Strange Aeons

Collecting Pieces of a Dream
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After dealing with the statues we moved into the graveyard.  Like the rest of the city, it was broken and smelled of rot.  All of us noticed a wamp eating a corpse to our right, but we had no light to show us the deeper parts of the graveyard.  I moved forward to let my eyes search the rest of the darkness; it's good I did – there were 7 more wamps robbing corpses of their repose.  The fighting started when one of the creatures gleefully squealed "FRESH MEAT!" as loud as it could.

Andrea called out to me as she cast a spell and I willingly let her exert her will on me.  I was lifted into the air, dodging hits from the wamps, and the power she used infused me with the some speed allowing me to strike as I landed.  Many wamps died because of her spell, but I wonder if spells like that were the beginning of the end for Mith.  Drago and Shade covered the rear, attacking those closest to our casters.  Then the wamps surrounded Argo, one of them leaving a necrotising bite on his arm.  After a few more hits he went down, and one of the wamps passed by a statue waking it up.  Eventually we destroyed all of our enemies and harvested the feet of a wamp.  Unfortunately, whatever poison or disease the wamp's carried prevented healing, even magic healing, so Yusei could not return Argo to consciousness.  For that reason we decided to wake from the dream.

I was very fortunate in our battles in the dreamland.  Between the extracts Argo gives me and Drago's spells, my defenses are considerable.  Andrea's magic gives me an edge and Yusei's willingness to accept my wounds keeps me among the living.  We have made progress, I think, in our tactics.  I have seen death twice already and do not wish to see it again, but my life has been thrice-blessed by Milani.  I prayed for Argo to receive such a blessing, for insanity seems a harder path to walk than death.  Instead of a steady crawl down a path of blood you find yourself blind in a muddy forest where all things are foe.

He was awake by the time the others woke me up, and since he did not "die" in the dreamland, he emerged unscathed.  Milani be praised.  I did not make a scene expressing my joy, but I hope my companions know I don't go around asking strangers if they are okay.  I only ask when it matters to me.  They matter to me.

The rest of the day went by slowly.  Skywin came to check on us and relieved the crew on land with some of those from the ship.  We had a tasty dinner for the second night in a row, though much more modest than our fight night.  Seeing the amount of effort a cook must put forth to create a tasty meal makes me appreciate Drago's feasting spell that much more.

The next day we planned to visit the dreamland again.  Argo had a new extract for me – heroism, he called it.  'Can magic make a hero?' I wondered.  'Is it made with the blood of a hero?'  I didn't ask because I'm going to drink it either way.  But him giving me that caused the others to use a few of their protections before we entered the dreamland, just in case we are immediately shoved into violence.

At the closing of the ritual, we awoke in an enormous cavern with phosphorescent fungus covering the walls.  The murmurs and chants of 6 stinking ghouls seated in a circle were mere feet from us.  Beyond them about 20 feet the cavern opened up even wider where we saw dozens and dozens of ghouls strapping on armor and weapons.  Among the army was a small group of leathery-skinned ghouls whose faces were mottled colors of green – Leng ghouls.  One of them identified himself as Wilkins when Mith asked to speak with the leader.  Apparently the circle of ghouls was performing an unholy ritual to a dark cult deity named Nyarlathotep or the "Black Pharaoh" for unholy assistance.  Wilkins said he wasn't sure if we were the answer to their prayers, but that time would tell.  

We quickly learned why they were praying for assistance.  A group of creatures known as gugs were inhabiting the ghoul's necropolis, which was a violation of their territory and ancestry.  Wilkins asked for us to clear out an area known as the Plaza of Bones, which he expected to be guarded.  Our reward would be gems of some kind, but we asked for the skull of a member of their royalty.  I could hear whispers in the crowd watching us.  They spoke of someone visiting a hundred years ago who stole the gemmed skull of the ghoul queen – the Count.  When we agreed to the trade, we headed a half mile in the direction of the "long sun"; the army headed to the left in the direction of the low sun.

Eventually we found a cavern and noticed some creatures hiding among the pillars at the entrance.  They were some type of bone snake that could cause paralysis with a bite, or daze you with a dance.  At the back of the pillars there was a bone golem, according to the others, which was immune to most magic.  It threw a part of itself at some of the others, compressing and hurting them.  We destroyed them all.  Around the corner I noticed bones, thousands of bones several feet deep filling a street with buildings on each side and only one small building in the center; it had a short gray wall around it.  I was very quiet, hiding in the shadows and crawling along the wall, but something noticed me.  A huge create with four arms covered in hair, with a split-open mouth for a head.  It scared me, especially when it started to scream, so I retreated to the others and drank that heroism extract.

The gug rushed forward, extended its neck and arms and ripped Drago in half in a matter of seconds.  Milani, save him.  Shade, attempting to avenge his master, met the exact same fate.  Even with the heroism, I was terrified; Drago and Shade are formidable, so I drank an invisibility potion and attempted to move around the corner.  Mith had others plans, as did Andrea.  She lifted him up with the spell she used on me the day before so he could land some impressive hits on the gug and some type of magic that struck true.  Inspired by his strike, I took advantage of his positioning and my invisibility, though it did seem to notice me, and killed it.

We immediately began to search the area, though it was slow going because the bones made it difficult to walk.  I heard Argo call it that he found a door, so I stopped what I was doing and rushed over to him.  It was a good thing I did because the door was unlocked and mundane… but trapped magically.  It was the most complex and well-hidden trap I have seen yet.  The trap would have sent two claws of blue energy out at the person opening the door, draining them of strength and vitality for each finger that made contact.  I asked the others to wait away from me in case I failed and caused it to spring open; I didn't, but it did take time.

During that time the others heard creatures moving outside and saw some movement.  Argo, ignorant of stealth, called out to see "who's there?"  As I was opened the door, having disabled the trap, Mith made his way over to check on me.  Inside the building was a large skeleton of a Leng ghoul in old leathers.  It was holding a large metal rod with a spiked steel ball at the end; it also had 6 buttons running down the length.  It must be magic, but we did not have time to find out.

I took the rod and the creature's skull and headed back to the cavern entrance, where the others were looking very anxious.  Some wanted to remain in the dreamland to see what was stalking us; others, myself included, wanted to leave and check on Drago.  When I pointed out a giant undead cat with fiery blue eyes moving toward us the conversation ended, because I also pointed out that a large ghoul with a distended jaw carying a nocked longbow was hiding in the cat's wake.  Everyone else was a wake before me.

I tried and tried and tried to wake, but I'm not trained like the others.  The creatures were getting closer and closer, close enough to charge… and then I woke.

Yusei checked us all with his magic and surpisingly, Drago seemed okay.  Thank you, Milani.  The blood I shed and the blood I steal are for you, just keep my friends safe.  I do not fear the Rose.

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The River

This river is the worst place I have been for as long as I have memory of.  In the asylum, at least we knew the environment and the majority of the inhabitants were out to get us.  In Thrushmore, we knew everyone hated us and we had to get our reputations back. The surrounding areas were corrupted and we discovered things as we came to them.  

The river is uncaring.  The river has no loyalty.  It is not sick, it doesn't feel damage that I can fix. It is supposed to be a trade and travel route. We knew pirates were a possibility.  These zealots though… they are supposed to be representatives of a place/people.  Without a second thought, this man sought fit to enslave/slaughter us on a whim.  Because he wanted our things.

He took a massive swing a Wynn.  I tried to get to him, but our dear captain didn't think it was poignant to make space for me to heal him.  I could have done something.  I thought he could survive another onslaught and I could heal him.  I was wrong.  He dropped my lifelink imparted none of his wounds to me and he was gone. After that, the invaders were dispatched with relative ease.  The damage had been done.  Our friend was gone and we had no hags to put him in a pot or rose deity to bring him back.  The river did not care.

We took in the remaining slaves to set them free and destroyed their boat.  I thought we should have taken it.  If we had anyone with seafaring capability I would have insisted on it.  But we need the existing crew.  We resolved to let the slaves off in the River Kingdom where they would be free.  We gave them 10 gold each to start their lives.  It's the best we could have done. The inhabitants of the village we left them with were not reluctant, but cautious.  They laid out firm ground rules to make sure no zealotry pervaded their territory.  They are doing better than most in my opinion.

We also decided to burn Wynn's body on the shore of the River Kingdom.  The last thing we need is him coming back in an unfriendly form.  It was heart-wrenching.  I didn't want to speak. It would only exacerbate the failure.  The only thing to do is better next time.   Along the way, we saw some large plant creatures but opted to avoid direct conflict with them.  

Eventually we were dumped into a lake, where we were approached by what appeared to be fishermen.  Innocuous enough.  But the river had other plans.  These were apparently druids that saw it fit to try to take our stuff also. They used a noxious cloud to hinder our view.  Eventually our forces got onto their ship.  The invaders fled into the water.  Two got away.  I killed one that was fleeing.  I don't have much in terms of aggressive spells.  But I didn't want them to come back to us.  I hope the ones that got away live in fear now.  Tell the river that we are not to be fucked with anymore.

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Sailing Across a Watery Desert
Between Two Worlds

We tried doing the ritual again in the Sleepless Agency, but were not successful.  Instead of transitioning to that dream desert, we instead brought something forth from our nightmares.  The "Tatterman" floated before us yet again and he immediately came for me.  It scared me; I had to step away and leave him to the others for a few seconds before I reengaged.  We did destroy him again, but considering how much stronger we are now, I can say for certain this was not the same creature we fought weeks ago, which only gives me more nightmares.  We lightly explained the situation to those at the Agency and agreed not to try the ritual again until we were on the ship.

We met a new friend, another cat (I think) who knows Drago.  He called out for help during the fight with the Tatterman and this floating showed up; it glowed with a holy light and spoke with a keen intelligence.  His name is Cataco and he said he came from one of the planes of Heaven, Nirvana.  Despite his intelligence and nature as "not a cat" he still possess many of the same mannerisms.  I joined him on the sofa and pet him like I would Shade or any other household pet.  They put me at ease – and knowing this thing knows my name confirms more than Milani is looking out for me – for us.  Cataco said he cannot stay around for long, but will come when he is called every day; I hope we see lots of him.

With our failure fresh in my mind, I hoped matters with the town would turn out better.  I do not enjoy politics, but I am glad the town voted the way it did.  I told my companions days ago, when we first suggested the town vote for their own leader, whomever is placed in charge of this place is someone I will revisit, especially if they are corrupt.  We did not cleanse this place of evils beyond nightmares just to have a mortal monster take charge.  Again.  Before we went to the boat I paid a visit to Lenk Marris, the new leader of Thrushmoor.  After the amount of blood my friends and I spilled in that place, it is littered with roses.  Milani blessed me twice, bringing me back so that I may continue redeeming myself for the sins of my past.  I hope the foundation of blood is a growing place for better days ahead.  Milani watch over them.

We went to the boat that evening after saying our goodbyes.  It worked out well because the ship was already moving by the time most of us woke up the next morning; I hope the captain was pleased with our choice considering the days we made her wait.  She seemed nice enough, though I suspect Wyn is trying to get her to be a friend and not just an ally.  She carries some impressive equipment, especially her sword, so I'm confident she would make a valuable ally at the very least.  She gave us a room on deck that we share with two other travelers, who seem innocent enough, but I fear Argo's mouth will get away with him.  The others are taking measures to make certain he does not.

During the day the others would study in our room, wander the deck, and talk with the captain and crew.  At night, Wynzo would tell stories to entertain the crew and keep us painted in a pleasant light.  I know Yusei immediately made his gifts as a healer known to the captain, which was wise.  Andrea and Argo spent more time speaking with our roommates, while Drago would spend his time with Cataco.  The majority of my time was spent up top in the sails, acting as a lookout and avoiding the stares.

A foggy day when our ship was close to shore, I noticed a red-bannered ship following behind us.  It disappeared into the fog as soon as I noticed it, but was distracted when I saw swimming figures moving very quickly from their ship toward us.  I notified the Captain and she called the crew to arms.  They were creatures we had fought in the past, normally used as scouts because of their speed, stealth, and intelligence.  We destroyed them easily enough; I dropped down from the sails onto one of them and killed several more.  I finally got to see the Captain make short work of another, while Shade and Drago took care of many others.  Yusei's healing assured we all survived.  The Captain moved us away from the shore following the attack.

I don't know everything Wynzo said to the Captain, but he checked with us before making final arrangements.  He asked her if we could use her quarters for our ritual, though he was not entirely forthcoming with all the details.  She eventually agreed, but only when we made the concession it would be done at night with her in the room with us.  I would much prefer one of us awake standing guard, but with the dangers inside the desert I agreed we needed to journey together.  The captain seems trustworthy enough, and she's seen some displays of our power, so I don't think she wants to make us enemies.

Fortunately, our next ritual was successful.  After the others used their magic or cocktails to prepare, we headed into the Caravanserai once more.  We did not waste any time with the "merchant", and while he did score several powerful hits on the others, we were able to position him into a flanking position.  I remembered one of my companions telling me the balm I kept in my pack would allow me to strike at the vital parts of a spirit, which normally isn't possible.  It felt good feeling my steel sink into his essence as he cried out.  But I know our success against him was largely due to Andrea blitzing him with powers beyond my understanding.  She mentioned being drained of energy, but I think we might continue on a while longer while the magic lasts.

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The Living Nightmare

All things must come to an end. It seems like the end is near for the cult of Hastur. Although only recently have we been able to put a name to the horror.

The pieces are coming together more and more. And although I have only fleeting recollections of it the madness in this town has spanned years. Lowls himself and possibly with Melisen have given themselves over to the weird side. Multi Limbed horrors, vampiric creatures that feed on blood or worse your mind, ratlings, and fungus monsters, and ghouls. How can one town stand so much without collapsing? It disturbs me that I had a part in this. Whether by forcing compliance or being an active inspiration and collaborator. It’s becoming clear I wasn’t simple hired help. I was a part of this. A real part of it. There’s too much locked away in my mind even now after most was ripped away. The power of my magic must have made the severance incomplete. I remember disturbing things. Scenes from other worlds. Connections to this one. Why did I buy a statue depicting the spawn of Shub-Niggurath? Why is it important to me that I keep this statue? And what does it mean for this whole world that one if it’s befouled offspring sleeps beneath the asylum? 

There will be time to meditate on these developments soon. But we must press onward and finish our work. The manor house and compound haven’t been fully cleared. Some cultists may still remain. And we must take stock of the books here and notes. The researches left behind must be organized and collated. I must make the connections. Something here might be the secret to unlocking the gate in my mind. And once we pacify this compound I’ll finally have time. All the time in the world. Just me and me and my books. 

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The Fall of Melisenn

What a strange man down the hallway.  He wasn't immediately threatening and I felt like he knew us.  "Have you seen the yellow sign?"  I don't know, maybe.  He quickly moved to the side out of our view.  I wanted to see what he knew but Theron said the hallway was trapped, I could see the magic.  Within a few quick moments the hallway was filled with darkness as my mind was filled with overwhelming fear.  I had to get out, had to get away.  Everyone wanted to leave any ways.  I don't understand what the issue was.  Argo hit me with a bomb and I retaliated like any other normal person would.

Once we were back to the Sleepless Agency Yusei cast Sense Madness on me.  They don't trust me, they think something is wrong.  All of this because when I was punched I punched back.  They think that something happened from me coming back.  It's like they forgot the last month, idiots.  They serve their purpose for now though.  My safest bet is to stay with them all.  Yusei says that I have some form of compulsion on me.  He could be lying, I can't see what he sees and he knows it.  At least being with them makes getting richer easier.  This world is not meant to be alone.  The group wants to go see Winter so she can look at me, this is getting old.

When we got there Keldrin told us that Theron was already here and asked for her to come with him.  Obviously the fake.  She was taken, serves her right.  We told her to watch out for a fake Theron.  I thought she was smarter than that.  We followed her tracks which led to the stone in town.  Using the necklace and with a bit of effort we made our way through a portal that seemed to connect the yellow world to ours.  The good news in all this is we finally have an answer as to where the charcoal "drawings" were coming from.  

Through the portal we found Melisenn and some other crazy creature.  I wouldn't mind having one of those as a pet.  I'll have to figure out how to ask Melisenn about having one of these crazy flesh monsters as pet.  Melisenn put up quite a struggle, but eventually we put her down.  Not fully to death but unconscious.  Before she went down she blinded Theron.  I need him to see to be able to protect me and to use him properly.  THe easy solution is to torture her until she dismisses it.  She's tough but there's only so much pain one person can take.  Luckily I have the hoodwink cowl with me.  First is to take her things,  I stripped off her items and clothing, I'll keep her magic items for later.  She should feel more vulnerable if she's naked, bound and deprived of her senses.  first I'll try strong strikes to the stomach.  Still not cooperating.  I'll have to do this the hard way.  We'll go ahead and dig into her fingernails, this will be fun.  Before I could really start I was stopped by Drago.  Apparently he's ok with maiming her as a cat, send Shade to do the same, blinding her, burning her, and pretty much anything else except what I'm trying to do.  Hypocrite and fickle, what a terrible combination.  

Eventually Melisenn cooperated and released the blindness on Theron.  I want to keep her alive, I feel like she could prove to be a decent ally at some point.  She told us that Winter is somewhere upstairs.  In the room above us there is another strange woman hanging over the body of someone wearing Pharasman garb.  She looks fun.

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The Manor of Rot
Everything good turns bad. Everything bad becomes worse.

We continued through the manor grounds, starting with the house those traders are staying in.  Wynzo sensed magic in an area and opened a cupboard to find nothing inside but a trap that split out blue and white fire.  It hit Drago, Argo and Shade, too.  It was around that time I smelled something rotten, coming from outside.

No surprise to learn the stench of the stables were leaking into the Traders house, but as we approached it wasn’t the smell that gave me a pause – it was the neighing of a horse.  Yusei said he could sense undead inside, so Andrea used something called Purge Spirit which is supposed to make haunts go away.  I didn’t hear any more neighing after the spell, so it must have worked.

Inside the stable I found a bloody cleaver that Wynzo cleaned and put into the haversack.  There was also a large black carriage, equipped for shorter trips around town – not a traveling carriage.  Behind the carriage there was a hole that went underground, just like Drago’s bug-friend told him.  Wyn looked in and didn’t see anything, but a few moments later Yusei peered down and then immediately looked troubled.  He described it as a star-headed creature with eyes at the end of tentacles.  Much to my surprise, it was Drago who recognized the description as something that wanders the planes; it isn’t a hunter, but he told me that later when he was no longer a cat.

Upstairs there was some weird plant Argo recognized as a Bassatrond, known for its hallucinogenic properties.  It looked a lot like a venus flytrap.  I immediately started holding my breath, something the others did eventually; I should have recommended it sooner.  I’m still struggling with using my voice… and hearing it.  Every time I speak I expect to feel a whip across my back or a blade across my throat.  Unlike what Argo remembered, it removed itself from its pot and started attacking us, despite its normal prey being small animals.  This world makes everything good, bad… and everything bad worse. 

I made short work of the plant, though every pierce into its leaves made blood spew forth and coat me; I was relieved to remember I was already holding my breath.  Unfortunately, many of the others fell victim to the plants hallucinogenic mist – thinking they were drowning in quicksand, getting strangled, melting, or shrinking.  I think everyone got back to normal quickly once it was dead.  Wyn found some magic incense and a magic book on one of the tables near the plant.  We also found some memorabilia and information that seemed strange for a stablemaster to read through

Once we were back downstairs Argo and I moved the carriage over the hole and removed the wheels to keep that thing from following us, though it didn’t seem to care.  It had wings, too, but stayed in its hole as far as we know.

The next building over was the kitchen-house, where there were many of those barbarian brutes waiting for us.  Fortunately for all of us, these ones seemed much weaker than the others we have faced.  They must have been the runts of the family.  So, while they weren’t very dangerous alone, the number of them, about 11, was a problem.  Argo threw a stink bomb that broke them up and distracted them, he also hit Wynzo.  After a few seconds of vomiting Wynzo started casting some magic that made skulls flash around him, and he pointed it at Argo.

Some of the other magic users recognized some of the spell and called Wynzo out on using hurtful magic on Argo.  Wyn’s response, and he said something similar as he cast it, “If you hurt me I’m gonna hurt you back.”  It scared me and still does.  And it makes me sad a friend of mine would curse another one of my friends for taking a calculated risk.  I thought Wyn was one of the more level-headed people in our group, but maybe he came back wrong.  I hope I didn’t come back wrong, too, the first time or the second time.

Yusei broke up the argument between Wynzo and Argo, asking if we were going to continue or leave, to which I said “LEAVE.”  If I can’t trust my friends, I don’t want to travel with them.  If I followed the same rules as Wynzo, I’d probably kill them with a single hit.  The bloodiest of us, me, should not be a voice of reason.

The others wanted to search the rest of the building before we left.  The main floor of the kitchen house didn’t have much in it, other than some vegetables and dry goods, but the upstairs was a little different; it had rotted heads, including that of a horse, stored in some jars on a shelf.  Again… this is not the type of thing you expect to find in a mano-worker’s bedroom.

There was a trap door on the main floor that led into the basement, which was the icebox.  There were a few more barbarians down there – killed them too – and lots of crates of cold meats.  Through a door on the other side, after picking the lock, we found a 20-foot hallway that opened into a large room with a strange-looking man inside who asked, “Have you find the yellow sign?”

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Going Hungry

The hunger inside me continues to grow.  I’m doing my best to suppress the urges but I’m not sure how much longer I can control myself.  I don’t even want anybody to touch me.  Even the slightest contact with flesh may unleash my insatiable hunger.  The other day Cassandra touched my newly formed wings and it took all my self-control to not remove flesh from bone.  Instead the smell of her arm in such close proximity was just enough to hold me back.  Thank Pharasma.

It has been six days since I last felt satisfied.  This has been the longest I’ve gone, since this affliction has corrupted me, without sentient flesh.  Thankfully the fort we recently cleared out has a set of cells one of which can be used to confine me has Winter does her best to help rid me of this corruption.  Even as we eat this delicious breakfast and cinnamon; it does nothing to curb my hunger.

As we walk thru town I can feel my desire to feast grow even stronger every passerby is a potential meal as disgusting as it is it was what I need to continue living.  The sight of simple foods is becoming repulsive and is now a chore more than anything to keep up appearances which mine are admittedly not that great.  Probably doesn't help that I have a set of wings hidden under the lent to me by the sleepless agency but I don’t care as they will prove to be quite useful.  Why throw bombs when I can simply drop them.

Upon reaching the fort Wynzo goes about cleaning my cell which I am quite grateful for as Winter has told me that it will be my home/prison for an extended period of time.  She says she has no idea how long it could take but has advised that it would be many moons.  I pray to Pharasma that this cell will not become my permanent residence if I’m lost to the corruption.  I do not know what will become of me in these trying days but I pray that Winter and Pharasma are able to guide me through it.

I am stripped of everything as my body lay bare chained to the wall inside of this cell deep within this fort in this miserable dreary town.  I have no sight to the outside but if I had to guess it’s probably raining as that seems to be the only consistent thing in this place…fucking rain.

Free me! Feed me!  Look it is bringing food perhaps I will rip the flesh from his bones layer by layer first the skin although his seems rather tough.  I will simply peel it away with my teeth revealing the soft rich tissue underneath.  He doesn’t seem to speak so I’m curious if he’ll scream as I remove the skin from his body.  If he does his throat will be the first part of my meal.  I will lick his bones clean.  There will be nothing left but a mask and a pile of bones when I am done with him.

Fuck these chains and fuck this muzzle.  I must feed.  I’ve changed my mind about the masked one.  I’m much more interested in this priestess.  She will not shut the fuck up.  Prayer after prayer. Day after day.  It never stops.  I must stop this I must feed.  If I kill her I the prayers will stop and my hunger will grow less.

The days are growing long the nights even longer.  Or the nights are growing long and the days are even longer.  I can no longer tell the difference.  It is all just one long unrelenting nightmare.  I thought the nightmares were over once we left the asylum.  The hunger is unbelievable words cannot even begin to describe it.  The only thing that is keeping me connected to humanity is Winter and her prayers.  I do my best to repeat them as often as I am able to but I seem to be slipping in and out.  At times I am able to maintain control but there are periods that I lose out to the corruption and feel more like a passenger within my own my mind and body.  It is a ride I desperately want to get off.

I must escape I must feed.  I must get this muzzle off.  I can only lick the salt from my own flesh for so long.  Biting my own lips does nothing it is not enough to even qualify as a snack. Why won’t they feed me?  I am literally starving.

I can feel the corruption subsiding but it is becoming desperate and is violently trying to retake my mind.  I must not let it take control I must stay true.

 I will eat this priestess.  I will make her regret every word she has ever uttered in my presence.  I will leave her eyes intact so she can watch as I tear apart her insides and then stare directly into her eyes as I eat bite after bite of her intestines. Perhaps I’ll feed her her own flesh.  Yes I will tear apart her chest cavity and feed her bits of her own self.  And then as she shallows piece after piece will pull apart her stomach and re-feed her the same pieces over and over again.

As I awake I feel weak but oddly better.  I no longer feel the desire to eat flesh.  I run my tongue over my teeth and feel that they are no longer razor sharp but in fact have returned to normal and my tongue is longer long enough to choke myself.  I also feel the cold harsh metal of my bonds rubbing against my skin, a sensation that I did not feel when initially chained up.  My skin seems to be breathing with life.  It appears as though Pharasma has bestowed a platinum holy symbol upon me.  I will forever cherish it as not to forget what I have done and how Pharasma helped me through to the other side.  I am forever grateful.

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Storming the Fort

We awake like any other morning.  Yusei heads to the herbalist to help for the day, Andrea buries herself in her room, Argo continues to do research, while Theron and Drago continue their training.  I didn't have much to do during the day so I watched the others train.  I am still trying to figure out why I am here.  What brought me back, why do I feel so different.  I did pick up my cane from the woodworker in town.  Wrapping my hand around the skull feels right.  We wait until night to storm the fort. Our plan is a simple one, Drago will approach and use warp wood, if it works we go in, if it doesn't then we come back another day with a new plan.

We stop by the church and collect Winter to join us.  Her holy power will shine in a place of undead, Pharasma's greatest enemy.  Drago shifts into a cat similar to Shade and approaches.  Quickly he howls to signal, it worked, let it begin.  We all quickly rush the front gate and are met by a collection of juju zombies.  As the the fight is unfolding more begin to come in from the sides.  Right when the fight began to look like it was going our way, they showed up again.  The masked assassin that attacked me in town.  They stabbed Andrea directly in the throat dropping her to the ground. All eyes were on the assassin.  We quickly made chase, but the masked man was quick.  After a bit of healing Andrea stood, the darkness taking her over, she placed the assassin in to the mindscape.  If the assassin saw what I saw in there I don't know if I should rejoice or feel bad for him.  I find myself being drawn more to the dark powers that Andrea wields.  Before, it worried me and now I can't help but smile.  With the assassin stilled, it was only a few moments before she was slain.  SHE was slain, I could not make out all the details but it looked like an innocent girl.  I don't think she was working with the people in the fort.  We will have to investigate this further later on.

We dispatch the group of juju zombies in the foyer and press on.  Within a couple of rooms there was a gathering of skum.  None particularly strong and none of which appeared to have the amulet I saw on the roof.  Their flesh tore to pieces quickly.  The blood pouring from their wounds still haunts me and sends a shiver down my spine.  But what is this feeling I get when I see it now.  Thirst? What a strange feeling.  I am afraid of it, yet I feel pulled to it.  I'll have to figure that out later.  We continue forward to find another group of skum in wait.  They are torn to pieces nearly as quick as the first.  They aren't worth my spells.  We will rid this place of it's evil and take it as a new home.  

We have only faced the peons of this place.  Where is the constable? What is the mirror upstairs?  We will find out more as we press forward.

 

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The Fort
Killing Ourselves

The place was built to be well-guarded.  Its stone was strong, wood thick, and walls smooth.  I could barely find my footing the one time I tried to climb.  We tried to get in using magic, but failed.  With arrow slits along the walls it was clear to me they would always have eyes on us… unless they couldn't…

A rose without color?

I made no sound, and there was no me.  I drank the potion of invisibility.  It was strange knowing where I was, and yet not being able to see myself.  But after the utter failure at communicating with the woman at the gate, our plans made obvious as a result, we headed around the fort to a corner where the ballista would not be able to hit us quite so easily.

The longer I'm near my friends when they argue, the more likely it is they'll get me killed.

Drago laid down a rope for us to climb up at a corner, a wise move, after shifting back into a man from his bird-form.  I climbed with ease, and waited til some of the others were on the wall before moving to the ballista at the far side.  Still invisible, it was all too easy to sneak in the door and surprise the "man" operating the ballista.  Undead don't bleed, but they still have vulnerable parts, and it only took me a few hits to destroy him. 

What is dead may never die.

Still silent, but now visible, I fired the ballista at one of the creatures attacking the others on the wall.  My shot went wide, barely, but I was glad to have tried.  By that point the others were already climbing down and running away into the trees.  I did not see much of their confrontation, but I heard later just how poorly it had been going.

Running downhill through a city brings back thoughts of the island…

For all the talking they do, Wynzo having been killed for his constant (though pleasant) chatter, I feel like they rarely decide anything useful.  As evidenced by our time at the gate, those who speak must also listen.  Only if you listen can you understand; my choices have made me an expert at both.

If I can hear you and you are my enemy, you are standing in your grave.

We retreated to the Sleepless Agency to discuss our failure with the others.  I am not certain what the initial discussion was, for my trainer beckoned me away.  But a while later, they came to find me so we could discuss things as a group.  And while it brings me some semblance of joy for them to value my thoughts, I must admit a degree of guilt.  I can deal with their impatience as I mime my words; soon enough we will be  communicate with the sign language the Sleepless Agency described.  But when we're in battle and I'm wielding my blades, I won't be able to sign.  I won't be able to share my knowledge with them, just like the fort.  So it made me wonder… while my silence helps ensure my survival, could it cause the others to die? 

Will my silence get them killed?  Milani, help me, please.

We discussed more strategies and I think our next plan will work much more favorably, though it still requires magical success.  We decided it would also help to have Winter join us, and as a natural enemy of undead I don't think she can say no.  I never communicated it, but chances are if we can't cleanse this town of its plagues, soon enough they will find their way to the chapel and those she protects.  Without us, the town cannot be saved. 

I want to save something; I don't always want to kill.  I've spilled enough blood, now where are the roses?

During our strategy conversation I made my desire to speak with Winter known, so after dinner the group of us went to the chapel to see her.  She agreed to help us, but I had more to "say".  I asked her about the conflict going on inside me, about my silence causing death.  Her words were wise, and her advice genuine.  I was foolish to think she would tell me "right" answer, so maybe it's time for me to stop being such a coward.

Help me find my place in this nightmare.  Help me see…

Before we dispersed for the evening, I made my intentions known regarding the demon's eye.  After a great deal of prayer and thought, I decided to swallow it.  Similar to the conflict I still have regarding my silence, I believe the eye was left behind to help us see the things trying to get us.  There has been several times I've missed something Drago has seen, and several other times none of us has seen something until it was too late.  Hopefully with the magic of this eye, my kin, those times would happen less and less.

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The Account of Dragoslav Lazarus Randici: When plans go awry

Arodus 27. Early afternoon.

We spoke to the Sleepless Agency about combat training. Both Theron and I needed to train for the challenges to come. The fight with the barbarians proved that.

Most of us went off on our own for the rest of the day. I prayed at the chapel, to Desna mainly, but also to Pharasma. I wish doing so brought comfort, but alas.

After returning my key to Deena at the inn, I decided to eat dinner there. I felt bad for the events that happened and for the lack of income for us not staying there. Also, the food wasn't bad. Yusei was there as well. He went to clean the rooms.

Toward the end of the meal, Theron and Argo showed up concerned that we would be out after dark. It wasn't dark yet, of course, but I understand the concern. The worst case of sticking together would be foiling an assassin that wasn't coming. The awkwardness from the other patrons had worn thin on me so I finished eating and Theron and I headed back to Sleepless.

We slept.

Arodus 28. Morning.

Breakfast was served. Hassock had already arrived, clearly shaken. He said Wynzo was back though I found that hard to believe. He was reduced to two organs in an urn and we already knew of multiple creatures that could take on our likenesses if they wanted to. But he brought Meg back and Sleepless was all too happy to welcome their comrade, if horrified by the missing fingers and ear.

Hassock's House. Morning.

Wynzo was there. An imposter would probably not go through the trouble of bringing Meg back, but we grilled him anyway, producing multiple questions only he should know. We settled on accepting the impossible. With all the horrors and evils surrounding us, it's nice to know there are forces of good to assist us as well. The sheer terror of what we've seen may even outweigh the miracles of our returned friends, particularly if they come back with a price.

Wynzo looked different. Like he was struck with consumption or some other ailment. His face was sunken, skin a bit more pale. Maybe his experience aged him. We brought him back to Sleepless so we could all have some comfort from food and company.

The discussion quickly turned to fighting the creatures of the cave. I wasn't quite sure how to feel about it, but with the roads all but impassable due to these monsters, it seemed like it might be necessary. Plus, vengeance is a strong desire to ignore.

Church House. Morning.

Theron suggested we talk to Meg before seeking the cave. She was in rough shape. She told us there were three hags, each different from the other. This complicated things. One monster would be a challenge. Three might lead to death for us all. The strength of our foes makes it all the more important to defeat them, but—I'm not sure we can. We decide to let them be. For now.

Argo then asked Winter to have a word alone. He's never been the best in conversation so we all accepted his unusual request. We should have been wary. He was asking if she could stop him from turning into a ghoul. Apparently, whatever evil force rested in the asylum got to him and was slowly turning him undead. On top of that, he'd been feasting on the flesh of our enemies. Any time he took samples for his alchemy, he was really gathering food.

I felt deja vu, from when I found I could trust nobody. Argo was one of the least trustworthy at the time. Maybe I was right to doubt my companions. Could this happen to others? I hope not and I hope even more if never happens to me. We spoke for a time and none of us could come with a way to fix Argo. Not yet anyway.

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful. We discussed our next steps. With the cave being ruled out, that led back to our previous target: the fort. We knew it contained numerous undead and an ooze monster. Judging back their control of the parapets and the layout of the fort, I suspected they had control of a good portion of it, if not all of it.

Yusei was convinced the Constable was not in on it. He hoped she was a normal person caught in an unfortunate circumstance. He suggested she could be fighting against the monsters within, doing her best to help the town and not letting any innocents within. The rest of us disagreed. We couldn't imagine a circumstance where she wasn't in it. We didn't even know for sure it was the constable. Not with kelpies and doppelgangers and who-knows-what lurking around this town. Still, we relented to the idea of speaking to her before making any rash decisions. She suggested we come back to see if she needed supplies after three days and tomorrow marked that day.

Arodus 29. Morning.

After a brief chat with Winter, we decided to go to the fort. I felt nervous. I prepared spells I thought would be helpful, but my magic feels all too limited with the dangers we face.

The fort appeared the same as always. The undead weren't out, at least not that we could see from the ground. We approached the door, still discussing exactly how things should go. Yusei knocked and spoke to the Constable. Things went south quickly.

She not only kept the door closed, but didn't even open the hatch to see us. She said they didn't need supplies and told us to go away. Yusei then made a gesture at Wynzo suggested it was his turn. Wynzo just shrugged. We all anticipated Yusei was going to speak to the Constable about the undead and the ooze and he suggested the night before. Instead, we stood awkwardly and I had to try to talk to her.

There was no response. Not with words. Arrows began coming out of the port holes and I immediately regretted coming to the door in the first place. We tried bashing down the door and burning it but it's the heavily reinforced door of a fort and unlikely we could do any real damage while being fired upon. We also heard ballistae being put into positions above.

With things going sideways, we took a turn for the side of the fort that is least dangerous, all the while being fired upon by crossbow and ballista bolts. I turned into a bird and dropped a rope down for the others to climb up. It shouldn't have been too hard, but it was raining. I didn't know for sure if everyone would be able to make the climb. I also found myself flanked by a skeleton warrior and an ooze. It was not an ideal situation.

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