Tag: Ethan Redwyne

Return from High Pass Keep, Highharvestide, The Troglodyte Threat

9th Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year – 10th Day, 3rd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

I have been feeling very low as of late. After returning from the High Pass Keep with all of our treasures I found that Quentyn had gotten a letter from his family in Cormyr. I don’t know what the letter said, whether it brought good tidings or dark words, but I felt myself so envious that I feared I would not be able to hide it.

I locked myself away in the laboratory in order to use the bounty of precious materials we found at the keep to finish the arcane lockbox. Once finished, we stored the bloodstone in it and David used the power of Ilmater to shape the very bedrock upon which the mansion stood to bury the box beneath the laboratory. The stone could not be detected, the demon inside the stone was weakened, the box could not be opened without our blood, and the box was hidden safely inside the foundation of the mansion. It was all we could do to guard it at that time.

As much as Quentyn’s letter had drained me emotionally, completing the arcane lockbox had drained me physically. For days, all I could do was catch up on my studies. I transcribed the arcane scrolls that we retrieved from the High Pass Keep. I tried to start reading the Netherese scrolls of Sigmar the Deathless, after having used the box of mending to repair the salvageable scrolls, but it was too much for me to handle. I had to rest.

A quick summary of notable things that I should not forget:

  • I received a so-called Apprentice Ring, which grants me many interesting benefits, the most important of which is a resistance to the magical effects of other wizards.
  • I managed to identify the great club we took off the guardian, called Goran’s Great Club, as well as a Box of Mending, which, at the time of writing, still has sixteen charges left before it will have to be recharged.
  • On our return to Glister, at the cairned camp, we were ambushed by gnolls and ogres. Of note was that one of the gnolls wore a magical set of leather armour, while the other was a servant of the Yeenogu, demon prince of gnolls.
  • The leather armour was identified as having many different properties that benefits rangers.
  • Upon arrival at the Newmark it appeared that different traders had reached Glister for their last voyage before winter.
  • I managed to purchase two casks of wine from Fergal.


I managed to get past the deep depression which had afflicted me and prepare for Highharvestide, a very important Fulcestershire tradition. Fulcester might not keep my in their minds and hearts, but Fulcester was in mine. I’d be damned if on this holy day I would forego giving thanks to the Mother Creatrix.

I ventured into town by myself and headed towards Chauntea’s grove, a pleasantly wooded area in the south-western part of the Oldmark. A lot of Glisterians had gathered there, and it seemed that Gustav’s daughters were the designated matrons of the ceremony to decorate and paint a crude wooden statue. They are clearly not particularly devout, but they seem to be taking great pride and satisfaction from performing this duty.

The statue was carried to the standing stones in a festive procession. At the stones a cow was slaughtered in a ceremony lead by David. The actual slaughter was done by Quentyn, which he did with great showmanship.

A few Cormyrians from Oak Hill had come down to Glister to join in the celebrations. Some of them seemed a little uncomfortable in the pagan way the Glisterians were celebrating Highharvestide, and so I decided to invite them as well as Quentyn and anyone who was willing to join in to perform a more traditional prayer to Chauntea which I had learned at my time at the Temple of High Worship. I performed the prayer in high Cormyrian in the hopes that the people of Oak Hill would feel a little better at home.

Some of the Glisterians didn’t seem to accept the way I performed the ritual so readily, but I thought it was important that they understood that things would have to change a little bit to accommodate the newly arrived Cormyrians.

When the rituals were conducted, the procession continued on south towards the Shadowed Lake, along the Farmhand’s Dyke to the wall of the Thar, where in one of the many caves that dotted the wall the statue was placed and locked away behind a crude door, painted in bold colours.

I managed to chat to Ser Fosco about his religious affiliations. He talked about paying proper respect to the Triad: Tyr, Ilmater and Torm. He spoke about Chauntea and how Tempus had kept his group safe during their trek to Glister. He had some trouble accepting the latter’s influence on the people he lead to Glister. He accepted that the group had turned into a group of mercenaries, but was uncomfortable with that fact. He seemed to have lost some of his faith in the journey to Glister, and hoped that now that the group had settled, they could be steered back on a more wholesome path.

1st Day, 1st Ride, 10th Month, 1374th Year

Godric came to disturb me in the study of the mansion. He had been sent by David in order to be taught about one of the five chivalric virtues; faith. I thought it strange, since faith isn’t one of the five chivalric virtues. The closest one was probably wisdom, so I gathered a selection of books on the subject of faith, gods, portfolio’s and pantheons and made sure that they were slightly more philosophical in nature.

Later that day I spoke to the others about what to do next to secure a prosperous future for Glister. We quickly agreed that it would benefit Glister if we would take care of the surging troglodyte threat coming from the south-east. A large group of them had gathered at the Lizard’s Tower and was threatening safe passage to Hulburg.

It was interesting to note that while we had gone to liberate High Pass Keep, vanquishing a dangerous threat there and opening up better routes to Vaasa, we had let the threat along the Hulburg route grown and fester. I wondered whether my lord-father was ever forced to make such a hard choice. It felt as if we were on a boat which had sprung many leaks, and we’d have to triage which leak to plug and which leaks to let worsen.

The choice was clear; we would have to deal with the threat at the Lizard’s Tower before it grew beyond our capability to handle. It would make the area safer, drive back the surging threat of the troglodytes and open up a faster route to Hulburg for traders.

2nd Day, 1st Ride, 10th Month, 1374th Year

I did research on the lizards in order to verify their exact nature; troglodytes. Smaller, standing about 5 feet tall instead of the usual 6 or 7 feet of lizardmen. They are far less sophisticated than their larger cousins, but have a nasty ability to secrete a powerful discharge from glands in their neck that causes violent nausea.

I found a recipe to help defend us a little better against that awful stench, which required some common and less common ingredients which could reliably be found in the wilderness around Glister. I shared the formula with David when he came to the laboratory to pick up Goran’s Greatclub. He agreed to talk to Jago and find the ingredients. I was secretly very happy. I had not yet recovered from my malaise and wanted to stay indoors as much as possible before going on our expedition to the Lizard’s Tower.

Jago came to the laboratory with all the ingredients and we made ointments together while we spoke about his connection to the mysterious animal that was stalking Glister’s territory. We ended up making 49 measures of the protective ointment, which could be rubbed on the face, especially underneath the nose, to protect against the burning sensation in the eyes and the nausea that the troglodyte discharge caused.

I told Jago that I could help him make a more concerted effort to contact the animal through a series of guided meditation before sleep each night. The animal comes to him in his sleep, which makes me think that it could be nocturnal, perhaps mountain lion of some sort. Before sleep is when the animal is awake and when he is tired and hopefully well-fed and ready for sleep. It will likely be the best time to help him reach out to the animal.

I found out something interesting; the troglodytes worship Loagzed, the eater of souls, the devourer. It’s a toad-like demon from the Abyss.

In the evening the question came up of where to go, how many people to take, and what we were capable of achieving with the force we could muster. Were we going to be a smaller and more nimble scouting party? Or were we going to be a larger, better equipped fighting force?

I asked Blackwing if she could go and scout around the Lizard’s Tower for us, so we could see the lay of the land and see how many troglodytes were out there.

From Oak Hill:

  • Yorick
  • Voytek
  • Morden
  • Hanco
  • Ser Fosco

From Glister:

  • Aegir
  • Sigbart
  • Gilmar
  • Morits
  • Widukin

I did my first session of guided meditation with Jago, which seems to already have a large measure of success. I think his connection to the animal is much stronger than I had initially understood. I doubt it will take long before the two of them will meet.

3rd Day, 1st Ride, 10th Month, 1374th Year

The Blackwing returned in the morning with news from the Lizard’s Tower. She found another camp on a hill north-east to the tower. The tower had several dozen troglodytes, while the other camp was slightly smaller.

We decided to make our way along the Thar so we could more easily surprise the troglodytes. Most of the rest of the morning was spent in preparation of our departure.

At night we made our camp upon the Thar, probably several hundred yards away from the edge to prevent from being seen, in a small hollow. We decided against a fire so that the light wouldn’t carry across the edge of the Thar, nor attract some of the trolls that we know to live on the heath of the Thar.

After Jago built another cairn and carved the image of Gwaeron Windstrom into it, and afterwards we did another session of guided meditation, which seems to have met with great success, yet again. Satisfied, I fell asleep, only to be awoken by a loud thunderclap as we were beset upon by half a dozen troglodytes!

4th Day, 1st Ride, 10th Month, 1374th Year

The fight was short and we managed to fight off the attackers, but unfortunately some of them managed to get away, scurrying over the edge of the Thar to the waters below. So much for our stealthy approach. As they climbed down the wall of the Thar, I saw, through the eyes of Blackwing, that one of them used a leaf of a Tharthistle to whistle something, probably in warning to other raiding parties scouting upon the Thar.

One thing that I noticed was that there was a higher variety of different troglodytes in this party than we’ve seen before. There were smaller, more roguish troglodytes who fought with blowpipes and darts from a distance, stalking around the edge of the battle scene. And then there were larger, more brutish ones that seemed bred for war.

A good thing I discovered during the fight is that they indeed seem to understand draconic. I speak high draconic, and they probably have a lower form that they speak, but I could hurl insults and threats at them, that Lord Quentyn was “Laogzed’s herald” who would “devour their young” and “poison their waters,” etc. I must say that it worked rather well.

Ulster the Black

The first time I learnt of the Redwyne’s shame was right after I was expelled from the Temple of High Worship in Fulcester. I was trying to remain invisible at Redgarden Keep by hiding in my lord-father’s library. Reading became an obsession mostly to dampen the feeling of loneliness I felt after having lost the two real friends I ever had. It also served to give me some direction and chase away the boredom. I occasionally organised trip to other keeps around the duchy to plunder their libraries as I did our own. Lord Mortimer Loxshore’s library at Brayford Keep was especially rich in information on the natural sciences. It helped that lord Mortimer and his daughter lady Laenore, who was of an age with me, were lovely people. He always welcomed me with open arms and invited me to stay for as long as I liked.

The Brayford Library

I had first met lord Mortimer when he came to Redgarden Keep as part of an attache of lords visiting to discuss matters of governance. This was shortly after being expelled from the temple, and my lord-father didn’t feel like he had much use for me so when lord Mortimer expressed a desire to wander the Redgarden library, I was ordered to show him around. We quickly bonded over our mutual love of books, folios, librams and manuscripts and we perused the library for hours. Our family library was rich in books on history with minor sections dedicated to religion, genealogy, heraldry, agriculture and engineering. Through lord Mortimer I discovered just how useful books could be to occupy the mind.

Before lord Mortimer departed later that ride he invited me to come and visit him at his home of Brayford. He wanted me to meet his daughter, the lady Laenore, sail the river Bray and inspect the irrigation works along its southern banks that had been completed only that summer, and of course inspect his renowned library. I was delighted but found my lady-mother hesitant. Later she would intimate to me that lord Mortimer was simply courting the possibility of a marriage between his daughter and myself. I had been expelled from the temple which had made some of the high nobility cautious about marriage, but a lord from a more modest house saw it as an excellent opportunity to elevate his daughter. Or so she reasoned.

Despite her reservations, she was glad to see my enthusiasm and arranged for my visit. With a retinue of men I rode out to Brayford Keep several rides later. My reception was modest and lovely. I had worried that perhaps my arrival would become a grand affair, but it seemed lord Mortimer’s sensibilities were one with my own. I met lord Mortimer’s younger brother, Ser Lorimer, who was the steward of Brayford and captain of the guard. Ser Lorimer was well known among the peasantry and an accomplished and honourable knight whose exploits were the subject of many a bard’s song and tale. Lord Mortimer was a widower and had no interest in marriage and Ser Lorimer had never married, and while the two were as different as night and day, there was an enviable warmth and mutual respect between them that made me long to see my little brother Danan again.

Lady Laenore turned out to be a really clever and sweet young woman, who clearly took after her lord-father. She was warm and caring and we got along very well. Her near constant companion was a young boy by the name of Harlan who I later learned was a bastard sired by Ser Lorimer. His mother had passed and so came to live at Brayford Keep. He was tall and strong like his father. The two of them were delightful companions during my visit.

Brayford Keep sat upon the river Bray, a narrow but deep river whose steep valley had been an excellent source of fruits. The valley required extra military care due to the many places in the hills that rogues and brigands could hide. Ser Lorimer had a tight hold over the lands but was often called to ride out to pursue bandits and keep order. I learned all this in the first few days of my visit as we sailed up and down the river on lord Mortimer’s boat, the Anna-Gabrielle, named so after his late wife, who originally came from Beauclaire, like my own lady-mother.

The rest of my time at Brayford Keep was spent in the company of Laenore and Harlan and wandering the vast library. Laenore was an avid reader, too. Harlan had more desire to leave the grounds and go exploring. They had long since agreed upon a compromise; whatever interesting thing Laenore found in one of her lord-father’s books on natural sciences, they would try and find in the valley of the river Bray. This way it would be exciting and educational. Both lord Mortimer and Ser Lorimer encouraged this and I found it to be incredibly stimulating.

One small section of the Brayford library was dedicated to the arcane arts. Whenever I grew tired of the natural sciences I would read books from that section to satisfy my curiosity. There were treaties on magical theory, books on the planes, like Adam Neville’s “The Conjuncture of Sphere” and the anonymous “Travelling Between Worlds”, magical creatures, like “Remarks on Basilisks and Cockatrices” by Brother Adelbert of Suzail, wonderous items, descriptions of magical swords and their legends, and even some silly books like “Tyromancy, or the Noble Art of Cheese Divination”.

When I discussed some of these books with Laenore and Harlan, it was Harlan who was keen on going out into the valley to see if we could find a magical sword or a wyvern’s lair. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, we never found out exactly where to look. When reading about animals, plants and local legends, we always had some inkling on where to look or what to do, and usually we were quite successful. Unfortunately, in this case we had none, and that bothered me.

At least once a year, until my admission at the Circle, I would return to Brayford Keep, as a guest of Lord Mortimer. Unfortunately, lord Mortimer’s age meant that Laenore was being groomed to become the Lady Loxshore of Brayford. Harlan was training under the supervision of his legendary father and was sure to be an accomplished soldier. Responsibilities got in the way of our expeditions, but that time was very precious to me, since it gave me some much needed direction after being expelled from the temple.

Ulster the Black’s Grimoire

The vast Redgarden library became a safe haven from my lord-father’s disappointment. Much larger than the Brayford library it was an endless source of interesting books to read. I would still organise field trips as a result of some things I read in the books, but the frequency and the nature of them was different than from the trips I undertook with Laenore and Harlan.

Like I mentioned before, the Redgarden library had a different focus, mostly historical. My trips often surrounded legends and ruins that could be found dotting the Fulcestershire countryside. I started to delight in roaming around hidden and forgotten places, climbing through moss-covered ruins and searching through the cellars of long collapsed holdfasts. Most of what I found there were decayed larders and stores of soured wine, but every time I stumbled upon something I’d pretend I had found some hidden treasure.

In the wintertime the options for field trips were limited and despite having a variety of books at my disposal, I occasionally grew bored. One such time I found a few shelves of curious books, mostly written in archaic languages I had not mastered. I quickly identified some of them as Netherese books and started trying to master the dead language. I did it for the challenge of it, to stave off the boredom, but ultimately didn’t lead to any great insights.

However, in the search for materials to help me puzzle through the Netherese books I came across a nearby set of black, leather-bound librams, adorned with some macabre silver skulls. There were four in total, each containing curious writing accompanied by diagrams, drawings and formulae that I couldn’t comprehend. There was a name on the inside of each of the books, penned in the same ink as the rest, written in the same steady hand as the rest; Ulster Redwyne.

I had not heard the name before and at the time I could not have known just how deeply my ancestor would affect my life from that moment going forward. Initially, I did what I always did and did research on the Redwyne family. I went through books of genealogy and traced our family back as far as I could in search of Ulster Redwyne. I quickly found that the name Ulster was nowhere to be found.

I started to suspect that the books I was consulting had been curated and sanitised of the information I was looking for. I noticed that sometimes a particular name had been crossed out, or was omitted altogether. Once I had identified the generation and the family relations, I focused my attention there and found some references to someone disparagingly referred to as “the Blackwyne.” Initially I thought it referred to the bastard child of Lord Riordan Redwyne the Second, Sixth Lord of Fulcestershire, but when I found a book on lord Riordan and his children, several pages had been torn out of the book a long time ago, with many others being heavily damaged.

The information that was left convinced me that this was not a matter of a bastard child. Great effort had been taken to erase one of lord Riordan’s children from the annals of history. I put the book aside and started going around the keep, asking anyone who would listen questions about lord Riordan and his children. Eventually I worked my way up to Ser Osmund Waynewood, the steward of Redgarden Keep. He would not budge and told me nothing of value, until, out of frustration, I dropped the names “Blackwyne”.

The old knight grabbed my arm and pulled me close. They say a man’s strength is the last to leave him as he grows older, and it certainly seemed true of Ser Osmund judging by the bruises he left on my upper arm. He told me never to mention that name again, to give up on my foolishness and that I was going down the path of ruin. Naturally that only made me more determined.

I decided to give up on finding more information on Ulster Redwyne. Ulster was was almost certainly the third child of lord Riordan, behind his son Graemme and daughter Gwynneth. I also knew that Ulster had brought shame to our house and had earned the name Blackwyne for it. And apparently, the shame was so bad that it still made people act strangely generations later.

The Discovery of Magic

Instead, I decided to focus on the curious writing in the books. I quickly found that the writing in the books was arcane writing, with a healthy mix of draconic, abyssal, infernal and celestial mixed in. I mastered none of these languages, but I was determined to learn more. I excavated every dark corner of the Redgarden library, made trips to other libraries and slowly started to translate small parts of each page of the first book. The further I got into the first book, the harder the text became to decipher.

Eventually, after rides and months, I concluded that the first book was a book of spells and formulae. As that conclusion formed in my mind over time, so did both the excitement and trepidation. I knew I was dealing with forbidden and potentially dangerous books, and I was also quite aware of the laws of the lands; none were to practice or study magic without supervision and approval of the Circle of Magi.

I ended up focusing on one single chapter in the first book and after long months I managed to translate it fully. At least, to the point where I roughly understand what the text said and what the purpose of the spell was; it was a transmutation spell which could repair and restore simple objects.

The spell only required a very specific incantation and gestures, no complicated alchemical ingredients like with some others which I had given up translating. I wanted to see if I could try and cast the spell, but I was so terrified that for rides after completing the translation I didn’t dare to attempt it. When I finally worked up the courage I made sure to try it in seclusion. The first few attempts made me feel foolish for thinking I could ever really work magic.

But then something happened. Or at least, I think it did. I couldn’t be sure, but I did think I saw something happening to the quill I had broken in half which was the focus of the spell. With every concurrent ride I spent trying to make the spell work I was bolstered in my confidence as I saw more and more of an effect on the quill. First the feather of the quill started to unruffle. Then ink-spots started to disappear. And then finally the two pieces were joined together, only to fall apart again. Finally, after hours and hours of practice, I managed to do it! The quill was made whole again. Brand new! I had trouble believing it!

For days I checked whether the quill would remain whole. When it did, I started to turn my attention back to the book on lord Riordan. I took it out and laid out the damaged, illegible pages and started, one by one, repairing and restoring the them.

It told the story of the renegade wizard Ulster Redwyne, son of lord Riordan of House Redwyne, who had been unwilling to practice magic within the confines of the king’s laws. Who was unwilling to submit to the Circle of Magi and escaped during his trial only to be the subject of a months long manhunt across the kingdom. Who was responsible for the loss of countless lives in his pursuit to practice magic without constraints.

I felt like a great mystery had been solved. I had an ancestor who was a wizard and whose spell books sat forgotten in the Redgarden library. The discovery of my family history had gone hand in hand with the discovery of my own abilities to manipulate the arcane forces, albeit in a very minor way. I realised that this was something important, something I was not allowed to keep from my parents.

My parents had started to focus their attention fully on Danan and an equilibrium had fallen over our house. As long as they were not too often reminded of me things moved on smoothly. When, one night during supper, I told them about what I had been able to do everyone was stunned to silence. For long moments my lord-father and lady-mother said nothing. Danan and Ser Osmund looked from my lord-father to me and back in anticipation of his response.

I got anxious for him to say something and I lost my patience. I grabbed a wooden ladle which one of the servants had used to serve our food and snapped it across my knee. Stunned the others looked on as I executed the gestures and spoke the incantation of the spell. When the ladle had once again been repaired in my hands my lord father stood up, wide eyed, pushing off from the table so hard that he knocked over his chair and several cups on the table.

I do not remember very well all that he said. It was not good. When he calmed down again, Ser Osmund suggested that I might apply to the Circle of Magi and study there. He said that the Circle had a lot of influence and could aid the family at court. My father did not want to hear about it. I would bring ruin to our family the way the Blackwyne had, all those generations ago. When my lady-mother stood in support of Ser Osmund my father became furious. He had already been shouting, but I was certain he could now be heard all the way from Colwyn Bay to the Warrington Hills.

That night I was plagued by feverish dreams of a bearded man in black robes summoning unspeakable evils from the ground and leading them on a nightly assault on a village. I was hiding in a hut. When the skeletal warriors broke down the door, I fell through the floor into darkness and was caught by strong arms. I couldn’t see anything but I could hear a heavy, baritone voice tell me that everything would be alright, that he would watch over me. Everything felt warm.

When I woke up my mother was in my room and she announced that I was to apply to the Circle. She would arrange for everything, but I had to swear to forego the use of the Redwyne name and renounce my claims to the title of Lord of Fulcestershire. I was overjoyed.

The Circle of Magi

My mother wasn’t lying when she said she would arrange for everything. She used gold from her dowry to secure a place at the Tower of High Sorcery for one Ethan of Fulcester. She bought the high wizards’ discretion about my identity and she paid off my punishment for engaging in magecraft against the king’s laws. What she had not bought was a privileged position at the tower. It would undermine my assumed identity as Ethan of Fulcester, and considering what happened at the temple she thought it would be best for me to keep a low profile.

My time at the tower was complicated. I progressed through the curriculum very quickly, which caused some debate among the high wizards. My aptitude for magic was undeniable, but some feared that my ascent was too steep and that the knowledge and power I was attaining should be tempered with the kind of wisdom that only accompanies age. As a result, even though I had shown myself capable, some of the high wizards had revoked my access to their libraries and my progress had slowed down to a tedious pace.

Jealousy reigned among the other apprentices. After my identity was uncovered by some of my peers, no doubt through a loose-lipped high wizard who disapproved of my talents, the rumours started. A popular apprentice by the name of Lynesse of Angersleigh claimed that I was a reincarnation of Ulster the Black and that I had come to the tower to take vengeance on the Circle of Magi by usurping all the knowledge in the libraries and destroying the tower. Even though I denied any relations, the other apprentices did not relent.

There had been a few high wizards who I was on friendly terms with, but no peers I could talk to. I started spending more and more time by myself. I would take books from the libraries and archives that were still available to me and I would take them to the highest balcony in the tower. I would sit there and read, surrounded by the ravens living in the steeple-roof of the tower. The rookery was run by an old wizard who took a liking to me and would later help my summon Blackwing, but that’s another story.

The Trial of Ulster the Black

One day, after classes I decided to skip supper and head up to the balcony. I had decided to scour the archives for mentions of Ulster the Black and had found a book called “Arcane Inquisitions” by Hendrik de Jonkheer, a royal war wizard and a one-time high wizard at the Circle. The book described the case of my ancestor who had been charged as a renegade wizard, one who practices magic while not belonging to the Circle of Magi, which was forbidden under the king’s laws. He also stood accused of being a necromancer.

The circular room was dark except for an orb of light hanging high overhead. Ulster the Black, the renegade, was chained on either side, wrist to floor. His clothing tattered, his hair unkempt, it was clear that his time in the cells had not been kind to him, but there was a gleam of defiance in his eyes that I found troubling.

“Ulster Redwyne of House Redwyne, you are charged with renegacy against the king’s laws, against the traditions of the Circle and the teachings of the recognised religions of our lands. By royal decree, affixed by the seal of the king, I was named inquisitor extraordinary and plenipotentiary in order to adjudicate this case. It is my verdict, and by proxy the verdict of the king, as well as the verdict of the Circle, that you are guilty and sentenced to hanging by the neck until dead. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

The man got up off his knees and walked in my direction until both the chains stood taught and he could advance no further. I must have been a disembodied voice to him, standing in the shadows as I was, but his evil eyes pierced my soul. He responded;

“All nobility are weak, and the Circle members are as arrogant as they are ignorant. They do not deign to implement their own verdict in the same way that they refuse to allow magic to be used freely. Yes, yes, the Circle is the sacred guardian of the secrets of magic, et cetera, et cetera. I was brought up in the Circle, so I am fully aware of their ridiculous dogma. It is the dogma of cowards. Man’s dominance over nature has marked the upward surge of civilisation. It is through the pursuit of power that man can reach his potential.”

He paused, lowered his head, his face hidden in shadow. 

“Tonight is Midinváerne,” he continued, “the winter solstice, midwinter. Some call it deadwinter. It is the blackest of night, where light and life are at their weakest. Watch carefully and learn what happens to those who do not respect the power of magic.”

I do not know where the wraiths came from, but before any of us could mount a proper defence he had broken his chains and sank away into his own shadow, only to reappear among his accusers and strike terror among them. Glyphs of pain lit up the ground wherever he stepped out of the shadows. Before the wraiths were defeated and chaos had subsided, he had disappeared.

The rest of the entry on Ulster the Black dealt mostly with the fallout of his escape, the subsequent manhunt as he terrorised the countryside for months and to his defeat at the Battle of Exbridges. Something stirred deep inside of me when reading those words of defiance. I felt connected to him on a level that I could not quite comprehend. On a level that surpassed a mere kinship. I felt his words confirmed and underlined what I had been feeling myself, that a few unenlightened and craven high wizards were keeping me from reaching my potential.

I had already given up maintaining my adopted identity in order to please others. I decided to give up worrying about what the people like Lynesse of Angersleigh thought. Hers was a response born out of fear. It was her cowardice that left her a mid-mark student at the tower. I would shed myself of my own cowardice and reach my potential. I started coming up with a plan.

The Final Ordeal

I was keenly aware that only a minority of high wizards at the tower supported me and saw the possibility of greatness in me. Maynard of Cheriton, Mistress Halicent, Joffrey the Evoker and Seer Freya of Huntly. would likely support me. The others were afraid of my ambition or saw in me the potential they could never achieve. It sounds arrogant to say it, but I felt that even though I was still a year away from undergoing the ordeal, the final test, I was ready for it. If I waited for the high wizards to unanimously agree that I was ready to undergo the ordeal and graduate from the tower, it would likely be at the same time as the others, perhaps even later, just to teach me a lesson.

It was possible to undergo the ordeal early if you could get a majority of high wizards to agree that you were ready to try. There was only one attempt and those who failed were forbidden to practice magic forever. If they survived, that is, for the ordeal could be incredibly taxing.

I started by talking to the high wizards who had been supportive and had treated me fairly. Most of them thought I had a good chance of completing the ordeal successfully, while some were cautiously optimistic about my chances. When I started gauging the willingness of the high wizards who had not been so supportive or downright combative towards me, I was surprised to find that the ones who had been the least pleasant were the most ready to agree. Like lady Catrìona Dunfanaghy, who never had a good word to say about me, never called on me, and always derided my work. I quickly determined that they simply wanted to get rid of me, through failure or through death.

It left me unperturbed. The ordeal had cost the lives of many apprentices, but I did not feel like I had a lot to lose. I was unlikely to get more adept at the skills that I had learnt while at the tower due to the restrictions put upon my ascension, so any more time waiting for the high wizards to put me forward for the ordeal themselves would not change my chances at succeeding. I had little to lose. I had no family, no friends and no place at the tower or among the Circle. I wanted to leave. I wanted to leave a wizard.

The evening before the ordeal, I dreamt I was Ulster the Black. Of riding a black steed with flaming hooves, flanked on either side by riders in skeletal armour. Of being pursued by knights bearing purple banners and carrying shields with purple dragons on it. They were the king’s men. We drove our horses hard through the night until we crossed a wooden bridge and came to a halt. The king’s men were bearing down on us lowering their lances, ready to run us through. I cast a spell and felt a surge of cold energy rise up from the ground and rush up my legs, through my body and out of my arms as a deathly chill which froze the wood of the bridge and covered it in a thin layer of ice. The moment the king’s men thundered down the bridge the wood splintered into a thousand pieces and the horses plummeted into the water below.

To this day, I felt like I don’t like talking about the ordeal. I passed, but it took me months to recover. It is a test meant to challenge an aspiring wizard on all aspects of wizardry, but my ordeal was a vicious attack on my obvious physical shortcomings. I cannot be sure if what I am about to say actually happened, or was a product of the illusions I was confronted with during the ordeal, but there were moments were I could hear a strong, baritone voice in my ear. A voice telling me what to do, which spells to cast and which corridor to choose. When my body was close to giving up, the voice told me that everything would be alright. I would feel a renewed vigour in my limbs and a determination I never knew I possessed.

Possessed. Huh.

Clearing the High Pass Keep

8th Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

After finally managing the solve the riddle of the lion, the bull and the fodder the alcove in the back of the room opened up and revealed the third, and probably final ankh. I decided never to enter the room fully and remaining in the doorway. The wraith that kept appearing over and over again could still return and I was running on my last legs.

I have heard people call me craven before, but it has never bothered me. To my mind, I was not displaying cowardice, but calculus. Anyone who puts themselves in danger without knowing the odds is ignorant. Anyone who puts themselves in danger despite knowing the odds is a fool. And yet, this is often seen as heroism. I think it’s stupidity. Of course there are reasons you might want to place yourself in harms way that are heroic, for instance when it means you get to save a loved one. That might be worth the low odds.

I say this, because I noticed Quentyn display some shockingly callous and foolish behaviour that I simply couldn’t unify with who I knew him to be. He snatched the ankh out of the alcove and without a moment of concern for the well being of or considering for the others he walked past me back into the hallway of the guardian.

To my horror, Quentyn impatiently starts placing the ankhs, one after the other, in the three pedestals standing in front of the remaining locked door. When I realised what he was doing I made sure to keep at a safe distance. The placing of the first ankh was punctuated with a load thunderclap and a bolt of lightning which arced from the sphere in the middle of the room to Quentyn. The lightning licked around the edges of the new armour he wore, which was enchanted with strong abjuration magics which were especially developed to withstand this type of raw energy. The lightning dissipated and he seemed completely unfazed.

I had told everyone about the magical properties of the armour, but nobody had seen it in action before. If I was Quentyn, I would not have blindly trusted the armour to protect me, and I was fairly confident that what I had divined about the armour was correct. He blindly trusted me, like a child trusting his mother, which is flattering, but also exceptional.

Three ankhs and three consecutive bolts of lightning struck Quentyn, only the last of which seemed to affect him as he gritted his teeth through the ordeal. Through the noise of the thunderclaps I found myself yelling at him that there was a better way to place the ankhs, one that wouldn’t put anyone in danger! He had seen it! He knew!

My astonishment was complete when he called for Ser Fosco and Yorick to put up their shields and join him as the door to the last unexplored room slowly slid open. I briefly made eye contact with Ser Fosco en silently implored him to desist. He already had a look of concern on his face matched by my own and he halted and kept Yorick from moving forward, too.

Quentyn was so impatiently preoccupied with clearing out the keep that he didn’t notice Ser Fosco’s insubordination. It didn’t feel good to undermine Quentyn that way, but the consequences could be dealt with once we made it out of the coming room alive

I jumped into the moment that Ser Fosco left open with his hesitation and urged Quentyn to allow us to cast the required divinations to make sure that all was safe. I summoned a quartet of lights which I ordered forward through the corridor and into the room beyond. As I peered into the room, I felt a sincere sense of foreboding coming from the room beyond the corridor. It felt as if I was suddenly caught in the shadow of a cloud drifting in front of the sun.

I asked Quentyn if Brother David could come and have a look. I explicitly called him by his title, reminding him of David’s position in and contribution to Glister. Quentyn in turn responded by telling David to come forward with a gesture and tone that indicated he didn’t see him as much more than an obedient hound that he could order around. This had been a problem in the past but Quentyn acted in a tone deaf manner which indicated that the friction it had caused between the lord and the priest had not even registered.

Despite Quentyn’s tone, David came forward and stood in the doorway with us. The frown on his face told me all I needed to know. He explained that he felt that the room beyond was desecrated. In order for there to be no mistakes, I asked him if that meant that the room beyond was essentially “unholy ground”, and he confirmed.

David and Quentyn entered the corridor. Ser Fosco followed. Hubert was ordered to protect me, and Yorick stayed behind with Jago, for which I was very grateful.

From where I stood I could see precious little of the room, there seemed to be a dark pool of water in the middle of the room, with steps descending down below the surface. It reminded me of certain cleansing customs I had read about, where priests and their followers would purify and bless water and use it to baptise people into the faith and following of a certain god.

A workbench was stood at the back end of the room. It was littered with alchemical tools which piqued my curiosity at a very deep level. Above the workbench, all along the walls were shelves filled with jars and bags of ingredients which equally enticed me.

Out of my sight, on either side of the door there were pedestals, one holding a stained bowl, the other holding an embedded crystal. Both pedestals had an engraving of a skull sitting atop a scroll with a large feather behind it. I knew this to be the symbol of Jergal, an ancient, Netherese god, often referred to as the Scribe of the Dead, who later voluntarily gave up his portfolio, splitting it up between the infamous trio Bane, Bhaal and Myrkul.

I was asked to come into the room and as I started to walk forward the group in the room noticed movement coming from a corner in the room that the small anxious globes of light I had conjured could not illuminate. David immediately responded with an angry prayer to the Broken One, and immediately the entire room was bathed in light as bright as the sun.

The others seemed to be frozen in place at the shock of what they saw. I heard something moving and when it finally came into view I understood why the others felt unable to move or act. My words will not do the situation justice, but it was another reanimated corpse. This one looked like it was embalmed and swathed in long strips of embalming linen decorated with arcane writing, the nature of which I couldn’t immediately make out.

Aside me, Ser Fosco and Jago seemed to be unaffected by the paralysis that had come over the rest. Hubert, who had been standing next to me when the embalmed corpse came into view, was frozen stiff. I retreated from the corridor and dodged out of the way as Jago used his sling to attack the creatures with pellets.

The embalmed corpse was ever advancing, pushing itself slowly past the others. When it made its way into the corridor, I could make out its face, or at least part of it. Some of the linen bandages had slipped and revealed some of its face underneath. The area around its eyes held a darkness there, which was exceptional. Thinking back now on what I saw, I cannot honestly say whether the darkness that I saw was true, or whether I saw its malevolence intent in its eyes.

Despite my belly turning to water, I ignited a krein do yol, a sphere of fire, right in the middle of the corridor. After adjusting its position, I saw the embalmer ignite and the linen eagerly catching fire.

Jago seemed to have given up his strategy of slinging pellets at the embalmer in favour of attacking it with burning torch, but unfortunately in his eagerness to get to the embalmer he almost got caught in my flaming sphere. The shock of possibly burning one of my companions almost made me lose my concentration, which lead to some fumbling on my part to keep the sphere centred on the embalmer.

Hubert had managed to scramble out of the corridor and back to the hall of the guardian, but unfortunately not without getting injured by the embalmer in the process. We were now evenly divided on either side of the embalmer; David, Quentyn, Ser Fosco and Victor on one side, with Jago, Hubert, Yorick and myself on the other side.

As I mentioned earlier, I was running on my last legs, and I didn’t have many options left in attacking the embalmer. I panicked and reached out to the Blackwing sending out a message for help. I hoped that she would understand and alert Tove, Ægir and Gunnar who were still above ground in the courtyard of the High Pass Keep. Meanwhile, Jago had grabbed a torch from a sconce on the wall and used the burning sphere to ignite it.

I noticed that Hubert seemed pale and that his skin had turned very dry and withered. His lower jaw was trembling and he looked as if he was about to flee the fight with the embalmer. That realisation made my knees buckle and my stomach turn weak. I managed to gather my wits and say a few words of encouragement to him. I told him that everything would be alright, and that we would take care of him as soon as we’d vanquished the embalmer. I was incredibly relieved that he didn’t leave because I was absolutely terrified. I know I was selfish in making him stay, and I cannot rightly say that I would have stayed if the roles had been reversed.

Relief washed over me when I heard the others coming down to investigate. It seemed that Blackwing had done what I had hoped she’d do. She has never let me down in a pinch.

I had ran out of options to supply magical aid in this fight. I had the power for one more spell left, a very devastating eruption of fire that would certainly catch some of my companions in its inferno. I was reminded that I had brought my hooded lantern down from the courtyard. It should still hold enough lamp oil to ignite the embalmer even further. I went in search of it. Just as I had found it, I heard Quentyn yell for our retreat.

Suddenly, David came out of nowhere to push the embalmer through the corridor all the way into the hall of the guardian. I used that moment to douse the embalmer with the oil from my lantern. Emboldened by David’s heroic push, Quentyn rushed the embalmer back further and all the way against the hovering sphere. Another giant thunderclap filled the room and lightning arced to several people around the embalmer.

Luckily, I was spared the lightning arcs and with a sigh of relief I spotted Yorick’s discarded torch, which was still burning. I used a simple telekinetic transmutation to pick it up and move it over to the embalmer to ignite the oil I had doused it with but before I could reach it, Quentyn had taken the Sword of Hope, glowing in his hand and cleaved the embalmer in two. All that I could do was drop the torch on top of the crumpled corpse. That was a decision that I came to regret, later, since I was keen on inspecting the linen bandages and the arcane writing on it. Unfortunately, I found no legible parts of the linen had survived.

I had not realised just how injured Quentyn really was, but he almost collapsed once the embalmer was down. David effortlessly lifted Quentyn and moved him away from the sphere, close to the staircase leading up to the courtyard of the keep. I was quite surprised at the feat of extraordinary power, displayed by David, since Quentyn is a heavy man, especially wearing that bulky brigandine armour. I wondered whether I had underestimated David’s abilities, or his connection to Ilmater, for surely this was a display of divinely inspired strength!

David’s connection to his patron seems to be exceptional. The powers the Broken One grants him are so varied that it leaves me and my abilities seem paltry and one-sided. In that moment I realised that if I ever want to be useful to my companions, I will have to find a way to expand my repertoire. There is only so much I can learn through development of my current spell seeds. A fresh influx of seeds spells could really help.

In order to put an exclamation point on my feelings of inadequacies, David implored the Broken One to heal Quentyn and within minutes most of his wounds were healed. In the meantime Jago was returning the discarded torches to the empty sconces around the room, making sure we had enough light.

When the light returned it turned out that Victor, like Hubert, was covered in a scaly, dry patches of skin and looked deeply sick and withered. David did some research on both men and tapped into his font of knowledge about wounds, diseases and tending to patients. He found that they were afflicted by something he called “corpse rot”, which was an aggressive and unnatural wasting disease that drained a victim’s natural constitution. It was hard to heal, even with the divine powers within David’s domain because the affliction went hand in hand with a curse which made the victim less receptive to divine healing. David estimated that the men would likely expire in several days, at best.

Jago also seemed to have been wounded, and David tending to him as well. I had some cuts and bruises, but nothing that wouldn’t heal with some proper bed rest so I declined his offer of healing.

We decided to move the wounded back up to the courtyard. I stayed behind to try and find some of the linen bandages, but as I said, they turned out to either have burnt or become illegible. I went upstairs to retrieve some extra oil for my lantern and went back downstairs together with Jago. David objected to that decision and wanted us to go back the next day, when we were all fresh and rested.

Jago and I stood at the edge of the room of the embalmer and used the lantern to investigate. The chaos of the fight with the embalmer had obfuscated just how rich the room was in valuables. Bars of noble metals, gems, spell components, scrolls and assorted tools lined the shelves and workbench. I could sense by Jago’s reaction that he realised just how valuable everything in the room was, probably by virtue of his many interactions with trade caravans around Glister and his time in Hulburg.

We ventured into the room to look at the pool. The water in the pool had a thick layer of viscous oil atop it, which Jago quickly found out was mildly flammable. Beneath the surface we spotted a corpse at the bottom of the pool and I started to come up with a theory on what the room, the workbench, the components, the pool and the corpse were meant for. That thought process was interrupted when I spotted a hole in the pool. At first I thought it might be a way to drain the pool of the liquid, much like a bath has a drain, but then it occurred to me that it would fit the bloodstone almost perfectly. I had to resist the urge to take the bloodstone out and give it a try.

I shook off that notion and decided it would be best for David to have the stone. We were set to switch guardianship of the stone this evening, but I decided that if he did not ask for the stone, I would sneak back down into the embalmer’s room and experiment with the stone. There was something in the back of my mind which cautioned me against it and hoped that David would come for the stone, but the urge was very strong.

I shook off the thought and decided to go back to my theory. I came up with the following; the embalmer’s room was meant as a source for all the undead we had spotted throughout the pass. All the components we had found served to source necromantic magic that would reanimate the dead. The pool held corpses in stasis in preparation for their reanimation, and the corpse at the bottom of the pool was an empty vessel awaiting a host.

Jago and I decided to go back up to the courtyard, and with a bit of subterfuge I convinced Jago to leave the door open. If David didn’t come for the stone this evening, I would need the ankhs to remain in place elsewise I would definitely wake people up with the lightning strikes.

Jago, Yorick and Ser Fosco went out to set snares, when they returned before dark, Jago disappeared for a little while. Quentyn came up to me and ordered me to relinquish my tent to Victor and Hubert. Reluctantly I cleared out my tent after which Jago came to inform me that he had found a secret compartment in the pedestal on the left hand side of the door to the embalmer’s room. He said he didn’t open it just yet, but it did indicate that there might be more to find in the room.

Before I turned in for the night, David came to ask for the bloodstone. I felt a mixture of relief and disappointment. I would have to wait for a better moment to try the bloodstone on the hole inside the pool but for now it felt like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders.

9th Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

I woke up early the following morning and I felt relatively well-rested, despite my minor cuts and bruises and having slept under the stars. I found David already awake and performing his morning ritual. I relieved myself a ways off from camp into a ditch behind a tree and quickly rehydrated before starting my own morning ritual; preparing the spells that I thought would best serve me that day.

When I looked up from my tome I saw David tending to Victor and Hubert, accepting Victor into Ilmater’s faith. Before I could fully consider the implications of asking a man on death’s door to swear fealty to a god in return for salvation from death while that salvation could be granted without a promise of servitude, ironically, Victor expired despite David’s best effort. This drove Hubert into such a panic that when asked if he would want to be accepted into Ilmater’s faith he said he would accept anything, which in turn made me wonder how much an oath worth when sworn in the shadow of such an event. I was glad to see that Hubert, who had protected me so steadfastly during the fight with the embalmer, didn’t pass away like Victor had. His situation did not get worse, but it also did not seem to get any better.

A short, but very dissatisfying conversation took place about what to do with Victor’s remains. David said we should lay him to rest there, because it could still be contagious. I asked him about Hubert, weren’t we at risk with him around if the disease was contagious? David corrected himself and said it was not contagious, which reinforced my opinion that we should bring Victor’s remains back to the Hoof and let his people decide how best to lay him to rest. For some reason David was very upset and stormed off. I am not sure why and before I could fully contemplate it, I felt my own bile rising as Quentyn argued that he did not want to show Victor’s withered remains to the people at the Hoof because he did not know how to explain what happened to him. I told him off, saying that he doesn’t just get to live in the mansion, he also has to bear the responsibilities for the people who get wounded and die under his command.

Tove and Ægir seemed somewhat concerned at our conversation, but Jago managed to calm him down. When Ser Fosco and Kusman returned from clearing the snares they made sure that the two men were distracted with the meal preparations. Jago suggested the others should go after the two donkeys that were still at large. We would need the extra hoofs in order to bring everything we found back to Glister, not to mention carry Victor’s remains. Ser Fosco took charge of the group and they departed in search of the donkeys. Yorick stayed with us, and Gunnar took charge over Hubert.

When we finally managed to go back down into the cellars of the High Pass Keep, we couldn’t find David anywhere. He had walked off in anger, probably frustrated over not being able to save Victor. When we realised he was no longer in camp, or anywhere around the courtyard, I saw Jago respond and I knew exactly the conclusion I had reached only seconds after him; David had the stone and was angry, probably something Nar-Narg-Naroth could exploit. We ran downstairs and arrived just in time to see David carefully drop the bloodstone in the dark pool, right above the hole I had noticed.

Immediately, the water in the pool came to a violent roil.

I responded immediately by jumping into the pool and trying to dive for the stone. As soon as I breached the surface I could feel Nar-Narg-Naroth’s anticipatory glee sending violent currents through the pool. Someone jumped in with me, though I know not who it was. I tried to swim towards the hole. I almost reached it but slipped off of something soft, I suspect it was the body laying on the bottom of the pool awaiting to be inhabited. Inhabited by Nar-Narg-Naroth. I redoubled my efforts, swam forward against the current, swallowing a gulp of that wretched water in the process, but I managed to reach the hole and snatch the stone from it.

In the back of my mind I heard an angry howl but I blocked it as much as I could. The water became still and I managed to regain my footing. The corpse in the pool was slowly falling apart, turning the water into a sickly broth. I climbed out of the pool and immediately retreated to the hall of the guardian. So much had become clear to me while struggling underneath the surface of the pool; the room of the embalmer was a resurrection chamber and Nar-Narg-Naroth had subtly manipulated all of us into getting it close to it so that it could resurrect itself into the vessel of the body laying in the pool. It used a great deal of energy in order to do so and it would take some time for it to recover. Hopefully, we would be able to finish the Arcane Lockbox before that time.

Jago came to sit with me and he revealed his suspicions that the same temptation had just given into I had struggled with when we were the last remaining in the resurrection chamber the day before. He’s very clever and observant. I explained to him that he was right and that I had resisted the urge, feeling safe in the knowledge that David would once again take guardianship over the stone that evening. I had trusted David’s strong sense of morality and faith to keep him safe from the influence, but it seemed he had been coping poorly, and it was adamant we finish the Arcane Lockbox.

I went upstairs to change clothing. Luckily the pouch holding my spell components was proofed against the elements and they had been spared from the putrid water. I continued coughing up thick phlegm that tasted suspiciously like embalming fluid but I managed to get into some dry clothing.

When I was done, David came to me and asked to take guardianship of the stone. He felt like he had to test himself. I think he felt he wanted to make up for his failure. I relinquished the stone to him, and we all made a vow not to go into the resurrection chamber unless we were all present. Anyone who would do so under different circumstances would immediately be considered suspect.

A little while later, we went back to the resurrection chamber. Jago decided to investigate the two pedestals on either side of the door. He had already found a secret compartment in one of them, so he was curious to see if he could find a way to open it. Quentyn decided to take a look at the jars of chemicals while David inspected the implements. I decided to look over the many components and scrolls.

What we found was nothing short of astonishing. Below is a list, with the approximate values, as determined by Jago:

  • A magical red wooden box, upon attuning myself to its aura, its magic mostly comes from the transmutation school.
  • A magical golden ring, upon attuning myself to its aura, its magic mostly comes from the evocation and abjuration schools.
  • Three bars of gold (fifty gold coins per bar)
  • Three bars of silver (ten gold coins per bar)
  • Eleven other bars of assorted metals (ten silver coins per bar)
  • Four platinum rings
  • Eleven chunks of flint
  • Sixteen onyx gems (twenty-five gold coins per gem)
  • Sixteen flawless onyx gems (fifty gold coins per gem)
  • Four pearls (one hundred gold coins per pearl)
  • Four crystals (one hundred gold coins per piece)
  • Five diamonds (one thousand gold coins per diamond)
  • Twelve pieces of cured leather, one of which is a chameleon skin
  • Three mammoth tusks (ivory, one hundred gold coins per tusk)
  • One hundred black candles
  • Eight bags of caltrops
  • Two sets of fine woolen robes
  • A set of masterwork embalming tools (fifty-five gold coins)
  • A set of masterwork sacrificial implements (fifty-five gold coins)
  • A set of masterwork stone-cutter tools (fifty-five gold coins)
  • A merchant scales with weights
  • A silver dagger (three hundred and twenty gold coins)
  • A magnifying glass (five hundred gold coins)
  • A holy symbol of Jergal (five hundred gold coins, silver)
  • Six jars of bone dust/meal (ten pinches per jar)
  • Seven flasks with organs in embalming fluid (e.g. chicken hearts)
  • Eight jars of soot (ten pinches per jar)
  • Fifteen jars of odd smelling grave dirt (ten pinches per jar)
  • Four jars of salt (ten pinches per jar)
  • Fourteen flasks of oil
  • One flask of lead ink (three measures, fifty gold coins per measure)
  • Two flasks of blood based ink (three measures per flask)
  • One flask of mercury (three measures)
  • One jar of powdered gold (seven measures, twenty-five gold coins)
  • Eight jars of powdered silver (one measure per jar, twenty-five gold coins per measure)
  • One flask of ruby dust (three measures, fifty gold coins per measure)
  • One flask of diamond dust (five measure, fifty gold coins per measure)
  • One flask of powdered jade (one measure, two hundred and fifty gold coins)
  • One flask powdered black pearl (four measure, five hundred gold coins)
  • Five scrolls of divine magic
    • One scroll of Raise Dead
    • Two scrolls of Restoration
    • Two scrolls of Lesser Restoration
  • Three scrolls of arcane magic
    • One scroll of Gust of Wind
    • One scroll of Chill Touch
    • One scroll of Gentle Repose
  • Ninety-four pages of quality pages of paper
  • A nearly complete set of scrolls, close to one hundred in total, chronicling the life of Sigmar the Deathless, written in Netherese

This is an incredible find. I am eager to identify the box and the ring and I already have plans to significantly reduce the cost of the reconstruction of the Arcane Lockbox using the chameleon skin. I’m also keen on scribing the three arcane scrolls into my spell book. The scrolls telling the tale of Sigmar the Deathless will surely help me pass some of the more boring evenings around the campfire and it will help me brush up on my Netherese. Exciting!

Solving the Riddles of High Pass Keep

7th Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

After we vanquished the guardian a silence fell over the basement of the High Pass keep. The rush of adrenaline subsided and I could feel my the knot in my stomach coming undone. I started trembling as I felt the pain from the shrapnel come on but I pushed it to the back of my mind as I focused on the sphere hovering in the center of the room.

I approached it carefully, observing it in detail. The surface seemed to be made of a dull ferrous material. Occasionally a ripple crossed its surface at which sent arcs of lightning licking dangerously along its edges. The whole thing was throbbing with arcane potentiality. I was in awe, not just by the sphere, but also by the animated door and by what must have happened there in order for the keep to fall to ruin.

David decided to inspect each of the alcoves in the walls and concluded that they were doors of some kind. The back wall of the alcove had a hole in them and there was clearly a space behind it. Jago inspected the pedestals found throughout the room. The pedestals seemed to line up with the doors in such a way as to not be a coincidence. The first door had one pedestal in front of it, the second door two pedestals, each lined up towards the sphere, and the third door had three pedestals. In the top of the pedestals was a hole which seemed perfectly shaped for the ankh the guardian had been holding. I remarked that the eye of the ankh once placed on the pedestal, the hole in the door, and the sphere were neatly aligned and we formed a plan to place the ankh we had in the pedestal in front of the first door.

Before that, however, David asked me to accept the Broken One’s healing touch. I declined, but I was keen for him to clean out my wounds so as not to have them fester at a later time. He did a wonderful job. It’s remarkable that a strong man like himself, with a such capacity to violence, is capable of such tender care and nourishment.

Because we were incapable of predicting what would happen when we placed the ankh on the pedestal, or what would happen once the door did open, we decided to be cautious. Jago would place the ankh and the soldiers would take their places around the door, just in case a fiend would come charging out at us. David and I decided to stand well back near the staircase leading up.

Jago placed the ankh and there was a loud crack of thunder as a lightning bolt erupted from the sphere, arced through the eye of the ankh and hit the hole in the door. Some of the others got hit by peripheral arcs of lightning, but nobody got seriously injured. A few seconds after the thunderclap subsided we heard a gentle grinding of stone upon stone, and the door slid out of the way to reveal a short, dark corridor.

At the end of the corridor, we once again found a room, slightly smaller than the original one. The room was empty except for four braziers in each of the corners, and a small alcove at the far end. Once Ser Fosco had taken the time to light the braziers we had enough light to explore the room properly. Quickly we all noticed that the room had an illusionary ceiling which showed a lifelike mirror image of the room below. There were two exceptions, in the mirror image, it showed a large, golden summoning circle on the floor which was not there in the original, and the alcove showed to hold an ankh.

I studied the pattern of the summoning circle and quickly deduced that it wasn’t an abjuration but a conjuration circle meant to conjure a tiny outsider, probably an Imp or Quasit. I started using a gold coin to scrape along the floor to follow the pattern I saw in the mirror image. Everywhere I left gold dust behind from the coin the mirror image showed the pattern disappearing. I quickly handed out all of my remaining gold coins to anyone who was willing to help and together we managed to recreate the summoning circle. To our delight, we noticed that the alcove in the back of the room opened up and revealed a second ankh, while the alcove in the mirror image closed.

We now had two ankhs, and we could move on to the next door, with the two pedestals in front of it. I retreated back to the main room while Quentyn retrieved the ankh. I was eager to solve the rest of the puzzles — too eager. Once Quentyn grabbed the ankh there was a sulfurous boom and a demon appeared. Most likely a Quasit, winged and lightning fast as it flew straight for David and started clawing at his clothing. It eventually managed to grab the bloodstone from underneath David’s clothing, just in time for Jago to grab it deftly by the neck and hold it in place. David immediately used that opportunity to snatch the bloodstone back from the demon.

The demon transformed in front of our very eyes into a large millipede with vicious mandibles and bit Jago on his arm. I shouted for him to throw the demon to the far corner of the room and as it landed not far away from one of the braziers, I unleashed the inferno of the end times. And with that, the demon was banished back to its abyssal plane.

Ag ko faal toor do Dinoksetiid
Burn in the inferno of the end times

It turned out that both David and Jago were poisoned. Jago was worst off. He seemed sluggish and slow and his movements were clumsy and spastic. We decided to go back up to camp in the courtyard. It was getting late and we were all very worried about Jago. I made sure I cleared out my tent and made space for him and I gave him an extra blanket. I went to Gunnar and tried to convince him that Jago had many more battles to fight. It was a clumsy attempt at manipulating him, which he probably realised, but he said that if Jago would live throughout the night that he would implore Tempus to help Jago.

Of the three friends I’ve made since coming to Glister, I think I am probably the least close with Jago. He’s somewhat aloof and spends most of his time in the wilderness outside of Glister. But he also seems to be the least judgmental and the least filled with ideas of self-importance. Quentyn is all urges and ego, like all nobility, while David is filled with a sense of indignation that unmistakably marks him as part of the clergy. Jago has strong opinions, but he seems fair. He is a good friend, and I think that of the three of them he might prove to be the most likely to understand my subterfuge.

When Jago was stable and resting in my tent, I ventured back down into the keep’s basement. Quentyn followed. We were both curious at what we would find behind the second door. Using a minor conjuration, I placed both the ankhs in the pedestals in front of the second door. Both times a lightning bolt shot out and disrupted my spells, but when the second ankh slid in place the door opened with the satisfying grinding noise of dry stone.

Behind the second door was the same kind of dark corridor as behind the first. We immediately heard a multitude of whispers coming from inside the room beyond the corridor. A chill ran down my spine and I felt ill at ease. I illuminated a discarded piece of bone and tossed it into the room. For a brief moment I saw a flash of billowing cloth, like that of a curtain or a flag billowing in the wind. We were not at full strength, nor with a complete party, so we decided to go back to the courtyard and rest. We closed the second door behind us before we left by taking one of the ankhs out of the pedestal.

Kun faal krein
Light of the sun

8th Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

The next morning David and I were one of the first to rise. We both have our particular morning rituals and they take roughly the same amount of time. He spends his time in prayer, communing with the Broken One, while I spend my time in study, charging my body with the arcane magic of my spells and endlessly repeating the incantations and somatic gestures needed for ignition, until execution comes without a second thought.

We had came into contact with quite a few undead creatures in the last few days and I decided to prepare one of the few necromantic spells in my repertoire. It is a spell specifically designed to disrupt and destroy the negative energy that binds those creatures to their undead nature. It is a spell of the minor circle for it allows novice wizards some protection against the undead if they ever work up the courage to explore that deranged (some say misunderstood) school.

I had rested well, despite having to sleep in the cramped confines of my tent with Jago. I hadn’t slept that closely to anyone since… well, the temple at Fulcester. It felt odd, not the least because Jago seemed to lay almost unmoving throughout most of the night. I don’t know whether that’s part of his training as a tracker, or because of his malady. Regardless, he made it through the night and seemed to be doing somewhat better when he emerged from the tent. Gunnar, as promised, came by to tend to him and Tempus’ grace fell over Jago and further alleviated his symptoms. It would take a few days, but if one evening could do that much, he was well on the path of recovery.

While we all broke our fast, I spent time divine the origin and nature of the brigandine armour the guardian had been wearing. I would not have time to go over both the armour and the club, but I was reasonably certain that considering the amount of people wielding the club since we stumbled into the guardian it wasn’t cursed or dangerous. The armour, however, was a mystery and since Quentyn lost his suit of chain mail, I thought it prudent to start there.

It turns out that the armour once belonged to a Lord Abaddon, a warrior priest in the service of Talos. Lord Abaddon had dedicated his life to the eradication and destruction of the undead under the control of the feared Zhengyi. It was a formidable suit, which offered considerable magical protection against lightning, which falls entirely in line with Lord Abaddon’s background as a servant of the Lightning Lord. Once I had shared the information with the others there was some debate about who would don the armour, David or Quentyn. Eventually the choice fell on Quentyn.

We went back inside the keep and descended into the basement. Using the same trick we had used the day before, we put the second ankh back in place, and just like before the door slid open and we heard the deranged whispers coming from the room. We all approached the room through the corridor and Quentyn was the first one to enter the room. As he crossed the threshold I noticed something. Something brief, something that I cannot put into words. The magic that surrounded this place marked him somehow and I immediately felt a sense of dread.

I tried warning Quentyn and I advised caution but he stubbornly insisted in the most astonishing way that he felt that fate had somehow drawn him to be in that room, at that time. He said he never felt so certain about anything in his entire life. I started to wonder whether he might be under the influence of an enchantment filling his already impulsive heart with more courage. He illuminated the Sword of Hope and brandished it as he went inside.

A strange wraith-like figure, cloaked in a dark, tattered robe flew around the room like a moth around a lantern, ever whispering to itself. I briefly considered casting the mindoraan tinvaak divination in order to comprehend this wraith’s speech, but I realised that whatever it was, it wasn’t here to talk to us. It was whispering to itself long before we got there and it made no effort to direct any of its rambling at us. The moment we entered the room the wraith flew at Quentyn.

We managed to defeat it but not without some effort. Quentyn got especially wounded, but not in a way that couldn’t be healed through the Broken One’s divine grace. No, the price that was paid was much higher; it seemed as if Quentyn’s carelessness and impulsiveness only grew as the wraith fed upon his life force. He grew ever more reckless and impatient after the injuries.

Another problem we faced while fighting the wraith was that it wasn’t fully present. Sometimes it seemed as if attacks would strike true when otherwise they would pass through without hurting the wraith! As if it was shifting in and out of the material plane. I tried to use the spell that I had especially prepared to fight undead, but my ineptitude at necromancy probably weighed heavily on my attempts, for I couldn’t hit the creature with the positive energy that erupted from my fingertips.

Disrupt Undead
Kren faal dill, faal brendon ahrk faal gaaf
Break the undead, the spector and the ghost

Once we defeated the wraith, we found that, much like the previous room, this room had a closed alcove in the back wall. On the far-side, near the alcove, were three holes in the ground. On the near-side, near the door, stood three statuettes in holes of their own. One of a lion, one of a bull and one of a bushel of wheat or some such fodder. David guessed that we would have to bring the statues to the far side of the room and that somehow the order in which we placed the statues was of importance. The lion ate the bull, the bull ate the fodder, he reasoned.

Quentyn, emboldened after the wraith’s attack, picked the lion up and started to transport it across the room. It took a few seconds, but when he was halfway, we all heard the ghostly sound of a bull and suddenly the shadows seem to draw together and the wraith once again returned. After another fight in which I unleashed jets of flame and managed to damage the wraith, we managed to defeat it once again. To our surprise, we saw that the lion’s statuette had returned back to its initial position at the near-side of the room.

We contemplated the puzzle once again. Jago thought the bull must be the first to be moved, since we heard the sound of one after Quentyn moved the lion. David argued that it should be the fodder, since that’s the start of the food chain. Quentyn followed David’s advice, and I wish he hadn’t; seconds after lifting the fodder, we heard the sound of a lion’s roar and the wraith once again appeared!

Once more we defeated the wraith, but not without incurring more injuries. When David wanted to move the bull he found that he could not lift the statuette. It seemed that only Quentyn, the first through the door and marked as such, was allowed to move the statuettes. He successfully placed the statuette in the socket at the far-side of the room. We decided on the lion next, which he also moved across the room and placed in its socket. While walking over to the near-side of the room, we once again heard the sound of a lion’s roar and the two statuettes shot back to their original position and the wraith appeared for a fourth time!

A fourth time we defeated the wraith. Finally, we concluded that two statuettes could not be left with one another if one of them were to eat the other. We started with the bull and moved it to the far-side of the room, leaving the lion and the fodder at the near-side. Then we moved the lion to the far-side, leaving the fodder at the near-side. Then we took the bull back to the near-side of the room, and picked up the fodder and moved it to the far-side to be with the lion. Finally we moved the bull to the far-side of the room and we were rewarded with the satisfying sound of grinding stone as the alcove opened up and yielded its ankh.

Exploring High Pass Keep

6th Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

After being attacked on three occasions while ascending up to the High Pass Keep, the last part of the path ran alongside the wall of the keep, towards the main gate, which sat in the wall at an akward angle.

The best way to describe it, is as if the wall the at encircled the keep at me cut top to bottom by a very fine edged sword, and pulled apart, one end of the cut having been moved outward, and the other having been moved inward. The gate had been placed right in between. The approach of the gate as previously stated, was along the exterior wall on our left hand side, moving through the gate would put us within the keep’s interior courtyard, this time moving along the interior wall on the right hand side.

The wall itself was very well created. The masons had taken great care in chiselling the stones so that they fit together precisely without need for any mortar. The gate was without a door or a portcullis, which made me wonder just how long the keep had been sitting empty. Had all the wood rotted from its hinges, or had the keep never bothered to close the wall off with a door at all? I decided it must be the former, since why bother having a keep if the latter was true.

When we reached the gate, we took a moment to look southward. Quentyn seemed especially moved as we could see all the way down the pass, down the Galena foothills and we could just make out the edge of the Thar. These lands were all his. His to rule. His to guard. His to keep. It was an awesome responsibility.

I decided to do a little bit of maths. We had likely travelled about 3 league a day for about eight days. That’s 24 leagues. Considering for six yards you gain in altitude, you can see about a league further in distance on a clear day, I reckoned we were at about a 144 yards (a dozen dozen!) in altitude compared to the Thar.

Jago had found more tracks at the gate, probably all belonging to the undead creatures we had fought on the hillside. It was clear that the source of the undead was definitely this keep, which confirmed the rumours that the place was haunted. Jago had spotted several collapsed buildings, probably barracks, stables, granaries, etc. at one point, and a courtyard overgrown with weeds. He had also spotted the movement of several other undead creatures.

As people were setting up defensive positions along the gate, utilising it as a natural funnel, I noticed the warmth of the bloodstone and detected an unnatural nervous energy within myself. Was the demon in the stone getting exciting at the proximity of the evil within the keep? Was this excitement affecting me in subtle ways that I had not noticed before?

With a great banging noise we made our presence known. David and I were taking up the rear as the undead emerged from the courtyard. To my horror one of the undead had scaled the wall from the inside of the courtyard and had plummeted recklessly on the path behind us.

The battle was short and brutal. There were a few minor wounds sustained on our side, but the discipline the people in our company displayed was too much for the undead to overcome. David put the power of his god on full display and turned three of them away, one of which tried to scramble back up the wall, but was pulled back down and destroyed. The other two came back after a minute or so just to get their skull caved in by the waiting soldiers.

It is good to know that when David drives these undead creatures off, it is for a short time only. It seems to be a good crowd control technique to give us some temporary breathing room when we’re being overwhelmed. I should be prepared with offensive spells in order to make full use of the panic he causes among the undead.

While the rest were regrouping, tending to wounds and getting ready to continue, I crept through the gate to take a look inside the yard. It was eerily quiet except for a low thrumming sound coming from somewhere inside the tower, sitting at the back of the yard.

The keep seemed old. Very old. At least two centuries old, judging by the decay, but judging by the style of build is is likely more like four centuries old. This realisation made me have even more respect for the artisans who created the masonry for the outer wall. Here and there you could see the discolouration of patched up stones, but the fact that the wall stood at all was a marvel.

When the others came into the yard I shared that I heard a low thrumming sound, which only Jago could hear too. I’m glad he heard it, because with the possibility of the demon influencing me I could never be entirely certain that what I saw and heard was real until another confirmed it.

I told Quentyn about how old I thought the keep was and the relatively small amount of effort it would cost to fortify and inhabit the keep again. Relatively small compared to what it would cost to build a new keep, but probably still beyond the capability of the Glister coffers to cough up.

In order to start my study of the undead, I decided to investigate the bodies of the undead creatures. I concluded that they were not a species unto themselves but rather had once been people. Most of them, perhaps all of them, had been human. I couldn’t make out other races, but there was a possibility that some of them had been half-elven, perhaps half-orc.

I asked David whether he thought the bloodstone was feeling unusually warm. I was looking for some confirmation that the demon in the stone was responding to the surroundings, but he couldn’t confirm. Perhaps it was my imagination, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something inside that stone was getting palpably excited at arriving at the keep.

We found the tower of the keep to be completely gutted with most of the organic material long decayed. The floor of what likely was the cellar of the tower was terraced and ended in the back of the keep with a large stone door. The door had the lifelike face of an older man of eastern decent set in its surface, like a decorative knocker. Above the door it read “your master” in large scripture.

Observing the magics cast in the door, it was clear that it was designed to prevent entry. There was an intelligence built into the door which was expressly designed to interact with, likely as a way to verify a person’s credentials before allowing people to go through.

David asked whether the master in question could be Zengyi the Witch-King, since he ruled over these lands long ago, so I uttered the name. The pupilless eyes of the face opened and the face said “No, you are not” before closing its eyes again. The voice was raspy and sounded as if it had not been used in a very long time.

I asked the door who its master was and it responded that its lord was Sigmar, the lord of these lands. Quentyn recognised the name as that of one of Zengyi’s lieutenants which he had heard in an scary story his wetnurse had told him once.

I spent some time talking to the door, trying to convince it that Quentyn was now lord and master of these lands and the keep, but unfortunately it would not share any more useful information nor allow us entry.

I found myself growing frustrated at my lack of helpful divination spells. I find myself jumping from one situation into the next, all of which require different spells, from different schools and different areas of specialisation. Often I find myself wanting to become a diviner, then a transmuter, then an invoker before getting fascinated by the idea of becoming a summoner. Ugh. It’s frustrating and tiring. It seems I am destined to become them all!

We decided to return to base camp. I handed the stone to David and decided I should rest properly if I was going to prepare the right spells to help us through the next day.

7th Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

The first thing I did the following morning was prepare my spells. I once again bemoaned the lack of divination spells in my repertoire, so I decided to prepare for an auxiliary combat role instead. We’d likely have to open the door using our wits, and whatever was behind it was going to be dangerous and prove hostile.

The entire camp was moved into the courtyard of the keep. It was more secure and we’d have everyone on hand should they be needed. The Glisterians went to prepare the camp while the rest of us gathered in front of the door. David was maintaining we should collapse the tower onto the door and bury whatever evil was behind it. He had first come up with that idea the day before, but I did not take him too seriously. I still didn’t take him seriously, but he seemed to consider it more in earnest than he did yesterday.

Round after round the door rebuffed our attempts to get it to open itself and I could feel the frustration in our group grow. Ser Fosco had already given up participating but stayed because his lord had asked him to be there. But it was Quentyn who really seemed to lose patience, he’d rather solve problems he could swing a sword at. I must say that I was enjoying this puzzle, much more so than fighting those undead creatures from the previous day.

In a moment of frustration Quentyn, now enraged, yelled at the door to submit to his authority and open the door, demanding the door recognise him as the lawful lord of the keep. The door in turn, in an act of defiance I found astonishing, shot back that he didn’t recognise Quentyn as its master, but rather that the door itself was his master. “I am your master,” it said, and apparently that was the trigger to unlock the door. We had meant to convince the door to say the words carved above the keystone, rather than us convincing it to accept us as its master.

A little anti-climatically, the door opened and we found a staircase running straight down for a dozen or so steps before reaching a landing and curling around on either side onto another two stairways going down again. When we went down, we made sure that everyone was carrying a torch. We quickly realised that the two staircases leading further down from the landing merged behind the initial staircase into a broad staircase leading into another room.

The thrumming sound I had heard had become quite clear to everyone since the door had opened, but now it was clear where it was coming from. In the middle of the room was a sphere of swirling blue magical energy, hovering about seven foot in the air. Next to it was another undead creature, similar to the ones we had already defeated, but with a far more patient and cunning demeanour.

It was emaciated, with white pupilless eyes, wearing a set of brigandine armour made of leather and metal or bone plates reaching until just above the knee. In its right hand it clutched a thick staff or club, and in its left hand it held a metal ankh aloft, stuck into the magical orb.

The rest of the room was relatively empty except for a bunch of debris. There were several doors that we never had the chance to investigate before all hell broke loose. You see, once we spotted what we later called “the guardian”, we had started talking to it. This ranged from attempts to ask it to identify itself and demands it lay down its arms. Nothing really seemed to garner a response, until Quentyn moved forward rather threateningly.

The first thing the guardian did was pull the ankh from the orb. Upon the release, the orb ejected a violent gust of wind, which sent the debris that had been laying around the room in every direction. I was hit with flying shrapnel rather painfully, but worst of all, the torches we held were extinguished, which plunged the entire room into darkness save for the soft glow of the magical orb.

After that initial wave of shrapnel had hit, I was too disoriented for the pain to recognise the other waves of magic that hit us. There was one that I I felt but couldn’t make out its effects, before a third and final wave of magic hit, which started to pull at ferrous objects of significant sizes so violently that they flew from us, straight for the orb only to disappear in flashes of blue-white light. I lost a dagger from my belt as it flew into the orb, and later I saw that Godric and Ser Fosco had lost their swords.

David, who had lost his wicked chain to the orb, made an excellent decision in that chaos, and called upon the power of Illmater to illuminate the room. The effect was absolute and much, much brighter than any light I was capable of producing. I was immediately able to asses the situation; several soldiers had lost their weapons, David was disarmed, and to my horror, Quentyn was struggling to keep himself from being pulled towards the orb. It seemed his chain mail armour was being pulled into the orb just like our weapons were.

Luckily, while the shields our soldiers carried were rimmed in steel bands, they were predominantly made of wood and remained in hand. Quentyn was being helped by Godric to free him from his armour. Without too much finesse the leather straps keeping the armour in place were cut and the armour shot towards to the orb, to be annihilated.

I was still at a distance and I saw our soldiers moving in on the guardian, so I wasn’t able to unleash the fiery devastation I had prepared for that morning, but I could incinerate the guardian more slowly.

Flaming Sphere
Zu’u ag hi voth aan krein do yol
I burn you with a sphere of fire

The fight was very hectic. Weapons were handed off to those who had lost theirs to the magnetic attraction of the orb. Improvised weapons were found, like Ser Fosco picking up a random femur big enough to have belonged to an ogre, in order to smash it to dust across the shoulder of the guardian. In the end, Quentyn managed to disarm the guardian who let go of its weapon. The weapon ended up in Quentyn’s hands and he used it to strike the killing blow, caving the guardian’s skull in.