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Posted in Flameweaver
Lost Days, Chapter Two
Mitch let the door close softly behind him, the dull clunk of wood against wood putting an end to the interrogation. He pressed two fingers against the bridge of his nose, trying to fight back the headache that was even now creeping up at the back of his mind.

"Have a nice chat with our little friend, did we?" The voice was female, cutting through the moment of quiet like a hot knife through paper. Letting the hand drop from his face, Mitch glared back at her with tired annoyance.

"Do we really need to do this now?" The words practically rasped out of his throat.

"We do, and you know that. Or are you gonna start lying to y'er old pal Ellie now too?" The woman smirked at him knowingly, the second party to a dance that the both of them had gotten tired of long ago. The difference was, she could still put barbs to him by making it happen.

"No. No I am not nor have I ever lied to you, Ellie-"

"Ah ah. Manners now." She cut him off, tsking at the affront but showing no real offense to it. "I'm bankrolling this little witch hunt of y'ers, the least you could do is be polite." The Paladin straightened in her seat, folding her hands together on the table in front of her like a teacher trying to correct a mistake. "Now, again?"

Mitch glowered at her, but obeyed the request all the same. "No. No I am not, nor have I ever lied to you, Lady Ellebrius of the House Uhrhammer, Holy and Righteous Paladin in the Service of Helm."

She practically bounced in her seat, clapping happily as the mage continued to stare daggers back at her. "I knew you remembered the whole thing! Y'er presentation isn't great but you know all the words and that's a great start!" She scooted on the wooden bench and patted a spot next to her own, looking up at him. "Come on, I'll get you something to drink."

"Food first. If I start drinking on an empty stomach nothing I say will mean anything before too long." Mitch let the prisoner's spellbook fall on the table with a dull thud and sat down next to her, waving a server over as he did so. Within a moment or so a bowl of thick stew and a mug of something that smelled faintly of alcohol were placed in front of him. As the server looked at him expectantly, Mitch tilted his head towards the woman beside him. "Her tab, she's the bankroller after all."

Ellebrius smiled good-naturedly and rolled her eyes in a 'what can you do' fashion towards the mage before dropping two silver coins into the server's waiting hand. He bowed slightly to her in thanks and departed. Before he had so much as walked away Mitch was already halfway through the meal and all but done with the drink. The Paladin watched him eat in silence, propping her head on one hand against the table. After the meal was gone and no words had come from his mouth she cleared her throat loudly at him.

"I know, alright? I was in there for..." He looked at her questioningly. "... how long was I in there?"

Ellebrius turned her head towards the nearest window and then back to him. "Three, four hours maybe?"

"And that is a very long time to consistently lie to someone!" His words had a heavy anger behind them, and a tired resignation that it wouldn't matter this time any more than it had in the times before it.

Her expression scrunched into one of mocking pity. "Oooh, I'm sowwy. Did you get tiwed wying to anooda apooooostate?"

"I AM-" He caught himself halfway to standing up. After a long and drawn out breath, Mitch sat down next to her once again and continued in a strained whisper. "I am not an apostate!" He practically spat the word back at her. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn't ask for these powers! I don't want these powers! I want to find what is causing this and stop it so it doesn't happen to other people like me!"

"An' it's that helpful attitude a'yer's that'll keep you in my good graces and outta the stocks." Her words had a happy lilt to them as she spoke, complete with the woman giving him a friendly smirk and wink.

"Lest I ever forget." He rolled his eyes, knowing the flirting was an empty gesture on her part. He had fallen for it early on in their... working relationship, but now it rang as hollow as an empty bell. With one last sigh of defeat Mitch slid the spellbook over to sit in front of them. "His name is Bhavalus, he comes from some unimportant little farming who-cares well off the beaten path between Baldur's Gate and Waterdeep." He continued, stopping on certain pages of the book and flipping quickly past others. "Got to see a passing gypsy band as a kid, one of them performed some little magics and the kid became obsessed."

"What is this, a life story?" She looked from the book to him, an indignant expression on her face.

He stared back at her with an annoyed expression and let a moment of silence pass. "Yeah. Done?"

She shrugged and wore an innocent expression. "I'll let y'eh know."

"Anyways, his parents managed to scrape up enough coin to send him to a mage's school. Nothing fancy, just some hole-in-the-wall in Baldur's and after a couple of years he was an honest-to-goodness Wizard. Can't get work anywhere good because he never learned that contacts are just as important as books, and gets stuck performing for petty coin on the streets."

"So why not go home?" The question lacked her usual sense of sarcasm, so he treated it seriously.

"Shame, I'd assume. After his family did so much to get him there it might have been impossible for him to go home empty handed." Mitch shrugged and looked back down at the spellbook, not meeting her eyes. "After failing so badly he was probably willing to do anything to make it right again."

"We aren't just talking about him, are we." When the mage looked back up he was surprised to find Ellebrius looking at him with something approaching earnestness on her face. She was concerned, and for once didn't try to conceal it from him.

And just like that it was there. The look. The goddamn look that he had spent his entire childhood enduring and explaining back to indifference. Expressions of pity that only wanted to help, but instead of accepting them the boy had always assuaged their worry, covered up the fact that he in fact did want help.

In that moment Mitch hated the woman sitting next to him, but knew it wasn't her fault all in the same instant.

"We are right now. Besides, I might be giving this guy the benefit of a conscience that he doesn't have." With his walls firmly back in place, Mitch continued. "Hell, the guy didn't flinch when I said we had his family. He was fine with us torturing and killing them until I showed him-"

"Hold on. You what?!" The empathy in her features was gone, replaced by a stone-faced anger that practically radiated heat in its intensity. "We are NOT-"

"I know that." He held a hand up to slow her, calm her somehow. "I know that, and you know that." The same hand pointed to the still-closed door across the way in the inn. "He doesn't know that."

"Y'eh were just supposed to get him to talk, not threaten torture!" Her words had calmed to an angry shout of a whisper, practically hissing the words as she continued. "I didn't send y'eh in there to threaten..." Ellebrius let the words wither away in her throat, taking a calming breath before continuing. "All right." Her breastplate rose and fell with each exhalation, almost as if it were a second skin to the woman. "Ah' don't tell y'eh how to get information, an' y'eh don't tell me how to worship. Ah' know."

"Just..." She paused, staring fixedly at the table before continuing. "... tell me that was the worst thing y'eh threatened him with." Her copper eyes marked him. "Can y'eh do that?"

"More or less, yeah." His own face remained blank, numb having already gone through what she was experiencing for the first time. "Threatening him didn't work, I had to take a different approach."

"Aye, supposing y'eh did." A single angry huff left her lips before the Paladin turned her attention back to him. "'Tinue."

"Right. So Bhavalus gets noticed by some people. They tap him to do some little shill jobs for them, sleep some guards, petty shit like that." Mitch turned pages as he spoke, stopping when he arrived at a page wholly unlike the ones before it. Broad strokes of heavy ink crisscrossed the paper like fault lines, accented with a myriad of smaller circles and diagrams notated in a sinister looking language.

"Tha' don't look like any petteh' shit there." Ellebrius was staring down at the page with concern, trying to make heads or tails out of it in the process.

"It isn't. This is dark stuff, and well beyond what anyone of his ability should be able to comprehend, let alone conduct. How's your Abyssal?" His eyes jumped from the page up to her.

The woman gave him a clueless smile. "Might be faster if y'eh walk me through it."

"It seems like something designed to send people, or at least their life energy.... somewhere? The wording is vague, almost like whoever made this wasn't told everything about it." Mitch's words trailed off as he continued to stare at the page, growing more unsure of the magic contained in it by the minute.

"Somewhere? Y'eh don't know?" Her eyes were going back and forth from the spellbook to the mage.

"Do you want to read it?!" He shot her an angry look, then deflated as she held up her hands in surrender.

"Not tryin' to make y'eh mad, y'eh just don't sound sure 'bout all o' this." She gestured a hand to the book, then grimaced at the writing for a moment. "Not tha' I'm blamin' y'eh. Nasty bus'nuss."

"It is." He shut the book angrily, pushing it towards her. "That can't be left alone. You know that, right?" Mitch met her eyes with no humor. "This can't go to some reliquary or church library, no matter what you think could be gained from it."

Ellebrius nodded. "Council won' be pleased ahm' destroyin' evidence." She chuffed. "Again. But if'n its got you spooked can't say as ahm sorry to burn it."

"Burn it until it won't burn anymore. I'm going to see what I can do to forget I ever saw it." Mitch started to push off from the bench, but a plate-covered hand caught his arm.

"Why are y'eh doin' that?" It was a question, but her words had a gravity unlike anything he had heard from her prior.

"Because whatever gave me the powers I have touched him as well. Me having the knowledge of that kind of magic in my mind is a liability." The mage turned back to her with a serious expression. "And if I retain it there is a chance more innocent people will die."

The Paladin nodded in understanding, releasing his arm. "So, one book well-done. Anythin' else?"

"His associates?"

"Took m'ah coin an' fucked off. Seemed happy to be free a'him." She smiled bleakly back at him. "Apparen' they weren't fans ah' their boss."

"Imagine that."

Ellebrius punched him in the side, then laughed as the Half-Elf doubled over in pain. After the ache subsided, Mitch seated himself on the bench once again.

"Family members?" He tilted his head back, taking a deep breath and trying not to vomit up his recent meal.

"Took m'ah coin an' fucked off as'well. Believe it or not, he wasn' popular with them either." She grinned, rubbing the hand that had punched him against her breastplate as if shining an apple.

"I believe it." Mitch felt his throat begin to relax as stew and ale slid back down into his stomach. "And Bhavalus?" He felt his eyes drawn to the closed door just as much as hers.

"Knows too much." The grin on her face died.

"Then bring him up on charges and hang him. Burn the remains so no one gets a chance to bring him back, find out what he knows." The mage felt the humor drain from his features as he spoke.

"Tha' shouldn' be hard. I tell the Council it's an apostate with dark magic an' the warrant'll write itself." Ellebrius raised her eyebrows to him. "An' y'er okay with this?"

"Why suggest it if I wasn't?" He looked at her confused.

"Well, with y'eh bein' like him an' all. I jus' thought-"

Without warning one of his hands raced forward, grabbing the collar of her breastplate and yanking the Paladin forward. Her copper eyes met his as the mage spoke in a low and furious whisper.

"I am cursed, as he is cursed. That does not make us kin, or even allies. I am not an apostate, and I am nothing like him.."

Whatever initial surprise Ellebrius felt when she was grabbed was gone, replaced by the unflinching resolve of a soldier. "Good t'eh hear." Her speech was quiet but hard, as unafraid of him as he seemed to be of her. "Jus' one problem."

"Which is?"

"How are y'eh gonna forget tha' spell?" Her gaze never wavered, never drew back from the threat. If there was a chance the mage would be turned against her the Paladin seemed unafraid. Almost prepared.

"I am going to drink until I forget I have these goddamn feet, let alone magic. By morning this will all just be another bad hangover." Little by little his grip on her armor relaxed, and the woman leaned back into a more comfortable sitting position. "And you are going to pay for me to do so."

"Am I now?" She managed a half-smirk, cocking one eyebrow to complete the look.

His hand fell away. "Yes you are, Lady Ellebrius of the House Uhrhammer, Holy and Righteous Paladin in the Service of Helm." His previously severe expression gave way to a self-assured grin.

She looked at him with the same smirk for a moment or so, then relented with a laugh. "Ah, go on with y'eh." She tossed a small pouch towards him and he caught it, looking inside it before pocketing it with a disappointed expression.

"Don' be givin' me tha' face! I don' want y'eh stumblin' into the room tryin' to make relations at me again. I'm a rare beaut, too precious for the likes a y'er fumblin' hands!" She mock pushed him away, laughing as she did it.

"That never happened." He drew the words out dismissively. "Besides, if anything it's you who can't resist me, my lady mine. More than once you've crawled into my bed asking me to hold you, how you're so cooooo~ld and loooon~ely-"

A second, heavier bag of coins flew from the table and struck him squarely in the face.

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A Third Letter Sent Via the Lady's Temple
[As this is mostly assembled from notes posted previously, albeit with some editing, I have inserted a [*****] to mark where new information begins (and of course the first two paragraphs are new).]

To Acolyte Magret Shepperd of the Lady’s Temple at Halvor,

I am sorry for the delay, which perhaps was sometime longer for me than you, or the other way. I have not yet been able to make certain, so strange was the recent times and their passing that I can only with difficulty order them myself, and like as not they will make little sense to one not wrapped up in them, as I ws and, in some lingering ways, still am. Yet I will try to communicate them as best my poor pen can.

I wrote last time that the minutes and hours had become difficult to tell from one another in this haunted city, and that was only worse once we stepped… but already I get ahead of myself. Care and order, or none of this will tell a thing.

In the morning, after troubled dreams, we made our way back to the strongroom. The mirror was as before, and once uncovered behaved as before as well. We asked a guard be kept on it, and it left uncovered with a lantern shining into it that perhaps might guide us back, and I took the lead, with Jokula and Ailie assisting, in unlocking it. I will not repeat how the mirror needed to be touched to awaken its powers, save to say it required the same terrible and uncomfortable familiarity. And it offered to do many things more than simply let us cross. I kept those from my mind and opened the way.

Once we were thru, the light of the lantern proved of no avail, but I was still able to spot, with some effort, the soft place that marked our way back and Jokula marked it with her magic so any of us with the proper skills could find it. It was then we noticed that we had not all made our way here. Cabhan was missing. But we could not worry upon that just now.

We then made our way thru this dark, distorted version of the city, haunted and wrong in its making. Angles were wrong, there was no hint of a sun, and large black things circled above. Things Jokula and I recognized as Starwinged Horrors, terrible creatures of another realm. Perhaps this one, but I thought not even then and now know it not to be so.

Also, figures moved down dark distances as if behind the sky, humanoid but with improperly long arms. It was not comfortable to look too long.

We continued. Strange worm-like things floated in the air as if it was water, but we mostly avoided them. Once, we saw a Starwing swoop down and snatch up a man, but there was no way we could get to his location. Instead, we saw three possible destinations. Tendrils from the sky reached down toward the Keep, the Red Yard, and the Shieldlord's Chapterhouse. The last seemed protected by a dome of some sort, and so we made toward it, to perhaps find aid in this terrible place.

I have said the place was dark, but that is not quite correct. It was not bright, but neither was it shadowed. We saw evenly, but faintly. I do not know the workings of it.

A man staggers from an alleyway, his eyes both taken in the maws of the flying worms. We quickly move to remove them, but his eyes are still gone, gaping wounds in his face. Dama Kaela works what healing she can and we hurry on to the Chapterhouse.

The dome offers no resistance to our entry, but inside we find four figures, like to the men we saw being cared for in the true Chapterhouse, but their straightjackets hanging unfastened, wandering aimlessly in the courtyard.

Or so they were until we arrived. At our presence, they turned, or rather it was more as if they were turned by their wrappings, and charged at us. We gave battle, and though the jackets tried to take us as well, enveloping us so our allies attacks would wound us as well as the terrible creatures, but care and magic were sufficient. We stood, appraising the situation.

With more time to observe things, it became clear to us that the shifting and distortion of our surroundings was not without some pattern. Not predictable repetition, no, but if we observed the flickering hints of people, they were dressed from different eras. None less recent than the Blackbyrn days in Tiranin, but all the years since. Most were garbed as dedicants of the Shield, as one might expect here. But they did not interact with one another, nor with us.

Or not quite... there was a resonance with them, something on the plane of the more extreme of our experiences, the connections with the Great Cycle. But the only way I could think that might shift thru the distortions of time would be taken as hostile, and we all agreed not to pursue it. We instead made our way further in, to the shrine proper.

There, the images become more patterned still. There are clear signs of a desperate defense, of vital treasures being locked within the altar. Ailie and I did our best to avoid the precautions, but opening their warding still created an unnatural lightning that struck on a Cyclical as well as a mundane manner. Smarting, we searched through what was inside, but found only fairly familiar regalia save for one uncertain object wrapped in a crumbling tabard. Once unwrapped, it proved to be helmet, not overly ornate, and marked with a glyph that I knew as the mark of a famous warrior, Thaygur the Stoic. Powerful magic of transmutation and abjuration were bound into its making.

We felt perhaps this helmet was the anchor of the dome protecting the Shieldhouse, and with some care Dama Kaela called on holy energy and was answered with a thrum of power. Ailie rushed out to see if this caused any change outside, and said that indeed a mass of shadowed, distorted people were gathering at the walls.

We attempted to use the sally port to escape unnoticed, but the crowds were gathering there as well. Retreating to the roof for a better look, we could see that the dome over the Shieldhall was evidently stronger than before, and from that hint we determined to try to further strengthen the helm. Dama Kaela would don it, but only after channeling divine energy and Cyclic power both toward it. At that, the power reaching to attack the dome made a not-quite-sound that we all heard or felt… Sensed, there was no doubt, and it withdrew as the dome was fully restored.

And a voice spoke to Kaela, identifying itself as Thaygur Shieldbreaker. They conversed for a while, and we determined to get his protections to the Keep where, if we were fortunate, they might be redirected toward the MacKenzie. To avoid the masses of "people", mostly so we did not need to do them unnecessary harm, we traveled rooftop to rooftop, which served us well until loose tiles betrayed Sir Jarred's step and we caught the attention of two Star-Winged Hunters.

They were, in combat, as terrible as suggested, not quite solid in even this realm, and sending waves of distortion around them that left our senses swimming. When the first finally fell to Yvor's magic arrows, it imploded completely out of the mirror-realm, and the greater waves of distortion did no little harm to many of our number. We were more cautious with the second, Dama Kaela Anchoring it into this dimension before we killed it.

This left a terrible temptation. I had read of these beasts, that no-one had ever managed to study their remains because of their tendency toward instability. But the delay could mean we were caught by the hordes. We took a quick vote and I did what dissection I could before the shadows were nearly upon us, then I used every hint of magic and energy to grant us impossible speed. The calling on Cyclic energies immediately attracted some higher attention, though, and we knew we were noticed.

We rushed through the streets, our speed granting us just enough of an edge to avoid confrontations with the many lost souls. Even just their near approach tried to drain our will when we met their eyes, but I believe we were all strong enough to resist, and so made our way to the base of the escarpment below the Keep.

Yvor and Jarred scaled slope and dropped ropes to aid the rest of us. From there, we could attempt the more daunting walls of the Keep itself or drop down to other structures of the Heights. The Keep was our fixed goal, however, and protected by Invisibility magic, Jarred and Yvor scaled the wall again before Dama Kaela's magic helped the rest of us to the top. The effort to travel magically in this dimension did her some harm, but it seemed to fade quickly. Not so quickly, though, that the guard on the walls were not closing upon us.

In the distance, we could see he great Colossus from above reach down and break through the dome over the Red Yard, then draw back up beyond vision. Which, in that moment, we feared might mean we had no way back from this terrible realm, even though our point of arrival was distinct from the Yard.

But that left us little choice but to press on into the Keep.

Not a moment was given to us to worry what the Colossus destroying the protection over the Red Yard might mean because the guards closed in along the outer wall, approaching from both sides. They wore samplings of armor and insignia that shifted by the moment, many Blackbyrne or older still, some quite recent. None seemed to welcome us as friends and allies, though. Each group of guards, though, was commended from their back ranks by tall, hooded figures of dire aspect.

Yvor was first to act, firing an arrow at one of those commanders, passing thru an insubstantial portion of it as its shape shifted. It glared back at him and the weight of its gaze seemed to weaken the bold archer. The twin commander on our other side threw back its hood and revealed nothing, a lack of features that demanded attention, twisted the will. But we resisted and fought on.

I summoned a jet of seawater to push back their vanguard and Jokhula turned added layers of ice to that water, encasing the guards to one side, leaving only their half-spectral commander. Jarrad fought the other squad, blade and shield preventing them getting any closer to us, cutting them down as they try.

With Ailie's aid, I was able to press one commander against and over the wall as it tried to turn its faceless gaze toward Dama Kaela. Yvor put two arrows into the space that wasn't a face on the other and he toppled over the outer wall to the rocks far below.

In the distance, we could see the Colossus had now turned its attention in our direction, so we wasted no time. I wove the winds to slow us as we jumped from the wall into the courtyard, then dashed across it, still seeing countless shifting, temporary images of times past, growing denser as we approached the postern gate of the keep itself.

Jokhula's magic forced the door and, passing through it, we came into a fully developed image of the past. Blackbyrne housekarls cluster around a central figure, followed by Blackbyrne Himself, unmistakable even had we not seen his features on those cursed coins. He shouted orders, to hurry the escort along as the MacKinzies were at the main gate. He ordered they stop for nothing, make their way into the mountains, and upon reaching the monastery, to be sure that he -- and it was at this moment we could see the figure more clearly, a woman carrying a child -- was to there receive the 'second mark'.

She protested. Said he should come as well, as the keep was lost, but he refused. "If they find me here, they will not look further," he said. And, from what I know of the history of things, that was so. When Blackbyrne fell, there was no tell of any escaping. Certainly no lost child that was more than a rumor.

The image faded, but even as it did the effect of it was not totally gone. Jarrad, Yvor and I had lost some of our natural color, the dimness and shadow of this place leeching it from us, though the women seemed, for the time, unaffected. The stomps of the Colossus grew louder beyond the walls, pressing us on.

Dama Kaela knew the Keep some, more than the rest of us who had visited the true one but once, and that being secreted through by guards. She led us to an inner door toward the great hall, which Ailie opened.

There, another scene showed itself before us, signs of recent combat and MacKinzie plaids hanging as trophies along the walls, bloody where heads hung from them. Blackbyrne sat on the throne, his throne at that time, spinning his crown idly around a finger as he looked at the same mirror we had used to gain our way here. "It is as you were promised," says a voice from the mirror, whose surface none of us could see, which I do not think any of us regret. "So long as one drop of your blood remains, you are undying." He laughed and raved, how the MacKinzies were all but extinct and once the mongrels of Fraser being taught their place, so he would rule again. And then the images faded.

The throne room of the present was no less horrific in its own way, if not so gore-laden in its decoration. Instead, twisting columns of earth and crystal entrap the throne and reach upwards to where the private chambers are likely to be. Sir Jarrad senses nothing dire about the columns themselves, despite the unnatural appearance, so we determine to make our way upwards, to find this world's echo of the MacKinzie Himself if we can.

Time-echoes contine as we make our way up the private stairs, but there seems nothing here in the present, not even to guard the most private door. Inside, there was indeed a figure, seated and engulfed by the crystal column, some energy being drawn out of him and downward along the column, but we had little time to examine this before a terrible surprise beset us.

Lady Alice stepped from the shadow and sent arrows toward us, striking Ailie and Kaela, though Sir Jarrad's shield blocked the one coming toward me. A shadow of Cabhain burst through the far door, his features changed by a tattoo on his cheek, a symbol of shadow. And even as we engage these, trying to get past Cabhain's impossibly fast staff to quite Alice's bow, they were joined by Ursula, more enraged than when we last saw her, maddened beyond control. How had these, our allies, been brought here? We did not know... but had no choice but fight.

Cabhain and Ursula did their best to block our way, but Jokhula flew and Dama Kaela's magic slipped between phases of his shadow-world to bring Jarrad and Yvor past as well, and once we were able to place ourselves to our own advantage, the tide turned. But still, our allies turned enemies showed all the power of the Cycle they should have, and were terrible foes.

I sent lightning along my blade to strike down Lady Alice, and as she fell her features twisted and faded, seeming both like and unlike those dopplegangers we had faced before. As if taking the form of one touched by the Cycle had locked them in some way. I had no time to examine it, for it then faded to nothing but darkness and dust.

Ailie struck down Cabhain, who faded as if made of shadow and doppleganger flesh, and I called on what lightning I had left to strike at Ursula, which seemed only to anger her further. The distraction, though, was enough to allow Jokhula to rime her in ice and Yvor, showing it likely that they had practiced this coordination before, launched arrows into her briefly stilled form to bring her down. And like as the others, she dissolved into nothingness.

We paused to regain our breath and our sense of the situation around us.


Jokula and I examined the crystal and found it a most potent magical imprisonment, entrapping something that was painful to even look toward with magically aware senses. Yet I forced myself to study what of it I could see and was made certain, as I remain now, that what was held there, most precariously, was a greater outsider, a creature of impossibility from outside the the arch, beyond the edges of what the Gods would allow. But perhaps this place was close enough to the outside that it could reach here, yet close enough to our own world that it could then… But that could not be permitted.

Even that seemed unlikely, though. A vast power would be needed to open the way for such a thing. But our enemy has vast power, the echos of Zolos, Mother of Darkness, the memory of whom, at the proper points of the Cycle, was a power vast and unbound by the agreements of the Gods as we understand them.

Also, it was not alone The form of a man sat in the throne amidst the crystal binding, unfamiliar but too like to be the MacKinzie to leave any doubt.

Dama Kaela and the Dragon-Mage Jokhula and I considered this, to be interrupted by Ailie’s clear voice speaking unexpectedly, calling out to some unknown presence.

“You looked deep in your dilema and I did not wish to interrupt.” The speaker was a man, but unfamiliar and seeming too much of this place, of shadow as much as flesh.

Dama Kaela demanded he introduce himself, and he said the name ‘Scath’ would do, in such was as to be clear it was not the only name he was known by.

When asked if the Abominations presence was his doing, he claimed it his concern. A concern he wished dealt with quickly, as to do nothing was the only thing likely worse than doing something.

I asked if dispelling the binding would release it to be fought to merely allow it to consume what remained of the MacKinzie. He said it would be freed and might then be fought, but what would come of that he could not say beyond.

Dama Kaela, who had little trust for the man, asked what caused this infestation, and he responded that he believed someone came here and opened the way, inviting this. And confirmed that yes, some things of importance had meaningful echos in this place, and the MacKinzie was like to be such. But if the imprisonment was the realm trying to protect its lord or something else, he could not say.

To fight the thing’s source, he said, we would need go to the Outer Realm ourselves. But then he offered another option, one he said would call for ‘unwarranted trust’, as it involved strengthening him with the ancient energies of the Cycle.

What he wanted with that power, he would not clearly answer, save to say “My waking, my sleeping, my secret-most heart, already they are here.”

I addressed him in Ankaran, which he clearly recognized, but did not comprehend. I thought it a test of any link to the Cycle’s power already, as anyone with the connection seemed gifted with the tongue. So he wanted the connection he lacked. It did not, in truth, strengthen his argument.

He said, and promised quite clearly when Ailie asked it of him, that he would, if possible once the working was done, see us home by the quickest means available. Because he was, he claimed, “the King of Shadow.” Just what that meant, he would not elaborate.

But he offered us time, until we might decide, to remain concealed and private, to rest and consider our options.

Once he had withdrawn, I took a moment of quiet to call on my own connection to the Cycle, to the knowledge of prior wearers of the mantle I was given, to others knowledgable and studied. If we did this, would it be enough to banish this creature and keep its like away for the rest of the cycle? The answer was quick in coming. Yes, he would have the power, if he chose to use it that way. The gift of the Cycle could be shared, at least with certain people. But not without a price.

We decide then against delay, to take him up on his offer, and get clear of this dark and haunted place as quickly as we might. We summoned him back, and he appeared quickly.

We pool our energies, save for Dama Kaela who felt herself already drawn to her limits. Ailie and Jokhula give more of themselves to fill in the gap, and we focus that power on the self-named King of Shadow. It forms into a floating, glowing liquid, which he gathers into a cup and drinks with a satisfied smile.

I addressed him in Ankaran again, and this time he answers in the same tongue. My theory, it seemed, had some merit.

He walks around the crystal then, studying its lines and limits, and then a second time, trailing shadow behind where his attention focuses. There is a sudden, faint, wail of impossibly inhuman voices, that does not grow less or more in volume, but fades in distance despite that, until it is beyond hearing. And then the crystal and the shadow-thing it bound are gone, only the MacKinzie’s echo and an obviously strained Skath remained.

He then said he might send us home, as promised, if we but told him a place. We asked first about Cabhain, as we had not seen him since we came here, but he said only six entered his land, and six were here. So we asked to be set on the road outside the Red Yard, near enough to where we had begun. We joined hands and he wove shadow among us, engulfing us for the briefest time before they were gone and we were back in the chill rain of Tiranin. It was a moment still before sight returned to confirm it, but indeed, we were back in this world.

Yet before us was not exactly the sight we had expected. A sign was mounted on the gates of the Red Yard, declaring that the Yard was closed until further notice, dated the very day we had left.

The gates were locked, but Ailie’s skills were more than a match and we entered to find the windows of the Yard broken open from within, some but far from all boarded over. The inner door opened easily to Ailie as well, and we found its surface oddly studded with fine slivers of glass, each driven deeply into the wood. A horrible possibility came to all of us at once, and our examination found it to be quite likely. There was all-around destruction, and with each step fine glass crushed under our feet. Too much glass, more than could be explained were it the terrible mirror’s shattering that was its source.

But we made our way to the vault, passing the remains of several fallen household staff and countless shattered treasures. The heavy doors had been forced from their frames and hung open. Inside the vault as worse still, everything destroyed, studded with fine, glinting glass. The only clear space was the outline of where the mirror had once stood. Blood marked the door, the wall, and a place just where the mirror had once been.

Finding no one alive, nor any other thing to examine, we left the Yard, re-locking the gates behind us, and returned to our in, the rain trickling off to nothing for the first time since we had come here as we arrived.

Within, we were greeted at once by Cabhain, to the great joy of all. Ailie and Dama Kaela hugged him fiercly, to his evident embarrassment, as he tried to ask what had happened to us, and we the same of him.

Stories exchanged, he said he had seen it all. That as he tried to step into the mirror, he had merely stepped back out, immediately followed by the impossible burst of glass. He had shielded Lady MacNombra, but only they had escaped. She set the sign, then made her own way to deal with the matter, he did not know where.

We took some time then to recover ourselves, during which I have written this. Healing magic was sufficient for some of the wounds, but not quite all. Each of us who participated in the ‘King of Shadow’s” empowerment are still weakened in our connection to the Cycle, and Yvor, Jarrad and, I must confess, I myself, are still somewhat oddly shadowed in bright light, as if the touch of that realm remained on us.

Word has reached us that Lady MacNombra and the MacKinzie’s Warband had ridden out as we rested, inland through a pass toward Mawrs Landing. Rumor is unclear as to why, but they rode out in force and anger, and with every bit of lamp-oil that could be had in the city in their supply.

Even the Stalker’s speed could not meet theirs by sea, the pass being a shortcut across the island, so we quickly acquired cart and horses, to ride on their trail, we hoped to close the gap in time to prevent them doing anything unwise. I sent word along to my crew that they were to maintain port station until they heard from us again, or if it was two weeks, to make back for Halvor and home.

I do not like what may have come of this. We thought we were preventing some terrible thing, and perhaps we have, but something terrible still occurred in our absence. I send this on to keep you and Lady Alice well informed, but just now we know very little of what we ride toward. We can simply hope we will be in time to offer some help where it may be needed.

Stay well and safe where you are, and spread calm word to keep that calm yourself, I beg. I will send more word when it is again possible, and until that time, I remain you loyal friend,

Captain Padhraig of the Fenstalker

[Not included as it occurred after the letter was sent is Yvor’s scouting and discovering we are not the only people following… there are 4 others, either in a group or two pairs. And Kaela’s Communion spell after we camp for the night. These will be included in the next letter.]

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Tagebuch von Urgosch - Teil 1
Glockenturm ... auch diese Stadt hat mir bis jetzt kein Glück gebracht. Vor ein paar Tagen bin ich hier mit meiner Lady angekommen. Wir versuchten uns mit Raub und Diebstahl durch zuschlagen. Eine unserer besten Nummern war der, wie wir es nannten, Jünglingsschreck. Silvana machte sich dann an ein reiches Bürschchen ran und zog ihn in eine dunkle Gasse, dort wartete ich bereits und hielt dem Dummkopf das Messer an die Kehle. Auf diese weise konnten wir schnelles Geld machen. Allerdings hat diese verdammte Gilde von unserm Treiben Wind bekommen und wollte dass wir uns ihnen anschließen oder ein Schutzgeld zahlen. Nachdem ich bisher den Geldeintreiber für andere gemacht habe hatte ich eigentlich nicht schon wieder Lust darauf der Laufbursche für jemand anderen zu sein......

…....Glücklicherweise lernte ich kurz darauf Jarlack kennen, ein Zwerg wie er im Buche steht, gut im Kampf und immer für einen Spass zu haben. Mit ihm an meiner Seite, hatte die Gilde nun schon etwas mehr Resepkt doch natürlich schenken diese Aasgeier einem nichts. Wir sollten einen bestimmten schlauen Sternengucker finden der irgendwelche wichtigen Informationen hatte die der Gilde ein Haufen Geld wert war.......

…....Wir fanden den Kanben dann schließlich ein alter gottesfürchtiger Mann, Ben der Sternendeuter nannte er sich. Er erwieß sich aber noch als ganz rüstig denn er ließ sich nicht so leicht von uns zwei einschüchtern und hatte rumgezickt wie der Pfaffe im Puff. Aber schließlich konnten wir ihn mit klingender Münze doch noch überzeugen. So ist das mit den Gottesmännern, sind auch nicht besser als wir anderen.......

…...Wir haben unseren ersten Auftrag für die Gilde erfolgreich erledigt und feierten dies mit Ben bei uns im Viertel in der Kneipe.
Eigentlich hätte es hier ganz beschaulich weitergehen können. Doch dann kam Dolores......eine aufgeblasene Elfe. Kommt in die Stadt und natürlich direkt in unsere Kneipe wo sie auch nicht zögerte gleich mit dem Säbel rumzufuchteln als ein paar Saufbolde sie blöde anmachten. Aber die Typen habens wohl auch nicht anders gewollt und sie bekamen dann ordentlich Dresche von Jarlack. Ich hab mich da rausgehalten is mir schließlich egal was die mit so einer machen. Auf jeden Fall setzte sie sich zu uns und hat angefangen etwas zu erzählen an das ich mich nicht mehr so recht erinnern kann. Irgendeinem Übel im Süden und ein Leuchtturm nah bei der Stadt und da Ben wohl auch so etwas ähnliches rausgefunden hatte baten die beiden Jarlack und mich sie zu begleiten. Ich war mir der Sache nicht sicher da ich nicht genau wusste was mich dort erwartet und was es mit diesen Goblins auf sich hatte. Aber da Jarlack sich entschlossen hatte mit zu gehen wollte ich ihn nicht alleine mit diesen Tagträumern lassen.....

…..Diesen Tag werde ich so schnell nicht vergessen, als wir aufgebrochen sind diesen verdammten Leuchtturm zu suchen. Ein hässliches altes verfallenesTeil auf einer Landzunge genau dort wo sich der Fluss teilte. Wir versuchten uns anzuschleichen und irgendwie hinein zu kommen. Der Turm hatte ein großes stabiles Tor welches sogar Jarlack nicht aufstemmen konnte. Also nahm ich meinen Wurfhaken und versuchte über ein Fenster im ersten Stock hineinzugelangen. So war der Plan, doch als ich gerade den Fenstersims greifen wollte stach mir diese hässliche grüne Ratte mit ihrem rostigen Dolch in die Hand und ich viel und es wurde schwarz.
Als ich erwachte kniete Ben über mir und hat irgendein Zeug gemurmelt, egal, es hat geholfen und ich fühlte mich wieder gestärkt. Jarlack hatte jetzt auch die Schnauze voll und hämmerte mit seinem Hammer so lange auf die Tür bis diese aufbrach. Dahinter nur gähnende Schwärze.....
Mit einer Fackel machten wir Licht und sahen ein tiefes Loch im Boden an dessen Rand vier alte zerfledderte Seile hinunter hingen. Ich nahm lieber mein eigenes und wir stiegen hinab. Nach unten von wo wir dieses ekelhafte gequicke hörten. Unten gab es einen langen Gang in den wir hinein schritten. Dolores voran dann Jarlack, Ben und schließlich ich. Auf einmal gab es ein fürchterliches gepolter und riesige Steine brachen von oben über Dolores herab und zerschmetterten jeden Knochen dieser unvorsichtige Elfe, danach hörte ich wie es aus mehreren Kehlen gakkerte und johlte. Da nahm ich meine Beine in die Hand und machte auf der Stelle kehrt um aus diesem Drecksloch zu verschwinden........

…...Da sieht man mal wieder was einem bringt seine Nase in alte Wälzer zu stecken oder mysteriösen Geheimnissen auf die Spur kommen zu wollen. Mal sehen was Silvana und ich jetzt weiterhin machen werden. Vielleicht wären wir bei der Gilde doch ganz gut aufgehoben.......
Session: 2. Runde: Wege - Thursday, Apr 12 2018 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
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Epic × 2!
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Deadly Quests
26th Session Summary

Sevrin swam out of the structure and using the goggles surveyed the landscape, identifying 8 potential locations of interest. The group, finding no scrags in the area, cautiously started swimming in the direction of the first point of interest. A 3 story round tower whose walls were lined with arrow slits appeared before the group. Atop the tower, in the center, was a broken ballista and near the back, a shaft permitted entry to the structure below.

Jarna remained outside, peering in to the window slits while Xzar, Sevrin, Roslyn and Nix entered in to the tower. Finding a pile of weapons and armor they started going through the items while Jarna investigated the lower levels. Upon seeing a group of scrag approaching, Jarna quickly swam up and yelled for everyone to get out. Upon exiting, Xzar noticed a glyph of warning inscribed in to the ceiling. They quickly fled the scene and headed towards the next point of interest.

The group made their way to another structure rising from the seafloor. This one has several balconies and other points of entry. Jarna attempted to drag a spherical green ball of ooze referred to as a sofa, in order to block the door in which they came in from while Roslyn explored a room covered in graffiti. On the 2nd floor, Xzar discovered several half-bovine half-piscine creatures known as hippocampi. Cautious at first, he approached a smaller one in a separate one. Roslyn started exploring the area when Jarna found a naulilus shell and began blowing in to it. This triggered arcane teleportative energy. Roslyn and the two hippocampi found themselves in a forest. Jarna continued to play the instrument and they bounced back to the sea. The hippocampi were startled and began swimming frantically. Xzar was able to eventually calm them down.

The group started exploring the 3rd floor where Sevrin encountered a large school of minnows. As he turned around to tell the others what he had found, a minnow suddenly enlarged to enormous proportions and attempted to swallow Sevrin whole but Sevrin has swum away just in time and didn't see the enlarged fish. Nix watched in disbelief. Jarna attempted to also explore the 3rd floor but was unable to do so due to her lack of darkvision. Upon hearing a warning from Nix, she thrust her trident blindly in the room and skewered the death minnow pulling it in to the narrow passage between floors. The fish instinctively enlarged, not realizing that the passage was too small. Its body was crushed and flayed under its own size.

The remainder of the building was explored down to the 3rd floor. The 2nd floor was filled with sediment with only 3 feet of water between the sediment and the ceiling. Xzar spent some time with the hippocampi and befriended them. They allowed the party to ride them to their next destination but there wasn't enough room for the entire group. Zuma volunteered to stay behind.

At this point, Jarna had been given the goggles and was leading the group onward. The next location they came upon was surrounded by dead fish and dark looking coral. The Hippocampi called it, the death zone. That location was quickly abandoned.

Eventually they came upon an entremely steep pyramid. A small attractive woman with green eyes appears briefly then disappeared. As the group explored she reappeared next to Xzar. She said that her name was Astraea and she offered to show the party the inside of the structure. Since the hippocampi could not fit inside, Jarna and Xaehyd decided to return for Xuma while the others ventured inwards. There they found lightleaf plants, which releases luminescence when broken. They were taken to a lower level where many more of these small humanoids lived.

When asked Astraea told them that she knew of Sarula's stones. She said that the nixies has been called by Sarula to the land but were forced out by followers of a dark deity named Panzuriel, despot of the deep. Xzar asked about their companion Wyatt but Astraea denied knowledge of him. While the converation was continuing, Nix snuck down to a lower level where he found Wyatt tending to a undersea garden! Nix brought Wyatt up to the level with Astraea and upon seeing him Roslyn gave him a warm embrace.

Session: Chapter 4: Choices in Coryselmal - Sunday, Apr 15 2018 from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Deadly Quests
25th Session Summary
Arriving upon the first floor and finding the room was partially collapsed. Jarna, unweary of the dangers, begain quickly removing large pieces of rubble to effect an escape. Xzar cleverly placed smaller pieces of rubble strategically in a jenga-like fashion to aid Jarna and prevent total structural integrity failure of the building.

A small opening was created to the sea in which Roslyn sent Pickle out to investigate. The slowly swimming monkey attempted to sneak past a lingering scrag and nearly succeeded if not for a small piece of rubble that had become dislodged. Pickle frantically made his way back to the tower's opening but not before the scrag claws ripped in to Pickle's flesh. The momentum from the vicious strikes carried the unconscious monkey back in to the safety of the tower.

Buoyed by Xzar's fire-based spells and Jarna's swordsmanship, the group rallied and forced the scrag to retreat. Xaehyd unleashed a fiery crossbow bolt and dealt the killing blow to the monster. Its blood now spilled and dispersing in the waters.
Session: (Optional): Reflections - Sunday, Apr 01 2018 from 5:00 PM to 8:30 PM
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