The Fall of Gerald

Gregory's Journal #6
What in the Nine Hells Have I Done?

The next job is, like most things, not simple at all.

On the surface, a five-squad team-up sounds like we get to emulate the heroes of legend, fighting bandits for the good of the neighboring territory, following the prince’s orders. It’s fascinating and feels legendary, but our group feels unnaturally close to all these important events and people. I won’t be shocked if the Emperor himself descends upon us in the next month.

We are kicking the hornet’s nest, and that probably isn’t a good thing.

A group of bandits have kicked out the squatters living in a nearby garrison, two days away from the city, and the prince has tasked five local guilds with removing the threat. The Lost Causes, the Silver Swords, Cannon Fodder, the Red Warriors, and, of course, Ravengaurd are the five.

Kyser met with the other leaders of the groups and created a gameplan, though he says there was a lot of infighting, particularly between the Silver Swords and the Lost Causes.

We left the following morning, mostly keeping to ourselves, Corda following along and leading the team of Silver Swords. We didn’t notice it at the time, but on the first night, the Lost Causes sent a scout ahead to “look for traps.” Unfortunately, as the situation unraveled, the Lost Causes are perhaps the singular reason why the attack failed.

It was a brilliant plan. The Lost Causes were to scale the mountain forming the back wall of the garrison, while the Ravenguard and the Red Warriors went in through the western gate and the Silver Swords and Cannon Fodder headed into the eastern gate. The bulk of our forces would begin an assault from the eastern gate, and then while distracted, Blackfire would use his magics to silence the gate and we would sneak into that side of the gate, to help out the battle from behind.

Ziggy, the musician, curiously had his own plan, pretending to be traveling on his own, after falling out with his band. Not quite a lie, but not quite a truth: the best kind of politics, according to my father.

Somehow, as he tells us later, Ziggy had several fans among the bandits, and they caught on right away. He slipped inside easily, and the battle on the other side seemed to begin.

The guards rushed toward the eastern gate, leaving our side relatively undefended, and we essentially scaled the wall and headed inside, Chains throwing people over the wall excellently. Romero essentially teleported to the top of the wall, using a curious spell, and then opened the gate so that the Red Warriors could join us easily.

It seemed to be going well for several minutes. I snuck inside what appeared to be the bandit commander’s quarters, on retrospect, still using a spell to remain unseen, though it was unoccupied. Heading back downstairs, I quickly headed over to the opposite side in order to open the gate, because the Lost Causes seemed to have failed, and the Silver Swords were getting peppered with projectiles.

Once I got the gate open, I ran back to help my guildmates and the Red Warriors with their side of the fight. Blackfire’s homing divine energy attacks were effective, though the Commander seemed sort of unharmed, Ziggy, eventually, revealed himself to the bandits be on our side, but his attempt to betray the Commander’s trust was unfortunately a failure, missing his attack.

Kyser struggled where Chains succeeded, and my lightning prowess merely added to the situation. Corda and Dulgamar, at the other side of the battlefield, were fighting brilliantly, though it seemed the Lost Causes had joined the side of the bandits and were fighting directly against the Silver Swords now.

But it was all for naught.

Soon, dozens more men poured from the innards of the cavern system, a long dried-out mine, surrounding the group.

I had only one option available to me. Perhaps later, I will regret this moment, but for now? It seemed the best plan that we had.

I reached into my bag as the bandits tried to force us to drop our gear, into the pocket where the ring sat, and slipped it on my finger.

A cacophonous explosion of pure magic, manifesting as blue flame centered on my body, spread into the crowd. I cried out as Chains collapsed from the damage, several more bandits incinerated from the sheer power. The spell fire continued to ooze just above my skin like a deadly aura, and I had no real idea what was happening at all.

Somehow, a creature materialized from within the explosion, a behemoth of bone mere feet from me. It seemed to look toward me for guidance, even as I cowered from it. Every set of eyes turned to me now, and all I could do was ask for the creature to get away from me.

And it did, following my lead. I… can’t know for certain, but I think that I summoned it? One of the bandits cried out, “He’s a necromancer!”

I would learn, as I returned to the city when this debacle was over, that it might be far worse than that in the future.

Ziggy used the distraction to blast the enemies around him with a burst of sound and then zipped backwards, disappearing from sight. I don’t know where he went to this day, but boy am I glad that he did. I checked on Chains quickly, though every bandit was turned toward me, weapons still drawn, expecting me to attack at any moment. Probably thinking I had an entire undead army hidden under my cloak or something.

The idea is… appealing, I must admit.

Romero and Blackfire were missing as the bandits rounded the surviving guild members up, and then shoved the rest of us into some room within the cavern system. Turns out that they had fled the moment that things went south, which might have been the right solution, admittedly.

My magic bound by some kind of odd magic contraption, I was powerless to escape the prison cell, even as I tried to break the stones for the next several hours, waiting for something to happen.

Dulgamar. I need to keep my eye on him. His first instinct was to turn coat on us, though he admitted that it was to infiltrate their group and hopefully free us if he could make a good impression. The two Red Warriors locked within the room with us continued to beat on him all night, and even I enjoyed a little bit of violence, though that was before he admitted the truth to us, when no guards were listening. Either way, it was a fine plan that might have worked, had Ziggy and Corda not managed first.

Ziggy, disguised as a bandit, entered the cavern system, found our supplies, found us and gave us our supplies, and then Corda found him. She managed to intimidate them enough, alongisde her Silver Sword companions, that they willingly handed over the key to unlock the cage. But they also had terrible news: the Praetorian guard were here.

What the fuck? None of us knew how to process this information, but I had to know.

Now free, though the shackles were still limiting my magic, we pulled Dulgamar into consciousness with a healthy dose of Ziggy’s odd drug, which didn’t seem to effect me at all. Maybe I got a bad pinch or something.

Dulgamar located a secret passageway that lead outside, and we came up with a plan to disguise ourselves as bandits, the ring of disguise actually working in my favor this time, and made Dulgamar look like Kyser was carrying out a dead body, to place it outside the walls. But before we could enact it, the commander was somehow flown through the wall of his own home and then intimidating by a woman whom we didn’t recogize, though she seemed decked in the appropriate attire for a Praetorian guardswoman. She pulled the Commander in, basically by her teeth, and the moment that she disappeared inside, we made our move.

The guards seemed to buy the explanation that we were just moving a body out, though they tried to task us with taking all the bodies out. As if.

The moment that we were outside, Ziggy utilized one of his spells to create a loud distraction, everyone turning to investigate, and then Corda lead her team outside, Chains appearing with them and looking particularly smug as he jumped down from the wall.

We kept moving for several minutes and stopped within a mile of the garrison, noticing that we weren’t being pursued, and Chains helped free me from the shackles, at the cost of his hands. Thankfully, when we found Blackfire later, he was able to heal them effectively. Ziggy used the same spell he used to create the distraction and broke one of Corda’s bindings, doing a little bit of harm to her own arm as she freaked out, though the other arm was still bound.

I took the time to concentrate, holding the crystal within my palms, and divined the inside of the commander’s home.

Shit. Shit shit. Shit shit shit.

Those were my thoughts as we watched Daniel Arch, Gabriel’s son, ask the Commander whether or not he had information about Gabriel’s death and the Order we keep hearing about. That was the big takeaway, the Praetorian Guard apparently asking the bandit commander to continue working for them, somehow, and implicating that they had several sources within the city, some of whom we might have worked with before, even now.

But one of them within the room seemed to sense my presence, I pulled away, and made sure the others understood how fucking seriously we needed to leave, now.

We eventually crossed paths, much closer to the city now, with Romero and Blackfire, alongside Flora and a group of SIlver Swords. She explained that she wanted to-

Ah fuck, I’m sick of writing this. I’m not… tired, perse, for some reason. But there’s only so much time I can afford to spend on writing this, and it’s approaching dark. I’ll finish this one up in the morning, after a hot meal.

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Gregory's Journal #5
Politicking

On our way back to the city after that shocking revelation, Prince Robert asked us and Princess Savanna to accompany him to dinner. I was a little tired at the time because I had spent most of the last hour dancing a jig quite well to the musical stylings of Ziggy, and made a little money from the imperial army. Good people who probably have no idea they are helping to escort a man who probably hired some Hobgoblins to murder his sister.

I probably shouldn’t have written that down, but I think I’ll take to hiding this notebook somewhere safe, in case its found. Wouldn’t want Prince Jackass to find it.

The dinner was tense and awkward, and they had several questions for us. Eventually, I realized William, the guy who was actually in charge of the army from what I could gather, was the emperor’s son, third in line to succeed him. Naturally, I was a lot more nervous than before, but I felt that my experience was the only way we might get out of this really tense dinner alive.

William spoke of the disappearance of his father’s advisor, and all the fucking bells went off right then.

What was I to do but tell the truth? If they found out that we knew more than we were letting on, that we had been involved with Gabriel and knew that he had died, then they were bound to be pissed off. If we told him at least a little of what we know, then perhaps that might mitigate some of the damages.

So I told him nearly everything. I left out what we had learned from Talion about the Order, though I did mention Talion’s name. That prompted William to order his men to interrogate Talion as soon as possible, naturally, and I had to control my urge to wince. They seemed very interested in the tale of Gloria and Maria, and seemed to want to “root them out” before the witches could spread. I realized my error in bringing them up at all and attempted to advocate on their behalf, explaining to Robert that if he really wants to remove all the creatures in Gerald, then having someone who is used to fighting the monsters in the Ruby Forest on your side would be most helpful. I’m not sure if WIlliam or Robert really accepted the idea, but for now, they seemed to consider it. That was as much as I could do, really.

Laura, a young girl with the symbol of a high-ranked figure in the Church of Humanity, seemed distraught to learn that Gabriel had died and immediately asked about Rebecca. When we explained that the girl was absolutely fine and safe, she thanked us for protecting her and explained that she had snuck on board the trip with the cohort so that she could learn more about where Rebecca could be.

Travel back to the city was uneventful, and Savanna awarded us with the funds she owed us and a personal medallion that had significance to her, though she did not explain. A reward for saving her life. We decided to give the medallion to Blackfire, given its magical properties to perhaps increase knowledge, thinking it might keep him from making horrible decisions.

Speaking of Blackfire, he blew up a room at the Dying Fox Inn while we were gone. I’m not sure why I should expect any differently at this point, but yes. He did. I would explain the series of unfortunate events that would lead to that moment, but I think you’ve all gotten the picture fairly clearly by now.

But when we returned home, Rebecca was watiing, cleaning up and busting tables downstairs to try to make up for what Blackfire had done. We told her about Laura, and she seemed so damn happy to meet with her. She also explained that a job was waiting upstairs.

I’ll finish filling in the details about this job after we get back.

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Gregory's Journal #4
Font of Knowledge

A special thanks to Rebecca for letting me borrow this ink.

The Silver Swords connected to a place where they seemed to be experimenting on werewolves, creating hybrids with men. The speculation ran wild within our group, though we suspect that they might have been transporting monsters into places like this, perhaps to build up an army of unnatural creatures.

We made it back to the city and spent a little bit of time getting rest, wanting to relax before our next big job. Romero continued work on his special project, the chained weapon that currently doesn’t have a name, but which Dulgamar is dying to wield, and Blackfire turned all of his attention toward learning the arts of alchemy from Peter, which… went well? I’m not really sure, but at least alchemy seems to have more tangible benefits than a god that he can’t see. I spent a little time in the library after speaking with Rebecca, wanting to find the secrets of Gabriel’s spellbook, but we found it unfortunately coded. I didn’t find any books that could be used for a cipher, though perhaps the upper floors could share more.

Several of us wanted to see the limits of the knowledge we had gained, and so, we headed to an establishment that I shall keep named secret; I owe them a lot, and I’d prefer that it not go under simply because someone may read this and turn their ire toward them.

Dulgamar, without telling the rest of us any details until later, made a deal with this informant to trade the magical book, which we had just used on the cabin, in exchange for information on the warlock that killed his family, the reason that the Ravenguard was formed in the first place. A fair trade from the point of view of the informant, I’m sure, but was not one that Kyser or I could allow, in case the book fell into the wrong hands.

Let me spend some time on the book, now that I have the ink to do so. This thing is stupendously powerful, able to absorb nonliving and living batter just the same, the moment that blood touches its pages. I nearly died from its influence the first time it was used, saved by one of my guild mates from certain death. I do not know, at this time, what the nature of its magic is, and any attempt to learn from it resulted in a failure for my magics to divine the truth. Each time that it has been used, the effects have gotten worse and worse, though the more blood is involved, the more pages are revealed. So far, we have revealed roughly forty pages, around a fifth of the book, and we look forward to learning more, though it is getting more and more dangerous.

The point I’m trying to make is that if this book were to fall into the hands of, say, the warlock that killed Dulgamar’s family, imagine the havoc that it would wreak! He could kill many, many more families than just his own and complete the book, doing whatever nefarious deed that it could do.

Well, Dulgamar walked out of the meeting with the informant with the need to steal it. I had an inkling, a vision that Dulagmar might try to take something from Kyser, so I took his possessions and hung them from a bag attached to my windowsill, outisde my window. That night, Dulgamar raided Kyser’s room for the book, then searched my room for the book, and didn’t find it. An argument broke out about what to do, we eventually came to the conclusion that I needed to contact the translator I used previously at the Serpents and learn what we can about the book first, before making any decisions to hand it over to the informant.

The book is part of an ancient ritual used to create blood weapons, not unlike Kyser’s sword, though the translator couldn’t really confirm more than that, only that the blood effect will become more powerful the more pages are filled. When Kyser realized that it was this closely connected to his weapon, he did not feel, in good conscience, that he could give it away to someone whom he could not possibly trust.

That led to an interesting argument when Dulagmar approached the informant and essentially paid him off, to keep the informant happy, using most of our accrued funds to pay it off. Let’s just say, Bartholomew wasn’t happy at all with this arrangment, when asked later.

I spoke to the informant myself, when I had the chance, and gave him gold to potentially find information about Alexander, the tutor who essentially raised me. I was not prepared to learn that Alexander had been captured while on a job trying to flee orc slaves, was set for execution, before he escaped and then fled to the wild orc hordes. I’m happy that he’s okay, as far as I know, and this was the first bit of news about him that I had learned in a long time. It felt comforting.

The next job came up surprisingly quickly. We chose the more monetarily advantageous job, to escort a minor noble from Gerald to the border of the empire, probably the same checkpoint we had passed through so many weeks ago. Meeting with one of the noble’s escorts, we found that the Silver Swords were supposed to have escorted her the rest of the way, but our actions seemed to have caused them to abandon most of their active jobs, including Savanna Le Claire’s escort.

We gladly took the job and started on our merry way, learning the history of Savanna and her pseudodragon companion, Pearl. She took a liking to me, because of course, who couldn’t?

But not all was adorable on the two-week trip. We stopped to let the horses graze and were, unfornately, attacked by a group of hobgoblins. We did manage to fight them off, Savanna and Pearl herself fighting well. Ziggy found a note in Undercommon on one of the bodies, and it’s clear that they were targeting Savanna.

Don’t really know what that’s all about, but I have my suspicions.

We do eventually find the border a few days later, an uneventful trip, but low and behold, we find Prince Robert of Gerald himself, an entrie cohort from the Ninth Legion of the Imperial Army accompanying him. And he embraces Savanna as his sister.

Yes. Savanna, who some in Gerald believe to be the heir, just happened to be meeting her brother, the other heir to the throne, at the border. And Savanna was targeted on the same trip, conventiently in time for Robert to arrive.

Sounds like someone really, reallly wants the throne, doesn’t it?

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Gregory's Journal #3
The Leotard, the Witch, and the Bloodpool

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-

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Ziggy's Journal
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

(Written in elvish script, with traces of cocaine on the pages)

I’ve seen that little wizard writing in a journal a lot recently, and it’s inspired me to start my autobiography. I’ll start making notes in here and I’ll hire someone later to clean it up for production. I’m thinking of titling it The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, but that may be a bit too long.

Anyway, I suppose I should get started.

For the past year, I’ve been touring the River Republics with the band, and things have been… not great. Don’t get me wrong, the fans loved me us. But the rest of the band have been real downers to be around. They were starting to take themselves too seriously. Gilly, our drummer, had been on my ass constantly, claiming I’ve been using too much of the white powder. They just don’t know how to party like they used to. Well, I suppose Gilly got to the rest of them, because as soon as we finished our last show, they kicked me out of the band. Can you believe that? They kicked me out of MY band! My name was in the bloody title! And the worst part is, they’re still planning on touring Gleliwyn without me, using MY name. Whatever. I don’t need them. I made the band what it was. They’ll be nothing without me. It’s high time I started my solo career. So I traveled to Gerald, planning to start writing some new songs. But I ran into a problem. The tunes don’t come to me like they used to. I’ve been doing the same old thing for too long. I need to experience new things. I need inspiration.

While I was playing in some inn, the place erupted into a huge brawl. I tried to calm them down, to no avail, and ended up getting dragged into the fray when a young wizard decided to rush me. I used one of the tricks I’ve picked up to contain the damage while I fought him with the power of music. He was scrappier than I expected though, and managed to get the upper hand, knocking me out. Helped me back up after and I ended up with a medal. Apparently it was some sort of competition. Barbaric. The medal was nice, though.

The next morning, I saw the wizard with a group of other adventurous looking fellows, and realized that my luck had just changed. If they’d let me travel with them, I’d be able to see all sorts of new wondrous things. After a little bit of talking, they agreed to let me come with them to investigate some missing people in a nearby village.

We traveled to the village and ran into a couple of were-beasts along the way. I managed to distract one with my playing, which turned out to not be my wisest move. The beast bit me harder than that barbarian girl at that party last year. Now the girl with the funky hair has started claiming that I’m infected. She looks at me like she wants to kill me. She didn’t have time to, though, because soon we were off again to investigate some local witches.

We arrived at the house in the woods and made it into the basement, where there was a caged were-creature. The group also found a book that, as far as I can figure out, used to belong to someone they knew. I must remember to ask them about that. While trying to figure out what to do next, we heard the witches arrive back. The multi-colored ex-cleric stepped out and fired off a spell at the witches, and so we all followed his lead and attacked. The witches paralyzed the dwarf as the wizard fired a bolt of lightning at the were-beast’s cage, freeing it. It tore through one of the witches and attacked the stunned dwarf. The quiet fellow with the large sword threatened the other witch into helping us before brutally attacking the were-beast. After the beast fell, we realized that the witches had meant us no harm, and were simply defending their home. This realization was too late to save the one who had been cleaved in half by the beast’s claws, though.

The guild found out that the witches had been trying to stop the were-beast infestation. They also found out that the important book had been found in the woods. I really must ask them about that Gabriel bloke. Anyway, after those sad events, we went back to the village, and found out that the man we had rescued from the were-beasts had disappeared. The dwarf stayed in the village with the useless girl in the hood, while the rest of us tracked him to a cabin in the woods. The wizard decided to set the place on fire for some reason, with no warning. I ran in to help save some of the victims, but it turns out, there was something more going on. The magic blacksmith found the mayor tied up upstairs, and monsters climbed up from the basement. The quiet guy warned me to run, then through some book at the bloody body of a fallen beast. The book exploded into a huge ball of blood tentacles, that is consuming everything as I write this. I made it into the next room and used the dome spell I used to use as a way to hide from fans. The blood tendrils almost managed to break through it. All I can see outside is blood.

I wanted strange experiences for Inspiration. If they’re still alive, this group looks like they’ll be a perfect source.

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Gregory's Journal #2
The Raven Flies

While my own journey started on the other side of the Empire, our journey as the Ravenguard began in the Imperial town of Newsham, not too far from the border with Gerald. Quite frankly, I dislike that I will have to re-order this notebook at some point chronologically, but I’ll have to ignore it for now.

While not personally present for much of the proceedings, it went about as well as you’ll come to expect as you read the rest of this account, with myself there or no.

Money exchanged hands to allow the talented, but troubling alchemist Peter Picklesworth into the town, past the guards who were giving him trouble. Personally, I’m not too fond of bribery, but the net gain of Peter’s presence in our group makes the situation worth it. We certainly did not know of it at the time, but the man would come to help us greatly, even if his experiments largely caused trouble along the way.

A saloon whose name I do not recall – Oh, Dulgamar says that it’s the Quiet Bird Saloon – was the next step, and what a step it was.

Cornelius, a fine sorceror who would later think himself a god, ordered a bottle of well-aged gnomish wine, and this decision serves as a model to understand the rest of our group’s actions and behavior later.

A broken leg, a drunk sorceror, and a destroyed door later, and we learned that Dinmick, the owner of the Saloon, had been captured alongside Peter. Rushing out to investigate, the others fought off several Bugbears, nasty creatures that I’m glad to have personally avoided. I wouldn’t be so lucky in the future.

Thankfully, we saved them, and had to deal with the fallout of Blackfire, the cleric, drinking an incomplete potion of Peter’s that forced him to change into unnatural colors every day from then on. Such an inconsequential detail will become very important later on.

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Gregory's Journal #0
The Raven Files

I thought it best, before moving forward, to give you a general description of the important people in this tale, so that you’ll have a convenient entry to flip back to, if necessary. I’ve given myself several pages in this section, so that I can edit it when more join our group.

Dulgamar Skin-scorcher: One of the three founding members of the Ravenguard, this dwarf faces battle with his mighty axe, his enchanted warhammer, and his unarmored body. He loves the fight, easy to anger, and he keeps people in check through experience as a Dwarven Berzerker alone. Not particularly well-educated, but he has a good head on his shoulders, able to think through social situations despite his terrible temper. He lost his family to a Tiefling warlock, but I’ll give him a little time to tell you about that.

Ditch: Another of the three founding members of the Ravenguard, this amnesiac elf is quiet, reserved, and helpful surviving in the wildnerness while traveling. His past is largely mysterious, and it often became difficult for me to connect with him. But he was a kind person, whip-smart, and good with a bow. He left the guild after a particularly difficult time, and his fate remains unknown, no matter how often I hope my dreams might tell me something useful about his future.

Norixius Rhogar: The last of the three founding members of the Ravenguard, Rhogar was largely considered the leader in those early days. Tactically brilliant, his skills as a Dragonborn are top-knotch, though he was a little too straight-laced for my tastes. A devotee of some minor dragon god, he used his abilities well, but they did not help him face off against a dragon in the Emerald Forest. We still do not know exactly what happened, but we assume him dead.

Kyzer Falcrin: Easily the most mysterious of our group, perhaps even more mysterious than the amnesiac, this behemoth of a man is worhty of his skills and stature. Able to carry around a greatsword with strange properties as though it were a one-handed blade, we learn quickly that there is much more than meets the eye of this quiet fellow, with the occasional murdering spree to confuse us all. The first time that I saw the curse on his arm, in a tent on the countryside, I had no idea what to think, afraid to ask until I knew more.

Blackfire: An orphan cleric with a penchant for getting into trouble, he should never be in the same room as Cornelius. (I’d like to consciously choose not to be in the same room as him.) The victim of a color-changing potion, a stalker without the looks ot make up for it, and eventual murderer of the innocent, I have very mixed feelings about Blackfire, but the worst and oddest thing about him is his nature as a kitsune, some kind of fox spirit from another dimension. Whatever that means.

P. Cornelius Hoolihan: Former sailor, this man without an intelligent bone in his body still had the sense to know where and when to use his magic, despite the true lack of training or experience to use it effectively. Door collector extraordinaire, he used them as shields, eventually attracting the attention of a guild known as the Black Coats, a motley bunch of musclemen who are never dressed in anything but a suit. Often drunk, I think something in him snapped, because he started to believe that he was named Pelor, the god that Blackfire worships. Last I checked, he was still under this impression, but he left our group to pursue better pastures in the Black Coats.

Romero Greycastle: A wizard who recently joined as our assigned blacksmith, I don’t know much about him. Armed with his mobile forge, a curiosity that would make many blacksmiths jealous, he is working on several commissions for us, including a large and expensive one. He’s proven himself capable in combat, but I really want to know where he was trained.

Ziggy Stardust: An oddly-dressed individual whom I’ve declared my eternal rival, this singing sensation is sweeping the country. He should really meet my older sister Prue, I think they would make fast friends. Wonder where she is…?

And me, Gregory Michaelson. Trained under the legendary tutor Alexander, I spent much of my childhood learning magic and history and culture from someone who proved to have very different ideals than my family upbringing, challenging the notion of my family’s orc-driven mines. I… know that I may regret writing this down, should this fall into the wrong hands, but I want to work on saving the orcs and half-orcs from slavery under imperial rule, to follow my tutor’s footsteps. Guild business has distracted me from this plan of late, but I’m hoping that this witch business will end soon and that I can reorient myself on that goal.

[More Incoming]

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Peter's Journal
Entry #234

Healing Potion trial # 6
●2 Blood Flowers (substitute for Moon Flowers)
●3 drops of Maiden Tears (sadly this is a distilled ale, much harder to found than young girls)
●1 crushed clove of Dragon’s Tongue (Common Weed easily mistaken with Horse’s Grass)
●1 pre-made potion starter

Brew for one hour under medium heat. Potion turned yellow, then green. Already doing better than last time, this Potion didn’t explode.

Testing potion. With a small butter I will cut my thumb and see if it recovers from potion.

Lost feeling to half of face. Tongue turned blue. Left foot big toe is tingling. Thumb restored but I can’t bend it.

Conclusion, potion successful. Will change ratio of Maiden tears to fix blue tongue. Still sad that aren’t really “Maiden tears”.

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Rebecca's Journal #1

It has been a week since I discovered that my mentor Gabriel Arch was murdered and the pain of his loss since hasn’t diminished. The only thing that makes his death bearable is my unique companions in the Ravenguard. Even the terrifying Kyser Falcrin has shown me his caring side for my loss.

Gabriel wouldn’t want me to mourn for him, but I can’t help but think of him as the father I never had. Without his guidance, I don’t know what to do next. While Talion Zeallion has offered to show me what Gabriel was upto while he was in the Order, I feel that he wasn’t being entirely sincere with his offer. I feel terrible saying that because in one conversion with him, I learned more about my master’s past than I did in eighteen years traveling with the man.

During this last week I made a terrible mistake. Gregory Michaelson made me question Gabriel’s treatment of me and in a fit of rebellion (this makes me feel like I am five years old) I stopped drinking my herbal tea. Because of this both Bartholomew and Dulgamar discovered my secret. Fortunately, they have promised to keep my secret safe but this oversight in judgement makes me feel I have failed Gabriel in some way.

All of this talk about loss makes me miss my friends back in the capital. While Daniel and I never could see eye to eye, even his company would be desired at this point. Corda colorful bahavior reminds me of my friend Laura. Gabriel never approved of my friendship with her, but that never bothered me much as Laura’s kindness was only matched her affinity with magic.
Many of the emperor’s personal mages were envious of her talents. I always found it funny that many people would call us twins even though we had no blood relation. Before our sudden departure, there was a rumor she might be the appointed onto the Council of Humanity (Military leadership of the Church of humanity).

If Laura was here, she would know what to do…

Today, Dulgamar offered me to join the Ravenguard on their job. While before I might of politely decline, I think this quest might help clear my mind.

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Gregory's Journal #1
Twisting Perceptions

Suppose it had to be me, did it not? Dulgamar’s handwriting is atrocious and Blackfire, while elegant in script, tends to break up his words into ramblings about Pelor, and I’d rather keep religiosity out of records of our official proceedings. And, well, Rhogar’s dead, so… Yes. Up to me now. I can only hope that it will not distract too much from my studies.

With Gabriel’s death shadowing over the group, and my own guilt at turning Rebecca slightly against him, I decided to take up the reins at writing a record of our journey, to follow in the old scholar’s footsteps and make sure that our works won’t be forgotten for centuries. Rebecca seems interested in helping me out, so hopefully she’ll share some of the burden, but I won’t ask her to do anything she isn’t ready for. She’s adjusting, but only just, I think.

We are going to be renowned, and there is going to be a record of the Ravenguard, from the prospective of its most learned member. I would not want some independent historian to try to piece things together without the proper context of our group dynamic. They would surely leave out moments like the subtle manipulations of Tim or the fascination with breaking down doors to use as shields, to focus on our adventures.

So I am going to embark on this project to really get to the bottom of the Ravenguard, to keep a record of this moment forward, and to eventually fill in the gaps from when this whole thing started. I’ll do my best to include important quotes and the perspectives of others, but like all historians-to-be, my own voice will likely still be felt throughout the journal. It feels important to say.

As mentioned previously, recent events have been troubling. We have just witnessed the Praetorian Guard raiding the Silver Sword warehouses on the night of our stakeout, and I am thankful for my divination powers, to watch from afar. While I cannot be one hundred percent sure, this feels like a turning point, a moment that will likely be debated among our group for weeks to come, because there is a lot that we do not know.

Troubling still, the revelation that one of the Guard interrogated a survivor about the identity of Gabriel’s killer is perhaps worst of all, directly linking us to the proceedings even more and speaking of a larger conspiracy. On top of that reveal, Flora Lionheart, Third Commander of the local Silver Sword Chapter, told us that the only survivor seemed to suggest that the Guard had been ordering the Silver Swords to transport the monsters, through the portal system that I witnessed.

I am uncertain as to what the implications of these reveals are, but in the past two days, the mystery of Gabriel Arch has gotten even more complex.

After returning to the Dying Fox Inn, where our guild is currently based, we recieved a messaage from a local noble Talion. He’s the new-money-type, someone who seems a little unfamiliar with the ins and outs of prestige and upper class, but perhaps there’s some cultural difference there, between our experiences. Needlessly to say, I am wary of him.

While the party divided the next day, Dulgamar and I headed to the Cheap Bottle Tavern, a place whose stench I can’t seem to avoid, to meet with LIon and give him an update personally. I realized my own services would be better spent following the lead from the message and meeting with Talion at the library, to speak with him about his investigation into the death of his friend. I felt it better for me to speak to him alone so that I may watch him carefully, because I’m certain that the others trust him more than I do. The dwarf is not always a good judge of character, and Blackfire would likely just mystify him.

Talion had already arrived and was speaking with Rebecca, having visted the library herself, sharing stories about her mentor. It was a sweet moment that I honestly did not wish to interrupt, but it could not be helped. Talion’s insistence to speak to me alone, leaving Rebecca behind, only raised my suspicions, but I am a stubborn individual and would not take no for an answer, feeling it important for Rebecca to hear the information.

The noble agreed and lead us to a local bookstore, a ratty place that I don’t think I’d step foot in normally, and thought he was being clever when he flashed a card with a symbol of the bird, the recurring symbol of the Phoenix, to the old lady behind the counter. She agreed to his request of the room, and left accordingly.

Talion asked questions, questions about why we had been traveling with Gabriel, about the Praetorian Guard, and about the reasoning for his travels. I answered as best I could, and asked questions of my own, about the mystifying Order. Talion confirmed that the demarcation of the Phoenix is their symbol, and that it was a secret organization that operates on a need-to-know basis, to protect its operations. He spoke of Gabriel’s family, something that no one in our group had ever heard about, a wife and son.

Three important relevations came from that meeting: Daniel Arch, Gabriel’s son, is a member of the Praetorian Guard; Gabriel’s wife is a Lionheart; and that I am an idiot.

I felt the magic field in the room, could feel that it would prevent some magic from forming. But when the line of questioning arose about the box the Guard had stolen from Rebecca’s room during our first encounter with them, I could tell that Talion was lying that he did not konw what piece of information was hidden in the box.

I won’t attempt to justify my actions, though I will say that I thought it would work at the time. Rather than pressure Talion with words, I pressured Talion with mental influence through magic, and the magic failed due to the protective enchantments in the room.

Talion chuckled and essentially shut me out from that moment on, and it greatly disappoints me that I did not get the information that I sought, due to my own failings. Had I not relied on my magic, perhaps he would have eventually felt that he could share this pivotal information to someone that I believe Gabriel might have trusted.

To distract myself from my falings, I returned to the Cheap Bottle Inn to participate in Fight Night. Not quite productive, exactly, but we did encounter an… interesting fellow named Ziggy, who provided muscial entertainment at the bar during the event. A magical duel erupted between us, and I emerged victorious after the bastard tried to blind me. I did not know it at the time, but the magical drug addict Ziggy would join us the next day, and become integral to the group.

With Dulgamar’s and my hopes dashed to Lion’s victory, the dwarf continued to drink the night away and I returned to the inn.

After Blackfire’s usual destruction of property, which needs no additional comment other than the loss of our security deposit, we awoke the next morning and attempted to catch everyone up from the previous day’s revelations. To add to the mystery of Gabriel Arch, Dulgamar had learned from Lion that Gabriel was the Emperor’s personal scribe. A troubling revelation for our entire journey thus far. At this point, he is more confusing than my own prophetic nightmares.

Flora Lionheart arrived not long after that and announced that we had, somehow, succeeded in getting the paperwork for the Griffons, signed by her own uncle, the Duke, and that Lion would train the Griffons, currently in his care. She thanks us for our services and offers for Corda, a helpful and utterly bizarre sorceress, to remain in our organization temporarily, at least while the investigation continues.

Victorious, we turned to our next task, one that I hope will be much less taxing than this mess. I’d greatly appreciate getting out of this city for a little while, to clear my head, and saving some missing villagers from wtiches for a cash reward seems fit.

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