:: Dungeons & Dragons - The Threshold Party - Thyatis to Redstone ::

The Perdissium Papers - Volume XXII


From Thyatis to Redstone

XX Thaumont 1007
Glantrian Embassy, Thyatis City

We are assembled; a crack team of Wizards, some with experience of urban warfare in Sundsvall, others fresh from the Great School eager to test their arcane might. I am excited by the prospect of working with such a group.

Palmir Orbach and Komughan Krinigar I already know from Sundsvall. Palmir is quiet and thoughtful, not prone to showy magic or unnecessary displays. I think we’ll get along well. Komughan is the same grim man I met in Haven. I’m glad he has agreed to join this venture, though – his experience will be invaluable, and perhaps directly intervening against the Alphatian military will help slake his thirst for vengeance.

Komughan has brought his loyal servant Hagat Ramjin. The man is a powerful warrior, though he says little to anyone but Komughan. Still, even with all the magical might we have at our disposal his skill with a blade will be a welcome addition to our little group.

Lazar Tosk I know but vaguely. He sat at the back of my Quick Casting classes and talked loudly throughout most of the lessons, mostly making snide comments about provincials. I can only imagine how he feels about me, but assuming he passed the class he is at least possessed of some useful skills.

Vreena Duntelstein and Carmella di Nafasta are complete strangers to me. I’ve not had a chance to talk to Vreena yet but she seems quiet and reserved. Carmella is from Belcadiz, and seems to have something of a hungry look about her. One to watch, I think.

Demetrion has arranged a fast ship to carry us to the Isle of Dawn. We board on the morrow.

XX Thaumont 1007
The Sea Snake, Upon Vanya’s Girdle

I must say how much I’m enjoying travelling in the company of other mages. I’d forgotten how pleasant it is to be able to bandy ideas around and trade stories of spell research gone hilariously awry. The others were at first distant, probably wondering if the Karameikan who had gathered them together was really in it for the same reasons as them, but Komughan made a good show of including me in discussions, and indeed both he and Palmir seemed to defer to me when it came to discussing the finer points of our mission.

XX Thaumont 1007
The Sea Snake, Upon The Sea of Dawn

The sea stretches off in every direction. I cannot help but be reminded of the last time I sailed upon the Sea of Dawn. Fortunately we have not encountered any shipwrecked Ylari or longships stocked with undead servant of Hel. Yet.

The voyage is a pleasant enough affair. We talk over politics and magical theory, trade stories and tales of our exploits. Komughan and Palmir have much to say on their time in Sundsvall, and the others seem in awe of the two “urban warriors”. That’s not to say my own stories don’t go down well.

I also have plenty of time to catch up on my reading. I completed "Concerning Tabi" today, and was interested to read of the advantages of binding such a creature to oneself. Having seen it in action I'm beginning to contemplate the process. Having said that, the stench such creatures generate might seriously harm my social standing. I'll think on this.

I managed to convince Komughan to demonstrated his acid spell – it appeared potent but I wasn’t sure how much more effective than a Magic Missile it truly was. I look forward to seeing him try it out in combat.

XX Thaumont 1007
Island of Westhold

We arrived today at the Island of Westhold, after many days travel on the ship. I was, frankly, glad to be able to put my feet on solid ground, even if it was a windswept landmass with more sheep than humans. We were greeted on arrival by XXXX, a priest of Protius, though he called his immortal patron by another name - XXXXX. Regardless, the man welcomed us to the island and informed us that the only way to complete our approach to mainland Dawn would be via one of the fishing boats the islanders used.

Things are never that simple, however, and the priest asked that in return for one of his people risking their lives to ferry us there (the weather being unfavourable) he wished us to rid the island of some Ylari bandits who had been shipwrecked there several months beforehand and who had set themselves up in some caves a distance from the Westhold Town. Apparently the Ylari were led by a brigand who saw no problem with taking what he wanted from the islanders, which included frequent use of their women folk. Though it occurred to me to simply ensorcel the cleric I was touched by their plight, and agreed that my colleagues and I would assist them. I must confess I was also glad of an opportunity to gauge the combat effectiveness of my fellow wizards, so we agreed that we’d head out immediately to deal with the bandits.

Arriving at the brigands’ cave undetected, Palmir sent a wizard eye into the tunnel and reported that the Ylari were within, drinking their way through the afternoon. Remembering the animosity between Glantrians and the Ylari I sought to ensure that heads remained cool and ordered the others to hold back while I summoned a cloud of poisonous vapours and sent in into the tunnels. For good measure I then established a field of confusion within the shallow caves, and sat back to await the results.

Shouts came to our ears as the might of my spells wreaked havoc within the cave, and Palmir reported that most of the Ylari were simply dying from the choking vapours. Perhaps the Confusion effect was overkill… Regardless, a large, hairy brute was the only survivor of my spells, and he stumbled, coughing into the sunlight to face the arrayed Wizards. His chances were, it is fair to say, not good.

That’s not to say that our performance was flawless. Keen to assess my colleagues abilities I then sat back to watch what happened and was not entirely impressed. Yes, my friends have power, but they lack coordination. Impatiently, several of the Glantrians moved to cast spells, several of them aborting with colourful curses as Hagat stepped in with his sword drawn. The odd magic missile struck the brigand as the warrior cleaved him in two, but there followed a number of complaints as Lazar and Carmella berated the big man for stepping into fireballing range. Suffice it to say, there was plenty to talk about in the small inn afterwards, as I ran them through the finer points of working as a team. I only hope we have more chance to practice before we face a true test of our abilities.

XX Thaumont 1007
Kilpatrick's Keep, Province of Redstone

Today we were ferried across to the mainland by one of the fishermen, the journey lasting up to the setting of the sun. I was impressed by Redstone Lough – a mighty bay with sheer cliffs rising up all around and deadly fingers of rock sticking from the sea, ready to tear the hull of a boat to shreds. Combine that with choppy weather and an unfeasible amount of mist and I’m frankly amazed we made it. The fisherman put us in as far up the coast as he could manage, near a fortress he called Kilpatrick’s Keep. We could see the keep’s watch fire burning high up the cliff, but our stealthy approach was threatened by the sudden appearance of a giant crab advancing on the boat. Palmir dealt with the monster quickly by disintegrating, wisely observing his preference for a quiet resolution which maintained our secrecy. Wary about sneaking past the fort, I elected to scout it out under cloak of invisibility, along with Vreena and Komughan.

The three of us flew up and observed the population of the keep. I reckoned that there must be somewhere in the region of 300 troops in the place, and was mulling over leaving the hornet’s nest undisturbed, but Komughan expressed his frank desire to annihilate all the incumbent Alphatians, and I have to say his counsel was difficult to ignore, though I was concerned about the sheer numbers that faced us.

Action won out over inaction. We came up with a quick plan of attack and moved to set it into motion. Positioning herself well away from the fort Vreena summoned a fire elemental from the watch fire which blazed atop the main keep, using it to slay the dozen or so men who were on patrol on the top of the tower before sending it rolling down the side of the keep to wreak havoc in the courtyard. I then landed atop the abandoned tower, pulled open the trapdoor, and cast a Cloudkill into the interior, shutting and barring the door before moving over to edge and looking into the courtyard. It was a humbling sight, I must say – watching mundaners trying to fight a creature against which they had no effective weaponry was almost frightening. Some of them realised the creature must be controlled by a magic user and cast around for the summoner, but against the backdrop of night Vreena was all but undetectable, even having negated her spell of invisibility.

I shook myself out of my horrified reverie and hardened my heart, telling myself that these men and women were my enemies, that every death we inflicted tonight weakened the Alphatian advance. My resolve re-established I summoned forth the mightiest of magics which I wielded, crafting an illusion of myself floating in the air over the courtyard. Magic missiles began to arc towards the elemental as it methodically reached out and caressed its latest victim, setting them instantly ablaze. I traced the magical attacks to a corp of robed troops and spoke the words to summon forth Death Fire’s Rapture amongst them, channelling the spell through my illusory counterpart and watching in satisfaction as the Alphatian magic users died by the dozen.

Arrows and spell-bolts arced towards the projected image, all of which passed harmlessly through the illusion. I methodically unleashed yet more of my spells, stunning a mass of the Alphatians with a spell from their own land, bursting another fireball amongst their ranks and striking them down with spell-bolts of my own. I noticed one of the soldiers had taken shelter behind a wagon and was targeting the elemental with his bow, and that his arrows actually seemed able to harm the creature. With a wave of my hand I struck him down with a barrage of magic missiles.

By this time the fort was well and truly ablaze, its wooden defences enflamed by both my own fireballs and the work of the elemental. The Alphatian soldiery started to panic, rushing to the gates and throwing them open. As they did so, a jet of flame rushed through the open portal consuming the fools who had tried to escape. Komughan stood outside the fort, framed in all his terrible glory by the now burning gates.

I flew down from the tower to stand beside the Ethengarian mage as he struck down an advancing warrior running at him with a spear. More Alphatians reckoned their chances were better against us than the elemental and ran through the gates. I drew my wand of fear and sent them all, every man, fleeing back into the inferno and into the arms of the certain death that awaited them therein.

The rest hardly deserves recording. Vreena commanded her elemental to finish up the survivors then banished it back to the elemental plane of Fire. Komughan used his necromancy to animate the charred skeletons of the fallen and sent them to purge the keep of those who had survived my cloud of death. I myself woke several of the unconscious soldiers and enslaved their wills, interrogating them for information before leaving them in deep hypnotic trances.

The fortress secured I sent Vreena to fetch our companions. As Komughan poked around the remains of the keep I stood amongst the carnage which we had wrought, reflecting upon it with mixed emotions. I was, I will admit, horrified by the death and destruction which I had in part fashioned. But this horror was dwarfed by a much greater emotion – exhilaration. Never before had I unleashed my magic in such a decisive, overwhelming manner. To stand invulnerable as dozens, hundreds of my enemies fell before me – it was an incredible experience, and it filled me with hope that my fellows and I could make a difference, that we could blunt the force of the Alphatian expansion and perhaps, just perhaps, teach them to fear the Wizards of Glantri.

Yet I cannot fool myself. I know that we have faced only the basest of magelings so far, and that we are yet to test our mettle against a real Alphatian Sorcerer. Part of me yearns for that moment, for I confess I wish to test my own powers against a worthy foe. Part of me fears it – there are many competent mages within the Alphatian military; their generals have access to the loftiest strata of magic, and their high generals are often to be found on the 1,000 Wizards’ Council. And each of these men has a retinue of aides and chiefs that must surely possess power to rival any one of my little corps. Perhaps all I am doing is goading one of these mighty mages to interfere directly, at which time it will take all the power of my companions and I just to survive.

This thought, then, troubles me most of all – how are we to go about our activities hereabouts without angering a General sufficiently for him to intervene directly? I believe I have an answer; through manipulating the minds of our captors and then releasing them, I shall spread rumours that the troops we have killed have instead been eliminated by a fresh-encroaching Thyatian army – hopefully these rumours will reach the ears of our enemy commanders and cause them to deploy their armies to eliminate this threat, rather than intervening themselves. By the time they realise there was no Thyatian army we will have done all our damage, slipped past to Redstone and left their armies arranged to face a threat which does not exist. In short I mean to achieve the greatest feat of my career to date – I shall weave an illusion that spans a country, tricking my opponents into responding to an attack which never materialises, forcing them to expose themselves in the process, then strike while the advantage is mine. If I pull it off it will be glorious. It can work. It must work.

XX Thaumont 1007
Kilpatrick's Keep, Province of Redstone

MORNING

I awoke amongst the ruins of Kilpatrick's Keep, my sleep haunted by dreams of fiery death and bloodied hands. Keen to distract myself I gathered up some of the papers we had discovered in the tower and pored over them thoroughly. The commander of the keep had been slain by my cloudkill spell, without having the chance to destroy his documents, so there was a wealth of material to be absorbed concerning the strategic and tactical situation in this region. We also extracted information from our prisoners. It would appear that Carmella prides herself on her abilities in that regard, though my own means are rather more subtle than her own. To gauge her competency I asked her to interrogate one of the prisoners, though “torture” is a more accurate description of what she did. Regardless , we managed to get the following information from the papers and survivors:

The ranking officer at Kilpatrick's Keep had been Captain Gulvarion of the Imperial Alphatian Reserves of Vertiloch,2nd Division, 1st Regiment. Stationed at the keep were 50 troops from each of the 1st to 3rd light infantry regiments and 25 troops from the 6th (heavy cavalry). There had also been 12 officers of the four regiments present.

Aside from official documents, I also found Gulvarion's private journal. It is written in a childish hand with numerous spelling mistakes and oddly misused words, giving the distinct impression of a man who was proud of being able to write and was desperate to appear more educated than he was. In it he complains about the Combat Mages of the 2nd Regiment, as apparently despite having little in the way of battle experience they showed no respect for more seasoned commoner soldiers and ignored all orders from Gulvarion that did not suit them. One Lieutenant Kyrethasa was mentioned as being of no help in keeping her troops in line. This factioning of Arcaner and Mundaner can only be a good thing for our cause.

The nearest settlement to the Keep was recorded as Kilcullen, a fishing village 40 miles down the west coast. The village is held by Captain Lylnufar of the 4th Regiment and around half his men (500 troops). They are raw recruits and, according to Gulvarion, poorly trained. A further 50 or so troops from each of the 1st, 2nd and 6th Regiments are also stationed at the camp that has been set up there. It sounds like this village would be a tough nut to crack, given the high potential for civilian casualties.

Patrolling the trails of the region is the responsibility of the 6th Regiment. The standard patrol size is 25 troops commanded by a Sergeant. There is one patrol for the trail between Kilpatrick's Keep and Kilcullen and two patrols for the trail between the Keep and Redstone. I am convinced that the sooner we eliminate these patrols the better.

The entire 5th Regiment has been dispatched to secure the nearby Forest of Sidhe but nothing has been heard from them for weeks. Gulvarion himself appeared to speculate on this matter: "Where do 500 heavily armed elves disappear to? They've probably deserted. They didn't seem to want to be here anyway. Elves burned Aasla. They're probably all working together." Elucidating observation but it makes me wonder if this Forest may be home to faerie folk keen to defend their borders. Perhaps I can exploit that.

Supplies and troops for the siege of Redstone are landed in East Portage and moved across the island to West Portage. From there they are shipped across the Lough of Portage to Donahue's Cove where a Thyatian-built road runs all the way (around 160 miles) to Redstone. It’s possible we could attempt to disrupt this route, though it’s quite a way to journey.

Other keeps in the region held by Alphatians appear to include the towers of Dhonne (under Captain Fashutyna of the 3rd Regiment) and Laragh (held by the Imperial Alphatian Reserves of Haven). According to our interrogated prisoners Thyatian forces have been driven out of the Hills of Dooagh and Ballydonegan. A few small goblin tribes live in the hills - not considered a threat by the Alphatians.

The coast is considered secure against Thyatian counterattacks. Alphatia controls Seawolf Bay. The Balbriggan & Cloghy Reefs make Redstone Lough difficult to enter and navigate for large ships. The Donnybrook Reefs provide a similar obstacle to approaching the West Coast. Kilcullen has been identified as a point where Thyatis might try to land but then troops would either have had to get past Kilpatrick's Keep or march straight through the Forest of Sidhe to get to Redstone. I suppose we’ve opened up some fresh options in that regard should the Thyatians arrive in the near future.

There have been no sightings of the Redstone Lough Monster that was supposedly going to come get the Alphatians (according to various local fisherfolk).

EVENING

We split up this afternoon to seek out and destroy the patrols running between the Keep and Redstone and Kilcullen. After I restored Kilpatrick’s Keep to its former glory with the help of a hallucination and Komughan positioned his zombie minions to look like the keep was manned Lazar and I headed south along the trail towards Kilcullen. I was irked to find that Lazar could neither fly of his own accord nor cloak himself in invisibility, so was forced to provide both for him, meaning my own transport was to be by employing a polymorph effect.

A few hours into the trip we came upon the patrol we were hunting. Again wishing to gauge Lazar’s power I asked him to attack the group, confident that his power should easily vanquish the patrol. How wrong I was. The fool launched his one fireball at the head of the column, engulfing three horses instead of the eight he would have hit had he but aimed in the middle. At least the boy had the sense to summon a phantasmal defence, but it appeared that his next most powerful spell was some minor ice cantrip that barely managed to kill one of the soldiers he hit with it. Revelling in his minor success Lazar was nearly run through with a lance but twisted aside at the last moment, retaliating with a bolt of magic that didn’t appear to particularly bother his assailant.

I realised at that point that I may have overestimated the prowess of my companion, as the patrolmen weren’t even bothering to attempt to escape. My confidence was further shattered when Lazar drew his dagger and swooped in at his opponent, screaming defiance. Not a good sign. I decided enough was enough and moved to intervene, positioning myself behind the column of soldiers and resuming my human form. My fireball struck them in the rear of the column, all but annihilating 8 of them. Before they could react, another burst in the middle, taking six more out. With a brief pause to erect a phantasmal defence of my own I struck down the four soldiers thundering towards me with a combination of spell-bolts and illusions.

By this time Lazar was pursuing the final two soldiers who had decided to flee the scene. He managed to intercept one but the other thundered on. I transformed back into a falcon and swept ahead of the retreating Alphatian. Upon returning to a form with opposable thumbs I took out my Staff of Command and used it to force the oncoming horse into a sudden stop, then making it roll over, trapping the now-hysterical Alphatian soldier beneath it. As the man crawled out from beneath his erstwhile mount he was begging me to spare his life. I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I did not comply, and mentally ordered the horse to crush his skull under its hooves. It had been a bad afternoon.

I was therefore in no mood to bite my tongue when Lazar cam swooping up to me, beaming with pride at his “accomplishments”. My emotions riled I’m ashamed to say that I let loose on the man, berating him for his poor choice of targets, his lack of offensive spells and his suicidal charge into melee with a professional soldier. Lazar did not take it at all well. Not willing to brook further argument there and then I ordered him to gather up the prisoners while I tended to the horses. By the time he’d secured the unconscious Alphatians my temper had receded somewhat and I attempted a reconciliation, which, despite initially seeming to rail against, Lazar eventually came around to. From our conversation I found out that he was many years away from graduating, despite having spent most of his life at the Great School. It struck me then that I was talking to a typical Glantrian wizard – isolated from the wider world, caught up in the insular society that was the Great School, probably never having adventured beyond that required to attain some spell component or other. The gulf between my own rough and tumble career and the sedate, ‘civilised’ path through Glantrain magical society never seemed so wide. No wonder we sometimes appear as uncivilised barbarians to them. No wonder they seem like naïve children to us.

We returned to Kilpatrick’s Keep to find Palmir and Vreena still missing from their scouting mission. Scrying upon them found the pair huddled in some abandoned homestead debating their next course of action. It appeared they had located the patrols running between Redstone and Kilpatrick’s Keep, but on finding them combined into one and therefore more formidable than they expected they had decided to wait overnight and return to the Keep on the morrow to seek reinforcements. A wise decision on Palmir’s part – I will ensure we are ready to ride out and destroy this second patrol as soon as our errant colleagues return.

XX Thaumont 1007
The Road Between Kilpatrick's Keep and Redstone, Province of Redstone

Vreena and Palmir returned to us as promised this morning. All seven of us rode out from Kilpatrick’s Keep to intercept this force. We rode all day and found an abandoned homestead to shelter in for the night. Palmir reckons that the patrol will pass by our shelter early tomorrow. We shall lay in wait for them and spring the trap.

We spent some time debating the nature of the attack. I was keen to pen the Alphatians in with Walls of Stone, Ice and Fire, but the size of the patrol has meant that we would have to commit significant magical might to throwing up such barriers, and only Komughan and I can summon a Wall of Fire, meaning that neither of us would be free to cast a cloudkill into the entrapped soldiery, surely the easiest way to finish them. Palmir hit upon an elegant solution – he suggested that creating the illusion of a physical obstacle might work just as well as creating an actual obstacle. I shall prepare a hallucination to test his theory on the morrow.

My companions relish the prospect of yet more bloodshed. I keep telling myself that this is a necessary evil, that these soldiers are my enemies, and the enemies of all right thinking beings. It’s easier to believe that when the faces of those you kill don’t appear when one closes one’s eyes. I must harden my heart. This must be done.

XX Thaumont 1007
The Road Between Kilpatrick's Keep and Redstone, Province of Redstone

An interesting day, and an interesting night before it. I shall deal with the night first; waking from a disturbing dream (I was watching a great battle from a distance, wherein thousands were dying on each side, but could not intervene. Surely I should be able to exert enough control over my own dreams to stop myself being plagued by such nightmares? Actually, it’s more than likely I already am manipulating my own dreams, but that the manipulation originates in my own subconscious. I must research this further) I went outside to get some fresh air, wherein I was accosted by a small humanoid creature, which at first I took to be a pixie or a sprite, though soon thought better of the assessment as he was considerably smaller than either of those fairy folk and lacked the elfin features of either.

The newcomer, who went by the name of "Lucky", and seemed obsessed with protecting his pot of gold, was interested in what we were doing in these parts. I told Lucky that we were wizards from a far off land, and that we were pursuing a war. He didn’t seem particularly phased by this, though he did advise us to keep our war out of the nearby Forest of Sidhe. He hinted that the Forest was indeed one of the deep, old places of the world where Faerie and the Prime mix easily, and that its inhabitants did not take lightly to intrusion from ‘mortals’. I believe I may have the beginnings of a plan forming.

Lucky also said something interesting about me being possessed of the “the sight”. I took it as a reference to my precognitive abilities, and it made me begin to speculate if perhaps my one-time trip into Faerie may have something to do with the activation of this latent talent in myself and my siblings.

And, one more thing he said, but which I hesitate to record here. He mentioned that there was something of a shadow about me. I took it to refer to the Shadow Reality I regularly tap into. Perhaps it was something more. Perhaps.

The tiny man-creature disappeared when I looked away for the briefest of moments. I can only guess that he must have been some new form of faerie that I’d never encountered before.

An hour or so after breakfast, Hagat (posted on watch) reported horses approaching the homestead. Palmir sent out a Wizard Eye to confirm it was the Alphatian patrol whilst Komughan and I granted ourselves flight. Vreena cast Fly on Carmella, then Komughan and Carmella turned themselves invisible. Palmir confirmed it was the Alphatians, their numbers and formation. He then also turned himself invisible. Hagat, Vreena and Lazar then went to find good places to hide where they still had a view of the trail.

We waited.

As the head of the Alphatian column approached the homestead my Projected Image appeared in the air above them. At this signal Komughan launched a Fireball into the rear ranks (8 troops and horses killed) and Carmella simultaneously launched one into the middle (another 8 troops and horses dead). Both appeared high in the air over their victims. My massive illusory earthen wall sprang into being just as the fireballs hit. Panic ensued.

I watched as a deadly cloud appeared next to my projected image and dropped to the ground. Komughan cast another spell and another 8 troops at the rear simply fell from their saddles dead. There were 4 surviving troops between Carmella's position and Komughan's, and Carmella dispatched two of them with a barrage of magic missiles, wounding a third. Hagat rode out from the homestead to take up a position on the trail about 50 yards from a 'gap' which I had purposefully left in the wall to herd any escaping soldiers towards the burly mundaner warrior. Lazar and Vreena emerged from their hiding places and hurried towards the ambush. The Alphatians spurred their horses and rode for the gap in the hallucination.

The lead two Alphatians made it through the before my Cloudkill landed on them. The ranks immediately behind were not so lucky. Within the cloud five men and four horses choked, gasped and died. I launched a fireball beyond the cloudkill and killed eight more men and their mounts.

I then turned my attention to the two Alphatian soldiers who had been at the head of the column and who had escaped the cloud of death, presumably the sergeants of the patrol. I sent a barrage of magic missiles to strike them down, but was annoyed to find they were tough enough to resist my spell, though a single further spell-bolt from Lazar ended one of them

A rumbling of the ground announced the arrival of Vreena’s earth elemental, while Komughan summoned a maelstrom of ice to engulf a group of soldiers at the end of the column. Unfortunately at this point a surviving Alphatian seeking to escape from within the Cloudkill blundered into the hallucinatory wall and dispelled it, though by this time the illusion had served its purpose admirably. I watched the lead Alphatian charge at Hagat who held his sword at the ready. At the last moment the Alphatian lowered his lance and put it through the neck of Hagat's horse, dismounting the warrior and allowing the soldier to thunder past towards freedom.

A fireball from Lazar took out all the remaining troops and most horses who survived my Cloudkill. Vreena, seeing that there was little for her elemental to do dismissed it as I flew after the escaping Alphatian. Komughan cut my flight short with a gesture to show he had it under control so I paused to take stock of the situation. Hagat struggled out from under his dead horse and grabbed the reins to another riderless beast as it ran by, bringing it under control. Two Alphatians seeking to flee in the opposite direction were slowed to a walking pace as Palmir appeared.

I decided that I should be able to save my remaining magic and so it proved. Vreena despatched the slowed riders with a few magic missiles as Palmir put two others and their horses to sleep as they attempted to ride him down. Komughan gained sufficient ground on the fleeing sergeant to summon a Wall of Fire in front of the Alphatian. Hagat then caught up with the soldier and engaged him in combat. It didn’t last long but I couldn’t help but be struck at how I had been able to kill twenty men in the time it took Hagat to kill one.

Most of the survivors I enthralled, placing false memories of a lightning raid by Thyatian cavalry, then dispatched them south to Tower of Dhonne, staggered so that they might “coincidentally” catch up and corroborate one another’s stories. The others Carmella and Komughan dealt with ruthlessly. More deaths on my hands, but there was no other way. I cannot afford to be clouded by guilt – our goals are noble, and the ends justify the means. A world is at stake. I cannot be precious about the lives of those who would call me enemy.

We rode hard throughout the afternoon, and returned to Kilpatrick’s Keep late in the day. My thralls from before are still deep in their trances. On the morrow I shall reinforce their false memories and despatch them towards Redstone. Hopefully they will corroborate the reports of Thyatian encroachment.

I must retire, lest I fall asleep at my desk. My tapping of the Shadow Realms taxes me. I shall endure.

XX Thaumont 1007
The Road Between Kilpatrick's Keep and Kilcullen, Province of Redstone

After seeing our Alphatian guests on their way we rode south, retracing the route that Lazar and I had taken merely a few days before.

I am concerned that the close proximity of the Alphatian forces in Kilcullen to the natives will make it almost impossible to avoid civilian casualties if we don’t revise our tactics. Where brute force and battlemagic have won our previous victories, this will require more subtle arts to be deployed. I initially considered leading the Alphatians off with reports of Thyatian attack, or perhaps a dragon raid. I am confident that with my skills I can make the commander in Kilcullen, one Lylnufar, commit such an error of judgement, but it occurs to me that there may be a way to have someone else take care of the Alphatians for us.

We know that a contingent of Shiye elves was sent into the Forest of Sidhe (note to self – similar sounding – etymology? Research!) so can therefore conclude that the Alphatians consider there to be something worth parlaying with in there. My conversation with Lucky confirms this to me – this Forest is one of the places where the realm of fairy touches our world. We also know that the elves have not yet come back out. That either means that the faerie folk that inhabit the Forest have eliminated them, or their negotiations are proceeding. The latter situation cannot be tolerated.

So, I’m going to send them some reinforcements. A weak minded commander, with the right nudging, might just be convinced to save his elven colleagues from certain doom. And if he goes wandering in with fire and axes, why that would make it awfully tricky for the elves should their diplomacy have borne fruit to date.

My colleagues, however, are not convinced. They queried where I had come to these conclusions and, reluctant to discuss the encounter with Lucky I grew somewhat terse and told them to trust me. I’m not sure they do, however. I am uncomfortably aware that I am dealing with individuals who are every bit as suspicious and inquisitive as I when faced with something unusual. Refreshing, but annoying at times. Still, they have agreed to go along with my plan, and hopefully its impending success will convince the sceptics.

The fierce wind off the sea battered us all afternoon but at least it is not too cold. Lazar and I saw no signs of civilization when last we came this way and come the end of the day we had made it past the site of our battle (where a huge flock of ravens has gathered to pick at the carcases) but had found no shelter. We used some tents taken from the patrols and found a spot that was relatively sheltered near some rocks and made camp. I am annoyed we could not have made better time, for it wastes a day reaching the range from which I can influence Lylnufar. A night of uninterrupted sleep will recharge me, though.

XX Thaumont 1007
Near the town of Kilcullen, Province of Redstone

The wind is not quite as fierce today but there was some light rain on and off throughout the continued ride south. The trail is in poor condition. Some money really should have been put into building a good Thyatian road. There were about two hours of daylight left when Komughan suggested leaving Lazar and Hagat with the horses whilst the rest of us went scouting.

It is only another mile or so to the village. The ease with which we can go anywhere and everywhere within the village and camp (about a quarter of a mile away) is almost ridiculous. There are 500+ troops in the camp, a sprawling haphazard mess based around a stream that flows towards the sea. The troops are mostly unarmoured and look dirty and ill-fed. Animals run freely through the camp and it smells like a latrine. There are good numbers of horses but only a few look to be bred for battle.

Kilcullen itself is a small unremarkable village. It has a reasonable sized harbour full of boats that look to have taken a battering from winter storms. Men and women sit around fixing nets, smoking pipes and talking about the simple concerns of simple folk. The heart of the community is a village hall, two chapels, a smithy and The Rainbow's End, a homely looking inn.

Alphatian troops wander the village in small groups of three to five. Most of the villagers seem at ease with their presence. Some even call out friendly greetings in Alphatian - usually to those soldiers bearing a staff rather than a sword. I can’t be overly critical of the mages in their use of charms. It’s what I’d do in their shoes.

I couldn’t locate any obvious commander of the mages and though I was worried about the potential for powerful magic items I could see no evidence thereof.

As to the officers in the town, Captain Lylnufar of the 4th Regiment is the highest ranking officer in Kilcullen but it appears (as was the case at Kilpatrick's Keep) the combat mages of the 2nd Regiment tend to take his orders as suggestions (and rather uninteresting ones at that). Lylnufar was not even particularly well regarded by our captives. In fact it seem that the 4th regiment are very much the poor cousins of this particular Alphatian division in terms of training and equipment.

The captain the other officers have taken over The Rainbow's End but most of the troops are camped to the east of the village.

We discussed the information we gathered once we were all returned. The others think that we could inflict a great deal of damage on the camp but that chaos would ensue and it is likely that there will be escapees. Attacking the village at night could result in extensive civilian casualties depending on the approach we take. It would appear my companions have varying degrees of concern with the wellbeing of the civilian population, though they all seem prepared to go along with the idea of only killing Alphatians.

While the idea of an uncomplicated night assault appeals I cannot permit civilians to die. I shall continue with my original plan. Our camp is quiet; Hagat patrols the perimeter, though my illusions protect us from harm. I shall meditate for a little while, then plunge my mind into the realms of dark dreaming, there to snatch the threads of nightmare I require for the sending.

XX Thaumont 1007
Near the town of Kilcullen, Province of Redstone

It is done. I awoke this morning confident that the sending was a success. I made Lylnufar dream of glory and promotion resulting from his saving of the Shiye elves and his razing of the Forest of Sidhe. My rendition of the Empress was particularly impressive - picture perfect from first-hand knowledge. Not that Lylnufar will ever have met the Empress, but I take some pride in my growing proficiency and attention to detail in my sendings.

I flew into town alone, cloaked in the form of a starling. Alighting on Lylnufar’s window sill at the Rainbow’s End I made my way inside and, assuming human form, enthralled the Alphatian commander before he could react. Seeing me dressed as one of his men Lylnufar greeted me in a familiar manner and I, playing the part of a loyal soldier who had served with him for years, empathised with his apparent self-pitying ways. The man was quite pathetic – indecisive, low of spirit or courage and disheartened at his plight and lack of promotion. I proceeded to stage two and entranced the man, simply commanding him to “follow his dreams,” a subtle instruction as it aroused no suspicion but achieved all that I required. As Lylnufar moved to obey the implanted command I transformed back into a bird and watched for a while as the soldiers broke camp and moved off towards the Forest of Sidhe.

Not all of them, however. About 10% of the mundaner forces remained behind in the camp, and all of the battlemages refused to follow Lylnufar into the Forest. We shall have to deal with them this evening, but I’m confident it will be much easier now. In order to confirm where the mages would be I enthralled a village maiden and found out all I needed from her. Returning to my own camp I reported my success in luring the Alphatians away. I received some grudging respect from the others; I sense they’re impressed that I could achieve this alone, though I suppose they do not yet believe the Alphatians are walking into their doom in assaulting the Forest. We shall see.

XX Thaumont 1007
Kilcullen, Province of Redstone

I did not have time last night to conclude the tale of the evening’s adventures. After the sun set we moved swiftly to infiltrate the town, through invisibility, polymorph spells and flight. As I feared, most of the Alphatian mages were spending the evening carousing amidst the locals in the Rainbow’s End. I would have to deploy non-lethal magic if I were to avoid civilian casualties.

As my fellows spread out throughout the village I found an open window on the upper floor of the inn, slipping through the dark corridors until I came to the stairs down to the crowded taproom. Invisible to the patrons therein I floated down the stairwell until I had a clear view of the babbling crowd of natives and Alphatians, carousing the night away. One long table ran the length of the room, containing most of the troops in the room. Here and there other groups sat at smaller tables, with various admixtures of soldiers and villagers, the oppressed and the oppressor sharing beer, some more enthusiastically than others.

With careful aim I managed to catch most of the occupants of this long table with a blast from my wand of paralysis. The wand discharged its invisible force, and instantly half the people sitting at the table froze in mid motion, some with their mugs halfway to their mouths. Confusion broke out amongst those who remained free of the paralysis, the troops among them immediately jumping up in alarm. A shout from a nearby trooper brought their attention to me, now floating visible at the head of the stairs, but before anyone could react I completed a spell and draped an aura of confusion across the taproom.

The spell worked wonders. The denizens of the inn immediately looked away from me and regarded their surroundings with a look of utter perplexity in a moment of sublime calm before the storm. Then pandemonium broke out. One Alphatian mageling looked calmly across the table at one of his comrades and summoned a spellbolt to strike him dead in the face. Another swept his hand around the room rendering a number of inhabitants asleep. The residents of Kilcullen who were effected seemed almost comfortable with the state of confusion, and fought their way through the crowd, calling challenges to old enemies and carousing in an almost friendly manner. I swear I saw one man steal his way through the bar pinching unguarded drinks off the table, and the innkeep seemed utterly at home in this chaos, standing behind his bar with a great oaken cudgel hefted to dissuade anyone from going for the barrels of beer behind him. Strangely, throughout all this, the small local band that had been playing in the corner to the inn continued to strum their instruments, and I could have sworn they changed what they were playing to better match the mood of the moment – it was almost “fighting music.” All in all I got the impression that scenes similar to this had played out many times before in The Rainbow’s End, without foreign magic users setting it off.

But foreign mages there were, and I was not the only one who retained my sanity. A pair of Alphatians, standing nearby and looking round themselves in horror at the melee, realised what I had done and turned to retaliate. Before I could move, both of them completed their spells and pointed at me. One I assume had intended to put me to sleep, but of course his magic had no effect. From the outstretched finger of the other a bolt of magic crawled its way towards me, catching me on the arm and giving me a nasty shock. While the two mages attempted to neutralise me a soldier espied the pathetic spell combat and ran at me with murder in his eyes.

The door burst open and in fell the corpses of the two Alphatians who had been guarding the door, followed by Komughan and Palmir. With a wave of their hands they laid spells of sleeping across the inn, immediately quelling the worst of the fight. I avoided the onrushing warrior by floating up the stairwell and as he emerged in pursuit I summoned a phantasmal defence and proceeded to despatch the man with a clinical blow to the head.

Descending once more into the taproom I noted with satisfaction Komughan clinically eliminating the last active Alphatians with a barrage of magic missiles, leaving only the locals punching and kicking at each other, laughing while they did so. A glance at my brother wizards established that they too considered the natives crazy, and the three of us retreated from the rowdy inn, leaving the bar fight to run its course.

Outside I was pleased to see that the others had followed my orders and moved to the places in the village that I had earlier identified as harbouring Alphatian troops. Leaving Komughan to wreak his own special brand of havoc, Palmir and I headed to one larger house on the outskirts of the village that we knew may contain more enemies.

On our way, a voice called out to us in the lilting tones of the locals. When we turned to see who was talking the source was not to be seen. Our interlocutor soon identified himself as Calabhar, a local denizen of the forest who took it upon himself to watch over the ‘mortals’ of the village. He was not confrontational but wanted to know what we were doing. I explained that we were pursuing legitimate warfare and repulsing the Alphatian advances in the area. He seemed sympathetic to our cause, or at least unsympathetic with the Alphatians, but he did ask some awkward questions about my earlier conversation with Lylnufar. It appeared he had watched the whole thing, though while he had seen me encourage the Alphatian commander to “follow his dreams” he did not know that I had planted those same dreams the night before.

Calabhar explained that he and his fellow denizens of the Forest of Sidhe had been most upset when the Alphatian army had trooped in earlier that day. When I offered my sympathies and help he claimed that the faerie folk were well equipped to deal with the invading soldiers. It appears my gambit has paid off. The look of approval on Palmir’s face was most satisfying.

Calabhar stated that he would like to help us complete the extirpation of the Alphatians from these parts, and offered his assistance in attacking the mundaner camp nearby. Eager to guage what manner of being it was we dealt with I accepted his help. It turned out we had recruited a formidable ally.

Before we could move on the mundaners there were still a number of Arcaners to take care of. I saw Lazar and Hagat competently fell a pair of fleeing soldiers, and Komughan signalled from several feet up that the assault was proceeding as planned.

Palmir and I exchanged a glance and closed to the remaining house suspected of harbouring Alphatians. Throwing open the door we burst in upon a pair of magelings engaged in the act of lovemaking, ruining their evening beyond measure. The man attempted a spell to no avail, and, wishing to retain my magic for the challenge ahead, I was ruthless in felling him with my staff. The woman, naked and alone, surrendered.

We took our prisoner back to the inn where the fight had subsided. Addressing the villagers I apologised for wreaking chaos in their midst, but as none of their number had suffered grievous injury they appeared in good spirits. Declaring their village liberated our team was toasted by most of the locals. Those who were ensorcelled by the Alphatian occupiers were less than enthusiastic in their cheering.

We placed our prisoners in the cellars of the inn. I shall weave false memories in them on the morrow and turn them loose as before.

We proceeded stealthily to the mundaner camp, mostly deserted thanks to Lylnufar’s actions. Perhaps one hundred or so troops survived, most of them asleep in their tents. As I ordered the others to spread out around the camp Komughan and I stood side by side summoning clouds of deathly vapours in an act of simultaneous casting. Our two cloudkills flowed together into one noxious mass, which drifted through the camp with the prevailing wind, silently despatching the sleeping troops within. We watched as the cloud rolled across the tents and bedrolls, its green tinge picked out by the silvery moonlight. Only the occasional cough heralded its passing.

On the other side of the camp awaited Vreena. Summoning an elemental of the plane of air she caused it to sweep into the cloud of death, carrying it back through the camp in a second pass. This time, however, the attack was not so subtle, a great whirlwind serving to attract the attention of the guards. As shouts went up around the camp, and confusion broke out as the Alphatians found so many of their number already dead from the cloudkills, my team struck. Fire, ice and lightning rained down on the panicking Alphatians. I summoned Death Fire’s Rapture in the midst of our foes. Lazar’s Ice Knives flickered through the night, catching the moonlight as they span. Vreena’s elemental tore through the Alphatians with impunity. Palmir raised a hand and slowed the half dozen who had managed to flee to a crawl, allowing Hagat to ride them down and dispatch them with ease. Komughan melted two of his foes to steaming puddles with his acids. Carmella revelled in the destruction her spells unleashed, laughing in a dark, disturbing manner as her lightning played over the felling Alphatians.

I noted throughout the battle that there came occasionally the crackle of lightning that didn’t appear to be caused by any of my little team. These bolts seemed to come from one end of the camp in one moment, then switch to the other end seconds later. Palmir and I shared a glance in a quiet moment, both of us assuming that Calabhar had joined the combat.

Sure enough, once the Alphatians were all dead or unconscious, a figure came striding out of the darkness, casually tossing a wand in one hand. My fellow wizards wasted no time drawing wands of their own or beginning the pre-emptory movements for spellcasting, but I signalled to them that there was no immediate harm from this newcomer.

The man (for so he appeared to be, though elfin of features) worse green and yellow clothing in a style evidently fashionable in this province. In addition to the wand he carried there was a bronze sword by his side. This, then, was Calabhar, who through subsequent conversation I established was in actuality a member of the Sidhe race. I was amazed how human looking he was; my previous experiences with the faerie folk had led me to believe they all danced about on gossamer wings, but this being looked more robust than most elves and even a few humans. He evidently knew the ways of sorcery and combat, in the manner of an elf or forester. I find myself wondering what it is in the sylvan world that allows for this mastery of both disciplines denied to the rest of us.

Once again, Calabhar threw the term "mortals" around as if he himself were not in that category. Are these Sidhe simply long-lived as the elves, or do they genuinely possess some aspect of immortality to rival the Immortals themselves? As before Calabhar alluded to being a resident in the forest, and though I nearly slipped up and revealed my part in encouraging the Alphatian attack on the faerie folk, I managed to dismiss the misspoken words as generalities rather than specifics. His work done, and seemingly finished with our conversation, Calabhar departed from the scene, vanishing into the night.

And so, we were done. Kilcullen had been liberated, but for how long I did not know. We returned to the village after ransacking the camp to find the villagers nursing their wounds but otherwise unphased by the combat. Indeed, they seemed to have reached heights of drunkenness to rival some dwarves I’ve known. I find myself liking these rugged people – their smiles don’t diminish easily. I hope the Alphatians do not punish them when they return.

XX Thaumont 1007
Kilcullen, Province of Redstone

After breakfast I went round gathering up the spellbooks of the magic users we had vanquished. Most were, as usual, pitiful tomes with nought but Magic Missiles and Shields, but I did manage to find a copy of the long-coveted Sleep spell. As before I gathered the spellbooks together and stuffed them into my Ever Empty Explorers pack, which Hagat has agreed to carry, the accumulated weight of several spellbooks testing the limits of my spine. When we reach Redstone I shall take the time to cast Steel Spells upon the books – that will make them much easier to transport to the feet of the Emperor.

Our captives I hypnotised as with the others, releasing them to return to Redstone with reports of a mighty Thyatian force.

We ride out for Kilpatrick’s Keep once more. I had been tempted to attack the Tower of Dhonne, but it is too much of a detour – we have not been long in the field but we should make for Redstone with all haste now. Given all that has occurred, however, I believe we shall detour around the Forest of Sidhe. I would not wish to be on the wrong end of Calabhar’s wand, after all.

XX Thaumont 1007
Between Kilcullen and Kilpatrick's Keep, Province of Redstone

On the trail all day. No sign of fresh enemy forces. Weather is as before breezy but not too cold.

XX Thaumont 1007
Kilpatrick’s Keep, Province of Redstone

We arrived back at the keep late in the afternoon. My illusion still cloaks the fortress, and Komughan’s zombies still patrol unceasingly. They’re beginning to smell a little now, but it’s tolerable if one remains up wind.

On the morrow we shall make for Redstone.

XX Thaumont 1007
Near Fort Redstone, Province of Redstone

We rode hard all day, eventually coming to a hill several miles from the fortress. From here I can just make out the great lump of red stone I was expecting, but there’s also the minor matter of a sea of Alphatian soldiers encamped in the surrounding countryside. The host appears vast. We must abandon the horses and travel by more stealthy means from here.

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