The Darkening Tide

Bandit Camp Map


Keep Out!

I’ll never understand the need of so many namegivers to write down their most private thoughts and their deeds. I don’t need a record of those I’ve had a dalliance with or swatted like the parasite they are, no. All of that is kept neatly in my head, they’re my secrets, my reasons. Do I think that the words “Keep Out” will keep my journal private? Do I think that the lock that I’ve placed around it will keep my thoughts from others? No. Though they may be my “friends” and companions, but they’re still women and most women…are nosy creatures, especially the human.

“I feel a rumbling in my spirit, like an beast wanting free.”

No, there will be no record of my days. But I will gladly sketch while the others pen their privacy to the pages, I can’t look like I’m doing nothing. Let them think I’m writing. But from here on out the pages will predominantly sketches.

The Furnace
The rain. Passions help me, I love the rain. It falls gently now, here today in Buckland. A week has passed, and it has rained softly since the creature fell. I am thankful. The filth of that creature’s existence is slowly washing away. It will never truly be gone, however. Not while we that yet live still tread this earth. But still, it is good that the water falls. Drop by drop, the old mill will be cleansed. The filth of its memory still remains, however. My memory of it is still as raw and expose as the wounds on the swordmaster. Brave one, that is. I will not say I understand the hu-mans, but that one, at least, has my respect. She would make a great orc. I have no measure of knowledge of this beast, except to say that it was heinously powerful, and entirely shrouded in mystery and death. Of only one thing I am certain, though: it was merely a pawn. I am not sure what the others know of it, little has been said since the attack. The villagers, those pitiful few that remain, have had more to say than we. They, at least, had barely more than their imagination to describe the horror of what was. We, the damned souls who took combat to it, will likely be branded forever by this experience. For good or ill, I cannot say. But it was not more than a distraction, a token of malevolence left by a dark master. I am sure of it. I am not even sure I should divulge of it to the others. The alliance holds flimsily as it is. The others did not see the marks in the air, the signs of nethermancy that hung cloying in the air like a web of pain. I could not read them. Were it not for my astral sight, I could not have seen them, much less understand them. What would they say if I told them I see it still? Weakly, dimly, but still. I cannot trust them. Not yet. They are still like angry horses, ready to stamp and run. They have much to learn. As do I. I am not without need of experience. If I have learned anything from this experience, it is that I am pitifully unprepared for dealing with constructs such as this on my own. They are so powerful. So corrupt. So anathame. If I am to study this further, I must rely on the others. And they will need me. I know this to be true. We have not much to go on. We have more questions than answers. Half of everyone we have come across has disappeared. We tried to help a small girl in a farm short of the village. We could do little but pander to her. We fought and killed the beast, and when we returned, the girl is missing. We lose more girls in a week than some tribes lose all year. Some In the village have taken to interacting with me. They are not unwelcome, but I do not have much to offer them, so I wonder what makes them come to me for answers. I have not completely abandoned my tribal ways. I still wear some of the trappings of my old ways. My family’s fetishes still cling to my tunic. I wear the animal bones of my kills. I am not as far removed from my past as I should like. The longer I chase these horrors, I may never be. My arcane studies are what they are, and it is obvious to those who know I suppose. But the villagers, I am just a strange orc, bit less mysterious than the horror they have survived. I hope the best for them. They are worthy of protecting, I suppose. Echo said as much. She has little to say. Not for her to make a loud noise to be heard. She would like to go unnoticed. I do not know the full meaning of her name, it is a nickname, and she has not seen fit to divulge its importance. Maybe it has none. But these things, it has been my experience, do not happen randomly. But there is time. We must leave the village soon. I hope it rains.
The Horror of Buckland Village
from the journal of Poe

It seems that father, and even Xola, were both correct. I cannot merely stand aside and leave The Story to remain in its purest form, untouched and unaltered by my own hand. I am an active player upon this stage and must play my part in the tale. I had believed myself apart (not a part) of the legend that we had become entwined and that was nearly Tuck’s undoing.

Truth be told, I thought we were all good as dead.

Never before had I known such fear. We knew that it was in the mill. Somewhere in that dark, dust-choked monstrosity of a building lurked a creature of pure malevolence. A beast that had turned the denizens of Buckland Villages into dark, twisted parodies of themselves. A monster that lived to kill and torture and corrupt. And we were walking into its lair (or prison or whatever) without so much as a plan.

Nearly the entire village had perished by the time we had arrived, and a majority of those still living were beyond any help we could bring. In particular, the sights (and smells) we discovered at the smithy – watching the people mindlessly continue to work while that very work cooked them alive – will haunt my dreams forever.

Despite the horrors we had encountered thus far, the group (for the most part) seemed eager to take the fight to the potential source of the problems. While I commend their courage, I feel that luck (or perhaps The Passions themselves) had more to do with our survival than any skill in battle – though Briarose proved far more fearsome than I would have believed possible. Her savagery was a thing of beauty, a force of nature.

The beast waited for us to climb to the second floor, placed itself between the exit and ourselves, then promptly tossed Echo and myself off the balcony. The landing was bone-jarring and I could hardly believe that Echo jumped up and raced back up the stairs. More shockingly still was that I was right upon her heels. I cannot say that I “thought” to rejoin the fray, only react. Perhaps if Echo had fled from the building, I would have followed. I suppose that I will never know the truth of that matter.

Once again of the second floor, I saw that Tuck lay unmoving upon the floor. I raced to her side and was relieved to see that she still drew breath.

The others swarmed around the tentacled horror (I do not believe that this was a true Horror), but there was a frantic desperation about the struggle. Much blood had flowed, but little of it belong to the monster.

I… I felt helpless. We were all going to die and I was still trying to remain an inactive participant. I had to do something. I picked up Tuck’s sword and swung with all my might. To my own surprise, I hit it! A small trickle of blood came from the creature and I felt a twinge of hope. Then, as if not to be outdone by a lowly Troubadour, Briarose tore deeply into the monster with her claws and the creature roared in pain. I palpably felt Hope bloom once again through my companions and they redoubled their efforts.

The following moments were a blur and blood, cursing, and flashing blades. I don’t believe that I scored more than the single blow to the creature, but I would not step away from the fray. The thought never even crossed my mind.

I do not know how much time passed, but I will never forget how it ended. With a roar of fierceness, a cry against the very darkness from which this thing had spawned, Briarose ripped a head-sized section out of the monster. She and the beast fell together. She, exhausted by wounds and the very strain of her heroic attack; it, to never rise again.

If nothing more, this encounter proved to me that there is a potential for greatness amongst these strange women. I do not know if I play a part in their tale, or if my destiny lies elsewhere, but I will surely be singing their tales for many years to come.

The Road to Buckland
Civilized Folk
As an ork, there are things you must learn to accept. It matters not how, for the world has a way of convincing you if you resist, for good or bad is up to you. City people vex me. All of them, any city, anywhere. Hu-man, elf, troll, and even ork. They talk and sing and dance and wear pretty patterns and stand and sit like they should and eat like they should and even fight when they should but it is not natural. It is forced. Expected. Like their very lives are a show. And when there is no one to watch them, they fold. And shrivel, and die. And they will take as many others as they can with them. As an ork, I am easily overlooked. That is okay, we cut our hard teeth on this as children. I can accept how others see us as barbaric, we have earned it. We are a hot, fiery race of peoples, we earn our stripes. Some look on us with pity, or hatred, or disgust. That is fine. We do not apologize. We live as we will, we do not live with regrets. We always do what we believe is right. Which is why I do not understand the human-kind. They are so elusive with their actions. At times, I wonder if they ever think for themselves, or if they are even capable. They carry worry like a shroud, it covers them always. You can see it, and it moves them about, like a leaf in a wind. I think worry makes them so duplicitious. They cannot keep their word because their worries demand they break it. I am no stranger to worry. I have plenty to keep my gahad burning. But never will it eat my future, the way others let it. And I know why we sing and we dance and we make pretty things, we all must do what we must do to keep the horrors away. But I do not understand the city folk. For them, there is no horror. Only the show. For them, it is all just a performance. The human named Poe should not be here. He cannot defend himself, and cannot be of any use to this crusade. He would watch his kin die and do nothing. He has not enough courage to fill a windling’s belly. He will get a Namegiver killed, and then run away. What stories will be told then? He makes my body ache with the poison of my gahad. I should not have enticed him. So maybe he is not alone to blame. I will let him alone for now. Maybe I must accept his weakness. I do not understand his kind. But he shows no sign of understanding mine either. I see how he sees my kind. As faces to adore him. He will be disappointed. Buckland will reveal something useful I hope. There is precious little to go on. The trail of horrors we have witnessed already is convincing enough we are on the right trail. Gods help me, I love the rain.
from the journal of Tuck

Ow. What a day.

In Haven, Poe and I encountered a group of unusual adventurers. They numbered four and were all women! I don’t think I have ever heard of a group of all females… well, besides the legends of The Valakaye. Perhaps this group has some sort of aspirations to follow in the footsteps of those great heroes?

Our first meeting turned into a melee as four men arrived outside the tavern we were in and demanded that a young girl be handed over to them. Obviously, I would not allow such a thing. Were it a matter of theft or such, I may have acquiesced; but they offered no explanation beyond, “send out the girl.” There was an odd “stillness” about them too. Despite standing in the pouring rain, they seemed to barely move.

The women (I wonder if they have a group Name) chose to stand against these strangers and I with them. Blood flowed on both sides; but we, in the end, stood victorious.

The young girl that the men had been pursuing had fled during the fight, and the women went in search of her. The left in such a hurry that we were not properly introduced. I can only assume that their fear for the girl’s safety was the cause of such rudeness.

This morning, we found that the women had returned (without the girl) and were planning on heading to Buckland Village. As Poe and I were headed there as well, they asked if we would like to accompany them. We agreed.

On the road, about midday or so, we encountered another of the “still men”. This one had a pair of obviously tainted ogres on chain leashes! He unleashed the beasts and ordered them to kill, which they did… by immediately slaying him! Then, they came for us.

This was a truly hard-fought win. As I write this, every part of me aches. My left arm is broken and I wrenched my knee. To make matters worse, before I can even catch my breath, I turned around to find the Ork, called Xola, berating Poe for not assisting in the combat! Who does she believe she is to command my brother into combat? It was all I could do to keep my tongue in check as I had no true desire to insult our new companions, but this sort of insult will not go unanswered a second time!

from the journal of Poe

Xola, the Ork Nethermancer, taught me a valuable lesson today… Be wary not only of your enemies, but your allies as well. In truth, it is a lesson I had already learned – one does not grow up in Kratas without learning such – but she clearly demonstrated that the lesson applies beyond the bounds of the “City of Thieves” as well. I should probably be thankful that the lesson did not come with a higher cost than a few bruises and a wounded pride, but “the attack” took me so completely off-guard that I was struck dumb! A speechless Troubadour! It was a shameful moment.

To make matters all the more vexing, I had just watched Xola lead a tainted ogre into Tuck’s unprotected back in order to save her own skin! She dares condemn my inactivity in battle while she actively endangers those that would be her allies? Preposterous! I had heard jests of “Orkish Honor”, but had always assumed it was little more that racist drivel. Perhaps there is some truth to it after all.

The incident after the fight perplexes me greatly. Try as I might, I cannot grasp what she expects from me. She claims that we are “all warriors on the field”. She wishes me to engage in the conflict? To get caught up in the heat of the moment? How am I to record the glories of my companions if I am too busy trying to keep all of my parts attached? My place is not among the blood and sweat of the battlefield. My purpose is to craft Beauty for the world from the ugliness that transpires when steel meets flesh and bone; to inspire Hope for the people from the tiniest sparks of light in the darkness that surrounds us all.

Truthfully, were I to enter the fray, I would truly be little more than a liability (and likely a casualty). My training has never extended into the martial practices, and now some Nethermancer is telling me that I must fight? I might have expected such behavior from one of the more martial Disciplines (Ta’nya the Archer perhaps), but a Nethermancer? It is almost as if she wishes to see me dead, and there are many dark tales about what Nethermancers do with dead things.

Perhaps Tuck and I should find a group that understands us more thoroughly.

The Journal of Ta'nya

Got a new lead on Na’ilic recently, didn’t take much convincing to get the rest to hop onboard, we all have our reasons I suppose for wanting to find him so much. This one might pan out, livestock slaughtered and men gone missing. Shame the weather is so crappy, slowing our progressing considerably. I’m getting real sick of hearing Echo bitch and moan about it. Ugh… city folk piss me off sometimes. Should reach a small village called Haven soon.

You know a good way to piss me off? Get me to pay for my Inn room and then get me to chase after you through the woods in the dark during a downpour. We had barely started to get dry when we get attacked by some horror touched assholes and had to chase down our target through the woods after that. Sigh… At the least we know the info we got on Buckland and Horrors was right. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow when we head out.

And we got ourselves a couple pairs of new hands to join our merry little horror hunting group. Tuck and Poe seem alright, I gotta say I like Tuck’s style, gives a little chant and she strides right into the thick of things. Takes her lickings and dishes them out in return. Poe seems a bit skittish to me, doesn’t help that the damn nethermancer Xola tried to take a bite out of him for cowardice right after fleeing from that ogre and dragging it onto Tuck so she had to face both at once. Crazy Orc. The new girl echo hits pretty hard with that big axe of hers glad we brought her along for this run. If we keep encountering this many horror minions, I’m going to need more arrows. I’ll start fletching some new ones soon. I still have the arrow I carried away from Thorns Blessing, just waiting for a chance for me to send it sinking into Na’ilic’s soon to be corpse. Soon… Briarose and I shall have our Vengeance.

Team Building(5/29/2016)

Well, that village was definitely defiled by a horror. I’ll be having nightmares again for the next few weeks. It seems like sometimes I can’t make a difference no matter how hard I try. Those poor smiths, I tried, but could do nothing to help them. Their skin literally sloughed off in my hands as I tried to pull them out of that furnace of a smithy. piles of dead created by victims driven insane. I can fix none of it.

I suppose I should focus on the positives. we did manage to save a number of the villagers who had taken refuge in the mayor’s manor. Had we done nothing, I’m sure their fates would’ve been sealed in bloodshed.

I wonder who the man in the chains was in that mill. Was it simple mindless hatred that led the horror to sticking him in that trap? Could I have done something different to save his live? I keep thinking back, but knowing what I did then, I believe I would make the same decisions again.

Still, the best thing to come of this recent adventure is the sense of fellowship I feel building between my companions. Initially there was much hostility, I suppose I’m lucky they don’t fear me more for my heritage. But everyone really pulled together in the mill, it took every single one of us to overcome that evil, and now we all know it. It’s the foundation of trust being built that gives me hope for the future.

On the Road Again…

Things have settled down in the days following the purge of the Mill. I believe we can lay the blame for these atrocities squarely on the shoulders of Ni’hiloc. In the aftermath, we received a visit from a messenger with word that we were welcome to come visit a mysterious mage who learned of our actions. I believe our group will take up the offer to further our cause against the horrors and those who aid them.

Ran across what would have been a very nasty ambush. If the bandits had bothered to remove the evidence of their last attack they may very well have destroyed us. As it was, we spotted a destroyed caravan and were able to approach and detect their presence. It was a fast and brutal fight, they were professional mercenaries and well equipped. thankfully we hit them while they were pinned in and overwhelmed them quickly. We took wounds in the fighting and decided to rest overnight.

That decision was a mixed blessing as we were attacked in the night by a bandit patrol/resupply group. They were not professionals, but rather… cultists? They left an obvious trail back to their base that we followed the next day.

What we found was rather disturbing. A bandit outpost had been constructed and was well defended and contained what I believe are at least 2 adepts. They also had several women held prisoner and being used for forced labor. Naturally we were upset by what we saw, but options available to us aren’t that great. We are outnumbered quite badly and a frontal assault would be a disaster. I think our best option is a stealthy nighttime raid. We will discuss our options and form a plan before we commit. May Garlen protect us and the ones we would save and protect in the coming day.

Calderra infiltration

So as it turns out our groups is nowhere near as stealthy as I would like. perhaps in our downtime I can teach them to not step on every branch and leaf that litters the ground. Sigh… We were quickly spotted on our approach to the tent holding the prisoners and a pitched battle ensued. Thankfully shortly before our assault a like minded individual came sniffing out the bandit camp as well. It appears that many have been affecting by the misdeeds of the bandits below. Our new friend is quite handy with that axe of hers and stalwart as well.

It saddens me that once again the twins were wounded in our efforts and will need to rest for several days to recouperate. The battle was swift and merciless but the enemy had no adepts on their side. It appears that the about half the camp moved into a cave behind the waterfall in the rear of the encampment shortly before we launched our raid. Scouting out the cave while my companions sorted through the aftermath of our first battle showed me a deeper cave complex that we will have to explore if we wish to find our new companion’s sister.

We decided to push on and leave our wounded behind with the prisoners we rescued, but are joined by the prisoner who was chained to the post in the yard. She is the same woman who led the horror tainted individuals to the tavern that rainy night a few weeks ago. Perhaps our meeting is not chance but fate intertwining our paths. Regardless we all have our reasons for pressing onwards and have banded together.

The first room we came upon had several cultists guarding it who were quickly dispatched. They were guarding a sort of map, or miniature city. Something about the topography made me think of the great river to the south and I believe it shows a position of a lost city from the before times. Well, this was quite the find I think so I made a detailed copy in my journal of the city map before we plucked several jewels from the model city. Some papers and books were found in a study/bedroom but we have yet to go through those thoroughly. The final prisoner is still unaccounted for and we will press on looking for her and more clues as to the whereabouts and activities of Ni’iloc.


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