Martimus of Langival, Knight of Aroden, Servant of Lord Bishu, Rider of the Fifty and One, writing on this the close of the Battle of Tsar…
Day 354 — Victory is achieved! The foe is routed and Tsar has at long last, after 353 days of siege, fallen. Scouts report that a great magical gate has opened miles to the south and the entire remnant of the dark city’s defenders pours forth in full flight. We ready our harness for pursuit and ultimate victory. The day of the Horned One in the world is over, blessed be the light of Aroden. I start this new journal as the war enters this newest and final phase. My old journal is now full after the months of fighting, and I pack it away in the baggage train where it will be transported back to my family manor and preserved there for posterity.
New orders have arrived as we sit our steeds in preparation of the pursuit. General Zelkor has ordered that Lord Bishu lead us into the city and secure it and the citadel. He fears a trap and wants us to make sure it truly is as empty as it appears. We are to hold it until the army’s return. We ride at dawn.
Day 355 — With the first light of dawn we approach the battered fortress of Weeping Sores. The pennant of General Myrac still flies over it, but surely he has deserted with the rest, as the gate stands open and all is silent and still within. There is no sign of watchers or defenders. Lord Bishu has given the order to advance.
What a sorry state this foul city is in. The lowest tier is demolished, though whether from our bombardments or the decrepit inhabitants that once dwelt there I cannot tell. All is eerily quiet and empty. It appears that the entire populous fled through their magical gate, leaving behind only their shattered belongings and the uncaring dead. We must be on the look out for reanimation of the corpses in this accursed place. Rather than ride through the entire city, Clarendon has divined that a hidden stair climbs directly to the base of the citadel above. We have found its locked gate. Even now Sir Balderama prepares to unleash the power of his magic ring to burst the gate asunder.
A little peace at last. Such a ride up those steep, dark stairs, then a mad dash across the plaza and into the great citadel. We expected magical constructions and horribly revived dead creatures and found both waiting for us in the chamber of the High Altar. Arrayed before us in ranks ten deep, they stood not a chance before the might of the noble knights of the Fifty and One. Now night has fallen and we make camp in this accursed sanctuary. We have located several traps and diffused them and discovered that the dark curtains are deadly if their riddle is not guessed. Fortunately our good bishop is versed in the ways of the planes and provided the answer before any of us fell to the danger. Now if only he would provide us access to the rum locker we discovered, but no, the ever-pious Silas, Bishop Clarendon has locked it up and retains the only key. As if any of Bishu’s men would be so base as to overindulge the baser instincts.
Day 356 — The eyes of the idol are deadly and work on the mind. Count Grebbell was overcome, but it appears that Clarendon has saved him. We must be more cautious. Now the eyes are blocked by shields to prevent any further problems.
We divide up into scouting parties and begin our exploration of the citadel today. I am to travel with Count Grebbell and Fortingray.
Count Grebbell is lost. Beasts still exist in the upper halls. We battled through them, but Grebbell became separated. We tried to reach him, but the beasts kept cutting us off. It almost seemed as if he was not trying to reach us. The last I saw of him as he was forced around a corner, I think he may have been laughing. The bishop has been unable to locate him through divination. Two other parties are also late in returning. We will mount our watch and see what the morrow brings. Rumblings have begun among the men about a curse over this citadel.
Day 357 — Sir Thormadine’s party has returned battered but no worse for the wear. Of Gavlon’s party there is no sign. Thormadine states he never saw Grebbell during their exploration but does claim to have heard echoing laughter at one point during the night. No new parties sent today, there have been much graver developments.
Sir Keldrin (I hesitate to use the moniker “Sir” with this rapscallion) has slain Sir Brevis over a bottle of spirits. Brevis was a gentle soul and would never have offered offense to Keldrin. I have always suspected Keldrin as a pretender in the company and am gratified to see that my suspicions were correct (though, woefully, at the cost of poor Brevis’s life, however, were he a better man he surely would have slain Keldrin rather than fall to him — I would have).
Tomorrow we will have a trial. After all we cannot claim to be knights if we cannot maintain order among ourselves.
Day 358 — Guilty is the verdict! Lord Bishu and his captains have ruled, and the sentence is to be carried out tonight. Keldrin is to be beheaded with his own sword, more of a strange knife, really. A kukri I believe it is called — certainly not the weapon of an honest man. The good Bishop Clarendon will carry out the sentence and say prayers over the blackard’s worthless carcass.
The sentence is carried out. Keldrin has joined Brevis in death. Bishop Silas now carries the bloodied kukri at his belt as a warning to any other pretenders that may reside among us. I begin to suspect several others who may be such cravens.
Lord Bishu has called a private council with his captains, Barchus and Perival, and our spiritual leader, Silas, Bishop Clarendon. Whispering has begun among the other knights — the cowards.
Day 359 — An interesting discovery…a secret panel high on the wall that leads into this small spy’s roost. I shall use it from time to time to keep an eye on my less-worthy brothers. I feel a terrible pall to this place, and I believe they are falling to it.
Bishu has ordered that we hold our position and double the watch. No one is to leave or be admitted until the enemy is found and destroyed. Infractions will be dealt with most harshly. Clarendon continues to wear the bloody knife at his belt to give further weight to Bishu’s orders.
Day 360 — Fights have broken out and must be quickly restrained. The combatants receive the lash. Sir Boros was found dead, beheaded. A strange blood mark is on his forehead, almost like the spiked blade of a moon-axe. Guards are deserting their posts.
Four more knights found dead, their heads removed, and the same mark on their foreheads.
Day 361 — I have quit my former comrades during the dark watch of the night. I now hole up in my secret chamber. Their purity was insufficient to withstand the tests of this place. If only they were better men and could hold up under this constant assault as I have. I leave them to their deaths, but I will continue to watch. Perhaps something of value might be gained.
Lord Bishu heads up into the citadel alone. I heard him exhort the men that he would find the solution and they must stand fast in his absence. The cretins are heedless. I can hear fighting in the camp.
Day 362 — I am torn. I know that my former comrades, the Fallen Fifty and One, are unworthy of my valor, but voices speak to me. They say that it is I who has fallen when my comrades needed me the most. They say they speak with the voice of holy Aroden, but I know these voices ring false. They are merely my weaknesses trying to overcome me. I am better than that now; I will not fold. Something is occurring in the citadel. I look through the outer peephole and see that a mist arises around the citadel as night falls. It is obscuring the city beyond unnaturally and there is a rippling in the air of the citadel itself. Something is happening. I must get out. My loyal steed still stands picketed in the main temple with the others. I can get to him when no one is watching. No time to pack. I must be free of this accursed place.