Kai'ckul

Eldorin's Tale
as told to those sworn to secrecy

(This is the story told by Eldorin to those who have sworn the Oath of Secrecy)

In the last age, the Lost roamed the realm and pillaged where they would. Lacking an alliance between all those who would become the civilized races, no one could stand against their vast forces. Battles were won, but the wars were lost, bit by bit, and the Elves were trapped within the forests of Culdonia in the Long Siege. Torfingalf the Wise led the Wizards of the Elendil to protect the forest, but it was Perius who led them out. Perius, the Kin-Commander, who broke from the trees and sought out Lothar Greatworth, which led to the Great Alliance. They lifted the Siege and broke the armies of the Lost in a mortal blow at the Siegelands. Likely, you have all heard this much before.

At this time an Elf soldier and prophet named Finrodel, having taken part in the victory at the Siegelands, begged leave now to return to his home at Oakenfell and found an order of Wizards who would keep safe the world’s most prized collections of knowledge and pass along the secrets of Wizardry to those who have proven their worthiness. Thus was founded The Circle, of which I am the youngest and most recent of fifteen members. Finrodel himself still leads our order with his partner, Melitherien. All this, too, may be known to some of you.

What you do not know is this: Finrodel had, from the start, a much more solemn purpose in founding the Circle. The Circle was not a mere place of learning — not a place for selfish obsession with books. It was, and is, a knighthood — its members sworn to a sacred duty.

When Finrodel raised himself from the battlefield at the Siegelands, he came upon a curious item, gripped by one of the bodies of the Lost and, to his eyes, emanating great power. It was a crown of burnished red gold, forged in the likeness of a circlet of fire. He touched the crown and was gifted a vision of peril, and in that moment he knew the course he must take.

For this was the Flame of Therilor, known before this only from the murmurs of the Lost. The Flame was said to bring madness wherever it went, while the wearer of the Flame is given power to twist and sway the will of weaker minds. Its actual powers are not known to any alive, save perhaps Maegwir now — but I believe it may well have been an instrument in the forging of the Lost to begin with. Or — perhaps worse — it may have yet another, more frightful purpose that was never used before it was lost to the Circle. What was known was that it could not be destroyed.

Finrodel consulted with Perius and both agreed on his plan: keeping the Flame an utter secret, he made all haste back to Oakenfell and fashioned there a secret place where the Flame could be kept from all and guarded night and day. He then invited those with wisdom and, above all, honor and duty into a sacred order which would thenceforth be known as the wizard order called the Circle. These members would be a society of knights, sworn guardians of this terrible thing which must never be used nor destroyed nor even spoken of in the light of day. The Flame of Therilor was written out of history to keep safe the new world.

A thousand years later, it was Finoriel the Artificer, daughter of Finrodel and fairest of the Elves, who saw honor in me, who spoke on my behalf and persuaded Finrodel to invite me into the Circle. I myself have known Maegwir the Summoner for some few hundred years. He was beloved by Finoriel, but in time her heart grew away from him and warmed to me instead; I suppose perhaps Maegwir never forgave this offense. Still, I cannot think that this could account for his present madness. This was perhaps thirty years ago.

A few months ago, an urgent council of the Circle was called. The Flame was missing. Only one member was not present for the council — Maegwir — and he had been seen rushing out of the Tower Perian that morning, preoccupied and distraught. All of Oakenfell was searched, but Maegwir was gone, his things taken as if for a journey.

Finrodel shut up the doors of the Circle and sent home all aspirants. No more would students learn the crafting of items of power nor read from the Book of Arinoth until the Flame be recovered. Until that day, the Circle was cast out into the world, to walk the lands in search of what was taken, and to bring Maegwir to justice, should it take a day or a thousand years.

The heart of Finoriel was broken by the news of Maegwir’s betrayal, and she lay in her deathbed. When I last saw her, she gave me this — her bloodstone medallion crafted many years earlier while she loved him. It warms when he is near (though I find now that he must be near indeed, since it did not grow warm here until I entered his very tent).

It gets worse. She also confided in me an important secret.

“Eldorin, hear me: Finrodel is trusting and good-hearted but he is no fool. Though it brought him to tears to speak of it, for he could never stomach the thought of doubting his own brethren, a failsafe was built into the chest of the Flame as its charge was too important to leave open to treachery. True enough that only a Ringbearer (as such are we Telcari known, we wizards of the Circle) may pass its warding traps, but little known is this: only three Ringbearers acting in concert may open it! Maegwir is known, but at least two more traitors there are and they walk the world among us even now, unknown to many of our colleagues. My father did not wish to sow fear in a time of such sadness, but this must be known!”

We then spoke our farewells and … she was lost to us. Most of the Circle had left by now, so after my mourning I left, coming shortly to Worthen and meeting most of you.

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Session 9 Game Log: Showdown at Greenbirth!
Wherein Walter's identity was discovered

Having reached the Greenbirth at last, the party views a military camp (perhaps 100 soldiers) on the beach from an overlooking hill. They review their options and Eldorin issues a cryptic caution: “I cannot say much, as I am bound by a sacred oath, but suffice it to say that it is possible that either Walter or Eraneth might not be who they appear to be, and either could have power well beyond our own. Let us take caution with our actions here.”

Fyrsson grumbles about Elves and starts off toward the camp, others following while Orieth flies ahead, noting some large, dangerous birds about. The camp is made of about ten large barracks tents positioned by a dock, with several war clippers docked and guarded. Also off the dock is a large, two-storey wooden building.

Fyrsson approaches a tent marked with a symbol: a circle with a sinuous line crossing it from left to right (This is “O-group”). He speaks with two dwarves standing out front. They are surprised and maybe concerned to see Elves with the party, but they say sorely that “They’re in charge over there” in the next tent over, and new recruits should “talk to Walter, in that tent over there,” and that they came “from Carn Orn when it was poisoned, and disasters were foretold,” having nowhere else to go — at least here they might find work. They describe their routine, which involves daily training for naval combat.

Venmar points to the wooden building, mentions, “I’ll be at the tavern if you need me!” and saunters off.

Eldorin decides it’s best for him not to be noticed in this camp. He pulls his hood over his head and the group splits up: Fyrsson and Baranel head toward a nearby tent to the south, near Walter’s tent; Nilbud wanders to the north; and Eldorin walks to the next tent over.

Simultaneously…
- Eldorin enters a tent with a mark looking like a “T” with branches sticking off it (“T-group”). One sole halfling is inside, named Torleaf Halfleg. He seems decent but unhelpful. He directs new recruits to Walter’s tent.
- Nilbud finds a crew of bandits to the north, seemingly led by a giant man (Tyren) sharpening his greataxe and eating a chicken leg. Some women wrestle on the ground. Tyren pets an oversized mastiff and tells Nilbud proudly that their group (“Y-group”) is in charge of pillaging on the open seas, but then seems dismissive to Nilbud. Nilbud offers to wrestle the dog and Tyren looks at her like she’s an idiot but nods his head. Nilbud quickly pins the dog to the ground, cuffing its head—but Tyren pulls her off the dog before anyone gets hurt. “All right, you can wrestle. Why don’t you head off somewhere else.” She wanders further north, to a flattened field where soldiers spar.
- Fyrsson & Baranel go to the tent between the first one and Walter’s — it shows the O-group symbol like the first one with the Dwarves, but these humans insultingly scoff at the dirty Elf and Dwarf, telling Fyrsson to go back to the Dwarf tent where he belongs — and that Elves don’t belong here, she should talk to Walter if she really wants to be here. Fyrsson resists the urge to fight them, and they leave.

After that round…
- Eldorin decides to lay lower, sitting on the ground behind a tent, fixing some problem with his boot, but really whispering via cantrip to Baranel: “Orieth will go with you and be my eyes. Do not be alarmed. You do not know me.” Baranel replies: “We don’t?”
- Nilbud wanders into the sparring field where sailors loiter; she talks to them casually, saying she’s on her Greenrite. They tell her their group (T-group) is charged with capturing some island, and they practice launching attacks on and offshore.
- Fyrsson & Baranel go to the tavern with Orieth perched on Baranel’s shoulder and Eldorin perceiving through Orieth’s senses. They speak with some drunken sailors and Fyrsson tricks them into describing their duties: O-group is set for raiding & plundering some castle called Arcaibh, a Darkhold — they plunder this place regularly. (Odd — aren’t Darkholds abandoned?)

While they remain in the tavern, Eldorin whispers to Baranel’s ear again: “Baranel, are you two willing to go to Walter?” She looks at Fyrsson, who, wondering why she’s looking at him, says “Yes?” She replies to Eldorin: “Yes.” He says: “Good. You are two acquaintances who met on the road looking for work. You still do not know me or anyone else from our party. Orieth will remain my eyes, but if you are asked, she is with you.”

- Baranel & Fyrsson enter Walter’s tent. Two “stone men” stand silent guard outside, and inside, beyond a rich carpet there is a simple bed with a chest at its foot, a workbench with notes, maps, and instruments. A fire burns in the center, a strangely marked circle is marked on the ground in one corner, and a finely-wrought man made of steel stands watch in the opposite. “We were told to come see Walter,” says Baranel. Walter — an unassuming old man who is not recognized by any of the party — says, “Who are you? An Elf, here?” He inspects Orieth warily and asks: “Is that yours? Are you … one of those Druids of the North?”
- Baranel replies: “I don’t think any creature can belong to another, but she is with me, yes. The North? Which Druids? I am a Druid, but not one of ‘those’ Druids, whoever they are!”
- “And yet you wish to work here — with us?”
Fyrsson steps in: “We just want work. We were told there was work here. Is there some reason we wouldn’t want to work here? What is it you’re doing here? Why would we not want to work here?”
- “Who are you both? Where have you come from?”
- “Fyrsson and Baranel. We met on the road not long ago, looking for work. Baranel seems to be some kind of Druid, and I serve the Bronze Dragon Brondurium.”
- Walter pauses. “You should both leave this place. You do not belong here. Begone.” They leave the tent, taking careful note of their surroundings, and Eldorin notes Walter’s possessions carefully: an ornate wizard’s staff, a necklace, many rings. There is a chest in the back near the bed, and a sack sits on it.

- Meanwhile, Nilbud challenges a sailor to a boxing match and swiftly humiliates him. He gets up and sorely walks away, glowering. She starts to wander back toward the south, and the rest of the group.

They all meet up quietly and head to the north to discuss, and the Elves notice some people further north, surreptitiously spying on them. The party waves goodbye to each other and fans out, each heading north but separately. The spies try to leave but Fyrsson gets their attention with a Thunderwave, and then amiably attracts them. All converge.

The spies are some of those “Druids of the North”, who have been tailing Walter for some time and spying on this camp, looking for ways to upset his operation. The party reveals that they share this goal, and all compare notes, agreeing that the camp’s goals will be carried out within a day, meaning there is no time to seek outside help. They slowly form a plan. The Druids agree to play a role, and they will be ready three hours after sunset as agreed. They head off, away from the camp, and the plan is put into action….

Nilbud takes a windup and punches Fyrsson square in the mouth and a few times in the eye, giving him a nice shiner. Fyrsson grunts but takes it before parking outside camp to rest up a bit. Then Baranel goes away from the main camp to bathe in the ocean water, and Eldorin and Nilbud go to the tavern to rent a room. The barkeep explains how the building was here long before the camp was, and no one knows what it was before. Nilbud introduces herself and the barkeep says, “Hey, I think we had a chest somewhere in the basement for ‘Underfoot’. You’re free to go look for it!” Eldorin & Nilbud pick up their jaws and Nilbud goes downstairs to search through rooms full of junk while Eldorin goes upstairs to the room.
- Baranel, now clean, shows up at the inn/tavern and finds her way to Eldorin in the room.
- Nilbud takes a while downstairs but does find the locked chest with an ornate “U” on the lock. She takes it with her outside and leaves it with Ester the donkey, well outside the camp.
- Eldorin scouts the room and its view out the window: the prize vessel across the dock. Thirteen guards keep watch over it below their window. Somewhere down below, he hears a rooster crow its final death-crow. “Must be supper-time,” he thinks.
- Venmar meets them in the room and they relate his part of the plan. He nods grimly.
- Fyrsson nurses his bruises, which are purpling nicely.

They all finish a short rest and wait until three hours after sunset.


It’s night. Fyrsson takes his axe and gouges his lip, which blooms fresh blood — along with his bruised face and general Dwarven countenance, he looks a foul sight. He makes for the Dwarves’ tent from the O-group – the same Dwarves he first spoke with. “Those bastards! The humans – our ‘bosses’! They said – augh! They think they’re better than us! We need to show them who’s boss around here!! Who’s with me?!” The Dwarves look around, get mad, and grab their weapons. They all follow Fyrsson, who leads them to the O-group human area and charges — blasting the front man with a column of holy radiance before thickening in the ranks and then hastily escaping the ensuing battle….

Venmar, “conveniently” sitting nearby, jumps up and starts yelling about a fight broken out to anyone who will listen.

Eldorin, watching from the window of their room at the inn, sees the column of radiance and signals to Baranel & Nilbud. “It is time.”

Baranel casts a spell of swiftness on Nilbud, then changes form into that of a snake and slithers into Nilbud’s pocket. Eldorin empties the packet of dust over Nilbud and the snake, and they disappear from view. Eldorin watches the room door open and close, as invisible Nilbud and Baranel make for Walter’s tent.

Eldorin sends Orieth out the window and off to the north, then waves a hand at the bed and it ignites. He turns to the window and stretches out his hand, sending a fiery blast to the sail of the prize ship across the dock, which is engulfed in flame. He exits the room, taking his pack, and calmly strides downstairs and out along the dock — at this point, Venmar runs up the dock, calling to anyone about a fight in camp. The ship guards stare blankly, but then his face catches a glow from above, and they all realize the sail is on fire. Venmar runs back down the dock, still yelling about the fight.

Orieth reaches the Druids and flaps her wings, wheeling about back to the camp. They nod and rise silently, making for the docks. They stick to the shadows and creep under the docks, readying their fire magic for the dock — but are stopped by a horde of giant crabs under the docks! One Druid gets off a spurt of flame, but is crushed to death in a huge pincer. The others escape with their lives….

Invisible, her steps quickened, Nilbud creeps into Walter’s tent with snake-form Baranel in pocket, both unnoticed by the stone wardens. They see a prone form in the bed — he’s wearing Walter’s robes, but this is no human: it’s an ancient Elf. The steel golem does not see them, but they can see the arcane staff lying against the chest, and the Elf “Walter” seems to be in meditation — he certainly wouldn’t be sleeping.

Turning visible, Nilbud grabs the necklace from Walter’s neck, puts it on his own neck — the Elf’s eyes flick open — then grabs the staff and clamps a hand on the Elf’s mouth. Baranel flops out on the ground.

Eldorin & Fyrsson approach the tent at the same time and meet there, unsure whether to enter. Eldorin whispers a message to Nilbud: “What is your status?” — the reply: “Holding Walter down in his bed; have his staff!” Eldorin dashes straight toward the tent but Fyrsson bursts right past him, running past the stone golems, who begin to move….

Inside, in a blink, Walter and Nilbud have switched positions — Nilbud on the bed and Walter has grabbed the sack from the chest and is stepping back away, calling to the elements all around. Man-like forms rise from the sands below. The steel golem strides over to the bed to menace Nilbud, but Nilbud escapes to run over to ‘Walter’. Baranel, at the foot of the bed, suddenly expands to the form of a great bear, facing off against the golem. Fyrsson bursts into the tent across the rug, which springs to life and thrashes at him, missing but still threatening. Eldorin follows more carefully, dodging the rug and hurling a magical web into the doorway to slow the entry of the stone golems… then Eldorin turns and sees the Elf, and calls to him:

“Maegwir, my old friend: let us cease this madness. There is no need for hostility.”

“Call off your friends.”

“Halt!” says Eldorin, and all cautiously stop fighting. “Explain your actions, Maegwir.”

“I am not the enemy, Eldorin. I know not what Finoriel told you, but you are on the wrong side.”

“Convince me. I would love nothing more than to believe you, but you must give me at least one reason to trust what you say.”

“Finrodel betrayed us. He planned to take the Flame of Therilor and use it against us.”

“And so you took it instead? You confess you wield it even now?”

“I have it.” Maegwir (“Walter”) nods to the sack in his hand, inside of which something glows visibly. “I must keep it until we are able to stand against him, but he is too powerful. If I can but get inside the Wyrmspire and learn what they know of the Flame, we may stand a chance.”

Eldorin pauses. “Let me help, Maegwir. If betrayal has faced the the Circle, I will not stand by while others fight to protect it. I will stand against it! How can I help?”

“Yes! Can you go to Wyrmille and get inside the Wyrmspire? This would help greatly. You can find me at Arcaibh, at the Circle of Brodgar. You can send your owl.”

Eldorin looks at his companions. “We could do this. But why? Merely show me how the devastation you have wrought these past few weeks does not condemn you.”

“What devastation?”

“The monsters — the beasts, grown to unusual size — the creatures twisted by madness, rage, and hunger.”

Fyrsson bellows, to Maegwir’s dismay: “Everywhere you have passed, you have left a trail of misery and destruction!”

Maegwir presents a shocked face. “It must be the Flame.”

Eldorin looks to him. “If you retire to this island keep at Arcaibh, you will take the Flame with you and remove it from the presence of these beasts? This could keep the madness at bay while we build strength and get to Wyrmille.”

“Yes. Find me, Eldorin!” Maegwir waves a hand and disappears. All the constructs freeze in position — now apparently lifeless.

The party turns all their eyes to Eldorin, and close on him. Baranel in form of bear growls, engages, and pins Eldorin against the tent post. Fyrsson looks at Eldorin and says: “Talk. NOW. Everything.”

Eldorin sighs, and then speaks….

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A Clearer Path
The unmistakable paean of metal on wood rang out again as the axe bit deeply into the tree’s great trunk. A bark of laughter heralded the felling of another tree in the large clearing. In the wan moonlight a stocky silhouette stood alone, gulping in air, as he let his axe head rest upon the ground. Wearing only cotton breeches Fyrsson surveyed the damage he’d wrought in the glade. Around his neck a pair of small bronzed boots glinted dully as the dwarf gave voice to doubts that had plagued him all this time.

“I’m not strong enough”

Letting out a roar Fyrsson hefts his axe and charges the nearest tree, one of only three left standing. Bellowing he smashes his axe into its base a first, second, and third time in rapid succession. Two chunks of barky flesh spin off into the air as a fourth contemptuous stroke topples the hundreds year old tree in seconds. With jaw set tight Fyrsson begins dismantling the tree into smaller and smaller pieces. His forearms strain under the work, muscles bunching and beginning to burn from the exertion. The earth, in cruel mockery of his efforts, gives way beneath the timber with each swing; it doubles the effort necessary.

As his axe falls a final time he surveys his work with grim satisfaction. As he looks up from the ground he sees one of the remaining trees a dozen yards from where he stands:

“I’m not fast enough”

Howling Fyrsson races towards the tree, his axe carried low behind him. His legs churn over the soften earth as he weaves between and leaps over the tree’s fallen friends. He races across the last ten feet, axe rising into the air, yawps and brings the axe down in wide arc. The blade flashes in the night before striking the trunk of the tree. He yanks the blade free and turns, immediately racing off towards the only other standing tree. Back and forth he runs, sweat pouring from him as he sprints. He rebukes himself as his paces slacks. Redoubling his efforts, violently gasping for air, and launching himself one final time at the tree Fyrsson’s axe strikes home. The trunk snaps and cracks, bark splitting, as it falls to the ground. Leaning heavily on his axe Fyrsson slowly turns to face the final tree.

He walks with grim determination toward the great monster. Over a hundred feet tall and twenty feet thick, she stands as a testament to fortitude and willpower. Hundreds of years spent growing and reaching to the heavens, patience personified.

“I lack faith”

Calling out to his dragon god, Fyrsson channels Brondurim’s fearsome energy from the ether. Tendrils of muted blue-grey energy seep from the corners of his eyes. The air, pregnant and heavy with potential, is charged. The hair on the cleric’s arms stands on end as his focus tightens. Finishing his incantation in a barked cadence his hands shoot forward as thunder peals from the base of the tree. The shockwave washes over Fyrsson who, laughing, revels in his god’s answer. The earth at the base of the tree crenellates, exposing roots an erupting great gouts of loamy soil into the air. The tree begins to slowly totter away from him, pulling great roots free from the earth as it does. With a smile playing upon his face he summons the electricity from the air around him, forming it with his hands. As it coalesces he sends his arcing through the space into the tree trunk. Bark explodes from the arboreal behemoth. One great shard spins through the air and pierces into Fyrsson’s shoulder, knocking him backwards and to the ground. It is a mirror to the tree who, in all her great age and strength, finally gives in to the assault and topples. The crash is deafening. Fyrsson rises from the ground, pulling the carboniferous shrapnel from his body. He has never experienced any communion with his god as strongly as he just had. With fearsome clarity the cleric knows he has been blessed. Brondurim approves of his path and has gifted him with new tools to aid him in his righteous vengeance.

“I will take your path”

Holding his axe by the bit he carves a three taloned claw into his right breast. Turning away from the tree he heads back towards the road which will carry him to his newfound companions. Behind him a wineskin rests alone on the floor of the forest glade, liquid pooled around it reflecting a dull ruby in the moonlight.
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Greenbirth Awaits
Entry 9

21st day of the Wyvern, Year of the Crown

We should arrive at the staging grounds for Eraneth’s recruits in Greenbirth tomorrow.

My stomach gnaws at my insides. My conscience tells me I ought to share information with my companions, though my oath precludes it.

If there is clear risk to their lives, then I dare say a new oath (or several, as the case may be) may take its place, for I would not have their lives put in jeopardy for naught. Strange as it may seem, I have grown accustomed to these strange outsiders. Even the Dwarf — though he is quick to temper — has a heart of gold inside his outer thunder.

No, I would not risk their lives, but might I help them without breaking my oath? Perhaps I may safely tell them just a little.

Orieth tells me either to tell them or quit worrying. Leave such flightiness to the birds, I say — easy to have no care for oaths when you cannot speak one, nor ever wish to do.

One way or another, I must decide presently. Some elderberry wine would not go amiss this night.

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Nilbud's Vision

Nilbud is tired of becoming unconscious. Over the last few weeks of adventuring she realizes just how close she has come to death on a number of occasions. On one of her more decent trips into the void she had a vision. It was of her ancestor Merla Underfoot who came to her and gently comforted Nilbud in a way that no one ever had. Then while Merla stroked Nilbud’s short red hair she sharply rapped her knuckles on Nilbuds skull, and boy did it smart. Then Merla returned to gently caressing and soothing Nilbud’s wounds, but at the same time in a well meaning but harsh tone demanded that she toughen up and to keep those big stupid animals on the defensive.

Since that time Nilbud has gone into intense training. Getting some pointers from Venmar along the way she has been practicing feigning and attacking in such a way that opponents stumble away from or just fall flat of their faces. In addition she has begun to pray to Mediena who (she is convinced sent the vision to guide her. When she prays she falls into sort of a trance that allows her to block out some amount of physical pain, in addition she has taken to hitting herself with objects (it’s a little weird) and challenging people to boxing matches to allow her to handle more and more punishment like Merla told her to. She has also developed a tick where she raps herself on the head with her knuckles when she feels as though she failed at something to remind her that now she is weak…….but soon she will make Merla and Mediena proud.

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The New Norm
Entry 8

18th day of the Wyvern, Year of the Crown

A night of rest, and for once it seems well-earned. The Naftry Farm is devastated, but once again peaceful. The farmers have been slaughtered, but we were able to save at least one of the residents: the human child known as “Newt”. The victory offers small comfort, but small comfort is better than none.

The victory brings with it, however, another concern. Is this the new norm? The old man Walter has a lead of at least 10 days on us, and it is unclear that we have shortened that lead at all. Every day this Walter spends somewhere to leave behind these gifts requires two days for us to clean up the mess. We travel no faster than he, and moreover there is no evidence that we have definitively “cleaned up” sufficiently.

The roads are filled with beasts either grown to incredible sizes or filled with a mad, hungry rage. The wolves we fought on the road did not come from the Ollentor’s, nor from the Naftry farm. What of the hawks? The vultures, the insects? The plants?

Each site left by Walter breeds a madness at every level of the natural world. We cannot have found every site, nor indeed can we ever hope to do so. We may clean the sites we find, but all the while, the madness spreads from the others. It seems the world grows more and more monstrous every day.

At the farm, as we searched the bunkhouse for survivors, I paused to look out an open window. There was a moment of peace, and the wind rustled the leaves of the forest around the farm. A sparrow alighted on the sill and (though it pains me to say it had gotten this bad) I recoiled, but the young male merely looked at me, and I offered my finger. He flew to my hand.

“You are brave to come here, little one,” quoth I. “What do you seek?”

“Not brave,” said the sparrow, cocking his head to the side. “Only hungry. Have you food?”

I smiled and offered him a seed. He flew back out the window and chased a female in twisting paths across the sky. Down below, a weasel as large as a man chased a chicken across the yard.

Is this the new norm?

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A Culture of Fear
Entry 7

16th day of the Wyvern, Year of the Crown

What is the source of betrayal? How does one turn from friend to foe, from brother to bitter enemy?

The days wear on and time after time we are beset by beasts and brigands. But the nights, though wary, are often quiet — more so even than the silent nights of the forests of Culdonia, where silence is shattered often by evening birdsong and the fox, the owl, the wildcat. This new silence lends itself to reflection, and I wonder how I came to find myself wandering so far afield…

One year ago, I should like to think I would never have questioned the loyalty of a single member of The Circle. Somehow, in the time since, I find myself questioning the motives of even the most stalwart champions of our order. Mighty Eraneth, defender of Oakenfell, the Frostguard herself — who in better days planned the defenses of the inner sanctum at Perian and was entrusted with staffing its guardians — even she now falls under my suspicion.

It is clear to me that she is the one hiring adventurers of all sorts to be gathered in the west, at Greenbirth, yet when we meet she says nothing of it. I can scarcely believe the detail is insignificant, seeing the numbers of travelers called to action in the west, lured by extravagant payments in advance (and what fund provided so large a source of precious coinage?). No, I dare say this detail was left out — but to what end? It is not yet damning to learn of this, but it bears concern.

But suppose it is betrayal? How could exalted Eraneth turn from champion to renegade? What inside her might have changed? And likewise for others of our number?

In Mortar, I spoke with a tavern-girl — a provincial one of the dim sort one so often seems to find in such places, but one of good intentions, as far as we could tell. She seemed worried about our affiliations and perhaps our motives. To soothe her fears, I found an unopened blossom on the windowsill and imbued within it the life force of the forest, causing its petals to wink open as a newborn bud on a spring morning, and gave it to her in full bloom as a token of fey friendship. Her face now moved from concern to abject terror. It seems fear is the natural state for many of this world.

Thus it is that through fear, minds move to distrust, and from distrust, they move to protect themselves from a threat perceived in others, whether real or not. But one’s protection against another, if undeserved, may be seen (rightfully) as a motion of distrust, or even a slight to one’s honour and trustworthiness. From here, it is no stretch to go from fear, mutual distrust, and insults, directly to violent action. Could it be such a simple answer that drove some to betrayal among our order? Simple fear and misguided self-preservation?

I want to believe this. For if the answer is no, then I have no choice but to find fundamental evil among those I once counted friends.

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The Slow March
Entry 6

12th day of the Wyvern, Year of the Crown

It might never have seemed possible, but I begin to fear for our very lives due to nothing more than petty animals.

Our departure from the city was swift in the end: after receiving our reward with thanks from the King, we made only a cursory stop to the markets to provision ourselves for a journey of some days, and then made for the setting sun, having no wish to either lose pace on this " Walter " nor attract undue followers in the Nicks.

Orieth has been of great help — not only is it fairly clear that the Nicks are not on our trail, but she has provided ample warning to save our lives on more than one occasion.

The first time was near dawn after our first night of travel: I was keeping watch when Orieth returned with word of wolves approaching. We could hear their howls the evening before, but hoped they would keep their distance from such a group. But I fear something was very wrong with these wolves. I even spoke with them, pled for peace with them, and their only reply was a moaning call of “food”.

Before the wolves, we had already been attacked by raptors of some sort. The next day it only grew worse. Giant vultures, oversized insects. All with the same unsettling, ravenous madness. Can we survive unto Mortar, a “mere three days’ pleasant ride from ”/wikis/worthen" class=“wiki-page-link”>Worthen "?

I feel we have no option but to suspect this " Walter " is behind this, whether by malice or by ignorance. And behind him, my true quarry? Only time will tell.

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A New Leaf
Entry 5

10th day of the Wyvern, Year of the Crown

With no other recourse, I decided to separate from the group for some time today.

I made a trip to a shop called “Cherelle’s” where I was able to find some necessary reagents, and then found my way to some seclusion to call a friendly spirit, then send him apart. I then made some rounds about the areas I’d found before, this time taking careful notes on the locations and angles of any notable sensations. I was not fortunate: very little remained of what I’d sensed before. None at all remained at the Ollentors’ home, though they seemed well, thankfully.

But something curious happened: I stopped by the Elf’s Tears, and once more I met someone unusual. It was the Frostguard, Eraneth. She sat at table, taking her midday meal, I suppose, and seemed little surprised to see me. I spoke to her for a short while, but neither of us had any report. Indeed, there was but one notable thing throughout the meeting: the amulet felt warm the whole time, for perhaps the first solid time the whole day. Her story seemed to be in order, though, so I gave her greeting and continued on my way.

When I got outside, I pulled my companion, Orieth, from my pocket and gave swift instructions: to keep watch over the building and report back to me by dawn the next day.

I then sought out my companions and found that they had happily succeeded in our goal! The plot had been uncovered: it was the King of Tumbledown, Martin Downings himself, who had paid for the assassination attempt, and the contract was indeed through the Nicks. Grave news, but for now a job complete. The question now is simply: what next?

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The Story So Far...
Are You Worthen of the Task?

Fyrsson stepped bravely into the Ollentor’s bedroom. There were no signs of the monstrous rats which had overrun the rest of the house, but with a furrow in his brow — whether due to a hangover or concentration and disbelief — crossed towards the door on the opposite side of the room. Light cascaded in through the three windows creating speckling and broken shadows and lighting the two shrubs on either side of the Ollentor’s bed, which looked in dire need of watering: dessicated and barren sitting in their pots. He turned, beginning a shrug to the wary party peering in the door when the shifting of light played tricks on all of your eyes, darkness seeming to pull away from the wall itself and slide soundlessly towards the religious Dwarf. And then, the impossible happened: hands materialized from the floating silhouette and grasped for him.

Crying out in alarm and warning, Eldorin gestured, materializing bolts of energy which lanced out towards the thing of nightmares and tore it apart. As silently as it came, it went. Even more unnerved, the party passed into the room and began a concerted effort to dispel and inspect the shade cast upon the floor and walls. Aemeri, concerned with the well-being of the shrubs, pulled his waterskin out to refresh the plants. Manifesting not only life, but a strangely humanoid shaping, the branches struck out and caught in his armor, barely missing his exposed skin and the proffered waterskin.

On edge, Eldorin blasted the other shrub with a firey bolt incinerating it summarily, while Jethrael leaped to the Warden’s aid and diced the truly living plant into kindling utilizing his dual blades. A nervous laugh overtook the party as, once more, silence and seeming safety fell upon you. As unsettled as your spirits were, there was a basement to investigate, so cautiously, you tread down the staircase into darkness.

Familiar chittering grew from a rumor to a reality as you passed down to the basement landing. As the unnatural rats reared their heads to your threat and you prepared for another engagement, a pile of dust in the corner began swirling of its own accord — and nary a draught to caress the accumulation — and formed into a diminutive man-shape with glowing sockets where eyes should have been. With a whisper which raised the hackles, “it” swept across the floor and motioned widely with its “hands,” which brought Aemeri to collapse and a number of the rats roll onto their backs. The remaining rats assaulted Fyrsson as the defended the doorway with Nilbud nimbly darting in to strike at the massive beasts and swarming pests.

After prolonged engagement and Nilbud’s seeming knack at extermination, the rats were no longer threatening the home, but that dust-thing still lurked down below. Spotting him with a well-thrown torch by the Trailblazer, the party prepared to fight this thing only to be surprised by four more materializing around them, identical to the little dust-man who had lost an arm to a deft strike by Jethrael. One blew dust down the stairway, blinding a couple of the party, but as quickly as they appeared, they collapsed with a two-handed downward blow onto the originator’s ‘head’ by the Halfling.

The danger abated, you took time to inspect the room, finding a cot in one corner which hid a clear vial of “necrotic power” as informed by Eldorin, and Aemeri searched well, finding a small sachet containing dust in the corner where the dust-creature had materialized. Noting the magical properties contained within the packet, the party headed upstairs to ask the Ollentor’s about visitors…

Over bread and bleu cheese, Wart and Uniss informed you of an aged traveler, leaning upon a gnarled cane, easily of eighty years, who wanted to avoid the danger and crowded nature of the taverns and inns of Worthen and asked to stay a single night with them before he headed west on his travels. Paying in an ancient mint of gold, the man named Walter rose early and set westward without breaking his fast. Within days, the rat issues began.

Informed, but only enough to pique your curiosity, the party needed to inspect the attic to ensure that the danger had truly passed. There were no rats, nor dust-men aloft, instead you were beset by a spider of prodigious size and its web full of children, swarming for food.

Utilizing the clear vial in a move of desperation as the spiders had easily laid low much of the party in the first approach, the revived group attempted a second-time to defeat the arachnids. This time, the swarming spider’s children climbed Aemeri — covering him from head to toe in a black, churning second skin of thousands of eyes and arms — yet he remained unhurt, chanting softly to the Druidic spirits which he claimed as his own. Meanwhile, the party dispatched the parent, and slowly, carefully denied it reproduction and removed the babies from the smiling, unharmed Warden of the forest.

Beaten, but not broken, you assembled in the main room of the house with your minds racing. Had this Walter had any part to play in the affliction that beset the Ollentor home? Was this an issue that Worthen would be suffering as a whole very soon?

With a Writ from Piter Greatworth in hand, you have the power of the King now, but are warned of riots which have broken out throughout the capitol…and still, the people behind the man who had tried to assassinate the last Greatworth are at large. Is it the Hurch Gang, as your captive claimed? Is it another underworld element, like the Curious Crows or The Nicks? Or is it someone or something else you have yet to discover?

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