It has been a long time since last I updated this journal. Much has happened, too much to summarize in this one entry. In brief, we searched the tombs and found many creatures of the darkness, whom we send to their end. We saved a mother and child, who may have been blessed of Pelor. But more important, though perhaps only obvious to me and Elhazra how important, was a map and a skull we found. The map showed black tendrils, one of which originated from the crypt we discovered the map in, leading to great black mass deep in Southern Arktfar. This was proof, beyond fragmentary poems and my own troubled dreams. Proof of the Ebon Tower.
As for the skull, it was an onyx skull that I snatched from upon a dark altar. As soon as it touched my hand, I could feel it pulsing with cold. Elhazra wanted me to give it to her, and as soon as she asked for it, I felt a voice beyond words telling me to keep it for myself. I tried to shake it off as well as I could, but I kept the skull. I trust Elhazra, but I did not when she asked for the skull. The idea of parting with it seemed impossible.
After clearing the tombs we also sealed a black portal into the Shadowfell. Elhazra suggested that we were too hasty to do so, if it was perhaps a short cut to the Ebon Tower. The idea of closing off a road to the Ebon Tower filled me with a deep regret, but in my heart of hearts I knew I was not ready. The time has not yet come.
At least, that is what the skull told me. The leering thing I kept in a burlap sack. I loathed it, and yet I could not bear to be far from it. When I slept, it spoke to me. It showed me the tower. It showed me my destiny. I was ensconced in the tower’s focal chamber, a room filled with silver mirrors arranged at all manner of unnatural angles. I sat upon an onyx throne and all who entered the chamber threw themselves at my feet. A counselor came to me ear and whispered that our agents had heard discontent in a village, and with a casual thought the chamber hummed and discharged a great energy that seared the village out of existence, which I viewed in one of the mirrors. And then I saw my traveling companions, trapped in ebony cages around the dome of the focal room, a thousand black wires stabbed into their body, their faces stuck in awful grimaces of unimaginable pain. They screamed and convulsed as my anger erupted into black energy and obliterated the village, and it was their screams that woke me up.
The dreams continued until tonight. And the worst part was that each time, they bothered me less.
We sent Beezra ahead to escort the mother and child we rescued, and to deal with any business, personal and otherwise, she had with Deftblade. While Beezra returned to Hallowdwell, we made a detour to a small farming village that Hilde had passed by earlier. We discovered that the people of this hamlet had fallen to an illness that had turned them rabid. Without Beezra to aid us, we still acquitted ourselves well in battle. Lahktar is becoming more comfortable in combat, and Hilde’s combat prowess did not fail us. I have read in treatises on war, that fighting units, as they bond, become more efficient and effective combatants as they begin to learn not only the abilities of their comrades but how their own skills compliment those of their brethern. I dare say that our small group is beginning to find that bond, and that will serve us well in our journeys to come.
After cleansing the well, we returned to Hallowdwell. We heard of an attack upon the castle itself, which had spooked the people. It had also spurred Prince Donovan, the young heir to the thrown, to begin seeking out adventurers. I have heard of the “ivory tower”, which some might wish to apply to me, of having learned all theory but not having practical experience. In my case, this is a fallacy; I have decades of very practical experience having honed my will to alter the world around me in what the common folk call “magic”. Prince Donovan, however, seems to fit the mold quite exactly. One of his subject said he was “noble as a fairy-tale, and about as realistic.”
Hilde insisted we accompany her to a cluster of trees known as Sorrow’s Grove, on nothing more than what she called “instinct”. I’m not sure that I believe she had any reason to go, but having seen her cleave a Pale Reaver in one mighty blow, I am not inclined to spar with her on minor matters. But indeed, her instincts were right, and we found an orphaned girl named Willow, who had been chased for days by something Hilde seemed to recognize, which she called the “Woodwalker.”
Hilde’s story sent chills through my spine. She has also lost a father. Like my father, whose legacy was to leave me in the care of Meros and set forth my path, her father left her the legacy of that incredible sword of hers, the Valkyrie. I do not know what killed my parents. No one does. But I do know that if I knew that they had been murdered, and I knew who killed them, I would never rest so long as the murderer lived. Perhaps I am not the only one plagued by echoing dreams, though mine be of the future and hers of the past. Her story did shed much light on why she threw herself ten feet into a pit with a Pale Reaver to save a child, and I do not blame her for trying to save her own young self time and again.
Late that night, I cast a pall of magical silence upon our room and visited the Temple of Pelor while the others slept. The humans and halflings here look upon me as some malevolent demon, and I did not do anything to dispel that notion when an acolyte in the temple came upon me. Sometimes fear will get you what you need faster than love, and it takes much too much time and energy to change the prejudices of others. But when Bohm came out bleary-eyed, I knew that I could trust him. I gave him the skull. There are few people I trust, and with something like that skull, he was all that I could trust. I could not trust Al-Hiraj. I could not trust Elhazra. And most of all, I could not trust myself with it.
I hope that now that it is out of my possession, and that I have admitted to both Bohm and this journal its ill effects, that tonight’s sleep will be the first in several nights where I can sleep soundly. Or at least the closest to sound that I usually sleep.