The Heroes of Hirot

Benny's Journal Entry #8 - A Duke and his Shadows

We arrived in Irolan and were quickly approached by a sergeant of the City Watch who escorted us to see Duke Magnuson, the 13th of his line. As he guided us, my superior hearing gifted to me by The Fates enabled me to hear him explain the current situation even as I remained in the comfort of the carriage.

He explained that the Duke attended the scheduled execution of a criminal with little importance. As the axe fell, the criminal’s head rolled not into the basket, but into the crowd. When it came to rest, it was the face not of the criminal, but of Duke Magnuson. At that point, the executioner pulled off his hood to reveal that although his body may have appeared to be human, his head was a skull covered in silver. Just then, a winged “creature” flew down, grabbed the Duke’s daughter, Elizabeth, while the silver-headed executioner jumped onto the beasts back and they flew off INTO the royal crypts.

Apparently, the Duke was quite angry with the City Watch because the cowards refused to enter the crypts and rescue his daughter. As a simple matter of deduction, one is to conclude that no one else in the entire city was brave enough either. So, to both reassure the citizenry and to demonstrate a small amount of our power, as I stepped out of the carriage, I called upon the mystical forces of the universe and summoned a freak lightning storm over the city that would last for the better part of the day.

In an attempt to help, my apprentice, Star, also turned the carriage invisible. I must remember to encourage the boy, but does he seriously think that vanishing a coach for a few minutes is anywhere near to what I called into being? I’ll need to ensure he’s practicing the correct forms and perhaps enlighten him with some of my knowledge. Not too much, for I fear it would be too much for the boy.

As we entered the Duke’s palace with a backdrop of lightning and thunder, we were quickly escorted to the audience chamber where we found a very stressed, angry father, mumbling about how he’s surrounded by cowards. He replayed what the sergeant told us and assured us that he would make it “worth our while” if we could save his daughter, Elizabeth. He explained that no one had been in the crypts for several decades when his father was interred. Star was very uncouth and demanded a gold ring as some sort of pre-payment. Before I reprimanded him, he explained it was for his Runic Magic of which I applauded his pursuit. He seems quite skilled and that may be the path upon which his Fate lies. I cannot fault him for pursuing a course of study less arduous.

A guard led us through the lower levels of the palace to a wooden door leading to the crypts. We rested from our journey there and prepared for what lay ahead. I used the knowledge I’ve gained to summon forth a companion from the Other Side, who I named Marley. It was quite an experience and I’ll have to pursue that knowledge at a later date.

When one of the hirelings touched the crypt door, it transformed into a ghostly apparition of an old man wearing royal clothing. The apparition pointed at the Magnuson family crest, then at us, and then disappeared only to have the crypt door reappear. Donald, I think his name is, assisted Marley in pushing the door open by force. He did say that it felt like “someone walked over his grave” when he did so. I can only assume that he was gifted a premonition of his Fate since one could not possibly know what that particular sensation would feel like. I did not correct him. I’ve found it best to let the troops have their superstitions. It comforts them in a way the Gifted will never understand.

Past the crypt door, we saw a large, long rectangular room with thirteen sarcophagi on the left, presumably for the Duke’s forefathers and himself. It does beg the question, who built this and when? Did they KNOW that there would only be thirteen generations? If so, what is the Magnuson’ family’s fate? Across from the sarcophagi were thirteen ossuaries containing what I assume were the bones of the Dukes’ families.

I had Brume and Marley do a quick circuit of the room. After detecting no noticeable threats, Donald, Slim, Star, and Short Round entered the room and opened the first three sarcophagi. I kept Brume and Marley there as guards. It was a good thing, too, because Marley’s supernatural strength helped opening the tombs. Each one held the skeletal remains of what we can only presume were Duke Magnuson’s ancestors. Each skeleton was missing its skull and another part of the bones. For instance, the first was missing its right forearm, the second its left hand, etc. The rogues absconded with the jewelry buried with each along with their signet rings, but I had Marley bring me something much more valuable – a thigh bone of each ruler. I look forward to what I can do with such components.

After opening the third tomb, everyone who was not holding a torch (or lantern) felt nauseated and weak as the very shadows clung to them. Fortunately for me, Ming had passed me his precious lantern as he lit a torch. He may be a ferocious warrior, but he still fears the dark. I shan’t mock him because his fear worked in our favor.

Star tried a difficult spell and called forth a rather weak arc of flame which seemed to cause one of the shadows some pain. So, in an attempt to teach my pupil, I demonstrated how one trained in the Arcane Arts commands the Powers of the Universe. I sent three blistering gouts of flame into the animated shadows delighting in their corrupt shrieks of pain until I was transported into the Else. I will discuss that after so as not to ruin this gripping narrative.
When I returned, I heard my darling Daphne explain, “Thank Amun-Tor”. I forget how easily frightened she can become when I leave her. Apparently, the group were able to hold off the animated shadows until they finally fled. Ming was especially grateful to Billy Bob for saving his dog, Zeus.

Now that the group had my reassuring presence back, they went through the remaining coffins with renewed vigor. All of which were missing their skulls and a seemingly random set of additional bones. All except the thirteenth coffin which held no body, but rather a dark, steep staircase leading even further into the bowels of the Earth. Under my command, the group descended bravely into what turned into a natural cavern with a swift river flowing through it. In the middle of the river, there was a tower easily as tall as fifteen adult men stacked on top of each other. It was leaning at an angle indicating the river water had eroded the base of the tower of stone.

Off to the side was a disturbing circle of a dozen skulls and one empty depression surrounding a skeleton obviously made from the missing bones we noticed in the coffins, but without a skull. Of course, none of my traveling companions were able to identify what was obviously a necromantic revivification circle. I am filled with righteous anger at the corruption this represents and now understand our mission. Not to rescue the Duke’s daughter, but to eradicate this foulness of Chaos.


As promised, I will now detail my brief, but very enlightening trip into the Else.
First of all, it is difficult to describe and although it seemed like a very short time to my companions, it was a rich reward for my unwavering pursuit of knowledge and the extinction of Chaos.

Upon reflection, I’ve come to realize that I was imparted with knowledge not held by a mortal in ages. I believe I’ve learned of the existence of a handmaiden of The Fates, by the name of Idisi. I shall work to petition for her help in my quest and, with a little luck supplied by our affable Halfling friend, I should be able to summon a powerful ally from the Else that will aid in my struggles and studies.

I shall endeavor to learn more about this and will hopefully be gifted with another trip to the Else so I could further expand my already impressive intellect.

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Benny's Journal Entry #7 - A Welcoming Wench (and Wizard!)

I find myself with more time for journaling now that my followers have gotten accustomed to their work. And so, I shall endeavor to capture my biography in greater detail for those future aspirants who dream of following in my great footsteps.

When I came out of the coach, Star and Daphne were arguing about what to do with the prisoners that they had tied up. Star was interrogating one and Daphne was arguing religion with the other. As I mentioned, if Floyd were still among the living, I wouldn’t need to worry about this. Of course, we had other worries while he was traveling with us. As if hearing my apprentice and paramour argue wasn’t enough, Ming kept bothering me while he rooted through the equipment we collected from the fallen. He was disgruntled because his poor farming skills had left him rather slight and these brutes wore armor too large for Ming’s emaciated frame. I sensed his frustration and when Star inexplicably put one of the prisoners to sleep, Ming grabbed a warhammer from the pile of loot and went to assist. Star put Ming to sleep as well but only for a short while. When he awoke, the prisoner, thinking to find a common bond with Ming, explained he was a potato farmer.

Ming was already upset that he couldn’t fill the literal shoes of these brutes and now the foolish prisoner had pushed one of the few buttons my dim witted friend had. Of course, the prisoner had no idea that Ming spent years trying to grow rice in an area poorly suited to that particular crop. He heard from everyone that he should plant potatoes day in and day out. It was too much for his childish mind to take. Ming lifted the warhammer and with a calm statement that he hated potatoes, bashed in the zealot’s skull. The irony is that the potato farmer was of a similar size to Ming and his half plate fit quite nicely (once Ming cleaned it up, of course). We quickly divvied out the remaining loot to the hirelings and turned the last prisoner over to the peasants for some simple acts of vengeance, public torture, and what sounded like some sort of cultural cannibalism. It wasn’t the way I would’ve handled it, but in his own simple way, Ming got the troops moving and we were soon back in the coach heading further South.

We traveled all night and when I awoke, the smell of pine was replaced by the salt air of the sea. I looked out and saw tended groves of fruit trees spread among the many farms. As we approached the town of Billet, we saw a thriving town with a tower on a nearby hill and lots of new construction projects. There were shops and a market as well as a fine looking inn called The Welcoming Wench. While the others went about taking care of the mundane tasks that hirelings do, I availed myself of a welcoming wench and bought breakfast for my troop. I find it always good to rule with the carrot as well as the stick. They were shaping up nicely, so I treated them to a fine meal and then secured the nicest suite in the place for myself and Daphne. Unfortunately, Daphne’s acolyte was in need of remedial education so she needed to see to that. She is so devout. I find it admirable, but we have so few chances to be alone that I fear our relationship suffers because of it.

Without the affections of my paramour to occupy my time, I went out to explore the town. It seems that a pair of ex-adventurers had settled down here recently and infused the economy with a good amount of gold. Billet was experiencing something of a boon. There was a large trading complex and the pair of adventurer/rulers were even building the foundation of a castle. I would have to consider something like that for Hiroit. The longhouse they gave me is nice, but a ruler should have proper accommodations.

While the hirelings saw to the needs of our troop, I took Star and Ming to pay a call to the rulers of this thriving town. We went up to the tower to discover it was a nice work of construction including a number of attached towers to the main one and looked like recent work. There was an ornate plaque that read, “The Most Worshipful Wizard of Billet.” I immediately liked his style. Worshiped. That was something to aspire to. I was part way there with Daphne, Ming, and Star but I needed to win over the lesser members of our troop. Something to plan for later.

The door was opened by a scarred, veteran warrior who introduced himself as Sir Rufus. He welcomed us through a very defensive entryway into a cozy den where sat the Wizard Burne. He was reading in the chair and I doubted his magical prowess as he appeared to not have suffered any obvious signs of mastering the arcane forces. That is, until I saw his image shift slightly out of phase and the blessings of the Art shown through. I know that our visages can be unsettling to the uninitiated but I see them as a badge of valor. Lesser men would shy from the danger of playing with the very forces of creation, but I wield them on a daily basis.

The Wizard Burne, Sir Rufus, Star, and myself spoke of many things. Arcane lore, the best ingredients for spell research, and other trade talk. It was nice to speak with an equal for a change instead of always having to explain myself. In fact, I was so taken with Burne that we ended up trading some hard currency of the Arcane Art – knowledge. He enlightened me to a delicious new spell that I can’t wait to try.

We also spoke of the troubles in Iralon and both, Sir Rufus and Burne, were grateful we were headed to investigate. Apparently, the Duke controls a small city state which includes the surrounding lands which historically has had a string of amazing luck for the past 13 generations. Rivals died strangely, pestilence struck neighbors but not Iralon, and other such things. We surmised that perhaps the line of Iralon made an alliance with Dark Powers, because the 1st Duke died unnaturally, his skull was removed, plated with silver, and buried separately. That did sound suspicious.

Ming was overjoyed to find that the warhammer he picked up from those religious zealots was a magical weapon of law that was destined to smite down the servants of Chaos, especially the Undead. Unfortunately, he had decided to call it his “Potato Masher” even though I tried to convince him to name it something more… noble. My apprentice was warned that the Black Orb he carried around with him could turn him into a demon. He seemed unconcerned. I shall have to keep an eye on him lest he turn to the powers of Chaos.

As we bid our new friends good day, Burne encouraged me to travel to the Imperial City and seek out the University there. I will have to make my way there to see what I can learn from those learned scholars. To think that a talent such as mine was lying dormant in the pitiful streets of Dirtville.

When we returned to the Inn, we discovered that Daphne and her crew went to the Temple of Justicia to get the hammer head one of her servants found re-dedicated to the service of Justicia. The High Cleric there, Yiddae, had heard stories that an artifact of their faith was lost up North but hadn’t believed it. He tried to get Daphne’s man-at-arms to leave it there with the temple, but when he refused, the High Cleric delayed by saying he would meditate on what to do. I suspect that he intends to take back their holy artifact by force and Ming will soon get another chance to employ his “Potato Masher”.

We left Billet the next day and traveled to Irolan on a road that was significantly nicer the closer we came to our destination.

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Benny's Journal Entry #6 - On The Road Again
You can never truly go home again

After defeating the Chaos spawned demon by harnessing the arcane forces at my disposal, we departed the foul lair with some impressive magic from my apprentice, Star. It was well done. I must be an exceptional teacher.

After we recovered from our trials and tribulations, we returned to Hiroit where we greeted as the conquering heroes that we are. Iraco wisely stepped aside as our steward and turned over the rulership of the town to us. We feasted and soaked in the adulation of the commoners. Daphne and her acolyte attended to their temple while Star went off to conduct his studies. I took the time to delve further into the Arcane Mysteries that bend to my will. It was a lengthy and expensive process, but I was able to perfect a means to spin an incredibly large web similiar to what a very large spider would do. I fear that I poured too much power into the spell because each time I cast it, the very heavens split open and lightning flashes through the sky for days on end. I always suspected it, but I am confident now that I wield tremendous arcane power. It is a burden to be so gifted, but one I bear with humility. It seems that my body withers to give more power to my mind in order to unlock the mysteries of the Arcane.

After my research was done, Daphne and I received visitors as acting Jarl. We were approached by several petitioners for aid. A businessman’s representative asked us to locate lost relics for his master. The pay was handsome, but Daphne and her men-at-arms were loathe to sail the open waters, so we declined. A noble dwarf begged us to seek out an old dwarven fortress to the North and explore it for him. Even though it would tax me physically, I was confident we could traverse the difficult mountainous terrain, but again Daphne begged me not to endanger myself. I forget how much I mean to her. Finally, a man representing the Duke of Irolan asked us to investigate the danger to the Duke’s daughter. We quickly agreed and Billy Bob secured us transport with a coach headed South. The men-at-arms rode as a protective screen around me. Daphne was even so worried about me that she insisted on not riding in the coach, but riding guard as well. Her affections and worry are amusing at times.

I was quite surprised when we rode into Dirtville of all places with the intention of resting the horses. Why anyone would willingly stop in that town is beyond me, but I try to give the men some latitude with mundane details such as these. As we arrived, there were a handful of brutes taking out their anger upon the peasants. It didn’t concern me, so I continued to meditate, but I then heard Daphne and her acolyte get into a heated argument. It seems that these four armored thugs were headed North to take issue with us dispatching the corrupt priest of Justicia in Hiroit. Daphne had converted the acolytes and dedicated the temple to Amun-Tor, which apparently triggered something in the brains of these Neanderthals and they thought the best way to win over the hearts and minds of the peasants was to beat them. I would’ve let them be, if for no other reason than to punish those uncharitable bastards for their neglect when I was but a poor mendicant on the dirt streets of this aptly name little sty of a town. However, it seemed that my assistance was needed if we were to be on our way and I thought a suit of their fine armor would fit Ming quite well. So, I had Brume slip out of the coach to a point that I could better see and I unleashed my new spell. I caught two of the larger brutes in an unbreakable web of Arcane power and the heavens tore with the might of my magic. Lightning flashed and the peasants screamed in horror as they ran from my display of power into the nearby hills. After that display of mastery over forces their minds could barely comprehend, the enemy was quickly dispatched and two were taken as prisoners.

I hear the others debating what to do with the prisoners now. Daphne, the gentle soul, wants to redeem them while Star wisely suggested they be eradicated. It’s times like these that I miss Floyd. He wouldn’t have debated the issue. He would’ve had them killed, quartered and shaved by now. I best finish this and step out to add my considerable intellect to settle this issue.

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South to Irolan
Save the Duke's Daughter

The party has decided to travel to Irolan to investigate the danger to the Duke’s daughter, at the behest of a messenger. They are taking a coach part of the way there; upon stopping in Dirtville, they were accosted by a Paladin of Justicia and his three men-at-arms. Battle ensued and it went badly for the Paladin and his men.

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When the guano is that deep, stay in the boat
Translated from the original Dwarven

Da,

I hope that ye and Ma be well. As ye know, I went wit me friends to find de darned well o’ souls that de loremaster kept going on about. Tis true, I went cause I feared fer me friends. How could I trust a scholar, a butcher, and a chimney sweep to survive above ground. I admit I haven’t been a tunnel runner fer long but at least ’twas better ’n de others.

We met with another fine dwarf who kept strange companions. He even were friends wit a couple o’ durned Elfs! An Da, I remember ya saying that havin’ a burglar wit ya was good luck, but havin’ three must be bad luck. There were a human or two as well.

We trekked out in de durned desert wit de durned sun blazing above like an overheated forge. After forever, we finally found a good hole in da ground and we headed down. T’was like the others never seen an underground lake. They was fussin’ and going on and on a’fore we loaded into a few flat bottomed boats like me cousin’s and set out. We made for this large statue that were on dese tablets some merchant traded us for a share in the rewards.

The statue were of a bat woman or some such but was so covered in guano that it were hard to tell if there were anything of value. We did spy a shield hanging from her mouth so da boys and I headed for it. As we waded into guano deeper than a mole rat is tall, I noticed something not quite right about the floor. Thinking it were a pit trap, as ye taught me, we circled round. Only the durned chimney sweep insisted on leading so as to detect anymore pits with his staff. Least ways, that’s what I thunk he said ‘cause I never could decipher his strange accent. Remember, his kin came from the Cockney caverns out East. ’Twas no suprise that even with all his pokin’ and proddin’ he fell into the next durned pit and screamed like a weevil before he impaled hisself on the spikes at the bottom.

His screamin’ caused all the bats to get riled up and flutter about. ‘Twas then I realized the others were still in their frakkin’ boats. I yelled fer dem to git their lazy, tree huggin’ arses up here and we proceeded to clear the other traps. We found a secret door and headed down towards another confounded lake. We all piled into one boat dis time and we headed towards a little island with a small pyramid on it. As we approached, we seen a tiny little city wit a bunch o gems glitterin’ so we jumped out and headed towards it only to have a frakkin’ copper alligator come to life. I squared off against it to protect me fellows only fer it to open its maw and breath out fire!!! I survived wit me beard singed and steaming, but me friends went to da great halls.

Some sort of djinn or sometin’ came out the remains of da gator after one o da little ones finished it off. Da djinn asked me if’n I needed anything so I asked fer me friends back. A’fore ya lecture me, I know ‘twas wrong o me to call ’em back from the great halls, but I were not thinking straight. The djinn couldn’t even tho I asked and den spent forever talkin’ and carrying on while I set about prying out the gems.

We headed back to da exit but I’ll save that tale fer another letter.

Say hullo to Ma and me kin. If’n the gods be good, I’ll be home afore the mushroom harvest.

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Benny's Journal Entry #5 - Don't Pay the Ferryman

After descending the stairs, we found ourselves in a large room with disconcerting murals of beast men upon the walls. The center of the room was taken up by a large, rectangular pool of murky water and there were four small alcoves where we found old, moldy, mildewed, rags that could generously be called robes with Chaos runes. Upon my suggestion, one of the torch bearers set the robes ablaze striking a blow against these chaos worshipping beast men who are the bane of not only my patron but my tailor as well.

Everyone found themselves mystically drawn to the rectangular pool of murky water where we were mesmerized by glowing lights within. The lights soon floated to the surface where we realized they were human skulls. One of Daphne’s men at arms claimed that he wasn’t drawn to the pool, but I sincerely doubt it. If someone of my intellect can become bespelled, certainly a simpler mind would be even more so.

From the muralled, fetid pool room, we made our way further down more infernal steps. My legs were beginning to ache and I was grateful for the rest when we came out onto some sort of beach next to an underground lake. There was a large rock jutting out into the underground lake that, upon further inspection, held Chaos symbols and runes all around it. There was a small candle atop the rock and we suspected that it acted as some sort of signal to the other area of the cavern where we could make out the glow of a fire and hear the distant sound of drums.

Star sent one of the scouts into a narrow cavern behind a small waterfall feeding into the lake and he reported there were scores of human skulls in there. That gave me a flash of my all too familiar brilliance and I deduced that if we brought down one of the glowing skulls and lit the signal candle, our Chaos deluded foes would assume we were more of their ilk arriving late to their unnatural festivities. The others quickly dispatched several of the men at arms to fetch a skull, because I wasn’t about to punish myself going up all those steps we had just descended!

After the others set themselves in ambush, Star and I lit the candle and heroically faced the forces that would be unleashed on us. I could see that Daphne was quite impressed with my heroism, but remained shy and timid. I had no time to worry about her secret crush on me, because a foul longship soon emerged from the nigh-impenetrable darkness and docked up against the rock. Seeing no one on board and deducing that the ship would take us across the lake to interrupt the beastial ceremony, we coaxed the others on board. Even that twice damned mule and flea infested canine that Ming insists bringing with him.

The foul longship of Chaos powered us across the lake only to stop halfway while some enormous, tentacled aberration terrorized our party looking for some donation. We quickly sorted that out with only a minor outbreak of insubordination when one of Star’s men suggested we slaughter Ming’s mule as a blood sacrifice. Where these Neanderthals come up with ideas, I’ll never know. We soon found ourselves coming closer and closer to the sound of the drums as the distant glow quickly resolved into a large, stone ziggurat emerging from the brackish water.

The beast men were enthralled with this tainted ceremony and they were on each level chanting and looking towards the top where some sort of shaman was sacrificing human captives into a pit of flames. Acting with as much haste as my tired bones would allow me, we quickly brought several groups of beast men low with spell and sword. Rather than fighting along the entire ramp that spiraled up the ziggurat, we climbed each step as we brought down the beasts. Once near the top, we split and I led the charge into a vicious mob of what must’ve been the elite of the hideous beast men. They offered heavy resistance and I feared the worst until we finally felled the last of the zealots with my Blade of Atropos. Although I’m sure the troops were moved by my lead from the front attitude, I prefer to leave the sword swinging for the less mentally capable and stick to my mastery of the arcane.

While we were battling the bulk of the forces, Star’s diversionary group met stiff resistance as well and before we knew it, a huge chaos spawned demon grew out of the top of the ziggurat and I realized that the Fates brought us here to protect our world from this corrupt imbalance of nature.

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Benny's Journal Entry #4 - The Search for Andy Ends Here

After moving camp and getting what rest we could, we continued to follow the trail of the Beastmen until we came upon some sort of ruined keep. After the scouts reconnoitered the area, I had Brume circumvent the keep and found that the northwest corner had collapsed so we decided to enter there. As we began to climb, Sam triggered an avalanche which caused many of the keep’s wall stones to come tumbling down upon us. Ming rushed to save his new found canine friend leaving me vulnerable and that was the last thing I remembered until I looked up into the face of angel. Even though other people were injured, herself included, Daphne rushed to my aid and called upon her God’s power to revive me. Unfortunately, my conscious presence left her flustered and she was unable to channel her divine power. She was so flustered that she slipped in her attempt to call upon her God, Amon-Tor, earning His disfavor. And so it was that I was left to the care of her acolyte, who although quite competent, lacked the appeal that Daphne holds.

Once we were assured the climb would be safe, we climbed up into the ruins of the inner keep. We saw a strange, capstone looking block covered in ivy, the burnt remains of a stone outer-building, a tower in the Southeast, a sink hole with clouds of mist churning from it in the Northeast, and a well. While some of the archers, the clerics, Star and I stood over-watch, Ming and Floyd approached the well. His dog, Zeus, was hesitant to approach the well in some sort of strange animal sense, so Ming stopped to console him. Floyd, missing the signs of danger, continued to the well and heard what he described as moaning. He said that it must be Andy trapped down there and he whistled that annoying tune he was always going on with only to fall into the well. He did not cry out or yell for help, but we also never heard him hit bottom. The danger from the well was palpable and frankly, many in our group were becoming increasingly worried about Floyd’s behavior, so we let him be. It is a shame because he was a good with a battleaxe and he was willing to do the work that others simply didn’t have the stomach for.

Around the same time, Billy-Bob came too close to the edge of the mist covered sinkhole and the ground gave way causing him to tumble towards his doom. Erik the cleric, Daphne’s acolyte, was able to grab onto him but was in danger of following him off the edge and to both of their dooms. I invoked the The Fates and asked them to intercede on my behalf and because I am an instrument of their will, Billy-Bob was flung back to solid land dragging Erik along with him. Perhaps it was because I failed to try and save Floyd, perhaps it was because I interceded in someone else’s fate, but either way, I suffered for my hubris by having my ears quickly shrivel up and fall off of me. It’s strange that I continue to hear perfectly well, but the price of my power is easily observed now.

Even though I had just rescued him from his death, Billy-Bob decided to tempt The Fates again by examining the capstone we found. Even after I deciphered the writing upon it as a warning, the fool decided to jump up and down upon the stone in some sort of ritualistic dance his people must use to celebrate the avoidance of certain death. Strange. Having recovered from the loss of my ears, I realized we still hadn’t surveyed the burnt out stone building on the east side of the keep. I sent Brume to investigate which was easy since the wooden roof had fallen into what I realized was some sort of place to worship a bizarre Toad faced deity. Obviously, someone else took um bridge at the Toad God because they had barred the doors to the temple and painted the word, “Repent” on the outside. How that message was supposed to reach those trapped inside that apparently perished from the fire is unclear, but we decided to avoid it all the same.

I’m not sure if it was the fool’s jumping or the fact that we proceeded into the middle of the courtyard, but one of those foul Beastmen started to ring a bell near the entrance to the keep, so Star called forth the power of the Fates and shot forth many of his Force Daggers of Fate and obliterated the foul abomination. It was an impressive display. Although, his ears elongated and he looked like Ming’s mule, Bessy. He even let loose a braying laugh. It was quite annoying. I began to wonder if it wasn’t disfavor that caused my ears to change, but rather some source of power within the keep itself that was tainting our magic. Perhaps the well that Ming’s dog found so uncomforting.

Finding the door to the Southeast tower locked, the men-at-arms took attempts to bash down the door and after a long, strenuous effort, finally battered it open. Ming jumped into the room beyond only to find himself standing on a wall-to-wall carpet of corpses and skins that was utterly disgusting. In his haste, or perhaps his grief at the disappearance of Floyd, Ming did not consider the tactical situation and his rush almost cost him his life for he was not alone. He realized that a half-score of the foul Beastmen shared the rot filled corpse room with him and he was set upon by a brutish specimen, perhaps the biggest we’ve seen yet, and would’ve lost his life if he hadn’t blocked the brute’s axe blow with his magical shield. Even so, the blow was so strong that his shield flew off into the gore of the room and he wisely kept the monsters at bay while backing out of the room. That was all the space I needed for I channeled my power and unleashed an astonishing ten Flaming Arrows of Fate into our foes. I was able to shred the powerful, beastly champion and four of his minions while leaving one more severely wounded. I didn’t know it at the time, but that much magical power, or the corruption of this place, caused my pupils to turn chalky white until all anyone could see were the whites of my eyes. Daphne must’ve regained the good graces of Amon-Tor because she, and those around her, were blessed with the sound of angelic singing and our group fought on that much harder. It wasn’t long before we dispatched the other beasts, but after launching one powerful Flaming Ballista Bolt of Fate, my hands grew translucent, almost ghostly, until they were nigh-invisible. I wasn’t the only one, because I noticed Star walking with an odd-gait as if one leg had suddenly become longer than the other.

After we were able to light Ming’s lantern and a torch or two, we discovered Irico and five other humans hanging from chains around the perimeter of the room. Daphne and Erik were quick to heal as many as they could and Irico was in a hurry to take the survivors to safety. Whiile searching through the gore, Slim had a rot grub worm its way into his leg and he almost wasn’t able to remove it, but he finally did. Good thing for him or he would’ve spent his last few moments in this mortal coil screaming in agony. Anyway, Irico told us that there had been more imprisoned by the Beastmen but suspected that they were being turned into more of the foul creatures, so with all haste, we set off down several flights of stairs to save them.

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Benny’s Journal Entry #3, The Beastmen Cometh

After soaking in the adulation of the frontier settlers, we decided to rest so that I could regain my health. After a few days, I was feeling hale and hearty only to discover that Ming made himself a new friend. My simple minded servant truly has a way with animals so it shouldn’t surprise me that he befriended a dog named Zeus. He spent the day bonding with his dog who now seems determined to follow him everywhere. After a healthy meal, I went out to find the source of a ruckus near the front gate to the outpost. It seems that Grisham, one of Daphne’s acolytes from Hiroit, had come on a pilgrimage to spread the word of Amun-Tur. Unfortunately (for his companions), they were set upon by what they described as “beastmen” who managed to overcome their small group, killing one member and abducting several more. The outpost was in quite an uproar, but since the sun was setting, the gates were closed and guards kept a wary eye on the shadows in the darkness. Some of Grisham’s companions were wounded and Daphne looked like an angel of mercy as she moved through their midst healing the wounded and comforting those grieving their lost comrades. I was shaken out of this captivating vision by Floyd offering to assist any people who were at the end of their life’s journey. I admit that it lightened my heart to see him concerned for those waiting for the Fates to cut their threads. My worries about his mental health dissipating with his act of kindness and caring.

That night, some of the men-at-arms claimed to hear animalistic noises coming out of the darkness. When I queried why they should be surprised to hear animals in the wilderness, they corrected themselves and said that they were not natural noises and rumors of more “beastmen” spread quickly through the outpost. Knowing how easily frightened peasants can become, I led our group out to circle around the frontier outpost looking for signs of interlopers. We did discover some scat that some of the more environmentally minded claimed could only have come from humans. How they determined human feces from animal, I did not want to know, but Ming certainly was thorough in his investigation. He was also quite proud of his new pet, Zeus, who was proving quite useful as a tracker as well as a distraction to keep Ming occupied. We soon determined that this scat was indeed from whoever was out the night prior making noises and scaring the simple minded. Star retrieved his crystal orb and after a few unsuccessful attempts, was able to spy upon several mutated humans with the features of beasts in some sort of ruins. Intrigued by the recently corroborated rumors, we went out in the direction of some local ruins and my apprentice used the unusual properties of his Toad familiar to inscribe some ruins upon several trees. We then headed back for a warm meal and what the locals claim to be wine, but is an insult to any vintner worthy of the title.

Later that night, Star warned me that something had triggered one of his runes. I tasked Brume with reconnoitering the area only to discover one of the Beastmen, for that is what the vile abominations truly were – a horrid blend of beast and Man, immobilized by Star’s runecraft with two others frantically trying to understand what had happened. With the lightest touch of power, I channeled my magic through Brume and sent all three Beastmen to a deep, magical slumber. We roused the men-at-arms and procured a cart from the townfolk and headed out to investigate these abominations. The others were shocked to see what I had viewed through my connection to Brume – the two Beastmen asleep on the ground were some sort of cross between Lizard and Man while the immobilized one was a disgusting mixture of pustules, open sores, and maggot ridden flesh. A cloud of flies swarmed around the disgusting creature causing me to look away lest I relieve myself of my earlier meal. When I turned back, I saw the Barber pull out a cleaver he must’ve acquired in town and proceed to dissect one of the lizard looking creatures. I was heartened to see him take an interest in anatomy, even though several of the hirelings were disgusted by it. For some reason, he also dissected the second lizard, but what he hoped to find, I had no idea. Perhaps he was simply ensuring the consistencies in their mutations. Either way, he finished his task quickly and with a relish I’ve only seen in him when talking about this confounded “Andy” creature.

The trip back to the outpost was horrific to say the least. I was riding in the cart with Ming to avoid turning an unpleasant walk, but the stench of the Beastman that Star insisted we take back for “questioning” was overwhelming. It was not long before my gorge rose faster than I could react to and I was spilling my dinner off the side of the cart. Ming soon followed, so I know it wasn’t just my frail constitution failing me. We finally made it back and the guards wisely suggested we leave the Beastman outside of the gates, but within easy bow shot. Since Brume seemed not the least bit affected by the stench, I set him to watch the abomination and warn me of any trouble. As the sun rose, I decided to hold off on breaking my fast until after dealing with the pestilence outside the walls, so we journeyed forth to interrogate the misshapen nightmare. Star made good use of his talent with Runes and scribed some sort of Rune that compels the subject to only speak truthfully. So armed, we tried to discern if the creature was intelligent. It spoke a crude version of Gnoll, so it fell to me, the only erudite in the group, to interact with it although he did not provide us with much information. He WAS a man at one time, but VOLUNTARILY accepted a dark curse to turn away from humanity and embrace the abomination. He was part of a force that holed up in the North with more than a score of other mutations. Knowing these to be a foul stain upon the land, we quickly set forth to scour the earth of this blight. Unfortunately, Half-Pint was in a bad state and claimed that he did not want to come with us. Star had pity on him and suggested he hole up in the Inn until our return. Frankly, that sort of compassion only leads towards sloth. Next thing, the men-at-arms will be asking for three meals a day and extra pay on Holy Days.

As we came upon the area we found the Beastmen the night before, we realized that someone (or something) had dragged off the pieces of Floyd’s dissection. Showing his capability with animals again, Ming coached his new canine into picking up and following the trail and we set off cross country. After walking seemingly forever, we made camp and settled in for a night under the stars. I tried to spark a religious discussion with Daphne, but her servants kept butting in and resorting to base, male posturing as they vied for her attention. She cast me an apologetic look and I stepped aside so she could settle their nerves. Just as well, because the long march had taken a lot out of me. In the middle of the night, Brume alerted me that more of the Beastmen were approaching. I roused Ming and then realized that Floyd was on guard duty so I called for the others to awake and arm themselves. Star was already warned by another of his runes proving him quite the capable Runecaster. As the Beastmen approached, I conjured a few dogs right in their midst to distract them and buy us some time to prepare. Star followed suit and then Daphne and her apprentice sought out the blessings of Amun-Tur. I could easily see that they are favored by their God, because they were wreathed in a Holy light and I swore I could hear angelic singing*. Even so, I moved closer to protect Daphne and her Diety blessed me with additional magical power for protecting His chosen. I used this extra power and channeled a harrowing volley of Fire Arrows of Fate laying the enemy low and breaking their morale. They fled in haste and we thought better than rush after them into the dark forest and a possible ambush. A few of the Beastmen had fallen because of the dogs Star and I conjured so we went over to investigate. Floyd was closest and he quickly pulled out his cleaver to perform another dissection. This time, the focus of his research was less Beast and more man which made it all the more disturbing. I heard Daphne gasp as he quickly reduced the creature to its component pieces. It could be that he is a Blade of Fate, but I fear that Floyd may be descending towards madness. I will need to seek direction from my patron before deciding how to handle him.

  • Of course, Daphne has been struggling because her order must insist on her celibacy! Why hadn’t I considered it before? She yearns for me, but must keep me at a distance or else succumb to her baser desires and lose favor with Amun-Tur. I shall endeavor to be more considerate of her fragile emotional state and not tempt her with my flesh. All things become clear to those who dare pierce the mysteries of the universe
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Benny's Journal, 2nd Entry, The Root of Evil.

We camped again in the corrupted halls under the tree and the evil influence of the place wreaked havoc upon so many of the men-at-arms. I do not fault them, though, for even a being as strong willed as I fell prey to their vile powers. I believe everyone experienced some form of nightmare that night. Except for Floyd who slept as peaceful as a babe. I worry about that youth. I hear him mumbling to himself more and more. I’ve caught him asking “where is he?” and “who is he?” several times but when I inquire as to who “he” is, the boy just looks at me and tells me that I’m not him. Him, who? During the night, the evil nightmares got so bad that I awoke to find one poor soul running about acting the fool while another wept in the corner. As Daphne argued with one of the others as to the best course of action, I cast forth a cloud that sent the two poor sods off to the sweet bliss of dreamless, magical sleep. That, I believe, is why Daphne has not acted on her feelings towards me. She is unable to act decisively and thus doubt settles in and forces her to push away that which she desires most.

Anyway, in the morning, I sent Brume out to reconnoiter the area prior to our departure. Not having detected anything, I led our group out of the hermit’s tree only to realize the tree itself was a source of corruption. It swung its branches at Ming and Floyd and assaulted our greatest weapon, my mind. As I fought against what must’ve been an ancient and terrible sentience, the hangers on were swinging their clubs and smashing about. My apprentice, Star, claims to have channelled a good amount of force against our foe, but as he was taking shelter INSIDE the tree as my two bodyguards and I faced the ancient, fury of flora, I could not tell you if he truly was successful or not. As it was, my men-at-arms did a fine job of protecting me while I fought the main battle – a battle of wills. In the end, I proved the stronger and as I came out of my mental struggle, I quickly dispatched the physical remains of the tree with one of my signature Flaming Arrows of Fate. I’m sure the others helped, but it was obvious that I had saved the day – once again. Daphne was overcome with desire that she rushed out towards me and almost too late realized her lack of decorum. She covered her faux pas by pretending to attend to Floyd’s wounds but I noticed her glance kept drifting my way. Poor thing fighting her feelings for me, but she must remember she is a priestess.

After battling the tree, we headed towards the outpost where we were met with celebration and praise. I gave my team their due for it would be unseemly if I failed to recognize their “efforts”.

Where shall we head to next?

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Star log- The tree
I don't differentiate much, except in degree, between people who believe in religion from those who believe in astrology, magic or the supernatural.

The battle below. Our first attempt to tame the beast was not successful. the Worm seemed to not have any interest in a dead body in stead it wanted fresh flesh. the beast crawled to attack myself and pint size. Lucky for for all of us my plan of sitting in the cages worked. While my some what delusional friend Benny waited in the safety of the hall way. As the beast attacked I tried force the beast to sleep it was not successful. The brave fighters of Slim and Sam where successful in driving the created back down it hole..

My battle plan for the second attack was much more successful. The group hunted down a deer and thanks to Benny. it was put to sleep. The deer was placed on the alter and while it was a sleep we coated it furs with poison. We rang the bell the worm came to investigate the poison slowed down enough allowing the group to kill it. We investigated the lear and found treasure.

As we where preparing to leave the tree in the morning it came to life and began to attack Benny and his friend the barber. Benny was over come with anxiety and fear as the tree be can to control his thoughts. Calling on the Patron they crenated me favor in casting my most powerful spell ever. The tree was so weakened from my might that the others where quick to dispose of it.

Note to self Benny continues to grow more and more delusional in his power he thinks glowing red as he cast his spells will struck fear in to the hearts of our attackers what he does not realize is true power comes from not seeing the attack coming just ask the priest in the town who I kill just with a thought.

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