I have been gifted the opportunity to once again make note of the journeys that I and my companions have undertaken.
It would seem that our acquisition of the “Desert Flower” was successful. Having put himself in great peril, our brave Moe managed to grab the Sun Disk of Ra whilst it hung about the neck of the slumbering Mummy Pharaoh Anhktepot. Upon leaving the tomb, we were accosted by another mummy who set his sand crawling zombies upon us. By shear will and determination, dear Thalia managed to fend off our foes, forcing their bandaged leader to retreat. Knowing that there were only a few hours before the end of the summer solstice, we had no choice but to make haste into the Mists to the north, having no opportunity to return to Pharazia and gift the Sun Disk to the rakshasa in order to destroy his contract with Thalia.
It was indeed grand sight to behold the greenery and damp air of Nova Vaasa once we emerged from the Mists. We traveled to the town of Arbora where we encountered George Weathermay, who informed us that grave events had befallen the west. It appears that after many years of failed attempts at expansion, the armies Falkovnia have finally reaped their bloody prize, through the rapid invasion of Richemulot just after the murder of its leader. There can be no doubt of Vlad Drakov’s involvement with this. The Treaty of Four Towers have pledged to support Richemulot, but as of yet, were unable to muster an army capable of resisting the might of Falkovnia.
All this had transpired rather recently, although we learned that it had been nearly two years since our departure into the Mists. Events were unfolding in a way that would make it impossible for us to continue on together, at least for the mean time. It was decided that we should part ways in order to resolve the many circumstances that have risen to challenge us during our absence. Having been informed by Grey Ravenshaw that his demise was near some time ago, the dark forces in Hadley have since remained in Hadley as their powers grow unchallenged. We pledged to meet back in Arbora after one year had passed and bid each other farewell.
It had become clear to me, that our recent struggles and brushes with death could only be survived by faith and hope. Ezra has blessed us and made our safe return possible. Thus I undertook a pilgrimage to visit the Great Cathedral of Levkarest in Borca, my homeland. I bargained passage with a merchant convoy making its way to Immol, and then continued on foot north into Barovia. Attacked by bandits, wolves, and rotted corpses, over the course of 3 weeks, I steadfastly crossed into Borca, bruised, bloodied, and desperately tired. Glad to descend into the wind-weathered highlands, I resolved to visit the old underground fortress that was the home of my clan, the Orinbalds.
When last I had seen those rune-carved arches spanning the entrance of our tunneled settlement, it had been in dire circumstances as a dark plague had infected our populace, resulting in death, and worse, a cursed undeath. I searched the complex for nearly three days, finding desiccated remains of those who could not flee as I did, and an abundance of valuable items whose intrinsic wealth could not purchase salvation. It became apparent that nothing remained here, and so I erected a cairn in memorial to all those who had perished, and to my clan. Soon after I departed those silent hills, and on the road, encountered a small family of my kin who were on their way to the Great Cathedral of Levkarest.
The journey was short, and as we ambled through the winding paths and narrow valleys of the trader’s road, I came to learn that no Orinbald had be heard from since the exodus. In fact, few from the highland Clans survived, most having settled in the lowland towns and others farther afoot, like myself. I turn on to the Pilgrims Road on the morning of the 5th day, having traded with the Dwarves for some hard tack, basic supplies, and more portable currency before parting ways. The golden light of dawn framed the massive edifice that was my destination, looming from the top of a massive hill about a half day’s travel east.
I remember first visiting the Great Cathedral of Levkarest when I was a child, and returning for my indoctrination as an Anchorite some years later. The smell of spiced incense wafted about in light wisps of smoke from the iron censers hanging along the main hall. I was welcomed by the Praesidius, an old noble man named Yakov Dilisnya. After informing him of my journey from Mordentshire and onwards, it was apparent that he could scarcely believe I and my companions had survived our harrowing endeavors. A synod was convened the next day, and after several hours of deliberation, I was bidden into the Sanctum of the Mists, a privilege granted only by the Praesidius and his High Anchorites.
It was at this time that I was informed of a great evil that had been imprisoned within the deep dungeons, a labyrinthine series of natural tunnels and caves that lay under the Great Cathedral. The Praesidius and his inner circle had been tasked to guard a powerful abomination that had arrived in our lands nearly two centuries ago and wrought brutal havoc upon the people until it was subdued after a long and bloody battle. Several attempts had been made to destroy this beast from another realm, but it was protected by a chaotic vortex that would corrupt any being that passed within. Only great warding magic could contain this creature, and these constantly consumed tremendous amounts of divine energy that were infused by the High Anchorites in an elaborate series of rituals repeated during each full moon.
Such devotions had rendered the Great Cathedral unable to exert its influence or assist its followers in other lands. It was surmised that if the demon were to be vanquished, the temple’s vast resources would again become available. And so I was tasked with the slaying of this demonic interloper. Venturing into the stony depths, I soon came upon an isolated cavern, and centered within there lay an inscribed magic circle located about a circular well of shaped obsidian. This was the boundary that served as the creature’s prison, and as I cautiously crossed the threshold, smoke poured from the well to fill and obscure all within my sight.
I was violently pulled off my feet, falling for what seemed like an eternity before being unceremoniously deposited onto a heap of bones so large I could only guess at its boundaries for no matter where I looked, I could see only dark and hear only the cracking and shifting of those grim remains beneath my shuffling boots. Bursting from within this morbid mountain, the demon arose, casting an awful aura of madness and acrid fumes. My details of our struggle still elude my memory, since there were times when I felt my mind slipping the anchors of sanity. I was tossed about like a rat within a great cat’s claws, I was grabbed and crushed against bones, I was scalded by caustic breath and gnashing teeth. Once my senses began to resolve, a massive corpse lay at my feet, and the mass of bones on which I stood, shook and crumbled, as the vortex that brought me reformed and gathered me into its stormy embrace.
Finding myself at the bottom of the obsidian well, I rested for some time before beginning the long climb back up to the dungeons; an endeavor which proved almost as taxing as my encounter with the demon. Emerging from the caverns, I remember the suspicious expressions on the faces of those who had sent me on my quest. After convincing the Praesidius and his fellows that I was indeed still sane, at least as sane one can be after such a malicious struggle. I was made an honorable High Anchorite in a simple ceremony on the next dawn, and leaped into my duties immediately by organizing a mission into Richemulot. I departed the Great Cathedral with a handful of Anchorites just before midday retracing my journey along the Pilgrim’s Road.
It was our task to help those followers of Ezra trapped by the Falkovnian army, and as we made our way south to gather volunteers, we encountered my old companion, the holy warrior Thalia. Her red hair and shining armor were a sight to behold. It happened that Thalia was also bound for Richemulot to join the Resistance against Drakov and his military machine. It would be some days before our expeditionary forces was organized, and so I bid farewell to Thalia as she made haste towards her home land. Our band stopped by several shires and villages to post letters of recruitment and take on any brave enough to join our cause.
Within two weeks we had gathered a humble force of near twenty warriors, healers, and scouts. Upon crossing the border, the blighted footprint of war became apparent as we encountered village after village, burned and abandoned, littered with mass graves, and surrounded by ravaged fields. To avoid engaging the Falkovnians directly, a strategy that would be untenable given our small size, we avoided the roads and traveled under cover of darkness as much as possible. Over the next several months, we managed to rescue hundreds of refugees, sending them west into Mordentshire or south into Borca by way of a series of safe houses or encampments affiliated with the Resistance.
The year has almost come to an end, and with our allies beginning to form a resilient force that for now is able to stemming the tide of the Falkovnian advance or at the very least, to delay and harry Drakov’s forces until the Resistance establishes a full fledged army. Troubling news had arisen as we continue to evacuate our followers; some convoys have been intercepted by mercenaries. Having skirmished and captured some of these sellswords, we have discovered them to be in the employ of some rather sinister patrons. It appears that elements of the Ba’al Verzi and Gundarakite sympathizers have become active in Richemulot and further abroad. The degree of association these groups have with Falkovnia and their motivations are thus far unclear.
I am headed south and east, along the river, towards Borca. Thalia has joined me as we continue our journey to Nova Vaasa where we plan to rejoin our compatriots Moe and Sophia in Arbora. I pray that the Lady guide our way and bless us as we endeavor to serve the greater good and bring a swift end to this war. But before we can attempt to accomplish the later, there is the matter of Hadley and the dark powers growing there. Now that Grey Ravenshaw is gone, it is up to us to complete the task he began.