The Chronicles of Hallowdwell

Ouroboros' Journal, Entry 24
In which our wizard's paranoia is only matched by his rage

After defeating Meros and his puppet, we investigated what his he and his cronies were excavating. After some digging, we unearthed a purple crystal. The Nightshade staff was practically humming with resonance. I placed the crystal atop the staff, and it felt right. It felt aligned. It felt at home. We interrogated Meros, who told us that he was dead, but that his spirit was strong enough that he did not pass through the realm of the Raven Queen. Perhaps his death, at the base of the tower, was such that he did not go into those shadowy lands. Whatever the case, he told us to come find him and restore him. I should have known that Meros would have some manner of plot behind all this. As Meros faded, Tethys regained control of his own self. He proved to be most unpleasant, but he did reveal that Aislynn had a brother, and that her brother was given to some wizard for unknown purposes. Perhaps he speaks of Vorpat, the great and feared Archmage of Protence, though I question that conclusion as he seemed to not know of this wizard…and every being in Protence knows Vorpat, second apprentice to Meros. In any case, Aislynn seemed to want to follow this thread. I don’t blame her. Having no family myself, were I to think one might have lived, I would do anything to see them again. But I have no time for such idle fantasies.

I have not time for them because I have a very real nightmare to deal with. That night, I was awoken by the sound of someone picking the lock to my door. The ward I placed upon the door still remained, so this was not some undead assassin come to revenge itself against me. I grabbed my wand and staff and fired a bolt of energy at the shadowy figure. Coming into the hallway, I was shocked and amazed to see myself, collapsed against the wall. Whatever demon this was, I could not let it live. I confined it within a sonic cage, to see if I could analyze it. Soon as I did, though, it disappeared, leaving Lahktar within the cage. Clearly, it had teleported by switching places with the sleeping bard. I dispelled the cage and searched the inn for any sign of the fiend. So it would seem that a doppelganger, one of those unshapen creatures of the Faewild who so long for fixed shape that they take on the appearance of a person, and then try to kill that person and live their life for as long as they can without being noticed. This one claimed it was me; it must have been wearing my shape for some time to have forgotten itself and come to believe in its delusion. I will have to watch my back, as this horrid creature will surely try to replace me again. The rest of the night went poorly as well, as dark spirits tried to break through my ward, and failed.

We spent some time attending to errands in the city the next day. I got the Dark Legion to promise to guard one of the Twilight Wanders to deliver an antidote to save the life of Prince Donovan of Allandria. No doubt the short-sighted twit will fail to show any gratitude for the deed, but his death would cause too much turmoil to let him die the slow painful death he deserves. Hilde, clearly trying to find a place for her warrior-culture skills in the midst of this civilization, came with a bounty from the Knights of Avandra to hunt down some heretic apostates. We could use the Knights’ favor, and the money if we are to move about freely in Protence, so we decided to run the errand. On the way there, Lahktar explained that these very cultists were responsible for his exile to Meros.

My rage became razor focused. As soon as we kicked in the doors of their temple, I began erupting in arcane power. Meros meant to only take three apprentices in his life; I was to benefit from his wisdom and knowledge alone. Instead, I was saddled with the very definition of a magical bungler, a lazy, loud-mouthed, ridiculous addle-brain who managed to coast along on natural talent. What opportunities had I missed? What could I have learned that I did not? My training was incomplete when Meros left that fateful day. If not for Lahktar, I might have already opened my Arcane University. Instead I am where I am, following breadcrumbs and running errands to curry the favor of idiots who can’t even realize that the end of days is upon them unless put aside their bickering and unite under one banner.

There is not a death horrid or painful enough that I can inflict upon these dragonborn.

The battle was a red blur to me. I know I was hit a few times from the bruises, and it seems the rest of the party took some pretty major blows, but all I could see in my mind was my lost opportunities and the need to channel that regret, anger, loss and sorrow through my wand and through anything that came so much as within five feet of me. I must have activated my fire shield at some point, as the smell of burnt flesh hung in the air. I can’t get that time back, but I got something back for it. They are lucky I was in a red blur of rage…now that I am back to my senses, I can think of much more terrible things I would have rather done to them instead.

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Troublesome...
Aislynn's Contemplations

These days there are shapes in the mist and it is unclear what they may bring. I am often blessed since my pact with a touch of foreknowledge, but things remain hidden…but you can feel the shifting and movement of things nonetheless.

Our sour friend is beginning to seriously worry me. I re-examined the artifact in his possession…something that caused him no small amount of paranoia…and I am sure of it the thing has its own agenda. It is slowly working on aligning Ouro more and more with its own dark designs. Things like this are so incidious…

I have explained to the bard what I fear and as always where his lifelong friend is concerned he heeds and pays attention. I mentioned it to the paladin as well…I am not sure he understood the seriousness of what I was implying.

I must talk to Hilde as well…

I have to be careful as I am sure that by now sour-puss is suspicious of me…artifacts love to use paranoia as a tool. It was proven to me when he pulled me aside for a rather odd, private discussion as we battled our way through the sewers of Lorut…it seems he thinks to remake the world. No one being should be alowed this power. I am sure my lady will forbid it…and that means she will act through Cara and I when needs be.

I seemed to surprise Ouro when I hummed my mother's favorite lullaby…then one that my baby brother used to ask me for when he was afraid and lonely. I did not think anyone outside my house would recognize the tune…strange…

With everything that is happening there seems to be invisible players tugging the strings. I am wondering of the intentions of the bard's and Ouro's old master…he seems somehow tangled in these events. I wish I could unsnarl this perplexing knot.

We are heading into uncertainty…

 

 

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Ouroboros' Journal, Entry 23
In which our wizard and his companions find all revealations come with strings attached

My contemplations were soon broken by the screams of a dragonborn woman in the chamber leading to the portal. We rushed in to discover the woman surrounded by sturges, some of them quite large. Coronatum, presented with a helpless innocent, sprung into action, striking at the sturges with his great axe, cleaving the larger ones in half and spewing holy lightning at the swarms of smaller but no less dangerous ones. The larger ones actually proved to be easier to kill—they made better targets—and eventually only the swarms remained. They tried to flee into the chamber we were previously in, only to be destroyed by the Knights behind us, who obliterated them with blasts of fire and lightning. The woman turned out to be the one whose house we investigated, the one working with the imposter. She was of no great importance, merely a local agent for this Tethys, or Corvus, or what have you. We took the potions she carried, and Hilde shook her down for gold that she owed, and then let her go. I did not realize that Hilde was taking side jobs; when we get back to base, I may have to question her about this. Gently question, of course.

Having saved the woman, we delved deeper, and found the portal. It glowed with that same cold, purple light as the previous portals had. Unlike the others, though, this one had been opened already, no doubt by our quarry. Upon the precipice, I walked through the portal and into the Shadowfell. The staff resonated with something akin to happiness, as if it was finally home. The portal led into some kind of temple, whose floors were covered in bone. Entering into the main room of the temple, we found Tethys, who called himself Meros. He moved and spoke oddly, and I recognized the classic signs of possession. Lahktar did as well, but this did not mean it was any less odd to hear the cadence and familiarity of Meros spoken through the voice of this puppet. He spoke in riddles, which the old man seemingly never grew tired of. He seemed not unsurprised to see us, and then he challenged me to “show what I have learned”. I knew that Meros would not give me any quarter, and then the time to act was immediate. I quick-drew my wand and sent a blast of arcane energy directly at his puppet’s chest, knocking him to the ground. The student has learned quite a bit since being released so abruptly from his tutelage.

Disturbingly, Tethys came up to his feet not of his own power, but as if lifted upon strings. I think Meros was upset that I, the student, got the jump on him. He immediately retaliated with a psychic wave of pain that racked my entire body. The battle was joined, and the party fended both the possessed Tiefling and his two cohorts. Seeing a chance to get an opening, Lahktar fought Meros for control of Tethys, and was able to get some control. I actually felt a twinge of compassion for the poor vessel, as not one but two minds vied for control of his body. Lahktar was able to make him stagger into our midst, where the party hacked, slashed and blasted “Meros” with all the might we could summon. However, the old wizard seemed to be able to access most of his powers and did quite a number on us, taking both Lahktar and Coronatum to the ground with his truly vicious magical attacks. I was able to take down one of his cronies, channeling the power of my Shadowfell Gloves through my mastery of cold to produce a very useful frostbite effect.

The floor this entire time had been covered in a thick mist, which I noticed was sapping our energy. The staff, however, seemed to be able to swirl the mist so that it would not affect me. Calling on Lahktar to assist, I was able to get the mist to only swirl around our foes, turning a danger into a powerful ally. I also added my own poisonous cloud, summoning it forth by changing the very air into hazardous particulate. The cloud covered Aislynn, but I knew she wore an amulet to protect her against such poisons. Beyond that…defeating Meros was the priority. I certainly would not want to kill such a valuable ally, unless it was necessary to defeat a superior foe. Having seen Meros tear through our dragonborn companions—in a borrowed body, no less!—I was willing to do what I had to do.

Finally, Hilde summoned forth a deep well of rage and cut through Tethys. His body was unable to serve as a functional shell for Meros’ great will, and he collapsed sure as a marionette whose master cuts the strings. Fallen to the ground, the party quickly moved to make sure that he was rendered helpless, should he awake and Meros channel through him again. We broke his wand and took his wolf’s pelt cloak. Now we wait to see if he awakens from his wounds, and see if he has any information about just what is going on. I understand that Aislynn knew this man from her previous life; so much the worse for him. And then what? Do we leave this temple behind and return to the dank sewers of Lorut? Or do we take this tunnel further, into the very heart of the tower? It is so close; I can feel the beating rhythms of its heart. And yet, perhaps we are not ready yet. We triumphed over Meros, but just barely. Facing him in his real form, which I am sure we will if we are to take the tower, we would probably all perish. I find myself filled with doubt as to my next action, and hope that whatever this puppet says helps me to find an answer.

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Ouroboros' Journal, Entry 22
In which our wizard and his companions are consumed by thoughts of destiny and by horrid living slimes

My destiny awaits, so close that I can feel it coursing through my every vein and artery, the very rhythm of my heart. It is inevitable; the most powerful force I have ever known has tested me and I have emerged victorious. It is as I have foreseen it. Soon the Ebon Tower will be mine, and once ensconced within that mystic engine, none shall remove me from it.

We emerged from the Temple of Zehir to find that the Knights of Avandra had defeated the cultists that rushed from it when we made our entrance. One knight had fallen, but overall the finely-trained soldiers of the merchant god had made easy work of the zealous but disorganized cultists. Coronatum carried the cult’s priest over his shoulder, determined to bring him to the Warden of the Knights of Avandra. I cared little what should happen to him, though the cultist should consider himself lucky that he got to live for at least a few more hours, considering the amount of frustration he had put Aislynn through. After making the trek back to Port Notrick, a trip that was far less comfortable now that the elemental resistance spell had faded, I decided to retire for the night.

Before I went to sleep, however, Aislynn once again wanted to investigate the Nightshade Staff that has been such a source of power to me. I have concluded that, having examined the artifact once and become aware of the power that it possesses, that she has begun to obsess over it. I must clearly watch her, as such obsessions might develop into something far nastier.

Later, I used Hilde’s contacts with the Grim Razors to find a representative of the Twilight Wanderers in town. Her contact pointed me to Kes, who I found in a nearby public house. Knowing that these thieves responded to fear and self-preservation over all, I donned my skull mask and pulled by cowl down low. When the rogue tossed his coin to the bartender, in an obvious display of easy charm, I snatched it out of the air. He immediately demanded to know my business, but his face betrayed his sudden terror upon meeting my eyes. I told him to sit in a darkened corner booth, and told him that it was I who he could thank for lifting the bounty on Deftblade. Now it was the Wanderers’ turn to repay the favor. Knowing that the specialty of the Wanderers was to find those things—and people—that are otherwise hidden, I told him that I wanted the Wanderers to find Meros. The true Meros, not this tiefling imposter cavorting about town. He agreed, and told me that the imposter was Tethus, also known in some circles as Corvus. Satisfied, I tossed him his coin back as I left him slightly unsettled in the booth.

Upon regrouping with the rest of the band, I noticed that Coronatum had acquired new gauntlets. It turns out that our foray out into the ruined temple had satisfied the Knights of Avandra’s pilgrimage, and that Coronatum was now a full-fledged Knight. It’s sometimes difficult to read a dragonborn, much less one as taciturn as Coronatum, but I had no doubt that he was beaming. Though his pilgrimage is over, he has been assigned to accompany us, to observe the Deathwind threat. Perhaps this is a sign that the Warden has come to his senses, and is beginning to heed my warning. I can only hope that it is not too little, too late.

We gathered together to investigate the sewers beneath Port Notrick. All of our evidence drove us there, sure as if it had been ordained. Before we began our exploration, Lahktar and I went to visit the house of a woman who had been working with the imposter Corvus. When we got there, Hilde was examining the lock on the door. She didn’t state her business there, but frankly I didn’t feel the need to question her further once she kicked the door down. Looking through the woman’s house, I found only the trinkets and baubles of a mere hedge mage. Whoever this woman was, she was little more than a dabbler. We did find a letter to her from this Corvus, which proved that Lahktar’s information was spot on. Just more reason to delve underneath the city.

We met with two Knights of Avandra at the sewer’s entrance; we would take point, and they would trail behind us. The sewers were carved from older versions of the city that had been built upon, and upon natural caverns under that. We came into the sewers, and the smell was expectedly noxious. As bad as the smell was, the sound was even more trouble. High pitched squeaking grew louder as a horde of rats erupted from the pipes, chased by gelatinous cubes that had been let loose in the sewers as a sanitary measure; the brainless, acidic slimes would engulf just about anything in its way and dissolve it, a dangerous but effective sewer-cleaning system. The frenzied rats clawed and scratched at us in their terror, and the slimes saw little difference between us and the other detritus found in the sewers.

Knowing that these slimes had no malicious intent, because intent requires some kind of brain, I decided to skirt the room and avoid them to find a way out. The others in our group chose to stand and fight, a questionable tactic in my opinion. Unsurprisingly, Hilde charged forward, and though she hacked off large chunks of slime, soon she found herself surrounded. I was able to blast a large enough hole in the cube to let her escape, and she disappeared into a side cavern. Meanwhile, the joys of fighting in a sewer were made clear as the pipes began emptying their filth upon us. I may look down upon hedge magic, but I am thankful that I know enough to clean off my cloak. Otherwise, I doubt that I’d be able to focus on anything but the smell.

I found a side door to the chamber, but there was a gate closing it off. I could see the handle to lift the grate out of reach down the passage. Using another hedge magic trick, I focused on pulling down the level, and with what little telekinesis I can muster, pulled the lever and lifted the gate. The rat swarms fled, removing that threat, but then the cubes turned their attentions to us. Coronatum and Lahktar were both swallowed up by the cubes, but then Hilde came charging in, having coated the Valkyrie with a fungus she found growing in the side chamber. It seems that the sewer engineers foresaw the possibility that someone would come down here, and so they left a fungus that dissolved the slimes to make sure no one was accidentally eaten. She dissolved two, while Lahktar managed to escape the slime eating him. After using his much stronger telekinesis to free Coronatum, he used his psychic powers on the slime. Curious as to how that would work against a brainless creature, I got my answer as the cube violently jiggled and then exploded, smearing us with further disgusting mess.

While the group cleaned up, I spoke to Aislynn, who waited on the verge of the next chamber. She could sense the portal further down. I could as well; the Nightshade Staff hummed with energy this close to the Shadowfell. I told her what I have told no other—of my destiny with the Ebon Tower. She seemed unsure of what it might mean, but I know what it means. It means the chance to reshape the world, the chance to erase the illusory boundaries of nations and races that divide us, a chance to impose justice on an unjust world. This has been my destiny, since my birth. It is my purpose in being born. I had one sought to re-establish the Arcane University in order to bring about this world, but the Tower’s might is much quicker, and much more certain. With it being thus, all other considerations must fall to the wayside. What must be done to make this happen must be done; no person, morality or god must be too sacred lest I lose this chance. While lost in these thoughts, Aislynn started humming the tune I have heard in my dreams. I asked her about it, and she said her mother used to hum it. Not having been raised in Protence, I asked if it was a common lullaby. She said it was not. Wherever she picked it up, I was glad to hear it. It gave me a measure of peace before I crossed the threshold of fate.

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Lahktar's Coloring Book, Entry 1

Lahktar's Coloring Book Page 1 Lahktar's Coloring Book Page 2

Credit to assFACE for Page 1 and JamesOuroboros for Page 2.

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Ouroboros' Journal, Entry 21
In which our wizard and his companions delve deep into a heart of darkness

Questing with this group has taken me to all the nicest places that Centralia has to offer.

Following our battle with the cultists in the antechamber, we proceeded behind the curtains leading into the central hall of the temple. Water covered the floor, high as our ankles, sloshing with every step. Drawing back the curtain, we found the cultist that had fled the carnage in the antechamber with a very smug smile on his face, surrounded by two exceptionally large constrictors and two fire snakes, whose heat upon the water caused them to be surrounded in a cloud of sizzling steam. Hilde, the least likely of us to be deterred, took that smile off his face by throwing one of her hatchets directly at his head. Unfortunately, he was hit with the heft of the hatchet and not the blade. Aislynn followed up with a blast of dark energy, and that horrible smile was replaced with an even more horrid rictus of anger.

The large snakes stayed back, content to guard the passage into the main chamber. The fire snakes, however, began spraying gobs of sticky, flaming venom at us. Aislynn barely reacted when hit by this pitch-like substance, but Coronatum and Hilde found it most unpleasant. Seeing the pain these flames caused, I focused myself on freezing the flaming venom sacs of the snake closest to our warriors. The cultist, infuriated that his attempts at intimidation failed, rushed forward…directly into the walking abattoir that is Hilde and Coronatum, who bashed and slashed him for her arrogance. As they fought, the cultist suddenly seized up, shuddered and dropped to the ground, his eyes lolling. I turned to see Lahktar flashing a dopey grin at me. He’s really getting to be frighteningly handy with his psychic attacks.

His psychic powers came in handy again as one of the large snakes, antagonized by us dropping the cultist, suddenly wrapped around Hilde. Using his telekinetic abilities, he pulled her out of its tight coils. Hilde, now very angry, swung her blade in a great circle around her. Deep gashes tore into the snakes, sending sprays of blood around her in a monstrous mockery of ballet. Without the leadership of the cultist, and with the kind of sensible self-preservation often seen in animals, the snakes fled into cracks in the alcoves of the central hall. As Aislynn watched our antagonists flee before our might, she noticed very large, masterfully cut rubies set into the alcoves, part of what was probably once a lavish side altar. Using her utility knife, she was able to remove them from their settings, spoils for the trouble that these cultists had put us through.

A pool of water that lead down deep into the waterworks of the temple. The constant bubbling and gurgling of the elemental water made it very difficult to see down, but I felt somewhat easy to think that a very large creature could make its way through this tunnel. I tried to freeze the water over, but all I was able to do was cause a thin layer of ice to form. Particularly with the unbound energy of elemental water, it would not hold for long. There would be no way to seal this pool. But I needed to put those thoughts out of mind. Our way now clear, we pushed open the heavy stone doors leading into the main chamber.

We found ourselves on a stone platform surrounded by a giant underground lake, with a raised dais on either side. A band of cultists, ready to make their last stand in service of their god, waited ready for us. Between the party, we read into each other’s eyes that maybe, just maybe, we could bluff them into dropping their guard. After all, the Knights of Avandra waited outside. We had thinned their ranks considerably. Why should we risk further injury running their errand? So Hilde rolled her eyes and pulled out the Valkyrie, which faintly glowed in the presence of this evil, as if she was being led, possessed even. I had to give her credit; she did a good job. I would have been convinced. Lahktar opened his eyes wide, as if he was in awe…and maybe he was. I never know with him. The others, I think, tried to go for a diversion, but the die had been cast. We would pretend to come as supplicants. A hooded priest of Zehir upon the dais to our left watched us, but did not signal to attack. Here was our opportunity.

I stepped forward and claimed that we had come seeking the dark power of Zehir, tricking the Knights of Avandra to lead us directly to the temple. I’m sure that the skull mask I wore helped to convince them this may be true. Or maybe, more troublingly, I was not completely lying. These cultists were small-time, their temple a ruined and decaying monument to a far more impressive religious sect that once worshipped the dark god of serpents and poisons. But the power that must have one imbued this temple. It must have been overwhelming. And it was possible that some artifacts from that time still remained, like the rubies we had pilfered. Inside me, I could feel the gears beginning to turn. The power in those artifacts would be useful, no doubt. And did I not have a strong enough will to ensure that I controlled the artifacts, and not the other way around? Insidious whispers, slithering like the very snakes that Zehir treasures so dearly.

The cult’s priest, hidden in the shadow of his cowl, was difficult to read. He suggested that perhaps Zehir could tell whether we were sincere. Upon saying so, a titanic crocodile emerged from the depths and crawled out onto the small stone island we stood upon. Fear ran like melted lead up and down my spine. I turned to the priest and put on a brave face, telling him that testing us would lead to him being fed to his own god, but I could not tell if my words phased him. The rest of the group’s eyes grew wide with entirely justified terror at the sight of the monstrosity before us, with jaws as long as I am tall. Dealing with cultists would be one thing, but dealing with this “god” would be something wholly different. These fools worshipped this terrible thing as if it were their god, but it was merely a beast, and thus subject to its own whims. They had as much control over it as I do the setting of the sun and the rising of the moon.

But the cultists, unsure of our intentions, were not at the ready for an attack. We took advantage of their hesitation by unleashing a flurry of violence. Hilde threw her hatchet and this time it landed blade-first, embedded in the skull of one cultists. I used some of my reserves of will to spontaneously ignite the oxygen in the air, charring two of the cultists and burning both the crocodile and the cult leader. Lahktar spat acid into the face of one, who threw himself in the water in a vain attempt to stop his flesh from melting, and caused another one to have a seizure and fall into the unforgiving elemental waters. The rest of the group quickly joined in the fray, tearing through the rank-and-file cultists.

I jumped across to the dais with the cult leader and surrounded myself in a ring of fire, daring the priest to lash out at me. Focused on defending his false god, he instead cast a spell that caused green snaking tendrils of energy to erupt below the party, trying to entrap them. Hilde, through sheer force of will, freed herself and charged the crocodile in a berserker rage, her fear translated into mindless anger. The Valkyrie glowed brightly as she came down hard into the crocodile, who lashed around in pain. Indeed, the beast could be hurt. Aislynn, none too happy about being restrained, teleported onto the same platform as I, but as she did, the cult leader’s robes suddenly drooped and a giant constrictor with humanoid eyes emerged from underneath. Clearly, whether these cultists were delusional or not, they had some power. The priest grabbed Aislynn tightly, crushing her in his coils…only angering her further, which is a remarkably poor tactical decision when dealing with our temperamental companion.

Coronatum suddenly seemed to have an idea flash before his eyes, and he withdrew the figurine that the merchant we saved had given us. I wondered if he was going to use it as a decoy against the crocodile when he threw it, but as he did, the figurine became a full-sized white elephant. Its trumpeting call filled the chamber. Picking up Coronatum with its trunk, it tried to stomp down upon the crocodile. Hilde climbed the elephant to give herself momentum for another crushing blow, but the crocodile fought back and tore into the illusory creature, while transformed back into a figurine. But its appearance had been enough to turn the tide of the battle, and calling upon the favor of his goddess, he buried his great axe deeply into the skull of the crocodile, who thrashed and then was still. Seeing the death of his “god”, the priest transformed back into his actual form and wept. He received little sympathy from Aislynn, who punched him hard enough with an uppercut to send him flying back to the center platform. He landed unconscious at the feet of the triumphant Coronatum, who bound him in preparation to bring him to justice in Lorut.

I took what components I could from this unnatural crocodile, and Aislynn and Lahktar fought over some scrolls that the priest had on his person. In any event, we were done with this place, and the sooner, the better. And yet, I knew that we soon would be underground again, in another dank hole as we explored the sewers of Port Notrick, trying to find the portal to the Ebon Tower seen on my map…and on the map “Meros” had at his villa. Truly, my adventures with this party take me to the loviest, most exotic places imaginable in Centralia. It’s enough to make me long for the days where Meros’ Tower comprised my entire world.

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Ouroboros' Journal, Entry 20
In which our wizard's paranoia begins to grow along with the dangers of Lorut

For such a large place, word spreads quickly through Port Notrick.

Following my…outburst outside of the Silver Drake, Coronatum, Hilde and I proceeded to our original destination, the temple-barracks of the Knights of Avandra. Coronatum stated that the knights respected strength and wisdom, and were not to be trifled with. Considering Coronatum was the only example I personally knew, I had no reason to not take his advice. Upon entering the hallowed ground, the Warden (whether that is his name, or title, I am still unsure) told a group of clucking merchants surrounding him that we would be the solution to their problem. I cannot say that I appreciated being volunteered, but I decided to use this opportunity to ask for the might of the Knights of Avandra to join forces with the Allandrians to fight back the Deathwind. But the Warden, his eyes severe, said that he could not bring the disorganized might of Lorut to bear himself as a king…and that he was loathe to acquiesce to the request of a murderer. The Warden had heard of what had happened out in front of the Silver Drake Inn, already, and he had already made his judgment.

It seems, no matter the nation, those in power fail to see the dangers before their noses. When I warn them of the dire fate that will destroy this continent if left unchecked, they find their reasons to do nothing. Instead of heeding my message, they focus on me instead, my failings, my shortcomings…and their prejudices. Inside, I boiled at the sanctimonious lizard, but anger would do me no good. I calmed asked what it would take bring the Knights into the fold, and he suggested that ending the caravan attacks by the cult that we had earlier chased into the desert would go far in restoring our reputation. And this is when I saw him for what he truly was. Here was a true servant of Avandra, as the Lorutians worshipped. For the right price, we would gain his aid. For all of his religious trappings, he was as mercenary as the fat, cowardly merchants that milled around him like pigs waiting for a teat. In times like this, I desperately wish I had developed my course of magical studies like Lahktar, where I could plant thoughts directly into the minds of hardheaded idiots like the Warden, to make them do what was necessary. Not having these powers, though, we had no choice. I agreed to run their errand for them.

Upon agreeing to their terms, the Knights opened up their armory. The enchanters there transferred the powers of the Doom Sisters’ scourge to Coronatum’s axe, and I spent many a pretty penny to obtain a Skull Mask. Immediately as I put it on, I knew it was right for me. I felt the metal turn liquid like quicksilver for a moment, forming to the contours of my face. The look on the faces of the enchanters was enough to let me know that this was an artifact that would be of great service. We returned to the Silver Drake Inn to meet up with Lahktar and Aislynn, who had been skulking through the villa that “Meros”, or Corvus as he was alternately known, had stayed at. They reported that it was locked and warded, but that they managed to break the wards. This gave me hope that it was not Meros; try as we might, Lahktar and I could not make the slightest progress with the wards that sealed shut Meros’ Tower once we left it. They found maps, including one that corresponded with the portal map of the Ebon Tower. Curiously, the portals we had closed were crossed out, and the one that existed in Port Notrick was circled. I do not believe that Meros is behind all of this, but Aislynn planted the seed of doubt in my mind. I am unsure, but I will put those questions out of mind. Perhaps sealing this portal will help to reassure me that Meros would not be caught up in some tawdry slave-trading operation.

That night, I decided to visit Lorut’s temple of Pelor. It was structurally similar, though it was much smaller than the temple in Allandria, appropriate given the far few devotees to Pelor in Lorut. Nevertheless, a dragonborn cleric named Patrin was there. I know that Bohm has been a stalwart ally, but he is not necessarily the best organizer. I spoke of his temple’s brave fight against the Deathwind, and that the temples of Pelor all through Centralia needed to band together to face this crisis. She hesitated, but saw the wisdom of my words. She pledged her temple’s aid to the cause, and that she would begin to work with Bohm to bring to bear the entire clergy of Pelor on this continent. Where political leaders fail to act, those with clear vision must take the lead.

The next morning, we met up with a contingent of Knights who would accompany us to the cultists’ temple. The trip there was far easier than our first visit, due to a ritual cast by the Knights as we left that would help us to resist the elements—a ritual that I must master, if we are to remain in Lorut for much longer. Along the way, Aislynn sidled up to me to inquire about the staff that I had taken from the gnome. She wanted to see it again, to “study” it. She is a tricky one, trying to prey on my academic curiosity to separate me from the staff, this staff, which is the only thing that has been proven able to completely purify lands tainted by the necrotic energies of the Deathwind. I know she has made pacts with dark forces, ones that would no doubt like to destroy the power this staff represents. I suggested I would let her investigate it with me—where I can keep my eyes on her. She is trickier, more cunning that I thought. I must watch her more closely.

When we reached the ruins, the Knights began work on unsealing the large stone slab covering the entrance to the cultists’ lair. Now that I wasn’t suffering miserably under the crushing sun of Lorut, I investigated the site more thoroughly. I recognized from my studies symbols associated with the god Zehir, lord of snakes and poisons. Coronatum said that when the dragonborn came to Centralia from their previous homeland, these ruins already existed, and that some of the largest of the dragonborn cities out in the desert were abandoned centers of some great cult to Zehir. I found this fascinating; if true, the common assumption of the derivation of the name of the Snake River might actually have a darker, older reason than a simple mistranslation. But such academic wonderings would have to wait, for as the Knight finally unsealed the entrance to the temple, a wave of cultists stormed out and attacked. The Knights drew their attention as our party of adventurers charged into the now-open entryway. As soon as we got inside, the slab slammed shut again. We could not turn back now, only press forward through the temple.

The first thing I noticed was the dampness of the ruins. The floor at the bottom of the stairway into the ruin had ankle-deep standing water—in the midst of a desert! The sound of rushing water could be heard from deep within the temple. That kind of wild, untamed flow could not possibly be from some natural, underground reservoir. Doubtless, the ancients who built this place built it immediately on top of a tear in this plane, one where the water Elemental Chaos flowed into this world. It was, quite frankly, brilliant, a design choice that would allow this ruin to support hundreds, maybe thousands, in the middle of an unforgiving desert. However brilliant it was, it was also disturbing…who knew how many cultists swarmed under the sands here?

A second wave of cultists awaited us at the bottom of the stairs, clearly the mop-up in case the first wave of cultists could not overpower the Knights outside. Before I could even get down the stairs, the cultists tried to attack me. Picking up a trick after observing Aislynn, I teleported away from the attack, setting myself up to perfectly flank those who would attack me. Hilde, being who and what she is, hurled herself from the stairs and directly into a cultist on the landing, sending them both crashing to the floor. Coronatum swung his mighty axe and cut down one of the snake-tongued cultists. For my part, I put on my newly-acquired mask and unleashed an orb of pure kinetic force. It hit one of the cultists with a cracking sonic boom, and the waves of energy ricocheted into two more cultists, sending one of them into the wall with a sickening, but satisfying, crunch. Lahktar even got into the swing of things, using his powers to attack the very mind of our foes. One that tried to attack him suddenly seized up, and blood seeped from his nose, ears and mouth as he crumpled to the floor. Sometimes, I forget that he has that power. I suspect I forget out of convenience…as having to think about him having access to that kind of ability scares me out of my wits if I think about it too long.

One of the cultists kept out of the fray, near a lever. After I caught sight of him, I fired off a wild shot of dark energy, which only served to spook him. He pulled the lever and rushed behind a pair of curtains leading further into the temple. Meanwhile, Aislynn finished off the last cultist in this antechamber, collecting his soul-energy for her to channel as we delved deeper into these ruins. Now we wait here, catching our breath and girding ourselves for the stiffer resistance we are sure to find the deeper into this ancient cursed place we go. We can only hope that the sound of that slab slamming shut was not the sound of our sepulcher closing.

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Strange and stranger still...
Aislynn's Contemplations

It is odd since aquiring my little cat familiar and the victory over Julius I feel calmer. Not quite at peace, perhaps, but more focused and less volatile.

There seems a role-reversal happening…our fearless leader may be losing his cool as I regain mine. I am beginning to wonder what eats at him. He lost all rationality and became explosively angry when a mercenary merely repeated a rumor that involved the name of Ouros' former teacher…

It took me and Hilde to keep him from doing something rash.

I am beginning to worry…after all he is very powerful. If something dark claims his soul it will cause us all great trouble…I need to figure out what is causing his shift in personality before it is too late for all of us.

Other than that things are progressing…we have leads to investigate and a possible quest that will lead us into my former homeland eventually. 

Despite a rather annoying encounter with a group of the Raven Queens followers (who would not listen to reason)...who were intend on a pound or two of Ouros' hide…we are now off to move along with some important errands and information gathering.

 

 

 

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