Aria

Part 5 - Gillam's PoV
Tea-reacherous

Gillam awoke groggily. It felt like the worst hangover after three nights on the job without sleep. He felt weak, stiff and a little drowsy, and for a few moments he had no recollection of what had happened the night before. Then he opened his eyes. Next to him sat Erol, keeping watch and looking exhausted. Nearby, Phaedra and Captain Jahn were also opening their eyes.

The sound of rushing water filled Gillam’s ears and his eyes gazed over to immense brown torrent full of mud and debris rushing by just feet away. They were perched on a patch of land sandwiched between the raging river and a steep cliff. It seemed like if he had toss and turned in his sleep at all he would’ve fallen in to river and been lost.

Memories were still sketchy and so Erol filled them in. When the ship had hit the trees, Erol could only watch as he and Phaedra were flung away but then he saw a strange golden surround them before they crashed into the trees. When he went to find them, he had found them both lying unconscious in a crater that was rapidly filling with water. He had dragged them to safety along with Jahn who had lost both ship and crew.

Weak, hungry and in a very dangerous position, they set off in the only direction available: downriver along this thin bank. The path was treacherous, with caught debris and fallen scree hindering their way. Erol lead the group over the obstacles, the others following unsteadily on the rope he set for them.

The riverside path continued rising higher above the river, but again they were obstructed – this time by a thin ledge with accompanying vines. Erol and Phaedra crossed smoothly but this wasn’t in Gillam’s repertoire. His grip failed him and it took all his strength and will to fling himself safely to the other side.

When night began to fall the path had risen further and widened out to a small wood.. They set up a bivouac and went to sleep hungry and surviving on the meager amount of freshwater Erol could find.

In the next morning, they awoke to a pleasant smell as Erol had successfully hunted a rabbit and was cooking it for breakfast. The rationed it out and ate before continuing their journey. The river below was beginning to settle down and the water-level was dropping but in its wake piles of debris were left strewn across sloppy muddy banks. Their path took them down to one of these quagmires. It stank of dampness and death and was insulting to the senses, especially for Phaedra who crippled up nauseated. For Gillam, though, this was not all that different from the smell down in the docks of Lyden. He and Jahn began to hunt for anything of use.

However, they came across two human bodies – bloated with limbs bent in impossible ways. Jahn recognized one as one of his crew and begged them to give him a proper burial. They did as he requested creating a cairn for both of the deceased.

The day had already passed by the time they were done and so they set up camp, drank beer which had miraculously survived in its keg and went to sleep hungry again.

But in the night, Phaedra awoke sharply upon hearing the snap of a twigt. She roused the others just before two mountain lions pounced upon them out of the dark. As Erol and Phaedra fought back valiantly against the beasts and Jahn was clawed to within an inch of death, Gillam woke dozily and struggled to find his sword, joining the fight as it was already won. The lions turned tail and ran, but Phaedra’s knife skills had left one bleeding heavily and Erol’s keen arrow took it down. They suddenly had lion on the menu and stewed it ready for breakfast.

After feeling much more refreshed and well-fed in the morning then continued on through the muddy forest. Some hours past when both Erol and Phaedra smelled woodsmoke. Excited but cautious, they went to scout ahead. Before long they were in conversation with two hunters, one whom ran off to get aid very quickly. The other man, who they later learned was called Thaylin, seemed strangely nervous – even more so when Gillam and Jahn also appeared from the trees – and moved stiffly and awkwardly. But he generously invited them to sit beside his campfire and gave them food and tea which they all gratefully accepted. While Erol and Phaedra talked with the man, telling about the shipwreck and learning of the man’s traveling circus caravan, Gillam stayed quiet, focused on gobbling down as much food and drink as possible.

All of a sudden he felt faint, and for a second time he passed out.

When he awoke, he was manacled, in rags and sat in a cage on the back of a wagon. Erol, Phaedra and Jahn were in their with him too. They filled him and Jahn in on the details. It seemed they had both passed out instantly and it was clear that the tea was poisoned. Erol and Phaedra both quickly took to arms, but they had also been drugged and their actions were weak, their words slurred. They managed to fell Thaylin before they too both collapsed.

While Erol explained, Phaedra looked uncertain of something. She appeared to be sweating and shaking with anger. She peeked urgently through the slats and murmured to herself. Gillam and Erol finally persuaded her to explained and she obliged.

Perrol had asked her to created a guild of spies and thieves in order to sabotage the plans of other thieves in Aaren. Her activities brought her into direct conflict with some of the most powerful factions in the region, particularly a group called the “Wolves” whom she had
stolen counterfeit money from and destroyed preparations for a meeting with two other major factions. The “Wolves” were from Trikala and were the largest smuggling ring in Aria. She recognized the men outside as being part of that group.

Learning that all this had been happening under his watch, Gillam was enraged. He struggled against his bindings and roared at Phaedra. But she coolly told him to take it up with Perrol. They argued, flinging insults for a few minutes, but Erol interjected, calmly telling them to leave it until they were out of this situation. Jahn merely bemoaned his situation.

At that moment a short man with his over-sized bodyguard approached. Gillam demanded to know what the meaning of this was but the man, the leader of the caravan whose name was Throm, simply explained that they were slaves and they would not be escaping. He walked away and soon the caravan began to move.

Some days passed on the road through the mountains. They were trapped inside the cage, only let out for calls of nature and fed gruel. Escape seemed impossible, there were no openings with all the men around them and Phaedra’s attempt to escape her shackles had simply caught the attention of their guard, Marcus.

The caravan eventually came to a caravansary where many other caravans were gather, each trading with one another. Gillam and the others remained trapped in their cage, though. They waited as that was all they could do and conversation had worn thin.

Just then, Throm came into view along with a richly-dressed merchant. He was talking rapidly to the merchant, eager to make a sale and brought him directly over to their cage wagon. Erol and Phaedra recognized the merchant immediately – it was Peraashk, the merchant trapped in Sallen whom they had rescued. They surreptitiously called out to him and as he recognized them his eyes widened. But using all his best acting skills he looked at them disinterestedly, examining them for their worth while Throm rattled away. Smoothly, he took Erol’s face in his hand and demanded loyalty. Erol hesitated, but grudgingly conceded it for the sake of the lie. Phaedra and Gillam followed and soon they found themselves bought, along with Jahn, for 3,500 gold pieces.

Paraashk took them away and led them to his tent where his cool demeanor soon evaporated. He gasped at the act he had to put up and the price he had to pay to release them. They could only thank him but promised to get both their gear and his money back. He could not believe it, claiming such a feat to be impossible, but Erol was insistent…

Gah, I’m tired and I don’t know how to end this so WIP
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Part 4 - Gillam's PoV
Crab a Hold of Something, It's Gonna Get Rough

Barely a week had passed before Gillam was summoned back to the high lord’s court. This time, he was worried. He had brought Baamy and the boar back to the makeshift guardhouse. His men had welcomed the pet, but rumors spread easily in this town and it was tough keeping the beast inside at all times, despite how docile it was. Most folk round these parts were suspicious of boars, and that seemed to include the high lord. Surely, this was a demand for the beast to be put down.

But upon entering the hall, he spotted Erol and Phaedra. He knew about Erol’s whereabouts but Phaedra had been out of the picture for weeks. Erol was equally suspicious and immediately the two of them began questioning the rogue. She made excuses about some fishing enterprise but neither of them were going to accept that. However, this wasn’t the time or place as moments later Dhonyl and old man Perrol came in.

Perrol happily read them the tale of the flaming man from the book. The story told of a great man condemned to fight to the death against the champion of an evil king. The man was victorious but on his death the champion turned to flame and destroyed the city.

That may have been all but Perrol was even more interested in the author of this story, a man called Mikel the Fatherless. This excited him greatly, but left the rest of them stumped. Eventually, he began to explain about the Al’Qeri – frogmen.

These creatures gave birth in some weird way and the old man’s explanation soon drifted over Gillam’s head – they fertilized eggs to get females and didn’t to get males. Something like that. Either way, Perrol was insistent that it all meant that the author was an Al’Qeri and if they were to find these Al’Qeri, maybe they could impart some knowledge of the story of the burning man.

It sounded like chasing fairies to Gillam but the others were more accepting. Erol, ever the adventurous sort, was eager to learn firsthand of these mysterious people and Phaedra, who seemed familiar with the legends of frogmen, was excited to return to her homeland. It was apparently decided anyway: Dhonyl had already arranged for a boat to be found to take them downriver from Sallen. If that was the command, that how it was.He saluted the high lord and led the other two out as they shared a few whispered words.

They returned to Sallen after a couple days travel and found Captain Yahn and Alvyarian waiting for them with a boat acquired. Yahn greeted Gillam and told him he shared his reservations about this mission, but he wasn’t about to complain to his superior and merely saluted.

They boarded the vessel – a freight ship that made many trips up and down the Snakewater. Erol’s face seemed to turn a shade of yellow as soon as they boarded; Phaedra was clearly being hit on by the ship’s captain but he was sure she could sort herself out. As for Gillam, he had never been on a ship out of harbor before and it was refreshingly pleasant. He made conversation with the captain, who was called Jahn. The man was familiar with the frogmen, but had a very negative attitude towards them, calling them thieves and freaks.

The journey was calm and relaxing; the peace only broken when Erol rushed to the side to throw up. Then came the third night.

From the evening before, the rain had come down and come down hard. The ship continued its journey and the party went to sleep in their cabins. But late in the night, Gillam was awoken by urgent shouts. He exited his cabin as Phaedra did hers and they both rushed up to the top deck where Erol, the captain and his men were bracing the rigs. The river was swelling and soon the ship was being tossed side to side. The sailors did their best to secure the rigging and cargo while the captain gripped the wheel.

A wave swept across the deck and with it a cast of crabs. They were aggressive critters, chasing people around, nipping away with their claws and at one point holding Erol down in a pincer move. Together they managed to deal with these, when another wave crashed onto the ship. A sailor at the front screamed and Phaedra was the first to spot it – a massive river alligator which was not happy to be out of the water. Its jaws were an array of sharp teeth its heavy tail swung back and forth. They fought it unsteadily on the tipping boat, dodging its extreme ends until eventually Gillam was able to slice its lower jaw off, killing it.

They took a moment to relish the victory but it was short-lived – the captain from the back of the ship cried out danger. Ahead of them a huge wall of stone came into view. They all clung to anything bolted down, bracing for impact, but the captain managed to avoid the rock, scraping by it and making the vessel shiver. They breathed a sigh of relief, but suddenly the ship jolted to a stop.

Everything seemed to slow down then as if fate wanted him to relish the conditions of his death. Gillam felt the shock through his arms as his grip failed him and he was thrown forward, off the ship. He saw Phaedra flying with him, saw Erol on the deck watching them go wide-eyed, and saw the flooded forest of trees below him. Then he felt warmth on his finger. Warmth which suddenly became burning. He looked at his hand to see the bear ring glow red. The heat of it hurt but a strange serenity swelled through his body. He felt calm. He reached out and grabbed Phaedra’s hand. He closed his eyes and let everything go black.

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Part 3 - Gillam's PoV
Apply Some Griiz in the Works

They had not been back long before that doddery old fool Perrol summoned them once again. This time it was just Gillam and Erol. Phaedra was off somewhere, no doubt doing something illegal in the name of the high lord. Gillam’s mind raced with the possibilities of what she might be up to and as always the question arose: why had he never seen her and her lackeys at work? Were they just that good at hiding from him?

As his mind strained at the questions, he kept his face straight. They were in front of Perrol now. The old man told them that the book he was after – the one with the story of the burning man – was missing from his collection. He had a good idea of where it could be though, an acquaintance of his named Griiz. As it happened, it appeared this man, a merchant by trade, was in town and Perrol was eager for them to track him down. However, all he gave them was a location. Why did these wizened elder types have to be so cryptic with their information?

The two of them made haste to the merchant quarter where taverns lined the streets, but the place Perrol had directed them was off the main road, down a street clustered by book shops and other stores for the advanced mind. Here was an inn that Gillam rarely had to visit on patrol as the clientele were entirely grey-haired and studious.

The innkeeper, recognizing the armor of a city watchman, quickly went to call for Griiz and a few minutes later a small, tanned-skin, bald but white-beared man appeared. Gillam was quite sure he had never seen a person like him ever before. He introduced himself as Koryun, a servant of Griiz, heralding from the far-off land of Rabhanast. However, he imparted no more and simply led them to Griiz’s house on the outskirts of town, beyond the walls.

They entered Griiz’s grounds and spectacular manor. Gillam felt uncomfortable here. He was completely out of place. His entire life had been at the lower end of the scale – down mines, in cramped guard houses, standing in the rain.

The little man disappeared, and reappeared moments later dressed in much finer clothes. God, thought Gillam, I should have expected an acquaintance of Perrol’s to be as quirky as him. The man, who apologized for his little trick, introduced himself as Griiz Koyrun dan Gershek, a merchant-prince of Rabhanast.

They soon got on with business, however; explaining to the man that they were after the book. Griiz (who explained that this was he title rather than name, though everyone in Aaren knew him as such) was not keen on parting with the tome but did have a deal to make.

He explained that his heir had made some spurious decisions and become unable to inherit his wealth, but if the two of them could bring his heir back to them he would repay them with the book. It struck both of them odd that he referred to his heir as “heir”, even after Gillam asked a question with “he”, but the merchant-prince refused to elaborate. He clearly enjoyed his riddles. Gillam sighed realizing they had found someone worse than Perrol.

Griiz produced a chest with intricate carvings of forests, moons and lone figures all around it. It was quite spectacular, even Gillam had to admit, and it was quite heavy too.

The two of them, following Griiz’s instruction, left Aaren to the north and ventured off the road into a deep forested valley. And there they got lost. For four long days they wandered around in circles, unable to continue their journey.

One evening, as they rested, Gillam noticed something strange. The ring on his finger, the stone one with the bear motif, was somehow different. It seemed to have a faint golden glitter on it. Amazed, he passed it to Erol who inspected it closely. “It’s magical,” the monk reported back. Gillam could say nothing. He didn’t understand magic; he didn’t like it, he would prefer nothing to do with it. But now he had this ring. What was he supposed to do with it?

On their fourth day in the forest, they finally found the tight valley they had been searching for. It winded between steep hillsides. At the end of it they came to a wooden barricade and four guards. Relinquishing their weapons, they were let inside the meager encampment. At the far end was a cave, fronted by three men and a boar. Saying the name Griiz had given them, two of the men led them down into the depths where the gang had made themselves home.

They entered through a door to find a large room with a table, bed, piles of loot and a fire. Behind the fire sat the leader and, on the floor beside him, a dark-skinned maiden. She was clearly entrapped by the man and was, notably, nearly naked.

The leader was suspicious of them but also amused that the two messengers had no clue what the message they were delivering was. The chest was a kind of ransom though and they handed it over to the leader. He took it greedily but was perturbed to find that he could not open it. However the girl, whose hair, Gillam noted, glimmered like moonlight, seemed to have an idea. Reluctantly, the leader let her attempt to open it. She studied the carvings closely, running her fingers over them, as she recited a tale from her homeland.

She pressed some things and twisted others, and Gillam found it hard to follow, but the chest opened and the leader eagerly snatched it back. However, his excited face soon turned sour. He ordered his lackeys to attack. They jumped on Erol and Gillam with their swords but Gillam ignored the little rat that stabbed at him and rushed to the maiden’s side. It didn’t seem she needed help, though. A small knife appeared in her hands – she must have taken it from the chest’s carvings – and she thrust it deep into the leader’s lower back and kidneys. Crippled, he toppled over and fell into the fire, screaming as the flames burned. Gillam stared at her in both horror and respect.

In the end, Erol beat down one lackey with his hands and Gillam knocked sense into the other with his shield until he surrendered.

Gillam was trying to question the fool, and Erol was getting better answers from the woman who was called Kushlu, when another lackey stepped into the room. Seeing his leader dead he sprinted off to call his buddies. They used what little time they had to ask Kushlu how she had gotten into this situation – rebelling against her father and trying to make her own way, she had made some difficult deals with shady groups and ended up in their debt. Erol found her some rags to cover herself while Gillam covered the door.

Then the boar burst in, followed by the remaining lackeys. They soon finished them off, with Kushlu’s skillful help, and Gillam intimidated the raging boar into placidity.

They left the cave without further resistance – it seemed the rest of this camp had little to do with the gang that had set up in the cave – and retrieved their weapons before returning to Aaren, with Kushlu, a prisoner called Baamy, and a boar called Snuffler.

Griiz was delighted to have his daughter back and gladly gave them the book, but there was one more reward in store. Kushlu approached them as they made to leave and offered her assistance to them both should they ever require it in the future. And then she kissed Gillam on the cheek.

Gillam froze. Apart from the prostitutes down in Lyden city’s lower quarters, he had never so much as touched a woman before, never mind having one kiss him. And never mind a woman of such stunning radiance! He was dumbstruck after that, needing Erol to drag him back to the castle to return the book to Perrol.

It would be a long time before he forgot this adventure.

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Erol's Journal - Session 3
Stories

After leaving Perrol to his research I found myself with a few days in Aaren, time which I used to acquire some new tools and equipment. On the third night of waiting I had another vision. Thankfully, this night it was not full of such cruel images as last time. In my dream I found myself moving through a long dark hallway. At the end of the hall there was a large door with strange light emanating from beneath it, it was covered in many strange markings. I did not know what was behind the door, but simply looking upon it filled me with a sense of immense dread. As I stood before the door I heard a strange, almost lyrical, voice speaking in my mind. It told me to act cautiously, but to not let my fear overcome me. I found the words calming and reassuring. I steeled my resolve and reached for the handle. Even though I was in a dream it felt incredibly real. I could feel the cold metal of the handle as my hand rested cautiously upon it, I could feel the motion of the locks opening as I turned the handle. It was by far the most vivid dream I had ever experienced. As I opened the door a bright light flashed and I was suddenly awake, in my bed. I lay in my bed the rest of the night, unable to sleep as my mind raced over what it meant, and perhaps more troublingly what the source of the voice was.

The next day I was summoned to the keep. When I arrived I found only Gillam and Perrol waiting for me. It appeared as though Perrol had another task for Phaedra. I had a rather strong suspicion that whatever Phaedra was up to, Gillam would not have approved.

I was eager to hear what the old man had discovered. My mind raced with possibilities with what information the book could have held. However I was soon disappointed. Perrol informed us that the book which contained the story in question was no longer in his collection. Apparently he had traded it away to an acquaintance of his named Griiz. Perrol described the man as a merchant and a “pursuer of knowledge.” Something told me that he was much more than that.

Despite the book being traded away however, we were in a luck. The old man explained that Griiz had recently returned to Aaren for business. Perrol requested that we seek the man out and request the book in question titled “Hikay’s Book of Tales.” However, I suspected Griiz being a merchant he would not freely return the book to Perrol and would likely want something in return. Perrol confirmed my suspicion and requested that we do whatever his friend asked. Gillam and I agreed so long as the request was within reason. This seemed to please the maester, who told us that we were likely to find Griiz at a tavern called “Vecta’s Flame.” We thanked him for the information and headed off, I was hopeful that the exchange would be a simple one.

Despite all the times I had been to Aaren its streets and taverns were still relatively unknown to me, I did my best to avoid cramped large cities, so I was thankful to have Gillam with me. The man knew every ally and tavern like the back of his hand. It was fascinating seeing him in his element, calling out to a few rougher looking types as we passed by, telling them to keep out of trouble. Repeat offenders apparently. Gillam informed me that the tavern in question, Vectas Flame, was a quieter one. The bars clientele consisted almost exclusively of the elderly and served as the watering hole for most of Aarens academics. In fact it was in a separate part of town than most of the other pubs, being located closer to the book shops. Before long we had arrived and headed in.

As we stepped inside I quickly gathered that it was unlike any other pub I had ever been in. It was clean, impeccably clean, and the smell of whiskey and pipe smoke wafted through the air. gentlemens_lounge.JpegThe sound of two men debating in the corner could be heard but otherwise there was very little chatter. Gillam and I stuck out like a sore thumb.

We stepped up to the bartender who was immediately put off by our outlandish appearance. We were not the kind of client he was used to dealing with. We asked him if he knew where Griiz was, as we would like to speak to him. The man dodged our questions until Gillam flashed his badge. Upon seeing Gillams watch insignia he became much more cooperative and went to retrieve Griiz almost immediately.

It wasn’t long before the bartender returned with a short old man. The old man had dark skin, a bald head, a flowing white beard, and spoke it with an almost song-like accent. The old man, Koryun, said that he worked for Griiz and, after explaining the situation, that he would escort us to Griiz manor outside the city. Left without much choice we agreed and followed the man. While travelling we passed the time with some small talk, and learned that he was from across the inner sea from the country of Robenhaste. Hence his accent. Before long we arrived at a large and rather extravagant manor house. Koryun gestured for us to enter and told us to make ourselves comfortable while he went to retrieve his master.

Gillam and I talked while we waited, though we were not kept long. A servant interrupted our conversation to announce the entrance of the master of the house, Griiz Koryun dan Gershik. As the servant opened the doors I couldn’t help but feel a fool as our guide to the manor “Koryun” entered the room. The little man just smiled as the looks of confusion and realization passed over our faces. He apologized for the deception but explained that in his line of work he found it important to figure out who exactly he is dealing with before revealing his true identity. It was an understandable if slightly irritating practice.

Gillam and I informed Koryun of our current task from Perrol, the book we were seeking. Koryun seemed familiar with the title however, as expected of the merchant, was not eager to part from it for free. He offered to give us the book in exchange for us fulfilling a task. We agreed as we couldn’t progress in our research without the damned book, but first we needed to hear what he wanted us to do.

Koryun explained that recently his heir had made some “poor business decisions” and as a result was unable to inherit his wealth. He further explained that due to said poor decision his heir was unable to leave their current location and asked that we deliver something to her, so as to free her from her predicament. If we could retrieve his heir, Kushulu, then he would give us the book that we sought. Koryun then produced a small box from his desk. The chest was covered in intricate carvings. As I examined them my eyes grew wide. The carvings depicted a scene of a young boy being chased by a creature with many long arms. The boy was shown standing before a large door with the moon above it. Though it was my first time seeing this chest, it was not my first time seeing that door. It was as though my dream had been placed into physical form.

I asked Koryun about the image depicted on the box. He said that it had to do with an old children’s tale from Robenhaste. Much to my disappointment he would not go into great detail about the tale. He simply said that the tale had particular importance to his heir which is why it was chosen. He told us that we should deliver the box to his heir, and that they would quickly understand his message. Koryun then gave us rough directions to where we could find his heir, it the mountainous area a few days travel from Aaren. Based on his description I figured it would take us no more than two days to reach it. We thanked the merchant and told him we would bring back Kushlu.

We set out the next day, heading north along the High Road Pass towards Aarta. It was nice to have a chance to travel with Gillam, he was a good man and it was quite clear that he was different from the average Lugardian. Though I could also tell the man had made his work his life. Even with us out in the forest he seemed to always be thinking about his work, his shifts. Several times through the day he was state out of the blue that it was time for one of his deputies to end or start their shift, stating their would be hell to pay if they forgot to properly file their logs. He didn’t even take a moment to check the suns position, he just seem to have a kind of sixth sense for it. It was quite impressive, though it was also rather amusing to me. Regardless of his quirks I was glad to have the man with me as we headed towards a potentially dangerous situation.

After our first day of travel we cut off the trail, and headed into a small valley where the camp that Koryuns heir was supposedly in was located. As we traveled into the woods I noticed several times throughout the day that Gillam began to fiddle with the ring that had belonged to his father. It was a new tick that he had never shown before. When I asked him what was wrong he said that the ring felt oddly warm. Puzzled I asked if I could see it. As he handed me the ring I could immediately sense the arcane disturbance the ring was emitting. Though I could not figure out exactly what kind of magics the ring contained, I knew that I was an item of great power. When I told Gillam that his ring was magic, he just chuckled and said I was just touting typical Mrissan superstition. He claimed he didn’t much care for or even believe in magic. I could only help but smile wryly at his forced ignorance. He thanked me for my assessment and took the ring back, though he clearly still seemed concerned about his now warm ring.

We ended up traveling through the woods for about three days as the entrance to the valley proved difficult to find, forcing us to double back several times. But eventually we found the camp on our fourth day in the woods. The camp was small and build up against the side of one of the mountains. It looked like it was a fairly temporary settlement, and from what could be seen from outside, most of the residents looked like huntsmen.
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Though it was surrounded by a wooden barricade, heavy defenses for a hunting camp. Why Koryuns heir would be in such a place was quite a conundrum. Gilliam and I approached the camp and were greeted by two armed men. We told them we were here to meet with Kushlu. Upon hearing the name they cautiously glanced at each other. They seemed very nervous. The men said we could enter the camp but we had to leave our weapons outside. Gillam and I discussed the matter and agreed to their terms, though they did allow Gillam to keep his shield. I had seen what Gillam was capable of with his shield and was pleased he had been allowed to keep it. The men let us in and directed us towards the back of the camp, they said Kushlu was in the cave. Curious.

We made our way through the camp towards the indicated cave. As we passed through we drew suspicious glances from all the hunters. They all seemed very nervous, and the worried me. Outside the cave three men and a giant boar stood guard, their bodies shifting as we approached. After telling them we had come to retrieve Kushlu, they suddenly looked tense. One of the men questioned us and patted us down, for the second time. After hearing out story they escorted us into the cave. They leads us deep into the small winding cavern until we stood before a large wooden door. The men gestured towards it saying that Kushlu and the boss were waiting inside.

As we stepped inside the room a few things stood out immediately. First was that the space was very well lived in, piles of rubbish lay strew about. Second was a well-dressed man who sat on a raised chair behind a fire pit, clearly he was the boss. Thirdly and most significantly, was a young woman with dark skin and long silver white hair and sparkling silver eyes sat on the ground next to the “throne” completely naked. Something told me this poor girl was Kushlu.

The man smirked at us and rather abruptly asked for the payment he was due. We handed him the chest that Koryun had given us. As he took the chest his eyes grew wide with greed. How Kushlu had become entangled with such an unsavory lot was truly a mystery. The man’s smile soon faded however, as he found that he was unable to open the box. He demanded for us to open it, but told him that we were unable, though Koryun had implied that perhaps Kushlu could open it. The girl nodded sheepishly and stepped up to the box. She began fiddling with the device and started telling the tale that was depicted on the box. The story of a boy who needed to confront his fears.

I heard a click and saw a flash of silver as Kushlu pocketed something that came off the box. The man did not seem to notice however as his greed seemed to have distracted him. He shoved Kushlu away and opened the box. His face soon turned sour however. Inside the box he picked up a note. As he read it I could see his face go white. Suddenly the man drew his sword and cursed Kushlu while ordering his men to attack us.

Fortunately my mother had trained me in hand to hand combat so I was able to defend myself despite being unarmed. Gillam was luckily armed with his shield. The leader stepped up to attack Kushlu but Gillam bravely stepped between the man and the girl. This was all the distraction she needed, Kushlu jumped on the man’s back, sliding the dagger she had taken off the chest under his ribs. The man cursed and her and screamed as she repeatedly stabbed him. Perhaps she wasn’t so helpless after all.
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I didn’t have much time to observe the situation though, as two more thugs bared down upon me. I took a few glancing blows but fortunately my training prevailed. By the time I had dispatched them I saw Kushlu and Gillam standing over the corpse of the leader. With the room cleared Gillam quickly took off his cloak and handed it to the girl, offering her at least some form of cover. She thanked him as I inspected the note and contents of the chest. The chest held nothing but large bars of lead. No wondered it weighed so much. The note was a threat written by Koryun, explaining that he did not negotiate with thieves and that the price for his actions was the man’s head. Apparently we were Koryun’s hit men… We only had a few moments to speak with Kushlu to explain the situation when we could hear noise coming from the corridor.

Three men burst in the room behind the giant boar we had seen earlier. The battle was fierce but in the end we managed to be victorious over them. Thanks in no small part to Kushlu’s skill with the dagger and Gillams strange affinity towards animals. The watchman managed to not only calm the beast but to cuff one of the lackeys. He planned to bring the man back to Aaren for further questioning and processing. We made to leave the room, not wanting to alert any more of the gang, but Kushlu told us to wait. She went back to the table and retrieved the chest and then in one, brutal, cut she removed the gang leader’s head from his shoulders. Gilliam and I looked on in horror, as Kushlu said “The price of his actions was his head,” in a very matter of fact-ly kind of way. Koryun must have been quite the father. She threw the head in to the box and we made out escape. On our way out we retrieved our weapons and told the men at the front that we expected things would be a bit quieter in the camp for a while. They looked at us knowingly and nodded.

We returned to Koryun’s manor with no incident. The man was thrilled to have his daughter back home safe. As promised the man gave us the book, and thanked us for our service. I had a strange feeling that this would not be the last we would see of the man from Rabhanast. On our way out of the manor we were greeted by Kushlu. She thanked us for saving her and for dealing with her father despite his odd mannerisms. As she spoke, I could see she was looking quite intently at Gilliam, there was a spark in her eye. As Gillam went to tell her that what we had done was nothing at all she stopped him midsentence with a kiss. The Lugardian froze, his cheeks turning beet red. She giggled and thanked us once more. I thanked the girl and dragged my dumbstruck companion out of the manor. This excursion had proved to be an interesting experience, I just hoped that the book was worth the struggle…

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Part 2 - Gillam's POV
Eel Never Be Seen Again

After establishing a small personal, and oddly profitable, police force and constructing a home for his brother in Tavalen, Gillam was summoned back to Aaren. There he met his old companions, Erol and Phaedra, after a month or a half. Together they were informed of a strange death in a local village called Sallen, and they were tasked with finding the murderer and discovering their motive.

It was clear that this was something of importance, the lords muttered words of the lords of Kohlen. If it were true, then it was politics, and politics wasn’t his business. Frankly, he had enough to be getting on sorting out the small-time crooks in this town, and he had been paired up with these two again. Erol seemed a respectable sort, but Phaedra set off alarms in his head. She was up to something…

Before even reaching the village, Gillam was determined to get this case solved and go home as quickly as possible. Sure, the details of the murder were odd – missing faculties and a tongue nailed to the forehead – but this was just a pesky disagreement between village bumpkins, surely…

As soon as they arrived, he left his companions behind and marched into the busiest pub, the Blue Circle Inn, starting the investigation in the only way he knew how: ask questions, get answers. First, he spoke to a dullard who had been tasked by the village chiefs with leading the investigation. This Eski had little information, leads or evidence; just relying on a gut reaction to some poor merchants. Another fellow, an old farmer called Sohrt whose field was the murder scene, also proved relatively unhelpful.

He met up with the others in the market square. Erol had spoken with the prefects in the Temple who had given him spiritual words but little of use, and Phaedra had spoken to the disgruntled merchants who had found themselves the prime suspects of the murder. She had also spoken to the poor acolyte who had to prepare the corpse, who informed her of the strange state it was in – covering in maggots despite only a few days old.

They moved to the inn by the square to have a drink and think it over. However, upon being guided to their seats, the other two perked up. They had spotted a grape motif on the hairpin of a serving girl. Gillam didn’t care much for those in the business of espionage, but Erol eagerly gave the girl the code. However, the girl did not respond as they would have hoped. Gillam came to a natural conclusion (for him): “Did you buy that off someone?” The girl sighed and walk away, but moments later Erol’s discovered under his tankard a note with directions to a house plus a time.

That night, they slipped through the sleeping village to the location. The girl, Kaala, was clearly furious at Gillam, but he thought she was overreacting just a little… She then confirmed their situation and offered to get more information on certain characters in the village: Eski and the prefect, Harald.

The next day the party went to investigate the scene. There was little to see but both he and Erol detected traces of incense on the air and spotted tracks leading out of the field away from the village. Excited at their first real clue, they followed the tracks, but were disappointed to find they curved back to the village and disappeared as they rejoined to road.

Returning to the village, Gillam decided to give the prefects in the Temple another grilling. He got airy words from Prefect Harald, but he wasn’t having any of it. Eventually, he extracted some information: a young acolyte had seen black-clad men the night after the murder. Was this another clue? Harald didn’t seem to think it was important as when he had told Eski about it he had dismissed it. The boy told them that he had seen the men go to the boats by the river and so they went to the riverbank to investigate. However there was nothing to see at that time. Maybe, later that evening would prove more fruitful?

The group hatched a plan to liaise with Kaala once again, but also to scout out any activity by the boats at night. Phaedra sneaked to the riverbank, while Erol and he would go to Kaala’s once again by different routes. This turned out to be beneficial for the group as Gillam, in his armor ready for a brawl, got a little lost and found himself ankle-deep in a stream, and who would spot him but the dullard, Eski. Realizing his part in the night-time activities was over, he managed to divert Eski’s attention to return back to the Blue Circle Inn. As they drank, and Eski updated on his incompetence as a detective, suddenly into the pub came a group of black-clad men looking very annoyed. Apparently, they were eel fishers and their midnight fishing had been disrupted by a man shooting flaming arrows over the river.

It was clearly Erol’s doing, and Gillam later learned that after Phaedra had observed the men going to the boats and pushing out he had fired a bright arrow from the riverbank reeds to get a good look at them. For now, Gillam was keen to learn of the fishermens’ identities and so he offered to buy them drinks, but Eski ordered them all away. They went to their beds earlier than they would have liked but one boy hesitated. He nervously indicated to Gillam to meet him outside.

When they met a few minutes later, the boy, Vollick, told him he had important information, but would only divulge it if Gillam could get the Temple clergy off his back. Apparently he had stole a couple of candlesticks and they wanted compensation. Not for the first time (since, on the journey down here, Phaedra had informed him of her little party of crooks and spies working the alleys of Aaren “in service of the high lord”) Gillam found himself conflicted. Here was a self-confessed criminal, and yet he claimed to have a vital clue. In the end, Gillam held back from handcuffed the ruffian for the sake of the investigation.

The next day, Gillam and Erol went to the Temple to deal with this Vollick business, but Gillam also had something else he was determined to do. Ignoring Erol’s questions, he banged on the door of Prefect Harald. He was indignant that the prefect had failed to inform them of the nightly eel fishing; something he surely should have known about. However, Harald gave nothing but apologies.

Next, they spoke to the High Priest and managed to persuade (with a bit of monetary help) to let Vollick off. With that sorted, they all returned to Vollick’s house to inform him he was off the hook. True to his promise, the boy told them he had seen men in armor crossing the river a little way up from the village. They had worn the black symbol of a dog. Putting their heads together, Gillam and Phaedra realized it was the sigil of House Marton, a house in service of High Lord Sandemar.

They went to the riverbank in question to investigate, but found only boat cuttings and tracks similar to those at the murder scene leading to and from the river.

They returned to village. Erol choosing to keep an eye on the merchants, Phaedra guarding Vollick, and Gillam opting to linger in the pub and try the local specialty, eel platter. Yum.

Phaedra was the first to see the fire. Gillam heard her blow the signal whistle he had given her the other night and burst out of the pub. Kaala’s house was burning and from it two black-clad men and two hounds came. Gillam charged forth and drew their attention, as Phaedra slipped around their backs. Erol had also heard her whistle and came sprinting over the fields managing to pick them off with his arrows.

The house was burning, but Erol discovered Kaala was already dead – a large hole in her side. But there was no time for sorrow, as a commotion came from back in the village center. First, they cleared out the Blue Circle Inn but there were still bastards to deal with in the temple and the Pink Circle Inn, where the merchants were staying. While Erol headed to the Inn, Gillam and Phaedra entered the temple. Inside they found wreckage and bodies and they fought with more lackeys and hounds.

But just as Gillam demanded the last man stand down, from the quarters of the high priest came a large man in heavy armor with sword and shield and the high priest’s dead body in his hands. Just great… this was annoying. With Erol returning, they fought the man down, surrounding him and filling him full of holes. But just as his defeat became inevitable, the man turned, ran and jumped through a window into the square. They followed him through (some more elegantly than others…) but the man was dead and what’s more he was smoking. Erol realized first and ordered Gillam and Phaedra to get away from the body. They scrambled to get any items of use before the corpse burst into fire and smoke.

They now had more questions than answers, which irritated Gillam greatly. Half of the suspects had been murdered by those men-in-black. He didn’t like cases where suspects became dead victims and he tried to keep it to a minimum – usually employing threats and bargains. This was something greater though, he knew it; though he didn’t like it. That was the black dog of House Marton and that meant it was politics. Damn.

When they returned to Aaren they informed the high lord immediately. The news of the exploding man and the evidence of the black hound sigil caused ripples of both consternation and disbelief through the court. Master Perrol particularly was cynical of the exploding man story, but a little pressing brought out an old story of a similar incident. Given the choice of heading to Kohlen to continue the investigation further or to wait for the Master to dig out a book that would enlighten them on this tale, they unanimously chose the latter.

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Erol's Journal - Session 2
Doubts

A few days after I had departed Sallen I was approached by a middle-aged couple on the side of the road looking for a guide to take them to Aaren. They said they were farmers from the nearby area visiting family in the Aaren, and that their previous guide had robbed them in the night and abandoned them. They were worried about being attack by bandits and begged me to take them, noting my bow as more means of defense than the two had between them. I considered their tale for a bit and examined their expressions. While their story was a bit unlikely, they ultimately seemed innocent enough, and I was already on my way to Aaren, so I agreed. The couple was friendly and in the end I was glad to have the company. Some of their anecdotes proved to be quite entertaining, too…

We were only a day’s travel outside of Aaren when I had the vision.

I remember waking up in a cold sweat, struggling for breath as the vivid images of maggots and death still burning in my mind. I had no idea what they meant but they were clearly a warning of danger, and very likely great danger at that…I did my best to act as if nothing had happened though I suspected that the farmers noticed something was amiss. Thankfully they didn’t ask any questions about what had caused me to wake so violently.
When we arrived in Aaren the couple thanked me for my services however as they went to pay me I noticed a sudden shift in their expression. Their smiles were gone and they spoke in hushed voices. It turned out that my fare were not a friendly couple but actually agents of Alvyarin. Apparently the day the couple joined me they had received a raven telling them to be on the watch for my passing and that their master had requested my presence. They apologized for the deception stating that the message made clear that it was a matter of utmost secrecy and that I would likely refuse a direct request, hence the deception. I was slightly perturbed that Alvyarin felt I would refuse such a simple request, but further supported my decision to not work for Alvyarin directly as one of his “agents” the last thing I wanted to be was at the beck and call of some noble. However Alvyarin had done me a great service in helping me to begin to understand the arcane so the least I could do was meet the man. I told the couple that I would see their master though I would appreciate a little more forwardness next time; I reminded them that Mrissans are not terribly fond of being deceived.


After parting from the “couple” I headed toward the keep where I was certain to find Alvyarin. I was let in with little hassle; it appeared as though they were expecting me. As I entered the large stone keep I was directed by a servant to a waiting hall and told that I would be summoned shortly. Typical nobility, summoning guests and then making them wait. It wasn’t all bad however; as I noticed that I was not the only one who had been summoned. I was pleasantly surprised to see my two erstwhile companions, Gillam the Lugardian watchman, and Phaedra the mysterious Marian woman. We exchanged pleasantries though none of us were quite certain how to react around each other just yet. Regardless I was happy to see them. But this meeting was too great of a coincidence; it appeared as though the threads of fate were clearly pulling the three of us together. After my last dream I was certain of it.

Our reunion was cut short however as we were ushered into the main hall. Standing at the end of the hall was Dohnyl, Alvyarin, and the old man Perrol. Alvyarin looked uncharacteristically nervous. Dohnyl welcomed us and thanked us for coming. He informed us that he had a favor to ask, but it was one that was of potential danger to Aaren and as such that he hoped we could be discreet. He looked to Alyvarin to further explain the situation.

Apparently there had been a murder in Sallen just a few days ago and the details were quite grizzly. The victim had had several body parts cut off as well as his tongue cut out and nailed to his forehead. What was worse, his body was found covered with maggots. My ears perked upon hearing the circumstances, my dream… and now hearing this, what did it mean? Alvyarin also informed us of one more crucial detail. The man was one of his agents, a young man named Adim. That was one piece of the puzzle suddenly made clear, but the rest was troubling. Alvyarin was of the opinion that it was possible that someone was moving against House Sandemar. Dohnyl recalled our previous encounter and said that he felt that he could trust the three of us and asked if we would investigate the matter. He even offered us a handsome reward for any information we might uncover. He just asked that we be discreet.

Gillam was quick enough to agree, the man seemed to revel in following orders. Phaedra seemed to consider for a moment but when Dohnyl mentioned the reward of gold she also agreed. For me, I couldn’t have cared less about the gold but the way in which the man was killed haunted me and so I agreed to help though I kept my vision to myself. Dohnyl and Alvyarin were both quite pleased. Alvyarin informed us that he had one more agent working in Sallen and that we should try to contact them but to be discreet in doing so. He told us to look for a person with the mark of his house – a bunch of grapes. If we should find such a person we should tell them the code words of “sky” and “yellow” and exprect a reply of “chicken” and “cart.” Typical espionage, though given the circumstances I understood the caution. But deep down I was quite glad I had refused the man’s offer to work directly for him. After receiving our information we were given 60gold in fund to help in our investigation and then sent on our way. I lead the group out and we made the trek through the mountains to Sallen.


Upon arrival in Sallen I immediately sensed a difference in the tone and atmosphere of the quiet travelers’ hub. I could feel suspicion, doubt, and anger in the air as a loud commotion could be heard from the town center. forest_town_by_xenomorph_designs-d3a0frb.jpgWe had barely entered the town when Gillam noticed the crowd gathered at one of the inns and rushed towards them, muttering under his breath about “possible suspects.” As he rushed off, I noticed a smaller group loitering around another inn on the south side of the village. There were several wagons loaded with goods, it must have been a merchant caravan. Based on the apparel of the people lingering there, they did not appear to be the farmers and fishermen of Sallen. I looked to Phaedra and suggested she go and speak to them and find out what she could. I was never any good at negotiations, especially not with merchants. She agreed and headed off to see them. I looked over and saw the Gillam was already causing quite the stir in the crowd. I decided that perhaps I should leave him to his investigation.

With Phaedra gone I turned my attention to the Temple of the Mother. The Temple was the heartbeat of the village, and yet it was strangely quiet and empty. It struck me as odd so I investigated there. As I entered the temple I was greeted by a young acolyte asking what they could do to help. I requested to speak to the high priest as I was curious about what was happening in the town. After being forced to wait around for a few minutes I was admitted to see the high priest. As I entered I saw a large man in opulent robes sat behind a desk discussing quietly with another man in fine robes. The large man introduced himself as Dovel, the high priest of the Mother and the other man as a Prefect priest of the temple named Harald. I asked them about the late unpleasantness and was given a series of non-answers. However it didn’t seem that the high priest was dodging my questions, he genuinely knew nothing about the murder other than the obvious details. I did my best to be vague about my personal details when they asked, though I have never been a great liar. However the head priest seemed to accept my story. I thanked him for his time and said farewell. The prefect Harald saw me out. cthulhu___priest_of_two_faiths_by_henning-d2z6tve.jpgAs we were leaving the man pulled me to the side and started to ask more questions about my interest in the event. It appeared as though he didn’t buy my story. I did my best to shrug off his inquiries but I could tell he didn’t believe me. As I left I couldn’t help but feel cautious about the prefect. Reza also seemed to sense something off about the man. I feeling I couldn’t shake as I left the temple.

I regrouped with Gillam and Phaedra at one of the 6 inns in Sallen. It appears that neither Gillam nor Phaedra had had much luck in their investigation. Gillam in particular was quite perturbed at a local man named Eski who was heading up the investigation. Gillam said the man didn’t know the first thing about running a murder case. As we were talking I happened to notice that one of the bar maids working in the tavern wore a brooch in the shape of a bunch of grapes. Although we hadn’t gotten any new information, perhaps we had found our agent.

As she walked over to take our order I did my best to slip in the code words Alvyarin had given us. She looked a little stunned upon hearing the words and so I repeated what I had said. Realization slowly crossed her face as she understood who we were. She continued the conversation but cautiously did not include the return code words. Understable as one of her comrades had just been killed. However it was clear the Gillam did not understand as he demanded of the woman, “Did you buy that brooch from someone?” The man certainly war a good hammer, though not all problems were nails. Obviously startled by his questioning she excused herself to go get our drinks. When she returned, I took my drink and noticed she had taken extra care when placing my drink on a small piece of paper, something she hadn’t done to my companion’s drinks. I examined the paper and found an image of a chicken in a cart indicating a place and time. I showed it to Phaedra under the table and explained the situation to the guardsman. We agreed to meet the woman at the set time but to travel separately so as not to draw too much attention to ourselves. With the plan set we each went to our rooms to make preparations.


That night we traveled to the set meeting point, a small house on the far edge of town, thankfully we all made it there without incident or being noticed. The woman let us in swiftly and immediately looked angrily at Gillam. He seemed oblivious. She introduced herself as Kaala, an agent of Alvyarin and urged that we try to be more subtle next time. We apologized and then informed her that we had been sent to help investigate the death of Adim. She was thankful to have our help but I could tell she was also quite distraught at the death of her fellow agent. We discussed what we knew and confirmed the story we had been told. She said she was eager to help but wanted to do so cautiously. She said she could work on investigate one or two people a day, but urged us to avoid contact with the people she was seeking. We agreed that was a good idea. Our first targets for her were the man Eski and the Prefect Harald. With our plan set for the next day we left Kaalas home and returned to the inn.

The next morning we investigated the spot where Adims body had been found. After search the area fully Gillam and I were able to pick up on two things. First the faint sent of incense, very suspicious, and tracks leading away from the body. Unfortunately there was nothing pointing as to what would have caused all the maggots… We followed the tracks slowly out of town but were further confused when the tracks turned back towards Sallen and then ultimately disappeared. However I was quite pleased to have some actual evidence in the form of the incense but this just left more questions and doubts.

After returning to Sallen the incense was enough of a lead that Gillam stormed off directly for the temple, saying he was going to give the priests a “grilling.” I decided it might be better if we didn’t both head to the same location to avoid suspicion, so I headed to the inn that the merchant caravan was staying to see if I could get some more information. The leader of the caravan, a man named Paraashk was quite frustrated and clearly losing his patience. He explained that his caravan had arrived the night before the murder and have been prevented from leaving since, as they are suspects in the case. He was on the verge of using his bodyguard, a huge man named Dolk, to try and strong arm his way out of the situation but was willing to wait another day or two. Ultimately my discussion with Paraashk proved fruitless as I was unable to get any more real information. None of the men seemed particularly suspicious, and I could find no motive for them to want to kill Adim. His death had had a negative impact on his business.

I regrouped once more with my Gillam and Phaedra to exchange what we had learned. While my discussion had provided no new leads it appeared as though Gillam’s “grilling” in the temple had worked to some degree. He had learned from a young acolyte in the temple that he had seen black clad men heading towards the Snakewater River the night of the murder. Gillam said that the prefect did not think it was important but he did not know what the men were up to. We agreed it all seemed very suspicious and decided to investigate the area along the river that the acolyte had mentioned. Sure enough we found several boats pulled up along the riverbank, they looked as though they had been recently used. With this information we set a plan that Phaedra observe the area that night to see if anyone came while Gillam and I rendezvoused with Kaala. Once again we returned to the inn to make our preparations.

That night we all headed out of the inn, moving separately once again to reduce our chances of all being seen. Before Phaedra and I parted however, I cast a spell on her that would allow us to whisper messages to each other from great distance. She seemed a little unsure but after testing it out, she was rather impressed. As I moved cautiously through the town the still of the night was suddenly shattered as I heard a loud splash followed by a series of choice words. Unfortunately I recognized the voice, it was Gillam, he had apparently fallen into one of the farmsteads canals. The noise was soon followed by another. Gillam began arguing with the voice. I chose to continue onward to Kaala’s house, hoping that Gillam’s distraction would provide good enough cover.

When I reached Kaalas home I she was slightly surprised to see only myself but I explained our plan to her and she quickly understood. I asked her what information she had learned in her investigation that day. Unfortunately she had not been able to gather much of anything that would lead to a cause for suspicion. Neither men would have any motive for killing Adim, especially not in such a fashion. As we discussed the situation I heard Phaedra’s voice whispering in my head. She said that a few men were approaching the area, being rater quiet. I told her to hold back and not approach them. According to Phaedra the men were getting onto the boats and pushing off into the river. I quickly and quietly stepped out of Kaala’s home and went to the riverbank, a bit further down from where Phaedra was.
As I observed the boat I could see several men aboard, but the boat was getting further away. Fearing that our only lead might slip away I enchanted an arrow with a light spell and fired it over the water and jumped prone to avoid being seen. I quickly realized my mistake however when I saw the men aboard the boat. They were locals, dressed in black yes, but all carrying fishing gear – not weapons. It was but a moment after my arrow arced across the water that their angry voices called out demanding who had done that. Knowing they were just fishermen I slowly stood up and revealed myself. Apparently they were out fishing for eels, and my disturbance had likely ruined their entire outing for the evening. the_angry_mob_by_odinoir-d3acu3s-e1380727197691.jpgThey were, understandably, quite furious with me. When I explained why I had shot the “flare,” leaving out a few key details, they called me a fool and came to shore and stormed off saying they were going to complain to Eski. Just perfect.

I told Phaedra to stay hidden for the moment, and then went with the men to the Blue Circle Inn where we found Eski speaking to Gillam. At the inn the men aired their grievances to Eski as I explained the situation. In the end I was absolved of any wrong-doing thanks to Phaedra. She had followed and stepped in as an outsider and offered to buy all the fishermen a round of drinks. Thankfully this calmed them down, but it was clear they still all thought I was a complete fool. Soon after Eski ordered all the men to return home for the night, and they complied. Eski clearly had quite a bit of influence over the men of the town. The fishermen left soon after, though one of the younger members seemed to linger behind and gestured towards Gillam.

The three of us stepped outside and followed the young man. He nervously introduced himself as Vollick. He said that he might have some potentially important information regarding Adim’s death. However, before he would tell us he wanted us to convince the priests at the temple to forgive him. Apparently he had stolen some candlesticks from the temple a few weeks ago in a moment of weakness. As a result the church was refusing him blessings until he provided them with proper compensation. Something the poor fisherman could not afford. Gillam seemed quite conflicted about helping a criminal, but I realized the value of the potential information. As best I could tell the boy was being quite honest with us, and he seemed very nervous as though the information he had could be dangerous. In the end Gillam agreed. We told the boy we would speak with the clergy in the morning, besides we already had business with them.


The next morning Gillam and I headed to the temple to confront Harald. The fact that he had failed to mention the nightly eel hunts was shocking. I could tell Gillam was furious, he had been grinding his teeth the entire way to the temple. As soon as we stepped in the temple Gillam charged the Prefect’s office and began berating the man for failing to give us the crucial information about the fisherman. He said that he was unaware and offered us apologies, though his words all smelt of lies to me. As he spoke Reva seemed to tighten around my arm. I didn’t trust him but we needed more time to observe him. In the end we could only complain to him, and he simply deflected our comments.

Defeated for the time being we headed to the high priests offices to deal with Vollicks troubles. We spoke to the man and he was hesitant about forgiving Vollick so easily. We offered to give the church a “donation” and Dhovels attitude shifted quite quickly. Looking at the man’s luxurious robes I could only shake my head. The power of gold to corrupt men’s hearts is truly great. But thankfully we used Dhovels weakness to our advantage and were able to clear Vollicks name. I could see Gillam’s face contort in pain as we handed the priest the bag of gold, but he did what needed to be done and I was grateful of that.

We then went to Vollick’s house to tell him the good news. The boy was relieved to have his name cleared. True to his word the boy told us about what he had seen. Men in armor, bearing a sign of a black dog, crossing the river not far from the village. At his mention of the dog my eyes widened. I did not know what it meant but I knew that it signaled danger. Gillam and Phaedra also looked concerned but for a different reason. They had much more knowledge about the various houses and sigils of the Lugardian nobility, and the black dog was the symbol of House Marton. One of the smaller houses in service to House Sandemar. It seems as though Dohnyl might not have the complete loyalty of all his men. Though power corrupts just as well as gold, both typical vices that have caused much pain throughout history. We thanked Vollick for the information, knowing that telling us put him at great risk.

With this new clue we traveled to the area he the boy had described for us. We did not find much, but what we found was revealing. There were was evidence that boats had been there, verifying Vollick’s story, and more importantly we found large footprints strikingly similar to those found at the murder site. With all of these clues, armored men, the incense, Harald evasiveness I felt that Vollick was in great danger.

We returned to the village and set to meet Kaala in the evening to discuss our discoveries and hopefully form a plan. However, fearing for our informants safety we requested that Phaedra stay and watch over the young man. Gillam would stay at the Blue Circle Inn observing Eski’s movements, and I would watch over Paraashk and his men. The group split up we all waited. Little did we know that it would be well before midnight that we would be forced into action…

The hum of conversation in the tavern was cut as the piercing sound of an alarm whistle blared through the air. I recognized the whistle as the one Gillam had given Phaedra when we left her with Vollick. I rushed to the door of the inn to see smoke billowing from the direction of Kaalas home. I sprinted out of the inn and across the fields.

There were men dressed in black outside of Kaalas home with daggers drawn, with a few more charging towards the Blue Circle Inn. Apparently these fools were attempting a raid upon Sallen, albeit a very surgical one… I fired off a few arrows as I approached killing a few of them. Gillam and Phaedra approached from the north engaging a few others. After I dispatched the other two outside of Kaalas home with a flurry of arrows and rushed inside the burning building.

I saw Kalla lying unconscious in the doorway, a pool of blood beneath her. I pulled her out of her home, but I was too late. The bastards had killed this unarmed woman. I felt rage build inside me as Reva coiled tighter and hissed. I grabbed Kalla brooch and clenched it firmly in my fist. I would show these scum what an angry Mrissan could do.

The battle raged across the whole of Sallen, I fired arrows as fast as my fingers would allow me. I slew three in the tavern Praashk and his men were in, barely arriving in time to save the Dolk. At the Blue Circle Inn we were too slow and Eski was murdered defending himself from one of the bandits. Eventually we fought the invaders into the temple of the Mother. As we entered we saw the high priest Dhovel running out of his offices screaming. However the scream was cut short as a long sword blossomed from his chest. As he fell we saw a large man in armor standing in the door to Dhovels office. He laughed as the priest drew his last breath.
Gillam and Phaedra engaged the man while fired arrows at him. The man fought with the intensity of a demon. He took blow and after blow and refused to fall. However steadily we were able to tire the man and gain the advantage. As we battled his I began to notice something strange. The more injuries he sustained his skin started to change in color subtlety. Not the bright red of blood, but a faint orange glow. It seemed as if his body were building rapidly in temperature…

Just when his defeat seemed inevitable he cursed us loudly and turned to run. He jumped out of the window into the town square. However his wounds proved to be too grievous as the exertion of the jump and fall caused the man to collapse. We rushed to the body to examine our foe. For one thing he was certainly dead. However, I immediately noticed something was wrong, his body was radiating a lot of heat and I could sense huge amounts of arcane energy emanating from his corpse. As Phaedra and Gillam were examining his rather high quality gear I quickly yelled at them to step back immediately. I had barely stepped away when our foes body burst into flames. I could only stare in awe. The amount of magical energy needed to cause something like that to happen was simply immense. I had never witnessed anything like it. I couldn’t help but feel completely overwhelmed by what had just transpired…

The attack left us with more questions than answers, and a community that would take years to fully heal from the events that had transpired. Never the less we knew we had to report back to Dohnyl and Alvyarin what we had learned. I had little interest in the games that the nobles played against each other so as to gain more power and influence but these bastards had attacked innocents and murdered them in their beds. I was furious.
My vision this time had been a premonition, yet there were still questions unanswered and I felt they were a warning. We also had the exploding man, and a mysteriously missing Prefect Harald. So many questions and so few answers. I was determined to do everything within my power to answer some of these questions, and hopefully to bring some justice to the cowards that committed these villainous acts.

We returned to Aaren to give our report to Dhonyl and Alvyarin. The news of the sigil and the exploding man were both disturbing to say the least. I warned Alvyarin that he needed to warn his other agents, as his current system was clearly compromised, and hopefully he could prevent at least some deaths. Of all the events though I was most disturbed by the exploding man. As was Perrol. He had never heard of any one exploding suddenly save for one other time in an old story book. A very interesting coincidence.
We discussed our options on how to proceed. Alvyarin wanted us to go to Kohlen to investigate house Marton. However I had burning questions about the exploding man. We decided to help Perrol with his investigation, but the old man said he would need a few days. Dhonyl thanked us for our assistance and the information. He gave us a small reward and wished us luck in aiding Perrol. I just hoped the old man’s story book had information we could use…

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Erol's Journal - Interlude 1
Nascence

I hope this was the right decision…

After the events in Tavalen I agreed to travel with the Lugardian noble Alvyarin to his estate. Normally I would not have chosen to follow such a request, especially from someone of his station, but after seeing Alvyarin display obvious magical ability I felt compelled to travel with him. I reluctantly said farewell to my temporary companions Gillam and Phaedra, though due to the circumstances of our meeting and parting I get the feeling it won’t be the last I see of them. I feel they might be the key to something greater.

After arriving in Aaren we traveled towards the ancestral home of house Taab. As our caravan passed through the rolling vineyards that covered I couldn’t help but appreciate the beauty of this land. The cool weather of the winter had started to recede much more noticeably now that we were out of the mountains and I saw dozens of workers hurriedly planting this years crop of grapes. The caravan had barely pulled up to the front of the manor when a half a dozen retainers greeted our arrival. The servants welcomed their young lord with wide smiles that quickly changed to puzzled looks as their gaze turned to me. Alvyarin explained the situation and a few of our welcome party rushed off into the house. Alvyarin looked to me and apologized, apparently they weren’t expecting guests.

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I thanked him and awkwardly followed him into the house. After that he showed me around his families manor and told me the various histories of his house. I did my best to listen, father had always stressed the importance of being polite to those that welcomed you into their homes, though I honestly had little interest in ebb and flow in power of Lugardian noble houses. After a dinner that wasted entirely too much food on two men I was shown to my room. Alvyarin informed we that we would begin training in the morning. As I did my best to fall asleep on the large bed in the room provided, I couldn’t help but grin wryly thinking about just how differently Alvyarin’s youth must have been compared to my own. It was like he had been raised in another world.

The next day after breaking fast Alvyarin presented me with a large traveling pack filled with various incenses, oils, scrolls and other reagents. He explained that while he was certain that I had a nascent magical knack he could not tell me how to unlock that potential. I would have to discover that power on my own. Alvyarin did however say he was providing me with the pack of supplies and his own personal notes in order to help facility this discovery. He told me to go out into the woods on his lands and ordered that I wasn’t to return until I had had some sort of revelation. I was less than thrilled at this command, I had been hoping for a little more advice, but I grudgingly accepted his terms. He had, after all, provided me with supplies that I would never have been able to afford on my own and besides I had always done things on my own anyway. Off to the woods I headed, I was sure I would sleep better out there.


It took me nearly a month of hard work and experimentation.
I tried various cocktails of herbs and oils, which lead to some very interesting waking dreams, but for the longest time it seemed as though I was just wasting my time in the woods. It wasn’t until my third week away from the estate that I had a major revelation.

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That night it was pouring rain. I sat under a tree, my eyes closed as water dropped from the leaves up above onto my forehead. When suddenly I felt a presence, a pair of eyes watching me. I opened my eyes and saw nothing. I had not heard any approach and yet I could still feel a piercing gaze. As I looked all around the woods were silent but for the falling rain. It was then that I looked down and saw it. The viper from my tattoo left my arm and was sitting coiled up before me, staring at me. It was clearly a living creature and yet it looked like it was made out of ink.
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At first I panicked, thinking I was having a bad reaction to some of the oils. But I soon felt a sense of calm wash over me. It was coming from the snake. It could sense my emotions, and I could sense its. I slowly came to realize that me and this spirit were bound together. I instinctively knew its name, Reva, as well. Through Reva I felt more aware of my surroundings, I could sense things I once couldn’t. If I focused hard enough I could see the faint ripple of magical energy emanating from the snake. Through my will I had brought this spirit into being. It approached me with cautious eyes, the slowly wound itself around my arm once again. As it wound around my arm I saw it slowly merge into my flesh. It gave me one last look as its head merged last and I knew from that moment the spirit and I were bound forever.

After the spirit had awakened I found that my ability to grasp my magical abilities to be considerably easier. Within just a few days I was able to move small objects by exerting enough will upon it or hinder things that would approach me. I was certain I had had my revelation and set off to meet Alvyarin again.


When I met Alvyarin at first he seemed upset, asking me if I had given up. When I told him that I had not given up and that I wanted to demonstrate what I learned he seemed genuinely surprised. He had expected me to take much longer. Eager to see what I was capable of we headed to the courtyard and he ordered me to stand at one end. As he walked to the other we drew his bow and said that he hoped that I was ready and wasn’t lying. He then took aim and fired a single arrow at me. Shocked I quickly threw out my hand in front of me and with great effort willed the arrow to stop. I felt a great force repel against my hand, and yet the arrow stopped. The act had exhausted me but I had passed Alvyarin’s test. He nodded in approval, smiled and said, “You truly have a knack for this my friend.”

As I spent the next day recovering Alvyarin informed me that he was going to return to Aaren as his lord needed him. He then told me that he was in charge of the intelligence network for the lord of Aaren and asked me to join. I was a bit taken aback by this offer. Although he had aided me in discovering my magical ability I had no reason to want to get involved in the politics and secrets of Lugardian nobles. Nor did I have any connection to the city of Aaren or it’s people, it was far to loud and noisy for me. Upon hearing the request Reva also seemed to feel as though there was great danger in it. I thanked Alvyarin but told him I had no interest in such work, I was not one to bend my knee to a lord so easily. He seemed disappointed but he understood. After parting ways just outside Aaren my mind wandered to my next job, and back to my dreams.


Over the next month I took a few jobs as a guide for several merchants along the high road pass up to Aarta. The work was easy enough and I even managed to get a package sent off to my family. After catching a return fare to Aaren it wasn’t long before I had another job. A quick one down to the small fishing village of Sallen, a few days south of Aaren. My fare was an interesting one. mountain_pass_by_sclarke1991-d6vnka5.jpgA self-proclaimed “well known” bard named Lingen. He was headed all the way to Tier and seemed very nervous though he wouldn’t say why. Regardless it wasn’t long before we had parted ways as he grabbed a ferry in Sallen. After he had left I decided to linger for a day and explore the town of Sallen. A small town on the Snake Water river with over 6 inns and a large temple to The Mother. The towns folk were pleasant and friendly, much more so than the typical Lugardian village. I figured it must have been because they get so many travelers. After enjoying a the local delicacy of Fluberry Pie I headed back to Aaren in search of my next fare.

Little did I know that it would not be long before I returned to Sallen…

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Part 1 - Gillam's PoV
An Icy Reception

After deftly dodging rolling boulders on a landslide and facing off a bear while lost in the woods, Gillam managed to find his way back to a road. A short walk lead him to a small stone hut. Inside, he met a wise Mrissan Guide called Erol who was generous enough to share his rabbit stew and a blanket. A few moments later another person appeared – a traveling merchant calling herself Phaedra. Gillam was a little suspicious of her but couldn’t find any fault in her story. After his long day he quickly went to sleep.

No sooner had he and his new traveling companions set out toward Tavalen than they were attacked by a wild boar and Gillam was surprised to find both arrows whizzing past his head and this supposed merchant being rather skilled with a blade. Soon after the boar came three raging wolves but the three of them managed to finish them off.

Suddenly, following the wolves, came an entire mounted hunting party. The lords on their horses demanded compensation and though the other two tried to protest and argue, Gillam, knowing the laws of Lugard, could say nothing. With that they continued to Tavalen with the entourage, learning much about the high lord from talking with the other lords and guards.

Finally, they approached Tavalen and Gillam felt some trepidation at meeting his parents after such a long time with no contact. But his heart fell from his chest when the party saw an avalanche begin to collapse down a mountainside towards the village. They all started hurrying down the road to rescue survivors.

They found the village half under snow, but Gillam knew where his family’s home was. As the high lord gave orders to his men, Gillam hurried ahead. He and the lord’s men around him managed to pull out some people, which included his deceased brother and his severely injured father with a stick stuck in his gut.

Gillam demanded that Master Perrol do all he can to remove the stick and save his father’s life. Gillam stayed awake all night until, some hours later, he was called to his father’s bedside – Erol accompanying him but keeping a distance. He spoke with his father who told him, weakly, that his mother had died 5 years ago, his eldest brother was out of the village and that there was something he must recover from the family home. Tearfully, he begged his father for forgiveness and said goodbye. Then, with Erol assisting, he hurried over to the house and uncovered the box and his mother’s ashes. In the box he found a stone ring with a bear picture engraved.

But as soon as he stepped outside he saw another familiar face: his eldest brother Fenn alongside his wife. Fenn was not at all happy to see Gillam and eventually revealed that his son, Gloen, had followed in his uncle’s footsteps and gone in search of fame and glory. Gillam was full of regret over the effect on his family and promised to find his nephew.

When the morning came, Gillam was asked to join the Aaren city watch which he accepted under condition that he could have leave on occasion to find his nephew.

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Erol's Journal - Session 1
Beginnings

The dreams always seem so real.
No matter how many times the sight gifts me with these dreams I always find myself experiencing them as if it were reality. This time was no different, if not more so.

Burning embers in the dark, giants bones, and…

I now understand what some of my most recent vision meant but, as always, much of it remains an enigma to me. Why do the gods give me these visions? To taunt me? Or to warn me so that I might change the events? All my efforts to understand them and change what I have seen have thus far been unsuccessful. Perhaps this time will be different. Perhaps…

In any case, things have been quite eventful since I dropped off my last fare at Fanari. The old man paid well enough but the town was too small to pick up any new clients, so I decided to head to the nearby mining town of Tavalen. Maybe I could pick up a traveler headed to Aaren.

As I headed into the mountain pass between Fanari and Tavalen a cold wind rose up to meet me. The hills in this part of Lugard are always crawling with highwaymen and bandits, but it has been awhile since I have seen any quite as incompetent as the pair I happened upon the road. I was fortunate enough to get the drop on them, though it wasn’t very hard as one had fallen asleep at his post. I was able to dispatch both of them without much trouble. Though I used my blunt arrows, it was apparently the gods whim that one of the pair should die. The other lived, surviving a long fall from the tree she was in. I disarmed her and left her to her fate. Let the gods judge her as they will.

It didn’t take long to find their camp and the pairs latest victim, some Lugardian hunter. I found a ring and bow on his person that might be of some importance to a person in Tavalen or Aaren so I took them just in case. After making small burial cairns for the victim and the bandit who had passed I saw that I needed to move quickly. A storm was moving in, and it looked to be a big one. I grabbed the rabbits that the hunter had slain, offered thanks to his spirit and was on my way.

By the time I arrived at the travelers shelter the storm was already upon me and snow was falling heavily so I was happy to get in from the cold. I set up my bed roll and started a fire and got to preparing my dinner. Mother’s rabbit stew sounded perfect.


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No sooner had I started cooking than a traveler entered the shelter. A Lugardian man of about 30 by my estimates. Tall, with a regimented haircut and a set of equipment that told me he was not used to spending a lot of time in the wilderness, especially not this time of year. He introduced himself as Gillam, a member of the Lyden city watch heading to Tavalen to visit family. He seemed an honest enough man so I offered to guide him the rest of the way to Tavalen. We had been chatting for a bit when we were joined by another traveler. This time a woman, who came in as quietly as the breeze. I was so surprised I nearly shot an arrow at her. I quickly realized this woman was out of her element. Her tattered equipment and accent told me this woman was Marian. What she was doing so far from the ports of Laegen Mar was as good as anyone’s guess. She claimed she was a merchant and had become separated from her companions. She appeared genuine enough and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. I handed the woman, Phaedra, one of my heavy blankets and some stew to warm up. She looked positively freezing. I told her I was a guide and offered her the same deal as I had Gil, fare to Tavalen if she would have it. I stayed up as a watch as my two new clients slept quietly.
I had found my two embers in the dark.


The next morning the storm had passed. The air was crisp but far from silent.
No sooner had we stepped out of the shelter than we were set upon by a wild boar and a pack of wolves. I was quite impressed by the combat prowess of both my new clients. They weren’t your average travelers. But then I already had my suspicions. However, Gillam and Phaedra both seemed a bit more suspicious of each other after seeing the others skills.
It seemed we all don’t quite trust each other yet.

We had barely caught our breath when we were set upon by a large host.
They were lead by some Lugardian noble named Dhonyl. He seemed like most wealthy Lugardians, all too self important without the faintest idea of Van’temor.
After being accused of “murdering” the nobles hounds, we were ordered to accompany them to Tavalen to be sentenced. Typical Lugardian bureaucracy.
As we traveled to Tavalen I remained unimpressed by most of these nobles, however there was one that stuck out. A man named Alvyarin. He seemed more insightful, intelligent and understanding that his companions.

By the time Tavalen was insight and I saw the mountain, it was already too late. The bones on the mountain sagged and fell, causing the town that had stood for generations to vanish in moments. I heard Gillam scream in horror as he began a mad dash towards his home.
When we arrived we got to work immediately trying to dig the residents out, fortunately not all of the town had been buried. It was during this time I saw that Alvyarin was indeed more than he seemed. He had the gift. Through the panic of it all I saw that Dhonyl, as well, was more than the typical Lugardian noble. He was a true leader, and his people respected him. Perhaps I was wrong about him. Time will tell.

In the end we saved about a third of the townsfolk. Unfortunately among the dead were Gillams older brother and father. I did my best to console him. As best I could, having only known the man for a day. Phaedra also seemed to know one of the dead, but her reaction was one of relief not sorrow. I decided not to press her on the issue. She would tell me about it if she wanted, or when she was ready to.

After recovery operations had ended Dhonyl called the three of us to the main hall. It seemed that each of us had impressed one of his companions and wanted us to work for or with them in Aaren. Alvyarin had asked me to travel with him. It had been nearly two years since I had met another person with the gift. Perhaps he can help me to understand my gift more… After my latest dream I couldn’t refuse. Nor could Gillam or Phaedra refuse their offers. So it would seem as though our fates remain intertwined. From this great tragedy comes a new beginning.

I have a feeling that we will need to work together to overcome whatever the fates have in store for us…

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Welcome to your campaign!
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Wondering how to get started? Here are a few tips:

1. Invite your players

Invite them with either their email address or their Obsidian Portal username.

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If you want to set a specific mood for your campaign, we have several backgrounds to choose from. Accentuate it by creating a top banner image.

4. Create some NPCs

Characters form the core of every campaign, so take a few minutes to list out the major NPCs in your campaign.

A quick tip: The “+” icon in the top right of every section is how to add a new item, whether it’s a new character or adventure log post, or anything else.

5. Write your first Adventure Log post

The adventure log is where you list the sessions and adventures your party has been on, but for now, we suggest doing a very light “story so far” post. Just give a brief overview of what the party has done up to this point. After each future session, create a new post detailing that night’s adventures.

One final tip: Don’t stress about making your Obsidian Portal campaign look perfect. Instead, just make it work for you and your group. If everyone is having fun, then you’re using Obsidian Portal exactly as it was designed, even if your adventure log isn’t always up to date or your characters don’t all have portrait pictures.

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