A murder in Doubt
I have but a few moments to scratch you some words of the recent happenings here in this ever eventful land of Centara. Events roll at breakneck pace.
After defeating the dreaded Enn’Venook my surviving companions and I returned to the city of Doubt to find the jubilant population in full celebration. Great attention was paid to us as we entered and many of the citizenry clasped our hands, gave unabashed embraces or offered words of gratitude. What was better, they even offered us beer and wine!
It seems that shortly after we vanquished the dreaded beast of the mudrunners the entire lizard man army decamped from Centaran lands and returned east over the Iqu’tarbelle Mountains, leaving behind the razed ruins of Sol and Kembe. The locals assumed the cause for their route to be our victory.
It seemed puzzling, however. Despite the ferocity and brute power of the Enn’Venook neither the strength of the lizard men host nor its morale seemed to hinge on the creatures existence. Despite my doubts I found it hard to quash the growing euphoria that came with news that the dreaded conflict was apparently over. For a moment I let myself believe that a small group of desperate men fighting a pitched battle in the stillness of the stricken jungle against an aberrant foe may have changed the course of an entire nation. Prelate Vander was quick to bring me to reality, however.
After making my way through the wild celebrations of the masses to the solum fortitude of the Lantern Keep I was quickly ushered into a meeting with the Prelate. He assured us that our actions could have “had nothing to do with the retreat of the Mudrunners. The timing is off and the coordination would be far too complex.” It was somewhat infuriating to have our hard won accomplishment so easily brushed aside. Especially when it came at the cost of so many lives.
Despite the Prelates stiff and dismissive manner, he was not without gratitude. In recognition of my leadership he granted me a field promotion to the rank of Sergeant with the resources to outfit and command a full unit. Mother, I was shocked and humbled by this new responsibility.
It seems, however, that this land has a prodigious ability to give the bad along with the good. Even as I exulted in my new role the Prelate further shocked me with the news that the dwarf Septum had escaped his bond and had made off with his men. What’s more, they murdered several of my brother knights and not a few local guardsmen in their effort. To rub even more salt in the wound, they made off with the Serpent Idol that we had recovered from Kembe.
We were informed that the good Primate Joseph Cardel had demanded the return of the idol and Prelate Vander was insistent that justice be done for the murder of our men. Weary from our many ordeals, but still eager to test the mettle of our small company, I vowed to do my best.
Upon seeing Sir Dayton, I informed him of my good fortune and asked him to be second in command. He eagerly accepted and I feel a strong bond is already forming between this most capable Ulnoran and myself.
Our investigation began with the quartermaster Sir Renly to gain the resources necessary to equip several new recruits. We spread word that we would be forming an irregular unit under my command and it was easy to gather a respectable enough group of both locals and Lucidians.
We spoke with several witnesses to Septum’s escape, and made great use of the local constabulary, under the command of a most capable Captain Selford.
I will spare you the gruesome details of the dwarfs escape, but suffice it to say little mercy was shown to those who crossed their path. Along with Septum and his ruthless guards many eyewitnesses also indicated the presence of another man, dressed in a robe with a distinctive symbol on the back. We were able to identify that individual as one Kaymar Solundra, a practitioner of magic.
Our suspect was reported to live in a hut north of town. With my newly formed company of men and along with several town guardsmen under the command of Captain Selford we travelled to Solundra’s home and surrounded it. The hut was a ramshackle structure seemingly made from whatever bits of lumber were at hand. A small stable and a shed were the sum of Solundra’s abode; all of it surrounded by an earthen wall.
A sign at the gate confirmed the occupant, proclaiming: "Home and Business of Kaymar Solundra: Merchant of the Unknown and the Mysterious.”
On closer inspection another sign, posted on the solid double door of the gate stated: “Closed. Please, for your own safety, don’t try to enter without the proprietor present.”
While I consulted with my allies on what path to follow, Jabilo rapped on the gate with his club. By way of answer a large smiling mouth formed on the face of the door and informed us that Solundra was away, possibly for a week, and bid us to return at that time!
With my suspicions of magic confirmed I realized that we were in great peril. Bidding Sir Dayton to my side I drew my sword and approached the gate. With little defence against magic, and tired of the entreaties from Jabilo and Sunbow to leave the residence unmolested I battered the gate open. A roar of fire engulfed myself and Dayton, with Jabilo being a victim of this fiendish trap as well.
While it was not unexpected, it nonetheless was painful. Before I could completely recover Captain Selford had mustered his men and charged through the gate, with the intention of securing the inner yard. Before they had taken ten paces, however, they too fell victim to a magical field that caused them all to plunge into deepest sleep whilst in mid stride. Under less dangerous circumstances the sight of so many men brought from the position of armed charge to that of slumber would have held great hilarity, and thinking back from the vantage of time I now find some mirth in it. Fortunately the effect is temporary and all are expected to make a perfect recovery.
Knowing that we could suffer few of these devilish traps, Jabilo was able to use his own powers to sense their presence and find us a safe path over the wall and into the hut.
It was during our search of the residence that we came upon the most terrible thing that I have yet beheld, dear mother. In a small room, awaiting us as we entered was a fell creature straight from the pits of hell. The devil stood of a height with me, with black armour covered in spikes and spines. Large horns crowned its menacing brow and voracious eyes glittered with a hellish delight at our intrusion. The beasts maw was filled with needle-sharp teeth and its leathery lips seemed to smirk at us whilst a mass of tentacles writhed upon its chin like a slithering beard.
In its hand was a grotesque looking glaive dripping in red bile. Of the creatures infernal origins, there could be no doubt.
The sheer essence of the devil seemed to fill the air with an aura of dread. Despite that I felt a flicker awaken in my heart. A silver flame that burned with the zeal of righteousness and I knew that the task of banishing this beast had fallen to me and my companions. I felt the weight of blessed Pelor’s will in my hand as I bent myself towards that task, and while the battle was short it was deadly. But fate was with us! We were victorious in dispatching the beast and watched as its death throws saw it melt before us, returning it to whatever pit it had been summoned from.
Such fraternization with infernal creatures is strictly forbidden and I knew in my heart that this Kaymar Solundra was a menace quite independent of his affiliation with Septum and his guards.
As we searched the rest of the hut, we were once more accosted by a creature of another plane. This time it was a being of the celestial realms, an archon whose visage was that of a hound with a heavily muscled body of a man. It seems that the poor creature had been tricked into guarding Solundra’s home, and though we both sought the path of goodness, he was bound by his word to repel invaders even as I was bound by my honour to find what evidence I could.
It was only through rational discussion that we were able to avoid an open conflict. Instead we came to an accommodation whereby we departed the building and he invited us in as guests, assuaging both of our honours! Fortunately we were able to find a letter, addresses to Solundra from the dwarf Granbian, whom we had previously met in Kembe. It seems that he too is part of this conspiracy!
The letter entreated Solundra to accompany Septum north towards Haven, by way of Tek. With that knowledge in hand we hastily prepared to head north on the same road.
Having witnessed what kind of adventures they might face with us, I put the question to the remaining men to see who would join us and who would leave. I am proud to say that four stalwarts stood forward and they have each been granted a place in our company.
We prepare to leave now, Mother. I will entrust this letter to one of the men tasked with protecting the sleeping Captain Selford and his men while they are yet defenceless.
We ride north Mother, with hearts set on justice!
With love and devotion, your son,