The Dark Ages

Getting the Job Done Ugly
Belàldur recounts the Fort rescue and prepares for what's next...

Another arrow buried itself in the dead tree beside the others with a thunk. Streaks of sweat running down either side of his face, Belàldur watched the arrow strike from his standpoint sixty yards away. With a look of dissatisfaction, the green-eyed elf reached back over his shoulder to grab another arrow. Behind him, the fool human was still prattling on about Tangadorin. Belàldur made no effort to stop him; he considered the soldier’s proselytizing to be a good source of motivation to reach his training goals quickly.

Nock.
Draw.
Release.

Another arrow sped towards the tree. As it struck home, something the man said caught Belàldur’s attention, and he turned to speak. He knew that he shouldn’t, going against the zeal of the newly converted was like sailing against the wind, but he couldn’t resist. “You think it was the Will of Tangadorin that got the job done today?” he asked in a quiet but firm tone, looking the man square in the eye, “I’ll tell you what won the day out there: Flames and fear.”

“Think of the orcs’ perspective. They were spread out, surrounding the keep, thinking all they had to do was to wait for Ynivax and his forces to die or break, starve them out. And they were nearly at that point. Then, the flames start up, coming out of the ground at seemingly random places. Started by my companions, who had snuck out on the field, and from the archers in the Keep, who fortunately had plenty of oil to make fire-tipped arrows. Then, arrow attacks start coming from different directions, followed by an attack from the forces suddenly coming out of the Keep, and then, as the final wave against the bow, a massed cavalry charge straight into the forces protecting the orcs’ commander. It’s no wonder they broke.”

“Like most of the battles I’ve seen, the side that runs first dies. It was ugly, but we got the job done. Some of our forces ran too in the chaos, but most held firm, and we got them out. No magic, no miracles, no hero’s tales, just the right circumstances and a bit of luck.”

“The mission to get the folks in the fort ready to escape hadn’t exactly gone according to plan either, but it worked. The three of us were supposed to sneak in and get Ynivax’ men some healing potions and brief them on our plan. The enemy was spread thin, but I spent most of the way to the keep worried that the orcs would hear the human’s loud breathing. I was so distracted that when we were getting up to the keep, I fell right to the ground. The things in my pack made so much clatter the dullest orc alive would’ve noticed it.”

“Then, to dive deeper into the piranha, I tried to put some arrows into the oncoming orcs, and only managed to drive my newly-purchased bow into the dirt. I’m still paying for that one.” Belàldur winced, the pain in his side surging with the memory of the wound there. Turning back to the tree, he fired off a quick arrow at it, then faced the soldier again to continue: “Luckily, the archers in the keep were on watch, and when my two friends got over the wall and let them know what was going on, their fire arrows spooked off the orcs. I made one of them pay when it panicked. As I said, the first side to run dies.”

“All in all, not pretty in the least, but we did get it done.” Facing the tree, he raised the six foot long elm bow once again towards the target. The soldier started up again about Tangadorin. Apparently, all it took was a little healing magic and a few words to convert some humans into devoted lunatics.

Nock.
Draw.
Release.

Thunk.

Satisfied, Belàldur put down his bow and arrows and turned about, looking for a good place to sit. Once comfortable, he thrust his hand into his pouch and pulled out a pipe and some leaf. He lit it, took a few puffs, and let out a long, slow exhaled cloud. He held the pipe out to the soldier, offering it to him. “Here, have some of this, you can relax and think on your new beliefs. And no matter what you believe, remember this: When you’re in stormy seas, always keep your wits about you.”

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The Attack on the Keep
The Chronicle of Børæn

It is spring in the North.

Though snow still chokes the mountains, and many of mountain passes are still dangerous to travel.

Life is returning.

Standing on an outcropping is a large man. Though grey streaks both his hair, and beard, he still looks as if he could take on a host of men with just his sword. Lounging in the sun, is a grey wolf. Though the years have been many, she looks as sharp as ever. Well, if she was not busy sleeping in the warm spring sun.

As the old man makes his way toward his King, he notices Børæn holds a wolf cub. The cub sleeps, while Børæn gently strokes the cub’s head. The old man, once again thinks that Børæn is like the weather, just when you think the storm will never break, it does, and a gentleness caresses the land.

“Perhaps Børæn is a true worshiper of the goddess Me’sha,” thinks the man. “Maybe he is correct, the goddess is like the tribe, and she mirrors us.”

“I hear you Merkitä Muistiin,” rumbles Børæn.

“If I wanted to surprise you boy, I could. I would laugh as I gut you where you stand.”

Børæn laughs, and the laughter rolls across the valley. “I see age have not dulled your words Orpo. Come old one, stand with me, your presence is always welcomed. Besides, Talvi likes you, and if I tried to stop you, she would bite my ass.”

Hearing her name, Talvi picks her head up, and barks as if in agreement. The two men laugh.

The old man walks to Børæn’s side, and notices the wolf cub.

“So Talvi has picked your new guide?”

“Yes, this little one will learn from his mother, and on his naming day, he will take het role. We will hunt together. Though Talvi is tired, and I know the time nears, I would hunt by her side till my life expires,” Børæn says with a hint of sadness. “This little one will have a large trail to follow. His mother’s lore is long. She would not have chosen him if she thought he would not be her equal.”

Talvi barks in agreement, and once again puts her head down and enjoys the warm spring sun.

Silence deepens, and the two men stand, looking out over the valley and enjoying the warming Spring sun. From here they see some of the tribe beginning to till the fields so the summer crops can be planted. They see the trappers and hunters returning from a week of clearing and laying traps. The notice the growing contingent of Me’sha’s priests aiding the preparation of the planting. Orpo, even after all these years cannot believe the changes Børæn has brought. The Wolf Tribe is strong, stronger than it has ever been. Though many bristled at the change Børæn brought, they all agree that the changes did not weaken them, but forged them into something stronger.

“So you had questions Orpo, ask them.”

Clearing his throat, the old man speaks: “I wanted to talk to you about Irecia and the battle at the Keep which saved the men and the great victory you were a participant. I know you told me it was after this battle that you and Talvi took a blood oath to clear the city of Chaos’ taint. What was the fight like?”

Stroking the sleeping wolf cub, Børæn thinks for a moment.

“My companions and a host of men rode to the city. We killed 30 orc. We rescued the men. We lost the Keep,” Børæn states in a matter-of-fact tone.

Shaking his head Orpo asks: “What of the battle? What of the plans? Details young one, details!”

“We rode to the city. We set fire to the grassland to cause confusion and cover our attack. My companions and I killed 30 orc and rescued the men.”

Again Orpo shakes his head, “You are such a tiring…”

Børæn turns to face the old man. Anger darken his face, and Børæn’s gaze flames with flame.

“We lost. We allowed the Orcs to win, even though we rescued the men. We allowed the Chaos of Irecia to fester. Instead of devising a plan to enter the city, some decided to prattle about their God and convert the simple. The so called noble Southerners retreated to their soft homes and decided to do what they always do: talk, plan, talk, plan, and avoid the correct decision. That decision was to plan and enter the city. So, no my friend, this was not a victory. It was defeat, and I allowed my honor to take a backseat to the softness of others.”

Orpo, looks at Børæn, and sees something he only saw in the man when he was a child: regret. The anger is a mask of the shame this proud man has, and it is obvious that he, even now, is still sadden by the events. Orpo, once again is surprised by the depth of Børæn’s soul. He wishes his King would drop his mask, and let his true personalty shine. Placing an aged hand on the Børæn’s arm, Orpo looks to man, who was once a headstrong youth.

“Let the shame go my friend. Do not be like your father who let his shame and ego nearly destroy this tribe. Your shame is not a weakness, it is the lessons that help guided, and still guide you along your true path. The past is called the past for a reason. Remember what I have always told you: It is not the what if, but the because. Because you rescued those men, what were the events after this?”

The old man turns and begins to walk away.

“When will you stop teaching me Orpo?” asks Børæn simply.

“When you stop acting like a child my friend. When you stop acting liking a child,” chuckles Orpo as he leaves.

The wolf cub wakes, stretches, licks Børæn’s face, and then nestles himself back into Børæn’s arms.

Børæn, still stands, looking across the valley.

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Børæn's Storm
The Chronicle of Børæn

It is a cold winter’s day.

Winds howl.

Snow swarms any walking in the storm. The village has shut themselves in to protect themselves from the storm. Those who do go out, do so if they have too.

The sun has not been seen for days. The storm clouds have eaten it, and as the clouds eat their meal, the storm rages. It is the time of Talvi Paksu (Winter’s Deep). For three months, far to the north, the sun dips so low that the land is shadowed by perpetual night.

Myrskyjen Pimeys.

Storms of Darkness.

Once it was thought Tapio created this time to mock and harm his people. After all, Tapio is a capricious god, and when he deems it is time to recognize his worshipers, he does so by taunting them.

Yet, here in the village that is not the case. This time of the year is seen as Odotus (The Waiting). Since Børæn returned to his home, and took his rightful place, many things changed. The most notable one is the worship of the goddess Mesha. Many looked skeptical at Børæn’ belief, but with patience, the Wolf Tribe slowly begun to see that Mesha was more closer to the way of the northern tribes, and now the Wolf Tribe venerates here.

The lodge is quiet.

Gone are the rowdy feasts.

The endless drinking.

The continuous boast of deeds great and small. It is the morning, and the lodge is devoted to its’ other role; learning.

The children of the tribe, sit and learn. Besides the Mesha, Børæn brought with him teachers. With them, a goal of teaching his people so they could have a more secure future.

A old man sits by a small fire. He is hunched over, and his body shows the signs of many battles. Sitting in front of him are the youngest of the tribe.

The old man is happy. This is his favorite task; teaching the children.

His voice is strong, despite his weak appearance. It is a voice capturing everyones attention. Everyone stops their tasks, turn, and listen to the man. He speaks:

Many are the tales of Børæn and the deeds he accomplished. There are many tales and lessons to learn, but this tale is a simple one.

See Børæn riding with great speed to the village.

Børæn is angry. His anger builds as he gets closer to Enonia.

His anger is one of helplessness.

The events at Irecia have angered him. The men trapped by the foul Vihreä-iho (Greenskins or Orcs) fuels this anger.

He wanted to save those men.

Wet his sword in the blood of the Vihreä-iho.

He wanted nothing more then send them to Tulipalot Helvetti.

Yet here he is, riding in failure.

Though Belàldur tried to calm Børæn, Børæn still raced off.

In truth, this anger was not about failure, it was about the fact they could do nothing for the warriors trapped there.

Arriving in Enonia, see Børæn stalk to the tavern he and his companions frequent. All who see the warrior, know a storm has arrived. They run from his wake.

See his knuckles grow white as he clenches his mighty fists.

Hear his footsteps roll as thunder across the tundra.

See the door burst into fragments as Børæn’s storm breaks.

The storm has arrived.

It is obvious to all he is angry.

The storm has come.

As it makes its’ way to the back of the tavern, no one stands in his way.

The storm hits the companions, and his fist pounds the table. It is like lightning, and the table splinters into shrapnel.

See one try to speak, but his words are swallowed as the gaze of Børæn’s anger touches him.

Hear Børæn speak, and hear the strength of his words fill the air.

“Cowards. Drunks. You lack honor.”

“You knew we were to ride to Irecia. Some of us did, while the rest of you still celebrate a victory that is now over. You are like all lazy people here in the south. You are soft, weak, and live in ignorant bliss ignoring the danger that blights this land.”

“Do you care that Irecia is nearly gone? Do you care that those warriors are near death? Why you sit here, drinking and laughing; while those warriors eat leather, eat dirt, and still do their duty.”

“Cowards.”

“Your greed speaks of you. Your greed shows you for what you are.”

“Grab your weapons, find your spines, and remove your asses from this tavern. Because if you do not remove them, I will remove them for you.”

Though they try to speak, one look at Børæn shows that he is not to be tested.

“We have three days to rescue the men at Irecia. You have ten minuets to be outside. We ride as soon as Hemming gathers the men.”

See Børæn turn and leave the tavern, but before doing so, gives the tavern keeper some coins.

Hear Børæn speak with shame, “I am sorry for the damage, sometimes I get a bit angry.”

Hear the tavern keeper stammer, “If that was a bit angry, I do not want to see you really angry.”

See Børæn look over his shoulder. Hear him say to the tavern keeper, “If that sorry lot do not move their asses, you will see my true anger.”

With that, see Børæn leaves the tavern.

He is too ride again.

He and Winter’s Bite will resume the hunt.

Tooth and Sword.

Claws and Axe.

Vihreä-iho blood will flow as a spring river fat with the flow of melting ice.

The two will kill many before they return to Enonia again.

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A great day for Enonia
An excerpt from Jorann's Sermon

(Jorann appears at the alter looking downhearted and she is not wearing the holy vestments as she always does)
My friends, I have come to tell you of my last adventure and the faltering of one who was not pure enough.
This last adventure was one unlike anything I had encountered before. My companions and I left for the Monastery on the 17th day of summer. The group consisted of myself, Mazlor, Sally,Isty, Jakar, Pyria, Beladur. We returned to the Monastery intent on getting as far in as we could. We found the monastery just as we left it and proceeded quickly to the stairway. Everything was oddly muted and seemed strange. Even the fire seemed to burn oddly. We encountered no resistance and continued on.
For once, we weren’t even attacked by the sturges. We reached the lower level and again, there seemed no resistance. We checked the fountain, but it was full of chaos energy again. We proceeded down to the lowest level and things seemed even stranger than before.
We decided to continue where we had left off in exploring this level. The strange biting creature could be heard in its room, but we decided to explore further. We came to a large chamber with chaos pillars and three of the strange flying metal creatures. We fought them, but every few seconds one of our party would randomly teleport to another part of the chamber. It was a difficult battle, we eventually overcame them, but this is where Jakar fell. And, this is where I failed Tangadorin. I did not like Jakar, I will admit that. His constant insults to Tangadorin and the worship of Him had filled my heart with bitterness towards him. Add to that his unpredictability and his proclamations that chaos is fine, it just needs to be in balance. These things just rubbed me wrong. When he fell, I allowed that bitterness to convince me to act in a spiteful manner. I, a priest of Tangadorin, and His emissary in this world, acted with bitterness and spite and took an item off his dead body. It was purely an act of spite. Needless to say, Tangadorin objected and forcefully rebuked me. He made his displeasure known, and I feel that it is my duty to let my failure be known. I can only try to be more worthy of Tangadorin. But I give you all my word, that I will do better and I will try my best to live up to His expectations.
Suddenly from out of nowhere teleported in a huge human by the name of Boraen. He seemed as confused by his entrance as we were. However, at once we could tell that this was a friend and that he was here to aid us in our quest. We continued on and came to an octangular room with a wall of chaos at the center stretching the entire length of the room. It moved forward every round and we dared not let it touch us. We retreated back to the corridor and the wall reset at the back. Revealed to us now were two awful creatures. One was a mutated chaos human who was fairly identical to the one we had encountered before that was only affected by magical weapons. But the other creature was nightmare itself. It was clearly a being in the process of transforming into a Dark One! We were sure that this must be Rho. He had terrible mind attacks that confused and left people helpless.
The mage Pyria used a scroll of protection from magic and dispelled the wall. We killed the two creatures and decided to drag the corpse to throw into the portal. We continued on to what turned out to be the final chamber. There in the center of the room stood the portal, with a Dark One in the center!
Rho stood before it, and he was even more like unto a Dark one than the last creature. We charged in, but he cast a spell which made duplicates of him. No matter how we tried, we could not touch him. I dispelled his magic, which allowed us to fight him. It was no easy battle, as his mind blasts were very powerful. However, we were victorious! But, just when things looked brightest, the Dark One hit us with a mental blast which immobilized the entire party! Then he began to pull himself through! It looked like we were doomed! Fortunately, it soon became clear that he could not pull himself out and that the portal was closing. However, he proceeded to tell us that this was a minor setback. They were already in this world and were coming!
After the portal closed and we were freed, the striped mage teleported in. He told us that he had heard the Dark Ones proclamations and believed them. Since it was his apprentice that had caused all this trouble, and only the life force of a mage could seal the portal properly, he was going to seal it. He told us to get out as quickly as possible.
So we fled back the way we came. Every chaos creature seemed to be dead, except the mad biting thing. It left tracks showing that it was not dead. We made it back to the chaos stairway, but it was not there! Luckily I had my maps and knew how to get out (more or less). We followed my maps and escaped back to the top level. We made it out, but as we exited, we saw a large force of black clad humans. They told us that their masters were coming and that we had just delayed the inevitable. Then they mounted and rode off.
We made it back to town and to our amazement found that it was now the 14th day of summer! Somehow, time had gone backwards and we were now back three days before we left!

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Dearest Ursana
A letter home from Ostlen

Dearest Ursana,

I have arrived, safe and sound, to a town called “Enonia”, at the Eastern Borders.

My trip was not without incident, though.
The caravan I was traveling with at one point was overwhelmed by bandits and a few of us surrendered. The others were eventually killed anyway, for ‘sport’. But the bandits were intrigued by my lockpick set and other similar items. These men were primarily rough thugs, with no assests to speak of, beyond their swords and clubs – completely lacking in any form of subtlety or cleverness. I convinced them that I would like to join their gang and could contribute by teaching them the more artistic elements of thievery. They kept me under very close watch, but let me live under those terms. Eventually, during a rowdy celebration where many of them were deeply inebriated, I managed to slip away unnoticed. I even liberated my own belongings. And a modest ‘Tutelage Fee’.

I have found others here who are of a like mind in trying to improve the world, not simply miring oneself in petty personal concerns.
I even have spent a little time at the Temple of the Light – that religion that always talks about enlightenment and improving mankind’s lot in life. Sadly, I won’t be officially joining them. Though I hear other factions and temples are more so, I still found them a bit too hung up on rules and details for my tastes. But they mean well and many are kind folk. One of them has recently loaned me an enchanted item that he said he believes will help me more than him. Can you imagine? We have never met or even heard of each other until a few months ago, and after a few conversations he trusted me enough to let me use it. Of course, he said it was a temporary arrangement and that he would have some longer acquaintances of his make sure I kept it and used it for good (more about that in a moment). But I believe he is not fool enough to think I couldn’t slip away with it, if I was of a mind to.

Since I settled in here, I have received a few invitations to join ‘adventuring parties’ and venture forth into unknown or dangerous territory. Already I have seen some amazing sights and been of some minor assistance.
On one, we were set upon by spiders. The size of PONIES. One of whom TALKED as well as you or I. They tried to wall us in with giant webs, but we slew them. We found some town soldiers who had been paralyzed and stored like flies and brought them back home, where nearly all of them recovered.
On another, we defeated some goblyns and falcon-sized wasps. And we located a long-lost hollow from which one of the Olden Gods, Meisha, still communicates.

I have hopes to make greater contributions soon, though. An old religious site was wrested from demonic creatures that had claimed it, and some of the religious folk may be occupied with matters related to that. I have heard talk of expeditions to the Fallen City of Irecia being mounted and hope to be included.
Perhaps the most exciting news, I’ve saved for last. I was right about great-Grandmother Salome’s things! They aren’t simple junk, or mere books of gypsy tales and curses. Not all of it anyway. The items, I still have no understanding of. Maybe they are just trinkets. But the books – some of them are actually starting to make sense. I think there’s real power there and a genuine reason she was so revered as “Salome the All-Seeing”. I believe I’m on the verge on being able to duplicate some of the less intricate tricks and am eager to give it a try.

Give my love to our parents
I don’t know when the next letter might arrive, but I miss you. Be well!

Ostlen

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The End of an Era
The fall of the Monastery of Chaos, as told by Belàldur

Belàldur waited silently in the shadows as Børæn performed his strange ritual with his knife. By this point, the elf was well accustomed to bizarre human behavior, but this tendency for humans to cut themselves open offended him on a practical level. In his experience, bloody hands only attracted sharks.

He had volunteered to help Børæn deliver Ja’Kar’s body here to the village – not that Børæn needed the help, the giant of a man seemed to hoist and carry the corpse as effortlessly as Belàldur wore his cloak. But Belàldur knew the way, and besides, he owed at least this much to the fallen monk.

As Børæn ended his formal address and began to talk freely with the others, Belàldur stepped out of the corner of the tent – he had instinctively gone to the place where he was least likely to be seen or noticed upon arrival – and made his way towards an old man with tears still in his eyes, with a group of grieving goblyns nearby. “Greetings, I’m Belàldur,” he said with a slight bow, “I see the news of Ja’Kar’s passing has hit you hard. I would tell you of the events that led to his death, and the good that has been done for the world thanks to his sacrifice.”

“I’m sure you know of the old abandoned monastery that had become the home of chaos and evil. Perhaps you’ve heard some of the tales of the horrors that were within, and the many humans, elves and others that had died in there, or worse. If not, count yourself lucky, and I’ll not tell any of those now, you’ll sleep better. Enough to say that the corruption of that place was spreading, and the only hope we had of ending it was to dive deep into that river of piranha.”

“There were seven of us – Ja’Kar, Mazlor and two of his followers, Jorann, Pyria and me. We went deeper into that demon pit than ever before, and came to a room with rows of thick columns. Not wanting to be surprised by creatures hiding behind them, Ja’Kar and I decided to scout ahead… he took the right wall, I the left. Unfortunately, there were two things we didn’t know: first, this room was somehow enchanted so that at any moment you could wink out of existence and appear instantly in a completely new spot. Second, there were horrific floating creatures guarding the way, ones that we’d seen before. Like small flying ships with metal undersides, that could project deadly beams at their enemies.”

“Their metal hulls were too strong for weapons to penetrate, so out of desperation I leaped up to grab one by its stalks and pull it to the ground. So there I was, on top of this thing holding onto it with the help of Pyria as we tried to stab its fleshy top, when it happened – I suddenly found myself kneeling over the lifeless body of Ja’Kar. He had sacrificed himself by facing one of those damnable things alone, giving us time to grapple with the others. Thanks to his last act, we were able to survive and destroy those floaters, although some of us were seriously injured.”

“Then the next wave hit the shore – something again appeared out of thin air in this room that we were sure was another agent of chaos that we’d have to fight to the death. It turned out to be that large fellow over there quaffing drink that you’ve already met – Børæn – and fortunately for us, he has a good heart beneath all that bulk. He helped us get to the one place down there that was clear of corruption, and the “holy men” of the group worked their healing magic on the injured. We spent the day resting there, then set sail again into the depths.”

“Soon the magic of the clerics was needed again, to defend us from twisted wizards that had the ability to control minds. Pyria’s sorcery was also key, she was able to vanish a moving wall of magical force that threatened to squash us flat. And Børæn, despite his youth, proved his worth as a warrior.”
“As we approached the eye of the storm, I opened a door and my mind was hit by an evil force that tried to take control,” Belàldur grins, “but my natural stubbornness won out and I told it to take a giant leap off a short pier. Inside the room, there was the rogue apprentice wizard we’d been looking for, and a creature that had to be a full-blown demon of the Chaos dimension, right in the middle of a giant portal.”

“The wizard cast an illusion that made him seem to be in four places at once, and I fired arrow after arrow in anger as my comrades charged in. But soon, I heard the eerie sound of one of those floating creatures coming up behind us! I slammed the door shut, holding it closed as best as I could while yelling at the others to hurry, hurry! The door exploded and I was knocked backwards to the ground…”

“I’ll leave it to others to describe what happened next, because I was on my back looking up at the ceiling, but the next thing I knew the demon’s voice was rumbling in my ears, giving a warning that this was not the end of its attempts. The flying creature fell to the ground with a crash, and I looked up to see the portal closing. Somehow, we had done it.”

“That alone was not enough to fully cleanse the place, as it turned out. Just when we’d caught our breath, a wizard wearing a red and white striped robe appeared, and told us in order to truly purify the monastery, a life with powerful magic within it had to be sacrificed… his own. He seemed surprised when I asked his name, apparently none had thought to do so before, and he answered, ‘Toorak.’ I thanked Toorak for making the ultimate sacrifice, and wished for the deep waters to welcome him home.”

“The dark corruption of the monastery is gone now, there will be no more reality shifts, no more foul creatures created, or innocents taken to that place to be twisted in the image of chaos. The shadow of that place is gone, though I have no desire to ever return to it. Never again will this land be cursed by the evil of that place, and never again will we see the floating tower that had been Toorak’s home.”

Belàldur reached up to lightly touch the grey leather headband at his forehead. “I wear this to honor Ja’Kar’s memory and his sacrifice. Ja’Kar and Toorak – 2 names I’ll remember of humans that gave their lives for the greater good. I’m sorry for your loss, and if there’s anything I can ever do for you, I’m at your service.”

“Now,” he said with a lighter tone as a smile played on his lips, “where can I get some of that drink, before Børæn finishes it all?”

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The Chronicle of Børæn
The beginning of his path

The old man, shoulders slumped with age, and body criss-crossed with the scars of a life of fighting, slowly enters into the lodge. He leans on his staff, and it taps a steady beat as the iron shod tip, strikes the stone floor.

The feasting has finished.

Tap.

The casks of ale are open.

Tap.

The mead fills many of drinking horns, large clay jugs, and even larger pewter mugs.

Tap.

Bottles of spirits litter some of the tables. They are being drunk by those showing their drinking skills, and ability to drink more than a normal person should.

Tap.

The fire glows as flame turn to embers.

Tap.

All conversation ends, and the old one arrives at the lodge’s center.

Tap.

The sounds of silence deafen. Even the intake of astonished gasps seem eaten by the silence.

The man speaks, and despite his weak exterior the voice is strong, filling the lodge.

“It was this day, many years ago when the world cringed and Chaos rolled across it. Børæn had been gone from the tribe for 7 years. His journeys took him far from the tribe, and his clans. Here is the tale of how he came to honor the dead.”

The man walks, his stride is purposeful. In one hand he holds a staff. The staff looks as if it is twig. On his shoulder he carries a body. It is wrapped in a strange cloth made of a grey leather that shimmers. The burden would slow a weaker man.

Børæn is not a weak man.

See him stride into a small village. The village has three slabs of stone forming a tent. A shrine is under construction. In the middle of this village stands a glaive. Vines sprout from it, and flowers hang weeping. Stranger still there is a circle of goblins sitting in a circle around this glave and weep. Even more, see a old man, sitting close by weeping of his lost.

Now see Børæn, gently lay his burden upon the ground. See him place the staff next to it, as if it was the weapon of a great chieftain.

See Børæn as he stands, gathering himself.

Hear as Børæn speaks.

“I am Børæn, and I have returned to you a hero. I have been told that this man, Ja’Kar, meant much to you.”

See Børæn stand trying to show kindness. This is still before the time of the crowning. The time of when he killed the Orc Chieftain Bloodmaw of the Bloodfang. Before the time of his his destruction of the Clan That Will Not Be Named. Before the time when he leads the Wolf, the Sword and the Axe in the war to destroy the aligned Fang and Snake Tribes. This was before the time of Børæn marrying his queen.

Was this the first step to his march to his destiny?

That would be telling.

See now as Børæn speaks. Hear his words roll across the land as thunder. See the villagers look at the warrior with fear, bewilderment and curiosity. Hear Børæn’s words.

“I did not know him, nor do I know you. All I know, is that his death is a sad one, and it is a death that has hurt you. Though it was a death it was a good death; a death worthy of a hero. It was a death, that made possible my arrival in his friends’ time of need.”

See now, as Børæn pauses. See now, how the crowd gathers looking and listening with growing interest.

“I am a simple man, but I am touched from what I have learned. This man died a hero, and I honor his passing. I take upon my shoulders his work, and I wish to honor his life, by aiding you."

See now as Børæn draws his sword, unsling one of his twin axes,. See how he rises both in out stretched arms. He points to the sky. He looks to the sky.

“I am Børæn of the Wolf Tribe. I am Børæn of the Axe. I am Børæn of the Sword. By my sword and my axe, I pledge to Tapio the god of my people. I will carry on the work of Ja’Kar of the Iron Staff, warrior to Me’Sha. I pledge this to honor the passing of this brave man. Know this, and know this well. I pledge my sword. I pledge my axe. I pledge myself to stand with you, and until my life is snuffed out.”

See now as Børæn drop his weapons.

See now how he draws Lohikäärme Hammas (dragon tooth) from its’ sheath.

This is the dagger of Aapo.

The dagger of Elias.

The dagger of Aku.

The dagger of Jere.

The dagger of Sakarias

The dagger of Valthjof.

This is the dagger that has been passed down from one chieftain’s eldest to the next. This is the dagger Aapo used to unite the Wolf Tribe, and it is this dagger which sealed the bonds of leadership and family, and cemented that his line would lead the Wolf till the sun is snuffed out, and the moon is broken.

See now as Børæn draws Lohikäärme Hammas across his left palm. See now the blood swell, and see now the bloody hand placed on Børæn’s face.

“I pledge this in my blood, and my blood is my bond to you.”

See now as Børæn removes his hand and place it on the death shroud of Ja’Kar.

“I pledge to you, who I did not know in life, that in your death, I honor you. In death, we will meet, and in Tapio’s lodge, we will drink as friends, comrades and brothers.”

Looking at the crowd, you see Børæn smile. It is something Børæn is not use too. It is obvious to all who see him, that this is something Børæn is uncomfortable doing. I should add this is something he still does not do.

Laughter fills the lodge, but a deep cough, and a low wolf growl, stops it.

The old man chuckles to himself.

Hear now as once again Børæn speaks: “Now, let us bury the dead. Let us honor his memory. Let me hear about you, and let us kindle the embers of what I hope will be a long friendship."

For days Børæn and the village talk, boast, and it is here that the path of Børæn changes. Where does this path take him? What lead him back to us, many years later to bring the Tribe of the Wolf to greatness? That is another tale.

The old man, turns, and bows his head deeply to the shadows, where a large man sits, with sword and axe resting against his chair. Next to him is a woman, whose hair is gold. At the feet of the man and woman, is a large black wolf, who eyes the the old man with weary respect.

The old man nods, and the large man smiles and returns the nod.

With that the old man turns, and begins his walk.

Tap.

All heads follow him, as he walks to the door.

Tap.

All bow their heads, and whisper oaths of respect.

Tap.

In the man’s wake conversation slowly begins.

Tap.

As the old man gets nearer to the door the voices grow louder.

Tap.

The old man leaves the lodge, and walks into the night.

So ends the tale.

Tap.

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The Monastery.... again
Life of Pyria

So the group headed back to the Monastery, this time Mazlor took us to a different place, not the crevice.However, the room we needed to be in was occupied, a headless creature was wandering around. Fortunately the power of the Light held it and we had not trouble, Mazlor opens a door at the far end of the room, this involved inserting what looked like a desiccated finger and some words. I should have known this was not a good sign, beyond the door was this wall of dark water, without a word Ja’Kar walks through, of course we follow. The good news is we don’t die but do face a strange twisting set of stairs surrounded by oblivion, apparently this is the way to go. If this bizarre staircase was not enough a group of Sturge attacked us, one even got hold of me, these bloodsucking beast truly annoy me. Managing to remove it and we killed them all without serious injury. Reaching the end of the stairway we came across another wall of water and a door, no finger needed this time.

We entered a room with columns with grotesque carving, I had no wish to look closely. As we left the room we heard screams, and a strange sound. Balto and Belador went to investigate, they soon came running back followed by weird floating objects, that did not look friendly. Fortunately we did manage to defeat them. They were a hybrid of organic and metallic, with a long probe. Jorann decided to pour Holy Water on them, this dissolved the organic part leaving the metal!

Heading to the room Balto and Balador had reached we find three humans and three goblyns tied to racks with glowing bonds. The bodies keep changing, going from a recognizable form to something more globulous. Ja’Kar kills the goblyns before we can react, Jorann intercedes before he kills the humans. Thinking he can ‘cure’ him Jorann forces Holy Water down the throat of one of the humans, it burns from within, Ja’Kar kills the other two.

Returning to the column room we took the door to the East, beyond is a long room with 12 statues, two each, Human, Elf, Dwarf,Goblyn, Littleling and Orc. As we were examining them, Balto yelled out, a creature had come through a door to the South. Fortunately our group of Priests dispatched it as only magical weapons seem to do any physical damage. Continuing through the room we head out of the East door into an area with high bramble hedges and strange trees with pods on them. Mazlor and Jorann seemed concerned, apparently the last time they were here the tree were not. A red goblyn suddenly appeared above us on the hedge, Balto kills it and we notice it has bird like legs, this place gets stranger by the moment. We see the brambles from a tunnel up ahead and head into it, we can hear more goblyns above us. Ja’Kar decides that he will run out ahead to draw out for the rest of us to shoot at. Speed and the ability to dodge seem to be his thing. Off he goes, two creatures follow him giving Balto and Balador shots at them. A short while later the two creatures are dead and there are no more sounds, guess that was all there was.

Regrouping we follow the path and come to a building with a door. Mazlor and Jorann mention there should be a strange fountain up ahead. We continue and come to clearing and there is fountain of black sludge, the roots of the pod trees around it are trailed into the sludge at the bottom. Determining that this sludge is a sources of the evil Jorann, Mazlor and Sal try to remove it. Jorann initially pours some Holy Water into the pool, there is much bubbling and frothing. The roots from tries start to pull themselves out of the pool and the trees begin to shake. There is a visible drop in the level of the pool, but clearly this would take a lot of Holy Water. Mazlor casts Bless on the fountain, roots and vines withdraw but still the fountain stands. The three of them try to purify it. This has a large impact but not enough to clear it. Now we have gained an idea as to how to clear the fountain, but not having the means to hand, we head back to the door, Mazlor and Jorann know where this leads to. They want to confirm all is as they remember. We go through and head down some long winding stairs. Following the corridor we come to a room, upon opening the door we see it is full of oozing goo with strange limbs reaching out. We close the door and leave. Heading North we come across two of the floating creatures, now we know how to deal with them they are quickly destroyed, more metal to use! Mazlor and Jorann lead us to a room that is full is clearly belongs to a Magic User, I am assume Ro, there are scrolls, books along with other items.

Mazlor and Jorann explain that given what we have to do and our current state of spells it would be better to go back and then return another time. They feel that one more visit and we will be able to close the portal. We head back without incident, the headless corpse once again being held by the Light.

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Fumbling and Frustration
Balto's Journal

Ja’Kar had appreciated my help rescuing the goblyns from their captivity under the monastery. They were no threat to anyone, but frustratingly apathetic and unable to defend themselves. Ja’Kar took them to Mesha’s shrine, I think to help support it in exchange for protection and food. Most of the rest of us split off from him and went back to town. But I want to talk to him some more – he has a respect for nature and balance and a disrespect for organized religion that make me think we could do great works together.
After my first descent into the monastery’s depths, I relished the fresh air and open spaces. The trip back to Enonia was a real delight, walking through the warm summer day. Since those of Reynald’s fighters we had freed arrived in town just before us, it was hard to escape notice. I appreciated the free drinks and easy company, but I might have heard more if I’d been able to stick to the shadows. My new armor drew attention, too – the Marshal’s armorer tried to get it from me, even offered 500 gold pieces for it, saying he’d never seen its like.
Anyhow, after a couple of days, Ja’Kar rejoined us and we headed back to the monastery. Let’s see, that was me, Belaldur, Ja’Kar, Mazlor, Sally, Joran, Ragar, and Pyria. Everyone had reprovisioned, and Ja’Kar had even brought chalk to mark our way through the depths. The trip to monastery was quite pleasant. Belaldur and I shared what gossip we’d come across in Enonia.
We moved pretty quickly at first – we knew this level. In the meditation room, the bodies were nearly all melted away, and the weapons and armor had been looted. Some chaotic force tried to suborn Mazlor, but he resisted with the help of his magic necklace.
We make our way towards the stairs but as we enter a chamber hear an odd shuffling. Remembering tales of a headless undead former adventurer, a cleric named Melkrit, guarding an iron door that lead to the stairs, the clerics move to the front of our party. Mazlor turns Melkrit, clearing our path to a huge iron door. Sally mutters how he has seen this door before, and Mazlor steps forward with the key and unlocks the door. Sally and Mazlor begin to chant, Mazlor produces a dessicated finger – necromancy? My skin crawls –and carefully places it in a special spot. Many, many locks and bolts snap open, and we see the doorway filled with what appears to be black water.
Ja’Kar walks through; so does Ragar. Well, I’m not going to leave them to face whatever is over there alone – I rally our group and we all pass through the water. I get a weird feeling as I walk through the water, but everyone is fine. We are on a large stone platform, floating in nothingness; behind us is an archway with a sheen of black water in the opening. Ahead are strange, twisting stairs leading down. Ja’Kar takes point and I go behind him, the rest of the party following in single file.
On the stairs, we are attacked by a flock of oddly skeletal stirges. They have clearly not fed in a long while. It is dicey for a while, but we dispatch them all. Ja’Kar finishes one which had been harrying me. As we knock the stirges away, some fall up, others to the side, and yet others twist away on weird tangents. I don’t like these stairs! I am so glad to finally reach the bottom, thought disquieted by the archway filled with black water across the landing from us. Again, Ja’Kar and Ragar go through first, and I follow and step to the side.
We are in a chamber with some vilely carved pillars – the faces in these pillars seem to be screaming in horror and pain! We move off through a door and hear real screaming and a metallic drone. Mazlor casts a spell of protection on Belaldur and me and we sneak over to peer into the room from which the sounds are coming.
There are 6 creatures bound with chaos energy to the wall. They are shape-shifting and writhing. Ministering to them are two floating flesh and metal constructs. I impulsively decide to toss a pot of burning oil at one of these floaters, but my aim is a bit off, and the oil and flames splash harmlessly on the far wall. Belaldur shakes his head ruefully and we run back the way we had come, pursued by these floaters.
Our companions set up an ambush, which was quite successful. The floaters do shoot a beam that hits several of us, but they are both felled by ranged weapons. The metal seems potentially useful but we leave it to pick up on our way out. We head back to the torture room, where there is another reality ripple. It is evident that these six beings are beyond hope. Ja’Kar and I decide to kill them, but first Joran anguishes one by dosing him with holy water. Ja’Kar and I put the poor creatures out of their misery.
Back through another door, to a gallery of statues of sentient beings, all in pain and fear. While Ja’Kar is at one end of the chamber, I see a door by me open to admit a chaos human, and I yell! Only magic weapons affect it, but they do kill it and it melts away into goo. Glad it didn’t explode!
We make our way through a nightmare garden, all brambles and pod trees, but with a path that we follow. Beladur and I hear something, and a red goblin face appears on the top of the brambles. Fergus and I kill it, and it is no goblin but some bizarre goblin/chicken hybrid. We hear more of them moving in behind and above us. Everyone runs for it, and we make it to a tunnel through the brambles. These creatures run above us as we go through the tunnel, and we realize they plan to catch us on the other side. Ja’Kar runs ahead, bait for a counterambush. Again my aim is not so good – have I had a killing shot yet today?
We go on down the path, past a low stone building to a clearing dominated by a large fountain of foul sludge. The clerics try spells and ensorceled water to cleanse the fountain but are only partly successful. We head back and enter the building and down a long flight of stairs. A strong wind pushes against us as we pass through a door, but it dies down as we move down the corridor. We find a chaos shrine that had been rededicated to law, which helped relieve the oppressive feel of the space. Further along we decide to not enter both a room from which we hear gibbering and a charnel-filled chamber.
We surprise and easily vanquish two floaters, and then find Roh’s quarters. The walls are covered in indecipherable and mad writings. We loot the room, Joran grabbing papers from the floor. Pyria takes some vials and scrolls, and pens and quills and the like get split among the magic users. We even take Roh’s garb and paint a smiling face inside his wardrobe. Suddenly reality shifts and Joran says he can’t sense Tangadorin. I feel very uneasy about the reality shifts, and am very concerned at what is ruining nearly every shot I take, but we make it out to the surface with no problem.

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Once more into the Breach my friends…

The 14th day of summer had arrived, and my companions and I were ready to head back to the Monastery in order to rid it of the stain of Corruption. Mazlor, Sally, Beladur, Fergus, Balto, Ragar, Pyria, Jakar and I headed back to the Monastery.
Our journey there was uneventful, and we had no problems going inside. Once there we found that even though we had separated the humans from the goblins, they had continued to turn into chaos goo, and there was little left. We decided to take the stairs this time, but were surprised to find the headless corpse of Melchrit guarding the doorway. Mazlor presented his holy symbol and the foul thing gave us no further trouble.
As expected, we were attacked by the usual sturges on the way down, but no one was seriously hurt. We reached the bottom and entered the lower level. Everything seemed as we recalled. Mazlor thought it would be a good idea to check the torture chamber in case there were some humans in need of rescue. What we found was the thing of nightmares! Balto and Beladur snuck forward and ended up attacking two flying half metal half flesh monstrosities. They soon came fleeing back and we were able to overcome them. They were the same creatures we had heard last time at the rivers edge.
We went back to the torture chamber and found three humans and three goblins in some strange state where they were shifting from chaos to normal. It was horrendous. That oaf Jakar decided to kill them all on sight, but Mazlor and I had hopes of helping the poor unfortunate humans. I made one drink Holy Water in the hopes that it would fight off the chaos and restore him, but the chaos had already claimed him. He screamed in agony as the holy water went through him, and I knew then that they were beyond our help. So we allowed Jakar to continue his bloodthirsty work.
We continued on our way to the chaos forest but were attacked by a strange chaos human whom only Sally’s and my weapon were able to hurt. Tangadorin was with me and we vanquished it. We then entered the chaos forest and were immediately fired upon by those accursed chaos bird goblins. To my utter astonishment, the area was now overgrown with the Chaos trees which had never before been here. They were everywhere! I was dismayed. We ran into the tunnel and Jakar decided to run out and be bait to allow our party to attack them. I think we may have finally found a use for the oaf.
I couldn’t quite remember what the fountain at the end of the path was, so the party agreed to go have a look. To my utter surprise, the fountain was full of some awful chaos sludge and the roots from the forest were all drinking up this foul essence! I dropped some Holy Water in and the entire forest reacted. Mazlor blessed it, which stopped the fouintain, but nothing else. Mazlor, Sally and I each spent time to Purify this foul sludge. The forest shrieked and all the roots pulled back, but there was far too much sludge for us to Purify. We will need to come back to continue.
We returned to the stairway down to the next level and went down. When we got to the bottom, we felt a hideous shift and I was completely cutoff from Tangadorin!! It was an awful feeling. Nevertheless, I hid my dismay and agreed to continue on. When we opened the door there was a powerful wind buffeting us. We fought against it and decided to explore this area, since we had never done so before.
We found a desecrated alter that made us feel better than we had since we went down the chaos stairs. At one doorway we heard Maniacal laughter, but we did not enter. As we were walking we encountered two more of the awful flying metal chaos creatures. We destroyed them and found R’oh’s bedchamber. I gathered all the pages of notes while the others rifled through the closet.
We decided that it was time to head back. Soon we will return and end this corruption!

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