The last few days have been…inauspicious, to say the least.
Fortune finds me taking to the road again, this time with companions. It is not my custom to travel with others, but, under the circumstances, it is necessary. One of them is my steadfast comrade in solitude, Rook the Gnome…though it should be noted that it is his actions that seem to have gotten me into this mess to begin with. But, arguably, our current predicament was unavoidable, unless we wished to allow unnatural evils to manifest in our beloved wood.
But perhaps the beginning would be…well, a better place to begin.
After we fought and bested the bewitched suit of armor, we returned to Sen’s Rest, where Rook urged Village Elder Gary and his small son Jerry to join us for another foray into the ruins. Rook’s motives were unclear to me, and, when I questioned him regarding them, his answer proved vague.
Upon reaching the ruins, we discovered in their depths a large tear in the fabric of space and time, much like those I have happened upon of late here and there in my wanderings. It was only then that Rook’s intent became clear. As the rest of us watched, helpless to intervene, he sacrificed Gary to the portal, dooming the Village Elder to a ghastly and most undignified end, which his young son had the great misfortune to witness.
When questioned regarding his actions, Rook stated that they were necessary to banish the demon that dwelt in the portal and thereby restore balance to the wood. While the Gnome’s efforts did accomplish these things, I cannot condone his means, and I did tell him as much. I also asserted that the orphaned Jerry, who has seen only seven summers, is now our responsibility. Rook did not agree, but Delg the Arbiter, whom I judge to be most upright for a Dwarf, did support me in this.
Soon after these events, Rook, Jerry, and myself became aware that strange and identical markings had appeared upon our persons—mine on my left palm, Rook’s on his neck, and the child’s on his lower back above and betwixt the buttocks. (Delg already bore such a mark, for reasons unknown.) When Rook and I consulted Illya the Mad regarding this phenomenon, she referred to the marks as the “Brand of Sacrifice,” and advised that fell things will be drawn to us so long as we bear them.
Delg, meanwhile, counseled the now-leaderless people of Sen’s Rest to elect a new interim village elder by popular vote. We then set out for Rachdale to report to Lord Harington regarding the fate of his vassal, as well as to deliver young Gary into the custody of his aunt who was said to dwell in that town. But upon arriving in Rachdale, we learned the boy’s aunt is no longer among the living. Lord Harington, whom I judge to be a kind and reasonably wise man, volunteered to take on the boy as a squire.
After Rook and I consulted with local mages regarding the Brand of Sacrifice and learned that one other—a hermit who makes his home in Everwinter—is known to bear it, Rook took to the woods surrounding the city, citing a fear that Harington would discover his role in the death of Gary—which was well. Upon my return to Harington’s dwelling, his lordship’s questioning did lead to such a discovery, and I was quick to note that, while I didn’t agree with Rook’s actions, the Gnome only did what he felt was necessary to prevent a great evil from entering this world.
Too, before his departure, Rook had brought to my attention the fact that Jerry’s brand would surely bring calamity on the house of Harington. I conveyed this to Harington himself and credited Rook with having shown concern for the well-being of the lord and his house. Harington, understandably, felt he could not shelter the boy under the circumstances, but he was compelled to show mercy to Rook, and declared that, so long as Rook is never caught within Rachdale’s city walls, the Gnome might go in peace.
After a night of Harington’s hospitality, and with young Jerry in our keeping, we set out for New Bastion, where Harington advised we might prevail upon his fiancée, Rhosann, for accommodations. We have nearly reached the city as of this writing and plan to seek further knowledge of the Brand from the mages who dwell within its walls.
We did meet and best an owlbear as we journeyed. My new companions are mighty indeed. Let us hope we shall likewise prevail against whatever creatures of dread darkness we may encounter on our travels henceforward, as we quest in search of any means of removing these foul brands from our bodies.