Heirs of the Stolen Lands

Kaspar's Journal (Session 1)

28th of Pharast (10th year of the Regency)

Well the die has been cast. Our hearts and minds now solely devoted to the task at hand. Perhaps once on the road to Fort Serenko I will shake this sense of impending doom. At least the Restovian isn’t a total loss. Clearly a man of no small education the Drogov should make the journey more interesting. The clerk on the other hand while a good soul is clearly not cut out for sudden change… the look on his face when he was told he would be the relay man in this strange adventure almost made me laugh out loud. The only real sour note is the Lord Mayor’s certainty that I am right and we are nought but bandit bait.

31st of Pharast (10th year of the Regency)

I’d forgotten how endless these roads are. three days and we are barely over the halfway mark in the journey to Serenko. The Vernal Equinox has brought a bit of good fortune our way. An Erastillian priestess was guided by some odd dreams to the cross roads we just passed and thanks to my lordship’s quick wit has agreed to join us. She is clearly fey touched and thank St. Nethys for small mercies she has their heightened enthusiasms. With a proper healer as part of our band I am starting to feel confident of our chances of success.

2nd of Gozrem (10th year of the Regency)

Our arrival at Fort Serenko couldn’t have come soon enough. A week on the road had me ready for a little civilization… even the sort found out here on the border. The local Count is a broken remnant of the Medyev rise in power and a good sort happy to feel that he is good company for the noble born. My sense of foreboding has returned though with his added certainty that ours is a fool’s errand. Still, he hosted us well and if we have unexpected success he will prove invaluable in smoothing the way for supplies and trade goods. St Nethys preserve us I hope he is wrong.

3rd of Gozrem (10th year of the Regency)

I ALMOST DIED!!! I cannot believe it. Perhaps the strain of prophecy has resurfaced in me. Less than two hours from the Fort we stumble upon the scene of a murder and when we track down the culprit it turns out to be one of our Fey companion’s darker Kin. Kin that I might add that I’d thought was only a story to frighten naughty children. That thing practically skewered me with a sharpened hunk of bone. May I never meet another of the Grendel-kin as long as I so live. It had weird magics about it shielding it from my Lord Karl’s steel but once Lady Zeleny healed me (by Erastil’s generous hand) the arrows from our fey lady drove the beast off and once cornered my fires proved those magics the weaker. No small treasure was in the beast’s horde ensuring the next few months will go well.
One thing that worries me… I know now that I have the Eisenberg blood in full. Herr Karl charged after the beast and with nary a thought to my near passing I charged through the brush after them to live or die and my lord’s side. I had hoped that my more Arcane education had freed me from that reckless lack of self preservation.

8th of Gozrem (10th year of the Regency)

Well, thank the gods and all their saints… not only did we beat the bandits plaguing Oleg and his traders, we did so handily. Apparently without the fell magics of the Svart Alfar to deflect his blows my lordship is a one man army. We do have to work on our co-ordination though; the green lady’s ill timed arrows almost cost us our prisoners. As it was, Drogov’s quick thinking and alchemist’s fire was all the assistance I needed to stop the lookout and his cowardly companion dead in their tracks. A delay that allowed my lord to rout the other bandits and cut off any hope of escape. If they have not lost or recruited any more to their murderous band we have seven left to go. At least they will have no intelligence on our numbers and abilities which will go a long way to keeping us all alive. Let us hope that Oleg can give us some real information about the area and potential hiding places. The more we know the better prepared we will be and the less likely our deaths (in some random cat and mouse) become.

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Dearest Mother,
Andropov's letters

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

It has been over a week since I have written. I apologize, mother, but mail packages to Restov are very irregular. I have complained to the Count, however I believe the man, a Nikitin, has ascertained my allegiance to the Medveyeds, and holds a grudge. Who knew there were any Nikitins left, let alone a Count?

The Osstian noble left last week, just after I posted my last letter. There was some sort of disturbance at a local mill that afternoon. Perhaps the Osstian needed flour? The Count is somewhat upset by the matter, and has called up some local levies. I don’t see why, the bread here is terrible. Still, now the streets are filled with peasants stomping all over with long staves sloped over their shoulders, and the quiet little tavern is now filled with louts until well-past nightfall.

Despite promises to keep in regular contact, I have not heard from the Osstian or his companions. Possibly they have all persished. I will wait until the end of the month, and if I haven’t heard from them I will send notice to the Lord mayor and return to Restov.

Oh, and do you remember that Garess woman I told you about, before I left Restov? She passed by, with a troop of surly mercenaries. The Captain-General really should have turned her out. We’ve all heard the stories about her. She had some sort of criminal in her wagon. Why take an outlaw back to the frontier? I think the Captain-General is too smart for his own good.

The mittens the women of the parish knitted for me are wonderful, and keep my hands very warm. Once again I ask for you to stop having them knit a long cord between them, I am certainly old enough to not lose my mittens anymore.

Your loving son,
Yuripol Yuripovitch Andropov

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Kaspar's Journal (Session 2)

8th of Gozrem (10th year of the regency) Evening

So, just when you think nothing could top the things that have happened something outrageous happens. The trapper Breeg was an experience and a half; a man of no small personality who clearly cares not a wit for his fellow man. The stunning lack of manners was only matched by the mountain of furs he brought in. Oleg swears he has a nose for trouble as he manages to show up right after the brigands each time. I suspect he keeps closer ties than we care for and is attempting to cash in or Oleg’s troubles.
I can now see why the regent and his people want the area re-explored. The beast that almost ate the trapper Stesh was a sight to behold. A rare and aggressive beast the Tatlzwurm was once thought extinct in this area. That it tried to bite my lord Karl’s head off is testament to the old tales. Luckily, it was susceptible to fire and cold Restovian steel. The man Drogov continues to impress with his alchemy and bold decisive actions without his sharp dagger work Karl might have succumbed to the venom; he must have a small amount of Osstian blood to counter his natural Restovian shiftlessness. The trapper gave us more information on the area confirming my suspicions about Breeg as uncaring of his fellows. The warning of the unmarked traps will save us a broken limb or two I am most certain. Skinning the worm was a princely gift and clearly showed his gratitude for his rescue a good second step with the locals. Perhaps a share of the sale price left on account for him to use may cement that goodwill, we will need all the able bodied men of good will to side with us if things are to continue on a positive note.

9th of Gozrem (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

Well, well, well; we received a pleasant surprise today at least I hope it will be pleasant. The letters Oleg had sent were indeed received and not ignored as we feared. The Captain General has sent additional men to secure the trade post. Knight Captain Garess and her Crossbowmen seem competent but also a little dismissive of the dangers presented by the bandits in this area. Still their presence snaps the tether binding us to Oleg’s; which frees us to begin the exploration and pacification of these lands in earnest. A new member of our band was delivered by the good Captain; whether she is a joke or a stroke of brilliance waits to be seen. Vaszilla seems to be some sort of repentant criminal given a chance at redemption; possibly even a bandit sent to bring ruin upon her fellows. Karl looks to have chosen to treat her as a valuable resource and boon companion. There is nothing for my misgivings but to follow his lead. I just hope his instincts are right and she is indeed repentant in full. With the border so near we need her far more than she needs us. The Captain General’s reach may be long but it does not stretch very deep into the River Kingdoms. Should she abandon our cause the border is already behind us. Hopefully, Vaszilla will be the thief that aids our mission to capture bigger thieves.

10th of Gozrem (10th year of the regency of Noelski Surtova)

Yet, another of the colourful characters that seem to populate these lands arrived at the trade-post today. This Ostel has the dubious nickname “the Mag-pie” and he seems intent on living up to his namesakes’ greedy reputation. I mistrust him and twice in less than a week I am hoping I am wrong.
Our exploration of the neighbouring countryside later that day seems to have born fruit of a most unique nature. A relative of Drogov’s has taken up the life of a hermit and has made his services available to us. (at a cost of course) Bokken seems a little daft but harmless and fairly puissant in his rarified art.

11th of Gozrem (10th year of the regency of Noleski Surtova)

Our first fortnight has passed and I have only almost died twice. Today’s brush with all things fatal and pointless was a giant spider (whose lair we were investigating as it practically leapt on me). If it wasn’t for the mystic armour I’d summoned and the cold steel of my lordship I would have been this evening’s dinner no doubt. Still yet another predator slain and better still a map was found on a previous victim that looks much like a treasure map. we will see what the morning brings. That area is odd in the extreme, possibly haunted by the smaller of the fey folk. Hopefully, we did not strike their fancy because the unwanted attentions of the wee folk are sometimes deadly.
I must remember to write a report to Yuripol. He did demand regular reports on our progress and we now have much to share (minus the treasure map)

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Vaszilla's Private Thoughts

To be honest, I thought they were going to leave me to rot in that cell. I truly thought the pig-dogs that pretend to govern this stink-hole of a city were starting to forget about me. While I don’t care to be under their notice, being trapped in that cramped box was starting to drive me batty. Just the chance to be out in the open again, out under the wide open sky, was enough for me. Whatever they wanted me to do had to be better than were I was. You have to be open to the opportunities that life provide, however small. And maybe I would be able to lay eyes on that traitor Yakob. I bet he’s already getting fat, fed from the table scraps of his filthy masters. When I catch him I will cut out his tongue.

But this? Abadar’s balls! While I am more than happy to be out in the wilds again, I can’t believe that my redemption involves traipsing about the woods, babysitting some children as they map the world for the same fat pigs who have always kept me eating the dirt from their boots. But whatever. I will play their game. And these kids? I have barely been here a day and they’ve given me more than I have ever been given in my life. Either they are stupid, or they want something they aren’t telling me. It’s barely been a couple of days – I will have to keep a close watch on them.

So, there’s this Lord Karl, who seems to be nominally in charge. Can’t tell if he’s being straight or mocking me… But if he’s being straight, he’s the most decent sort of pig-dog I’ve run across yet. He doesn’t look at me like I’m something that dropped from his horse’s behind and that’s saying something.

And then there’s his map-maker. Boy does this guy like the sound of his own voice. But he’s pretty free with the information. He filled me in on what’s been going on and what they expect me to do. He seems like a book learning sort. And he makes fire with his bare hands… Not sure if I can trust him or not. But he seems smart. I will watch him closely. He seems to love this Karl… Maybe this can be used as leverage.

There’s this tiny little elfling girl as well. Green hair! Ha! Haven’t seen her like in a while. Cute little thing. She’s a religious sort – and a healer, which means I like her already. She’s pleasant and seems not to mind following orders, which is also good. Maybe she can be convinced to join forces with me if and when I decide I need to leave this little outfit.

The last one of our merry crew is a Rostlander like myself. One look at him and I could tell that he too had seen some of the slimy underbelly the city tries to hide. But he seems like a merchant of sort – investor, they called him. He’s got something invested in this alright, and I’m not anyone aside from himself has any inkling what that might be… However, I understand that sort – everyone’s got an angle. The trick is finding out what it is…

So, I’m here, and I intend to do whatever it is they need of me…for now. I know I’m being monitored. I will play nice with the kids in the sandbox for now. And when their devices are made known to me and what they really want of me is laid plain, I will know enough, and have enough to strike out on my own. And I will go so far that no one will ever catch me again.

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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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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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