The Thin Man

Epilogue

The storm dies. The hunger fades.

In the hours and days immediately following the defeat of the being known as The Thin Man, Sandpoint dug quiet graves and mourned in private.

The heroes of Sandpoint assisted as and when they could.

Later they were honoured, both by Sandpoint and the city of Vanne, with the freedoms of both cities.

The Order of the Ermine, forewarned by the Heroes of Sandpoint raised funds and managed emergency food shipments throughout the region, assisting with rebuilding and restoring order. As a result, it's profile was much raised among commoner and noble and its decline reversed.

Vanne burned to the ground during the chaos of the final night of The Hunger's influence and is slowly rebuilt.

Carnac, dour as always, endures. The castle is quickly looted by treasure hunters and souvenir seekers. No further hauntings are reported.

The Brehan family fortunes experience a minor upswing as the treasures of Arzurs tower are reinvested. Good harvests and the rumoured link to the Heroes of Sandpoint lead to popular opinion asserting that the "curse" – if there ever was one – has been lifted. Gulwena marries well and bears three children.

The Bronze shield burns down mysteriously and is not rebuilt.

Grik

Grik received offers of work with Ratfolk clans throughout Europe and the Middle East, along with the accompanying offers of marriage.

His journals, preserved by his family eventually became the classic set of diaries for the period.

Guillaume

One doesn't usually have to save the world to gain admittance to the Order of the Ermine. It is, however, judged sufficient once the necessary letters of recommendation and witness are received. A somewhat lavish knighting ceremony is held in Vanne.

Angry letters arrive from both sides of the family, enquiring as to why various artaefacts from the Monach estate have wound up in a wing of the Accademie in Vanne. Legal wrangling ensues and it is decided that this is indeed the safest place for them, and they are put on long term loan.

Shanae

On return to the Sandpoint woods, Shanae finds that the "dark energies" have receded and is instrumental in healing the environs.

Lydia

Lydia is awarded a posthumous degree by the Accademie.

The new cathedral is christened the Cathedral of Lydia the Saviour and building resumes.

Next years Swallowtail festival has taken on even more importance, if that was possible, as a vital symbol of rebirth and healing, and Sandpoint looks forward to it with renewed hope as it attempts to forgive and forget the horrors of the last night of the Thin Man.

 

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The End

Sunday 9th July 1498 – Afternoon

We rode hard for Trinité-sur-Mer hoping to catch a ferry along the coast to Sandpoint. Unfortunately a storm was brewing by the time we arrived and it was only a large purse of gold and jewels that convinced the ferryman to take us across. It could not fit all of us at once, so we left Pierre and two of the horses behind.

Once on the far coast we rode hard for Sandpoint. We were briefly impeded by an elf named Roberto, a druid that we had befriended at Sandpoint many weeks ago, who was trying to stop us from proceeding. He mumbled something about eternal devourment or some nonsense but Guillaume was having none of it and ran him through with his lance with a single pass. As the body of the elf slid off and onto the ground, the three wolves that were accompanying him turned and fled into the rain. We continued towards the town.

We came to the Cathedral on the outskirts first of all and were greeted by Jean-Luc and Eric, two of the local folk who pleaded with us to give them food – I gave them what rations we could spare. We asked them about the Thin Man and they claim to have looked into his eyes as he passed by and as they did a maddening hunger coursed through their bodies. When pressed for information on where the man had been seen going they claimed he was making his way out to Chopper Isle.

We skirted around the outside of the town, deciding that the safety of doing so would be worth the additional time it might take and despite wanting to check in to ensure Kendra, Moella and Father Francois were alright and arrived at the coast without incident. 

Fortunately the tide was out and we were able to cross the sandbar connecting Sandpoint to Chopper Isle, although I was near swept out to sea by the now crashing waves and driving rain. A potion of levitation, long kept for a grievous occasion, allowed me to make it back to shore and to help the others climb the sheer cliff face of the Island. When we all reached the plateau we could see Famine in the distance by a cluster of hovels, but he seemed distracted and paid us no mind.

Two young children ran to us from the brush. We eyed them suspiciously, but they seemed genuinely frightened having just come up here in the hopes of finding something edible to scavenge. We gave them a little food, as most of our supplies had to be left with the horses at the base of the cliff and told them both to stay back and hide.

Approaching Famine, his gaze now rose to meet us. We questioned his motives as a cover for slowly advancing upon him – I would ask him some nonsense and he would reply with apocalyptic tripe. We cared not for his words though, only in buying ourselves time and in closing the gap between us.

His pride and confidence allowed us to get into near striking distance before he revealed his true form, a great tentacled horror with too many limbs and a tall, arching body. Guillaume stepped in to attack with his greatsword, slashing at the deamon's limbs as Shanae and Lydia slung magical bolts of fire and acid at the beast. I crept round behind it, anointing my hands with magical oils before leaping into attack the distracted creature. My claws tore through it's flesh as if it were damp paper and we thought we might have an easy victory.

Then everything turned black and I was falling.

I awoke on an island, barely fourty feet across and surrounded by a roiling nothingness. I tried to look up, a sickening feeling filling my gut as I raised my head and saw the most horrible being I had ever lain eyes upon. It was a mass of writhing tentacles filling the sky to the horizons, gibbering, toothed maws erupted from every surface and the mass undulated in a way that no living thing should. The only gap in its vast expanse was a patch of blue sky in the distance. I averted my eyes again. 

I sat for what felt like many hours. There was nobody else around and no sound to be heard other than what seemed like the distant crashing of waves upon a shore. There was a haze upon my thoughts. Things that had happened only recently felt distant and those I was close to felt almost unbearably far way. Was this what death felt like?

The only feature on this small shard of land was a stout, wooden chest at the far end. Within that another and another and then finally one more each smaller than the one before. I carefully opened each in turn setting them aside and within the smallest was the map. Our map. The dimensions and places within it were subtly wrong however and rather than the pencils with which we were accustomed it was accompanied by a razor sharp quill. I tried scrawling on the map and blood flowed from the nib.

I was transported to the map realm where a mysterious stranger stood in front of me, inert and holding a chalice in his hand. I could not bring him to life with the quill however as it held no power here. Instead I pricked the end of my finger and dropped blood into the chalice. The man came to life, looked down and smiled at me.

Suddenly I was elsewhere again. At home? Not my home or any that I remember but maybe a place that embodied what home was meant to be. Peaceful. Calm. An old lady, not someone I knew, but still somehow familiar sat baking biscuits. The warmth and smells spread throughout the kitchen. I took a seat by the fireplace and I suddenly knew where I was and who was sitting with me. 

Grandma handed me a freshly-cooked biscuit and sat with me, patiently answering my questions. I gnawed thoughtfully as she expressed disappointment that I had died for a second time in only as many weeks. Did I want to go back, she asked.

Of course! I had to save the world! But what from? My memory was still feeling hazy as if a part of myself was missing. I had to save my friends, but who exactly were they? There were three of them? Five? Four? So many had come and gone and the world seemed so far away and such a difficult place, but here there was biscuits and warmth and a family to be reunited with.

My memory began to clear as I regaled Grandma with the story of our journey since she claimed we had last met. I told her that I'd like to go back one last time if that was okay with her. She nodded and smiled. I can hear her words even now. "Hold onto an aspect of yourself. Save the world."

I was back on the island, but now I could see other lands in the distance. Guillaume, Shanae and Lydia stood together on a distant shore smiling and waving me over. I gingerly lowered myself off of my island and into the roiling waves of magic below me. Pushing off, the currents transported me back to my friends.

As we all embraced we reminisced about our journey and the experience we had each been through. The fog of our memories began to clear. We talked, we laughed and we shouted the names of those we had loved and lost into the void. The island rose towards the patch of reality in the sky and we were suddenly back on Chopper Isle.

Famine was not pleased to see us and we began our assault anew!

Shanae called down a storm of rock and rubble upon the fell creature as Guillaume and I leapt in to fight it. Lydia circled the combat, conjuring a great ball of fire upon the beast before pulling out the translation of the scroll and beginning to chant the binding incantation.

The earth behind the creature split with gaping mouths from which horrors forced their way into this world. The little creatures were easily dispatched with blade and claw but Famine's hide seemed near impervious to our blows.

Sensing Lydia as the greatest threat to its existence the being chases after her. She tries to run, hiding behind Guillaume, but Famine was unrelenting, swiping at her again and again with its limbs. She fell mid-chant. I rushed over to her, uncorking what little healing liquid I had left and held it up to her lips. The magic closed up her wounds enough to bring her to consciousness as Guillaume stood between us and Famine, his armour being rent apart and his Greatsword lodged in the thing's body. He drew the Black Sword to continue pressing the attack.

Lydia's eyes widened on seeing Hasdrubal's blade and she begged Guillaume to use her life to empower the weapon as she would not be able to finish the ritual. She coughed up a great chunk of blood and staggered to her feet, leaning against me for support.

Guillaume was horrified. Ignoring her pleas he continued to hack at Famine, spurts of blood and ichor flying from where he struck. Famine did not seem concerned, seeming to not even feel the impact of his strikes. As Guillaume swiped with a mighty blow from the Black Sword, Lydia stood up and calmly stepped into the path of the blade.

It struck Lydia in her midsection, killing her almost instantly.

The sword burst into life, flame erupting from the blade and a booming voice of the entity within emanated from the blade.  Realisation gripped Guillaume. He held the sword high above his head and with a single swing clove Famine from neck to groin. The creature fell and the storm began to clear.

It was done.

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The Council of Carnac

Sunday 9th July 1498 – Morning

We rose early in the morning and after making our observances, for we all believed we would be in need of divine protection, we set off for Carnac castle.

As we approached the old bailey we came across a drunkard naming himself Ol' Tom. He claimed that he had seen a black dragon come and go from the ruins of the castle. The other townsfolk had dismissed his sightings as those of someone who had too many cups, but to us it was certainly a warning to be taken seriously.

We crossed the tumbledown remnants of the old outer wall, leaving Pierre at the far side with the horses, and trekked through the remnants of the old town. The buildings here seemed to have been disused for many years and were largely overgrown, the townsfolk being too afraid of the castle's reputation to even scavenge the old houses for building materials.

The old town was now completely devoid of life and sound. The absolute silence of the place caused every twig we snapped underfoot to sound like a crack of thunder.

Maybe half way through the town the air suddenly started to chill, Lydia, Shanae and I jumped back fearing magical assault but Guillaume kept going, his armour proofing him against the cold. 

He seemed to look around himself in bewilderment, occasionally reaching out to try and touch something that the rest of us could not see. Later he would tell us that he had experienced a vision, the first of many in this place, showing the old castle intact and being stormed by the Knights of Aroden. After the vision passed the chill faded from the air and we proceeded to the castle proper.

Upon reaching the castle the drawbridge was down and the portcullis was up. Whether this was a stroke of good fortune or an ominous sign we were not sure. Lydia identified a ring of standing stones around the perimeter which she believed would have held the magic which contained the evil within.

As I crossed the boundary of the portcullis to ensure the way was safe, I encountered a vision myself. It was of a knight of Aroden entering under the portcullis as an unarmoured man leaps at him, biting him on his cheek. They fall together to the ground as the vision ended.

We explored the castle, looking for any clues that might help us. The courtyard and the rooms were in a state of complete disrepair. The wooden structures in the yard and the tapestries on the walls all rotten. The skeletal remains of nobles, peasants and knights alike were found throughout and I took the precaution of separating their heads from their bodies. We had dealt with enough of the walking dead to know that we would rather not take the risk of facing more!

Further visions manifested as our search continued:

In the courtyard we were shown two wizards arguing. The smaller man appeared angry or concerned and the larger was carrying what we believed to be Hasdrubal's scroll.

In the stables two men and a stable boy exchange ravenous looks. One man kills the other and the survivors feast on the corpse.

In the upper chambers the larger wizard sneered down towards the courtyard, slammed the outer door and left.

In the temple a lady sat praying with a young child as a priest stood watching. When the same scream is heard the priest's eyes turn wide with hunger. He suggests they eat the child, the most defenseless amongst them, but the mother recoils in horror. The child bit into the mother's arm, tearing a chunk of flesh as the vision ended.

In the throne room many richly robed men sat next to an empty throne. There was a great, blood curdling scream and the assembled guests devoured the food ahead of them and then turned on each other.

As this vision faded we were interrupted by the booming sound of dozens of voices clamouring as one. It said "Thank you heroes, I'd never have found the final lock without you. Soon the great hunger will be bought forth into this world" The phrase was punctuated by a now all too familiar sound of the chattering of teeth and as we rushed to the windows  we could see our quarry – the being we'd come to know as the Thin Man. 

Lydia reacted the most quickly out of all of us, sending a bolt of magical energy arcing towards the being, striking him in the back as he turned to escape. I jumped from the windows to give chase but regretfully I could not catch him. Guillaume and Shanae followed, albeit less gracefully! We reached the drawbridge as a great field of force appeared ahead of us. The damned thing had raised the magical barriers against us! We pounded impotently on the magical barrier as it gloated at us, screaming that it would travel to where all of this began before ending the world. It escaped into the distance.

We turned back into the courtyard and another vision coalesced. Spectral knights battled with the un-armoured forms of the castle inhabitants. The Paladins seemed to be winning until a giant humanoid form appeared in the scene, crashing into their armoured bodies. It picked up one of the followers of Aroden and tore him apart. Rather than fading the scene began again, playing over and over.

Guillaume attempted to intervene in the battle but his wild swings passed harmlessly thorough the ethereal forms of the combatants. I circled around the extent of the outer walls to see if I could find a breech in the shield keeping us trapped, but to no avail.

With no way of exiting the castle, we proceeded to the guest rooms, the last un-searched part. Pushing open the badly sagging door to one of the rooms we see the ghostly form of the man we believed to be Arzhur de Brehan - the larger wizard from the earlier scenes. 

Another vision began. Arzhur paced angrily around the room, the scroll of Hasdrubal on his desk. He sits and writes notes in the crocodile skin book. He attempts to cast a spell but curses as it fails. Sudden a rift appears in the scroll and the creature from the courtyard tears its way out of the parchment. Long limbs rip at the terrified wizard and he was consumed. The creature bursts out of the room and into the courtyard.

Arzhur's shade however remained. We tried to talk to him but he seemed only half aware of us. We tried to impart the significance of our journey to the castle and how important the book was to the survival to all around us, including his own family. He came to his senses lodemonicng enough to hand us a copy of the spectral book he was working on before finally departing to the next life.

In the courtyard the same scene was still playing over and over. As we walked back through the midst of the battle, one of the Paladins took the spectral book from us. They began to chant the ritual of binding, trapping the deamonic beast once more. As the scene turned quiet the barrier to the castle fell. The divine warriors of Aroden proved that Famine could be defeated before and now it fell to us to defeat it once more.

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A trail of breadcrumbs

Tuesday 4th July 1498 – Evening

Fortified by a veritable feast of rations, we descended into the tunnels that we suspected the troglodytes had swarmed out from. The passages twisted and turned but Shanae lead us straight and true as she followed the creature's tracks by torchlight. 

As we were starting to wonder whether we might actually be lost or not we stumbled upon a troglodyte. I'm not sure who was more surprised! It tried to fleet but I concocted a particularly powerful bomb that shredded the hapless creature with shards of glass and tongues of fire.  Fortunately this meant that it couldn't call for help, unfortunately the noise of the blast probably meant that it wouldn't need to…

We traveled on more warily now, next coming upon a heathen temple. It was arranged with a gruesome caricature of a head at one end, a lit brazier on either side, straw around the edges of the room and the floor speckled with blood. We thoroughly investigated the profane shrine and I came across a sickle – clearly a ritual weapon of some kind.

What happened next though shames me to no end. Whilst trying to investigate the head for any hidden compartments or clues I must have touched something that had a strange effect on me – we think it may have been the blood caked upon it. 

I was filled with a seething range for my companions, their good-natured jibes suddenly seeming like deathly insults and their eyes felt full of judgment and contempt. In a fit of rage I sank the sickle into the back of Lydia's leg. As she fell screaming I lunged at Guillaume but, fortunately, in my maddened state I did not have the presence of mind to find a chink his armour. As he tried to restrain me, Lydia cast a spell that knocked me out. By the time I came too I was pinned to the ground. 

I apologies profusely to both Lydia and Guillaume, the shame gnawing away at me, but I'm not sure they forgive me – especially Lydia who's injury is quite grave! As I write this, I don't think even Hasdrubal's mirror could buoy my sunken spirits. I was also wracked by hallucinations – the feel of breath on my nape and chattering teeth in my ears.  I will make sure to pray tonight.

After they had seen that I was back to good sense again, I pushed through the darkness to scout the end of the tunnels. It all seemed to open out into a massive, open cave and a troglodyte settlement. This was not a fight we wanted to engage in, especially given the wounds we had suffered until now, so we retreated back through the tunnels. We set the shrine alight as we left in an act of defiance.

Back in the lower chambers  of the tunnel we slept the night in case the filthy reptilian beasts came to seek vengeance, but none did and in the morning we would set off back to Brehan.

Wednesday 5th July 1498

We said our goodbyes to the Earl of Brehan, handing over what we had managed to salvage from the lower levels of the tower and started the journey to Carnac as it was our only lead.

Woke in the night with pangs of hunger. Went to help myself to a share of rations but found Pierre already taking from them and eating his fill, ashamed but unable to help himself. We sat and ate in silence before going back to sleep full but still unsatisified.

Thursday 6th July 1498

The day passed slowly. I still don't think Lydia has forgiven me for what had happened yesterday, but I hope she does as I certainly cannot forgive myself. I can barely even bring myself to meet her gaze and I spend most of the journey with eyes fixed to the ground.

Delicious pheasant stew to be had at the Cross and Barrel inn.

Friday 7th July 1498

We passed a village today that had clearly been claimed by the Famine. A member of the townsfolk sat on the steps of his home chewing on leather, belly distended like the most corpulent man you have seen and eyeing us with suspicion.

We weren't intending to stop and as the noise of our horses drew more people from their homes we sped off on our horses. Glancing back the crowd of people stopped chasing us and turned on each other instead. I didn't look back again. 

Saturday 8th July 1498

We arrived in Carnac today. A port town with a crumbing palisade, it has the walled Institute at one end and the abandoned, circular castle at the other.

The town is a gloomy place at the best of times, and being overcast didn't help. We made our way swiftly to an inn for some much needed food. As we stepped into the Drunken Skeleton inn it was clear that outsiders were not welcome here. The owner, Ol' Bill, and I were on fair terms, so we were served without much grumbling but we decided to overnight elsewhere, settling on the Fisherman's Arms instead.

News from the other assembled travelers reveals how bad things have been getting. The famine has spread far and wide, the Order of the Ermin is truing to help those in need but it is not enough. There are doomsayers on the street, fight and looting, and shortages of food in all places. Society itself is breaking down as noblemen and women are fortifying their homes and hoarding what food they can from the clamoring hordes of their countrymen.  The feeling is that this is somehow Carnac's fault. Everything else is blamed on this place, so why not?

We are told that the castle has been abandoned for many centuries, although the protective wards around it have waned in recent times. It seems to be our most likely source of information so we will set out in the morning.

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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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