(excerpted from the journal of Gaston D’Arville, 7th day of Nymm, 998 YK, under the Ascending Mark of Hospitality)
It has been nearly a week since I bade farewell to Kash’Nan. He insisted I take my entire detachment with me; Lady Seffeth, Sayon, Rayle, and Sir Kyle, on our mission north. We will be escorting 2 score clergy led by Brother Keifeth of the Southernlands. Between us all we had 7 carts, 6 calvarymen and another 15 of the temple’s finest watch. As I tried to explain to Kash’Nan, this was more than adequate protection from the darkness of the Reaches.
Unfortunately other forces were at work. I suspect the hand of Meinod the Gnome in this. On the day of our departure, our Holy Mission was joined by four mercenaries including a brash gnome (likely a relation of Meinod himself), a hulking savage from the Wastes, and a strange man-shaped construct of loosely-bound crystal (I thought at first this thing was a conjuration of the gnome’s, but it appears to have quite the life of its own, as I will get to). They brought with them a wagon and a driver whom I know to work often with Meinod. Alongside them was Scan, whom I have already written much about… whether she (it?) stands with them as an escort or a companion I cannot say. Although Kash’Nan assures me they are true to our cause, they insisted on delaying our journey nearly a full day to run petty errands for the gnome in the forests of the Harrowcrowns. When they emerged they sent back their wagon with only a strange crate and a bound human, although the blood on their blades tells me they found more in those woods than they are shared with their commanding officer. I did not have time to ask if this man was a friend, or even a citizen of Thrane, before the gnome’s driver whisked him back towards Siyar.
In the Light of the Flame we continued, passing first through Valiron and across the plains to Fort Light. As our group marched and prayed the mercenaries gawked at a Lightning Rail heading north, likely to the hub at Passage. At least one missionary was reprimanded by Brother Keiffeth for letting his attentions stray. It is clear to me that our “seasoned” mercenaries have probably never left the safety of Thrane.
It was not until after passing the Tower Vigilant that we encountered our first casualties. One night in the plains of Ghalt, as we all slept, we were attacked on both sides by hideous plant-like monsters, perhaps hailing from the border of the Eldritch Groves (verily, we draw closer to the Aundair and its arcane handiwork!) As my guards ran off to defend our weakest flank, I heard a commotion on the other side of the wagons. By the time we bested our assailants and were able to investigate, we had already lost one missionary. The mercenaries stood ’round, some of them gutting the bodies (in search of coin, no doubt…) The strange one knelt over the fallen clergyman, haplessly dangling crystals over what remained of his head. I counted several fallen vine-men at their feet.
I spoke with Brother Keifeth that night. I shared my concerns about our mission and sought forgiveness for the lapse in my guardianship. Brother Keifeth shared his wisdom and offered to participate in a memorial the next morning. Tired and disheartened we all tried to get some sleep.
The next morning the Mission woke and readied for their trip while Brother Keifeth, Lady Seffeth and I held vigil over the site of the fallen man (Brother Keifeth shared his name, but I have many important things on my mind as of late). I administered the Flame and made to return to the head of the caravan when I was interrupted by the mercenaries. After asking me if there as anything they could do (perhaps their current guard is not calling enough?!?! Sadly, I do not carry the pocket-change that Meinod uses to sweeten the taste of their duty!) one of them, the strange crystalline one, broke into my mind and dared to question my judgement! It was much in the manner of a Kalashtar, only somehow rougher and less powerful at the same time… I am not unaccustomed to such dialogue, but to question my leadership in such an underhanded way finally revealed the nature of this being. Of course when I challenged him to speak for all to hear he declined, ha! It was then that the savage brute stepped forward and babbled something about defending and honor – as if he had anything to teach me on the subject – confirming my suspicions that there is something rotten about the Prelate’s Darling. I promised him words when we reached Ghalt.
Unforunately (or perhaps quite fortunately) upon arrival in Ghalt the mercenaries dispersed into the crowd like poison into wine. Scan and the Savage – on a Holy Mission, no doubt – headed for the University. The gnome made for the city centre and the crystalline being – whom I watched from the corner of my eye – sulked off to the east of the main gate.
No matter. We have one week to re-supply our mission and then continue. Something tells me I have not seen the last of these strangers.