Protectors of Sandpoint

A History Lesson
Eloams Log

Slowly , he closed the tome. Taking care not to damage the ancient pages. The book told of the age of Xin, who ruled in peace, using the power of virtue…

In virtue there was Order. In vice there was Order as well. Now neither virtue nor vice prevail and we have chaos…

View
One Journey Ends Even As Another Begins
A Prequel

Vlana said goodbye to her sensei before the public viewing in the hydrangea garden, beside the Shrine of Kameido in the center of Kasai. Before he was viewed by the people of the city, most of which he never knew or interacted with, his body was wrapped in rich, colorful silks he never wore in life, surrounded by symbolic offerings of red rice, known as Sekihan and bunches of flowers known as Lo’elhi, both symbols of the Red Wolf, Okami, and laid in state within the Shrine. He was known by few and respected by many, as well as feared by many more that neither knew nor understood his ways, nor the ways of his dojo. But as a Shadow Master, and a well-respected teacher, a public fire ceremony to mark his passing was obligatory, even in a city where Those Who Dwell in the Shadows are not spoken of except with hushed tones.

She had been his final student, and had spent the last ten years of her life learning everything she could from the old man, even though he was always quick to point out that he was giving her nothing; rather, he merely ‘changed the flow of her energy’, as if altering a brook, allowing that which was in herself to emerge naturally. “Everything exists within”, he’d say, “There is nothing outside of yourself that can make you faster, stronger, smarter, or richer; seek nothing outside of yourself, but encourage the tree that grows within, and let the roots and branches reach where they will”. His wisdom had been particularly difficult for Vlana to grasp, herself just a vagabond Varisian child-thief from Magnimar, fleeing gang persecution in the Shadow Spire. In many ways, Vlana took to the physical demands and hardships of training far easier that her Master’s inscrutable, sometimes even obscure, doctrines. In time, however, she found clarity in his words and accepted the fact that whatever difficulty she encountered as a youth when she first came to Minkai originated from her own mind.

Making sure no one else was in the Shrine, or could see her from outside, Vlana stepped out of the darkness behind the Queen of Heaven statue, and then stood before the dais that held his body. She selected a cloying stick of lavender incense, lit it on fire from one of the ceremonial torches, bowed before his silk-wrapped form and said the traditional Five Blessings; then, she placed the smoldering incense stick into the dragon-shaped copper offering vessel beside his body: hers was the first stick of what should be many. After 24 hours, the body, all the offerings, the incense, prayer notes, flowers, and his final belongings, all would go up in smoke in his final pyre, and thereby allow the smoke of his soul to travel to heaven. Vlana herself did not necessarily believe that is what actually happened, but in this case she chose to honor the traditions of Minkai, even when her sensai rarely did.

Vlana had not only been Konji Hasamiku’s final student, she was also his secret. By choosing to align with the losing side in the previous Shadow Wars that flared up for control of the Jade Throne, Hasamiku had been allowed to gracefully ‘retire’, rather than be killed, on the conditions that he disband his dojo, accept no further students, and never left the city of Kasai. The first and last conditions he complied with willingly; circumstance forced his compliance for the second condition, as families no longer sent promising students to him for teaching the ways of the Okami Clan. But a gaijen, an outsider from Avistan: when the opportunity came for Hasamiku to break both tradition and rule he leaped at the chance.

“Traditions”, he’d said, “are the shackles of knowledge: the tree grows towards the sky, not because of tradition but because that is where it is meant to grow. The Wolf does not obey fences.”

Both of them, if discovered, could have been killed for teaching an outsider the art of ninjitsu, if not by the Governor or by order of the Jade Regent, then at the very least by representatives of the many other clans and dojos who keep their arts secreted away from foreign barbarians. But the Okami, he’d explained, went their own way. The lion, the tiger, and leopard: all strong and fearsome predators; yet, they were known to kill the weak and sickly, the old, the newborn, and the defenseless. It was the wolf, and the wolf alone, he reminded her, who followed the beast herds for miles as they migrated, observing its members, and selected the strongest of the herd to hunt and kill – for the strongest member provides the best meat.

Always full of obscure wisdom, Vlana had been surprised a week ago when he’d summoned her from her training and sat her down, both cross-legged on the floor of his illegal, impromptu dojo, to speak to her in rather plain terms.

“I have spoken with the Shinigami, those who serve the Goddess known in your lands as Pharasma. My end draws near. I am no longer a young man, and this is as it should be, even though it pains me that I have not been able to finish this final task I assigned myself.”

“Sensi, she’d started, concerned from his words – but he held up a hand to stop her.

“Everything is as it should be; all things which begin also have ends, and therein lies the balance of the universe. However, I do have one final task which I would ask of you, to repay all that I have taught you these past years.”

“Of course, Sensi, what shall I do for you?”

“The Fates had decided that before my final smoke reaches Heaven there will be a shipment of opium, the poppy’s cruel kiss, which will leave the harbor aboard a merchant vessel named the Sun Crane. It, and the merchant’s agent accompanying the shipment, is bound for Muliwan – and thence, via The Path of Aganhei, the poison is set to spread itself across Avistan, from whence you came. Be on that vessel, and somehow stop that shipment from reaching its destination. From there you may continue back to your home lands, if that is what you wish, but do not allow that shipment to survive”.

Vlana nodded her head; she had been thinking about returning to Magnimar for some time now but did not feel she was ready to do what she wanted to do – now, because of her teacher’s imminent death, she would be doing so ready or not. She had seen what became of men who chased the dragon in opium dens in the city, and she knew there were gang in Magnimar would pay good coin to sell the drug in the streets. She decided then that she would stop the shipment of opium, as asked, or die trying.

“And the agent accompanying the shipment?” she asked.

“A considerably harder task to deal with; that is all I know. If you can destroy the shipment without bearing the wrath of the agent, that way lies success. The other paths are shrouded in darkness and hold no certainty. You are not yet the instrument I wanted to return to the world, but…you are no toothless cub either. The Shinigami could not allow me the luxury of seeing the final outcome, but I place all of my faith and trust in you, my Darkest Flower and I know you will do your best – and that is all anyone may ask of another.”

He hadn’t called her his pet name more than a handful of times in the years she’d spent training with Konji Hasamiku; hearing it now she felt the finality of his words, and could sense the truth in what he said. She could not say that she loved the old man, for his ways were very demanding and difficult, and her life in Minkai had not been easy – but she respected her teacher very much, and was much saddened to hear that his passing would come so soon.

“I thank you, Master, for all that you have done for me; I will do as you ask or die trying. I promise.”

“Well”, he returned with a rare smile, “try not to die, if you can. But always remember this: keep to the shadows, in all things. Let yourself not be known, for what your friends know so too may your enemies. But if you must be seen, let them see the image that you would have them see, not what truly is. Knowledge is advantage; illusion is a weapon. Seem the beautiful flower, but be the venomous viper beneath it. I can tell you nothing more – go and practice some more, and soon enough the time for you to act will come. Fair Journey.”

She stood and bowed deeply before her Sensi: “Fair Return”. Then she had walked out and returned to her work. That had been the last she’d spoken to him. Now she was on her own, truly, for the first time, but far better prepared, thanks to him, than she had been as a youngster when she first crossed the Crown of the World.

Before half the offertory incense stick had burned, Vlana melted into the shadows, confident in her steps along the new path of her life.

View
Giants, orcs, and Thassilonian Mirrors
Ragnar's Journal

I have seen many things in my time, but nothing like this. Thassilonian stonework is a sight to behold. If only dwarves knew their secrets, such amazing works we would create. But the dwarves use their great stonecraft to build with, while the ancient ones here have used magic to do it for them. Something of the art of stonework seems lost when magic does all the work – it has no soul, it doesn’t. Only a dwarf would truly understand this, lads.

The Runelords are better off dead, make no mistake.Their works are a sight to see, but they give me a little of the shudders. Think if I ever met one, I’d do the world a favor and make an end of them.

I don’t like the looks of the scrying mirror, either. Witchcraft such as this is best left alone. Still, the power if offers is hard for mortals to resist. We can see our enemies and what they are up to, mayhap get some clue into their secret doings. I don’t like that those foul creatures can see us when we use the mirror, and attack through it. I’ve half a mind to smash it, but then the wizard wouldn’t like that. I’ll leave the delving into deep arcane secrets to him. Wizards – I’ll never understand them either.

I don’t like this orc and giant alliance. Such as thing cannot be good. And since when do dullard hill giants wear armor? Something smarter’s behind all this, mark my words.We should send word to the towns around here.

Still not sure what to think of this half-orc. A bull in a porcelain shop he is, but there’s no doubt he can fight. We’ll need his strength in future fights, if he’s not the death of us before thn. Mayhap he has some unknown destiny. Whey the gods would see fit to empower an orc I will never know. We’ll fight back to back, but I’ll keep an eye on him all the same.

Thank the gods for Sheeta, that cat has proved his worth time and again. He’s getting bigger and meaner too, and more cunning than any animal I’ve ever seen. I could swear he’s thinking things through sometimes. Uncanny it is. Would have loved to have seen the look on the faces of those tricky gremlin things when he tracked ‘em down and pounced. Gave them the surprise of their lives, I’ll bet. They weren’t expecting a firetail to come into their warrens, now were they! Yes sir, he’s a right good friend, better than any man or elf, and even a few dwarves I’ve known. Not sure why he’s stuck around so long, but by Moradin’s hammer I’m glad to have him. I’ll just make sure to keep him fed lest he start eyeing any of my comrades here.

View
Mirror, Mirror in the wall
Eloams thoughts

Did we just see Xin-Shalast? A city that hasn’t existed for thousands of years? We just looked across hundreds of miles and thousands of years. That city is long gone, but the mountains may still be the same. If we could find that particular view of the mountains, we could find its ruins…

Wait a minute, somehow whatever is on the other side of the mirror cast thru the mirror and at our barbarian friend. If they can cast thru it, perhaps we could as well. Something they might not notice. Perhaps an arcane eye, or a summoning?

Is it worth attracting their attention again to try?

View
Journey Across the Crown of the world
Part 1

Sibron Kha’lak listened to the sounds of the waking port city while he sipped his mug of white lotus tea; the cries of gulls mixed into the cries of eager fish-mongers and wailing infants, while beneath the cries were the many-toned peals of every temple in the city that celebrated a morning ritual, along with the distant chants of the devote, barking dogs, squealing pigs, moaning oxen, the creaking wheels of a thousand push-carts, and a million other sounds that accompanied the city waking from its slumber every morning, like fat, jaded tart idling rousing after a busy evening’s labor by the docks. Beneath the smell of offal, animal excrement, cooking foods, spices, and decaying garbage, he thought could also detect the faint, linger scent of rain – it could be that a storm was coming, and if that were the case its torrential downfalls would do more than wash the garbage and shit off the city’s streets. Even with most of her inhabitants still asleep, Kasai snored.

He slicked back his thin, greying black hair with his right hand, while holding his log book in his left; there were still many things to do before the Sun Crane could slip her moors, catch the morning nor-eastly winds in the Bay of Minkai, and skirt the shore line north for Muliwan, and the lush, grassy steppe of the Hongal horse-lords. A full three-day voyage; two if the winds stayed favorable, or much longer if they got too close to Xidao territory: the fish demons were known for taking vessel that strayed too close to their waters, made the more problematic by the fact that their demon-prince claimed all the waters on the Oerth as their domain.

But Sibron was no novice skiff-captain; twenty-two years as a pirate, smuggler, and privateer had honed his senses well, and now that he’d found less-lucrative, albeit far safer, work transporting merchants and goods, all his experience on the sea still served him well enough to keep him safe on the Muliwan run for some 15 years come this winter. It was chancy, but merchants and travelers found the voyage much safer, and far more predictable, than risking going through by horse or cart through the Forest of Spirits, where the mercurial Kami Lords of the Ikkaku Peninsula either allowed travelers to live, or took them for their own amusement, according to their desires. Sibron was no Xian himself; he was a beak-nosed swarthy Vudrani, from Silundu, a jungle-choked island off the coast of Vudra, from some village whose name he’d long since forgotten. But a lifetime plying the Valashia Sea and the Okayio islands made him very familiar with the Tien Xia and Minkaian folk, and their ways. When a Minkai merchant took risks they did so only in slow, tiny increments, like the head of a thousand-year-old turtle coming out of its shell. Sibron’s schedule was nearly always booked.

Suddenly, a tall bearded, muscle-bound Avistani ran up to him with meat pies in his huge hands; he handed one to Sibron, who took one dripping bite, and then asked with his mouth partially filled with food:

“What did the Port Master say? How does the south-west sky look?”

“Black as Nocticula’s quim”, replied Grote Giant-Struck sourly; the Sun Crane’s First Mate was from Iobaria, where he’d lost an eye, an ear, and part of his face battling a giant. “We’ll need to push off soon if we don’t want Rovagug’s teeth in our ass.” He inserted an entire steaming pie into his yellow-toothed mouth in one bite, quickly chewing and then swallowing, and then wiping the juices on the stiff sleeve of his hides. “Repairs are done”, he continued, sucking juice from his thumb, “ and we got the new rigging and extra canvas stowed.”

“Have they loaded all the water and supplies yet”, the Captain asked?

“Too slow”, the Avistani replied, blowing his nose into his left hand, and then casually tossing the snot into the street. “That Monkey merchant’s got the hold all bolloxed up with his crates and boxes, and they’re knacked trying to work around them. Dumb as cow shite, that lot.”

“Well, just remember, Grote: these Minkai merchants account for most of our customers these days, so let’s not insult them, and get our boys to work with them as best they can.”

“Aye, I’ll get ‘em to work, alright; I just wish it was the old days, when we’d pluck that feathered goose, not ferry ‘em around.”

Sibron missed the old days too, sometimes; but he was older now, nearly 50, and safe, steady work was now his preference.

“Just as long as the goose gives us coin, that’s all that matters. When the crew get done loading make sure I get the updated manifest. There should be no passengers, besides the merchant and the girl; has she boarded yet?” A mysterious blue-eyed Avistani girl booked passage at the last minute with Sibron himself last night as he ate dinner; normally he did not conduct business that way, but the girl seemed honest enough, and her purse held enough coin – but most telling of all was the small gray and red flower, known as Wolf Cup, and called Lo’elhi here, that she had pinned to her sleeve. Among the Minkai, that flower was sacred, and only very specific individuals were allowed to openly display it – to say nothing of a foreigner.

And given the fact that there had just been a fire ceremony in Kasai three days ago, and the departed was a well-known Red Wolf clan Shadow Master, the Captain was certain she was one passenger he dare not refuse.

“Aye, she’s aboard”, Grote replied with a gleam in his remaining eye, “and there’s another plump little chicken I’d like to pluck if I get the chance…”

The Captain laughed heartily.

“I’m sure she’d sooner offer ‘rump rights’ to a malodorous, bow-legged, pock-marked, green-skinned, thick-skulled ice ogre than give a foul-mouthed, inebriated, crooked-back, ass-scratching, half-face son of a whore savage such as you, Grote!”

“Mebbe so”, he returned mirthlessly, “but then back in them old days I’d be takin’ a little piece like that, and not askin’.”

“And you’d likely be getting your throat slit and your balls cut off and stuffed down your throat for all your troubles, fool. Did you not see how she was dressed last night, and the weapons she wore at her side; did you not notice the Wolf Cup blossom on her sleeve? Did it ever occur to you how it is a pretty little Avistani girl like that was allowed to walk the streets of this city, unaccompanied and unmolested, even in the docks? No; maybe I couldn’t be 100% sure about it, but I’d bet my ship’s weight in gold coin that girl is ninjitsu, a shadow warrior, or at the very least a pupil of some Shadow Master. I know she seems small, but so does a Skull Spider, and one bite from them will turn your insides into pudding. I’d stay as far away from her as I could, if I were you, Grote, I certainly will: because even if she somehow couldn’t do the job for herself, someone from her clan seeking vengeance for your actions certainly would, and that’s a fresh hell I would want absolutely no part of."

The muscular Avistani paled visibly, then looked down as his feet.

“I never said I *would*…I mean, if…I’ll just go an’ look after the crew…”

He waved away the stuttering First Mate with his right hand, and then went back to considering how soon he could launch the Sun Crane before the coming storm either drove them into the fish demon waters, or swallowed them whole. There were days he mused sourly, when pirating and raiding seemed a whole lot safer after all.
View
Mirror and a Circle
Eloams thoughts

As the archer falls for his second and hopefully final time, My eyes turn to the large mirror. Perhaps its a scrying device. I had been thinking about scrying earlier…

We had just figured out that the circle was a transport device. Next thing you know, Snake is standing in it, wanting to go wherever it went. While a brave act, chances are it would accomplish little. Without a way to see where he went or communicate with him, we could learn little,.

What we need to do is send someone thru who has the means to return. That’s It, we need to send one of our extra-planar acquaintances. Unfortunately, none of my friends are smart enough to relay us useful information. I wonder if Skor can summon anything smarter…

View
Past Scene I
Pillar Poses

Vlana stood naked on the platform, surrounded by burning candles, and with a tapestry of dark fabric hanging on the wall behind her. She felt a mix of mild sheepishness, for appearing foolish, along with no small amount of anxiety – not so much out of demure modesty; nudity, at least in theory, did not bother her: rather, she not used to being seen and recognized, at all, by anyone, not since the incident while crossing the Crown of the World from Tian Xia to Avistan on her return trip home. The sculptress knew more about what her face and body looked like than any other person in Golarion, and yet she still insisted on Vlana modeling for her in the nude whenever the mood struck her. These artists, there was no pleasing them.

She watched as the slender, dark-haired, six-fingered artist fussed over her creation, and flicked away thin sections of clay with a putty knife, all the while gazing at Vlana with her amber lioness eyes. At least this time, Vlana considered, she was not working with stone, and would be done much sooner.

“Wait”, commanded the artist in a sultry voice, ‘Don’t breathe, I must finish your bust.”

“I can’t not breath, Ayavah”, Vlana replied, trying not to complain – the Tiefling had been good enough to allow the rogue to stay in her secret lair in the pillar, and Vlana knew she could trust her to keep Vlana’s secrets as much as she would keep her’s.

“Well try, I am almost done.” The artist flicked away more clay from her creation.

“I don’t know why you bother”, she continued, “I am not nearly as full-breasted as you make them – in fact I barely recognize myself at all in your work most of the time, which is perhaps is for the best.”

“I told you…”, Ayavah continued in her alien sing-song voice she used to soothe and charm people, “…you provide the basic form to which I add artistic license ; it’s perfectly simple, my dear…”

“Yes, I know. It just feels…odd.” The last sculpture was a highly erotic statue of two succubae entwined in what Vlana could only politely describe as a physically impossible love-making position – and their faces, at least the parts not connected to genitals, seemed to her to resemble an awful lot like herself and the Tiefling, an uncomfortably close resemblance. The one that looked like her seemed very much like her own body, not given height or a full bust, as most of the other sculptures; the other lacked any Tiefling horns, and featured full female genitalia, but otherwise had a face almost exactly like the sculptress.

Coincidence, or something more? Vlana supposed even hermaphrodites felt the urge to have sex, like everyone else, from time to time, but Vlana preferred not to complicate things: she was still newly arrived back in Magnimar, and she needed someplace secret and secure in the Shadow, so that she could observe and learn all she could about the people, the gangs, and who ran what. Ayava’s home was perfect as it was, without making things messy and complicated – and besides, there was something very dangerous about the sculptress, and the fate she tempted was not something Vlana wished to get involved in.

“You should relax and enjoy life more, my little blue-eyed flower”, the Tiefling mused, “it would be a pity to waste all that beauty without sharing it with someone. You humans bloom so bright and so early, and yet wither on the vine so quickly…”

“Well”, replied Vlana with a wry grin, “beauty might be an overstatement – although I can say that I am not quite withered yet, my paint isn’t peeling off with age. And I intend to enjoy life more…once I have finished my task here.”

“All work and no play”, tsked the Tiefling, “you’ll have worry lines and creases on that face in no time.”

Vlana was more concerned with getting her throat slit if she made the wrong move than she was with acquiring worry lines; organized crime seemed to have gotten worse since the last time she’d been in Magnimar, and there seemed like dozens of new groups and people she had to know about before she could step in and start making a difference. No one should have to flee the city as she had to as a young girl, and live in exile in a foreign land so very far away. While her Varisian blood enjoyed travel, travel by choice was a very different matter than fleeing for one’s life. Someone needed to do something about it.

But it was a dangerous prospect that Vlana undertook, one which required patience and knowledge to be done right. She learned patience and cunning in the East, along with many skills and proficiencies to help her in Magnimar; she would wait, bide her time, learn all she could while keeping her presence a secret – and then, when she was ready, she would set her plan in motion.

But until that time, she did what she had to do to keep her landlord happy, at last to a point.

“If you don’t finish soon I am going to catch a cold, and then you’ll have to nurse me with soup and hot tea instead of working on your creations.”

“You can put your clothes back on, or not, as it suits you, Miss Bashful”, the Tiefling teased, “I can finish from memory. Then I will be painting all night, so if you could please bring me back some walnuts so I can grind the shells to mix with my oils, I would love you ever so much for it.”

“Of course”, Vlana replied, happy to cover her face once again, then putting on the rest of her clothing next. One day she knew she would toss aside her veil and walk proudly down the Magnimar streets with nothing to fear. But until that day arrived, she embraced the shadows and took the veil, and kept herself only to herself.

View
Star Room
Snake entry

Snake head with party through some sort of fire door. We find stupid skeleton man with bow that his Snake with really bad blue lightning when hit with stupid arrow.. Snake no like this Magic. Snake also kill to other guys.. it was ok time for Snake. Then Snake go into room with Skeleton on Throne. So this time we leave it be and back out slowly. then we go to Star room.. Snake really like this room. Snake also wanted to go through portal but no one let him. so we left.

View
The Oracle's Journal - Undead and the Celestarium

There is only time for a brief note now; a detailed account must wait for later, assuming we all survive.

After having killed the kobold lizard-riders, my companions and I were returning to the surface with a captive kobold when Skor, the last of our number, appeared and warned us that a force of giants and well-armed orcs was approaching just outside. They have come to mine for an ore used in weapons, at the command of one “Bonebreaker,” evidently a warlord.

There was no way out, not past fourteen giants and twice as many orcs, so we returned in haste to the cavern with the crude art of dragon-worship. There we attempted to learn more from our captive, who was uncooperative despite my attempts to assure him he was safe. He promised to lead us to another exit, but this was clearly a deception and a trap.

Rather than trust the kobold, my companions preferred to take their chances with the rune-cut door, and Vlana risked unspeakable peril to unlock it by subtle and dextrous means. Snake and Ragnar together could barely heave it open—and then were set upon by savage undead things, ghouls of some sort, a bitter struggle. But we had no choice; I could hear the orcs approaching through the caverns, and in haste the ghouls were slain and the rune-door shut behind us.

The chamber was shaped of seamless stone in the high Thassilonian style, the walls patterned in runes and saturated with ancient magic. Our kobold captive was petrified with fear, insisting it was forbidden to step here—and no wonder, with runes of greed and four types of chaos prominent all about. The chamber reeked of ancient death.

In my examination of the runes I found a portal, cunningly worked and hidden, which Vlana opened (with her usual deft skill) onto an astonishing sight: a great throne in a small but lavish chamber, with a skeletal thing resting motionless on the throne with a mighty sword at its back. Surely this is one of the lost Runelords, ten thousand years upon its lightless throne—and surely it could snuff us all in a heartbeat should it rise again. Vlana wisely closed the door.

After this events became difficult to recall—a ghoulish archer hunted us through the corridors, which were deadly to walk for the powerful glyphs which nearly killed Snake—and, to my deepest regret, killed the kobold captive, whose only crime had been to faithfully serve his master in a moment of greatest peril. Other creatures attacked, a battle back and forth among the corridors to either side of the central tomb. Eventually there was a lull; finally we had fought a space for ourselves, and finally we were able to rest.

No telling if we woke to morning or night above; but once we ventured further, we discovered a room of alchemy and celestial wonder—a workroom for the most part, but domed with the most exquisite celestarium, an accurate model of the Heavenly Way and thousands of precisely located stars. From the position of those stars, I calculated that the celestarium depicted the night sky as it appeared eleven thousand, four hundred and sixteen years ago, during the final decline of the Thassilonian age.

Beneath that wondrous dome, we found a peculiar and troubling device, a circlet marked with ancient symbols for chaos, greed, gold and deep earth—a device which Eloam suspected might transport a person to somewhere else on Golarion. With typical foolhardiness, Snake volunteered to test the device; we chose not to proceed.

Instead we ventured the corridors on the opposite side of the central tomb. A glyph robbed Eloam of his sharpness of mind; another glyph came near to destroying Vlana’s mind entirely, and even now she moves and speaks with a toddler’s understanding.

Within a further chamber we met a sudden horror: a great grey render, an alien and implacable beast, which seized Snake and beat him against Ragnar like a club. The ghoul-archer appeared, and nearly killed me with three great arrows; and from its chest it spewed forth a corrupted hound to join the fight. A terrible confusion of axes and howling, the monstrous grey thing beset on all sides by all the weapons and magic we could bring down upon it, until finally it fell and the ghoul-archer soon after.

Now we have time, perhaps only a brief time, to examine the great mirror at the back of this chamber—a chamber which, despite the savage efforts of the grey render, appears to have no other exit than the door through which we entered. Should the orcs manage to pass through the rune-door, then we will have nowhere to flee, and this chamber may become a tomb for us all.

View
The Oracle's Journal - First Caves

Written beneath the earth, and in haste.

A profoundly saddening day—a day of needless slaughter, of blood-lust and no pause for thought or quarter on any side. It is hideous; it is the world.

And yet even after such grotesqueries, it is the runes which trouble me the most, etched ten thousand years ago and still as potent today, terrifying with all they portend.

There is too much to record; only the essence for now. Obeying the Ancient One’s command, having followed the traceries of disharmony to Sandpoint, I fell in with my present company, a small band of sellswords of a certain reputation. Hired killers for the most part, talented in their brutal way, although I feel stained to admit it, much less to have participated. But the survival of far more than my own small soul may well hang in the balance.

We made our way to this tower, a runelord’s ancient outpost, surrounded by a stand of trees growing in accordance with some unknown pattern of power. We descended the steps below; attacked in the shallow water by giant vinegarroons or some monstrous kin thereof. The axe-orc exulted in their killing.

Then the true nightmare, a maze of caves and rock-tunnels, and the tiny spearmen who hunted us, thinking creatures like enough to man-form, but twisted and hateful and relentless. They passed through stone like smoke, they traded words with us but would not converse, and after much confusion and strife they were slaughtered or driven away.

While that battle ran its long course, back and forth among many tunnels, I found the runes upon the portal, fell symbols and a name I dared not speak, and some great beast slowly clawing against the portal from the other side. The runes are a gash in my memory; they speak of corruption, betrayal, a suborning of one evil by another. They are surely harbingers, in their own small cruel way, of the Great Disharmonies which are rising about us, the cosmic upheavals the Ancient One has prophesied.

It was almost a relief when my restless companions pushed on to another set of tunnels—first to find the crude drawings that should have served as warning, of dragon-worship and worse; then the cruelly cunning mechanisms which so nearly killed Vlana; and then the ambush by kobold lizard-riders, shouting of honor despite their thoughtless attack. A hard clash, bitter and unmerciful, and I feel we survived more by luck than any skill or plan.

We are taking a desperately needed rest. My companions are much injured now—Vlana somehow on her feet, despite a vicious wound which very nearly split her skull; Ragnar nearly slain; and the axe-orc much weakened from blood-loss and many wounds, and suffering as well from the poisons of the tiny spearmen.

A great many sins have been committed today, many slain which might have been brought to righteousness. My heart tells me there will be more such slaughter when we continue, and I grieve for it. There is so much at stake, and the tools of the world cut deepest the hands which wield them.

And always, every moment since I saw them, even as I begin to fall asleep while writing this, the runes burn in my mind.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.