Shadows Over Innistrad

Symphony of the night

The night wind howls through the country side, evil shadows encroach upon walled cities threatening the good people within. Werewolves roam more freely leaving the safety of the woods, the rains have weakened and even seemed to have stopped nearly completely.

A cry for help shatters the still night air, a desperate plea, a woman proclaiming innocence. Torches line the city streets and walls, guards double their patrols. 

A foul odor clings to the dead, though they don't stay dead for long. Ghouls, zombies and undead of all manner wander in the open along the roads, something that once had kept them at bay seems to be no longer present. Shadows, ever present, the shadows of a long night threaten to smother the land. 

The howls of wolves, the call of ravens, the moan of the wind through the trees, music playing, dancing orchestral patterns creep along in a dark symphony of the night.

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Addison's Journal XI
An End of Roads

~Date~

 

Marcus and Seraphim have gone, not sure if we'll see them again but we had to press on and try to find this Ellis Lillibridge. I'd hoped his information was worth those trials we faced.

 

We rode further north in silence, barely even talking when we broke for camp, finally reaching Thul Village after a few days. The map Edwin provided for me led me easily to the Salty Kraken tavern. There were a few Imperial vessels in port and oddly enough a familiar drachman. It was the same vessel we'd found in Thulfall here entirely without a crew. It's magic seemed more potent than we'd previously guess.

 

We entered the tavern, intent to play our roles in contacting Edwin and spending the night. We'd taken the largest table and I sat in the chair closest to the fire, as was requested. We all ordered stew and I ordered a drink called the "Iced Sea Witch", an odd concoction but very potent… a little fruity. Fleer asked for a taste, she'd given up drinking so had just taken a sip. She started lowering the drink and stopped, apparently frozen in place, but still breathing. I took the glass before she spilled it, finishing it off and gently lowered her hand to the table. Viktor had also ordered one, but his sat untouched. After a few seconds, she blinked and renewed her vow to not drink.

 

During this time a snail had crawled up onto the table. I watched it warily as it slowly moved about the table, leaving a trail of slime. It's trail made letters and said simply, "Drowned Yards" It then climbed back down the table. As cleared up the message, Fleer noticed a deep one hybrid staring at us and went over to interrogate it. It annoyed her, copying her words as she said them. These creatures are a fish-like race that worshipped one of the Great Old Ones, Dagon. She called me over, I glanced at it, apologized for her disturbing it's meal and guided her back to the table, telling her not to worry about it. I did not tell Potter about this creature, his fascination with the Great Old Ones is too great as it is.

 

I changed our plan to leave after the meal, to head north to throw off pursuit, if given and circle back around to head south east to the Drowned yards. We had not gone far when we all got a feeling of immense dread emanating from the castle further along the road. It was the home of Danté, Ruler of Innistrad and a vampire of immeasurable power. Definitely a fish beyond my ability to catch… yet.

 

We turned off the road and headed south, keeping a wary eye out for those who might follow us. I instructed Fleer that if she saw that Deep One again, she should kill it to keep it from finding Edwin.

 

~

 

We stopped the carriage just outside of the Drowned yards, a damp and miserable place with derelict hulks of ships lay in a rough circular formation. We could see the rough, broken form of a ship walking around within. It appeared to be almost elemental in nature, yet possessing locomotion through the possessed form of a ship. This is by far one of the oddest specimen of undeath I have ever encountered. We followed at a distance for a while and it just seemed to be patrolling the yards. Upon closing the distance, it turned, spying us for the first time and gave a bellow that resounded like the splintering of a ship's hull and charged us. The fight was quick, but brutal with it having a breath weapon similar to a white wyrm. By the time we felled the thing we were bloodied and exhausted, having spent much of our arcane and divine might to keep standing. Potter had been the one to end the beast, his body still shivering, being covered in frost, twin bolts of fire arcing from his fingers, one of them caught Bob in the back, but the other seared it's way clean through the keel of the elemental ship, toppling it.

 

As soon as Potter saw the battle was won he immediately began begging and pleading with Fleer to not kill him, "I didn't mean to hit her, I swear! I swear!" Fleer growled and bent over him, picking him up but not trusting herself to not do more as I advised mercy. She turned her back and growled, "You're only alive because we need you…"

 

I closed my eyes, trying to find a center, a place of calm during this and noticed the feeling of something upon my arm. I glanced down and saw another snail, it made the letters for "cave" and pointed itself behind me. I turned and upon closer inspection I was able to barely make one out in the walls of the cove and led the others there. I spent the last of my power to close my companions' wounds and we made our way towards the cavern. Once we passed the first turn, it was easy to tell the place was lived in: lanterns, furniture, bookshelves and more filled the small cavern. The twist in the corridor made it impossible to see light from outside. Standing over a desk was a thin reed of a man with spectacles poring over a tome similar to my own monster almanac.

 

I coughed politely, "Edwin Lillibridge, I presume?" This made the man jump with a start, his reading apparently kept him from noticing our approach. He straightened, hand going to a pocket, "You are…?"

"Addison Dalyngridge…" I paused to let him remember, once I saw a spark of recognition, "The man you sent for about the statues."

 

The man brightened, "Ah, yes! Of course I can help, you know about my Order…"

 

My eyes narrowed, "Actually, you mentioned  a secret order but never specified…"

 

"Oh…" he seemed to start at that, "I thought I had… I work for the Office of Paranormal and Occult Investigations."

 

 

"Ah" I mused, I'd heard of the Order, they valued knowledge and prevention. Edwin seemed sincere in his offer to help.

 

"Before we discuss more, I should mention that this one" motioning to Potter, "follows the King in Yellow."

 

Edwin blanched, "Could he perhaps wait outside while we speak?"

 

We sent him outside and continued, "We've encountered one of those statues of the Great Old Ones."

 

"Two, actually." Fleer added in.

 

I glanced at her, incredulous, "Two?!" I knew of the one she destroyed and Eldritch Horror released from the tomb, but was there another?"

 

"Yes" she said, "There was another statue, Varadiel brought it back with us from that other plane."

 

"Damn" I swore, my mind racing at the implications.

 

"E-excuse me" Edwin said, "That's not necessarily a bad thing. They can be used to trap an Eldritch Horror… or summon one from their plane of existence." He paused a moment, "Do you have them with you?"

 

"One of them" Fleer stated, suddenly a little embarrassed, "The other was destroyed, freeing the Eldritch Horror." Edwin's eyes widened, I did tell him we had an Elder Sign, if needed.

 

"Oh, good… that can send them back to their realm" he thought a few moments, "I can look into how to find and destroy the Eldritch Horrors you let out, but while I do that, I need you to investigate something for me"

 

He gathered us around a map and pointed to a port town to the north, "This is Runeport. Deep Ones live there and I need you to investigate a church I heard is there, find out what they worship. Secondly, there is a large ring at the bay's entrance, see what you can discover about it."

 

With the inhabitants being Deep Ones and their dislike for outsiders, it was decided the two most foreign looking members of our party would need disguises. Laash would take an animal form while there and Potter was given an alchemical potion, changing his appearance to that of a Deep One. We were warned to not let them touch us due to some property of the slime that covered their skin.

 

We agreed, got some sleep and the next day we headed back up to Thul Village, making our way to my Drachman. We loaded the longship up with our gear, ashmouth stallions and carriage and set out. It was surprisingly easy to use, the ship seemingly able to perform most of the tasks itself.

 

~

 

The town of Runeport lay before us, just a few leagues out. The ring Edwin mentioned is a fantastically huge, circular arch of some unknown type of metal that extends over the entrance of the bay. Even from here I could tell it is covered in a script of some sort. We were not the only ships heading into port that day, though we were the fastest. We past a few Imperial merchantmen and a few ships towing a colossal iceberg. Thick chains bound the iceberg to the stout tow lines. It seemed it would take a few hours before that would make it in. I wasn't entirely certain it could fit under the ring.

 

 We pulled up to the dock, manning to oars…. no need to let them know the ship is anything special. The harbormaster greeted us calmly, looking disdainfully at us. He was a deep one hybrid and informed us that the peerage fee was twenty crowns. I readied myself to pay the stiff fee when Potter came onto the dock. The harbormaster gasped and bowed hurriedly, saying there would be no charge for an exalted guest as himself. I bantered with the harbormaster awhile, finding us a place to stay at the Gillman House Hotel. Once we were settled, Potter was to go visit the High Priest of the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Now we at least knew what the church was in obeisance to.

 

We arrived at the Gillman House and Potter was given every courtesy, though I think he gave incorrect answers to some queries. I could not understand him in his current form, but his voice was hesitant and the staff seemed taken a bit aback. We were given the penthouse suite, the establishment having an amazing thirteen floors. Potter rode a mechanical assembly that pulled him up the spiraling staircase as we trudged behind. Fleer was still outside dealing with the horses, not wanting the deep ones' slimy tentacles on them. Potter seemed to be the only full deep one present, the town itself was home to the hybrids, some of them seeming almost completely human.

 

Once we caught up, the room was immense and the maitre d' was showing Potter the large basin, finding out how salty and cold Potter liked it, frowning once he found it was not very salty and lacked the chill of the deeper depths.

 

They spoke back and forth for a few moments and the Maitre D' left, stating he would 'deal with the problem, never fear'. I frowned and set about planning how to get our two objectives dealt with in an expedient manner. Less than a quarter hour had passed and I swore I could hear my name yelled from a distance. I hurried down the many levels of floors back to the lobby, Potter admitted to calling Fleer "troublesome"… from what we were warned of in this city, that could be a death sentence since she is an outsider and he was an 'exalted one'. Before speaking to the man in charge, I composed myself and put a subservient look on my face, "Excuse me, but my Master heard the voice of his troublesome charge."

 

I paused meaningfully, "He would like to deal with her personally."

 

The man narrowed his eyes, "He sent us to deal with her and she attacked several guards."

 

I let my eyes widen in a mockery of shock, "That is terrible news, He will want to punish her himself, will she be delivered to his suite?"

 

"He should have used the bell and requested it personally."

 

I nodded in understanding, "He has been away from civilization awhile and is used to using us to pass along orders, I shall remind him of the ease of service you have put at his disposal." I bowed and headed upstairs, thinking furiously, wondering if today was the day I'd be forced to kill the follower of the King in Yellow. I got back upstairs and informed him that he was to ring the bell to ask for Fleer's return for punishment. I kept my hand reassuringly on his back, ready to flick my Uru blade from its hidden sheathe and plunge it through his spine, should he betray us all.

 

A small tube descended from a slot in the ceiling after the bell was rang, taking sound from the room downstairs, "How may we help you, my lord?" came through the tube.

 

Potter cleared his throat, speaking hesitantly… I wish I could understand his babbling, but hadn't thought to cast a spell of comprehension. What came back as a reply was, "But you asked us to handle her…. Yes, sir. We can bring her up."

 

Several minutes passed and they again used the tube to speak, "Your troublesome pet refuses to disarm." Again Potter gurgled something out.

 

I loosened my sword in its sheathe, unsure what might happen next. Many minutes passed before there was a polite knock on the door. I motioned for people to kneel about Potter, letting him stand before us as Viktor got the door. In walked the Maitre D', followed by a shackled Fleer and at least a dozen armed guards. The maitre d' stopped before Potter and held out Fleer's axe, dropping it into my hand. I put the weapon behind me as a sign of a non-threatening attitude and he exchanged words with Potter before heading out, shoving Fleer against the ground into a kneeling position.

 

She growled an apology to Potter, though the word 'Master' sounded almost like bastard from her lips a sneer in her tone. I got up, grabbing her hair and whispered harshly to her sotto vocé, "Act repentant when you're being viewed or we'll have to fight them all…. Also, make sure to scream well."

 

I let the group of hybrids leave the room and got a whip from my back that I hadn't gotten around to getting rid of. I let it uncoil then snapped the tip close enough to Fleer to make her jump slightly and scream, letting her know the game.

 

It continued for several minutes, the whip flying and cracking against the air, her screams slowly becoming more pained and soon after we could hear footsteps retreating from the door. I kept up the act for a few more minutes until my arm burned with the exertion.

 

"Alright" I said, "We need to do our jobs here and get out, no time for delaying as this has gotten a lot more complicated. Potter" I pointed to him, "You have been requested to visit the church, do so. Laash, be something small and slimy… an octopus and accompany him. I will go investigate the archway, Fleer… you're too visible, I'll need you to stay here. Viktor, stay and guard her so she 'doesn't cause problems'… also you're her backup in case they decide to deal with her anyways."

 

We split up and I headed down the levy, the base of the archway had a quartet of guards at it. I explained to them the arch was the reason my Master had come to the city, he was busy with the church and asked me to sketch it for him. They didn't allow me closer, but said I could sketch it. I did so, once finished one of the guards looked around for anyone close enough to hear and asked me if I was with the 'troublesome human'. I admitted I was and the guard told me he had an offer for my Master. If she was brought to the East Gate of the Arena a half hour before dusk, there would be no hard feelings towards him for her transgressions. I informed them I would have to bring it before him to decide so they decided to bribe me, giving me a gold ring as a down payment with a promise of more gold if she was delivered. I allowed a false look of greed come over my face and promised she would be there for the festivities. Before I left, I saw the ships towing the iceberg finally passing under the arch. The impossibly large chunk of ice was dark at its core… there was something within it.

 

I returned and gave everyone the information I found. The sigils on the gate didn't translate directly into words, more they were representations of constellations and stars. Likely this is the largest permanent planar portal I would ever see. After I informed the others of the guards offer, Laash told us of the High Priests request to see Fleer in the Arena anyways. Potter was to attend the event with the High Priest.

 

This would prove to be interesting. I went with Fleer and Viktor, to 'ensure she wouldn't escape' and Laash travelled on Potter, once again a small octopus on his neck. We'd fight their beasts and see our way out of the city. Not the best of plans, but it'd have to do. Twenty guards came to escort Fleer, Viktor and I were taken through another door. She was led into the arena while the guard that had offered the bribe was forcibly taken with her for dishonoring the elder. I wasn't surprised that Viktor and I were pushed over the ledge into the Arena, I tumbled upon landing, tweaking my ankle only slightly with the impact. Viktor gracefully glided along the side of the wall, landing in a neat three-point stance.

 

"Show off…" I muttered.

 

The four of us looked around at the large Arena grounds, there was a small sailing vessel on one end, near us that we dashed to once they started flooding the arena. We clambered aboard, the water having gotten up to our knees by the time we got to the rope ladders.

 

Once the water was deep enough to buoy the ship off of the dirt, we could see the waters starting to teem with a few sharks and at least a hundred Sahaugin. Sahaugin are a fish-like species, in some ways similar to deep ones, but not rabid followers of Dagon. They're tribal and usually fairly simple, but hated land dwellers like us, swarming up the sides of the ship to attack. This was not their best plan and gave Fleer an avenue to vent her rage, her mighty axe alighting with hellfire cutting groups of them down with each swing. My own blade made swift work as I fought back to back with Viktor. The guard that was tossed in with us stayed in the water and I'm fairly sure that red patch on our port side used to be him.

 

The bodies piled up quickly, many of them slipping off the sides into the water. I lost track of the fishmen we slaughtered, but eventually their moral broke and they fled back to wherever they came from.

 

We were given a moment's rest before a horn blew with a deep resounding basso, large gates opened and a huge form surged through the water. It was a baby kraken. I say baby and you might think small, this is not so, when it's arms slapped down on either side of the boat, the boat rocked violently, throwing me over the side. I followed my body's momentum, grabbing onto a rising tentacle as it lifted out of the water, using the ship to hoist itself to the surface as it attacked.

We struck as one, hacking at the large beast, dodging its tentacles, preventing it from carrying it to its sharp beak or flinging us aside. Our attacks harassed and angered it, making it lash out at the ship, cracking it's keel in half, sending us flying. We fought for our lives, treading water or hanging onto the thing's flesh before Viktor was able to sink both blades deep within its eye, piercing it's brain. It spasmed once and sank slowly.

 

We pulled ourselves to the largest of the flotsam, getting out of the water and away from the still circling sharks. Surprisingly the crowd was excited by our victory, chanting something loudly in their tongue. The High Priest waved his hand and healing energies covered us, sealing our wounds. I could see his cruel smile even from this distance as he picked up Potter and threw him bodily from the balcony into the water with a loud call of, "Imposter! Now you shall feel the wrath of the mightiest of Dagon's children… BEHOLD!!"

 

He made a grandiose gesture, the gates once again surging open and a large ship sailed in slowly, dragging the iceberg we'd seen earlier. It released its tow line and made a wide turn, leaving the arena. Two large floating platforms were brought in for us. They were better than the broken pieces of ship, so we moved to them as we waited. Potter managed to join us as well, I could still understand the spells he cast to prepare himself for combat, a shielding spell and one for flight.

 

A loud crack rent the air, pieces of ice falling away from the iceberg, the large chains coming free. We didn't have long before whatever was contained within was loose. A series of huge cracks ran down the middle of the iceberg, splitting it as Potter took to the air. The iceberg shattered, I got hit with several smaller chunks of ice, avoiding the worst of the damage but Potter apparently got hit with a piece nearly his size, sending the flying mage hurtling into the waters below.

 

Two massive arms fell into the water, the ends resting on the floating platforms. How they kept afloat, I do not know as the arms were wide enough to ride two carriages abreast of each other on one. I leapt atop one, moving as far as I may before stabbing into the rubbery flesh to hold on. The massive elder kraken continued to break free of the ice, innumerable tentacles writhed and fell into the water around us, one of them striking me and knocking me supine. It grasped for me, but missed as I slid along the arm of the beast towards the body.

 

Fleer and Viktor were held by tentacles of their own and flung out to impact the wall of the arena. I could tell Laash was in the water as it frothed and roiled unnaturally, starting to seep up the sides of the walls, flushing those watching the fight into the water, save the High Priest on his tall balcony.

 

A sputtering Potter burst free of the water, cursing unintelligibly sending streaking lances of fire into the chest of the priest. I can remember only pieces of the fight, but I remember digging in to the flesh of the beast with my uru blade, hacking relentlessly as it, its ear-piercing shrieks of pain and rage making me all but deaf. I could see the blossoming flower of a fireball at the high priests' seat, followed shortly by arcane darts, pinning his body to the floor.

 

The kraken lost all sense, flying into a rage and sending a wall of water into the city, breaking through the outer walls with me still clinging on for dear life. I could see our drachman climb the wall of water and crest it, Bob apparently at the helm. I summoned the ship to me, the others grasping it's sides as it passed. I dove off of the kraken as the ship passed, landing hard on the deck. I could see the archway crackling and surging with energy… it was about to open.

 

Thinking quickly I gave the ship orders to hit flank speed, Fleer stood at the prow to try to make even a portion of the gate ring a softer metal while I used the blessings of Anubis to guide my arm, striking it as we passed with my uru blade, bracing myself on the ship with a belaying pin. The blow was powerful enough to rip my arm free from his socket, sending a white-hot pain coursing through me. I looked back at the gate, hoping to see some damage as we sailed past, my arm dangling uselessly, but slowly moving back into position, healing magic slowly coursing through me. There was a bright light and the air in the center of the ring swirled before the gateway opened. There was a roar of rushing water as all the water in the town, the inhabitants and many of the very buildings of the town were pulled into the vacuum of the gate.  Our own forward momentum slowed, but we continued pulling away as we watched Runeport ceased to be.

 

We healed ourselves and rested, Bob showed us the large chest that had been delivered… the payment for taking Fleer to the arena. The chest was full of golden statuettes, coins and jewelry. It took us some time to return to Edwin, bringing the ship to rest in the drowned yards. We gave Edwin the information he needed, Potter pleaded to be returned to normal.

 

Edwin agreed and gazed behind Potter, Potter turned, missing the sap Edwin pulled from his belt and slumped to the floor after a deft application of said sap to the rear of his skull. His body writhed and shrank, once again resuming his normal state.

 

Fleer put the shackles the deep one hybrids had originally intended for her onto Potter. They were magical in nature and pulled his wrists together, bound his bound and mouth, keeping him in a fetal, kneeling position. She took him outside, muttering something about how 'repentant' she was.

 

The next day we woke early, our wounds healed, Potter was hung from a tree, being spun round and round by an angry Fleer. She finally released him from his spinning imprisonment after Fleer spun him, pushing his spins faster with each letter in the word repentant. I'm fairly sure she kept misspelling it on purpose, forcing her to do it over and over. It took him minutes to get over his vertigo and memorize his spells. Part of me wanted to stop his torment, but his betrayal hit hard, even though we knew it could happen.

 

The plan was this, the location of one of the Eldritch Horrors was known, the circle of rocks in the bay of the drowned yards was a Way to their home plane. We didn't know if it was the one causing the black rain, but Edwin said its name was Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungerer. Once we prepared ourselves physically, and as best we could mentally, we swam out towards the ring of stones. Our first objective was the TimeKeeper, a being that apparently governed time in that realm. We were to kill it or somehow get it's Stop Watch, a device that could freeze time relative to the bearer for half a minute, allowing them to line up spells, move or do any non-directly offensive actions whilst they were apart from everything else. Edwin presented us with a smooth, metallic cylinder with settings and a button. He called it a D-Hopper and said it's charge was enough for three more uses. I had him show me the settings for our plane, just in case it slipped, then we swam out towards the underwater portal.

 

It didn't take long for the swirling vortex to drag us beneath the waters, depositing us in a dense forest. We could see other islands of land floating in the distance and above us. Everything looked alien and misshapen here, strange sounds came from afar. Ahead we could see a pathway arcing away from us towards a mountain. Having no other clues to go off of, we followed it. We walked for an indeterminate amount of time, coming to a large, angular archway over the path, beyond it stood a thin figure in immaculate dress, almost foppish really with a ruffled undershirt beneath its vest and waistcoat. It's head was skeletal and similar to a human's. It greeted us in a measured tone, "Welcome, you're a long way from home."

 

I nodded, not taking my eyes from it, "Are you the Timekeeper?" It acknowledged me, "What do you seek of me?"

 

I gazed solemnly at it, "We need your stop watch, it would be returned."

 

"That I cannot al… why do you need it?" it asked.

 

"You know of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungerer?" my hand did not stray far from the hilt of my blade.

 

It seemed to contemplate this, "If I were to hand it over to you, each of you would have to enter into a pact to return it to me upon the completion of this goal: The Destruction or Failure of Ulamog. Do you agree?"

 

Each of us in turn swore to return it, though I think Fleer went a bit above and beyond to swear to bring it even should I fall, I was fairly confident I would return alive.

 

The creature handed the silvery metallic stop watch to me, I hooked it into my belt and slipped the watch into an easily accessed pouch. It told us to continue on the path and after the third arch, we would see the horror for ourselves.

 

I'm unsure if we walked for hours, days or just minutes… time here was off, but we came to the third archway over the path, in the distance we could see a gigantic structure, our destination, though it seems to sway as if in a breeze. We drew closer to it and my heart froze like ice upon the realization that that was no structure, it was the most immense creature I had ever seen. My chest hurt with the understanding that I stood before Ulamog, its movement upon its colossal tentacles made the very ground shake. Nonetheless, I gave a prayer for our success to Anubis and I could hear others do the same with their deities before we charged in to meet our fate.

 

 

The battle was fierce, taking ages weaken the beast. When it's tower-sized fists came down at us, had we not been swift enough to dodge or at least just receive a glancing blow we'd have been done for. Potter was down in seconds, his magic all but useless against it, rebounding harmlessly from its skin. Only powerful weapons even stood a chance of harming it if they were not made of Uru or star metal. The Blade of Ashmouth and Fleer's own axe were enough to pierce it's hide and I had given Viktor my Uru blade so that he could assist. Laash and Bear Bear quickly found out even in their fiercest fighting forms that they could not injure the beast. Bear Bear ran, fleeing it's attacks and Laash stood in a huge reptilian form, taking advantage of its thick hide to allow her to cast healing magic on us.

 

Truth be told, I thought I would be the next to fall, I had injured it grievously and a powerful fist slammed down on me and around me, nearly crushing me before beginning a psychic assault. I could feel my grip on sanity waning, but remembered in time the stop watch, activating it and slipping out of its slack grasp between the ticks of time, healing everyone back up to renew our attacks once time caught back up to me. When everything started moving once more, I stood again in a phalanx formation with my allies, healing vigor bringing us back to top form, save the unconscious Potter lying too far to aid.

 

With a few final blows the creature slumped before starting to spasm violently, floating crystals in the area started arcing electricity between each other. We started running but could not flee far or fast enough before a powerful wave of energy hit us. I lost consciousness at that time, thankfully Viktor remained standing as had Fleer. The last of our magic was used in healing and the Timekeeper appeared before us, its palm extended expectantly.

 

I returned it's device thankfully and took the advice it gave about not staying. We gathered together, weary and sore but triumphant, and activated the D-Hopper. The feeling of using that device cannot adequately be described, and several of us ended up retching on Edwin's doorstep.

 

We gave our story to Edwin and slept. During the night, Potter thrashed and turned in a terrible nightmare, the brand on his shoulder of the Yellow King burst into flame, burning itself off of him and a thick, greasy yellow mist past out of his lips as he screamed. He calmed and fell asleep again almost instantly, but did not seem harmed. The hold of the Yellow King no longer seemed to hold sway over him so I began instructing him in a more proper religion.

 

We were triumphant that day, yes, but we are all different for it. I can feel something within me. A power. I hope that I will use it for good, but who can say with the seductive allure of power.

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Addison's Journal X
The Breaking of the Hunt

~Date~

 

It has taken me some time to figure out how to pen the last few days of my journey. I am still conflicted with the events that transpired, as well as confused by them.

 

From the Abyssal Gate of Ashmouth we headed north along the Thulwall Mountains, skirting a huge morass. Everyone was feeling irritable and Potter was drawn, oddly towards the bog. I'd told him if he wanted to go, he may, but we were continuing to the north. Fleer got an odd look in her eye and beckoned him to the driver's bench with her. She offered to help him, picking up the petite gnome and flinging him out towards the marsh. I think he attempted to cast a spell of flight, but his aerial journey ended all too abruptly on the embankment by the road, where he tumbled down into the bog. Fleer pulled up the horses, stopping and laughing whilst I hopped quickly off the carriage to help him, as he landed head first and was sinking slowly. I tried helping pull him out, but his struggles caused him to sink a bit more. I shouted for help and everyone pitched in, eventually pulling him free before he suffocated to death.

 

We rode on after that in silence. Many miles later, the weather turned… not just cold, but achingly so. Everything about the land was coated with a thick layers of a magical, cursed ice. It would not melt by fires normal or arcane. We were nearing Stromgald keep, fortress of the rebellion that threw off the yolk of Imperial rule many years ago. It is said the ice came when Haakon, the rebellion's leader and hero, rode out of the keep to launch an assault on the capitol of the Innistradish Imperium. The air got so chill that even our cold weather garb was not protecting us from its bone-chilling touch. The others came up with an idea to protect the majority of the group using the carriage's extradimensional trunk, in the rear of the coach. We set up a system to swap people out at pre-determined intervals to prevent hypoxia and to allow others to get out of the cursed cold. Only Fleer, Seraphim stayed out entirely. Fleer was determined to guide the horses to Stromgald before night fell, Seraphim seemed unaffected by the chill, likely due to her heritage and I, well I've been told I am stubborn.

 

As we rode, Fleer noticed the horses had changed, they seemed bigger and their hooves glowed with a lambent flame. We stopped to investigate and determined they had not been changed into Nightmares, but were apparently now Ashmouth Stallions. A hearty breed that was very similar to nightmares, but not inherently evil. This is likely a side effect of slaying the Demon of Ashmouth. With some experimentation, we discovered they could fly… the carriage, however, could not.

 

It was dusk before we reached the rimed fortress of Stromgald. We sat before the large, raised drawbridge of the fortress, Fleer walking the horses to keep their hooves alight so they would not freeze and yelled up at the battlements, requesting entrance. Several long minutes passed before loud cracks rent the air, an almost metallic echo as long frosted over chains and wood began to move, the frozen and petrified wood of the drawbridge lowering slowly. We entered into the courtyard, a black Pegasus circled above, whirling in the chill air before landing gracefully before us. It was Haakon, he who broke the Imperium's back in Innistrad. I knew what he… it was, but it offered us hospitality, provided we accepted and accepted our responsibilities required therein. They would give us food and shelter, offer us neither harm nor hurt as long as we offered no ill intent as well. It rankled against me, but we were freezing and likely outnumbered by the undead more than I'd like to imagine. I gave my word I would not break hospitality, provided me and mine were unharmed both physically and spiritually.

 

He treated us to dinner in a frozen dining hall, long unused, but they had torches and a grand fire going, bringing the temperature up to merely intolerable. Foodstuffs were thawed and cooked for us, their kitchen in use for the first time since they rose up in rebellion. We ate in nearly complete silence, Fleer apologizing for my lack of manners. I thought I was quite well behaved in the presence of abomination. I am a man of my word and was polite, if not the most pleasant of tone. It was a creature of its word as well, we left early the next morning. Fleer was quiet the next few days, it took us three to get to the next town out of the frozen land. Potter was delirious with a lack of sleep by then, having had nightly nightmares, writhing in his sleep, clutching his arm as if it was possessed. She had me check him after he finally passed out during the day from sheer exhaustion and I set up a devil's trap around him and performed an exorcism. While I prepared, Seraphim gazed upon him, seeing a faint aura of evil about him, troubling to say the least. The exorcism passed with no signs of any change in him, the evil taint lingered on.

 

Seraphim offered to perform a rite that would endanger her existence to try, but might clear the evil from the gnome. Fleer didn't think it would work and was not worth the huge risk. An argument broke out and the passionate warrior stomped out of the tavern we'd stopped at, into the night. Marcus left as well, angered by what transpired and mentioned moving on to do what he'd really come to do, build an order of holy guns, like himself, to hold back the night.

 

When Potter awoke, Seraphim asked him if she could make the attempt, and with some light coercion, he agreed readily enough. We left to the outskirts of town and I set up a temporary shelter for her ritual. She drew a religious circle around the three of us. I held his hand and vowed if he were injured, I would be there to heal him, Seraphim promised all damage inflicted on him would make its way to her instead. She prayed to her deity, Avecyn, Champion against the Pit and used the half-headed spear blade of the Spear of Avecyn she owned and sliced the Mark of The King in Yellow (I won't even mention his name in script) off of Potter's shoulder and indeed, it was her who bled, holy power infusing them both. There was a concussive wave of force and all of the Avecynians were left powerless. Seraphim got to her feet, apologizing for the attempt and left. Potter was unchanged, but unhurt. I think Seraphim's Faith might have suffered somewhat. Later that day she purchased a horse and rode back towards Thraben for answers from Father Matthias, leaving us a fractured band of hunters. The power of the remaining Avecynian, Viktor remains gone, we shall see if it returns.

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1920s and back home again

Waking up wrapped in a white coat and unable to move, Lash can feel herself going into a mild panic attack.  Something about this is wrong… being restricted is not normal… Looking around the white room, she can't get over how sterile and void of life the room is… unfamiliar.  Two large men enter the room calling her "Elizabeth" and pointly asking her if the teddy bear talked in the middle of the night.  Lash hadn't noticed the black bear when she first woke up.  Now a wave of sadness over the stillness of the bear renders her mute and staring at the men as they come to move her off of the bed.  a comment about me too short for a 13 years old and not developed enough makes her want to sscratch at the man's face but she still can't move her arms.  they escort her down a hallway and a stairway to a large recreation room.  More white walls, tables and chairs fill the room.  even bookshelves with some books and simple puzzles.  the lack of color and life grate on her nerves, the need to be outside is almost overwelming.  Moving closer to the windows, she watches as the guards bring in an older looking short man who is arguing and fighting with the guards about being here.  there is something about the old man but she can't figure it out.  over time, the guards bring in 3 tall men and 2 females.  Lash watches out the dark window knowing she really belongs out in the storm.  her eyes follow the movement of a house cat under some trees and she has the desire to minic the cat movements.  One of the guards pulls her away from the window and remove the restaining jacket, pushing her towards a table with a puzzle on it.  One of the new visitors approaches her.  something is familiar… like the impression she got looking at the older man.  He is now having a total screaming fit as the guards remove him back to his room.  She comes and sit with me at the table.  I pick a point on the wall just above her shoulder to stare at as she tries to figure out why I look familiar to her too.  She picks me and we dance around the table for a few minutes.  the return of th guard sho escorted the old man out returns and she puts me down… "Watch this!"  she whispers in my ear.  I watch her charge at the guards.  they pull out sticks that shock her but she keeps fighting him… One of the younger guys, wearing a cowboy hat picks up a chair and swings.  I think he meant to hit the guards but missed…. the guards remove her unconscious body and 2 more guards come in.  Cowboy was in the process of picking up another chair but sat down on it and proclaimed he should get paid for doing their job for them.  The tall one who speaks with an accents dances in circles every time the guards look his direction but he stops and stares at them when they turn away.  The other female in the room moves closer to him and they are trying to have a conversation when the annoyed guards escort the cowboy out of the room to talk to the doctor.  the third man sits quietly at the table and stares around the room.  These companions are familiar to her but she can't figure where she would know them from.  The guards come back and take the third man with the cowboy following them.   few minutes later they also come to escort the lady away.  Lash is left alone with the Russian but they don't really interact.  Both watching the door and the guards.  A loud thud noise in the hallway pulls Lash and the Russian… Viktor to the hallway.  Although the 2 guards are standing in the hallway and Marcus…. and …. Addison are laying on the floor, Lash can see that they had switched places and truly the guards are out cold.  She follows Marcus and Addison back to the room Marcus was not happy to be at.  Viktor is walking besides her too when they enter another room to see Sarah… no, Seraphim hit the doctor in the back of his head with one of the shocking sticks.  she changes into the doctor's clothes and Viktor dresses as one of the unconscious guards in the room.  As small as Lash is, she knows that she needs to stay looking like a patient for now.    With the help of a nurse they found in the laundry room being involved with another guard, they are able to get more information leading to the secret lab in the basement.  On the way to the basement they pass more guards.  Viktor, Marcus and Addison manage to shock the guards but Seraphim hit the nurse by accident.   Once they locate the basement, Seraphim gives the nurse some form of medicine to put her to sleep and heal.  thirteen locks,,, thirteen floors, thirteen rooms… what is with the number thirteen in this place????  Lash stays by the lab door while the others find and rescue the rest of their companions…. sometimes being a gnome is a severe disadvantage… but not all the time.   it takes a few minutes to figure out the thirteen locks but having to use all thirteen sets of keys they can finally get into the lab.  a weird machine is in the middle of the room pointing to the wall with a scene of a church.  Potter is excited to see the machine but we can't get it to work at first… finding the crystals in a drawer, he works to figure out the right combination while we look around the room.  I just want to get home and away from this sterile white environment.  A shout from Potter and we watch as he jumps through the church scene.  We don't see him emerge on the other side but we don't have time to figure it out.  Addison surprises Lash by picking her up and tossing her at the scene only seconds after Potter.  Landing on Potter she can barely catch her breath before Viktor lands on top of them too.  He picks both of them up and shoves them to one side to make room for the others to come thru.   Marcus and Seraphim push Bob and Varadiel thru with them but the portal seems to be closing behind.  Addison and Fleer barely make it thru.  Addison has the quick thought to shoot his arrow at the machine and pull it thru the portal so it is with us now.   It's cold and damp but we are home in our own world… Lash seeks out the horses and Bear Bear Bear to make sure they are ok.  She hugs Bear Bear Bear to make sure he is warm and alive.  The thought of annoyance for being woken up just makes her smile and she feeds him some treats from her bag.  it's good to be back

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Addison's Journal IX
Are we doing the right thing?

~Date~

 

The days and nights here in the Thulwall mountains are cold. We had a difficult time getting to this point, had a hard-won victory, but it doesn't sit well with me.

 

We'd prepared for the journey to assist Edwin Lillibridge, the investigator up north, near Thul. We'd perused the maps and found by heading east, first, through Ashmouth, we'd shave nearly a week off of our trip. Ironically, a vision from Anubis bade me go there, to "Quench the Blade of Ashmouth" there. During our trip we could see a wall of black rain, cutting a clear line of demarcation separating the lands we'd cleansed of the foul rain and the next. We stopped the carriage and took steps to protect the animals to continue the journey. There was a village, Lamb-hold, barely visible in the distance through the rain. From what I've heard in Thraben, it was under constant raids by lycanthropes after they burned a lot of the forest around them to make more room for livestock and crops. A quintet of guards with an off mixture of bow and crossbow met us before we entered town. They asked our intent and how long we intended to stay, hinting that they didn't want us here for their hunt festival. We stayed the night at their small inn, I noted they were lacking the majority of the protections put in place to protect against lycanthropes, except for a few small sprigs of wolfsbane here and there, but far less than I'd expect for a town under constant attack. One of the carriage's lanterns, when lit, could discern a thing's true form, such as a lycanthrope, for a limited amount of time. I'd contemplated it's use for several minutes before discarding the thought. Fleer busied herself seeing to the protection of the horses with her salt and silver line. After a filling meal I turned in. My slumber seemed short before I was awoke by Fleer crying for me. I sat up, swung my legs off my bed and moved slowly to see what was going on. Apparently during the night, Potter had gone down to the common room and struck up a conversation, or tried to, with a local. Naturally neither spoke a common language. Fleer tried to speak with the drunkard and was now on the verge of being burned as a witch for admitting to having divine power and mentioning the Mark of Marduk. Apparently the teachings of Avacyn's previous life under Marduk is not taught here. I took it upon myself after finding out he was just giving general, easy to know advice about staying sage, to talk him in circles until he forgot completely about Fleer.

 

I went back to bed, had nearly passed out before I heard her call for me once more. Growling, I stalked back downstairs to answer a few more questions. Even more exhausted, I retired to my bed, sipping at my flask as I thought about the vision that Anubis had given me that was guiding me on this long journey. I still felt no closer to my real goal, saving my sister Isabel. I stopped at that thought, I hadn't had the nightmares about her in about a week… they'd been a nightly occurrence for years. I hoped that that didn't signal she was no more. I didn't think it meant that, but the thought troubled me. I put the flask away, barely having touched it and closed my eyes until the rays of morning light filtered in through the crooked slats of the shutters, waking me.

 

Some of the group wanted to stay and investigate the townsfolk, mistrusting their lack of protections, but the urgency of Edwin's letter bade us hurry. We travelled on several more days, we encountered Hollowhenge, 'The Lost Capitol', the former seat of the Empire within Innistrad before the Imperium was driven out many, many years ago. It's protective defenses granted by Avacyn had failed during an attack and the force, the sheer arcane power of the attack was visible as just the outer block or so of the city remained, the inner portion of the city was a deep, charred crater. We had already travelled into the ruins before noticing the crater, a quick decision was made to hurry through instead of backing out and skirting the edge. Manifested haunts and ghosts could be seen wandering the waste, as well as skeletons standing around mindlessly, we spurred the horses into a gallop, I stood atop the carriage, eyes peeled for danger. Up ahead two groups of maddened wargs appeared, in a position that could not have been mindlessly set, I glanced behind us, two more sets were behind us, sixteen of the large, wolf-like creatures came at us in an ambush. Further ahead, I saw a large, wolvish form, peering at us from behind a partial wall of rubble. He seemed of secondary importance as I readied the Sword of Ashmouth in one hand, crossbow held in a low ready stance in the other. The wargs swarmed us, clambering onto the top of the carriage with myself, Seraphim, Potter and a quickly scrambling Laash. Fleer had stopped the carriage and dismounted to protect the horses on the left, Bear Bear moved to protect their right flank. The fight was quick, Potter blew apart a tight formation of Wargs with a massive fireball behind us, though they survived to attack Viktor, who had ridden on our flank, dragging him from his horse. It was their mistake, his swords flashing this way and that, preventing them from gaining advantage and quickly cutting them down. Seraphim and myself kept the majority of the wargs on the carriage at bay, though the last two of them disappeared with a high, piercing squeal of pain, blood spraying from their nether regions, Marcus firing pistols from inside the carriage. Fleer finished off her wargs and moved to assist the beleaguered bear. When there was just a single warg left, fighting bear and Fleer, I had spoken the words to guide my bolt, turning and quickly firing it at the lycanthrope watching the fight. It cast a quick arcane spell, I recognized the abjuration against projectiles and tried dodging myself, my own bolt grazing high upon my cheek, drawing a line of blood. Fleer and I ran ahead to where it had crouched, but it had used a circle of magic to escape, a Dimension Door and could be anywhere within the city.

 

We left that accursed town, vowing to return to cleanse it after our business was finished in Thul. An argument about cleansing that crater now broke out, I had to be the voice of reason, informing them we need some extra components for the ritual and we had no idea how long the aftermath of the ritual would last. The last time we performed it, we were transported to another world and nearly locked away as madmen permanently.

 

We continued on to what would be our most dangerous encounter to date. A demonlord, The Demon of Ashmouth, guarded a physical gate to the Abyss. He had to be stopped to fully activate the non-descript sword I'd received from the Fae. We prepared, stalking towards him and the sickening tear in the air. It snarled and belched out a cloud of smoke, slowing us a bit, but Laash and Potter staggered and started coughing uncontrollably as he started running towards it. I enacted my judgment of Anubis upon it, minor scratches healing over instantaneously. Marcus fired his longrifle at it, drilling a hole through its torso as the rest of us charged the thing. Fleer reached it first, her axe driving into its body with hellish fury of its own, carving its torso nearly in half. Our steps faltered as it fell, but barely a second later it reformed in a rising swirl of smoke, looking completely healed… and perhaps a bit more powerful looking.

 

We renewed our attacks, Marcus sprinting in, his rifle falling back onto its sling, he tried sliding, unnoticed, past the demon, but got helped along with a wicked stroke of its weapon. As he skidded along the ground, he drew the gleaming, double-barreled weapon given to him by the smiths, loaded with its holy ammunition, a mixture of White oak, Holy Water, Garlic, Silver shavings and clove leaves, proof against most denizens of evil. He aimed up at the back of the demon, a white lance of sound and power erupting from the twin muzzles, striking the demon just below its wings, piercing completely through it. Fleer's axehead erupted through into the hole, the wings and upper torso falling free.

 

It reformed again, a bolt of dread energy striking Potter, who had cast a spell of flight upon himself and knocked the gnome to the ground, nearly dead. The wizard picked himself up and ran off, then demon turning his attention back to Fleer, Viktor and myself, the dread bolts striking at Laash as she had her Bear flank him with Marcus.

 

Anubis' words came back to me as I gazed upon this more powerful demon, I had to quench the blade in Ashmouth. This, the demon of ashmouth… it's blows had bloodied us, waves of fire sweeping forth from its weapon. I held a defensive stance, awaiting an opening. My vision blurred, my healing judgment not working fast enough in the hellish flames when he fell once more, I pounced upon it's body, sinking the blade into its heart before drawing it free and striking its head from its neck. This time, it lay still and did not reform.

 

We cut apart it's body, leaving little for the carrion feeders and left as the portal started to pulse with power.

 

Now we are here on the road once more, traveling in the foothills of the Thulwall Mountains, our victory feeling strangely hollow.

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Addison's Journal VIII
I am NOT insane!

~Date~

Woke up in that filth-encrusted rat hole… on the whole, that's a good thing, didn't get eaten by rats. This place still reeks. We spent the next hour clearing up the different chambers off this main one. Founds a few trinkets, handed the greedy wizard a large bird skull to appease his want for things, he hobbled around with it cackling, mucking through… what is best described as goo, to not disgust the readers. Laash found a small tunnel leading out, not needing to go back through the sewers, but it needed a switch held down to keep it open large enough to walk through. Some time walking through the tunnel later, I heard a click, yelled at my companions to run and made swift speed to the exit. Fleer, taking up rearguard position was not quite as lucky as the rest of us, the tunnel contracting about her as we dived outside, trapping her legs and feet in the tunnel. Laash summoned up a small earth elemental and bade it press the stone once more, the small, rocky thing melded into the earth and many minutes passed before the hole widened once more. I pulled Fleer free and we healed her so she could walk once more. She grabbed the still mucky Gnome and dipped him into a black pool of water from the rain… he sank in further than he should. Curious, I pushed her arm further, completely dipping him, then let go. She grinned, brought him up sputtering, then dipped him again, as he protested, trying to clean him off, something grabbed them and pulled them in. Cursing, I jumped in after them… seeing a field of stars, standing on a floating platform. I recognized… No! I closed my eyes, hoisting them up and quickly retreating myself.

We shook ourselves, standing once more in the mortal realm and I felt something… crawling on me. I looked down, my clothes had grown eyes, but thankfully the rest of my gear was intact. I stripped with the speed of a lad being taken to his first den of pleasure on someone else's coin. Fleer did the same, but Potter's gear seemed fine. Fleer burned her clothing and I killed mine with a bottle of holy water dumped onto it as it tried to crawl away. By the nine hells, I hate this cursed rain. We dressed with thankfully spared gear in out bags, though one of her bags turned into a bag of devouring and thankfully spilled its contents onto the ground. I took the bag, good for disposing of things.

With the day still early, we went back to the Cathedral's entrance and investigated the rest of the ruins, gathering material, finding the ritual required to cleanse the place. Furthest into the Cathedral was a reliquary with sarcophagi and one large one in the middle.

Potter, the Gnomish mage, follower of The King in Yellow, made a bee-line for the central sarcophagus, Fleer hot on his heels, trying to stop him from opening it. I gave chase, but the mad wizard was wiry and slipped out of our grasp. He put both hands on the lid and shoved, there was a 'click' and two spiked sprang out, impaling his hands. The blood started leaking down his arms, then reversed and drew back up into the spikes. I drew my sword and grasped a dagger, thinking a vampire had been sealed in the coffin.

I was mistaken, the lid shattered and a black, smoky form rose and coalesced into the horned, winged form of a demon. Laash and Potter fled in abject terror. It glanced at Fleer and her eyes glazed over, sheathing her weapons and walked out of the room, leaving me alone with it. I could flee, but then it would be loose.

I spoke a fervent prayer to Anubis, allowing my thoughts to mingle with its, just enough to gain an insight to what it might do and took a defensive stance, crying out, "Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas,"

It shrieked in fury and I could feel it's will pounding against mine, yet I stood firm, my voice rising in ferver, "Omnis incursio infernalis adversarii, omnis legio, omnis congregatio et secta diabolica"

Again, I could feel it's vile will pressing against mine, I staggered, my knee dipping, but stood once more, nearly shouting, "Ergo, draco maledicte et omnis legio diabolica, adjuramus te, cessa decipere humanas creaturas, eisque æternæ perditionìs venenum propinare!"

It turned to smoke, trying to flow into my mouth, to subsume me, but Anubis' will kept me from harm, winds rising around us in the chamber, forcing me to shout to be heard, "Vade, satana, inventor et magister omnis fallaciæ, hostis humanæ salutis, Humiliare sub potenti manu Dei, contremisce et effuge, invocato a nobis sancto et terribili Nomini"

Incensed with its attacks being futile, it tried goring me with its horn and claws, it's horn striking me a glancing blow, the wound sealing nearly as quickly from the might of Anubis' judgement. I raised my voice in exultation, shouting the end of the ritual, "quem inferi tremunt Ab insidiis diaboli, libera nos, Domine!"

There was a wave of power and the demon's body collapsed in on itself, forcing it back to smoke before shooting away, banished from the Prime Material plane.

I sank to one knee, exhausted for the moment, faintly hearing the clanking of a swiftly approaching Fleer. She entered and helped me up, then we proceeded the destroy the summoning circle that had been placed in the room, sprinkled holy water and ensured the rest of the sarcophagi were empty and gathered the last materials needed for the cleansing ritual.

I could tell the entire time she was fuming, fuming at the situation being forced upon us by the whims of the mad mage. I call him thusly, because I am sure he is. She stalked into the main chamber with me, saw him with his pony, Laash had since rejoined us, and turned her axe, striking the flat of it swiftly against his skull, knocking him out cold in one hit. We then set about creating a ritual circle and making preparations to cleanse the Cathedral. Potter awoke and got a stern dressing down by Fleer and he promised to be more of a team player from now on.

We spoke the words of the ritual, having lit the candles and following the guidance given to us. Dark Energies from around the Cathedral gathered over the bowl with the burning mixture of holy oil, holy water and the ashes of a holy man. It gathered into a dark ball of energy then was pierced by a bright shaft of sunlight coming from above, we could feel the hum of power as the ball was destroyed by the light that left no room for darkness… then suddenly, we were all in darkness.

I felt… confused and strange. My mouth was dry, I awoke and opened my eyes to harsh, cold light, strapped down to a bed, wearing a coat with my arms trussed around me and tied behind my back. Two men with no obvious sense of humor got me up and told me to behave today. I decided to play along and say I would, that I felt better and would "behave" They led me out to an enclosed yard and removed the jacket. I saw others milling around, some seemed familiar, somehow. Especially the… cowboy? I shook my head, the men in the white uniforms were saying something about medication, but I paid them little mind as a small, insane old man was dragged, still in his straight jacket, back into the ward to be restrained. During this distraction, an angry woman bolted towards the gate, right at two men… orderlies, they were called. She attacked them, but they drew out rods with electricity crackling along their length, striking her. The cowboy went to help, but missed, knocking her out. He grabbed another chair, but two more orderlies came over, so he sat down, "Well" he said, "I guess I won't be needing this one too. Don't worry guys, job's done, she's out." There was a smug tone to his voice as he covered his mistake coolly.

I watched as she was dragged back to the sleeping ward as well. After a few minutes, two orderlies came for the cowboy… Marcus? He was gone for about fifteen minutes, if not a little more. Time felt off here. They brought him back and asked for me, Marcus mentioned dipping a chair into cold water. Didn't sound pleasant so I told them it was not necessary, I felt fine. They insisted, fingering their rods. I decided it was best to go along with it for now and was brought into the Head Doctor's office, a Dr. T Elliot. Marcus followed along because they said to come along and weren't terribly specific about it just being me. That and he's kind of sneaky. I sat at the doctor's desk who proceeded to ask about my family, slain by vampires. I told him I didn't want to discuss them. He asked again about vampires, so I decided to humor him, telling him about the scourge of our world, the undead. We spoke at length, him telling me they didn't exist and he did not believe in them. I told him that was fine, they believed in him just fine. He had the two orderlies escort me and Marcus back down the long corridor. They fetched another woman, this one not screaming and attacking people and took her to the doctor. We followed along with them, but were turned away by the doctor and escorted back down the corridor.

Marcus hooked their arms, talking amicably when I turned suddenly, pounding one of their heads against the corridor wall, leaving a smear of blood as he fell limply to the floor. Marcus turned, seemingly to smash me against the wall, the other guard's shock rod hitting him in the back, he collapsed limply, feigning unconsciousness. I beat him to the other guard's rod, however, sending it arcing through the air, knocking the last guard standing senseless. I quickly stripped and dressed in the ill-fitting orderlies clothes, giving him mine and hooked the rod to my new belt. We thought about going to the sleeping ward to strap them down, but decided it was too far, we were on the thirteenth floor. Oddly, their keychain also held thirteen keys, and each floor of the sleeping ward held thirteen cells. We deposited the two into the icebath room, one had died from his head injury, the other we strapped to a chair so he couldn't go free. We went to go get the woman they had taken in to see the doctor. She was covered in the blood of the two orderlies and was changing into the doctor's less bloody clothes, the shockrod of one of the orderlies sticking out of the base of his skull. She appears to have licked some of the blood clean. We got her cleaned up in the icebath room and found in the doctor's office an map of the asylum. There we thirteen staff on-hand for thirteen hour shifts, thirteen wards, thirteen cells per ward, thirteen windows, etc…

I concentrated on clearing the haze and remembered most of who, what we are. This was not our world. I made a plan to escape and decided we needed to take out the rest of the staff, either knock them out or kill them and take their weapons and keys. According to the map, the head orderly's office was right around the corner. We went in, in our orderly garb, her in the doctor's coat, confusion crossed his face and we struck before he could grab his baton. We took his keys and locked away the large lever marked "Lock Down" so others could not access it. Sarah, or Seraphim… it was still a bit fuzzy, handed me a paper detailing a planar stenograph, a machine that could rip tears between planes, likely how we ended up here. We needed a live staff member. We also needed the rest of our group. In the yard we picked up Viktor and Laash, telling them what we knew and where we needed to go.

We walked confidently to the laundry room, between the offices and the wards and found another orderly and a nurse busy… interacting with each other is a non-sanitary fashion on the folding table. I jammed the rod against his bare side, stunning him and making him fall to the floor. Some of the electricity bled through him into her, giving her quite a jolt.

I stopped the others from hitting her and demanded to know where the Stenograph was. She wailed for mercy and said she's never seen it before, but the doctor had a hidden lab in the basement. I ordered her to bring us to it, threateningly. Marcus jabbed the unconscious man with his rod again, to punctuate the threat, accidentally electrocuting him to death.

She cried but promised to show us the way if we would be merciful. I gave her my word and let her dress while we did the same in clean orderly clothes. She led us down, stopping us from stumbling into a passing patrol of orderlies, we knocked them out as well, Sera missed one of the orderlies, striking the nurse a glancing blow instead, giving her a severe electrical burn. I stepped between them and offered her some of the morphine we'd taken from her pockets AFTER she took us to the chamber. That left the number of staff, besides her being just three more on hand. She took us to a large door locked with, you guessed it, thirteen locks.

Now that we knew where it was, we gave her the morphine, leaving her to sleep away her injuries and left to get the other keys and the rest of the party. We collected Bob then went to get Fleer. Two orderlies stood guarding her chamber with her raving and yelling in counterpoint to Erick "Potter" up a few levels. We distracted the two guards, telling them Dr. Elliot needed them, they didn't really buy into it, but it allowed us to get close and shock them into unconsciousness. Marcus entered the room first, saying, "First off, I would like to apologize about the chair, the orderly ducked." His hands were up in a non-threatening manner, while she growled, then turned icily pleasant, "Oh, we're fine, everything is peachy between us. I'm not mad." He then told her she could take a chair to him, but she declined as long as he set her free, which he hurriedly complied with.

Next we went to get Potter, his room having just one guard posted outside, who was yelling for him to shut up. I asked the orderly if he'd like for me to keep watching while he shut him up. He grinned and unlocked the cell, heading it. The idiot. I clocked him into a nice little nap and took his keys as well. Looking around the madman's room, there were symbols and formulae all over it, not an inch was uncovered and he kept talking to his hand, shouting that it spoke to him, begging him to take it home. Reluctantly we took him, knowing his understanding of the void between worlds would make him invaluable to getting home. Lastly we got Varadiel, he was attached to some form of wheeled conveyance, holding him upright, his mouth muzzled and bound in such a way he could not move a muscle. I told him we were getting out and released him, then led everyone back to the chamber. It took a few minutes to decipher how to unlock the door, but we got in.

Inside we charts, books, crystals and the Planar Stenograph, projecting a picture of a ruined Cathedral on the wall. I pressed my hand against the image, but felt just wall. It was not operating properly. We pored over Dr. Elliot's notes and discovered it needed a crystal, tuned to the right planar attitude of our world. We picked a few hopeful candidates out and put one in. Potter jumped through immediately, disappearing from view. I picked up Laash and tossed her through as well, followed by Viktor. Bob, Marcus, Seraphim, Varadiel all made it through as well. Fleer bounced off the wall four times, so I turned her around, distracting her and pushed her against the wall… then I tried pressing against it. It was just a wall with a projection, the crystal had burnt out. I cursed and tried another we had selected, pocketing the rest. I wrapped my arms around Fleer and jumped through, we made it that time, falling in a heap, still in the orderly outfits, our gear laying where we had stood, nearby. I quickly ran to mine, grabbing my crossbow and a barbed shaft, spinning and hooking it into the Stenograph and pulled it through to our realm, where it opened a second portal. I hastily pulled the crystal and both portals closed.

We dressed and headed back to Thraben, weary and ready to sleep. Upon entering the Bottle and Blade, I noted blood outside my room, more on the knob. It was unlocked and the dead body of a Raven Messenger was slumped in my chair, its satchel clutched protective to its chest. I checked the satchel and within were multiple coins and two scrolls. I undid the wax seal of the first, finding something Potter should never see, rolling it back up as others entered the room. Thankfully he had gone straight to bed. The other was a plea for help from an Edwin Lillibridge. It said he was hiding near Thul Village, to the north and gave a complex system to get ahold of him. I think we'll need the knowledge he claims to have, yet I also need to activate the Sword of Ashmouth. I consulted our maps, the trip straight to Thul would take a month due to terrain, yet diverting to Ashmouth, then up to Thul would shave nearly a week of time. I decided we would activate the sword, then help this Edwin Lillibridge. It would take a few days to get ready, Fleer wanted something to help fortify her mental defenses. I gave her some ideas and she went to see the smiths, several of us accompanying her.

I left to check with the witch to the south, for ideas on where to get demon wings to finish the armor the smiths wanted to forge for me, she mentioned the demon we slew to the south east, and others nearby. I thanked her and gave her an orderly's smock for her troubles. By the time I had returned, a drunken Fleer, Laash and less drunk Marcus were just returning from the Boar's head Inn, complaining about their lack of manners. Shrugging it off, I prayed to Anubis and went to sleep.

The next day came all too soon, an excited, frightened Laash and Fleer came to me, telling Marcus and I about Vampires in the Boar's Head Inn, the description fit. I calmed them, while Marcus went upstairs… to get Viktor, I think, who was working on translating some of the pages we had recovered, one of them describing the Summoning of He-Who-Shall Not-Be-Named. I took the ladies to Father Matthias, asking his blessing in investigating the issue. Marcus came with us, his order not being one to detect the denizens of evil and requested a scroll to assist him in the matter.

Laash turned into a small rat when we arrived and squeezed under the door, returning to her own form to unbar the door and open it. It was dark as a crypt within, the curtains thick and seamless, the shutters closed as well, the only light being the light spilling from the doorway. I peered inside and spotted half a dozen Strigoi hanging from the rafters, still slumbering. Odd that they hadn't spilled the entire town's blood yet, something more powerful must be controlling them. I handed out Heartseeking Bolts, loading us all up and each of us taking aim at a different Strigoi. I gave a quiet countdown and we loosed as one, four of the beasts falling as the stakes entered their hearts. We beheaded them immediately, one dropped from the ceiling towards me and recoiled at the Sunlight and fled towards the office, where the trapdoor to the coffins were. The other hit the light and tumbled, scrambling off  to the side, knocking over tables as it fled. Fleer as Laash gave chase to the one going towards the cellar, Marcus, Viktor and Potter hurriedly opening curtains and shutters as they followed. I stalked the one who cowered to the side, it shrieked in defiance, nearly deafening me before I cut it down with my blade blazing with the power of the sun, beheading it.

A moment later another shriek was heard in the back, then Laash fled the room, tumbling over tables in her haste to get away. We entered, cutting down that Strigoi as well, Fleer's body lay on the floor in a pool of her own blood, her throat torn out. Laash, understandably, wanted to leave, but we could not delay. With the sounds of combat, the ones below would be waking soon and we could not let them flee. I tore open the cellar door and dropped down, illuminating much of the room and opened the sarcophagus next to me, staking the vampire within before noticing an ancient sitting upon a throne at the edge of my light. It inclined it's head towards me and gave a prim theater clap. I kept my eyes on it as I cut the vampire's head off, tossing it aside.

"Shall we continue, or would you prefer to deal with us now?" I challenged it. It merely gestured for us to continue, so we did, methodically ending the life of all 18 vampires below the establishment.

"Why?" Marcus said, "Why allow us to slay your brethren?"

"They were foolish and deserving of the death they have now met." it smiled, no warmth reaching its eyes, "I heard you hear last night, did you drink the red wine? They were mixing blood with it, you see"

"No," Marcus said, gripping his gun "I drank the Elven wine."

"Good choice. We need not fight this day, if you allow, I shall leave and find another group to observe."

I broke into the conversation, "Observe? What do you mean by that?"

"Like I observed this coven of young vampires, I shall go to another city to watch theirs… and if they are so foolish as well, perhaps I will make them stand out for another group of hunters to find them and deal with them" it paused, "Now, I know you two simply could not stand for letting me go, so I will help you with that." he made a small gesture, dragging two fingers downwards in the air. As he did so, both Viktor and Marcus fell into a deep slumber that I was unable to wake them from.

At that moment, we could hear pounding upstairs, "CITY WATCH!"

I replied, not taking my eyes off the thing, "VAMPIRES, BEST STAY OUT! STILL DEALING WITH AN ANCIENT."

"I see that, we'll just be going now" was the reply, then nothing. They obviously left in a hurry.

Laash glanced at me nervously, it being just the two of us in here with it. I kept my defensive stance, warring with myself over the futility of a fight with a being this old just yet. "It would be a bad idea to fight it, my guess is it's about one, no… two thousand years old."

"Two thousand is about right, I was here before the Cataclysm, predating Queen Aclavadria herself."

"By the leavings of Anubis", I swore. This being was ancient and very powerful. I had one more question to see if I could let it go. "How much? How much to you feed in a month?"

He smiled again, still no warmth, "About a wine glass worth a month."

I could detect no trace of deception and stepped back, hating that I had to do it. "There will come a day when I won't let you go freely."

He started walking away, dropping a richly decorated armband onto the sleeping form of Marcus. I followed it out, he glanced down at the body of Fleer, "A shame.." he said, dropping a wristband covered in blood rubies onto her corpse before disappearing into the day. That chilled me more than before, that it could walk outside in the daylight, muted though it was by clouds.

We gather the bodies of the Strigois and Vampires, putting the bodies onto one cart, heads on another and dropped Fleer's body, with the wristband, off with Father Matthias to see if she was willing to return to help us. I took the carts to the graveyard to dispose of properly.  Afterwards, seeing the materials that Marcus and the others were able to find at the Boar's Head, I took the vials of blood to the Twin Smiths, knowing they likely had a use for them while the others destroyed all the red wine. While there, the Smiths gave me Fleer's finished Cloak and Circlet, both should aid her in her mental fortitude.

I think I shall rest a bit, I put Fleer's gear on her bed, we leave in the morning for Ashmouth.

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Addison's Journal VII
I hate rats

~Date~

 

This cursed rain still goes on, it is corrupt and befouled by the dark thing that was released. Those caught in the rain unprotected either get boils and pustules if they can get out of it quickly enough or die, either becoming undead or having some malformed… thing burst forth form their remains. The only one who seems unaffected is Samuel, the village drunk and survivor of Felgarde Keep.

 

Father Matthias would not speak to me of the troubles with his flock or faith, but spoke alone to the other Avecynians within my group. I know not what they spoke about, but we are apparently to return to the ruined Cathedral, there is something there we must cleanse. I was feeling poorly, at first, and not as much help as I'd like to be, but within the depths of that Cathedral, there was an abomination to the light, a shapeless mass with writhing tentacles. My friends fought it, but Fleer and Bob were afflicted by it, unable to maintain their very form, constantly dissolving into a pile of flesh that could move slowly, sometimes able to return to their true forms. The beast was slain and those two put into barrels, lets they fall off the wagon and returned to the Church of Our Lady of Light and Father Matthias' care. I ensured some clothing was left with him for them and took the time to clean and place their gear on their beds for their return.

 

Once returned, Fleer saw that Samuel was staggering drunk in the rain without a care, not being afflicted by the biting rain outside. She covered up and dragged him in yammering excitedly at him before foisting him upon me for investigation. We got him food and drink so he'd allow us the time to examine him and with my Sight opened, I saw a faint golden aura upon his shoulder. I asked permission to look and found a brand of the symbol of Marduk burned upon his flesh. This is what apparently gives him protection. I asked about it but he knows not whence it came.

 

An inebriated Fleer and Bob went to the Twin Smiths to go get a brand, noting I had sketched it in my journal. I went with, both to provide the picture and to ensure their well-being. The brand took several hours to make, going off of my sketches and apparently is quite painful as Fleer passed out while receiving it. I checked her aura, saw it faintly resonate then fade away, taking the brand with it. She stubbornly persisted, wanting to make another attempt after I healed her burns. This time, she stayed conscious, making deep impressions on the leather bound stick she bit down on and the aura stayed faint, then deepened. Oddly, the brand shifted on her arm, assuming the form of a hammer and anvil for Kord, her deity. Bob followed suit, but her brand shifted to that of Anubis, who I have been speaking with her about. She'd pledged her service to the destruction of the unliving. We gathered everyone else and all underwent the process, the paladins waiting for Father Matthias' blessing before getting the mark.

 

The last to get it is the often absent wizard, Potter. He got the brand upon his back, his pale skin normally hidden from view.. The brand took and changed like everyone else's.. It took the form of… no I shall not name it here, just that it was the sign for the King in Yellow.. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. I took a very steps back, making a protective sign before me, Marcus evidently knew the sign as well, his hand moving to the handle of one of his pistols. This did not necessarily make Potter a follower of evil, as the cultists who followed the nameless one pursued forbidden knowledge, but my trust for him fell by many degrees. We will have to keep a wary eye on this one, his spells had a tendency towards collateral damage without care. Fleer noticed our wariness and spoke later with me on the topic. I do not think the fact that this mage followed an Elder God acquiring the sealed and bound statue of an Elder God is a coincidence, but I kept that to myself. Two Eldritch horrors have been unleash and only after he joined us and only when he's been around. If a third such coincidence happens, I may have to slay him secretly to save the world. I still have much work to do to seal the two that have been unleashed.

 

After our branding, we resolved to return to the Cathedral to continue our work. We walked through corridors whose flooring was apparently brittle, dropping us into a dank and pestilent sewer system below. The fall hurt and the waters were tainted, burning our skin on contact. Body parts of different things and people bobbed idly in the muck. There were walkways along the sides so we could stay out of it. We explored the tunnels for hours until we came across points we could not go further. On a hunch, we remoted a grate and went inwards, finding another ladder up which opened into an enormous natural cavern. Boulders, rocks and mushrooms littered the floor and a largish rat sat atop one. Bob turned it into fine mist without a care, against protest.

 

I am very sure my sigh was quite audible when dozens, if not hundreds of heads of beady-eyed rats popped up from every nook and cranny. Fleer charged one, to see if she could scare it off… it ran around behind her, crawling up her leg to bite her in the ass. I drew my sword with a growl and protest as the horde ran at us, biting and clawing what and whom they could. I am sure you can imagine what seeing that many rodents attacking must be like. It was worse. Joining them was an intelligent rat that left for help, coming back with a mad Skaven plague doctor before it turned into a large, raging thing. They both fell quickly enough, but their bites were diseased and filthy. We cleaned up and decided to rest up a bit before continuing on, our healing magicks depleted for the day.

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Addison's Journal VI
My Gods, what have we done?!

~Date~

 

My head still reels from the past few days. I've not done this damned land any favors by coming here and have in fact done more harm than good. I am barely back to myself, having lost who I was for some time… my head still throbs with those whispers… they sung such horrible things to me. I cannot remember what they said, I fear if I did, I would lose myself once more, I just know the alien, destructive thoughts behind those awful words. I do know this… two unspeakable things have been unleash 'pon this world. I may have the power to reseal one of them and must find more Elder Signs to send them back to whence they came.

THEY MUST NOT AWAKEN……

 

I, I am sorry… I must explain.

I rode with Fleer and Potter to investigate the ruins where they innocent were being slain to try to bring over a demon lord, there was a tunnel we'd left alone. The tunnel itself looked like it had been clawed-through, made by the talons of ghouls and within were many broken and shattered sarcophagi. All but one were destroyed, it seemed, or the occupants bashed and destroyed by the hungry undead. The last one left lay in an ornate, warded sarcophagus. Fleer wanted to peek in, I supposed I did as well, needing to ensure it was not the sleeping spot of a cursed vampire. Inside was a fairly well preserved body, the inside and outside of the lid were covered in wards. I was against opening it further, but Fleer noticed the horns on the helmet were made of Dragon horns and wanted it badly for the Smithing Twins. With much convincing she had me agree, reluctantly, to open the lid further, but not slide it off, as it would be impossible to replace. The lid shattered, breaking the wards and a foul burst of energy blew Fleer and Potter away, I gripped the side of the sarcophagus to not be swept up myself. The interred Jarl's eyes opened, blazing with a fierce, icy cold that chilled me to my bones. I took a few steps back, the stake in my hand, lest he'd been a vampire, forgotten on the floor. He grabbed the lip of his resting place and swung his feet out, standing. His hands gripped an axe that iced over in his grip and he swung at me, hitting me and cutting deeply, though the wound did not bleed as it has frozen shut. Fleer charged from her spot, attacking the Draugr with her hellforged axe, hacking deeply into it. Potter hit it with an array with arcane darts as I finished the Nordish undead with the blade granted unto me by the Fey. They looted the body, Potter declaring the boots his without seeing what made them special. I just wanted to leave… this place made me feel ill. As I went towards the exit, alien whispers wormed their way into my head and… something broke within me. The tunnel had sealed somehow… the whispers became louder without ceasing to be whispers, I grabbed the mage, holding him before me, SURE that the tunnel was still there, hidden by illusion. I guessed wrong and Potter has been attempting to punch me ever since, I think… he keeps jumping and swinging a fist towards my head. He doesn't get quite high enough to connect, you see, but the intent is clear. Fleer tried tapping the wall with her axe, all that did was make tiles move, arrange themselves on the walls and ceiling a little differently. It wanted us to solve the puzzle… would not let us leave without solving it. We labored to free ourselves until finally the tunnel returned. The walls pulsed a sickly green and I knew something had been set free. We fled. I am not ashamed to say that, we fled as if chased by the ancient unknowable things in my head. I lost track of time, hiding with Fleer in the forge, not trusting her or Potter, letting her pounding on the Forge try to drive out the whispers in my head. It took months, it seemed… or days. Somehow only three had passed. I've named my new blade Guiding Light, as it now lit up in a merry flame when I grasped it's hilt and held it aloft. We returned to the Bottle and Blade, where Potter found IT, the damned statue in his chambers. I stole into Viktor's room and grabbed the Rod of Ruin, tying the statue to it, taking it to Father Matthias. I asked his help on dealing with it, he denied us, claiming he could do nothing. I then told him to ask his Lady for guidance, surely she, who fought those of the Pit, would know what to do. He refused to keep the thing with us and bade us toss it in a river. Fleer was furious and when Seraphim suggested using the Rod of Ruin on it, she took the suggestion before I could stop her. She barely tapped the statue and it fractured, shattering in a wave of sickly energy that flung us all away. A dark energy escaped the confines of the statue and pierced the heavens, clouds parting in its passing, only to close after it, immediately starting to rain heavily. The rain was cold and heavy and has lasted for many days now. I've been doing research on it and discovered the things released are likely Eldritch Horrors, the only known way to deal with them is to seal them up or send them back through a portal they use, sacrificing an Elder Sign to do it. Luckily, we have one such sign, one of a very few known to exist in the world and now.

 

I have so many horrible tasks ahead of me, I do not know if I am strong enough to do them. I feel failure grasping for me each day, I have to fight to do the right thing and I do not know if it's enough.

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Bonding

Setting quill to parchment, Fleer recounted some of last few days for her sister.  It had been curious oddity as she had spent some time before the Forge in the smiths' workplace.  In an effort to avoid the excesses of the drink, she had found more time and purpose with her prayers to Krom, not that he'd answer her.  Maybe someday, but not at this time.  She would have thought she'd spent a week in reflection but it seemed as though maybe a hand-span of minutes had elapsed.  It was not the first time, though it  was more pronounced the more often she prayed.  It seemed the safest lodestone for her in time of need and recovery.  Today, she started with a letter to Fleek;

Dearest Fleek,

I find I miss you more each day. One would have thought we would outgrown that nagging emptiness when lacking the other's company.  I have not.  The other night after returning from yet another battle, I spent some time trying to bond with others.  It lead to levels of insanity that was good for my battle weary self.  I received an alchemist's brew that allowed me to remove all the hair from my nethers and legs.  And then we proceeded to go drinking.  The little gnome and the other fighter.  It lead to craziness.

Let me tell you how it started, I was tired of being bloody and fighting. So I proposed the other fighter and I dress like girls and see if any would purchase a drink.  It didn't go so well.  The bar patrons were assuming we were soliciting the gnome as a child for sex so she turned into a fox and did I mention this was not a town were lycanthropy is permitted?  Any which way, the outlanders we first encountered were kind enough to watch over our attempts under the influence of much mead to procure more mead.  I don't think I've adequately conveyed how perplexing the whole process is.  By the by, stay away from the Boar's Head, they are very snooty.  I find I now prefer the Slaughtered Lamb.  The people there tend to be kinder and more kindred.  

I find I want to know if you have perhaps found my letters, but I think my god wouldn't have  much conversation with your patron.  Also, there is some oddness here.  You are aware that I attend to the forge more these days for prayer and meditation with Krom.  I may spend there quite some time in meditation, but when I emerge, it seems as though the sun has not settled further down the sky than when I entered.  I wonder if perhaps I'll spend my extra time in this pocket of oddity.  And again, it mayhap be the reason I feel the missing of you so strongly.

Warmest affection, love and pleading for your swift arrival.

Your affectionate sister,

Fleerling

Once the letter was penned, she settled it into a scroll to be sent out soonest.  Rising to the forge, stripping down to tunic and trews, she stoked the bellows before starting to strike metal to nails. It was repetative work and useful at the same.  She was trying to make sense of the happenings, it was curiously odd that all of the monsters were congregating with such succession.  Finding a striking rhythm, the room empty but for the sparks of the metal and hammer. Nothing fancy, pretty or otherwise, but just enough to find the headspace for her worship and seeking.

 

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Addison's Journal V
Demons and drinking with friends

~Date~

 

Three of us went to investigate the burning tree, by the time we got there, the tree was nothing but a pile of ashes. At the outer edge of the woods stood a black demon that looked much like a Balor, but it's tracks didn't match up. It laughed at us and turned, disappearing as it stepped towards the barrier of trees. We checked the tracks, but did not immediately follow, especially since they just… ended. For all we knew it was a trap to divide and conquer our party. We set about making devil's traps and setting them up at the entrances of the barn where the kids were being kept… who all snuck out while we worked and played in the village unsupervised. I could tell Fleer and Varadiel were upset, I could hear them yelling from the barn… I don't think whoever Varadiel was yelling at in the Trade tongue knew the dialect. After several hours of protective measure on my end, with the aid of several others, including hiding the traps, we were ready to follow the tracks from the other day. Arguing seems to be a common trait with some of my group and the villagers, who seemed less concerned for their children than they should be. I went and got the children's caretaker, who watched just the very young. I told Varadiel how to look for my trail markers, letting him forge ahead while I gathered the rest up to follow. Getting back to the trail was simple and fairly fast, I then followed the tracks until I came to a fork in the game trail, the tracks going onto either side. I followed the most recent trail and found my way to an eerily quiet clearing with a small pond and a cliff opposite the trail. I gave the hand signal to stop and tried sneaking quietly around the edge, to ensure no one would ambush us when we investigated it. I made it just a few feet into the thick underbrush and could hear a light, metallic clinking behind me. Bob was walking after me… WALKING. I asked her to stay, trying very hard to not let my exasperation show… I am not sure I succeeded. I turned back to continue to check the edges and heard a splash… Potter, our newest member, the gnomish wizard, threw a rock into the pool. I must try very hard to remember I am not with an experienced group of hunters, but a mixed band of adventurers flung together by fate and Father Matthias. I hissed, "What are you doing?" and was answered by a small, black metallic disk being flung from the pool, all but embedding itself in the petite wizard's forehead. It was an amulet of some sort.

 

Varadiel walked up to the pool, (fine, whatever, throw caution to the wind) and stepped into it, sinking immediately out of sight. Bob and I ran up and looked down, clearly seeing the bottom of the pool, but no Varadiel. I had no choice and dived in after him, an act I am sure caused some consternation with some of the others. The other side of the surface of the pool turned out to be a cave with a less than giving floor. Marcus showed up shortly after, his fall arrested by a rope tied around his waist. I stood and looked at him, before watching as he was dragged back up, to which he said, "I guess I'll be right back." Looking around showed a small chamber illuminated by some bioluminescent fungi on the walls, a staircase leading up to a mirrored surface for a ceiling and another chamber with… knickknacks just sort of piled up on the floor. I head up the stairs, poked my head through the surface and told the rest they needn't bother with the rope, there were stairs.

 

This place did not have the unease or chilling, corrupt feel of a demonic lair and more the whimsical, arcane touch of the Fey. Anything we picked up, we were compelled to leave something in return, so I decided to try to follow the tenets of hospitality for my friends, leaving some food on the floor for the owner of this magical pocket. I found a simple cold iron longsword on the floor that looked like it needed some care, but it called to me somehow. I picked it up, and, to not offend the Fey, I left my older sword in its stead. We left, to get back on the trail of the heavily booted figure and my old sword was flung out of the pool to me. Apparently the food counted as payment.

 

The other fork of the trail eventually led to a somewhat rundown manor house, a lad almost my age was skinning a deer nearby. He glanced in our direction as we approached and I felt a non-threatening approach was best, holding my hands away from my arms and walked slowly towards him and the manor. He ran to a small iron bell, ringing it, though it's sound could not carry past the edges of the clearing, obviously intent to let anyone else on the premises know of our arrival, before running to the manor and entering.

 

I continued my slow pace, hearing my friends follow behind me, stopping maybe ten paces from the entrance, waiting. The lad reappeared with a logging axe in hand and I told him I was not here to harm anyone, I was looking for the missing children. He replied, stating they were all there, staying with Greywind. Intrigued, I asked to speak to Greywind, but he said to leave my weapons behind. I made the counteroffer of hospitality, vowing to not draw steel to him and his without being assaulted first during this visit.

 

There were some mixed feelings about my offer with my group, several refusing to make the vow to enter, so I bade them stay and if they hear our battlecries, then enter, but to wait for us in the meantime. Roughly half of us entered, the lad not wanting to say more, stating Greywind would be able to explain more. He led us up the stairs to a small, but clean nursery where a large armored man stood, feeding a baby. He turned as I said, "Greywind, I presumed" his countenance made me take an involuntary step back as this was no man, but an abomination before Anubis, his head, obscured from behind my his hood, was a skull. I clenched my fist to not break my vow and draw my blade. He set the baby down and told us his story, at our prompting. His name is, or was Sir Alexsey, though he went by Greywind now. In life he was a loyal knight who followed his lord's orders without question, no matter the moral rammifications and was damned by his actions to suffer an unlife as a Deathknight in the service to a Demon Lord. It took a while, but he woke up and freed his mind from his shackles and now wanted to atone for his misdeeds. The villagers were sacrificing their firstborn to a demon in the employ of his lord, a Hellknight baron of Darax-us. He saw my ankh, and knew what it meant and gave me a vow, if we were to help him stop this Knight of Darax-us, send it back to whence it came, it would redeem him and he would finally be able to allow his soul to move on for final judgement.

 

We called out the window to let the others know we were OK, and that our mission had changed, I would explain outside. My original plan was to explain things to my compatriots prior to Sir Alexsey coming out… he followed me right out. I forestalled Varadiel as he reached for his hilts and told him I would explain and that the undead would go on as he should. We made some plans, and in the ends we had a workable plan, one the two paladins didn't like, but, so they wouldn't have to lie to the villagers, I told them to not speak to them and let me do all the talking. I have no qualms about lying, especially to end a demon's reign of terror and blood.

 

The Plan:

Laash looks remarkably similar to one of the girls taken, Willamina. We dressed her in little Mina's closed and I bandaged some of us, using deer blood to make them seem more authentic. Once we neared the town, Alexsey, Marcus and Varadiel were to wait in the woods by the standing stones, where the villagers performed their sacrificial ritual. I know, this was a great danger to Laash, but she agreed to it and it kept the children from harm.

 

How it turned out:

I carried her to the village elder and spoke somberly of a vicious fight were two of us fell, our resources exhausted, but we were able to save one child. The elder ate up my story with gusto and we gathered up our gear from the stables and headed out, saying that we could not bear this place any longer and wanted to get some leagues between us and here, wishing them a good harvest. Away we left, we did go several miles before setting up a false camp, then circled, in the woods, back around to where the others waited by the stones. The ritual did not start that night, nor the next day, but the second night, shortly after the sun sank below the horizon a torch lit up in the town, followed by another and another until it was clear all families in the town had lit torches, making a procession towards the standing stones. I told Marcus and Varadiel to wait with their gun and bow until the sacrifice was about to occur. It was hard waiting with an obviously drugged Laash being so close to us, chained to the stones as the villagers swayed, a cultist with a unique walking stick led the ritual. I remembered the stick belonging to the mayor of the village, the others looked like they were there, but not… enspelled, I assumed. The elder's voice rose in pitch and fervor until, with a crack of lightning, the demon knight appeared. Conspicuously absent was the village children's caretaker.

 

"Now" I breathed, starting the attack on the demon. The next minute was chaos, my band of hunters charging this denizen of the pit, attacking it as it unleashed dark bolts of energy first against Laash, then others. It screamed in outrage, a wave of raw terror washing over us like in a vast tide of dread. To my companion's credit, only one bolted in that instant of fear, Bob. Unfortunately for her, it took her turned back as an invitation, striking her down before she could take more than five paces. The villagers still swayed and hummed, the village elder kept twisting the rod in his hands back and forth, like the workings of a waterclock and I guessed that is what he used to hold sway over the others. I asked Anubis to grant my next blow a guiding hand. I readied my strike, but a powerful blow from one of the others caused the knight of Darax-us to pulse and shriek in defiance, Sir Alexsey tackled me to the ground, covering my body with his as the demon erupted into a huge burst of fire and agony. The villagers lay burnt to a crisp, my friends all lay on the ground that were nearby and the village elder looked like he was going to cast a spell. I flung my sword at him, my throw aided by the divine grace of Anubis, impaling him on its length. He started casting what he'd prepared, but was shot by Marcus, the arcane words interrupted and the spell fading. The elder was cut swiftly down, ending the nightmare.

 

Seraphim had healed Bob, so she was out of the blast, thankfully, when it went off, so the only ones of us who were hit were Sir Alexsey, Viktor, Fleer and well… not myself, thanks to Alexsey. As we looked around, Varadiel sank the Spike of Undead Destruction into Alexsey's skull, ending the magicks sustaining the knight. His shade appeared before us momentarily, to thank us for our help before fading away again as he went on to judgement. We took what gear the Elder had on him, though Viktor ensured the destruction of the Rod of Rulership he used to control the people. We then searched his home, getting things out of it we may need in the future, exiting to see that the rest of the village was aflame, Varadiel said he was 'cleansing' it of its evil. I am starting to question the stability of that elven hunter…

 

I heard snippets of talk with the children who came to thank us, Seraphim offered to take them in to be sheltered by the Church and cared for… now if only she actually said it that way. Her actual words were, "The children will go to service the church and be taken care of" After the experience they had, I am not shocked that they declined and ran away to the forest.

 

Our trip back to Thraben was uneventful, we'd had to hallow some ground for the burial of the dead and healing some of the wounds from that demon. We gave Father Matthias his report and he promised to vet any future requests to weed out such occurrences of clashing with villages in the future. The twin smiths told us our gear we ordered would be ready within four days. During our wait, the lovely ladies of our group decided to… bond.

 

I was sitting in the common room of the Bottle and Blade and saw them come down the stairs in what looked like poorly cut out tunics made from silken bedsheets, the tunics were short and belted, barely keeping them decent. Their hair was… done up I think and they may have let children do their makeup. They'd clearing been drinking and announced, loudly, that they were going to search other bars for more drinks and a good time. No good could come of this.

 

I quickly finished my mug of mead and waited a few seconds before slipping out after them. They were unarmed, unarmored and drunk… our luck was not the best so I followed them to make sure they'd be safe, Marcus came with me.

 

I admit, I am partly to blame. Fleer came to me earlier in the day, requesting a salve to remove hair. I mixed her up some and explained it's use. The first tavern they hit, everyone seemed interested until they asked them to buy a drink for Laash… who looked like a child Fleer and Bob were trying to sell to others. In fact, guardsman were summoned, unbeknownst to the girls, and I had to explain to them that they were fresh off an adventure, no she wasn't a child, she was in fact older than myself or the guards and was a gnome. I then had to explain what gnomes are, as they are not ever seen in Innistrad. The girls left to go to another bar, Marcus and I his around the sides as they left. The guards stayed with us, following the girls. They drew their weapons when Laash changed to a fox, leaving her tunic behind, picked up by Bob. I had to hastily explain she was a druid, not a lycanthrope. My headache mounted and I was sure my flask was not going to last the night. They went bar, to bar, the guards following us until their shift ended. I'd tried to sneakily watch them in the guard's cloak, but they were more perceptive than I gave them credit for. The only two bars left was an upperclass tavern called the Boar's Head, or a rough and tumble dive where barbarians and possible lycanthropes visited. I guided the girls to the more upscale establishment, but they were turned away at the door. Fleer gushed at how soft and smooth her legs… and elsewhere were, asking me to feel them. I obliged, but since she was not in her right mind, I abstained from more. They dragged us to the last tavern, the people there obviously not from Thraben, barely wearing clothes themselves. They girls fit right in and my flask was empty. Marcus and I took a seat at a table where we could watch them flirt, but also keep any from trying too much with our friends. They made quick friends with Garruk, High Jarl of their clan, the Wild Speakers, speaking openly about shifting… speaking of shifting, our resident petite druid got wrapped up in my cloak, changing back to gnome on my lap… I was not quite comfortable with that. By the time the girls were ready to go, they could barely walk. I hoisted Fleer onto one shoulder, Laash on my hip as Marcus carried Bob. They loudly proclaimed their want to find Viktor and tell him of their new friend. They started yelling for him in the streets, not listening to us beg for their silence.

 

We were arrested for breaking the peace, but released after an hour on the word of Father Matthias. The bad part of it was, the girls were going to resist arrest, so Marcus and I had to carry them to jail with us. We eventually got back to the Bottle and Blade and I am positive by the racket being made downstairs right now that they woke up most of the people here. I politely asked for a bath to be drawn in my room, since Fleer had vomited on my cloak from where she was draped over my shoulder. I took the two I had and put them in by bed to sleep things off, doffing my cloak and removing their clothes so they wouldn't get choked by those ridiculous tunics in their sleep. Fleer passed out mid-sentence, possibly having hit her head on the wall when she sat up to try to call out for Viktor again. Either way, I have not slept yet and the kitchen crew, wait staff and even the patrons are making the worst racket possible. If it's to punish the girls, then they are misguided as I made the foolish decision to give them all doses of my alchemist's friend for the nights when my nightmares are the worst.

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