Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Session #12, Zeb's Notes


After nearly a week of waiting, we finally get a chance to meet with both Bonie and Larimo to discuss plans for the future.  He has been long in recovery, and it is our hope to persuade them both to accompany us back to Larimo.  Larimo expresses thanks to Audric for aiding in his healing, but eventually confides that he feels too old to make the trip, though he hopes that we’ll take care of Bonie.  We learn that he is a cleric of Garl Glittergold.

Bonie seems as surprised as we are at first, though quickly conceals it behind her typical stoicism.  Despite her attempts to persuade him, he stands resolute in his decision to remain in Carrock.  Bonie lets us know of her desire to head first to Westtower to reestablish contact with her employer there, then eventually back to Mirabar.

We all—Erathmar and his men, Bonie and her pony Elseba, Audric, Zeb and Selben—are eager to depart Carrock, and plans are put into motion to leave within the next couple days.

On the eighth day since the defeat of Carcerus, we are seen off by Drachus and those few other early risers of Carrock, most still abed, sleeping off the lingering effects of the previous evening’s festivities.  We settle upon a leisurely pace, Selben studying within one of the wagons, the rest of us taking turns on point.  Travel is uneventful through the first day, and we arrange for a three-part watch, splitting it among us and Erathmar’s men.

Despite the lingering fear of wolves attacking in the night, result of several weeks of stress anticipating an attack by Carcerus, the night passes uneventfully.  The next morning, we crest a hill and catch our first view of the ruins of Shadfeld since our flight weeks ago.  We decide that Zeb, Audric and Bonie will scout ahead, make sure the road is clear for Erathmar’s wagons, and investigate the ruined village.

We make our approach, leaving the sounds of the rolling wagons behind us.  Only our own footsteps on the dirt trail break the eerie silence of the day.  Once we reach Shadfeld, perhaps it’s a trick of the mind, but it suddenly seems as if the sun is not as bright, the horizon darker than it was a moment or two ago.

The village appears much as we left it—abandoned.  Audric and Bonie head back to wave Erathmar through.  On a whim, Zeb leaves the road to investigate the house where they met Kezia, but before getting that far, he encounters a pair of corpses ahead on the road.  They appear to have been armed, but their throats and lower jaws have been ravaged and torn open—immediately, memories of the creatures that attacked in Carrock spring to mind.  The kills are recent…within the last 48 hours at most, with few other clues as to what happened.  As the men are in no need of worldly possessions, he cuts a pair of belt purses from the corpses and considers his options.

Zeb decides to continue towards Kezia’s house, but before he can take a step he sees a fleeting shadow between two buildings.  Bringing up a ward against paralysis, should it indeed be one of those creatures, he foolishly decides to investigate.  In the distance, Zeb hears the rolling approach of the wagons.

From the shadow of a nearby half-wall, one of the horrible creatures rakes its claws across Zeb’s shoulder, then ferociously launches a flurry of attacks, clawing and biting, and it gets its hands around my throat.  Its intention—tearing out Zeb’s throat—is apparent, and he raises his knife in defense, hoping that his friends heard his muffled scream.

Bonie rushes forward pell-mell but is nearly brought to a full stop when she witnesses the creature ravaging Zeb.  Audric taps into untested depths of his powers and conjures forth a pair of snarling goblins.  Bonie and one of the goblins attack the creature as it continues to maul Zeb, shattering Audric’s protective spells and ignoring the other defenders, intent on ending Zeb’s life.

Unable to ward off the attacks, it sinks its maw into Zeb’s throat, tearing out chunks of flesh.  Blood wells immediately fill the void, spurting onto the ground nearby, Zeb incapacitated and dying from the attack.  The last things he sees as his vision darkens, as numbness beings to take over, is Audric struggling against one of the creatures, bright blood flashing from several wounds, then Selben rushing forward, then collapsing suddenly by some unseen power.  Then, all is black.



When Zeb awakens, he finds himself once again within the confines of Carrock.  Audric is near, and Zeb learns that he also fell during the attack—it was only by the bravery of Bonie, Erathmar, and Erathmar’s men that they were saved.  After the encounter with the creatures concluded, the company gathered our bodies and rushed back to Carrock; fortunately, Larimo was able to call upon the blessings of his deity to speed our recovery.

Zeb’s mood is dark, and the atmosphere in Carrock seems grim once the news of the encounter spreads.  There is some talk of options, but both Bonie and Erathmar seem resolute in their description to accompany us, so we abandon any other option and quickly plan for a second attempt.
Larimo, moved to action by the recounting of our encounter and subsequent fall at the claws of the unknown creatures, reveals plans to accompany our group.  It is determined, however, that such a plan would leave Carrock without the resources it needs would such an attack occur and is thus dissuaded.  We leave the following morning, and our return trip to grim Shadfeld is uneventful.

Going through Shadfeld a second time feels like a funeral march.  Bonie clings to Elseba, all of the men are eagle-eyed atop the wagons looking for any signs of movement, anything that would signal danger.  The corpses of the fiends that attacked us are where they were left on the road, heads removed, bodies bloated.  The procession pushes through, eventually reaching the opposite side.  We push on a little further, then decide to camp for the night.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Wolf and the Lion


A nearby fire crackles, the only disturbance of an otherwise quiet night.  Though it has been several days since the encounter with Carcerus and Zeb's ultimate retribution of Korvich, Zeb's sleep has been elusive, fitful when managed, and many late nights have been spent sitting, starting at the flame.

This night, arranged before Zeb are the grim trophies of the last few weeks.  Crude tokens, symbols of Malar carved from bone worn by the cultists Ignish and Tesk, made impure by Korvich's corruption of the faith.

Korvich's own fetish, this one decorated with the priest's trophies of notable kills, an assortment of teeth and talons.  Within the tangled mess is a beaten piece of metal, onto which is engraved the Claw of Malar, almost an afterthought to the other trophies.  Korvich clearly had a warped sense of priorities.

Next to the fetish is a shriveled, hard piece of dried flesh, which still reeks of the smoke and fire used to cure the meat.  Now unrecognizable, it nevertheless makes Zeb grin when he sees it--the tongue of Korvich, cut out by Zeb's own hand in retribution for the priest's foolish pride and false vorishnaad.

There is one last trophy, of a sort.  The carved, wooden symbol of Nobanion, the self-proclaimed "King of Beasts".  It's not really a trophy--Zeb didn't kill Maglarosh, after all, nor did he necessarily desire the man's death--but it has caused Zeb consternation since he first set his eyes upon it, and he didn't know what else to do with it.

The dislike between the two cults is long-established, distilled--at its simplest--to a difference in perspective, and perhaps in execution.  Both faiths venerate the beast, but it's Nobanion's naive notions of community, compassion, and dignity that highlight his weakness.  When missionaries of Nobanion brave the wastes in search of converts among the beast cults, they are confronted by the harsh realities of that cold, barren land, and of the singular mindset--survival at all costs--that it takes to avoid becoming prey.


A branch snaps in the woods behind Zeb, and in one, fluid motion, Zeb rolls to the side while drawing one of his knives, crouched and ready to pounce.  Zeb's helm and mantle--the skull of Carcerus--casts a frightful shadow, playing tricks with the firelight.  A pale, ghostly face, clearly terrified, confronts Zeb--Selben.  The young man stutters apologetically, stepping out of the shadow.  "S-s-sorry, Zeb.  I couldn't sleep, and saw the fire.  I f-figured it was yours.  Y-y-you...for a moment, you looked more like a wolf than a man.  Sorry to interrupt you."

Zeb stands, sheathing the knife, then returns to his place by the fire, gesturing for Selben to join him.  They had spent the last few days cloistered together in Ethelenda's workroom beneath the Tower of Carrock, and Zeb found that Selben's company--as well as the young man's eagerness to relearn his lost arcane talents--was comforting.

"What's that?" asks Selben, bending over to pick up the talisman to Nobanion.  Zeb loops the other trophies back onto his belt, then steps forward, taking the crude wooden symbol from Selben.  "This?" Zeb says, holding the token in his palm.  "Nothing.  Nothing important, in any case."  Zeb tosses it into the nearby fire, pauses for a moment to watch it ignite, then turns to look at Selben, seemingly satisfied.

"This, however," Zeb says, withdrawing something from one of his numerous pouches, "is for you.  I meant to give it to you earlier."  Zeb gestures for Selben to step forward, and Zeb hangs a leather thong around the young man's neck.  From it dangles an hourglass-shaped piece of bone, harvested from the tail of Carcerus' slain form.  Both men take seats near the fire.  "What's it for?" Selben asks.

"Protection, Selben," replies Zeb quietly.  Silence lingers for several heartbeats, only disturbed by the pop of the fire.  "For protection," he mutters again, more to himself than anyone else.  Selben seems satisfied by that, holding the bone between his thumb and forefinger, and the remainder of the night passes with the two men sitting together in silence.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Malaran aftermath

This is not to imply that a dual-class human forgets everything he knew before; he still has, at his fingertips, all the knowledge, abilities, and proficiencies of his old class. But if he uses any of his previous class's abilities during an encounter, he earns no experience for that encounter and only half experience for the adventure.
(From the 2e PH, p. 45.)

That was really an incredible culmination of this adventure arc. I'd been waiting for an encounter between these parties for some time, unsure of how or when it would manifest, and hoping that Zeb and Audric didn't elect to leave Carrock before it transpired. Depending on the circumstances, they may or may not have been pursued.


Again, I advise the players to revisit Kezia's reading, in order to review it with updated context based on advances in the campaign. At the very least, I think there's musing, if not enlightenment, to be found within.

As for the Malarans, there was certainly a divide within the sect that sought its aclupar in Zeb. Korvich and Carcerus each believed themselves superior to the other; had they reached a point of severance as the power of the cult dwindled, it would likely have come down to whether the magic of Korvich could subdue the "Black Devil" before he and his wolves slaughtered the priest. Carcerus was undoubtedly the more powerful enemy; as he gained sway over the wolves and cultists fell both in Shadfeld and at West Tower, so did control over the alliance escape the Malarans' clutches. Carcerus bore no fealty toward any god; his grand design was to establish dominance over everything he could.


There still are many details to share about these events, but it's probably best to let them emerge gradually, through comments on the blog or as part of future sessions. The PCs did well in securing their victory; Zeb and Audric made sound decisions and used the available resources to great advantage. If the final encounter seemed easy, that's to their credit. The situation could easily have been reversed had the circumstances differed. As I'm particularly fond of saying, success or failure in AD&D is often determined before any dice are rolled.

XP

As this isn't a traditional dungeon-crawl campaign, neither has it made sense to award XP based strictly on treasure found and monsters defeated. While I still want to keep things relatively simple, I'm weighting more heavily the details of the party's accomplishments, in addition to accounting for the dual-class ruling quoted at the top of this post. The critical points to consider are that Zeb should receive no experience for the final encounter, and only half experience for the past two "adventures" (sessions), where he called upon his priestly powers for assistance.
  • For "story awards," this means that Zeb only receives 3,000 XP, compared to 4,000 XP for Audric.
  • An additional 1,500 XP goes to Audric for miscellaneous recovery of items. Zeb only receives half this share (750 XP).
  • A final 1,000 XP is given to Audric for the Malarans and their spoils. Regrettably, this constitutes an "encounter," so Zeb doesn't share in the award at all. (Also keep in mind that there were five participants on the side of the PCs, and total experience has been divided accordingly.)
The values above are rounded for simplicity. Adding them up, and incorporating Zeb's 10% bonus, the total awards are:
  • Audric - 6,500
  • Zeb - 4,125
The penalty for prematurely employing dual-class powers is very real, and I thought it unfair to not enforce it. Audric has his own XP hurdles in terms of the steep advancement table drawn up for Crusader; nevertheless, this allotment crests him over the threshold for 5th level, which requires five dedicated days of training before he can raise his abilities. Updated party totals:
  • Audric - 18,500
  • Zeb - 3,000/14,325
Recovered Items

I'm assuming the passage of time sufficient for both characters to train (five days). During this period, castings of detect magic and read magic can be completed (note that these castings are still being made at Audric's and Zeb's "old" levels):
  • The hook-bladed axe wielded by Carcerus emits a faint magical aura. This weapon deals damage as a bastard sword and can be used one- or two-handed.
  • The wooden spoon carried by Maglarosh (but not the bowl) emits a faint magical aura. When placed inside the bowl, a pasty and unappetizing (but ultimately edible) gruel forms within.
  • The ruby charm worn by Maglarosh upon a silver chain emits a moderate aura of abjuration magic.
  • The necklace recovered from the troll's nest at Oldkeep is valuable, but non-magical. It may have once belonged to a noble or some person of importance. Erathmar appraises this piece at 500 gold pieces.
  • The oakwood medallion bearing the symbol of Nobanion is non-magical.
  • None of the other plundered wares present as magical.
  • Same as previously, Audric's pewter ring radiates an overwhelming magical aura. Its school cannot be discerned.
The spellbook found in the basement of the tower in Carrock contains the following spells:
  • 1st level
    • Cantrip
    • Detect magic
    • Enlarge
    • Identify
    • Light
    • Mount
    • Read magic
    • Spider climb
    • Spook
  • 2nd level
    • Bind
    • Deeppockets
    • Detect invisibility
    • Locate object
    • Melf’s acid arrow
    • Whispering wind
  • 3rd level
    • Delude
    • Dispel magic
    • Secret page
    • Protection from normal missiles
Happenings in Carrock

The party's victorious return brings revelry and accolades. In the ensuing days, Larimo the gnome begins to recover from his injuries, Rould is appointed head-huntsman following the loss of Arkhen, and Tussugar Grim is named Carrock's official captain-at-arms, with all martial training and the entire defense of the village under his charge. Moreover, the dwarf agrees to make his permanent residence within the tower, taking ownership of the structure once commissioned by his longtime friend, Reginald the Stoutheart.


For Zeb's part, the requested pauldron and helm are fabricated by village craftsmen at no cost. Neither is coin accepted from Zeb or Audric for meals, ale, or accommodations for the remainder of their stay. They are truly looked upon as heroes.


When approached about the upcoming journey, Bonie is taken aback, and Larimo even more so, knowing little of the PCs at all. Like Tussugar, the gnome is slow to heal naturally, a generation (in gnome years) more aged than the others. Following her initial surprise, Bonie expresses a need to return to West Tower with news that the valley is once again safe for travel. She pledges to consider the offer, though much will depend on the health of Larimo.

Rould is grateful for the desire of his accompaniment but respectfully declines, hopeful that he might aid Tussugar in fortifying their new home. There is much work ahead in Carrock to prepare for the coming winter. Erathmar, however, is ready cut his losses and agrees to the proposal instantly, along with the rest of his company.

Selben's progress in magery is slow, but not fruitless. By Zeb's estimation, a month of additional study is required for Selben to learn read magic sufficiently to begin scribing a new spellbook from the existing tomes. Neither are the necessary materials available in Carrock; the resources of a larger settlement will be needed. (Such is the danger of losing one's spellbook.)

Moving Forward

I think that's all I have for Zeb and Audric right now. Feel free to post comments to advance things forward. If you choose to pass additional time in Carrock, let me know how much, and for what purpose. If you'd like to open dialogues with specific NPCs, you're free to do that as well. The time of year is early fall, several days before the autumn equinox.

Session #11, Zeb's Notes

7/3/2018, Session #11


We decide again to stay at Erathmar’s camp in order to minimize the risks of Selben encountering, by chance or design, Aibreann—the young man’s inability to control himself, whatever the reason, is a liability.  Fortunately, the men and women of Erathmar’s camp have taken to Selben, and seem willing to assist in sharing our watches.  The air is chill, result of yesterday’s rain, which suits our mood—still at a crux, we are unsure exactly how to proceed or how to confront our various obstacles and foes.

The night passes uneventfully, dawn breaks.  We make our usual rounds of Carrock, hoping to investigate the tower as well as the inn, and to see if any news comes in from nearby farms that may not have heeded our call.  We see a small gathering of people at the north edge of the village beyond the inn.  Bonie is among those gathered, as well as a few villagers.  She is calming a wet, muddy pony.  Bonie sees us, apparently recognizing us, and appears happy.  It’s apparently returned to her after bolting during the wolf attack.  It doesn’t appear injured—lucky indeed!

The pony, however, seems unwilling to be coaxed into Carrock.  It plants its feet, stubborn, and refuses to be led.  When Bonie tries again, it actually bucks a little and backs up a few steps.  Bonie tells us that the behavior is uncharacteristic of Elseba, her mount, and after a while it even turns to leave, almost as if trying to lead her somewhere.  Audric gives voice to that suspicion, and we make to follow.  Before we can, Rould joins the group, reporting that there was no ill news the last night, and we recruit him to accompany us to see if the pony is indeed trying to tell us something.

Elseba takes us on walk of a fair distance, almost a mile from Carrock, north into the woods.  It seems to know where it’s going, and suddenly we recognize that the sounds of the forest have stilled, as if something is amiss.  At the edge of our sight, we see a heap upon the ground.  Rould and I split from the group to investigate—there are no immediate signs of danger, but it does appear as if it’s a body, bloodied and covered in coarse gray hair.  

We recognize it as Maglarosh, and he appears dead, having suffered many wounds from claws and bites.  His eyes are closed, strangely peaceful amid his various wounds.  Maglarosh is dead, having been ravaged by wolves.  Rould confirms this, spotting many tracks, both of wolves and hoof.

Bonie is not averse to Elseba carrying the druid back to Carrock.  In examining his wounds, we see many tattoos upon his skin—scenes from nature and glyphs that seem to point to him being a follower of Silvanus.  In Maglarosh’s hand is a medallion made of crudely carved oak wood, freshly hewn, and upon it is etched the silhouette of a maned lion’s head.  I recognize it as the symbol of Nobanion, an exarch of Silvanus, also known as Lord Firemane, a god of good beasts—a deity strictly opposed to Malar.  I take the medallion, unsure what to make of it for the moment.  Audric also notices a second medallion, worn by Maglarosh, a large ruby upon a tarnished silver chain.  Audric takes it—as Maglarosh is not the sort to wear it for cosmetic reasons, it may serve some greater purpose.

With the ground being damp from the rain, the tracks are clear.  He identifies the hoof prints as Elseba’s, but also confirms that there were multiple wolves, likely a sizable pack that seems to have dispersed in several directions, mostly north, deeper into the forest.  Maglarosh had several small items on his person: a small wooden bowl and spoon, a waterskin, as well as several pouches of nuts & herbs.  I take these, seeing no reason that they should go to waste.

With Rould’s assistance, we find our way back to Carrock, and are met by Tussugar and Drachus as we transport our grim burden.  Drachus is stricken by the loss, having regarded Maglarosh as a mentor of some sorts, and for Tussugar’s part, he seems to examine the situation more logically—Drachus makes arrangements for the body, and I suggest that we convene at the inn to discuss how our situation may have changed.

Once around a table, I share my general confusion and lack of direction regarding the matter—the threat of Korvich, Carcerus and the wolves; the “goddess of the hunt”; the loss of Maglarosh.  Is our continued presence in Carrock helpful in deterring a direct attack, or do the attacks continue precisely because we are still there?  Do we return to Mirabar, as discussed the other night?  Tussugar, always one to speak plainly, replies “Perhaps it’s time to stand and hunt your enemy.”

Much discussion follows, both privately with Audric and with those gathered.  As for Audric, it seems that three paths are apparent—continue with preparations to leave Carrock, as we had discussed the previous night; stay in Carrock, executing our continued defense of the town to the best of our ability, as we are the best equipped to do so; or to indeed take our fight to the enemy, and test the strength of our arms against Korvich & Carcerus’ conviction to hunt me.  At the end, we decide turn the tables on our hunters, on those who would prey upon the villagers of Carrock, and to take the fight to them.

Tussugar looks at us all grimly, asking if we are indeed committed to this course of action, sparing a glance to Audric.  We all speak assent, at which point Tussugar pulls out the ring, slams it on the table, announcing that if we are to go, “let’s go prepared.”  He leaves the ring, turning to walk away.  Audric quietly takes it, secreting it away.

Final preparations are made.  I let Selben know that he’s not to enter Carrock except under the supervision of Erathmar, but otherwise Zeb is ready to go.  Audric spares some time to meditate in the tower, hopefully coming to terms with Mystra over the ring.  Tussugar, Rould and Bonie meet us north of the town; based on indications from the hunters, it would seem that a northwesterly direction seems the most reasonable place for a small force to take refuge in the wood, as the northeastern forest is more heavily scouted.  It’s a question we had not thought to ask before and having thought of it may have changed the course of the last couple days.

Rould leads, and I split the difference between the hunter and the rest of the group.  Tussugar is in full armor, and Bonie is arrayed as a warrior.  We travel without speaking, and after some time we encounter wolf tracks, though it’s unclear if they were headed to or from Carrock; perhaps neither.  We note their presence, but continue on to the northwest, hoping for more recent or more meaningful discoveries.

After another hour or so, we discover a stream that leads from northeast to southwest.  We take some time to examine the stream bed in both directions, hopeful that if there were scouts or foes nearby, that they would also have to cross and might leave some sign.  We hear something in the brush.  Rould, Bonie and Audric draw their bows and cover me as I approach to investigate.  I hear the rustling again, and then immediately hear footsteps receding.  I rush to the top of the nearby ridge on the other side of the river, and catch a quick glimpse of a bipedal creature disappear into the woods.  I’m sure I can’t catch the figure, so I wave the others across.  We investigate, and quickly ascertain boot prints—perhaps a sentry?

Still fortunate for the recent rain, we follow the tracks for some time, perhaps another hour, into a dense copse of trees.  There are many shadows, and we see the figure of a lithe female ahead.  The shadows seem to cling unnaturally, stifling the afternoon sun, which seems to be struggling to win against the dark.  Tussugar and I march forward, with Rould, Bonie and Audric moving to flank the group.

The woman wears a plain, dark dress or shawl.  Her hair is dark, almost black, and as we draw near she speaks, her voice tantalizing.  “Welcome, I’ve been waiting for you.”  Her description matches the “goddess of the hunt.”  I step forward, and announce that she has my attention.
Some curse, however, seems to affect me, and for a moment everything slows, becomes sluggish.  My mind, however, is unaffected.  I smile, mutter “Tricks…” and summon forth my own power to counter the woman’s spell, breaking her enchantment.  “I’m here to dispel your delusion.  You are no god, and you are certainly not the Beastlord.”

Audric is assaulted by magic as well, and fires his bow at whoever cast it, arrow sailing into the wood.  She laughs… “No, I am not the Beastlord.  But I am a beast, and you are my prey.”  Her flesh begins to spasm, and she rushes forward, beginning to change.  The woman’s hands and feet turn into claws, her mouth opens in a great maw of fangs, and from behind her pulls a hook-bladed axe, turning into the bestial form of Carcerus!  Tussugar steps forward to thwart the charge, blocking Carcerus’ path, but his axe misses, shaving a patch of hair from the beast.

Meanwhile, Rould spots more foes—not an unexpected ambush—and fires into the forest, drawing blood from his enemy.  It appears to be a cultist, swinging a flail wildly at Rould, devastating the archer.  Bonie fires and misses her target, but Audric connects on yet another foe.  We are beset by enemies.  Audric’s target is revealed as Korvich who, despite his wound from Audric’s arrow, commands me to bow as he did before.  This time, I am unable to resist the compulsion, but I am not without my own form of revenge—a command of my own takes hold of Carcerus, forcing the creature to its knees before Tussugar.  Tussugar raises his axe high and brings it down heavily onto Carcurus’ back, tearing a large gash into the foe.

The dwarf rips it from Carcerus and brings his axe down again, chopping into the creature again who squeals in pain, blood flowing everywhere.  Carcerus claws to his feet, swinging awkwardly at Tussugar and missing, but not before three wolves attack Tussugar from the flanks. Concentrating on Korvich, I bring the magic bestowed upon me by Malar to bear again, using the cult leader’s own tactics against him.  He is compelled to stillness, forced to watch helplessly as events unfold around him.  I snarl, eager to put an end to Korvich’s false vorishnaad and his reckless aclupar.

Tussugar’s wounds are beginning to add up, and both Bonie and Rould are both bitten by wolves as well.  Tussugar misses Carcerus, Bonie misses her own foe, but Rould manages to fell the cultist Tesk, skewering him on his scimitar.  Our foes remain numerous, and Tussugar nearly buried beneath a wall of attacking fur, teeth and claws.

Desperate, I throw one of the magical beads at Carcerus, striking the beast.  There is an explosion of magical force that expels from the point of impact; Carcerus is torn asunder by the magical force of the bead, her wolves are flung from the melee, Tussugar is thrown back from the wave of force—injured, but alive.  The dwarf steps forward, standing over the dead form of Carcerus, and with a single sweep of his axe, severs the beast’s head.


With Carcerus slain, the wolves disperse and the cultists either scatter or lay dead before our strength of arms.  The melee wanes, and I stalk towards Korvich, still paralyzed by the power granted me by Malar.  “You are not the only priest of the Beastlord that has asked for vorishnaad, Korvich.  I have petitioned for my own, and it has been granted.  Your aclupar is over.”  With that, I reach into his mouth, cut out his tongue, and push him to the ground so that he drowns in his own blood; with his death, my own aclupar is fulfilled.  I tear Korvich’s symbol of Malar from his neck and add it to my belt.  For a few moments, all is silent...but within, my soul howls with triumph.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Session #10, Zeb's Notes


6/12/2018, Session #10

As night falls, families begin to arrive with their children, carrying bundles laden with provisions and blankets.  We don’t know if all of the children of the surrounding farms are accounted for; there’s no way to accomplish that, given our means, but we’re confident that most of the families have answered our call.

Drachus and Aibreann approach, and it sends Selben into a panic.  The young man’s eyes roll back into his head, and he falls to the ground, pounding it in a fury, seemingly overcome—physically, mentally, or magically, we cannot determine—and immediately we disarm him of the knife he used earlier to save Erathmar.  Unsure how to proceed, I grab the bucket of water we used to soak the leather straps, and I douse him with it.  Fortunately, he becomes more lucid.  Unfortunately, Selben is still panicked and attempts to escape.  Drachus and Aibreann disappear into the town, and with Audric’s help, we tackle and subdue the young man.

After several minutes of pinning him, preventing Selben’s escape, and after more than a few threats to bind him, it seems like Selben regains awareness.  He admits to not remembering the events of the past few minutes…as if he blacked out again immediately upon seeing Aibreann.

Unwilling to allow another encounter like that to occur, we take Selben back to Erathmar’s camp, where we intend to spend the night.  Selben falls asleep nearly immediately, seemingly exhausted, and I find a quick few hours of rest before I’m awakened for my watch.

During my watch, Selben starts tossing and turning in his sleep.  He starts to visibly sweat and utters a few words.  “I saw her.  I see her.”  The fear that Selben may be under some kind of magical influence has been constantly on my mind, and for the first time in over a year, I whisper a prayer to Malar, calling upon my faith to sever any potential connection or possession.  Malar answers, but for better or for worse, it does not seem as if there was any compulsion, or at least, Malar’s blessing had no effect. 

We are awakened by rain, but other than that ill herald, we are not troubled by anything else, and find that nothing ill befell those of Carrock while we slept.  The next morning, Audric and I have a lengthy conversation regarding his current mental state after the encounter in the woods, his thoughts on the pending threats to Carrock, and plans for the short term.  It is decided, should the situation in Carrock remain unchanged for two more days, that we will make ready and depart towards Mirabar, where Audric may find a temple to Mystra.

We head into the village to find Drachus.  Immediately upon making that decision, however, we hear the cries of a woman in the southern part of the village.  As we circle down towards the calls, we see that there’s someone coming from the road to the west.  The rain is heavy, but her calls pierce the veil.  The woman, limping, leads a pony which looks as if it has something—a body?—slumped over the saddle.  She is short, lithe—almost childlike—perhaps the same age as Aibreann.  Her hair is long, blonde, and tied into a tail.  She wears traveling leathers, a bow slung over her shoulder and a sword at her hip.  We are able to see that her cargo is indeed a body.  Audric and I approach, answering her call.

“We were attacked during the night by wolves, on our way to Carrock.”  Her face is dirty, and she bears wounds that match her story.  She turns to the person, telling us that he’s wounded, near death.  Her burden—a bearded but small man, actually a gnome—who is indeed direly wounded.  Once again I call upon the Beastlord, this time to heal—and the gnome coughs.  Not dead, then, but still not conscious.  When asked, she reveals her name is Bonie, and that she hails from Westtower (at least most recently)—but also states “there’s not much left of it.”

She says that the village was attacked and razed nearly two weeks ago, a tale that reeks of what befell Shadfeld.  Westtower was better prepared for such an attack, having a small garrison of soldiers, but many of its soldiers were killed and the town half-destroyed.  Carcerus was among the attackers, bearing a wicked hook-bladed axe, and Bonie reveals that the guards that confronted him could do nothing to injure the beast, as if their weapons were useless. 

Bonie and her friend were passing the trade season at Westtower, and in the aftermath of the attack, they volunteered to serve as envoy to Shadfeld.  They found Shadfeld in ruins and decided to continue on to Carrock…whereupon they were attacked by wolves in the night.  The gnome—Larimo—bought her the time to fend off the beasts, but only at the cost of being severely wounded himself.

We take the pair to Erathmar’s camp and send for Drachus and Tussugar.  I recruit Selben to help care for Larimo’s wounds, and after sharing her tale again, we realize that the attack was just a few miles outside of Carrock—close enough for us to scout.  Drachus offers us horses from the village, and together with Rould we depart to investigate.

We find the site of the battle—they had camped south of the road, and the wolves attacked from somewhere to the north.  Audric questions her, discovering that they built a fire—and we all find it odd that wolves attacked in the night despite the presence of their fire.  Larimo is not a warrior, but Bonie reveals that he has “the favor of one of the gods of his race.”  A priest, perhaps?  She seems skilled in both bow and sword and tells us she was employed previously as a guard in Westtower.  She says that she killed most of the pack that attacked them, perhaps four in total.  Because of the rain, our hopes of learning anything else here is slim, so we return to Carrock.

Audric goes for a walk, searching for a private place to commune with Mystra and reflect on the events of the last few days.  He hears someone approach but does not allow it to disturb his meditative rest.  The figure comes within 30 feet or so, and Audric sees that it’s Maglarosh, the druid, carrying a walking stick.  “You’re very troubled,” states Maglarosh.  “Beyond words,” is Audric’s reply.  Audric shares his difficulty communicating with Mystra, but the druid’s response is vague and mysterious, revealing something about Audric being protected.  “Protected how and from what?” he asks.  “By the forest itself,” is the reply of Maglarosh, but also admits that he does not know what the nature of the threat might be.  “Stay on your guard, Warrior of the Weave.”

Night approaches once again, so we carry out preparation to protect the children.  We show Bonie around town, explain the defenses, as well as the potential threat of attack in Carrock, whether from Carcerus, wolves, or this “Goddess of the Hunt.”  Bonie seems unimpressed by our lack of a plan, but we counter her argument, explaining that we’ve considered various options, but most of them involve leaving the village unprotected, which seems too risky—something she should hopefully understand, considering the proximity of the wolves that attacked her and Larimo.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Session #9, Zeb's Notes


5/16/2018, Session #9

We begin in the forest, in the aftermath of Audric’s unwitting unleashing of the ring’s power.  The girl—Faylin--is lucid, and we reveal to her that we’ve been searching for her.  Her first words are that she wants to see her mother and father…an understandable sentiment.  She asks what happened, pointing to the petrified form of Arkhen, and we give her an abridged version, stating that we’ll return to see to the hunter.  Though barefoot, she indicates that she’s able to walk, so we hasten to return to Carrock. 

Few words are shared on the trip, except for a brief discussion with Rould regarding the oddity of the wolves—the polarity of their behavior, seeming somehow protective over the prone form of Faylin, yet aggressive beyond expectations when approached.  We arrive back at Faylin’s farm before dusk and find her parents, who are overjoyed to learn of their daughter’s safety, and convince the family to retreat to the relative safety of Carrock for the night.

We arrive safely back to Carrock, and contrary to the grimness of our mood, the townsfolk seem persistent in their desire to cheer our success and celebrate our return.  They do not yet know of Arkhen’s sacrifice.  At the inn, we find a table and warm meal for Faylin and her family while we gather Tussugar and Drachus to share the dire news.  The conversation is a difficult one, and after discussing the events leading up to the attack, Audric seems to stutter and stall, as if not sure how to relate the ring’s role in the matter.

After several false starts, Tussugar cuts to the heart of the matter—and asks for the return of the ring, holding out his hand.  After several moments of not getting what he wants from Audric, he withdraws his hand.  I’m unsure if the dwarf is disappointed or just saddened at the confrontation and asks us to excuse ourselves so that he can discuss matters with Drachus one on one.  When Tussugar and Drachus return, they invite us to leave the inn with them, heading for the tower.  “I gave you the ring under the pretense that you would be its protector; both of the relic, and of those around you.  You’ve proven that’s not who you are.”  When they step forward, it’s to bind Audric in ropes to be held within the tower.  Audric must choose…the ring, or the ropes.

In an effort to deflect, Audric asks if Tussugar thinks he can do any better, as if turning into a great cave bear within town is any safer, any better way to protect it.  Tussugar attempts to punch Audric, but is clearly overwhelmed by rage at the audacity of the statement and misses.  Disgusted, Audric removes the ring and throws it at Tussugar, storming out of the tower.  After a few moments, Tussugar issues a command—stern, but seemingly not unreasonable—to return Audric to the tower.  I obey.

I catch up to Audric, and the resulting discussion—or argument, perhaps heated debate—takes place in the streets of Carrock.  Tussugar and Audric’s mutual distrust—valid or no—has clouded one or both of their perspectives, and the situation is truly a mess.  Regardless of Audric’s feelings toward Tussugar (and vice versa), I tell Audric that at the very least he owes Drachus an audience, a chance to weigh in on the matter with his own words.

Two days.  The crux of the discussion boils down to two days, and whether Audric is willing to forestall his abandonment of Carrock—based solely, at least from my perspective, on Audric’s distrust of the dwarf—is Audric willing to give me two days to settle matters in Carrock before we turn our backs on the town.  Audric relents…reluctantly…but the return meeting with Tussugar and Drachus does not go well, Tussugar issuing commands to Audric, and Audric throwing words back in anger.  At the end, we are left to stand alone in the streets.  Drachus, unsure how to react to the disintegration of whatever tentative alliance, gives us his blessing and the thanks of the town whatever course of action we decide to take, and the trio—Drachus, Tussugar, Rould—leaves us to find our path.

After some discussion, Audric is persuaded to stay at Erathmar’s camp, even to resume his vigil over the tower of Carrock, though he won’t have anything to do with Tussugar.  Satisfied with that concession, I return to the inn to consult with Tussugar, Drachus and Rould.  I apologize to Rould…the hunter has deserved better in terms of communication, explanation, and inclusion, but the heightened emotions of the day have led to some complicated situations.  I try to rationalize Audric’s actions, but unsure himself just how damaged Audric’s relationship with Mystra might be, he finds little explanation that seems to make any sense, and thus abandon my defense of Audric.

Drachus’ primary concern is whether Audric is a danger to Carrock, to which I reply that “Audric is no more a danger to Carrock than I am, and if that’s a situation that causes you worry, we will leave at first light.”  Fortunately, Drachus’ confidence in us seems unwavering, and he wishes for us to stay on in Carrock, even suggesting that we might eventually make our home here.  The statement has great impact on me, and for a few moments, I can even picture what a future in Carrock might hold for me...but after the events of the day, I fear such peace may never come to pass.

When discussing the ring, which seems ever-present in the conversations of the night, Tussugar shares his perspective.  “The artifact has proven to be unsafe and destructive, regardless of the wielder.”  Tussugar makes it clear that the ring will not be worn by any other until its power can be harnessed and understood; Tussugar is now the sole protector.  I can’t help but think of The Myrmidon in Kezia’s reading, and whether it may be a reference to Tussugar…but given the stress of the day, I abandon that line of thought, as there’s no way to prove anything, in any case.

Meanwhile, Audric heads to Erathmar’s camp to fetch Selben.  I worry, given the predilections of this strange “goddess of the hunt”, that Selben may be at risk, and wants Audric to bring the boy into town.  At the camp, Erathmar takes Audric’s abbreviated version of the events of the day at face value, and afterwards shares that Selben had been acting strangely throughout the day.  He was found sitting alone, either meditating or chanting, and Erathmar shared concern over the boy, given his past.  Erathmar seems relieved that it was our intention to watch over him through the night.

Audric finds Selben, and their conversation turns towards Selben’s queer actions earlier that day.  The teen seems taken aback but finds relief when Audric admits that Selben wasn’t being followed and was only found by accident.  Selben claims that he was trying “to get his powers back”, after which he admits that he was a mage in training, but that he lost his implements, and has been powerless since his flight from Three Streams.  They share a conversation about the source of Audric’s own power versus my own, and they decide that consulting me on the matter may be prudent.

Back at the inn, I finally get a chance to question Faylin.  Her parents are present, as are Tussugar and Drachus.  Faylin describes that there was a woman who called herself “the lady of the hunt” or “the lady of the forest”, and that she saw her as if she were in a dream.  This lady wanted to teach Faylin of the hunt, of the kill…and Faylin followed her into the woods throughout the night.  The lady left her in the care of the two wolves before eventually disappearing; Faylin after that, awoke from her trance to see the wolves, to find herself alone without her family, and was scared…and that’s when we arrived.

When questioned about tattoos, symbols, items or anything else noteworthy or identify this lady’s affiliations, she mentions that several times the “beastlord” was mentioned, as if they might be traveling to meet him in the woods…but when Faylin asked when they would see him, the lady replied, “I am the beastlord.”

Faylin’s parents seem visibly shaken, I give up on further questioning.  My own resolve is momentarily shaken…that this impostor would claim to be the true Beastlord, or to even be acting on his behalf, boils my blood.  This lady’s actions, her tactics, her targets are all antithetical to my understanding of the Beastlord’s dogma, and I’m quick to share that with Drachus and Tussugar, who seem supportive and to understand the distinction.

Rould & I meet up on the tower with Audric and Selben, where Selben’s past is shared with me.  Agreed that a half-trained, unsupervised apprentice may be more dangerous than one under my tutelage, we discuss plans to start Selben’s formal training.  It is a complicated situation…given Selben’s past, I’m sure that Drachus would not be supportive of the decision, but Selben has done nothing since our arrival to make me question his loyalty.

I take some time to meditate on the events of the day, struggling to find some sense of the many threads that seem to be in play.  If there is indeed a pattern developing, it eludes my discovery…

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Session #8, Zeb's Notes


5/9/2018, Session #8

Morning arrives.  Joints are stiff from the night’s endeavors, exacerbated by light, fitful sleep under the stars upon the cold earth, and not enough of it.  Nevertheless, there is work to be done.  We leave Erathmar’s camp outside of Carrock, and approach the inn to meet Drachus.  The hour is early, and we find him alone at work.  He pulls a few ales, and we sit to discuss the events of the past few days.

Despite our tale of the troll and the goblins, Drachus seems most concerned that we were not able to find the third creature that attacked Carrock.  His disappointment is evident, but we spare no comfort for him as we continue the tale, telling of Ignish’s scouting of Carrock, of the true nature of the threat that razed Shadfeld, and of its imminent approach to Carrock.

Curiously, his first question is about the boy, Selben, asking what his part is in all of this.  Aside from conjecture, we share that we have no more knowledge than he does.  His second question, understandably, is about the fate of Carrock—we share our discussion with Tussugar, of our resolve to stand with Carrock so that it does not suffer the fate that befell Shadfeld, and that we plan to stand and fight in Carrock’s defense.  He seems relieved by our admission and by our plans to stand by Carrock, so we share the beginnings of our plans for the town’s defense.

Drachus, while shaken, seems supportive of our decision, and clearly has the well-being of his citizens in mind.  He grants us use of the town’s resources to arrange its defense, and we immediately start to plan.  By the time we finish planning, the town has started to stir, and we suggest a town meeting to be held at midday.  Maglarosh and Erathmar are alerted of the plans.  Still suffering from the rigors of both combats last night, I take what rest I can until then.

Drachus shares details of the situation with the town and gives a grim speech in which he shares our plans for the town’s defense.  When given the chance to speak, I step forward, sharing the truth about the situation—that I did not seek refuge in Carrock with the intention of using the town or its folk as a shield.  Not being able to turn back time or change the situation, I intent to stand—and bleed, if needs be—with and for the town, so that Shadfeld’s fate can be avoided.

Finally, we get an opportunity to discuss the situation with Maglarosh.  His response raises more doubts than answers—he agrees that the events of the past weeks all seem related.  Damyca’s premonition, the runes in Moonglow Cave and Oldkeep, the attack of Shadfeld and threat of Carcerus—is there a common thread?  In regard to Ignish’s threat of wolves attacking Carrock, Maglarosh admits that nature has seemed out of balance the past few days.  Things are not as they should be, and while he’s concerned about it, he has no insight to offer.  Maglarosh proves to be a great disappointment.  While he clearly searches for a way to explain things and tie these events together, it seems more academic than anything else.  While clearly a potent ally for the town, and though he may prove instrumental in Carrock’s defense in the case of an attack, Zeb finds little other value in the discussion.

At Erathmar’s camp, we gather the survivors of the attack on Shadfeld, and press them for details on the attack that night.  Any small detail we may learn could help in defense of Carrock.  For the most part, the attack was a complete surprise, carried out by crazed cultists with torches setting buildings ablaze.  The conversation, at least for Zeb, proves valuable in defining the scope of the threat.  Zeb had imagined dozens of attackers, but in reality, it could have been as few as a single dozen, with the advantage of surprise and panic.

Zeb, exhausted, seeks rest at the inn of Carrock while Audric investigates the tower, making preparations for defense and ensuring access to the upper floors, in the case that retreat to the towers is necessary. 

We awaken the next morning, having passed the first restful sleep in days.  The town is intact, but in our morning rounds, we encounter a woman looking for Maglarosh—there was apparently some incident in the night at one of the outlying farms.  Aibreann, helping to comfort the woman, offers to come along as we head out to investigate.  On the way, we’re told that the older of two sons killed a chicken by biting its neck out with his teeth.

They woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of screeching animals; they found the son, who was babbling about “his mistress”, and when asked why he had done it that a woman, “the Goddess of the Hunt,” told him to.  The boy, Connor, now seems lucid, playing with his brother; we decide to talk to him, to see what he remembers of the night.

“The mistress called to me in the night.  I woke up in my bed, and she explained The Hunt to me, the importance of being a predator.”  Audric questions Connor, learning that this was the first time he encountered this “Goddess of the Hunt.”  They met outside, she compelled him to hunt, and the boy says that she was gone by the time he killed the chicken, having disappeared into the night.

He describes her as beautiful, dark hair.  I show him my fetishes, asking if she wore any similar symbols, but he shakes his head, unsure.  Audric asks if she had weapons, and he says he’s unsure, but that he doesn’t think so.  Leaving the boy with his mother and Aibreann, we investigate the coop; it has been emptied except for the dead chicken, but there does not appear to be any clues there.  We investigate the shed where Connor saw the woman—we find a barefooted print—potentially that of a woman. 

We find few other clues but convince the mother to spend the night with her sons within the safety of Carrock.  We return to Carrock, and the rest of the day passes without event.  I spend time training; I have neglected my studies in the action of the past days and nights, and it does much to center me, to prepare myself mentally for the coming fight.

The next morning, we receive yet more reports of events in the night at another outlying farm.  This time, a daughter has been kidnapped.  We recruit Rould to journey to the farm, trusting in his skills as a tracker.  The daughter Faylin, 10 years old, disappeared in the middle of the night.  The mother woke up in the night, having heard something stir in the house, and saw her daughter walking outside, thinking she was going to use the outhouse.  The next morning, they found that she had never returned.

The outhouse reveals no clues, but Rould’s keen eyes reveal footprints of a barefoot woman, the same as those found the previous night.  We resolve to consult Drachus, and to ask that all children be brought into the protection of the tower.  Rould thinks he can potentially follow the trail.  It leads north, and it seems that there are actually two sets of prints—one that of the woman, and a smaller set that may be Faylin’s, headed into the same direction in the woods.  We are left with a troubling decision; if we do not follow the tracks now, while they are fresh, we may not have another chance.  In doing so, however, we leave the town at risk.

Whoever stalks the children of Carrock at night, it makes Zeb's blood boil.  This false goddess, could it be a manifestation of the "Witch Queen" of Tussugar's past?  This "Goddess of the Hunt" certainly isn't related to Korvich or Carcerus, as her tactics are anathema to Malar's dogma.  That her appearance is coincidence seems unlikely, given the stress of the situation.  Beset by foes, wracked by unanswered questions, Zeb seems unsure how to proceed.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Vorishnaad


Once agreement on plans for the morning are reached, and everyone begins to settle for the night, Zeb will find a place in Erathmar's camp to stow his gear, leaving everything except for his trousers, light boots, Malaran fetish around his neck and belt of sheathed knives.  Zeb's trophy for the night, Ignish's fetish, hangs from his belt, and his prey's blood has been smeared in a thick line across Zeb's chest.

Zeb is tired and wounded, but he has been bolstered by Tussugar's words and feels very much alive after the ritual combat with Ignish, at one with his savage, bestial god.  Zeb's going out...and Zeb's going to Hunt.

Not so much worried about Carcerus, other scouts or any other dangers that might lurk in the forest at night, Zeb feels instilled by the Beastlord right now, and this is how he'll learn that he's either chosen correctly--or that he hasn't, in which case he could meet a very bloody end.  Zeb doesn't know what the formal rite of vorishnaad entails, but this is how he's going to execute HIS vorishnaad. formally severing his ties with the beast cults, and establishing his own new, one-man sect with a new purpose, a new aclupar--seek justice for those slain in Shadfeld, and prevent it from ever happening again.

What Zeb seeks in the forest this night is a nod from Malar, some sign that his vorishnaad is approved.  No longer will Zeb play the role of prey to Korvich's insane aclupar or to threat from the Black Devil, Carcerus.  Stand or fall, succeed or fail, he'll confront them on his own terms.

Malar's Dogma

Survival of the fittest and the winnowing of the weak are Malar’s legacy. A brutal, bloody death or kill has great meaning. The crux of life is the challenge between the hunter and the prey, the determination of who lives or dies. View every important task as a hunt. Remain ever alert and alive. Walk the wilderness without trepidation, and show no fear in the hunt. Savagery and strong emotions defeat reason and careful thought in all things. Taste the blood of those you slay, and never kill from a distance. Work against those who cut back the forest and who kill beasts solely because they are dangerous. Slay not the young, the pregnant, or deepspawn so that prey will remain plentiful.

Friday, April 13, 2018

XP awards for sessions 5-7

Looking at the accomplishments over the past few games, I'm going to continue the advancement rate (for now) of 1,000 XP per character, per session. More reasoning and explanation can be found here.

Updated totals:

  • Audric - 12,000
  • Zeb - 3,000/10,200
This puts Zeb over the key threshold for attaining 4th level as an abjurer. The training requirements set forth last time apply now as well, and I know that Jason has some specific ideas around this milestone that he can work on executing next session. While Zeb's two recent advancements feel a bit close in proximity, this is mainly attributable to his dual-class nature. It's also probably the last time we'll have this situation, since XP requirements going forward are now significantly higher.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Session #7, Zeb's Notes


4/11/2018, Session #7

We spend the remaining light preparing for camp; what traps and snares we have at our disposal are set against potential foes.  Audric tends to our wounds, using the magic provided him by the goddess Mystra.  Three watches are set, and we settle into a light, restless sleep.

We are awakened in the middle of the night by Rould; all is dark, except for the barest of moonbeams that illuminate the forest and area around Oldkeep.  We ascend from the troll’s nest, and feel the warm, damp night air, accompanied by fog.  Goblins have gathered near the corpse of the troll.  Quickly, we climb to the roof of Oldkeep.

From the broken wall, we hear a cry that pierces the night—another goblin, and this one has stepped upon caltrops laid out near the wall.  I summon a creeping fog to obscure the six goblins near the troll’s corpse, while Audric gives us Mystra’s blessing in the case that blades and arrows are brought to bear.

All of us reach the roof, and while Rould & Arkhen defend us with their bows, I assist Audric into his mail.  At least one goblin falls to their arrows, and Audric summons forth a swarm of vermin into the fog; unfortunately, we do not hear the cries of those caught within the swarm.  It is likely that our foes have retreated, and perhaps regrouped to rethink their attack.

The decision is made to allow Audric to rest in order to recover his spells.  Unfortunately, the weather does not cooperate with our plans, and a violent downpour disturbs our rest…again.  At least it’s not goblins.  We retreat to the cover of Oldkeep once again, and awaken to an overcast morning.  We’re wet, we’re wounded, and we’re poorly rested…and we’re ready to return to Carrock.

On the way back, Audric reveals that he has been wearing the magic ring all along, and asks Zeb’s thoughts on the encounter the night before.  Audric’s yell echoed from the troll—or perhaps from his sword—after striking the troll.  Zeb is surprised at the revelation, but has little to add to Audric’s quest for discovery.  The remainder of the journey passes in awkward silence.

We acquire cold drinks and warm meals, and share our news with Drachus.  Tussugar is absent, and no one has seen Maglarosh in days.  During the meal, one of Erathmar’s men approaches us, indicating that Erathmar has established a small camp and wishes to see us about a matter of some importance.

When we get to Erathmar’s camp, we find the trader…and see that he’s clearly injured.  He leads us away to someplace private, into the nearby woods.  Audric immediately suspects that it may have been Selben, returning to his previous unstable behavior.  There’s a lantern in the woods, and in the lantern’s light we see the boy, Selben, holding a dagger in front of him, and a man bound with ropes to a tree.  He is straggly and bearded, with a crazed look in his eyes.  I recognize him—Ignish, of the Beast Cults of Malar.

Erathmar explains that Ignish found the camp during the day several hours ago, encountered Erathmar and stabbed him, clearly looking for me.  Erathmar would have been killed were it not for Selben’s intervention.  Erathmar hands a scrimshaw medallion, upon which is painted a beast’s head with a bloody maw.

I pull out my own humble fetish, symbol to Malar.  I put it around my neck, seeing what reaction it elicits, and throw his symbol on the ground, stepping upon it.  Ignish responds to my goading, revealing that he serves Carcerus—and considers Korvich nothing, compared to the Black Devil.  He also reveals that Carcerus doesn’t know of Ignish’s infiltration of Carrock—can that be used to our advantage?

Audric provides his own manner of interrogation—by calling the blessing of Mystra upon him.  Audric’s intimidation results in the following revelation: “The Black Devil gathers the wolf to his aid in the depths of the forest.  You will be set upon and destroyed.”

It is clear, at this point, that Ignish cannot be allowed to live.  Though simply slitting his throat is the most expedient option, murdering a helpless opponent, even one whose actions have likely justified such a punishment, is not the way of nature.  If Ignish would have my blood…then let him take it.  I reveal my plan to Erathmar and Audric—I am wounded, and will give Ignish a grave wound to match my own and ensure his death, regardless of the outcome…then he and I will fight to the death.  If Malar deems his conviction more powerful than my own, then so be it.

I do not expect Erathmar or Audric to understand, but the trader is stoic about the affair, and Audric agrees reluctantly, though only if Tussugar, Rould and Arkhen are brought to the camp to ensure that Ignish does not escape.  Surprised, I agree to the terms.  Tussugar remains silent about my plans as well, clearly torn between seeking his own revenge and my pursuit of justice with Ignish, but he also allows me to proceed.

There’s a tang of iron in the air, as I slide my blade between Ignish’s ribs, drawing a well of dark blood and puncturing his lung.  I press his symbol—a false representation of Malar, twisted by Korvich’s insane aclupar—back into Ignish’s hand.  A knife is thrown to his feet and he is cut loose, and Ignish attacks me in a rage.

We share slashes, sizing each other up, though it is clear that Ignish is blinded by his rage.  He cuts my side, a grazing wound, while I land more penetrating blows.  He slashes at my face, drawing a long, red line that will leave a scar, but I punctuate the exchange by sinking my own blade deep into his flesh.  Ignish falls, losing consciousness, and I step forward and mercilessly end his suffering.

The kill is swift, a single drive of the knife through his neck, severing an artery and embedding itself deep into his skull with an upward thrust.  His lifeblood coats my hands, and I taste my kill, droning a low prayer to the Beastlord as salt and iron burn my throat.  I make a trophy of his false symbol, expecting others to eventually join it.

I turn to Tussugar.  “They’ve found me.  They’re close.”  

He replies, gravely—"What must we do?”