The horrors continued, as I managed to dive more into my grandfather’s writings, and the information recovered is almost impossible to believe, but what we have seen confirms it. Sigmah, Aunne, Arialynn and Pyri set into the Warrens to confirm what we had thought, that the foulness of the Pig Men have a rudimentary royalty. As they searched for the whereabouts of this supposed court, they came upon many of the monsters and slew them, successfully. Arialynn is becoming more and more experienced, and holding herself with a grand inner light, while Sigmah and Aunne seem to have renewed purpose. Aunne himself seemed to enjoy the hunt even more than getting paid.

Razas went missing on a drunken bender, which… was unfortunate, but his absence from the research we needed to conduct allowed me to talk with Insein, to restart the Sanitarium. She has volunteered, or more likely commandeered, the hospital there, and reinvigorated the staff with a sense of purpose. A number of diseases and ailments are being treated, however, the cost is concerning, as is the the methodology of removing some of the psychological ailments…. But it is a small price to pay, I believe. It should pay dividends in the long run.

Akaiatana, Silverdawn, Kormok and Vae’gaun followed this adventure into the Weald while I attempted to research more about this Swine Royalty. During their travels, they found a secret, almost eldritch location in the Weald that vanished after they exited with the treasure, shining black baubles and a strange, yellow scrap of cloth. Akaiatana’s hound was unnerved by the place, and refused to go in, and all said that the strange, secretive room was decorated as if to be an unearthly collection. Upon returning, however, Akaiatana said that he and his dog would be able to track the location of at least one Hag, as they had come across, of all things, a massive soup ladle.

My research had borne fruit, and I trusted Arialynn to pick the team into eliminating the first of the Swine Royalty, the Prince. Apparently this beast is disgustingly massive, and a product of failed experiments of the flesh my grandfather put together. She chose Sigmah, Donari, and Pyri to delve into the Warrens. Inspired by this, I looked into specific incidents that my ancestor was a part of, and the report from the town guard revealed he had also made enemies of a Prophet of sorts, claiming doom and destruction. The man had been right, clearly, but where would the prophet go? There were churches and once holy places in the Ruins, so I would request a team to start there.

Just as I found this, Sigmah, Donari, Arialynn and Pyri returned to the hamlet, flush with success, the massive, destroyed head of abomination and the glittering gold of jewels. There was a minor celebration then, as our crusade came ever closer to completion. Sigmah had also brought the things Massive Axe, wondering if he was strong enough to train with it, but the man was apparently slightly tipsy after the jubilant celebration. Arialynn said that it was a long and difficult fight, with Sigmah weathering many of the blows in order for Pyri to line up the final shot, delivering the precise shot to the creatures skull.

Following the celebration, and wishing to carry this momentum, Razaas, Insein, Aslene, and Acele ventured into the Ruins to find this prophet, while Akaiatana was certain he would be able to find the Hag’s sent, and scout the area. Attempting to alleviate my worry that I might lose a promising scout, Akaiatana agreed that he would not engage during the search. During these hunts, I continued to oversee the reconstruction of the hamlet, and it was proceeding smoothly, albeit slower than I would wish.

Razas, Insein, Aslene and Acele returned, with Acele retching continuously, and had voided his bowels, as I could tell Insein was rolling her eyes behind the plague mask. Apparently, Acele had been stealing consistently, and had gotten an infected cut on a trapped cabinet that none of the others had noticed until it was too late. Insein said she could treat him, but whether she meant the disease or the thieving, I am not certain. My estimation of the crusader has definitely lessened, but he swore he would not continue. I remain skeptical.

Despite the problem, Aslene reported that they had a good estimation of where at least one Prophet resided, there were mentions of multiple faith healers and possible charlatans in my ancestor’s writings that I had uncovered so far.

I requested Kormok lead the expedition, his tactical know how would be effective in the Ruins. He chose Silverdawn, as the young woman might be able to speak to the Prophet, should he still be amenable to helping aid our cause, and Aslene and Elli, in case he did not, as the two young women were more than capable of horrific and accurate violence if necessary.

With Insein, I managed the Sanitarium, and Arialynn reported that there had been a problem with the Abbey. An older priest had been taking advantage of some of the parishioners, asking for ‘extra’ donations that went to his pocket, rather than rebuilding the Church.

Vae’gaun offered to flay the man alive. I was tempted to take him up on the offer, but decided against such a thing. Viciousness like that may impede the progress of what we’re trying to accomplish here. With Ambrosine and Arialynn’s approval, he was assigned to the Penance Hall, to match Vae’gaun’s own penance and suffering, strike for strike. Fittingly ironic.

Just as the town meeting had completed, Kormok and his team returned to the Hamlet, successful but their cheer was subdued. The prophet was a madman, having torn out his own eyes, gibbering insanely and telling them of horrors that made no sense. As the prophet tried to shower them with falling debris and vile spew, Aslene and Elli tore the man apart with surgical strikes and damned fury. Kormok directed their assaults with commendable tactics, as madness had given the prophet power unimaginable. Silverdawn mended wounds with the light, and what could have been a shattered group was hale and healthy upon their return, though with some fear and worry about what the madman raved. Later that night the abbot reported that the priest had perished under his penance, and it would take some time to finish cleaning the Penance Hall. Vae’gaun appeared amused, his back freshly ruined and torn.

Akaiatana returned the next morning, with a map and direction of where the hag was. Both dog and man were beyond exhausted, however, and I quickly sent them to rest, thankful for the information. Aslene was apparently itching to get back into the fight, a cold rage in her eyes when I came to the guild regarding the plan for the Hag. I did not ask, but this appeared to be a personal hatred. She said she would lead this assault, and requested Arialynn, Vae’gaun, and Donari to accompany her. Donari jested this was almost a double date of some sort, but the words faltered on the older man’s lips as he realized how serious the normally just as sharp witted young woman was.

They followed the trail that Akaiatana provided for them, and enroute, they found something as terrifying as the Hag. A specter or wraith of some sort, clad in yellow robes and a burning skull of blue flame wreathed in a cage of sharpened steel. They had apparently surprised the creature, as it was wandering the Weald, and bore down on it in a fury. It managed to summon ghastly creations to protect it, but was unable to stop the onslaught, and the creature discorporated with a hiss. Donari said the hiss almost sounded like “Be Back”. I will do my research about this creature, but they collected a number of disturbing sacks it was carrying, sensing powerful magic in them, but not willing to open them yet.

Eventually, they found the Hag at her home, and identified her as the youngest of the Coven. Despite being the youngest, she was a massive woman, giant in height and girth. She was near a cauldron, and dire magics drew Vae’gaun into the cauldron, where he was being boiled alive. It is only through the amount of suffering that he has endured at his own hands, as well as ironclad faith, that I can believe he survived such agony.

Fearful for their companion’s life, and thinking it folly to assault something of magically wrought iron, the group assaulted the hag with fury unabated. Blow for blow the Hag could not match, Aslene reported, but taunted and mocked them, saying that they would share the pot eventually. Arialynn confirmed this with a nod, and Vae’gaun’s severe and horrific burns only reiterated this terrible promise when they had finally returned. Despite the horror, and the report of the creature, they were jubilant. The crusade continued successfully, and each monstrosity brought down was a chance for the darkness to be driven back.

Insein, Razas and I investigated the matter of the sacks from the Yellow Wraith, and were horrified to find that they were severed heads, preserved with foul magic. Some were of protection, others healing, and the last for surgical precision. Insein argued that we should tell the others what was in the sacks, while Razas and I argued against it for the time being. Insein was not happy with this, but understood our reasoning, and promised to not reveal the secret, under protest. The sacks were doled out to those who could use the powerful augmentations… but also instructed to not look into the sack, lest the augmentation be broken. A white lie to save the sanity of this army. Though I believe Aslene, Vae’gaun, Arialynn, and Donari suspect what is in the sacks after all, they have not said anything.

Insein, perhaps in frustration, volunteered to take a team into the Cove, where we have not ventured yet. Aunne, Ambrosine and Silverdawn volunteered to go with her, excited for a new prospect and first chance at gold, perhaps.

What they found could only be described as pelagic nightmares born of a twisted and foul imagination given life. Insein performed an autopsy on some of the creatures, and found them to be unnervingly similar to humans, but with horrific changes and mutations from within as well as without. Indeed, according to Ambrosine the creatures assaulted with religious fervor, and they discovered an idol to some unknown fish like creature of, if the scale is correct, of massive size and dimension. They were successful in their exploration, and returned with a partial map of the Cove, though I remember that cave system in that area went on for miles upon miles, and the terror of the deep is only just beginning.

Confident of success, Razas requested a group to delve deeper into the more dangerous areas of the Ruins near the manor, as far as we have been able to ascertain. Despite the Blacksmith saying he wasn’t ready to provide fresh equipment to arms and armor to the group yet, Sigmah, Acele, and Elli volunteered to go with the Occultist.

A few days later, to our collective horror, Sigmah and Acele returned. The two were staggering, armor broken and bloodied, makeshift bandages loosely holding wet, seeping wounds, dragging two bodies behind them.

Upon rushing them to the sanitarium medical ward, Sigmah reported that there was irony in their retreat. I was not sure what he meant, but perhaps in that he had survived, yet two others who had been hale and healthy had not. Confidence had overwhelmed them, as they knew they had to cleanse the area in order to find what Razas was looking for. Instead, they were found out by a prepared Wraith in yellow, looming ominously as they exited one of the decrepit rooms into a hall. Blue unholy fire burned angrily as it summoned a number of ghostly specters from the multitude of heads it carried within those yellow robes. Ghostly daggers lashed out in unholy fury, as according to Sigmah, the ghastly wraith laughed silently from behind its reanimated troops.

Elli fell first, raging as she could at the vile wraith, when one of its vile minions struck her down with a blast of spectral energy. The wraith tossed her body to the side, and removed a large saw blade as she reverted to her human form. At that point, Sigmah realized what a foolhardy battle this had been, and attempted to retreat, working with Acele in a vain attempt to protect Razas as they retreated back to the cleared room, but was cut off by one of the spectral monstrosities. A series of dagger blows later, Razas tapped Acele and used the last of his strange magic to heal the man, but blood was spilling at an exsanguinating pace. Desperate, Sigmah and Acele nodded to each other, to make a final stand. A communication behind masks, or so they reported, and Sigmah knelt as if to offer his head to this Collector. As the wraith appeared appeased, Acele summoned the very last of his strength to smite the creature, banishing it, albeit temporarily if one can assume it was like the last. They stitched up their wounds best they could, individually, as Sigmah was still stricken, and returned with the corpses of their comrades.

Too often I forget myself, in my zealousness to have this crusade over and done with. This expedition I should never have allowed; they were not ready for the horrors of the deeper ruins. Now I have lost my resource and insight into the strange occult that my grandfather mastered, and a powerful ally who looked only to redeem herself. Letters have been sent to inform the next of kin or any family, but the two were solitary creatures, and I do not know what or who they may reach.

I wonder if I am damned, and leading others to their own damnation. I have never been a man of faith, but I have nothing to hold on to right now, other than these young men and women braving these terrors. It has only been about five months, but I feel closer to this growing army than I did my own family, certainly much more than I did my own grandfather.I must do better. I will do better. For Elli, for Razas, for Koryander, and all who fall in the future. Your deaths will not have been in vain, I swear it.

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