AD&D - New World

61: Descent Into the Depths of the Urth
our heroes escape the chaos storm...

The Revengers have divided.

Ervendio, Bea, and Mildred leave the castle to find and recruit the remaining residents of the Grimlands — Maeve, Ursula, Svendar, and the druids of the Sanctuary — before leaving the Chaos Storm for good. With Ervendion’s spells, they have an easy march. Ursula, heartbroken over the death of her son Petar, requests that they recover her son’s antler-bone dagger, which they recover from Teks’s buried body. Embracing their role as the hornblowers, they convince the druids to return to the castle with them, and to escape this cursed land before it is destroyed.

Back at the castle, Bertram, Golgaraz, and Valeria wait for their friends’ return. Moving about the castle to avoid detection, Bertram witnesses Tristen enter a room as a living man at sunset, only to emerge as a ghost. When the rest of the Revengers return, days later, they manage to gain access to this hidden sanctuary, only to find it covered in magical, unbreakable, fireproof webs. Unable to safely enter the room, the Revengers decide to leave the castle — and the Chaos Storm — altogether.

The retrieval of this piece of the rod has cost the lives of two Revengers and separated them from Minja by centuries. But they have gained new allies, and are one step closer to restoring the Rod of 7 Parts.

The Revengers escape the castle and the storm through a bolted exit in the castle’s deepest cavern. They pass through the veil of the storm and return to their own time — though now they must wander through the Underdark, a dark and lightless world of strange new dangers.

One of their new druid allies falls and dies as they descend the mile-long tunnel into the depths of the urth, but the rest of the party make it to the bottom through featherfall and Tenser’s floating disc. They find themselves in a vast cavern and tunnel. They make camp, and finally put the urthly remains of Jongle, their friend, brother, and fellow Revenger, to rest. Ervendio leads the ceremony, quietly honoring Jongle with the full rites of an elven funeral.

In the morning — as best they can tell in this sunless land — the Revengers start their journey. Ervendio again helps them with easy march, and after several miles in the tunnel they find a guardpost held by several drow — dark elves. Bertram’s comprehend languages allows him to understand their undercommon speech, and a common-speaking guard named Droth offers to let them pass the post at a cost of 1,000 platinum. As they other guards debate whether to simply murder the party, Mildred casts charm person on Droth. Tempers flare and the male guards, led by Droth, seem on the verge of battling the female drow — allowing the Revengers to slip past unnoticed.

The Revengers camp again, and the next day continue further down the tunnel. They notice a group of a dozen rats fleeing from them, heading further down the tunnel — Valeria catches one and Mildred’s animal friendship endears it to her. The rat’s name is Carol and it tells Mildred that the others have gone on to warn some tentacle-faced creatures up ahead that strangers are approaching. Interpreting the map discovered by Bertram, Valeria realizes that if they backtrack and take a side-passage near the drow guards, they can sidestep these creatures entirely. Ervendio — recognizing their description — advises that they do so.

The party returns the guard post and prepares to sneak past the drow there. Bertram casts invisibility on about half of their large group, and when Bea attempts the same she experiences a wild surge — instead of another invisibility spell, it causes Ervendio and Valeria’s suspicions of arcane magic-users to deepen.

The Revengers and their retinue of lost druids, partly invisible, prepare to slip past the drow guards as best they can….

XP
Group Awards
Escaping the Chaos Storm, 12,000
A Funeral for Jongle, 6,000
Drow Guardpost, 4225

Group Total, 22,225. Individual Award, 3705

Bea 4905 (Fireballed A Bed 1200, Group 3705)
Bertram 4905 (Puts Hair On Your Chest 1200, Group 3705)
Ervendio 4905 (Elven Rites 1200, Group 3705)
*Golgaraz*4905 (Golgaraz’s Floating Disc 1200, Group 3705)
Mildred 4905 (Drow Charmer 1200, Group 3705)
Valeria 4905 (You Would’ve Been A Great Dad 1200, Group 3705)

LOOT
identified: 2 potions of healing

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F is for Figg

Bertram_-_Welles_.jpg

It’s been said “A magician is just an actor, playing the part of a magician.” It has also been said: “Art is a lie, that makes us realize the truth.” If anything, as I’ve aged I’ve found it harder to distinguish the two. I think this was something Jongle understood deeply, and perhaps it was why it was so hard to cut through to the man’s core. He understood that life is absurd, and pointed out how ludicrous it is that we go about our lives trying to pretend otherwise.

Much of my job in the Service was trying to discern truth from lies, and at the same time, disseminating my own falsehoods, forgeries, and fakes. For us both, truth was a weapon that the lies enabled us to wield. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found there to be only a couple truths that cut through all the clutter in life. A selfless act of love, is one. You can dilute it, or cast doubt on it, but in the moment—there is nothing like it in the Universe. It has an aura, a reddish pink as the setting sun.

For the Grimlanders, this jumbled timeline might be all they remember, all they care to know. Were there a way to restore it, instead of dooming it to the storm, we might find hope that life can exist in the void. And even if I am trapped here, never to see my friends or family again, I would know that I tried to save these people. Perhaps that is what Mildred sought to do as well? Or Lord ApBlanc? But is this the cost of trying to cheat death? A cursed land and a bedevilled mind? I know the answer already, for I’ve seen it before on Azaltine’s apoplectic visage.

I’ve never been comfortable being an arbiter of life and death. Acceptable losses. The fog of war. Call it what you will, but damnit, don’t these people deserve a choice if we can give them one? If i could go back to the Moon, rewrite what happened at Greywood Estates, I would. And somehow, I have been able to survive these mistakes. Those around me haven’t been so lucky.

Because I am a coward.
Because I am a fool.
Because I was naive.
Because I treated people like pawns.

But I can still change that, I can still try to be more like a man of the Twelve Barrows. We refugees have had to decide; stay and fight, or run and live.

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60: Mildred the Mad
our heroes meet a familiar new friend

In the Lord’s Treasury, Bertram investigates the pedestals and the Revengers take possession of the lord’s treasure. Golgaraz takes possession of lex, the sixth piece of the Rod of 7 Parts. Golgaraz learns that lex can slow time, and has been tapped into the power of the cursed castle itself to create this island of (relative) safety in the middle of the chaos storm itself. If it leaves the castle time will accelerate, the eye of the storm will collapse, and all within it may perish.

Ervendio communes with the kuraphai and meditates on the horn of the sacred grove. He learns the horn will “open a window in time” if blown; he interprets this to mean it will allow them to return to their proper time period. Chow-Chow and Ervendio develop a friendly, if third-person repartee. Valeria reminds Chow-Chow he is a good boy. Chow-Chow asks Valeria to tell Ervendio that the elf is also a good boy.

Even as they stand still in the Lord’s Treasury, the Revengers notice a time shift — the chests full of treasure are emptied, cobwebs appear, and a door that had not been there is now there. The party moves through it — Golgaraz triggers another pit trap, but is saved by Ervendio’s feather fall — and they discover a large, natural cavern.

There is a chasm and cracks in the floor, and yellow mist rises from them. A group of leechmouths are circled around a hunch-backed, hideous mongrelwoman — it is Mildred the Mad, a strange outcast druid of the badlands. Valeria takes an attack stance; the others cast defensive spells. A battle is joined!

Bea immediately experiences a wild surge — her left hand turns into a hawk’s talon. The leechmouths are quickly dispatched — two survive and are put into a 20-foot-deep pit, one is tied up and taken prisoner by Valeria, and one of the fallen is animated by Mildred. Its name is Roger, and it follows Mildred as a mindless servant.

Mildred! Is this the same Mildred the Frowzywig that started this adventure with our heroes so long ago? The one whose name was taken as inspiration for Mildred’s Revengers? It is unclear. Mildred the Mad — this Mildred — has no recollection of such things. She has lived her entire life here, in the chaos storm, and has learned to use its time-shifting to her advantage, creating a reputation among the leechmouths and the druids of Sanctuary as a strange and dangerous creature, though one who can sometimes be allied with. Yet she speaks of a mysterious dark lord, just as the Frowzywig did. This Mildred does not recall meeting Bea in the branches of Yggdrasil and sending her here, but she does have an interest in the pieces of the rod the Revengers are collecting. Mildred joins with our heroes — for now — and Valeria informs her that the body of her father, which they are still carrying with them, is strictly off limits when it comes to animating dead.

In the large cavern, the Revengers discover a large door in the floor — round, bolted shut on this side — that supposedly leads to tunnels that could take them out and under the chaos storm itself. This manner of exit would not resolve the curse of this castle, but with the piece of the rod in hand, is the castle’s curse even their responsibility?

The Revengers debate splitting up and gathering some of the druids and other innocents of the Grimlands outside, bringing them here, and escaping through these tunnels. But Ervendio wants to stay together and use the horn to escape. Bertram seems to feel there is much left undone in this land.

The Revengers finally rest for a few hours, taking refuge in a comfortable, softly-lit study. They briefly consider opening a book of certain vile darknesses, but Valeria tosses it into the chasm of yellow mist instead. They discover a trophy room that contains not only mounted animal heads, but druid skeletons as well. Ervendio peers into the crystal ball for signs of Harpo, but spies only an old and weathered gravestone. He can make out the words “Harpo” and “father…”, but nothing else. The crystal ball offers no glimpses of Maeve or Ursula.

Bertram, popping his head up through a trapdoor, discovers another trap-laden hallway — spouts of icy-cold black flame and an ominous black door. Will they press on through the black door? Escape through the tunnels? Blow the horn? Split the party? It is nighttime in the castle again and the Revengers are at a crossroads….

XP
Group Awards
1 Piece of the Rod of 7 Parts, 10,000
8 leechmouths, 7800

Group Total: 17,800 Individual Award: 2967

Bea 3917 (Are You the Mildred I’m Thinking Of? 950, Group 2967)
Bertram 3917 (Bertram’s Lost Weight 950, Group 2967)
Ervendio 3917 (I Said Check for Traps 950, Group 2967)
Golgaraz 3917 (Hero Tug 950, Group 2967)
Mildred 3917 (Rise, Roger! 950, Group 2967)
Valeria 3917 (Stands Her Ground 950, Group 2967)

LOOT
- scroll of protection from undead
- a ring
- a bottle
- bagpipes of fog
- LEX, the 6th piece of the rod of 7 parts (Golgaraz)
- 17 gems
- 2 unknown potions
- tome on the early adventures of Glimmer Greyhaven (Ervendio)
- books on the history of human empires (Bertram)
- human poetry (Bertram)

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59.1: Jongle's Last Dance
Jongle G. Janglemancer joins the infinite...

Jongle looks at his gaunt hands now riddled with liver spots. “Like a…skeleton,” he mutters.

He pauses for a moment and cracks a smile revealing, nubby yellowed teeth. “What did the ghost say to the other ghost?”

“Do you believe in goblins? Heh heh…Hah HACK HACKkk…Geh.”

None of his friends laugh, especially not his daughter, the girl he’d only just met hours ago.

“What, you’re gonna leave me hangin’? Don’t look at me like that, you guys. Like I’m some angry drunk causin’ a scene! Hey Bert, ‘member the time I projectile vomited all over the Grudgewood bar and it hit everyone ’cept you cause you’d just slipped on your own piss. HAHA! HACkkk.”

He turns to Valeria, his wrinkly, old eyes still warm with mirth, and gets quiet. Behind the crow’s feet is a profound sadness.

“I’m…I’m sorry, my dear. Looks like your old man is done for. These last couple days have really been the shits, eh? Heh.”

The old goblin slumps down on a treasure chest for support, and unfastens his shortsword from his belt. It clangs to the ground. “Too heavy for me now.”

“Come, have a seat. I wanna tell ya story. It’s about the first time I met your mudda. She was a beautiful girl. The most beautifulest I ever saw, to be honest. And that’s why she first caught my eye. But…it ain’t why I stuck around. It ain’t why I crossed a haunted desert and saved her from a fire cult neither.”

“It was ‘cuz she had a certain strength. A kind of courage. Nerve. Vim, Vigor, whatever you wanna call it. It was hidden in there, cuz of her upbringing, bein’ ashamed of bein’ goblin and whatnot. But I could see it in her from the start. And sometimes that made her real stubborn as all get out, but mostly it made her a broad of real integrity. And that’s good. That’s a good thing. Somethin’ I’ve lacked here and there throughout my life.”

“But you. You’ve got it in spades. You’ve got a heart of gold. And you’re buff, and whip smart, an’ you’re a real looker. I mean, I look at you, and I know you’re gonna save the dang world. My daughter! Can you believe that? Hack HACK hackKKkk” Jongle gasps and wheezes, clutching his chest.

“I wish we coulda…I wish more than anything we coulda spent more time togedda. I wish I coulda watched you grow up, and been there for ya when ya needed me…but in the blink of an eye things keep changin’.”

“I love ya, Valeria.” Jongle’s speech slurs, and his eyes turn glassy. “You’re gonna do good. Real good. I wish I coulda been there, but things keep…changin’…”

A puckish smile sweeps across Jongle G. Janglemancer’s face as he looks into Valeria’s eyes, before his own roll back into his head, and he slumps forward lifeless into her armored chest.

Valeria weeps.

She holds her fathers body to her chest. It feels so small and fragile. “I just got you back. Teks said it was his time, and that he had to get me back to you. And he did. But this isn’t fair.”

She cries for some minutes, and then, exhausted, she looks up at Ervendio.

“What do we do? To honor him, or bury him, I mean. I…I don’t know the Goblin funeral rights. I’ve never been in a Goblin church, really. And mom always said he hated the church.”

Ervendio stood silently over Valeria as she held Jongle. His eyes were closed and his head was bowed. One hand resting on the hilt of his sword and the other hanging limply at his side. He replayed all of his important Jongle moments in his head. Their first meeting among the saving of Grudgewood, his popularity at that silly brothel, his wretched poetry and uncouth jokes, the great battles together, his choices of impatience that often accompanied the younger races, he still remembered the night when he wrote that ridiculous poem to Minja and she took it as a proposal. A proposal! And look what’s become of that wretched poem. Jongle had a daughter! Valeria! and she was here! Ah the gods play cruel tricks. Poor Valeria, to lose both her father figure and then her actual father within hours of each other. Poor Valeria.

“… said he hated the church.”

He opened his eyes. He saw Valeria looking up at him. He had seen her, a small fierce goblin fighter. When he looked at her now he saw a sad goblin girl, lost and alone with strangers in a mystical wasteland that killed two of her fathers in a day. His eyes softened. He knelt by Valeria and folded Jongle’s hands over his chest.

“No, he was not fond of the church. That would be an understatement. He actively fought against the goblin church and army. Besides, I do not know of any goblin ritual. I know nothing of goblin culture at all. Jongle was the first and only goblin I had the pleasure to know… until your mother of course, and now you.

“I know Elven practices for funerals on the combat field… would that suffice? and his belongings now are yours. Though it is customary for the funeral rite I know for him to be burned with a weapon. I would not prefer to do hold it here though. Let us use a bedroll to wrap him. Can we put him on your mount? we can collect the items and leave quickly. I do not wish to stay here any longer.

“Yes. With his weapon, if that’s what your people do.”

She looks at jingle again. “If everything my mom told me was true, he probably would have wanted us to make a puppet out of him. Carry him around on a stick.” She smiles for a second saying it, and then cries again, preparing his body alongside Ervendio."

“His things…well, instead of taking them, maybe we should sell them, as soon as we can. And give the money to the orphanage back in Grudwood. He would have liked that, right?”

A few slips of crumpled paper are found in Jongle’s pockets. One reads…

Night Farts
Sqeakin out a nasty puffer
Spoiled eggs and steak
Push her head below the covers
A funny joke does make

Fin.

The next appears to be observational comedy?

“You ever wonder if owlbears have identity issues? Like…their owl friends are scared of ‘em, but their bear friends think they’re pussies?”

The third slip of paper is an updated will.

Hey, you! Congratulations. Either you found my dead body or you managed to pickpocket me. Well, here’s my stinkin’ will, ya dirty graverobber and/or thief! There are a number of crossed out entries including the names Canicus, Proteus and Khalid.

To Minja, or if she’s dead, Bertram. I bequeef my smelly slippers and my crystal ballz.

To Bea, or if she’s dead, Bertram. I bequeef my Cloak of the Bat. Ya might wanna dry clean it. Also, you can have Ow Bear back, of course.

To Teks, or if he’s dead, Ervendio. I bequeef my shortsword, and all of my poems.

To Ervendio, of he’s dead, Bertram. I bequeef my Fan of Wind, for you to blow people!

To Golgaraz, or if he’s dead, Bertram. I bequeef my kazoo and hand puppets.

If any of you are alive when my daughter Valeria comes of age, all this shit is goin’ to her! Don’t make my ghost hunt you down!

Send all my money to the orphanage on 42nd street in Skull Cap Valeria. Don’t touch it! If I’m dead she’s gonna need a nest egg. Make her go to college or somethin’

Ervendio finds the notes as he composes Jongle’s body.

He reads the will out loud to everyone.

He opens the other note.

“Listen to this droll…

“Night farts…” as Ervendio continues through the lines he laughs. He sighs at the end, “Jongle, that’s disgusting.” And he slips the foul poem in his pocket.

“Valeria, the money you can do with what you wish. But he had some powerful items. You still have an enemy out there. Jad will try and stop us, and his wyvern. Your quest with Ruat is his quest. We have to be ready… if we ever leave this gods forsaken chaos storm.

“Come, we should hurry. Let’s collect the piece and check the pedestals for traps. If we rest for an hour I can pray to the Kuraphai to assist our exit. We should leave. I want to build a pyre during the day. A great funeral pyre, in the tower. Let’s burn this place.”

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59: Alas, Poor Olde Jongle G. Janglemancer
our heroes delve under ground, into time

Past the empty torture room, the Revengers find a number of tiny, cramped prison cells. Only one cell is occupied — the Revengers meet Andrew ApFittle, male heir to the ApFittle clan of Birnam. He has been imprisoned in the ApBlanc castle for months — or longer — because his family the Ogre in the war against the Wolf.

Andrew is convinced he has been with lycanthropy by a wererat in his cell. Andrew constantly beats the rat to death, only to watch it come back to life. Valeria kills the wererat with her holy trident Wolfsbane. Andrew also begs to be put out of his misery, and after much debate Valeria gives him her trident. He drives the points through his neck and jaw, killing himself instantly.

The violence is too much for Bertram. Thinking of his fallen friends Canicus and Proteus — of Teks, who aged and died almost before his very eyes — he has a nervous breakdown. Ervendio comforts him, but Bertram thinks it’s all too much, all too wrong. What if they could have found the master wererat and saved Andrew?

Jongle is also outraged — he confronts Valeria, who says that she hopes he would have done the same for her if she had been infected. Jongle says he would not. Bertram says what she did wasn’t right. Valeria says that sometimes what’s good isn’t right.

The move deeper into the basement. In another cell, they discover Brianne ApBlanc, the missing daughter of the castle’s lord. She says her father is named Tristen, and that he imprisoned her when she wanted to leave the castle and follow the teachings of the druids of the groves. She tells the Revengers that her brothers are both dead — Gilan by wolf attack and Morholt killed in his bed by an assassin. She believes her father is evil and is some kind of “daytime vampire” — a drinker of blood, but not undead. She has never seen him at night at all, her entire life.

She is given a cloak, a waterskin, a bootknife, and Harpo — who is also there and has been the whole time — and freed from her cell. She thanks the Revengers and takes her leave of them.

The Revengers discover another sub-level of the basement, and a hallway filled with traps. Valeria almost dies in an acid pit, and Bertram begins to meticulously check the floor for more pits. While looking he falls into one himself, but he is saved from falling by Bea’s feather fall, and the group rescues him. At the end of the deadly hallway, the Revengers discover the Lord’s Treasury.

Inside they find several closed chests and, pedestals that hold, respectively, a ring; a bottle; bagpipes; a black rod; and a scroll. Bertram identifies that they are all “enchanted,” except the scroll which is “protective.” The rod, while magical, does not give up its secrets to Bertram’s spells. But ruat tells Valeria that it is lex — the sixth piece of the Rod of 7 Parts.

As they prepare to check the pedestals for traps, a cold presence enters the room. It is a ghost! The same spirit they encountered earlier that aged Bea prematurely. Again it appears to be hideously burned and with a gash or scar across its neck.

Valeria attacks the spirit with Wolfsbane while the others prepare their defenses. The ghost points at Jongle and keens — and Jongle ages 40 years on the spot, becoming an elderly, liver-spotted goblin in an instant. As an old goblin, Jongle reaches for the bagpipes and blows: a fog fills the room, erupting from the pipes themselves.

Bea’s spells prove ineffective against the ghost, but Valeria manages to do some damage with her holy trident. The ghost tells them, “You should not be here!” and he fades away….

XP
Group Awards
Wererat in a Cage, 270
Andrew ApFittle, 6000
Brianne ApBlanc, 6000
Entrance to the Lord’s Treasury, 3000

Group Total: 15,270 Individual Award: 3,054

Individual Totals
Bea (Feather Fall For a Friend 950, Group 3,054)
Bertram (No Lockpicks 950, Group 3,054)
Ervendio (A Friend Indeed 950, Group 3,054)
Jongle (So … Old! 950, Group 3,054)
Valeria (Suicide is Painless 950, Group 3,054)

LOOT
Bagpipes of Fog: Blowing these bagpipes allow its possessor to blow forth a thick cloud of heavy fog equal to that of a fog cloud spell. Each round spent blowing it creates a 10-cubic-foot fog cloud. The cloud lasts for 2d4 rounds after the last round of blowing the instrument.

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58: In A Vampire Castle, No Holds Barred
our heroes travel deeper in a time-lost castle...

In the kitchen of Grimland’s castle, the Revengers discover the boy Gilan has died by wolf attack. Jongle convinces the cook, Rosalie, that he has been in touch with Gilan from beyond the grave.

The butler, whose name is Weevil Purplebottom and who shares an ancestor with Bea — wants the Revengers tossed from the castle, at swordpoint if need be. Rosalie tells them to stay hidden until nightfall, she will come talk to them.

Valeria is horrified that her dad is a liar. Bertram wants to burn the whole castle down, retrieve the rod from the ashes, and walk away from the entire affair.

Harpo, who is also there, tries to hold Bea’s hand. Volcano — and everyone else! — objecst thoroughly and Harpo is really embarrassed.

Meeting with the cook after sunset, she brings them inside the castle. Jongle convinces her that Weevil and “the master” are in league together, orchestrating Gilan’s death, and that the master of the castle is a vampire. Rosalie tells them that not only has Gilan died — the family’s older son, Morholt, was killed within the castle walls, and their daughter, Brianne, has disappeared entirely — all within the last year.

Weevil threatens to stumble upon them and Golgaraz creations a distraction with dancing lights to scare him away. Weevil calls out that he’s seen a g-g-g-ghost and runs away, but Rosalie also is pulled away from the Revengers — they gain no more information from her this night.

The Revengers move deeper into the castle. They go downstairs, briefly raid the pantry. They find a basement room holding the castle well and Valeria, on the group’s suggestion, dives down. Her attempt to climb fails and she falls into the cold, clear water below, and Jongle instinctively goes after her. They both find themselves in dark, watery cavern, but discover nothing else of note. Jongle turns into a bat to fly out, and back topside, he nearly chokes on a blood leech injested in the water below. He coughs it up and steps on it, bursting the creature under his foot.

In further reality warping, Golgaraz briefly becomes trapped when his robes are transformed by a wild surge into an ubroken suit of iron — but Bea’s alternate reality undoes this state of affairs as if it never occurred.

Before the Revengers leave the well room, a wailing ghost comes downstairs! He resembles a younger man with long, black hair who has been terribly burned all over his body. There is a great gash or cut across his throat. He points at Bea and his terrible keening accelerates her age — she ages 40 years in a single moment. Golgaraz attempts to turn the spirit. He fails, but the ghost fades away anyway.

Then, the Revengers hear a voice from the previously empty well. It is a woman, asking if they are Brianne or if they have seen her. When Valerian answers no, the voice says no more.

The Revengers go back upstairs and investigate the other tower, heading downstairs and spying guards playing cards. Bertram reconnoiters them and Jongle swipes their keys. The Revengers make a plan to draw them upstairs and sneak past them — they create a magical wall, but no one wants to get the guards’ attention. Valeria steps out to cause the distraction, but this breaks the spell. They call out for the guards, Valeria hides, no one else does, and the guards attack.

Combat! Golgaraz silences the area and the Revengers are able to overcome the castle guards, leaving them tied up.

They move on past the guards and discover a grisly torture room, empty but obviously used quite recently. The floor and the torture devices are stained with dark blood, the castle is quiet, and it is the middle of the night….

XP
Group Awards
Rosalie and the Ghost Story, 1200
Throat Leech, 35
A Keening Ghost, 100
Castle Guards, 250

Group Total 1585 , Individual Award 317

Individual Totals
Bea 1267 (Old Lady Purplebottom 950, Group 317)
Bertram 1267 (Burn It All Down 950, Group 317)
Golgaraz 1267 (Dancing Lights 950, Group 317)
Jongle 1267 (Ghost Whisperer 950, Group 317)
Valeria 1267 (Cat’s Cradle 950, Group 317)

LOOT
some breads and cheeses (Bertram)

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Simply Figg: The Lost Discs

Buried in the Hall of Records, a clerk stumbles upon a dusty old box of brass discs while clearing out space for a new collection of beetle specimens that had been recently acquired. Curious, the clerk walks over to his desk and puts on one in particular that catches his eye. “What the hell is this?”

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57: Castles Forlorn
our heroes explore a time-tossed castle...

The Revengers stand on the precipice of the castle-home of Grimland’s mysterious lord. They hear the sound of combat behind them, they ignore those sounds, and they contemplate the open drawbridge ahead of them.

From behind them, an old friend returns — Teks Tik, missing since yesterday to the Revengers, but for five years for Teks. Now 17, he is elderly and near death. With him is Valeria Janglemancer, the daughter of Jongle and Minja. A baby when the Revengers last saw her, Valeria has lived for 19 years in the Outer Planes with her mother. She has returned to them as a Paladin of Edrick.

Teks collapses, overcome by his extraplanar journeys (and by his final combat with the leechmouths guarding the castle). His last words are to Jongle:

She loved ya Jongle, even when she married that other guy. She loved ya.

Teks dies, surrounded by his clutch.

While the Revengers bury their friend in a rock cairn, Jongle strips naked and takes flight. He’s lost his wife and his daughter’s childhood. Valeria offers a final eulogy for Teks Tik:

I guess he was a father to me. He taught me how to fight and how to hunt. And I’m gonna miss him, and I love him.

Jongle returns to the group, his face streaked with tears, and they enter the castle. All is covered in dust and the rooms have clearly been ransacked — by time, by leechmouths, by both. While checking an intact suit of armor for traps, Bertram encounters some sort of strange, screeching ghost.

But upstairs, something strange happens — the castle suddenly seems clean, well-lit, and full of life. The Revengers stumble upon a laundry room, where they introduce themselves as “the Figg party.” They find a wine room stocked with fine wines — four of the Revengers take bottles for themselves — and the vintage predates the Chaos Storm by several hundred years.

They find a butler preparing dinner for the lord of the castle in a private dining room — he tells them that if they go downstairs to the common dining hall he will make sure the Master comes down to greet them. They continue to harass the butler until he goes off to seek guards. The party follows him down the stairs, but the butler disappears, the castle again seems to be old and abandoned, and they find themselves in the remains of a cold, unused kitchen.

There, among the dust and overturned tables and molded flour, they meet Gilan, a young boy playing with a ghostly dog. Gilan asks them to help him feed his dog. Jongle casts wraithform to better communicate with the dog, but this enrages Gilan, who reveals that he, too, is a ghost. Gilan becomes angry and disappears.

The group hears a sharp keening from the adjacent common dining room. Jongle explores in wraithform and finds six mercenaries, face down in the soups, freshly dead. Harpo, who is still there and has been the whole time, asks if it could be a banshee.

Going back upstairs, the Revengers find a large room of stained glass windows. Only one of the windows is intact — it features the image of a man in a kilt being hit by dozens of arrows.

They continue up to the darkened third floor and find some leechmouths rolling dinner plates down a long hallway, for fun. Jongle sends the plates rolling right back at them, frightening the leechmouths, who run away.

The Revenger decide to head back downstairs. But this time, reaching the first floor they find that parts of it don’t exist! They are in the castle courtyard, standing just outside of a clean, bustling kitchen. They go inside and, about to be run off by busy cooks, Jongle demands to know, “Where is Master Gilan?”…

XP
Group Awards
Teks is: Dead, 3000
Laundry Room, 300
Gilan and the Dog, 600
Leechmouths Avoided, 400

Group Total: 4300 Individual Award: 717

Individual Totals
Bea 1667 (Bridge Crosser 950, Group 717)
Bertram 1667 (The Figg Party 950, Group 717)
Ervendio 1667 (Lead with Caution 950, Group 717)
Golgaraz 1667 (I Don’t Drink Wine 950, Group 717)
Jongle 1667 (A Lousy Father’s Day 950, Group 717)
Valeria 1667 (Welcome Back Valeria 950, Group 717)

LOOT
4 bottles of fine wine

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The War Within

Bertram_Portrait.jpg

It’s been a while, so I’ll try to keep it brief. I’m afraid to write the Queen about my current situation in lieu of the fact she already considers me to be mad. Through divine providence we have traveled the planes in the hope of acquiring the different segments of the Staff of Arcworth. Many sacrifices have been made along the way, and I fear I have selfishly tried to use those under my protection to further my own goals to the detriment of the unit. One of our former—and now deceased— companions led us to Forlorn, a place beyond time in the eye of the Chaos Storm. It is here we hope to find another piece of the staff, and restore order to our world.

The chaos curse is strongest here, changing and manipulating all forms of matter into twisted and obscene renderings of it’s prior state. The effects of this have been manifold. Of the most odd occurences— my very possessions became sentient creatures, with desires and needs. Food, pots, spices, all of the sudden developing minds of their own, and voices! Oh, I must sound like fool! I had to convince myself many times I was not simply dreaming, or already dead. They say you can’t write in your sleep though, so this entry is giving me solid ground to cling to after all it seems. This is no easy feat, especially when you have just had a two-hour discussion with your writing ink on the various merits of gnomish playwright Stavinslaus Hearn’s deconstructed approach to theater.

I wrote earlier about my selfishness, and over the last few days I have seen it emerge from old, fragmented memories. In my days in the Service, I used people. Life was ubiquitous to me then, I simply had so much of it, and I had no qualms spending it in currency. As if my morals, my culture, meant more than the people I hurt, or killed. I had long conversations with my compatriots well into the night over this very same topic. Were we justified in our actions? Without our craft, we would not have survived as a people, we ultimately concluded. But were we worth saving, and at what cost?

In the Forlorn, sometimes my memories come to me in mere fragments, like faces, or smells. Other times, I get more—a name to go with the face, for example. Bertram Figg became a personality constructed by my own subconscious to explain my existence. The face of my father, or probably a man I met at Steph’s party on St. Klopps Day in Larnam. The face of my mother, or the woman who worked in the bakery on odd days with a gap in her teeth and a warm way about her. It was all a mess, and who was he now? A terrible construct of instinct, emotion, and free will grasping for straws at identity? A Bertram Figg with no one true self, just many aspects of a shattered mirror. A Bertram Figg who manipulates others to get what he wants. Who steals. Who cheats. Who murders. I shudder at the thought of it. And maybe in self defense, this Bertram Figg my mind built for itself, like a cat, splayed out falling from a tree. Calling upon dormant faculties, it made a Bertram Figg who could descend to Urth with grace and fervor to do the right thing. It made a Bertram Figg who looked after the ones he loved, no matter if they are a talking squirrel, or a fully self-aware piece of chalk named Stan (RIP).

Over the course of the last several months, I have lost the trust of my companions. Jongle, Ervendio, Minja, even Bea. My pleas to cease our use of magic have fallen on deaf ears. I have urged Bea to learn to defend herself with other means, but her condition is such that she is often forced to rely on her magic. She seems to have been able to tame a dog to assist her, and lately I’ve been getting the feeling I’ve been replaced, I’m afraid.

It is known this King possesses a piece of the Staff, we were told as much from Ruat.Teks, Minja and her baby Valeria took their chances on the planes rather than risk dying here, or bringing the elements of the staff together without first attuning them. Whatever horde this King has been dispatching from this castle, whatever abominations against the gods take place here, I must do what I can to stop it. For I’m fairly certain I will die here, but I have done my best to put it out of my mind. That’s what we all try to do, even the new guy, Golgaraz. We carry ourselves with all the arrogance and swagger of a pitchball team warming up for practice. Sharpening our knives, preparing our components, reassuring ourselves with the reason we all became adventurers in the first place: to wave our finger in the face of evil, when we know it as evil, and say ‘Hey, not this time, buddy. Not today. Not while I have nutmeats in my filberts. Not ever.’

And the reason for all of this? Another case of a Sovereign scorned lover who sets the world on fire because his stupid relationship didn’t work out, I swear if I’ve seen it once I’ve seen it a million times.

This time, I’m doing it for Petar.I’m doing it for Stiv, and Kurl. I’m doing it for Mildred, Canicus, and Proteus. I’m doing it for Khalid, Smiley, and Shadow Ryder. I’m doing it for Scraps. I’m doing it for Georgie. I’m doing it for Red-mother-fucking-Al. No looking back now, we’re moving into the Castle. See you all soon…
-Bertie

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56.3: Valeria and the Desert Hermit
Valeria Janglemancer meets a strange hermit...

The plains of Buxenus stretch out endlessly. It is a land of desert scrub, harsh, hot heat in the daytime and frigid cold at night.

The Harmonium patrols endlessly, looking for anything out of place. Wanderers are bored with suspicion, and sometimes they set traps for travelers — “honeypots” to attract wrongdoers who might need a little nudge to actually do wrong.

As the shadows grow long in the foothills and as the temperature drops, Valeria Janglemancer sees the thin spire of a cooking fire. It comes from a small, orderly camp — seemingly empty, though the signs of habitation are present. Meat cooking on the spit, a hide tent lean-to, a few odds and ends of a desert traveler.

Her tummy grumbles and the sound seems to echo through the hills.

She waits and watches, but no one comes. The meat — a small but plump hill-pig — threatens to burn on one side.

Valeria watches the underside of the pig bubble and snorts to herself. She gets up and walks down to the campfire, and then sits and rotates the spit.

The fire is warm. She keeps rotating the pig and digs into her backpack for a piece of hard tack.

She gnaws on it while she rotates the pig.

There’s a cracking of rocks — a few small ones tumble and slide away — and a part of the hill turns, stretches, and sleepily hurrrms awake.

It’s not a piece of the hill at all — it’s a creature. Impossibly tall, yet hunched over. Wisps of white hair peek out from its hood. It’s hands are bigger than Valeria’s head. His eyes are black points of night.

“Hurrrrrm,” he says, reaching out a long arm and grabbing hold of the spit. He takes a bite of the hill-pig. “Your snapping hard tack reminded me I was hungry,” he says.

His voice is like the growl of the urth, like something Valeria feels but does not remember.

“Pig?” He holds it out to her on the spit, juice running down its flank.

“Th-thank you. I hope I didn’t disturb your rest.”

Valeria takes a knife from her boot and cuts at the pig’s haunch. It burns her fingers a bit, but she takes a bite without waiting for it to cool.

“I’m Valeria. Janglemancer. I’m out here looking for something. How about you?”

“Looking for something? Hurrrrrm! Found something!” He raises the fire-roasted pig and his dark, deep-set eyes seem to twinkle. “A quest accomplished! Haw-haw!”

He finished the pig off in another quick two bites.

“Not really enough pig for two, he says, still chewing. “Not really enough for one, but…”

Valeria laughs, and digs deeper into her bag. “You can have some hardtack and some dried fruit, if you don’t mind chewing at it a while.”

She chews at the roast pork for a bit and looks up at the sky. “My friend teaks says that when I was baby, I used to look up at the stars, and try to catch them. Because there were stars in the sky. I wonder why there aren’t any stars here.”

“Have you ever seen a Lammasu?”

“Hurrrrrrrrrm. Lamma-who? Maybe on Seamus’s farm. Once upon a time. Pah!” He spits out the hard tack. “My teeth can’t take it. How do yours do it? They’re so … small.”

He sniffs the air and leans closer to Valeria.

“You smell like something familiar. You smell like home! Hurrrrrm.”

He shares a skin of wine with her — dandelion wine, from flowers he picked himself — and they talk through the night.

“No stars here? Hurrrrm. No. Look down! The stars are us.”

Valeria drifts off to sleep, head light from the sweet wine. She wakes up in the morning feeling more rested than she has since she last slept at home. And even then, she slept restlessly — wanting to get on the road, perhaps. This might have been the best sleep of her life!

But her companion from the night before is nowhere to be found. His lean-to is gone and his piles of baubles and belongings. Valeria is surprised that she slept through the noise he must have made as he gathered everything and packed it on his back.

————————————————————————————————————

Valeria travels on. After days and weeks she comes across what was once, perhaps, a village. Most of the buildings are burned out — some still smolder — and the Harmonium has claimed it for their own. The surviving villagers sit listlessly outside of their homes. The Harmonium have clearly requisitioned their food and belongings, in the name of the war for Nemausus. Some of the villagers are dead, corpses in the roads.

In the middle of town, barely fitting in a large, wooden cage on a cart, is Valeria’s new friend. He looks like he could burst through the cage if he flexed his long limbs. But he simply peers out between the bars as Valeria walks cautiously into town.

“Hurrrrrrrm,” he says. “Hill-pig.”

“Oy! Calls a Harmonium militiaman, hand on his sword hilt. “Who’re you? State yer business.”

Valeria stops in front of the cart, and then turns to soldier. "My name is Valeria Janglemancer. I am on a quest. What crime did the people of this village commit?”

“Obstruction’a supplies and unwillingness ta’ — ey! I axe th’ questions around ’ere, hey? What — is yer quest?”

The large creature in the cage arches an eyebrow and says, “Hurrrrrrm.”

“My quest?,” She says, looking around at the carnage that the militia have left in street. “I am…looking to reunite a friend with his companions.”

Valeria stares hard at the militia man. “Just what were these people unwilling to do, ‘Peacekeeper’?”

The Harmonium militiaman lets out a high whistle and several other of his order turn their attention to Valeria as well.

“Unwillingness to give up supplies fer th’ greater good, hey? Speakin’a — whatya got in yer bag? Food-wise.”

“You men are thieves,” Valeria says, eyeing the gathered militia men. She slips her ax from its place on her back and smashes the lock on the hermit’s cage.

She turns back to Harmonium soldiers, holding her ax low at her side. “Leave the food you’ve taken, and whatever medical supplies you can spare, and go. You have no right to harm these people.”

“Yer’a girl with no business here,” says the Harmonium man, loosening his sword in his scabbard. Others do the same. Two within Valeria’s vision nock arrows to bows. “Would ya break th’ law?”

The hermit peers from the cage as its door swings open. Otherwise he does not move.

“Would you, hurrrrrrm?” he asks.

Valeria lowers her head for a moment. Something insides of her, something deep and real, pushes her to do something for these people. She feels Ruat at her side, and seems to whisper The Law is the Law. Valeria is torn.

Hesitating, she turns to the Hermit. “I am a stranger here, this is true,” she says. "Tell me, friend, is this truly the law of this village, that these soldiers can come and take and kill at their pleasure?”

“If two want what one has, aye,” says the hermit. “They can take it. That is their law. But is it good? Hurrrrm.”

“What’s ’at?” says the Harmonium. “Who’re ya talkin’ at? Friend-who? Put down ’at axe!”

The Harmonium steps forward, past the cage, paying the hermit inside no mind whatsoever.

Ruat wavers. The Law Is… it whispers.

Valeria grits her teeth and tightens her grip on her ax. “The law is the law, certainly, but their law is not good, and it is not mine.”

She turns to the soldier again and says, "Leave these people and go, thief.”

The Harmonium smiles. “Awwww’right,” he says, drawing his sword.

Before it can entirely leave its sheath, he explodes in a shower of mud and dirt.

Behind him, a terribly scarred man steps from a patch of bushes, wielding a short cudgel.

The bowmen let out short, sharp huurrks! and fall in heaps, blood blossoming their tunics like flower petals. Valera can see a wee leprechaun, dressed in trousers and a vest, hopping from the thatched rooftops of the village.

The hermit flexes his lanky limbs and the cage shatters into toothpicks. Members of the Harmonium seem to see him for the very first time, but before they can turn their swords toward him he has picked up two by their heads and smashed them together, leaving a red gooey pulp in his palms.

“HurrrrrmHAW,” he laughs, wiping his palms off. “Good is bloody business,” he says to Valeria.

“One mustn’t take violence lightly,” says the burned man, knocking a charging Harmonium in his nose. There is a spurt of blood and the soldier falls.

“Ye dinna haeva fuhr o’er t’h Harm’o’um — kinna blid as a’ner’one aes!” says the little one, popping in and out from behind soldiers as if stepping from shadow to shadow, his tiny dagger stabbing each one in turn.

“… what?” says the hermit. “What on urth did you just say, Seamus?”

It is a bloodbath — within minutes the soldiers of the Harmonium are dead. The burned man and the little one clean their weapons of blood; the hermit stands before Valeria, a splattered, gory mess.

“Law can be deadly, if you break it,” says the hermit.

“Justice can be bloody,” says the burned man, “if you take it.”

“Venjae aes stickae, if’n yae main aet,” says the little one.

“I — I can’t understand him,” says the hermit. “I’m sorry Seamus, it’s just been too damn long.”

The surviving villagers reclaim their food, but they do not thank Valeria or the bloody trio. They are afraid the Harmonium will simply come back, and next time they will want food and revenge.

“What is right?” the hermit asks the girl. “What would be fair?”

“Right,” Valeria responds, “Would be making sure that the Harmonium cannot harm them.”

“Fair, though, that would just be to give them back what is theirs.”

She looks at the scarred man, careful to keep her eyes on his, and not stare at his scars.

“Thank you. I didn’t want to hurt those soldiers, but I couldn’t let them just kill the people of this village.”

Valeria walks to one of the villagers, a short woman with a gash down one arm. “May I treat this?” she asks?

While Valeria works, she looks at the Leprechaun. “My friend Teks once told me a story that my father told him, about one of your people. Teks told me that my father had been struck dumb by a playing card, and that the Leprechaun fixed it with a wish. Of course, that won’t happen for thousands of years. My Father isn’t even alive yet. But I always liked that story.”

The little one laughs.

“Thassa till wor’ taellin, la’,” he says. “Timmy, twassy, r’ joos play purr’buh. Aye lik’a!”

The hermit looks at the little one and blinks.

“Perhaps we shall all stay the night and share a meal,” says the burned man.

“The girl carries a delicious hard tack, hurrrrrm,” says the hermit. “Hurrrrrm, hurrm.”

In the morning, again, the hermit has moved on. The little one likewise is gone. The burned man stays to help the village heal and rebuild.

————————————————————————————————————

It is nearly a year later. Valeria pulls on Chow Chow’s reins when she notices the campfire and the small hill and the foo dog rears a bit, still unused to the bridal. She pats the thick roll of fur and fat at his neck to calm him.

The memory of the Rakasha’s sneer is still fresh in her mind, and her failure still stings. She could ride through the night; Teks was probably worried. But she could use company right now, she thinks. And this time she has more than hardtack to share.

When she rides into the small camp, though, there is no hermit. The hill is just a hill.

Valeria sits at the small fire, waiting for its tender to come back. Chow Chow sits next her, stone still. She looks up at the featureless sky.

The hermit does not appear before Valeria falls asleep at the fire.

In the morning, the campsite is undisturbed. But in the distance, across the plains, several large, black birds are circling something, flying round & round & round.

Valeria watches the birds while she breaks camp. When she is done, she mounts Chow Chow and turns the big Foo Dog towards the birds.

Chow Chow is slow to move at first. The Foo turns its head as it walk and says, “Black birds. Bad Omen.”

“Let’s just see what it is,” Valeria says." "It might need help.”

The birds are further away than they look because they are also bigger than they look. By the time Valeria and Chow Chow crest the rise and can see the shape ahead of them — at first it looks like bones and a box, stuck with a spear — they realize the birds flying overhead are probably larger than Valeria herself.

As they get closer they see that it’s actually a formian, impaled with a spear, stuck to the hard-packed ground. He is still alive — he is squirming and trying to crawl, but the spear has him held tight.

He grunts and moans and seems to look past Valeria. His eyes are blank. It is unclear how long he has been here like this.

Valeria slides down off of Chow Chow’s back and slips her water skin off of her belt. She goes to the formian and offers the water to it. When it does not respond, she strokes its head for a moment, and then stands and grips the spear. She pulls.

Immediately, Valeria is somewhere else…

She is wielding not a spear, but a trident — a forked, three-pronged weapon of the gladiators. She is in an arena, and her ears are filled with the roaring of a crowd — louder than anything she’s ever heard. The arena pit in which she stands is a bowl, and the stands go up and up and up around it.

She sees a flash of light and a battleaxe swings at her. Instinctively she dodges to the side, landing on her knees. Looking up, she sees —

Teks?

Her friend, her mentor, a kind of father to her. He raises his battle axe as if to swing at her again, to cleave her in two.

“Would you strike down your friend, hurrrrrm? Could it be done? If the good called for it?”

It is a voice — a presence — from somewhere all around her.

The sun beats down. The sweat runs into her eyes. This is real.

Valria crouches under the ax, and looks down at her hands where she grips the trident. She tenses her muscles to spring up, eyes locked on the soft joint where Teks’ thorax meets his abdomen; a spot Teks showed her himself, when they trained.

She lets the head of the trident dip to the side. “I could,” she says. “If the good called for it. But this is neither right, nor fair. There is a creature out there on the plains that needs help, and you took me from him.”

And then she waits, watching Teks, to see if the ax blow will fall.

It does.

Teks chitters something at her, and though she knows a few words of his kreen-language, she cannot make out what this phrase is — something like — the beginning. This is what begins? It doesn’t make sense.

He swings the axe.

Valeria rolls forward at the last moment, waiting to feel the ax bite and hoping she is fast enough. She aims her roll under Teks’ legs—a trick that she learned after months of training against the huge Thri-Kreen.

Teks reaches down with one of his other arms, with a deftness he has never shown since Valeria has known him. He grabs her leg and keeps her from escaping.

The ax falls and she feels its cold bite in her chest.

But the slashing blade seems to … hold. That cold bite stings, and it feels like it is tearing down her front, and when Valeria tries to breathe in there is only a gurgle of blood and air where her lungs once were.

But then the next blow doesn’t come. She is not beheaded, as Teks would have surely done.

She opens her eyes and, again, she is somewhere else.

Or rather, she is nowhere else.

She is nothing. She is watching something she did not exist yet to see.

Two mighty figures stand in a crack in the urth itself, engaged in battle. One is mighty half-ogre, with mighty limbs, raven black hair, shining eyes, and a terrible trident in his hand. The other is a horrible thing, once a man but now a creature beyond life, a one-eyed, skull-faced lich wielding a terrible black rod. A yellow mist swirls around them and a raging storm of chaos erupts overhead.

“You were my friend!” yells the ogre.

“There is only the quest!” yell the lich.

They parry and strike at one another, neither landing a full blow.

“I could have helped you!” yells the ogre. “We could have found a way — a good way — together!”

“You were too stupid!” yells the lich. “You couldn’t see that you were the traitor to the dream! There is no good, no evil — there is law, and disorder — and one strangles while the other breathes free!”

“Don’t do it!” calls the ogre.

“Don’t stop me!” call the lich.

They both rear back their weapons. The storm rages around them. There are other voices without — calling for them to stop, to remember who they are to one another; to strike, to ignore who they once once and do what must be done.

Edrick swivels, twists, and thrusts his trident forward. Nemonad stabs forward with his inky black rod.

They strike one another in an cataclysmic flash.

  • ~ * ~ * ~ *

The storm swirls.

Edrick Half-Ogre and Nemonad, the Wolf of Arcworth are gone. Where they stood there is now a human — the burned man, she has seen him before — and elf — impossibly tall and thin with long, silver hair down his back, someone she has never seen before — they join hands and chant an incantation.

The storm swirls.

The trident is gone and the dark, black rod is broken. It is a Rod of 7 Parts, and it is spread to the far corners of the urth.

The storm swirls.

  • ~ * ~ * ~ *

Valeria is back in the desert. She lays on her back on the hard-packed ground. She is breathing heavily. There is no ax in her chest and no visible scar there, yet she can feel that it was real. Reaching under her tunic she can feel a line that goes down her chest, between her breasts, where the skin is smooth and without feeling.

Chow Chow crouches to one side of her. To the other, the hermit.

He is old again.

“Hurrrrrm,” he says.

He is Edrick, and has been from the start.

He picks at the ground with one long finger.

“I miss my friend,” he says.

Valeria feels the urge to prostrate herself, and also the urge to go to Edrick and hold him like a child. She does something of both, walking over to him and kneeling down to touch his hand.

“My Lord,” she says, "this creature, the Formian, it needs our help.”

“Who? Oh.”

Edrick reaches out the finger held by Valeria. He points to the spear thrust through the formian — not a spear at all, in fact. Valeria recognizes it as the trident she held in the arena, and the trident Edrick held versus the Wolf.

“Take it, though it’s no healing salve. It be a — hurrrm. It be a weapon of death. Death to evil, killed in my name. And if evil be your friends or your family or a formian who needs help? If you wield my weapon, you be a dealer of death.”

Valeria grips the trident a gain, and this time she is not transported. Intsead her hands tingle. She can feel the evil in the Formian. It is a deep and settled evil, the evil of poisoners eaters of ant-flesh. She pulls the trident out, and then stabs down again, piercing the Formian’s head.

When she is done cleaning the Trident, Valeria sits next to Edrick in the dirt.

“I was hoping to use this, instead,” she says, pulling Ruat from her belt. “It was his?”

“Hurrrrm,” says Edrick, resting his head in his hand. “The rod can be a tool. But the trident is the way. When it was mine I called it — hurrrrm. No. That doesn’t matter anymore. What will you call it?”

Valeria thinks it over for a moment. “After he turned on you, they called him The Wolf of Arcworth? How about ‘Wolfsbane’?”

“Hurrrrm. When it was time to fight, I did fight. When Nemo stood against me, I did kill him to save the urth. What will you do when one of your own stands against you?”

Edrick stands and towers over Valeria. His shadow falls over her.

“He can’t be allowed back. He needs to be to rest for all time. Will you forsake all other quests to complete this one? Will you keep the rod from being put back together in the name of the Wolf? Will be the Knight of Zephyrus?”

Valeria shudders a bit as Edrick looms over her. The strange, kind hermit is gone, replaced by something huge and powerful. “I will,” she says.

This time, she really kneels, with her head bowed.

The shadow deepens, grows colder. When Valeria raises her head, Edrick is nowhere to be seen. The shadow over her is a from a mountain, tall and wide, snow-capped and brown.

She rises as a Paladin of Edrick, the Knight of Zephyrus. The First of Her Order.

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