After the combined efforts of many different researchers, scholars, and adventurers last year at the research luncheon, things look promising for Celestial Arragones and her team. With a focus initially on divination methods that shifted towards deciphering research logs and revealing their mysteries, the focus shifts yet again towards a larger application. The research team worked together with others to try to decide which direction to go in their grand ritual. It was decided that creating and focusing the ritual efforts on corruption magic and its unique properties would be the goal. After a very large and tense ritual, its successful completion allowed the research team to learn even more about corruption.
An opportunity presented to the researchers came from the March of Starkhaven, or more specifically, the Order of Arnath. Within the Church’s possession is a small Hellenstone; a precious and rare gem that reacts in unique ways to different types of mana. These fabled items were sought after on Faedrun by Vandregonian and Grand Alliance Generals because of their ability to fight against or cleanse the properties of dark magic powering the undead. Order Scholars have studied the properties of the Hellenstone for quite some time and exhausted some of their abilities. What they have learned, however, is that through unique scrying methods they have determined that there is another Hellenstone on Mardrun. The location they are confident they have divined is in the center of the Dirge Swamp.
Celestial Arragones and her research team have decided to work together with the Order of Arnath and send an expedition into the heart of the Dirge. This expedition has two main goals; find this Hellenstone and recover it and search for clues as to why there is one in the center of the swamp. This could be a unique opportunity to uncover even more mysteries and potentially gain a potent anti-corruption weapon in the future. However, time is of the essence… the longer an expedition stays in the swamp, the greater the chance of discovery by a large mordok group. With luck, the expedition will slip past larger mordok groups or repel smaller roaming mordok that discover them during the journey. Finding this location and conducting research in the limited window of time before needing to return to a safe pathway out of the swamp will be crucial to the success of the expedition.
Last month, a successful food contract between the City-State of Newhope and Clan Goldenfield has prepared the expedition with considerable food supplies which are sure to benefit their chances of success. After a long delay, the research team leaders are finally moving forward with the expedition and begin gathering volunteers for this dangerous mission.
When the party arrived at the forward camp they were made aware of some strange corruptive forces in the area that were making people sick. Luckily a ritual had been developed to sanctify a space against the corruption, though it had to be recharged every hour and only covered the small area of the camp. Once the camp was secure the research teams set out to run scrying rituals on the area to gather as much information as they could about the assumed origin of the corruption as well as pin down the location of the suspected Hellenstone.
Unfortunately for the party, corruption was not the only thing lurking in the heart of the Dirge; small bands of Mordok were found to be patrolling the area. A few made their way toward the camp and seemed to gesture at the expeditionary forces to turn back, but by and large they did not attack the camp itself. The research teams and their guards that ventured out of the camp were not so lucky. As the day progressed and the teams pushed further into the swamp the fighting became more brutal. Whereas earlier in the day the Mordok seemed willing to pull back as the fights turned against them, by the end they showed no such desire to retreat. Several members of the expeditionary team met their fate at the end of sword and arcane magic and those that survived largely did not escape unscathed. To make matters worse a new type of Mordok Shaman made an appearance wielding magic before unseen. As people lay dying on the ground this Mordok could be seen weaving the threads of corruption into their body. In the end however the allied forces were able to eke out a pyrrhic victory. With the Mordok soundly beaten back the researchers were able to complete the last of their scrying and locate the Hellenstone, one larger than anyone could have imagined. Unfortunately the strange Shaman escaped the battle and there is no doubt the likes of them will be seen again.
Back in the camp many people reported having frightening and emotional visions while deep in meditation. Rumors have started to swirl about these visions as well as the information gathered by the scrying rituals. Only time will tell if they come forward with any new and valuable information.
When victory was achieved the camp quickly began to break down and move back out of the swamp. As the reserve camp broke down, unbeknownst to anyone, an Order researcher started to get additional anomalous Hellenstone readings. At the time he wrote them off as being artefacts in the readings from the proximity to the larger stone, but as the party moved south he became more and more certain that there must be even more Hellenstones buried in the center of the swamp whose existence had been masked by the larger stone itself.
In the end the expedition was able to safely exit The Dirge Swamp without being further harassed by Mordok thanks to the concerted efforts by many individuals and organizations and to top it off the presence of many dedicated clerics meant that the ambient corruption was able to be purged from the expeditionary forces bodies during the return trip. There should be no doubt that the dedicated level of support given to this expedition played a crucial role in it’s ability to return home with the Hellenstone and the new arcane readings.
LORE DROP UPDATE:
Ever since the recent expedition returned from the swamp rumors have been starting to circulate throughout the continent regarding what was uncovered. Unfortunately there have been no official statements from Arragones, but that has just served to further the spread of the rumors. Some people are even saying that Arragones’ people are trying to cover up the findings.
All collected together the rumors tell of people having visions in the swamp while meditating as well as ancient recording devices sharing information through various scrying rituals. Stories run rampant about echoes of incredible magical power and of visions of being encased in a crystalline structure while being taunted by Syndar in strange clothes. People trade rumors of seeing visions of beings that displayed the most idealized traits of both Syndar and Ulven, appearing as well-built Syndar at first, but seen casting Witch Magic and smiling with fanged teeth.
More rumors spread of visions of the being encased in crystal breaking containment and the frantic work of the surrounding Syndar to seal the cracks before she broke free, but they were unable to do so. The being broke free from the containment with such incredible power that the trees in the area were nearly blown over. Multiple rumors tell of people hearing her voice during the scrying ritual speak. The exact wording changes depending on who tells the story, but they all share a few details. She called out the Syndar for their hubris in thinking they could contain her and told them that she would do something to them worse than hollowing and then she would make sure that neither she, they, nor their ‘favoured children’ would ever forget what happened there that day and the lesson she would teach.
The last of the visions seemed to come from the point of view of one of these strange fanged Syndar as they watched one by one as their friends around them fell to their knees screaming before the same fate befell them. The rumors speak of being in incredible pain and surrounded by nothing but darkness until a pinhole of light broke through and carried with it a soothing voice that told them, “Don’t worry child. Mother is here and she’ll take the pain away.”
Beyond all the talk of visions and scrying rituals many different people talk about how the area itself seemed to have been the site of a great deal of industry. Trees were cut and removed and all signs pointed to them having been dragged north. Keen eyes found broken ropes and Mordok clothing along these northward tracks.
After these rumors and stories spread for a while a proclamation is released from the offices of Celestial Arragones.
“To the people of Mardrun,
It has come to the attention of This One that some rumors have been spreading regarding strange visions and scrying readings in The Swamp. These rumors should be considered unfounded and untrue as no official information has yet been released to the public. The researchers are unaware of who began to spread these erroneous rumors, but worry not as This One has begun a concerted effort the source of these falsities.
Official information releases will come in the following weeks. Patience is a virtue, but comes with greater rewards than the spread of incorrect information.
-From The Desk of Her Grace, Celestial Arragones, Duchess of Newhope; dictated not read.”