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Fragments of the Second Journal of Devon Marasheth
Posted on Tue, October 16, 2001 by Toran
The second of the fragmentary journals kept locked away in the archives of an Aerdi sage, these passages reveal more of the exploits of a hero from the Sheldomar Valley, and more hints of the darkness that has seeped into the very land itself in places.

Author: Sam Weiss


Fragments of the First Journal of Devon Marasheth of Dyvers, HearthTender of Berei, Prophet, Explorer, and Madman

by Sam Weiss (samwise1@email.msn.com)
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.


It has been over a month since I took pen in hand to record my thoughts on the nightmares I have been having and my experiences with the warrior Pharos. Much has happened since then when he returned from the Circle of Cahervaniel and what was beneath it.

Of most significance is what we have learned, how and from whom. But first I should clear up a small item I left unresolved in my first Journal.

The Statuette and the Unicorn Mizar

As I recorded, Pharos and his companions found a small statuette of a unicorn infested with some mysterious rhizomes deep within the passages under Cahervaniel. Taking it with them for further investigation, they dismissed it from their thoughts during the final battle against the spider creature that was serving the Foundingstone.

As they returned home, they were suddenly attacked by a creature they thought they had destroyed earlier - the black unicorn/centaur from near where they discovered the statuette. Defeating it handily again, they once more dismissed it from thought and continued on their journey.

And it attacked again.

[[ed note: is it just me, or don’t they get hints very well?]]

Appearing from nowhere, the creature attacked three more times over the next three days, and though Pharos and his companions were victorious each time, the creature nearly slew Sunblayze and Thaddeus on different occasions.

Having returned to Haven, this became the first order of business. Reviewing the events of the expedition, they suddenly connected the statuette and the creatures appearance. The solution was then obvious - destroy the statuette. Surprisingly, this was easily accomplished. But more surprising was the sudden appearance of a shining white unicorn that spoke to all present. It named itself Mizar, and thanked us for freeing it from a hellish imprisonment and servitude to the Foundingstone. An imprisonment that had lasted since the death of Pyorrhea an age ago when the Foundingstone destroyed him. Mizar also promised to aid Pharos at some time in the future when he most needed help.

I suppose the thought of having finally accomplished something made everyone a little giddy then, and we celebrated at least one triumph before returning to he horror that still threatened us all.


As we turned ourselves to a deeper study of what had happened and what was to be learned, we all could feel a deep and abiding dread building within us. The things we learned and things they pointed at were truly hideous, making us all fear the more deeply for what was to come. But we could not turn our backs on this situation. We had to continue.

At first we could make little sense of it all. Alaxus was at least somewhat understandable to us, but Pyorrhea was beyond our comprehension at that time. As such, we sought out others with more knowledge, and in one case, were sought out due to a kindness.

Through Thaddeus, a companion of Pharos and scion of a minor member of House Cranden-Guarhoth of the Great Kingdom [[ed. note: now what was one of our agents doing so far away? And just who was he working for, anyways?]], we gained an introduction to the Master at Mathghamna one Japheth the Arcane. After hearing our story and being convinced that we were sincere, he filled us in on many things he knew of Pyorrhea and Alaxus as well as Drake, a former student of his turned servant of the darkness we now fought. The things we learned were incredible, but they filled in so much we had already had hints of. We learned some of the history of all three of these sorcerers as well as some of the history of the Vale. And we also learned that there are horrors waiting out there to feed on an unsuspecting world and all its inhabitants. We also learned that others might know things even he did not. We learned of the Restorers and their presence in the Vale. I had some rumors of a group with beliefs like theirs, but now it was confirmed. And I wondered, they sought to restore a Power, how strange was it to consider that the Outer Ones would seek to be restored to this Oerth of ours as well? Not at all I had to conclude. Some things unfortunately do not die.

Our next goal was of course to contact these Restorers and seek more knowledge. This was done for us as I mentioned through us being sought out instead. As we traveled to the Brichtwood where we believed we would find a local Coven, a unicorn confronted us one night. At first fearful, we were surprised then pleased to learn that this creature was not only the Guardian of the Brichtwood, but cousin to Mizar whom we had so recently freed. As a show of gratitude, it would not only grant us passage through the Brichtwood, but would also introduce us to the local Coven, good friends of his it turns out.

From the Coven we learned even more. their knowledge was more specialized than that of the Master of the Academy, and they filled in many things he could not. As well, they were most pleased as he had been by what we had discovered, including being entranced by the Lament of Pyorrhea which we could pass along to them.

But oh the things we learned! The ineffable horror of them! I do not record them here save in hints and suggestions. I have begun another book, a secret book, wherein I will record the secrets I have become privy to. Perhaps some day I will share that with others, but for now, the fewer people that know of such things the better. For the sake of their sanity if nothing else.


I now move on to our expedition against the Jebli of the Burning Hills. Little did I know then how it would turn out. it was instead a mission against the Horror under the hills.

We had reports from Kleine about grave robbing, ostensibly by the Jebli of the nearby Hills. Why they had suddenly turned to such was a mystery, but given the recent events and the known preference for undead of Alaxus, we felt we had no choice but to investigate.

We further had decided that I would accompany Pharos and his fellows to gain a deeper understanding of what was unfolding, and perhaps find a way to end the continued horrid nightmares I was having.

We arrived in Kleine early, as the morning mists were still burning off Lake Ostrel. The people, remembering the earlier heroics in regards the Eye of the Wyvern, were pleased to see Pharos again. They seemed confident he could soon solve any difficulty they were having. the mood shifted though as we examined some of the recent graves affected. It was obvious they had been exposed deliberately. Oddly though, it seemed to us that they had not been excavated using shovels or other tools, but rather dug out with bare hands. Such did not seem typical of Jebli, but such beasts are never rational.

Resupplying ourselves, and gaining the likely location of the goblin lair from scouts, we headed out again the next day. the journey was more onerous than we had expected however. We had been told the region was more active than usual, but were not prepared for what we encountered. A foul stench pervaded the region, invading our lungs and making breathing a chore. As well, a vile yellow haze spread through the air, given a more ominous cast than usual to the stunted trees and warped growths of the Burning Hills. We would discover later that the clothes we took were forever tainted by the air and had to be burned.

We came upon the lair late in the afternoon, and despite the hour, chose to enter immediately. Perhaps we all thought to find a less offensive air within than without.

The lair itself was an old silver mine long abandoned by the local peoples. The Jebli it seemed lived in the upper reaches and galleries and avoided the old mine facings below. We briefly considered checking those facings first, to see if we could find a secure resting place, but as we gazed into the blackness of the shaft leading down, we all must have felt the same dread I did as we unanimously voted to get about our expressed business and see to the Jebli.

This we did, and we quickly cleared several chambers of Jebli as well as assorted vermin that had made the place their home. Oddly, we had found no sign of females or young, and began to suspect that this could not be the main Jebli lair, but merely an outpost of some sort.

We were growing tired, but as none had yet escaped us, decided to press on in hopes of clearing the entire pest hole without having given warning. Fortunately, after clearing one more large guard chamber, we found ourselves at the heart of the complex, and the first horror we had to deal with.

Later examinations showed us that this place had been the primary Jebli lair, but they had recently moved to a Noniz digging they had taken by surprise. As such, all their females and young had been moved there. They had returned here for some obscene ritual purpose, as we discovered within a priest of some sort performing a depraved ritual upon a helpless Noniz before a smoking and stinking alter stained with an accumulation of blood from numerous sacrifices. Frozen for but a moment, we quickly moved into action, and despite the wolves and warriors backing up the foul priest, we were able to slay them all without loss. We were unfortunately too late to save the hapless Noniz, though from the outrages already performed on him, perhaps that was a mercy more than anything else. Likewise, we were unable to take any of the goblins prisoner. We were able however to secure a number of papers apparently belonging to the priest who must have been literate.

These included not only a map to the Noniz delve, but also a ritual and invocation of some sort and some recent notes made by the now dead priest. If it is to be believed, then the Jebli are not responsible for this rash of grave robbing, but rather something else. It was obvious our quest was not done yet, so we cleaned a small chamber as best we could and settled in to rest before continuing the next day.

The night passed uneventfully, and despite the foul condition I believe we all had more rest in that place than we had outside the previous nights. This made us all less inclined to continue, especially when we emerged and discovered the day was already overcast, an storm seemingly brewing to add to our misery. Our duty was clear however, and we set out.

Two days later we found ourselves outside the Noniz delve shortly before noon, and after a quick consultation proceeded in. Niles scouted ahead, and reported some guards seemingly distracted by something within the caves itself. We swiftly overran them and prepared to head further in when Darkblade ominously commented they seemed to be watching for something from within as opposed to anything from without. We should have taken better heed of that warning while we could.

Moving deeper, we discovered two other groups of guards, they likewise seeming to be watching within rather than without. Moving down a tunnel near the second group, we also discovered something disgusting. A discarded skin from a Jebli it seemed. The victim of some depraved sacrifice we thought. Such fools were still.

Leaving, we headed deeper still, passing abandoned living chambers and workshops and the like. In one side chamber, we discovered the hideously slain bodies of several Noniz that had apparently been taken alive and were being kept as slave labor. it appeared the Jebli had savagely torn them to pieces with their bare hands. Oh the horrific truth of it!

We still had not discovered any of the females or young, or even any appreciable gang of Jebli and were preparing to take a ramp down to the lower levels when suddenly a lone Jebli boiled up from the depths. We feared he might be leading a counterattack of some sort against us, but it quickly became obvious he was alone. Darkblade grabbed him, and we all moved to hold him fast and question him. At first he seemed terrified of us, shrieking piteously as we held him. However, his darting eyes looking down the ramp he ascended and the way he looked past us while screaming and struggling made it obvious something had driven it insane. Darkblade delivered a sharp smack across the creatures face attempting to bring it to its senses. the Jebli's eyes focused briefly and it seemed to become aware of us. Whereupon it shrieked even more hideously than before in its foully accented Keoish, "The teeth, the teeth, THE TEEEEEETHHHHHHH". At which point its sanity fled it fully and permanently. Having no choice, we put the pathetic thing out of its misery, and reluctantly turned to head down the ramp.

We discovered more abandoned galleries and chambers below. As we found more skins of goblins, burst as though from within these seemed. None of it made sense. Or perhaps, our minds knowing better would not allow it to make sense. Would that we had listened and not found the truth.

In a room below we found some Jebli at last. No more than 10 clustered together and staring at some hideously swollen corpses of men in a corner. The corpses, obviously those of the robbed graves had seemingly been defiled by the Jebli in some perverse way, and this band seemed set on defiling them further, cutting into them vilely with their spears. Outraged, we attacked and slew them without mercy, ignoring their pleas to listen. We did them an injustice I must confess. But we paid for it. Oh we paid.

We continued down the corridor we were in, intent on ending this horror once and for all. In a room that had once been the feast hall of the Noniz and had been taken as such by the Jebli chief, we discovered more than a dozen discarded husks strewn about. As we examined them, They came. Short, furred and with more teeth than anything natural possesses or should be allowed to posses they came. An endless gibbering wave of horror they lapped at us.

They were not the best of fighters, but they came in such numbers. In the dark recesses of the cave, the only thing beyond the endless waves that could be noticed was the baleful flickering of the Blade of Runes as Sunblayze wielded it to effect against that horde. They are not of the Oerth, we know that now. And still they came. To us, it seemed like the came in the hundreds, yet a count afterward showed a mere 28 bodies. Plus that of Elanna. She had fallen when we could not see for the press, and they had torn her apart before anyone could move to help. Had we not slain those goblins, perhaps they would have helped us and she would still be alive. But the worse horror was still ahead.

Behind a door we found the females and young of the Jebli we thought had to be about. They lolled about a room, swollen as the corpses we had seen earlier. We might have thought they were with child had it been only females, but it was the young as well, male and female. We looked on unknowing when suddenly one of them jerked. With a ear shattering ripping sound, her body ripper apart, and one of the gibbering things that had assailed us so recently stood amidst the ruins of her skin. We stood shocked, until the thing moved and began tearing at Niles whereupon we slew it quickly. We stood looking at the other Jebli, knowing what we would need to do and hating the thought despite the foul nature of the victims. Nothing deserves to die like that, not even Jebli. In the end, our leader Pharos did what had to be done.

After, we searched through the possessions of the Jebli chief, obviously one of the skins upon the floor, and whatever might remain of the Noniz chief, the victim of the foul ceremony at the abandoned mine. In them, we learned that the Noniz had recently discovered the lost stronghold of the master thief known as the White Rook, and that they had possibly brought something back with them. Something that became their death. The Jebli had come after that, and bought their own deaths even as they slew the Noniz for their home and wealth. We will have to track down this stronghold and see what is within. But not now. Now we need clean air and clean places to wash away this horror. May Berei help us find such.


The Nest of the White Rook

Having recovered in body and mind from the horrors we encountered in the Jebli lair, we turned our attention to the map we had found and the note indicating the location of the White Rook's Nest. The White Rook was something of a local phenomenon. An alleged master thief who had chosen the Vale as a place to retire to and settle down. It was said that he had secret hiding place built somewhere in the Burning Hills. One rumor even had that he had commanded the local Jebli to build it for him. It seems that may have been true, as one part of the Jebli chief's paper appeared to refer to it as "the place forced from our ancestors."

We secured the services of a pair of passing warriors to bolster our strength. An odd pair who gave their names as Melarvin and Harbyold. They appeared to be near pure blood Suel and indicated they were interested in gaining a sum of wealth from adventuring in order to settle down as gentleman farmers. Together, we all set out for the Burning Hills and the so called Nest.

The passage through the Hills was slightly less onerous than before due to precautions we were able to take based on our previous expedition, and despite our worries about the accuracy of the Jebli map, we were able to locate a hidden entrance with less than an hours work once we were at the indicated area. Lighting torches, we proceeded down.

The place had a musty smell, reminiscent of a pile of decaying leaves. It emanated in waves from a thin growth of mold that hung like draperies upon the walls and flowed like a foul carpet across the floors. In a corner in the second chamber, we discovered two lumps that proved to be the mold covered and decaying corpses of a pair of Jebli scouts. Forcing down our gorges, Niles and I bent and examined them, and it quickly became apparent that a trap of some sort had done them in. Niles looked, and located a spent dart trap. It seemed that despite the remote location and passage of time, the White Rook had taken exceptional precautions to safeguard himself and that those safeguards were still intact. We continued, more cautious now, with Niles checking our route for any more surprises that may be in wait.

The layer of mold thickened as we proceeded in deeper, and hordes of small creatures could be observed swarming through and feeding upon it. Mainly small spiders and scorpions, as well as other such vermin. As the stench also grew and threatened to over take us, we held up briefly in what had been a storeroom to consider our options. So far we had located little but dust and traps and the ever present mold that seemed to be taking over the lair of the former Master Thief. We wondered if it was worth our efforts to continue and briefly considered leaving. We decided to press on however, our two new warriors pressing us to locate at least some small store of treasure to compensate ourselves for our time and effort. Darkblade growled something about greed and what it gains, but as usual we ignored his grumbling. For once he was on target though, but fortunately the truly Evil paid the price for all of us.

Forging ahead through the tunnels we passed several additional storerooms as well as a kitchen and what may have been workrooms at one time. We also finally encountered some living creatures. Unfortunately, they were nothing more than the vermin we had seen earlier grown to incredible proportions. We had heard of such being found in dark places, but had never met anything like it ourselves. Rats and scorpions and centipedes, and even two huge, hairy spiders. Fortunately, we were able to slay them all without injury, but they seemed to hint at some greater difficulty awaiting us deeper below.

At last in a large open chamber, likely a display room at some time, we encountered what was to prove the first of the unnatural creatures that had overtaken this place. They were large fibrous growths. Huge leprous mushrooms, looming above the mat of lesser fungus that was now a thick carpeting and so heavy upon the walls they seemed to threaten to tear off at any moment. Upon our approach they began a hideous wailing. Fearing for what they might alert beyond, as well as for our own ears, we forced our fear down hacked into them until they fell torn and broken and their abominable incessant shrieking ended.

Again we paused to collect ourselves. As we did, what appeared to be dripping mud flowed down one wall and towards Melarvin. Thaddeus called to him to beware it, but we were all taken aback when it suddenly reared like a snake and struck at him. With an impact greater than that of the heaviest of mauls it slammed into him throwing his body flew across the room, a smoking hole burned through a portion of his armor. We all froze momentarily, overcome by what we were seeing. But then the thin began oozing across the floor to our fallen fellow and we broke free from our terror and moved to attack it. We almost fell back again as our first attacks resulted in weapons pulled back, dripping and rotting from some caustic property of the oozing monstrosity. It was then the horror multiplied, as the thing reared back again like a great serpent, and let loose with a mind crushing blast of energy. Somehow the thing possessed magical or mental abilities! We could not afford to hold back now, and unleashed ourselves on the beast no matter the threat to our equipment. Fortunately, despite its ability to damage our metal items, it was not impervious to them, and was swiftly reduced to a dispersing pool of fluid the color of muddy water. Thaddeus secured a sample of it in a glass vile as Mitchifer and myself examined Melarvin. He was severely injured but not dead, and we were able to make him battle ready in a short time. Despite his injuries both he and Harbyold were up to continue.

The rest of us, knowing how the horrors could multiply were not as eager to continue, but agreed in the end.

Pressing on, we managed to locate a set of living chambers, likely those of the White Rook sometime past. Searching them, we located none of his famed treasure, but did manage to find both his journals and a few other books of some note. One Melarvin took up to read for us, surprising us that he was literate, while I essayed the journals and Thaddeus what looked to be some other minor papers. While we did, the others continued searching. The journals were in some code and as I sat to attempt to decipher it, I heard Thaddeus exclaim that his papers were a collection of wanted notices for the White Rook concerning items he had stolen as well as minor household invoices. Melarvin was silent about the red bound book he had taken to read, and the others were finding nothing except for Harbyold who had opened a panel in back of a wardrobe and cried out.

We turned to see what appeared to be a mass of bright golden fuzz in the back and were quite puzzled when he babbled about the wondrous store of gold he had uncovered. Melarvin called to him in an strange tongue, and Niles shouted to him to stop, that is was just some mold, but he reached in before any of us could move and began tossing handfuls of it about as though it were a bunch of coins he had found and not something else. We watched in shock as a huge cloud of spores burst from the disturbed mold and settled upon him. Then he began screaming.

Faster than anything we had ever seen, the mold spores grew on him, infesting his body and consuming him from without and within. He thrashed briefly, then collapsed on the ground and ceased moving. We watched horrified until Darkblade jerked suddenly and began stiffly marching forward mumbling about the wonderful gold he would soon have. Niles cried out and tried tackling him, and Sunblayze moved to him, but the two barely slowed Darkblade down. Mitchifer called forth a burst of magical light from his patron Pelor to assist us in fighting the creature and a shocking mental shriek issued forth from it. More intelligent mold of some sort. That seemed to snap Darkblade out of his trance and before the thing could recover Melarvin called to us to throw our torches at it while he doused it with a flammable oil. That worked, and the thing was soon a writhing mass of flames. Harbyold was still coated with the substance, and we had no choice but to leave him to the flames as well as we fled the room before we suffocated. Closing the door behind us, we went back to a nearby storeroom and again paused to regroup and consider our next move.

Despite the loss of his friend, Melarvin still wished to push on. By now we were all suspicious of him but given what we had uncovered, we knew we had to discover the remaining secrets of this place. I suggested halting until I could decipher the journals, and also asked what Melarvin had discovered in his red book. He said he had dropped it during the fight against the yellow mold and also stated he felt we had no time for a full translation but must continue immediately. Despite our suspicion of him, he was persuasive enough that the others agreed with his suggestion, and despite my wish to wait we continued on immediately.

We continued through more winding corridors and abandoned storerooms, being forced to slay a growing number of the vermin that seemed to be thriving despite the unnatural environment until we came to a stair down. Below, we discovered a large door, heavily secured and dangerously trapped. While Niles was able to again disarm it, caused us a good deal of concern.

Sunblayze was also able to locate a hidden door near it while Niles was making the door safe, and through that secret portal we discovered a small treasure room. While the loot was taken stock of, Thaddeus was able to correlate one section of his notes and I was able to break the cipher in one of the journals. We were able to conclude that this was the lesser treasure room of the White Rook, holding coins and lesser items he had secured through the years. The main treasure room was beyond the door however, and beyond the trapped gauntlet the White Rook had prepared both to keep himself in shape as well as deter any thieves. Girding ourselves for a last desperate run, we opened the door and continued.

The gauntlet proved as onerous as we expected despite a number of the traps having being triggered by the vermin that were swarming over the ubiquitous mold that infested this place even more thickly than above. As well, some of the devices appeared to have been damaged by the passing of unnatural creatures, perhaps related to the corrosive ooze we had encountered above.

Finally we passed the last trapped door into the inner chambers. There we found a small library and sitting room, obviously for the White Rook to relax and enjoy his ill gotten gains in. The mold in here was even thicker, a carpet that tore and threw up spores with every step. It coated the walls and shelves, having consumed all of what may have once been priceless tomes.

And behind one shelf we found that it had claimed the great White Rook himself. A long decayed corpse holding a small oily gemstone in one hand.

Melarvin moved forward before any of us and pried the gem from his hand. As he turned to us with a look of triumph on his face, a patch of sickening emerald slime flowed down from the ceiling onto him. He began screaming, and flailing about, dropping the gem and racing about the room. As we tried to help him, a slithering mass of jelly appeared from under the door, and we were forced to defend ourselves or die. Fortunately for us it was vulnerable to our weapons and though its caustic fluids severely injured both Pharos and Darkblade, we were able to slay it. Unfortunately Melarvin had been reduced to little more than a large puddle by the slime that had fallen upon him and we could do nothing to save him. As we consigned the puddle that had been him to flames, Niles recovered the gem he had taken from the remains and Sunblayze noticed a book upon the floor. It was the red covered book Melarvin had claimed to have lost earlier. We took it with us, wondering what could be in it that had caused him to lie as he did. As we camped for the night upon leaving the ruins, Thaddeus was able to read a small portion of the book and it became obvious.

The book itself was titled Red Cousins It described a faction of a cult of some sort that sought to promote the Suel people to rulership of the Flanaess. What this had to do with Melarvin and the White Rook became apparent only when we had time to rest and go over all the books in Haven.

Once there, we were able to examine all the books in detail. There we discovered the other journal had been written with a different, more complex code. The simpler one I had broken was merely personal notes about the lair and daily tasks. The deeper one depended on lines from the book Red Cousins.

It appears the White Rook was a member of this group, and likely Melarvin and Harbyold as well. The White Rook stole minor items for hire to conceal greater thefts to benefit this group. He would send such items back periodically but it seems likely had not sent anything for some time causing the leaders to send our two erstwhile allies to see what was amiss. Being fanatics, they were willing to continue the expedition no matter the cost.

Unfortunately for their schemes, the only ones to pay were themselves and we escaped unharmed.

The later parts of the journal spoke of the White Rook stealing the gem we had taken. It appears that shortly after that, he began having difficulties in his home with some of the odd molds and slimes we had encountered. The last entry indicated he had connected the two, and was going to go to his inner sanctum and secure or destroy the gem before his hideout was overrun with them. It seems he had failed in that task.



Note: Bissel, CthulhuHawk, Thunder Vale
 
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Re: Fragments of the Second Journal of Devon Marasheth (Score: 1)
by Man-of-the-Cranes (manofthecranes@canonfire.com) on Thu, April 18, 2002
(User Info | Send a Message) http://www.ManoftheCranes.com
Damnit! I thought we were going to learn more abou the Restorers...

Cheers
Man of the Cranes




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