Hogar's Journal (Translated from Giant)
Year 781 of the founding of the City
24th Day of Garmensis
The King's Road – En-route to Winterhaven
Two decades away from this region leads one to forget the capricious nature of the weather. It has been a long time since I've seen rain fall from a clear blue sky. How it falls now. When the Vicrael ask me to accompany me on this mission for the Praetorium I was reticent to return here. It's hard to imagine what it will be like returning to a homeland from which you fled in fear for your life so many years ago. Now that I am back nostalgia and dread vie for supremacy amongst my emotions. Even after so long the cold and the rain are somehow more familiar to me than the baking sun that pounds the streets of Nerath almost daily.
But have I returned only to see the final destruction of this place? If the rumours are true and the shadow of Orcus truly descends over this vale; then the death and destruction that my grandfather wrought here ninety years ago will be as nothing compared to the cataclysm that lies ahead.
Remnants of empire echo only faintly here, the shells of once great buildings line this Imperial highway, battered and torn down by the furious storms of Kord, piles of stone nestle in the bosom of the gently rolling grasslands. In the distance the plains rise to form foothills overlooked by the sinister and brooding spectre of the Cairngorm Peaks, from this distance little more than a shadow over the horizon. The ruinous touch of Grummush is still apparent in these lands, holding back the restorative influence of Erathis and preventing the return of civilisation even so many years after the defeat of my grandfather.
We make steady progress despite the poor condition of the road and the worsening weather. Diefenbaker pads over the moor land. Off into the distance and back again, sniffing for interesting scents and scouting ahead as a good hunt-wolf should. Minron is his usual quiet self, as determined to see this through as I am, the tall minotaur strides out before us resplendent in his scarlet cloak and gleaming armour. He has little use for words or actions that will not further us in our hunt for the Demon Prince. This leaves Old Vic to make the conversation as usual, a position he relishes. Our commander can go on for seemingly indefinite amounts of time about the exploits of his younger days. Some people do not realise the benefits of quiet introspection.
25th Day of Garmensis
The King's Road – En-route to Winterhaven
The rain falls more persistently now and no longer from a clear sky. There are evil portents in this land. Something grows in the shadow.
As I survey the ruin of the King's Road, now more mud track than Imperial Highway, I fear the effect a manifestation of Orcus may have on this region. Scarcely three generations after the destruction visited on Nentir Vale by my grandfather, the march of an undead legion would drive civilisation from these lands indefinitely.
Diefenbaker has discovered corpses lying on and around the road. Russet lizard-men they are known to me as kobalds. There has been a struggle here and these creatures came off second best. Stripped of most of their clothes and possessions, their black blood stains the land.
There is also a pool of red blood in the road that looks like bad news for whoever it came from, it has the odour of Elf about it. Vic agrees, crouching over the scene like one of the Emperor's watchmen investigating a murder back in Nerath, he can sense the aura of his woodland cousins. He believes that the wound would have been fatal. Truly a shadow forms over this place.
We make good time and should reach Winterhaven tomorrow or the day after.
26th Day of Garmensis
The King's Road – En-route to Winterhaven
As we near Winterhaven vile Orcus dominates my dreams. Each morning the stench of undead flesh fills my nostrils as I wake. A reminder of the nightmare of Orcus' vision that is my nightly gift from the Demon Prince of the Undead. I know not why he chooses to reveal his vision of utopia to me. I know of no other bestowed of this 'gift' nor any means to rid myself of his foul presence. All that is left to me is to do my all to prevent the future of my nightmares from becoming the future for us all.
Early this morning, before the sun could claw its way over the mountains ahead, Minron noticed strange lights in the sky to the north-west. Opaque steaks of light green and palest blue danced across the horizon over a point in the distance to the north, too far away for us to be able to discern its nature. Foul magic is at work in these lands. I fear my brothers in the Praetorium will have to act against the Prince of the Undead after all.
Our fearless leader's inspirational aura has diminished somewhat. 146 years old and he tries to pet a feral war-hound? What's more he's surprised to be bitten? He's lucky that the hand is still attached. Too much more of that and his flute playing days will come to a permanent end, though I'm not sure that would be an altogether bad thing. Perhaps we might even get some sleep.
As Winterhaven reveals itself in the distant foothills the peace of the valley has been disturbed by an ear-splitting cacophony from the direction of this morning's arcane lights. Such a cataclysm must be linked to the portents of Orcus. We must make haste to the town as soon we are able and determine what is at this location that may have drawn the Demon Prince.
27th Day of Garmensis
Driving rain has turned these foothills into a quagmire impeding our progress to Winterhaven. We arrived in the early hours of the morning to find The whole town, if the ramshackle place can truly be described as such, in a commotion following the return of a group of warriors from a keep to the north-east. That this is the direction from which the ear-splitting din emanated immediately piqued our interest. Vicrael asked around the local shop keepers and quickly determined that these adventurers were at the inn following a commotion in the night.
Originally a group of six these adventurers had been to the ominously named Shadowfell Keep to root out a nest of goblins that had been troubling the area. Upon returning to Winterhaven this group of amateurs proceed to drink themselves into oblivion, letting their guard down only to be ambushed in the night by vampires who made off with three of their number.
I later determined that amongst the three taken was their elven leader. This Cleric by the name of Eric had been slaughtered on the Kings Road by Kobolds and then resurrected by magic. In my experience this never leaves someone unaltered, magic is not to be trusted. It was this elf's blood stain that Diefenbaker discovered on the road two days ago.
Minron and I had been drawing some wary glances from the locals since arriving at Winterhaven. For this reason we decided to wait outside the inn whilst Old Vic talked to the remaining members of the group. Leaving the old man to his own devices was as ever a mistake. As we stood in the filth and driving rain our intrepid leader committed us to a journey quite contrary to our mission. By the time we were called into the bar it was too late to alter our course.
I stooped under a low beam and into the inn. The stink of waterlogged mud and shit was instantly replaced by that of tobacco smoke mingled with vomit. My arrival generated a few gasps from the patrons. The memory of orcish aggression is still sufficient in these parts, even three generations after the Bloodspear wars, to make people wary of half-orcs. I wonder what the reaction would be if they knew of my lineage? The reaction from the patrons as I entered was as nothing compared to that when Minron stooped to get through the door. The whole place became uncomfortably silent for several moments. You don't get many minotours in these parts it seems. Vic introduced us to a dwarf, a tiefling and a human mage.
Most striking of the group was the human, even allowing for the demonic horns and tail that are the standard accoutrements of a tiefling. Dressed in blue robes, he was not old in appearance, perhaps forty. His head was completely bald and covered in an intricate pattern of tattoos that brought to mind the vision of an electrical storm. His skin was a deep tan, the result of many hours under a sun much stronger than that which struggles to make its presence felt here. The mage was alone in not drinking the local ale and did not utter so much as a single word throughout the conversation. I'm not certain he even registered that we were there.
Most of the talking and indeed most of the drinking, was done by the dwarf. He was a stout, stocky fellow with an unruly mop of red hair and a beard to match. In front of him on the table there lay an axe but not just an axe. Instead of a pommel the base of the shaft was adorned with a spearhead. He later told me that it is an ugrosh, a weapon of dwarven design. It must be a difficult weapon to master, if this dwarf is competent in its use then that would suggest that he is a fighter of some skill.
Glen informed us that beneath the keep they very quickly discovered that there was more at work than just a group of goblins. The keep had been constructed above a portal to the Shadowfell itself. Somehow this motley crew managed to close the portal, destroying the keep in the process.
Though their actions in closing the portal were impressive enough these adventurers show remarkably little understanding of the underlying events they were part of at the keep. Even the oddly named mage Rodney had little to say about Orcus and the cult that had infested the fortress, remaining so aloof as to seem completely uninterested in our conversation.
They also killed rather than captured the mage responsible for the re-opening of the portal under the keep. This decision has robbed us of a source of vital information concerning Orcus' plans. The dwarf fighter Glen showed no remorse for this oversight, barely seeing fit to speak to me at all. Probably not surprising behaviour for a dwarf of this region when confronted with someone of orcish extraction.
Amongst their missing companions are a Cleric and a Paladin. Vicreal is certain that they will be able to provide us with more details of the Cult of Orcus' activities in the keep. If the members of the group still in Winterhaven are anything to go by I find this incredibly optimistic. Surely we would be better off travelling to the keep ourselves to search for clues? Still, it's his decision and Old Vic has decided that we will aid these three in the search for their missing companions. Wherever my intrepid and fearless leader goes I will of course follow.
28th Day of Garmensis
En route to Silverkin Manor
The mage had witnessed his companions being carried off by skeletal horsemen to the south. The Lord of Winterhaven, a man called Padraig, informed us of a manor in this direction belonging to Jacob Silverkin. The last of his line, Silverkin became a recluse many years ago following the death of the last of his sons. If undead riders have passed through his lands he should know of it.
It was little trouble to pick up the tracks of the kidnappers and follow them southwards. If the mark that Padraig placed on Rodney's map is correct then we should reach the manor tomorrow. Hopefully once there Silverkin will be able to provide us with more information so that we can get this fool's errand over with.
29th Day of Garmensis – Part I
Silverkin Estate Outskirts
The tracks led us over rolling hills populated with sickly oak trees, their gnarled branches and roots jutted into our patch and slowed progress. Eventually the trees thinned to reveal acres of neglected pasture. In the distance we could see a grand white building nestled between two low rises. Between us and it there was an unkempt orchard, its straight and once well tended rows of trees now uncontrollably tangled together. From this orchards four undead riders trotted out to meet us. From a hiding place in the trees I could see that three of them were entirely skeletal, their bones held together and animated by vile magical forces in the absence of tendon and sinew. The fourth looked as though he had been disturbed from his grave-rest just as he was getting comfortable. Pallid flesh hung slack from his cheeks as those cold red eyes seemed to find my hiding place and pierce to my very soul. His presence tugged at my vitality, draining my energy and making the long sleep of death seem almost appealing. This wight was mounted on the monstrous undead corpse of a dire wolf whose presence set Diefenbaker's hackles to standing.
Old Vic stepped forth and attempted to converse with the undead creature, I fear that his mind may be wandering in his old age for him to continuously do and say such ridiculous things. The wight contemptuously ignored him and instructed the others to dispose of us, muttering something about "having enough already" and then rode off in the direction of the Manor.
The skeletons were customarily dull witted and I managed to manoeuvre into a more advantageous position before they reacted to their master's instruction. I heard an instruction from Vic behind me telling everyone to focus on the mounts to pin the archers down and overwhelm them. A lucid moment from an otherwise addled mind. It did him little good though as the rest of the party moved forward through the trees towards the enemy, leaving Vic exposed. The arrogant mage Rodney charged ahead of everyone and sent an errant magic projectile towards the horsemen, earning for himself a hail of arrows in response. Luckily for him the majority didn't seem to find their mark.
One of the horsemen took advantage of the bumbling charge to circle around behind us and attack Vicrael. The veteran warlock managed to knock one of them off balance with a well placed bolt of energy but he was quickly overwhelmed and visibly hurt.
I could spare no more time and attention on the efforts of those behind me and got to work peppering our skeletal foes with arrows. As usual contact with iron served to weaken the dire magics that had raised the peaceful dead and we quickly began to turn the tide against our attackers. In particular Glen and Eligos were of great help to me whilst dispatching the riders. Glen very nearly took the head off a horse in one blow and Eligos, faced with the oncoming charge of a skeletal horse and rider , morphed before my eyes into a gigantic humanoid ram. She then charged headlong into her undead foes and shattered them into a pile of bones. A feat as impressive as anything I saw in my years serving the Imperium.
Minron had marshalled the others to dispatch the remaining rider and helped Rodney and Vic to overcome their wounds. Interestingly Minron cannot get his mouth round the name 'Rodney' and has instead taken to calling the mage Dave.
A quick search of the area allowed me to replenish my arrows and turned up three gemstones. The dwarf was quite pathetically excited by the discovery of the stones and refused to share them amongst the group. Impressive though his battle prowess may be, we shall have words about that later if his attitude does not change.