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February 24, 2004

Inflame

Theona's Journal

Kythorn 21, 1373, Silverymoon

Having friends is hard work— I had been a loner for years and never really minded that lifestyle. Areon was not kidding about the trouble either— all of our little circle of companions were having problems, which in turn were causing each other problems. Let me explain as I go, as my thoughts are in turmoil.

I quickly grabbed my backpack and followed Areon out of my house, leaving Dante to sleep off his drink. I didn’t even stop to wonder why he was unconscious in my side room, trusting Areon’s belief that time was of the essence. Areon took me towards our favorite tavern, and then stopped and cursed like he’d lost something. He hurriedly explained to me that we were looking for Tassar, who had been ambushed in the alley by a group of town guards. By the time Areon had climbed down from his view of the incident high up in the trees, the guards were gone, as was our short friend. Areon is normally an excellent tracker in the wilderness, but hasn’t learned all the nuances of following quarry within the city limits. Luckily I had sobered up enough to help— I spotted some drops of blood and drag marks leading from the alley behind the Bright Blade and we picked our way carefully, following the sporadic crimson trail. It was a long trail to follow, and we had to work together at a few points, because, though I could see that someone had been bleeding and dragged through the alleys, I wasn’t always clear which way they had turned. As much as he dislikes cities, Areon is learning to look for these differences when tracking, and between the two of us, we muddled through. When I asked him why we didn’t stop for Deitricha or Antonio, he indicated that they were the last two people that should be with us when we caught up with Tassar— Antonio’s father and Deitricha’s older brother, both members of the town guard in good standing, were apparently the ones that had beaten him and left him for dead!

It was nearly dawn by the time we found him. We had walked more than half the length of the city, backtracking multiple times, to eventually find him in a deserted building in the dock area well past the Moonbridge. We found Tassar strung up by his feet in an otherwise empty room, though a full bucket of water was on the floor below his hanging form. Tassar had bruises and congealing blood on nearly every bit of exposed skin, and his face was puffy and swollen. Areon was just tall enough to reach the knot on the rope to get him down, and I splashed some water on the halfling to revive him a bit. He didn’t seem altogether coherent and I was afraid he’d pass out again, so I used my remaining healing potion on him. Tassar just wasn’t coming around and I had suggested to Areon we take him to the Temple of Silver Stars (I’ve actually found work through them before and knew the Moonmistress would help Tassar, even with my limited gold). I started off with the halfling right away and Areon agreed to follow us at a distance to make sure we weren’t being followed.

Tassar needed a bit more healing than I realized; apparently, small folk have as many bones to break as us “tall” folk. Two clerics cleaned him up nicely for the 22 gold I offered, though of course Areon and eventually Tassar donated some to the temple afterwards. I must be sure to thank Selûne for the pleasant nature of her priests.

Tassar was hungry, of course, and it was time for breakfast, so we went back to the Bright Blade and found that Antonio was already there, and Deitricha had also just arrived. Antonio was clearly upset and begged us to get ready to leave town immediately. Deitricha just had a look of general unease, though we hadn’t yet told her of the night’s events. I had to go back and find Dante (who was not, apparently, eating with us) to see if he was going along to check out the ruined tower, or moving on with his Harper business, so we agreed to meet at my house midmorning. When I got home, Dante had departed without so much as leaving a note, though I didn’t think to look for any hidden symbols; it appears he was in even more of a hurry than Antonio, so we grabbed some supplies and departed. Antonio brought the horses and Otto around, but did not want to spend the time getting the wagon ready.

We were already well on our way out of town when we all finally got to discuss the events of the night before. I think that perhaps Tassar wanted to spare Antonio and Deitricha from some of the details, so he was a little vague with some of the story. Antonio admitted to having a falling out with his father, and Deitricha seemed to be aware that her brother was not comfortable with her relationship with a halfling, but no one was really making the connection. When we made camp later in the evening, I took watch with Deitricha, and managed to give her the rest of the story. I feel bad now— I thought I was doing her a favor, but now she is struggling with what appears to be divided loyalties. She believes her brother is a good person— we can only wonder what Tassar could have done to make her brother behave so horribly.

Being away from home seemed to have the desired effect for all of my companions: Areon is always happier when we are away from the city, Tassar looked a lot less paranoid, and even Antonio and Deitricha seemed to lighten up a bit. We were all maybe too relaxed— we almost tripped over a dead cow in the middle of the trail we followed. We hadn’t passed any farms, and there were no visible tracks to show how the cow had arrived and been slain and the cow was devoid of blood. It was injured prior to its death; that much was obvious, it just didn’t have any blood on it, nor was there any where it lay. Antonio insisted it was a vampire, but as none of us has ever seen a vampire (and Tassar doubts their existence altogether), we began to look around us for any obvious signs of blood sucking creatures of the night.

It was late morning, and the sun was shining. No vampires appeared that we noticed.

Another few miles down the road we did come to a farm, and I wanted to stop and let the people know of the mutilated cow. My friends were in a hurry, I think, but when Tassar thought he smelled freshly baked pie, he began running towards the farmhouse with Deitricha in tow.

The two men we found out working in a nearby field thanked us for finding “Nellie,” and said there had been a rash of killings on the neighboring McNam and Narl farms too, over the last three nights, with cattle found in similar conditions. Antonio asked if we could camp on the farm, and as I pointed out it was still only mid-morning, the friendly farmer mentioned that the hamlet of White Haven, just up the road, had a nice Inn that we’d probably prefer anyway. We thanked him and, seeing our other companions emerging from the farmhouse, headed back to the road leading west.

We soon arrived in the quaint little farming community and stopped at the Frosty Mug for a bit of lunch. Afterwards, my friends started fanning out one or two at a time, looking for places to shop for supplies, while I grilled an older human named Marl about the tower up the road. He took such a round about way to spit out the information that I was sure we’d all expire from old age long before he finished. Topping off his beverage of choice kept him interested in the conversation, but he remained painful to talk to. After several hours, I managed to get this much information:

The “old” tower is 100 years old. The wizard Kantrell disappeared 70 years ago when the tower blew up.
Rumor is that the tower was built over a gate leading right into one of the Hells.
Strange lights are seen around the ruined tower at night.
A band of fortune seekers went up a month ago and never came back. Group consisted of an elf, dwarf, gnome and something not-quite-right.

I presume that Marl is still telling the tale to anyone that is willing to listen, but, seeing that my friends were ready to forge ahead, I thanked him and hurried off.

We soon were heading west again, anticipating our imminent arrival at the tower. A seemingly random encounter brought our travel to an abrupt halt. We were traveling close to the River Rauvin and noticed some rather large footprints in the dirt headed towards the water. Curious, we walked a distance until we saw a huge troll, its back to us, facing the river. Now, none of us had ever killed a troll, but we knew they were bad news, and Antonio was fairly sure that fire was the answer (isn’t it always?). Areon and I let loose with arrow and bolt, while Tassar ran up to the beast and began to hack at it. Antonio used a magic missile while Deitricha, realizing the troll was regenerating from the damage, ran forward to throw oil on it (getting hit by an arrow from Areon in the process) and pulling the staggered Tassar away from what would surely have been a killing blow from the troll. Running to stand close to Antonio, I shouted to him to light my next bolt so we could safely ignite the oil from a distance. He started to agree, but then, inexplicably, ran forward and lit the troll with a spell that required him to touch the giant creature. Flames shot up from where he touched it, catching the beast on fire, which, in turn, enraged it. We couldn’t move fast enough— the troll’s claws ripped Antonio apart, killing him instantly. The monster succumbed to the flames moments later, never to rise again.

We were all in shock, but agreed that, even though he was fighting with his family, returning Antonio’s body home was the right thing to do. We turned around and headed right back to Silverymoon. We didn’t talk much on the way home, but at some point we realized that Deitricha, human cleric that she is, would be the best spokesperson for giving the sad news to his family, as there was no way we could begin to pay to have him raised, if it was even possible. I went with her, while our male companions waited for us nearby; if Antonio’s father had seen Tassar, somehow he would have been blamed for the tragic death. Deitricha smoothed over the incident; she described the incident to Antonio’s mother well enough, but she glossed over why we had left town in such a hurry to begin with. I just handed the grieving parent Antonio’s silver engraved mug (she didn’t ask for anything else he’d been carrying), and admittedly, I muttered a few things about why he’d left home the day before. Deitricha was mortified, though I doubt Antonio’s mother was even listening.

I am certain my companions will want to leave town again and head for that tower, but some of the thrill of the hunt has gone out of me. Realistically, we need to find an arcane magic wielder we can work with, and hopefully, get along with, to even make the attempt. Having a group of companions that I can trust and enjoying being with is a rare combination for me. I wish I had the calm determination Areon always seems to have— even with the tragedy that has befallen us, I felt safer having him close by.

Posted by Kristin at 21:39 | Theona’s Journal