Saturdays of Slaughter

One Step Over the Brink
Aeron's Journal

The 7th day of Mirtul in the Year of Risen Elfkin

Bitterness. It’s all that I can taste. Today was folly. And it’s result? Bitterness. I sit at a table in a chair that is a touch to short, built by miniature versions of men to an approximation of what a full size being needs for comfort, brooding over today’s victory. The monsters defeated! Victory ours! Happiness? Satisfaction? Bitterness! Today was no victory. Today was a travesty, a mockery of our talents, and only the fickle pleasures of Tymora—whose power I do not deny even while refusing to worship her because of it—kept us from standing in judgement before Kelemvor.

My power, and that of my companions, has been growing nearly exponentially. Together we have taken on beholders, stopped the machinations of a shadovar wizard, and destroyed the avatar of a god, yet we nearly suffer defeat at the hands of mere elementals. How foolish I feel. Tomorrow my companions and I are to face a dracolich, and I find myself filled with concern, not quite fear. Was our near defeat a product of our overconfidence? Or is it a sign of something worse? Have the gods finally taken notice and banded together to keep us, to keep me, from exposing them as the frauds that they are? If so, why the torment? Why not simply send an angel to slay me and be done with it? The fools will come to regret toying with me so.

Not since that fateful day during the Goblin War have I felt so ill at ease. I do not like what this portends. If the others are as demoralized as I currently feel, then it will be a short fall to the bottom. I must not let them see the fear in my eyes when I think about what is to come. Even though I cannot feel it within me, I must fake the confidence I usually exude. I cannot let the swagger fall from my step, nor the bravado from my voice. Hopefully, with the defeat of this fiend, my tenacity can be restored. Until then, I cannot allow my own shaken faith, shake that of the others. I will not bring doom upon my allies again.

I have another thought. Perhaps this unsettling feeling is not a product of our humiliation at all. Perhaps this has more to do with my treatment of Branyonne. Or maybe it is the changes revealed in Branyonne himself that has me worried. Even though I profess to be one of the faithless, I fear not the wall, for I will forge my own destiny, allowing myself a form of immortality that will remove me from Kelemvor’s power. Yet Branyonne is not like me. He believed with his very soul that Chauntea was worthy of praise. In spite of Cyric’s hold over his body, it seemed to me that during his final moments of life, his goddess had freed him from the Mad God’s power. It seems that I was wrong.

Did I compound the failing of his goddess by locking my friend away beneath the desert? What else could I have done? Should I have put him to the sword? What would become of his soul then? Would Cyric of Chauntea have claim? No. Unless I can be certain that his soul would be with his goddess, I can never end his life? But the hole? Did I put him there because it was best for me? Or because it was best for him? Should I not have turned him over to clerics of the Great Mother instead? Can he even be helped? Or do I worry about something that is already determined?

It matters not! What is done is done! It is time that I stop wallowing in this self pity. Branyonne is no longer my concern. The elementals were defeated. The dracolich awaits. Now is not the time to doubt. Now is the time to shout defiantly at the heavens. Let the gods join Asmodeus in his hell. I will not be bent to any will but my own. My fate is mine to decide, and I will succumb to “death” at a time of my choosing. I will not fear. Not for the fate of a fallen comrade. Not the presence of a dracolich. Not even the ire of the gods. Here, in this world, I rule, and none other.

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Mirtul 1, Year of the Risen Elfkin
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Catharsis on a Grand Scale
Aeron's Journal

The 1st day of Mirtul in the Year of Risen Elfkin

Doppelgangers. What loathsome creatures. It has been years since last I dealt with their kind, and I could have lived for many more without encountering them again and been a happy man. Yet here they are, within the walls of my city, disguising themselves as the leaders of my chosen homeland, and attempting to infiltrate what was supposed to be one of the most closely guarded secrets. What’s worse? They almost succeeded.

If it hadn’t been for the mysterious murder of an unlicensed adventuring band we would never have uncovered their treachery. Not Donnathan; not Cliff; not Marren; not even Hadarai saw through their disguise, so perfect, so close to being true was their counterfeit. For what reason did we have to suspect treachery? No one was supposed to know of our discovery. Yet, here I stand, the grisly proof of their knowledge and my deficiency surrounding me. Were it not for the blessing of fickle Tymora, our failure would be complete.

Looking back across the long years of my life, I see more than a few false steps, misadventures and defeats. The loss of my beloved. My ouster from my homeland. The defeat at Eveningstar. The loss of my companions. The list goes onward. Each one I remember like a red hot cider lodged under my flesh, burning inexorably to nowhere; burning simply to burn. Long have a bared these burdens, and heavy is the weight that I carry. How can any man hold up under this? How long before I fall? How long before the madness that Donnathan straddles like a man atop a wild stallion claims me, dragging me down into its depths from which there may never be an escape? I need release.

And now I think I see one, lying there upon the floor, Marren informing her of the trial that she will soon face. Would soon face. I believe that I have found the release that I need in the form of this faux regent. Marren wishes to question her, and rightly so, but that is not where this will end. I will lay the afflictions of my soul upon her. I will engrave them into her flesh. With the help of Donnathan and his healing balms-and if not him a discreet and well compensated spellbegger will release all of my pain into this dross, this dreg of society. We will have our answers, and I will have my… Catharsis. It is just a shame that she will not live, cannot live, to spread the word to others of the pain that comes to those who cross me.

I will enjoy this.


Dark Tidings

Behold the silent fear of mortal men
A man both tall and thin, with hands of bone
Whose touch results in sweet oblivion
The black robed reaper grim, his name be known.

I tell you truth. He is a fearsome sight.
His wicked scythe a sign of what's to come.
All men the same, it matters not their plight,
His justice, equal, be ye king or scum.

There are those fools who seek to hide their face,
who hope grim death won't see, and pass them by.
It is in vain; all men must take their place.
Upon the slab, their lives now spent, they lie.

Yet I fear not the spectral hand of he,
for full life's end, a great reward, for me.

- Kelemvorite Hymn
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Donnathan's writings in the book of leaves

One night I stood on a moonlight ridge, below me I could see the ruins of a once grand castle seated in the depression. No longer did the walls of this castle stand but their places were marked by piles of weather beaten rubble. Amongst the rubble walked a woman beauty beyond compare and her hair looked silver in the moonlight. She did not seem to see me but instead she walked the places that the halls of this castle once occupied; her hand trailing along the rubble piles as though she remembered the place. Upon the soft breeze I heard her voice coming in slow soft sobs, “He promised to return my home to greatness, he must return, he amoung all will understand the meaning behind an oath once it is given.”

Then as I was about to go to her, a voice from behind me startled me. “You shall surely die, you know that.” Turning I saw another woman, who even though the bright moon light was clothed in shadow. Her face was old and haggard and her arms were covered with pox marks, her hand, black and diseased, was pointed directly at my heart. She continued, "Surely you of all people know that man is mortal, and his death prevents the completion of his plans. You know in your heart that you are nothing more than a simple frail man, and your death will leave all those who count on you stranded, waiting,and unable to rest. You have simply began too much and you are too frail to see it through, soon it will become apparent to all others as well.

I was then taken from that place to find myself standing on a dry plain below a mountain. Its peak rose up to the clouds where it was hidden from sight. At the foot of the mountain lay a walled city, with guards at its gates. Then from atop the mountain flew a black bird, and as it descended from its roost on the mountain the clouds grew ever darker and soon threatened as storm, increasing in intensity as the bird approached the city. The city dwellers began to fear the bird claiming it would bring their destruction, their best archers lined the wall and began to shoot at the bird, but not one of the arrows hit, then a small boy with only a sling and a handful of pebbles let loose one stone. It struck the bird knocking it from the air, and it fell without a sound. As the bird crashed upon the dry earth the storm atop the mountain broken loose, with lightning. The lightning struck the ground and caught the dry crops on fire and the thunder shook the earth with so much furry that the walls and buildings of the city were destroyed, and the people homeless, thirsty, and hungry were forced out into the wilderness like the animals.

Again I was taken from that place and shown a new vision. In the dirt before me were four lines of ants. One line came from the east and carried upon its backs full heads of wheat, another from the west carried bits of leaves from the trees sacred to the elves. A line coming from the north carried tiny gemstones such as adorn the jewelry of the dwarves, and the line from the south carried seashells. The ants gathered into a pile in front of me, and began to climb over one another. Suddenly from below the ground a giant black shelled beetle crawled up and it began to eat the ants and their cargo. With each bite the beetle seemed to grow in size and the jewels and seashells began to decorate its inky carapace. Soon there were no ants left and the black beetle once again burrowed below the dirt at my feet leaving no tunnel behind it.

I then found myself standing in my garden, and before me where two snails. One snail pushed its way over everything in front of it, be it plant, stone, or other insect. The other moved slowly picking the path of least resistance, and avoiding the other insects of the garden. The first snail then came to the foot of the statue that rests in the garden and began to climb up it. Soon it had worked its way to the top, where it sat flexing its eyes around to see the whole of the garden, while the second snail was still lost in the grasses. But before the first snail could move on a large bird swept it up in its claws and pried it from its shell devouring it; the second snail continued its travels unseen by the bird who then flew off in search of other meals.

I was then transported to a forest clearing, where there sat a giant flowering tree. In its branches ran the small animals seeking food from its seeds, and there also rest the birds of the air, in nests safe from predators. Below the tree animals rested in its shade. But suddenly the leaves of the tree withered and fell and the tree was barren and without life. The birds no longer were hidden from predators and their nests were no longer safe from the snakes who sought their eggs. The small animals no longer could gather food and they soon fled into the forest to find food. No longer did it provide shade and no longer did animals come to it during the mid-day sun for it shade. The tree stood unmoving, unchanging, dead, but then a slight movement caught my eye. As i looked closer I realized that the tree was filled with worms and that a new type of life now inhabited the tree. I recoiled in disgust, leaving the clearing and seeking water as I had grown thirsty in my time in the clearing. Soon I found a man and he offered me a stoppered gourd, telling me that the contents would cure my thirst. As I unstoppered the gourd and raised it to my lips I found it did not contain water, instead inside lurked a poisonous cobra which reached out and struck my face. But the poison did not kill me, instead it sharped my senses and cleared my mind. I realized that the tree that once provided life during its life, is providing life for others in its death, if the trees of the forest can continue thier job of shelter and food beyond the veil of life, how is man different?

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Marren's Private Journal IV

How can they hound me here? They can not! Black roses? A coincidence, and nothing else. Though…if it is true, I can not lose this chance. I have put the entire city on lockdown. No one leaves the city. If one of them is here, they will not leave. Alive, that is.

And then there is this matter with doppelgangers. They are deceitful, dishonest, dishonorable folk. All of them lay dead, save their leader. She will be brought forth to trial, and just sentence be given. Before that though, I must have a discussion with her on things.

If this was one of their plots, she will meet with an unfortunate accident.

On unrelated note, the sculptors in town delivered to me the completed piece I commissioned when I arrived – a stone marker bearing the eleven Knightly virtues. There are those in this town that need reminding of them. Unfortunately it seems with the loss of their guildhall, all of the sculptors seem to either be working for a new boss – a man whom I have not yet made the acquaintance of called Mr. Drucker – or have left the city. The price for my piece has thus gone higher. I pay the higher cost however, with no complaint. Honor and the Virtues should be spread to the masses.

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Mikas's note concerning the murders of the black swords

Considering evidence gathered by interrogation of the corpses that were discovered in the stables, I am forced to consider that the dopplegangers did not kill the Black Sword adventuring company. The slain Black Sword member clearly stated that he was killed by a grey skinned humanoid, and it is very unlikely that it would be a doppleganger as they would not risk or bother with assuming their natural state in order to murder someone, especially when they were using such things a large swords, and then they only would take their form on death, and since they were stated to be the killer not just merely in the combat it does not make sence that the corpse could be referring to a doppleganger. Even if that was the case the natural form of the the doppleganger is a pale skin not grey skin, so I believe that the doppleganger hypothosis can be ruled out.

My second hypothesis, which Donnathan shared with me and the rest of the group was that Svirfneblin, the deep gnomes, whose skin is grey, were behind the attack. This would mean that for some reason a typically neutral race of underdark dwelling creatures had somehow infiltrated our city in order to kill a number of people who were dressed up as the leaders of our country, perhaps as agents of some other force or as a peace bribe to the drow who have been pressing into their territory. The drow aggressiveness would make sense considering our past history with the drow but it seems convoluted to collect a group of svirfneblin to do their dirty work considering how capable they are as assassins. I have rejected this hypothesis on further though however, as the weapon marks were clearly made by large chopping sword attacks, and such weapons are ill favored amoung the underground wee folks such as the svirfneblin who favor the use of picks and small thrusting weapons that are better suited for combat in the confines of the tunnels of the underdark.

I have racked my mind thinking of other grey skinned humanoid only to find a long list of creatures that could not logically be thought to be behind this attack. Stone giants are too big they would be noticed. Duegar favor their poisonous spines, axes and hammers. I find it unlikely that the person would have confused a stone golem for a "grey skinned humanoid; nor do I think that a ghost could have left such realistic cuts as their weapons strike the soul of their target not the flesh. The Galeb Duhr fit the description but rarely carry weapons. None of the Undead that fit the description would carry swords as they prefer to tear the victim apart with their claws and teeth, as do Chokers, who are frequently grey colored to blend in with their surroundings. Grimlocks, another underdark denizen favor the ax, instead of the sword. Quicklings once again favor a smaller blade due to their reduced stature. I doubt either the gith or the cyclopi could be as subtle as to sneak into town and kill only a selected group and leave.

This leaves me with only four possibilities. One, there could be a group of grey scaled dragonborn, they would draw less attention to themselves and be likely registered as an adventuring company, however it is my understanding that dragonborn are rare to find in these parts, so to find an entire group that shares the same coloration would be unlikely. Two, it could be a group of lycanthropes whose animal forms have a grey hair such as the wolf does. Three. it could be gnolls, as we are already aware of a gnoll presence in town and while uncommon gnolls can be grey furred. Finally, four, and the worst for us, it could be the Shadar-Kai The grey warriors from the shadowdark who normally use chains and greatswords. If they are getting involved in our city and in assassination here then we could be in great danger. However I feel that because of the way that the bodies had been picked up by a cart and hidden in a stable it is less likely the Shadar-Kai and more likely either Gnolls, or Lycanthropes.

I submit this message to Aeron Mindreaver, Hadarai Kithbane,Sir Marren, (the leader of the war wizards enclave in tilverton), Cliff, Donnathan, and the message is to be read aloud to DuhDum so that he can gain the most benefit from it that he can.

Addendum:
I would like to add to my previous insights that there could be a cult of earth element worshipers who choose to color themselves grey (possibly with a chalk powder) before they go out and cause their mischief. This would allow it to be any kind of humanoid as the coloration would not be natural and therefore it would no longer be a relevant clue in determining who the attackers are.

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A noticeable change in Cliff

In the past, when we had down time Cliff could often be found practicing nearly useless skills such as target practice with a ballista. Now any time he is not eating or sleeping, if you can find him, you will see him practicing his skills with his axe. He seems even more withdrawn from the group than ever before, focused on refining his abilities he avoids all contact with the party. Any time someone from the party tries to talk to him, if anyone does, his only response is “Call me when it’s time to fight, until then let me be.” It seems that his skill at chopping through objects is increasing, but only combat will show if his practice will pay off.

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Cliff's Journal

I am frustrated with my performance in recent combats. I used to chop through enemies with my mighty axe like a hot knife sliding through butter. The fell at my feet and I laughed at their misfortune for ever having crossed paths with me. Now I watch as even Donnathan and Mikas at times strike enemies down with great force and I can’t help but wonder what has happened? Although I still believe it is wrong to take the life of one that a friend has sworn an oath to kill, perhaps I should apologize to Duhdum for my actions in battle. It is not his fault that I have become weak and useless in battle. I took out my frustration that I could not complete my own job on him, there is no reason that vile being should have ever been allowed to live long enough to run from me as it did. Maybe it is time for me to lay down my axe and allow my party to continue without my holding them back and slowing them down. If by the end of next month I have not returned to my old self, or at least find myself making a decent contribution in battle, I vow here and now to lay down my axe and find another line of work, for it will be clear that Gond has a different path planned for me than the one I am currently following.

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An Unsettling Trip
Aeron's Journal

The 28th day of Tarsakh in the Year of Risen Elfkin

I am, quite frankly, mystified by recent events. The baffling experience of the day has me stupefied. For reasons that I am afraid I am unable to even fathom, four of the most capable Wizards of War that Princess Alusair Obarskyr, the Steel Regent of our fair realm, was able to send, for this specific purpose no less, were unable to summon a fire elemental to be bound into the failing Mythallar. Perhaps I am merely revealing my ignorance in these thoughts, but I have heard tales since my time as a boy about wizards summoning forth great and powerful elemental beings, and then binding them to their will. I have seen with my own eyes elementals formed from the stuff of earth and air, summoned by the elves of Evereska, and bound into service for the protection of the city. Why then can these four, no less powerful than the elves I suspect, not summon forth similar beings.

Stranger still were the events that followed that revelation. Upon our arrival in the City of Brass, the Efreet gate guards freely responded to Sir Marren’s question. When he asked it, I thought him a fool for being so direct with a race known for their wily trading skills. But there it was, an answer, forthright, freely given, and as it turns out, honest. How bizarre. How utterly and uncomprehendingly bizzare. Has the entirety of the multi-verse gone stark raving mad?

And yet things get weirder still. The trader to whom the gate guards had so kindly directed us, was an efreet unlike any I’ve ever seen. Standing at only eight feet in height, and outweighing the guards by almost double, he looked more like a flaming boulder than a powerful genie. And yet, how could he have indulged so, when his skill at bargaining was clearly lacking so? To freely give one of your own race an item of great value with naught but promises in return is fool enough, even when that race is so well known for their honor, but to give another race, especially humans—a race certainly not known for honesty—that same deal? Foolish! Stupid! Ignorant! For a moment I thought cleverly so, but no. Here I stand, unharmed.

Then, upon the fields of fire, not one hundred paces from the city’s own gate, we found four elementals and the gem that the trader had asked us to obtain as payment. What luck? Or what mockery! What god in the heavens set this up so, and for what no doubt nefarious purpose? It matters not. If it were a trap, it failed. If it were a test, we decimated it so, as to make it irrelevant. If it were amusement, it was short.

After the battle, we could have easily left without presenting payment to the foolish efreeti trader, and in fact most of us did. Sir Marrin, however, always the implacable knight, felt honor bound to give the gem over in payment as agreed. And how he is no doubt torn over his decision. He likely stands in agonized internal debate, not because of what he did—he would never concede to that being a foolish decision—but because of what he missed. Everyone of us, save the noble Purple Dragon Knight, stood, however briefly, in the presence of a god. And not just any god, no, Sir Marrin’s own chosen deity, Helm. Through the Chalice of Amaunator we traveled to the House of the Triad, and even though we never got past Everwatch and its guardian, we stood within the presence of the divine. For my part, I was… unimpressed. Cyric beware.

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Cliff's thoughts to himself

I watch as my companions run around making preparations and I wish I could convince them to share the peace that I have. I realize that I do not throw my beliefs in the face of others as many who have been given my abilities do,I am a firm believer that the inner peace that I feel will rub off on those around me and they will, when they are ready, ask where it has come from. Gond has always provided all that has been necessary his plans have always worked, and will continue to work for us. No preparation I could make would ever compare to cunning plan that will be given to me when it is needed. Keep up your work, your preparations, I will wait to see what Gond has planned for me.

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