Friday, March 09, 2007

Dorben, entry 33 ---1st Eleasis--- Tragedy, elation and further exploration

*****

Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
1st Eleasis, The Year of the Haunting

---As we had thought, the dreams did come. I do believe what was seen is important for the General to know; however, it does not seem to be of immediate concern.

The dream vision began in complete white out conditions. There was a feeling of height even though there was truly no point of reference from which to judge. There was a feeling of cold that cut to the bone. The vision hovered for some time within the middle of what could only be thought to be a blizzard driven by what would seem to be incredibly powerful winds. Then suddenly, for just a moment, the wind stopped completely and then was replaced by what would seem to be the normal wind force expected in the mountains. The snow continued to fall but visibility cleared somewhat. Below, I could just make out some sort of base camp or possibly a small tent city at the base of the cliff face.

The sound of howling winds woke me from the dream vision. It took a moment to realize the tempest was in the real world and not from the dream. The storm we had been expecting had arrived even earlier than predicted. I am gratified that the kingdom was warned ahead of time to prepare for this coming tempest and that we were able to bring needed supplies to our Snow Tiger allies in time.

The keening of the wind was not the only noise that had awakened us however. Illandria and Aedron had detected the sounds of an avian war cry from without and we were roused to investigate. As Illandria had voiced her suspicion, the cry was coming from her companion, Onyx. The large raven had evidently restored the flow of time upon the gatehouse rooftop, most likely simply from following her instincts to find the highest perch. I was attempting to don my armor as hastily as possible, with the assistance of Sa’d, and heard Illandria call to Onyx as soon as she moved out to the wall battlements.

Illandria had called out a moment earlier that Onyx had been grievously struck and I had abandoned my armor and cast Shield of Faith to join the fray more quickly. The next sound heard was the terrible, muffled sound of hollow bones snapping and tissues rent asunder as Onyx was virtually torn apart before her mistress’s eyes. I was mere steps away when Onyx was struck that final blow and I entertained hopes of being able to reach Onyx in time to grab hold of any possible last whisper of life, but I was too late. Her attackers had torn poor Onyx nearly in twain and there was naught I could do for her, other than assist the rest of our company in seeking revenge for her passing.

The attackers turned out to be fiendish dire bats the size of cart horses and twice as nasty. It seemed that they had judged Onyx the only threat and had begun to withdraw to their aerie after striking her down. We would have none of that. Onyx was one of us and there was blood to pay. The rest of the bats had already put the bulk of the gatehouse roof between we and they, but one lone straggler was still within immediate reach. That rotter quickly felt the bite of one of Aedron’s thrown ice climbing axes but still remained aloft and climbing. Nia leapt from the battlement to the beast’s back; calling out “For Onyx!” as she crossed the gap. Or that could have come from my lips. I am unclear as to the particulars of that moment. A crystallized vision of dead bats paying for their attack upon our little comrade seemed our only driving factor for the nonce. I did find presence of mind to cast Fly in hopes of either assisting Nia with the kill or facilitating her soon to be inevitable descent. I was able to cross the divide between us barely in the nick of time. Nia had struck the fatal blow and leapt away into the night sky and into my awaiting arms as the bat’s carcass fell to the ground below.

Illandria seemed grief stricken as she gathered the remains of her fallen little friend and tenderly wrapped them within a thin blanket. As I mentioned, we had the scent of revenge in our noses at this point and quickly came to a plan for an assault upon the aviary to rid ourselves of the loathsome fiend-bats. I kept my Fly spell active as I was assisted in donning my armor and Sa’d then cast his Fly spell upon Aedron. Aedron was easily able to carry Illandria and Meg aloft while I ferried Nia and Sa’d to the roof level. Our initial attack was planned as a swift strike. Aedron and I debarked our passengers only moments before the covey of bats flew out from the aviary to meet us. We had the element of surprise with us and the fiend-bats quickly fell before our onslaught.

As we were clearing the carcasses from the field, I was struck with a sudden thought. Some of the bones of these large bats could be made into scroll tubes that should be very resistant to fire due to their fiendish origin. My friends pointed out that the creatures’ hides might also be sought after for book binding leather for the same reasons. We thought there might be a good deal more uses as well and stacked the cadavers in the lee of an aviary wall so that we might process them later. At the moment, we were more concerned with finishing exploration of the aviary so that we might return to our beds. After all, it seemed the wind and cold blowing in could preserve the bodies fairly well. We found the aviary to be essentially a barn missing most of one wall, providing shelter while allowing the passage of rather large wing spans. We found no sign of the large creature with the long thin beak that we had caught a glimpse of earlier. Perhaps it had been fighting the bats when time stopped for them and simply fled when time returned.

We did find that the bats, or very likely their fiendish orc riders, had stashed a bit of treasure within their lair. Among the detritus we were able to find what has proved to be a Bag of Holding containing an assortment of mundane adventuring equipment. Quite a nice find. There was also a matched set of 16 black star sapphires with a star ruby of the same cut but double the size. One would assume that somewhere in the world is a rather nice necklace bereft of all its stones. There was also a silver ring set with a small clear gemstone that we ascertained held some magic. As soon as possible, we will check these things more closely, along with what we liberated from the orcs last eve. But now, we wish to grasp what sleep remains to us and face the coming day afresh. And thus, I come to the present moment. It seems hard to believe that it has been little more than an hour since the howling winds awoke us. By my Lady’s grace, I will write again soon.

*****

Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
1st Eleasis, continued


---Upon rising, all of our company felt that we might benefit from further training and pursued the same. Our passage from our tower to the main body of the Keep would have been buffeted by high winds and snow, the beginnings of the blizzard to come, if not for Aedron’s ability to shape snow to his will. A tunnel through the driving snow traveled with us as we made our way across the courtyard. We found the interior of the Main Hall had changed only little from when we had faced Blackblades there. Where we had last found simply the double doors of the entry hall, we found a Great Entry had been added. We entered to find a grand stair rising in a curving sweep to either side, ending before the entry doors with which we were already familiar. It was really quite stunning, all done in the same blue veined white marble.

Beyond the interior doors we found areas we had already explored; luckily with no sign of Blackblades as far as we could find. We found quite a number of the animated candle flames congregated at the peak of the Grand Entry Hall’s ceiling. The first impression that struck me was of a dancing chandelier. One of the flames zipped down from their assemblage and appeared to be waiting to accompany us within to light our way.

As we returned from our errand within the Keep, a whole flock of the animate flames swooped down and swarmed about the Bag of Holding. Illandria and Nia received minor burns trying to fend off the flames before the Bag was dropped. We observed as the flames combined and moved about in what might have been an elaborate pattern of some type, or might have not. The magical bag was consumed but we found ourselves unconcerned about that loss in light of what we had just gained. For some reason the flames had sought out the remains of Onyx and we observed while mundane appearing flames mixed with what appeared to be dark shot flames until only the dark flames remained. A bird shaped fire leapt up from the ashes and then the flames fell away to reveal Onyx restored and Onyx changed. Her feathers were an even glossier black and one could see fire flickering within. Illandria used a Speak With Animals enchantment to speak with her friend about this development. Apparently, the response from Onyx was that she just couldn’t leave Illandria alone so soon. Which was a good enough response for us. We were simply thankful that our fallen comrade had returned.

Upon our return to the curtain wall tower we have been using for our Base, we took enough time for Meg to add an Identify spell to her repertoire for the day. Our next intention was to face the Ogre Magus and we had obtained a fine bastard sword from one of the fiendish orcs which we thought might be quite useful as a secondary weapon for Illandria. After the memorization, prepping and casting, Meg announced that the grey bladed sword was apparently a Duskblade. She further explained that it held several enchantments and was essentially a non-aligned, dark themed derivation of a Sunblade. Several of us had some knowledge of the Sunblades and this seemed a fortuitous find. Illandria is not often drawn into melee, but now she was armed with a weapon that could be quite helpful in that and other endeavors. Our concerns that the Duskblade might carry evil influence were quickly alleviated and we carried on with the day.

We left the entry door and cage door to the storage locker open for a possible retreat and made use of a few spells in preparation for facing the Ogre Magus. I actually was given the first salvo in our attack, using a Faerie Fire spell to hopefully counter any shape shifting or invisibility on the creature’s part. My spell was unable to penetrate the Ogre’s magical defenses but any abilities it might have used to confuse us were rapidly rendered moot by Illandria’s flashing bow. Her initial volley of shafts riddled the creature through multiple vulnerable points and rendered it quite dead right on the spot. Our next move was to continue exploring the gatehouse while our preparatory spells were still active. It was only later that we would realize the mistake we had made. It had completely slipped our minds that the ogre magi are known as a regenerating species. When we returned later to the gatehouse, it appeared that the magus had departed. I know I would certainly have to think more than twice about returning to a place where I had received such a thorny welcome as Illandria granted to our blue skinned intruder.

As I said, we left the storage cage behind and quickly made our way to the only room yet to be explored on the third floor. Short work was made of the door and attempted to make entry. Our entrance was greeted with an airborne cream pie, some sort of banana I am fairly certain, that evidently felt the need to embrace my face. From the very short glimpse I caught through the rapidly melting cream, it appeared that the delectable missile had been propelled by some sort of tiny fae creature. On the bright side, the pie was fairly tasty and I was treated to the incomparable sensation of Nia licking the last vestiges of the delicacy from my ear. The girl is exuberant and talented. Oh so talented.

The room proved to hold little of interest and so we proceeded down to the second floor, the first to span the distance between the two sides of the gatehouse. Again, the layout of the floor would not only allow troops holding the building to go about their duties but would also delay the advance of any invading troops. From all appearances, this floor had already been explored by our barbarian comrades. With nothing to delay us on the second floor, we soon found ourselves entering the ground floor where we had recently encountered the void wraiths and the animate parchment monster. No such creatures were to be found present upon this visit however. The last few rooms that we had not cleared upon our earlier venture proved to be mostly storage areas.

Having finally “claimed” the gatehouse to our immediate satisfaction, we decided it was time to expand our horizons, as it were. After a bit of deliberation we decided that our next target would be the wall tower directly to the far side of the gatehouse. It seems logical to expand our searches equally. We made our way across the courtyard to the ground floor entry of the tower in question. We had thought to make our way along the wall catwalk but for one problem. At present the tower has only its base floor. In fact, it is a slightly odd site considering that the tower is presently shorter than the wall, giving the slightly comical impression of a smile with a missing tooth.

The entry door was cleared as has become our standard practice and I unlocked the door. Sa’d attempted to open the door without breaking the threshold but was unsuccessful. We were immediately greeted by the ghost of a soldier. There was only a moment for us to register the presence of the ghost before it reacted to our intrusion. The apparition drew its greatsword, took up an engarde stance and gestured strongly and emphatically toward the door, which slammed in our faces.

This interruption gave us time to quickly formulate a bit of a plan. The main point of the plan was for all of us to activate the Life’s Grace ability granted from my armor so as to protect against the soul wrenching attacks of the ghost. The tertiary of the plan was for me to agree to not Turn the thing except as a last resort so that it would not simply flee through the nearest solid surface. The activation of Life’s Grace proved to be a very good idea since the ghost’s first attack would have almost certainly done grievous harm to any or all of us. It was while the ghostly soldier was attempting to scare the life out of us that I, and possibly others, noticed something. It appeared that the make of the apparition’s armor was fairly similar from that worn by Nia’s friends amongst the city guards. The other realization on my part was that this soldier seemed more intent on guarding the tower than in actually attacking us, which to me suggested the spirit of a fallen defender. Considering that we had from all evidence been accepted as the current lords and ladies of the Keep, I decided to try something. In Damaran, and using my best command voice I snapped an order, “Soldier, stand at attention!” The apparition responded as a good soldier, as if he had only just recognized his commander. I believe Nia was the first to best twig to the situation and she called out to tell the soldier that we were there to relieve him; his duty was done. I called out just that and it certainly seemed to gain the result we had been wanting. I believe I detected just a hint of relief pass over the ghost’s face as it faded from view.

A good and thorough search turned up little if anything of interest in the tower base. We relocked the tower and made our way back to the gatehouse by way of our own basecamp tower. We found an interesting “gift” left for us outside the door of our base; several bundles of fiendish dire bat fur and bones. It seemed the carcasses of the creatures had been claimed by our tribal comrades and perfectly rendered of all edible content. We all agreed that this seemed to be an agreeable relationship. If the members of the Snow Tiger tribe can eat such fare, so much the better, since now the meat will not go to waste. It is not as if any of us were going to risk eating fiendish meat after all.

And so we have returned to the upper floor of the gatehouse once again. The storm still rages outside. The winds continue to grow in strength and the accumulation of snow does not seem to have slackened in the least. Illandria has begun laying out the fiendish dire bat skins and bones to dry in the large garrison room. I wonder if the dryness and cold will help or hinder her efforts. Either way, I trust to her skill in leather craft. We plan to use what is left of the evening to begin an inventory of the supplies in the storage cage and the security locker. Even from just a cursory glance, it is easy to see that the supplies are largely what one would expect to need for the defense and maintenance of a well appointed keep. But we wish to collect more detail and create a list so that we know what we have, how much and where. After all, if the gods are seemingly supplying us with a great deal of equipment then it seems reasonable to think that we may have need of any or all of it and knowing how to lay one’s hands on one specific item at a moments notice might prove invaluable.

We have secured the bits of the Keep at our disposal against the storm; “battening down the hatches” as the sailors might say. Even though normal cold cannot hurt us, thanks to Aedron’s armor and our Soulbond, it is still more comfortable to be able to snuggle close to a good fire. The inventory duty calls, and then to bed. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

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