A World in the Balance

In the beginning
Looks like there is going to be trouble...

Game #1

A tranquil night’s sleep has been interrupted by the late arrival of a contingent of priests from the church of Bahamut. All of the interested parties arrived at the caravan port to find a scene of minor chaos. The group had been attacked while traveling through the wooded portion of the Mage Scar near the pass to Kveldan. While attending to the groups’ needs, many strange and inexpicable items were discovered that required further examination in the light of day.

The participants in the early morning arrival discover that Mediator Krispin Doughjoy keeps baker’s hours as messages arrive in various parts of the town summoning people to the Main Hall to discuss who or what lies behind the attack. The discussion proves to be fruitful and several clues come to light. Some of the newcomers to town are assigned the task of deciphering these clues along with the aid of one of the locals. A couple of hours of investigation, in addition to a refreshing stop at the local saloon, turn up evidence that seems to be pointing fingers at creatures from the Fey Realm. The question remains, however, as to what exactly those creatures may be.

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Oy Fey!
You're in the land of the little people now...

Game #2

The hunt continues as our adventurers attempt to learn more about the pieces of cloth left behind by the attackers. A stop by the home of Loom Mistress Mariah proves fruitful and the grey cloth sleeve is discovered to be made out of fox hair. Mariah also directs the group to Annabelle, the town herbalist, who confirms that the red hat is made out of red thistle down. Ghesh has a nagging thought about elven gods and Gwynne Highhill is able to elaborate by pointing out Sehanine is the goddess of trickery, illusions and shadows. A veiled priestess of Sehanine brings the mystery to light by telling the group about Tomte, although she is quick to point out that they are not aggressive beings. The information is relayed to Mediator Krispin Doughjoy who gets worked into a bureaucratic frenzy and shoos the group out of his office so he can put missives together to send to the Merchant Lords asking for aid. The group opts to take matters into their own hands.

Gavin Stavros leads everyone to Sparks of Rage to procure sun goggles to combat the powerful glare in the Mage Scar. Gretcha Sparkspeak informs everyone that her supply of scar glass is depleted and Cornelius, the mason, is three days overdue with his delivery. After finding a note that is several days old on Cornelius’ door, the decision is made to search for him. The group garners their resources and finds horses and goggles for the trip to the Glare Barrens. In spite of a close drinking match at One-Eyed Jack’s Saloon, Gavin and Belhorn Demoneye (with recovery help from Opal Fireclaw) manage to meet the others at The Golden Yoke Inn for an early departure. After a dreary journey, they arrive at the Barrens.

Gavin notices that it is different but can’t figure out what has changed. While searching, Belhorn finds manure left behind by Cornelius’ mule under a pile of rocks. The group gets the feeling they are being watched and look up to find the small stone glares in the area are watching them. Gwynne attempts to rebuild the rock pile but instead of pacifying the beasts, it sends them into a frenzy. The lizards are beaten back leaving the adventurers to wonder what else might be awaiting them from within the looming spires.

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Leaping Lizards
A newt-worthy adventure

Game #3

The search for Cornelius continues as the group ventures into the stalagmite labyrinth in the middle of the Glare Barrens. Gavin realizes what has been nagging him and remembers that there used to be scar glass all over the ground and now there appears to be none. After several dead ends and much backtracking, Gwynne begins to notice that the pathways and dead ends do not seem to be normal and they are being guided a certain direction. This is confirmed when the path opens up into a large bowl. Ready for anything, the adventurers are not surprised when lizards began to crawl over the sides of the rock walls. What is surprising is the size of this group of lizards as they are much larger than the stone glares normally grow. Although the females in the group are easily defeated, the males seem to be much tougher and only perish after concentrated attacks from the whole group.

After more cautious travel through the spires, the group finally comes to the end of the canyon where they find Cornelius’ tools next to a large cave opening that appears to have been chewed into the side of the rock cliffs. Once inside, they find that the cave is full of all of the scar glass that used to be littered about the Barrens. The cave appears to be empty so they call out for the lost mason. A muffled groan draws them to the back of the cave where they find a barely conscious Cornelius buried under a pile of scar glass. They quickly remove the rubble and make haste towards the exit of the cave. Before they can reach the mouth of the cave, an enormous stone glare covered with rocky protrusions erupts from its well-hidden nest amidst the numerous piles of scar glass. The monstrosity proceeds to attack the intruders with ferocious bites, deafening roars and vicious tail lashes that send deadly shards of glass flying through the group. Although mostly untrained in the ways of combat, the adventurers determinedly retaliate against the beast and are victorious although severely beaten and bloodied.

Under Opal’s administrations, Cornelius comes to and is able to travel with assistance. Many satchels of glass are collected and the weary group makes its way back to Glimmer. Cornelius is dropped off at home and reunites with his cowardly mule Beatrice before stumbling off to rest. The rest of the party scatter and go to a much deserved rest of their own, having successfully rescued the missing mason.

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Searching for clues
Jinkies!

Game #4

The news of Cornelius’ rescue has spread quickly through town and the blossoming heroes are given a few days respite to recover from their encounter with the oversized stone glares. After delivering the scar glass to Gretcha, they learn from Ghesh that the sanctified banner that was supposed to be hung behind the altar in the outpost of Bahamut had been taken in the attack by the Tomte on the caravan. The group quickly decides to use their free time to investigate the scene of the attack. Newly made goggles are collected from Gretcha and provisions for the journey to Melora’s Boon are purchased.

After a five-hour journey on foot, they reach a spot on the road that is littered with splintered wood and debris, the obvious site of the attack. Some searching in the surrounding woods, Gavin and Opal turn up the makings of what seems to have been a Fey Gate used for the attack. After traveling farther east into the forest, the stench of death begins to fill the air. The group follows the scent and soon comes upon a pit that is the dumping ground for several corpses. A band of hidden Tomte take the opportunity to ambush the party while they are busy examining the area. During the melee, one of the Tomte makes its escape, heading east towards the hill in the middle of the woods where Untouchable stands. With Opal tracking in the lead, the group quickly gives chase but is thwarted in capturing their quarry when they come to an impassable wall of dead brambles growing around the base of the hill.

After spending two hours circumnavigating the foot of the hill, they are unable to find a passage that will allow them to travel further. By this time, the sun is beginning to set so they quickly make camp for the night and ponder what their next course of action should be. As the sun sets, they are surprised to find that the brambles begin to come to life, glowing with an eerie blue light. The heavy growth twists and reshapes forming several new passages leading towards the top of the hill. By pooling their collective knowledge and skills, the party manages to summit the hill with relatively little trouble although there is much evidence of Tomte patrols and ambush points along the path they take.

At the top of the hill there is a large clearing where Untouchable grows. It appears as if the tree is slowly being choked to death by the mysterious glowing vines. To one side of the clearing is a makeshift throne put together out of crates and branches. The Banner of Bahamut is draped over the back of the throne as decoration. There is also a Fey Gate that is shaped by thick vines sprouting from the earth that have woven themselves together. As the party advances into the clearing, the gate begins to glow and swirl with a mesmerizing light. Belhorn and Ghesh are entranced by its beauty and began to stumble towards the gate against their will. Their companions quickly rush to restrain them and they manage to shake off the effects of the portal’s magical lure. Once the spell is broken, the portal stabilizes and small figures begin to emerge from glowing light. The party prepares to face the source of the attacks on the road hoping to make travel safe once again for those headed to Glimmer.

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Ending the threat
Short people got no reason to live.

Game #5

The party readies itself as a war party consisting of a group of frenzied Tomte and their leader, Warlord Burdunk, emerges from the Fey Gate. A battle royale ensues and the warlord is defeated. Opal examines his body to find that he is only mostly dead. He whispers a final cryptic message and hands her a mysterious card before expiring. Opal swears the card first had the image of a farmer standing on his porch watching a storm engraved on it but now it shows the image of a falcon flying through lightning instead. Ghesh retrieves the Banner of Bahamut which looks none the worse for wear. Further examination of Burdunk reveals several magical items that he seemed to be collecting.

Opal strongly feels as if it is her duty to remove the fey vines that are choking the branches of Untouchable but she is not sure how to accomplish this task. Cauldrev proves that brute force is not the answer and the vines are impervious to his blade. The companions decide to settle in for the evening when they are interrupted by the arrival of a river otter from the east. The small creature gives her a pouch containing one small seed and Opal seems to be listening to something although no one else hears anything. Opal identifies the seed as Melora’s Grace and with help from Gwynne, the seed is planted and watered. Belhorn and Ghesh go back to bed but the others witness the seed begin to grow immediately. The clearing, Opal and Untouchable are eventually engulfed by the rapidly spreading plant. It also overtakes the brambles surrounding the hill. After a period of time, the growth subsides having destroyed all the fey vines in the area. Opal also seems to have been changed and she is clad in bear hide armor clutching an otter totem in one hand when the rampant growth falls away from her.

In the morning, the group makes haste back to Glimmer. Ghesh quickly departs to return the banner to his brethren, promising to meet up with the rest of the group later at One-Eyed Jack’s Saloon. The remaining members attempting to ascertain the nature of the mysterious card. Visits to Master ‘V’ and Madam Velspa prove to be dead ends although Belhorn does get a glimpse into the future of his love life from the psychic. They move on to Sparks of Rage only to find that Darbin is out of commission for the afternoon with one of his infamous headaches. Unwilling to leave the card, the group promises to return in the morning. They adjourn to Jack’s to await the arrival of Ghesh. A figure clad in plate armor bearing a heavy shield enters the saloon and the party is surprised to find that it is Ghesh clad in the full regalia of Bahamut. He explains that it was a reward for returning the banner.

While at Jack’s, they finally get lucky with the card and the local high roller, Harry, tells them that it looks like it is part of a Five Man’s Folly deck and he confirms the unique and exquisite craftsmanship of the card saying it would be worth a fortune to a collector such as himself…if they had the whole deck.

At the end of the day, the imminent arrival of Wynne Goldtone and Gaver Flamefret is announced and the group prepares for what will be several days of endless work catering to the clientele coming from all corners of the realms to see the performance of two bard laureates.

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A Bard Day's Night
Around here, we got puns 8 days a week...

Game #6

The party has just enough time to get to Sparks of Rage before they have to go to work. Darbin says the card reminds him of something but he will have to look through some of his books to find it. The group leaves the card in his care and everyone heads off to their respective tasks.

Ghesh opts to study tomes that impart the wisdom of Bahamut’s soldiers to him. Opal asks Chief Wrangler Argok for leave to meditate about her visions and then heads to Melora’s Boon. Cauldrev gets put on camp set up duty for the groups coming to see one of the concerts while Gavin meets guests on the road and relays their needs back to town. Gwynne sees some old acquaintances amongst the guests and spends some time socializing. Belhorn is given the task of meeting Wynne Goldtone and Gaver Flamefret as they arrive in town.

Wynne does not seem to be very receptive as she is tired from the road but Gaver is as personable and gregarious as always. After he learns that Belhorn is a member of the League, Gaver offers to pull some strings with Caramen Adronis to get him an opening performance at one of their shows. After showing them to their private cottage, Belhorn rushes off to meet more of the guests staying at The Golden Yoke Inn. Before stumbling off to sleep, Caramen informs Belhorn that she has had a cancellation and offers the table to the party as a thank you for their services to Glimmer.

Urgent word from Darbin arrives at Belhorn’s door early the next morning. Darbin is shamed and confused at the disappearance of the mysterious card from his personal safe specifically crafted to prevent magic from being used near it. As the safe is located in the bedroom under the bed and Darbin has the only key which he wears on a chain around his neck, the theft is inexplicable. He promises to find the information he was looking for and pass it along when he is finished.

Word is sent to call Opal back for the concert and Belhorn is put in charge of making sure that none of his friends diminish the grandeur of Caramen’s establishment. Everyone gets f a n c y clothes and heads to the inn. Mistress Adronis takes the stage and introduces the table of adventurers, lauding them for their heroics. She also informs the audience that Belhorn will be performing the popular hit ‘The Nymph of the Wild Woods’. He goes out on a limb and performs the song a capella much to the delight of the crowd. Wynne Goldtone then takes the stage and begins to perform. She ends by announcing that she has researched a new song and the crowd responds with much excitement. She performs a melodic dirge called ‘The Quintet of Quinlaria’. The concert ends and people can’t help but notice the conspicuous absence of Gaver Flamefret.

Wynne and Caramen talk and Belhorn is sent to find Leric, the runner who was supposed to fetch Gaver. Upon entering the cottage where the bard laureates are staying, Leric is found slumped by the door having been knocked unconscious by two men in black uniforms. Inspection of Gaver’s room reveals blood stains on the floor and it appears he was abducted just as he was leaving for the performance. Wynne suggests talking to the town gossip so the group heads to One-Eyed Jack’s Saloon to find Ramble. Gwynne lures him away from his usual crowd with the promise of free ale and Ramble does not disappoint. He spoke to the two men, one large and one small, earlier in the day. They were asking about the performance and entered through the southwest gate. Further questioning at the camps outside the gate reveal that the two men rode west on the road to Qimtar carry what appeared to be a large bundle. In the hopes of attempting to catch up with the kidnappers, the adventurers grab their gear and set off not wanting to wait for Wynne to rouse the bards’ personal guard which could take significant time.

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A Daring Rescue
Well, a rescue at least.

Game #7

After traveling on the road for an hour, the party comes across something that could only have been left by Gaver. It is a small drum with an arrow painted on it in blood pointing to the northwest. Continuing as quickly as possible, they leave the road and head in the direction of the arrow, staying alert for more clues. The next proves to be an arrow made out of rocks that appears to have been left during a short rest break. Gavin recalls that the only thing that could be in this direction is the Abandoned Quarry. Another hour passes before a final clue is found, Gaver’s violin. Shortly afterwards, the party arrives at the lip of the quarry pit.

Upon their arrival, they witness a lone horseman riding into the quarry from the south. A series of signal lights can be seen flashing from the two loading cranes and a set of small buildings by the stables. The horseman rides on to the two-story house and the characters lose sight of him. Opting to avoid possible discovery by the guards stationed in the cranes, the group heads to the north entrance to the quarry that passes through a grove of dead trees.

Upon reaching the grove, they can see that the trees are covered with spider webs. Opal examines them closely and finds that they are blood red in color unlike normal spider webs. Ghesh peers into the trees but sees nothing. Unfortunately, what he does not see are two large spiders who are ready to pounce. During the fight, the members of the group get bitten several times and while they are not poisoned, they are subjected to several other effects including lightning, cold and necrotizing flesh rot. The spiders are driven off or slain, and the party attempts to continue onwards stealthily. They head for a small building behind the large house.

In spite of their efforts, arrows fly out of the night into the midst of the group. Two archers on guard have noticed the characters and unleash a small barrage of arrows upon them as they hurry to cover the ground to their foes. The guards are defeated and as the bodies are being hidden, the group notices they wear an insignia of a red and black spider in a golden web. The party enters the building which is pitch black inside. Upon lighting a torch, they find Gaver in one corner of the building, severely beaten. In the other corner, they are surprised to find a female halfling bound and gagged.

Once untied, the halfling introduces herself as Alanna Fairflax, a cleric of Avandra who had been taken from the road on her return journey to Glimmer. Gwynne introduces herself since she has been waiting to meet with Alanna since coming to Glimmer. Both Gaver and Alanna confirm that they were not the intended targets of the kidnappers much to the anger of the man in charge of these soldiers. Although Alanna is able to assist Gaver some, the damage to his arm is too severe to completely heal. Everyone agrees that flight is a better option than fight and they escape into the night with the rescued captives. They make a beeline to the road for quicker travel, and arrive back in Glimmer as the sky begins to gradually lighten into morning.

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Treasures from the Past
The adventure ended in ruins...

Game #8

With Gaver safely rescued and returned to his lodgings, the party stumbles off to get some sleep but not before Belhorn gets a begrudging promise from Wynne to start up his lessons again soon. There is no rest for the wicked, however, and Belhorn receives word from Darbin that he has found the information that he was looking for regarding the mysterious card that has disappeared. Belhorn, eager to hear the news, responds quickly…six hours later.

Everyone meets at Sparks of Rage and is ushered into the back room where Gretcha has set out refreshments for everyone. Against their better judgement, they sample the deeproot wine and fungus cakes only to find that they are much better than they look. Darbin gives them a brief lesson on dwarven lore regarding those who manage to master multiple crafts, specifically an individual named Haggart Grimgut. His suspicion is that the card may be a product of Haggart’s simply because of his specialties. He also suspects that the card has not been stolen, but has instead bound itself magically to Opal and has returned to her. Opal confirms this by relating the tale of how the card returned to her while she was meditating at Melora’s Boon. Darbin suspects that the card maybe a Masterwork of a dwarven Grandmaster but suspects that there may be more cards than this one as it seems to lack the grandiosity of scale that accompany most Masterwork items.

While the others head to One-Eyed Jack’s Saloon to discuss the card and engage in a new round of drinking games, Gwynne pays a visit to the recently rescued Alanna Fairflax to discuss her prospects of becoming a member of the Balance of Pentacles. Alanna suspects the best bet is the Sagewar Ruins. Third Mage Tobias Bleakley and his team of researchers have thoroughly investigated a mysteriously out-of-place altar to the Raven Queen in front of the sealed main tower without success. Alanna believes they have fallen victim to an overly narrow focus and suspects that the true answer to the altar and unlocking the tower may lie within the rest of the seemingly ordinary buildings and gardens in the area. Gwynne rejoins her friends and asks them for aid exploring the ruins. Everyone agrees to set out in the morning except for Belhorn as he is passed out from suffering another crushing drinking game loss at the hands of Gavin.

In the morning, the group finds Gaver and Wynne getting ready to head out to the Abandoned Quarry with their personal guard to exact some payback. The party decides to travel along for the ride. Upon arriving at the quarry, they find that all of the soldiers have been massacred, apparently by the same spiders that had attacked the adventurers during the rescue. Nothing has been left behind to help identify the group or its intentions. After burning the bodies, the party decides to “borrow” the horses for a bit longer and rides out to the Sagewar Ruins.

Gwynne, operating on the information from Alanna, suggests that they skip the altar and head into the barn. Although the silo has mostly collapsed, the remainder of the building seems structurally sound and the group heads inside. The building is mostly empty aside from what appears to be piles of sacks that once may have held grain. Gwynne attempts to move one of the larger piles only to have it come to life in her hands. Once it rises to its full height, the party can see that it appears to be an animated husk of human skin. More husks animate around the barn and a fight ensues. The smaller husks envelop their targets and slowly leech away life force while the larger husk sends out silent psychic screams into the midst of the party. The group manages to survive the onslaught and beats the husks. Further examination of the barn after a short rest reveals nothing else inside.

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Putting The Pieces Together
Literally...

Game #9

After recovering from the fight in the old barn, Cauldrev decides to go examine the altar outside the main tower. He finds a large stone altar ten feet in diameter that is engraved with the Mark of the Raven Queen. At the bottom of the engraving, there is a wide slot cut into the stone. Cauldrev pulls an ominous black blade that is different from the silver dragon-hilted greatsword that he previously wielded and plunges it into the slot on the altar. The top of the altar splits down the middle and the pieces fall to the side to reveal a large body shaped indentation in the stone with the slot now located where a person’s heart would be. Cauldrev proves that the indentation is made for something larger than normal human size by lying down on the altar and trying it on for size. Still unsure what to make of it all, the party moves on to the dilapidated lodgings.

The lodge is in disrepair and it is amazing that it still stands after all these years. Examination of a couple of the rooms off of the common room reveals nothing but decayed furniture. As Ghesh approaches the set of double doors at the end of the common room, everyone can hear a low thump-thump echoing around them. Opal attempts to pinpoint the location of the steady, rhythmic sound only to find that it seems to be coming from all around them. Ghesh advances towards the doors and as he is about to open them, a large ghostly heart with a network of veins and arteries for wings appears through the wall in front of them. More of the creatures descend from the ceiling to attack the party. Although the creatures appear to be partially immune to normal weapons, the party is triumphant thanks to the combined arcane and divine powers of Ghesh, Opal and Belhorn. Finding nothing else of note in the lodge, the group moves on to the withered gardens.

Although the gardens appear to have once been a place to relax or enjoy a walk in, they are now in ruins. Remnants of arches and benches lay strewn about and nothing grows there now. The gardens are arranged in a wheel pattern and the eight spokes lead into the center of the area. Upon arriving at the center, the adventurers see nine berms of dirt, eight small ones at the ends of each of the spokes and one larger central mound. Opal climbs the central mound and examines the dirt to see if she can find any sign of what once used to grow here. Her search reveals that all plant life in this area has been dead for centuries if not longer. As she turns to report this to her companions, the ground begins to tremble and a large bloody fist bursts out of the earth next to her. A large humanoid creature that is dripping with blood and gore emerges from the ground. It has a gaping hole in its chest and it appears as if the flesh has been removed leaving only the muscles and bone behind. As battle ensues, more of the creatures emerge from the smaller berms. In spite of being knocked repeatedly to the ground and having to deal with slippery footing from the splattering of gore, the party manages to bring the hulking beast to its knees.

Gwynne and Belhorn discuss the items at hand and decide that they will have to reconstruct a complete corpse out of the grisly remnants from their three battles. After much macabre pushing and pulling, a large body is reformed from the flesh husk, disembodied heart and the mass of muscle and bone. It is placed in the indentation in the altar and it appears to be a perfect fit. Cauldrev plunges his sword through the chest of the corpse into the slot in the altar. Runes begin to appear and glow on the door to the tower. As they fade, the party hears a loud but simple click. The door to the broken tower now lies open before them.

Upon entering the tower, they can see that the bottom floor has a large hallway leading to a staircase at the far end with doors to the left and right. The left door leads into a library. Most of the tomes are illegible and in tatters but there is one set of twenty unmarked leather-bound tomes that appear to be in excellent condition. The right door leads to a large laboratory. Many of the components appear to be dried up and several of the apparatuses are broken but the group does find one rack with intact vials. Opal has some alchemical experience and deduces that the four vials are minor healing potions. The party then travels to the top of the staircase. At the top they can see a large open area that is the size of the entire tower. In the center of this floor is a raised dais where a lone figure stands awaiting the arrival of the adventurers.

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Stopping the Madness
Three's a crowd...

Game #10

As the group cautiously approaches the figure on the dais, they also notice there are three large statues on this floor: a scholar studying a tome of lore on the west wall, an athlete who appears to be in the middle of a footrace on the south wall and a priest giving a blessing on the east wall. The figure on the dais appears to be a mage of some sort but Gwynne notices that his style of clothing is very archaic. As the rest of the party engages in conversation, Cauldrev examines the scholar statue and discovers that it is made out of paper-mache.

The mage thanks the party for freeing him from his prison. As they speak with him, they can see his image blur and occasionally during the conversation, whispers of other voices can be heard speaking as the mage speaks. The mage’s speech becomes more erratic and he appears to be having some internal struggle as he splits into three copies of himself. Through force of will, he pulls himself back into one body as he slams his staff into the ground screaming, “I will be whole again!” A protective dome forms over the dais and a beam of red light shoots forth from the orb in the mage’s hand hitting the scholar statue. Gwynne determines that the magic is some type of summoning spell and shortly afterwards, one of the Spellscoured appears. While some members of the party focus on holding off the attacks of the summoned creature, others focus on destroying the large statues. As the stautes are destroyed, the mage’s strength appears to be failing but he rallies and summons creatures from all of the statues at once. Battle rages across the top of the entire tower until the creatures are finally vanquished. The mage’s staff shatters with a loud crack and the dome over the dais fades as he collapses to the ground.

Examination of the body reveals that it has decayed rapidly. All that remains intact is the glowing red orb with the swirling liquid inside. As the group begins to tend to their wounds, the tower begins to quake and large sections of the walls start to collapse. They quickly run to the library to gather the set of preserved tomes and bolt for the exit. As they run away from the tower, it collapses on itself into a large pile of rubble. As the dust clears they can see that the rest of the structures have also collapsed now that they no longer have the magic of the mage to support them.

Gwynne and Belhorn pore over the tome that was left on the library table and find that it is written in an ancient form of the arcane language used by mages. The final entries speak of a need to find the cure and often fade into the ranting of a madman. It is clear from the most recent journal that the mage had lost his sanity from his millenia spent in the tower. The party quickly rode back to town, eager to share this information with the researchers at the Balance of Pentacles Enclave.

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