From the diary of Theren Stormcursed. Red Larch.
A good friend died today. We killed him.
Since he found us on the road, Thal had ever been a man of joy and mischief, quick to experience everything life threw his way. From his herbal experiments at the Scarlet Moon festival to finding comfort in the arms of Helios, he welcomed life’s gifts with a spring in his step, though rarely a song on his lips, which I’d come to expect of those from the bardic colleges. He always knew what to say, and had a plan when the rest of us felt lost.
I see now that it was merely armour. Armour he wore to protect his fragile soul.
During our descent through cult territory, in a place known as the Fane of the Eye, the winged elf, Aerisi, ambushed us. Her acolytes surrounded us while the cult leader herself gave us an ultimatum: join her or die. She presented us with a test of loyalty in which she demanded we execute an innocent man, taken from the Sumber Hills, and bound upon an altar.
I watched in terror at the speed in which Thal complied. But not only Thal. Both Rolen and Vin – recently returned to us, but hideously changed from before – made to kill the captive. The rest of us fought to stop the needless sacrifice, but the trauma he’d suffered went beyond my potions or the healing hands of Gimble.
And so Aerisi loosed her magic upon us. Her talents with the winds and storms had enthralled me. She was magnificent and I wanted to learn everything she knew. But no sooner had Aerisi struck us with the power of her lightning than a wicked grin spread across Thal’s face, and he joined his magic to hers, unleashing it upon Vin. Perhaps Aerisi was just as damaged as Thal, for it seems a broken heart offers an open door to evil.
The battle was brutal. Between Rolen and Thal, it was savage and personal. For myself, I felt only rage at the betrayal, and remember little of the fight beyond a furious storm of thunder and lightning. When the winds had settled and the flames had dimmed, we emerged, battered and crestfallen, but victorious.
We journeyed back to Red Larch in silence. None wanted to speak of what we’d seen. Or what others had done. Yet, despite the sorrow in my heart, there came a glimmer of hope. Upon our return from the Fane of the Eye, the people of Red Larch gifted us a residence in thanks for our services to their town and our ongoing protection. Having spent much of my life chased out of hamlet after village after town, these townsfolk can never understand what this means to me.