Interlude: The Journey from Shudderwood to Thrushmoor

Excerpt from Purity Through Penitence: The Life of Saint Roguard the Mendicant.  As written by Brother Anton, The Chapel of Guilts, Barstoi, 4820.

Leaving the inhabitants of Ascanor Lodge to their decadent ways, and leaving She Whose Name is a Curse Upon the Righteous to no doubt rut with her fellow beasts in an orgy of wanton sin and hedonistic depravity, Saint Roguard and his disciples resumed their pursuit of the Whispering Way. The hearts of the disciples were heavy for they had lost several of their number to the hell-beasts of the Shudderwood. Saint Roguard tried to console them that one of the slain had been the elven witch-breed but not even this happy news could alleviate their sorrow at the deaths of Malvern and Skippy.

Making their arduous journey south to Thrushmoor, county seat of accursed Versex, Saint Roguard took the time to make a pilgrimage to Kavapesta; spiritual home of the Pharasmin Penitence. Here the blessed Saint did meet with the elders of his faith and take their counsel on the best way to continue on his path to supreme righteousness. Honoured and humbled to be in the presence of one who had thrown off the foul curse of lycanthropy, the elders informed him that he had been chosen to join to ranks of one of the Penitence’s holiest orders; The Order of the Iron Gauntlet.

Originally the honour guard of His Holiness Count Neska of Barstoi, the Order had come to realise the truth; that humanity is born of sin and therefore incapable of being saved by their own actions. Rather than giving into despair, they came to a second revelation; that His Holiness Count Neska was the divinely-appointed saviour of mankind. It would be through his iron rulership and keen insights into the ways of the heretic and the witch that humanity would be saved! With His Holiness Count Neska securely established as the ruler of the holy land of Barstoi, the privileged utopia of unyielding piety that we know today, the Order became missionaries to less enlightened communities; those who spared the executioner’s blade, permitted inhuman filth to dwell among them, and even used the profane arts of magic to alleviate their suffering.

It was into this most righteous of Orders that Saint Roguard ascended that day. He lay down his old symbol of Pharasma, a modest item carved from the charred wood of a stake that had aided the burning of his first witch, and instead took up the ceremonial gauntlet adorned with both the spiral of Pharasma and the burning inverse star of His Holiness Count Neska’s divine essence. Suitably equipped to spread the word of Count Neska’s divinity and the true path of righteousness through totalitarianism, Saint Roguard and his disciples continued on their crusade.

Lorinthor Hathem’s journal, 9th Desnus 4711

We have a long journey ahead of us as we travel towards the outer reaches of Ustalav. The days of horseback travel wear on with a regularity almost bordering on monotony. My teachers and mentors are more and more my equals these days, I see many of them as friends. Certainly I’d lay down my life to protect them. Though they seem to be self-interested, even mercenary at times, I can see goodness in all of them to some degree.

The mood is somber as we leave our allies resting in the earth back in Shudderwood. I try to occupy my time by working on an idea I had while talking to Malvern. We had thought that a quiver that magically replenished itself would be a great boon, so I’ve been putting study into that and working on my archery. I’ve also managed to slightly alter the magic on the bow I crafted for Malvern. Now to make an oath with the bow I swear vengeance for Malvern. This will help keep me focused on why we hunt these dark necromancers.

Apart from the occasional foolhardy attack by Orcs or bandits, which are dispatched with such ease these days, I try to fill my time with study on The Whispering Way and other Cults within Ustalav. Thankfully my rucksack holds pretty much an entire library of books. I am almost obsessed with deciphering that note we found written in the odd language and so much of my time is spent studying this letter. What secrets does it hold, what could I learn that might help us destroy our enemy? Though I fear we shall find naught but another cryptic message, yet I’m sure when we’ve collected the parts of the puzzle we shall find truth. The road to truth is often a dark road indeed though.

Lorinthor Hathem’s journal, 16th Desnus 4711

My studies of the Cults and Necromancers of Ustalav are disturbing to say the least. Many orthodox practices of mainstream religions have been twisted into horrific forms. Often at night I dream of the cruel tortures committed by these foul beasts. I shall take a pleasure in bringing them to their knees. I think to destroy them we will need a somewhat subtler response. After seeing how they killed our friends I think we need to be ready to strike from hiding as well as smash in the front door.

I’ve been continuing my studies and I’ve finished the quiver. I think I’ll call it Malvern’s varied quiver. I’ve also decided to study up stealth. Maybe Ceris and I could add the element of surprise to future battles with The Whispering Way. She seems somewhat more detached since the sad passing of our dear departed friends, perhaps if I reach out to her…

Lorinthor Hathem’s journal, 30th Desnus 4711

I’m going to ask Ceris to train me in some of the more shadowy arts, I hope this will help cement our friendship. She has a good heart even if she tries to hide it. She alone wanted to save the beast, and she spoke of saving Count Caromac, something in hindsight I think she may have been right about. But tomorrow I’ll ask her. In other ways the journey goes well we are a day or so away from the next major town. I’ve finally perfected the spell ‘secure shelter’ so each night we have a warm cottage and are safe and secure. I’m still trying to perfect teleport, I can cover a few hundred feet but no more yet. Sigmund is deep in contemplation I think our deeds hang heavy on him. As for Roguard what is to say, I am an Elf and a Wizard two things he likes very little.

Lorinthor Hathem’s journal, 1st Sarenith 4711

I spoke to Ceris today and she agreed to train me though I fear she may be a hard task master. Indeed hiding is harder than you might think and Ceris has eyes like a hawk and spots each error I make. I’m very grateful for her time and effort though. I think the deaths have affected her a lot, as they have all of us. I did manage to hide for quite a while at one point, until Ceris worked out I’d cast invisibility. She’ll make me pay for that joke.

Lorinthor Hathem’s journal, 17th Sarenith 4711

It’s been two and half weeks of hard travel and training in the art, and it is an art, of subtlety. I think I’ve improved a lot. We are resting a few days in Hyannis before carrying on. It’s a ghastly place under the thumb of a Baron who rules mercilessly. Even as he lives lavishly in a castle upon the hill, his people starve yet he still taxes them massively. We saw him in town with his guards, he carries a golden septa with a ruby as large as a fist.

Ceris has had an amazing idea, we are to put our new skills together on a cat burglary job. We will this night break into the Baron’s castle and steal his septa, along with whatever else we can get. I’ll continue this entry when, and if, we return. Hopefully we will be a little richer as well…

Lorinthor Hathem’s journal, 20th Sarenith 4711

So the night started well we climbed the cliff at the rear of the castle and managed to use the shadows to make our way to the castle without being seen, perfect. He had many more guards than Ceris or I thought but we moved like puma’s on a dark night silent and fast. Ceris spotted a window open on the second floor. She climbed up with incredible speed and agility, truly a sight to behold as she vanished though the window. Within moments she was opening the back door, by the time I was inside she’d already cut the ropes to the alarm bell. This clearly wasn’t her first time.

As we made our way to the top floor we came across a heavily guarded corridor with no less than seven guards using the rod of silence I cast invisibility on Ceris and myself. The large double doors at the end of the hall were locked with an intricate system it would take Ceris some time to pick this lock so I created a crashing noise downstairs to distract the guards, a little smile inched over my lips as Azenutine’s trick worked again. My heart was beating like mad as I watched the hallway. I could hear guards looking for the noise but not finding anything. Just as the steps started to get louder as the guards began returning to their posts the door behind me clicked open. I couldn’t see Ceris, she was still invisible, but I’m sure she’d be pleased with herself for cracking such a lock as that.

As we entered the main bedroom there were empty wine containers strewn about the floor. Slumped on the huge bed was the Baron sleeping half unconscious from drink, three noble women in various states of undress were also asleep on the bed. Ceris and I went to work quickly, a fool and his gold are quickly separated and thus we liberated the wealth of those that didn’t need it. The noble women in particular had some very expensive, fetching necklaces. Ceris found a secret compartment in a draw with a key to the safe in the basement, bingo! Also in the secret compartment was a ledger showing various illegal activities of this dog. Before leaving I wrote a little note explaining that if he didn’t change his ways and reduce the tax as well as be more merciful to his people that the next break in would cost him his life. With that I used the permanent dye from an arrow to write SCUM on his forehead. Though all of this the bloated tyrant barely stirred.

Ceris and I made our way to the window and climbed down, after all the guards were back outside the door. This time on our way though the ground floor we took what we could carry even rolling an expensive rug. Bags of holding are useful for more than just books.

We made our way to the basement and saw two guards by a steel door.

We talked about our options. We felt distraction wouldn’t work twice, and even if it did they’d notice we’d stripped the ground floor and raise the alarm. Neither of us wanted to kill the guards, we were short on options. In the end we opted to try my new short range teleport spell, I cast dimension door and in a moment we were both inside the vault wondering why we’d gone to get the keys. It didn’t take long to see why. Inside the vault was a locked glass  case with the septa in it. We gathered as much gold as we could before heading for our ultimate goal. Ceris unlocked the case and took the septa, gold, rubies and all. A quick spell later and we were back in the back garden, I think even Ceris must admit magic helped a little on this job.

Unfortunately we hit a snag on the way out I had unwittingly teleported us right into the path of a patrol, they were quite a way away but saw two shadowy figures. I’m sure they couldn’t identify us as we were well covered in black and even our faces had masks, nevertheless they gave frantic chase. Ceris asked if I had any more teleport spells which I didn’t so she explained that we should run as fast as we could I concurred. We jumped hedges and hurtled though the pristine landscaped gardens. The flowers in the moonlight were strikingly pretty even if I was in somewhat of a hurry. We got to the cliff and were well ahead of the guards. Ceris jumped right off the cliff before gently floating to the ground. I on the other hand had to wait I cast fly on myself and swooped down, picking up Ceris. She was a little taken aback by this but I explained that we didn’t want to leave tracks.

As we were in the air I cast the spell again and we both flew back to the inn and into our respective windows, a pub full of people can testify we didn’t leave our rooms. I’ve left the loot with Ceris to value and sell, I think I’ll give some to the local church as alms to the poor. We will be back at some point to check if the situation has improved here, I hope for the Baron’s sake it has.

Lorinthor Hathem’s journal, 25th Sarenith 4711

It’s been a week since the robbery. I think I’m still on a high. I hope it has brought Ceris and I a little closer as friends, I’m not sure what she did with her share maybe she helped the poor maybe not, I’m not giving up on her anyway. She’s a free spirit.

In researching the Whispering Tyrant I’ve found reference to the final battle and my grandfather’s role in that battle. Apparently he was an Arcane Archer. I’ve always been interested in archery and magic but had never really considered combining the two. It is a rare Elven art studied by only a few, but I think I’ll take the time after this to try and master its arts, after all I always did have an affinity for my Grandfather…

After we left Hyannis we met a strange Halfling when he saw that we were adventurers he was keen to join us. He said his knowledge of the woods and wild were very good and that he could help us. He seems an affable kind fellow. It has given me a chance to practice my Halfling which previously I’d only learnt in theory, he assures me my grammar is good but I think he may be being kind to me.

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