.:| Quote |:.
"In darkness, no one sees you bleed or cry..."
-- Kierath Ranamor
.:| Vornae Proverbs |:.
"I no naka no kawazu taikai o shirazu."
A frog in a well does not know the great sea.
"Ame futte chi katamaru"
After the rain, earth hardens
.:| Libraries |:.
April 20, 607 ER Gather - Blackwell, Oakhurst
I arrived early in Blackwell and made myself comfortable in one of the rooms in the cabin of the Blades of Justice, since Beryl was kind enough to allow me to stay there this gather. It was nice to know that I can still count on her to have my back, even though our paths have carried us in somewhat different directions since the middle of last year.
The gather itself started very oddly... As I was unpacking, I noticed that I no longer had my necklace and pendant with me. This was very disturbing to me, given that I never take it off these days. Beryl was also missing her short sword, which she said she was certain she had packed that morning. As the two of us left the cabin and ran into others in the tavern, we soon came to find that everyone in town was missing something personal. On top of that, both Moon and Beryl had an eerie sense of deja-vu.
There were not many in town for the gather, with many having apparently answered the call to investigate matters in Lorinorea. There were some familiar faces, including Grumdin, Inga, Vandarr, Arianna, Samara, Palor, and Moon, but also some new ones in Beck, Twilight, and Nihaalan. Samara was not sure why Zerr was not in attendance, and Beryl had told me previously that Sir Thorne was still attending to business elsewhere in the Kingdom.
The quiet was soon shattered by the arrival of undead livestock and wiggling giant worms on hooks. None of these things were really worse than we've seen in the past, but several of the livestock were quite powerful. In one case, an undead rabbit withstood the equivalent of seven Dragon's Breath spells from Beryl and I and a crossbow bolt from Twilight between the eyes, yet was still fighting.
As more and more bodies began to appear, Beryl and I became slightly concerned. Ours were among the few that had yet to be found, so we decided to go back to our cabin and check for any signs of oddness there. Curious, most of the town followed us. Beryl checked her room quickly, but as I looked into mine I saw the remains of Beryl and I entwined on the bed with nasty wounds in each of our backs. Looking closely, I saw my pendant around my neck and Beryl's sword through my back. I was able to keep most of those who followed us from seeing this gruesome sight, but Samara and Grumdin were among those to witness it. Grumdin collected the two items from the bodies as I removed my weapons and asked Beryl to allow me into the earth circle there. Once safely inside the circle, Grumdin placed the pendant inside and I picked it up to allow the visions to start. Suffice to say that while disturbing, they were clearly not real as what I saw was not something Beryl and I would have ever done. Beryl then sat down in front of the hearth and took her sword in hand to experience her own visions. People began nervously backing out of the room and then out the door as she began evilly laughing and cackling, over and over saying "Is that the best you can do?". I think she really unnerved people, who left the two of us there to talk for a bit.
Our discussion was soon disturbed as I saw a discorporeal figure first walk through the ward and then through the Earth Circle. I began screaming at Beryl to run for help, but she did not seem to hear me. Others came to apparently warn us of this figure, but Beryl seemed to be frozen and puzzled as they tried to coax her out of the cabin. When I realized that Beryl could apparently not hear me, I started screaming at the others outside to get her to let them in so they could get her out while I attempted to stand between this figure and Beryl. Unfortunately, it was far stronger and pushed me out of the way, cornering Beryl in her room as it beat her down. The entire time, she kept repeating "What are you doing? Why are you doing this?". The figure then picked up her sword again and exited through the ward. I started to chase it but stopped as it entered the darkness and rifted out.
Returning to check on Beryl, I found that she was alive and well. She then told me that what she saw attacking her was me, which explained somewhat why she could not hear me and why she was so confused. Composing ourselves, we returned towards the tavern where the figure returned again, this time seeking out Arianna. None of us but her could affect it, and to be honest I'm not sure if it simply left or if it was defeated. Still, other than keeping us busy and disturbing the silence of the evening, all that really came of these attacks was confirmation in our minds that the nightmare amulet was likely at the root of what we'd experienced already.
As the hour grew late, those who had not retired for the evening gathered again in the tavern. Beryl and I were seated at one table when all of the Mystics came in and sat down with Nihaalan. Suffice to say, the discussions at that table grew quite interesting for the young Quentari, and Beryl and I chose to move over there and join in fairly quickly. Soon a stranger joined us, asking for stories to return with to the garrison across the lake. Several of us shared interesting stories of adventures passed with him, and each were rewarded with a white token that we learned might be of use come daylight.
Finally the stories wound down and people began to file off to bed. Beryl and I offered the young Quentari a place to stay with us, which she readily accepted, and the three of us made our way back to the cabin to retire for some much needed sleep.
I awoke early, as did Nihaalan, and we ventured to the tavern in search of food. After ordering and sitting down to eat, Vandarr joined the two of us and we spoke at length about a number of things before being joined by a trapper and her companion. She was looking to sell some items she'd acquired in her travels, and I happily purchased a few key scrolls I was in need of as well as a number of formal components after negotiating a reasonable price. Vandarr then purchased the rest of her items to add to his own stash.
Having filled my stomach, I left Nihaalan with the others that were beginning to awaken and went to check on Beryl. She was just waking up, so we sat and talked for a few minutes about the prior night and discuss possible ideas for getting to the bottom of it before she went to clean up and prepare for the day. While she was doing that, I wandered back to the tavern just in time to find some of the other adventurers arriving and spiders attacking. These attacks could have become deadly very quickly, as the healers scattered away from me and left me facing multiple spiders alone. Thankfully Vandarr and Arianna stepped out the door and blasted the spiders into oblivion while Moon cowered in a Circle of Power.
Having had enough of this, I returned to the cabin to await Beryl's return. I arrived just as she was finishing her preparations, and soon we both headed back to the tavern for a bite of lunch and to see what the day might bring. Not long after arriving in the tavern, a gentleman who identified himself as Trader Vick showed up telling us how he'd bought out Trader Jane's warehouse and business and was setting up shop. He didn't have much, but he did bring an interesting magic item with him to sell. After much deliberation, it was bought for use by the entire town.
Much of the afternoon was rather uneventful, with scattered intrusions by fire elementals, undead, and other creatures that were rather easily dispatched. Many people were occupied with the ongoing trials that were being held, attempting to acquire enough of the chips being given as rewards to trade for the crystals that it was said we needed.
As things wound down, Beryl decided that she would try the Trial of the Mind, and when she returned it was finally my turn. As I walked away from the tavern, I chose the Trial of Mirrors. As we reached the site he had chosen for the trials, he took a few moments to examine my spirit before explaining what would happen. He said that he would step away and would shift into a shadowy version of myself, at which time I could leave the steps and engage him in combat. My magic items all became inert for the duration of the trial, but I was free to use anything else at my disposal. I nodded in understanding and then waited for him to shift. I did not have to wait long, as he walked about ten yards away from me and then morphed into a shadowy form that was very reminiscent of myself when I was bound by my ties to the Plane of Darkness. I gave a slight bow to him and saluted with my blade, which he returned in kind before we engaged.
The fight against myself was interesting in that it was more of a casters duel than one of swordplay. He led off with a disarm and a pin which I easily avoided, but he was not so lucky and was quickly disarmed by my first two spells. I then proceeded to pin his foot in place as he attempted to incapacitate me with alchemy, which I again rather easily avoided due to the distance between us. My aim was not so true when I attempted to return the favor with a few gas globes of my own, but as he reached to his pocket for more gas globes I saw my opportunity to charge. As I came at him with my blades drawn he managed to strike me in the chest with a lightning bolt and two magic missiles, but my armor took the brunt of those and allowed me to keep coming. With his foot pinned and his weapons out of reach, I struck him for several blows before he yielded and shifted form again, congratulating me on my success.
Upon returning to the tavern, Beryl and I were sitting and talking with Palor about the chips and whether we had enough for the crystals when others came running into the tavern saying there was a "man" outside with some spiders looking for Grumdin. Immediately I knew it had to be Ojin, and as I exited the tavern and saw him across the way I knew I was right. The situation quickly deteriorated as he announced he had come for Grumdin and would take him by force if necessary. While Palor and others leaped to attack Ojin as he tried to carry Grumdin off, I attempted to speak to him and reason with him while continually freeing Beryl of the paralysis that Ojin and his spiders were striking her with. Then matters became gravely serious as Palor was killed and both Beck and Beryl were dropped. Ojin refused to order his spiders to disengage from me, despite the fact that I said I would not attempt to stop him. I quickly found myself overmatched by three spiders as Beryl bled out and lay dead, and soon one of the spiders managed to find its way through my defenses and paralyze me. I then stood helplessly knowing that Beryl and the others had little precious time, and then watching Samara stand at the corner of the tavern cautiously looking around rather than rushing to aid those who were fallen. That hesitation ended up causing Palor, Beck, and Beryl to have to resurrect.
Finally Samara came over to me and rid me of my paralysis, at which point I turned and saw what I already knew...Beryl's body had dissipated. I don't think I even registered what anyone else was saying at that point as I walked over and placed all of her things onto her shield as quickly as I could and began walking towards the earth circle. Some of the others gathered the belongings of the other two and followed, but our trail was quickly joined by the spiders returning. Our pace to the circles quickened, and I began recognizing people into the circles as I secured Beryl's belongings. Once I was certain everything and everyone were safe, I then turned my anger and rage upon Ojin's spiders and stepped out of the circle. I vaguely remember Vandarr and Arianna trying to coax me to be cautious a few times, but my focus was solely upon exacting retribution for Beryl's death as I unleashed a barrage of magics followed by my deadly blades to kill nearly a dozen of Ojin's minions, pausing only to sever the heads from the bodies as each one fell.
My attention was drawn back to the Earth Circle, however, as one of those remaining in it felt the presence of a spirit enter the circle. As I entered, I immediately recognized that it was Beryl's spirit, and began the task of resurrecting her. Unlike last year, when Brand had rend her spirit asunder, she accepted my familiarity and allowed me to guide her spirit and body through the process. Fifteen minutes later, her spirit reentered her body and she gasped as she took her first breath again. Beck successfully resurrected as well, thanks to Moon's guidance.
As the resurrections were completing, more spiders arrived and seemed to be attempting to draw people towards another part of town. Many of us were in no hurry, but Arianna and several others went ahead to see what was to be found while I helped Beryl to don her armor and prepare for action. Once she was ready, we easily caught up with the others and found a cabin with the door open, inside of which Ojin appeared to be casting a formal ritual upon Grumdin. I entered the cabin, along with several others, and noted that not only was Grumdin confined to the circle but that the Fellwitch was casting the ritual and speaking through Ojin, as it was her voice that came out when his mouth moved. I also noted not one, but two circles drawn on the floor of the cabin around Grumdin, as Ojin continued walking slowly around Grumdin as he cast. She was offering him a number of options, but none of them were ones that Grumdin's pride would allow him to take to stop the ritual. I even futilely, and foolishly in hindsight, offered the Fellwitch myself in his place if she would stop the ritual, but she did not. She even mocked me and told me that my time as her "little component" would come soon.
The ritual finally completed, and Grumdin's body fell over as the Obliteration wracked his spirit. Ojin quickly erected another circle, and as was discussed we all turned to leave. That was when Ojin called out to us and said that he was giving us the chance to reach Grumdin's body if we could get past him. Several of us began the attempt, but we were interrupted by the approach of a number of fire elementals. Ojin surprised me by agreeing to aid us with them if none of us would enter the cabin with Grumdin, and I gave him my word of honor that I would not. Following the swift dispatch of the elementals, Ojin and the rest of us returned to the cabin and resumed where we left off until Grumdin's body dissipated a few moments later. At this point, Ojin stood before us and stated that he was giving us thirty seconds to do with him as we wished; Beryl promptly stepped behind him and ran him through, followed by me severing his head from his body. We then all headed very glumly back towards the main portion of town.
After returning to the Earth Circle where Samara performed the resurrection of Grumdin, Beryl and I retired to our cabin to change for the feast and Inga's party. The feast itself was delicious, but we were soon interrupted as time froze and we all experienced a set of visions of our nightmares in which we killed one another. I won't go into the graphic details of those visions, but suffice to say that they played upon parts of each of our fears and emotions but were decidedly not real. The mood was still somewhat subdued due to the earlier resurrections and vision until Inga and Grumdin produced "Scooby the Undead Cow" for us to try and break with a stick while blindfolded. Watching everyone take turns beating on the poor target was just what was needed to lighten the mood again, and eventually Inga broke it open to spill its candy contents all over the tavern floor.
Following the feast, while many were still entertaining themselves with games and such with Inga, I retired to the cabin with Beryl, Vandarr, and Arianna so that I could have a formal ritual cast. Unlike others I have experienced, this ritual was extremely painful as Vandarr had difficulty in controlling the building energies and channeling them into me in a more controlled manner. He said he had never experienced the energies building that quickly, which concerned him, but the end result was thankfully that which I had hoped for.
A short time following our return to the main part of town, Squire Jester of the Order of the Game arrived seeking people to have fun with more of their entertainment. Beryl and I quickly jumped at the opportunity, but eventually everyone joined us. Along the way, we encountered a few undead jesters that could cause laughter with their blows, but thankfully none were death jesters.
Finally we reached a small cave which Squire Jester told us led to the game, so Beryl and I took point and began clearing the way of traps. There were a few trip lines and several alchemical substance patches to deal with, but nothing overly difficult until we reached the first room. Making our way carefully inside, disabling traps as we went, Beryl was soon attacked by a creature from the darkness hurling elemental ice at her as she tried to disarm a trap. I took her line cutters from her and edged forward in her place, allowing the ice to harmlessly roll off me as I snipped the next two lines. At that point, chaos broke out as those behind us pushed into the room to engage the creatures while Beryl, Twilight, and myself struggled with the many hanging items that were trapped both alchemically and magically. Eventually we were able to secure most of the items and leave, though several were broken in the fighting. A trip to the celestial circle to identify them revealed only one of the items to be magical, and it was distributed by the drawing of cards.
It was not too long after this that Beryl decided to retire for the night, and I remained up only a short time longer. I was later told that Ojin came back into town with the Balrog and there was a negotiation and fight that resulted in Ojin's permanent death and the Balrog & Fellwitch agreeing not to engage in hostilities for 90 days.