Norry’s Journal – Winter 59AD

I have been wandering these passageways for hours.  There was no way I could even climb back up that wet muddy slide that lead me down here.  The hole in the earth I chose to explore decided to swallow me up. I had no idea it would be slick with mud.  

I have been keeping to the shadows and trying to stay out of site of the strange creatures that prowl these caverns.  I saw several and it is just now occurring me to start keeping track. The next one I see I will make better notes. In the meantime I need to find a way out as its almost dinner time.

What luck! There is a city down here!  Where there is a city there is most likely a pub. The city is strange with buildings with impossible doors and windows.  I will scribble a sketch before I move on. Although, I don’t smell any cookfires I was able to hear some conversations in a language I recognize.  I have spotted a group I hope they are friendly.  

I have a new friend!  He is called an Illum and looks like a walking mushroom!  The people I met are friendly but they already put me to work in inviting more interesting creatures to dinner.  I hope they have enough for all of us. A couple quick sketches and I am off!

The people who live in the city have no eyes!  Well they do but they are healed over. They like to sing in the deep low humm.  They don’t say much else. Illium said they are all form the creator. They didn’t want to come to dinner but they are going to help us in our travels.  They gathered together to sing to a rock and it somehow activated a teleporter.  

WOW!  Our friends transported us to another location in the caves.  The ilium are fighting with some other creatures that are not letting them grow.  It sounds like one of those silly border dispute the tallfolk are always on about.   It makes me sad that its even like that this far underground.  

We fought some of these multi legged creatures and drove them off. We have some great warriors that took care of the situation.  They would bite and grab trying to call us away one by one. Horrible things! Our Cleric was able to talk to one of the beasts. We were very close to the matriarch of the whole…..nest? Who knows what to call these things?

After some more talk the group wants to go back and gather the Illium to back and fight the queen.  I think this is a good idea. Unfortunately, the way back is blocked from a cave in. We doubled back and when we did we spotted an old hidden door!  There could be such interesting things behind it. I want to jump in there and get it open. There are some more experienced in the party that are giving it a go.  WAIT! They are waving me over! I hope they let me try to get it open! Good think I brought my lucky crowbar! More later……

Note from Beth – Under Tuluk – Winter 59AD

Dear Teàrlach,

I did not sleep so well last night. it has been a long time since I’ve seen your face and I am sorry I left you back home. I have so much I need to tell you. Do you remember the tales of the under dark your mom told us when we were kids? I think I am there and if I am not, then we are even further in the earth than that.

We fought demons along side a creature called an illum. He helped us find who is called the creator. This creator revealed an ancient weapon wielded by the gods. That’s when I heard her voice again. The lady from my dreams I used to have when I was a little girl. Her voice came to me When the creator pulled the weapon out of the ground. Her voice came from my coin purse of all places telling me about this weapon.

She said she wielded it along with Atura, Tangadoran and other gods as well. I really hope I spelled their names right. I would hate for Grell to school me on the proper way to spell his gods name. He can really go on about that. But It was like an out of body experience. I saw myself reach for the blade the same time our paladin did. I’m not sure why he let me take it, nor do I know what made me reach for the blade in the first place. But when it was in my hand I watched this sword turn into the most elegant dagger I’ve ever seen.

When we all went to bed I looked through my coin purse and found an odd looking gold piece. Nothing like I’ve ever seen before, it looks as old and elegant as the dagger I am holding. I wonder if they are connected? I promise I will write home soon more often and I will mail this letter as soon as I get back to the surface.

I miss you and will be home soon,

Your sweet Beth.

Wikton’s Thoughts – Under Tuluk – Winter 59AD

Forward, must keep going… forward…

Wikton’s thoughts drove him on in the dim light, his labored, almost gasping breath ringing in his ears in the otherwise deafening silence. His body cried out for rest, he and the rest of his party had trudged through another 12 hours of walking today, and he knew there were many more days like this to come until they could escape this hellhole, but they dare not stop; their food and water supplies were already dwindling. The Goddess could, miraculously, provide them some degree of sustenance each day even here, but it was not enough. The air was so thick, and he had become so used to it after so long, that he thought he would feel like he had been reborn if he ever were able to breathe freely again.

The landscape was unchanging, although no less strange than when he’d first seen it – rows of structures made of perfectly worked smooth stone on his right, and the rock wall on his left stretching up well past where their light sources could reach, leaving only blackness beyond. He knew what would come next: structures in a random pattern built of piles of rocks, and even more days of endlessly marching past them. Every now and then, he thought he spied what could be one of those rock creatures they’d seen earlier, but they mostly left the party alone, and so his thoughts drifted back to the image that was still blazened on his mind…

An Elemental. Such a strange creature, and yet obviously intelligent… and powerful. Not someone you want to cross, and we almost did by bringing the Illum there, and because he’d changed so much by being around us when we had to use violence… “Killum”, I call him now… not sure the Goddess approved either, but as I told them, we’d meant no harm…

The Goddess.  At the thought he remembered how she had shockingly appeared as well… After having gone through a space of blinding light to find the Elemental, the strange spherical mix of vegetable and mineral, and then seeing the  artifact they were seeking revealed after so long, only to then be confronted with the goddess Artura appearing right before him was… overwhelming.

Well, *I* saw the Goddess, Grel saw Tangadorin. And the artifact weapon looked different to each of us too. Where Grel so a sword, I saw a hammer forged from the finest damn masterwork smithing ever… and Beth saw a dagger…

Wikton glanced ahead at the woman ahead nimbly stepping over a rock, a black dagger at her belt. He didn’t know what strange twist of fate had led the professional thief to reach out and grab it, a weapon forged of elemental power…

I wonder if she realizes the cost? She follows no deity that I know of. Would she have heard the same warning that Artura gave to me? In addition to drawing the enemy’s attention, these weapons can only truly be used against the Dark Ones if the wielders are willing to go on a journey to become deities themselves, and Goddess only knows what that means for us. Other than our deaths, of course, that much seems certain.

Wikton strained to take a deep breath and firm his resolve. He glanced down at his upturned hand, the scar shaped as a perfect circle seared into the palm. 

Yes, the pact was made, and it will be fulfilled. We will save the Illum from those creatures per our bargain with the Elemental, then we’ll free the prisoners, restore Artura’s temple, find those other weapons and do whatever it takes to use them against the Dark Ones. Anything can be accomplished if one has the will to keep swinging the hammer.

Forward.

Letters from Grell – Under Tuluk – Winter, 59AD

Jorann my friend, I do not know if this letter will reach you, but we have found the weapon! We now must try to return to Enonia. I can only hope that you have the second weapon…

Let me tell you what happened.

We had encountered a new race called the Illum. They are a fungus based race who are all connected. The Illum are One. A hive mind they work harmoniously to grow.

We explained to them that we had seen a grouping of the Illum apart from the group. They could not understand how they could be separated, so they agreed to have one of them accompany us to see how this could be.

As we journeyed on to find the Sword, we reached a place called the Center. The Illum could sense his creator and was reluctant to join us, however, he did follow. We met the Creator. It was an Avatar of a powerful god! He was very upset that we had brought the Illum to him, and further upset that we had exposed the Illum to ideas that should not have been introduced to him. 

He told us that the Sword was near, but there was no way we could get to it. When I asked if there was any way we could convince him to help us get the Sword, He agreed to help if we would accept a Gais to help the Illum. We all agreed, and the Creator brought the sword to us!

As I reached out to grasp it, Tangadorin appeared and explained that the sword was an Elemental creation, and could banish beings to their proper plane, but could only be wielded by a God. He had once been human and had had to become a God to wield it in the past, and the same was true of Artura and many others. 

While I have no wish to become a God, I was resolute as this is the only way to defeat the Dark Ones. But as I closed my fist upon the hilt, the chaotic thief Beth had heard as well that this could make him a God, and predictably decided that he had to have the Weapon.

He also grasped the Weapon. I would have taken it knowing that the thief would never fight a Dark One, nor if he was even willing would he be likely to be able to hit it.

However, Tangadorin told me that I must not fight for it. So, I did the only thing I could, I released it. 

At first I thought our last hope was gone, however, the Weapon is a living thing, and can’t be owned. Tangadorin explained that the weapon will choose who and how it is used. Further he explained that we will all be needed in order to fight the Dark Ones. 

So, hope is not yet lost. We have the weapon. It will choose who and how it is used.

I have no doubt that the weapon will be used by all of us at one point or another. 

We must now complete the Gais of the Illum’s creator so that we can make our way back to Enonia.

Do yur best to retrieve the broken sword. It will be needed!

Farewell well my friend, I hope to see you soon.

Eadwig’s Journal – Horrors of Tuluk

30th day of Autumn

What was once a black and white conflict is now introducing shades of gray. It is difficult to determine what is good. There are Dark Ones and Demons at war with each other, deities of the Old World combating a Reign of Light, and the realms of mortals caught in the middle of it all.

We remain underneath Tuluk, searching for a magical sword. Our provisions continue to dwindle. A winged fiend bade us destroy a gem, but the gem revealed itself to be sentient and wanting us to aid it. Like unreliable mercenaries we changed allegiance and decided to not shatter the gem. Now we flee the wrath of the winged fiend through endless tunnels in this forsaken underworld.

Indescribable horrors assail us. Creatures casting spells that put us to sleep, winged and scaled creatures marching as soldiers with spear and shield. Steel fails us and only blessings and spells keep the enemy at bay. During a melee I was laid low and awoke later from divine provision.

The path behind us has caved-in. The gem still guides us further and deeper into the underworld, and we obey.


(Editors Note: This was such an evocative bit of writing that I turned it into a spoken word piece on my “Dungeon Master’s Handbook” podcast. You can hear the episode here: https://anchor.fm/the-dungeon-masters-handb/episodes/Episode-27—Horrors-Under-Tuluk—A-Players-Journal-eak8ko

Journal of Eadwig – 44th day of Autumn, 59AD

44th of fall

I was certain Death put his hand in mine and said “now”. Not so. It was the hero, Wikton, which kept me in this mortal realm. Religion is not a vibrant part of the town from which I hail, but I have no doubt in his proclamations. I was wrong to despair, for Fortune favors the bold and it has been with me.

Continuing with religion, the knight Sir Grell demonstrated a ritual of the faithful to Tangodoran. The performance was complete with light works like my eyes have never seen. What interaction was between him and the heavens is unknown to me. Perhaps he heard a call for aid as not long after the conclusion of his rites we spotted a column of smoke.

Glorfindel, the elven ranger, led us to a farmhouse beset by goblin raiders. Large and burly goblins, small goblins, and malevolent wolves set themselves against us. In the melee, I was unhorsed and the damned creature bolted. Other than looking a fool, we were able to defeat the goblins and rescue a girl named Amelia. I am saddened to write that the goblins murdered her family.

We stopped in the hamlet of Midwell while continuing to Whiterun and delivered Amelia to her aunt, Krissy. The aunt was not discreet in displaying her displeasure in Wikton and Morgan’s paganism. While this occurred a few days past, I can state now with all certainty that the woman is wrong to doubt their pagan faith. Differences in faith are becoming a reason for irritation amongst those we meet. It is only a matter of time before we come to violence over the matters of the gods.

Leaving Midwell we finally entered a valley and could see the Sithasten mountains. Soon, we came upon Whiterun fort and the camps of the Crossed Sabers and Violet Adders. Chaos surrounds us. Major Takenson brought to our attention the orc to the north, giants to the east, goblins to the south, and a sickness has infected this fort. We journeyed to the source through the tunnels under the fort. It was during this time that I almost came to know death. Words do not exist to describe the thing in the halls. Grell, Morgan and Glorfindel destroyed the chaos spawn. My memory is not right for what else occurred as Morgan mapped the tunnels as I was out of sorts.

I was ready to abandon the quest, whatever it is. Reflection has made me think with caution. While I know safety is not guaranteed, more so now than ever, I am ready to take up my sword and continue.

Letter to Jorann

Jorann,

If only you could have been here, oh what fun I have had.

We were on our way to Saluda, where we had heard that there could be some of this mysterious metal for sale. I had hopes of purchasing a sword or maybe even a dagger so that I could reveal this unknown lore back in Enonia. Perhaps I could gift the dagger to the Marshal so that many would see it and know of its existence.

We received word that there was a group of barbarians about 10 days ahead of us. We hoped to catch them so that Borean could learn the whereabouts of his people. We also heard that there was to be a Tourney near Saluda. I was quite eager to participate, but we didn’t want to lose the barbarians. We stopped for the evening at the gathering for the Tourney, and we saw the grand prize. It was a sword made of this mysterious metal! But more than that, I could feel that the blade was Magic!!!

I so wanted that blade, I can’t tell you how disappointed I was that we had to leave it behind. But even Borean recognized that this could be important and he agreed that I could try my luck.  I had ever Jousted in a tourney, so I was a bit nervous, but we soon found out that the tourney was only open to the nobles and knights. Again I was disappointed.

But Borean came to the rescue, he proclaimed me a knight, Sir Grel of the Wolf Clan. As he is acknowledged as a King, I was allowed to participate.

I made a fairly good showing for myself, and for Tangadorin. I made it to the final eight, but I was felled by an excellent hit. The winner was a member of a mercenary group called the crossed sabers. Borean had been betting on the outcomes of the matches, and had made a huge profit.

We met with the winner that evening, and Borean offered him all the profits, plus a bit more for the sword. He agreed, more from Borean’s promise that it would be used to fight the Orcs I Think.

Borean gave me the Sword! With it I am sure that I will be able to spread the word and fame of Tangadorin even better than I have in the past.

Travel Journal of Eadwig (Au 37 – 41, 59AD)

37th of fall

               The fog and mist brings worry of bandits. I have joined company with the heroes on the road to White Run Fort. They pursue band of barbarians of which one of the present company, Borain, claims to be a king. Fortune is with me if the claim proves true. Stopped at the hamlet of Bogdale and spoke with locals in the Worthless Cat, the tavern. The barbarians passed through on their search for the wolf and bear. Heard rumor of a tournament hosted by Lord Nucid. Once I have gained the funds I will purchase a horse and lance and participate in such affairs. The locals also mentioned that a mercanry company by the name The Crossed Sabres is but a few days journey from the hamlet: about 3-4 days between Salude and White Run Fort.

38th of fall

               The morning passes with the hero Beth training a dog. The stories told of their deeds painted different pictures in my mind now that I sit and watch them.

We depart the hamlet. A battle identified south of the road on which we travelled found us exploring a small wooded environ. Within the woods, orc were identified laying siege to a tower. The heroes arrayed into two groups, one for each of the orc units, of which I joined the left alongside Borain. We joined the battle and decisively destroyed the enemy.

               Among the allies, all bore wounds from the orc. The only death was a dog. Fortune truly favors the bold as we were each gifted 10 royals. I have never set eyes on orc until this day, but those in present company state that these orc are disfigured.

               The tower defenders were lead by a man named John. All were dressed and armed well. They were a company of merchants and explorers. Their proximity to the river made this reasonable.

Continued east and came upon the tourney.

39th of fall

               The tournament was a spectacle. The king of the heroes accepted another hero named Grell as a retainer. The king the sponsored Grell as a knight who went on to win several rounds of the joust. With such capable knights how can the heroes be stopped? By tourneys end, Lord Collins of the Crossed Sabers emerged the champion and was granted a fine blade. The king then purchased the sword for his champion, Grell. I have never witnessed such largesse.

40th of fall

               We leave the tourney in a misty morning. By late morning, we ride around the crater city of Seluda and continue our journey travelling northeast. The woman, Beth, buried her dog that was slain by the orc at the tower.

               Later we arrived at the hamlet Hillgreen and stayed at a wayfarer’s inn. The locals speak of a battle with orc in the early part of summer. Something strange lingers as the battle is heard at night, and mine own hears heard it. The king of the heroes took ill and bolted from the inn as we slept. We all gave chase and found him battling the spirits of the past. I stood dumbfounded as the king was netted by Morgan. Secured, we left the haunted battle-field and returned to Hillgreen

41st of fall

               Dawn arrives and we awake outside of Hillgreen. By evening, we are five days from the mountains and arrive at the Fort of the Crossed Sabers. Their commander, Hal Gordon, was welcoming.  He confirmed that Borains people travelled through the fort but a couple of days ahead of us. One of the travelers was ill, but a cleric was able to cleanse the ailment.

My eyes were still in shock from the ghosts of Hillgreen as Grell rode his horse into the sky and flew away. Such a feat was unexpected and I remain amazed as I write this.

Letter to Jorann

Jorann, time is short and much is happening, so I will be brief.

A great battle has been won. We found a town that had been controlled by the orcs. Apparently they had kidnapped the whole town’s women and children, and were forcing them to help the orcs with their raids. We uncovered their duplicity and promised to help them free their people.  We crossed back into Irecia while the townsfolk prepared to follow.

We attacked some scouts, but one got away and warned them we were coming. They were prepared and quite numerous. Things looked bleak, but just in the nick of time, the townsfolk caught up with us, and with the reinforcements we defeated the orcs and freed the townsfolk. Much plunder was taken. We took some gold to pay for our expenses and vowed to turn the rest over to the Marshal.

A glorious battle! I will report again soon.

May Tangadorin’s light shine upon you always,

Your servant in His Light,

Grel

The Siege of Hamarholde

As the hammer fell upon the metal with a resounding clang, Wikton smiled.  He’d missed doing this regularly over the long days of travel, so he was fully enjoying his time working here at the forge in this small village of Hallisworth. It would be just a simple horseshoe when it was completed, but what was being created mattered little. The act of creation, of molding the iron with anvil and tongs and hammer, was its own reward. It energized him even as it calmed and stabilized him, bringing him to a state that others achieved only through deep meditation.

Idly, he wondered if those men they had caught kidnapping hippogriffs earlier would consider a new vocation and take up blacksmithing. The one that was hammering away at the lock with the rock they had left him, at least – would he feel the joy and fulfillment that came with landing that last hammer-like blow that gave him his freedom so strongly that it would set him on the path? Wikton knew that it was unlikely, but he also knew that miracles sometimes happened, and they certainly couldn’t return to what they had been doing after what he’d done to their hippogriff-calling machine!

His host, the blacksmith that owned this forge sat nearby, resting. Torrin was a follower of the Light, but he had been good enough to let Wikton work at the forge on some of the simple items that were needed in the village, and he had been curious enough to ask about the iron holy symbol hanging from Wikton’s neck, and the Goddess Artura. As the blacksmith wiped the last of the sweat from his brow, he leaned back with a heavy sigh. Was boredom setting in? Wikton wasn’t much for idle chit-chat, but maybe he’d like to hear a story? Wikton asked him as much.

“What have you got?” said Torrin.

“Have you ever heard the tale of the Siege of Hamarholde?”

“Do tell.”

Wikton paused, thinking back to all the times when his old mentor Culver had told him the tale. He tried to recall all the details, and as he began, he went back to hammering. He tried to match the tone that Culver had used, the intriguing way he had of drawing listeners in to his stories. He used the hammer to keep pace as he told the tale, and to punctuate a sentence when necessary.

 

“In an age long past, at a time before Artura and Vanir had risen to godhood, there stood a city far to the east. Today, that city is known simply as Femo, but back then it had another name: Hamarholde.”

“Warlord Vanir ruled the city, but for years its people had been suffering through attacks from orcs descending upon them from the Sithasten Mountains. Vanir wanted to put an end to this for good, so he gathered an army of the finest warriors in the land and planned an expedition into the heart of the mountains to break the orc tribes and scatter them to the winds.”

“His wife, Artura, was a master blacksmith. She shared her techniques with the other smiths of the city and under her guidance they forged new weapons for their army, and when that army was ready to ascend into the mountains they were armed with some of the sharpest battleaxes ever created.”

“Artura remained in Hamarholde to rule in Vanir’s stead. The army charged into the mountains fearlessly in the hopes of a decisive victory. All seemed well in Hamarholde until word from scouts arrived to tell Artura in the city’s longhall: Their former ally Warlord Osgar had betrayed them, and was marching on them from the south with a huge army of his own, to take the city while it was defenseless.”

“What could be done? The enemy would arrive soon. There was no army left to defend the city, and no allies nearby to summon. But Artura showed no fear. She instructed all the smiths of the city to begin crafting, and rallied the entire city in support of that effort. Inspired smithing apprentices worked as hard as full smiths, so that every forge available was used. Artura’s inspiration was so strong that every man, woman and child assisted the smiths, anything from simply speeding resources to where they needed to be, to working closely to help at the forge, even those who had never swung a hammer before. The townspeople brought everything made of metal that they could to be melted down and reforged, and the work continued straight through the night. It is said that even as Artura led the effort, the sound of her hammer never stopped ringing out as she worked through the night.”

“And so it was that when Warlord Osgar’s army approached the gates of Hamarholde, 10,000 shields had been forged by the townsfolk within. Osgar ordered his archers to fire a barrage of arrows into the city, hoping to force a quick surrender, but the shields protected the people and animals from harm. When no surrender came, Osgar tried to have his army ram through the front gates, but a barricade created by linking steel shields was reinforcing the gates, and they held. The army tried to scale the walls with ladders, but the guardians at the top of the wall, protected by people carrying steel shields to block arrows and spears, were easily able to push the ladders aside.”

“Frustrated but determined to take the city, Osgar lay siege to Hamarholde. Inside, Artura organized the people to work their crafts so that every morsel of food and drop of water could be stretched as far as possible. Day after day, Warlord Osgar’s army tried to penetrate the gates and walls, even as they were trying to starve them out, but the barriers held strong.”

“Finally, just as the last of the food stores were running out, Vanir and his army of warriors returned. Warlord Osgar’s forces were crushed between the hammer of that army, and the anvil of the walls of Hamarholde. When Vanir learned what Artura had accomplished, he ordered the skalds to spread the tale, and her deed became known as the First Miracle of Artura.”

 

After the tale, Wikton completed the work on the horseshoe and spoke with Torrin a bit more. As it was reaching the time to part, the blacksmith said, “You know, I wouldn’t mind having a blessing of Artura on the forge if you think it would help with business.” Wikton smiled slightly and nodded. He went to stand near the anvil, turning to face the hearth and as much of the forge area as he could. Holding his hammer-shaped holy symbol in his right hand, and touching the forge with the palm of his left, he said solemnly:

“I give thanks to She Who Guides the Hands of Blacksmiths. The Hammer builds, the Hammer defends, the Hammer breaks the chains of oppression. Through her guidance, the warrior is equipped for battle, the traveller fears no road, and the artisan builds wonders. The goddess greets the wicked and wrongful with Justice, the oppressed and downtrodden with Freedom, and the community and family with Love. May She bless this forge and all who work it, forever.”