Vile Shadows

A Tragic End
Eiremis' Journal

Barrakas 2, 1423

Early Morning

I have committed a terrible crime, yet no one has moved to sentence me. All the while I cannot help but think I did the right thing. The young Sophia, who I had been led to believe was innocent of any involvement with the murders my companions and I have been investigating, has died by my hand. She was a werewolf. A werewolf that I struck down with a single bolt of lightning. I let my powers get the better of me and lashed out with all I had against the girl, though I did not know that my target was the girl transformed. Poor Sophia, I hope that she can forgive me.

-Eir

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A Startling Discovery
Eiremis' Journal

Lharvion 27, 1423

Early Morning

It flows through my very being. Yes, the power that I have studied for so long as an arcanist is mine to manipulate as I see fit. I came to this realization last night when the ship we were on was attacked by a ship of skeletal pirates. The instant my associates and I approached the creatures, I threw my hands forward as I would to cast any of my spells and suddenly a blast of lightning shot forth from the palm of my hand and turned my first target to dust and fragments. As far as I can tell, I maintain control over this power so long as I have at least one fairly strong electrical spell prepared.

My research has proven quite useful recently, as I have devised a means of storing additional spells in my staff. My powers are becoming truly fearsome with each day that passes and I must remember to keep my wits about me as my research continues. I am also considering asking Faylor or Ambrose to give me a few lessons in swordplay, in case I find myself in unable to rely on my wizard powers.

It’s also worth noting that the smith we were referred to in Lengrove turned out to be quite an interesting and helpful man. And his wife’s cooking was amazing.

-Eir

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The Cohl Party
Eiremis' Journal

Lharvion 7, 1423

Early Morning

I have become much more aware of my uneasiness in social situations. Miss Cohl’s party was very pleasant, but the presence of so many well-to-do nobles.

There is not much to say regarding the event, as I spent the majority of my time there making a sketch of Miss Cohl and her other guests.

There was a peculiar event that transpired toward the end of the party, a couple of priests of Lenus were harassing the musician who had been serenading the night since myself and my associates arrived. Bondel and Ambrose dealt with the situation. I had almost had my fill of the two dimwits before the confrontation was diffused by Ambrose and his growing air of authority.

Just a few moments ago, we recieved a package from Miss Cohl containing five hundred gold and a mysterious note addressed to Ambrose. I am unsure of the note’s importance.

-Eir

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Bandits, Devils, and Demons
Eiremis' Journal

Lharvion 4, 1423

Evening

As it turns out, Ambrose has been spending his time at the Temple of Ezra here in the city arranging some help for Id. I must say I feel a great deal safer now that he is gone. It is almost as though a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I wish the man well, I truly do, but for now I bid him a not-so-fond farewell.

Following our relaying of recent events to Ambrose upon his return, my companions and I decided to put our search for Marius on hold long enough to handle the local bandit problem and recover the missing bag as Jonas requested. We elected to hire a guide and set out almost immediately for the mountains. Our guide, Richard, was quite skilled at his trade and we made excellent time from what I could tell. Three days into the trip we found evidence of a bandit attack on a caravan and some gruesome clues that led us to the fairly conspicuous camp guarded by what Faylor explained were demons. Faylor also cautioned us that demons are typically led by devils, so we prepared as best we could before approaching. At first, Ambrose attempted to reason with the devil, but Faylor’s casting of an enhancing spell upon himself prompted the beginning of the battle with the devil and his demons. The bastard dared to show me her face before siccing his minions on us.

The battle ended almost as quickly as it began, but not before one of the winged cretins afflicted me with some sort of poison that made my muscles painfully tense. I credit Ambrose with dealing the finishing blow on the devil after the lot of us picked off his servants one by one. I am pleased that I elected to prepare a simple ward against evil that day, as it came in handy. I have also discovered that while I appreciate Bondel’s musical talent and way with words, I feel he is too timid to risk his neck for his allies. I will have to keep an eye on him—not that I think he is a bad man, just that he seems to value himself first and foremost in all situations.

With our enemies dispatched, I took a few moments to give the camp a good search, and discovered a cache of five hundred gold coins, two chunks of unworked adamantine ore, various trade goods, and the bag that Jonas sent us after. I shoveled the gold into our bag of group funds while the others took a few other things including a few of the devil’s chains as proof of his demise.

We made camp an hour or so later and…

I remembered the night that I lost her. It is the first time I recall the red-haired monster too vile to be called a human who murdered her.

It took us three more days to return to Friedland, and we first met with Faust to tell him the news. He awarded us with one thousand gold for our services, thanked us, and invited us to party at the home of the most wealthy merchant in the city, Runa Cohl. Noting our manner of dress, Faust gave us an additional seven hundred and fifty gold pieces to purchase some nicer clothes and other accoutrements, which we all split evenly between ourselves.

Following that, Bondel and the others went to return the items they brought back with them to their rightful owners throughout the merchant district, garnering another fifty gold for our growing coffer.

It has not been longer than half an hour since we returned from a meeting with Jonas. He seemed very pleased with our efforts and thanked us for our help, even allowing Bondel a moment to inspect the item the bag held, which seemed to be a gem of some sort. He also made another proposition to us, mentioning that he’d like to know about Miss Cohl’s books for her business. I have only heard good things about the woman, so I am not inclined to do as he suggests, though I am unsure how my associates feel about the matter.

The party at the Cohl estate is in two days, so I imagine I will be spending tomorrow shopping around for a few things in preparation. It is certainly nice to have a break from all the work we have been doing.

-Eir

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Memories Astir
Sie-Story Event

Lharvion 1, 1423

Little more than an hour after the ferocious encounter with the devilish creature covered in chains, Eiremis and his companions were setting up camp for the night. It didn’t take long to get the fire going and assign watch shifts, and before he knew it, Eiremis was sound asleep in his bedroll, his arms hugging his belongings almost covetously.

It had been weeks since he’d last had a dream about her, though what was to replay in his mind that night was more a nightmare than anything. The scene slowly faded into view through the darkness until it was impossibly lucid.

He and Branwen were walking slowly down the cobblestone path leading through the center of one of the largest parks in Kingdale. His arm wrapped around her waste, he caught sideways glances at the peaceful look on her face as she looked out ahead of them at the trees, smiling gently every time her eyes shifted to focus on something new.

The hem of her dress danced lazily in the light breeze. It was made of some of the finest fabric, accentuating her natural beauty with its joyful light blue color, and draped effortlessly over her perfect frame. Of all of Branwen’s clothes, Eiremis was most entranced by this dress. It was thin enough that he could feel the edge of her hip through it while concealing her delicate, porcelain skin from his view.

The two of them soon reached the fountain in the center of the park. The sound of the water splashing into the pool at the bottom of the fountain was delightfully relaxing, and the two of them stopped to share a moment. Branwen was about a head shorter than Eiremis, forcing him to stoop slightly to kiss her. It was something he was more than willing to deal with, however. Her arms wrapped around his chest tightly as they embraced and let the kiss escalate little by little. Branwen’s eyes were half-open and she sighed and started to giggle as Eiremis ran his fingers through her long hair.

Leaning back from the kiss, Eiremis said plainly and sincerely, “I love you Branwen Weaver.”

“I love you too, Eiremis. But you should really get used to the sound of ‘Branwen Vandril’. There is less than half of a day left before we say our vows.”

Eiremis smiled and kissed her again.

Coming out of the kiss, Branwen repositioned herself at Eiremis’ left and put his hand on her hip where it belonged, casting a glance his way all the while. “We should probably get back home soon. Big day and all.”

“Right you are, beautiful,” Eiremis replied as they resumed their walk back the way they came.

The night was silent. Seemingly more so than it had been just minutes earlier. There were no frogs croaking or crickets chirping now.

Eiremis felt the hard surface of a club connect with the middle of his back. He crumbled to the ground in pain as Branwen backed away quickly, a scream stuck in her throat. It didn’t matter, as a gloved hand quickly covered her mouth and her arms were restrained from behind. She wanted to close her eyes as two men beat Eiremis with their wooden clubs, throwing in a kick here and there to emphasize their point, “Stay down if you know what’s good for ya!”

Eiremis tried feebly to push himself from the ground, just to feel another blow from the clubs hammer down on his shoulders. He was sure that they had broken something in his back. Before long, he could barely move. He coughed and wheezed as the two men laughed, backing away slowly.

With all of his might, he turned his eyes toward his attackers, rolling his body over so he could point his hands at them. He mumbled a word or two, but couldn’t complete the incantation before the hazy image of his attackers closed in on him once again. One of their clubs found its home on the arch of his shoulder, sending a chilling stillness through the rest of his body. He slumped over helplessly onto the roots of a tree, his eyes locked on the grisly image before him.

A red-haired man was tearing at Branwen’s dress as she tried with all of her might to fight him off. His tough, gloved hands bruised her skin as they clenched down around her limbs. Eiremis was forced to watch as the three men took turns forcing themselves upon his fiancee. He couldn’t even feel the tears pouring from his glazed eyes.

When the deed was done, they gave her a beating as well. Her puffy, red eyes were barely noticable behind her blackened face. One man with a head of red hair laughed with satisfaction as he stuffed himself back into his pants. He went around and held her chin, forcing her to look at Eiremis’ crumpled body. Eiremis felt like there were miles between them now. The night seemed uncommonly filled with white light, but he fought on, not wanting to leave his beloved behind. He watched her act in defiance against her tormentor, biting his index finger with all of her might and severing it with a ferocious jerk.

“You savage bitch!” The red-haired man screamed as he ripped a jagged dagger from his bootstrap, and plunging it into her chest twice.

Her lifeblood poured across the cobblestone as she released a sickening whimper of pain.

The red-haired man turned and looked at Eiremis. He seemed to sense that Eiremis was still alive somehow and gave him a wicked smile. Blood poured from the man’s wound at an alarming rate, but he soon found missing part and proceeded to wrap a strip of cloth from Branwen’s dress around it to staunch the bleeding. “Thanks for the treat,” he said as he and his two accomplices walked away jauntily.

Eiremis stayed there for what seemed like hours before he could feel his limbs come back to life. Dragging his broken body across the cobblestone, against the pain that wracked his very being, Eiremis finally reached Branwen’s side. Her eyes were wide open, but there was no one there. He reached up with his left hand and gently closed them.

“Let’s just rest for a while,” he said as he grasped her hand tightly. He could feel the wounds on her knuckles from when she’d tried to fight them off. The skin was broken and slightly sticky from the dried blood.

As Eiremis stared off in the distance, he watched a raven land on a tree limb some ten feet away. It was a curious-looking bird with its thick beak and a small scar over its right eye. It called out into the night like birds of its type do before setting its sights on the two of them. There was something sad in the way it watched them, tilting its head to the side every few seconds as though it were trying to analyze the situation.

The raven continued to watch as Eiremis gave into his pain and drifted off into a deep slumber in effort to forget about what had transpired here.

The next day Eiremis awoke abruptly, his breathing heavy and with a severe pain in his back. He did his best to massage his back as he rose from his bed. The others were already awake and busy with their morning routines.

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29th of Nymm, 1423
The Journal of Inquisitor Hawking

I haven’t had the chance to write for some time. Samael has escaped me for the past month and the trail has gone cold. Ariana isn’t the same anymore. It’s as though she is controlled by a dark magic or some greater force. The scar on her face is gone now as if every fiber of her being is different. Her scars reminded me of the day I found her among the blood and flames, but they have since become part of my memory of her. I have encountered her and Samael twice and she has left me with two scars of my own. I do not know what Baldur has judged for Samael’s punisment, but I have already decided my judgement. He will die by my hands.

I hope Gretchen is doing well. I left her in the care of Brynn and Cillia but a girl of her age should have her father. She only turned five less than two months ago. I doubt she fares well with both her father and mother out of her life. I can only hope I resolve this problem as quickly as possible.

I do not care for Nacenium. It is too different from Kingdale and Friedland. Everything here operates by money, greed, and cowardice. I can see why Samael might come here, he displays many of the traits of the merchants and lords of this city. I will write again when I find more information. I pray Baldur watches over my child and protects my wife. I miss them so.

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In Her Presence
Side-Story Event

Nymm 28, 1423

Daylight was in its last few moments as the sun and moon vied for dominance in the sky. Eiremis was walking through the streets of Friedland, his hands resting in his coat pockets and his eyes low. He’d hardly had any time as of late to think of Branwen. He stopped at the edge of a small park some twenty minutes from the inn where he was staying and looked up at the sky. Through the glare of the city’s lights he could just barely make out the glimmer of a star high above him. He cracked a small smile and thought about how Branwen always used to love to look at the stars. She’d ask him questions about them, and he’d answer, even if he had no clue what he was talking about. She’d laugh at whatever he came up with before moving on to the next question. His chest felt as though it was going to cave in when he remembered the sound of her laugh. “I miss you, Branwen.”

He fingered the music box in his pocket, as he was apt to do when he thought of her. His gaze came back down from the sky as he pulled it out and wound it. The beautiful melody it played gave him a sense of absolute peace as he listened to it. His eyes watched curiously as the little cylinder turned, plucking the tuned combs as it went. He began humming along absent-mindedly before eventually realizing that he’d been standing there staring at the tiny music box for at least twenty minutes. He sighed deeply as the song came to an end and then gently put the piece back into his pocket.

He eyed a bench nearby and decided to take a seat. He rested his arms over the back ridge of the wrought iron bench. “What am I doing here?” he asked himself. “I’ve yet to accomplish anything meaningful. What is it that kept the lightning from striking me down that day?” He narrowed his eyes as he recalled the day he’d begged the storm to kill him. It had held off its fury until after Branwen’s funeral and flatly refused to take his life even after he tried to use his powers to force its wrath upon himself. He was fairly sure that fate had denied him the opportunity to join his fiancee in death. Shaking his head at his own weakness, he stood up again.

His thoughts wandered for a few moments as he started walking back toward the inn. “I should write Argus a letter,” he said to himself quietly. “He’s probably wondering what I have been doing since then.”

He remembered Argus’ furrowed eyebrows the day he’d left the estate, “I don’t blame you, Eiremis,” he said, “You’re welcome here as any son would be.” The man was never the same after he saw his daughter’s lifeless body the morning they were found.

Eiremis’ knuckles cracked under the pressure of his clenched fist. His breathing intensified and he ground his teeth together. Those monsters had taken her from him. She’d never done anything wrong in her life. As perfect as any human could be. But their hungry eyes had already convinced them that fate had delivered her to them that night. “The night before our wedding.”

He’d reached the doors of the inn, and had to regain his composure before he entered. He couldn’t burden his companions with his own troubles. Not right now. Taking a deep breath, Eiremis went inside and immediately headed to his room. It was a nice place, considering the price. He’d become accustomed to sitting in the fine mahogany chair that the innkeeper had placed in his room; even though all he’d asked for was a simple desk to work at and a comfortable chair. Based on the amount of money Eiremis had on hand and his appearance, the man was under the impression that he was a frugal merchant and went to great lengths to assure Eiremis’ comfort.

He ran his fingers down his black staff leaning against the chair before sitting down. Corvin sat on the window seal to his right, his head tucked comfortably in his collar of feathers. Eiremis couldn’t help but feel as though Branwen were in the room with him, saddened by the thoughts that troubled the man who’d loved her with all of his being. There was a chill hanging in the air around him, but Eiremis paid it no mind, hanging his head down in front of him as he leaned forward onto his knees. All of his worldly possessions were strewn around the chair and his bed sheets were untouched.

He took a deep breath as a few raindrops plopped against the window where Corvin was resting. The bird spoke with the voice of an young man, but there was something that conveyed an aura of wisdom in the sound of it, “That Id fellow disappeared again while you were away. I haven’t seen Ambrose all day either. The others are as they have been for days.”

Eiremis made no sound in reply.

He could hear her voice in his head again, just like the day of the funeral, “You’re a good man, Eiremis, and you have a purpose to serve…”

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Contemplations of Faith
by Faylor

I had a vision today during my daily devotions. I found myself in a field of blood red clover and a man standing next to a great white oak in the middle of the field. He was clean shaven and had a longsword at his hip. I can only guess he was Baldur. Who else would have the power to speak to me at this time? He looked me up and down and muttered to himself, “There is so much you do not know about yourself. Well, now is not the time for such things if you remember you remember. I have come with a warning. Remember who I am, the god of law and good. You will not continue to have my blessing should you continue to heal those who commit acts of evil. The innocent is who you are to protect, those whose hearts are good and pure and while we’re at it let’s discuss why you are here in the first place. . .” He said more afterwards but I remember none of it.

Why do I block out my past? What could I have done that was so wrong or terrible I am unable to face it? I think myself a brave man of faith, but I hesitate to think of why this could be such a problem. Bah such thoughts will only lead to sorrow. Tonight I drink with my companions. Although I am not sure what will happen the next time I try to heal Id. Such a tragic man. Am I such a person? Do I carry a demon within me as well? I think I will try and find Ambrose or Eiremis they are always good for a drink or two. And leave this writing to someone else it only clouds the mind . . . bring on the ale.

Faylor

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The Bandits and Jonas' Favor
Eiremis' Journal

Nymm 28, 1423

Late Afternoon

As I write, I am finishing the last portion of my meal in my room here at the Traveler’s Rest inn, taking a brief respite from the past day and a half of near-constant work. Much of this time I have been huddled over a small desk in my room trying to decipher Marius’ notes and restoring my dwindling supply of scrolls. I have also determined the nature of the bracers we found in the magic bag from Marius’ basement. The generous use of a spell used to detect magical auras and my knowledge of the arcane has led me to believe that these bracers surround the wearer in some sort of protective field, given its faint aura of abjuration and the peculiar sensation I feel when I put them on—it is very similar to the sensation I feel when I cast one of my protective spells on myself, though quite not as strong.

I tried to use the same methods to determine the properties of the bag we found, but its aura somewhat confuses me. I suppose it will suffice to say for now that it is, at least, some sort of storage device. I trust my instincts as far as that is concerned, and have since relocated the objects from my backpack to the magic bag.

After several hours of work, I did finally manage to decipher most of the notes from Marius’ house as well. He makes mention of a graveyard, which could possibly be serving as his base of operations—at least for now. He also makes several references to the grave dirt there, about how it is was of perfect consistency for something. He talks about his path to power going well, and how it has changed his appearance. Lastly, he once again references Nacenium as well as Ettermoor and the warlord that rules the area. I gather that they may have some sort of arrangement, which would allow Marius to take advantage of the warlord’s physical strength.

The time I have spent outside the walls of my room has consisted primarily of errands with Bondel. Shortly after I returned from making arrangements for Zack’s cremation a day and a half ago, Bondel received a message from the thieve’s guild, requesting his immediate presence. He asked me to go with him, since Ambrose has yet to return and Zack is no longer with us.

Upon arriving, Jonas asked us to look into the local bandit problem, in attempt to recover an item that the guild was to receive from a messenger who has gone missing. We were told the item was stored in a marked bag, and instructed not to look inside. Jonas was also kind enough to point out that the effective leader of Friedland, a Lord Faust, was offering a reward to anyone who could deal with the bandits. We spent nearly all of yesterday talking to Faust and one of guard captains about the bandits.

This led us to today’s contact, a merchant by the name of Jonathan Foerster, who managed to survive an attack on one of his trips. Apparently, his guards were struck down by barbed chain weapons from the surrounding forest edge. Foerster did not see the assailants. Quite peculiar, for certain. I am unsure of our current plan for dealing with the situation, but Jonas urged us to quickly recover the lost item, so I imagine that will be our top priority.

-Eir

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Marius' Home
Eiremis' Journal

Nymm 26, 1423

Late Morning

A terrible tragedy has befallen our group—one that will not be easily forgotten, concerning the circumstances. Our infiltration expert, Zack, died during our raid on Marius’ house last night. I fear for my safety and the safety of the innocent people around us, all because of that churlish man that calls himself Id, or whatever name he deems fit to evade repercussions for his foolish and hasty actions. His thirst for blood seemingly knows no bounds, though, I am sure that a coward such as he would attack one of us with any sort of misplaced courage. Worse still, our group’s supposed beacon of justice managed to disappear into the city somewhere throughout the whole endeavor. My trust is wavering, for certain.

I am greatly disappointed in myself for not reacting appropriately to the situation. I can truly make no excuse for it…

Despite his foul nature, Id did prove useful as we continued to search through Marius’ house, which, as it turns out, was quite normal until we found the hidden door leading to a series of rooms underneath it. Upon entering the first of the underground chambers, we were faced by two golem-like creatures that I believe are known as dread guards. I recall reading about them in some of Zede’s books on some of the older practices in some arcane circles. We managed to eliminate the two of them without much trouble, but they proved to be a simple warm-up for things to come.

In the next room, we found an even greater testament to Marius’ intentions. The entire room was filled with shelves full of various human organs incubating in glass jars. Before I could overcome the initial shock of the scene, Id was assaulted by what appeared to be a creature made of a person’s viscera. Before we managed to kill the abomination, it managed to implant what we later discovered was a cyst filled with liquefied necrotic tissue. Contrary to my better judgement, I gave him one of my own healing draughts to keep him going.

From there, we bashed our way into the last room, which was, for the most part, empty save a table in the corner covered in a variety of ciphered notes and a bag. Before we could investigate further, we encountered a terrible creature—likely another of Marius’ damnable creations. It’s body was mostly like that of an animated skeleton, but its fingerbones were capable of rapid extension an retraction. I narrowly dodged its first attack before deciding to take advantage of some of my recent magical research, reshaping my body into that of a troglodyte and thereby granting myself a hardened exterior without compromising my spellcasting abilities. After a lengthy battle and some tactical use of Faylor’s faith, we defeated the beast.

Upon inspecting the bag, we found that it’s internal dimensions were much larger than its external dimensions as well as a sizable amount of gold and a pair of bracers inside. I took the bag for safekeeping, shoveling in all of the notes on the table as well, which I have yet to decipher successfully.

As I said, the events of last night will likely haunt me for a while. As we speak, Zack’s body is probably being prepared for his cremation. I have left his equipment with the people at the church and let them know that he was trying to find his wife. I can only hope that she will one day know the fate of her husband.

-Eir

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