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The Journal of Syrus Marks

Syrus Marks (of Old World)
Background and History
Chapter 1 (How it all began)
[As written from Acolyte Syrus Marks of the Rouges Monastery]

All right, all right, by the gods of light and virtue, I shall record this. Need not for the poking, prodding, injuring, and miracles witnessed by all. While the corrupting forces of evil would just charge a daemon to write the pages that fall from the soul, I, Syrus Marks, Follower of the Rouge Cleric Monastery, do hereby write this by my own hand. So if you see a spelling error, mind you, it’s the illiteracy of my own doing, not the sprites or acolytes that the gods humbly bless me with. Where to begin and I say again, where to begin. A little information before all this began. That should help get the thoughts rolling.

When I was a wee lad that I found myself blessed with the gift of divinity. I was, or still am gifted in the ways of clerical magic’s. I, as a boy was able to cast some of the most simple of miracles. I could cure the scrapes on the kids so they don’t get in trouble with mum. A quick barrier to absorb the impact of the fall when descending a great distance . . . it’s called falling. Ah, but I boast. Least to fix that before the benevolent gods find disfavor with me, and strip my Cleric ability’s from me. This of course had me in front of churches and cathedrals a like. Marveled in awe of the ability’s bestowed on me, as if I were a creature! I knew not of what I did, just be born! Why would the gods want to bless a boy that would later become a man that will spend his life picking up the fragments of his own life? Thrust himself into danger with no care for his own life? Mayhap one day, that I fear is soon, will I learn the veiled secrets of the gods.

Unfortunately with all this new found fame I was not prepared for it. It went to my head as I grew in years. I could fill a book with the perverse things you could do with this ability. I shall instead, hold my hand and mind, and not release that beast. Least it be a plague upon all the good of learning for the divine. The gods know there are already horrors to be held at our front door. Best to hold the ones that live in our dreams in the world they reside. At least then we can defeat them with hope, imagination, and blessings rather than spell, sword or banishment. In these dark times of whoring, drunkenness, and downright filthy begging, hell, I was a youth filled boy. What did you expect? It seemed as if the only way on how I could bring myself out of this hole would to off myself or put myself into bondage as a servant of the dark ones.

On one drunken and blurry night, I was stumbling through the streets of a town I was passing through. Looking for loose gold on the ground, and perhaps an abandon house I can pass out in, at least a dry gutter. It was late on that summer night. The moon had passed the high point of its travel and was descending back to the horizon. Abruptly a door slammed against the cobblestone wall, a male and female voice echoed. The male, angered and demanding, the female voice sounding panicked. Need I detail this anymore? Filled with some righteous fury that boiled in my heart, I was drawn to the danger like a moth to flame. Just as I passed a building I got a clear view. Not only was it two males, but it was a very weak looking female! This boiled the wrath into anger. Grabbing a loose but hard stick from a garbage pile in the street, I snuck up on the two and cracked the stick over one of the scum’s head. With that opportunity the woman kicked the other guy square in the family jewels, then plowed her knee into his skull. This put the vagrant into a stunned state and the confrontation was over in those two hits. Now at a closer inspection, the woman was not weak at all. She was quite tone, as if to hint at being a warrior of some kind.

“I thank you for your help, least it be of fatigue to you milord.”

I cracked a grin “No lords here milady, just Syrus, and glad to be of your help” I bowed, and nearly lost what meager food I had left, and showing obvious intoxication.
“An unstable one you be. Come into the confines of the pub. This night only be trouble, let the night watch pick up that rabble”

She led me into the building that was a full bar, but took me to a secret spot in the wall, and descended into a basement that was very, cozy.

“My good lady, I don’t mean to insult but … are you a …”

“Just an adventure, and judging by your looks, you’re going to need help where ever you can find it, Syrus. Not all good is wrapped in light, and not all evil in blood.”
“What did I stumble into?”

“Servitude, Syrus. You’ll learn.” All I remember was her smile and then little to no memory after that.

The next few years was filled with work. In servitude of others, we would find the weak and defend them, find the poor and uplift them. I did not realize it at the time, but I was learning through practice the virtues of the codes of Chivalry. None the less through a woman, perhaps the gods realized I pay more attention to a female teacher then a male one? Or perhaps it was to insult me as to where I was thinking. None the less, I could write a whole separate book upon these adventures. Perhaps in time I may, if the gods let me grow old and grey. Needless to say, these years changed my life from a drunken man whore to an upright defender. This lasted until a day fate intervened.

I had grown the strength in my back to lift my own weight, and to carry on the teachings of what I had learned. It did not prepare me for that night. While scouring the country side, we found a fair in size, deserted camp. Signs of struggle, dead bodies and broken weapons were everywhere. The place reeked of death, must have been 50 men or more. Upon inspecting the camp, very little was left to salvage. The blood stained the ground, armor, and was like a crusty jelly on all the weapons. Armor was pierced, hacked, or otherwise destroyed; giving no protection to anyone that would want to wear it. When we got to the middle of the camp, that’s when the rattling and clanging of metal and the stretching of leather erupted like a slow rumble. The bodies we were previously inspecting were getting up! This was … impossible! Things that are dead remain dead! Not reanimate! Thinking we knew better than a few lumbering corpses, we tried to attack and hack the monstrosity’s to oblivion. That did not work. The ones we thought we killed, because they hit the ground when we split the skull open, rose back up to come back for some more. We tried to dismember the bodies, hewing bone and sinew, yet the limbs would try to crawl with whatever power they had towards us. It was clear now we needed to retreat, least we become like whatever foul plague these things were! This is that time where you wish you could strip your armor off, because if you’re caught, even if you have it, it will not save you.

We crested a small grassy hill that lead to a nearby town, and thinking we would be safe, that is when our nightmare struck. The town was on fire. The plumes of smoke blanketed the night sky. Blocking out the stars and moon, we now had no safe place to be. The lumbering corpses that were behind us, and the evil fire in front of us, only death seemed to be the closest stronghold.

“This is your final lesson acolyte.”

“Die with honor among the ones without?”

“No” she shook her head “Sacrifice”

“It’s clear …” she cut me off.

“Silence your tongue or you won’t live to use it! Take this.” She thrust a rock, which looked like a large sapphire into my hand. “Hold onto this and think of a place you want to be.” My mind swirled with many other places I would rather be. The one it focused on was a far off place, with thick walls and a team of gallant warriors, ready at all times to defeat the evil in the immediate area.

“Now harness that image… concentrate … and don’t open your eyes” She began some chanting. My mind’s eye seem to fixate on this image I had in my head and seemed to be more like a reality popping out a book the more she chanted. The chanting fell to a murmur as if she was walking away, and then the glow of the distant fire dyed, and the rot of death dissipated. I did what I may not have had to do, and open my eyes. In shock, I was not where I was before.

“M-master?” I called out in a shaky voice. Calling again and again, but all that responded was the chirping birds and the small critters that were startled that someone was here. I moved about the immediate area, setting up a perimeter of where I was but before I could get into making markers, I saw something in the sight distance through the somewhat dense forest that was not regular in this area. A stone wall! Something like I dreamed up! This must mean people, and help! With a little bit of haste I went to the wall, only to find it dilapidated, and falling apart. No good for resisting even the creatures of the woods. I began to investigate the ruins I had stumbled upon, and found it to be a mighty stronghold at one point in its life. Must have been a few hundred, possibly thousand years old and looked to be an amalgamation of both Fey and Human hands.

The tranquility was still there. Something the Fey loved, yet the hard work and back breaking construction was among it. Yet not a single soul was in this place. Ascending to the top of some of the towers of this stronghold husk showed nothing habitable in the immediate view. I thought to myself, ‘If this is something of my own creation, surely SOMONE must be around?’ I explored the complex with the remainder of the daylight. Bugs of light dotted the area. It was hard to see but the moon providing just enough light to maneuver the ruins. Fortunately, I learned the layout quick, but very little was left of practical use. Using a few dirty and dusty linins fashioned a pillow. Sleeping on rock perhaps was not the best, but it was the only form of bedding I had choice in. The night was warm, peaceful, and relaxing despite the circumstances.

When I awoke immediately something had changed. First, my gear was gone; second, I was in something completely different, robes. Thirdly, the barrack’s I woke up in was populated with people. Fey and men, it seemed that I was the first to wake. The area was furnished. Nothing like the time worn husk I found. A man walked in and with a commanding voice “WAKE UP!” his shout shocked everyone awake and the morning began. Men putting on their clothing and armor, his gaze found me, “YOU!” he pointed.

“HERE, NOW!” Scared, I mustered the ability to move closer, “YOU ARE?”

“Syrus” I meekly responded back.

“WELCOME” His voice booming, as if he was yelling, yet not trying. “READY YOURSELF.” He points to where I was sleeping and a wall adorned with new armor and weapons. I put it on as best I could. I was the last one out but still managed to follow the rest of the group. The group fell into a formation in a large field when we finished walking the perimeter. That is when the marching, swordsmanship, blocking, and rigorously training took place. For the next few days it was all I did. There was no time left to explore this area I was in, but it was just like the husk I left. After a few days, we were woken up the same fashion except this time the leader called my name.

“SYRUS”

I moved to stand in front of him.

“CLERIC TRAINING, GO!” He pointed out the door, with a bit of haste I left. My memory and some of the signs that were posted led me to the right room. I came to a vibrant room. Clerics of both races and many backgrounds were here. I spend the next few months cleansing my life essence of the evil I brought into it. After a year or so, I was finally purified to a point I could wield the familiar power of light with great confidence. The people I learned from were mainly fey, but had few humans. We spent time in books trying to memorize spells, and incantations. Quite a bit of time was spent learning how to use blessed items, their properties, and what to do when we cross one. I was a little different. They said I was Fey Blooded. Apparently instead of memorizing spells from a book like the other common men had to do, I could spontaneously cast them, with little to no effort. In fact, memorizing was hurting my ability to cast. My stay with the Clerics was long, yet felt short in the rear view of it all. Before I left, the cleric leaders spoke some words on me and inscribed some magical runes that bore into my skin. They said only the ones attuned to magic will know what is in me. It will be a spirit to guide me in further growth of my potential.

I went to bed that night, and came back to the place that I was when I lost my original master. As if I had never moved. The place was much brighter and did not smell of death. The town that was burned was built back up. A large barn was constructed and a few other buildings. I ventured forth to see what had been taking place in the obvious years I was gone.

This is where I met a good friend, Ayaton. He spent time in the military and was actually enlisted at this point. I was picked up as a mercenary with my Cleric ability’s and we also met Damion, an assassin of sorts. My tenure with that regiment did not last long. There was a night that descended upon us. The leader of this army became corrupt and I had to banish his life essence into the nether it came from after being subdued by any that didn’t follow the leader’s madness. We learned about this late one night. He brought Damion up on false charges of assassination. Damion may be a bit misunderstood, but he is doing what he does best, looking out for number one. He may defy orders, but he won’t out right kill someone. A fight erupted in the commander’s camp one night. Ayaton and I got our arms readied and helped Damion flee the scene. Damion must have used one of his poisoned daggers to kill the commander. I remember him shouting at us as we booked out of the camp on horseback ‘kill them, and bring their heads back so we may mount them on pikes for the dark ones’

The rest of the group that was true to the ways of good and right must have ended their uprising, because we made it out of that night alive, with no traitors at our feet. After that, the three of us became Specialist force. With that, we were allowed to act on our own. Ayaton got married, Damion left to fight battles to put coin in his pocket, and I left to do what I normally did, banish and purge the evil in the land. It was only a few quick years that I found myself back to the same place. Rumors of the dead walking again, and this time being organized, ready to destroy all that came across the area. A cattle call of arms was put out. The 12th company was on its way but the army would not get there in time. It was anticipated the undead horde would descend upon the township. They needed strong able bodied adventurers to come and secure the area. Hold it until the army showed. That began the next few scary nights I had. I knew I was not going to get paid enough to deal with all this, but duty calls.

End chapter 1

Chapter 2
Night of Eternal Shadows (2011 Last Hope: Old World Event)
[As perceived by Brother Syrus Marks, Cleric of the Rouges Monastery]

By the grace of light, I shall make it out alive these days. It’s the only thing right to do. I headed into the massive pub they had, Windbags Inn and Tavern. Luck would have it, I ran into Ayaton! After all, we were keeping a low profile; I thought we would only meet each other in an afterlife. “Hail Ayaton” I called to him, letting my hood obscure my face.

“Who are you?”

I stood upright so he could see me and put down my hood, so he could see my face.

“Syrus!? It’s you! How have you been ya old dog! I haven’t seen you since…”

Another voice interrupted low and callous “Since our freedom?”

Ayaton looked a little shocked by who would have the nerve to cut him off then realizing who the dark figure was that maneuvered around our back sides. “Damion . . . wow, perhaps this is a good day!”

“Yes, it is.” I replied “I’ve been good; I hope things have been going well for you as well.”

Ayaton brightened up, “Yes, things have been good and well. You know how we must start things out correct?”

Before I could answer Ayaton, he punched me across the face and I stumbled backwards trying to regain myself from the sucker punch. Before I could, I fell backwards, over Damion who was crouched behind me, as I fell to the ground, they erupted in laughter.

“The only way we can greet one another” Ayaton said “is by having a good brawl”

Damion without missing a beat stands up and punches Ayaton the chest.

Within minutes we were wrestling one another. The Guard was alerted and rushed over, but by that time we were laughing like kids in a play yard. “I’ll buy a beer for the winner” one of the Tavern maidens said. With that Damion made sure to knock us all to the ground in the next few seconds, and claimed his free beer.

A few moments later, Ayation said while standing up and catching his breath, “Hah, nothing like a good ol’ brawl to get things going”

“Yes my good friend. Yes it is.” I replied.

We took to the confines of the Windbag Tavern for a while longer; drinking, singing and telling tales of our adventures. Everything was great until someone broke up the mood and stumbled into to the tavern, causing quite a stir. “Peasants who have given themselves over to the dark ones have chosen tonight to rise up. A small penitent group is coming here! We must stop them!” The one causing the commotion was a guard, built for scouting. Little armor and arms on his person. “I’ll need all available people to get to the bottom of the hill; they are going to be here soon!” Without delay Ayaton, Damion and I, as well as a handful of other adventurers, headed to the bottom of the hill and found ourselves met by a fairly small group of peasants that wore the mark of ‘Sold Soul’. The mark is simple. It consists of two lines, one line under each eye, in a vertical fashion. As if they were crying black tears from each eye. There must have been five or six! The 10 of us that rallied (three plus the other able bodied people that came) could wipe them out! Our steel and armor verses their pitch forks and hand scythes. We took to the high ground of the hill, holding a line, forcing the penitent to charge up the hill to get to us. They set up a staggered line formation, useful to reduce the effectiveness of arrows. One of the penitents stepped forward.

“We wish only to speak to you” a robust bald penitent stepped forward, as a wicked grin erupted on his face.

“Speak your words so and let us have peace” one of the guards said.

“Tonight is the night of celebration! The dark ones have come to celebrate with you! For the small sacrifice of your life, you may partake in this celebration with us! Let us convert you!”

“My soul is not mine to barter with. For taking mine is asking the wrath of the gods” I snapped back.

“Yet all the pawns are ultimately go back to the same box. Might as well have the fun no?”

The confusing question got the better of the group, as they focused on talking a hail of arrows came out from the nearby trees, wounding a few of our group.

“It’s a trap! Get these vermin! Slay them by the sword! They want death, give it to them!” Various calls of our group shouted as a rally cry. We charged into the group, but unfortunately it was not as well as it could have been. Another volley of arrows went off, wounding a few more. With that, we realized they had the tactical advantage against our numbers. Though we were better armed, they were better placed. Someone called a retreat and oddly, the penitent let us be. We arrived back to the tavern to assess the wounded. Ayaton and Damion could not be found when we pulled back to the tavern. My flesh was still in one piece, but my armor was another story. Thank the gods for a good blacksmith! With no form of protection except for faith, I went among the wounded and administered first aid and clerical aid to who I could. Throughout the night, a few handful of penitent were killed, some brought back, questioned then executed. No matter what we did, how hard we fought, or fear tactic we used, the numbers kept coming. That was the point we all realized it would be a long night.

The battle yells, death cries and fighting soon faded, and exhaustion finally hit our battle shocked bodies. Despite the looming fear of penitent jumping out of the woods, erupting from the lake, or sneaking into our tents and tavern, sleep was easy to succumb to. We rose with the sun as it came peering over the horizon. Some of us had less than adequate sleeping arrangements. Some slept on tables, in the tavern corners, some of us slept in the hedges or in trees. The clanging hammer of the blacksmith reminded me I had some armor that needed repair. When I got to him, he already had a lot of steel to mend. Dropping it off was no problem as the benefit of the army; they would eventually help this blacksmith by paying him back. I wish sometimes I was skilled with a hammer and anvil more than magic’s. Then I could at least keep my armor in better shape for longer. Not all magic takes away the scars that a sword has left. Sometimes it will still leave scar tissue from the healing of limbs! Perhaps it is a way for the divines to remind you that you won’t always be so lucky all the time. We spent the morning breaking up into groups and scouting the area. The majority of the patrols were taken by guardsmen. We had word that a great commander was on his way! Commander Caldrin if my memory serves. Either that or I’ll blame it on my bad hands for only remembering the C. He was the victor of many battles and was the nearest to handle the threat here. At least it gave us hope.

There were a few skirmishes that took place, nothing noteworthy. Some injured, a few killed on both sides of the fighting. In between some of the skirmishes one of the scouting groups discovered a hovel across the lake, near the Tavern. In addition, some penitents were observed leaving the area. It seemed to be a routine stop for them. We sent up a search party and went across the lake to investigate.

Upon getting across the lake, we were ambushed by some penitent! Fortunately, the divines favored us and the ambush failed. I think their zeal over took their skill. They practically fell upon our blades! We proceeded across a small wooden bridge across a river, then through some woods, and found the small grotto. We set up look outs and began investigating the grotto. Upon closer investigation, it seemed to be more of a crypt than anything. Defiled, pillaged, and perhaps at one point contained weapons, buried gold or trinket’s was no longer here. Perhaps it was looted for trade reasons. Very few merchants stay where war is erupting. Yet that thought did not make sense. They have the ability to just over take things by sheer numbers! One thing that may shed some light on what or why the penitents were here may be contained in a book we found there. Unfortunately from those of us that could read it, only came to determine it were ramblings of a crazy man. Unfortunately, as some of us know, crazy means something, something to hide a much more sinister plot.

With whatever evidence we could carry we brought it with us. Unfortunately, we spent too much time at the grotto. Some penitents were waiting for us just before we got back to the lake! These ones must have had more training or were able to hone their zeal. Some of our group fell injured to the blades they wielded; some were dead before we could help them. After a hard fight, we had to take the wounded, dead, and our evidence back to the town. Hopefully someone much wiser than the rest of us would be able to decrypt the book.

Shortly after our return, as if a beast was angered, we found penitent mustering on the far side of the lake! We could spare very few people, but we had to fight. We mustered what guardsmen we could and marched on to the field of battle. With no taunts or bravado, the lines met and combat ensued. Line after line of penitents washed upon our shield wall. Limbs, screams, cries, and blood were showering everywhere! If some dark god was watching, he must have been smiling. Especially the way the penitent seemed to enjoy it! Cackling with glee and joy with what was left in their bodies, giving praise as they died. Shouting ‘I’m whole’, what were these crazy, son of a village half-wit, were these pig farming, mud eating, blunt weapon shakers think they are doing? The mayhem continued for some time, and just before the sun was about to hit the horizon and mark the time for dusk, the penitents were in full retreat. We pressed forward cut down the ones we could catch. Over one hundred and fifty penitents died that day. Our spirits swelled with hope from that fight, and we lost only a handful. One of the factors that made this such an overwhelming victory was the maidens from the tavern came down with supplies and extra arms to help the wounded, as well as guard the flanks. They did in fact, with no armor and second rate weapons, repel invaders that tried to out flank the line. A song was written in their honor. Another factor that helped with our major success was due to the fact that we put aside all fault, dismay, and selfishness and helped one another. We brought back wounded to the healers and tavern maidens, who were renamed Tavern Valkyrie’s. I know for myself, I fell to a grave wound many times, but was helped back to the line by Ayaton, Corpral Tavin, and even common foot soldiers. The unification to live was stronger than the selfish calls to the grave.

The night started well, a few cold drinks, some warm food, some smiling and happiness! The patrols of guardsmen with a few volunteers were good enough to keep the semi frequent attacks of penitent away. The night unfortunately was not able to end on a good note. The moon was high in the sky when the horrors from my past would come to haunt me again. Undead invaded our perimeter. Unsure where they came from, they have obviously been dead for a long time. No distinguishable features or clothing, nothing but rags and rotting flesh or bone. The only fortunate thing about this is their were two or three, but no matter what we did; slice the skull off or open, hack the limbs off, these zombies were not like the ones I fought in my past. They would regenerate, sew themselves back together with some dark necromancy and start again! We only had one other cleric with us and he could only make so many Divine Weapons. It seemed to hold them at by for now, but whatever ground we had, we lost. We soon retreated back to the Windbag Tavern where it was lucky we had a strange woman working tirelessly, to draw runes the around the tavern that warded the area from Undead to come in. We were able to dispatch any of the corrupted peasants that were with them, but those creatures, those Undead, kept coming. As we were in the inn like a bunch of scared cornered rats, we found out that at the grotto, there was a skull. Someone took it as a prize. I don’t know why they would want to do such a thing, yet they took it anyway. They tried to barter with the Undead, “take the skull and leave us be”, I don’t know about you, but I am not sure the dead know on how to communicate. I will admit, while I don’t remember what happened that night, for some reason the Undead left us. I think their dark masters called them back, or they got bored, or maybe that other cleric blessed enough weapons that we banished them. I wish I could tell you, but none of us dared leave the tavern that night. We had a few wounded, a few killed, but over all we did not lose that much in the way of man power. At least nothing to the crippling degree we had in some of our early skirmishes.

The night dragged on. Even though we could take refuge in the safety of the tavern, we still held patrols and watchmen to make sure we were not over taken by something that was not living, or not friendly. Somehow we got sleep, despite the overbearing fear, but at least we recovered some of our strength. Morning came with egger anticipation. Scouting for food and preparations went slow. It wouldn’t have mattered; some of us were still horrified from last night and did not have the ability to eat. After we ate, as if on cue, we finally herd some trumpets blare and in the distant horizon as the sun was cresting the hill, we could see the uniformed numbers of the 12th! Or was it the 7th, ah, the gods know what it was but I’ll keep with the 12th Vandregon Army company, in tow with Commander Caldrin with them! It was an inspiring site to behold. When the rank and file finally came upon the small village we were at, it was not a lie that we were already beat up, damaged, and possibly defeated. With the arrival of the army now, we could at least hold on to the hope that we were actually going to make it. Commander Caldrin was soft spoken to say the least, but his presence brought power to us all. It felt like good spirits and celestial beings were among us. By the gods if he were divinely inspired, I would not take a bet to say otherwise. With the hope of our lives making it past another day, we could possibly turn this fight around. Not sure what we would do with the recently found Undead in the penitent forces, but we will win.

We spent the day making preparation for the final battle ahead. It was obvious that the penitents in the area were dwindled in numbers, and this was the last of their forces. It was confirmed they are reinforced with a few Undead, perhaps with time they will decay, die, or fall apart. I also herd one of the other clerics may have fashioned a weapon or device that may help as well. The tricky thing with the dead is they don’t tire, they don’t have a will to break, nor can you intimidate them. In addition, with sufficient magic when one falls there will be another, if not another two in its place. I don’t think whatever necromancer was controlling these beings was particularly powerful. Just the magic was very potent. We knew that we could bless our weapons. Fortunately, the other cleric that was with us could do that. Ayaton and Corp. Tavin were charged with finding and destroying the creatures as they showed. The rest of us were to keep them alive and destroy any penitent that would try to stop them. The plan was simple. Destroy every last one of them. The commander would be on the field of battle, along sergeant Graves. (His name escapes me, but it was something like that, I’ll call him that unless I can remember.)

Sergeant Graves was the commander of the guard. He was a grizzled vet with a bite to match his bark. He wore the scars of his battles with pride. It was said he served nearly 20 years. He was rough, tough, and over all a very respectable man. While he was on the front lines with us most of the battles, he was usually busy elsewhere seeing to the preparation of his troops and readiness of the weapons. I presume he was also seeing to the rights of the dead. Last thing we need was our own soldiers to crop up and start killing us from the tombs we put them in. Now with a final push we were able to join in the forces together, and see to it that these dead were, well, dead. We marched onto the field of battle, and formed our line. I wish you could have seen it. The words I write won’t tell you how great it was. To see our men at arms take the field. The penitents were waiting for us. They crested the forest, where all their witchcraft and heresy was coming from, the remnants of their camp were strewn about, as if some great fight had taken place. One of them even stepped forward and offered a parlay. After a few moments of consideration, Sergeant Graves moved forward to meet the scum. They had a few words back and forth. What little I heard it was them pleading for us to see the light, to come over and give our lives willingly to the dark ones. Not only did Sergeant Graves reject such an absurd notion, he proceeded to punch as well as choke the poor beggar out! Both sides were stunned at what took place. Both Graves and the diplomat (and I use that word loosely) wrestling and fighting, after some rolling on the ground, punches and verbal slander, Sergeant Graves killed him with his own hands by snapping his neck. With that, the penitent responded by raising their banners and charging forward.

Like a blacksmiths hammer, pounding out the impurities of hot steel. Forging into what the smith would want, Sergeant Graves got up, shouted a rally cry and charged in. Not alone of course, but with the backing of the Vandregon army and guard! We charged ahead, splitting skull and shield alike! We made some short work of the initial force, but when the Undead came in, fear gripped the lines. A few ran in terror, a few others were braver and tried to fight. I was one of them. They seemed more concerned with killing then eating. For when they impaled me upon one of their weapons, they decided to leave me for dead. Fortunately the weapon missed some vitals, and by the light, I was able to get retrieved from the battle. Brought back and patched up, I decided it was better to stay and help with the healing efforts. We had our town healer and smith here. Patching up the most critical of the critical, the rest were able to help keep the lines strong. I helped as long as I was able to, until both my medical supplies and my manna ran out. I went cautiously back into the battle. By this time, I saw Aiton and Corporal Tavin flank from our line and make a strike into the side of the defending forces. One of the last things I remember before the battle closing was one of the penitent, a slender female, screaming like a Banshee, after she fell to the blessed blade of Aiton, the rest of the penitent were routed and fled. I don’t think any Undead were left to retreat either.

The aftermath of the battle resulted in a bitter victory. Commander Caldrin went missing. Apparently a smaller force of our men tried to go around the back of them and fight, it was an elite unit. They came after them and we gave them a fight. Him and his men were routed, but gave the smaller force enough of a thrashing they couldn’t peruse. Sergeant Graves got bit by one of the Undead. We had little to no exposure to bites and scratches. Some of the rumors and ancient texts we recovered after sacking what was left of the camp was a description saying that he would turn into one of those monsters. I think with the news of that he took off into the woods. Perhaps to find himself an honorable death, perhaps to keep himself away from turning on other, his reasons are his own. Mostly out of fatigue, but equal parts respect, they let him go. Bitter was the weather that day. We may have saved the town, but two influential and important people have gone missing. Lives are something that cannot be replaced. Damion as well crept off into the night. One thing I learned from him is when he wants to be left alone; he will find his alone time.

The cycle of life will continue in this area. I don’t know how long it will be, but Ayaton is forming the Vandregon Rangers. Our exploits with combined arms rather than our own separate adventures was noted at this point. Instead of being local, individual heroes, we decided to combine arms and find the more concentrated forces of evil. With leave of the army, we left to adventure the countryside and wilderness. Finding and rooting out evil where we could find it.

I think the time spent with Ayaton’s Rangers and my celestial buddies from the Rouges Monastery turned out to be what I needed to free the dark corruption inside myself. I felt some of my healing potential come back. With this, I grew leaps and bounds in my healing ability’s. I was only just an acolyte when I entered into the maw of the beast. After it was slain, I turned into a master of the arts. My healing provided Aiton’s Rangers with more staying power and protection from the evils we faced. I would not doubt we struck some fear back at them. I hope so, for those cave dwellers should feel something for the pain they caused. Maybe not, I won’t know, any exposure I had with them was a happy bliss for causing death, blood, and destruction. I don’t know who holds these strings, but if we were to figure a master mind behind it all and sever their existence from this plain, perhaps we can bring peace back to this world again.

End Chapter 2

Chapter 3
Unchained Carnage (Last Hope Event 2012)
[As written from the perspective of Syrus Marks, Cleric of Aiton’s Rangers]

The next year progressed well enough, at least for us. I don’t know about the rest of the Vandergon Army or any enemies they may have had. With our constant adventuring, it kept us as a hermit to the rest of the world. We sent letters now and again, letting the main forces know what we were up to. We would occasionally check in at towns to see if anything was wrong or trouble was about to hit the town. When we couldn’t find outright evil to vanquish, we would take jobs to pay the bills. Remove some ruffians at a tavern, kill a few bandits on the road, and my favorite; exterminate some crazy black magic cultists. So long as the job was paying, we would take care of it. Might sound weird, a group that is taking job’s on the side when they are in the employ of an army. My thought is, the more coin the better. Things do break that the army does not think will break, and having some extra funding to keep our belly’s fed, supplies fresh, and a few coins to get some extra information to keep from hurting someone is a great alternative. It’s not like the army life is paying handsomely in the first place.

It was dreadful news we herd when we stopped to check in at one point. We checked in at one of the way stations in the realm and a message was waiting for us. Big wax seal on it and written in elegant handwriting. Apparently there was some evil force, reeking of death and destruction brewing back in old Windbags Tavern. Like a waves to rocks on the ocean, memories we thought had been put behind us, came rushing back. The terror, the screams of the wounded, the horrid figures, yet we are the best at what we do. We are stronger now than what we were. With steel, magic, and camaraderie, we will be able to triumph over this task. This time, we were not so zealous or positive, more like a veteran before battle. We would know it will cost us something; and that cost, may be us.

Upon our trip back to the dreaded land where the first events took place, the conversations we had with the rest of the rangers were short, and despite our attempts to make it sound like heroism we were not even close. Even the dullest fool was able to tell that what we witnessed there was nothing that one would want to recall to memory. No bard would want to write a song about our deeds. Nor would anyone want to even come to the back to end of the world- where we were going to and attempt to make things right! More than enough blood was spilled and bodies burned those few nights. We did not need to add to that number. When we were within the outskirts of town, it was dusk. We set up our tents and headed into the small tavern to have ourselves a wind down drink from the journey.

Some of the adventurer’s herd of the ‘excitement’ up this way and decided to come and see what they could provide in assistance. Some of them looked green, too green. We sat down and had some introductions, I do them a dishonor by not remembering their names, but I think that’s what their gravestones are for. The first round got us all talking and into arm wrestling contests. Quite the pint of mead was passed around. As we got into our second round of drinks we herd an awful shriek from outside. Someone was in dire terror. Like children wishing to play, the adventurers and the rangers left the tavern to see what is going on. There was an Undead lumbering toward a townswoman! The adventurers leapt into action and started attacking the creature. After a few swings of their blades and a few bashes with the shield the Undead fell. Just before they could do a victory dance, the cursed thing got back up and nearly grabbed one of their legs! With that, we knew that even though it looked and smelled like an Undead, we were defiantly dealing with Undead. I went to work blessing blades for the destruction of the Undead. If you were wondering why I did not do this years before, it was due to the fact I lacked the spell, and the time to learn it.

Just like the previous year, Ayaton went in for the killing blows and destroying the Undead as the adventurers brought the Undead to the ground. Our actions may have disturbed whatever dark forces are growing here. What turned to be single Undead here and there in the night, ramped up to pairs, then increased to triple. I was barely able to rest long enough to keep the manna flowing to keep the blades blessed. Within time though, the attacks suddenly and mysteriously stopped.

The next day, I awoke to some hammering and general labor. It was the 12th Vandregon Company with Commander Tevor! If you did not know, he was thought to be missing and possibly dead, yet, somehow made it back alive! I had herd he was a cunning and tough guy. As his story went, when they finally broke from combat, they had to flee in a very wide birth than normal. They found places to camp, but unfortunately the undead in those areas were far too many in number to safely settle. Eventually, it took some time but they were able to get back to safety. With his elite group and the remnants of the army that stayed behind to reinforce the area, they were able to keep the area at peace. Unfortunately, things recently have been too quite. I hope this turns out to be a good decision. Typically when an enemy in the area turns inactive, they have retreated. The commander here did not think so, he is sure they are planning something big.

I hope his hunch is right. He has been at this far longer than I have. I just don’t want to be kept in an area that is already causing mental anguish, as well as keeping me from coin, paired with doing something good. Yet, if this turns out to be right, then I’ll have to be sure to stay alive or I won’t be able to see the coin I have kept be used for good use. Either way, my senseless bantering with myself won’t make this any easier. I even though we rangers don’t need to follow command, we are sworn to protect the weak. I’m sure with the twelve of us here, along with the army’s rank and file, in addition to the few individual adventurers that have shown up, this should go better than what was initially expected.

It was best for us to scout the area. We were set in a good spot. The tavern was right on the crossroads and was fairly lit to. The back end of the tavern and up the road was all camps with guards on routed patrols, so nothing was going to come behind us to easily. They were forced to either come up a hill to the tavern, or wade across a lake.
A set of our scouts found a few penitents that were feeling brave. They came to the hill down the way from the tavern. They did not seem to be making haste to our location, but were headed in our direction. We rallied the nearby fighters and assembled a shield wall to defend the one point of access to the tavern. Almost as if we were in sync, our shields formed a line. A handful of penitent approached, one of them stepped forward as a speaker. As he stepped forward he rambled on about some non-sense. A lot of the same stuff I heard before. Instead of in the cover of night, this was during the day! It was something I don’t think I have seen before. I know doomsayers when I see them, yet this was far beyond that. He was actually trying to convince us to give our life essence over to whatever dark god they worshiped! I’ll admit the anger in my heart nearly over took my action. While he was boasting, we were reinforced by some of the Vandregon Army. The reinforcements joined the rest of us in making a shield wall. In a unifying one step forward we preceded, one step at a time, in this slow fashion until we could get in range to charge and exterminate the vermin. I don’t recall us taking any losses, although I think a few of us were slightly wounded. These penitents had nothing of value on them. Their weapons had no value, no armor, and nothing of worth in jewelry. This would not be easy to make a profit off of pilfering the bodies. Looks like we will have to add them to a pyre see if we can’t scare the ones that are alive to break and run.

I got a better look with who was in the fight, I got to meet Bucky, stalwart and proud, perhaps a little too proud for his own good; Corporal Tavin, level headed drunkard. I’ve never seen someone drink as much as he does and still swing a claymore straight the next day. There was also Paladin Artenen, Fighter Zo, and a few other people.
I decided it was best to separate from the rest of the rangers and find a spot in the tavern to look over some material that was found before we arrived. A few journals and a few letters and notes; one of them was the book we found in the grotto last year. Another was a letter about the Captain’s whereabouts and orders. Another, was a really strange journal, the writer was obviously deranged and crazy. He was either crazy, or he was speaking so metaphorically that no one would be able to capture what he was talking about. I spent a good hour on the journal, but nothing came of it.

Ayaton’s Rangers were tasked with patrols and keeping the perimeter safe. This is a little, inferior to what we are used to but it’s what the Captain wanted. The good side, I was thinking that he trusted our eyes a little more than the other’s out in the rank and file. Yet at the same time he was, in opinion, keeping his best troops in the most harm.
One of our scouting groups found the May’Kar. They were a pair of priests that were able to do great acts of healing. Perhaps sent from the divines to help us in this god forsaken are?. With them in the ranks… well, behind the ranks, we would be able to withstand an onslaught of what penitent could bring to us. Despite only being two people, they were able to heal far more than anyone else could. I tried to spend some time with them, but they were recluse and not too chatty. Very driven to help, not to teach or instruct. We did have some good conversations about the healing arts.

If memory serves correctly, one of our scouting groups witnessed a mass of penitent forming along an open field. They were armed and obviously not looking to surrender their arms. We had a bit of time to muster the forces before the battle happened. We decided rather than use our assault group; we were going to use the rank and file of the army. Although the assault forces were able to fell five or ten people, they would fall eventually. Especially with some of the individual hero’s that were there.

We won a fairly decisive victory. I personally stayed behind to help the May’Kar heal up the soldiers and valuable people that came back. Some did not make it past the battle, but a majority did. They did release some Undead on the troops. This was one of the few times I broke from my healing tasks to bless weapons or throw the wrath of the divine on them, shattering them into dust. Not too much to write since I was not overseeing the fight or personally taking part. The only time I did step onto the field of combat was at the end, when they broke and ran back to the forest.

The rest of the daylight faded away. We healed up who we could, repaired armor, restocked arms. Took a count of losses and said our goodbyes to the dead. One of the scouting parties happened across a journal that perhaps pointed to the remains of a Paladin of long ago, burying an artifact with him at his grave. This may give us the edge. Since Paladins are the direct counter to undead, if we harnessed this artifact. Then perhaps we will gain a solid victory over the penitent, and perhaps drive them from the land. I was egger to read the pages of that journal, but alas I never got hold of it. For when the Captain looked at it, they started drawing strategies and theorizing where it could be. This is the time when he called Ayaton, and his handpicked group to arms to find it. I wish we had more time, because searching for the artifacts during the night was not going to go well.

I was a part of Ayatons main force to go find the artifact. We had a clue and that was it. If memory serves correctly all that we had was ‘where the trees and blood meet’. It took us a good hour to find the location. When we did, we found a ghost flanked with two other ghosts. It spoke to us, asking us questions and answering any question with a question. It asked over all if we were to be worthy of this task. Just as if on cue, some penitent ambushed us from the bushes and darkness.

A few of us fell to wounds, but none of us came out dead. Seeing that, the ghost of the paladin found us worthy and showed the location of his artifact. The trees whispered Ayaton’s name that night. It was an odd yet refreshing breeze that frolicked in the trees. We brought the artifact back to the camp. After fighting off a few more Undead that made their way into the camp, looking for the artifact, we did as much as we could in the time we had, and had to wait for sunrise.

The artifact its self was a fairly ornate wooden, lack of a better term, stick. It seemed to be that of a Celtic knot design inscribed in the stick. I didn’t recognize who the patron deity was but it was a double sided cross design. The Celtic knot bordered the edges. After we got some sleep, the May’Kar looked into the relic. It seemed to hold its own life force, allowing those that could use magic an extra source to draw from, it could also be destroyed and completely obliterating all undead in a wide area. Unfortunately it was only the size of a small battle field, so it would not purge these lands.

When morning hit us, scouts found a few penitent that were already battle worn and in a fit of fanaticism, attacked the scouts. They were shouting “we have a doom stone”. Unsure what these unholy sounding doom stones were, we came to the May’Kar again. They seemed a little shocked with what we said by doom stone. They informed us that doom stones were pure evil, so much evil that any living creature would be rendered down to its very structure with pain, wounds, and pure agony. The undead would be unaffected and perhaps empowered by this as well! So, if they have a doom stone, they are making a secure foot hold. The only thing that I figured we have is ranged weaponry, intelligence and agility. Yet, if one of us steps foot inside that effected area of the doom stone, we will be dead, and offering ourselves as a free meal. The May’Kar also provided a means to destroy the doom stone. To smash the paladin’s relic into the stone, shattering it and destroying it. Thus, freeing up the section of land and removing the possible breeding point of evil.

The real trick would be on how to infiltrate close enough to actually slam the artifact into the doom stone! The May’Kar had a way around that. Since we can’t step into the affected area without dying, we would be able to combine our cleric powers to create a leap frog style, divine barrier. We would have to take turns casting and holding the barrier so we could get close enough to smash the stone. The affected area was roughly fifty feet in diameter from the stone from what the scouts reported. The penitents were also keeping out of the area. The few that did not watch where they were died a horrible agonizing death. While the other penitent were cheering their ‘passing’ it reminded us that it was indiscriminant. I do wonder how that stone was set up! I’m assuming it was created with sacrifice of the bodies and blood of the ones who performed a ritual of some sort, or perhaps it was just a place rot with evil and cropped up. If THAT is the case, then we may have to cleanse these lands, least we find ourselves jumping off the continent in fear.

By this time all of the factors were thinning our man power. The battles, night fights, ambushes, and scouring, we were getting thin on troops. This one called the independent adventurers. We were going to go as a strike force, hit hard and quick. Hopefully clear the area out of penitent, then hopefully wind around and seek protection with the priests of divine barrier to shelter us from the undead. We closed in and saw the omniscient site. The area around the doom stone was dead, no growth or anything. The plants, trees, and anything living seemed to be as if it were ravaged by war for a thousand years. Just hard dirt, dead grass, and hollow trees. If these crazies known as penitent were set on doing this to the land, why trade a free life for the life of shackles and walls? All evil leaders I have met don’t share power. To me, this was pure lunacy. Best to kill them before we find out it is infectious and have to kill every good man, woman, and child in the area. These are desperate times, but I will not lose my head about this business. Nothing good has ever come from panic.

Upon seeing how much death was in the area I did think that this would be my last moment, to die destroying a rock. It was black, with runes and symbols on it. It glowed with evil. We began our march on the doom stone. The fighters flanked the sides and crushed the flanks giving us the ample time to set our path. One of the May’Kar went first with her divine barrier, then the other, and then I had to step in. And two more May’Kar divine barriers later we were at the rock. One of them held the barrier over the rock and the other began a prayer. That was when from the tree tops an eagle eyed sniper shot the May’Kar that was holding the barrier through the hand and up the arm. With the immediate ceasing of the power, we all collapsed to the ground faster than rocks off a trade cart. We tried to crawl our way out. It felt as if our veins were filled with razors, our skin was peeling off, and our vision was slowly going dark. That was when I was pulled up from the ground and slammed on a rock. An undead ripped what little flesh was together apart. The world grew black and cold as I saw the dream state.

I then saw with my own eyes lush fields with rolling hills. A large monetary with a bustle of activity, as I got closer I could hear training drills being shouted from just beyond the walls. I approached the main gate and a thin woman veiled in a hood but with what few features showed perfectly beautiful. She slammed a large maul in front of herself. She said “your task is not done”. With a tap of the hammers head on the ground, a quake began. I fell through the cracks and found myself alive with both the May’Kar around me, mending my wounds together with divine magic’s. They did not look in the best of condition. Their wounds protruded through their white vestments, but had signs of magical mending. With the three of us barely able to move I realized that one of the May’Kar had the divine barrier up, and the other one was beginning her mantra again to destroy the stone. My blade was in no need at this point. The penitent upped their resolve to take out the May’Kar. They lined up their archers in the tree line just outside of the affected area, and began raining arrows on the location. Either my shield becomes a pin cushion or my body will look like a porcupine. Arrow after arrow and trick shot after shot, the arrows came in. Deflecting or absorbing them into my shield, until I heard a shout of furry behind me. One of the May’Kar with significant force, generated by the divines, channeled through her arms, shattered the doom stone! The evil that permeated the area dissipated, the penitent broke and ran, and the dead left the area.
We got our broken weary bodies back to the main camp and tavern. We suffered heavy losses that fight. Most of the adventurers were dead and quite a few footmen were too. As we came back to report our success, it was countered with some chilling news. A banshee was on the loose and looking for vengeance for destroying her doom stone and routing her plans for the area. We had enough time to get patched up, armored repaired, weapons sharpened and honed, and assemble with the troops. Our ranger squad was down to a handful. Ayaton, Ronin, myself and two others I forgot the names of.

Without much any delay after the necessary was done, we lined up on the field of battle. We positioned ourselves with a lake to the left of us so they could not flank us, and a dense forest that even the Syndar were not able to traverse on the right of us. A wide open field in front of us, the worst part was all of our survival supplies and gear was destroyed or used. The May’Kar were exhausted and had no manna to assist in the battle. I was then called out of pure duty to fill my cleric roll and heal the wounded. I would have to spare myself from the fight, and only engage the very select targets. The men were to engage any human they could find, and lead the undead to me so I would be able to destroy them with holy wrath. Simple plan, but I doubt it will be that simple when the fighting intensifies.

Line after line of penitent crashed up against our shield wall. Victory seemed inevitable, until the Undead came in. We were taking few losses and what wounded did come back, I was able to patch back together or heal magically. Rather than waste the time on blessing weapons, it was much easier to do holy wrath on the Undead. The main difference was time in this battle. I have to spend a few minutes with a mantra over the blade of choice to imbue it with the power. Then, the soldier needs to beat the Undead into submission, and then activate the Holy Word to banish the Undead. With Holy Wrath, that is all bypassed. A sudden surge of power thrust through the channeled caster and the Undead is destroyed. The disadvantage is the troops are helpless until help arrives.

Moral was fading a bit when the Undead broke the line. We had to go from our straight line to staggered line formation to allow the Undead to be ensnared in the Holy Wrath. When they figured this out, that’s when the piercing screams of The Banshee came around. Her piercing scream got in our heads. Every scream seemed to emanate from the mind rather than from her. This started to turn the tide, destroy the moral, and tilt the favor in the penitent’s advantage. No amount of physical abuse was able to stop The Banshee. Arrows just stayed where they hit and did not impede her movement. Blades only came away with dust and cloth, and then left the blades men open. I remember seeing one of our own rangers grab on to the back of The Banshee and attempt to sever her head. Like child’s play, she grabbed him and held him high and screamed in his face With that, his head exploded. After seeing that, Ayaton called the Wing Protocol… this was for all remaining Rangers to leave the field of battle. The only issue was … it was only Ayaton and I. When he called the Wing Protocol, I began to leave, and then saw the rest of the forces collapse. I had to stay. I was the reason they were wining. I came back, rejuvenated with some potions I found. With no mercy, slaying any human being in my way, and showing the furry of the Divines with my hands. A woman’s soft, yet commanding voice told me to march on. I went forward, blazing a trail of blood, and coming up to a man proclaiming our doom. I thrust my sword through his back, and watched him sputter and die. With that, the horde and Banshee left. We sustained heavy losses. It was a bitter sweet victory. Just before the doomsayer breathed his last, he asked, ‘where do you come from’. As if someone else was in my body, I showed my vestments with an emblazoned seal of Ethnessa on it. He screamed in pain as he bled out and died.

We lost over 130 good men and women that day. All the adventurers that came died; the only three that made it were Ayaton, Corporal Tavin, and myself. Was this the price that we were to pay for our continued survival? Were these few measly coins what we deserve for ‘saving the day’? Without Ayaton and I, this area would be torched and full of death. Yet we were only granted some extra time to recover. Other than that, it was business as usual. I was so furious that I wanted to leave. Yet, I know that would not be the best. Yet, I did have a lot to weigh on my mind.

I wrote my exact thoughts in a journal that I left behind. I know not where it went. I remember being furious, and full of anger. I may have written or said some things I don’t remembered. For now, I will continue to find what power holds this evil here and destroy it. We can’t fight this war forever. At this rate, we will lose, and we will all bow a knee to the dark and evil ones.

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