Cal the 11th, 1328
It has occurred to me that a good bard should keep a chronicle of his wanderings. Actually it occurred to me quite a few years ago, but my last journal went down with the ship I was working passage on. I figure since I have nothing much better to do right now, I can at least put to pen the circumstances that led to my current predicament.
As with all things that go wrong, it started with something simple. In this case, a want to see new lands. I decided to see new and distant lands. What better way to do so than to book passage on a sturdy ship and see where she calls. Simple in theory, hard in practice. Especially when you don't have ready cash to book passage.
Being a resourceful bard, I came up with a plan. I made arrangements with the captain of a stout merchant vessel to work my passage off with general deck work, music and storytelling for the crew. it was a very equitable arrangement for both of us, I got passage, and he got entertainment and a spare deckhand.
I know, you're thinking that an Elf as a deckhand, Get real. You'd be wrong, Growing up in a Dwarven clan made me a wee bit different from most of those other tree hugging poofs. I have no problem with physical labor at all, I even enjoy it sometimes.
Anyway, thatís what started the whole mess. I ended up on a ship bound for Al Fahim. That was a fairly simple voyage, things got strange after we picked up cargo there. I never actually saw what cargo we took on, I was occupied with playing the pipes in a dockside inn. Anyway, from there we headed to a place called the Wuron Swamps. Why we were going to make a delivery to a swamp, I know not, none of my business anyway. A good Dwarf knows to mind his own business.
We didn't make it to our delivery point, a fierce storm blew in out of nowhere. The captain tried to ride it out instead of running for harbor, crazy Git! I'm no sailor but when the waves are higher than the mast, I'm fairly sure you have problems. The storm raged for nearly a full day before the ship began to break up. I managed to get into a lifeboat, no one else wanted to join me though. Very strange, the crew absolutely refused to abandon even though she was coming apart.
I got off and was adrift for about two days before I washed up on this beach. I have no idea where I am, or which way the nearest town is. After a bit of exploration, I have discovered a stream so I have water and there is food aplenty here, so I don't worry about starvation. I have my trusty rapier, my crossbow, my pipes and pen, paper and ink as well. I merely need to figure out which way to go to find some sembalance of civilization, I have no desire to spend the rest of my days as a hermit on this coast after all.
This morning started out as the last two here on this unknown beach had, namely a bit of time spent taking care of the mornings necessities, followed by a rousing game of Catch-enough-crabs-to-eat. After I boiled the little devils, I luxuriated in the fact that I had nothing else to do today, other than decide which way I want to start walking in order to find civilization again.
I pondered this question at length, before I decided not to decide today. After all, one mustnít make hasty decisions about possible life changing events. No, I was in no hurry to go anywhere right now. Thus having resolved the dayís most pressing issue, I practiced on my pipes for a bit, and then hunted down a couple more crabs for lunch. I think, that I shall probably leave my little beach just to get something to eat besides crab meat.
As I sat watching my lunch come to a boil, two things caught my attention, the first was that storm clouds had formed on the horizon and were heading toward my little beach. The second was someone placing a hand upon my shoulder and scaring me nearly witless. I managed not to jump completely out of me skin and I paused to listen to what the stranger was saying.
He chirped to me in some strange language that I didnít comprehend. He looked like an Elf, so I assumed he was addressing me in their tongue. I told him to speak bloody common and he looked at me like I was daft. Not my fault I donít speak Elven, be a lot simpler if everyone spoke Dwarven, if you ask me.
As we were introducing ourselves to one another, more people appeared out of the woods behind him. A human woman in armor, a human man in the most unusual and colorful armor Iíve ever seen, another Elf in robes, and truly the most beautiful Elf Iíve ever laid my eyes upon. She was a real knockout. I found myself rendered speechless for a moment by her absolute uniqueness, it had nothing at all to do with that huge bloody white tiger that was with her.
Once I sufficiently recovered the ability to speak, introductions were made. The first Elf was Artemus, a monk in some order of builders of all things. I didnít know builders were even religious. The Human female was Jena, a Paladin of Something or Other. Women Paladins, will wonders never cease. The Human Male was Sin Gunju, a Samurai, some sort of warrior, I think. The Elf in the robes was Lucian, I think he is some sort of Mage. The Elven Goddess was NíKara Nightstar, and sheís a Drow Ari, and a druid.
Being the fine host Iíve always been famous as, I invited them to share lunch with me and tell me of their travels. They agreed but we decided to move inland a bit and find some shelter from the approaching storm. This we accomplished in a short bit of time. We found a clearing with a fallen tree and set up under it.
As we sat around a small fire they told me of their quest to find an ancient artifact known as Al-Mudin. They spoke of itís power and the fact that it had to be destroyed to prevent its use by the forces of evil, and of the fact that the quest had already claimed the lives of two of their party members. Finally! An honest quest that some one could write a heroic epic about! I decided then and there that I should follow these people and record their tale for posterity. The stunning beauty of NíKara had nothing to do with my decision.
As we were talking the rain had begun. It was a strong downpour that made me glad of the shelter we had found. Lucian decided to take advantage of the down pour and he went out to take a shower. Sometime later he returned clad only in a tree branch. There was much merriment and jest at his expense while he tried to blame various persons for the theft of his clothing. Fortunately most of us had alibis for our whereabouts during the time in question.
Just as the laughter was dying and Artimus had provided Lucian with a spare cloak, Gunju yelled a warning about Kobolds. Everyone leapt to their feet and prepared to do battle. I was particularly uneasy as I have had some experience with Kobolds and I know them to be clever and cunning opponents. The alarm however, frightened them off so we settled back in once we were sure they were gone. Lucian found his belongings scattered about nearby and he retrieved them.
We relaxed for perhaps a half-mark, when Gunju shot a Kobold out of a nearby tree. Bedlam ensued as everyone scrambled to meet another possible attack. The Kobolds retreated again, but a small snake slithered into our camp. It held a scroll case in its mouth, NíKara told us the serpent was under some sort of Druidic charm and she retrieved the case without incident. The serpent then departed. I had retrieved two decent daggers from the corpse of the Kobold while this was going on.
The scroll case turned out to contain a knuckle bone with a crude drawing on it. The drawing showed a stick figure in a cage on a ship. There was much discussion as to what this meant among the party. As this went on I heard a distant Kobold barking. I listened for a moment and translated it as a query as to who we were. I responded that we meant them no harm. I received several odd looks as I barked my reply and I had to explain that I was talking to a Kobold.
I spent nearly a quarter mark talking back and forth with the distant Kobold, in that time I learned, much to my dismay, that Gunju had killed their Chieftain and that they desired our assistance. While the group was discussing this development, another snake appeared. And Jena said something about following her ring towards the beach again. Things were getting a bit confusing. To add to it, something was flying towards us spewing purple fire, then I spotted something in a nearby tree. All I could make out was a pair of glowing silver eyes. So I did the first thing I could think of, I asked who he was.
I didnít get his answer in the confusion. The flaming object turned out to be a larger version of the snake that had already arrived. The Kobolds were calling for us to hurry, and then the big snake took off toward the beach, we, being a group with slightly less than good sense, followed. The new arrival turned out to be another Elf, though not of any type I am familiar with, later I got his name, Xzax.
We arrived on the beach and found three Kobolds waiting on us, they led us north, I thing for some distance, where we came upon a ship run aground about a hundred yards offshore. She was in a bad way, her sails and one mast were gone, and the surf was starting to pound her to pieces. The message on the bone began to make sense to us now, someone on the vessel needed to be rescued!
Our brave band began to strip out of armor and weapons, as I am not a good swimmer, I volunteered to stay with the equipment. Jena, Gunju, Lucian, Artimus and Xzax leapt into the churning surf. Lucian and Gunju promptly began floundering. I think I have never seen as good an imitation of a rock as the one Gunju performed, he sank to the bottom so quickly, I would have sworn he was wearing weights!
Artimus promptly fished Gunju from the water and struck out after Lucian after I pulled the gasping warrior from the water. He brought Lucian back to the shore a few minutes later, and we watched as Jena and Xzax boarded the stricken vessel. Time was passing slowly and I couldnít wait any longer, I stripped out of my leathers and braved the surf, NíKara followed me. I swear, I am starting to become more fond of her by the minute!
We managed to make it out to the ship in one piece and then we faced the problem of how to get aboard her. Since NíKara is a bit on the small side, I grabbed her by the back of her tunic and heaved her upwards with all my strength. She went up a couple of feet and I promptly fell backwards into the water. She grabbed on with her claws and I swear she growled at me! Then she passed me a rope that was dangling nearby.
We scrambled over the side and followed the sounds of shouting to a hold below deck. There we found Jena trying to open a cage, there was a Kobold inside. The other three Kobolds were frantically barking at her to hurry. Sound advice, as the hold was already filling with water. I eased over to the cage and produced my lock picks, never know when theyíll be needed. It was a very good lock and it took some time to open. I had to threaten to bash on of the other Kobolds when he began to talk of leaving.
Finally, the lock gave way under my ministrations, and almost as one, we all bolted out of there. Everyone went over the side and made for shore. The poor Kobold I had set free was so exhausted that Xzax had to tow it to shore. We made a fine sight, Humans, Elves, Kobolds, spiders, scorpions, snakes and other assorted flotsam making for shore.
Once we all made it ashore, the Kobold thanked us and gave us a handful of gold and silver coins as a reward. Turn out he was a Druid. Once they thanked us they departed rather quickly, not that I blame them, Kobolds are targets for almost everyone. The poor things are constantly being hunted down for one reason or another. They were probably shocked that we helped them.
We slogged back into the forest and found a patch of higher ground and flopped down for some well deserved rest. I for one, was too exhausted to do more than pull my cloak over my head and close my eyes.
I awoke the next morning to angry words between Gunju and Xzax. Gunju was in Xzaxís face calling him a Demon and threatening to kill him. NíKara and Jena were standing between them trying to calm Gunju. I went over to offer my services as a peacemaker but things turned ugly too quickly, Gunju started to draw a weapon and I tried to daze him, to no avail.
Suddenly, we were enclosed in a mist and visibility dropped to less than five feet. I took the opportunity to slip away before some one could start swinging wildly. There was more shouting and carrying on for a while but I stayed away from camp until things settled down.
When I came back into camp, Xzax revealed himself to be a Half-Dragon. I thought such creatures to no longer exist, but Here was one before me, carrying on a conversation with us. I was delighted. Few are the Bards who can lay claim to have spoken to a mythical creature such as this.
As I was Questioning him about his origins and upbringing, we heard a large group approaching us from the direction of the beach. We once again went on alert and Gunju laid us into ambush positions, quickly and professionally. He is a truly handy fellow to have about at times, but he is rather hot tempered.
It turned out to be Artimus. He had left during the night and had led the crew of a ship sent to retrieve our little band back to us. After a few minutes of discussion, it was agreed that we should accompany them to the vessel that would then transport us to a Sheik, whatever that is. We then trudged through the swampy forest to the beach (Yet Again) where we boarded a sturdy little sloop for the five day trip to this Sheik place.
We arrived in a port city on the fifth evening. The crew was making fast the lines when a group of about twenty armed men appeared on the jetty. They exchanged words with the ships Captain and he spoke to Jena. I couldnít hear what was said, but whatever it was, it wasnít good. Jena, Gunju, and Xzax all drew their swords. Apparently, we had been betrayed!
Suddenly, that same mysterious mist enveloped us. I found myself standing next to Lucian and NíKara, everyone else was lost to my sight. A crewman appeared before me out of the mist and I tried to daze him, unsuccessfully again, I really need to rethink that spell sometimes, I think. Lucian pulled out a wand and pointed it at the crewman.
Suddenly, the man grew to truly amazing proportions. His body literally bulged with muscles! I ducked as he swung a ham sized fist at me. I back-peddled out of his range and drew my trusty rapier. Jena moved up past me to fight the man. She is starting to be my hero, let me say here. Lucian tuned the wand on her and it had a similar effect on her. I will also say here that I am now considering asking her out, she has considerable charms.
So anyway, this whole fight is taking place in a mist that you can only see about five feet through. I was busy darting about, jabbing crewmen occasionally with my rapier while everyone else was doing the real work here. Xzax faced off with the Captain and they went at it fast and furiously. I tried to help and got the wind knocked out of me. Jena took time out from the fighting to heal me up.
NíKara and her tiger, Snowy, cleared at least half of the crew out by themselves. The girl is truly a wonder. Lucian was casting spells as quickly as he could, Gunju cut the forward mooring line and the ship began to swing away from the jetty. The whole time, those armed men on the jetty were firing arrows blindly into the mist. Fortunately, none of us were hit. Artimus went to Xzaxís aid as Xzax went down, Artimus took over the fight with the captain.
As for me, I tried to get to the Aft mooring line. A crewman surprised me and then Artimus took him out. I was content to stand there and bleed for a moment, but then one of the men from the jetty leapt onto the deck in front of me. More luck than anything found my blade sliding into his stomach, he fell back over the rail with a scream. As I blacked out from blood loss, I heard snowy come up beside me.
I came to some time later, with the lovely NíKara treating my rather impressive wounds. I must say, I think I am becoming quite found of her, though I wish I didnít need to bleed all over her to get her attention. Anyway, our group had actually managed to completely seize control of the ship and we were sailing out of harbor with four captured crewmen assisting us. Mind you, I had to play a soothing tune to get them over their fear enough to help.
Then the air over the deck shimmered and a blue ring formed. Out stepped a rather imposing man dressed in the robes of a cleric of some sort. Turns out he was this Sheik fellow and he had tried to betray us. The party was a mite upset with him if you get my drift. Jena, bless her little Paladin heart, negotiated a deal with him that got us back to a safe haven and a promise to not interfere with us until we find Al-Mudin.
So here we are, bone weary and exhausted in Aboris-Shifa. Tomorrow we link up with someone the Sheik is sending with us and then try to book passage to the next destination, which no one has bothered to tell me where that is. Such is the lot of a mere Dwarven Bard such as myself, even if I am an Elf. Should be interesting.
Okay, itís been almost a week and Iíve been a bit too busy to put anything to parchment but this is as good a time as any, I suppose. The next morning, Gunju, Jena, NíKara and I all went for a bath. Gotta love these public baths. Everyone gets a real eyeful if you know what I mean. Plus it felt really good to get clean again. I took the opportunity to have a wee bit of discussion with Gunju. I talked to him and we got to know each other a bit better and I think I gave him a little to think on. While we were talking, the girls wandered off to do some shopping. Women, go figure. Anyway, while they were out they were attacked by an unknown assailant.
The Git used invisibility and some other magics to put a real hurting on the girls. They managed to get away and make it back to the Temple where they related the story of the attack. Jena gave me a description and I made a sketch of the fellow. Gunju and I decided to make sure that no one went anywhere alone after that.
Lucian, meanwhile had found a new friend while we were gone. Some sort of lizard. Get this, the Lizard is actually a priest of some kind, I think I may have really seen it all now. The lizard actually helped to heal some of Jenaís wounds when they joined us in the temple.
Lucian passed his new friend off to Jena and the group se out to seek an audience with the Sheik. We arrived at his residence and we were shown in rather quickly. Jena and the Sheik held a discussion, during which it was learned that the man who had attacked her was probably a seeker, a sleeper agent for the Inquisition.
We were then shown to the offices of Ye'amen. The Sheik graciously allowed us to search for any information we might find helpful here. We did discover that opening certain tomes was definitely hazardous to our health, as Jena can attest after her little flight over the second floor railing. Jena discovered a circlet that allowed the wearer to read and understand languages. This helped us greatly.
After several hours, Jena switched off with me. She, Níkara, and Gunju set out to finish their interrupted shopping trip, leaving Lucian and I to continue the research. We researched until dark, finding nothing of help. We finally decided to call it an evening then. We also wondered what had become of the rest of the party, so we set out for the Temple in hopes of locating them. We of course, ran into trouble almost immediately.
A man appeared behind Lucian, scimitar swinging in for an attack on his unprotected back. I recognized the man from Jenaís description, so I let him have a daze spell right away. He immediately stopped his attack and stood there trying to blink away the effects. Lucian immediately blasted him with a magic missile.
I got a swing in with my rapier and Lucian blasted him again. He recovered from the spell and struck me with his blade. I gave back as good as I got and Lucian let him have a final magic missile, sending him down and out. I took a moment to take his weapon, a pair of gauntlets, and a potion off his corpse before we departed the area just ahead of the City Guard.
(I wonít publish the fact that I cut the Bastards throat while he was unconscious, but since this journal will remain private, I need to mention it. I donít want to forget in my later years the price I owe for my actions. I can justify it as something that had to be done. Lucian understands, I have asked for his silence in this matter and he has agreed.)
We returned to the temple and found the rest of our party already there. Gunju having apparently fought some sort of duel with a champion appointed by Ye'amenís family, they having held the original members of the party responsible for his death. Gunju, by virtue of winning the duel, dismissed this claim.
Early the next morning, I was awakened by someone knocking at our door. I opened it and was greeted by a vision of loveliness that I cannot describe adequately here. Her name was Fatima and she was here to find out about our quest. I took her to see Jena and they had a discussion ending with our agreement to meet with a friend of hers, who could possibly help us, for a price.
On a side note, Xzax and NíKara paired up that night, though I am somewhat disappointed that she chose him over me, I believe I shall get over it easily enough, after all, I am still young, and there are plenty of other pretty Girls about. I wish them luck as I think they may need it.
Later in the day, the group, minus Lucian, went to a nearby cafť to meet Fatimaís friend. He turned out to be a character named Jinx, of all things, a human who struck me as a good fellow to have on your side. He offered us a proposition, in exchange for our help in rescuing a mage held in a nearby temple, he would get us back to Racore. A deal we accepted easily.
We had finished our business and were on our way back to the temple, when Alora, Lucianís Falcon, came screeching over to Jena. It seems that somehow, Lucian had got himself assaulted. We took off after her and she led us to a nearby sewer grate. Xzax and I popped it open and down we all went. I cannot describe just how incredibly foul the sewers here smell. After a few hair raising moments down there, we recovered Lucian unharmed save for a large knot on his noggin.
(Once again, a note to myself not to be published, the gauntlets I took from the dead seeker seem to increase my physical strength. I discovered this by accident while sparing with Gunju. It seems that I may now have a way to become what I have always yearned to be, a fighter of some small worth.)
We spent most of the rest of the day resting (After yet another much needed bath) and Jena and Gunju went to keep an appointment for a dinner with Ye'amenís family. The rest of us met up with Jinx and his female companion about five marks after sundown. We went into the city proper and linked up with Jena and Gunju, who changed into the armor we had brought for them. (I must say here, Jena is something to behold in a fine dress, but for some reason, I find myself feeling somewhat distanced from her for some reason.)
We traveled to the temple in question, and discovered it to be ingeniously fortified. It defied all our efforts to gain access until someone thought of entering through the sewers. This proved to be a fairly easy feat. We moved off about two blocks, opened a grate, and in we went. Xzax and I led the party to a grate we estimated to be inside the compound. We went up, chiseled a bit of mortar away and we were in! And talk of luck, where should we happen to come up but right in the cell they were holding the mage in! Xzax covered the door while I checked on the mage.
She was asleep and manacled to the wall with a length of chain around her neck, she also had an amulet of some sort around her neck. I checked for magic and the whole place lit up. I woke her and told her we were here to free her, then I undid the lock binding her. After some debate, I tore the amulet off her. NíKara sealed the door with her special skills and we were out of there just as we heard someone trying to force the door.
We then made our way out of the sewers at the waterfront. Jinx led us to our escape vessel, the Skate and we were introduced to the Captain. The rest of the group returned to the temple where we had been staying to recover equipment they had left behind. I stayed and spent some pleasant time catching up with a Dwarf I had mad the acquaintance of earlier in the day.
The group returned sometime later with the news that we needed to leave now as a ship was due in tomorrow morning to pick up the mage, and that someone had figured out that we had freed her. The whole bloody town was now looking for us to boot. The Captain had his cleric call up the tide and the wind and we were off.
(Another note to myself, Xzax and I work exceptionally well together, I think perhaps of the entire party, he is turning out to the closest thing I have to a friend. I know I can rely on him to do what has to be done, when necessary.)
A day and a half later, we arrived at an island. Jena tells me this is where Ye'amen died. They need to retrieve something, a map fragment or the like, from his corpse. We put ashore and made a day long hike up a mountain to an abandoned monastery. Jena located the grave and opened it, but she couldnít find what she sought. I led her away and searched the entire grave myself, but the stone she sought wasnít there.
(Another note, I made a serious mistake in allowing Jena to open that grave. She is a Paladin of Yintendar and as such, should not have had to lower herself to doing something so vile. My inattention to this matter is inexcusable. I should always be the one to do such onerous tasks. It is my way of keeping our partyís heroes hands clean. As always, I must do what has to be done.)
We returned to the ship and spent the next night puzzling over the riddle of the prophecy. Finally, Jena suggested I hold a riddle contest to see if anyone in the crew could see what we could not. It worked. One of the crew put it together and we went to the Captain with our request that we search for the missing ship ďGreen MaidenĒ it makes sense, Ye'amen apparently left the stone in his cabin on board her.
Oh boy has it been a whirlwind of events since I last had an opportunity to put pen to parchment. Where to start? I guess it was the next morning when the mysterious vessel pursuing us caught us. It turned out to be a ghost ship. We managed to fight it off well enough, got beat up pretty good in the process and lost Jynxís companion to some dire rats.
(On a personal note, Gunju attacked me while under some sort of evil influence. The Git nearly killed me. When I came around and used my heal spell, something unusual happened, I was lifted about an inch off the deck and I would swear I heard a woman singing to me. I was healed completely and everyone chose not to question me about it.)
Our next problem was a fierce storm that blew in, though our ship weathered the storm well enough, the ghost ship returned. While we were scattered about our ship dealing with the storm, Jena was attacked in her cabin by the same creature we had run off the night before. It took the spin stone and turned her to stone for a time.
(I must speculate here on what this creature is, I suspect it to be some sort of undead Medusa. After having been turned to stone myself, I can come up with no other explanation. Also During this time Gunju and I had a confrontation and harsh words were spoken by me. More on this later.)
Having lost the spin stone, Jena was very upset. We held a group discussion and decided to continue on to try to find the Green Maiden anyway. We did manage to do this after all, several days later, we found the wreck. During the search of the wreck I was injured by a spirit, as was Lucian. Xzax retrieved the pendant, and we set off for his homeland. Apparently, he knew someone who could aid us there.
We arrived at his homeland after another weeks sailing time. We stayed aboard the ship while he went ashore and met with someone. While we were waiting, Captain Forth observed that we were being watched by several nine foot tall humanoids on shore. Xzax finished his conversation and returned to the ship. He brought several Elves he introduced to us as relatives. One of them, Blued was her name I think, took me aside and did something that reversed the effects of my encounter with the ghost.
(Personal note; she dropped a great deal onto my Prate when she handed me a finely crafted holy symbol of the Lady Habrem and told me that the Goddess was calling to me. This was the strange effect on my spell and the singing I heard at the time.)
Xzaxís relatives also reprovisioned us and repaired the Skate to almost new condition. We then set out for the city of Kur Maeth, a month long sail. During this time, I took over as ship's Bosun, it seems I have a knack for sailing and I do well with the ship's crew, I have the respect and confidence of Captain Forth as well.
(It was good that I had shipboard duties to attend during this time, as the disagreement I had with Gunju was preying on my mind. A few days before we made harbor, Lucian confronted me about my behavior. I had managed to avoid Jena and her questions, but Lucian gave me no choice but to listen. For such a young Elf, he possesses wisdom in excess. He shamed me into seeing the truth. That I had been wrong and what I had said to Gunju was out of line. I apologized to Gunju the next morning and things have slowly been getting better between us, though I fear they will never be as they were before.)
During this time, Xzax and Jena managed to decipher part of the prophecy, it seems that the next shard is located under the lair of a Srik Queen in the Ogre Nations. We well and truly have our work cut out for us on this one.
(The Srik have been slowly running the Ogres out of part of their territories and they are actually wining against 150,000 Ogarian troops.)
We arrived and I was offered a permanent post on the Skate, I was sorely tempted and I spent almost two days considering the offer. I even went to the Temple of Habrem to seek guidance. There some of my questions were answered and I decided to continue with the quest. Once I made my decision, Jena confided to me that she had feared I would leave them -- she has no idea how close I came to doing just that very thing.
I told Captain Forth of my decision and he told me that his employer, Mr. Menace, wished to speak with me, and a meeting was arranged for the next day. I went to the meeting just after dawn and Mr. Menace gave me a small ship, some supplies, advice and a signet ring for GE. He also showed me a piece of the prophecy that was unfamiliar to me.
(The prophecy disturbed me a bit as it all but named us individually.)
I accepted these gifts graciously and returned to the Skate and rounded up the party. Jena and Gunju went to pick up some items and the rest of us rowed over to the Black Holly, my new vessel. It seems I am now the Captain of a specially outfitted pinnace. She is specially built for blockade running and she has several enchantments laid upon her to make her hard to find. Mr. Menace had even arranged for a group of actors to impersonate us to throw our pursuers off track. We saw them and they were spitting images of us.
Once on board, we began preparing to slip when a dwarf clad in the finest armor I have ever seen appeared on deck. He was none other than the Baron and the Bishop himself. He gave us a talk and wished us well, pledging as much aid as he could give us. Jena and Gunju arrived and we cast off as the Baron departed. We sailed out just ahead of an unnatural storm and a fleet of ghost ships. Thankfully, we seemed to be invisible to them. We set our course for the Island of Hallis, as Jinx had told me that I could find a friend of his there, someone named Prat who could possibly help us. (During our voyage, we inspected my new little ship and found her to be a marvel of engineering. She is equipped with retractable hydrofoils that grant us incredible speed if we need it and she has a few other surprises as well. We also went through the items we had been given by Xzaxís relatives and Mr. Menace as well. It was a virtual treasure trove of enchanted items. If an Inquisitor gets wind of us, I fear we shall be not long for this world!)
Xzax and I also began a long discussion of how best to proceed from here. We developed a plan and we think it has a good chance of success. At least it seems to hold more promise than simply walking into a Srik lair and having them eat us.
(I have left Jena and Gunju out of this plan for several reasons, first, Jena is now with child. It seems she and Gunju have finally acted upon their feelings for each other. Second, if they were to find out that we are about to do, no less than restart a crusade, they would surely try to stop us. Xzax has found a way to keep them ignorant of our plot and keep them safe until their child is born -- he will place them with his relatives. The rest of the party is in agreement with Xzax and I, so there is no problem there.)
We arrived at Hallis and I was pleased to find that Jinx was already there. He introduced me to his friend, Lord Prat. (Interesting fellow, had I time, I would love to chronicle some of his stories.) We gave him a limited version of what we were up to and he agreed to help us. He would teleport Jena and Gunju to safety and assist the rest of us in producing the incident we needed to get things going.
(Of all the things I have done so far in this quest, what I did next will probably be the one thing that may cost me whatever friendship I may have had with Jena -- I lied to her. I told her that her dead friend Cleo was foretold in prophecy as the one who would find the shard. I twisted the words of the thing so that I could gain our party another member who was stealthy and could increase our chances of success. I did what I had to. Forgive me Jena, if you ever can.)
Xzax, Lucian and I went back to spend the evening in fellowship with Jinx and Prat, an enjoyable time was had. Jena, Gunju and NíKara stayed on the Holly and performed a miracle. She brought her dead friend back using a scroll. We returned to the ship in the morning to find Jena temporarily blinded and exhausted. NíKara was holding a tiny slip of a human girl in her arms and trying to soothe her.
The girlís name is Cleo. She was the one who died before I joined the party. She took one look at Xzax and fled from him in terror. NíKara told me later that his eyes had reminded her of something that had been after her while she was dead. She fell into an exhausted sleep herself soon after; apparently, it takes a bit of getting used to when you come back from the dead.
Prat arrived shortly and he teleported Jena, Gunju and Xzax away with him. A few minutes later, Prat and Xzax returned. Xzax gave all of us bracers and explained that the Undead were able to track us when we left the ship, these bracers would prevent that from happening in the future. We thanked Prat, who warned us that the undead were even now on their way here. We raised anchor and set sail for Rakore.
(Xzax and I have grown even closer as friends over the last few weeks. We have a trust for one another that is rarely seen outside family. NíKara has opened up to me somewhat and Lucian is still as unreadable to me as ever. The new girl, Cleo is attractive and bright but seems a bit lost right now -- I think I shall have to help her find her feet so to speak. We will need all the help we can get in the months ahead, I fear, but such is the nature of the quest I have joined.)
Well, it's been another interesting week, where to start? We left Hallis Island one step ahead of the Undead (Again!) and made our way to the Rock to hire on some actual sailors. (We are acutely feeling the loss, however temporary of Jena and Gunju.) Upon our arrival, I was saddened to observe much evidence of the fight that had followed our departure. We docked and I went to see Mr. Mhenace. He was out and his secretary passed clean out when she heard I was here. That left me to deal with one of the other supervisors who gave me two names.
The first was a Half-Elf named Quill, the bint is a constant chatterbox, but she speaks a lot of languages, so she might be useful. The second was a Dwarf named Thalst. I watched him in action for a bit, and then hired him on the spot -- he's the perfect fellow to be the Holly's Bosun, tough as nails and knows his stuff. I had to bluff him a bit, but he agreed to sign on. We got them settled on board, I picked up some supplies, (including two masterwork rapiers) and we set out for Teras.
We arrived in Teras without incident. I set Mr. Thalst to work hiring me a real crew, and he excelled at this. In short order, he got me a tomanth named Visik, a big human named Gheledon, A cleric named Aust, and another big human named Maui. Maui and Aust have more or less joined our little party. Maui appointed himself my bodyguard and Aust is a welcome addition indeed. While we were berthed, Quill went back to the rock overland -- seems she mislaid her purse. She promised to back by morning. Cleo and I had a bit of a disagreement that ended with my tossing her into the river.
(I must remark here that she is the single most annoying child I have ever had to deal with! Her constant quarreling over every little thing has really got on my nerves. Her last suggestion that led to her impromptu swim was also impossible from a physiological standpoint! Crazy wench!)
A bit later in the day, Lucian took her shopping to replace some things she had lost. N'Kara and Xzax went ashore with the cats to enjoy some quality forest time, I remained on board to get the new crew settled. Some marks later, Alora, Lucian's bird came back, screeching in elven. Fortunately, Maui speaks elven so he translated that someone had taken Lucian. (This is getting to be a regular thing with him, I have since laid down orders that he is not to be allowed ashore without at least two bodyguards.) I sent Mr. Thalst to retrieve Visik and Gheledon and we prepared to slip to pursue. Quill I couldn't wait for, and I was desparate to find Xzax and N'Kara.
At this point, I had a bit of inspiration, I fired off my flare spell into the air above the ship. It had the desired effect, Xzax and N'Kara spotted the bright neon orange and came running. We got everyone aboard and cast off, heading upriver, following Alora. We dropped sails, extended the hydrofoils and N'Kara cast swift waves and we were off! Some few marks later we were stopped by a mass of felled trees -- we beached the Holly and set out on foot. I left Mr. Thalst, Visik, and Gheledon with the ship.
We followed Alora to an abandoned and burned out elven village. Someone had tried to reset the fires and that led us to Cleo who was hiding just inside the village. She warned us that there were two elves and a large spider inside, one elf apparently undead, and they were holding Lucian. She had managed to escape but couldn't take them on herself. (Smart girl. Maybe she's not completely hopeless.)
We advanced into the village, and Xzax was struck by a magic missile. It seems that one of our assailants was invisible too! We spent a few minutes dealing with him before he retreated. We found the place to be absolutely full of net traps, and Maui and Aust found most of them. We had to get up about thirty feet into the trees to get to where they were holding Lucian, as we closed in, we could hear him shouting, but couldn't make out what he was saying.
(I was taken out of the fight by a trapped walkway that dropped me thirty feet straight down. The statement OWWW!! doesn't even begin to cover it. Thankfully, I survived and was able to heal myself. A mere moment later, Maui suffered the same fate, and I expended my last heal spell on him and told him to remain on the ground.)
Cleo dropped a rope down and Aust and myself scrambled up. By this time, the spider had been dispatched, as had the undead elf (more on him in a moment), and the last elf had fled. We pursued him to a stables and I let him have it with my trusty daze spell -- it worked long enough for Midnight to unhorse him and turn him into wormbait.
(The undead elf was Lucian's father. Lucian was so crazed with grief and rage, he went after the corpse of the elf who had raised his father. I tried to stop him and he used a spell on me, and though I was seriously injured, I managed to sucker punch him and put him out. I felt I had no choice -- Lucian is a good kid, and he doesn't need that kind of thing preying on his mind later. We talked the next day and there are no hard feelings. I believe we both understand what happened was not malicious on either of our parts.)
We returned to the Black Holly II and sailed back downriver to Teras, arriving the next morning, well after dawn. We looked for Quill and found that she had gone back to the Rock, so off we went. Several marks later, we arrived at the Rock, and discovered that she had left for Teras! Crazy bint! I sent Xzax and N'Kara after her. They returned with the bewildered woman later. We then cast off and set sail for Rilan. We arrived there the next day.
We spent about a day there, and sometime during this time, Cleo managed to get Lucian's clothes off him. I'm told that's all she did but I'm not so sure -- she seems awfully pleased with herself lately. Not that I care what she get's up to, but she can be quite annoying, and why am I even bothering to write this down? (Note: edit this bit out later.) We then explored the town and set our plan of disinformation into motion. Xzax and I spread rumors of dragons and necromancers in the northern desert. We also got wind of a robbery we might be able to investigate.
Lucian apparently asked Cleo out to dinner that evening and things didn't go well. She got all dolled up for him, expecting a fancy night out, and he presented her with a picnic on the foredeck. I watched the whole thing and it was all I could do not to fall overboard laughing! She came up and started to give me a piece of her mind, but I derailed her by asking her to come to dinner with me. (No sense in letting all her work go to waste, and I must say, she does clean up quite nicely.) We went to the nicest place in town and shared diner with Xzax and N'Kara. (I'm not sure if Xzax realized it was Cleo. N'Kara did only by scent. Also, Cleo has two eyes -- I guess the eyepatch is just for show.) After dinner we went back to the Holly and made ready to head to my home.
We put that on hold, however, as we discovered that Cleo had "found" several items on the dead elf that seemed to be magical. Since Lok Magius was just up the mountain, we decided to pay them a visit. We got the items identified and had a very good time there. Lucian decided to stay there for a week or two to study magics. I am heading back to my Clan Hearth to see if they are all right. I got word that a flight of rocs were seen coming from that direction
(It makes me afraid for my home to hear this, for my people to let them through -- something must be amiss. Xzax, N'Kara, Cleo, and Aust are going to accompany me on my trip. I am most grateful for their company. While we were at Lok Magius, several other interesting events transpired that I should note here. First, Cleo pickpocketed a cursed dagger and did some harm to Lucian. He wasn't upset with her, but I feel she bears closer watch in the future; after all, she is still a child in so many ways, no matter how much she thinks she has grown up. Second, I woke up the next morning to find that she had crawled into bed with me. She was cuddled against me for warmth. I don't know why she did this, as she took great pains not to wake me before she left, not realizing that I was awake already. I fear I shall need to speak with her about this sometime, but not now -- I have enough on my mind.)
Well, I guess that covers this week.
I am heartliy sick of this whole mess right now. Lucian has been behaving like a spoiled child, and I am tired of it. He is more than welcome to do as he pleases from now on -- I will not bother to offer him any further guidance. If he wishes to go down a dark path, so be it. I stepped aside and handed leadership of this group over to Xzax. I shall assume no leadership, aside from when we are aboard the Holly. I have made this choice, and I intend to abide by it until such time as they cease to continue on this quest. Then, I will either take the lead again, or I will continue on my own.
On another subject, I am completely lost about the human girl, Cleo. She has been sneaking into my quarters and sharing my bed. Nothing happens and she is always careful not to be seen. She leaves before I wake in the mornings and she seems to think I haven't been aware of her. Little does she know, I now lie awake until she slides into bed beside me. My feelings for this girl are confusing in the utmost. She is a mere child, and a human to boot. Should I enter into any kind of relationship with her? It would needlessly complicate things further with our party (as if we need that). I also have no wish to enter a relationship with someone that I will outlive by far. I don't want that kind of heartbreak. And yet, a few days ago, when she leapt onto me and kissed me, I found myself responding in kind -- it was a real test of my will to stop her before we went further.
I have discussed this at length with Xzax and he has basically reminded me of all the negative arguments I already thought of, and then he finished by telling me to follow my heart. No real help there, though I'm sure he meant well. I have no one else I can talk about this with -- N'Kara and I are not close, Lucian and I are not really speaking anymore... Aust, though I feel him to be a kindred spirit, I do not know well enough. He is a priest -- maybe I should talk with him? Maui is loyal to me and a fine sailor, but not really a friend yet. I wish Jena were here, perhaps she could hear me out. Who would have ever believed that I would count a Paladin of Yatindar as a friend? Our lives take such strange turns.
I find myself growing depressed as I write this, for we have faced the undead (yet again!), lost a crewman (poor Quill -- I feel so bad -- I led her to her death and I barely knew her; yet another crime I will answer for one day), seen the devestation of a fearsome plague, fought my old enimies the ogres and orcs... (My killing of the ogre after he surrendered was the event that has caused the rift between Lucian and I. Though, the boy has never fought these foul creatures and doesn't know any better. I cannot baby him forever -- it is a harsh world and he will need to learn some hard lessons from now on. My biggest mistake was trying to protect him from himself.) I went off on my own and nearly got killed by a foul creature in the ruins (Xzax proved once and for all to be truly my friend, coming to my aid and saving my life), found the map with a clue on it (here I was able to repay Xzax a bit by saving him when he accidentally summoned an elemental that nearly killed him), and yet, it seems as if our group is fragmenting. I fear it is because I am a poor leader and have made too many mistakes.
We are sitting here as I write, no one speaking... Xzax and N'Kara by themselves with the cats, Aust feeding sticks into our small fire, Maui ever vigilant on guard, Lucian sitting as far from me as he can get, Alora on his shoulder -- Cleo is behind me, invisible to everyone but me. I wouldn't know she was there if she hadn't asked me to help her spell out a word or two as she writes a letter to Jena. She has finished and rolled up her parchment now. I feel her scoot up behind me and her small arm slides across my stomach as she cuddles up behind me and prepares to sleep. I am completely at a loss as to what to do next. Tomorrow is a new day -- perhaps I will find my answers in the new dawn (I feverently hope so). I have a quest to complete, and feelings for a woman to figure out. I feel doomed no matter what I shall do... Perhaps not -- I do feel one small ray of hope: I at least know where we must go come the morning. That is a pleasant change from normal.
I suppose the best thing I can say about the last several days is that we're all still alive. Most of us are back on good terms with each other, and we seem to be more focused. I repaired most of the damage my stupidity caused among us. (I never want to go though such a string of apologies and having to prove my intentions again!) I have regained some measure of trust from N'Kara. Lucian and I, if not friends, have formed a respect for one another that allows us to at least cooperate with each other. Xzax and I still maintain a close friendship. Maui is quickly earning my respect as a capable and resourceful sailor. And Aust has earned my trust and may turn out to be another friend to me.
Cleo is another story. I have been forced by recent events (and my own reactions to them) to look closely at my feelings for her. To put it bluntly, I love her. Seeing her lying dead by her own hand brought home to me the fact that I cannot envision my own future without her. I think that the worst part of seeing her was knowing that I had never told her how I felt, and that I had worked so hard not to tell her. Thank the Lady that Father Wirebeard was there to bring her back. I still fear the pain that her short lifespan may bring me, but at least I have her back in my life.
The latest addition to our group I am still wary of. Her name is Chimera, and she is half desert elf and half orc -- a most unusual combination. A combination which may prove useful, should we need to go into ogran territory. She is strong and clever, but uneducated -- and suffers from much of her orcish parentage showing in her features. She has proven to be loyal to those who treat her well, so I have endeavored to do so with the hope that she will lend her sword to our cause for a time. (It is rather dificult to overcome a lifelong hatred of orcs, but she had no choice in her parentage, and it would be wrong to treat her badly just because of this. I have to make a concious effort to be nice to her sometimes.)
After everything leading up to Cleo's suicide was explained to me, I understood why she did what she did. Her worst nightmare had come true. The revelation that she was possessed and responsible (in her mind at least) for the murder at Lok Sadic was more than she could take. I suppose in a strange way, she accomplished what she wanted -- Xzax tells me all traces of the Demon are gone from her now, so she should be okay. (The physical changes she has undergone are a remnant of her internal fight with the demon and they may eventually fade away.) I am disturbed to find that someone was able to use her to track us in such a fiendishly clever way, though. I don't have any idea how to combat this kind of trickery.
Tomorrow we shall arrive at the hearth of the Stonehelms, and I will be among my adoptive family again. I look forward to this, yet I dread the questions I will have to answer. I have much to explain to my father, the least of which is my relationship with a human child. I don't know how that will go over at all, and then I have the whole issue of our quest to find Al Mudim, Xzax and his kin, my joining GE, my friendship with Jena, and having a half-orc with me. Indeed I have much to explain -- I wish someone could explain it to me! When I set out from home I intended to merely see the world and broaden my horizons, not engage in a quest like this! If things weren't so deadly serious, I would have a good laugh at my own life.
Still, all things considered, I have much to be thankful for -- I have found a woman I love, I have made several friends, gained many new skills, and have a chance to make this world a better place. Who could ask for more at my young age? Most interestingly of all, I have never felt more alive than I do, when I am with this group of people They truly bring out the best in me! I fear I shall be very sorry to see this quest end, for when it does, we may go our own ways -- or worse, be dead, some of us. I harbor no illusions -- I feel that some of us may surely perish. I will be sorry to see any of them go either way.
Well, that's all for now. I wish to get some rest and I intend to find out just how awkward Cleo's new fangs make kissing.
We arrived in my adoptive home the next morning and I immediately arranged an escort for Xzax, NíKara, and Aust to the surface, as they were all suffering ill effects from being below ground for so long. As they left for the surface, the rest of us were shown into my Fatherís Ďofficeí.
As is usual for him, he greeted us gruffly and promptly grilled me about who my companions were. We retired to his personal quarters and we discussed my adventures since leaving in detail. He also brought me up to date on happenings here in my absence. I also filled him on the Prophecy and our quest.
As I finished up, Mother showed up and I was forced to tell her about Cleo and my taking up Lady Habrem as my personal deity of choice. To say that she was not pleased, would be a VERY big understatement. However, after she beat on me for a bit, she was much more accepting of the whole mess.
After our little talk, Uncle Kurrold and I retrieved Chimera, and took her down to the Hall of Horrors. Her initial reaction was to break her sword on one of the statues. We led her through the rest of it and her reactions firmly proved her worthy of our acceptance. (I truly wish I could show this to NíKara, but I fear her reaction would be one of further mistrust.)
Afterwards, I played a few tunes in the pub and then retired to my room. Cleo joined me and we talked for a bit... (She told me that she wanted to pursue a relationship with me and wanted to see if it would work out for us.) ...and then we consummated our relationship for the first time. (The girl is a dynamo in bed!)
We were awakened somewhat later by Xzax and NíKara, who burst in to let me know that they had spotted some rocs overhead. We went to let my Father know about it. (NíKara and Cleo apparently played some sort of joke on Xzax, Iíll have to ask him later what exactly it was.) He told us that the orcs were able to slip raiding parties past our defenses in this manner.
As we headed toward the pub, I heard a kobold yipping in the distance. I called back and we began to try to close with him. He led us into the lower levels, where we ran into a horde of skeletons and a wight. Aust caused the wight to flee, and destroyed three waves of skeletons. We continued to track the kobold, but NíKara scented a large number of orcs, so we withdrew.
We got back to the upper levels, and found that my friend Kip was here waiting for me. We talked for a bit and he filled me in on the new Doom who was in charge of the ogran forces in the area (seems this one is more into subterfuge than brute force), and I asked him to try to get us some of the scent-mask the ograns use.
We had just finished when my Father came in and asked me to get my people out of there as the halls were being stormed by hordes of undead. (AS if I would abandon my home and family in a situation like this!) I refused and all of the party agreed to stand with me. (For the first time, I felt like a true leader. No one was reluctant at all to aid in the defense of my home -- even Chimera. I am so proud and humbled to have companions such as these.) Father led us to a corridor and asked us to hold until relieved.
We fought off a wave of skeletons, a spectre, an allip, and a bodak. NíKara entangled them, Maui destroyed the skeletons and the allip, Xzax, Cleo, NíKara and I struck the spectre down, and Lucian finished it off. Lucian and Xzax hit the bodak with ranged fire, Chimera tackled it to keep it from running away, and Cleo and I finished it off. We held our positions until morning when Uncle Kurrold arrived and sealed the passage.
We returned to the upper levels and this is where I find myself now. Everyone is exhausted and resting. Tomorrow we shall depart for Teras, for we have come up with a new plan. For now, I am content. I have proved myself as a leader (finally!), become closer to the woman I love, defended my home and family, and in the process, repaid some of the kindness my adoptive family have given me over the years.
Lastly, I have a short poem about Cleo, who doesnít realize yet that I know she reads this journal when she thinks Iím not around:
And even though the moment passed me by
But if you could hide beside me
And scars are souvenirs you never lose
We grew up way too fast
I think about you all the time
I finally have found time to update my journal. On the 1st we left my adoptive home, and on the way out we picked up my cousin, Angus Kurrold Stonehelm. He is a welcome addition to the group (at least in my mind, anyway) who brings our clan's legendary battle skills and cunning with him. Angus has always been a bit odd, (even for a Stonehelm) and it took a couple of days for the rest of them to get used to him and his odd ways. His being struck by the wanderlust when he was, turned out to be fortunate for me -- now I have a familiar face to confide in and share the joys (and sorrows) of this quest with. (I haven't filled him in completely on the quest, but for now he is keen enough just to be out in the world with me. Hero worship?)
It took us until the 5th to reach Mount Basilisk. Once we passed out of the tunnels and into the open, Xzax and N'Kara were back to being their usual happy (if you know what to look for, you can tell) selves. Chimera parted ways with our group at this point. I wrote her a letter of recommendation to take with her in case she needed safe passage through Rakore. (She is a well-meaning and honorable girl. Her assistance was appreciated, and won't be forgotten if I ever see her again.)
By the 7th, we reached theHolly. She was securely beached, and a troop of tomanths were guarding her. Thalst had hired them in case another scrag put in an appearance. (I chose my Bosun well -- he is clever as well as tough.) Everyone got themselves and their gear aboard, Thalst paid off the tomanths, and we set off again. It would be another day's sail to Lok Sadic.
We arrived this morning and were greeted by the Baron Sadic himself. He assisted us with the reprovisioning of the ship, and caught me up on current events. (It seems that the Kur Maens got a bit high-handed and my Boss. Rial sunk two of their triremes to teach them a lesson in politeness. It worked, but they pulled out of Rakore completely! Now we seem to be back to Square One with the plague.) I gave him the short version of what happened to Cleo, and we bedded down for the evening. Tomorrow, we sail for Lok Magius.
It has been a few days since I last wrote, and a few things have occurred that I need to note here. First off, we detoured to Kashin so that Aust could talk to the higher-ups in his Church. They were gone a good part of the day, and they returned with a young man whom Aust was to escort to Terras. The next morning we departed for Rilan.
We arrived to find the town still under quarantine. During the prior night, Aust told me of the destruction of Tulish. (Maui was devastated -- his family lived there and from what Aust told me, there is little hope of survivors. What kind of power could level a town in an instant?) We used Alora to pass a message to Mistress Brin, and received word that almost everyone was gone to investigate the destruction of Tulish. While we were here, a snow began to fall -- a snow mixed with ash. Apparently, there has been a volcanic eruption somewhere up north.
It took us two days to reach Thayer's Rock. Upon arrival, I paid off the crew and took Maui with me to the offices. Mr Mhenace wasnít in, but Kirad, his second in command, was. I explained to him Mauiís plight, and he agreed to put him aboard a ship that was departing in less than a mark. I left Maui with a good letter of recommendation, and then Kirad filled me in on what had been learned about the blast that had leveled Tulish.
When he told me that the blast was caused by a magical sphere of destruction being dropped into a magical bag of holding, I was furious beyond words. To think that someone would intentionally do such a thing is so repulsive to me! And the rumor that the Church of Lul might be responsible -- it just fuels my resolve to prove the Inquisition as nonsense. To think that by calling it a godís work, it will make it all right, is pure foolishness! I am going to find Cleo and a good bottle of liquor, and do my best to forget this idiocy for a while.
Well, we are once again back in Wuron S'fa with Xzaxís family. Getting here was interesting, to say the least. We had no problems until we hit the Straits of Sloph -- the area was crawling with Kur Maen patrols. We evaded them by the simple expedient of having NíKara call swift waves, and then added the effects of our wand of wind summoning. (I really wish I had been able to see the looks on the faces of those ship captains, when we went blazing past them!) We were able to thus outrun the patrols and not give them a chance at firing spells or catapults at us.
Once we arrived at the same cove we had put into with theSkate all those months ago (it seems so long ago, in many ways, just yesterday in other respects), we were met by Lady Blud. We set out overland to the elven city of Trishalamagne. It took us seven days of walking to get here. Once we arrived, we were greeted by a radiant ( read 'very obviously pregnant') Jena and a much-more-relaxed-than-I-remember Gunju. Our plan is to remain here until she is able to travel again.
Much has transpired in the months since I last made an entry in this journal. Much of it was of the mundane and ordinary (as ordinary as you can get when in the presence of dragons), but something has happened that caused me to pick up my pen after such a long break. The Vridaran Empire has united, and is marching on Wuron SíFa in order to exterminate the dragons. Our band has been ordered away to safeguard Jena and her unborn child. (Xzax, of course refused to go. I wanted so bad to join him in his argument to stay, but my duty to the leader of our quest takes preceedance over my friendship.)
It took his grandfather ordering him away to get Xzax to come with us. (Goddess, but the depth of his commitment to his people is awesome to behold!) Once the matter was decided, we were teleported (all of us, to include theHolly) back to Gridolin. Once there, we let Prat know what was going on, and he made us welcome. Now all we can do is await Jenaís child, and news from the dragons.
On another topic entirely, Cleo and I have developed a comfortable relationship -- though we both care deeply for one another, we have come to a realization that neither of us can really give the other exactly what they want. She can no longer bear children, and I want an heir -- and she doesnít wish to settle down in one place. So we both realize that ours will not be a real long term relationship. For now, we are happy enough with each other, but we know, sooner or later, we will part ways. I, for one, intend us to remain as friends when we do. Well, thatís all for now.
Well, it has certainly been an interesting couple of days for us -- to say the least. We took theRattler out for a shakedown cruise that turned into a real adventure in itís own right. Prat had asked me to check on reports of pirates on the north coast, so we headed to the north side of the island. The reports turned out to be true.
We encountered a light galleon and a brig. We ordered them to heave to, and they ran up the black flag in reply. Not being one to run from a good fight, I had the crew get ready and we went after them. I was fully confident in my crew and my companions. In all my years, I have never made a bigger or more foolish mistake.
They had the advantage of numbers, and it nearly cost me my crew. The sky was almost black with arrows during the fight. For all our skills and talents, the sheer volume of fire pouring into us nearly decided the battle. Fortunately, some timely spells from NíKara, Aust, and Lucian disabled the galleon, allowing us to take on the smaller brig. We were able to force a surrender of the smaller ship fairly quickly.
We took what was left of the crew prisoner, and then scuttled the ship. During the interrogation of the brig's bosun, he made reference to the fact that he thought I was someone else. It would appear that I look like a notorious pirate. Coincidence? I know not. Perhaps I have a brother out thereÖ I will dwell on this more later. At the time, I had other things to consider.
We had taken heavy casualties during the battle. Ten of my crew were dead and almost all of them had been wounded. While we tended to the wounded, the brig's bosun was interrogated further. We learned that the pirates had captured a ship carrying mages, fleeing the inquisition. Worse, they were planning to force the mages to fight for them! We had no choice but to try to find them and rescue them. (A pirate band with magical firepower is something I do not wish to contemplate.)
I was now faced with a dilemma -- I didnít have enough of a crew left to guard the prisoners if we tried to mount a rescue mission. I talked to Jena and Aust and came up with a solution. As Captain, I am the ultimate authority on my ship, as such, I am within the law to hold trials and act as High Judge. I held trials for all the prisoners -- we found 27 of them guilty of piracy and hung them. (I have only one regret -- that this forced what happened next.)
Lucian, of course (being immature as he is) ranted and railed at this. He called my orders into question, and did so publicly. I tried to talk to him privately, but it was to no avail. I finally told him that he would obey my orders on my vessel, or else. He then made the statement that I had no authority over him. I ordered him placed under arrest for mutiny, but he escaped over the side. (Good riddance to him. He created chaos among my crew by questioning my orders. As soon as I get a chance, I will swear out a warrant for his arrest.)
I then conducted a burial service for our dead, and we spent the night mourning our losses. The next morning, we set out to find the pirates base of operations. It didnít take long, and a couple of marks after dawn, we put ashore east of a cove we had observed signs of habitation in on the day prior. We sent theRattler back to Gridolin with instructions to notify Prat of what we were doing, and we set out overland.
It took us most of the day to get to the cove -- once we got there, we found two ships in the cove, along with about three hundred or so men. During the night, Xzax and Cleo did some scouting -- and we found that the mages were not in the camp. Jena and I discussed the matter, and we figured that they might be being held further inland. We decided to wait until morning and then search further.
About a mark before dawn, Cleo woke me up to tell me that they had spotted a magical light on the light galleon anchored in the cove. (Curse me for a fool! I should have realized they would hold them aboard ship!) A hasty plan was worked out -- basically, I would circle to the opposite side of the camp and create a diversion, while everyone else stormed the ship. (Foolhardy at best, but we had no real alternatives.)
I circled the camp, using my invisibility spell, and then began using my flare spell to create a disturbance. (During this ruckus, I also shot a guard with my crossbow.) The rest of them had met with resistance and were forced into a fight before they reached the four longboats drawn up on the shore. Suddenly, vines entangled most of the beach, including three of the four boats.
Recognizing NíKaraís handiwork, I went invisible again and made for the sole untangled boat. It was a near thing -- I barely beat several pirates to it. I got it into the water and began to row with everything I had toward the rest of my friends. As I began to close, we were suddenly lit up by some sort of fireball in the sky. Thatís when the arrows began to really fly. Pirates on both ships opened up as soon as they had enough light to see us. (I took an arrow in my shoulder at this point.)
Cleo did her darkness trick and it partially shielded them from some of the worst of it. As I got closer, I dropped the invisibility spell and yelled for everyone to get aboard. At that moment, four magical missiles came screaming across the water toward me, they struck me in the chest but did no damage. My holy symbol apparently protected me. (I shall have to find an appropriate offering of thanks for this, later.)
Everyone but Cleo climbed into the boat -- including a tall sorcerer and his wolf cub who had escaped the pirates earlier -- and we began to pull for the galleon furiously. We barely got out of the way of a fireball on the way. The young human, Xavien, warned us that we had ten mages still being forced to help the pirates. At that point, Jena took matters into her own hands: she FLEW across to the ship and plucked the mage off the deck! (I had no idea she was so favored of her God that she could actually fly!)
The grateful mage then turned his talents against his former captors -- in moments, the galleon was afire on its main deck. We pulled alongside and Aust, Jena, and I went up -- Angus, Xzax and NíKara began to tear a hole through the side to rescue anyone below decks. (I went a bit mad as I stalked across the quarterdeck, cutting down anyone I came across with my sword.) Jena and Aust Ďconvincedí the crew to surrender fairly quickly. (The sight of a fully armored paladin with twin longswords, floating in the air, would convince me quickly, too!)
While we were storming the galleon, Cleo had been busy as well. She used her darkness and sheer bluff to convince the captain of the brig that she was a vampire. He surrendered his ship to her without a fight. Goddess, but I will never hear the end of this, I fear. I must give her credit -- it worked.
As dawn broke, we spotted theBlack Mamba coming up hard and fast -- Lord Prat had sent reinforcements, after all. We took the brig under tow and headed back for Gridolin. During the voyage, I gained a new First Officer, Vladimir Kushkin. It seems he was so grateful for our saving him from the pirates, that he has signed on with me -- he brings much skill with artillery, and a bodyguard called Ioseph Katakamchka. Both of them are former officers of the Vridaran Imperial Navy.
Back in Gridolin, Lord Prat pulled a fast one on me -- he took my report, and then told me to report back to him at dawn the next day -- or elseÖ We showed up the next morning and he knighted N'Kara, Angus, Xzax, Aust, Jena, Cleo, Gheledon, and myself. I really was expecting to be punished for my rendering of High Justice, so this was a true shock. (I have little use for titles -- but I understand that if he didnít punish me, he had to show that he supported my action.) A party began that lasted well into the night...
That covers everything for now. The last several days have left me much to ponder upon -- do I have family out there, somewhere? Was I right in my actions with the pirates? Is Ma going to skin me for not making sure she was there when I was knighted? Enough for now. I have a very beautiful woman waiting for me in my bed, and I do not wish to keep her waiting.
The last week or so has convinced me that I shall not make it through this quest alive. This may seem a bit pessimistic, but... I have come closer to dying than at any other time in my life, my cousin did die, and Cleo left me. Never have my spirits been so low. I know not how to restore my flagging confidence, and I know from experience, that if I do not, I shall fall. I can accept falling in battle or whilst trying to aid my fellows (as any good Dwarf can), but to fall due to carelessness, brought on by a lack of confidence... Well, that's a different matter entirely.
The whole problem is that during our attempt to free the village of Kestaria, that huge bloody troll almost killed me with one swing. I went down and was put out of the fight before I could do anything. This kind of failure is the sort of thing I fear the most. Ordinarilly I can channel my anger into the completion of this quest, but this time, I can only channel it back to myself. I was a damn fool to try to fight a troll face to face -- even a well trained fighter would be hard pressed to take on a troll. For me to try was simply stupid. Angus, a child, and a village girl died. Not all of it was directly my fault, but if I hadn't been so foolish, perhaps I could have saved at least one of them.
The aftermath of that mistake still haunts me -- though Angus, the child, and the girl were brought back, Cleo left us before this was accomplished. She beat a bit of sense into me before she left, and I am grateful for that, but I miss her more than I ever thought I would. Angus' return cost me a price. I took up service to the Lady as one of her Preists in return for his return. I do not try to understand why she asks this of me, for I am a mere mortal, the ways of the Gods are beyond me, but I truely wonder if my world has gone mad. I am the last person I would ever think of as a Holy Man. The whole affair has shaken my belief in myself.
To compound my misery, my crew seem to think that I can do no wrong. Their faith and loyalty scare me to my core. It is no longer just the the lives of my companions and I -- we knew the risks beforehand, but now I have the lives of my crew to worry over. I have decided to endeavor to keep them as much out of harm's way as I can. It is the least I can do for these brave and loyal souls. To that end, I have argued against using my ship to get us up the coast. Jena and the others have accepted my case for going overland, so I do feel better about my crews safety for now.
The fight with the medusa wasn't really much of a help for me either -- Xzax and I got pummelled pretty thoroughly by the 'ormigons' before Cleo found where the medusa was commanding her troops from. I must say that watching Jena in action brought a smile (be it a grim one) to my face -- she was truly in her element while facing off against the hordes of undead thrown at us. Aust once again showed us what one of true faith could do -- it was he who finally vanquished our foe. N'Kara proved again to be a force of nature, Xzax was his usual steadfast and dependable, Angus (though he didn't actually get into the fight) was a boost to my spirits with just his presence. It is good to have family by my side in a fight. Xavien, the new kid -- though he fell under the Allyip's spell for a moment -- proved to be welcome magical firepower. Gunju and Maui both stood to the line in case anything got past the arcane and divine power of our band... I contributed nothing to the fight, save an attempt to boost our morale.
Cleo's return has started a whole new set of anxieties within me. I love her, but I know deep within myself that she and I are not truly compatible in the long run. After recent events, I feel more than ever that I shall not have a future -- this quest will surely be the death of me. She deserves happiness, with a good man at her side, and I don't think it can be me. I long for her touch, but I don't want to prolong the inevitable -- she deserves better from me. Turning her away from my bed may be the best thing I could do for her. Goddess, but that will be hard to do... I shall probably take the coward's way out, and postpone any decisions about her and I until after we return to Gridolin. Well, enough for now... The rest of them have finished their dinner, and are talking animatedly among themselves about where we might find the Spinstone, since the medusa didn't have it. I have an idea or two, and I suspect I'll need to share them. Cleo has been trying to get my attention and I might as well get this over with. Until next time.
Later: It has been a few hours since I penned the last bit, and Cleo and I have talked. She came to me, and we both came to the same idea at the same time. We needed to move on from each other. We shall remain friends, but we will seek love elsewhere. This was the hardest thing I think I've done in all my 115 years. I love that little girl, and I shall miss her touches. I shared parts of my soul that I shared with no one else, and she did the same with me. I can only hope that she finds a man worthy of her, later. I guess this means that I have matured, if I can put aside my wants for a greater good (her needs in this case), but it hurts me more than I can say. Now that I have put my love life to rest, I feel that talks with Jena and Xzax are in order -- both have been uncharacteristically silent of late, and I suspect it shall fall to me to see what is wrong -- and do my best to help right it. Until later, should I survive.
I don't even know if I can find the words to properly describe the madness that has become my life and this quest, but I shall try. Yesterday, I awoke both hung-over and awash with a feeling of dread over what I assumed was a bad dream. The thing that awoke me was fireballs pouring forth from the heavens themselves. It took a moment for me to realize that this was NOT part of my bad dream and was in fact, quite real. As I stood, I realized that only Angus and I were present next to the dying embers of our fire, of the rest of the party, there was no sign.
I grabbed an equally confused Angus by his collar and sprinted toward the horses, only to find that they had bolted in terror. We continued on toward the only percieved safety in the area, the Burning Sun Monastary. As we ran, fireballs continued to rain from the sky. Then the tree we hab been encamped under awoke and began to stride forward towards us, spurring us both on to greater speed, as if that were possible. It continued to gain on us, and in desperation, Angus began to shed his armor. It worked, he gained enough speed that we stayed ahead of the great Treant until we broke into the clearing in front of the monastary.
The sight that greeted us as we broke into the clear will be forever etched in my memory: Aust was standing in front of the great doors to the monastary, he was surrounded by monks, all of whom were chanting, and every Priest in residence was there as well, all had their hands linked and Etre'iya, Habrem's High Priestess, was with him. His eyes were vacant and unseeing, even as he called down the wrath of Zoriah on a veritable army of dopplegangers. The dopplegangers were pinned in place by a wall of wind that pushed Angus and I to the temple doors.
As I fought to recover my wits, Jenna and Cleo arrived astride Apple Demon. Once again, I was stunned to inaction, Apple Demon was revealed as a unicorn as he changed before my eyes. Angus was also taken aback a bit. I was shocked into motion when something called to me, a kind of inner voice that begged me to go and join the other Priests. I did so, and as I linked hands with them and joined in their chant, I became more than myself. I know no other way to describe what happened to me there. I felt all the others and their power as it flowed through each of us, I felt the Lady and felt her smile upon me as I worked her will, I felt Jenna as she joined in and mere minutes later, it was over. The army of Dopplegangers was finished.
As we broke apart, I was overcome with an immense feeling of sadness, I had been a part of something wonderful and good, and now that it was finished, I was deeply saddened. I had little time to dwell on this, for Etre'iya summoned me to follow her inside. I immediately did so. Once inside her private chambers she told me of Aust's vision of our future and the terrible events ahead. I slumped into a chair in shock, Aust's vision had mirrored my own dream of the prior night. I told her of my dream, and my terror that we must find Al-Mudim and use it before we were invaded.
Just as I finished speaking, A warm red glow appeared around a corner, and a beautiful woman appeared to us, Etre'iya went to her knees on the floor and pulled me down with her, hard enough to crack my skull. It was the Lady herself, come to have a word with me. I am ashamed to say that she needed to set me right about some things, and then she tasked me to find and DESTROY, NOT USE Al-Mudim. Words alone cannot convey the feeling her presence gave me, so I shall not even try. Even now, I almost weep at the profound feeling of love and peace her presence gave me. So now, I have no doubts at all, I will find and destroy this thing, the Lady herself has commanded it.
I returned outside to the others and found myself on the recieving end of quite a few stares and odd looks, Jenna finally bade me to look at my reflection in her armor, it seems that my hair has gone white from my experience with the Lady. We milled about in some small bit of confusion for a bit, three people had arrived during the events described above, Aerin, a sort of wandering Jack-of-all-trades, Constable Ozwald and his prisoner, Sharafar. It turns out the Constable had tracked Sharafar all the way from Kur-Maeth, even more humorous, the warrant for the arrest was invalid in Rakore. After some discussion, Jenna solved the legalities of it all, Sharafar was "invited" to join my crew, as was Aerin, and the Constable was asked to accompany Jenna back to Kur Maeth as a witness for Jenna. The Baron who issued the illegal warrant will be brought to trial once she returns. Seems fitting, you ask me.
As we concluded business, N'Kara and Xzax returned from rounding up our errant horses. We mounted up and began to make our way back to Gridolin. And here I sit, astride my horse scribbling down these notes while the events are stil fresh in my mind.
We arrived last night amidst much confusion and choas. The city is bustling with activity as ships are made ready for war. Jenna, Cleo and N'Kara all went to the keep to speak with Prat. The others of us continued down to the docks where we returned to the Dancing Dwarf. She was nearly ready for sea again and Maui, Vladimir and the other officers were pleased to see us all return in more or less good condtion. Once aboard, I spent most of the rest of the day arrainging for our planned departure later that evening. Our plans were turned upside down with the arrival of Jenna just before sunset, she brough with her Moror Stonehelm, a clansmen of Angus and I. He brought news that Prat had assigned 100 prisoners to me as addtional crewmen.
I immediately halted all preparations and took Moror and Angus to my cabin where we caught up on events with each other while we waited for the new 'crewmen' to arrive. Once they did so, I put on a bit of a show to stamp out any ideas of mutiny they might have. As this was finished, a contingent of marines arrived with a crate from Prat. It turned out to be a ship's wheel. N'Kara installed it on the Rattler with help from the carpenter. Having decided that tomorrow we would transfer operations to the Rattler since she had more room for our expanded crew, I retired for the evening.
Today was spent in frenzied preparation. Everything was removed from the Dancing Dwarf and moved to the Rattler, Xzax and Gheledon worked at sorting the new crew out, we now have 20 potential marines, the rest are being trained as common sailors until such time as they show promise in a particular area. Jenna and Cleo spent most of the day awaiting Prat's return. Constable Ozwald has become a spy of sorts for me. He mingles among the newcomers and listens in on their discussions. So far there are no indications of problems, but we shall remain vigalant, lest some crop up. By sunset we were ready to slip, Jenna and Cleo had returned and all was in readiness. That's when Prat appeared. he came aboard and retired to my cabin to speak with me. He was exhausted. He appeared to have aged 10 years ina span of days. He gave me the worst possible news. My clan, my family has been overrun and there is no word of their fate. Am I an orphan once again? Time alone will tell. I put my concerns aside for now, later I shall worry in detail, but for now, I have a quest to complete.
He departed and we slipped our moorings and got a hell of a shock, at half sail, we moved at what would be full speed under all sails! Poor Visik was run over and we nearly collided with another vessel before we took down all but 2 small sails and coasted out of harbor at a more managable speed. Once clear of the harbor, I called our party together and gave them the grim news Prat had passed on to me. Then I returned to my cabin to set down the events and have a strong drink to give me a bit of courage to face the coming dawn.