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Zol, Vult 17 Embarking on our Quest

Jeralt,

After so many days of uncertainty we are finally leaving Stormreach, and none too soon. I’ve already lost Elrick The Orange, and now my other companions have been spotted on wanted posters. Don’t worry brother. I do not align myself with criminals. I swear to you by the Flame they have been committed no crime, unless attempting to rescue Riedrans from a fire is now criminal. It is best if we leave the city for some time until this all blows over.

More disturbing still is the return of that bitch Denna. As I mentioned earlier, one of The Lantern’s crew, Denna, sabotaged the ship and revealed herself as a succubus. I was unaware those demons had the power to change shape, but as we saw Captain Jan Windweaver walking the streets of the Marketplace, it appears she does. This suspicion was confirmed by Goresh, my newest companion. He is quiet, respectful, and githyanki. Strange folk, but he is trustworthy and he is quite skilled with a sword.

Before leaving we had a run in with the local Knights of Thrane, who are led by one Valen Vanatar. Embers, the ward most Thranes in the city call home, was assaulted by a band of Cyrans called Dannel’s Wrath. Normally I would have preferred to stay neutral in such a situation; I know back home I would be considered a traitor, but the Cyrans have suffered unspeakably. However, I was overwhelmed by rage when they began attacking women and children. I am unsettled by this attack as the Cyrans were carrying alchemical weapons. The Knights of Thrane may be well armored against swords and arrows, but alchemy is a powerful and unpredictable foe. Valen Vanatar seemed intrigued by our fighting abilities; I have the suspicion he will be watching us from here on out. Yet another reason to leave Stormreach for a while.

Matters only worsened at the Keep of the Silver Flame. Embers is ridden with plague; they call it the Ebon Fever or Mourning Sickness. The sick are being cared for at the Keep, but it is spreading. Zayne has already began turning away infected Cyrans. He suspects that may be the reason why they are attacking. After discussing the plague I pressed Zayne for more information about our quest. He was very uninformative, offering no more than a plausible location of where the plague started. He, as well as a few others, believe the Day of Mourning and the Ebon Fever may be related.

This is where I must leave you brother. Our ship (yes, we are on another ship, but this one travels by sea!) is headed for the Hydra River. There we will accompany a caravan inland to a House Tharashk mining camp. By the Flame’s light I hope we find some answers there as I’m beginning to think we’ve been sent on a fool’s errand.

I still await word from you. Any news from the Mournland?

May the light of the Flame illuminate your path,

Fane

Sul, Vult 15 Waiting at the Wavecrest Tavern

Jeralt,

It has been a long time since I have written you dear brother. As you know fate has brought me to the wilds of Xen’Drik. My company, dubbed The Torchbearers crashed in the Thunder Sea when our airship was attacked. Thankfully we all survived our first foray through the jungle and arrived safely in Stormreach. The city is every bit as “unpolished” as you described. I could never have dreamed of a place where giants walk alongside orcs, and ogres work with halflings.

When we first arrived I left my company to search for news of Lilya. I believe I have picked up her trail, although it will still be some time before we are reunited. This is good news but a darkness has gripped me. When my company returned to the Wavecrest Tavern this evening Elrick The Orange was slain. He was so young, only 19. He was a fool in many ways, as we all are at that age, but he was a bright boy. Maybe I never should have brought him with. Maybe I should have left him. Was his death of my own fault, just like all those I lost in Thaliost? I know you would chastise me for this kind of talk, but I still have not forgotten all those innocent eyes staring lifelessly back at me on the field of battle. I hope Elrick has found his peace at last.

Tomorrow I must take the The Torchbearers to meet with Sir Hasslin of the Silver Flame. From there we will embark on our true quest – to unravel the mystery of The Mourning. It is quite daunting, to be charged with such an arduous task, but as you know it is of the greatest import.

And you? What news do you carry from Thrane? How goes your investigation in the Mournlands? Have you been in contact with Miriam and the girls? I am sure they miss you greatly. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Take care brother, and be safe.

~Fane

Sar, Vult 14 Valexa von Ruthvek

The city of Stormreach is like nothing I have ever seen before. It’s a mess of rope ladders, floating ruins, buildings reused, recycled, renovated… It has nothing of the order and civility of Thrane, nor the tranquility of Aruldusk, but it does have plenty of character. I made my way from the Harbor to the Marketplace, searching for Valexa von Ruthvek’s Splendors of the South. The shop wasn’t hard to come by thanks to a few well placed coins.

Splendors of the South has certainly earned its name. The shop is littered with curiosities which no doubt would have Elrick foaming at the mouth and leave Dura and Naali awestruck. Valexa von Ruthvek was happy to show me her wares, but when I stated my true reason for coming she dropped what I can only assume was her default pretense for customers. She is a serious gnome woman; her diminutive size belies her character. I had only to relieve myself of a hand full of coins to learn what I needed. Valexa had no qualms about telling me where le Marve’s expedition was going, nor that Lilya was indeed with him; she was however unwilling to tell me who had funded the venture. She made it quite clear that her benefactors have always been, and will remain anonymous. Nonetheless, she was kind enough to offer a mission to my crew. I just may have to take her up on that if Cardinal Patoria’s plans for us don’t pan out.

Far, Vult 13 The Harbor and The Wavecrest

We’ve finally reached the harbor in Stormreach. A 100’ statue holding a glowing white light lit up the night sky. Rupert called him The Emperor, supposedly from the giant kingdom of Cul’sir, whatever the hell that is. We also passed a foreboding curved rock jutting out of the water called Shargon’s Talon. “Stay away from there,” warned Rupert, “Them sea-devils live there”. We decided not to make camp there. Rupert then led the boat through a tangled web of ropes, pulleys, and fishing vessels. When we finally docked I asked where the Wavecrest Tavern was. The others looked confused. “Aren’t we supposed to meet Sir Hasslin at the Chapterhouse?” asked Drudge. Damned commitments. He was right, and I knew it, but a little detour won’t hurt anyone. Besides, for all we know they think we are dead and Sir Hasslin isn’t even waiting for us anymore.

I instructed Fangrim “The Wolf” Gwenson to take the surviving House Lyrandar crew and Captain Jan Windweaver’s dagger back to the house enclave. I trust Fang to explain our situation. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a little compensation for all the trouble, but knowing the Dragonmarked Houses, I’m sure they’ll turn a blind eye to us. Ebeneezer proved me correct by asking for Captain Jan’s purse. Hell, I didn’t want it anyways. “Take it,” I said. “Anybody got a problem with that?” Nobody did. It was tainted gold as I was concerned.

With that I left for the Wavecrest Tavern. There was no sense in wasting more time. Every minute Lilya was getting farther from me. In the tavern I spoke to Sigmund Bauerson, the owner. Lilya wasn’t there any more, but he checked his ledger. She had been there, with Le Marve. He didn’t know where they had gone, just that a woman named Valexa von Ruthvek met with them that night, and that they checked out the next day.

I need to track down Valexa von Ruthvek. Sigmund said she has a shop in the Market District. That’s where I’m headed next.

Zor, Vult 12 Rupert Mudrock

Our navigator is a curious man. He reminds me of many of the veterans I met during the Last War – eager to talk, looking for companionship, full of sadness, and always thirsty. Nonetheless, having Rupert with us is refreshing. I feel a connection to him that I don’t have to the others, except maybe Fangrim. In conversation Rupert mentioned the Wavecrest Tavern. I know the others won’t be pleased, but I need to see if Lilya is still there. It’s unlikely, but there’s a chance. Hopefully I can pick up her trail if nothing else.

We’ve been rowing all day. Fortunately, we were able to jury rig a small sail to help us along. During the night and Rupert told us a lot about Stormreach. He mentioned several groups to avoid. That shouldn’t be too difficult. I do, however, worry about Naali and Duragilis. They’ve never been to a city, let alone one like Stormreach. I hope they can stay out of harm’s way.

Wir, Vult 11 The Lighthouse

Duragilis was right. The birdmen, or rather, a birdman attacked us. I’m not sure if the cat-dog creatures were with it, or if we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Either way, I lost some good men. Matthias and Jacob. I didn’t know them long, but I feel sorrow saying goodbye to them.

I subdued the kenku in the end, but he wouldn’t tell us much. Apparently his kind doesn’t fear death. Still, I’m glad we brought him with us. I would not have felt right slaughtering him like a pig. I saw too much of that cruelty in the Last War.

After scaling the twisting rock face we came upon a light house. Inside we made a senile old man. Concerned with getting to Stormreach, I headed up to the top to get a better view so we could be on our way. That’s when the scuffle broke up. The kenku had been using the lighthouse as a hideout. The old man was their leader. We made quick work of them all, including their friend that we had brought with us. In another room we found an old man named Rupert. He told us the birdmen had taken him hostage; he didn’t know why, other than that they were planning to eat him. I hate birdmen.

Luckily, Rupert has a smalling sail boat which he offered to give us a ride in. After gathering our things and taking a short rest we piled into the boat and headed out to sea once again. In a way it was a relief, but I am still unsettled by the crash.

Zol, Vult 10 The Survivors

We rushed from the queen’s chamber, hacking through more worker ants as we went. The chamber collapsed behind us thanks to Elrick’s magic… nearly got us all killed, I might add. The next part of the hive was full of thick bands of ant silk. Several bundles of silk were strewn throughout the chamber. We promptly began slicing into them, hoping to find Jan and the others. Drudge and I found an ogre carrying a couple items of interest. Naali found some frog people – luckily they were already dead. After some time we found Captain Jan and the other crew. Only three of them were alive, and Captain Jan was not one of them.

When we made it back to camp I separated myself from the others once I knew everyone was okay. I needed some time to think. I never had time to ask for Jan’s forgiveness… Jacob, a surviving crew member, told me that Denna had charmed his friend as well. I was not the only one. Still, the guilt wears on me. I must avenge my actions by way of Denna. I cannot wait to meet her again. The weight of my medal, the warmth of my cloak, the comfort of Lilya’s letters… these are the things that keep me sane. I did not know Jan well, but I did feel a connection to him. Now I am not only responsible for The Torchbearers but also the rest of the Lyrandar crew.

After a short night’s rest I commanded the group to move. We need to get to Stormreach as quickly as possible. Yeslick, one of the other survivors is wounded; all of us have at least minor injuries. The jungle is no place for us to travel, even with the likes of Naali and Drudge. We’ll move faster on the beach anyways, even if we do leave a clear trail to follow. Something tells me that whatever wants to find us out here will have no problem doing so, even if we were to go through the jungle.

After several hours Drudge informed me that we were indeed being followed by birdmen. Naalicalled them Umathai. Cunning hunters that fly in the shadows. Drudge asked to search for a defensible position but I didn’t think we could spare the time. Besides, as I told him the Umathai, or Kenku, haven’t even attacked us yet. “We keep moving, Drudge. We’ll set double watches and make camp on the beach. If they want to attack us, they’ll have to do it in the open.” He wasn’t pleased, but looking for a cave or cliff could take hours that we don’t have.

Zol, Vult 10 In the Hive – What the hell is going on?

We dispatched the progenitor slimes without much fuss. The smaller slimes proved even easier. We moved from the carcass-filled chamber through a narrow tunnel. I lead the way with my shield shining brightly. So far it has turned out to be pretty useful.

Naali charged into the next chamber, shouting about noises up ahead. By the time Drudge and I entered Naali was surrounded by a hoard of giant ants. Several more dead ants were heaped up beside her. “There’s no way she could have killed that many so quickly,” I thought. Then I saw the flash of orange in the light cast by my shield. There stood Elrick The Orange, bloodied and dumb-drunk, flailing away spouting fire and cold at the ants. In spite of his inebriated state he seemed to be holding off the ants quite well. I must remember to get Elrick drunk before our next big battle.

We found Elrick in what seemed to be an egg chamber. At my instruction he torched the place. I didn’t want any more of the creatures sneaking up behind us.

We continued downward into the hive until we reached the bottom – the foul swamp had seeped into the hive and eroded much of its foundation. There Duragilis spotted Fangrim “The Wolf” Gwenson creeping against one of the cavern walls. Before we could make a move a huge, grotesque two-headed ant burst from the acrid sludge and attacked Fangrim, knocking out the support pillars around him and causing the ceiling to collapse. “Take the Queen!” I shouted and without a second thought I jump from the ledge and ran across the chamber floor in search of my friend. “Fangrim! Fangrim!” I yelled, searching frantically. Then I spotted his axe and I knew he could not be far. He never went very far from his axe. Responding to the alarm call of their hive-mother, two ants rushed me from an adjoining shaft. Their mandibles tore into my shoulder (Little Miss Faerie isn’t looking so hot these days) and also pulled me down into the sludge. I roared in frustration knowing that each passing moment Fangrim was closer to death. I retaliated, my sword edge slicing through the creatures as I brandished my shield again. The ants redoubled their efforts as only a mindless insect can do; my shield saved my life as the ants nearly had me. Lilya, you owe me for this! Using the shield to keep the ants at bay I loosed enough sand for Fangrim to free himself. “Fane. You saved my life!” he said wide-eyed. “No shit, Fang. Next time you go running off on your own try to avoid the queen’s chamber, all right?” I said with a wink.

With Fangrim “The Wolf” Gwenson free the ants didn’t last very long. Still, Naali ‘Honeymouth’ Thamikeil-thavo was taken down. Duragilis knelt by her, ready to pour one of the healing potions we were given down her throat. “Naali!” I yelled rushing to her side. Drudge’s concern was palpable. A lump formed in my throat. Had I just sacrificed Naali to saved Fangrim? “Naali… wake up. You’re tougher than that. You seriously want to be killed by some insects?” That got her. Her eyes fluttered and she came too; a bit embarassed, but alive. I extended my forearm and helped her up. “Welcome to The Torchbearers. Impressive work Naali.”

“Graschak-khen,” she replied, straightening her posture and puffing out her chest.

“Uh, yeah. Like I said, good work.” I might die down here, but for damn sure no one else is going to “Now where’s Captain Jan?”

Zol, Vult 10 After the crash

Where are the survivors? We can’t be the only ones. We have been searching for hours but have found nothing, if you exclude the fine cask of wine Elrick has become so fond of. Duragilis keeps looking back the way we came from. More than once he has told me we should turn back, but I won’t give up hope just yet.

Finally we have a sign, though it is a grim one. Dura noticed a green acid on a bit of flotsam. The substance appears to have been left by a large creature, judging by the numerous pock-like tracks in the sand and the scratch marks on the planks. Naali assures me it cannot be an insect, though from what I’ve heard of Xen’drik it could be anything. Whatever the creatures were, they left us a very easy trail to follow. We’re going after the others. They are alive. I know it.

After many tense minutes of following the creatures’ tracks we hear a shout of pain. “To arms,” I shout, ready to rush to their aid, but we are already discovered. Naali curiously stands still, as if meditating. It’s not my preferred method of readying for battle, but if it works for her so be it. Duragilis slinks into the rushing river just north of our position dropping out of site. As I duck behind the great sprawling bole of a jungle tree three large ants, each standing nearly as high as my chest, appear with their great mandibles grasping hungrily for prey. Dura looses an arrow and drops one. I charge in, bursting through the jungle brush and my sword cuts down another. As Naali barrels out swinging her sword mightily the three of us take out the final insect.

I hear more shouts of pain and rush to a nearby break in the jungle. From there I can see the rear stern castle of The Lantern. Two crewmen are struggling to keep a swarm of giant ants at bay with their halberds. I splash across the submerged stones and draw the attention of two hulking soldier ants. In a feat of pure athleticism Naali jumps over the river and catches an ant off guard, her blade slicing through its carapace. Finally, I leap over to the other side, flanking the ant and sinking my sword up to the hilt. Naali and I are quickly surrounded by others. “Dura! Where are you? We need some cover fire!” I order, but it garners no response. Out of the corner of my eye I see Duragilis being washed down river, over the jagged rocks. “Damn! Naali, we need to finish these things quickly.” One by one the ants fall. Despite her inexperience Naali is a reliable warrior. She just needs some guidance. After some tense moments the last of them is skewered by an arrow. “Finally,” I utter under my breath. “Glad to see you made it, Dura.” My tone may be stern, but I am truly glad to see the half-orc back at my side.

As Naali tends to the ant carcasses in her own fashion, I rush to the crewman’s aid. We help them and an unconscious Ronen down from the wrecked ship. “Where are the others?” I ask hurriedly. Ebeneezer tells me they were taken by ants… Bartholomew, the other crewman falls to the sand and weeps. My hopes rise as Ebeneezer tells me Fangrim went after the others. “He’s a good tracker, and can hold his own. All is not lost yet.”

After a strenuous hour of following the ant trail we reach their hill. “This is strange,” murmurs Duragilis. My knowledge of natural things is limited, but I can see something is not normal. The hill appears to be sinking into a fetid swamp, but the swamp itself does not belong here. Duragilis wants to rest before entering, but I persuade him otherwise. We cannot hesitate now. Hesitation leads to unnecessary death. My fallen comrades in Thaliost can attest to that.

We look for a way in and decide to scale a large tree and sneak into a seemingly abandoned entrance. Once in the tree I tell Dura to fire a thundering arrow into the distance and draw the ant’s attention away from any intruders. The plan works flawlessly. Once inside we make haste towards the bowels of the hill.

So far we have avoided attention from the ants, but for how much longer I don’t know. I looks like Fangrim was not so lucky. We come across a pile of dead ants, clearly cut down by his axes. A “dragging” noise draws our attention to a chamber littered with green slime and more dead ants. “These were not killed by Fangrim,” I say circling towards a still writhing ant. The light from my shield glances off something dangling from the ceiling. “Look out!” I shout, leaping backwards as a massive glob of green ooze drops next to me with a wet thud.

I am weary, but I must fight on. The lives of the others are at stake, and as long as the Flame lights my path I will forge ahead.

Zol, Vult 10

We are scheduled to arrive in Stormreach soon. My anticipation is almost overwhelming. Seeing Lilya’s face again will mean more to me than anything; but I must not get ahead of myself. First I must track her down. I hope she receives me well. It’s been much too long, but her letter gives me hope that things are not ruined between us.

I hope we do not have trouble finding Sir Hasslin. From the cautions of Cardinal Patoria, it seems Stormreach has quite a reputation concerning visitors. Still, I am eager to set foot on solid gr-

- Something is amiss on deck. I heard the word “airship”. This can’t be good.

...

It was only the Triskaideka, the massive airship of the Blackwheel Company. Impressive, but I prefer to have my feet firmly set on the ground.

As the ship distanced itself from us an explosion shook the The Lantern sending us reeling. From the hold emerged Jan’s lieutenant, Denna, and a number of other crewman. Something was wrong, but not what I expected. Denna embraced Kal and then threatened us, saying she wanted us dead. Why? We never did get an answer as the “charmed” crewman attack, led by Kal. I ordered Dura to find higher ground and pin down our aggressors. Before I could rush in myself, Elrick moved forward an unleashed his magic, but also left himself exposed. Seeing no other course of action, I charged in to protect the mage, shoving Kal out of the way. It wasn’t enough as the sorcerer retaliated with his storm magic. Denna then charmed his brother Jan which left us hard-pressed. Naali held off a large number of enemies but had trouble reducing their numbers.

It was not a good fight, nor a fair one. I am loathe to say that I too fell under Denna’s witchery. That kiss… so cold, it sucked all the warmth from my body like a winter’s chill… yet it was so sweet… like the finest kuryeva. I am loathe to say that I could not break her magic until it was too late, and even more ashamed that because of it I attacked Jan. Denna fled through a portal as my companions laid low many of the crewman, the poor souls. However, she left behind some kind of throbbing magic crystal, a spellshard no doubt. Before we had time to think it explodes and everything went black.

I awoke in the water, slipping into the cold blackness below, into the Devourer’s maw, but Naali pulled me to safety. After finding the others we headed for shore.

Now we must search for other survivors and find our way to Stormreach. I can’t help but blame myself for what occurred on the The Lantern. I couldn’t have prevented the attack, but if my tactics had been more sound perhaps so many would not have died. I must find Captain Jan. He must have survived the crash if we did, that is unless I wounded him too severely. By the Flame I hope not. I have a bitter taste from the battle, and the cursed tongue of Denna is to blame for that. She will pay next time we meet.

Sar, Aryth 28

For now the journey goes smoothly. With nothing by the Thunder Sea to stare at my thoughts drift to Lilya more and more. I must find her as quickly as possible once we land. Although I’ve never met him, I do not trust Jacques le’ Marve.

The group seems to be faring well enough. As expected, Duragilis Laedon and Naali ‘Honeymouth’ Thamikeil-thavo prefer to keep to the company of each other, but they currently lack the camaraderie the others share. With due time they will feel more at ease. No doubt once we reach Stormreach we’ll all feel like fish out of water.

Zol, Aryth 24

Today is Rampartide and I am on an airship bound for Xen’drik. Although I miss my cabin and the solitude it provides I’d much rather be on The Lantern than listening to sermons about wickedness. Cardinal Patoria of the Church of the Silver Flame has petitioned my services yet again. I’m not sure I like being so reliant on the Flame for work, but they do pay well. I digress. The good Cardinal asked me to select a team of 6 individuals to accompany me on a journey to Xen’drik, the shattered continent. I have my reservations however. From what Jeralt has told me, and he’s only heard stories from others, Xen’drik is not a place you go if you want to live a long, peaceful life.

For this mission I have selected the following members, along with myself dubbed The Torchbearers:

elrick-the-orange – I’ve come to respect Elrick as of late. For being a bookworm he held up well during our mission to find the crazed artificer of House Cannith, Alcanane. He might be a bit namby-pamby at times, but he did hold his own and kept his whining to a minimum. Besides, the guy seems a bit lost; maybe this trip will be a life-changing experience for him.

Naali ‘Honeymouth’ Thamikeil-thavo – Jeralt once told me of a group of the mountain nomads his legion came across in the Blackcaps Mountains. I must say, they are even more impressive in person. Naali is truly a specimen to behold. Her arms are half again as large as my thighs. Her body markings are equally impressive if not more so. I have no doubt she can more than hold her own in battle; still, there is something behind her stone-like countenance that is unsettling.

Duragilis Laedon – I was not entirely sure bringing him along was a good idea at first. Fangrim “The Wolf” Gwenson was not pleased to say the least. Still, having two woodsmen in a place like Xen’drik should be a boon, not a detriment. Dura, or Drudge, as Naali ‘Honeymouth’ Thamikeil-thavo calls him, is an expert with the long bow. Any scouting company or group of rangers would be proud to have a marksman like him. His keen eye will no doubt save the group time and again. Like my friend Fangrim “The Wolf” Gwenson, I look forward to getting to know Dura more as our journey takes shape.

Fangrim “The Wolf” Gwenson – Another member of my original crew. Like Elrick The Orange, Fang proved indispensable in our search for Alcanane. I am always comforted to know that I have his axe at my side in battle. Stalwart and brave, Fang longs to temper his passion and fury; I feel it may be too much for him. Sharing the blood of two races cannot be an easy burden. That’s one reason why I accepted Duragilis Laedon to come. Although their backgrounds are quite distinct, I hope they can find common ground, something to which Fang can ground himself. He holds the Church of the Silver Flame to such an ideal; I pray the Flame does not let him down.

Kal Elis – The sorceror was a natural fit for the group. I know for certain we will need his fire power at some point. Although he remains enigmatic, he does have my trust.

Ronen – The Deva may be the strangest looking individual I have ever seen with his charcoal flesh and smoldering red eyes; yet, in spite of this the Church of the Silver Flame holds him to high esteem. He appears to be touched by the Flame itself, which I hope is an asset for this mission.

The good Cardinal was not very forthcoming in details regarding our mission; something about uncovering the cause behind The Day of Mourning before it happens again. He simply told me we would meet a contact at the Chapterhouse in Stormreach; a town of pirates, con-artists, swindlers, and criminals… I can’t wait. Our contact is supposed to tell us more. I hope the crew I’ve selected will hold up. It’ll be a long journey there. That will give us some time to get to know each other.


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