Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
-Addendum, 12th Flamerule, The Year of the Haunting
---Kaliki had the unfortunate luck to be standing just behind Aedron as he turned to flee from Faergrim’s presence. Just returning from her visit with the druid circle, she had no chance to avoid his headlong flight. Rather than trampling her to the ground, Aedron scooped her into his arms and continued on his way. Nia tried her best to keep up with Aedron’s speed but soon flagged.
The rest of us had followed at a slightly more sedate pace with the horses, picking up Nia along the way. Aedron’s fearful race had been cut short when he came to the river. Kaliki was singing to calm him by the time we caught up to them on the riverbank. Aedron was convinced that he had been cursed because he had chosen to pursue a different path than he had originally set out upon in life. He believed that being saddled with Faergrim as a teacher was some sort of curse rather than a strange coincidence. We tried out best to alleviate his fears. I am unsure as to how well we may have done with our talk since we were soon to be interrupted.
The “interruption” as it turned out, was a magic circle forming in the air not far from where we were all gathered. In admiration for my comrades’ teamwork, we all quickly retreated to a more defensible position, spread out and readied ourselves to face whatever was apparently forcing its way through the fabric of reality. Our tribulations were soon alleviated as Euphestas came walking through the rift in the air, accompanied by a woman for whom the words “striking appearance” don’t nearly do justice. The lady was tall and very pale; in fact, purely white from head to toe. Claw gashes, still bleeding, marred the pale beauty of her face however. I thought to offer healing aid to one who appeared to be a newfound ally but brought myself up short when I recognized just what type of wound the unfortunate lady suffered under. It was the extreme darkness of the blood that gave me the final clue. The poor lass bore the mark of one who has fought demons in the flesh; a cursed demon mark wound. The deuced things never stop bleeding completely. The body forever trying to purge itself of the abyssal taint left behind from the touch of demonic claws. The woman showed no sign of the constant stinging pain that must afflict her day to day.
Introductions were made all around and we found that the woman we had just made the association of was known as Mika, the White Witch. Euphestas said that Zolven had sent him to Mika with a message and then Mika had brought the two of them here to us. Lady Mika informed us that she had come here with the express purpose of finding out what had happened to her former comrade, Kord. We informed her of Kord’s recent return to military service. Her reply was that this information was an impossibility. She seemed very sure of which she spoke when she said that Kord would not do such a thing. She did not elaborate as to why Kord might refuse military service. I would assume that story is Kord’s to tell. When we explained to Mika the current circumstances which had led to Kord relinquishing Aedron’s training to Faergrim, we got the most peculiar response. She seemed to become very angry at the mere mention of Faergrim’s name. She then went on to explain her anger.
Mika informed us that Faergrim had been the doom of many great warriors over the years. And she did not simply mean that having learned great skill, these warriors then sought out greater risks that led to their deaths. She meant it literally. She explained that Faergrim used his students to attempt to fulfill his own failed quest. He would train his students and they would go on to become warriors of great renown. And that, Mika explained, was when they were doomed. It seems that when his student had reached the very peak of their fighting prowess, Faergrim would seek them out and possess them so that he could once again physically assault some demon’s fortress in the Abyss. I can say that none of us was pleased to hear this news. We weren’t sure whom we were more upset with, Faergrim or Kord. Mika told us that she was fairly certain that Kord hadn’t had much choice in the matter. When Mika voiced a desire to confront Faergrim we told her that Faergrim had most recently been keeping within close proximity of Aedron. A rather icy smile crossed her face and she took a moment to look rather intently around the area. Her smile turned to one of triumph as she stopped and cast a rather violent spell at what appeared to all of us to be nothing more than open air. She then said very matter of factly that Faergrim would not be a problem for several days.
After lady Mika had disposed of our betraying ghost problem, we returned to Bloodstone to confront Kord. We found the door locked but it was a matter of short work, pun not intended, for Sa’d. We entered to find the place in some disarray. It appeared that Kord had left somewhat in haste some time within that last half day or so. We searched for clues and Illandria found a secret door that opened onto a hidden bedroom. A very sparse affair; really little more than an overlarge closet with a bed. It seemed that Kord, or maybe Faergrim within Kord, had been busy. The entirety of the walls, and even the bed, were covered with writing. None of us could make mill of it so Sa’d cast a Comprehend Languages spell and took another look. Comprehension came with a cost as my little friend was struck with a headache that staggered him slightly. I believe I overheard him mumble “At least I’m not insane” under his breath as he shook off what I can only assume was a feeling of nausea. At least that is my assumption now that I know he was looking at writings in the Abyssal language. Sa’d read for only a few moments before he said that we had to leave immediately, if not sooner.
We made all haste to our mounts and left the environs of the city. As we rode, Sa’d asked me to bring forth the key to the haunted Keep. It seems that the writing upon the walls made some rambling reference to finding a great source of power north west of the city. Believing that it could only be a gateway to the Abyss, Kord had gone there to take the fight to the lower realms. As we rode, we had Euphestas hold onto the key as we used it to point our way. He and Aedron were the only ones amongst us who had not touched the key and left their impression upon its form. There had been a discussion amongst us at an earlier time to leave one of untouched by the key and Aedron had volunteered. We felt some tribulations about a possible curse or some such and felt it best to leave one of our number “on the outside” as it were in case of such an eventuality. As to what Aedron might do to save the rest of us was unclear but I think that question had escaped most of our thoughts at the time.
The Keep was right where we had left it, sitting upon its bluff overlooking the river. It did look somewhat different however. The central area of the Keep still seemed as we had left it but the areas to either side seemed to have collapsed. Stranger than that, it appeared that the rubble had been lying there for more than the passing of one full year at the least. We secured the horses in a copse of scrub trees a distance from the Keep and approached on foot. Illandria found tracks of a single humanoid, shod and most likely male, leading to the Keep. She believed them to be only several hours old. Thinking these were most likely the tracks of Kord, we made great haste to enter the Keep.
Knowing not who or what might await us around any corner, we explored with cautious haste. The tracks led us toward one side of the keep and we followed. The tracks led us to a door leading to one of the ruined sections. The door was opened to reveal a curtain of light. Looking within, our forward scouts saw a tableau of several orcs seemingly frozen in place in a completely intact room. If we were to believe what we had seen from outside, this room should have been naught but a pile of collapsed stone. But it was complete and intact. It seemed that some illusion was masking parts of the Keep. My mind wondered as to what other secrets might be revealed as we explored. I know not how it came to pass but the light curtain was breached before we were able to ready ourselves and the orcs began to move. We surged forward to join combat. Nia blasted a good deal of the orcs to oblivion with some type of psionic lightning attack. Our archers began firing and at least one of their archers fired back. Aedron seemed confused; as if he could not fathom why the rest of us were all rushing into the room. It was confusing and vexing to see our great warrior hesitate.
Combat was joined, those towards the front gaining the room more quickly. I had been given the chore of covering our rear flank as we explored and so it took me a bit longer. It became obvious that for some reason Aedron truly could not see the fight taking place within the room. It was only then, as I stood with my good comrades around me and readied to charge into the fray that something occurred to me. Aedron could not see the orcs and Aedron was the only one amongst us who had not touched the key. It was the only explanation I could think of and I called out to Euphestas and Aedron, to tell them that Aedron MUST touch the key. From the looks passing amongst my comrades, I believe I may not have been the only one to make the connection.
Euphestas had cast a Grease spell just within the doorway to keep the orcs at bay until our forces could get organized. I saw a blur of something white at the edge of my vision as I charged into the room. As my Lady of Silver guides my way, the Grease spell did not hinder my steps in the least and the first orc I confronted seemed a bit surprised when I slammed him backwards to clear the entryway so that my comrades might enter. I was soon to learn that Aedron’s little furry friend had fetched the key from Euphestas and returned it to Aedron. As soon as he touched the key, Aedron was able to see the cleared room beyond the doorway and the fight ensuing within. Not one to shy from combat, Aedron quickly entered the fray.
The orcs numbers had been severely whittled down by Nia’s initial lightning blast, leaving the stronger orcs almost untouched however. One among them was a divine caster of some type. Considering the proclivities of the orcish cults, I believe a profane caster would be the much more accurate term. It would seem the troupe we were facing had been the commanders, and quite tough they were too. Those Nia had taken out early in the fight had more than likely been little more than thugs no doubt. I remember little of the details once I was engaged in full combat. I do remember having to pull back to heal myself quickly at one point. The fight was difficult and bloody. The profane caster was the last to fall.