Worried Citizens have been appearing in some towns around Britannia. Husbands, wives and friends have gone foraging into the forests and have yet to return.

Word is that the Druid Jaana has traveled to Yew to investigate.

After speaking with Jaana, she gives me a bit more information and gives me an idea of where to go next.

“From Yew, it has been hunters and lumberjacks.  Oh, and one poet.  They went into the forest and were never seen again.  I’ve counted at least fifteen lost. See if Minoc is the same.  Ask about their missing.

The Matewan Guild House is a good place to start.  Julia once told me that all the town gossip went through there.”

Thanking her for the help, I headed off to the Matewan Guild house in Minoc.

Guildmaster Burnside is here, so I decided to ask him if anyone from Minoc has gone missing.

Upon further conversation, he gives me more information and another location to search.

“Our town militia has organized the search parties, but they found no trace.  The forest is huge though.  Maybe there’s a monster, but the trackers haven’t seen any such signs.  Some think these people are being abducted.

The tinker Merida lost her cousin Damon who was hunting near the trapper huts to the East.  He should have returned weeks ago.  She went looking for those responsible.

Merida hasn’t returned yet, so you might want to go looking for her at the trapper huts.  I hope she’s safe.  You might also want to speak with the strange monks some people saw near the bridge to Vesper.  Good Luck!”

Heading East from the Matewan, I cross the bridge and see a strange figure standing near.

“Who is the Guide?” I inquire.

“I am a monk of the Guide.  The Guide leads us through life, helping us avoid the pitfalls of our failed world, to lead us to our reward.  Only with the Guide’s direction, will we not follow Ilshen’s folk into ruin.”

I asked him if he’s heard of any missing people.

“I know nothing about people being abducted.” He proclaims.

“I said nothing about anyone being Abducted!”

How do I know they have been abducted? I can’t get anything past you, can I, Pawn of Prophecy?  I will not tell you were I took them.  They will be reborn in the Tree!”

After getting as much information as I could from the strange monk, I continued east to the trapper huts in search of Merida.

“No I am not here to abduct you Merida, I heard you came here searching for your cousin. Tell me more about the Monks.” I asked

“I traveled all this way from Minoc to find my cousin Damon.  I couldn’t find a trace of him here, but I saw a search party from town ambushed by monks in dark robes!  There were Meer and Juka with them.  I couldn’t help, so I hid.

The captured people were taken through a moongate.  I don’t know where it went, but I bet they were the ones who took my cousin!  Please find out where the Dark Monks went and rescue Damon if you can!”

Not having any idea where the moongate could have led, I decided to go back to talk to Jaana to see if she might be able to offer more insight.

“I have some information that the Meer might be involved.” I said to Jaana

“It seems strange that the Meer would be involved.  While they accidently hurt the natural order in Yew, they have been friends to Britannia since Dawn forged an alliance.  Perhaps someone in Mireg knows something about rogue Meer.”

Heading to the Sacrifice moongate and traveling North from there, I entered the Meer village in search of someone who could help and found Dasha.

“Hello Dasha!”

“Hello!” She replied, “I do not have time to speak with visitors today!  I am needed in my role as hunter.”

“Oh? What does a Meer hunter do?” I asked.

“I am not hunting animals, but Meer mages who have broken their oath.  It is an important responsibility, and one I trained for much of my life.”

“What oath did you take Dasha?”

“All Meer mages take an oath to use their magic for our society and never steal from the Ethereal Void.”  She explained. “We believe the missing mages left with the intention of breaking their oath.  One had a book on the Dark Guide.”

“I have heard mention of this Dark Guide before, do you have further information about this Guide?”

“The Dark Guide is a legend from the darkest moment of our history.  She was a powerful mage who taught the Meer how to tear open reality and steal the Void’s power.  She almost destroyed us!  Some have tried to follow her legacy.”

“Legacy?” I asked.

“Our scouts have given us reports of strange monks and some Meer gathering at the former site of the Juka Fortress and preparing for a dark ritual.  We must stop them!”

Thanking her for her information, I headed back to Jaana to relay the information I had gathered thus far.

“There was a tinker in Minoc that went out searching for her cousin near the trapper huts East of there.” I conveyed to Jaana.  “On my way to search for her, I ran into a Dark Monk on the bridge leading out of town.”

“The monks of Empath Abby wouldn’t be involved in such matters, but there are strange practices in the deep wood.  I wonder who or what else these monks follow?” Jaana said.

“The monk I spoke with said he was a follower of something called The Guide.”

“I did speak with Dasha in the Meer Village and she said that she saw some rogue Meer with Juka pulling the missing through a moongate.”

“The Juka have shown aggression against Britannia, but I don’t believe they would abduct people with their sense of Honor.  Perhaps their leader, Shirron Argahrok, could help.  He should be found in Mistas.”

Thanking Jaana once again, I headed towards the Justice Moongate in Ilshenar to see about finding Shirron.

“I wish to ask you about the history of the Juka.”

“The Juka who follow the Way and my leadership are not currently at war with humanity or it’s allies.  We even have an uneasy moment of peace with the Meer.  We remain strong without need of assistance, even if a few have gone missing.”

“Some humans have gone missing as well.” I explained.

“You say that some humans have also gone missing?” He stated. “Taken by a strange alliance of Meer and Juka?  To abandon Juka Honor and join the First Enemy in such treachery, these are great crimes.”

“Crimes?” I asked.

“Because you have brought this to me, I will trust you with what I know, as we may have a common enemy.  Some of those missing were zealots of the First Waymaster, and there are reports of them on the plain of Jamark.”

“What is the First Waymaster?”

“The First Waymaster helped the Juka people learn the ways of Honor in the first age.  He died in battle and joined the Great Mother, but the keeners still sing of his life.  Some believe he will return someday.”

“I see,” I replied. “Do you think he will return?”

“Perhaps, our greatest hero will be reborn when the Great Mother chooses, but to lie about such things while abducting people is a grave insult to the Juka!  You have a place in the Halls of Honor if you bring justice to these heretics!”

I nodded, about to leave…”One more thing, if you please” I asked, “You mentioned a plain of Jamark? What is that?”

“I forget humans have their own names.  The plain of Jamark is where the Juka first settled and had our greatest fortress.  That fortress was stolen by Exodus, and we came here.  Still, some revere the place we last fought the Meer.”

Remembering that place, I headed off to the Compassion moongate.

Upon entering the area that once housed the Juka fortress, I was immediately confronted by many savages!

Fighting my way through the savages, I came across a truly gruesome site!  A tree red with blood, the ground around it saturated, and Dark Monks guarding it.

Beyond that, a strange platform, a machine of sorts to draw blood into the tree..and next to that, the lost townsfolk!

Among them, Merida’s lost cousin Damon!

“Help! Don’t let them hurt me anymore! I have bled enough for the tree!” he cried.  The monks bleed us to feed the Tree of Strife.  Some they just kill, but others they keep to slowly bleed for the horrible rituals.  I think all there monks are crazy, but they also seem to be following slightly different stories about who or what the Guide is.  Either way, I don’t want to be anywhere near here when that tree blooms! HELP!”

“I am here to help you Damon, your cousin Merida sent me to find you!”

“Thank you!” He exclaimed, “I wish I could join in the battle, but I am too weak to fight.  I shall stay here and gain my strength.”

I nodded and went back to speak to the Dark Monks guarding the tree.

“Do not be a pawn of stagnation! Join us and help the Tree of Strife bloom!” Ciaran cried.

“We Dark Monks serve the first Waymaster, for the greatest Juka Warrior has returned in our darkest hour!  It is time to start the final war with the enemy!

The first waymaster is our greatest champion, who even the Meer feared!  He was taken from us by the First Enemy, but now he has led us to the tree!
The Meer still hide behind their human allies, but the First Waymaster will use the Tree of Strife to start the final war!  Glory returns to the Juka!  As the Way demands blood and hardship from a warrior, the Tree demands it as well.”

Their words were eerie and dark….as I timidly made my way to speak to the last of dark monks, the looming Tree of Strife and it’s branches dripping with blood gave me pause…what are we dealing with?

Standing in front of Kaveth, I asked him about The Guide.

“The Guide is the greatest Meer Mage, lost since the earliest generations of my people.  She understands true magic! this is a rebirth of glory, a restoration of power!

At the height of our civilization, our magic was so in tune with the world, we could afford restraint, but in this age of lesser beings, the old oaths mean we beg for a glimmer of our former power.  No more!  The tree is our only hope!

The Tree blooms on a nexus of great mystical power! It is also the location of the greatest conflict between Meer and Juka! Our great forest will be reborn! The Tree of Strife knows blood and pain, for never again will the Meer be weak!”

The Dark Monks words ringing in my ears, and the sounds of the captured townsfolk fading in the distance as I slowly made my way back to Yew to inform Jaana of all I had discovered, I feared the worst, and hoped that once the time came, the Britannians were ready to fight to put an end to these dark rituals before it was too late.