The Ascension Gate

The Day I Thought Her Feathers Might Catch Fire
Daba Drama

I’ve been as discreet as I can for you during these last two hundred years or so, or however long it’s been – I stopped running an exact count several decades ago, as knowledge of the precise number only served to depress me further. Regardless, I do my best, and I can’t be expected to account for the incompetence and more specifically tardiness of other creatures.

For instance, your emissary, who showed up on the roof across from our inn egregiously late, an hour after sunrise.

Which meant it took that much longer for our business to conclude.

Which also meant that, as the lazy fiend flew upwards once it was over, with no apology or explanation, I looked back into the window of the inn room only to see Daba’s eyes locked on to mine – when she SHOULD have been asleep.

Although when taking certain aspects of my personality into consideration it would seem like I’d be a sharp manipulator, I have in fact never been a skilled liar. Indeed, when I had hands instead of wings, I was always the elf that the other elves came to for brutally honest answers to their queries. (I seem to remember upsetting my sister Ellaria once when I asked her for a seeing-eye hound and a cane after she tried to show off her brand new bright yellow corset.) I “wasn’t there to make friends,” as they say.

But as I flew back over to the windowsill, with Daba’s eyebrow feathers contorted into a zig-zag of accusation, I felt that I had no other alternative but to try to lie about what I knew with certainty she had seen.

She seemed already agitated by something; her sleep, I knew, had been fitful, with frightened twitches and whimpers intermittent throughout the night. She didn’t waste any time in interrogating me as I perched on the back of a chair.

“Who were you talkin’ to?”

I attempted to project nonchalance but, in retrospect, perhaps pushed it too far, from apathy into condescension. I cannot undo it now, though.

“What in the world do you mean, Daba?”

“I mean that creepy-lookin’ bird with a plague mask you were havin’ a clan-destined meetin’ with over there.”

“I really have no idea what you are talking about.”

“I know what I saw, Declan!”

She’s normally a patient, sturdy little thing (I say “little” although she obviously dwarfs yours truly – hell, even the dwarf dwarfs yours truly), but, standing up with a jolt from the bed, her irritation was rising with worrisome alacrity.

“And I think you saw something that truly wasn’t there,” I countered, weakly, trying to pretend that a spot of chipped paint above the door was suddenly interesting. “Are you feeling well, Daba? Perhaps these last few days have been too exciting for you. Perhaps your nightmares bled into your waking, as can sometimes –”

“Declan, NO. If you don’t want to tell me just say it’s not my damn beeswax but don’t sit here and treat me like a fuckin’ idiot because I know what I saw.”

“Daba,” I began, but I wasn’t sure how to turn the conversation. I had to distract her somehow, because otherwise I knew how stubborn she would be. She was going to sit there and pick at me just like she picked at that lock and, eventually, I would open – but you just can’t have me doing that, now can you?

Finally, I returned, “Are you certain you were awake?”

She crunched her beak forcefully, forming stalwart creases in her jawline, and stared at me flatly. “Is this how it’s gonna be today? Is this…how we’re gonna start the morning? You’re just gonna pretend that fucked-up shit didn’t happen?”

“Daba –”

“We’re just gonna act like there wasn’t a fucking crow in a fucking plague mask sitting next to you for no damn reason out on that roof when I woke up?”

I just wanted it to be over. So I hit below the belt.

“Daba, you’re being unreasonable. Taney never would treat me this way.”

And there it was – all of a sudden, the biggest lie from the worst liar.

But the damage was still done; her fingers curled into fists and, if possible, it seemed that she would have turned from black to red all over, with her purple robes catching fire like greasy rags. Taney, in truth, was always angry with me if she cared at all, but this was the most wrath I’d ever seen Daba muster.

Shaking, she took her time with it at first:

“Fuuuuuuuuck. Yooooooooou.”

Then the rest was in a rush.

“That is fuckin’ bullshit she treated you like trash for all them years you was with her and I’ve always paid you respect made sure you had the best fuckin’ roadkill and birdseed and never talked you down that was a low blow and I ain’t done nothin’ to earn that shit from you just cause I call you out on your lies and I at least treat you well enough to tell you the truth which I can’t say for you today seriously what the fuck Declan you just crossed a motherfuckin’ line so you can just fuckin’ sit here in that corner and think about your sins for the day, allright?”

She slammed the door and thumped down the stairs, presumably to meet the others. I thought of following her but envisioned the tawdry scene that would ensue and deemed it best to stay put in the corner that had been stipulated.

She was right, of course. She hadn’t earned it, and she has been good to me, always. It’s been an undeniably more pleasant journey so far than the path I trod with her wretched great-grandmother. I don’t like making her shut doors and stomp down steps, but perhaps it’s for the best. She shouldn’t look at me as a friend, anyway, or Vilig, or Bartak, or Ilios – especially not Ilios, based on what she told me. She shouldn’t really make attachments with anyone. You don’t make allowances for caring in this bloody task you’ve given her, or for camaraderie or compassion; this is not a gig of happy feelings.

She is a death witch.

She is a bride of misery.

And as for me? I’m still not here to make friends.

Nonetheless – I didn’t like to see her fists like that. And it’s your fault that I had to.

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A Sand Mold Too Far
“Pretty Bird”

1st of Toragas

Bear Saying: “Where there’s smoke, there’s typically something resembling fire or flame”

The party reports to Darius Carmen in the hopes of claiming their pay as well as using Tauster’s services to determine the true nature of the ring from the blue goblins. After a long wait in a front study that saw Bartak drink an entire bowl of punch (“I only do number 2s") and Vilig scamming food from the kitchen, Darius Carmen and then Tauster arrive and another interminable wait later, a seeming cause of the New Mire is discovered: a ring of water elemental control with a faulty seal between it and the elemental plane of water.

The party heads to the local blacksmith to commission a facsimile of the ring to return to the goblin shaman. Since it will take him approximately 3 days to complete the task the party looks for other ways to keep busy and to that end, a trip into the Lyrchwood in search of pesky bandits is pitched and accepted.

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

names for the bad guy.*

casanova frankenstein
patch adams
broke ass tuxedo mask
one eyed jack
the caped cru-cyclops
Mars Blackmon
Leather daddy Brigadoon
White face William Marshall
Captain cabbage patch
true grit
White Nick Fury
Rule 63 Ellie Driver
Dr. evil’s patent leather #2
A less sober Colonel Tigh
Gimp Pliskin
One Eyed Willie
Big Ed’s gay lover
Mad-eye Moody’s stunt double
Xander Harris 3.0
Sammy-Davis-Jr.-looking-mother-fucker
Ren Faire James Joyce
zero suit Slick Rick
dollar store Ziggy Stardust

*You would think with as many adventuring parties around, there wouldn’t be any more of these guys. Maybe they all start off as Darius Carmens. Maybe this is who adventuring parties turn into.
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One more shot...
...to pick the lock

“Daba, it’s been about ten minutes.”

Vilig is whispering to her, furtively, but gently. I admire him for his elfin tact – others would be far more brusque at this point. Bartak, for instance.

But Bartak is yards and yards away across the din of the festival, eyeballs deep in a flagon of ale and bedecked in some sort of celebratory headgear of his own devising. Ilios, whose building excitement about this holiday has been nothing short of orgasmic, is posted up top, on guard for a strange, hooded character with an eye patch, who we think just might have gone into this building – the door to which Daba has been attempting to unlock for those past ten minutes Vilig has mentioned. As for me, I am perched on her shoulder, as usual, not able to be of much use, though she asked me if I could pick the lock with my beak. Oh how I wish ’twere possible – many a burgher could be relieved of his pesky jewel stashes if I could add “thief” to my resumé! As it stands, I can only eat with it.

“Daba…” he begins again.

Intensely she works with the tools to pick the stubborn lock, not looking at him or replying. She just diligently plods along with those long black stems of fingers that she has, with no expression of frustration or surrender.

But Vilig’s concern is duly earned; we are strangers here, and the sight of two out-of-towners, one elf and one Tengu, standing rather suspiciously by this door for too long will garner all the wrong sorts of attention, in all the worst ways.

“Daba, it’s over. We have to go. People are starting to notice.”

He touches her on her shoulder, then tugs at the fabric of the robes.

At this moment, the fingers stop moving, and she slowly, achingly cranes her neck to meet Vilig eye-to-eye. There’s a wild, striking look to her features that I’ve never seen before and will not soon forget – somehow manic yet immutable.

“Give me…

one…

more…

shot."

He blinks, looks up at me, and I do my best to shrug my little shoulders in a gesture of resignation. (Whatever happens, I’ll be flying the hell out of here.)

Annoyed, he waves her on, not quite able to muster up either verbal agreement or disagreement.

And then it happens – she does it. She picks the lock.

It falls with a happy thud on the dirt. For a second, Vilig and I look at each other in amazement, but he doesn’t waste any more time than that before walking into the shed.

There is nothing there, of course – rotten luck – except an aura of someone, probably a one-eyed someone in a hood, having wrathfully disappeared into nothing.

Daba is confused as we exit the building, which she worked so admirably to burgle.

“I don’t understand,” she mumbles to me. “What did it mean? That aura?”

“It means,” says Vilig, “that we’re dealing with a really, really powerful magic user,” stopping and squinting back at the two of us before rejoining the crowd to find the others.

“We should take care.”

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Language barrier

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"Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story..."
Tall Tales and Bear Scares

“The boy felt a snag on his rag belt as he crawled through the underbrush. After a another few feet, he found all his headway had ceased and it occurred to him that he may be caught up in the thorns and bramble.

He turned, ready to tug loose his wool parka, and found he was in the grips of two decayed and gangrenous claws. Panic swept up the boy’s body and he began to kick and flail in the arms of the living corpse he had unwittingly crawled over, but though the boy fought and strained, the ghoul was just as quickly leaving its dormancy and finding its appetite."

There was a pause.

“Is that the scary part?” The dwarf lazily scratched his cheek and took a long draught from his mug.

Vilig stared at Bartak mouth agape, “How is that not the scary part?”

“Well perhaps to a non bear that is scary. I wouldn’t know.”

Vilig started to say something, thought better of it and pursed his lips for a moment before trying again.

“What about the story about the missing grandmother, the one where her family ended up finding her the bride of a local vampire?”

“Ehhhhh,” the dwarf editorialized through a mouthful of bread.

“Oh, now wait just a second, I know for a fact you thought the story about the priest whose appendix burst, necrotized, and ate him from the inside was scary! You told me you liked it.”

“I liked your enthusiasm son. You’re like an agitated gopher and I find that delightful.”

Vilig grew silent and stood up from his seat by the fire, “These are all the realities of living in Pure Mourn. I guess it’s for the best that you never would’ve found yourself there.”

Vilig stood, setting his back to the dwarf still seated by the fire, walking to his pack, lifted out his waterskin,

“Why wouldn’t I trek out to the Pure Mourn. Bears are all abouts.”

Vilig stood stiff, not turning back toward the beard-crumbed barbarian, “Oh…there aren’t any bears around the Pure Mourn.”

“…What…why not?…”

“Without going into apex predator theory too deep—”

WHERE ARE THE BEARS?”

“Oh, there’s practically no wild life in the dark woods around Purmeron. A near endless stretch of quiet woods. The bears in their caves? They were cornered when the first undead came to the ar-[THUD]

Bartak had slipped backwards over his log in a faint, his feet dangled in the air, his mug still gripped in his hand.

Vilig kept staring into the darkness ahead of him as a thin smile broke his dire comportment.

“Gotcha.”

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Demons of Blue
Sarenday, 34th of Hamas, 2022 AG

I find myself sleeping in the strangest of places with this life of travel. Often it is simply in my tent in a field or glade, or perhaps in the open beneath the stars in an ancient ruin. Occasionally it takes me to less pleasant locales, such as this swamp we find ourselves in now. A new swamp, clearly, but it does not take long for the insects and reptiles to find such a place and make it their home. Already I awake to a dozen new itching bites from the swarms of bloodsucking mosquitoes, and we have been here but one day. I pray to Gadar that we do not stay another.

We are here on another errand for Darius Carmen, seeking the cause of this creeping flood that has so damaged these lands. In our search we have found nothing to help us in this. We did, however, encounter a young boy who was excited to tell us of “Huge, iron-clad, fire-breathing, blue demons!”. Such a thing would have half the country in an uproar, of course, and as we had not yet seen panic in the streets, we deduced the boy’s tale to be as tall as any redwood. After some coaxing, we were able to get the true description of the beasts from him, and there can be no doubt. Goblins.

A bane, these creatures are, to every civilized race on Calagos. They are like cockroaches, diseased and troublesome, and impossible to stamp out. They can be found in every corner of the world, terrorizing the weak and feeding upon the scraps of strong. It is not surprising to learn that a goblin tribe may have moved into this region, though the fact that this is the first we have heard of it is strange. Goblins are not typically shy, even if they are cowards. Another question; why are they here, rather than further north, in the Rock Dale, with the other green-skins? Goblins will almost always be forced into half-willing subjugation by the greater races of their shared ancestry.

Once again, far too many questions and far too few answers for my liking. We will seek out these creatures and learn the truth for ourselves, as Gadar wills.

Truth and Light.

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Howling Beneath the Pale Moonlight
Toraday, 32nd of Hamas, 2022 AG

It has been a few days since my previous entry in this journal, and I hope I have not forgotten important details for the records. The Loremasters of the Order of the Chronicle taught us that time is like sand in the wind, eroding the bedrock of our memories. We were encouraged…nay, required…to maintain diligent logs of our daily activities, that the deeds of the Orders would not be lost to history. Still, following my Naming I have too long neglected such records. I will be more diligent.

Two nights ago, we camped near the farmstead we had visited during the day, hoping to perhaps find some sign of who or what was dismembering the sheep there. What we learned may or may not be related, but is disturbing nonetheless. Twin howls, one overlaid on the other, as we heard upon the river a few days before. This time, Daba heard the howls, and told us the dire news: Deathdogs.

I know little of deathdogs. I know that they are large, with two heads, and their maws carry some form of disease or parasite which can be fatal to those that contract it. Even that much is told almost as a folktale or children’s story amongst the master Surgeons. None, that I am aware of, have ever seen these creatures in the flesh, or tended to one of their victims.

If such creatures do exist (and I have no reason to doubt Daba’s knowledge on this subject), then the Haranshire may be be needing our help longer than I thought. Could there be a connection with these creatures and the other ill events of the recent weeks? Or is it just a very unfortunate coincidence?

Gadar be with us either way.

Truth and Light.

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Shakespeare Got to Get Paid Son!
Cash Rules Everything Around Me, Dolla Dolla Bill

30th of Hamas
The party beds down east of the Manis farmstead, if one could properly call it that, in the hopes of goading whatever forces threaten the area out into the open. Vilig has a theory that Brenda and Manis may be, or be in league with, werewolves.

During the night the watch hears odd howls like those they heard on the way east to Thurnmaster. During 1st watch Bartak hears the same double howl from he northeast (beyond the Manis farm). During 2nd watch Vilig and Daba hear that same call with 4 two toned response calls; Daba becomes convinced that they’re the call of Deathdogs. (2 headed, size of horse, not natural)

31st of Hamas
The party does a forced march back to Milborne to make use of dwindling time; staying at the Baron of Mutton once again, mostly so Bartak may fawn over Aldren.

32nd Hamas

  • Bartak and Illios determine that the Chocker from the oracle and the shell necklace taken off the orcs are from the same set.
  • Party goes to Rastifer’s store so Bartak can buy hide armor. Terrible breath. Wild mane of grey hair, stick thin, protuberant eyes. Bartak leaves due to bad breath.
  • Daba sells her two scrolls for 183 gp

The party reports to Darius Carmen

  1. Informed him about the Palfrey trip (Vilig tries to indicate that Parlfray is not weak)
  2. Informed him about the undead dogs and the corrupted woods (seemed surprised)
  3. Informed him about the farm, did not mention the double howl, deathdogs, or the golden eyes.
  4. Darius asks the party to investigate the new Mire situation immediately
  5. Darius informs the group another shipment out east 3 weeks from now
  6. The group is paid 35 platinum, 241 gold, 750 silver for Parlfray delivery trip
  7. Snacks are served for Bartak.

The party decides to head South to Harlatan as a staging ground for their investigation of the new mire. Harlatan is a very small village, ~75 people with one tavern, the Pitcher and Pitchfork
Otherwise it’s mostly storage buildings, the inn, and then surrounding farms.

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