The Great Library of Palanthas

An Aesthetic shows you to a small reading room.

Stories of Ansalon from the view of Sylphshade.

A little gully dwarf runs by and says 'Wordwrap Off 65 80.'
The gully continues 'Eyes hurt? Turn Color OFF!! (regular story dates)

Astinus says 'Enter the main library here to view only the author list.'
Astinus gently places a worn book on the table in front of you.
You note the spine bears the word 'Sylphshade' scribed in dark grey ink.

Author:    Sylphshade     
Date:      Sat Dec  8 18:52:13 2012
Subject     The Call North

I was sitting in the Council Chambers, Dragonarmy Headquarters, bored and restless. A lot had happened since I left Nightlund to serve as an executioner for the Red Wing. The old Emperor, some elf of all things, had abdicated. Some fear the Baroness from the Blue Wing was going to usurp him, replacing him with, from what I had heard, a drunken priest. At any rate he fled to parts unknown, leaving the throne empty. The heir apparent had wandered off again, and the Baroness, disgusted with the politics in Sanction, returned, with her regiment, to her home in the mountains above the city of Neraka. Then the call to invade Nordmaar came in, and I was sent to scout out Kalaman while the bulk of the army went to Nordmaar. That city fell quickly, and the force then turned to Kalaman, with part of the Blue Wing marching south to Kern. The Red Wing had moved to invade Silvanost, with the Black Wing in support. After the Blue Wing had picked up allies (mostly ogres) they moved south to join with the Red Wing. My small company scouted Kalaman, made our reports to the remainder of the Blue Wing, which then pretty much butchered the city. We then headed south to Sanction, which is where I find myself now. I have performed a few executions here, some leftover toadies of the old Emperor, which at times felt more like assassinations then anything else. No one really seems in charge here. Anyway, the war in the south grinded to a halt, the elves all but losing their forests, and in the north where they await further direction. There are no graveyards, cemetaries, columbariums, polyandrium or even ossuaries here in Sanction. Seems the prefered method of burial is to cast the remains into the lava flow that winds through the city. The priests of Sirrion and Sargonnas seem happy with that, but, it robs a city of a serene and restful park, I think. No real monuments, at least none that are really permanent. Just an ever flowing stream of fire and lava. Which is quite more offensive to the senses, the smell of sulpher is everywhere. I believe I will head north myself, at least as far as Jelek, there are forests up there. I will stop in Neraka to see if there are any postings needing my talents, if not, may as well go on to Nightlund and wait for another calling from my Lord.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Mon Sep 16 19:44:00 2013 Subject A Play to Empty Seats

A light wind blew dust across the plains. The sky was clear but the air had a chill in it. Pulling her cloak closer around her shoulders, she shuddered slightly. The plains of Taman Busak were far from her home in Nightlund. Far from the warm, misty forests that surrounded the many small polyandriums that dotted the landscape. Still, she waited patiently. Her Lord would expect no less. He was never in a hurry, all things came to Him, sooner or later. Looking down the broad road toward's Neraka, she saw the horsemen approach. It was rare any other Wing of the Dragonarmy called for her services. So long had the Red Wing kept her travelling, busy in the further reaches of the Empire, she began to wonder who applied the skills of the carnifex in the larger cities. But even now, it was far outside the gates that she was expected to perform her duties. The mounted soldiers were not what one would expect of the Blue Wing. They were unkempt, worn, if not for the steel in their eyes, one would say tired and spent. She climbed the steps to the weather-worn platform and took her place by the block. Drawing the large blade from it's sheath, she planted the square tip firmly against the deck, both hands on the grip and took the proper stance. The lead rider slipped down from the saddle and climbed the steps to face her. Most of his face was wrapped in a blue cloth, his eyes black slits in the wind. The other riders pushed a man off his horse. His hands were bound behind him, and he lander with a thud on his side, his head hitting the gravelly dirt hard. The others dragged him to his knees, then up the steps to the block. He did not fight back, he had accepted his fate. Good. The less fuss there was, the better this would go. The leader of the group handed her a rolled parchment, a gruff voice growling out. "By Order of the New Emperor, we leave this in your hands." Nodding her assent, she tucked the scroll in her belt. Shrugging back the cloak to free her shoulders, the wind caught the black material, unfurling it like the dark wings of a raven. The client drew a shaking breath, but still behaved well. What they did to convince him to be so placid was effective. She pondered asking them, but that would make her look less professional. Besides, she had her own methods. He leaned forward, head stretched out, readied. She took to one knee beside him, head tilted towards him. He shook his head. No last words. She leaned closer, whispering to him, barely audible above the wind. "Look at me for the very last time, see if you find any life in my eyes." The man visibly paled, a sheen of sweat despite the dry air. He looked into her eyes, a low gasping moan escaped his chest. She stood, raising the blade high above her head, standing slightly askance, chanting. She watched him shudder one last time, then brought the blade down quickly. There was no resistance. The blade sliced cleanly. Her gratitude to her Lord was great. She had stopped the blade's arc mere inches from the deck, which brought a slight smile to her lips. Perfect. Only one of the riders had turned away. The others seemed bored. The leader nodded, tossing a small pouch of coin at her feet. The headless body spasmed a bit, then a pool of blood formed around it. The head lay nearby, eyelids still twitching. She drew the scroll out, handing it back to the leader, who unrolled it, then held it before her, for her mark to be added. Placing her thumb in the client's blood, she made to press it upon the parchment. Pausing to read it, her eyes narrowed, she hesitated. "Problem?" "It refers to a Highlord called Saige, of the Blue Wing. Not an Emperor" The man just made a sound between a grunt and a laugh. "Details. It will be ammended shortly" He grabbed her wrist, pressing the thumb on the page. Nodding curtly, he turned, going down the steps back to his horse. With a brief salute, they rode off, back towrds Neraka. She retrieved the pouch, placing it in a pocket. Taking a last look at the client,she made to her own horse. Pulling a cloth from the saddle bag, she cleaned the blade, then coated it with a fine oil. Returning it to the sheath, she then mounted the animal, and made her way south.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Oct 2 00:03:04 2013 Subject I have a few friends...

I lashed the horse again, trying to urge it to go even faster. Not that I think the poor thing could go any faster. Looking behind me I could still see the riders chasing me, waving their swords like they believed they could hit me from way back there. I saw a flash of green cloth, like surcoats, made me strongly suspect it was the same fellows who came after me in Jelek a month earlier. Some people hold a grudge, and these guys still blamed me for the ordered execution of one of their brothers. I had a warrant! But back then I had an escort too. Now I had a horse that was tiring fast. Looking around trying to get some advantage with the terrain, i started to recognize where I was. If I was right, a polyandrium should be atop the next rise. It was an old one, but should do in a pinch. I was out of options otherwise. I drove the horse up the hill, there was a short rock-pile type wall around the vast grounds. We went past the collapsing gate, when the horse slowed, stumbled, then fell to the ground. I rolled away then started running up to the obelisk at the center. I could hear the riders below outside the wall. I had to work fast. I reached the obelisk, turned and dropped to one knee. I held my blade before me and began the chant. I had never chanted so fervently as now. I could feel the cold around me increase, an almost frostlike chill. The riders had dismounted, and were coming closer, weapons in hand. They were concentrating on me, I was concentrationg on the graves. I could feel the earth moving around the graves, while they did not notice. They had stopped several paces from where I kneeled. I continued the chant as they laughed darkly at me. I could feel blood starting to seep from my nose. I stopped. I looked up at them, scowling. Then spoke a single word. "Alere!" They looked amused, then noticed the movement around them. The warriors of the past had arisen from their graves, and burned with a hunger that shone as a green sickly glow where their eyes once were, Hundreds of corpses surrounded them. Some bare bone, some with tatters of flesh still clinging. A few in pieces of old armor, carrying rusted swords, axes or spears. One or two appeared to be minor liches, still afire with ancient magic. The riders at first froze, then fought to defend themselves from the undead onslaught. The corpses did not feel the bite of the riders weapons, but the riders felt the tearing of their own flesh, as they were overwhelmed by the mass. They screamed as they were fed upon. The tearing of fresh human meat, the snapping of bones. It was musical in its own way. Later, as the night fell darker, I sat with my back against the obelisk. I managed to save one of their horses. The others I had to feed to one of the undead who had not feasted on the manflesh I had brought. That creature was still with me. It wanted to talk. I had to grant it that wish, I had called it awake after all. But first, it had to feed on the remaining horses. If you have never seen dracolich eat, I wouldn't recommend it if you have a full stomach.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Tue Oct 8 01:59:38 2013 Subject A Night in the Tavern--Sylphshade's Perspective

I had made my way into the mountains south of the Ruins at Hau, angling westward toward Bludgeon, then would make north for Bloten. It was getting late now and I needed to find a safe haven for the night. Following an old trail, I made for what appeared to be an old abandoned town. More like three or four decrepit shacks standing in a cluster along side the trail. One of the hovels looked to once have been a small inn, and was in slightly better shape that the others. I rode up to it, dismounted and took a quick look inside. As long as it didn't rain, should be alright. Even the fire pit looked serviceable. I found an area out of the wind for my horse and the mule to spend the night, then went about making the place more habitable, for the short term. After digging around a bit, seems it used to ba a tavern. The bar was collapsing, only one standing table, some sturdy chairs that were well weathered. Broken crockery, rotted casks. Nothing of use, most of it would become fuel for my fire. I fetched a pot from my knapsack, some winter sausage, white cheese and dark bread, and nibbled away while waiting for the water to boil for some dream tea. I sat back, wrapping my cloak tighter around me, and studied the place, wondering what happened to the people, who built this place, what stories the walls could tell. There must have been a barkeep, who would have been up on all the local gossip and news. I pictured a fat, short man with a balding head, shuffling quickly from patron to patron, large hands carrying frothing tankards to noisy tables of revelers. Perhaps an equally rotund barmaid, perhaps his wife, dancing plates of sliced meat and mash from the kitchen to hungry customers. Old men sitting close to the fire, recalling tales of the glory days. Perhaps even a lovable dog eagerly waiting for some tidbit to drop on the floor, only to disappear in a quck bite. Now, only stark shadows from my fire danced in the darkness. The wind sang alone, loose shutter somewhere banging its own chaotic time. The kitchen cold, the food gone, the casks turning to dust. One table, no waiting. Seating for four. As I sipped my tea, listening to the sounds, thinking of the journey ahead, I begin to sense a familiar presence, a shadow in the dark, sitting in one of the chairs. Two yellow pinpoints where eyes would be stabbed at me. My Lord was paying me a visit. "Well my little thrall, we are bored. Entertain us, my Holy Knight." The Lord of Death then laughed. To Be Continued....

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Oct 9 01:33:30 2013 Subject A Night in the Tavern--Sylphshade's Perspective 2

I sat there at a loss, not afraid but not quite comfortable, while he looked around. The eyes came back to me, as he materialized into full view, an impish grin on a pale face, dressed in dark purple finery. He folded his hands on his lap, waiting for me to respond. I stood quickly, bowing deeply, having no idea what he expected of me. "I expect you to entertain me, with some story, perhaps a song, something to soothe the monotony of this dull and colourless place." I was taken aback, having forgotten his knowing my every thought. This seemed to amuse him. he looked around again and pointed to the table. "Drag that over here, and place a chair at each end. Place the fourth chair a distance equal to mine on the opposite side. That is where you will sit. Our guests will sit across from each other for their game tonight." I did as he bade, all the while wondering what 'guests' he would be refering to. When I finished he gestured for me to be seated. "When they arrive, you must remain in that chair the whole while, resist the temptation to stand or you will be lost to this world. I would be very annoyed if you were to leave my service now." His gaze intensified as he spoke the last few words, eyes boring into my soul as only Death's gaze could. I nodded my understanding, still mute from this dire visitation. As he sat back, the fire went out and a mist drifted about the table, illuminating it seemingly without a true light source. As the mist thickened, the table and chairs somehow became much clearer, the images sharper than mortal sight could almost bear. In one chair an apparition, covered completely in a pale, gray hooded robe appeared, a shriveled grey hand grasping a worn and rusted scythe sat. He placed a white hourglass, sand running endlessly down, on the table. In the other chair sat a similar figure, clad in all black, one skeletal hand holding a clean, dark scythe while the other placed a black hourglass, the dark sand swirling slowly in the bottom globe. All sound had stopped, even the wind outside had gone still. I could clearly hear myself breathe, my heart beat, even my blood flow so heavy was the silence. My Master leaned forward, slamming down a deck of cards upon the table, a leer across his perfect face. "So you wonder what tales these walls could tell of the Tavern on the Mountain?" His voice was soft and seductive, yet menacing all the same. He waved a hand to the grey apparition, "This is Time, Father Time I believe you mortals call him, although he knows no family. Time is Eternal, nothing more, nothing less." My Master than glanced at the black figure casually, and I knew his presence as I knew my own for this was what I represented for my Master in the mortal realm, as he allowed me to do so in his holy service. "You know this one as Death, who conquers all and is Eternal as well." My Master looked at me again, excitement in his demeanor. "You know, Time and Death even affect we gods? Not in a way you would understand, but even we feel their existence. And they have no soul, my little slave. They are truly Eternal." He sat back in his chair, still glowing with excitment. "Now, we shall watch them play, and hear the stories you are so curious about." To be Continued....

Author: Sylphshade Date: Thu Oct 10 01:19:51 2013 Subject A Night in the Tavern--Sylphshade's Perspective 3

Time reached for a card first, drawing one of the long cards slowly, then holding it up at eye level to Death. The room around the table changed, daylight streamed in the door and window. A fresh smell of new pine hung lightly in the air, mingling with the aroma of fresh baked bread. Outside I could see a few rows of tents, a caravan, someone hammering on the unfinished building next to ours. A teenaged boy guided a small herd of goats down the streets as a group of miners headed to the door. They entered bellowing a greeting to the youngish man behind the bar. Mugs were filled with a potent ale while a young woman stuck her head out from the kitchen, yelling her own greeting at the party. The men took no notice of us, meaning we were cloaked by my Lord's spell. The woman came out, obviously with child, plopping down bowls of a rich looking stew to each miner. Time sped on. The young man was a bit older, the scene outside more finished. More tents, two or three caravans, more miners. The woman came out of the kitchen to a crowded room, more food to serve. In the corner near the firepit sat two children, a boy and a younger girl. The place bustled with activity as the days quickly sailed by. Then on one occasin, as the sun set, in came what looked to be a begger. He shuffled around the tables, face unseen from the rags he wore as a hood. The miners shoved the man, berating him to leave, casting insults at him. The begger quietly headed to the door, pausing to hand a copper coin to the little girl. The father oushed the begger out the door, then went to take the coin from the girl. He looked at it in disgust, then threw it out on the street. I caught a glimpse of it before he cast it out. The small scrawled rat foot sign scratched into the copper. The card Time held disolved into dust. Death then slowly drew a card, and held it up in the same manner. The cold sun dimly lit the room, now occupied by just a few, unhealthy looking folk. Their eyes dead, dark bags under them. No one sang, no one talked, they only stared into their mugs. Outside rough looking teamsters drove emaciated mules down the trail to the valley. Small bands of tired, worn men sat in the mud where brightly covered wagons once tethered. A scrawny young boy was behind the bar, wrestling to place a keg up on the rack. He too looked tired, and all but spent, yet still worked hard at his tasks. A woman, his mother but looking much older and worn as well, came out from the kitchen to help him, all the while his protests falling on deaf ears. When they had placed the keg, the old woman brushed his hair back, then looking at the corner where the children once sat, sighed heavily, then returned to the cooking. The boy looked over at the empty stool that sat there. The straw and cloth doll that sat alone atop it. He too turned, losing himself in his work. Death waved his card, it turned to smoke and vanished. Time drew another, and held it up. Now the boy was older, not yet a man yet but close to that step. Outside the street was bare, a single group of riders newly arrived just now securing their mounts. The fire burned smokily, the mother sat near its feeble warmth. The kegs looked to be empty, only the clay bottles of the vile plains wine sat behind the bar.The silence was broken by the heavy boots of the riders, barbarians from Khur from the looks of them. Three went to the bat whike the other two leered and, looking like wolves stalking, moved to the woman. They began to poke and pull at her, growling obscenities while the ones at the bar cheered them on. The boy ran out of the kitchen, pushing them away from the motionless figure of his mother. One drew a heavy wooden cudgel and clipped the boy across his face. As the barbarian continued to beat him, the boy watched as the others dragged his mother into the kitchen, grabbing bottles of the cheap wine as they went by. It was to be a long night. As before, the card Time held turned to dust. Again, Death drew a card. To Be Continued...

Author: Sylphshade Date: Fri Oct 11 01:45:23 2013 Subject A Night in the Tavern--Sylphshade's Perspective 4

The light was now very dim, the scenes grey and muted as dust gently swirled about the room. In a chair setting by the now cold fireplace sat an old man, eyes staring blindly at nothing, legs twisted and useless. A gaunt face, wrinkled and creased by pain, loss and sadness, now was no longer capable of expression. Each shallow breathe was drawn torturously, as if it was the last. But he continued to breathe, his heart to beat even though the will to live was long gone. He prayed for death, but Death's hand, while inches away, figuratively speaking, would not reach out to him. My Lord stood, and with a slight gesture, Time and Death disappeared, the room transformed back to the present, yet now across from me was the old man, feebly holding the card Time would have drawn. In my hand was the card Death had held. Now standing behind me, my Lord begin to speak. "You see my pet, mortals were given, foolishly I might add, the gift of Life. A gift from the gods. Now, I know from watching you, and my other children, that you all love gifts. Oh you make such a show of delight upon receiving such things as trinkets, sweetmeats, coin. It is sometimes disgusting the lengths you go to showing how fortunate you feel for such trash. And yet, Life, LIFE, you carelessly treat as you would the dirt on the ground. No, no you even treat the dirt better, caring for the farmer's lands or blessing the soil that covers the empty shells of your departed after you dispose of them in their graves." My Lord snorted in derision. "A Gift from ther very gods themselves, you take from each other selfishly, for land, money, slaves, for things that you want, you steal lives for things said to you, for things not said. Mortals wage wars, murder, commit incredible acts of stupidity, placing that Gift in peril, and the worst crime of all....they will destroy their own life." He stood before me now, pointing at me accusingly. "They even make people like you, to take that Gift like a thief." He took my chin in hand, lifting my gaze to His. "But you belong to me, what you do is in my name, so I forgive you that." He turned to the old man and pointed." He wants to die, to discard his gift. That I can not forgive. So I keep the gift of Death from him. I do this to teach you, my slave, to teach you that you give my Gift everytime you steal theirs." He roughly pulls me up to my feet, my face mere inches from his, his black eyes staring threateningly into mine. "Do NOT give that gift lightly, for they did not deserve Life to begin with." I found myself suddenly alone in that tavern. The sun was coming up, a clear indication of the event's surrealness. I was rested, aware and not hungry. I looked around, noticing that neither table or the chairs had really moved. The dust in the room had not been disturbed, and the fire had long burned out. I gathered my things and wondered what to make of what He had allowed me to see, the stories the walls kept secret. Life was a gift, but so was Death, yet we couldn't have both, and while I could give the gift of death, I could not give the gift of life. No one could, not in the same sense. You could save a life, I had even heard of a life being restored, but the original gift was one from the gods. And what of the old man. His life was pain and loss, was that the Gift the gods had intended? But then again, it was mortals who reshaped that gift, not the gods. My Lord had said the Gift was wasted on mortals. I could see the wisdom in those words now. Epilogue to Follow...

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sat Oct 12 00:13:43 2013 Subject A Night in the Tavern--Sylphshade's Epilogue

I finished loading up the mule with the bedroll and cook supplies and led it and my horse to the front of the tavern. I went in and fetched my satchel and looked around for the last time. I could hear the patrons singing still, the sounds of rattling plates and clanking mugs. The walls still remembered the good times, and the bad. I took a deep breath and sighed heavily. I walked out to my horse, and slung the satchel around the saddle horn. As I did this, I noticed a card stuck in one of the pockets and pulling it out, recognized it as the last card Death had drawn. Puzzled, I looked back to the tavern, and in the doorway was the crippled and blind old man, the last proprietor of the Tavern on the Mountain, holding up the card Time was to draw. He waved it around sightlessly, gasping and wheezing, unable to speak but communicating a desperation that was pitiful to behold. His twisted and bent legs made to walk, but he could not leave the doorway. We stood there for some time, he waving the card, I with head tilted, looking to him, and to the card I held. I had no emotion for this man. What was I to do when the decision was mine to make? Mine alone? I thought to myself, when I feel like I can feel once again, I can give myself time to describe these feelings, to understand them. I held the card up.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sat Oct 12 17:55:19 2013 Subject A Night in the Tavern--Sylphshade's Epilogue

I finished loading up the mule with the bedroll and cook supplies and led it and my horse to the front of the tavern. I went in and fetched my satchel and looked around for the last time. I could hear the patrons singing still, the sounds of rattling plates and clanking mugs The walls still remembered the good times, and the bad. I took a deep breath and sighed heavily. I walked out to my horse, and slung the satchel around the saddle horn. As I did this, I noticed a card stuck in one of the pockets and pulling it out, recognized it as the last card Death had drawn. Puzzled, I looked back to the tavern, and in the doorway was the crippled and blind old man, the last proprietor of the Tavern on the Mountain, holding up the card Time was to draw. He waved it around sightlessly, gasping and wheezing, unable to speak but communicating a desperation that was pitiful to behold. His twisted and bent legs made to walk, but he could not leave the doorway. We stood there for some time, he waving the card, I with head tilted, looking to him, and to the card I held. I had no emotion for this man. What was I to do when the decision was mine to make? Mine alone? I thought to myself, when I feel like I can feel once again, I can give myself time to describe these feelings, to understand them. I held the card up. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sun Oct 27 17:25:38 2013 Subject Visitors on the Road

So I made it out of the mountains, still heading south through the Khalkists from Sanction, on my way to Blodehelm and the citadel of Bloten. It had been two weeks since I boarded a small ship from Sanction to Queen's Shield, then trudged the grassy marshland through the passes, and finally the highlands above the city. A lot had happened in that time, the Magistrates in Sanction had elevated me from a simple executioner to the office of Inquisitor then shipped me off to find this new Emperor who was supposedly on his way to Bloten with the bulk of the Blue army in tow. I was to report first to the Red Highlord, to find out what the situation was there, then, if possible, make contact with the Blue faction to hear their side of things. I was bade to take care, that a battle may be or about to be in progress, and to not get involved if possible. It was still dark out when I was awakened by a poking stick in my side. I rose up to see a shadow in the darkness, one boney hand holding the offending stick. As my eyes focused I recognized it as a wraith messenger from my Lord. I stood, then followed its beckoning outside. Wrapping my cloak around me, I looked about to see a large black horse standing nearby, saddled and ready to ride. Communicating with these messengers tended to take on an artform in itself, as it was all gestures and inferences. I looked to my old horse then to the wrauth. It pointed at me, then the black horse. I looked at my pack mule, then back at it. It handed me a large dark bag, pointed at the mule, then into the bag. So i went to the mule, and started pulling things off its load and place them into the bag, which did not seem to get any heavier the more I put into it. This would be a hand item for my travels I thought. When I brought out the package with my holy vestments, the wraith placed a hand between the bag and the clothing, then pointed to me. So I was supposed to wear this now. I didn't really care to wear the more formal attire, but the choice was out of my hands now. After a bit, I stood there before the crypt, as the night gave way to the dawn. The wraith had gone and I was alone in my raiment of a holy knight of the Lord of Death. I now had I guess what was a proper mount, a magical way to carry all my belongings and tools of my trade, and a smaller bag, one of mist, that held gifts fron my Lord. I also had a sense that haste was needed now to arrive at my destination, that I was to meet someone soon, before I could enter that city. I took to the saddle, laying my blade across the pommel, adust the cloak behind me as befitted a knight, then without spur, urged the horse to a quick trot down the trail. I knew I had much to do, and many to meet, in the next few days.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sun Oct 27 19:22:37 2013 Subject Hobgoblins on the Horizon

It was midday when I spied a small caravan of three wagons with quite a few large hobgolins meandering about. I could see the top of the walls of the city in the far distance, but little else was around as I cantered down the road. As I drew closer, one of the hobs moved onto the road ahead and away from the others, indicating this was the one in charge. I carefully gripped my blade tighter, and prepared to summon my Lord's wrath should these creatures become threatening, all the while looking for a good escape should I need to run. The beast raised a hand in greeting as I reigned in close to him. A crooked grin was on his face as he placed hooked one hand on his belt an the other cautiously on his sword. "You Orkrust knight?' he barked. I nodded carefully, he then drew out a parchment from his belt, and handed it up to me. "Qahsoud s'posed to give that to Orkrust knight, take us inside city, past gate. Orkrst knight stop ogres from bothering hobgob'ins. I was puzzled by this and the sniggering luaghter from the other hobs didn't help my discomfort any. I read the parchment over, pretty much confirming what the Qahsoud was saying. Take the wagons past the north gate, into the city, prevent any fights between the ogres and the hobs, (this was emphasized, because after all, hobs and ogres hated each other at the best of times) then go our seperate ways, continue on to meet the Highlord Brak'kta as before. Upon completion of this missive I would be released from any and all responsibilty of the persons and materials escorted. The seals were all correct, indicating two highmasters had approved this request, as it was a request not an order. I could decline, as it wasn't specifically to me, or even a holy knight of Chemosh, just a knight of the Red army. My shield and cloak had given away that I served "Orkrust" to these hobs. For now, I took this as a sign from my Lord that this was my task before going on, so I tucked the parchment in my shirt and nodded at Qahsoud. "Good, good," said the hob, looking pleased as he turned to his pack. "We ride with knight of Death, Mwarg laughs with us, move fast." he cackled. The hobs were ready and moving in no time, as I took position ahead of them, moving up the final distance to the city. After several turns we could see the North Gates, where a lot of activity was going on. Merchants and tradesmen choked the north western road while a handful of dwraves passed us by up the north eastern trail. The guards at the gates were busy yelling at the crowds to clear the roads while other half-heartedly worked on some holes in the great wall, stacking stones in a feeble attempt to patch them. We made our way to the gates, to be stopped by a large ogre and his comrades, glaring at me but mostly at the hobs. He scratched at his large face then asked Where d'ya think you and dis garbage are a'goin'?" I drew out the parchment and handed it to him, which he unrolled, turning it this way and that, even sniffing at it, before looking over his shoulder at one of his charges. This one sauntered over, have more than just a gleam of intelligence in his eyes, and took the parchment, looked it over, looked me over, the hushedly explained to his leader what the note said. The lead ogre rubbed his grisly chin, look at me, then the hobs. "Them are of the Dark Lady, but wear the Black, and are worthless hobgobs, they stay out here. You wear Red. like us, even if you do pray to the Death. You can go in." The hobs grumbled darkly, all except Qahsoud, who glared at the ogre, then turned his gaze to the one who read the request. The 'bright' ogre again spoke in a hush, yet urgent tone, explaining the parchment again. The leader chewed on his lip and begin rubbing his nose. He was clearly uncomfortable with the situation. I felt it was time for me to speak. "I represent the Council in Sanction, and I am here to speak with your Highlord, Brak'kra. That document is a request from his highmasters. Your highmasters. Now, I am not one of your officers, but if your officers sent that, it is with the authority of your Highlord. Do you dare disobey him, with me, an inquisitor ready to question enemies of the Dragonarmy, visiting? I am sure he would put my talents at finding the truth behind this to good use, don't you?" The ogre glowered, then even his dim mind began to understand what that meant. Even ogres had excruciations they feared, when put to the questioning. He growled some ogreish obscenity and waved the hobs in, while I waited and watched at the gate. As the last one went through I turned again to the ogre leader. "They are now your responsibility, my task is done. They are in your care, you do understand that?" he nodded with a disguested look and walked away, the 'bright' one gave me a toothy, evil grin then followed his commander. All I could do was wonder what all this was about, why my Lord had taken an interest in this. Sighing, I rode on in, making my way to the palace.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Mon Oct 28 23:38:37 2013 Subject Looking Around

Bloten was not a place one would want to find oneself in the best of times, and with the upcoming battle people were packing up and leaving as fast as they could. I had found a suitable room in the place earlier in the day and had the evening to wander around and look around. I went by the great hall, but all I saw were a few ogres and the hobgoblins I was with earlier, and I didn't want to reaquaint myself with them, so I went out into the city I made my way to the south gate, deciding to get a look at the army outside and see what all the fuss was about. Climbing up the stone stairs I was able to take in more of the city, and it wasn't good. While the gates were somewhat sturdy, you could see holes in the wall, some made by ruin, some by creatures looking for a short cut in. A few guards were by these holes, but all in all, it was not something that built your confidence. The city was mostly dark, and there were not nearly enough troops evident to even begin a good defence. But, I had not seen the opposition yet, so I continued to climb. I reached the ramparts, and looking around saw a thin line of ogres, a few goblins, and little else really. Moving to the outer wall, I looked down into the valley, a valley filled with torchlight as far as the horizon and almost the whole width. My eyes were wide with amazement, having never seen a full army in the field. By Chemosh, they were thousands of them! An older ogre had drifted my way, watching as I looked. He grunted a laugh then spit over the side. Quite a sight eh? Too dark to see 'em all. I asked him how many were there, and he just shrugged. All of them I reckon, every Blue there is mebbe. I continued to stare while the old ogre chewed on some sort of weed. I hear tell that old demon hisself is down there, the scourge named Saige, served in the Green outta N'raka wit him I did. Mean bastard then, probably meaner now. Has that Blue bitch a'side him too, A'sana. Bad pair to be a'facing, I tell ya. I gave him a sidelong glance, questioningly. He seemed to warm up to the story some. Ya see, Saige, he is from th' old Dragonarmy, been around, knows the tricks so to say. Once he gets huntin' sumthin, he don' let go, it's good as dead. He held up one gnarled finger. Dats bad one. Now he has hisself A'sana, on a leash. She kills everything around whatever it is he's huntin'. Cuts it, burns it, has a damnable dragon somewheres that blasts whats left. Saige lets her off dat leash, no tellin' what they can do. He held up a second finger, then twisted them upwards at the city behind us. DAT is what we gets here, buggered. All th' while that fatass sits in th' palace and lords over us. Not a good place to be I sez. He spat again over the wall, chewing vigorously away. He has her on a leash? The ogre came back to wherever he was, shaking his head, growling. No, not one ya can see, you daft or sumthin'? He can control her, keep her from goin' too far. Was her teacher or sumthin'. Thing is, they is down there, and want up here, and they can do it. And we all will pay for it. Ah, I see what you mean. Why don't you just leave here, or surrender? He shakes his head again, somewhat sadly. Not so simple, not so good to do. Our city, we said we follow fatass, now we pay. We stood there silently, watching the mist cover the army below. A plume of fire lit up a spot near the fortress, and a figure engulfed in flames ran towards the gate before collapsing, writhing a bit, then lay still. The old ogre laughed with glee, pointing down at the corpse. YAAAHAAA! One o' our scouts got himself cooked! Now we know they have mages! He continued to laugh and slap his knee, happy the scout did his job so well.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sat Nov 9 01:57:28 2013 Subject And Things Change

I took another look at the army below us, then turned away heading back to my rooms in the city. Not much I could, or would for that matter, do on the walls, and probably not the best place to be once the battle started. I made my way down the steps again, up the streets back towards the palace, which now was quite busier and louder than before, ogres running down the halls and what not. Something was going on and it was not about the army outside the walls but something inside the palace. Seems the Highlord Brak'kta was missing, and several of his toadies were dead. The ogres were in disarray, I heard some speaking of a human mage giving some orders, and the hobgoblins from earlier were no where to be found. Then I saw a large (they were ALL large) ogre stomping down the hall, belowing for the Inquisitor to go to the Great Hall, they were needed. He stomped right on past me, still hollering his message. knocking the smaller soldiers out of his way. Well then, guess I know what I am needed for, if there is a Highlord missing. Someone needed questioning. I headed to my room to get my instruments.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Nov 13 23:51:14 2013 Subject Giving a Tour

As we walked up the road back o the city, I explained to the Emperor the preceding night's events as best I could. The confusion that turned to panic when it was discovered the Highlord was missing, the searches, the call for me to report to the great hall and the subsequent questioning of several of the former's closest commanders. The Emperor would interupt to ask who did what, who said what, who was still alive after I questioned them. And who had the authority to summon me and make such a request. I explained about the Highlord's magician who assumed authority for the interrogation, and who would, on occasion, send people to investigate what the client, the ones questioned, would allude to. I explained that being as this was a search for whoever may have done some misdeed to the Highlord in command, I relented to the request of his advisor and the one most likely to understand Dragonarmy law. It would be up to the Council in Sanction, or the Emperor himself, to command the questioning of that advisor. The Emperor smiled grimly at that, nodding to himself. We reached the gates, now manned by warriors in Blue, as I finished my hasty report. We entered to the plaza where quite a few members of the Red army milled about, looking dazed and quite a bit confused. They were a contrast to the Blue troops who looked sharp, well trained and very aware of everything around them. I looked to a red uniformed ogre, soiled, almost ragged, then to a blue uniform, neat and well kempt, and very confident, dangerously so. I caught the blue Highlord watching me, a crooked smile on her lips as she winked cockily, knowing what I was observing. She looked at the red troops with an almost feral gaze, as if to say they could all be dead in minutes if only the Emperor would let her loose. It was then the words of the old ogre on the wall came back to me, if the Emperor lets her off that leash... I shook my head of the thought, and looked to the Emperor. The chill I felt was real, a tangible cold up my spine. His glare at the state of the red troops was a mixture of disgust, anger..and pity. He snarled as he looked at the sad state of the streets, buckled, potholes, waste. His gaze went along the walls, in disrepair, cracked, the holes were sad attempts to patch them up were made, the condition of the palace before him. But mostly the shame the reds showed, they had given up on any appearance of a soldier. He balled up his fist, striking his thigh repeatedly. He looked down, as if thinking of what to do. Would he unleash his army upon them? Purge with fire and blood the city, back to its former glory? He looked up, no emotion showing, and cleared his throat.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Tue Nov 26 01:47:26 2013 Subject Fade Into Black

It had been a week since the Emperor and his Blue Army arrived and occupied Bloten, taking over the city with no lives lost. Well, none if you didn't count the ones executed or who died during questioning. The Emperor did the actual questioning, while I plied my skills to encouraging their answers. Normally I would do the questioning but Lord Saige was quite insistant about how the questions were worded, which involved a great deal of profanity and the occasional bashing with whatever he grabbed that was laying about. But still no revelations about the disappearance of the former Red Highlord or his possible whereabouts. I investigated the last place he was seen, and surmised to the Emperor that the ogre was somehow killed there, but, aside from the stones looking etched and deformed the area was too clean to really give evidence to the theory. I doubt that would have stopped the interogations anyway, I think the Emperor was more keen on delivering a message to the Red soldiers. Adding to that, the bulk of the Red foot soldiers were in the care of the Baroness and her commanders, being drilled and marched and battle training till bloodied and a pulpy mess, just to start the whole cycle over. The Red troops were no longer allowed in the city, having miserable tents to pass out in after training was finished. The Blue army had the less numerous Reds fairly well surrounded and jeered at them mercilessly. I have to admit though, the contrast between the sharp Blue units and the horrid state the Red units were in was quite remarkable. But I could also see the determination in the eyes of the ragged lot, the drive to regain their pride and dignity. They would endure this treatment and more for that. The Emperor had called for me one night and questioned me about what my vocation fully entailed, being an Inquisitor and all, and how I understood my duties and service to the Dragonarmy as a whole. I did as best as I could, having just come to this position, most of my knowledge from books given me in Sanction. When I finished, he leaned forward, elbows on the table and hands steepled before him, deep in thought. "What I need are people who watch over the affairs of the Empire, who keep an eye on those who would abuse my trust or their station to benefit themselves. People who have access to all the information and dealings that go on in the Council, the Wings, the cities in the Empire. They would have the authority to detain and question all but the highest ranks, such as Highlords or governors. Those would require an order from the Chief Magistrate Luerk or myself of course. But such authority, once given, would be absolute." He leaned back, crossing his arms and looking down, still considering his words. "My thoughts are to dedicate a Wing just to that purpose, one that already dabbles in such things. The Black wing. I want you in that wing to lend your talents and training to their new mission. I want the Black wing to enforce law in the Empire, and what ever lands we annex. They will have their ears to the ground and nose to the winds, finding out any bit of news and information worth knowing. They will protect the secrets of the Dragonarmies, identify traitors and enemies of the State, learn what they know and punish them accordingly. And they will do this in secret. Rarely will their deeds be known, except to serve as an example to any who would defy me or the Empire." He looked up at me, searching my eyes for reaction. I calmly matched his gaze. "Will you take up the Black mantle, and serve me in this endeavour?" Without hesitation, I nodded in agreement. Lord Saige smiled grimly, satisfied with my lack of hesitation. "Good. I have yet to appoint a new Highlord for Black, but there are one or two promising names I have my eye on. For now you will stay here at my call. We have work to do here, and I have plans for a few things before we ultimately return to Neraka. Go see Highlord Ayasana's staff for your new colors and documents, I had her prepare everything for you. I had a feeling you would accept this appointment, Red wing was a waste of your time as it is. Once I appoint a new Highlord for them, they will shape up to something far better than what they are presently. Now go, I have other things that need my attention" He waved his hand dismissively, and I made my way back into the darkness.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Thu Nov 28 23:48:33 2013 Subject In Broad Darkness

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Outside of the fortress city of Bloten, in a rocky outcropping, there was a small cemetary, long abandoned and uncared for. It was mostly used by the human inhabitants who had fled the area many years ago. Now it was a faint and lonely reminder of those days, days that time had swallowed up with weeds, decay and rust. Atop the black hill, on a moonless night, two shadows met. One of the shadows cast a black aura, the other an inviolable aura of power. The shorter of the two bowed in supplication to that power, as would a student to a teacher or priest. Or to a god. The dark power made a slight gesture, causing a slight wind to blow back the hood she wore, her silvery hair being gently swept across her face. He reaches to her, one long finger pressing against her forehead, while a deep rumbling thunder quietly sounds beneath them. The barely discernable twitch of a smirkish grin appears in the blackness. "As the blade slaughters the lamb and the scythe reaps the wheat, so shall you harvest the souls that will flow in my river of darkness." When he remove his finger, a small, round black jewel marks the place touched. He looks at her appraisingly, from head to toe, nodding in satisfaction. "These colors really do suit you better. That red cloth disagreed with your complexion" And with that observation, the Darkness melted into the night. On the top of the black hill, on a moonless night, a shadow stood alone.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Thu Dec 12 23:23:33 2013 Subject Tracking a Ghost

I was being sent to Sanction for my next task, which involved finding who or what had been causing unrest in several areas between there and Bloten. Some reports had come in that the former Highlord of Red had been spotted in these villages, quite suspicious being as for all appearances he was dead. The Emperor had given me an open warrant and had assigned me a small company of the Black wing to move south from Sanction to these villages and investigate, taking any measures neccessary to gain an understanding of this problem. At present, I was awaiting my ship from the port called Queen's Shield, where more than a few commerce ships flying flags from Neraka and Sanction were docked, as well as several Dragonarmy vessels, disembarking fresh Red wing troops to replace some that were sent marching back through Pashan to return to Sanction. The fortress here was a squat, grim looking place, but appeared very sturdy and well fortified, being made of mostly carved stone with gates of bronze and ironwood. I could only imagine the effort needed to craft such gates from that adamant tree.The garrison there looked well seasoned and able, being made up of mostly Ergothians and minotaur. My documents and rank had afforded me pleasant quarters and a restful night. I now awaited my ship at an Inn nearby the docks. gt GO QUEST!!{* The company I would have included a priest of Takhisis, a black robe mage and, fortunately, several soldiers who were disciples of my Lord Chemosh. This would make the burden easier, as having fellow disciples made some of what I had planned more possible. These villagers that we would encounter, from all reports, were a superstitous and ignorant lot, and our first impression would be what would amount to our introduction to them. Fear and unpredictabilty were our best tools, everything else was terror and example. I had been counsuled by the Emperor to keep casualties at a minimum, if possible. My transport is here now, I will report more once in Sanction. (stoopid auto-alerts >.<)

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sat Dec 14 00:36:29 2013 Subject Nightshades Look for a Ghost

The next morning the ship arrived at Sanction, where part of my company awaited me on the dock. My horse, (the one my Lord had gifted me) was unloaded promptly and my belonging slung across the saddle. One of my companions was a minotaur I knew from my academy days in Neraka, and a wiry southern Dargaardian I remembered from the Temple was there as well. We always suspected him of being half ogrish, but the two were what I would consider friends, and I half suspected the higher-ups in the Black Wing had a hand in picking them. As we walked toward the west gates we caught up on where we had been and what we had accomplished. Both were quite surprised I had made Inquisitor and joked about what to call me. I had no rank, just the office I held. That I also had a Warrant from the new Emperor impressed them even more. As we headed south past the city guard headquarters I noticed the constables in front disperse, some fleeing inside the building. My minotaur companion smirked, commenting that everyone feared the Black wing when they roamed the streets. Everyone had something to hide. I asked where we were headed and they explained we were going to a tower that overlooked one of the lava rivers and the Temple of Duerghast on the other side. Magistrate Luerk Trell was waiting for me there, as were the rest of our company. We continued our way to the base of the tower, then up the long stairway. Once we ascended to the top platform, I could see the Magistrate in his Green uniform, and 8 other Black Wings. There were also 6 prisoners, bound in leather straps, on their knees. I approached the Magistrate, bowed and then handed him my papers and the Emperor's Warrant. He glanced over the papers, raised an eyebrow at the Warrant then handed them back to me. "Fitting that you should be sent on this mission Rephaim, that old scoundrel you call Emperor hasn't lost his flair for irony." He grinned darkly, then motioned to the 8 nearby. "I trust these people will serve you well, several share your penchant for idolizing dead things, while the preist and the conjurer follow our Queen and her Dark Son respectivly." I noticed two of the larger companions standing apart, fully covered by their black cloaks, holding their pole-axes with heavy, studded gauntlets. Luerk noticed my gaze and leaned towards me. "Oh those two? Consider them a gift, treat them well, they should prove invaluable." He introduced me to the rest of the company, then turned to the prisoners, his dead eyes lit up and a wry grin split his face. "Now these six have a flair for drama, but have teased and hinted at mysteries yet to be told. I have the information I need from them, now I would like to see what you can uncover with their willing help." One of the prisoners spat a blackish substance on the platform, snarling that he'd say no more no matter what. Time to earn the trust the Emperor and the Magistrate were granting me.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sat Dec 14 22:32:02 2013 Subject Telling a Ghost Story

The sun was already setting when the last technique was finished. Only two of what was left of the 6 prisoners lie on the stone platform of the tower, the rest having been tossed quite forcefully by the minotaur, who took joy in seeing if he could hit the lava from this height. I rinsed my hands off in a nearby rain bucket, then turned to the Magistrate. "So, that was a fine show, very well done. What have you learned from it?" he said sardonically. I folded my hands in front of me, took a deep breath and began. "Our subject is brash, bitter, seeks revenge against some perceived injustice and is quite conceited. He is using deciet to gather followers that he consider disposible anyway. The sightings of Brak'kta are obviously false, as no two descriptions of his size and shape are the same, so the subject uses theatre to lure thse people in. I would call him brash, at times even bold, but hardly brave. He would prefer others to do his crimes, then dispose of them once gaining their trust. He was likely part of the Dragonarmies in some capacity, being familiar with how a typical routine runs. However, from the way his accent is accounted, he is not Nerakan, nor from the Dargaardian chain. He will try to gain followers, most likely by paying them. Once his antics are spread across the countryside, villagers will look on him as traitorous and false. Even then, distrust for what I believe is a masked man will be high, despite how much coin he tosses away. He is not a stable person, and this shows in his actions, per these prisoners, and the reports we have already. He is not shy of the liquor, but is careful of who and where he imbibes. He is fond of chewing a noxious weed, thinking it adds to his menacing facade, all the while believing himself clever and above all others in skill and ability. As long as his intended audience is gullible, he can manipulate them. As for being anymore than a nuisance? " I pause to consider what to say next. "I need more information, preferably by directly questioning him. What he is capable of is still unknown." The Magistrate nods, looking pleased. He looks over my company then shrugs. "Then you had best be on your way. Take tomorrow to gather whatever resources you need, plan to leave the day after. He seemed in deep thought, then turned to me again. "Follow the coastal road south, back towards Queen's Shield. You will find he has been active in the villages along that route. We believe he may want to stay close to Blode, to keep his charade relevant." I paused at this, then asked if he knew what this subject's endgame was. He winked, laying a finger alongside his nose. "You are not the only hunter in the game. You may have to share your quarry." He waved at the two remaining prisoners. "Dispose of that, will you?" Then turned to leave. I nodded at my two friends, and they happily wagered who could throw the still living remains the furthest.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Mon Dec 16 02:07:09 2013 Subject Following a Ghost

We were two days out of Sanction, looking for our first village of so-called rebels. I had gotten to know the people in my party a bit better, except for the two Magistrate Leurk had loaned me. Aside from my mino friend Rak-Shin and the Temple curator Goren, we had the priest of Takhisis Darvolas, Cho'ten the Black robe, Ferrenz and Ammant, two human Tracker Rangers, Wertol who was a half-elf archer, and the wiry little Dakkar, a goblin spy. Dakkar struck me as more a thief, but the lines were blurry on that. The two others hadn't given their names, nor had I asked. They would come into play only if needed, however their dark presence was intimidating in itself. Together we had worked out way down the coast road, our objective was a small fishing village that had been reported as declaring itself free the new Emperor's control. Here Brak'kta supposedly was leading the resistance against the Dragonarmies, having been denied his rightful place as its Highlord. We came to the highland above the village about mid morning, giving us time to rest and evaluate our approach. Rak-Shin pointed out the woefully inadequate defenses set up in front of the village entrance. There were no walls, and no gate, just a wood rail fence with an opening that the locals had placed a rickety turnpike in front of, ignoring that one could simply walk around it to enter the perimeter. Spiked stakes, about a man's height were loosely stuck into the ground. We had the opportunity to watch one fall over when a noisesome gull attempted to land on it. The village militia, such as it was, were armed with rough hewn pikes, pitchforks, several rakes and what appeared to be wooden shovels. Goren jokingly suggested we call in the Red wing regiment in Sanction to lay seige so we could sue for peace by spring planting, so their "weapons" would be ready for sowing the fields. As we watched we devised a plan, one which we would begin to execute by sundown. For now we had the goblin Dakkar slip down to get a closer look at things inside this rustic "fortress", in case we missed anything from our vantage point. Our archer was already picking a strategic position to watch over our approach. The priest and mage discussed which spells they would be using but neither believed would be neccessary. But again, good to be prepared. While we remained concealed we rested, the two dark guardians opting to stand guard in the shadows. = For now we waited for the sun to set.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Dec 18 02:15:02 2013 Subject The Black Wing Visits

We had traveled for two days south, down the coast road toward Blode, before we sighted our first village. It was a small fishing harbor, with an old wood wall around it that looked to collapse next hard wind. The entrance had no gate, but a recently hewn turnpike sort of blocked the way in, but could be easily walked around. I was the only one mounted, the others prefered to walk and led the pack mules. Rak-Shin walked along side me carrying his executioner's axe across his shoulder. He looked across the pike at the two not-so-intimidating guards, waiting for them to either challenge us or move the pike. When they did neither, he swung his axe down then sharply up at the pike cleaving it into two pieces. Pushing them apart and out of our way, he then went up to the stunned men, glaring them down before bellowing a war cry that sent them running into the village, leaving their polearms behind. He let out a loud laugh and gestured for us to follow, and then we marched in and headed to the center square. No one challenged us, but we could see many a hidden eye watching us, and the few people who were in the streets disappeared like smoke in a breeze. Once we gathered in the small square we could see just how small the place was, housing maybe two or so hundred people. There were no militia about, no real sign of any organized rebellion at all. What we did see was signs of a great rally, broken clay pots emptied of their wine, the charred remains of a bon fire, and what at first I thought to be a scarecrow, but could, in some drunken imagination, be taken for an effigy of someone wearing a tattered blue tablecloth and a rudely woven reed crown. It was hanging from a dead tree near the village well. Dervolas, our priest, looked at the crude construct, rubbing his face and slightly shaking his head before turning to me. He shrugged, saying it could be treason, but was a more a crime of poor craftsmanship than anything. We looked around until we spotted on what we all agreed must be the building where the people would gather to meet or whatever they did when town business needed discussion. So far, no one had yet approached us or seemed willing to speak to us, so we moved on to the hall. Inside was dark so Ferenz, Ammant and Cho-ten went about finding rushes and whatever they could to light the place up with. Dakkar the goblin slipped out to spy out the rest of the town and the rest took up guard positions while Rak and Goren sorted through things. Once we had more light, we could see a few bodies laying about, dead, around the room. From the look of things, there was a brawl, drunken no doubt judging from the reek of sour ale in the air, and most bore many wounds to attest to that theory. Sitting up on the small platform at the rear of the building was a dead ogre, wearing a cape that had been badly painted red. I could guess who it was, but we would need to confirm it from some witnesses before any real conclusions were made. I sent Rak, Wertol, the priest and Goren to collect those witnesses. The two cloaked Ones took positions on either side of the entrance making for a fearsome welcome to those who would be brought here. Given the reaction we recieved upon our arrival, I doubted this would take long.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Mon Dec 23 01:25:22 2013 Subject Tracking the Ashes of Ghosts

We had left the first village a couple days earlier, but the stories of some of the witnesses were still just parts of a puzzle in my mind. A group of rogues, the appearance of a dead Highlord (who, of course, was false) and an attempt at raising resisitance against the new Emperor, all fit together as a loosely organized rebellion, one that was already not holding together well. For now we followed the coast road further south, to the next village on our list. We had the villagers collect the bodies and stack them im the hall, then ordered them to burn the building. There was no need to punish them any further, and we had avoided killing anyone ourselves, keeping to mild reminders that would stay with them, such as branding the village elders for not preventing the incident, and a couple lashings for good measure. It was the midle of the second day that we came to the top of a rise in the road that looked down to where the next village should have been. What we saw were burned out huts and out buildings, dead farm animals, and little else. We all looked at each other curiously, then back at the village. Goren asked if there was another Black Wing unit operating out here with us. I looked to the priest and mage, the the two Others, all who indicated the negative. Dakkar, our scout, then slyly asked if it could have been the ones who were shadowing us from the mountains. Everyone quickly looked to me, asking if we were being followed, did I know, who were they etc. I tried to calm them, explaining that there was no attempt to deceive them, but we did have someone watching over us, ordered there by Magistrate Trell. I also credited the little goblin with detecting them. He shrugged, then said that he hadn't seen them since the last village. Whoever they were he added, they were good, it was only chance he had barely noticed the trace of them. And then only the one time. I explained that they would not have done this prior to our arrival, also by orders of the Magistrate. We had priority here. Rak-Shin dismissed the issue with a wave of his hand, saying they should have known there was more going on than they knew. "Sylph tells us what we need to know, so we will let her worry about it." We continued on down to the ashes of the village where it appeared everyone had been slaughtered, animals too. The few bodies that the fires didn't consume showed considerable violence had been done on them, a very frenzied sort. Our group spread out, looking for clues or anything that could tell us the story that happened. Only the two Others stayed close by me. I dismounted, and leading the horse tried to take in the whole scene. Whoever did this was a slash-and-hack type, just general killing, more than a few people, on foot, no real hoof marks, no wagon tracks. The footprints showed a variety of races as well as several different boot tracks, Kernish, south Nerakan, maybe one from Throtl there. A mixed lot at any rate. Ferenz and Ammant returned, announcing that they had found a survivor, and managed to get some information before that one died as well, having been fataly wounded. The attack happened just after the middling night, soldiers from what the wretch had said. Then they paused, and said the man said they wore blue, like the Dragonarmy uniforms. By now the rest had assembled around us, listening to the report as well, looks of skepticism and doubt as the gazed about the remains of the village. The priest Dervolas crossed his arms, snorted, looking around. "I suppose that is possible, but I have never known Lord Saige to let his troops go at all out like this, on such a meagre target. Nor do I believe the Baroness would allow them to be this sloppy."

Author: Sylphshade Date: Mon Dec 23 03:20:50 2013 Subject Tracking the Ashes of a Ghost

We left the second village with little more than we entered, a few clues and some interesting finds, but nothing that convinced us one way or the other who was ultimately responsible. We had the last survivor's statement, a few clues from weapons and the way the slaughter was commited, but nothing solid. Also, we found evidence of the same type found in the first village, and in the reports we had in Sanction. Whoever this was, they were leaving a trail, faint but there. I had my doubts about any involvement from the Blue Wing, remembering the Emperor's command that casualties be kept at a minimum. It made no sense for him to order this and then go ahead and kill everyone himself, especially when he was still occupying Blode and had the elven nation to his south. Something was not adding up, and the rest of my group felt the same. That and none of us had any desire to question the Emperor about any massacres he may want to entertain. As it was, we would be back in Blode before too long, and unless the trail took us elsewhere, we'd be visiting Bloten again, and the Blue Wing. The Black Wing commanded fear and respect from others when we were present, but I doubt the Emperor and his pet, and their army, would be too impressed by only 10 of them offering offense to His Majesty.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Fri Jan 17 21:45:48 2014 Subject Reflection

After the stranger had left, Sylphshade jumped down from the crypt and retrieved the collar. Bundesphar hmm? She reached to the pendant around her neck, the one bearing the Wolfsangel, or wolf's hook, the mark of an Inquisitor in the Black Wing. The symbolism was not lost on her, as she now knew her prey was a former "wolf" of the Dragonarmy. Appropriate. But for now, that wolf was doing the Emperor's work, albeit unknowingly. He was no longer her problem but the Green Wing's. They were welcome to him, she thought. For now she turned to the two human archers and the goblin who were hidden amongst the tombstones, questioning looks asking if they should persue. Waving her hand in dismissal she said "Leave him be, we have more important things to do. We have his scent now, we can find him again if we need to." They fell in behind her as she made her way back to the campsight by the road. Rak-Shin and Goren had a warm fire going which the others were resting around. Well, except the two watchers, they stayed nearer the shadows as was their wont. Her three companions joined the others while she remained standing, looking over the dark sea to the west. She could give the report to Rak-Shin and the priest to present to Luerk back in Sanction, sending the others (not the watchers, they would remain with her) back as well. She would continue south, report her findings in person to the Emperor, then make her way to Xak-Tsaroth. The new Highmaster there was in consideration for Highlord, and was already making moves to secure that position. No doubt he would want to strengthen the bonds with his subordinates before that occured. The trip would also give her time to practice the gifts her Lord Lifebane had granted her, gifts she knew would be important to have mastered for the new Highlord, the Emperor, and more importantly, her god's future plans.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Jan 22 23:08:26 2014 Subject Reaping What Was Sown

After I had given eveyone their tasks I returned to the old cemetary to practice a summoning I had been working on. I could bring the dead out from their burial places and set their hunger on my enemies, but that type of summoning restricted me to stay within hallowed grounds and I did not so much control them as I unleashed them on their victims. Once sated they returned to their graves, and I would continue on my way. Which would be fine if I stayed there or knew exactly where the next cemetary was. I had brought the priest Dervolas with me, and although he was of Takhisis he was knowledgeable in a similar type of summoning. After he made a rune-circle of protection for him to observe from, I took position in a small clearing inside the gate and cast the small black sack to the center . The sack contained the ashes and fragments of the subject of my summoning, and would be the focus of my conjuration. Raising my hands, palms up, I began the chant, calling on my Lord's Blessing. As I chanted, I matched cadence with the complicated hand signs in order, concentrating my gaze on the remains. After several minutes I was rewarded with a radiating darkness centered on the sack, that formed and began to take the shape of a large almost ogreish shape, a shambling shadow-like shape. I turned my hands, palm facing palm and raised my voice to the final necromancy, bringing a clearer form to it. I clapped my hands together three times, then spoke the final word. "So that is a Bone Warrior..." I heard behind me. I nodded shakily, still a bit dizzy from the effort. But it was better than the last time, and far better that the first. There before me stood a fairly large humanoid covered in bone, two dimly glowing yellowish orbs where eyes would be, standing ready to strike something given the command. I stepped back closer to the priest, keeping an eye on the unpredictable creature who seemed to be behaving this time. Dervolas gestured to something outside the gates, beckoning to it. A equally large hobgoblin jogged to him, gazing adoringly . The priest had prepared a servant to protect him should I have failed to successfully control my charge. Dervolas then pointed at my warrior, ordering his beast to kill. The hobgoblin charged and the battle began. For the next hour or so we watched a truly savage battle unfold.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Thu Feb 27 02:30:46 2014 Subject Last Order of the Mission

We had made it to Queen's Shield again, only to receive a message from Khariif that read "Go back to Sanction. Night and Fog in Xak Tsaroth." This was a surprise, but nonetheless, Dervolas and my two cloaked assistants boarded the next Nerakan ship bound for Sanction and prepared for another meeting with Magistrate Luerk Trell. During the trip back I met the other three up on the forward deck. The sun had just set, and the sky was a deep purple, soon to be black and alight with stars. The mage stood looking out across the water, both hands firmly on the railing. He looked over his shoulder, nodding a greeting, commenting on the quiet sounds of the night. I made some small talk, commenting on just one thing left from our mission to do. He asked what that could be, so I raised two fingers together on my right hand. My assistants, one on each side of him, then drove a long dagger into each of his hands, pinning him to the rail. His scream was a long wailing type, two parts pain, one part disbelief. I drew out my worn leather bound book, opening it to the page with his name and sentance written in Magistrates own hand, holding it so he could read it. I beleive the shock eased his pain some, making him momentarily aware, giving me the right moment to drive a dart laced with curare into his neck. He tried to speak, but the paralyzing poison worked quickly, leaving him unable to move. The daggers were pulled from his hands, and he dropped to the deck. One of the assistants retrieved a length of heavy chain that it had stowed nearby, wrapping it tightly around Dervolas' feet. The other easily lifted the immobile mage up and tossed him into the dark waters. He sank quickly. The two of them returned to their positions from before, and I took up Dervolas' former place. I inhaled the briny air deeply, reveling in the freshness. All in all, this was a good mission. Still, it would be good to get back for a more interesting task. For now, I could relax, rest, finish my reports, and enjoy the trip. Although, I still couldn't bring myself to take hold of the rail. Not just yet anyway.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Fri Mar 7 00:18:02 2014 Subject Sanction

The ship glided into the harbour just as the sun was setting, lining up along a dock on the south end. Once the lines were secured, a heavy wooden ramp was moved into positon, allowing people and mounts to disembark. I lead my dark horse down, as my two assistants followed. A priest from the Magistrate's section met us, and motioned for us to follow, as we were expected and needed to report in. We went up the darkening Fallen road, heading to the tower near the Temple of Duerghast, nearby the Southern Army camp. It was a somewhat run down area with a few empty buildings and burned out homes. On the way, I noticed a darker shadow in the gloom of one of the ruined houses, a movement of something. I handed the reins to one of my party and went in to investigate. The Green priest followed, more out of curiosity that to keep watch on me. Stepping carefully through the rubble I found my way into what I think was an old library, any books long devouerd by the fire that consumed most of the structure, or just time and decay. The priest asked what it was, sensing something was there but not seeing it. I pulled my hood back, examining the empty and broken shelves, while slowly the apparition moved into view. It more or less enveloped me, whipping the tendrils of darkness at me, making a violent display. The priest moved nearer and it drew back, I held up my hand to stop him, telling him it was fairly harmless, as long as you knew it was there. He was unfamiliar with it so I explained that it was an allip, what was left of the ghostly remains of a soul that, through madness, has taken its own life, and sought vengence over time against those who wronged it in life. This one had been here since Sanction first fell, even this ruin was not its original home but one built over its original home. I could hear its story in my head, but that was about all, it was powerless now. I stood there for a bit, getting all the information I could gleen from this creature before turning to leave. The preist want to dispel it, exorcise it, but I would not allow it. I reasoned with him that the city had many such entities in it, some much more dangerous than this one. No need to waste his efforts. He shrugged and lead the way back out to the street. But my mind was working fast. To be able to see one of these, and for him to see it, without a concentrated effort, was rare. I could feel more such beings nearby, sense their presence in the city. I whispered to one of my assistants, motioning to the cleric as he led us to the Tower. The large form moved quickly and quietly, grasping the priest's head. Muttering a short incantation, I could hear the crackle of energy it released. It had slipped back behind me before the priest had stumbled and I had to steady him, asking if he was alright. He was a bit disoriented, but shaking his head as if to clear it, he assured me he was alright, just a bit dizzy. He inhaled deeply, then, almost in an annoyed manner, said we should hurry, it had gotten dark too quickly. We continued on, though he did not remember how we got from the ship to the tower so fast, forgetting leaving the docks. I nodded to my follower, a job well done. The time was coming upon us soon enough. No need to let the unenlightened reveal it too soon.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Tue Mar 11 00:48:52 2014 Subject Duties in Sanction

The Temple of Duerghast in Sanction had been built a long time ago, just after the Cataclysm that brought down other temples. It was dedicated to some obscure, reportedly 'false' god, and had been the stage for many events, sacrifices and arena combat to name a couple. More Stronghold than cathedral, it was now home to a few companies from the various wings of the Dragon armies. But not all of it. The south east section, where the arena combat animals were kept, also held the charnal pit where what was left of those who participated was tossed. It was a deep construct, most certainly dwarven excavation, and was as deep down as the temple itself was. This brought up other problems as years passed, but I'll get to those later. For now, it is enough to say that was where I was sitting, dressed in my black, hooded chasuble, demonstrating an effective questioning technique to several other Black wing acolytes, and one follower from the ogre tribes up north. This method involved inserting a wolf's hook down the throat of a client, using a section of bamboo that had been hollowed out, making sure it went deep enough to be most useful. If you never have seen a wolf's hook, it is shaped like a 'Z' on its side, with a small bar across the middle that it pivots on. Most are about as long as your hand, when hunting wolves. For the races of creatures we deal with, they come in several sizes, and require some skill in choosing the right one. The hook is attached to a length of chain, that is in turn, connected to some anchoring object, or as in this case, a gibbet. The client was standing on a plank, arms secured behind his back, over the charnel pit, not quite dangling from the aforementioned gibbet. If he slouched too much, the hook dug into the soft part of his lower wind pipe, if he stood too straight, it worked its way in deeper. Now I know you are saying to yourselves, "how is this an effective questioning method ?" For the client involved, it's not. But, for the ones waiting their turn that were in shackles around the pit? Most effective. The day was becoming hot, and the client was doing his very best to not move and inflict more pain om himself, but was visably weakening. His compatriots that were watching, were quite miserable as well, but shaken and pale. They knew that one of them would be next and didn't relish their comrade's situation one bit. I could already see signs of who would break first, and the ones stoically watching that would take more extreme measures, and one who I could now guess was the ringleader. His anguish at watching one of his treated thusly, and the determined set in his eyes marked him as one who knew things, but would not break so easily. About this time the client on the hook, so to speak, made an attemptat a gurgling scream as he finally collapsed, writhing whilst dangling on the chain, till he moved no more, merely swaying back and forth. One or two of the prisoners passed out, several spat out oaths and curses. One of my acolytes passed out as well. He'd be sent back for reassignment, maybe to the Red wing, I don't know. As I stood and stretched, grabbing up a water skin to slake my thirst, the ogre shambled up, then kneeling before me made a simple statement. *"Holy One, may I speak with you a moment before the next demonstration?" ((( To be continued...)))

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Mar 12 01:00:36 2014 Subject More Work in Sanction

I looked down at the ogre feeling perplexed. Why was it kneeling to me and calling me that? I cleared my throat, unused to speaking its language still. "Why do you call me that? I am an Inquisitor, not a high priest or highlord." The ogre in its turn looked perplexed, then slowly stood. "The holy one we traveled here with, he demands that we kneel in his presence. I see you serve our Lord, so it seemed the right thing to do." This surprised me a bit, a priest demending obeisance was not unheard of, but it was rather arrogant, especially in the citadel where priests were aplenty. I asked the priest's name. "Harn'dur, a priest of Usk-Do." it spat out disdainfully. It didn't escape me that the ogre had used the detested hobgoblin's name for Hiddukel, so there was more to this than it was letting on. "This Harn'dur, is he the priest of your tribe?." It shook its massive head. "No, he hires us to bring him here, protect him from other tribes, bandits, and the little wolves." it added with a snort. "You are holy one too, but one of the Black Goat. I know the ways of His priests, I see His touch on you." as it pointed to the gem in my forehead. I absently reached to the gem, having almost forgot its presence . This ogre seemed more aware than what I was accustomed to from its race. At any rate, I didn't care for the liberties this arrogant priest was taking, hired blades or no. And not with one who followed my Lord. I turned and watched the next client being prepared for the wolf's hook, then turned my gaze to the remaining prisoners. They would break soon enough, and I could further investigate the mysteries of the charnal pit at the nest day's sunset. This diversion with a pushy priest seemed novel, and maybe I could learn more about this ogre, who seemed different from the usual slow witted lumps. I stepped down a couple rows to be at eye level with it, to make for equal positioning. "What say after we finish up here, you introduce me to this Harn'dur. I want to see if I am expected to kneel as well." The ogre grinned, not a pleasent sight, but then again, when would it be? <<<..more to come later ! >>>

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sat Mar 22 01:36:16 2014 Subject A test, a meeting, a journey.

Night finally settled in, with the glow from Mt Ashkir reflecting off the dark clouds that had moved in earlier. I returned to Duerghast after the events with the ogre and her problem-priest were settled, and had spent the following weeks studying the creatures that lived in the deep charnel pit at the edge of the arena grounds. That most were undead was a given, aside from the few rats and other feral beasts that warily ventured in, to have a meal of become one. My aim was to capture one and test my ability to control or at least direct one of the lesser vile creatures, become comfortable doing so, then delve deeper for the more elusive and powerful ones. We were lowering one of the criminal clients down, hanging by his hands, as bait hoping one would latch on him, as he was still alive and fresh. Goren and Rak-Shin had rejoined me after their adventure when we seperated on our way to Bloten, and were lowering the bait dowm, when I saw someone walking towards us, followed by two other members of the Black wing. I signalled my assistants and they nodded that they had things under control so far. I waited for the party to join me by the edge of the pit. He was a dark haired man, not too many years on him, and while he could pass for a Nerakan at a distance, was clearly Solamnic. As he came closer I could see he had the mark of a highmaster, which would make him the highest ranking Black wing officer I had seen. Still, according to my appointment, I was only required to salute a Highlord, to keep my impartiality in effect, and to keep them from attempting to command or disrupt any investigation I may be doing. I still had to treat them with respect due their rank, and behave properly, but thus far that had never been a real problem. Hopefully it wouldn't be now. I had to keep an eye on the test. He looked down into the pit, nose wrinkling at the smell, when he seemed mildly surprised. "That man, he's alive?" I nodded, and at that moment, we heard his shrill screaming, and could barely see another figure grappled onto the man's body. Rak-Shin let out a loud hoot and began reeling the catch back up, like some horned mad fisherman. Goren had a pike readied to keep the creature at bay. "Well, he was alive, not so much now" I said. The highmaster looked at me and smirked, appreciating the humour. "What is that thing anyway? It looks like a man." I watched as the thing was brought up, the prisoner no longer struggling, saying "That is a ghoul, a flesh eatting creature, not alive and not completely dead. I am attempting to control one of his type, maybe a few at a time eventually. We'll see." The highmaster nodded turning to me again, "You are the Inquisitor Sylphshade Rephaim then, I have heard about your experiments. I wanted to meet you, and discuss a proposition." I look at him, not surprised he knew my name. He would be informed about everyone in Black wing at his rank. But, being as I was still attached to Green, and had these tests to accomplish, I didn't know him. He could tell from my blank stare I was waiting to know his name, so he placed his hand over his heart, an odd gesture, then said, " I am Khariif uth Creditus, highmaster of section IV, Black wing. I have business in Neraka, and then a mission to fulfill in Xak Tsaroth. I will be in contact with you later, I have need of you and your talents, and you may appreciate the situation I have been working on." I must have looked puzzled, and I was, but he turned and started to leave, still talking to me. "I'll leave you to your, er, studies, but not to worry, I will handle your transfer from the Magistrate to my group. Time for you to work with your own now." I stood there, confused, until Rak-Shin bellowed out a curse, and I turned to see Goren poking at the ghoul with his pike. They had the creature cornerd by a cage, and needed help. I would have to consider this visit later, and the implications the mercurial highmaster had left me with until later. Right now, a ghoul needed controlling, and by this time tomorrow, the criminal we had used as bait would turn, and then we would have two. And I had more prisoners to use up. Quite the deadly catch.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Fri May 16 01:00:32 2014 Subject What Never Was

I looked at the stone doors before me, the ones that would start my journey into the depths of the Temple of Duerghast and the next being I needed to meet. My two companions and the two guardians appointed me stood quietly behind me. The guardians would stand watch by these doors, their skills ineffective beyond this point. My companions would follow to the fallen one's lair, then they too would have to wait as sentinels until I returned, if I could. The old records reported that somewhere near where the caverns tied in with the charnal pit from the arena, a power existed, perhaps one of the more dynamic manifestations of a revanant. It was unclear what form this would take, so, I would find out for myself. Whether or not I could control it, or it would attempt to control me, would be up to my Master, who would also be this creature's Master, I would hope. We continued down, level by level, encountering various ghouls, ghasts, wights, all of which gave way to my companions level of talent in handling such creatures. It wasn't until after the 12th level that I had to start controlling the situation and help shield them. We were now encountering wraiths and spawn, but the dread wraiths either were at rest or uninterested, as was their wont. But then again, it could be what we sought having some hand in it as well. Such creatures were capricious in nature, and would interfere in matters for their own amusement. When dealing with beings of such age and power, it was best to assume they knew more about why I was here than I did, and that they were well prepared for what would come. So if I didn't leave with it in my control, I had to make very sure I didn't leave in it's control. We reached a set of bronze doors that were heavily chained and warded, and covered with frost. Rak-Shin lowered his axe, looking at the doors as if they were there to personally insult him, while Goren heaved a heavy sigh, thumb pointed at the chains with a look that said "Now what?". There was no mention of this in the records or even the rumours we had gathered. Of course, as we pondered this, the chains dropped off the latches, and the doors silently opened, releasing a cold breeze in our faces, and the smell of age and wine. A voice, filled with decay, rasped from within. "Well, I know you didn't come down here for the atmosphere and ambience. Enter! Show me your determination and what you think power is, and I will show you your doubt and ignorance and send you back to the Lord of Bone crying!" I truly hoped his cackling and bravado was an affectation. Otherwise this would be a long night. To be continued....

Author: Sylphshade Date: Mon Jun 2 03:59:49 2014 Subject What Never Will Be...

So I listened to the words he said. The stories of his past, the conquests and successes, his story and the stories of long dead heros and enemies. He spoke of this world and others, real and created. I could see glimpses of these tales, whether his or my imagination. It began to fade together, to become a mist of greys, no beginings or definitions, just there. I kept my gaze locked with his, feeling no fear, which was to my peril. I surrendered myself to my Lord's will, trusting He would decide my fate. For this Lich was about to tell my mind's tapestry. All the acts of my earlier life, the supposed essence of what I was, were open to his interpretation. What was false would not affect me. It was the parts that were true that could break me. Could he read me well enough to use that weapon against me, or flail about in hopes of landing a strike? "This is not what you intended to be, when you were young. You had dreams of much....more, yet considerably less, than what you are now, yes?" I could..not see it with my eyes, but somehow knew he was grinning. He was warming up to his topic. As vague as his observation was, it was spot on. Note the expected strike, more of a feint. "Ah, no reaction. Good, good. But fear naught, I have a few more morsels of your soul to serve, some hot, some quite cold I believe." I could tell the old emotion was awakening, apathetic, spiritless, an uncaring yet aware sense of where I was in my mind. I did not fight it anymore, it was my refuge, my accepted place. It was my shield. "Bit by bit, dream by dream, you let die those pieces that were you, the you that was envisioned. Then when that perished, you began killing, with your own hand you executed who you once were. You let others condemn, and your spirit perished for it." His laugh was low and dry. "Who can betray the child the deepest? And yet you never knew until too late" I could see where he was going, and how he would eventually arrive there. I had to distract his concentration a bit, although it could gain me his wrath over time. But the battle had to be engaged. "These are old wounds, and I have accepted their pain long ago. The night grows long, if this is the vision of Galaphale, perhaps I disturbed the wrong tomb, and should leave you to rest." The room grew colder, and the darkness was complete. Now the real test would begin. I prayed I would survive it.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Tue Jun 3 22:49:44 2014 Subject What is.

Hours, maybe days passed. I was questioned and was answered, blinded and made to see. I did not feel fear, not that I was brave or fatal, but melancholia, as was my habit. The events of my life passed, the world spins, it played out as it had before. Nothing changed, I had not changed. I knew things now I had not before, but needed to sort out the visions and arcanum. I knew secrets, but not their meanings. At some point it had become light again, and some degree or warmth had returned. I was facing Rak-Shin and Goren, the doors to the tomb still opened behind me. They looked at me curiously, questioningly. I was still a bit dazed, and probably a bit annoyed. Well, are you going in? asked Goren. Rak-Shin tilted his large head, peering closely at me. I think she did he whispered to the other. I looked around the chamber, then back through the doors. I could see from here the room was empty, no longer filled with rotting treasures or the granite throne. It was just an empty crypt now. Turning back to my companions, I told them to seal the tomb. That we would have to collapse this chamber, the hall, perhaps the whole section. They looked bewildered for a moment, then shrugged, saying they would get the engineers and troops neccessary to permanently close the area. I knew that was impossible now, but any measure would provide temporary solace. As we made our way back up and out of the caverns, I asked if they knew where the Emperor and Baroness Ayasana were at this time. The report was both were back in Neraka, the Emperor had not been seen for a while and all edicts were coming through the Blue Highlord herself. I further inquired as to the make up of the Highlord's personal bodyguard, and if we had any operatives there. I was told we had none that close, but Rak-Shin knew they were 12 warriors from Mithas. A gift, so to speak, to the Lady Ayasana from a past Emperor, to keep her safe. That caught my attention, and looking at Rak I could see there was more to that, but I didn't press him any further jsut yet. I told him I needed a message delivered to the commander of that guard, one that he could pass on to the Highlord. I wanted he and Goren to personally take it to Neraka as soon as we returned to the Black wing offices and I could compose it. I asked them to stay in Neraka until they heard from me, or the Highlord left. I explained that I had my duties to attend to in Xak Tsaroth, and would find a priest to aid in some form of communication so we could stay in touch. I also added that they would report only to me, or if I could not be contacted, directly to the Black Highlord. This was a State Security matter, Security Detatchment of the Inquisitor Branch. Both of their eyes snapped to mine, surprised to hear me, of all people, invoke that edict. I was loathe to use it, but this was an situation that required urgency and secrecy.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Thu Jun 26 01:22:30 2014 Subject Timesteps

What direction now? What was it I wanted? Either way, I still belonged to Chemosh, or I hoped so at least. It was the only belief that anchored me to this world. Nightlund, Dargaard, all I knew were dead, which meant to me that they would never leave me, because I had that connection, that still lingering knowledge of being somehow still threaded on the same tapestry. Nothing else really was worth taking the time to know. I didn't need to know right away, we would all end up in the same place at the end of it all. Oh there were so many tales and legends of where we all ultimately end up, but in any of those beliefs, we would all be in the same place. What happened there was no more in our control than life was now. Just a different place, a different state. As for those who believed we went nowhere, that we just ceased to be, well, not much different from sleep. Except for the fleeting dream of a better or worse place. Now this...being? was going to take me a different place, a different path. He presumed to place himself on the same plane as my Lord, but I doubted any could reach the heights of a real god, despite whatever magic or trickery he might perform. I rubbed the gem firmly affixed to my forehead, wondering if He saw. He would know, I could not hide anything from Him. It would be foolish to try. I didn't worship Death, or even seek it for myself. I performed a service for a service. I didn't fear death, which doesn't make me brave. I just accept that someday, all will end. Life required effort to live. Death required nothing. The final force of Nature. Death isn't painful, it was the last struggle of Life that was painful. If anything, Life was to be feared. Sure Life could hold joy and happiness. But just as easily it wielded betrayal and, the worst of it all, loneliness. To accept the lich's offer was to wager on the chance that this Life might hold something of interest to me. He gave me a way to empower warriors to be fearless, as my Highlord wished for. An undead army was not needed the lich had said. With this, the Highlord would not need me. I could return to Duerghast, or Neraka, maybe even Nightlund. Maybe even Thenol. Now that would be interesting. For now, I would serve the Highlord's interests. I was still in the Black wing, I would do my duty as an Inquisitor. The Highlord's offer was intriguing, and I would like to see his plan through. The lich's offer was to grant my desires. Did he know I didn't know what those were myself?

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Sep 3 01:19:40 2014 Subject Into the Swamps

Our ship arrived at the landing the the Black Wing had set up closest to the encampment at Xak-Tsaroth. I wouldn't say it was the best place for it, but it did discourage any casual passer-bys, what with grimy goblins and their ilk bustling about. I was traveling fairly light, with only a rucksack with a couple books and a few powders and elixirs for the work the Highlord required of me. About five goblins escorted me towards the dead city, into the deeper reaches of the swamp, away from the comparatively less decayed shore. After a short walk, following a very winding trail, we reached the outskirts of the citadel, and the open shelters of some of the lower ranks and camp followers. My escort led me to one of these half-tents, which had a crude cot/bench sort of thing, where I was told to wait while they announced to the Highlord my presence. One of the little brutes scampered off while the other four took up positions around my tent.I sat on the cot thing and looked around at the area. There was an aged feel to the swamp, and a very ancient sense from the stone structures themselves. I could feel traces of death here, of things not yet completely dead. Good. Should be a way to harvest those residual beings for the Highlord. Some felt quite powerful, the majority though were well within easy reach. I did have the sensation of something very powerful and very alive, but I couldn't place the impression. Something I had no expeience with. Perhaps this was what the Highlord had alluded to. I still posessed the hexrune the Lich had given me, the one to remove fear from the hearts of living beings. I had been working with it, real magic not being my strong suit, on the journey here and I think I have figuerd most of it out, although it was a tiring effort for a mere holy knight to use such arcanum . I wondered how my Lord felt about this practice.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sun Sep 14 00:37:15 2014 Subject Fade from Black

A shadow waits at the edge of darkness, patiently, as it is in no hurry. Before the shadow lies more shadows, varying colours of darkness blended with shades of black. Without the sight one would be as good as blind here. Only the slight sounds and overpowering smells of the marsh would register. The shadow had the sight, a blessing from its master, of sorts. Deep in the swampy mists resided a power, one the shadow had yet to encounter. At least, one that still lived. There was a different feel to this one though. A rancorous, nocent presence, one woven into every living thing that grew here. The barely contained rage that manifested itself in a tangible medium. The quiet sonance of the wildlife became hush, and the morass settled into motionless gloom. Only the scent of rotting greeness changed, with a slight tinge of pungent tartness permeating the stagnant air. Slight changes someone unaware would miss, to their peril. Malevolent eyes were watching me from afar, studying me no doubt. I was not a threat to it, or so I guessed it would consider me no threat. But it was cautious, and likely knew I was aware. Part of its game. Would I run, would I faint, would I collapse. It was gauging my mettle, as many a human had done. And, as with many a human, I would be patient, and deliberate. And pray I didn't pass out while trying to run.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sun Sep 14 21:11:55 2014 Subject Fade from Black

"Interesting that you would come all the way out here, all alone." I was impressed. She just appeared, no noise or sensation. I could still feel her power, her wrath, but not her movement. Have to be more attentive to the aura. "It seemed more appropriate," I answered," being as I have not been invited to your sanctuary. To go there would be presumptuous and intrusive. An affront to you and your consequence." I felt her rage swell, then her countenance appeared, a few paces from me. She pondered my appearance, my demeanor, staring into my eyes and my mind. I had only the blessing of my master about me, and a relaxed grip upon my scythe. I gazed back, neither challenging nor audacious. "I see no guile in you, no pretension, not at all akin to your highlord. That is attractive." Without warning I felt an overwhelming immaterial shock that nearly toppled me. My vision started to fade, and I felt myself begin to fall. An icy touch then filled my head, clearing my eyes, relaxing my body. My mind was terrified, yet my physical self stood steady, not heeding the panic of my thoughts. I found myself looking at this dragon, unambiguously, as all around it went black it remained free from obscurity. My head screamed run, but somehow I remained curious and frozen. The sensation passed, and the heat of the marsh almost smothered me as a result. "I see, you become more intriguing. Perhaps Khariif is not as much an idiot as I thought." I inhaled deeply, trying to clear the feeling away. My hands were sweating and my grip on the scythe was tight. I met her gaze with mine, and waited. "That was the fear, what sends rugged warriors screamimg and knights running. And you just stood there." She made a sound that resembled a chuckle, but more growling. Then she sat back, making herself more comfortable. The blackness abated, returning to normal night time. The sight allowed me to see further into the immense swamp, and I became more aware of lost spirits that were around me. "Tell me what you know of the dead, the undead, a wizard called Caitiff, the alchemist called Krago, and whatever you know of the priests of Hiteh in Thenol. Impress me, and I will show you something that will impress you. Demonstrate what you can do for me, I will show what I can do for you. You see how this works? Keep me interested, I keep you around, alive. Disappoint me, I have no need of you." Her eyes reduced to mere slits, reflecting what little light there was. I looked around the clearing, and began my preparations. It was going to be a long eventide.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Sep 17 01:14:07 2014 Subject Fade from Black (con't)

Light had begun to filter down through the trees, and the mists started to thin just a bit. The awakening fauna filled the stagnant air with the sounds of craving, the hunger of insects for the feast that lay about. Scattered across the clearing, at the edge of the water, and even in the mossy tree limbs, the torn fleshy remains beckoned to their appetites. Even the few corpses that remained standing were quickly being covered with flying scavengers of all types. Only the dragon and I were unaffected. The dragon looked about at the carnage, and the survivors. "What becomes of them now?" it snarled," Some are damaged beyond usefulness, and we don't need them now, not just yet." I looked around at this impromptu arena, where we had pitted animated dead against skeleton, skeleton against wight, wight against an undead hobgoblin (the hobgoblin supplied by the garrison and freshly killed, raised and put into battle before its soul was harvested), and undead against the bone warrior I had summoned. All in all, about twenty combinations were tested, with only the bone warrior surviving, as it were, relatively unscathed. I held up the note sheets to a nearby lantern, setting them ablaze. As each page burned to ash, the remaining subjects fell to the ground, all except the warrior. I spoke the imprecation and it faded back to the vial that was its ossuary. I drew a deep breath, exhausted from the night's labours, the intense questioning of the dragon, the effort to control diverse subject as they battled each other, and the constant commands for the subjects to perform various excruciations against each other. The dragon was watching me, leering, knowing I had used all my strength to keep up with her demands. "You didn't falter, surprisingly. Slow reactions at times, but you are only human," it laughed at me. It's head tilted, a more serious look in its eyes. "The Bone Warrior, you didn't create that." I shook my head. "You have more than just the one?" I nodded wearily. The dragon seemed lost in thought for a while, then started to sink back the swamp. "I will give thought to our work this night. Go now, rest. Tomorrow meet me in the lair. You have my permission to enter there. Now leave, the creatures here have waited long enough for their feast, you don't want to be confused for a collation now, do you?" it added invectively. I retrieved my scythe and satchel, and made my way back up the path towards the ruins.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Fri Sep 26 01:08:58 2014 Subject On the other hand...

The shadows swirled across the walls, like furtive thieves darting across the floor. Only these shadows had no solid bodies casting them, nor any direct source of light. Silently they danced around the dark figure that was seated inside the double pentagram etched into the stone floor. On occasion, a spectral figure would appear rising just outside the ring, or emerging from one of the walls. They appeared to be wailing or screaming, the horrid wounds of their death still apparent. Their cries were silent though. The odd allip or ghost would wander through, carefully avoiding the glyph and its occupant. Of course, the five wraiths, each standing at one of the points of the primary star, may have been what kept the rest at a distance. The dark figure seemed relaxed and unaware of all the activity around her. Her white hair would catch the rare spiritual zephyr, while her eyes remained closed. Bringing these incorporeal beings was so much easier than reanimating the dead cast offs and butchered remains of filthy aghar that the dragon demanded raised. Even the freshly killed goblinkind resisted her call, but in the end were compelled to heed the command. The most difficult part was then pitting them against each other, controlling both sides of the battle to show their worth in combat. The dragon didn't understand the conflicting commands and mental reasoning that was involved in having control of creatures without true sentience attack each other to one of their complete demise. Well, more like complete dismemberment. And the numbers the dragon wanted, that would require more power than a mere holy one of Chemosh had. Even for a spiritborne. But the dragon was unimpressed by restless spirits, vaguely interested in the souless undead, and had some trepidation about possibly having to deal with the Lord of Death over the souls of the greater undead. For now, she was obsessed with the shambling, rotting puppets of old sets of bones and putrid remains of corpses. Obsidian lacked imagination. The shadows abruptly retreated, allips, ghosts and spectres faded away. Only the wraiths remained. She opens her eyes, blinking rapidly for focus. Stand she made as if to brush away the mists, and only then did the wraiths disolve into darkness. Steeping from the glyph, she calmly faced the haggard form of her highlord, his eyes wide in disbelief and, slight anger? Stepping from the glyph, she calmly faced the haggard form of her highlord, his eyes wide in disbelief and, slight anger? "What in the name of all that is unholy was that?" he demanded.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Thu Oct 2 01:31:35 2014 Subject Wages of the Forbidden

A group of shadows descended the dark stairs toward the sanctum of the dragon. At the base of the steps, the one not pellucid figure raised a hand, scattering the others into the murkey penumbra that surrounded the landing. It continued onward, deeper into the gloom. Already the sensation of the fear was tangible, and once again the master's jewel controlled the physical aspect of the supplicant, driving her on. Her sight penetrated the mundane darkness, clearly seeing the great beast in the centre of the cavern. Obsidian looked angry, but then again, all dragons looked angry. "You have proven somewhat useful, possibly more so than that other one of your ilk, if less ambitious. But considering who you chose to worship, that is not surprising." Obsidian leaned down closer. "That is who you are loyal to, in the end, isn't it?" Looking up, appearing undaunted, she simply replies "Yes". Inside her head though the chaotic fear has her dancing on the edge of madness. A hissing laugh grumbles from the black dragon as it rears back from the human. "So now, I show you what I can offer you." Lifting a wing and turning away, an iron case sits open atop a stone pedstal. Taking a step forward, the inquisitor looks in at the contents. Obsidian hisses again in amusement. "Oh, you hide your fear well, but that tell-tale glint your eye hath shown gives away your interest." The dragon smugly peers down its long snout at her. "I believe I have found your price, yesssss?" Clearing her throat, the human chooses her words carefully. "You have my interest, how may I serve you further?"

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Oct 8 01:03:40 2014 Subject All That I Can See.

Sitting within the pentagram, the figure was deep in thought. One by one, the shadows entered the glyph, bowing down to whisper in her ear. The shadow would leave and another took its place. At the entryway two of the draconian guards glared at the activity going on while the five wraiths that stood evenly spaced around the circle appeared to glare back. At least the draconians thought they did. "What is she up to? These things seem very active tonight." spoke one. It's companion shrugged." Not sure I want to know,let the dead keep to their secrets." "Eh, still, be better to report something to the Highlord. He doesn't really trust this one completely." The companion nodded. "Nor do I. She talks more to them than anyone alive." The inquisitor secretly smiled to herself. "If they only knew," she thought. Each shadow had a tale, one of the daily activity in Sanction, another of far away Neraka. Bloten, Shadoa, Heth, Mann in the forests of Qualinesti, Solune in Silvanesti. The ruins and necropolises across Krynn were connected as if by highways. Highways travelled by souls and spirits. Even the crumbling halls of this place had interesting tidbits of information, all delivered to her by the willing servants on her Dark Lord. Oh the Highlord had protected his personal office well enough, but his officers and orderlies had no such protection, and their tongues would wag whenever they thought they wear out of earshot of their commander. The meetings between Obsidian and Khariff were fair game as well. No one noticed the odd extra corpse stacked with the others. Once both of the fledgling 'necromancers' had parted ways after their work was done, a shadow would find its way to the knight in the circle. And from there the stories would be condensed, edited and repeated to her Lord in prayers. It was her duty to keep him informed of all that would affect his realm after all. As it was, working for the dragon was easier than the thought of working with that lich. Although of more immediate concern to her was the dragon's promise of the relic she had seen. It was rare she coveted and material item. This one, however, deserved her attention.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Fri Oct 17 19:33:11 2014 Subject A Bit of Rest

The little Inquisitor trudged back outside the ruins, back into the night. Shoulders a little more bowed, steps a little more shuffling. One could almost mistake her for one of her creations, an undead lost soul. She looked up as if to see the stars, only to realize the thick canopy of the moss laded trees blocked the sky. Allowing herself a small sigh, she found an old fallen tree to rest on. The message Highlord Lelthas had given her had been relayed to Highlord Khariif, greeted with the anger she had expected, and the look of distrust she had not. Now that he had the knowledge to animate corpses and the dragon Obsidian had the clues to raise the lesser undead, she was no longer needed, nor wanted. A slight smile reminded her that not everything she knew had been taught, and the two would likely find that out at the most inappropriate time in their battle. But that was their burden. Obsidian had given her the object she desired, but more work would have to be done to awaken the power within it, and learn to properly wield it. But she had time still. For now, she had a mission to accomplish for the Green Highlord, one deep in Solamnic held lands, that would require all her concentration. And patience, now that she had to work with the Green wing again. "You look horrible, are you trying to look dead?" She starts to jump up, but finds she cannot stand. Turning her head to the voice beside her, she see a fancifully dressed man, like a noble, sitting there. The man tilts his head her way, a sardonic grin flashing as he meets her eyes. " M'lord" she weakly responds. He nods sharply, taking her chin in hand, looking deep in her mind. After a bit, he snorts softly, releasing her. "Dark circles under your eyes, paler than usual, and not the enrgetic slave I know.' He leans back away from her. "You are only beautiful when you are useful to me." "I apologize m'lord. I just need a bit of rest, I will be back to normal." He looks puzzled for a moment, turning to look around at where he is. He then turns back to her, reaching out a long pale finger to press on the jewel in her forehead. "Then rest you shall, then you will explain to me just what all you have been up to." All she could see was the blackness enveloping her, then blissful nothingness.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Oct 22 02:54:06 2014 Subject Of Dreams and Memories.

I awoke at a familiar place, the guest chambers in the principal temple located just south of Neraka. Many a time, as an acolyte, I had helped prepare this chamber for important visitors and senior priests. It was rare any who were not of our order to actually spend the night here, but we still held it ready, just in case. I was on the bed, still attired in my robes and accouterments of my office, all of which appeared to have been restored to their former glory, no wear, stain or damage showed. A warm fire burned in the hearth, the camphor logs filling the room with a fragrant, if strong, odour. On the nearby desk a tray laden with a loaf of bread and a block of whiteish cheese invited my attention, as did the simple jug (no doubt cherry wine) that sat nearby. Keeping my scythe within reach, I sat and ate my fill, and as I poured a second cup, the door opened silently. I stood as the priest, an abbott by his torc, attended to by two clerics entered. He waved me to sit back down, while the clerics cleared the table. It was then I noticed they and the abbott seemed to have these greenish auras about them. I waited until the two left, then gave the abbott a faint smile and a nod. He returned a grin, raising his hands up and began to speak. You are aware that we are quite dead, yet quite aware as well. Do you know where you are? I shook my head. You are in our Lord's dream, he brought you here to rest. Folding my hands on the desk in front of me, I nodded my understanding. Ah, good. Now, it may have been a day, or a year, or a hundred years that you have been asleep, that is up to our Lord. But rest assured, you still live. I was a bit confused by this, but accepted it as truth. He went on. Now, for you, there is no justification for life, but also no reason for you not to live. Those who claim to find meaning in their lives are usually dishonest or deluded. In this case, your meaning is our Lord's wish that you carry on His desire for this world. Do you understand that? I nodded most passionately. Excellent. As a Holy Knight of the Lord of Death, you have proven yourself very devout and loyal, if sometimes confusedly random. This business with the dead and undead, be more cautious in what you summon, and more aware of just how far you reach into our Lord's domain. He is amused by your efforts, let's not annoy him, yes? He beamed a smile at me, yet I could sense the warning in those words. Now, as to this lich you have somehow associated yourself with. Take care in your dealings with him. When you are in doubt, ask our Lord's guidance. He then pointed at the gemstone embedded in my forehead.He can see what you see, and hear what you hear. Pray for wisdom, he will grant you it. I bowed my head in acceptance. You are doing well child. For now, feel free to wander the temple, but do not leave it. Await his calling, and be ready to serve his Will. He turned to leave, the door opening at his approach. He paused, turning back to me. Try not to anger the Dark Queen. It is not only your Highlord that distrusts you. It is all Her servants. You would do well to reciprocate that feeling. He then left, leaving me to ponder my situation.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Fri Oct 24 23:44:37 2014 Subject More Dreams, More Memories

I wandered about the phantasmal temple, noting the condition was far better than the present temple, but that was to be expected. The acolytes chanted more clearly, the polished surfaces were deeper, and the bell tolled with more resonance, And the shadows were active. The rubies in the skull above the altar were a purer red, lighting everything with a blood-like glow. This was how I used to envision the temple, how it should look. The years were not kind to the old structure, nor was the management as caring as it should have been. This was Chemosh's Temple, not some high priest's. It should have been cared for as such, as the property of a god. But, compared to some other temples, it was moderately better. Still not what it should be. I had made my way to the library, and was pleased that it was in the same pristine shape as the rest of the place. Which meant the books would be complete and in good repair. I could spend a few lifetimes here, learning all I could about the mysteries of death. But knowing my time was short, I found the single manual I needed, and sat at one of the tables to study. I opened the tome, then brought out my journal and began taking notes. The object I had bartered Obsidian for was recognizable enough, but needed some repair and some peices to be complete. Whoever had brought it to the black wyrm, had completed only two steps of the ritual, retrieval and imbuement. Obsidian was the imbued part where the less than clever priest met his demise. Now I had to find the creature that would give it its next ability. Fortunately, I knew where several were, and unfortunately I knew they would not be pleased to see me...again. As I read on, the final step stopped me mentally. This would be the most difficult as it involved a trip to Southern Hosk. And the intrusion into the Temple of Hith. As I started to read on, mention of a particular army was made, one that I couldn't be sure still existed having no real solid history of that area. I wrote down as much as I could, feeling the dawn from my reality starting, and the sensation of being drawn back to my dream. I closed my journal, tucking it back into my robes and taking one last glance at the manual. The name Thenol still hid in the shadow of the pages. But it was there. When I awoke, it was not in the swamps of Xak Tsaroth, but in the mountains somewhere. It was not the Khalkists, or the Dargaards. To my south and east stretched some wide plains. As I looked about, I could see a small group hiding amongst the scrubby trees, and recognized them as the special troops that made up the Green wing, although they had yet to see me. This was going to be problematic for me, as I knew they were not the type that liked surprises. And I wasn't the type who could sneak up on that type. They would fill me with arrows before I could explain. So, my omly option was...stand here and wait to be noticed. How hard could that be? A figure clad in black, carrying a scythe, just standing on a hilltop, staring down at them. Maybe I should rethink this strategy some more.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Aug 19 00:16:02 2015 Subject The Price of Living

I watched as the old man fell to his knees, hands digging into the freshly dug earth of his family's graves. He wailed at the heavens again, taking up the butcher's knife and holding it to his wrist, turning to look at me again. "I can't live this way, I want to kill myself! Please allow me that" he cried. I looked up from my perch upon a grave stone and stopped sharpening my scythe. "Do you really want to die ?" I asked playfully. He nodded furiously, "Yes, I want to die, die now" I gave a slight smile, "No one commits suicide because they want to die." He looked at me wild eyed yelling "Then why do they do it?" I went back to honing the dark blade. I whispered "They do it to stop the pain" I then heard a rich, dark voice say "Or they do it out of cowardice" I started to my feet, surprised at the black cloaked figure standing over the now unmoving body of the elderly man, no trace of the spark on life showing on him. He remove the dark hood, revealing my Lord, a rackish smile on his face. I quickly dropped to one knee. "Your servant, Sire." "You were enjoying that, yes?" he said in an equally playful tone, mimicing my earlier tone. I could only nod mutely. "Ah, you still show promise. But quickly now, stand, we have places to go." I stood, looking questioningly at him, as he opened his cloak, revealing complete darkness. "Enter!" he commanded, and I heeded him, as he wrapped the Holy Cloth around me, holding me tightly. "Now do not be alarmed, but we are there now." He opened the cloak again and we were now far from the Broken Chain near Neraka, but at an ocean shore. We stood next to a large crystal in the sand. I could make out someone inside, like a clear tomb. I looked to my Lord, confused. "Now you will learn how to restore a soul, my precious slave." he hissed seductively.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Tue Aug 25 01:04:30 2015 Subject Restore What Was Lost

C bless I spent the entire day under the tutelage of my Lord. By this time the sun was starting to rise again, and the ceremony, as it were, needed to be performed. He took my Book, and placed something in it, closing it and handing it back to me. With a nod and a wave of his hand, he sent me to the crystal while he stayed in the shadows away from the beach. As i approched the crystal, His Divine Messenger, the large and lethal Death's Head Scorpion, was finishing the removal of the top layer of the clear sarcophagus. The still figure of a man, wearing the Blue Highlord's personal guard uniform and partially covered with a Highlord's cloak, lay within. He looked in his middle years, still fit but somewhat gaunt. The remaining layer of crystal raised him to waist level, so this part of the ritual would be easy. I began the incantation while opening my book to retrieve the item my Lord had left. It was a ball of light, various colours of gold, grey and red swirled around it, almost matching the far horizon where the sun began its ascent. I chanted the divine words over the corpse, while pulling the light from the book. It numbed my hand, feeling both hot and cold, full of rage and calm. I raised it to the sky, while silent lightning came down to touch the orb. All fell quiet, the wind, the water. We were surrounded by darkness, yet all was light where we stood. At the end on the chant, I plunged my hand into the body's chest, driving the light deep into him. His body arched up, a strangled cry, a gasp of air, then sleep. He was breathing again. I looked back up the shoreline for my Lord, but he had left already, as he said he would if I proved successful. The Scorpion would take me where ever I wanted to go, which for now would be Nightlund. I had other tasks to take, and I needed to return home first to prepare. I looked at the slumbering figure again, wondering wht he was so important to my Lord and the Dark Queen. But that would be the Baroness's problem, and I had to leave before she showed up. Too many questions she would ask, and I was not ready to face her again just yet. Not now. There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sun Nov 15 21:00:47 2015 Subject To Raise the Past

I sat on the black floor, exhausted. The last of the pentacles were made and orisons offered. The limp and dismembered bodies of five children lay one at each point of the dragon pentagram, each with a corresponding coloured jewel in their mouth, or is some cases, where the mouth would be. The smoke from the various incense hung heavy in the air. As large as this cavern was, the motionless stagnation was a sign of greater powers at work. The eerily red light of the walls only highlighted that. The revered scriptures of Nightlund and of Thenol lay about me. I closed the first book of Thenol, the horrors that were still vivid in my mind. I could not imagine what the other five held within. But I would find out eventually. The items I needed were not readily available in the part of of Qlettaar I went to. It had the raw materials, but I needed more refined objects. Those mages had it easy, magic being just magic I suppose. Holy items, and those touched by the Gods themselves, were more elusive, and required absolute faith. Mages seemed to only have faith when their spells failed and left them in perilous danger. At any rate, I had an army now. A small one granted. Very small, but very determined. And impervious to pain. I could also say to death, but holding their 100 souls would always remind me that death is not always the final chapter. With this group of warriors and several priests, added to what I had in Duerghast, I could aid the Dragonarmies in their goal. And, I still had a few more surprises before I reached Sanction. For now, I had to rest, then ready myself to leave Darkling Hall for Dargaard, for a few more items I needed. It will be good to visit home again.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sat Nov 21 21:59:11 2015 Subject To Conquer the Present

I had made my way through the East Pass along the south lava river, past Mt. Ashkir and into the gates of Duerghast. It was not a homecoming, I had done that already in Nightlund, but it was a relief to be there again. I led two loaded mules to the temple, and had the guards unload the artifacts to my chambers. Once everything was in place, I could take my boots off and lay my weapons aside. I took in the pouches, chests and small crates I had obtained. Several of the smaller items were still in the pouches stashed away in my robes. I relaxed on the many cushions around the fire pit, and gave thought to the large group of the Blue Wing that had camped by the main route. Their guards had stopped me, questioning where I was headed and my business. I opened my cloak, showing the Inquisitor's insignia and replied I was on my way to the Duerghast Temple. They quickly waved me on my way, reluctant to detain me any further. I was mildly surprised, and hurried along. I looked over the encampment, and saw the banner of the Blue Highlord. Why was she here? What had transpired while I was away? I would have to check the reports. A group that large and headed by the Highlord herself was a rare event, especially with the new Emperor in the city. Times like these I was thankful I was low on the ranking list. As I glanced over the notes that had pield up in my absence, I found an interesting not regarding the doctor I had met in Neraka. She was asking if she could visit the prisoners we held, to see if any were available for some of her experiments. I looked into the fire and mulled over allowing someone into the temple to see the lot we held, some of who were subjects of my experiments. She had seemed a tolerable person, with an interest in our work and how it might contribute to hers. I laid the note aside, and pulled one of the sleeping furs around me. I would have to ask her to visit, could be something to learn there, and I could maybe get some information on the items I had collected. I had to wonder how she would react to resurrecting some of her probable less successful experiments. I think I would enjoy watching the reaction of someone with a physician's background.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Mon Dec 28 18:22:12 2015 Subject A Night of Meetings

The black horse charged down the hillside in wild abandon. It ran everywhere, across lakes, fields, up and down hills and mountains. It had only two forms, Sylph mused. Running and standing still. But it served her well, and frightened all that was near. Including the rider, who held on for life. The fiery mount slowed, finally stopping at the edge of one of the grave fields above the city of Sanction. The rider scanned the mists for what ever could bring her mount to a halt. Pulling the spear from its scabbard, she peered into the dark, catching a flash of white in between the markers, moving toward the road. Putting a knee to the horse, she turned it to face the late night wanderer. It was safe to say no ordinary trespass would be here now. The apparition stopped at the edge of the trail, waiting. Sighing heavily, Sylph carefully dismounted, spear still readily pointed at this form. As her feet touched the ground, in an instant the creature was in front of her, with ih touching distance. Silently, quietly, as if Sylph had dismounted in front of it. The creature was a young girl, dressed in soiled white garments. A dirty white blind-fold covered her eyes, and her feet were bare. The curious thing about her were the wings. Feathered, also soiled, and a bit ruffled. She stood with tangled white hair, a dull silver band around her head. Her feet were bare. The two stood there and stared at each other for what seemed like hours. The young girl smirked, then standing on tip-toes, kissed Sylph on the cheek. " You will do," she whispered. "We will meet again soon." Then as suddenly as she had moved, she was gone, the mists starting to rise. Sylph looked around, but it was just her and the nightmare. Wondering what that was about, she was again interupted by a calling voice from further up the road. " Hail! Stranger, may I approach?" cried a voice. Having been caught short just now, Sylph was determined to face this visitor at the ready. She quickly remounted the horse, spear pointed at the new possible threat, readying for the charge. " Whoa whoa, friend, we have business together, don't skewer me just yet, please! " Wonderful, she thought. Another visitor. I hate Sanction she thought sourly.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sat Feb 13 14:38:31 2016 Subject The Darkness Spreads

The village was surrounded by a rough hewn log wall, a little over 4 metres tall. The gate was probably sturdy once, but now time and usage had worn it down to a loosely hung portal into the once military outpost. It was probably abandoned after the last war, and drifters, merchants, caravans, all used it for shelter, spurring on the opening of taverns and shops. Like any settlement, it grew in its crude way, eventually turning into a semi respectable township. But that was only my idle speculation. Fot now it was my test, my show piece. Inside the lesson learned in Darkling Hall, Nightlund, and to the far reaches of Taladas, Southern Hosk and finally Thenol, was bearing fruit. Or in this case, the famine of this fruit. Whatever. I sat on a stump, waiting for the four dark clad figure to climb the road to this gate. 4 priests unaccustomed to walking, huffing and puffing to where I waited patiently. One of the things I had learned was patience. My Master had taught me that. My other "Mentor" had laboured on that as well, but to a different purpose. I found both methods compatible, at least to my situation. When they reached my perch, I stood, givng a slight, perhaps mockingly bow. Waiting for the to speak first, the one more rotund of them huffed out..."Where is it?" is a raspy woice. The odour of too much pipe weed and stale wine wrapped around him like a second cloak. As I pushed open my cloak, the one blacker than black and darker than darkness, I displayed the sword hanging at my side. I could see the greed in his beady eyes. He was a fine sample of his god's clergy. He held out his hand, shaking. "Give it to me, give it to me now!" he cried in a voice of one used to demanding his way among his underlings. I carefully drew the blade out, putting the tip on his hand, then lifting it back up teasingly, giving him a small grin. I knew that touch alone had done its work. "What game are you playing at? Give it to me now, you foul slave of Death!", his whole body shook in rage. I bowed my head slightly, barely shaking it at him. "My lord, I hardly think you are capable of holding this blade, why, your fingers, they seem... my words fading into a grin. He looked at his hand, at first in annoyance, then disbelief, then shock. The pudgy blue digits were now immobile, and were starting to fall to the ground, icy and cleanly severed. I walked around him slowly, behind him. "I think you should rest, I will show the others to the inside of the gates." I then touched the blade to the back of his right knee, carefully slicing halfway through, causing him to tumble to the ground. That one would hurt later. As he fell, he gasped raggedly, wordlessly.He hit the ground with a great thump, still wheezing and trying to speak. The jewels on the hilt glittered joyously. I waved my hand towards the gate, giving the other priests a slight bow again. "My lords, please, let us enter the village, and see what our Masters have gifted us. I believe the priest of Lord M'Fistos will wait here for now." They looked at each other, seemimgly enjoying the discomfort of the fallen priest, and made their way up to the gate, eager to see what was past it. I started to follow, giving the injured cleric an encouraging nod. "Now you wait here, I will return shortly to check on you" I said with a smile and a wink.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Sat Sep 16 22:32:52 2017 Subject Return

It was past sunset when the ship slowly made way to its berth at the dock. The slaves caught the lines thrown by the crew, and struggled to draw the two-master onto place. The gangway was dropped to the quarter-deck and the dock boss hurried up, saluting the captain. As he approached, he reached out for the ship's papers. "Thank ye sire, whence have ye come?" The captain lowered his gaze, barely mumbling a name. "New Aurim, by way of Blackwater Glade." The dock boss blanched, gingerly taking the papers. "Uh, well, your...cargo?" he asked nervously. "Dry goods or live?" The captain stepped aside, gesturing to the shadows behind him. "Live, just her." he managed to choke out. The dock boss looked, seeing oh, about thirteen figures standing behind the captain. " And uh, what about, uh, those other folk?" he stuttered. The captain turned his back on the dock boss, strangling out the words. " Live...just..just ..her." He walked away. The lead figure glided up to the dock boss, a hand appearing from the shadow, with papers. "Inquisitor Sylphshade Rephaim, I will be reporting to the temple of Duerghast with my...luggage..attached." The dock boss imagined he saw the glint of what, under other circumstances, looked like a pleasent smile. He drew a deep shaky breath in, putting his mark on the papers. He had been warned of this..'cargo', but this was not quite what he expected. 'Hrumm, You have leave to the city, umm, Lady Inquisitor. he managed to say with a clumsy bow. "Just..inquisitor..will do." a lilted voice answered. *More to follow, as we return to Sanction, accept new duties, and catch up in Schallsea and the 'Garden of the Dead"*

Author: Sylphshade Date: Tue Jul 9 23:25:49 2019 Subject Back to the Begining

So I return to Duerghast..not in shame or victory. Just orders. While I was away, we somehow gained a new Emperor. The Highlord of Blue, to be exact. Red wing will be retrained, Blue retooled, Green pretty much to carry on and White to just stay cold. Black wing...has a few new irons in the fires. Our Highlord will continue his campaign with the new undead forces, while state security and special details work to smooth our operations in the Empire and newly gained lands. My personal assignment was with special detail, continuing development of the undead research while overseeing questioning and gathering informations. A blend of demand and supply as some of the things I question and gather will end up the being the 'raw materials' needed for certain experiments and study of... Well, fresh materials may pan out better than well preserved items. Let's just leave that as that. Once I am set up here at the Temple, I may need to pay a visit to Darkling Hall... It has been too long.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Jul 17 19:59:41 2019 Subject New Wing Order

So the assessing of 'materials' in the old temple was turning into a much larger task than previously known. So many cells, storage caverns and old 'secret' passages that were never mapped. I had a special detachment of hunter goblins and a squad from the Bundesphar sniffing out the shadows. About this squad. Going to be trained to work with our new security group, hunting the uglies and criminals in the temple and surrounding areas. I have been finding some interesting etchings in some of the old passages that were sealed off. Writings that resemble glyphs similar to what is found in Taladas, specifically around the Thenol area. Surprised to find this in the old temple much less Sanction. I can put off my pilgrimage to Darkling Hall, this could be a connection to my Lord Chomos that has been either forgotten or hidden, and in the perfect place. I will move my offices to the temple, including the security section. Less likely to be bothered here. As an aside, one task I have been given is to secure the wine cellars for the Emperor. That does not surprise me as much as the added order. Under no circumstance am I to allow Lord Saige entrance to these cellars. Odd sort of concern.

Author: Sylphshade Date: Wed Jul 24 04:04:27 2019 Subject Taking Stock

Note to self : Reading then proof-reading reports and inventories for anything should be considered torture of the foulest kind. Add in the scratchy scrawly and tiny images of words not spoken in a millennium, you get the idea. But at least I had my regular work to attend to as well, that being the freeing up of the tongues of many 'nobles' who supported the old regime that were still in Sanction. Their numbers were not many and they really didn't know any information that mattered now but they would be useful for furthering our research into necromancy. Also, I have some time to explore Duerghast, the old temple, the library and stonework, and deeper into the cells where all manner of creatures were once held (some still alive). Also time to watch over the various priests who were everywhere, poking into uncharted areas, finding various relics, some familiar, some very baffling. You would have thought a lot of this would have been 'found' before but the new Empress has been the first to really crack open the old temple. Stll some people in the dragonarmies who believe the whole thing cursed. But of course it is cursed, by Morgion's snot it was the place of the many hideous and cruel deaths. And a few undeaths as well...and hopefully will resume. I have found one old coin, think it is bronze. It has the head of one of the goads on one side, and the star formation of the god's constellation. All I can say about it is not Lord Chemosh. Have to clean it some more, it is a heavy coin, about the size of a quail egg, maybe larger. I will get one of the priests to put a name to the image, until then I will tuck it away. I have sent some examples of the wall writings to our Lord's central temple in Neraka and copies to the Empress' headquarters in the Dark Queen's temple. All of my correspondence goes via a Blue wing messenger to Neraka, some to the local wings encampment. I have been sending these running journals to my wing Highlord through our own messengers and to the highmaster's quarters here in Sanction. Needless to say, our system works at a quicker pace and with a little better security, we've been at it longer The old highlord may live in a swamp but he knows how to make shadowy information get to the right places. I will send more samples of what we find here to our section fewmaster for her consideration.

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