GraniteSpire

These aren’t the gnolls we’re looking for?

These aren’t the gnolls we’re looking for? Right?

The skeletal abominations certainly didn’t seem open to parley. Still, it makes me wonder,” how long have there been gnolls here?” This ruined necropolis is old, maybe older than any human habitation in the ‘Dwell. The tall ceilings and large doors are sized to gnoll stature. Maybe they weren’t always vicious killers, or not “only” vicious killers. We found a shrine to Loki in the ruins so it’s unlikely they were farmers.

Whatever they were, they are now undead. Sir Grays’s exceptional tactics had us efficiently moving from room to room dispatching the monsters. With our only way out being forward, we didn’t want to leave any threats behind us. This excellent tactic we would abandon shortly. We headed down some stairs to find the structure even more ruined than the area above, with evidence that some force or creature had been burrowing through the stone. There was an alcove opposite the landing with large chunks missing from the wall, as a couple of doors nearby as well. We started with the door on the left, but the room behind was so filled with rubble that the door wouldn’t open.

“Say, did something move on the other side of that alcove wall?”

We took a look at the next door, and, after a tremendous amount of noise, managed to force it open. The room beyond was a wreck, but there was an interesting grate about 5 feet down a square shaft in the floor. That’s when the Umber Hulk showed up. The knight and wizard held off the beast while Jade and I worked on the grate, hoping it would be a way out. We levered it open revealing nothing but darkness. I reached for my lantern when everything went cold and shivery. Behind me was a hideous furless gnoll corpse with my blood on his claw. I finished my grab for the lantern and smashed onto the fiend then leapt into the dark dark pit. The rest is a little foggy. Someone landed next to me. I could hear their breath go out in a painful gasp and then, nothing. I prayed to Athar, and just kept on praying when faint torchlight intruded into the darkness. Wait, I know that guy, wasn’t he in the Black Rat?
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Gray - My Torch Went Out?
Friends don't cover friends in acid.

I took the lead, as my knightly station dictated, but I cannot say I felt altogether comfortable with my back to the spider-summoning, venom-spraying young adventurer following behind me. While I am confident his intentions were not sinister, his battlefield miscalculation was more exotic and somewhat more horrifying than similar choices I’ve seen bowmen make.

I kept my eyes forward and alert while my mind mulled over my new companions. My instincts assured me there was not evil to be found in them, but the facts were rather damning if considered on paper. I am a knight, sworn to uphold the law. Laws protect the innocent, as I too have sworn to protect. But the laws of the land condemn those who would use magic. Not those who use it in service of evil, but simply those who use it. But I have seen this friar use what would be called magic by a commoner, though it is divine in nature. How is the young wizard different? How is it different from the sword at my back? Is magic simply more fearsome because so few men understand the depths of it? Are those who would use the arcane arts burned alive because men fear them? Is that not the worst form of cowardice? Does the law harm the otherwise innocent out of fear?

I have sworn to be without fear in the face of my enemies. I am sworn to safeguard the innocent. But I am also sworn never to lie, but back in town, a true account of the deeds here harm someone I’ve sworn to protect and have indeed risked my own life to save.

I wish Uncle Balian were still alive for his counsel in this matter, but I find myself morbidly glad he is not, for I would not wish to burden his conscience with such a dilemma. My family name may be more fitting than—

Wait— that’s odd. My torch just doused itself right in front of my face…

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Gray - Into the Dogmen's Den
Trolling for Treasure

Lord-Senescal Guerellis Salsbury has enlisted my newest traveling companions into his service, apparently delivering some cryptic message to a band of savage gnolls infesting a network of caves outside Shadow’s Eye. Having escorted Salsbury along the road for several days, I learned he is the sort of man who constantly appraises the usefulness of those around him in as far as they relate to his personal and altogether hidden purposes. I don’t trust him. But he doesn’t seem to need my trust, only my weapon and my station, or he did. My involvement in this venture now seems to be but a passing amusement, but one he permits due to my usefulness. I should be flattered. I am not.

I joined these furriers on their mysterious quest because they obviously needed my protection. They don’t even carry weapons. Or so I thought. During an encounter with what I’m told was a troll, I witnessed the Lady Jade springing toward the beast with such startling haste that she engaged the creature before I had even drawn my sword. Her fearlessness was undermined by the unsure footing of the cavern but thankfully two enormous spiders came to her aid. I only vaguely remembered the wild claims of the light-red robed youngster until I heard him speaking the spidery tongue of those creatures. It seemed to be spoken backwards and in a sharply hissed rhythmic language I could not have understood even were it spoken forwards. My bewilderment was broken by a streak of holy light as it shot by my helm, seeking the flesh of the marauding troll. Dakkon. I had gotten the sense that his connection to Athar was more genuine than those claimed by the other clergy I had encountered but this… I had no idea. I felt the presence of the god my father taught me to do proud in theory. In this dank cave, Athar was focused through a mortal like a lens.

But these thoughts all came later. Uncle Balian taught me to banish the intellect during combat and to react, to kill with instinct, with practiced form, with an honor that was true because it was not complicated by the mind. The warrior-bard proved the first half of his title and before long, we had the beast’s head from its shoulders. That seemed to stop its unflagging ability to close its own wounds. I’ll have to remember that trick.

For now, I find myself exploring a cave system inhabited by all manner of abominations, in service of a secretive scheming puppeteer styling himself a lord, accompanied by a living vessel of Athar who willingly travels with a young man his church would burn at the stake and the bravest or perhaps the craziest woman I have ever seen. And anyone I would normally laugh with over a tankard about it is already dead. Here’s to making new friends.

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Shadow's Eye

5th of Mirrimont, The Year of Our King Seven Hundred and One

(Evening, 701 AT) Trace precipitation. Low 34. High 52.

Clouds hang forlornly in the chill skies above, a drip here and a drop there splattering on your cloaks as you ride, hinting the return of rain on the morrow. With a gleeful whinny Poncho trots off into the brush as you make the end of the pass, disappearing into the trees of the woodland bowl that spreads into the valley before you. Amid the cleared lands to the north, the city of Shadow’s Eye grows against foothills, capturing in its borders a confluence of tributaries which form into a larger river that runs south and east out of the valley.
The central city of Shadowdwell is large and bustling even at nightfall, window lights and street torches visible from the eastern pass. Like the streams, roads converge on Shadow’s Eye, one from the South, another the West, and of course your own as well. But it may not be this spidering of trails and waters that, like veins in an eye, make their way towards sprawling city that gave this place its name. It may instead be the great, forested half-mountain to the north of the city. The formation is absent its upper slopes and peak, replaced as you are informed, by a wondrous lake of darkness whose waters appear as an enormous black pupil, staring blankly at the sky.

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Pigeon's Final Recap

I felt the fire coming down with a terrible weight behind it. We had
less than a moment. The first time I used my arcane gift, it was try
to save the life of another, and it wasn’t enough. But I had grown so
much since then. This time it would be enough, I would be enough. With
a fraction of a spell, I propelled the girl ahead of the crushing
flame. I had an instant left to say good-bye to Luna, to wish my
companions well, to know the little girl made it.

Then as the air was shoved from my lungs and incinerated before my
face, I felt strong hands pulling me upward out of the fire… no the
water. Something ethereal washed over me as the master of those hands
stood me up to face him. Barnus. He looked at me as though he had
never died, as though I hadn’t.

“William Edrick Australis, welcome back.” Barnus greeted me with such
serenity that he might have been my oldest friend.

I rudely looked around, searching for my mother, my father. He seemed
to sense my intent.

“They are still adrift, my friend.” That didn’t make sense. My parents
were dead. Weren’t they? I didn’t have much a chance to ponder before
Barnus offered me his forearm from the shore and pulled me entirely
out of the strange water. It was night, as it had been the last time I
saw him but I could see perfectly. Light seemed to shine more brightly
from its hiding spots to compensate. Each pinpoint of light felt like
a memory. I could not say how much time I spent there, fixating on
each one I could find. They were indeed memories, but not all of them
mine. Exploring them was absolutely fascinating, or it would be. I
wanted answers. I wanted to know what happened to my friends, to the
girl I saved.

Barnus looked at me with a kind patience as though he had just woken
me for a shortened watch, knowing I was wounded. But I never camped
with him outside the protection of the caravan. Cut-Nose laughed
good-naturedly at my confusion. She seemed to be sharing some joke
with Aberlour and Tain. When did they arrive? How long had I been
transfixed by the lights? I felt so hurried, hungry to experience this
place, but Barnus assured me time was no longer a limitation. He said
that we could venture downstream at our convenience to find the
answers I sought. That when my parents surfaced from this mercurial
stream, we could stroll back together and study my birth, theirs, the
birth of the gods if we so wished. The promise of such experience
thrilled me and Barnus assured me I would never again be limited, be
disappointed.

All of this he said to me on those timeless shores… or maybe he was
about to…

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From Black Oak to Shadow’s Eye

From Black Oak to Shadow’s Eye

The sunrise is an angry red, and the sky is still heavy with smoke. We lost a hero last night.

The path to this tragedy started less than a week ago in the town of Black Oak. We arrived in town to settle accounts for Jade and Pigeon. Despite the loss of two companions on their quest, they intended to honor their agreement. The event that happened that first night was the first step.

We were awakened by a bright light. Pigeon ran towards the danger, with Broderick close behind. Jade and I followed only moments later. What we found was a girl, and a bright blue mystical portal. I suspected she was the victim of some malign entity. Pigeon slept the child and the portal winked out with her consciousness. We wanted to investigate, but townsfolk were gathering into an angry mob seemingly intent on burning the girl as witch. The mayor restored some order and set a trial for the next morning. We tried talking with the prominent members of town, but our influence was minimal.

The trial, despite some spirited efforts by the boys, did not have a satisfactory conclusion. We saved the girl, but we got ourselves banished in the process. I cannot help but feel some regret at that banishment from Black Oak. The situation with the child remains unresolved; and while she remains safe for now, that condition is unlikely to continue. If there is indeed some entity seeking entrance to our world then the banishment of our party has removed any protection from its evil. I can only hope the agents of Brookston are aware of the situation.

So, rather than a comfortable few days restocking and resting in Black Oak, we found ourselves back in the wild. Deciding the roads would still be too dangerous we set out overland to Shadow’s Eye. The weather was as bleak as my mood and neither looked to improve any time soon. The first night out Broderick’s scouting found us a somewhat intact cottage and we made camp. It was on my watch, some two hours after midnight, that the Anrak spies found us. For the first time in eight years I unsheathed the Sword of Athar. My skills were a little rusty but we soon killed three of the bugbears, though the fourth eluded us. They had carried a letter to the new bandit king. The details were vague, but I doubt they will be sending Shadowdell flowers and pretty ponies.

Over the next few days we would encounter a huge pack of wolves and an enormous bear. In both encounters Jade saved my life. Her prowess is simply astounding. When we finally neared Shadows Eye, only half a mile away, we arrived precisely in time to witness a bandit attack on a wagon. We acted immediately, and though we fought fiercely, we could only save one of the men. He was more a boy than a man really, but all that his family has left now. Jade and I took him back to his farm, with the wagon carrying to bodies of their other menfolk. Barnus and Pigeon stayed with our prisoner, we had captured one of the bandits, and prepared a pyre for those we had killed.

Finally we arrived in Shadow’s Eye. We made our report on the bandits to the local Sherrif, and then headed for the party. A wealthy merchant was marrying the much younger owner of the local inn. The party was a welcome distraction from our difficult journey, but our tragedy was but hours away.Motivated by some petty jealousy, someone set fire to the merchant’s ostentatious wagon. The merchant was smuggling dwarven spirits, and the resulting conflagration soon spread to the inn. We woke to fire, smoke and confusion. Between us we evacuated the inn’s other inhabitants: the merchant, his mother, and the new bride. Then Pigeon paused at the top of the stairs and leapt back into the inferno. He reappeared moments later with a child, the walls and ceiling of the inn collapsing around him. He hurled the child down the stairs to our waiting arms. I could see, in that moment, he knew his fate was sealed. The wall fell, and so did our friend.

Athar gives me the power and will to protect the innocent and combat injustice, and I pray he gives me the wisdom to find the arsonist and murderer responsible and see him brought to justice.

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The Village of Brokenhollow

31st of Raedmont, The Year of Our King Seven Hundred and One

(Evening, 701 AT) No precipitation. Low 44. High 61.
It finally stopped raining. The day has been dry, with traces of blue and sun making appearances throughout. Maybe its a sign of hope. More likely, the skies are indifferent the suffering of men.
Evening is falling as you approach the Village of Brokenhollow. A settlement at least twice the size of Black Oak, it rests in a river valley surrounded by craggy farms. The village partisans encircle it, with the small river running through the middle. The entrance is via a crude drawbridge that is laid down over where the river runs between the timber walls. A standing platform on the outside of the walls meets the lowered drawbridge on the inside to form an odd, broad platform to cross the waterway.
Smoke rises from hearthfires into the cloud-scattered skies indicating signs of busy life.

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Pigeon's Adventure Nine Recap

My friends were dead. The holy man we just met was saying some words
for them, kind words no doubt, but I wasn’t listening. All I could see
was that monster’s face in my mind’s eye. The moment my spell
connected with his, that brief instant where his glaze flicked away
from Cutty and held mine. His mouth moved ever so slightly. Was it to
grin? To draw breath to speak? To unleash some other ancient
incantation far superior to mine? It was too hard to tell. His face
was covered in Aberlour’s blood.

His mouth may have been obscured, but his eyes communicated their
predatory intentions to my very core. “I’ll be with you in a moment.”

Somehow Jade and I escaped. Maybe it was her uncanny ability to steer
me away from danger or Luna’s watchful guidance or divine providence
in the guise of a white stag. But we made it. We made it to this
secret village, a place safe and friendly to all the races, to magic
users, to my kind. Some quiet voice in me pleaded that I stay, that I
earn my place among them and live out my days in peace. Maybe find a
willing woman to laugh with, to share simple moments with while I
pursued what I could of my craft.

But a firmer voice said, “No.” Not while unholy creatures like that
lurked the world, not when I have a gift such as mine. I needed
knowledge. I wasn’t forging new ground, not yet. I needed to stand on
the shoulders of the arcane masters who came before me. I couldn’t do
that in Brookston. I needed to access to proper grimoires. I needed to
get the hell out of the ’Dwell and gain enough power to come back and
kill the abomination that killed my friends. At least, I hope it
killed them. The alternatives are… unpleasant.

I forced my attention back to Dakkon’s benediction. He was speaking
about the mercy of death. I silently vowed the next time I encountered
that monster, he would receive only the latter from me.

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Dakkon's Warning

You may be asking yourself, “what is a cleric of Athar doing in this outcast village of the damned?” Well it is a fairly brief story and concerns our destination of Black Oak, so I’d best be telling you now. First, I’m not rightly a cleric, not according to the church anyhow. I call myself a Friar, though I’ve never taken vows to any order. I was still an acolyte when the edict came down forbidding magic and exiling any non-humans from the’ dwell.

“It’s not right Father Norvil! As the holy scriptures say,_ “serve an unjust king and you serve injustice.”_ Father Norvil was my spiritual advisor and was doing his best to cool my temper. I had exclaimed, rather loudly, that our good Bishop was a damn fool who knew as much about justice as an ogre’s big toe. Farther Norvil proposed to send me to a rather remote village and serve in the local church. The very village we are now planning to visit. I turned him down and fled the capital with a band of other “undesirables” So I would appreciate it if you don’t mention the words Friar, or Priest, or Cleric while we are in town. They are as dangerous to me as witch or wizard to you fellows.

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Cut-Nose Adventure 5 Recap

Jacob Storm, treasure hunter.
This new name is going to take some getting used to. The Jacob part has been with me since before I was born; named for my mother’s grandfather. The Storm part of my name arrived with my birth, on account of the weather. My father was a soldier, but I was born a bastard. I guess I should be glad the gods decided to storm, Jacob Partly-Cloudy just doesn’t have the same ring to it. I haven’t used either name since the shivering, when a demon’s claw took half of my eight year old nose. Since then I have just been Cut-Nose.

This treasure hunter part, that’s new. Entering the town of Black Oak, despite my trepidation, was not a disaster. We were able to acquire all the things we might need for a journey out of the ‘dwell. But first, we are treasure hunters. That was the deal. Weapons, armor, food, warm clothes, and one share of treasure each or the grocer and blacksmith of Black oaks. In return, we face certain death for a treasure that ay not exits. It’s a pretty good deal. Since we are already facing certain death it’s like getting free stuff.
*
*Jacob Storm, the completely plastered
.
As names go, it’s not as impressive as treasure hunter, but it is immediately gratifying. It is amazing how eager these village were are for a good story. I determined to have a drink for each of our fallen comrades, each time I told their story. That turned out to be a lot of drinks. I was expecting to be burned at the stake, or at least run out of town, so being drunk under the table by a crowd of friendly villagers was a nice surprise.

Cut-Nose the Serf
Just when I thought things were looking up, I was reminded of just who, and what, I am. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. A clandestine meeting at the abandoned church in the middle of the night, what could possibly go wrong? What waited for us was the first lady of Back Oak. We should be pleased to bow down and fulfill her every whim. For just a moment I forgot I was a serf. When she asked us to look into the disturbing sounds coming from her husband’s study, I stupidly asked what she would do for us. “You will serve us or you will die,” well those weren’t her words exactly. She prettied it up a little as aristocratic type like to do. Maybe it helps them sleep at night. Whatever… If I die in that study tonight I am haunting this family until the end of time.

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