Flames of War

Ozruk's Journal - Part 2

19 Arkan, 1437
I had been sitting up that morning trying to make sense of the last month. I was mostly recovered from my ordeal but I didn’t know what to do next. I could feel the power, just a thought and I can feel it just on the edge of my skin. Its empowering, and terrifying. Did I make the right decision? I keep having doubts, something doesn’t sit right with me and I do not know why, I have what I wanted, the magic is right there now, I have a chance at a future where I am not useless, but did I throw away my life to obtain it? I was so eager to prove myself not a monster, that I am more than what people accuse me of being, that I became one.
I am scared of what I might become, I followed Ertealean with the intention of betraying him, I choose to cause his death, does that make me a murderer? He was not a good man, he was intending to cause a lot of harm in pursuit of power, I think he was even going to kill me, but does that make me any better? He underestimated me and I beat him.
Another thing that scares me is him. I thought I was so smart but I was being played, he knew exactly what I wanted and lured me in. I was being manipulated and now I wonder how much of it was his control over me and how much was my own decision.

I can’t let anybody know, I got what I wanted and now I have to hide it, isn’t that funny. I’ll claim sorcery as how I got my powers, that won’t be too hard, my recent encounter with him would provide the explanation.

I don’t know if I could live with myself if Algus or Luci reject me, I truly would be alone then.

20 Arkan, 1437
Okay this day went from bleh to crappy. First I get harassed by the guards looking for Algus, guess Lord Walister is looking to meet with him. I haven’t seen him all day so I went searching. Weather is still awful even this late in the season.
I run into Xanaphus in the city square and she was about as stuck up as I remember. All of that druid training with her family and they didn’t teach her any humility. She kept looking down on me because I’m half demon and she doesn’t like extra planar creatures. Just another person who sees me as a monster. I would have ignored her except for that idiot Luci.
Luci managed to make some half-orc friend who looked about as smart as a box of rocks, check that, the box of rocks might outwit him, and got it in his fool head to go on an adventure. I thought he was nuts and told him so but Lord Walister is paying in gold for people to find the missing supply caravans. Well my coin purse is a bit empty so a few miserable days on the road probably helping the caravan out of the mud might be worth while.
Xanaphus is coming with unfortunately as is the half-orc Orrin. Least Braum is coming along.

25 Arkan, 1437
Okay this escalated faster than I could believe. We reached Tellus to the Northwest of Longsaddle and began backtracking the caravans. While we were in town we ended up speaking to an old man, Jarl, whose granddaughter had gone missing, from the sound of it she wasn’t the only young woman to disappear. Lot of goblin activity for some reason which we assumed was due to the late winter weather.
We found the caravan, along with the bodies of the people in it. Gruesome sight. Most of the cargo had been stolen and hauled away and we tracked it to a cave under a really old tower.
For the first time I got to make use of my powers, it was intoxicating that feeling of power and I let loose on some goblins that choose to attack us. I didn’t realize the power would flow back to me when I killed a creature and seeing that energy come off of the dead body like a black fog and flow back towards me and shield my body from harm was surprising.
I know Luci looked shocked and I had to be quick to explain away my magic acted different because I am half infernal, I don’t know how convinced he was though.

We rested and went up into the tower to find a room full of undead. We finished them off then fought some more goblins and their leader, a hobgoblin. It was a swift battle and we came out okay. We discovered several of the missing women including Jarl’s granddaughter in a cell in the tower. Unfortunately we deduced from some notes that they were being sacrificed to make the undead.

Not gonna tell Luci but while they were digging through goblin bodies I found the hobgoblin’s stash of coins so I’m getting paid twice for this job.

We brought them back to Tellus to find the village devastated.
The cult that had hired the hobgoblin had taken over the town months before, we were just on the edge and didn’t venture deeper to see the tower altar they constructed. Everybody in town was enthralled by the cult and attacking a paladin of Freya. This man was incredible and fended the madmen off with ease. After his battle was concluded we met with him.
It was Parn.
Parn had become a knight and a Paladin. He had often wrote back to me and occasionally sent money but he was always so humble about what he himself was doing. I admit to being a bit jealous of him, he always seemed to be confident and in charge.
He revealed to us that he had been tracking elements of the Cult of the Night Sister and that Tellus was a recent victim of theirs. Turning the citizens into thralls and sacrificing many people. I shivered to think we had spent a night in this town and didn’t realize what was happening.

We are returning to Longsaddle, Jarl was reunited with his granddaughter. Jarl was also recently arrived in town (so he was unaffected) and was the one who sent word to Parn. The girls we rescued are traveling with them to a nearby church to be treated, some of them are semi-comatose and will take a lot of aid to recover.

26 Arkan, 1437

Figures Lord Wlister would give us the run around. He wasn’t home but somebody else was. Lord Johan with his retinue had stopped for a visit. Johan is Walister’s superior so we were surprised by this development. He seemed nice enough but these lords are always pretending to be nice, as was proven when he revealed he had suspicions about Lord Walister’s involvement with the missing caravans and the events in Tellus and requested us to keep an eye out and report back into him any developments.

Myself and Luci inspected Algus’s room that had been trashed. That dream I had before I left Longsaddle for Tellus indicated Algus himself had trashed it searching for something. He was always very neat and tidy, to mess up his own room was inconceivable, but the wards were deactivated, something he could easily do and it explained why only his room was searched. We dug around a little but most we found were a pile of papers in draconian.

We finally got to see Lord Walister the next day and I was completely overjoyed to find the coin purse I was given held actual gold coins rather than a few copper. It was actually a bit much and turns out he had another job for us. Heading up north to a mining area where reports of a loose ogre from the mountains were coming from. Why can’t he send his own guards to deal with this all? We aren’t soldiers, heck claiming we are adventurers is stupid and foolish as I told Luci, we are barely not even children. We were promised more gold and given Johan promised us payment as well I was forced to admit a willingness to go along. This is more pay than I have gotten in a year doing odd jobs, I just hope it doesn’t get me killed.

28 Arkan, 1437
Luci is such a fool, I watched him stumble all over himself trying to deal with Melita, Johan’s agent who got hired on as a bar wench for cover. You show Luci a pretty girl and he goes to complete stuttering mush on you. I’ve tried to tell him that isn’t the way to get a girl to talk to you but it does no good. I’d pity him if it wasn’t so funny to watch. Turns out the papers were just old research notes about the Lock.

We’ve reached a mining encampment at the base of the mountains and gotten a few of the rumors. Something fairly big is moving around and the miners don’t dare head up. We got some general directions and will be heading up shortly.

29 Arkan, 1437
This day has gone from annoying to messed up.

We found the Ogre. The damned thing was a zombie and there were a bunch of regular zombies running around too. Luci isn’t very happy with me, everybody was hemming and hawwing about what to do so I opened fire with my Eldritch bolts and started blowing stuff up. I don’t know why he is complaining, we killed them all and nobody was seriously hurt.

That idiot Orrin darn near killed us crossing an icy bridge with half of us nearly falling off.
Following the ogres tracks back we found the ruins of a temple set into the cliff wall. Orrin set off another trap and the doors slammed shut behind us, why do we keep that idiot around?
We got into a fight with a small horde of undead in the antechamber including a few ghouls who are a lot meaner than the zombies. This cult really likes ghouls. Searching the place we found a few odd inscriptions about facing the light, a spare torture room fully stocked and a off side chapel area. This place was the oddest room of all. From the inscriptions we’ve deduced the temple survived from the second age. The chapel was dominated by a statue that Luci has realized represents the goddess of light, Ayora though a much more militant depiction than is currently used. Surrounding the walls are busts of infernals however. Why Infernals and a goddess? Was there some odd connection in the ancient past? I don’t remember anything about this in my history books but that also wasn’t a subject I paid a whole lot of heed to.
We are resting up in the chapel since there is only one entrance and the fight with the ghouls drained us

30 Arkan, 1437
The inscription earlier was a clue to how to align the infernal busts and cause the statue to move. Found a small study with a goblet in a stand, Orrin (Of course) went and grabbed it before we could stop him. Next thing we know the side wall becomes transparent and we can see the cultists in the main part of the temple. A woman in white was standing there and another cultist walks over a cuts their own throat and she bathed in his blood. The leader looks right at us before sending his minions and the woman covered in blood walks out the a side door. Orrin replace the goblet and the wall became solid again, the idiot proceeded to do this a couple of more times before we got it away from him and reminded him we were about to be attacked.
What followed next was a huge running battle with Orrin and Xanaphus in the lead. She had learned how to shapeshift into a bear and was taking a beating pushing up against about a dozen of the cultists.
Xanaphus foolishly charged in and got herself mind controlled, I need to have a long talk with these idiots about rushing in prematurely.

The big shock came when he told us we were ripples and we were supposed to have died in Almoria. This cult was behind the murder of our families. I don’t know what a ripple is but thats secondary.

We were then set upon by another pack of undead including a freaking skeleton Minotaur. When all was said and done only myself and Xanaphus were still on our feet although the others still lived and we were able to tend their wounds.

I found something on one of the cultists, a disk marked with strange symbols. It just screamed magic to me so I kept a hold of it, I think its what was used for the mind control spells so it could prove useful.
The others managed to find the skin of lord Wallister, not him, just his skin, quite gruesome and of course they decide to bring it with us. I understand why so we have proof but it disgusting.

This is the first time I’ve actually taken a human life directly. They were trying to kill us so I don’t feel that bad but shouldn’t I feel a lot more guilt?

30 Arkan, 1437

I had the dream again. I was on that plateau with the ancient book. But this time there were three smaller stone pedestals. Each had a single item. A dagger carved with infernal runes that burned with hellfire, a book made from a demon’s skin and elaborately tooled with symbols of power and a finely crafted lock closing it. Finally a chain that seemed to hover in the air with a dark miasia flowing around it and arcane symbols forged into each link.
I heard a voice, deep and ancient, the first time I had ever heard anything speak to me in this place. “Choose your gift”
Drawing near the gifts I could hear their whispers in my mind. Each one calling to me to choose to bind my path to them.

The blade whispers of violence, death, the thrill of battle, the feeling of flesh parting beneath my strength. Power through force.

The book whispered of lost secrets, hidden lore it could teach me, that it could gift me with more spells, the feeling of the magic powering through my body, arcane lore stolen from others that could become my own. Power through knowledge.

The chain however was different, it whispered of a friend. That I need not be alone, something made from myself, the chain was not a prisoner’s manacles but an unbreakable bond. It whispered cruelly of what would happen if I was discovered, if my secrets were known, it would give me a friend who could never leave me because it would be a part of me. Power through control.

Crying I looked up back at the gifts. They now all glowed red and I could feel the heat emanating from them. They all tempted me, to defend myself, the power, but most of all to not be alone. I knew which called to me. I touched the chain and it burned my hand. I hesitated for a moment, steeled myself and seized it.

Like a snake the ends whipped around, before it was only two feet long, now it seemed to stretch forever. The pain was incredible, then the chain whipped around my body encasing me in steel. I had a flash of pain then it faded and the chains were gone and as the pain faded I heard a voice, a much smaller voice say a single word… “Master”

I awoke.

The others looked a bit concerned since I appeared to have been having a nightmare and mumbling in infernal again but I didn’t care.

I was overjoyed, like my magic the ritual was burned into my mind, I need no spell book to know how to summon forth the magic. I quickly got to work, drew the correct symbols and made the appropriate marks. I think people might have been a bit disturbed by my cutting my hand but the ritual requires my blood to call the spirit forth.

It was complete and appearing in the air before me was a small imp flapping his wings. Orrin immediately approached it and I think my annoyance at his recklessness at him spilled over to my familiar who asked him what he was looking at. Orrin got very angry and swung his maul and completely pulverized my imp.

I was beside myself with anger and rage at that idiot and all he did was shrug and go sit back down. It took a while before I calmed down and tried again, threatening him that he better not touch my familiar again. I was able to resummon the imp and this time had him turn invisible right away to avoid Orrin. Luci seemed a bit disturbed and Xanaphus kept looking oddly at me. Guess they didn’t like my familiar being an imp but I explained its just a regular wizard familiar, I’m just half infernal so it comes out a bit different.

Orrin needs to die. Before I thought him to be just stupid but now I realize he is extremely dangerous to us all and liable to kill somebody.

1 Feldoren, 1437
Returning to Longsaddle we were found by Melita with word the city had come under attack by the cult. We were joined by Parn again and Lord Johan, showing them the body of Wallister they were quick to surmise that the one we had spoken to was a doppleganger.
The city itself was barren with various ghost crystals floating around that were invulnerable to anything. The house guards had blockaded the manor house. We broke in only to be beset by undead in the courtyard. Parn, Melita and Johan kept them busy while we got into the Manor.

This is when things went weird on us.

I found out afterwords we were no longer in the material plane but were in the plane of the Hungry dead. A demi plane between the real world and the domain of Nephtias. Souls were trapped here, caught for whatever reason.
We fought a dozen undead breaking in and spoke to a trapped ghost in a side room, murdered centuries prior they seemed to have a foggy memory and no idea what was happening. A magical lantern we found allowed us to see and speak to them but offered them no relief. We descended deeper avoiding the nastiest undead. In one area we avoided there seemed like an entire city that just seemed wrong. More ambushes by ghouls would soon follow as we descended but the magical lantern we found seemed to keep things at bay. An undead spectator (kin to beholders) blocked our way and had to be fought down. The damned thing turned my own spells against me and I was forced to run away like a coward. It was obviously a magically induced fear but that did nothing to lessen my shame, especially when Xanaphus got all smug about it.

We eventually found the main sacrificial chamber. The room was cloaked in darkness except where the lantern lit. The pet idiot walked out and quickly returned all slashed up and bleeding heavily. The darkness lifted and we were in a large chamber with four demon statues, the cult leader, the woman in white from before and a pair of nasty looking demons with long claws who hissed angrily at us.

The cult leader mocked us and declared his intent to open a gateway through the lock. The demons went to the sides of the room, where we saw side passages with the residents of Longsaddle standing in a line, seemingly under a mind control spell. He began his ritual and the woman in white floated up. The demons on the side began to murder people from town. We couldn’t figure out how to stop him, tentative shots at him and the woman revealed they were shielded from attack. My attack on the statue however had a huge impact. Damaging the statues seemed to hurt the portal that was opening up. We began to unload on the statues, blasting them with everything we had. As the statues were destroyed the portal began to destabilize and the cultist’s spell became more frantic. The final one shattered and the shockwave was incredible. The woman floating there screamed briefly before being ripped to shreds and we heard the voice of Malgav proclaim he had failed him before tearing the cult leader to shreds as well. The two demons from before were gone and the survivors from longsaddle seemed to follow us readily as we lead them out. The whole place seemed… faded like the ghosts were gone.

We left the manor house to find the battle was over.

The Manor house was a trap, they had wanted us there because some among us were ripples. Once we entered the house phased out as well and nobody else could come in. After our victory over the cultists it returned. The odd crystals seen in town had shattered when we destroyed the statues. Johan said they were anchors to allow the manor house to leave the prime material plane and by destroying the anchors in the plane of hungry dead we forced it back. It makes sense, the Lock prevents the planes from reaching our world normally, this let them bring something through easily.

2 Feldoren, 1437
People are proclaiming us to be the heroes of Longsaddle, that seems an odd title. People say it but they still look oddly at me, even if I’m a hero I’m still an outsider here.
Because of what we did Parn wants us to come with him to Windlass. Its a long road but Luci and Braum were all ready to go and I’m not going to be left alone so I have to go.

We checked over the ruins of the manor house. The place looked like it had been rotting away for a hundred years now. We didn’t find much, there was a book of planar alignments and dates which was in good shape. I could see a rather nasty trap on a desk drawer and very innocently asked if Orrin had checked the drawers. Idiot went right ahead and opened the drawers without even checking anything. The explosion of fire knocked him clean on his butt but unfortunately he lived. He wasn’t happy with me and I was quick to remind him he attacked my familiar unprovoked. I was hoping to bait him but he just looked annoyed.

Johan examined the book that we found and noted a number of entries that were circled. He began asking our birthdays and confirmed that Luci, Braum and Xanaphus all corresponded with planer alignments that would explain why they were being called ripples. I was a foundling so I didn’t know my exact brithday but I was only a day or so old when found so it was easy to figure out a couple of days when it had to be.

Of course I turn out to be the one who isn’t anything special.

7 Feldoren, 1437
The Green Vanguard. That was where were were taken to by Parn. He is a member of this secret order that are basically unpaid mercenaries with a lot of talk about honor and duty bullshit. Did get to meet the Duke of Windlass though so that wasn’t too bad. But they all seemed expectant that we would join them, guess Parn has talked us up although why he thinks we are anything special is beyond me. We are but children compared to everybody here, I’m certain any of them could easily beat us without breaking a sweat. These people do not need us in any way. They are nobles and trained experienced professionals, people fed life on a spoon. We are just a bunch of vagabonds and orphans with little formal training and practically no experience, we got damn lucky in longsaddle, people like Parn have slain demon lords in single combat.
They asked us to join and the others jumped at the chance, don’t they see we are being used? I couldn’t let Luci and Braum walk into danger alone and agreed but I did say the moment they betrayed my trust I was walking. Not that I really trust any of them… They want something from us, if only as bait.
I could see many of them looking down at us, probably laughing to themselves. I could just see the scorn from that one, Lady Ravness I believe, Aasimirs have always unnerved me, I see them and instantly see their disgust at the infernal rat.
Some of them didn’t care for us to join, at least those ones were honest in their disdain.

9 Feldoren, 1437
Belmora,
A trade port on the southern coast. They want us to go there and find a man named Alan Pierce. Appears he is behind some ongoing issues and supposably has a connection with the Cult of the night sisters. A rather large trade embargo is likewise ongoing although everybody is kinda vague about what is happening there.

Luci decided to trade with the annoying halfing thief Denam and got completely taken. He traded in his signet ring for a magical mace, and barely magical at that. This is why I always do the haggling, Luci is so vague and unsure of what he wants that he lets himself get taken advantage of. He should know not to bargin blindly without knowing the value of things. Although I could say the same about myself for agreeing to go along on this fools errand.

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