From the Journal of Tanna Freespirit:
Our latest line of questioning and investigation had us lead by the renowned bard Grayson Silversong right into the main throne room of Brevoy. We arrived using a scribed arcane circle lead by Grayson that caused us to teleport the vast distance far faster than a bird could fly, a method, in hindsight, warranted at least some forewarning and preparation with Brevoy itself. After a brief show of force that reminds me of a wolf snapping its teeth at an intruder, we were lead to a chamber away from the alarmed king.
The wizard Malliard met us in the chamber after a short while and we spoke at length upon the news, about the disappearance of our tome-worthy subjects, the Earls. We soon moved onto the more pressing matter of the corruption and aging of the Star Towers, as outlined in my last journal entries. As expected, this news added burden onto Malliard’s mind and he gave us a little more information about the situation of the towers and their importance in keeping the god Rovagug sealed away. Unless something was done to stop his escape, the best case scenario is the destruction of the world. Given what we know there is little that can be done, but an option has presented itself, to investigate the ruins of a temple to Rovagug to the east. Malliard explained that the place was almost certainly dangerous and that there was no guarantee that we would return alive, but given what is at stake I knew in my heart that I could not ignore the threat and agreed to go.
The next few days blurred into meetings and planning as we prepared for the trip to the ruins. Scrolls of resurrection were provided to me for emergencies, should one of us fall in battle. While this goes against my beliefs of the cycle of life, I reluctantly agreed due to the shear importance of our task. Should the towers fall, the cycle of life across all of the world will end.
With a spell from Malliard we made our way most of the way towards the ruins of the temple, traveling for another few hours east before the forest surrounding the temple came into view, the sight of what still lingers in my mind’s eye. The trees stood black, appearing as if burnt by a colossal fire. It was just in this view that I decided to take the time to commune with nature to establish an understanding of the natural balance of the forest. It was then that I heard the most unsettling responce I have ever received from a commune.
With some further communing from around the area I quickly understood what was happening. Sadly it is not a case of going unanswered, but simply the fact that large area around the temple was simply devoid of life. No plants grew, no animals foraged, birds even avoided the area entirely no doubt due to the same gut feeling of ‘wrongness’ that even now remains firmly in my gut, like a disease slowly eating away at the body.
When my attention returned to the rest of the flock found that they were thankfully in better spirits, having occupied their time playing games to keep their skills sharp. After explaining the situation we decided to continue our journey to the ruins to find out what we needed. As our journey took us closer to the forest it soon became clear to me that it was something far more unnatural than a fire that had killed the trees and plantlife in the area, the blackened forms of the trees not burnt, but simply dead, as if the life had been sucked out of them. Not even the usually resilient insect and fungus life had escaped, and I wondered if I too would soon feel the unnatural forces that caused this tugging at my life.
With my unease growing with every step, we eventually arrived at the ruins, a large religious complex that seemed to have been the site of a large explosion. The walls and roof were spread across a wide area, while the massive metal doors had partly melted to the ground. The feline Sam scouted ahead before returning to report to us that he had found a trap door leading underground.
The ladder led us to a long corridor of steps that lead deeper underground, lit by eery blue ‘flames’ in sconces on the walls that lit up as we approached, a few traps set to try and stop intruders but these were luckily not too much of a problem. The corridor eventually opened out into a fairly large chamber, an archway to our left opening out into an imposing room featuring some kind of religious undertones and what appeared to be a sacrificial altar in one end. Two doors were also present in the room, one dead ahead and one to our right.
We investigated the room with the altar first, warily inspecting throned chains that connected from the roof and lead into the altar itself. The altar was clearly for some kind of blood or life sacrifice, as throned manacles were present in four locations, tracks present on the surface of the altar’s slab to channel the blood of the victim. After finding a lever, we found the entire altar raises up into the air along the chains, but the cuffs themselves had no give, and I believe the act of raising the altar would cause these bindings to tear into flesh, no doubt to lead to the victim’s demise.
With the feeling of dread growing in my mind, we left the altar and moved to the door opposite the entrance, listening by it for a moment before quietly confirming that we could hear voices within. Sam volunteered to go ahead to check it out, and despite my concerns on what may be on the other side, his lack of response was an indication he had decided to go forth anyway. With a moment of brief preparation, we waited. When we heard the sounds of weapons being readied and brisk movements, we pushed open the door and rushed in to help. The fight lasted all but a few seconds, after which Sam responded in an almost childlike manner. It turns out that he had attempted a ploy to get the people within to fight one another, but since we did not know this, we had interrupted their fight with our rescue.
I resisted the urge to point out that he should havelet us know first, as I know how proud and independent he likes to appear, although I am sure he has some kind of insecurity hidden within judging by the way he avoids notice and even denies his very appearance, often choosing to appear as a halfling rather than a feline. One day I will ask him about the reason for his denial of self, but for now it was the wrong time.
After a brief sulk we checked the bodies and the room to find some strange, and somewhat worrying things. The people had been playing with cards that had nothing I could see on them, appearing to be gambling for coins that seemed far older than even some of the trees I had seen in my travels. If they could talk, I wondered what tales they could tell us of their existence. Something seemed odd about the people themselves however, and upon close inspection I spotted horrific marks around each of their ankles and wrists, as if thorned cuffs has been attached, most likely from the altar we saw before.
Further investigation lead us to the conclusion that the people in the room were some kind of undead that seemed to be tasked with cleaning the main room and alter, for signs of dust and signs of footprints showed that they had been in their final room for some time but ventured out, while the area beyond the door was spotlessly clean. After some brief discussions we then decided to take the remaining door back in the room adjoining the altar room.
The doorway lead us into a spotless corridor, lit with more of the eerie self lighting flames. This corridor quickly put myself and the rest of flock on edge as soft whisperings just outside the edges of our hearing started to taunt us. Zabeel seemed most unsettled, and speaking out from his normally calm and quiet composure, he began to accuse me to being the one causing the whispering. After a few attempts to explain to him that it was not my doing, I decided to say nothing, hoping that having someone more tangible to blame than whatever unnatural balance bleeds from these walls will help him in keeping himself ready. I will keep an eye on him however, as it would upset me for him to grow so frustrated by these perceived irritations on my part that it would impact the flock’s trust of one another and put turbulence in our flight.
The corridor’s walls soon gave way to a doorway but inside all we could find is a small cold room full of fresh supplies. Given the age of the other things in this unnatural place this surprised me, but we decided not to linger too long and continued on. The next room we found was the most puzzling we found so far, the room a perfectly round room with a domed roof, the walls covered in slaps of paint that have formed the shapes of strange arcane script and runes. The source of the paint was most puzzling of all, a shirtless man wielding a large paintbrush, not seeming to care or even notice our presence as he feveriously painted, wielding his brush with each stroke as if it was a natural part of himself, in the way a squirrel wields its tail to keep its balance.
In his usual quiet and mischievous manner, Sam stole the paintbrush away from the man and cast it aside with what I am sure was a feeling of glee, but such jubilation quickly faded as the man thrust out a hand, causing the paintbrush to return to his hand in the blink of an eye so he could resume his task, still not taking any notice of us as if he was lost in his own world. The marks on his wrists and ankles matches those of the ‘people’ we saw before, giving us a little more insight into the state these people must of been left in after their ordeal.
Looking for answers I decided to take a glimpse into the magic of the room and activated my nature’s gift of sight of the magical thermals of the room. Expecting the swirling magical sights and winds I normally see, I was taken completely off guard by the runes that seemed to blast into life, filling my vision with them no matter where I looked or how tightly I closed my eyes. I could feel searing pain of the runes and was overwhelmed by it. For how long I was like that I do not know, but thankfully Zabeel was able to snap me out of it and helped me calm down enough to see normally once more. Despite this, I am still hesitant to close my eyes, as I still see glimpses of those runes like the fleeting glance of the sun leaves a lasting mark upon your vision.
I could not tell if it was because he sensed my unease, or because the man had failed to be upset by his theft of the brush, but Sam suggested the next step would, logically be to kill the man and continue on our way. Normally I would have asked for more of a reason to do such but given the devastation and unnatural blight this place had caused, I found myself agreeing with him almost immediately and so I stepped back to watch as he skillfully wielded his weapon and ended his life in a smooth strike.
I feared that the visions from before were returning however as his blood struck the wall as all the runes began to move in a sinister manner. Not wanting to see for what purpose, I flew from the room with the rest of the flock, just in time it seems as the entire room was consumed by whatever chaotic powers had been painted on its walls, nothing visible to betray the fact we had just left a room, only a smooth wall that seemed different from its surroundings that prevented me from disbelieving my memory entirely. Thankfully, the paintbrush was nowhere to be seen.
After a few uneasy moments of silence broken only by the continued whispering on the edge of our senses, we decided to continue along the corridor and soon found ourselves at a fork in our path. We chose to take the left and followed the corridor around into what seemed to be a much more lived area of the underground. Moving carefully, we found what seemed to be bedrooms of the people who ‘lived’ here, if living was the right word for it, and found more of the ancient coins. I looked forward to showing the coins to Jvala when she meets with us again, her delay caused by the unease of her pack who, understandably were not keen on the idea of entering these devoid lands. In a way I am thankful that poor Skydancer did not have to see this place, as I am certain it would haveruffled his feathers and upset his spirit to see sky denied to his wings by whatever fell force wards off the other birds of the area.
We continued to follow the corridor past the rooms until we reached a set of double doors, and after a quick check we guessed we had found a combined food and training room. Sam had been able to identify someone who appeared to be in charge of the pack within. After a moment to prepare we decided the best approach would be for Sam to enter the room and dispatch the leader and anyone else he can before we hear the sounds of alarm, at what point Zabeel and I were to charge into the room, draw attention and start working together to strike down our prey.
The moment we heard sounds that Sam’s prey had been noticed, Zabeel and I charged into the room. I was unable to resist calling out to our foes in a manner that I am sure would have earned a grin from Vernus, and within moments the room a blur of blades and blood. After taking a few painful strikes from the enemys I realised the cause, both Sam and Zabeel out of sight as they used their natural born and skillfully honed abilities to keep themselves out of the enemy’s sights, while I stood at the forefront of the combat like a stranded buffalo facing a pack of wolves, unable to hide behind Vernus and Jvala as normal due to circumstance.
Sam and Zabeel were still there however, and it quickly became apparent to me that they were striking down anyone who came to strike me. Unwilling to become pray myself and spurred on by the help and memories of my friends, I decided to channel my ‘Inner Vernus’ and attempted to take up a posture similar to the ones I had seen him use. With a bellow that sent my cloak into a frenzy despite the still air I attempted to draw the attention of the foes to leave them exposed. In a manner that I hoped would make Vernus laugh I called,
“Is there anyone else?!” I called out, standing before the bodies of three others. Three more charged, surprising me with the speed a ferocity of their strikes before they too fell down.
“Is that it?!” I called out once more, in a tone I had heard him use before, only to be answered immediately by a blade in the back, causing me to yelp like a wounded cub. Clearly, I lacked the viper like reflexes that Vernus always displayed, and so I decided enough was enough and helped dispatch the remaining foes before licking my wounds.
I think in the future, I will leave the hissing and thumping of the ground to those that are better suited for it, but it will still be a fun story to tell the others once we meet with them again.