The Chronicles of Hallowdwell

Saraiah's Journal, Entry 3
A New Adventure Begins

My quest to find and alert the Heroes of the Ebon Tower to the sinister intentions of their former comrade-in-arms has taken me to a place far, far away…

When I arrived at Hallowdwell, I told Bohm my concerns about Lysander, Pelor’s chosen and ward of his temple. The young man’s destiny seems to be tied to that of the Ebon Tower and we need to take the proper precautions to ensure his safety. Bohm and I discussed that perhaps retreating to another plane, one with stronger mystical defenses, might be the best option. With King Donovan’s blessing we prepared an ancient portal at Hallowdwell, but as we began our ritual, another unrelated portal opened up within the courtyard. Twisted, tentacled abominations poured forth and it seemed we were too late to stop the mad wizard’s schemes.

But all was not lost. I am unsure if there is such a thing as fate, or if we call mere coincidence fate because the improbable makes sense when it has already happened. But at this moment of need, heroes came forth. Aislynn Athamae, who I thought was firmly ensconced in her tower, came from another wing of the castle with three teenage children in tow, wearing what appeared to be a wedding dress. A beautiful and lithe elven woman, who I had noticed in the periphery of the court, drew an ornate blade and melted into the shadows, ready to spring at any moment. And a young dragonborn, carrying Lahktar’s golden lyre, stared down the hordes emerging from the portal. The odds were still against us, but at least I was not alone in the fight.

I credit our survival, and the survival of Pelor’s chosen, to my new-found allies. But survival and escape is cold comfort, because we lost the battle. Our victory was our retreat, and we did not emerge unscathed. We were able to hold off the first waves, but our foes kept coming. One horde attacked King Donovan; I jumped through a dimension rift that let me come to his rescue along with the elven woman, and even cleared his of possession by these dark forces. But with my attention divided, I saw this was a diversion to attack Bohm and prevent our escape. I returned to the portal and erected a magic barrier that, if my strength could hold, would keep them safe.

And then the Kraken emerged.

Water poured forth from the tear in reality, and a titanic Kraken made its way into our world. I have never felt quite as pure of terror as I did in that moment, save for when Ouroboros shared my mind. The dragonborn young man was able to temporarily shift it into another plane of reality with his lyre (I shudder for the plane that received it), but the tide had clearly turned. It was now time to retreat. In the chaos, Donovan had been left unattended, and I found him being devoured by some of the horrors that had attacked us. The king was dead. The portal opened, and it was time to go. Everyone made their way into the portal, and I covered our exit as best I could before I dove into the portal from a balcony above, hoping that our destination had unusually soft ground when I landed.

It didn’t. We were instead in a ruined temple in an unknown land, confused and defeated. But we had each other, which was something. Besides Aislynn and her adopted children, the dragonborn adolescent was Ra’sul, the son of Lahktar. The elven woman was Adell, who brazenly admitted she was a thief and there to steal the signet ring of the Xavier family off Donovan’s finger…and sure enough, she had the ring in her possession. Bohm was outraged, but cut off in this strange land, we needed allies with great skill and cunning. That said, I must admit that I was taken aback by Aislynn. I know she had gone through much trauma during her enslavement, and had become nearly reclusive since the Ebon Tower, but I was not prepared for her cynicism. I wonder if it is a defense mechanism, or if she truly is this jaded. In either case, she did stand up for her brother when I broached my concerns about it, proving that she at least still feels the bonds of family.

We emerged from the temple and noticed buildings far in the sky above. We could only be in one place: Sigil, the City of Doors. A local offered to guide us for a fee. Aislynn was curt with the man, and I knew he was a rogue and a grifter, but I would rather a shady character lead us through the streets of this strange and fantastic place than us wander about on our own. After a whirlwind tour of the city, and an equally whirlwind tour of the many factions that play for the heart of the city, we made our way to the Civic Festhall. Ra’sul could not help but show up a busker out front, but his rudeness did gain us something to barter in exchange for a recording Ouroboros had left Aislynn. It was a chilling message, one that said that what he did was important, and that though he loved her, he would not think twice about killing her if she tried to stop what he must do. I saw Aislynn’s heart break for the briefest of seconds before her stony resolve came up again. We were now committed to stopping Ouroboros…only we didn’t know where to start.

But Aislynn is not in service to the Raven Queen without some benefit. The shade of her and Ouroboros’ murdered father had not yet moved on to the great beyond, lingering in the Shadowfell. The dead know many secrets, and perhaps how to stop Ouroboros would be one. In the City of Doors, you can go anywhere if you can find a door and a key. But it would appear that we would have to go to the factions to get that kind of information, and these factions play a dangerous game. They all have their agendas, and no doubt we are their pawns. We just have to make sure that we’re not being sacrificed for their gain…or that we sacrifice something ourselves that’s too dear to let go. Luckily, we got a lead that this key would require the finger bone of a witch…like one that was stealing children in the Hive of Sigil.

As we took to the streets, a pretty young woman who claimed to be a fan of his Festhall performance asked to see Ra’sul lyre. She prompted revealed her true form as the nymph busker he previously showed up. She took off and we gave choice, only to be led into an ambush. We fought to get the lyre back, crossing paths with two other pilgrims lost in the city. One was an odd flying woman, with skin the color of the sky and hair the color of clouds who called herself “Princess”. The other was a religious sort that looked human, save for his milky white eyes. And to prove that providence has a sense of humor and timing, another Hero of the Ebon Tower emerged from a cistern—Coronatum seemed to have stumbled into a portal in Lorut, transporting him to Sigil, and nearly into our laps. He seemed more than a little peturbed to see us, but mainly angry at the nymph’s band trying to stab him. They all came to our aid, and when the battle was over, we decided to join forces to end the witch’s reign of terror.

After asking the guarded citizens of the Hive, and interacting with a particularly odious gnomish cartographer who questions our non-existent faction loyalty, we found an alleyway with an odd noise upon the wind. A young girl was attaching a grate to a wall, over a deep, dark hole. We talked to her, and she talked back in pictures, a rebus appearing the air over her head. We convinced her to let us through, and we climbed into a tunnel reeking of death. We found a pile of corpses, and then the corpses stood, animated by worms gibbering nonsense in deep speech. But with the powers of our new companions, the zombies and worms stood little chance against us. Even when a ghost emerged from behind us, we handled it quickly.

This ragtag group, thrown together by circumstance, has begun to gel as a fighting force. I only hope we gel as well as companions, because the road ahead will be hard. We will be tested, and if we are powerful individually but weak as a group, Ouroboros will take advantage and all will be lost. Only by coming together can we hope to accomplish what we must do.

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Saraiah's Journal, Entry 2
The culmination of ten years is just the beginning...

It has been an entire since I have written in this book. After the Ebon Tower incident I felt compelled, but I realize now that this was the will of the mad wizard Ouroboros and not mine. It should have been obvious that his pride(no, his vanity!) would not allow him to simply fade out of the world. Instead he placed the burden upon me, to carry with me a terrible secret that has made me question my sanity these past ten years. The last entry in this journal is my hand but the all of the thoughts in this journal, his journal, belong to him. Maybe this is his journal but the entries from now on will be mine. My voice. My will.

Since the time of that last entry I have done everything I can to prepare myself for what must come. I learned several alien languages, particularly bending my mind around the angular Deep Speech to be able to read Ouroboros’ journal. The journal told me what I had already felt. Within Ouroboros was the capacity for greatness but it was yet to be decided whether that greatness would save the world or destroy it. As it turns out, he was one of the saviors of this world but left unchecked he will be the destruction of all worlds. There, right in front of me, was a chronicle of his ambition, his anger, his bitterness and his greed.

Having read his journal, I decided to investigate the fate of his companions. I thought that they might have some information that might help me in my task. Some were easier to track than others. For instance, his “brother” Lahktar has maintained a consistently high profile since the Plague Wars. Not long after the final battle at the Tower, Lahktar was appointed an advisor of the newly-crowned King Donovan and became a fixture at his court. He was part of the negotiating party that unified the kingdoms of Allandria and Arktfar into the new Kingdom of Centralia, after which he returned to Lorut and became one of the most famous merchants in the mercantile nation. Working with Sanford the Younger, he has retired into wealth and luxury. His stories about the struggle against the Deathwind have become famous, and his written memoirs have been translated into several languages and can be found all across Centralia. Comparing his account to Ouroboros’ journal, I think Lahktar has engaged in some very selective memory about those times. Then again, the people of Centralia needed heroes following the devastation and Lahktar gave them that.

I could not find Coronatum himself but his trail was easy to follow, at least for a few years following the climatic battle. Coronatum came home a hero and a changed man. Having worked with non-Lorutians on a matter of importance to the entire world, he was no longer satisfied with Lorutian isolation. Using his ties at the Centralian court, particularly Lahktar, Coronatum established an information-gathering network designed to nip in the bud any plots that could destabilize the security of the continent. The value of this entity became clear a few years ago when the Order of the Nightshade, the group of mystics with whom I had a brief but life-changing dalliance, shattered during a coup by a splinter group within that sought to use their studies to gain power. Elhazra, my former guildmaster, disappeared and has not been seen or heard from since. Coronatum, Lahktar and Aislynn (much more on her later) and those loyal to them put down the insurrection before it gained any momentum. This cooperation cemented the ties between Greenwood, Centralia and Lorut, linking the middle of the continent into a very powerful confederation of independent nation-states. However, Coronatum’s international mindset clashed with that of his paladin order, the Knights of Avandra, which had a peaceful but deep schism over the question of their responsibility to non-Lorutian matters. Whether it is due to sorrow over the schism or going deep undercover to sniff out more plots, Coronatum has not been spotted in the past two years.

Tracking down Hilde took a lot of legwork. Following the battle it seems she became lost, without a sense of purpose. To her, the quest to defeat the Woodwalker and end the Deathwind had defined her. Without that direction she eventually wound up in the port city of Lorut working as an occasional gladiator (at very high percentages of the purse) and mercenary with the Gray Razors company. Upon hearing that the Feywild had been poisoned by the lich’s touch, she immediately rediscovered her purpose. She tracked the lich’s power source back to her own homeland in Ostlund, deep under the Sangacor Mountains where her mother became one of the great heroes of the Wen. In the end Hilde defeated the lich once more but at a terrible cost. She brought down nearly the entire tunnel complex burrowed into the mountains, surely crushing her under unimaginable tons of stone. Her sacrifice was not in vain, as the taint of the lich seems to be draining from her homelands…even as it seems to grow in the Feywild. For her heroism, the great storytellers of Ostlund have already created an epic poem celebrating her deeds that takes two full days to recite. I attended one of these ceremonies and was very moved by the stirring storytelling. That said, and I hate to be this coldly pragmatic about things, this represented to me the end of one path. Hilde would not be able to provide me with any help in stopping Ouroboros.

Aislynn, his sister, is a completely different matter. After the Ebon Tower, Aislynn worked with the reformist elements in the newly-chaotic Protence society to institute reforms. The power of the Archmage was lessened by the appointment of several archmages, whose individual power would be checked by the others ensuring no one member became too autocratic. She also helped to support the abolition of slavery except in case of gross crimes and increased the power of the Assembly to prevent autocratic rule. Once her tasks in Protence were done, Aislynn took up residence at Meros’ Tower, the former home of her brother, and began training orphans in the mystic arts, fulfilling of her brother’s most fervent wishes.

It has been ten years since my vision and I can still see it as vivid now as I did then. My investigations have not been limited to Ouroboros’ companions. I have studied the mystic arts myself in preparation to stop Ouroboros’ mad scheme. As much as I have learned, though, it’s not enough. I need allies to help me, allies that will believe that a person they believed to be a hero for these ten years is a villain intent on destroying us all. Allies that are powerful enough to stand up to Ouroboros and defeat him…which is why I have sent word to Aislynn that I wish to meet with her. I haven’t said about what yet, for fear she would think I’m some crackpot, or worse. But I can feel him. He only grows more powerful and ready or not I have to do something. Hopefully I can convince Aislynn to come with me, otherwise I am afraid that when the time comes I will stand alone and I will fall. It’s horribly immodest for me to believe that I’m all that stands between salvation and devastation, I know, but if I am not able to stop him no one will. But I just can’t do it alone. I am gratefully humble enough to know that.

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Saraiah's Journal, Entry 1
In which our wizard saves the world before leaving it...but to what end?

These are not my memories, though I was there. I saw what happened, felt it, and even saw what will be. But these are not my memories. They are that of the wizard Ouroboros, who even now is being celebrated as a hero for his part in ending the Deathwind plague. But the key to being a hero, I have found, is knowing when to end the story. If the book was closed at the end of the plague then he would be a certain hero. But from what I have seen—what I have felt—the truth is something more complex than that.

I can see him, feel him, ever since that joining ritual that went wrong. I’ve had times where I lose myself completely over these past few months, where I go into a trance and become him. I was there with him when he and his friends saved the world. Facing down his mentor, Meros the Wise, Ouroboros rejected the talk of his destiny. For as much as it had driven him to this point, I felt that the wizard was tired of being jerked around like a puppet. For perhaps the first time in his life, he asked Lahktar the bard what he thought, snapping Meros’ hold over the bard. The decision was taken out of their hands by the spirit of the lich that had been banished from the Woodwalker. The band of heroes rushed to the core of the Ebon Tower, desperate to prevent such an evil creature from turning it to its purposes. Meros, ever the opportunist, took the opportunity to try and take the Tower as well.

As they wrested for control of the Tower, the control room began uncontrollably shifting into different planes of reality, some familiar and some alien. These were no illusion, as each plane exerted its effects on the heroes. The feywild shifted them all into different races and genders…except the ever-steadfast Coronatum, whose stubbornness seemingly allowed him to will himself into his fixed shape. After battling back the mage and lich, the heroes discovered that the Tower, if not alive, was sentient…and it was scared. Reaching out to it, they calmed it and pulled it back to our reality.

Hooked into the “mind” of the Tower, the heroes saw that the Tower was created by the Arcane University, its great masterpiece. However, they had not counted upon the fear that their power-hungry minds would instill upon the Tower, which panicked and phased out of this dimension, far from the greedy mages that constructed it. It laid dormant for centuries in the Shadowfell, until the slaughters of the Allandrian-Arktfarian wars mixed with the pain and rage of Mearis de Thuin opened a portal leading right to the tower. However, de Thuin was not ready for the toll it would take upon his mind. The Tower created the Deathwind as a reflection of de Thuin’s nihilistic hatred, but the sheer power of the tower left de Thuin a shell, an idiot king of destruction.

Presented with the massive library of the Tower, and the party’s unwillingness to destroy the Tower, Ouroboros chose to remain with the tower, exiling it and himself to a pocket dimension. There he would have all the time in the universe for learning, and he could protect the Tower from being misused. The party agreed and bid him farewell, and in a flash they were transported to the remains of the de Thuin manor, with some of Ouroboros’ magical trinkets left behind. The plague clouds had lifted, and the undead which once swarmed the area were nowhere to be seen. The heroes had done it; they had saved the world.

And yet, only I could feel what Ouroboros felt, what he thought at that moment. He felt…fear, perhaps? Terror is closer. But for reasons I could not read, Ouroboros had a well of panic open up during the final battle. And so, the hero Ouroboros lied. He lied to his companions, his friends, his only family. He would take the tower, yes, and he would protect it. But outsides forces should not have been the concern. No, Ouroboros took the Tower so that he might exploit it. I felt him in his pocket dimension; ensconced in the Ebon Tower, he was a god in that place. Harnessing the mystical energies of the Tower, he began to build an army…to what end, I don’t know. But I cannot forget that overwhelming fear he felt. The world thinks that it is safe, now that the Deathwind is pushed back. But it is not. Sooner or later, this situation is going to boil over. Right now, I’m the only one who knows about it. I have no proof, no idea of his exact plan, and I am afraid to say anything lest someone think I am crazy, or disparaging the name of a great hero. I’ll need some time to prepare myself and my evidence before coming forward. To be entirely honest, I’m not certain that I’m not crazy. Since that last vision, I have not fallen into another fugue. Still, I will remain vigilant. It’s all I can do.

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Ouroboros' Journal, Entry 31
In which our wizard finds himself far away, so close

I am so weary, yet my goal is so close. I must drag myself to my feet and soldier on, for I am now in the Tower and the endgame is unfolding.

We approached the de Thuin estate, and as we grew closer the very air grew thick with arcane energy. It was no surprise when we passed through the gates of the manor and into the Shadowfell, our necks craning upward to see the Ebon Tower. Finally it was reality, no longer the phantasmagorical construct of my mind. It was awesome to behold, made of stones rearranging themselves according to some unseen pattern. The Tower was black, but it was more than that; it was as if it was constructed of stones of pure nothingness, of Oblivion itself. We moved toward the door, to be greeted by the flesh and blood of our old mentor, Meros. Perhaps his first student, the Archmage Vorpat, had raised him; or at least, we considered the possibility. Soon it became apparent that this was just a trick, and “Meros” threw off his disguise and revealed himself as Stiletto, the famed and feared leader of the Dark Brotherhood of assassins. Despite the obvious danger he presented, we were here on a mission. I took Lahktar with me, to serve as my arcane “ground” as I channeled very powerful magicks to open the door. Hilde came with us as well, to protect us while we focused on the task at hand.

Stiletto revealed that he had in fact stolen the onyx skull, and he soon displayed its power by summoning the spirits of the defeated Doom Sisters and the dragon Exothras to attack our party. Our battles had given us the wisdom to attack Stiletto first, as he held the artifact powering these apparitions, and soon Aislynn crushed the shapeshifting villain. Coronatum, steeled against the corrupting influence of the skull through his devotion to Avandra, burned some of his very life force to dispel the appirations of two of the sisters. Prince Donovan was nearly felled, but he stood his ground and rallied the party to fight on. Coronatum destroyed the spirit of the dragon, and Bohm used the light of Pelor to exorcise the last of the Doom Sisters once and for all. Upon the doorstep of the prize, we would not be stopped.

Finally, after a great investment of both will and mystical energy, the Ebon Tower opened. The Nightshade Staff melted in my hands and climbed up the Tower, serving as a “key” to opening the Tower, leaving only behind a small sliver I could use as a wand. Even still, the power of the remnants of the staff were impressive, and more importantly it felt like it was mine when I picked it up. The massive new doors of the Ebon Tower opened wide, and we entered. After such a massive expenditure of strength, I could barely walk. My staunch and stalwart ally Hilde, the physical counterpart to my arcane strength, helped me step into the Tower. I would need some time to recover…but the sight we saw next made me wish I did not have to rest.

At the center of the room was a throne, and sitting in the throne was a sallow man with wild eyes and moth-eaten clothing, wielding a tremendous cudgel emblazoned with the seal of the de Thuins. We had discovered Lord de Thuin, much worse the wear for his time spent within the Ebon Tower. He was soon joined by that hateful old wizard al-Hiraj, the spirit of Meros and the Archmage Vorpat, all of whom used my opening of the tower as their chance to steal my birthright. Elhazra trembled before the ancient servant of the Raven Queen, who she called “grandfather”. And so it all comes out, the source of their feud. But it was not me who defended her, but instead Deftblade. With fire in his eyes he threw a dagger at the old man, crippling him with one swift blow. What I suspected was indeed true; the halfling was a thief not only of gold but of hearts. He sprang into action to defend Elhazra, not as an ally but as a lover, as I lay impotent and spent on the floor, able only to write about their deeds. Where it not for the constant drumbeat of my ambition, I would have gone mad with regret and rage. It was little consolation when al-Hiraj used his touch of death on the thief, for he had already taken from me the one precious thing in this world beside the Tower.

The melee was on, and it was chaos. The clang and clatter of arms and armor filled the room as bolts of energy shot wildly across the room. Vorpat tried to take the throne, not so long after being deposed from his, but instead found himself violently thwacked about the head by a fully aware and very angry de Thuin, who then used his throne to raise jagged spikes from the ground all around Vorpat. My sister Aislynn used this to her advantage and hit him with poisonous strands of mystic energy, rooting him to the spot and ensuring him continued pain as he thrashed about. Elhazra and Deftblade continued to attack al-Hiraj, and it was Deftblade that finally ended him with a swift cut of his knife. They then moved onto de Thuin, who struck with amazing ferocity was eventually felled by Lahktar, who took his throne and trapped him in a field of lightning. Finally, Aislynn finally got the vengeance our family had sought against Vorpat, sucking the very life from him.

But Meros still lived, and possessed Lahktar. Elhazra forced Meros out of his mind, but the bard still attacked Deftblade. In his eyes was something new, something troubling. We had all assumed Lahktar to be the fool, but I had been seeing it for some time. The almost causal way he could direct his powers toward blowing open veins in our enemies’ brains, how his sonic scream had blown their flesh off their shattered bones. Now, on that throne, he had true power. And in his head, possessed or not, was Meros, the only parent that ever accepted him. The room circled him warily, and now we find ourselves at a stalemate. Can it be that we have come so far, only for Lahktar to be driven mad by the might of the Ebon Tower? And does he, or even Meros, realize that this is not the control room, but simply the beginning of what the Tower is capable of? I suppose we shall find out, as I am no longer weary and I am ready to stop writing and take charge of my destiny.

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Ouroboros' Journal, Entry 30
Wherein our wizard contemplates the beginning of the end, but to what end?

Before we could decide how to dispose of Vorpat, the tower began to rumble. He did not become Archmage through luck. It was his cunning that ensured him that exalted position, and it was his cunning that triggered several mystical switches to go off at once upon his defeat. The tower’s top became enveloped in a bubble of energy, thin as paper but stronger than steel. The bubble began to lift off the rest of the tower, shearing where we were standing clear from the rest of the structure. We levitated over the city, and on the horizon we saw an airship approach. Such a construct had not been seen since the ancient Centralian Empire, and for Vorpat’s men to have control of even one was a testament to the success of their archeological efforts. While we remained in the bubble, we were safe, but that safety was very tenuous. As the airship approached, we hatched a plan to escape.

For a moment, I was the Archmage of Protence. At least, I claimed so. I took the Sceptre of the Old Ones into my hand and proclaimed myself the Archmage, having felled Vorpat. The men did not seem to accept my coup as legitimate, but that was not the point. Nor was the point the wanton destruction of priceless Protencian artifacts by Hilde and Coronatum. The point was to provide a distraction for Aislynn to teleport to the deck of the airship, away from the crew’s eyes. Onboard the ship, she made her way to the engine, in which a wind elemental was trapped. She freed the elemental, and the airship’s mystical energies began to drain. Without the elemental, the ship was nothing more than a hunk of wood and metal thousands of feet in the air for gravity to take straight into the ground. The ship rocked as the elemental left, and panic set into the eyes of the crew. Aislynn teleported back to our bubble as the airship began to list, slamming into the bubble we were trapped in. The momentum sent the bubble crashing back into the tower, and slowly but surely the ship began to drag our bubble down toward the ground, leaving a gash in the side of the Archmage’s tower on the way down.

When we hit the ground, it was with a shuddering jolt that knocked me clean off my feet. The airship crashed into a nearby ring of the city, and now on the ground we could see flames in the dusky sky all around. The riot we started early had spread, and no doubt the chaos caused by this latest spasm of destruction would only further fuel the violence. As I took into account the devastation all around, I could only wonder if this was what it was like when my mother and father tried to change the status quo here, or if their revolt died with but a whimper. Whatever the case, I felt little sympathy. Protence was rotten at its core, I see that now. Change needed to happen, and quickly. Unfortunately, the price of change is violence. We could not have done this unless a powder keg laid in wait, ready to explode. We were but the spark. But my sister and I would be left unsatisfied. As we examined the archmage, we discovered that this was not him, but a simulacrum no doubt designed to distract and delay us as the coward escaped. We gained some measure of vengeance, as he could not return to his former seat of power, but still he lived.

Thus disappointed, we traveled back to Hallowdwell, where we found the situation there had deteriorated as well. The outer walls of the city had been breached by the ravenous hordes of the undead, which now paraded through the streets. Terrified citizens barricaded themselves in their houses, which now resembled fortifications. We cut a swath through the undead to the gates of Castle Hallowdwell itself, which still stood. The former revelry that denied the gravity of the situation had disappeared, and even the nobles looked thin and defeated. Our arrival caused some amount of commotion, and I daresay we were the best news that had come into Hallowdwell in some time. Once we were safely enclosed in the gates, we spoke to Xavier. Without much time left, we needed to begin planning our assault; the defensive strategy was beginning to crumble in the face of the ever-growing swarm. Aislynn worked with the Order of the Nightshade to get a bead on the source of the Deathwind. Meanwhile, I talked with Gyrus, who had come with a legion of Knights of Avandra, to see if more troops could be had, but the time it would take to deploy them was far too much to make a difference.

Even in the direst of times, the bickering between factions continues. Upon entering the war room to plan our strategy, we found Elhazra and Bohm arguing about the skull relic that was stolen from the Temple of Pelor. We brought that bickering to an end, though it was clear the tensions still simmered. Using maps we had obtained from Sanford, whose destiny must be intertwined with ours to be following nearly in our footsteps, we made our plan of attack. A full frontal assault would be pointless, a defeatist gestured wrapped in a cloak of faux heroics. Aislynn’s magic, and information the Arktfarian nobles provided, pinpointed the De Thuin estate in the deep south of Arktfar as the most likely source of the Deathwind. The ley lines in my map of the Ebon Tower also headed for an area very close to the location of the manor. We had our target. Our plan was to take a small band through Greenwood, emerging near the southwestern border with Arktfar. The vast majority of the Deathwind hordes were moving northward toward Hallowdwell, leaving the south open for us to move through. Since speed would be of the essence, and since the tower’s portal would not open wide for an army, the group to the south would be but a task force, lead by our band. We would make our way through to the Du Thuin manor, which we believed would give us a direct connection to the Ebon Tower, the source of the Deathwind’s power. To the north, the armies of Hallowdwell would need to draw the attention of the undead, to keep them occupied. But it was a losing battle, and time was of the essence. If we tarried too long, they would eventually be slaughtered in whole. With all aware of the stakes we faced, we set out that very day.

The trip through Greenwood proved to be difficult. The energies of the Deathwind had begun to infect the forest, transforming areas once lush and verdant into tangled brush of thorns and carnivorous plants. With time already being at a premium, this was one delay we could not afford. Luckily, we were escorted through the forest by Mariana and her elven archers, not to mention Hilde and the Valkyrie, which cut through the underbrush with as much efficiency as she does our enemies. We emerged from the woods after several days only to stare upon the wasteland of destruction that was once Arktfar. Using the power of the Nightshade Staff to penetrate the plague clouds, we made our way toward the manor. Our progress would be stopped along the desolate road by Julius and his Dark Legion. He claimed in particular that he must stop me, and what I intended to do with the tower. He knew I intended to take the tower and remake this pitiful world, and he wanted to prevent that. But what choice is there for this world? The Dark Legion was powerful, but none of them could take the tower and stop the Deathwind. I have seen the vision in my dreams. Only I and my companions can take the tower and stop this menace. Julius, the Crusher, wanted to stop me before then. It may be a melee if some will not listen to reason and let me take control of the tower, but not before we lift the plague. He wanted to stop me before we rid the world of the undead, and for that he seeks the destruction of the world.

We did battle, and enflamed by the rhetoric of their leader, the Dark Legion fought viciously. All bets were off this time, and it was Lahktar who struck first. Their assassin kobald, whose slim blade had found the chinks Coronatum’s armor, was no match for Lahktar’s psionic shout which tore him into pieces. Their daeva knight I entrapped in a sonic cage, which I flexed, crushing him inside his own armor. And Aislynn got her own personal revenge against Julius, sucking the very energy from his body and leaving him a withered husk. Their leader fallen, the rest of the Legion tried to flee, but we did not allow them to do so. This battle was to the death, and we would not rest until the Legion had been destroyed. Only their hobgoblin archer escaped, to tell the tale of his companions and how they had been cut down. After the battle ended, I told Bohm to say the rites of funeral over them as they burned on a makeshift pyre. They may have been trying to stop us, but their intentions were noble. Misguided as they were, they sought to do good in this world. They did not deserve the indignity of raising as grotesqueries, and they deserved to be sent into the world of the dead with the blessing of their god. This battle, the entire drive to the tower, will be marked with such tragedies, I am sure. But what greater tragedy can there be but failure, for the fate of every living creature in this world relies upon our success? We must not be deterred.

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Ouroboros' Journal, Entry 29
In which our wizard and his sister complete their vengeance

Having cleared the Teveryn estate, the situation was stark and bleak. We now had proof that the Archmage Vorpat was truly warped with power, ready to sacrifice Protence and its entire people to the Deathwind for the ability to rule at the right hand of the new order. We sent Teveryn out to spread word of Vorpat’s betrayal while we planned to take action. If Vorpat was willing to make such a bargain, the situation was imminent. Hilde and Coronatum sought to find ancient maps in the possession of Sanford the itinerant cartographer that would help us storm the castle while Aislynn took to the streets to raise a mob against the betrayal of the Archmage. Lahktar and I tried to enlist the help of the Wanderers to break into the Archmage’s tower, but the thieves’ guild showed their inner cowardice, failing to come to our aid. I stormed out of the meeting, finished with these useless creatures who sought to avoid trouble even in the face of the end of the world, but Lahktar remained to soothe their oh-so-precious feelings. If bargaining with devils to hand over a nation isn’t enough to rouse the Wanderers, then nothing would be enough.

After a while, Aislynn had managed to raise a small mob, mainly young from the noble houses that had found themselves on the outside looking in during Vorpat’s rule. We led them to a meeting of the Lower Houses, to see if we could not instigate a coup. The assembled were paralyzed against acting, for fear of the Archmage, and so no rebellion was forthcoming. Instead, it would have to be a riot. We charged into the tower, causing chaos in our path, hoping to be able to infiltrate the tower using the mob as a cover. For a while, it worked; we breached the outer doors and found ourselves in the great spiraling hallway leading up to Vorpat’s sanctum high above the city. But soon as we entered the hall, the doors sealed shut behind us. Vorpat had figured out our ruse.

Soon enough we were confronted by an Earth Elemental, its controller, two demons and two rust monsters that all sought to block our further progress toward Vorpat. The rust monsters proved particularly dangerous as they began to corrode the armor of our warriors. One rust monster even managed to completely disintegrate Coronatum’s fearsome axe, leaving him with a demon sword taken from the Teveryn estate as his only weapon. After a fierce battle, we cleared out the room. Hilde struck down the Earth Elemental’s controller, after which the beast simply pummeled his way out of the room, leaving us to climb the tower and face the Archmage himself.

The Archmage Vorpat awaited us at the top of his tower. The tower was unimaginably tall, and even the largest of structures in the city below seemed like mere anthills from this height. The wind swirled and the sky grew dim, and the torchlight around the perimeter of the tower cast long, ominous shadows. The Archmage addressed me, asked me if my companions truly understood the meaning of the tower, whether they would help me to harness its power or prevent me from fulfilling my destiny. He proposed that I turn from this band of warriors who have accompanied me since our chance meeting outside the walls of Hallowdwell, which seems an eternity ago. But the wily wizard would not fool me. This man was responsible for the death of my parents, the enslavement of my sister and would have given this entire continent, maybe the entire world, to the Deathwind. His words did give me pause, for it was likely that my companions would not all cotton to harnessing the Ebon Tower’s great power. But these companions of mine are stalwart and true, brave and daring. The silver-tongued words of a sorceror could not, and would not, change that.

The party charged forth, and the battle was on. At first Vorpat fought alone; whether his allies had abandoned him or he was merely overconfident, I could not tell. But the combined might of our powers took Vorpat off-guard, and he found himself backpedaling quickly. I enveloped him in a sonic cage and then hit him with a blast of arcane energy, pushing him through the cage as it cracked like thunder. We continued to attack the Archmage, backing him up against the edge of the tower. It was at this point he summoned forth vipers from the air itself, mist given shape and form. They attacked us, and though they were not individually very powerful their sheer numbers gave Vorpat an opening. He called upon the power of the Archmage’s Staff, and called forth the spirit of Juno, possibly the greatest sorceress in the history of Centralia. However, this was not a true ghost, but merely a psychic echo channeled through the staff. Nevertheless, the spirit possessed great power, and could not be harmed. The tide of battle had turned toward the Archmage.

But for all the magic on display, sometimes cold, hard steel is the greatest power in the world. Hilde swung the Valkyrie with the fury of Kord himself, tearing into the flesh of Archmage. His howl of pain was unearthly, and he dropped to his knees. Sensing my opening, I showed my own mastery of the mists, transmuting them into a poisonous cloud that surrounded and suffocated the Archmage. He fell unconscious, and I dissapated the cloud. This was not mercy, for my sister and I would have our revenge. But this revenge will be cold. I will not give Vorpat the dignity of a death in battle. He will die pleading for his life, the way my parents did. It is the least he deserves for his crimes against our family, and once this is finished we shall consider the price to be repaid in full.

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Ouroboros' Journal, Entry 28
In which our wizard and his companions fight a most devilish foe

Delving deeper into the estate, who should show up behind us other than my longtime burden, the befuddled bard himself, Lahktar. He carried with him a sword, which he claimed had been directing him ever since he had split with us. It’s possible that he’s telling the truth, and it’s possible that he’s not lying. The sword may have some mystical property that allows it to hone in on some manner of artifact; we are in Protence, and such devices do exist. It may also be that Lahktar believes the sword has been leading him, when it is only his own sense of certainty that directs him. The other option, that Lahktar is lying to us, is also possible but seems unlikely. For one thing, what would he gain in lying to us? Also, he may be the worst liar on this or any other plane. The fact that people have actually believed him mainly comes from the fact that he seems too simple to lie to them. I have sympathy for this notion, but I know that the dragonborn is more than he seems. I have witnessed enough psychically-induced aneurysms to know that.

In any event, when one is going deeper into the heart of a devil-infested manor, it is better to simply accept help than to ask too many questions. Not too long after Lahktar had rejoined our ranks, we were set upon by tieflings commanding frost wolves, dead set against us continuing any further. We were at great disadvantage as we were attacked while Hilde scouted the upper levels of the estate to ensure that we would not be attacked from behind. In the absence of our rage-fueled barbarian, Coronatum attempted to draw attention away from the rest of our combat band, sure in his armor and fortitude. However, even the mightiest of warriors has limits, and the paladin came close to his as the wolves and wizards pooled their attacks against the sturdy knight. Luckily, Hilde came to our relief, her blade carving a path into the pack. But these enemies would not be so easily bested, and thought they had won the day when Hilde fell into an icy pit trap they had devised. But the barbarian’s wrath was a powerful thing, fueled by Kord and her own indomitable spirit. Hilde sprang out of the pit, fury in her eyes, and with strike after strike felled own enemies.

Upon seeing the futility of resistance, one of the wizards tried to escape into the deepest chamber of the villa. Luckily, I was able to use my manipulate sonic energy into a cage to prevent him from leaving so hastily. Thoroughly beaten and seeing the bloody fate of his comrades, he volunteered to tell us anything we asked. It would seem that there had been a partially successful attempt to summon a succubus; the devil had been summoned from the Nine Hells, but had not been bound correctly in the process, allowing it to thoroughly dominate the wills of those who had summoned it. Devil summoning is an ugly business, prone to such spectacular failures such as this, and I asked why bring forth a devil in the first place?

The wizard said that the Archmage Vorpat, the scourge of my family himself, had demanded that the summoning be done. And so the machinations, the wheels within wheels, were revealed. The succubus was but the first step, and the summoners were a sacrifice to it in exchange for the succubus to help with Vorpat’s true aim. Vorpat believes in the stories of our race’s origin, and he sought to do the ancestors one better. Instead of merely trading a piece of our humanity away for power, to bring the devil into our race, he seeks to trade the entire world to the devils that the ancestors trucked with so long ago. He seems to understand that he will not rule the world in this state of affairs, but it would seem being a lieutenant in such a world would be enough for him. In opening this portal, the Deathwind would spread like fire through a drought field, amplified beyond its current power into a force that would spread not just across the continent, but across the world. A grim plan indeed, and the antithesis our own efforts. The only positive aspect of these revelations was that my business with Vorpat was no longer merely personal, and that we now had something we could use to destabilize his power base. No doubt he plans to sacrifice all his lackeys upon this devil’s altar. Things like that tend to alienate your supporters.

We barged into the wine cellar that the succubus had taken over as her lair. A summoning circle, surrounded by chanters, lay across the room. Devils stood between us and the circle, and the air hummed with dark energy. We tried to rush to the other side of the room, but only Hilde and Aislynn made it across the room, tipping a cauldron of ritual blood and disturbing the ritual circle. The rest of us were unable to get past the devils’ phalanx, and the struggle began. Lahktar, to no one’s surprise, wound up falling into a fountain in the middle of the room, filled with bones and murky water. Perhaps thinking him the easiest to mentally dominate following his pratfall, the succubus tried to turn him to her cause and failed. For all of his harebrained tendencies, his psychic defenses are quite potent, making him very resistant to suggestion—a fact I am exceptionally familiar with from many, many years of experience.

This space, though it certainly gave many advantages to the devils, gave me certain advantages as well. Being a sealed cellar with no windows, it held in airborne toxins very well. I focused my will onto each atom of air, transmutating each one into a poison gas. Having created a heavier-than-air cloud of it, I settled the cloud onto the succubus to choke the fight out of her. She resisted, her devilish physiology resistant to the effects, but eventually she fell unconscious. I then moved the cloud into the ritual circle, where the effects of the toxin on the mortal chanters took effect even quicker, burning their eyes and lungs, an effective if brutal way to stop the chant. I dissipated the cloud and grabbed the succubus. The chanters had opened a small portal from the Nine Hells, and if there is one thing that devils want, it is to remain in the mortal world. So I asked the succubus, in return for leaving her in this plane, would she give me power? She said yes, but what power could be greater than the Ebon Tower? Would she give me riches? She said yes again, but what riches could be more valuable than the Tower? Would she love me eternally? She said yes, but what is ephemeral love to the tangibility of the tower? She had nothing to give me, and so I said as much. “It’s not enough,” I told her as I cast her into the portal and back into the Nine Hells, sealing it shut behind her.

Armed with the information that Vorpat sought to give over all of Protence, and the world itself, for his own selfish ends should be enough to destabilize his power. It is my hope that, in the confusion, we should be able to make our way into the Archmage’s Tower. Vorpat has unfinished business with my sister and I, and the time for calling in debts has come.

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