Written from the perspective of Vladimir
We completed our journey to Kingsfall by way of the Great River after almost a week. My companions resolve has been tested to the limit by the otherworldly inflection that has taken home in their own bodies. Yalanna(/) has been the worst effected as this rotten contagion has robbed her of her beauty.
As we disembark from our vessel a member of the kings retinue is waiting at the dockside, his name is “Buxley” a man we met previously whilst searching the castle for the kings would-be assassin some weeks ago. I cannot help but notice his incredibly nervous disposition. I bid goodbye to our ward Sanyolla(?) and her man-servant and give her a blessing to keep her safe in the days to come.
Buxley hands Yolanna a stack of letters, Snorry also receives one letter which I was later to discover was an important matter of Dwarven politics, it must have had some significance as Snorry didn’t head straight to the Inn and had a surly manner to him all the way to the castle. Yolanna had received word from a master of the Guild of Art that we were to meet them at the “Tower” as soon as possible so that they could remove the Fel taint from us without delay. Although first Buxley said that King requests our presence immediately.
We arrived at the castle and as we handed our travelling cloaks to the servants I heard the king cry out “Assassin” from his private chamber. Snorry and I drew arms and rallied to his call, upon entering the kings chamber we were met with a interesting situation.
The king was wearing a bed robe, wielding a broom and had donned his chamber pot as a makeshift helm. Two of his personal guard stood in front of him with their hands up trying to calm his mood. The king it seemed had mistaken them for assassins . In my heart I knew that this moment spelt the end for the king and perhaps the country. The kings age had caught up on him and his mind which was once as sharp as a guillotine’s blade had been worn down with time. I shouted to the guards and servants who had gathered to clear the room whilst we spoke with the King in private hoping that we could salvage some dignity from the situation.
After the room was cleared by the guards and servants and the doors were locked tight to prevent anyone else from overhearing our conversations, the King, us and Buxley were left in the room. The King seemed to calm as he began to recognise us and slumped into a high backed chair next to his bed. He barked at Buxley to “fetch him some wine” which he did from a nearby dresser. Next to the bottle of wine and goblet was another glass bottle that wasn’t wine, it bared more resemblance to a potion bottle than anything else. After Buxley had poured the wine he carefully tipped the potion bottle and dripped a single drop of this potion in with the wine. Written on the label of the potion bottle I could see that this some some sort of medicinal elixir for the kings condition.
As soon as the King had finished the entire goblet of wine we could all see his eyes begin to focus properly on us and his facial expression and body language seemed to become more recognisable as the king we knew and loved. He looked over us one by one and recalled our names as he did. “Vladimir, Dragonborn Cleric of Bahamut, Snorry, Dwarven Swordsman of Moradin, Yolanna, Half-Elf Warlock of Corellion”. We took comfort in his words and the conviction in his voice. “Come closer” he said as we drew in close to the King.
I explained to the King that the purpose of our quest was to find the lost member of his adventuring party “Valder” who might be able to rule the kingdom until one of his sons was mature enough to do so. I had found Valder when I died and found myself in the Shadowfell, he had become a revenant of the Raven Queen and told me that his tasks for the Raven Queen were not yet finished. Valder was certainly not someone who could take care of the Kingdom. We also told the King that we spoke with “X” the harbour master at Scarport and had learned all about his feud with Barris and the relationship with “X” who had been lost.
The King explained that the war with Arden was drawing closer as he and King Barris (of Arden) were positioning their troops along the border ready for the opening battle. He was spending deed with the “Guild of the Sword” in order to mobilise their army against that of Arden and that deed would not last forever. He wished us to form a diplomatic mission to Arden to try and convince Barris to back down. The King expressed that we should use “any means” in order to accomplish this even if it meant using the things that Barris holds closest (his daughter). At the mere suggestion of kidnapping or deeds which were not honourable I reminded the King that it was one of his sons that had brought us to the point of all out war and if anyone could resolve the conflict without bloodshed then he (Sebastian) should do the honourable thing. The King did not approve of my remark and shut me up with one stern expression. We said that we would do all in our power to try to convince Barris to stop the war and we would do so with honour.
“Now the second thing I request of you…” the King pulled us in closer. He explained that he over the recent weeks had become ill and sometimes got lost inside his own thoughts. Some reprieve had been given to him by the Guild Of Art who had made an elixir which helped but he could not take this forever. In Arden there are some ruins of what was once a great library filled with magical tomes and mysterious artefacts. Hidden in the ruins of this place was a book “Whitt to fill in” which might have a ritual inside that would grant the king 10 more years of healthy life. This would give him enough time for one of his sons to become worthy of the throne. It would also mean that should he need to take to the field of battle he would have his wits about him and could defend the kingdom to the best of his ability. In his weakened condition Barris could take advantage, or one of his sons and their supporters could curry political favour and have him removed if he could not run the Kingdom effectively. We confirmed we would of course venture to the ruins and find this tome.
After bidding the King good day we left his chambers and had a short word with Buxley outside. He agreed to take us to see Nix (Leader for the Guild of Art) so that we could use the transportation room to travel to the Tower of Art to get the fel taint removed. All of us were keen to get the taint removed as the eyes that have sprouted from our skin are almost too much to bear.
We meet Nix in one of the upper towers in the castle. He was having lunch as we entered a small library room at a small table. He looked hunched over as he sat eating small pieces of meat of various varieties from his plate. He re-iterated the details of the Tome of X and of its importantance to the Kings continued well being and gave us some extra directions to the location of the ruins in Arden. He agreed that we could use the transportation room to get to the Tower of Art as quickly as possible as the creatures lured by the outsider taint that we carried could strike at any point.
We took a couple of hours to replenish our travelling packs at the local market whilst Snorry went to meet the person who wrote the letter he received at the docks.
The transportation room is hidden in one of the lower levels in the Castle near the training ground that the guards use. It was easy for us to slip unnoticed into the secret corridor and walk the grey flagstone stairs down into the box-like chamber. We had used the transportation room once before when the first met the King and he gave us our quest to find Valder. The room was exactly as I remembered it. A stone cube with flagstone like walls and an arcane ritual circle bonded to the middle of the floor. The symbols were beyond my comprehension but Yolanna seemed more comfortable with some of the their meanings this time around.
After Nix closed the stone door behind us we waited cross legged in the middle of the ritual circle. After a few minutes passed the symbols on the floor began to illuminate with an otherworldly glow. Motes of light danced from the symbols and rose like miniatures stars into the air it was almost like being in the middle of a starry waterfall. In due course the walls faded to black the room itself began to rotate. The room span faster and faster until we could see different images appearing and disappearing on the surface of the non-existent walls. The something unsettling happened. An audible “crack” rang out and the images that we could see on the walls began to be covered by an oily blackness. This blackness seeped over the sides of the cube until we could see nothing outside its walls. The symbols on the floor still glowed brightly so we knew we were still in flight. After a short while I noticed a pin point of light in the blackness, it got closer and closer with each second that passed. First one, then another and another. As the approached us I could make out that they were not stars at all but eyes starring at us. In seconds the walls were covered in a writing mass of black tentacles, eyes protruding from the stalks. This mass wrapped itself around the cube and we could see it testing the walls for strength. Snorry, Rackir and I drew arms and stood back to back expecting the worse. As if the situation could not get any worse mouths started to open from other tentacles and we could hear the sound of something not of this world in the distance. Our minds began to cloud, even my own resolve began to weaken as the noise and the sight of these things tested my tenacity to it’s very limits. The cube stopped rotating the symbols on the floor began to loose their glow. My grip tightened on my fullblade and a muttered a prayer to Bahamut under my breath.
The corner of the cube cracked and splintered leaving enough room for a mass of these tentacles to reach inside. All of us steadied our breathing and as I looked across to Snorry I could see his eye narrowing as if he was looking for any opening that might present itself. The mass of tentacles leaked into the corner of the cube and began to take a humanoid form. Thick as ropes the mass formed legs, then a body, then two arms outstreatched from its torso, finally a head of eyes turned to look at us as the Thoughtscourge took its form. Its eyes looked into ours and we could feel its inky black tentacles in our minds, sifting through thoughts, memories, until it found out proudest moments and corrupted them with its taint. For me it was the memory of when I became an uncle to my brothers children, our bloodline would continue with this was a day for celebration. As I remembered turning to my brother to congratulate him the Thoughtscourge was standing right behind him, his tentacled hand placed upon my brother shoulders. My brother then said I was a disappointment to the family and that I would not see my nephews after this day. Emotions stirred within me, how could my brother do this to me, I was starting to believe the words of my brother when my head pounded with pain. In the blink of an eye I was back in the transportation room, sweat pouring from my brow, I looked across to this vile creature who had defiled one of my most treasured memories, and launched into combat.