A Troubled Economy

Journal from the September Session
Discovery of 2 Desecrated Shrines

The weather turned decidedly wet! It reminded me of some squalls I rode out when I plied the coast on the Goldwater Queen under Captain Dornather. To be sure, after the hellish desert, this downpour is very welcome. They gray skies and gray mood settled heavily on my stalwart companions, especially the newcomer Malakai. The loss of Setibyr and Enalda still weighs heavy on us all, and I thought, nay felt, this was an opportune time for us to remember the beautiful twins, and to grieve a bit. From my days at sea I know a crew needs time to remember the fallen.

I started talking about the twins, and my fond memories, and debt of gratitude. Soon everyone was listening, then one by one, like the desert flowers I saw, they opened up in the rain. We had a good remembrance of them.

I decided to use the cover of the rain and clouds to sneak about and get the lay of the land. I spent hours outside the tent, scouting around and I found a creek that I felt would lead us where we needed to go. Alas my instincts guided us true! We had decided to travel east and the water flowed more-or-less in an easterly direction.

The high winds had subsided and we all started on our way following the creek-now-river. The water swelled at the banks and we followed it for days. Finally we crossed with Sahil’s magic and by working together. We finally came to a beautiful and serene part of the valley that was marked by several very large stone buildings. I’ve always preferred wood or brick, but no one can deny that a huge stone structure speaks of wealth and power.

We cautiously circled the buildings looking for tracks and signs of occupation or use. Our searches yielded nothing. Then we looked inside. The buildings were centuries old and had been abandoned for a very long time. In each one was a large statue. One statue of Torm and one statue of the Red Knight. Each of these different shrines, however, was completely desecrated with unholy writing, symbols, feces, and filth. While investigating the statues and the surrounding area we set off several warding glyphs. We also were attacked by a horde of undead skeletons, which we were able to defeat. We searched in a copse of trees near the shrines and found many shallow graves.

In the Shrine of Torm we discovered a clue to a hidden room, but we could not discern the answer to open it. We discovered a similar clue at the Shrine of the Red Knight but we correctly interpreted it and we found a secret stairway. Danjo and I were unable to descend, for some oddly vexing reason, but the rest went down. They said the found planning rooms that were probably over half a millenia old, or more. There was also ancient weapons and armor and a massive mural telling some stories of the Red Knight (or so they said).

Now, as they explore below and I wait here with the warrior Danjo, I keep wondering. What is so important about this location? What secrets are here? We certainly haven’t found anything of vital importance, or if we have, we have failed to recognize it. Surely if we spend enough time here we can learn the important secrets that the dwarf was hinting at, shortly before his murder. This could be the information we need to end the troubles, or at least get paid well.

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Discoveries in the Valley of Shrines
Mystery deepens in the Valley

The idle time has passed. As well as the cleaning. With our rest, we continue our investigation of the Red Knight’s underground chambers.

We have no luck gaining access to the other 2 doors, but now we have some interest in determining if the scrolls we uncovered will gain us access to Torm’s chambers.

Suddenly, we are met by Tuck. It appears he is able to enter after all. He claims it was his state of mind, and releasing his anger made all the difference. Donjo is still not able to enter.

Tuck is unable to further assist us in opening the doors, so we have a bit of a discussion. We decide to head over to Torm’s shine, and see if Makoto can gain us entrance into his chambers.

Before going in, Donjo prepares himself in his custom, and appears to make prayers to Torm. After a short wait, he gets up, and we enter. Makoto is successful in utilizing his magic’s to allow us to gain access to Torm’s chambers.

Below, we find a similar layout. The mural is different, but the doors are placed in the same locations.

With the aid of the scrolls uncovered in the Red Knights chambers, we are able to open all three doors. Inside, we find bunks, tables, and some other odds and ends. There area few martial items that look to be helpful to some of our members. The desire to leave things as intact as possible is strong with everyone, and the taking of what was left is kept to a minimum.

We did find more scrolls, equipment and books. The scrolls we used to gain access to the other two doors in the Red Knight’s shrine. We found some more historic items and a few odds and ends.

With these findings, we are now discussing the job the party was hired for. I, am working to help speed up the discovery so we may return to town. We have decided on a course of action of exploration. Wishing to uncover as much of what happened here as possible so we can update the Red Knight and Torm temples about the lost Valley of Shrines.

With the aid of Shino, I was able to discover several skeletal remains with ancient clothing on them. Shino pointed out that there were some recent scrapes & cuts on the bones that happened well after these skeletal remains had passed. Their location confirms that someone had raised these remains and used them. For what purpose is a mystery.

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Idle hands in the valley of the shrines

The storm continues to lash out. It’s anger and force having spent itself earlier, yet it remains prevalent.

My companions and myself while away the time trying to puzzle out the mural in the Red Knight’s shrine, as well as access to Torm’s secret vault.

There are rewards to be had. Nothing like the books make out, but still things we could sell.

I spend my time trying to make a very rough journal out of the paper I have found, and any thread I can gather. Either the leather cording in broken armor, or in frayed clothing. With luck, my perseverance will yield me a rough journal to save my precious spellbook and it’s rapidly diminishing pages.

I do not believe I will ever travel without a spare book or two from now on. Having access to paper to write notes down is incredibly valuable.

Donjo and Tuck are not able to enter the vaults under the Red Knight. A protective ward preventing people who do not hold basic values has prevented them from joining Sahil, Shinjo and myself.

Between the rudimentary journal, I am trying to roughly draw out the mural that surrounds the shrines, as well as the general area in the valley. Perhaps this information is stored elsewhere, but keeping this information for others to find is important. We must preserve what history we can.

I wonder if we will fully discover what happened here to have such a lovely, and fertile valley be so heavily desecrated.

My personal time has ended. I need to return to cleaning this shrine. While I will not be able to restore it to it’s proper glory. Hopefully, I can help unmark the desecration done to these noble gods.

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So. We found the Valley of the Shrines.
The gods wanted me to find this place

So. High winds translated to the opening intro to a typhoons coming along. Hammering into the mountains, forcing me to either die by exposure, or stay with the group and travel further in.

The winds did allow me to see differences in the land.

We waited out the storm under some trees. Shino and I spent some time teaching each other languages. Tuck spent some time addressing the horrific loss of the paladin siblinvs.

Makoto offered some insights, Sahil continues to impress me. He is an incredibly skilled caster.

Tuck has some magic capabilities. I wonder if he would be willing to share spells.

Eventually, the lay of the land, and following it, we discovered a lake, and across the river were 2 stone buildings with pillars.

Sahil managed to get across the swollen river. His capabilities continue to impress me. Donjo held and end, and the rest of us crawled across using the rope.

One building was a temple to Torm, the other to the Red Knight.

Inside, the walls, ceiling and floor were heavily marred and stained. The staining appears to be layers upon layers of waste.

We spent time cleaning a placard, only to discover there are protections surrounding the Torm statue. At one point, skeletons attacked, but from the efforts of Sahil and Shino, the skeleton were repulsed.

We made it to the Red Knight, discovered a passage as well. We could get in, except for Tuck and Donjo. Inside, we find a lovely mural, there are 3 doors. We were able to get into one room.

Inside were 12 Longsword, 12 steel shields, 12 suits of studded leather armor, as well as an old map, some paper, papyrus, ink, pens & 3 scrolls.

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A truly dangerous world
Why is this happening

My life has truly changed for the worse.

I went from being sold by my parents into servitude, to learning fun and exciting professions, to eagerly working to earn my place with Lady Moon, to scattered and lost. Likely I’m thought dead.

I find salvation, in an unusual form with 2 sibling paladins, some odd people from a very distant land called Wa, a quiet fellow from the streets that has a keen understanding of nature,and a bureaucrat Halfling. As my options for survival are death or go with these people, I wisely chose to continue with them.

We find a modicum of peace in search of this valley they search for. Then, the following day after another seemingly random yet I’m beginning to feel tailored attacks against us, the paladin siblings inform us they are leaving.

This upsets me, but it also thrills me. I am upset that they would abandon this quest they are on, but thrilled that perhaps we would return to civilization sooner then I originally anticipated. I wanted nothing more then to reach the comforts of a life I feel has left me behind. I temper my words. I am very much of the minority here, having only just been picked up. The stray as it were. I realize that my words have little impact, so I must use them wisely. To show favor, but temper them with the knowledge that I would prefer to follow suit.

Everyone is agreeable to following the siblings to town. What a blessing, Waukeen be praised. Perhaps I can get my message to the Gemstone Chaka after all. Perhaps I can find a new assignment. One that is less fraught with this peril. Alas, this was not in the plans of Waukeen.

Worried that the blood from the fallen monsters would attract predators, we travel a fair distance to set up a camp to rest, recover and eat. Sadly, I do not thing we will ever get a full rest. We were attacked, by something only a perverse god could think of. A tiger of such overwhelmingly large size it bordered on the ridiculous. It would have been utterly laughable if it wasn’t for how stupendously large, frightening and powerful it was.

With little effort, it killed the brother, and then killed the sister paladin. The rest of us managed to kill the tiger, but at what cost? What cost indeed. This mission of theirs to find this valley is doomed. We will die. Yet they insist on continuing. I am at their mercy.

During the fight, there is someone that may be trying to help. Another from the land, or at least, culture of Wa. Donjo and Shino do not think highly of him because apparently he is not full blooded Wa. I’m not entirely certain I understand the culture, but I feel their perceptions are short-sighted. This is not the time or place to be so very wary of those that are willing to help in such dire circumstances. Then again, what do I know. My knowledge is based on books, which leave out so many details. Like the bugs. Why do the books never mention all the bugs one deals with while out in the wilds? The persistent nature of them, by their very annoyances, should make it something to know about.

Makoto is grudgingly accepted into the group, but only just. I feel a camaraderie for him, primarily because we were not originally of this group.

Nevertheless, the passing of the siblings hurt me. On reflection, I’m rather shocked at how their passing has affected me. Quite strongly. Here they are, pious members of their faith that have taken heed from a message from their god and decided mid travel to turn about and return to their lands. I am not such a strong member of my faith that I can call myself such, but I do not doubt their religious convictions. Surely their gods would have protected them more than was offered? Then again, who am I to question their deities. I only know so much, and what I know doesn’t begin to cover their faithful understandings.

We all performed what rituals we could for them both. Their loss stuck me deeply, and I even spent a page of my spellbook to write what deeds I could about them. Their names, their faith, and the martial prowess I saw them exhibit. I hope to one day return this information to their temples at the very least. Perhaps I can pass the word of their lost life to ease a loved one’s constant worry. To give them peace. I know not.

Setibyr, a gruff holy warrior who was quick to distrust, but equally quick to forgive and place that trust in you if you showed the desire to work within his framework of understanding.

Enalda, a lovely lass deadly with her sword. Her love of her brother was only surpassed by her faith in her god.
Together, they were a formidable pair. The strength and will of this group has been seriously weakened.

The loss of the paladins has shaken me. I’m not in my right mind. I think it has affected me on a deeper level then I originally expected.

I find myself charging into dangerous situations, embracing death in an effort to make my position known. I almost cost the life of Tuck, and for what? A few coin? None I had earned.. I am ashamed of myself for what befell Tuck. I hope Sahil can heal his ear.

Shino. Poor Shino. I do not know if he will be able to cast anymore fire magics while in these hills. Not without incurring a heavy penalty from the Fey, who cursed him with a amulet. Granted, had he not taken the amulet, I believe we all would have died. In my selfishness, I find myself grateful to Shino for taking the amulet.

I predict death will fall on us all before a week runs out. This land is out to destroy us all.

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Parting of the Paladins
Is this the end of our company? Can we survive?

Tuck has been silent, listening to Setibyr and Enalda announce their departure. Setibyr’s outburst of a few days ago seems to have been more than a passing fright. Well, it’s not surprising a pair of paladins don’t go changing their minds every time the wind billows the sails… At first Tuck felt insulted by Setibyr’s accusations, then he realized the man was learning what Tuck already knew: the world is a fucking abattoir. It’s drenched in blood and don’t give a fuck. It was a lesson Tuck learned as a prisoner of the fuck-drenched drow.
Tuck can’t blame them. He’s all about survival himself, and comfort is a close second. Halflings survive by leaning on community, and working together. This company of adventurers, working for the church of Lucha, has only survived by working together, and has suffered when they failed to do so. Just like in the burning inn. “Don’t go outside” Tuck said. “It’s an ambush” Tuck said. “Lets hide our identities and sneak out” Tuck said. Did they listen? No. Did they almost die because of it? Yes. It’s teamwork that keeps us alive in this world.
Now two very tough, and powerful fighters are about to leave. Tuck was quite worried. His normal, Tymora-be-praised, and Torm-be-damned attitude was gone, as he contemplated what changes this would bring.
Strange things are roaming these hills. Other-worldly, extra-planar, damonic things were being brought here by some bizarre power. Probably for some heinous purpose. The more Tuck thought about it, the more it bothered him. This place is no longer safe, but we can’t sail away. The ships and sailors have all been turned back. Walking across the desert is a slow death, like being becalmed in the blazing sun, in the middle of the doldrums. It’s a slow, Shar-damned way to die.
The cities weren’t safe, and Tuck is pretty sure Assur is much worse, now, after time has passed. Food may have run out. There’s probably chaos in the streets. Those promised crints may not be enough to buy a night’s lodging and a bottle o’ wine.
So far we’ve been real lucky, and you don’t turn your back on that kind of luck. Tuck looked at Danjo and his sharp sword, and Shino with his sharp wit. These two are good companions. He looked at the youthful Sahil. This innocent child with great power is a treasure more valuable than platinum! Well…gold anyway! This newcomer, Malakai. Who knows? It’s too soon to trust him. Is he working for the drow? How did he find us? Just have a plan to kill him, and try to befriend him. Who knows, he may be useful when the next trouble comes ’round.

In the meantime, Tuck takes a look around. This is a big valley here. He wonders if this is the Valley of the Shrines… wouldn’t that be a hoot if they found the valley and just gave up. Whatever is in the Valley of the Shrines, if it can stop the drow and the barghest, it’s gotta be powerful. Did that dwarf know what he was talking about…?

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Malakai ibn Obaidullah ibn Alnuwayasir
Journal Entry 4

I am lost, troubled and in the company of a band of warriors & scribes.

During the expedition to find more gems, we were set upon by these … ill formed grotesque things with tentacles. They ravaged the dwarves. Hardened warriors all. May Waukeen forgive me, but I panicked. I stepped away, and tried my skill. Alas, I am not an Evocationist. My spells lack the power or utility to lay enemies low.

I backed away from the onslaught of my employees. Watching their futile efforts to combat these…beings. As the last of the dwarves charged into them, I turned and fled, fearing for what may become of me should I stay.

I don’t know how long I ran, but ran I did until I couldn’t move anymore. Exhausted, I crawled under a tree that offered hiding. A brief respite. Perhaps the scent of the boughs will hide my scent from whatever attacked us.

I nodded off briefly. The mixture of fear and exhaustion overcame my physical reserves. I notice some people approaching. I remain hiding, as banditry is rising.

When I awoke, I discovered a group of people approaching. I remained hiding, hoping to be ignored. Alas, the halfling spotted me. I stepped out and removed my weapons to make a show of peace. Hoping I would not be robbed. Discourse resulted, we were beginning to make headway on a peaceable solution when a roar shook the trees.

A bear. A very large bear. Everyone took stances preparing to fight this thing. I noticed the Halfling cast some illusion magic, in hopes of distracting the bear. Sadly, the bear did not take the bait. It started ripping up the tripping, grasping plants the other had cast. His strength and size allowing him to all but ignore the hindering movements of the plants.

After the bear closed in, the others stepped up and started battling the beast. I offered aid and it was accepted. I then proceeded to offer what support I could. I did not prepare any truly offensive spells for battle. What spells I had prepared were for utility. I may have to correct in the future.

The battle was a tough one, but the warriors were incredibly strong. Setibyr, Enalda, Donjo were amazing. I feel my efforts were minimal. I can only hope they do not turn on me in their bloodlust.

They did not, and I was welcomed into their party, conditionally. They would not be heading back to town, as they were on their own mission. Likely these are one of the many groups trying to find the cause of the disruptions. Mercenaries are as thick as the refugees these days. No matter how I feel, I aim to keep with them. They proved very capable in the face of such overwhelming odds. I simply hope I am able to aid them in their endeavors.

During our travels we met some Fey, they warned us about being negligent with their wilds. I felt relieved when they let us off with a warning and no harm.

The next night, during our rest, we were attacked by 2 large, 4 armed simian things. They worked over Donjo & Shino very thoroughly. My efforts to help were neglible yet they appreciated my efforts. I hope to continue earning their trust and praise.

Setibyr – a paladin with angelic blood. fierce tempermant and daunting martial prowess.
Enalda – sister to Setibry and also a holy warrior. Her martial prowess is without par.
Donjo – a man from a very distant land. One I am unfamiliar with. He wears odd clothing.
Shino – a woman from the same lands as Donjo. Their mannerisms bespoke the differences of our cultures.
Sahil – a quiet person, yet a boon to this party. His ability to aid the group with his divine magics is a thing of beauty to behold.
Tuck – a man of high skill, but not highly martial. I feel better knowing that you do not need to possess high levels of martial ability to function within this group.

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A Time of Doubt, a Time of Respite

“Zionil!” Pak-Pak squawks.

“Wonderbringer,” I reply, repeating by rote what he has taught me. “His portfolio is artifice, craft, and smithwork.”

“Good! Good!,” he trills. “Curna!”

“The Wise Goddess. Gives inspiration and knowledge.”

And so we continue with the gods most known in these lands. I still do not understand all that these words imply, but I repeat them back to the bird just as he has taught me.

I don’t know where he himself learned these things. His knowledge seems to come in fragments, fits and starts, as if he too is learning, but from whom I do not know. Sometimes I ask him questions, inquire after deeper knowledge of the subjects he has me rehearse. Usually he ignores me. It is in those moments as if he were just another bird; I, a madman for talking to a dumb beast.

But this land, at least – and a quiet moment to repeat my lessons – is a welcome respite from our troubles. Our most recent encounters have been with folk either helpful or indifferent, the fey creature who gave us healing mushrooms or the walking tree who questioned us only to seem unconcerned with any of our answers. There are wonders in these lands, and shade trees and cooler breezes besides, which is no small thing.

It was a hard-earned rest for my companions. We faced demons and Enalda suffered a grievous wound. I called upon the spirit that indwells all things to heal her, but I could barely soothe the pain much less knit the wound. It seems I remain too weak a vessel. She and her brother both were also infested with some sort of fiendish infection that could not merely be scraped away. I shuddered when I thought of the mango worms that would infect the dogs who scavenged among the trash heaps alongside us in Ormpé.

The foreigners Danjo and Shino suffered an even more grotesque transformation, though thank the gods it too turned out to be temporary. A formless, roiling beast emerged from the sands as we traveled, and its touch transformed them both, for a brief time, into shapeless horrors.

Nonetheless, we survived, and now we’ve had a few days to recover. I would take it as a good omen that we have met with no new terrors, but my companions are shaken with doubts and I fear our fellowship may soon fracture. I am not confident, however, that they will fare any better in Assur. I know well that cities too can be as cruel as the deepest wilds, that man can visit upon his fellow man horrors equal to the worst of fiends. As we walked, I asked them to consider what it is that we seek.

“Is it safety we want?” I asked. “Last we were in a city, we were shot, shackled, nearly burned alive. It seemed scarcely safer. Is it coin perhaps? I have never had so much coin,” I said as I jingled the coins in my belt pouch, “and this found beneath a bush in the wild. Food and drink and supplies? I’ve seen children begging for food next to merchant stalls overflowing with plenty because they lacked coppers enough to meet the merchant’s price. And in this time of scarcity, who knows what the prices will be? And these fey we’ve encountered, they seem to have found food enough here in the wild.”

But I confess, I was attempting to summon a confidence that I myself scarcely feel. I have faith that if we align our will with that spirit who dwells in all things and with the benevolent gods, that we will do well. And, thanks to Pak-Pak, I know their names, at least, and can pray for their aid. But the heavens remain unmercifully silent. I can only hope that our aims are noble and our hearts pure and that the gods will reward our efforts.

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Unnatural killers

8 Eleint 1372
1852 days have passed
20 days have passed since the Drow incident

There is something more than a minor disturbance in this area. Ghastly, otherworldly beasts of chaos roam this desert. Beasts that we are ill-equipped to fight. I do not know which was worse, the vicious birdlike creatures, or the horrifying nightmare sludge.

It started with the bird creature. First, one flying by itself lazily overhead as we were camped. We kept an eye on it as it circled us. I blinked and there were suddenly two. At first I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating from the heat, but sure enough, they landed a short distance away. Tuck had conjured an illusion of some giant ballista, but they weren’t convinced. The idea was good, the execution, poor.

Once they touched down, they began some weird dancing ritual. We all looked at each other trying to figure it out when the purpose exploded all around us. They had the ability to detonate explosions from their bodies at a considerable distance.

Sahil began by cloaking us in mist, then turning into a tree. I could somewhat understand the mist, though I’m sure that would not have stopped the explosions. I could not figure out the tree thing, however. Perhaps his mind had lept back to the tangle vine and he simply did what worked last time. Regardless, it was not helpful, but I couldn’t be too upset with him.

I stood at the edge of the mist, able to just make out their forms when soon there were many of them. This seemed different from when the second had joined and it made me suspect an illusion of some sort. Calling Hoar’s guidance to identify chaos, the illusion was ineffective to me. This creature would soon feel pain.

Danjo, Shino, and Tuck stood outside the mist, lobbing ranged attacks to no effect. I knew I had to stop the creatures as my companions were not making any headway. I charged into the first one and, pleading to Hoar, struck the beast to its core with my hammer. It shrieked a horrible sound, some language I didn’t understand, and I shouted back.

Enalda has joined me shortly thereafter, bringing her trusty shield arm to my side and fending the second from my flank. She called the aid of her god, and stood diligently by my side. And I needed her for the beasts’ assaults. One after another, the two rapidly tore into my body. As Danjo’s blade bounced off their flesh, Tuck’s arrows missed, and Shino’s flames only barely singing their ass hairs, it was clear the beasts were not concerned with anyone aside from my sister and I.

Twelve times. Twelve times I had nearly succumbed to my ravaged body only to be pulled back by Hoar himself. In the midst of all this, my sister suffered a gruesome wound to her throat that I treated as best I could immediately. As if it wasn’t enough, the beasts showered us in some sort of spore that cause vines to burrow deep into our skin and further peel the flesh from my body. I surely thought we were dead. Once Enalda and I fell, there would be nothing my companions would be able to do to them and they would be picked off easily. I knew they were trying, but they were entirely outmatched, and it was only divine intervention that allowed me to stand up to these things at all.

I made swing after swing at the beast. The second one disarmed me of my hammer, so I pulled the sword from my back and continued. Hoar guides my arm and hand, not my weapon. After another swing, one beast grabbed my hammer and vanished. Then the other followed. I nearly breathed a small sigh, the beasts were gone and my hammer was the only casualty. While I had grown fond of the weapon, and had worn grooves into the handle that fit my hands just right, it was not overly sentimental to me. My dagger would have been a different story.

As I was halfway through the aforementioned sigh, I was cut off by the vines pouring out of my body. I could see Enalda beside me, similarly entangled and worse, she couldn’t breathe still. Our companions helped cut the vines off, even tried burning them, but that only hurt us more and didn’t seem to phase the vines. We stood next to each other, calling forth the last drops of healing we could when the vines finally stopped. They were cut off shortly after, but we were horribly scarred from them. We had these disgusting growths all over and Enalda still couldn’t speak. I tended her wound with all the knowledge of first aid I could. I was able to open her airway at the very least, and get her to breathe fully. Her vocal chords were still wounded, but with proper care, I think she will recover.

The following day, we encountered another living nightmare. A semi-solid, tentacled monstrosity. This…thing did not hold a shape or form for long, as it rolled along the ground like a disgusting wave. Hoar told me right away that this thing was another agent of chaos, and a fierce one at that. It burst from the ground beneath Danjo and Shino. I stood my ground, ready to do battle when I witnessed a most unnatural event. Danjo and Shino had become a boiling pile of screaming sludge. It was completely horrific. Not only had they melted from just a simple touch from the beast, their belongings were seemingly gone as well. I had no way to fight this thing if it melted everything by touching it. If my sword melted, then I would effectively be unarmed, and I couldn’t punch it without melting myself. I had to cut the loss of Danjo and Shino and flee, before I fell to the same fate.

The creature was relentless, it would not stop chasing us. Thankfully for us, Tuck had discerned how to use one of our new magical staves to emit bright explosions of burning light. What a fantastic item, I thought, as long as it holds out. I knew staves only had a limited amount of power in them, and I hope it had enough.

As luck had it, the staff was able to destroy the creature after several blasts. Even better, Danjo and Shino were able to recover somehow and we even found most of their equipment. I cannot fathom what those two went through, but there is no way that this creature is natural to the desert.

We moved North after that, into the hills where we came across some Grigg Sprites. Curious and playful, it was a nice respite from the bloodthirsty demons we had been encountering. Even a small brownie came to greet us and we learned about the surrounding land. It was quite pleasant, a small wooded oasis, really. We even ran into a moving, talking tree who blocked our way, asked what we were doing and where we were going, then told us he wasn’t interested and that it didn’t matter to him. Curious, but no threat.

I had been picking at my vine pods that night when the memories of the bird demons rushed back to my mind. Seeing my sister’s pristine and caring face marred by these disgusting things and her throat slashed so I could not hear her soothing voice overwhelmed me and I lashed out at my companions, blaming them for this. I voiced that we should head back to Assur, that the things we are facing, we are not prepared for. I knew Assur would have it’s own problems, but I don’t feel like they would turn me into a humanoid puddle.

I was met with disagreement, Tuck and Danjo even had the gall to say I was afraid. Afraid! Had Hoar not brought me back from the brink of death TWELVE times, those demons would have had their way with you, you smug assholes. This isn’t fear, you ingrates, this is knowing when we are outmatched. I sought Sahil and Shino’s advice. I knew them to be the calmer, wiser voices in the group. they did not agree with me either, but Sahil did point out that our current locale was much nicer than what Assur would be, or Lastarr, or the desert. I couldn’t disagree with that, but we would not be here much longer.

I made my ultimatum: if Enalda and I were to be stranded in another fight like that, we were leaving back to Assur with or without them. You see, Hoar had rewarded my valor the previous day with a glimpse of his magical power. Magical power I could call my own. Magical power that would grant us passage through the desert. Enalda and I had a path back to Assur if we wanted it, and we weren’t keen about this suicide mission.

It’s easy to be tough and fearless when you aren’t being butchered.

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Daemons of all forms
A test of our resolve

We gathered our loot from the killer vines. There was a pleasant pile of platinum, and a goodly gathering of gold.  Best of all…magic wands, scrolls, and potions! Now THAT’S what I have been waiting for! The REAL wealth I see adventurer’s laden with!

We started on our way, traveling up through the foothills toward the mountains. One day as we broke camp and prepared to set out I spotted a bird bigger than my mule. It seemed to be watching us as it flew hundreds of feet in the air. Suddenly a twin to the first bird appeared. Hmmm… summoned? Too far off to tell. The birds circled us. I conjured an illusory ballista and aimed it at them. OOPS! Here they came! They teleported to the ground nearby and started a bizarre, arcane dance. Their dance ended with a loud boom and a wave of force that emanated from them so powerfully that it killed my poor mule, Jando!! Poor Jando!!

Then the birds created mirror image duplicates of themselves, which I immediately recognized. Setibyr and Enalda attacked with melee weapons, while Danjo and I used our bows and Shino used up charges from a brand –new staff of Fire!  We whittled away at the mirror images while the siblings battled toe-t-toe with the daemon birds! Oh, how I admire their strength, and skill at arms!! Horribly, one of the birds cut Enalda’s throat! Sahil could do little against the injury! Then both Setibyr and Enalda were enveloped by a cloud of spores. I’ve seen mushrooms in the underdark do something similar, but the spores took root in the flesh of the twins and began to grow grotesque, twisting, choking vines. Shino’s fire spells seemed to help, somewhat. The daemon birds were getting wounded and suddenly one of the birds took Setiby’r hammer and they teleported away. We did what we could to remove the vines growing from the armored warriors, Setibyr and Enalda, but the vines resisted all attempts to heal or remove them. Eventually they stopped growing and we were able to cut them off, but grotesque stubs of them remain, like barnacles on a ship’s hull.  I can barely stand to look at them, and my heart breaks to see their beauty marred so!

We traveled on, and suddenly we were attacked by what I first thought was quick-sand, or some sort of sand monster!  However, with blinding speed the sand creature dissolved Danjo’s mule, then Shino, then Danjo!  By the Umberley’s throbbing twat, that was terrifying!! I was reminded of the large slimes in the underdark. I’ve seen a whole chained up crew of slaves devoured by one huge slime. My master laughed at the horrible screams, for the slaves did not belong to her! I saw and experienced other cruelty by my master and her cursed folk, and that was not the worst by far.  Still, I was greatly pained to see my companions brought to such an inglorious end.  Setibyr, Enalda, Sahil and I just ran. We ran and ran. Somehow, by some strange trick of fate, Danjo and Shino reformed from the dissolved blobs they had become! Shino was unconscious and Danjo tried to carry him away. He was going slowly so I cast  my spell for running fast on myself and on Danjo and we ran. I also blasted the attacking monster with our newly acquired Staff of Light. We kept running, but it would not stop and eventually I had to blast it repeatedly with the staff of light to destroy it. Thanks to Tymora! Her coin landed face-up for us, when we found that magical treasure!

Still, we continued on, as we must do. We are small creatures in a big world, and we have no choice but to toil on… Speaking of small creatures, we came upon some grig sprites! They at first seemed delightful and playful, until one of them obliterated my water skin!  It also gave over some bits of mushroom which aided the healing of Enalda’s neck, it seemed. I don’t trust the little bastards, though! The next time I saw one I got out my bow and it disappeared!

We met a talking tree. As you might expect, it had no interest in us.

We walked a ways past the talking tree man, and Setibyr marched in silence. Suddenly he stopped and rounded on the party. He bitched us out for leaving him and his sister to fight the daemon birds alone, and the more he talked the more I realized, he was scared shitless.  I can’t blame him. He is young and like I once was, ignorant of the horrors of the wide world.
He came very close to losing his sister to the daemons and he saw two companions dissolved by a relentless beast from which we only barely escaped with our lives. He said he wants to return to Assur, give them our information, get paid, and end our job. I like the idea of getting paid too. I’m not convinced that it will ever happen. I recall the church of Lucha offered to pay us in crints. The last pox-brained lout who paid us in crint was a filthy drow who tried to kill us, and the crints were fake anyway. Maybe this whole, messed up situation is some sort of elaborate drow plot, and we’re just pawns anyway! FUCK!

So far we have only managed to survive by working together. I think splitting up will be a mistake.

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