Scarlet ribbons and emeralds

Session 1: Stavian Silva's Journal
6-8th of Sarren, 4711

The journal of Stavian Silva,
Fourth living son of Baronet and Baronettess Silva of the Verduran Estate, Taldor

6th day of Serren, 4711 – Sunday

Today should have been the last leg of the journey to Cassomir. The morning was alright, and the weather has been fine – Gozreh seems to be in a good mood, I suppose. But during the afternoon, when we finally drew closer to the city, everything became simply dreadful. The roads are now heaving with refugees yelling coarsely at one another, and with runaway children screaming and chasing underfoot – it quite put Sköll on edge, and eventually I decided to take the long way round, several miles away from the road, to avoid them. There would certainly have been a fuss if Sköll decided to help himself to one of those peasant brats. So we’ll camp outside the city tonight and at dawn we’ll head into Cassomir, and see if we can’t avoid the rush. For now, Sköll is happily crunching something which looks like it may once have been a pheasant, and I still have some fruit and dried meat from the forest.

The kingdom’s having problems, of course – you can hear about that even on the edge of the Verduran, and the little villages scattered through the countryside speak of nothing else. Between the spreading pestilence and associated famine, and the aggression from Qadira, it’s small wonder that people are flocking to Cassomir. The water offers them hope, I suppose, either north up the river to Galt, Kyonin and Druma, or else across the Inner Sea, to start again in a new land. It’s something I’ve been thinking of myself, to be honest. This past year I’ve spent no time at Father’s court at all, and I’ve felt the better for it. Perhaps leaving the Silva estate would be good for me, as it was for my brothers. Living under the cloying blanket of their reputation has been tedious to say the least – Guillermo told me when I found Sköll that, if a young wolf does not leave the pack, he must assume subordinate status or else be cast out. As in all things, Gozreh sets out the lessons for us to learn, if we can but understand them.

7th day of Serren, 4711 – Moonday

Well, what a bore. I arrived in Cassomir today, and headed straight to The Lich Heart, but it turns out that Theodrick hasn’t come, at least not yet. You’d think the old boy would turn up for the anniversary – after all, in a way it’s the day he saved our metaphorical posteriors, not that I’m particularly proud of that. Apparently he hasn’t been seen since six months ago, when he disappeared off to his father’s estate for one thing or another. Of course, as the son of the Baron of Andoras, I’m sure HE will inherit some estate or other for himself – not like the Silvas, who have more sons than entailments. Anyway, though it’s a fair travel up towards the World’s Edge Mountains, one would imagine he’d be back by now. It’s not like him to miss the big party.

It was good to see the others, though – the wall-like Narsius (both in physicality and intellect), Vanfink – still as dishevelled as ever, and Oswyn who appears to have been sleeping in the gutter for a few weeks. He’s a strange one – thin and knotted like an old trunk – apparently he’s also been hanging around the Verduran, though a little further west than I. Kyra was as enchanting and disinterested as always, though I must admit I thought I felt a change in attitude from Sendra. Maybe, with a bit of work, I might be able to persuade her…

And it’s good to see the other regulars, though in a way it seems like it’s been no time at all since I was here last – Inbar and Ulsves still as ever they were, and Aegild worrying about something as always. This time, apparently, her grandson has gone missing – a young boy called Uden. I’m certain he’s merely exploring somewhere, but I promised her I’d take a look. That’ll have to be tomorrow though – Narsius’s father’s wine has rather done me in for this evening, and my eyes are already closing of their own accord.


8th day of Serren, 4711

Well, at last something interesting has happened! I can’t say that it was thoroughly pleasant, but it was decidedly engaging and that’s something I’ve missed recently. We woke and breakfasted, and then piled into the sewer. Well, we’d all heard the stories – discounted most of them, of course. Unsurprisingly, there appeared to be no kraken, nor sleeping dragon, down there. The smell was dreadful, though, and the rats were worse – great, swollen things, almost as big as Sköll. I should probably mention that, through a slight miscalculation, I may have loosed an arrow into Narsius’s rear end. He took it with surprising equanimity.

After a while with no tracks from Uden we happened upon a chalk arrow, pointing back the way we had come. It was certainly enigmatic, but gradually it became clear that someone had laid a trail showing the way out. After some discussion, we decided to follow it – any notion of direction had to be better than wandering the sewers blindly.

The arrows led over a bridge (which was trapped, poor Oswyn) and down to a door with graffiti beside it. We followed the trail into a sort of pump room. There was a dead, old woman, there – though I’d never admit it to the others, I don’t mind writing in the privacy of my own journal that it made me terribly sad to see her lying there, so cold and nameless and forgotten. We found a locked chest, which we could not open, and continued on our way.

At length we located the next arrow, which indicated a hidden passageway. Travelling down a steep vent– Sköll was not thrilled, but proved very obedient – we entered a pillared room which displayed a new kind of masonry; flagstones where before muddy brick floors, reinforced stonework, and a colder, wetter feeling. I suppose that we must have been in the new structure, though at that time we did not realise it.

The symbols on the next door matched the ones we had previously seen in graffiti. Of course, I was the only one brave enough to interpret the graffiti to be a warning of a trap, and to take the risk to run over the corridor to find out. Of course, once I’d proved where the trap was, it was an easy job for Oswyn to disable it with his staff. The wood fell away to reveal a set of hungry-looking spikes. I flung open the door at the end of the corridor, to reveal a group of skeletons. The set upon me, but with Sköll and my shield together we managed to put most of them out of their misery. We passed through the corridors, though unfortunately we set off a magic trap – an easy mistake to make, as it was incredibly well concealed. Kyra was kind enough to drag me back and gave me a kind of potion – apparently I now owe her, but she knows me well – I pay my debts.

By this point, we had been hearing a rhythmic, repetitive thudding sound for some time, and at length we came upon the source. A group of four skeletons with shovels proved surprisingly difficult to dispatch, but perhaps we had learned something, for when we finally came across Alfonso, guarded by various animated skeletons and some kind of unnatural ghoul, we dismantled them with little effort.

Alfonso Cotonieros, we had learnt after finding his journal, is the one behind all this horror. He is known amongst the nobility for being eternally ill. Well, it seems that he has been pursuing private Necromancy research in order to find some kind of cure, and ultimately some answer to eternal life. The perversion of nature disgusts me, as does the systematic desecration of graves he has gone through to fuel his twisted practices. He tried to corrupt us, to corrupt the system of law, and plead for us to let him go. It was, after all, he who had captured both Uden and various other young boys. Though he had kept them relatively safe and unharmed, it is impossible to truly determine what his motives for them were. Even if one were to assume that he were telling the truth about his intentions towards them, this lack of malice does not assuage the danger and corruption which he has already created. He warned us of a creature, an orc ghoul, which he had resurrected and was utterly unable to control. Though he has locked it up for now, who knows how long it may remain contained. Meddling in such things is a transgression against Gozreh.

These were my thoughts, but it seems that others in the party were more easily swayed by financial considerations. Narcius and Vanfink were drooling after the concept of gold, whilst Oswyn and I both agreed that his actions should land him in gaol. Kyra was the swing vote but, though she supported my opinion, she said that she would change her mind if what Alfonso had said proved to be true – that he was buying a forgetting scroll to wipe the memory of the boys and then set them free. Well, after a certain amount of time, a mage came by Alfonso’s house, and it was proved that Alfonso had been telling the truth. Kyra’s vote was changed and, as I had given my word, we had to let Alfonso go. He doled out our money and stammered that he would leave for Ossiron, a place where necromancy is allowed and, from the information I know, probably encouraged.

When we arrived back at the inn, we received more bad news. It seems that Theodrick has sent an urgent letter asking for our assistance up in Asturas, to come as soon as we can. He’s certainly been less fun since he caught religion and became an Abadar-chaser, but we must go to his aid. Our meal was rather subdued, though Narcius seemed to be in good spirits as always. Everyone else was turning over the events of the day in their minds, and Sköll and I retired early, sick of the bustle of the inn. I already miss the solitude of the forest, and I feel this desire to impress those around me rising implacably. The peace and contentment of the woods is already slipping away.

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Session I: Vanfink's log

So, I guess I’ll be trying my hand writing one of these again. I certainly hope it fairs better than my last journal. And although I still think that vapor deposition of metallic ink from a steel rod through microtransmutative phase change still has merit, in retrospect I probably ought to have tested that on a random piece of paper first. And a random desk.

Ironic that many arcane researchers advice keeping a journal in case of loss of life, or loss of mind, but not many say anything about loss of journal. A copy perhaps? I wonder if the unseen servant can do it. Will try it later.

At least business have been going well. The city has been packed with refugees lately. Apparently some form of magical plague destroying all the seeds. Quite a bit curious about that but unfortunatly I can’t seem to get any information out of the refugees apart from that, yes, it is destroying all the seeds indeed. I bet the Academy know something more about it…

Ah yes. The Academy. I probably ought to make a proper journal entry about that but not in the mood right now. Need to collect my thoughts a bit about that. Plus, why waste precious ink on those old geezers when today is a happy day.
In a few hours the old Cassomir crew will be together again! I wonder what they have been up to.

======

It was nice seeing the old crowd again. Looks like we even got ourselves a little adventure. Fetching some noble spawns off the sewer network. This probably warrants some narrative expansion however, if I may counterpoint to myself, whatever was inside that keg (kegs?) Narsius brought is currently doing a number in my head. So I think I’ll be going for a nap instead, just in the off case I manage to wake up with something resembling a functioning memory tomorrow.

======

Well, that certainly turned out to be a little bit more than a simple fetch mission.

Entering an old city’s sewers can often be a bit of a messy affair, in many ways other than the obvious one. Although ourselves may have done a bit of exploring of the outskirts of the network it certainly is no place for any child. At first our worst fears seemed to be confirmed when we encountered some giant rats close to the surface. Certainly much closer than I ever remember in our childhood. At that point my thoughts were that the increasing population of the City had been putting extra strain to the network causing the inner “wildlife” to spill outwards.

Well something has certainly be putting some added strain in the network but “wildlife” is probably not the right word for it. For it was only a few levels deeper that we soon encountered the undead. Even having read about these arcane constructs in the books, one can’t help but gasp when someone comes face to skull with one of them. Animated skeletons!

Naturally. if somewhat questionably, my companions had no qualms moving even deeper into the obvious den of soul warping necromantic practices. With sword and magic at hand (probably a little bit more sword), we descented until we found the source of this necromantic infestation. Alfonso Cattonarieros.

At this point, we probably all expected the worst. Illegal Necromancer. Probably killing or experimenting on all intruders. Yet here is the twist of fate and story. He did not. In fact even as I am writing this the boys are probably dining with their families, very much alive and well. Alfonso turned out to be a scared man, who as far as we could tell had not actually harmed anyone. Gave the boys a scare certainly yet turned out to have even made provision for their eventually release. In fact, had we come a few hours, or a day later, our little adventure might had been cancelled by virtue of our services no longer needed. None having been the wiser regarding what lurked beneath the city’s graveyard.

But we knew now.

My companions certainly seemed a bit divided on what to do with Alfonso. But in the end, was he really a villain, or a (visibly) ill man that has been driven underground due to Cassomir’s necromantic restrictions? For me the answer was clear.

Necromancy is… an unfortunate subject. The mere inclusion of “necro” in the name alone causes ugly connotations to the layman, when it could equally have been named “life magic”. The school was meant to be about life, and life being the most valuable commodity, unfortunately the entire school seems to have been corrupted by those who would seek to control it. Thus the image of the average Necromancer appears to be nothing but the dark figure in the back, commanding countless murderous sword yielding minions, even as the nobles of the world do the same thing with the living every day. Or perhaps precisely the reason they are afraid of it, be it peasants or nobles.

Pity. Necromancy could have been a beautiful subject. Does the image of these empty animated stones holding tools really bring no other ideas to the mind of these people other than destruction? What could this do for the fields! Construction! What wonders could this sort of… necro-automation accomplish if only people, from the low, to the Academy could shake this superstition of trying to blame Necromancy of the evils of the world rather than themselves.

And I believe Alfonso knew. Knew that somewhere within Necromacy there is also the knowledge to make grey skin pink again. That a skeleton needs not hold only a sword, but a shovel as well. That Necromancy can be used to also reduce human pain than increase it. And these are precisely the people that need to be free out there in the world than lock him up in a dungeon.

I wish him well.

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