In the Shadow of the Tyrant

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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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.

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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,
Alena


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,
Alena.

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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

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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.

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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.))

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Suspiria's Letter

Alena,

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,
Suspiria

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Köhler's Letter to Binyamin
Written by Sighing

Heya Bingyamen, how are you doing! I’m doing great! Things are going awesome for me and I wish you could see it! I tried to find you after we completed our mission, but I guess you went home already? So, anyway, I decided to write you a letter, but it turns out I write way too small for big people, so I’m dictating this to a maid at this inn we’re staying at. So weird I found a maid who can write, huh? Oh, she’s glaring at me.

So we went to this dungeon to get some kind of thing, I can’t remember what kind of thing exactly but it was really old. We met a bunch of really greasy type people and also we fought a man of worms, but that’s besides the point, we got two new guys to join my brigade!

That’s what I’m calling it now, by the way. My unit is called the Unicorn Brigade! Because the deadliest part of the unicorn is its smallest and most beautiful part, the horn, and that’s me, right in front! Cool, right? I mean, I haven’t told the team yet but they’ll fall in line once I explain the metaphor like that.

So, we got these two guys, and one’s a paladin, and the other, um, he’s, like, uh, a magic guy. You know, with, like, all the blasty spells? But he also summons monsters, but not SCARY monsters. Well anyway their names are Nyrich and Commsenko, and they’re totally righteous! Nyrich even saved me a bunch of times in the dungeon when Mushowshi kept trying to kill me. Oh, did I tell you I saw him? He’s way evil and he joined the bad guys. Totally gotta kill him before he kills me.

So yeah, I was like “Hey Nyrich, I’m ALL about the paladins, how about you quit your job and join Freystadt?” I forgot to tell you, this guy was working for some guy named Cal the Dope, that’s why they were in the dungeon. And anyway Nyrich is like, “Oh, I shall join your cause, but I will go nowhere without my love.” And I was like, “Well, you can bring him too, I guess.” So they joined the Unicorn Brigade! But they’re the lowest ranking members. Even behind Gillburt!

So we’re heading back to Freystadt and we come to this bridge, and there’s like, um, big fat blobby guys, they all look alike to me, Orcs or Ogres or Ogrillons or whatever, point is, they asked us for money to cross the bridge. I forgot to tell you, there was a bridge. And I’m like, “Haha, we don’t need your dumb bridge,” but Ruin was all like “Um captain, we do actually,” and I’m like, shit. So we attacked them, but one fell on Obsidian and hurt him really bad, and I spent the whole fight healing him, it was awful. But we killed them, because psh, what else was gonna happen?

So then Nyrich sees this holy symbol of Ayamiddy and he’s all like “Whoa, that’s my symbol, we gotta check it out,” so I’m like, “well, okay.” So we keep going and there’s this massive cathedral in the middle of nowhere and I’m instantly like, “psh, nuh-uh,” and I shoot sparkles at it and we figure out it’s an illusion. Then Nyrich gets angry and he’s like “RAAAUGH who is messing with my godddd” and he rushes in and there’s this pretty lady in there! But she’s a monster. She was pretty though, she had the cutest fangs, but it turned out she was a lamia? That’s like a lion, but instead of a head it has a lady. Anyway, naturally I was like “Wow, you’re incredible, you should join my brigade,” but she was like “grr, no way, because I’m a bitch.” So I shot off some sparkles and set off a huge arrow trap, and she got angry and attacked, and of course we totally killed her, but I felt sad about it. Anyway we took her stuff.

So we go home to see Alena, and I’m feeling scared because we never managed to bring back that thing she wanted. But she was like “nah it’s no big deal,” because she’s cool like that. But then she told us she’s been digging up her basement because… I don’t remember why she’s digging up her basement, it’s a weird thing to do. But there was a ghost down there, and it stole Ruin’s voice, and then we killed it. But there was also this undead girl made of stone. And we killed that too. But it hurt Ruin really bad. Then we healed her though, so whatever. Anyway, we took their stuff.

Alena was totally happy with the awesome job we did, though frankly I think she should have just not dug up her basement? At any rate she was all like, “you’re the finest military unit in Freystadt, go take a couple days of leave.” And that made my brigade happy, but I wanted to spend more time with Alena, not with my lieutenants, so I asked her if she wanted to have a sleepover. And she goes, “Okay, if you can get Gillburt to come, sure.” But she wasn’t talking about our tree-lady Gillburt, but this other guy who lives in Freystadt. So I was like, yeah! I’m totally gonna get him to come!

So then my brigade decided to go shopping, and there’s this fat guy there selling really ugly shirts, and it turned out they were cursed shirts! He put a shirt on Commsenko and it made everybody really angry at him, so he tried to take it off, but it was too tight! Luckily I used my superior brainpower to come up with a solution, and I cast Barkskin on him, and it made the shirt explode. Then the merchant tried to run away, but I chased him down, and I was gonna poke him a little with some sparks but Ruin advised me not to, and she’s my best strategist so I listened to her.

Then we kept exploring town, and we met this really pretty girl, I guess she was a cleric of Addabar, and she was waaaaay into Nyrich. I mean, she saw him and she goes “Fufufufu you and I should hit the town fufufufu,” and Nyrich is like, “um, no, I’m with my brigade, also you scare me.” I tried to tell the lady that she could spend the night with me if Nyrich was too shy to go with her, but everybody talked over me. Anyway I guess it was okay, because Commsenko said “No run away it’s a terrible demon,” and, yeah, she was, it turned out. But I think it was mostly that Commsenko was jealous.

So after we got that out of the way, we found Gillburt’s house, and I knocked on the door, but it was actually his roommate that answered it, Bainhamer. He let us all in though and he was really nice, though he didn’t seem to like Alena for some reason. (Actually, a lot of people don’t, and that still doesn’t make any sense to me, because Alena is so cool? Are people not seeing how pretty and poised and smart and good-smelling she is?) Anyway, this is the best part, though. He told me he went to skool with Gillburt, and at first I was like “Haha what the heck is skool,” but then he said “That’s when you’re a kid and old ladies are mean to you.” And then I HAD A MEMORY!! I totally DID go to school once! I remember those scary old ladies! I don’t remember where it was, though, so not much help.

But then Gillburt finally came home, and he was really nice, and gave us all scones. He said I was even cuter than he expected~! And he also said he was sure Alena liked me, because Alena likes cute things, and I mean, that’s me! So I was really happy! I told him he should come with me to Alena’s house and have a sleepover, but he was uncertain about it (I don’t know how you don’t immediately agree to spend time with two pretty girls and a bunch of chocolate and marshmallows but I guess he has obligations or something). I really thought he’d come around, though!

Anyway, Gillburt works at the vault, so we decided to check out the vault. I think Ruin was trying to find something out? I think she was looking up an elf she knew or something. But there were so many records, I got excited, and I tried to find my records. But the librarian said the records were only available to high-ranking people, so I go, “Well, I’m a captain,” and they said that wasn’t good enough, even though they’re MY records! They won’t let me read my own stuff! So I was pretty unhappy, but I knew Alena would be able to get me in if I asked her.

We went back to Alena and I asked her for help opening the vault, but she said she’d only help me if I agreed to help her. She wanted us to go to the Groonwall and mediate a dispute her friend was having with these other fey. I’m super fey, I mean, I’m really really fey, everybody knows that, but actually I really don’t know anything about the Groonwall. I’m from the Blightmoor, and that’s where all the swamp fey live, but the Groonwall is more of a forest. It’s a lot greener and there’s no tar pits. But I was really excited to meet these fey, because I never really get a chance to meet any since I left the swamp.

Well, as soon as we headed down there, we met these giant shambling mounds, and one of them was eating a poor doggy, so of course we attacked, but it got really messy when I tried to electrocute it and it got really fast. Ruin was all like “I TOLD you not to use sparks!” but I was like “I didn’t hear you!” Anyway, it ate the poor doggy, and almost ate Obsidian before we killed them both dead. The mounds I mean.

Then we ran into these three hags, and of course I got excited, because I was made by hags, and so was Alena! These were forest hags, of course, not swamp hags, so not that interesting, which was good, because we had to kill them. They weren’t really that strong, but they made some members of our brigade look like hags too, so it was impossible to figure out who to fight until Ruin finally killed one and all their tricks went away. Well, except for Commsenko, who got turned into Obsidian’s brother! He was an adorable magic fox and it wasn’t an illusion. Even after we killed the hags and took their stuff, he was stuck that way! I was so happy for him. I think Obsidian was happy too.

Anyway we got to the edge of the Groonwall and there was this big tower, so we knocked on the door and this really really old guy answered the door. I guess he was Suspeerya’s butler? Suspeerya was Alena’s friend we were looking for, by the way. So he takes us to her, and she turns out to be this really beautiful blonde woman, just great! She was a little shorter than Ruin, so still pretty big, too. Anyway I just thought she was human. She was totally sexing that satyr, though, it was really obvious. (Oh, there was a satyr there too.) Anyway she told us she wanted to build an observatory to grow poisons, and the field fey wouldn’t let her. But I was like, psh, easy breezy, diplomacy is my middle name.

So I float out to the field, and all of a sudden all these animals turn into beautiful field nymphs called Bladdoowids. It’s weird, ever since you went home, we’ve been running into more and more beautiful women. There was also a tiefling woman you would have liked, but she got eaten, long story but totally not my fault.

So the bladdoowids say to come meet their queen, and I was excited because I thought the queen might be a sidhe like me. But then they said “Nah, but Suspeerya totally is.” And I’m like WHAT? How is that possible? I mean, you should have seen her, she’s way bigger than a sidhe and she’s not purple and doesn’t have wings or horns or anything? But they didn’t explain which really annoyed me. Anyway, the queen’s like, “We hate Suspeerya, and she wants to grow poisons to kill humans, so we hate that too. But we find your two humans really handsome, so we’ll let her have what she wants if they give us babies.”

Anyway so they went off to sleep with the bladdoowids, and I tried to spy on them because they really didn’t give me anything else to do. But afterwards everybody was satisfied so the Queen was like “Okay thanks, we’ll let Suspeerya have her stupid garden.” All in all, it was super easy.

So I go back to Suspeerya, and she goes, “oh, great, you guys are the best.” And we’re about to go home, but of course I want to know what’s this about her being a sidhe. But she said, “oh, the Queen lied to you.” I thought that was a really weird thing to lie about, but she wouldn’t tell me anything more, so I went home feeling a bit cranky.

Then we went back to Alena’s house, and I asked her about Suspeerya being a sidhe, and she was like “Oh, she’s a special kind of sidhe,” and of course I got jealous, because the way she said it, it sounds like Suspeerya gets to have sleepovers with Alena even though I don’t. But she said “No, you’re special too, but Suspeerya is different.” Yeah, I mean, I don’t know, I just want to know what her whole deal is.

But then she says to the Brigade, sorry, we can’t have fun yet, I need you to go to Fort Mullrose. And of course I’ve totally been to Fort Mullrose, that’s where the commander gave me the orders to come to you, so I was like, sure, that sounds good! I guess she wants us to do something with the Blightmoor, which is interesting, because that’s kind of my hometown, you know? Anyway, tomorrow we’re supposed to meet this lady, Karen something, and we’re all headed off together to save the day! I don’t know from what, maybe you can meet us there and we’ll find it together?

Hugs and Kisses,
Captain Hanna Köhler, Commander, Unicorn Brigade, Freystadt Army

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Karin's Missives (Letter 1)

Alana,

Look, I know you and me don’t get along so well, but just thought it’d be common courtesy ta let you know that I picked up yer piglets safe and sound. They’re a bit scrawny, ‘specially that magical twerp, but they’ve got spunk! That fairy in ‘ticular. She’s as big as me pinky, but got spirit that’d put most grown men in this country to shame.

Now we just finished killing off some of those big one-eye bastards that’d set up camp just a day outside Freystadt, and the piglets handled themselves well. I wanted ta make sure they didn’t get hurt or anything, of course, so I helped out for this fight but I’ll let ‘em handle things for themselves if we run into any other trouble. They’ve gotta get some real, gritty battle experience if they ever want ta grow up to be big, mean Freystadtian boars after all! Ha!

I’ll write ya again when we get to Boris’ keep out in the West. It’s gonna be a long trip, and things sounded pretty bad from the reports we’ve been gettin’ here in the city, so I hope we make it in time. Back to back, out in the mud and the rain facin’ the stuff outta Blightmoor, that’s when we’ll see what yer piglets are really made of! Look forward to it!

-Karin

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Karin's Missives (Letter 2)

Alana,

See, I told ya I’d get back to you about yer piglets. There was no call fer that nasty little note you sent me last time. Anyway, we finally made it all the way to Fort Mullrose, safe and sound, though, lemme tell you yeah, it was one hell of a trip. Bet you wish you could have been here, eh? Eh?

Right after that first time I wrote ya, we ran into a bunch of beary owls out in the woods, attacking some poor adventurer sod on the ground. Now Nyrik, that piglet doesn’t like to stand for that sort of thing, so he was off like a bolt, tryin’ to defend the guy. Riwen and the others all joined in, even the fox was harryin’ the things’ paws, and they killed a couple of ’em before the rest turned tail and ran.

After that first fight, I decided yer piglets could take care of themselves, and started stayin’ out of the scraps they got in. Better for them to get some good battle experience so they can become big, strong Freystadtian hogs, eh? So from back where I was, I got a prime view of the big ol’ owlbear as it barreled right through the woods straight at the group. This must’ve been the mama, and let me tell you, it was the biggest beast I’ve ever seen. The piglets continue to impress though, Nyrik got himself all trapped in the thing’s paws, but Kham, that wizardy fellow, he cast a spell that made it slow down, and the rest of them had beaten it to death before it’d even got a chance to right its bearings. Ha!

’Twasn’t even one day before we ran across another beastie. This one was a creepy floaty mask all following behind us in the shadows and such. Right unsettling it was. I noticed it straight away of course, and didn’t take the others long. Gotta tell you though, that Kham fellow is right oblivious. He kept rubbin’ his eyes and muttering something about bees. Dunno what that was all about.

Anyway, seems like yer piglets knew what that thing was, and knew that it was powerless in the sunlight. The bastard was waitin’ for night to fall, so it could slink all out of the shadows and kill us at its leish leasu less kill us whenever it wanted. Now Nyrik, he lured the thing right into a windmill’s shadow, and hit the mask with that big shiny thing he calls a sword. Now I don’t know much about religion or all that shmuck, but I swear when he cut the mask, the metal started putting out all holy light and shining all over the place, and damn if that mask didn’t scream. Long story short, yer piglets killed it, and they found a nifty bag and a magic ring for their trouble. Not long after, we were back on our way.

So remember that ring I mentioned before? ‘Course ya do, ya just read it. Turns out that there ring was cursed! Nyrik put the thing on, and we didn’t notice ‘till the next day, but his hair started growing up a storm. Better, he can’t take it off! Now he has to cut his hair each and every night, so it doesn’t get too lucshu lucs luxurr too nice-lookin’. What a hoot!

Few days into our trip, and yer piglets and I found ourselves right outside Horstmar, that big tradin’ town. I never spend much time there, but seems like that’s where the rest of them are all from. Who’da thought? So we come up on this lumbermill area, and there’s all these stumps and logs all strewn about, and that Gilbert gal gets a haunted look on her face, and starts walking all around like she’s in a trance. Makes sense, I suppose, her bein’ a tree and all. Them stumps must have seemed like a graveyard to her.

So there she is wanderin’, and she comes up on this stump that ain’t quite like the others. The other piglets and I aren’t far behind, having been following her wonderin’ what’s come over old Barkwin, yeah? Sittin’ on that stump, waving at her like it’s the most normal thing in the world, is this rabbit wearing a waistcoat. Strangest thing I’ve ever seen, I tell ya. Now the rest of us are all confused and wondering what a rabbit is doing wearing such fancy rags, but Gilbert isn’t taken in. She shot an arrow straight through the rabbit, quick as lightning, and the thing bounced backwards but stopped – it was held to the trunk by a huge bunch of these stringy white veiny things! Right nasty it was.

The stump didn’t like this, apparently, and its front split open to make a big ol’ mouth, spewing out tentacles left and right. Riwen knew what it was, and started shouting out warnings to the rest of the piglets. She’ll make a damn fine commander someday, that girl will. Kham, that monk fellow, he looked a bit scared but did that magic thing of his anyway, and just like the mama bear before, the tentacle stump slowed way down – let everybody else just dart through its tentacles, safe as houses. Everybody but Obsidian, of course. That stump had a taste for meat, it did, and it grabbed the fox in one big tentacle and started dragging it closer. The others managed to kill it before he got pulled all the way to the mouth, but I don’t much fancy thinkin’ about what might have happened had they not.

We didn’t spend much time in Horstmar, but kept on going right into the forests leading down West. Not a mile out of town, and we spotted a real ugly bat thing just sitting off the side of the road, watching us. This time Nyrik knew what it was – he called it a Berbabblebang or somethin’, and decided that, as a Paladin and all, he had to kill it. Now I wasn’t going to argue, I don’t want anythin’ looking like that hanging out anywhere near a Freystadt town. Everybody approached it with weapons drawn, but the thing just kept staring at us. Its eyes were shining like lanterns, but looked like nobody was home. It went all blurry too, and it took Nyrik a coupla tries to get a good hit in, but when he did he just right cleaved it in half. End of problem.

Now the next few days were pretty empty. Surprising, yeah? All that stuff happened to us right out of Freystadt, then we get into the real wilds and it’s quiet as Ludolf. Seems like just the other night we had some giant gorillas sniffing around the camp, but Kham, Nyrik and I just slept right through it. Didn’t even hear about it until the next day. Turns out Riwen and Gilbert managed to calm them down, thanks to some timely help by the little Captain. That piglet ain’t as burly or forceful as the others, but lemme tell you Alana, she’s got a good ‘ead on her shoulders. Good job making that one the Captain, that’s for sure.

Nothin’ else much exciting happened till the very last day, right before we got to Mullrose. Some bastard had put a giant tree right in the middle of the path. Fortunately that little Kohler came up with a solution, and dug a tunnel down under the log and up out the other side. It was a bit of a tight fit, but I managed to crawl through, and the others didn’t have nearly as much trouble. So we get to the other side, and I’m just in time to see the fairy shoot a great jet of water at this lumberjack-lookin’ fellow standing on a ledge above us and holding an axe.

Things got a bit hectic after that, and next thing I know, I’m runnin’ down the hill bein’ chased by that big mother of a rolling log, with Obsidian and Nyrik carryin’ the unconscious lumberjack. Two other burly ‘jacks were running backwards on the log, arms crossed, keepin’ their balance, right ridiculous it looked, and Riwen was up there with them! Quick as a cat, she is. Kham did some fancy teleporting to get behind the rollin’ thing, and the Captain can fly so, of course, she didn’t have anythin’ to worry about. The rest of us though, we had a grand old time. Runnin’ through streams, jumping down cliffs, smashing through brambles, all the while being chased by what had to be a ton of huge, rolling tree. It was fantastic fun, let me tell you!

So as we’re running along, tryin’ our best to keep pace with the log, I hear some sounds of fighting from behind. There’s a brief whooshin’ noise, and the first lumberjack, Beck, they called him later, came tumbling down off the side of the log and landed right in front of it. There was a horrible thumpin’ noise as the log rolled right over him. Damn painful, it had to be.

The other ‘jack only lasted a little longer, then he fell off too. Jack, Jack the ’jack, he managed to get up and get a runnin’ start, stayin’ just in front of the log, but ran straight into the brambles Obsidian had dodged earlier. He got caught just like a fly in a web, then the log ran over him too. Thump thump! Ha! It was great.

Seemed like both the lumberjack twins had been dealt with, so I decided it was time to put a stop ta all it. I was still doin’ fine, of course, but Nyrik was startin’ to look tired, and had that unconscious ‘jack still draped over his arm. I got a bit more of a runnin’ start, then turned around and raced up to the log. One swing from that axe of mine and bam! The log split in two and rolled off in opposite directions. All the piglets stopped running around and stopped, givin’ me this incredulous look. Guess it wasn’t quite as fun for them, but what’re ya gonna do, yeah?

It was just a hop, skip and a jump ta the fort after that, and I handed the piglets off to that nice young Private they assigned to them at the gate. Some angry-lookin’ guards came up and took the ‘jacks off our hands, so I reckon’ that’s the last we’ll see of them, and I headed off to my quarters here for some well needed sleep. Helluva journey it was, and yer piglets were damn entertaining. Ya ever need me to cover them again, just say the word.

Your friend colleague,
Karin Armbruster

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