The Dragon's Demand

Wraith of Wrath
Sofie's Journal

Sunday, 30 Gozran, 4723

I let it loose. I woke the dragon and let it run rampant and nearly got all of my friends killed several times over. And even with all that unbridled fury, I still couldn't stop a fucking ghost from kicking the shit out of me.

I need a drink.

Anyway, as I noted in my last entry we were tasked with recovering the wedding band of Tula Belhaim's husband, to put his unquiet spirit to rest and get the late baroness' blessing to use her dragonslaying heirlooms. As we were transiting across the electrified chamber for what seemed like the seventeenth time today, something strange and terrifying occurred.

A flash of bright light surrounded Tagnus and he disappeared! All that was left was the bag of holding and a strange green gem. Lennox picked it up before I could stop her.

Aldern inspected the gem and determined that Tagnus was both inside and a part of it. Most terrifying piece of witchcraft I have ever seen. Lennox is keeping the gem in an exterior pouch in case the dwarf pops back out. We shall have to examine the jewel more closely back in Belhaim.

The sudden loss of one of our number cast a pall over our expedition as we delved deeper. I should have seen it for what it was—an ill omen of things to come.

The tomb of Tula Belhaim's husband was flooded in a foot of chilly water. Because of course it was. Knives scouted the chamber first, but retreated when heard fell whispers rising around her.

Aldern decided to take the lead, moving the light spell onto his staff and wading confidently into the flooded crypt. I was determined not to let the foolish wizard get himself killed, so I followed close behind with sword drawn.

I don't know why I expected him to have a clever plan, but that notion was quickly dispelled. As dark mutterings echoed around us, Aldern began calling out to the dead husband and trying to reason with him. As if angry ghosts answered to reason.

The crypt contained five alcoves at its far end, each holding a sarcophagus. The largest alcove was directly across from the entrance. But it was a smaller sarcophagus on the left that opened first, a Wight with burning blue eyes rising from it.

That was when I let it happen. While I was suffering under the attic whisperer's curse, the beast within had prowled restlessly without the strength to break loose. But now the spell had faded, and the sight of this abomination against nature filled me with such fury.

So I deliberately woke the dragon and opened the cage. I chose to go berserk.

It was exhilarating. I was upon the Wight in an instant, carving into it with my longsword and savoring the crack of bones against the cold iron.

More wights rose from the three other small alcoves and I welcomed them with glee. Aldern summoned forth a burning sphere that he sent rolling after them. I was dimly aware of Maffei gliding in to battle them, Knives throwing her darts, and Lennox loosing her arrows.

Before me was another Wight and we danced, each avoiding the other's blows. My sword could not find him, his grasping claws could not clutch me. I heard Aldern cry out in pain, but Knives was aiding him and my foe was at sword's reach.

Ultimately, Aldern got the kill, burning it with his sphere. But as soon as the final Wight was slain, the fell whispers rose into a howl as the wraith of Tula Belhaim's husband awoke from his tomb.

I was beyond fear at that point, even when I saw the wraith send Knives shrieking in agony with a touch. I leapt to confront it, but my cold iron sword was as useless as Knives' mithral daggers or Lennox's arrows. Only Maffei's magic weapons and Aldern's spells seemed to harm it.

Knives ran to the sarcophagus and pried it open. I think she was trying to retrieve the ring and flee, though I did not realize it at the time.

Unable to harm the wraith, my rage-addled mind decided I should harm its corpse. As I moved past the spirit, it reached into me with one dark hand. The pain was indescribable. It pulled something out, leaving me greatly wounded.

Undaunted, I sloshed over to the tomb, tore the head from the corpse, and taunted the wraith. "Got your skull" or something like that. I think that Knives, who was beside me, was furious at my attracting the wraith's attention.

As the spirit glided towards me, Maffei lashed it with her magic swords. The ragged wraith drove its spectral claws into me again, tearing away more life force. But moments later it was ablaze as Aldern's burning sphere rolled into it.

With no enemies left, my rage-reddened gaze landed on my companions. I swear that for a moment they looked like blue-eyed wights. I actually swung my sword at Knives but stopped when I saw the fear and surprise in her eyes.

Aldern approached me, flattering me in a soothing voice. Walking towards a berserker takes courage, but I was more confused than anything. The dragon returned to its slumber as the rage bled from me and I could tell friend from for once more. But now they know how dangerous I can really be.

They didn't say anything as we plundered the husband's tomb. He was some sort of spellcaster and Aldern got very excited about some rod he had on him.

We trekked back to Tula Belhaim's tomb, where she thanked us for laying her husband's spirit to rest. She gave us her blessing to take the equipment from her own sarcophagus to defend the village once more. Among the items were an enchanted breastplate that suits me, and a dragon-slaying longsword bearing the name Wyrmspite which I claimed as well. Lennox came away with a magic bow and some dragon-killing arrows.

All of use chose not to remark on the fact that Lady Tula's corpse was not wearing a wedding ring.

We have left the tomb complex behind now, but are taking a breather. Knives and I keep lagging behind. The wraith's vile touch has left us with no stamina.

I need to apologize to her, to all of them, for what almost happened down there. Were the situation less dire, I would have barricaded myself away somewhere less stimulating to try to avoid any more episodes. But the village is still in danger. Which means more fighting and more berserking. I can't even trust myself not to stir up the beast within; the primal power is simply too useful despite the danger. 

But I can't put my friends at risk. I need to come up with some sort of safe word or phrase like Knives said. It might not repair the damage I've done to our friendship, but it will hopefully keep my inner dragon from harming them.

Gods, what a miserable day. I hope we don't have to camp out here.

A Walk in the Woods
Sofie's Journal

Sunday, 30 Gozran, 4723

The hike from the tomb was torture. I couldn't take more than ten paces without needing to stop for a breather. I still can't. It is like that wraith tore the stamina straight out of me. Knives isn't any better, and even Aldern looked a little short for breath. Thankfully, I managed to find a sheltered place to rest.

Once camp was set up, I approached Knives to offer my apology for what happened during the battle. She was wary, but she didn't want me to abandon all contact with her and go into exile. So that is good.

We agreed on a safe phrase to try to talk me out of the berserk rage. I took Lennox's suggestion from weeks ago to heart, to come up with something that evokes my so-called "happy place." I focused on my memories of sailing with my siblings, watching dolphins dance in the sun-dappled waters. I am hopeful that "dancing dolphins" would suffice to conjure up that thought and quell my fury. Probably.

Certainly less embarrassing than having Aldern call me a "big beautiful viking goddess" again. he, by the way, doesn't seem to have been put off by the incident at all. Of course, I didn't take a swing at him. Yet.

I need to sleep. But more than that, I need a cleric. This sickly feeling is intolerable, and Tagnus keeps stubbornly refusing to emerge from that fucking green gem.

Moonday, 1 Desnus, 4723

We didn't die, so I suppose this counts as a good day. 

On our way back to the village, we were beset by another flame drake. Knives and I were in no condition to fight, so we ran as fast and as far as we could before our lungs gave out. Aldern and Lennox launched a few shots at it before following. Maffei easily slipped away. 

If we hadn't been able to lose it in the foliage, it would have been the end of us (no matter what Aldern says).

When we staggered into Belhaim, Knives and I immediately made for the Shelynite temple. Nilos was thankfully able to free us from the wraith's curse. Aldern got similar treatment from the House of Abadar.

We regrouped at the Wise Piper Inn, where Aldern was studying the green gem. He learned little more than the fact that it is fey in nature. I am rather concerned for Tagnus' safety, for the fey creatures we know in the Lands of the Linnorm Kings are cruel and capricious.

From there, we traveled to meet with Baroness Origena Devy. She was relieved to learn that the black dragon Aeteperax was very definitely dead. But there is still the issue of the persons or things holding the town hostage. If nothing else, their minions are very real. The baroness asked us to investigate the abandoned monastery the false Aeteperax demanded that we bring his ridiculous ransom. The others used this as an opportunity to extract a reward from the baroness. In exchange for this service, she offered to give each of us a joint share in the Hunclay manor. This satisfied the mercenary attitudes of my fellows, and we pledged our swords (and spells, and daggers, and arrows) to the quest.

Which means it is time to stock up on supplies.

Monastery of the Mad Monks
Sofie's Journal

Moonday, 1 Desnus, 4723

What the fuck am I doing? I'm sitting here in the Wise Piper Inn, with my magic sword, stowing away the potions of strength and healing that I purchased, as I prepare to go forth and fight monsters, where I will most assuredly go berserk. 

This is my father's life. I traveled thousands of miles to get away from this, to be a scholar. I came here to Belhaim to try to salvage my academic reputation. And now I am gearing up for battle like some viking! I even gathered woad by the river for war paint. Am I going mad?

I suppose I should summarize my day. After our conversation with the baroness, we all went our separate ways to equip ourselves for the coming quest. I went to the potions shop, where the very strange lady there sold me a potion of strength and two moderately powerful potions of healing. She seemed to have left something bubbling too long and had to run to the back of the shop. There was an explosion but she assured me she was fine. I am a little concerned by the fact that the potions lacked labels. Not that I should have been buying them in the first place.

I met Knives down by the river, where for some reason—tradition?—I was gathering woad leaves. Knives was washing her mithral daggers in the water. She said she had them enchanted at the temple of Shelyn, but there was a weird look in her eyes when she spoke about it, like she was bothered by something. She was holding the daggers like they were unclean. Perhaps the enchantment left some oils behind? She was going to try washing her chain shirt, but I persuaded her to let Aldern use his magic to clean it.

As if he was summoned, the wizard arrived. He'd just come from the House of Abadar, where he had opened an account to save his money. He wouldn't shut up about it, or about the silly heat-sensitive mug that they gave him. He looks really cute when he is excited, but Knives and I couldn't help but tease him over his officiousness. (We're still teasing him because he won't. shut. up. It's adorable.)

It was as we trekked back to the inn to meet with Lennox that this existential crisis started to set in. I'm a scholar, not a warrior. How did I let myself get so side-tracked?

Knives is starting to get drunk. I'd better set this aside to keep an eye on her.

Must write notes for self in morning. Knives—not merchant! Was lying whole time. Ran from gangsters in Oppara who wanted make her a prostitute to pay back father's debts. Very sensitive about appearance—which makes no sense. She was going to rob us when we first met! But now she's happy adventuring with us & making gold. Aldern is an ass.

Told them I didn't know what the fuck I was doing adventuring. Knives and Lennox encouraged me, Aldern said I'd find all sorts of creatures to write about. I started drinking. Drank a lot. Think I told them about Marcio, leaving university. Last chance.

Aldern got me to do something called karaoke. Very fun. Walked me up to my room after. Aldern is a gentleman. So pretty and tastes nice.

I will feel like shit tomorrow.

Toilday, 2 Desnus, 4723

There's another dragon! Tula Belhaim's relics will be put to good use after all. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I awoke late, feeling like shit as predicted. I finished brewing the woad dye over breakfast and stowed it away for later. Aldern teased Knives about her admission from last night. I don't think she remembers much. I don't either, really, aside from what's in my notes, which aren't exactly reliable.

After we'd finished our pancakes, we set out for the monastery. I tried to take us through a short cut, but the hangover threw off my sense of direction. So Aldern tried to help get us back on track, but was looking at his map upside down. We kind of wasted several hours. I wish Tagnus were here to find the path, but I'm glad he didn't see our fuck ups. At least, I think he didn't. We still don't know how that gem works.

Eventually, we approached the monastery grounds. I applied the woad to my face in the viking style, while Knives went in for a closer look. She gave us the rough layout of the perimeter, as well as the fact that the entrance was guarded by kobolds. 

While the rest of us were brainstorming a plan, that cocky fool Aldern just started striding towards the entrance. I hurried after him to make sure he didn't get himself killed, which is exactly how things started at the wraith tomb. Knives, Lennox, and Maffei followed stealthily after us.

These were some especially stupid kobolds, and we were able to talk our way past them by posing as people bringing the ransom. They directed us to the "pet human." We found him in the courtyard of the monastery, the same strange man with the bright red hat that we saw at the auction trying to get the forbidden books.

It turns out this is Azmur Kell, one of the missing druids. His pregnant wife is being held hostage to compel his obedience, but when we assured him of our intent and ability to vanquish his master he agreed to help us. The information he shared was quite enlightening.

The architect of Belhaim's woes is a young green dragon who has assumed the name and mantle of the dead Aeteperax. The green dragon is obsessed with something called the Dark Tapestry, which is inhabited by sinister alien beings. The monks who once dwelt here shared the obsession, hoping to use knowledge from the Dark Tapestry to reach enlightenment. Instead, they called something forth that destroyed them several hundred years ago. Now the False Aeteperax is continuing their work.

The dragon has gathered a number of powerful lieutenants, most of whom reside here in the profaned monastery. There's an alchemist and a lunar naga. There is also a missing key to the locked chamber where the monks did their summoning. The dragon relies on magic potions from the monk to turn ethereal and simply seeps into the room. The key might be with the abbot of the monastery, whose body was never found.

The green dragon also apparently fears the use of its true name. Discovering the name could give us an advantage when we confront it. (The False Aeteperax does not dwell here, but rather in a cave in the mountains.)

The druid Azmur has agreed to surreptitiously help us, and can be contacted by dropping leaves in the monastery fountain. I have promised to return his wife to him. I hope I can deliver.

An Ill Wind
Sofie's Journal

Toilday, 2 Desnus, 4723 

I was nearly throttled to death by living air from the inside out and my throat is still hoarse. But at least Tagnus has returned from that damned gem.

That was the first surprise of the last few hours, the dwarf poofing back out of the strange emerald. Apparently its some sort of cursed artifact that he can't get rid of, and it will periodically pull him inside in a sort of stasis. Why he never bothered to mention this complication during the six weeks we have known him is unfortunately quite understandable, given his nature.

Still, it was good to have him back at our side once more as we decided our next move in this not-so-abandoned monastery. The druid had given us a layout of the ground floor and some advice on where to find the lieutenants of the False Aeteperax. We decided that our first move would be against the enormous man-bat, based on the simple fact that he was closest.

Knives, Lennox, and Tagnus scouted ahead, making their way upstairs into the library. But the big grioth sensed their presence and let out a shriek. Aldern, Maffei and I raced to join the fray.

For the second time, I willing let the rage take me. The fury was perhaps too blinding—I missed every swing of my sword, save for the last one, which ended the monster. That time, I felt an icy wrath flow through me and saw frost gather on my blade. Sigrun's legacy made manifest in steel. The others must have witnessed it, but no one's asked any questions yet, for which I am grateful.

With the grioth dead, we explored the surrounding area and discovered the horrible fate that befell the dragon's half-orc minion, the one who dared to speak its name. He was locked inside one of the monks' sensory deprivation pod and left to die of hunger and thirst. A truly vile and dishonorable execution. I asked if Aldern or Tagnus had the power to make the dead speak, so we could learn the dragon's true name, but they lack such arcane knowledge. We left the body where it was, perhaps to retrieve it later so that one of the clerics in town could attempt the spell.

Traveling down a side passage, Tagnus discovered a secret door. Inside was a weird metal grid, and in the far corner was a long-dead monk. I thought this might be our missing abbot, but it wasn't. When I drew close to inspect the body, this vicious creature made out of air and smoke rose up to attack me. It jammed some sort of pseudopod down my throat and tried to choke the life out of me from the inside! I went berserk again, but could do little to harm it or break free.

Thankfully, my friends were there to slay the creature and release me from its grip. Aldern's magic once again proved to be a lifesaver. After the battle was done, we discovered that the dead monk had some power magic scrolls on her. Aldern also realized that the metal grid on the floor was intended to assist with summoning magic. Clearly this air creature did not stay bound to its summoner.

I must lay down my quill, Tagnus has some berries for me and we are about to move on.

Talking to Snakes
Sofie's Journal

Coming Soon!


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