Savage Tide; Pathfinder
journal of Tobin Grey
Excerpts From the Private Journal of the Deceased Tobin Grey
Description: This thin volume is severely battered. It is bound in leather and has no markings on the outside. The inside front cover has written in neat letters the phrase ‘Being a Chronicle of the Studies of Tobin Grey, Servant of Irori, Citizen of Sasserine, Vol. 7’. This book was always on Tobin’s person rather than in his haversack, and shows extreme signs of wear. It has been waterlogged, sun damaged, singed, and torn. In spite of this, the remaining pages show signs of meticulous care, with each page bearing a number and a date, and there are obvious signs of attempts to reverse the damage done to this volume by the elements.
The following excerpts are all that remain of the existing text, with several pages missing. New entries are started fresh on new pages, so several of the remaining pages have blank portions that are filled up with sketches or Irorian verse.
Page 3. Approximate Date: Day Before the Parrot Island Encounter.
(…)that I am not giving to writing down my feelings, but this latest incident is simply beyond the pale. The Prelate has at last seen fit to make good on his intentions to force me to “get out more” by selling me as a hired hand to a group of local ‘adventurers’ who require medical support for some excursion wherein they mean to track down the dilettante son of a local noble clan. It hardly seems a fitting use of my skills. I say that not out of arrogance, but as simple observation; I am an academic, not a combat medic, and I’ve been assured these men are “professionals”, whatever that means when speaking of hired killers. How much need could they really have for me?
I suppose it doesn’t matter. I will do my duty as I am instructed as best as I am able. I must believe that the Prelate has a plan in mind. Perhaps this brief encounter with the banal idiosyncrasies of the world outside cloister is a necessary crucible I must pass through in order to truly appreciate the life of quiet contemplation I am fortunate enough to enjoy.
Page 4. Approximate Date: Day After the Parrot Island Encounter.
I confess I was far too hasty in my rush to judge both the Prelate’s wisdom and the lives of the curious caste of self-destructive individuals known collectively as ‘adventurers’. What I have encountered with my arranged employers is nothing short of an absolute revolution in my way of thinking.
Ever since Father first compulsed me to enter the priesthood of Irori, I have been peripherally aware of his distaste for the adventurer class; in our homeland, these ronin are aberrations. People take up this form of work because they cannot find employment elsewhere and are forced to find odd jobs doing dangerous tasks for strangers who frequently do not have their best interests at heart. I suppose the closest analog would be what we call here ‘mercenaries’, though the traditional interpretation of that word fails to adequately encapsulate the type of gentlemen I accompanied yesterday. They are not thugs or mere sell-swords, whoring their services to the highest bidder. Having spoken to their charming employer, Mm. Vanderboren, I see these disparate individuals coming together to solve a problem that could not otherwise be solved. It harkens back to the tale of Longinitius and the Varuvian Knot and well illustrates the power of Dothar’s potent Razor. Sometimes, one must seek unconventional and simple solutions to complex and litigious problems.
Still, it remains absolutely mystifying to me that there exist these men, people who routinely risk their very lives – a very real risk, as I shall record – to make a coin, or help out a damsel in distress, or (if I may be absurdly grandiose, in the way of the stories about these people) save the world. I thought all of those bardic stories were fabrications! But I myself saw young Mr. Torr nearly have his leg severed clean by the claws of a monstrous crab and continue to fight it! One could reasonably argue that his injuries allowed him to overcome his autonomous functions in order to ensure his survival, but these four men do repeat this insanity constantly! As Mr. Torr quite literally lay dying, I administered balms, curatives, styptics, and gave him drugs to soothe his pain before praying for Irori’s divine light to save him from the brink of death, and with my task done, he proceeded to simply stand up, draw his knife, and continue his assault! Imagine! I’m unsure whether to be in awe of his courage and tenacity or stupefied by his hubris. What sort of madman permits himself to be very nearly killed on a daily basis? And what makes that madman so convinced of my rather limited and humble abilities as to cast himself into the fire again and again assured that I will catch him? These men have more faith in my abilities than I do!
I find this all as fascinating as I do find it frightening, and in spite of what would no doubt be Father’s stern disapproval of the Prelate’s orders and my travels with these “adventurers”, I am looking forward to continuing business with this likeable group of scoundrels.
Page 7-8. Approximate Date: Day After the Dawn Council Party.
(…)Lotus Dragons Guild, the clandestine rogues’ guild run by Ms. Rowyn Kellani, oldest daughter of the Kellani Noble family. Mm. Heldrath Kellani, the family matriarch, has a well-known reputation within the city as being a retired criminal and former slaver and pirate. I suspect she had some hand in the financial backing of her daughter’s criminal enterprise, but of course, it would be irresponsible to make any such assertion. The hostile physical posture she adopted while at the party honoring our efforts conveyed a good deal more than simple displeasure and humiliation at her daughter’s failure to be an effective criminal. It would be advisable to be wary of the political maneuvering of the Kellani matriarch, as well as the possibility of what would likely be a significantly more direct and ill-conceived attempt at reprisal by the youngest daughter of the family, Ms. Tegan Kellani.
Mr. Othar, Mr. Torr, Mr. Cadrel, Mr. Kizziar (a mysterious man whom I know quite well to be the legitimate son of a rather prestigious and well-heeled half-orc nobleman in the city, but who chooses to only ever go by his given name), and myself now bear the accurate but ultimately underwhelming group moniker of “The Gang of Five”, and were awarded by the city for our efforts in breaking up the Lotus Dragons Guild. Father is furious: for all his exertions and politicking amongst the nobility of the city and the members of the Dawn Council, he has received no formal recognition, let alone at a lavish gala thrown in his honor. He is clearly torn between his frustration at not having achieved his selfish ends and the infuriating manner in which I have unintentionally shown him up, and the pride he swells with for having a son who is now being called a hero of the city, a city he himself chose as his home. I am confident that in time he will come to embrace my accomplishments and the prestige I bring our family, no matter its origin. Such is my hope.
As to the details of the party, it was largely a perfunctory affair for me. I would have much preferred to be studying for our upcoming voyage to the foreboding-sounding “Bay of Blood” detailed in the erotic missives exchanged between Mr. Vanderboren and Ms. Kellani, but it would have been most rude to exclude myself from a party thrown at least in part in my own honor, no matter how I may bristle at recognition. Mr. Ridgetide appears to be quite taken with Ms. Blackrose, a diminutive and clever young woman who clearly has eyes on supplanting the void left in the city’s underworld by the deposing of Ms. Kellani. Mr. Torr is likewise smitten with our employer, Mm. Vanderboren. I wonder if he senses how much she fancies him. Mr. Kizziar and Mr. Cadrel seemed almost as uncomfortable amidst the finery and pomp of the city’s nobility as I did. We three are humble men, brothers in our desire to succeed, and for the weight of our deeds to be the glory we receive.
The rest of my group did not invite me along to perform the duties of appraising and selling the lucre we claimed as part of our raid on the Lotus Dragons Guild Hall. I expect they thought I had more important matters to attend to; a fair guess, but incorrect in this case. Perhaps they think me an idiot. I shall have to make a point to make myself more useful, to volunteer information I possess and offer it more readily.
Returning to cloister now leaves me with the jittery expectation of a child. All I can think on is preparing for our next excursion, and to that end, my hands fall easily not into scribing and studying, but to the crafting of curative and restorative potions, the poring over of dusty old tomes to learn bits of history, pathology, biology, arcanism that might give us an advantage in the field.
On a final note, I cannot go without comment on the subject of the uncharacteristically kind gesture made by Mr. Ridgetide of the sparing of the life of a kobold, a female who calls herself ‘Churtle’, whom we encountered in the employ of the Lotus Dragons Guild. In spite of his inability to even speak the suffering creature’s language, he adamantly refused to do her harm and even went so far as to care for her and take her into his charge. All of the men in our group have adopted Churtle as a beloved younger sibling. Not as a servant, or a pet, as would be easy. Not as a receptacle for sexual deviancy, as would be profitable. They – we – have accepted Churtle as a fellow traveler, as a person. It speaks tremendously to the generosity and humility of these men that they should offer a second life free of misery and torment to a creature that even most common men would cut down on sight. I wonder if the others are aware that Churtle(…)
Page 11-12. Approximate Date: Day of the Bay of Blood Encounter.
Page 11 is unreadable due to having at one time been stuck to page 9-10 and subsequently ripped free.
(…)a most curious configuration, covered in boils, knobby spurs of bone, writhing tentacles, and superfluous organs. All of the wretched souls we encountered, animal and man, along the beach and in the surrounding jungle followed the same grotesque pattern, making it clear that the taint had an amazingly fecund rate of growth and development that was clearly contagious, a fact that was reinforced by the blotchy, black, weeping rash that Mr. Kizziar and Mr. Cadrel developed after having been bitten by a common monkey that had been infected.
We have now burned the majority of the creatures who contracted the virus, but I am uneasy about the apparent ease at which the infection spread as well as the obvious fact that there were several escapees from the cove unaccounted for. I fear we have not seen the last of this plague.
Even more terrible, we now find ourselves impotently racing back to the city on the advice of Capt. Javell, recalcitrant as she was towards the Dawn Council and the nobility of Sasserine, who nevertheless seemed to feel genuine remorse about the outburst of wrath that erroneously provoked her to order Mm. Vanderboren’s execution for her brother’s crimes. The sea before us yawns on like a death sentence. I am fearful for our lovely employer, but there is naught to be done to expedite our arrival beyond facilitating the capable seafaring of Mm. Tiel and Capt. Singer. In the meantime, I shall pray for Irori to send us stiff wind, and to do my best to make peace between my friends and the fearfully ignorant sailors in Capt. Singer’s employ. If(…)
Page 13. Approximate Date: Day After the Vanderboren Manor Encounter.
(…)confusing. Could Mr. Cadrel truly think that I would exploit some legal chicanery to steal a portion of the vessel we acquired? It’s quite bedeviling. I can only hope that perhaps there is some reason for this evasive behavior that I cannot understand, something that compromises my safety to know it. I am not unfamiliar to such potentially dangerous secrets.
Of more pressing matters at the moment, Mm. Vanderboren cautiously and carefully continues the renovations on her home. Ms. Churtle seems to be filling in admirably for the regretfully deceased Ms. Willowtop. My friends made a confusing faux pas on the subject of Ms. Willowtop, explaining that they would put forth the capital required to “raise her from the dead”. Mm. Vanderboren was (quite understandably) horrified by this idea, though she did an admirable job of not showing it. It is yet another curious attribute of adventurers that they are capable of seeing all problems as binary choices with simple solutions. Of course, the magics exist that could permit Ms. Willowtop to return to life, but for myriad complex reasons, that is something that simply is not done in the event of most deaths. A woman of Ms. Willowtop’s advanced age had little life left to live as it is, and has no doubt gone on to her eternal reward, from which there is little reason to return. And even if she wanted to return, living again would force her to cope with the trauma of experiencing the circumstances of her extremely painful and violent death.
What would they do with me if I were to be killed? Would they expect to summon me back from Irori’s bosom? Would I answer the call? Could I?
My compatriots leave this morning on a voyage to recover the vessel The Sea Wyvern, the now abandoned caravel-class vessel forfeited by the Crimson Fleet when Mr. Vanderboren unleashed the catastrophe that slaughtered most of those present at the Bay of Blood. Reflecting back on the proximate causes of the infection we encountered, I am even more fearful and concerned than before. While the infection was clearly natural in the way it functioned, it is almost certainly magical in it’s origin. If I’m not mistaken, it is not merely magical, but abyssal: quite literally, a disease from hell. I hope we have seen the last of it, but I am worried that we have not.
I expect my friends to return within the space of a week with our new vessel. Mm. Vanderboren alluded to some great journey to come in the following month. If the paperwork she keeps on her desk is any indication, I believe we may be striking out for an area known as the Isle of Dread, to a remote colony established by Verik and Larissa Vanderboren, Mm. Vanderboren’s recently deceased parents. For what reason, I cannot say, though I suppose it would be best if I made use of this period of quiet to begin research on the isle and the peoples who live there. Perhaps I could also broach the subject of my permanent establishment as a priest errant.
Pages 15-16. Approximate Date: Day After Capturing Tegan Kellani.
I am forced, with great humility, to rescind any reservations I may have had about my bond with my brothers in arms. The events of the last few days have erased all doubt from my mind that I am anything but a valued component of our team and a friend to these men. I can only imagine, in hindsight, that whatever reasons they may have had for attempting to exclude me from the acquisition of the vessel and its registration in our collective names are simply beyond my ken.
I was aware of the string of murders happening about town since the unfortunate murder of Ms. Varonet, but of course, I had no idea that the murders may have been somehow tied to our actions until the death of the third victim, Ms. Marcos, whose peripheral relation to a member of the Gang of Five could not be a coincidence. I feel tremendous grief and guilt that I was not able to see this pattern sooner, and it is most unfortunate that my brothers were out of the city and unable to address the matter. In hindsight, it seems obvious that the contrivance of timing was no accident. Much is obvious in hindsight.
The identity of the murderer, it happened, was Ms. Tegan Kellani, youngest daughter of the Kellani family, seeking revenge upon we five for the perceived wrongs done to her clan. I assert, once again, that it would be reasonable to assume that the family matron, Ms. Heldrath Kellani, had a hand in arranging this strike against us, but as I shall soon reveal, Ms. Heldrath Kellani’s influence is no longer a matter of any import.
Not acquainted with young Ms. Tegan as I was, it seemed a coincidence, a trifle, when the Prelate introduced me to the young lady, visiting our church under the pretense of seeking private tutoring. I believe the Prelate was eager to arrange the meeting as Ms. Tegan’s physical attributes are self-evident, and the somewhat brazen and flirtatious manner in which she specifically selected myself as her tutor was characterized by the physical symptoms of arousal. Considering the argument recently had between myself and the Prelate concerning my further travels with my brothers (and by extension, membership in the ‘Gang of Five’), perhaps he believed that arousing my physical passions in a romantic entanglement might compel me to spend more time at the church. Even had this plan not failed spectacularly for reasons that will be made momentarily apparent, it would not have worked. I fear the Prelate direly misunderstands my appetites, sexual and otherwise.
As requested, however, I took the young lady – using the nom de guerre of “Arienne Marguerite” – to my quarters for the lesson which she had paid for. It did not take long for her motives to become more clear, and to my own shame, I must admit that counter to my lifelong promptings to the contrary, I found myself deeply aroused by the young lady. I was on the verge of performing an act I did not think possible when she smiled at me in the manner of a snake and spoke one word: “sleep”. After this, I knew naught but darkness until I woke up in a closet, bound and gagged. I now know it was nearly two days before I awoke, disrobed and quite severely beaten. The Ms. Marguerite visited me after several hours, my obvious captor, and told me her true identity as well as her plan. The murders, as I have already mentioned, were targeted against people whom only the inner circle of our party would know were tied to us, in order to get our attention. My abduction was meant to further arouse my brothers’ anger in the hopes that they would behave foolishly, and also to deprive them of my healing abilities when she sprung her trap. It was a good plan. Too good, in fact, for a girl of her years, and I remain convinced that she had more outside help than just from her mother. If Ms. Heldrath Kellani was capable of such sophistry, it would be a unique flash of genius in a lifetime of being a callous thug.
In spite of the odds being stacked in many ways against them, my friends took up the investigation of these murders, and followed the evidence into Ms. Kellani’s trap, where miraculously they managed to defeat and disarm her and even take her alive. Securing the help of Mr. Worrin Lidu, they raided the Kellani household, finding Ms. Heldrath Kellani dead by her(…)
Pages 21-22. Approximate Date: Day After Leaving Sasserine.
It is done. I am excommunicated from the order of Irori. The Prelate is furious with my decision, of course. I suppose I underestimated how serious his admonishment against my leaving the city was. He was adamant from the moment I first broached the issue of accompanying my friends and our employer to the far-flung colony of Farshore that I not leave, claiming that he had made a mistake in ever thinking it would benefit me to leave the church, that I had been poisoned by the delights of the outside world, that I had been corrupted and weakened by my time away from my studies and devotions.
I respectfully submit that he does not know of what he speaks.
Far from being a mistake, my time as a member of an adventuring party has given me an incredible appreciation for and vast perspective of the wealth of the world around me. Does not Irori compel us to attain enlightenment? Does he not command us to thrust ourselves into the crucible of life in order that we might become stronger? How does remaining within the walls of a safe building surrounded by dusty tomes written by dead men serve either of these ends? The Prelate himself is no closer to enlightenment than my brother Mr. Kizziar, whose uncomplicated purity gives him a clarity of vision that far surpasses that of the church father. I humbly assert that I have overtaken my teacher in my education and that the time has come to break away. But perhaps I am dissembling; I am bound by my sense of honor, of duty, and of fraternity to follow my brothers into the Abyss, if needs be, and I would not shy away from that responsibility even if it meant turning away from Irori’s gaze altogether. But how could that ever be the case? The fulfilling of my contract and the protection of my comrades – and doing so by exploring firsthand the full breadth of the Master’s creation – is in no unclear terms an expression of the doctrine of our father, not a heresy of it.
Father was likewise furious, and is not speaking to me. Mother only wept, unable to defy his wishes to express her feelings. Father believes that this act is one of simple but ultimate rebellion, that I have thrown in my lot with these ronin, that I have become a base and servile animal unworthy of being called his son. When I told him that I was leaving, he tore his garments and spat at me. He said that the fools I cast my lot with will be the death of me, and claims that I will not return home, and come to a gruesome end. What weighs most heavily upon me is that if Father’s dire predictions come true, I may never see Wilhelmina again. I hope that is not the case. She will be returning home in just over a year, and it would bring much joy to my heart to see my beloved sister again. I hope she is well.
I now find myself aboard our collective vessel, The Sea Wyvern, laden with supplies for the Farshore colony, staffed by six sailors from the city of Cauldron, the crew lead by a handsome woman named Amella Venkalie, who will be captaining our vessel so as to allow us the freedom to leave the ship as our needs require. We travel with Dr. Urol Forol, a squat, gnomish naturalist who will be serving as our navigator and native guide, and Mr. Avner Maravanchi, the noble scion of one of Sasserine’s prestigious families, who will be serving as the representative of his family’s interests, having poured a rather lavish amount of money into the financing of this endeavor. I am dimly aware of Mr. Maravanchi’s reputation about town as a rake and shameless cad, but I hope that his presence on board will not be too disruptive. Mr. Ridgetide has already sized him up. I fear it is the beginning of a feud that will not die easily.
I confess that my nerves are at their end at the moment. It was, of course, a lie, what I told my friends about being granted permission to accompany them so that I might establish an Irorian monastery in Farshore. There is no call for such an edifice. Who would it serve? Irorian churches are libraries, gymnasiums. Today’s earlier business with the Prelate and Father have left me feeling decidedly weak and alone. I must not show this, of course. A medic must be strong, for if his troops see him fall, they know that they could be next. If I lose heart, so might they. And with the endless, azure sea stretching out before us, we now need all the good cheer and high spirits we can muster. I have a feeling the journey ahead will not be an easy one. I have noticed one of the passengers aboard, an entertainer who goes by the name Mr. Terrance Paine, reading a cheap booklet of the same kind I enjoy in private, and he fairly well reeks of flayleaf. Perhaps once the ship has come to rest and people have found their places aboard, I shall seek him out and engage him in conversation. It would do to make a friend of someone who has no connection to the recent unpleasantness back in town. It will help me to forget.
Pages 29-30. Approximate Date: One Day Before Reaching the Fogmire.
is slow and laborious as we make it through the aptly-called ‘Isle of Dread’ southward bound, to a village called Tanaroa, which Dr. Forol assures us is not more than a couple days hence. In spite of the terrible losses suffered in the initial wreck, I feel a great sense of pride that we have incurred so few casualties in the days hence, the unfortunate (and I fear, unavoidable) loss of the magnificent horse owned by Mr. Meravanchi notwithstanding.
Speaking on Mr. Meravanchi, I have noticed a quiet change happening in the man over these last several days since the wreckage. While it seemed his initial reaction would be one of spite and malice and blame, it is clear to me that he is a fearful man deeply out of his element, and that his bellicose attitude is the obvious defense mechanism of a frightened and impotent man who knows he is at the mercy of forces entirely beyond his ken. The last several days have seen him beginning to understand and appreciate the scope of our troubles, and I hope that I am not incorrect to say that I believe he has matured, baptized by terror. I pity him, as much as I have distaste for his arrogance. I am afraid that he and Mr. Ridgetide will come to blows. It is a fight I am not looking forward to breaking up, and as much as I prefer Mr. Ridgetide’s company to that of Mr. Meravanchi, if Dorian strikes first, he will leave me with no choice. I only hope he does not turn on me, as well.
I fear that Ms. Venkalie is faring worst among our band, however. She blames herself for the deaths of those aboard our now demolished vessel, and it is almost as though you could see the souls of those drowned unfortunates shackled to her sagging frame. These imaginary ghosts follow her like a pall, like a black wedding train. I do not know that she will ever recover from the psychological damage she has done herself, and for my part, I feel misery to my very soul that there is nothing I can do to help her. Surely Mr. Cadrel is doing his best and is likely in the most felicitous position to offer comfort, being of a similarly nautical background and most likely to understand the mournful vicissitudes of the sea and those who travel it. He seems to remain mute, however. Perhaps that is the way of sailors. What a sad thing, to suffer such weight in solitude.
Most disquieting is the persistent psychological abuses visited upon us while we traverse this lonely path. Clearly there is a malevolent force that means to break our spirits before it makes its masterstroke against us, and I fear that Mr. Ridgetide is succumbing to the strain. (As evidence of this, my usual nightly watch ritual of using the minor blessings of Irori to clean and sanitize all our clothing, ensure our rations are free of taint, and refill our water stores with fresh, potable fluids have been hampered by Mr. Ridgetide’s staunch refusal to sleep with his parcel of belongings strapped to his chest.) Dr. Forol, Ms. Venkalie, and young Master Nesk are all on the brink of utter madness, it is clear, but it is the continued integrity and strength of we five that keeps them anchored. I fear that if Dorian loses his grip on sanity, it will begin a chain reaction that will end with all of our deaths. I know that I must remain strong, or at least appear to, for the others as much as for myself. I am quite possibly unique among us in that I believe I know precisely what is occurring, and it is for this reason that I believe I am most afraid of all. It will not do to tell the others; knowing would only serve to make them less likely to do what may need to be done, should the worst come to pass.
Page 31. Approximate Date: Morning, Day of Olangru’s Temple.
Our charges have been kidnapped, our way out is barred through demonic magics that corrupt this land, and even the dead taunt us in this horrid mire. The earth itself bears the unmistakable taint we encountered at the Bay of Blood months past, another cancerous fruit from a bane tree. With morale low and options few, we are left to set out in the hopes of finding the heart of this poisoned land and strike at it in the hopes of restoring our survival party, our progress south, and our sanity. My brothers asked me to consult with my deity for guidance, and it pulls me inexorably towards what I know to be the source of the corruption.
I neglected to inform my brothers that I further consulted Irori above this morning regarding our endeavor to rescue our kidnapped charges from the abyssal creatures that kidnapped them. The answer as regarded me was clear: “woe”. The message was crystalline, and I know that I put myself in mortal peril by continuing on this course. So be it. If this is to be the end, those who seek to do those in my charge harm will have to get through me first. Not one more life shall be lost. If today is the day I lay down my life for my brothers, I will consider their lives purchased at an easy cost.