Category: The Blackwing

Ethan the Blackwing, Day Ten

The Melting, 1372 DR

It’s been several days since I was in a position to take the time to write. A lot has happened but no progress has been made, so I’m using the tip of my quill to force my mind to focus, to catalogue, to reference and hopefully to reveal. I find myself going over the same information, dismissing, sorting and prioritising the same things and drawing the same conclusions. I need to force myself to write as much down as I can recall and reevaluate everything.

While I spent most of the days following Lord Marbrand’s funeral investigating the blood ties between Quentyn and the late wizard, I asked Jago if he could go back to the Thar and see if he could pick up any tracks the three white-robed figures might have left behind. David and Quentyn initially decided they would help me excavate the riches of Lord Marbrand’s library in search for clues regarding the Draconic phrase that was written on the piece of paper recovered from the mouth of Lord Marbrand’s corpse.

“That which is not dead can eternally lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”

Unfortunately, while both men are in peak physical condition, they have little endurance when it comes to prolonged research and studious attention. It doesn’t surprise me this to be the case for Quentyn but David is unlike most clerics I’ve known. The servants of Chauntea, under whom I was tutored for a short period, were mildly studious, but it seems David has the bearing of a man more fit for combat than pious contemplation. The two men eventually joined Jago in search for signs of the three white-robed figures and left me with Lord Marbrand’s research and correspondence.

Lord Marbrand seemed to be poly-maniacal about his research, never focussing on one subject at a time for very long. He was also deeply chaotic and scatter-brained, his works and notes lacking any of the modern structures taught in any college worth their merit. He, like many wizards of his generation, were under the impression that as long as they were able to understand their notes, their work was good enough. It never crosses their minds that they might be doing their research harm by not applying a proper, formal structure, and that they could have increased their productivity and insight with the right psycho-spiritual conditioning.

I managed to find the following, relatively recent, fields of interest to Lord Marbrand;

  • History of Glister. There is quite a bit of correspondence with scholars and sages, mostly from Candlekeep, Waterdeep and Thentia.
  • Lineage, both of his own family as well as others.
  • A rather deep and involved debate with a Brother Martinus of Candlekeep about the nature of the many stone structures and ruins on the Thar. It seemed to have ended in a disagreement which lead to petty bickering and name calling.
  • Two schools of magic seemed to have caught special attention from Lord Marbrand as of late; the schools of Divination and Conjuration, and especially the relationship between the prime material plane and other planes.

When the others returned from the Thar, they told me they had followed the tracks of the three white-robed strangers north, off the Thar and into the woods, ending at a small, abandoned camp. Besides the remains of a small campfire, they found, buried in a small hole, the body of a decomposing rabbit, buried with a flat stone with the crude symbol of two white hands on it, with interlocked thumbs and fanned out fingers. I have since found the symbol to belong to Yurtrus, the orc god of death, disease and annihilation.

I just had a small revelation, which seems to suggest that my initial suspicion that I had overlooked one or more things was correct. White seems to be a colour of importance to the followers of Yurtrus. Their followers are white-robed, their symbols has consistently been two white hands — whenever we found the symbol scribbled in walls, it was always coloured in with white chalk. Could it be possible that the pouches of silver, given to the gnolls to attack The Hoof and take Wulfric’s daughter, were white not through chance but because it was the pay-off from the Yurtrus clergy?

At the time I decided to let the arrival of three of Yurtrus’ followers not distract me from delving deeper into Lord Marbrand’s notes on magical theory, particularly his research into the planes. He speculated that killing something not native to the prime marterial plane, on the prime material plane, might lock its essence into a strange stasis. As an example, he theorised that the great glacier was a frost giant demi-god. He never spoke about experimenting, which was further supported by the lack of a summoning circle in his library. Wizards who experiment with summoning and conjuring, usually take the time to invest in a secure circle, which is then not something you clean up after use, considering the time and monetary investment it involves.

Regarding his research into his own lineage, it seemed Lord Marbrand significantly oversimplified things in his letter to Quentyn. He makes several spurious connections and draws questionable conclusions. I managed to retrace Quentyn’s lineage from Cormyr to Sembia and eventually to Impiltur and then Vaasa. As I retraced the steps, the name Martell morphed to Martyl and eventually I found a very interesting fact; Harren’s Demonsbane, a disgraced, vagabond member of the Martyl family, was thought to have erected a stronghold just north of the Thar, in the foothills of the Galena mountain ridge.

The evidence seemed to indicate that Lord Marbrand did not have a rightful claim to Castle Glister, as no connection between his House Marbrand and House Martyl can be established, but he arrived here and found the village dwindling and took up residence. So it seemed to me that Quentyn, while the rightful heir to the castle, wasn’t the rightful heir to any of the wizard’s belongings. It could be argued, however, that Quentyn’s father is owed some restitution for Lord Marbrand’s occupation of his castle.

I grew tired of genealogy and decided to switch my attention to Yurtrus. At the same time, my companions had gone into the woods to seek out gnolls, hoping to find out more about their connection to the events leading to the wizard’s death. It turned out that Lady Ulrikke and her companions had done the same. The two groups met up in the woods and Lady Ulrikke had captured a gnoll, which she was leading back to Glister for punishment. David, granted the power to commune with the gnoll from his benevolent god Ilmater, had heard the savage say that it made no matter that he was going to be executed because “the pale shadow” was going to come for us all. So when I looked for a connection between Yurtrus and “the pale shadow,” I found that these were a nihilistic sub-group of the Yurtrus followers. It seemed that the gnolls had started to worship an orc god. Not unheard of, but rare. I once met a man in the Dalelands who was a follower of some ridiculous Halfling god. Again, it happens, but it’s quite unusual.

I went back to study Harren Deamonsbane to find that almost three hundred years previous, Deamonsbane and several companions defeated a deamon on the Thar. It turns out Lord Marbrand had done quite bit of research into the man since he had managed to find a stone lockbox carrying Deamonsbane’s personal seal; a sword upon a plain red shield, which has a striking similarity to the heraldry born by Quentyn’s house. We were completely unable to open the box, with magic nor force, but it was clear the box was magical. A small depression in the top lead to a hole which could well fit a slender key.

I felt the research had been concluded to large extent and decided to take some time away from the library. It would serve me well to have some concrete questions that need answers, and at the time, we were aimless. Arriving back at the inn, I noticed several new people had come to town. A trading caravan had arrived from the north, the same caravan that Fergal, the caravan master I had come into town with from the south, had been waiting for since our arrival. The biggest pleasant surprise was that one of their guards was a dwarf, his name Gorm of Clan Dwalin of Svetislav in Vaasa. A bit taciturn at first, but in the end a very engaging conversationalist.

I paid Haéla the laughable sum of two gold pieces for another ten days of my stay at the inn. I managed to catch Lady Ulrikke for a short conversation about Yurtrus, the pale shadow and the implications of the three robed figures we saw upon the Thar. She knew about the orc god and seemed to keep an open mind to the possibility of a small group of nihilistic cultists being responsible for the death of Lord Marbrand. On a separate note, I tried to gauge her on which way she would vote; for Quentyn or against. It was impossible to read her — not the first time I’ve had trouble reading her, which is most unfortunate. I tried to convince her of my belief, which is that the village of Glister, and its sphere of influence, is best served by a magnanimous, benevolent and wealthy force, like Lord Marbrand, instead of having that wealth distributed and diluted among many different and sometimes rivaling factions. I told her I thought Quentyn could fill the vaccuum that Lord Marbrand had left behind with his untimely death. She neither agreed or disagreed, nor gave any indication on what she was thinking.

It has previously occurred to me that there are a lot of different forces at play on the Oldmark. If I am to navigate this political landscape, as unsophisticated and small-scoped as it is, I need a way to be able to read people better. I think I will start taking the time to go through Lord Marbrand’s library to see if I can design a spell that will allow me to read the surface thoughts of others. I’m fairly certain that lies within my capabilities. Once I can do that I can built on that basis and further expand my abilities. It would greatly help me understand and predict the people that I’m exposed to.

The following day, I was asked to join Jago, David, Quentyn and Harald, who were going to head out to the Thar to find and vanquish a horrible troll that attacked David and Jago a few days previous. I wasn’t too keen on sleeping outdoors, but if all went well we would visit the barrow to the south of Glister. I reckoned the trip would be worth it if we could explore the barrow.

The first night on the Thar was very, very cold. Cold and uncomfortable, not the least because a troll showed up and attacked our group. The fight was short and brutal. Afterwards, Harald cut the troll’s heart out and threw it in our campfire. I had heard of mountain troll’s ability to quickly regenerate any wounds. Harald explained that even after killing a troll, it could regenerate all the way back to perfect health within no time, lest you burn its heart, after which it would quickly petrify and turn hard as rock.

Day 10

I woke up at the tail end of Harald’s watch. I don’t know how the man does it; it seemed like he was praeternaturally large and hardy and even though he took a beating while fighting the troll, excerted a tremendous amount of energy swinging that awful weapon at the head of that troll, and had walked the Thar for a full day, he still took a big chunk of the watch. He is a man of few words and a bit stereotypical at first look.

We cleaned up camp and headed off, walking for two hours until we found the remains of a very old, moss-covered road made of hard, large slabs of rock. The road was about three meters wide, running from the north-west to the south-east. We followed it towards the south-east and Harald claimed that if we had followed it to the north-west we’d find a different, but similar barrow. It’s likely there are roads running between different barrows or structures. Along the road, we found several standing stones, often quite similar to the ones in Glister. We even found an old, petrified body of another troll corpse that Harald defeated nearly two years before.

After so much walking my backpack started to chafe and a headache had developed, starting at my shoulders and creeping up along my neck to my scalp. Looking around, I noticed quite a large number of useful herbs among the rough bushes on the Thar, but unfortunately none of them were going to be useful in getting rid of that headache. I made a mental note that I should go on an expedition to forage and catalog the herbs when things quieted down a bit.

Barrow on the Thar

The barrow on the Thar, south of Glister.

When we arrived at the barrow, a sketch of it pictured above for reference, it looked long abandoned. The age of the structures was apparent from the copious amounts of moss growth and the crack that ran along it like a scar, as if split apart like wood being subject to the large temperature differences between day and night on the Thar. Curious as to how deep the crevice ran, I reached out my mind to Blackwing and kindly requested her to fly the length of it.

That may have been a mistake. One I attribute to my relative gullibility and over-confidence when it comes to the dangers that lurk in the dark and hidden places of the world. I sensed overwhelming fear, distress and frustration emanating from the deep trench and foolishly rushing over I quickly understood the nature of it; giant spiders. Blackwing had caught on the webbing of these despicable creatures, black and green with a hard chitinous shell protecting their thick, bulbous body.

Several spiders surged upwards while I descended down into the crevice to free Blackwing. I feel obliged to mention my experimentation with the Feather Fall and Mage Hand incantation had yielded such results over recent weeks that I managed to unlock the secrets of levitation, allowing me to ascend and descend at will for an extended period of time. Lateral movement is still a problem, but I am very confident that it won’t be so long until I can move freely in any desired direction.

Fus kotin faal su.

(Force into the air.)

Aided by my magic, I managed to free Blackwing, who was in a state of blind panic and has been rather sullen and quiet ever since. I will never understand how the animal can keep a grudge deeper and more bitter than the cold, night winds of the Thar. When we first set out on this voyage we spoke about it at length. There was going to be danger, but without risk there would be no reward. He understood then but I have really come to question his dedication to our endeavour. Humph.

Right when I had freed Blackwing, I felt the mandibles of a spider sink into my shoulder. The pain was excruciating, but I had enough sense to shoot up and out of the crevice. When I emerged, I saw that the others were fighting several spiders of their own. I turned and used my Burning Hands invocation to set the webbing in the crevice alight, killing the spider that had bitten me. The others defeated the rest of the spiders swiftly, but unfortunately not without David losing his brutal barbed chain down the crevice.

When David bestowed Ilmater’s blessing onto my wounded body, I was amazed at the warmth and recuperation that flowed through me. There and then I decided that a donation was in order. I decided to pay for his lodgings for a tenday, seeing as how he had been sleeping on the floor of Sister Jeyne’s rather abysmal cottage.

While we were resting, we all heard a curious grunting sound coming from the crevice. It seemed a troll was stuck down there. I homed in on the sound and got as close as possible, having asked Quentyn to guard me while I concentrated on the new divination I had been researching.

Detect Thoughts
Zu hon faal zu se faal hadrim.
(I hear the voice of the mind.)

I based the new divination on the mechanics that governs my telepathic link between Blackwing and I. The spell is still underdeveloped; I can only pick up surface thoughts, and it’s one-way communication. Another limitation was the range of the divination, but I managed to get close enough to skim the surface thoughts of the troll. It was dim-witted, and slow, and the beast felt tired, wounded, confused and alone.

While Quentyn guarded me I occasionally picked up his thoughts as well. It seemed he was worried about his family. Yronwood is obviously under a goblin siege and he is looking to relocate his family. Why do it as Marbrand’s heir? If he moves his family here, they’d be a formidable and dominant force, Marbrand’s heir or not.

We all decided to enter the crevice, to explore the crevice, retrieve David’s barbaric chain and to defeat any of the remaining spiders in case they creep up on us while we’re sleeping. The inside of the crevice was riddled by tunnels that seemed to lead deeper into the barrow. We found a defensible position, attracted and defeated the troll and continued to explore the crevice, finding several human bones, possibly the victims of the spiders.

Before we went to sleep around the campfire we had made on the hillside of the barrow, I went to inspect some of the moss-covered standing stones. I suspected the pillars were covered with writing, but uncovering them would take all night. I summoned an Invisible Servant to clear one of the pilars of moss and went to sleep.

Day 11

The following morning, I used a Comprehend Languages in order to decypher the script that my Invisible Servant had exposed. It was a dedication to the cyclopean, one-eyed, orc god Gruumsh by an orc called Shagrath, who gives praise to Gruumsh for his many bloody victories. Not much else could be learned from the pillar, but it did confirm one thing; a lot of these strange stones and structures were either orc made or orc conquered and descecrated. The former seems impossible, considering how orcs have hardly ever given birth to any structures or settlements more significant than a hut.

The crevice had separated one part of the barrow from the rest like an island. That part had the only significant structure on the surface of the barrow, so we decided to investigate it. With some sorcery we managed to safely make it up there. We found more standing stones, moss-covered but with the same type of writing on it that my Invisible Servant had uncovered. The structure was a crude, mostly collapsed chapel, the roof had partially collapsed and blocked the entrance, but the others decided to try entering from the top, clearing away enough rubble to expose a small altar. In the meantime I decided to use some paper and charcoal to make rubbings of several standing stones. I only had so many divinations available to me and it would be easier to simply take the rubbings back to Lord Marbrand’s library and use mundane ways of translating them.

The notion that orcs were responsible for… all that was still nagging at me. They aren’t known for building things, and certainly not anything of this quality, elaboration and workmanship. Did they scavenge this like Lord Marbrand scavenged Castle Glister, or is this the work of a clan of unusual orcs that we simply haven’t encountered before?

We entered the chapel from the top and uncovered an entrance into the barrow below underneath the small altar. When we dropped a pebble down there we never heard it hit anything, and it was too dark to see how far the drop was. I decided to rely again on my newly acquired ability to levitate and descended down into the darkness.

Twenty metres is my estimation of the square, smooth tunnel leading straight down into a large vaulted chamber, and another ten metres from the ceiling of the chamber to the floor. Directly underneath the tunnel there was a burial bed with the name Korgath on it. The chamber’s walls were covered in names and praises to various orc deities, mostly Gruumsh and Baghtru. Water was standing as high as half a metre and the bottom was covered in bones and small items like pottery and such. Several doorways lead into other vaulted rooms much like the first one, filled with tombs. Items everywhere, none of them magical, but I found several other decayed bodies, weapons, jewelry, coins, pottery, icons, etc.

Before the duration of my levitation spell ran out I went back up and recounted what I had found. It was decided we’d go back to camp and explore the barrow properly the next morning.

Day 12

It was the morning of the twelfth day since my arrival to Glister that we descended back down into the underground tombs of the barrow. Both Jago, David and especially Quentyn fell down the shaft rather harshly, even though we used a rope to climb down. I say we, but I once again relied on my levitation transmutation.

Going through the labyrinthine barrow, we quickly realised it was a massive structure with hundreds of rooms and passages. Tombs and interred, decayed bodies everywhere. Each room has dedications to four gods from the orc pantheon; Gruumsh, Baghtru, a female mother god whose name escapes me, and a fourth, unidentified god. There was no mention of Yurtrus.

After walking finding the edge of the structure, we started making our way along the outer wall, trying to map all the rooms. We eventually found some blocked passages, emptied of their tombs, which had some script eteched into the walls here and there. Harald, who spoke but couldn’t read orcish, helped me decypher the texts. They were all personal messages, indicating the orcs had come to the barrow to hide from some evil that sounded like an apocalyptic event. They even prayed to Yurtrus to save them. They describe the evil as a deamon, a monster and sometimes as a scourge.

My thoughts immediately went to Lord Marbrand. I wondered if he had meddled in some unknown force, some conjuration that he couldn’t control, perhaps the same thing that forced the orcs to hide in that barrow all those centuries before. Possibly the same thing Harren Deamonsbane defeated upon the Thar?

Harald and I had stayed behind to investigate the texts, but eventually after about an hour of being split up from the rest, Jago came back to pick us up, explaining that David had found a human corpse, wearing some magical clothing and carrying two identical, magical brass knuckles. While he was examining the items, opening himself up to their magical aura’s, he had noticed a strong, magical presence.

The presence came from a large, vaulted room — much larger than any other we had encountered — which was completely free of tombs, save one large dias, emenating a powerful abjuration aura. On top of the dias there was a large, perfectly round, flat, copper-alloy disc. When touched, magical runes glow a fiery red upon its surface.

The room’s vaulted ceiling had several slabs of scripts decorating them. I tried to decypher them with Harald, like we had done with the other texts, but these texts were different and ultimately lead to Harald’s frustration. He’s not a scholar and doesn’t have the intellectual fortitude for that type of research, so I can’t blame him giving up. Luckily, shortly after, David, given his background in religious lore, figured out that the texts were hymns.

Going back to the metallic disc, I tried to decypher the glowing runes. I could discern that it was a custom spell designed to hold a Baatezu, a planar outsider. A devil from the nine Hells of Baator. It’s an imprisonment spell, the most powerful abjuration spell, but tailored to a specific subject, an infernal. The notations on the spell were old, archaic. If the spell had been recent, done by a modern wizard, several of the notations would have been different. Several generations old, I would venture.

Close to where the human corpse was found, someone had found a small, fresh marking of Yurtrus. It seems his followers had been down here recently. Perhaps this human had been one of them, a guide, henchmen or even a companion. We took the magical items and decided to head back. When we arrived back on the surface of the barrow it was dark and cold outside. By the time all of us reached the surface, Harald had already made up camp.

Day 13

The following morning, while having a conversation with the others about how to proceed, I blinked and had a strange vision. For just a brief second, I could see a campfire, around which two other hooded, white-robed figures were sitting and chanting. They both seemed pock-marked and scarred. One of them had a clearly visible, split tusk. They were in the woods somewhere. The vision was gone as fast as it had come. After consideration, it became clear to me that we were under surveillance from the Yurtrus worshippers. They had used some type of ritual magic to become clearvoyant, to scry upon us and track our movements and actions. It told me two things; that we had aroused their attention and that little we did went unknown to them, but also that whatever we were doing was jeopardising their plans.

We decided to head back to Glister. We needed supplies and I felt like I should research what we had found further using Lord Marbrand’s library and notes. The trek back was relatively uneventful.

Day 14

The following night, I was woken by David because he had seen something moving in the darkness as he was keeping watch. I immediately released Blackwing to the sky and she reported that a slender, long-limbed creature was coming towards camp. When I saw it, it looked like a materialised shadow, something consisting of pure negative energy. The warriors in our group (read: everyone not named Ethan) furiously fought the creature but it seemed nearly impossible to defeat. When it finally did go down and I had a moment to think, I came to a careful conclusion that this creature may have been summoned by the Yurtrus worshippers and sent to attack us in the night. It just didn’t strike me as a chance encounter, and Harald confirmed that this is not a creature that is native or often spotted on the Thar.

After a few hours after sunrise we arrived in Glister and I immediately negotiated a cabin for David with Haéla. I took some time to freshen up and rest while I meditated on all we had seen and the ordeals we had faced.

The rest of the day was relatively uneventful, but the following night I was awoken by tremors and a rumble coming off of the Thar. Many of the villagers, including almost everyone staying at the inn made their way south towards the Shadowed Lake to see where the noise was coming from. It seemed a large chunk of the edge of the Thar had broken off and fell down into the waters below. When it seemed like this was an isolated incident and the Oldmark was safe, I went back to sleep.

Day 15

The following morning I made haste to the castle. Being at the castle and getting access to the library and Lord Marbrand’s notes, I was once again reminded that there were only six more days left before the village would decided over Lord Marbrand’s estate.

I decided to reread Lord Marbrand’s correspondence with Brother Martinus at Candlekeep. They had gotten into an argument about the nature of the structures upon the Thar, and I had a suspicion that it was about the same dissonant idea that orcs were responsible for it all. The idea that Lord Marbrand proposed was that indeed the orcs had a thriving, developed society unlike anything we have seen or learned about them and that a sudden, catastrophic calamity had lead to their immediate extinction and perhaps even to the infertility of the Thar itself. The last correspondence dated back six months.

We decided to look at the large chunk of rubble that had crumbled off the Thar. We got Gilbert the duck farmer, a dim-witted fellow I have grown very fond of during my time here, to lend us one of his boats. When we arrived at the site, it looked as if the exit of a tunnel had been laid bare, much like the ones we had found in the crevice above the barrow. A giant spider was lurking there, but my companions quickly defeated it. Its body turned out to be a great source of spell and arcane components and I harvested as many as I could carry.

It was decided we would explore the tunnel and I immediately suggested Quentyn invite the dwarf Gorm as an underground, convined space specialist. While others went out to make preparations for our expedition, I went to the castle library and promptly forgot the time. I was picked up by David and eventually found myself decending from the Thar and into the tunnel.

After having explored the tunnel for a while, we realised that the function fo the tunnel was likely that of a sewer. I wondered it was constructed or shaped, but my back was killing me due to having to bow down constantly, so I couldn’t focus. We proceeded with more care after Quentyn heard spiders. I got handed the lone torch we had been using to light our way from David. Having more light I quickly spotted a crack in the ceiling and halted everyone. Looking up I saw many small, black eyes staring back at me. We backed up and out of the way of the crack. Jago managed to get himself bitten as the spider dropped down. David pushed me out of the way and behind him and continue to engage the spider. While that was happening, two other spiders had snuck up from either end of the tunnel, so I found myself once again face to face with a giant spider without anyone to protect me. I was forced to unleash my fiery hands. Burning Hands was the first offensive spell I learned and I had studied it prior to making my trek across the Thar to Glister. I had never had the opportunity to use it, but I am very glad it worked with such ferocious effect.

Burning Hands
Ag voth yol nol haali.
Burn with the fire from my hands.

Eventually the spiders were defeated and we continued on, but unfortunately not for long. I once again succumbed to the pain in my back. The stooped posture we had to adopt — with the exception of Gorm, of course — was doing us in. Being more frail and less hardy than the others, I was just the first to give in to the pain. David bestowed the endurance of the broken god upon me and oh how the gods are good! I felt strong, potent and reinvigorated.

We walked for several hours, finding nothing. Eventually we found a wide crack on the left side of the tunnel leading to a wide, natural cave. We spotted another spider, bigger than the others. How do these spiders feed? They must require a significant amount of sustenance given their size. Looking around the surrounding habitat, it looked as if the spiders mostly fed on other spiders.

When Quentyn lost his spear while fighting the large spider matriarch and threatened to be overwhelmed by her, I picked up his weapon and managed to score a hit! I may have yelled something while I did so, but I honestly can’t remember what. I was so excited. This is what my brother Danan must feel like when he wields his weapons!

After defeating the matriarch, we took a moment to rest in the spider’s lair. I found a tunnel covered in spider webbing that David began to burn away with a torch. I thought it a good moment to ask people which god they paid homage to. David’s was clear; Ilmater, as was Gorm’s; Moradin. Jago’s patron surprised me somewhat, as he paid homage to Tyr, the god of justice. He always struck me as a rather roguish individual, but it seems there is more to him than meets the eye. Quentyn follows the teachings of Helm, the vigilant one and I admitted to Chauntea, which seemed to surprise a few people.

When David was done burning away the webbing we went to explore the tunnel. After a short while we found an old campsite with a symbol of Yurtrus. We found another passage leading to another sewer-tunnel much like the one we had initially started leading down, which ran parallel along it. We followed the second tunnel until we saw some sunlight through an opening in the ceiling. There we also discovered a wooden handle of a broken tool, like a hammer or a hatchet. It was relatively new, so it seemed like passers by had been there recently, quite possibly the Yurtrus worshippers.

Returning back to Glister, I decided to use a pearl David had found in the tombs underneath the barrow to try and discern the nature and the abilities of the magical items we had found there. The Identify spell calls for an owl feather, wine and a pearl, but unfortunately I had to improvise. To my great frustration, this town is devoid of any wine, leaving only beer and mead to drink, which my stomach detests. However, I managed to uncover a rare bottle of rather excellent cider in Haéla’s stores that I was able to buy off her. I was more fortunate in finding the owl feather. I thought I’d improvise again and go to Gilbert. He might have a quality feather for me to use belonging to one of his ducks. As it turned out, he had a whole collection of beautiful feathers, one being the feather of a magnificent snow owl. He wasn’t willing to part with it until I let him talk to Blackwing. He was flabbergasted by the fact that Blackwing could speak. In fact, most people are — you don’t have to be a dim-witted bumpkin to be surprised by that. He was very willing to trade me his snow owl feather for one of Blackwing’s feathers.

I had to make some adjustments to the incantation to account for the lack of wine, but I managed to cast the divination spell. Unfortunately it wasn’t without some adverse effects to my health, but nothing that wouldn’t fade in time. While the blood pooring from my ears and nose was running down my face, I uncovered the mysteries of the red doublet and the brass knuckles. Especially the doublet was a shocker; magical vestments made of the supplest of dragonskin leather, taken from the belly of very young dragons. Treated and cured to an exceptional suppleness so as not to hinder the wearer in any way.

The Dragonskin Doublet

The Dragonskin Doublet

It seemed the doublet offered its wearer enchanced ability to cast fire-based arcane spells and some resistance to withstand heat, as well as the ability to defend against physical attacks. Apparently there are several such doublets around the world. This one is made of red dragonskin, but there other others, made from other types of dragon leather which offer other benefits. It’s amazing how readily my companions thought the vestments should go to me. I have often seen magical items at school but never have I been an owner of one!

Mindoraan faal laas do aan geinzun.
Comprehend the life of a thing.

Day 16

The following day, I woke up without injury only to find that Jago and Quentyn were out in the yard of the inn having a fist-fight over who was going to use the Heavy Hands, as I divined they were called. It was decided they should go to the one most able to use them, and so they fought. In the end, it was an interesting test of pugilism, and it was clear yet again that strength doesn’t win out over skill, and Jago was awarded the Heavy Hands.

During breakfast, a local boy named Eirik brought us a message that Creighton wanted to see Quentyn and myself. When we reached the castle, it was clear that Creighton, who had once again taken up residence on the grounds of the castle, was very tired. He had been auditing the wizard’s inventory. The widow had been difficult, Wulfric had been trying to get an advance on the inheritence and in general people had been causing him a headache. He had called us over in order to show us a piece from Lord Marbrand’s notepad, a short sentence reading;

The blood of the heir shall open the box?

Things started to fall into place quickly. It was the key to confirming many of our suspicions and the thing that tied all of this together. We rushed to the library, found Harren’s box and after dropping several drops of Quentyn’s blood into the box, managed to open it and find a letter written by Harren and several items.

To my Descendant,

It is the 5th day of Flamerule in the year of the Tireless Lutes, 1084 as reckoned in the Dalelands. A fortnight ago I and six of my kinsman, and two hirelings ventured onto the Thar the confront an ancient evil. Though we slew the Beast, we have failed to destroy it utterly, and I fear it shall return. If you are reading this, than my fears must have come true.

The Beast you are facing has many names but is most commonly known as Yurtrus’ Plague. It is believed the Thar once was home to a powerful confederation of Orcs, Vorbyx, which subjugated much of the North by force of arms. It is also believed that they fell from pride by a dreadful terror sent by the god Yurtrus; a demon by the name of Nar-Narg-Naroth.

Before the Stag I have vowed that the Beast will be undone by my blood. The plan was straightforward; me and my kinsmen would slay the demon, whilst the hireling mages would ensnare its soul. The soul was to be ensnared inside a flawless, perfectly spherical bloodstone. Alas, Lady Tymora did not favor our endeavor; The stone must have had a blemish, for it failed to trap the soul of the Beast. The stone exploded and took the head of one of the mages clean off.

By the Stag, we have fought hard and true; we brought down Yurtus’ Plague, but did not overcome it utterly. I have lost three of my kinsman today, and both hirelings. I have failed to fulfill my sacred vow to the Stag, our tribe’s protector, and have placed upon my ancestors a heavy burden. For that I can only beg for forgiveness.

I shall bring my kinsman close to the Thar and build a castle, so that my ancestor shall find himself close to the Beast when his fate calls. Take my hammer and the sacred scrolls and imprison the Beast’s soul for ever more.

May the Stag guide your path,

Harren of Clan Martell called Demonsbane

The letter was from Harren and addressed to his descendant, telling him of defeating the demon and sealing it in a bloodstone in the ruins. Harren knew the banishment would not be permanent and that it would be his ancestor’s duty to finished what he started. It was why he moved his kinsmen close to the Thar and founded Glister.

I think it is time I make mention of the fact that I realise that the infernal outsiders are technically devils and not demons. Tanar’ri are demons, but try and make that distinction to some of the people I’ve had to deal with!

The box contained: Harren’s letter, a copy of the custom Imprisonment spell to thrap the soul of the demon (devil!) in a bloodstone, five pearls, a magical ring, bone meal, cockatrice tail-feather, and several other items necessary to perform the Imprisonment abjuration.

I noticed that Quentyn’s new belt, given to him by Harald, once held a buckle adorned with the head of a boar, but now showed the head of a stag, Quentyn’s newfound family totem. Also, while asked by David if he was ready to be thrust into the role of protector of Glister, Quentyn started to talk about what he considered to be his duty, I noticed the candles on the walls seemed to flicker and briefly cast shadows of regal stags upon the wall. I decided I was going to have a word with Harald about the origins of that belt.

It turned out that Harald had created the belt himself, carved the buckle into the image of a boar, cured the leather, all the while performing the ancient rituals of his tribe to curry favour with the boar totem. He wasn’t aware the belt was magical, but seemed glad to know that his rituals had worked.

We ended up inviting Gustav the elder and Lady Ulrikke over to Castle Glister and laid out the entire story to the both of them. Gustav seemed genuinly perplexed by it all, and more than a little worried about the demon (devil!) on the Thar. This was quickly going beyond his ability to comprehend, much like my conversation with Harald about the belt. Lady Ulrikke was hard to read, as always, but seemed open and willing to fight whatever evil lay beneath the barrow.

In the end, this also solidifies Quentyn’s claim on the inheritence, but there is still room for debate. I do believe that if he leads a force to defeat the demon (devil!), he should have a nearly undeniable claim to the inheritence of Lord Marbrand, and hopefully, I can have a claim at the old wizard’s library.

Ethan the Blackwing, Day Four

The Melting, 1372 DR

Day 4

The day after the folkmoot at the long house atop the Glister hill, I had arranged to meet with Creighton at the castle. I was certain I had overlooked something in the search for Lord Marbrand’s library. His study was too mundane to support a wizard of his stature. Either the wizard was not a wizard and he had fooled the people of Glister, or worse; he had been able to fool me. This day, I decided, I would get to the bottom of the deception.

When I emerged from my cabin at the Timebered Inn to depart for the castle, both Quentyn and a companion of his, David wanted to come along. Quentyn seemed eager to start looking for evidence of his blood relation to Lord Marbrand, which seemed likely to be in his library. It seemed our goals were united. David had been Quentyn’s companion in the search for Wulfric’s daughter and it seemed the two had a common goal that remained unclear to me at the time. Jago emerged from his cabin moments later and rushed out to meet us on the road to north.

I’ve had little time to observe David while in Glister. The first evening he had been staying at the Timbered Inn. A tall man, wiry strong with a fair face. He is easy to smile and though it’s warm and compassionate, I’m not entirely sure it’s not a sycophant’s smile. A large, barbed chain hangs at his belt and his pace is sure and steady. There’s an economy in his movement that suggests some martial experience, and if I am to believe the tales that came back with the party sent out to rescue Wulfric’s daughter, he is more than capable.

I was happy to see Jago join us, though I have no idea why he would. No doubt a scoundrel, ever since joining meeting him in Melvaunt it’s clear that he has ambition and isn’t without a cultivatable talent for observation. I’ve observed him observing throughout our travels across The Thar, but the folkmoot solidified my suspicion about him. It will be good to have him help in the search for Lord Marbrand’s library.

Arriving at Creighton’s house outside the castle gate, I was greeted somewhat sullenly. It was obvious that he wasn’t too keen on allowing all of us on the castle grounds. Quentyn’s suggestion of moving into the castle was not up for discussion until Quentyn had proved his blood relation. Just listening to the politics of it all gave me a headache. Quentyn tried to appeal to Creighton by suggesting people might take advantage of the transitional period and steal things from the castle. Creighton in turn promised to have Siggis, an aging but experienced soldier, guard the property at night.

Creighton had prepared us all some breakfast. I ate a bit in order to be polite. Having only started travelling recently, I’ve yet to grow accustomed to the radically changing diet from one region to the other. It takes me an painfully long time to grow accustomed to certain food types. Specifically fibrous vegetables like celery and leek and acidic vegetables like onions, tomatos and certain beans. I try to avoid these, eating only small portions until my stomach slowly gets used to them. Eggs, fresh cuts of meat and the occassional boiled potato suits me fine without finding blood in my stool the next day after a bad night of stomach cramps.

Near the end of our breakfast, Lady Ulrikke came galloping up the road with one of her companions we had not seen before. She didn’t bother to introduce her companion, who was wearing the mark of Bane, but informed us she was going out into the wild to make sure the gnolls understood not to return to the Oldmark and stop raiding Glister. It struck me as an odd moment, reflecting upon it now. Why would she inform us of this? We are all newcomers and have nothing to do with the governance of Glister. Is something about to occur and is she preparing an alibi for herself?

Her companion reminded me in more ways than one of David, except where David seems warm, compassionate and open, this man seemed snide, sharp and harsh. Creighton told us his name was Moloch and that he was an ex-Zhentarim agent. What strange bedfellows this town creates. I looked at my new companions and was once again reminded that I had left the comfort, order and civilisation of Cormyr where worship of deviant and dark gods like Bane was strictly forbidden.

David asked Creighton about Lord Marbrand’s investments. It seemed to him that with Lord Marbrand being involved in many, if not all the businesses on the Oldmark, he may have accounts of all of them and possibly this would give us a clue as to who might have access to the many different silver coins that the Gnolls were carrying. It would obviously be someone handling goods that were traded in many regions beyond the Oldmark. Creighton promised to perform a diligent study on all the accounts, moving into a small house on the castle grounds for the duration of that study.

Later it turned out that Creighton used to live in the small house on the castle grounds. I wonder why he moved out.

Arriving at the castle after breakfast, I walked through all that I had found previously, explaining my suspicion of a second study. Lord Marbrand’s body had been laid out in his bed, awaiting his cremation that evening. Seeing his body once again, I realised that he may have been ex-sanguinated by way of magic. More accurately, necromantic magic. A quick reccount of lore, necromantic magics are used by mages, priests, certain undead and extraplanar creatures. He looked very old but was always described by the townsfolk as a vibrant and energetic gentleman. His advanced age might be an effect of whatever left that lingering magical traces in his study.

When Jago found some irregularities with the fireplace upstairs and downstairs, I decided I should trust my natural instincts more in the future. Not just about there having to be a hidden entrance to a library or laboratory, but also about being glad that Jago came along. It turns out the fireplace in the study was rather broad. Downstairs there was another fireplace directly below it, but somewhat misaligned from the fireplace in the study, suggesting that the chimneys ran side by side, disconnected so as not to cause a buildup of smoke in the study when the downstairs fire was going. Enough space was left for a third fireplace, but there was none in the attic above the study. Our conclusion that there must be a basement proved correct when we removed the bookcase standing to the side of the fireplace in the study to reveal a spiraling staircase going down.

The hidden cellar was very large, easily covering the entire size of the castle with thick pillars bearing the weight of the enormous building above it. We found hundreds of books, spanning a myriad of subjects — including a large section of spellbooks and books on magical theory. Cabinets filled with spell components and other arcane curiosities lined the walls side by side with the bookcases. There were storage chests filled with enough supplies, components, paper, ink and many other necessities to start a small but respectable mage’s college. Such wealth!

We decided to look for draconic script and see if we could make sense of the “that which is not dead…” poetry I had found in Lord Marbrand’s mouth. Quentyn, in the meantime, decided to do his own research into Lord Marbrand’s lineage.

I was deep in study when Creighton came to get me from the cellar. I believe his surprise and amazement at the hidden cellar was not feigned. He seemed to need a minute to comprehend the deception before telling it was time to depart for the Thar. Somewhat annoyed to discontinue my studies, I knew if I was going to stay in Glister and be accepted — and with the find of this trove of arcane potential, the former was certain and the latter was desirable — I was going to have to continue down the path that was allowed to walk by acting as one of the witnesses to the unsealing of Lord Marbrand’s testament.

On the ridge overlooking the Shadowed Lake, we found long tables filled with a king’s feast. Giant boars were roasting over large fires and there was food aplenty for all townsfolk that made the journey to come and say goodbye to the old wizard. Many people showed up and the chairs brought to seat everyone during the service soon ran out. The pyre had been well constructed and very tall. When the old wizard was brought out and laid upon the tower of wood, many villagers gasped and rumours started spreading quickly. I was right, the man did look much older and more withered than most people had expected.

I recognised a threat here. The rumours that spread were all that the old wizard was somehow harmed by magic. I know for a fact that this is not the case, knowing not I but another mage killed Lord Marbrand, but the townsfolk believe I am the only mage on the Oldmark. I have to tread carefully, for it’s easily to mistake Quentyn for an usurper and me for his willing accomplice.

The service was sober and solemn. Creighton said a few words that seemed to move most of the townsfolk. It was obvious that Lord Marbrand, now part of the Weave and dwelling forever with the Mother of all Magic in her home of Dweomerheart, was well loved and well respected. Afterwards, the feast was a joyous one. People recounted stories of the old wizard. Many of the stories involved him coming to the aid of the townsfolk using his magic in defense of Glister, or speaking at the many folksmoots they’ve held. I was somewhat concerned when Blackwing, whom I had sent out to fly around the Thar in search for threats, found and showed me three white robed and cowled figures on the edge overlooking the Shadowed Lake, keeping about a mile distance from the cremation. They headed west along the edge of the Thar before the people of Glister departed. Who are these people? Were they there to spy or to pay their last respects?

Ethan the Blackwing, Day One

Spring, 1372

Day 1

The trek from Melvaunt to Glister was an arduous twelve day task. The locals call the moor- and heathlands between the two cities The Thar. An infertile land, its acidic and rocky soil only capable of supporting hardy grass, thistles and some cotton. Despite the constant fog, the ground was dry and fresh water became scarce.

Fergal lead our caravan. A Melvaunteen and tradesman responsible for the delivery of many of the things which are scarce in Glister, like salt. Besides a tradesman, he is also a slaver. Jochi was a nomad before being captured and sold into slavery. He seems jovial enough as long as he can roam. Miggel was a Zhentarim foot soldier before becoming a prisoner of war. He seems rather resigned to his fate as a slave, saying that it could have been worse if he had been sold to a salt mine.

Every three or four days or so, we reached a cache of stored water. By the end of the trek, my own supplies were running low and due to my poor physical disposition towards cabbages and barley, I was forced to purchase some digestible foodstuffs from others in the caravan. As a result, when we finally reached Glister, was down to a handful of gold and silver.

We approached Glister just after dark. Fergal had been hounding us to move faster so that we could reach Glister before sunset and not be caught out after dark. The trek had been fairly uneventful but not without dangers. Jochi’s eyes had occasionally spotted rovers trailing us and he kept saying how they would have been more bold if we hadn’t seen a relatively mild winter.

The end of The Thar was like the end of the world. Suddenly the vulgar grass ended and we were staring down a chasm dropping several hundred feet straight down. Below we could see the reflection of the moon and stars upon a lake of fresh water. Two wide rivers, the Small Water and the Still Water met in the shadows of the The Thar’s high cliffs in what the locals call the Shadowed Lake. Between the two rivers lay The Oldmark, a stretch of fertile land upon which Glister sat.

Glister turned out to be nothing more than a large town with two villages within walking distance. To the north-west lay Wizard’s Hill and to the north-east lay The Hoof. We made our way down to the southern end of the Shadowed Lake by way of a collapsed bit of The Thar, which allowed us to get down safely. A muddy dike had been created across the Still Lake that allowed us to cross over to The Oldmark. I am quite curious as to how the locals manage to keep the dike from eroding; the Small Water must have enough current to slowly disintegrate the dike. I resolved to find out.

Glister had a wooden palisade surrounding it. Just to the south of Glister we found the Timber Keep Inn, which had its own fence. It appeared to be a different sort of inn than the usual fare I’d seen on my way north. It had a large communal tavern, several separate, wooden huts, two stables and several outhouses surrounded a shallow well.

I gave donkey to one of the stableboys and two coppers ensured he rubbed him down and gave him fresh oats. The huts were for rent, costing two silvers a fortnight. I paid the buxom Haéla who runs the inn one silver and was shown one of the huts. I left many of my belongings in the hut, but with no way of locking it from the outside, I made sure to take the essential things with me back to the tavern.

The tavern mostly serves porridge and stews. I asked for wine and received mead. I asked for boiled eggs and received one. My stomach isn’t made to digest oats and cabbage, so I will have to find my own food, it seems. After a short inquiry I found that a simpleton named Gilbert owns a duck farm on the banks of the Shadowed Lake.

Even though my mattress was nothing more than a hay-filled sack, sleep came easily, wrapped in as many blankets as they’d give me. My dreams were queer and disturbing. I’m not sure why I’m haunted by dreams and memories of my graduation now that I’ve arrived in Glister, but there must be some significance.

Day 2

The following day I got up on time for breakfast (more oats) and I made my way over to the duck farm. Gilbert turned out to have quite an operation running along the shores of the Shadowed Lake, with five scores of ducks and a handful of children to help him herd them and harvest their eggs. He turned out to be ever the simpleton that he was made out to be, but despite his diminished intellect, there was a simplicity in his observations that cut right to the heart of matters. I bought a dozen eggs and made my way back to the Timbered Inn.

After studying the spells I thought I would require, I set out on my way to Castle Glister on Wizard’s Hill, the home of Lord Dagobert Marbrand. I decided to cut through Glister to see more of the town. The only really remarkable thing was the standing stones at the top of the hill next to the timber long house that looked like it could house a significant portion of Glister’s population. The stones were large and dense and covered with a thick carpet of fine moss. They are likely to have functioned as a place of worship for whoever roamed the Oldmark before the days of Glister’s founding.

As I decended the hill on the northside of Glister I noticed smoke coming from the north-eastern part of The Hoof, a sign of the fire that had rumoured to have been broken out at the ranch of an important man by the name of Wulfric. Several people far more qualified than I were already on their way there to lend their assistance, so I made my way to the north-west, to Wizard’s Hill.

A small town with a lumber mill, ran by a woman everyone refers to as “The Widow”, and a brewery. The way to Wizard’s Hill had been lined with cultivated fields of tall grain stalks, which had awoken memories of Fulcestershire. The smell of hops took root in the fertile soil of the memories of my home and I instantly send me reeling with homesickness. I reminded myself how far I’ve travelled and pushed on.

A thick stone wall surrounded Castle Glister and the sturdy wooden gate was closed. The building peeked out over the wall and curiously looked more like a stone and timber keep than a castle or fortress. The stones were a deep dark colour, unlike the colour of the standing stones in Glister, and were dotted with tiny pink quartz and white crystals, making the stone glitter in the sunlight. I made a mental note to figure out whether the stones were local and if not, where the stones had been brought from.

When there was no answer at the gate, I talked to a local by the name of Creighton. It turned out I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Lord Marbrand’s steward. After a short chat he agreed to set up a meeting with the man and would seek me out in the Timbered Inn. When he finally came that night, he was joined by Lady Ulrikke with whom I had an odd conversation that afternoon after I came back from Wizard’s Hill.

Lady Ulrikke seems to be somewhat of a warden of the Oldmark, though she’s unwilling to admit it. She’s a follower of Shaundakul, the Father of Travellers and Exploration, and seems keen in promoting travel, commerce and the prosperity of Glister. Born into a Melvaunt noble family, she seems to be a veteran adventurer with a healthy dose of wanderlust and curiosity, and it continues to be a bit of a mystery to me what it is that keeps her Glister-bound.

Her curiosity didn’t contain itself to the secrets of the world, but also to me, it seemed. Her “subtle” attempts at gaining more information about me were feeble, at best, and it was indicative of the way people in Glister tend to deal with one another; fairly openly and honestly, which is surprisingly refreshing compared to the nest of vipers which is my homeland.

A few of the interesting points that she revealed about Glister, which I should keep in mind; Everything in Glister is decided by the entire community. In principle everyone in Glister gets a vote and a majority rules. However, in reality, several people of some standing gather supporters around themselves and cast the votes for all of them. Lady Ulrikke is one of such paragons. Wulfric is another. Gustav, the village elder, is another. And of course Lord Marbrand. The idea of having nobility make the decisions or inheritance and succession is something as foreign to Glister as their system of governance would be to Cormyr.

So Creighton and Lady Ulrikke found me at my book in the Timbered Inn, well past the point at which I thought Creighton would still come to me that day. They sat at my table and informed me that Lord Marbrand had died. I could feel the disappointment start as a great warmth in my face, sink down my throat causing brief nausea and settle in my stomach like a bag of water. I had travelled all this way to find a wizard only for him to die the day I try to obtain an audience with him.

Lady Ulrikke asked me to accompany her and Creighton to Castle Glister to investigate the scene of Lord Marbrand’s death. My first thought was that I had not prepared my spells properly that day. When we arrived at the gate of the castle, Creighton ushered us inside. The grounds had a stable, some storage buildings and a building where the groundskeeper, a mute named Mud, resided. The keep was a two-and-a-half storey affair, with a large double-level entrance hall, completely with grand stairway to the second floor and a balustrade looking down upon the hall. Four large rooms, two on each floor, made up the majority of the building.

The western room on the second floor was Lord Marbrand’s study, where we found his body. He seemed to have died quite suddenly while at his writing desk, old correspondence was laid about his desk and a quil and a vial of writing ink were in evidence. (Later I would divine that neither the quill nor the ink was poisoned and I returned them to the Marbrand household.) A small, bound booklet, which seemed to serve as a way for Lord Marbrand to jot down his thoughts and ideas was also present. One page was torn out of the booklet and seemed to have been placed inside Lord Marbrand’s mouth. His lips were blue, his hands somewhat spasmed and his body cold, as if death had come several hours ago. When I removed the paper from his mouth, I noticed several drops of blood on the paper. His tongue had been removed from his mouth. The paper read “that which is not dead may eternally lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”

The books in the study were mostly mundane and much of his old correspondence was also in evidence. Nowhere did I find any of Lord Marbrand’s arcane books. When asked about a laboratory or library, Creighton maintained Lord Marbrand had no such place, which I believe to be false. It’s not unlike wizards of Lord Marbrand’s resources and renown to have hidden libraries. I checked the surroundings. Mindok pah lah! The traces of strong magic, slowly dissipating over time became clear to me as I peered through my clear crystal. Having searched through the rest of the home for signs of breaking and entering (and at the same time looking for possible clues to a second library or laboratory) but alas, we found none.

I asked Creighton if Lord Marbrand had a last will and testimony that could possibly shed light on who was to benefit from his death, and he revealed that he did. The testament would be delivered to Gustav, the village elder, for review the following day. I was to be present at the unsealing to be witness to the words within.

I returned back to the Timbered Inn, with much on my mind. Sleep proved not to be as elusive as it usually is. For a second night in a row I slept easily and well.

Day 3

When I awoke the next day I found that the brave adventurers that had accompanied me on my way from Melvaunt had returned from their mission to rescue Wulfric’s daughter from a band of raiders. As I sat to consume the dreariness of what should pass for breakfast, it struck me as no coincidence that The Hoof was attacked by a band of Gnoll raiders at the same time that Lord Marbrand was murdered. It seemed like the fire was a distraction for the real crime of the murder. Gnolls, while simple and unsophisticated, generally don’t leave a raid without any of the things they came to raid. Surely they wouldn’t just come in order to kidnap Wulfric’s daughter, who holds no intrinsic nor strategic value to them. And when I hear that they were paid with bright white, leather pouches, filled with silver, it suggests to me that they acted as agents for a much more sophisticated employer.

I was picked up by Lady Ulrikke who took me to Gustav’s home in Glister. Gustav looked every bit the part of a village elder. He was being attended to by two women, likely his daughters or perhaps even his granddaughters, and commanded respect and obedience from everyone in attendance. Later it would turn out that the respect was well-earned as his wisdom ran deep. Creighton, Gustav, Lady Ulrikke and I all witnessed the unbroken seal of House Marbrand upon the letter and when unsealed read the short, concise testament.

In short, it stated that Lord Marbrand wanted to be cremated upon the Thar. The redistribution of his possessions was to be decided by the village of Glister in the event that no heir had presented themselves by the time of his death.

Appropriate agents were sent to Wizard’s Hill and The Hoof to inform one and all of a village meeting to be held at the long house that evening to announce the passing of Lord Marbrand and his last wishes. I was excited to see such perfect lawlessness in action. The self-regulation of the villagers seemed to have served them very well and I was going to witness it first hand.

I retired to the Timbered Inn and stayed there to study my spells for the rest of morning and afternoon. I briefly spoke to Quentyn who revealed to me that he came to Glister to speak to Lord Marbrand much like I had. Apparently, Lord Marbrand is a distant relative and had invited Quentyn to visit and discuss the possibility of adopting him as Lord Marbrand’s official heir since Lord Marbrand had never fathered any children of his own. When I told him Lord Marbrand had died the previous evening, he angrily stormed out of the inn. I only saw him again in the great long house at the top of Glister’s hill that evening.

It seemed like almost every person of age had come to the long house to find out what the excitement was about. Many people had heard the news and were looking for confirmation of the wizard’s death while the news had not reached others yet. In the end, much confusion existed about the reason for the gathering. All of the villagers fell silent when Gustav the elder informed them of the wizard’s death. No mention was made about the nature of his passing, only that he had left a last will and testimony. The crowd erupted, everyone speaking at once. When the crowd went quiet, the four witnesses (myself included) to the unsealing of the testament were introduced and made to verify the piece of paper and its contents. Gustav read out loud the wizard’s last wishes and again, the crowd erupted.

It had not escaped my attention that slowly, groups of people started to clutter around several of the earlier mentioned paragons. Wulfric, The Widow, Widukin the hunter, Lady Ulrikke and even the simple Gilbert got a few followers. There were others I didn’t recognise, probably about a dozen in total. Most people were talking about what would happen to the investments Lord Marbrand had made in local businesses. It seemed the old wizard had put up quite a bit of his own coin to support starting ventures, help expand existing businesses and extended loans and hand-outs to those people falling on hard times and needing a helping hand. It seemed the wizard had touched the hearts and purses of everyone in town, and everyone wanted to know what was going to happen, immediately.

In the ruckus Creighton mentioned to Gustav that he would make arrangements for the wizard’s cremation upon the heath on The Thar. I offered him my help. It seemed like Lord Marbrand came from the fires of the arcane, and to the fires of the arcane he should return.

After about twenty minutes the crowd began calming down again. I had been making eye contact with Quentyn, who was waiting patiently for the moment to unveil himself as possible heir to the estate of Lord Marbrand. When Gustav asked whether there was an heir present that would present himself, I almost thought Quentyn had decided against it, but at the last possible moment he stepped forward.

I don’t quiet remember everything that he said, but I must commend him on his oratorical ability. It seems House Martell had made great strides in chivalry every since crawling from the Sembian cesspool several generations ago. He stated his case eloquently but was firm; he had received a letter in which Lord Marbrand had traced his lineage to that of House Martell, that he had determined them to be the closest thing to a living heir and that he had chosen Quentyn, House Martell’s youngest son who stood to inherit no lands or titles, to adopt as his heir.

The letter was presented to the four witnesses of the unsealing of the testament to validate its authenticity. Somehow, I now found myself on a panel to decide whether Quentyn was going to inherit all of Lord Marbrand’s posessions, lands and titles. It wasn’t the first time I asked myself how I had gained this prominent position.

I noticed a clear schism in the people of Glister. Some wanted to honour the wizard’s desire for Quentyn to be his heir, others believed that it was up to villagers to decide, but I strongly questioned what their reasoning was for that claim. Several people spoke, some in support of Quentyn’s claim and some in opposition of his claim. The opposition coming out of Wizard’s Hill was especially fierce, lead by The Widow. A surprisingly supportive voice was that of Wulfric, who had been very grateful for Quentyn’s help in returning his daughter from the raiders. Lady Ulrikke stayed quiet.

I was one of the last people to speak, explaining that according to Cormyrian laws of succession, the laws that Quentyn abided by, and obviously the laws that Lord Marbrand was using as his guide to find a successor, it is stated that Quentyn has few rights, being the youngest of his house, with a living brother, a living father and several living uncles, all of whom stand before him in line of succession, and that adoption was very rare and only saved for special cases in which the name of the house were to die out completely. He would have to forsake his house and adopt House Marbrand. No longer would he be Quentyn Martell of House Martell, he would then be Quentyn Martell of House Marbrand. It was the wish of Lord Marbrand, but the precedence unstable and furthermore, not in accordance with their own laws.

Quentyn remained steadfast, and the most shaken he seemed when I recounted his family’s history. His is a small and young house, but with a short but heroic history that is uncircumventable when growing up in Cormyr. Songs are sung about his lineage, even if some of the songs focus more on the roguish nature of Quentyn’s great grandfather, the Vagabond Knight. He quickly steadied himself and nodded approvingly of my logic. It was good to see that he saw that I was supporting his claim by restating the wishes of Lord Marbrand while cloaking it in a message of deliberate caution to the villagers. He played his part perfectly. Later, I would reflect upon this moment and concluded with some sadness that even I seem to have the Cormyrian propensity for schemes and politicking.

Lastly, Creighton spoke and said what I was loathed to point out; Quentyn hadn’t been adopted yet. He wasn’t an heir. I had hoped that the villagers would lack the sophistication to grasp that simple truth, but Creighton pleasantly disappointed me. Quentyn had to fulfill a year in service of Lord Marbrand, taking care of his household affairs in order to prove that he was worthy of being the heir. Creighton, who was best equipped to speak for the dead Lord Marbrand suggested that Quentyn fulfill this task and have the villagers judge his suitability in once year hence.

Gustav added to it that Quentyn must prove the lineage outlined in Lord Marbrand’s letter before the next new moon, in approximately two rides, and I immediately knew that the key would be to find Lord Marbrand’s secret library, which is probably where he did most, if not all of his real research on the matter.

A majority of the villagers voted to adopt the notion. Quentyn proves his lineage and then spends one year taking care of the late Lord Marbrand’s affairs, after which he will be considered adopted and the heir to the Marbrand possessions, estates, lands, deeds, titles and most importantly; the name. I wonder what his kin in house Martell think of this move. It would gain them a hold, some lands and wealth, but they would lose a valuable member of their family, one with a lot of potential, in my opinion. What if Lord Martell’s eldest son dies? Would he be so eager to see his inheritance pass to one of his younger brothers?

Ethan Redwyne of Fulcestershire

The Redwyne Family Crest


The Redwynes of Fulcestershire

The Redwyne family has ruled over Fulcestershire (pronounced full-stər-shər) for twelve generations. The first generations struggled to maintain their sovereignty during the age of strife, when lords and princes tried to consolidate as much land as possible. The Red Keep was completed in three generations and proved instrumental in repelling invasions.

Eventually, during the age of peace, swords were turned into ploughshares and Fulcestershire turned to agriculture. The rich soil and ingenuity of the farmers quickly turned Fulcestershire into one of the most important lordships in the kingdom. The Red Keep was renamed Redgarden Keep in honour of the new dedication. Its fruits, vegetables and grains fed much of the kingdom. Its spirits, beers and especially the wines were without equal.

Fulcester, before a small farming village in the shadow of Redgarden Keep, turned into a trading city of nearly twenty thousand within several generations. The Redwynes prospered, both financially and politically. Traders came to barter their wares, lords came to seek the lord’s council to maximise the yield of their own crops and the royal family drank the Fulcester wines exclusively.

Despite its new dedication Redgarden Keep never forgot the age of strife and prided itself on its martial acumen. The footmen and archers were well-trained and oft-drilled, and its knights were valorous, honourable and competitive in tourneys. On several occasions Redgarden Keep lent its troops in protection of friendly lordships and when the crown called its banners.

Only one blemish was ever recorded on our family’s history. Five generations ago, my great-great-great-grandfather’s younger brother was Lord Ulster Redwyne, whose manhunt across the kingdom brought great shame to the Redwyne name as he was unwilling to submit to the Circle of Magi and chose to practice his magic as a renegade. He was eventually found and killed by agents of the Circle.


The Disappointment of Lord Halberstam Redwyne

I told you that story in order to tell you this story.

My father is Lord Halberstam Redwyne, Twelfth Lord of Fulcestershire. His banner is a golden cornucopia upon a burgundy field. He became lord at the age of twenty-eight after his father, Lord Marcus, the Eleventh Lord of Fulcestershire, died. He had learned much in the ways of farming, trading and politics, was a decent swordsman and had married well. His brother and sister had been wed into important families and relations were warm.

It was truly my lord father’s first big defeat when no children were born for several years. Stillborns and miscarriages plagued my lady mother and it put a severe strain on the marriage. When I was finally born a collective sigh of relief could be heard from Fulcester to Highgarden.

It could be argued that my lady mother was overprotective in her care for me. When I was struck by the bloody flux at the age of four, many a priest thought I’d perish before my fifth name day. Bedridden for months I came close to dying several times, but eventually due to the diligence of my lady mother and the persistence of my lord father, I survived.

Unfortunately, the disease shattered my digestive system and left me weaker than most boys my age. Often bedridden and surrounded by priests, I quickly turned to the books in my lord father’s library to entertain myself. I was a quick study and that which I lacked physically, I made up intellectually.

My lord father was never good at hiding his frustration, and doubly so when it concerned his son and heir. If I were to inherit his lands, titles and properties, I had to be capable of wielding a sword as well as read books. To him I would only be half a man unless I was able to wield a weapon. With the same persistence he had shown when I fell ill, he decided to school me in all manner of warcraft.

The courtyard of Redgarden Keep became the scene of many frustrating afternoons where I disappointed my lord father with my inability to hold a sword. Hard practices led to longer recoveries as my body would fail me. His steward once warned him that if he pushed me any harder it would break me for good and that perhaps sharpening my mind rather than strengthening my swordarm would yield more success.

A miracle struck Fulcestershire once more when my lady mother found herself with child again. My lord father prayed for another son. When Danan was born my lord father announced I would join the holy order of Chauntea. If I wouldn’t be a warrior, I’d honour my family in the service of the Earth Mother. It was not a coincidence that my service to the Earth Mother would also mean a rejection of my hereditary claims. It felt like exile.

I was sent to live at the temple in Fulcester in order to start my studies and participate in my first communion. A few months later I was sent to the capitol to study at the Hightemple. It didn’t take long before it became apparent that my interest in the temple’s library was stronger than my interest in the temple’s goddess. I managed to hide it a while, masking my reading as pious contemplation and study, but eventually I was sent to return home.


The Discovery of Magic

I tried to stay out of my lord father’s way by locking myself in his library, only occassionally coming out and going on field trips to verify certain things I had learned in his books. Within a year, I had read most of the legible books. There was a small collection of books written in a curious script that nobody seemed to know how to read. On the inside of their thick leather covers was written the name “Ulster Redwyne.”

Fielding the studies necessary to decypher the text kept me busy for more than a year. My first experiments came a year after. To my surprise and excitement, I found success at magecraft.

At this point, both my parents had focussed their attention on Danan. He was already better with a practice sword than I had ever been. My lord father’s constant disapproval of me never far from my younger brother’s ear, he stopped looking up to me and started looking down. My lady mother had closed her eyes to the matter and pretended everything was fine. I felt like a stranger among my own family.

When I approached my lord father and informed him of my gift, hoping to finally please him, he shouted at me. Magecraft had brought disgrace upon our family all those generations ago and another Redwyne taking it up would surely spell doom. My lord father’s steward suggested I apply to the Circle of Magi, that I could be a valuable asset to the family. The influence of the Circle was great and if I would do well, I’d lend that influence to our family in court. My lord father dismissed the potential benefit as not worth the cost in shame and disgrace.

I was surprised when my lady mother became involved, lending her support to the steward’s suggestion. My lord father’s fury was complete. The following day, my lady mother announced I should apply to the Circle. There was a glimmer in her eye that I found encouraging. My lord father’s only stipulation was that I forego the use of the Redwyne name and denounce my hereditary claims to the title of Lord of Fulcestershire. I did it gladly.


The Ascension at the Tower

My acceptance as an apprentice at the Tower of High Sorcery was not without some debate. I had already engaged in magecraft while the laws of the king forbade such things. The high wizards had long since divined my real name and questioned my deception, especially in light of my descendance from Ulster the Black, as he was called by the Circle. Explanations were offered and my lady mother made a healthy donation to the Circle using gold from her dowry. This bought my education and the Circle’s discretion about my identity. I started my study known just as Ethan of Fulcester and that suited me fine.

My progression was quick and I became the subject of much debate among the high wizards. While all applauded my aptitude some feared that the trajectory of my ascent was too steep. They argued that the knowledge I was quickly attaining, and the power that would accompany it, needed to be tempered by wisdom that could only come with age. Access to certain libraries was revoked, even though I had proven myself capable.

Progress had slowed to a tedium and I felt other apprentices catch up. I started rereading certain curricula, making sure I had not missed anything, and I began experimenting with formulae, expanding upon working theories, without the aid of the libraries that had been denied to me. My benefactors applauded me, the detractors claimed I was hungry for power.

A rumour started spreading among fellow apprentices that I was the reincarnation of Ulster the Black, set to destroy the Tower once I was done usurping all knowledge in their libraries. I denied all relations, maintained my adopted identity and tried to reassure the detractors among the high wizards, the only logical source of the rumours. I gave up around the same time I managed to form a special bond with a raven I called Blackwing.

To escape the accussations, I’d often go to the highest balcony of the Tower to read. It held the rookery of ravens used to send messages to the mundane agencies in the employ of the Circle. The wizard that cared for it, a grizzled, veteran conjurer, took a liking to me and helped me summon my first familiar.

Blackwing was magnificent and large, with feathers as black as midnight. Wherever I went the raven was not far behind. I taught him a few words at first, later whole sentences. I admit, Blackwing may not have done my reputation at the Tower any favours, but I didn’t care because I had a plan.

Well over a year ahead of schedule, I managed to get the endorsements from the high wizards that I needed in order for me to take the final test. Aware that some of the high wizards that endorsed me didn’t think I’d make it out alive, it left me unperturbed. The final test had claimed the lives of many aspirants, which is why most took the test late rather than early, but I knew I had prepared well.

I will admit this to you but to no other; at the time, I felt like I had little to lose. I had no family, no friends and the guardianship I had expected from the Circle had left wanting. My desire was to leave. Not to be sent away like I was sent from my home and the hightemple, but to leave a mage.

I wanted to be free to pursue my research without being suffocated by the Circle. My time at the Tower had been wonderous, it had given me direction. A few at the Circle I still hold in high esteem, but the rest were arrogant bureaucrats with delusions of importance who had taken a lifetime to do what I achieved in a decade. I found that politics ruled the Circle just like it had ruled my family.

I admit that my final test nearly ended me. While designed to test an aspirant’s entire spectrum of knowledge and capabilities, curiously, my test had mostly prayed on my obvious physical shortcomings. It took months for me to recover. Whispers of Ulster the Black followed me until the day I departed. None of the usual celebrations were offered, just the congratulations of those who had supported me.


The Rest of My Life

And now I am a traveling scholar in search of knowledge, going where the ancient tomes and legends tell me to go. I am beholden to no man and live by the written rules of the laws and of magic, not the unwritten rules of courtesies and etiquette. I seek truth, not favour. I regard people on their merits, not their standing.

I occasionally write my family, and sometimes I even receive a response. My lady mother tells me she is well and that my lord father is too. My brother has written and I’m happy to hear he’s taken to the best of both our parents. I never expected us to get along but we do. I promised that one day soon I would visit.

I seek others mages and exchange knowledge. The oldest magic is the strongest magic, so I listen to rumours of abandoned settlements and inspect their ruins, sifting through the detritus, decyphering old texts and interpreting rotting tapestries. I look for clues of hidden caches of knowledge, forgotten books and buried information.

I’m convinced that the well-trodden path leads to mediocrity. Modern mages focus on the same spells because they lack ambition and imagination. Because they use their gift for coin rather than knowledge. The mages that made a lasting contribution to the collective knowledge we possess were not counting coins or covetting a place at court.

When my coin runs low, I take work as a scribe. When I need to travel, I find a merchant to guard. When I find an inn for the night, I barter a bed and a meal for some simple entertainment. The more north I travel, the more rare my gift becomes and the more people will pay for my employ.

Getting further away from the nest of vipers that is my homeland I find myself happier. Life is simpler, people are simpler, their tongues are simpler, their worries and wants are simpler. With that simplicity comes a clarity of purpose that I never want to relinquish again.