( To Part 2 )
We spent several days resting, training, and exploring in Duskvale before heading back to the shrine. During this time, I studied the black sword. When I drew it, I learned its name instantly; Mavrilith. It hungers for magic, and offered me power if I were to use it against creatures and items of magic. I offered it Adam's rod, but it balked from it; it was unsure if it could devour the rod's power. A worrisome development... As I am not properly trained to use a hand-and-a-half sword, and as Barridan is worried of its possible malevolence, I think the sword may be best kept under guard, and not drawn unless all other options against a supernatural foe are exhausted. I am, at least, a little reassured that it is not a daemonic weapon; it did not thirst for blood or slaughter, only magic, which I have no particular objection to delivering to it.
When we finally left Duskvale, the weather was fair and we made good time. We were ambushed by a troll shaman of some sort at the place where we had fought the great apes. The plants came alive around us, slowing our movement but entrapping the giant as well. Barridan's fire spells were greatly hindered by a ward about the monster, but Somak, Alonso, and I put it down and then slew it with a simple torch once Barridan had dispelled the wards. Somak was gravely wounded, though, and I brought him back to consciousness with the blessings of my ancestors. He then knitted his remaining injuries with a fearsome speed. We tracked the troll back to its lair, and found there a great many gold coins, as well as a magic staff, which Barridan took possession of.
We stopped in the mid-afternoon to rest at the Shrine of Fharlanghn and to determine the rest of our course. After Somak attempted to divine the our previous path from a crow, we found the answer in my journal; we had come from Mekbah, to the east. We therefore took the road east rather than south.
We made worse speed after nightfall, as Barridan lacks night vision and impeded our progress. An hour outside of Mekbah, we realized we were being followed, and Somak saw the ghosts of the half-dragons pursuing us. Upon glimpsing them, Alonso turned tail and fled like one possessed, but Somak, Barridan, and I stood our ground; I see the dead every night, and they hold no terror for me. Barridan was invaluable against these foes, destroying two with fire and a third with shimmering arrows, while I slew the last with my axe, driving Tooth into the axe-wound which had slain it in its first life. The toll was high, though; they sapped all of us of our vital force, and we were left exhausted and vulnerable. We eventually caught up with Alonso, and sent him in disguise into Mekbah while we rested beneath the trees.
Alonso returned eventually, and we went to their inn, a foul establishment which served no alcohol. We rested the night, and I tended the wounds of the others. We were awoken early by a maiden bringing us breakfast and triggering my stone of alarm... it did not go well. We left the inn to requisition supplies, but were quickly stopped by a man being pursued by a mob who claimed that he had killed another man. Somak took it upon himself to discover the truth and dispense justice, and the rest of us aided him in this, though perhaps grudgingly; I would much rather have spent the day drinking at the Hunter's Lodge to the north. We questioned the accused, Roger Grey, and discovered that he was a con man who sold 'Elixers of Perpetual Youth', which were actually water spiked with redwort, a hallucinogenic substance which makes the user believe he smells a pleasant aroma. He had sold the victim, Arnie Pilken, three bottles of it (why a man would need perpetual youth thrice, I do not know). We investigated Arnie's home, finding two unopened bottles and one half-drunken, and Arnie himself dead of supernatural terror. We thought it unlikely that the redwort had done this, and decided to investigate Millard, the village wizard, who owns a potion shop. Somak and I entered by the front door and engaged Millard in conversation, while Alonso and Barridan broke in through the back door under cover of invisibility. I am slightly ashamed to have been the one to suggest such a dishonorable tactic, yet at the same time was pleased by its success; they managed to acquire Millard's diary and escape undetected. We discovered also that Alonso is a poor thief; he managed to break his lockpicks off in the lock of the back door as they were re-locking it from the outside. It appears that Millard had made a deal with one Ythir, who would provide him with scrolls of summoning in exchange for help with a 'project' of unknown nature. Barridan believes that Millard had used such a scroll, as there was a broken summoning circle on the floor of the back room. We were not sure the death was related to the summoning, and continued investigating other leads.
From Arnie's correspondence, he appeared to have an ex-wife who had left for Malas Fangrey, a town further east, so we asked the citizenry of her. He was a former apprentice to the town blacksmith, so we questioned him as well, but to no avail. The blacksmith was also unable to tell us anything useful about the material or manufacture of the black sword, though I felt almost as though it were speaking to me as I drew it to show to him. We asked questions at the Hunter's Lodge, and had an ale, as that was where Arnie had spent much time, but they knew little of him, but that he tried to break swords and had a cat. Somak tried to find this cat to ask it questions, but was unable to locate it, despite the 'assistance' of a local squirrel. Finally, we ran out of leads, and with the mob demanding that someone be lynched, we confronted Millard with his diary. He claimed that the summoning had gone wrong, and he had summoned a 'bodak' rather than a celestial as he had planned, and warned us to flee town immediately. Instead, Somak threw him in the sack of holding, and we ran back to Arnie's home (apparently bodaks can kill a man stone dead, and those slain by them rise as bodaks themselves; this was all Barridan's lore knew of them). In the dimming twilight, we found the bodak, a pale, vile thing, dragging Arnie's corpse into the woods, and Somak and I ran to engage it while Barridan hung back and Alonso vanished into the brush. Somak met its gaze and fell dead; I did the same, and felt my soul try to escape through my eyes, but held it to my body with the power of my unfulfilled task. I hacked at it mightily, but to little avail; its skin was hard as stone. Alonso fired a few arrows at it, inflicting some injuries, and Barridan threw fire at it but missed. Again and again, my soul tried to escape me, but I denied it. In time I felt that we were doomed; I could hold out only so long, and would eventually die, but could hardly hurt the fiend. It came to pass, however, that it was an illusion; one instant it was there, solid as a rock, and the next it had disappeared, and Somak stood alive and with a wizard, Ythir, as his captive. We interrogated Ythir, and learned that he had set up this elaborate trap to take the black sword from us. He pursued the set of mighty artifacts known as the Chromata, of which Mavrilith is but one fifth. Apparently there are also blue, green, red, and white artifacts, each guarded by a dragon of its color. Barridan and Somak struck a deal with him; we were to spare his life, and he was to locate the remaining Chromata and return to us with their locations. They think that because he was unable to take one from us, he will likely be unable to take the others from their respective owners, and that perhaps by cooperating with him we might acquire the rest. I am a little concerned by this... I trust him not at all, but was overruled by the others. Ythir also solved the problem of the angry mob demanding justice by providing them with an illusory duplicate of himself to burn. Thus was justice not served, and we let the killer loose to return and betray us later. We further betrayed justice by permitting Barridan to extort a sack of potions from Millard in exchange for our silence about his involvement in Arnie's death. I will be frank; I do not stand by justice as a principle, but if we make it our goal, we should at least try to carry it out properly.
The others were somewhat discomfited by the discovery that Mavrilith was intelligent and of great power, and further by the fact that I had been convening with it without their knowledge. I think I will have to ask it of its origins next; even Ythir knew not the makers of the Chromata, and I am led to suspect that they were created by dragons, if dragons guard them. That could be a weakness, if they truly serve the dragons, or it could be justice too, if I were to use the weapons of the dragons against them... also to that end, I must ask Mavrilith if it can reshape itself into an axe. It certainly has the raw power, and I cannot use it properly as it is. I fear I must use it, if I am to succeed at my quest for vengeance... but at what price?
- Journal of Fjolkir the Beardless, Thirteenth Day of Firefast
( To Part 4 )