Well, that was an experience.
Tasked with finding missing villagers from a town bordering the Ruby Forest and potentially destroying evil witches the village believed to be causing it, we headed out, myself just wanting some time to push past the malaise of grief and regret holding the Ravenguard down. I don’t think any of us expected it to be more complicated than it was on paper, but that seems to be a growing trend.
A few hours after we left, we were approached by a wounded man named Squall, who looked about as nice as the usual lowborn. No shoes, ripped rags. Wouldn’t have looked out of place in the slums of my hometown, to tell the truth. If Squall proves anything about this village, it’s tiny and I’m not sure I believe them when they say they can pay that much gold.
Unfortunately, Squall unknowingly brought along two huge lycans, collared like domesticated beasts. Assuming that the witches were involved, we fought off the creatures, and I dispelled the magic present in the collars that seemed to be increasing their regenerative capabilities. Romero said they are of Elven make, though he couldn’t really decipher more beyond that. I’ll be sure to record it in the margins here if we learn what this magic is.
As the creatures died, they reverted to the unconscious human forms, and both were somehow still breathing. Kyser treated one of them to his sword, a curious ritual that will never not be terrifying when I see it, though it’s at least expected now. And Blackfire, the brilliant and amazing worshipper of the pompous sun God Pelor, maced the face of the other innocent villager to death, against all his better judgment.
I don’t really pretend to understand how divine powers work. I take issue with the word ‘divine’ itself. To me, they just seemed like jumped-up mortals. Look at Bahamut, a Platinum Dragon that is known as the Dragon God. Is it really so blasphemus to think that it’s just a sufficiently long-lived and powerful dragon that other dragons fear and revere, armed with curious magic? Dragons are mysterious enough as it is, so is it really a stretch to say that Bahamut is just an extra level of mystery?
I say all of that to say that whatever gift Pelor bestowed upon Blackfire, as one of his followers, disappeared the moment that he struck innocent with his mace. On the plus side, Romero took the collar off of the corpse to investigate further, and the other collar was too tight to remove. Give Blackfire five minutes, and I’m sure he’d make swift work of it to give to Romero too.
Pressing forward, we escorted Squall back to the village and met with the local Marshall, in charge of their defensive efforts. They told us the history of the witches, two sisters who were paid to protect the village from the monsters of the Ruby Forest nearly ten years ago. For whatever reason, they believed the witches responsible for unleashing the werewolves on the town, probably viewing it like a betrayal or a failure to protect them. At the time, the animosity they feared felt justified.
They gave us lodging for the night, to rest away our exhaustion and tend to our wounds from the day before. The werewolves, unfortunately, seem to have bitten three of our members, and Corda had shared her sentiments with me earlier that day that she feared they could change into one of the beasts at any moment. Upon further testing, a tense moment watched by many of the villagers, Corda exposed the three members to a potion containing silver, and both Blackfire and Ziggy showed a reaction, pain striking their bodies.
An argument broke out for several minutes, but eventually, we realized that we’d never get anything done if we didn’t move forward, so we followed the Marshall’s directions into the Ruby Forest, to find the Witches’ hut.
Curious natural magic, some kind of protective barrier, surrounded the hut when we approached, barring entry for a few of our people, including Corda and my slave Chains. Most of us did finally manage to get inside, a simple enough home that seemed abandoned at the time, though Dulgamar could sense, through whatever magic he possessed as a follower of Bahamut, that a great evil was below us.
Kyser opened the trap door and we followed inside, wanting to investigate. The moment that Rebecca, the last of the group to enter, followed, the trapdoor shut ominously.
To keep a long story short, we found a body, heavily wounded but dead, on an examination table, and one of the trasnformed werewolves trapped within a cage, with six other empty cages around us in one of the basement rooms. Realizing there was nothing that we could do but just look around, we checked the other room, a kind of hidden study.
I was not prepared for the revelation that the Witches had seemingly found Gabriel’s missing spellbook. Before we could really investigate that thought further, we heard the witches arrive and enter the basement, and Blackfire swung into battle, supplementing his lack of Pelor magic with the Necklace of Crossmagic to aid him.
The witches put up a great fight, using odd natural magic to attack, and once I finally had the moment to enter into the fray, I thought that killing the werewolf before it could be released on us would be the best thing to do. Lightning coursed from my fingertips, shocking the creature, but unfortunately releasing it from its chains.
Rampaging forward, it bifurcated one of the witches and rushed at us. We continued to fight the creature, now fearing for our lives even more, but the surviving witch merely wailed and clutched her chest, unable to continue fighting as she stared at the grusome image of her sister.
Kyser forced the witch to help us kill the werewolf, succeeding, and I had the frightening thought: “What if they aren’t the cause?”
The witch showed no interest in fighting us any longer, too moved by grief to do anything, and as we discussed it further, we realized that the witches, Maria and Gloria, were actually doing the job the village had paid for them to do, all those years ago.
Dulgamar and Blackfire helped Gloria perform funeral rites, while Ziggy played a sad tune and I thought carefully about our disgust at what we had done. At the time, it made sense, but without all the information, we simply could not make an informed decision. Had I used my magic more effectively, perhaps I could have divined the truth. Alas, Gloria’s two children had to watch their aunt burn.
Gloria seemed to have some kind of divining power of her own, as she shared some of our futures. I didn’t really feel the need to focus on any of them but my own, and she told me that I “will find true family one day.” I did not know what to say, but had to keep down my own emotions, too angry about Maria’s unfair death to really focus on the meaning.
Maybe the Ravenguard will be that family, or maybe I’ll reunite with my siblings one day. Or perhaps I’ll succeed in my goal to free as many slaves as I can, and find family among the orcs. At this point, I do not know, but I greatly wish to find out.
We returned to the village to explain and hopefully advocate on Gloria’s behalf, to perhaps re-establish some kind of rapport between Gloria and the mayor. Who knows, maybe she could move into town with her family and cast her protective magic over the entire town, to keep the beasts at bay? The Marshall seemed interested in our story, but was too distracted, because the mayor was still missing and now, one of their searching groups had apparently disappeared from the village. We promised to help them in the morning.
As night fell, not long afterward, the curse struck.
I would not wish this curse upon anyone, not even my eternal rival, as he began to transform in the middle of the Marshall’s living room. Terrified, we expected to be mauled at any moment, and I was ready for attack, but Ziggy spoke through the transformation, a growling, beast-like voice, and Corda was understandably concerned.
Like the beautiful addict he is, Ziggy felt compelled to experience his drug, even in his transformed state, and his ability to speak soon fell. Corda, thankfully, realized that reasoning with him would be more complicated and utilized her magic to charm the bard into the forest until morning.
It worked, mysteriously, and as he returned to the village, naked as the day he was born, Corda looked exhausted, but was still ready to move with us to the next objective.
The Marshall asked us to find Squall, who had run from the village. Pointing us in the right direction, we followed until we found a cabin in the woods.
I had the brilliant idea to use my ring- no, not that one – to disguise myself as the Marshall and potentially arrest whomever was inside, if it turned out to be Squall, because he was a person of interest in this whole shebang.
I’ll skip over some of the details here because I’m nearing the end of my ink bottle, but I tried to set fire to the building to kill all within, once their intentions were discovered, Corda put it out, we fought our way through a hive of enemies, and found that the basement of this place seemed to be the source of the werewolves, when hybrid beasts jumped forth from a trapdoor in the hallway.
They fought valiantly but, realizing we were outnumbered, Kyser decided that using the book might be a worthy plan, and tossed it open on a bloody werewolf corpse.
The bloodpool exploded outward and swallowed the entire building, everything within, except for Ziggy, hidden behind a magical field.
Grabbing the book, we decided to investigate the tunnel we found below, tracking footprints that lead to a secret entrance outside, and continued to follow it nearly all the way to the city, before turning back once we realized that we wouldn’t be able to find whom we were looking for.
The mayor was happy, the Marshall not as much, but the situation seemed to be over. Gloria and the village made their first steps toward reconciliation. We investigated someone the village brought in from the woods, discovered the connection to the Silver Swords for some reason. Got the proof of completion, and headed back to the city.
There out of in-