The Shattered Lands

Journal of Malakar Jarem Caragutha Karuum, pt 2

Fragment of Malakar’s journal, as recovered and recorded by Chryseth, the Archivist:

…ainsmen tribes and fishing communities on the shore had all been affected by Eurek’s designs, though they were hesitant to request aid from Kir Monastery, or the settlement of Narrwell. The freedom these tribes maintained would be compromised by requesting aid of the cities, as they would demand tribute in the form of taxes. Apparently this had been an issue before, but the conflicts were much smaller and easily managed. Eurek would not prove so easily handled.

The privateers of the Northern coast were too busy “keeping the peace” on the seas to be of any real assistance, and the feuding between the tribes was for so long engrained in their history that it was a risk even attempting to call a council of the elders. But I had to try.
There was only so much I could do alone to figh…

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

…und his home. I’m not sure why, but I just assumed the hells had spat him out, too sickened by his foul flavor. Here I stood, however, in what could have possibly been the room in which his mother birthed him. A worn, old, wooden bed frame jutted into the center of the room, the hay sticking out in places from the sack that was at one point white, now darker than the dirt path that brought me here. A small desk and chair sat opposite the bed. The sea air blew in through a small, open window, whatever curtains had been on it long since rotted off, and no shutters to bang about in the breeze. I pulled open the center drawer in the desk, which toddled towards me, one leg shorter than the rest.

In the drawer remained a few pages of parchment, a dried-out inkwell, and a broken quill. I pulled out the parchment, most of which flaked away at my touch. The remaining pieces were clearly a journal of sorts.

“…other is angry. She thinks I am lying, but I told her the truth. Rusty died, but I brought him back, he’s better than before, now we don’t have to feed him. Mother says I shouldn’t tell fibs. I get mad when she doesn’t belie…

…y still needs to eat. He gets upset when he doesn’t. I fed him the cat. He ate the whole cat! I giggled when the tail disappeared down his throat. He’s funnier now. One of his eyes keeps falling out, so I have to put it back in all the ti…

…ting scared whenever Rusty is in the house. She complains that his fur is falling out. She doesn’t like him anymore. He can tell. He doesn’t like her either. He always barks at her when she comes home. He almost won’t let her friends come in with her. I tried to tell her if they spent more time here he would get used to them, but they always leave after their private time in her roo…

…ied to hit him, so I got in the way. He hit me, and Rusty was just protecting me, he didn’t mean to kill her friend. Mother said I have to take her friend out in the woods and bury him, and that she doesn’t want Rusty in the house anymore. Rusty already ate most him, it shouldn’t be too har…

…is gone now. She tried to kill Rusty, and Rusty killed her. It’s okay. I can bring Mother bac…

…sty and Mother get along fine now. They go for walks together at night. I always have to clean Mother’s clothes when she comes back in the mor…

…ve. The people in the village are after Mother and Rus…”

The village nearby had been abandoned for years. Local myths kept people away, it was a cursed place. Apparently a plague struck the village, a sickness that drove the people mad. They killed each other. After finding this, I think the legends are closer to the truth than the surrounding communities can possibly know.

Where Eurek went during all the years between writing this journal and now is a mystery. Why he harbors such a hatred for the people of this lan…

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

…ner was awkward and uncomfortable. The Prince and the delegate did most of the talking, with only the occasional interjection by members of this band. I couldn’t concentrate, the sounds of their beating hearts drowned out their words. I could barely focus on their faces, the pulsing in their throats pulled my eyes to their necks.

I tried to quell the hunger by drowning it in mead, but to no avail. The sweet burn of the alcohol did nothing to distract the beast from his prey.

“Feed.” I excused myself and headed to the kitchen. The servants seemed to understand that I was an honored guest, and didn’t protest my presence. I grabbed a plate full of uncooked lamb, and began to head to the back. One of the cooks tried to warn me that the meat was raw, and that I’d get sick. My glare silenced him quickly, and I stepped out the back of the kitchen into a garden on the side of the building.

Finally alone, I feasted on the bloody meat. I felt the hunger subside. Briefly, the beast was quiet.

I cleaned up and headed back into the dining hall, only to see the rest of the band stepping outside. I followed, curious as to what had happened, given that the delegate, the Prince, and other guests were still seated and eating.

In my absence, a message had been received, from Max. Apparently he was informing us that our job details had changed. We were now to murder the delegate, using one of the Hell Hound’s blades (presumably recovered from a fallen foe before I met these mercenaries). A brief discussion ensued, some believing it to be a bad decision, and wishing to take no part in it, others having no problem at all.

Personally, I feel it was a poor choice. However, I am new to this band, and I felt it best that I keep hushed my tongue, and see which way the wind blows.

Brelynn, the huntress, and Kacee, the Angel-blooded, refused to contribute to the assassination. They left for the manor. The rest had no problem with murdering a man who had not wronged them. I will have to keep this in mind in my dealings with this group. Eurek’s wealth is beyond imagination. Years of conquest have that effect on a treasury. When he is done toying with me, will he simply hire someone to kill me? Will he hire this group? They knew me only a few short hours longer than they knew the delegate, and they had no problems murdering him.

I left for the manor with Brelynn and Kacee. The journey was quiet, it seemed none of us wished to discuss how readily our traveling companions turned to murder for profit. Or worse, it might have been only me that contemplated this dark reality…

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

…ell their tale. They did not give me details of the murder, nor which individuals exactly were involved, nor did I want to know. If they are to be implicated in the murder of the delegate, I would rather they know that I could not have been the one to expose them.

[ Archivist’s note: The Demon-spawn known as Zarek poisoned the Ranken delegate while he ate, to induce sickness. Once the delegate returned to his chambers, the Human Telepath named Astrid performed the mortal art of seduction to remove from the vicinity of the delegate his guard. Zarek killed the delegate while he rested in bed, using the sword of one of the Hadean Prince’s guardsmen, then summoned an optical illusion to lure the pursuers away, while Zarek and Astrid escaped the Prince’s castle.]

I expected a disagreement between the Angel-blooded and the rest. I doubt her patron would approve of her traveling in such dark circles as these, but she seemed to be more or less disinterested in the events of the evening. I wonder if her worship of Pelor is a ruse…

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

…rid is much older than her physical appearance would indicate. By all human measures she is a teenager, but she speaks for this group of warriors with an authority that is unquestioned. The largest and most physically intimidating in the group seem to do her bidding immediately and unfailingly.

It is with her that I discussed what the aims of this band of mercenaries are, and how they feel their actions are impacting the lands around them. With the death of the delegate, and the frame-up of the Prince’s personal guard, it would seem that they have started the ball rolling towards another war between the Hadean and the Ranken empires. She seemed to care little for the possible repercussions of the assassination.

Astrid did confirm, however, that she considers those to be traveling with her under her protection, and that she takes care of her own. This was countered by something the Orc mentioned, which gave me the impression that he has murdered one of their number in the past. I didn’t pry, as the details are unimportant. All I need to remember is that they are willing to kill their own. As if I didn’t already have to watch my back around the Eye of Gruumsh, reasons continue to mount.

Astrid and I began discussing the possible benefactors of a war between Hadea and Ranke. Someone wants the Ranken Empire to believe their delegate was murdered by one of the Hadean Prince’s men. Escalating tension between the empires and the possible eruption of open war could point to an arms dealer; is Max expanding his horizons to the weapons trade? Destabilization in the region would also allow for smaller, petty warlords to rise to greater power. The self-proclaimed High King Herald would certainly benefit from a weakened political power structure in Hadea.

Astrid and I bantered back and forth for some time, ultimately agreeing that the tyrannical self-proclaimed king should be remov…

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

…aded North-Northwest, traveling through the pass towards Bastion. Without sailing, this was the only way we’d be able to pass through the mountains without spending months in the peaks. The road was untended, unkempt, and untraveled. Oddly, though, I found tracks belonging to four individuals and their pack animal, who’d traveled this way just a day or two before us.

We found the camp of the four who came this way, and it was here their story ended. Four incredibly life-like statues, horror frozen forever on their faces, stood near a smothered camp fire and two ragged tents. Across the path and into the woods they stared, though whatever it was that caught their gaze so was long since gone from view.

We tracked the creatures, bodies of snakes they had, to a grizzly sight. The half-eaten remains of the travelers’ pack animal lay in the path. I discovered on the remains not only the marks of the animals’ jaws who’d eaten it, but stab wounds, as might have been made by an arrow, and not all the meat had been removed by tearing, some had been cut away.

We were facing intelligent opponents at night, in unfamiliar woods. Common sense would have dictated we turn, and leave whatever creatures these were to their own affairs. Of course, we kept going into the forest.

We found them in a cave. Two snake creatures, long viperous bodies where legs should be, a humanoid torso and arms. Their heads were shaped like a man’s, but snakelike features would have prevented them from ever passing as humans. Their den was littered with the bones and equipment of previously slain prey.

[Archivist’s Note: Based on all accounts gathered, cross-referenced with source material, most logical conclusion is these two creatures were Medusas. “Snake-like” being an accurate description of their appearance, the Medusa possesses the ability to turn living creatures to stone, primarily with their gaze, though reports of other methods have been documented. They are intelligent, and will hunt other intelligent beings. Popular theory suggests these creatures are exclusively female, though academia shows this to be incorrect.]

We headed back to our own camp, relieved that we would not need to wor…

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

…re in the woods. The others slept, and he appeared to me. He expressed his dismay at my abandoning my quest. I ignored him until I could stand his prattling on no longer.

I began to explain. He listened with all the rapt attention of a patronizing parent. I didn’t think about it until just now, but perhaps his knowing that he made me this way creates in him a sense of fatherhood. Perhaps this can be exploited. In the moment, however, I was far too angry to think clearly.

I assured him that I would be coming for him again, that the hunt was not over. He warned me about the High King Herald, telling me that things would not go as simply as the child and I thought it would. I glanced back through the trees to where Astrid rested, meditating.

“Oh, you don’t believe me? I assure you, Malakar, she is a child. As powerful as she may be, she is still but sixteen years of age. You know, she and I aren’t that much different. She has almost as many faithful servants now as I did when I was that young. I remember how naïve I was then, how simple my creations were. I’m so happy I grew up before meeting you. I really have perfected my craft…”

I interrupted him, hissing and spitting, my anger couldn’t take another word.

“Testy, Malakar, far too testy. You wouldn’t want your new friends to see how close to the edge you ride. But I am happy that you are going to be contesting this High King’s rule. This might distract him from certain areas that have been causing me some…problems. You see, Malakar, despite all your rantings and your protests, you serve my purpose in the end.”

I reached out to grab Eurek by the throat, but as always when he contacted me this way, I could not find purchase. He laughed, I growled. As composed as I could remain most times, he could always crack that veneer.

The sound of the group’s rustling pulled my attention toward the camp. Morning had come earlier than expected, and they were rousing. I turned back to Eurek, and he was go…

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



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