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The Path to Brimhaven
'Crow lord'

As I approach Brimhaven I have acquired no information on cultists activities and will press on and hope for a lead in the town itself

The side job you issued me on the way here has been completed however

The sparrow will no longer be singing songs and any of your stolen tweets will not be reaching the ears of other birds, I will however need a clean up crew sent to the location where 'the sun rises and a new rock is born', of importance on his body is currency which bears a kraken insignia, in regards to solving this infiltration I would suggest you task the 'Boar' and his team to dealing with the traitors but as always your commands take precedence

I trust you will find this report satisfactory

Signed, The Mutt
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A hidden past: Coded message #6
'Crow lord'

He has a way to go adapting to our training and regimen style but takes the lessons learned to heart

He is however rebellious and receives multiple beatings weekly for breaking curfew and rules, no stealing though, he seems to understand that would cost him his hands, so as of now I would characterize him as an unruly yet intelligent mutt

I have witnessed a showcase of his talent for improvisation in which he got into a fight with one of the young deckhands and blinded him with the sand at his feet and then struck the other boy whilst defenseless, many would call this cowardly, however in our line of work this is the sort of thinking which can determine the difference between victory and defeat

The boy shows promise

I will keep an eye on him for now, but know that given time he could become a welcome addition to 'shadow' company

I trust you will find this report satisfactory

Signed, -REDACTED-


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Epic!
The Road to Brimhaven
“‘Peace magic’?” Lark’s bright eyes gleam with curiosity.

Gabe shifts his weight in the saddle and nods. “The art of pacifying and protecting. It isn’t a very popular path focus. It’s archaic, abstract… Not very flashy.” The older wizard’s features pinch in a faint grimace that suggests he is accustomed to unpopularity, but with a small shake of his head he regains his measured composure. “But it is more potent than many suspect; it is elegant in its simplicity, and has proved a boon in some of our assignments.”

Gwain, riding a short distance ahead, twists his heavily-armored torso to throw a grin and a friendly salute over his shoulder towards Gabe. “Saved my hide more than once, that’s for sure!” Gabe smiles slightly and dips his head towards the knight in acknowledgement.

Lark responds to Gabe with a cheerful laugh. “I know what you mean; I’ve been studying Knowledge magic for years!”

He looks at her in surprise. “Knowledge? Really?”

“Mm-hmm. I found a tome in the archives when I was… eleven? No, ten. Anyway, Professor Athens helped me analyze it and re-create some of the spells.” She reaches into her bag, pulls out one of her notebooks, and passes it over to Gabe. “Sometimes when I watch the kids practicing the Lower Elements, I feel a little envious because their magic is so tactile. My friend Cherise, for example, is focused in Air magic, and her spells all seem much more fun and practical than mine. Like, she showed me how she does her Flight spell once. It was amazing!” She briefly digresses, smiling enthusiastically at the memory. “But Light and Knowledge magics are both good for revealing interesting things, so they’re useful too. I’d like it if maybe someday I could join an archaeological expedition, maybe even help discover something completely new.”

Gabe’s eyebrows rise as he leafs through Lark’s study notes, each page filled with diagrams and annotations of magical theory in dense script. He glances over at the 15-year-old, with her earnest, unguarded demeanor and the soft blonde curls of a child, looking small atop her storm-grey horse. He had assumed that Lady Averland must have had compelling reasons to send such a young, inexperienced wizard out on official duty. Now he understood. After all, he had been just as eager, filled with purpose and passion, when he finished his own training early and started working as an agent of the college six years before.

His expression is warmer as he returns her notebook. “I think you’ll find many opportunities to make a difference out here.”

“I hope so,” she smiles, casting her gaze over the expansive plains, the green smudges of forest groves, the distant peaks of the Abel Mountains away to their right, as if expecting opportunities to appear on the horizon at any moment. She turns back to Gabe. “I am looking forwards to seeing your Peace magic in action.”

He chuckles. “Peace magic is only called for when natural peace fails. By the Lady’s favor, I hope I shall prove to be entirely useless on this mission.” He pauses, thinking, then calls to the fourth traveler, an aged man in distinguished robes riding near Gwain. “Elder Listair, would a small demonstration for our newest member be appropriate?” The old wizard smiles and nods, and Gabe turns back to Lark. “If you would like?”

At Lark’s eager agreement, Gabe murmurs his spell, gesturing in the air and drawing power from his internal reservoir of Zeon. At the last syllable, a pale aura radiates out from him, enveloping the entire party, and near each person’s body a pattern resembling an ethereal kite shield draws itself in the air in glowing white filigree. The shields circle their targets slowly, accompanied by drifting motes resembling shining goose down, then vanish seconds later as Gabe releases the magic and ends the spell. Gwain had glanced back at the sound of Gabe’s incantation, but gives no acknowledgement of the appearance or disappearance of the shields themselves.

“This spell is called the Shield of Salvation, and it—“ Gabe looks back to Lark, but finds that the young wizard has already begun gathering her own Zeon, concentrating intently as she meticulously mimics Gabe’s words and movements. In the next instant the shields materialize again before the three wizards’ Gifted eyes, but while Gabe’s spell had appeared seraphic in it’s exquisite detail and delicate purity, Lark’s is radiant; the lines are simpler but shine bright and golden and throw off iridescent sparks like a crystal in the sunlight.

The spell ends and she turns to Gabe with a smile again. “How was that?”

Gabe blinks, and after a silent moment shares a glance with Listair up ahead. The elderly wizard’s eyes twinkle. A smile tugs at Gabe’s lips as he returns his attention to Lark, nodding in approval. “I think you will do very well indeed.”
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Epic!
Pointer-left Il_fullxfull.1234221697_msgm_thumb

Mitch
Posted in Flameweaver
Cinders
"Th' fuck are we still doin' here, Jonesey?" The unkempt bandit wiped the cooling sweat from his forehead, glancing back and forth between the man he was speaking to and the mouth of the cave. "Sup'posed to be back with th'others by now, not squattin' in some pissfuck cave!"

"Waitin, now shut yer' gob Cutter." Jonesey continued to look past him, not bothering to make eye contact as he stared out into the world outside the cave. "Not keen on leadin' summun back with us."

"Tch, so'sum fuck is followin. Let th' fuck get lost in th' woods, let nature kill'em." Cutter spat, splitting his angry eyes between the cave's mouth and Jonesey. "Or better'et, I'll go out and kill em." He flashed a malicious grin, revealing two rows of yellowed and broken teeth.

"You try that an' I'll put a knife in you before you set foot ou'there, and drag you back in by th'innards." A voice of tired annoyance joined the conversation as Skaf finally opened his eyes. "Jonesey sais wait, we wait."

"We give th' fuck until sundown, affer' that we goes. Until then, siddown' and shut th' fuck up." Jonesey gave Cutter a long and hard look before the man finally relented. Cutter chuffed, but made no move to rise from his squatting position.

Outside the cave the world transitioned from shades of green to vibrant oranges and reds as the sun dipped low. As tinges of purple began to join the other colors, Jonesey pushed off from the damp cave wall and cleared his throat. The other two rose, obeying the unspoken order.

However before the three could leave, a deafening blast flared to life at the mouth of the cave. Rocks and debris came tumbling down, sealing the tunnel like a tomb. As the sound of falling rubble faded away, Cutter glared back into the pitch blackness where Jonesey had been.

"Th' FUCK did you jus' do, Jonesey?!" His words bounced around the unlit walls, no longer trying to hide the anger behind them.

"You think I wanna be buried with you shits?" Jonesey chuckled angrily in the dark, wishing he could see the man to strike him for his idiocy.

"Both of you, shut it." Skaf's voice drifted low and grim in the gloom. "Listen."

Overhead the dull and distant thumps of footsteps climbed slowly until they came to a stop somewhere above. The sound of something being dragged or maybe rolled accompanied the steps, stopping just as they did.

A heavy thump broke the silence, followed by repeating thumps that were starting to develop a steady rhythm. After a moment or two the sounds of splitting rock and falling pebbles accompanied the new slivers of firelight that cut through the cracking stone. Once the newly hewn hole was as wide around as a man's chest, the digging stopped.

"Hello down there!" The voice was amiable, almost as if a twilight stroll through the woods was a normal occurrence. The three trapped men looked at each other in the dim light that the hole allowed, each one wearing an expression of wary confusion.

Seconds passed, and the voice cut the silence once again. "I said hello! Still alive down there?" His voice had lost some of the aloof cadence it had before, almost as if no response would disappoint him.

"Th'fuck are you doing?!" Cutter was the first to shoot back, yelling angrily upwards.

"You are! Good! Good." His voice regained some of its joy as it continued. "I had some questions, if you have a minute or two. Is that okay?"

"Sure.." Jonesey spoke first, cutting off Cutter before he could start. He took a few quiet and careful steps forward, turning back to the other two and putting a single finger to his lips. Letting it drop, Jonesey held up his two hands to them, knitting the fingers together and miming a 'step up' motion. "If'n you got questions, ask em." He spoke without facing the hole, keeping his eyes fixed on the other two men. With their attention, Jonesey pointed one finger to his chest, mimed the boost-up motion again, then pointed two fingers at Cutter and Skaf. "We're not goin' anywhere, mister."

The two looked at each other, then two heads looked back at Jonesey and gave him an understanding nod.

"Great! Alright, first question." The light of a torch shifted above, and the man continued. "Are you three part of the Jagged Bones?"

The malicious smile that had started to spread across Jonesey's face dropped instantly, though more out of surprise than concern. "Yeah, why?" His tone echoed the newfound caution, and he quickly gestured for Skaf and Cutter to start the plan to escape.

"Because I'm familiar with your work, at least I thought I was but I suppose you just confirmed that." The voice remained polite, but now the three could hear the heavy rumbling of something heavy being shifted above.

Jonesey mouthed a single silent word to the other men. "One."

Skaf and Cutter clasped fingers together, preparing to act.

"Couple more questions, then I'll throw down a rope. Okay?" The voice remained unbothered, seemingly oblivious to the actions the men beneath it were taking.

"Yeah, fine." Jonesey shook his head back and forth to the others, then mouthed another word. "Two."

"Great, now next..."

"Three!" Jonesey said it aloud this time, jumping up into open air as Skaf and Cutter cupped hands beneath his feet. The two men strained upward, propelling Jonesey up towards the hole.

Before his fingers could touch the sides, a heavy scraping noise resounded above and a deluge of inky black liquid surged down. Jonesey was pinned flat against the cave floor, and both Skaf and Cutter slipped and lost their footing on the now slippery ground.

A pungent and bitter scent filled the small cave, clinging to the air just as tightly as the sticky fluid that now covered them. Jonesey coughed and spat the liquid that had poured into his mouth as Cutter found his voice once again. "The fuck is this?! Wha'the fuck you doin up there?!"

Silence.

"You there? Answer me!" Even though Jonesey had finished hacking up the sticky black liquid, he made no attempt to stop Cutter berating their captor.

"Shall we continue?" The voice returned, though all traces of courtesy and good nature were absent. "Or do you need more pitch?"

The three men looked warily at each other, the first tinges of concern starting to appear between their eyes. "No... no, we don't need more." To their surprise the words came from Skaf, who was still attempting to wring the black gunk from his hair.

"Good." The word from outside the hole was followed by the sound of an empty wooden barrel being pushed to one side. "I'd hate to drag another one of those up here."

A brief chuckle echoed into the hole, and then the man continued. "You shake down farmers and peasants pretty well, make some coin for yourself and your boss. That sounds about right, right?"

"That's right, yeah." Jonesey did his best to mirror the voice's cold and humorless tone, though it fell short.

"I know." The reply was icy.

"So...was that all?" Jonesey ventured a careful tone. "Can we get that rope now?"

Without warning, a bundle of hemp rope fell through the hole and landed with a wet slap into the pooling sludge.

"I... meant one tied up there..."

"You lost some men recently, didn't you?" The question came without the slightest hint of acknowledgement of Jonesey's complaint.

"We... the boss said so, but didn't say where or how." The bandit's reply was almost subservient, and Jonesey hated himself for it.

"You're lying." If the voice's previous words were cold, these were downright glacial. "I watched you walk out of the last town you robbed, and you looked too familiar when you did it."

"I don't know who you-"

"I do not advise lying to me." The words cut off his own, then fell silent.

"You from some farm or something? If this is about money..." Jonesey tried to rally, to bring the conversation back to somewhere more friendly.

"How many men did you lose that day?"

"I told you, the boss didn't-"

"DON'T. LIE. TO ME." The words boomed down into the cave, reverberating off the walls with barely contained anger.

"I wasn't at Ankhapur!" Jonesey practically shouted back at the unseen man above, only realizing in the silent seconds afterwards the weight of what he had said.

"I never mentioned Ankhapur." Compared to the violent force behind it moments before the response was almost meek, as if all of the bluster behind it had been stolen.

"I-" Jonesey started, then stopped himself just as quickly.

"How many men did you lose that day." The question repeated itself quietly from the world above.

"Eleven."

"And you ran from me."

"Yes."

"Did any others escape?" The sound of crinkling leaves above was the only sign that the man above had moved.

"No. I was th' only one." The fight had left both of their voices, replaced with the monotonous back and forth of the truth.

"Step to where the hole is." A small thump overhead indicated that the speaker had come to rest on his knees.

Jonesey did as he was told, ignoring the shouted whispers of Skaf and Cutter behind him. Beneath the torchlight a tired Half-Elf looked down at him, his two cold grey eyes fixated on the bandit.

"You know why I did this. You know this is your fault. And you know you're going to die here." Dornan had no more righteous fury to put behind the words, each one sounding more hollow than the last.

"I don' hafta." Jonesey found himself again, trying to negotiate now that he had a face to put to the voice of his captor. "Y'eh could be a rich man if you chose'a spare me."

And just as Jonesey had found his sense of self-preservation, Dornan and his burning anger were rejoined.

"Just like your men would have spared my wife?" As cold as a snake's hiss.

"I-"

He would never finish the sentence. Before Jonesey could so much as follow what was happening the torch was in Dornan's hand and hurled down the hole as quickly and violently as he could muster. The dark of the cave was instantly gone, replaced with the blinding light of the pitch as it caught flame, engulfing the men and setting to the task of burning them to cinders.

As night crept over the forest Dornan sat by the burning hole, watching the dancing lights and listening to the screams long after they died out.

They would all die out.

Every last one.

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Epic × 3!
Moving Forward
As I kneel on familiar ground and breathe the fresh air again, I'm overwhelmed by a rush of events demanding my attention:

  • First - my star-metal nugget no longer feels warm. It was once a conduit of power, but it is now cut off. I don't feel anger or betrayal - more of a sense of closure. If I had to guess, it seems that whatever purpose Ulban had set out for me is now complete, and our pact has been withdrawn. Perhaps he will have need of me again some day, or perhaps the Messenger will find a new vessel.
  • Second - I feel a greater connection than ever to Delleb. What was only the barest lifeline while trapped in Strahd's realm is now a floodgate. A torrent of knowledge floods in to replace what I've lost, and to provide me with a new purpose:
  • Rather than focus my energies on avenging the wrongs I witness, I'm being called to be as his favored sabre to strike down Tyranny and preserve the sanctity of life. I'm humbled by the honor. There are stories of those empowered this way in the past - mainly to oppose the works of Hextor during times of great conflict.
  • As a result, I retain most of my Paladin training (but have been released from my Oath of Vengeance). In place of my former arcane powers, I have been imbued with divine magics - some resembling those of a sorcerer (ranging from taking flight to tossing fireballs), and some focused on the domain of life (curing the sick and even raising the dead).
Session: Problem 1 - Tuesday, Sep 26 2017 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
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