Heirs of the Stolen Lands

Vaszilla' Private Thoughts (III)
He had it comin'. (cont'd)

And should I thank her for that? Maybe so. In this stinking life it was the best thing that’s ever been bred into me… I would never have survived so long had I not nursed in the lap of such a harsh mistress. But did she speak to me? Did I truly see myself? Or am I loosing my fucking mind? Can’t be sure. The one thing I do know is that I feel different now. I can…hear things better…people, the trees, animals… And I can still feel the burn of her lamp eyes behind the darkness of my bad eye… I think that Kaspar would probably understand. He’s into all this creepy shit. But I don’t want to say anything – not yet. I couldn’t handle being made fun of by that guy. And talking about it would feel a little too much like talking about my “feelings”. I fucking hate talking about my feelings.

But finally getting to cut the tongue out of fat, greasy, piece of shit liar? Now THAT is a feeling I can talk about. What a rush! Looking into his beady little eyes as the light went out – seeing the fear as I yanked his tongue from his head… But it didn’t feel as good as I wanted it to. I thought it would fear more satisfying once it was all over – I thought the feeling would last longer… But once he was dead… Well, the hate I bore him had nowhere to go. And it didn’t leave me… I still felt that dark burning deep inside me… But I kept that tongue… It will always be a reminder.

And really – something kind of good came from it. I met my little brother. And boy is he a tenacious little bastard. And fighting for the good of the citizenry? Wow – a regular avenging angel. But I guess Piotr taught us all at an early age what we’d never want to become. He’s apparently working for the Stag Lord now – a right hand man or something. It figures that a piece of shit like him would throw in with fairy-wine addicted sadist. A least I didn’t have to look Piotr in the face. I wouldn’t admit this to anyone – but out of everything in this world or the next, he’s really the only thing that puts the fear of the gods in me. He’s just a man, like everyone else. I just have to keep telling myself that.

And it’s nice to know that my little brother still remembers me…especially with what I have become. (Looks in a shard of glass at her haggard visage)

I was so much prettier once. (she sighs) But that way only leads to trouble. It’s better this way. This way, they know that if they fuck with you, it may be the last time they fuck anything. (grins and turns to sharpening her sword) Like Yakob. The last thing he ever saw was this ugly mug smiling down at him as I took from him everything he was and ever would be. Now that is what I call justice.

Vaszilla' Private Thoughts (III)
He had it comin'.

Well, here I am, back with the kids again. And I couldn’t believe it – as soon as I made my way back into camp, there was Sir Karl, glowering at me like he was my pa. He stood there, lecturing me on the finer points of (imitating Karl’s voice) “what it means to take an oath”, while Kaspar, like a sour-faced old woman nodded in agreement over his shoulder. Abadar’s Balls – I came back, didn’t I? I didn’t break my oath! But he kept going on about how they needed me here. What the hell was I supposed to do against some sort of plague sickness? I’m good at finding my way and cutting down bastards that need to die. I’m no good at saving people… So now he wants me to say some new pretty words – a new oath – one that (imitating Karl’s voice) “wasn’t wrought under duress”. So these words will make him feel better, despite the fact that I have stood beside my companions in every battle, fought tooth and nail for their little cause…. Man, he’s got to get his priorities straight. I even brought some loot back to share. I didn’t have to. There was no way they would have known. And did they say thank you? No. All they could talk about was the fact that I ran off without telling anyone. Yeah, like they would have let me go. It would have been a drawn out fight, with them deciding they would come with me, and by then Yakob would have been long gone.

And they have no idea what I experienced there. Not sure I even really have a good idea… Was it a dream – those brick and wooden arms cradling me in the night? That voice – so like a mother, but cold, barren, tired…. People see things when their minds are all mixed up. I wanted to get Yakob so bad – but being in the city again, in my home… It made me who I am – hard, cold, bitter….but tough.

more to come

Kaspar's Journal (session 7)

23rd of Desnus (10th year of Noleski Surtova’s Regency)

It appears after only a few weeks apart our wayward allies have returned. Lady Zeleny’s lord clearly sees us as a way to eliminate someone who sullies his image. As his closest priestess she needs to be at our sides in order to best assist in that endeavour. Having her Bow and skills as a healer along side us is always welcome. No matter the reason. Additionally, Vaszilla did neither of things I thought she’d done. She didn’t bolt for the south and she didn’t get herself killed in some petty act of vengeance. She returned to us mostly unscathed with a grisly trophy and tales of Restov on fire and rebellion in the streets. All things considered I thought it most diplomatic not to mention that the man she murdered was in fact an imperial agent; or at least was at one time. She was having a difficult enough time trying to understand why we were upset that she snuck off without a word and couldn’t comprehend that we would have wanted to help if we were unable to dissuade her from her course. Loyalty of the type that Sir Karl lives and breathes is utterly foreign to her. It is to be hoped that the conversation we had upon her return has planted the seeds of understanding in her heart of hearts. She is a comrade in arms and a partner in this endeavour and as such we need her at our sides or we need to know why she is not available to help further our cause. Both Sir Karl and I tried to put it in words that would resonate with her but only time will tell if it worked.
Even more disturbing than Vaszilla’s disappearance and reappearance is Zeleny’s audience with the new Fey queen of the Narlmarches. A green dragon now rules the fey of the forest. When Old Man Willow said the Shadow court I did not realize the shadows went so deep. This all but guarantees war with the fey. Sir Karl will not let this monster’s rule stand for long and I fear he will begin the hunt in earnest after our commitment to purge this land of bandits is fulfilled. I do not relish the idea of dying in a forgotten part of the forest choking my life out before an outraged Dragon. Perhaps, something less fatal will capture my lord’s attention and I will have time enough to prepare for that battle. I wonder if this shift in the leadership of the fey was the real intent behind the Necromancer’s murder of the Unicorn prince. One death throws a massive piece in the way of the empire and the civilization it promises to bring.

27th of Denus (10th year of Noleski Surtova’s Regency)

We made the acquaintance of an old hunter named Vekkel today. He told us a wild tale of a boar that took his leg and we gladly took the commission to enact a little revenge on a suspiciously large boar; it even has a name if the hunter’s tale is to be believed. Yet more good will among the locals I suppose. As we head south I may have to get Zeleny to teach me some of the River trade tongue.

28th of Desnus (10th year of Noleski Surtova’s Regency)

Another sign of the malicious fey that now populate the area. Drogov spotted a fell lantern off in the woods from our camp. Vaszilla followed it a short way but stopped realizing that Fey or no it could only be a trap. In the morning I explored a short way in the direction that the light was heading and found the ground getting marshier as I progressed. I have a feeling yet another tale to frighten children has roots in an all to real truth.

30th of Desnus (10th year of Noleski Surtova’s Regency)

We slew a troll!!! The beast was in the process of gutting and eating an Elk when we came upon it. Between my comrades’ cold steel and my magics the monstrous killing machine stood no chance. I empowered the arrows of Vaszilla and Lady Zeleny so that the arrows would burn the beast as they pierced his thick hide. Sir Karl followed up our initial volley with a charge and set the stage for the monster’s final moments. Drogov’s alchemist fire was the telling blow as the beast burnt to a charred ruin within minutes. One less peril for travelers in this part of the world.

2nd of Sarenith (10th year of Noleski Surtova’s Regency)

We came across yet another former temple of Erastil. All that remained was a vine encrusted statue that shone with the god’s holy power once we cleaned it up. Even though we restored a monument to another god St. Nethys preaches that while necessary, destruction must be balanced with creation and preservation or civilization falls into chaos; and that preservation does not just apply to the faithful just to the faithful first.

5th of Sarenith (10th year of Noleski Surtova’s Regency)

We had a strange encounter today. A frogman knight of all things. Garuum was a boggard whatever they are. He seemed well versed in the human concepts of truce and safe passage. I just hope we haven’t left a future enemy alive to devil us at a later date.

7th of Sarenith (10th year of Noleski Surtova’s Regency)

Vengeance is ours! and although no one was badly hurt the horses took a beating as we slew the boar Tuskgutter. I can see why it took such a terrible toll on Vekkel. The beast was easily twice the size of a normal boar and if we hadn’t been mounted it could easily been one of us gored and bleeding. We butchered the beast and ate like kings. Back tracking to Vekkel’s camp we will add a day or two to our explorations but it gets rid of the grisly trophy he requested.

10th of Sarenith (10th year of Noleski Surtova’s Regency)

Who said doing a favour for a stranger was its own reward clearly was helping the wrong strangers. Vekkel gave us three arrows of animal bane which will come in handy in this wild place. Add to that the relief of finishing off our exploration of this boggy portion of the forest and getting back out into the open foothills our disappointment at the state of the bridge we found over the gorge was minimal. Eventually it will have to be repaired if we want to go further with the civilizing of this place.
11th day of 

Sarenith (10th year of Noleski Surtova’s Regency)

We continued on past the gorge and crossed the river and moved east towards the hillier parts of the region that lead towards the Tor lands. We found a place where an ancient sycamore stood and as the highest point in the area we ascended to view the bigger picture. What awaited us was madness. The mites had slain a kobold with a dozen wounds. Thank all the saints that Drogov looked up when he did. The man is growing more reckless to keep pace with his skill. He threw alchemist fire straight up in among the descending mites and thankfully slew almost all of them. Still it could have gone horribly awry and I am not sure I can reason with him if my lord’s thinly veiled threats do not dissuade him. The descent into the lair led us to a scene of torture and fey touched monsters. The one I swear was riding a giant tick and there was a centipede that was a good 12 feet long. We slew all present and freed a kobold that was next in line for a bad death. Vaszilla, Zeleny and I make an effective team all of us having a healthy share of a “get the job done” attitude. I may have to research more spells that enhance their combat abilities as well as Sir Karl’s. One thing that worries me is the totem the mites had stolen and that the dead kobolds had come to retrieve. A simple statue with no magical import as far as I can see it depicts a demonic horned figure; a dark mirror of Erastil. We need to figure out who or what it represents and what powers we can expect its true servants to possess. I just hope that we can stay my lord’s hand long enough to complete our research, he tends to react swiftly and harshly when presented with any work that depicts the darker side of the supernatural. We carry on towards the southern most reaches of our lands and the inevitable conflict with the bandit chief. I think I may take some credit on our behalf for the mites malice. Yuripol and his true masters want the Kobolds dead; who are we not to milk this foolish man for all we can?

Kaspar's Journal (session 6)

8th Desnus (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

The restored temple almost glows with healthy vitality. Zeleny stays to ensure the change is permanent and that a welcome awaits any pilgrims that her god has sent guiding dreams to. The rain is grey and does not suit what should be a joyous occasion. A curse has been lifted and a once good soul has found peace. Ah well, the real weather does not bend to the edicts of a Bard’s tale.

10th Desnus (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

Verdamnit!! the Thrice forsaken plague has broken out at the trade post. It is a poor time to be without a master healer. Luckily, Father Kavken is still at the tradepost and while he doesn’t have the skills to cure the Blackscour he has spells at his disposal that will buy us much needed time. We knew that the antidote required some rare ingredients but hoped that Drogov’s uncle would have them. Unfortunately, he had most of the ingredients but not all. I am taking this break from repacking our gear as Sir Karl and Drogov verify the route. Thank Nethys we have another man of letters among us. Once we are packed a race against time begins with a lost monastery on the edge of the old Margreve. St. Nethys intercede on our behalf and Abadar guide us on the perfect path. A dozen good souls depend on our success.

12th Desnus (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

Two long days Back to the tradepost and then north to the Margreve. The Forest is ominous and seems to have claimed the abandoned monastery for its own. This St. Torag that the place is dedicated to is only vaguely known to me but hopefully the supplies of dried Ironbloom mushrooms is still there and intact. The ruins looks as if something drove the monks into a guarded seclusion and then hounded them to death. The bolt hole where we found the bodies seemed like a place of last resort. Combine that with the unnatural leeching on my magic and the growth of the forest in and around the monastery and saying something is not ‘normal’ and is definately aggressive about the Margreve is an understatement in the extreme. Even if the keep had been abandoned the full 60 years since the monks helped cure the last outbreak of Blackscour there is no way the trees I saw in and among the ruins had grown there so fast without some sort of supernatural aid.

15th of Desnus (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

We found them! the Ironbloom mushrooms were both there and still intact. We also manged to purge the abandoned shrine of the dark shadows that had taken up residence there. Corrupted souls of dead monks or darker souls come to make complete the defilement started by the forest it matters not. Immune to my lord’s blade they fell before the fires that rage inside me. I think Fate calls me here, not to my death but rather, to be the fire that cleanses and purifies that which mortal man cannot stand against.
We quickly made our way to the northern edge of the Narlmarches and the fey touched moon radish patch hoping for a stroke of luck that would buy us the time needed to save the trade post. It was there while looking for a fey touched willow, any willow, that the Miniature dragon and a grasshopper fey revealed themselves to us My lord Karl confirmed that they were in fact the invisible fey he had spoken to previously that the rest of us had been unable to see. They were frantic with need and so let themselves be seen by myself and Drogov as well as Sir Karl. The prince of the forest had been slain and they were frantic with worry at how it had happened and what they should do next. My lord saw this as a way to ingratiate ourselves with the fey and hopefully acquire the Elderwood mold we need so desperately and so quickly volunteered to help.

16th of Desnus (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

Pervilash and Tyg Titter Tug guided us through the old Fey way gates buying us precious time in both quests. To think I have walked outside the bounds of the world so early in my studies. Chatty creatures the dragon and the Grig named their common names freely and were not shy in their opinions regarding our lack of understanding of the fey. Before too long we came upon the body of the murdered prince; a unicorn slain with foul necromancy. Sun shining down on the pristine corpse the elements continued to weep as they mourned his loss. With no trail to follow and no obvious signs of violence to give us a clue as to the identity of the assailant we approached a sentient Willow that accepted our offer of help and agreed to assist us in our quest. While we were stymied in our desire to find some clue to the dead Prince’s assailant by the immobile nature of trees we did gain access to the final ingredient we sought and directions as to how we could earn it. We swiftly traveled to the resting place of the great horn and moving with all haste Karl seized the horn and blew it three times. Once complete he replaced the horn and we returned to the Willow in order to gain the Elder mold. Our fey companions seemed relieved that the task was done. Oddly, they seemed unconcerned with the loss of their prince. And even less concerned with who killed him. One thing I do know they mentioned a consort that was dead or missing that should have done the summoning. I wonder who they were and why they weren’t there to blow the horn.
All the sadness in the world was in the resounding blast that completed our task. I now understand the resentment that seems to colour even the light Fey’s dealings with us humans. In there nigh immortal lives they must live with so much pain and loss; I now thank the gods above for my mortality and while I still want as many days as possible I will not succumb to the madness that the quest for immortality leads to. My allotted years will remain just that years, not centuries or millennia.

18th of Desnus (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

The restorative works and while hidden in the ramblings of the senile Bokken’s advice was golden. Drogov went into the tradepost and administered the cure. First to Father Kavken and then to the others using the extra dose to insure he didn’t catch the plague and spread it among the rest of us. Smoking out the Trade post was a time consuming process but a needful one. One of the other diamonds in the rough during our time with Bokken was his comment about the lost city being reburied 60 years ago after the last outbreak. I worry that some other enterprising trapper will spread the plague with a inopportune visit to Ostel’s shack. I must stop now and write two very important letters. One of them to my old master and one to my father detailing all that has gone on. Additionally, Yuripol will need a heavily edited account of the last couple weeks and her ladyship Countess Allora will need a third version of the events for the Lady Zhenya’s consumption

Kaspar's Journal (session 5)

28th of Gozrem (the 10th year of Noleski Surtova’s Regency)

Well, I hate it when I am right, Vaszilla has disappeared on a dark and stormy night. As quiet as she is the rain, combined with the thunder, made her departure seem as silent and still as a midnight snowfall in Sirkov. Or so I assume; she very well could have marched the Regent’s orchestra through our cabin and we would have none been the wiser. The wild weather we have been having has both facilitated her departure and obscured any clues as to where or why she has gone. I have my suspicions but they may be romantic fantasies, rather than facing the harsh truth that she has become bored playing the repentant bandit and fled for the open road.
As it was the weather was not done with us this day. A sight I had thought never to see unless bound to my will appeared. A tornado ripped through the fields outside the trade-post and would have smashed us all to flinders if not for the divine intercession of the Lady Zeleny and the other priests present. Apparently, one of Knight-Captain Garess‘ men is a Gorumite priest. As much as I disdain their celebration of combat for the sake of combat the priest has my gratitude. I think that without the combined pleas of all three clerics we would have fared no better than that poor Ox.
The farmer and his wife were better off but still battered and bruised by their experience. Zeleny found a long green hair on the farmer’s arm as she healed him and the farmer’s wife swore she heard laughter coming from the heart of the whirlwind. Puzzle after puzzle. It seems that the fey have more power than we suspected. Hopefully the farmer will still have the will to settle here. We have resupplied him and his wife and the next step is to make certain they can move forward unmolested. Hopefully the laughter was one of the fey riding the tornado and not actually directing it.

30th of Gozrem (the 10th year of Noleski Surtova’s regency)

We should have realized that the bandits would counter attack again and that the main band was in fact just that, the main, but not entire, group in the north. Luckily our watch that night spotted them in time. We slew most of our attackers and captured two more of the miscreants to face the justice of Count Nikitin. I am still nervous at the number of times I mention how lucky we are, as I know in my heart that we will gather ill fortune to us as carrion crows to a battlefield. When the accounting draws even we will be sorely taxed.

1st of Desnus (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

Thank Holy Abadar, Nethys and all the other saints for the comforting chaos of the Nikitin Household. As much as it disturbed me initially I was very glad to restore myself there after dealing with Yuripol and his “man of the world” airs. The man wears his biases and prejudices like a badge of honour and a shield from any ill. How such a man has managed to not be killed is beyond me. I fear that having grown up in the north I am ill prepared for these southern ways. I can only hope that not all of Rostland is populated by fools.
Admittedly, Nikitin is doing himself proud using the levies to increase the guard on the area and replace the now absent members of the Imperial Army. Why the guard unit was recalled is beyond me. Why send us out here to pacify the region if only to let it go fallow again after we are done? It seems odd as well to have Knight-Captain Garess out here on her own with real reinforcements over a week away. Perhaps the slanderous innuendo that Antropov was spouting is a gossips’ imagining for a real indiscretion and her mercenary band has been sent to waste away or die.
On a more pleasant though awkward note the Countess Allora has made it known that letters from my lord Karl would be welcome so that she may read of the wild borderlands to her daughter Lady Zhenya Nikitina. Karl has the heart of a poet but his time in the saddle has left him with no time for learning his letters. Which means that any and all correspondence will come from me. Fabulous. Although she is a lovely girl we do not have the time for the distraction of a formal courtship; if we are to stop this region from becoming a haven for the disaffected and malignant we need to keep on the move and continue to map out and strike against the sickness gnawing at the heart of things. All the while I can’t help but think that My Lord could do much worse than a count’s eldest daughter. Even if it is a borderland on the edge of the empire. He is a third son of a Northern lord and has not the head for courtly things. I guess I will have to work on my imagery. Hopefully, Karl will take all this seriously and dictate the missives rather than myself write them and pretend they are from him. I am sure some bard somewhere could pretty this situation up and make a poem or play about it. I am certainly laughing already.

3rd of Desnus (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

Oleg’s is starting to feel like home. Still no sign of Vaszilla and we can no longer wait on her return. We need to move forward. Sir Karl suggests we sweep west to the edge of the territory we were assigned and clear the northernmost edge of the Narlmarch. Once done we can then work our way south clearing any bandit camps we find along the way. Planning ahead like this makes me feel like we actually know what we’re doing. Hopefully a food sign.

5th of Desnus (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

Damn Breeg and his thoughtless placing of unmarked bear traps. The man needs to be horsewhipped it almost cost us Drogov’s mount and without some surprising agility it nearly cost us Drogov as well.
I took no small joy in disarming all the bear traps we found. I will make certain they are marked in future. Knowing, what I do about Breeg I may have to be heavy handed when I express my displeasure over the unmarked traps.

6th of Desnus (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

We encountered a sealed Numerian Barrow. Ancient but not in the same way the lost city was it looked to have been undisturbed and therefore unlooted all these years. Sir Karl asked that we let it stay as such since we were in this place not as tomb robbers but as thief takers and mappers.
I have little desire to rummage through the mouldering remains of a Barbarian lord’s Barrow no matter how ‘civilized’ and honourable his descendants are.

7th of Desnus (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

Well, as much as I dislike the loss of life I have to say I am not broken up over the death of the trapper Breeg. The universe has an interesting sense of humour with the teeth marks on the snapped rope clearly being the source of Breeg’s death. The irony is almost sweet to taste. I wonder though at what manner of beast that would eat through the rope and then not despoil the body.

8th of Desnus (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

We have done something good this day. The death of the transformed Priest and the restoration of the shrine really felt right. The god Erastil sent his blessing among us as well healing our hurts and uplifting our spirits.
Abadar forgive me but Elder Fey Lord or no Erastil remembers those that do his work. I feel a certain vigor I do not recall ever having before. The fight with the beast that the former priest had become was very decisive; Sir Karl locked horns with the Great Beast allowing us to lash out at it and bring it down. The look of peace the man had before he turned to dust and blew away in the wind was a little unsettling. I will need to review his journal if Zeleny allows it. The name of the demon lord must be verified so we can prepare against any of his other minions out here. The presence of the acursed shrine does add to the growing mosaic we have of reasons this area has been lost to the wild for so long. Much to think on at this point. Back to Oleg’s tomorrow with much to think of and many things to consider in each case. Perhaps, a letter or two home for more information.

Father Kavken's Journal (Interlude 3)

By the grace of Abadar, Master of the First Vault, I have been delivered!

The Judge of Judges set before me a gruelling sentence for my shortcomings. In the Wilderness I was captured by bandits, who held me prisoner for weeks. Although well-healed now, and comforted by kindly folk, stout walls, and a bowl of Goodwife Leveton’s wonderful moonradish stew, my hands shake as I think back to that durance vile. Nor is the irony lost to me, that I, a humble servant of the Master of the Vault, was locked within a small cage.

I will not record what dark events occurred while I was imprisoned. The Great Builder tests each of his tools, the marks of that test I will carry with me until the end of my days.

Yet neither does the Great Builder discard his tools, nor treat them carelessly. My deliverance came at the hands of a company of five young heroes, a band of companions as unlikely as I could ever have imagined.

In their company I have travelled to a small trade post on this violent frontier, a flower of civilization amid the weeds of the Wilderness. And all my doubts and fears, the shadows of temptation, faded. For I see now the task the Great Builder has set before me. I see that my trial, my darkest moments, and my captivity were all set to prepare me. Before the Great Builder strikes with the adze He must sharpen it. Before he cuts the lumber He must measure it. And before He erects His vault He layeth forth His plans.

These heroes seek to tame a land fraught with lawlessness. I shall aid them as they require it, and act as a guide to the many who must follow them, for in doing so I aid the Master of the Vault. Civilization will conquer the Wilderness. The Great Builder’s Work lies before us.

Kaspar's Journal (session 4)

21st of Gozrem (10th year of the Regency of Noleski Surtova)

The fever is worse today I am getting chills and cold sweats and delirious dreams of that thing in the lost temple. If spending too much time down there is what drove Ostel mad I now know the source. Thankfully we are back at Oleg’s and the few comforts of home available out here in the borderlands. I wish I could shake the feeling of dread those dreams gave me.
There were pioneers scrabbling to keep up with the planting season about 10 minutes ride from the trade post; so normal and strange all at the same time. They didn’t seem the most trusting of folk; but who would be with the troubles this area has endured over the last while? Speaking of troubles Oleg’s had some excitement while we were off exploring. The remaining bandits paid a visit and badly wounded one of Knight Captain Garess’ men. Luckily a few well placed crossbow bolts drove them off. The bandits must not have had the stomach for a stand-up fight. Ambushes and bullying threats seem to be their stock in trade. We must be off soon in order to catch them while they are off balance. The loss of their fellows combined with the reception they just received must have set them back on their heels. If we give them time to regroup they will rally more of their fellows and we will be back at square one, or worse. Now if I could just stop sneezing.

22nd of Gozrem (10th year of the Regency of Noleski Surtova)

I think the cure is worse than the disease, if I have to drink one more of Drogov’s foul concoctions I will loose what little breakfast I could eat. Thankfully, Oleg’s wife is a minor magician in the kitchen and her radish stew is as good as she claimed. In between shivers and sneezes I have had a chance to study the notes in full as well as Ostel’s spell book. The spell book will lend a fair bit of diversity to my magic and as I grow in power it gives me a head start on the more complex mystical formulae. I may just keep it and divide my growing collection of spells between the two books. Insights from Ostel’s notes and spell book also filled in the last blanks in my own research and I have mastered the last journeyman fire spell. Dancing Lantern will keep our hands free should we do any more spelunking. Feather fall may also prove useful down the road.
Count Nikitin has sent us a letter and I think we need to go there sooner than later to work some sort of damage control. Yuripol’s political naiveté is astounding even compared to Sir Karl’s and his biases in favour of the Medyvev family are stronger than I thought. Not at all surprising since he is clearly the Lord Mayor’s creature and the mayor(as he needs) pays a fair bit of lip service to their wants and desires. Who in their right mind antagonizes a noble in his family seat? Little matter regarding how faded that family’s glory may be. My Lord Karl has little desire to leave off the “grand work” we have begun but now that I am feeling better perhaps I will be able to think of a way to present the visit in a more palatable fashion. Plus as dusty as the manor house may be some civilized conversation would be welcome.

25th of Gozrem (10th year of the Regency of Noleski Surtova)

Two days of tramping through the woods finally paid off. The bandit camp was set on a well forested island splitting the Thorn in two for a few hundred yards before the two branches of the river merged and once again meandered through the forest towards the Tuskwater. Thank Nethys‘ bloody hands that we had the scroll of invisibility with us. Turning Vazsilla invisible and setting her loose on the bandits cut a Von Allegmund sized hole in their defenses. The woman is as deadly as Sir Karl in her own way. Not as stalwart in a stand up fight perhaps,but more able to come out on top in a less formal battle. Now the bandit leader was a truly frightening opponent. Burnt and blasted she still managed to cut down myself, Drogov and Lady Zeleny. Luckily, Sir Karl extricated himself from cutting down her minions in time to deal with her.
Four close brushes with death in as many weeks. One would think I was courting Pharasama with my soul as the would be suitor’s flowers.
We did free a prisoner with our bloody handed work. Father Cavken seems like a nice enough sort definitely a devout Abadarian who retains his god’s favour as evidenced by the healing power he displayed upon his rescue. He keeps hinting at some miscalculation down in Mivon but unless he was attempting a coup I can’t imagine he was guilty of being anything more than being inconvenient to the bandits that seem to run most of the River Kingdoms.

27th of Gozrem (10th year of the Regency of Noleski Surtova)

Our return to Oleg’s reminds me that we are not making our lives’ fortunes here. A few hundred roubles or more apiece and no closer to eliminating the threat of banditry. This half fey horned lord seems able to gather the murderous and the discontented to him with ease. He also seems powerful enough to cow any threats to his rule while directing the bandits into newer and more lucrative action. I think we need to cull his herd a little. I will speak of this more with Sir Karl. We must cut this horned lord off from the northerly bandit groups by eliminating them and then we head south to remove the head of a wounded viper. If all goes well he will be isolated with only a few of his minions present and we can put him down like the rabid dog that he is.
These “bandits” we have captured barely count as such and will do a great deal of good work in this area. Using them to do so is needed because it will get things done at a much cheaper rate than regular workmen would do the jobs; but only if we speak quickly and smoothly to the count. As the nearest landed gentry he is the law in the area and must be consulted lest we seem presumptuous.
One thing that concerns me is Vaszilla’s reaction to this talk of the snake Yakob. She still burns with the sting of his betrayal. I hope she does not do anything foolish. His time will come as it will to all our enemies. It requires some subtlety because I fear he is one of Von Beckendorf’s creatures, at the least one of his lieutenant’s men.
She is our comrade and has finally started to act like it. That action has more than earned her our aid in this endeavour. She just needs to learn something of the fine art of patience and gain the wisdom of knowing when to ask for help.
I hope a “live” report to Yuripol will satiate his need for regular correspondence. Just in case I will bring the report of our actions since my last missive so that he may read it and forward it to Von Beckendorf and the Lord Mayor. It will also give me the opportunity to send more of my own messages.

Vaszilla's Private Thoughts (II)

I can’t stop thinking about it. I mean, I’ve seen death before, sure. I’ve dealt death before. But I’ve never seen anything like that. But maybe it was my imagination. In a blink of the eye it was over – the statue was back in the centre of the room – like it had never even moved at all. But I can’t get it out of my head. That…thing…reached in and just pulled out the poor bastard’s soul. It makes me nervous. That whole place should be destroyed – there’s something really bad about it. Again, I’ve seen bad, hell, I’ve been bad. I never really dealt in ideas of good and evil before, but I think that down there….well, I think there’s something evil. I don’t know if I even want the loot we stole from that crazed idiot. I would put it back if it meant that I could forget about the horrible statue and what it did. Well, I would think about putting it back….

But I gotta shake it off – keep my eyes on the prize. I flaked when we fought those scum bandits today. And that Kessel took a piece right out of me – before I even got the chance to spit in her face. And seeing little Zel go down like that? Abadar’s balls, I must be getting soft. Shook me, it did. Kinda reminded me what happened to our little group before I got nabbed and thrown in that cell. I thought we all might go down on that one. Drogov and Kaspar had taken the worst of it – and I was on my last legs, fanning wide on every shot! Weakling.

And then in rode the most noble Lord Karl, not a scratch on him, to save the day. My knight in shining armour – and me the maiden fair. Haha – that’s hilarious. But, in he rode, armour shining, dispatching that ugly bitch with a few simple moves. Then he looked around like he didn’t understand what had happened to all of us – why we were all brought low by one opponent. That burned me. “Thanks for saving us, your lordship! Now get off your fucking horse and give me a bandage before my insides fall out!” Of course he went to Zel first. Whatever. Hope they have little babies with green fucking hair.

But I gotta say we lucked out. Sir Karl’s mandate that we take any prisoners who surrender to us dropped a lovely little present into my lap. Two of Kessel’s merry band of fuckwits turned into songbirds once we had them back at Oleg’s. With creepy Kaspar and the mad alchemist at my back, I was able to get some useful info from those two hapless losers. Apparently Yakob is up to his old tricks. Looks like these guys had been duped by that fat bastard as well. Piece of shit rode off into the night with a satchel full of loot and some bottles of fairy wine – which apparently are worth more than gold to this “Stag Lord”. To hear these guys tell it, that crazy fucker is addicted to the wine and will stop at nothing to get it. The fact that Yakob ran off with 4 bottles of the stuff landed these guys up shit creek. We now have the rest of the bottles, and if they are as valuable as these guys are leading us to believe, then it might be something we can use to deal with the Stag Lord, whoever he might be.

But I have more important business now. I knew it was just a matter of time before that snake Yakob would poke his head up from underground. And now that he has, I can’t waste any time – he’s slippery, like a worm, and given any time he’ll disappear, like he always does after he pulls a job. So I have to leave tonight. While his trail is a few days old, I should still be able to pick up on it…

I can’t tell Sir Karl. He’ll either lecture me about “going off alone”, or lecture me about the “shallowness of personal vendettas”, or lecture me about “duty” and the stupid fucking charter. Or Abadar forbid he insists on coming along “to protect me”. Haha – fat chance. No. I can’t tell anyone. Once I deal with that traitorous piece of shit Yakob and have his tongue as a trophy, I’ll come back and help these kids with their maps and treasure. Hell – I’ve bagged more loot in the small while I’ve shacked up with them then I usually did with my own crew in the same amount of time. In fact, what we’re doing here doesn’t seem much different than what I was doing back then, except for the fact that now it’s legal. Gotta love the way the Empire works. But I would never say this to the kids. It might take the shine out of their eyes if they thought they were glorified bandits. I’ll just keep being the ugly one for all of us.

But all of that will have to wait. Yakob needs to pay for what he did. I still miss Alexei, Gala and Ilari. Especially Alexei – he was a better, smarter, tougher leader than that bitch Kessel ever could be. And he looked out for us in his own way. I don’t know what happened to Gala and Ilari. Probably the Salt Mines…. But Alexei – he would never bend. I still remember the day the gaolers teased me with the news of his execution, but I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of letting them see how much it killed me. No. I would survive this and I would make the man responsible pay the ultimate price. And now’s my chance.

You better run, Yakob, because I am coming for you. And I will not rest until I hold your dead heart in my hand.

Dearest Mother, (Interlude 2)
Andropov's letters

Written on the 16th day of Gozram, in the 10th year of the Regency of Prince Noleski Surtova.

I hope this missive finds you in good health, Mother. I was saddened to hear about the loss of your favourite silver soup tureen. Good Help are so hard to find these days.

My Osstians have finally been in contact. They weave a fanciful tale, blaming foul murder on a Grumpkin of all things. This isn’t the Curséd Forest We Shall Not Name, where such tales are often told to scare travellers, but Rostland!

They claim to have trapped a group of wanderers in a wicked Ambush — just like Osstians, Mother, as you have always warned me. This time they sent prisoners along, seeming to add proof to their claims, or so they would have me believe. However, having seen the desperate men they sent, wretches, vagabonds, guilty only of being born to mean and lowly squalor, I find myself doubtful they were ever bandits. Imagine my surprise, Mother, when the prisoners were to be turned over to Count Nikitin!

I pleaded that these wretches were the responsibility of the noble Medvyeds, or at least the honourable Lord Mayor of Restov! The Count, scrabbling for what little glory he could, ignored my pleas, and passed his questionable judgment.

I must cut this missive short, Mother, as I have been forced to bribe a rather sullen river-boat pilot to delay her voyage and carry this letter and other sundry papers to Restov, but if her patience with her betters is anything to judge by I have little hope of her delivering them.

Please pass my sincere and solemn respects to my Father.

Your loving son,
Yuripol Yuripovitch Andropov

Kaspar's Journal (session 3)

14th of Gozrem (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

Hopefully Yuripol will be pleased with the report we sent off. Some dead bandits a couple dead predators and a murderous Fey right out of our children’s tales should be enough for one fortnight. Shocking how easy it is to get caught up in the act of exploration. Our new companion seems a little shocked at our willingness to treat her as a full partner in all this. Vaszilla will learn in time that the Von Allegmunds demand total loyalty but are also willing to give it. It matters not how long it takes for this to sink in as long as her one good eye remains alert for danger. My worries about things shifted from our immediate deaths to the far reaching effects of politics. Both the Fey lady Zeleny and Vazilla spotted a shadowy figure slipping out of our boarding house. Upon careful inspection the only thing out of place was our papers pertaining to the nature of our expedition. With the shifty Ostel being somewhere in the vicinity but not easily tracked down he became our most likely suspect. A flapping coat is not enough to act on; even out here on the border; we need proof to act unless the culprit is caught red handed. A more careful eye needs to be kept on that man he is not just the greasy trapper and grave robber he appears to be. My wonder is who does he serve? Interests back home eager for us to fail or the bandits whose thievery we have so rudely interrupted?

17th of Gozrem (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

The heat is a welcome relief from the cold rain and northerly winds that have been our constant companions these last few weeks. Vaszilla out of all of us is actually looking haler and heartier than ever. A clear indication of how awful the Restovian dungeons are. She is still acting like a beaten dog suspicious of every kindness but afraid to leave her masters yard. I wonder what she will do when she realizes she is truly free? Run for far off lands looking for a truly fresh start or will she join yet another band of miscreants using the caution gained from her incarceration as a weapon against her former jailers? A truly valuable weapon in our arsenal; I hope that Karl will win her over truly to our cause. Our battle with the svart-alfar yesterday may have gone some way to changing her thinking; if my lord’s smashing the goblin threatening her doesn’t gain some traction in her loyalties I know not what will. Drogov again impresses with his memory for the finer details. Moon radishes of all things… still if it earns us the thanks and continued goodwill of our hosts then so be it.

19th Gozrem (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

We have found the spot marked X on the map we recovered from the spider’s victim. Bandit or no it was an odd treasure to say the least. A wand and a formulae book and some other oddments. Very much like a bolt hole but why and for whom? Another discovery was the exposed vein of quartz and ore. Perhaps enough to warrant a mine down the road. Things seem to be settling into a routine. I no longer have the feeling that Vaszilla is going to bolt with less than a moments notice. Do I trust her? Not yet but I am starting to have faith that as we move from small success to small success our cause is becoming hers. The smaller fey have married their paths to ours again but a small offering of food was left to show our good intentions and appreciation of their joke.

20th of Gozrem (10th year of the Regency of Noleski Surtova)

If only I could shake this damn chill. I swear I have caught something from those Dire rats that Ostel set upon me. I hate normal rats as it is and if I never see a Dire rat again it will be too soon. Of course it also resulted in my almost dying so perhaps a small chill is the least of my worries. I’m averaging at least once a fortnight so far, at this rate my luck will run out and Zeleny’s magic will not be there to heal me. I have to admit I am hardly displeased that the mad man refused to surrender when the others closed with him. I have no great desire to listen to the ramblings of someone capable of writing the disjointed musings before me. From my initial perusing of these notes however it does look like his time alone within this cavern and all the shifting shadows here may have driven him truly insane which explains his unreasoning and violent paranoia. With his death the spell book I thought to use as leverage is now mine. A terrible way to gain power but my powers do grow with this acquisition. Hopefully, the spells will be of no small use once I decipher his blasted shorthand.
I must send away to my old master. He has several colleagues that would kill to examine the city we found and their prior researches will allow for a deeper understanding of what has yet to be plundered.
Perhaps another update for poor Antonov trapped at Fort Serenko he must be dying for some excitement I must remember to discuss with his lordship what details he wants minimized in my reports “home”.


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