journal.wiredreflexes.com Jack the sound barrier. Bring the noise.

22Sep/130

Tilverton

Day 7, Ride 3, Month 5, 1372 DR

Because one our shadow-cloaked assailants got away and others might have still been around, we decided to stay awake through the rest of the night. We searched the remains of the attackers and I found a necklace with a circular pendant, its outer ring purple, the rest filled by black. I felt it had a religious importance, but no matter how much I tried to recollect if I had seen the image somewhere before, I couldn't dig it up. The rest was as clueless as I was. I decided to hold on to it, which, upon further reflection now, may not have been the best idea. There is no way of knowing whether a symbol of an obviously evil and dreadful god didn't somehow hold some sway over us.

We covered up the traces of our camp but left the fire burning in the hopes it would distract any other, would-be assailants. We made another, fireless camp several hundred yards down the road and we tried to get some rest. When the sun started to come up, I prepared breakfast while the others inspected the body of the assailant we had taken with us. Of all of them, this one was the least mutilated after battle, although his forehead was caved in by my hammer, it was clear he was just a normal human, albeit with a strange, ashen grey skin. He was wearing clothing that seemed not of this time. Old, ancient even, and ceremoniously pompous-looking. The only real armour he wore was an archaic looking breastplate that Ebon decided to take along with him, probably because it looked expensive. Ebon also lifted a small purse off the man, which held strange coins made from various metals.

When the sun was at its zenith we no longer held the Spiderhaunt Woods to our rightand we moved into the southern tip of the Desertmouth Mountains. I went off trail and found a stream of fresh water for our horses to take some rest.

At the end of the afternoon we reached the top of the mountains from where our view offered us the ability to start plotting our next course. We decided to give the horses some more rest after the arduous climb and found a good, sheltered place with a good vantage point up as well as down the road. I took the first few hours of watch while the others slept. The wind picked up and howled through the valleys. Akadi was with us that evening. The night went by without incident.

 

Day 8, Ride 3, Month 5, 1372 DR

The following day was windy and chilly. Without too much ceremony we broke up camp and continued travel. I remarked that Akadi would be with us that day and Abel responded with ignorance and derision. He shall have to make his way through life without the gods.

The landscape changed when we reached lower ground. We had to make our way through small canyons and crevices. I've been very lucky in finding fresh water for us and the horses, and for that I gave thanks that day.

At a certain point my companions pointed off in the distance toward an onrushing sandstorm. I remarked that this what you get when denying the existence of Akadi, and Abel continued his blasphemy. As if in my element, I quickly found shelter for us. I covered Stygos in several of my blankets and tried to keep him calm.

Ebon's horse panicked and ran out into the storm. Two hours later, when we had ridden out the storm, the first out of Abel's mouth was a snide, blasphemous comment. Remarkably, Ebon's horse was still alive, but barely. It took hours getting Ebon's horse up and walking again. We moved slowly, but we moved.

Hours later, we came upon a city -- the city from my vision! The darkness I had seen was there, too, writhing and moving constantly. It was a horrifying image, even more so than in my vision.

Ebon and Thorim spotted a group of people close to the city. It was likely they had seen us as well, but we thought it prudent to make camp and investigate the following day. The fear was that the people would be hostile to us. The watch remained uneventful and we awoke without incident the following morning.

 

Day 9, Ride 3, Month 5, 1372 DR

During breakfast Ebon revealed he had spied on the camp outside Tilverton and counted less than a dozen campfires. Abel started diguising himself quite convincingly with Ebon's help. I asked what the likelihood was that he would be recognised and he said he didn't think it likely. He also thought it unlikely there would be any repercussions for us if he would be recognised, something which Thorim clearly didn't believe. He also revealed that Abel Silver wasn't his real name. Something I hadn't ever considered before.

We carefully headed towards the city and spotted Cormyrian banners. Ebon decided to scout ahead and spotted between thirty to fourty people, mostly soldiers but also sages and wizards. The darkness in the city was deep and eerie.

We were met by a group of purple dragons, which is what Cormyrian knights call themselves, apparently. They asked our business and ended up escorting us to their commander when we told them we were investigating the happenings on order of Lord Morn of Daggerdale. Their commander turned out to be a woman by the name of Caladnei. She was very serious and none too happy with our presence or our attitudes. Well, mostly my attitude. She rubbed me the wrong way, so instinctively started mouthing off, something I regret doing now.

She and hers had been there for a ride and had sent several excursions into the city, only to have the troops return mad and gibbering. She claimed no form of magic was capable of working close to the city, and when I tried the simplest of prayers, Abaddon never responded!

The discussion didn't prove to be too fruitful but we gave the items we lifted from the ashen men that attacked us. I asked after Heron but nobody knew about him or had spotted someon resembling his description. Ebon managed to swap his horse out with another while Abel and I put our ear to the ground, but unfortunately we both came up empty.

Tagged as: , No Comments
15Sep/130

Leaving, Just Leaving

Day 4, Ride 3, Month 5, 1372 DR

Much later than desired, we finally hit the Tethyamar trail with Thorim in our company. I was glad to put Dagger Falls behind us and finally set out. We were wished a safe travel by the guards at the ford as we waded through the cold waters and as if wanting to hammer the very point of my departure home, they called me "Lord Leman." Unfortunately, as soon as we set out we got waylaid.

Leman - Going South

Just outside of town we found a group of farmers, surrounding a body of a man laying in a ditch along side the road. The body belonged to a guard, one of the Freedom Riders. After other Freedom Riders arrived, they confirmed him to be a guard stationed to the south, at Anathar's Dell. A quick look at the body it appeared he had been attacked from behind and stabbed to death; several to the back, one to the throat. None of the farmers had seen anything, having just found him here in the early morning. A quick search of the surroundings also didn't reveal anything, which didn't surprise me. He hadn't been jumped by brigands, the wounds were too precise. Nobody with the skill to wield a blade with that accuracy would be so careless as to leave clear traces for us to follow.

The decision didn't come easily, but I felt it had to be done and ultimately I let Abaddon decide whether the situation warranted it, so I tried communicating with the departed.

The Rite of Selection is an ancient tradition in the priesthood, usually performed right after a large battle. The fulgurator, or "he who reads the signs in lightning", would sift through the detritus of battle, bringing a merciful death to those who were suffering needlessly, binding the wounds of those who endured and looking for signs of great endurance and struggle. A good fulgurator could read the signs of war, could find a fallen warrior surrounded by a heap of dead enemies and follow Abaddon's guidance to finding a worthy disciple. The fulgurator would kneel at the body, lay it on its back, open their eyes to the heavens and place their weapon back into their hands and ask Abaddon for communion. In a few questions, the fulgurator would confirm whether or not he read the signs correctly, whether the warrior could and would be a son to Abaddon.

This isn't the way I thought my first communion would be. Then again, I'm an archon, not a fulgurator. I don't have the patience that my mentor Heron had. I am a filthy mercenary at the core, not a teacher and sheppard. No lordly title nor an expensive horse under my arse will ever make me forget that. I was never meant to perform the Selection, but it gladdens me to know that Abaddon will allow me to do so, perhaps in the future. I was also somewhat surprised and overjoyed that Abaddon blessed this act when performed on the dead guard. I decided to take it as a sign.

Communion with the dead guard was a powerful and dreadful experience the likes of which I am unable to put down in my journal. Every time I think I have found a way to describe the sensation the words come out wrong and I tear up the page. Instead, I will simply note what it was that I found out; the guard was sent from Anathar's Dell to Dagger Falls, in order to warn Lord Morn that Tilverton had fallen. He was stopped by a man with a dark cloak and hood and attacked from the rear by a similarly dressed man with a knife. He also mentioned the two men wore a circle on their clothing, which I have interpreted to mean that it was a symbol of some sort. Sifting through my knowledge of regional mercenary bands, I came up empty, and there are too many priestly orders that use the circle to represent themselves.

We decided to return to Dagger Falls and speak to Lord Morn. He was shocked and immediately requested us to depart for Cormyr and investigate the situation. It has struck me as troubling that now that we were part of the noble peerage of Daggerdale that there no longer was any talk about compensation, no talk about recompense. He phrased it as a "request" but used his lordly voice to command us into going. I didn't like it, but since we were heading in the direction of Tilverton anyway, we decided to accept the charge.

When we returned back to claim the body of the dead Freedom Rider, the other guards had since recovered his horse, which had been standing somewhere off in the distance. Before bagging the body and placing it upon his horse, I performed the second part of the Rite of Selection, which I was fairly confident Abaddon would grant me at that point; the preservation. After the communion was over and the fallen warrior had accepted the Lightning Lord's offer of ressurrection in His service, the body would need to be healed and preserved. There is probably a more dogmatic reason for the preservation, but I always thought that a newly resurrected son of Abaddon wouldn't be so happy with a rotting corpse as a living shell. So with Abaddon's blessing, the body wouldn't whither and decay for a while, giving us enough time to return him home to Anathar's Dell without him stinking up the place.

The weather turned wonderfully foul, with thick rain clouds rolling in overhead and my spirits were lifted considerably as Abaddon smiled down on me. I had done well that day.

Later that day we arrived at the Ruse's Mage at Blackswitch and found it packed to the gills. We managed to snag the last two rooms and after giving the stable boy my instructions to care for the horses but to leave the body bag untouched, I spent a while praying on a hillock overlooking the village pond. It's the same hillock where I've prayed everytime I've been to Blackswitch. It's the hillock where I decided to invest some of my earned gold and look for a suitable horse, which eventually lead me to my trusty Stygos. I'm fond of that hillock for reasons I can't quite put into words. After prayer, I went back inside the inn and ordered to mugs of black foam and peeled my soaking wet clothes off. While the inn was busy, it was filled with locals with locals fleeing the rain and no travellers we could ask about the situation down south. After food and plenty of drink, I went up to go and sleep. The only entertainment in the room by that point was Thorim recounting stories I had already heard or was part of. Bah.

Day 5, Ride 3, Month 5, 1372 DR

It was still dark outside when I woke up from a disturbing dream. I had seen Heron riding a horse in dusty, rocky hills I didn't recognise. I also saw a fair sized city I didn't know, which, upon reflection, could well have been Tilverton. A strange darkness descended from overhead and started to envelop the city and shroud it in blackness. I opened the window and stood and stared out into the turbulent darkness while Thorim was still snoring away in his bunk. My meditation was broken hours later when Abel walked in to wake us up. Morning had come.

Before heading down, I kicked Thorim's bed with enough force to receive some signs of life. Downstairs I gave Delward the universal sign of food. He brought food. Abel was quiet and annoying. I felt good due to the thunderous weather, but I had so much on my mind that I kept to myself. After breakfast we unceremoniously departed and headed back down the Tethyamar.

At the end of the day we reached Anathar's Dell and we headed straight for the Freedom Riders' garrison to return the body of their fallen brother. The last time we were here I remember they had elves astride large hunting cats, but this time I didn't see any as we rode in, probably hiding from Abaddon's blessed storm.

When we delivered the body to the garrison we got a disturbing report that Tilverton had disappeared in its entirety. The tale sounded fantastical and without too much merrit, but it did coincide with the dream I had the previous night. I was so distrubed by this that I went to talk to Abel in his cottage after we had taken lodgings at the Anathar Arms. I told him about my dream and his mind being obviously more keen than mine started to try and make sense of it all. His conclusion was as fantastical as the story about Tilverton's disappearance, and one that I will only share with you, the reader, once two conditions are met; first, we need a little more proof and second, I need to actually understand it in order to convey it you.

Day 6, Ride 3, Month 5, 1372 DR

Disappointed of not having been granted another vision, I woke up to calm weather. Had the weather previously picked up and acted as a messenger, delivering Abaddon's vision to me? Or had the weather died down to show me that I was heading down the wrong path? A fulgurator would have known how to interpret the signs. I need Heron now more than I ever did before.

I visited the Brightblade clan's smith, an old greybeard that had done some work on my armour when I was here last. He remembered me. My thought was to invest my money into getting an upgrade in armour; I would rather have my back shattered by plate armour than by a sack of coins. Unfortunately, the greybeard didn't have anything that suited my needs or fit my body, which was unfortunate, but it was good to practice my stale Dethek when talking to him.

Halfway into our day we stumbled upon a merchant of homestead utensils and non-perishable foods. He told us about the turbulent state Cormyr is in. He didn't pass Tilverton because "the stonelands" were beset by savage raiders. We stocked up on food and moved on. He had three guards, so he was obviously making good money selling food. Delward at the Ruse's Mage had said that the harvest would be a bad one this year, meaning food supplies would be low. The merchant was a war profiteer. I hate those. May the people of the dale persevere through that type of opportunism.

We made camp off the trail and spent the night under the stars for the first time in a long while. Roland no longer being around, food wasn't as good as the last time, which is why I invested in bringing good food along. I caught first watch, which went by uneventfully.

At the tail-end of the second watch I was woken up because Abel's silly pet cat had spotted something approaching camp. It all went very fast but four or five humanoid creatures, clad in dark... armaments, cloaked in the essence of darkness itself, attacked us. We defeated them with overwheleming force and not too many problems. I was trying to reason with them but they wouldn't listen. After the battle, Abel remarked how they resembled the shade who took the orbs from us at the Teshford Arms all those weeks ago. He also remarked aloud whether the darkness didn't have something to do with my vision. He was finding more evidence to support his theory. We're not there yet, and I certainly don't understand what's going on, but soon I will have to write down what Abel thinks is happening.

Tagged as: , No Comments
1Sep/132

A New Chapter

Day 1, Ride 3, Month 5, 1372 DR

Spent the morning watching the Freedom Riders train while I sat in the sun and repaired my plate. Abel is finally up and about, recovered from his injuries. I don't know where Ebon is, and Roland has left several days ago. I have lice and need a shave.

Abel asked me about pearls, a semi-precious stone that he needs to research the magical items we've recovered after the fight with Gwath. In the meantime, Ebon and I will go to castle Enneth, ours by right, to recover the books we found in Shraevyn's Tomb.

I learned the Castle Enneth was completed in 799 DR, almost six hundred years ago, built by a paladin of Torm.

We arrived at Black Switch late in the afternoon to find it in good repair and the people in good spirits.

 

Day 2, Ride 3, Month 5, 1372 DR

Left for Castle Enneth and found the books in an abandoned farmhouse with ease. The castle was imposing and intimidating. The thought of owning that and the lands and villages around it, is both strange and mildly terrifying. People were working on repairing one of the outer walls.

Found found a small hamlet named Kellet, five houses and a chicken roost. We rode through without stopping and arrived at the gates of Dagger Falls. We got greeted with our full title at the gate, at the garrison and at the stable. This is so deeply uncomfortable.

After a dicussion of the new powers found on the many magical items we recovered from Gwath, I got a simple, grey cloak, which supposedly grants the wearer some extra, phyiscal protection. I'm not sure I actually believe it, but it's a nice, functional cloak. I fell asleep. What a day.

 

Day 3, Ride 3, Month 5, 1372 DR

I got a shave and a haircut and I got my head deloused. I hate lice. The weather was fair and annoying. The barber was also annoying. It's going to be one of those days.

Coming back to the garrison, Ebon was training with some of the new recruits. I woke up Abel and spoke to him and Ebon about leaving Daggerdale and moving on to "new and exciting lands." For me, it's not much about excitement, it's about finding Heron.

We visited the "temple" of Lathandar and Morningmaster Handar Orin, asking him if we could peruse his maps. While discussing our departure he was startled about our decision to leave. My idea was to head to Tilverton, which is a city to the south, contested by Cormyr. We could then head west and skirt the desert. Orin mentioned Shadowdale. After mentioning we met up with Elminster he was equally startled; it seems Elminster is a bit of a celebrity.

We returned to the garrison only to see a tired, weather-worn man at the gate, demanding to speak to Lord Morn. Of median age with a salt and pepper beard, with a sturdy healthy body, the man wore the priestly vestments of Mystra, tattered from travel and struggle. Kenneth was his name.

We offered him some food and a chance to tell us about his predicament. He eagerly took us up in the hope we could open the door to Lord Morn. He came from the city of Weylune, where a new temple of Mystra was opened. He suspected something much darker and more sinister was happening with the temple. Villagers who came for worship ended up disappearing without a trace and Kenneth started encountering hostility when he started to ask questions.

While he ate I tried to ask him some pointed questions regarding the faith, so that I could determine whether he was genuine or not. It seemed he was.

We got an audience with Lord Morn and informed him of our decision not to accept the gift. He claimed that once accepted, the title was for life, but that a steward could be installed to rule in our stead.

Lord Morn was as perplexed by Kenneth's story but wasn't averse to speaking with him. He proposed dinner with us and Kenneth, at which time he would have some suggestions for a steward to take care of Castle Enneth.

Tagged as: , 2 Comments
11Mar/120

Leman

Tonight, we finished another D&D campaign under the leadership of DTH, who really ramped up the challenge this time. I don't get to play very often, and of the few times I've been able to be a player over the last decade, I've rarely gotten as emotionally invested in a character as I've been with Leman, my warrior-priest. I built my character slowly and logically and I've enjoyed every step of the way.

The one thing that I've noticed with the third edition rules that we use, is that you level up more often than you do under the second edition rules that I've spent most of my D&D career using. Once every three or so session we seemed to level, which I thought was a bit much. It wasn't because of XP rewards that were too high, but rather that the amounts you needed to gather before climbing another level was much more evenly spaced. In second edition the XP targets per level were almost exponential, so it took longer and longer each level.

Tagged as: , No Comments
24Dec/110

Rite of Selection

The sky above the battlefield was the colour of a violently churning ocean. Lightning licking along the belly of angry clouds overhead, thunder hungrily rumbling inside of them. The frozen ground was littered with the corpses of hundreds of men, now no more than fleshy bags of broken bones and entrails.

The haunting moans of a handful of survivors could be heard around him as Heron sifted through the detritus of the fight. Even though most of them were hardly recognisable now, he knew he must have known several and had probably fought along side some of them over the last couple of months. His company had parted ways with theirs only an hour before, heading south to Talagbar while they headed north to Palishuk. When a raven arrived bearing news of the ambush, Heron's commander had not hesitated to turn the company around and march north. They had arrived just in time to witness the last of the Damaran mercenaries being overrun, neither close enough to assist in their defense, nor eager enough to charge forth into the large warband of orks and ogres and the creature of leviathan proportions that had lead them into battle.

"I had heard stories of dragons, but this..." one of the fresh-faced recruits said to Heron, dragonfear stirring in his voice.

Despite being a veteran of countless campaigns, Heron had felt it, too. The sight of the dragon circling above the battlefield as they crested the hill felt like a kick to the stomach, complete with nausea and an overwhelming desire to sink to your knees and double over. Seconds later that nausea made way for a visceral need to put as much distance between yourself and the dragon. The fear, irrational and raw, afflicted all men without exception. The only difference between the men who gave into it and the men who didn't, was their ability to endure the fear rather than suffer it. It helped that the company was lead by a captain who commanded respect and knew how to inspire his men.

It was as white as early winter snow, its body lithe and as large as Damaran longship, with large leathery wings and a whiplike tail. Its vicious claws had left terrible gashes, tearing through armour and skin like paper. Its breath was icy and could freeze and shatter anyone caught in its path, and it had a cunning command of magical forces that could blast apart any opposition. For reasons that remained unclear, the dragon lead the warband further north and hadn't engaged Heron's company.

Heron disregarded the lad and continued searching for survivors. He noticed a concentration of dead orks surrounding a trio of dead humans who seemed to have fiercely defended themselves. The scene was a confusing one; several of the ork bodies were broken and crushed under a great weight and neither of the three defenders seemed capable of inflicting that type of damage. Upon closer inspection, it looked as if two of the men had been defending the third, who by the looks of the armour he wore was likely the company commander. One of the commander's guards was carrying a long sword and shield, while the other had been fighting with two short swords. The man with the shield had stood over their wounded commander...

Heron was slowly piecing together what must have happened.

"This must have been the last stand, where the last two soldiers had rallied around their commander," Heron said more to himself than to anyone else.

"I count fourteen orks and one ogre," he said while sifting through the bodies of the slain attackers. "But how come some of them are so pulverised? What happened here during the last few seconds?" he mused.

Heron ignored the young lad who had mistaken his musings as for an invitation to a dialog and made his way to the slain defender with the two swords. His body had numerous small injuries but was remarkably unscathed. Turning the corpse over, Heron was shocked to find it was almost frozen solid, with frost burns on its exposed skin.

"This one must have been caught by the dragon's frost breath," he said as he noticed the bodies of the fallen attackers close by had strong frost burn patterns, too. He walked back to the crushed bodies and finally realised what must have happened. "They had already been wounded or killed as the defenders made their last stand." He paused before continuing, "and the dragon must have landed right here, its large hind legs crushing these bodies here," he gestured. "It turned its head and belched fiery ice onto this defender and the attackers that surrounded him, leaving only two."

Heron walked over to where the last two defenders were laying. "The man with the sword and shield defending his commander," he said, now completely lost in the romantic imagery of this last stand. The lad walked with him and tried to keep as quiet as possible, not quite knowing what was happening or why this was important, but instinctively knowing it would be best not to disturb whatever it was that was happening.

Heron removed the dented kite shield that the defender had been carrying and revealed the gruesome wounds on his body. The defender's chain mail had been ripped to shreds by the dragon's vicious talons, his breeches were torn open and his leg lay mangled and bent underneath him at an awkward angle. Numerous smaller wounds dotted the young man's corpse and he had lost a lot of blood, even before he was killed.

The young lad started separating the body of the defender from the body of the commander underneath, mumbling something about returning the commander's body to camp but Heron didn't listen to him. The only thing he could hear was the roaring of the storm overhead and the potency of what was happening. With great care he unfolded the body of the last defender, removed the sword from his rigid grasp and placed the body on the large kite shield. Others had come to help the lad with the transport of the dead commander, but Heron was feverishly working to turn the shield into a rudimentary stretcher on which he could transport the man.

The lightning storm overhead had picked up in intensity and Heron started to make out patterns and signs in the lightning strikes and rumbling. When he was finally done tying the man down to the shield and latching the shield onto his belt so he could pull it behind him like a sled-dog the storm had started moving west and so Heron started walking. The soldiers he passed on his way off the battlefield asked him inconsequential questions that needed no answers. He had also finally heard His voice over the din of the thunder and he now knew the name of the man he was carrying off to be reborn into His service.

Leman.

Tagged as: , , No Comments