The Ascension Gate

Dogs of Death
Erasday, 9th of Toragas, 2022

I have always believed that Gadar leaves us to our own fates. Guides us, aides us, supports us, yes. But always it is by our own merit that we succeed or fail. Some of my brothers like to say that “Gadar is mysterious” and “Its just his will” when bad things happen. I say that is nonsense, and weak. Its just a tired excuse for failure from those that can’t face that they simply did not try hard enough. Our will and wits are what allow us to succeed in this world, not some mysterious force leading us along on rails to our final fate.

It is this belief, though, that can make days like today so hard. We tracked the group of pilgrims on the Moor. We slew the dread beasts that we found, despite their numbers and strength. I was able to save Vilig from the grievous wounds he suffered. Yet, no amount of skill or magic was able to stave off death from my brother, the pilgrim guard who’s name I never even learned. Despite my years of training, my gifts from Gadar, and the magical skills of Daba, death was in him and I could not stop it. It is times like these when I think that perhaps, maybe, just today, this was really Gadar’s will. I could not stop it, no matter how I rail, for it is the Divine’s choice to take his servant to his side.

I entertain the thought for a brief moment, before allowing reality to crash home. The man could have been saved, if we had been faster. If I had more skill. I resolve myself to becoming better, to learning more, to grow in the powers I have been granted by the grace of Truth and Light.

Many believe the brotherhood to be weak. Pacifists, even. They see the clergy espousing peace in all things, harmony, tranquility, and assume that the military arm of the church is simply to hold the horrors of the wilds at bay. They forget that one of Gadar’s core teachings is that of justice. That the universe is a scales balanced by the actions of us all, and that we must be held accountable for our contributions.

The men that killed my brothers, they have tipped the scales. They have taken the lives of the innocent, and so their own lives must be forfeit. By Gadar’s own decrees, I call their debt due.

And I am coming to collect what is owed.

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From the Papers of Vilig Sojet III
From a stack of bound paper wrapped in leather.

We’re about to head out in search of a missing group of pilgrims- yet another sidetrack, but we’re happy to be of assistance.

Thought I would jot down a list of situations we’re monitoring. I know Bartak is particularly interested in the Dark Spire Keep.

DC

  • In the High Moor: Rock Dale full of green skins, encroaching/raiding on locals of the high moor. 50 gold a head, 10p for each greenskin dead,
  • Mutilated sheep south of the Hardlow Woods. Find cause, 200p find, 500p to stop
    UPDATE: Maybe lycanthrope couple on farm; definitely Hell Hounds of some sort to the North East. (We should watch out for these guys if we head up North looking for the pilgrims)
  • Bandits on the lyrchwood road. Assaulting folk on the road, some missing people. 25p per bandit killed, 50p per capture.
    UPDATE: empty graves, Gerald knows, Billy worth investigating.
    UPDATE: I feel like this isn’t over yet.

The count keeps harping on a number of local issues. We may find ourselves obliged to help.

  • man crushed by boulder to the south; not sure why the count keeps bringing this up? Out in the wilds morons find the oddest ways to get killed all the time.
  • lizardman uprising; he’s got his militia assigned to this right now
  • broken spire keep. Deep in the Thornwood; We think this is wear Patchy is hiding out with Gelleneth. I’m not eager to rush in their after seeing the curse he slapped on Bartak and the bat wings from out of nowhere.
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Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell...
http://www.adventurescents.com

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A Letter from Grover Ruk

Deborah Ruk Death Witch hell yeah
c/o The Wizards House
Thurmaster Haranshire

Dearest sister

I cannot tell you how tickled I was to receive your missive not having seen you in the feathers since the last time you stumbled through Erst County what was it had to be at least three year ago. You was wearing your full robes then and had the little one on your shoulder just like you said he still is. We had a pearly day swapping stories in the tavern and I would give my weekly salary to have a day like that again but for now this will have to do. I just hope you can read this as I finally managed to get most of my words down but have still not much got the hang of where to put the little curved lines between the dots. There were other marks you used in your letter that I will not even attempt. I will stick with the dots.

Thank you for the update on your fine coterie you got with you because they sure seem like a bunch. I aint never seen a dwarf yet actually as not much of them are up here in this area. Wilber Miller said he courted one a while but then his brother said she werent no dwarf she was just short Wilber you don’t know what the hell you was buying dinner for and Wilber went offn chewed dip for a while which is sort of how he pouts but anyway I dont think she was a dwarf neither.

I work with Wilber and his brother Arnuld on the trash pick up. I did try to be a priest a while actually and it was in fact the Gadarians I went out for like your friend is a part of but they dun gave me the boots medium style. I didnt do anything that bad and I had compatriots get kicked out for much worse but I just couldnt wrap my beak around the whole shebang. I couldnt commit any of it to memory like the right words or the right holidays or the right colors to wear on the right mornings and I didnt seem to care enough when I fucked any of it up. Head preacher just said I wasnt priest material and told me to go with Gadar so I went. It had nothing to do with being Tengu just to do with being dumb I guess.

Anyway like you insinuated it was mainly just a try at getting out from under that godforsaken roof we used to call home. Ma and Pa do still walk among us and are doing about the same as ever and like you said too I aint got no complaint aimed at either ovem but I just couldnt stand Martin or Gideon or Hubert III or any of the rest of them loitering around so I hit the road. Saying I was hearing a religious call was a lot easier than saying fuck you so thats what I up and done.

But I go round picking up garbage with the Millers now so thats a lot easier than preaching. They aint birds but they dont mind me. I got one routine we do every day so as its easy to remember. We try to keep Falmouth the cleanest village in the county. But then again thats why it took me so long to get your letter since somebody at the temple finally thought to catch me on the trash route and hand it to me yesterday after it had done sat there for Gadar knows how long.

Anyway I better wrap this up so as to get to work on time but man it was good to see your scrawl. I hope you write me back. This is my new address:

Grover Ruk
Garbage Bird Deluxe
203 Mavis Way Hovel #3
Falmouth Erst County Menard Parish

I live in a little box with a bunch of other boxes on the back side of town kind of like in Nihon where they got them pill rooms but not as sanitary. Not so bad though. Rent is low and the we all kind of know to leave each other alone back here.

Maybe next time you write I will have a dog.

I love you Daba youre the only Ruk I like.

Sincerely
your brother
Grover

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How have the skirmishes been going lately?
Enquiring minds want to know.

Did you seriously just ask me what it’s like when they battle?

As if you actually give a damn? You haven’t bothered to care about any of us before, not when it really matters, at least. Why ask now?

Yes, I am still mad about that. And about a lot of issues.

I don’t feel like talking to you, frankly.

I can sass you all I want. I’m too useful for you to kill.

Well, I suppose I could be turned into a worse animal. Quite right.

But it’s not like the fights take the shape of a story I can tell you. How does one delineate something so swift and violent? How does one narrate, for instance, an explosion, or the swoosh and shine of a guillotine? It’s not something that lends itself to plotting. It’s maniacally harried, and horrible.

Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to who’s being battled from week to week. It’s none of my concern. Sometimes it’s blue goblins; sometimes it’s bandits; and I feel like it was a werebear once – but actually now that I reflect more carefully I think Bartak talked that one down. He’s indispensable. In fights, he’s a one-dwarf path of destruction, his braids swinging outwards with spatters of blood and glory. About halfway through each skirmish I catch him sometimes reaching some kind of climactic power surge, crunching his body down into an angry ball and then standing to release a terrifying cry – actually that’s the wrong word. Cry has connotations of alarm, confusion, or fear. Bartak knows exactly what he’s doing. From there on out, I often have to look away; even for a stomach accustomed to ingesting dusty, maggot-eaten road leftovers, what ensues after the yelling is sometimes a shock. He becomes a little blonde cyclone of murder.

But without that rage, none of them would have made it this far.

Vilig’s a force to be reckoned with, too, but there’s something almost graceful about his brand of dispatching. Where Bartak butchers, Vilig’s an artist, swooping swiftly from one corner of the field – the sword moving like a quill as it deftly ends one person after the other, his hair lingering behind him in the air like a paintbrush. Stab, stab, stab goes the quill; he calls it a mercy blow, and he certainly makes it quick. He dodges out of pickles that would certainly kill a human, but even I, as an elf, was never quite this fast. I was languorous, slothful, reluctant even to pass a dew drop without examining it more closely, sponging up every delicate second as if I knew I’d one day lose the life I’d been born into. Vilig is something else. Time speeds up for him, rolls like rapids under his feet, and he commands it like no one else in the fray. It amazes me – and exhausts me – to watch it.

On the other hand, I always did lose interest with the religious segments of existence, so I tend to tune out with Ilios. It’s nothing against his personality, which I find quite amiable and generally harmless. It’s just that, when he raises his holy symbol and it glows across the battlefield, one incantation blends into the other in a pious mush that makes my eyelids droop even in the midst of such excitement. Don’t mistake my tiny birdy attention span, though, for any true complaint – the entire party would all be goners without those healing spells. Daba in particular. She owes every one of her feathers to him by now.

…although I’ll say on her behalf that she’s hatched out a couple of useful spells of her own at this point – one being a slumber hex, which, combined with Vilig’s “mercy” is rather effective, and the other (my personal favorite) being a thundercloud which she can create and manipulate at will to float around any given area and shock her opponents to death. I will say I do get a perverse enjoyment from watching her, hanging out in the back, squinting and holding up her talons as they guide a black vapor cloud of electric doom.

Wait, what did you say? How am I watching her if I’m with her?

You must have gone daft after all these years. Do you seriously think I am on her shoulders during this madness? Absolutely not. Out of the question. I fly as high as I can into a nearby tree until the chaos blows over. Obviously.

Well, genius, if I die, what will happen to all her spells?

Allright then – maybe that’s not the only reason. Maybe I’m flying the coop, so to speak. So what? You required me to accompany her, not die for her.

I can’t help much, regardless. What do you want me to do – peck out their eyes? You’d like that, wouldn’t you? That would fit your little stereotypes.

You disgust me.

I was kidding in that last part, of course.

Mostly.

Just don’t make me a frog.

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A Prophetic Dream
Gadday, 14th of Ketephen, 2017 A.G.

I dreamed of Sonia last night. I dream of her most nights, but this was somehow different. It felt…real. As though I could reach out and touch her, and when I awoke, she would still be there. I could smell the scent of her, the lightest touch of the northern spices that laced her soap. We stood in a wood, near a river, and she smiled at me, the sunlight glowing in her hair. The sight of her, the feeling of having finally found her, overwhelmed me with joy I have not felt in years.

Then the sunlight faded, and the sky darkened with storm clouds. Confused, I looked up to see the sun disappear behind a black circle, and lightning flickered across clouds that seemed to race across the sky. I looked back to Sonia, opening my mouth to warn her to get inside, and stopped when I saw the smile on her face. Gone was the light and love in her eyes, they had grown cold and blank. Yet the smile still plastered her face like some dollmaker’s twisted joke. I reached out to grab her shoulders, to shake her from her trance.

At that moment, the ground heaved beneath me, hurling me into the air as it suddenly fell away, and I came to land hard on my side, knocking the breath from my body. All around us, the ground cracked and split, spilling a noxious blackness into the air around us. The river, once placid and wide, now thrashed with white peaks and raged into the chasms around us. Yet Sonia stood, still as a statue, and smiling all the while.

I stood, trying to reach her, when black tentacles reached forth from the chasm and gripped by arms and legs, pinning me in place. I howled and thrashed at the things, trying to escape, but their grasp was indomitable. I looked upon Sonia, anguished that I could not save her. A figure now stood behind her, a man dressed in black, his face hidden, nearly invisible in the darkness deep as night that enfolded us. He caressed Sonia’s arms, almost lovingly, before gripping her hard.

It was then that Sonia spake to me. Not with her voice, but the voice of something…else. It sounded as though the trumpets of heaven themselves had found words to speak through her. I have never before nor since heard its like.

“The truth is false, the light falls to lies,
the king that once was, is again,
a pool of glass reflects a sunless sea,
and through the one eye the way began.”

With that, Sonia blinked, the smile fading from her face. She saw me then. Before either of us could speak, the figure that held her jerked her into the darkness upon a cloud of black. The last thing I saw was her reaching out to me as she screamed.

I awoke in a sweat, my blankets tangled about me in my thrashing. The elders of the Order had spoken of dreams of prophecy, of how they felt, and the riddles in which they spoke. Was this such a dream? Or the fancies of a man slipping into madness? I write this now so that I may look back upon it, and discover the truth of it, Gadar willing. I go now with renewed vigor in my search for Sonia. She yet lives, dream or no. I will find her, and may the heavens have mercy upon any who stand in my way.

Truth and Light.

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"I thought it was a great plan!"
1 one thousand... 2 one thousand... 3 one thousand...

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And Then There was a Cliffhanger
"Abstract art is fraud"

2nd of Toragas

The party travels to the edge of Cutter Brook to camp for the night on their way to investigate the Lyrchwood; an upswing in bandit attacks had drawn the attention of Darius Carmen.

The party heads directly to the site of their first fight with the bandits. The graves are empty, the bodies removed by an unknown means. Daba uses her death sense but a walk into the woods on Bartak’s shoulders reveals no oddities.

“waahwaahwaahwaahwaahwaahwaahwaahwaahwaah” – Daba

There is a brief interview with a woodsman, William “Billy” Freidhelm The party camps by the road for an uneventful night.

3rd-4th of Toragas
The party informs Gerald of the missing bodies/Billy and then picks up the facsimile ring from the blacksmith. They then deliver ring to the blue goblin shaman outside Harlatan.

*

Bartak gestures wildly
Vilig: “Bartak do you have to go to the bathroom?”
Bartak: “No…Cone of silence.”

*

Bears on Responsibility: “Once you mark something, it’s your responsibility, forever, for eternity. Any kind of mark.”

*

7th of Toragas
Party picks up two crates en route to Count Parlfray. They travel by barge and camp just beyond the Thornwood to the south of the river.

During night watch, Bartak hears, “Bring the bird and the priest. Kill the rest.”

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We're off to sense the deeeeaaaad, the living or dead or undead...
Sung to the tune of "We're Off to See the Wizard" from 1939's The Wizard of Oz

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Oh helloooooo again
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SGZqDzb__bw

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