Vile Shadows

Hunting Mistakes
Eiremis' Journal

Sypheros 9, 1423

Early Morning

Following our victory over Samael and a short rest to recover from the ordeal, my allies and I set out immediately to track down the beast that escaped Kingdale a few days ago. The first night of our trip, we encountered a half-elf woman by the name of Kerry, and her exceedingly large jaguar companion. According to Faylor, the big cat charged through camp first—for what reason, I cannot fathom. I gather Kerry thought it a masterful plan to gauge our abilities before she approached. Faylor naturally struck out against it at the first opportunity. I cannot say I blame him, given the size of the thing. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how well we get along with her. Bondel was definately an odd one, but she seems even more so.

The next morning we hurried along as fast as we could, and with Kerry helping us track the creature, we managed to gain ground much quicker. It wasn’t long before we came upon the village of Hawick. The place was devastated. It was not hard to imagine the cause. We lingered there a little too long, as the poor unfortunates who had fallen victim to the beast’s attacks rose from death and attacked us. Once we had laid the victims to rest once more, we set out to continue tracking the beast. Eventually we lost sight of the tracks and were forced to guess the beast’s destination. Our guess turned out to be correct because, earlier in the evening we met the beast once more, but this time we were prepared to face it. I opened with the first attack as soon as I came within range of the creature, blasting it with as much lightning as I could manage. In an effort to end the battle quickly, I exhausted myself and, while I dealt quite an impressive blow to the creature, I managed to draw its ire toward myself. It proceeded to take advantage of my exhaustion and beat me to a pulp. Just as my allies were at the end of their ropes, I managed to gather myself and gave the creature one last blast of lightning, severing its hold on the world of the living.

With the beast defeated and the town saved, we all went to explain the situation to Nolan, the assumed head of town. He did not believe our initial warnings, but when he saw that we had risked our lives to save the town, he was grateful.

It is now morning, and I wonder where our destiny will lead us today.

-Eir

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MAGIC!

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An Unexpected Encounter

As you enter the Inn, you notice a solitary soul at the bar. It is a woman who seems to be traveling as light as possible. Included in her belongings are several weapons, ranging from lances to flails. You sit next to her and notice as she gives you a glance. It looks like she always wears a grin across her face. Her eyes tell you she’s a bit jaded and has seen more than her share of horrors. She insists you share a drink with her if you’re going to sit there. As you speak to her you notice she looks to be in her twenties. She is rather beautiful, however you feel as though she’s a bit crass from the language she uses. You spend some time in conversation and learn a few things about each other.

“The name’s Aileen. Aileen McKensie. You could say that I’m a Monster Hunter. I’ve seen quite a few beasts in my day. Lotsa people don’t think they exist, but they do. I can prove they’re out there.” She pulls a long claw out of her pack and slams it on the counter. “That there’s a Dragon’s claw. Slew the beast. Yeah, I had a bit of help, but it was still an incredible fight.”

The conversation seems to shift towards your birthplaces after she tells you a few stories about some of the monsters she has “encountered”.

“Well, I’m originally from Hawick. It’s jus’ a small village in Estus and there’s nothin’ too special ‘bout it. Me father, well he was a war veteran. Served for awhile in the Estonian-Rostov war. He came back to our village and started a farm there. Yep, I started off as a simple farm girl. Nothing too special. But when I was about seven, me father’s crops were pretty bad. He started drinking more than usual and he’d beat me mother when he was drunk. Even though I was so small, I stood up for her one day, so he started beatin’ me instead. Broke my bones on a few occasions. He died a few years after that. Got into a fight ‘cause of his drinking that he couldn’t handle. They beat the livin’ shit out of him and he died right there in the fields. Son ofa Bitch deserved it. A right fucker, he was. I had to help me Mum out after me father passed. She had sewn all my clothes for me growing up, so she tried her hand at that. She was always good at it. I tried to help her out when I could, jus’ so we could make a living. Neither of us knew nothin’ ‘bout farmin’ ya know?.”

She has a few more drinks as you listen to her. You’re curious as to why she seems to be telling you everything there is to know about her.

“I grew up pretty quick. I left home when I was seventeen. There was nothing for me in that village, jus’ me poor old mother. Don’ worry, I send her money when I can. Most of the girls in my village got married around that time, but none of the boys ever seemed to take interest in me. I guess since I was bit of a Tom boy, I acted more like them than the prim an’ proper girls they wanted. That led me to my current life. I learned how to fight since that’s what I’m good at I guess.”

She looks into her drink still wearing her smile. “I’m happy with my life, though. I have good mates and I’ve seen more than I could have ever imagined. I’m still young and plus, I’ve still got my looks.” She gives you a sly smile as she finishes her drink.

“I dunno why I’m telling a complete stranger all this. Maybe it’s easier to talk to someone who doesn’t know a thing about you. I could never tell any of this to me mates.” She stands up and puts a few coins on the counter. She gathers her belongings and places her hand on your shoulder as she tells you, “I’m sure we’ll never meet again, stranger. Best of luck to ya.”

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No One
Eiremis' Journal

Sypheros 5, 1423

Late Evening

The last twenty-four hours have been the longest hours of my life. Only my closest friends and allies, those of the Hart’s Cross, remain by my side in this macabre world I call home. The only connection I have left to my beloved Branwen lies in the depths of my memories and the things that fill the Weaver household, which has now been left to me. I lost my fiancee, then my mentor, and less than half a day ago my last remaining father figure. I suppose there is a chance that my blood-parents are still alive, but I would not know where to begin to look. I suppose this would be the price I pay for the life I lead. If my assumptions are correct, my friends and I have slain at least two beings known as Darklords. I gather that the same path they were on was in some way similar to the one that Marius was on. Mad and craving seemingly unlimited power over life and death. This world’s obsession with death and how to avoid it may very well be what makes our world such a horrific place to live.

In my travels with the Hart’s Cross, I have combated all manner of beast and man. I have watched the dead rise from their graves to wreak havoc on the living. I have seen men turn into wolves. The wounds I have sustained have brought me many times to near-death. I fear that I am beginning to lose hope in humanity itself. More than anyone else, I can understand the unquenchable desire to see Branwen again, but the dark and evil things that Argus was willing to resort to are beyond anything I can imagine myself doing. By the heavens I love her so, and miss her so much more, but to place my life in the hands of such corrupt magics would be against everything I am. To sacrifice the life of an innocent to see her again. She would never forgive me. I am afraid she may never forgive me for not doing more to stop Argus from attempting such an evil ritual. For not saving him from that abomination that crawled up from beneath the graveyard.

My conscience eats at me when I contemplate attempting to find my parents. Part of me feels that, if they are still among us, that meeting them would put them in harms way. But sometimes I feel so terribly alone. I feel that everyone but Ellyria harbors some sort of distrust for me, and even she may have some reservations about me. Ambrose even criticized me for losing my taste for battle once my strength had been exhausted. I do not know how to fight any other way, yet he insists that I fight on. I can understand this, I think, but it is such an unfair burden to place upon my shoulders. I have spent my life trying to learn how to master the powers that reside within me; it left me with no time to learn how to fight using my body. The armor Ambrose covers himself in would do nothing but weigh me down and further inhibit my ability fight the only way I know how.

Things are changing so much among us. Ambrose is becoming more and more militant as the days go by, a side effect of the time he spent with the paladin, Hawking. Bondel has gone off on his own for reasons I cannot fathom. Faylor’s past is slowly creeping up behind him. I have lost everyone. The world around us seems to be fracturing. As we go from place to place, I can see everything fall apart. Estus has been left without a king and no one knows where the queen has disappeared to.

Deep down, I know that no matter how much we do. No matter how many of these Darklords we eliminate, the world sinks ever deeper into darkness.

Somehow we must persevere. We must continue to fight.

-Eir

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Bad Omen
Side-Story Event

Sypheros 4, 1423

Eiremis could still feel the strain of having exhausted his magic as he made his way down the cobblestone path leading to the large mansion owned by his would-be father-in-law, Argus Weaver. It worried him that Argus had not been seen in the past few days. The notes he found in that secret room only made that worried feeling worse. Eiremis stretched his arms out to his sides and gave a small yawn. The wounds he’d suffered at the teeth and claws of the werewolves earlier still ached a little, despite Faylor and Ambrose’s healing powers. Just ahead, he could see the wrought iron gate leading into the Weaver mansion’s courtyard. It swung open easily and he stepped through. As he stepped into the house, the eerie silence rang in his ears. He swallowed in a subconscious attempt to keep his heart out of his throat. “Ellyria!” he called, but she didn’t answer. Stopping at the bottom of the staircase, he gave himself a moment to think. He called out again, “Ellyria! Where are you?”

No answer.

He was sure something was wrong now and took the stairs up to the second floor two at a time. Walking at a brisk pace, Eiremis found the door to Ellyria’s door wide open and she was nowhere to be found. Then it hit him. The reason something felt wrong. The front door was unlocked and he knew for certain that he’d locked it behind him when he left earlier in the day. He had given Ellyria express instructions not to leave the house for any reason. She had no real reason to leave unless something was wrong, for that matter. He searched her room, but found no signs of struggle. “Argus. What are you up to?” He said to himself as the sinking feeling in his stomach worsened. Mentally, he called Corvin to him and checked his bag for his wands—they were his only resource now.

His tools in hand, Eiremis left the mansion once more, sending Corvin out to bring his allies to him.

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Ambrose: Sypheros 4, 1423

“What’s troubling you, boy?” came the grizzled voice of Vincent Ward. He was an old man now, but his arms were still strong and his eyes keen. Gray hair framed his face. Ambrose was laid out on his old bed, arms behind his head. He sighed.

“This day has been difficult for me, Master. I question my god, consort with a demon, threaten the livelihood of my old friends, and even Eiremis..”

The old man came in, sitting on the bed’s edge. Here was a young man who had seen entirely too much in such a short period of time. The last few months hadn’t been kind to him. But it was the path he’d chosen, years ago. Ward patted his leg, then shook it a little to rouse Ambrose’ spirits. “Ambrose. Being a paladin isn’t always easy. Most people don’t believe in us or our cause. So much evil exists in this world, that it can become easy to doubt what you’re doing. So long as you hold justice in your heart, and protect those who need protection, take solace in that you are doing what you must.”

The young paladin nodded faintly. “Still. I feel like I’m constantly treading a fine line, between good and evil. I wanted to kill a man today. He had committed crimes, yes, but.. did he deserve to die? I do not know.”

“Did you kill him?”

“No, Master.”

“I see. Why don’t you tell me what happened..?”

“It was yesterday, mid-afternoon. I was walking through the town, when a man bumped into me. I didn’t notice anything unusual about it, but.. Well, I used to be a thief. It was the sort of thing I would do. When I checked for my coin purpose, it was gone. I pursued the man, working my way through the crowds until I caught him.

To my surprise, this brown-haired thief was Able! Do you remember him?”

Ward leaned back in thought. “Scrawny kid? Good heart, but alot of bad luck? You were always bailing him out of bad situations.”

Ambrose nodded. “That’s him. He gave me my money back, but I gave him some coin regardless. I thought, ‘If he still needs to steal, then surely I can lighten his worries’. We chatted for a while, talking about old stories. Then I got an idea- so I asked him about Samael.”

“Samael?”

“He’s a man we’re hunting. My new mentor, Christoph, has some history with him. I’ve seen his depravity first hand recently. We’re short on leads. So, Able doesn’t know anything, but he says that maybe Grayson, his boss, might. Grayson was that guy who ran a small-time thieving operation back before you picked me up.

As usual, no one wants to cooperate without getting something in return,” Ambrose sighed, running a hand through his blond hair. “So I agree to help with a pickup of goods. I knew the goods were probably smuggled or stolen, but if the information I got could save lives, I decided it was worth it.

We arrived at Edmund’s Fineries at nightfall. In his basement, we collected a number of crates and.. a girl.”

“A girl? Grayson must be involved in the slave trade,” commented Ward.

Ambrose nodded a little. “That’s what I thought, too. She was tied up, beaten and battered, and they were very rough on her when they were taking her back. Before you say anything, I thought about stopping everything then and there. Then, I had an idea. If I followed them back with the girl, I could learn more about what they were doing, and maybe save others like her.

When we arrived back at Grayson’s, they led her to the back. He said something ominous like, ‘We’ll take what we need from her later.’ At this point, I knew I had to step in. I demanded to know what was going on. In the end, I had to fight Able, four men, and another of my old friends, Henry. He.. he was hopped up on something, some kind of drug. It looked like part of a plant. I’m no expert on such things.

I subdued Able and Henry, and saw to Henry’s wounds. When I went to the backroom, I was immediately attacked by Grayson. I dodged his blow and cut him twice. He stabbed me once, in my side, before I subdued him as well. I had the foresight to tie him and the others up, like you taught me.”

Ward nodded in reply. “Glad to hear you were paying attention.”

“Of course. Your teachings have been very beneficial. I’ve learned a few new things along the way, though.”

“You’ll have to tell me about them later. What about the girl?”

“Right. In the room, there was some odd machine- lots of tubes and pipes. I wouldn’t find out what it was for until later. The girl was in a cage. I thought I might need to pick it-”

“You still do that, ey? I told you that everything happens for a reason.”

Ambrose chuckled weakly. The next part of the story was a little more difficult for him, “I found the keys instead. She was gracious for being freed. She clung to me. I have to admit.. she was very pretty. Something about her just drew my eyes. I used my power to heal her of her wounds, and then went to make sure that the others were where they should be.

And then she spoke to me, telling me not to leave.

I found myself swayed by her pleas. I agreed to stay, to protect her. But I wasn’t done with my job yet. I turned and went to Grayson, making sure he wouldn’t escape. And then..”

A gentle thud, the rustle of clothes. Ambrose turned. The girl stood before him, naked, swelling bosom and sex exposed. At first, he was taken aback, but then.. “It’s alright. Come, let me reward you for saving me.” He tried to deny it, but his will wasn’t strong enough. He walked to her, and she rested a hand on his chest, leaning up to kiss him. Her lips were sweet, her eyes speaking of sensual desires when she looked into his. The touch of their lips gave him the most unusual sensation. Ambrose went to pull away, but she spoke again, her voice sultry and commanding.

“Why do you pull away? Take off your armor. Cast aside your sword. A hero such as you deserves more than just a kiss,” came her voice.

Ambrose struggled against it. This wasn’t like him. He would never..but even as his mind fought it, he found his lips speaking, his hands working. “If you insist..”

“Of course I do,” she said with a sweet smile. Ambrose undid the latches and buckles on his armor, tossed Exordius aside. He didn’t need any of that. Not right now. She touched his bare chest, kissed him softly along the nape of his neck. Gentle hands guided him to the floor, and her lips trailed down his body. She rose up, positioning herself over him. His hands slid against the grimy floor as she slid down onto him, causing him to gasp.

He’d never had a woman before. He never imagined his first time would be in a place like this. It felt incredible. One of the most amazing sensations he’d ever had. And she was certainly beautiful, her breasts rising and falling in a steady rhythm as she rode him. Her lips parted slightly.

It was then that he felt something- an odd weakening of his body, his life force being pulled out of him. At last, he fought off her control. He shook his head to clear the fog, then wrestled her off of him. He stood and got his distance.

“Why do you stop me? Did it not feel good?”

Ambrose narrowed his eyes. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but I know that not all is as it seems.”

She frowned. “Surely you’re just being paranoid. Come back to me, it’s okay. I’m not trying to hurt you.”

“You’re lying,” he replied. He was good at noticing. After all, he used to lie all the time.

She laughed at him. Ambrose kneeled, getting his sword. He stood, bare to the world save for the weapon that had become so familiar.

“And what would someone as…inexperienced..as you know?”

“Inexperienced?” he demanded, missing the point of her verbal jab. “I’ve fought the undead, a werewolf, monsters of the land, and slayed a necromancer. Inexperienced? Hah!”

She looked at him quizzically, then laughed again. “Very well.” Her appearance began to shift. Rigid plates of bone began to cover her body. Horns grew from her head, and her fingers became like claws. She was still seductive- the armor seemed to accentuate her breasts and hips. He could still feel her pull, even though he knew what she was now. Succubus..

”..she wasn’t what she seemed. I feel a strong guilt for what happened, even though I had no control. There is a woman, Kalfyra, who has taken my heart. I feel as though I have betrayed her.”

“Does she know how you feel?” asked Ward.

Ambrose sighed. “I didn’t get to spend much time with her. She was..she was bookish, and clumsy, and very sweet. She was all the things that I never knew mattered to me until the moment I met her.”

Ward smiled softly. “I know the feeling. You should write her, and tell her how you feel. You can tell her what happened, if you wish. This life of yours isn’t going to stop just because you’ve fallen in love. If she is to accept you, and to be with you, then she needs to understand the dangers you face. Even strange girls.

You said something about your friend, Eiremis? He’s…”

“He’s the wizard.”

Ward sneered a little. “Ah yes, the wizard. Lowly bunch of-”

Ambrose held a hand up. “Eir isn’t like that. He is..honorable. Quiet, brooding.. but the man’s heart is in the right place. I trust him. I can’t really talk about what happened. Only that, for a moment, I doubted him. I understand more what happened now. Why he did what he did. I still don’t agree with it.. but I feel as though it was important enough to let it be.

“Master.. Grayson, the succubus, Eir.. even Marius and this Samael.. I keep feeling as though Ezra isn’t my true calling anymore. I spoke to one of the fathers at the Cathedral of Baldur, and got a book of His tenants. I don’t like this feeling of doubt.”

The old paladin nodded, resting his hands in his lap. “What did the father have to say?”

“He said that such doubt was natural. That Baldur’s methods were sometimes the best way.”

“I see,” began Ward. “And what brought you to a Cathedral of Baldur in the first place?”

Ambrose sighed. “I took Grayson there. I knew that if I took him to followers of Ezra, they would treat his wounds and let him free. Nothing would be gained.”

“And, what does your mentor think?”

“I haven’t consulted him yet.”

Ward stood, heading for the door. “Write this girl of yours, and then talk to your mentor. Faith is an important thing, Ambrose. I can tell you haven’t lost it. Ezra and Baldur are alike in some ways. Perhaps, your destiny belongs to Baldur instead. Find what works for you the best. And Ambrose?”

“Yes, Master?”

“Don’t lose yourself in the process. You’re a good boy. Always have been. Even when you were stealing food just to live, you felt guilty about it. Now you seek to help others in that situation. You risk your life to save others. Don’t lose sight of that. Baldur is.. his tenants might be more suitable to you now, but don’t let that take away your compassion. That’s all.”

Ambrose smiled back at him. “Of course, Sir Ward.”

“Good lad,” he said, shutting the door behind himself. Ambrose rolled out of the bed, sitting at the desk and getting a piece of parchment from the drawer. He took a quill in hand, dabbing it in ink once, then twice, before taking it to paper.

Dear Kalfyra,

It has been many weeks since we met. I find my mind wandering to you. I imagine your face. I’ve never felt like this before. Women have tried to get my attention before, but I’ve never been interested. And when I met you, that changed. Every time you stumbled I smiled as I helped you, and having you at my side filled me with something I hadn’t felt before.

I know the time we spent together was brief. Forgive me if this is too forward. I feel as though I need to say this. I feel like I want you to know. When I left you last, I said I wanted to see you again. I don’t know when that will be. This road I walk seems to take me far from the places I wish to be. But.. the people I am after threaten many innocents. I cannot stand aside if there is something I can do about it.

Being what I am, doing what I do.. I have to face alot of strange things. The truth about you was surprising enough! I am surprised, in some way, that knowing what you are doesn’t diminish my feelings. I don’t know if I’m silly for them. To love a dragon was not even in my wildest dreams. Unfortunately, not all I face is as pleasant as you are. Recently I was forced to fight a succubus. I am ashamed to admit that I fell to her powers, and broke the chastity that I have been upholding.

We are not together. And yet, I felt like I betrayed you. Is it chivalry, or guilt?

Regardless, my heart remains yours. I hope that you don’t mind my continued writing. I do not wish to let you slip away.

Yours,

Ambrose

He penned the last few lines, then put the quill away. He took the letter, rolled and sealed, with him as he went out into the city of Kingsdale. After depositing it with a merchant headed to her town and a bit of coin for the trouble, he searched out Christoph.

“Christoph! I wanted to speak to you about the gods..”

The other paladin gave a gruff reply. “Oh, you do? And what would Ezra have you do now?”

“Actually..” he began, walking over to him. “It’s about Baldur..”

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Aftermath
Eiremis' Journal

Sypheros 4, 1423

Late Morning

I wonder, am I wrong for feeling as though I can breathe deeper now that that bastard is dead? The man who took away my chance at a life with my beloved Branwen died by my hand last night. Part of me feels heavy with guilt while another part of me is more content than I have been in a long time.

If it were not for Ellyria’s insisting that we go for a walk yesterday evening, the man might very well still be alive, likely preying on some other poor unfortunate who happened across the path of he and his men. I even did my best to avoid entering the park, but again Ellyria’s pleas swayed my resolution. The rest was just like before. They waited until we were about to leave the fountain to strike. The only thing they did not expect was the degree by which my powers had grown. It was a mistake for which they paid dearly. If I had been unable to stop them this time and somehow managed to survive, I am sure that my sanity would be gone from me by now.

This morning, we woke early and left the mansion. Argus is nowhere to be found. I have been worried since Ellyria accidentally discovered the secret room in Argus’ library yesterday. With all those notes and that damned book. I know what he is up to, and I have to stop him.

Ambrose was waiting for me when we returned earlier. His time with the inquisitor has certainly given him a more hard edge. While I did not appreciate his ‘hands-on’ approach to asking me if I had anything to do with the deaths of the men in the park last night, I can understand. I am an arcanist, and by default that makes me untrustworthy. Ambrose is now the second person I have talked to about Branwen’s death.

Ambrose left shortly after that.

-Eir

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Electric Vengeance
Side-Story Event

Sypheros 3, 1423

“Eir, what’s this place?” Ellyria asked innocently as she thumbed her lower lip. She and Eiremis stood in front of the elaborate wrought iron gateway leading into Dorian Park.

Eiremis’ breath was caught in his throat as he watched Ellyria’s eyes ask the question again. “It’s a park.”

“What do you do in a park?”

The wizard let out a slow exhale, shifting his fingers absent-mindedly in his coat pockets before answering, “You take walks, and watch animals in their natural environments.”

Ellyria’s eyes shifted back toward the gate, “Can we go in?” she asked, with an almost childish inflection punctuating her words.

Eiremis swallowed his immediate response and cleared his throat. He was doing his best to buy himself enough time to come up with an excuse not to go.

“Please.”

Finally, Eiremis wavered and gave her a nod. Happily, Ellyria wrapped her arms around Eiremis’ right arm and kept pace with him gingerly. She smiled brightly as she looked around. If not for what transpired here, Eiremis would just as likely be infatuated with the park’s natural beauty. The crescent-shaped moon hanging in the sky shimmered in the fountain. Ellyria watched the gleaming moonlight in the water as Eiremis looked around. His eyes came to a rest on the tree that he could so clearly remember holding his head up just enough to watch the night-walking murderers have their way with Branwen. The image flashed in his mind as he recalled it.

Calling him back into the present, Eiremis could hear Ellyria’s words behind him, “Is something wrong, Eir?”

Without turning, Eiremis shook his head. “I’m fine.”

The time the two of them had spent together since he rescued her from Marius’ holding cell did much to teach Ellyria about Eiremis’ moods. It was obvious to her that something was bothering him, but she knew him well enough that it would be better if she didn’t press the matter. After a few more moments, Ellyria was finished scouring the landscape for things of interest and she turned to Eiremis, “You want to go home?”

With that, they were off, walking back to the Weaver mansion. Everything fell into place just like before, only this time, Eiremis’ senses were not clouded by his love for the woman he was with. On the contrary, something inside him was charging him. His magic surging through his body like a current. His pupils dilated until his green irises were almost completely obscured. All of Eiremis’ senses were on edge, to the absolute extent of a human’s capabilities. Tack, tack, tack. He heard them coming. He could practically smell their lust as it thickened the air. He turned just in time to see his assailant change his course of attack. Foregoing his blackjack in favor of his knuckles, his attacker planted a firm fist in Eiremis’ jaws. Eiremis staggered backwards before he felt the second fist find its place in his stomach. For all of his alertness, he was still caught off guard by the attack. Still just as helpless as he had been on the night of Branwen’s death. He felt the weight of three men move to hold him down. He could hear Ellyria cry out in the distance as two men began ripping her clothes off.

A familiar voice echoed in the night air, “What are the odds?” The voice laughed. “You even brought us another bitch. How thoughtful.”

Eiremis caught a glimpse of the man who was speaking from between two of the men who were restraining him. Red hair. He looked frantically down at the man’s hand: the tell-tale signs of stitches surrounded one of the man’s fingers. It was the same man. Anger rushed over him and he struggled against the men holding him down. He couldn’t move. He was still too weak. His physical might was no match for that of three full-grown men.

He stopped struggling and a wave of calm came over him. Closing his eyes, Eiremis channeled his power through his own body. The muscles of his captors tensed violently and their flesh began to burn as Eiremis continued to pour electricity into their bodies. With a final jolt, Eiremis blew the mens bodies to the side and stood up. Raw energy poured from his fingertips and sparks danced from his eyes. The two men holding Ellyria down stood up and drew their knives, charging the wizard blindly. Before their third step, a bolt of lightning burned through the air toward them. The man in front felt his body separate at the shoulders. The man in back didn’t have enough time to process the pain that Eiremis inflicted upon him. All of the electricity concentrated itself into his body before discharging violently, spraying the surroundings with pieces of charred flesh and various parts of his viscera.

Then Eiremis set his sights on the red-haired man. He was backing away slowly, begging profusely for forgiveness. Another step, but with no ground beneath it. Eiremis’ fingers flicked upward, commanding his magic to lift the red-haired man into the air. Another flick slammed the man’s body into a nearby tree. Eiremis approached slowly, using his other hand to call one of the other mens knives to his grasp. A clenching of his other fist pulled the man’s body tightly across the tree’s trunk. Eiremis then proceeded to torture him. He started things off by castrating him. He twisted the weapon into the wound, taking care to make sure that nothing short of the most powerful curative magic could possibly restore its function. Next, he slid the man’s body down and began slicing off the his fingers. The red-haired man continually begged Eiremis to stop. Then, Eiremis broke his legs. The man’s pleas were practically incoherent as Eiremis exacted revenge on him. It wasn’t long after that when the man passed out from his wounds. Eiremis waited a moment to give the situation some thought. As much thought as he could muster in his adrenaline-fueled state. The electricity dancing across his limbs faded away as he pulled a piece of parchment from his coat. Taking the man’s severed finger, Eiremis scrawled a note onto the parchment, “A wrong has been righted. May she now rest in peace.”

His missive complete, he took the knife and plunged it through the parchment and into the tree for everyone to see and wiped his bloody fingertips off on the man’s shirt. Eiremis turned to see Ellyria cowering pitifully, pushing herself away from him with a look of terror in her eyes. The scene shot through Eiremis like an arrow. Almost instantaneously, his anger was extinguished and a look of hurt replaced the calm on his face. His breath was caught in his throat, but he managed to speak, “I’m sorry.”

He stumbled backward a few steps and turned around. Within moments, he felt Ellyria’s body touch his back and her arms wrap around him. Turning back toward her, Eiremis embraced her as well and she buried her sobs in his chest. They remained there for only a few moments before Eiremis felt the need to put as much distance as he could between himself and this place. Wrapping his cloak around Ellyria’s body to cover the places exposed by her tattered clothes, Eiremis led her back to the mansion. Eiremis knew that there was only one way he could make Ellyria understand and took her straight to Branwen’s room.

“Ellyria, this room belonged to the woman I was supposed to marry,” he paused, wiping some dust from the mirror at Branwen’s desk. “Our wedding was scheduled for the 27th day of Eyre. Greengrass—a holiday. A day for happiness.” Eiremis sat down in the ornate padded chair positioned in front of Branwen’s desk. “But those men, they attacked us the night before. We were walking through the park, minding ourselves and nothing else. They tried the same thing tonight and…there was just no way I was going to let it happen. Not again. You remind me of her…” Eiremis cradled his forehead in his palms, resisting the urge to cry.

He felt Ellyria’s hands come to a rest on his back and someone spoke, but it wasn’t Ellyria’s voice. “I love you Eiremis. No matter what,” he heard Branwen’s voice say.

Eiremis looked up expectantly to see Ellyria standing there, doing her best to comfort him. “I understand it now. I’m sorry I acted that way, but now I know why you act the way you do around me.”

The two of them spent the next several hours in that room. Eiremis made his way around the room, telling Ellyria about Branwen. The oddest details, like her particular way of laughing. Eventually, they found their way out of the room and to their own bedrooms. It wasn’t long until they were both fast asleep.

The next morning, they both woke early and went out for breakfast. As they made their way through the town, they heard the rumors rush through the commoners. Talking about the gruesome killings in the park and the note that was left. The rumors compacted the memories of the event in Eiremis’ mind, prompting his silence throughout most of the morning.

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The Caliban and Returning to Kingdale
Eiremis' Journal

Sypheros 3, 1423

Early Afternoon

The Hart’s Cross has arrived in Kingdale. It is good to be home, but being here certainly brings back some grievous memories. I should point out that our exit from Ettermoor proved to be interesting. The mighty warlord who rules the land seems to have some terrible fear of arcane magic. Without knowledge of my abilities, Kharne confronted our party as we were preparing to leave two weeks ago. He kept referring to Faylor as Rakov, the name of some great warrior that bested him in the past. Kharne repeatedly challenged Faylor to a duel, saying that he would either fight Faylor alone in a duel or kill us all. Faylor’s evasiveness eventually wore on the warlord’s patience, which resulted in Kharne’s lashing out with his axe. Once the ruckus began, I nudged Ellyria and soon every one of us were running for our lives. I had done my best to conceal my magical aptitude from the people of Ettermoor, but the instant I saw the man approach Ellyria after she stumbled and fell, I had no choice but to reveal myself.

To my surprise, after my lightning bolt struck the man, he crumpled to the ground and begged that I spare him, offering me a position as his court mage. I mulled it over for a moment before replying that I will give it some thought if he allowed myself and my associates to leave in peace in order to deal with more pressing matters. He agreed and we were allowed to gather our things and leave, not without the watchful eye of Kharne’s aide on us, however. On the way out, I requested that the aide deliver a message to Marco. Hopefully he will be able to decipher the language I wrote it in.

That was not all that befell our party in Ettermoor, however. The night before our confrontation with Kharne, we broke into a warehouse owned by some caliban “merchants” who were in the business of selling a variety of monstrous body parts to whoever would be inclined to purchase them. Everything went fine until Faylor—or “Rakov”, if Kharne is to be believed—and I were attacked by two beasts that I managed to identify as gibbering mouthers. Wretched creatures covered in mouths that attempt to debilitate and then devour their pray. I quickly got to the high ground while the others went toe-to-toe with the creatures. Terrible creatures, really, with a talent for spitting gruesome blinding agents into the eyes of their opponents. Shortly after the fight began, we managed to kill the creatures only to be greeted by the two caliban who ran the warehouse. We attempted to negotiate peacefully with them, but we were forced to resort to intimidation, which seemed to do the trick—at least for one of them. Luckily, Bondel was able to keep the one less susceptible to our intimidation busy while Ambrose and I dealt with the other.

Ambrose and I tussled with the caliban for a moment before he called out for help, which prompted their pet to attack us. A massive hulk called a gray render. An interesting beast with a penchant for attaching itself to less physically-capable creatures. Even providing food for them under certain circumstances. We did battle with the beast before Ambrose finally managed to slay the thing. The braver of the two caliban died in the struggle as well, leaving us with his cowardly associate. Ambrose questioned him about this Samael character that he and his mentor have been searching for. We gathered that he was headed to Kingdale, which brings us to where we are now.

Argus seems to be doing okay. He did not ask me about Ellyria when we arrived. I can tell he is still under a lot of stress. He made a point of giving me the key to Branwen’s room. It is the coldest room in the entire house.

I have made it a point to keep Ellyria from wandering around too much. I will have to take care to keep her away from Branwen’s room as well.

-Eir

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Delusions
Christof and Ambrose in Ettermoor

“Go get some rest if you can. We’ll be going out late tonight to try and get the drop on the Caliban. I’ll come by later…”

Christof left the young man in the hall as he entered his own room. He removed his heavy cloak and threw it across the chair in the corner. It was only autumn, however the weather in Ettermoor was deplorable. It had been raining since the day they arrived and the streets were incredibly muddy. Chris opened the shutters in his room and climbed into his bed. He lay there for a good twenty minutes, watching the rain. He finally closed his eyes and listened to the steady rhythm the rain made as it landed on the roof.

“Tired?” Said a voice.

“Yeah, a little…” Chris replied. He opened his eyes, but no one was in the room. The voice sounded like Ariana’s. Actually, it didn’t sound like her voice, it was her voice. He was positive. Was he crazy?

“Is this a dream?” He finally asked.

“You tell me.” She said

He closed his eyes and ran his fingers across the scars on his face.

“Where did you get those?” She said in response.

“You gave them to me.”

“I would never do that to you, Chris!”

“I know… It wasn’t your fault… You couldn’t control yourself…”

”...I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize. There was nothing you could have done.”

“Still…”

“I’ll find a way to save you… I’ll kill Samael…”

There was a long silence before she finally asked, “How’s Gretchen doing?”

“She was fine the last I saw her, but a month has passed since… It hurts me to leave her…”

“There’s nothing you can do about it. You have a job to do. She understands that.”

“I hope so. I don’t want her to resent me the rest of her life.”

“What about this boy you’re training? How’s he doing?”

“Ambrose? His heart is in the right place, but he’s naive. He still has a lot to learn. I rarely even call him by his name…”

“You shouldn’t be so hard on him.”

“He’ll never learn otherwise…”

“Would you want Gretchen to be treated that way?”

“No, but-”

“I’m sure he’s trying his best.”

“He is… He’s a good b- No… He’s a good man. He’s more of a man than I am. He has spirit and he can still see so much good in the world…”

“You used to be that way.”

“That part of me died a long time ago… I’m a hollow shell of the man I once was…”

“You’re a good man, Chris. I’ll love you no matter who you are…”

“I love you…” Chris replied.

Chris lay there expecting a response, but none came… His conversation had ended. “I’m losing my mind.” He said to himself as he put a hand over his face. “I’m hearing voices… Talking to myself… Can’t let anyone see me like this.” Chris rolled over as sleep finally overtook him


Chris awoke to knocking on his door. He realized that he had slept a lot longer than he had planned to. He answered the door to find Ambrose there.

“You had said you were going to come by, Christof. It started getting late though and I wanted to make sure you didn’t oversleep.” The young man said.

“Yes, I slept a bit too long. It’s my fault. Give me just a few more minutes, b-... Ambrose. I’ll meet you downstairs and we’ll eat before going out.”

Ambrose acknowledged him and seemed a little surprised when Christof called him by his name. The young man went down the stairs as Chris walked over to gather his cloak and other belongings. He rubbed his eyes before turning towards the door. He stopped just before he opened it and reached into his bag. He pulled out an engraved gold ring that seemed slightly worn from time. He stared at it with a saddened expression before recalling a few of the words he had heard earlier. Even if they were his own delusions, it gave him peace. Chris smiled for the first time on his journey as he clutched it tightly in his hand. He placed it on his finger and opened the door…

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