It Is Always Darkest Before The Dawn

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| Reader Note: Please be aware this missive is also written in
| the blood of Xerx’ses, but I will not subject you to red text

| for the whole page.
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Dear Darakh’zan and Rostam,

It is nearing sunset on the 24th of Ra and we are lucky to be alive. I am sorry for the melancholy tone of my last missive. My back aches but the lesson is ingrained upon my flesh and I laid on the ground to gather some dirt into the wounds so they would scar in healing. When I met the most beautiful goddess, Bast I still remember her tears when she described the deaths she could feel of thousands of her children cry out and the suddenly and forever silenced. It has occurred to me that that what the Dwarves did to the Golden City of Baalgor was thousands of times worse than what we caused, but one scar you can see from mountains stretching over a 100 miles is nothing to sneer at. However, its power is something we will never call upon again lightly. Upon my return it had been about an hour since the battle with the Frost Giants and I could see Master Tyvernos was feeling the weight of what he wrought sinking in. But he would not endure this burden alone, we all agreed we made our choice and now would deal with the ramifications, guilt, and consequences as a team.

Just then a magic pigeon arrived bearing a message:

Hail, Giant Slayers! The Gromek Overlords, Baalgor Mountains, bid you welcome and request your presence at Raag Vire immediately to discuss the terms of your prospective employment against the giant menace. Your success has been observed. Join us, or perish!

Needless to say we started looking and soon saw winged humanoid creatures above that later told to me are Gromek. A race whom earliest records indicate they have been here since the War of the Fair and the Strong. Soon their are eight of them in the sky and Master Bungo begins to wave at them as Master Cava readies his bow but does not draw upon them. Wise tactics, I have been trying to listen to Master Azariel and he has called this high ground advantage over times we have talked on watch. As they begin to descend they are robbed of their prize “Giant Slayers” by fellow with and even bigger axe to grind, literally!

Bigger!

To grind!

As though the hits could not get any worse we heard someone or something running up the trail behind us into the foothills of the Baalgor Mountains. It turned out to be an 18 foot tall plate armored warrior wielding an axe of pale white. His armor was clearly bronze and enameled a dark red all over. The closer he approached that enamel looked more and more like the blood on my manacle belt! He was crying out in utter rage…

“WHO DID THIS!?!?! I WILL KILL YOU ALL!!!”

…and I believed what great Bast said had come true. Rostam, father, at this moment I wish I had lain with Bast even though I would have no idea what to do, just felt like I was about to miss out and die yet again. Again while I see Azariel pray everyday I was please to note he was the one crying out for an intervention from the realms above.

“Osiris, Ra, Gods of Light!!! Thine emissaries are in immediate peril from another god. There is nothing that we can do against such power, but in thy strength, ALL IS POSSIBLE dear lords! Please come to our aid. The War God of the Yin Sloth is upon us, and I fear that destruction is nigh!!”

Tyvernos steadies himself upon my shoulder and braces for impact. He begins to mutter a prayer to Bennu even as the War God rails some never ending diatribe about how we’ve slain his followers. Which however, is likely true the destruction we left in our wake.

The great war god of the southern pantheon speaks…

I AM LOPNEL! YOU COWARDS WILL TELL ME WHY YOU HAVE KILLED MY CHILDREN!!!

Our Rahu-Man guide, Tiakatha, simply stated he was not with us and just a guide. When he held out his hand for payment I paid him and truth be told was sad to see him go, a friend won and lost inside a week’s time. I retorted that his followers were trying to kill us and we were afraid of dying. All of this is the truth. I could see he heard me and then mentioned that of course a dwarf would be here among death and destruction! Really! The Great War has been over for 8,000 to 7,000 years and this god still blames the Dwarves for the ultimate attack during that “august war.” Mistress Iana, worried this is the end for me again does a brave act and covers myself and her in a field of “Internal Energy” to keep us safe from harm after Master Tyvernos jumped off my shoulder. While Master Tyvernos bows in the presence of Lopnel god. He then speaks, humbly, in obeisance, “Lopnel the great Warrior! We are humbled by your presence and we offer you our sincerest apologies. We beseech you — nay — BEG you for LENIENCY!!!!”

The warrior god seemed offended that the smallest among us was talking to him and much less begging. Most of the warriors I have known all wanted test of strength and martial prowess. Just then Master Cava opens his mouth and says the unthinkable!

“This is Tyvernos’s fault anyway he should be the one to apologize to the god,” Master Cava said behind me so I couldn’t see his face. Even if the ranger/scout was being sarcastic this went over bad, with Lopnel crying out.

YOU! COWARD! YOU WOULD THROW ONE OF YOUR OWN UNDER THE HOUNDS! YOU CALL YOURSELF HIS FRIEND!!!

Overkill moves to step in front of his friend even though he later confessed he thought it was asinine to say. When Lopnel demand Cava for sacrifice Sir Quixis goes to move in front of Cava and declare himself for the ranger’s aid. It had to be clarified to Lopnel that it was indeed Master Tyvernos that used the power unaware of the sheer amount of devastation in its wake.
Many of us espoused the following sentiment…
…This is an amalgam of the various members of the team saying roughly the same tone

“Great Lopnel, if you can appreciate battle then know we battled your jungle and were we not feeling our lives threatened we would not have summoned the powers we had at our disposal. Surely you can appreciate victory, for only the dead smell defeat.”

It was then he paused then told us we were not allowed in the Jungles again. We flat out explained that we are on a mission to collect the pieces of Osiris for Isis and there’s a necromancer in the Jungles we have to go after so no deal. Master Tyvernos tries to step forward and submit himself to Lopnel’s justice, however, I tell Master Tyvernos he will not go through this alone despite his objections for our group’s safety. I would use more blood describing the banter that went back an forth about us lying about our mission, however, when it looked like in our weakened state we were going to have to face off with the Jungle God of War, THUNDER ERUPTED IN THE SKY!

Great and benevolent Bast appears Lopnel is forced to re-evaluate the truth of our statement about being sent by the gods of light! A deal was struck that Master Cava is no longer allowed in the Yin-Sloth Jungles, and with that the gods disappeared! In the face of all this and dying my nerves are shot, but no Master Cava starts to go about how he will go after the other piece of Osiris with us. I turn and for the first time my temper shows!

WHAT IS IT WITH YOU? FIRST YOU ARE UNGRATEFUL TO THE GODDESS THAT SAVED YOUR SOUL FROM SET! THEN WHEN WE AVOID COMPLETE ERADICATION OF OUR EXISTENCE BY THAT VERY SAME GODDESS YOU SPIT ON HER INTERVENTION FOR WHAT? PRIDE? YOU HAD BETTER GET DOWN ON YOU HANDS AND KNEES AND THANK HER FOR YOUR VERY EXISTENCE. ASIDE FROM AZARIEL, AND I IMAGINE SIR QUIXIS WOULD IT KILL ANY OF YOU TO PRAY JUST A LITTLE TO FIND PEACE AND CALM? RATHER THAN WHEN YOU NEED SOMETHING! NOW WHEN WE GO TO RECOVER THE PIECE IN THE JUNGLE, MASTER CAVA, WE WON’T BE GOING WITH YOU.

I didn’t even look back at what Master Cava decided to do, but our reverie was so short lived because the eight Gromek had returned seeing the crisis abated (Master Bungo calls this a pun but I am not sure why). Our group knows they speak Giantese so I was elected to communicate and translate. Their leader, whose name I am sure I heard, but don’t care to repeat it to avoid offering any way for history to remember a tyrant.

What I said coming up was done on frazzled nerves and shock at the events over everything since my last missive.

I tried to explain several times that we had no problem fighting giants but we were head into the Wastelands. When he said that we wish to declare war on the Gromek Empire by not following them for the fourth time I asked if he was stupid and was there a intelligent one among them. I can actually say those were famous last words! Now don’t take that as flippant but he killed me in the EXACT same way and spot as the damn Frost Giant did! As I fell and darkness grabbed me I saw my companions leap into action. I don’t debate I was dead but Master Tyvernos use a scroll and I was alive again less than a half minute later, if that. I explained to the group what I did and took onus for my actions. The Gromek tyrant offered his hand to me and said he could not let the slight go but was sorry negotiations went awry. I accepted his apology and I am sure he and I knew this wasn’t over, however, he had won this round.

We followed our guide/captors to Raag Vire and I noticed Mistress Iana was healing herself and being assisted by Sir Quixis whom was apologizing his swipe at the Gromek tyrant missed and hitting her with his magical broadsword. I can guess at the guilt he must feel in striking her in error. Master Bungo I am told even took up action with his blowgun, not that I would want to be on the end of an envenomed dart. Master Cava tried to run interference and reason with the Gromek and we found out it speaks Elven. Along the way we found a Gromek corpse being feasted upon by unusual looking rats and a condor. Sir Quixis scared them away, and when the Gromek descended from their aerial tracking/guiding of us they thanked Sir Quixis and two stayed with from that point forward but would only walk up front with the palladin. I learned something, they only value strength, and honor among their people. If they weren’t such tyrants in their approach they would easily conquer a much larger area of the world, and I would be inclined to help them.

Before the sun set on the 22nd of Ra a Sphinx landed and demanded 10,000 gold from each of us for passage. The Gromek bailed and flew off while Sir Quixis charged it raining two heavy blows with his blade. Master Cava slid forward and drew down on it with his bow, firing a well pace arrow. Master Overkill tries to reason with it which seemed to buy the rest of us time to arm up and fight. Well I missed throwing a lightning spear I summoned but Mistress Iana was quite helpful with a boulder and her internal magic / psychic powers.

THWACK!

Another well placed shot by Master Cava and the Sphinx cries out. Flying off and turning invisible!

“I’LL REMEMBER THIS!”

I cast See the Invisible to verify it was not hiding close by and I could detect nothing gazing around us. Shortly after nightfall the Gromek and us make camp. I almost feel like home napping in catacombs looking for books of the Dwarves.

The 23rd of Ra –

Today has shown me I know nothing about women, or the intimate practices of mating. Truth be told I am not sure I want to know now.

The Gromek wake us at dawn and we begin to eat and get ready having begun healing and rest my energy is returning, but not enough for the fight with the Gromek Tyrant, patience I gather unto me. Mistress Iana mentions she is available for healing, of all of us Master Overkill is hanging on death’s door and we all mentioned that to Mistress Iana whom made a point of mentioning she could not help the sores he had but she might be able to take care of other wounds. They head off behind a boulder and it would appear the healing involved some painful physical stretching, I stood up and looked over. Let me just say this, if you want privacy please remember that one of you companions is eleven feet three inches tall and that means I am a little over twice the height of my companions. I have seen that she needs to touch those she heals and with all the damage to the dwarf she was apparently straddling him. It could not have been pleasant for either of them as they were groaning a great deal, and there was this smell that I have only smelled from females on my species in heat.

Oh my OSIRIS! I averted my gaze and walked a few feet in another direction. Other races mating customs seem strange but I am not judgmental there is enough of that leveled at my race. It would appear that this was a surprise to everyone in the group but only one of the group seemed upset by it, Master Azariel. Then things took a turn for the worst and again Master Cava was at the center of this once more. His fame has gotten to him and he has forgotten virtues that make him a name to be looked up to. HE BEGAN DISCUSSING TERMS WITH MASTER AZARIEL ABOUT RENTING OUT MISTRESS IANA’S SERVICES!!! Honestly, I am not surprised Master Bungo joined in given his promiscuous nature, so I have no intention of slighting him here. It would be like teasing a solider with wine. Master Azariel was talking like Mistress Iana and he had formed a mating ritual and were bound to each other. I knew sex existed and Luur’na had performed said act with Zii’clymnt but I really had no idea it could be done casually without the mating ritual being involved, my studies never really left time for such endeavors. WHEN HE BEGAN TELLING AZARIEL THAT THE FIRST ONES WERE FREE AND HE HAD TO START PAYING I HAD LOST IT, MY TRIBE WAS SLAVES NO TO ANY THAT WOULD CALL US UNDER HEEL!

WHEN DID THIS GROUP APPROVE OF SLAVERY AS AN ACCEPTED PRACTICE!

The Gromek decided to stay out of this internal conflict and flew up and away to watch. Everyone was silent and I continue.

MISTRESS IANA IS NOT PROPERTY! YOU, ELF, HAVE NOT PERFORMED A MATING CEREMONY AND UNTIL THAT HAPPENS YOU DO NOT CONTROL WHOM SHE SHARES HER BED WITH WHETHER YOU LIKE THAT OR NOT! CAVA HOW COULD YOU! JUST BECAUSE YOU HAD A SCROLL THAT ALTERED THE FATE OF LIVING BEING TO DEVOTE THEIR LIFE TO YOU DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE YOUR SLAVE! YOU AGAIN SULLY YOURSELF TREATING SOMEONE AS YOUR THRALL! PERHAPS THE DARK GODS SHOULD WIN, IF WE LEAVE YOU UNCHECKED THEN ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS SIT BACK AND WATCH YOU LEAD US TO THEM. YOU MAKE ME SICK!

Just then we were interrupted by a softer voice with firm words.

“I will choose with whom I FUCK! Though right now it would be with none of you,” Mistress Iana screamed and she grabbed her things and ran off. I turned to Sir Quixis and Cava mentioning that we need to catch her before she runs off and gets herself killed. Cava tries to apologize to me and I tell him the person he should apologize to is out there running to her doom.

We catch up to her just before a small vale, not quite a valley but hidden nonetheless among the upper foothills. We didn’t realize we had set off an ancient trap from the War of the Fair and the Strong. Master Bungo found and I identified the warded stone that activated ghosts that would form bodies from the dirt, rocks, branches, pebbles, and such. We had to fight off a number of them because we had stumbled into the clearing of the vale without seeing the age ward stone. I cast Fleet Feet and Master Tyvernos gave Cava lightning arrows to which he put to devastating effect upon our corporeal assailants. I used the roundhouse kick to one helping Cava finish it off. I tried to charge another but missed, I am chalking this up to having come back from the dead again but my skills seem sluggish and off. While Master Bungo and Mistress Iana pound bolt and arrows at the creatures from afar we begin to crush our foes and get out the the area to begin investigating it.

In moving away from the area we hear a ROARRR!!!!

We looked up and not only did we see the Gromek fighting a dragon, but I recognized it as an adult Great Horned Dragon! That thing was like an angry god child and it was pissed with the Gromek, maybe they tried to recruit it? We debated helping them but I have to admit that I had no great desire to help a future slave master in a fight. It was not long before the Gromek began dropping like insignificant pests to the adult Great Horned Dragon! We hid and when the great lizard was done it swooped through the range looking for stragglers, and thanks be to Bast, and the host of Ra that it did not see us. I was not shooting for a third death by any means!

There was some debate about reaching out to Brother Malkin for updated maps of the Baalgor Mountains and Wastelands. I think my knowledge was overestimated of the area around my home and I was not there when they went shopping for maps in Credia. I asked about healing needs to everyone and Sir Quixis is quick to say he will defend us and we should press on. I replied, “Noble Palladin, no one can match your zeal for our safety but if we don’t stop and heal, rest, and eat you will be defending corpses.” The point sunk home and we started checking on whom needed healing from Mistress Iana.

Then something happened I was completely unprepared for, Sir Quixis called me “noble.”

Father and mother I stopped in my tracks completely and could not believe it. While at a loss for words I swallowed and merely thanked him for his kind words. This sentiment was echoed by a few of the teammates and I had to focus to continue as this was unexpected. Mistress Iana had me help her but I am not sure why. When healed a teammate I would lay my hands on them and then her upon mine and I could feel the energy for healing pass through me to them. While it was happening it was very euphoric and intoxicating. When she was done with the last person she whispered in my ear, “You have felt my power, now let me feel your power.”

I dumbly followed her away from the group and behind several boulders. When she was done and asleep I lay there and wondered why I did not feel like Master Azariel, the act was pleasant enough at the moment but I thought it was tacky timing for Mistress Iana, unless was I being used to prove a point to the other that she would pick whom she lay with? GREAT! I am more revolted by this act than I ever was curious!

The 24th of Ra –

That morning I got up early and not happy with anyone I could see Master Azariel staying distant from me but right now nerves are raw and were are going through the second most hostile place on the entire world. During breakfast (Trigger thank you for helping to keep the group alive right now) we talked again about how to reach out to Brother Malkin and should we wait for a reply. It was decided that Overkill would send a pigeon, it would contain my true name so I could communicate with Brother Malkin if he decided to trust me with his. Now, it was also decided we could not wait for a reply and had to forge ahead since it could be upwards of 3 weeks before we got anything useful. I asked Master Bungo to scout for us and Cava and Sir Quixis went with him to find a way around the ghost vale, which we learned they cannot leave the vale. I made a plea to ask the palladin to please move quietly since the fewer things we have to fight the better off we are. He nodded and assured me that stealth was possible for him and he had been trained to do so.

It was Cava that found a trail on the south side of the ghost vale leading around it. Onward we moved as a group while Mistress Iana healed those she could, Master Azariel, is refusing help but we can deal with that later. We came to a cross road that our path ran smack into like a ” T ” if you will. Shortly before that “T” crossing we came across ring of standing stones. Remember the ward stone and its protected vale from the day before we started checking.

  • Yes, the stones are able to form a perfect circle and be used in such magic.
  • No, there is no active magic or enchantments on the circle.
  • No, touching the stones does not activate anything.
  • No, walking through and out the other side does not activate anything.
  • Yes, these were erected by the fae, Spriggans I am told by Master Bungo.
  • No, there is nothing buried or unusual about the dirt in the ring.

Funny part is that as soon as Master Tyvernos said the ground was normal a large gout of flame shot down out of the sky singeing him very bad. A pack of flying demon deer I was later told called Perytons began to swoop down in formation as though we had crossed into their hunting grounds and they appeared to have a taste for mortal flesh! Sir Quixis lunged forward and cut deep into the one that had burned Master Tyvernos, I unleashed with a Paralysis Bolt an fell one of the eight demon deer. Master Azariel used Carpet of Adhesion on one and made it start to fall crashing into another one bringing down two. I got another bolt of match his number and we had dealt with half of them when Master Tyvernos let loose with a Whirlwind spell and brought down the other four of them quite violently. After we made sure that all of them were dead we stopped in the circle to rest a minute when.

Maybe 5 minutes later two magical pigeons land on Master Azariel’s shoulder and delivered two messages:

Then came the letter taking our gnome from us, and given the first missive Master Tyvernos had to go and save dear Lady Morgan, Master Gavin’s wife:

Before he left he asked the group to decide whom should get the finger of Osiris, and Cava was out because of his recent actions, his ethics had been called into question. We learned that everyone appointed to CrIsis is voted upon by the Gods of Light and more than a single “Nay” and that person is denied entry. It would seem Bast does not trust Master Azariel, and that left Master Bungo and Master Overkill. I was the last vote, and I made it clear that Master Bungo irritates me daily I have seen him do nothing but help the group and I asked Master Overkill if he had no objection in giving it the Master Bungo. So it was decided. The finger is now actively pointing to another piece so we have gained a compass.

Now we headed to a spot pass the standing stone ring but just before the road that does lead up into the mountains.

In the morning I will talk with Master Cava, Master Azariel and Mistress Iana. I am hoping I can mediate out some common ground among them all and help heal the group. Master Azariel has said he is going to respond to the letter he got from the Agent of Bes, Sir Quixis smiles and tells the good elf that CrIsis and the light will triumph, and it should surrender to him. I look at everyone and say, “Tell him thank you, if ever there was doubt that evil needed to be squashed, he has purged the thought from our mind. If he kills Mary then know that Overkill will hunt Bes down and I will join him. Tell him thank you for trying to turn kingdoms against us, for trying to sack Ra’s church, for trying to weaken us by killing our families. We clearly have scared the Dark Gods and they fear our success. Sir Quixis will back me up on this I am sure, as it is always darkest before the dawn.”

>> Written by Xerx’ses Goldenflail,
Wizard on the 24th of Ra the year 111. <<
Pictures of effects of flagellation from Wikipedia Commons
Pictures of pigeon from Nic Hodges
Picture of Gromek from the great people at Palladium Books.
Picture of Warrior in plate armor from Giant Bomb.
Sphinx picture by Genzoman.
Dragon picture by Lily Coulombe.
Standing stones picture byStonehenge and the Ice Age.
Picture of Peryton from Tsaag Valren.
 

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