Domains: Healing & Sun
Alignment: Neutral Good
Layla Larroque is a half-elf that grew up in a rural human community, trying to blend in. Her elven father was a trader who disappeared on a mercantile mission when she was young. He is presumed dead, although the circumstances were mysterious (TBD). Layla has few memories of her father, and her mother was reticent to talk about him. Townsfolk speculate he faked his own death to avoid a dull life tied to a human wife and half-elf daughter.
Layla lived with her mother and maternal uncle growing up, and worked on the homestead tending and herding sheep. When Layla was an adolescent, her mother contracted a fatal illness and died a slow death. Layla felt helpless watching her mother die, and resolved to become a cleric to learn healing magic. Upon reaching adulthood, she left the homestead and went to a prestigious cleric school (or wherever clerics-in-training go in this world). She’s not particularly dedicated to a deity, but worships Pelor because that was the dominant deity in her hometown.
After completing her training, Layla works as a healer but finds herself feeling empty and passionless. So when an injured bard arrives telling stories of an elven pirate captain that sounds remarkably like Layla’s father (gasp!), she jumps at the chance to set out on a very stereotypical, coming-of-age adventure to find out the truth about what happened to her father.
Diary Entry: A Gathering in the Ambersand
I go to bed a different person than I awoke this morning. I knew my quest might be perilous, and that I might encounter those that would do me harm, however I did not expect to resort to violence so readily.
It all started when I encountered a group of strangers outside of Desheb. A grungy-looking dwarf with a number of poorly-applied bandages requested my assistance as a healer. He was walking fine and didn’t seem to be in pain, so I offered to redress his bandages once we got to town—lest his request be part of a ploy with the other strangers to rob me out in the desert once I was distracted! The dwarf, whose name I learned was Musushi, took offense at my offer and seemed to think I was obligated to stop at once and tend to his superficial wounds!
I barely had time to take notice of the other strangers when a trader’s wagon came over the hill, pursued by three men brandishing weapons. They quickly overturned the wagon and sent the trader tumbling to the ground. Several of the strangers immediately attacked the ruffians, dealing fatal blows (although the man named Rooke ran away at first) without even attempting to negotiate or offer the chance to surrender.
My concern was for the fallen trader. One of the ruffians reached him first, however, and beat him almost to death. Words and reason failed me, and I too joined in the violence with an attempt to stab the ruffian with my spear. Although it was only a glancing blow, I may as well have killed the man myself, for in that moment that was my intent.
I have dedicated myself to the preservation of life and alleviation of suffering, and yet without a moment’s hesitation I was ready to trade one life for another. I half-expected the healing spell I cast on the trader to fail— that Pelor would find the intent behind my instinctual violence unworthy of His divine power. I do not know what it means that the healing was successful. Perhaps my desire to protect the trader’s life was pure enough. Or perhaps the source of my magic does not come from the popularized concept of Pelor at all.
For better or worse, I have decided to travel with this new band of strangers for the time being. Going from a small, peaceful town to training at a Pelorian hospital has not prepared me for traveling alone through the desert of Raduun.
There is a haughty woman named Elythia, who also seems to be searching for pirates. Although she doesn’t seem much more suited for adventurous travel than me, she also does not quail in a conflict. Thomas is a silent figure, but a boon to have as an ally in a fight. Rooke is a curious character. He seemed cautious and shifty at first, but later offered to trail the group in case of an ambush from behind. And finally, Musushi.
At first I thought the dwarf simply suffered from mental retardation, for he did not seem to know what birds were or understand the nature of coin, however I later became aware that he had only recently emerged from an under-ground dwelling civilization. I must try to have patience with this individual, for in addition to mental slowness he is also unfamiliar with the customs of civilized society.
Diary Entry: The Burning of Memphun
So much has happened over the past few days, I hardly know where to start. An entire city destroyed by a falling star. A demon, raising soldiers from the dead. Thomas flirting with a tusked shopkeeper.
Any prior doubt I held regarding Pelor’s existence is gone. How can I doubt, when our lives were saved by Naphrem himself? Our band of strangers, out of all the mortals in the world, has been tasked with a holy mission to prevent the apocalypse. The gods may be real, but they may also be mad.
We must find an artifact known as the Stone Heart. An enchanted book provides our only knowledge of the artifact, and even that is in a cryptic poem. It sounds as if the Stone Heart is a placeholder for an ancient entity’s heart, and will provide some form of protection or counter measure to the malignant god Cyric. Naphrem indicated Rooke had knowledge of this Cyric, however the mysterious man seemed hesitant to discuss the matter. The book tells us the Stone Heart is guarded by a golem, and I sincerely doubt the creature has been waiting to hand the artifact over to a group of mortals. I fear many more lives will be lost before this quest is complete.
Diary Entry: Shit Gets Real
Never in my life did I imagine the violence I would perpetrate.
That first sleepless night, huddled by my fire and listening to the howls of distant wolves, I realized how naïve I’d been to leave the abbey without means of defense. Neither wolves nor brigands would care about my peaceful intentions. Finding the spearhead the following day felt like providence. In hindsight, maybe it was.
I have to believe that this is what Pelor intended. Ending lives when necessary to preserve all life. Still, the gaze of the wounded orc we left to the vultures haunts me.
Diary Entry: Illecin Delve
That greedy, idiotic, fool of a dwarf!!!! We could have helped the orc and gained information, I know it, but MUSUSHI went and blew it all to hell!!!!!
At least we have obtained the heart stone, which we now know can be used as a weapon against the Nine. All throughout the Illecin delve, Rooke was caught in a trance by the Codex of Duri and it spoke through him like a sentient being. It wasn’t just a book, it was a conduit for an ancient shaman—the creator of the heart stone. Although the shaman’s knowledge was invaluable, I am glad to have Rooke back unpossessed. Despite his guarded and mysterious nature, I sense he is a good man.
Diary Entry: Voyage to Odisvalk
I remember my father talking of ships and oceans, of course, but to experience them first hand is another matter entirely. And being expected to pilot a ship moments after stepping aboard one for the first time! I was not the only one in our little crew that was new to ships—Musushi had not even heard of them before! Then again, he doesn’t always seem to hear what beats against his ears.
Fortunately, we were able to cast off without wrecking the ship, although it was a close call. Railey, first mate of the Arcturan, immediately solicited us with dice games and grog. I must say gambling was a bit thrilling, although I only lost gold pieces.
We hadn’t made it far off the coast when we spotted a Grewfert Merchant ship attacking another vessel. These “merchant” ships are apparently little more than pirates. Without means to match their mysterious weapons—which launched destructive spheres at the fleeing ship—we could only stay on course and hope they remained preoccupied with their victims and didn’t pursue us as well. Rooke seemed strangely moved by the site of the Grewfert Merchant ship, as if he admired the technology, even as it claimed innocent lives.
The rest of the group, save Rooke and myself, decided breaking into Captain Stenwall’s quarters was a wonderful idea. They searched the room for signs of possession by the Nine, although Thomas seemed mostly interested in finding the captain’s stash of stimulants. I refused to participate in the invasion of privacy and theft, although I didn’t go so far as to try to stop them or alert the captain. I am learning that in this quest to preserve life as we know it, sometimes I must set aside my own moral inclinations. Although they were able to put the room back in order, we bungled the lock quite badly on the way out. Not only was the lock broken, a pick had broken off inside. I attempted to mend the lock, but only managed to fuse the pick to the lock itself! The captain never seemed to notice. Perhaps he assumed he had done it himself in his sleep-deprived state.
I approached the captain and convinced him to take some poppy’s milk to help him sleep. While the captain had his first night in a while without terrible nightmares, Thomas, Rooke, and I were plagued by our worst fears.
The next day we were asked to clean the storage area. It was there that we were surprised by a dire rat. It reminded me of the were-rats we encountered outside of Desheb, and I was not keen on keeping company with it. Musushi, however, had somehow formed a communion with the rat that called itself Grogg. Grogg was a refugee from Odisvark, where a premonition of evil sent him fleeing. I must admit, hearing about how the rodent had lost his entire family attempting to board the Arcturan did inspire empathy.
We had terrible nightmares again that night, and although I know them to be dreams, I have started to worry that they may be something more. Thomas remained awake with the assistance of stolen stimms, and overheard a conversation between the captain and his first mate. They had failed to mention to us the discovery of an outpost where everyone was found dead and literally boneless. We also learned that they are much more to each other than captain and first mate! They share a wife and family in Inyamand. Stenwall fears that their wife and daughters are dead and does not wish to return. Railey pressed him to have faith in the resilience of Orcish women.
The site of a giant sea beast, larger even than our ship, heralded our arrival off the coast of Odisvalk. It is apparently a place of monsters, another detail the captain conveniently left out.
A one-footed dwarf by the name of Crosby Cooke greeted us as we made it to shore. He is the chef for a roaming group of Halfling hunters. Musushi immediately bonded with Cooke and began preparing a meal for him.
Shortly after, a Halfling came bursting out of the forest, chased by a beast that looked to be a cross between a wild hog and a canine. We were able to put down the rabid beast, which I had assumed to be another sign of the Nine’s influence, but evidently these “yeth hounds” are naturally occurring in this land. Land of monsters, indeed!
The Halfling Fuskar told us that a star had fallen here too—just like the one that destroyed Memphun. Pelor, let us be prepared for the battle ahead.
Diary Entry: Odisvalk, Act I
The Dominion of Odisvalk is colder, possibly, than the desert was hot. Ice crystals formed on our eyelashes within an hour of making landfall. We did not come prepared for the climate, although Musushi and I both have magic to keep us warm. Elythia attempted to charm the cloak off of poor Fustar. Rooke seemed strangely jumpy as we trekked to Kholedzund, firing arrows into the fog. I traded for a warm cloak and gave it to him once we reached the Halfling city—if you could even call it that. The buildings and roads were laid out without plan, chaotic and clustered.
We met a bead merchant, Henrik, who was desperate for food. The stock house burned to the ground recently, taking the Kholedzund’s winter stores with it. Henrik spoke of an anger and paranoia that befell the community and led them to murder several of their own in an attempt to exact retribution for the suspected arson. And it does appear that the stock house was set ablaze intentionally. I believe the fallen star created a supernatural frenzy that overcame the town. Coupled with the strange animal behavior Stenwall and Henrik spoke of, I suspect this star has brought with it a demon of a different nature from the one we faced in the ruins of Memphun. We made it out with our lives only by Naphrem’s grace. I shudder to think what new horrors we will face. Our only hope is that the Heart Stone will weaken the remaining members of the Nine enough that we can defeat it. Naphrem may have intervened once, but he did not foresee another encounter. I wish that upon our first meeting I had thought to beg his assistance in destroying or locking away the unholy sword of which I am now the steward. I feel it weigh heavily on my mind as in my pack.
This was a land of monsters even before the Bear constellation star fell and crashed into the Serpent Hills. We ride with Nightmare Seekers—a guild of sorts that hunts the mutated beasts that plague the wild lands. It is a bit awkward, seeing as several members of our party engaged in combat against the Nightmare Seekers for the entertainment of the Halfling populace. It is a strange and barbaric tradition. Although, it was a bit humorous to see the Halflings grossly underestimate Elythia and pit her against a ram! At least the poor animal had a quick death, immolated into nothingness in mere seconds.
Diary Entry: Journey to the Serpent Hills
Two of our compatriots are dead. Had I been quicker and not forgotten my purpose, perhaps they would be alive. Our party was attacked by a troll, a monster I’ve only heard of in tales. The Nightmare Seekers were as surprised to see it as I. It was so large the ground shook with its every step. Brave White Lock faced it head on, and took severe wounds. Consumed with fear, my only thought was to end the monster before it ended us. I did not notice White Lock’s condition until the troll brought all of its crushing weight down to bare on the warrior. If only I had remembered my purpose as a healer, instead of responding first with violence, maybe I could have healed White Lock enough for him to survive the killing blow.
Ingrim Fullkettle went mad upon seeing a field of dead birds in the shape of a profane symbol. I dare not sketch it here. He attacked Gerta, and she set into him with her axe. Had I been quicker to recover from my shock I would have called to Gerta to stop, and let me try to calm him with Pelor’s grace.
From this moment I resolve to remember my calling as a healer first. It is not only my promise to Pelor, but my duty to the party as well.
Diary Entry: The Winding Wood
Another day ends, another pair of dead compatriots. We saw a battle today more fearsome than anything I could have imagined.
The Nightmare Seekers operated our ice skimmer through the night, while we slept. It was an uneasy sleep for me, with strange, unsettling dreams that I couldn’t quite recall after I woke. Rooke and Musushi seemed to sleep even worse than I.
Garthar told us the story of the Tidewalker, the Halfling that established Kholedzund and Odisvalk itself. There were said to be trolls in the time of the Tidewalker, but he and his party were supposed to have hunted and killed them all. That we came across one yesterday still seems to trouble the Halflings. I have seen a demon and walking skeletons, so I suppose I am less shocked than most would be.
The sun had barely risen when another ice skimmer emerged from the fog. It flew red sails, signaling ill intent. A one-eyed Halfling, which I would learn to be Kalf the Ill Willed, stood on the prow blowing into a horn. A volley of arrows followed, killing poor Yergen, and resulting in the overturning of our skimmer. Elythia’s circlet, given to her by Naphrem, caused the arrows to snap into pieces mere inches from striking her.
Kalf’s crew set upon our scattered party. I summoned my spiritual mace, although I’m told it did no good at all. I have little recollection of the battle itself. Gerta had fallen, badly wounded, and haunted by the memory of White Lock I set all my attention to stabilizing her. I was vaguely aware of the sound of arrows whizzing overhead. Thank Pelor none of them hit myself or Gerta.
I did look up to see Garthar lose an arm. Far from handicapping him, the Nightmare Seeker seemed imbued with an otherworldly strength, and charged Kalf himself. Garthar’s rage did not sustain him long, and he was cut down by Kalf.
Rooke drew the axe given to him by Naphrem and threw it at the one-eyed Halfling. There was a bright explosion upon impact, and then all that was left of Kalf the Ill Willed were his legs. The battle was quickly won after that. Musushi helped me to stabilize Gerta.
After the bloodshed ended, Hralf sang a funeral song for his fallen friends. He had not yet finished when a colorfully dressed Halfling emerged from the Winding Woods. We were wary of another aggressor, but Hralf seemed relieved, even excited to see this individual.
It was Scalla the Open-Handed, the wandering druid we have heard so much about. He knew both of our party and the evil we pursue, a demon called Ahmdemos. The Ahmdemos intends to find a World Well, something akin to the veins of the earth, and poison it with his demonic taint. We must get to the Well before the demon and seal it with the Heart Stone. Luckily, Scalla believes he knows where it is.
We rest now inside a great tree, where Scalla has made his home. I know now why he is called Scalla the Open-Handed, for be bestowed upon each of us a gift, and I can see hanging on the walls what must be gifts both for those he knows and those he has yet to meet.
Scalla spoke to each of use familiarly, knowing our names and things we had not yet revealed even to each other. Of the mysterious Rooke I learned he is last of his line. He received a bandolier to hold his crossbolts. Elythia received a pearl with a shadowy silhouette dancing inside it, possibly a spirit. Sir Thomas received face paints, which they apparently wear in the courts of Gathela. Musushi—or Brodok, as Scalla called him—received a jar of wax to be used as a candle for meditation. And for me, a pair of feather earrings from Dorasea, that are said to be from a Pegasus.
Tomorrow we may die facing Ahmdemos, but for tonight I pray to sleep soundly and dream of great winged horses.
Diary Entry: Ahmdemos and The Fount
Everytime I think I have seen the most impossible events, something more fantastical occurs. But I am getting ahead of myself.
I did not dream of Pegusi last night. Instead I had a horrible nightmare of a great shaggy beast plunging its arms into a shallow pool. Some of the others had the same dream. Scalla helped us shake off some of our unease by soliciting a story from each of us. I suppose we are no longer a band of strangers, for we each shared stories of our past that I sense had not been spoken aloud before.
We left Gerta to recover in Scalla’s dwelling, despite Musushi’s arguments that she should be used as a distraction for Ahmdemos! Thankfully the rest of our group is sane and somewhat decent! When we ventured out we came across a great trench that had not been there they day before. It stretched in either direction as far as the eye could see. Scalla said it was caused by a beast called the Northworm, and that it must have encountered something terrible to flee as it did. Thankfully, we were able to find a tree that had fallen across and use that as a bridge.
We found the Fount and approached it cautiously. The beast from our nightmares was already there. Ahmdemos. It had captured and tied up Scalla’s friend, Halfrad, who appeared to be in a tortured sleep.
The demon liked the sound of its own voice, and offered to spare us if we became servants of Cyric. Musushi knelt before Ahmdemos and pledged his loyalty. In retrospect I am surprised I knew with such certainty it was a ruse, and the rest of us followed suit. But we did not fool the demon. The way it moved was supernatural, seeming to appear behind us without moving or making great bounding leaps of at least 50 feet.
The battle was vicious. Our attacks hardly seemed to phase the demon, but somehow, through the grace of Pelor we managed to wear it down.
Finally, a brilliant light emitted from the Heart Stone and rendered the demon to ash. A small orb rolled out from the smoldering remains. I sensed its evil and wanted to destroy it, however Elythia took a liking to it and picked it up. Nothing ill befell her, but I fear if she continues to carry it, it may corrupt her soul.
Scalla then took us through the Verdant Dream, where we were gifted two visions. The first was of a woman astride a unicorn. With her otherworldly beauty and grace, she must have been no other than the goddess Elhonna. Perhaps she appeared to us out of gratitude for destroying Ahmdemos, or perhaps simply to bring the vision that came next. Two more of Cyric’s Nine, conversing about Ahmdemos’ falling. Eerily, they sensed our presence. At least now we know some of the nature of what we will face.