[ Transcript of a small, leather-bound journal. Originally dark brown in colour, the book’s cover is caked in dried mud and sand. The pages are yellowed, and dirt stains obstruct the writing in some parts. The journal was written in pencil, much of which has faded, but is still legible with moderate effort. The handwriting is harsh and messy. On the first page is written, “The Retribution of Xen’Drik,” and a signature which reads ‘Vigil’. ]
Day One – A Strange Welcome
Ship ride was uncomfortable, but cheap. Damp bed, soggy food. You get what you pay for. Arrived at Stormreach before noon. Floating towers above the city, aged, webs of ivy. Wasn’t told about them. Didn’t ask.
Docks were busy. Sailors, traders. Mindless metal men. Skipped nearest inn, too crowded. People here are fishy, not just in scent. Second inn seemed nicer, rotting more slowly than its neighbours. Mind still rocked in unison with the ship. Needed to dull my thoughts. Asked the bartender for something strong, tries to sell me dwarf beard. Probably scraped up off a barber’s floorboards. Lost my appetite for booze.
Man on the next stool watches me, stares. Ain’t got time for spectators. Asked what he wants, says “to help”. Asked him why, says it’s his job. Asked him how, hands me a bandolier. Didn’t see where he got it from. Suspicious, but seems more honest than the swindler behind the bar. Took his gift, could use the extra storage space. Asked his name. Just says “Me.” Answers like a metal man. Ain’t got time for halfwits neither.
Rented a room for the night. Up the stairs, third door on the right. Bed looks acceptable, only a few lice. Sat around for a while, tried to slow the spinning in my head. Gave up and headed back down. Bar’s about half full, people keep to themselves. ‘Least ’til the elf at the bar tries his luck with the dwarven beard. Doesn’t take it well, but the moron keeps drinking. Before long, he’s on the floor and shouting. Ruining the room’s cosy atmosphere. Disturbance of the peace. Threw water in his face and put a pistol to his belly. Fat bartender notices. Tells me to take it outside, keep my affairs out of his bar. That’s what he gives me for trying to keep his peace for him, ungrateful shit. Fine. Stepped out into the evening sun, waited for the elvish drunkard to face me. Never came. Coward.
Met a gnome girl out the front of the bar. Hair is pink, slicked back. Never understood women’s fashion. Girl’s got herself an entourage of metal pets, they follow her around like hungry cattle. Noticed she’s got a bandolier like mine. Wonder if it’s not the same one. Asked her where she got it, she told me somebody gave it to her, a blonde gentleman on a bar stool. Fits the description of the halfwit from before. Only she tells me she met him on an airship. Can’t be in two places at once. Must’ve been someone else. Gnome tells me that the creepy feller pulled a disappearing trick on her. Wizard, maybe.
Asked about the airship, she’s just come to Stormreach. Told me about a message she got that sent her here. Same one that I got. Curious. Figured we ought to stick together. Told her to rent a room at the inn, she got the one next door to mine. Went back to my room. Pulled a few things from the bandolier. Weight didn’t change. Must be magic. Inside: scrolls, potions, wand, magical trinkets. Ring, made me feel tougher. Like I’d grown an extra few layers of skin. Taking it off again made me feel naked. Kept it on. Belt, made me feel nimbler. Fiddled with a pistol for some time. Better control. Faster draw, quicker aim. Useful. Headband, not sure what it does. Noticed my mind clearing up, though. Easier to think. Been wearing it while I write. Helps me remember.
Need to wear in this gear. Task for tomorrow. Also, prepare for the journey into Xen’Drik. Make sure gnome can be trusted. Only here half a day, but the scum of this land has already shown itself. This town’s full of fleas that think they’re people, grime to be scrubbed off. But that’ll change soon. Retribution’s come to Xen’Drik.
Day Two – A Second Companion, A New Burden
Woke early. Prayed. Gnome was already up. Slept in her walking chest, mechanic dog took the bed. Strange company. Went downstairs, bar nearly empty. One patron. Drunken elf from yesterday asleep under table, still out of his wits. Looked closer at him, saw bandolier. Same as mine. Same as the gnome’s. Thought bandoliers were supposed to lighten the load, so far they just give more burdens.
Attempts to contact the elf were unsuccessful. Suggested leaving without him. Gnome seemed hesitant. Decided against it. In a fight, he’d give the enemy another target to focus on. Could prove useful. Still, keeping him along meant wasting a day. Gnome and I made the best of it, gathered information from locals.
Advised not to leave Stormreach. Told about fearsome creatures out in the wild. Not worried, keeping guns close. Besides, this land can’t compare to things I’ve seen. Mournlands. Living spells. Don’t like to think about it. Received some strange reports about patrols into Xen’Drik. Groups go missing, that’s normal. Groups come back years later. Think they’ve only been gone a few hours. That’s stranger. Must be some beast out there that plays tricks on travellers. Makes them forget time passing. Could be fear, drives them mad. Worth investigating further.
Talked to guards at gate. Say we’re free to leave, but first say they ain’t liable for what happens to us. Tell us people have come back different, or not at all. Makes the families angry. Makes them want payment. So first we gotta agree, say they ain’t liable. Guarantees family won’t blame them, friends won’t accuse ‘em of failing their duties. Pointless. Got no family for the guards to worry about. Don’t have time for friends neither. If I don’t come back, ain’t nobody gonna look for me.
We leave tomorrow, with or without the elf.