Author Topic: Crackbones Expedition Journal  (Read 245 times)

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Crackbones Expedition Journal
« on: February 10, 2020, 03:47:23 PM »
Forward

Peoples Day, 24th Verion's Month
22ND YEAR OF AMBRIA
Thistle Hold

My dear friend,

Well, the time has come. we are going back into the forest. We are going to Symbar. We are going to race the queen, the high chieftain, the templars and black cloaks and who knows who else. we are going to beat everyone to the throne of thorns.

Because none of them should have it. Maybe no one should.

And yes, I still wish to be the first to enter Symbar and return. And yes, I hope there is booty a-plenty for all of us. But greed alone will not see us through, so I have worked hard to bring good people with us. You would approve.

We are all here for different reasons. will has come to see things as I do, I think; that whatever power they are all seeking is too dangerous and corrupting to be allowed in anyone’s hands. He has a haunted look these days, as if he knows this is his last adventure – he seems older in spirit than in flesh, but I find it hard to judge age in you people. he asks that we burn his body if he falls. I think he is coming just to see how far he can get before the end. And to help his friends, of course.

Bran too, thinks as we do (I hope), though I think he loves adventure itself - a life fitting to his skills and the thrill of battle he has seen before. Something… worthy perhaps? It also seems some enemy of his has joined one of our rivals, and my heart tells me that the forest will throw this feud into our path. He is a brother in arms, and we will stand with him.

Korik of course, cares only for the treasure - and perhaps some acclaim. In the end, this may impede us more than the forest does – ha! I speak with the naivety of one yet to venture into Davokar’s deeps. 

Today is peoples’ day in thistle hold. Fitting, for we are the expedition of the people – no patron’s purse binds us, no foolish noble in search of thrills commands us. the price of independence is poverty. We are poor now, but I hope it doesn’t in the end cost our lives. Fortunately, our new guide insists there are dangers aplenty in the Davokar no matter how numerous or well-equipped we are.

We have many new companions, drawn from the treasure hunters and citizens of thistle hold. Good people, I hope – though in dark moments I cannot help but wonder, have our rivals thought to seed a spy among us? I have tried for careful balance in assembling them, but confess, I like to help ‘my’ people, the overlooked and oppressed goblins and ogres of this town. maybe I just Trust them a little more than your people.

Crooky is our guide, an ogre I have known for many years. though slope-shouldered and cruelly named, she has a good stride and has been to the dark Davokar more than once. She’ll see us through if anyone can.

Oaf is another ogre, another reliable friend. people give us such rotten and hateful names, but she is smart and a great flail-fighter, and no trouble on a trip – which is important on a venture this deep.

Our bearers will be Ulg and his crew: broad-shouldered goblins, stout and uncomplaining as cathedral gargoyles. They have all passed the ‘gob test’ and been deemed reliable. Pullu & Pulli, Gok, Rega, and Wut. Good, tough folk.

Speaking of goblins (and gob), one of Freya’s many ‘friends’ has also joined us: Kit - a goblin sneak and alley-fighter. Useful. She also had to take the ‘gob test’ and passed with flying colours. She brought with her a valuable journal, detailing a doomed expedition into the forest. Grim but Essential reading for us all.

As to sell-swords, we have steered a course away from nameless thugs and bravos. Instead we were approached by a gang of known treasure-hunters looking to sign on. Expensive but far more talented than everyday mercenaries: Torbjørn is a bear of an Enoia, loud and brash but loyal, they say. He wields a great hammer called ‘soul-eater’ which fills Korik with envy and desire! A disturbing name but a powerful artefact, and no doubt Useful.

Torbjørn’s crew is Esa (a lady version of will, most amusing), Inga the halberdier, Eleo (a pyromancer) and old Shigg (an elderly goblin explorer – old enough to feel the call, I think). They are so very expensive but Worth it, I hope.

Yagaba has decided to throw in with us too and is now a true hoodlum! that is very good for our chances. She is a witch steeped in lore and has great power over ghost-things. I remember well our night with the frostwraiths, let us not have that encounter again! She says she is of the ‘white path’ if that means anything to you and wields a white orb of old Alberethor whose light holds off the dead.

Also joining us is Balon, a young witch of the Karohar, walking the green path. He will be useful to avoid trouble as we pass through the lands of his people – although I now the Karit of old (I Was one, once), they can be trouble, and good fighters. I have heard word at the witch & familiar that they are split – what is the word you used once, schism? – between the high chieftain and the sovereign oath.

And that leaves us with Constance – the only hire that troubles my conscience. She’s young, Ambrian, and a skilled alchemist and medicus. Too young, I fear and with no experience of the forest. Still, we need someone with her skills, and she is cheap and eager. So very eager. she is following in her father’s footsteps. I cannot deny her passion, Nor that she reminds me much of Kirsten. I hope she survives. And survives unbroken. I hope we all do.

I know what you are likely thinking, and I worry that we’ll be the death of her. I will ask Balon and oaf to look after her. Whatever her inexperience now, by the time she comes out, she’ll be a dark Davokar veteran.

I hope she makes it. Crooky thinks that is a pipe dream, that Davokar always takes a toll of flesh.

It has been hard to do this alone. We have sunk every orteg we have into this. There’s just enough left to keep “Crackbones’ Corner” in business – things are looking well in that regard. My name is spoken across the town now, as a treasure hunter and leader of expeditions. This is good, but better will my name be when I return from Symbar... if the map is truly to Symbar. I leave my tavern in Freya’s care. If I don’t come back the place belongs to her, so long as she keeps the name.

I am not sure if I hope the map is true or that it isn’t. it would be safer if the trail we are following is false and the throne is lost forever. Maybe the throne is just a story, and Symbar will hold some other danger or power worth all this trouble.

It has been a mad time here. The war has stalled over winter, all forces wisely calling halt. It is suicide, says Crooky, to travel and fight in Davokar in winter - The other expeditions are setting out on the first day of summer, the traditional safest months. We are off a week before of course, reckless heroes that we are! The other expeditions are bigger, but we are smaller and nimbler, faster, I hope.

We argued for some nights over whether to race to Symbar or let other fools rush in ahead – but I refuse to pick at the leftover scraps when others have feasted! no one remembers the name of the third or fourth man to do a thing. No, first in and first back and a shit on caution – this is bigger than just a hunt for loot, as Korik would prefer.

Here’s to Fortune and glory, a great challenge and worthy foes.

So much has happened in thistle hold. People speak openly of restoration now, and those who cannot tolerate it fled to much rejoicing. Ravenia too, I hear is ‘restored’ and everyone says our ally duke Ynadar is the champion of that cause. I thought this good news when first I heard it, but I fear now it is only the calm before the storm. I wonder if Symbar will not be the greatest battle of our lives, but if another, across all Ambria, will be next. Certainly, all this upheaval has dulled the shine that normally lays over your queen. I have seen this before, whenever chaos threatens the order of things. it is a storm that can be weathered. Alas, we know more than we should of these things and suspect all factions of the darkest motives.

The bloody “war tax” is the worst trouble of all! It can’t pass soon enough for me! 10 thaler a month from every household, how dare they? They are making beggars of good people to fill their war chest and it will only get worse now summer is approaching again. We’ll likely have the oath to deal with on top of everyone else before we’re done.

What else? Ah yes, Books! We are all readers now, you know - Trying to prize out the secrets of Davokar before setting a foot inside it. Will has bought a bestiary and is feverishly scribbling corrections in its margins and amusing us with horror stories of forest beasts. The excitement has got to him, despite his grimness and the danger.

We have a lore box like yours, taken from our enemies, full of useful tomes. I will try to keep them safe for you. I am reading the journal that kit procured and will has a sheaf of parchments telling of all manner of horrors. We are heading so much further in than we did before.

who knows what we will see in there? Who knows how the darkening will torment us? Yet I believe we venture after Symbar for the best of reasons (well, some of us!) and I hope that will count for something when we tread upon the forest’s soul.

If I had had time, I would have tried to go again to where no tears fall in vain and seek the advice of the weepers and the iron pact. Let us hope our encounters with the elves continue as they have so far. Alas, no one speaks so well to elves as thee.

And that is that. We are ready to depart. I hear them now, in the tavern (my tavern!) next door, gathering to toast the new venture, to joke and fight and bind themselves together in fellowship for what is to come. I look down at our hoodlum’s table and see the names of gob, Kirsten, and Lothar, and I wonder how many more names will be carved here all too soon. Maybe me, at last, Maybe all of us. Pah! maudlin old ogre! When my knee aches, I makes me all melancholy. I need to fill a tankard with blackbrew, toast to death and danger, impress the youngsters and flirt with crooky and oaf. Ah there it is - like a fever, rising. Giddiness in the belly and a grin on my lips – Adventure is in the offing! My feet are restless to be off, and I find I that have missed the forest greatly.

I wish you were here.

I will copy this letter into a new journal, which I shall write as we go and document our quest. I hope that it is not found floating down the Malgomor, as the other was, the only trace of folly and pride. But if it does, I like to think that it will somehow make its way to you, Ulavan, so you can remember your old companions, and the foolish older ogre who was your friend.

To Symbar then! To the throne of thorns! To a tale worth telling and an end worthy of song. Here’s to finding where we come from and to learning what secrets the past has hidden, and what the future holds.

Always, your friend.

Crackbones


Day One

So here we are.

A grand departure in the grey predawn, to scattered cheers of locals come to see us off. It’s good to know that I will be remembered should I not return, even if it is just as a man whose ambition exceeded his reach. Can it be done, with us, with these resources? I think about the huge expeditions that will follow us and I do not know if we are fools. Nevertheless, I am proud to have done this alone, without a patron’s purse to chain us. The Corner will be safe in Freya’s hands should I not return.

The warm, sunny day made for a good start – I do not know how long it will be before we feel the sun and open sky again, but it was good to stretch my legs and feel the forest air in my chest, cloying though the late spring air can be. The Davokar is blooming, its green and brown splattered with brightness like dots pf scattered of paint. I love this place, despite the dangers.

We set a good pace, Will and Esa roving ahead with Crooky, Balon, and I at the head of the train. Bran and Shigg make fine rearguardsman, keeping us all together and at a fine pace, and guarding our arses.

We forded the Eanor before camping, that’s no few miles. I don’t know how long we can keep it up, but it seems worthy to press the pace for now. Today at least we are ahead in the race for Symbar, and I wish to stretch that lead as much as we can.

Able to forage today, adding fresh food to supplement our provisions. I worry about so much on this trip it is good to have food off my mind for a while. I am sure that will change in the wilder deeps, but while the forest is easy and abundant, let us harvest what we can.

A warm day, fresh forage, and everyone feeling good. Morale is important on these ventures. I have seen bands scatter or murder each other over petty arguments, let alone artefacts. We must be true companions, simply to survive.

Father told me a trick once, which I am stealing now. Each night someone cooks and someone else must entertain. A song, a dance, a game, whatever. Something to bind us. Bran is the lucky fellow tonight, while Balon cooks.

Day Two

Another warm day and another good handful of miles ground beneath our boots. Crooky says the deeper Davokar will be a much greater challenge, so I am glad we are covering great ground so early. I begin to see the benefits of a smaller group than the hordes coming in our wake.

Damn, it is good to be back in the forest. The air, the living wild, the adventure. I found myself laughing at nothing: This is why I could not deny Constance her wish to join us. This is the best of life, and if I die here so be it - at least I lived fully and shrunk from no challenge.

This morning Will reported a Ranger path ahead of us, so we chose to skirt it and avoid them despite our valid licence. No use courting trouble. No use letting others know where we are.

The land was sloped and craggy, but we were able to cut into a mossy dell, with angular chunks of masonry protruding like islands from the sea of deep green plants.  At its centre was a ruin, a tower half-buried in the moss being excavated by a band of treasure hunters. After a brief stand-off we gave them a wide berth and that was that. They were suspicious of us, fearing we were there to seize their prize. That is not who I am, and perhaps they were here without a licence, but it is a good lesson and reminder to us all. You can’t trust other hunters in the forest.

Trouble this evening, as Esa, Shigg and Kit have all taken ill. No idea of the cause – fresh provisions, water from the Eanor, or something they picked up in town? Hopefully it gets no worse and passes quickly.

Day Three

The land is rising today, we are cresting crags that have been swallowed by the trees.

We set a more strolling pace today, as our sickened companions are still weak. Lost time already, oh well. I think on Haake’s journal and how his party experienced a similar sickness and blamed it upon spies and sabotage. Could that be true here too, that someone has inserted a minion into our band? I cannot think that way. The Davokar is too dangerous. I must trust these people.

We talked this evening about why we are all here. More opportunity to see into the hearts of our companions. Torbjørn especially seems to share my thoughts that he wants riches and glory – but also knows that the darkness in Symbar may need to be kept from other hands. They’re a good lot. I made the right decision.

Day Four

Marshy ground today, I felt sorry for Ulg and his people, uncomplaining despite the knee and waist deep wading. Bless these fine boots, they were worth the thalers. Crooky says there is a danger of spring floods flowing down from the mountains and turning the forest into a lake, but we decided to press through, and it paid off. We were able to reach higher, dryer ground by nightfall.

Fun in the camp tonight. Bran was feeling restless, so we wrestled to stretch our arms as well as legs, and this soon attracted other attention, so I took on all comers in a wrestling contest. Torbjørn fell before me but in the end, I was bested by none other than Yagaba! Some witch’s magic, it must be! Ha. It was a good night, although later that night we suffered our first attack.

Overnight we were ambushed by ‘living thorns’, creatures more known in the darkest Davokar that out here – another sign of the Darkening that Balon and Crooky speak of. They came at us while we slept. Will says they lay dormant in the day hours, but creep and rove by night. Luckily, we have four at a time on watch, but even so they almost strangled Will and others before they could be awoken.
A troubling event, but we worked well enough together. We will be better with time, I hope.

Day Five

We crossed the second and greater river barrier today. The Malgomar - wide, swift and swollen from spring rains. We set to work creating rafts for the mules and baggage while Korik and Will went over the river with my ship’s rope to create an anchor loop for my pulley (glad I bought a canoe, after all). A simple solution to a challenge. This is how we’ll weed out the amateurs.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2020, 08:00:15 PM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2020, 06:38:51 PM »
Day Six

We are in the Wild now. I still see familiar things (sickbush, signs of aboar and the like) but more and more I see larger, wilder, plants and unidentifiable tracks or spoor. We are leaving the forest we know, the forest in which the clans live – or at least, the clans I know.

Following the Malgomor today. Dangerous, since things come to drink here, and things come to prey on them (and things prey on the things preying on things), but it  means we can press on hard with the river a clear guide for us.

We passed a Karit village today, the farthest one in, I would imagine. Balon and I went to speak to them, to see what we could learn of the forest ahead. There were fewer of them than I had expected, as befits a clan I have heard is sundered by loyalty to the High Chieftain and the Sovereign Oath. Their warriors were dead, hiding or elsewhere. They spoke of being threatened by the people of New Earthmoor – the settlement that Elmendra visited before Karvosti, which we did not and paid the cost for. Interesting.

It seems I will not get to visit them now, either. The feud is over, and the Earthmoor is ‘dealt with’ thanks to the aid of a warrior from Clan Gaur. This has bound them in debt to the Gaur however, and so to the Oath. I am not certain how I feel about them these days, the Sovereign Oath. It is hard to condemn people fighting against the conquest of their land, against an enemy whose greed causes blight and corruption. Maybe I am just becoming soft in my dotage – or I just like too many Ambrians nowadays?

One final piece of news: The villagers saw another party cross the river a few weeks ago.  Dagasto and his crew, perhaps? Or just another band of clansmen or treasure-hunters? Time will tell.

Day Seven

Two dead today. From curiosity and ill-chance.

This is delving the forest; this is the life of a treasure hunter - bright but brief. This I have told Constance. It is truth, but little comfort.

Everyone was feeling better this morning, so we set a faster pace once more. Signs of marlits today, so many eyes on the underbrush and trees, and interest from Korik in what he could do with their skins.

We reached another village by the end of the day. This one was empty, however: A fortified steading in a clearing, straddling a tributary of the Malgomor. New Earthmoor, perhaps. Abandoned, blackened by fire, but mostly still standing. Pausing at the edge of the forest, I sent in Kit, Will, and Shigg to scout for danger before we approached and maybe camped there. I cannot think of it as a mistake, otherwise I will be lost in my own doubts, unable to lead us. It was a decision, I made it.

Nothing for a while, then a sudden a frightened cry from Kit, coming running towards us. Fortunately, we were formed up in fighting order so Bran, Korik, Torbjorn and myself moved up to the gatehouse, with Esa joining us behind the line.

No sign of Will, but Shigg and Kit came fleeing towards us, pursued by large wasp-like things (‘Spites’ they are called, I later learned), one was attached to Shigg’s back, doing who knows what. We slew the creatures, or those we saw anyway, but Shigg had died of his wounds. Will too, we learned on searching for him. Dead, face down in the mud with a Spite upon his back. Bad luck, dark fate, or the forest’s wrath?

And that was that. Two dead, our most experienced too; a scout and explorer lost. Now we have only Crooky to guide us, and only Esa and Kit to scout.

Day Seven, Night

A sombre night, with wary eyes on the darkness and ears alert for the soft hiss of Spite wings. Maybe we got them all, but I wouldn’t risk further lives for the sake of a roof over our heads.

Constance was in shock. Several of us were, I think. Bran and I shared a look, and he walked over to talk to her, to help her through it. I much admire his talent with people. Maybe we’d be better with him in charge. He's a good man.

We laid the bodies out, stripped them, wrapped them up. We’ll burn Will in the morning, as he asked us to. Torbjorn spoke of his friend and how Shigg expected this to be his final journey. We did the same for Will, how we both felt the same way. Strange, that it was that pair taken from us, was it bad fortune after all, or some kind of price exacted by the forest, choosing those two specifically?

Korik of course, was Korik about the whole thing but Torbjorn shut him down with a face like thunder and a threat of no uncertain terms. I thought it might mean trouble later, but afterwards he gifted Korik a small box, an artefact Shigg had plundered long ago. It left Korik thoughtful, troubles – quite unlike his normal self. It means something to him.
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2020, 08:00:35 PM »
(Added a Forward)
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2020, 10:44:23 PM »
Day Eight

We burned Will this morning, using wood gathered carefully from the gatehouse of New Earthmoor. Shigg we left out to the sky, to return to the forest. Maybe that still counts for goblins somehow. I hope so. It is a proper honour. It is important to do things the right way this deep in the forest. We must evade the wrath of the wild.

Torbjørn has taken Shigg’s head and now carries it with him, so his friend can see Symbar in spite of death. He is a good friend to his companions.

I cannot believe we have lost two of our three scouts in one mischance. This will surely put is in further danger. Kitt has volunteered to join Esa on point, but she is a sneak not a scout. She’ll have to learn quickly.

We cut away from the river today, to avoid the Black Pitch Mire, its flies and sicknesses – and Skaramagas, of course. I added Korik to the rearguard. Short legs, but he’s too stubborn to fall behind or complain and won’t allow any slackers to drop past him. This, it turned out, was wise.

In late morning, arrows flew from the forest into our rear. Luckily Bran and Korik did not go down. Elves, darkening take them! This is how I remember those pointy-eared bastards - shoot, run, shoot, run. They disappeared back into the forest before we could get the measure of them.

And again, later, the same gang or another came at us - from the front this time. Summer elves, I would judge. Thankfully, Kit and Esa spotted them in time, this time, for us to form up and charge them down. Second verse, same as the first: They ran like deer, bounding away into the underbrush… but this time we gave them a hard goodbye, felling two and wounding others before they vanished. Not a bad result but they can just come back at us, again and again, for as long as they care too. This could be the end of us. They’re too damn sneaky.

All we can do is press on. If they have come because we are in their territory, maybe they will stand down when we leave it. If not, if it’s just malice or some mad elf mind thing, then the best we can do is make it painful enough to not be worth their while.

Day Nine

Strange noises last night, but no elves. I doubled the watches, put Kit and Esa in the trees to give them a taste of their own medicine, but nothing came of it. Perhaps we have cleared their range, or their dead are enough to dissuade them. Or maybe they are merely biding their time.

Stranger than strange was the source of the wet, sticky noises in the night: Investigating, we found a great mystery revealed. A great, drying mass, like a caterpillar’s cocoon but massive in scope, had been torn open not far from camp. From the inside, by the look of it. Beside it, still speckled with strands but otherwise naked and mindless as a babe, was an ogre. A newborn.

So, this is the answer to the mystery... We emerge like butterflies from a - what is the word, chrysalis? - in the deep forest. I tried to think back to my earliest memories, of Redhair and what I thought of as my ‘brothers’ among the Karohar. I do not remember being a 'child' as humans are, but nor was this new ogre before me half-grown. I called up Oath and Crooky, but they could shed no more light on it than I. It seems somehow disappointing to know the how but not the why. Some mysteries are best left unknown. A man should not conquer all his dreams. Best to keep one or two to lead you on.

While they fed and calmed our new brother, I delved into the drying cocoon in search of a clue. Nothing but a ring; smallish, bronze, unmistakable: A Thistle-Hold gate ring. So we do come from something else too, a goblin maybe? But the elves told Gob that goblins go down to the Underworld to become trolls. What does that mean for us? I do not know. More questions than answers here, but a big leap down the path to the truth. But it leaves us with seven feet of pressing problem.

I feel bad about him. We couldn’t keep him with us, and we couldn’t just leave him here. It hurt, but he would be a burden; we cannot take him into the dangers we were heading into. Nor could we leave him here, with elves on the prowl.

Bran came up with the solution. He used the artefact ring we’d taken from ‘Artel’ in the Beyond to place a wordless image in the ogre’s mind: follow the river, find the humans. We fed him as much as we could, then the nameless ogre scampered off - we couldn’t even give him a name. We just have to hope he makes it. And hope the Karohar treat him well until we return.

They’d better.

We pushed on, but with more concern for stealth than speed. No more attacks. Yet. We did encounter a tribe of goblins moving southwest, however: The Ufal tribe, and a chieftain named Tulga. They spoke a language I had never heard before in Thistle Hold or Karabbadokk. Luckily, Ulg knew enough of it to get by. After some gifted ‘tribute’ they told us about another band of treasure hunters looting the 'death crater' (a ruin a couple of hours march west of the Malgomor and the Mire), and of “trolls, dressed like men”. In return we warned them of the humans following us. We parted on good terms. Its nice to know there are people this deep in who have more for us than arrows.

I wonder if the elves mistook us for those adventurers? Is that the cause of their hate?

Day Nine, Night

A strange night. Another uneasy camp, but still no elves.

Korik had been toying thoughtfully with the box that Torbjorn had given him. Some artefact of Shigg’s, or dwarf make. He was playing with it all last night too. Thoughtful.

Tonight, he did… something with it, and we were no longer alone. A dwarf woman appeared form nowhere! Korik says she was trapped in the box for hundreds of years – so long that she has never heard of Ambrians, or ogres. He released her. She speaks only dwarfish. Korik says her name is “Longenof” or something like it. She’s as glum and reserved as him, and yet… somehow, Korik seems different around her.

I did not know such magic was possible! It makes me wonder; who put her in there and why? Or does every dwarf have a box somewhere?

Day Ten

Another new companion today. It is a strange fate that has brought two new companions to us so soon after losing two.

In a clearing by the river, many dead bodies and a lone survivor - a witch of the red path and her wolf familiar. Farina and Ola. Her companions died to the hunger wolves. We took her in. She is a skin-changer and a mistress of tooth and claw. Useful. With Shigg and Will gone, we need all the help we can get in the wild Davokar. She transformed herself into a hawk – not a pleasant thing to witness – and now flies ahead of Esa and Kit, to give us warning of what’s to come.

Her aid paid off almost immediately: She returned with news of the trolls that Tulga has spoken of. A whole band, a dozen of more, moving towards our path. Dressed not in rags but strange garments, and armed with weapons of trollish size, as if forged for them – by them.

After a hasty discussion, we decided to send the others off the path but to wait for the trolls in the open. Better to show strength than be found hiding. Korik, Torbjorn, Brand, Oath and I waited for them. Balon and Yagaba can speak the troll tongue. They stayed to speak for us while the rest lay low.

The trolls are part of a clan lead by one called Ultrox. They were seeking a new home, having been driven out of the underworld by blighted magicians of the Ordo Magica, who have befouled the pool of their homeland. Even if the invaders are slain, their home is ruined now. I wonder if we will think that way of ‘Ambria’ one day. Through Balon, I told them of New Earthmoor, and again warned them of the people following us. They call Symbar the Mother of Darkness. They fear the forest’s darkening– it’s the only thing I think trolls fear at all – and blame humans for it. I cannot say that I disagree.
We talked a little more with the trolls. It seems they pity us (Oath and I). They know how ogres are born (or made?) and calls us “unhealthy, weakling trolls”. They blame the darkening for it, our ‘births’ either premature or stunted.

Is that all we are? Under cooked trolls? Pah. It is as I have always said: Where you come from, what you are, they mean nothing. It is what you do that matters, and what you leave behind.

Day Ten, Later

We must cross the Malgomor again, now the Black Pitch Mire is behind us. We joked that we can always slay the great lindworm Skaramagas on the way back, if Symbar turns out to be a myth. Korik has the serpent-slaying spear, after all.

I write this at a moment’s rest before we cross the river, which is wide and slow here. Another raft built, the ropes and pulley are over the river. I just have to decide who to send over first. All seems quiet, just the hissing rain. And yet, I have a bad feeling about this.
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2020, 09:27:30 PM »
Day Ten, Night

This is Davokar: Not one, not two, but FOUR king toads assaulted the raft on its second trip over. The raft was suddenly upturned - Oath and Korik (luckily) left dangling from the guide rope; Eleo, Gok, Ola, and the mule went into the water. That was the first and last clear look we got at them.

Plop! Plop! Plop! Plop! Then Eleo, Gok, the mule, and Oath were all struck by their tongues and dragged under. Having had their fill, they never resurfaced; we never saw any of our companions again. Not living, anyway.

We are weak, in moments such as this. Too few missiles, and even less skill. And plate armour of course, is a death sentence in water. A bad situation.

I dived in, managed to kill one in the water – after what felt like an age searching in the murk. I had expected one of them to attack me, but I did not know then that they already had full maws. The big one – the mother, maybe – Kit slew it, in a frenzy of stabs and slashes. Small she may be but a fine war-sister! Uncomplaining in travel, fearless and fierce – she clambered across the guide rope to dive upon the king toad’s back.

Farina too well-earns her keep; she saved Korik from drowning after he went under in his death-suit. She looked half-drowned herself when she clambered out. I fully expected him to be dead when I surfaced later.

We didn’t drive them off. They left.

We kept searching, in vain hope. In time we found Oath’s bloody, drowned body. Of the others, no sign. We laid her out in the underbrush for the forest to take back her shell. Farewell, Oath - at least you found the answer to your question; at least you died knowing something of the truth of us.

Fairwell, Gok. You were strong and uncomplaining. You entertained us well and your cooking wasn’t too bad either.

Fairwell, Eleo, artist of the conjured flame. Without you we may have lost more companions to spites. We will miss your calm knowledge and brimstone cascade.   

I begin to wonder, does the forest somehow know when we are done with whatever drives us? Does it somehow decide to take us? Will thought hed die in the forest, and it took him. Shigg just wanted one more trip into the forest, and it took him. Oath wanted to know the truth of the where we come from; she found it and the forest took her too. Will come for me, once I reach Symbar?

I shouldn’t let my mine wonder like this, but it is hard. I remember father talking about this, about the weight of command, it lays over your shoulders like a lead yoke. Every day I make decisions that mean our companions might die. Every day. I do not know how Bran did it, back in the war. I think maybe I know why he lets me do it now. They may be dead and left behind, but I carry them with me, nonetheless.

Where was I?

I managed to drag the big toad’s corpse from the water, cut it open, hoping to find – I don’t know what; within its belly was our missing mule. Dead of course but with its packs and sacks mostly in-tact. Small consolation. Provisions ruined some gear salvageable. Some of the beast’s meat we could take too – meat we now desperately need. I hope toad takes good. We’re going to be eating a lot of it.

Piss wet through to the skin. Lost two month’s provisions. Lost three good companions.

Another day in Davokar.

Day Eleven

Bran looked terrible this morning. He’s not sleeping well, and I doubt yesterday helped. He covers it well, but his fitful sleep does not improve we must do something. I know Korik suffers this too. Maybe we all will by the end of this trip.

So, more shifting of our marching order, more changes to who stands watch and when. A solemn march but at least today the land was a little flatter, the underbrush not so tangled as it has been. We made good progress today. This is the irony of Davokar – every day a roll of the dice.

Today our scouts reported a clearing hung with bodies. The corpses of men strung up in arcane patterns, rotting. A bad place. Sorcery, we could all feel it. We gave it a wide berth, and marched hard and fast to put as much ground as we could between us and that place.    Who would do this, so deep? Elves? Blighted folk? Some cult of sorcerers.

Cold camp tonight, cold and silent and wary. At midnight a scream echoed out from the depths of the forest: Some creature in terrible pain. Nothing approached us however, crouched in the dark underbrush.

We finished the last of the toad meat today. Chewy. Thank goodness I brought pepper and vinegar.

Day Twelve

Bran looks a little better this morning. Constance offered him a dose of drone dew last night, but he refused. It seems he has managed to sleep on his own tonight. He seems to have traded woes with Inga however, who is looking weak and fevered. Balon has made her stay away from the rest of us. He thinks it is ferber fever, but that there is nothing to do but wait and see if she can fight it off.

No other luck today: The foliage is thick and tangled, slowing us down.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2020, 03:46:58 PM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2020, 04:07:07 PM »
Day Thirteen

Excellent puppet show from Rega last night.

A sunny day, warm. Better than marching in the rain but I can smell everyone by now. It feels like we need a rest, some respite from the chaos of the deep wood. Everyone is on edge. And today was... strange.

Travelling by the river again. We came upon a patch of corrupted trees, blackened and twisted and oozing purple ichor. No sign of how wide it might be, although the other side of the river seems clean - not that anyone wants to cross it again. Fortunately, Balon was able to "sing the corruption to sleep" while we pushed through - and thankfully it was small enough to hike through before our green witch's throat gave out. This time. We saw animals that seemed melted on our journey, no sign of how. Nothing troubled us however. We made it through, checked everyone's boots and hooves to make sure we hadn't picked up any infections. So far so good.

We're all learning the deeper lore of this place. One day at a time, and its not costing us lives for now.

Day Fourteen

Another good day. We traveled through a field of bright flowers, beautiful - until their pollen started choking everyone. Wet scarves and hustling got us through. Pretty flowers though. I knew a man once, a professional strangler Father had me study with for a few weeks but that talent was not for me. He spoke of choking spores like this, how to harvest and keep them. So this is where they come from.

This evening we found the waterfall Crooky has been telling us about, before the river's fork. A great camping spot, and way to SAFELY cross the river once more. Another beautiful spot - I really like this place, despite the dangers - and FINALLY an opportunity to bathe! Soap, a good meal (that is not toad!), some fun with this ridiculous sack-hitting game Torbjorn, and a chance to rest without attack or bloody elves stalking us. If only we didn't have Inga to worry about, it would have been perfect.

Day Fifteen

Another beautiful day, another terrible horror revealed to us.

A large, bright flower, something like an upturned bell. Crooky warned us off it at the last moment: Apparently it sprays a stream of corrupting vomit at anyone who comes too near. So now we add Sorcerer-Tulip check to our nightly camping routine, alongside Bush-check and spore-check.

And then, The Boy. A boy just wondering the depths of the Davokar like he was strolling through his hamlet, picking flowers. He seems strange in  the head - for a person at least. He seemed more like a forest spirit than a human; a human shape but a mind and soul of something else. Innocent, maybe. Unworldly, certainly. Capricious, potentially. Dangerous, quite possibly. He said his named was Aluin, that he is the son of Father Sarvola, the famous 'heretic' of Thistle Hold and leader of the Reformists. His mother, he said, was "of the forest."

He was "going for a walk", he said, but his father's party, also seeking Symbaroum, is east of the forest and skirting the Ravens. He dissapeared before we could truly learn anything useful, or ask him to let the Reformists know they have allies in the forest. Oh well. Perhaps we will see him again.

Inga was weaker today. I wonder at what point we might have to leave her, and how Torbjorn will take that.

« Last Edit: March 23, 2020, 09:27:23 PM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2020, 10:42:57 PM »
Day Sixteen

Into a steep valley today, dangerous terrain that blocks our sight of the forest - but it was heading in the right direction and less tangled than yesterday's underbrush.

Around midday we came upon a nest of some dangerous... somethings. Big, roughly human-shaped in terms of arms and legs, but covered in a kind of stiff hide, a little like a beetle but dull and rough and almost rock-like. No one had any idea what they were, but they were guarding huge leathery eggs. We tried to skirt around them, it didn't work.

We'd formed up to guard the mules but this did not go according to plan. The creatures, let's call them Boulder Beasts or Rolling Horrors (not sure which I have settled on yet) curled up into a ball and rolled at us. The result is rather like being hit by a rock-slide. They crashed through us like an avalanche, suddenly I was the only one of our mighty front line standing - everyone else was on the ground and the Rolling Beasts were in t eh middle of us.

They hit like a rockfall, just so we're clear.

A hard fight, with them among us, with their gouging claws and skin harder than pansar plate. A fine battle, on the edge of death for us all. I thought Balon as dead for sure but somehow Yagaba brought him back from the brink in the midst of the carnage. We lost no one. A minor miracle.  Farina has earned her keep twice over in this fight, I have no doubts of her prowess now: She bound two of the beasts to her will, having them attack each other - truly, I think we might all have perished or been forced to break and run without her. And her claws are not to be underestimated.

We left the eggs untouched. Picking over the remains, they did not seem like blighted beasts but Balon suspects they are a symptom of the Darkening nonetheless.

Tired and wounded we finally reached the end of the valley and emerged back out into the forest-proper. It is eerily quiet now and we see less animals, even less flies and moths. Deep Davokar.

Tonight we found a simple ruin by the riverside, with a stone jetty still intact. No clues or treasure, but this seemed as good a place and time as any to cross the river again. This time we could use the jetty to better secure the raft, and spent the afternoon building one big enough to fit us all, while Korik went over with Farina and Ola to secure the ropes. So strange, our dwarf - he cannot swim and almost drowned mere days ago - and yet he volunteered again.

Thankfully our raft was not attacked on the way back over. All the eggs in one basket, yes. But a bigger raft is harder to topple and the water is swift here - best we stick together.

I cannot bear to wreck the raft again after so much work. We hid it in the underbrush, away from the bank. Maybe we can use it on the way back?

Now there's optimism.

Day Seventeen

We actually went treasure hunting today! It has broken the monotony and reminded us of the skills we may need in just a few more days time.

It was another warm day, and a journey lit by deep emerald light from above the leaves. There are no landmarks here, and we are at the end of Crooky's experience though she knows where we should go - there's a certain patch of corrupted land we need skirt on the Ravens' side. Farina continues to prove her worth - she took on the form of a hawk to guide us from above the canopy.

Then, in the afternoon, a clearing edged by low ruined walls. Within, the wreck of a Symbaroum manse! Unguarded and apparently unpillaged. Worth a look, not just for treasure but for clues about nearby Symbar. Balon and the other witches did not partake of our interest. Understandable, these places are all taboo, and their role is to seal such things away, not dig into them. They respected that not everyone feels the same way. Balon did include me in with the other Ambrians as he talked... not sure how I feel about that.

This was a good opportunity to stretch our treasure-hunting muscles and ensure the equipment is still sound. Ulg and his goblins also got to show us their quality - they are the real experts at safely digging out places like this. Worth every penny (note to self: Pay a Bonus for today). After a few hours of shoring up and digging through, we had quite a haul.

A silver broach, in the shape of a wraith owl face
Eight sticks of mystical incence, which Yagaba says grant you power over others in negotiations and diplomacy
A blackened bone ladle, carved with runes - looks cursed to me.
a nail-file with a wolf's head handle
A set of wind-chimes
5 seeds, which Balon believes grow unique alchemical plants. The golden berries, maybe?
Strange pieces from a mosaic, or perhaps a puzzle


Our trip's first haul! Constance's first real turn at treasure hunting. She was overjoyed to be following in her father's footsteps, good to see. I still remember my first time, hauling out who knows what into the light... I gave her the nail file as a gift, it is good to commemorate these things.

Day Seventeen, Later

Trouble always follows.

As the rest of the us settled in for the night, Torbjorn awoke us with news that a mist was gathering. Yagaba said it was unnatural, and unresponsive to her spells. We formed up swiftly - goblins and mules in our centre. Lanterns out. The mist thickened further, although we saw nothing, we all knew danger was gathering around us. Balon advised that we leave, that this might be a repercussion for our dig. He was wise and kind enough to not say "I told you so."

Ulg and his crew gathered up and quickly packed our things, while we stood guard. Still nothing, though a strange fatigue started to fall over some of us. I have been steeling myself against such as this, and tonight it paid off as we tried to move on, using ropes strung between us to keep us all together in the blinding mist. One by one, first minds started to wonder, and limbs became leaden. Some of us passed out - I am honestly no sure what luck was with us that we didn't lose anyone in  the fog.

Day Eighteen

More strangeness today, and another patch of corruption. This time the air itself seemed to turn yellow, which Balon says is another sign of deep-blight. We skirted around it. There are still very few sights and sounds of animals out here.

Tonight, perhaps in response to yesterday, Balon told us a tale of Wyrtha, Wielda and Wratha, and also talked of why he has come into the forest. He believes the Ambrians are obsessed with Wielda, and having heard similar talk from a close Councillor of the Queen, I had to agree. Almost no one is here simply for treasure (although Inga is, and got a stern talking to by Torbjorn later!)  although most of us appreciate it, we all have other reasons - stop the war, find the source of the Darkening. I was plain with everyone that I am here to deny the Throne of Thorns to everyone.
 
It seems to me that this war and mirrors his tale of Wyrtha, Wielda and Wratha. That the High Chieftain seems a good man, who honours the old ways and taboo places. He would represent Wyrtha. The Queen is Wielda, seeking control of the forest and the power to dominate her enemies; her quest has disrupted the forest and spawned much evil - from evil war mage to the Sovereign Oath. Are they the forest's way of channelling Wratha? I do not know but it all fits together too well. What is the word Ulavan used for books: Ah yes: "Thematically."

[To be continued]
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2020, 09:15:13 PM »
Day Nineteen, Early Morning

We lost Constance last night. When we camped, she was there and happy and admiring the treasure I gave her - then she was gone, vanished in the middle of the night. Not left, just disappeared.

There was nothing left: The only sign was churned earth where her bedroll had been, right among the middle of us. Farina says witches can travel beneath the earth by magic and it sometimes leaves a sign like this. After searching the trees, we finally came to our senses and dug down into the ground and found her – buried in the earth, soil filling her mouth, hands out and clawing, futile, as if drowning in the dirt.
And that was the end of Constance. Taken from us just like that. Here. Gone.

Beasts, blight-creatures, elves, trolls – death in combat I can accept. An accident, treading too close to a death flower or into a pool of corruption? Ill-chance and anger but so be it. But this? Simply there and then taken away, amidst the lot of us. That is a hard fate for all of us. There is still dirt under my nails. It makes me angry. Angry at this whole fucking forest.

At least she followed her dream, I tell myself in small consolation; she became a treasure hunter, explored the deeps, followed in her father’s footsteps. Only days ago, she helped pull artefacts from a ruin, a real treasure hunter at last! And now she is gone.

Damnit. Another one I failed to protect.

Did the forest know she had fulfilled her dream? Did it kill her as soon as she was done, her purpose fulfilled, like Shigg and Will? I find myself telling myself that I do not just wish to find Symbar, but to stop the madness of the throne of thorns and come back alive. I tell myself and hope the forest can hear me.

Day Nineteen, Later

Hot, damp. Rainstorm. I am miserable. I cannot stop seeing her dirt-drowned face.

Attacked by primal blight-beast today, hit like a troll with a battering ram, took all of us to take it down. Just one of them. My shield arm aches, where I broke it that time – or was it twice? I feel old.

Day Twenty

Symbar! You are before us.

We have arrived. And yet, after the misery of yesterday, I am yet too numb for my heart to soar – it is more a grim satisfaction, like the exhausted triumph after a long day of battle. A third of us are dead, Constance only yesterday. She missed Symbar by a single day.

Whoever may read this later, know that it is Earth Day, 16th day of Konelias, the first month of summer. The Hoodlums were here first. I was here first. I was the first to step into Symbar. I claim it for ogres and goblins and everyone else no one gives a shit about. We did it. We are better than you humans.

We passed a chasm in the morning, and by noon reached a cliff. Maybe it was always like this, or maybe the whole city dropped into a sinkhole. It is all broken and overgrown. Trees erupt from the ruins, like pillars of a massive underground hall. They are true giants, a hundred, two hundred strides of men into the sky. Their leaves are gold, red, and brown – as if they lived in perpetual autumn, while the rest of the forest is the verdant green of summer. Their tangled roots and branches dome the entire city, some as wide of streets in Yndaros, and sturdy enough to walk upon. In the cool darkness below, strands of grey-white fungus grows everywhere – mould on the rotting corpse.

We saw no living things, yet it is not uninhabited.

We ventured briefly in, exploring; silence, fungus, ruined buildings; a susurrus of faint noises, movement by who knows what both near and far. A troop of marching dead lead by a woman, a noble perhaps?
Despite their corrupted status, we were able to speak with her, thanks to Yagaba’s mastery of the old tongue. They were not especially hostile. They were not much concerned by us, much moreso by news of Ambria. My sense was that they were lost in time, that they thought their empire still existed, and had no news of the wider world or sense for the passing of many winters.

Yagaba warned us that the ruins possessed a miasma of corruption, but this does not extend to the canopy above. We have thus decided to make our way over the canopy of giant roots and towering trees. A few man-made peaks breach the canopy into the sun. We will try our luck that way.

What do you have in store for us, oh Mother of Darkness?
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2020, 05:57:43 PM »
Day 21, Morning

Symbar, we are upon you. Today we begin our delve into (or rather over) the root-choked Mother of Darkness, in search of her secrets.

Rega looked a little worse for wear today. I am sure we’re all tired, but he looks most affected. I suspect he stole some of our supply of waybread – wolfed down two whole loaves – almost a fortnight’s food! I can prove nothing, but the loaves are gone. I will watch him carefully tonight.

One more, Farina took the shape of a bird to fly over the canopy and scout the city. Our aim today is what we think is the palace, a plateau poking out from the southeast of the mass of the roots. She returned with interesting news.

Some kind of red tangled weed forms a ‘moat’ around the pillar of rock, which reminds me a little of a miniature Karvosti, with the palace on its summit. The outer courtyard is packed with shambling blight-beasts, but the inner remains a beautiful garden that fills us all with deep suspicion of its true nature.

Yet more disturbing news: Farina spotted fellow interlopers trying to hack their way up to the palace through the roots and briars. Clansmen by the look of them but lead by a great, winged leathery monster – a dragon. Not even a lindworm but a drac-worm!

Now that would be a fight worth seeing. Korik is cradling that worm killing spear like a raft to drowning man. He is looking forward to this fight, I think. Good! It will be a great battle, worthy of the hard men of old.

For now, let us leave these men – Sovereign Oath maybe? – to tire themselves. We will be in and gone before they ever get close.

Day 21, Later

An interesting day.

We traversed the bramble moat and palace walls by means of ropes and rope-ladders, grapples and pitons and the aid of Kit and Farina. Within the palace, much is wrecked and faded, yet some sliver of glory yet remains.  We pulled some trinkets and keepsakes from the ruins, but the place feels… empty? Looted or emptied before the fall. There are passages down into the rock, I think, to the Dungeons of Symbar perhaps. But they were rubble strewn and delicately balanced. We left them for now.

And there was the throne room, of course.

Like the garden, there are parts of the palace that were restored, or which never lost their former glory. Marble, pale as snow, without chip or crack; lush crimson carpets, candles that burned without being consumed. It is strangely pristine – so much that I suspected some glamour of magic was being worked upon our eyes.

And the throne was there.

Or was it?

On a dais of marble sits a great stone throne, plainer than I thought it would be. Nothing magical about it, says Yagaba with her witch’s sight. Strange. I imagined it glowing like the sun or oozing black corruption, not this. A big stone seat, with carved stone thorns. I think I half expected it to be a living tree.

The mosaic was more interesting.

It was huge, filling the wall behind the throne. I wish Ulavan could have seen it. I sketched it down as best I could. Two circles, like opposing suns – one black, the other green. Between them, with its stern towards the black orb, was a great ship – like the Emperor’s death barge, or perhaps the ship we’d seen peeking through the root cover?

Thinking of the garden outside, it made me wonder if the Symbar people thought only of corruption and the wild, not of Wild, Wield and Wrath. That would explain why they fell to such corruption, if they did not know the truth.

And why a death ship, here of all places? If that is what it represents.

Day 21, Evening

The Emperor is here.

We found his spirit in the garden, fixed upon a single flower in all the abundance of the inner garden. We cannot be sure, but I believe he is restoring or transforming this place by will alone.

That is power indeed – but at what price? What immense corruption this must cause. I look at the roots, I can smell the rot of green things and hear the blight-beasts beyond the wall. Is this power the cause of all this, or just another, what would Kirsten call it – a symptom?
It vexes me to not know the tongue the Symbar, I feel so hamstrung by their forgotten tongue. I must try to pick up a few words from Yagaba, who has it mastered. It might save our lives to give good greetings or say we come in peace.

Wait, did I mention he is dead? Of course, he is, a thousand years dead or more. And I have seen all his parts withered and cut up in jars, back in his death barge, in the Yonder place. Yet his spirit is here. I wonder, did it always reside here and never took its final journal, or was it at peace until he was disturbed?

Yagaba asked him a few questions – enough to know he is the emperor and behind the restoration of this place. His answers were half-formed, as if he did not remember or was remembering a dream. But that is the way of the dead, says Yagaba.

There are of course a thousand questions. We ask a few before a bleak mood took the spirit once more and he turned back to restoring or perfecting his plants.

He spoke of the fall of Symbar, and throne. There is something missing, or something else needed perhaps, before the mere stone becomes truly the throne of thorns. Perhaps some artefact one must attune to? Por perhaps the ‘throne’ is something else entirely, some poetic name? After all, we thought we were chasing Symbar to Yndaros, until it was revealed that perhaps “Symbar” was a man as well as a city – or the city was the body, and the emperor the will. Perhaps it is the same, and ‘throne’ means that with signifies majesty or some such. Perhaps the throne is a crown? He said himself that he was part of Symbar, but not all of it.  Perhaps it is like the race for the throne itself – the Throne is Wild, the King Wield. Then what is Wrath?

Something was missing, the emperor said. Something stolen or taken by the priests in the final days, perhaps to protect it from the city’s fall- but perhaps in a bid to seize its power.

The quest continues.

Day 21, Late Night

I sat it in it. I am the first to sit upon the throne of Symbar in a thousand years. Uncomfortable chair. Bet the room is hard to heat in the winter, but that is not a problem for emperors, I suppose. That is the whole point of being emperor.
I remain myself, uncorrupted. No fabulous secret powers were revealed to me upon arse touching stone.
Worth a try.
I do wonder though - if the emperor can restore things that are damaged and broken, perhaps he can remove corruption also. I hate the faint sickly feeling that has been with me this whole year, since Gob’s foolish demise.


« Last Edit: May 02, 2020, 06:49:02 PM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2020, 10:08:14 PM »
Day 22, Morning

More company has arrived – fires on the canopy with us, some miles distant. Fortunately, we had chosen a cold camp, being so close to the great grave ship. The fires belonged to a camp of Sovereign Oath; another faction have finally caught up with us.

This morning we had to deal with Rega. She was stealing food again. This time we were ready, and with Ulg’s assistance we tied her down and ‘woke’ her even though she was moving about already – I have heard of sleep roaming once or twice, but we suspected a more malevolent cause. Possession by a spirit of Symbar. Yagaba is examining her for signs.

Day 22, Evening

A fascinating day. Oh Ulavan, would that you were here. It would be joy for you…. Or maybe frustration – which would at least be joy for Korik!

Moved camp tonight because of scouts on the canopy, which Farina revealed as she once more transformed into a bird and flew over the swallowed city. But that came later:

Exploring the ship, we came upon a pack of ancient walking dead, Symbar soldiers by their shields and fighting mastery – more than competent, despite their rot. There was just enough left in their corpse-heads to mutter a few words that Yagaba could understand. Enough to start a parley, in which we were invited to meet their commander, the “Kantor An-Orel, Lord of the Black Lands.”

An interesting fellow, dead like the rest but not so rotten in the skull – though he recalled his living life like a half-remembered dream; much like the emperor… it must be a symptom of the undead.

Thank the gods for Yagaba’s mastery of ancient lore! Truly, there is no mystery she cannot reveal light upon. Witches of the dead are wise, it seems. Our three witches are so very different, but each is a master in their own way.

She is very fluent in the voice of Symbaroum. Or perhaps she merely has a gift of speaking with the dead, even if they are not summoned by her, but instead stand, or in this case sit, before her.
All I say below is born of her translation.

Kantor claimed to have awoken only in recent weeks, and to be gathering his forces to continue a war he only barely remembers. He too knew nothing of the fall of Symbar, but perhaps only because he could not remember it? He hates the elves for certain, however, who he blames for the war and this hate seems all-consuming. He seems to regard himself as the last lord of Symbar, and the heir to a new empire he plans to renew. I feel we will have to disappoint him, sooner or later. Despite this, he seemed to mean us no ill will once we agreed to tell him of the wider world.

We spoke of the emperor’s ghost, to which Kantor seemed unmoved and unconcerned. We asked about the Throne of Thorns, and at first, he could not remember. With coaxing he was persuaded – or perhaps persuaded to remember – that the throne was more than just a chair (which explains why my ass on it gave me no great magical powers!) but might be something less physical than a mere throne.

He seemed unconcerned with the Throne itself, although he knew that “it was taken by “priests of Dracovnik” – probably to their temple which he called a “ziggurat” – a word I proudly remember form Ulavan’s exclamation during our trip to that mysterious Yonder isle: It means a place build like flights of steps, up to a single point. The last one was hollow and full of draghouls. Oh well.

The Order of Dracovnik! This is the order that the Dark Lord once claimed to have been master of. That is interesting lore, to know the Dead may have come to Alberethor from Symbar. Perhaps that is why the Queen of Ambria seeks its power. She may know that ties bind her old enemies to Symbar.

So, there is more to the throne than just the chair. The true throne, or the key to it, is kept by these priests, who seem to be only one of several orders in old Symbar, and which Kantor called something like, but not quite “theurg” – Kantor implied the emperor, priests and others combined somehow to ‘be’ Symbar or the Throne.

They nurtured and protected the throne. Did they take it for this purpose? Did they (rightly) fear the elves and spiders would overwhelm the city, and try to hide it? Did they see their chance to seize power and steal it? Too many questions.

Kantor also offered us a bargain: He would guide us to the ziggurat of the priests, where we hope our prize is hidden. His price is steep however – he demands a potent artefact to help him establish his new empire… and rather than risk the terrible corruption of exploring the city below the canopy, we reluctantly agreed.

The bloody sacrificial stone from the tower was our only option, if we wanted his hellp. It is not a thing we can sell in good conscience, and it is the kind of artefact Nightpitch would not want on the market, and neither do I. I did not fight in the merchant war for nothing. Better to dispose of it here.

The only alternative was to share our knowledge of the Well of Tears, how to get there and murder its guardian elves. This was of course, Korik’s idea, which nobody else thought was a good one. Balon was especially offended. I have more mixed feelings on elves, after Thistlehold’s early years. But still, that would be a poor act for a good man.

So yes, I understand the irony of handing an undead general an artefact that makes him more cunning and dangerous if he murders a living man on it… I am sure we shall reap what we sowed today, but that is a problem we will deal with another day, if the elves do not get him first.

Tour of a Dead Man’s Barge

For our forthcoming answers on the last thousand years, Kantor was content to let us explore the funeral ship – for we were right, I think, that it is like the emperor’s death barge, but far larger.

There is far more to learn here than I can write. It would fill many books I think and take forever. But I will do what I can for you, Ulavan. And I will write it also for myself because what learn here may yet provide the key to treasure – and survival.

As a side note, I see the ship is protection against corruption, just as the emperor’s death barge was. There was no sign of how, however, unless it is this stone itself.

The Great Hall

The great hall held Kantor’s throne and four carven pillars, and perhaps 40 of the walking dead; most of them more of the soldier types we fought above. Each of the four walls held a different huge image.

The East Wall

A mosaic of a throne of black stone covered with winding vines. It stands in the middle of a starry night sky, upon legs that become a tangle of branches, reaching out into the dark sky, before wrapping themselves around what looks like a stone or orb stained is a pattern of violet as cobalt and blue like unmalting mountain ice.

The Northern Wall

A story of transformation, perhaps of a man or a symbol of these people. In the first image they were naked, sexless and without any hair. Next holding a clear decanter with a swirling glyph on it and a crystal glass, both filled with black liquid; about to drink it.

In the third, they lay as if upon a torture rack, limbs pulled out; a light, I found chilling to look upon was flowing from his eyes sockets and screaming mouth.

And finally, they were an abomination, yet stood straighter and prouder than the hunched bestial things I have seen and fought before. There was light around it, or perhaps it was meant to glow. It reminded me of the depictions of Prios and his holy light. Despite their corruption, the figure I think was painted to show a triumph – at least in the eyes of Symbar.

A triumph over corruption, it seemed to me. I have seen images of monsters as if they were gods before in their ruins. Perhaps this is how it started – them believing they could escape the world’s wrath.

The South Wall

No picture here, but line after line, column after column of golden letters upon a black wall. The language was unknown even to Yagaba. It is not the language we call the tongue of Symbar.

The West Wall

The throne again, but this time it was against a grey-patterned background and viewed from the side. Sitting on the throne was a man, a leader, proud, naked. In front of him, a woman wearing a white cowl, bearing a symbol of a square divided into four smaller squares in – this, says Yagaba she has seen before, and is the symbol of something or someone called Haman Dakh.

Their robe was edged with gold, and they wore glistening golden gloves; she held a simple crown in both hands and was reaching out to crown them – or maybe take it.

Kneeling behind the throne, was a bald figure, neither man nor woman, in a black cowl (bearing a diamond symbol on a flat base). In their arms they held a pair of scissors or pliers, and a small copper watering can.

The Front Bit (‘Forecastle’ I think)

The narrowing front of the great ship was largely dusty and bare, but there were two great mosaics:

The first was a palace on a hilltop, amidst rolling farmlands; a keep in grey-blue stone, in the massive form of a six-pointed star. Far bigger than the high chieftain’s hall or the Queen’s place in Yndaros. In the deep blue sky above were three moons in a triangle, all different in size and shape – one full, one waxing or waning, and one narrow as a sickle.

The other was an enormous underground stronghold, carved form the cave. A temple, I would judge, like the Ambrians have: Row upon row of simple stone benches line a centre aisle leading to an alter topped by a sparkling purple and blue gemstone – as big as Hoodlum House! – casting like throughout the temple cave. An uncut stone that became the orb in the great hall’s images? Something that empowers the throne?

The Side Bits

Flanking the great hall were many small rooms, which reminded me of store cupboards or perhaps Ulavan’s room in Thistlehold’s temple.  Most were mostly empty or full of broken pots or vases, we found a few trinkets in the rubble, including a pot of strange seeds that even Balon could not identify. We shall have to plant them and find out.

I cannot help but hope they will grow into the golden berries we found last year’s expedition.

The Back Bit (‘Aft’)

We were not permitted here. This is where Kantor and his dead horde have made their home. “Those things are mine” he said, when we asked to see them. He was unbending on that, so naturally I desire to go there even more, but there are too many to force the issue. For now.

A Note on Magic Doors

Twice within the ship, we came upon a door sealed by magic. With a handprint in the stone, as clear as you might make in snow. Perhaps foolishly, we tried to open this – have I forgotten that terrible door beneath Yndaros so soon? – It moved not an inch at Korik’s hand but swung open when I lightly placed by hand into the depression.

It is a hard thing to admit, but given the Symbar peoples’ acceptance of corruption, perhaps that is way I am able to open the doors, and Korik is not. It senses the taint upon me, while he, being a dwarf is not recognised by the magics at all. Sadly, we did not get to test my thoughts further.

Bloody Gob.

Day 22, After Midnight

Trouble in the night. Rega night-walked again, despite being tied to Bran. We were woken by the snarls of battle and yelps of pain: Bran had tried to stop her, and the brawny goblin was savagely clawing and biting at our stalwart companion – a most took his damn ear off before Korik took her down.

This is a problem. Once awake, Rega was most distraught and swore her innocence. She is not just a glutton while sleeping, but a danger to us all now, while she sleeps. I asked Yagaba as to the cause – could some ghost be in her?

In answer, Yagaba spoke of spirits called Night Mares that can enter a living body and ‘ride’ it while the owner is insensible but hiding by day when they are awake. They are known to drive you to various vices, including gluttony. Sadly, the only ‘cure’ she knew of was to slay the poor host and hope the spirit moved on rather than choosing another victim.

Not an option I am prepared to consider.

Rega agreed to be hog-tied each night, and Ulg agreed his crew would watch her for signs of the mare’s rousing. We shared a look, I think Ulg believes we will have to slay or abandon her, but I will not do that. I will leave no more people behind while I am alive. No more deaths on my conscience.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2020, 09:04:41 PM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2020, 09:06:46 PM »
Day 23, Morning - Meeting with the Huldra

Unexpected guests this morning. None other than the Huldra herself and her companions: Amon Mar, Keeper of Clan Godinja, and an ancient but potent red witch I remember seeing in her younger days – Miralba, a skin-changer of extraordinary talent, who Farina is much in awe of (and I confess, I was also when I saw her last).

An honour indeed. For them to meet me, I mean!

Ha!

Seeing our own three witches in their scouting, dreams, and divinations, they have come to find out who we are and why we are here. It was funny to see our wise witches so affected by an encounter with the masters of their craft, they became like the young children of Thistle Hold when treasure hunters return with sacks overflowing. I forget they all do have a leader, and count prestige among themselves also.

I told the Huldra the truth. Having nothing to hide, why shouldn’t I? I have been ally to clans and Ambrians, gods, and elves (even though they shot the shit out of me for years), and of Gadramon and Eferneya in my time. An honourable man does not fear word of his deeds or what he stands for.

Yes, we are treasure hunters but the longer we am here, the less that seems to matter. Stopping the rest of Davokar or Ambria becoming… this must be our goal. Not that I will turn down a pouch of gold and a sack of artefacts as I am passing! A man has to eat, and to reward his people, after all. Yes, and pay the fucking gouging war taxes too. Serves them right to be denied the throne. Let them weep and rage and know Crack-Bones did it. Ha!

There were of course, many questions for the Huldra. Too many for a big personage. As before, when I returned the OX God’s head to him, the Huldra herself has had prophecy in her dream. She has dreamt of ‘a flickering flame of hope’ somewhere in the centre of this cursed city.  I do not know if this fate is true, or likely, but we offered to help, for I have my suspicions too where this may be. When we have found the ziggurat, Farina will take to the wing to summon her to join us. Likely there will be a hard fight, a good end in this cause, perhaps for us all.

The Huldra was coy when asked about last year’s goings on beneath Karvosti, although she confirmed that Eferneya was slain there by the spiders of ‘Princess’ Karathran. My heart told me that she, and Spiderbane have yet some part to play in this – in the spider’s case, probably for ill. I told the Huldra as much and was surprised to hear that she would kill me for carrying Spiderbane, were she not in need of allies. A threat. Interesting.

Speaking of problem allies, there seemed no one better to speak to on behalf of poor Rega than the “arch witch” herself. This was wise: Although at first perhaps reluctant, the Huldra recognised the trouble our companion was in, and was able to draw the mare spirit from her body and destroy it, with the aid of a terrible dark mask. One problem solved! If only the problem of Symbar itself was so easy to root out – but maybe it will be.

Still, I prefer our witches.

Day 23, Afternoon

Inga died today, amidst the fungus-stranded ruins of the city beneath the canopy.

I will start at the beginning. The Huldra and her people went off “to find the elves” they said. Out first order of business was to secure a safe camp, one not exposed on the canopy now that we were seeing new arrivals. A safe place for our mules, bearers and supplies while the rest of us ventured below. We retreated into the forest, and Balon sang to the green. The forest came alive to house and hide us. A living fortress.
Most impressive and harmonious. The witches’ powers are considerable. I begin to harbour hope they could heal or prevent this rising darkness. Let the knights and black cloaks smite the infected limbs, while the Huldra restores, or slays, the source of the wound.

Back to the grave ship then.

In exchange for the blood stone, Kantor upheld his deal and sent four of his rotted guardsmen to guide us to the ziggurat. We hiked from the grave ship towards the centre of the city. Below the canopy, Symbar is truly a ruinous heap, pillared only by the tower trees and overcome by fungus and lichen-covered mounds, from which disturbing noises came. There source we soon learned, to our cost.

The crunch underfoot was often bones.

You can feel the darkness eating into your soul down here, but we each have purple sap to sustain us. Of course, we cannot linger but my greater fear is that we will encounter a beast who spreads corruption by its claws or fangs. Fortunately, when we encountered wondering abominations, Balon was once more able to sing the horrors to ignorance of our presence. They wandered away, as if in a half-awake dream. Today was a good day – for witches.

This is where Inga died, holding off an attack by terrifying, moaning spirit-things that looked like many souls entangled together. Maybe they died that way, or were buried in a big grave, such as I remember digging after the war. They emerged from one of the mounds as we passed by and sought to swarm us. Weapons barely touched them; they were like thick smoke that must be wafted away. Eventually they were driven off, but not before we lost Inga. No wounds were left upon her body, but her life’s vitality was all drained away. She was like an empty bottle, nothing left within. Her life had been drunk by them.

We carried her with us, for we cannot leave anyone in this mire of corruption. I moan in my journal at the death of our companions, yet I had forgotten these were also Torbjorn’s friends. There is only him and Esa now. He is a true warrior. He carries their deaths but does not let them weigh him down.

Breaching rubble and crossing a black river that was thick with corruption, we found ourselves near the great stepped building, reaching right up into the canopy, and nearby one of the ‘pillar trees’ – even greater in stature than others of its kind, with knot-holes big enough to walk into.

 Kit and Esa scouted the ziggurat, revealing abominations of some kind lurking within; pale, hunched, hairless, winged humanish things.

This seemed the place, but rather than venture in we climbed up the ziggurat and from its top made our way above the canopy, to fresh air and respite from corruption. We laid low among the giant roots, while Farina transformed into a bird and flew off to report to the Huldra. While we recovered, we watched the distant camp of the Sovereign Oath, observing their patrols until the Huldra and her companions joined us, and we ventured down once more.
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2020, 04:28:27 PM »
Day 23, Evening, The Great Tree

After yet another clamber, the great tree awaited us. I swear, I will be as nimble as Kit by the time we are done, with all this rope work, shimmying up and down. Thank old Crueljaw too, for selling ogre-sized rope! I hope to see you again too, my friend.

The ziggurat was tempting but the Huldra felt drawn to the great tree, so that was our first port of call. Look at me with all the nautical lingo – I have been in two boats my whole life – and neither of them were anywhere near water! After another splash through the black river (horrible stuff, and yet we keep falling in) we clambered up to one of the great knotholes in the tree. Within, it still lived, despite all the corruption outside.

We had not gone far when our exploration was interrupted by the pale, flying things from the ziggurat. Did they follow us, or were they always waiting for the chance to come here?

A hard fight for sure, but more for their swoon causing crooning than their claws or long-tongued maws. I had three latched onto me for most of the fight, sucking at me like leeches. Thanks to old Crack-Bones’ flesh, they were little more than nibbles, though: This wrinkled leather wineskin is still sound!

It is an odd thing, but since their gnawed at me, I do not feel that faint unease or unclean sense that has been with me since the cursed statue and Gob’s transformation below Karvosti. It is hard to put it into words, but I think the tarnish on my soul is gone, the touch of corruption is somehow healed. Ah, the fates are cruel, to toy with us like this. All this corruption all around, and yet these beasts can eat mine? Ha! That makes sense I suppose. Stray dogs eat rubbish in alleyways, maybe these things are the same. They have learned to feed on the most abundant food around – Symbar’s diseased soul.

We were aided in our battle by an unlikely ally – although maybe ‘ally’ is not the word.

A great white spider rose out of the hollow base of the tree and fought with us against the pale-man-things. This it seems, was none other than Xanathia, infamous Mother of the Spider King! The very monster who Torbjorn and his crew struck a deal with long ago. I must confess, I had not all the way believed his tales of a great white spider that had “blessed” them for a service done.

Seeing one of them again – mother of the Spider King slain by the sword at my hip, mother of the ‘Princess’ and her brood who had tried to swarm Karvosti – had swarmed it, and were still in Karvosti’s caves, for all I knew – roused my blood. They are here, after the Throne too. I knew it!
Foolish old Crack-Bones. Or maybe not. We shall see.

Xanathia cannot speak, as her daughter did. That makes me wonder who or what Karathran’s father is. Her mother could only “talk” through Torbjorn: She stared at him with her many eyes, and he spoke what she willed. Something to do with her deal with them, I think. I do not wish to be suspicious of him, yet what can it be like to share your mind with a giant spider?

She was direct, I will give her that. She is here to give birth to another Spider King – or perhaps the same Spider King. How could that be anything but bad? Last time, he almost killed all the clans, and they had to create a high chieftain and a magic blade to stop him. What would Maesticar think of me now, stood in parley with that dire threat’s pearly mother!

It was a strange parley. She said there was “a beautiful elf woman” below, and that she “loved her” and desired her protected, though she must leave (to gather allies or to give birth, I cannot say for sure). It proposed a bargain, that it would be our ally against the corruption of Symbar and those seeking the throne – but only if we guarded the elf below.

I felt this was one of those moments where we may sow a harvest reaped on the morrow, so to speak. I think it may have been better for humankind for us to have killed her there and then… but we need powerful allies, if we are to stop queens and drakwyrms and the rest.

The Huldra thought that below was the ‘flame’ she had dreamt of and was seeking, so agreed to the spider-mother’s terms. I, not so much. But what could I do? Fight Esa and Torbjorn, and Huldra and her shadows, half of us and the spider all at once? It would be a battle worth telling, but still.

I respect spiders, from the god to the little ones. But I do not trust them. I think it would have been wiser to kill this one and do without their help. And yet. And yet, she says the Spider King sought to drive all humans from the forest only because they were bringing on the Darkening. Who knows what the new King would think, seeing what the Ambrians have done since his time! But is that really wrong? Was he just doing the same as the elves, but better and without the treaty of the Iron Pact to hold him back? Maybe Davokar would benefit from a century or two without humans in it?

It makes me wonder too. Am I a man in his eyes? I think of myself as a human being, and hate it when any of them suggests otherwise - but am I? Am I not of an older kin?

I could give it up, Davokar I mean, if I had to. I have learned the world is a bigger place than I thought, and there is room enough in the world for adventures elsewhere when this done. Perhaps I will see these ‘city states’ or the lands of the first men, when this is done. Maybe you will come with me, my dear friend?

Woe for the clans though, if they are all driven out and must share what the Ambrians allow them or try to take back what was taken from them in the war. It is as I have always said – one is driven out and drives out another in their turn. That is the way of all humans, I think. Maybe I just don’t know enough dwarves and trolls.

Maybe spiders should have their chance.

Pah! So be it. Do what you must to survive today and worry about tomorrow when the morrow comes. No death for you at my hand, Spider-Mother (today). But still I demanded a promise from her: That if we guard the elf below, and are her allies, then she must swear that if she and her son go to war, they must not kill all humans just for being humans. Those who do no harm to the forest must be spared.

She agreed. For whatever promises mean to a spider, she agreed. It was the most I could demand, and the best I could get. Crack-Bones has done what he can for you, humans, for the sake of his friends. Remember me for that, if nought else.

Going below, into the base of the tree, there was indeed an elf. All tangled in roots, looking more tired then ever I have felt on my worst day. She was covered in roots, like they had grown over her, from toes to chin. Only her face and arms were free. She was doing magic, an orb of light forming between her weaving fingers as she worked on who knows what.

I did not love her upon seeing her, though I did pity her. She was tall, and so old and powerful. We had no idea what she was doing, save that is was some great magic. I suspect the Huldra knew but would not say. But there was no corruption here, I felt that much. Maybe the elves know more, if we meet them and they decide not to fill us full of fucking arrows.

What can this mean, especially Xanathia’s care for the poor thing? Maybe “love” is Xanathia’s way of saying “fat and juicy” – she is a spider, after all. Maybe it means “power”. Maybe it means both of those things.

Perhaps the root elf is holding back the corruption, keeping the Darkening, or something yet worse at bay. Perhaps it is she who grew the canopy? Perhaps she has been here since the fall of Symbar, when elves and spiders brought the city down.

Maybe that is why the white spider loves her. If all that is true, then maybe I should too.
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2020, 01:58:53 PM »
Day 23, Night

Back at camp, safe and sound, satisfied.

Its late, but no one is in the mood to sleep. Why? Because we are treasure hunters – successful ones! It has been a good day, in the end. Death is always kinsman to this profession. I feel like a fraud now, less like a stupid ogre with ideas above is station.

Ha! I have always had ideas above my station! Otherwise, I would not be here.

Anyhow, we have plundered the ziggurat and unearthed its secrets. No throne or crown or key to it, but a hoard of treasure – pure gold, shared out among us all, bearers included. We have earned it. We have done it. Now we just have to escape this place alive.

This is not the end of the path quite yet. We have new knowledge of the city and where that greatest treasure of all may be. That is for tomorrow though, after we have seen these elves the witches wish to ally with.

We wrapped poor Inga in a shroud. Torbjorn wants to burn her, in accordance with her faith. But we must wait or do it far from here. So, for now she waits with us.

Day 24, Morning

Yesterday we were treasure hunters. Today we are something else.

They could have wanted to cut their losses and run. I thought they might, but they did not. Even Korik seems to appreciate that this is about more than gold. These people made him, made dwarves, I mean, after all. At least that is what he says and Longenof agrees, apparently. Maybe he hopes there is a yet greater prize somewhere in the ruins (the throne perhaps) but I suspect he wants to ensure no one can forge his people again or enslave them.

Torbjorn put it best. “We were treasure hunters,” he said, “but this is not about treasure anymore.”

Day 24, Afternoon

A day of rest. A day without danger, pain, or worry – the first since that afternoon by the waterfall, which seems a hundred years ago now. A hard day tomorrow, but today we lay back in soft green grass and enjoy a brief respite. Even Korik looks a little better, now that the witches have given him medicine for the red plague. So, a rest day.

We also met the Iron Pact.

Following the witches’ directions, we joined the witch Amanmar in a glade south of the city, where the forest is still whole. The Huldra and Miralba remained in the great tree, guarding the elf woman; busy still weaving the canopy to contain the city, Amanmar assured us. The elf named her as Valarai-Aia and confirmed what we suspected – that she is holding back the darkening as best she can. But she is slowly failing. That at least is not my task. What good are Huldras if they cannot help with such things, eh?

In the glade we saw half a dozen elves – which usually means there’s twice that number hiding somewhere close – but still, hardly a show of force. Things seemed peaceful enough though, almost ‘welcoming’ (which is how I describe ‘indifference’ when I meet elves). We met an autumn elf by the name of Ardil, leader of the Pact’s forces, and a taller elf who seemed not seem quite with us, like a child or a very old human, who was introduced to us as Geliael. A witch maybe, or whatever the elf equivalent is.

These and a few others are the remnants of the Iron Pact in Symbar. The rest have been slain by the hands of the Sovereign Oath, trying to keep them away from the cursed city. It is hard to read the faces of elves, but my guess is they have buried many companions of late. What number of elves are even in this forest, all told? Enough that they could go to war, but now not enough to keep fighting. I think that is either very bad or very good news for you, depending on where you stand.

Numbers are indeed to the problem. The Oath continues to hack its way through the undercity, and the elves are too few here (perhaps everywhere now) to fight them, to stop them eventually breaching the plateau, that undulating red moss, and breaking into the palace.

Without witches, corruption is no doubt rife among them, and the abominations in the grounds will no doubt take more than a few, but I am not so full of hope that I believe the dracwyrm will be killed or dissuaded. Sooner or later they will discover that the power of the throne is not there. The means to raise their new empire of Symbar is not there. And then they will come looking for it.

And even the ruins of Symbar are a thing they can claim renown and power from. To simply be here, to ‘own’ it, is a great victory for them in overthrowing the High Chieftain.

Clearly, they must be stopped, even if, their witch-hate aside, they may not be entirely wrong in their belief that the southern clans have been tamed and weakened by Ambria. Fatefully, they are starving. This gives us an opportunity to strike deeper than either our numbers or Ardil’s would allow:  A caravan is coming with supplies from the north, and Ardil believes its destruction may end them without a battle. That may save lives on both sides.

But Ardil does not have enough men to take the caravan alone. That of course, is where we come in. The elf lord does not trust us, and that is fair enough. This will help us both. This may even make us friends if elves are capable of that. After all, if I can be friends with spiders why not them? Thinking about it, they only really started shooting at me when I started working for the Ambrians. Oh well, life is change – no matter how good the wine is going in, it is all piss coming out.

Ah, this place, all these factions and repercussions. They make me think so hard. It makes my head hurt sometimes. It is probably good for me. Chess made my head hurt when I learned that. “It is not just a game,” the old man said, “it is about seeing a wider world you did not see before.”

Maybe I should see the wider world, if I live through this.
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2020, 12:10:39 PM »
Day 25, Lunchtime

We killed good, strong folk today. Sovereign Oath. A clash of shield and spears in the old way. Good fight. Good deaths for all. In fresh air, no less. It is good to fight men again after so many monsters.

Today was concentration and strength - drobback and dracofnik, in the old tongue of Symbar. 

We combined our might with that of the remaining elves, to stop the supply caravan. Being elves, they took to the forest to ambush and stalk. We got the hard job, out on the plain.

The battle was west of the lost city, on a dusty red plain, bare and lifeless, like old dried gore. Most odd, compared to the abundant life that is everywhere else – even the blighted places have some life. This I will get to later. Little cover there, just sundered ruins, no more than boulders; so, we dug a trench and raised a mound to give us cover from their scouts. I am not so over-proud that I will not lift a shovel. I even brought my own. Good memories of simpler times. It is good, after so much leading of this expedition, for a simple battle to the death: Just “us” and “them”.

Ha!

As their wagons started to emerge from the forest, we heard the cries of pain and surprise, long familiar to me as the start of an elf-battle. We, meanwhile, took on the vanguard: A dozen strong shieldwall and a pair with heavy, hafted axe wielders. Skilled fighters, hard hitters. They knew the import of their cargo, as did we. A tough fight, I honour them.

Of course, things are never so simple.

Partway into the clash of battle-metal, there was a rumbling in the cracked earth and we were interrupted: Some giant, corrupted, rotten spider-thing remnant of the war dragged itself up from the crust – one of that ancient spider army’s blighted causalities no doubt. It seemed to have been sleeping below the dust, awoken by the screams and blood soaking into the earth. I knew there was a reason for this wasteland! This whole damn place is probably dried up spider bodies, all the way down.

It almost got Farina, pouncing, spewing acid from its jaws, ‘healing’ itself after our blows. Nevertheless, I was able to force it to the ground, and Kit’s flashing knives killed it. Bloody spiders – just when I was starting to feel better about you.

We are bloodied but victorious, and Spiderbane has served its purpose once again. Now we must see how the elves are doing – and if they will keep their side of our ‘alliance’ now the fighting is done.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2020, 12:28:07 PM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

  • Out Of The Shadows
  • Games Master
  • *
  • Posts: 1294
  • Seek and Destroy
    • View Profile
Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2020, 11:14:30 AM »
Day 25, Afternoon

So, we won.

There were dead elves in the woods, but no living clansfolk of the Oath. They fought valiantly. They died surrounding their wagons. I know how bad it gets when elves attack. They did their duty well.

Fewer still of the Iron Pact today, however. Too few to try this trick again unless ore elves come. Miralba was a huge bear today, bloody but unbowed. Magnificent lady. We provided the service of our medicus and Ardil did not try to dispose of us once we had serviced his purposes, which was nice. Maybe there is hope of some alliance yet.

We agreed to meet his people in two days, to see what else must be done. He has not changed his mind about his plan. I told him again that more and more will come, and that simply hoping the throne remains unfound is a strategy planned solely by luck. He still wouldn’t tell us where it is, but maybe I gave him food for thought.

I told Miralba this also, and I think she agreed. I enquired if the spiders, monstrous blight-beasts aside, might be allies we could draw on, but she shook her head; they are just another faction to be wary of, although they might talk at least. Sometimes. Maybe. That’s just the way it is with spiders.

Bidding our allies farewell, we considered our options. People arriving every day now, and if we can get this far, so can others. Our lead is like a candle near the stub. We can’t wait and hope like Ardil. We have to find it, even if it just to destroy it or keep it safe – or hell, just to be the first one there and see it, after all this time.

I wonder if it will be more comfortable than the one in the palace.

Day 25, Evening

We win, We are the proud owners of the Throne of Thorns. It is ours, and if any take it after, it is because we let it be so.

Alas there is no glory here. No great honour in finding the long-sought throne. Like Symbar, the story is greater than the truth. Like Symbar, it is death and corruption and no good to anyone save as a lesson in power and wrath.

We found it; I will not write exactly where. I am before it as I write this now, the great black thing pulsing with corruption, in a bleak room of black stone, reeking of dwarf piss (it’s a long story). It is indeed large enough for an ogre’s ass, but mine will not grace it.  No one can sit upon this throne. Anyone who dreamed of Symbar reborn shall see their dreams thwarted. Anyone who wanted to have its power for their own ends will be disappointed.

A great green and violet gemstone glitters in the throne’s back - what our witches call a “power node” but it is a cauldron of corruption. All the wratha that has spread through Symbar and - despite the elf’s work below the great tree – beyond, and throughout the Davokar, is here.

The only power to be claimed here is the power to create another Alberethor.

So, we found it, and its useless. There is nothing to claim or loot here, no prestige in sitting upon its foul stone. It is difficult to guard, though we might try. It is impossible to move, even to touch, without succumbing to its power. We cannot even linger to close nearby; such is its abominable curse. It is beyond our power to destroy. And we cannot say for certain no one will find it. We have much to think about.

So, we must leave.

And yes, Korik pissed all over the floor. I am not sure if it was merely his idea to sow the red plague over the room, but I think he did it for all dwarves. An act of vengeance and contempt again those he says enslaved his race. Or he just needed to piss. That’s sometimes just how it happens.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2020, 03:38:41 PM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.