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Author Topic: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov  (Read 653 times)

Brewdoo

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Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« on: November 08, 2019, 07:57:21 am »
WRITINGS OF THE SKULL KNIGHT
Personal Journal of Lysander Markov



Entry I: DRAMATIS PERSONAE

I will document here those whom I come across in my travels; may their names and deeds be preserved.

Teuivae Surin: Squire Knight-Errant of the Knights of the Guiding Hand. Faithful of Selune. The first person that I met in these strange lands, and a fair soul. She has been tasked with a trial to awaken the potential of her bloodline. I have offered to help her in her endeavor to ensure that she is not dabbling in blasphemy. She is quite attached to Knight-Errant Neasa Lawley, a fellow in her Order. She seems a stalwart type, unlikely to allow herself to be backed into a corner. Seems to care deeply for those around her, as would be expected of a follower of the Moonmaiden. A capable fighter. Having completed her quest to unlock her celestial heritage, she has undergone an apotheosis and become like an angel of the High Heavens. A good friend. A noble soul. Has left Hadrian in search of allies.

"Moose": A local druid. Halfling. Unknown religious affiliation. Speaks only the word "moose" in varying inflections, which seems to be the reason for his name. Seems to be a kind fellow. Friends with both Miss Surin and Knight-Errant Lawley. Now that I put thought to it, seems to be a friend to about everyone I have seen him interact with. I've not seen him in combat, but others regale me with tales of his skill and power. I am interested in witnessing this firsthand, but have not found the opportunity.

Neasa Lawley: Knight-Errant of the Knights of the Guiding Hand. Faithful of Amaunator. Golden hair as pure as the sun. She has taken Miss Surin under her wing, though there is much more to their relationship than that. I am not aware of what trials she personally faces in her journey towards full knighthood. She does appear to have a stake in the eventuality of Miss Surin's endeavors, so I anticipate keeping an eye on her as well. Those who know her speak highly of her combat ability. This does not surprise me. She once wielded a sword of Shi Lei's, but their relationship has become strained and he has taken it back. A member of the council, though she seems to work against Mayor Wren in some capacity.

Wren Analia Next: Elected mayor of Hadrian. Unknown religious affiliation. A woman of strange beauty. Winged, but lacking other telltale markings of outsiders. Wears exquisite jewelry of the highest quality. Enjoys fine wine. Takes her job seriously, but also shows levity. From everything that I have read and seen, she has done a tremendous job in managing Hadrian. Several recent improvements to the city are attributed to her. At the time of this initial writing, she is planning a large party to celebrate the season, which should be quite entertaining. The party she planned to celebrate the Autumn season was a great success. Prefers to be known by her nickname, "Wren". Leads an adventuring group called the "Hadrian Initiative". Led this group to negotiate with Duergar regarding the toxic mist that plagues Hadrian, which I will write on at length at a different time. Close to Shi Lei, though their relationship is complicated. Responsible for granting a permit to the Church to establish a Morgue in Hadrian. A close ally.

Uldur Black Iron: Affiliate of the local adventuring guild, the Adventurer's Society. Unknown religious affiliation. An older man with a kind heart, though a bit of a fop. Shows genuine concern in welcoming travelers like myself to Hadrian and making sure that they are taken care of, and that they don't put themselves in unnecessary danger. Others have told me that he is quite the craftsman. Appears to be a member of the Hadrian Initiative. Member of the council.

Meleghost Zorastryhl: Arcanist. Unknown religious affiliation. Appears to be a member of the Hadrian Initiative. Seems confident, stalwart. Expected of an Arcanist. Like others, worth watching to ensure that he does not dabble in blasphemy. Member of the council, though he seems to move against Mayor Wren. Arrogant, as would be expected.

Shi Lei the Blade: Has the appearance of a warrior, though his exact talents are unknown. Capable warrior. Unknown religious affiliation. Appears to be a member of the Hadrian Initiative. Uses a greatsword to great ability; has the makings of a master of the weapon. He is close to Mayor Wren. As of late he seems to be lacking purpose. Assisted the dwarves of Giantsbane in lifting the powerful curse upon their settlement. A righteous soul.

Trinra Damaiv: Mage. Drow. Unknown religious affiliation. Allowed in the city of Hadrian by official sanction. Appears to be a member of the Hadrian Initiative. Seems close to Arcanist Zorastryhl; he mentioned in passing that Miss Damaiv is a blood mage. Bears further investigation and monitoring, if true. Has a strained relationship with Mayor Wren, over actions taken by Wren's father. Now deceased. The proper rites were administered.

Seeker "Chan": Head Seeker of House Skettus. I know little to nothing of him, though he demonstrates an uncanny ability to disappear from sight. He may be able to help Mayor Wren with a situation at the local barracks which has left it unusable. Extremely resourceful, asks the right questions at the right times. Painfully mysterious.

Ash Aardyn: Warrior. Senior member of the Adventurer's Guild. Seems to have low opinions of the Mayor. Capable leader and fighter.

Lycaria Eowen: Squire of the Knights of the Guiding Hand. Elf. Faithful of Selune, rare for one of her race. Very devoted. Fireblood; can be too quick to action for her own good. Needs patience. Remains to be seen how she will perform in a disciplined organization.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2019, 06:39:34 pm by Brewdoo »

Brewdoo

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Re: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2019, 07:23:05 pm »
Entry II: ARRIVAL

It has been four days since I arrived in the town of Hadrian, a medium-sized vassal to the Valstiir citadel. The weather is (mostly) fair and clear, and it has been good to put my feet on solid ground once again. Thirty-some days aboard a boat was not good to my humors, and I find myself relaxing too often in the town square. There is work to be done.

I have done some traveling about the area and found the local temple to the Lord of the Dead, located in the underbelly of the flying citadel. It is small and appropriate, and maintained by a pair of stalwart Doomscribes, whom I have regrettably not been able to speak with at length as of this writing. I intend to send official correspondence to them soon, announcing my presence and my mandate. I do not foresee there being issues here.

Returning to the subject of Hadrian, the city seems to have recently been the target of a siege. Repairs are being performed on the outer walls and on infrastructure. Mayor Wren seems to have seized the initiative, and workers offer her praise. The city still faces a myriad of issues but there is hope and a will to survive.

The neighboring town of Southbank has also seen its fair share of issues. I am most concerned by the presence of hardened undead in the old graveyard outside the town. I have put down a number of them, but they appear to return nightly. I suspect the presence of a curse, or a necromancer. The keeper of the site seems too inept to be causing these issues, but should be sanctioned by the Church nonetheless for allowing this to get out of control. A suitable tithe should suffice, once I have determined and excised the root of the problem.

I have encountered other knights of a local order, the Swords of the Guiding Hand. They appear to be multiple orders of different faiths working as one combined organization. According to Knight-Errant Lawley, the Companions of the Pallid Mask once allied themselves with these knights - but they have since left their keep. In time, I shall petition the leaders of the Swords for more information regarding this departure.

There is one other thing that begs investigation in these lands; the strange phenomena that accompany the auras surrounding the sun and moon. Since I have been here I have experienced several of these instances where the sky changes color, including an eclipse-like one that causes the undead to rise in great numbers. These appear to be a grave threat, and the cause is not understood by any that I have talked to. There is a library in the citadel that may hold information related to these events. Perhaps I will write to Chapter Master Durendal to see if he has any insight as well.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2019, 12:11:09 am by Brewdoo »

Brewdoo

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Re: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2019, 07:36:41 pm »
Entry III: DOGMA I

Knighthood is realized in the presence of death.

Chapter Master Durendal spoke that - in the case of having to choose between life and death - you should choose death. There is no other reasoning. Move on with determination. To say dying without attaining ones aim is a foolish sacrifice of life is the flippant attitude of sophisticates.

We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. Set your heart right every morning and evening and live as though your body is already dead. Your life will be without blame, and you will succeed in your calling.

Brewdoo

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Re: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2019, 09:52:57 am »
Entry IV: MORPHEUS

I have a recurring dream.

I sit on a throne of skulls. A raven perches on my right shoulder. It is frosted with molt; in some state of decay. I am at the head of a table in a great hall; a gothic masterpiece of dark stonework. I am as if the king of a great court, but all of my subjects that attend to me are undead. Wights, ghouls, ghasts; they line the sides of the table - some sitting, some standing - clad in magnificent suits of armor. The ceiling is made of stained glass in the shape of a great red eye. Above it rages a thunderstorm, the interior occasionally flashing crimson with the loud peal of thunder. Rain pelts the surface of the glass like a thousand drums.

Suddenly, the raven flies from my shoulder with a great caw. Lightning flashes above us, but this time it seems directed at the iris of the eye. Like a battering ram, it strikes the glass. Twice again it comes. Then the ceiling explodes outward, taking with it all the air in the room. Shards of glass stand suspended in the air as though they were floating in water. For a split second there is perfect silence in the hall, before the rain resumes with a roar.

Above us, a figure clad in drenched black robes floats down through the wreckage. It comes to a halt a foot above the table, and offers a skeletal hand out to me. I see the shape of a skull beneath the hood, but diamonds in place of eyes and teeth. It does not speak, but a great voice echoes in my mind. There are words that I do not remember. I reach out to take its hand in mine, the flesh sloughing off my left arm as I do, leaving naught but bone...

I awaken.

Three times now I have had this dream. There must be a message. The words that the entity speaks - words I cannot seem to recall, despite their powerful delivery - may be the key. Were it that I knew someone that could interpret these images, but I know no one with that talent in these lands.

Brewdoo

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Re: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2019, 12:17:18 am »
Entry V: SHADOWS AND DAMNATION

Today I was summoned by the Mayor to accompany her in a task of no small measure.

As I understand it - being privy only to bits and pieces of the story - Mayor Wren hails from a castle which floated in the sky, but crashed to the ground in the area of the Patrician Plains. A strange origin to be sure, but I digress. She wished to return to the ruins of said castle to search for the remains of her sisters, as well as the research of her father. I agreed to help, hoping to bring her closure. Our group also included Shi Lei, Trinra Damaiv, and Teuivae Surin.

We traveled through the swamps west of Hadrian, past the river, and to a hidden lake. Normal fare assailed us; goblins, bandits, wildlife. We were guided on by sightings of a shadowy apparition. Eventually we came to a cave on the Northwest side of the lake; the entrance to the castle ruins.

The inside of the cave was black as pitch. An oppressive darkness, from which sprung a multitude of shadows and fiends. The floor inclined downward, leading us further and further into the depths as we progressed. Manifested shadows oozed from the walls and ceiling, only damaged by the magical enchantments of our weaponry. At times we would have been overwhelmed, were it not for Miss Surin's ability to turn undead.

After a great deal of fighting, we came upon a group of three specters. Mayor Wren identified them as her father and two sisters. She attempted to speak with them, but they were not willing to hear her. The shade of her father spoke lies - that he was free from death and pain - and attempted a hold spell on Shi Lei; a battle broke out. Mayor Wren could only look on as we destroyed what remained of her family.

The trek back to Hadrian was silent.

Despite this seeming defeat, our mission was successful. Remains were recovered, and will be properly buried when the time is right. I will perform the Sealing myself to ensure that this affair is brought to a proper close. To experience the death of a family member twice is not something I can claim to know... but I feel that in time these wounds will heal.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2019, 01:05:53 am by Brewdoo »

Brewdoo

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Re: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2019, 12:00:22 am »
Entry VI: DOGMA II

A knight does not think of victory or defeat.

It is a principle of knighthood that you should simply lay down your life and strike. Even if it seems certain that you will lose, retaliate. Neither wisdom nor technique has a place in this. If your opponent also does the same, it is an even match. Defeating your opponent is then a matter of faith and destiny.

Brewdoo

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Re: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2019, 11:30:20 pm »
Entry VII: INVICTUS

So much has happened in the last few days, it is hard to begin to categorize it.

There is the matter of Teuivae Surin's apotheosis. I awoke with her, Knight-Errant Lawley, and Moose inside what could best be described as a nightmare of sorts. A twisted reflection of Moon Glow Keep; the faithful knights had been turned to undead, and an enemy of the order commanded their great hall. Knight-Errant Lawley identified him as "Menner", apparently an agent of Shar.

The figure taunted us, warping our reality. The Knight-Errant's greatsword became a stick. Moose shrunk even further. I found myself naked, with only my cloak to cover up. A follower of Jergal cares not what he wears into combat, knowing the moment of his true death is ordained, but still... it was unnerving. With a cruel laugh, Menner disappeared into the shadows, leaving us alone in the darkness.

We journeyed outside, seeking solace in the Temple of Selune. What we found was anything but a safe haven. Shrouded in darkness, negative energy assailed our bodies as we approached. Hordes of shades poured forth from the open door, threatening to overwhelm us with their sheer numbers. We were forced to retreat. We made for the Abbey of the Moon, but the path was so shrouded in oppressive darkness that we could not proceed forward.

About this time we heard the sounds of battle. Retreating to the Keep, we found a specter being assaulted by an army of risen skeletons. Steeling ourselves, we charged into the fray. Shards of bone and rotted armor flew beneath our righteous onslaught, and the skeletons were put down. The specter - much to my surprise - seemed to be the ghost of a fallen comrade of Knight-Errant Lawley and her squire.

The specter was unsurprisingly unable to accept its final rest, and fled from us; leading us on a chase around the Keep. But at last it saw reason, recognizing the Knight-Errant as its kin. In a touching moment, the two forgave their perceived transgressions against one another. The spirit of Aluriel was ready for its final rest.

There was but one challenge remaining; to fight our way through the shadow to deliver her soul. Our confidence restored (as well as our weaponry, armor, and size, respectively), we plunged into the nether, assailed on all sides by denizens of the Lower Planes. Barbazu, Erinyes... they flocked to the soul like sharks to chum. But we were prepared, and it was not their day to triumph. As the last Cornugon fell beneath the Knight-Errant's blade, a portal opened and we were surrounded by blinding light...

We stepped into the High Heavens.

A majestic denizen of the Upper Planes awaited us. It knew us; thanked us for our service to a lost soul. The Knight-Errant and Moose presented a number of evil soul stones to it. With a simple wave of its hand it shattered them all, releasing the spirits trapped within. Never before had I seen a demonstration of such power.

The Solar asked us what we would like as a reward. It knew Teuivae's request already, and she was surrounded by holy light. She had completed her long quest towards unlocking her Celestial bloodline. Knight-Errant Lawley asked only for a memento to remember her kin by. Regrettably I could not understand what Moose asked for, but the archon understood well enough.

What was I to choose? I thought a great deal. Perhaps an artifact to legitimize the Order of the Skull? Surely I would be anointed for retrieving such a thing. A weapon of awesome power, fit to smite down the undead? A shallow request. In the end, I chose nothing. I had simply done my duty in helping a lost soul find eternal rest. I feel no regret.

Our Celestial benefactor explained to us what we had seen, that it was less of a dream and more of a vision. Parts of the past, mingled with parts of the potential future... and then we awoke, safe within the Abbey of the Moon.

My mind still struggles to comprehend what I have seen. I will write more on this later.

Brewdoo

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Re: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2019, 04:13:52 am »
Entry VIII: DOGMA III

In his declining years, Grand Master Atheros told me the following:

"In one's life, there are levels in the study of swordsmanship. In the lowest level, a squire studies but nothing comes of it, and he feels that both he and others are unskillful. At this point he is worthless. In the middle level he is still of little use, but is aware of his own insufficiency and can also see the insufficiency of others. This man has worth. In a higher level he has pride concerning his own ability, rejoices in praise from others, and laments the lack of ability in his fellows.

"These are the levels in general. But there is one transcending level, and this is the most exalted of all. This person is aware of the endlessness of entering deeply into a certain Way and never thinks of himself as having finished. He truly knows his own insufficiency and never in his whole life thinks that he has succeeded. He has no thoughts of pride, but with self-abasement knows the Way to the end. This understanding extends to everything."

Throughout our lives we should strive to advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday; more skillful than today. This is never-ending.

Brewdoo

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Re: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2019, 07:54:31 pm »
Entry IX: VIRTUES I

One of the lesser known virtues is certainly that of Solitude.

It is important to create time alone with yourself. When seeking the wisdom and clarity of your own mind, silence is a helpful tool. The voice of our spirit is gentle and cannot be heard when it has to compete with others. Just as it is impossible to see your reflection in troubled water, so too is it with the soul. In silence, we can sens-----------


*There is a mark here that crosses the page, and a large ink splotch. It is as if the book was suddenly moved while the author was writing.*

Brewdoo

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Re: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2019, 10:19:17 pm »
Entry X: ECHOES

Hel'vyst. May this name find the eternal rest it deserves, in whatever place that may be.

Mayor Wren's father has been assailing my mind through the remains that I was holding for her. The other day he managed to take full control, locking away my consciousness long enough to cause a major incident in Hadrian. Fortunately the Knights of the Guiding Hand were nearby and managed to exorcise the spirit from my body, though at a presently unknown cost. I have felt aching pain in my heart since the experience.

Once control was wrested away from the wraith, we quickly sought to bury and seal the remains. We found an old tree by Wren's residence, and created a burial mound there. As I performed the Sealing, the wraith again took corporeal form; attacking us in its rage. The knights (along with Moose) managed to put it down, and we found respite. I invoked the Lord of Bones, and all seemed to be at peace once again.

Except for Wren herself. Once again, she has borne the brunt of an assault on her psyche; having to witness the death of her father a third time. I worry deeply for her. She is under pressure to perform from all sides, and this latest incident does nothing to help. We spoke at length the day after the event; she apologized profusely for her actions in trying to hold on to her father's spirit.

I regret that I lied to her... but it was for the best. It was for the sake of her recovery. Sometimes in order to understand more, you need to know less.

Again, days pass and a staggering number of things take place. I had no idea that I would find myself in the middle of so many dire events, but I am glad to lend my service. I will continue to face whatever trials I am handed.

Brewdoo

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Re: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2019, 09:26:33 pm »
Entry XI: MORTIS

Trinra Damaiv is dead. She was cut down by her fellow Drow in an attempt to sue for peace between them and the Knights of the Guiding Hand.

The adventuring populace reels from the blow. Some are thirsty for vengeance, others encourage peace; as if taking action would throw some kind of balance into disarray. The Drow are a vile and savage race, despite their intelligence, and are as deserving of as much mercy for their consistent sadistic acts as your typical bugbear or goblin. I was somewhat shocked that Teuivae seemed to think they had redeeming qualities. Of course, there are always outliers... like Trinra was.


*There is an ink spot here, as if the hand that was writing sat still for some time.*

Life is a long series of farewells; only the circumstances should surprise us.

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Re: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2019, 08:38:45 pm »
Entry XII: FILAMENTS

It has been some time since I recorded my thoughts here, and much has occurred.

I have been ordained. The Church has seen fit to bestow me with the power to speak for it in these lands, and I have accepted. It reminds me of the old days when I had just left the Keep; new and full of potential. There is much to do here to restore faith, but I am set upon this path.

Mayor Wren has agreed to fund the construction of an official Morgue in Hadrian. I am drafting the plans, but such things take time. The Righteous Potentate of the Hadrian Church of Amaunator has agreed to hand over records of the deceased and leave us to the business of death, which we will take up with the traditional zeal. The Morgue will also serve as a small temple, and Wren has tasked me to recover a relic of Jergal to be displayed. Doomscribe Aleneta has produced a lead on a caravan that headed West. I will see where this leads.

Teuivae has left the city, to lands unknown. Her last act I know of was to send a letter to me, saying she was in hiding. I know that she means to try to break the cycle, but I am not sure how she can do this without more pain. I suppose that time will tell, if and when she returns to us. She has been a good friend and I would hate for her to come to harm.

There was a spat between the city and High Celestia which threatened us all harm. Apparently the Celestial Silver used in the filter device had been stolen by fey creatures, and a righteous Deva appeared in the city to pass judgement. Wren seemed to talk our guest out of pure annihilation. However, both Arcanist Zorastryhl and Knight-Errant Lawley revealed a side of themselves which I found... lacking. They pinned blame directly on the Mayor, as if to distance themselves from her actions. It seemed cowardly and unbecoming, especially of the Knight-Errant. Of course, one should not expect better of godless Arcanists like Zorastryhl.

I am preparing to deploy undead for the first time since traveling here. The destroyed barracks in town is leaking sickening gas, and whatever is causing it must be exorcised. The Mayor and I have come up with a plan to utilize skeletons to clear the debris, and some form of intelligent undead to investigate. We wait only on the Temple to provide the necessary remains and means to raise them.

There are many newcomers in town lately. I regret that I have not had time to establish all of their names. I must redouble my efforts and make sure that all are properly recorded.

Brewdoo

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Re: Journal of the Skull Knight, Lysander Markov
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2019, 09:46:24 pm »
Entry XIII: VIRTUES II

There is only one thing for which a knight has no patience: injustice. Every true knight fights for human dignity at all times.

Each one of us is walking our own road. We are born at specific times, in specific places, and our challenges are unique. As knights, understanding and respecting our distinctiveness is vital to our ability to harness our collective strength. The use of force may be necessary to protect in an emergency, but only justice, fairness, and cooperation can truly succeed in leading men. We must live and work together as brothers or perish together as fools.

Teuivae embodied this. She held human equality as an unwavering truth. She was never present when men or women were being degraded or compromised in any way, because were she present, those committing the hurtful acts or words would be made to stop.