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The Cursed Blade

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A collection of
Letters,
Journal entries
And other
correspondences

Written by

Ryan Miller (Lead)
Jenna Helland
Matt Tabak
Bruce Cordell
Josh Brauer

* * *


* * *

(Letter from Lorelei Garensun)

32nd of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

I knew it was the right thing to do, I knew it was what Pitre would have wanted. Beheading is the only way to keep someone from turning, and there was no way to be sure whether he had been bitten or not. But now my hands are forever stained, so I have decided to turn them over to Avacyn.

For these reasons, and many more, I beseech you to admit me to your humble order. I have no reason to remain here in Gavony.

Your sister in Avacyn,

Lorelei

* * *

(Journal of Raben Amsel, Cathar Adept)

60th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

This book was once a place of solace for me. A refuge. Now that its prayers have somehow faded from its pages, I cannot help but think that it is a sign that Avacyn has forsaken me.

My father has sent me on a mission for yet another of the weapons. I haven't the heart to tell him that each of these quests has proven to be near fatal. I cannot let him down—is it heresy to say that I fear his disappointment more than Avacyn's?

He has given me the name of a village: Hanweir. After a long journey, and a short battle with a band of brigands, I arrived this night to the shuttering of windows and closing of doors. Whether this place is cursed as its inhabitants believe remains to be seen. The curse of mistrust is flourishing, however.

So this book, once a place I went to for enlightenment, now becomes a place that will hopefully enlighten others. For I have little doubt that this is my final sortie. If I do not return, I pray to Avacyn that this book finds its way back home.

Father, if you are reading this, I am sorry for failing you.

* * *


* * *

(Letter from Pitre the Thatcher)

Dearest Lorelei,

You will not understand why I am leaving, which is why I have left in the night, this letter being my only explanation.

The awful truth is that I have not earned the town's accolades. The vampire I killed was just a whelp who I caught unawares while he was feeding on the chickens.

He didn't even see me, and that's how I was able to take his head off with my spade. I do not think he ever knew what happened!

When I took the head to the mayor, I was set on telling him the truth. Once he saw the fangs poking out from the horrid thing's mouth, he started a big fuss, and before I knew it, he dragged me out into the square and announced my supposed victory to all.

I've been caught up in all this mess, and living with the truth has driven me to near madness. I'm going to Erdwald in Nephalia to find a real vampire, and kill it. I cannot live with myself, nor marry you, until I have fulfilled the destiny that has been attributed to me.

Yours,

Pitre

11th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

* * *


* * *

(Letter from Pitre the Thatcher)

Dearest Lorelei,

It has been a harrowing journey, to be sure. Erdwald is so much bigger than Hanweir! I fear my life has ill prepared me for such a place as this.

I've been relieved of my meager kit by a gang of footpads that greeted me at the town's gates, saying they were "inspectors." They were out of sight before I realized they had fled with all I brought, save the clothes on my back.

Fear not my love! For adversity is the soil in which opportunity sprouts. I have taken in with the church, and they have greeted me with open arms! A priest has given me food and shelter, and only asks me to perform menial tasks in the upkeep of the church yards. It is a job I am all too well suited for!

Yet Avacyn has a plan, even for me! My priest has also been instructing me in the art of vampire hunting. I know it sounds dangerous, and it is, but you can be assured that when I return, you can hold your head up high as we march through the town in our wedding procession!

Yours,

Pitre

14th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Thatu Reiniger, Vampire Lord)

20th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

What do I truly gain from this shadow of an existence? Gold? Tribute? A nice house? I should have these things because I am Vampire. I should have these things because they are mine to have, not because I've bargained away my fangs for them.

These pathetic humans are as mewling infants. I grow tired of my arrangement. Indeed, what does the shepherd gain from dining with his sheep? I fear my impatience will soon overtake my honor and the agreement I've consented to will be dust. I fear still greater that this thought pleases me.

* * *


* * *

(Journal of Raben Amsel)

61st of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

A most enlightening day, indeed.

The town, appearing most deserted, was in fact filled with cowering peasants. I presented my patents to the mayor, a fattened calf named Jurgen. He eyed the scroll and waxed seals nervously, then relented to their obvious authority.

He then proceeded to stammer out the story of a local thatcher who had returned to the village after a journey, bleeding and near death. Once he had reached the chapel, he fell dead at its doorstep.

What came next confirmed my suspicions that this was the man I was sent to find. The mayor led me to the graveyard, where a grave ringed in red dirt resided. This blood-soaked grave could only be the final resting place of the man who had been kissed by the blade I seek.

To the sheer horror of the humble townsfolk, I ordered his body exhumed. There was much protest, but the power of the church prevailed and the digging commenced. The work proceeded until dusk, when the worker's shovels at last clanked against wood.

The simple casket was saturated with blood, its timbers nearly falling apart. Once opened, a bloody tide poured forth, to the screams and gasps of the gathered locals. Floating within, the headless body of Pitre the Thatcher rested.

Just as Father had told, his wound continued to pump forth blood. It is no wonder the people of this town feel they are cursed. After sketching the message that had been carved into his flesh, I had his remains purified by fire. May Avacyn show him the mercy that this life did not.

* * *

(Letter from Pitre the Thatcher)

Dearest Lorelei,

Day of days! My training is complete, and now I am on the trail of that most unholy of abominations—Vampire. The one I hunt is clever, there is no doubt. But I have faith on my side! Faith in Avacyn, faith in my training, and above all, faith in the truth that the blessed sleep is nothing compared to living a life with you.

Yours,

Pitre

23rd of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

* * *

(Letter from Pitre the Thatcher)

Lorelei,

I fear I have undertaken too much. I am writing this in a small tavern on the outskirts of town, and soon I will procure passage home, disgraced.

The vampire I would hunt was only toying with me, and now I find myself hunted. My only hope is to slip out of the thing's influence and return to my humble beginnings.

I no longer hold any hope of returning as the man you deserve, so I will be satisfied with being the thatcher whose services you may sometimes require and nothing more. If I return at all.

And if I do not, remember me well.

Once yours but no longer,

Pitre

25th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

* * *


* * *

(Journal of Raben Amsel)

62nd of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

The members of this village have been most begrudging in their assistance so far. I suspect this is due to my orders to exhume the poor thatcher, but it is something I have sensed since my arrival.

The only person who seemed to have any idea of where Pitre received his mortal wound was his betrothed, but she has fled the village to join a local monastery. After some pressure, her father finally allowed me to search her meager possessions.

It was in his letters to her that I have found my next destination: Erdwal, in Nephalia. Even as I write this, the stable-boy is preparing my horse and the house mother is packing my things. I haven't a minute to lose, as each that passes cools the trail.

* * *

(Letter from Thatu Reiniger)

15th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

Albrecht,

What delicious temptation I reside in!

This town has proven to be peopled with paradox. If the weapon is as Reika describes, it will be most useful to us. But oh for a mortal to test it out on! My complicity with the local nobility means that I cannot kill indiscriminately, and must only feed on the willing. Can you imagine that?

Last night my thralls at the city gates told me of a country rube that has come to town bent on my destruction. They have even seen him training with that insane priest!

What a gift that has fallen into my lap...a stranger who nobody here would miss, and sweeter still, has given me a reason to destroy him! Oh, to be back on the hunt again!

I believe I shall let him find me, let him think that he might succeed in his star-crossed quest. Disappointment makes the blood so delicious.

For your part, get the casks, troughs and hooks ready. If this sword does what I'm told it does, we shall soon have use for them.

In gilded eternity,

Thatu

* * *

(Journal of Raben Amsel)

75th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

I arrived in Erdwal two days ago. As distasteful as it may have been, I chose to use subterfuge to gain entrance to the town. Pitre's letters suggested that he had been accosted by thieves upon entrance; I therefore chose to enter on foot, wearing my tabard alone. To the complacent eye, I appeared to be a simple pilgrim or humble farmer, which is precisely the effect I wished to generate.

I was not disappointed.

The light of law has too many shadows in this town. No sooner had I entered that I was stopped by some grimy men wearing ragged uniforms that suggested their original owners had no further need for them.

I knew their greed would be my ally, so I had fixed a large pack to carry over my shoulder. Sure enough, this made me quite a target. They even abandoned their pilfering of a young woman to set their sights on me! Little victories such as this help feed my hungry soul.

"Halt!" their leader cried out to me. "Surrender your parcels for inspection!"

I stopped and said nothing. My silence was a noose that would trap them. The others surrounded me, and as their leader reached for my kit, I stiffened. This caused a ripple of fear to course through them, quickly hidden by their nervous laughter. These rogues were clearly not used to resistance.

"Fine. To the gaol with this one!" This is what I wanted; to lure them away from their familiar ground. I was grabbed by both elbows and pushed down a nearby alleyway. This was my chance.

Pulling the hidden sword from my robes, I rained blow after blow of righteous fury upon them. I shall write more tomorrow. Tonight I shall spend in prayer.

Raben

* * *

(Letter from Father Jofridus)

My son Raben,

I hope this letter finds you well. I heard of your victory in Kessig. Yes, many cathars fought at your side. But you were the strategist. The church is truly fortunate to have a warrior of your character and caliber.

I must call on you again, Raben. It's been a while since I burdened you with a quest. Perhaps you thought it was finally over. I know these missions are difficult and lonely. But they are crucial to our cause. It is absolutely necessary that you bring this evil weapon back to the church. As before, you are the only one that I trust with a matter of such delicacy.

The sword is named The Bloodletter. Flesh split by this blade never ceases to bleed, even after death. A demon has his eye on this sword. If he were to obtain it, it would mean the end of our church and our way of life.

Rumors of such a wound have reached my ears. The man's name was Pitre, and he hailed from Hanweir in Gavony. Discover where—and by whom—he was wounded, and follow the trail to The Bloodletter.

May Avacyn be with you on your journey.

Your loving father,

Jofridus

45th of Hunter's Moon, the year of Avacyn 719

* * *


* * *

(Letter from Reika Eberhardt)

Your most excellent Master Thatu,

I have something sure to interest one of your power and discerning taste. A relic of ancient power. Something so potent that it has been hidden away by those who one day hope to channel its power.

If this interests you, meet me at midnight on the 14th. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Yours in humble servitude,

Reika

13th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

* * *

(Personal journal of Reika Eberhardt)

7th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

Mama always said I'd come to no good. She was right. I took the Poniard's money.

I came so close to doubling my coin at Joiva's Gamehouse. But it's all turned to ashes.

I've got nothing except twice the debt I started with. If I don't pay up, the Order of the Poniard is coming for me.

They've already put up wanted signs naming me!

* * *

(Personal Journal of Reika Eberhardt)

10th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

But I could pay my debt . . .

No. I don't dare. If the cult discovered that I'd pilfered from the secret vault, it would be more than just my blood that was forfeit. I'll have to find another way.

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Reika Eberhardt)

12th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

They found my home. Carved into my door this morning was their sign: a poniard.

I'm marked. I have 3 days, assuming someone doesn't act on one their wanted broadsheets first. After that, I'm dead.

Unless I come up with the coin. I must act, damn the cult.

* * *

(Letter from Elder Adila Rimheit)

Reika,

I am so very proud of you! You have come so far from the frightened little girl I once knew you as. I know two things: you will go on to greatness, and the instructors at Elgaud will have their hands full!

May Avacyn watch over and guide you my dear,

Elder Rimheit

116th of New Moon, Ava. 714

* * *

(Personal Journal of Raben Amsel)

76th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

A deeper sleep I have never slept, but a sleep filled with frightening dreams I did not understand. A strangely dressed old man was angry with me.

As I had chronicled yesterday, the leader of the footpads survived our alleyway battle. I placed a foot on his chest as he lay on the cobblestones, and pointed my sword at his neck. I then demanded the knowledge I sought.

Not wanting to give too much away, I began by asking about the thatcher, but this was a dead end. He had assaulted so many that trying to get the details of one of his victims was futile. To speak of the cursed blade was too dangerous, especially to this one. I could justify killing the others, as they had clearly sought to end my life, but to kill this one as he lay in such a position of weakness could not be rectified. Of course, there was no reason for him to know this.

I pressed my foot into his chest and drew my blade back, intending to knock him unconscious. He turned his head in anticipation of the blow, and it was then that I saw it: the same mark that had been carved into Pitre's body. The mark of Thatu.

"Thatu" escaped my lips in pure astonishment, and the man's eyes grew wide with recognition. Seizing upon the moment, I said "Thatu sent me." Another transgression, but I pray a necessary one.

His lips curled in horror, and he finally gave me the information I needed to know.

Thatu has traveled to Stensia, to a place called Maalfeld. Stensia being a haven for Vampires, it is likely that he is one of them. The sword must be quite a treasure to his kind.

I left the wretch sleeping off his headache in the alleyway. May Avacyn show him the way.

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

83rd of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

Encountered a group of Falkenrath Marauders a two nights ago. I've been travelling by moonlight ever since crossing the border into Stensia, in order to be alert for nocturnal enemies.

A beautiful woman knelt, bleeding, in the middle of the road. I was suspicious, but the sound of her weeping bade my horse to stop, and I dismounted. It was then that the trap was sprung.

No less than 9 vampires descended upon from the trees, while the woman's weeping turned to laughter. I was outmatched and had little recourse but to tell them why I was here.

"My quarrel is with but one of you. I seek out the Vampire named Thatu, and the blade he carries."

Their jovial faces turned quite serious, and at this I held fears that I had said too much. A tense moment passed, then the leader nodded to his band and they departed as quickly as they had appeared. The woman stared at me, wide-eyed until she joined her cohorts in the inky blackness of the forest.

I do not know if these brigands communicate with each other, but I do know that the rest of my journey to Maalfeld was unhindered. Tomorrow, I enter Thatu's castle.

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Thatu Reiniger)

36th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

I'm afraid Albrecht is no more.

I had met him in Stensia, as was our plan, and showed him the magical sword. He reached for it, taking it in his hand blade-first. As he hefted its weight, the blade slid through his grasp, cutting his hand. The sight was almost comical.

Albrecht smiled, then his expression melted into one of anguish. His wounded hand began to shrink and shrivel. Slowly, his body shriveled up as if every drop of blood in him was being sucked out. A scream escaped his lips and he fell to the floor, the silver blade clanging against the stones.

To the living, this blade causes eternal bleeding. To the eternal, it causes final death. Albrecht's calamity has revealed the sword's true power to me. Perhaps they will finally give me a seat on the council.

* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

85th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

A sleepless night followed by a sleepless day. Last night I met the vampire named Thatu.

I found his estate to be suspiciously unguarded. The dust-riddled skeletons of dead vampires surrounded the entrance, their fanged skulls being the only evidence of their former immortality.

Father, I drew the sword you had made for me. Its sigils and lines brought a familiar comfort to this unholy place. My footfalls sounded like the march of a phalanx in the silence that surrounded me, and I was sure I would be beset upon at any moment.

I found him sitting at the end of a long, dark dining gallery, papers and books spread before him. Had I no knowledge of who he was, I might have taken pity on him. He seemed so small, sitting all alone in that massive room.

I could see the blade resting against his golden chair. Then, as if he could sense me eyeing his treasure, the creature leapt into the air and swung the sword at my chest.

The battle was hard-fought. I had learned in training that the first cut of a swordfight was the most painful. It was meant to inure us to the fear of the blade. I myself have been cut many times in battle. But now I could not allow even a single slice to get past my defenses.

His swings were wild and unfocused, and it was then that I realized he was fighting for his dignity, not for his life. For reasons I still cannot fully understand, this creature wanted me to kill him. Strangely, this revelation made him less of an enemy to me, but an enemy nonetheless.

I pray for Avacyn's forgiveness, for I obliged his wish. As he lay on the tiled floor looking up at me, he said words that haunt me still: "This is the blade that will kill your father. Bringing it to him will seal his fate!"

* * *

(Letter from Samson, vampire guard captain)

84th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

Einrich,

For years, you have been loyal to your lord Thatu. Out of respect for this service, I do not ask you what I'm about to lightly. But you have seen the path Thatu would lead us down. That sword is cursed, and it can only lead to all our doom. None of us should hold that much sway over the blood. We must work together to eradicate it.

You've done well to protect your lord all these years, but now you must act to protect our kind. Or rather, not act. Even now, a human crusader travels to confront Thatu. I do not know if he is protected by faith or just unfathomably stupid, but I have heard the whispers just as you have: he may be able to triumph where we could not. Ironic that his human weakness should prove a strength against that foul blade.

Under normal circumstances, this human couldn't get within half-a-day's journey without your righteous guards feasting on his "stout" heart, but these are not normal times. You must offer no resistance to this human. Let him find your lord in his chambers and issue his challenge.

When Thatu falls . . . if Thatu falls, you would be welcomed back into our house as a hero, brother.

Samson

* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

87th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

This sword is a most unnatural object. I have covered it in a swatch of leather so that there will be no possibility of accidental contact. The times that I have touched its surface, it felt warm and alive, pulsing with evil energies.

I was severely fatigued after the battle with the creature, but I had the presence of mind to confiscate some of its papers that lay spread out on the table. I knelt in prayer, thanking Avacyn for my victory, and then walked out as easily as I walked in. I do not pretend to understand these creatures, nor their enigmatic motives, but clearly I have been allowed entry into this realm, and I was allowed out.

I made camp a few hours ago, as the sun rose. I rifled through the pages I took from Thatu, trying to divine some meaning from their bombastic prose, when a single word leaped off the parchment and pierced my mind: Reika.

She was a fellow initiate at Elgaud, and was dismissed under charges of theft. I did not believe them at the time, for I had known her to be a gentle soul that was still fierce in battle. Has she fallen so far?

I must return to Erdwal and find her. I will give her the benefit of the doubt until I can hear her own account of things.

* * *


* * *

(Letter from the mayor of Trostad)

Bishop Dartan:

This is the fourth letter I've sent to Thraben Cathedral in search of assistance. There will not be a fifth. Actually, I am hoping I live long enough to complete this letter.

On the west side of Trostad, near the graveyard, a vile ghoulcaller named Gisa practices her foul arts, raising the bodies of our loved ones into twisted undead horrors. On the east side of the city, her brother Geralf is holed up in some laboratory he has created inside the smithy. He is not just raising our ancestors whole, he is stitching together skaabs, some as tall as three men, bent on utter destruction.

They are fighting each other and they shall not stop! You must make them stop! Why are they fighting here? Our city is almost lost. Please, send cathars. All of them.

Jolen, mayor of Trostad

44th of Harvest Moon, Ava. 716

* * *

(Invitation from Thatu)

Friends,

I know that my name is not spoken of highly in your houses. Perhaps not at all. But I assure you, that is all about to change. Bear with me; this missive may be overly exuberant, but I daresay that once you know of my news, you shall see such excitement is justified.

For centuries, the humans' church has protected them, restricting your hunting and feeding activities. Your bloodthirst has been muted; your birthright squandered. No longer! Their protection wanes and weakens, and the time for vampire ascendance is now. I will lead the charge!

How many times have you captured and fed upon an attractive young human, only to kill them because they proved to be malnourished or careless or some other excuse? It is tiresome and annoying, yes? But what if I told you that you could now feed eternally on a single victim? What if I told you that I have found the way to dominate the blood trade forever?

In three days, I will be hosting a gathering of all vampire lords in the region to secure our future. Under my leadership, the days of mere survival will quickly come to an end. Under my guidance, vampires will dominate not just parts of Innistrad, but all of it. Under my sword, those who would oppose us will paint the ground red.

Join me.

Thatu

38th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

92nd of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

I arrived in Erdwal just past midday. I rode through the gates on horseback, wearing my Cathar's tabard with my sword at my side. I saw the group that had accosted me upon my previous entry, though their leader, Thatu's thrall, was nowhere to be seen.

Thoughts of Reika plague me. I cannot help but think that I could have done more to help her avoid the path that she is on. Perhaps if I had been a more attentive friend. Perhaps if I had returned her feelings.

In the end, each person's soul is weighed alone, so I cannot bear hers as well as mine. She needs no help on the battlefield, so I cannot presume she needed my help before. But still, am I not here to hold up the worthy to Avacyn?

I shall begin the search in the morning. Tonight I seek a cell in the odd structure that passes for a church in this town.

* * *

(Personal journal of Reika Eberhardt)

30th of Harvest Moon, Ava. 716

I've shamed myself. I stole something from a merchant today. Just a pretty trinket, nothing that I need. I've never stolen anything before. I don't even understand why I did it. What is happening to me?

* * *

(Letter from Geralf, necromancer of the moors and brother to Gisa)

My dear Gisa,

Must you always cheat?

We AGREED on rules of conduct. The Five Laws of NecroWarfare:

1. No spontaneous awakenings.
2. No luring, killing, and raising of bystanders or livestock.
3. Combatants face off at a predetermined place and time.
4. Combatants must have at least three limbs to play.
5. Headquarters are off limits.

You cannot raise ghouls mid battle! You must send your army to meet me in the valley. Do not flank me! Do not sneak up behind me!

Legless torsos do not count as soldiers. My skaabs have teeth marks all over their legs from your draggy little meat sacks. Oh, I want my sextant back. And do not come into my laboratory again!

You signed in blood. So it counts.

Geralf

56th of New Moon, Ava. 717

* * *

(Letter from Raben Amsel)

Reika,

I am so glad that you received the commendation. I know that we were the final two candidates for the honor, but I truly believe it went to the one who deserved it. You are a most worthy servant of Avacyn. I look forward to training with you in the new year.

Your friend,

Raben

80th of New Moon, Ava. 715

* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

93rd of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

The priest in this church has, I'm afraid, gone quite insane. He was overly joyed to see me, and he almost fell on his face in an attempt to welcome me to his church. Apparently he has not gotten a great many visits here.

He fills every moment he can with useless prattle about the gangs, and the vampire menace. Some people are a drain on the energies, and I must take care not to let him siphon more than he already has.

That is not to say that he has been useless. He was able to start me on my hunt today which has, so far, proven quite fruitful. The priest directed me to a tavern called "The Wolf's Head," complete with the stuffed head of a dog over the bar for effect. The innkeeper had seen Reika, though he was elusive as to where. He seemed afraid to tell me the truth, and not even my standing as a Cathar seemed to sway him.

Fortunately—or rather, most unfortunately in the grand scheme of things—those who do not respect the church still respect the coin. He ushered me to a corner of the tavern, swore me to not reveal him as the source of my information, and then he told me about the pits.

Reika has apparently been captured, and is working off her debts by fighting in the pits for sport. I felt a strange sort of elation at this knowledge. I know where she is, and most importantly, I know she is safe.

Woe to the foolhardy pit fighter who would underestimate her!

* * *

(Letter from Gisa, ghoulcaller of the moors)

Father,

While I mourn the loss of the manor, you cannot say I did not warn you. Geralf is a simpering, insane idiot. If it had not been a fire, it would have been an explosion. You should have forbade his alchemical experiments years ago and locked him in the attic.

And no, he did not get the body parts from me. As you know, I would never share any choice bits with that priggish little snot. Maybe he stole them—I thought I recognized Meyer's severed arm. But he should not have been in the basement anyway. I have warned him many times to listen or I would cut off his ears.

It was around 3:30 when one of his second-rate skaabs came lurching into Mother's parlor. Father, it was laughably pathetic. It stumbled into the fireplace and lit the room ablaze. Poor little Geralf scampered about the room like a squirrel without even the brains to stamp out the sparks.

I wanted a baby sister! With a red ribbon in her hair. Why did you ruin our lives with HIM?

Your firstborn by an hour,

Gisa

45th of New Moon, Ava. 715

* * *

(Letter from Reika Eberhardt)

Dear Elder Rimheit,

Thank you for your kind letter. Of course I understood why you didn't come to my graduation. I would never expect you to come back to Thraben. Not after what happened to Elsi. I think of her every full moon. I wish I had gotten to meet your beautiful red-haired daughter.

I seek your council. You know how I loved my studies at Elgaud Grounds. And I was honored for the placement to the cathedral. But I feel lost here. No one guides me. Everything is formal and cold. I'm so close to the angels—I see them daily soaring above the cathedral. But the light of Avacyn has never felt so far away.

Your faithful student,

Reika

17th of Harvest Moon, Ava. 716

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

94th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

I am on the road once again. Or I should say, we are on the road.

Last night I found Reika fighting in the pit, just as the innkeeper had described. I wore my travel attire so as to not arouse suspicion. I paid my entry fee and sat as Reika made short work of a mountain of a man wielding two hammers. While it was good to see that my old friend had not forgotten her lessons from Elgaud, the joy of the crowd at this vulgar proceeding left me most unsettled. There is enough free misery in this world. To profit from it seems a special sort of blasphemy to me.

Finding her after the fight proved almost futile. I had to show the pitmaster my patents, and once again set a bargain with an enemy. I would not disclose his blood-ridden enterprise, and he would permit me to take Reika with me.

Our reunion was one part joy mixed with two parts urgency, for she had much to tell me. Her revelation spurred me to leave Erdwal immediately, and to take the most direct route possible to Thraben Cathedral. This route takes us straight through the moors. Not ideal, but my father must hear what I have heard.

[THE FOLLOWING IS WRITTEN HASTILY]

Reika is calling for me.

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Reika Eberhardt)

31st of Harvest Moon, Ava. 716

I did it again. Coins from Cathar Trinar. He acts like I am beneath him. Like I am only Kessig scum. He comes from a landed family in Nearheath. A few coins mean nothing to him. I never knew how arrogant people from Gavony really are.

* * *

(Letter from Geralf, necromancer of the moors)

My dear Gisa,

I cannot abide your poor sportsmanship any longer.

I am adding a new rule to the Rules of NecroWarfare:

6. No magical swords.

If you have one, then I should have one. But, as you know, I DO NOT. I implore you, sister. Your wretched sword ruins everything.

Geralf

* * *


* * *

(Letter from Geralf, necromancer of the moors)

Dear Father Whom I Adore,

You taught me to speak frankly, and I have always heeded your advice. It was Gisa's fault. She alone burned down our ancestral manor.

It pains me to reveal your only daughter's true nature. You always gave her the best in life, far better than me. But I was happy to be the shadow to her blazing sun.

You must not blame yourself that one of your offspring (her!) took such a macabre interest in the grave. Nor was it a tainted bloodline, for I share that blood, and I have none of the obsessions of ghoulcalling.

Here is the stark truth: I heard a bloodcurdling scream coming from the basement. Gisa sprinted up the stairs with a ghoul swiping at her heels. I fought bravely as she cowered, but it overcame me. It was only by sheer force of will that I was able to carry Gisa out on my shoulders as it smashed the room to bits—the scraps igniting a fire—which sadly took the entire manor.

Please father. Punish Gisa for her gruesomeness if you must, but permit me back into the fold.

Your ever obedient son,

Geralf the Third

45th of New Moon, Ava. 715

* * *

(Letter from Father Jofridus)

34th of New Moon, Ava. 704

Greetings Master Cathar,

I commend you on the quality of last year's graduating class. The martial academy of Elgaud remains the sharpest sword in Avacyn's armory because of your unwavering service.

Which is why I am writing.

I implore you to admit the young man bearing this letter, and train him as a disciple of Avacyn. I have looked into his heart. I have seen all that he is, and all that he could be. He is an ideal candidate for Elgaud. In him I foresee a future cathar who may eventually stand with the Church's finest champions.

I saved him from brutal life of thieving on the streets, a life about to end dangling from a militia's hanging rope. I saved him in the name for the Church. For that, prayers to Avacyn now spring from his lips. I want the same to be true for a weapon to his hands, wielded in her name. Please do me this favor, and more: treat him as if he were my own son.

Father Jofridus, Citadel of Avacyn

* * *

(Letter from Gisa, ghoulcaller of the moors)

Must you always whine?

I agreed to nothing.

1. I shall raise ghouls anytime I wish. You are just mad because you have to run back to your sewing machine while I can just whistle them up from the grave.
2. If a farmer is stupid enough to check out a creepy light, then he deserves to be killed with a shovel and become my servant.
3. A predetermined place and time? What is this, a tea party?
4. Those so-called "meat sacks" are models of efficiency. You cannot even make a skaab walk without giving it 17 different body parts.
5. I didn't take your stupid sextant.

As always, you lack the brains of an infant,

Gisa

58th of New Moon, Ava. 717

P.S. I never said it was my blood.

P.P.S I want Father's book. Kill as many of my emissaries as you like. I shall make more until you hand it over. And next time, they will be bringing gifts.

* * *

(Letter from Gisa, ghoulcaller of the moors)

Geralf,

I like my sword. When I hold it, I can feel it breathing. It is glorious. And you will never get your dirty little fingers on it.

In fact, I am holding it right now. And it puts me in the mood for a festive new game called Kill the SkaabMob.

Give up. You lose.

Gisa

* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

95th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

We have finally found respite in this strange land. I had known the moors to be a dangerous place; but I had not known this first-hand. My last entry was interrupted by Reika shouting at me, and as I emerged from the cairn we had made camp in, I saw why.

We were beset on all sides by every manner of walking dead. Twisted, vile creatures writhed and moaned as they lurched towards us. Some had been stitched together to form unholy abominations, while others were just pitiful folk who had not been permitted the blessed sleep.

I had learned how to fight these creatures when I trained at Elgaud, but I had never met them in battle. Their sad gurgling noises frayed at my nerves, but I summoned my energies and hefted my sword. I could not tell how many there were, but my training taught me to fight the enemy in front of me before fighting unseen ones. With a shout, I entered the fray.

I would like to report that I had laid waste to the unbreathing horde, but this was not to be. I cut many of them down, but their numbers seemed to be ceaseless, and for each body I returned to the ground there were three to take its place.

I lost track of Reika, but she had evidently ran back into the cairn. When I finally found her again, she was wielding the Bloodletter. My anger welled up inside of me, but was soon surpassed by awe: the sword was especially effective against the undead. Whenever its cursed blade touched a zombie, the thing fell to the ground instantly, shriveling up as if the sun had baked it. Reika cut a gory swath through our enemies, and I have to admit to being struck by her beauty as she waded through the sea of claws and teeth. Perhaps this is why the vampires would not attack me in Stensia.

My rhapsodic episode would be short lived; for no sooner had I witnessed the gruesome effectiveness of the weapon, than a huge rotting fensnake darted towards her, took the sword in its panoply of teeth and slithered away like lightning. I felt the ground beneath me shift as the object of my quest disappeared in to the night.

No doubt we would have been overwhelmed, but for the kindness of Geralf, a young man of these parts. He ran to us waiving a torch, and the undead seemed to be dazzled by his sudden appearance. He has taken us back to his manor house and given us shelter for the night.

Father, I fear all of this has been in vain. I pray that Reika's knowledge of the blasphemy under Thraben Cathedral will not reach your ears too late.

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Reika Eberhardt)

96th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

I almost lost Raben's sword. It was pure luck that we got it back. As always, everything I do is a failure. Have my mistakes marred me forever? Do good men like Raben look at me and know what I am? My shame feels heavy and endless, like a yoke I will never be free from.

Despite the uncertainty, I am more hopeful than I have been in ages. If I help Raben, perhaps the church will forgive me. Perhaps I could be reinstated as a cathar. I see the way Raben looks at me sometimes. But then he quickly looks away. Perhaps once we have completed this task, I will be worthy to hold his gaze.

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

Deposition of Reika Eberhardt
Taken this 98th of Hunter's Moon
In the year of Avacyn 719
By Cathar Adept Raben Amsel

It was near the 40th of Harvest moon back in 716. I had been sent to Thraben Cathedral after completing my training at Elgaud at the beginning of the year. I had grown tired of the sterile routine of the place, and I began wandering the grounds at night.

It was on such a night that I noticed a man walking behind one of the ruined statues in the ash garden and not emerge as expected moments later. I went to the statue and could not find anything suspicious. I then noticed that the stones at the statue's base had been moved recently, and it was underneath them that I found the passageway.

The small tunnel went down for a ways, then leveled off and went in a direction that I believed to be straight towards the cathedral. I crept along cautiously, since the whole place felt cold and unnatural. When I came to the tunnel's end, I saw a huge chamber that looked like a natural cave. I could hear water but I did not see any.

In the center of the chamber, I saw nine men wearing robes. They were surrounding an altar and chanting in a language I did not understand. One of them raised a dagger, and brought it down quickly. I then heard a scream. I became very frightened and ran out of the cave.

Two nights later I returned. The men were gone, but I saw the fruits of their labor: several weapons, carved out of a type of silver I have never seen.

I swear an oath that these are my words, and that they bear the truth.

[SIGNATURE OF REIKA EBERHARDT]

* * *

(Personal journal of Reika Eberhardt)

38th of Harvest Moon, Ava. 716

I have taken to wandering the cathedral grounds at night. The other students gather in the Buttery, but they do not like me. I wish Raben was here, but in the end he did not seem to like me either.

Tonight I will investigate the ash garden.

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

97th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

It has been a long two days, but we are on the road to Thraben once more, sword in hand.

I had explained to Geralf the importance of getting the sword back, and he explained that it must now be in the hands of none other than his sister. She was an insane necromancer, he explained, and had been terrorizing the moors with her army of undead for years. He was merely here to stem the tide of her designs and eventually stop her.

Our ally gave us food and shelter, and I admit I have never dined so well in all my days. I tried to sleep, to rest after the battle at the moors, but my brain was plagued by my failure.

Last night, we were invited to a feast by our gracious host, and at this feast we would learn the true nature of our benefactor. We were led into a grand hall, with a long dining table set in the middle of it. I expected the hall to be filled with the village's inhabitants, and in the strictest sense of the term, I was correct. Geralf announced our presence with a flourish, and our would-be dinner companions looked up from their plates.

Each one was a stitched congregation of stolen parts, an arm here, a lip there. Some had been made to resemble the humans they once were, while others were more grotesque sculptures of flesh, with four arms or twin torsos.

Geralf beamed with pride, and clearly sought our approval at such a display. Reika made no noise, but as I glanced at her I could tell we shared the thought: it was time to leave.

I had to decide how to extract ourselves from this ridiculous event without raising this insane man's ire. As fate would have it, the decision was made for me. The windows suddenly shattered, and another dripping horde of undead poured through.

This time, they were accompanied by a woman I could only assume was Geralf's sister, since she was wielding the Bloodletter and shouting commands to her army. Once she saw Geralf, her anger took a new focus.

She demanded a book—pointing at the mantle where indeed, a skin-covered book was set, open to a page covered in crimson symbols. The undead of both sides commenced to battle while the two siblings began to partake in childish bickering over who owns the book.

Reika took this chance to simply walk over and grab the book, dangling it over the fire. Brother and sister stopped their argument and both let out a shriek that stopped each of their undead armies mid-swing.

"Give Raben the sword or your precious book will be no more than ashes!"

Perhaps there is hope for Reika yet.

* * *


* * *

(Letter from Reika Eberhardt)

Dear Elder Rimheit,

I desperately need your help. I found something here in Thraben. It is something that I must talk to you about as soon as I can. Please, can you send me coin to come home?

Your faithful student,

Reika

39th of Harvest Moon, Ava. 716

* * *

(Personal Journal of Raben Amsel)

99th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

I cannot be sure if I am being objective when it comes to Reika. It is true that she had feelings for me back in our days of training at Elgaud. I have never admitted before that I had the same feelings. I only write this now so that my words can be judged alongside the heart that wrote them.

If I were but a simple thatcher, I could have lived a life with her.

* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

101st of Hunter's Moon, 719.

Time is not measured by days, but by who we were when it passed us.

I write these words yet I do not know why. What is the purpose? All that I know has been an illusion. I have built my house on a pile of stinging salt.

Is this real? They say the dead dream too. Perhaps I am dreaming.

If I am dead, then I am haunting these pages with the truth. If I am alive, the truth will haunt me forever.

Where to begin? We arrived in Thraben yesterday, and I bade Reika to wait in the narthex while I gave Jofridus the sword. How strange it is to write his name now.

He touched my brow in blessing, then took the cursed sword and set it on his desk. I then told him I had far worse news, and that he should hear it from a witness. I called Reika into Jofridus's chamber.

Those were the last minutes of my former life.

She walked through the door, and from the look on her face, I knew that something was terribly wrong. "YOU!" she shouted, and before I could react, she lunged across the room at Jofridus.

I expected him to be surprised at this sudden attack, but he looked completely unshaken, as if he expected it.

"I saw you kill that woman under the cathedral!" Reika was shaking with anger, as she took Jofridus by the shoulders and began shaking him. To my astonishment, Jofridus grasped her by the throat and threw her to the ground as if she was made of paper. How could such an old man display such strength? I would soon find out.

I made a step to intervene, but it was a step too late. Reika jumped back up and charged him. Jofridus calmly removed the sword from its leather wrappings, and thrust it through her belly.

I still do not know if the scream I heard was hers or mine.

I will not write anymore tonight. I would pray, but I've wasted enough breath.

I think I hear them coming. Perhaps I will let them find me.

* * *


* * *

(Letter from Raben Amsel)

Reika,

I have heard unbelievable rumors about you. I am loath to listen to idle chatter, as you know. But I am concerned about you. I heard you were accused of theft. I refuse to believe that you are capable of it.

There is a man at Thraben Cathedral who I consider to be my father. His name is Jofridus, and I urge you to seek him out and ask his counsel. He will be able to help you with this matter.

I am sorry for the way we parted. I should have answered your letter. Of course I consider you my friend, Reika. But I have pledged my life to Avacyn and serving the church. I cannot let anything distract me, or I fear I would fall, once again, into ruin.

Your friend,

Raben

57th of Harvest Moon, Ava. 716

Category: Undeliverable

Signed: Master Hantsen, postmaster of Thraben.

* * *

(Letter from unknown sender)

118th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 718

H,

K.R.'s wife came to see me today. She says he was taken by the militia last night. They have him in the stocks outside the River Barracks. She will plead to the Master Cathar this morning. So far, she does not want me to intervene.

Please notify I. B. and Whip. I will arrange for a food package to be delivered to the barracks.

Watch yourself, friend.

A.R.

* * *


* * *

(Letter from Holger Burk, Master Silversmith)

41st of Harvest Moon, Ava. 718

My Dearest Adalee,

Another success! I know my absence has been trying—for both of us—but I believe that another 20 days of travels will ensure that I will not need to leave our home for another year!

My bargain with the Thalbergs has reached a conclusion, and now I must take the news, and contracts, to their associates along the Kappel road on the outskirts of Kessig. Werewolf attacks have been increasing steadily, and they need my wares and knowledge to help them survive.

I know what you must be thinking, and yes, it is not a trip without risks. But think of the reward! To be able to spend a harvest festival and New Moon feast with you and the children, and all the days in between! Jana and Mikel have not had a pair of birthdays without my taking leave in between them. I miss them, and you, dearly.

Whenever I see moonlight sparkling on the ring I wear, I know that yours must be sparkling too.

I love you always,

Holger

* * *


* * *

(Letter from Bishop Waechter, of Thraben Cathedral)

66th of Harvest Moon, Ava. 711

Elder Rimheit,

Your station may not be as remote as you would think. Word has reached us regarding your efforts toward finding a cure for lycanthropy. We find this disturbing, indeed. Rumors of werewolves taking sanctuary within your parish are now common amongst the populace. This cannot be abided. As a representative of the Church of Avacyn, it is your duty to protect us against such evil, not offer it asylum.

Given your family history, it is understandable why you would take this course of action, and I am sure your goals are honorable. However, it is dangerous and irresponsible. You must cease this activity at once and take steps to secure your walls.

Inquisitor Mauer has requested permission to investigate. I have advised him that is will not be necessary. I trust you would agree.

Bishop Waechter

Church of Avacyn

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

101st of Hunter's Moon, 719

I had thought that my training with the church had lifted me above my criminal upbringing. Now that I am a fugitive, I have returned to those treacherous ways all too quickly. Today I have lied, and I have stolen. We are all fruit that is never very far from the tree.

I fear I must write more of what happened that night in Jofridus's chambers. Perhaps a stronger man than I will someday read these words, and he must hear the truth. I mourn the veil of denial that used to cloak me in its comforting warmth.

After he murdered Reika, Jofridus turned to me with a fervor I had never seen before burning in his eyes. I was stunned into silence, a shame I carry still. Reika deserved a better eulogy than that.

My world was slowly shifting under my feet. I felt as if I could not stand. My face was wet with tears, and yet a smoldering anger was welling up inside of me. Jofridus could see it in my face, and he made a move to step between me and Reika's crumpled body.

Let her go, he said, let her go and join me. You can fight for Avacyn for millennia, for eternity, he said. He peeled back his vestments to reveal a twisted metal yoke that had burned its way into the flesh around his neck and chest. I have one for you, he said, all you have to do is take it. Take it and live forever.

Living for an eternity suddenly seemed like a damnable chore.

No words could find their way across my lips. I simply turned my back on him. He shouted for his guards, and declared me heretic. He said he had proof that I had been worshipping demons underneath the cathedral. It was this final act of betrayal that left no doubt in my mind that the man I had thought of as my father all these years—the man that had pulled me from the dirt and gave me this life—that man was dead. In his place was this thing in front of me.

I realized that there could be no proving my case in Thraben. The cathedral that I had been named after would be a prison if I was to stay. I had no choice but to run. And run is what I have done these past days.

If there is an Avacyn, may she guide me to justice.

* * *

(Letter from Adila Rimheit)

64th of New Moon, Ava. 699

Bishop Martyn,

I have given our discussion careful consideration. While I appreciate your concerns, I am resolved to accept the position of parish priest in North Kessig. Given the recent tragedy in my family, I am inclined to return to the province of my birth and the place where my family takes their Blessed Sleep.

Hardship has not lessened by faith. I assure you that the death of my daughter will not affect my service to Avacyn. In fact, I now understand the church in a way I never did before.

Adila Rimheit,

Priest of Kessig

* * *


* * *

(Letter from Holger Burk)

54th of Harvest Moon, Ava 718

My Dearest Adalee,

I fear my trip will take longer than I expected. The werewolf attacks of the last full moon decimated three of the villages along the Kappel road, and I barely escaped with my life.

Fear not my love! I fought as bravely as you would expect, and am now convalescing while my minor wounds heal. It may be harvest moon before I can return. I also may find it difficult to write anymore, as all couriers have stopped riding through this area. It was only by sheer chance that I found the fleeing merchant who will hopefully deliver this to you.

I know this may sound bleak, but I will be walking through the door of our manor before your tears have dried on this page, I promise you! Until then, kiss Jana and Mikel on the forehead for me, and tell them their father loves them very much.

Forever your husband,

Holger

* * *

(Personal journal of Adila Rimheit)

104th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

Reika is dead. Just like Elsi, she died without me. She died in Thraben, that wretched city of sorrows. I wish I could curse it and shatter its walls. I would turn it into a lair for werewolves, if I could.

Like Elsi, her body is lost. The world devours my daughters and spits horrors back into my face. Yet I sit staring at the wall, these words like blood pouring from my fingertips. I hate myself for lingering here. And yet, what should I do? Throw myself upon the ground and weep? Blame Avacyn? Mourn all the murdered who prowl the endless night? No, that path is the death of the soul.

Find hope, stand up, and help the ones you can.

* * *

(Letter from Elsi Rimheit, daughter of Adila Rimheit)

118th of Harvest Moon, Ava. 699

Dear Mama,

I miss you! Grandfather says we will go to Thraben soon, but I'd rather you just come home. We went picking blackberries yesterday. Remember last year when I filled two buckets? This year I filled three! Grandfather says you would have been proud of me.

There were wolves outside last night. I could hear them snuffling on the other side of my wall. I was so scared without you. Grandmother tucked me in, but she doesn't make the blankets the way you do.

Please come home soon!

Love,

Elsi

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

102nd of Hunter's Moon, 719

I have found refuge in a small village in Kessig. I don't know its name. I sold the sword Jofridus had made for me, and I have found room and board above a stable.

It was here that I finally opened Reika's pack and inspected its contents. I told myself that I was looking for money, or any item that could aid in my survival, but the truth is that I simply missed her. Her cloak still smelled of her, like flowers after a rain. Reika, I failed you so long ago, and only now do I feel the pain of your absence.

Her journal revealed to me a name: Elder Rimheit. Reika clearly saw her as a mother figure, even though like me she never knew her true roots. I hope this Rimheit proves to be a true mentor, and not like the puppet father I once knew.

Word of my status has not yet reached Kessig, so I must act quickly. This elder may hear my words differently if she knows I am branded heretic. But hear my words she must, for Reika's death cannot go untold. This woman, whomever she may be, was the closest thing Reika had to a family. As such, she deserves to mourn Reika as much as I do. No, I have not earned the right to mourn her yet.

In the morning I shall leave this place and seek out Elder Rimheit.

* * *


* * *

(Letter from unknown sender)

121st of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 718

H.

Disregard my former correspondence. They are using K.R. as a detector at the village gate. They are searching for false silver. Please advise me on the ramifications for us. Or better yet, come as soon as you get this.

A.R.

* * *


* * *

(Letter from Jorgin Rimheit, father of Elder Rimheit)

23rd of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 699

Adila,

We will be in Thraben in less than two days. Elsi has been afflicted. Bitten or wounded by an abomination. The priest has already accused her. We must get her out of Kessig.

I'm bringing you your daughter, and by the power of church, you must protect her.

Your father,

Jorgin Rimheit

* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

103rd of Hunter's Moon, 719

Ereschstag, the town of Elder Rimheit's parish, was a short ride on a stolen horse. I never thought I would be chronicling my own crimes, yet once this is over I will gladly hand over the evidence of my sins and pay the price. It is the only way I can redeem my name.

I found the church easily enough, as a group of pilgrims were marching in slow progression towards it. I fell in line with them, and walked that lonely walk that is only possible when surrounded by strangers. Twilight was taking over as the sun lost yet another battle with the moon.

To my surprise, the procession turned just before it was about to ascend the church's steps, instead filing into a gated opening leading to the catacombs underneath. A strange custom of Kessig, was all I thought upon entering.

I heard a metal clanking sound ahead of me, and that was when I noticed that the catacombs had been refitted to form some sort of prison. Stranger still, this sullen congregation had begun locking themselves in, one per cell.

So much twisted reality had assaulted my brain over the past few days that I can never be sure if I am dreaming or not. It was then that one of the self-imposed prisoners spoke.

"You don't belong here. I suggest you leave—for your own sake!"

Just then I heard the unmistakable sound of stone grinding on stone, and I looked down the ragged hallway to see a heavy door rolling into place. I started to run, but it was futile. I would soon learn the nature of this charnel house.

It started as an agonizing scream. The people in the cells began to twitch and convulse, as gurgling noises permeated the cavern. The man who had warned me was now staring intently at me, as the body around his eyes began to twist and contort.

The sickly sound of ligament being torn and flesh being stretched was unbearable. As disgusting as it was, I could not look away. I watched as the man's humble form twisted and bent into that of the werewolf. The screams and gurgles were soon replaced by howls.

At every cell, clawed hands slashed at the air, intent on flaying the flesh from my bones. I had fought these creatures before, but only when the numbers favored us. Now I was but one piece of meat in a hall of hunters.

The jail bars had clearly been reinforced to contain these things, but I did not know if it would contain their strength at being so close to food.

I found myself kneeling in prayer. Perhaps I have not lost all of my faith.

In the morning, the guards that rolled the stone door open greeted me with a blow to the head.

* * *


* * *

(Letter from Adalee Burk)

76th of Hunter's Moon, Ava 718

Holger,

I received all the letters I wrote you, unopened. Why have you shunned me so? I know about your condition, and I do not care. I want my husband back—your children want their father! I know you think you are protecting us, but at least break this curse of silence and write to me!

The common wisdom is that there is no cure for werewolves. But who are we to make such definitive statements, when so much in our world remains undiscovered?

I have scoured the library, and have made as many inquiries as I dare, and have come up with a possibility. There is a church in Kessig that is rumored to be harboring werewolves, giving them shelter and also looking for a cure! I beg you, find your way to Ereschstag, for it is believed to be there. They have not yet found a cure, but if you would only stay there perhaps you can benefit from their research.

You see my love? This need not be the end of our story. There is hope.

Hope is all we have. My hope of seeing you again helps me to keep a brave face for our children.

Your Adalee

* * *

For Crimes against
THE HOLY CHURCH OF AVACYN
Consisting of
Aiding and abetting a known Werewolf
Bearing false witness to a representative of the church
And fleeing justice in connection with said crimes,
JORGIN RIMHEIT
Is hereby sentenced to
DEATH
This sentenced to be carried out on
87th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 699
Where he shall be hanged by the neck until dead
Though he has turned his back on her,
May AVACYN show him mercy in death

* * *


* * *

(Personal Journal of Adila Rimheit)

104th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

I will not let grief paralyze me. I must approach this with a rational eye. Here is what I know:

We captured a man last night. I thought he was a cathar spying on our hostel. He was indeed a cathar, but he is a fugitive from the church. He calls himself Raben, named for the city of sorrows itself.

I always believed that Jofridus was a pompous, disingenuous fool. Now, I know he is far worse—a corrupt heretic. And if Raben's account is true, he murdered my daughter.

Raben saw Reika die. I think he loved her.

When I look at Raben, I want to weep. It is as if he is balancing on the sharp edge of a blade. One wrong move, and he will fall from grace.

Although Raben is fragile, inaction will be the end of him. So I gave him these commands: Go to Thraben. Capture Jofridus and take him to the Lunarch. Unveil the corruption in the belly of the church.

And bring me back my daughter.

These actions can save him. But if things go awry, only Avacyn will be able to lift his burden.

* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

104th of Hunter's Moon, 719

Elder Rimheit has made her case. Make this right, she says. I know her life has not been easy, which is why such a reductive viewpoint surprises me so. It is not as simple as making things right. It never is.

What would she have me do? Expose Jofridus for the demon-worshipping traitor that he is? Grab him by his ear and drag him to the Lunarch himself? News of this treachery would likely do more damage than good. If the church's name were to be sullied, so many innocents would suffer the consequences. Whether Avacyn is real or not, the idea of her is all that is keeping humanity alive.

She wants justice. Justice for the church, for Reika, for her poor young daughter Elsi. I haven't the heart to tell her the truth; there is no justice. Nothing can make the death of a little girl right. No debt can be repaid that will even the balance. Hang a man, desecrate his corpse, enslave his spirit—will that erase his wrongs?

Justice exists only as an idea that makes the blind masses feel safe.

The only true law is that of costs. Cold, brutal economics. A man can steal as much bread as he wants, as long as he is willing to pay the price in pain and time. Murder is not evil, it is merely expensive.

By this account, Jofridus is much in debt. And soon I will collect.

Raben

* * *

(Letter from Adila Rimheit)

34th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 699

Bishop Martyn,

I implore you to stop this madness. There is no proof against my daughter. She is 8 years old! You can not condemn her based on such flimsy circumstances. She is a faithful child of Avacyn. She will grow up to be a servant of the church.

I beg you. Give me time. I will prove Elsi's innocence. Or I will find a way to heal her.

Please. She is my life.

Adila Rimheit, Ecclesiast

Thraben Cathedral

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

109th of Hunter's Moon, 719

We are making haste back to Thraben. Tonight will be the last night of full moon for this month, and we cannot spend it on the road. My newfound ally, Holger, travels with me. He is a man of some means, having been a master silversmith. His skills were made useless when he was cursed as a werewolf, and now he has taken residence at Elder Rimheit's hostel. She is hoping to find a cure. Hope is the most dangerous of all human emotions.

Our horses have collapsed, and Holger is busy acquiring fresh ones from the local stable. He has also given me armor and weapons from his own collection. Now that he has already accepted his mortality, material objects no longer hold sway over him. A gift only imminent death can give us.

His plan is simple, yet it will no doubt cost the lives of many cathars. Men who have fought beside me in battle, brave and fearsome. I try to muster guilt over their inevitable deaths, yet I cannot seem to stir my heart. Perhaps it no longer beats.

I hope to find Jofridus tonight. As dangerous as hope is, I am more dangerous still.

Raben

* * *

(Letter from Holger Burk)

109th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

Dearest Adalee,

I had feared for so long that any contact I had with you would only give you false hope of my return. Now I know that even false hope can keep a candlelight burning, and I fear that my silence has only added salt to your wounds. So here I write.

I have been living this past year in the church you told me about in your last letter. The priest here has been touched by the curse like you have—not in the flesh, but in the family. She is a kind soul, and together we have built a hostel that can contain those of my kind during the change so that they may not harm others. It is no cure, but it buys us time. This explains the stipend the exchequer may have told you about.

The cure has still eluded us. Many experiments have ended in tragedy, so much so that the priest has suspended them for the time being. Many have died, or worse, ended up like me.

There is no way out for me, my love. No way I will return to the life we once shared. I can only hope to end my days honorably, and to restore some sense of pride to our sullied name. I believe I have found a way.

The deeds to my estate are locked in the hidden box within the fireplace. What was once ours will now be yours alone. If you take your ring, and break the setting, the claws that held the gem form the key. I wanted it this way, so that if I should die you would no longer wear the ring and hopefully find happiness without the memory of my death overhanging you.

I shall take my ring with me into eternity.

Yours,

Holger

* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel)

111th of Hunter's Moon, 719

My hands are cold, and I find writing to be more difficult, but I must chronicle my meeting with Jofridus.

We came upon the cathedral at dusk, and said our farewells. Holger was very calm for someone who was about to meet his fate. When and how we will die is a question that looms over us from birth, and perhaps finally having the answer was liberating for him. It certainly was for me.

I hid in a nearby wood and watched him make his slow way to the cathedral steps. He looked over his shoulder at me only once, and smiled. As hard as it was for me to pity his soon-to-be victims, I had to pity the man as well. He was kind, good and just. And this world took those from him and more.

As soon as the sun dipped out of view, I heard an unholy growl, followed by screams and shouts of orders. I watched the ground guards rush to the cathedral, and I knew this was my chance.

With my newly acquired armor, I passed for just another cathar on his way to securing this holiest of holy grounds. I found my way to the ash garden, to the stones Reika's journal had described. Underneath, the tunnel stretched away into the darkness.

At the end of path was a huge, natural cavern. I could hear the waterfall, and the air was thick with mist. Standing in the center of the chamber, next to a rune-carved altar, was Jofridus.

He was alone, and apparently expecting me. The sword was nowhere in sight, although I would be reunited with it soon enough.

"I knew you would return, my son. I have been preparing for it."

My anger had reached its boiling point. Calling me his son had ignited a fury inside me, and I drew my sword and charged him. Nothing could stop me now, no force could keep me from my purpose—none save a familiar voice uttering a single word.

"Raben?"

* * *

(Letter from Holger Burk)

108th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

Adila,

For so long, we have fought this war, side by side. I have always been so proud of the way you turned your own tragedy into a crusade. So few people have a true legacy, and yours will endure long after you are laid to rest. I have much regret in my life, but working with you and your cause is something that will be a bright spot on in the black mark of my time here.

Raben's arrival was a clarion call to me. I have so far been content to support you both morally and fiscally, yet my heart yearned for something more profound. I see in this Raben something of myself in younger years. Perhaps we are cut of the same cloth. At any rate, I have decided to offer him the help he needs.

I have waited until my departure to tell you this, because I knew you would never condone such a course of action. Even though that city of sorrows has taken so much from you, I know that your kind soul would never allow such a plan to come to fruition. So I have relieved you of the responsibility of protest.

Tomorrow night I shall say my final prayer as one condemned to a fate I have not deserved. My werewolf form will finally prove useful to a noble cause, and Raben will use the distraction I create to find the man that has dealt such a blow to him.

Tomorrow I move into the belly of the beast. I hope I will buy enough time for Raben to complete his mission. I hope I do not kill too many of those noble men who will deliver me from my curse. I hope that in doing so I have still retained your friendship and respect. Please think no less of me.

Above all, I hope that my family name will regain some of its former glory, and that when my story is someday told, it will not be in hushed whispers, but in proud toasts. For all I have is a tattered legacy, once which I feel should be patched up before being passed along. I hope you understand.

Holger

* * *


* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel, continued)

It was Reika. She sat in the corner of the chamber, her beauty as radiant as ever. She wore a flowing white dress that laid in crumples around her, a simple garment that still managed to make her look regal.

I slid to a halt. The air had been knocked from my lungs, and I dropped my sword at my feet. I had no time to stop and consider how she had survived the Bloodletter's kiss, or why she was here now. All I knew was that a chasm within me seemed suddenly filled, and that I needed to take her in my arms.

I ran to her, and knelt down before her. She reached out and took my hand. My consciousness had been screaming that something was wrong, but it had been drowned out by the cacophony of emotion I was feeling. As soon as our skin touched, reality finally rammed through the portcullis in my mind.

Her skin was inhumanly warm. I flinched at her touch, and as I looked into her eyes I saw them change briefly from the misty blue I had come to know to inky blackness and back again. Whatever this was, it was not Reika. I withdrew, and the creature looked confused. As I stood up and retrieved my sword, it began to howl and scream.

It stood up, and blood began to stain the belly of the dress as the wound caused by the Bloodletter opened up again. It clawed at the soaked cloth until the wound was revealed, but this time it was ringed with teeth as a snakelike tongue lashed out from it.

The thing's eyes began to glow like stars, and its teeth grew and sharpened as it assumed its true form. Its elongated fingers ended in claws the size of spearheads, and its screech grew to a painful level.

Jofridus's revenge had backfired. This profane abuse of Reika's remains had given me a strength I had never known. For better or for worse, I was not the Raben he had last seen.

I swore an oath as I charged the thing, and it parried my blow with a sword of its own—the Bloodletter. The last time I met this cursed bit of metal in battle, I had to change my tactics in order to avoid its eternal wound. This time, I had no such misgivings. There is nothing quite as powerful as having nothing to lose.

My attack was a thunderstorm of swinging blades as I took all the anger over Reika's murder, as well as Jofridus's betrayal, and focused every ounce of it on my silver sword. The thing fought like a snake, darting and weaving, but no amount of agility would keep me from my purpose. The sound of my heartbeat was throbbing in my ears as I let out a battle cry and pounced on the vile creature, driving my blade through its chest and into the stone underneath it.

It let out a shrill cry, and began to twitch and writhe as it slowly turned back into Reika's body. Its head jerked up and locked eyes with me, and the glimmer of recognition flashed in their blue depths. As her last breath escaped her lungs, I heard her say it.

"Thank you."

I stood up, near-exhausted. My heartbeat was louder than ever, and I realized it was due to the cuts I had received from the cursed blade. I looked down and saw each one pulse with every beat of my heart, pumping forth blood. I began to feel dizzy, but then I remembered why I was there: Jofridus.

* * *

Deposition of Cathar Callan Ahnstat
Taken by Inquisitor Mauer
115th of Hunter's Moon, Ava 719

I had just begun my service, and was stationed inside the cathedral near the seventh apse, preparing to give prayers to the pilgrims. I had noticed a distinct lack of attendance that night, and I wondered if my presence was even necessary.

One of the few pilgrims that night had been kneeling at the main altar for some time. It was a practice that was common in the old days, but had been frowned upon in recent years. I took note of his aged appearance, and allowed the transgression to pass.

I did choose to move closer to him; in an effort to observe him more closely so that I may offer guidance should he need it. It was not at all unusual to have someone praying well before services commenced. People are here praying for Avacyn's return at all hours. Yet as I approached I heard the familiar syllables of the prayer of the condemned. Despite his grim gaze, he seemed as free as you or I. For a brief moment I considered asking him why he chose such an obscure prayer while so many others would have been more apt. In the end I decided that each man must decide on his own how to beseech our dear Avacyn and that it was not my place to question him.

I had taken to blessing one of the guards' shields when I first heard the scream. I rushed to the sanctuary and drew my sword. I expected a fight had broken out between some merchants or some similar nonsense. But it was no small scuffle I came upon—a hulking werewolf was rampaging amongst the pews! There were many screams and much chaos. Everyone was running, save those that were frozen in terror.

I charged forward, ready to defend my church. A werewolf within the walls of Thraben Cathedral! It was unthinkable, yet here it was, only a few feet from me. I glanced around—it seemed as if an entire banner of cathars were on the beast in mere moments. As I approached, I saw the tattered robes of the man who had been praying only moments before!

In my shock I had been stunned into complacency, and as if sensing this, the creature charged. I felt the slick, sickly walls of its throat on my arm as its mouth clamped down on my shoulder and bit it off at the joint. My brother cathars renewed their attack and the thing was finally brought down amidst the flashing of silver and steel.

As I lay bleeding on the cold stone floor of the sanctuary, I watched the thing revert to its human form. I cannot be certain, but I remember it having a smile on its face. Not one of happiness, but one of sincere relief. As if a great burden had been taken from it.

By the grace of Avacyn, he was unsuccessful in whatever purpose brought him here. I am proud to have stood with my brother Cathars in defeat of this evil, and until Avacyn's return, we remain ever vigilant.

I swear an oath that these are my words, and that they bear the truth.

[Signature of Callan Ahnstat]

Addendum: Brother Ahnstat is currently in quarantine awaiting the full moon.

Addendum the second: Brother Ahnstat has emerged from the full moon unchanged. He is hereby released back to the Cathedral service.

* * *

(Personal journal of Raben Amsel, continued)

I tried to pull my sword out of Reika's body, but it was lodged in the rock beneath her. I saw the Bloodletter lying next to her, and in one swift motion I took it by its grip and confronted the man who had taken everything from me.

For his part, he hid his fear well. He clearly had not expected me to survive my encounter with Reika's demonically possessed body. He pulled the neck of his robe open to reveal the yoke and said "You can't kill me, boy. Not even the Bloodletter can harm me now. Consider the position you are in and put that thing down!"

"Then you will not mind if I test it out!" And with that, I lunged. He jumped back, avoiding my blow but exposing his lie; the Bloodletter would do just fine.

My strength was slowly leaking out onto the floor, so I had little time. The butcher's bill of his crimes was due, and I would be the cost. I found new strength in his deception, and lunged at his frail form. At first I had thought the blade had only pierced some folds in his robes, as there was not the familiar resistance that normally accompanies flesh. But his halted scream confirmed that the Bloodletter had taken another victim.

He fell backwards, sliding off the blade and onto the stone floor of the chamber. Coughing up blood, he looked up at me and tried to speak.

"I have no need of your lies any longer." With that, I swung the blade and decapitated his pathetic form.

Drunk with blood loss, I stumbled to the floor next to him, my blood mingling with his in pools around us. I was quite ready to die there, quite ready for my story to end and perhaps to see Reika once more.

That is when I saw the yoke. With each heartbeat, it called out to me. Each one, like the last ticks of a clock, chiseled away at my thoughts. I looked at Reika's sad remains. I thought of Holger's brave sacrifice in the cathedral above me.

I knew then what I must do. Reika would go home again. Holger's family would know how he died. Both would receive the blessed sleep, and all it would cost me was my eternal soul.

I reached over to Jofridus's headless corpse, dug my fingers into his chest around the yoke, and tore it off. I used the last ounce of my strength to place it around my neck, and gasped as the unholy metal knitted and melted into my own flesh. My heartbeat slowed to a stop, and so too the bleeding. I writhed in agony as each wound closed itself up.

I was something different now.

So this book, once a place I went to for enlightenment, now becomes my epitaph. For whatever the case, whether I am evil or whether I am a coward, Raben is no more. Perhaps he never existed in the first place. Maybe he was merely something to comfort me in my blindness.

I shall write no more. There are others whose bills are due.

And I will be the cost.

Amsel

1st day, year one.

* * *

120th of Hunter's Moon, Ava. 719

Notification of Corpse Release

By the Holy Church of Avacyn

Name of Deceased: Elsi Rimheit

Cause of Death: Accidental Blunt Trauma

Time of Death: Unknown

Origin of Deceased: Ereschtag, North Kessig

Released to: Elder Adila Rimheit

By Order of: [The order is left unsigned]

* * *

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