Blades of Light

Tal's Journal, Entry 28
Fucking Cult.

More spikes. One bounced off my barrier right in front of my face. That was nice. I responded with fire as is my way.

Miaako got stabbed as is his way.

Reeshka then annhilated a few more skeletons with a blaze of golden light, and Miaako semi-heroically leapt off his horse to pop a skeleton’s head off. Ceor only really knows a few tactics, but the ones he does are really insanely effective.

The manticore did not appreciate this and pounced on Ceor. And his lance, but that’s beside the point. The net result was Ceor getting rather savagely mauled.

I did not appreciate this.

Miaako was starting to have some real trouble with the manticore’s poison, but Reeshka was able to help somewhat.

Of course, now that the manticore was down, the skeletons aren’t much of a problem. Rather comical, really. Reeshka was able to heal the worst of the damage that Ceor and Miaako had suffered. Miaako finished off the skeleton.

And then collapsed.

Reeshka was able to fix part of that, but he did not look like he was in good shape. It was all highly unpleasant, really, though at least we managed to get through the necrotic wastes without any more horrifying encounters.

We reached the edge of the Goblin Wastes and the gates of Savoyne, some three and a half weeks after we’d left.

It didn’t feel like three and a half weeks.

Naturally, the first thing Ceor did was buy pastries.

And Miaako was promptly accosted by the man trying to sell the falcon. Haggling ensued. It was possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. Miaako ended up trying to talk him into coming with us… I expect with the idea of leaving his body in the wilderness. He also negotiated the price down to 650 gold. I’m surprised he left it that high.

And I will be very surprised if the merchant shows up when we’re ready to leave.

Ah. Miaako was angling to get Ceor to pay for Rupert. And everything makes sense now. I’d put a stop to it if money actually mattered to Ceor. As it stands, it’s less money he can spend on things that make him unbearably cheerful or unbearably drunk. And cheerful.

The negotiations concluded, we then retired to an inn where Ceor then proceeded to get unbearably drunk.

I can’t say I’ll sleep very well in a town where the local thug union would like to do unpleasant things to me.

Miraculously, the merchant was actually waiting for us when we headed for the gate. I have a feeling he’s going to get very irritating. At any rate, we’re heading for Feymott.

A couple days out of Savoyne, we came across a section of the road with a tree across it. Trap, naturally. Miaako made the educated choice to fire a crossbow bolt wildly in that general direction.

Because that was helpful.

The person standing behind the tree popped out and returned the favor, only he could actually see Miaako. I then offered my own greeting of a Magic Missile. The bastard then shot me.

Turns out there was quite a few of them.

Ceor charged in, naturally… and completely failed to accomplish anything. Anusk fared better. Miaako then charged wildly in as well. We’ll see how THAT goes.

That was about the time the half-orc charged around the corner. Right at me.

Magnificent.

I think I can guess who these assholes are.

I set him on fire, and Reeshka turned his weapon red-hot. Hopefully we can take care of him before things get ugly. Even if it does smell horrible.

One tried to back off and shoot me, which resulted in an enraged Ceor shoving a lance through him. Fortunately, the arrow glanced off my barrier. The next did not.

At least Ceor’s getting some mileage out of that new sword. There was a tremendous thunderclap when he hit the man he was aiming at, HARD.

More archers appeared, and Miaako actually charged the half-orc and stabbed him significantly. Then the bastard stabbed him even MORE significantly. I set him on fire. It didn’t much help.

It is, I think, instinct to move closer to Ceor in these sorts of situations. And I’d rather risk the archers than the half-orc’s sword. One of said archers managed to snap his bowstring, and another thought to drop his bow in order to attack Ceor with a sword.

A good idea, in theory. In practice, it just got him killed.

Ceor then charged what I presume was their champion and rather nicely ended that threat.

I do get so tired of being shot at. And shot.

In fact, I have rather had enough of this.

Everything is fire.

I dropped one, nearly dropped another, and the third probably wished he had dropped. Miaako took a swing at the one that was barely standing, missed, and then pecked him out of frustration.

I think he was as surprised and disgusted as everyone else when he pulled out the man’s eye.

Unfortunately, there were still two archers left, and they had notably better aim. I was rather pleased when Miaako killed one of them. I shoved a lance of fire into the remaining one, and Ceor pinned him to the fucking ground.

That was unpleasant.

All six archers had spiked chains that read as magical, masterwork composite longbows, and magical chain shirts and magical cloaks. They also had one potion each. The half-orc had another bow and a magical rapier, as well his belt, boots, chain shirt, cloak, ring, and buckler. And a set of thieves’ tools for some reason.

Perhaps so he can break into people’s rooms and murder them.

They’re definitely Order of the Pure; the archers all had silver medallions marking them as members of the order, and the half-orc was carrying a platinum one. I was right; that was a champion.

I think I got their attention.

The magical auras on everyone’s weapons and Ceor’s have increased. Reeshka and Miaako’s armor is now registering as magical. The standard on Ceor’s shield is now starting to resemble the emblem of the Mage Kingdom I keep dreaming of. Interesting. I’ll have to do some identification work when we get back to Feymott.

My house was surprisingly unburned. My apprentices have mastered Magic Missile; apparently they found a use for the rejects from the local potter. They’ve also learned Burning Hands on their own.

Miaako has a new basement in which his retinue of kobolds has made themselves at home. Ceor’s girlfriend has moved in and redecorated. And one of the kobolds seems to have decorated Reeshka’s house as well.

The rapier proved to be an enchanted keen frost rapier, which Miaako can probably make best use of. The belt proved to be a belt of dexterity. Reeshka and I rolled dice for it, and she got it. The boots proved to be Boots of Striding and Springing, and Miaako’s the only one LIKELY to make use of those. The chain shirts turned out to be mildly enhanced, as did the chains and buckler. The cloaks had resist enchants. Ceor took one of the chain shirts just in case. We’ll sell the rest, as well as the mundane chain shirt Ceor had. We could all use one of the cloaks. The ring proved to be a ring of protection. I kept that. We also ended up with six potions of Invisibility and one potion of Enlarge Potion. All arcane versions, if that makes a difference.

Ceor’s shield had a stronger enhancement. His lance has gained keen. His force longsword has also gained a stronger enhancement. Also seems to have some new scrollwork, an etched image of a kingdom of rolling grassy hills, with what looked like a complete version of the ruined keep we exploded.

Miaako’s shortsword has also gained the keen property. His armor has developed an enhancement as well.

Reeshka’s staff has developed a grayflame ability. That’s going to be particularly ugly to be on the end of. And the standard mild enhancement as well.

My staff has grown to be stronger as well, and the glowing lines have now covered the length of it. Volcanic red on one end, ice blue on the other, smoothly transitioning between the two.

Most interesting.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 27
Oh look. A manticore.

It turns out the sword we picked up in the caverns had various enchantments on it, shocking and vicious were particularly of note. That’s pleasant.

As we rode, the terrain changed; it became a rocky badland-type, and the liquid that was in pools stopped looking as much like water as it did a thick, discolored substance that glowed faintly at night, smelled awful, was definitely unnatural and probably necromantic.

Reeshka also indicated there were undead around, which wasn’t at all surprising, really. Ceor was investigating a pair of dragon statues when some disgusting green skeletons emerged from the pools. Naturally.

We weren’t particularly surprised, and I haven’t gotten to use fireball nearly enough. I did take out the two skeletons closest to us… and unfortunately woke something up. Something large.

Oh well.

Two more skeletons appeared, Ceor sprouted an iron beard for gods know what reason, and Reeshka did something shiny that the skeletons didn’t at all like. Miaako tried to imitate Ceor with a mounted charge, and simply flailed ineffectually. Ceor did much better. So much better that one of the skeletons exploded. Rather impressive really; there were little bits of green flaming bone flying everywhere.

Turns out the thing that I hit with the fireball that was behind the ridge was a manticore.

Shit.

It fired poisonous spines at us; missed me fortunately, but Ceor and Miaako weren’t so lucky. I responded with a particularly nasty version of Scorching Ray. It didn’t drop it… but at least it did some significant damage.

The skeletons were not any particular threat at this point.

Reeshka seemed quite capable of handling them on their own. Miaako seemed rather at a loss, though. He attempted to pop a skeleton’s head off and nearly managed it. Nearly.

Ceor decided to get very dramatic about the whole thing, and formally declared a challenge against the manticore. And, of course, as it was a flying creature, it simply went above his charge.

I’m starting to worry a bit.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 26
KABOOM

A fireball is such a nice way to say hello.

I couldn’t get everyone, unfortunately, but three of five isn’t bad. I lit the room up, and Reeshka and Ceor charged in. Reeshka lit up with holy light, which I sincerely hope will discomfit That Fucking Thing. Ceor shoved his lance into That Bitch… who responded with a giggle and a mace to the head.

Then That Fucking Thing lunged at Ceor and took a chunk out of him. Miaako tried to repay the favor, only to look exceedingly foolish. The two mercenaries decided they’d rather deal with me and Kallistra than Ceor, Miaako, and Reeshka. I don’t think they were expecting more fire, however. Reeshka tried to inspire Ceor to hit it again… but that was a magnificent swing and miss. That Bastard tried to shove a spear into Miaako. He missed, fortunately. So did That Bitch when she tried to take Ceor’s head off. That Fucking Thing didn’t miss, however.

Out of nowhere, Miaako laid into That Bastard and carved him up nicely. I decided to put the mercenaries out of my misery, and get closer to do some good for the others. As I did so, I stumbled and inadvertently touched the column in the center, and felt a surge of power.

Interesting.

That Bastard took exception to Miaako’s actions, and set his spear on fire, then shoved it into the bird. Then he did much the same to Reeshka. That Bitch started to move away, only to have Ceor do something terrible to her in response. Then she triggered an item and vanished.

I cast Haste despite my better judgement. Reeshka, however, helped because then she did something that looked highly unpleasant to That Bastard. I think she changed him from an air breather to a waterbreather… in a completely dry environment.

I’m starting to like her.

He teleported out as well, but if that spell was what I think it was, it’s not going to help. Unless he has some water to hand… for the next several hours… he’s going to die a slow, painful death.

I’m all right with this.

As soon as he was gone, That Fucking Thing disintegrated. We’ll see if it comes back. Reeskha, still being made of pure energy, decided the best way to heal everyone was to take a running tackle and go flying through them.

I’ll let her have it this time.

The crystal seemed to have been built on the nexus of several leylines, designed to collect and amplify that power. It would be useless anywhere else, but if you built a kingdom on it, well…

The barrier around it seemed to be half physical and half magical. Reeshka saw a series of runes around the base that indicated it had been built by worshippers of Hecate.

Big surprise there.

At a guess, Those Assholes thought there was some sort of magic-eating artifact here, and wanted to see how they could use it… though That Bastard likely would have been thrilled by the idea of something that could amplify his own ability.

Miaako tried to hug the cylinder, presumably because he’s part magpie and it was very shiny. Then he passed out. I was all for just tying him to the mule but Ceor decided to carry him. Reeshka poked him experimentally, declared that he was charged with arcane energy but seemed unhurt. Then he woke him via creating water on his head.

That was the point where I remembered that dream that Ceor had once had, about the person who liked doors. I do wonder…

He pulled out the symbol he’d been given, which turned out to be some sort of ancient and forgotten god of gateways and portals. The old man appeared, and seemed to be agreeable to creating a door in the cylinder. He did so, and vanished. Ceor then pried the door open.

Violet lightning flared out, and Ceor and Reeshka passed right out. Miaako seemed to be be conscious, but became very, very silly. There was more power there, flowing through everything and everyone, than I had ever felt before. Even during the affair at the camp.

It was a heady sensation.

Reeshka and Ceor seemed to have the best dreams they’d ever had. I wanted to stay, however that was probably a bad idea. Leaving the door open was probably a bad idea as well. Before we closed it, though, Miaako and I stepped in to actually touch the crystal.

I could feel my bones vibrating. Soothing, but alarming. It was with some reluctance that we decided to withdraw and make a brief examination of the rest of the ruins, on the off chance that there were artifacts or spellbooks lying around.

Just below where the basement would be, I happened to find a small book concealed beneath a loose stone that seemed, after some study, to be written in Enochian. Miaako found a small ring. I’ll see what I can do with them later.

When we got back to the surface, the sun appeared to be setting for the first time in a long time. We decided to camp here for the night, simply because it was convenient. I slept extremely well, myself.

We woke at what felt like morning, but it was still night outside. There was a crescent moon on one horizon, a half moon in the middle, and the full moon on the other.

Interesting. And creepy. I’m chalking it up to this place being weird and unsettling. It’s probably the most beneficent manifestation of the weirdness here.

I had enough time to identify the ring Miaako found, which turned out to be a ring of sustenance. The book seemed to be the journal of the last person who was the caretaker of the nexus crystal. Not much of interest; guidelines on how to take care of the crystal, which seemed to be largely pointless busywork. There was a passage at the end that seemed hastier, documenting the outbreak of the Mage Wars. The last line was “Those damned fools, they’ve summoned the Isonade.” Which was a particularly nasty aquatic creature traditionally held to be a sinker of continents, responsible for the FIrst Fall of Man and the destruction of the elven kingdoms.

Lovely.

I also found a confirmation in the journal that this had once be the kingdom of Taltreni, and after some consideration, decided that Those Assholes got away via the etherial plane. In the mean time, Ceor managed to find the one intact door in the place. It seemed to be an area where dwarves had stayed. And one night, Miaako caught Reeshka rifling through his pouches but I didn’t care enough to stop it.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 25
Where the Fuck is That Bird and the Return of THOSE FUCKING BASTARDS

We started off into the Goblin Wastes. It did not start auspiciously; it took three people to keep us on the path and away from the gargantuan horrors. But we did manage to stumble across the remains of a road, in very unhealthy looking territory. What little growth was there looked rather stunted and mutated.

We’d been there some little while when Miaako and I heard a noise like stone grinding against stone ahead. Probably some sort of animate stone creature. As we crested the hill, we saw three blood red crystal entities. Kallistra seemed to think they were standing guard. That was about the time Miaako saw what he described as a maniac brandishing a large chunk of stone. While we were looking at him, another burst out from the other side and jumped on Kallistra.

That went about as badly as expected.

Miaako caught the next swing. Which will just not do. Kallistra can handle herself, but Miaako has fragile little bird bones. So I shoved a Magic Missile down the maniac’s throat. Ceor seemed to be of a similar mind, and shoved his lance somewhere highly unpleasant.

Kallistra took another hit, as did Miaako, which really looked painful.

How fortunate, then that I had just managed to master the Haste spell. Not that it really helped Miaako much. Fortunately, we had an enraged Ceor on an equally enraged Anusk.

Somehow, the maniac that was still on his feet didn’t explode. Though he didn’t particularly notice when Kallistra dropped a flaming hammer on his head. While Reeshka saw to important things like healing the meat shields, Miaako seemed to be rifling through the unconscious maniac’s few possessions. Ceor turned the remaining maniac into a damp splat.

Naturally, of course, the crystalline entities were advancing as well.

Kallistra was doing a little better, and then one sprayed razor sharp crystal shards everywhere. Which really wouldn’t do either.

And I had just picked up Fireball, too. What a wonderful opportunity to test it.

I didn’t kill them, but I really don’t think they were very happy with me. Miaako certainly wasn’t happy with them. He shoved his weapon into a fault in one of the creatures and wrenched it apart to interesting effect. Ceor did much the same thing, at a passing gallop, and damn near lost his lance for the trouble. That was about the time that the remaining crystal entity pulled the shard trick again, and everyone who was not sensibly far away (read me and my horse) took them straight to the face.

I lit it on fire, Reeshka fixed the massive trauma, and Ceor shattered it, and this time he did lose his grip on the lance. But that was the last one, so it was really okay. Not that we’ll ever convince Ceor of it. The crystal things were probably extraplanar, but there was no telling if they’d been summoned for a purpose or if they just slipped through due to the unstable nature of the area. The stone greatclubs the maniacs had been using looked a little magical, but it was a low grade enchantment, not worth salvaging. We continued on our way, in more or less the correct direction.

The sun seemed to have been in the same direction for quite some time… I don’t think we’re that far north, but it’s that fucked up here.

We reached an area of rolling sand dunes, which was just incredibly pleasant. However, we did finally find what looked like the ruins of a decently sized city or town, made of sandstone with some sort of keep, which was completely caved in. Even for this place, it was eerily still. It seemed relatively close to the ruins of the kingdom we were searching for. The road lead there anyway.

There were some ancient, nearly disintegrating metal and wood in the middle of the arch of the gate. Reeshka said that it looked like something large had wrenched the gate apart. Kallistra indicated that nearly every single stone that remained in the city was faintly magical.

Miaako heard what sounded like four or five creatures moving around, somewhere nearby. This will end well.

Kallistra seemed to think that the town was the result of some thousands of small spells layered on top of each other. We decided to look and see if there was anything worth taking away with us.

That was about the time that the world went black.

That only lasted a moment, but when it went away, the town was intact and full of people. Ceor saw the same thing; and we both heard something thunder. We looked, naturally. We shouldn’t have.

An army poured over the hills, accompanied by some awful monstrosity bigger than the keep…

The vision only lasted a moment, before things went back to normal. I suspect that we shared a past life at some time, and that was a memory of that past life…

Miaako said the idea was kind of creepy. I agree.

We could hear the footsteps of what sounded like a small group, so we tried to be quiet as possible. As we progressed into the city, signs of damage increased; scorch marks and other signs of fire, other signs of violence. The arch of the gate of the keep was still intact, but the doors were hanging where they’d broken. The upper floors had largely crumbled, and there were heaps of rubble everywhere. There was a series of small trails through the rubble, that had been made recently enough that there was no dust in them. Miaako agreed, and added that he thought there were about five creatures, one a quadruped about the size of a horse.

We followed the tracks, and Reeshka and Kallistra heard what sounded like some sort of songbird. No logical reason for it, of course, but there it was. Anusk didn’t want to go inside. Neither did the mule. There were traces of magic sort of drifting downwards; it suggested something was consuming magic down there.

Lovely.

Ceor went through first, to find a dusty corridor, four sets of human-sized footprints, and whatever the animal was it had paws. There was a caved in banquet hall, and a set of stairs downward that we found after about an hour and a half. The prints indicated the unknown party did much the same, wandering around before going down the stairs. They hadn’t come up yet, but there was no dust in the prints.

We went down about four flights… this place was deep.

At the bottom, we found a corpse, which showed signs of dying of poison. Kallistra took steps to ensure it wouldn’t rise again, and I can’t argue with that. After a few minutes of searching, it looked like there was a pressure plate at the base of the stairs. So far, it looked like another adventuring party had come down, one triggered the trap, and the others just left him.

The pawprints were bothering me, so I examined them a little more. They showed signs of burnmarks… and resembled That Fucking Thing. Only far bigger than I ever remembered it being.

I’m convinced now that at least two of the members of this other party are That Fucking Asshole and That Fucking Bitch. Especially since Miaako found a contract naming the bearer as an agent of Bloodstone, and a bank note from the Dwarven Cantons of Winterheim.

Kallistra cast light on a rock to toss it down the hallway, revealing a corridor lined with doors, and a set of doors at the end of the hall. Miaako went first to check for any more traps that hadn’t been triggered; the doors seemed to be jail cells, though they were all ajar, and there was a cross passage. A few of the cells held skeletons, that had been there a long time. Fortunately inert.

We elected to go right, largely at random. There was three more cross passages and a set of stairs. Miaako insisted that the first step was a trap; I wasn’t, but there was no point in arguing. The traces of magic continued down; once the other group found the steps, they made straight for it. So whatever’s down there, they came to get it. On the one hand, I’m positive this is a terrible idea. On the other, I’m positive I don’t want them to have whatever it is.

So down we go, then.

Miaako poked his beak through a door on a mid level, finding a long cold foundry with nothing left but rust. Not at all useful, really. We went down about ten more floors. There was a door at the bottom that had been barred once, but the bars had been wrenched apart. Probably by a spell. That was about the time that we heard that bird chirping again, all the way down here. Reeshka thought it sounded like a thrush, but it doesn’t even seem to be pausing for breath. There are several possibilities about that, none really pleasant.

Which is not at all comforting. I was able to get a glimspe of a bluish purple glow just past the door, but it didn’t seem to be any sort of flame. I can guess it’s an arcane effect, but more than that will require me to get closer.

Reeshka just went ahead, so we followed. The blue glow was coming from another set of doors, that opened into a large chamber. In the center was a clear tube, with a large shard of glass or crystal, that was producing the glow. Also apparently the bird sounds.

And of course, Those FUCKING BASTARDS. AND THAT FUCKING THING.

Fortunately, at least three of them… including that bitch… were close enough I could hit them with a fireball. Kallistra and I elected to stay here, and Ceor, Reeshka, and Miaako are going to make their way around to doors on the opposite side of the chamber.

One way or another, this will end badly for someone.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 24
Cursing Gods for Fun and Profit

In retrospect, we probably should have known better.

As soon as Ceor drew his sword in the center of the spiral, two beings made entirely of crackling energy snapped into being, one on either side of us. They seemed to be entities from the plane of storms, sacred to Mavros and Thor and a couple other deities. Reeshka thought they looked rather tainted, and Miaako seemed to think they had traits reminiscent of the symbol of the Order of the Pure.

Fuckers.

One tried to punch Ceor, and thankfully his shield didn’t seem to conduct damage. Another smacked him with a tendril of lightning, and shook it off. Unfortunately, Ceor managed to miss it. Reeshka did a little better, and inspired Ceor to remedy his failure. He then received an object lesson in why striking a creature of electricity with a long metal object was generally not a good idea.

This is why I use things that don’t physically connect me to the creatures that conduct electricity. After I pointed out their weakness to water, Miaako tried something clever… which would have been far more impressive if he’d actually hit one of them with the flask of holy water.

Meanwhile, Ceor seemed to be the primary target; one would expect because he triggered their arrival.

Kallistra was far more effective with using water against them; that is to be expected of someone who can cast create water. Ceor managed to take one of them out, dropping a small black disc when it expired. Reeshka ended the second one in a similar way to Kallistra’s attack.

It was a bit impressive.

The black discs (the second one had one as well) seemed to be some sort of control talisman that had been introduced to the elementals, which presumably was why they attacked. As Reeshka and Kallistra were examining them, I noticed the spiral seemed to be softening. I suggested moving back, Miaako pranced around in the middle.

That was about the time that the hilt of a sword started poking through the softening stone. Miaako tried to grab it and narrowly avoided being shocked by it. So I suggested Ceor try it. He was shocked himself, but didn’t manage to pull it out. Just for fun I tried it myself, since I didn’t particularly care if I got shocked.

As I took a step back, I noticed a string of runes around the perimeter that indicated that the blade was for “a Champion of Mavros who invoked the name of the Storm God”. I suggested Ceor try it while invoking Thor.

That did it.

The stone exploded in a shower of sparks and lightning, Ceor went flying with the sword in his hand, and all that remained was a smoking crater in the middle of the room. Once he got to his feet, he seemed to have the impression the only way the sword would be sheathed was in the bodies of his enemies.

I expect we can work with this.

Meanwhile, Kallistra and Reeshka seemed drawn to the glowing chasm. Kallistra insisted she could smell baking bread, and Reeshka thought she smelled drake steak. Miaako was drawn to the dark chasm; according to him, it seemed remarkably clear and somehow lit. It wasn’t.

That was about the time I started thinking it was time to go.

During all of this, the spiral in the center had reformed. Meanwhile, I started feeling itchy, a sensation that only increased the longer we stayed. The feeling was less in the middle of the spiral, but it seemed stranger than it had before. There were more runes; they seemed to indicate that this was built by someone other than the priests of Thor, to focus the forces of life and death into a center of power. There was an indication that someone would be able to channel energy into it and might be able to take control.

Unfortunately, Kallistra seemed to be getting irritated. She yelled that she was getting really pissed at Thor, slammed her hammer into the spiral, and disappeared in a burst of lightning.

Great.

Just fucking great.

It seemed to be a teleport effect, but I was distracted trying to get Reeshka away from the glowing chasm; she insisted there was steak down there and ignored logic until I had someone pick her up.

Fortunately, that was about the time Kallistra showed back up, on the other side of the chasm. Convenient. I meant to see if I could do the same, but of course that big idiot moved me away from the center. Reeshka triggered it, and she, Ceor and Anusk vanished. That just left me, Miaako, and Kallistra’s horse here. I thought about it some, and since the spiral seemed to have been created to convert divine magic into arcane, cursing the gods probably wasn’t necessary.

But it was fun, so I did it anyway.

It worked, either way. We found ourselves by the flame arch, and departed. The crowd was waiting for us, and Miaako promptly drew their attention. Naturally.

And of course, as soon as Ceor stepped off the dias, the arch collapsed into a column. The crowd surrounded us, and seemed focused on the sword Ceor had retrieved. Ceor was pointedly ignoring them, trying his damnedest to get back to camp to get a drink.

As we made our way back, we encountered the dwarf we passed on the way up… Reeshka was in favor of killing him, but that would have been a poor life choice right here right now.

Reeshka was mollified with a steak, though the people at the tavern seemed inclined to treat Ceor with reverence and wouldn’t charge him; granted, they also did the same with Miaako because they’re too dumb to know which one was the cause of all of this.

Ceor wanted to eat and drink and be gone as soon as possible. I want to study one of those discs that was inside the lightning elementals. After some thought, it seemed to me the only way to use them would be to have something already bound in place, then getting close enough to shove it in, after engaging in combat.

So, near as I can figure, the lightning elementals were guardians, which makes sense, since Thor was venerated by the builder of the tunnels. The Order of the Pure then invaded the place beyond the arch, engaged the guardians, used the discs, then withdrew… or I suppose committed suicide in the chasm. That, or there was a connection to the Order of the Pure in the first place.

Neither is particularly comforting and the first is frankly baffling as well.

Kallistra wanted to find out if anyone could tell her about the merged symbols of Mavros and Thor, but the only one who anyone thought would have any idea or moreover have any knowledge of Thor was… the dwarf. That dwarf. It would be a tremendously bad idea to consult him, I think.

Not, of course, that my objections stopped Kallistra. She went and saw him, and he said that it was an abomination, the result of an ill-advised attempt to merge the two gods, and it carried a curse; supposedly anyone or anything devoted or tied to either Mavros or Thor would attack the bearer on sight. Naturally, I don’t trust him; even Kallistra sensed that he seemed to be keeping something back. While there might be wisdom in not brandishing that symbol, I don’t think he was honest in what he said. I’m sure he left something crucial out, and was misleading in what he did say.

It seemed like a good time to leave.

We decided to go north, where there’s supposedly the remnants of one of the Mage Kingdoms. Might prove profitable. And it’ll be nice to get away from the crowd.

Ceor certainly seemed to think so.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 23
Through the Looking Glass

Well, the trip up the Bone Road was… menacing. The road itself winds around the frozen Great Old Ones, which was somewhat intimidating. We passed a few groups in various stages of difficulty. It wasn’t entirely my idea of fun.

We did reach the Throne of Mavros eventually. It was rather… impressive.

There was one guard at the entrance, an uncommonly attractive half-orc, which granted wasn’t much of an improvement. She and Ceor seemed to hit it off right away, largely because they both had giant shields emblazoned with the symbol of Mavros.

This is likely to be trying.

Miaako managed to convince her he was a holy bird. She seemed inclined to follow him. I really wish I could be surprised.

It was more of a tent-city than a camp; most of the residents seemed to be permanent. It wasn’t like any temple I’d ever seen before, a huge building made entirely of marble, with an enormous flame with no particular fuel source. Just as we got there, the flames flickered and flared up, and for a second there was what appeared to be a cave on the other side, with some sort of ledge extending away. It looked like a stone bridge over a chasm of some kind.

That was about the time the half-orc guard asked if I was a devil. I resisted the urge to set her on fire.

Ceor was inclined to follow her to pick out a campsite because she knew where the bars are. Lovely. She seems to have attached herself to us. I blame Miaako.

Ceor, Miaako, Reeshka and I went to go take a closer look at the flame. Hopefully, Miaako won’t commit sacrilege before we’re ready to go. As soon as Ceor set foot on the steps leading up to the flame, it rippled. When he was halfway up, the arch formed again, and seemed inclined to stay open.

Then Miaako got more stupid than usual, and walked on up and attempted to go through. Perhaps fortunately, the half-orc knocked him away before he could get through, then dragged him back.

She could prove useful after all.

Ceor did not seem too eager to investigate. I’m not too eager to go in there unprepared. Really, I don’t feel inclined to go in there at all, but I’m not sure we have a choice. We certainly drew quite a lot of attention. Once we got away from the flame itself, we were still drawing a crowd. It was much the same when we went to the bar. Ceor really doesn’t want to investigate that arch… and I don’t blame him. I just don’t think we’re going to get out of it.

I do wonder why he’s so reluctant… perhaps his brain has finished developing.

We might as well do this before we lose our nerve.

Naturally, we drew a crowd again.

Ceor, being Ceor, wouldn’t let me go before him, though since Ceor is the one keeping the gate open, we compromised and he had me ride behind him. Miaako and Reeshka elected to walk. The half-orc, Kallistra, had her own warhorse.

The arch was some sort of teleportation gate, though I can’t tell if it’s extra-planar or just location. Fortunately, it seemed to be still open once Ceor passed through. We could still see through to the temple, but judging by the crowd’s reaction, the arch closed on the other side.

Ceor went first, as is his nature. He found a large symbol carved on the the apex of the bridge. It looks like the symbol of Mavros combined with something else. Reeshka said it was about what you’d get if you combined the symbol of Mavros with the symbol of Thor. There was a sort of electrical-type feeling radiating from it, but Miaako pronounced it safe enough. The bridge doesn’t look the sort to be structurally stable in the regular world, but then…

There was another ledge on the other side, and a large passage heading into a cavern. According to Reeshka, the passage seemed to be naturally worn, rather than worked. That’s comforting. There was a cross passage, but it ended at another chasm. There was a smooth dome of rock on the other side, with an opening facing the ledge. As we considered ways of getting across, we noticed there was a light in the chasm and a rush of hot air. I think it’s some kind of elemental. Unfortunately, Reeshka took that as a cue to create gallons of water and dump them into the chasm.

This could have been a peaceful resolution before that…

The thing was enormous, of course. We might as well just cut to the chase and attack. I hit with a Magic Missile, Ceor missed with his bow. Miaako hid. Though perhaps it wasn’t as bad as we thought… the elemental just grabbed Kallistra and threw her across. Didn’t seem to hurt her, beyond the impact with the stone floor. Not that Reeshka found that comforting when it grabbed her. Kallistra managed to catch Reeshka when it threw her.

It was a bit gentler with Ceor and myself, in that it just carried us across, though it was still deeply unsettling. That was a deep chasm. But being engulfed in flames was soothing, even if they weren’t my own flames.

Miaako, of course, flailed and probably soiled himself.

The chamber on the other side was bright, incredibly bright. I wasn’t stupid enough to detect magic here, but there was a crescent shaped chasm on the far side, glowing brightly. It seemed to be some sort of powerful positive energy source.

The fire elemental ferried all of us- and the two warhorses across, then vanished into the chasm. Once that was done, we examined the chamber. The floor seemed to form a shallow bowl, with a large spiral carved into the center. The crescent shaped chasm seemed to be full of a luminous mist. As I examined the area, I noticed that the darkness of the chasm the fire elemental carried us across seemed curdled- as did the light in the crescent shaped chasm. It seemed to be some sort of primordial thing, but I’m not sure of more than that. Miaako wandered into the center of the spiral, and indicated that he felt like he was being subtly pulled in the direction of both chasms. But only in the center.

Kallistra tried it, and felt a similar sensation, though more towards the light chasm, as did Reeshka. I felt absolutely nothing when I tried it.

When Ceor tried it, his sword started buzzing. Then he drew it.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 22
Oh my god, I have a sister?

I perhaps should not be surprised that Ceor managed to find the best baker in town, and then purchase ALL THE PASTRIES.

Miaako and I went down to breakfast first, though Miaako seemed rather preoccupied with the barmaid, though I didn’t pay her much mind. At least until she asked my name and then suddenly hugged me.

She’s lucky I didn’t respond in my usual way.

She claimed her name was Talrisa, and that she was my sister. She showed me a picture of what could have been me as a child, and her as a child. There were also two people she said were our parents, and two others I vaguely remembered as the ones who abandoned me. Our aunt and uncle, apparently. It sounds insane, but I think I believe her. Or at least, I believe she believes that. According to her, our parents died when a plague came through, and then our aunt and uncle did the same a few years ago.

Pity. I would like to express my displeasure.

Apparently my father always wanted to be a wizard, and would be so proud of me. I really do wonder.

Talrisa seemed to have manifested magical abilities as well, although hers is more innate than my own.

She said that they’d heard the rumors of the strange behavior of the Flame of Mavros, and was able to elaborate a little. The Flame seems to be flickering into an arch, with a cave on the other side, though it never lasts more than a moment or two. The priests of Mavros have been gathering, though they seem to be as baffled as everyone else.

She offered to take me to see what little was left of the small legacy our parents had been left, as well as their graves. Apparently, our aunt and uncle had frittered away the rest, and lost the family shop.

I am academically wondering if I can afford to buy it.

Her home had seen better days, and she was only living in a few rooms. Modest library, but I suppose she can’t afford much. There were more paintings of the family, and I somehow think our aunt and uncle never smiled. And apparently, my aunt was at least a follower of the Order of the Pure. That’s where most of the money went, apparently. My room was still intact, though someone had carved the symbol of the Order of the Pure on the door. No guesses as to who. There was a small wooden doll I very vaguely remember. Cute and wholly inappropriate of course.

It was uncomfortable and unsettling. I imagine the same for her as well.

She showed me what used to be the family shop, a small apothecary/herbalist’s shop. It’s been taken care of, though I can’t imagine it’s turning much of a profit. No potions at all. According to Talrisa, they’re nice enough people, if a little dim and somewhat strange. I need to think about that.

The path to the cemetery wasn’t very well used, and the place itself was fenced with silver and cold iron. Only reasonable precautions in this part of the world. Found the names; my father and mother were Tallan and Alrissa, while my aunt and uncle were named Marika and Sandol. I didn’t really feel anything about them, beyond the irritation of not having filled the latter two.

This was the point where I decided to get my own estimation of the owners of the shop. The woman seemed a little vague, though Talrisia seemed shy about it. The shop was much as I expected. There were manuals about the wonders of natural medicine, all of which were written by someone with only the vaguest sense of literacy and no idea whatsoever about the actual properties of plants. My alchemy teacher is spinning in his grave right now. I almost wanted to set the place on fire just to spare everyone the embarassment.

The woman seemed nice enough, though clearly a few candles short of a chandelier. She told me that they want 1200 gold to sell the shop, but that price is good only for Talrisa… which I think I approve of. With that much, they would probably retire… she wants to open a little bake shop. Apparently, she’s a pretty good baker… her bread won an award. From dwarves. For improvised weapons. Apparently, it’s still on display. Her cakes are apparently pretty good though. Her husband just wants to go fishing. They seem to be nice enough, though they clearly smoke some of the things they gather.

I returned to the tavern with Talrisa in tow, to find my friends at the bar with several tankards and Reeshka chewing on a mug. Miaako was utterly smashed and Ceor was tipsy. Apparently the local ale is made with some berries native to the Wastes.

Note to self, do not drink this shit, nothing good will come of it.

Apparently, the unsafe alcohol tends to make tentacles appear. They have a pond. It’s apparently the way the bartender gets rid of people he doesn’t like.

I wonder how that works out. Miaako was rambling about how he’s a dolphin. Fascinating, really. I wish I had a way to program a Magic Mouth with this, it would be splendid to see his face when he’s sober and hears this.

The bartender offered me a drink, but they really don’t want me drunk, not on this stuff. Even if they have the place warded. Though as the barteder put it, if someone was going to be capable of mass destruction when they were drunk, it would be here. He offered me some of the non-alcoholic stuff; it tasted like I imagine pure magic would. Interesting berries. They grow near the borders, and apparently north of the Flame. I can only hope the others are too drunk to remember this later.

Miaako was incapacitated by this point, of course, so Talrisa threw him into the pond to sober him up. It was highly entertaining. It sobered him right up, but the indignant squawk was impressive. Talrisa did the same for Reeshka, but Ceor was too big to haul out.

Who knew they could get firedrake steak here? Reeshka immediately claimed it, of course. She was a little surprised to find out how spicy it was. Ceor had arranged the meal, and included Talrisa. Stupid sentimental fool.

I think I might keep him.

I decided to give Talrisa the money to buy the shop. It’s obvious that the people who have it now are just wasting the space. They won’t even rent the alchemical equipment they can’t use, for fear that someone will break it. Talrisa could manage it by herself- and be unlikely to poison someone accidentally. Talrisa… well, she tackle hugged me to the ground and I set a chair on fire.

No one particularly noticed.

She was in an obscenely good mood the next day, though at least she didn’t tackle me off the chair this time. She’d also put my name on the deed as well.

This is a strange and unusual feeling and I don’t know what it means.

We decided to spend some time preparing; with Reeshka’s help I made some Cure Moderat Wounds potions, and we divided up some of the Alchemist’s Fire I still had. Talrisa let me use the alchemy lab, of course. And since she actually knew what she was doing and was working when I wasn’t, she was able to get the stock back up to something respectable. Between us, we actually managed to make the same thing in a week that the previous owners did in a month.

She’ll be all right.

I did burn all those goddamned awful books. And most of the stock they left, since it was worse than useless for a proper alchemical shop. It was satisfying.

Miaako spent most of the week drinking; he gathered quite a following. He likes to think it was for his stories, but it was really because he’s just a really entertaining drunk. They were fans of the dolphin bird. Reeshka even decided to help Talrisa make some lesser healing potions in exchange for a cut of the profits.

But, eventually, we did have to continue on.

My god, the Goblin Wastes are ugly.

And we could clearly tell why it was called the Bone Road. Lined with skulls. That doesn’t really leave much to the imagination. The weather almost visibly changed as we headed north, in a needlessly dramatic fashion. There was something on the horizon that almost looked like mountains… but they weren’t. They were immense creatures.

The Great Old Ones, frozen in time.

At least none of them lay between us and the Flame of Mavros. Followers of Mavros are crazy… but not that crazy, and they built the road.

It was about midday when the sky turned yellow. We caught up with another group on the road, a squad of humans armed with swords and chainmail, escorting a single dwarf. Reeshka bristled, predictably.

I caught a good look as we passed; the dwarf looked like the one I’d seen in my dreams, of the dwarf looking into the orb of souls. He seemed to be ignoring us; I am inclined to not waste resources on things not inclined to fuck us up when there are so many things that do want to fuck us up. His six men were well armed, though he wasn’t. He did have what looked like a crude doll on a string around his neck. I’ve heard there are some witches that specialize in necromancy, and instead of a familiar, they use a little idol or fetish made out of hair and skin and nail clippings.

Noooooot really the sort of people one would want to mess with.

That was about the time Reeshka almost fell off the mule. She seemed to recognize the dwarf…

I don’t particularly want to start anything right now, it’s probably best that we kept going.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 21
Of Falcons and Pastries and Oh God Why

The trip continued, and was just about as boring as the previous days, though now it had the addition of the family tagging along with us. I don’t know if it made it more amusing or irritating. We passed a few caravans coming the other way, and they told us it had been fairly quiet.

I wonder why that might be.

It took us about a week to make it to Goasta Cliffs, and we smelled the sea long before we saw it. The town was fairly impressive, carved directly into the cliff faces of a canyon by the shore. The town has grown so much it’s impossible to tell what part of the canyon was the work of nature and what had been enlarged by intent.

As we reached the town, there was a caravan leaving for the flame of Mavros and the Bone Road; perhaps our wayward tagalongs will join them.

Better for them if they do, but they’ll probably want to stick with us.

Their funeral.

Ceor decided to try catching a seagull. I don’t know. I don’t want to know. Several merchants, most sketchy. Like the guy selling knockoff Relics of Mavros, naturally shameless forgeries. Miaako managed to catch the seagull Ceor had been chasing, and started posing with it, then gave it to a very confused Ceor. This turned into a game of catch, in which the seagull sensibly decided he wanted nothing more to do with this nonsense and flew off.

Miaako and I managed to find a reasonably priced inn – comparatively – that served dinner and breakfast. Ceor decided to pay for the rooms for the family. I don’t care what the others do, but I’m getting my own room. They even had a stable for the mounts.

It was busy but not crowded. The bard was terrible. The food was decent. Reeshka ate her mug. The night passed fairly uneventfully, which was nice. Breakfast was more of the same, though fresher, and resulted in Ceor shoving an entire loaf of bread of his face.

Miaako heard some interesting things, like that the priests of Mavros are establishing their own army in some of the cities. Which is not entirely impossible, being priests of Mavros, but still weird. Not comforting, with all the strange rumors and things happening up there.

Ceor, naturally, decided to drag everyone to the temple of Mavros to try to get more information. It felt… unsettling, but not oppressive. There’s apparently not an official massing of armies, but there are rumors. Something about a prophecy of a Champion of Mavros born about 30 years ago during a great storm in Friula… he practically bolted.

And with that, we headed for Savoyne. The trip was unremarkable.

At some point, Ceor bought an entire stall’s worth of pastries and then distributed them at random. Why am I not surprised. And an annoying man tried to sell Miaako a falcon for some ridiculous price. The merchant was swearing the falcon was in love with Miaako. I could have chased the man off, but it was far too entertaining. I swear he was so uncomfortable he was squirming.

Miaako did manage to convince the guy that while he couldn’t take the bird now, he might be back, and the merchant said he couldn’t promise the falcon would be there…. I’m not sure which one was more full of shit.

That taken care of, we found a reasonably priced tavern, and Ceor tried to pay in pastries… with remarkable success. I heard some things in town of interest. They’re beefing up their ranks of soldiers, both because the behavior of the Flame of Mavros is making them edgy, and the sudden activity of bandits, though they haven’t actually manage to pin the bandits down. I did a little research, and nothing suggests the Flame has ever behaved strangely. Fantastic.

I did find an old book that mentioned a war between the gods; there was a suggestion that it was stopped by the oldest and greatest of the gods, but only after a few of them fell. I also found out that the hills in and around Brimstone, the last stop on the Bone Road, have been periodically used as hideouts by bandits. Useful knowledge.

Miaako managed to get rid of the muskets we picked up at some point. Ceor had a strange dream about someone who offered to “open the way”. Reeshka seemed to know more about it than I do, but all she could say was that it was familiar.

In my researches, I came across whispers that certain people who look like they might have demon blood sometimes get assaulted in the temple district in the middle of the night. I’d heard that each of the Seven Cities had a cell of the Order of the Pure recruiting. At least I know which district to avoid after dark.

Miaako heard that there were an unusual number of pilgrims heading for the Flame of Mavros, and Ceor came across one of the smaller temples of Mavros with an unusual number of acolytes that were training with unusual relish. He seemed slightly unnerved by it.

Reeshka expressed interest in arena matches, because apparently we haven’t been killing enough things. Everyone else seemed interested, though Ceor seemed significantly less so once it was pointed out the arena would probably be in the temple of Mavros. He’s being stranger than usual.

The arena wasn’t hard to find; they’d apparently managed to recently procure some… interesting… creature from the Wastes. The acolytes weren’t entirely sure what to do with us; I think we unnerved them. The funny part was that Reeshka was the one that was pressing the issue and Ceor wanted to be anywhere else. Though apparently, there’s a prize for people as daft as us, if we win. 200 gold pieces, the blessings of Mavros, and the option to become acolytes of Mavros

The arena was enormous, of course, and full of spectators. Not sure if they were cheering for us of for the monstrosities that were there… two large scaly things. Hodags, I think they’re called. …Slightly more challenge than I really want.

Fortunately, they burn just like everything else. Ceor also managed to take a chunk out of one, only to get slapped upside the head. And then they added two more.

Reeshka’s totally to blame for this.

We were able to put one down without too much trouble, and Ceor nearly cut another in two. Then Reeshka motivated him and he finished it off.

By that point, the third had managed to cross the arena and climb out of the second, lower circle, to run right into a particularly hot version of scorching ray. It was rather effective. Miaako then wounded it in a rather vicious way. It was impressive, but by the gods he paid for. I even felt sorry for him, taking that thorough a beating. This, in turn, resulted in us heaping us more hurt upon it. Ceor, meanwhile, managed to eliminate the fourth one, more or less by himself.

I do think the crowd was impressed. I’ve never seen so much paper, coins, flowers, and women’s undergarments thrown in my life. There were even people screaming my name. It was… interesting.

Miaako managed to grab about 60 copper, I ended up with about 20 in my shoes, Reeshka got about 15. Ceor was too busy cleaning his sword to notice. Then, when the priest came down to talk to us, we each got a purse of 200 gold. Then we were led away to take a bath. I think I appreciated that more… Though the priest was looking at Ceor a little strangely.

We got cleaned up and politely declined the offer to join the priesthood. Of course, it’s never simple.

As we were heading back to the tavern, Reeshka pointed out that we were being followed. Ceor’s hopes to the contrary, they were not autograph hunters. Just looking at them gave me a chill. They followed us to the edge of the temple district, and lurked. Watching us.

Don’t tell me that paranoia isn’t a perfectly healthy response.

The whole incident unsettled me enough that I decided to share a room with Miaako, and we padlocked the door. Which was probably for the best, because when we woke up, there was something recognizable as the symbol of the Order of the Pure painted in blood on the door of my original room.

I think it’s time to go now.

We were able to get out of town without incident. It doesn’t entirely make me happy, to run like that, but I’d rather avoid tangling with them now. The next two weeks were refreshingly boring, and we made it to the town of Brimstone. At least half of the population seemed to be tiefling, and I was able to find a nice inn and get us a discount.

Brimstone might be the last bastion of civilization before the unholy mess that is the Goblin Wastes, but I find it a damn sight more welcoming than Savoyne.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 20
Research and Conflict Resolution

I decided to do some research. Bloodstone is a dwarven clan that was one of the original founders of the Canton of Winterheim, one of the few “pure” bloodlines left. Magda Bloodstone in particular was an exile who worked for Salwar the Black, a necromancer bandit chieftain who wanted to make a move to bigger and better things, and was killed some three hundred years ago. His symbol was strikingly similar to the symbol we keep seeing popping up here and there, which is food for thought.

Speaking of the bandits, Ceor was extremely helpful in buying people’s friendship with alcohol while I pressed them for information. Cells have been active near Savoyne, led by none other than Those Assholes. Well, at least they’re not bothering us right now. Apparently, they decided to retreat further north after their encounter with us.

I also managed to dig up a very, very old map of the Mage Kingdoms. I think the one I keep dreaming about is Taltren. The leadership was largely devil-blooded, though over the last three generations before its destruction, they were trying to breed that blood back out. I can understand that. Apparently, it fell as a result of assassination; the ruler of the city and the leader of the army were killed during a battle with one of the Great Old Ones by, if I’m understanding this right, the very founder of the Order of the Pure, though there’s no record of why they started there. There were rumors that the king and the general had heirs that were spirited away, though no evidence. The survivors of the kingdom fled and founded the town of Brimstone, the last spot of civilization on the Bone Road.

Reeshka turned up some persistent rumors that the Order of the Pure consort with demons and devils, the ends justifying the means, of course. There was also rumors of one of their higher ups being seduced by a succubus, having a child, and being tortured to death by his own allies for doing so. Big surprise there.

I found a reference that stated the Order of the Pure was started by two sisters who vowed to wipe out the Mage Kingdoms to prevent the Mage Wars from ever happening again. They tried to wipe out the bloodlines of the Mage Kings, thinking them corrupted beyond help, but some survivors escaped. The road to hell, and all that.

Supposedly, the Order of the Pure is based out of the Wastes north Verrayne, where they allegedly have a citadel (possibly the Crystal Citadel I keep seeing stray mentions of). Despite being illegal pretty much everywhere, they have a recruiting force in all Seven Cities.

Joy.

I returned to our little corner of the town to find Reeshka and Miaako going at it. I don’t use it often, but I can drop Darkness on occasion, and I did so.

It didn’t help.

They were fighting about money; I don’t know who was in the right, and I don’t care. If they’ll act like children, I’ll treat them like children- and I’ll back it up with violence if necessary. They seemed to get the message.

Apparently Miaako now has a staff of housekeepers. Kobolds, naturally. They’ve all painted their horns silver. Apparently, they went with the others to start a new tribe, then came back. Fabulous. Because we needed a kobold cult devoted to following the idiotic tengu.

I kept coming back from the library to find vase of red roses in my room. Ceor really needs to stop leaving these in my house for Sundrya. You’d think he’d have his hands full with that barmaid. I don’t even know her name.

I’m not sure he knows her name.

This hasn’t stopped her from moving in.

That reminds me. I need to have the apprentices look into soundproofing.

At any rate, I think the plan is to strike for the Flame of Mavros and see what happens… and if we happen to run into anything else that requires our attention, we’ll deal with it. Reeshka’s never seen a large body of water, apparently, so we’ll probably follow the road up to Goasta Cliffs on the Gold Coast for the first leg.

Not much happened for the first two days. On the third day, towards evening, we saw what appeared to be a family around a campfire. Either they’re totally harmless or they’ll try to eat us. Knowing our luck, the odds are on the latter.

There were a couple of kids who seemed pretty timid, and a guy who probably has elf ancestry, given how pretty he is. There was also a woman and an old man. Apparently, they’re making the pilgrimmage to the Throne of Mavros as a family, hoping to hook up with a caravan.

Craziness, if you ask me.

Also, I thought Ceor trained this damn horse, and I thought horses liked apples. I swear the damn thing is mocking me.

The boy wanted to touch Ceor’s sword because of course he did, but seemed to get a shock when he did, literally. He claimed it bit him. It’s a magic weapon that likes Ceor, so I can’t say I’m surprised. It might come in handy, later.

That was about the time I heard something moving around behind the treeline. We, of course, reacted predictably. Ceor demanded that whoever was there should show themselves, and he did. The bandit tried to swing a sword at Ceor and bounced off Ceor’s shield.

I do think he was reconsidering his life choices.

Though, of course, there was more than one. There’s always more than one.

Another one tried to flank us, found himself stymied by the mule, and then caught a Magic Missile. And decided to take it out on the mule, to absolutely no effect.

Ceor, meanwhile, was introducing the original bandit to his sword. Rather messily, really. Unfortunately, these people seem to have an idea of tactics. This will not do.

And apparently, we all took it rather personally. One of the bandits only lasted a few seconds, between Miaako’s sudden prowess and Ceor being Ceor.

Then the fool decided stabbing the mule was a good idea, I will never know why. We all decided to back away. Except that fool, who got kicked in the chest. I decided to put him out of his misery. I didn’t knock him out, but not for lack of trying.

Most of the raiders were dispatched, though one fell back in a manner that suggested he was running away. Smart. Reeskha decided to chase him down.

To reiterate, our blind kobold healer was chasing the fleeing bandit, with Miaako in tow.

They found a sniper with a crossbow.

Miaako’s squawks were not dignified, despite his insistence to the contrary, and he took a crossbow bolt for hamming it up.

There was another half dozen of those fools, of course. Miaako then took steps to remedy this and stabbed the ever loving shit out of one, as Ceor charged into the fray.

Honestly, it turned into a bit of a clusterfuck at this point. Mostly for them, they were dropping rather like flies. Though Ceor did try to ride through a tree and whanged himself on a branch. But he didn’t fall off the horse, so that was good.

I did end up leaning around Miaako to set one of the idiots on fire and singed his feathers a little. You’d think he’d have other things to worry about, what with being a pincushion. I don’t know why they were focusing so intent on him…

Well, mostly. A couple decided that I was a threat, but that only lasted until I set them on fire.

The last one decided to try to run, but Miaako and Ceor put a stop to that. Then we returned to the campsite to find the family cowering in fear. Not sure if they were afraid of the bandits or us. Not sure I really care, either.

We picked up 11 light crossbows and somewhere over 150 crossbow bolts, 11 guisarmes, fairly ruined chain mail, and about 150 gold coins. Reeshka said they all also had medallions signifying them as worshippers of the Great Old Ones, but… they were dust goblins. From the Goblin Wastes. Not unheard of.

We did manage to take one prisoner, though I have no idea why.

Oh, that’s why. So Reeshka and Miaako could beat him to death.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 19

We returned to camp in order to notifiy our commander that we’d taken care of the problem, though unfortunately, the scouts we’d lost were dead. Twice. Our report was greeted by good news and bad news. The good news was that the army had accomplished everything they’d set out to do, far more successfully than originally intended. The bad news was that they’d accomplished this a few months early, since someone had been going ahead of them and clearing everything out.

Gee, I wonder who that could have been.

The upshot was that everyone was paid out and free to return wherever they were staying the rest of the year. We could get paid and march back to Friula, but we do have houses in Feymott, so I’m not sure what we’ll do. It was rather comical to discover Miaako now had more money than he can actually carry.

I dreamed tonight. I was in an enormous library, though I couldn’t read any of the spines. No one seemed to be there, though sometimes I caught glowing mist that suggested people out of my peripheral vision. As I wandered through the elaborate building, the leather bindings changed to suggest the skins of sapient creatures, and the ink to a dark, brown crusty substance. Near the center, was a sphere of amber. It was glowing, with filaments coming off it. There was a dwarf there for some reason. He looked very elegant, with neatly braided beard and hair. He was holding a skull and the eyesockets had been stoppered with cut glass. It looked like it was holding wine. I came closer to examine the orb, and was struck by how intensely bright it was. There seemed to be all kinds of people’s faces, all screaming. What woke me was seeing Cindersong’s face… and he wasn’t screaming, he was laughing. I woke up in a cold sweat.

Ceor didn’t fare much better. What struck me was that the scene Ceor described was much like the one I saw before, back at the dwarf encampment when I suddenly knew how to cast Fireball. Calvary charge facing off some sort of monstrous bird… I think that was meant to be the only blasphemous creature of the Wastes that was ever actually defeated. Ornis Ammos. Though defeated isn’t the right term. When the slowed time field struck the Wastes, it fell from the sky.

I did some thinking about the dream I had. The orb was almost necromantic in nature, designed to capture the souls of the dead before they could pass on, the better to use their energy. I’m sure that’s significant, though I have no idea how yet.

After Ceor wandered off, Miaako came to ask me to investigate a gold medallion with a large ruby set in it. It was so magical as to be nearly blinding. It was a minor artifact somehow related to fire and bloodshed. I couldn’t tell much more about that from an Identify spell, though I found an old rune that pertained to fire, and something that seemed to indicate spirit. I couldn’t tell him much more about it, not even how to activate it. He’d apparently picked it up from Cindersong. He elected to not wear it, which was probably the wise course of action.

We decided to return to Feymott to resupply, and drop off things and resupply. Reeshka gave a speech to the kobolds, with the net result that they elected to colonize the cave we cleared out. Just as well. My new apprentices will be staying at my house and keeping an eye on things while we’re gone. Miaako and Reeshka picked up some magical items, and Ceor got some new armor. I might make some scrolls, they could come in handy.

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