The Reclamation of Tenebris

War, huh? What is it good for? Killing zombies
from Erevan's adventure log, mid summer

It has been a few days since the last entry, as we have been somewhat distracted by a very large horde of undead shambling into Aofie’s Stand.
As we were starting our meeting with the Orange Company’s commander, a scout reported several hundred zombies in a huge mass making their way towards the fort. We put our experience to work and helped plan defenses (well, mostly Myrddin; Ivellios drew some away with fey spirits, but I didn’t have much to do but make sure the defenses were being made to specifications). They had built an earth-and-log wall around their camp, and we added archer stations to it, splitting it into thirds. We also stationed archers on the far banks of the rivers to draw some of the undead away from the wall, and flank those that were attacking.
When it came to fending them off, it went easier than expected; we commanded reinforcements into place, and were ready to step up to hold any breaches long enough to retreat to the second wall, but that wasn’t necessary. Ivellios is tormented by the fact that so many men could have been saved if he had been on the front lines (and I sympathize; each of us in an archers’ tower would have done a lot of good), but had they broken through it would have been chaos, and just as many (if not more) might have been lost.
Tonight we shall treat the wounded, and tomorrow see the state of the field and assess the damage.

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Zombie Rush

Ivellios Naïlo | Fendag the 9th of Hay, 203

Ohhh I have a headache this is why I never get drunck everything is so loud and… hurty Id cast lesser restoration on myself but I can’t seam to… oh whats the word? maybe Lt. Miller can help me out ill be right back

Ahh, that’s so much better. “I’ll be right back”? Really? In text? And I know I was hung over, but… seriously? No punctuation? And a ‘c’ in ‘drunk’? The wrong ‘seem’? Why do I write these things in pen?

Aofie’s Stand was attacked yesterday by some 400 undead. Scouts reported about 450 coming our way about a day in advance of their arrival. Not that I’m an expert, but I’d never heard of such a large group all attacking at once before. We all contributed to building up defenses during that pre-battle period. I sent out an animal messenger to Magursus. I don’t know whether it made it to him at all, he decided not to come to our aid, or he decided to, but didn’t make it here in time. Regardless, he didn’t show up.

I also summoned and sent out some fey animals in an attempt to draw zombies away from the pack. Either the scouts got their estimate of 450 wrong or my spell worked, because only 400 showed up. Only, heh.

Myrddin was especially impressive. A bard and a tradesman sailor, I’m pretty sure he’s a better tactician than Content Not Found: Captain-Ruger. Without Myrddin’s suggestions, I’m pretty sure we would have lost the battle.

I think he thought we’d lose it even with his defensive improvements. We were very prepared for when the undead broke through the wall, and had multiple layers of contingency plans. Only, the undead never did break through the wall. I had both sleet storm and wind wall ready to use for when our troops needed to fall back, as well as three minutes of moon beam for when the undead funneled themselves into the choke in the wall. But that never happened. Only at the very end of the battle, when it was obvious we had won, did I cast wind wall. How many men died in a minute that I could have saved with a second wind wall? Twenty, thirty?

And I didn’t use any of my level 2 spells. Spike growth would have been very useful, too. The battle lasted what, a half hour? Each spike growth lasts ten minutes. Assuming I needed to save one level 2 spell slot for moon beam in case they did break through, I could have spent twenty minutes casting spike growth, perhaps killing a good quarter of the undead walking through that… MSP241822c8hg4i4e60e41d00004d149g00hhehg7a5.gif ≈ 1250 sq ft area, and significantly slowing the rest, giving our archers in the towers a huge advantage. Our footmen and lancers behind the spikes, for 20 minutes, could have been protected. Some of those soldiers would still have died, but certainly fewer of them. And for an additional minute, with another wind wall, we would have lost no men at all. We lost over one hundred troops—about half of the Orange Company. I bet that number could have been somewhere between twenty-five and fifty if we’d realized earlier that we were going to win this battle and shifted our goal from merely surviving to saving as many men as possible.

I feel sick. The men last night drank to surviving the day. I remember now; I drank to avoid this feeling.

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Above Ground
from Erevan's adventure log, mid summer

Reading my previous entry it seems as though written by a cowering child. After meditation and self-assessment of the skills and weapons I have gained thus far in our quest, I was confident we could overcome the monstrosity.
During our rest we heard roars from the caverns. We ventured back in to find that the slime coating the branching cavern was torn up as though by claws in a battle. Down the webbed path we went, to kill the drider, but couldn’t find him; I wormed past the thick webs and found another cavern, guarded by a boulder trap, and occupied by an old campfire with remnants of supplies and a sealed leather message tube. On the far side was a collapsed rock trap, blocking further exploration. The tube reacted to my cloak’s fancy clasp stone and unsealed, revealing journal pages and a map left by the last of the Devotian Guard. We turned back, and found three hooked horrors in the slime room. After a fierce battle, in which Suyolle managed to strike a killing blow, we decided to head out of the mine, agreeing that returning to civilization with the information we had gathered was more important than clearing the mine ourselves (or meeting our death in the attempt).
Back in the open air, Ivellios was preoccupied with the animal population, or lack thereof; I assumed it was because of the undead plague, but he had learned something specific was killing the elk and driving off the wolves. We agreed to investigate together while the dwarves made camp. What we eventually found was a rabid buck killing other elk and beating and goring the corpses with its hooves and antlers. Though the largest such beast I’d seen, we defeated it easily. I took the gigantic rack as a trophy, and he took samples of a growth found within the beast’s skull. To be safe, we burned the body. When we returned to camp, we found a huge hairy man drinking with our companions; Ivellios already knew him as Magursus “the Bear-Man”, who had given him a quest to investigate the animal scarcity in the area. He was happy with our findings and methods, and welcomed my cousin into the druidic Circle. That night, we celebrated!
Upon reaching the Blacktree tribe, we were challenged to a duel by the son of our dead guide, who accused us of killing his father; Tom was both insulted and understanding, having suffered the loss of his brother, and agreed to the fight. After an honorable defeat (and us paying the death price to his family) Ralf of Blacktree came with us as an apprentice adventurer. Tovaric accompanied us to Aofie’s Stand to met with possible business partners; he seems to have reached an equitable agreement with the Slateback Prospector’s Guild to support their work in the mine. The guild masters agreed to call it the Timus Mossyback Memorial Mine, in honor of our fallen comrade, and pay us 3% of all quarterly earnings in perpetuity for our work finding and investigating the mine. While in Aofie’s Stand, we hired monks to copy the Devotian map we found, for us to keep and also pass to others.
The Orange Company has reached the Stand, and they’ve brought nearly 200 men; this has almost doubled the population, and they are camping outside of the fort walls in tents and wagons. I have kept my Umbratis cloak carefully rolled and hidden from them. Tomorrow we shall meet with their leaders to share our findings on the Emperor’s last days.

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To Timmy!

Ivellios Naïlo | Tydag the 6th of Hay, 203

Where to begin? We were fighting a drider. I nearly died—only miraculously survived. I was unconscious, but I must have been dragged to safety by my companions. There’s a strange pain in my shoulder, as if I was dragged from just that point, and what appear to be… teeth marks? Wait. Did Suyolle save me?? I don’t know whether to be insulted or grateful. I suppose I have saved him before. And I am alive to tell the story. I’ll be grateful.

It’s weird that sometimes emotion is a choice.

The drider escaped, from what I understand—or we escaped him. After resting up, we went back into the cave, but the drider didn’t bother us again. We suspect it’s behind some boulders we decided not to move, not that we had the means to move them, anyway.

According to Myrddin, an undead Devotian Guard said there was a “lightning dragon beast” in our mine. We found new gouges—huge gouges; if it’s not an actual dragon, it’s certainly big enough to be scary—in the rock suggesting that it’s still alive. Based on the tracks, we suspect that while we were resting up, the dragon beast walked to the cavern in which we fought the drider, ate some spiders—there were a few spider legs that “didn’t look very good”—and wandered back to its half of the mine. Fortunately, we never came across it. I suspect that if we had, I may have died for real.

In that cavern, we found a lot of spider webs, but no remaining spiders. I cast gust of wind and cleared out all but the strongest strands of the web. Our other option was to burn them all, but we didn’t want to risk destroying any armor or other trinkets left by the other members Devotian Guard. The remaining strands turned out to be trip-wire traps. Erevan was dexterous enough to maneuver through the strands, and I took on the form of a spider to effortlessly climb through them, while Myrddin, Tom, and Cheney hung back. On the far side, we found the aforementioned boulders separating us from the drider, and more boulders hanging from the ceiling, ready to fall should the trip-wires be disturbed. With just the two of us, we didn’t want to venture too much further, and while we did find a leather tube, seemingly seamless, for carrying documents, we unfortunately did not find any more Devotian Guard armor. I guess we’ll leave that—and the drider and dragon beast—for the Slatebacks to find.

Having decided we were finished exploring the mine, as we were heading toward the entrance, we ran across four hook horrors. They didn’t last long.

Now outside the mine, at around 9:30 in the morning if memory serves, the dwarves decided to get drunk. No wonder they have so many cousins. I guess I get it, in Tom’s case. He did lose a brother—his only remaining relative. And Myrddin’s never been one to let someone drink alone.

Regardless, it left Erevan and me time to search out the cause of the elk population imbalance and dire wolf migration. It turned out not to have anything to do with the gray death—nor even magic—at all. The elk patriarch had merely gotten sick—some sort of brain tumor—and its instincts to fight for supremacy amongst its herd became an instinct to fight any and all male elk. With the elk population in decline, the dire wolves had to search for other food sources in other regions. Regrettably, with no means to capture and restrain the elk, and with—somehow—the drunken advice of Myrddin twittering in my ear, Erevan and I decided the elk must be put down. One arrow and one whack of a magic-enhanced staff, took the poor beast down. I dissected him, discovering the brain tumor, and I took a sample in an empty potion bottle. Erevan took the elk’s antlers. We burned the rest.

Returning to where we left the dwarves, we discovered Magursus—also drinking merrily with our companions, all singing—quite out of key—dwarven drinking songs.

Ohhhh, aye-dee-di-dee-di-dee-di-dee-di-dee-di-dee-di!
When Timmy was a wee lad
He ran away from home
He yearned to meet a dryad
So far he had to roam
 
Tommy chased right after him
‘Cause twins you cannot part
Timmy tripped and banged his head
Tom wheeled m’back in a cart
Ohhhh, aye-dee-di-dee-di-dee-di-dee-di-dee-di-dee-di!

Nonsense.

I try not to get drunk. I don’t know whether it’s more impressive to me that they can rhyme while intoxicated, or more impressive to them the valor of Tim they seemed to find in those lyrics. Dwarves.

Anyway, Grumpy McMagursus seemed much less grumpy and more energetic with a little drink in him. Come to think of it, where did the dwarves pull that liquor from? I don’t recall seeing it before. I suspect they hide things in their beards. Maybe I’ll search one while they’re asleep some night.

I told Magursus about the elk and what we had to do. He knew the elk, personally, I guess. We confirmed from the sample of the tumor that there was nothing magical about it, then burnt the sample. Next, he took me out of earshot of the others. It turns out Magursus is Great Bear. He had been testing me to see if I could follow orders, no matter how trivial. I must admit, I had been picturing this task to be much larger than one sick elk. It’s unclear how much he knew of this task when he assigned it to me. He seemed to indicate that he knew it would be a small task, but he hadn’t known which elk was sick (we had to show him the antlers before he recognized him), or maybe even if a sick elk was the cause.

The ritual is sacred and secret. Odds are, someday, someone besides me (or another druid I suppose) will read this journal, so I’m not going to go into too much detail. I will say, though… was I on the moon?

I woke the next morning—back in Tenebris—somehow rested and not at the same time. We walked down the river until we got back to our boats, and took the rest of the trip back to Black Tree Village. They were, understandably, very upset by Larf’s‘s death. His son, Ralf went so far as to challenge us to a duel, to-the-death. Tom, who had his own loss to mourn, took up the challenge; he knocked Ralf out, but did not kill him. We also paid Larf’s death price of 1000c, which, while not making everything better, allowed most of the goblins to move from anger at us, to mourning Larf’s death. In the morning, Ralf sheepishly approached Tom. He doesn’t know much Common, so Tovaric translated. Ralf was requesting to be Tom’s squire, and Tom accepted. Maybe those two will help each other handle their losses.

Now we’re back in Aofie’s Stand. The Orange Company has arrived here too. They were worried we’d failed in our task. I know that we we’re tasked—and paid—by them, but I can’t help but feel a little… disdain for the group (or any group) of mercenaries. I don’t trust them, and when they met us on the river to escort us back to town, I was a worried it might not be on good terms. We decided to hide Erevan’s cloak that we’d found on the body of the Devotian Guard. Ironically, despite allowing the bearer to move about more stealthily, it’s also immediately recognizable. In the tube we found, were a map and a journal. We showed these (just copies of the map) to Ardis Slateback and to our Orange Company contact. We’ll sell the original map to our map enthusiast down in Lisrim’s Landing. I suspect there’s more than a historian to that man.

While with Ardis, Myrddin helped negotiate terms between the Black Tree Tribe and the Slateback Prospector’s Guild, and also got them to agree to name the mine after Tim. I want the agreement to be fair, but given society’s attitude toward goblins, I also want the agreement to favor the goblins a little so that the actual outcome of the arrangement is fair. But if the arrangement obviously favors the goblins—if the Slatebacks feel cheated—then those feelings will result in them taking resenting the goblins, which will hurt the goblins in the end. Negotiation is so tricky. I’m glad I wasn’t involved. What we need is to find a good blacksmith—a good man—who will take a few goblins as apprentices. Blood would build stronger ties than coin ever could. But, as Tovaric says, these ties will have to build very slowly if they’re going to work. Goblins are too mistrusted and mistreated.

Anyway, I’m officially a Druid of the Land now. To Timmy!

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Entry #87
Iovis Journal

Sergius died today. Only Gaius, Drusus, and I remain. We are at the head waters of the Caerulus and hope to find a mountain pass. Maybe if we can get across the Centratus Mountains we can find a way off Tenebris and can warn other not to come to this gods forsaken land.

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Entry #53
Iovis Journal

Today we lost our last hope. We met the survivors from the base camp, there is no base camp left, or ships to take us home. With their numbers we now have ten men to protect the Emperor, but Gaius, Drusus, and I are the only Devoteans amongst them. It has not been hard to stay ahead of the undying scouts, we are few and can move more easily then the Lich’s army. We hope to cut across the hills to the west of Ponfortis and lose the Lich that way.

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Entry #34
Iovis Journal

I killed Neavius today. I held him as his light left to join Lumentrix, and his blood flowed out to Inbereius. May the gods take that fucking flaming skull and the its ghouls and torment them forever. We lost nearly as many men to one floating head and two hands of ghouls as we did to the herd two weeks ago. It was unlike anything I have seen before, out of nowhere the ghouls are amongst us ripping the throats out of a handful of regulars. Where were the fucking sentries, it’s their damn job to make sure this doesn’t happen! Neavius, Drusus and I were able to stop the rest of the regulars from running and formed a shield wall. Praise be to Mura that Captin Tactico thought of using the shield wall against the undying, it works wonders. But not when faced with an intelligent enemy. If I didn’t know better I would say this group was scouting us. The ghouls attacked in unison, seeking a weak spot in our wall and then breaking through and ripping us to shreds, all the while the skull rained flaming death on us from afar. About the time that reinforcements arrived and we stared pushing the ghouls back the flaming skull launched a larger and faster ball of flames than any before it and the next thing I remember I was waking up in the infirmary tent next to Neavius. From what I have been told I was knocked out cold, the lines were breaking, but Neavius managed to stand up. He charged the remaining ghouls, somehow got over them, the men claim he fling his shield at the closest ghoul and jumped onto to ride over the wall. More likely he was too stupid to know that you can’t run through a wall of ghouls so he did it anyways. All the reports agree that as the skull seemed to be turning to flee Neavius struck it with his sword, as the blade pieced its eye socket the flames went out and a lifeless skull fell to the ground. After that it was easy work to clear out the remaining ghouls. I was heard that about an hour after the fight ended the skull reignited and killed three regulars before it was dispatched. After that Aedituus Cassian and Aedituus Porcia poured holy water on the skull and a great hissing was heard like a mighty fire being extinguished. Through all of this Neavius stood, yet he was already dead. Yesterday as I was walking around I noticed he was sick in bed and my heart dropped. This morning he asked me to help him pass on. I killed my closest friend today, may the gods save my soul.

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Entry #26
Iovis Journal

I never want to be in Captain Tactico’s boots. He had to put down another nine men this morning. The cries for mercy aren’t even the worst, a couple of the men were worse off and we heard the scream when they turned. That scream will haunt me for the rest of my days. Hopefully we are past the worst of it. I’m not sure what is worse the number we lost when that herd hit or the larger number we lost because of the herd. It seems that the smallest scratch can prove fatal. We are only 4 days out from Lux Transitum. If Lumentrix shines on us maybe the population of Lux Transitum will have joined that herd and we will have already dealt with them, I’m not sure the regulars could handle a street by street fight to clear the town and bridge. The closest ford is 3 days up river and who know if it’s still there after a century and a half.

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Entry #18
Iovis Journal

It is 8 days since we left our camp. Captain Tactico had Neavius, Gaius, Drusus, and myself scout ahead to see if the bridges at Ponfortis still stood. As we crested the ridge we got the first look at an inland town. The bridges still stood, showing that the towns name is well placed. Much of the town itself had succumb to the forest, with as many trees growing up inside the walls as out. We approached carefully, no one wants to end up like Balbinus and his men. Once to the bridge, we found the place abandoned. After scouting both bridges we set up the Clanker down river of Ponfortis and made haste back to our vantage point on the other side of the rivers. Those damned bells send shivers down my spine every time we use them. But, even after it went on for half an hour we didn’t see any of the undying. After that we returned to the column and gave Captain Tactico our report, he says we will move out with the sunrise.

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Entry #7
Iovis Journal

The weather was favorable today, only a light breeze and clear skies. Hopefully the ships will return from scouting the coast soon. Neavius overheard some of the regulars boasting about how we would be sitting in the Emperor’s Palace in High Uneath in a month drinking 150 year old mead. He then proceeded to get them to bet that the ships will find a way that far up river and we will not have to march the whole way. The fools took the bet. As Neavius tells it, not matter the outcome he wins. Gold, or mead, both are preferable to dying old! I have high hopes that the river to Lake Uneath is clear of hazards and the undying. Maybe the regulars are will be right. Oh, the stories we will be able to tell when we get home! Us sitting in Hall Auriolus drinking mead with Emperor Lukius.

The good news is, at least for now, the hard work is over. Captian Tactico had us working double shifts to get the walls up and today we finished the final 20 meters of earthworks. We have not found any major groups of the undying yet, but it feels good to know that one of them can’t simply wander into camp any longer. The initial earthworks are complete along with a spike fence. Next we need to build an outer dry moat and put up several archers platforms on the walls. This likely won’t take long. With luck the ships will be back before we are done.

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