Of Secret and Hidden Things

Survey Three

The month since my previous missive have borne many blessings to my doorstep, as I trust The Opener has brought upon my lord as well. Enclosed for consideration please find the third of my survey reports from the Emrival Peninsula.

I look forward to my lord’s esteemed review of these findings, observations, and analyses.

Survey Three

Late spring of the year 4663 of Balozkinar’s Reckoning

Synopsis: Journey from Levonia/ Ljavona to Edominar, and thence to thwart illicit slavers in Sulet Hold. Encountered alien intelligence, dragon, unusual ruins, local sacred relics. Returning relics to interested parties prompted further revelations.

A) Levonia to Edominar, Edominar to Landhaven

I sent my last missive from Ljavona, whose pall had begun to lift. On the road from L to Edominar, my constable-companions were beset by Gishmesh men, whom they presumed to be slavers. Unlike ordinary slave-raiders, these fought to the death, which the constables did not think to consider odd. Upon turning aside the Gishmesh assault, I proceeded to interrogate the one disabled captive, hoping to gain some actionable intelligence before the enthusiastic inquisitors slew him. No sooner had I begun to inspect his mental faculties, and identified a non-magical mental influence, than the captive should seize up and die, as though under a suicide compulsion.

The next morning, the constables took on a freeloader, an erstwhile pirate that had apparently been kicked off his ship due to his over-delicate sensibilities. The group offered to escort him to Edominar.

Upon arrival in Edominar, the constables reported to the liege lord of the city, who summoned me for discourse. I informed him of my scholarly intent in the area and the city, and he “offered” me a “position” with the band of inquisitors. Under the circumstances, I thought it best to accept his offer, rather than discover the ramifications of a polite decline. It seems best for the nonce to continue traveling with these inquisitors, as they are particularly suited to uncover – and indeed inclined to explore – the strange goings-on of the region.

Whilst attending to other affairs, the constable crew purchased a ship and the services of an able seaman to pilot it. I offered Dalthaine’s capable services to render the ship’s colors. Within two weeks of the group’s return to Edominar, their ship Fist of Gold set sail for Landhaven, the sleepy town nearest the slavers’ stronghold.

Landhaven was a backwater, the province of retired shipmen and privateers, with surprisingly little contact with the outside world. The town produced no significant goods for export, and required little by way of import. The land route to Sulet Hold had been dormant for decades, a task the group decided to investigate at a later date.

While exploring Landhaven and its environs, the constables stumbled across some Gishmesh with a crew of slaves tasked to cut and gather wood. The affect of slaver and slave alike were surprisingly flat, and clearly all parties were under various levels of domination, except one of the slaves, who was cowed through more conventional means. The group disabled or slew all the slavers, and corralled the slaves for further evaluation. I attempted contact with one of the slaves, and for the first time had the opportunity to study the nature and extent of the domination.

A second round of slave-handlers arrived before I could initiate contact, and during the chaos we lost the slave-driving captive, but managed to preserve the slaves. The constables took but a few minutes to re-secure the premises, and I delved into the psyche of one of the gathered slaves.

Once I established contact, it became clear that the individual’s will had been forcibly eroded by an external and remote presence, via non-magical metaphysical means. The dominating party required only a tenuous hold on the slaves, since it had flensed them of almost all of their mental presence, leaving just enough to process and follow simple commands. Indeed, the subjects were little better than zombies, though the dominator did possess the useful ability to see through their eyes. I feared giving the dominating party too much information about our presence, so I advised the constables to blind-fold and gently bind the remaining slaves, while I sought to break the binds holding my test-subject in thrall.

It took some force and persistence, but I managed to extract the slave from his bindings, which prompted the return of some of his mental faculties. By the constables’ leave, I took the slave back to the Fist of Gold for further questioning, while they debriefed the undominated slave, Narqueisès. The formerly-dominated individual revealed himself to be Jonah, a furniture merchant from Larkshire, who’d been captured whilst navigating the roads to Ljavona. He reported that, several days after his capture, he was blind-folded and taken underground to be presented to the Master, a livid violet amorphous figure dubbed Kemoritil. K induced a mind-numbing current on the gathered subjects, and those who buckled under its assault were added to the slave pool. Those who remained in control of their faculties were shepherded with more caution, until the following week’s “veneration,” during which time they were again subject to the cowing assault. Jonah survived two rounds of this conditioning before his psyche was brought under sway of the apparent alien intelligence.

During my inquiry, Jonah described Sulet Hold and its environs, including the erstwhile leader of the Hold, the vigorous Gishmesh captain Rashamad. Rashamad was known to carry an ancient, thick, and diminutive text that sounded suspiciously like a traditional Antillian journal. While the captain could not read Antillian or any other language, he recognized the intrinsic value and rarity of such a find, and treasured it accordingly.

The constables through their consultation with Narqueisès established a rough lay of the Hold, by virtue of which they planned a stealthy assault by cover of darkness. Immediately upon our return to land, the constables found a Duanael godsman waiting for them, strangely eager to help in their enterprises. They chose to accept his aid at face value.

B) Raid on Sulet Hold

Their principal rogue (A. Emerikol) slipped into Rashamad’s compound, stole his precious book, and led a stampede of his guardsmen into the town proper, while she silently returned to the constables’ company. Cursory perusal revealed that the book was the journal of one Jarod Skyke, Antillian founder of Sulet Hold some 250 years ago. Among other things, he described finding an ancient dwarven outpost in his mines beneath the town, which he promptly walled up to avoid further “complications.” The dwarven constable lit up when I mentioned this, and we agreed to make a more thorough investigation at the earliest opportunity.

The group snuck around the compound, lit the thatch roofs for further diversion, dispatched the guards to the salt mine, and descended into the deep. In the mines, not only did we find walls that appeared to substantiate the claims of Snyke’s journal, we also came across the dreaming mentation of a young dragon, slumbering in chains. After stirring the constables from their dumbfounded stupor, I persuaded them to continue exploring. The next passage they investigated held the xenotic Kemoritil. It launched a mind-sapping broadcast attack, then teleported itself to the relative safety of its “receiving room” to the south. (enclosed for your reference is D. F. Keeg’s renderings of the caverns). The constables promptly discovered it on its salty dais, and launched a full-on assault.

Kemoritil had no discernable anatomy, and made no specific movements, but launched several targeted mental attacks, and discharged substantial amounts of electricity. It also roused the sleeping dragon, which it appeared to have cowed into service. The dragon raged, and stripped its chains from the walls.

The Dunael godsman attempted to free the dragon from Kemoritil’s dominion, woefully inadequate though his attempts may be. I thought it best to lend him my assistance. I addressed the dragon (named Garmannon by its own admission) in its rightful tongue, and established contact with it. I lent it enough presence of mind that, with the help of the godsman’s enchantments, it successfully broke free of the alien’s dominion. We urged Garmannon to cooperate in our fight with its captor. In a fit of pique, it rushed past us, and by virtue of its flaming breath rendered Kemoritil to cinders. It then suffered a claustrophobic bout, and I submitted for its consideration a series of spatial images and maps, showing it the caverns, the region, and where it was likely to find safety and comfort.

Little remained of the alien intelligence, though I have provided some of its cremated remains in the attached wax-sealed vial. Once Garmannon had incinerated the alien, I could feel the sapping cloud of its dominion dissipate, producing a predictable level of chaos above. The group found and secured the alien’s horde, and proceeded above-ground to inspect the mayhem.

Former slaves, restored to most of their faculties, had gathered in an angry mob outside Rashamad’s compound. The captain, for his own part, was barking orders and striking his men in a startling show of rank fury. The men were trapped between a bloodthirsty mob and a bloody-minded leader, and wanted none of either.

Rashamad spotted the constables, and stormed at us in hell-bent attack. I was all too glad to help the constables put the raving Gishmesh to rest. I realized quite quickly that Rashamad had never been subjected to Kemoritil’s dominion – he did not need to be. He served the alien willingly, bringing it an ever-increasing amount of human fodder to slake its thirst for power. He was the worst blend of sycophantic toady and brutal overlord, the sort of man which sick empires produce in disturbing numbers, and which mankind is better off without.

After dispatching Rashamad, the stealthiest of the constables opted to help Narqueisès recover his belongings. This attracted the attention of the Gishmesh defenders, forcing several of us to come to their rescue, talking the mob down. We offered to use Rashamad’s treasure to pay the slaves’ dues of compensation, and help them find their way home. We also persuaded the merchant-captain of Sulet Hold, Mahan, to offer jobs to any qualified and interested parties, to aid in the reconstruction of the Hold and its commensurate salt trade. I persuaded the constables to allow the Gishmesh to leave, since they had to a man lost any desire to remain in the region, and were glad to leave with their lives and their minimal personal effects.

Kemoritil’s horde had two particularly notable objects: one death mask (Keeg’s diagrams included), and a pitcher of Dunael origin. The godsman indicated that the pitcher would be considered a sacred relic to the Dunael druids, and at his prodding the constables decided to make their way to the nearest known Dunael druid grove.

C) Into the woods

Several days later, deep into the foreboding wood between Ljavona and Sulet Hold, the constables fought off several fierce felines (a sort of lynx?). The commotion roused an ogre, which I somewhat-successfully intimidated with psychic contact and charismatic manipulation. The constables defeated the ogre, though we were unable to identify the location of its lair.

The Dunaeli godsman brought us shortly thereafter to the druids’ grove, where we met a filthy naked halfling and the keeper of the grove, what would appear to be a dryad-Dunael hybrid named Feloren. As partial reward for the return of “his” pitcher, he permitted me an interview to explore some of Dunael history. While a complete transcript in Shunash’s notation is attached, below is a short synopsis.

By Feloren’s reckoning, Dunaeli humans were the first inhabitants of the Emrival peninsula, arriving at a time “quite beyond your reckoning.” When their primary god Dagda noticed the Dunael and saw their potential, he sent dwarves and elves to guide their way, forging the Dunaelian Empire. From his description, I would judge that the first Dunaeli city-state, called Dunael (“first-home”) was founded during the fall of Kelnor.

Feloren also provided enough explanation of Dunaeli linguistic conventions for me to parse the language more readily. As he explained, the name of the city Edominar is a corruption from Roblandinar (“Earthblood”), the name of the river at whose mouth the city rests. Keeg’s name, “Danika,” is also of Dunaeli origin. In fact, Feloren revealed that her long-lost mother is alive, and living among the Dunael. Keeg was understandably nonplussed.

Feloren claimed that the Dunael are also familiar with Graem-Ghul, though they consider Its name to be deeply offensive. They call it “the faceless one” or “the nothing.” He provided the group safe passage through the forest and back to Sulet Hold, from which point they decided to address the obstruction of the road between SH and Landhaven, before returning for a respite at Edominar.

Approximately concomitant with our departure from Feloren’s company, the Dunaeli godsman made rapprochement with Garmannon, who had been following us at a timid distance since our departure from Sulet Hold. He initiated contact with the dragon, and solicited help from Feloren and from me to negotiate the dragon’s plight. We managed to persuade it to keep company with us – though it refused to alight on the boat or join us in the presence of multiple humans (both of which, I assured it, would be for the best. Neither wooden vessels nor towns take kindly to draconic company). I vowed to help the godsman understand some of draconic culture, and to help both of them understand some of what it means to be a dragon in the modern world. It is my humble hope that this dragon can be taught to learn from and live with humans as valued peers, a relationship in which all parties might substantially benefit.

D) From Sulet Hold to Landhaven

While D.F. Keeg tinkered with her curious arcane contraptions (with the help of another female dwarven blacksmith – what are the chances?), I accompanied the rest of the constables on an information-gathering trip to Landhaven. Between Mahan, the forge-dwarf, and the inn rumors at SH, and further rumors and stories in Landhaven, we cobbled together stories of a single beast, who for almost fifty years had plagued the road between the towns, making the overland route between the cities almost assuredly lethal. The creature was reported to emit fearful cries, and potent electrical coronas, and it seemed to be composed of the parts of multiple animals.

Once the constables were all ready to set foot on the path, they found their way to Coastsong Keep just outside of SH, which belonged to a bardik widow Aela Galen, whose Tarrantine Alryan husband had recently been slain while traveling to the north. The constables paid the widow a visit, and immediately suspected foul-play on behalf of the hot-headed Kharak captain of the guard. Several of the locals corroborated their suspicions. The captain’s story that a giant had accosted the two did not fit with any descriptions of giantish physique or behavior, and he immediately changed topic when we asked for more description of its “savage” vocalization and its “claws.” The bardik widow, for her part, could not be troubled to run the keep for a night, much less a fortnight, and was glad to have a strong and confident captain to take care of the keep. The godsman directed Garmannon to fly to the druids’ grove to inform them of the developments.

For the timebeing, we left the situation intact, though the constables committed to several parties that they would investigate the claims. Garmannon and A. Emerikol flew north to inspect the possible presence of “giants,” while the rest of us set off cautiously toward Landhaven. Along the way, we assisted D.F. Keeg in surveying the road, for its eventual improvement.

Soon after leaving the keep, it was obvious we had ventured into the domain of a very territorial, rapacious hunting beast. The remains of its electrocuted and dismembered victims littered the erstwhile road, and no beasts larger than a songbird were found alive. Still, rather than wait for the dragon and the rogue, they insisted on venturing on.

The first night out of Coastsong Keep, the beast set upon us at camp. My faithful Phaelon heard it first, though its harrowing screams did not provide enough evidence for us to engage it until it lept into our midst. Even with potions and spells at our disposal, it was a tough fight, with an abyssal-stained chimera that would take no quarter. I briefly attempted contact, but its potent mind was treacherous territory. I was able to discern nothing beyond some peripheral connection to the local bogeyman, Graem-Ghul. The beast had a furry mammalian head, serpentine neck and tail, draconic torso, and legs that bore a striking resemblance to those of a honey-badger. Enclosed please find a preserved vial of its blood. The constables took its eyes, head, heart, meat, and skin for processing, possibly for sale or consumption. If any of these items interest you, I shall retain them and remit them to your company.

After breaking down the carcass of the chimera, the constables found the remainder of their trip to Landhaven quite uneventful (since indeed, almost every animal along the way had long been slain, sensible folk kept far away, and senseless folk were devoured). We spent some time with healing and repairs, until Garmannon and A. Emerikol returned with their findings.

E) Return to Edominar

[uneventful return]

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