best to keep my spirits up—they see that I was especially shaken by our meeting with Adonan, but since we kept our conversation private in draconic, they do not know the extent of my pain. I am afraid if they found out what I know now, what I am, they might see just the cursed blood and might leave me behind. I have never felt so connected with a group before; I cannot stand to lose them, so I will keep the darkness inside of myself for as long as I can.
At this moment though, trying to shake off those thoughts, at least we are moving forward towards something new. It has nothing to do with Viltroth or Gorm, but it will keep us busy and fighting.
Klug came to us this morning and after his carnival man show of his magical items (through which I was lucky enough to purchase a scroll for dispelling magic, and also to help Gillik to purchase a protective cloak), he gave us a contract that was taken out by the King of Carapath himself.
We are on our way towards the Shrine of the Seven in the Forest of Dakoul to battle mysterious shadow creatures that no one can seem to explain further. So essentially, we have no idea what we are headed towards. The comforting fact is that we are riding out to our adventure on a cart driven by an amazing man, Evan. He has already told us incredible stories of his own adventuring days; we have all been entranced by his compelling voice. It does not hurt that our horses are incredibly strong and wonderful creatures—Poesy and Violet are gorgeous and I got to feed them an apple after Asher had a brief conversation with them. It was a wonderfully light moment in the heaviness that has surrounded us lately.
The sky is darkening, and the eeriness of the approaching forest is beginning to consume us. The darkness and emptiness is palpable-there is no sound, no stirring of life.
We learned from a Peacekeeper we met before entering the forest that they began with seven—two had been killed and three had broken ranks to run away. Something that could make a Peacekeeper abandon his post we knew would be quite a bit for us to handle.
We tried to get Evan to agree to turn back and make sure himself, Poesy and Violet remained safe, but he insisted on following through with the journey. The Peacekeepers gave us their blessing, but even as we began to follow the trail Asher shuddered and warned us all about the absolute lack of natural life around us.
The intensely unsettling feeling when the scales on the back of your neck tingle with a simultaneous numbness and hyper awareness washed over me and my whole body began to prickle with fear of the unknown as we rode deeper into the forest. I cast dancing lights so that we could see our way better, and we came across a wounded Peacekeeper.
We pulled him into the cart and with his limited breath he introduced himself as Calhoura. Asher was able to heal him a bit, enough for him to fill us in on the situation in the forest. He told us about the shadow creatures, and how the monsters came from the Shrine of the Seven. Each monster took a light from the shrine and is carrying that with them, energy representing each of the Divine Court.
This helped us a bit to focus on our opponents, we knew how many there would be yet we still did not know how to fight them or defend ourselves. As soon as we took a breath to assess the situation, seven shadowy creatures rose up in front of us. They were as Calhoura described: each had a shining light within them. Poesy and Violet took off in a panic and we hurtled down the path in the cart, the shadow creatures flying in front of and around us, ready to attack.
In the chaos of the fight, I have to recognize Evan and his ability to keep us all inside the cart and able to fight. He never lost control of the horses and never veered away from a clear path. He is truly remarkable and we are lucky to have him and his expertise.
As the first shadow creature swooped down on us, the wounded Peacekeeper took Gillik’s hands and as they murmured their prayer, the light within the creature glowed brown.
We struck at the creatures with our weapons and though they were hard to hit we managed to work our way through them. Their attack patterns were erratic and seemed to change with the very air around them. We could barely keep track of their movements but swung as passionately as we could. Our magic did not seem to have as much of an effect on them as it should have, my spells were rendered almost useless and I resorted to solely relying on my crossbow.
At one point, through the chaos and confusion, as the cart hurtled through the woods at top speed, one of the creatures—the one glowing blue—struck me and my entire mind felt like it was on fire. Nails raked across my very brain and I was thrown completely out of the moment. It took some time for me to feel like I accurately recovered.
The battled raged on in a blur around me although I felt as if I was watching myself and my friends rather than actively participating. I know that while Gillik focused and prayed with the Peacekeeper we flung our weapons at the creatures and managed to slowly cut them down one by one. The orbs, once they were freed of their shadow masters, flew to Gillik’s hands where they expanded and then seemed to explode into the night.
Once we had eliminated most of the shadow demons, a cry came from the back of the cart as Jebeddo hung off of the edge outside. Gillik shortly afterwards was thrown and Jebeddo was able to grab him before he hit the ground. I shudder to think what would have happened if Jebeddo had not been there to save him, I do not believe there would have been any way Poesy and Violet would have been able to collect themselves, calm down, and turn around to retrieve him. Asher managed to reach over the side of the cart and pull them both back in, allowing us to all take half of a breath before continuing with our fight.
Finally, in an immense show of force from Gillik, the final creature—the one glowing gold—was defeated, and we all slumped back in our seats within the cart. Evan seemed visibly shaken-and who can blame him, the presence of these creatures was enough to chill me through my soul-but he calmed the horses and got us back on the right path.
We approached the Shrine of the Seven in the center of the forest where seven orbs were floating above the altar. All of a sudden there was a blinding flash of light, the earth trembled, and a giant demonic creature appeared in front of us.
At this, Evan turned the cart around with the horses and he took Calhoura away back into the forest.
This fight was exhausting on all levels and tapped into our every resource. Asher began our attack by raging into a hyena, but got thrown far into the woods. Without having time to worry about whether he was okay or not it was my turn to attack. I threw my laughing spell at him with a joke that was as clever as I could manage in the moment:
“What’s the best way to get rid of a demon?”
……..”You need to exorcise a lot!”
He did not think it was funny. Coincidentally, neither did any of my companions….I made a mental note to spend time testing jokes out on them when we get back to the compound.
The fight continued and Gillik was rendered unconscious at one point from a blow by the demon and Jebeddo was also thrown far into the depths of the forest. But, working together we managed to defeat him—my crossbow delivering the final blow—and he burst into flames that produced a shining golden orb.
Expecting emptiness in its ashes though, we were surprised to see a giant rabbit with a full rack of horns standing in the place of the monster. Asher immediately fell to his knees and performed a ritual offering to this creature and its wounds faded away while Asher prayed.
I had never seen Asher so overwhelmed with devotion and intensity. We all stood in awe of the godlike creature and Asher’s ritual until it spoke, thanking Asher for his healing prayer.
He told us that we had succeeded in restoring some light into the forest, but although he is the guardian he could not explain exactly how the darkness overrun everything so quickly and mercilessly. He was surprised that our weapons were able to have an effect on the shadow creatures and felt the magic that they had been imbued with.
We asked for guidance as we continued on our journey, and the deity gave us more than just advice. He offered Asher a leaf: once dried and thrown into a fire it could summon the guardian and he would appear to answer one question. He also healed Gillik completely and offered him seeds from the first spring of New Meritta which would energize him more quickly.
As Asher meditated silently, Evan came back with the horses. They seemed much calmer than when they had fled, and we were so grateful to see their return. The guardian sent us on our way, and as we ride back to Carapath the mood is mixed with awe of our godly encounter and pride with our success in the forest.
As I watch Poesy and Violet trotting along the path towards the dawn, all I can think of is how much love and apples these two must receive when we get back to the compound. The thought fills me with a glimmer of hope for the innocence of all creatures we are working to protect. I have trust in us and our abilities now—we are finally working as a team to face any challenge that is thrown at us, and this thought carries me through the fear of what I will have to face within myself.