3rd Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return (continued)

Its been an uneventful day of sailing so far. We saw some fishermen getting catfish and crabs but that’s about all that can be told today.

We expect to reach Yatar tomorrow sometime. Lilli’s decided to claim the only cabin on the boat, but she’s having a hard time enforcing this claim.

The magic box that we got from Zi has worked wonders. As predicted when Lilli identified it, we tossed it into the river and spoke a word, and the damn thing unfolded into a boat that had to be over 20ft long. It had a deck, rowing seats, oars, anchor, cabin, and a sarding sail. We boarded it quite quickly, with the one pack horse carrying the Rod of the Vonindod.

John seemed to know his way around boats rather well, more than you would expect from an elf.

Luke filled us in on what he knew about Yatar. It has around 6,000 people in it with a Baron ruling the town. Luke seemed to think that the Hand of Yatar, the notorious thieves guild we saw reference to at Triboar may be comprised of entirely female thieves.

We may well find out tomorrow.

4th Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return

We arrived at Yatar before dawn the next day by the river. It had a large fortification to the west and large banks immediately close to the town, so we decided to coast past and land downstream of the town, walking back up.

However, as continued downstream, we came across a large boat, light up well with plenty of lamps and activity onboard. We found out it later it was a pleasure barge, from the description Sikelion gave us. Or is is Cykelion? I’ll have to ask him later if we still have him hanging around us.

As we went past, he was somewhat forcibly ejected from the boat, sailing high over us as we passed and landing with a big splash. He struck out swimming for us, and we decided to let him, board, as there wasn’t many other places for him to swim to.

I’m not sure it was the correct choice, however, as seconds upon boarding he insisted that he was waiting for us. He claimed to have been merely passing time, having been instructed by his faith to meet us here. We turned to throw him back off the boat before he proceeded to spout a lengthy description of each of us. Once we sat him down and got him warm he revealed he even knew of our fight against the Giants, down to the eye of the Allfather we were seeking.

We kept him with us as we moved into the town. After checking into the Pearl Handed Pipe inn and getting a meal we headed out in search of a contact that Luke could get information from.

I found an inn run by a pair of old geezers that were persuadable into possibly selling up, It will be a good asset if it goes through. The pair were so old and hard of hearing I think that having some coin to take the burden of running an inn would be a relief for them.

We then turned our attentions to a shop that Sikelion pointed out, with a proprietor that would prove invaluable. By the time we left Esklindrar’s Maps, Books and Folios, the sage within would furnish us with information on the road ahead.

We ended up with a picture of the exterior of the temple, advice on the best route through the mountain range, description of the area, and a location of the temple to within a square mile.

He also gave us information on the social order the giants have. They have a regimented, almost military regime, complete with a pecking order of sorts. The hill giants are at the bottom of the ladder, going up to stone, frost, fire, cloud and finally storm at the top of the order. This order also governs the interactions between giants of the same ‘rank’

This social order is the ordning that has been shattered. Without this structure the social rules that bind them would fall into disarray, plunging them into chaos, fighting each other to fill the power vacuum.

He had some more information on us, regarding some of the towns we are likely to pass through on our way northeast. Griffons Nest might be a good place to get Griffons for travel when we are closer to Mirabar. Silverymoon, which is a few towns further up our current road east, is run by mageocracy, with the lady of silverymoon being the old ruler who still holds plenty of sway with the elite. And Longsaddle, close to Griffons Nest, has many wizards, sure to be of particular interest to our young wizard.

As we turned to leave, his parting words sent a chill down my spine. Rumour had it Nonar’s Hold, the next town we would encounter by the river, was ruled by knights called ‘The Hunt Lords’. The word was they used to run hunts for rich nobles but hunted men and beast alike. He hinted at a dark deal with forbidden power.

I could feel a wave of fear and anger wash over me once I made the connection to the evil undead, and I found myself with a tight grip on my longsword. Shaking it off, we left the building and head out into town to get silver weapons for those of us who did not possess magical weapons, as a precaution.

We left the same day before dusk, getting back onto our convenient boat. I wonder if it was fated for our paths to cross with Zi so we could have this amazing tool for our journey?

The candles almost burnt out, it’s past time for me to turn in.

5th Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return

The next day found us in the water for another day of sailing. John only smiled when I asked him about his familiarity of boating. That man is incredibly quiet and zen, to the point of infuriation.

I sent a message to Arelosa informing her of the latest Inn I’d found for sale, and asked for any info she might have on the Vonindod Construct.

6th Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return

Another day on the boat. We’re expecting to hit Nonar’s hold tommorow afternoon sometime. I will be glad to see dry land, not many boats around Mirabar. I’m not getting seasick, but it doesn’t mean I’m enjoying the ride.

7th Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return

We arrived at Nonar’s Hold today not long before dusk. I knew something was wrong by the smell of the town. The town might have only had 120 people or so but folk seemed to be keeping well away from us. I’ve been on edge since we entered the town, and that feeling wasn’t helped when the Innkeep where we are staying barred the door from the inside at dusk.

We tried to strongarm the Innkeep into telling us about the town but he insisted the barring of the door was merely a local custom.
Finally, after seeing the sigil of Lathander on my armour, he broke down. He informed us the town was ruled with an iron fist by the Hunt Lords, the old human lords that for over 150 years have terrorised the area with their nightly hunts. They only emerge at night, dead, riding horses of bone. Death emanates from these five riders.

I found myself standing by his side, firmly clasping his shoulder, swearing to stand before this evil. The rest of the party were not so eager to take up this task, I rose before even looking at them for approval.

The description matches rudding Wights. I read about them in the Spire of Morning library’s copy of the Necronomicon back in Waterdeep. They are a humanoid, vain, risen from the dead after making a death plea to one of the forsaken vile gods. They chose undeath rather than facing their fate, and cling to an unnatural life. They are sensitive to sunlight and have a life draining touch that can instantly kill a weakened creature. Those slain as such are returned before the next daybreak as a risen dead, under the wight’s control.

They come out each night for the hunt. The townsfolk have learnt to bar the doors and stay inside after nightfall if they want to keep their heads. Those caught outside at night disappear in the sound of blade and horse hoof, never to return.

There doesn’t sound to be any good entrance to the walled off keep they.. reside in. They do have a castellan however. By Lathander, if he willingly assisted them then I will drag him out into the village and execute him right in the sarding village centre!

We tossed around many plans over dinner and ale that night. Whilst the rogue wants to face them immediately and without fear, sanity prevails and we agree not to face them on their home ground at their strongest.

I struggle to contain the rising rage I feel within me and try and keep focused on the task at hand.

It’s not long before we hear the sound of the gate opening and horses moving through the streets. I extended my senses, feeling the power of Lathander moving through me as I so. I could sense their undead presence even through the walls of the Inn, slimy and disgusting. They are an affront not only to me but Lathander himself! As the Innkeep stated, there are five mounted wights, on their steeds of death.

We took turns keeping watch for the night. They rode out into the woods but returned a hour before morning. They obviously kept themselves within a buffer of returning to ensure they did not get caught out.

When sleep claims me, this time I catch the rider. But it’s not the rider. I realise it does not carry the blood red axe it so usually wields. In fact, the valley itself isn’t right, the clockwork machination people are mostly not present.

The rider stops, turns, the cloak falling away, revealing a rudding wight. It screams at me silently, stunning me, causing me to fall from my steed. I fall hard and roll over to slowly. The wights blade sinks deep into my shoulder, piercing the armour like it’s nothing. Another wight grabs my sword arm and wrests my blade free from it. I am pinned, helpless as the rest of the five wights arrive at my helpless form as the rider wight plunges its bony, dead arm into my chestplate and into my chest. I can feel tendrils of death pushing through my skin, looking for the warmth of my life.

Between my screams I reach in Lathander’s direction, desperately calling for his divine help. He merely smiles and looks toward the horizon, as the sunlight rises, washing over the valley.

This time I do not wake. The life passes from me and soon I will serve them in death. But as my vision fades I see the wights react with fear to the light. The look at the morning light and scream at it, and start to run, leaving me be. They try to hide in each other shadow but to no avail. Fire licks at what little skin remains on their bones and as they collapse to the ground, curling up as the magics that bind their souls to their corpses starts to fail. I stagger to stand and see Lathander smiling at me.

He did not abandon me. He did not leave me to die. And he looks to me to carry out his will here and now, to rid the world of this affront to nature. His smile grows wider.

8th Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return

Despite our weariness at the little sleep we got the prior night we begin to plan our assault on the wights. I insist we should burn the place to the ground whilst they slumber in it. If any of them survive the building fire, they will be forced out into the blessed sunlight, where we will cut them down.

The others don’t like the idea. It’s risky. What if we burn too much down. What if they have catacombs, despite there being no record of it?

It’s simple. We burn it down and kill them. I will talk them into it or do it myself.

The druid and barbarian have gathered small animals to do recon on the place, to see inside the keep, to see them. They find no hidden passages, and only the wights asleep beside the old remnants of a feast, long gone and forgotten. They sit and talk and boast of hunts long gone past. We will give them a hunt. Their final one.

The rest of the party want to sneakily enter the building. Why would we fight them on their terms? Battlefield control is all about making the enemy fight on your terms, not theirs. I’m not used to having to deal with the lack of understanding of regimented battle that these adventures have.

After much discussion, it’s decided Luke can get in undetected and steal whatever of value is inside the keep. They will bar the doors and burn it down. Whichever wight makes it out into the sunlight will have to fight on our terms. I wonder if they will actually catch fire in the sunlight?

There are two brothers at the inn tonight. The night before there was three. I barely noticed them the first night but Luke did talk to them. They seemed to be talking about hunting Giants but did not know about the bounty on heads.

The were sullen and explained that during combat with a Giant one of the brothers was killed. Something didn’t line up - they didn’t retrieve his body and said they would go back tomorrow. They were wounded so we offered to tend to their wounds. Renald has given me some basic medical training as part of my studies, and John clearly has some natural healing ability. However, as we cleaned and inspected the wounds we both noticed at the same time that not all the wounds were from a Giant’s club - some were neart, sharp, quick, clean cuts - the sort you get from a rapier, such as the weapons they were carrying.

Luke went on that night after I sensed their departure from the town. It wasn’t long before Luke returned from his successful walk. The second story of the keep is soaked in oil now, and he has taken everything of value from within.

We take a rest and will wake not long after dawn when they have returned and will be inside the keep.

9th Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return

The innkeep was incredulous tonight when we told him the town was no longer under threat from the wights. Even more so to see us standing without a single scratch, dent, nothing to show for our struggles.

I snapped the piece of wood he had used to bar the door at night. These people might not yet have come to terms with it, but they don’t need these things anymore. A decade and a half of tyranny has come to an end here today.

The smoking, collapsed ruins of the keep is evidence enough for most of the town when they came to see us leave the burning wreck of the keep. The rest will come to understand in time, when they no longer hear the hunt moving between buildings of the night.

I don’t remember much of the fight but the rage. After the release of the wights from their forbidden bond with their corpses, I felt the hate and loathing subside. It was like Lathander’s emotions became part of my own. How much of my fear and hatred of the undead was mine, and how much of it do I share with my Deity?

I found myself screaming and shaking the corpse of a wight. It may have still had some soul left but whatever I could see in its face disappeared when I picked it up by the skull and crushed it, screaming at it. As I looked around at the pile of wight corpses, the second story of the keep collapse into a fiery conflagration.

From what the rest of the group tells me, our plan work perfectly. The wights struggled in the early hours of the morning against the door out of the keep that we locked from the outside. By the time they broke through the door Lilli had finished channelling a firebolt spell which went directly past them and blew down a part of the second floor directly onto them.

From there, it was just a case of blocking them in the doorway so they could only get to us two at a time and work our advantages against them. As soon as they hit the sunlight they seemed slower, weaker, less sure. They all came at me like in my dream, clawing, trying to take my life from me. My armour and shield blocked all the blows easily.

At one point through a clearing in the combat, I could have rudding sworn I saw Lathander sitting on a chair in the keep, smiling at me. Lilli hit them with a flame bolt which set two of them alight, cutting off my view of Lathander as the wights withered and died in flames under Lathander’s holy morning light.

On our way out we found the castellan. He’s chained up in his house for now, with the innkeep swearing the town will find a healer for the man.

He was distraught to find his master dead. I took this as an acknowledgement that the man was a willing slave. Thankfully Cykellion moved to stop me, having heard the subtext in the tone of the man’s voice. He was sure there was more to it than met the eye

We found in his house a journal, depicting a decent into madness of sorts. He did not see the undead wights, but his human masters. He explained reservations about the human hunting, but from there he seems to have lost his sanity. The dwarf is getting on in years and it looks like senility may have taken its course with him, or possibly being close to these magics. Either way, the man’s guilt is not clear, and he should be helped if a healer can at all help him.

Back at the Inn, there was one brother left remaining. We knew what had happened on this day because we had sent Lilli’s familiar out to keep tabs on them. Luke had ‘found’ a will in their backpack that gave us the impression that the eldest had come into a large inheritance. The familiar had informed us that they got into a fight when one attacked the other but was defeated.

I chose to attempt a casting of a spell I had been practising from one of the books Renald lent me before I left Waterdeep. Whilst under the influence, he was compelled, to tell the truth.

It was not quite as I suspected. The brothers made a bet for the entire inheritance on who could kill a Giant first! However, at least two of the brothers were not true to there word.

We gave the man healing assitance but left him be. He did not want to raise his brothers even if he could get their bodies to a temple that offered the service. And we thought any punishment the man deserved had already been doled out by the loss of his brothers.

We will sleep tonight in good spirits, but before I rest I cannot help but wonder. Surely Lathander would not bother directly with one of his many servants. It could truly not have been Lathander today, just a result of the stress of combat, tricks of the light, smoke. I do not dream of Lathander for sure. Or could it be? Does Lathander have aspects of himself?

The guilt has subsided over the last two years. but the bulk of it remains. Are these visions merely the burden I carry, given form?

John carries a burden too, Its plain as day. But the man never speaks of it.

I can hear Lilli snoring away, the peaceful slumber of youth. She has so many years ahead of her and her story has only just started being written. I hope she never gets to carry a burden like some of the rest of us do.