Blessed be the Seldarine, and blessed be the Tel’Quessir, their people. I am Davorn Soronath, of the Teu-Tel’Quessir, ‘moon elves’ in the Imperial tongue, and this is an account of my travels, such as they are, into the Takor Wilds.
It is late October, as the Imperial calendar would have it. I myself recently arrived to this town called ‘Nathir’, upon rumor of the area suffering from the presence of one of the Three Enemies of the Tel’Quessir, the undead. I have traveled out into the Wilds two times, both times to the Blood Hills. I have not accounted for those travels here. Doubtless some other companion shall do that. I myself do not see those travels worth mentioning as of yet, save for the affirmation of the presence of undead in that region. This account concerns the region to the North of Nathir and the purging of undead from a haunted ruin.
My traveling company was comprised of two humans, Jim-Bo Stafford, a Bard, Timorias, Cleric of the human god St. Cuthbert, and a dwarf by the name of Krazkan, a warrior/shaman of sorts. We met in The World’s Edge tavern, and after some discussion agreed to set out towards the area known as ‘Sorrow’s Rest’ for exploration. Directions known by us at the time were vague at best, and a crude map (I use the term ‘map’ loosely) carved upon a table by some unskilled hand was all that we had for reference. Not being the type to trust our lives and fate to foggy memory and the suggestive table etchings of a dullard, we enquired upon the local denizens ensconced within the tavern about Sorrow’s Rest. Preliminary attempts to discern any sort of information were met by the slack-jawed, glazed eyed response that I’ve come to expect from these Imperial backwater communities. Our luck ran true, however, with one particular hunter named Marc or Marcus, who was familiar with the area enough to give us directions to ‘Sorrow’s Rest’, or as he colloquially put it, ‘Bug Town’. The directions were to travel North past the Wolf Rock to the fork in the river, and to cross the fork in such a way as to be on the right hand side of the main river. Following this to the North, Northeast would place us at Sorrow’s Rest. Directions fresh in our minds, hopefully committed to paper lest I am mistaken, we set out upon the road.
Our first day of travel proved to be an eventful one, scarcely four hours had gone by, with us just entering the shadow of a large hill, when we heard the sounds of pitched battle around a wooded bend. A pack of kobolds garbed in wolf’s hide armor accompanied by disgusting rodent pets were attacking what seemed an equal-sized pack of wolves. Joining in the fray, we pushed the advantage to the wolves, and the surviving kobolds were routed. The encounter very nearly ended in tragedy. Krazkan, remembering the muttered exorbitant price of a pelt from a wolf of the region from the tavern, sought perhaps to take one as a trophy and began making threatening intimations towards one of the wolves. Naturally, the other five wolves did not like this and very nearly attacked us. The situation was more or less diffused however with some well timed submissive body language on our behalf, and before disappearing with the rest of the pack as they dragged the spoils of their victory off, the largest wolf (the Alpha, perhaps?) let loose an oddly pitched howl. I’ve never heard it’s like before, though I wasn’t wholly surprised, as the local hunters had mentioned that the wolves in the Howling Heights region behave queerly, to say the least, and not at all like normal wolves.
Soon enough we were on our way again. We traveled some more, and shortly before reaching the fork of the river we came across the rock shaped like a wolf’s head. Well enough, our directions were sound. Moving closer, my eyes picked out a scrap of something in front of the rock, and inspection revealed it to be…and this was most loathsome…a human face. It was as if someone or something had peeled the facial skin (like a mask) off a body and placed it as a bloody offering to the wolf rock. Ghastly though it was, there was nothing for us to do but to press forward. We made it to the fork of the river just as night was falling.
The night started quietly enough, until deep into second watch with Timorias and myself. Timorias spotted a figure approaching our campfire. It was a man garbed in kobold hide, with slicked back hair and a feral appearance. His speech, however, was not as uncivilized as his looks. Indeed, Lucien, as he called himself, spoke to us with a weary and imperious tone, the type associated with one who had to explain something for the third time to those beneath their worry. After greeting us, Lucien asked that we handle a problem to the Northwest of our camp, where the ruins of a mansion or dwelling lay. This was a problem he had previously broached to two other groups such as us, but with little to no avail. Recently, things had gotten worse: the ruin of the mansion had been opened, letting out some nameless undead menace kept at bay inside. Simply put, it needed to be expunged from the area before things got any further out of hand. An opportunity to fight undead was not an opportunity to be denied, I felt. Waking the others we explained the situation and, though I had to coax Krazkan with the lure of treasure, we ultimately decided to head for the Northwest immediately come daybreak. Lucien, after giving us a gold necklace, with an amulet in the shape of a hand grasping a wolf-headed pommel, disappeared into the night, and no further incident happened.
We broke camp at dawn, crossing the river on the side that would allow us to move to the Northwest, and after some travel we reached the mansion. We scarcely had time to appreciate the sight of the place before three skeletons set upon us. I managed to fell an armed humanoid one with the flat of my longsword before being felled by a smaller one. Fortunately Krazkan and the others proved their mettle, and made short work of the others. Though wounded, we took in the sight of the mansion. A statue out in front appeared to be that of a human covering its face with its hands and was in surprising condition considering the supposed age of the area, whereas the mansion itself was in somewhat fair condition as well. Three corpses, not undead, lay strewn in the front of the place. By their garb and equipment recovered, I was saddened to discover that these were the first companions I had met and befriended upon arriving in Nathir. Three who had disappeared not shortly after my arrival. I pray that in their final moments they took as many of the damned undead with them as they could. Geoffrey, Richard, and Maelthor were laid to rest out near the mansion, may the gods have mercy on their souls and may Sehanine Moonbow guide them to their final rest. I marked an odd scuttling sound retreating from our presence near the cavernous maw of the mansion, but, gladly, nothing came of it. The shadows inside the house proved to be unnaturally dark, despite it being well around noontime, and daylight penetrated not at all into the foyer. Relying on Krazkan’s dwarvish sight and my torch, we steeled ourselves and headed inside.
The first battles we had were quick and victorious. We purged the first few rooms we entered of the undead filth, systematically turning and destroying the mindless abominations like the wretched creatures they were. In the second room I procured a rusted light mace to relieve myself of using the flat of my blade. Onward we pressed. Krazkan noted that the double-doors at the end of the main hallway were covered in what appeared to be faces, faces of the same condition as the one found near the wolf rock nailed to the wood. It was gruesome, but on the whole unsurprising. The undead are ever capable of such acts of depravity. More reason for their destruction, one would think. We opened another door and discovered what appeared to be an overgrown arboretum of sorts. Krazkan spotted an enormous undead skeletal wolf hiding within the recess of a large rock in the center of the room. Though it appeared intimidating at first, it was no match for us and we cut it down. Jim-Bo, spurred on by our prowess against the undead thus far, hurried and zealously opened the door opposite to the arboretum. Would that he had left it shut…
The door was flung open, and we were instantly assaulted with a horrid stench. A booming voice that rattled me to my core exclaimed “AH, FRESH MEAT”. Looming in the doorway was a terrifying figure: a hulking zombie with a rictus grin, wearing a bloodstained butcher’s apron and wielding an enormous meat cleaver covered with rust and dried blood. Behind him was what appeared to be a kitchen strewn with body parts and gore. Our first true test had begun.
The battle that followed was fierce. Drawing it out into the hallway, we surrounded it on all sides and proceeded to rain blows upon it. The damage the thing could do with its cleaver was not to be laughed at. Great cords of rotted sinew and muscle stuck out as it swung its cleaver at us. Krazkan laid into it viciously with his axe, I with my longsword, Timorias with his mace and Jim with his quarterstaff. Though I dealt it a good deal of harm for my part, the thing took note and struck me down. Cunningly, Jim disarmed the creature of its cleaver as the others struck at it, and it was swiftly finished off. The moment it toppled forward in a great sodden heap, the room behind it underwent a change. The limbs and other body parts underwent a year’s worth of decomposition in the course of a few seconds, such that there was scarcely anything left save for old bloodstains; even the stench was gone. It was at this point that, wounded as we were and Timorias drained from healing, we decided to tactically withdraw to rest and recoup, and begin a second attack on the mansion the next day.
We traveled away from the mansion for about an hour, and made camp. Blessed be Sehanine Moonbow, Goddess of Moonlight, enemy of the undead and mother to the Teu-Tel’Quessir. She surely smiled upon our quest, for we were not disturbed that night. Upon awakening, we discovered that we were not all fully healed of our wounds. Thus, staying in camp, we gave ourselves another day before beginning the second assault upon the mansion. Again, the Goddess of Moonlight smiled upon us, for the second night was as peaceful as the first.
Our second assault upon the accursed mansion began at daybreak. No new enemies had risen during our absence, and we moved unchallenged down the hallway. We prepared ourselves, and picked the door to the right of the face-covered double doors. I had drawn my bow at this point, so my distance from the entryway to the next room prevented me from seeing what horror lay within at first. I did not have to wait long. Clutching at a large gemstone, a desiccated figure with skin drawn taut over its bones sprang from the room, hissing and glaring at us with hate-filled eyes that burned like coals: a ghoul. As always, Krazkan pressed the attack and struck at it with his axe. I loosed an arrow at the thing and struck true, and, naturally, it took notice. I escaped injury however, and seeking easier prey it turned on the others, who laid into it with relish. Calling upon the might of his god, Timorias smote it into the dust with his mace, and that was the end of it. Krazkan, with avarice showing hungrily in his eyes, pocketed the large gem. A sweep of its room revealed naught but rotted books and a desk with furrows gouged on either side of its top. According to Krazkan, the thing had been seated staring into the gem, dragging its claws on either side of it, before it attacked us. We moved to the next room and discovered it to be a training room, with two skeletons and two zombies occupying it. The creatures were sparing with one another, re-enacting scenes of their previous lives no doubt. The centuries of undeath they suffered had not improved their swordplay, and we made short shrift of them. This room had nothing of note either, save rusted armor and weaponry. Steeling ourselves, we opened the double-doors and entered the room that lay beyond.
As the doors creaked opened, a grisly sight greeted us. The entire room was covered with skinned faces. The stench was almost overwhelming. At the end of the room, a throne on a raised section of floor sat, and it, like the walls and ceiling, was covered with faces. A rotted red carpet led from the doorway to the throne, like it awaited a procession of the macabre. I stood near the doorway while the others opened the doors to the other rooms previously visited. Nothing was to be found, so they moved back in the room towards the throne. Moving away from the double-doors, I was about to enquire Timorias of something when things started happening. The double-doors slammed shut, as did the other two doors, and a loud hissing sound came from above. Dropping down directly in front of Krazkan was something horrible. It was like a ghoul, in that it had the same taut skin and desiccated frame, but its eyes. Gods above, the eyes. They burned out from behind the mask of flesh it wore like twin glowing embers, seething with intelligence and unbridled rage. If there was ever any doubt that some form or shape of a soul was left in the thing, those eyes shattered it. They reflected the very howling, shrieking pits of the hells. A noxious stench, worse than anything we yet encountered, washed down over us. It was the stench of death, corruption, and pure evil. I managed to not be distracted by it by virtue, I’d like to think, of my calling, but the others reeled from it. Krazkan managed to dodge its initial blows, which further infuriated the thing. I struck true with my bow, which, shall wonders never cease, drew its attention to me. It, like a spider, scuttled up the wall and launched itself at me. It missed with its bite and first claw, but the second managed to catch me. In the instant its claw painfully tore into me, my muscles seized up and I fell, immobile, to the floor. Helpless, impotent, I could only watch as it turned its full fury on the rest of my companions.
Perhaps distracted by our proven ability to deal harm to it, it did not connect with many of its blows and bites. Just as well. I shudder to think what could have happened had all of us been paralyzed. Nevertheless, I was able to move again after a few seconds, and while its back was turned, I attempted to make use of the vial of holy water that I took from Geoffrey, and so threw it at the thing. I missed, but Jim-Bo and Timorias both connected with the accursed creature, drawing its attention and allowing me to slowly and cautiously rise and draw my longsword. Jim-Bo and Timorias were both paralyzed by its claws and bite, and at this point the fight seemed a near thing. I struck at it with my longsword, and it turned to finish me, but Krazkan connected with a mighty blow to the base of its neck with a rotted cracking sound, and it was dead before it hit the floor.
Jim-Bo and Timorias recovered, and we made further inspections of the rest of the mansion. The double-doors, which had creaked so loudly before, now opened silently at our touch. The unnatural darkness had also lifted, and sunlight could be seen dimly throughout the place. On either side of the throne were doors leading to other rooms. The door on the right led to a room filled with bookshelves with a desk in the center. Most of the books were rotted, but I found one in good shape. The cover bore gold tracery of a hand grasping a wolf-headed pommel, but the language inside was such that I had never encountered before. Jim-Bo discovered a secret compartment within the desk, with a letter that bore writing in the same language. I shall endeavor to have both translated somehow. The other room was a living quarters of sort. The armoire contained rotted clothing and a chest filled with gold and jewels. Krazkan eyes shone with barely contained hunger at this, but they positively glowed at the discovery made hanging on the armor stand. It was a necklace, much like the one Lucien gave to us. It was obviously magical, that much was certain. Not a speck of dust or age showed upon it. Pocketing our wealth, we left the place. I would have liked to perform some act of consecration, to ensure that nothing undead or evil would stalk that ruin again, or at the very least put it all to the cleansing flame, but we did not have the resources nor the time to do so. Our journey back to town was uneventful. Lucien did not show himself to thank us for our deeds. I’d liked to have enquired if he knew anything of the people who bore the wolf-headed pommel as their standard, and, if so, would he be willing to share such knowledge, but I doubt I will ever see him again.
Back in town, we had our gems appraised for worth, and we made quite a haul in terms of gold. The others were quite excited by this, but I was more interested in the book and letter. The amulet proved to be an interesting item, but ultimately useless to me. From the pompous posturing of the self-proclaimed ‘Master’ wizard Strom (a common hedge-wizard if I ever saw one) we learned that the item would increase its bearer’s strength, but at the cost of decreasing their perception of the world around them. I am a Ranger, and the ability to perceive the world around is my greatest asset, thus the amulet did not intice me. Krazkan and Jim-Bo set to haggling over it, and I believe that Jim-Bo is now the bearer of, as Strom called, the Amulet of the Faceless. After that, we went our separate ways. Doubtless we shall meet again in The World’s Edge tavern, and finally travel out to Sorrow’s Rest. If four days in the Wilds can yield discoveries such as the ones we made, I look forward to it.
Blessed be Sehanine Moonbow, goddess of the Teu-Tel’Quessir. May she watch over her people, as sure as the moon in the night sky watches the lands beneath it, and may Davorn Soronath, ever her loyal servant, continue to hunt her enemies, until they trouble her people no more.