Hyperborea Rising

Elise's diary: entry one
First impressions

Well, my father’s companions certainly have high aspirations. From what they’ve said I’m given to believe that Mr Faustus is seeking to become a legendary hero by slaying a dracolich of his own after speaking with a Norse god. As long As I never have to meet one of their kind, I wish him all the best in this endeavour. Mr Zelgius is looking to become a saint, why he would ever seek praise from that hive of zealots and villains is beyond me, but I think it would be best to support him for now. He could be looking for something to keep his mind off Sir Crowley’s sudden departure, a shame too since I absolutely adore marriage ceremonies, especially one as unique as theirs would have been. Nevertheless I wish Sir Crowley luck on his travels and hope he stays safe. Mr Ji however has been more quiet than Father’s letters indicated. Apparently he had been drinking some really strong Norse ale, a shame because I could really do with some of that stuff right now.
But anyway, back to current affairs. Mr Faustus wanted to go back to his families estate to see if anything of value was still there, because apparently he’s at least seventy thousand gold in debt, a simple task right? Well no, because when we go there the city remnants was found to be inhabited by wights and undead, under the command of a lady vampire. Mr Faustus got us an audience with her that left Mr Zelgius’ jaw on the floor (metaphorically) and got Faustus a private dinner with her while we stayed in his estate.
I swear if we stayed for more than one day I would have broken down in hysterics. Undead and wights I can deal with but vampires, demons and dracoliches I’ve had enough of. Mind you we did find a fortune of gold in the house, so it wasn’t all for nothing. Long story short however, Mr Faustus wanted to stay with the vampire, Mr Zelgius insulted him and was consequently chased after, which gave us the chance to escape. So overall, I’d say it was an interesting first week.

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Journal of Faustus - 8
Norse Mead

We have finally arrived in Rome, that most grand of cities. Unfortunately, it is not as grand as it once was. The streets are near deserted and the architecture broken and battered. Some serious investment is needed to bring Rome back to its rightful grandeur. I have money worries of my own however, so you shan’t be seeing me contributing. Tired from the journey we searched for a suitable inn to rest. Julian and Zelgius settled in some depressing place no doubt affiliated with the church. Ji and I decided on the adjacent inn which had sounds of merriment emanating from within.

Best choice of my life.

We engaged in much revelry that night and into the morning. I did think it odd that at no point did I feel tired, or sick from the immense amount of mead drank. Well turns out this inn leads to Valhalla. Say what you want about those Germanic barbarians, they know how to have a damn good time. Ironically, all this drink lead to a sobering realisation. Relying on Kaarzak for enjoyable nights is a really stupid idea. I did consider solving the Kaarzak problem then and there but asking Odin to deal with it but being in a true god’s presence would not be good for my wellbeing. I asked an intermediary, a nearby Valkyrie, to do so on my behalf but she brought up a good point. Why not deal with it myself? Dying in honourable combat is a prerequisite to go to Valhalla and I can think of worst places to spend my afterlife. If I am actually successful just think of the stories! So, I promised to that Valkyrie that I’d vanquish that dracolich once and for all and she’d be the first to hear about it. At the rate, I’m changing gods, perhaps it’s better to say I’m more partial to Syncretism. Well, Syncretism sounds better than saying I’m a religious mercenary. To those willing to empower me, I’ll gladly fight in their name (and the name of Rome of course!). As for what happens after I shuffle off this mortal coil, well they can fight over me.

The next day was Alexander’s trial. I didn’t attend because bringing Karzaak to the Pope seemed a poor idea, especially giving it’s gets in the way of the whole “vanquishing him forever by myself” thing and anyone who wanted to say otherwise could fight me. Julian to his credit, took me up on that. Good man. He’s certainly tough, but without those shields of his there was only so long he could last. After the trial and the fight, I went right back to drinking, enjoying Valhalla as long as I could before we depart again. Oh yeah, Ji’s tiger can talk now although that might just be the drink.

Wait. I forgot to ask what happened at the trial. Who is this girl that’s following us around? What’s going on?

Ah, never mind. I’ll deal with that in the morning, cheers.

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Journal of Faustus - 7
Apostasy

It’s certainly been a strange few days. We made our way to mainland Italy, landing in Calabria. During the voyage my investigations into the arcane bore fruit and I was strangely enlightened with the knowledge of the language of these commoners and many more. “Team Incompetent” is a strange name for a mercenary band Zelgius, especially one you are in. This would create a point of contention upon landing as Julian almost immediately denigrated the Glory of Rome. I admit, I shouldn’t have lashed out, but he shouldn’t be talking ill of the greatest empire that has been and ever will be. My means of response were limited, with my attempt to weakening him failed I resorted to my final option. Cursing him as I had been cursed. This was much more successful and I left quite content with my vengeance. Moments later Julian walked into the inn I was sitting in, with a completely new wardrobe covered unholy symbols. Not really trusting him with the sack with Karzaak in it and having my own reasons I requested it from him then left him to his own devices. Going back to the dock the situation got stranger as Alexander was laying on the ground unconscious. Fixed him up and went on my way. Apparently being denied his connection to his God and the powers that granted him caused him to fall in under 10 seconds. I am still baffled and amused.

In other news, I solved the necromancy problem. Just a matter of perspective really.

Later on a paladin bearing a papal banner showed up to deliver court papers regarding a hearing into the heresy of Alexander. What is going on? The paladin quite quickly noticed the apostate and a skirmish broke out. Thankfully I managed to heal his wounds and send him on his way, after testing if it’s common for paladins to fall so easily. Apparently not. Last thing anyone wants is the Pope as an enemy. At least not yet.

Inns are a lot more fun when you don’t have to pay.

Anyway, the next day it dawned on Julian just how bad a decision he had made. Given the level of apostasy he found himself in, it was concluded that the only way to redeem him and save his immortal soul was to have a chat with Jesus. I assumed it went well, given he’s back to his usual wardrobe of white, gold and silver.

As for what I learned recently, it is much better to actually live the good life than maintain a facade of one. A triumphal chariot with 4 steeds? What was I thinking? I think it is better to be rid of such ludicrous expenses, save for one horse for transportation and keep the gold for more important things.

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Journal of Faustus - 6
magical boom sticks

after a rest we did indeed return to the wizard’s lab to take whatever materials may be of use including many books and surgical equipment. we also managed to rescue survivors which we had missed in our initial venture. unfortunately the books concerning necromancy were destroyed on the paladins insistence and a popular vote (another reason why democracy is a failure). alternative routes will need to be taken to devise containment measures. however with the tools and alchemical substances we have taken the surgery should be a success, although i am still concerned about complications. on a related note, apologised to zelgius for not corroborating his obvious lies regarding the artefact. it hurt, but was correct thing to do. i hope he accepts it.

after watching the wizard’s execution we continued with our work. visiting the sites of previous caravan ambushes we determined that a dragon was responsible for the attacks… as well as a noble from hyperborea. zelgius explained that in hyperborea they have some form of wonder weapon, which if my calculations are correct, are capable of launching balls of metal at two hundred metres per second at least. if true, such a device could pierce through almost any armour and combined with their ability to magically attune to such a weapon be instruments of untold destruction capable of felling lines of infantry like a scythe through wheat. zelgius was keen to stress that for outsiders such as ourselves to touch a weapon would be a death sentence for us, as knowledge of it’s workings is a state secret. that said i must examine such a weapon. if it is magical it’s arcane power will be drawn out and analysed. if it is alchemical it’s constituent ingredients will be determined. if it is mechanical it shall be reverse-engineered. of course it must be obtained in such a way that i will not be murdered, i have enough to worry about regarding that.

after determining the noble was working as a mercenary tasked with raiding roman supply lines we accompanied a caravan to protect them. we were successful, although the other caravan guards did not survive. deeming that rome might find a captured noble more useful than a corpse i performed emergency medical care on the dead hyperborean. i feel i may have upset zelgius again as the “gun” had to be handed back. i am confused. i thought he wanted to do good things. did i do a bad thing? would rome rather have a corpse? should i do bad things? i do not know what to do, it is difficult to understand now. i should apologise, even if i don’t know what for.

on a more positive note, i think i made a friend with a dragon. although i am not sure what “acolyte” means in this context but i think it’s good.

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Zelgius' Journal - Entry 6
A matter of life and wealth

Having sent the mad “Dr” to his execution which he didn’t seem too perturbed by. I suppose if you believe you’ve conquered death what is there to fear? After watching the lunatic hang I explained to Julian that the devil was inside of me and we could remove him physically with surgery. Despite my hesitance to go under the knife with an inquisitor nearby who has made it quite obvious that he’d kill me if given the chance.

Julian and I have continued our daily and nightly prayers, it’s beginning to become second nature. It’s weird having an actual routine, never really kept to schedules and stuff in my school years. Julian is still trying to make me see the errors of my ways. I do see that I’ve been wrong for most of my life but I fear my soul is stained beyond redemption. I don’t think you can come back from sacrificing people to a demon lord… probably not.

But getting past my fears over my immortal soul we set off to take out a dragon. Attempting to set up an ambush we failed quite miserably but I set off in pursuit. In the end it tuned out to be a hyperborean noble who was fighting as a mercenary for the the opposite side. I asked him to stop but after finding out I don’t hold station he ordered me to stand down. I explained after being shot that I couldn’t let his gun fall into their hands. If I did I either had to kill my companions or face execution myself by their side.

After the skirmish with the noble I secured his pistol and in doing so, just so happened to secure myself a noble title. Then Faustus revived him and I naturally gave him back his gun. I was somewhat bitter but didn’t want to cause a diplomatic incident and also it was the “right” thing to do. Or something. Being good sucks sometimes.

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Journal of Faustus - 5
im fine

awakened by zelgius late morning. experienced residual pain of event. closest approximation would be my soul being rended apart. spent moment screaming in agony. recovered. unfortunately disturbed nephilim guests who expertly deconstructed the door. also disturbed zelgius. can hit a surprisingly high note. possible bardic training? confronted over elephant incident. he consumed the artefact. kaarzaak occasionally exhibiting control to prevent discovery of this. concern. artefact has become lodged, difficult to remove. i will study surgical techniques. difficulties remain. necromantic aura remains. possessive entity remains.

problem – preventing subversion of will by kaarzaak and ceasing production of mindless undead

solutions

becoming a worshipper of kaarzaak

pros

almost no difficulty
subversion of will and mindless undead cease to be problem

cons

unacceptable, kaarzaak is the destroyer of rome

abandon artefact

pros

no longer possessing artefact prevents it from affecting us

cons

artefact may resist
will cause festering blight on land, to blight roman land is to blight rome itself

hand over artefact to religious authorities

pros

may successfully cleanse artefact

cons

will require deific intervention, with possibly negative consequences
negative legal consequences for retaining such an artefact

give artefact to cult of kaarzaak

pros
most capable of containing such an artefact

cons

may be used for destructive ends
only known location of cult is in gaul

conclusion – insufficient information to solve problem in acceptable manner,

course of action – learn containment techniques

after breakfast our work for rome continued. two primary concerns. suspected cult activity and possible dragon activity. cult seemed the easier of the issues to solve. explored region where activity was occurring. followed tracks into cave, was drawn into conflict with hangman tree. victory was short lived. our continued presence animated the bones strewn on the cave floor, creating a bonestorm. seeking shelter we went further into the cavern. there was a heated discussion regarding the artefact. i think zelgius was upset when i spoke of his consumption of the artefact. was i to support his obvious lies? was i rude? i should apologise. this revelation greatly upset alexander. understandable. however his threats must remain idle. death of either party in this dispute is unacceptable.

we were successful in apprehending the culprit, a wizard expanding his knowledge on anatomy. the pursuit of knowledge is commendable. the abduction of the local populace to act as specimens is unacceptable. they are under roman protection now. there were objections to him being captured alive but with the removal of his magic jar i believe containment will be successful. the right amount of restraints can humble even the mightiest of wizards. what works of his have been translated thus far are fascinating. i intend to return to learn more and examine his surgical equipment, should removal of the artefact be demanded.

parting observation – it still hurts

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Zelgius' Journal - Entry 5
A queer development

Things were off to a bad start. After returning from the ants lair Faustus was determined to get to sleep as quickly as possible. I was having a few drinks and marvelling at the locals. Who needs to be 9 feet tall? It’s just silly! But I digress, the following morning we were getting ready to set off to stop an evil cult for doing weird things to the locals.

But I noticed Faustus was absent. Having knocked on his door to no avail I saw no alternative but to fly in through his window. I found him by his desk, journal open and asleep. I shook him until he woke up, screaming. I responded in kind.

Apparently the other occupants of the inn were concerned as they kicked in the door attempting to save a damsel in distress. I didn’t know if I should have been insulted that they thought I was a woman or touched that they came to my rescue. But that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

What does matter is the change in Faustus. He doesn’t seem to act on emotions or have anymore for that matter. Lazarus had been warning me about him from the start but now I can see why. There’s something wrong with him. It’s a shame, I considered him an ally in all of this. Now I don’t know what to make of him.

Regardless, we had a job to do and we set off. Coming to a valley there was a hangman’s tree that we dealt with surprising difficulty. Turns out this necromantic artefact may be a lot more trouble than it’s worth. Around us the bones began to rise and spin in a cyclone. The Inquisitor began asking questions again which I deflected with ease but Faustus kindly informed him of my… current situation.

Immediately he threatened my life accusing me of lying to him. Good to know that’s an immediate execution. Frankly I wasn’t too worried. I suspect that Ji wouldn’t help him in murdering me and despite the weirdness with Faustus I believe he still would try to help me. I know Julian wouldn’t stand for such an act, he’d stand by me. Despite everything I am… he’d protect me.

Then the inquisitor finally saw sense and realised that incapacitating me while still on a mission may not be the smartest plan. At this time a mad wizard walked in. Claiming to have conquered death he asked us politely to leave. I tried to be nice back, after all it was his home. But it inevitably resulted in a fight. Having defeated the elemental and golems we subdued him and are taking him in to be handed over to the authorities. I’m not really sure if this is wise as he’s liable to escape and continue his research into this “medicine” he speaks of.

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Journal of Faustus - 4
Pest Control

Our first mission went well, if a little strangely. Returning from our scouting mission we were continually badgered by a curious salesman from the far east intent on selling us lanterns. To this moment I still do not understand the utter determination he held to sell us lanterns. It eventually emerged that he was skilled in the arcane arts and he was hired to aid us in our mission. Time will tell if this is a mistake but despite his insistence on translating Julian’s never ending sermons to me I think his skill set will be of great use to us. The mission itself was a rather difficult test of endurance. The worker ants were very easy to dispatch but so numerous we were constantly being worn down. Cutting our way through the hordes we eventually came upon a large grey mass and went to investigate it. I don’t remember what happened next. When I came to I was on the ground in an old Carthaginian temple. Apparently I lost my mind and started acting like a centurion from a battle long since past. Firstly, I know Zelgius and his damn artefact brought that elephant back to life and I will be having a stern word with him about why bringing powerful necromantic items to an area with many, many corpses is a bad idea. Secondly, I’ve never been in the army or fought in any war. Those memories were most certainly not my own. Clearly it must have just been the fright of the moment seeing an undead elephant, that’s all. I hope that was all.

As for the temple, we managed to grab some very old offerings after defeating the local guardians. Not a bad haul at all. We got back on track and eventually tracked down the queen. After some planning we decided to disregard any subtlety and launch a full scale attack at the queen, hoping to knock her out before being overwhelmed. It worked surprisingly well and the rest of our time was spent hunting down the disorganised, leaderless hive. With this done I imagine we will be moving on from this town which I’ll be glad to do. I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a place so utterly boring and devoid of resource and entertainment. I’ve been having cramps and awful headaches ever since clearing that hive so it better not have given me a disease in addition to it’s other crimes. Hopefully I can just sleep it off and get back to business tomor

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Zelgius' Journal - Entry 4
Swallowing was a mistake

After my discovery that the ingested artefact only creates mindless undead I thought it best to seek help. Naturally I turned to Julian and not just because he could heal whatever wounds were caused by my efforts to extract the offending object. However, it did not go well. I was in a wooden box about to tell him when… I just couldn’t. My mind began to swim as I lost concentration and then I heard my voice talking. I was telling him I had feelings for him. Impure thoughts. I was mortified and could hear chuckling from somewhere in my mind.

I tried to tell him next morning during our prayers but it only got worse. I started propositioning him. A lot. I wasn’t even that subtle. At least I looked different, it felt slightly less embarrassing. I’m going to keep trying until I tell the truth. I’m sure it’ll be easy to explain that the devil is inside me but we can remove him in a much more straightforward and physical sense rather than this endless praying. Also I think I did a good while with Julian. I may be a heathen but I’m not a heretic like the inquisitor turned out to be. We were both quite taken aback by that.

Anyway after that we went off to kill the ants. And there was the damn lantern merchant as well. Not sure why he came but he turned out to be rather helpful with his pyromancy. It was going well until a giant elephant came back from the dead. Just another reason to be rid of this damn artefact. It does keep promising to help bring Lazarus back but at this rate it’ll kill me first.

Then Faustus apparently went senile for a bit thinking he was a legionnaire in a long past war. Takes all kinds I suppose. But then he charged through a goddamn wall. Admittedly he did find a profane shrine that reminded me all too well of my own abhorrent past. Those children were at least cremated. That’s at least some dignity in death. I didn’t even grant my victims such courtesy. Maybe there’s a reason Lazarus and I are suffering now. If any were to deserve it, it would be us.

After dealing with the guards and dividing the treasure we ventured forth trying to find the damn queen and putting an end to this. Finding her nest we proceeded to overthink our approach before immediately charging in screaming and killing her. We tracked down the last of ants and went back to town. Perhaps tomorrow I can tell him. Swallowing was a mistake.

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Journal of Faustus - 3
Renovatio Imperii

Excellent news! We have joined the expedition to restore rightful rule to Africa. However we are not travelling and fighting with the main army but instead acting more as “problem solvers” for the areas the army has passed through. Zelgius originally signed us up as a mercenary band but apparently they were looking for those trained in steppe horse archery, a skill set we sorely lack. Narses himself seems to have found use for us though so it all turned out well.

Speaking of Zelgius, whilst I waited at the inn for a messenger to arrive informing us of our appointment I noticed that the necromantic energy was still an issue. This combined with new developments regarding my abilities led me to deduce that this perhaps wasn’t just an issue of lingering energies. The only lead I had to go on was that during the original incident in the crypt only Alexander and Zelgius were ever out of my sight. Given that Zelgius wears a demon and I can’t actually communicate with Alexander I was left with only one method of inquiry. To his credit Zelgius was rather forthcoming when I asked him, to the point of showing me the ink vial he was currently storing the blood of Karzaak in. I was about to chastise him and warn him that what he was doing was exceedingly dangerous when as if to prove my point Alexander walked in. A close call to be sure. I’m not sure what has become of the sample now but I sternly told Zelgius to deal with it in one manner or another as I would not suffer that sample contaminating the food supply for the army. No incidents so far which is a good sign. I’m rather suspicious of why he has such a sample but he invested a great deal of trust in me showing me it so I will repay in kind, even going so far as to offer my aid in this issue should he require it.

As for our current work, we’ve been tasked with destroying a nest of giant ants who are threatening the food supply from the local area. Initial scouting and engagement has been promising so a full assault should be launched soon.

I spoke earlier of developments in regards to my powers and this one is quite exciting. In addition to being able to “push” for more favourable outcomes whenever there’s a fork in outcomes, now I can vaguely sift through different times for information. The process is strange to say the least and mentally taxing but the utility is to great to deny. My main concern however remains how exactly has this power come about and at what cost. I have already lost full use of one of my legs, what else will I lose?

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