Song of the Ages

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Over the course of studying it, Samuel and Dax have made a list of marked characters throughout the Holy Book of Elior that was found in the cave. What follows is the full encoded text from across the entire volume.

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cnMgYW5kIGRlY29kZSB0aGVpciBwYWdlcy4=

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Fulgen's Cubes

Fulgen sits in the back of the cart, an illusory map of Sutherland floating between his fingertips. He pushes small red cubes around on the map along roads, and traces green lines between the east and west coasts. “Might work… Might work. Rich as princes, even. But building an empire for spite? That’s just asking for a tragedy…”

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True North
Wyllo

Let’s talk about trust and friendship. Actually, I don’t know if I want to talk or do either of those things because it’s inevitable—the more I get involved (and frankly, it’s far too late to even use that terminology; I’m just fucked at this point) with our little gang, the more I don’t know where trust and friendship really begin or end. Do we, as a gang, commit ourselves to either of these things? Why do I feel like we should have a heart to heart of some sort? (Why is this the second time I’m actually addressing this.)

Ew, gross. Let’s not have a heart to heart. But it’s been twice now in the last few days that Yoon and I have been reminded by outside parties (one, being a blacksmith who’s coming with us from the Deep back to Sutherland, and the other being a dwarf by the name of Cass, whom we were looking for information on the Underhand from) to divulge the truth in some form or other for the sake of others having our backs…or us having theirs. Maybe I should stop talking about myself in the plural here because I feel like that’s the way it should be. It’s always been just me, like I’ve said before—until Yoon and Scratch showed up in the picture. And now I think that Yoon isn’t so invested in keeping that picture intact, which doesn’t surprise me, but I guess I thought we trusted each other and were friends? It’s really better not to hope for bullshit like that.

On a better note, I got to relive my good old thievery days. I swiped a painting clear from its case and made a small chunk of gold out of it. I’m pretty sure that I have no more moral compass anymore, and I don’t think I really care, either. Oh, well.

Does that fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me -mantra come into play somewhere here?

I’d kind of like to know why, if Yoon is having a mini crisis about killing me, she didn’t just do it back in Lorentzian. I would have called that 100% commitment once. I guess it’s not that. I guess we made it full circle. Trust and friendship. Great.

P.S. Yoon, yea, I guess you don’t need a vampire.

P.P.S. The Underhand isn’t after me, by the way. Pretty sure they’re after you (again, Yoon) for failing the job which involves me: oops. Don’t make me regret having your back, though. I’m not offended or anything by your crisis, but still. Trust and friendship, right?

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Dalton Xavior Kirk: International Art Thief
Dax

It’s ironic that the name my father gave me to make me more respectable is the name that is gaining infamy in Ironforge. That poor dwarf woman will tell the story of the well dressed tiefling who distracted her while his accomplice, who was disguised as a cleric, sneaked off and assaulted her husband and stole a pornographic painting. When they gossip about what happened, the story might come out about how the teifling and the cleric were casing the bank right before they robbed the bank owner’s house.

I swear I could have made a decent profit on that awful tea. “Dwarven medicinal tea” would be a big hit.

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Well, we are dead

Hello Journal,

It’s been a while but frankly I haven’t had much desire to immortalize my journey with these people on paper. Never have I spent so much time “doing good” for the sake of “doing good”. Heroes are definitely getting the short end of the stick. There is no money involved and lots of mysterious child-like gods. Insanity, right?

It’s becoming more difficult to keep a low profile especially with Fulgan and his ridiculous desire to be famous heroes. The Underhand has been getting better at tracking me, which is making me question how long I can stay with this troupe of misfits and glory seekers. As much as I would like to think I could handle everything the Underhand sends at us, it’s frankly not true. This band of misfits is no match for all of the resources and skills the Underhand has access to. If the Underhand decides to pursue us with everything they have, not even our magical weapons and the best armor will be able to save us.

I fear the only way to truly be free is either to become head of the Underhand or to kill Wyllo. Which brings me to my next question, why does the Underhand care so much about whether Wyllow is dead or not. I have heard stories of other targets who lived and the Underhand didn’t bat an eyelash. Who put the bounty over her head and why?

Don’t worry journal, I am not going to kill Wyllo. At least, not yet. I’m never 100% committed to anything.

P.S. Wyllo, not everyone needs a vampire.

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What a wonderful trip to the deep
Dax

This has been our most profitable venture yet. True, it’s been a long time since we had a venture that has been profitable. This is actually a financially viable activity. I wish we could go back down and hunt more monsters. I could see myself as a professional monster hunter.

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Brains, Tentacles, and Other Things
Wyllo

We came all this way for a book. I’m going to set it on fire. (I think Firenze would like that.)

I’m not entirely sure why we’re still with the others. And by we, I’m including Yoon because Yoon and I have had each others’ backs since the fiasco with the Assassin’s Guild…courtesy of me. I don’t think any of the others trust us: Fulgen, Dax, maybe Mosi, probably not even Samuel or Kels. I guess they trust enough that we (I) won’t kill them, but neither would I…die for them. I don’t think. I’d die for Yoon, but that’s different. I don’t even know if she would do the same for me, though I’d like to think she would considering we’re really all we have left—with limited stipulations, but mostly, we’re all we have.

I don’t really know what to say. We were still in the Deep and ran into a brain thing and then I think we almost died from it, but then it disappeared? I really wish I’d killed it. (You don’t know how much I wish I’d killed it.) After that though, we managed to find our way toward the general surface and then got ambushed by some envoys courtesy of the Assassin’s Guild. We took care of them and even managed to keep one mostly alive, but they also…had a vampire? Yea, that’s not one I’ve seen, and I’m not (completely) unfamiliar with Assassin techniques.

One of the former “slaves” of the brain thing decided to come with us after he was free. He surprised me by knowing thieves cant, since Yoon and I were trying to figure out following our attack what exactly to say or not say to the rest of the group. The problem is, I don’t know if I can trust them—probably in a similar stance as to how I don’t think they can trust me. I mean, I grew up on the streets until Scratch found me and he’s probably the closest thing I have to a parental figure because he took took me in. I’d like to think that my parents weren’t victim to some chance drunken encounter (or something worse), but that doesn’t mean I still don’t know anything about them. I’m no thief with a heart of gold, trying to do the honorable thing; I think that path is long past. You can’t really blame me for being naturally distrustful.

On that note, though: I still manage to find myself killing for for these people. I guess if you look a little closer, it won’t be that hard to tell that I’m doing for Yoon more than anyone else, but look a little closer still, and you’ll see my moral compass fading fast. I didn’t really want to turn into the sort of person who likes killing, but I feel like that’s what I am.

P.S. Yoon, how come you never got a vampire?

P.P.S. Firenze, what should I do? I don’t like the way things are being run for our little gang. —Are we even a gang? Who put Fulgen and Dax in charge anyway? Why did we have to run through the entire Deep for a damn book (looking at you, Samuel)? I still feel like we’re being watched. I still feel like Yoon is keeping something on the down low. It’s still weird that Kels likes Fulgen.— I’m not a fan. I’m pretty sure you’re my only friend.

P.P.P.S. I want gold. Also, maybe I should be better friends with Mosi. He knows how to have a good time. We could be drinking buddies.

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It turned out this had all been for some book

Now, I’ll be honest with you when I say that at times our group can be… distractable. There are times when I honestly don’t think some of them are paying any attention to what is happening or they just forget about the plan that we just came up with and we have to either hash through it again or just go with whatever chaos we got ourselves into. This was one of those times. We had agreed to use the slaves’ revolt as a distraction to slip in and kill the Elder Brain, but as soon as we got close to that glowing barrier and they could see some undead shades inside, the plan got tossed out the window and we started wasting precious time talking through the barrier to the things in an attempt to, well, I don’t even know.

Granted, the shades did have some information that I’m sure others would care about, such as the fact that the Crusaders had come into the Deep in an attempt to destroy the Shadowfell, but it wasn’t something I would have focused on then or now. Half of us were stuck trying to convince the things that they had died while the rest of us kept trying to pull them back to the plan of killing before we ourselves die. However, for good or ill, they managed to convince those shades that they had failed and died long ago, which caused them to vanish and the barrier itself to collapse. Then, I could hear words in my mind; rotten, foul words that were congratulating us on doing what it had been attempting for so long. The Elder Brain was not only aware of us, but pleased by what we’d just done. I admit more than a little bit of anger there, so when the group split, half going to kill the Brain and half going to loot the camp, I followed to kill the Brain.

You and I have both heard stories about these things. Dusts… I admit the prospect of killing one was one that used to tantalize me. But seeing it there, a grotesque blobby thing hanging in that vat and knowing, really knowing, that it was so much more than the helpless hunk of meat it looked like it was… I never want to cross paths with something like that again. Don’t get me wrong, I will be right on the front lines in a heartbeat against something like it if needed… I just don’t want it to be needed. Anyways, we rushed in and began beating at it and its minions. Some of the slaves even managed to make it into the chamber, though most died in the fight. I admit, I didn’t see much of it as it encased me in some kind of box quickly. I couldn’t beat my way to or away from the brain, but I was able to punch my way through the ground, into what looked like their breeding chambers. So, while the others continued to fight, I set to the grisly task of smashing everything in sight, destroying dozens of half-formed mind-flayers and even destroying their spawning pool. I’m happy to say that there’ll be no Neothelids there anytime soon. Fortunately, nobody from my group died in the fight, but unfortunately the brain got away. Just vanished, they said. Hopefully that is the last we see of it.

With the brain gone, the rest of the mind-flayers ran, leaving us to round up the surviving slaves and patching them up as best we could. We could tend to their bodies, but some had something wrong with their brains such that they couldn’t remember their own names or even where they were from. They were all human though, so we brought them with us back to the surface and gave them enough coin that they could start some kind of life for themselves. One though knows enough that we’re taking him home to Sutherland, since we had some business up there anyways. Oh, the camp? The scholar came out of it toting some old book, stating that we’d come down here, venturing so far into the Deep that we passed through the Shadowfell itself, just for that! I know, right?! Madness. We did run into some bandits though, right on the Great Road, if you believe it! Had to get rough with them, especially when they had some vampire lass with them that attacked us. Makes you wonder though if the king is slipping to be letting bandits on the Road itself, right?

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Laugh all you want, but I was positively a vegetable.

So, yeah. We spent some time in the Shadowfell with the village of drow, but at least they were good drow… well, as good as drow can be. But the scholar’s stone body and strange construct form kept reminding us of both the dangers as well as why we were down here. We left, taking some of the healing salve with us and applying it to our stony friend as best we could as we went. It must have worked, as a few days into our trip, he revived and could move again, though he seemed stiff and still looked more than a little gray around the edges. As for the construct, it vanished. His goddess probably took it back to where she had kept it, but just between you and me, I’d have liked to have taken it apart, see what made it move like that. How the gears meshed, you know?

Anyways, after some time traveling back into the Deep, we eventually came across another group of Duergar. Not many of them, so we decided to rush in and finish them off before they could hurt anyone else. Problem was there was something odd about this group, we just didn’t see it until one of their heads split open and their brain climbed right out. Yeah, you heard me right. Their brain climbed out on four little legs and then hissed at us. Just thinking about it still gives me the willies, but that wasn’t the worst of it. A mind-flayer showed up, screaming in our heads and directing his brain thralls to attack us. We eventually killed it and its followers, but not before one of those brains did something to me. Leeched something out of my head and I was left, well, empty. I couldn’t think and speech was nearly impossible for me. Luckily, the mind-flayer had some magic scroll on hand that they used to restore my mind, but until they did, I was little better, or smarter, than this table here. Looking back, the experience was horrifying, but at the time I didn’t even have the brains to be afraid or to really understand what had been done to me. I’m just glad that I’m not stuck like that, you know?

We were able to find some markings that the mind-flayer had left on the cavern walls talking about a ruined city, which sounded like what we were looking for. However, as we followed the trail, we came across more of the illithids until we found ourselves at the ruins which they had turned into their nest. Now, you and I can both agree that mind-flayers need killing, no ifs ands or buts, but standing there looking over the ruins and knowing that this was their hive… well, I wished for a couple of regiments of the Deep Guard to back us up, believe me. I love a good fight, but I like the kinds of fights that I think I can win. And after so recently nearly losing my mind to these things, I was feeling more than a little concerned that they were going to do it again.

But, like I said, they need killing and from our vantage point we could see the glow that the scholar had seen in his dreams. Just past their nest was some kind of magical barrier and within it was the Crusader encampment we had come here for. We couldn’t just leave, not with the end in sight, so in we charged… or slunk, rather. We managed to kill a patrol and free some of their thralls, who told us where the other thralls were kept when their minds weren’t being used as puppets by the beasts. With that bit of information in hand, we decided to free those slaves and, while the flayers scrambled in panic, slip in and kill their elder brain. After we did that, we would have more time to deal with that barrier without worrying about being enslaved, body and mind, to the monsters.

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Firenze
Wyllo

I’m over this.

How in the fuck do you fight a monster that can take control of your brain? I don’t think we would have made it very far if I didn’t have Firenze (you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, let’s be honest), but what happens after this? What are we even doing here?

P.S. I’m sorry for trying to slash with you so much, Firenze. I know you have a mind of your own and don’t always follow through, though. (I’m not dumb.)

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