An excerpt from The Lost Tomes, circa 618AR: A private correspondence between two Vigilant Peers.
Historian’s note, 759AR: We are unsure as to the authenticity of this missive and cannot verify the facts contained therein for several reasons:
- As all historians know, events recorded a decade after the event are rarely as reliable as those captured directly after or even during.
- Hearsay is an unreliable mechanism for capturing objective truth, however in some circumstances a perspective is better than no perspective.
- We do not have any other corroborating evidence of the time, no similar missives, no proof that this sort of correspondence was common between the Vigilant Peers of the day, and no way of scrutinising the potential veracity of the claims made herein.
- So much knowledge was lost to us during the time of troubles. The great fire seized from us so much knowledge that could have been used to fact check the information contained herein. The roiling darkness robbed us of wise men in the interim who would have ordinarily kept objective records. Even now, as we look back on this time, 150 years ago, without the discovery of a hidden trove of secret knowledge, we may never be able to verify the truth of the matter. Did this band of Illuminated actually exist? Or were they perhaps a parable of sorts? Is the tale apocryphal – perhaps the moral ‘truths’ contained in this series of correspondence were more pertinent than the actual facts?
In any event, I shall present the translations as they are and allow you, the reader to be the judge.
- Elbert Cravenly, Grand Master of the Khadoran Historical Society.
I refer to our most recent conversation at The Sancteum, where you despaired as to ever knowing how our Order may have managed to find itself in this state of atrocity.
When I reflected on your questions after our meeting, I recalled a tale spun to me one night over several cups of vintage Lhaelese red, by one who claimed to have been there. He was one of our rank for a small time before he died preternaturally, having been an investigator for the Order before being promoted to the rank of Vigilant. He told me of the events that led up to his appointment, and I think you will find in more ways than one, there are wheels within wheels, within wheels. I fear this tale may take longer than my patience for letter writing tonight, so I will undertake to get as much of the tale on paper as I care to now, with more to come in my next correspondence.
This former colleague told me of a mission he and his companions had been assigned, to locate certain artefacts of darkness, in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of those who would misuse them.
You see these items were entrusted to the safeguarding the essence of the creature we now know as Soulflayer. Each in isolation was a terrible threat, but united, they spelt doom for the world as we know it. By luck or happenstance, our former Peer’s band had already discovered one item of the triumvirate – the brass skull. Trying to understand what they had discovered set them on the path to locating the rest. The skull was entrusted to the Order for safekeeping, but it fell upon this band of investigators to locate the other objects of this unholy trinity. A professor at the local university by the name of Albus Westen, identified those artefacts as being the Dagger of Reaping and the Chalice of Wrath.
Western pointed the band toward Caspia, where the dagger was last seen and referred them to an old colleague of his, Dextrel Kirkson, a member of The Fraternal Order. According to Western, the artefacts dated back to the ancient Empire of Morrdh.
Cravenly’s note – Of this, we now have no doubt. If the story is true, then these items were surely forged in Old Mord, the events of the last sesquicentenary highlight this well enough.
The band decided they would travel overland from Corvis to Bainsmarket, where they would catch the newly completed rail link to the capital, where they hoped to investigate the Sancteum’s records and track down any information about the whereabouts of this dagger. Upon setting out from Corvis, they were approached by two road marshals, named Sewall and Uriel. (Ordinarily I would not remember such detail from a tale of long ago, but the names struck me as oddly prophetic, and I have always harboured an intention to look into our lore in more detail for references to these names.) These marshals asked the band to accompany a group of lay-folk to Bainsmarket to help ensure their security on the open road, which of course our good Morrowans agreed to readily.
This began a series of encounters with cutthroats, all the way from Corvis to Bainsmarket. In all, they were attacked four times by seemingly well-organised bandits. The oddity of this part of the tale is that the caravan they accompanied clearly had no objects of value, being a group of migrating peasants. However, the coordinated nature of the attacks led to a heated conversation amongst the band as to whether they were somehow being targeted for some unknown reason. Opinions were split, some believing it was a coincidence, and some believing it was something more sinister.
The fourth and most vehement attack took place under the cover of darkness, facilitated by the need to stop and repair a wagon wheel after the third attack – during which this wheel was specifically targeted by one of the bandits. This unusual strategy by the bandits led the companions to wonder what agenda this group of miscreants and ruffians were actually pursuing. Unfortunately the group did not think to leave any of their assailants alive for long enough to question them.
One of the travellers in the caravan was a scholar and member of the Fraternal Order by the name of Wolfe Scorleigh, who proved quite useful during the final attack. He was secretive about the purpose of his journey saying he only wished to continue his research. According to our former peer, he could not be encouraged to elaborate further on this research despite our peer’s companions pressing the issue strenuously.
When the companions finally arrived in Caspia, they met with one of our number, who was able to tell them what was known of Soulflayer at the time. Of course we now have much more insight into this foul beast, but at the time their information was limited to the commonly available – that the creature was a demi-god and a lead Architect of the Nonokrion Order of Infernals.
The band’s next stop was the headquarters of the Fraternal Order, where they sought out the Magus Kirkston. This ageing wizard posits two theories about the whereabouts of the dagger:
- It is in the possession of an infernalist cabal (surely the worst possibility!)
- There is another group keeping it safe, and this group has no idea what the dagger actually does (or they would have tapped into its power hence).
If it was to be option two, the ageing Magus warned the companions that they would need to demonstrate assurances that they knew how to deal with the threat it posed. This led to the second challenge; finding a means to destroy the vile relic. In order to do this, they would need to find an arcanist with a ritual that could defeat the evil.
The Magus then provided introductions to three individuals who may advance the search; High Magus Arland Calster, Tara Pellew, a retired Illuminated One, and Lord Fenwick, a nobleman with an interest in bringing down practitioners of black magic.
They met with the High Magus directly, who provided them with a recommendation under his seal, promoting support for their mission. He also furnished them with a letter of introduction to Maxwell Sadler, a merchant who dealt in the arcane and unusual.
Leaving the Order’s chapter house, the band headed to see Tara Pellew. Having heard that she loved to talk about her old adventures, the group flattered the retired adventurer and shared tales of battle. She quickly referred the team back to the Fraternal Order, admonishing them that they would have to earn the trust to the order before they opened up their secrets. She also pointed them to a Kerryn Reardan, a Prelate of Morrow in Caspia – I remember her well, she was a harsh woman and one of the first to fall. I always suspected that her knowledge of the artefacts somehow contributed to her swift conversion, but of course that was never proven.
The final gifts Tara gave to the companions were the tale she had heard of a group of adventurers who had discovered a ritual to destroy demonic artefacts, and the gossip that Maxwell Sadler was a man of dubious virtue – having conducted many extra marital affairs over the years, many with his staff. She warned the group to be circumspect when discussing this aspect of his persona.
Finally, she called aside one of our Peer’s companions and hinted at something called the Smoking Eye – a cult she had hunted almost 20 years before this meeting. Apparently Arland had been involved in the final battle.
Having many avenues to pursue, the group left her residence, feeling the wheels spin within wheels. A microscopic cog, in a catastrophic plan so to speak.
Well esteemed one, I have reached the end of my patience as foretold earlier. If this missive piques your curiosity, do let me know and I shall continue the story in my next letter.