Corruption of Azim

Codex II - Chapter 2
The Cleric of Nerull

Cornelius led the party to an old stone building which served as a shrine for several neutral and lesser-known deities. The place was practically empty. A dwarf smelling of alcohol lay snoring on a stone bench and a teenage human boy was inspecting some of the inscriptions on the wall.

Walking to the back of the building, they found a flight of stairs that led down to a hallway with several doors on either side. Asmodeus assumed that these rooms where where the shrine’s caretakers lived and worked. He followed Cornelius into one of these rooms.

The room was small and plain, containing only a bed, a small trunk, and a short bookcase. But when Cornelius pressed on one of the stones in the wall, part of the floor shifted and opened up to reveal a hidden stairwell.

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Codex II - Chapter 1
Fort Hamden

Dustin Ashe found himself quite content to be in the city of Fort Hamden. He and his companions had camped out in the cold November weather for just over two weeks to get there, so the return to civilization was welcome to the young man. Of course it didn’t hurt that the wizard Asmodeus had treated them to a banquet and lodging at a fine inn.

This city was much more lively than the small, run down town of Fallerun where Dustin had met his new friends. Both night and day the streets seemed to bustle with activity. Validran merchants going to and from Aelhaim stopped here to trade with the caravans that brought goods from the west over the marshes. The taverns were filled with patrons and the sorcerer had seen more than a few lovely ladies.

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Chapter 13
Reflection

Asmodeus heard Dustin grumble a little as snow began to fall lightly around them. But the wizard didn’t mind the storm. He was too preoccupied with reflections on all that had happened since arriving in Fallerun. Besides, it’s the last day of October. We might as well get used to the cold weather; we’ve got a long journey ahead.

After escaping from Renferell’s fort, the party retrieved their horses and loaded them up with as much as they could carry. They rode hard that night to get as much distance from the town as possible.

For the next two days they traveled southward, keeping well away from the main road. Although there was no telling when they would discover the nobles and their armies on the road, no one wanted to take any chances.

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Chapter 12
Treasure and Premeditated Murder

“Trading one noble idiot for another wasn’t what I had in mind,” Asmodeus said. He looked a bit frustrated, but then the wizard sat back and put his hands together. A smile grew across his face. “But there are ways we can use this to our advantage.”

Gaimon knew that look. Asmodeus was plotting. The elf hoped that this new bit of plotting would lead to more fighting. Working with the local militia wasn’t nearly as violent as Gaimon preferred, yet somehow he found himself enjoying the work of explaining tactics to the townsfolk.

He looked over at the gnome sitting next to him. Nock looked somewhat disheveled. He had dark circles under his eyes. Apparently he wasn’t sleeping very well during the days and it left him a little bit irritable.

A sneer from Nock led Gaimon to look over and see Dustin approaching.

“Good evening, m’lady,” Dustin addressed Elandra as he presented a flower. “What’s with him?” he asked regarding Asmodeus. The wizard was sitting with his hands clasped, lost in thought. He hardly moved, even when his raven familiar hopped from the back of the chair to his shoulder.

“Nobles and their troops are on their way,” Gaimon replied.

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Chapter 11
Fruition

The Captain of the Guard was a difficult man to reason with. The fort was abuzz with activity and the man obviously felt that he had better things to do. Apparently Renferell’s mother was arriving in town that day. Asmodeus felt confounded by bad luck.

Ulric’s description of Kailden’s activities had been correct — the werewolf had attacked the town. But the soldiers had driven him away and therefore the Captain of the Guard stubbornly pressed that there was no reward. Kailden’s head lie rotting in the wizard’s pack and he thought it best to avoid showing it. Instead of recognizing me as a hero, they’d label me a murderer and have me arrested!

But what bothered him the most had been their brief encounter with Renferell’s cleric. The healer had apologetically stated that he was unable to help Tyrus; neither in detecting or healing the threat of lycanthropy. He merely recommended immediate travel to Aelhaim for treatment. Asmodeus wondered if the cleric was more unwilling than unable to help.

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Chapter 10
Abduction

The tavern of the Blue Drake was filled with the aroma of breakfast. About half of the tables were occupied with guests of the inn, merchants, and townsfolk. A quiet buzz of casual conversation filled the air. Dustin nursed his drink as he sat at the bar.

“Here’s your breakfast, Dustin.” The innkeeper’s daughter presented the food with a shy look and longing eyes. Then after glancing behind her she added, “I brought you the best of the bacon, an extra share of eggs, and this wine. Please enjoy!”

Dustin thanked the girl. A little flirting goes a long way around here, he thought. The girl was obviously afraid of her mother finding out about this crush, so getting free room and board would be a little more complicated.

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Chapter 9
Ulric

Nock felt introspective. He hardly noticed the world around him as he rode behind Gaimon on the Elf’s horse. After their victory two nights before, he felt almost happy as he rifled through the belongings of their fallen foes. That mirth extended into the next day, dispelling his usual dour mood.

But today he was contemplating his past. Years ago his life had been forever altered when he involved himself with Humans. They were a rotten, evil bunch who took advantage of him. Their actions ripped him from his life as a poor farmer and turned him into a prisoner.

How strange it seemed that he now found himself in association with similar men. The streak of evil in Tyrus and Asmodeus was not hard to see. And yet, somehow these humans were different. Nock had never imagined how evil and loyalty could go hand in hand. The bard felt that he wasn’t just tagging along; he actually belonged.

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Chapter 8
A Date with the Mayor

It was still dark when Shandra started to stir. Still sleepy, she cuddled up next to her companion in bed.

“I’m not sure what your husband would think about this.”

Shandra opened her eyes. It only took a moment to remember where she was. After Tyrus left with the rest of the group the night before, Killashandra had gone with Elandra back to her place for safety. Slightly embarrassed, she pulled herself away from the Elf.

“Well, you heard what Asmodeus said last night. I’m not supposed to tell that he’s my husband,” Shandra joked.

Elandra laughed. “What I recall is Tyrus’ face; he didn’t like that one bit. But we’d best be getting up. It’s probably mid-morning up there, and you’ve got to get ready for your date.”

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Chapter 7
Skirmishes in Gnoll Territory

It was a cold morning. Asmodeus had woken up just before dawn. While the rest of the party slumbered, the wizard sat in thought. He couldn’t sleep any longer because his mind kept him up with ideas for attacking the soldiers who would soon be dispatched from Fallerun.

As the dim light of morning began to make their camp distinguishable, Asmodeus looked over at his companions. Tyrus’ muffled snoring was coming from his small tent. Gaimon and Nock had slept out under the stars; blankets over them and packs nearby. It would soon be too cold to sleep outside without a tent — in a week it would be October.

The dog was curled up not far from the Elf. Asmodeus had been surprised the night before to hear barking as he approached the copse of trees where they had cached the Gnoll hides. Tyrus had drawn his sword, but they approached as they heard Gaimon repeatedly say “Down!” in a commanding tone.

Gaimon had explained his reasoning for getting a guard dog. He took his job as bodyguard seriously, so when the Gnolls ambushed the party he felt guilty for letting it happen. Not that he could have prevented it, even with his superior night vision, Asmodeus reflected. At least now they’d have a new set of senses helping them.

After some time meditating, Asmodeus woke the group. He studied his magic books while they broke camp and dug up the Gnoll hides and equipment from the frosty ground. Before the sun had risen over the horizon they were ready.

“Let’s go,” Asmodeus commanded. “We’ve got Renferell’s soldiers to kill.”

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Chapter 6
Underhanded Maneuvers

The starlit area around the Bleeding Barrel was dark and quiet as Nock and Gaimon waited for Grosh to emerge. The Gnome had his masterwork dagger out and was impatiently thumbing it. Were it not for years of practice, he would have cut himself along its sharp edge.

The Elf Gaimon was nearly invisible underneath the shadow of a nearby building. He was casually leaning up against a wall with arms folded. The Gnome found it hard to understand how the Elf could be so patient. Slowly the Gnome was gaining respect for the wizard Asmodeus — somehow his influence had tempered the bloodlust which Nock had seen in Gaimon’s eyes.

Lacking patience himself, Nock spent his time repeating to himself the ways in which he would kill the half-orc thief. Although breaking bones was appealing, slitting the throat constantly resurfaced to the Gnome’s mind. Luckily for Nock, they didn’t have to wait very long. About three-quarter hours after they had begun their vigil, the half-orc emerged from the tavern.

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