Perfectly Legitimate Adventuring Party
This is the journal of Torva, Head Scrivener of Walkers’ Abbey, written in an exceptionally neat hand on pages that might be either thick parchment or thin flatgoat, if indeed the distinction is meaningful.
Most of it is unremarkable stuff: grumblings about substandard ink, ignorant clerks, and musings on the finer points of scriptural interpretation. It’s in the last two years that it gets interesting, when an exploration party led by Elder Jontar returns from the deeps (well, most of them return), triumphantly brandishing a badly-damaged book supposed to have been retrieved from duergar who stole it from somewhere further down – supposedly the work of Venarik herself.
Within a week Jontar had gone back to the deeps with replacement acolytes, eager to follow this lead in the hope of finding more. Meanwhile Torva set about restoring and examining the book; it takes her weeks of patient work just to get it to the point where she can safely open the pages without further damaging them, and much of it is written in esoteric scripts and shorthand that have to be worked out laboriously. Initially sceptical, Torva comes to believe that the book really is the word of Saint Venarik, written after she left the Abbey to explore further into the Deeps; it matches known examples of her writing. But what she has to say is disturbing, incoherent and paranoid. An excerpt:
Always for my people, for their protection. Always. But have I made a terrible mistake? Have I doomed the clans I thought to save? When great Arakothrax shuddered his last and lay still, we thought triumph was ours; yet when I look back, I think the shadow only grew from that day. Kym and Messalia, ever colder to one another; I hear he lived to old age but saw all his children die before him, and it has been long years since I heard from her. Elbaron’s pride brought him down, of course – no great wonder there, and yet I wonder – and Kejra faded from sight; I do not know if he still lives. And Dourik my brother, gone to the wilds, I miss him most of all. Only Allutia seems to have been spared, the only one among us who took nothing from Arakothrax’ hoard… perhaps the old tales are true.
Should I abandon the staff? Too little, too late, I fear. I have carried it long enough, and spent too much of the dragon’s gold. Even if I could cleanse myself of his dying curse, of course, of curse… there is still a judgement for the other matter, to fall on me or on my children’s children’s children. No, I must keep hold of what I have, work to guard them, build deeper, deeper, although I fear it will not be enough.
Did that snake-haired bitch know what her advice would do? Does her malice run that deep? But I am foolish to blame her. I should have known, I should have seen, that what I did in Torag’s name had become an offering to the Lord of Loss. And in my bitterness I drove Garrack away, and that too was a gift to the Pain-God. Norgorber delights in the death-agonies that poison brings, Rovagug loves the spill of blood under the axe, but the other, he prefers his victims alive.
I used to dream of Torag every night. I did, I did, I did. He spoke to me, stern yet kind, like a father, and I wrote down every such dream without fail, the morning after. I cannot remember the last time I dreamed of him, heard his word, and I cannot bear to read what I wrote back then.
I must go deeper, deeper, until I find the place where my people can be safe. Or is it the place where I am safe? When I left the Tower, was I really searching for a better place for them? Or was I just leaving them to face the judgement I have fled?
Deeper. Deeper. I wish I was sure that the whispering I hear in the dark is Torag.
There’s much more like this, paranoid and obsessive, and always leaving certain things unexplained.
Torva records her decision to conceal her progress from Abbott Ulmas, who (she fears) might not take kindly to this rather unexpected twist in the story of their patron saint – although when she looks back at Venarik’s earlier writings she finds hints of it even there. Instead she goes to her friends Renda and Dern, who listen patiently and discuss the implications with her.
From there her journal chronicles their mutual conversion to the Lord of Loss, and the Goblingrinder brothers’ growing resentment of Grandeth, a member of a rival clan and chosen ahead of them as Seneschal despite their seniority. In secret they win over several of the acolytes under Renda’s tutelage.
The next page, about two months before the present, is covered in a very large bloodstain and one or two bits of something dried and nasty.
The page after reads:
Well, it seems our hand is forced. Poor Grandeth, always too clever for her own good. Let us throw the dice and see how our lord favours us.
After that there is a hiatus of several days. When it resumes Renda, Torva, and Dern are in control of the keep, and their opponents are dead or imprisoned.