To The Gates of Beyond

A Crow's eye view, letter to the council

To Lands-Warden Krueger,

Long have we walked the woods together old friend, and now I need you to deliver this message to the council. We both know how dangerous the world can be. It will soon become much more so. The council must be warned, or many innocents will die. You are the only one I can trust to see this through. Good luck.

To The Ruling Council of La Sald,

I can not leave these lands without discharging this final duty. For years now I have walked the woods of this region, helping where I could to make the land a safer place for both the people of your city and the farmers who feed it. In that time I have spilled blood, both that of our enemies and my own, in the support of this cause. In that time I have seen things in the land go from bad to worse.

I write to you today to tell you that what we have seen before was only the beginning. Your lands and your people are in danger. If you wish to survive you must take steps now to establish and secure your borders. The old bandit kingdoms to the north stir, and have been forged into a new Empire, and the goblinoids also march.

Know that this is no passing period of unrest, we stand in the face of the end of an age, and this terrible responsibility has fallen on your shoulders. You must prepare our land and people for war.

It is my hope that actions I am taking will draw some of the evil away from you for a time, but you must be ready in case I fail. Already agents of the Bandit Empire walk the streets of La Sald. Be wary, for the forces of fate are forging great and terrible works in the seasons ahead.

May the Lady of the Lands nurture you, and may the Mistress of Fate guide you to victory.

-Crow

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A Crow's Eye View, offering to the Ladies

an offering to the Godesses during a moment of respite from battle

I offer this to the two Ladies I revere, the one who chose me and the one whom I chose, the one in whose shadow I walk and the other in whose light I thrive.

I have tried my best to be a true student, to learn the lessons you have taught me, and I have come to understand something. In this world, my father and mother were taken from me before I could ever truly know them, but as a consequence I have come to know that my spirit has two mothers.

I am the arrow.

The arrow begins as life, a simple seed that grows into a tree that sends out a branch to bask in the light. Then it is taken and transformed in death into a tool to end life. The flaws are burnished out, the crown tipped with a razor’s edge of cold, biting steel. Together, unbounded life and cold death become an implement of the will of its wielder.

I see, in the arrow, a reflection of my soul. I see, in the arrow, the symbol of my spirit mothers united in purpose.

The Sorrow of the Gods has fallen to earth, and it has fallen to my companions and I to carry it. Let me fly straight and true, let me find my mark, let me fulfil my destiny, and allow the impact of my life to echo for good in the hearts of people everywhere for a thousand years.

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A Single Tear Falls...
The heroes speak with Olga, and learn of their destiny. Then it falls on them.

(In Progress)

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Lianca's Journal: Entry 4
More Mysteries (Part 2)

Day 2 (con’t)

As we arrived in Donnet, things appeared to be calm, and nothing out of the ordinary was happening. The innkeeper had no news of travelers or strangers, or strangeness, for that matter.

I explored the town, thinking about the words upon the mysterious note I had received, ducking in and out of the local oddity shops, and even investigating the inn on the other side of town, but there seemed no information to be found. After a quick ale, I soon decided to rejoin the others.

As I arrived, Aikarus was looking quite eager. He suggested that perhaps this “Iron Flower” could be the local blacksmith. A woman blacksmith. It made sense, and I doubt I would have thought of such a thing, if left to my own devices. Everyone decided to come with us, and we made our way down the street to the little blacksmith shop.

After a bit of awkwardness, and my reluctant uttering that “fate holds the secret”, recognition appeared in the blacksmith Kaelun’s eyes, and she suggested that perhaps we were looking for her mother, Hanada, at the apothecary shop.

Upon arriving at the shop, and light introductions were given, I found myself amazed at the sheer size and strength of this woman, Hanada. With a little hesitation, I again uttered the message, and then asked her if she’d ever heard of someone called the “Iron Flower”. Recognition filled her eyes, but she seemed hesitant to give us any details. I explained how the note had come to me, and that I didn’t know who had sent it, only that I had been asked to deliver the message.

Finally, with some convincing that our parents had some connection to her pre-retirement adventuring years, she admitted that “Iron Flower” was a name she went by long ago, and advised us to seek an old woman named Olga to the east. Having never met her, or knowing exactly where she lives, this might be a challenge. Hanada also had no advice on what to tell her once we arrive… so I suppose I’ll have to tell the story again. I certainly didn’t ask for this mess to show up on my doorstep!

Then came a loud knock on the door, and Kaelun’s voice could be heard far away, yelling a warning to her mother. Several uniformed people filled into the room, pushing their way past Hanada, and moving toward us. The older woman managed to throttle and push two of them out the door before slamming it shut, and the rest of us circled around the intruders.

Crow drew back his bow and shot two arrows, through two different people (what talent!), Hadjara unveiled her impressive weapons (Aikarus had asked her if she could fight, indeed!), and spells could be heard from both the dwarf and Aikarus. I drew my dagger and lept into the fray, pushing and shoving until at last, the intruders were down for the count… dispatched so quickly, it was almost difficult to believe it had even happened.

But I did have evidence of the attack. One of those bastards got a good nick out of my side, which I think a little rest will patch up. But DAMN it hurt… and ruined my nice shirt with an evil stain. Perhaps I will see if Aikarus can clean laundry as well as he can dry off our clothes…

Our attackers, those that lived anyway, refused to give us any information. We’ll be turning them into the local town hall, and then… fate-willing, will seek out this Olga.

They are most certainly after us, and we’re no closer to knowing who “they” are. Enemies are like artifacts. You’ll never find the one you’re looking for, unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. And that, is exactly what I intend to discover.

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Lianca's Journal: Entry 3
More Mysteries (Part 1)

Day 2 (con’t)

As I neared the battle, only two dwarves remained, and the holy priest of Melora. I readied my Shuriken, and sent one flying into the horde of skeletons, aiming sure and truly at one. Despite the damage I had caused, he turned to face me, and I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

Bright light flashed from the hands of the cloaked dwarf, and skeletons staggered backwards. Holy magic!

It was then, through the pounding rain, that I noticed motion upon a hill in the far distance. From what I could see, it looked like an archer, firing arrows at the abominations. Skeletons were dying, and soon their numbers were noticably smaller. Still, enough remained that I pressed on, and readied my throwing weapons once more.

From the distance, a man rode nearer, upon horseback, racing across the landscape. I watched in amazement as fiery magic flew from his hands, assaulting the skeletons from all sides. Undoubtably some sort of wizard, this man did not hesitate to join in the battle.

The skeletons were no match for us, and were soon dispatched, with only minor injuries to all those left standing. Sadly, several dwarves did not rise to stand again… and the two who had lived stood with somber expressions on their faces.

And then, from the sea, I saw a woman crawling across the sand. Soaking wet and exhausted looking, she tried to stand, and may have been able to do so on her own, but before she could, one of the dwarves (one in robes, strangely enough) helped her to her feet. I went a little closer to investigate, and as the crowd of survivors drew near to each other, we heard the wizard yell for us to take shelter at the shrine.

Once there, there was little to say. All of us were stunned.

The wizard dried himself off and then started lighting extinguished candles and braziers. When he spoke again, there was something familiar about his voice, and we stared at each other for a time before he said my name. It was then that I recognized him, a friend from long ago: Aikarus. And how he had changed. No longer a boy, but a man, and a rugged one at that. All I could do was blink in surprise, and he nodded. As usual, he needn’t explain anything… there would be time for that later.

Those who remained standing, tried to piece together what had happened. Seeing a Leviathan. A sudden storm (which was tapering off after only a few minutes of pounding rain—how odd) and a horde of skeletons, rising from the sand itself, from where?

The dwarves, the girl, and the ranger went to bring back the fallen bodies of the dwarf’s companions, and I turned to Aikarus, asking him if he’d heard of anyone called the “Iron Flower”. He had not, but he said it sounded like a name his father may have known. I showed him the mysterious note, and together we decided we’d best keep it secret until we were sure we could trust our new companions.

As the rainstorm passed, it was decided that we would go back to Wilesburg, get a good meal, and then press ahead to Donnet, to search for clues. Somehow Aikarus convinced them all that this would be a good course of action, despite not explaining why.

It was there at the inn in Wilesburg that I learned that the mysterious girl who had washed up on shore was a princess named Hadjara from the Sea of Gold. She had been sent away from her lands by her father, seeking to protect her life. Rathikos, the red dragon of legend, had attacked their castle.

The dwarf, Rurick, also known as the “world walker” vowed to help the princess return to her native lands, if that’s what she wished. It seems he’s dedicated to helping to find out the root of these sudden mysteries, and the others as well. Even the ranger, Crow, who has a strange sense of humor decided to come with us.

They seem like good people, and hopefully I can soon share with them what I know of this odd situation. Which unfortunately isn’t much.

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Lianca's Journal: Entry 2
Rainstorm, Leviathan, and Skeletons (Intro 2)

Day 2

I awoke early, and readied my supplies for the trip to Donnet. As I rode out of town, I noticed a dark, ominous looking cloud hovering over the sea. I slowed my pace to get a better view, and as I did, I nearly lost my breath, as I saw a dark monstrosity rise from the ocean.

I’m not exactly the best historian in the world, but anyone worth their salt knows what a Leviathan looks like, and that’s definitely what I saw. Although… in legend, and on my cards, a Leviathan is supposed to be white in color, not the shadowless black that my eyes assure me was no illusion.

It was then, to my horror, that I realized there was a large ship amongst the waves, and that the Leviathan was rising to attack. In an instant, the ship shattered before my eyes, and then the Leviathan went into the sea.

It was then that a great storm suddenly wrapped about me, winds as fierce as any pounding hurricane, and rain so thick that I could barely see two feet in front of me. Water permeated my clothing, nearly all the way through, and I knew suddenly that I must find shelter. Going all the way back to Wilesburg (even though only a few minutes away) or Donnet would prove exhausting, so I glanced about, looking for something a bit more temporary.

On the hill closeby, stood a holy shrine of Melora, and even though there were no lights, it looked to be a suitable shelter, and so I urged Ume toward the small beacon of hope. As I tethered my horse and made my way inside, I could see that the shrine was in need of repair, but it seemed to be keeping the rain at bay, at least enough that the water droplets wouldn’t be pounding into my skull any longer.

There inside, were two men, one older, some sort of holy man, and a younger acolyte, who looked as frightened as a small child might be of a giant spider. It wasn’t long before I saw what had them occupied. Both were watching an immense battle on the beach: a small group of dwarves were battling a horde of skeletons. In the distance, I could hear some sort of wailing… and my thoughts drifted to the sea and the shattered ship. Were there any survivors from the destruction the Leviathan had caused?

The dwarves were doing well at first, but soon the sheer number of skeletons had begun to overwhelm them. As the noble dwarves began to fall, the priest ran to help them, and I followed suit, unwilling to watch good people suffer at the hands of such monsters.

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Lianca's Journal: Entry 1
Leaving La Sald (Intro 1)

Day 1

An arrow flew through my window in my small shop in La Sald, and upon it was a hastily written note: “Tell the Iron Flower that Fate holds the secret. Lay low, they are looking for you. Leave for Donnet NOW. They are here. I will find you later.”

I scarcely had time enough to read it before there came a loud knocking from the shop front, and several voices were shouting, “City Guard!” With only a second to make a decison, I ran into the backroom to grab my pack, and headed for the back door.

Who exactly were “they” and who had sent me this mysterious note?

As I ran for the back door, several uniformed persons (of questionable origin, and certainly not City Guard) started to chase after me. Close at my heels, I (almost regrettably) pushed over my favorite dining chair to block their way. The distraction worked to buy me a little time, as they tripped over the obstacle and fell into each other.

Escaping through the alleyways, I made my way to main street and pulled a dark cloak over my head, hoping to lose them in the crowd. My distraction worked, and I headed straight to my stable to get my horse, Ume.

In no time, I had him saddled and I left town immediately, setting off for Wilesburg. When I arrived, there were no signs of trouble, and so I rented an room for the night.

Who were those people who were chasing me? I’ve not done anything to attract any unwanted gang attention. I’m even more surprised that I had almost no warning… Such strangeness leads me to wonder what hidden mysteries are going on in this town.

I hope that a good night’s sleep and an early rise should see me the rest of the way to Donnet, where I may find more answers.

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The Azure Tome, first entry
A knot in the weave

To whosoever reads this after I have relinquished the quill; the pages ripped out prior to this one were of no importance. They were but minor notes regarding a ritual that’s been weighing in my mind of late. I felt it important today to begin a new tome and this azure bound doeskin is the best I currently own. The following is the correct first entry – do not mourn the pages I removed as the contents will appear again in other works.

Donnet, Summer (OOC: ? what season is it?)

The strands of fate I have been sought to pick up have today verged of their own volition. While engaged in melancholy self meditation, my journey took me near to the place in a previous life I called home. Some buried sense of nearly forgotten filial duty led me up the steps of my father’s lighthouse during a rising storm to light the way for those who would need it. In the beam of that light, I saw one set of fate’s strands form the Sigil of Orothras wrought with five threads.

My own thread has rewoven with a strand I had nearly forgotten. A childhood friend, Lianca of partial elven heritage, has resurfaced. We share a bond of familial and childhood memory. Three new strands join the weave; Crow – a woodsman and archer of some skill of my father’s homeland, the World Walker of whom other references in other works can easily be found in greater depth, and Hadjara Bahur, a royal of the desert realm.

No random event can force such varied backgrounds, blood, talents, and birthrights together – no, I sense the Mark of Orothras – the arcane rune of manipulated fate is firmly on us now. In the surrounding threads are mighty forces that can bring to bear dragons, leviathans (a black one at that), secret societies and their agents, magic of the darkest and highest order, and even the undead. I cannot yet make out the weave of the tapestry from the single knot before my eyes. May Ioun give me the clarity of thought to see the pattern sooner rather than later.

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A Crow's eye view

Lands-Warden Krueger,

I hope this message finds you in good health. I write to inform you that I will not be making my usual rounds, perhaps for some time, as urgent tasks require my attention. Something dire is afoot and I fear a journey lies ahead that may take me seasons to complete.

For years now, things have been getting worse. Like in the story of Kord boiling frogs for his dinner, we have been placed in the pot when the water was still cool and refreshing and gradually the heat has been turned up. Except some of us noticed what was happening. The steady increase in attacks, the violence, the tempers… all of it getting worse year by year. It doesn’t take a black leviathan (a story you must hear in person to believe) to let us know that something is very wrong with the world.

I certainly don’t believe in coincidences, not on this scale. I suspect that the recent dramatic attacks (including a dragon attack on a royal house in Goldensea and the aformentioned leviathan) and even the death of the La Sald family line are all connected. Many would say the world is at the precipice, but I suspect it has already been pushed over.

I’ve seen the misery and suffering infliced on my home, my woods, and my people on behalf of whatever evil is driving this, and I suspect that this motley group of people is the opportunity I’ve asked the Gods for to put a stop to it.

May Melora’s strength bouy us up in this dark time, and may The Raven Queen guide your arrows. If I do not see you before this is all over, know that you have always commanded my deepest respect and admiration.

Sincerely, Crow

P.S.: Your rabbit stew is still inedible. For your men’s sake, just let Janess do all the cooking from now on.

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The Adventure Begins
The heroes toughest encounter - each other.

Location: Shrine of Melora near Wilesburg

The hurricane was relentless and appeared out of nowhere. Within minutes, the idllyic summer day was transformed, and no one could have guessed it was a herald for an even greater threat; the Leviathan. It shattered the lone ship that was caught in the midst of the hurricane like it was driftwood, its occupants tossed into the merciless waves.

On the shore at the shrine of Melora, Rurick II Blackforge, known by many as the ‘Worldwalker’, watched the attack by the black Leviathan on the ship and headed to the shore to see if he could somehow lend aid. Then from out of the sea and sand rose the skeletal remains of hundreds of people, swarming upon Rurick and his four guards.

At about this time, from opposite ends of the scene, two more were entwined in this conflict. Lianca Smith an exotic goods dealer on the run, sought respite from the wind and rain. There she found the priest of Melora and his acolyte intently watching the battle on the beach. The dwarven escorts fought valiantly, guarding their charge, and three fell before the horde was whittled down to a sizeable number. As the lighthouse lit up the sky, the priest of Melora raced down to the beach to aid the dwarves. Lianca followed, not willing to let the priest go alone while she waited in shelter. Crow, a huntsman and tracker, was on his way to the shrine when he noticed the attack on the ship and melee on the beach.

A burst of holy radiance from the Worldwalker almost seemed like the signal for the others to join, as the skeletons were pushed backwards through the sand or into the stormy waters. Lianca flung her throwing knives into the fray, as Crow began picking the undead off with dual arrow-strikes. The priest of Melora asked his goddess for aid, sending skeletons reeling back from himself as well.

As Crow and Lianca aid the dwarves from range against the undead, another soul becomes entwined with their destines. Aikarus Von Faulkin, a wizard and barbarian-friend, came galloping in on horseback after seeing everything from his vantage point at the lighthouse. With a burst of action, Aikarus conjured a flaming sphere into existence while blasting a trio of skeletons with an orb of pure force. Rurick was calling streams of white fire from the cloudy sky, and the priest and the dwarven guard were doing their best to protect him and themselves.

Two skeletons break off from the dwarves and head towards Aikarus’ direction, and one manages to graze his leg before he mutters an arcane word and claps his hands together. The peal of thunder that escaped his hands seemed to come from all around them in the storm, and the two skeletons that assulted him were blown asunder by the force of the spell. With but a thought, Aikarus’s flaming sphere was causing havoc to the skeletons around it. Crow fires a two-fang strike into a single skeleton, and it falls into a pile of bones, never to rise again. Lianca retreats from the pair of skeletons advancing on her, only to turn around and fling a throwing knife at one of them. The skeleton she hits spins in a circle, thrashing out wildly, crumbling the other skeleton that was with it.

(in progress)

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