Ascension 1.0 - From Failure, Success

Our search for Raxxon led us to one of his higher-level flunkies, who was holed up in a nearby factory of some sort. We went around the back in the hopes of ambushing him, but he managed to give us the slip. We gave chase, but as soon as he was out of our sights, he was as good as gone. The building might as well have been built to be a hideout—a maze of branching corridors full of traps. It was also rather well protected, as we ran into armed guards, bugbears, alchemists (who, in fairness, were likely just workers we surprised), and several of their creations, including some sort of awful hybrid—an ugly combination of lion, scorpion, and dragon, easily ten feet long. With each encounter, my companions tussled while I attempted to continue chase, but I confess I was merely choosing what looked like the path of least resistance.

Eventually we found ourselves in some sort of storage room, with a host of paths in front of us. It was, by this point, late evening and the odds of us finding our quarry were slim to none, so we all agreed to give up and start fresh in the morning. We took the stairs up, which led us outside the building, near some sort of workers’ rest shack. We broke in, in hopes of finding some sort of useful information to at least partially salvage the mission. Instead we found a loaded pack belonging to our to-be informant. Norrund tossed the pack, finding several daggers, a sandwich, and a sizable sum of gold. Finnian ate the sandwich and searched the remainder of the room… and discovered whatshisname hiding in a closet.

Upon some very light interrogation, he gave up the location of Raxxon’s hideout—an underwater base outside the city. Access to and from the base is managed through the use of airtight tanks. A shepherd named Oak will be our contact for this. Dwarf-face also cautioned us to avoid Oak’s brother Dirk, for whatever that’s worth. In exchange for his cooperation, we gave him his gold and most of his daggers back. Finnian also owes him a sandwich.

11 - Auspicious Arrival

If I can claim to stand for anything, it’s the fight against injustice—against those with power who exploit the innocent. It’s this fight that has led me down the path I walk today. Lords mistaking their wealth for real power, kings overstepping their authority. I even stood against a world-wide hunt against an entire class of people. I’ve weathered a lot of atrocities, but if there’s one thing that still turns my stomach and sets my blood to boil, it’s the wanton abuse of a child. To hear the guard talk, to hear Allen tell of his life, his family, and indeed our entire race, is something closer to animal than person in the eyes of Waterdeeps so-called guards.

We put them down, as befits monsters. The half-orcs fought hard, with malice and a twisted sort of amusement. I’d call them thugs, but that would disrespect proper thugs. I considered letting one live, as a warning to others within their ranks, but one does not spare monsters—they do not comprehend the nature of mercy. We moved the bodies to a less conspicuous location, and Allen introduced me to his brother, Erickson, and daughter Lacey. Apparently humans are not allowed in Waterdeep, at least not freely, but he had been assured he was given pass to conduct business. Either he was lied to, or these “guard” were overstepping their bounds. Either way, for his own safety, I offered to attend to his business on his behalf.

It turns out Allen owes a large sum to a broker named Raxxon—money he needed to buy his daughter out of slavery. We gave him what we could loot from the guards—some of which was already his—and I took his six gold back payment into town, to deliver to Roxxon’s collector, a ratkin claiming the title of Rymkol, the Snatcher. I advised him to keep the rest, as a man in his position often has need of a well-placed bribe.

In the city, we procured rooms at a respectable inn, the Viridian Chalice. I left my meager possessions, including most of my own money, stashed in the room, and set off to the tattoo parlor at the edge of the city, where Rymkol was said to be. I found him the back of a filthy alley, littered with tweakers and burnouts. As I passed, I heard one of them praising death. Likely just too far gone and begging for relief, but the words chilled me all the same. I found the so-called Snatcher in the back, as unpleasant as his race would imply, and after an entirely too-typical intimidation routine, he took the payment without incident. The tweaker was still muttering as I left the alley, so I decided to interrogate him, to find out how crazy he really was. Upon seeing me, he stopped his mantra and exclaimed that “he will be so glad to know I’m here”. I can only hope the gnome who once possessed this body has unfinished business in this city.

I do not know what the others did once we reached the city. I’m certain they all had personal business to attend to. I have more tasks myself, but they can wait until morning. For now, I need a proper night’s rest, for the first time in what feels like a lifetime.

10.0 Travel Continues until arrival

After meeting back up with Finnian, Kestral and Norrund, we continued on towards Waterdeep. Our employer and travel companion, Milo turned out to be a shadier character than I had expected. I expected he had something unsavory or ill gained that we were transporting, but I never imagined it would be the energy and potentially souls of the dead. It’s a very intriguing idea but Milo was not forthcoming and probably unaware of the uses for these glowing stones.
We, and especially Norrund, managed to convince Milo to leave the stones and leave us alone. Unfortunately he also left with the cart. We used this time to hide the chests full of stones in two different places. Then it was time to head to Waterdeep on foot, but not before a very strange and unfortunate thing happened. One night during watch, i awoke to see a strange young girl standing in/at our campfire. Finnian attempted to attack her but she stopped the blade with what appeared to be minimal effort in the blink of an eye. Then she disappeared and so did Norrund. We searched for traces but found no clues. Kestral offered insight into the origins of the girl whom he called Selena. He said she should have been dead long ago and that she was extremely dangerous. We thought we’d never see Norrund again.
However after almost a week of traveling and soon before arriving in Waterdeep, Norrund miraculously appeared at our camp with stories of meeting a time traveler and some others.
I am so very tired and weary from this journey. I will attempt to make further notes in the future. For now I’m happy to have returned to civilization and escaped the undead that haunted the forest far on the trail. If I never go back there, I would enjoy that, but I do feel like at some point I may need to investigate things there, but I have no intentions to return soon.
For now I hope to at long last attempt to do what I came to this blasted continent for.

9.1 Shadows and Mist
Then shadows. Then, missed.

Asleep, I awaken again. Another one of my dream realities? I’m sure of it.

Finnian is on top of me. Strange. Though I’ve heard his voice, I’ve never seen him in here before. Wherever that is. All that I see is a lone hill. At the top, a tree. Shallow graves. A house, in ruin, smoldering.

Finnian speaks to me, but I ignore it. I need no hallucination for company. All I seek are answers.

I approach the hill. The gravesites say Dorin and Alice. There is a symbol. A face, half corrupted? Meaningless, all of it.

The human follows me. He seems as confused as I am. It makes sense, I suppose.
Suddenly, movement in the rubble. I step back, Finnian stands at my side.
A girl emerges. Another of the undead.. but different? Not quite. Finnian tries to speak to it. It gives chase. We flee downhill, running along an endless looking path into the fog. I turn to see it right on our heels.
We awake

9 - Conflict Resolution
Also Blind Terror

Morning of the eleventh day of our journey, tensions were at an all-time high. We were finally all together again, but the half-orc crew that had been hired alongside ourselves was dead, as was a woman Vodarr had saved from Valmire. The accursed dead showed no signs of stopping their pursuit—indeed they seemed drawn to our cargo, which we now believed to be the souls of the dead. At this rate it would not be possible, much less profitable, to protect the cargo. In the interest of fulfilling any part of our bargain, and indeed escaping with our own lives, our only hope was to abandon the chests, give this unresting horde what it desires, and finish the journey alone. The only problem—convincing Milo to agree.

The others wanted to confront him as a group, but I felt that an unwise approach. Milo was already a suspicious and closely guarded man—if he felt we were ganging up on him, he’d only get more defensive. Instead, I hoped that the respect I had gained from him over the past week-and-a-half would give me enough leverage to at least get him to consider our words. In any case, I knew we needed to address things before we reached the crossroads. The zombies wouldn’t be deterred by the rocky terrain—slowed, perhaps, but undaunted in their pursuit. It was only delaying the inevitable, a delay which none of us could really afford.

About midday, I approached him. I reminded him of all we’d been through, and of our agreement to protect him, and told him that in order to do so, he’d need to tell us more. “No questions asked” was no longer sustainable. Stubbornly, he refused to listen to reason, so Norrund joined me and, rather bluntly, revealed our hand—we knew he’d been stealing souls, and that it was the reason for this pursuit. At this, Milo turned, if not hostile, hostile-adjacent. He stopped the cart, left the cart, and stood back a ways from us as he attempted to justify his actions. He scoffed at our claim they were souls, choosing to believe such a thing does not exist, and boasted of his right to own them. Ignorant fool, his nihilistic greed might well doom us all. The others may not have known the specific dangers of his actions, but had the sense to recognize their wrongness. Milo spoke of a red-clad woman, Zephora—the Red Witch he called her—and Finnian revealed he had spoken to her, claiming that the souls we carried were preventing her people from passing properly from this world. Milo scoffed at this, claiming her to be a war-hungry villain, recruiting people in some sort of crusade in pursuit of power. Regardless of his claims, we certainly were not in any position to defy such a power, so the four of us agreed that we would no longer allow Milo to take this cargo to the city. We would be leaving the souls here and taking the cart to the city, with or without Milo.

Finnian ordered Ursa to unload the chests from the cart, but when the automaton reached down to pick up the first chest, the halfling reached into his bag, which I then recognized as a bag of holding (!), and electricity shot from the chests into Ursa, causing him to collapse into unconsciousness. Milo then drew a small longsword and heavy crossbow from his bag, wielding one in each hand (!!) and stated, with the utmost confidence, that we would not be taking his cart. As we braced for battle, Norrund attempted one last desperate attempt at peaceably resolving the issue by magically Suggesting that Milo allow us to remove the cargo and then let us leave. Miraculously, it worked, although his wording missed one crucial detail—Milo let us unload the cart, then set off upon it alone—leaving us to finish the journey on foot.

Once he left, we attempted to explain to Finnian and Vodarr what had transpired, and then set to work hiding the chests. Magical suggestion only lasts for a matter of hours, and once it wore off, we could be certain that Milo would return to reclaim “his” treasure—and likely settle the score with us, as well. As Ursa was still unconscious, he could not help us move the chests. I was, similarly, rather useless in this form, so I volunteered to guard him while the others took the first chest. Vodarr mixed himself some sort of alchemical potion that increased his strength, allowing them to make quick time with the chest. While I waited, I inspected Ursa, and found a means with which to reboot him. When the others returned, we all left with the second chest—taking into the woods on the other side of the road, in a different direction from the first. I covered our trail as we went, until we found a suitable hiding spot. We then doubled back a ways, taking extra care to hide our tracks further, then set off down the road toward Waterdeep.

We traveled the rest of the day without incident. We kept to the trees, far enough off the road to, hopefully, not draw any attention from travelers, but not so deep as to lose the road entirely. We saw no one else, not even our former employer. As darkness fell, we set up camp and arranged watches. I told Norrund to wake me when he was ready to end his watch, but instead I woke to a commotion caused by Finnian, who was engaged with my own worst fears returned to life. A figure ever present in my mind since the appearance of the lady in red and her companions. A figure who was ended hundreds of years ago. A figure I’ve only ever known as a demon, born of desire and grief and the power of a dark god, in guise of a young girl called Selina. Her name on my tongue, unbidden, drawn out by shock, by the vain hope that I might be mistaken. She turned and locked eyes with me—no mistake then—but before she could strike, Norrund reached out to touch her leg, and they both were gone.

Supplimental: Unbeknownst to our narrator, during Vodarr’s watch, he was alerted to a noise in the woods. Not wanting to investigate alone, he woke Finnian and together they discovered it was caused by a rabbit caught in one of Finnian’s traps. Finnian decided, since he was up, he would relieve Norrund on watch and take the time to dress and season his catch.

When he finished, he noticed that Norrund was having fits in his sleep. He went to him to try and rouse him, only to have both of them suddenly appear in an unfamiliar foggy hill. Norrund ignored Finnian, believing him to be part of his dream. They discovered two gravestones along the path they walked, and, at the top of the hill, the remains of a burnt-down house. They poked around the house for a short time, until a shaking of debris caught their attention. They witnessed the rise of a young dark haired girl, clad in a white dress, who moved oddly, almost like a puppet without strings. They fled down the hill and she chased them, gaining every time they turned to look back. As she was just about to make contact, Norrund awoke, to discover the same figure standing over him.

8.1 - In English This Time
A Brief Summary of Things Otherwise Hard to Read

On the morning of the tenth day of the journey to Waterdeep, the cart was set upon by a vast horde of walking dead, enough to tear down the cart itself. The half-orc, Dokken, challenged them alone, holding them off as the cart turned around and escaped, but was quickly overwhelmed. After a time, the cart set back upon its original path. The horde had dispersed, leaving behind only scraps of the party’s comrade. As the cart arrived in the small town of Valmire, where Finnian, Vodarr, and URSA were supposed to be obtaining a second cart, only Milo, Kestral and Norrund remained.

There was no sign of the rest of the party, save Ursa, who had regained consciousness and was vainly attempting to push himself upright, in spite of his broken arm. Norrund helped him to his feet, and Ursa gave what little information he could as to the exploits of the others. Norrund and Kestral went to investigate the barn where Finnian fell, while URSA and Milo guarded the cart. Kestral found a passageway into a series of underground tunnels. Norrund found a shovel.

The pair descended into the tunnel and began exploring. In the first room they found Finnian, chained to the wall, near death, with a glowing green orb embedded in his chest. Norrund attempted to heal him with a curing wand and, although it did not seem to work at first, Finnian somehow rallied and they unchained him. As Finnian attempted to regain his composure (and don his armor), Kestral explored the other rooms. He did encounter a body of undetermined condition in another room, but as soon as he was sure it was not their final missing party member, he left, without disturbing it.

The tunnel ended at a dead end—a pool of water, so the trio left the way they (or at least most of them) had come. Upon reaching the surface, they discussed what to do. Milo wanted to leave right away. Although there was an intact cart available, there were no animals to pull it. Norrund, however, refused to leave without Voldarr, as the elf was the closest thing he had to a friend on this journey. The group discussed investigating the tower where URSA said he had last been seen—along with a large number of zombies. Kestral volunteered to covertly investigate the area, as he wished to avoid any fights with the creatures, if possible. He fortunately did not run into any dead, walking or otherwise, but he did discover a grappling hook tied to a line leading out and behind the tower, along with the traces of two people leading away from town.

Norrund, Finnian, and Kestral followed the light trail left, they hoped, by Vodarr and possibly a survivor of the town. However, when they saw that the trail led across the river and into the woods beyond, they realized that they could not reasonably pursue them. Norrund proposed a method of getting them to pursue the group, instead, by having URSA sound his alarm signal as the cart traveled. Kestral and Milo objected strongly, as such a signal would also likely attract the attention of any creatures in the woods. The others were persistent, however, and so they reluctantly agreed to try. Milo spoke to Kestral about his concerns and the rogue pledged to him that his number one priority was the halfling and his cargo, even if it came at the expense of his allies. For if the cart fell, they would all be lost to the zombie horde.

The plan, it turned out, worked exactly as expected. Norrund and an injured female companion heard the sound and were able to rendezvous with the cart, as did a large number of zombies. A frantic battle broke out, in which URSA helped Vodarr get his new friend onto the cart, and Norrund helped hold off the advancing horde while Vodarr attempted to reach the cart. However, before he could do so, a new threat broke out from the trees, directly next to the cart—a much larger zombie, wielding a greataxe. Finnian prepared to defend the cart, but before he could even take position next to it, the hulking monster swung its axe down into the cart, cleaving the newcomer in twain and ripping a chunk out of the cart. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Kestral prepared to order the cart forward, and shouted a word of warning to Vodarr, who had not yet reached the cart. With a final surge of speed, the elf managed to jump on as the cart took off down the road.

They drove as far as they could until the darkness of night and exhaustion set in. As the party prepared for the most stressful watch of their journey, they discussed the situation they found themselves in. Milo was clearly involved with everything that was happening here, although how directly and how knowingly was hard to say. They couldn’t keep pressing forward blindly. Too much had already been lost and it was only a matter of time until a situation arose that they could not escape. They agreed that, come morning, they would confront their employer with questions, and, hopefully, convince him to take action that would stop this madness once and for all.

8.0 - From The Dead
I'm going to shove this wand so far up your...

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7.0 - Drowning
In over my head...

Have you ever had a dream so unimaginably horrifying that it woke you up, but you didn’t stop dreaming? However, I don’t mean you awoke with a scream in your bed but that you became aware that you were dreaming out of sheer disbelief. Whatever happened or whatever you saw couldn’t possibly be real and you suddenly knew you had to wake up to make it stop. I ask if you’ve experienced this because I’ve been waiting to wake up from this nightmare for days now, and at this rate I’m worried I never will.

We’d just arrived in the town of Valamire. Vodarr, Ursa and I had come there seeking a means of transport as the party was down a wagon. What greeted us was empty homes, quiet streets, and a flaming pile of corpses. Trying our best to ignore the implications of this sign, we elected to get what we could and leave as quickly as possible. Vodarr and I skirted the town’s edge towards a barn, while Ursa patrolled the opposite side. We got to the barn, opened the door and the odor of death crashed over us like a wave. Vodarr couldn’t help but keel over, and I nearly did myself. There were more bodies in this place though not all human. Several livestock littered the ground like festering piles of meat. Still, amongst all the ruin there stood hope: a wagon. It looked to be in good condition, although I was unsure how we would attempt to move it with nothing to pull it. After making sure the dead stayed dead I made my way towards the wagon, and that’s when the darkness rushed up to greet me.

The next moments are all a blur: falling, drowning, a grip on my arm, gasping for breath, and then waking. It took me a moment to remember where I was, why I was damp and why I could barely breathe from the stench. As my brother used to say it would seem I was up the preverbal “shit creek” without a paddle. I can’t think of a more literal definition as I had fallen into the waste pit for the barn. What worried me more was that someone or something wanted me down there. Those hatches have to be manually opened and closed. It was no accident. I also became acutely aware of how dark it was. It was night. I had no idea how long I’d been down there but judging from the dull throb in the back of my head, it could have been hours or even days. What had become of the others? I wanted to call out but I had a feeling I wasn’t alone down there. I donned my shield and halberd (which I was pleasantly surprised hadn’t been lost in the fall) and started to move. I could barely see in that pit but I could make out a dim tunnel with three side doors and a main exit. It didn’t make sense, those passages. Storage in this area would be disastrous, and what other purpose could they serve? Most of me wanted to barrel towards the exit and start shouting for Vodarr or Ursa, but I couldn’t risk it. For all I knew they’d been ambushed too and might very well be beyond one of these doors. I carefully opened the first door. A rough, weak voice cried out. It was neither Vodarr nor Ursa, but a man named Jerrard. Upon closer inspection I found him to be human. He told me of the woman in red, how she came to this town seeking aid, and brought nothing but famine and pestilence with her. I tried to move him but he was in severe pain, though not from whatever illness had ravaged this town. He spoke of the sickness of mankind. He described the symptoms and told me how it felt. I didn’t-I couldn’t know, not now. I had never seen a case of it myself, only heard rumors first through Reiley and then basic training. I told him so and he called my family blessed, something I could never hope to do. I wanted to get him out, but he urged me to go find my friends. He had no idea how close I came to ending him as the judge’s words echoed in my mind. “They will only be a burden.”

I made for the next door and opened it, hoping to find nothing. Instead I found-even still I don’t know what I found. It was a small orb, crystal of some kind, and it glowed a soft, eerie green. I felt drawn to it and, against my better judgement, I placed a hand on it. Voices, whispers echoed in this small room. I looked but saw no one. As I feared, they emanated from the orb. I feared it might be the cause of this town’s sickness and needed to know more about it. Vodarr, Norand, Kestrel, someone would know. I wrapped it in some spare cloth and tucked it away. Finally I came to the third door. This room was pitch black and quiet, though I could just make out a large basin at the far end. It was filled with still, clear water. Honestly, I didn’t even hesitate. I needed to wash off the memories of the last few days, let alone hours spent in this pit. I splashed some water on my arms and face and scrubbed hard to forget the smell that seemed to permeate my armor now. Then I heard it. The door behind me slammed shut hard. I armed myself and turned to face the darkness. I saw nothing, but I clearly felt something. Something primal rose up and burned inside me, telling me to run. I turned around to see a grim figure rising from the water in the basin. Another undead, I hoped. This one was different. It carried a great axe with a purpose and water was gushing from its legs. I couldn’t run. If I turned to open the door it would split me from neck to navel. I remember getting a few good hits in, but after a trip attempt splashed through him like nothing, I lost my nerve to down the monster. My mind went to the gem. Doing my best to dodge the sickening, green tint of the axe, I rolled the gem onto the floor and brought my halberd down upon it. After the second hit it shattered and, much to my relief, the monster fell back to the pool and melted.

Not one to question good fortune, I made a break for the exit. What I saw was not a relief. The town was overrun and all the undead were fleeing. They were headed for the main road. The company had to be warned, but I couldn’t just abandon Vodarr and…URSA! He lay in the middle of the town square. I rushed to him but found him de-powered down. His arm was in shambles. I had to get him on the cart, but my earlier attempts to move it solo had failed miserably. So with as much strength as I could muster I began to drag him to the wagon. As I approached the open door, another sharp fear caused me to turn around. I’m ashamed to say I dropped Ursa out of shock. The little girls stood shadowed in the doorway, but their red eyes were all too clear. I picked Ursa back up and began to frantically back away, when she emerged from the blackness. The woman in red, crimson as blood on white cloth, gazed into me..I don’t know any other way to describe it. I was done. I don’t know how I knew it or why, but even as I scrambled with my companion in tow, I was a dead man. But, if I was to die, I would know why and who would put me in the ground. I layed Ursa down and walked towards them with fake confidence, unsure of who I was or what I was doing. I put on my best soldier voice and asked the woman her purpose. She spoke of helping her people, of them being unable to find the afterlife, and of my ignorance. I knew too little to contradict her and too little still to comprehend what she could possibly mean by all this. She seemed almost more disappointed than angry, like a mother upset at stupid child. With utter distaste on her face, she turned towards the barn, and with a flick of her wrist the two little girls bolted after me. I made one last feeble attempt to offer my services in some vein hope of stopping her, but she didn’t falter and neither did the girls. I reached for my halberd but as they neared me all I could see were the twins, Ciara and Claire, and I knew I couldn’t kill them. I remember trying to run, and then nothing.

They tortured me, for how long I’m not sure. I remember a leeching pain and something like my heart trying to burst out of my chest. I remember the woman in red. She was furious about the stone as she seemed to treasure them. I think she pitied me, although her actions didn’t show it. I remember little but sickening pain, and then blackness. I awoke to Norrund and Kestrel. I wanted to tell them to run. I wanted to tell them to find Vodarr and Ursa and leave me here but I was broken. As I felt the last of my strength waning, I begged Norrund to return my shield to Ma. I begged him to find Reiley. Impossible tasks, an unimaginable burden, but I didn’t care. I regret asking so much of him, but it was all I could think to say as the light faded. The last image I saw was Norrund brandishing a ray of light that was swiftly swallowed up by the darkness. I was brought back to the feeling after I fell into the pit: drowning. I could only think of my family, and all I haven’t done as I accepted what I knew had finally found me: death. The grip took hold of me, and again I broke the surface. I awoke again, suddenly, gasping for breath and so very afraid I would drift between the limbo of the living and the dead forever, when I saw Norrund still brandishing his light. As he did I felt my pain recede, though there’s an ache in my chest I cannot place.

6.1 A Dead Horse Town
mo' zombies mo' problems

Time runs short.
In an effort to save time for our group I may have lost it all for myself and Finnian.

We had arrived at the nearest town to look for a horse and cart to bring back to expedite our journey and what we found was quite unsettling. Dead corpses of more undead and possibly regular dead were dead in a dead pile of deadness. Nothing seemed to be moving in the whole of the little town.

But we had a task at hand and set about to find something of use to us. A large barn looked to be a promising target, so Finnian and I set about to investigate while URSA scouted quickly around the other side of town.

When we opened the doors to the barn an unearthly stench assaulted our nostrils. The overpowering smell of dead animals and people until now concentrated in one building was so strong I needed to compose myself. Finnian seemed to handle it better and went forward to investigate.
We could see at the back of the barn, past the bodies of humans and horses and livestock, a cart that looked in fine condition. As Finnian passed one of the bodies in the middle of the floor he stabbed at it to make sure it was dead and also not a kind of dead that would attempt to make us as such. It remained motionless in its gruesome silence and Finnian pressed on.

As he moved forward, suddenly the floor underneath him gave way and he disappeared from view. I rushed into the building just as the rancid scent rushed back at me and I lost my composure among other things I had every intention of keeping. I then pressed on to the place Finnian had disappeared at and found a metal door that must have been used to dispose of the refuse that a barn of this sort would generate. I attempted to open it myself and with a shovel nearby but it was stuck and I would need more time to get it open.

Unfortunately this was when my time started to shorten. The other less than dead body on the floor that wasn’t stabbed had risen to come running at me. I barely avoided the first blow and tried to get farther away and fire some arrows into it from my bow. I hit it a few times while trying to get out of range, but soon another rose (or fell rather, from the upper level) to attack me as well. I made my way to the door and left the barn trying to stop or slow the zombies advance with my arrows.
Now outside URSA had arrived to attempt to help, but his lack of combat training and poor luck left him mostly useless. The zombies seemed to hardly notice the mechanized contraption however.
As I tried to keep my distance from the creatures, more seemed to come from everywhere around town, suddenly aware of my presence. To help stay out of reach I ingested one of my concoctions of expedious speed and also one to help heal some of my wounds.
As I circled about out of reach but making zero or less progress in thinning their numbers a voice called out to me and beckoned me into a building attached to the dilapidated stone tower. I thankfully obliged to join another human of sane mind and body in the potential safety of the building.

Inside and door shut, Ashera introduced herself. She was a fine elf woman who looked (and later confirmed) like she had been stuck in this place for a while with meager supplies. She had lost her husband to the undead and was both hoping to find a cure or some way to stop this madness while she remained in the only place she knew. When I told her of the fate of my friend Finnian, her words gave me little comfort for his safety, but also a finality of the fact that there was nothing I could do for him at the time.
I went up to what remained of the tower and scouted around and saw URSA apparently damaged and incapable of righting himself. The undead seemed to still ignore him. I wanted to contact him to tell him where I was and to possibly enable him to procure some sort of help. But as I finally spoke loud enough to get his attention I realized there wasn’t much he could do at the time and I only served to alert the shambling horde of our location more. With the doors as barricaded as they were and the renewed vigor of the horde, it was only a matter of time, short time, until they busted in.
In order to escape we planned to rappel down the side of the tower and escape out of the town. Unfortunately my rope and grappling hook served us little use as we both failed to keep a steady grip on it and both fell most of the way down.
On the bright side, I managed to remain conscious and was able to carry Ashera with her now broken leg with ease with the help of one of my elixers.
We escaped out into the forest and accross the river/stream as night had fallen. I would have liked to go to where Ashera said the place Finnian had fallen into would lead out, but we were too weak and the night too dangerous for us to go all that way around town and hid while I intended to make a splint for her leg.
Before I could however a large undead with a large axe crossed the river and was obviously looking for us. Luckily he didn’t seem to see us and retreated into the river.
Yes into the river. He seemed to almost melt into the water or else enter some stairway under the water and disappear completely in what seemed to be quite shallow water. A most interesting specimen but not one I have time to ponder now.

As we lay here trying to recover our strength and heal our wounds, Ashera asks if I could do anything to calm her nerves and relax her and I think I could use some comforting thoughts as well. She reminds me of my sister Marie, and although I remember her in some way every day, it’s been so long since I had last seen my dear sister that she had become more of an idea or a concept to me and not as the complete person that she was. As I told Ashera a few stories of my sister I thought of them almost as if for the first time. The cheerful memories I had repressed after they became cold reminders of her passing came to mind in almost a new light after so long without pondering them.

I didn’t have or take enough time then and I may be short on time now, but I’ll just have to find a way to make more time for myself and for whatever else I need to do.

Eventually Ashera slept and later I did as well. Hopefully when I awake I will have the time and capabilities to do what I need to do.

6.0 - The Journey Darkens
As history continues to plagiarize itself

This trip does nothing but affirm the old wisdom about deals that seem too good to be true. In the past couple days I’ve nearly lost this weak body to living corpses, one of our carts has been damaged beyond our means to repair it, the horse pulling it mortally wounded, and our ranks have fallen by more than half. And worse still, it feels as though my own past has been dogging us—a fact which all but ensures further horrors to come.

The morning following the attack I was sore, both physically and otherwise, but despite a heavy fog, I nearly let myself believe things were looking up. Finnian had defended us ably, and, although I completely failed to give him the support I should have, we worked together well enough. As the dwarf, Norrund, played lute, and the elf, Vodarr, attempted to entertain us with his “hand experience”, it almost felt like the early days, with Thorman and Hubert and Kitty, too many lifetimes ago. Undead are a bit more ominous than mere bandits, perhaps, but at least no carts were set ablaze.

During a break in our travels, Milo called out to our group, asking who the leader was. I volunteered myself, without hesitation, as the only one of the group with any real experience in these things. I was joined by the leader of the half-orc crew, a particularly tough looking male named Dokken. He informed us that one of the chests in our cart had been tampered with, and that a single piece of the cargo was missing—from the other chest. He couldn’t say when it happened, as this was his first inspection since the previous morning—in his haste to press forward, spurred by the attack on the road, he had become lax in his inspections. He gave us an ultimatum—find who stole the treasure, a small, smooth stone with a natural glow, and return it, or else no one gets paid. He gave us his word that, if the thief came forward, he or she would merely be dismissed without pay. But if he discovered the thief himself, he would kill them personally. Dokken and I agreed the terms were fair and set off to our separate investigations. I wish I could say I knew my companions well enough that they were above suspicion. Still, secrets are difficult to keep on a journey such as this, so I had little doubt things would resolve themselves. All in all, still quite the minor crisis, by my standards.

Then we hit the trap and it began to become apparent just how little my life has changed.

We had pushed on past dusk—I had suggested we stop to make camp as, between the fog and tree cover, it was nearly impossible to see anything, but the others were afraid of more walking dead and wished to continue as far as possible before stopping. As such, we stood no chance of seeing the rut in the road when we hit it. It was clearly placed there intentionally—the perfect size and depth to cripple a cart, and it worked perfectly, destroying the rear wheel at the axel. Milo had no spare, so, lacking other options, we loaded everything into the single intact cart while Finnian, Vodarr, and Dokken headed off into the woods to track down the loosed horse. We had finished loading everything and were standing guard, wary of ambush, awaiting their return, when we saw them. Norrund was the first, his eyes being accustomed to the dark in a way I could so very recently relate to. All I could see were two pairs of glowing eyes—ominous enough by themselves—but what truly chilled my blood was what Norrund said they were attached to, a pair of ghostly figures—young girls—accompanied by a third, a “grown” woman, in the middle. When he returned, Finnian corroborated this story, claiming to have seen them in the woods the night before, after the attack. They made no move toward us, and as the search party arrived, they retreated back into the trees.

That night I slept ill—too many thoughts stuck in my mind. What significance do these girls play. They’re clearly pursuing us, but have made no move against us as of yet. Is this merely their domain we travel through, or is it something about us that draws them? Our cargo? The book of Nerull? Or might it be me they seek? And what do they signify? Are they connected to the undead we have seen? Could this be the doing of Nerull? Or perhaps Doran himself has returned once again. I shudder to think what he could do if he allied with a fully risen god from the beginning. All questions I cannot answer now, and yet I cannot rid myself of them.

When day finally broke, we made our plans for going forward. A small contingent would walk at speed to the nearest town—hopefully not more than a day’s journey away—and try to procure us a new cart. Meanwhile the rest of us would attempt to move forward on foot, with our cargo on the remaining cart, and meet them on their way back. Norrund had bullheadedly decided to take the entire night’s watch and was completely passed out, so we loaded him on the cart as well. Weighing as little as I do, I opted to ride as well, citing that I would only slow our progress on foot. I did, however, have the ulterior motive of looking for Milo’s missing stone. I tried to suggest that the orcs head to town, providing me with ample opportunity to pursue my investigation, but Finnian was dead-set on going, and he took Vodarr and Ursa with him, leaving only Norrund for me to investigate.

My search of Norrund’s gear turned up nothing of note, so, once he awoke, I chose to confide in him what had happened, and what was at stake. His words did nothing to convince me of his innocence, but they also failed to betray any guilt. Still, he doesn’t seem the type to value riches over his own life, so I hoped that, if he were indeed the culprit, Milo’s warning would at least spur him to replace it at his first opportunity. But it would turn out I needn’t have worried. Shortly after our conversation, we ran across a traveler in the road—the first other living soul we’d seen in nearly a week. He looked quite harried and had nothing but ill to say of the road ahead. We, in turn, left him with warnings of the dangers behind us and we both set off to our own individual dooms.

Later in that day, the two orcs at our rear, Talwe and Baron, caught up to us and asked to switch places. We had been making good time, under the circumstances, and, although I knew it would slow us down, it does us no good to have worn out guards, so Norrund and I agreed. Our two groups had, to this point, kept to ourselves, but in this brief exchange, I felt some small sense of camaraderie with them. Had we been introduced properly from the start, I would at this point have known them for almost as long as the others. I decided that it was perhaps time to start bridging that gap—the way this journey was turning out, it would be better to be able to function as a single unit when necessary.

With Norrund and I guarding the rear, our pace was, indeed, slowed, but it was not a complete setback. After all, if the roads ahead were as bad as the man we met had said, we had no reason to hurry, as our advance party would no doubt be delayed. And, indeed, it didn’t take long for those premonitions to be justified, as shortly after our swap, Dokken came running back to us, shouting for us to get off the road. We do so, just in time for a large shadow to darken the skies in front of us—the unmistakable silhouette of a dragon. Milo expressed shock, stating that the last dragon he has personally known of in this world was nearly a century ago. We all watched it pass over us in awe. Even in Dracos back in the day, where such creatures were more common than not, they have always had a formidable presence—I can only imagine how striking seeing what might be the only one in your lifetime must be.

A while later, some odd behavior within the cart caught Norrund and my attention. The orcs were conversing in their native tongue, when suddenly the male, Baron, muttered something in common, then ducked down out of site. And when he popped back up, he was holding something in his hand. As I crept up to the back of the cart, to get a better vantage, I could clearly see it was a small, unusually smooth stone, about the size of a walnut. In the light of day it was hard to say, but I could have almost sworn it was glowing. They argued about it for a bit, with Talwe wanting him to leave it where it was, but Baron insisted that, having found it, it was his to keep, and he chose to pocket it.

Norrund agreed with me, it seemed likely to be Milo’s missing treasure, although what it was doing at the bottom of the cart, neither of us could say. Norrund proposed the idea of telling them that we saw it, of trying to convince them to bring it to Milo. I felt this was a bad idea, as Baron clearly wasn’t interested in giving it up, and, as they were Dokken’s men (so to speak), I felt it best to leave them to him. So when we rendezvoused to make camp that night, I told him what we saw, and what my suspicions were. I was clear that they found it and did not seem to know what they had, and that I wasn’t looking to cause any trouble for anyone, merely hoping to secure our payment for this job.

Dokken had words with the two of them for, what seems like longer than it should have taken, then came back to me, asking if I was sure of what I saw and if I was certain it was what Milo was missing. I affirmed I was confident in my report, as best as I could be with the information available. Without another word, Dokken returned to his companions and, with notable swiftness, cut them both down where they stood. He then reached into Baron’s pocket and retrieved the stone, which now in the darkness was very visibly glowing, and handed it to Milo, who silently acknowledged it as his missing cargo. The orc then marched off a way down the road to patrol.

Norrund seemed visibly disturbed by what went down, so I gave him a moment to process it, before enlisting his help in moving the bodies. I didn’t want them attracting predators to our camp. Or reanimating in the middle of the night around us, although I felt it best to not mention that possibility at that moment. We drug them to the other side of the road, a small distance into the trees and Norrund took a moment to… mourn, I guess. I tried to reassure him by telling him that this sort of thing never gets easier. A part of me wishes that were true. As we turned to leave, they appeared again, the girls. Seeing them then, for the first time, I was reminded more than ever of Selena. But unlike her, they made no move toward us, instead they merely stared, with those glowing eyes, and eventually faded back into the trees. They seem to appear whenever we encounter the dead, for whatever that is worth.

We returned to camp and Milo confirmed for me his cargo was once again all accounted for and we were square. Although the questions in my mind were as loud as ever, exhaustion from the road was able to overtake them quickly and I fell easily to sleep. Still, they were lurking just under the surface and, when Dokken woke me for watch, I quickly fell back into them, and to dwelling on the eerie similarities to those times, hundreds of years ago for this world, but mere decades for me. Disaster on the road, pursued spectral girls, an abundance of unnatural dead, and preoccupation with the book of a fell god. Am I cursed to live the same story endlessly? Perhaps I was mistaken—this might be Hell I returned to after all.


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