The Journal of Vandic Hammerfist - Foaming Mug

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Vandic
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The Journal of Vandic Hammerfist - Foaming Mug

Postby Vandic » Tue Apr 15, 2003 1:44 am

All,

The thread below will eventually be a complete story, written as journal entries over the coming days/weeks and provided in serial form. I would request that no replies to this particular thread be made until the story is complete. If you have any comments or critques, feel free to mmail them to me in the meantime.

Also, the contents of this story will make a lot more sense if you've read my other background story, which can be found here:

http://68.100.62.165:8080/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=8825

Anyway, happy reading.

-V
Vandic
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Posts: 280
Joined: Wed May 02, 2001 5:01 am
Location: Nashville, TN USA
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Postby Vandic » Tue Apr 15, 2003 1:49 am

2 Horthos 466

I come to this journal tonight seeking solace, once again hoping to find comfort in the transcription of my grief, for today was the final in my grandfather’s allotment. I envision him walking through a grand banquet hall, his legs fully restored, to the seat left prepared for him. In a way I am grateful that I was not here when he passed, as he was the last of the old Stonehammer clan whose whereabouts were known to me. Whoever among my brothers and sisters might still walk the realms would not or could not return to share in my pain, so I must bear it alone.

After the service I returned to the old cottage of my youth, I found things eerily similar to the way I had left them some twenty years past. Grandpa’s bed, neatly made, with the same tattered patchwork quilt on the top and his old battle helm still hanging on the lefthand bedpost – dented, dusty, dreary. Two half-rotten pieces of a wooden training shield still lay in the corner, long since overcome by termites and cobwebs. They provided an unwelcome reminder of the past I’d tried to leave behind, a past that has come roaring back into the forefront of my thoughts ever since I received word in Waterdeep that Grandpa was gone.

Among the visions and phrases that I keep turning over as I pen this entry over a frothy pint of Foambeard Dark Ale is the note I found resting on Grandpa’s pillow. The script was scratchy and the grammar was hard to follow, as if it had taken considerable effort to compose, but it was unquestionably his:

Vandic,

Gods help you that it be found what I leave. Kyldrin comes and speaks of great battles, so I hide your foaming mug in safety. Fear your brother who knows and will find first if time gives. Read this and understand smart child, dumb child will not.

Rrin tae kuld
Valen torst aur rorntyn,
Lorich tae findar
Vhal sammar samryn.
Yaugha rrin morndin,
Travach Aelhar,
E corl tat norogh
En arau carunedar.


(Above your axe
Lives the adventure of the battlefield,
Discover your good fortune
With an honest friend.
Climb over the peak,
Through the Golden Pass,
And kill all the evil
In a great unknown place.)

The lyrical rhythms of the riddle keep throbbing in my ears. Making sense of Grandpa’s contorted message, and how he could hear anything from my long-dead father, proves a task too lofty for me this evening. Tomorrow, after I’ve had an opportunity to rest and gather traveling supplies, I will share this note with Llandrien and the other members of the company, hoping their combined wisdom of the realms will lead me to uncover whatever findar might await me and serve to lift me from my suffering.
Vandic
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Postby Vandic » Tue Apr 15, 2003 5:19 am

6 Horthos 466

The sky today was a dull, featureless, even shade of gray. I only make mention of this because of the dream I had last night, wherein I would fall through an endless cloud of thick grey mist, screaming at the top of my lungs, only to awake to the same sounds of screaming. My dear wife must think I’ve gone mad.

I had spoken with Llandrien and Athanaum yesterday about arranging a meeting for all of the company members who were not away on business or conducting an expedition. Because of the rapidly approaching winter, many of the merchants in the far north had begun to request increased loads of Waterdavian goods, along with those from more exotic places, and a large portion of our number had already departed for Calimport to gather the requested goods. The only company members available to meet with us were the brothers Brightwater and Aedarton.

Late in the afternoon, as the slate gray sky slowly began to darken, we all gathered at our usual table in the back of the Tavern of the Sun. After sharing information regarding our current business over a light dinner, I introduced the subject of the mysterious note left by Grandpa and asked for everyone’s input.

Vandylia had already read the enigmatic letter and, despite her remarkable mind, could not offer any further insight. Nor could Aedarton, though his valiant efforts to read the dwarven script brought a brief smile to my face.

Llandrien pondered long and hard over the note, absentmindedly stirring his coffee with his finger as he read and mumbled half-developed thoughts to himself. He spoke back and forth a few times with Athanaum in elvish, far too rapidly for me to understand. When they had finished, though, they offered this analysis of the message:

Above your axe lives the adventure of the battlefield – likely refers to events occurring beyond the mortal realm, cosmic battles in the dwellings of the gods. How it related to the rest was unclear to Llandrien.

Discover your good fortune with an honest friend. – Llandrien believed this could be taken literally, though he could offer no insight regarding what the “good fortune” might be.

Climb over the peak, through the Golden Pass – the “peak,” according to Llandrien, was likely Thunderhead Peak. I had had this suspicion but was happy to hear him confirm it. He also believed that he had once heard Lorgan, the former owner of the Twilight Raven, refer to the mountain pass headed towards Griffon’s Nest as the Golden Pass because of the large quantities of gold that had been found in Mirar Creek many years before.

And kill all the evil in a great unknown place. – the most baffling portion of the riddle, no one at the table could offer any insight.

After we had finished dinner and gone through two more rounds of drinks, I mustered the courage to ask if anyone at the table would prove to be the honest friend and help me seek out the unknown findar. To my surprise and elation, all of them volunteered. Vandy, having been so distraught at seeing me suffer so fiercely just a few days ago, now offered her widest, brightest smile as she encouraged me to find whatever it is Grandpa has left for me.

We have all agreed to gather at the north gates of Waterdeep at daybreak the day after tomorrow, in order to leave as soon as possible while still giving ourselves ample time to gather necessary supplies and look through any of our old reconnaissance files that might provide additional information about the region of Thunderhead Peak. Rather than make the long walk back out to our forest cottage at this late hour, Vandy and I will treat ourselves to a room at the Dead Orc Inn and head out early in the morning to begin our preparations.

Post Script – 7 Horthos

The bells of the clock tower just chimed the midnight hour, and I still find myself wide awake in anticipation of the days to come. I have no doubts that all of our companions for this expedition will prove themselves to be honest and loyal friends…I simply fear the unknown. We may discover that the bizarre message given to me is nothing more than the insane ramblings of a broken old man who had given up his mind long before the gods came to claim his body. This would only lead to disappointment, and I can deal with disappointment far easier than I could suffer placing the lives of my wife and my friends in danger.

A quick swig of Golden Axe whiskey, and I will again try to get some rest before the long day awaiting me tomorrow.
Vandic
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Postby Vandic » Tue Apr 15, 2003 4:38 pm

8 Horthos 466

The morning dawned unseasonably warm today as we assembled at the northern gates of Waterdeep. A gusting wind blew from the southwest, bringing with it the threat of rain that would eventually catch us along the High Road near Neverwinter. As we had finished gathering up our supplies in the pre-dawn darkness, Vandy insisted that we take our pet beagle along for the journey, and she was in one of her moods where not even a horde of marauding giants could have swayed her. As I was eager to reach our assembly point and start the journey, I put up no resistance, and Heidi bounded out the door with us when we departed, her tail wagging happily as she dutifully sniffed every inch of ground between our cottage and the city.

Aedarton had arrived first, bringing with him five chestnut brown horses to serve as our transportation. It is no secret that I harbor a mild disdain for horses – if Clangeddin had wanted me to be mounted atop one, he would have certainly made them shorter. Nevertheless, I thanked him for the opportunity to ride rather than walk. Lllandrien and Athanaum both arrived moments after Vandy and I did, each toting a heavy pack of equipment and various other sundries. I noticed the quiver across Llandrien’s back was filled with rune-encrusted arrows, each glowing with a faint blue magical aura. I knew that these arrows were not his typical choice of ammunition, and I wondered if he was anticipating something more ominous than he had been willing to admit two nights before, or if he was simply being overly cautious before we headed into the unknown.

The day’s journey was relatively uneventful. We shared the road with a small caravan of gnomish merchants through most of the morning, bantering about the storm that loomed on the western horizon and watching with artificial interest as they demonstrated the various gadgets and baubles they hoped to sell in the various towns and villages along the road. We parted company near noon as their caravan paused for lunch in a small grassy alcove off the highway, while we continued our expedition northward, eating an assortment of dried meats and fruits as we rode.

Towards mid-afternoon, when we had stopped to rest and water the horses at a small stream, the rain that had threatened to unleash itself throughout the day broke in a sudden but relatively docile downburst. The wind was slow but steady, blowing the warm rain into our faces. With our constant expeditions throughout the realms, we are all accustomed to enduring less than favorable weather conditions, often for extended periods of time during the spring months. Heidi, however, is very much a house dog, and protested against the rain with violent shakes and a constant, barely audible whimper. After a few miles of walking in the rain and shaking her paws to rid them of mud and debris, Vandy took pity on her and stopped to lift the dog up into the saddle. She spent the rest of the day’s journey wrapped inside the folds of Vandy’s robe, still damp but sheltered from the rain.

When we stopped to make camp shortly before nightfall, I unwrapped this journal and was happy to find it and my ink supply still dry. The clouds have passed off to the east, leaving a bright gibbous moon hanging high in the evening sky. As I write, I am enjoying a late evening meal of roasted pheasant, brought to the table courtesy of Llandrien’s bow. Vandy has already bedded down for the night, and I look over at her occasionally to watch her delicate brown locks fall over her face and tickle her nose as she sleeps. Aedarton has volunteered to keep the first watch of the evening, and I agreed to relieve him in the early morning hours. Lllandrien and Athanaum converse a few yards away, no doubt discussing either the journey in the coming days or the latest information they’ve gathered in their quest to find their missing parents. Heidi, true to her inquisitive nature, rests her head on my leg and watches me write, occasionally looking up at me as if to inquire why she is not getting scratched or petted. I believe that I’ve written enough tonight to close out this entry and indulge her.
Vandic
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Postby Vandic » Wed Apr 16, 2003 12:15 am

10 Horthos 466 – Early Morning

After another unremarkable day of journeying northward along the High Road, I had not intended to produce an entry this evening. We crossed the Mirar River without incident, traveling as far as the southern end of the lands claimed by the Red Tiger barbarians before we decided to make camp. Now, as I sit watch over our camp in the early hours of a still and silent morning, I find that I must relate the details of the portent I received in a dream during my short and fitful sleep.

In my dream, our party was proceeding down a tunnel composed of solid ice. The shape of the tunnel was perfectly cylindrical, at least twenty feet in diameter, and walls were perfectly smooth, as if they had been bored by some great machine. They appeared to glow with a faint orange radiance whose source seemed to come from every direction. The tunnel ran straight as an arrow shaft, and I could find no discernible end ahead of us, nor could I look backwards to see any place from which we might have entered. The radiance simply stretched into the distance and faded to foreboding darkness.

I have found myself, wide awake in the land of living flesh, trapped in locations far worse than the tunnel of this dream. Those who might some day read this journal and question such an assertion need only to locate my entries during an expedition to the ruins of Myth Drannor. Nevertheless, I felt my body become overwhelmed with gooseflesh at the sight before my subconscious eyes.

As I turned to see the reactions of my companions to our unexpected predicament, my eyes grew wide when found none of them where they had been standing only a moment before. Instead, I found only one article that belonged to each of them resting on the curved floor of the tunnel. Vandy’s golden amulet, the chain laid out in a perfect circle. Heidi’s leather collar lying right beside. Aedarton’s massive broadsword, standing upright in the vague shape of a cross, the blade plunged into the tunnel floor a full six inches. Athanaum’s robes, hovering empty in mid-air, still shaped to the form of their mysteriously missing wearer. Two of Llandrien’s magical arrows, each snapped in two and laid in the shape of a keystone.

I only vaguely remember screaming in my dream. I am uncertain whether this scream passed through the aether to reality, though if it had done so it went unnoticed. I can only say with confidence that I did scream, or dream such, because as I looked upon the scant remnants of my friends, I heard a faint voice that seemed to echo through my ears and resonate in my bones.

“You need not scream, my son. When you wake you shall find them as you left them, in the safety of their own unblemished dreams.”

“Who’s there?” I replied, scanning frantically down the length of the tunnel in both directions to try and locate the source of the voice that had sounded close enough for the breath of the speaker to waft past my face.

The voice answered, slightly louder and more distinct than before. “When you are at peace, looking through the eyes of the past, you will know this voice, and know that the one to whom it belongs is proud of you.”

“Father?”

The words of the now familiar voice I write below have been burned into my brain just as deeply as were those given to me in Grandpa’s cryptic note.

“Yes, Vandic. I have watched you from afar these many years, and I am unspeakably proud of the man you have become. I could not tell you of the inheritance I had put away for you before I departed, but the time has come for you to receive what was prepared. You have surrounded yourself with good company, and I am confident you will succeed in what lies ahead of you. I cannot tell you more than what I left with your grandfather, but I have faith that your courage and wisdom will lead you to your good fortune.” The voice trailed off slowly as it spoke, barely audible to my burning ears at the end.

“No father, don’t leave!” I pleaded to the voice.

“I am with you always, my son, as you sleep, and as you wake.” As if cued by his whispered words of parting, I found myself sitting awake and upright, drenched in a cold sweat that the warmth of the campfire could not abate. I watched the flames dance in the gentle breeze, lifting a few ephemeral sparks into the night sky. I cannot determine how long I sat there, dazed, still unsure whether my dreams had given way to waking, before I stood up and went to relieve Aedarton of his watch.

I did not share the contents of this dream with Aedarton, who seemed to have drifted off to sleep only seconds after lying down to bed, nor did I wake any of the others. Apart from my troubling visions, the campsite seemed serene and undisturbed, and all of my traveling companions still sleep soundly in the chilly night air. Perhaps I will recount the story over breakfast, before we break camp and press on to Mithril Hall. I hope that Drannex has received the message I sent ahead of us by courier before we departed Waterdeep, and that he will have made the necessary preparations for our arrival.
Vandic
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Postby Vandic » Wed Apr 16, 2003 9:40 pm

10 Horthos 466

Had this been any day but today, I would have probably decided that the events that have transpired since daybreak were unworthy of mention. However, as I sit by the light of a large pillar candle in our room at Thethla’s Inn, I can find no way to describe my mood but to say that it is eager. The reason for such anticipation shall soon be made clear.

I related the contents of last evening’s ominous dream to my traveling companions when we stopped to rest the horses in an icy gorge a few hours’ ride south of Mithril Hall. All of them seemed equally perplexed, particularly that my subconscious mind would have them vanishing, though none showed a great deal of alarm. Athanaum admitted that he had often seen and spoken with his missing parents in dreams, even though he and Llandrien were still unsure of their whereabouts or if they were even still alive. Aedarton, too, spoke of many nights when he had been haunted by visions of lost compatriots. Vandylia offered a reassuring smile and happened to remind me of the rather large amount of whiskey I’d consumed the night before, large even for me. Heidi, of course, took more interest in the scent trails of snow foxes and other creatures that had shared the road with us before our arrival.

We continued northward through a cold headwind that was slow but steady, frigid enough to cause discomfort but not so much that we were in danger of frostbite. We passed only one cadre of guards accompanying small merchant caravan during the day’s journey, heading southward. The sun was high and bright in the thin mountain air, hanging in a pale sky that seemed almost white. Having to fight the headwind slowed our progress, and long shadows were already beginning to draw through the mountain valleys when we arrived before the mighty doors of Mithril Hall. We acquired stalls in the local stable for our horses and, after making arrangements to retrieve them in the morning, set off for the Black Anvil Tavern.

I was pleased to see that Drannex had received my message foretelling our arrival, for he had already secured a large table at the inn. He embraced me with a fierce bear hug, offering condolences for my loss as he had done a week ago. Upon seeing Vandy again, he made the usual remark about having no clue how I ended up with such a beautiful wife, and Vandy followed suit with the familiar bright blushing of her otherwise pale white skin. Greetings passed around between him and the rest of the party, and we sat down to discuss the past week’s events - what we had learned, what we had assumed, and how to proceed.

Our waitress was quick to bring out our drinks – a pint of mead for Drannex, three more pints for me, a glass of white wine for Vandy, coffee for Llandrien, stout ale for Athanaum, and water for Aedarton. Should my paladin friend read this, I am confident he will only shake his head and sigh at the recollection of his temperate behavior, portrayed in stark contrast to my penchant for fine brew.

Though the letter from Grandpa was short, Drannex pondered over it for an unusually long time. He was even more raptly attentive when I recounted the contents of my dream, fighting back tears at the mention of my father, his old friend. Dinner progressed in silent contemplation, in no small part because of the excellent quality of the meal. Even Heidi was atypically quiet, alternately watching us eat and chewing on an ox bone provided by the waitress.

At the beginning of this entry, I briefly mentioned my eagerness, and the source of that eagerness came when Drannex provided us a clue that helped to link the cryptic poetry in Grandpa’s letter and the setting of my vision.

In over a hundred years as master of the Mithril Hall warrior’s guild, Drannex has had the opportunity to meet countless traveling adventurers, many of whom are members of the various barbarian tribes of the Northlands. They will often pass through his doors seeking an evening of sanctuary on their way to or from the mountains of the Spine of the World. Truly eager adventurers, of course, are often compelled to seek out their glory on something as small as an unsubstantiated rumor. I myself have been guilty of this infraction many times, as those who followed me on such journeys would readily attest. However, as the traveling barbarians came and went, Drannex had taken note of a particular rumor that seemed to surface repeatedly during the past two years. The details were always varied and often incongruent, but the ethos of the story always included a necromancer who operated a macabre laboratory somewhere in the mountains around Thunderhead Peak, hidden deep in a cave of “fire ice.” I was not the only one who was struck with an epiphany at the mention of this cave, for both Llandrien and Aedarton immediately correlated it to the tunnel I described in my dream, and the words of Grandpa’s mysterious message sprang back into my mind with a newfound clarity, just as they do now:

Kill all the evil in a great unknown place.

I do not know how I can be expected to sleep tonight, seemingly so close to the resolution of this enigma. I finished five pints of mead before we said goodnight to Drannex and departed to our rooms, and that quantity of well-brewed drink is often enough to make me drowsy if I drink late in the day. Vandy, of course, is sleeping soundly, with Heidi curled up on the bed at her feet. If I am to be ready to possibly face a necromancer, or something possibly even more formidable, in the coming days, I must be rested and alert. Thus will I leave this entry perched on the precipice, and attempt to sleep.
Vandic
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Postby Vandic » Tue Apr 22, 2003 7:54 pm

15 Horthos 466

I had been meaning to save this page for another momentous event in the story that has unfolded before me and my traveling companions over the recent days, even hoping that I could use my pen to speak triumphantly of its conclusion. Alas, each day that has passed since we arrived in the Northlands has dawned with hope, yet brought despair in twilight.

I have not explored the mountains of the Spine of the World in great depth, even though they sat at the threshold of my home for the many years of my youth. My elven companions, though advanced in age well beyond me, have likewise spent little time in this region of the world. Aedarton, like all humans, was born with the curse of a short lifespan, and the urgings of his knightly unction have led him to far more sinister lands than this stretch of jagged, icy mountains. Because of this unfortunate combination of circumstances, we were all woefully unprepared for the terrain that lay ahead of us.

On our first day venturing into the mountains alone we encountered at least a dozen different locations that might qualify as a cave. In total, I have counted thirty such caves that we have explored in the past five days, and we have not yet reached the southern or eastern slope of Thunderhead Peak. Some locations we have explored were nothing more than wide crevices in the glaciers as they slowly sloughed down the mountains. Other caves seemed to stretch for miles into the heavy mountain granite, branching outward as if the roots of a mighty tree had once been entrenched in the mountainside, only to rot away and leave behind empty tendrils of chthonian darkness.

Though no harm came of it, I think it best to share some of the details about our encounter with the ice bear. Because of the uncertainty of who or what we might encounter on the mountain, we agreed that we would proceed under cover of invisibility whenever we began searching a new cave. Llandrien was able to provide all of the necessary magical substance to conceal us from view, while still allowing all of the party members to be seen by one another. During one excursion on our second day of exploring, we happened across a vast, yawning cavern on the leeward side of a small mountain. Within the large chamber, a family of ice bears had gathered to hibernate. We moved quietly around the edges of the room, keeping away from the slumbering bears while attempting to search for any hidden passages or other clues. Heidi, of course, took exception to the large snoring animals in the center of the cavern and began to bark frantically when we had come to the back of the cave. My heart hammered in my chest as I watched one of the bears slowly open its eyes and lift its head, looking around for the source of the sound. Fortunately, Vandy was quick to scoop up the dog in her arms and manually muzzle her before the bear had fully emerged from its deep sleep, and it laid its head back down over its massive arms and returned to dreaming whatever dreams might alight in an ice bear’s head. We quickly moved around the far side of the cave, abandoning any further searching to avoid the risk of another bear waking up, possibly hungry.

That night, Heidi received a very stern lecture and no table scraps with her dinner. I hope that was not the cave we needed to find.

Winter is approaching rapidly in this region, and Vandy’s rapport with the natural world has led her to believe that it may be unusually harsh this year. She has told me that she may be able to moderate the wind and cold for a short time, though not long enough to allow us more than a few extra days of searching. I dread the thought that we might have to abandon our expedition in the coming weeks, having already come so near to what I believe must be the end. I have faith that my companions are willing to see this journey to its destination, as they have told me that they would, but I cannot help but fear that they grow weary of trudging up and down icy slopes, searching blindly for something that may only exist in the realm of superstition. I fear this because I feel my own weariness seeping into my bones.

For tomorrow, we have agreed to refocus our search along the south side of Thunderhead Peak, going through the various passages in the glaciers that lead toward the lands of the Griffon Clan barbarians. Tonight, I will treat myself to a drink from my remaining tankard of White Harper ale, courtesy of an irate bartender in Neverwinter who probably still wonders how he ended up with a fine keg of dwarven water.

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