Distant Reaches - Agent Salbrand on the Sand Wastes Uncanny Cult

Imperial Archives / Agent Salbrand on the Sand Wastes Uncanny Cult

Agent Salbrand on the Sand Wastes Uncanny Cult

Agent Salbrand on the Sand Wastes Uncanny Cult
The ruins were crumbling into the desert. They rose up like a mirage under the beating noonday sun.

Agent Viroc Salbrand (687-759 AE) was a liaison to the highly secretive Office of Inter-Amal Affairs, which reports directly to the Executor of the Imperial Catechism. Held in high esteem by the courts and advisors to Emperor Rorei the Young, Salbrand’s reports are only now being made available to the public after close review by the current Executor.

“We’d taken the wrong turn, that’s all. We got a ways up that path, saw the ruins — which we thought was another settlement, then we saw what we thought were people, and thought to ask the way, but as we got closer… gods beyond, it was like a charnel house, you understand? Withered like something unnatural happened to them, and thrown out into the dust. They must’ve heard our screams. We hadn’t time to run. I lost two of my friends that day, you hear me? Yeah, at least a dozen of them appeared. There’s something awful out there. People have been saying funny things about that area for years now. All I know is I’m never going back. And I’m telling every merchant I know to leave that nasty little dustbowl to rot.”

Excerpt from the statement of a merchant returning from the west, communicated to the Catechism through local town guards, delivered to the Imperial Catechism headquarters in Amalcross on the afternoon of the 2nd.

As per my instructions, I left immediately on the night of the 27th, prepared for some several days of travel in the wilderness. Alas, no agents with the requisite experience or availability were located anywhere nearby, much to the shame of the regional chapters, but considering such an alarming report and rumors of disappearances in such a sparsely populated region, I was more than willing to accept the task.

I called upon a reliable network of carriage drivers and their associated agencies with favorable ties to our purposes. They ferried me several leagues to the west, day and night, for it was made known time was of the essence, before I set off alone into the arid savanna of the southwest.

The largest settlement for a ways around in these isolated, dry, silent hinterlands is a languorous trading outpost whose regional name was translated for me as something like Farmarket. It straddles what amounts to a main road on the outskirts of a particularly desolate expanse. From my understanding they hunt and sell various useful tough shells, skins, and spines of native fauna in return for the necessities of life. I arrived in Farmarket with the intent of gathering information in as direct a manner as I could. I am accustomed to spotting the tells of liars, malicious or coerced.

But residents were quite forthcoming and presented themselves as frankly terrified and were ecstatic that an “authority” had arrived to sort out the problem. I will admit to some small falsehood on my part: I did not tell them my purpose as Catechism agent there, so that they would remain open to discussion and giving information. We do, after all, have something of a reputation.

The situation was thus: Vanishings out west are not, sadly, uncommon, for the wastes are treacherous, and expeditions to find aught of interest in their depths have been known to never return, and mere traveling by road is an act prone to disaster from inclement weather, banditry, or simply loss of direction. It is an accepted but lamented risk. But within the last month, there had been a noticeable spike in disappearances, traced eventually to a little-used northwards path which wound through the low hills, superseded in recent times by a longer but safer road. I inquired what lay upon the old path besides dusty wilderness. Naught but a huddle of old stone ruins, was the answer.

I decided upon a plan of action. I’d scout these ruins at twilight, when the chance of travelers was low, and thus these brigands (for this seemed to be the logical answer) would lower their guard but still be up and about. I dressed for the desert darkness, in greys and tans, and set out the very evening of my arrival. I came upon the ruins after taking a circuitous path along the hillsides, themselves strewn with small, tough bushes and lone, scraggly trees. Neither the age nor the provenance of the ruins can I speak to — I had little time to study them, for not soon after I had them in sight was I anticipated and set upon by several rushing figures clad in shapeless rags.

Crudely bound and gagged, I was dragged struggling into the ruins. Had they less numbers on their side, surely I would have escaped. However, though, I am glad I did not. I saw exactly where I was being brought, to the apparently only accessible chamber immediately underground, other entrance ways being choked with sand and other debris. This one chamber was lit by sputtering torches fed with some odd fuel which filled it with a haze of sweet-smelling smoke. I had seconds to observe and plan, but my attention was caught first and foremost by the rough slabs about me, upon which were naked human corpses whose stomachs bore, clear as day to me, nothing less than a mage’s Binds. Each one was in an advancing and uneven state of decay — clearly the vile power source of some spell. What spell that was, I soon got an idea of.

At the far end of this chamber, longer than it was wide, with a low ceiling, were several of the rag-clad people, on their knees before a deep-set alcove in which the air seemed, to me, uneasy and shifting. They were they gibbering words I could not discern, but their tone was decidedly one of fervent veneration. That this was the seat of an Uncanny cult was shockingly clear, and at any moment, the object of their esoteric worship would present itself. I surmised quite quickly that these sacrifices were intended as a means to call this entity forth, perhaps even to facilitate its continuous passage through the Meridian. Gruesome keys to a dark gate.

It took but one second of one of my captors loosening my bindings for me to overpower them and free myself — my Amalguard training once again serving me well. I struck out and downed three of them without serious injury. These were not warriors of any kind, but sinewy desert dwellers.

In a flash, several more ran to me, hesitant, seeing what I was capable of. I saw not their faces, for they wreathed themselves almost entirely, but I saw their eyes. In them was something I could only read as desperation. I have seen such looks before, and I have no doubt these poor fools were fighting for some promise, or were under some threat made by whatever they call their god, to be paid for in blood. Two more flung themselves at me with a surprising strength, but I struck them down and into their fellows before fleeing that place of fearful thinness.

I admit I used my authority more than once in my flight back to civilization. But I regret it not, for I used that speed to contact every reputable and available agent I could find once back on the western peninsula so that word might reach headquarters swifter than I could travel.

This agent’s suggestion is immediate action to bolster the defenses of Farmarket and its surrounding settlements, as well as to raise an Amalguard force to be stationed there on a temporary basis to root out this cult. Archaeological investigations into who constructed those ruins, for they were of considerable age, may help answer some questions. The cult will, I have no doubt, grow bolder and more aggressive after my escape, and I fear for the safety of the outpost and its hamlets.

I cannot accurately guess what power or protection their Uncanny has promised them, or into what trap they’ve fallen, but it is abundantly clear that neither option suggests a positive outcome, considering what we’ve seen now. The Imperial Influence is weak in these outskirts and must be strengthened. The cult will not flee, for their god is there. It is either them, or us.


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