In the Shadow of the Tyrant

Suspiria's Letter


The unit you sent to “mediate” that dispute between myself and the Blodeuwedd Queen actually manged it, somehow. I have to say I’m impressed. They didn’t say how they did it, but I did notice that the two men looked pretty happy when they reported back. A bit later, the Queen sent me a message through Frederick and said it was fine to build the conservatory. It went a damn sight better than any of the other attempts I made. Humans are so gullible though, and there’s so many of them, you can’t really blame me for not being discouraged when the first ones showed up dismembered.

Enough of that though, don’t want to make you too excited. I took care of those “agents” your butler sent to keep an eye on them – you know I hate having them anywhere near my territory. With them gone, you’ll probably want to know what happened to them on the way there.

From what I’ve heard, your little officers are magnets for trouble. Just in the few days it took to get here they ran into two of those Shambling Mounds that like to hunt in the swamps between Grunewald and the Mirrorlands. My faeries said they killed the things without much trouble, but didn’t manage to save the dog one of them was munching on. Not that I care about the dog, but they lose a few points for not meeting the challenge.

The very next day they encountered a coven of Hags just outside of Grunewald and, let me tell you, this was hilarious. As I’m sure you know, being a Hag-spawn, those crones are more powerful when they’re together, and the first thing they did was make the tree, the Elf, and the fox look like crones themselves. One of them transformed herself into the splitting likeness of that young Elven officer, and another transformed the Wizard into a copy of the fox. One of them died then, though, and the fun had to stop. Alone, a Hag is just a disgustingly strong old woman, after all, and the screams as your squad killed them were deafeningly loud.

Everyone changed back after the first one died, except for the Wizard. He was still a fox when he showed up at my tower. It was all I could do not to laugh at him. By the time they got back from the Blodeuwedds he was human again, regrettably. He was so much cuter as a little black fox. It was probably the Queen’s doing, but as you know I can’t spy in there. They’ve got a knack for spotting my faeries no matter what I do.

Anyway, the whole thing turned out in my favor, so you’ve got my thanks again. Strictly speaking this isn’t covered by the treaty, so I owe you one, just don’t expect too much.

Your friend,

Pemberton's Records (File 1)

Spymaster Pemberton,

We followed the subjects as you commanded. Their first destination was the city market. Due to the thick crowds present there, it was not difficult to conceal our presences and observe from afar. After a period of unimportant shopping for minor magic items, the Paladin and the Monk from Captain Köhler’s unit approached a fat merchant selling novelty shirts on the side of the road.

At the man’s insistence, the Paladin tried on a novelty shirt that the merchant claimed would suit him perfectly. The article in question was a blue, short-sleeved shirt with a pattern of frolicking kittens on the forward field. Upon viewing Acting Lieutenant Nyrik wearing the shirt, several people in the crowd, as well as Lieutenant Rirosorchalwen collapsed into uncontrolled laughter. At this point, Specialist Heinrich had to be forcefully restrained lest he compromise the squad’s position.

With more zeal than is normal, the merchant then forced a red shirt upon Acting Lieutenant Tsenkyo. This article was bright red, with flaming letters spelling out the words “Get Some!” in bold type across the front. As with the previous shirt, this one incited unnatural emotions in the crowd, causing many large, threatening men to approach Tsenkyo with open hostility. Following a brief debacle, in which the Acting Lieutenant was chased across the square by an angry mob, Captain Köhler forcefully removed the shirt by enhancing him with a spell, causing his skin to become hard and knotted, ripping apart the fabric. Acting Lieutenant Nyrik simply pulled the kitten shirt off without apparent effort.

Our squad noted that the merchant sneaked away with his wares during the confusion, but the observed unit was determined to follow him. A similar exchange occurred when they met again, but Lieutenant Barkwin and the other members left satisfied after purchasing a shirt in Captain Köhler’s size, this one featuring three wolves howling at a moon in the upper field.

The observed subjects are noted as acting like tourists, as indelicately put by Specialist Heinrich, but no better description currently presents itself. After visiting each of the notable landmarks, the group arrived at the square in front of the Aegis Vault. Here, Acting Lieutenant Nyrik encountered Specimen #68, the rogue Succubus currently loose within the city. Though she attempted to charm him, a mix of his severe naivete and Acting Lieutenant Tsenkyo’s gentle urging extracted him unharmed from the situation. We lacked the proper firepower to attempt the demon’s capture, but her appearance has been noted and logged.

Near the end of the day, Captain Köhler decided that she needed to meet Gilbert Hardwin for unknown reasons. She is noted as speaking excitedly about a “sleepover”, but details remain unclear. After a short period of information-gathering, the group discovered the location of Hardwin’s residence in the suburbs and promptly departed for it.

Upon reaching Hardwin’s residence, the door was answered by his known roommate, Banehammer, and the observed subjects were invited inside. As per your instructions, we refrained from initiating contact, and waited outside for the unit to emerge. Before much time had passed, Lieutenant Barkwin was seen leaving the house, and was followed to the Aegis Vault and back, apparently without purpose. During this interim, Gilbert Hardwin arrived at the residence.

Shortly after Lieutenant Barkwin returned, the group left the residence and proceeded to their appointed quarters. As is normal, Banehammer discerned our location and invited the squad inside for tea and scones. We were, of course, careful not to disclose any information to him, though Specialist Heinrich needed to be reminded of this procedure several times. After speaking with him, he saw us out and provided us with an extra scone, which he insisted be sent to you, sir. You will find the pastry enclosed with this message.

((Archivist’s Note: The “Monk” earlier in this message refers to a Wizard, rather than an ascetic holy man as is common. Note to replace reference to Captain Köhler’s magic with something more easily accepted by the Commander.))

Alena's Diary (Entry 3)

The unit I sent to Karzak’s laboratory should return today, and I must say that I am unexpectedly eager to have them back. Gilbert continues to avoid visiting the manor any way he can, and the incessant banging of that thing in the basement is beginning to get to me. It’s even begun to frighten young Timmy. Though I would much prefer for Gilbert to deal with it, Captain Köhler’s unit should be well up to the challenge. Any group that can survive the remnant’s of Karzak’s research, after all, should have no trouble with a simple monster in the basement.

According to Willikin’s reports the route back from the Everspire Range is as dangerous as ever. The squad had to deal with a horde of goblins, a band of Ogre highwaymen, and even a scheming Lamia in order to make it safely home. They proved quite up to the challenge, of course, though the spectacle of that swollen Ogre brute falling upon Lieutenant Obsidian must have been most entertaining to see. Sometimes I envy Willikin’s freedoms and experience, the opportunity to silently look upon others’ misfortune. Not often, but sometimes.

As expected, Köhler’s unit had no trouble dealing with that nuisance the workers uncovered. In the process the buffoons somehow managed to kill Timmy, however. I managed to control my outrage, it shan’t be difficult to create another Attic Whisperer, after all, but the depth of their ignorance is quite astounding. I would love to blame that sickeningly do-gooding Paladin, but apparently the incident was instigated by the little one stealing Rirosorchalwen’s voice. Oh my, it stole her voice! How terrifying! Spare me from these fools…

The actual beast down there, a Petrified Maiden, Willikins tells me, was dispatched without much effort, almost an afterthought. It did manage to severely injure Lieutenant Rirosorchalwen, however. Her spine itself looked injured, even disfigured after that encounter. Perhaps such a pleasing sight helped me to keep my temper in the face of such ignorance.

I’ve given the squad a few days leave, to keep them out of the way for the time being. There is still the matter of Suspiria‘s little conflict to deal with. Frustrating as it is, part of my duty is to uphold the treaty. Assuming I cannot shirk the responsibility somehow, I shall have to send Köhler’s team to mediate. They should be good at that, at least, naive as they are.

Alena's Diary (Entry 2)

Precious Gilbert,

Willikins has just returned with his latest report, and I have some delightful news for you. That team of misfits you’re so interested in has survived Karzak’s laboratory. I certainly didn’t expect it, though from what I hear their experience there was most amusing. Allow me to elaborate.

Do you recall the Zuvembie incident I wrote you about last time? They arrived at the Southern entrance to the laboratory not a day after almost losing their lives to that creature. A note in the report here mentions how they spent quite a while examining the doorway, but I hardly see how that is relevant. Regardless, they soon entered the lab, the fairy leading the way with her lighted tail. Is this right? Does she have such a thing? How… unique.

Following the flickering of a lit torch further down the halls, my new pets encountered, most surprisingly, another group of adventurers, this one hailing from Shizamu to the North. Both teams doused their lights at the same time, whispering and arguing in the darkness. Willikins describes it as “quite the fracas”, and indeed, it sounds like a most hilarious mess.

After a short time, the two groups managed to rekindle their lights and have something approaching a civil conversation, one that was quickly cut short by the appearance of, as it says here, “large humanoid badgers”. Karzak certainly had some strange interests.

The outside threat quickly fostered friendship between the two groups, and they joined together to fight these “oddly resilient” badger people. The Shizamu adventuring team was made up of a “knight in shining armor” and a " mysterious monk who created spectacular effects using only his hands". Willikins never was able to properly grasp the idea of magic, poor fool. It seems there was a third member, some sort of demonic woman with a knife, but she was quickly killed by a mysterious wolf among the badgers. The report says something else on the matter, but for now I think I shall keep that to myself.

Our small unit, along with Shizamu’s, were having quite a bit of trouble fighting off the badger men, but were saved by the appearance of yet another adventuring party, this one from the distant Saran. The odds required for all three of our representing groups to be there at the same time are quite astronomical, but that is a question for another time. That is to say, I already have Willikins investigating.

More to the point, this new team was made up of a violent half-orc with a terribly crude weapon, and a manner to match, a half-elf skilled at summoning magic, and, surprisingly, former Private Masozi from Captain El-Mofty’s original squad. It seems that the dear fairy Captain forgot the bounty that I placed on the deserter’s head. We shall have to have words about that, once she returns.

Working together, the three groups were able to slay all of the badger men, along with the single wolf, with only a single casualty. Though the report is unclear on the details, it seems they decided to join forces in order to explore the rest of the dungeon. A wise choice in the circumstances, but I must admit I am surprised Private Masozi agreed to the arrangement.

Returning the way they came, these new comrades discovered a most peculiar monster blocking the way forward. After some exhaustive research, Willikins has determined it must have been a creature called a “Gelatinous Cube”, or at least something approaching it. The thing’s ability to use spells suggests a more delightfully sinister heritage – perhaps it was even the remains of one of the lab’s researchers, mutated by long, excruciating experiments. Oh, forgive me, I grow a bit too excited.

The “heroes” of the other nations were quite cowardly, save for that half-elf, and avoided contact with the abomination. I am pleased to say that my pets were much more valiant. Lieutenant Gilbert Barkwin in particular lived up to your namesake, and pelted the thing with arrows from close range until it finally died. If only I had been there to hear its death cry, I’m sure it was marvelous.

Of course, while our unit was dealing with the blob, the idiot half-orc from Saran tripped a trap and released a menagerie of strange creatures into the halls. Willikins spares me a tedious description of each one, but assures me that they were most horrid. The half-elf summoned him aid, and with the help of such earth elementals as his ally could conjure, the brute managed to kill them all. It is disappointing that he failed to meet a bloody end, but I suppose such crude strength has its uses. More interesting is this “Luthion”, the half-elf. He seems most capable. Perhaps I shall have to investigate him further.

After they dealt with these threats, another mess occurred with the teams splitting up, reforming, and going in seemingly random directions, but suffice it to say that they eventually came together again in a hall with several solid, metal doors. The ugly brute proved his usefulness here, using a crowbar to open one of the portals, finding an emancipated elf inside. The fool was another would-be explorer, and ended up trapped in the room for weeks, surviving on rats and bugs, and going slowly insane. Oh, how wonderful.

The next door they opened contained a swarm of flying heads. I would have been much less excited about this, but their target was the half-orc, and they flew around him, biting and jabbering nonsense. It must have been hilarious. In the end, however, they were only heads, and the explorers killed them and explored the room. The hideous brute found a potion inside, and recklessly took a drink from it, causing his head to detach from his body and fly around jabbering. Willikins was quite descriptive on this point, and I fear that I shall be having nightmares about this for several weeks to come.

At last they found the mastermind behind all the crazed creatures and traps in the laboratory. Inside the third room was the soul of a deceased magician, inhabiting a writhing body of maggots, worms, and all manner of vermin. To their credit, none of the party ran at this sight, but instead promptly tried to kill the abomination. This is no surprise for Lieutenant Rirosorchalwen, of course. I’m sure that the present I gave to her was most displeased that such a creature existed.

The evil sorceror proved to be more than a match for even the combined forces of all three groups, and they could not so much as harm it, or its pet, a filthy construct made from rotting body parts. Of course, they may have done better had the revolting brute, undoubtedly their most physically powerful member, not been stuck as a flapping, jabbering head for the duration of the fight. As it is, Lieutenant Rirosorchalwen landed a solid hit on the mastermind and somehow made it just… vanish. She is either more skilled than I had originally thought, or incredibly lucky. Regardless, it seems I made a fine decision in choosing her to use that blade.

Once the crawling chaos had been dispersed, it was merely a matter of cleaning up the rest of the lab. They were able to defeat the rotting golem without much trouble, and a horrid, glowing lizard creature gave them a challenge in another part of the lab, but they eventually killed that as well, then scoured the rest of the lab for anything of interest.

Gaybreighal disappointed me with his lack of action throughout his stint with the party. I realize that that is, as one might say, his modus operandi, but he failed to disrupt his would-be allies at all. It seems that Lieutenant Barkwin traded him to Luthion for a whetstone. A whetstone. The half-elf even offered her a sum of gold, but she wanted the whetstone. Alas, but it isn’t too much of a loss. In fact, for the unit, it’s most certainly a net gain. What an amusing thought.

Overall, I must say that I am quite impressed with their skill, or at least their luck. I am still not entirely certain which of those is responsible for their success. Of course, according to Willikins, the rumored relic I sent them there for originally vanished along with the maggots, so calling it a “success” may be something of a stretch. They have at least proved their usefulness, and, looking back over this letter, I notice that I have even unconsciously learned several of their names. Perhaps they will continue to surprise me.

Is that information enough to quench your curiosity, Gilbert? If so, perhaps you could come visit me when you return. I long to see your face again, and I suspect you’d be eager to meet these recruits you’re so interested in. There is the matter of that horrible thing in the basement as well. I’d feel much safer if you were to look into it.

Eagerly awaiting your loving reply,

Alena's Diary (Entry 1)

Gaybreighal brought the new recruits into the capitol today, just as planned. I had Willikins prepare the manor to look extra malevolent today, and their faces as the butler led them in were priceless. Though I had heard rumors, I must express that I hadn’t expected their leader, Captain El-Mofty, to be such a scarred mess. His presence in my mansion was unseemly, so I dismissed him without delay. The pure fury with which he exited was delightful. I wonder what he expected from me.

Once the nuisance was gone, I took a look over my new personal squad. Though strange and… diverse, they certainly seemed to have a certain, undefinable spunk to them. Their other captain, the fairy, seemed to think she was related to me in some way. The idea was quite amusing, I must admit, but her persistence quickly became annoying, so I gave them the brief version of their mission and quickly sent them away with Willkins and Gaybreighal. Perhaps if they manage to survive, I shall learn their names.

The Elf though, there was something special about her. Perhaps she isn’t as dim-witted as she first appeared. I asked her to stay behind while the others left, then presented her with the black blade uncovered by the previous expedition. She was delighted at the prospect of using such a beautiful weapon. That should prove to be quite the amusing experiment.

Dearest Gilbert,

In your last letter to me, you expressed a desire to learn more about the newest recruits. Though I doubt they shall last very long, I will do my best to sate your curiosity. Anything for you.

According to Willikins’ most recent reports, their unit was but a day out of the capitol before getting ambushed by a pair of rather peculiar ruffians. It would seem that the Ghoran among them, Lieutenant Barkwin, had some trouble with these two before, and they wanted their revenge. It’s written here that they “wanted her lumber”. How delightful.

The two of them – Jack and Beck, it says here – were quite a bit more powerful than their last encounter, and they managed to beat Lieutenant Barkwin into unconsciousness. I wish I had been there to see that. The lumberjack thugs went down disappointingly quickly after that. At Captain Köhler’s orders they simply stripped them bare and left them alive. How dull.

Gaybreighal sat the battle out of course, hiding behind a tree. I know you disapprove of his methods, but I do wish he’d “participate” a bit more. Regardless, he should be able to complete his main purpose most admirably.

That is all the information I have for you now, love, but I look forward to Willikins’ next report, if just for another chance to write to you.

Pining for the time we can meet again,

Beloved Gilbert,

Those young officers you’re so interested in had another most interesting encounter. Are you familiar with the Zuvembie? It’s a type of undead that stands on cliffs and uses a siren song to lure adventurers to their doom. Elegant, is it not?

According to the latest report from Willikins’ network, a Zuvembie almost killed Gaybreighal just yesterday. I know my plans are hinging on him, but I cannot help being disappointed that he failed to meet such an amusing end. Lieutenant Barkwin was on watch at the time (apparently she doesn’t sleep, how intriguing), and managed to save little Sweetsheen from walking to his doom. Captain Köhler tried to make contact with the Zuvembie, surely with hilarious results, but some fancy jumping and slashing by Lieutenant Rirosorchalwen, and a few well aimed arrow from Lieutenant Barkwin destroyed it before it could do any real damage. They must be more skilled than I had originally thought. Willikins is not easily impressed.

I did some research on that question you asked in your last letter, and your suspicions were correct. Lieutenant Barkwin’s first name is Gilbert, just like your own. Gilbert Barkwin! What an amusing coincidence, if it is a coincidence.

We’ll have some much more entertaining news for you soon, love. My little unit is about to enter into the laboratory, and things will get really fun from there. I’m eager to write you about all the tragedies that befall them. I know you don’t like that sort of thing, but indulge me a little.

Missing you as always,

Benyamin's Journal (Entry 2)

Woke up the next morning and the bird was gone. Can’t say I’m sorry to see him go, and with Freya’s shield on the line it’s not like I’m gonna waste the manpower to send out a search party. I’ll just send some paperwork to Major Albrecht when we get back.

Anywho, forest was all weird that day. Sounded like a weeping child lost somewhere in the woods, and everything was all dark and foreboding. Put me off my breakfast, it did. The tree seemed to know what she was doing, and led us into the woods, so we all followed her. Got lost a few times, passed some of the same trees more than once, but Gilbert managed to break whatever spell it was and we found our culprit.

Bloody disturbing things, they were. Looked like children, but with horns, weeping eyes, and a crazy mangle-toothed smile. Three of them came out of the woods and surrounded us, the last one had what could only be Freya’s shield held all close, like it didn’t want it to get away.

My troop sprang into action. Made me proud, it did. Gilbert’s arrows flying, Riwen’s sword dancing, and Köhler doing her thing with the magic popping things. I joined in as well, slashing up a storm, but for all our attacks we couldn’t seem to kill these bastards. After a while of beating on them, one of them broke its claw on Gilbert’s bark, and it all went downhill for them from there. Eventually we got some good hits in and they all vanished in a puff of smoke, screaming like there’s no tomorrow. The last one left the shield though, and we headed back to Horstmar with our prize.

Markus Hofmeister wanted to congratulate us himself when we got back, and I told all the recruits to get their uniforms ready and meet up in the square for the awards ceremony. Freya’s shield was put back on her statue where it right belonged – this might be the proudest moment of my military career.

Everybody was looking sharp at the ceremony, and Markus took notice. Everybody except Gilbert but, y’know, it’s kind of hard to get that uniform to fit a tree so I guess it’s alright. Twigs and leaves poking out all over the place…

Anyway, Lord Markus went down the line and, surprisingly, started handing out some promotions. The Privates all got commissioned to Lieutenants, even Private Obsidian (LT Obsidian now), and bloody Köhler made it all the way up to Captain. By the time he made it to me my chest was all stuck out with pride and I was eagerly waiting for that promotion to Major I’d expected for years. Markus just shook my hand though, and congratulated me on such a sharp unit. I can’t believe I didn’t get a promotion for this! Hell, I can’t believe the bloody fairy is the same rank as me. What a disaster.

Seems like they want to see us in the capitol ASAP, even got a herald here from Dame Winther herself. Gaybreighal Sweetsheen, he said he was, and I wouldn’t trust the bastard as far as I could throw his little orange gnome rump. Dressed all like a priest, but he kept drinking and coughing and generally being a nuisance. Anyway, he’s going to take us to the capitol tomorrow to see his mistress. Hopefully I’ll not have to deal with him again after that.

The new Lieutenants were all up and ready at dawn, but we had to wait almost an hour before that Sweetsheen showed up. He’s an acting Captain, a Chaplain or something, so I can’t actually do anything, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t rustle my jimmies. Despite the late start we made pretty good time – should be there in four days or so.

Traveling had been going pretty well I suppose. Sweetsheen was foul company, jus’ rode in Gilbert’s branches all day, drank, and coughed up a storm. The rest of the unit was pretty amenable company though, and I got to spend more time with Riwen, so that’s a plus.

Anywho, we were about halfway to the capitol, walking through a small forest, when Gaybreighal started acting weird. I stared at him for a bit before realizing that a nearby tree was trying to get his attention. A woman made of wood stepped out then – not a tree woman like Gilbert, this one was much shapelier, more like a human made of wood than a tree made of human, or somethin’.

Turns out these dryads, as she said she was, were having trouble with big lanky trolls who would hide in the canopy and drop down on any dryad who left their tree, then have their way with her. No sooner ’ad she finished explaining than we looked up and saw three of the ugly brutes looking right down at us. They roared something fierce and dropped, straight onto all the female members of the unit.

Gilbert was ready, and stuck one good in the stomach as it fell, but was flanked by that one and another, and the wound was already starting to heal. She’d been through worse I figured though, so after Riwen, Köhler, Lieutenant Obsidian and I killed one of them, I bummed off with Sweetsheen to a nearby tree to watch the rest of the fight.

The Gnome was friendlier than I expected, once we actually got to talking. He said that maybe they were just waiting for me to get to the capitol to give me my promotion and, y’know, that makes sense. He got me feeling a lot better so I left him to flirt with the dryad and got back into the fight. There wasn’t much left fer me to do at that point, so I just helped mop up the rest. Gilbert had taken some good hits, and was slouched over all unconscious like, but she’d probably be fine. Köhler finally ended the fight by sticking that teeny sword of hers right into the troll’s back, then heating it up so the brute lit on fire. Right impressive, it was.

I got a hell of a surprise this morning. Woke up to Lieutenant Barkwin poking me in the side, then rolled over to see another me lookin’ straight at me. I yelled and stoop up, and this bastard did the exact same thing. Like looking in a mirror, it was. The rest of the unit was up by now, and gathered around to watch with infuriating bemused expressions on their bloody faces.

I straight up told them to kill the imposter, but the other me did the same thing. Clever bastard. Eventually Captain Köhler came up with the bright idea to ask a question only the real Benyamin would know. Pissed me off right good though, when she asked where I stored my pornography, and I told her as much. My double, though, stuttered for a second before copying me, and Gilbert put an arrow in him right then and there.

The thing changed then, turning into a creepy smooth skinned person with gray skin and a smooth face. Damned creepy, it was. It tried to get away, but the others gave chase and Barkwin, taking my order to kill it to heart, put a few more arrows in its back before it collapsed and started to melt away.

Blasted weird morning, it was.

We almost made it to the capitol today, were practically right outside when another bloody suit of armor picked a fight with me. It came out of a nearby wall, clanking and waving a gigantic flail around like it was nothing.

As usual, Gilbert was quick on the draw, and the thing had two arrows in it before it even got to us. Armor creature or no, with the whole unit working together we took it down right fast. Sweetsheen just sat in the corner as usual, but I have a hard time believing Dame Winther would send someone so incompetent. Mebbe he’s her idea of a joke.

We arrived in the capitol last night, stayed in a nice inn and I got to sleep in a real bed for the first time in god knows when. Sweetsheen woke up late again, then took us up to Dame Winther’s manor.

Big place, it was, covered in ivy and with a huge garden and all the trappings. No sooner had we gotten to the door than it was opened by a creepy-looking elf, all legs and arms, and with a bald head and an oiled goatee. He led us inside without saying a word, and the interior was just as creepy. Tastefully decorated and nice and all, but the darkness and candles and whole air of malevolence really spoiled the mood.

Alena was waiting in something like an audience chamber at the top of the stairs. She was shorter than I expected, even shorter than me, and I’m not the tallest Elf ye’ll ever meet. Introductions were had and she seemed really pleased to meet the new officers. Thanked me, and then dismissed me. Dismissed me! The nerve!

No promotion for me, no glory for old El-Mofty! That Sweetsheen bastard even said he was sorry about the promotion as I stormed out of the room. Took everything I had not to sock him a good one. I’ll obey orders, don’t get me wrong, but this is a disgrace to Freystadt. They’ll not have seen the last of me, mark my words.

Benyamin's Journal (Entry 1)

Tonight was a strange night. There I was, alone in the barracks, writin’ up a formal letter to his grace Markus Hofmeister. The brass wanted to come inspect the garrison here in Horstmar, heaven knows why. There ain’t nothing here but me and a bunch of rusty bedframes. Well, I needn’t ’ave worried, since that very night a veritable menagerie of privates came with orders to my unit.

The first one was some sort of fairy. I’ve heard of their type before, insist they used to be human, but I ain’t convinced. She seemed plenty energetic though, and had a sheaf of orders signed by Boris Siegward himself, so I couldn’t exactly turn her away. I’ll ‘ave to do something about that whole “Lieutenant” notion she’s got though.

Second up was a talking bird. Handsome bastard, if a bit odd. Black feathers all up his arms. I took one look at the fellow and knew he’d be trouble. Got a cocky air to him, a lot like most birds I’ve seen, actually. He had orders here too, though Maiden knows why they chose to send him here.

Then there was the tree. Strangest of the lot, it was. Curved all like a woman, but said its name was Gilbert Barkwin, and had orders with that name and everything. Don’t really know what to make of it, but I hafta wonder what the honorable Gilbert Hardwin would say if he knew. The tree was the most level-headed of the lot, oddly enough, so that’s all right I guess.

The last recruit was an Elf. Nothin’ special about her, just an Elf with a nifty sword. Glad to see they didn’t send me nothing but freaks. She says ‘er name is Rirosorchalwen, or somethin’, and the orders say “Rinfanfannal”, but I ain’t gonna make a stink about it. She seems a decent sort, but may not have much between the ears, if you know what I mean.

Well I sent all those misfits off, gave them leave until tomorrow and showed them where the barracks were, then went back to my letter. At least they all had uniforms and weapons, don’t have to worry about that. Have to wonder where the fairy got clothes that small, though.

Finished my letter just a little while back and went into the barracks to get some sleep. Walked in to find that blasted fairy hovering over my bed, with all my “special books” just laid out all over it. That Riwen lass was just standin’ by, too, though she looked more concerned than amused, I’ll give ’er that.

I darn demoted that fairy, made ‘er a Sergeant, rather than Lieutenant, even though she wasn’t a Lt in the first place, and I don’t really ’ave that authority. Anyway, I sent her off and cleaned up the books, then sat on my bed and watched the rest of the misfits till they went to sleep. That feathered fellow, Masozi I think it is, looks shifty as ’ell.

Got a letter from that nice Halfling woman over at the dairy. She says something’s been stealin’ her cheese. I’ll send the new blood over to check it out today. Doubt it’s anythin’ important, but not like they have anything better to do.

To: Major Albrecht
Incident Report: Regarding the Cheese

Reports were received of cheese disappearing from the local dairy in a most suspicious manner. The Horstmar garrison was dispatched to investigate the issue, comprised of Private Masozi, Private Barkwin, Private Riwen, Sergeant Köhler, and Private Obsidian.

Upon searching the dairy, the unit discovered a large hole in the wall, approximately half the height of a grown man, with another hole inside leading to the sewers. Further investigation revealed a group of four goblins, gathered around a tiny chair in which a rat had been restrained. The goblins were engaged in interrogating said rat about the location of “the cheese”. Three goblins was summarily dispatched, and the rat secured for further questioning. One goblin escaped, and the unit followed in hot pursuit.

After navigating a maze of traps, in which Private Obsidian was grievously injured by a clever array involving a tightened vine and spikes on the ceiling, the unit arrived at a den located deep in the sewers. Within the den was another troop of three goblins, and a large humanoid confirmed by Private Barkwin to be a Mongrelman. It was at this point that they chose to interrogate the rat. Sergeant Köhler displayed impressive aptitude in communicating with animals, but was unable to extract any useful information.

Their other options being exhausted, Private Masozi charged into the den and killed all three goblins with a burst of negative energy (note: further investigation into this point), then beat the Mongrelman into unconsciousness with the help of the others. Based upon evidence recovered at the scene, the Mongrelman has been confirmed as the culprit behind the recent cheese disappearances, and has been disposed of.

Very Respectfully,
Captain Benyamin El-Mofty
Commander of Horstmar Garrison, Horstmar

That whole cheese thing turned out to be a lot more troublesome than I expected, but the recruits handled it well enough. More important is this map they got from one of the goblins. It’s crude, and looks like it’s drawn in crayon, but this ‘ere "Shield Lady’s House" matches up with the legends of Freya’s Tomb I’ve heard around here. It definitely could use some further investigating. Not like we have anything better to do.

That bird worries me too. Seems like they found a lot of treasure, and he’s got it all, but he isn’t letting on. I’ll worry about that later, doesn’t seem like it’s worth a fight.

For now though, I’ve got to get the recruits ready. Markus Hofmeister himself is coming for an inspection tomorrow, and I’ll be damned if I let this lot make me look bad in front of the brass.

The inspection went about as well as could be expected, with new recruits like this. Hofmeister was totally unflapped by the motley, not like we could tell anyway, with that helmet of his. The bird was causing trouble again, and Riwen’s uniform looked terrible, but Köhler presented ‘erself well, and her uniform looked fantastic. I made her a Lieutenant again after that, hope I don’t regret it.

Should I be worried that the only one who came close to matching Köhler’s military bearing was Private Obsidian? I mean, he’s a fox…

Gave the recruits the rest of the day off. We’ll go check out the tomb tomorrow.

To: Major Albrecht
Incident Report: Ale Disaster Averted

Today there was a large collection of ale barrels near the center of Horstmar, waiting for delivery to the capitol. Privates Masozi, Barkwin, and Riwen were all off duty, and speaking with the guard, when a goblin burst from the wall of a nearby warehouse and ran toward the barrels of alcohol, carrying a lit bomb over its head.

Private Barkwin killed the goblin with an arrow through its eye, but the bomb fell from its hand and continued toward the barrels. Fortunately, Lieutenant Köhler was passing by, riding Private Obsidian, and defused the bomb with a magic spell. The recruits were given a barrel of ale as thanks.

Very Respectfully,
Captain Benyamin El-Mofty
Commander of Horstmar Garrison, Horstmar

To: Major Albrecht
Incident Report: Private Barkwin assaulted by Lumberjacks

Private Barkwin was using her off-duty time to further explore Horstmar when, in the industrial district, she was assaulted by the wanted criminals, Jack and Beck, the Lumberjack Twins. Though put off by their axes, and comments about her “lumber”, Barkwin fought them off with the help of Private Masozi, who was in the area at the time.

Final reports indicate two Lumberjack thugs dead, Beck escaped, and Jack’s condition unknown, presumed dead.

Very Respectfully,
Captain Benyamin El-Mofty
Commander of Horstmar Garrison, Horstmar

To: Major Albrecht
Incident Report: Catburglar Apprehended

The catburglar responsible for a chain of thefts across Horstmar was apprehended today by Private Riwen, when she discovered him attempting to steal from the barracks. Though noted for his feline grace, the burglar fell from the roof of the garrison directly in front of Riwen. A short chase ensued, until the burglar once again fell off a different roof, and was apprehended by the Private.

After a short discussion that verified his identity and guilt, the burglar was handed over to the city guard.

Very Respectfully,
Captain Benyamin El-Mofty
Commander of Horstmar Garrison, Horstmar

Our trip to the tomb was interrupted tonight by a bunch of zombies who ‘ad the nerve to attack our campsite in the middle of the night. Fortunately Barkwin was on watch, I hear she doesn’t sleep, and she got the rest of us up in time to fight back.

Zombies are just zombies, poor gits left over from the old days of Karzak, and we took ‘em out pretty easily. Some mighty fine fighting from the new recruits, I’ll give them that, though Riwen almost got taken out when three of the bastards got ‘er surrounded. Fortunately Köhler used some sort of mumbo-jumbo and blew one of them to dust, givin’ the Elf a way out. Masozi healed her wounds too, can’t say I expected that from ’im.

We found the tomb today, almost missed it, buried under a bunch of bushes and whatnot. Of course we took a look inside, and found it branches as soon as you get down there. Bein’ an experienced military man myself, I suggested the recruits go one way, and I go the other. We’d meet up in the middle later.

So they went on their merry way, and I headed off to the right. Soon as I stepped into the next hall a whole bunch of helmets started flyin’ all over the place. Put me off my lunch it did. One of the little buggers got itself over my head, and had me stumbling around and knocking into walls and just ‘avin a horrible time. Took me a while but I managed to bust up those things, they weren’t very tough after I got me bearings.

‘Course the next room wasn’t any better. Big ol’ black things, like flying squids with bat wings and way too many teeth, came swooping down and tried to eat my head. I’d had enough of that after the helmet, and this ‘ere sword ain’t just for show. I managed to kill two of the bastards, and the others all flew away, shrieking up a storm.

There were some traps after that, but nothing I ain’t seen before. The real challenge was that giant suit of armor that tried to kill me when I got through. Bloody stubborn thing it was, I ‘ad to knock off its arms and legs, got a few flesh wounds myself, before it’d stop moving. The creepy blood on the walls and terrible smell didn’t help either.

After all that I met up with the recruits again. They looked almost as bad as I did, and there was this nasty slime stuff all over the place. Masozi in particular looked miserable, but he had some new armor on and a fancier spear, so I figure it all worked out.

Anyway, seems like Freya’s shield is gone, and I’m betting whatever did it is the same thing that killed all those goblins and put blood all over the walls. Whatever it is, it couldn’ta gotten that far, not with the blood being this fresh. We’ll see if we can track it down tomorrow.

To: Major Albrecht
Incident Report: Freya’s Tomb Discovered and Explored

The Horstmar garrison, under my guidance, has discovered Freya’s lost tomb north of the town. We conducted a thorough exploration of the premises, with the recruits, consisting of Private Masozi, Private Riwen, Private Obsidian, Lieutenant Köhler, and Private Barkwin, forming one unit, and myself forming the other. We split paths at the first intersection.

For both units, the first room consisted of several suits of armor with helmets animated by some sort of magic. The helms were fragile and easily dispatched, though Private Barkwin had a single incident of one helm covering her head while two others bludgeoned her from the sides.

Also infesting the tomb were several nocturnal scavengers, identified by Lieutenant Köhler as being Darkmantles. A single darkmantle almost devoured Köhler, and the others dealt some minor damage to the rest of the unit, but they were all slain before they could retreat to the ceiling, and the Lieutenant emerged mostly unscathed.

Upon finding the resting place of the holy Maiden, the recruit’s unit was assaulted by a pack of feral, decomposing goblin zombies, covered in purple pustules. These abominations were identified by Private Masozi as Festrogs, and were likely created when the goblins were killed by some powerful source of dark energy, then left for the darkmantles to scavenge upon.

The unit killed each zombie with some effort, discovering that, upon being defeated, they explode into a mass of foul-smelling slime. Private Masozi and Private Obsidian both made contact with the slime, and will be watched for any further developments.

Further evidence of something evil having desecrated the tomb can be found in the bloodstains across the walls. These form disturbing patterns, such as demonic faces, and phrases such as “Help me mommy” and “Make it stop” scrawled in a child’s handwriting. Freya’s body and shield were also discovered as missing, with more blood inside the casket, and a vial of clear, salty liquid, suspected to be tears.

It is expected that, due to the freshness of the blood on the walls, we will still be able to catch the culprit and recover Freya’s shield. Updates will be sent at regular intervals.

Very Respectfully,
Captain Benyamin El-Mofty
Commander of Horstmar Garrison, Horstmar

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