The Illuminated Ones

Illuminated Journal 13
By Caleb Shaw

We last recounted ourselves as we were questioning Malik. This continued, but little more could be gleaned from this discussion. He maintained his innocence and was unable to provide any actionable information as to who may be responsible for the predicament he found himself in. Lucian did his best to provide us with a lead towards the culprit by putting himself amongst the crowd, intending for his trained senses and skills to hone in on anything untoward. This, too, produced nothing of use.

As we ate our dinner with Katerina once again that evening, with the events of the day the hot topic and with her as the only other Khadoran aboard, I had hoped she could shed a little light on the situation. Unfortunately she claims not to follow political issues to do with her homeland, and the deceased noble did not have enough of a reputation for her to know any enemies he might have made. She appeared to reach the same conclusion as the other passengers, that which the real culprit had no doubt intended.

At least one thing was achieved before the sun rose the next morning. When Zakhar did not return to his room that evening, it was safe to assume that he had aided Katerina in moistening her sheets. Given the lady did not appear to hide such desires, there was little, if any, challenge—I’d liken it to holding a net over the water when a sizeable fish jumps in; it’s a nice catch, but it doesn’t make you a fisherman.

We pressed the Captain further on the following day in an attempt to determine whether the target of our investigation was one of the crew, considering the privileged access they had to information such as vacant rooms. His crew was said to be solid, though the Purser, Gerhart, was more closely tied to the wait staff. Pressing Gerhart provided nothing more than insolence and callous disregard for the lives of others, specifically the deceased. A sentiment sadly shared by the majority of passengers.

When the King Malfast docked at Mercir, Diego was awaiting our arrival where he was introduced to the Captain and briefly filled in on the events and chance meeting with the infernal, indirectly caused by him. It may have been the relief found in our feet touching land again, but we allowed the Captain to find his own way to the temple and present himself for atonement. Before departing, he did hand us a letter of introduction to Elizabeth Becker who he advised has the ear of the Duke.

Upon our arrival at the temple, Diego introduced us to Prelate Califfo Sylvie. Mathias immediately filled him in on the dark events which transpired on the boat, in intricate detail. Surely, had he known, the Prelate would’ve been thankful he was spared at least some imagery, such as the number of strokes it took Zakhar to satisfy Katerina.

After a brief repast of oats and water… Hang on, allow me to digress for a moment here. Seriously, I mention this because it’s worth noting that the church clearly spares no expense on those who risk their lives for the betterment of the world. Could there perhaps be a bit of treacle or maybe some milk from one of the numerous animals that would’ve turned their noses up at the very same meal? We recently caught a person who made a deal with an infernal. I’m sure he could be sent out to milk the appropriate animal/s to fuel the fire in our bellies to fight the infernals as part of his atonement. Just a thought.

Anyway, after eating our sumptuous, cold, oat soup, visiting the army barracks to investigate the owner of the sword found at Asc. Shevann’s Abbey was first on our agenda. Captain Lynch tells us the sword is one of only seven that were made and given to the dukes. He intends to narrow down the owners of these swords and advise us when he has something to report.

Diego reveals, as we depart the barracks, that whilst we were aboard infernalist vessel King Malfast, he had been investigating cultists who call themselves the Sons of the Damned. Rumour has it they are led by an individual named ‘Nightshade’—some fear even the name, while others give it no more thought than they would ‘boogeyman’. Whether or not this ‘Nightshade’ exists, it would seem the infernalist paraphernalia aboard the King Malfast was intended to find its way to the Sons. It is known that they reside in what the citizens of Mercir call “The Maze”, named after the labyrinth-like alleys running through this shantytown found in the centre of the city. As one would expect, The Maze harbours many of the city’s criminals.

It is most unfortunate that Diego wasn’t able to learn anything beyond the presence of cultists in the ghetto of Mercir, where we expected the chalice to reside. Either further information is truly difficult to come by or this is another patented ‘training exercise’.

That evening, what I expect will not be the last of our visits into The Maze, produces nothing other than its inhabitants clearly avoiding us and vacating the streets, with the exception of one man, identifying himself as “nobody”, poking his head out from his almost completely unhinged door to advise us to leave this part of town. Hardly unexpected, but there was nothing at all to be gained from this excursion.

Later, upon our return to the temple, the Prelate informed us that the son of an advisor to the Duke has gone missing. With little else to go on at this point, we visited the city’s watch command to offer our assistance the next morning. Though the watch commander refused our help, he did mention he had been told of our self-guided tour of The Maze and that perhaps we continue our search into what we know best: fanciful and imagined enemies (I’m paraphrasing, but that was the jist of it). As I was asking him who it was that reported the details of our visit into The Maze, as no member of the watch dares set foot in there, we were promptly removed by the guards so they could resume “real work”.

It would’ve been nice to perhaps have someone in The Maze to at least give us somewhere to start, but surely Diego’s groan of disapproval to the question didn’t help the situation. I hope to one day live up to the standard set by his discovery that there is a criminal underbelly in the poverty-stricken part of town where those charged with policing the city dare not tread. No doubt it will be spoken about for years to come.

Shunned by another watch commander so ignorant of the crime going under his very nose and unable to police even the well-guarded homes of the nobles, where one of them is now missing, we head to an inn just outside The Maze. Numerous patrons abandon the place soon after our arrival. With only the barkeep and a couple of others at the back of the room remaining, we order some ale, or so it was called, and see what the barkeep is willing to share to start. All questions regarding Nightshade and the Sons of the Damned were expressed as off-limits. No number of gold crowns could change his mind, such was the fear for his life.

One of the remaining patrons at the back piped up, saying he’d take a gold crown for some info on the Sons. Refusing to talk before one gold rested in his greasy palm was not a good indicator. Diego gave the man what he asked for, but certainly didn’t get his money’s worth. The grifter’s hand held three gold crowns after telling us little more than that which we already knew before I grew fed up, voiced my opinion on the matter and left. I don’t know what happened after and I didn’t care to ask. No new information has since been acted upon, so I assume little else came of it.

What followed was by far the most fruitful event of the day. Mask shopping. At least we were prepared for the upcoming Masquerade, if nothing else. No judging—the day’s efforts were fueled by oats and cold water. You don’t run a labour jack on peaty soil.

The Prelate presented a message from Captain Lynch upon our return to the temple in the afternoon. Returning to the barracks, the Captain gave us three names:
Gaston Borne – disgraced as a deserter
Rowe Villias – sole survivor of Khadoran assault
Samuel Talbot – resigned his commission and joined the Church of Morrow

Further discussion reveals that Rowe Villias is the son of a noble. His father was the chief engineer of the new cannon to be unveiled, but he was sacked around the same time of the events at Asc. Shevann’s Abbey. Ashamed, he abandoned his home and had not been seen since. Rowe is now living the life of a dilettante.

Early that evening saw us investigating the residence of Rowe’s father, as we were in the area. It appeared vacant and the long grass and leaf litter showed that not even groundskeepers were retained in his absence. The front gates were chained and locked shut, and although this is a minor obstacle in itself, the area is well-lit and frequently patrolled. A more dimly-lit area to the side of the property seemed to be the best point of access, although that would only be true if some didn’t find climbing a fence so difficult.

Only Zakhar made it over before Diego was spotted spinning and sliding on the bars as if they were coated in grease. Diego told a ridiculous tale that he was merely performing a lesser-known ritual of Morrow. One mustn’t expect too much from a person who pays handsomely for information they already have, may Morrow bless him. Along with the others who tried in vain to help him explain, he was escorted back to watch command.
Somehow my presence went unnoticed, so I soon joined Zakhar on the other side of the fence to enter and explore the building. There were no signs of occupancy, just cloth-covered furniture and a fine layer of dust over everything.

Disappointed, we left and checked at the watch command, looking for the others. Not knowing where they went, we returned to the temple where Zakhar arranged a missive to be sent the following morning, arranging to meet Elizabeth Becker. The acolyte whose sleep he disturbed wasn’t too impressed, but surely some cold oat-soup the next morning would’ve made up for it. Perhaps the acolyte would be comforted later, knowing that the best was yet to come the next day. If only we’d seen Ms Becker earlier, things might’ve turned out differently.

We went to the house of Rowe Villius, after finding out where he lived. Despite the urgency of the matter expressed to the Major Domo, we were told it would be some time before we would be able to see Master Villius. The expected five day wait to see Rowe must’ve been what sent two of us over the edge. Mathias clocked the Major Domo over the head, Diego followed this up by knocking him down by barging him with his shoulder and then entering the house. Lucian shook his head as he walked in after them.

The voices that bellowed out immediately following their entry revealed that both Rowe and his father were standing right there the whole time. Heated words were exchanged, as one would imagine, but after a brief time the sword we sought to examine was verified as genuine. Rowe said his party was besieged by Khadorans, but they were overwhelmed by the unexpected arrival of a Destroyer. He was the only one to escape with his life and he apparently knew nothing of the dark events that followed.

Gaston Borne was next on the list to see. A known drunkard, he was easy to find at his usual watering hole, The Blind Pig. There is no mistaking him with half his face ravaged by acid or flame, destroying half his vision. Visible only slightly above his collar are long scars, evidently caused by that of a whip. Swaying slightly under the effects of many drinks, he sits at a table, hunched over.

Speaking with the man, he claims dark magic was responsible for what befell his party. He recalls seeing a woman in smoking armour. Soon after seeing her, he describes feeling overcome with the urge to flee, lasting only a few moments, but long enough for his legs to carry him away without even a thought. After succumbing to the surge and abandoning his fellow soldiers, he was charged with desertion and flogged.

Gaston is unable to present his sword, having sold it days ago for booze money. Nor is he able to recall who he sold it to or what they looked like. Given the state he is in, it is not at all surprising. We leave him with some booze and some money to do with as he pleases. The poor man has little else.

As the sun begins to set, we return to the temple. A missive from Elizabeth Becker awaits our arrival, arranging for us to meet at her place tomorrow morning.

The Prelate is asked about the one man left on our list of three, Samuel Talbot. We are told he is in the midst of a three-day ritual and is not to be interrupted. Samuel has seemingly dedicated himself to the church after bearing witness to and the cause of many atrocities on the battlefield. With two out of three names crossed off the list, it seems the man we seek is under our very noses and, despite all manner of protest (to put it nicely), Prelate Califfo has declared him off-limits. Managing to negotiate the inspection of Samuels belongings, his quarters are essentially empty. We are told he gave the majority of his worldly possessions away, including his armour and the sword we seek, which were given to his parents. Arrangements are made for the sword to be inspected.

Another anti-climactic day’s end led straight into a lecture from Prelate, who was unimpressed by what was amongst his mail today. No doubt exacerbated by the insistence on disturbing a ritual in-progress, the Prelate spat from his ferocious, red face how he felt about our recent behaviour. It should go without saying that making a scene with and lying to the city watch, beating up a butler and breaking into the home of and threatening a noble family, is decidedly poor form. We were a beaver-hair away from being forbidden to attend the meeting with Elizabeth Becker, for fear of further embarrassment.

This was as good a night as any to turn-in early.

Back into the area of Mercir where the spin-and-slide-secret-ceremony started our slipshod stopgap, we met Elizabeth Becker in the morning. Presented with much delightful food, drink and cakes as refreshments, Diego was the only one who did not partake. This did not prevent him from relentlessly flirting with the woman after insulting her by refusing her hospitality. He wasn’t to know she was another middle aged woman that looks pretty good for her age—or he knew and didn’t want to eat within thirty minutes of diving in for a swim in Lake Becker.

After exchanging pleasantries and discussing recent events (including the mischief we had gotten up to), the topics moved on to things more specific and serious. To start, Elizabeth advises the Dukes cousin, Wulfric, had been made new chief of the cannon project. She voices disapproval of such nepotism.

Unapologetically fond of gossip, Elizabeth also tells us that on the prior evening Madeleine Eastwick, daughter of a prominent merchant, had been kidnapped. The fuller extent of the circumstances were that Madeleine appeared to have been taken from her room where, amongst a pool of blood, her paramour was found murdered. It was said that Madeleine was known to have flexible morals. She was also engaged to be married to the son of someone of importance. The Duke is most upset with this being the second recent disappearance. There is also a reward on offer.

At the conclusion of our meeting, we return to the temple where the Prelate tells us that after his examination of Samuel Talbot’s sword, it appears to be legit.

To summarise: we took the scenic route on our way back to square one and have now reached our destination.

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Illuminated Journal 12
By Zakhar Melnokov

Vigilant Peer,

Alongside escorting Lady Katerina Byrne to Mercir for Black Powder Festival, we also continue to follow the trail of relic. Within our band, there is scepticism about Lady’s trustworthiness, though I believe such fate could be guidance from Ascendant Shevann or Morrow himself. It appears to be more than coincidence our paths crossed.

I should also note, we have not seen Diego since we returned from Morhurst. We had heard he was in the company of Lady Elisabeth Baern, honing investigation skills from woman responsible for exposing and removing cult many years ago. This would not be surprising, as his libido seems to be reserved for more mature woman, which could account for his two week absence. If he return to Sanctum, we have left message for him meet us in Mercir.

We made way to Mercir aboard vessel “King Malfast”. Lady Byrne had graciously paid for journey for us, as part of her escort, and has also shortened trip if made by land. The Lady is most fascinated with the Order, and seeks our company more than our protection, asking us to share stories of exploits, though we have kept these vague, hiding true intent of missions.

On second day of voyage, we were surprised to be boarded by Farrow pirates. Once we ensured Lady Bryne was safe, we repelled attackers who had breached hull, felling Commander and Gun Boar. With leader and grunt dead, the sounder of man-swine quickly surrendered. The crew of the ship proved of little use, and once attack over, the Captain confronted us, distressed, and wanting to know condition of cargo.

If being attacked at sea by Farrow was surprising, things became even stranger. It appeared time had stopped for all aboard except for our band and the Kapitan. Before us appeared Infernal with entourage. The Infernal is the same we are trying to stop from attaining relics we seek, and we have learned his name to be Zatibii, The Soul Flayer.

The Infernal had made contract with ship’s Kapitan to cover gambling debts, in exchange for delivering cargo to Mercir. Kapitan complained that contract was unfair, as his ship had never encountered problems at sea until this time. Although he was a fool to take such measures to avoid debts, Caleb and Mathius challenged Infernal’s contract, and successfully proving contract not be ironclad and ambiguous in nature. Thus mark was removed from Kapitan’s soul, and Caleb and Mathius did not lose theirs.

The Infernal also made mistake, letting us know he was in Mercir, and we were already too late to retrieve relic. Such boasting most likely from anger, though we know we are heading in right direction, and will die before allowing it to gain power.

Once Infernal vanished, all became normal once more, and Kapitan feinted. Mathius took Kapitan to his quarters to tend his needs and make aware his situation, and stupidity of actions. Lucian checked on Lady Bryne, and Caleb and I returned Farrow to their ship, slow leaking the vessel so they could make it ashore. We then checked cargo, finding cargo for transport was generic Infernal ritual items. We disposed of contrabands overboard.

From here trip continued to meet with tragedy. On shore we found caravan attacked by another sounder of Farrow. We ensured bodies were blessed and buried, and can assume one was of nobility, as he also held invitation for Black Powder Festival. The mood aboard the ship was now low, only to be made worse the following day.

On fourth day of journey, Ambassador Radamir Lashka, of Khador was found murdered in lower deck quarters. The most obvious suspect was a dispossessed Llaelese noble, Malik Antiss. The Llaelese had made a public display of anger to ambassador, threatening to kill him. Though it seemed too obvious he would be murderer, and once we examined body, we knew we were dealing with a Blood Mage. It appeared blood had been drawn through victim’s skin, and signs indicated victim knew his killer, as there was no struggle, and victim was facing direction of attack without defensive wounds.

We had Malik detained, both to question, and also hoping murderer may make mistake thinking blame successfully laid elsewhere. Searching his room, we did find Thamarite symbol hidden in luggage. Lucian and I could deduct from shocked reaction that Malik was speaking truth when defending his innocence.

We shall report once we discover more revelations to this murderer, and shall take Kapitan to temple in Mercir to face justice for actions.

Your faithful servant,
Posadnik Zakhar Molnikov

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Illuminated Journal 11
By Caleb Shaw

With only the Chalice of Wrath remaining to be found, Matthias and I speak to the church library’s head archivist about researching the possible whereabouts of the chalice. After being granted unrestricted access, I settled in for what turned out to be a long night in the stacks. The elixir of the Scarlet Ox proved to be immensely helpful for maintaining focus throughout the all-night endeavour.

I came across some parchment, the text upon which seems to have been scribed by Ascendant Shevann herself. She recounts the time she came upon the Chalice in an open clearing, raised up on a pedestal which was surrounded by the rotting corpses of farrow. She reached out to grasp it and was pierced by a barb, drawing blood in the process. Where she describes the location sounds like an abbey about half a day travel north of our current location, though it is unlikely to resemble anything she saw or described with a repelled Skorne invasion having since taken place there.

Upon my return to the others with this news, it appears that Zakhar has found a little extra work for us. From what I gathered, he met with a Khadoran woman of some repute, requesting our assistance by escorting her to Mercir in 7 days. That this particular job also pays is excellent news! One does wonder why our aid in particular is being sought after, although payment does well enough to quiet these thoughts at least a little.

After some discussion and some much-needed rest, we made our way in the direction of the abbey’s location. As the sun set and darkness grew, further travel became increasingly difficult. We made camp and an uneventful night was most welcome.

Not long after resuming the following morning, we encountered the anticipated location of the Skorne invasion. Long-decayed bodies of fallen soldiers littered the area, still. Strangely, there laid the body of a trencher who had died recently. His dog tags were removed, so no means of identification were possible. Going by [SOMETHING], the most that could be determined was that he hailed from Mercir.

As we approached the abbey itself, visible signs of battle and bonfires to burn the dead remained. The door of the abbey was scorched, though it is not evident if this was intentional.

Entering the abbey with the others, something was amiss even at a glance. The inside appeared to be a shrine to the infernals. Some details could easily be overlooked or dismissed by the untrained eye, but to me, in that instant, it was unmistakable. Whoever is responsible demonstrated a clear devotion and celebration of infernals. As that initial moment of discovery passed, it seemed, at least for now, this was the least of our concern…

Numerous Farrow were inside and appeared to be ransacking the place. They must have been there for some time. Although these foul beasts were crude enough to have defecated in here, they were at least tidy enough to collect them into neat piles. Why they wouldn’t take the extra step to sweep it outside, or save themselves the effort and defecate outside in the first place is beyond me.

After our startling interruption, they set upon us, not wanting outsiders competing for their precious poop loot. Not long into the battle and I had been charged by one of these ugly beasts. I recall that I almost had him—a stiff breeze would’ve taken him down—and then the next thing I know I’m waking up on the ground, my companions having dispatched the remaining beasts. Although I didn’t witness it with my own eyes, I have no doubt it was a solid scuffle considering the size and number of them.

Matthias had another one of his mysterious and magnificent mixtures at hand. He administered it and had me on my feet in mere moments.

Lucian’s keen eyes found a hidden alcove revealing a crawlspace sloping down into a chamber below. It contained many destroyed artifacts, their shattered remnants strewn about the chamber. An officer’s sword with a faint maker’s mark of a chevron impressed upon it lay on the ground. In front of it, an empty plinth stood painted with a few drops of blood, hinting at the Chalices removal.

With nothing more to be gathered or learned besides the retrieval of the sword, we headed towards a nearby tower. Presented with a locked door, I made myself useful and granted us access. The door had barely opened more than a hair when it revealed an odour so foul I nearly lost my lunch, not that we had eaten any yet. Ascending the tower’s spiral stairs, the source of the awful smell was revealed. Bloated, rotting corpses of several priests were suspended from the rafters by their necks. It was apparent they had taken their own lives.

A nearby chest contains various oddments and a journal, which discusses the discovery of the Chalice. It details the Chalice having a will of its own, much like the other artifacts we have found. Runes carved into the Chalice glowed and the barb pierced the hand of the priest who came upon it, even though he knew better. Images of terrible deeds filled his head as his hand bled profusely. He made it outside the hidden chamber, but the details end there. Knowing what awaited them, the priests likely took their own lives rather than fall victim to it.

During our attempt to bury the deceased in the adjacent cemetery, we discovered something even more horrific. The gravedigger’s house nearby emitted a loud buzzing noise. Such a peculiar sound could not be ignored. The buzzing grew ever louder the closer we got, to the point where it could be felt as well as heard from the wide open door. Flies. What seemed like thousands of them, painted the contents of that place black. Dismembered corpses were piled to the ceiling.

Closer inspection revealed the bodies to be the remaining members of the trencher crew, to which the lone soldier we discovered earlier belonged. No dog tags reminder on these bodies either, but it was clear that they belonged to that of 3rd Army, 9th Division. Perhaps the perpetrator belonged to them too.

Upon our return, the Vigilant peers request our presence and to be filled in on and discuss recent events. Surprisingly, after our discussion, they award us 750GC each to prepare ourselves for dangerous times to come and to ensure that we can do so swiftly. That the church would provide money rather than having the requisite items crafted themselves speaks volumes as to the urgency and importance of our endeavours.

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Illuminated Journal 10
By Diego Vela

Dear Illuminated Ones,

It falls to me to provide testimony to counter the slander of this complaint. As a group, we have read the letter and we must confess to some mild hilarity at the misrepresentation of our good characters therein.

To clear up a few matters; at no point was Mathias “displaying an unholy interest in matters of the flesh”(at least not in a way unrelated to the current case) and I, Father Diego, was not “prone to accusation and evangelical hysteria”, any more than this small slug of an individual was prone to good manners and a concern for the bigger picture of thwarting an undisputed evil… which is of course to say not at all.

Allow me to present the actual facts of the matter thusly:

As dedicated investigators of the Morrowan faith, we constantly scan the environment for indications that something… anything is awry and may need our attention. Although often a thankless and demanding task, it is the small things, when puzzled together to form a clue, that when acted on judiciously, eventually saves an entire village from the rot of necromancy – that really keeps us going. As you will see in this very true and unexaggerated, factual report, it is passion in our work that drives us and not (as the complainant suggests) over-weaning egos and a predisposition for grandstanding.

As I was saying, we constantly scan the environment, and I, Diego, fresh from rescuing a dozen orphans from a building fire that surely would have consumed them all and their attractive young nanny, was taking a moment to myself to relax and read the broadsheets. Zakhar had just finished serving tea (I tell him he doesn’t have to, but he does so like to be close to me in the hope that something heroic will transpire and he will be lucky enough to see it in action) and I again remarked on how uncanny it was that for a big bear of a man, he was so gentle with porcelain cups, almost tender. No sooner were those words out of my mouth, when I spied an item in the broadsheet that would set us in motion on a hunt for necromancers most foul.

It seems my former mentor’s grave at the Sancteum had been robbed! A desecration most foul. When we investigated further, it turned out that there was a spate of grave robbing occurring in the local area and the Watch were nowhere near solving the issue and so, we decided that we would lend what meagre heroism we could to the situation. Upon investigating the grave, we saw 2 sets of boot prints. This led Caleb to remark that he suspected 2 perpetrators. We all sighed internally. (This is the way with Arcanists – you have to let them think they’re the smartest in the room or they blow things up.)

After Caleb’s “breakthrough” forensic discovery, we decided it would be appropriate to see the Watch Sergeant in charge of the investigation, Gerber Fencott. Sgt Fencott, despite being a churlish man, prone to delusions of personal grandeur, was helpful in one respect – he was able to furnish us with a listing of the gravesites that had been robbed and when. He was also able to tell us a little about the corpses that had been stolen, information that while on the surface seemed irrelevant, to my finely honed deductive reasoning, was the element that would crack the case wide open.

I will save you a lot of minutiae about “first we travelled here, then we travelled there.” I imagine you get enough descriptive text about the countryside from Mathias’ regular updates. Honestly the man loves narrating the current experience so much, there have been times we’ve had to ask him to maintain secrecy around the colour and composition of his stool. Suffice it to say, we investigated each of the graves and we found some interesting information:

• Wagon ruts at Caenbrook. Caleb cleverly identified the likelihood of two men using a wagon to transport corpses.

• Even had we not had access to the vast intelligence of our colleague, Farmer Pearce, who lives on the Caenbrook cemetery road confirmed that a battered wagon with a tarpaulin covering it had left the cemetery several times that he had witnessed.

• At the Seawheel site, we find that 2 graves had been disturbed and work had commenced on a third. The interesting thing is that the 2 graves were empty, as (had they not been disturbed) they would have discovered of the 3rd. You see an interesting piece of local lore came out of our investigation – 13 women were sentenced to death for witchcraft 20 years ago and executed. They were posthumously exonerated and exhumed so they could be buried on hallowed ground. The grave robbers, not knowing this plied their trade on naught but soil.

• We discover in Morhurst that the stolen corpse belonged to one Virginia Felton. She died in a swimming accident some four years ago. Her husband, a morose man who works at the Order of the Golden Crucible as an alchemist still grieves for her, and has a taste for expensive whiskey.

• It is during our investigations at Morhust that we come across the complainant. One Olsen Tolbert, Watch Constable. Never before in all my years have I encountered a man for whom dereliction of duty was such an art form. If lazy incompetence were a national sport, this man would be a hero to thousands. I must confess that between his constant pathetic bleating about his empty (but sizable) gut and his piteous displays of ingrained victimhood, Lucien may have lost his temper on one or two occasions at the Constable, but never was the man’s life in serious peril as he stipulates in that fallacy of a complaint letter. If it makes the situation any better, I have counselled Lucien on his hot-headedness, the man is a nightmare with a pistol, but social graces aren’t his arena. However, attention should be brought back to the staggering incompetence of the Watch Constable, a man so useless, more valuable creatures can be found lying on their backs in the bottom of ponds. Let us remind the Illuminated Ones that we actually did his job for him, were it not for our presence, his whole town would be overrun by shambolic corpses, but more on that soon.

• As we travel at night, we are approached by a wagon headed for Caspia. It matches the description furnished by Farmer Pearce. Its occupants are Aiden Webb, a slim weaselish man and Dermott McDougall, clearly the brains of the outfit. With no evidence we have no ability to hold them, but at least we now have names. When we investigate their places of residence, we discover they both have a fondness for the same expensive whiskey as our grieving alchemist. Interestingly, those empty bottles are the most expensive thing about their squalid hovels.

I of course, now have enough information to solve the case. The perpetrator, plot and prescription of the felony are all clear in my mind. However, such is the way with mentoring a group of investigators, one has to allow them the experience of solving it for themselves. Even though it may take a little more time, they’ll never learn unless they’re allowed to follow it through until conclusion.

So we continue – we discover that a 5 year old girl was taken from her bed and murdered, dumped on the beach. The town thinks it is the mysterious hobo known as the prowler. We set out to catch this prowler and by fortuitous coincidence, Mathias is not paying close enough attention to the plan (probably busy narrating the sensation of digestion) and is attacked by the prowler. It was a close thing, but fortunately I was near enough to step in a slay the creature before it could damage Mathias too greatly. I say creature, for this thing – known as a “soulless” was a reanimated corpse, reanimated with a combination of alchemy and magic.

Finally, the penny drops for my companions, it is almost magical to see the ‘ah ha’ moment as they dawn upon the answer that you’ve been gently steering them towards for several days. Honestly Illuminated Ones, teaching others, helping them to grow, gently moulding and shaping their minds and characters is a Morrow blessed calling, one I’m proud to hear sing in my heart.

We race for the home of the morose alchemist. A man who puzzled out the unthinkable, who investigated the unclean, who dabbled with the forbidden to bring back a wife lost too soon by his own hand. A man who bribed poverty stricken ne’er-do-wells with expensive whiskey to find him test subjects so he could perfect his unholy rite.

There we discover an uprising of the soulless, those first experiments. Including my poor mentor. Vale Marten Hellam, we remember you for your contribution and the control you displayed even when corrupted by the foulness. To cut a long and gory story short, we dispatched the creatures, and their unclean benefactor, the morose alchemist.

That, Illuminated Ones, is our tale. I have kept it free of unnecessary detail so that it does not seem self-serving, for if you had experienced the full saga, it would seem like a fable from a storybook. But we are modest men, who seek only to serve Morrow, and we trust that you will consider the complaint now asked and answered. Diego.

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Illuminated Journal 9
By Mathias Jurgen

The Search for the Infernal Cursed Relic

I wish first to reassure the Order that this Relic has been destroyed and the spirit of the Infernal linked to it has been cast back to the Pit.

With the assistance of Lord Fennick we were able to invite the antiquities merchant Maxwell Sadler to the esteemed Gryphon Club. Having secured, at least marginally, Sadler’s good will we discussed his contacts and whether he had the Dark Relic, knew anything of it or was aware of its location or persons looking for it. Mr Sadler was extremely cautious in discussing any aspect of proscribed artefacts and eventually it was established he had minimal support to add to our search.

Discouraged we returned to the Fraternal Order halls and gained audience with the High Magus Calster. Prior to this meeting we had a short discussion with Magus Wolf Scorli whence he discussed his planned ritual to destroy the Relic and that he was using his own abode as the base for the rite in order he stated to ensure no interruptions and better security. The meeting with the High Magus was confrontational and at numerous times he expressed his distrust of the Order in general and specific members in particular. It was eventually revealed that the Fraternal Order vaults did in fact hold the Relic but Calster was unwilling to release it for destruction without certain assurances. First he wanted to be certain we could destroy the Relic and we introduced him to Wolf Scorli and he discussed his planned ritual, this met with general approval. However discussions deteriorated and it was made apparent that our trust of Scorli’s abilities and motivations were not complete and that our team had a second possible plan for the Relic’s destruction. After recriminations and demands we eventually revealed the Magus Gabrial as another avenue for a ritual to shatter the Relic. Gabrial and Scorli each discussed their ritual requirements, it was not determined if one method had merit over another. It was identified that Gabrial was a Magus of much more limited experience and that her ritual would take many hours longer and required a much more open and vulnerable location.

The High Magus had determined that we at least had a chance to destroy the Relic through ritual. Initially he expressed discomfort that the handing over of the Relic and its destruction would nevertheless condemn the Fraternal Order in the minds of many Illuminated due to the fact that the Magus had held the item in secret. Calstar demanded that we discredit certain members of the Illuminated in order, he stated, to secure the Fraternal Order from accusation of Infernalism. We refused to discredit members, however fanatically zealous they may be, at the demand of the High Mage and this resulted in a vigorous discussion. Eventually we secured access to the Relic on the proviso’s that it was held by us alone, that we must destroy it and that we must acknowledge the Fraternal Orders assistance in its destruction.

After extended discussion in our group we decided to attempt the Scorli ritual first and then resort to Gabrial’s spell crafting should Scorli fail, there was some discomfort in Scorli’s motives at this time which later proved most valid. At Scorli’s request the ritual would be conducted in the basement of his home and we had to travel to an old foundry building to secure from a blacksmith the final requirement for his ritual. While travelling to this foundry we passed through a Market square and it is here we were ambushed by an Infernalist who had the power to possess the minds of good people and drive them to violence. The resulting clash was vicious but Diego Vela was able to deliver a mortal shot from his pistol which forever silenced this damned magicker. We collected the final ritual item from the foundry, it was a facility on the verge of ruin and the apparent smith was suspicious of demeanour and passed instruction to take the crafted piece to Scorli’s offices and not his home, this for reasons we never fully established. The spell component was a bell covered in dark writings and runes and with a bone, of at that time uncertain origin, clapper. Again some suspicion was voiced by members of the group but it was felt that unsubstantiated distrust could not be allowed to disrupt what would appear to be a genuine attempt to destroy the Relic.

In Scorli’s home he had prepared the basement for his ritual, this he stated involved each of us being chained by loose manacles for the duration of the spell. The group was extremely suspicious and extensive debate and questioning occurred over the content of the ritual and its progress and purpose. Eventually after great debate our team decided we would allow Scorli to proceed with his spell-crafting but keep the closest eye upon its progress. Scorli proceeded through his long ritual and everything appeared to be as he had stated until the very climax when he moved to grasp the Relic itself. Immediately Diego and Lucian, despite the chains, confronted him with pistols drawn and stated he had not mentioned touching the Relic and he must not continue. Scorli, it was now revealed, was near the end of a Infernal ritual to bind the demonic entity unto himself, both desperate and so near the conclusion of his dark desires he lunged for the Relic to complete his evil design. Reacting with alacrity of thought and action both Diego and Lucien fired and Scorli was struck several times and slain, his blasphemous spell dissipated without harm.

Gabrial who had been present throughout Scorli’s evil was understandably shaken and exhausted by both her involvement in the ritual as it progressed and the shock of its conclusion and Scorli’s death. In order to protect the Relic and prepare for her attempt at its destruction we calmed her with a tincture and stayed hidden and on watch in Scorli’s home intent on keeping the Relic hidden. Following a day’s rest we proceeded to the Cathedral of Morrow and met with the Vigilant’s of the Order to outline are plans to destroy the Relic with Gabrial’s ritual and the aid we would need, in particular in keeping the Morrowan cemetery clear as this was to be the site of the spell-craft. With the assistance of the Order and maintaining the closest watch we protected both Gabrial and the Relic throughout her marathon spell and were gratified to see its success and the apparent destruction of both the Relic and the Infernal spirit contained within. Gabrial was thanked by the entire order for her courage, determination and success.

Following the success of the Relic’s destruction we searched Scorli’s home and office for evidence of his Infernalism, however not much further information was discovered. The foundry at which the wicked bell was crafted was also visited but it had been clearly abandoned immediately and nothing could be found of who or where those beings had fled.

In summation the Relic was destroyed despite several dangers and an unfortunately near disaster.

Addendum: The Cult of Smoking Eye

Throughout the last days we have as a group been repeatedly targeted by persons seen in the presence of a particular woman who on occasion was found at the disreputable Hail of Bullets tavern. These attacks included the grey garbed Possession Magus mentioned earlier in this report; the woman was reported to be sour of demeanour, vicious and in possession of obvious meckanika. We had on several occasions travelled to the Hail of Bullets without locating her and had further offered rewards to local urchins for information of her whereabouts. Following the destruction of the Relic one of the urchins reported that she was visiting the tavern and we made haste to intercept her.
Caleb disguised himself in such a manner to appear a homeless vagabond and infiltrated the tavern to locate and confirm the presence of this particular nemesis, meanwhile the rest of our group surrounded the only exit. Unfortunately, and unknown to us, Caleb was spotted by the assassin, and it was later revealed cultist, before he sighted her. She ambushed him and in the ensuing skirmish Caleb was stabbed repeatedly and severely wounded and then thrown from the tavern. The assassin dashed from the exit and attempted to make good her escape from our trap. In the ensuing battle she was struck by blade, bullet and spell and slain; several members of our group were also wounded in the battle but no one was further seriously hurt and Caleb was fortunately stabilised and other than some very bad scarring we were unable to reduce emerged with no permanent harm. Upon inspection of the assassin and in the light of her words during the fight it was obvious that she was a member of the Black Tear cult and an Infernalist, sadly she was killed before any more information could be gathered.

Ongoing

It has come to the attention of our group that certain graves within the Morrowan cemetery had been desecrated; this included the graves of personal friends. We have decided that this heresy cannot be allowed to continue and are endeavouring to investigate, stop the damage and provide justice.

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Illuminated Journal 8
By Zakhar Melnokov

… This evening we continue tracing leads for Infernal blade, and traveled to residence of Lord Fenwick. His manor within Noble Quarter was quite opulent and well maintained, showing his wealth and position were prominent in Caspia. We were not able to meet with Lord as he was unavailable, though his chamberlain informed us he would send word and organise appointment to meet at Lord Fenwick’s convenience.

Having our connection to Maxwell Sadler delayed, we decided to find most prominent bar in Noble Quarter, not accounting for exclusive member’s clubs. We found a bar called “The Three Lions”, filled with haughty, pretentious lesser nobles and lesser merchant class. We were not well received in our armour and weapons, though other than pathetic jeers from several patrons, there was no trouble. Diego and Mathias began talks with barkeep, who after the promise of coin and a few good words in his favour, divulged some information regarding merchant Sadler.

Maxwell Sadler, who prefer to be addressed as Master Sadler, regards himself as patron of scholars, young artists, and adventurers. As with Kayazy, he is nouveau riche, and has arrogance that comes with one reaching above station. By consensus, we decided it best to meet Lord Fenwick prior to any discussions with merchant, believing best to have backing of noble before further contact.

We soon departed and were returning to the Sancteum, when we were set upon by six thugs. Initially I thought they had been hired by pretentious person we had encountered, though we questioned only survivor who yield to us. Thug not able to give many details, as dead boss had made arrangement with employer. He able to tell us was they were hired by woman at “Hail of Bullets” bar near docks, and they were to deliver heads. He said woman was short and plain, though wore mechanika plate and rapier.

We made way directly to dock area in hopes that woman was still at dive bar. Mathias and Caleb disguised themselves as thugs with sack of melons. We spent some time at bar, and other than Caleb making friends with Trollkin bouncer, we not gather any information other than she had been regular here, though only first appeared few nights ago. Lucian spoke to urchins outside, and paid them to contact us if woman returned.

Late in evening, we returned to SAncteum, only to find our quarters had been ransacked. Nothing seemed to be taken, nor any evidence left behind. After talking to guards and those quartered nearby, only our rooms were targeted whilst Khadoran and Trollkin caused disturbance earlier that day. After tidying mess, we retired for evening without further event.

Following morning was quiet, and after morning prayers, we went to purchase some attire better suited for dealing with nobility. Although my comrades bought clothing off shelf, I found it best to purchase tailored. The clothing is too fancy, and not in Umbrean fashion, but will make do for dealings in city.

Upon returning to Cathedral at noon, we received couple of missives. We stowed new clothing in rooms, then opened first letter, sealed with wax and embossed with gold crown. Upon opening, the letter disappeared in explosion of green flame, and within presence, lesser infernal appeared, quite hideous, though easily dispatched. Whoever was trying to waylay obviously underestimated us. The question, how many people are out trying to kill us?

The second letter was from Lord Fenwick, inviting us to attend performance of “The Llaelese Duke” later in evening. We send RSVP we would attend, and planned few hours to continue investigate leads.

Our first meeting was with Prelate Reardon at Cathedral. She is staunch woman, and upset with trouble we bring with us, especially infernal sent to attack us on holy ground. We talk about unholy relic we seek, and Prelate best course to talk with old companion of hers, Gatar Redhammer, Rhulik follower of Morrow, and one of few accepted into church. We were warned he is slightly mad after his experience fighting Thamarites.

We go to Galtar’s house, which saw was barred. Showed paranoia and security conscious. After knocking, heard many locks being turned. His aide answered door and invited us in. Spoke with Galtar about our search, and seemed stable until Fraternal Order mentioned. Then showed he had bolt loose, accusations against High Mage Arland Calstar, simply because he is arcanist. He then mentioned Lady Elizabeth Baern, who Galtar said she helped fight against Thamarite cult, and earned great respect with Caspia nobility.

After we left deluded Rhulic, we journey to estate of Lady Baern. Her manor was well kept from outside appearance, and we were granted entrance with letter of introduction. Inside we noticed paintings removed from wall, and areas covered from disuse. We were escorted to lounge room, and meet Lady. She was arrogant and deranged, similar to Galtar. After talks, with Diego using his Llaelese charm to seduce older woman, we found she did little to help against Thamarite cult other than bring to authorities attention. For such a small act, she believe she entitled to fame and recognition. Lady have similar disliking of High Mage Calstar, because he not give her credit for doing duty any citizen should perform. She mentioned High Mage took infernal candelabra after cult destroyed, giving her suspicions, though not uncommon for Fraternal Order to store items such as this. It appears Galtar and Lady Baern are two sandwiches in same picnic. She did lead us to a mage named Gabrielle Madigan.

With a few hours to spare, we went to Fraternal Order to meet Madigan. We were escorted to her quarters, and found woman in purple hooded robes and gloves. Lucian showed his distrust of her robes, and she removed her hood to show beautiful woman. Madigan told us she wanted merit for abilities, not looks. She was wary of us, but after some convincing, she told us that on adventure in Bloodstone Marches, she found ritual to destroy bound relic. This will be useful, but for her safety, told her to keep quiet about ritual and said we would need services in future.

We departed, and as exited the college, we met old “friend” Wolfe Scorleigh. We pretend we had been looking for him, to protect intent of meeting Madigan. He took us to his office were we talked, and eventually had open discussion. He upset we had not come to him for aid regarding relic, and said he also had ritual to destroy relic. Wolfe was happy to later vouch to High Mage he could perform ritual when it came time. This worked well for us to help protect Madigan, but I am suspicious one of these people is cultist, especially Wolfe as he knew too much about our dealings in city over past few days.

It was then time to prepare for evening at theater. We returned to Sancteum once more and changed to meet Lord Fenwick. Once again we were attacked by lone assassin, and Caleb and Mathias gravely wounded. Lucian provided covering fire as Diego and I assaulted building. We prevailed, but need to start taking these people alive for interrogation.

Due to recent ambushes, we take coach to Seaton’s Theater. We were escorted to booth where we met Lord Fenwick who was very cordial and friendly, good change from recent noble meetings. He provided good hospitality as we talked and planned, and agreed he would invite Maxwell Sadler to luncheon at “The Griffon”. We wanted to take advantage of merchant’s weakness to gain sort after information. After business resolved, we talked more and watched Llaelese play, then parted ways for evening.

As we returned to retire for evening, we found urchin waiting for us outside. He inform us mysterious lady was at “Hail of Bullets” for few hours now, and child upset he had to wait. It was time for us to quickly prepare to meet woman trying to kill us.

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Illuminated Journal 7
By Diego Vela

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:

  1. As all historians know, events recorded a decade after the event are rarely as reliable as those captured directly after or even during.
  1. Hearsay is an unreliable mechanism for capturing objective truth, however in some circumstances a perspective is better than no perspective.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.


Esteemed Peer,

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:

  1. It is in the possession of an infernalist cabal (surely the worst possibility!)
  1. 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.

Yours,
Etc.

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Illuminated Journal 6
By Caleb Shaw

After being introduced to our new adventuring partner, Diego, we set out to visit Professor Weston for an update on events and his progress on researching further information on the remaining artefacts. No further progress has yet been made, however we are assured that it is being keenly pursued.

Although myself and Zakhar have offered our skills to aid in his research, the Professor believes it to be best if we were to apply them out in the field. Rumours have found their way to Corvis that the road north to Hampstead has been the host to some strange occurrences worthy of investigation. A guard detail had previously been dispatched to do so, but nothing has been heard from them since their departure. With little else to be done in town, we prepared for departure the following morning.


Town guards were turning away all travellers leaving via the north gate, for fear of what may befall any who travel that road. A detour via one of the other town gates would have been quite the nuisance, but I must say that Diego is quite the persuasive fellow. Some kind words and a generous handshake goes a long way when delivered from a skilled individual like him.

The road was devoid of any activity aside from our own. It was eerily quiet aside from our footfalls and conversation, though it wasn’t long after the skies had darkened when we saw hints as to why. A near-empty camp on a clearing just off the road showed a recently extinguished fire and a body slumped nearby in what appeared in the dim light to be a pool of blood. Upon closer inspection of the body, it appeared to be covered in claw marks and a gaping wound in the stomach area. This wound turned out to be point from which all the internal organs had been removed—a telltale sign of a Hollowed.

Zakhar decapitated the corpse to ensure it didn’t rise again. One Hollowed is already one too many.

Further examination of the campsite revealed drag marks leading away from it, indicative of two bodies which had been removed. As Hollowed feast at the site of a kill, they are not responsible for the removal of these two campers. Unfortunately, it was too difficult to follow where the drag marks ultimately led after a short distance so we continued along the road.

We came across a farmstead a little further along, so we thought we’d stop by and see if anything could be gained from talking with the owners, and if they were alright. Upon knocking, the voice of a distressed man begged us to stop and get inside. We obliged. As we did so, a loud screeching rang through the night air. Unsurprisingly, the civilians inside with us howled in terror as a great number of Hollowed swarmed the building.

The Hollowed were dispatched with some difficulty and only a little damage to the farmstead. It’s worth noting that a mere scratch from a Hollowed is as unpleasant as the sight of one. There’s a seemingly insatiable thirst and pains of hunger that overcome you, surely similar to that which drives their behaviour.

After we and the family were safe and accounted for, we managed to learn something of what created such a great number of Hollowed in one place. The father informed us the town was assaulted, with a great deal of fire and screaming. It was likely to now be overrun with these beasts. The only possible safe locations ahead were a tower, said to house Christoph Tiren, an arcanist of some power, and a chapel of Morrow may also have held strong. After this discussion, we escorted the man and his family to the road so they could safely make it back to Corvis and then continued on our way.

Passing by the farmstead once more and sneaking our way through an open field, we made it through the town. The screeching and wailing was easily heard upon our approach. The sight was something else entirely, with much viscera and pools of blood before our eyes. The arcanist’s tower was visible from our location, but it was on the other side of town.

With careful movement and keen eyes, led by Lucien, we made it past the wandering horde of Hollowed and onto the doorstep of the tower. The door had been smashed in, the interior was severely damaged and many scorch marks decorated the walls. The amount of blood that painted parts of the walls and floor would’ve surely been fatal. Christoph Tiren appeared to have fought fiercely here, but ultimately succumbed to his wounds. Since no body remains, it is likely he now walks as a Hollowed or was dragged away. The last rumoured safe location of the Chapel lay further ahead, past many more hollow beasts.

Their numbers were no less thin out the front of the chapel. This time, it took very little to alert them to our presence as the heavy armour of Zakhar rattled just a little too loudly as he attempted a speedy approach. Thankfully the buildings between us and the Chapel provided adequate cover and enhanced our tactical advantage to quickly dispose of them. Unfortunately, those within the Chapel weren’t so lucky.

Upon disabling the lock on the Chapel door, the scene that met us on the other side was particularly gruesome. A number of altar boys had been eviscerated and their remains were strewn about the room. Their bodies looked nothing like that poor camper we first discovered. No survivors remained and every single door was locked, so whoever or whatever did this had locked their victims in here as they left.

We did manage to find some notes/a journal left behind by Father Brellac Monsen, saying they felt that these Hollowed were somehow connected to a man named Darien. He is said to live on the other side of the Black River.

After doing our best to collect the remains of the poor souls who were slain here, we blessed and buried them in the catacombs below. The chapel was a strong and safe location, so we spent the night there. At worst, there was intermittent scratching at the main door.

Darian’s house on the other side of the Black River was our destination the following morning. As expected there were many Hollowed to be found along the way and on the bridge, but we managed to slink our way past them. Thankfully the bridge wasn’t too much of a hassle to cross as the alternative of swimming across was far from ideal, especially considering previous attempts on my part.

Approaching the house of Darien as described in the Father’s journal showed it to be in a serious state of disrepair. Great amounts of damage had befallen the two storey place and many carvings and markings adorned the interior. Shortly after our entrance, objects within the house began to frost over as if caught in an ice storm. The presence of something evil could be felt within these walls. The giggling of a young girl was heard emanating from the floor above.

Standing in that house, I could reach out with my senses and affect the evil within. Mere moments passed before I felt that I had weakened it. As I did, the house shuddered. Mathias and Diego performed a ritual to achieve a similar effect. It seemed they succeeded when a great shriek rang out and they both fell to their knees. It was then the giggling girl presented herself at the top of the stairs, clearly a corrupted version of Elisa, Darian’s daughter. As she did, Hollowed began to swarm the house, no doubt as some form of defence mechanism.

Myself, Mathias, and Diego continued our mental and spiritual battle with the malevolent entity. The Hollowed relentlessly assault the house and completely surround us. I manage to further weaken the entity, swiftly followed by Mathias and Diego who deliver the final blow. Right at that moment, Elisa and all of the Hollowed collapse to the ground.

The feeling of triumph was short-lived. No sooner does the malevolent entity dissipate after its defeat, another seems to take its place.

With the house far from a safe place to be, and the need to dispatch Darien, we head back towards town. Darien and Brellac, the priest, cross our path with many Hollowed in tow. Although their undead support were kept out of sight, the movement of the cornrows lining the roadside gave their presence away.

Whatever it was that Brellac brought to Darien’s aid, it certainly wasn’t fortitude. Little more than a stern look was needed to dispose of him. Darien fell shortly after.

A search of Darien’s body revealed a bone shard amulet etched with runes, much like the bronze skull amulet found previously. Attempting to carry this amulet, even while well wrapped, was enough for its effect to take hold of you. It was much like the wound caused by the claw of a Hollowed, only much stronger. Carrying it in a sack tied to a hobo stick was the best means to mitigate the effects of the amulet while transporting it back to the Corvis church.

Upon our return to Corvis, aside from the safe storage of the amulet, recommendations have been made for dealing with the aftermath of events at and around Hampstead. We have also received word that Professor Weston has news.

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Illuminated Journal 5
By Mathias Jurgen

Document 1

Notes of Brother Geraldin, devout of Menoth

As you know Potentate there has recently been a great deal of disturbance with the faithful in the Cygnarian city of Corvis. I have previously reported on the strange occurrences within the Temple and the disturbing alliance some of the faithful apparently made with members of the heathen Order of Illumination. I wish to reinforce that it is my belief that this alliance was fateful in the later catastrophe which has beset our Temple in Corvis.

There is evidence that the Sovereign Lambert – the highest representative of Menoth in Corvis directed that the heretic’s involved in the expedition to recover the dark artefact from the wilderness should be imprisoned. It is my view that this directive was advisable and given the later events when the cursed artefact the heretics delivered unto the bosom of the Temple, it appears that despite his caution the damned item influenced him to his doom.

Evidence I have been able to gather indicates that the imprisoned Order of Illumination almost immediately arranged their escape from the cells within the Temple. They appear to have broken free of the cell in which they were imprisoned together and then later also released another heretic of the idol Morrow from a separate chamber. It is obvious that Lambert underestimated the resourcefulness, desperation and savagery of his prisoners. This is further confirmed for the single guard, patently inadequate, was viciously murdered when the heretics made their escape. I am uncertain exactly how they navigated from the cells out of the Temple itself, however some stolen initiate robes were found outside the Temple – it is my conclusion that these vestments were used when the heretics fled.

In conclusion for this short report it is evident that the Sovereign correctly assumed that the artefact reported to have been recovered by the idolaters of Morrow was cursed. Despite this and his care in securing these dangerous operatives he underestimated both them and the danger of the artefact they delivered unto him. Later evidence, as I shall outline in another report, indicates that this artefact later influenced the Sovereign to his doom.

Document 2

Report: Lieutenant Falkirk Foch, CRS

Sir

I can confirm that the small Order of Illumination team did escape the Temple of Menoth where they had been kidnapped by the Temple leaders who evidence suggests were increasingly psychotic due to the influence of a dark artefact they had failed to control. The Menites had in fact gone so far as to inflame their followers in order that they protest the Cathedral of Morrow and it appears the Menites were preparing to escalate such protests to violence. My source within the Cathedral indicate that the Order team quietly entered the Cathedral, avoiding the mob and escorting a seriously injured colleague from another Order group who had been tortured by the Menites without any just cause.

You are aware that I was watching the Cathedral for the reason that a apparently high ranking Order of Illumination member known as Bainbridge had been arrested by the watch and implicated in the possession of forbidden articles. The newly arrived four man team; a gunfighter, an alchemist, an arcanist and a knight of Khadoran heritage, spent a short time within the Cathedral before leaving, I made the decision to follow. The Order team headed to a Tavern in a local slum and entered, I heard some exchange of insults and shortly three of them then left and began to examine the outside of the tavern. They stayed in the shadows of a side alley and made attempts to climb the tavern wall successfully and were joined by their fourth member. They then broke into a second story window and disappeared within the building.

My following observations are a conglomerate of my own observations, tales of witnesses and watch notes I have been able to observe. It appears that the Illuminated searched the upper story and then, with perhaps the aid of magic, managed to sneak downstairs passed the crowded bar and into the basement. It is apparent that this tavern housed not just a cellar but a further sub-basement and a later Watch investigation, at I understand the stimulus of the Illuminated, found an Infernal Shrine within. The Illuminated apparently found this dark sanctuary and, it is reported, defeated several demonic guards and the tavern master who appears to have been the shrine master. The Illuminated members then attempted to escape the crowded tavern with the tavern keeper, one Halek, as a prisoner and a boy they apparently released from the shrine itself. This escape attempt was made under the guise of a fire, the Illuminated, perhaps the alchemist, had generated great deals of smoke and everyone fled the building. In the chaos they escaped however the tavern patrons confronted the Illuminated and allowed the shrine master Halek to escape.

The Illuminated split up with the alchemist and the gunfighter heading to the central Watch building and the arcanist and the knight heading to the Cathedral. Later they all gathered at the central Watch house and with support of the evidence of the rescued boy, the late Jarek who was tragically later murdered, convinced the Watch Commander Helstrom of the innocence of Bainbridge and the location of the dark shrine. The evidence of the Illuminated and their prisoner was later utilised successfully, it appeared, at the trial of Bainbridge. However the Sovereign inflamed his followers and chaos ensued forcing the understrength watch to evacuate everyone into the city hall. Causing difficulties both Father Dumas of Morrow and Sovereign Lambert and his entourage also were present at city hall and I am given to understand that violent confrontation was only narrowly avoided.

I will continue my reporting later.

Document 3

Diary of Professor Weston

This evening I received a most unexpected visitation. Four persons of the Illuminated Order were escorted to my presence by Watch officers. They claimed to have recently snuck away from city hall, which some of my colleagues had gossiped was besieged by a mob of semi-educated Menite worshippers after some spectacular trial. The Illuminated told me a tale, difficult to digest, that they had recovered a dark artefact of Orgoth origin from outside the city and they requested my assistance to destroy it. It appears this artefact was central to the recent unrest between the Menites and Morrowans and my friend Potentate Reynard sent a note that he suspected the artefact had influenced his superior Lambert to the point of madness.

Of course I agreed to help, however upon opening the box I found to my utmost shock the decapitated head of a young man. The relic was not within and both the Illuminated and Watch men present were clearly as surprised as I concerning both the presence of the head and the lack of the relic. The Illuminated immediately returned to city hall and the watch present took possession of the part of the murder victim which was now in my office. Indeed it was a most unusual and disturbing evening.

Document 4

Chronicle of Father Dumas of Morrow

It is with regret I consider my failings on behalf of our Lord and reflect upon his majesty to provide the agents to support his mortal worshippers in their time of need. The chaos instigated by the unlamented damned Lambert formerly of Menoth and his ignorant followers found me trapped with many city luminaries in the city hall itself. Towards the morning I was approached by members of the Illuminated Order, who I am given to understand have been of great service already to our church while I was absent, and they presented a most unnerving tale. It appears as the full story emerged that these Illuminated member had aided Potentate Reynard of Menoth, a moderate I respect a great deal, in recovering a dark relic. Disturbingly this relic appeared to have contaminated the mind of Sovereign Lambert, who was a frothing ignorant fanatic to begin with, and this is the source of many of the recent troubles the Menites have caused.

Of course it was decided that the artefact should be destroyed unfortunately further reinforcing the fact that Lambert was lost to madness he had evidently stolen the relic and murdered an innocent before fleeing. Watch Commander Helstrom and I determined that he must be stopped, a fact which Potentate Reynard supported and we immediately began to form a party to contain the situation. However given the unrest and urgency of the situation it was felt that the Illuminated team would proceed to the Temple of Menoth immediately and try to stop or slow the damned Lambert. Meanwhile Renard and I continued to gather a force to help them and quell the chaos Lambert had brought down upon us.

Document 5

High Vigilant

I can confirm that Sovereign Lambert was indeed corrupted beyond redemption by exposure to the dark relic we recovered from the wild lands near Corvis. It is apparent that he was involved in inflaming the local Menites in order to attempt to unleash the full dark power of the artefact and that he had also corrupted several of his own priests and knights directly to devotion to his dark master. After discovering these facts and with evidence enough to convince the authorities we immediately moved to prevent whatever scheme the relic and its puppet were instigating.

We found fallen Lambert, several priests and some now damned former Menite knights in the middle of a ritual of desecration within the Temple of Menoth. We were forced into battle in order to prevent the ritual from reaching culmination, needless to say it was a most brutal and bloody skirmish. We realised early that the ritual required blood sacrifice and the cultists were only too willing to die, in fact Lambert killed one himself, for the dark pact. This further complicated our fighting as we simply could not kill the cultists besetting us as it then fulfilled the unholy spell. Zakhar was battered during the fighting but remained stalwart, Caleb in the heart of the fighting narrowly avoided death twice and it is only with Morrow’s grace his skull was not stove in. Nevertheless despite great opposition Lucien, Zakhar, Caleb and I managed to prevent the full completion of the ritual and struck down the damned Lambert. Unfortunately the spirit in the artefact did escape although we frustrated the spell which would allow it to achieve its full power. After the vicious struggle Father Dumas and Watch Commander Helstrom arrived to provide us with aid for our wounds and to secure the profaned site of the ritual.

High Vigilant, rest assured that we will continue to track this vile spirit which on this occasion escaped us. There will be a reckoning.

Mathias Jurgen.

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Illuminated Journal 4
By Zakhar Melnokov

Having dealt with the hags of Branweald, we continued our journey into Thornwood Forest, to seek the skull of Potentate Olsen’s vision. As we entered we found that the forest dark and oppressive, with little light filtering its way through the canopy.

Our first day travelling into the Thornwood was uneventful, though at night the forest seemed to be more alive with wildlife. We decided it was best to set up a cold camp and maintain our vigilance throughout the night. The night passed without event, and we continued our travels deeper into the forest the following day.

Around midday Potentate Olsen said we had reached the source of his vision. After a prayer to our gods and the ascendants, we passed through the forest to find a desolated clearing, void of significant life, apart from a small group of Tharn. Their shaman was performing some ritual at a monument, littered with human remains, which sat upon a small burial mound. Once we entered the clearing, they spotted us and instantly attacked. The battle was short, and we prevailed with minor injuries.

We quickly searched the mound in case more Tharn were attracted to the sounds of gunfire, and found a small alcove concealed by human remains. Upon clearing the carcasses, we found a set of heavy stone doors, engraved with Orgoth carvings. With some force, we managed to push the doors open, and entered a musty corridor. We continued exploring, passing several secret passages, and the site was filled with murals depicting parts of the Orgoth Invasion, particularly the acts of whomever was buried here.

As we ventured deeper into the tomb, we found a pair of guardians known as Dread, corpses filled molten iron, engraved with wards and their arms fashioned into scything blades, similar to the mechanithralls created by Cryxian forces, minus the mechanika. After defeating these Dread, we entered a room with a depraved throne, and human remains littering the area. From these bones emerged several Thrall Warriors. Once again we prevailed and searched the surrounding rooms. In one we found what appeared to be trophies of broken weapons and armour, and several banners that were centuries old. In the other, we found a sarcophagus. Opening the casket, we found the remains of an armoured Orgoth champion, with the skull shaped pendant wound its neck. With great care, we removed the relic and carefully packaged it as best we could, then left the area to return to Corvis.

With haste we made our way back to Corvis to secure the relic, hoping the Menites had crafted a warded vessel to contain it. The small pendant weighed upon the soul, making travel slow, and Matthias took most of the burden. On the first night we returned, near dawn, we were awoken to the amulet chanting, having released itself somehow from Mathias’s pack. It seemed to have enchanted Mathias, drawing him closer. We were forced to subdue Mathias, knocking him unconscious. Once this occurred, the chanting stopped, and we collected the relic and continued our journey.

Not long into our travels, the relic started to emit a high pitched screech. We then started hearing horns blown in our vicinity. Obviously the Tharn that had been tracking us could hear the relic’s call. We hastened our pace, though could hear the calls of the Tharn getting closer, and decided to stand our ground and prepare for the imminent attack. Within minutes, a small war band of Tharn appeared, and we could hear other groups closing in to our vicinity.

As we readied ourselves, we heard mounts entering our area. They were fellow members of the Illuminated, and with their aid, we were able to despatch the Tharn savages. Once the battle was over, we were interrogated by our rescuers, who were members of the Ordo Fidelus, in regards to their fallen comrade Gault Keller in Corvis. We explained our investigation that led to the assassins in the undercity, and informed them of our investigations. We were then introduced to the members Ulric Fisher, Jonas Bainbridge, and their leader Malek Hartcliff.

The Ordo Fidelus escorted us back to Corvis without further incident. After entering the city, we made our way to the Temple of Menoth and reported in to Potentate Reynard and toasted our success. A majority of us consumed wine, though Mathias and Potentate Olsen drank water, which turned out to be poisoned. Both collapsed, and Olsen was transformed into a Thrall by the toxins. We were forced to cut the blind priest down. We then heard a commotion within the temple, where others had been afflicted. We managed to discover the kitchen well had been poisoned, and we sealed the well so the Menites could purify it. Once the commotion died down, we were then summoned to Sovereign Nikolas Lambert. The Sovereign requested we keep the incident about the poisoning secret, and that we investigate the matter discreetly.

We then returned to the Church of Morrow where Mathias informed them of recent events, and then conducted some tests on poison residue we had discovered. It was found to be as lethal as Khorva’s Kiss, mixed with Necrite, causing a fast acting poison that enabled its victim to be transformed into the undead.

The following day we regathered our stores as we investigated, and met with Malek from the Ordo Fidelus. We had surmised that further poisoning would occur at one of the main wells within the city, so we requested the aide of Mallik and his men to keep on of several of the wells.

As Caleb and I surveyed the well at the Docks, we saw an individual approach the well around midnight. Awaiting him to act, we called out when we saw him reveal a glowing bag. The poisoner ran and I managed to chase him down and subdue him, as Caleb collected the necrotite-infused poison that had dropped scattered near the well. We then collected Lucian and Mathias, and returned to the Temple of Menoth to hand in their culprit for interrogation.

Sovereign Lambert managed to get a confession from the poisoner, and provided us with a map to the base location, which coincided with the path he took as he ran earlier that night. We also discovered the Sovereign was more inclined towards the harsher justice of Menoth, unlike the Potentates we had met who were more moderate in their beliefs.

We travelled to the map location, to discover an old warehouse. Lucian entered with the aid of Lucian’s occultation, and emerged with a captured guard. A deal was made with the guard to give up information on those within, and we were told there were five people below, one of these being Fitch, the crafter of the poison. In return for the information he provided, we let him leave without harm.

Entering the warehouse, we delved below the building into an old alleyway. We were spotted by the guards, and we launched an assault upon their base of operations. The guards were heavily armed, and it appeared Fitch was a Thamarite Priest, wielding arcane powers during the fight. Unfortunately we were unable to take Fitch alive, though the last remaining guard yielded and we questioned him about Fitch’s undertakings. We then seized several items, including a barrel of the necrotic poison, a Thamarite tome, and items gathered from a makeshift altar.

Upon exiting the warehouse, we found the city watch en masse on the streets as there had been several small isolated outbreaks within the city. We handed custody of the henchman over to the city watch. An initiate of Menoth had then found us, requesting we return to the Temple of Menoth with due haste. When we returned, we were arrested by the Sovereign and a dozen Errants, accused of being heretics. We had no choice but to surrender, and were imprisoned within the temple.

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