It was around the time that we spent the night at the ‘Lit Lantern’, the 37th of Autumn I think, when the dreams started to get really bad. Heath was having them, too – not a great introduction to the faith for a young acolyte! The image of the goddess – pale, sickly, and slumped over an anvil covered in purple and green goo was too much to bear, and led to sleepless nights, and I’d wake up in a cold sweat.
What was especially strange was the timing of the dreams. We’d just spent days in our last stop constructing a shrine to Artura, the centerpiece of which was constructed of gold – liquefied, purified, and blessed and reforged to transform it from the monstrosity of a statue it had been into a holy symbol of all that is good – and we had adorned it with the most precious jewel that we had, a very large star rose quartz gem. I’d even given up a very finely made smithing hammer to the blacksmith who’d allowed us to upgrade his forge to a shrine – it would serve as both now – and who appeared to be a new follower of Artura. All of this would be a great boon to the goddess, we thought… and so those awful dreams came as a shock.
It was only a day or two later of travelling east when our party heard the sounds of fighting coming from the woods to our right. We headed that way, and come to find out there was a mysterious group that had a hidden tower in there, and it was under attack by orcs. By this time the dreams had grown worse and Heath and I were getting terrible headaches during the day, but we were able to do our part and help the rest of the party drive the orcs off, although Beth sadly lost her canine companion in the fight. We talked to their leader, Jon, and learned that the orcs had been staging attacks from their encampment across the river to the north. An encampment, he said, that had once been a temple for the worship of Old Gods. I was tempted to take the fight up north then and there, but the orcs’ numbers seemed to be insurmountable, and Borean was following a lead that was leading him towards possible mountain tribe allies, so we moved on.
We came to the town of Saludra, which was holding a jousting tourney, the prize for which was an enchanted blade made from a metal with outstanding properties that was being mined near there. Grel and Morgan entered the tourney, and Borean gambled heavily on it, but Heath and I of course cared little about these things and tried to gather more information from the townsfolk. We found out that there indeed was a temple to Artura right where those orcs were gathered, across the river not far from Crennex Falls. Together with the marks on the orcs that were signs of the Dark Ones’ taint, we knew that it was that evil that was causing the horrible dreams and the pain to the goddess. But what to do? Artura is pragmatic, and would want us to return with a force capable of defeating the orcs and cleansing the temple, but the wait to gather allies was maddening. We swore in our dreams and prayers to Artura that we would return to her temple in force and set her free.
Further east we went, and I was happy to learn that the time they’d spent on the tourney had not been a waste, as Grel (with Borean’s help) had gotten the enchanted blade from the winner. The pain of the headaches was becoming less, which confirmed that it was the corrupted lost temple that was the source of our pain and the goddess’s. It was soon after that we had a very strange night – the dead seemed to rise to do battle near the village we were staying, and Borean took on aspects of the wolf to go join them! We managed to get Borean safely away from the ghosts, but this was a new problem we knew we’d have to contend with.
So with Borean now clearly suffering from the effects of a curse, the fact that we hadn’t found any of his potential allies and our travels taking us further away from the temple, things were looking pretty grim. Two things gave me hope, however. First, we were able to make contact with a group of mercenaries known as the Crossed Sabers, whose commander, Houe Gordan, laid out the rates for a much-needed boost to our numbers we’d need if we were to take on those orcs. Secondly, and most importantly, the warrior Morgan had come to me and said, “Wikton, I want to learn the ways of Artura.”
I was overjoyed. I knew that from at least since the time of the Doom that Priests of Artura had only been wandering priests, spreading the word as they travelled from town to town and at times taking on an acolyte, as my mentor Yereso had done with me. But always only one. Was this a sign that the goddess’s religion was destined to grow, to have a full priesthood as in the stories of days long past? Or perhaps Morgan was destined to become a Champion of Artura, just as Grel was a Tangadorin’s champion? Only time would tell…