Chapter Three: Broken Moon I

Ceris Athiri’s journal, 11th Gozran 4711

We spent a day or so in Lepidstadt resting and stocking up. Some of our encounters have been a little close for comfort so we needed to be better equipped. Malvern has left us.

Once ready, we set out on our latest job to find out what the Whispering Way are up to. The necromancers were believed to have gone to a secret hunting lodge in Shudderwood which can be reached by the silent path. Ascanor Lodge only accepts guests by recommendation and it turns out Roguard executed the only person that could have recommended us. We shall have to work out another way of getting into the Lodge.

The Shudderwood is lovely, if somewhat eerie, and it will take us several days to get to Ascanor Lodge. The path is overgrown and hard to follow despite the wheel ruts that suggest others have travelled this road before us. It is quiet; more so than a normal forest. We had the feeling we were being watched and then a faint cry for help came from the east. I noticed a single gold piece glinting on the path. Then another and then a potion of cure light wounds. Roguard said that he felt a sense of menace. We heard the cry from the trees again and Sigmund said we should try to help. We found a crumbling, ruined tower. Sigmund and I heard beautiful music coming from it and, beguiled, we went towards the tower. Daggmar grabbed us both and held us back, but Lorinthor also succumbed and without a third arm her attempt to keep us from danger failed.

We found the tower full of shimmering silk webs and some cocoons. In one corner, there was a burrow. Daggmar looked in the burrow to see more webbing and suspicious lumps. We heard a hissing, warning us of an attack by a hideous worm with the deformed face and torso of a woman. We defeated it relatively easily, especially compared to the fights we’d had in Schloss Caromac. We found some loot in the burrow and then turned our attention to the cocoons. The bodies inside were unrecognisable liquefied goo but in one of them we found a bloodstained letter. It was closed with a seal but that was no match for the heated blade of my dagger. Without breaking the seal I opened the letter to discover it was a reservation for one Echtmoor Dravin to stay at Ascanor Lodge the previous week. Perhaps something that can get us in.

Roguard wanted to give the bodies a proper burial. Whilst doing that we were attacked by four purple scythe-handed monsters. Scary looking, but not too much trouble. Lorinthor used their blood to poison his arrows.

Lorinthor’s journal, 11th Gozran 4711

Having set out on our journey into the dark, harrowing Shudderwood we soon came upon a man’s yells for help. After following the cries, which luckily also had a trail of gold (though I’m sure we would have gone without the bribe), we were met with a soft music that was delightful to hear. So enchanting was the music that many of our number wandered aimlessly toward the sound. Ceris and Sigmund were held back while I was left to enter the ruins on my own. I assume this was some form of initiation ritual the heroes have where the weakest goes forth into a deadly situation alone.

Inside we found a terrible beast; half skinless woman, half worm. It attacked us viciously until it was slain so that it could no longer harm unwary travellers again. Also it had lots of gold which made us all smile. We found and properly buried the foul beast’s victims whereupon we found that one of them was a noble going to the lodge of hunters we were going to. We thought it prudent to take the invitation to the lodge to see if anyone knew this gentleman. At the end of the burial a few beasties came and attacked us but we made light work of them. Today we are deadly and awesome.

Ceris Athiri’s journal, 14th Gozran 4711

Only one thing of note has happened in the last two days and that is the arrival of Sigmund’s warhorse. It is a magnificent destrier that complements our paladin’s beautiful armour. He is a most striking and impressive figure. Rather puts the shabby nag that hauls our cart into the shade. I swear I saw it blush.

In the afternoon we arrived at Ascanor Lodge. It’s a grand, fortified building. Lorinthor brushed off his finery and approached the gate. The two sentries were not inclined to let us in and were aggravated by our persistence. The porter came out and told us we couldn’t come in without a reservation and that the invitation letter belonging to Dravin would avail us of nought. Fearing my companions were on the verge of slaughtering the guards I used all the persuasive skills I have and grudgingly he let us in. As we were walking up the path a woodsman and a noble barged past in the opposite direction, followed by an entourage of crates, horses and hirelings. Lorinthor recognised the arms as that of the Ariesir family of Ardeal.

The huntsman stopped us and said they need more swords to help track down a werewolf. His master, Duristan Silvio Ariesir, will repay us by covering the cost of our stay at the Lodge. And because that’s the only way we’ll pay for rooms, we graciously accept. We left the nag, cart and our belongings with the Lodge staff and joined the hunting party. The huntsman, who introduced himself as Delgros Kroitzeer, told us that they had discovered the body of a mighty stag they believed had been killed by werewolves.

We arrived at a clearing. The carcass of the stag was gone but the whole area was soaked in blood. We found two sets of large wolf prints and Lorinthor identified them as direwolf rather than lycan. There were also tracks of boar. Roguard noticed crushed bushes and drag marks, so we followed them and encountered three dire boars. We killed two and a third ran off in fright at the sight of our Pharasmin cleric. The stag carcass was here and Roguard identified teethmarks and slashes.

Duristan ordered his men to set up camp in the clearing and set traps and red-shirted sentries around the perimeter. He invited us all to share his brandy around the campfire and told us of the scar on his shoulder that protects him from the curse of lycanthropy. A little after sunset we heard howling and screams from the south-west. We made our way to where one set of sentries had been and found them dead at the feet of a werewolf. It asked us why we had encroached on Vollensag territory. Daggmar was itching to get into it with the beast but I suddenly became aware that the werewolves are a people and tried a diplomatic approach. But the wolf associated us with Mathus, Mordirath and the Silverhide pack. Apparently there are factions of wolves fighting each other. But I had no more time to think about it. We attacked and the wolf howled, summoning another of its kind. We killed them both, but not without a struggle and both Roguard and Daggmar were bitten. Duristan told us it is three nights before the full moon and only then will we know whether they are afflicted.

Back at Ascanor Lodge, Belik greeted us with drinks and the news that the master of the Lodge, Estovion Lozarod, wanted to speak with us. He shows us into a library where Estovion tells us that the full facilities of the Lodge are at our disposal. Lorinthor asks him about the wolves and he says that there are at least three packs. They never attack the Lodge but anyone in the woods is fair game. Roguard indicated that he thought the Lodge master was hiding something. Lorinthor asked about the Whispering Way. Estovion told us that they came to the Lodge but didn’t stay and that the other guests might be able to tell us more.

Belik took us to our rooms and as we were settling in he brought news that a suspicious-looking man was at the gate claiming to be with us. From the window I could see it was Azenutine. He said he’d been called away on some thieves’ guild business but had returned to help us with our quest. Belik gave us a list of guests and staff so that we could pursue our investigations in the morning.

Ceris Athiri’s journal, 15th Gozran 4711

Sigmund, Daggmar and Roguard went to talk to Madame Ivanja. Azenutine and Lorinthor headed out to the stables and I went to look in Estovion’s library.

Sigmund, Daggmar and Roguard reported back that Madame Ivanja is a charlatan that can’t tell us anything. They claimed to have learned nothing from her. Azenutine and Lorinthor seemed to have more luck with the stablemaster, Alice. She said that the Whispering Way had come about three days ago, visited Madame Ivanja, and didn’t stay the night. They also found a man wearing ratskins living in a shed behind the stables.

In the library I found a journal written by a worshipper of Desna which described a temple called the Stairs of the Moon. There was a reference to a book called the Halo of Dreams, specifically page 322. I learnt there were five tribes of werewolves. Azenutine and Lorinthor joined me and discovered that the werewolves meet at the Stairs of the Moon. They are ruled by a pack lord. When one dies, the next must consume his heart. One tribe in particular, the Prince’s Wolves, are enemies of the Whispering Way.

We conferred over lunch and split up again. Daggmar and Roguard were keen to visit Madame Ivanja again once they learned that she had entertained the Whispering Way. They are behaving oddly, even more so than usual. Azenutine and I agreed that we would follow them and spy on them, and so announced we would interrogate the kitchen staff. Lorinthor and Sigmund went to talk to the nobles staying at the Lodge.

Roguard and Daggmar learned that Madame Ivanja had entertained the Whispering Way, one of whom had an imp-like pet. They had wanted her to dance, nothing more, and had been joined by a silver-haired huntsman. She said there was no wolfsbane in the forest and they should talk to Duristan about their bites. Ivanja also said that Estovion is not what he seems and that answers could be found in his private study in the tower. All this was accompanied by shouting and punching and slapping. Daggmar has been freaking out since we got here and seems to be in an almost permanent state of rage, which she used to terrify the fortune-teller. Roguard delighted in smashing up her quarters. Next time we’re standing on a cliff edge…

Azenutine and I decided we better get to the tower before our companions in case they destroyed valuable evidence. We got there at the same time as Lorinthor and Sigmund. They told us that Cilas Graydon was a friend of Echtmoor Dravin and will be our friend too. Just as we were examining the lock to the tower Graydon came rushing up. He’d been to the place where we buried his friend and wanted to reward us for our kindness. Graydon agreed to act as a lookout for us while we broke into Estovion’s private sanctum.

In Estovion’s private library I found the book Halo of Dreams which talked of the Duskmoth, an ancient relic supposed to be housed in the Stairs of the Moon. It induces a heightened dream state and is used in communion rituals.

Lorinthor unearthed Estovion’s ledgers and learnt that the sponsors of the Whispering Way was Adivon Adrissant of Caliphas. The leader of the three members of the Whispering Way is called Auren Vrood and Mathus was their visitor. Two weeks prior to their last visit they came and did something at the temple but it was not clear what. Three days ago they returned and met with Mathus and Ivanja. Vrood then attacked the Stairs of the Moon and killed the old pack ruler, whose heart is now missing. It appears Mathus wants to become the new pack ruler.

Then there were shouts of terror from outside. We headed towards the noise and were reunited with Daggmar and Roguard. A giant tarantula stood over the prone body of Delgros Kroitzeer. We defeated it but I noticed some strange things. Daggmar ignored her weapons and attacked the beast with fists and bites. Roguard claimed to be trying to heal Delgros but appeared to be sniffing and licking at his wounds. We noticed that the tarantula had come from the stables following a trail of blood. One end of the trail led to our rooms and a note pinned to the door saying our investigation places us in danger. No shit. Whoever wants to scare us off is going to have to do a lot better than that because, right now, I reckon we’re the scariest things in Shudderwood.

The other end of the trail was in the stables where the tarantula had been caged. I identified the blood as rat blood so it seemed a good idea to talk to Percy. Sadly, we discovered that Alice had been the tarantula’s first victim. Percy told us that the spider had belonged to Duristan who collects dangerous creatures. Roguard said he was holding something back and swung a punch. Of course, it didn’t connect, but our stunned reactions must have frightened Percy because he confessed that he sells rat’s blood and had earlier noticed a jar was missing.

We returned to the main building of the Lodge to speak to Duristan. As we arrived we heard a shriek and saw a maid pointing towards a room. On the bed lay the shredded remains of Cilas Graydon. Behind the door was Corvin Tergsvor with a bloody knife in his hand. I commanded him to stop and drop the knife which Azenutine then magicked out of reach. Roguard and Daggmar both dove in, biting and clawing. Initially we tried to restrain him but he began to change into a werewolf and we had to kill him. When he died the spectral image of a werewolf appeared above his body and it seems he wasn’t a lycan but possessed by the spirit of one.

Then there was the sound of ransacking in the tower and we discovered Estovion burning books. When he saw us he vanished in a portal. We found a map to the Stairs of the Moon. Duristan appeared and told us that he had miscalculated yesterday. The full moon is not in two nights time; it is tonight. Daggmar changed. Roguard didn’t. The rest of us deemed it best that they were both locked up in the tower. Everyone will be safer that way.

Lorinthor’s journal, 15th Gozran 4711

We arrived at the lodge yesterday and found gaining entrance very hard, but some smooth talking later and the doorman relented, allowing us in. I think if he hadn’t Daggmar would have made him even shorter, by chopping him off at the knees. Anyway no sooner were we in the lodge then we had been recruited to leave again on a mighty hunt. It turned out to be mainly killing very big pigs, though we did make nice bacon in the fight.

The young noble we were with decided that we should camp the night and try to kill a werewolf. This however did not turn out too well for his hirelings who ended up flayed. Now I understand why the texts on adventuring always say we groups should stay together. I feel I’m learning all the time, how blessed I am to be with such heroes. Anyway we managed to kill the werewolves after a short parlay. It seems they are sentient and that there is a war between the tribes. Apparently someone at the lodge is involved in stirring the trouble.

Today we spoke to a wide range of people and eventually got a clearer understanding of what the werewolf was talking about and how the whispering way are tied into this whole thing. What we basically worked out was, deep breath, the whispering way murdered the leader of all the werewolves so that a war could start between the five tribes. This was done to weaken the ‘good’ tribe of the prince’s wolves, who hate the whispering way. The warden of the lodge Estovion helped set this up by arranging a meeting with a werewolf contact of his. So now there is werewolf war and everyone wants the old pack lord’s heart because if they chow down on it, you guessed it, they become the leader of all the werewolves.

So the Whispering Way are trying to use this to wipe out an old enemy, but maybe also for some ritual of their own, we’re not sure on that one yet. None the less after the lodge turning into a massive multiple murder scene, mostly not our fault, it’s now time to go off to the werewolves temple to see if we can’t sort this mess out and continue tracking the Whispering Way.

On a personal note I met a very curious half-elf, I’m not really sure how to describe the fellow. He turned up midway though our investigation and though clearly clever and maybe slightly cunning, I’ve not yet got a handle on him. I’d certainly like to take some time to get to know him better. I know some scorn our Half-Elven brethren but I know not why. In many ways they are the best of both worlds.

I met, briefly before he died, a great general today. He was kind and very pleased that we informed him of the tragic loss of his friend. It was such a shame that he was so brutally murdered by the boy Corvin. It was indeed a shame that we killed the boy as well. For I fear he didn’t act according to his own will. I tried to assert that we should knock him out rather than kill him but alas I was overruled. The heroes seem quite keen to spill blood, the use of force and coercion are not what I’ve been brought up to believe in. But then they do get results so perhaps in some way they are right. I’m not sure.

I had thought we would ride in on chargers, vanquish evil, and save the day. Yet it seems more complicated, more grey than that. Truly the biggest test is not giant spiders but rather trying to see where the line is and not crossing it. All I wanted when I left home was to be a hero, to do good, be all I could be. Though now I wonder… No doubt I’m becoming more powerful but at what cost to my soul. I’ve never been a stickler for the rules but at times I think we go too far. Maybe the Paladin should be doing more to help us, maybe that’s me abdicating responsibility for not doing it myself.

I think if I seek to be a hero, I must stand for what is right. Even if I must disagree with my mentors and teachers. Certainly Malvern and Sigmund feel as I do, Ceris also I think would be happier with an easy night’s sleep. I do not wish to anger the heroes who have helped me and taught me so much especially Daggmar who may be the bravest person I’ve met. Maybe doing the right thing means making the hard choices.

3 Responses to “Chapter Three: Broken Moon I”

  1. “it turns out Roguard executed the only person that could have recommended us”

    And who, might I ask, sanctioned the aforementioned execution…

    • That would be the elf and your half-elf/half-orc/part-wolf friend.

      • Is it just me, or does Daggmar have a whole “Anita Blake” vibe going on? I mean in terms of being a little bit of lots of things, not that she shags any supernatural being that moves…

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