Song of the Ages

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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At the very bottom of everything
Dax

We met some drow living here in Shadowfell. They don’t seem to use money at all. It’s going to be a long time before we get a chance to earn back the money we lost opening that stupid door.

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Taste that? Not bad, is it?

So, the drow we rescued turned out to be from the Shadowfell and wanted to get back home. We originally were just going to follow him to the region where he said he’s seen things like in the scholar’s dreams, but… well, things went off the tracks.

I suppose it was no one’s fault really. We came across a tomb down there, looked to be a very old dwarven tomb too. Not Duergar though, I mean proper dwarven. Problem is someone had draped a bunch of standards and other kinds of flags all over the place. Those flags were all old by now too and what would you know but they were all marked with the Crusaders’ own sigil. Turns out those fools really did march into the Deep after they finished with the North Lands. Why? Well… I can’t rightly say. Regardless, it looks like they buried some of their own in the dwarf tombs, though I’ll give them credit- it didn’t look like they meant any disrespect with it, just was the best option down there. While this wasn’t exactly what the scholar had dreamed about, he was excited as this indicated that we were on the right path at least. We decided to look around the tomb and see if it could help us find the location of whatever it was we were down there for.

First off, we found the relatively fresh remains of another scholar-turned-explorer down there. It seems he was a human that was trying to find proof of where the Crusaders had gone so long ago. He found them, but seems like he had no way to get back to the surface after that and just died down there. While he was a fool to go down there alone in the first place, I will admit it is quite something that he found anything in the Deep, needless to say proof about the very thing he was looking for. Talk about needles and haystacks, right? He left us some notes though that indicated that he explored the tombs before he died and that there was a chamber locked with a very strange mechanism. He never found what was on the other side. I’ll get to that point in a moment though.

The second thing we found down there though is that some filthy little runts were looting the place, or at least trying. They seemed like they were scavenging and grave-robbing, and while I would have liked nothing more to have cut them down, the scholar actually stepped up and started talking to them. Turns out they were obeying some master who had taken up residence in the mechanism room, probably trying to get into the locked room. That did get under my skin, as anything vile enough to work with such creatures shouldn’t be desecrating one of our tombs, no sir. We marched right down to give it what for and… well…

It was a beholder.

Don’t believe me, do you? I mean, I had thought from time to time that the stories about those things must be made up, or greatly exaggerated. How could such a monster be, or at be so powerful as some would say? Well, for the first part, I don’t know how such a thing ever came to be. A mad wizard? A bored god? Who knows, but I cut off one of its stalks and have it right here, so you can see that that part is true at least… my, that is smelling quite rank… pay no mind to the bite marks on the end, I wanted to see what such a beast would taste like. As for the second part, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Those things are as powerful as the stories say, if not more so.

When we opened the doors and found that thing waiting for us, I admit that my blood ran cold. I figured that some of us, if not all of us, wouldn’t get out of this alive and, well, I was partly right there. However, if they were going to have a chance, I knew I’d do more good in that things face than any of them. I ran in, screaming and swinging and making myself as much of a nuisance as I could. We fought, it raged, bolts of energy shooting out of its eyes and working its foul magic on as many of us as it could. Several of those hit me, blasting me with black, biting mist or locking up my very limbs so I couldn’t even move as it bit and swiped at me. Eventually it died though, a rapier through the main eye is as messy and final as it sounds, but it indeed was at a cost. The scholar had been turned into stone itself and our drow guide had a smoking hole in his chest. The rich woman was able to do something to the drow that brought him back, but as for the scholar… well, the drow said that there might be something or someone in his town that could help us restore him.

While the others worked on figuring out the locking mechanism for the inner tomb, I rigged a harness that I could use to carry our scholar-turned-statue on my back. Eventually, they got it open by feeding some gems into the mechanism. Inside were just a few tombs, but judging by the decorations, they had been important. One had this next to his grave and rather than let it eventually fall into the hands of something like that beholder, I brought it along. It just felt right, you know? Like it belongs in my hands. Makes me want to swing it a couple of times, just to feel the weight of it. Really, the maul’s a thing of beauty that I haven’t seen made by our race in a long time.

But enough about that. We finally agreed to follow the drow into the Shadowfell in hopes that they could reverse the stony nature of our friend. Perhaps it wasn’t needed, as that night a small construct waddled into camp and told us it was the scholar, re-embodied so that he could carry out his goddess’ wishes. At least, re-embodied until we could fix his normal body. The implications of what had just happened still nag at me, again the thought of being a puppet of some cosmic being, yadda yadda yadda, but I must say that the little thing was well built. Clever workmanship, you know? We still went into the Shadowfell and met with the drow’s village. One of them whipped up a concoction that might eventually free the scholar’s normal body, but while we waited in that town for a while, I got my hand on some of this. Try it, tastes like night and the dark parts of a cave, but not the bad dark parts. More like the peaceful dark parts. Fills your body with an almost sleepy glow, right? Might even be worth going back to the Shadowfell someday if just to get another flagon of the stuff.

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Otherwise, We'd Get Along
Wyllo

Met a drow. He’s not bad to look at. He also doesn’t wear a shirt, so the eye gets drawn in no matter what.

This is the only news I feel like sharing, except for the fact that we met this drow with a group of chained slaves. They came out from a carved door that said “Warning”. It might have said “Danger” or “Caution”; it all adds up to “Do not open door”, so we did not open the door and a group of bad dwarves—dark dwarves? It’s like how the drow are dark elves, but not, because I don’t think (all) drow are bad—and upon seeing this group of chained slaves, I guess our party’s good samaritan came out as a collective whole, because we rushed them and killed all of the guards. Ironically, there were two dark dwarves in the lineup of slaves, which prompted an argument about who (a pair of dwarves recently freed) got to kill them, and Fulgen said no. I’m pretty sure they’re dead anyway, because if it were me, I would have gone back and slit their throats after splitting ways, which we did. The ex slaves ended up going back toward the surface along with the two dwarves who’d wanted to kill the dark ones, and the drow ended up coming with us because he wanted to go back to Shadowfell.

He asked me about Yoon. I told him to mind his own business. (Actually, I told him that if he wanted to know anything about her, he should ask her.) Yoon said he asked about me. Let’s just say he’s not bad to look at. Very nice muscles. With those muscles though, he couldn’t get through this escape tunnel he helped us through, so I don’t know what to think about that. The tunnel led to a crypt, though. Samuel thinks we’re going the right way.

Really, though: why no shirt? What’s the problem with shirts?

I’m pretty sure Yoon’s going to give me a hard time about this, but oh well.

PS When we attacked those dark (corrupted?) dwarves, one raised his horn, and I’m assuming the fancy door would have opened and reinforcements would have arrived through the door we were not going to open, but I throat checked him with my Firenze.

PPS I admit, it was satisfying. Oops.

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