Heirs of the Stolen Lands

Kaspar's Journal (session 21)

27th of Sarenith (11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

At last something joyous to put in this damned book. My journal has turned into a strange tale of bloodshed and struggle. Of triumph and victory against the odds as well but it is nice to record a wedding for once. Lady Zhenya and the outgoing Baron Chomkov will make a surprisingly good match. Her restrained grace will hopefully temper his overbearing enthusiasms. Especially combined with his growing friendship with my own lord Baron.
It is good to see the seeds sown by our continued goodwill and association with Count Nikitin see his own fortunes rise. I do not expect miracles but a decent marriage for his son and a comfortable retirement for the old man seem more likely. It is sad that the Empire’s internal struggles for control result in good men like the Count being ostracized and marginalized. With the new border Barons perhaps a period of growth will shake off the shackles the Medyeved hardliners have inflicted on him and those like him.

31st of Sarenith (11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

The wedding was a grand affair. Simple by the standards of the high court but grand nonetheless. My recent translations of the Kyuric plates have left me hesitant to throw myself wholeheartedly into the Abadarian ceremonies. The darkness that possibly lay in their origins haunts me. Still, in spite of my personal struggles the wedding itself was a fine affair. Of course my earlier journal entry cursed us. A messenger from Leveton reached shortly after the ceremony was complete and the call to arms was sounded. Trolls and Lizardfolk had moved against Karlsburg and Captain-General Garess had moved to relieve the siege. Karl immediately bid a regretful farewell to his friends and our host and the impulsive Baron Chomkov vowed to raise his own levies to come to our aid. With a quick plan for his troops to secure Leveton in case this was a feint we raced back home.

Arodus the 4th (11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

We have arrived at the ford where the Shrike meets the Thorn river. Baron Van Allegmund had raced ahead hoping to link up with Captain General Garess before they reached Karlsburg. It was at this ford that the Trolls had placed a sizable force of Lizardmen with Troll leadership to block the way. It is a shame but they will have to burn.

Arodus the 5th (11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

In order to provoke the Trolls in to ill considered action we readied the troops and with Baron Van Allegmund in the forefront ready to lead the counter attack I stepped forward and provoked the Trolls as greatly as I possibly could. Two fiery explosions later the Trolls abandoned the ford. Not really a rout we still managed to harass them and their reptilian allies with minimal losses on our part.
The real test came at the Fortress. The Trolls had almost breached the wall in a couple places and were not as willing to yield the day. Still, their fear of fire and the stalwart nature of our troops drove them off slaying many and allowing us to take stock of the situation at our leisure.

Arodus the 6th (11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

Again the monstrous creatures that inhabit this place reach out and upset the fragile cart that we call civilization. Word has come that Tatzlford has been smashed by a giant Owlbear. Fearing a counter attack but not wanting to leave this unanswered Baron Von Allegmund decided to investigate the report and deal with the thing himself accompanied only by us his oath bound companions.

Arodus the 7th (11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

It is strange, the devastation in and around Tatzlford is immense yet very few people actually died. It is as if the Beast cared more for ruining the works of man than the killing of the men themselves. It has moved on and now the hunt is afoot. Hopefully we track the beast down before its path intersects with any other outpost of civilization. Not that tracking it will be difficult. One would need to be blind not to see the swath of destruction the beast’s path leaves behind it. As it is, between the skills of the Ladies Vaszilla and Zeleny we are guaranteed success.

Arodus 9th (11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

We did it. But only barely. The beast took all we had and nearly killed Baron Karl and the Lady Vaszilla. I need more power, something to augment the magics I already have or possibly something completely new. Again, the Baron threw himself into the fray with little regard for his own safety risking all that he would ask us to risk. While I like and respect Previn the heir this land deserves is one of Baron Karl’s direct issue and not simply a family member. We will have time I hope this winter to look further into this.
Damn these distractions. I should be focusing on matters arcane and not on the petty needs of politics. I hope to see some further stability once the Trolls are routed. I pray to Old Deadeye that it will be as easy to do as it was to write here in my journal.
We should be home soon, with good news awaiting us for a change.

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Kaspar's Journal (session 20)

15th of Sarenith (11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

Carl is safe now in the hands of Lady Zeleny and the Erastilian Healers. He will recover and do so quickly in the skilled and attentive hands of Father Gregor and Lady Zeleny.
What worries me is my own sanity. The writings found in these Kyuric tablets seem to indicate that Abadar was worshipped under a different name over a thousand years ago and that this Zon-Kuthon was the incarnate version of the greed and dark secrets “The Master of Vaults” can imply. A being worshipped in order to obtain secrets and the power within and not the creator god that demands we strive for excellence that the civilized world knows today. I fear to read more but my damned curiosity requires it. I wonder if this is a heresy that died out with the fall of the Kyuric Empire; a secret revelation that died with Xak Tsaroth when they ran afoul of the Green haired Fey that continues to haunt us; or my greatest fear, in the ultimate act of deceit the dark god in these writings concealed himself in plain sight as Abadar. It would explain why the Abadarian priesthood tolerates those of evil bent among their ranks. I need guidance that I fear none may give. Perhaps, the Fey themselves will provide the answers I seek. How do we gain the trust and support needed to get the answers I seek? And once given can I even trust the veracity of those answers.
16th of Sarenith (11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)
We are on the move through the farmlands just south of Leveton. The wee folk have stopped the minor aid and acts of assistance and over the last few days they have started indulging in the petty tricks more closely associated with their darker brethren. Previn moved quickly to get us involved before the confusion becomes full blown resentment among the farmers. I managed to spot some actual Faerie dust at the most recent site of the dark tricks. We go now in hopes of contacting Pervilash and hoping the butterfly winged Drake will enlighten us regarding what happened to the farmers and their crops.

17th of Sarenith (11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

The Trolls continue to act with a cunning that beggars the imagination. Tyg Titter Tug was kidnapped by a Troll and Pervilash himself set to bedevil the farmers hoping to stir up even more resentment against the Baron and his Fey allies and friends. We are following a trail that leads right into the swamps we studiously avoided when doing our initial explorations of the Narlmarches. Hopefully, we will track down the beast and free the Grigg.

18th of Sarenith (11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

Victory is ours! With a fair bit of magically assisted stealth we managed to free TTT and slay the Troll with little cost to ourselves. Between my growing control over the Elemental Fires and Lady Vaszilla’s highly trained hunting cat the Troll didn’t stand a chance. Admittedly, Drogov provided the icing on the cake that insured we were freeing a friend and not avenging one. There is so much of these trackless wastes that clearly used to be inhabited that no longer is and is slowly losing the touch of humanity.
With the Grigg free we plan on scouting the extreme southern reaches of the Barony. Perhaps we’ll find something of import.

22nd of Sarenith (11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova

The last few days have provided another couple pieces in the puzzle and another brush with death. Along the southern river flowing into the Tuskwater there was a Mivonese trade fort but much more heavily defended than Leveton was at that size. I have a feeling that the monsters roaming the southern Green belt proved a strong incentive to make this the border for the Riverlands city state. Bloody Aldori sword lords and their convoluted system of merit. How they have not imploded in the last two centuries I do not know. Now we know how close they are. The question is does Mivon actively support the Necromancer or are they turning a blind eye to his “adventuring” because we are part of the hated Brevoyan Empire and as a lone individual he gives the Mivonese leadership deniability? Too many questions and no good way to get answers.
As we continued further east along the river we came upon a cave mouth littered with rubble and an ichor that blighted the surrounding vegetation. As we explored the area trying to determine what could have caused the destruction Drogov and myself received a reminder that much of the things we take for granted as myth and fable is based on reality. The first thing that came to both our minds upon initial investigation we both discounted due to the mythic nature of the Basilisk. Apparently, the rocky beast is not so mythic after all. Away from most things resembling civilization this creature was laired preying on small animals and the odd unwary traveller.
Things went poorly, our shock at the reality of the creature was only matched by our horror as Drogov was turned to stone. I lashed out with fire warning Lady Vaszilla to run but it was too little too late. While her cat raked at the thing’s hindquarters the Basilisk promptly turned its dread gaze on Lady Vaszilla and now both my companions were stone. Just as I was about to despair because my most potent magics were running short One-eye showed the Brevoyan Tiger’s true deadliness and slew the magical beast. Luckily, I was paying attention the day we discussed magical beasts during my apprenticeship. Dousing my companions in the blood of the recently slain monstrosity proved to be a legitimate way of undoing the petrification caused by the Basilisk’s gaze.
I had a surprising moment there alone on the field that day. My choice as to who I restored first knowing that I may not be able to restore both was a surprise although more so due to the ease of the choice than anything else. I realized that Lady Vaszilla stands higher in my regard than I thought. Perhaps, it is because I now know she would fight to the death for the Baron while I suspect Drogov would not die for anyone or anything other than his own personal gain.

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Kaspar's Journal (session 19)

10th of Sarenith (the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

A week of tramping through the Narlmarches and we might have gained some credit with the local Fey, whether this goodwill will be enough to prevent another run-in between the dark fey and the local humans we will see. A vile Scythe Tree was eliminated from the deeper parts of the forest freeing a Dryad to work her gentler influence on the surrounding woodlands. The thing was a gigantic engine of death and destruction. My magics did little but enrage the beast and in the end a powerful strike to the bole of the tree-thing by the Baron Van Allegmund and a well placed arrow from the Lady Vaszilla ended the discussion. Each time we defeat one of these monstrosities I feel sadness mixed with relief. As we tame these lands such dark things will not come again becoming evermore confined within the dark places like the Old Margreve and freeing the common folk from fear. Unfortunately, the light Fey are tied to them too tightly and one day all that will be left of the Fey will be the changelings like the Priestess Zeleny. Beings that belong to neither the First world or to this one.

13th of Sarenith (the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

We almost lost him. The hag drained him almost dry and only powerful good fortune saved him. After so much time and training I almost stood by and watched as a fowl hag drank Baron Van Allegmund’s life blood after entrancing us all. If Lady Vaszilla and her hunting cat had not joined battle with the hag I would probably be looking south right now free to explore the wide world with no duty binding me to this place. The loss of a great man would have tainted those adventures and the journey would have been ashes on the tongue. More than ever we need to cement the line of succession by marrying the Baron to a lady of suitable stature and producing an heir to hold this place against the foes of the empire.
The citadel we found deep in the Southern Narlmarches was an old Elven keep. A simple curtain wall and four towers encircling a main central tower. A damned twisted fey of the elven-kindreds bedeviled us from the moment we tried entering the main courtyard. After driving him off we then encountered another twisted mockery of the Light Fey. It was easily dispatched by our combined might although I have to admit I would not want to meet one of them without the cold steel of my comrades around me. I have a feeling looking back that the second being attacked in desperation forced into action precipitously by the destruction of the Assassin Vines lining the inside of the tower. Yet another foul corruption of the natural order whose creator should be both damned and congratulated.
Things began to go awry at this point with the strange mists filling the central tower befuddling us all. Clearly a set up for the entrancement the Hag was about to weave. With our wills weakened we all stared slack jawed as the Hag drew forth the good Baron and began her sick feast. In my mind I see it as plain as day. The beautiful dancing woman; the graceful welcome to the raised garden. Then the foul monstrosity whose fangs sank deep into my lords neck; appearing as the enchantment failed.
We are almost home and Sir Karl is finally able to stand unassisted. I am troubled again by thoughts of the mist shrouded Isle and the Fey woman. What would be woken by a journey there and is the risk worth the potential gain? If we barely survived this most recent encounter what hope do we have against a being that could destroy an entire city and then obscure for centuries a second. And so I wait worried that my inaction is merely maintaining the base of a malignant foe, enabling them to plot and strike against us at will.

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Kaspar's Journal (session 18)

19th Desnus (the 11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

So things seem to have ended well. Vaszilla managed to track down the missing knight and it seems that the trend of siblings coming south is not limited to the Erhaltmark. Baron Chamkov has a younger brother that is not as fortunate as he is. His rescue yet another act of friendship between the two Baronies. Baron Chamkov may wind up naming his first born after Sir Karl if this keeps up. From what Vaszilla says he is an earnest young man who was properly grateful, and well aware of his debt, upon his rescue from the Shrike. I think my Lord’s work with Lady Vaszilla is almost complete. When I pointed out the debt incurred was owed to her alone for her rescue of the good knight; Lady Vaszilla corrected me quite fiercely, saying it was earned for all of us. I am content. My Lord’s other companions will see to him well and truly should I fall by the wayside and the Van Allegmund desmaine will grow strong and well.
A real concern at this point. Ritter’s comments the other day worry me. Is my quest for knowledge and disregard for my own safety getting out of hand. I hope not.
Still, the letters have been sent. And I will try to think before leaping into the gap from now on. In a few weeks Konrad will receive my request that he join me here in the south and hopefully he will be here before the spring equinox. With my Twin here to aid me and balance out my impetuousness even if we fail it will be glorious.

23rd of Desnus (the 11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

Whoever created the original breeding pool of the Owlbears deserves both accolades and an unquiet grave. They are damned engines of destruction standing toe to with my lord. Swift action and cold steel dealt with the ones we ran into but they are a pest that we will need to actively root out as they are extremely territorial and dangerous in the extreme. Two hunting packs within a relatively small area may indicate a much larger than normal population of them. Bloody thing things are good for some things their feather’s will make a good present for Mek-mek and Chief Sootscales thus ensuring their continued good will.

25th of Desnus (the 11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

Speaking of Kobolds is apparently a good way to invite disaster. We were ambushed by Tark-tuk as we investigated a Numerian Barrow. He had gained as much as he had lost and was left as an intelligent death trap (?). Luckily, I had gained some insight from my recent conversations and studies. I scorched over half of the restless dead Tark-tuk had summoned to his aid. The glory of the fireball was followed quickly by the wild alchemies of Drogov and they worked to efficient and devastating effect. With Drogov’s weird suit-like contraption enabling even swifter action the last of the shambling horde died on his blade before the echoes of the explosions had faded. A few more quick passes and the reanimated Tark-tuk was once again among the truly dead.
Hopefully, we have eliminated a strong point that the Necromancer was planning on using in the future. Any hurt we deal him now weakens him in the final confrontation and is therefore a good thing. We did discover something of note among the grave goods. A rusted blade enchanted to undo the Fey. Perhaps, the Numerian tribesmen fought a losing battle against the Fey when they ruled here hundreds of years ago.

27th of Desnus (the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

We found an abandoned ferry that was clearly used as the staging area for bandits and worse. Abandoned now it still shows promise as a way station on the road to Varnburg. So much of these lands could be restored and civilization spread with only a little forethought and effort.

28th Desnus (the 11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

The last three days have been a pleasant interlude since the Barrow and that thing Tark-tuk had become. Yesterday, we spotted a turtle the size of a pony clambering into the river. Such a fabulous beast would feed a family for a week. Assuming they could catch it. The whole area screamed fishing pole and a small cask of his lordship’s finest. A fascinating reminder that as settled as these lands were at one point they are now very much wild.

29th of Desnus (the 11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

We finally encountered more signs of the Troll’s presence in these lands yesterday. The three beasts raced forwards with some low cunning trying to drag us out of cover as they did. Badly deformed they healed as they fought just like the beasts’ namesakes do. Luckily, fire has a way of slowing them down just as it does the Trolls proper.

1st of Sareneith (the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

Yesterday, we ran into another giant inhabitant of the region. Something I think is called a Hodag. The beast tunneled just under the ground and even Drogov’s explosive elixirs merely rattled the beast into action instead of driving it off. I was able to try another of the new spells my research has revealed to me. As there is no such thing as fire I was able to change the nature of the fire I throw and in doing so cast forth a sizzling bolt of electricity burning and scorching the beast as it reared over the prone bodies of Drogov and my lord Karl. The thing shook off the damage inflicted as if it was rain. But it had been hurt and with Ladies Vaszilla and Zeleny striking in concert we poured on the punishment; sword, spell and bow. Finally Drogov worked his way free of the beast and dropped a few more of his bombs this time to greater effect finishing the beast.
The further south we range the more terrible the beasts are and the true impact of civilization’s absence becomes clearer. It almost seems as if the wilds between us and Mivon are a fenced yard filled with horrors intended to discourage Imperial Brevoy from marching South. In any case we destroyed the beast with no clue as to a nest or mate or anything of the like.
On a reassuring note I think Ritter and Gorst’s comments may have found fertile soil. At no time did I endanger myself needlessly and I struck against the thing with impunity aiding my companions to great effect. No doubt in part to my comrades giving it too many options to strike at therefore sparing me its not inconsiderable wrath.

1st of Sarenith (11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

I cannot sleep this night; I have seen the lost city in the mists. The island in the southern Tuskwater is the last mist shrouded remains of Nal Vashkin, it just has to be. The magics surrounding it are still potent a thousand years later as the others were unable to even talk about the thing let alone acknowledge the island’s presence. Even the steel trap that is Drogov’s mind was unable to wrap itself around it until we were discussing things later on that evening after we had settled into camp for the night. Obsession or the exploration and neutralization of a very real threat? Damn Ritter and his perceptive eyes. What lies on the island? Hidden threats or tools to aid us in our struggles against internal and external threats; and would my exploration of the place rouse the green lady that destroyed Xak Tsaroth and hid Nal Vahkin in the mists in the first place? Can we afford to do nothing? I fear the consequences of faulty judgement. This requires further study and a great deal of thought. Perhaps the plates I recovered from Xak Tsaroth will reveal more. Konrad will be coming soon perhaps he will pierce the veils that I cannot. Do I dare bring any of the others? My powers grow more potent as the days pass but my ability to flee an untenable situation is sorely limited. I would have to abandon all but one of my comrades should the island prove more of a challenge than we are currently prepared for.

2nd of Sarenith (11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

It is good to be back at Karlsburg. This place has quickly become home especially now that Leveton is soured on us thanks to Grigori. it still gnaws at me that the man could twist words so well as to undermine the people’s support to such a degree. I wonder as to who he served and why such a subtle tool.
My work here begins apace. I am going to dig through the few tomes I have access to here regarding the green lady and her struggles against the Kyruic peoples that used to rule here. “Reflections of dappled sunlight off a calm pool”. A polite nothing, a truthful and very fey title or a deceptively calm and soothing title for a vengeful mad woman. Perhaps Zeleny and Drogov will be able to help me sort through the lies and half turths. I may need to visit Father Gregor, he seems well versed in old lore. Having raised Zeleny perhaps he delved deep into the lore of her people. There must be a way to verify at least the nature of the risk and thus prepare for it. I still can’t shake this damned if we do and damned if we don’t feeling. Perhaps tomorrow will bring answers.

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Kaspar's Journal (session 17)

8th Desnus (the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

Damn his eyes! The mummers farce continues apace. Not only does he stay safely out of reach Grigori also manages to cast doubt on the Baron’s character yet again. A hut covered in blood and no body with no perpetrator in sight says magic and a ruse that is meant to play to the peasants already riled imaginations.
It is especially suspicious that all this occurs after the Baron’s very public exile of the damned man and the order to arrest him if he speaks in public. Now all and sundry think he had the bastard killed and then hid the body. I suppose with Grigori’s work so well done in advance of all this it is easy to see how the obvious nature of the planted knife could be believed as truth.
At least the fools held their tongues while Zhenya and Sir Otto were interred in the Leveton cemetery. I must commend Father Kavken on the Zone of truth. The use of the trial and the confirmation of the reality of the situation seems to have settled our more common sense subjects. Now if we could just get the rest to see sense.

10th of Desnus (the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

My Lord Baron Van Allegmund has determined that a little distance from Leveton will do us all some good. Perhaps, he is right. The new beginnings here in Karlsburg are refreshing and the sight of workmen scurrying around the half ruined keep the Stag Lord was using as his base lightens my heart. The capital will rise up and the people of the Barony will have two cities to rally around. The key here is getting it built before Grigori’s minions bring the whole thing down around our ears.

12th of Desnus (the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

The lands south of Tatzlford needed to be explored. And what a better time to do so than right now? We have found yet another lost temple formerly dedicated to Erastil. It seems the cult of “Old Deadeye” was strong in these lands once upon a time. How many times has civilization risen up only to be cast down again? Are the Fey responsible for catastrophic rejection of the development of civilization here?
Still we explored and defeated another Kobold Sorcerer and freed a small band of the black skinned kobolds captured by the Leafscale tribe with their fighting force reduced to almost nothing I left very plain messages on the wall threatening to starve them out if they do not move south and out of our lands. The temple will make quite the retreat once it is sorted out and restored to its former glory. Father Gregor and his fellow priests will be happy to assist I am sure and their presence will lend itself to reminding the local peasantry of the greater good which right now we need as the inevitable conflict between the Fey and the woodsmen needs to be minimized and averted if possible.

14th Desnus (the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

Well I spoke to soon. The confrontation has already begun. I have finally met the nymph Syntira. She is quite enchanting as are all her kind but the water leaves me cold. Her way of defending the grove by the pool she was inhabiting was quite an education. The enchantment of the Fey woman was not just in her beauty but in the magic about her. I am sure those two woodsmen would have stood guard until they wasted away if we hadn’t intervened. Nethys’ bloody hands the woodsmen were put out but at least we came up with a compromise that seems to work for both sides. How long we can walk that thin line will be the trick indeed.
16th of Desnus (the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)
I am not sure but someone or something that looked like Bokken attacked us today. A skilled alchemist he seemed quite sane at first but he very quickly turned on us and almost killed my horse of all things. Luckily, Sir Karl struck the man a solid blow to the chest and he died after a short sharp struggle. At first I thought it was Bokken gone mad that we had faced. After all he is only a small step from the edge as it is. Once we examined his hut ingeniously built in the bole of a mighty Oak we realized that this was a being either warped by or mocking the skills and abilities the old man possessed.

18th of Desnus (the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

Sometimes I wished the old tales warned us of the down side to battling creatures with little regard for their own folk. Having decimmated the shattered skull Gnolls the the survivors were given leave to depart the field of battle as long as they took the journey to the southern tip of the Tusk water. Victory does not smell so sweet when you see the old and the infirm left behind by their kin; left with the options of follow or starve slowly. Just like the Leafscale Kobolds left behind at the temple. The Gnolls were so pathetic that Lord Karl gave the order that they leave his lands and then road off not looking back to see if they followed his commands at all.
One positive part of the last couple days of our journey was the arrival of V.V. Nikitin who came to advise Baron Karl that she had been affianced to the Baron Chamkov. The old man’s relief was palpable. He then went on to invite Baron Van Allegmund to the wedding. On the plus side of things I will no longer have to write those letters to the countess on behalf of the Baron.
One thing that chills me to the bone. I have just had a thought and will take a closer look at things upon my return to Leveton. The “Forgotten” looks almost like a “Tiefling” the mortal get of some foul Hellspawn and a mortal maiden. Nethys preserve us all if that is the case. I will keep my suspicions to myself for now but upon the return of Lord Karl to Leveton I will have words with him. I wonder at the wisdom of placing Karl’s seal on any letter we send away with them. Even though a letter to Sir Otto’s father is appropriate I fear what they may do with some enchantment and the actual waxen imprint. Perhaps, they would use it to implicate My lordship in yet another case of skullduggery. My head hurts with all the possibilities, I was not made for such thoughts let alone the plots within plots they spring from.

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Ritter's Tale (Intermission 3)

Ritter grimaces and slides a whetstone down his blade “Good steel, but the edge is a bit too sharp. Keep getting nicks. Always surprised me. That a sword could be too sharp.”

“I outta box your ears, for heading into that damned buried city with just Gorst to back your play. And don’t think I wouldn’t. He’s a good hand, and strong as an ox. But half of you almost died in that damned city a year ago.”

Slides the stone down the sword “Too much polishing is no good for a blade either. Every pass, the sword gets thinner and thinner. Too small to see with the naked eye, but over time, year after year, it all adds up.”

“Now these Kyuric ruins. I understand you’re fascinated with them. I get that. Ancient arcane secrets, and all that.” Ritter grimaces again, and continues to polish at an imagined spot. “Just hold your horses, I’ll get to it.”

“But interest? It can become obsession. Look at Ostel the Trapper. Crazier than a loon. And this last Rostlander, what was his name?

“Yeah, him. Obsession. The kind of thing that makes a man think it’s safe to enter a city that was swallowed by the earth a thousand years before anyone you know was born with….”

“Don’t interrupt me, son. I don’t care if it was two thousand years ago or last Archerfeast. Now where was I? Yeah. Entering the bowels of the earth with only one other to back you up. Shows an obsessive personality. So I wonder if I should even tell you what he saw there.”

“Gorst. What Gorst saw.”

“Well I was just getting to that, wasn’t I?”

“Gorst. The ghost he saw. Down in the city. Now, don’t you go haring off when I tell you this, but I figure you outta know. It was like he was there, a thousand years ago….”

“Do you want me to tell you this or not?”

“So Gorst was — it was like he was an Kyuric soldier, however long ago. And he was eating on a veranda with his wife. Not his real wife, see, Gorst isn’t married. His Kyuric wife back in the past. And then a giant lady with green hair appeared in the sky. I take it this was way bigger than your usual giant.”

“I’ve been to Iobaria, of course I’ve seen giants. They bleed, they die. You just have to worry about them throwing you across the mountains before they do.”

“Anyway. This giant lady, the one with green hair. She pointed an ivy-wrapped wand. That’s important, because it stuck in Gorst’s mind, and the man couldn’t tell the difference between ivy and a rose-bush. She poiinted this ivy-wrapped wand at the city, and started to laugh, and the city just — fell. It fell, down into the earth, like pouring a bucket of water down a hole, the whole thing just slid right down.”

“And then?”

“And then he died. What did you think was going to happen?”

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Kaspar's Journal (session 16)

23th of Desnus (11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

The peasants are restless and some have even started a vigil for the absent agitator Grigori. Things are so bad I have a second shadow by the name of Gorst. A grim rather large man wrapped in one of the warwolves great cloaks, if he can’t save me from myself no one can. Foul looks follow us everywhere as the peasants grow less shy in their resentment. Damn and blast Grigori to the darkest corners of Hell. Even absent from his soapbox he still plagues us. His twisting of the truth seems to have found fertile soil among the citizens of Leveton. Even Svetlana seems to think we could have done things differently. If only we had come a few moments later to the scene of the assault on his home. I’m sure the were-wolf would have made short work of him and we could have ended the threat of the beast and the provocateur all at the same time. Still, perhaps this way is best. The loss of Grengause and the betrayal of his ideals would have destroyed Karl. He is still berating himself over our failure to end the fight before the fatal blow was struck. The thought of the beast still makes me shudder. How could that engine of destruction be trapped inside the body of a surly woodsman? He shrugged off my most potent magics and kept coming. Even Drogov’s foul concoctions failed to do more than distract the thing.
This road will be hard if the peasants’ aim improves. A tomato arced past us on our way to the Witch’s hut on the edge of town. Vaszilla almost went after the author of the act but stopped herself even before she started; Karl’s influence on the woman seems more apparent every day. She has far more control and far greater understanding of the tightrope we walk than I would have ever credited her with a year ago. I begin to think she may have deeper insight into the path Karl walks than even I do. His patience with the unrest beggars me.
Perhaps, I will call for my brother sooner than later. He always understood the greater good better than I. His counsel will keep me from undoing the good Baron Von Allegmund does here with my tendency towards a brutal and fiery solution to things. I miss Konrad I hope he fares well; the old Baron must be quite the bear these days with Karl’s continued success. Perhaps, he has learned subtlety in his old age and Grigori is a gift from the old man.
I think I will suggest to my lord that he make a small change to his name to indicate the split between the two branches of his family. Van Allegmund has a certain ring to it and would do well for the southern branch of the family.
The Beldame was everything I expected and more than I hoped for. Crotchety, forward and opinionated she was both refreshing helpful. Vaszilla opened up in a way I have not seen before and while it didn’t make sense at the time I am starting to see what the Beldame meant by there is no fire. In this world we have the things that create the fire; the wood and the air but the fire itself is a reaction to a particular combination of those things. The fires I wield are something wholly separate, a “topsy-turvy” thing unto themselves. Which is why I didn’t see things properly from the first. We need to see what it is about the people that allows a man like Grigori to ignite them so and if possible do something to dowse them in a way that prevents their ignition. As the member of our band with the most colourful background Vaszilla might be the one to sniff this underlying current of discontent out. Her role as Spymaster may be fortuitous in the extreme considering the current situation.
One thing that came to light during our conversation after the visit to the witch was the nature of the statue in the temple where we battled Ostel so many months ago. Prof. Ostenenko is well and away too full of himself. He will not take the danger seriously and could be in peril. We leave tonight with the hopes of getting there in a couple days.

24th of Desnus (11th year of the R.O.N.S.)

Our first day of travel went well. Ostel seems unsure if allowing this journey constitutes me being safe but he can argue that point with Garess. We reached Bokken’s hut with a couple hours of daylight to spare. Bokken was his usual hyper helpful oddly combative self when we stopped by. Thoroughly outraged by the witch’s suggestion and at the same time complementary of the very same suggestion. He also provided us with the additional healing potions we requested making this less of a risky endeavour. Bokken’s quest for immortality worries me. I shudder to think what he would do stuck at his current age and mental acuity.
Our Journey to the South was finished for the night when our preparations for a night’s rest was interrupted by a charging horse. Clearly, reared for a wealthy knight I managed to arrest its headlong flight with a trick I’ve seen Karl use. Damn near wrenched my arm out of its socket. The horse’s hooves came dangerously near my head in the process. From the look on Gorst’s face as I made the attempt he clearly was already debating running deep into the River lands versus explaining to Captain General Garess how my head had been split open like a walnut. A rather stern note to myself to never attempt that trick again. As it was Vaszilla’s growing connection to the animals around us confirmed our suspicions of some sort of battle or ambush and we quickly broke camp and set off on the trail.
A few hours later we encountered the scene of the ambush. A dead squire and his horse and two young owl bears feasting on the entrails of the horse clearly having already worked over the dead man’s body. After slaying the two beasts we found another, bloody, trail that lead off and we followed it to a large creek passing the corpse of yet another young owl bear.
Badly wounded and his companion dead the owner of the horse must have grabbed a couple logs and floated off down the water in a desperate attempt to escape the nasty beasts. We followed til dawn and at that point with the trail leading further away from our original destination we rested and then split up. Vaszilla and One-eye after the wounded man and Gorst and myself on to Prof. Ostenenko hopefully in time to warn him of the eerie nature of the statue.

25th of Desnus (11th year of the R.O.N.S.)

We were far to late. All we found was death. The exterior of the excavation was barren and left behind were two monstrous wolves, an unholy welcoming committee formed from some weird ectoplasm. I was pleased to learn they burn rather well. Gorst more than proved his worth when he smashed one of them into two pieces, the corruption they were made of splattering everywhere, dissolving as we destroyed them. Having read of such things during my apprenticeship I quickly tracked down the focal points for the wolves and finding the rune covered wolf skulls I broke them to prevent the wolves from reforming.
We jury rigged the pulleys that had been ruined after the last person left and we entered the lost city moving quickly by Mage light through the cleared passageways. Gorst it seems has taken his assignment to protect me rather seriously. We were on the ledge that leads away from the base of the buried tower and along the top of the chasm carved by the underground river when the animated bodies of the workmen attacked us. Gorst quickly stepped into the gap easily cutting down the poor undead workmen a second time. One of them managed a fearsome blow that left me reeling. After the battle Gorst had a few sharp words for me regarding choke points and letting the warriors do their job. Valid points if only I could listen. The Eisenberg love for the fray runs strong in my veins.
It quickly became apparent that Prof. Ostenenko did heed my warnings about the shadows and madness that seems to lurk in these halls. His explorations were in a completely different vein from Ostel’s, he had set up a rope bridge to cross the chasm at a different point and his men had started excavating a building near the top of the far cliff face. It was there that we found further tragedy.
The rest of Ostenenko’s team were there his apprentices waiting for us as undead horrors doomed to an eternity waiting for whoever may come. I am sad to say none of his people had escaped whoever had fallen upon them. With Gorst standing firm against their advance we easily dealt with the abominations.
There was one body not risen against us and when we checked we found an additional horror, just a more mundane one. Rot grubs had infested his body and nearly ate into Gorst’s hand through his leather gauntlet when he moved the body. Luck was on our side and a little well placed fire destroyed the vermin.
The final horror we faced was perhaps the most tragic. Prof. Ostenenko had been slain as well and out of the shadows he came warning us of the threat that had overwhelmed him and his men. The Mivonese Necromancer had slain them to a man and then strategically placed them as a deadly reminder of who we face. Luckily for us the bizarre nature of this place combined with Prof. Ostenenko’s great strength of will allowed him to maintain some sort of free will even after he was raised from death.
After his tragic tale he he demanded I destroy him while his will was still his own offering the few things of import he had managed to hide before his death as reward for such a grim service. Once I agreed to scatter his ashes on the surface he willingly stepped out of hiding and into the path of the scorching ray of fire I summoned forth. My only payment for his sage counsel and generosity was to spread his ashes on the hill top near the entrance to the city.

Gorst and I are returning to the city now hoping that Vaszilla was able to rescue the wounded noble. One thing is certain; I have much of dread import to discuss with my lord Karl.
On a happier note the treatise Prof. Ostenenko gave me is going to be invaluable to the point where it will bring my own research to a higher level. I also think I may have figured out how to unlock the size limitations on the rolling ball of flame I have used to great effect. Between the witch’s obscure suggestions and this text my power has grown greatly. If possible I am more excited about the Kyuric Tiles he gave us once deciphered they too can only add to my power.

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Kaspar's Journal (session 15)

4th of Desnus (in the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

I forget just how wild this land is even now after a year of settlement and farming and the destruction of so many of the beasts that are inimical to humanity and the civilization we spread. We were attacked by Wargs only a few hours away from the battle at Fangberry farms. Camped for the night we barely made it through half the night when they struck. We managed to drive them off with Drogov again rising to the occasion with his alchemist fire-bombs. Still we lost one of the horses and needed to double up for the rest of the ride home.

5th of Desnus (in the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

Bloody murder was enacted last night. I should have realized we were in for some sort of weirdness when the Warg’s attacked us on a full moon. Still the carnage that awaited us upon our return was ridiculous. A woman farm holder was rent apart after her door was hacked into splinters. What sickens me is some street corner lawyer named Grigori is using this as a rallying cry against both the Kariv and Baron Van Allegmund I wonder if the man works for some external power or if he is merely an opportunist with delusions of being the next Pushkaya? Whatever the case he may need to be dealt with. Quietly, it wouldn’t do to make a martyr out of a traitor.
What bothers me is how easily he twists the fears and worries of the commoners into chains that he binds them with. Abadar only knows what he will get the mob up to. We do not need this kind of distraction right now. A werewolf or something pretending to be a werewolf is killing people in the main trade town of the Barony. If we do not catch it soon I will go to the witch on the edge of town. She may be the most potent caster in the region that is not arrayed against us.

6th of Desnus (in the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

Last night was a bloody mess. The poor fool Grengause rushed in against a monster a 10 foot tall werewolf wielding a half moon shaped great axe . We tried to burn the thing down but even trapped between Drogov and myself the beast still managed to cut him in twain. The worst of it all is the Forgotten used a spell with a facility and power easily in excess of my own when he has claimed all along to be a simple spell caster barely past being an apprentice. I pray he too is not an enemy merely waiting for a better time to pounce.
As far as Grigori is concerned he spins his half truths and lies with too little care. He finally crossed the line by lying about Otto’s death. Baron Van Allegmund could not let that stand and when the pissant rabble rouser stood there wetting himself hiding behind a facade of helplessness Karl exiled him from his lands. I would have not been surprised if Karl had cut him down right there where he stood but while sorely tested Karl’s patience seems to know no bounds I fear leaving this man alive but once again I will not make of him a martyr.

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Kaspar's Journal (session 14)

1st of Desnus (11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

The peace has been broken again; this time shattered by the assault of the full fighting force of Gnolls that call themselves the Shattered Skull. With the outrider given a new mount I raced with him to the Kobold settlement. Sootscales and MekMek needed to be rallied and pointed in the right direction. The Kobolds are geniuses within the narrow scope of their interests but in order to avoid any chance of mixed priorities I went personally to rally them and guide them to the rally point to insure their aid was not disrupted by ill chance or spent uselessly in an attack on the superior Gnoll forces. If used correctly they will tip the balance nicely in our favour but they have to be in the right place at the right time.

2nd of Desnus (11th year of the reign of Noleski Surtova)

The Kobolds moved quickly once rallied and I used their familiarity with the outlying stretches of the lands south and West of their village to our advantage. We encountered a small band of the green scaled kobolds that have recently moved north as part of the invasion and wiped them out almost to a man.
I once again have to admit to being graced with luck, this time with the lay out of the attack. Half remembered tactics from my days watching father drill the other Von Allegmund soldiers must have stuck with me because otherwise pure chance guided the ordering of the battle and the destruction of the enemy Kobolds. The few prisoners we took readily admitted to being part of a larger force headed for the Fangberry Farms and the bridges over the Thorn. Sootscales and MekMek sent them back to the Silver mines with the intent to use them as slaves. These Kobolds are more human than most men would care to admit. They inflict cruelty on their own kind simply based on scale colour and being dumb enough to support the losing side in a conflict. One thing that is starting to bother me is the Kobolds since our crushing victory have started referring to me as “Soopreem Kommander Of Kobolds Kaspar” as if by giving them sensible direction in battle it elevates me above the average human, whom they consider crazy at best and stupid at worst. Karl will laugh when he hears it especially considering my tactical strengths to date have been limited to the appropriate application of fire.

3rd of Desnus (11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

Racing along the Thorn we managed through magic and Drogov’s odd Bird companion to coordinate our strike and due in no small part to the bravery of Karl’s troops we managed to draw the Gnolls in and then my Kobolds hit them from behind. Surprise and numbers turning what could have been a bloody fight into a rout. Again, the sensible use of the Kobold troops and the minimal casualties they were dealt has led the Kobolds to consider myself and Drogov to be the source of any cunning found among the Erholtian troops. They seemed shocked not to have been thrown into the meat grinder. Perhaps they have been used as expendable shock troops time and time again by so many different masters over so many of their short lived kinds’ lifetimes that now they instinctively expect it. Perhaps, it could be argued, this is also the source of their belief that humans are all “so stoopid”. An interesting paper to work on over the winter months should things calm down again.
Karl quick marched us down to the Fangberry farmsteads and using Captain General Garess’ resurrected Strelsye to hammer home our position we drew out the Gnolls and shattered them. Mad Old Bogdanov would have been proud. We managed to track down the leader and his body guard and while it was touch and go for a bit we managed to defeat the troll. The Baron was beaten almost to a pulp by the small tree the Troll was using as a club. How do you tell a man to be more careful when that willingness to step into the gap and put himself in harm’s way is a part of what makes him great? Luckily Drogov and I were able to pin the monster down with fire and Vaszilla and Zeleny finished him.
Back to Leveton to re-equip and then off to explore the southern reaches of these lands we now call home. I begin to fear that the Trolls we have been facing are using an old Kyuric City as their base. Somewhere, near the shores of what is now the Tuskwater lies a potential treasure trove of old knowledge and relics of unknown potency. I hate being wrong but this is one time that I wouldn’t mind.

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Kaspar's Journal (session 12)

Letters from Yuripol

14th of Abadius (in the 11th year of the rule of Noleski Surtova)

I have been in Restov for most of two months and while the worst of the winter blows outside. I have never been more grateful for the powers inherent in the path I have chosen, no fumbling around looking for light no scrambling around trying to re-ignite tapers. Not that the Restovian winter lays a finger on the winters of Eishofen and Sirtov to the North.
My time here has been well spent in one regard; the local Fellow Travellers have been most helpful in filling the few gaps in my magical learning. I am close to an additional breakthrough although the proper phrasing and enunciation still escape me. My old master’s words still echo in my ears; “Patience, young Eisenberg, patience. Time and practice will give you the world.” Master Damcevski has never been more right.
It is very strange to me the changes the last year has brought. I now rub shoulders with the Rostian, Brevoyan and Osstian nobles and their chiefest of servants and my opinions and questions are treated seriously (if with a little suspicion in some circles). It does shock me how much influence and as a result effective power the nobles’ aides have. Luckily, being a wizard tends to gain me a small measure of respect beyond the national interests that are tearing the Empire apart.
My mission of getting Brevoyan and Osstian settlers for our new Barony continue apace. It is easy to present the requests as part of my Lord’s desire for more of the familiar in his new home. One thing holds me back from a more aggressive recruiting campaign. The Eisenvolk and their plans. I am hesitant to send for my folk until I am sure we are not taking a viper into our breast. Hopefully, my brother will respond soon. He alone I can trust to speak the truth no matter what, even if it means we stand on opposite sides of the field. As long as we keep the lines of communication open my twin and I will find a middle way and make them see sense.*

16th of Adadius (in the 11th year of the Rule of Noleski Surtova)

What was I thinking? Asking that self important madman to write to me has now given me a headache as well as made me want to race back to Leveton. Thank Abadar and all his saints that he equates Baron Von Allegmund’s success with his own. At least I can count on the treasury to stay full and the records to be accurate. As long as he can keep his opinions to himself he is a model servant. Perhaps we should find him a common sense woman to keep him in line. Assuming she would put up with his foolishness in the first place.
I will need to speak to Karl about being more subtle with his distaste for the good Yuripol. Yuripol Yuripovitch Andropov is a useful tool and as long as he is a useful tool, no matter how big a headache he may be socially, he is still a useful tool. I will also talk to Yuripol when I return about keeping his opinions to himself. Spreading half remembered legends and old wives tales does no one any good; and he does no good to himself or anyone else dead at the end of Captain-General Garess’ sword if she hears the rumours that he is thinking of spreading.
On the other hand my lord continues to rule from the field which is a good sign, I expect nothing less from him. The arrival of Valentin Nelidov, the master of the Bolshoi Carnival is most interesting. It is good to hear that Drogov Drogovovitch was able to lay down the law and ensure the carnival was well received. Mid winter festivities are always good for morale and a positive Kariv presence lends itself to my hopes for a blended people in the Erholtmark. The end of Yuripol’s letter saddens me greatly, such a loss is terrible; the thought that the Fey would use such a happy day as the time of their mischief speaks volumes for their hate. Let alone using the poor Kariv as potential scapegoats. I wish I had been there to help put a stop to it before things got out of hand. Still, leaving the fairground fallow so that a memorial can be raised to the dead strikes me as a proper act of respect. Valentin Nelidov needs to be caught and dealt with if he hasn’t already been struck down by the time of my return.
If only we can stand as an example of the four peoples working together it might save the Empire from itself. Funny how priorities can shift. Who would have thought that securing my lord’s interests would include saving the empire from itself. The question is will we be allowed to exist long enough to gain the momentum we need. Mivon and Pitax are too close. Mivon especially will look on us as an enemy on their marches.

20th of Abadius (in the 11th year of the Rule of Noleski Surtova)

Much was accomplished over the last couple days. Normally pointless meetings produced results that will aid us in upcoming months and letters were sent to my brother and Father regarding progress here in the south. Depending on their responses I will move forward. If father feels that I over step my bounds I may have to refresh my memory regarding the secret code my brother and I used as children. Even if Konrad isn’t supportive I will need him down the road and that door must remain open at all costs. We will see the world together one day once the bulk of our great work is done.
One thing is clear I will need to sit with my Lord and the others and get them to confirm what happened and how. After re-reading Yuripol’s letter I can tell he is out of the loop and their closest councils are not for just any ears.

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