After a most hospitable evening with the Nomen Centaurs, we were directed southward toward the wicked lands they described to us. Surely the evil that cast its sorcery upon Varnhold will be found there, and hopefully, the missing Centaur woman as well.
On our way through the vast plains, under the shadow of the Nomen Heights, we came across a large herd of Mastodons grazing peacefully among the gargantuan bones of a long dead burrowing beast. Rufus recommended that we give them wide berth, for though they are not violent creatures by nature, they are fiercely protective of their young. But as we circled them a glimmer of white caught our eyes from off in the distance. Ivory is a most rare material, and valuable if found intact. Rufus desired to sneak past the Mastodons alone to investigate, for even a small quantity could be a boon to our kingdom. While the rest of us are not exactly masters of stealth, I made the sole suggestion that such a scheme could too easily turn sour, and that if it did he would be far from our aid. Without Daeron and Sir Thorne’s concurrence, however, Rufus went anyway.
Rufus successfully sneaked past the precarious pachyderms and apparently, upon reaching the source of the white glimmer, realized that he’d stumbled upon an elephant graveyard. Though none of the ivory found their proved untarnished, Rufus’s eye was then caught by the shimmer of steel buried in a horrid hole of wretched, flesh feasting worms. Some of Sir Thorne’s reckless daring must have rubbed off on Rufus, for with no other danger in sight, he attempted to lower himself down the hole by rope to reach what he thought might still prove to be valuable materials.
But before he could, the humongous head of an undead ungulate burst forth from the fetid soil. He’d nearly been gored by a Ghouladon!
The three of us rushed to his aid. Though my feet carry me rather poorly I was able to blast the great ghoul with searing light as I attempted to close the gap and reach my friend. Sir Thorne and his valiant steed charge forth and tore at the dead flesh with his lance, and Daeron too flew past me with enviable speed to blast the beast with witchcraft that, to be honest, I still don’t really understand.
Rufus attempted to retaliate but was knocked into the pit of worms, which began to eat away at him. We felled the foul creature, and managed to lift our friend from the pit along with the shining objects that had tempted him. The armor was practically destroyed and useless, but there was also a spear of clearly magical make which we failed to identify. Disturbingly, Rufus told us of how the Ghouladon had looked him square in the eyes with implicit intelligence, and produced a horrid sort of gloating, gutteral laugh before pushing him into the pit with clear intention. Daeron looked upward and started at the sight of the black bird that for weeks he has been convinced is following in our footsteps. At this point, I am inclined to agree. Someone, or something, is watching us.
The following day we reached strange lands with ruins bearing ancient stone etechings, which Daeron described as written in the Cyclopean tongue. I know little of the Cyclops race, aside from the fact that they have been supposedly extinct for an era. What this bodes for the remainder of our journey can be nothing wholesome.
Finally we reached the precipice of a powerful rushing river, flowing in a deep ravine about one hundred feet straight down from where we stood. There were two great waterfalls, one cascading down from high cliffs on the right, and the other dropping dangerously beyond sight to our left. And in the middle, resting like the dead, was an island with the horrifyingly familiar silhouette of an ancient crumbling tower. Finding no safe way to trek down, we formulated a rather foolhardy (in retrospect) plan to descend. Sir Thorne and his mighty steed managed to fit into our bag of holding, sharing space with our treasure and many items of import. Daeron cast Flight upon the giant wolf Bones. The idea was that Daeron could carry me, being small of stature and relatively light, and the bag of holding, while Bones could bear Rufus down. This… half worked.
As Daeron approached the island with me perched atop his Elven shoulders, we caught sight of terrible wings and sharp stingers. Wyverns!
Daeron and I heard a splash from behind us, and I turned to see that Bones had failed to fly, plummeting into the fearsome foaming waters. One of the two malicious monsters made it’s way toward our fallen friends, and the other turned toward us as we landed on the small isle. It set upon us, stabbing Daeron with its stinger and weakening him with venom. As soon as I was able I reached for the bag on Daeron’s belt and released Sir Thorne, who burst forth on his steed (along with all of our treasure and items of import) and rent the wretch with his lance. I pulled out a scroll of Neutralize Poison and one of Restoration to relieve Daeron of the poison while Sir Thorne tackled the terror, lashing out and exchanging blows as it flew by. The thing proved no match for the Duke of the Iron Lands, and succumbing to Sir Thorne’s brutal blows, quickly crashed to the shore with awful force. Rufus managed to reach the island, but Bones floundered in the frothing waters as the other Wyvern closed in. Rufus pelted it with arrows, and Daeron summoned a wind elemental which rushed with alarming speed to the great wolf’s aid. But in vain…
The wyvern scooped Bones from the water and, after dealing a killing blow, attempted to carry its quarry to whatever terrible perch or cave in which it made its home. But the wind elemental closed the distance and furiously pummeled the poisonous foe. A cloud of arrows, flying harmlessly through the conjured creature of air, made a pincushion of the wyvern, and with one last mighty punch, the wind elemental knocked it out for the count. The body of Bones slipped from the monster’s grip as it fell limply from the sky, but the elemental caught him and hastily bore him to shore, laying him on the beach as we watched in silence.
The heroic wolf Bones, ally of the Iron Tide and companion of General Rufus McKnight, had lost his life in the awful, frigid waters of this accursed place. It felt as bad to me as losing any of our bipedal brethren. After a moment of stunned sadness from us all, Rufus lifted his fallen friend and waded waste deep into the river. He prayed for Erastil to guide Bones’ spirit, and allowed his body to drift peacefully downriver over the falls.
I hope Rufus will be able to face whatever trials are sure to come without him.
No… I know he will be. But I wish he didn’t have to. Nor any of us.
Gods, please be kind.