It does not appear to be trapped

Razia's Journal

Crow’s Rest: We have been asked to meet with Lady Bluthaven. I was not aware that Duke Marc had married. I wonder who this woman is. In any case, she is asking for someone to investigate the ancestral catacombs and suggested that we might be well suited for the job. We are currently enroute to Haven to hear the lady’s proposal. Along the way, we were approached by Slavers masquerading as a trade caravan. They nearly captured us and we were barely able to defeat them. We raided their camp and set the slaves they had captured free. We were able to capture two slavers in the process – Infamor and Guinal. The others were killed in battle. We plan to hand them over to the custody of the guards in Crow’s Rest.

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Razia's Journal

Crow’s Rest: We arrived in Crow’s Nest. We gave the slavers over to the guards. Infamor and Guinal were promptly sold into slavery themselves. Nilrem visited the arcane library in town and acquired some scrolls. The rest of us attended the gladiatorial matches. Sylvanna became upset that captured wolves were used as opponents in the ring. Idej proceeded to get drunk with the local peasents. I made some winnings wagering on an all female gladiatorial group – Team Fate. I was invited to watch the matches with Lord Dazath. He wagered a magical broach and a fine bottle of wine against a night of my services, but I won. That evening, Idej passed out in the streets and was captured by slavers. He was purchased by Lord Dazath and forced to fight in the gladiatorial ring. Sylvanna offered a favor to a ranger in team Fate, Aileen, in return for Idej’s safety. I wagered against the lord in an attempt to win Idej’s freedom. Unfortunately, I lost the bet and had to spend the night with Lord Dazath. Fortunately, he decided to release Idej from service anyway. Nilrem is angry at Idej for being unprofessional. This could cause some conflicts later. At least we are back on the road to Haven.

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Razia's Journal

Haven: The remainder of our journey to Haven was uneventful. We made good time and were able to secure lodging within the merchant’s district. We arranged to meet in the morning so we could travel to the palace and hear the Duchess’s offer. Idej, however, was missing again and Nilrem was quite upset. We are unsure where Idej went, but we were able to discover he was having a meeting with one of the nobility. Interesting… Idej never really seems comfortable in high society. What would a noble want with him. We ended up going to the palace without him. Only Nilrem was allowed to meet with the Duchess.

I was surprised to learn that the Duke’s new wife is in fact Naivara. I am impressed she convinced him to marry her given that less than a decade ago she plotted with his son to overthrow him. She has somehow managed to convince Duke Marc Bluthaven that a marriage was in both their interests. I suspect it has something to do with the increased power and prestige they have acquired by joining their lands together. Still, I am surprised that the Duke was so forgiving of her.

In any case, Naivara hired us to recover a circlet crown lost in her ancestral estates. The quest will require us to travel to a castle in the woods southeast of Haven and utilize a magic circle to enter the Feywild. I can not help but wonder if this task has anything to do with the disturbing dreams I have had of late. I dream of the feywild being encompassed by a withering darkness. Perhaps once we enter the Feywild, I will know more about what these dreams might portend.

That evening, Naivara was bold enough to ask me for an assignation. I travelled to the Silver Dragon Palace with every intention of denying her. I wanted to confront her about her cruel murder of Paelias. When I saw her, however, my anger melted into a very different kind of passion. My terrible Fey Lady was as beautiful and charming as ever. She offered me a place in her household, but my resolve was still strong enough to refuse. In the end, I agreed to contract with her for the night.

I think she was still angry at me for defying her because she was crueler than usual. Not since my time with Duke Marc have I ever experienced such torture of the flesh. After enduring her corporeal punishments, she sought to wither my resolve with her emotional lashings. She taunted me about how my defiance of her had accomplished nothing. She has, after all, managed to take control of Bluthaven in her own fashion. She offered that if I had simply done as she bid me to, Paelias might still be alive.

Persuasive as her cruel missives might be, I was not so overcome with passion that I forgot all the evil that would have come from her victory. Not the least of which would have been my continued indentured servitude to the Black Rose Guild. When the evening was over, I reminded Naivara that I am now a free woman. Whatever games we play by night, in the light of day I am free to make my own choices. Even this, however, Naivara had to taint. She simply noted how willing I was to sell her a piece of that Freedom for the lowly price of Platinum. The truth of her statements embarrassed me. How dangerously enticing is the Marquist of Rivenfell that I would give myself over to her so cheaply. In the future I must demand a patron price that is more seemly lest she suspect my resolve of weakening.

In the morning, I expected that we would set out for the castle. Zianna, however, was missing from breakfast. When she had not arrived back to the tavern by midmorning, we searched Haven looking for her. Our only leads were that she had visited a particular merchant’s shop and that she has been seen with an unusually large dullard named Andre. When we returned to the tavern for lunch. a doppleganger approached us pretending to be Zianna. Fortunately, we were able to see through the beast’s disguise and defeat him. It turned out, the shopkeeper was a doppleganger who had waylaid Zianna. Why he did so, however, remains a mystery. The important thing is that we were able to save my sister.

One day late, we departed for the castle. On the way, we dispatched some kind of giant and corrupted boar. A map acquired by Sylvania was very helpful and we had no other difficulties locating the ruined castle. Unfortunately, the ruins were overrun by kobolds. After defeating these beasts and their strange traps, we were finally able to locate the magic circle. In the morning, we depart for the fey wilds. I hope that will help me resolve the mystery of my troubling dreams…

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Razia's Journal

Near Moradin’s Wall: We spent the night in the ruins of the castle. During the evening, Zianna heard a woman weeping from somewhere upstairs. When we went to investigate, we encountered another Kobold lair. After a hard won fight, we managed to locate a secret room where the ghost of a human woman was weeping over an empty cradle. Nilrem and Idej went in to investigate. Based on what they said, the woman addressed Nilrem as Lord Ambrose. She accused him of spending too much time with her and ignoring their son. When Nilrem refused to make amends with Idej, the ghost said that she would remove herself from the world so she could no longer distract him from their son. She then proceeded to cut her wrists with a spectral dagger and vanished. Idej said he thinks the woman might be an ancient ancestor, but Nilrem was skeptical.

After our encounter with the ghost, we located the teleport circle Naivara described. Sadly, it did not take use to the Fey Wilds as a I expected. Instead, it took us hundreds of leagues away to another castle near the ruins of the wall. Inside we discovered more kobolds and a young red dragon. We managed to slay the kobolds, but the dragon proved to be elusive. After a hard won fight, the beast flew away before we could deal it a death blow. I fear that we will see the monster again some day when we least expect it… Dragons have a long memory…

After defeating the Dragon and his minions, we scoured the hoard until we found the circlet crown we were looking for. We were able to determine that it was magical, but we were unable to identify all of its properties. As promised, the rest of the dragon’s hoard more than covered our expenses. We recovered several magical items and numerous coins.

We returned to Haven and presented the circlet crown to Naivara. She was quite pleased with it and donned the circlet immediately. To celebrate, she offered me a second assignation. I agreed, but only under the condition that my patron price would be knowledge of the role the circlet plays in her current scheme. She may be more smitten with me than I thought because she was quite generous with information. She confessed that she intends to build a new kingdom out of the feudal city states. The circlet allows her to read other’s thoughts – a handy tool for diplomacy… or blackmail.

Duke Marc is apparently her partner in this endeavor. As part of their wedding vows, he secured a promise from Naivara that she would not through her actions do him harm. I suspect she will find a way around that promise. Regardless, she may be content to outlive him and inherit his kingdom anyway. He has no heir at the moment and if she is wise she will not give him one. In any case, I believe they are now set on bringing the surrounding city states under their sway. I wonder what they will do if diplomacy fails… I may be able to find out soon for Naivara has asked me to carry a message to Lord Dazath of Crow’s Rest. I am curious what offer she makes to him and what his response might be.

With my patron price paid, Naivara took full advantage of my services. She was as stern as ever, but more gentle than she was during our last encounter. There are few people who can transform the simple act of bathing and dressing someone into the highest art of foreplay. Once again, I suspect that she continues her game within a game. She taunted me once more about Palias’s death and seemed to take delight in the fact that his murderer was able to seduce me. During her wordplay, however, I noted one interesting fact… she was surprised to see me with Palias’s sword. I am most curious about that… Does the task the sword has set for me involve Naivara? If it does… will she be friend or foe? I keep forgetting how closely love and hate dance amongst the fey.*

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Razia's Journal

Crow’s Rest: We spent an additional day in Haven before departing for home. Nilrem, Idej, and I spent the day studying rituals and ancient history. I was curious about Naivara’s dream of creating as new empire. It seems as if others have had similar ambitions, but they have never been able to unit more than two city states at a time. It is almost as if the entire endeavor is cursed by the demons who destroyed the Empire of Bael Turath in the 1000th year of its reign. I am not certain, but there are passages in several books that suggest that the key to success may be gaining the support of the legion who defend the western gate and maintain the integrity of Mordain’s Wall. The had a distinctive device. Although it was unfamiliar to me, I had the nagging feeling I had seen it somewhere before.

On the way out of town, Sylvana and Zianna pointed out several groups of soliders that looked as if they were preparing to march North. The soldiers were of three companies, but they all seemed to be working together. One group were Eladrin warriors from Rivenfell. The second group were soldiers from Haven. The third group, however, were unknown to us. I felt a chill, however, when I recognized the device on their shields – the symbol for the legion that wards the Western Gate. It was then that I recalled where I had seen the symbol before. It was also emblazoned upon the circlet we recovered for Naivara. I doubt that this is a coincidence.

The first few weeks of our trip home was uneventful. As we were approaching Crow’s Rest, however, we encountered a group of Shadar-Kai. The four were clearly well armed and trained, yet they ran as if frightened of what might catch up to them. They warned us that something terrible was stirring in the North and encouraged us to return to the south. When one of them glimpsed my blade, however, their demeanour changed significantly. They warned me to stay out of their way, but it seemed to me as if they were frightened. Normally, I would have chosen a diplomatic solution but I felt it was important to stand my ground. I told the Shadar-Kai that they would be safe as long as they stayed out of the Feywyld. Before they departed, however, they said something about going where their master’s bidding would take them. I have heard that Shadar-Kai are kin to the darkness that has tried to invade the Feywyld since the dawn of time. I suspect that we will see these Shadar-Kai again and I doubt our next meeting will be so peaceful.

Anxious as we were to get home, we decided not to heed the warning of the Shadar-Kai. I was also determined to reach Crow’s Rest so I could deliver the message for Lord Dazath. So it was that we decided to continue North. Along the way, we encountered merchants and villagers fleeing South. They too spoke of something evil invading the settlements to the North. Their warnings, however, were no more persuasive than those of the Shadar Kai and we pressed on.

Although Nilrem scoffed at the merchant’s warnings, he did take additional precautions and cast several warding rituals before we camped for the night. It was good that he did. In the middle of the night, we were set upon by a hoard of living dead in pursuit of several farmers. It was a hard won fight, but we managed to dispatch the hungry corpses. Many of the villagers were killed, but we managed to save a handful of them.

The survivors spoke of a the dead rising from their graves to feast on living flesh. They said that they fled in the night when the corpses attacked, leaving their belongings behind. They had no money, weapons, or supplies and their clothing was ill fit for travel. Despite Nilrem’s objections, we agreed that we should escort them to Crow’s Rest so they would at least have a chance of finding a safe haven.

We travelled hard throughout most of the next day, hoping to make Crow’s Rest by Nightfall. Just before sunset, we reached the outerwalls of Crow’s Rest. There we found a dozen city guards trying to hold off a veritable sea of zombies while a crowd of refugees tried to crowd their way into the gates. We were able to help the soldiers hold the living dead at bay long enough for the refugees to get into the city. At times, I feared we would be overrun by the relentless dead. A few of the refugees and several of the soldiers were taken by the zombies. Those who were pulled into the sea of nails and teeth were torn to pieces and devoured before our eyes. In the end, we managed to make it into the gates with only seconds left to spare, an army of the hungry dead clawing at the doors behind us.

Once inside the gates, we wasted little time. Nilrem and Sylvanna joined the soldiers on the battlements. I am sure there were some skeptical veterans who wondered what a crotchety old man and a beaituful Elven woman could do to assist them. They were quickly silenced, however, by the actions of my comrades. I doubt many of them have seen the likes of Nilrem’s spellcraft or Sylvanna’s archery. Both were quickly welcomed into the ranks.

Idej took it upon himself to aid the wounded and raise the spirits of the people. He rented an entire tavern and transformed it into a hospital. He went door to door trying to find places for the homeless refugees to sleep once their wounds were tended to. He bought food and drinks for all. Though he did it out of the good of his heart, the people of Haven have come to love him for it. They have made songs in his honor. Though the have little, they shower him with gifts. It was truly touching to see Idej rise himself from a lost child seeking adventure to a selfless hero of the common folk.

Zianna disappered mysteriously and said nothing of where she was going. When she returned, however, she had some information and a place to stay. She was able to discover that the plague of the dead began somewhere in the North, but it has now spread to the outlying settlements surrounding Crow’s Rest. The city is entirely surrounded. Worse… there is no real agricultural land inside the walls of the city. Given the current population, we estimated that the existing food supplies were likely to run dry in several weeks time. If we can not find a way to stop the undead by then, we and everyone else in Crow’s Rest will begin starving to death.

While my companions were busy, I approached Lord Dazath to deliver Lady Naivara’s message. As fate would have, she proposed an alliance to several of the local city states including Crow’s Rest. Although the proposal had many ideas (a senate of rulers, shared rules of law, tolerance of others customs, etc), the part of the proposal that most interested Lord Dazath was the clause recommending a shared army and a mutual defense pact. Given their dire circumstances, Lord Dazath’s advisors were quick to agree to Lady Naivara’s proposal.

Some might believe that it is mere coincidence that the proposal arrived in Crow’s Rest just when they were in great need of aid. Those individuals, however, do not know Naivara as well as I do. She may not have had a hand in arranging this, but I am certain that she at least had knowledge of this undead army’s coming. There is no way to prove it, but I have no doubt that Naivara took advantage of Lord Dazath’s difficulties to influence his decision. I am curious what tactics she is using to bring the other city states into her fold… Regardless… the point may be moot if there is no way to inform the Lord and Lady of Haven of Crow’s Rest’s decision. Lord Dazath has asked us to return his answer to Lady Naivara, but he himself knows of no way out of the city. Fortunately, we have some ideas.

Nilrem pointed out that there are mages in Crow’s Rest who may be able to help us create a teleport circle that we could use to access the teleport circle in the Kobold’s lair to the far South. That would put us in easy marching distance of Haven. Nilrem is, however, reluctant to allow another Wizard to know the location of his ancestral home. Surprisingly, Idej agreed with his father and suggested we try other means first.

Although it would seem that we are trapped, Zianna thinks there may be a secret tunnel system that could allow us to escape. She is currently investigating to determine if these fabled “smuggler’s tunnels” exist and if they can be accessed. Even if they do exist, however, there is no guarantee that the exit will be in a safe location. We could open a portal only to find ourselves in the midst of the undead host. Worse, we may alert the zombies to the existence of the tunnel – an undefended entry into the city.

I was beginning to despair that we may be trapped inside the besieged city when I discovered a third possibility. Lord Dazath was escorting me through the palace gardens when I saw it – an ancient tree with an air of magic about it. Although I could sense the feywyld through the tree, I could also sense the hint of corruption carried by the denizens of darkness. I could feel Quallanisthu rattle in it’s scabbard, as if demanding that we cross into the feywyld to destroy the sickness in the roots of the tree. It was then that I realized that the tree might be a portal that could carry us to safety. Of course, it is also possible that the darkness that taints the tree is also the source of the magic that wakes the sleeping dead. Either way, I am now convinced that the solution to our current predicament lies through the tree and in the realms of the Feywyld…

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