Our investigations led us to a small hut outside of town where Toroth was supposed to rendez-vous with, apparently, a bugbear and a goblin. It was clear that he was meant to be killed after delivering his prize. We managed to fell them, but gained little truly helpful knowledge. We took a few days to rest and gather information.
I was successful in confirming my suspicions that the dagger was, of certainty, necromantic. Boborien, the lead apothecary and close personal friend, sent me away with a curing salve and advised me to return to work on Monday. A kind gesture, as I knew he was in no need of assistance.
We headed out to the nearby city of Aiden, inhabited by Gnomes. We had heard that this poor town was Barbanath’s next aim. There was no mistake that, as we finally made our way past a Golemn set to destroy “any non-Gnome it sees,” we found a mostly deserted city, pillaged and decimated, though it seemed the hunters were after life, not riches.
We first encountered a small Gnomish girl who had barricaded herself in her home. I promised her that we would do our best, and she gifted me with a small statuette that she claimed was good luck. We told her to once again lock her door after we had left, assuring her that someone would return for her.
As we ventured on, we encountered a few watchmen who asked us to continue on to where two Goblins and a Bugbear were taking Gnomish captives. We did so, and took them on, freeing the three Gnomes. We were paid generously and equipped, aside being offered gratitude so many times we could not count. In exchange, we were urged to investigate the cavern where their Gnomish comrades had apparently been tortured.
The scene we encountered was perhaps more gruesome than expected, and unfortunately all of their fellow townspeople had been killed, save for one. After fighting of swarms of rats, we made our way to the survivor, who was – quite luckily, I think – the father of the child.
As I write this, we debate on where to go from here, and we have acquired much knew knowledge, which I will detail here in shorthand;
The dagger, engraved with low Occurian runes, is to summon something (or someone) called Salamand. The runes read;
They stab “Earth Kin” in order to obtain their blood, which creates a sigil on the bearer’s forehead.
They are communicated with a disembodied voice (a being of some sort?) through a shimmering, mirror-like… portal?
And, finally, with the map we gathered from a dead Bugbear at the site of the massacre, we can tell their their veiled camp is not far.
I will reflect later if I must, for I am far to drained now to discuss much more than the factual happenings to date. I expect this journal will become quite the habit for me in the days to come, as I would to never forget such an adventure, however small, that I had long dreamed of having.
As we rest, I have noticed an elderly elf watching me as I admire my beautiful quarterstaff. It is of masterwork quality, and the most peculiar green. Could he have some sort of interest in it, or me..? I am curious as to what he might want.
I am afraid I must retire it soon, not for the end of my adventures, but instead in favor of a much larger book that may better handle my chronicling. I will not forsake this small, leather-bound notebook that was with me from the beginning of this unexpected journal. Instead, I will keep it in the breast pocket of my traveler’s vest, close to my heart.
I have many things to write here, not all of them pleasant. But I must say with complete certainty, that I was a small and very insignificant player in the world that we take such inactive part in, until my dear friends and I began this adventure.
As we set out from Aiden to the veiled camp, we made our way toward a cliff-face that was surrounded by desert. We searched for some sign of it, and through the heat distortions I often caught a glimmer, but turned to look and could see nothing. Eventually, we came upon a break in the wall, and a small trough of water with three runes carved over it.
I recognized one of them right away as Hoon – the sigil for energy, power, and strength. After pondering the significant for some time, we took a few flasks of the water there and walked through the hole in the cliff-face. Inside we discovered a small room, with a mound shaped somewhat primitively like a sun in the center, but nothing else. After a thorough inspection of the room, we decided (well, rather, Nyk decided) to step into the center, where he was transported away. We followed, of course, and found ourselves in a similar room, but with a door on the far side, latched in a peculiar way – with a wheel that had four odd marks, lines of both straight and rippled variety – I deduced that they must have represented the four elements. We investigated the room beyond that had another contraption. There, it seemed to be a vent on top, a heating plate on one side, and water on the other. Perplexed, we returned to the other room. We turned the wheel, first toward the symbol we believed represented fire.
As we re-entered the room, we found that it was not the same room at all. The door closed behind us, and a voice resonated throughout the chamber that our first lesson would begin. What seemed to be a fire elemental introduced itself as our teacher and implored us to begin. Though initially uncertain, it became clear to us that it intended to begin a battle. With the seemingly obvious discover that water was especially effective against it, we were able to defeat the first teacher. We were presented (in a sense) with a metal beam of sorts, which we took back to the room with the strange contraption.
The next two battled went similarly – water, which we combatted with oil and fire, and earth, of which we relied on our own strength and teamwork. Finally, we were once again in the room with the odd machine, with two beams and a trough. After some thought, we balanced the beams in the ground and against the hot plate, then placed the trough against the heating beam. This created steam, and the air rose up to power the contraption, the sun above turning fervently as our sense of triumph blossomed. This opened a final portal to the innermost chamber, where we encountered a face of stone that called himself “The Docent,” a great teacher.
He enlightened us in regards to many of our questions, particularly about the Occurian runes. He told us that the runes required life force (typically blood) to power, and he translated our newest runes; Aesh, Hoon, and Zill, which read something along the lines of, “The Sun’s light will power true vision.”
We learned also that Barbanath passed through previous to us, but left impatiently without learning even the most vital information. We left the temple then, returning to the trough outside. Garth slit his hand, placing the blood over the runes. There, the heat fog lifted and revealed the veiled camp.
Following a quick discussion between the four of us, we decided to enter the camp. We walked along the side of the encampment, where we stumbled upon a human, to my great surprise. Inside the nearby build, he stood, seeming to be fiddling with something, cursing about being late. Though it immediately seemed a bit odd, I nonetheless barged in, perhaps a bit rashly, and challenged him to divulge his intent. He was a general of sorts, it seemed, and the ring that it was now clear he held was of significance to his duties. Of course, upon seeing us, he engaged us in combat. With our victory, we obtained the ring, and found that it disguised the wearer as a bugbear. I took on the disguise for some undercover investigation, and upon discovering a center tent, I returned to my party to inform them, and we gathered ourselves into a group under the premise of the humans being a bugbear general’s captives.
We made our way to the tent without an issue, but were unprepared for what we encountered next. There, in the center of the camp, was none other than Barbanath himself, and behind him were two very peculiar things – a glowing, shimmering portal, and a chained unicorn. He greeted us, and bid me to remove my disguise, to which I did not immediately oblige.
Instead of engaging us in battle, he gave us a grandiose speech about his future “Godliness” and his deal with Salamand, one of the Occuria. Then, he shed his goblin exterior and changed into a wolf, leaving us trapped in the tent, our path blocked by the poor, beaten unicorn. Unwilling to attack with the intent to kill, particularly an intelligent and noble creature, we decided instead to speak with the shimmering portal, which turned out to be Salamand himself.
He told of impending doom for our world, and of his own desperation. His task, upholding the Everstorm, was threatened by the scattering of the six Great Souls, crystals named after six great but mortal beings of long ago.
Salamand himself was weak, and had forged a deal with Barbanath, who had promised to find the great souls and was meanwhile slaughtering innocents, like he had the gnomes, to keep Salamand alive – but barely. Salamand required true sacrifice to live – one willing sacrifice could compared to a hundred or more slaughtered. So, I forged a new deal with him, that I would find the crystals and save Salamand, the Everstorm, and our world. But, we all knew he would not live long enough to hold the storm while I sought the Great Souls. To give me time, and to save our life as we knew it, my friends, those who I held most dear in this world, gave of themselves.
I would have as well, but one had to carry on to see that all was righted, and much to my disbelief, I heard a voice from my peculiar new staff telling me that I must continue. As I watched, my only companions in this world took their lives, one by one.
Garth and Dirk had always felt a great duty to protect the world and keep justice in what small ways they could, but never would I have believed that they would have to make the ultimate sacrifice. When only Nyk and I remained, I truly felt the heavy weight on my heart. He and I, in all honesty, had been inseparable for years that I had stopped counting. We’d shared bedrolls, mead, triumph and sadness. He had helped me arrange things after the death of my mother. I had so many memories, and feelings, all that flooded back to me as he prepared to take his own life.
I thought about asking him to stay, hoping that two lives would keep Salamand alive and that I could find the crystals more expediently. But we knew that things had to proceed in this single way. So I did only what I could manage to show my love and respect for the one person, faulted as he may have been, that had always remained by my side. I embraced him, thanked him as I had thanked our other comrades, and I held my tears for another time, remaining with him until his struggle was over and the light was gone from his eyes.
It was then, before I had a chance to mourn or even consider my plan of action, that my staff began to glow warm. I was transported out of the camp by the elderly elf I had seen before, who called himself Moro – the voice inside my livewood staff. He explained that I, as the sole bearer of the knowledge of Ciel’s fate, would need to train as more than an apothecary to manage the quest for the crystals. He explained that the place I was in was manufactured by his magic, and that time would pass much more expediently here than in Ciel.
And so, I began my training as a Wizard…