The Flower in the Sepulcher

Volume 2, Pages 27-31

I met Skaven at the Seax’s, he’s promised to personally check the Fire Giant Skeleton and was able to confirm my suspicions. It indeed sounds as though the Skeleton was Awakened. Skaven himself has performed such a ritual only once, there can’t be more than a handful of people in the city capable of such magics. My concern grows ever more. The pay was generous for the job, particularly as I would have done it for free, though I’m sure that Quarak, Naheeda and Lars would feel differently.

I met a new free company in town, the Elements United. An interesting crowd that was drinking at the Lament. A standard four person party so far as the roles of these things seem to pan out, but interesting. The wizard, Artemis Barnstormer, is one of the gnomes who are enamored by constructs, and their arrival so soon after we smuggled one such effigy into the city means we should keep an eye on what they are doing here. The cleric, Imhotep Setepenre, is a worshiper of a cult of Obad-Hai, who venerate him as a minor death diety. An intriguing group, and I should very much like to exchange some words at length with him regarding some professional interests. I’ll need to sound him out. Interestingly, Eleven, the rogue appears to be a member of an order of assassins in the Venom Desert who forsake their name upon taking their oaths. Bex informs me it seems likely that she is bonded to the cleric, and the two travelled from the Deserts together. I’m sure some of my companions would say more competition for jobs, myself, I see new sources of information

My research is growing ever closer to being able to reanimate the corpses of some small insects I’ve captured about my room. I’ve yet to get it to take hold in anything so complex as arachnids, let alone reptiles or mammals, but I’m ever so close. Such a breakthrough would be immense! Once I understand the secret of restoring life I’ll be so much closer to preventing death in the first place.

I hired – I should say, the Collective has hired a caretaker, Ms. Fetch as she goes by to manage our affairs in our absence and to receive guests in our absence, I was sold on her when she took Naheeda’s side in an argument with Fels about the Boar’s head in the dining room, and the Conservatory does look much better after a day of her handiwork – regardless, I instructed her to hire a Dwarven Sculptor to repair the statue of my Lady recovered from the Swamp Mausoleum. The rubies given in payment will now adorn the statue once his work is done. The sculptor did not seem perturbed by the experiments around the room, neither the scholarly notes, nor the various animals in various states of dissection (I left no vivisections in sight), I trust he is a true worshiper.

My sleep has improved markedly since the prophecy, and I’ve had no further prophetic dreams. Skaven informed me such dreams are not uncommon among the Jasidian faithful, and it has assuaged my fears about its immediacy somewhat.

The others of the Collective are in states of disrepair after a night of heavy drinking. We returned to the guildhall to discover a Lizardfolk the others seemed to recognize. Naheeda called her something to the effect of Shaman, and she had bones strewn about her, I understood their meaning at once, Life abounded, but Death was the quilting point in the center that held it all together. She spoke of the Sisters coming to us in the morning to send us once more into the grasp of the prophecy before fleeing the house, taking no questions. None here can adequately answer my questions, so I shall retire for the night. I shall have to look into an enchantment to reduce the amount of sleep I require, it should do wonders for my research output I imagine. I’ll need to stop by the Arcane Order to inquire about such an item.

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A light in the darkness

Ugh, my head hurts.

Last night I and fellow members of the collective decided to make an excursion with Naheeda and Krog to Treff’s famous orc bar to watch a delightful episode of classic orc sparring. Naheeda was particularly impressive in terms of her effort in battle. Many of us, save Ghan, imbibed a great deal of ale from a freshly opened barrel – saved for such an occasion as tonight. As it turned out, it was a strange night indeed.

As we approached our headquarters afterward, we noticed a single lit lamp in our lounge through window, strange as there should have been no one in there at the time, save for Ser Fels who can see in the dark. As we stumbled inside, we noticed a lizardfolk which we had not seen for a while… And yes, it was a particular lizardfolk which we were convinced to be dead. Was this a hallucination? Corroborating my visions with the other members of the collective proved it was not. Her words were brief and foreboding. She mentioned “these ones”, meaning us, did not have a lot of time left, and that we would soon be sent on another quest. Bones laid strewn across the floor, a bird skull among them. It was a sight that chilled my spine. Before we were able to ask many details, Maman had left, and vanished as quickly as she had appeared.

I am not one to dwell on prophecy nor superstition. Perhaps there was some truth to her words.

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Volume 2, Pages 23-26

Lars, Naheeda and Quarak accompanied me to the site of the Cemetary. We rowed out to the location of the fire giant skeleton, it stood still in its spot, but the area had been disturbed. It appears someone examined the skeleton, we discovered a launch spot for a boat. I’ll need to study the skeleton, it is responding under the orders of someone else. While the others fought one of the Knell Beetles, the skeleton acted alone to free me from underneath our canoe. There are only so many people who could take control of the skeleton. I’ll perform an in depth investigation once I have a chance to get out to the cemetery alone. Should that fail I’ll have to enlist a cleric. Oh, I should hope one of them has done this, though it seems unlikely, and in the swamp a great necromantic empire rises… The dream I had three nights past featured an awakened fire giant skeleton. This is an ill portent to be sure. Clearing the remainder of the beetles proved a simple enough task, a large colony had taken up residence and was nesting in the mausoleum. The land seems quite fit to serve as a cemetery, though some labor will be required to fill in the tunnels of the beetles to prevent any cave ins. The statue of the Ruby Lady is in a state of disrepair, I’ve brought it back to the city, I’ll have it repaired for my study. It seemed for a moment that the skeleton was listening to the statue, and it touched my Ladies eye. Bad tidings everywhere, I could dispel the animating force of the skeleton if conditions worsen, though I’m fearful that may not have the effect it should. Look at me, you’d think being trapped underwater with no way to breath would have shaken me to my core, but all I can do is worry why the skeleton saved my life! Caution turns to paranoia… I’ve laced my spellbooks and praybook with explosive runes at strategic locations. Certainly its irrelevant? But who would seize control of my giant? Who could? Who practices the art in Treff? Hierophant Rubyshimmer and I have much to discuss and I shall need to enlist the aid of someone more connected to the underground to find these people. Abad has connections in the underworld and some considerable magical talents. Certainly the smugglers would be an important friend of a necromancer operating in the city. This is dangerous ground I tread.

Naheeda slew a razortusk boar, the tusk of which would have made a valuable metamagic component, not that she’d give it up. She claimed she needed the head intact for some reason. I say she nearly got herself killed trying to avoid the head in combat. She tried to remain quiet about the purpose of this particular hunt, though its quite obvious it was undertaken for the rangers, yes? Who else would be insane enough to demand single combat to hunt down a creature of the swamp? She loaded up on some potion substitute and bought a scroll of Bear’s Endurance, I wish I’d hade the time and implements to scribe it into my spellbook. With the increased fortitude of that and her barbarian bloodlust and a bit of tinkering to increase the speed of her mortal frame she came out on top.

We should return to Treff shortly after daybreak; we have much to do.

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Stand Tough
Regarding the road ahead..

My sword has begun to weigh more heavily than before. I am worried. As I walk the paths laid before me, paths that cross demons, aberrations, constructs, creatures summoned from the abyss, an army from hell, I see the darkness corrupting men’s souls before my eyes. I do not know how deeply I should be worried about what we found in the Jakes, but the unfamiliarity of what we found, and speech I had not heard before nor wished to.. Well, it unsettles me. I do not believe there is any kind of connection between the darkness we found on our recent quest, the Queen, and her Army, but I worry about what the future bodes. I suppose a part of me worries about Treff.

Throughout the months we have spent near the Flower in the Sepulcher, I have tamed the beast of brute force. My long training sessions have gone on for several days without sleep, as I
work my body’s muscles harder than any steel I have seen forged into fine armor or blade. I have learned to be cunning, yet forthcoming in battle. I have developed into a warrior without allegiance, but not without valor. Through the alleyways that are a home to various thugs, thieves, gang members, and aggressive drunks, I am known collectively as “Stand Tough Lars”. For the first time in many years, my name now holds weight, conjuring images of one that dances in the darkness, yet stands broadly in the daylight.

And in my time with the collective I have realized that goals are not made easily, and a quest should always be seen through until the end. My mistakes made long ago have haunted me in dreams and in meditation. It has taken me a long time, but I know now that nightmares follow you until the end of your days unless they can be vanquished, standing strong with full acknowledgement of one’s fears, with determination and courage. Perhaps being a streetfighter has allotted me wisdom and constitution among gains in strength.

I left a kingdom shrouded in darkness and lies. It is unfortunate that one cannot truly vanquish the hardships that a kingdom and its people face, yet it is not the case that all enemies cannot be defeated. Even against the mightiest, most terrifying and wicked dragon, a sword unraised means hope abandoned, not lost. Even against a god, or demon with power beyond imagination, one cannot abandon their strength and composure. No amount of strength is insignificant. Even to wound an enemy so powerful proves that even the highest towers can fall, and strikes fear into those who think themselves invincible. I will not make the same mistake twice.

When the time comes for our collective, I will fight to the end. Perhaps not for my companions, perhaps not even for myself, but for Treff. For the city that desperately needs to keep its hope.

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Volume 2, Pages 21-22

The Ooze priest has been dealt with. The old blind man’s information about the acid filled trenches proved very useful. Some of my experiments about pushing the capacity of muscles played out well and I was able to enhance the speed of the collective forces in their temple. Juiblex’s forces in the city have been dealt a severe blow, but the priest, Slazak, escaped with a well timed contingency spell vowing he would return to claim vengeance against us. This is something we’ll need to be watchful of. I’ll put in the necessary research over the next few free days I can come by. It seems life in the city is quite a bit more fast-paced than my travelling days indeed. I was able to get word out throughout the poorer areas of the city that I would accept bodies with no questions asked and properly handle their internment. The Temple of Wee Jas, through Hierophant Skaven Rubyshimmer, was kind enough to provide the necessary seed money to establish a potting field near the city, I’ll need only clear the area of Knell Beetles. A rare breed of insect that burrow through the ground, likely explaining why the Rangers haven’t dealt with them, and capable of using sound waves to shake the earth. It will likely be a dangerous outing, but I’m sure I can gather some members of the collective to assist. Abad and Naheeda at least will be interested in helping the residents of the Jakes. The area should be easily protected by the unsleeping, unhungering undead significantly cutting down on costs, and the process of accepting bodies from the Jakes will likely provide plenty of cadavers to be worked upon. I shall have to speak with the Doctor and let him know that the cemetery will be functioning, I’m sure he could do much to aid Brother Brick in spreading the word.

Owain has grown distant; something about new friends he won’t say much about, though I suspect it has something to do with his ancestral lands. Rumors are speaking of some revolutionary cell I wouldn’t be surprised to find he’d taken up with.

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Mina's Notebook pp 83 - 84

We finally got around to helping the Circle of Equals. The first time I saw their post at the Full Quiver, I assumed there’d be undead involved. Why else would druids ask for a cleric’s assistance? Turns out that assumption was more than correct.

In the swamp, not too far from Treff, there is a graveyard that the druids hold sacred, as a great white tree of healing grew there. Symbolic of turning death into life and all that. I’d suppose there hadn’t been undead there for many years, but when they came back, they came in force.

The front line was made of two cryptchanters, shades with strange instruments that played a discordant melody. I recognized it as magic, although I’m not sure of its exact qualities. It can certainly fascinate – Cyrus dropped his flail before Galen cast protection from evil on him – but their touch seemed only minimally damaging. I’ll have to ask Galen if he knows what else their music does.

The motivating force, as far as I could estimate, was a powerful ghost. He’d been a wizard in life, and retained much of his skill in death. I’m unsure of whether he summoned the rest of the undead, or if they awakened concurrently and he was simply the most powerful. As it was, he was able to use the magic jar spell, which could have become a problem very quickly if Galen hadn’t cast protection from evil on us.

The ghost had possessed a treant, that same healing tree that made the graveyard a place of honor. Fortunately Galen hadn’t cast the protection from evil he’d intended to use on himself, and was able to release the tree temporarily. I’m glad we didn’t have to fight it, considering the sacred tree was the whole point of the exercise. He also had some spectres, boneclaws, and wights. Quite the collection of nasty undead. Definitely glad to have the rest of the Rose at my back – I dealt better than I got, but the spectres and ghost slipped through my guard and something about their touch loosened my hold on my magic.

After we destroyed the ghost, Galen was able to speak with the treant. Apparently the undead awoke recently – the graveyard had been inert before. Things are changing in the swamp, he said. The disruptions in the magic run deep – I’ve felt it since I first saw the eidolon, known it since we faced the tsochar. Perhaps our new allies in the Circle will have more insight. Cade Greenturtle has offered his assistance in the future – we’ll have to take him up on that.

Oh, and the treasure was excellent. The ghost had been a man of some wealth, and his gravegoods fetched an excellent price. Maybe I’d feel bad about taking them if he wasn’t such a vindictive shit in undeath. There was also an interesting magical item – another weapon crystal. This one is called a crystal of phoenix ash threat and its strategic possibilities are intriguing – it deals some fire damage shortly after a hit with a weapon. Could make Galen’s ability to make alchemist’s fire burn stronger in contact with other flame sources usable more frequently.

I’ve also been working on some new tricks that have come in a lot of use. I finally figured out how to shape a fireball – well, not really a fireball. The energy comes off my hands like a fireball spell, traveling long distances then bursting into a sphere, but in my usual fashion, it explodes in a ball of electricity. I also… grew wings. I manifested a pair of force wings that unfurled to shield myself and anyone next to me, driving back attacks. Then I felt myself lift off the ground, slightly – I felt like I could fly, if slowly. Then, when fighting the boneclaws, a pair of dragon wings. Real wings, bronze, powerful, carrying me through the air with startling speed. I felt just so powerful, so free… well, until today. Gods above I didn’t know those muscles were there.

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Volume 2, Page 20

A gang in the Jakes and South Fen area seems to have been killed or run of by a cult of a Demon prince. They’re using a number of oozes that are spreading a disease in the area. We’ve discovered three ways into their hideout and are preparing to move in. I don’t have much time now, as we’re about to breach the building, but we were able to save the life of a small goblin child. Its good that the rest of the collective arrived when it did. I would have been forced to watch the child die without backup…

-

We’ve breached the building through a whole in the roof. Some summoned torturer was dispatched quickly and we discovered a number of prisoners. A blind man and two goblin children. Abad spoke with the man and gained some intelligence about the building. We were equally, if not more so, adept at dispatching the gelatinous cube left to guard the obvious entrance. There is a voice, speaking the Dark Speech. Even with mystical aid I could understand only snippets of the vile language. It is likely that it is the one who summoned the creature eliminated earlier. Such a caster would be very powerful. And evil approaching anything I’ve ever seen. The inhabitants of this neighborhood face challenges that exceed even the harsh conditions of my tribe. They need protectors precisely because they cannot afford the help. They are made to be prey, not by virtue of their loss of utility to the tribe, they are key to the cities operation, but because of the power of the merchants. I should explore this area of thought further, the wealth of the merchants of Treff has warped the free competition for survival. I should speak with Naheeda about questioning her friends here. We may be able to assist the area, and there are other forms of payment than currency.

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Mina's Notebook pp. 81 - 82

I’ve never met a brass dragon, but everything I’ve ever heard about them says that they’re excessively talkative. I met one in my dream last night and I’d agree. I think she’s the same one I was talking with before, I just remember her better this morning.

We were walking on a sandy beach, and she was asking me questions about my life. I told her about traveling with the halfling caravans, learning my tinker’s trade, and she asked questions – why did I repair the wheel that way, how did I fix the wagon-covers when we were out of thread, why I darned socks by hand instead of with magic.

Even at a stately amble, her steps were so much larger than mine that I had to run to keep up with her. I was breathing heavily, and she stopped.

“Why are you so tired?”

“It’s hard to keep up with you, my legs are so much shorter.”

“Why don’t you just fly?”

Then I had wings.


Well, let’s call this another edition of highly unadvisable things that I totally intend to do. Apparently there’s someone out there who can tell me more about my family – Makan pointed me towards an arcane knight. The details, so I don’t forget them: his name is Kartouche, he’s 70-80 years old, his shield has a distinctive device – white dragon wings set with sapphires over a crashing wave. Apparently also a fairly hidebound noble – chooses to speak in Draconic alone, will likely expect proper etiquette. It was specifically mentioned that he’s not ‘liberal like Mr. Drylands’. Oh come on, I wouldn’t give Cyrus half as much trouble if he didn’t like it.

The highly unadvisable part is not letting me make first introduction to a noble, although admittedly that’s pretty unadvisable too. The catch is that Kartouche was last known to be hunting a green dragon in the far south of the swamp, and he’s been conspicuously absent for as long as I’ve been in Treff. I’d assume that searching for the knight is going to involve tangling with a dragon. Cyrus was less than thrilled about the idea of dragon-hunting, but I don’t want to fight one without him. Having someone who knows the “rules” of nobles at my side is quite the asset too. If only he spoke Draconic.

I’ve started doing some research, trying to figure out where this green dragon could be. I couldn’t find anything in particular in the Cabinet, which frustrated me to no end. One of the finest libraries in the Known World and I couldn’t find anything that a first-year xenobiology text wouldn’t have. I have ideas about where to look next, though.

A green wouldn’t be able to hold territory in the deep swamp long – blacks prize marsh territory and would be better suited to fighting for it. Even if a green was more powerful than an individual black, over time holding a marsh territory would prove deadly. A smart green – and they’re all smart – would claim a comparatively dry range, probably up in the Moss Mountains where there’s no standing water for blacks to hide.

I think it likely that the Sawgrass Rangers would have an idea of the local dragon territories, and they’d probably pay well for a trophy on top of it. Investigating this possibility will have to wait for a while, though. We’re heading out to help the druidic circle tomorrow, and after that I’m hoping to take whatever information we can find about plant mutations back to the Butcher’s Guild and help them with their musk creeper problem.

Finn had a run-in with our fan club while I was at lunch with the Four Corners – in our kitchen. Apparently the male of the pair was just looking at our belongings, marveling over the fact that we “actually use plates! and cups!” Some evidence we found around the hall concerns me – first, he got in by polymorphing into a small animal of some sort and climbing down the chimney. Second, he disappeared when Finn looked away for a second. Both of those things would imply that he’s a caster. But he was enthralled by the idea of quills and writing. He couldn’t possibly be a wizard – maybe a sorcerer, but I’m thinking something more than that. I’m also suddenly concerned with someone teleporting into our stronghold, and since he’s seen the inside, what’s the point in keeping him out? We should still install a grate, would hate to see what happens if someone vindictive pulled the same trick.

Oh, Finn also let slip that we now own a turbotiére. Apparently the gauntlet has been thrown. Bring it on, Drylands. The extraneous kitchenware is admittedly a uniquely effective method of getting under my skin, but I went to the Arcane Academy at Stone Table. If I didn’t have a few tricks up my sleeve, I might as well spoil my Ballot of Arts.

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A letter from Lucio to his cousin Orso

In a letter addressed simply to:

Orso
The Dusky Rose
Stone Table
The Ermine Republic

The text of the letter is written in a crude cipher:

Dearest cousin,

I hope this letter finds you well, and that Minara is likewise in good health. I have found myself in some rather mixed company here in Treff. You may remember the instance I recounted in my last letter to you – something about being locked in a closet in a smuggler’s den? Through circumstances I won’t detail here (so as to spare what remains of my dignity), I found myself once again captive. Upon securing my release, I happened upon that selfsame pack of ne’er-do-wells (you know I mean this in the most complimentary sense) who accompanied me on that first quest. It is an interesting band, to be sure. Together, we number six – a fine specimen of half-orc womanhood, foaming at the mouth but surprisingly piquant; a spellcaster of malevolent and devious aspect; an ambitious and well-spoken sellsword; a taciturn and warlike swordsman; and a holier-than-thou half-elf ranger.

Having need of my services, they have adopted me as one of their band, quaintly styled the Travelers’ Collective. My first days have been invigorating as well as profitable. I had grown so accustomed to acquiring wealth through extralegal means that I doubted my skills could be put to a more lawful use – not that our little band could exist outside of Treff, which like many uncivilized regions has its own strange customs and odd beliefs. The locals here are taken with a radical sense of equality that is not entirely without its appeals. If it were prudent to write to her, I should like to tell my dear sister that I had joined a collective, and ask that you write back with a precise depiction of her reaction. But alas, we shall have to rekindle our sibling bond once I return to Father’s good graces, if that ever is the case.

I hope you do not think that my rough-and-tumble circumstances are beyond me. In fact, I find myself quite well-suited for this kind of life, and quite enamored with the town. Undoubtedly, it pales in comparison to the splendors of the Ermine Republic, but Treff is a city filled with wealth of a more fluid sort, which suits me well.

And now to the unpleasant business. As to my creditors, I hope may once again rely upon your discretion and your aid. I am disappointed to learn that they intend on prosecuting their case, and I can only hope that you can smooth it over – for Minara’s sake, if not for Father’s. I am in high hopes that I might maintain myself here in the city of smugglers until I can return, dripping with enough coin to drown the money-grubbing sons of whores.

Yours etc.,

L

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Volume 2, Pages 18-19

That ranging is done now, we’ve returned to Treff, but it was nice to be travelling again. The letter of marque from the Order means we made quite a substantial profit off of this ranging. Abad and I finally had a chance to go over the Skeleton Mage’s Spellbook. An explosive rune and a snake sigil, but they were easy enough to disarm. Even so, perhaps I should invest in some mystical defenses of my own books. Between my spellbook, prayerbook and this new book that I intend to hold on to I have three to keep track of. Sure they’re mostly safe in my haversack, but it may be worthwhile to invest in some defenses. We certainly brought back more than enough from the ranging. I was able to find some contacts who were willing to offload their library for cheap to get it done in platinum quickly before they left the city. And with the books we liberated from the temple in the swamp I’ve got quite a collection going now. I hired some laborers to bring the books in, but the work of fixing their arrangement has just begun. The former owner certainly seems to have kept them in a haphazard fashion, though complete, so I can’t complain too much.

As far as my personal research has been going I think I’ve worked out a better way to send the Mosquito Kingdom’s summoned minions back to their plane of origin. It has some further testing to do, but this form of dismissal should prove very helpful. At the urging of some of the collective I also looked into flight and it was not a difficult trick to master, I had time even to expand on a divine speed abjuration; I believe the extra speed and opportunities provided by Haste may be useful to us in the future. Yet I’m still struggling to understand the nuances of several incantations in the Undead Mage’s spellbook: Damning Darkness, Enervation, Orb of Fire. I watched several of the casters use Enervation and heard Damning Darkness invoked once, yet I can’t quite get the trick of them yet. I’ve also undertaken a study of the architecture of the Mosquito Kingdom following several traps in the fire temple. My prying deeper into the lore and history of this region and these mystical effects however has given me some insight into how to avoid some danger preternaturally. This trick is sure to come in quite handy.

I’ve left the Giant’s skeleton in the Swamp to be recovered at a later date if necessary. Owain was less than pleased with that path, but I believe I assuaged his concerns that it won’t cause any trouble. He also had concerns over the fashion in which Naheeda and myself were gathering information from the captured Gnoll cleric. He’s an excellent warrior, but his concern for high-minded ideals will come back to bite him. At least in this case I put the gnoll down before we left, so that’s one problem we won’t have to worry about coming back on us. But from what I hear from my new companions, they’ve a history of allowing their enemies to escape. A dangerous habit to get into; its best to leave no loose ends.

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