The Darkening

[15] Purple Prose

After speaking with Zeztro, I rejoined the rest of the group. As we went to meet the guides who would lead us to the temple, we were faced with an additional surprise, the return of Verdin. The drow had found Verdin and Shara attempting to explore Duskwood and escorted them to the city. We vouched for the two. As has been the case when previous members have gone absent for a period of time, Yerold cast a truth spell and we posed a few questions to Verdin. Seemingly to avoid an outright lie, he danced around our questions with nebulous answers. Upon questions of the amulet, he said that he wanted to keep it out of the wrong hands, instead of saying it needed to be destroyed, and not elaborating on to whom the “right” hands belong. His most telling answer to me was responding that his charge (the amulet) was what was most important, not our quest. With seemingly little choice but to have him accompany us and keep a close watch on him, we were on our way.

We reached the maze and were told that we would be on our own from that point on. The narrow paths in the maze necessitated a single file order, but it wasn’t long before the multitude of paths had our group falling into the pitfall of splitting up. Fortunately, after finding little more than dead-ends, Shara was able to get the group back together as Verdin charged ahead.

At the end of the maze we encountered two minotaurs, saying we needed to speak the words to continue. The few permutations of “Ahn Ainollan” and the “Temple of the Nameless One” I attempted did little more than delay the inevitable battle. With two additional minotaurs hiding out of sight, we fought on. The web I cast was able to hinder our foes effectively, and the return of our friend the Hound Archon lead to our eventual victory.

We moved on and found the temple, an imposing sight despite being reduced to ruins. We ascended the stairs some 120 feet, before reaching a landing. Our next course of action found us entering the temple and descending its many levels. We found little more than ruins at each level, until we came face to face with Shadowheart and his underlings.

He beckoned us forward and mocked thankfulness for bringing the amulet and key. With Verdin seemingly intending to simply hand the amulet over, I began to approach with key as well. He laughed that the amulet had allowed him to find us everytime he needed. Yerold and the Hound charged ahead to battle Morindin and stop Yerold. I took that opportunity to reverse direction and once out of sight behind the lava column, made myself invisible. When Yerold was seemingly defeated and left on one knee, I sprinted toward the next hallway, intent on keeping the key from Shadowheart and ambushing either Verdin or Shadowheart. My disappearance forced Shadowheart to spread his minions out to try to find me. This gave the group the opportunity to continue its assault on Morindin, successful enough for Verdin to come to his aid and force Morindin to retreat to the next hallway. As he rounded the hallway corner, expended as much energy as I could and struck, my charged blade killing Shadowheart. As his horse disappeared with his body in a purple mist, I heard a demonic voice tell me “thank you for sending me another minion”…

I held tight to the corner of the hallway, waiting for whatever else was in pursuit. Verdin rounded the corner and made no attempt to confront me, instead dashing right past. With diametrically opposed options of using the amulet to unlock further evil or banishing it into the lava below, I believe the final chapter of our quest is about to be written.

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[14] Enter The Drow

With one and a half days travel to the small settlement of Ramaran ahead of us, we all decided that we needed to be on our way. The first day of our travel and our night watches were both quiet for a change. The morning of the 30th day of our journey found a single rider charging towards us. Though we could tell it was not the Dark Rider, we readied ourselves for action. It turned out to be Shara, who advised us to be careful, but implored us to push on as quickly as possible. Yerold convinced the group to have Caster’s new hired hand “escort” her back to the city. I wrote back to the council and they agreed with Shara, also indicating that she was actually a spy in the employ of Sorcerer Therin.

A half day of travel revealed a cloud of smoke ahead of us. As we got to the burned rubble of what used to be Ramaran, we were greeted by a group of various sized Fire Elementals, led by an elf woman Ilyiana Firestarter. Yerold charged ahead to battle immediately. Those foolhardy enough to follow him were met with a fireball, before melee ensued. Caster and I then joined the fray. The battle waged on, but eventually we were victorious without any hindrances that could not be fixed by copious amounts of healing potion.

As I approached Ilyiana, I noticed that, while shallow, her body was still breathing. I gave her some healing and she regained consciousness. My initial questioning yielded little more than false bravado from the woman. With a final plea for her to turn on her evil masters and abandon the darkness, she pronounced that we would be defeated. As Yerold approached to cast his judgement, I saved him the formalities and with one swing of my scimitar, lopped off her head. Her remains disappeared in a fine purple mist.

Without a guide from Ramaran, we were left little choice but to simply go forward into Duskwood. As the woods seemed to magically close the paths off behind us, we were quickly disoriented and lost. After an indeterminate amount of time, a drow appeared before us, telling us that we had been summoned. Though Caster required some convincing, we were escorted peacefully to their city.

We spoke to Phanur, King of the Drows. As I explained what we were doing in their lands and what we seeked to accomplish, the drow to his right Alton Zeztro, hurled besmirching comments toward my character and indicated that one who hid his heritage should not be listened to. The others continued to speak with the drow. It was determined that while the drow prefer to exclude themselves from the affairs of the other races, this threat was one they could not idly ignore. The rest of our group was sent off to their quarters, while Zeztro beckoned for me to stay behind and speak to him privately.

It was there that he revealed that he was my great grandfather, from my father’s side. He took offense to my practice of dying my hair from white to blond, as he felt it was an attempt to deny my heritage. I explained that I had never been told of this heritage from my mother, father or uncles. He said we would speak of this more tomorrow and directed me back to the rest of my group.

After pondering this new discovery, in the morning I decided to leave my hair dye and embrace whatever it is that makes me who I am. In the morning, the group spoke to Phanur and Zeztro. We were told that what we seeked was the Temple of the Nameless One. Contained there is the Book of Ahn Ainollan, a nexus of evil. The temple is protected by a maze and only the true of heart will be able to enter. Yerold asked about Goodwin, and was told that there was one behind Goodwin who turned him into Shadowheart. We would be given a guide to take us to Zarabadnur and continue our quest from there.

I then spoke privately to Zeztro and told him that I would no longer deny who I am and hoped that upon successful completion of our quest, I would be able to return here to learn of the drow part of my heritage. Pleased that I chosen that path, he additionally showed me our ancestral sword that I may one day wield, a scimitar.

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[13] Exploding Powder

It was the morning of the 27th day and we readied ourselves for the 2 days journey north, along the eastern desert. Our target was a small settlement “No Name”. This settlement has a deal with the people of Duskwood, and act as guides for adventurers foolish enough to want to explore Duskwood.

Before we left Silent Hill, we spoke with Maven and he explained that his family was still being held hostage by Glenna Icethorn’s sister to the north, amongst some strange rock formations. We agreed to help as Yerold once again attempted to refuse any payment or reward.

Quickly into our day’s travel, we met a human monk Fisto Greyskull who appeared from desert, saying he had been searching for us. He aimed to help us, regaling us with a story of how his monk order sends one of their own across the desert on a heroic mission every so often. I wrote back to the council and they indicated that his story was likely genuine, so we entrusted another stranger along our journey…

The rest of the day proved uneventful, until we setup camp. I was awoken to the pincered bite of a giant ant. As we would later find out, Yerold had been dangling his Vienna sausage above a giant ant colony who decided they’d had enough of his vile lemonade. After dispatching the ants at the surface, Fisto decided to explore the colony, Zak made preparations to explode the mound, while the rest of us gathered our belongings to get away from unnecessary danger. Fisto angered the rest of colony, and barely climbed out before Zak’s explosion kept all but a half dozen or so more ants inside the mound. With that, everyone decided we best be on our way.

On the 28th day, we met journeyed past a seemingly crazy rock-collecting man called Mozal, who lived in a cave. Caster, Zak & Fisto felt compelled to bother the poor fellow, while the rest of us stayed along the path, ready to be on our way. Their harassment did prove to be somewhat beneficial, as they returned with pouches containing some sort of exploding powder and the name of our target Sirlainna Stormthrower. Entranced by the powder, they asked no further question about what dangers lied ahead of us with her.

Eventually we would make our way to the strange rock formation. Rather than employ subterfuge, we boastfully identified ourselves as the group whom had killed Stormthrower’s sister and began the battle with her and her bodyguards.

After dispatching the bodyguards, Sirlainna escaped by flying away. The one bodyguard still alive was questioned and subsequently hired by Caster. As Yerold and I searched the cave we found Maven’s family chained up to the walls. On my way back out to rest of the group to get assistance with their restraints, I noted Sirlainna’s treasure chest. As we made our way back in to free the family, Caster & I took first crack at the treasure before Yerold could get the opportunity to callously give it all away. Speaking to the family and bodyguard, we did learn that the Dark Rider had met with the two sisters on occasion, adding another footnote to his chapter.

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[14]

We left the sanitarium and headed into the desert, where we soon ran across Fisto Greystone, a human monk who was apparently sent to find us as a part of his quest to vanquish evil. Yeld gave him a pretty good inspection and he seemed pretty good.

During the first night, we were attacked by some ants. It seems like Yeld may have disturbed them accidentally. I created a device to eliminate the mound that they emerged from just in time – as Fisto came running out of the cave, I detonated it and bought us some time to get away.

Along the way, we ran into Mosul, the “rock guy”. We talked to him and found out that there were strange rocks and that we should “stay away from her.” We also got some explosive powder. Later that day, we tested the powder with Caster throwing powder at Fisto, who was holding a torch. There was a small explosion – which corresponded to the small amount of powder used.

Eventually we came to a valley, wherein we ran across Sirilanna, the sister of the woman we killed just a couple of days ago. We made this point clear to her quickly, so as to get rid of “the elephant in the room”.

We failed to kill her, but did finish off most of her henchmen. One of them we took prisoner and interrogated. He became Samas, Caster’s new mercenary. We also found the family and I managed to pick the locks on their manacles and set them free.

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[12] Return(?) To Silent Hill

On the morning of our 26th day, I treated Caster with the antitoxin paste I had found on the bounty hunters. With Yerold performing his morning prayers, the rest of the group set about to get some answers from Caster before Yerold could “pass judgment”. His story was that he was wrongly imprisoned and had done nothing to deserve it (apart from claiming to be have had multiple hosts and being hundreds of years old). He also spoke of the horrible treatment of the inhabitants of the sanitarium, including gruesome experiments.

When Yerold returned to the group, he fortunately sided with Caster before casting judgment and killing the bounty hunter we had in custody. I wrote to the council about the sanitarium, and before long received a reply that we were welcome to go investigate as part of an official inspection. Given that it we would pass it on our way to Duskwood, all in the group but Caster all agreed that this was worth pursuing. With Caster donning our newly acquired hat of disguise, we made our way to Silent Hill.

Upon reaching Silent Hill, we spoke with a guard who escorted us onto the grounds once our paperwork was found. There we met with the head mistress Glenna Icethorn. As we toured the facility, her suspicions about us seemed to grow. By the time we reached the more secure area where the violent offenders were housed, Maven, the second-in-command whispered a warning, imploring us to leave.

Once in the treatment room, the door was locked behind us and Glenna indicated that she knew it was indeed Caster with us. She claimed that he had killed two guards and that he needed to be housed here. Caster had indicated in the notes we passed back and forth, that this was the area the experiments took place, specifically the basement. My initial inspection of the room turned up some traces of blood and a heavy cleaning agent smell. After agreeing to allow us to continue the inspection of the basement area, Glenna and her guards attacked.

We battled the foes to defeat. Knowing that the jig was up, Glenna and her guards fought to the death, knowing that punishment for their crimes would result in the same. Little did they know how swiftly that punishment would have been carried out thanks to Yerold, had they surrendered instead of fought…

With Glenna and her trusted guards killed, Maven returned to the room. We questioned him, verifying the truthfulness of his answers with a few spells. Approving of his answers and motivations, we placed him in charge of Silent Hill and set off to continue to Duskwood.

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Welcome Home

In the morning, Caster came to after Eloken treated his poison. We talked with him to try and figure out why people were going after him. He had some suspsicious answers and I noticed him sweating a lot as we talked. Something definitely seemed up.

Eventually, we found out that when he “awoke in his new body”, he did so near the Silent Hill Sanitarium and left – never to return. Salty created a zone of truth to help us sort out what happened. There are still some questions and things left unsaid… but we really have no reason to suspect anything unsettling. On the upside, he and I are going to be talking about some of his past lives and I’m interested in learning more about his interesting situation.

After getting to the bottom of that, we began discussing Vardin’s odd quirks lately. After Caster’s abduction, he appeared to care little for Cater’s safe return. Curiouser still, Vardin has gone missing today… and with him, an amulet that is responsible for turning good people evil.

We interrogated the bounty hunter that survived. He stood by the claim of Caster needing to be taken in as decreed by Glenna Icestorm. While Yeld and Eloken discussed what should be done with the man, Caster snuck in and smashed him with his morning star.

We discussed it and decided that the sanitarium was worth a visit. The council confirmed our decision and sent word ahead describing our inspection.

We arrived at the sanitarium – it was quite the imposing building, a huge fort! Glenna took us through the grounds on a tour.

During the tour she discussed some of the more violent patients, and we led the discussion to Caster – she informed us that he killed a guard and injured several others, but I’m not sure that I believe her.

During the tour, Maven, the second-in-command took over due to an emergency that drew Glenna away. Later on we ran into Glenna in an examination room with a group of guards as well. Glenna started referring to Caster by name and implied that he had to stay here, but we could continue on our way.

As Yeld was led downstairs, Glenna attacked him and battle broke out. Glenna was slain early by Eloken as the rest of the guards proved to be not much of a challenge.

One of the guards ran through the far door and we gave chase. We quickly caught up and killed the guard. Maven eventually returned and opened up the lone door leading into this room. We talked with him and it became clear that Glenna’s rule was iron-fisted, and the rest of the guards appear happy with her defeat.

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[11] Kidnapped

We woke up in the morning of the 19th day to find Caster missing and Verdin unconscious with a large knot on his head. Once we were able to bring Verdin to, we determined that 5-7 horses had kidnapped Caster. While the rest of us readied our horses to give chase, Verdin balked at the idea, thinking it more prudent to abandon our comrade whose kidnapping happened under his watch…

A short time in to the ride, we found a wanted poster, offering 1000gp for Caster who it claimed had broken out of the sanitarium Silent Hill. I quickly scanned the document, and it seemed genuine enough. To help ease the minds of Verdin and Yerold, I wrote in the journal to see if the council knew anything about these claims while we continued pursuit, northeast toward the sanitarium.

By the end of the 19th day, thanks to Yerold laying hands on our horses, we think we made up about 2 hours on the group.

The 20th day was uneventful. At the end of the day we heard barking coming towards us, a pack of 10 dogs. We killed them all and our horses scattered. Their dog collars revealed their names to be Honkey, Tonk, Man, Brutis, Beef, Cake, Kane, Undertaker, Jimmy and Superfly. Towards the end of the battle I damaged my scimitar. Fortunately, Zack created some mending leather that was able to repair my blade. Quite the surprising success! On the 21st day we found we had lost ground, they were probably 5-6 hours ahead of us.

Over 2 more days, Zack summoned magic horses to help catch up. On the 23rd day, 2 days from the sanitarium, we came to a small village of indigenous people, the Rapha-zir. As we approached the village we found that the bounty hunters had imprisoned them and threatened to burn down the huts with the Raphazarians still inside if we did not give up our chase. Refusing to acknowledge our letter from the council, Yerold was forced to judge them. Once they let it known that they were to receive 5000 gold for Caster’s capture, we knew we would not be able to get them to hand him over.

After much debate, we finally conceeded, not wanting to harm any of the innocents. Trying to employ some trickery, once out of view, we circled back ahead of the village and attempted to ambush the bounty hunters. They must have anticipated our ruse and avoided our ambush.

We continued to push on ahead, hoping to beat them back to the sanitarium. The response from the journal was that the council had no knowledge of the claims against Caster. On the evening of our 25th day, a short distance from the sanitarium, we heard what turned out to be the bounty hunters approaching. After another failed ambush attempt, the battle was on. Oddly, during the battle, Verdin fell the leader, healed his horse, coup de graced the fallen leader, then returned to his horse to continue to heal it, while the rest of us continued to battle the remaining enemies. We were able to finally dispatch the bounty hunters and rescue Caster, though he was unconscious, obviously poisoned.

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Avenging!

I spent the last few days working on some new tricks. I’ve got one in particular that I like especially, but I’ve also found a way to make my items self-repairing. That should turn out to be useful.

I found the rest of the group and we set up camp. The next morning something weird happened. During the last watch (Verdin and Caster’s), Verdin appears to have been ambushed and Caster taken. We saw a party in the distance that surely was responsible and gave chase.

We spent several days giving chase. Along the way I discovered another neat trick and created a saddle that was imbued with the power to create mounts for 4 of us to ride – giving us several hours of extra travel each day.

Eventually we found a nomadic village and went in, following Salty. The negotiations turned south and we left. They demanded to see us ride off and so we did so, but attempted to find them later as they brought Caster to the sanitarium.

Eventually, we did run across them and entered into battle. The battle started off rough, but we did manage to make short work of the bounty hunters.

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Betrayed
Betrayed

After spending a night in Jail. Captain Ganis proved why he was prompted to a captain. Without, questioning any first hand witnesses, he pieced together the entire incident and correctly acquitted everyone but caster of all of all charges. Caster was found guilty of resisting arrest and general disrespectful behavior. Ganis however had bigger issues then Casters behavior and allowed caster to be free if or party left the city ASAP. Although no charges were ultimately leveled, I feel that my honor as a Judge of the Order of the Shied is becoming besmirched by the vulgar and disrespectful of my party.
Heading to the northern gate our party decided to head east until we hit the ocean and then follow the eastern coast until we found a ship heading north along the coast.
A small party of Gnolls ambushed us and our group was quickly able to defeat them. Caster questioned the only surviving Gnoll and found out a tribe of about 200 of these evil being were to the south. I wanted to track down the rest of the Gnolls. but the rest of my party thought, it was better to ignore this threat and continue on our original mission. After this quest, I shall return and ride this world of that gnoll encampment.
Heading further east we came to a town with that appeared to be cooking some humans on a stake. Wasting no time I sentenced the enemy to death and charged. Caster cast a light which seemed to scare the creatures while the rest of use ran into to pass judgment. Judgment was passed with relative ease until ShadowHeart arrived. ShadowHeart battled our cavalier then turned to run. As he retreated he removed his mask to show his true identity as The Former Honorable Judge Sir Thomas J Goodwin the third esquire, my friend and former mentor.

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[10] The Honorable Sir Thomas J Goodwin III Esq AKA The Dark Rider

We spent the night in the care of the city guards, some more comfortably than others. In the morning we met with Chancellor Tooms. He let us know that had found a secret alter in Salty’s brother’s basement where sacrifices had likely been made. Given their findings and questioning of his servant, we were cleared of any wrongdoing. Yerold already knew this to be true, since Tranda was evil…

The Chancellor let us know that given Tranda’s power as a merchant, he also had powerful friends in the city who would want revenge and we best be on our way. He provided us with horses, rations, a pouch of gold and other supplies and had us make our way out of the city’s north gate.

Once out of sight of the city, we turned right to head along the coast. That first day we encountered some unnerving laughing, which once Yerold charged ahead, turned out to be a group of hungry gnolls. Thinking that we would make excellent screaming meals, a battle ensued. With the battle won for our side, this time we kept one gnoll alive for questioning.

Caster spoke to the creature and found that the rest of their tribe was to the south. Yerold, wanting to rid the world of all evil required much convincing to leave them be and continue on our true quest. The night was uneventful, as was the following day, the 17th day of our journey.

After consulting with our contact through the journal, we were advised to continue toward the coast, then head north. About a day and a half would lead us to a small village that may have ships for hire to continue north by sea. During our travels on the 18th day, we first smelled and then saw some smoke up ahead. We came to a small village that seemed empty, apart from one orc near three burning fires. Declaring the orc evil and charging ahead, Yerold was the first to find that the village was less empty, and more overrun by orcs, the burning fires cooking humans mounted on spits.

We battled the orcs despite being ambushed by javelins thrown from inside some of the houses. Caster’s magical light flushed the orcs out of the center of the village and pushed them away to the edge of his light. Once the battle seemed in hand, a familiar figure made another appearance. The Dark Rider strode toward the battle, this time with what appeared to be new armor, a huge skull upon his chest.

After taunting Yerold in particular, he decided it was time to finally divulge his identity. He raised the the visor on his helmet, revealing the Dark Rider to be Sir Thomas J Goodwin III.

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