The Banner of the Crimson Emperor

Field Journal (2)

Observations:

Upon capturing Kerebus Maverlin, we found a sword in his possession that could not be unsheathed. It was clearly imbued with powerful magic. Upon further examination I determined that it was the Sword of Kings, which has belonged to the nobility of Turos for generations. It is a finely crafted elven sword that is so ancient it predates the schism between the Ishari and the Elisani. Its power has been diminished, but I was able to determine that it could be unsheathed and spoken to by Kael if I performed a ritual to facilitate the conversation.

The ritual naturally went as I planned, and Kael was able to communicate with the weapon. It called itself Dominion and claimed to belong to the Crimson Emperor. According to the sword its power had been divided and fragments infused into other weapons the Emperor gifted to his generals. Dominion claimed to be the WILL of the original artifact. We have not yet determined who currently possesses each of the other swords.

One piece of information I was able to glean is that the sword cannot be kept away from its master. If the Crimson Emperor decides to pursue it, we will not be able to conceal its presence. For the time being we must keep it in our possession simply because there is no safe place to leave it.

The most concerning aspect of this discovery, is that in order to split the power of such an ancient artifact the Emperor must be wielding power the likes of which has not been seen since the War of Heaven. This does not bode well.

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It's a Trap

Rashiid walked into the bar and immediately surveyed his surroundings. He had dealt with enough shady characters that being unaware was enough to get you killed. The first thing he noticed was that Hashran wasn’t there. Second was that the goon he had met earlier was.

This isn’t going to end well.

“No, you’re being paranoid again. Give it a chance. Hell, you can clear this up and everybody wins. You reinforce your relationship with your connection to home, clear out a criminal element from a downtrodden port city, and we get rid of a very powerful magic item that somebody will certainly be looking for later. Win. Win. Win”

Then, after a brief conversation, the bugbear stood up and a poor Skree’s plan to come out ahead goes up in flames. Big, hairy, muscle-y flames.

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Salena's Journal: Kerebus

I don’t know what to think or feel about this Kerebus Maverlin. This man, so unlike his horrible brother, and who even reveled in the idea of me killing his brother, has turned my world upside down. The things he said about the Crimson Emperor wanting to make everyone equal, removing the class system…. It’s tempting. When we brought him before the Margrave, I knew that the others wanted him to be kept gagged so that he could not save himself. That’s why I removed the gag. I don’t know what I will do with this man, but whether I friend him or kill him, his fate will be in my hands, and mine alone.
The only question is: What Now?
Redhead-Woman-Fantasy-Worrior-600x375.jpg

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An Unexpected Meeting

The stones had been laid out on the deck of the great barge, The Yellow-Toothed King. It was easy enough for Yzmo to find the message, but it took him slightly longer than he would have liked to figure out it’s cipher.

He hissed sharply.

Muttering obscenities about his employer, he picked up the rocks and casually tossed them overboard. Rashiid had him risking neck and tail to decipher his crazy riddles and pass along his insane messages among a chain of hands only her knew how long. It was absurd. Still, Yzmo owed him his life and more than a fair bit of coin.

Snap. The sound of a stone hitting the palm, then an oddly dressed pink-skin cleared the guardrail and landed on deck with an impossible softness. The strangeness of a human, unattended, and on The King was enough to give the Skree pause. The pause was enough for the man to put Yzmo in a choke hold and leap silently from the barge.

Before he could twitch, a cloth covered the Skree’s muzzle and the overpowering scent of chemicals brought him into a dreamless sleep.

When he awoke, Yzmo quickly found himself bound to a chair and gagged. The room was dark but for a shaft of light coming from the ceiling. Arrayed on a silver tray, sparkling in that ray of sunshine, was an arsenal of horrible tools. Some he recognized, others he didn’t. The knowledge of what to come next brought no comfort to the Skree.

The gag was removed by unseen hands. Yzmo was familiar with this situation enough not to scream or holler.

“Tell us of Rashiid Al’Zaheer.”

(Author’s note- There’s no secret message here. The cipher’s were fun, but I wanted to change things up a little. Besides, I was getting the impression that the novelty was wearing thin.)

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A suspicious arrangement of stones on the deck of the Yellow-toothed King

NZEVIORM RH Z HKB ZMW XZKGFIVW.
YIRMTRMT SRN GL QFHGRXV.
DROO XLMGZXG HLLM.
PVVK ZM VBV LM SVI ZMW GSVN ULI NV.

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Salena's Journal: Betrayal

He left us. That stupid, lying, traitorous, son of a bitch, Morghul tricked us into helping him escape! At his suggestion we entered Iron Gate with Aura and Morghul disguised as our prisoners. Then to all our shock, he broke free of his chains and fled! Everyone, including Pippin, attempted to catch him, but he escaped without a trace.
You would think I would be used to betrayal now, but I had no clue that Morghul was such a Trickster. I have decided to put my guard up and regard my remaining travel companions with continual suspicion. I will not be taken by surprise again.
When Pippin returned, he still had Morghul’s supplies on his back. Pippin was overjoyed to discover the pack was full of bones to gnaw on, and I must say that I took pleasure in watching him destroy the Orc’s work.
Black lab with bone long 660x178

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Fireside in Camp

The fire glowed with a fierce heat as the men laughed in the circle. The dinner of beef broth had not warmed their bellies as much as the ale had that night. Underneath red banners, two human soldiers were drunkenly laughing while a stout looking dwarf stood by the fire.

“I heard the Runner King is the Margrave’s dog,” the first solider said.

“Aye, with such a cowardly fool. The barbarians of the north are no better than foxes hiding in their holes,” the second remarked. The dwarf turned his attention to the two men.

“Be careful what you speak and whom you speak off, my friends,” the dwarf said.

“Kael Runner King of the Aldaric Sheep. I know who I speak of, dwarf,” the second solider laughed.

“Yeah, he’s just a scrap that fell out of the Winter Wolf’s jaws and—- “ the first started.

“Craigridge,” the dwarf interrupted.

“Of course,” the first said, “Rorrick—-“

“Is your mother still living?” the dwarf asked.

“Yes,” the first soldier responded.

“And you,” the dwarf said to the second, “mother, sister, wife?”

“Yes,” the second replied, “what of it?”

“Think of them. Picture their faces. Think of their warmth. Think of your home and hearth, think of your fathers, brothers and friends.” The dwarf said. The soldiers looked at each other bewildered.

“Now think of your women raped, you father’s and brothers’ heads on pikes and your home burnt to the ground if you resist a conquering foe,” the dwarf said and then with an evil smile added, “and if you didn’t resist it happened anyway. Because that’s what Craigridge has done to many northern tribes, including Kael’s people.”

“Bah, not to mine. I never would have allowed that to happen to my family,” the second solider said.

“How many dragons have you slain?” the dwarf asked.

“None,” the second replied.

“With the recent defeat of the red knight Kerebus, Kael’s killed two,” the dwarf noted.

“They were whelps,” the first said.

“Aye, but those wyrms would have shit out your bones. If Kael had stood and fought, all of his people would have joined their King in death. He lead them to safety and now they stand as our opponents. A man who, while in exile, has slain two dragons, cleared out a goblin infestation in a mine and blocked our path to easy victory, and uncovered and captured our spy and ally Kerebus,” the dwarf said. He let the point sink in and then continued, “I hope that I meet him again and the glory of defeating him will be mine. If it is not, you had better hope that Craigridge or another warrior slays him because I have no doubt he would love to crush your skull beneath his hammer.”

The two soldiers looked at each other. The second laughed uneasily and walked away. The first stayed behind.

“You faced him?” he asked.

“Aye,” the dwarf said, “I thought him a whelp too, and mocked him. But he bested me easily and spared my life out of honor. The stories they are telling of him are true.”

The first solider nodded slowly and walked away, leaving the dwarf at the fire.

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Salena's Journal: Into the Rabbit Hole

Salena2
Returned from the mines and we have completed our mission. Well… sort of. We cleared the mine of goblins all right, and then destroyed the mines.
I guess I should start from the beginning.
Long story short: Before we entered the mines, a second party joined us, betrayed us, and then attempted to kill Sir Thannel. We defeated them and questioned one of them. The things he said were disturbing, to say the least. Apparently, Straivylin has a traitor at the Iron Gates who is in league with someone proclaiming himself to be the Crimson Emperor. This so called Emperor wants nothing less than to rule all of Ratheus.
We discovered his army from the Underdark under the mine and chose to collapse it to prevent the impending invasion. This of course was after we battled the most horrifying creature I have encountered so far.
I am weary. My heart is heavy and I am a long way from my farm, my home. I am trying not to let my thoughts be dragged into the past, but the past will not let me go. You see, the man we interrogated gave us the name of the traitor at the Iron Gates: Kerebus Maverlin, brother to nobleman’s son whom I killed.
Since he uttered those words, my blood has been on fire, and I am helpless to resist the pull of memories Into the Past.

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Dearest Jillian (4th Correspondence)

Dearest Jillian,

The bright dawning of each day still burns the awful ache of your absence into my soul. I know not how I will free your spirit, but my life is forfeit until I can right my most terrible wrong.
I fervently believe that my current endeavors would meet your approval, were you here. You always had a sweetness about you and would have wished for me to ease the suffering of others or prevent greater bloodshed.
My allies and I find ourselves in such circumstances now. We used guile to gain access to the outpost where Kerebus Maverlin sought refuge and we killed many of his men before he finally surrendered. He is arrogant and he has justified his warmongering with deeply flawed logic. He wishes to avenge the brutalization of his mother at the hands of soldiers in wartime by ending all war forever. Somehow, in his twisted mind, the best way to end war is by allying himself to the so-called Crimson Emperor, whose quest for power is leading dangerously closer to instigating the largest war the world has known since the Ascension. I tried to point out the flaws in his reasoning, but he is young and human. He believes in the world only as it appears in his mind. He scoffs at logic and has no respect for intellect or age. I have prevailed upon my allies to keep him gagged during our trip back to Straivillin, as I cannot stand to hear his illogical pronouncements and arrogant posturing.
While in the outpost, we came across a battle map of the region with wooden carvings signifying troop deployments set in various locations. Before I could more than glance at it, Kale smashed it needlessly in some kind of fit of barbarian ignorance. I was able to see that there is a great force amassed in the disputed lands. The “Crimson Emperor” is building an army. He evidently has enlisted the aid of the Winter Wolves, led by Rorrick Cragridge. It is quite puzzling to see them so far South, but I have heard tales of the fearsome half dragon Cragridge and the loyalty of his men is surpassed only by their brutality. The only other forces gathered in the region belong to Vallimore and Magdalene Hanna, the sister of the late Duke of Turos. She arrived at Straivillin as we departed and seems to be on a mission to gather support for her cause. The Margrave will offer her no aid and likely send her away with a bruised ego. It would not surprise me if she is also entertaining offers of support from the Crimson Emperor. Like Kerebus, she also suffers from blind arrogance and a sense of entitlement. This self-proclaimed Emperor may have certain skill in coaxing obedience out of dangerously arrogant people by letting them suckle at the teat of power.
For each moment of this campaign you have been a constant in my thoughts. I can only hope that my attempts to prevent this war and earn my freedom carry me ever closer to you. The only pain worse than the blazing loneliness of a new day without you is the cold, aching emptiness of my arms at night.

Until we meet again…
Your beloved,
Aura

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A conspicuous scrap of paper

The heroes could hear a bell ringing in the distance, distracting the team from their task. The danger they found themselves confronted with was daunting at best. A red sky this late in the season was a daunting omen. Knight Commander Wren peered south and could see the undead troops mobilizing in the distance.

“We can’t stand alone. We need to send for help.” The Knight Commander’s grim attitude spread with the information. Suddenly a heart stopping shriek echoed overhead.

“Either that be mum or, the Duke has a nasty new toy. We’ll need the aid of a wizard if that’s what I think it is.”

“There’s no need to worry yourself Master Dwarf. We will find a solution” Wren sounded worried.

“Tis no minor problem, Sir, that’s a dragon.”

Almost as if on cue, the ringing of the bell came to a sudden halt and sun glinted off the scales off the scales of the beast flying towards them from the horizon.

(Sebald Code)

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