Blades of Light

Tal's Journal, Entry 18
No Fucks to Be Had

This ought to be interesting. It’ll be dawn soon, and there’s supposed to be a dwarven army to fight.

There’s not one, anymore.

Miaako developed a following; eight or nine kobolds seemed inclined to stick with him. The rest didn’t seem inclined to disperse, and set about looting their former masters. Fine with me. We also found a ledger of which dwarf owned which kobolds, and how much they’d be due if said kobold died. We might need to visit some particularly burny recompense on them.

We left the dwarf camp in ashes. Evidently, they hadn’t been as diligent on their fire proofing as they should have been.

The commanders- of the army and each division- were up when we got back. This will be awkward. I don’t think they were entirely pleased. The head of the arcana division pointed out that we’d taken all of the glory- if by accident. They politely asked that the next time we met an army, we shouldn’t utterly destroy it before they have a chance to meet them in battle. I don’t think they were too pleased by my response that it just sort of happened.

Well, it did.

The kobolds mobbed the quartermaster, and I don’t envy him the task of sorting them out. About eight stuck to both Reeshka and Miaako. So they have groupies, that’s a thing that happened.

That taken care of, we decided to get some sleep. Slaughtering an army in the dead of night is tiring work. I slept like a rock, but Miaako didn’t look like he got much sleep. In the morning, Miaako went to sell the equipment we picked up. It worked out to 90 gold and 1 silver each. Not bad. I need to spend the day identifying things; our gear has exhibited new properties, and I’d like to know about them before we go out again. The commander wants us to find out what’s been happening to the scouts, probably because he wants to know, and to keep us from murdering any more conquests before they can actually make them in equal measure.

My staff took two castings of Identify; the blue end had developed a frost enchantment and the red end had a flaming enchantment. Reeshka’s staff is now apparently a flaming darkwood staff. Miaako’s dagger had turned into a mythril shortsword of frost. There were some runes engraved on the blade, but I couldn’t read them. Miaako said they were very old, from the language of the northlands. Ceor’s lance turned out to be a shock darkwood lance; I honestly don’t know what to made of his sword. I’ve never seen this enchantment, but it seems to hit harder because of it.

The bow turned out to be a native outsider bane longbow. That’s designed to kill tieflings. And aasimar too, but in practice, I doubt anyone would be hunting them. We got this from those Order of the Pure assholes, so I don’t know why I’m surprised. On the one hand I sort of want to destroy it because fuck that, on the other, it might come in handy. Might even do something unpleasant to that fucking asshole and his fucking hellhound. After debate, I gave it to Ceor. I will at least know that I’m safe from it while it’s in his hands.

Someone brought lunch at some point, though I didn’t notice until long after it had gotten cold. Probably one of the twins. Either way, the identification work took most of the day, and I slept well.

The next morning, the kobolds had set up a breakfast table by the time we got up. That was… nice…

I picked up the ledger from the arcana division, and went to talk to our commander, who was a little tricky to find. Turned up in our camp, the smartass. I told him about the weird corpses of the ballista crew, and he told me that the kobolds had found a cave system that wasn’t on our map. Once we got everything ready, we headed out.

When we got there, there was a corpse of a young green dragon in the entrance. Fabulous.

Reeshka said that whatever killed it did so a month ago, and there wasn’t anything worth salvaging. It certainly smelled far stronger than anything that had been dead for a month… or for just one thing. We couldn’t tell what, not after all this time, but it was violent.

Of course, it was a dragon. That’s expected.

The cave seemed to be completely natural about to where the dragon was, but beyond that showed signs of being ripped open. We proceeded a little further to find a small group of undead standing there. Because of course there were. They didn’t seem inclined to attack, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea to let them stay there where they can come up behind us later.

Miaako went a little further, and discovered what happened to the missing scouts. They’ll never get the decay out; that’s the problem with ghouls. Miaako expressed interest in leaving to go report our findings, but I reminded him that they’d just send us back. So I set them on fire, and was promptly shot with an arrow. Miaako made himself useful by stabbing another undead that was out of my line of sight. Ceor, on the other hand, almost fell when he stumbled on a rock. It unfortunately made him a nice target for claws and a point blank arrow. And unfortunately, the angle was so bad I couldn’t land a ray. Reeshka at least did a little better; undead don’t like bursts of positive energy.

Ceor then managed to cut the ghoul he was playing with in half, and fortunately got his shield up before a skeleton could do something unpleasant. Miaako fared less well. I was tired of missing, so I just fed the remaining skeleton a force missile. There was another alcove that had been infested; Miaako had actually managed to take out two of three. Then he and Ceor completely humiliated themselves by failing to connect with the remaining skeleton, leaving Reeshka to deal with it. She slapped it with positive energy. After some more ineffectual flailing, I just shot it in the face with a Disrupt Undead. Upon examination, some of the corpses had our colors, some had the dwarves’, and one seemed like a random traveler.

Miaako found a pit that seemed to be a natural crevice, though the rocks around us seemed to be gouged. We explored some more, and lo and behold, Cindersong was in one of the rear chambers. That fucking gnome.

It’s time to take care of that.

He blasted the wall behind Miaako with fire, and one of his skeletal minions ran into a while another dropped its bow. Seemed like an excellent time to set that fucking deviant on fire.

So I did.

Then Ceor charged in and smashed one of the skeletons in the face. True, he took an arrow to the shoulder in response, but it was impressive. Cindersong shot me in the head with a firebolt and started cursing in Infernal. I have no idea what he was saying, but I’m sure it was impolite. He managed to put himself out, just in time for me to shove a Magic Missile down his throat. Ceor cut down a skeleton, and got further into the room. Apparently, Cindersong had the bargain undead minions.

Miaako slammed into the room, bounced off the wall and landed on the stage, not giving the slightest of fucks that he got stuck on the way, and stabbed Cindersong pretty effectively.

Then Cindersong’s sword caught on fire and he shoved it directly into Miaako.

I swear to Hecate he will fucking DIE today.

Cindersong.

Not Miaako. He already did that once, and I gather it wasn’t pleasant.

Ceor, meanwhile, was chopping the skeletons into small pieces, and Reeshka took care of the extra-crispy. Miaako put the fucking gnome down, finally. I think he took being stabbed personally, because he stabbed Cindersong in the heart, cut his head off as he was falling, and then dropped him in an untidy heap.

I approve.

As soon as he fell, Cindersong’s sword melted into an unpleasant puddle of goo. Probably for the best, really.

With him down, we just had to clean up the skeletons. Should be easy enough.

Well, not entirely easy. But we can handle it. Miaako’s getting pretty good at popping their skulls off. Entertaining, really.

The dais Cindersong had been occupied was covered in bloodstains; presumably this was where he was sacrificing his victims and raising them on undead. He’d painted Infernal script in the blood. I wonder if his blood will cover it up. The place where his sword was had already dried into this nasty black scab; I’ve heard of something like this. Swordsmen who study the arcane sometimes get… chosen by entities, and are given a strange weapon of some sort or another. Most just look like dark weapons, some look like they’re grown. I expect this was the later. It was called ‘Blade-bound Magus’. He had a pouch of 30 tarnished silver. Nothing much else of interest, though we’ll take his head.

Naturally, there were some more undead lurking around. While it wasn’t a cakewalk, it was far from insurmountable. There were some rather comedic moments, due to the general topography of the caves; for much of the combat, we missed them, and they missed us. Frankly embarrassing.

There was a shallow pool of acid near the back of the cave, which I suppose only makes sense, given the green dragon that was apparently lairing here before Cindersong got here. I’m still a little concerned about the way the caves seemed to be gouged out. I suppose this answers what killed the ballista crew at the dwarf encampment; ghouls have claws.

And now Cindersong is out of the picture. One less loose end to worry about. We’ll take his head back, I’m sure someone would be interested in his death.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 17
We're Going to Kill the Fuck Out of You Now

It would be an understatement to say that Reeshka didn’t take it well. She turned into her energy form, screaming all the while.

I almost feel sorry for the commander.

Meanwhile, I need to focus on dropping the captain still harassing Ceor. Ceor took the opportunity to slaughter the other dwarf and start moving towards the commander. The captain dropped, and I just left him to burn to death.

That commander needs to die, though. Preferably painfully.

Ceor seemed to be of the same mind, because he charged the asshole. Since Reeshka was right there, she took the next hit from the commander’s hammer, and it sounded like it hurt. He’ll pay for it.

I think he’s just tough enough a bastard that we’ll all get to make him suffer before he dies.

Apparently, though, Miaako was not as dead as he first appeared, because there was a wave of frost, and Miaako straightened up enough to stab the fucker in the groin, and apparently managed to hit something vital.

Occasionally, there is a moment of poetic justice.

For some reason, two dwarves were ignoring everything else to engage in a slap fight, which Ceor promptly interrupted. Despite this, they were marginally smarter than their compatriots and surrendered. Reeshka’s attention was entirely on Miaako.

Ceor wouldn’t let me kill the two fools, and that seemed to be the end of it. The camp was empty, all the others had either fled or were charred corpses. The gray and red flames surrounding me died out, about the same time that the golden flames surrounding Reeshka and the aura of lightning surrounding Ceor did. However, Reeshka had golden flecks covering her scales, and Miaako’s feathers had turned a sort of silvery white. And apparently Reeshka went blind again.

We found the remaining kobolds and they seemed to be, if not in the best of health, at least in one piece and alive. We also found three more dwarves on the top guard tower, still manning their ballista, and quite dead. Their throats had been torn out, by something with long claws. It looked like there was a lot of festering. Which suggest we might have another problem. But fine with me.

The army had completely routed. The ones who fled took their belongings and gear, but of course the ones who died had no further use for theirs. The commanders had insignia that marked them as commanders, from the canton of Winterhiem.

Naturally, Reeshka demanded explanation of Miaako, wanting to know how he had come back to life. Miaako was less than forthcoming. He mentioned that everyone on the other side were jerks, and so was I, but at least I was a jerk on his side.

We ended up with a total of 24 hand axes, 29 warhammers, 27 heavy wood shields, 2 heavy steel shields, 350 platinum, 550 gold, and 2000 silver. It worked out to 108 plat, 7 gold, 5 silver each, after we exchange the coins to be carrying less. Nothing magical, though.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 16
Burn All the Things/Goddammit Miaako

I almost feel bad for the people who wanted to fight tomorrow. Almost.

I got hit with an ax at some point; I should probably do something about that. A few more took it into their heads to charge Ceor, with predictably laughable results. Ceor apparently took issue with the one who hit me, and did something about it.

That was about the time Reeshka burst into golden flames. I have the distinct sense that perhaps these dwarves did not know what they were getting into.

Of course, that was also about the time they started coming out of the woodwork like particularly unpleasant beetles. A dwarf took a swing at me, and was unpleasantly surprised to see his ax catch fire. Another charged into Ceor’s lance, and still managed to hit him. Ceor and Anusk returned the favor rather nicely; it almost looked like Anusk kicked the dwarf just to show Ceor where to hit. Reeshka ran halfway across the camp to us, and I set another fool on fire. Reeshka then proclaimed she could see, and I got hit with an ax.

Perhaps we ought to focus on the matter at hand.

One of the dwarves lunged at me, and there was a flash of lightning. I could swear that Ceor was suddenly in two places at once; sitting on Anusk, lance in hand, and lunging down to stab the dwarf with his sword, which was suddenly glowing with blue white flames.

Well then.

One of the captains then decided to run directly onto Ceor’s lance and halfway up it. Quite a few of them have decided to bugger off. Whether it saves them will entirely depend on if I can be bothered to chase them down.

Then one tried to cut my ear off.

All told, it wasn’t the most convenient time to have a vision. For a moment, it seemed that I wasn’t in the middle of this damned encampment, but in the middle of a green field, with a few burned and blasted spots, surrounded by what seemed to be my loyal soldiers. Legions of them. We seemed to be arrayed against an approaching swarm of twisted goblins and less savory things, surrounding some sort of flying monstrosity. It seemed that I knew what I had to do to kill it, I just needed to lay hands on it. And I had plenty of firepower to do so…

The vision cleared just as I raised my hands to find dwarves in my way.

How very convenient.

I haven’t mastered the fireball spell yet, but that didn’t stop me from using it to set not a few dwarves alight. One of them tried to hit me and failed.

One of the captains tried to smash Reeskha… and she just smacked the ax away. Now even the captains were breaking and running. Unfortunately, not all of them. One of them hit me in the chest and cracked a rib. He will pay for it. Another fireball made the point nicely.

A few more ran for it, and the rest flailed ineffectually. I think their commanders had finally deigned to make an appearance. One of the rank and file got a lucky hit on Ceor, though, a mistake I’m sure he won’t live to regret. Though we were so surrounded by this point, it was hard to avoid getting hit, and Anusk took a rather hard one, as did Reeskha. Ceor was somewhat displeased.

By this point, two commanders were in sight, and close enough to be roasted with another fireball. Unfortunately, that was the last time I was able to cast it before the knowledge of the spell faded. And I hadn’t dropped the commanders… damn. And it seemed that Miaako had finally managed to attract attention. Well, I could at least feed one of the commanders some Fire Breath. One of the dwarves took a swing at me, giving me a cut. For once in his life, Ceor did something smart, and fell back enough to drink a health potion. There was some more wild flailing at Reeshka. More dwarves fled, and dwarves started beating Ceor in earnest. And Miaako was doing something that resulted in the sound of metal hitting metal in a way that did not sound productive.

Ceor screamed a particularly imaginatively obscene challenge at the commander, and put quite a dent in his shield, then decided to pull Reeshka out of harm’s way. I contented myself with setting a captain and a commander on fire again. Ceor finally managed to land a good, solid hit, so solid he shoved his sword straight through the commander’s shield, breastplate, and ribcage. He dropped the bastard, finally.

That was about the time Miaako squaked as he took a particularly vicious hit. Somewhat unexpectedly, Reeshka then leapt off Anusk and ran towards him. She took a hit in the process, but it didn’t stop her. I finally had time to take a look to see what Miaako was doing, and he seemed to be standing with a group of kobolds, with a commander surrounded. The commander seemed to be covered with frost.

God knows what Miaako’s been doing.

Ceor cleaved into one of the remaining captains and left a glowing scar across his armor, and coincidentally dropped him.

And then Miaako went and got himself killed.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 15
Mine is a murderous rage, and they will all perish in flames.

We’re all going to die.

It was time for us to set up staging for this glorious madness. I’m absolutely positive that things won’t go according to plan, it can only be hoped we survive the experience. I think the best plan is for Ceor, my two minio- I mean, apprentices, and myself to set up on the opposite side of the compound from where Reeshka and Miaako plan to enter. We’ll give them an hour to get into position. I’d prefer a more certain means of communication, but there is none right now. We’ll just have to hope they’re ready when we start attracting attention.

The illusions did off rather well; the guard was petrified. We made it look like an army of the undead was approaching, complete with the sound of that wretched nixie. It did hold their attention, but not enough of them. So we set the guard shack on fire. That did get more of their attention. And I had one of my illusory zombies stare at the guard which was trying to get in, just because it was funny. I expect this will come to blows. We can only hope that we’re in a better position.

The guards seemed to be buying it, at least to the extent that they were wasting ballista bolts on my illusions. I just kept playing along. Normally, I’d be setting the guards on fire about now; I could probably take out a pair of guards and a guard tower with a single spell. But I need to conserve my magic for when they finally see through the deception, because then it will get UGLY.

We made them use a couple of flasks of alchemist’s fire up, so at least we’re making them use up resources. But this may turn bad quickly. A full unit came out, including one with two axes, which I suspect is someone of importance.

Dwarves burn nicely. It’s all the alcohol.

But it got serious; the illusions won’t be much help against the dwarves, so now we have to fight. I nearly caught a throwing ax to the face, and Sundrya iced him in the crotch.

You know, I think I like her.

But I think we’re out of time, it’s time to go now. I got a little too close to the dwarves, so of course Ceor charged in to express his displeasure… and his lance exploded into lightning. I’ll need to look at that once we get back to camp, assuming we survive.

That was about the time I could hear kobolds squealing in the camp as they were being beaten.

I hate that.

I grew up being in that position.

Fuck that.

It was the crescent moon tonight, I remember asking about that…

But it was the half moon in the sky.

And just like that, every spell I’d ever written was in mind as if I had memorized that.

It’s time to use them.

I expect that some of the dwarves tried to hit me, I didn’t particularly notice. I was too busy advancing on the dwarves, who had started retreating at top speed.

For some reason.

I got delayed at the gate, simply because there were too many people in the way, which was easily remedied. Fire Breath is wonderfully effective for encouraging people to get the fuck out of my way. Well, except for Ceor, but he was also nicely killing things so I can deal with that.

One of the dwarves tried to surrender, but I’m not going to accept surrender right now. Most of the attacks simply didn’t affect me, the weapons just burned away. Though I had been surrounded by gray flames, but they started to tinge with red.

I’m sure it’s significant but I really don’t care.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 14
This Will End Well.

Reeshka woke us up in abominably good spirits this morning.

She was saying something about important business, and breakfast. I suppose that can excuse this. Ceor and Reeshka then said that we had to infiltrate the opposing army.

I can’t wait to hear the explanation of this.

The general idea was that Reeshka wanted to slip in and rouse the kobold slaves in other army to rebellion. Either turning on their masters in battle, or spiriting them away in the night. This will end splendidly, I’m sure.

Reeshka mentioned something that I was able to identify as a hat of disguise, though I wonder if I can’t use Alter Self to the same effect. That was about the same time that a courier showed up with a map of the enemy camp. Apparently Reeshka and Ceor had already studied it a bit, because they had some ideas of where to infiltrate.

If we can get the hat of disguise from possibly the Arcana division, I think I have the cantrips to at least get the attention of the people at the gate. This is risky as all fuck, of course, especially since I haven’t quite figured out how to use certain spells on anyone but myself. I might need to check the Arcana division to see if they have spellbooks…

The problem is that I’m a specialist in evocation, and I’ve let my study of illusion slide. I might need to see if I can get a few more illusionists. Might see what those twins can do in the way of illusion.

Additionally, there’s the problem of it would be weird for a kobold to be wandering around unattended. Reeshka’s suggesting that she play an escapee, but it’s not something I’m entirely comfortable with. It could end badly. Additionally, she’ll likely have to stay in the camp all night. If she can convince the kobolds to play along, we can have them play an infantry charge, then pass them through our ranks, then open up on the dwarves.

Apparently Reeshka and Ceor have already spoken to the commander and he’s okay with this…

I’m not entirely comfortable with Reeshka going in by herself; she’s our healer, after all. So I pointed out to Miaako the habit dwarves have of hoarding wealth, and I’m not at all sorry. Now we just need to figure out the best way of getting them in without someone catching on. It’s a crescent moon tonight, which I can work with, though it’s supposed to be clear. I could do with clouds…

I took a trip to the Arcana division to pick up the hat of disguise and found that the commander had basically given us carte blanche to get whatever magical items we needed for a half-share of treasure at the end of the season. They actually had two, and I got both. Then I was pointed in the direction of the company illusionist, a rather nice half-orc lady named Margaret, who taught me Silent Image in exchange for Magic Weapon. It worked out. After that, I went and asked the twins to come help me do something stupid. They were surprisingly amenable. And then they decided to move to the same clearing in the scouting encampment we were staying in.

All right, then.

After some discussion, it was decided that it was simply too dangerous to let Reeshka go in alone. Either she’d be noted as a runaway, or she’d be noted as a single dwarf in a camp full of pairs. So there was a lot of bribing to get Miaako to go along with it. He wasn’t happy about it, but I have to be in place for the distraction, and Ceor simply can’t pass as either a dwarf or a kobold.

The twins asked me what to prepare, so I told them Ghost Sound and Dancing Lights, which will come in handy, and then they each have another cantrip with some offensive capability. I need to teach them Magic Missile as soon as possible, because that’s a spell no one should be without.

Our plans made, Miaako went to go get drunk off his feathery ass, and Ceor happily accompanied him. Our fall back plan in case something goes wrong is to burn everything and run like hell.

We’re all going to die.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 13
Well, That Was Disgusting

Ceor has groupies apparently. Someone sent him a strongly perfumed piece of silk. He tied it to his lance, naturally. I refuse to clean it up when he ruins it.

Shortly after I got up, I received a letter formally requesting that I take someone as an apprentice. … Clearly this person has never met me. Turned out to be a pair of half-elf siblings that do minor cantrips for people in camp, a brother and a sister. I suppose it could at least be entertaining to see what possessed them to ask me. I can probably blame Ceor for that.

Miaako looked nervous and Reeshka looked more smug than usual and I don’t know want to know why.

As we were leaving to head out to the other farmstead, there was a small group of kobolds waving to Reeshka. Apparently she has groupies too.

The trip across the valley was uneventful, though we saw the opposing army getting their camp ready. The crops at this end had been planted, at least, and showed some signs of care, but they’d largely been left to go wild. And we could smell decay.

Once we got closer to the farm, we found that there were corpses here too. Of course. They had a horse this time. Miaako fired off a crossbow bolt that would have done quite a bit a damage… if he hadn’t fired at a skeleton with no flesh on its bones. At least he managed to almost cripple the horse.

Ceor got a good hit in, though the lack of flesh hampered him as well. Miaako managed to pop the head off the skeleton. Which of course still left the zombie horse. That was also dealt with in short order… and it ruptured into a foul, corrosive mess. Fortunately I was standing far enough away to not actually be hit by it.

Naturally, there were more undead inside the building. Miaako managed to actually properly stab something as he darted in. Then Reeshka lit them up like the city lights and dropped one. Ceor dispatched another, and I dropped a third.

Then one lurched forward and howled at us and it was extremely unpleasant. It hurt. I wonder if this is what it feels like to the undead when Reeshka starts glowing. Fortunately, Ceor cut it apart. The remaining skeleton was summarily dealt with. There wasn’t much in there, except what appeared to be a ledger, probably the farm’s accounts. It hadn’t been updated in about six months, though this farm seemed much more organized.

As I was looking at the ledger, I smelled seawater. It was coming from the corpse that screamed at us. I’ve heard of them before. Draugr, I think they’re called. Basically they’re drowned sailors that come back as waterlogged corpses. I can’t think of what one would be doing so far inland. They almost exclusively haunt the north, and there’s not a coast for miles. And the Wastes are between here and their usual hunting grounds.

Searching some more, I found a leather sack stashed in the chimney with 38 gold in it. They won’t need it either.

As we explored the rest of the farm, we got the general idea that the plots here had been tended, if sporadically. The growth was all stunted, though.

There were three more undead in a smaller house. Just for a change of pace, we decided to use some strategy. Ceor charged in through one door, and Reeshka opened the other door so I could spray Burning Hands through it. It was rather successful, actually.

Once those had been taken care of, Miaako showed me a book he’d found, that seems significant. It was notes about crop rotations and other uninteresting things, as well as observations of the visitors to the farm. Turns out a red-haired gnome showed up exactly one day after the winter solstice, ostensibly to sell some crop seeds.

When we examined the last building, Miaako discovered in addition to three more undead, there were two human children in there. I’m puzzled as to how they’re still alive. This time, the appropriate course of action was to kick the door in and shove a Reeshka bomb at them. It wasn’t quite as effective as we’d hoped. Miaako managed to get himself stabbed with a horribly rusty sword, but other than that, it wasn’t much of a problem.

Once that problem had been taken care of, Ceor went to check on the children. They panicked, naturally. While he and Reeshka were taking care of that, Miaako found what appeared to be a box of silver rods in the chimney. The children were both malnourished, and the girl had some sort of infected wound, but that wasn’t anything Reeshka couldn’t take care of. The window frame in the room they’d been hiding in was loose, which was how the boy was getting out to tend to the crops, I expect.

At this point, the children were just completely thrilled by anyone who was alive, and had no problem with returning to camp with us. We’ll either have someone take them to Feymott or see if one of the camp followers wants to take care of them. We passed the opposing army again, and Miaako commented that it looked like kobold slavery, which predictably made Reeshka angry.

We got the children some food and reported back. We hadn’t found any traces of the previous scouting party, which could be explained by simple desertion, though the scoutmaster said they were particularly loyal. There are some hills to the south east with caves, but that’s somewhat behind the other army and there’s never been any trouble out of them. I’d have liked to more closely examine the most direct route between the camp and the farm, but there’s no time before the battle. It occurs to me that I don’t know which way that fucking gnome went when we chased him out of Feymott.

Someone showed up to lead the children off, and after Ceor glared at them in a particularly impressive manner, promised that they’d be well fed and taken care of.

Since there’s nothing else I can do, I suppose I might check on who was fool enough to ask me to take an apprentice. Ceor tagged along, though Reeshka was occupied with her own thoughts and preferred to be left alone, and Miaako seemed somewhat out of sorts.

The two half-elves proved to be red-haired siblings that might be twins. They were somewhat off by themselves. Sundilsa and Sundrya Winterleaf. Ridiculous names and charming dispositions. Though I’m one to talk. Evidently, they want to be evokers, but no one is willing to teach them. The girl has a temper, apparently. Their history’s not so different from mine, really. You know, I may actually end up doing it. Told them maybe for now, because I really can’t tell them much else at least until the end of the campaign season. I don’t know how good of a teacher I’d be, but they’re willing to take what they can get. And I think I’m willing to do a lot to screw over assholes like the kind I was surrounded by my entire life.

I’ll have to put some thought into it. But for now, I just need to get some sleep so I can do some identification work tomorrow before the battle.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 12
And the ever present Bloodstone makes our lives difficult again.

We made our way to the first actual battlefield in the season. The scoutmaster wants us to check things out and make sure there were no unpleasant surprises waiting for either side, then either come back and tell them about it or take it apart and let them know, as the case may be.

There are a couple of farmsteads in the area, that usually supply the armies that meet here, though the advance scouts reported there were no signs of life at either, which is… unfortunate. There is also a large cave that’s probably playing host to something large and unpleasant. We were asked to investigate our choice of it, while another team will be sent to the other. I fully expect we’ll end up doing both because the other team will get wasted. We elected to try the cave first.

There was no vegetation around it, only a single tree. It also smelled rather rancid. Miaako and my horses were uneasy, though Anusk didn’t care and the mule of course did not give even the slightest of fucks. The cave seemed to have some sort of phosphorescent moss growing on it, which I suppose made it easier for those who can’t see in the dark. The tunnel was big enough for a horse, so of course we brought Anusk along.

There were spiders immediately inside, though they didn’t seem interested in our presence. Which was frankly strange. Miaako suggested that spiders are usually only this passive when they have plenty to eat… and we didn’t see any cocoons in this first cave. Ceor heard something breathing further down. Something large. The tunnel got smaller as we went on, nearly too small for Anusk. Whatever else was down here seemed to be asleep, thank goodness for small favors.

Turned out to be an owlbear. Because of course it was.

Reeshka, Miaako, and I were able to sneak into the chamber and get out of Ceor’s way, because subtlety is not the strong point of followers of Mavros. (I originally suggested backing away quietly, then sealing off the cave. Unfortunately, that was likely not doable. So we went for the direct approach.) Somehow, Ceor managed to mount Anusk for a charge.

Likely this will prove amusing.

This is the first time I’ve seen us successfully make a sneak attack. We should do this more often.

Though really, I expect us to do far more to it before it was able to wake up.

Meanwhile, Ceor discovered there was a web in the way. And then he was promptly bitten and Anusk was clawed. Then Miaako slipped in rancid meat and other less identifiable things. Fortunately, they recovered and were able to poke it to death. Upon a closer examination, some of the spider silk can be harvested for ropes. We’ll mention it to the army and hopefully get a finder’s fee.

That just left the spiders, which should be taken care of before they get hungry. Ceor charged one and bounced off, while the rest of us were somewhat more effective with the other. The one that we were focusing on came up and got into Miaako’s face, and perhaps surprisingly, he finished it off.

Ceor was having difficulties. I can’t have that, so I shoved a magic missile in its eye. Reeshka managed to peg it, but Miaako almost shot Ceor. Fortunately, Ceor managed to shove a sword through it finally, and finished it.

That bit of nonsense taken care of, we continued on to the closest farm. It looked like no one had been there since winter. Fields unplowed, buildings abandoned and in disrepair. According to the veterans, it was a small family of kobolds with some larger folk that was supposed to be there. It looked like there was some damage to one place on the wall that seemed more like someone took an ax to it than general decay, and the furniture on the porch looked more smashed than collapsed. The ground looked untouched, or at least, since the last set of storms. The windows were completely obscured with mud and dirt.

There was no way to tell what had happened without going inside.

When Ceor kicked open the door (because of course he did), we discovered five corpses in various stages of rotting. One had fallen down the stairs, or what was left of them, while the others were sitting in rickety chairs.

And that was about the time they got up to come say hi.

One of the kobold corpses pawed at Reeshka and Ceor got stabbed by a rusty sword. Frankly, the one mangling Ceor seemed the bigger threat at the moment. Things got a bit out of hand, and then Reeshka lit them all up with glowing holy light. For all that she seemed to be attracting all their attention, they seemed more intent on feeling her up than actually doing harm. I dropped another one; Disrupt Undead is a situational spell, but this is exactly why it never hurts to have it prepared. Miaako and Ceor where somewhat effective, but apparently Reeshka took offense to their caresses.

Once they were down, we checked things out. The kobolds looked like they’d been stabbed in the heart. Upon closer examination, it looked more like they’d been sacrificed, rather than killed in combat. All of them except for one that was a big skeletal thing, maybe a half orc, looked the same. Everything but that one looked like they’d been dead three to six months. The big one looked like it had been dead closer to a year, and when Ceor examined it, a little metal disc was dislodged from its skull. It had a skull with a ring of bones, which was the same symbol the bandits on the road at the start of the campaign season had, the same as was being flown at the keep That Asshole had taken up in, and the same sealing the letters That Fucking Gnome had.

Naturally.

That was about the time Miaako and Reeshka heard something in the other room. Ceor didn’t even have to break it, it just crumbled. There were, of course, more zombies. Two more kobolds, a half orc, and another one of those skeletal things. Despite Ceor being the enormous guy with the large sword, Reeshka seemed to be a more enticing target. Miaako managed to graze one, and then Ceor got one in his face. Fortunately he was blocking the door.

Fighting kobold zombies is tricky. They’re so goddamn short it’s hard to aim.

Reeshka, apparently having had ENOUGH OF THIS SHIT, turned into a glowing elemental of pure energy, and marched straight through the one in Ceor’s face. It sizzled and crumbled some. Then Miaako stuck his dagger in it and it fell down. Ceor then bisected the one he was tangled with. Then he stepped forward and damn near caught an arrow with his face.

The archer was hiding behind the table, and as I was tired of missing, I threw a force missile in its face. Reeshka charged through another zombie, then reached back and channeled energy into it, and it just crumbled.

Then Miaako tried to shoot me in the back.

Idiot.

Ceor, magnificent fool that he is, charged straight forward and onto the table, and shoved his sword through it and rummaged around. Fortunately, he managed to avoid having the favor repaid. Reeshka charged right through the big one and repeated the trick of force feeding it positive energy. And that was the end of that.

I found a letter on one of the shelf, that had been left here some months ago. It was to fucking Cindersong, of course. It basically it said to be careful not to leave any of the bodies outside when he set up the “waystations”. I expect it was from Bloodstone, but the signature was charred to illegibility. Same handwriting, though. The burn marks looked about the size of a gnome’s finger. Either under orders to burn it or he just doesn’t like Bloodstone, I don’t know or care.

Ceor said that the skull and ring of bones symbol had been drawn on the table with what looked like blood, but of course he’d completely destroyed it with all the jumping on it by the time I could look at it. I found another little metal disc in the skull of the big thing, which wasn’t surprising. Reeshka wanted to take a look at it. After some careful inspection, she was able to determine that it was made of corroded iron. The regular zombies looked to be about the same age as the others, three to six months, while the big one was about a year old.

Some more poking around revealed a loose floorboard. There was a somewhat rotted leather sack underneath. 23 gold and 19 silver, probably the savings of the family who lived here. Not much, they probably lived pretty close to the bone. Well, they don’t need it anymore, so there’s no harm in taking it.

The horses started raising a fuss, so we went to check on them.

More zombies had shown up. Of course. The mule was staring them down, and Anusk practically radiated an attidude of ‘you run and I’ll kick your ass’ to the other horses. Reeshka ran up to the big one and smacked it with positive energy, which is really entertaining. Miaako missed, as per usual. Ceor tried to hit it, but rebounded off the armor.

Reeshka then got stabbed. Hard. One tried to get around to flank Ceor, only to be met with Ceor’s sword and the mule’s hoof. I’m sure it regretted that course of action. Ceor and Miaako were apparently mad about Reeshka getting mauled, because they killed the fuck out of it.

Unfortunately, I had neglected the one that tried to get around Ceor, and it sunk some truly nasty claws into me.

You do not do this.

I set it and the other one on fucking fire. The one that hit me promptly crumbled, and the other one burst into flames.

And then Miaako managed to just knock its goddamn head off. The mule seemed to approve.

It was about the same as we’d already seen, sacrificed and another metal disc. In looking around to see if any more of those assholes were around, we found a root cellar completely full of rotted food and a six by three stone slab drenched in gore. Lovely. But at least no more zombies.

I still think we should burn the place to the ground. We’ll pass that along to the army to take care of. Ceor mentioned that the mule should haul the bodies into the house, in jest of course, but it was a poor joke.

We decided that was enough for one day, and made our way back to camp. The team that had been sent to check the house we cleared had decided to dawdle and let us catch it, and were getting chewed out. The other team that was sent to the other farm hadn’t reported back at all. I’m sure will find them tomorrow in one stage of animation or another. We passed the word along to the scoutmaster. He was pleased to hear about the spidersilk and less pleased to hear about the zombies. He said that someone would be dispatched to fire the farmstead that we cleared.

We had recovered three longswords, three longbows, and 58 arrows that will be sold to the army. The armor had been literally bolted onto the skeletons. I’m hoping that means they’re just the officers of Bloodstone’s army. Though it’s somewhat troubling that no one has no reports of an unknown army or mass disappearances that would indicate Bloodstone had killed all witnesses. And it seems that his forces have been coming towards us; while we’ve probably already taken out part of his vanguard, but we’ll run into everything he’s left behind. And that’s assuming that he’s just been moving in a straight line…

I need to do some more research on this matter. I know off hand that Bloodstone was the name of a clan of dwarves that settled in the canton of Winterheim, a human line that was tied to the Mage Kingdoms but was supposedly wiped out, and an elven line that retreated to the Summerlands. I suspect that the Bloodstone we’re dealing with is related to the human line because of the connection to the Mage Kingdoms and the relentless fascination with the undead, but I’m not sure.

In any case, we’ll stay the night here to rest and recover, and tomorrow we’ll go clear out the other farm. I’m sure we’ll find more of the same when we get out there.

And won’t that be fun.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 11
Today was an... interesting day.

That goddamned mule ate the page of my journal I had already started. It did it on purpose, I swear.

Long story short, we were promoted, Ceor to Captain, and everyone else to lieutenants when the army arrived and the officers indicated that the man who recruited us didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. We were brought in to travel with the army and other fools were sent ahead. I did some research on our weapons and I think that they’re possibly weapons of legend, which will continue to grow in power. This also suggests that we either have some connection to the heroes who used them or are simply like them. I made some acid flasks for Reeshka.

The first two days were depressingly slow. The army is so large it can’t move very fast…

The third day, we saw an enormous tree above the canopy of the rest of the woods. It looked like a darkwood tree. They don’t grow that large on their own. No tree grows that large on its own. Ceor told me that he’d had a dream about this place, about a lance that was here. As I imagine the army would like to be sure there are no hostile druids or anything here, I don’t see any harm in checking it out.

There was a trail to it wide enough for the four of us to ride side by side. The tree occupied a clearing half a mile from the road. As we drew closer, I saw some sort of glow near the trunk. As I pointed that out, a figure in literal shining armor came around the tree. He had a lance made of darkwood which he set on the ground and headed for Ceor. Ceor rode out to meet him, naturally, and the man bowed to him and asked if he was a ‘petitioner for the relic.’ Ceor answered in the affirmative. The knight challenged him to a trial by single combat. He said he’d been waiting there for three centuries. Likely, if that really is a divine relic.

Of course the idiot accepted.

The knight got the first hit in, and it looked like it was a damn hard one. Ceor missed. But he quickly figured out what he was doing. The knight scored another hit, but Ceor gave him one back, hard. The knight was actually pleased by this. While he didn’t seem to be causing actual harm to Ceor, he wasn’t too upset by the very real damage Ceor was doing. Ceor managed to put his sword through the man’s chest, but he didn’t fall. He did, however, sheathe his sword and stepped down. He then healed the both of them and proclaimed Ceor worthy. Ceor was a sentimental fool about it, of course.

And then all hell broke loose.

I was hit by an arrow, which hurt, and revealed the presence of others. The white knight was put out by this, and healed me. I appreciate it, even though it was slightly creepy.

There was a woman with a bow and two armed men. I was offended. Greatly. And set her on fire. This didn’t improve matters. She shot me again. I returned the favor with a magic missile. Fortunately, that’s about the time Ceor managed to get there and Reeshka took care of the arrow wounds.

Everyone just wants to kill me today. I don’t know why, I haven’t set anyone on fire recently. Well, besides that bitch, but that was self-defense. Ceor tried his new lance out on that harpy, and Miaako managed to stab one of the thugs REALLY WELL. One thug was intent on me, but the other seemed to be focusing on the white knight. The bitch, at least, decided that Ceor was a threat and stopped shooting me. Reeshka managed to put one down, but he shoved his sword through his own chest. That’s about the time the bitch shot me again and I almost went down myself. The paladin, however, healed me before I could lose consciousness. Ceor put the bitch down, which just left one. He didn’t last too much longer.

Reeshka stabilized the warrior, and we’ll tie him up to see what the hell that was all about. Reeshka then went to see about the bitch, but I don’t know if she’ll make it. I searched one, and found a medallion. The symbol hasn’t been used in centuries, but it was once the standard of the Order of the Pure. Founded by two sisters who were sworn to take out the Mage Kings. Also sworn to take out fiends, half fiends, and their descendents… including tieflings. It was said that some of the descendants of the Mage Kings escaped, and the Order of the Pure went underground. It’s worth noting that the city I had been researching in conjunction with my staff was ruled by the Mage Kings. So they potentially have two reasons to want to kill me.

The white knight was displeased by my findings; he said that though the order was supposedly aimed at righteous ends, no holy warrior or good person has ever served with them. Of the gods followed by this group, two were neutral at best. Mara, the goddess of vampires, Hecate’s aspect of the Dark Lady, Thor’s aspect of the god of war and destruction, Chernavog, and the Hunter. So, yes. The paladin, righteous divine touched soul that he was, suggested that we’d be best served cutting the throats of these zealots when we find them.

Good enough for me.

The bitch had a magical bow (because of COURSE she did) and a nice but not overwhelming longsword, as well as a suit of mountain pattern armor.

The white knight indicated we should follow him. As he kept me from dying, I didn’t see a problem with this. There was a sort of crack or fold in the bark of the tree. There was a… sort of energy flowing through it. Strong energy. Sap was flowing down through the crack. The white knight collected some of it, and used it to draw something on our foreheads. Each person got something somewhat different, but I don’t know what the symbols meant. Then there was a sort of glow, and a… feeling. It’s hard to describe.

Then the white knight faded into a flash of light.

Because of course he did.

I think the tree had some sort of connection to the positive energy plane, which makes sense, really. Miaako called it a World Tree. Apparently there’s another one somewhere to the north. Interesting.

We pushed a little further on to find a campsite, but nothing else of note happened on the way.

I slept extremely well.

Ceor and Reeshka had dreams in the night. When Ceor told me about his, it was strikingly similar to the dream I’d had a few weeks ago. I’m not sure what this means, but it clearly means something. Miaako just had what I presume was his normal dream of mountains of gold.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 10
Motherfucking Gremlins

We went to the docks at the appropriate hour to lie in wait for whatever it was.

We weren’t there long when a noise on one of the boats attracted our attention. It turned out to be some small things that resembled a cross between a gnoll and a crab. Unpleasant. Ceor, naturally, charged right in. We had the upper hand, up until they started conjuring this sort of nasty, viscous ooze. I managed to avoid it, but Ceor got caught in it. It looked like a sort of water bubble. I eliminated the thing that tried to wrap me in it.

They had some sort of glowing creature, a willowisp or witchlight or something, that seemed inclined to launch rays of light at everyone, and Miaako got his feathers singed. Ceor managed to more or less extricate himself… at least enough that he wasn’t in danger, so I didn’t bother doing something about it. One of them tried to engulf Reeshka; I don’t know why, she was blindly firing in the dark.

Ceor got a lucky swing and took one out in a single blow. The single remaining creature seemed to think this was all hiliarious. Miaako was ineffectual and got singed again. Reeshka missed wildly. I dealt with the remaining creature and Ceor managed to take out the ball of light.

We decided to check the larger ship just to be safe, because that was too easy. Reeshka used Ceor as a ladder, and immediately declared that she did not want to be on the ship. So we decided to get up there. Ceor managed it easily, but I decided to wait until I could get a rope up there. Once Reeshka tied it off, Miaako and I were able to climb up.

There were more gremlins up there, of course.

And that was about the time another witchlight decided to light up like a flare.

Starting to hate those things… I’ll be seeing spots for weeks.

Reeshka apparently took exception, because she promptly bitch slapped the one in front of her with dark energy. And set them all off cackling again. I was still dazed by the flash of light, and managed only to lightly frost over a sleeping sailor. Miaako didn’t do much better, sending a crossbow bolt into the water and losing a few more feathers.

One of the little wretches managed to pinch me, and he will suffer for it. Reeshka was similarly displeased when it hit her. I tried to take a swing at one with my staff, but it ducked out of the way. It did stop laughing, though.

There was no telling what Miaako was doing; I doubt he was really aiming for the mast.

Given the noise, that was about the time Ceor got pinched somewhere sensitive.

All in all, I was rather annoyed, and smashed the one in front of me with the staff. I happened to use the end that glowed blue, and as I did, I saw frost on it. Interesting.

Miaako managed to do something useful and put the last little thing down. The witchlight decided to scorch him one last time and bolt, but we were not inclined to let it go. As Ceor smashed it, he saw more of the little assholes on the pier.

Because of course there were.

As we had a few minutes, Reeshka was able to determine the lights were manufactured out of quartz and silver dust, and probably came from the Free City of Zobeck. She was concerned that there might be someone controlling them. I’m not sure, the wretched gremlins might have just stolen them.

That was about the time we heard the most beautiful singing. It was something we had to investigate…

I snapped out of it when one of those motherfucking gremlins pinched me. And then I set that bitch on fire. Managed to pop the witchlight too. And then she stabbed me, which really wasn’t surprising. I’ve been hanging around Miaako too long; she stabs the same way he does. Reeshka was also annoyed, and smacked her with dark energy. Ceor snapped out of it when she screamed in his face, and ran her through. Two of the gremlins decided to run for it. I hit the remaining one with my staff, the red side just to experiment. That time left a scorch mark. One side is fire, one side is ice. I like this.

Once the gremlins were dealt with, we turned to the bitch. Reeshka was able to figure out she was a bog nixie. Nasty creatures, with a tendency to drown those they entrance. Apparently, they also grant wishes, but I don’t feel the need to have a wish granted by a malicious fae. Wishes are always traps, and somehow I think in this case it would be more so. I might need to argue about it. Turn her in for a reward, sure. But I’d rather not have a wicked fae grant me wishes.

Ceor woke the guards who had been knocked out, and they indicated that there might be someone we could rouse in the guard tower. Naturally, carrying a mostly naked, bound woman through town is bound to end splendidly, so I think one of us should get the guards and bring them here. It turned out to be me, and I extracted a promise from the others that they wouldn’t be stupid and release her, on pain of being set on fire. To my surprise, they actually listened to me.

We hung around long enough to make sure nothing else was going to happen, then went home. At dawn, a courier woke me up with a commendation for my valiant efforts on behalf of the town and 100 gold.

I do think I like this place.

Given the preening, I believe everyone else got the same thing, or the equivalent.

I wanted to see if I could find out more about my staff, so I spent the day in the bookshop researching. The symbol on it belongs to a nation that used to be in the Western Wastes, that was involved in the Mage Wars. Apparently, the rulers of the city tended to carry such a staff, one end always coated in frost, and the other always coated in flame. My research seemed to indicate that the rulers were at one time very intermixed with infernal blood, though the last few generation seemed to be trying to get rid of that, which I can get behind. So I may well have a royal staff of office, for a nation that no longer exists.

Very interesting.

I don’t know what Ceor was up to, but a half-elf barmaid showed up at his door. I don’t want to know, but if he catches anything unpleasant, I will point and laugh.

I will laugh a lot.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 9
This Was a Good Day

Naturally, the first order of business was going out to a bar. I didn’t particularly want to go, but when has that ever stopped Ceor? They wanted to take advantage of our new relative positions and go to the expensive, fancy place. Because we totally fit in there. It wasn’t the most comfortable place to enter, but as long as Ceor and Reeshka had drinks in front of them, they don’t care.

This will end splendidly.

Reeshka was delighted to find out they served fire drake… I’m not entirely sure I want to know why.

Most of the talk in the place was about the campaigning season. One person was lamenting the loss of a letter of credit; so far as I know, it didn’t turn up with the bandits. Even odds that it’s still hidden in someone’s boot, Miaako has it, or it was eaten by a rat.

It was rather comical when Miaako discovered that Reeshka’s firedrake steak was coated with gold dust. It was all wretchedly expensive, of course. Reeshka got absolutely smashed, but what do you expect when you try to drink as much as Ceor? Fortunately, the big lug was too drunk to notice me emptying my drink into his. I hate alcohol. Miaako was incredibly wobbly, but Ceor astonishingly was able to walk in a straight line.

I resisted the urge to make loud noises outside of everyone’s houses in the morning, and instead decided to go see if I could find more spells to add to my collection. I found a nice bookshop run by another tiefling. I enjoyed it, and found a spellbook of necromancy spells. Completely full of them. I was in an exceptionally good mood, and purchased it for the full price he asked. Then I went to get breakfast at the inn we’d stayed at before.

Breakfast was unremarkable. I heard some rumors about the Flame of Mavros behaving strangely, slimy things at the docks, and an army from the north marching towards Feymont. It’s not ours, but ours will be here first. I’ll pass it along.

Also heard something about the old man at the bookstore finally getting rid of the book of spells he’s been trying to fob off on someone for a year. I’m sure he drastically overcharged me, but what the hell, I’m feeling generous.

As I was heading back, Reeshka blew past me, and after consideration, I decided it wasn’t worth chasing after her. If she’s up, the other two have probably recovered by now. And if they get into any trouble, I’ll hear about it. I elected to go back and add my new spells to my spellbook.

I had some peace for a while, then the others decided to return. Ceor decided to buy Miaako and I horses. That was nice. I’m not entirely sure what to do with it. I’m not exactly good with people or animals. And Miaako bought clothes which does not surprise me in the least.

Ceor, naturally, wanted to check out the Temple of Mavros. Because of course he did. I felt uncomfortable there, more so than I usually do. It wasn’t entirely unlike what it felt like walking the streets of Friula, where they don’t like me. I wonder if this is paranoia, or if something is wrong. The priest indicated that he wanted us to go check out whatever was invading the docks. They’re not really sure what it is, but it doesn’t seem to be malicious, just mischievous. Cut rigging, minor sabotage, but no real harm.

There was no talking Ceor out of it, naturally. But the priest said he’d be able to give us something to help. He took us down to the temple armory, which made those among the party attracted to shiny objects incredibly happy. He ended up giving us six bottles of some sort of oil that would turn their swords and daggers into blessed flaming weapons of Mavros. Hopefully they don’t set themselves alight. If they’re going to be set on fire, I’m going to do it.

As soon as we went outside, the uncomfortable feeling went away. I’ve never felt that way in a temple before, and Ceor’s dragged me to plenty of them. Odd. Something’s going on there.

We went to check out the docks; the trouble doesn’t start til about midnight. Ceor and Reeshka discovered the most common targets are the largest ships. Malicious pranks seem most reminiscent of the fae. They’re resistant to most injuries, though they are particularly vulnerable to cold iron. Fortunately, the docks themselves seem to be constructed largely of stone…

And in a move that surprised me, someone had the sense to notify the local night watchmen that we’d be here and preferably they shouldn’t open fire on us.

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