The Shattered Lands

Journal of Malakar Jarem Caragutha Karuum

Fragment of Malakar’s Journal, as recovered and catalogued by Chryseth, the Archivist:

…been here, I know he has. The stink of his minions covers this village. The empty stares of the dead children paint the perfect picture, tell the complete tale of the wanton destruction to which his unholy appetites drive him. Eurek, I will find you, I will end this.

His creations still wandered the village before me, the mist of the morning still clung to their rotted forms as they shambled from the buildings, once homes and places of commerce, now mausoleums, tombs. They saw me but didn’t, as with all the others, I was nothing to them. As with all the others, they fell to my blade…

[transcript of journal lost in this section, damage to the Archivist caused a lapse in the progression]

…has gone cold. He knows I am tracking him. He knows I won’t stop, any more than he will.

I found another woman. He left her in her home, to await her husband’s return. He got there just as I did. I couldn’t save him. She tore his throat out and drank his blood. I freed my blade from her corpse just as the townspeople arrived. I had to flee, just like last time. He does this to toy with me. They don’t know that I just saved their entire village, and all the surrounding villages. Instead, they hunt me now.

I’ll head West, hopefully once I reach the co…

[transcript of journal lost in this section, damage to the Archivist caused a lapse in the progression]

…barely dodged his strikes. He was skilled. I wondered briefly how much he had charged the communities to find me, but quickly refocused on the task at hand. A series of slashes and parries and he had me cornered. He was very skilled.

“Kill him.” The beast was never far from the present. I realized as I heard its voice in my head that it had been a few days since it had been fed.

“Kill him and feed me.” No. Bounty hunters were despicable creatures, but he didn’t deserve that.

His blows landed more and more fiercely upon my blade. I was not tiring, but despite the strength of his swings, neither was he. I tell him he is mistaken, that I did not do what they told him I did. He spits in my face and calls me a liar.

“Kill him. He is weak. He is chattel. He is made for your teeth.” I can feel the surging of the beast in my veins. It has been so long since I felt my heart beat when it is not the beast beating it.

The bounty hunter slams his sword against mine, causing me to block high. I was distracted, that is my only explanation for it, the beast kept murmuring in my head. As he held my sword high with his, I didn’t notice his off-hand pull a blade from his belt. He plunged it deep into my stomach. I felt the pressure of the knife break through my armor and then through my skin. I felt the tip scrape against my spine. His eyes, full of bloodlust, fixed themselves upon mine. He smiled. His smile faded as I, in turn, smiled back.

I was wounded. I couldn’t very well walk around with a hole in my stomach. I would have to feed on him now. That’s what the beast wanted all along. The clever animal, distracted me so I’d get wounded. It is growing more difficult to control.

Faster than I’m sure he’d ever seen a mortal move, I caught hold of his off-hand, and held it steady. The blade, still in my stomach, didn’t move. I dropped my sword and snapped up his wrist, and with a powerful twist, broke it. He howled in pain and dropped his weapon. The clang of the steel on the wooden floorboards sounded through the room.

Like a macabre dance, two lovers locked together, I walked him across the room. For the first time he realized that he was not in control of the situation, and sweat beaded fiercely on his brow. I stopped when his back hit the opposite wall. He struggled, in vain, against me. As the sweat dripped from his brow to his cheeks, his eyes widened in the realization of what was to come.

Though I had not lied to him, of that which I had been accused I was certainly innocent, though that did not mean I wasn’t capable of horrors equal to those described to him, and more.

I believe it was the moment I leaned in, and bit into his cheek, salty with sweat, that he finally let himself scream. I wonder now, as I search through his belongings, whether he had, in that moment, forgotten that he had paid for all the rooms in this secluded travelers’ tavern, that way I wouldn’t have anyone come to my aid when he took his opportunity to murder me. He screamed as though someone would come to help him.

I admit, to my regret, that I took my time with him. Bounty hunters really are despicable creatures.

[transcript of journal lost in this section, damage to the Archivist caused a lapse in the progression]

…nter’s pack contained a copy of a wanted poster being circulated in the region. A shoddy description and drawing of what I can only assume is supposed to be me. Shouldn’t be too difficult to dodge the hounds, but it will force me to leave the area for some time.

Fortunately, Eurek’s scent has grown stale here, he has moved further South, towards Sanctuary. The bounty hunter worked for a man named Max. Perhaps I’ll seek him out, he could be of some service to me…

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…their keep was clearly once a place of opulence, despite its military location. It has been left in a state of disrepair and neglected for quite some time. However, this group has many servants already working to correct that. It seems they trust Max, as they don’t have any problem accepting that he sent me and leaving me unattended in their home. My intentions, as noble as they are, are unknown to them, and yet here I stand, unguarded and unwatched, in their foyer.

Apparently I am to help them escort a diplomat to Sanctuary. Despite the peaceful intent, the diplomat’s life is in danger. I can only hope that Max was correct in stating that this group would be more inclined to help me if I help them for awhile first. If I have to, I will hunt Eurek alone, and end his foul undeath, but my chances are much better with these people. At first glance they seem quite capable.

They have with them a large beast, a Gnoll, I believe. I wonder if he understands that we, he and I, have much more in common than first glances would otherwise indicate. His beast is readily apparent, mine more subdued, but there nonetheless. The wilds are in his eyes, can he see them in mine?

An Orc follower of Gruumsh, identified easily, as he has put out his own eye, travels with them. I expected much more violence from him, given my being an Elf, but he seemed not to care. It is possible that there are followers of Gruumsh that don’t mind Elves, or he could be simply waiting for the best moment to strike. I will be wary of him.

Astrid, a young human female, appears to have some sort of cult following. She has a Dwarven manservant who caters to her every whim. It seems all the servants in the keep are under her employ and direction. She must be royalty of some sort, and possibly the de facto leader of this group of mercenaries. Perhaps if I can convince her of the necessity of aiding me, she can convince the others.

Brelynn, a huntress, seemed curious as to exactly what I would provide the group, were they to accept me as one of their own. How can I answer this question, at least, how can I answer it truthfully? If I travel with them, it will be the first time since leaving home that I will be spending more than a few hours at a time with anyone else. I fear the beast, and what it might make me do. Should I tell them? I can keep the hunger sated, but what of when they discover my craven nature? What of when they discover that it is not always my mind that guides my hand, but the beast’s?

This band carries with them beacons of both light and darkness. An Angel-blooded, complete with wings, walks among them, the radiance from her is almost blinding. Surely if she knew of my nature, the demands her patron would make of her would not go well for either of us. And hidden in the shadows her brilliance creates, the demon-blooded. I did not see him until he wanted me to. He is dangerous, and his intentions cannot be read. Which is more a danger to me, I do not know yet. My heart pulls me towards the light, but this light would burn me if it could, if it knew. It would seem that I am more at home in the shadows, with the demon-blooded, and with the beast.

Shortly after arriving, the group, with me, went back to the tavern, where I had met with Max. It seemed as though they wanted to speak with him directly…

[transcript of journal lost in this section, damage to the Archivist caused a lapse in the progression]

…found the diplomat. His caravan under heavy guard camped on the road. The night hung heavy and there was a stillness in the trees that could only mean an imminent slaughter.

Kaycee, her feathered wings spread above us, kept watch from the skies, while Astrid approached from the road. The Gnoll and I crept through the woods, as quietly as possible, North of the path, while the demon-blooded and the Dwarven manservant took a Southerly approach. The Gnoll spotted them first, the assassins in the trees. The diplomat’s arrival was known to those who would have his mission ended prematurely. We made short work of them. Whoever it was that hired them apparently did not want to pay for quality services.

Astrid and the others spoke with the diplomat. I quelled the beast with the flesh of the hired thug I had dispatched. The innocent would be spared another night.



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