The Isle of Dread

The Prophets found a series of letters on the body of one Baern Rockhammer, an explorer from a notable Stormhaven family. Baern had helmed an expedition to the Isle of Dread in search of a device called the Free Faring. The Free Faring supposedly allowed one to ascend to godhood. Baern was accompanied by Einar One-Hand, a young nobleman turned rogue; Fletcher, an experienced woodsman and guide; Odacer, a barbarian of immense strength; Himm, a sorcerer; and Griffix, a young wizard. All perished in the expedition. The Prophets raised Fletcher and Griffix - Both joined the party until Griffix’s untimely death and Fletcher’s departure to rule the Hidden Vale.

Below are the unedited text of Rockhammer’s letters:

The first letter:

M

This one’ll be the best yet. Einar says hello.

Make sure to get someone decent on this one. Bold letters, striking illustrations. Not like the Tsojancth edition.

The tease -

This island was once part of the Valosian empire (late period, 2500 years plus. I’ll be able to narrow it down when I get back – BR).

Through their now-forgotten arcane knowledge, they constructed a device known as the free faring (Caps? BR). After the fall of Valos and the breaking of the world, came Men (The Olmec or something earlier, more primitive? See Alstairs ten volume Olmec migration history for exact dates)

And as such things are never hidden forever, no matter the circumstance, men found the free faring. And that was a thousand years ago. Now, only a few in the dimmest memory of time of have sought to rediscover the legendary free faring.

And what makes it so south after?

The free faring “turns one to godhood” says one such old traveler, whose journal found by a young student has led us here to ask the question:

“Does the Free Faring bestow Godhood upon Men?”

And what does that mean? Godhood? Many have claimed to know the secrets to it. Many have died for it.

But, is there truly a mortal way, even through the most distant of forgotten arcane lore, to go from Manhood to Godhood?

I, Baern Rockhammer, fifth son of the Laird Master of Stormhaven, here on the aptly named Isle of Dread, aim to find out by searching for the fabled free faring.

<OK, when I get back, we’ll pore through these, put em in order and punch them up a bit for the final version>

Left Stormhaven. Camped on remote islands. Nothing new.

We encountered wyverns (see Oleth), constructs (Blaoder) and behemoths or thunder lizards (? cite)

Arrived island. Met Ape Tribe. On way to wall village

Island is classic cold coastal forest. Similar to the old forests of the northeast.

Huge wall two miles long forty feet high pitted old Olmec traces. Wall is of stone, but not native stone. Where did it come from? It shows signs of magic alteration but not magic creation.

Def. Olmec. Language is very similar.

Maybe not Olmec - no lizardfolk, no understanding, legends, history. Early period expansion? Environment? Diffused migration? A seed culture?

Def. a -mec root to the language, branch? Note - need script to compare language roots.

We are going to meet the Zombie Master, a woman named Tara.

Before we see her I have gathered the following:

Zombies - the dead are revered and their bodies raised from communal burial grounds to be animated and used in defense of the tribes. Hence Zombie Master. A strange intricate hierarchy exists, one where the bottom of society are zombies with the longest and menial tasks. Criminals are executed, animated and put to work at the tar pits (a day’s journey outside the walls) and in manual labor.

Culture – Tar is used for huts, boats. Economy is mostly coastal fishing and light trapping; perhaps a level 2 society. No magic users. Their word for wizard is the same as the Olmec “cursed”. Villagers did not even know what a “wizard” was only that those who show signs of the “curse” are shunned and in some cases, exposed to die at a young age.

Mara - Beyond the Pits is danger, death and something they call the Mara. The Mara and the Free Faring are used interchangeably. Can’t tell if one created the other. Some think the Mara came to punish the wicked men who had found the Free Faring. Some claim the Mara has always been here. Very confusing.

Free faring - everyone knows why we’re here - it’s the only reason anyone comes. The free faring “turns the wheel” since it draws the worst evil to it: Humans, Lizards, a dragon, the Mara… No one is sure that it does exist or that it’s here on the island. Since a large, extinct volcano dominates the island’s topography, I would suppose that the free faring is located somewhere in its vicinity.

“Armed with this knowledge, how does your humble narrator use it to his advantage? Can the secrets of the free faring be wrested from the unwilling and superstitious people of the island?”

Or not…have someone smooth over that transition. Make them want more. Cliffhanger maybe?

See if you can get the details lined up and some copy in the works on the above. Please send bird back.

BR

The second letter:

ZM div. for the party. Questions answered were the ones asked.

Have you seen us before we arrived on the island? Yes

Did you see us in a divination concering the free faring? Yes

Are you tasked to try and stop us from finding the free faring? Yes

Will you stop us from reaching the free faring?

Is the freefaring here on the island? Yes

Are there creatures that are tasked with stopping us from reaching the free faring?

Does the free faring transmute or change one into an immortal from? Yes

Is the change temporary or permanent?

Will I become immortal? Unsure

Can I access the free faring by magic? No

Is there a secret entrance? Yes

Does our map show that secret entrance? Yes

Are you aware of the secret entrance?

Is the Mara real? Yes

Is it on this plane? No

Has the Mara ever been defeated? Yes

Is the Mara a ghostly residue of a once living thing? Yes

The third letter:

M

Magic has poisoned this island. And us too. Damn where’s that bird? I know by the time you read it that won’t make much sense to even mention, but I’m plannin’ in case you aint the next one to find these words. But if that bird don’t make it back before sunrise…

It hasn’t stopped raining since the village. Damn Einar. He shoulda taken the old woman’s word for it and left the damn temple well enough alone. We were sent outside the great wall to “die”. We may very well. Half of us already have.

The wizard got it a few days ago; Blood spike got ‘im. We lost the ranger and his thick-neck friend behind us in a torrential rain. We don’t need them, so we’re going to keep following the path. Muscle don’t hack it on this island. Neither does magic.

More wyverns. We fought them off, finally, by hiding in a cave and killing them one by one as they tried to get in.

Then the city. There was a large, ruined city made of some rock I have never seen before. I’ll get a sample on my way back. In the city were the Nanes. I never want to see, hear or think of them again. Those creatures. They’re mindless. But they scream. Magically created muscled, blood and bone. But for what? The old lady says they were originally made to hold the spirits of those who fell victim to the free faring. They were used by the Valosians to defeat the Mara. Same with the zombies. The Zombie Masters are the original humans that defeated the Mara. Long after the Fall. The Mara. Evil. A ghost, but one that can be defeated. Only with mindless creatures, like the nanes or zombies…If that’s the case, I may have just the scroll to save us yet.

We’re holed up in another cave, not very deep, and very close to the riverbank. About 1000 feet up the river, in the river bed, beneath the onrush of water is a door. The back door. Locked. Of course, the front door is there too, a couple of thousand feet above it. That’s where we met the old lady. She was waiting for us at the bridge over the river. Damn priests. If I hadn’t pitched her off the cliff with a bigby’s, we’d have all died right there. We don’t know if we killed her or not, but she’s gone. I hope she don’t come back; we’re out of healing draughts.

Damn rain won’t stop. We’re waiting for tomorrow. Einar can’t pick the lock since the old lady laid a curse on him. We’re only going to be here until the necessary spells are memorized. We hope to find the free faring tomorrow. We’d better since I’m slowly running out of scrolls. Damn. Got to make sure to keep a hold of the teleport scroll; that’s our way back. If we make it back.

If we don’t tell the family, spare no expense, bring me back from the spirit world. If they do, I solemnly swear to undertake or agree to any oath, condition or restitution they bind me to.

And I hope, M, that you are reading this to me, in my study, laughing at how dire and pessimistic I sounded…

I hope.

Love

BR