Dragon Age: Rise of the Runelords

The Macabre Mill (Bral)

SO three dwarves, a halfling, and a she elf walk into a mill… No you have not heard this one, it’s no joke! I knew these hardy souls, brothers of mine they are, well not the runt and the witch, but the dwarves were a good lot. We came here to do what your vaulted Justices could not! Invited by the Mayor and the Chief of the Wardens themselves we were! Now shut your gobs, grab me an ale, and listen to the tale of the macabre mill.
The mill was more active than they thought, evil never sleeps they say; cloaked in a spell of silence they did not hear the machinery running but bravely entered. Once in they encountered mill workers who were, in fact, the very cultist we were seeking. Disguised of body and hearts full of treachery they struck at my friends, but to no end. From the under mill to the highest office my lads purged Magnimar of this vile brotherhood – bleeding them to their last! No thanks was asked by us,… er me stein seems to be empty?
Ah where was I, ah yeah: Each new answer brings only more questions. The cult’s leader, found in the very pinnacle of the mill, masked, robed and cutting like a mad man with both spell and steel – was none other than one of the city’s 12 justices, Ironbrier! But when we thought his evil was ended it would seem that he was not acting on his own as his will had been subverted by “ that bitch in the clock tower” the same “Wanton of nature’s Pagan forms” that Aldern spoke of. Who’s Aldern? Have you not been listening to me story – He was the possessed undead noble who gave us horses but then trapped us in a haunted mansion that we had to cleanse, now shut up and get me something to drink… now then, The hour was late, the party was bloodied, and in the case of noble Samdar, cursed. Did they seek to strike while the iron is hot and put an end to this for once and all or did they find a DMW, lick their wounds, and wait for the sun before journeying to the clock tower in the Shadow? Well now I’ll tell you…….

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The City of Monuments... and Murder (Garrett)

Garrett’s Journal – 4th of Sundusk

“As I scout the mill that surely is the den of the murderous cult, I must recap the events that led me to this conclusion:

I divined from the clues I discovered at the Foxglove estate that the ‘skinsaw’ murders must be the work of an organized group based in Magnimar. Foxglove is surely attempting entry into this evil cult in order to fulfill what is, in his diseased mind, the birthright of the Foxglove name. The spirits in the home detailed the sordid, macabre and tragic history of his lineage after all.

The road was simple enough, landing us in the City of Monuments in two days’ time. I allowed the bulk of the group to chase fruitless leads into the forfeiture of the Grey Wardens’ holdings in the city while I conducted my investigation. This allowed me the time necessary to discover the location of the Foxglove estate. I then organized our disparate group to further investigate the Foxglove property for new clues.

No sooner from when we gain covert entry did we get set upon by foul doppelgangers of Foxglove and his wife. This ruse was, of course, apparent to me. I handled the foul beings easily with blade and bow as my companions were caught by surprise. Yet again I have saved them from a most unpleasant fate.

As they recovered their wits from their harrowing ordeal, I further divined the location of the murderous group, based out of a local active lumber mill. I tracked the leads to the Big Mouth Bass mill easily and devised my current plan to scout and identify the villains.”
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Garrett placed his pen down for a moment’s reflection. Even without the day’s light, scribing was a simple chore for the dwarf. His conscience began to tug at him as he read over his latest entry. “Eh” he reflected, “there’s been enough truth for one day. This version sounds better.”

Just as Garrett reconfirmed his commitment to his story he noticed a man in an oddly loud and garish outfit (for a lumber-mill worker) wearing a mask. “Now” Garrett thought “who is this clown?”

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Dawn after a moldy night (Bral)

You walk down the dark wooden corridors of Foxglove manor – the very air is oppressive and you can barely see a thing ahead of you. What you can see is lost in the decay and fungus of the accursed house. You hear a shuffling behind you but don’t dare look back until you feel a damp hand on your shoulder. Spinning, you see the decrepit and mold covered form of Voral Foxglove behind you stepping forward to take you up in his diseased embrace and lay upon you the kiss of death…..

You wake with a start, sweat on your brow and the hammering of your own heart in your ears. You can’t help but feel that you have brought something back with you. No longer wishing to sleep you move to the wash basin to splash some water on your face. As you pull your hands over your face the mirror shows splotches of mold on your shoulder where you were grabbed in the dream. When you turn to brush it off there is nothing there. Definitely going to see that priest at first light…..

The meeting with the city went as well as it could have for all the squabbling before hand – the mayor seemed surprisingly agreeable with Beldal when he suggested burning the manor down to prevent other bands of roving ghouls from moving in. Sheriff Hemlock seemed less convinced but we have no time to tarry. Although our assurances that the town was now safe and the murders dealt with were as thin as our pretence for the sudden departure, we need to get to Magnimar before Aldren’s associates get wind of his demise. We will leave in the morning and should be there in two days time. I hope nothing happens on the road, there has been talk about giant wolf packs roaming the land! Harumph! What poppycock, next thing you know people will say there are undead cats and heroic badgers out there too.

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A Haunting in Varisia (Zai)

I thought I was prepared for anything.

If childhood as an outcast and time in Magnimar hunting a murderer hadn’t enured me to the darkness in this world, then surely being attacked by “scarcrows” and ghouls should have at least made what I witnessed in Foxglove Manor easier to take.

At first, it just seemed like an old, abandoned house, albeit one reeking of decay. As we explored, we discovered some sad tale had unfolded here – death, betrayal, murder.
One by one, my traveling companions, who seemed so stalwart, and well, Dwarven, fell victim to odd occurrences. Some heard a woman’s screams and cries. Beldal claimed to see a woman outside. Samdar was attacked by a scarf (a scarf of my people – I suppose he is lucky that it was not bladed). Beldal seemed to despair and contemplate suicide. Garrett thought himself under attack by a stuffed animal. Samdar danced across a room to a music we could not hear and with a partner we could not see.

I was worried, but unconcerned until we became trapped in the portrait room. Normal portraits of the family rotted, caught on fire, or slit one’s own throat as we watched, and a tide of the decay that covers this house rose and nearly drowned us. Then, I began to fear. This intensified when I felt myself overcome by someone else. I knew I was on fire, and I jumped out of a third story window to put it out. I could no more stop myself than I could force myself to stop breathing.

Despite his surly demeanor, which had only gotten worse, Garrett threw himself after me and caught me. He has earned a pass (length to be determined) for all manner of racial slurs.

Upstairs we discovered a woman (corpse, ghoul, haunt?) who had died here. She nearly destroyed us with her strength. We left her to her despair and explored the basement which was perhaps not the best choice as I was again overcome with visions, this time of the reason this house was abandoned – Vorel Foxglove performed horrific rituals to transform himself. It was his wife we had seen upstairs. Trapped in this vision, I attempted to run Garrett through.

Perhaps I shall have to extend his pass for crudity.

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Night of the living dead. (Samdar)

Dear Diary: Day 43,
We have successfully fought of several waves of foul creatures in the barn and have moved to the an abandoned farmhouse where my fine dwarven allies (and some short half man and a sickly elf) will be protected by stout walls.

My “Badger Burrows (Engineering Specialty)” badge came in handy as I double checked the fortifications my stalwart companions threw up. Fortunately I was there, as I was able to help them sufficiently reinforce the entrances against cowardly attack.

And good thing I did! No sooner had the rain began to pour down then the foul creatures we had encountered previously began to assault the tables and doors we had used for makeshift barricades.

I could hear my companions fire into the rooms behind me as I and the Brewmaster’s chosen stood shoulder to shoulder guarding the barricaded front door.

Ichor dripped from my axe as I cleaved many a foul creature in twain, but even the bravest will fall to the foulest of magics and I found myself struck with a freezing touch as I slumped frozen to the ground.

I thought my time had come to join the great badger burrow in the sky as the decaying creature that struck me down clambered over the barricade and prepared to send me to my maker!

And yet! One of my companions (I know not who) fired a slaying bolt and the creature slumped defeated across me, leaking ichor and limp with final death.

Unrelated. Ghoul ichor tastes like Master Thornoson cough syrup. I do not recommend either.

I swiftly recovered my senses only to by blinded by tremendous crash from the rear of the house. Some foul sorcery had destroyed an entire wall of the kitchen! Through the flames of destruction I could see two dozen or more of those foul creatures emerge from the cornfields beyond. To buy my companions time I quickly summoned the Smith’s fire and hastened the flames the lightening strike had started.

We retreated with ease to the barn, slaying those who opposed us, and spent a restless night watching the farmhouse sullenly burn.

Dear Diary: Day 44,
We returned to town and discovered that only one of the townsfolk we had rescued had managed to return. She was driven mad by grief or infection, and was slain after attacking and killing three of the brave town guardsmen. I will pray for them tonight in the temple. My companions, although a rough edged bunch spend a great deal of time praying over those who have received the foul taint who rest in the catacombs. It is good to be helping such a noble bunch of dwarf folk.

Disturbing rumors have begun to surface about Foxglove manor, not least of which a suspicious key found on the body of one the foul creatures. Tomorrow we depart to investigate

Dear Diary: Day 45,
A late start found us on blasted and twisted moor, passing abandoned farmhouse after abandoned farmhouse. Although I am in favor of pressing forward, my companions wish to return to town and to set out tomorrow. Although I do not understand it, I do not chide them for their cowardliness. I will pray for them tonight and hope that the Great Smith’s hammer beat some backbone into them.

Dear Diary: Day 46,
An early start finds us retracing our steps from the day before, and as the noon-day sun warms us from overhead we gaze at the bleak and decrepit near-ruin that is the Foxgolve manor. There is unsettling miasma about the place, a wickedness that permeates the very land and walls. The locked manor doors open of their own accord…

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Night of the Scarecrows (Beldal)

8/9/13

I cannae say I see the point in all of this writing down what happened. This would make a far better song, but blast it! I will do as ye say. After returning from the goblin fortress of Thistletop, me Grey Warden brothers and the ranger Garrett found ourselves in a meetin with the Sandpoint Council. We told them of our harrowing adventure in the goblin enclave and of the horrors that we bravely faced! There was treasure which would be useful to rebuilding this city’s losses protected by a great crab creature! Aye, that would be a mighty meal with great torrents of butter and ale! But, that is a tale for another day!

There was a great….evil at work deep in the core of that foul place. (smudge on the paper as if someone spat on it) It was beyond anything we have ever felt. It was a being of foul presence and beyond our ken. We report this now to the Grey Wardens as a taint which must be purged for the betterment of these good people. Most of the council were powdered poofs and useless in battle. The sheriff and the dagger eared ranger might be useful in a fight, but the rest of them are good for yapping jaws. Titus Scaarentti is somewhat foul, but could just be that his cushion was a little lumpy. Gonna keep me eye on that one.

Following the meeting we met up with the stalwart dwarf, Samdar, in the service of The Great Smith, Torag! Samdar is a mighty warrior and once I convinced him of the divine nature of ale, he was happy to join us in dinner with Lord Foxglove. There was much drinking and song! The pale-skin couldn’t hold his sprits and had to get himself home. We met up with the gypsy lass, Zai, and she has come to us as an emissary of the Wardens. She could hold her liquor, so she is in the favor of the Brewmaster! Samdar was overcome by the holy word of the Brewmaster, and we had to take him to his bed. The Smith is a mighty warrior, but the pull of fine ale lays him low! On the way, some gypsy scum thought it would be best to rob us of our hard won gold. They were no match for us even after several hours of anointing by the Brewmaster! Samdar proved himself by sending one of the poor lads right to sleep with a single mighty charge! Back at the White Deer, it has come to our attention that a few small items have gone missing. Aye. Some small thief is at work.

We got another fine meal from that sweet lass, Kaijitsu and the half man had to be paid to give back her family ring. That was a dirty bit of business, but each of us has our own ways of dealing with the ravages of the taint. It surely has affected us all. Barely back from our dinner, we find that there the miller and his lass have been murdered. There are signs of the demonic taint at work here. The seven pointed star with runes different from what we have seen previously. I sketched some out for you. The bodies were torn to pieces and defouled. There was a note linking the half man, Iyan to the murders. This is obviously some foul, demon spawn trick. Iyan communes with other worldly beasts, but he is not of the taint! I would stake me life on it!

Investigating that, we discover that there is a madman who is the lone survivor of another attack in a barn. We went to go investigate the barn. Same foul murder scene and carvings on the bodies. The madman complained of “Mumbles the Scarecrow.” When we reached him, the madman was in the throes of the “Ghoul Rot.” He was taken to father Zantus. The madman also spoke of the half man being part of some bigger plan from “His Lordship!” We know not who that may be…..yet. And yet, the wee dagger the half man took from the demon priestess as found there. Tis some foul trick I tell ye. Mark me word!

We got word of some ruckus at Hambly Farm. We set out to investigate during the day. We have found several “scarecrows.” Some of them are foul creatures of undead fury, screeching in the night as they attack us for our warm blood. Nay! We fought them with blades, bolt, and faith! But there were more screams of the foul creatures throughout the cornfields. There are others present, who are tied in place. They are not of the dead yet, but they may be changing. We freed the ones we could, but we pressed on to find the heart of this evil. This taint must be driven from these good people!

Continuing to Hambly farm, we found a larger nest of the foul creatures. These monsters freeze a good dwarf in his tracks with a touch! Evil beasts! Even the half-man’s spirit cat was laid low! Don’t let the creatures touch ye with their claws or with their foul, cesspool mouths! With the power of the Brewmaster and the strong arm of the Smith’s servant, we carry on! Garrett and I set up a barricade as we prepare for their next assault. Aye, they will rue the day they came afoul of the Grey Wardens! But if ye find this message and we be absent, find us and free our souls or ye be damned as a coward by the Brewmaster and all ye ale turn to vinegar!

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The way back (Garrett)

“By Hogarth’s beard, they’re alive”

Garrett mused as he gazed across the span that once held what the goblins of Thistletop called a bridge.

“Guess you win that bet then, dontcha boy?”

Whiskey sat on his haunches and panted in self-satisfaction, knowing what come next. Garrett reached into his pack and quickly produced a leathery, salted and cured goblin ear.

“Only a hand of these left, time for some more curin’”

Garrett had collected plenty after sifting through the aftermath among the thistles and briars before the coast. He tossed the preserved ear above Whiskey’s snout as the young mastiff jumped happily to meet it.

Even at this distance, Garrett’s keen eyes could detect the visible exhaustion on the party abroad. They were covered in dirt, blood and viscous ichor. He wasn’t quite sure if they won, but at least they were all accounted for.

“Somethin’s not right about that”

Garrett had a tendency to let his mind speak aloud. He looked back down to his furry companion who tugged and tore at the dried goblin’s ear.

“How do you suppose they’ll get back across”

He hadn’t quite finished the thought when the small one began his eldritch ritual to bring fourth his foul minion. It was as ridiculous a sight as any he’d seen, watching the dwarves be carried in the maw of some extraplanar winged beast.

“That lad looks to be about as uncomfortable as a one-legged dwarf in an ass-kicking contest.”

He watched in quiet amusement as they began to cross the gap.

“Well, I suppose I should go and put their stuff back in their packs”

The party spared little time with words and seemed a bit hurried to get underway. Keeping the camp hidden was easy enough, with the stench of rotting goblin all about. The thick briars and thistles keep the buzzards at bay and the sheer cliff along the coastline acted as a natural defense. Garrett had led the horses near the thistle’s hidden entrance, close enough for cover without causing too much discomfort.

Some time was spent cleaning and dressing the many wounds they gained two days since. The pious one went about calling his gods of wine and merriment to aid in this respect as well. Garrett could tell they were leaving something unfinished, but he thought he best let that matter be. He was happy enough to have live customers, which hopefully meant good coin. He could tell their load was heftier than before they set out.

They broke camp soon enough and saddled up for the ride back to Sandpoint. Almost as soon Thistletop sank below the horizon to the rear, the wee little one began to squeak and squawk like a bird. Garrett spoke to birds on occasion; their minds were simple enough to understand. They mostly spoke about food and other birds. However, Garrett was having a hard time keeping up with the stories of goblin chiefs, hell dogs and a rage-twisted she-demon. He thought he heard something about a land octopod and a crab wearing a giant helmet too. Garrett’s concentration was compounded each time the pious one broke in with some bawdy lyric between his almost constant drinking. May as well make religion fun Garrett supposed. The ugly one grumbled mostly with the occasional need to make some complaint.

Garrett wanted to ask what the initial plan was in infiltration and assault but he knew he’d just draw either puzzled looks or a cacophony of argument among the three. It was clear there was no plan. How they survived without one was a miracle indeed.

Sandpoint was a few hours away with plenty of daylight to spare. He’d bet sure enough Mayor Deverin and the Sheriff would breathe a sigh of relief at the notion of clearing Thistletop, which meant opening the town’s coffers. Zantus might be interested to hear the stories of the tombs below the fort as well.

Still, Garrett couldn’t shake the feeling this little adventure was merely a prelude to something worse.

Preparation never hurt. Sure, Garrett could be accused to over-stocking supplies for the inevitable cataclysm or apocalypse. He didn’t mind the teasing from his brother or the other dwarves. No matter, if he was wrong then so be it, he’ll have extra food, supplies and weapons for his kin. If he was right, well then, preparation never hurt.

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The Hunted (Tamarel)

“Lamashtu” Goddess of monster and mal-births. This was hardly an insight, though Tamarel. The fact that a demon was worshipped as a god did not make the latter truth. Still, it’s presence in the fade was of note to Tamarel. Tamarel heard whispers and prayers, indications of rituals calling upon gods and demons. Lamashtu was apparently being called upon somewhere within the city, homage to some dark sacrament. These were dire omens, not necessarily connected to the awakening of an archdemon, but the fact that demonic worship occurred in a city was certainly a sign of increased demonic activity, which always precedes a blight.

Her mind traveled through the twisting ether of dreams and magic. The fade was bare before her, a realm of madness and chaos. Anchors to the world remained in the fade, in approximation to the physical location of such an anchor. Mages built towers and other arcane structures around these spots, drawing upon the power therein for their own purposes.

So it was with the mage towers of Magnimar. Here, arcane fuels and energies were drawn to aid in the construction of golems, the industry the city was most well-known for. Tamarel has sought the use of the tower for her divination, but intentionally omitted her purpose to the circle mages or their Templar hosts. Divination without sanction was strictly forbidden in Ferelden. Tamarel had no reason to think otherwise here, or to provide excuse for the circle’s refusal of aid.

Her body sat quietly in an upper-level antechamber. She did not need the use of the divination chambers for a quiet and quick trip into the fade. Besides, her presence in the divination chamber would make her purpose quiet obvious.

Tamarel was about to recall, observing nothing of use, when she suddenly felt the presence of others in this proximity of the fade. The fade was not like a material realm, a consciousness did not occupy a certain space per se. Still, she could tell by the potency of the communication that the diviner was close. Whispers swirled around her in old and arcane tongues.

Tamarel set her focus and composed a spell, drawing upon her own arcane power to allow her to understand even the most obscure of languages. Faint echoes and images of twisted masks assaulted her mind.

“Norgorber” This name Tamarel recognized as well. Religious doctrines in Varisia indicated Norgorber as one of the ascended, and generally associated this god with thievery, secrets, and sometimes assassinations. Rumors persisted of an even more vile aspect of Norgorber than this, however.

In any case, these insights were more troubling than she anticipated. She dared not to risk communication with any Ferelden circles, or even the few mages among the Grey Wardens. It was best to slip away from the fade unnoticed and send word by more conventional means. Without any solid answers, Tamarel still had enough to determine something had disrupted the fade here in Varisia within the last few years, awakening spirits and demons alike. The awakening of an archdemon could easily have led to this, and their timetable needed to be accelerated. If the Wardens were to combat a blight, preparations needed to start now, in the open, with an eye towards war. Duncan needed to be warned now, the king alerted and his armies mobilized towards Ostagar with all haste.

Tamarel slowly drew along her silver strand toward her body. Whispers faded and the fade began to recede. She could see her body below here, time standing still in the material world. As she began her descent a shock of force suddenly threw her aside her path. Tamarel could not have anticipated the amount of force she felt and it was all she could do to maintain a hold on her strand lest her mind be lost to its body.

Turbulent waves batted her spirit violently as fear gripped down on her. A new presence emerged, old and powerful. It was no archdemon. She’d never felt anything as strong or evil now as she did in the circle’s towers in Lake Calenhad all those hundreds of years ago, when she first delved into the fade, at the cusp of the fourth blight. It was folly to divine during a blight, as the demonic energies of the archdemon swept across the fade, mirroring the dark march of the darkspawn armies across the lands. She had barely escaped what was only seconds into her divination then – but what seemed hours in the fade. Her psyche barely survived that first encounter and she remained in defensive trance for days afterward.

This presence, glowering eyes affixed an immense runed countenance, pressed down upon her now. Ancient and powerful magics, the likes of which the world had not seen in many ages, swirled and drew her in. Her mind blanked and her perceptions blinded. Searing pain was all she knew. Above the din a name echoed, but her mind could not comprehend.

In a last, desperate effort, Tamarel’s instincts flickered to action. Her mind went inward and shut, as a single word left her lips.

The explosion of light could be seen throughout all of Magnimar, its swift blare followed, ceasing all other sounds at the moment of impact.

The Templars reached the apex of the tower to be met with open sky. All that remained of the upper levels was the polished marble of the floors and Tamarel’s motionless body. Luckily, the tower was otherwise unoccupied that night. Debris littered the Golemworks in an even circle, expanding out two hundred feet from the tower’s base.

“Stand guard” the commander ordered as they cautiously approached Tamarel’s body. With weapons drawn and lyrium coursing through their veins, the Templars moved to flanking positions. The commander stepped forward, nudging Tamarel with his blade.

“Ka…r…zoug” was the only sound to escape Tamarel’s lips, although she did not regain consciousness.

“Take her to Justice Ironbriar,” the commander frowned, “it seems he may have been wrong about cultish demon worship in Magnimar.”

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The Hunter (Garrett)

“It’s like they want to be found, isn’t it boy?”

Whiskey responded with his usual dismissive grunt. No matter, goblins were easy enough to track even when they tried to hide their trail, especially a group this large. Garrett easily caught up with them by late evening on the first day. The goblins had barely made it a mile outside of Sandpoint before they started in-fighting and squabbling. They might as well have held a banner high for all to see.

This gathering ended, as Garrett surmised, as all goblin gatherings end – with anger and violence. The groups blamed each other for the raid’s failure and made threats upon threats to each other. It was a little difficult to make out enough of the main conversation with the constant screeching and bickering, but Garrett understood it was a “longshanks” that directed the raid from Thistletop, and a female one at that. What was even more difficult for Garrett was to suppress his overwhelming desire to put a bolt between the eye-sockets of each and every one of the dirty little bastards.

Garrett and Whiskey followed the largest group, east and north. This was apparently two groups – Thistletops and Birdcrunchers. The latter seemed reluctant to follow, but without other options. They dreaded the Thistletop warchief, Ripnugget – who they feared was likely to throw them into some pit to be devoured by an enourmous fish-ghost-octopus-crab (depending on which goblin was complaining at the time) monster Ripnugget had apparently kept as both a pet and a method to keep the other goblins in line. Still, with their chief Gogmut slain during the raid (another fact Garrett gathered that allowed him to chuckle at the goblins’ misfortune) they had nowhere else to turn.

As the last rays of light set under the waves to the west, the goblins made camp along the coast. The Birdcrunchers made their camp a good distance from the Thistletop goblins. Garrett counted their number fourteen, a few smaller than the Thistletop band. However, the difference in morale and organization between the two groups was stark. The Birdcrunchers were all but defeated and panic threatened to consume them at any moment.

Garrett settled in as evening drew on, secreted among the many briars and deadfall along the tree line abutting the coast. Autumn provided a greater amount of natural camouflage allowing Garrett to stay within earshot the majority of the time. Luck was with him as well, as a near-perfect opportunity began to form before him. The two goblins set for the evening’s first watch appeared nervous, packing their belongings into filthy sacks. They were making to leave at first opportunity.

Garrett looked to Whiskey and gave a nod. The mastiff understood immediately and quietly moved off into the woods. Garrett tracked the goblins as they slinked off, out of sight of the camp and back south just inside the wood line. Goblins were fecund and callous and would not risk too much exposure to the perils of the deep woods. They could move faster along the forest’s edge, but were easier to track.

Garrett allowed a mile and a half to pass before he quickened his pace. By now, his prey was well outside of earshot of the goblin camp and any help. The moon shone brightly tonight allowing Garrett to maintain sight of his quarry at over a hundred feet. Holding his finger on the stopper of the oil flask to control the flow, Garrett allowed two drops to fall into the bolt notch on his crossbow and coated it’s metal groove with his middle finger. He slid the flask back into his belt pouch and drew a solid bolt quietly from its quiver, loaded and readied his shot. He then gave a sharp whistle. Whiskey responded with a long, low and fierce howl.

The two goblins suddenly froze at the sound. Garrett, within sixty feet to his best reckoning, slid to a crouched position on his right knee, let out a smooth exhale and released the trigger on his crossbow. The bolt flew quick and straight striking the closest goblin just below the base of his skull, propelling the unfortunate little beast forward. He flew a little more than a foot before the tip of the bolt struck a large gum tree pinning the goblin’s body to the tree’s trunk. A weak gurgle emerged from its mouth, followed by the slow flow of dark viscous goblin blood.

The other goblin turned and drew it’s dogslicer in one swift motion. Its eyes widened as it came into focus on Garrett, who could see the telltale gleam of the large goblin eyes, which were as keen as his in the darkness. Before the goblin’s instincts could kick in and make the decision to flight or run, Whiskey barreled out of woods into the goblin, locking his jaws on the goblin’s weapon arm.

Even at a young age, Whiskey was large for his breed. His powerful jaws easily tossed the goblin about like a doll. Garrett could hear the snap of the goblin’s bones over the high pitched shrieks of pain. Whiskey tossed the goblin up above, released his bite, and clamped down again as the goblin descended, choosing the goblin’s legs as his next target. Garrett strode up just as Whiskey crushed down on the goblin’s left ankle.

“Good boy, that’s enough”

Whiskey obediently dropped the limp goblin to the ground, who could do no more than pant and stare up in shock. Garrett looked over the broken thing, eyeing it to make sure it was as incapacitated as it appeared. He kicked away the dog slicer and went to work binding the goblin, making no effort to avoid pain. After the goblin was secured, but before he set about building a litter from his remaining rope, Garrett moved over to the gum tree – checking the other goblin’s vitals, ensuring it was dead – and retrieving his bolt. He did a quick search of the goblin’s belongings and found nothing useful.

A pair of dead branches and rope made for a quick litter, fixed with a hoop for dragging.
“Meech grac grac raas, dun raas, dun mee-cho.” The little goblin snorted weakly as Garrett placed it on the litter.

“To vas, to saara vas, meecho meecho lammassh-to, vas pur vando. Mal-veecho-shne-kar-to, vas pur das!” it continued, with a sour look of anger as Garrett finished binding it to the litter.

Garrett stopped to ponder this, with a single eyebrow raised. He responded in goblin. “Malfeshnekor you say” as he produced his knife from its sheath, “do tell me, then, how exactly will Lamashtu and Malfeshnekor avenge you…”

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Mercy (Tamarel)

“May the Maker accept you.” Tamarel whispered as she knelt beside the man before her. She didn’t know the man’s name nor cared to. Although it was a piece of mercy she performed she went about her business with a sense of urgency. She placed the tip of her knife on the soft spot just below the chin and smoothly yet sternly guided the blade to the base of the skull. He gave a whimper and a feeble attempt to struggle against her hold; he was in no condition to resist – his strength taken by the darkspawn plague.

Thick viscous blood drained into the bucket she set below his cot, its color unnaturally dark. She held her hand over his mouth partly to muffle his cries, but mostly to deny any protests or pleas for aid. He was beyond that even if he didn’t know it. Still, it was best not to alarm the other patients. She had everyone that displayed signs of the taint ordered into quarantin in the town’s stables. It was one of the larger structures with a wide open room that made setting up an infirmary easy enough. Of more benefit was the abundance of dry hay which would make excellent fuel for the fire. She was glad for the little blessings, like the fact the townsfolk raised no question when she did not seek volunteer nurse maids to help care for so many. Everyone seemed so worried about their own fate that those of the afflicted mattered little to others right now. Family members and town officials were quickly dispatched to other duties, keeping them both busy and away. By the time questions would arise, the Falcon’s Hollow would be little more than embers and memory.

Keeping Deldrin busy arranging transport for the hundreds of mill workers, families and other townsfolk was easy enough as well. He clearly had no head for crises and seemed glad to have the burden of stewardship lifted from him. Vamros, Thuldrin and Payden seemed more concerned with the transition of their own holdings to worry about anything else. Overall, it seemed the town would turn a blind eye to its own demise. It was unfortunate, but necessary.

Hopefully the other wardens would return soon with the ingredients the herbalist requested. It could prove useful and a few souls may yet survive this for their efforts. Personally, Tamarel would see a swift and more definite end. Was there much of a difference if fate called now rather than three score years down the road? It was not for her to judge either way. All that remained would be to take what they needed from the town stores and set the kindling.

Tamarel lifted her hand as she felt the last bit of strength leave the man’s body. She wondered if the man really did meet the Maker, if such a thing existed. In her lifetime she has seen the rise and fall of many a hope disguised as the divine. Her ultimate conclusion was it was little more than a distraction from the inevitable. Still, it did her no harm to plant a small seed of hope if she could. She wiped her dagger on the man’s tunic, got up and retrieved another bucket from the stable’s shelf. She quietly set it under another cot and kneeled before its occupant, a young female – no more than twenty by the looks of it. The girl’s eyes flittered open as her mouth coaxed a weak smile at the sight of the fair elf. “Sorry to wake you,” Tamarel whispered. She paused a moment and then continued “May the Maker accept you.”

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