I must allow myself a few sentences here for my grief. Master Vontaze is dead, and I am devastated. Though the corpse is grotesque, I know it is him. I vaguely recognize his features, as if shaped with soft ash, but mostly I feel it. I feel a dark hollow where, before, his formidable authority filled me. He is gone, and I don’t know where to find my revenge. Enough. I will faithfully relate the events of these dour days in due time, but through the more remote and trustworthy perspective of mind. My heart will wallow on if I allow it.
As previously recorded, our return to Hammer Hill from tracking the goblin party was met with frenzied activity. We were immediately summoned to a meeting with Burdic and the City Council; we told the tale of how we found Andor and tracked the goblins; we turned our goblin prisoner over to the City Guard; the meeting was interrupted with an urgent trip to the fishing docks; and, we discovered hundreds of dead fish on the shores of Lake of the Clouds. As the smell was threatening to trigger The Cough, I retreated to a safe distance. After about two bells, we moved back to the City Council meeting.
Aimon shared his thoughts about the possible causes and sources of the dead fish. In summary, a black substance coated the gills, the eyes had gone soft, and the flesh had turned into gel. With the mixture of stream fish and lake fish, he feels we may be able to track the source by looking at the streams feeding the lake. No one had seen anything so foul before, and we couldn’t even discern whether the substance could be arcane or natural. I was given a small sample to take to Vontaze the next day. I studied my spells, and attempted to write my first scroll during the early evening hours. I did not last long. My exhaustion drove me to my bed before the light was gone from the sky.
At the end of the City Council meeting, Councilman Burdic offered to pay us to investigate the source of the black substance. Aimon declined. I don’t know enough about his background to discern why he would do this – a noble blood? A debt to Hammer Hill or to men? Misguided honor? My conjectures are a waste of time. I hastily grabbed Burdic’s vouchers before Aimon could refuse again. With the first voucher, Alexey purchased a second healing potion for the party. I feel better having these available. I am holding the second voucher (worth 50gp of equipment/items from our local vendors). When we know what we need, we’ll use it for the party, or if they all forget about it, I’ll use it for myself.
In the morning, after studying my spells, I hiked up to Vontaze’s academy. Gledrick gladly joined me, hoping to hear some telling news about the strange black substance. How the dwarf was able to get up so early, I don’t know. Maybe the Three-Club Ale was not flowing so freely the previous night.
I could not have been more unprepared for the evil we witnessed at Vontaze’s academy. (He would be disappointed in that statement, as he always stressed the unexpected.) I harden my heart against this retelling. The simple facts we learned from Apprentice Baron’s testimony and the evidence we found are as follows:
(1) Two nights ago, Vontaze very hastily left his office and went to the
dorm room of Apprentice Storin,
(2) Apprentice Baron heard strange noises and shouting, but was told
by Vontaze to stay in his room,
(3) Apprentice Storin had received multiple visits from a being with the
name of Kosmenoark (From a scrap of his own journal, “Kosmenoark
appeared to me again last night…”),
(4) Vontaze appears to have suffered a horrific death, with parts of his
body turning to ash or charcoal,
(5) His body was staked to the stone floor (Apprentice Baron heard
something like hammer strikes at some point), and an intricate and
artful drawing on the floor fully surrounded Vontaze’s body (I’ve made a
copy of the drawing in my journal,
(6) Apprentice Baron was magically locked in his own room (a spell
well beyond the abilities of an apprentice),
(7) Apprentice Storin is missing.
I knew Apprentice Storin to be more ambitious and impatient than suits an apprentice. I can easily imagine Vontaze preaching patience and deliberately slowing down Storin. Could he have intended to kill Vontaze? Did he stumble across a magic item that was too powerful for him? Or, even more frightening, could a magic item or force have sought him out? I’ve pushed on all these questions in my head. There is no answer, only the stone of Sisyphus.
With no answers about the nature of the black substance from Vontaze, I decided to try my own hand. After a couple hours of study, I was ready. Detect Magic and Detect Poison spells are familiar apprentice spells, though sometimes not powerful enough. I couldn’t find any remnant of a magical aura, but I had an overwhelming sense of toxicity. The taste in my mouth was so bitter that I could taste it through multiple draughts of Three-Club Ale. So, we have a non-magical (presumably natural) poison killing the fish. Although the poison may be natural, it is abundant in unnatural quantities.
At Burdic’s request, we set off tomorrow morning to investigate the west side of Lake of the Clouds and to check the streams and rivers. It is an interesting coincidence that the main goblin camps we found are also to the west. Is there a link between the goblins and the poison? It’s easy to imagine that they understand Hammer Hill’s dependence on the fish. I’m anxious to see what we will find. May the Gods watch over us and our city.