The Thin Man

The Tower Yields

Tuesday 4th July 1498

Rested up and having recovered some of our excess bravado and good cheers, we journeyed back to the tower to explore the lower limits that the workers had uncovered.

The last few souls were still toiling away when we arrived and we instructed them to wait on the floors above whilst we explored the newly accessible rooms. We questioned them on whether they had been disturbed at all during their work, but the most they could offer was that there was a high pitched, plaintive voice coming from behind a locked door to a Western room.

Naturally we started on the East side then.

In the West we came across a kitchen, a sensible inclusion in a place that would be inhabited for extensive periods. All the foodstuffs were long perished and the cookware corroded.

In the South we came across a room that looked to have been set up as a mortuary or dungeon. Skeletons of victims lay upon slabs of stone and horrific implements lined the walls. Upon one of the slabs, having consumed the skeletal remnants that had lain there before, a great ooze of bone and slime came for us. Hard to tell whether it had been created here deliberately or maybe it had found its way here some time passed, attracted by the stench of death.

Guillaume swiftly set about dismantling the unholy creature and when it latched hold of my arm Shanae ended it's meager semblance of life.

With the time to explore the room more thoroughly we uncovered notes belonging to Arzhur with lists of deaths upon it – split between those sho had been killed for crimes real or perceived and those who had died of natural causes. It seems that he was experimenting upon the dead, reforming and reshaping as he deemed fit. It is without doubt that he was practicing necromancy within these walls.

We moved onto the Western room where the high pitched voice of a creature called out to us. Opening the door we saw a library lit with blue, mauve and yellow lights and with an impish looking creature perched upon a desk at the far end. It asked if we were it's master, returned after so long. We told him that was not the case, but we were seeking some of his work in order to help his people and clear his name.

The Imp, a Homunculus really, was a gruesome looking creature, fully six feet tall and made of all but unrecognisable parts of other creatures. Maddened by centuries of isolation and imprisonment it brought a roiling elemental of fire into being which rapidly caught the books alight and then attacked us. From the bookshelves sprung glowing, insectile creatures which saw us as threats too.

I set about dispatching the tiny, magical aberrations whilst Guillaume charged into the fray, ignoring the burning books all around him and cutting the familiar in twain.

The fire was spreading through the library though and I rushed to save what I could from Arzhur's desk. Guillaume swung at the troublesome elemental but it was a burst of acid from Lydia that detonated it's smoldering heart. We fled the smoke filled chamber, opening the doors to the stairwell to let the room clear. 

A half hour later, after catching our breaths and having some lunch we climbed back down to continue our investigations.

The remains of the library revealed a few items of precious worth, a spellbook (not Arzhur's!), notes on raising the dead and a number of other potentially valuable tomes. I think we ought leave such things behind as they would no doubt form part of the Brehan estate now.

The last point of interest in the room was a magic circle made of embedded rose quartz which Lydia recognised as being used to increase the power of necromantic magics cast within it.

The final room on this floor, to the North, was dominated by another such circle this time inlaid with copper. Again Lydia was able to identify it, this time as being used for teleportation. Such magic is thought to be exceedingly powerful and I know of nobody who has used such spells across significant distances in living memory. Lydia could not divine where it might lead, but perhaps after much study it could be activated?

On the lowest floor there were only two rooms of note, the others having been caved in by whatever fault had opened the tower up to us.

Beyond the Western door on this floor was long-unused alchemical laboratory and a trio of undead! Around the feet of these abominations spread pools of burning acid, corroding whatever, or whomever it touched. 

It was a desperate fight, which Shanae bore the brunt of, but between Shanae and Guillaume's swords, Lydia crossbow and my alchemical creations we were able to dispatch these silent guardians. Exploring the room yielded nothing of interest – the only surviving books were rudimentary and outdates treatises on alchemical methods long surpassed.

The final room, to the South, contained only the entrance to a vast tunnel leading away into darkness. Finally it is clear how this place became so infested without so much as a door or window to enter by…

We sit, recoup and fill our aching bellies before venturing forth into the gloom.

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The Earl and the Tower

 

Friday 30th June 1498 – Morning

We traveled to Bréhan manor in the morning to speak with the Earl and found her, Goulwena that is, with a handful of retainers loading up carts and horses. She claimed that she was to lead an expedition to a nearby tower that had partially crumbled, breaking the magic that had sealed it shut for may centuries. This tower was supposed to have been used by Arzhur Bréhan, our suspected tomb-robber and potential cannibal, back in his day.

She hoped to regain some wealth from her ancestors as her family was under much pressure after the deaths of her three brothers. 

In exchange for the scroll, should we find it, we offered to lend our might to her trip. I'm fairly sure that she would have followed Guillaume anywhere though. She seemed positively weak at the knees in his presence, although of course we were all too polite to notice!

Friday 30th June 1498 – Early Afternoon

The tower is certainly grand in scale, fully 85 feet wide and at least 60 tall it dominates the landscape of low-lying trees and marshland.  It appears comprised of four eight-sided towers with what we presume would be a central staircase. One of the towers has partially fallen in, granting access to the interior. 

Friday 30th June 1498 – Evening

Our journey almost ended in disaster. The tower was infested by Troglodytes, their animal 'pets'. Not only that but our baggage was beset by a pack of hounds – filthy, noisy things. This wasn't even the worst of things however. Nightmarish, flaming skeletons lunged at us out of the darkened chambers, their heat searing flesh and burning hair. It was overwhelming and I'm afraid to say my body gave way in their presence.

To add final injury to injury, as we finally reached the summit of the tower part of the roof gave way. Fortunately Guillaume was able to save Goulwena and I, seeing that Goulwena would be safe, the chest of what we hoped to be treasures.

The tower itself contained numerous rooms including an armoury, library, a temple and altar to Nethys and numerous storerooms. 

Saturday 3rd July 1498

Exploring the rooms of the tower had yielded many interesting items, most of which went into the coffers of the Bréhan estate. 

The most notable examples were a Phoenix Lodge banner and a number of notebooks. It appears that Arzhur had also deciphered the scroll and that he had initially gone in search of it in the vain hopes of finding a way to contain the famine ravaging his lands so many years ago. It seems that he may not have been the killer that the stories make him out to be.

Had giant frog's legs and troglodyte kidney pie this evening. Most excellent.

Sunday 2nd July 1498

I write this from a bed at Goulwena's residence. My burns and wounds are finally healing up, with thanks to Shanae's magic and the ministrations of the local clergy, and I should be on my feet again soon. When we came to Bréhan we certainly had no idea what we were getting into.

We've paid a handful of labourers to take time from the fields to help us open up the staircase to the lower levels of the tower. The one mercy is that it is unlikely to be inhabited, but I fear we must still be cautious.

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The Butcher of Brehan

Tuesday 28th June 1498 – Afternoon

Today was to be a day for errand running and study. I am ever more convinced that the Hunger we are feeling is somehow not only linked to artefacts recovered from Hasdrubal's tomb but that we are somehow spreading the plague on our travels. Wherever we have returned to has been afflicted so. I pray my fears are unfounded.

We sent Lydia to convalesce at the Acadamae whilst Guillaume and I took the opportunity to wander the market stalls and offload some of our gains in exchange for new equipment. Very pleased with the haul today as I managed to convert the gemstones and coins we'd recovered into a new set of tools! Shanae did not seem impressed with their fine workmanship and was far more absorbed in finding some poor creature's pelt to drape over her new shield.

Whilst out wandering Guillaume admitted that he had left the Black Sword with George Du Pin and the rest of his Order, but had neglected to tell them of the power it possesses! How can he claim to trust them with the sword, if he cannot even trust them with our knowledge of it? I was incredulous and whatever madness had overcome him! He claimed that not telling them of its power would make them less inclined to test it out – rather implying that they would certainly attempt to wake it if they knew what it could do.

It must be retrieved, or at the very least the book must be kept out of their hands. Apparently the chapter house is not even well guarded, unlike the tomb. We should never have bought it with us.

I took the opportunity to in no uncertain terms remind him that I believe it was a folly to remove it from the tomb and he did not take kindly to the fact. Unkind words were exchanged. 

Sergeant Von Maastricht overheard our quarrel and took us to the watch-house where he confided to us that he ahd noticed the effects of the Hunger and was concerned for the welfare of Vannes. We told him what precious little we knew and pledged to assist in whatever way we could, but he could not provide us much direction in our search for a cause or cure.

Rather glum we wandered up to the Acadamae to see if Lydia had found anything of use.

Tuesday 28th June 1498 – Evening

Well, that was most interesting. Professor Blanchard-McGonagall has arranged a meeting tomorrow with us, Van Maastricht and Du Pin to discuss the whole affair. Our theory now is that the scroll was initially removed from the tomb likely not long before the scroll was made.

It seems there will be no more hiding anything about the Sword or the Dragons Book.

Wednesday 28th June 1498 – Afternoon

An uneventful meeting. For all their knowledge of chivalry and magics even these people of power are all but useless.

We told them everything and handed over copies of the notes we made in Hasdrubal's tomb but not one of them was able to offer assistance to us for where to turn next. At least we got the thrice-damned sword back.

Damned waste of time.

Wednesday 28th June 1498 – Evening

Guillaume had a realisation as we traveled back to the Crooked Wand. He had noticed some shields in the upper tomb and thought he recognised the heraldry, although it was certainly an ancient variation. He thought it might be that of the family of the [[Earl of Bréhan]], who live not much more than a day's march away! Could it be that they were responsible for the original theft of the scroll? He damned well could have thought of this sooner.

Wednesday 28th June 1498 – Late Evening

Had excellent, albeit expensive, meal at the Crooked Wand. Asked for a copy of the recipe but they wouldn't say where the meat was from. Family secret I guess.

Thursday 29th June 1498 – Night

We have just taken lodging, if you can even call it that, in the Needy Magpie at Bréhan. This truly seems to be a forsaken place, poor and run-down. There is little joy and hardly enough even for offerings to the Gods but the one blessing is that the Hunger does not seem to have spread this far. 

Guillaume has told us what little he knows of the Bréhan family. The Earl, famed in the fairy tales of Breton as the 'Deamon Butcher', supposedly ate his servants in a lavish feast during a great famine almost eight hundred years ago. He met his end as part of the Council of Karnac, all of whom were found dead one day although the circumstances of their deaths have long been forgotten from living memory.

We'll travel to the Bréhan family home tomorrow and see what we can learn. It's too much to hope that the scroll remains within their positions, but we must try to learn whatever we can.

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Mysteries of the Map

Monday 27th June 1498 – Morning

A ghoul found its way into the stables last night. I barely caught a glimpse of the vile thing before Guillaume and Shanae managed to drive it off but thankfully it was not able to cause any injury. Guillaume tried to give chase, but his beast was spooked and refused to be saddled.

We slept little after that and set off at first light, after breakfast of course.

Monday 27th June 1498 – Evening

We arrived back at Vannes in the late afternoon and took rooms at the Crooked Wand. Guillaume hurried off with his ill-gotten blade to speak to his order whilst Lydia and I hastened to the Acadamae to try and recover the book and have some of our coinage valued.

The latter task was simple enough, the silver, snake-headed coins appear to be the currency of Xeron's people and were likely only worth their weight in metal. The professor, Ivar Huiid, took an unusual interest in them however which makes me very suspicious. Of the hoard taken from the Betrayer's chamber nothing seemed particularly valuable unless melted down. It might be something to speak to a blacksmith or jeweler about.

The translation of the book was far more interesting however. It was almost complete when hwe had arrived and Professor McGonagall seemed extremely perturbed. It was her apprentice, Gweneiver Le Du, who translated most of it into Breton for us.

The book, scribed in about 750AD, appears to be a direct copy of an even more ancient scroll. The ritual within seems to be designed to bind a specific creature, being or plague known as the Herald or Forerunner. The first, smaller part of the book contains the ritual iteslf and the rest appears to be an incantation of some kind. Supposedly the sounds and the chanting are more important than the words themselves, so we presume that reading the translated copy would have no real effect. Gweneiver described the chanting as a 'cage of poetry'. Prissy nonsense, but Lydia was certainly fascinated by it!

I've taken the scribes notes so far for safe keeping and have instructed him to finish the translation with all haste. I'm still not sure I trust Guillaume with this knowledge so I told him that they are still working on it and will be for some time yet…

Tuesday 28th June 1498 – Morning

We toyed with the map once more last night. Our goal was to discover and explore this false world as much as possible, to explore the boundaries that were set within it and to see if it might be somewhere safe to stow the sword in the future.

We each took a pencil with us into the story this time and were once again confronted by the mysterious stranger. We were surrounded by the remnants of a village all aflame, supposedly caused by the orc-ish minions of Lord Darkness.

A burning villager stood frozen near us, surrounded by a shimmering halo of half life. We bought him to life and doused the flames using Shanae's divine magic, but he continued to run in circles screaming incoherently until we drained the life from him once more. It seems clearer and clearer that the 'creatures' found here possess no real life at all, other than what little is imparted in them by the creator of this place.

We progressed through a series of fiendish puzzles and fights with group of orcs, each of which acted as a prerequisite for progressing through the 'story'. The fights were fairly uneventful as we had control of when to give life to the orcs and could prepare accordingly. Lydia took quite a significant blow from a couple of them however. We will have to take better care of her in the future!

We used the time between challenges to inspect the world around us and experiment with adding and removing colour from different objects and creatures. I'll try writing up my notes about the Map separately. With our new found knowledge we were able to progress quickly, tearing apart the orcish commander from the inside using dead water! It made Guillaume quite green to see the destruction this simple substance caused!

I believe that this world could be a powerful resource for us to harness and I was able to bring back a spear of the dead material with me after we had 'completed' the excursion. 

We awoke at daybreak once more and found that Pierre had been tending to Lydia's wounds which had translated to the real world – a terrifying implication! We will have to take time to recover and assess our situation before heading back in.

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A spreading hunger

Friday 24th June 1498 

We left a Warning Letter along with what rations we could spare at the Bronze Shield explaining what had happened and hastened to Pontchateau to meet with Lord of this domain – Sir Gurval Levesque. 

The brutish-looking horses that we had saved from the stables made good speed, arriving at Pontchateau castle by the afternoon. Guillaume negotiated an audience with Sir Levesque and explained the situation – although neglected to begin the story with the ogre's attack which seemed an oversight!

We were escorted into the castle where we were kept under guard whilst Gurval's son, Finbar, and some retainers traveled to the Bronze Shield to corroborate our story. Quite inconvenient as we all longed to return to Vannes or Sandpoint, but we couldn't blame him for his caution as we had confessed to the killings of folk under his care. Still, it gave us a safe, warm place to rest and some good food. We were all famished and sick of living off trail rations and berries after having spent days traveling, fighting or delving underground. Kingsholme wasn't exactly renowned for it culinary delights either!

Saturday 25th June 1498 

Finbar returned today and confirmed everything we had told the elderly knight. Gurval was clearly as relieved, as were we, and he now trusted us as honest folk and so gave us leave to explore the town of Pontchateau and to ride back to Vannes in the morning.

We took the opportunity to offload some of our excess gains at the Saturday markets and to make our observances at the temple of Saranae. 

Saturday 25th June 1498 – Evening

The pencils which accompany the Map have returned every night since we first stayed at the Bronze Shield over a fortnight ago. With everyone present, unhurried and in good cheer we decided that there would be no better time to try and 'activate' whatever magic it held. 

I began ever so carefully drawing in the rough outlines of Vannes on the map, lightly at first but soon with more confidence as Guillaume, Shanae and Lydia all contributed what knowledge they had about the area. Then everything went white. 

I came to in a square room, the makings of a small tavern, that appeared to had been drained of all life and colour A mere simulacrum of a tavern, I suppose. Two figures – a barkeep and a mysterious gentleman – appeared to shimmer with half-life, but everything else was absent of any vigor. I held a pencil in my hand which seemed to be full of some kind of barely contained magic, but of the map was no sign. I approached the barkeep and an energy sprang between the pencil and his figure, suffusing him with colour and a semblance of life! The pencil went dark and mundane as if its power had expired.

The man did not at all seem perturbed by his surroundings and when questioned only told me about rats in his cellar or his dislike of the graveyard at nightime. Worthless tales and nonsense. My only thought was that he could be some kind of automaton and after a couple of attempts I was able to draw the colour back into the pencil leaving him inert.

Guillaume, Lydia and Shanae soon joined me in the tavern. They said that I had become unresponsive whilst filling in the map and that when they attempted to shake me out of my reverie they had felt a tugging on their minds which drew them to this place. All were armed and armoured as if for battle despite claiming that they were not so before their arrival. All are convinced that they came here willingly although I cannot say the same for myself.

There is nothing I can liken this place to, other than possibly the illusory halls of Hasdrubal's tomb. It is perfect in its dimensions and lacks any of the character of a real, believable place. After attempting and failing to restore life to other surfaces – doors, windows or even drinks – we turned to the mysterious stranger. When he sprang to live he informed us of a vital quest; goblins who worked for the evil Lord Darkness had stolen the farm's pigs and they needed to be returned. No more information was forthcoming.

Clearly this was some kind of test. We accepted the challenge, withdrew colour from the man and applied it to the tavern door instead. The door sprang open, we stepped through and were immediately stopped in our tracks by a deep cavern just beyond the door. A ghostly bridge spanned its breadth. the entire world was white, the clouds appearing as relief carvings and light shining from all directions.

We jammed the door open using two metal pitons before removing the colours once more. Bringing the bridge to life allowed us to cross unhindered and the colour flowed like water over the nearby grass and rock. I took a cutting before crossing and removing the colour once more. Everything returning to dead, hard whiteness including the blade of grass I had placed in the pocket of my jerkin.

Clearly this was a manufactured place, unfit for normal life. Each space we entered was no larger than the last and boundaries, some obvious and others not, rose all around us. Even the grass underfoot was hard and unbreakable. There was no give or flex in the pale surfaces and they were devoid of the warmth or texture of the natural world. We had to walk with care not to fall on the unyielding surface. 

The following 'rooms' passed by quickly, a quarrelsome tree, an engorged spider, a forest clearing, a dirt track and a riddle. Each space posed a constructed, artificial challenge of some kind and was bounded by a 'portal' that would transition us to the next with seemingly no time passing. This place seemed nothing more than a dark parody of life, a child's fantasy made real or possibly the demented thoughts of an uncreative story-teller. 

The final location in this place had us defeat a goblin-like creature and return a pig (inside a chest, no less) to the mysterious stranger who had been waiting at the end for us. Then it all went white again.

Sunday 26th June 1498 – Morning

We all awoke this morning having collapsed on the floor of the room as the first rays of light shone through the open curtains. The pencils had vanished but the area we had attempted to fill on the map was completed. Vannes was present in intricate detail.

The pitons used to wedge open the colourless door were missing and a hard, white blade of grass was in my pocket. The implications are astounding. Lydia suggested that the map-realm could be a place where the black sword could be left in secret and I must attempt it is an intriguing prospect.

We stocked up with fresh rations (and pitons) before starting our journey back to Vannes once more.

Sunday 26th June 1498 – Evening

We arrived back at the Bronze Shield and have decided to stay the night here instead of riding through until the morning. We are all tired and hungry after another day at the road.

We tore into our trail rations which simply didn't feel as filling as usual. The thoughts of the Hunger loom over us, although we cannot be sure whether that is because we too are being afflicted or if it is a simple trick of the mind caused by returning to this accursed place. We pray it is the latter but we will hasten our attempts to find the cause none-the-less. I dread to meet the same fate as those who died here…

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The Daemon's Curse

Friday, 17th June 1498 

Lydia and I awoke to the most horrendous of retching sounds, the noise of roiling guts and the emptying of bellies. 

At first I though that Guillaume and Shanae had over indulged in the wine last night, it was quite a celebration that we paid for, and I returned to my slumber to let my own fogged head clear. A few hours later when their symptoms had not passed it had become clear that this was not the result of mere excess. Lydia went to find Hergon, the priest, whilst I cooked up some kindness to help relieve our nausea. 

From examining the two of them it became clear that they were infected with a disease called 'Daemon Fever'! I have no doubt in my mind that it is an affliction bought on by the cursed blade that Guillaume carried and that it is a moral disease as much as a physical one. No doubt Shanae became infected due to her unwillingness to oppose the sword's release into the world.

I advocated for myself and Lydia leaving and returning to Vannes whilst they recuperate, perhaps it would give me the chance to hide away the crocodile skin book before Guillaume tries to claim that too. Guillaume urged me to stay however and he was right, we'd been through too much together for me to give up on them so easily and I have no doubt that he has saved my life on more than one occasion. I'll stay and ensure the sickness passes. Hopefully his desire to keep the blade will pass with it.

Tuesday, 21st June 1498 

After a few of days had past and our two daemon-infested companions had recovered sufficiently to be able to ride we, set out on the road back to Vannes. We Stayed at an inn named The Beekeper overnight and very pleasant it was too. They made an excellent 'steamed phoenix' stew – hot and spicy!

Wednesday 22nd June 1498 

Day was uneventful until we approached at the next inn – The Bronze Shield, set at the edge of a small village – where we could hear the ominous sound of tearing flesh emanating from the stables.

Went to investigate and there was what I could only describe as an ogre, something that I've only heard about from childhood tales, feasting on broken and crushed horses whilst others further within the stables whinnied in distress. Wild pigs shuffled around its bulk, rooting through the bloody carcasses. A lady from within the inn, which itself seemed to have been battered by the ogre's assault, cried out for us to help protect them. Only Lydia was callous enough to request payment before acting!

I lured the ogre, which called itself 'Pig Gut', away from its feast and we struck it with fire from all sides. It couldn't stand against such a ferocious barrage and it expired rapidly – the smell of cooked hair and flesh spreading in all directions. The pigs scattered. I wonder if they were connected to the tales of strange animals around Sandpoint that Shanae was telling us about?

Inside the inn were three survivors, a noblewoman and her son who had been traveling from Wren to Nancy, and the cook named Gustan who busily set about butchering the dead horses. None seemed overly concerned about the fate of the others in the village so we took it upon ourselves to see if we could find any survivors.

The village itself had been decimated. Corpses lay everywhere and we were able to find but a single living soul – a man named Cezig – who was stuck under a fallen beam in his house. We administered some magical healing and took him back to the safety of the inn. 

All the survivors were evasive when questioned about what happened and seemed to be hiding something. It took reminding them of their loss for them to show any emotion at all, although this could be attributable to shock. They all seemed fixated on the horsemeat roast that the cook was preparing as they claim to have been trapped within the building all day for fear of the ogre's assault and their stores were bare of food.

The rooms of the inn were full of belongings but not a sign of their owners.

We retired to the largest room to rest whilst the survivors feasted on the half-cooked meat. We set up watches over our horses, wary that they may be seen as a possible meal also.

Thursday 23rd June 1498 – Night

Early in the morning it was myself and Guillaume that took the final shift, relieving Shanae and Corbin. As we left the inn we came across the noblewoman and cook, tearing flesh from the bones of the dead horses with hands, teeth and knives. Their features looked feral in the half-light. Shanae told us that she had noticed the woman ravenously eating from a chunk of raw flesh when she started her shift hours earlier, but decided it wasn't worth mentioning to us before. The druid is delusional!

This had gone too far. I took a ladle from the kitchens and struck the woman across the head, killer her instantly. Poetic that she would be unmade by a symbol of her affliction. The man's belly exploded in a shower of gore as he was struck by a flaming missile launched by Shanae. 

We found the boy was in his room with his throat slit and of Cezig there was no sign. We slept uneasily until the morning.

Thursday 23rd June 1498 – Morning

We buried the boy and spent the day gathering and burning the bodies of the villagers, dead horses and the ogre. All the houses were bereft of anything edible so Shanae secured enough food to see us through the day, although she had to range much farther than usual as even nearby fruit trees and berry bushes had been scoured clean.

We rested up in the inn overnight. Fortunately there were no travelers on the road today.

Friday 24th June 1498 

We leave this accursed with a growing sense of discomfort at all the questions that have been raised over the last few days. The mad goblins in their caves, the wild animals ravaging the land around Sandpoint and now this ogre and the villagers. Could it all be connected?

We plan to take the three surviving horses with us and we'll leave a note at the inn explaining what had happened here, but I'm not exactly sure what to write… Hopefully Guillaume will know what best to do.

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The Weeping God

Wednesday, 15th June 1498 – Night

The first chamber we encounter when we proceeded deeper into the caverns turned out to be a trap. Water flooded the caves and Zamas was drowned by sinuous, thirsting leeches. An unfortunate end for our new companion but we were able to entomb his lifeless body in one of the sarcophagi that had been broken open. At least he may have some rest here.

We seemed to not be the only ones who were lost in the maze however as a druid named Shanae arrived to assists us against the leeches. She seems far from home and the implication of her arrival is staggering. This infernal maze must stretch for miles in all directions, or else all space is meaningless to it. 

Continuing onwards, we found a mercenary named Leera who had fallen foul of one of the malicious traps in this place and had been left for dead. I advised caution, as she was clearly one of Xeron's flunkies, but Guillaume was down that pit like a shot to pour one of our precious potions down her throat. One might think he had taken a liking to he looks! We convinced her that we were working with Xeron, using a contract taken from the earlier encountered goblins, and that she was best of staying with us as the way back would be treacherous.  She didn't much seem to care for Xeron so we planned to have her assist us in dispatching him. In return she would gain a measure of payment and revenge for her fallen friend who had not been so lucky!

It seemed that Xeron's group were taking casualties too, and at a rapid pace. Every room we pass through seems to have more horrors to fight through as well as a number of corpses of the large goblin creatures. It definitely seemed like they were rushing through without care for their own. Construct creatures with wicked blades and broods of spiders fell to our swords and magic however as we methodically wound our way through the tombs. Even the Fey who dwelled here chose not to trouble us.

Leera's company proved helpful however. Her knowledge of the history of this place, and her skills in dungeoneering are clearly the reason she was hired and we were able to use her presence to convince more of the goblins to let us pass. Enough confidence and bluster will get you anywhere!

At last we arrived at the final rooms of the complex. Magical, moving pictures depicted key points in the life and death of Hasdrubal. For the first time we seem him as he would have looked when alive – an imposing figure with blonde hair and brandishing a mighty black sword. He is joined in the images by his presumed wife – a sorceress queen with flame-red hair wielding the power of lightning. They are joined by a character we have dubbed the Betrayer – a raven-haired general with two curved swords. We see them defeat some evil beast with great eyes and mouth before the Betrayer cuts Hasdrubal down as the Queen lies mortally wounded. 

Unfortunately, the Betrayer was still inhabiting this place. We found a black-haired man sitting on a golden throne not long after and we tried to reason with him, to learn from him. What Guillaume said must have angered however as he leapt to attack! The glamor faded from his form and revealed the truth – a broken, corpse of a man on a stone throne and a crown of rust. He dealt a vicious blow to Lydia, who barely survived and near pinned me into a corner! It is only by the narrowest of margins, and with the help of the others that we were able to defeat him. Guillaume and Lydia took his swords and goods as recompense, although I cautioned against this action.

Finally we came to Xeron himself. With only a single follower remaining, the rest sacrificed to make it this far, he was in the tomb of Hasdrubal, the Queen and their faithful retainers (an elven lady with a green cloak and ivory bow and another tall human with black hair and a salt-and-pepper beard). We backed them into a corner where Xeron revealed his true form as some scaled creature whilst Lydia sowed confusion with her magics until Xeron was left begging for his life. His lies found no purchase in our ears however and Lydia and Leera disabled him using their sorcery before Guillaume ended the fiend.

A tunnel extended further down, although to an unknown destination, but we were too exhausted to continue. We chose to spend the night in this space to regain our strength.

Thursday, 16th June 1498 – Morning

We attempted to make good on our promise to the water guardian, but Guillaume insisted on taking Hasdrubal's black sword from the tomb rather than return it to its rightful place, despite my protests. I warned him that it will be his responsibility if it comes to answering to the guardian.

We returned back through the caverns without incident, making notes about the structure of this place as we went. In particular we found a recurring motif of a Sword, Scroll and Passage. 

The presumption is that the Sword is the black blade we now had with us and that the Scroll may be the original of the text we now have inscribed in the crocodile-skin book, but the Passage eludes us. 

As we came to finally exit and return to Kingsholme, things took a turn for the worse.

The water guardian was not pleased with an artifact such as the sword being taken from the tombs, and it was contradictory to our agreement, but Guillaume was convinced that it was not safe here. Much discussion was had, but eventually Guillaume decided that a test of might would be the only fair way to determine where it would be best kept. It was certainly an epic combat and Guillaume emerged victorious, although seeming quite drained from the ordeal.

Then the black sword which he was using came to life. It whispered evil things to him, was covered in flame and refused to be sheathed. It called itself the the Weeping God and bade Guillaume to slay more people on the surface. I have never seen such power! Clearly this is an evil thing that should never have been unleashed. After several minutes its power disspiates and it returns to its original, unsuspecting form. 

We should have left it back in the tomb, beyond the maze, but Guillaume was like a man possessed. He would not be reasoned with and I fear he'd have struck me down like he did the elemental had I insisted. Lydia clutched her ill-gotten coins tightly and I fear they've both been corrupted by the lure of money and power. Have they so easily forgotten our noble purpose?

We sit back at Kingsholme now, but there is a great unease. The weight of what we've seen and what Guillaume carries hangs over us and I fear it will tear us apart. The power of such a blade is too much for any man to handle and will be coveted by all who seek power – and I doubt many seek power than the royalty of this land or their night orders. They should not be trusted. The sword should have remained forgotten…

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Making Friends

Wednesday, 15th June 1498 – Evening

We couldn't tarry long in Kingsholme for fear that by the time we returned to the tombs the perpetrators will have made their escape already. Whilst we no-doubt inconvenienced them, they seem well prepared and we had no doubt that they could escape if they put their minds to it.

As we were about to leave, laden with fresh supplies graciously given to us by the locals, a suspicious (he didn't have a hat!) Gnome named Zamas called for our attention. He explained that he'd followed us from the Acadamie in search of 'adventure' and to practice his crafts. We decided to take up his offer of joining us as more swords are always welcome but warned up that this was not a jolly expedition and we could not guarantee his safety. How prophetic our words were to be…

Upon returning to the tombs we quickly lowered the rope ladders again and descended into a vast chamber with pillars acting as a series of platforms to the far end. We crossed without much incident – except for one fleshy creature that tried to attack us but was swatted out of the air by Lydia's magics. The rough, unworked walls in the chamber suggest that the decent we made was to another, possibly older, part of the tomb complex.  Does this place have no end?

Beyond that cavern was possibly the greatest surprise we could have imagined. A grand room with a table, chairs and place settings all ornately carved out of obsidian! There were three exits, one of which was fiendishly trapped. Some careful searching revealed boot-prints and scuff-marks near one of the exits so we proceeded in that direction. 

From here, every room became stranger and stranger and it was soon clear that we were trapped in a labyrinth of some kind. The entire area was cloaked in powerful, impenetrable magic and there was nothing for us to do but proceed onwards in the hopes that we'd stumble upon the exit before the creatures inhabiting this place wore us down. 

After some time we were greeted by a creature that claimed to be a Hound Archon which lead us to the exit. It mentioned something about us being watched and to "look at the shields" but was evasive when asked about who had sent it or why.

I have no reason to believe that it was anything but another illusion created by the maze…. 

Still, the area it lead us to seemed safe enough and we are taking the opportunity to rest before venturing onwards. I have a feeling that things will not be getting easier.

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The Plot Thickens

Wednesday, 15th June 1498 – Afternoon

Well, we survived the night. Good thing too as I dosed off during my shift and would have had a lot of explaining to do in the afterlife!

I took the opportunity to climb back out of the tomb to take stock of our surroundings and to get our bearings. The statue that was standing solemnly at the top was none other than Hasdrubal himself – the four-pointed crown giving him away! I took a look around the abandoned campsite too, but there wasn't much to see.

Just as I was heading back though I was ambushed by a snake of leviathan proportions! It almost managed to loop a coil around me before I slipped free and made it back down the tunnel! We went back up to look for it, but there wasn't so much as a trace of it, magical or mundane. We warned Tyrer that it was too dangerous to leave now and that she should stay with us.

Exploring on, we came across a continuation of the river that Guillaume fell into before, this time inhabited by an elemental of water. It seems it was a guardian of this place and had dispatched two goblins, who were carrying a number of the strange coins we found before. We agreed to help clear the tomb of intruders in exchange for safe passage. Guillaume certainly has a silver tongue or maybe the elemental could sense his noble blood and deemed him trustworthy?

Further on we encountered more of the animated dead, but made quick work of them. These slow, ungainly creatures are easily dismantled and have a rather bad reaction to my alchemical compounds. We trapped their Wererat accomplice in an antechamber but let him take his chances with the water elemental in exchange for information. We now knew that we were dealing with a foe named 'Xuron', believed to be a powerful necromancer.

I do hope the rat made it out, we've all made foolish decisions for money but such follies are` rarely worth someone's life.

The room we'd fought in contained a number of sarcophagi, clearly in the middle of being broken up and looted, but we left everything as-is. Our agreement with the elemental forbade us from taking anything from the tombs, not that grave robbing was an appealing thought anyway.

Journeying on it became clear that whoever had broken in was intending to strip the tombs and resurrect the dead as guards whilst they work. We came across a hobgoblin further in the tunnels, protected by a further four animated skeletons, but put him to the sword at Tyrer's request when he refused to answer our questions. The grave-goods he was carrying will be returned to the rightful places once all this is over. 

The journey onwards looked to be more hazardous yet. A rope ladder leading from the hobgoblin's room down another fifty feet into darkness appeared to be the way to proceed, but low on food and supplies we were in no position to continue. Tyrer was looking exhausted too, poor girl, and we had no intention of subjecting her to yet more trauma.

So we pulled up the rope ladder leading downwards and left the tomb, sabotaging the bridge leading back and pulling up the ladder to the surface too. The hope was that this would inconvenience anyone trying to leave for long enough to allow us time to return.

So now we sit back in at the inn at Kingsholme, taking a drink of beer and some food before heading back out. Tyrer's been reunited with her steward and will hopefully be able to put all this behind her for now.

We can't do the same though, very soon it'll be time to head back and find out what other horrors await us in Hasdrubal's tomb.

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The Littlest Tomb of Horrors

Tuesday, 14th June 1498 – Late Evening

Okay, "another half hour" was a probably optimistic estimate of how little time we'd be staying in this hellhole…

After a bit of bickering we finally convinced Guillaume to see sense and and agree to take Tyrer Yurling with us. Understandably she wasn't happy with this but she'll thank and forgive us when she gets to grow old because she isn't dead. This also lets us keep an eye on her because, frankly, anyone that needs to be locked away so securely must present some kind of danger.

We sealed up the remaining bodies in the alcove that we found Tyrer in, just in case any of them decided to go for a posthumous jaunt, and explored further into the mausoleum. The first place to look was behind an ornately carved door, just past the stupid-wasp-room, which had an image of a beholder on it and a number of symbols around the outside. The room itself had a central 'eye' and three antechambers which shared these same symbols.

Whilst Lydia and Guillaume picked the pockets of an unusually large and ugly looking goblin I rearranged the symbols in the room to match those on the door and found a hidden ladder leading below! So much for getting out of here quickly. At the bottom of the ladder we were ambushed by a skeletal wolf and four skeleton guards. The latter weren't much of a problem though as Lydia greased up the stairs we were standing at the top of and we just knocked them back down as they tried to stagger up towards us.

This all raises more questions though. Why are there four, armed skeletons (and a wolf) just waiting around guarding this place, because it doesn't seem to be something the Yurlings would do. No, there's definitely something darker, or at least much older, at work here. Tyrer tried to run off at one point, but fortunately Lydia's crow – Corbin – was watching her and raised the alarm. She's the reason we're down here and there's no way we can let her get herself into trouble.

Beyond the skeletons was another door leading to a rickety looking bridge spanning a largely unworked corridor. Guillaume gallantly charged across the bridge and then gallantly fell into the chest deep murk below when the bridge inevitably collapsed. Frankly, I wasn't in a position to drop down and fish him out so it's a good thing that he gallantly diced up some amorphous creature that was stuck down there with him too. After effecting some makeshift repairs on the bridge, we were able to cross.

The room at the end contained two doorways, the left one leading to a vicious and well concealed trap that I was fortunately able to disable but only at detriment to myself. Inside was a bizarre creature, which we have dubbed the 'bird-eater' that almost consumed Corbin before it was put down by a series of magical and mundane bolts from Lydia. A rope ladder in the room lead almost sixty feet straight upwards with a strange looking statue and the remnants of a campsite outside.

The room behind the door on the right housed three more of the oversized goblin creatures. One was clearly undead and shrugged off our blows but two others were still quick and all the more dangerous for that fact! We were pushed back into the doorway, wounded and staggered when Lydia decided to unleash her magics, stunning Guillaume and both the living goblins. I beat one to death with a chamber pot and Guillaume ended the other with his dagger once he recovered.

Could it have been these creatures that had made camp above and dug a hole for the rope ladder? Why were they guarded by their undead companion? Was the bird-eater working with them? There are too many questions and too much uncertainty….

So now we wait here, tired and hungry. The goblins had straw piles to sleep on which make passable beds for those weary enough, so we secured the room and ate what little was left of our rations before collapsing. If anything comes in the night I'm not convinced that we'd be able to hold it off, may the Gods watch over us.

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