Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dorben- Entry 1 --- 23rd Mirtul, 1377 ---I find myself in Damara

Adventure Jounal of Dorben Wainfoster

- 23rd Mirtul 1377, Year of the Haunting

---Well then. This is shaping up to be possibly the strangest adventure I’ve been on so far. I find myself in the lands of Damara. In the town of Goliad in the Duchy of Grandia to be exact. It is very surprising to find myself in the lands of my childhood fascination. Mainly because the last thing I remember before arriving here is being in a fight in a dark alley in the early morning of 1st Mirtul in the Cormyrean city of Marsember. Losing two tendays would be disturbing enough but what I find most disturbing is that I’m deucedly sure that I died in that alley.

I feel I must put down recollection of that encounter before I continue with the story of my present situation. I awoke that morning with a sense of… urgency brought on by a dream. I’ve had dreams like that one before. Sometimes they lead to good things, sometimes to bad and sometimes they mean absolutely nothing to me at the time. This one was one of the “I must follow my feelings, NOW.” type of dream. As per usual, I don’t have total recollection of the dream and it only makes sense in hind sight. I believe there was a youngling deer in the dream, surrounded by a small pack of quite large weasels and rats that kept nipping at it. The imagery made sense considering my instincts eventually led me from the cozy inn where I had taken rooms to a dark alley where a young lass was being set upon by a gang of young toughs. There was little left of poor young woman’s clothing so the gang’s intent was clear.

Selune had guided me to help this poor young traveler and I knew from there it was up to me. I set into the gutter trash thugs with gusto just as the last rays of the third night of the full moon gave way to the darkness before the dawn. I remembered my lessons from combat training and no war cry left my lips to announce my presence against superior numbers. Surprise was with me and I split the skull of the first cretin with a single blow of my mace. A step and another blow brought me to the side of the girl and I could see why I had only heard one last cry when as I approached the alley. They had beat and cut her within an inch of her life and the poor girl was unconscious. It took all the healing magic at my disposal and I took several hits from our attackers in the process but the girl did arise at last. I rejoined the fight in earnest and told her to take the first opening she saw to flee. A second thug fell, leaving only the big one whom I believed to be their leader. As we circled, the girl saw her opportunity and bolted. I was a bit surprised when the leader turned to go after the girl. Don’t ask me why but he seemed more intent on stopping her escape than on defending himself against an armed man in full armor and shield. I was on my last legs but he didn’t look much better and I couldn’t let him take the girl so I struck him as he turned to chase the girl. I heard his neck snap with that last blow and he fell to the ground like a string-cut marionette. But something had torn inside me, finishing the job started by one of my assailants’ dagger cuts. I saw the dark blood running down my side and then nothing. I certainly hope the girl at least got away. Hmm, and considering that I’ve been gone some two tendays, there is a Marsember innkeeper who is now richer by one war horse, one pack horse and a fair amount of gear. Ah well.

But now, to where I find myself at the moment.

Only hours ago, I awoke in a darkened room, lying all but naked on a stone slab. I was only just awaking when I heard what sounded like a dire lion barking somewhere else in the room. Heedless of my lack of clothing, I rolled off the slab and sought cover. I found a small lit crystal was hanging around my neck on a leather lace chain and grasped it within my fist to douse the light. My reaction was beyond what was needed apparently because I found myself in the company of several others apparently just arisen on the slabs. The symbols on the stone block walls honoring Ilmater, Kelemvor and Jergal, seemed to identify this as a morgue.

We were all naked but for the crystals on the leather necklaces and few if any of us seemed concerned. Being from Waterdeep, where men and women share the wonderful steamed bath houses, nudity fazes me little, but I understand there are some societies where shared nudity is not so accepted. There was some chatting and it soon turned out that we all had recollections of death experiences. My new comrades include:
--------Aedron, a very large male with white hair and bluish tinged skin. I would guess him as having a fair amount of frost giant blood. My first thought was that he could be the little brother of Harshnag of the Grey Hands in Waterdeep. Not quite as rough looking as Harshnag though. Aedron said that he had met his end falling through a frozen bog.
--------Nia, a slender yet well “padded” woman of impressive grace. She seems quite definitely Sembian. Her name is much longer and quite lyrical but I have no chance of recalling it all correctly so Nia will suffice. At one point she manifested a blade of energy from her hand. No moonblade this. It was the size and shape of a shortsword and she called it her mind blade. Her recollection of her last moments seemed to boil down to a leap for freedom that ended badly because of a reluctant coach driver.
--------Sa’d, a halfling male and a familiar face to me. For a season or so we were both in the mercenary company known as Jett’s Rangers. He still had that unbelievably long scarf of his. Makes him look like a diminutive multicolored woolen mummy. He didn’t care to discuss his final moments.
--------Kaliki, a young female human with a unicorn shaped tattoo, or possibly a birth mark, over her heart. Looked remarkably similar to the symbol of Mielikki actually. The young woman also seems to dye her hair as it had an off color streak. Her recollection of the incidents leading to her death seemed to include prominently someone she called Goat Boy.
--------Mr. Brambletongue, a young male who I at first thought to be human. Upon some observation though I would guess him as a youngish gnome. He and Kaliki claim each other as brother and sister although they do admit that she found him when they were young. The story of their passing seems to include caged oliphants and they both blame the other for their demise.
--------Meg, a rawboned human female. At least, I assume she is human. Never got that close a look at her truthfully. She strings a bow as big as Aedron and carries herself like somebody who knows her way about things.

There turned out to be stone chests at the foot of the slabs upon which we awoke. It was quickly noticed that there was an impression in the lid that looked the right size and shape to accept the crystals around our necks. Inserting the crystals did indeed open the stone lids, revealing the adventuring gear of each of us. Except we all found there had been some substitutions. Mainly, our armor and primary weapons had been substituted with similar but not identical items. In all cases the substitutions seemed to be superior. I didn’t look too closely at the others’ belongings as I was entranced by what I found in my own stone storage box. My breastplate was replaced by a suit of master crafted banded mail which bore some symbols of Selune and was made of a pearlescent white metal. I’m not sure but the metal looks similar to some items I’ve seen that were touched by Moonfire. My mace was replaced with a heavy aspergillum in the style of a Moon’s Hand mace, again of master work quality, and was not only silvered but even sounded to be full of holy water.

Aedron was the first fully dressed and the first to explore the stairway that led upwards. He returned to say that he had heard somebody praying beyond the door at the top of the stairs. We were discussing what to do next when we heard the door above open and footsteps descending. A young acolyte of Ilmater descended to the morgue and seemed quite stunned to see us all alive and well. He said that a man known as Arben had brought in several body sized bundles several days ago. This Arben is an ally of their temple and they allowed him access to their facilities. He is thought to be somewhat touched in the head so they thought nothing of his actions.

The acolyte took us upstairs to see his master since he wasn’t sure where to find Arben at the moment. We were indeed within a temple dedicated to the Martyred One. We passed a sick room along the way and we stopped to offer help when we heard cries of pain from within. The afflicted proved to be a young girl. Her parents were huddled together near her sickbed, obviously concerned for their child. There was nothing I could do to help the girl and none of us recognized the symptoms racking the girl. At that moment the girl was racked with extreme spasms that pulled her body like a bow, leaving only her heels and the back of her head touching the bed. With one final gasp, the girl collapsed. As we moved to check her for signs of vitality the girl’s eyes and mouth opened and an intense light beamed forth. The girl’s body was then consumed in a flash of light and bluish energy, leaving behind only a large glowing blue diamond. It was the most astounding thing. I admit that I have never seen nor heard of anything like this.

The parents were of course overcome with grief and we followed the acolyte to the office of the temple’s master priest. The master had no time for us as he went to console the parents. We were asking the acolyte for more information about Arben when we heard some commotion from the stair well leading down to the morgue room. It also sounded like there might have been some kind of terrible cackling laughter. Kaliki began to play and sing, working words into her song to explain that she was stopping the cackling from scaring us down to the depths of our soul.

We descended the stairs to find the morgue occupied by a small crowd of skeletons. These did not appear to be normal undead however. It wasn’t terribly easy to spot but there was some kind of blue energy crackling along the skeletons’ bones. Nia was the first to enter combat with the skeletons and find out one of their secrets. The bony fingers of one skeleton tore into her, opening an obvious wound. But the blue energy then coursed into the wound and healed it completely.

There was a severe lack of bludgeoning weapons among us so the battle went longer than anticipated. When I was able to enter the fray I positioned myself where I thought I would have line of effect to the greatest number of the undead and then called upon the power of Selune to send them back to their rest. This is when we got our second great surprise of this encounter. I felt that I had channeled the energy of my faith quite successfully and expected the skeletons to cower away. Instead, the closest one kneeled to me and the rest turned as if awaiting orders. Thinking on the fly, I took advantage of what appeared to be a Turning attempt turning into a successful Rebuke and told the skeletons to go away. They took my orders and gathered themselves in a corner. They were mindless husks with no determination of their own. Nia and Aedron pummeled the things while I tried to figure out what to do. A concealed door nearby opened and several more skeletons entered the fray. The skeletons couldn’t hurt each other so I left the newest entrants to Aedron and Nia’s capable hands and told the rest to begin digging through the morgue wall by charging it with their heads. Young Mr. Brambletongue cast an area of silence over the skeletons in the corner so that more attention could be focused on those coming through the concealed door. Handing my mace over to Aedron helped things along immensely in mopping up the violent skeletons.

Behind the concealed door proved to be an entrance to the temple catacombs. We went seeking more of the temple staff so that we might collect some bludgeoning weapons in preparation for exploring the catacombs. It was our belief at the time that Arben may have somehow become trapped there. The acolyte returned with weapons and two of the temple guards. We found no more undead in the catacombs and only very little trace that Arben had ever been there. Aedron spotted some tracks in the dust that were not from skeletal feet. Since the catacombs were near maximum capacity it was not difficult to find the niches where the skeletons we fought had climbed forth.

We found a padded velvet tray that looked to have been dropped near the end of the human sized boot tracks in the dust. Our young acolyte believed he saw Arben descend the morgue stairs with that same tray some time earlier. His recollection was unclear but he believed that there were at least eight blue diamonds on the tray but he believes no more than eleven at the most. The tray was completely empty when we found it. We began to wonder if the diamonds might have been used to return our lives to us.

The leader of the temple guard, Alphus, led us to the head priest’s office to await him. When he arrives he says that the people at this temple don’t really know where to find Arben. He is a wanderer and thought to be slightly crazy, although not in a maniacal way. The temple master said that he now believes that Arben might know something about the disease or curse that is turning people into these blue diamonds and would ask us to investigate. We all agreed that this seemed a worthy cause. The temple master said that the best way to possibly find Arben may be to consult a sage called Zolven. This Zolven fellow is a mage who has been trapped within a section of his tower for some time now. Apparently this is an unseen consequence of a mage fight gone wrong. His life was saved but now he is trapped in time and cannot leave a certain area of his tower. Zolven has since become a noted sage.

The temple master says that news has reached them that would seem to indicate that this blue diamond curse is spreading. The parents of the girl we saw earlier received a letter from their home village of Hillcrest which is at the foot of the Galena Mountains several days travel to the north-west. The letter mentioned several more cases of sickness with the same symptoms as the girl. The priests here believe that this is neither a natural disease nor a curse. Does that mean it may be some combination of both? Again, the temple master asked if we would investigate and we agreed.

We enquired about provisions and mounts and were told that Alphus would show us around the town. However, we ran into two possible problems with mounts. Alphus says that horses are going for a premium price at the moment because caravan season is starting up and Aedron interjected that few horses are strong enough to carry him. From his size, that doesn’t surprise me. However, we feel that we can most likely get along with only a pack horse or two. Mainly, we need a way to pack along tents and provisions without leaving ourselves totally over encumbered.

Just as we left the temple of Lathander, the most astounding thing happened. Little Sa'd was flipping that crystal coin of his, as has been his habit for as long as I've known him. But this time when he caught it he simply -POOFED- into a pile of dust. I remember that he used to disappear on occassion when we were in Jett's Rangers, but we always just assumed he wandered off when something caught his fancy and returned when he was done. Quite disquieting actually, I must say.

I believe that’s all I have time to recount at this time. By the Lady’s grace, I will write again before long.

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