The Dragon's Demand

Delivering the Dragon's Due
Sofie's Journal

Coming Soon

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The Dark Window
Sofie's Journal

Oathday, 4 Desnus, 4723

A lot of things were laid bare today. Some things I had thought would be kept hidden, and others that were right out in the open. I'm still a tangle of emotions, and getting my ass kicked halfway to Valenhall hasn't helped me collect my thoughts.

Having retrieved the key to the Dark Window chamber from a mummified but surprisingly sprightly monk, we decided to investigate the last major section of the monastery we'd not yet visited. It was a long hall with a vaulted ceiling that let in dim light through stained glass windows. There were statues of monks in various alcoves, but the more pressing feature was the four grioths hanging upside down on the ceiling. I deduced that the man-bats were most likely nocturnal creatures, and were thus sleeping on this bright spring morning.

We moved into position to ambush them, but I was a little clumsy on my feet and stirred them to wakefulness. It made little difference. The fight was brief, and I thankfully played little part in it. Lennox's arrows and Aldern's magic brought down one of the creatures. Knives snapped the neck of another with her whip. Aldern called forth a flaming sphere and then bounced it into the air to scorch a third creature. Lennox pinned the fourth to the ceiling with an arrow. My sole contribution was throw an axe and miss.

Once the dust had settled, we examined the hall and its statues, finding little of interest. This was when we realized we'd searched more or less the entire monastery and had not  found the Dark Window chamber. We must have missed something. While Aldern set about leafing through his spellbook for options, I pulled out the key I'd gotten from the dead monk, hoping that there might be some hidden clue on it. The key itself, however, felt strangely warm—more than it should be, even "pressed against my thigh" as Knives put it. After some experimentation in the long hallway, I realized that the key grew warmer or  colder depending on the direction I moved.

Aldern cast a spell, the oddly specific detect secret doors, but was a bit premature—the key was pointing us towards the other side of the monastery. His spell would only last five minutes, so I grabbed his elegant hand and dashed off with the key held in front of me. The rest of the group hurried along after us. By the time we reached the monastery library, the key had grown uncomfortably hot. Aldern's magic was able to penetrate the illusion hiding the secret door and with a turn of a key a hidden passage was opened to us.

There were tracks in the tunnel—grioth man-bats—all of them leading out but never in. It was not a difficult intuitive leap to suspect that whatever lay at the end of this passage was where the grioths were coming from. But first we were confronted with a steel door inscribed with a warning that "dark oblivion lies beyond." We debated whether to press further, with poor frightened Lennox hesitating a long time before finally opening the door.

In the chamber beyond, a strange rectangle hung suspended in the air, looking like a hole through reality to a realm of murky darkness and fading, distant stars. The rectangle was bound within a square made of magic runes carved into the floor. Two smaller squares of runes lay in front of it. I kept my sword drawn while Aldern spent a few minutes studying the window and the runes.

Knives must have heard it first, for she perked right up and stared towards a shadowy corner of the chamber just before the rest of us as a frightful monster seemed to literally step out of the shadows as if through a door. It stood a good 12 feet tall and looked like a tree crossed with a spider by way of a squid. It threatened us, so I moved to put myself between it and the group. Lennox struck it with an arrow, Aldern blasted it with a lightning bolt and Maffei hit it with her own magic. Knives… hesitated. Letting the dragon off the leash, I took a raging swing at the creature with my sword and cut open a sightly gash in its bark-like skin.

Then the monster let out a terrible howl in our minds that rattled our thoughts and sent pain lancing down our spines. Aldern collapsed, and poor Yuki the owl with him. Still hurting from the fight with the dead monk, I was nearly knocked out as well. The psychic blast left me disoriented to the point that I attacked Maffei by mistake. Knives, meanwhile, was under some kind of spell of the creatures and was denouncing us for harming it.

By the time I went from befuddled back to berserk, Lennox had mistakenly shot Knives with an arrow and knocked the half-orc woman unconscious. The tree-spider-squid thing had attacked Maffei and I, but lost its footing. I was able to leap behind it to flank the aberration with our shadowy friend. Then it rose back to its full height, despite our best efforts, and grasped me with a tentacle. 

I've seen enough Minkaian erotic woodblock prints to know where that was going and wanted no part of it, but I was barely on my feet. 

Aldern and Knives were both out. Maffei was having trouble cutting through its bark. Lennox had rush over to Aldern to search the wizard for a potion to revive him, only to realize it was Knives who had the healing potion. I thought that this was the end for us, killed by some monstrosity from the blackest depths of reality here in this musty monastery. But in my mad fury, I was determined to make such an end of it to be worthy of entrance to Valenhall.

Gorum must have been with me in that moment as I swung Wyrmspite again and again, hacking at the abomination until I had cut through its trunk like a lumberjack. 

Lennox used Knives' potion to revive Aldern, but the half-orc could not be roused to consciousness. Aldern then identified the dead monster as an eldritch aberration known as a yangethe. We were indeed lucky to be alive!

Our wizard then put his talents to good use, determining that the smaller runic squares on the floor would enhance any force magic aimed at the mirror. We used our last bead of force, followed by one of Aldern's missiles, to shatter the window into a thousand thousand pieces.

In order to recover from the pummeling, we then trekked down to the magical restorative pool at the end of the Aspirant's Path. Aldern, the cheeky boy, tried to argue that he didn't need to wear a blindfold, but Lennox set him straight. We undressed Knives and carefully propped her up in the pool so that its waters would heal her, then stripped down to join her. Lennox asked after my birthmark, a question that was bound to happen sooner or later.

I told the story of how the ancient founder of my House, Sigrun, battled a white dragon and ate its heart. I told them how she had been wounded over her right should by the dragon's claws and some of the wyrm's blood had seeped in to mix with hers. I left out the fact that she had carved her way into the dragon to get at its heart. Seemed too gruesome. I explained that the blood had imbued Sigrun with part of the white dragon's primal fury, which she passed to her descendants. The birthmark appears on those who carry the curse of the berserker, something I never wanted.

When I shared my plans to eat Szangi's heart to honor my ancestor, Aldern spoke up. He was more subdued and humble than I'd ever seen him before, even under that blindfold. he explained that he needed the heart as a reagent for a ritual to cure his sister. She had been stricken with some magical affliction after one of Aldern's experiments had gone awry, and he has a limited time to concoct a cure.

Before I had time to process this revelation, however, we had an unexpected visitor.

The gem that Lennox was inexplicably wearing around her neck in the bath suddenly flared a bright green. This was followed by a splash, and then a soggy dwarf head spluttering up from beneath the water to gawk at us. I shrieked and tried to cover myself, then clumsily tried to get to knives to cover her, failing at both. Lennox did the same, and our cries sparked Aldern to tear off his blindfold and fumble for his crossbow. I went from shrieking to cursing at Tagnus and tried to cover his eyes with his beard.

"Calm down lass," the hairy little man said, "I've seen more titties that you've seen people."

Tagnus set about casting healing magic on all of us there and then. Given these were "touch" spells, it was quite uncomfortable. Though I will admit that under my anger and embarrassment, I was so very glad to see our druid once more. I may have scooped him into a hug after he healed up my wounds.

Aldern, gentleman that he is, put his blindfold back on. While I'm sorry the others also had their modesty compromised, I don't mind that he got a quick look. It's not as if I hadn't taken a few peeks at his delicates, either. By accident, of course.

Tagnus was able to get Knives revived as well, much to her dismay. The dwarf mentioned having been up to adventures in the First World, which he only half remembers. Much as the sight of his first leering look will haunt me, I'm very glad to have him back. We need his magic, his strength, and perhaps even his rough and ready attitude if we are to face this dragon, rescue Azmur Kell's wife, and save all of Belhaim.

Today's pretty much shot, however, so that will have to wait for later.

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Kill the Man-Bat
Sofie's Journal

Wealday, 3 Desnus 4723 

It it is a truth universally accepted that if there is a pool of water, Sofie Gundarsdotter will somehow end up in it. I just never imagined I'd be drowning a man-bat in a magic fountain. 

It has, as you have no doubt surmised, been a long day. 

My last entry left off with our discovery of the magical restorative fountain after braving the dangers of the Aspirant's Path. Aldern got ahead of himself and waded out into the fountain, half-naked, and blindfolded himself so we could disrobe and enter. But before that could happen, we heard the rustling sound of grioths, the man-bat creatures that have been our bane these past few weeks. 

Two of the monsters flew out of a hole in the chamber wall. Lennox took a shot at them and I decided to wade out into the fountain and climb up onto one of these three platforms that rose out of the water. My aim was to put myself between the beasts and the rest of the party, especially poor blindfolded Aldern, and provoke them into attacking me. I may have said something inappropriate.

Then one of those fuckers let loose a blast of piercing noise that rattled around the inside of my skull, leaving me stunned, with Wyrmspite tumbling from limp fingers. Just as I was starting to recover, the other grioth unleashed a wave of eldritch energy that seemed to sap the life from my veins.

Both of the monsters were upon us now, flying overhead just out of sword reach. Aldern, free of the blindfold, unleashed more of his magic against them both. His fingers danced through the air and suddenly a cone of fire leaped from them to strike both of the man-bats. Assailed by spells, arrows, and blades, one of the creatures fell. The second, however, remained and unleashed another wave of life-draining energy.

I had dropped my sword, and the magical assault had driven me once more into a berserker fury. So, weaponless, I hurled myself up at the surviving grioth and tackled him into the fountain, where I proceeded to throttle him under the water. The others tell me I strangled the creature, but I have the barest memory of Maffei's blade snaking out past me towards its throat.

Whoever was responsible, both grioths were now dead and we hauled their bodies from the pool. Its magics swiftly cleansed the water of blood and gore, allowing us to pursue our original plan of bathing within it for an hour. The fight, on top of everything else today, had left us spent. I noticed Aldern in particular was in poor shape as I tied the blindfold back around him. If it weren't for the injuries, he'd honestly look quite fetching. Not that I exert much thought on such things.

This was also the first time that we women had bathed together. None of them mentioned the birthmark on my back, though all had chance to see it. That is a conversation waiting to happen, I'm sure of it. For the moment, though, we enjoyed the cool water and its refreshing magics. Aldern actually fell asleep, which created a bit of a bother waking him since he was out in the middle of pool, leaning against one of the platforms. I was about to strip back down and fetch him when Knives broke out her whip and cracked it fiercely, startling him awake. It was better than her original plan of throwing things at him.

We investigated the hole in the wall where the grioths had entered and deduced that it was some sort of secret entrance to the dragon's lair. Before pressing on, however, we agreed for the need to rest up and investigate the remaining loose ends in the monastery.

We have retreated back to the "safe room" that Azmur Kell had shown us. We've signaled for the druid's help, in order to make use of his healing magic. I hope that tomorrow proves to be mor productive, or at least lest painful. And I wish Tagnus would return—we could really use some of his unique talents.

Oathday, 4 Desnus 4723 

A dead old man just beat the shit out of me with his bare hands and I couldn't touch him. Thank Desna for Aldern's dancing fingers and their magic, otherwise I might not even be here to write this morning's events.

Bolstered by Azmur Kell's magic, we rose early and decided to continue our exploration of the monastery. So far, we hadn't found either the chamber with the mysterious "Dark Window" that the dragon had been communing with, nor the remains of the abbot who had vanished with the key to the room.

Knives and Lennox scouted ahead, as is their fashion, and discovered a large and seemingly empty Irori temple. Just as Knives declared that there was nothing of interest,Lennox found a trap door hidden beneath a prayer rug.

With her keen half-orc eyes, Knives descended and explored the tunnel beneath, which ended in another ladder leading up to another trap door. Warily peeking inside, she saw a small room and a figure seated in a stone chair. She reported back to us and together we traveled down to investigate. I was concerned that it might be a zombie monk—and I was right!

The mummified body in the chair did not react until I tried to tap it on the head with Wyrmspite. Then it spoke up and said that if we seek to confront the chamber of the Dark Window we must prove ourselves up to the challenge. I told him that we had overcome his damn Aspirant's Path and he responded by attacking me!

For an elderly man who's been dead for 200 years, he hit pretty hard. The first punch knocked me into a blind rage, but he twisted out of the way of every sword strike. Knives and Maffei came after him, but with no better luck. Once again, Aldern's magics were a godsend as he burned the dry old mummy down to the bone. But the bones kept moving! It took another round of spells to finally put the monk down.

We salvaged several magic items from the ashes, plus the key. This was the abbot after all! Knives searched the cupboard in the small room and found ingredients for herbal poisons. I should probably make sure I sit between her and Aldern's drink from now on. She was kind enough to share a health potion, however, for which I am grateful.

I'm still aching all over from the beating the monk dished out, but I don't think there is any debilitating damage. Would be nice to have Tagnus around right now, though. We've managed to return through the trapdoor into the temple and are taking a breather.

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The Aspirant's Path
Sophie's Journal

Wealday, 3 Desnus, 4723

There is nowhere I can go on this damnable quest that doesn't involve me getting wet somehow, is there? But after the last few hours of self-inflicted hell we've been through, a good soak in a pool could be just the thing to settle my nerves. But I get ahead of myself.

After an uneventful night in the monastery "safe room," we awoke to a cold breakfast and then decided to continue exploring the grounds. We hoped to find out more about the monastery as well as the missing key to the forbidden room with the dark window that the dragon Szangi was using to peer into the Dominion of the Black.

Our first stop was an unexplored section upstairs, where we found a long-abandoned library. Any real texts of value had sadly been plundered. I did find a copy of Trastor's Basic Bestiary, Vol. II with some vulgar but quite anatomically accurate marginalia, which I've held onto for further inspection.

From their we headed downstairs and fund ourselves in a chamber full of monk statues. Aldern, surprisingly, recognized it as the start of the Aspirant's Path, a maze of obstacles that served as a proving ground for Irori acolytes. Once Lennox found the inevitable secret door, we decided to explore the maze.

The next chamber featured a large open pit and a narrow ledge around it. Knives had some trouble getting across, but wisely wore a safety rope. Aldern tried to show off by rigging a rope onto his crossbow and firing it into the ceiling. His attempt to swing across was rather painful to watch, and even more so for him.

Beyond the pit room, we found a network of hallways. Aldern once again recalled that they would all eventually lead to the same destination. Knives suspects that the wizard's familiarity with Irori doctrine was all due to his efforts to woo one of the god's followers at university. I'd like to think athletic girls are his type, but I'm sure Knives was just talking shit like usual.

The first room we came across in the hallway network was a strange chamber with three large stone daises holding octopus shaped pedestals that grasped globes of cloudy liquid. (The third dais had actually been smashed and its liquid long since stained the stone). A nearby cabinet contained three beads of force, these magic beans that explode into bubble of force when thrown. Aldern recognized this room as a test of wills, one of the most difficult and dangerous in the Aspirant's Path.

Knives' attempt to cross was cut short when some ill effect left her dazed. Aldern pulled her back to the corridor, then made his own brave attempt to cross while wearing a safety rope. Instead of being dazed, he was overcome with a compulsion to break the central glass orb. Lennox and I pulled him back to safety. I had to hold him tight until his senses returned.

We surmised that the orb contained a dangerous entity known as a brain ooze. Knives wanted to just leave and try a different path, but I foolishly persuaded the group to attack the entity. I thought that if we all struck it at one, we could bring it down. After all, how much damage could an exposed brain take?

I was wrong.

Our initial attack struck true, releasing the entity, which looked like a big flying brain with tentacles. But it was far from finished. Soon, Lennox and Maffei were dazed while the monsters oily grip closed aroud the minds of Knives and I, compelling us to attack our friend Aldern.

I hurt him. I cut him with my sword. The thing I have been fearing every time I entered a berserker rage I did at the creature's command, like a puppet on a string. I hope he can forgive me.

Aldern was amazing. His searing rays of fire lashed the creature again and again, finally bringing it down with a splat. It was like something out of mother's songs, except the wizard was the hero in this story. We owe him our lives. 

Things might have been different if Tagnus were here, but he remained frustratingly locked away in his gem throughout our peril.

The brain ooze room led directly into a ready room. Like a tour guide, he explained that this was where acolytes were told they had succeeded their trials. If they believed that assurance, they failed. There were two exits, one of them a door and the other another looping hallway. Believing the door was intended for failed aspirants, we traveled down the hallway to a chamber filled with water. Little islands of dry land served as stepping stones to get across.

Knives, Lennox, and Maffei made the jump easily, while Aldern used magic to aid his running jump. I was not taking any chances with getting wet.

I am a daughter of a seafaring people and enjoy a good swim, but over the last few months I have become more and more offended at getting soaked by accident while adventuring. So I asked the others to wait and stowed away my armor before making the jump. I landed high and dry on the opposite shore.

Aldern insisted on helping me back into my armor. He kept pulling things too tight, but I was too happy that he was still talking to me to say no. He has such pretty hands, too, so I didn't mind seeing them up close.

Stepping out of the water chamber, we came to a familiar intersection and realized we had been walking in circles. We'd traversed the water for nothing! I insisted that we take the long way back around to the ready room, feeling like a fool twice over.

Opening the door in the ready room, we found a magic spring that Aldern says will restore and refresh us if we soak ourselves for an hour in it. We were debating whether Aldern should wait outside while we ladies took our turn, but he just started tying on a blindfold. There are wet grioth footprints by the pool, though, so I don't know if a bath is the best idea right now…

They are coming!

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Talking to Snakes
Sofie's Journal

Toilday, 2 Desnus, 4723

I grow very tired of being felt up by evil spirits while my mind is not my own. Yet it seems to be a recurring feature of this quest we have gotten caught up in.

We moved on from the secret air elemental chamber, we found what was once the monastery kitchen and which is now an alchemists lab. Clearly, this is frequented by the dragon's alchemist lieutenant.  Aldern recognized the brewing compounds as elements of a potion of protection against acid—perhaps an insurance policy against the False Aeteperax? We took the potion components and then trashed the lab.

From there, we found a bell tower and make our way up the inside. Halfway up, we found a side door. Knives discovered that it led to a rooftop garden and the lunar naga, [[:thaena | Thaena]], that [[:azmur | Azmur Kell]] had warned us about. She spotted Knives but mistook her for another servant of the False Aeteperax. 

Picking their words carefully, Knives and Aldern were able to extract the information we needed and gracefully exit the conversation with the naga none the wiser. I did my best to bite my tongue during the discussion, fearful that my expression alone would give us away. 

Through the naga we learned the dragon's true name, "Szangi." We learned the location of his lair. And we learned where to find the alchemist lieutenant. Knives and Aldern learned all this without spilling any blood, a credit to their negotiating skills. We're lucky Tagnus was distracted picking lint out of his beard.

We continued ascending the tower to confront the alchemist Pentosh in the belfry. She threw bombs, summoned biting vermin, and otherwise put up a good fight. Tagnus managed to get a good hit in with his axe before the damn gem swallowed him up again. This is going to be a problem, isn't it?

After scavenging what we could from Pentosh's remains, we continued our exploration of the monastery. I'd like to know as much as possible about the forces we are tangling with here and what Szangi is trying to get ahold of with his demand.

Unfortunately, the next chamber we explored contained some sort of horrible incorporeal undead creatures that left most of the party dazed and sapped of life force. Aldern and Maffei were able to destroy the monsters and save our skins, but at that point we retreated back to the safe room.

With Tagnus still in his gem, we signaled the druid Azmur Kell to come help us heal  up and recover from the draining attacks of the undead. I am on watch duty now, while the others sleep. We've made good progress in our efforts against the dragon, but I can only hope we are ready when the time comes to face him. What choice do we have, though, with Belhaim at risk and our swords pledged to this cause? 

I never yearned to follow my ancestor's footsteps, but I hope that I am worthy of her legacy and the dragon-slaying weapons that Tula Belhaim bequeathed us. Hopefully that, plus knowing his true name, will be enough to overcome whatever dark magics this Szangi commands.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 us 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.

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Crypt of the Golden Knight
Sofie's Journal

Sunday, 30 Gozran, 4723

Still can't talk. We are about to go acquire an angry ghost's wedding ring and return it to a friendly ghost so that she will give us her blessing to plunder her relics. Oh the things I would say if I could speak.

After my last entry about vanquishing the guardians of the red dragon chamber, we paused to plunder one of the mercenaries' sarcophagi. Aldern identified two magical items, a ring of strength sapping and a light steel shield of acid resistance. Neither was particularly appealing to us, so Tagnus stashed them in the bag of holding.

Next, Knives ventured down the spiral staircase to scout out the next level of the tomb. Lennox tried to tag along, but tripped on the darkened stairs and tumbled noisily downwards. I still had Aldern's light spell on my whistle, so I've no idea what the girl was trying to accomplish sneaking around a pitch black crypt. Thankfully, no guardians awaited her and the rest of us soon descended to join them. 

The chamber held an altar and a gilded tome, as well as a set of large double doors. Aldern recognized the altar and book as being dedicated to the dead god Aroden, who was once the patron of Taldor. He and I soon started arguing over the purpose of the chamber and whether it had sunk into the earth after it's construction. He can be such an arrogant ass sometimes! It's all the worse because of that damn twinkle in his eyes that shows he knows he's being an ass.

While we quarreled Lennox and Knives opened the doors to the next chamber, a strange domed room with metal walls and floor, save for three big glass mosaics of blue dragons inlaid into the floor and a door on the left. Knives warily stepped into the room and was suddenly shocked with electricity. She has such lovely long black hair, and it was all standing on end by the time she retreated back to our position. While I helped her get the matter under control, Tagnus and Aldern deduced that the room was designed to naturally build up an electrical charge. The only safe spaces in the room were the glass dragon mosaics.

Knives and Lennox easily made the jump to the central dragon, but I knew our other two companions would have a harder time of it. I offered to throw both Tagnus and Aldern to safety, but they declined. Aldern acquired some leather from Tagnus to wrap around the metal shield, then used a spell to coat it in grease. Using the shield like a sled, he pushed off out into the room. It was quite ingenious, I admit. Unfortunately, his slender legs didn't have the strength to launch him the full distance and he stopped short of the rightmost dragon. He tried to propel himself to safety with his staff, but it was easiest for me to simply leap over to the dragon and pull him to safety.

Tagnus, meanwhile, used his tower shield as a bridge to get across to the central dragon.

Knives worked carefully to unlock the door on the left, while Lennox noticed that the right side of the room held a hidden door. The hidden door led to small room with a circular staircase going down. The chamber behind Knives' door held a puzzle with four statues that she she and Tagnus manipulated to reveal a secret staircase going down.

Because we are idiots, we chose to split up and investigate both staircases at once. Knives, Tagnus, and Maffei descended the secret stair, while we humans followed our own staircase.

Our delve ended in a small chamber facing a stone wall with a keyhole. Lennox determined that the wall would retract once the key was turned and that she could not simply pick the complicated lock. Fortunately, the keyhole clearly matched the master key that Bassy had given us. So we started turning out our pockets looking for the key, belatedly realizing that Tagnus currently had it. Back up the stair we went.

This time I gave Aldern a solid shove to get him across the electricity room. Sledding across it on a greased up shield honestly looked fun and I was briefly jealous the shield wasn't big enough to hold both of us.

By the time we had caught up with the others, they had managed to get into a fight with another set of tomb guardians. I assume Knives set them off. The guardians were four dwarf-like creatures with flaming beards and skin like cooled lava. With our reinforcements, the entities were quickly overcome. Knives had taken some hits, so Tagnus healed her up with his goodberries.

Aldern recognized the crypt as belonging to Sir Ector the Golden Knight, a devotee of the merchant god Abadar. We looted his sarcophagus and recovered a glamoured suit of plate mail that went into the bag of holding. We also recovered a clasp that Aldern recognized as an amulet of natural armor. He and Knives argued over it, of course, but then they both graciously offered it to me instead. It was so kind of them, and I was glad to see their differences put aside, even for a moment.

From there, we made our way back across the electrified room, by which point I was genuinely jealous of Aldern and his shield sled. It was fun pushing him off and hearing him whoop with excitement, though.

Once we descended down to the chamber with the retractable stone wall, Tagnus retrieved the key and the wall was unlocked. It retracted and we stepped into what could only be the tomb of Tula Belhaim. That's when she spoke to us.

If I had my voice back, I would have cried out in shock. But her voice was friendly. She recognized us as fellow adventurers seeking to protect Belhaim, and promised to grant her blessing for the retrieval of her artifacts. First, though, we must descend deeper into the tomb and retrieve the wedding band of her husband, who is apparently some kind of angry ghost. His spirit can't be laid to rest until we bring his ring to the late Lady Belhaim.

Which means yet another trip across the electrified room. I wonder if I can borrow Aldern's shield sled?

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