Of Secret and Hidden Things

Aethne's Survey 5

Survey Five

May the radiant rays of enlightenment ever grace my lord patron’s brow. Enclosed for your consideration please find my fifth of my survey reports for the Ebony Coast and environs, which locals call the Peninsula of Emrival. Enclosed please also find my translation and comments on your student’s findings in the tomb-warrens of the Infinite Desert.

Saralon

It was a pleasure to visit again with lord Saralon. It would be good for him to have a student. He does fine research, but seems too modest to take due credit for his discoveries. His withdrawn nature is compounded by the remote location. As dear lord Faranath loved to say, “a teacher learns as he teaches;” taking on a student or two would further his research both directly and indirectly.

While awaiting the arrival of goods at Saralon’s tower, my associates opted to pursue a brigand with ostensibly-stolen goods who had taken harbor in the port village of Doratis, also in the Isles of Ethereal Bells.

In Doratis

Doratis is a passable port settlement, at first indication perhaps 300 years old. The local nobles are of predominantly Antillian stock. The settlement has little influence and meager production, whose only notable export is salted fish. The village wise-woman is Tiala, a follower of Kutienna and an arcane brewer of no mean skill. She might prove a useful contact for future consideration.

Upon our arrival, we discovered that our quarry had taken control of the settlement, using his crew to overcome the local constabulary. After a brief consult with local sources, we overtook the brigand’s ship, freed the village elder, and disabled the crew, but the brigand and his first-mate were not present. According to the impressed sailors and anecdotal evidence from the villagers, the crew’s leaders and remaining henchmen had made camp in caves outside of the settlement.

The caves were an easy-to-defend space, but they were not expecting to face seasoned rogues like A Emerikol. We eliminated the henchmen outside the caves, but had to go inside and face several traps before cornering the captain and his first mate in makeshift chambers deep inside the caverns. After a stiff fight, we overcame the masterminds, reclaimed the target trinket, and remanded the brigand to the village elders. The brigand, as it happened, was the son of the rescued elder, q.v. the tale of Harridesh and Rhûmeron. Though the brigand survived our encounter, his elven first-mate was not so lucky.

The first-mate was a dark elf wizard, who sported Brannig Fairlight the Oathsworn’s fabled “rainbow arc.” The illustrations from Al-Ashkahir’s texts were a poor representation. Attached please find diagrams and analyses courtesy of our craft-mage D F Keeg. The wizard held several highly potent magical bolts, the manufacture of which would be most useful. Attached are D F Keeg’s diagrams and my arcane notes. May it please my lord to convey these notes to Ykatriyna Malennikova for possible replication. If she indicated an interest in duplicating the bolts’ manufacture, I know of several interested buyers.

The wise-woman Tiala is an arcane brewer of no mean skill, and she has some spells at her disposal that caught my attention. Attached are notes on her walk away spell. I will enscroll it and send at the earliest opportunity. After collecting our reward from the village elders, mostly in the form of potions and spells from Tiala, we made our way back to frater Saralon’s retreat.

Below the Tower of Saralon

A paladin on peregrination ( D tir’Ishtu) sensed a lurking evil beneath Saralon’s tower, and our company opted to accompany him on his exploration. Behind a long-blocked passage, an ancient stairway led to a chamber inscribed with history. My preliminary analysis is as follows:

When the crash of the Thracian empire began, a house of monks took a flat-bottomed boat and all the books 20 men could carry. They found an island and built a small complex with the help of /unreadable/ to house the collection and train in its defense. Their abbot, Ganiellius, directed them to scour the known world to collect vital histories and written works, write texts about unpublished cultures, and protect the information at all costs.

The library was flanked by corridors lined with doors, most of which were sealed. We quickly discovered that these sealed doors led to the former monks’ chambers. Though their souls were long departed, their flesh remained as the library’s vouchsafe.

In the larder we found some seeds, which may still be viable. Would you recommend someone to study them? If not, I may consult the treant Shagbark for its insight.

Availing myself of a potion, I consulted the spirit of a defeated monk. He revealed that the illegible name on the entryway inscription was that of a powerful race of beings from the elemental plane of earth. He indicated that, when Ganiellius came, he and his followers lived longer than usual and prospered for a time after their arrival. As time passed, Ganiellius became increasingly paranoid with his advancing age – a fate common to their people. He sent his subjects on increasingly dangerous missions, and others suffered mysterious deaths. Their leader descended into a dark madness, and the monastery did not survive his passing.

We returned to the surface to consult with Saralon before continuing. Our frater indicated that blessed frater Thelerab visited the isle, and found Ganiellius’ restive spirit wandering the ruined island. He bound the spirit until it could be mended.

Returning to the depths, we completed our exploration. We found the remains of the library proper, as well as a smaller vault of special texts. The door on the far wall of the vault bore Thelerab’s seal and marks indicating that it was the resting place of the abbot – a diagram of which is enclosed.

If you should have any insight into how to mend such a hoary and bitter spirit, I would eagerly entertain your counsel.

After finding the library, we were relieved to discover that the defenses were not self-renewing. The premises are clear for further study. D F Keeg and I compiled a list of surviving texts, which is enclosed. Saralon has expressed a willingness to entertain visiting scholars, should you choose to entertain a visit or send an assistant to conduct a more extensive review. If the situation should warrant an extended visit, Keeg’s contacts in Edominar could provide adequate provisioning for your retinue’s comfortable stay.

Our studies in the library revealed that the Thracians had contact with a culture on the Ebon Coast, though they appeared to view the peninsular culture with apprehension. The Thracian empire, though ostensibly of human stock, kept several “beast-man” races as slaves: minotaur, gnoll, dog-man, and lizardfolk. These slaves eventually revolted against their keepers, and the resulting chaos toppled the empire. For some three millennia, these Thracians were ruled by a so-called Immortal King, a single individual that may have been possessed by a spirit, a remnant of the island’s previous civilization of reptilian humanoids. The reptilian precursors were divided into four castes: the ruling Senixi, the lorekeeping Deti, the broadbacked Laboratis, and the tireless Malleus. Further study of the library’s texts may reveal more insights into Thracian history, and the history of the region as a whole.

The aforementioned paladin is a follower of Mycr. Might your clerks kindly direct to my office a copy of Earalindor’s Treatise on monotheism after the Dorin Age? It would be a useful reference.

Finding the Hall of Unmaking

My servants arrived safely at Saralon’s retreat, much to J Hadattha’s credit. With their healthy return and some fresh provisions, our company made for the isle of Thracia, stopping in the village of Wayfare on our way. An Elritorn cleric in Wayfare collects and sells fine timbers. I have sent for your enjoyment a sample of the resinous bark of a local cedar-like tree, which makes appealingly aromatic incense.

Returning to the Thracian isle, our company spent about a week in search of the Hall of Unmaking (as outlined in my previous survey). We found a large waterfall with a puzzle-locked chamber behind it. Beyond the locked door, we found a statue that is still magically active, and bears further investigation (notes attached). Deeper in the complex, we found our quarry, the Hall of Unmaking itself. Inscriptions indicated its proper use, and that the Immortal King created it to dispose of dangerous or unwanted magical items. Unfortunately for us, this disenchanting property proved determinedly stationary.

Return to Edominar, and developments of note therein

Quitting the Hall of Unmaking, we set sail to retrieve the jade artifact from its resting place. Our ship docked overnight in Edominar to find the inns and shops abuzz with news: the gryphons’ spire had “blown up” (/h’ajie riy/ in the local dialect which, despite its obvious resemblance to the Dwarven euphemism for flatulence, is more akin to the Lightelf Gnomish usage /n’koumis fai/, lit. “to be overcome by fire from within.”).

My associates filed a report with the local powers, and we promptly set off to investigate developments at the spire. I am pleased to note that they are blossoming into a reasonably competent field research team. Considering their lack of formal training in these matters, their forensic methodology is commendable.

The Ruined Spire

Would that you could have accompanied us on the investigation at the spire. Though we lacked suitable spellcraft for the task, D F Keeg and I exercised our other mental abilities to good effect. The company managed to conduct an admirable forensic search, considering their limited training, and we were able to reconstruct a reasonable semblance of events as follows:

An unspecified party conducted a weeks-long deep magic ritual, which left a pungent infernal residue. The participants were all masked, and the masks appeared to denote role or cult rank. A scroll from which they read survived in part, with the words still legible, /… krithag yagan damaeg graemgul. This would appear to relate to a castle on the peninsula, whose name rendered in Infernal would be /krithag yagan/. The masks were not of any special value, though I have included a sketch for your inspection. Please let me know if this brings to mind anything I may have overlooked. The wearer of the mask fragment we found was human, and the ritual leader bore a striking resemblance to the former mayor of Ljavona, who was involved in the cult there. We may be dealing with a family (or a few related individuals) behind this cult.

The ritual also involved a dagger, which bears extended mention. The blade, ancient and long-unused, was last held in the hands of an elite kobold (perhaps analogous to A T Bayersham’s /jik-yagi/ reported in the Isles of the Blest). The blade had been used for slaughter repeatedly over the last decade, marked mostly by sentient victims, presumably townsfolk of the Ebony Coast. The blade’s origin appears linked to ancient kobold craftsmen on the peninsula, but this is the first local reference I’ve encountered to kobolds, ancient or modern. I will alert you to any more developments on this line of research.

Disenchantment

Surprisingly enough, the “jade lotus” artifact remained on the island, apparently unharmed and unused – as if the artifact and the ritualists had been drawn to the same location independently. The company’s investigation has not yet identified any probable sources. Perhaps the “spire” island is the site of some past attempt to raise the Hungering Darkness from its prison. My lord, have you encountered any lore to this effect? I strongly suspect that field research will take our company back to this island at least once more as we unravel the cult’s plots.

From the gryphons’ spire we sailed back to the ruins of Thracia, taking necessary precautions with such a corrosive dark enchantment. The Unmaking was sufficient to the task, and the lotus has been stripped of all magic and accumulated resonance. Diagrams and pre-disenchantment arcane notes attached.

As a side note, the island of Thracia and its neighbors still have accessible quarries of a handsome white stone. I have taken the liberty to send a sample of this stone to you and to T T Z Galyenkov. D F Keeg is confident that at least one quarry of the stone could be resurrected with a modest amount of labor and capital.

Liavona, and the treant lord

Wishing to confer with the treant lord Shagbark and his druidic circle, our company docked outside Liavona. The company put off a formal meeting with town officials and carousing in public houses, pending our visit to the treant.

Consulting with Shagbark deepened our understanding of the local culture, painting a picture of the scattered forest-bound remnants of an ancient civilization. We offered to put this circle of druids in more formal contact with Liavona, to which they assented. The dark cultists and illegal slavers flourish in the silence among the Dunaelian populations, and between them and the settlers. This will clearly be a long and challenging course, but I am hopeful that a few native camps can be linked to neighboring settlements for collaboration and mutual assistance.

Returning to the Ljavonan settlement we discovered that our boat had been attacked, and many of the crew slain. The company briefly studied the scene, then proceeded to talk to the Mitran priest Arlen. We informed him of developments abroad, our conversation with Shagbark, and the recent cult activity. Leaving Arlen’s temple we were attacked from the darkness, and a poisoned narrowly missed me. We shared our leads with the Antillian dean of the art school, who led us to the quarters of student Nazag Kurpis (a bizarre name for a Dunaelian). He was clearly an erratic thinker, though with a good visual aesthetic. He was also clearly the archer who had nearly cut short my career. Amidst his room’s litter we found a list of towns with numbers, which appeared to correspond to the number of cultists. I gathered the remaining papers for further cataloguing and review in my office.

We solicited a huntsman to aid us in tracking Nazag Kurpis, whose trail led us south until disappearing into the thick of the deep woods (which the locals call Ediel Lodar, redolent of the elvish). The company released the huntsman and limped back to Edominar with the ill-crewed ship.

Lord Volgen of Edominar encouraged the company to tour the towns on the list, and root out the cult with all due haste. Other members of their Inquisitors’ Guild may collect further useful information, but our company can expect to be largely on its own on this enterprise, as the rest of the guild remains more focused on keeping the immediate peace.

Greywraith

Our first stop after leaving Edominar was the logging colony of Greywraith. Settled by several Altanian families from the plains of Gwaelion (and a few elven allies), Greywraith observes a curious disdain for druidic magic, apparently a relic from its founders. The village’s population is notably short by Altanian standards. After consulting with S-A tir’Ahlavian, I feel comfortable asserting that this too is merely a result of heredity from a small pool of settlers who happened to be shorter than the typical Altanian.

Looking for a half-dozen cultists, we found the villagers largely forthright and accommodating. Among their observations, locals reported an “out-of-place-looking” (/habhroal/, akin to Roglaran /ajbryhl/, “stray”) male halfling arriving a few weeks ago. He was the first halfling anyone had seen in decades. They also talked about an old wood-witch near the settlement, who had long been a source of contention – and reports of attacks from animate trees and rose bushes. The woman was seen skulking away from the village late one recent night, and a half-elf followed her to some standing stones.

We set out to explore the standing stones the next day, and were attacked by several cultists and a pair of corrupt, hollowed-out treants. A ranger (O Mortorn) from the village joined us shortly after we defeated the cultists. Continuing on to the standing stones, we found a pall of evil lurking in the nexus, and traced the emanation to a black iron charm buried among the megaliths. Between our site study and O Mortorn’s contextualization, we determined that the druidess, Gulshadt, was a Dunaeli who had been worshipping at the stones since before the settlers arrived. The two parties instantly fell into an antagonistic relationship that grew more entrenched with time. With that dynamic at play, planting a dark emanator like this at a place where she frequently channeled energy could have devastating long-term impact. We removed the emanator to destroy in the village, and left a note of warning to Gulshadt.

After destroying the iron implant, we determined where Gulshadt’s house was, and paid her a visit. We found her there in the company of a halfling, a manifestly-evil male named Pulka. He had offered himself to her as a servant and helpmeet. After many years of bitter loneliness, she welcomed his apparently-selfless offer. When our careful intervention revealed his ruse, she announced a judicial duel to settle the matter. Our champion, the ever-resourceful Karakhan monk, emerged victorious. The halfling’s remains were burned, and his ashes scattered in a local stream.

Parleying with Gulshadt after the trial, she allowed our evidence for review, and found it worth consideration. We spoke at length, and shared news of the cult’s involvement elsewhere in the region. Though she thought it a fool’s errand, she agreed to advise us and our peers as we orchestrated the cult’s demise. She also agreed to see one of my servants, who would collect and catalogue her recollections of Dunaelian history.

Returning to Greywraith, we advised the village leaders of the developments, and asked them to quietly send someone to assist the druidess. We argued that, while they might find her practice distasteful, their present path was creating a powerful enemy. Showing a little deference to the wood-wise might cost them a little face, but it would gain them a potent ally. They appeared to accept our argument; we will review the situation in the near future.

Onward

Our path continues through the peninsula, working toward the fortess dubbed “Krithag Yagan.” I expect to have another report ready in a month. I welcome you to direct any correspondence to my offices in Edominar until my return from the field.

Your humble servant,
Aethne tir’Ahlein

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