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.
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.