Tag: The Blackwing

My Parents

Lord Harlberstam Redwyne

My father is Lord Halberstam Redwyne, Duke of Fulcestershire, Marquess of Montrose and Beauclaire, Earl Redwyne of Belford, Viscount Aberuthven, Lord of Redgarden, Lord of Closeburn, Baron of Dunbar. I’m fairly sure I’ve forgotten half a dozen titles. All of them earned by our illustrious ancestors through conquest, marriage or reward.

Politically, my lord-father is quite an important man who is well loved by most other dukes, princes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, lords and barons. And there is not a village, hamlet, farm or tavern in Fulcestershire where the smallfolk don’t raise their glasses and cups in toast to the health and good fortune of my lord-father.

Lady Madeleine-Élodie Montmorency

My lady-mother is the only daughter of Viscount Montmorency of Beauclaire, whose family have held faith with mine for generations. One of the oldest noble families in Cormyr. Any of the grand families would have tripped over themselves to make a marriage with her.

She and my lord-father’s sister, lady Sylvia, were of an age and very close friends. Their friendship was forged while spending their time at court as handmaidens to princess Iris. When my lord-father appeared at court for the Shieldmeet festival, he and my lady-mother were introduced and fell head over heels.

The Grand Marriage

When news of their mutual interest became common knowledge, lady Sylvia was overjoyed and princess Iris became involved in the arrangement. They were married at Redgarden Keep at the Midsummer festival, exactly two years since their first meeting.

The marriage was a grand affair, and the newlyweds were the envy of all. Married on an auspicious day, loved by commoners and nobility, the future seemed bright. Two great houses united and exchanged titles. Lord Marcus Redwyne, third of his name, received the title of Marquess of Montrose and Beauclaire, a prestigious hillside area known for their exquisite vineyards. My lady-mother’s father, Lord Louis-Antoine Montmorency received the title of Viscount of Caerruthers, a fertile garden region of Fulcestershire.

The relations between the two houses had already been warm, but now their interests were entwined in a way that had previously been considered unthinkable in the tumultuous and oftentimes cutthroat political landscape of the Cormyrian nobility.

The Honeymoon

On their honeymoon, my parents toured Beauclaire with a small entourage and settled at a small estate in the middle of the vineyards called Corbeau Rouge. For more than a year, they enjoyed their new marriage in privacy. They received friends and family from time to time, but otherwise, my lord-father was said to have been busy with the farmers and vinters at the estate perfecting a wine that would do our family’s name proud.

The Succession

Unfortunately, their peace was cut short with the illness of my lord-grandfather, and they returned home to Redgarden. My lord-father took over the duties as Lord of Redgarden Keep and as Duke of Fulcestershire. He would sit at his father’s bedside and talk quietly for long hours. Anyone interrupting the two were curtly sent away. My lord-grandfather’s steward, Ser Osmund Waynwood, was sometimes requested to witness these conversations. He would only share that the two lords were preparing my lord-father’s succession. His father still had many things to share and wanted to do so before his spirit faded and he would return to Chauntea’s embrace.

It would still be another year before my lord-grandfather passed away and he was laid to rest in the crypts below Redgarden Keep. His funeral was said to be a large and solemn affair, attended by many – even the king. My lady-mother told me that the year of my lord-grandfather’s illness was the year in which my lord-father changed. Before he was an amicable man, one quick to smile and with a compliment or kind word never far from his lips. After his father passed, he became to a grave lord who bore the weight and responsibility of his station and took his duties very seriously.

Lord Halberstam’s Reign

Soon after the funeral, my lord-father decreed that the duchy would no longer settle with being Cormyr’s grain supply. No longer would it sit idly by and have other lords neglect their duties to feed their people only to lean on the ample supplies of Fulcestershire. He negotiated fair prices for the food stocks sold to other lordships and those prices weren’t always paid in coin. The gold that would flow into the family coffers were used to shore up existing defenses, expand new defenses in the form of watch towers, and several permanently manned garrisons throughout the duchy.

The increase in prosperity and security made my lord-father well loved by his people. His vassal lords found in him a strong and fair ruler, the commoners felt safe and saw their larders fully stocked, and there was more work to go around. Common men could aspire to join the military and work their way up. Some of them were knighted for their efforts, and in very rare occasions they would even be awarded a plot of land or small holdfast, like in the case of Ser Anguy of Enslow, who was responsible for the search and eventual apprehension of Edwyn the Dread, a priest of Bane with close ties to Zhentil Keep who had been terrorising the area around Wellingsborough, in the north-eastern part of the duchy. These men were honoured and celebrated, giving the commoners someone to cheer and aspire to emulate.

My lord-father’s justice was as decisive as it was fair. He would leave adjudication to his vassal lords in order to give them a sense of agency, but opened his audience hall for one day every two rides for people, commoners and nobility alike, to have matters adjudicated by him personally, or Ser Osmund Waynwood in his absence. Sometimes he would ride out with his knights and the Fulcester priests of Chauntea to deal with matters personally. The minstrels still tell tales of his men battling the undead infestation at Felixstowe and Shotley Gate.

The Pursuit of an Heir

The first time my lady-mother’s womb quickened was shortly after my lord-grandfather passed away. It was said my father was overjoyed. Unfortunately, complications lead to miscarriage. The next two pregnancies resulted in stillborn births. My lady-mother told me about those dark days, but only on grim winter nights at the fireside, wrapped in a blanket, with a cup of hot, spiced wine in hand. Two more miscarriages followed. My lady-father grew desperate, but never once blamed my mother. Priest of the Chauntaic order of Fulcester were brought in to tend to my mother before, during and after every failed pregnancy.

Eventually, the Montmorency family started to get involved, and convinced my lord-father to allow them to bring in some aid. Through their vintnership, they had contacts in the far off land of Halruaa, well known for their Haerlu wines and their expertise in magic. My lord-father initially objected due to his innate prejudice against magic but eventually was convinced by my lady-mother. A fertility expert was brought in and together with the Chauntaic priests managed to help my mother conceive and give birth to me.

I was born Ethan Redwyne of Fulcestershire, the Marquess of Montrose and Beauclaire.

Preparing for the Moot

1st Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

After talking to Creighton about the work we’d have to do first thing in the morning, I retired back to my room in the keep. I looked out of the window of my room and heard the quiet whispers coming from the settlers’ camp to the north. I reckoned the camp was no more than a mile away and that gave me an idea. I spoke to Blackwing and asked her to keep an eye on Ser Fosco’s tent, easily recognised by his flag flying proudly above it. With an angry flutter of feathers that magnificent bird took off.

What little remained of the evening I spent studying my spells. I am ambitious and eager to fly by Blackwing’s side. I’ve followed the lineage from Mage Hand to Feather Fall, to Levitate and I hope that if I study hard enough I will be able to attain flight that gives me a greater degree of mobility and control.

2nd Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

Early in the morning I met with Creighton in the study. He had brought the required ledgers for us to come up with several economic scenarios from which Quentyn could choose. We worked while we broke our fast. It turns out Creighton kept meticulous records of all production over the last few years. Considering Lord Marbrand’s varied investments in local businesses, we had a lot of material to work with. I did most of the mathematics and risk assessments and came up with four likely scenarios.

By the time I was supposed to meet Quentyn and Brother David in Glister proper, I had decided to send Blackwing to deliver my apologies. I felt my talents would best server Quentyn if I would take the extra time to finish the work so that he would be well prepared to face the Glisterians at the moot.

At noon Quentyn and Brother David arrived back at the keep for lunch. I had been so busy with work that I had failed to notice a bird had arrived with a message from Lord Balta, the Western Warden of Vaasa. Apparently he had sent a scouting party to clear the High Pass and claim the keep there, but hadn’t heard from them in over a ride. He inquired if they had been spotted in or around Glister.

Quentyn’s concern was that if Lord Balta would take the keep at the High Pass it would mean that Quentyn couldn’t. Not without ousting Lord Balta’s men and setting off a territorial dispute with a neighbouring lord. One that Quentyn likely wasn’t able to win. He felt he should claim the keep before Lord Balta did. Another item on his ever-growing list of matters of import.

Yesterday, Widukin and Jago brought another small keep to Quentyn’s attention. One that was in the foothills of the Galena Mountains to the south east, towards Hulburg. According to the two trackers there is a lot of Lizardmen activity in the area, which means a rather significant detour for any caravans coming from that direction.

Two keeps, one to the north east, the other to the south west. Securing both of them would improve trade relations, and securing the one to the north east would also win a territorial dispute before it starts. Hopefully we’ll resolve the matter of the settlers at the moot with enough support that we will be able to focus on the keeps.

Creighton was happy to go over the numbers of the different scenarios and give them a good polish. After hearing Jago mention that the High Pass keep was said to be haunted, I decided to do some quick research in the Marbrand library. The more information we’d have, the easier it was to prioritise the taking of High Pass keep and the recovery of Lord Balta’s scouts. Meanwhile, Quentyn and Brother David decided to visit the Widow. Her support at the moot, as with Wulfric’s, would be crucial.

After a short while I had found references to several keeps in the High Pass region. It was quite possible they all referred to the same structure, just mentioned under a different name due to changing allegiances or rulership. It was clear that whatever was there was meant to guard the High Pass, and perhaps even the Low Pass.

Since the High Pass lays on the south-western border of Vaasa it was controlled by the Witch King during his brutal and unholy reign. It’s not unlikely that it was the seat of some very evil people, and perhaps even one of the Witch King’s undead minions. This could explain the keeps superstitious reputation. At least, I hope it’s superstition.

When Quentyn and Brother David returned they told me of the meeting with the Widow. Judging the mood of the two men, I got the sense that the meeting was less fruitful than they had hoped. The way they spoke, the doubt in Quentyn’s voice, his choice of words…

Having observed my lord father govern his lands, I find the contrast between him and Quentyn quite shocking. My father always appeared to be just and fair but uncompromisingly stern and steadfast. Quentyn doesn’t seem to posses the conviction of his rule. David also speaks to him as if he’s a common rube. Upon reflection, I probably patronise him in the way I speak to him. If even his closest advisors don’t offer him his due respect, how are the townsfolk going to respond to him?

I suggested that Brother David and I take the evening to visit the camp in order to find out what kind of labourers the settlers had been before they took up arms. I had already sent out Blackwing to keep an eye out for the source of their food, and she had reported back that the settlers seemed to forage and trap small game.

When we arrived at the camp the mood had changed significantly compared to our first visit. We were welcomed and allowed to walk the camp without a problem. It seemed that Ser Fosco had made good on his promise to keep his men in line.

An amicable conversation with Gunnar revealed that there were two blacksmiths in the camp, several hunters and trappers, and that they had several novice herbalists, a few leatherworkers, tanners and cobblers. Bakers, cooks, tar makers, fletchers were also present. Most of the men came from farming stock, so they would be able to till the land and grow enough crops to become self sufficient.

We spoke with the Hammer (the official name of one serving Tempus) about the moot and he was genuinely shocked to hear that the Glisterians had a say in the decision making. That while Quentyn’s opinion carried a lot of weight, that his rule was not an absolute one. The Hammer decided to share that Ser Fosco’s tactic had been to undermine Quentyn as lord by purposefully causing friction between the settlers and the Glisterians. Likely, he’d never have done that if they had known just how decisions were made in the town.

We decided to talk with all the settlers but for some reason we weren’t really able to get a good conversation going. Perhaps it was late or they were distrustful, but we couldn’t get through to them and they wouldn’t offer up too much of their background and skills. I resorted to figuring out their trades by looking at some of the tools they had laying around.

Another thing; I spoke to Gunnar to see if he could get his hands on some wine. I told him I’d be willing to pay, barter or trade. Let’s hope he’ll be able to find some among the settlers.

When we returned to the keep on Wizard’s Hill, we found Quentyn sitting in the courtyard, by himself. He looked dejected and somewhat forlorn. We spoke about what we had discovered at the settlers’ camp, and about the strategy at the moot. I suggested that Ser Fosco should come with us to retake the keep at the High Pass as a task for his new lord. Brother David wisely suggested that his right hand Mateo should take a small group to retake the keep in the south east. Split them up. See if we can form a bond with Ser Fosco.

At one point, Brother David spoke to Quentyn in a manner that didn’t suit me. It was then that I noticed Harald’s belt, with that intricately carved bone stag at the buckle. The stag’s details had receded and faded, as if by intense use. The antlers that the stag displayed were worn down compared to when I had first seen and investigated the belt, as if by long use. I took out my scrying crystal and spoke a few arcane words of divination.

Detect Magic
Mindok pah lah.
Know all magic.

It was true, the power of the belt had severely diminished. My mind raced for an answer. At first, I thought that maybe I had overlooked the possibility that the belt’s magic was finite and that with common use the power would slowly wane.

But then it occurred to me that the belt was Uthgardt in origin, created by its members to reflect their chosen totem. The totems of the Uthgardt were made to reflect their ideal. The bear was powerful. The wolf was loyal. The cat was sly. Quentyn wore the belt and it showed his ideal; the stag — regal, commanding and proud. Quentyn’s mood was fueling the belt and it was losing power as Quentyn was losing faith in his ability to command.

I immediately tried to reassure him. I referred to him as my lord, and paid him his proper dues. I assured him of my confidence in his plan and his ability to lead the people of Glister. I noticed that the power of the belt returned almost immediately. I should remember that the belt will give me a good reflection of how capable Quentyn is feeling as a lord.

One last thing of note about our conversation. Something that Quentyn had neglected to share with us is that besides this group of settlers, there were two more groups coming up from Cormyr. If they are each the size of the current group, it would mean that Glister’s number would swell by eighty and one hundred. That would be more than an increase of half the original inhabitants, and something our current economy would certainly not be able to support. It was unlikely the other two groups would risk arriving in the middle of winter, so that would mean they would arrive in the spring at the earliest. We would have to start preparing for their arrival. And we would have to do it soon.

It sickens me to think that I left my family, I left the circle, I left my homeland, all in order to avoid politics. Anything to avoid politics. And now I’m in the employ of a Cormyrian lord learning how to be a lord even though he was never groomed by his family to become one. The gods are playing a cruel joke on me.

The Settlers

1st Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

It has been two years since the battle with Nar-Narg-Naroth. Much has changed on the Oldmark. The new Lord of Glister has shaped up the militia and has built a palisade along the moat, further separating the Oldmark from the Newmark. Harald has been replaced by Widukin as the paragon of the foresters and he has been working in concert with Jago to open up new and secure old trade routes.

The village has grown and its productivity has grown along with it. I’ve helped optimise the production of arable land by changing crop rotation cycles and fine tuning sowing and reaping times. I am loathed to take responsibility for the jump in crop yield. The herds of cattle on the Hoof have also been procreating faster and more steadily, and growing larger and healthier than before. I suspect that vanquishing the Tanar’ri has had a positive effect on Glister. And dare I say on the whole of the Thar.

I’ve been…reckless with my divinations, but I cannot say it’s been without its rewards. If it wasn’t for the current unrest in Glister I would spend much more time learning the secrets of the bloodstone, and the being that is banished inside of it.

Quentyn has made great strides in advancing himself as the Lord of Glister. He has also made great strides in advancing Glister as a trading hub along the Thar. Neighbouring fiefdoms have sent word, and a certain Lord Balta, the Western Warden of Vaasa even made the trek to Glister to make a personal appearance.

Occasionally there is word from Cormyr. A great horde of orcs has descended upon my homeland. I’m certain that the Cormyrian knights and war wizards are more than capable of defeating the horde — it is not the first time they come reaving down from the mountains — but I cannot help but be somewhat worried for my family. Danan especially. He should be of an age now that he’ll have his own command, or leading some vanguard. I wonder if he’s been anointed yet. I should write him again. Until I hear back, I shall pray to Chauntea to lend strength to him so he can defend home and hearth.

As a result of the trouble in Cormyr, and likely eager to send word back of his progress, Quentyn has send an open invitation for refugees to come and settle in Glister. His ambition is admirable. For a long while I thought that none would make the trek across all the way north to Glister. Even if you take a boat across the Sea of Fallen Stars and north into the Moonsea, like I did, the journey across the Thar from Thentia, Melvaunt or Hulburg will take weeks.

And yet, they came. A large host of sixty mercenaries, lead by a Cormyrian knight by the name of Ser Fosco. It was a ragtag band of Cormyrians, Sembians, and mongrels. Glister was ill-prepared. Quentyn was ill-prepared. I am not sure what he was expecting, but I was expecting people less armed with swords and more armed with ploughshares. They look less like settlers and more like raiders. But here they are, looking for a home.

The settlers — yes, settlers, that’s what they are and I will continue to call them that so that they, and the people from Glister, don’t forget why they’re there — have settled in a large camp on the Newmark, just across the moat, in sight of the keep. It’s been weeks now, and understandably they are getting restless. I don’t know what is stopping them from settling properly. I guess my curiosity has gotten to the point where I will set aside my studies and venture forth. Perhaps I can help.

This day I woke up to the smell of food coming from the kitchen. When I came downstairs, I saw that Quentyn joined his two squires — Godric and… and… Godric and the other one — to break their fast. Mund had prepared what most people would consider a fine start of the day. Despite being here for a while, I still have trouble adjusting to the Glisterian choice of food. The Thar breeds hardier people than myself.

Luckily, I’ve been able to figure out what works for me. The friendly simpleton Gilbert and I have grown friendly, and he sells me eggs from his flock of ducks. Mund has started to prepare the eggs in the different ways. When I told him to be more conservative with the spices, his creations became a delight.

The amount of wine in the village is still at an abysmal level. It’s rare. The villagers seem to enjoy their ales and meads more and so the merchants have given up bringing it on their voyages across the Thar. I’ve started to drinking some light ciders, which I’m learning how to digest. If I don’t overdo it, the acidity of the apples doesn’t upset my stomach. Perhaps I should see about getting Jago to bring some grapevines from his trips to Hulburg. Perhaps I can start growing my own. The climate isn’t suited for it, but with Chauntea’s blessing anything I create will be better than ale.

While I quietly ate my breakfast at the kitchen table I started to wonder what kind of knights these two squires would become? They seem brutish, boorish and devoid of the five chivalric virtues that a knight should imbue; valour, honour, compassion, generosity and wisdom. Perhaps I shouldn’t judge them too harshly. Perhaps it’s simply that they don’t come across as any of these things. At the Circle of Magi I had to jump through some awful hoops in order not to be judged too harshly. I ended up showing everyone wrong. I hope Godric and… thinger will show me wrong.

With Quentyn not being a knight himself, or a priest; can he even anoint new knights?

Creighton arrived and joined to break his fast. He asked Quentyn if it was wise that Wulfric dictate the terms of the moot. Apparently, Wulfric had called for a moot. Apparently, the mercena*… no, the settlers had been causing some trouble. Skirmishes, intimidation and thievery had gone up and the settlers had been involved in all instances. Quentyn decided that as lord, he should be the one to call for a moot.

Brother David arrived wearing that ghastly chain of his and heartily attacked the breakfast larders. He had come to ask about the moot as well and he was also able to confirm that the settlers were the cause of much unrest on the Oldmark.

After breakfast brother David wanted to check my constitution. I could have saved him the effort and replied with “miserable,” but he seemed quite insistent. My seizure has left him worried. When the checkup was concluded I was told I was relatively good health, which was good. I was told that I shouldn’t neglect the hearth during my studies. I knew what that meant. Oftentimes I am so lost in thought or study that the hearth extinguishes and the bitter cold creeps into my bones.

We spoke briefly about the settlers and the moot. He wanted us to keep the mood of the moot calm and to prevent the villagers from antagonising the settlers. They are well armed and most of them seem seasoned combat veterans. They could take over the village if they wanted to.

We all met atop the keep to look at the camp of the settlers on the Newmark. We noticed the banner of Ser Fosco; a triangle of three black arrows on a field of green. His heraldry seemed sophisticated enough that he should likely be, or have been, a landed Cormyrian knight. I did not recognise his banner, but I resigned to find out what I could. Perhaps Lord Marbrand left some books on Cormyrian heraldry behind while searching for his heir. I could send Blackwing for Cormyr to inquire, but it would likely take two rides for her to return.

We all ended up walking up to the Hoof to find Wulfric. I was reminded that when we had first arrived in Glister, Wulfric’s daughter Annika had been taken by gnolls. Quentyn, brother David and Jago saved her and Wulfric was very grateful. I wondered what had soured his mood towards Quentyn, and whether we’d have to remind him about the debt he owed them.

I felt embarrassed to find that Wulfric was actually quite hospitable and friendly. He offered us some cheese that his daughter had learned how to make, and essentially confirmed what we had already suspected. He wasn’t happy with the way the settlers had been behaving.

His main gripe, besides the infractions, was that the settlers simply weren’t contributing to the village. They were not producing, only consuming. Not pulling their weight. He also wanted to know where we would house them. And why they seemed so disinterested in clearing land, erecting houses and plowing fields.

Even with the added productivity of the fields and the herds, could we keep up that productivity under the strain of sixty extra mouths to feed? It was a very valid question, but not one I could answer without doing some mathematics first. I decided to talk to Creighton and get to the bottom of that conundrum. How much food is produced on how much arable land? To house, feed and cloth sixty people, how much extra land needs to be tilled, how much extra cattle will it take, how much extra game needs to be hunted and how much extra fish needs to be caught? Once we know that, we know what we’ll need to provide in terms of land, tools, seed and cattle.

Jago and Widukin had joined us at Wulfric’s the moment they heard we were on the Hoof. When we left, we decided to pay a visit to the settler’s camp and Jago decided to join us. We crossed the palisade and took the ferry across the moat and walked up to the camp.

At the camp we were made to wait outside the camp. Under guard. Eventually it became insulting and Quentyn resolutely shouldered his way past the guards. He and I don’t have much in common, and in that moment I was jealous of his ability to command respect simply by imposing his physique and stature. It probably doesn’t hurt that brother David, who is an imposing man himself, was standing to his side wearing that ugly chain and that magical cloak of furs.

Ser Fosco turned out to be a tough nut to crack. There was some back and forth between the knight and Quentyn and it became… tense. It certainly felt as if Ser Fosco was trying to squeeze every bit out of the leverage he had, even if that leverage was gained through intimidation. It became quite clear that Ser Fosco wanted to be a landed knight yet again and I wondered how realistic it was to introduce feudalism to Glister.

A deal was struck; Ser Fosco would keep his settlers in line, Quentyn would come up with a plan and present it at the moot in two days. Quentyn would bring three people, as would Ser Fosco. Quentyn decided to depart, but brother David asked Ser Fosco’s permission to walk the camp and tend to the needs of the settlers. He granted permission, though I felt that permission wasn’t his to grant. The Newmark was as much a part of Glister as the Oldmark, despite being outside the palisade.

While walking the camp with brother David we both came to the conclusion that most of the people in the camp came to Glister to earnestly accept Quentyn’s invitation. Brother David could detect some bad apples in the batch, but most of the Cormyrians really were fleeing the war in our homeland looking for a better life.

We met a priest of Tempus by the name of Gunnar, a wintered soldier. He was open and amicable, and his voice betrayed his Damaran heritage. He wasn’t sure whether he would stay. This made sense to me and confirmed to me that we had gotten the right of it; the majority of the people here came with good intentions. If they would stay and settle, Gunnar would move on to find the next battle, to find another war to serve his Lord.

When we were done we returned to Ser Fosco’s tent. Brother David had asked me to distract Ser Fosco a bit so that he could say a prayer. So I asked Ser Fosco where he was from and how he came to leave. His tale was a tragic one, of a small house of some nobility, losing more and more power when the orc horde came, until all that was left was a title. It seemed Ser Fosco was here to reclaim some of the prestige he lost in the war.

On the way back to the Oldmark, brother David told me that he had divined that Ser Fosco had a deeply selfish core and I was once again reminded of the conversation I had with Quentyn and the two squires; was Ser Fosco an exemplary knight? Did he embody the five chivalric virtues of knighthood?

When we returned to the keep, we talked to Quentyn about what we had found at the camp, and the conclusions that we had drawn. I suggested that we’d refer to the land to be designated as “The Gift.” It would help us in our conversations, and convey the spirit in which we were entering these negotiations. It also sounded good.

Before bed, I talked to Creighton and came up with a plan to do the mathematics about what Glister currently produced in terms of crops, cattle, fishing and game. We would need to come up with several models in which we distributed the sixty new hands in such a way as to optimally create enough goods to support the visitors and yield the most to Glister.

Ethan the Blackwing, Day Seventeen

I find myself stuck in Lord Marbrand’s library again. I have to research our likely adversary, Nar-Narg-Naroth, while the rest are out hunting for the cultists. Weighing the benefits of being surrounded by such a wealth of knowledge against the drawbacks of slogging through the mud in the forest or sloshing through the brackish water of a partially submerged ruin is slowly becoming impossible. In essence, the difference is searching for second-hand information in books, or searching for first hand information out there. If Lord Marbrand had occasionally left the library and had gone out there to find information instead of have books brought to him, his notes wouldn’t have been so dull and he’d have much more to show for it. It took us a little over fifteen days to find out the name of the creature buried in those catacombs, something that he was never able to uncover.

Regarding Nar-Narg-Naroth, I’ve unconvered much information. To my dismay, I also found that we’re dealing with a rather overwhelmingly large outsider called a Bebilith. This means that my earlier assessment that we were dealing with a Baatezu (devil) was entirely incorrect, but that it’s in fact a Tanar’ri (deamon). The distinction is important, you see. Baatezu are structured in their infliction of evil upon reality, with a strict hierarchy within their ranks, making them arguably much more dangerous to our existence than the Tanar’ri, who are more chaotic and unpredictable. A Baatezu is much more likely to inflict precise, systematic destruction, while a Tanar’ri will more likely engage in wanton destruction and despoilment. They are also less organised and fewer in number, but that which they lack in number they make up for in raw power. These two factions have been waging a war against one another older than living memory. Baatezu against Tanar’ri, the denizens of Hell against the denizens of the Abyss. And according to all accounts, they have fought to a stalemate, an equal match between discipline and numbers against raw and brute strength.

Bebilith is a huge, spider-like deamon, who hunts and devours other deamons. Known as “the creepers of the Abyss” and “barbed horrors” and considered to be the cruel harbingers of death and torture to anyone crossing their path. They are eight-legged arachnids, with a bulbous, chitinous body and two pronounced forelegs which end in brutal barbs. Their fangs secrete a poison and they are preternaturally tough and capable of shooting sticky strands of webbing capable of trapping and suffocating men. Their senses are razorsharp and while they understand the gutteral language of the Abyss, they communicate through a powerful sense of telepathy.

It seems Nar-Narg-Naroth is one such Bebilish, but it has been reported missing from the Abyss for hundreds of years, likely because of its imprisonment in the catacombs underneath the Thar.

I’m bored of reading up on this deamon. I think I’m going to try and put my time to good use and enhance my repetoire of spells. Also, I’m going to continue exploring the possibilities of the dragonskin vestments we found. I think that will be of greater value to us in the coming fight than knowing the multitude of ways in which this Bebilith can kill us. If it had any weaknesses that I could’ve learned about in this library, I’m confident I would have found out by now. Now that would be an amusing epitaph to put on my headstone, provided I don’t get devoured by Nar-Narg-Naroth.

Ethan the Blackwing, Day Ten

The Melting, 1372 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 10

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

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

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

Barrow on the Thar

The barrow on the Thar, south of Glister.

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

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

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

Fus kotin faal su.

(Force into the air.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 13

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

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

Day 14

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

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

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

Day 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dragonskin Doublet

The Dragonskin Doublet

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

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

Day 16

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

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

The blood of the heir shall open the box?

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

To my Descendant,

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

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

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

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

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

May the Stag guide your path,

Harren of Clan Martell called Demonsbane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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