Tales from Elrond

Severius' Journal- On the Cairn Road

We finally decided to leave Red Larch to continue our search for the Mirabar Delegation. Our clues to the fate and whereabouts are limited with only word of their passing through the town of Beliard to the the knightly order located at Summit Hall and the book that Allegro purchased from Valivoe that supposedly was bought from a keel boat captain in the town of Womford.

Womford was the closest of these destinations and we began our journey taking the Cairn Road that connected the two places. The road was well established and provided easy travel as we passed out laying farms and fellow travelers. A fierce rainstorm, of which I have never seen of such intensity till now (the surface world never ceases to amaze me- rain falling in torrents from the sky and naturally-occurring thunder and lightning) caused us to seek shelter in a farmstead off the road with a pleasant halfling family. Allegro put on one of his pupppet shows for entertainment and we providedthem with some coin for their hospitality. With the exception of the Lord of Lance Rock, the people of the Dessarin Valley have been good friendly folk concerned with only making a comfortable living, its hard to imagine that something foul lurks here that would have kidnapped or killed the members of the Delegation.
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Unfortunately the evil lurking in the Valley soon became all to real as my friends and I were ambushed by “Pirates” of all things. Unfamiliar with this concept of sea-faring raiders, which my friends has to later explain, these ruffians possessed accoutrements that seemed appropriate to pirates but their presence on land far from the ocean was perplexing. They were quite formidable and outnumbered us, and they were lead by a magic-user of some talent and two members that’s could shapeshift into watery serpents. Gorm was with us and we managed to slay all but their magic-user, who fled with magically enhanced speed. A rest was in order for we were badly in need to healing and recuperation.

The following morning, well-rested and most of our wounds healed by the blessing of Gorm, we continued our journey and late in the day Gorm blessed us by revealing to us the pirates’ camp hidden in the woods off the road. A scouting action revealed more pirates and the magic-user that escaped us earlier and with the element of surprised we attacked the camp after Allegro charmed one of their sentries. Remembering the power of the magic-user in our previous engagement, he was our main target and he died from a combined effort in the opening attack. The battle with the remaining pirate forces was still difficult but without their leader’s magic we were able to defeat them without much injury.

With our charmed prisoner we continued our journey…

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The Lord of Lance Rock

The Old Crone’s Theater: Act Two
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The air was buzzing with excitement within the warm glow of Womford’s quaint little tavern, Jodi’s Place. Laughter and applause rang out openly as Biggle the bard took a few bows and boldly strode to the bar. Lifting a mug of ale high, he bellowed out to the crowd before him.

Biggle: Let this be a warning, to all who hate fun—there is plenty of ale, and more music to come!

As he drained the tankard, cheers and laughter erupted from the crowd. A patron at the bar turned to the half-orc and shouted over the noise.

Patron: It’s going to be hard to top that mighty performance!

Suddenly, silence fell upon the tavern as a bellow of smoke began pouring through the floorboards and the lights began to dim. Onlookers struggled in their seats trying to catch a glimpse of what was happening, as a flock of children weaved through the table legs and chairs to grab a seat on the floor front-and-center.

Rising from the smoke like a zombie,Allegro slowly came into view. His hands outstretched toward his audience, thin wires dangled forth like marionette strings, disappearing into the smoke at his feet. Slowly, a large dark form began to rise from the smoke. As it by magic, a giant pointed rock slowly grew before Allegro until it completely obscured the halfling from view. As the paper-mache rock grinded to a halt, the onlookers began to mutter amongst themselves. From behind the small grey curtain set within the rock’s face, a black-clad puppet appeared.

Narrator: Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you’re all well, for this is the Old Crone’s Theater, and I’ve a story to tell! It was penned by a demon, and delivered from hell, so sit on your bottoms and rest for a spell! This is the story of The Lord of Lance Rock—A necromantic fiend, with a zombified flock! So fill up your flagons and pick up your forks, for this tale has no happy endings, and best of all, no singing orcs!

A small murmur of laughter rang across the crowd as the narrator retreated behind the curtain, and another appeared on stage. The new puppet wore a dark purple and frilly costume with a humorously drawn white mask. While the appearance was meant to be foreboding, some of the children couldn’t keep from laughing.

The Lord of Lance Rock: Silence! [to the children] I am the Lord of Lance Rock—the most powerful necromancer in all of Elrond and beyond! Those simpletons in Red Larch think they are so great, throwing wonderful parties and never inviting me! Well I’ll show them, I’ll show them all! I’m going to amass a great army of the undead and march right up to their little town! Then, I’m going to burn their homes down… And kick dirt in their faces… And throw my own parties while not inviting them! Yeah, we’ll see how they like it! The best thing is, there is nothing those weaklings can do about it! Do you know why? [to the crowd]

A small amount of muttering spread throughout the crowd, but it was one of the children up front who raised his voice.

Child: Why?

The Lord of Lance Rock: Because I cannot be beaten by anyone! I am all powerful, and if my ears aren’t deceiving me, you’ll see what I mean right now! For I hear a group of would-be heroes come to stop me! Well the jokes on them, for my caves are littered with the bones of similar so-called ‘heroes’ who thought they could best me! Perhaps if this new group shows any promise, I’ll add their corpses to my army of the dead! Muah ha ha!

The laughter echoed throughout the tavern as the puppet retreated behind the curtain. After a few seconds, two more puppets emerged from the other side of the stage.

Severus: By Gorm’s holy light, this is lovely—a nice dark cave! Finally, we can get out of that blistering sunshine and rest for a while.

Dovak: Aye, ‘tis nice to be surrounded by stone again… Although, I could do without all the monsters tryin’a kill us.

Severus: Nonsense! With Gorm’s might at our side, none of these monsters stand a hope of a chance! Why, I know of the perfect prayer to boost our moral and ready us for the battle ahead! We shall call upon Gorm’s blessing to cleanse this foul cavern of the undead it holds!

A puppet Lester emerges from behind the curtain as a new voice rings out.

Lester: Yes, yes yes… Gorm this and Gorm that! Well can Gorm clean this place up a little, my robes are a mess! This place is filthy, and I’m pretty sure I have a spider web tangled up in the crack of my butt!

The play paused as laughter burst forth from the group of children. The puppet Lester turned and stared with his painted black eyes at the culprits until they grew silent. With an audible sneer, Lester turned back to the group.

Severus: Halt your complaining, oh dark-and-brooding! This place reminds me of home, and I wouldn’t ask Gorm to change a thing. [breathing deeply] Yes, it feels good to be back in my own element.

Lester: Your element is a dark cave full of monsters and littered with mold, bones, and dung piles?

Severus: Well, the bones may take some getting used to, I suppose…

Takashi: It’s the dark that’s bothering me…

The ranger came into view behind Lester, and an audible growl could be heard from behind the curtain.

Takashi: What was that sound?

The group turned right as three zombie puppets came in from the other side of the stage. Each puppet wore a painted costume of an animal, with a large jingling bell attached to their heads.

Dovak: It’s a lion!

Severus: No, a tiger!

Takashi: And a bear!

Lester: Oh my!

Some of the adults laughed as the sounds of scraped plates and clinking tankards subsided. It was clear that the entire tavern was beginning to get into the story unfolding before their eyes.

Severus: Whatever they may be, Gorm shall smite the wicked and cleanse this land of these foes! Attack!

Severus and Dovak’s puppets ran toward the zombies as two painted arrows, held up by strings, lowered from above the stage and traveled from Takashi’s bow into the fray. Sounds of sword clanking and bones breaking could be heard magically emanating from every corner of the tavern. Lester spun around, and a small spurt of flame shot from his wand onto the stage curtain, singing it slightly.

Takashi: You’re supposed to fire your spells into the fray, dear brother!

Lester: But then I might harm someone!

Takashi: [muttering] I don’t think we have to worry about that…

With a final thrust, Severus sent the last zombie crashing through the curtain, and the sounds of battle stopped.

Severus: I believe we got them all, but I must wonder where they came from. We have arrived at a dead end, with no door or passageway in sight. Surely this is not all that the caverns beneath Lance Rock has to offer us!

Dovak: There is likely some secret passage hidden behind the rock walls. Now… Where did that halfling get to?

As Dovak spoke, the ears and head of puppet Allegro slowly emerged from the top of the stage looking down. As the children spied the figure, they began to point in amazement.

Dovak: Where oh where did that little rogue get to? Allegro? Allegro? Here boy!

Dovak paced back and forth along the stage with Allegro mimicking him from above. As the Dwarf continued to call out to him, Allegro slowly snailed his way down the side of the stage and stood behind Dovak’s back.

Dovak: I can’t find him. Do you see him anywhere, kids? [to the crowd]

All of the children pointed and shouted. Dovak turned quickly, but Allegro side-stepped and remained hidden behind him. This continued for a few more seconds before Allegro tapped the Dwarf on the shoulder and Dovak turned in fright.

Dovak: Oh, there you are! Now look around and see if you can find a door or something.

The rogue walked to the end of the stage and stopped. A quiet and ethereal voice rang out across the tavern.

Allegro: I’ve found a lever.

Dovak: Let me see… That’s not a lever, you great baffoon!

Allegro: Yes it is…

Dovak: No it isn’t! I’m a Dwarf, and we know stone! I’m telling you, that’s no lever!

Allegro sat quietly as a small wooden lever raised from beneath the stage. Silently, the rogue’s puppet pressed up against the mechanism, flipping the switch. A slow rumbling could be heard from the stage as a small panel opened in the rock formation. It was silent for a few moments before Dovak spoke.

Dovak: See, it was a switch—not a lever…

The Lord of Lance Rock: Silence you fools!

The group stepped back as the Lord of Lance Rock jumped onto the stage.

The Lord of Lance Rock: I commend you for your efforts but I’m afraid they are futile! This is where you die, heroes! Don’t worry though, you’ll soon be reunited with those Red Larch villagers you love so much—in the afterlife!

Suddenly, four zombie puppets fell onto the stage. Without warning, they attacked the group of adventurers and once again the tavern was filled with the sounds of battle. Gasps and cries of shock rang throughout the audience as the zombie puppets were flung, one-by-one, onto the tavern floor. As each hit the wood with a thud, it evaporated into a small puff of smoke. Eventually, the noise died down and the Lord of Lance Rock was left alone with the group of heroes.

The Lord of Lance Rock: So you are more capable than I thought, you will all make decent soldiers in my army after all!

Dovak: Your army? Laddie, I think we’ve gone and destroyed what’s left of your army. All that’s left for us ta do is finish you off and return for our reward.

The Lord of Lance Rock: Finish me off? Ha ha ha—don’t make me laugh! I am more powerful than your tiny mind could ever comprehend! Prepare yourself, for I have the knowledge of the world’s most powerful spells of death and decay!

The Lord of Lance Rock began to mutter and the group collectively took a step back. With a blinding flash of light, three painted bolts of magic flew across the stage and slammed harmlessly into Dovak with a small plinking noise.

Dovak: … Is that it?

The Lord of Lance Rock: Hardly, you fool! There is no hope against my magic missiles! Prepare to taste another volley!

Three more missiles flew into Dovak with harmless plinks. Many of the audience members let out bursts of laughter as Dovak began to make his way across the stage. A continuous stream of missiles began to erupt from the Lord of Lance Rock as his voice grew panicked.

The Lord of Lance Rock: My… My missiles, why are they having no effect? How can you still be alive?

Dovak: [Raising his battle axe] Because… We’re the heroes of this story!

With a sickening thud, Dovak’s axe collided with the Lord of Lance Rock and the necromancer puppet split in two. Cries of pain echoed from behind the curtain as the puppet slowly began to wither and decay until it fell apart into dust. The audience cheered and clapped with glee as the dust blew across the floor.

Dovak: And so ends the dreaded Lord of Lance Rock! All that’s left is to remove the curse he’s placed on the town.

Takashi: I think that might have something to do with it.

A small glowing orb on a pedestal came into view, and Allegro approached it slowly. With the audience looking on in anticipation, the small orb slowly raised from the stand. It hovered in the air for a split second before crashing onto the stage accompanied by the sound of breaking glass.

Severus: And with that, the curse placed on the town of Red Larch should be broken! We shall leave this place victorious and deliver the good news to the towns folk.

Dovak: Aye, and get our reward as well!

With a cheer, the group exited the stage as the narrator returned.

Narrator: And with that, we close tonight’s play. The evil necromancer has been defeated, and the town of Red Larch freed from the plague befalling it. It seems not even an army of the dead could stop this group of adventures roaming the land seeking justice, peace, and the safety of all. Goodnight ladies and gentlemen, and I hope you enjoyed the show!

As the lights grew bright once more, cheers and applause echoed across the tavern. The children and adults alike clapped wildly as the entire rocky stage sank back into the thin fog spreading across the wooden floor. In its wake stood Allegro, the halfling bowing humbly as coins landed at his feet. Back at the bar, Biggle also offered applause as he stared at his companion in amazement.

Patron: Oh boy, I stand corrected— that show’s gunna be hard to top! He’s one hell’ova performer!

Biggle: Yes, he’s a great story teller with decent comedic timing, but his script needs some work—there was not enough rhyming!

Patron: You know, you’re one weird orc…

Biggle: Oh your words cut me deep, my inebriated friend, your slanderous jabs pain me to no end!

The patron slowly turned away from Biggles in awkward silence as he raised his flagon of ale to his lips. In the middle of the tavern, Allegro bent low to scoop up the small mound of coins lying at his feet when from the audience, a gruff male voice rang out in alarm.

Audience Member 1: Oy, me coin purse ‘as gone missing!

Audience Member 2: Mine too!

Female Audience Member: And my necklace… It’s gone!

Drunk: Oy… An’ someon’s done stoled all da beer from me cup…

The drunk weaved on his feet as he brandished his empty flagon in the air. A large belch transitioned into a fit of hiccups causing the man to blink in realization.

Drunk: Oh… Right! ‘evermind…

As the drunk collapsed into his seat, all eyes turned toward Allegro. The halfling stood bent over, coins falling from his palm as he looked up nervously with a bashful grin on his face. Raising his arms up, the rogue shrugged and feigned a small chuckle. Without warning, he threw something against the tavern floor, and large cloud of smoke enveloped his form. With the audience coughing and choking, the smog slowly began to fade as the Lord of Lance Rock’s voice boomed throughout the tavern once again.

The Lord of Lance Rock: Did you think I was vanquished, well that’s just not my style! I will return soon, just you all wait a while! So bar all your doors and secure all your locks, or you might be the next victim of the Lord of Lance Rock! Ha ha ha…

As the ghostly laughter faded into the distance, the smoke cleared revealing nothing but a small burnt piece of purple cloth fluttering down onto the floor.

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Severius' Journal- The Vaka's Curse

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The ocean. Never before had I imagined such a great expanse of water existed. The Great Lake in my subterranean city home is a puddle compared to what I see before me now- miles and miles of water stretching as far as the eye could see. My companions tell me that you could sail for months and still have many more miles of sailing if you wish. Surely they jest.

Despite the wonder of this “ocean” there is one aspect of it I could do without- sea sickness. My companions tell me that this condition is caused by the movement of the water and I spent the first two days of our journey on the sailing vessel called the Vaka (which is bigger than any of the boats that navigate my homeland’s Great Lake, and I’m told by my companions that there exists ships larger than the Vaka- truly amazing) leaning over the deck railing vomiting the contents of my stomach and was quickly reduced to painful dry-heaving. I was very tempted to use Gorm’s power cure my ailments but I needed to conserve my power for the ocean, which I am told is hazardous and unpredictable.

By the end of our trip we would find that it was not the ocean that would bring us peril, but the ship itself. A few days on board the Vaka, signs of something strange going peeked the interest of me and my party. An alcoholic captain who charged less than normal prices for passage, an uneasy crew and a strange seemingly supernatural sickness that started effecting me and my companions (even causing my friend Takashi to age several years overnight) lead to a tense passage and a clandestine search for information by the more stealthy members of our party. The source of the supernatural sickness would be discovered by a chance sighting of a creature made of shadow that stealing our life force while we slept. While this shadow managed to escape destruction at the time, a subsequent conference with captain confirmed our suspicions when he hesitantly divulged that his ship was cursed.

With the captain’s permission, and as his crew looked on, my companions and I scoured the entire ship using Gorm’s power to detect the location of this foul undead creature. Gorm led us to the ship’s wooden figurehead- a life-sized carved image of a rather normal-looking man looking forward to the horizon. There was no doubt that evil energy was emanating from this figure and a stick into the wood using a magical dagger unleashed a creature made of pure shadow. This humanoid shadow attacked us as we sought to destroy its refuge- the figurehead, which was further complicated because it appeared that it could only be harmed by magick and magickal weapons. Those fighting the shadow could only cause enough damage to temporarily destroy the creature and send it back to its refuge to reconstitute itself and renew its attack.

Eventually we were successful in our efforts and the hacked and burnt remains of the shadow’s refuge fell into the ocean. There was an immediate sense of Peace on the ship and it appears that the undead creature was finally destroyed. Captain Siegel and the crew of the Vaka were ever grateful and we were told we would never pay for future passage on the Vaka.

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The Mount of Forgiveness seems like a strange name, the Mount of Death would be more proper

There was a brilliant flash of golden radiant light from Severius’ mask-helm of Gorm. Some of ghouls took a step back and momentarily shielded their faces with their arms while others fled the area deeper into the burial catacombs. As Severius used Gorm’s holy power to turn the undead, the rest of the party renewed their attacks against the remaining ghouls, Dovak’s mighty battle ax strokes hacking a toll in their numbers, Lester unleashing the foul corrupt energies of his magicks and Allegro darting in and out to stab with precision strikes on vulnerable areas.

Haroushin’s sources were correct, the catacombs underneath the Mount of Forgiveness were teeming with undead and it would likely require a prolonged effort of hardy warriors backed by holy magicks to ultimately cleanse the place. Fortunately, Severius and his companions were only interested in interring their dead companion, Joreal, in a proper place of honor with a small and respectful ceremony to honor his passing. After cleansing this area, the group intended to do just that and they would report to Haroushin when they returned and the undead they found, and suspected were in the deeper levels of the Mount.

Despite the foulness of the place, Severius found the dark subterranean catacombs to be the closest thing to home over past few days. Severius was still trying to get used to the open air desert with the bright blistering sun during the day and the cold moonlit evenings. The sights and sounds of the outside world were strange, confusion, amazing and terrible- sometimes all at the same time. It was sad to say that an undead infested subterranean crypt felt like home but at least Severius felt like he was in his element again and at peak performance, with Gorm to guide him, victory would surely be theirs.
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Severius' Journal- Death at Sakina Falls

Lady Ayyam was most generous in her offer, even though we were honor bound to fulfill her request she still provided our group six-hundred gold pieces to outfit our party with needed supplies. We made good use of the coin, some of us purchasing additional equipment and better armor. I chose to spend money on exceptional food and lodging for my companions and I as I wished to see some of the wonders of the outside whole- I was not disappointed.
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After a well-needed rest and a hearty breakfast, we set off the following morning. The trip was by foot and the blazing sun was most discomforting to me and my companions. Those of us who were heavily-armored found our manner of dress unsuited to the rising temperatures and it was only due to our close proximity to the Zalim River, which we were following its course to locate Sakina Falls, that we were able to keep ourselves hydrated and bear the heat. Fortunately, as Lady Ayyam had stated, we found the lands safe for travelers, and occasionally observed armed patrols of the city’s army.

When the main trial shifted away from the river when it continued into a mountainous region, Takashi (who I learned was a ranger that specialized in mountain locales) took over leading across the treacherous terrain. He was indeed skilled and was able to find various goat trails and other animal pathways that made traversing the difficult terrain easier. We finally came upon a narrow path that followed along the southern cliff of the steep canyon that held the flowing river 200 feet below. Takashi pointed out recent tracks of humanoids and several pack animals. This trail eventually dead-ended up to Sakina Falls with no entrance to be found. A survey of the area showed evidence that the river and waterfall occasionally shifts to the right near the waterfall location, but there was no evidence of what causes this shift to happen.

When further searching of the area was fruitless, it was decided to observed the falls from a hiding spot (which Takashi selected) and wait for at least two days to see if anyone ventured into the area. Food and water was no worry as we had a fresh source of water readily available and Taksahi’s skills in this terrain found us more than adequate food. I used this time to talk with my new companions and hear stories from their lives, of places they had been, things they done and seen, any knowledge that I could gain of this new world. Their experiences were varied, as were their skillsets and I was both happy and sad when I realized all that waited for me to experience and all that my people had forgotten and or missed out on.

Our patience paid off on the second day as we were amazed to observe the waterfall shift to the left revealing a passageway into the mountain. From this passageway, a caravan of armed men and heavily laden donkeys, led by a stern-looking dwarf proceeded down the trail in single file ever careful on the narrow cliff side path. The last person in the caravan turned to the waterfall and we could tell that he said something but the roaring waters made it too loud to hear and the waterfall shifted back into its original place.

We quickly devised a plan on the belief that there must be a phrase that triggers the movement of the waterfall, and after quickly stripping off Takashi’s armor, he and Jorael stealthily make their way down to the mountain path and ambush the rear-most caravan guard. The plan goes perfectly with Takashi and Joreal subduing the man and dragging him out of sight and hurl some rocks down to the river below to make it look like he fell off the cliff. The dwarf leader comes over to inspect and satisfied with what he sees, he orders the caravan forward. We wait till the caravan is out of sight before questioning our captive.

I receive the task of convincing our new friend to cooperate. Apparently my stories about interrogating Zargon cultists and other rival faction members has impressed my new companions and they see my expertise this area. I start with the basic of motivations- greed. Thinking that this is just hired labor, I explain to him that we do not want to hurt the man, but we need access to the area behind the waterfall. His cooperation will be rewarded not only by sparing his life, but he would be monetarily compensated as well. The man hastily agrees and tells us that the waterfall is controlled to move with a magical code phrase, “Sakina, stand aside.”

Thanking him, we bind and gag him, leaving him in the shade, telling him he will be released should his information prove true. Joreal the takes the man’s clothing, and with the use of his disguise kit, makes himself resemble the guard as much as possible. His plan to scout ahead of our group in this guise is a good one. With Joreal in the lead, we make our way to the waterfall where Joreal shouts out the phrase to the falling waters. As we observed before, the waterfall shifts to the left exposing a corridor that has been cut into the mountain. Staying several meters behind Joreal, Dovak and I lead the rest of the party inside.

Inside is anything but what we expected. With a magically lit interior, we find elaborately decorated walls and floors with mosaics depicting crashing waves and white alabaster columns holding up a vaulted ceiling. The well-stocked underground chambers and halls make up an underground complex that is dedicated to wine-making. I was initially perplexed about why such efforts had been done to conceal a mundane task, but then I remembered snippets of information that I had learned in my brief time walking that streets of Muluk, about the great prophet they called the Loregiver, and his influence in enacting laws prohibiting alcohol in the kingdom.

Joreal’s disguise was more than helpful as he was able to bypass guards and venture into areas accosted, as well as surprise the enemy when what they initially thought was an ally stabbed them in the back. For the most part the complex was deserted with only a few guards remaining, the bulk of the forces most likely departing with the caravan, and we searched the rooms for Yodfah’s ledger. In one of these rooms, secured in a large cage, we found a badly beaten man who identified himself as Rashad and a Paladin of Osiris who was captured by the guards while trying to infiltrate the complex to find proof of illicit deeds.

I had heard of the god Osiris who is said to have power over life and death and seeks justice in the world. My gut feeling (which I think Gorm influences) tells me that Rashad is an honorable man. He pledges to assist us and tells us that he seeks justice on Hanzala, a wizard in the complex that has been torturing him daily. I heal some of Rashad’s wounds and help him scrounge up serviceable armor and weapons from the guards we have dispatch.

We would find Hanzala, and eventually the ledger as well (which was secured in a locked vault filled with chests containing copper and silver coins), and the battle with the wizard would cost us dearly. During a battle with four guards in the massive chamber containing the stockpiles of grapes and large vat for stomping and fermenting wine, Hanzala entered the fray with magical blasts of frigid cold and fire that severely injured me and my comrades. I went in and out of consciousness throughout the battle as Lester used his magic to revive me, only to have me fall later from the wizard’s magicks. It went on like this for what seemed like an eternity as myself and my companions fell and were revived, only to fall again, each time getting weaker and weaker. It was a deadly battle of attrition as our spell pools were expended and our crippled bodies fought on. In the end we killed the wizard though Joreal laid dead as well.

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Severius' Journal- Rebirth

I have never been dead before and I don’t want to die again. The magick required to bring one from the dead is taxing on both the one conducting the ritual and the one being brought back and I can see why one would not want to repeat that experience. The pain wasn’t a physical one, though that surely comes when the soul returns to the body. No, this was a spiritual one and perhaps mental as well. I don’t know if the common tongue has the proper words to explain it, but the best way I can describe it, which does the concept no justice at all, is that a part of you “dies.”

And I was wholly content with riding the ether until something spirited away my soul, a power of good, evil, or other, depending on my value to the gods and blind luck, but I knew that I had vowed to serve a purpose to Gorm- a purpose that no other of my order had wanted to do for quite some time, and so my soul answered the call to return when the Grandmaster called me back. I needed to return to fufill my oath, for the sake of Gorm…for the sake of the Brotherhood…for the sake of my people…

When my soul returned, I was glad to see that all of my comrades had also answered the call. My discussions with them afterward allowed me to learn that Takashi was the only one that was able to escape from the despicable Zargon priest Darius. Oh how we had underestimated our foe. With the vengeful spirit of Darius’ twin-brother, a powerful priest of Usimagaras named Demetrius, on our side, we were sure that victory was ours. We fought a desperate battle, but luck and the evil cleric’s power decimated our assault and we only owe our continued existence to an outsider. A patron of Darius’ casino who travels to Cynidicea on occasion to trade. A person who we now owe a favor.

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Adeen Hajah was his name. A merchant traveler hailing from the great city of Muluk. He is employed by a patron who is looking for daring outsiders to accomplish a task. Adeen says that my group is such a group, and since we owe him for his successful negotiation of our remains from Darius, and subsequent resurrection, it seems we honorably have no choice. I say my goodbyes to the Brotherhood and prepare to be the first Cynidicean in recent times to leave the city.

Adeen proves that he possess some magical power of note as he reads from a scroll that takes us from the dark confines of the great pyramid of Cynidicea to the bright and sunny open gardens of his patron. I see the sun for the first time in my life and it is dazzling brilliant and hurts my eyes. I realize that this is a historical moment for none of my people have basked in the sun for hundreds, or perhaps thousands of years. The wife of a wealthy merchant, Lady Ayyam hears of our exploits, both our successes and failures, and still decides to utilize our talents. She explains that her husband was swindled by a shrewd businessman named Yodfah. Yodfah is a wealthy merchant in the land of Zakhara with many connections to the power elite of the kingdom. After the deception to her husband, one of Ayyam’s servants infiltrated Yodfah’s harem and was able to secure knowledge of various “off-the-books” businesses that Yodfah is engaged in. Knowledge of these businesses, and the taxes that he has failed to pay on their profits would be of much interest to the Caliph and be detrimental to Yodfah’s current extravagant lifestyle.

Fortunately for Ayyam, Yodfah keeps a ledger on these secret businesses, but it is secure in a secret location on the outskirts of the city at Sakina Falls. This is where Lady Ayyam wishes us to pay off our debt. An honorable mission of securing a ledger that will prove the dishonest business dealings of Yodfah to the Caliph. Once we secure the ledger and bring it back to Ayyam. she will arrange our immediate transportation out of Zakhara back to lands known by my companions. It sounds like a generous offer with no reason not to accept.

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Severius' Journal- A new Partnership

Some of their mannerisms were very strange indeed, but I’m sure the same could be said of my people if I looked from their perspective. I have not seen many outsiders from the world above, and have heard the many stories about the few that do discover the city and wish nothing but to plunder our ancient wealth and slay any who stand in their way, but this group seems honorable. Two of them have pledged themselves to Gorm- one wholeheartedly as a full member and the other as a lesser member. Dovak, the one that fully pledged himself to our god, will be a welcome and promising addition to our numbers. I could tell by the speech that he gave during the memorial service for his dwarf friend, Gorin, that he deeply cared for him and his promise to erect a tomb in his honor was heart wrenching.

The following day, I set off with the outsiders as a member of their group. My pledge to Gorm to assist them in their quest so that I may bring the faith of Gorm to the outside world and provide spiritual guidance to my companions new to the faith. In turn, I will learn all that I can from them about the ways of the outside world and eventually bring this knowledge back to my home. It is time that Cynidiceans stop their isolation. We must do this if we wish to survive as a people.

Tasked with finishing the work of inspection and clearing out the tombs on the burial tier of the great pyramid, I found that the outsiders had cleared out most of the listed areas on their initial forays into the burial tier. Only two battles were left to be fought on this tier in which some vermin and some ghouls were cleansed. These engagements went rather well and I was impressed with the fighting prowess of my new companions. The mixture of strange magicks and different fighting styles was intriguing to watch and in a way refreshing from the skirmishes that I am used to fighting in the city against the followers of Zargon or members of the rival factions.

After cleansing the burial tier, I led my companions to the tier below where we ran into Chief Mage Auriga and some of his acolytes. Ever the pompous bastard, he demanded a “toll” for passing through their holdings as penalty for not utilizing proper protocol to seek safe passage. Unfortunately he was right, but Dovak’s excellent negotiation skills prevented a complete fleecing of our coffers as he negotiated a toll amount much lower than what Auriga had proposed.

Our business transaction concluded, we walked through a concealed door into a bedroom. Dovak and Takashi’s trained eyes noted an imperfection in the stone that hinted at a secret door. While they inspected how to gain entry to the area beyond, Jorael examined a Usamigaras priest robe that hung on a chair. Entry was made into the secret room, which contained what initially appeared to be a lone chest. Dovak’s inspection of the chest showed that it was no chest at all, but a deadly creature that had taken the shape of a chest to ambush unsuspecting victims (this would be the first of two battles against these mimic creatures).

While the battle with the mimic raged on, Jorael finally joined us now with the white robed donned and utilizing priestly magick in the fight. Confusion reigned among the party for we knew nothing of Jorael possessing such power or having any dedication to a divine deity He did not seem himself at all. We collected some valuable treasure from the mimic’s gullet, including a fine suit of ancient Cynidicean chainmail, and followed Jorael who was making haste to the next room. This lack of concern about the valuables and hasty manner was out of character I was told by his companions.

Eventually, a few battles later, our wounded party needed to stop to rest and recuperate. While tending to our wounds and preparing our spells, we finally learned what was plaguing Jorael, or should I say Demetrius. It appears that Jorael’s manipulation of the robe lead him to becoming possessed by a cleric of Usamigaras named Demetrius. Demetrius was slain by his twin brother Darius, who is a powerful priest of Zargon. Demetrius wishes nothing more than to slay his brother and is borrowing Jorael’s body as a physical vessel to enact his vengeance. I have heard of Darius and his deeds. His death would be a victory for Gorm’s cause and for the people of Cynidicea. Our group pledges our support to Demetrius’ quest.

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Life and Death in the Burial Tombs of Cynidicea

Like the majority of the Cynidicean population, Severius Pollos had spent his entire life living in the once glorious underground city. After his parents were killed at a very young age by Zargon cultists, he was taken in through an act of kindness by a mid-ranking priest of the Brotherhood of Gorm (who would later become its second-ranking member) named Kanadius. Having no children of his own, Kanadius cared for Severius as if he were his own son and mentored him in the teachings of Gorm. Under Kanadius’ teaching, Severius became a strong and capable fighter and Gorm blessed him with the power to cast magic in his name. Severius was a star pupil, and fanatically loyal to the Brotherhood and their leadership. Owing his life to Kanadius and the institution that protected and cared for him, Severius’ loyalty has made him close-minded to any criticism of the Brotherhood, and its leadership, and he can see no fault with their teachings or their belief that only their faction, and no other in Cynidicea, could defeat the Cult of Zargon and return Cynidicea to its former glory.

When the five outsiders from the world above found themselves lost in the desert and sought refuge in the depths of the passageway in the exposed top of the Cynidicean pyramid, they stumbled across members of the Brotherhood. Most of the outsiders appeared to believe in the ideals of law, justice and good, and one of them, Takashi, even pledged himself to Gorm as a lesser member of the Brotherhood. The group’s dwarven cleric, Gorin, was a follower of a deity that Severius had never heard of, a goddess named Ulaa, but from what information Gorin told the Brotherhood about his goddess, she appeared to represent similar ideals to those of Gorm and Severius accepted that Gorin’s faith was honorable.

The visit from the outsiders, and their unfamiliar ways and the things they spoke about that were above ground intrigued Severius. Of course, he was dedicated to the Brotherhood of Gorm and the restoration of their city, but to see what lay above the ground and beyond the sand was something that Severius found exciting; and to be able to go forth into these new places and spread the faith of Gorm was something that Severius believed could satisfy his curiosity, as well as provide a path that might expand the following to his god and stop the slow death of his deity. Of course, Kanadius forbid Severius from leaving the city. The Brotherhood of Gorm was dwindling in numbers with each new generation as more and more Cynidiceans turned to escape in fantasy, drugs and liquor instead of rebuilding their society. Every member was valuable and would be needed in the struggles sure to come.

Despite his great respect for the wisdom of the Brotherhood’s leaders, Severius believed that Gorm would show him, and the Brotherhood, what needed to be done; the omens were present if one only took the time to look. This very belief would strengthen Severius’ resolve to leave Cynidicea for the outside when the five outsiders returned to the Brotherhood after a deadly foray into the pyramid’s burial tier. Apparently some vermin and foul undead had taken over parts of the tier and all of the group was severely wounded and two of their number, Gorin and Joreal, had been killed. Takashi pleaded the Brotherhood for aid, and as a lesser member, he was provided with healing for him and his comrades. Raising the dead was something that could not be done for mere charity and Grandmaster Kanadius sent a request to Supreme Grandmaster Efferzius for guidance.

Supreme Grandmaster Efferzius himself answered the request in person, traveling to the pyramid from the city with an entourage for protection. He spoke with Kanadius and the outsiders, and while he sympathized for the loss of their comrades, he could not bring their comrades back from the dead unless they pledged to do something to honor Gorm and his cause. With grief-filled eyes over the death of his comrades, particularly his fellow dwarf, Gorin, Dovak stepped up and pledged himself body and soul to Gorm to spread his faith and teachings to the outside. Both Kanadius and Efferzius studied Dovak with their Helms of Telepathy to see if the dwarf’s words were indeed truth and not just an opportunist attempt to say anything to bring his companions back. The Helms showed that Dovak’s convictions were true and after his acceptance as a full member of the Brotherhood, Supreme Grand Master Efferzius called the spirits of Jorael and Gorin back to the living.

The following day after rest and recuperation, the outsiders again went back into the burial tier to continue their travels to the tiers below, so they may find someone that could help them get back to their civilization. The Brotherhood had grown by two members from the outside and Efferzius and Kanadius saw this as a good omen; perhaps these two outsiders would be able to increase the following of Gorm if they were successful in leaving Cynidicea.

Alas, the burial tier, with no regular patrols to cleanse the undead, had become tainted with a considerable presence of undead- more than any of the Cynidiceans believed resided in the dark tombs and corridors. The outsiders found themselves besieged by a large group of zombies. They fought valiantly to destroy the abominations, but the zombies were quite resilient to damage and were unrelenting. Gorin met his end standing up to more than half of the group singing praise to Ulaa and smashing his foes with his Warhammer. When Gorin went down his will to live went with him. From what his comrades say, it was clear that the demons that haunted Gorin from the past had never let go, and perhaps he had finally found escape in death. Should this be true, Severius did not believe that Gorin was weak, but instead thought of the dwarf as selfless and courageous. To freely give up oneself to death when there was still work to be done must have been hard, but Severius saw the power of Gorm in even this incident. With Gorin’s passing, there was a need for a cleric in the outsiders’ group, and with two newly pledged followers of Gorm with barely an idea of what Gorm and his faith represented they would need spiritual guidance to properly worship and represent Gorm to the outside world should they be successful in leaving the city.

Severius proposed his idea to Kanadius and Efferzius, to join the group of outsiders and offer his services as a healer, and spiritual leader, and also to spread the faith of Gorm to the outside world; looking for followers on the outside might be what the Brotherhood needed since membership was not appealing to the Cynidiceans. Kanadius and Efferzius discussed Severius’ idea and saw merit in it. They warned Severius about his lack of knowledge about the outside world and its ways, he must learn from his new companions as they must learn from him. The Grandmasters agreed to Severius’ plan and informed the outsiders that Severius will be joining their group, but prior to continuing past the burial tier, they must check the status of the burial tombs and cleanse them of any vermin or abominations that remain. After two tragic forays into the burial tier, the group reluctantly agrees.

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Gorin's Journal (final entry)- The Lost City

By Ulaa’s hammer the sand storm was massive. Never had I seen such a tempest of power, and I hope to never see one again. The blinding wind and sand with the confounded howling wind was enough to separate us from the caravan and when it finally let up we were utterly lost with no idea where the caravan had gone or where we needed to go to find it or civilization.

We tried our best to navigate the ever shifting dunes and days later our mounts died, our food ran out and frustration set in. Thank Ulaa for blessing me with the ability to create water from the drops of what we had left or dehydration would have claimed us surely. Us meaning the five of us. My friend, the mountain ranger Takashi, a fellow dwarf from Thunderdelve Mountain named Dovak, who I do not know much about other than he was cast out of the dwarven army in disgrace, though he appears to be quite a capable fighter, and two half-elves that share an interest in alchemy, though one appears to be a mage of some sort and the other displays the talents of a rogue. Bonded by survival, we have walked and walked miles of desert looking for something to save us from our plight.

Finally my prayers were answered, at least I hope so. The winds had uncovered the topmost ruins of an ancient sand-covered city, and near the top of a massive pyramid adorned by three statues of long-forgotten gods we found a passageway inside. With nothing but death waiting for us if we continued our wanderings in the desert, this passage enticed us to explore in the hopes of changing our predicament.
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The stonework was ancient but spoke of human design. A stone mason by trade, I could tell that this was expert craftsmanship, as much as could be expected of a human. Luckily all of our party, but Takashi was blessed with dark vision and we were able to navigate the pitch black passages deeper into the pyramid, which was descending downward. There were few signs of recent passage and no immediate signs of intelligent occupation. We ran into some vermin, fire beetles, stirges, and a giant lizard, and despite some disappointment in Jorael’s roguish abilities, the party as a whole worked well together in dispatching these creatures.

Finally we arrived in a section that appeared to be a barracks of sort and were happy to find it occupied by strange pale-skinned humans that pledged allegiance to an ancient almost forgotten deity called Gorm- a just god of battle and storms. They explained that the Brotherhood of Gorm was but one of four factions that strived to lead the populace of this lost city- the great ancient city of Cynidicea. Once wealthy and powerful, the city fell after its population turned to decadence following the rise of the Cult of Zargon- one of the city’s four factions, they worship Zargon- an ancient and powerful god rumored to reside in the lowest levels of the pyramid. It is said that Zargon cannot be destroyed, though many have attempted to do so in the past and after the few that claimed success, Zargon and his cult would return to bring the city back into turmoil. None of the cults get along and each believes that they have the answer to returning Cynidicea back to glory.

Something in the message of Grandmaster Kanaduis, the leader of this small band of Gorm followers, stirred the emotions of my friend, Takashi and he pledged to join the Brotherhood as a lesser member to spread the word of Gorm to the people on the outside when we hopefully leave Cynidicea. While Gorm’s influence sounds like something I would approve of, my heart and soul belong to Ulaa and I would not turn from her service, but I respect the followers of Gorm and the ideals they stand for.

With Takashi’s acceptance as a lesser member, the Brotherhood has offered us food and shelter for the night. They have told us that there are sometimes outsiders that come to the city below to trade with the Cynidiceans and that these individuals may be able to help us get back to our civilization…

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The Journey Begins...

A merchant caravan is leaving the town of Rumble Bell bearing trade goods from the dwarven stronghold of Thunderdelve Mountain to Huzuz, the glorious capital city of the kingdom Zakhara. Known as the “City of Delights,” Huzuz is said to be a sight to see with its gold-topped towers and minarets, mixture of cultures and people from all over the world and a Grand Bazaar where anything, no matter how exotic, can be bought.

Laden with mined and forged riches from the dwarven mountain, the caravan hired a small army of individuals to serve as guards and support personnel to ensure their wares make it across the dangerous and harsh Desert of Desolation, which must be crossed to reach their final destination. Among those hired are five individuals with various connections to each other. To call them all companions would be inaccurate, though some of them truly are friends and others are only loosely connected by their interests or ties to their homeland. Two dwarves from Thunderdelve Mountain- Gorin, a cleric of the goddess Ulaa, and Dovak, a former warrior of the stronghold’s guard. Two half-elves, Lester and Jorael, who share an interest in alchemy, and little else. And a human mountaineer named Takashi with extraordinary proficiency with the longbow that shares company with Gorin and worships the same deity.

Assigned to the same group of wagons in the caravan, these five companions head out into the sand and windswept desert for reasons of their own, though fate will conspire to bring their destinies together…
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