Esmeria Aeterna

Time Wanes Wisdom 3

13th of Eleasias, 1526

Pondering the Alchemy Jug that our heroes had found, they all decide to simply take a short power nap there and then to recover their strengths, before moving further into the eerie crypt.

Moving past the remains of the slain golem, the brave adventurers encountered a bend in the halls covered by a huge cobweb. Already fearful due to children's stories of man-eating spiders, they find the corpse of a rather large spider on the ground. Noa rapidly decides on a no-nonsense approach. Namely to just burn the entire thing to the ground.

After throwing his torch in, the bravest of heroes needed to run from the billowing smoke and hide out in the previous room for an hour or so. Once the smoke finally dissipated enough, they bravely set forth once more.

Carefully scanning around for traps and avoiding suspicious pathways, they eventually uncover a room with a big basin in the middle, four braziers around it and a locked door at the end of the it.

After taking in the room for a few moments, they are stunned to find piles of bones floating in the basin. Ulfgar mentions that the bones appear magically preserved, untouched by the passage of time and the bleaching of the water. They also recognize these bones as having belonged to Minotaurs.

Stepping forward to investigate the locked door in the back, they disastrously feel the click of a trap tile below their feet and the vibration of magic in the air. Lumivarax freezes and recognizes the spell being cast; it is Animate Dead.

With ominous splashing of the water in the basin, two Minotaur skeletons rise and pick up their rather large and scary looking broadaxes.

Another fight for life and (un)death erupts as the Minotaur skeletons charge and gore the party with the passion of the afterlife. During the chaos, Noa manages to aggravate one skeleton badly enough to get violently slammed into a wall, collapsing in a particularly unheroic heap.

The well-meaning Andrea runs over to Noa and quickly drags him back to the passage they came from in an attempt to protect him. While this act had a high potential of being heroic in and of itself, the fact that she stepped into a previously undetected pit trap while dragging Noa somewhat detracted from it. Luckily enough, she managed to stabilize herself to avoid falling to a gruesome death and dragging Noa along with her.

As the fight raged on, Noa got back up to fight but had the light knocked out of him once more. Even though the resident cleric was able to patch him up, it was clear the fight weighed heavily on all of our dear adventurers. After gaining many wounds however, they managed to fell the unbeasts.

For a moment the greed inside them made them consider taking the large axes of the felled Minotaur Skeletons with them, surmising they might perhaps sell them to some very large lumberjacks, but ultimately deciding against it.

With renewed fear of deadly pit traps, Noa actually finds even more of them around the brazier room. Best not get impaled today. Examining the braziers and locked door, Darion speaks to the Alchemy Jug "I would like some oil please!". The magical jug churns for a few moments, and after uncorking they find about a quart of oil in it. They decide to use it to light the braziers.

When lighting each brazier, the magical aura around them appears to intensify. After lighting the final one, the somewhat innocent fires all simultaneously erupt in a blaze that gives off a tremendous amount of heat. Inside each fire appears a key, apparently magically suspended right in the center.

After testing out a range of things from shooting arrows at the keys and seeing the wooden shafts burn up, to swinging a Minotaur axe at a fire and waving their shields at it, they appear somewhat confounded by the situation. Nonetheless, our heroes did not take long to apply their collective genius to resolve the conundrum. That is, they decide to send Lumivarax into one of the fires because "Dragonborns are fire resistant anyway".

After poor Lumivarax got rather badly burnt in this endeavor due to peer pressure, Noa eventually runs back down the hall (carefully avoiding the traps) to retrieve the rocks of the golem's remains. Reasoning that these rocks are magical and thus would not be consumed by the fire, he starts tossing them at the fires, noting how they fly through some keys and bounce off one particular one.

Carefully waving their shields at this fire again, they note that these flames do not seem to respond to the gust of air. More deliberation occurs for a while, during which Darion becomes so impatient that he douses himself in the water of the basin and simply grabs the key. The fire does not harm him.

Opening the locked door reveals a wall between two pillars. On the wall, suspended in mid-air hangs a glowing and softly humming crystal.

There are decorations all over the pillar depicting the life and accomplishments of a rather important-looking Elf. Looking around the room itself, our heroes notice that there are similar decorations there.

Wondering what the crystal might be or what it might do, Noa touches it with the tip of sword and is instantly teleported to a room even deeper into the crypt. In this room he sees vast riches against the far walls, gold, silver, gems, fancy looking chests, you name it, this Elf had it.

It does not take long for the others to join him. In between the delicious bounty, they see a blindfolded skeleton in tattered black robes sitting in a chair.

Above him on the walls, an Elven inscription reads:

"Here rests Ceanasan Dakear, who with heavy heart committed his genius to grant the Just a final line of defense against the Shadow. Goddess watch over his remains until the day of the Awakening."

Around the inscription, more depictions can be seen about the life of Ceanasan Dakear. Many of them show him creating things, artifacts, and our heroes recognize some of them from the eerie depictions they had seen before.

The Elvish-speakers among them attempt to communicate with the skeleton for a few moments, but it appears to be silent as the grave. HAH.

Andrea darts forward though to get a closer look on the skeleton and its riches, inadvertently stepping on a similar trap as the previous room contained. As the reanimated remains of Ceanasan Dakear rise before them, our heroes realize that perhaps they should have taken some time to rest.

Fighting viciously with the power of magic, Ceanasan Dakear employs thundering magic to knock everyone away from him, lobs flaming spheres at the already badly burnt clerick, blasts the people near him with destructive rays and attempts to put all our heroes into magical slumber to easily pick them off at his leisure. Through series of violent shakes and slaps, the party members unaffected by the magical sleep manage to wake up the rest as Ceanasan's sword lights up brightly with magical fire.

Lumivarax has to flee the scene to avoid succumbing to the rolling ball of fire chasing him, as the rest of the party gives it everything they've got. Finally, as Ceanasan Dakear shields himself temporarily to brush off his attackers and engulfs Ulfgar's boar-form in flames with a slash of his sword, the resident druid manages to retaliate with one final strike of magically enhanced quarterstaff, reducing the ancient elven inventor's remains to dust.

Finding themselves alone with the loot, our valiant heroes waste no time grave-robbing everything in Ceanasan Dakear's tomb. From his remains they even take his magical sword and, surprisingly, the blindfold that also turned out to be magical. Putting the blindfold on, they find that it grants the bearer a minute of Truesight at the cost of its magical charge, inadvertently wasting a part of its power.

Distributing the wealth and objects they found, they move outside the crypt and set up camp nearby. It is now past midnight.

14th of Eleasias, 1526

After their rest, they huddle together once more to decide what to do. Andrea and Lumivarax work together to identify the tracks of another person on the ground, leading back to Aredyl. They decide to follow it.

Coming back to the edge of the town, the tracks naturally start to mix with the regular tracks of the town's inhabitants. With great precision, Ulfgar manages to differentiate between them and follow the original tracks – all the way back to Alan's house.

Camping outside of his house for a while, Lumivarax performs rituals to detect magic and evil. As he notices a hint of evil inside the house, that is all the convincing that Noa needs – who promptly dashes towards the house and kicks in the door.

Inside they find a startled Alan, busy packing his bags. A fervent discussion between them starts with Alan claiming he was following their advice to leave. At first he denies all the allegations, but our heroes would not be fooled again and see through his lies. Noa decides to threaten Alan quite heavily, clearly hitting a nerve.

Clearly afraid now, he tells our heroes that he will lead them to where he has hidden the hourglass, but only in exchange for his freedom. Tiring of this exchange, Ulfgar decides to cast a Charm Person spell on Alan, and succeeds. As Alan suddenly becomes all about pleasing them, he immediately resolves to lead them to the tree stump to the east of the village where he has hidden the precious artifact.

Alan also admits to finding the hourglass and using it against the villagers because they laughed at him. He had fallen in love with the owner of the general goods store's daughter, but her father would have none of it. Stomping around the forest in anger he had happened upon the crypt, unleashing his anger on the front to break it down. Inside, he had encountered the golem who had swung at him, missed and broken open the hidden room instead. There he quickly grabbed the hourglass and ran away.

Turning the hourglass over to our heroes, they feel the weight of its magical power tower out from it.

 

Returning back to the town, the Charm Person wears off of Alan, who breaks down in pathetic sobs and cries and keeps saying how sorry he is. After another round of discussion, they lock Alan up in the cell of the afflicted guard captain and leaves him some food and drink to survive until the guard sends a delegation to clean up Aredyl.

Meanwhile, Lumivarax attempts to apply his knowledge of magic to understand what it is exactly that they have just uncovered. Identifying the magical nature of the hourglass tells him that its magic is ancient, over a millennium old, and its power is beyond his current ability to perceive completely.

For a while, the group of friends discuss the implications and responsibility involved with possessing an artifact of such demonstrable danger and power. At one point realizing that its power could even topple governments.

On the three-day journey back to Minghonda, Andrea ventures deep into the forests and comes back with a tamed wolf. Branding it her new companion because people are stupid anyway, she names it "Loki".

17th of Eleasias, 1526

Arriving back in Minghonda, they are surprised to find that a sprawling news corporation is now selling magically printed newspapers in the streets. They decide to buy one to read up on all the going-ons in the world. It bunch of articles stand out:

  • Serial killer with M.O. of executed terrorist still on the loose in Minghonda!
  • Another group of children vanished, adding to the recent disappearances of young ones…
  • Political tensions with Himmerion rising over potential cause of desertification to the East…
  • Monster sighting in Lurker Lake! Fishermen claim their boat was capsized by the beast of legend.

Visiting the League of Archeologists once again, they make the mistake of asking Maikel the receptionist how she has been doing. Maikel immediately breaks down in sobs over how tough her life is, and how she recently has had a downswing in the relationship with her boyfriend.

Avoiding the awkward emotional situation, they meet with Verner and discuss the hourglass. Verner, clearly unsettled by the presence of something so powerful, refers them to Mages Guild, Minghonda branch.

They also discuss the Elven currency that they had left behind, upon which Verner remarkably steels himself from his previous uneasiness and enters into a true barter-mode. After quite a lengthy back and forth, they agree to sell the Elven coins for their regular value and an additional 15% on top, with a guarantee of at least 15% being paid out in platinum coins. Noa seems especially pleased at this particular part of the deal…

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Time Wanes Wisdom 2

12th of Eleasias, 1526

After the not-quite-so valuable discovery of the Ring of Swimming, our heroes concluded that perhaps no, the village affliction was not based in the water of the well.

Somewhat unsure about how to proceed, they walk arouind the small town of Aredyl and observe all its lethargic, zombie-like inhabitants for a while longer. Eventually, they spot a young man who does not seem to stare into the distance like his soul was burned out of him.

Approaching him quickly, he gives his name as Alan. He is a hunter for the small town and claims to have been out in the forest for the past weeks, to track beasts for future hunting endeavors.

Stating that he is very concerned about what seems to have befallen his fellow villagers, Noa enquires when these problems had started. Alan responds by saying that it must have only been a few weeks, because nothing seemed to be truly wrong at the time he left.

On the question of anything special or strange having happened recently, he says he found an ancient crypt about a half day's travel to the West. He did not open it himself though, he just informed village leadership before going on his hunting journey. He says he did remember the village leadership stating they would investigate the crypt.

Noa seems slightly mistrustful of Alan, but finds nothing particularly wrong with his story. Upon further investigation they learn that the village leadership consists of the guard captain, whom they already met – and the village mayor. Alan gives them the location of the mayor's house, they thank him and leave.

Nearing the mayor's house they notice the door is adjar. Polite as they are, our heroes knock on the door anyway. A confused "Yes? Come in?" echoes from the inside of the house, and moving inside they meet Aredyl's mayor.

He looks like he is seriously afflicted like the rest of the town, but the party does manage to have somewhat of a conversation with him. He says that he does not know about any crypt, but then again, he's been forgetting so many things lately that perhaps he just does not remember that either.

Starting to suspect a Necromancer's foul play, our friends ask whether the mayor has or knows of any old artifacts in the town. His eyes light up slightly and he excitedly leads the party upstairs to show them his collection of stone and wood carvings. Some of it real freaky shit, but nothing about it appeared magical in the slightest.

Darion however, appeared to perceive all of these objects as powerfully necromantic and started to panic, until Noa gently guided him out of the mayor's house.

Miffed at their lack of investigative success inside Aredyl itself, they resolve to perhaps just travel to the crypt in the West. A night's rest appears an attractive idea though, considering their day's travel and effort spent walking around the village all day, so they go back to the Good Knight's Rest.

The innkeeper appears to have forgotten all about them but treats them like proper guests all the same, despite them not having paid anything. He offers meals to the whole group, but only Ulfgar finds the courage to eat anything in accursed Aredyl.

13th of Eleasias, 1526

As they prepare for sleep in their beds after midnight, they suddenly feel the vile grasp of dark magic. Andrea innately recognizes the magic as an obscure mixture of area-extending metamagic and the Touch of Idiocy spell. Darion and Ulfgar succumb to the spell's effects and feel noticably afflicted after it.

Noa immediately runs towards the windows to check the streets, but perceives no-one. He and Lumivarax rapidly run down the stairs and into the streets to scout around, but the whole town appears deserted. Everybody is sleeping in their beds.

All of them on their feat now, the party discusses a plan of action. They decide to run for the edges of the town to investigate further and stand guard, but all they find is the rustling of the leafs.

Understandably wary of sleeping in the town, they  resolve to set up camp in the forest to the East. During their few-hour walk, for a moment they think they noticed something being near, but perhaps it was simply the wind again or a small animal. 

Setting up camp, Ulfgar pulls more Goodberries out of strange places to feed our hungry heroes. With members alternatingly guarding the camp, they sleep peacefully until morning

Assessing the affliction that had befallen Darion and Ulfgar, it becomes clear that time has not healed that wound. This of course aligns strongly with what they had encountered in the town itself, showing a process going on over a couple of weeks already.

Playing a game of Dragon Chess to test Darion's mental faculties, the latter actually manging to beat Noa. Proving that clearly, intelligence and wisdom are overrated character traits.

Making their way back inside the town, they look up Allan who confirms the time of the strange phenomena last night, but does not appear to be afflicted. Telling him to perhaps get out of town while he still can, they leave for the crypt to the West.

The slab of stone that used to bar entrance to the crypt appears broken, revealing a path downwards inside it. Magical torches light up the darkness, and Noa can't help but tear one off the walls to see if their magic continues working. It did not.

Having learned from their first bad experience descending down ancient crypts, they carefully scan around for traps. Finding none, they slowly move deeper into the crypt, eventually coming to a split in its halls. One passage leading left, towards a room that seemingly also had been sealed with a stone slab. The slab now lay in pieces on the floor, revealing a room inside with a pedestal and eerie depictions. The passage to the right continues deeper into the crypt, curving out of sight.

In an alcove of the passage to the right, the party is alarmed to find a large stone statue staring down on them. Lumivarax quickly identifies this statue as possibly being a magical stone golem, knowing these golems are often created through magical means to guard specific places.

In a further attempt to examine the golem, Noa steps near the entry of the room to the left. The golem's eyes light up blue, and it starts lumbering towards them. A fight ensues – it's clobbering time.

As the fight rages, with Darion heroically pinning the golem in place with a continuous bear-hug, it becomes clear to the party that non-magical means seem to be brushed off by the golem. Creatively, Noa puts on the Ring of Swimming and starts punching the golem, resulting in clear cracks in its body.

Ulfgar, in an attempt to get behind the golem by acrobatically moving through a narrow hole in the rocks, gets his stocky dwarven build stuck in the middle of the fight. When he manages to free his corpulent body from the narrow walls and hits the golem hard with his magical weapon, the golem's eyes suddenly switch from blue to red and it starts beating Ulfgar up like no tomorrow.

As the battle is nearing its end, the golem's attacks intensify until Lumivarax manage to blast it with a radiant blaze of glory. It breaks into pieces and drops to the floor, giving the party a well-deserved moment to rest.

Checking out the uncovered room, they accurately notice two pressure plates in the middle of it and resolve to avoid them completely. Noticing a set of fresh footprints in the dust – also walking around the pressureplates – the survivalists among them judge the age of the footprints to be around two to three weeks.

Nearing the pedestal, they find various vases full of ancient coins, gems, a scroll and an ancient book written in Elven called Maevanne's Codex. Most interestingly however, one of the ordinary-looking jugs does not contain anything but lights up with a magical aura when examined more carefully. Assessing the magical enchantment, they find this to be an Alchemy Jug.

Stashing all the loot at breakneck speed, they stop to observe the eerie depictions in the room. Noting that they bear a strong resemblance to the depictions they found in the cave beneath the ruins of the Temple to Eldath near Minghonda, these depictions portay different scenes:

  • On the pedestal is an illustration of an hourglass emitting an aura, with people around it. Some are hunching down and clutching their heads, some seem to be wandering aimlessly. The pedestal itself is empty, showing a spot in the dust where something had stood not too long ago.
  • Behind the pedestal is an illustration of a man on fire, clearly suffering from the flames, but fighting off a horde of shadowy figures.
  • To the left is an illustration of a night scene with a full moon, a grail is on the ground and a white specter seems to curl around it. Dead bodies are strewn around the grail.
  • To the right is an illustration of a man with a staff, surrounded by a hostile army. He has the staff held high, which is also surrounded by an aura. In the sky a, a large meteor swarm seems to be rushing down at the group.

Pondering the strange jug and the meaning of the depictions, they conclude that perhaps the hourglass depicted on the pedestal had been here before and has since been taken. They huddle together to discuss their next moves.

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Food for the Soul 2, Time Wanes Wisdom

7th of Eleasias, 1526

After driving the ghost back into the ruins, our unlikely heroes take a breather and discuss what to do next. At this point it is becoming painfully clear that this fresh band of adventurers lacks every form of leadership imaginable. Through sheer majority vote, they eventually decide to inspect the ruins where the ghost phased into a wall.

Searching around the area, the group finds the ancient symbol that Viral was talking about. None of them seem to know what it means or where or when it's from, but Andrea carelessly puts her hand on it. Unexpectedly, the symbol lights up and starts humming faintly. A part of the ruins suddenly lowers into the ground, revealing stone-cut steps leading down into the darkness.

Only momentarily wondering if perhaps they should consult the archeologists, the group descends into the cave; rushing forward carelessly with only a single torch to guide them. Heroic this might seem, it also proved somewhat foolish as Darion – leading the group – fails to notice and sets off a dangerous trap. He protects the party valiantly by blocking a spray of acid with his face. This turns out to be pointless though, as Noa, the only other victim of the trap, nimbly dodges out of the way.

After Darion's feeble attempt to heal his molten face, the group rounds the last corner and finds themselves in a small cavern room. Their lantern illuminates a corpse in the back of the room, which they can't help but notice is in a extensive state of decay. A quick glance shows the female corpse wearing the same clerical clothing as the ghost. Some urns are scattered around the edges of the room.

As Lumivarax steels himself and moves closer to inspect the corpse, a loud wail erupts from behind them and the ghost slides out from the wall. It looks pissed, even more so after the party clumsily attempts to reason with her again. Screaming intensifies.

A fight erupts and as it progresses, the ghost is even further enraged by the Lumivarax' radiant magic and attempts to reach him by phasing through the walls. Extraordinarily, the ghost is unable to hurt our favorite heroes at all and she eventually gives in, the party reducing her to a dusty mess of ectoplasm on the ground and wall.

Little time is wasted on ceremony as our heroes congratulate and rewards themselves with whatever they can find in the urns. This turns out to be quite a prize, as they find valuable metals and gems, along with a small medallion. Suspecting the medallion might be magical, they take turns trying to assess the enchantment. The wise and educated among them fail to understand what it does though, after which Darion snatches it up and exclaims that "his father used to have one of these", and confirms it to be a Sparkling Medallion

A closer look on the coins they found revealed Elven decorations, leading Lumivarax to surmise that perhaps these coins are ancient Esmerian. They decide to keep the coins separate from their regular currency, just in case.

As Lumivarax examines the corpse, he notices that the woman appears to have died from falling, as her limbs are contorted in many unnatural ways. He then finds stab wounds and blood stains as well. Looking up, Noa notices a shaft leading up towards ground level where a grate can be seen, a small amount of moonlight shining through. This leads the party to believe the poor woman must have been stabbed repeatedly before being thrown down the grate.

Some members of the party faintly surmise that by destroying the ghost, they likely sent the woman's soul straight to hell. After she was violently attacked and dropped to her death in total darkness.

As they suppress this unpleasant realization and prepare to leave, the pair of would-be inspectors notice a faint hum coming off a metal plate beneath the corpse. Carefully moving the corpse off of it, they learn it seems to be made of solid metal, encrusted with small gems in twenty different colors. They start experimenting through prodding it and stacking urns and gems on top of it. This breaks a few of the urns, and Noa needs to physically restrain an impatient Darion from stepping onto the plate.

As Noa worriedly test out the plate, the rest of the party looks around the caves and notices three scenic, but gruesome depictions:

  • A crude drawing showing a young child being pulled into a dark corner, by long shadowy arms. The child's parents are running towards it, crying out in despair.
  • A larger drawing shows a huge, black portal with an army of shadowy and grey figures pouring out of it. In the distance, alerted watchmen inside and around a large tower. 
  • A large scale drawing of decaying grass and trees, around a disk or plate that seems to emit a sickening aura. Corpses of monsters, people and animals alike are strewn around it.

Lumivarax eventually does decide to try and grab the plate. To the astonishment of the rest of the party, he is immediately transported into another realm. Although still in the same location, everything is distorted and vague, as if looking through frosted glass. He can still see his friends, but they do not appear to see him anymore.

After his initial surprise subsides, Lumivarax notices a plate in the back of the room with Elven writing on it. Above it, a small box is magically suspended in the air.

After reading the inscription, he steps off the plate to walk towards the box and is immediately pulled back to the Material Realm. He shares what he has learned with the party, and repeats the inscription back to them:

"As the centuries turn, so will the Shadow keep falling. When darkness once more blots out the days beyond the Awakening, let this guide the just to fight the madness and the dying of the light."

Intrigued – and in Ulfgar's case, hungry for treasure – they resolve to retrieve the contents of the box. This proves to be quite a challenge to our heroes however, as they just can't seem to figure out how to reach the box after losing contact with the plate.

After quite some shenanigans and crazy ideas – like shooting the box down – they attempt a last ditch effort to lift the magical plate out of it's fitting in the rock floor with their swords and sheer muscle strength. Their force of will proves sufficient, but their strength ejects the plate out of the ground, bouncing it off the wall and rolling into Andrea.

While initially far from amused, her annoyance quickly turns to wonder as the sizable Lumivarax is able to pull the magically suspended box down from the air after moving the plate over to its location. The contents of the box reveal a parchment, but the parchment itself only shows magical swirls. They decide to leave with both the parchment and the plate. The plate receives a name, and the name is John.

Trying to leave the cave, they find that the marking near the door only responds to Andrea. All the while they deliberate loudly over whether they should bury the cleric's corpse. Examining the parchment again – and Ulfgar waving it around like he is trying to dry a towel – makes half of them realize that it must be magically encrypted through Illusory Script, and that the only means to read it would be through True Sight. Sadly, Dispelling the enchantment would destroy the spell and the contents both.

Finally outside, they build a stretcher from wood and leaves, retrieve the cleric's corpse and bury it in the forest with an improvised prayer ceremony.

Hoping this would give the poor woman's soul some rest, each of them shortly feels an intense heat, which leaves them as abruptly as it had come.

Having finished with the formalities, our heroes tell themselves they have well earned their reward, and return to the archeologists' camp for some well deserved rest.

8th of Eleasias, 1526

In the morning, they update the Halfling leader of the archeological expedition on all of their findings. The leader however states that she cannot be sure the ghost is actually gone, and will need verification of this before she can write out a formal letter of recognition to the party. A solution is found by having the party stay another day and night, so that the League can confirm the ghost is actually gone.

Consulting the expedition's leader for her experience, they learn that the magical plate brings any living thing it is in contact with to the Ethereal Realm. Or, to be more specific, the Border Ethereal.

The heroes use their mandatory day off to try and locate the grate they saw through the shaft inside the cave. Eventually they do, and underneath the rubble they find traces of blood and a struggle that have been kept dry from the periodic rainfall. Coming to the realization that the ghost had perhaps only initially been hostile to the Minghondians among them, they conclude that at this point it really doesn't matter anymore.

As the night passes, the expedition leader signs a written confirmation for the party of them vanquishing the ghost and granting them the reward as promised, to be picked up at the office of the League of Archeologists in Minghonda.

8th of Eleasias, 1526

Strolling out to the edge of the forest, each of them could swear they hear faint whispers. although none of them are able to decipher what is being said. The Minghondian's among them recall ancient tales of whispers, after which the region was named – The Whispering Glade.

Shaking off the unsettling sensation, they continue into the plains on their way back to the city.

9th of Eleasias, 1526

Arriving in the evening, Andrea shares some of her silver with a particularly hungry looking refugee. He thanks her kindly, although clearly hoping for more.

Tired from the journey, but delighting in their new found riches, they return to the Bright Apple for some particularly extravagant meals and lodging; Andrea once more settling for a modest one. Loudly they discuss their treasure and what to do with it, seemingly uncaring to whom might overhear.

10th of Eleasias, 1526

In the morning, their first order of business is obviously the retrieval of their just reward. Meeting Maikel at the League of Archeologists office reception desk once more, she inspects the signed letter and retrieves Verner – a higher up in the League's organization. The small Halfling proceeds to confirm the reward with Maikel and pulls a comically large sack of gold out of his small set of clothes.

As per their previous late-night rowdy discussions, our heroes also show Verner some of the ancient coins they had kept aside. He investigates them them and confirms they are legal tender, but appears very surprised at the unusual depictions that portray the currency.

He happily agrees to the party's offer to donate a few of them in return for him checking his contacts for interest in purchasing the remainder in bulk. 

Leaving the League behind and secure of their fat purse, they attempt to exchange some of their new-found wealth at the local bank. Sadly, they are kept in line for an untoward amount of time as preferential treatment appears to be given to Minghondian officials. Openly appalled at the blatant favoritism, they decide to come back later and go to the guard post instead.

Grumpy guard looks no less grumpy than the last time the heroes met him. He does share the information he has on Aredyl and the reports coming from there though, clearly showing how insane and confused the reports had gotten – a pattern in them suggest problems and a plea for help.

The guard cannot promise a reward because at this point they still do not know what they are actually dealing with. But he mentions they are likely to get one in Aredyl itself, or otherwise the guard captain there could sign them a letter to redeem in Minghonda. He writes them a signed letter confirming the group's status as investigators.

Lumivarax enquires about other current affairs in the city, and learns of a serial killer case where a Hanaian terrorist had murdered multiple Minghondian officials. The guards had eventually apprehended him by using an official as bait, and after a rapid court case executed him by beheading.

Continuing his story, the guard tells our heroes that a new murder had taken place that resembled the M.O. of the executed assassin. This time, a high-ranking Minghondian member of the Senate had been killed. The M.O. fit perfectly even; an abduction in the streets by putting a victim to sleep somehow, dragging them off to an unknown part of town, skinning their faces off while still alive and leaving them dead in a seemingly randomly chosen street. The guard concludes they must be dealing with a copycat killer, or perhaps an organization behind the original killer that is continuing the murders.

As our heroes leave the guard post, Ulfgar murmurs that the Minghondians get what's coming to them. This leads to a short discussion about the current tense political climate, ethics, morals, right and wrong. They make the decision to see what they can do in Aredyl instead.

At his second attempt, Noa finally gets his turn at the bank, and manages to persuade the banker Foxworth to let him trade in some gold pieces for platinum without a service fee, despite Foxworth running low on platinum. This does not please the banker much, who nods at Noa warily.

Leaving the city, the thought occurs to them that any wealthy refugees would obviously not reside in the camps near the gates; they would have found easy refuge in the huge city itself. Pondering the injustice and imbalance in the world, they set off for Aredyl.

The journey takes them along one of Hanaa's major trade routes and is rather safe and well traveled. The rest of the party learns, through banter, of Ulfgar's excessive student loan debts. Darion subsequently jokes that they already accumulated more wealth than any of the refugees would see in a lifetime, and he laughs at his own joke as a true bourgeois pig.

Reaching deep within himself,  Ulfgar manages to conjure up magical goodberries from an unknown place to feed the others, who are slightly reluctant at this prospect at first.

12th of Eleasias, 1526

Finally reaching Aredyl, the party meets a trader that is just leaving the town. The trader warns them to just pass this town up, because everyone in there has gone crazy. Bewildered, absent-minded and confused, as if their minds are addled. He goes on to say that it has not always been that way, and states he suspects there might be something in the water that's causing it.

Entering the town themselves, our heroes truly see the strange phenomena affecting the small town of Aredyl. Everyone walking around aimlessly, looking but not seeing, yelling in the streets at no-one in particular. They find an inn called The Good Knight's Rest and attempt to rent rooms for the night.

The innkeeper however barely replies to their queries and seems to not remember what his rooms actually cost for a night. In fact, as the party presses him, he seems to not even remember his own name. For a moment he thinks his name is Tom, but then states that is not true. Finally he goes into a tangent about how everyone in town is a complete idiot lately. The party quietly leaves the inn.

Instead, they stop by the small guard post. Inside, they find a woman who appears to be guard captain. She is sitting behind a desk, around her are many scattered papers and written letters. Also clearly afflicted, the guard captain does inform them a little more. She tells them that she has been writing for weeks to ask for help, that the phenomena had started slowly but had turned very bad recently.

After she forgets that the party is even in her office, she starts drooling a little on her desk.

Resolving to find a suspected magical cause for the strange and disturbing phenomena, Lumivarax starts scanning the town for magical influences. He finds one in the town's well, and Darion descends into it before letting more level-headed members of the groups restrain him this time.

On the bottom of the well, among worthless wishing coins and other garbage, Darion finds a magical ring. After bringing it up and assessing the magical properties of this tremendous find, the party realizes they are holding a mundane Ring of Swimming.

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Bread and Games, Food for the Soul

5th of Eleasias, 1526

On a hot sunny day during Highsun, two good friends and three strangers find themselves seated next to each other on a bench in the Arena Stadium in Minghonda. The War of Redoubt has ended only a few months ago, and after taking the city and settling in, the Minghondian government called a Grande Festival and invited travelers from all over Hanaa. Their publicly stated motivations for this are to celebrate their victory, but word in the street has it that they hope for foreigners to bring in some coin to boost the economy after the heavy damages incurred by the war.

A group of rowdy and drunk locals are cheering on the fights below, as a group of quiet refugees next to them eyes them warily. A lone, black hooded man sits down on the bench above. Closer to the stadium grounds, a Half-Orc guard is shouting commands at other guards that start to scramble when they hear him. Darion loudly proclaims his wonder at the amount of people gathered here. When the stadium fights turn to the final event – a mortal struggle for a sentenced Hanaian terrorist – the locals get into a fight with the refugees. The scuffle is peacefully broken up by the friends Darion and Noa, although Darion receives a rather painful punch in the face.

A guard called Jared approaches after noticing the situation, and after verifying everything is under control again he thanks the party for the peaceful resolution. He apologizes as well, and states that the guards are severely understaffed because of the chaos of the city takeover, the influx of foreigners for the Grande Festival and also the huge wave of refugees that are actively feeling from the unnaturally spreading desert to the east of the lands. He mentions that the guard post is always looking for hands to help out with reports that are lower on their priority, and they can say Jared sent them.

After Jared leaves, the black hooded man starts making sickly coughing noises. Noa, Andrea and Lumivarax attempt to talk to the man, but he appears to be more focused on his ailment, looking pale, sweating and staring at the floor. Suddenly, he starts puking up a thick, black mucus and the party jumps back away from him.

As the hooded man expires, Lumivarax delves into his medicinal knowledge and recognizes the disease as Swampy Demise – a highly infectious disease that, after infection, grows progressively worse over a week and clogs up the patient's organs from the inside if medical intervention is not sought. For this man, it was clearly too late to find help. Lumivarax states that the disease is also highly infectious and can be easily transmitted through contact with the black mucus.

A larger group of guards arrive after the crowd realizes someone has died and there is a risk of infection. They quarantine the five, along with the refugees, the rowdy Minghondians and some others. The drunk Minghondian that punched Darion in the face had very quickly left the scene, however. The guards maintain the quarantine until a few temple medics arrive, who examine the group and clear them one by one.

Lumivarax asks one of the medics, who identifies himself as Jonas, what he knows about this disease. Surprisingly, Jonas tells him that the disease is ancient, old medical texts say it has been around for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years. It appears that infection usually starts in dark and damp places, like sewers or caves, but what exactly causes it is very much unclear. It is somewhat of a rare occurrence these days though, but always dangerous when it shows up.

The events for the day being over, the quarantined group leaves the stadium. Outside, they gather around for a bit to discuss the unexpected experiences. Lumivarax, Noa, Darion and Ulfgar all make hearty acquaintances, while Andrea warily stays at somewhat of a distance. They discuss the offer of the guard to work for incidental rewards, with Ulfgar showing an unexpected and somewhat unsettling interest in monetary rewards and artifacts, but some of the group state they are rather hungry. Noa, who – living not too far from The City is the most familiar, offers to pay for some baked goods as snacks. They move to a bakery where he treats everyone to Cream Buns, and the baker persuades Noa to buy a 6th bun, offering him a 50% discount.

Andrea states she does not like this sweet human food and that she is very hungry for an Elven dinner, as it is already early evening. After some deliberation, the party agrees to eat out at a restaurant that specializes in Elven cuisine. Although that vast majority of Minghonda is Human, Noa knew there was an Elven place not too far from the bakery.

The restaurant, called the Bright Apple, was a fancy place. The host welcomed the party readily and handed them the – slightly overpriced – menu. As Noa and Darion splurged on a large meal with a few small glasses of the exquisite spirit Elverquisst. The others settled for more affordable meals, ale and mead.

As the host enquired about the party's plans for lodgings and presented his pricing, the party decided it might be a more financially healthy decision to find another place to sleep. Instead, they opt to visit the guard post to enquire about work – under protest of Andrea, who proclaims she would hate being a guard. The remaining party members convince her to at least check it out.

As they enter the guard post, a tired and grumpy-looking guard greets them at the front desk. The party makes a monumental mess about who actually sent them and start bantering among each other, instead of letting the guard getting a word in. After the guard face-palms and attempts to suppress an oncoming migraine attack from having dealt with too many idiots in a day, he shares information about the current reports and tasks that the guard post needs support with.

The first task being reports of the League of Archeologists about a ghost interrupting their research into the ruins of a temple to Eldath, that was destroyed by the Minghondian military at the end of The War of Redoubt. Apparently the ghost shows up after the sun goes down and will not stop screaming; it is proving to be very problematic for the efficiency of the archeological teams, who had intended to work in day/night shifts. Because the guards did not have the time to help, the League had offered a reward of 250 gold pieces to anyone who would be able to deal with the ghost for them.

The second task involved investigating many confused reports of strange occurrences in the small town of Aradyl. The guard post was not sure what was actually wrong there at this point in time though, as the reports provided more confusion than clarity.

The last task involved investigating and potentially dealing with a dragon flying around Cape Merton recently. According to reports it had been terrifying the townsfolk, but not exactly causing any damage to the town itself or attacking anything other than a few animals for food.

After some consideration and discussion, the party – especially Ulfgar - feels persuaded by the reward from the League of Archeologists and resolve to visit a contact, Maikel, in the Minghondian office of the League, in the west of the city. As it became late however, they sought out a modest and affordable inn to rest for the night. Andrea stingily opted for the cheapest room available.

6th of Eleasias, 1526

In the morning, the party gathers and leaves for the office of the League of Archeologists. Once there, they are greeted by Maikel, the female receptionist. Maikel explains the problems with the ghost as having started a few days into the start of the archeological dig at the temple ruins, and that two researchers had become so terrified that they came back to The City. She led the party to one of them who was there that day, and introduced the stocky Dwarven archeologist as Yornick.

Yornick talks about the reasons for the archeological dig being that they had uncovered very old books in the Library of Minghonda that showed tunnel systems beneath Minghonda and beneath other places like the temple to Eldath as well. They were not so much researching religious artifacts there as much as they were looking to find far older things. Yornick proceeded to tell the party that they heard the ghost scream every night, and after a week or so he just could not take it any more.

After leaving the office of the League of Archeologists, the party goes to stock up on rations at the nearest general store, called Happy Concessions. Noa manages to barter 20 silver pieces off the price, arguing for bulk discounts. A quick trip for Noa to a remote bank branch office let him exchange some gold for platinum coins, and with that the party was off. Stepping outside the gates of the city, the party sees the vast refugee camp comprised of many worn, small tents.

There was some debate among the fresh band of adventurers about which route to take towards the temple ruins, as taking the main road would be a journey of about three days. Going through the wilderness would be faster, about two days, but also somewhat more risky. Being a ranger, Andrea's refusal to take the main road eventually led to the party agreeing to take the faster route, reasoning it would save them money on their rations as well.

As the journey progressed, the party did not run into any trouble. After all, these parts were – even the wilderness – were rather well traveled and close to the major city. The foraged for food after the day's walk, showing Andrea had a particular knack for finding whole day's food for even more than one person.

7th of Eleasias, 1526

At the end of the second day, later on in the afternoon, the group arrived at the archeologist's encampment. The leader of the team confirms the information in their reports, but also adds that last night the ghost actually attacked one of their members. The victim, Viral, immediately fled and is now resting in the medical tent to recover from his wounds.

Lumivarax and Noa enter the small medical tent to try and get some information out of Viral. Viral tells them he was excavating a specific part of the ruins where he found some unusual symbols that did not seem to be related to Eldath in any way. He describes them as a 5-point twisted star, but the party does not seem to recognize the symbol either.

Lumivarax proceeds to examine the blackened wounds on Viral's chest and confirms they are caused by necrotic energy. He decides to heal Viral's wounds with his Divine magic, and Viral immediately jumps up out of the bed to thank Lumivarax profusely.

One theory that came up during the party's investigation was that perhaps the archeologist's took something from the temple that angered the ghost. They requested to inspect the artifacts that the League had so far uncovered, but found only common religious items, many marked with a waterfall, the main symbol to represent Eldath.

As the sun went down, the archeologist's examining the ruins rapidly returned to the camp. The party noted that the League of Archeologists appeared to be comprised of many different races; Halflings, Dwarves, some Humans, and so on. The team leader explained that the main office of the League was situated in Lareya, a multicultural melting pot.

Finally, the group resolves to sit down and observe the ruins. Somewhere around 22:00, they started hearing the wailing and screaming of the terrifying visage, and seeing an immaterial form drifting through the ruins. They decide to move closer and spread the party out over a long distance. As Darion and Andrea move closer, the ghost somehow notices them, freezes and stares right at them, never stopping her screaming.

Andrea attempts to communicate with the ghost, but this only momentarily distracts it, after which it continues its screaming. As she and Darion move a little closer still, the ghost suddenly rapidly starts flying towards them.

As Noa calls for the party to regroup, he is the first to strike an arrow into the ghost; morphing it's anguished cries to cries of rage. What follows next is a rapid scramble for the party to get closer to each other while the ghosts attacks and hurts Darion. As the fight progresses, the ghost eventually wails in a ghastly rage, striking fear into more than half of the party, especially the somewhat dim-witted Darion. After this, the ghost flies back towards the temple ruins it came from, the party raining arrows after it as well as the distance and their fear allows them.

The ghost, having been fended off remarkably well, disappears through a stone wall in the distance.

 

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