The Chronicles of Hallowdwell

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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You can't go home again...and why would you want to?
Aislynn's Musings

We are here…in the place of my birth. It is thick with memory…and laden with sorrow. Nothing much has changed. My former home however, lies crumbling. No doubt and object lesson to remind everyone of their proper places in Vorpat's world.

I wonder did I ever have any attachment to this place, my home that went beyond the love I had for my family? The places, the sights, while well know…mean little. The only fond things that are here are the memories of my father in his study, my mother spontaneously breaking into song, trying to teach my baby brother to navigate stairs to get up to father's library…

 ...and all of it is tinted with blood…tained by the violence that followed. I remember Vorpat striding through the halls of our home after the carnage…deciding my fate. I think I would like to pull his eyes from his face still for the way he looked at me and at Ouro…like we were insects to be crushed. Perhaps I will get my chance? Maybe I will be moved to mercy again? I think this unlikely in Vorpat's case…He was vile then…and I doubt that he has reedeemed himself since.

 

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Ouroboros' Journal, Entry 27
Wherein our wizard and his companions find that demons lurk in the heart of the city

After dealing with Varya, I rejoined the rest of the group at her manor. They had rescued Gyrus, the son of a Lorutian merchant who had offered a reward to us for releasing him. Aislynn was able to determine that there was still some manner of hex on the young man, which she told the impressed Knights of Avandra we sent him home with. Our own attempts to lift the curse were no doubt stunted due to the massive effort and will I had put into ensuring Varya’s punishment, but surely the Knights could keep him safe until someone in Port Notrick would be able to dispel the hex.

Lahktar still had not shown up, but all indications pointed to him heading toward Bal Tehnrot. I remember that he seemed rather insistent when we were in Lorut to visit the capital, despite having no particular interest in Protencian culture (or the arcane, for that matter). We decided to stay one last night at the Sulphur Springs Inn before making our way to the capital. While there, Hilde and I had an illuminating conversation. She asked me my opinion on whether the Ebon Tower could be harnessed to restore fertility in her homeland. I told her that no one knows for sure the full scope of the Ebon Tower’s might, but that it was certainly within the realm of possibility. She said that her entire point in coming to Centralia was to restore Ostlund, and that the Ebon Tower seemed to be the key. I know that Aislynn and Coronatum seem awed by the Tower, perhaps to the point of unreason. And yet this unschooled barbarian understood what they could not. We have within our grasp the means to change the world. I assured Hilde that when we take the tower I would work immediately on the problem of her homeland, and asked for her support if the rest of our group had doubts. She agreed. Hilde does not speak often, but when she does it is inevitably worth listening to her. Quite the opposite of our bard, who speaks often but rarely says anything of particular insight!

The journey to Bal Tehnrot was, perhaps unusually so for us, rather uneventful. The weather was clear and cool and dry, and the highway to the capital was exceptionally maintained. No one and nothing accosted us on the road, no bandits or monsters. Indeed, the magnificent sense of order in Protence, carved out of such an unforgiving environ, is what I respect most about this land, even as I would be willing to bring it all crashing down to avenge my family against the Archmage Vorpat.

It is no coincidence that Vorpat’s tower is the first thing that a traveler sees as they approach Bal Tehnrot. The Archmage’s Tower, at the very heart of the city, is unbelievably tall. The spire ascends into the sky, so tall that it would surely be swallowed by clouds during one of Protence’s rare rainstorms. As a traveler gets closer, it becomes obvious that the city is designed as a circle, with the tallest buildings at the very center and each concentric ring of the city progressively shorter all the way to the ivory walls that surround the city. Only when you get close do you notice the vast labyrinth of shanties build beyond the city walls, belonging to the vast majority of outlanders who are not trusted vassals of a noble. The shanties offended me, though not in the poverty of those that reside there. No, they offended me in their dirtiness, in their chaos. In this land of order, they were a blotch, a dark stain on a beautiful white dress.

Upon entering the city, we wrote our names upon a scroll. Upon the last of us signing, the ink suddenly disappeared from the page. We were told that our names were recorded in a giant book entrusted to the First’s agents, who were very keen upon knowing who was coming into town. Walking the streets, we saw various nobles in lavish clothing, which was nothing new, except that they were accompanied by all manner of bound spirits and creatures. Hellhounds on leashes walked before some; others had imps whispering who knows what manner of dark secrets perched upon their shoulders. Others wore around their necks magic stones, encased in ornate jewelry settings. Still others carried with them arcane implements of every imaginable size and shape. Wands, staffs, orbs, enchanted cloaks and a thousand other items that would be viewed as wonders in other lands were sold here on street corners. No wonder Protence has thought itself immune from the Deathwind. They are wrong, of course, but at least their hubris seems justified.

We decided to keep up Aislynn’s masquerade as “Lady Maelstrom”, and therefore decided to rent a villa in a decent but not notable district of the city. In doing so, we passed by our family’s ancestral villa. The place had fallen into disrepair as the family of extremely minor nobles could not hope to maintain it at the standard our family did. The site of the place of my birth crumbling only harden my resolve to visit my vengeance upon Vorpat…and Meros, too. The accommodations at our rented villa were nice enough to keep up appearances, and I think that Coronatum and Hilde were both rather pleased to find a bathtub that would fit their frames. In point of fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen Coronatum out of his ceremonial armor. Not that I particularly want to see that, either. Even still, it was an odd thing them to be so excited about. Then again, it’s not like luxury has been the standard for our journey thus far.

Since we were in the very center of arcane artifacts on this entire continent, I decided to visit the markets to see if there was anything of particular interest to me. And indeed, there was! My problem was not too little, but far too much. I would have bought the entire market if I could. As such, with our limited funds, I bought a polyglot gem that let me understand the infernal languages, which might be quite useful in my studies. I also bought a scroll that listed the components and necessary preparations for a magic circle of protection ritual, which I planned on performing around our villa in case my doppelganger, or any other assassin, were to assail us. Coronatum, frustrated by our more mobile enemies’ ability to run circles around him, picked up a crossbow to ensure that enemies beyond the reach of his axe would not be spared his wrath.

While we were out shopping, Aislynn had spoken to a family that had once sided with ours. It turned out that their villa was overrun by demons, possibly some kind of summoning spell gone wrong. She had agreed to help them, and so we prepared to assault their manner and get to the bottom of what had happened. When we arrived at the manner, it seemed that the servants had been possessed and bent to the will of their new demonic masters. Hilde charged into the mass, and Coronatum unleashed holy lightning from his maw, clearing their bodies of their possession without hurting them too much. The demons were another story, and their fiery attacks vexed Hilde and Coronatum particularly. It was when I saw my sister Aislynn attacked, though, that a new power manifested. The anger I felt at her being attacked, this new protectiveness I felt, took the physical form of a large hound, that immediately went to her defense. But my feelings blinded me, and I was hit hard enough to draw blood by one of the demons, who had figured out the origin of the hound. I retaliated with a blast of holy energy from the Nightshade Staff, which bought enough time for Hilde to come strike my assailant down. The second demon, now facing us alone, tried to bargain with Coronatum, who very predictably only made him attack more fervently. Worn down by the paladin’s strikes, Hilde swooped in to finish the demon. We rested in the courtyard for a moment, long enough to catch our breath and for me to write this entry. The villa itself remains, and surely things will only get harder as we press onward.

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The twists and turns...
Aislynn's Musings

Life is a strange thing…how odd that you can walk a long and twisted path to find that what you were searching for was right there all this time.

Varya has at last told me that the brother I thought lost has been alongside me all this time. Ouro is my sibling…kidnapped and left in the hands of Meros to raise. I wonder what motive had the old man to become involved…what was his stake in the fate of my family? Did he aid in my father's downfall? If yes, then why…what has he to do with the goings on in my homeland? And why the wish to raise my brother? I did not trust him when he showed himself to us in Lorut…and I think he plays a game that is his own and cares little about what its effects are on others.

Ouro became enraged when the truth was revealed…the need for vengance rolled over him like a wave. He even attacked Coro, who has been nothing but a steady, worthy companion, for dealing the deathblow to Varya. I worry about how his temper has changed since gaining hold of the Nightshade staff.

It also did not help that we woke earlier to find ourselves sans our bard. I wonder what troubles may have befallen him…

I must now even more so assure that Ouro comes away from all of this with his sanity intact…it is my duty as his remaining family to safeguard his life as my own. I have found my brother, and along that path somehow regained my own soul. I no longer burn with the need for vengance…I see now that often deeds that are done come home to roost with their doer eventually be they good or bad.

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Ouroboros' Journal, Entry 26
In which our wizard comes to know what loss really means

Never did I know that I could gain so much, and lose so much, in a single instant.

We woke to find that Lahktar had gone missing, without any warning or telling anyone where he was going, much less why. He has always been impetuous and prone to wandering off, but this time still surprised me. He must know that we stand on the verge of a great battle, one in which the very fate of the world hangs in balance. Perhaps he grew sensible, or cowardly, or sensibly cowardly thinking about the overwhelming odds that we face. But I cannot imagine him abandoning this quest even while knowing the dangers we will face. No, I believe that a dream of the Golden Lyre must have spoken to him; perhaps being in Protence, with it so close, it has cast a kind of spell upon his mind to the point that he obsesses over it. Or, perhaps, he has not told us all he knows of the lyre and its powers. Maybe it is needed for us to emerge victorious. But why go alone? I will ask him that when we see him again, and I cannot believe I am writing this, but I do hope we see the buffoon again.

After emerging from the ogre crypt, we found Lady Varya and a few retainers waiting for us. She claimed that she was coming to see that we still lived after such a long time under the earth. She asked for the artifact we found, but Aislynn demanded the information we were promised for the delve. And so the Lady Varya revealed the truth of Aislynn’s brother, which was my truth as well, for I am Aislynn’s brother. We had no proof other than her word, and yet we both knew it was true. And in one moment, I gained a family that I never had, one that I had wondered about in only the most academic sense as Meros had always been my only family. And here was the final proof to me that Meros was never what he seemed. All of it, my entire life, has been a charade. I am not a person. I am an instrument, some tool honed in Meros’ workshop for some obscure purpose. For his benefit, he sacrificed my youth and my family. And this woman uses this sacrifice as a dagger, callous and cruel.

My hatred, my bile erupted and I choked the air around her with poison. If I could steal the very last breath from her lungs, it would not be enough. This woman needed not to die, but to suffer, to suffer for the injustice she had done upon me and my family. She and her retinue seemed caught off guard by my sudden fury, as though she did not expect my reaction. Perhaps the fact that she has had twenty years to assuage her conscience means that this is an old scar, a long-healed wound. But for me this wound is fresh, visceral and bleeding.

The battle raged on, and the clamor of battle attracted some meddling noble who actually thought to turn this personal battle into an opportunity for profit. He and his cronies began attacking us, hyenas looking to pick us and the Lady Varya off in a weakened state and make off with whatever valuables we possessed. While we fought, I warned him to back off, as this wasn’t his fight. Aislynn tried to reason with him, but I was in no mood for reason. With my anger erupting, I shouted to him that I was an aspect of Bane himself, a spirit of pure vengeance made flesh, and to continue to attack us was to be our enemy. Though it was a bluff, an effective one considering that he turned his attacks toward Varya’s minions at that point, I wondered how much of it was untrue. For within me I felt a kind of power I had never known, the power of vengeful fury. But that fury was not to be entirely satisfied. As Varya realized that she was in dire straits, she climbed to the top of a fallen pillar to gain the advantage. But Coronatum clambered after her and with a single swing of his axe removed the head of Varya, and thus ending my chance at revenge. I have heard the phrase “seeing red”, and always assumed it metaphor, but in that moment my vision turned red as blood. In that moment, Coronatum robbed me and my sister of our family’s rightful vengeance, something that we could never have back. I erupted forth with pure fury, hitting Coronatum and knocking him from the pillar into the acid cloud I had summoned. I could not think straight, my only though being that of what I had lost. Aislynn came to me, telling me to stop attacking my ally, but what ally steals something so important? And yet, the battle was not over; Lady Varya’s retainers remained yet alive. I poured my disappointment into them, and soon enough they were dead as well.

The noble who interrupted us wanted the treasure, and I could not care what baubles Varya had. He asked for whatever we found in the tomb, and I threw the melted sigil at his feet. What need had I for such a trinket, when my true prize was snatched from me? And then, I had an idea. Death did not have to be the end. Though surely Varya’s spirit was making its way through the Raven Queen’s realm, there were powerful magicks that could summon it back if gotten to soon enough. I unsheathed my dagger and removed Varya’s head before we headed back to town. The rest of the party headed to her estate to see what could be found there, while I headed to see Elhazra, for I would need her help to get my family’s vengeance.

We set the head inside a magic sigil, and drawing upon the combined might of Elhazra and myself, summoned forth Varya’s spirit, which had not crossed over yet, back into her head. She awoke, in terror at her situation, and I knew we had succeeded. But the ritual was not over yet. To make this permanent would require greater force than will. It would require blood. And so Varya spilled my family’s blood one last time, as I took my dagger and cut across my own hand, devoting my very own life force to bind her spirit. There was now a part of me within this vessel, a part that I will never get back until I choose to end the binding. I took the now reanimated head back out to the ruin as she begged, pleaded and cursed me. When we arrived, I finally deigned to answer her. I simply wanted to know—was she sorry for her actions? For if she was truly contrite, perhaps my heart could have been moved to close the circle. But she was not sorry, save for having to answer for her crimes. And so I cast her head deep into the ruins and sealed the chasm shut, so that she should remain there for as long as I deem fit. I do not intend to make this an eternal punishment, for were I to die her spirit would be released. Nor would that fit her crime. She robbed me of my family for twenty years, and so for twenty years will she think about her crimes. Perhaps I will return after half of that to see if the time has given her new perspective.

With the deed done and my family avenged, I returned to the Sulphur Spring to meet with the rest of my compatriots. I did not tell them what I did, for that is a matter between family. When I can, and soon, I intend on telling Aislynn, for she should know. But for now, we were not alone and the time was not right; we have yet to really speak about these familial revelations. I think we should get through those conversations before I reveal more to her. For now, our party focuses on what happened to our bard. All signs point to Bal Tehnrot, where the Golden Lyre and Vorpat, the mastermind behind all of this pain for my family, can be found.

I have lost so many things in the past days. But I have gained a sister. My loss is great, but so is my gain. That will have to be what comforts me.

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Ouroboros' Journal, Entry 25
In which our wizard delves into histories dangerous and dark

After completing our errand of extermination against the heretics, we decided to leave Lorut and travel to Protence. Lahktar and Coronatum seemed intent upon rescuing the young whelp whose lack of manners had gotten him detained in Protence. Hilde, for her part, seemed to relish the opportunity to slaughter new, exotic opponents on the field of battle. Aislynn seemed quite reluctant to travel back to her homeland, which seemed to be home no more to her. As for me, I was rather looking forward to my first foray into Protence. Despite my heritage, and Protence’s well-established arcane history, Meros never saw fit to take me there. Perhaps he had his reasons. But then again, doesn’t he always have his reasons? For what it’s worth, perhaps it is best that I did not cross into the Violet Lands until now, when my grasp of mystic power is more confident. In Protence, I am told, power is everything. If that is the case, then I am glad that callow lad sitting around the campfire outside of Hallowdwell stayed far away.

Crossing over into the mountains, we encounted a band of birdmen who fancied themselves bandits. They were accompanied by hawks, but these sorry creatures were no more than vultures. Nevertheless, they had with them a mage. Not one of any particular school, judging from his elemental knowledge, crude and base…but also very effective. However, this band I have traveled with has survived an onslaught from this continent’s greatest wizard and lived. These bandits, though they had clearly been at the business for some time, were no match for us. We soon found ourselves picking through their leftover goods, a just and fitting conclusion to their misbegotten career.

Coming into Tal Kazat, the border outpost town right outside of the mountains, I could see the landscape of Protence. I have seen many things in my time. I have seen the sturdy walls of unconquered Hallowdwell. I have seen the polluted plains of Arktfar. I have beheld the verdant splendor of Greenwood, and taken in the soaring arches of Varancyn, mingled amongst the teeming mass of Port Nottrick and survived the merciless sands of the great desert. And yet, nothing could prepare me for the desolate majesty of Protence. The land seemed bathed in purple light, a tableau of empty spaces and broken only by dry brush that clung to life in this harsh place. This is a land that breeds survivors, a land where both strength and cunning are not needed so much to thrive as to survive. Here is a land for those who reflect, and for those who act. I feel that here, I shall do both, and in great quantity.

Once in town, we took some time to grow accustomed to our surroundings. We went about town, finding contacts amongst the disparate groups of Centralia that we never cease to cajole, threaten and convince to band together as one to stop the doom of all. Not long after we arrived, however, it seems that Coronatum and Hilde ran afoul of a group of slavers. It would seem that Coronatum had “released” a slave from his bonds through the offer of a proud death before a life of servitude. I do not disagree with the paladin on this; certainly, given the choice, I would rather die before giving myself body and mind over to someone else. However, slavery here is a function of crime, what must be an effective deterrent to those who value things like their own freedom. And yet, often entire families are damned for the actions of one. Of course, in Protence, what is sought is not justice, but vengeance. In that way, they have succeeded wildly.

However, faced with the prospect of losing two of my strongest companions to a slaver’s crown did not sit well with me. Neither did one of the slavers trying to take the Valkyrie away from Hilde. Unsurprisingly, she immediately began to tear apart the slavers, with Coronatum joining in just as fast. Noticing guards atop the parapets, ready to snipe away at my comrades, I managed to catch one off guard. She toppled from the parapet and landed with a heavy thump, not dead but certainly sore. Aislynn then stepped forward and proclaimed herself the “Lady Maelstrom”, not a bad ploy here in Protence where even the servants of a powerful noble fear to cross another one, lest they draw their master into a bloody conflict. They released Hilde and Coronatum, and even managed to call the matter of reimbursement even by pointing to the dents in Coronatum’s armor. And so, to these miscreants, life is cheap, armor is not.

Having created this persona for Aislynn, we quickly honed our story. The Lady Maelstrom was a noble from Bal Tehnrot, come out into the hinterlands to personally check out potential investment opportunities at the many dig sites at the foot of the mountains. Lahktar went out amongst the bars, taverns, drinking establishments and public houses to spread the wealth of the “Lady” around, with Coronatum keeping an eye to make sure no one got too greedy and decide to take off with the bard’s entire purse. Meanwhile, I sought after Deftblade, who was in town on Wander business, and found a bruised Elhazra with him. It turned out that she was the woman atop the tower, disguised through a clever use of a polymorph potion. I apologized for my action, but hoped that she would understand. What I did not understand was the familiarity between Deftblade and Elhazra. When did this alliance form, and to what end? How long was she hiding this from me, and why? And more over, how dare that randy little cutpurse slap her bottom like she were some common whore? He disappeared before I could lay into him, but I remain committed on giving the halfling a full lesson in manners the next time we cross paths.

The end to all this chicanery was to attract the attention of the Lady Varya, who Aislynn bore a particularly potent grudge against. Considering that she did much of the dirty work in the intrigues that led to her family being led to ruin and her into slavery, I cannot find fault in her feeling sore toward the woman. But Aislynn, taking victories where she can, was actually quite thrilled to find her quarry in Tal Kazat. Having fallen out of the graces of the Archmage Vorpat, whose graces she gained during the treachery that Aislynn seeks vengeance for, she had now fled to this border town to either lay low, or to make a discovery that would put her back in the graces of the Archmage. Hearing of another noble, one of apparent largesse, in this town would put her on the defensive…and believing in the principle of keeping one’s friends close and enemies closer, she invited us into her manor. No doubt, to size up the competition.

But it was us who were the victims of a ruse, as the Lady Varya had been scrying, peering into our adventures. Yet she did not seem to recognize Aislynn, which we turned to our advantage saying that we had merely been hired by “Lady Maelstrom” as trusted bodyguards and advisors. I expected Aislynn to strike while we had the chance, but Varya had the one thing that Aislynn wanted even more than vengeance—information on her long-lost brother, separated from her during her family’s downfall. But the Lady was shrewd, honed by years of playing the Great Game of Protence. She demanded we delve into her dig site, where her workers had not yet found anything of worth, and bring back the relics she was certain laid within.

And so we delved into the mines, taking with us a few journeymen thieves from the Twilight Wanderers who had plenty of experience with looting ruins, finding the entrance to a hidden chamber but no way in. Luckily, what we could not find, time provided. The floor, weak from age and neglect, caved in and we were dropped deeper into complex. The fall was not as bad as what we found when we landed, which was a room full of ogres. How they survived, sealed underground, I did not know. Then again, when having to dodge the tree-trunk sized clubs they were swinging, I did not put much effort into finding out. The Wanderers did their best to repel their attacks, but the end results were messy and unfortunate for these erstwhile second-story men. We perservered, and when we fell the ogres, they melted into nothing. Whatever force we found here, it was powerful, and very angry.

As were the spectral ogres. As we fought another roomful, the massive impact of their clubs caused the room to begin to cave in. We fought until the entire ceiling fell, crushing our foes but also separating our party. After a bit of tunneling through the rubble, we were able to reform and press onward. Entering into the final chamber, we faced an undead ogre mage, feeding off a column of necrotic energy. I dispelled the energy, but it returned. While our party valiently fought off the undead horrors, I noticed disk in the back of the room, glowing with malevolent energy. I ran to the other side of the room, teleporting when an ogre’s fist threatened to crush me into pulp, and began investigating the icon. It was well-crafted, and strong, but it was no match for the arcane flame I conjured. It melted, and with the source of their power removed, the ogres fell to our swords.

And so our quest is complete, and truths are to be told. After that…we shall see what quality of mercy Aislynn possesses. I suspect that depends heavily on the truths that are told.

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