Flames of War

Ozruk's Journal - Part 3

1437
We arrived in the city after a few days of travel, the roads were surprisingly empty for a major trade port. One would think there to be many caravans brining wares in and out from the interior.

We found an inn in a decent part of town and began to get a feel for the place. Dozens of pickpockets and thieves which were easy to avoid, nothing unusual.
Seems the trade embargo comes from the Sea Lords, criminal gangs who control the city itself, they appear to be the real power and the local baron is just a figurehead with no real power.

The city is balancing on a knifes edge. The gangs are in a cold war against each other, Alan Pierce is in the church of Ayora and wandering around, bunch of particularly brutal murders going on and rumors of a Wyvern attacking caravans in the area. Absolutely confused about what is happening and where. No wonder the green vanguard was vague about events, we are here and can’t make head or tails of why things are happening and why is this so important. The war with Galgastan hasn’t broken out yet, a few companies of soldiers could walk in and beat down these gangs in a week and be gone once the problem was settled.
I suspect they sent us here to get us out of the way as a favor to Parn.

1437
Things are messier than we supposed, the blockade appears to be related to some mining operation going on. No ships moving out means out of work sailors who are being hired to work in these mines, some kinda archaeological dig. One of the sealords is big on magical artifacts but this seems a bit extreme.

Our local contact turned out to be none other than Jarl. The man we met in Tellus. His granddaughter was doing well and had recovered from her ordeal but they were living an an area called the rats cellar that was worse than a slum.

He introduced us to a young half-elf wizard named Aderyn, apparently somebody who was mentored by Johan. She seemed rather quiet and bookish and extremely proper and polite. I don’t trust her however. She wears the cloak of the Green Vanguard but earlier we were assured we had met all the members. Either she is lying or they were. I will need to keep an eye on her

1437
We met a man called Grog. This seems like Braum’s kind of person, which is not a good thing. I so wanted to kill the guards at the door to the bar. They began mocking me for being a tiefling and telling me the didn’t serve my kind here. I wanted to wipe the smirk off their face but I was stopped. Braum got us in but I’m on edge after that.

This Grog owns the place which seems like a half ship somehow transported halfway up the hill. He seems to know a lot about what is going on. From what I can gather is he is unhappy with the current state of affairs with the Sea Lords and the Embargo and all the corruption.

He introduced us to the other major players, the sorceress Sebina who controls the docks and his brother Hassan who is a smuggler and controls the shipyards

He set us over to the house of Bart, the guy who runs the warehouse district and from there we discovered the dwarven miners having a pay dispute with Bart. From here we met Sostrand, an older dwarven craftsman who oversaw things and he filled us in on the mines. The embargo appears to be funneling out of work sailors into the mines which go under the city where they have found some ruins. Bart is a collector of relics but this seems a bit extreme. We went to check out the dig and we spotted a dwarf helping them out, somebody Sostrand recognized as named Orthos.

1437
We met with the young dwarf Orthos and I was able to pick up that he wasn’t telling us the whole truth. He finally relented and showed us what he had found on a dead miner in the tunnels. It was a small box with a simple lid. I used my detect magic to analyze it and the box seemed oddly unremarkable.

I unfortunately was still looking when I opened the box up. The amount of magical energy that it contained felt like I had been smacked right between the eyes with a mace. It was extremely painful and I gave a yelp of pain before I managed to dismiss my spell.

It was a fragment of something. What it was I have no idea. The inside of the box was engraved with odd markings that Aderyn was able to identify as some kind of blocking spell. Evidently why it appeared unremarkable when closed.

There were some very old ruins under the city, given how deep they were it was likely they were from the second age. He told us about a pair of massive doors that were still sealed and a glass like clocktower that had already been uncovered

The others decided we should head into the mines and see what was on the other side of the doors but still seems like a wild goose chase.

Sostrand introduced us to somebody who could help us out, a woodelf named Ashryver, former soldier from the war and archer and a complete asshole. If the woodelves have a stick this far up their asses I dread to think of meeting an actual high elf.

1437
We made our way through the mines, Our first stop at that unusual glass clocktower thing led to a fight with a wraith and some ghouls after a group of workers managed to wake it up. It was an interesting challenge, It killed one of the workers but Bruam threw the dead body away preventing it from raising it as another ghoul.

Further in we found a lost city. This was an entire city under Belmora, I remember hearing that the sea levels rose at the end of the second age so this might have been exposed at one point, now frozen lava flows covered everything. The path was well marked going deeper through this city. A golem of some kind wandered the streets, some sort of ancient defence or more recent?

Using Ip’Nix to scout ahead he discovered Alan Pierce on the other side of the city.
We tried to sneak in and made it part way before the golem noticed us and gave chase.
It began pursuing us and my poor little Ip’Nix was grabbed and the monster pulverized it. In the final area of the city there was a clear courtyard space with a single bridge leading out over a river of lava. I don’t know how this lava hadn’t solidified though that answer was soon to come. Some of us made it over the bridge but others who had ducked for cover were caught out. In the ensuing fight I saw Xanaphus slipping back over the bridge, she didn’t even stop to help deal with the monster or save our companions and that Ashryver falling back firing arrows.

Heroes of the fight there was definitely Aderyn and Braum. A grease spell to flip it on its back and Braum shoving it into the lake of lava.

When we finally confronted the architect of it all, Alan Pierce, he did not seem to be surprised at all. If anything he was expecting us. He stood there contemplating a statue of a giant man in heavy armor. I recognized it from drawings in history books as the Avatar of Freya.

He asked us if we had ever heard of a place called Gelan, I remembered it was a city from the second age but not much beyond that, he scoffed at us so I had a few harsh words but he kept laughing us off before he literally peeled his face off like a macabre mask.

It was Johan. We had been betrayed by one of the Vanguard. I was nearly blind with my rising anger at this. He wanted the Flame of war, that shard we had found in the box. He offered us our lives if we gave it to him but I knew this to be a lie.

We were dead.

This man was an archmage and honestly nothing we could do would stop him, we couldn’t even run. I pulled the shard from the box and fired my eldritch bolt which slammed into the statue he stood by. He mocked me for desecrating the statue and it was a kind of long shot that the real avatar could be awoken so easily.

He demanded the shard from us again and we refused him, if I’m going to die its not as a dog begging. I knew he outclassed us but I didn’t realize how much. In an instant he blurred, the shard was out of my hand and a force wall separated our half of the room from him. I heard Adreyn yelling about Time Magic and the others slammed into the wall trying futily to break through. He just stood there ignoring us like insects while examining the shard.

My rage blinded me, he had won and we had lost. The futility of everything just crashed down and almost without thought I did the one thing I could do that nobody else could. I saw Luci glance back at me briefly as he heard me snap out the incantation in Infernal just before I took the step.

I was on the other side of the wall with Johan. I knew it was stupid, in the back of my mind I was screaming to run away but I was fueled by just anger at this point. Maybe if I broke his concentration to drop the wall. He didn’t seem to see me and I could hear him mumbling to himself as he examined the shard. I wanted to punch him in that smug face when I saw something. I could see the statue lighting up.
Suddenly my rage was quenched with the idea that this Avatar could be alive. I pulled up short and began unloading bolts at him and although I hit him it was like I was bouncing pebbles off of a building. Part of his face peeled off to reveal something… else… underneath. He seemed amused, The statue was starting to glow with magma, I just kept Johan looking away from it, I was sure I was going to die but dammit Johan was coming with me.

The statue awoke with a roar the shook the entire room Everybody was completely stunned. It turned towards Johan who was just babbling that this was impossible before the thing proceeded to rip him into bloody shreds. I was just frozen, this thing was more powerful than anything I had ever seen and I was less than 15 feet away. I felt a hand on my shoulder then suddenly I was on the side side of the room with the others.

It was Algus, he yelled to gather together and I clutched on his arm terrified as the Monster roared again. A sudden surge and feeling like my stomach had dropped through the floor and we were all standing outside on a plain with runic symbols burned into the grass around us from the teleportation spell.

He took us to a nearby inn called the Hunter and Goblet where we rested the night. I definitely needed the rest after today.

1437
Elibus, hero of Lodis. That was Algus’s real name all along. I can’t believe it, the man who helped win the war was the same man who took in a group of bedraggled war orphans. The same man who could have had titles and lands was the same one who put up with all the trouble I have caused over my life and comforted me when I was crying because of how others were treating me.

I wasn’t sure how to take the news, He was a hero the bards would tell stories about but he was still Algus, the kind old man who tucked me in at night. I don’t know if I can ever call him Elibus. He’s still the one who I consider my father.

He told us Johan had been dead for many years and this demon had taken his place long before Johan rose to political power, given he rose to prominence during the ending of the war that meant he had been here for at least 15 years. Algus had been seeking out the connections and told us he had even gone to the astral sea to try and track down those who knew Johan before and all of them had been murdered.

We knew now what was going on, at least partly. In the guise of Alan pierce he had influence over Barbas and forced the embargo to redirect people to the mines. He had been seeking the flame of war the entire time, he had just been stymied by the theft of it and subsequent acquisition by the young dwarf miner. He knew we had it but did not know the significance of it and guessed that we would still be seeking out the ruins. Nobody had guessed that the statue of the avatar was still alive and would awaken upon seeing the flame of war, an artifact of Freya.

The Avatar was a dagger pointed straight at the heart of the city and nobody knew he was there. The Avatars as representatives of the gods will had warred during the second age and nearly destroyed the world doing so. The calamities they wrought were what ended the second age and their unchecked power would easily destroy us mortals like insects.

Algus is heading northeast to Belghast Castle to deliver word to the Green Vanguard about Johan’s betrayal.

The others are eager to return to Belmora but I have my doubts. Johan betrayed us, he was a leader among the Green Vanguard and I do not know if I can trust them. Algus seemed to sense my unease and spoke softly to me before he left “Trust your friends”. I could only sigh and watch as he departed.

I will think about it but I don’t know

1437
We arrived back in the city to be immediately ripped off by the horse stables who demanded twice the going rate for having kept our horses longer than we had originally paid for. When this is all over I’m gonna steal my money back from that crooked son of a bitch.

Luci checked out the church and everything just felt wrong to him. They were hiding something and he seemed stunned by the ostentatious display of wealth rather than spending it trying to help people. Luci is a bit too idealistic, but he did find out Allen Pierce had arrived with a Cardinal, this was the base of his operations.

Alan Pierce, Johan, is dead now but the events he set in motion are still clicking away like a freshly wound clock. The cold war that has been in place is about to burst open and we need more allies to contain it. We finally spoke to the one person who should have been able to stop this but has been nearly absent while this city tears itself apart, the baron of Belmora.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. What we found was a very young man, not much older than we were who was completely in over his head. The city guards were all corrupt and he was having to pay off Barbas to maintain control. His Father had died and he had been unprepared to take command or keep the Sea Lords under control. No small wonder that Barbas had taken advantage of the situation and expanded his control.

We told him what we knew about the Sea Lords and he agreed that the entire situation was ready to explode. He could forcibly lift the embargo but that would cause Barbas to kill those still loyal to the Baron so we had to ensure their safety if we went that route. He also asked us to eliminate Alan Pierce and he was relived when we told him that was already done although we did not reveal how. He gave us quite a bit of intel as to the extent of Barbas’s operations including where the slaves were going.

Orthos is dead, Bart discovered he was working with us and killed him as a warning, Sostrand has disappeared, we believe him to be captured though we do not know where. Duman, the city guard captain made threats towards us, we know that half-orc is working for Barbas.

Xanaphus left to try and extract the old Hierarch Hemil of the Church of Ayora. When the Bishop arrived with Alan pierce the old Hierarch was displaced relatively easily. A corrupt man but one who may have information and broken now. She eventually returned, the Hierarch was safely with the Nephtites but his remaining alcoylyte had been killed by one Dumas’s men when they had been ambushed.

Sebrina told us about Al’Lim, the one committing the seemingly random murders. The man was possessed by something and turned into a psycho monster on us. We killed him but looking around we could tell that he wasn’t in his right mind and was being used, we kept hearing voices of something else there but couldn’t see anything.
I have this really sick feeling in my stomach, this man was an innocent victim and we were forced to kill him. This is the first time I’ve really killed somebody who was innocent and it just feels so wrong.

In the basement were tunnels leading all around the city, the markings were in infernal so whatever was controlling him was demonic in nature, I just wish I could have figured this all out before.

The tunnels would make for a way to evacuate the key people if needed but we needed a safe place to transport them to. Naturally the Church of Nephtas was the safest place. Funny how the halls of death were the safest place to remain alive.

1437
We had returned to Jarl and began the evacuation of the Rat’s Cellar. He understood what we needed and himself and his grand daughter soon were packed. He is a proud man and not one to take charity but to be forced to flee a home a second time? I slipped some gold into his travel pack, hopefully that will help him. I saw Ashryver give a half smile and he had a twinkle in his eye, I think he saw me do it but he kept his silence for which I was grateful.

Some who could not travel were directed to the church, the others to get out of town. Xanaphus and Orrin elected to provide escort for the evacuation, there was still rumors of the wyvern outside the city although we had seen nothing of it when we traveled back to Belmora, it seemed to only attack caravans lending credulence to the idea it was being controlled.

I wonder what the Sea Lords and the corrupt nobles thought? Probably good riddance to an annoying problem. I don’t think they gave any thought to why the rats were leaving the ship.

1437
We gathered our own army. Grog was the original sea lord and still had his forces. We spoke with Sebina and when we told her about the slave ships in her harbor she became enraged. Speaking about the monsters being created by Bart was also a hot point with her.

Hassan is also in so we are going after the entire operation tonight. Grog is moving after the slavers, Sebina is taking the fight to the labs. We are heading toward the church.

1437
On our way things went… odd.

I don’t know how Ashryver spotted him but he seemed surprised that he was spotted. A demi-god named Zuthul. A forgotten god of time. He was surprisingly helpful to us. Told us the gods have certain rules they follow and some are breaking those rules so he was there to push back a little bit. He gave us all a gift. A magical bow for Ashryver, a magical hammer for Braum, That funny lantern for Luci that we had before in the plane of the hungry dead. Some scrolls for Aderyn and I received a necklace.
Not just any old necklace, The stone that dangled from it held what looked like a green flame that danced like it was alive. This I realized I had seen in history books as the Eye of Tu’Mur, a warlock focus and one attuned with the infernal planes. This was a priceless gift and I was quite happy with such a relic.
He also told us he would answer a question from each of us. While the others asked about Bart or the Church I thought it over for a few minutes before asking something that had been bugging me for a while.

“Whose side is he on?”

The answer was simply “His own, and that is not his name”

It was a bit of a relief actually. I was beginning to think with all these issues with the Lock that my Patron might be part of it all and force me to act against my friends. If was I would have had to run as far away as I could before that happened. That I did not know his name was not a surprise. True names have a lot of power over demons and likely even the name he gave me was different than what others might call him, demons are nothing if not deceptive.

We left and headed in towards the city when I saw the Compass glowing, it seemed to be trying to guide me towards the golden district. Following the hunch we headed in that direction before it all went to hell.

The ground collapsed into tunnels just beneath the surface and swarms of undead began pouring out. Looking down the hill we could see this was all over the city. The mining had carved a giant arcane runes into the ground and now they were springing the trap.

1437
We took a rest in the alley bind our wounds and

We stopped nearby for a rest

I took shelter in a nearby building to rest and recuperate

Braum and Luci’s injuries were not too bad, we were able to bind them up quickly before we moved on

Ashryver is a dick, well at least that works, and is true

So we choose to take a break and rest for a while before we went to the Avatar.

(next page is half ripped apart with more things written and crossed out)

DAMN those gods or demigods or whatever!

Curse their stupid rules I know what the hell happened why can’t I write anything down straight? We stopped for a rest DAMNIT! How the HELL is that happening? I try to write and what I want to say isn’t what I write. Anytime I talk about the rest we took FUCK I can’t even use the right words when I want to use them don’t the gods have something better to do than enforce stupid rules? They mess with my journal but that can’t be half arsed to actually help us out and save the world. Who the hell made these people gods anyway that they spend all their time make sure nobody talks about that jeweler who makes the really nice silver necklaces with the little glass dragons hanging from them

Oh sure thats what you gods want to spend your time doing? Are you doing this just to piss me off? You all want us to save the world then you sit there and mess with us. Goddamnit you all suck, we are sitting down here getting hurt and injured while you play around with your fancy rules and when you do give us some help you have to be all cryptic and shit instead of telling us outright hey you need so and so to help you. You expect us to save the world from the mess YOU created with all your stupid rules then you use those same goddamn rules against us in some weird way trying to undermine what we do even if its just writing a damn journal entry, its not like we are just walking through and resting here on a regular basis.

Fine you win, I give up trying to talk about the rest we tookFUCK YOU!

(Part of a quill is broken off and stabbed into the page)

1437

(a torn page placed in between entries)
So what happened?

My mind if finally clear enough to write this down so I am placing it in my journal where it needs to be, so a record of their heroism exists.

We found the Avatar. He wasn’t happy about our intrusion back into his domain but we called out the name we read about (FUCK YOU!), “Mekushio” and that caused him to halt. We told him everything we could in the short time we had. He held out his hand and a sword formed from magma through the floor and into his hand. We were directed to stand close by, just being near something this terrifying again made me want to run but we did. A flash of power and again that sensation of my stomach freefalling and we stood outside in Belmora.
The undead freely roamed the streets and the dracoliche could be seen intermittently between the buildings as it flew around. The heat from the Avatar increased driving us a bit away from him as his rage seemed to take hold. He held up his sword and you could see the celestial energy pulse out from him, through us and expand throughout the streets. I have seen Luci turn undead but nothing on this scale. The undead as far as I could see were instantly incinerated by the power. He directed us to the church while looking skyward at the dracoliche circling above, he lunged suddenly with such speed he became a blur.
We turned and found our way in through a side door of the church, the main entrance being blocked. Inside we were beset by shadow wraiths but nothing we could not handle. The next room was an open courtyard area and a detection spell from Luci sensed something in there. Myself and Ashryver slipped up the stairs to the upper level where an open walkway skirtted the perimeter of the courtyard.

Turned out to be an attempted ambush. Dumas himself with a cleric was what Luci sensed. Up above archers were waiting to ambush. Didn’t work very well when myself and Ashryver jumped them. I heard yelling below including braum cursing Luci for charging in. I was nearly directly above them so I didn’t see exactly what happened but it was sounding bad. The archers up above were completely off balance. The one I fought fumbled his bow over the edge, tried to come after me but I had laid down some caltrops and ended up getting himself killed. Ashryver tried to lock one into a side room where the idiot tried to hide but the guy escaped, tripped and ashryver threw him over the edge before jumping over himself to land on the archer.
About this point I turned to the fight below and it was messy, Luci was hurt, Braum was bleeding bad, aderyn had taken a few blows, Dumas looked ready for more. I began unloading on him and his pet cleric while Ashryver charged in. Dumas was a beast, I saw Ashryver, Braum and Luci all get knocked out. His cleric was dead but he really wanted a piece of me and began heading for the stairs before Aderyn finished him off.
We recovered ourselves, nobody had been killed but we were weak. I was probably in the best shape but I was scared we wouldn’t make it.

Bit ashamed but I was holding out my fly spell in case I needed to run away.

In the main room we found the night sister herself. Bodies covered everything, Posted to the pillars and corpses laid out to form arcane summoning circles. Glowing lines of energy led out from the circle and out to both the windows and the pillars festooned with bodies. I don’t know where or how they got this many corpses. I’ve seen so many things that are just wrong I’m becoming numb to the horrors. Seeing people dead doesn’t shock me anymore, should I be worried? How much more of a step is it until I am willing to kill innocents to get what I want because I just don’t care anymore? I let one person die already but keep telling myself he was evil but am I any better?

She mocked us, told us we were too late, she had what she wanted and was opening the lock. Shadowy tenacles lashed out from around us and I found myself bound helplessly and all I could do was futilely struggle. I saw Aderyn try to shatter the shield protecting the night sister but to no avail, seeing the energy from the circle Braum began using his magical hammer to knock down the bodies from the pillars and I heard the windows shatter as the others attacked them. Church pews that were pushed out to the walls floated in the air and were hurled at my companions to try and stop them.

Through it all I was useless. I couldn’t free myself and I never saw Luci fall. He was struck by one of the flying pews and fell unconscious. If only I had seen him fall, I could have sent Ip’Nix to aid him even if I was useless.

I finally broke out and did the only thing I could think of and threw a fireball directly into the middle of the summoning circle to throw it off. The explosion threw bodies away and incinerated others only to find the circle was carved into the floor iteself.

It was then the Lock opened. We saw something then that was impossible. Malgav, the demon lord came into the material plane. He roared in triumph and the Night Sister laughed mockingly at us. I looked at her and said one thing to her “We brought our own monster”. The smile on her face was gone when the Avatar appeared. He said something then “You made one mistake, in this world you can be killed” before launching into an attack on the demon.

It was incredible to see. The battle roared but almost as suddenly this clash of titans came to an end with the Avatar’s flaming blade punching clean through the monstrosity.
Malgav fell and as he did the Night Sister had but a moment to scream “NO!” before his bulk crushed her.

It was then I realized Luci was dead. I saw him and thought he was okay, he couldn’t be dead, he had gotten hurt before and knocked unconscious but he made it. I don’t know what I screamed or if it was animalistic cry of hurt. I felt like I had been stabbed through the heart and couldn’t think or see straight at all. I cursed the gods and begged them in the same breath to bring him back. I even begged my service to any other power that could restore him to no avail. Braum pulled me away from him finally and I just stood there sobbing.

The archer, Ashryver was also dead, he too I did not see fall.

The Avatar was leaning against the wall, he seemed, smaller. Like he was drained. His movements were sluggish and he told us his time was done. He asked us to deliver his sword to somebody worthy. The flaming blade cooled and became a sword in a sheath wrapped in blue silk. Braum took the blade reverently and promised him we knew who to bring it to. The Avatar just nodded, slumped against the wall and seemed to disintergrate before our eyes. We also reclaimed the shard of the flame of war and I safely sealed it in the box. Maybe Algus will know what to do.

Malgav too half rotted, half disintegrated right there leaving only his horn behind. I had an impulse to take it and so I did placing it carefully into my pouch. I didn’t realize until later why.

1437
We were sheltered by Hassan. Grog and him had reconciled during the events, Sereena was dead. For all her fiery anger she had died as a hero and thousands of people survived because of her actions. The Baron died in the madness. Sostrand survived. Zot burned in his own slave ship. Bart and Barbas were long dead and being animated as puppets of the Night sister. The Hierach of Ayora died as well as the Hierach of Nephtias who took out the bridges to stop the undead..

Rumors were already flying about who caused it, the church could be expected to move in quickly to cover up and we had to leave before our involvement became known. Hassan put us on one of his smuggling vessels and we slipped out of Belmora with our fallen comrades.

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