Sea of Madness

Book of Nod, Page Twenty-Eight

The events of today are still darkened by the loss of our comrade. More still, by being bested by Synelle. He too has come to claim the Meloran artifact, and while it does please me to have an Eladrin rival, I do not care to lost by doing all the dirty work for him. We shall claim it from him. At least I imagine so.

We have come across an innocuous fellow, who was being held prisoner by the Jinah. While he seems amiable he seems to have delved into shadow magic. Those people who have the gift of shadow magic are those who know the true cost of power. They have damaged their very soul, perhaps even poisoned it. However, this power is not inherently evil, it depends on the person wielding it. I have no qualms with aiding him, however, should he wish to say, this might be problematic. I debate whether to inform Suldren or not. I’d hate to cause unnecessary trouble for him, especially since I can’t see him wanting to go anywhere but his own way. I don’t see any of the values in him thus far that Suldren finds so precious. I shall keep an eye…

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Vistin's Journal
Thus I dwell...

Things are not going well. I am being held prisoner under a mountain in the middle of this godsforsaken desert, have been here for several days (I could not say, gentle reader, just how many), and have only just been able to obtain paper and writing supplies. This was not the plan.

The idiots who accompanied me are all dead or as good as dead. “Famed adventurers” my foot. I haven’t met an adventurer worth my time in more than twenty years, but needs must. If this artifact is as powerful as the stories say it is, then there’s no reason it should be left out in these wastes for just anyone to find. Particularly if someone has already found it, and especially, especially, my dear reader, if those people are Jinah.

Still, this is hardly the worst situation I have ever been in. This cage is smaller than my accommodations in the gladiator pits, true, but I am left alone for the most part. I have not yet been compelled to fight anyone to the death. And Ithyk (or, more importantly, dear reader, his smell) is not in here with me. There are wizards who have madly cast aside their destinies to ensconce their souls in crude wooden forms, yes, and there are huge beasts that know and well love the taste of men and elves, certainly, and also I am in a cage with no weapon or armor or any of the baubles and small treasures I had accumulated in my travels, but it is dry and cool and I have paper, quill, and ink and I have been fed at least four times, so it could be much worse.

The problem before me is twofold: First, I must escape in a suitably dashing and spectacular manner. Easily accomplished, of course, but the second part of the problem is the more difficult. Once freed, I must locate this artifact and quit this cave without being killed by the several Jinah, their many pets, or any of their insidious traps. My hope is that the Raven Queen will smile on me, as an agent of destiny surrounded by heretics who would deny her her reckoning, and provide me with some means. Otherwise, though hate to contemplate the possibility, I will be forced to escape alone and empty-handed, without the prize I came for, without even (if you can stand the thought, gentle reader, which I very nearly cannot) my khopesh, the truest and most faithful of my companions, navigate the deep desert alone, and return to Ishar to take on supplies and additional fools. A grim prospect, but hopefully one I will not have to consider much longer.

For now, I can only wait.

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From the Journal of Cassius Wolfslayer
Page Twenty-Six

The Captain and Sam spoke with us privately… the remaining Daggers… and told us of the location of another relic. They were speaking of one of the relics of Melora, of which we already have a few. This one is buried in a cave somewhere in the deserts of Ishar. Ishar! I read tales of the arid land of Ishar as a child, but never thought I would ever travel the sandy desert myself. My first feeling was one of excitement, the thrill of adventuring in this far off land. Then I thought about the descriptions of the place, and of what those who had lived there said of it. At that moment I realized that maybe this particular quest would not be as much fun as some of the stories would lead one to believe.

After coming upon the shore we began trying to orient ourselves using the archaic map that Sam had discovered. As we traversed the desert sands, making our way further and further from the sea, we found that this place was more unforgiving than anything we have encountered before. The days were hot, dry, and the sand whipped at our faces as it was blown up by the wind. At night the temperature dropped drastically, and it was all we could do to stay warm.

A few days of travel and we nearly became a meal for some massive, subterranean worm. It came up to the surface and we dove for cover just in time. We even managed to hide Suldren. The monster was a good distance away, but it still shook the ground we were on and I could feel its roar vibrate in my chest. I never read about that one in any of my books! Later, we encountered these elemental creatures, made of living air, that floated a little above the ground and rode the wind currents across the desert. We avoided them that first day, but more happened to find us when we settled down for the night a couple days later. The sand they carried in their whirling bodies blew around with the strength to grate flesh off of bone. Despite that, we managed to dispatch them easily enough.

Another couple of days and we found a group of merchants. We spotted their camp in the night and investigated. The merchants were not too friendly, but they had an extra hired guard who could speak our language and seemed to take sympathy on our seemingly ill-fated mission. He is a little long-winded, but seems a decent fellow. Sehanine knows we could use the help of a local. He first guided us to an indigenous tribe that traded with us for some supplies. Then, with his help, we found the cave which should house the Meloran artifact we seek. The cave once was the home of a large, powerful dragon. The dragon diverted the course of the river to make his home more suitable. The effect of diverting the river is readily apparent on the land we see around us.

We now are inside the cave, and are not the only ones here. After Nod and I took out some traps and guided the group through the entrance, we found some explorers who did not fair against the traps as well as we did. They posed no threat to us being as dead as they were. Others we found though, were quite a threat. They once were living, breathing people, but they have changed themselves into some manner of construct. Our new friend’s former tribe was destroyed by these things, but we all got a bit of revenge for him. They have all been dispatched and we are now taking some moments to rest before deciding which way to proceed. I should finish writing this before Kun-We gets any more frustrated. He seems to be losing his patience with the sound of me writing.

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Book of Nod
In the interrum

As I write these words down they are the words of a fae who is free of that blasted collar and free finally of my honest words. These words, however, are bitter sweet, having gained my freedom and lost a dear friend. Perhaps I should start from the beginning.

Nights ago Talmud came to me to play chess, as we regularly do. He kept smiling at me knowingly as we played and I must admit I was terribly confused. I thought he had some strategy in mind for the game, but it had nothing to do with it.

“I’m going to free you of that collar tonight…” the smile remained umoved on his face.

I had simply gawked at him, not speaking, not moving, with an increasing horrible weight in the pit of my stomach. Yes, he had said the words, but I did not believe him. Could my punishment be over? I struggled with it. I’d been struggling with it for so long to finally be free of this prison of the soul seemed impossible. Finally, as I saw concern upon his face, I spoke.

“You do realize that once this is off I will have to bring the Governor to the compass? I will not be able to stop myself.”

He gave an assured smile, which, I must admit he had developed into a fine art form. “I will help you do it.” he nodded approvingly and moved his bishop.

I begin to think I was developing my slack jaw into a fine art form. I stared at him again, trying to make sure this was still the Talmud I knew. His broad grinning face gave me what I needed to know.

“I do not understand,” I said almost feverishly.

“I have been thinking alot on it, this isn’t something I’m doing lightly. You’ve been with us all for quite some time now. Back when I had—- back when Sam had led you all to escape and left me behind I saw true darkness for the first time in my life. But you all returned for me, brought me back, but not whole. When I saw you all leaving, i asked myself what I had been doing all this time, and what for? Wouldn’t they die with me because I fought so hard for them? I asked you, after that, to watch my back. You agreed. But it wasn’t that you just said the words, you smiled in a way like you were glad I asked. At that point I trusted you. I trust you now. As part of an oathcircle with you we shall be brothers forevermore. I have seen you fight with us and I know you wish none of us ill, in fact I know you want the best for the daggers at heart. Though I have more insight than the rest do as to your character, I still don’t understand why you have to do it, I just understand that you do. That is why I will help you, that’s why I’m gonna take that damn thing off.”

My head flooded with vibrance and wonder again, color searing my vision and joy and panicked mad laughter left my lips. It had taken Talmud aback but soon order had worked it’s way back into my mind. At which point he said he wanted to enter into another pact, replacing the first one we had made. “promise, on my life, to take no actions out of sight of one of the Daggers without first telling two of the other daggers about said action.”

At that point, we discussed plans to bring a certain someone on the ship.

I must say, the first part of the plan went off remarkably well, which I suppose explains why it was Vuden who first saw me sneak onto the ship. I saw the two sticks that represent his brain saw together and ignite in sudden recognition. Vuden barreling towards me, not something I was prepared for, though Talmud had the initiative for improvisation. He intercepted his charge and counter-barrelled (did I just make that up?) into Vuden striking down low, and taking down his momentum. Linny at that point had joined in the fray and aided Talmud in keeping Vuden restrained. Slightly baffled at what to do, I saw Talmud look up at me, I nodded back at him, time to finish this mission.

The next day we had found Vuden gone, his belongings packed, a note next to his empty chest. I will say this about Vuden, while he is a stubborn angry short-sighted individual, I certainly repect his decision to not murder me. It gives me one less reason to lock my door. Truly, though, Vuden has made, what I feel is a respectful decision, perhaps he just needs time to cool his heels. While I don’t imagine he shall be returning any time soon on my account, I would certainly enjoy his company again should he return. Of course this bars any overbearing unending feelings of hatred on his behalf.

This of course brings me to my least favorite part of this entry, Talmud’s departure. He had declaired it at dinner, simple as that. I at that point lost my appetite. Cassius had given me a death stare across the table, fork upright. It was quite convincing considering his ridiculous hat. I don’t think Suldren cared for me much at that point either, but at least he had the table manners to politely finish his squab. The other daggers seemed to take the news better than I and feasted and drank. While I at least drank and sang chanties with them, I knew that Talmud would be gone, and this moment would stay with me. I felt like I had let him down tremendously, that by being his friend I had caused him misery. I wished that woe upon noone and while I desperately felt that I should go with him, perhaps that wouldn’t be best for him.

I watched him leave. I was now free and I was now alone.

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Kun-We gathers his thoughts...
...in the desert

Vuden and Talmud have left the crew, and Nod has been freed of his collar. The collar, of course, did not prevent him from kidnapping the mayor of Lurd to deliver him to the compass, so perhaps its loss is no great thing.

Vuden was a stalwart and loyal ally, and the most reasonable of our group. Talmud was a rock; reliable and solid, even if I did not always trust his judgment, particularly when it comes to Nod. Both were fierce in battle, and without them, we are diminished.

Nod’s behavior is becoming erratic again, but Captain Lee seems to tolerate it, for some reason. Out of respect for his command, I have stayed my blades for now. Still, this will by my last adventure with his crew. Perhaps the power they steal from Melora’s trinkets will preserve them, but Nod seems poised to doom the crew with his inconstancy. If it amuses the captain to tolerate his disloyalty, that is the captain’s business, and the crew’s to follow him if they wish. I have sworn no such oath.

We arrived some days ago at the great port of Ishar, and set out almost immediately into the deep desert. A Meloran artifact is said to lie buried beneath a mountain in the dunes. The travel has been difficult, but we have taken a native guide and seem to be close to our goal. Once the prize is taken and we return, I will take my leave of the Cotadormar and seek a new path in Ishar.

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Suldren's Journal

Our group has been considerably weakened over the last two days. This fact doesn’t pain me as much as the nagging feeling that had I handled things differently we’d still be a group of six instead of four. I wish Vuden and Talmud the best in their travels and will pray that the Platinum One will look over them and that they may rejoin us in the future. But I must prepare for the worst and act as though they shall never return.
While the remaining Daggers have certainly grown in strength and reputation, I hardly feel the four of us will be as effective until we recruit new members. But how can that work well? How can we trust any recruit? Just as important, how can we get them to trust us? Especially when the truth of how our last two members left comes to light. Or even more of a worry, what should happen if the truth of my past comes to light? If that happens I won’t be sure there will even be a group left worthy of calling Daggers.
I shall push these worrisome thoughts from my mind for now, not because I want to but because I must. If I am going to rebuild our group while continuing to serve our Captain I need to be at my best. I shall pray that my past stays just that and hopefully we shall find other men of strength and character to join us on our travels.

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From the Journal of Cassius Wolfslayer
Page Twenty-Five

Just when I thought we would have a little bit of time to relax following our departure from the Underdark, all hell has broken loose on the ship. A while back we saved several trinkets and baubles of a nautical nature for the governor of Lurd; Curcai, I think his name was. He had been robbed by that group of Meloran cultists we tracked across the sea. Well, we had given him his artifacts except for his compass, which we kept for ourselves because it was a very powerful artifact. Nod found that he needed to be profoundly honest with those that do not save his life on a regular basis, and deceive those that he bunks next to. Apparently, despite wearing that damn Fey Collar that Sam forged, Nod had never forgotten that he needed to let the governor “see and touch” the compass.

Nod is apparently still the mentally under-developed, self-deluded fool he was all that time ago when we recovered the compass. Vuden has now abandoned the crew, citing that Nod is going to get us killed, or drive one of us into killing him. Talmud also has abandoned us, but not before freeing Nod of the apparently useless Fey Collar and swearing ANOTHER oath with him in secret. Talmud was just too disgusted with the life we have been leading to continue with us. He’s returned to his homeland.

Kun-We has been acting weird. I fear he might leave, too. If there’s anyone I ever thought would kill Nod, it was Kun-We. He might leave to avoid killing Nod, knowing that it would likely lead to his death as well. The big guy might be smarter than I’ve given him credit for.

I’m afraid that the “Daggers” are going to be reduced to Suldren, Nod, and myself. Should that happen I don’t know what to do. I’ve made more profit on this ship than I would have made in ten years of thieving on my own. I won’t leave. I’m living the kind of life I’ve been reading about since I was a child. Besides, we’re hunted men, it’s safer to be in a group for now. I just don’t know about Nod. The damn Fey and their use of language is always tricky, but Nod doesn’t even do it right! You’d think instead of promising the governor that he would let him “see and touch” his compass again, that he would have only said, “We’ll do all we can to make those thieves suffer.” Nothing about actually giving him back his property, but still instilling him with confidence that we’ll retrieve it for him. I still feel like Nod does not at all think or behave like most other Eladrin do, and that it must be due to that fact that he was expelled from his homeland. Fey are supposed to use their language to their benefit. They’re supposed to do things like trick others into one-sided deals, but make them believe they’re actually getting something worthwhile. That sort of thing. Nod actually uses his language to hamper HIMSELF, not the other person! Like I’ve written before, he seems to have paid attention to all the wrong parts of his lessons when he was growing up.

Well, here’s hoping that tomorrow we still have a crew and more haven’t left.

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In the Interim...
Then there were four.

You put into port in some small town, still trying to keep a low profile seeing as some fierce bounty hunter was out for your blood. One night you awoke to screams on deck and all ran up to find Nod, Talmud and Linny trying to subdue Vuden. Talmud swept his legs out from under him and punched him with the butt of his mordenkrad. As everyone stood around, trying to figure out what exactly was happening, Nod slipped off with another man in two.
A minute later he came back saying
“There you go, compass delivered. Have a splendid night!”
as he led the man, bag over his head and hands tied in front of him, down the gang plank.
Vuden came to and began to mutter and swear about killing Nod. Suldren, trying to help Vuden up, was instructed to “fuck off” before Vuden went below deck. Nod just shrugged as he said
“The mayor has seen and touched the compass, our part is fulfilled.”
The next day Vuden was gone. A note left on his empty chest said:

If I stay on this ship I’ll tear that fucking faerie apart. I don’t like the man I become when he’s around. Fare well to the other Daggers.
-V


Nod couldn’t help but smirk. Kun-we took a swing at Nod before Suldren and Talmud stepped in and restrained him. Talmud had a sadness in his eyes as he surveyed the group. That night the captain called the now five daggers to dinner, explaining that Talmud had chosen to depart from the crew.

“The seas’ not the life I thought it would be, friends. At first light tomorrow I will begin my journey back to my ancestral homelands. I know Nod has upset many of you, but I ask, as a favor to me, that you continue to look after him in my absence and bear him no ill will. He is a mischievous creature, but he means well and I sense a great source of help and compassion in him, if only you accept him for who he is.
You probably noticed that Nod’s collar is missing. I removed it before our mission, in exchange for entering into a pact with Nod releasing him from his pact with me. I did, however, make him promise, on my life, to take no actions out of sight of one of the Daggers without first telling two of the other daggers about said action.
Now let us eat, drink and enjoy one another’s company as friends for one last night.”

True to his words, by first light Talmud was gone. The Captain sent the crew out to resupply and called the Daggers in to see him. Sam was waiting there when they all arrived.

“Sam’s found an old story that points to another Meloran artifact deep in the deserts of Ishar. We set sail as soon as our stocks are replenished.”
After a long time at sea, Cortadormar finally arrived on the arid continent of Ishar.

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Legitimate Business Enterprises, LLP #7
In which the company meets their fate.

The men of Legitimate Business Enterprises, LLP moved into the cave after a brief rest to explore the depths of Meloran horror within. The fought many a horrible creature and eventually found their way to a pool of sea water, in which a priestess was chanting and moving about.
Just as they were about to leap into the fray, Jin held out his hand and exchanged a look with Tusk. They both noticed something odd about the priestess, and the cliff before them:
they weren’t really there!
Cautiously, most of LBE moved in, and upon seeing them, the illusory priestess went into casting, statues came to life and chaos ensued.
In the long run, things didn’t go well for the guys. Most of them met their makers right there in that cave, while Jin and Rick escaped, only to hear that long mournful call one last time and succumb to its sweet succor. As their lungs filled with water, a peace came over them. For even though their bodies would soon return to resupply the Meloran cave of the very fish men they had slaughtered, their souls moved on…
That’s how I met them, in fact. Melora stole their bodies, but their spirits moved on to the realm of the Raven Queen. Here we all sit at the Once Over Inn, a group of guys with a grudge against Melora and her followers, just waiting for the right time. Because rumor has it a gate from the Shadow Fell is going to open sometime soon, and when it does the boys of Legitimate Business Enterprises, LLP and me, well we’re gonna go teach them Melorans a thing or two about vengeance. Maybe I’ll even get to fight by my crew’s side one last time…

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Legitimate Business Enterprises, LLP #4-#6
In which a lazy DM catches up...

Beyond the door they found the innkeeper poisoning the food in the kitchen in an attempt, he explained after a bit of a trouncing, to make them more susceptible to The Call. After he spilled all the beans, including all the details of the secret ritual going on underneath the church that night, they hog-tied him to a rafter and stuffed a sock in his mouth so his screams wouldn’t keep them awake.

That night LBE and the other out-of-towners made their way up the steep steps to the church at the top of the cliff. Leaving the traders at the main door to guard their rear, they quickly discovered the secret panel behind the altar and made their way down into the dark underbelly. They moved through the first room to a set of double doors, behind which a couple fish men lurked in waiting. As soon as Tusk turned the knob they exploded out, as did two more from other doors in the room. The fight was short but brutal, ending with Tusk riding a fleeing fish man down a windy set of stairs until he was broken all over.

Next they busted into a chamber bisected by a heavy black curtain, filled with yet more fish men! Faces peeked from behind the curtain, throwing spells at the heroes repeatedly until Bonaventure hacked down the curtain, revealing one of the two sorcerers was none other than Alderman Ritter, the cur! It was another long and bloody fight, but in the end Legitimate Business Enterprises, LLP won out.

Behind the curtain lay a dark, depthless pool and a secret door that Rick saw with his keen elven senses. Entering the tunnel beyond, they came to an empty chamber with yet another pool and, going further, the visible side of secret door at the top of some stairs. From beyond voices could be heard, loudly preaching the glories of Melora. Peeking through a crack in the door, Valens made out two enrobed priests behind an altar, four fish men and a number of villagers.

The next few hours were in blur in the minds of the men of Legitimate Business Enterprises, LLP, but they did their best to recant them to me. Tusk and the gang stormed into the altar room. Almost all of Legitimate Business Enterprises, LLP focused their attacks on the younger priest, nearest to the secret entrance. He quickly went down under the fierce attacks while the rest of the group began to tear into the fish men. The congregation of townsfolk began to flee up the stairs through the main entrance. The other priest, seemingly naught but a feeble old man, manages to escape notice while lobbing spells at the men until Valens finally struck him in the arm. The old priests skin slipped away from the wound, revealing the carapaced lobster-esque monstrosity that lurked beneath the guise.

Even after all the fish men had been slain, still the old priest-thing fought, using Melora’s will to blind all of LBE and escape to his chambers, using the pool within to escape further to the pool in the previously curtained chamber where the Alderman died.
The men took a few minutes to regroup and collect Bonaventure, who had fallen in the fight, before making their way back through the hidden shrine, forgoing any further exploration into chambers previously passed over.

Of course, things don’t ever go as smooth as we’d like: The creature and a handful of zealots awaited by the exit up into the church.

“Kill them all!” the creatures hissed to his minions.

Luckily, Legitimate Business Enterprises, LLP were quick to react. Jin and Rick destroyed every last fanatic before they had the chance to even lift their make-shift weaponry.

What followed was a brutal, gruesome fight and one-by-one every member of the group fell, until only Rick remained standing. Summoning every bit of glorious elven majesty, he knocked the second-to-last arrow in his quiver, drew clean to his ear and let fly. The broad head tip shattered the things slimy carapace and pierced its black heart, causing it it…

Ah, sorry. Got a little carried away with the elven majesty, there.

So, Rick slayed the thing as the other out-of-towners rushed down the stairs to investigate and began healing the downed heroes, all of whom were bleeding out onto the cold stone floor.

With everyone back on their feet, the whole group exited the church to another bleak morning. Jin spotted some creeping forms at the base of the cliff they were atop, and all did some creeping of their own to intercept.

The feeble villagers were easily snuck upon and intimidated into revealing that they had come from some caves to pray to Melora for guidance. It was here, they informed Legitimate Business Enterprises, LLP, that the source of Melora’s influence over the town resided.

The group spent the morning locked up in the town jail to avoid the effects of another mournful call. Later in the day, fully rested and feeling somewhat more knowledgeable for their experiences, they mounted an assault on the caves. Unfortunately as the climbed (or fell, in Rick’s case) down the cliffs an assault was mounted against them. An abomination exploded from the waves and leapt to the beach, where some of the men stood, dumbfounded at its appearance. It released a cloud of pheromones that incited rage in the group, causing them to strike at one another while it leapt straight up the twenty-five foot cliff to assault poor Jin. A few of the group climbed back up the cliff to assault the thing and Bonaventure got into position to knock it down off the cliff.

As they hit their stride and started causing some damage, Melora’s Wrath grabbed Tusk and dove into the water, using more pheromones to put him to sleep in an attempt to drown him. Luckily Tusk, being excessively virile, snapped out of the induced sleep and escaped the things grasp as Bonaventure and Valens dove in after him. Jin and Rick began to retreat into the cave in an attempt to get away from pounding surf and clacking claws. The Wrath began to take down the members of LBE until Rick, his armor glistening majestically with salt spray, took a bead on the creature and rapidly sent two arrows whistling through the rain to strike the creature in the shoulder with enough force to spin it to face him, as the second impeccably aimed arrow cracked through the abominations chest. Its putrid innards spilled out into the sea as Rick heroically flicked his long blonde locks out of his eyes…

Ahem.

Where was I? Yes, so Rick slew yet another lobster creature and rushed out to rescue Tusk before he could drown. With a collective sigh they all took shelter from the rain & surf in the cave mouth and listened to the distant sounds of something moving around deeper within…

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