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    Crimson Ascendant - Episodes 1-4
    Posted on Mon, November 12, 2001 by Toran
    WavesCrest writes "A caravan departs from the city of Trigol, bearing food for the city of Mowbrenn. Along the trip, rebels and bandits are encountered, although starvation and desperation seem to be the least of the problems to be found within Mowbrenn's walls as Palish priests and a blood cult stir up trouble in the city.

    Author: WavesCrest

    Crimson Ascendant

    by WavesCrest (
    Used With Permission. Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    Book One

    I – The Crossing

    In which the fellowship is introduced, and a journey begins to Mowbrenn.

    The luminance off Pelor gently illuminated the streets of Trigol on the morn of the 3rd day of the festival of Growfest, and bathed the Temple of Pholtus with its sublime warmth. Within these hallowed halls walked Werold, a Templar from the Theocracy of the Pale bound in oath of service to the Shining Paragon Alden Goris. Upon his tabard was emblazoned the silver sun and moon of Pholtus and underneath the holy garments rested a suit of fine mail. Summoned by the Paragon, Werold was told he was to be released from temple duty and given in service to the Countess in escorting a caravan of fine wine and foods donated by the Countess for the peoples of Nyrond so that they might celebrate the Festival of the Seven Sisters – a festival dedicated to the Laughing Rogue.

    Werold balked at the idea of supporting such a pagan festival – for was it not a festival dedicated to a heathen god? At this the Paragon was magnanimous – Werold would be there to ensure the festival did not degenerate into pure iniquity, but he was to observe and act only when called upon. Mollified by this order, Werold reluctantly agreed and was given arms and supplies from the church, before travelling to the River Gate to take his place in the caravan’s escort.

    Meanwhile within the common room of the Winch and Pulley tavern there sat a warrior-maiden, dressed in mail and with a fine noble sword girthed to her hip. Despite her diminutive size, the bonze haired Hepzibah was the equal of any man within the room and the subject of much admiration and adulation from the assembled patrons. A sell-sword, raised a shepherd’s daughter upon the once lush hills of Almor, she had found her heart to be heavy at the loss of her homeland and her purse only too light by contrast. Having heard from a wag upon the streets of Trigol that she might find work in the service of the Countess’s caravan to Nyrond, for activity from Iuz upon the northern marchlands of the County had made it wise to the Countess to deploy her faithful Swans to the north.

    As Hepzibah tarried only for one final drink, under the close scrutiny of the innkeeper, Carnen Ulman, a stranger from the bar interrupted her revelry. His tall stature and youthful countenance betrayed him to be one of the Olves, and he introduced himself as Erestor of Celene. Hearing tell of the gathering of free-swords upon the River Gate by the Newtown, he too enunciated his desire to make coin from escorting the caravan to Mowbrenn, though his skills were not as martial as Hepzibah. Pleased with each others company the free-sword and scout did leave the tavern, and not before time thought the warrior-maiden, for the attentions of the men of the Winch and Pully she thought she could do without.

    Outside the River Gate there were numerous companies of sell swords, including such men as the Silver Shields of Woodwych and the Longbows of Beetu. One Swan-Commander, Landal Berreman, bade the mercenaries form an orderly line and give in turn name and credentials to his scribe. Erestor found himself standing beside a scholar dressed in the archaic robes of Boccob, one Luke, and the olve and his companion fell into speaking with the Concordant.

    With their credentials established the three set eyes upon the Templar, Werold, who felt his station meant he need not sully himself joining the line with the other mercenaries. Falling upon speaking to the trio, the Templar marked well the Pentagram of Boccob upon Luke and made clear his disapproval.

    Finally with all freeswords catalogued, and with several of the noted companies returning to barracks muttering something about the low pay, the four companions vouched to go rest within one of Trigol’s taverns – though Hepzibah insisted it not be the Winch and Pully. Within the shanties of the New Town, where Trigol’s Tenh refugees resided, the fellowship found purchase in the Hawk and Hound, though did not tarry long after Werold insulted the hostess, for she – like many within the New Town – followed the Summoner and openly flaunted his Rune of Pursuit.

    Finally deciding not to visit a second tavern the companions tarried long in the square of the New Town, amidst the squalor and misery, before the hour elapsed and they returned to Berreman to learn they had each been chosen as guards for the caravan. Each was given a horse on loan and told to be responsible for its well-being, and the promise of 25 gold nobles – in the coin of Nyrond – for the completion of their mission.

    Thus when the other assembled freeswords were ready and mounted the host passed along the River Gate and on to the Trigolford and the Curtullen. At Curtullen the caravans would diverge, one going to Woodwych, while one remained in Curtullen, and three were bound for Mowbrenn and the outlying cities. Beyond Curtullen lay the fellowship’s objectives - Mowbrenn, a six-day journey. As the midday came the companions found themselves escorting the same caravan, save for Erestor who dismounted and scouted ahead along with a company of four fellow scouts.

    Among those guarding the Mowbrenn caravan was a Recliner of Olidmarra, one Dorril, and he made the mistake of conversing with Werold, who berated him for his iniquity, though his true desire was to speak to Hepzibah. As the Templar continued his berating the Recliner stole a few moments with the maiden, offering her fine wines, for it seemed the wagons contained cornucopias of unlimited wine, and were enchanted by the Countess’s dweomercrafters that any food within the wagons would not spoil. Alas Hepzibah said her palette was not used to the fine wines that he offered, and when it seemed Dorril had gained her trust Werold interposed himself between the maid and the Recliner, thus ending their discourse.

    As the afternoon progressed the company came to the main expanse of the Franz River and set upon the Trigolford and the road to Curtullen, where they hoped to find lodgings for the night. Erestor was one of the elected scouts who crossed first, leading his horse across the calm waters of the ford. His keen Olven eyesight marked the presence of two yeoman with unstrung bows a mile across the waters. Hollering to them, he observed them string their bows and cautiously return his yell.

    Mounting his horse the Olve spurred it towards the yeoman until one did let an arrow fly into the ground several yards from Erestor, and say that by order of the Lord of Curtullen, Lellend DeFreiden, the town of Curtulenn was now a Free Town and no longer ruled by the King at Rel Mord. No man who had Archbold as his master, or the Countess, was welcome for fear that they were invaders – the wrath of the King of Nyrond was legendary.

    Somewhat demurred by this, Erestor did fly back to the ford and call the other scouts. There he elected to confer further with the men, but to call the leader of the Swans, Berreman, to receive further instruction. Upon this occurrence, both Landal and Hepzibah did join the Olve upon the banks of the Franz, later joined by the studious Luke. Finally, feeling left out, Werold did join the conference and argued heavily with Landal that these brigands should be dealt with. Losing patience with the Templar, Hepzibah did spur her horse gently across the Franz and towards the yeoman, who were loathe to shoot a maid in cold blood, where she made plain their intentions towards DeFreiden and how Curtulenn was to receive the gift of one of their wagons.

    This appeared to mollify the yeoman and they cautiously demanded to allow one of them to examine the contents of the wagons and if the veracity of their claim was valid, escort them to Curtullen, though the men of the Swan would have to leave their weapons in safekeeping with the Guard before being allowed within the city. Thus the elected yeoman, Thercam, examined the wagons – assisted by Luke who was understandably curious – and his mouth watered at the bountiful delicacies that lay within the wagon. Signalling to his comrade, the yeoman assented to the company’s arrival within Curtullen, and thus the company made its way across the countryside of Nyrond to the Free Town.

    II – First Blood

    In which the companions see first hand the devastation of the land of Nyrond, and suffer theft and banditry.

    Having earned the trust of two yeoman of the ferry-town of Curtullen the worthy fellowship from the County of Urnst followed the Franz River southwards towards said town. In the distance the Olve scout Erestor’s keen Olven sight did mark the approach of two score of men of Curtullen, led by a third Yeoman.

    Informing the rest of the company, Swan-Sarjent Landal Berreman and Hepzibah rode out to meet the men. The men, though warriors, were not uniformly equipped for a unit, and were unruly, making glib remarks at the expense of the warrior-maiden, who proved only too swift to defend her honour with her blade – costing one braggart to lose face with one swift and controlled swing of her noble sword.

    The company from Curtullen made demands that Landal and his men remove and hand over all heraldic insignia of the County before they were allowed admission to the Free Town. This stipulation also extended to Werold, for the Sun and Moon of the Blinding Light was not one that many of the occupants of Curtullen felt comfortable with now.

    The Swan-Sarjent bristled at the thought of removing his beloved green colours of the County and it was only when Hepzibah suggested that as a compromise the Swans be allowed to keep their tabards concealed within their packs that Berreman assented.

    In short order the group were led down to the fortified town of Curtullen, through the Wave Gate, and into the Lord’s Fortress – raised as it was upon Curtullen Hill. As they walked Luke learned about the ruinous taxes that Archbold had levied upon the township and how Lord DeFreides had dared defy the King at Rel Mord, saying that if he wanted the taxes he would have to march his hosts upon the city.

    The streets of the township, the companions noted, seemed to have an air of tension in them. The sounds of the streets, the laughter, the conversation and the stuff, seemed absent. At certain street corners Werold noted unsavoury looking rogues were noting the company with great interest. All the men had weapons of some sort, be they spear, antique crossbow or even in some cases swords. There was a definite aura of mistrust, and siege mentality seemed to rule the day.

    Within the courtyard of Curtullen’s Fortress, the company were bade to hand over their weapons by the harsh tongue of the gate guards. Realising they were in little position to argue over this latest condition, Landal grudgingly handed over his weapons. After this pleasantry was completed the Guards said that alas Lord DeFreides’s duties would keep him from personally welcoming the company, but that provision had been made for them. This turned out in fact to be a dark and empty room in a disused bunkhouse, where the company were locked and barred in. The company swiftly made use of their light sources, and those that could tried to get to sleep. For those who could not, there was provision for merriment as Dorryl revealed he had managed to smuggle one of the cornucopias out of the wagons and into the bunkhouse.

    As the 4th of Growfest dawned, the companions were roused unceremoniously – especially those who had drunk to excess – by the men-at-arms of DeFreides, who it seemed was too busy with his duties but sent his thanks. After having four of their five wagons returned to them, the Company of the Swan were marched eastwards, out of the Tide Gate, whereupon the gates of the town were closed to them. The road to the east led to Mowbrenn, the companion’s destination, while to the south some of the Company of the Swan were bound for Woodwych.

    Bidding farewell to fifteen of their fellows, bound of Woodwych, the companions spurred their mounts to the east, Dorryl leading at the front – for tonight was the Night of the Fool, and tradition dictated that they choose one known as Lord Motley to lead the caravan, thus granting it the Laughing Rogue’s blessings. The day was uneventful, and as the company set camp for the first time that evening, Werold was kept busy that evening try to prevent Dorryl from drinking himself into a stupor. No matter how many times the Templar disarmed the Recliner, as soon as his vigilance faltered the Priest had somehow produced a new glass of wine. Finally Werold interposed himself between Dorryl and the cornucopia – but not before the Recliner spent a good ten or so minutes lying beneath the cask and sampling its unlimited bounty.

    The 5th of Growfest dawned, much to Dorryl’s regret, and saw the company continuing along the Mowbrenn-road. The countryside they passed by was once lush and verdant, but now – as they passed by numerous hamlets and lone farmsteads – some deserted, the company saw the fallow fields of Nyrond – left empty by war. By noon Erestor – always the keenest of the scouts – spotted a disordered group of refugees making their way westwards towards Curtullen. Seeing few of them were armed, Erestor allowed the group to pass beyond his scouts unmolested.

    Asking where they were headed, Erestor learned that they were headed for a new life in the County, fearing that the Kingdom was ruined and driven from their homes in Rel Mord by Archbold’s ruinous taxes. Worse yet, several of the men and women bore several scars and bruises. One woman, heavy with child, in particular bore the brunt of an assault – which they revealed was from a group of the King’s Men who they had met the day previously upon the road. The King’s Men had offered to escort them for a distance on their journey – for a fee of course. When the refugees had refused – for they had little coin to spend, and only the possessions they carried, the men had grown angry and used the flat of their swords to exact vengeance. The well-fed and armoured soldiers had proven more than a match for the handful of menfolk, though they themselves had fought in the Wars.

    Horrified by this tale, Werrold dismounted and walked among the refugees, dispensing alms (and with the approval of Landal) supplies to ease their journey, and when he did come to the woman with child he laid his hand upon her and healed her bruising – lest harm come to the unborn child. The refugees uttered their thanks, and the would-be mother embraced the Templar, saying that she and her fellows would seek out a Temple of Pholtus when they arrived safe upon the shores of Urnst. With the muttered approvals of some of the Swans, who saw for the first time that Werrold was not just bluster and zeal, the company bade the group good journey and rode forth.

    The night of the 5th proved to be uneventful, even Dorryl seeing the virtue of a good night’s sleep. Werold thought he heard something near the edge of the camp on his watch, but it turned out to be naught but a single boar that had strayed from its fellows. The journey on the 6th passed with equal excitement, until that night as Landal bade the company make camp between a pair of mounds that markers that stated they were a day away from Mowbrenn.

    That night it was Luke who, in the full light of Celene, saw the glint of mail as he stood vigil upon the southern reaches of the camp. About to alter his companions he was surprised when the area around him fell completely silent. Moving closer, he was able to shout to his companions before the same deathly silence came upon him. As the men of the Swan awoke and readied weapons, there came the sound of bow-fire and arrows fell into the camp, and several of those who were ready – having been on watch – were felled. Luke noted that the wounds were not severe, for several suffered from superficial wounds in the legs and arms.

    With Swan-Sarjent Landal Berreman being among those that fell in the first round of fire, the men were shaken and it was not until Werold, rallying them with cries to Pholtus, provided leadership that they were able to form an effective unit. With fifteen to his banner, Werold – directed by Luke – led his men in a charge against the men that hid to the south. As he did this, Erestor, now awakened and armed, marked the bowfire came from the west, not the south.

    Luke loaded his crossbow and placed a single bolt in it, then chanting praises to the Uncaring One gestured until it shined with a brilliant light. Aiming it where the Olve directed, he illuminated three archers – dressed in green and brown leathers and furs and wielding longbows. Erestor, seeing this, decided to risk venturing to the eastern mound, but alas was laid low by enemy-bowfire.

    Their night sight ruined by Luke’s dweomers, the men proved ineffectual in targeting the malevolent form of the Concordant of Boccob. He in turn slew two of them with his crossbow, but not before he heard the beating of hooves in the distance…

    In the meantime Werold had led his fifteen men to the south, where they noted a mere ten men, equipment varying from antique mail to leathers and furs. At their rear stood a robed figure, and upon seeing the fearsome group the men, carrying spears and bows, decided to cut and run. While Werold and his men pursued, Hepzibah, who had followed at a distance, let fly with her bow. She aimed for the robed figure, and while her arrows wounded him she did not fell him as he ran into the night.

    Meantime, rallied on by cries of O Blinding Light, Werold’s force slammed into the back of the brigands. One man turned only to impale his chest on the Templar’s sword, while others, seeing retreat was futile, turned to face the vengeful Swans and their new leader. The Urnsians and the Palish began to slowly slaughter the brigands to the last man.

    In the meantime, as Luke stood his ground against three archers, the rest of the Swans in the camp did not fair so well. Some of the men had crept around the western mound to sneak up on the archers, while others fell to the ground sporting minor arrow wounds. At this point Luke looked in dismay as a score of horsemen rode into the campsite, with unusual speed Luke noted later. Seeing the situation was nearly hopeless Luke tried something desperate – uttering a prayer to the Uncaring One the Concordant pointed at the horses of the cavalry. It seemed as if the night became tangible around the young priest, darker, and somehow frightening as some of the horses spooked. Alas, Luke’s gambit did not pay off as well as he had hoped, for the men were already looting the wagons with uncanny speed. However two riders were thrown from their horses, left unconscious, and a further three were unable to reach the northern most wagon. Alas, Luke’s chanting gave away his position crouched by the western wagon, and he was beaten senseless with the flat of a raider’s blade.

    Hepzibah at this point had returned to the campsite to see the state of disarray. She was followed by Werold’s men, but were a good minute behind. Mixing bravery with folly she single-handedly charged at the looters of the southern wagon. One man, investigating the sound outside the wagon he was looting, received a noble sword through the chest for his reward. The second man, having finished stripping the wagon’s chests of food and the cornucopias and placed them in his saddle-bags, turned to face the warrior-maiden, but losing stomach for the fight mounted his horse and spurred it away. Hepzibah’s final blow blooded the man, slicing through the links in his mail, and revealing beneath the symbol of a star upon the man’s tunic.

    Werold, at this point, returned with his men to see the last of the raiders riding off, saddle-bags filled with the bounty of the caravan. He let out a cry of despair, as his eyes fell across the fallen Swans, mercenaries and brigands. He was able to find Dorryl hiding beneath one of the emptied wagons and walked among the carnage, lending what aid he could. Only six men had died, through arrows in the eyes and heart, and being crushed under the hooves of the raider’s horses. Werold found the wounded Erestor – who had the most severe wounds of the company – and brought him round while Dorryl’s ministrations were spread around the group. Luke was one of those the Recliner brought round, and for his efforts one of the caravans remained unravaged. The two riders who had fell from their horses were alive and taken as prisoners.

    Of those who had fallen, the wounds were indeed superficial. Luke marked that the arrows had poison upon them, but his master’s lessons in alchemy failed him and he could not identify it. Werold tried to convince one of the brigands to talk, but his words fell upon deaf ears. Luke on the other hand tried darker, subtle and more intimidating ways of making the other brigand’s tongue loosen. Both men seemed to feel they had the higher moral ground and refused to speak. Hepzibah was in favour of hanging the men from the nearest tree, but both Werold and Landal – recovered from his poisoning but limping slightly on the left leg - pointed out they had not the authority to do this. The Swan-Sarjent decided they would hand the two over to the King’s justice at Mowbrenn, despite the brigand’s remarks about the King’s “Justice”.

    It was a smaller and subdued company that broke camp to head to Mowbrenn on the 7th of Growfest. The wagons – now empty save for the stripped equipment of the brigands – made their way eastwards. Few remarked on how several of the bodies of the brigands they had slain had disappeared by dawn. Landal dispatched Herld, one of his trackers, to see if he could follow the brigands. Returning, Herld said he lost their tracks about two miles to the north.

    Finally by night the company reached Mowbrenn, the great western walled city of Nyrond. They noted that Mowbrenn consisted of the main town, built on what is called the Greater Mound, actually a large and defensible hill, and a second smaller hill, the Lesser Mound, home to a small community of the poor, destitute and displaced makes a dingy shantytown upon the second hill. Passing by a roadside shrine to Fharlanghn the company noted the sign of the Dweller on the Horizons, and spoke to Maxwul, the priest. Learning the gates of the city were closed to all now, by order of Count Blackmar, who the Priest called the Lord of the Black Mark, the company resolved to spend the night by the roadside shrine and gain the city in the morning.

    At length, over a glass of wine that Dorryl was only too eager to share, Maxwul told the fellows of the city – how like the land of Nyrond it was a shadow if its former glory, how he had returned from travelling the land and had seen brother against brother, father against son, and how the Count had returned from the Wars a changed man, dark and cruel, how he had declared his own son an outlaw. He warned the company that the Count’s Guard, the Blackguard, were now mere thugs, exacting the Count’s every whim and the people’s every penny. Fearing he had said too much, the Priest bade the company good night and retired to his tent while the Company of the Swan made camp.

    That night, Luke again saw something. In the lights of the Lesser Mound he saw a figure stagger out of the edge of the town and stumble, perhaps intoxicated, down the hill. Shrugging unconcernedly the servant of the Uncaring One turned his eyes coldly to the city again, until one of the Swans who had also seen and heard this, ran to investigate. He returned shortly afterwards, pale, saying that he had found a girl, wounded and in need of a healer.

    Alas when Luke finally made it to the girl, a small, dirt-covered wretch, he found she had died of two vertical cuts to the wrist – an apparent suicide. Searching the body revealed a single gold noble of Almorian mint upon the girl. He bade the Guard leave the girl where she had fallen and returned to the camp. The Swan was not so certain and he kicked Werold awake.

    Seeing for himself, Werold climbed the path to the city and banged upon the city gates. Sure enough the gate and the heart of the guard remained closed to his pleas, and the Guard said that they would take the corpse to the pauper’s flame in the morn.

    While the others slept, or stood watch over the company, Werold stood vigil over the body of the fallen lass, lest her body be defiled in the night. He could not help but wonder what could have driven her to such an extreme act? Shaking his head, he dismissed these thoughts, for surely they were as dark as the night.

    Quote of the Session

    Dave (after having been told to pray quietly by the Swans): “I’ll talk in my sleep.”

    DM: “You hear the Palish Paladin utter in his sleep, ‘Yeah baby. Light my pyre.’”

    III – Ties that Bind

    In which the companions are introduced to the Valorous League of Blindness, their harsh strictures and laws and in family ties are tested.

    Dawn broke over Mowbrenn on the 1st of Planting as Werold, Templar of Pholtus, stood guard over the body of the fallen lass. As the sun rose over the Lesser Mound of Mowbrenn, the Paladin marked a faint glow across from the body. Investigating he found the remains of a piece of parchment that appeared to be spontaneously combusting in the sunlight. He also marked a trail of blood leading from where the lass had stumbled to the bottom of the mound. Following this trail, the Templar entered the shanty town upon the Lesser Mound.

    Alas the trail seemed to end as soon as he entered the dismal settlement, and he was forced to converse with one of the transient residents. The man, a dishevelled and dirty fellow named Tiroth, was unable to provide any account of the lass’s final steps, but with a generous donation of a gold coin, and the promise of a further 2 gold nobles if he heard any information for the Templar. He was told by Werold to leave any messages at the Temple of Pholtus in Mowbrenn city.

    Meanwhile the camp below began to stir. After breakfast Swan-Sarjent Landal Berreman, still limping from the leg wound he had suffered, called the companions to a briefing. He had the body of the girl brought over and wrapped in linen, thus freeing Werold from his duty.

    He praised the companions on their efforts, and said that upon entering the city they would stop at the Teller of Tidings Tavern, there to share a final drink. Upon reaching the tavern the sell-swords of the company were to be discharged and paid in full the 25 gold nobles that had been agreed. He also asked that the four companions, Hepzibah, Werold, Luke and Erestor, leave him somewhere to contact him, lest he need their services to recover the stolen supplies from the brigands.

    As the Sarjent finished his briefing the Sword Gate was opened, and three Blackguard bearing a stretcher for the body marched down the hill. Pausing to speak with the companions, the Blackguard made clear their lack of concern for the events of last night and bore the body of the girl to the pauper’s flame of the Temple of Nerull. No-one in the company had the stomach to stop the Blackguard, and Landal was unsurprised when they did not wait to escort the Swans into the city.

    At the Teller of Tidings, in Mowbrenn’s Old City, the companions shared a final drink with Berreman and his men before the sell-swords and Swans went their separate ways, all debts paid. Finally the companions resolved to stay in the inn, though Erestor found the sharp end of the innkeep’s tongue when he tried to haggle over the excessive inn prices. Werold on the other hand decided to seek lodgings at the Temple of Pholtus, and thus left the remaining two companions without a word.

    Outside the dejected Olve resolved to take a look around the city. Leaving the Old City – which was too classically Oeridian for Erestor’s taste – he ventured into the dismal New City, which bore signs of disrepair. Passing by the east side of the New City he spotted the Sign of Corellon and the Moonbow of Sehanine. A sign above the building – remarkably well tended compared to the rest of the city – proclaimed it the Grey Bow Inn. Entering it, the Olve was attended by a clerk of his own race. The attendant, marking he was one of Corellon’s children, told him that the inn was a safehouse for the Olves. He even guessed from Erestor’s countenance that he came from Celene. The Olve further piqued his curiousity by saying that as a guest he was welcome to use the common room – which lay to the right of the desk, but that the door to the left was for use by the elders only.

    After the Olve was led to his room – which contained both bed and meditation mat, and in which he noted with irony that the room bore the symbol of Erevan Ilesere – the trickster god of the Seldarine. With his belongings secured within the room he entered the common room of the inn and there sampled a glass of Celenese nectar wine – a rare treat in these war-torn times.

    In the meantime Hepzibah had unpacked her belongings in an upstairs room of the Teller of Tidings and had joined Luke, who had paid his share for a twin room that me might share with the Templar. Discussing the prices of the inn the two resolved that they would need to find work in order to remain domiciled within the Tiding’s walls. They asked the innkeep, Radmac Laddeman, of where a sell-sword and a master of the arcane may find work. He recommended that they travel to the Temple of Zilchus in the New City, and the two decided to do so with due haste.

    Meanwhile Werold had climbed to the top of the Sharphill, allowing him a view of the castle grounds. He noted the archaic Oeridian architecture that characterised Castle Blackmar. Upon its battlements his eyes passed across the obsidian statues of the Count’s patron deities, Heironeous the Axe of Justice, Pholtus of the Blinding Light, Delleb the Scholar and Zilchus, the Purse of Plenty. Scowling at the dark statue of his god, the Templar’s eyes drifted across the once-lush Castle Gardens. Werold also noted there was, within the tangled vines and weed-ridden grass an untended statue of a unicorn over which cobwebs lay. Having gained the top of Sharphill, the Templar saw the golden lights of his patron’s temple – a building hewed from white marble that shone even in the midday light.

    Descending Sharphill the Palish crossed the threshold of the Temple and there spoke with one of the Glimmering Followers, a stout fellow named Ernal, about his experiences with the Swan Caravan and of the death of the girl. The Pholtite listened intently, and upon hearing of the girl’s death said that this reminded him of something the Shining Paragon of the temple had told him. After concluding his tale Werold made clear to the Gleaming Follower that he wished sanctuary within the hallowed walls of the Temple, and after making a sizable donation was led to one of the vacant cells within the Temple.

    In the meantime, Erestor, having left the tavern took to exploring the New City, amid several closed and abandoned shops, dingy unnamed taverns and homesteads. Happening upon the Sharphill Road, the Olve paused for a brief moment to buy an apple from a vendor, when he did spot entering through the Swordgate a bizarre procession of pilgrims clad in the same vestments as Werold, four armoured Templars of the Blinding Light strode into the square in which Erestor stood. The leader was a shaven-headed man with a perennial scowl that seemed to pierce the skin, while at his side stood a woman of noble bearing, her face as if sculpted from marble. The third templar bore a white eye-patch upon his right eye, and a large scar went from beneath his left eye to the top of his forehead. A bloodshot eye cast across the square, marking the presence of the Olve. The final templar was a giant as humans went, though he was a good few inches shorter than Erestor. These four were, Erestor would learn later, members of the Knight Valorous – the elite warriors of the Pholtan sect called the Valorous League, reverers of Pholtus in his most rigid and unbending aspect.

    Behind the Knights Valorous were several pilgrims of Pholtus, lesser members of the League. Half a score of them, each in white robes that were mud-cached from the trail as they had walked beside the mounted Knights Valorous. Erestor noted that some of the men and women wore blinders, or had pieces of cloth wrapped around their eye sockets to hide the fact they had ripped their eyes out in the name of Pholtus.

    One of the League members who had retained his sight met the Olve’s stare and spat at him in disgust. The League were known to despise the Olves, for they were borne of and worshipped Corellon and his Seldarine, not the Light of Pholtus. The leader of the Knights Valorous, who in addition to his armour wore the vestments of a Shining Paragon and carried an ornate staff decorated with sigils of Pholtus, crowned by a golden sun and moon, loudly proclaimed his disdain for the iniquity of this Nyrondese city and led his company up the Sharphill road, towards the Temple of Pholtus.

    Erestor, upon seeing this – and knowing that Werold was within the Temple – made speed to the Teller of Tidings Inn where he saw Hepzibah and Luke preparing to leave for the Temple of Zilchus. Telling them of what he saw the Luke mentioned that a trip to the Temple of Pholtus would prove interesting. The three decided to put aside their sojourn to the Hall of the Purse of Plenty and climbed the Sharphill.

    In the meantime Werold had began to settle into his cell when there came a knock at the door. It was the Glimmering Follower Ernal, who said that upon telling the Shining Paragon, Faric Luthinson, about the death of the girl outside Lesser Mound, that the Paragon had requested Werold attend him immediately. Daring not to risk insulting the Paragon by declining an audience, the Templar made his way into the sacristy of the church. Behind a marble desk sat a man in the white and gold-trimmed robes of the Shining Paragon.

    The Paragon noted that the Templar was from the Pale, and asked why Werold had left that holy land. Werold felt uncomfortable at the topic, but soon the conversation turned to the dark events of the previous night. The Paragon noted that this form of “suicide” had become increasingly common – something he ascribed to the presence of a blood cult that was gaining following in the Lesser Mound shantytown. The Paragon was about to say more when a knock came at the door and a rather harassed looking Ernal entered when bid. Ernal hastily explained that travellers from the north of Nyrond and the Pale had come to the temple, and their leader, himself a Shining Paragon of the Knights Valorous, demanded an audience with the temple’s Paragon.

    Faric’s brow furrowed in worry at this turn of events and he turned to Werold, asking if he knew of this group. The templar answered truthfully that he did not, and this seemed to satisfy Paragon Faric. He ordered Ernal to explain that he would see them as soon as he finished his business with Werold.

    With the Glimmering Follower gone, Faric turned back to the Templar and explained further what he knew of the cult. He believed the cult was promoting blood-letting in the Lesser Mound, though to what end the Paragon dared not speculate. It was led by a self-proclaimed prophet calling himself the Blooded One. Exactly which diabolical entity the cult bled for he did not know, though he knew of a scholar, one Lazaloh, who was one of his sources of information. The scholar was a follower of Delleb, one of the original inhabitants of the Lesser Mound before it had degenerated into a shantytown. The scholar lived at a shop known as the House of the White Tome, and was currently engaged in studying tomes on demonology.

    Faric noted that as the Templar seemed to be investigating the crime with genuine fervour that he would like to Werold to continue his investigations. He had Werold swear an oath upon the statue of Pholtus himself that he would serve the temple for the duration.

    Upon completing his vows, Werold entered the main chapel of the temple and there he saw the four Knights Valorous and the Valorous League members, who were occupying several of the pews in prayer. He fell into conversation with the leader, the Valorous Shining Paragon Gregus, who was surprised to see one of the Pale in what he described as a weak and iniquitous temple. Werold’s words – while not vociferously defending the temple – were enough to convince Gregus that he too was addled by iniquity. Werold left, narrowly avoiding interception by the largest of the Knights Valorous.

    Outside he discovered his three companions had been watching the temple with great interest. Upon speaking to them he told them of his vow and how he was to seek the Cult in Lesser Mound and bring the Law of Pholtus to that shantytown. As he told them, he marked the approach of the old man Tiroth, whom he had paid to listen for information. Tiroth told him that he had located a woman in Lesser Mound, a weaver by trade, whose eldest daughter had not returned last evening. Handing the man two gold nobles, Werold thanked him, but the man said he would keep his ears open for more information – this time at the price of five gold nobles as he was beginning to attract unnecessary attention.

    Werold returned to the Temple, there he heard raised voices coming from Shining Paragon Faric’s office, clearly a pitched argument between the two Paragons. Ernal asked why he had returned, and upon hearing the new information begged the Templar to leave the temple immediately and travel to Lesser Mound. He also advised him not to go alone – lest he end his days upon a knife.

    Taking the advice of the priest, he sped after his friends who had gone to the Temple of Zilchus. There they were directed to a room called the Hall of Swords where a clerk in the service of the Lord of Blades, Kelanen, took their names and professions. While he had no work for them – for most companies were engaged in action in the east of Nyrond on the Almorian front – he would contact them at the Teller of Tidings if a company was looking for one of their number. The warrior-maiden also asked about the symbol of the Star that they had seen on the back of one of the caravan attackers, to which the clerk said it sounded familiar, but he did not recall exactly which company used it. Hepzibah made him promise that if he remembered anything he would contact the companions at the Teller of Tidings Inn in the Old City.

    Finally outside Werold caught up with them and requested their aid in searching out the evil within Lesser Mound. All agreed, and they sped down the Sharphill to the Lesser Mound. There, following directions Tiroth had given them, they came upon the weaver’s house – but not before passing the House of the White Tome. Knocking on the door, Hepzibah’s warm and friendly personality won the trust of the mistress of the house, Galifrae. They were invited into the all-but empty shanty house by the Almorian weaver.

    The warrior-maiden broke the news of the death of her daughter’s death with all due sensitivity, though Galifrae lapsed into sorrow at the news. Luke handed over the Almorian gold noble they had found on the girl, and the weaver told them that last week Yvaine, for that was her name, had been optimistic that they would soon have the funds to leave Mowbrenn and strike out for the Urnst states. Luke asked if she had any friends who might know what happened, but Galifrae pointed out that in a place like Lesser Mound people generally kept to themselves. She did know the scholar Lazaloh, who had been teaching her to read.

    It was at this point that the door opened and the younger sister of Yvaine, a lass named Minax, entered the hovel, carrying a basket load of cloth. Upon hearing of the death of her sister Minax was all but inconsolable. Hepzibah tried to comfort the poor young girl, and as she did the fellows decided to head to the House of the White Tome and there speak with the scholar.

    Entering the shop the three menfolk of the company stood amidst the dusty collection of vellum, maps and trinkets. Across the other end of the room were hung cloth maps of Greyhawk City and of the Flanaess and behind the counter sat an aged white haired man, scribbling intently on a tome. When he saw the companions he looked each of them over, his gaze lingering on Luke momentarily. Introducing themselves the companions told the scholar of Delleb why they had come to seek his aid.

    As the scholar heard the tale of the lass’s fate, a solitary tear fell down his wrinkled cheek and onto the parchment he had moments ago been scribbling on. Wiping his face, he told them that this was most-likely the work of the Blood Cult within Mowbrenn – for there had been three such suicides in the past month, including Yvaine. Suppressing a second tear he said would have thought Yvaine would have been the least likely to succumb to its tender embrace. Indeed, after asking whether her arms were marked beyond the two fatal slashes, he surmised that she must have been a recent convert. Luke therefore inferred that the cultists would have numerous healed slash marks and scars upon their arms – unless as Lazaloh pointed out they were using divine healing to hide their disfigurement. The Blood Cult most likely preferred to use the blood of their own willing members rather than that of any outsider.

    Finally Lazaloh told the companions that he – at the behest of Shining Paragon Faric Luthinson – was attempting to research what foul entity this cult could be praying to. He showed the fellows a set of tomes on demonology he was studying to find the identity of the cult. The books had belonged to a minor Naelax princeling – the ruling house of the Great Kingdom – and had been seized by Nyrondese soldiers during the Wars. Lazaloh had the good fortune of buying the books from the soldiers in Wragby. Luke asked if he might borrow the books to which the scholar shook his head – for the books were too valuable and too sensitive to be removed from his trust.

    In the meantime Hepzibah had been watching the House of the White Tome from Galifrae’s doorway when she saw a child come running down the road, crying to her mother that there were soldiers coming. Moving down the road to investigate the warrior-woman saw the four Knights Valorous and their degenerate retinue making their way up the Lesser Mound. She observed something was wrong, for the golden sun and moon of the Valorous Shining Paragon’s staff was missing. She withdrew to the shelter of the weaver’s hovel as her three companions left the scholar’s house to investigate.

    The Knights Valorous came upon the house of the weaver as the companions watched in surprise. Hepzibah bravely stepped forward and asked them what business they had in Lesser Mound. Gregus regarded her coldly and said that an artifact of Pholtus – his staff – had been defiled and that Pholtus himself had divinely led them to the location of the staff’s head. Not waiting for her response he continued on to the hovel, but Hepzibah threw herself in front of the Valorous League member, stopping the Paragon from knocking on the door, saying that this was a house of mourning and that he had no right to enter.

    The burly priest paid her no mention and pushed her aside. He knocked on the door and demanded it be opened in the name of Pholtus. As Galifrae tentatively opened the door the Paragon recoiled in horror, yelling that there were Fiends within that building. Suddenly his wild eyes fixed upon the dark robes of the Concordant of Boccob, Luke, and realised the object of his fear was the sinister priest.

    The remaining three Knights Valorous seized the Concordant, who remained defiant of the dweomered Paragon, calling him “Shining Wit” and earning the ire of the Paragon once and for all. Werold in the meantime had been quiet, desperate not to raise a sword against his co-religionists. He stalked into the room and requested to search it in the name of Pholtus. Galifrae – grateful for his efforts – was more than happy until the Templar found the golden staff-head within the basket that Minax had brought back with her.

    Showing the sceptre-piece to the Paragon only caused him to rant further. He demanded that the thieves be brought out that they may be purified at the stake. Minax, realising she had been caught, began to cry uncontrollably – saying she had only stolen it to sell it that she and her sister and mother may leave Mowbrenn. These words did not sway the Paragon, who demanded she be burned as the heathen she was, that her wretched soul may find acceptance by Pholtus.

    Hepzibah comforted the girl, saying that Werold was a good templar and would not see her burn. The Paragon denounced her as a witch, and disputed her honour. By the Laws of Pholtus and the Pale he demanded that they burn, and when it seemed likely that a fight would start he noticed several members of the Blackguard had been summoned.

    Smiling knowingly the Valorous Shining Paragon demanded that they take the matter before the Count rather than resort to street-brawling. Werold assented, and the Valorous League members, the companions, and the weaver and her daughter were marched into Mowbrenn as the sun began to set over the mound. As they walked one of the Knights Valorous, a woman named Farenne asked how Werold could flaunt the laws of the Pale and Pholtus and stand against the burning of this thief? The templar was silent, for he knew not…

    IV – Blind Justice

    In which the heroes discover justice within Mowbrenn, sacrifices and decisions are made, and the killer is revealed.

    The companions, the girl Minax and her mother Galifrae gained the Sharphill, escorted by the Blackguard and the Valorous League of Blindness. Entering the grounds of Castle Blackmar they viewed once more the forlorn gardens, long left untended, and the untouched statue of the unicorn. Finally led into the courtyard of the castle, they were greeted by yet more Blackguard. The girl, Minax, was taken to a dungeon, there to await judgement while the companions were greeted by a dapper gentleman sporting short white hair that ended in a ponytail.

    The noble fellow introduced himself as Sir Quaralanth – seneschal to the Count of the Black Mark, Blackmar the XIV. Asking that the Valorous League members avail themselves of the Count’s hospitality he quietly asked each of the companions what their part in the matter was. Being honest fellows they told the seneschal that they had indeed seen proof the girl had taken the sceptre of the Knights Valorous, but that they felt the penalty of death by burning was too harsh for one so young. Valorous Paragon Gregus, upon hearing this remark, cited that justice should be blind, as the Valorous League were.

    Quaralanth asked Werold whether he stood with Gregus in this matter. After a brief period of indecision Werold shook his head. With all the information garnered, Quaralanth informed the fellows they would be important witnesses at a Trial to be held in the Temple of Pholtus on the morrow, the 2nd of Planting. The Shining Paragon of Mowbrenn, Faric Luthinson, would act as judge – as it was always a Priest of Heironeous, Pholtus or Zilchus who acted as judge in matters and in the 585th Common Year it was the duty of the High Priest of Pholtus. The seneschal made them swear an oath to not leave the city before then – for if they did they would be branded outlaws and hunted as such. The companions wisely swore the oath and returned to their respective lodgings. Werold, wracked by indecision whether to stand with his countrymen or with his conscience prayed all night to Pholtus for an answer – but none was forthcoming.

    The morning of the 2nd dawned and the companions went about their respective tasks, the redoubtable Hepzibah took to practising with her noble sword outside the Teller of Tidings Tavern, while Luke studied. Werold continued to pray for guidance in these matters, while Erestor, ever restless, took to wandering the city.

    As he passed by marketplace near the Temple of Zilchus he spotted a figure in pure white robes before him. The fellow was an albino, his hair pure white to match his face, and this figure had thrown his grey cloak upon the ground and drawn an ornate dagger. Shoving passers by in aside he charged at the Olve, saying, “Die in the name of Pholtus.”

    The Olve, surprised by this, tried to evade the zealot but found the crowd too thick to lose him. Drawing his rapier, he faced his attacker. A sharp conflict ensued, which finally drew the attention of the crowd as the Olve stabbed the assassin threw the heart with his rapier. The Blackguard were summoned, and while this happened the Olve searched the man, finding a pouch with 2 silver shields. He replaced the coins in the man’s pouch and was about to give up his search when his keen Olven sight picked up a single white scar line upon each of the man’s wrists. Finally a Blackguard came, and making clear his doubts about the man’s loyalties had the body borne to the Temple of Pholtus for the trial.

    Meanwhile at the Temple of Pholtus Glimmering Follower Ernal saw Werold in prayer. Politely interrupting the templar the Priest asked why he spent the morning in vigil. The Palish templar told him, and the Glimmering Follower – despearate to reassure him – said that all he could do in following the Laws of Pholtus was listen to his own conscience. Each of Pholtus’s own, even the Valorous League of Blindness, had their own purpose to serve. This reassured the Templar and he readied himself for the trial.

    The remaining companions came to the Temple of Pholtus in time for the midday trial. As they entered the ornate courtroom of the temple they were each told to sit at the witness bench. Above them, on a ledge, sat Paragon Faric – representing the Temple and to his right sat Sir Quaralanth, representing the Count in judicial matters. Below, for the prosecution, was the Knight Valorous and Shining Paragon Gregus. Across the room was a pale Minax, represented by a Gleaming Follower of the Temple, Nerthal.

    Gregus loudly proclaimed the charges against Minax, heresy, sacrilege and theft from the Valorous League. He called forth several witnesses from Lesser Mound, all of whom denounced Minax and her mother as sorceresses, saying they spat on the name of Pholtus – being from Almor they felt their god has forsaken them so they in turn forsook him. Luke cynically noted the witnesses were hesitant in their tirade, as if reciting it from memory.

    Finally Gleaming Follower Nerthal stood and eloquently pointed out that the issue of guilt was irrelevant in this trial. What was the question was what punishment Minax would have to pay for the theft of the sceptre head. He called the companions in turn to the witness stand, starting with Werold, and asked them to relate the accounts of last night’s events. Each indicated the girl was truly repentant when caught, bursting into tears. He asked Werold what he, as a Templar of Pholtus, felt the law dictated for such a crime. Werold answered she should be made to serve the Temple of Pholtus for a month.

    At this Gregus loudly denounced the Temple of Pholtus within Mowbrenn as heretics – seeking to profit from the crimes of those within Mowbrenn. When Nerthal suggested that she serve the League under the supervision of the Temple Gregus said he would never have such a heathen within the League.

    Hepzibah next took the stand, giving an eloquent account of the tragedy that had befallen Minax and her mother. She also cited the League’s heavy-handed handling of the situation – though she was later asked by Quaralanth to refrain from discrediting the League members, for they were not on trial. One of the League Members called out that the maiden was a harlot, but he was silenced by the stare of Gregus. Several of the other witnesses testified the League to be a fellowship of good character, having given alms to several of the poor and desperate within Mowbrenn last evening. Werold wondered how the League could have left the city last evening when the gates were closed…

    Erestor was next, and asked that the temple priests bring forth the body of the zealot that had attacked them. He pointed out the slashes across the wrist and thought this evidence that the League trafficked with the Blood Cult within Mowbrenn. A shocked Gregus claimed he had never seen the zealot in his life, and countered the Olve’s speculation this was a blood cult member with his own speculation – that Faric had sent this assassin after the Olve to discredit the League. These charges were sufficient for him to declare Faric unfit to preside over the Trial and request Quaralanth solely preside. The seneschal, clearly surprised by this turn of events, declared a recess and requested an audience with both Paragons. Luke, who had yet to be questioned, asked Nerthal why he was not invited as the defence. The Gleaming Follower said this was a matter for those of higher ranking than he.

    The companions were asked to wait outside, but after an hour Glimmering Follower Ernal summoned Werold to the Paragon’s office. There he found a sedate Faric staring out of the window at the midday sun. The Paragon, finally noting his arrival, told him that he had been told by Sir Quaralanth that he and Gregus would not accept a sentence of bond of any sort, unless he, Paragon Faric, be prepared to resign his post and allow Gregus to become the new incumbent. Explaining his dilemma to the Templar he asked the Palish’s advice. Werold answered by quoting Ernal, that the Paragon should listen to his own conscience.

    Thus it was a mere half hour later that the verdict of guilty and sentence was announced: Minax was to be given 20 days of service to the Count of the Count of the Blackmark, and that Faric was to leave his post to go on a pilgrimage. The able Shining Paragon Gregus of the Valorous League was to be his replacement. The companions, seeing there was little else that they could do left surreptitiously. Outside the Temple they saw an increased presence of the Blackguard – who it seemed were going from door to door exacting tax money from the populace. The body language of the city guard was one of extreme hostility, and those they could not exact money or goods from they scourged with black whips and threatened with the same again next month if all payments were not settled. Hepzibah approached one of the guards and tried to dissuade one of the guards from his harsh duties unsuccessfully. The guard was unrepentant, and even threatened to tax her.

    Seeing the events unfolding the companions decided it would be best to leave the city, hastily returning back to their lodgings, save for Werold who joined Luke and Hepzibah in going to the Teller of Tidings Tavern. As they returned to this tavern, they passed under the Arch of Tidings where a crowd was growing. At the center of this crowd was a man, upon an oak box, dressed in the threadbare garb of a refugee and wearing a silver rune of pursuit – clearly a follower of Trithereon. He protested loudly against the taxation of the people and the treatment of the people. He found much support from the crowd, one person even showing that the Blackguard had whipped his son several times. The rabble-rouser continued his speech, saying the Count even had the audacity to threaten to withhold the Urnsian wagon that had made it to Mowbrenn if taxes were not all paid by the Festival of the Seven Sisters.

    The three companions, seeing what was happening, made their way into the Teller of Tidings Inn, tbough not before they noted five mounted Blackguard slowly riding up the hill towards the Arch, weapons ready. Inside, while Hepzibah and Luke packed hastily, the Templar fell into conversation with a drunken Dorryl, attempting to prevent him for getting even further drunk. When the two companions returned from packing their meagre belongings Dorryl made a drunken pass at Hepzibah, trying to buy her favour with a necklace he had “liberated” from the Count’s castle, which it appears he had been thrown out of. The lady, being of good character, politely refused.

    Luke, wanting nothing to do with this, left the inn to meet the others at the Traveller’s Shrine outside. Werold continued to speak to the Recliner about his iniquities, demanding that he return it to the Count, when outside the sound of several cries came. Going to the door, Hepzibah noted that the people under the arch were under attack by ten mounted cavalry men, who had attacked from both sides of the road. They were sifting the crowd slowly on their horses, but indiscrimantly slaying members of the rabble. Hepzibah tried to alert Werold, but he was too busy shouting at Dorryl to listen. When they finally left the inn, having failed to persuade Dorryl to return the necklace, they noted at least ten members of the crowd, including the boy, had been either stabbed or trampled by horse, while the leader of the Blackguard circled the rabble-leader on his box and finally hewed his head off with one clean blow of the scimitar. The companions continued, disgusted at what they saw.

    All four of the company met outside at the Shrine of Fharalanghn before continuing to the House of the White Tome to seek the scholar Lazaloh. Finding him as ever pouring over his musty tomes they asked him if he had learned anything new about the plights that gripped Mowbrenn. The scholar answered that he had not – for it had been only under a day. They told him of Minax’s fate and he seemed relieved, but when Erestor told him of the assassin that he had met this day, and of his deception, Lazaloh said he wished the Olve had spared the cultist that he might be questioned.

    Erestor mentioned he had heard how the Temple of Nerull could speak to the souls of the departed humans – just as priests of Sehanine Moonbow could converse with the shades of departed Olves. Alas for this they would need the body. Having an idea, the Olve mentioned he had saved the corpse from the pauper’s flame and that he might be still at the Temple of Pholtus.

    Werold, it was eventually decided, would once more have to brave the Temple, doubtless now in the hands of Gregus and the Valorous League, and seek the body of the assassin. He did not go alone however, for Hepzibah went with him and Erestor would meet them at the Temple of Nerull. Luke on the other hand elected to stay behind with Lazaloh and aid him with his research. The dour scholar assented and the companions went their separate ways.

    Hepzibah, knowning full well Gregus’s wrath, decided to remain outside the precincts of the Temple of Pholtus while Werold entered the illuminated building. There he was greeted once more by Ernal, whose face turned pale when he saw the Templar once more. Werold told him his need was great and persuaded the Glimmering Follower to lead him to the body of the fallen assassin. It was currently in the care of the Knight Valorous Vargivren, who was in prayer by the fallen.

    The giant templar did not take well to Werold’s request for the body and impuned Werold’s honour, calling him a degenerate heretic and a disgrace to his countryfolk. Enraged by this the Templar called Vargivren out for a duel. The League Member insulted the Templar further for a moment, considering the choice of weapons – staves, lance from horseback or as he finally decided, the sword. If Werold won the body of the assassin was his. If not, he would be dead.

    Led to the courtyard of the temple by the Knight Valorous, with Ernal acting as Werold’s second, the two engaged in a sharp display of swordsmanship. Vargivren had the finest blade, though it could not pierce Werold’s armour. The combat was decisive – Werold was unblooded and the Knight Valorous fell to a flurry of his foe’s blows, finally having his head hewed from his shoulders.

    Knight Valorous Farenne had watched the display, acting as Vargivren’s second, and appeared quite shaken at the display of swordsmanship – wondering how a degenerate heretic such as Werold could have triumphed over a Knight Valorous. She bowed with respect and courtesy to the Templar as she bore away her fallen comrade – leaving behind his fine sword, wrought with ornate ruins of Pholtus. Ernal warned the Templar as he claimed the sword and the corpse that Paragon Gregus would surely want the Templar’s life for this outrage, and that now there was no going back for Werold.

    With their prize - the body Werold and Hepzibah joined Erestor at the gates of the Temple of Nerull. Built upon a graveyard the archaic Oeridian temple was an intimidating sight for the three companions, who noted that as a black clad Proclaimer opened the ancient and rusted gate to the temple the sky darkened overhead.

    Entering the temple the three eventuslly spoke to the Soothcaller of Nerull and told him of the mysterious events that had plagued the city. The Soothcaller agreed to try divinations upon the corpse of the fallen assassin, who the companions verified as being one of the Blood Cult, though not before exacting a promise from each of the three companions that they would return the favour one day, if not in this life, then in the next.

    The Dark Priests of the Reaper poured holy water and lit incense as they formed a circle around the corpse. The room itself seemed to cool as the Soothcaller spoke prayers in Ancient Oeridian that the shade of the deceased be summoned. All looked in horror when the bloated corpse of the zealot sat up within the coffin, and proceeded to open its mouth and project blood onto the assembled followers of Nerull – more blood than the corpse could possibly have held. The corpse finally went back to rest within its coffin, a wispy voice screeching faintly the word, “Pazrael.”

    Note: Nyrond, The Pale, County of Urnst"
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