Asternia, Augor, and Oren

The Gang Leaves the Garden and Gets Into 'The Lottery'
Apolline, Log 26

Well, it's been an interesting time in the storm. Eze'kiel sees his possibly-trapped-in-another-dimension sister, Lucius is going to sacrifice himself for the greater good of Falcon's Peak, we have been chased through the storm by none other than Rione Jane, and to top things off we have ended up in a world that seems like some kind of dystopian fiction.

We decided to leave Rione Jane, with all her insanity, in the garden. Just as we were packing our things (and hers) to go, someone new wrote in the notebook. They claimed to be an "advisor;" however, that was soon proved false, and Tariel and Eze'kiel seem to have an idea of who it may be. This person said that they could save Lucius if I gave them the location of Ator's den. I did so, although I left out the part of how to get in. Hopefully Ator and the caravan will be safe, and we can solve the mystery of the storm in time to save Lucius from this person's revenge.

We walked over the land, where there was no snow in sight. While I was happy at the change of scenery, Tariel and Eze'kiel seemed discomforted, and even I have to admit that it was strange. After a while we came across a town, and a man chopping lumber outside of it. He seemed pleasant enough at first, but his form shifted ever so slightly, as if he was not meant to be there. Eze'kiel chatted with him, and after a few questions the man became distressed at his apparently memory loss. He freaked out for a minute and then, suddenly, seemed to go backward in time until he was chopping wood and saying hello again.

We moved on, now wary of talking to the strangers that were walking around in the streets. Everyone looked strange. They looked real, but not completely. A crowd gathered around a platform, and jovially placed small scraps of paper with their names on them into a pouch being handed around. When it got to us, Eze'kiel tore up some paper and told us to write the name of the sorceress, Mantra, on them. The bag finished passing through the crowd and went back up to the woman overseeing the affair. After dividing the papers into two teams and spectators, and not calling out Mantra's name, the crowd set upon each other, slaughtering their neighbors as easily as if they were playing a game.

As we left the scene, the overseer followed. She didn't seem to know why, but when we stopped at a smithy she stopped as well, and black tendrils boiled and burst from her body. The fight ensued. A tendril pierced a man walking down the street, who seemed not to see our battle at all until he was caught in it, and the woman claimed that they were "chosen." We struck down our enemies, and must continue moving ever forward, to Augor, the seat of power in this hellish place.

I only hope that we aren't too late to undo the damage that's been done.

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Songs about Hope, How to find the Green in the White

   It was the aftermath of a harsh fight, again. Before me stood five, shadowy, Atrianas. Each seemed so different in their actions, in their personalities. It tore my heart to pieces to see my sister shattered like this: I would do anything to make her whole. I'm tired of my friend's struggling, Vaeleroes burning his body away to keep alive our friends and family, Atriana in literal pieces. I could hear my mother's heart thumping like a dedicated lumberjack with a dying pyre as we left on this suicide mission. I nearly cut Atriana in half during our duel and she nearly brained me. This storm does truly wicked things.

   None of us had much to say after everything. Personally, I was engrossed in the state of my home. I represent Sungaarde. It is where I was knighted. I can't help but think I abandoned my post. These things grate at my mind, but, there is one thing that will ease that burden. I know I am a reckless man, an honorable man, and a fool. This journey might be my end. I would sleep easier and fight harder knowing that should I fail, all is not lost. I returned to my room, with the  accompaniment of Tariel, to write my will (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1t-BYjLFruPSaM0nS-kBh4n77Jmg_k6pDEHgHabSmt4M/edit) (without his knowledge). On my way up, however, I noticed many more people in the halls: it was an odd feeling, but I ushered them on with a reassuring hand on their shoulders and simple words of passing as Tariel and I made our way to my room.

   Tariel acted very funny when I tried to hand the letter to him, and unfortunately, I was unable to seal it but I brought my house's signet press with me: a lovely momento I figure, as well as more pen and paper. We reconvened and hoped out the back window in the war room. Not a snowball's chance in Oren we'd try to cross back through the shadowy-halls. We rappelled down the slope with relative ease. From there? Snow banks. Snow for as long as you could see. In your eyes. In your mouth. In your ears. It was relentless, ceaseless, and exhausting. I did my best to keep spirits high.

   I turned to Apolline, "Say, do you have siblings?"

   "I do, two brothers."

   "Hah, that must not be too fun."

   Gee, thanks.

   I turned my head and saw Atriana, standing imposing, arms crossed, fresh as a fiddle in the storm. I chuckled,

   "Well, I wasn't talking about you."

   I got full well what you meant.

   "You show back up in the flesh again and you're already sour? What happened?"

   I looked around, and everyone was staring at me like I had grown four extra-heads. I looked at them and gestured to Atriana: who was not there. I had little excuses for myself, I definitely looked a loon. I sighed and drew my great sword. In hindsight, not the most relaxing thing for the group, but for me? There's two things that are true in this world it seems. Myself and my sword, First Frost. I'll suss out the fact from the fiction with her. At their insistence, I moved myself to the front of the party.

   As we moved, for what felt like perhaps hours, maybe even days, I turned to Tariel. "Know any songs?"

   "A few hymns, yes."

   "Nothing like "this world is bleak and we're all surely doomed", right?"

   "A few less hymns then."

   "How about you Apolline, know any songs?"

   "I'm afraid not."

   "Harald? Maybe know any bar songs?"

   Harald shook his head, "I ain't heard many songs in prison!"

   I sighed in resignation, but, we did have one other companion. Of course, they were a minstrel. I asked Lucius for song lyrics, to carry our spirits and bring us forward. He confided he had been working on something for a bit, and he would give it to us. I waited, and in the blowing wind, I sang. I may not have the greatest voice, but they all know it. I hope they find some comfort in knowing that I'm here for them, as they are for me, and we're all in this together. And when the songs dried up, the time passed somewhat quicker

   We neared the Path of Wounds, a pass that had seen much of the fighting between Oren and Augor. It was the entrance and exit to and from the North, many skirmishes were fought here, many fights, and the open fields and tree line made it a death trap. As we broke the tree line, I caught it. Figures darting around behind us: and one floating. I urged us forward, and with Tariel's magic, we were running on the snow as though it were true earth beneath our feet. We took off, and suddenly we all saw them. It was Rione Jane. About a dozen of her. They were running in a very disorganized, chaotic fashion, issuing orders at nothing, and shooting wildly. They were hunting, but hunting what? Either way, I had a flash back to when I was shot in the face by that awful crystalline goop, and took off screaming.

   Not too long after, something more substantial, the real Rione Jane, crested the hill with her animals with her. While they seemed fine, she looked nearly more shadow than person. "OH THERE YOU ARE! GET BACK HERE, YOU'RE MINE!".

She appeared to be stark-raving mad, storm or not.

   We all ran as quick as we could, being peppered by incoming shots, and I interposed myself between Apolline and their bullets as we ran. All of a sudden, Harald turned and sprinted at Rione and latched onto her, grabbing her, and glowing. I cannot imagine what he was doing, but these shadows were becoming an issue. The shadow that was on "horseback" (I say "horseback" because there was no horse but she seemed saddled to something?) rode over, and shot Apolline. Apolline took off for a hill and disappeared behind it. Tariel seemed to be following suit.

   As for me? I tired of running. We were split, the shadows would not relent, and Apolline had been shot. I looked at First Frost, and in my hands, I felt an extension of me. I couldn't feel the snow beneath my feet, the kiss of the Northern cold on my lips. I didn't feel fear of these terrible shadows, I didn't feel my companions at my side. I couldn't feel anything but me. It was me and First Frost. Nothing else mattered.

   I started screaming and I hacked the horseless headsman to ribbons, wounding her grievously, and Rione blasted her before I could finish her. I turned with rage in my blood and screamed as I sprinted headlong after my companions last location. As my master taught me, I put all my efforts into running and let my blade do the talking, First Frost sang a song of death to the immaterial Riones. I spun and carved one's back out and quickly moved, beheading the next. Rione rode to the hill top to support, Apolline and Tariel from the bottom, where we were able to pinch and crush the former line of rifles and pistols. We had won.

   Rione, mad in her pursuits, would not relent. She had followed us into hell itself for Apolline, and wouldn't negotiate without her coming along being part of the deal. I approached and began to negotiate, but Harald had his own (much better) idea. He thumped her across the dome, and she immediately passed out. In truth, it was for the best. We approached, grouped, and moved forward. Ator had been telling us of a "sanctuary", not too much unlike his own, and we were moving for it still. Rione's animals were very disciplined, and much kinder than they were when we had encountered them originally. I got to pet the dog, and he seemed content by it.

   As we approached, we saw it: a clear circle, a line drawn in the storm, where light-snow, and greenery remained. It was nothing natural, and when we approached and passed through, it was immediately disorienting.

   We entered the circle, the sanctuary, and saw a large, stone wall. Following it around for some time, we eventually came to a wood gate, which opened before us. Inside was heaven, at least, I believe it was. I turned to Tariel, equally struck with awe.

   “Is this Gronn’s Garden?”

   “Do you think he’s here?”

   I looked around. I had always wanted to meet my maker. But regardless of whether or not he was here or not, this told us we were on the right track, and the Gods above wanted to see us take our task through. Much to the dismay of the party, I disrobed, and entered the hot spring, soaking in the perfect, crystal clear waters, joining the serene fish who made it their home, as I steamed. Everyone went to do their respective business: Apolline cleaned her clothes, Tariel to pray, and Harald to meditate. A pious man myself, I too went to pray. To thank Thronn and Gronn for this. Morrigaen and I have a strained relationship currently… but I like to think I’m acting out her will as well. I could hear her though.

   You’d better pray for luck.

   I cannot tell if it is Atrianna, or not. Perhaps the spirit I bested haunts me. Perhaps it’s a manifestation of my own self-doubt. Regardless, Atrianna knew how to piss me off.

   I eventually found Apolline, who seemed flustered at first: probably because I was just wearing my kilt. Ladies past the North have too much humility. I took a seat not far from her though.

   “You never got to tell me what you’d do for your siblings. You know. Before I had a psychotic break.”

   She laughed,

   “Oh, yeah.”

   Apolline has two brothers… one is an ass. The other is a fine brother. She’d do a lot for the one, and not the other, accordingly. I’m not sure it’s what I expected… but our families differ and are the same. I find it hard she can’t understand why I need to sort these things out with my family, just as she must. Her family is going to come for her, and I’ll kill every one of their soldiers, knights, break their catapults, and storm their walls for her, but when the time comes, she’s got to look her folks in the eyes and do… well, whatever they do. Personally, my father became some sort of corrupted monstrosity, so I need to kill him. I’m sure the circumstances are different for her. But that’s on me.

   Harald arrived, broken from his meditation.

   “Yer’ book is scribbling. It’s fer’ Apolline.”

   He handed us off the book and headed off not too long after. I let her talk with Lucius, I wasn’t trying to pry too hard. My own head was swimming with the future battles to come, the struggles, the losses we’ll take and triumphs we’ll make. I hope they write a song. All good Knights are sung of, after all.

   The book ended up in my hands after a moment, and Apolline seemed flustered, forcing it to me. “You talk to him, convince him he’s making a mistake.”

   I was a bit confused, and alarmed, but I skimmed through the book. Lucius intended to go into the storm, and use his magics to save his people, possibly putting himself in… another timeline? Is that how these shadows work? They’re possible endings? I was stunned momentarily, at the thought my Atrianna was… gone. Sent away. My heart froze for a moment, and I thought of myself too. Where had my story ended and carried me elsewhere? But I dismissed these thoughts. Bridges to cross. But even more occurred to me. Lucius was going to another timeline to find an Apolline who wanted to be with him. Lucius had a liking to Apolline? I was stunned. Everything made sense suddenly.

   He seemed startled to see my familiar handwriting, and explained his situation to me, much as he did to Apolline. It was the only way. I didn’t need long to digest. I can be thoughtful… but the circumstances are dire. “I understand what you’re doing, I wouldn’t do any less for my people. I know I’m not the person you want to hear this from, but take care, and I hope you return safely.”

   When I returned the book to Apolline, she seemed even more flustered. I’m not sure what she was expecting. Handing me the book was a lot like asking oil to put out a fire.

   I rose and walked away, to let her conclude her business. It truly wasn’t for me to be there. I went and explained the gravity of the letter I wrote to Tariel. I told him, if Atrianna was gone, he was my heir. I love my cousin, he sees not his own potential. I left him in good hands, with good people. Of my blood, I trust none more. He was startled, and panic stricken, but it would pass. At the very least, it was good motivation to keep me alive (not that he has ever let me down in that respect).

   To be honest, I don’t remember exactly how, but Atrianna was in my head again. Calling to me. I looked for her and saw nothing. She said something along the lines of…

   Catch me outside.

   I ran to the gate and saw her, standing, hammer ready about eight feet from the gate. My eyes widened. Whatever she said, stirred my fire. I ran to my armor and began donning it. Harald ran to me,

   “Hold on hold on, Ator said ye’ can’t go out there ye fool!”

   “ATRIANA IS OUT THERE AND I’M GOING TO KICK HER ASS.” I screamed.

   “Ye daft loon, yer’ crazy. There ain’t no one there!”

   “SHE’S RIGHT THERE.” I gestured to her pacing form, outside, with my sword.

   He remained unconvinced, and replied with his stare, his mouth opened,

   “No she ain’t. Yer’ loosin’ it.”

   “JUST LET ME GO TO HER, RIGHT THERE. AND IF IT GOES BAD, JUST PULL ME OUT.”

   “NO, EZEKIEL.” His voice raised at me, much like a parent.

   I whined in protest and threw my sword, kicking the air. I ran to my pack and grabbed a javelin, throwing it through the gate. It flew true, but still just short. The bloody wind caught it.

   “I’LL FUCK YOU UP, YOU BITCH.”

   She laughed and I threw my breastplate down, angrily, and resigned.

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Atriana, and the Stubornness of the Taurus
Tariel: Log 24

The scene in the church was our first true taste of the storm. People hunched over, speaking only apprehensively, in hushed whispers. Many did not even believe we were truly there, voices from a far off land, beguiling them with false claims. They shut their eyes and ears, trying to drown us out as a whispering madness. There were a few who recognized, or believed us to be real. It's hard to say, but information was in short supply. Valeros has been keeping the entire church under his protection, which is incredibly dangerous. I wanted to help him, and I went to do so, but Ator warned me I may do more harm then good. I realized then that if I truly wanted to help him, we need to stop the storm. Even if I did manage to join with him, I can't very well stay in the church and act as a battery for the coming weeks.

We set out into the snow. The storm proved mostly safe with Ator's protection. The only true resistance we met within the storm itself were some shadowy guards that Ezekiel foolishly hailed. They moved their mouths, but no words came out. Feelings of hatred, and anger were very prevalent. While the forms and weapons were made of shadow, the blades could certainly be felt, but in a different kind of way. When the shadowy steel melt flesh, instead of a sharp pain, there was a debilitating cold, followed by a stab of mental pain. The storm seems to have an affect on people's sanity, and the weapons wielded by the shadows seem to have a similar affect.

After our fight with the shadows, we made it to the keep easy enough, but our arrival was one of strange circumstance. We started to get our first understandings of how the storm/shadow realm interacts with our own. It seems that there is a loose connection between the two. We were able to talk to the shadows somewhat. They seem to be able to hear us, but we have great trouble hearing them. Making out what they are saying was difficult, but possible. We managed to talk our way into the fort…but not truly. While the shadows did begin to open the gate for us, we heard gate opening noises, but the physical gate before us did not budge. This meant we unfortunately had to climb our way in over the gate. The shadows did not seem to pay any mind to us scaling the gate, so I Imagine in their eyes, we merely passed through.

The whole fort was abuzz with activity from the shadows, it was hard to say whether the shadows paid any mind to us. For the most part, they went about their business and shot us an occasional glance, but I think it's more because we were newcomers to the fort as opposed to not being shadows. Activity in the fort was the busiest in the main hall. We surmised from past experience that contact with the shadows was a bad idea, so perhaps Eze'kiel's previous reckless greeting was not entirely unwarranted. Actually, now that I think about it, it was entirely unwarranted, but we did learn something from it I suppose. That aside we figured that walking through the main hall could be potentially dangerous, not all of the shadows seemed to even notice us, and contact with them had been proven a poor option.

We set about getting around the only way we could, leaping through the rafter like fools. With the exception of Harald, who has continually proven himself a nimble ally. I do wonder how he managed to keep in shape all those years, his cell must have been large if he was able to practice maneuvers like that. Perhaps he always possessed that speed and agility, and just never lost his edge, but I'm getting off-topic. Harald deftly dodged the shadows, while the rest of us leaped from beam to beam up in the rafters. Growing up in the mountains kind of forced me to get over my fear of heights, but the fear of falling to my death is a little bit more concerning when you are jumping between narrow beams of wood 15 feet off the ground. Even though 15 feet doesn't sound that high, you'd be surprised of the difference to the ground when you are up there leaping like a fool. I suppose I'm really the only one who was concerned, Eze'kiel has always been a spry fellow, and Appolline made it look like it was no different than climbing stairs.

We dropped down on the other side of the main hall, and made our way to the servant halls. Eze'kiel figured there'd be little traffic there. He was correct, the halls were a bit cramped, but not suffocating. They existed for a purpose, and that purpose was utilized. We ran into one or two servants, one of whom we attempted interaction with. I'm still a bit confused how we appear to them, this one didn't even see us, he simply looked around confused when we spoke. It seem that there are multiple layers of how deep one can be in the shadows. To make things even worse, it seems that there is some sort of strange relation between the shadows, and time, as well as planes of existence.

This was more or less confirmed when we found the massacre. This is where I'm uncertain of the timeline, and events in the fort. We found just one shadowy body, murdered in what looked like an even combat. He was aware he was being attacked, and his weapon was drawn. The kill looked like a clean stab to the abdomen, which is not an uncommon fatality on the battlefield if the bleeding is not stopped. As we progressed deeper in the fort, closer to Atrianna's false throne, we saw more shadowy bodies strewn about in a violent massacre. Finally, moving through the carnage, we came upon Atrianna. Well, multiple Atrianna's. This is what finally solidified my theory on the relation to shadows and time.

There seemed to be multiple versions of her, with slight differences in appearance and attitude. All affected by different events in different phases of her life over the past few months. The one that we were able to physically interact with was the one sitting upon the throne. I had never seen the affects of the storm before now, I had only heard the stories Eze'kiel told of his Father, but seeing it first hand was truly disturbing. It had warped her into an icon of anger and sin. She was unable to think clearly, as she was blinded by a thick veil of madness. We tried to reason with her, but she was disillusioned. Perhaps not, we still don't fully understand the shadows, perhaps, to her, everything around her is real, and we are disillusioned. We won't know for sure until we can all leave the storm.

Eze'kiel tried reason with her, but she was having none of it. I'm used to having somewhat of an sociopath for a sibling, but never, would I fear for my life in Porter's presence. Certainly, my general well-being, but I trust him to know when he's gone too far…sort of. That aside, the same could not be said for Atrianna. She was making outlandish claims, that could only be arrived to by someone mentally sick, angry, and desperate. We pointed out the massacre that laid before her, and she seemed not to know of it. It's hard to say what timeline the massacre occurred on, and if she even knew of it. The only death she seemed to truly acknowledge, was the one committed by her hand. Sitting in the corner of the room was the body of Rorim Elendil, it was left in a rather gruesome state, that could only be the work of Atrianna. She did not hesitate to claim credit for the horrid display. I know not of the politics she spewed in reference, but I suspect the storm was more responsible than anything.

We continually tried to reason with her, the false queen of an empty fort, driven to insanity by the storm. Eze'kiel said the only thing he thought would get through to her, an offering of the throne. Clearly among other things, the storm had given her an immeasurable thirst for power. This offer somewhat assuaged her rage. I had no idea this effect was even remotely possible, I wouldn't have thought it a viable option but it worked. There was one thing, that got in the way of a peaceful resolution, the pride and stubbornness of the Taurus. Atrianna demanded Eze'kiel bow before her and relinquish the throne. He would never do that, and she knew it. The one thing I think she nor I predicted, was Eze'kiel's challenge to a duel.

Rite of combat is something integral to our culture. We are no strangers to fighting, or war. We are taught combat at a young age, and in turbulent times past, battle was a way to settle differences. It honestly still is, seeing as we are currently engaged in war, but war is different. There's less rules, and it's more about winning than honor. There are two types of fights, those for your life, and those for your pride. In my experience, it's the latter that is truly terrifying. I felt every ounce of that terror as, Eze'kiel and Atrianna went to battle.

The battle was swift, but largely indecisive. In the beginning, Atrianna was the clear candidate for splendor, but Eze'kiel unwilling to be put to shame, dealt a near lethal blow, that truly changed the tide and momentum of the fight. At first, we were unwilling to interfere. If Atrianna, had merely charged Eze'kiel with murderous intent, I would have immediately acted, and given him an edge. However, the rite of battle is near sacred to us, and since Eze'kiel issued the challenge, I thought it would be foolish to intervene. We tried to stop it using any outside influence possible. In a panic, I decided to contact Ator, to see if I could perhaps interact with the various shadow forms of Atrianna. I was hoping what we did with them would somehow reflect upon the version that stood before us. I requested Ator drop the barrier, and so he did.

Immediately, I felt the cold embrace of the shadows. I saw them swarming around me, a seemingly impossible number for the space we occupied, and as it turned out, this was my first true, unfiltered glimpse of the storm, or rather, what lies in it. The wracking cold, weighed heavy upon my mind, and I felt my sanity slipping. Normally, I think my approach to most situations, are honest, and genuine. For some reason through the veil of the storm, I was not able to connect with the sad shadow of Atrianna. I tried to speak with her, and she could hear me somewhat, but she didn't truly believe me to be there. She thought that my voice was some sort of trick. I chose my dialogue, rather poorly, and was unable to have any sort of positive influence on the copy of Atrianna. By the time I was willing to give up, the burden upon my mind had become to great for me to willingly stay any longer. With this, Ator re-erected the barrier. I saw Harald trying a similar method, based on the physical appearance of his body, I could barely make out what he was saying, but he seemed to be having better results.

After pulling my mind out of the shadows, I re-formed the collective, and immediately felt what Eze'kiel was going through. This was only part a fight for pride, the other parts being desperation, and love for his sister. He was willing to have her smash his head open, if it brought her back to her senses, AND HE WAS A DAMNED FOOL FOR THINKING IT! With that knowledge, I did not hesitate to enter the fray, I immediately set to work mending his wounds. In my hesitation to act, he was but one solid blow from death. At this point, Appolline also made her presence known. I could clearly feel Eze'kiel did not want her sister to be in any true mortal danger, but the rest of us did not share his sentiment. The true irony of the situation was that Eze'kiel brought her closer to mortal peril than any of us, but I suspect that was more of the  initial desperation than anything. The whole situation was a damned mess.

Appolline's arrow failed to fell Atrianna, as she got one last swing into Eze'kiel, who took the blow in stride. I truly believe, the bit of mending I did truly mattered, so thank the three for that. The blow did knock him to the ground, but he was able to recover. He stood up, loudly declared that they were different, and the difference was that he had friends. He then proceeded to sprint around the room like a mad animal before closing in for an attack, and then he sprung. He charged her with speed never before seen from him, and smashed her across the head with the flat of his blade. I was sure with the amount of force and speed behind the hit, she had to be dead, but he must have landed that hit carefully, because her skull was not cracked open, and she was still breathing. She was however, very unconscious, and still bleeding from the blow he had dealt near the start of the battle. I mended her wounds as best as I could, and I felt Eze'kiel withdraw from the collective. This of course meant, that he too would try his hand with the shadows. Like all other things, what he said and did was mostly veiled to me, but I think whatever he did was good. When he re-entered the collective, I felt something so powerful, that it even brought a single tear of joy to my eye. It's rare that feelings of positiviy to have such a profound affect. Whatever, he said or did, to feel this way, I can only hope Atrianna feels the same when she wakes up.

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Glendale: Why I Don't Really Miss Home
Harald

Glendale reminds me so much of what I missed about living among the people of my homeland, well being out of prison in general I guess. The people are good and honest, not afraid to do what they have to. Glendale also reminds me why I don't miss it at all. After meeting with John Norsom, Eze'kiel and I went to the local general shop to get equipment to barricade John's house while he was away (possibly permanently). The shopkeep seemed rightly nervous about the storm and was also rightly doubting in the emperor's mystic hullabaloo, but his wife was full in the grip of Oreni brainwashing. Poor lass was so convinced of the Bastard-of-Bastard's power that she considered staying home in the face of that gods-awful storm. Fuckin hells I hate what the emperor has done to my people. Until the emperor can be replaced, my part is to save as many people as I can from this damned storm and the emperor's corruption. Under the Master's teachings I will find strength within my body and mind so that I may share it with all those I meet. Only together can we overcome the storm.

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The Gang Meets a Dragon and Eze'kiel's Mom
Apolline, Log 22

Well, I can now officially say that I've met Harald's master, Ator, from whom we received a "blessing" that will help us survive the storm encroaching in the north.

I can also officially say that I've met a gold fucking dragon.

Holy shit.

We asked him about the strange drawings and spell circle that we'd found in the sorceress' room, but he did not have many ideas and said he would have to look more into it.

I was forced to take the book that we've been using to communicate with Lucius from Eze'kiel for a bit. I'm not sure whether he's losing his mind, but he almost told Lucius that we were with a dragon. When I protested, he decided to say instead that they were all in a brothel or seedy tavern or something and that I was sleeping somewhere else. I decided to take matters into my own hands and speak to Lucius myself. It was awkward, but I quickly diffused the situation and gave the book back to Eze'kiel. The four of us, having bartered for whatever we wished from the dragon, fell asleep looking at the stars and discussing things like religion, astrology, and philosophy.

When we awoke in the morning, Lucius was not quick to answer, and when he did it seemed hurried and not like him at all. This concerned all of us, so Tariel checked on the book in intervals. He finally replied, but Eze'kiel said little about Lucius' state of mind, and I didn't pry. Perhaps he had been up late worrying for the people of Falcon's Peak, who would soon be facing the storm.

We left Ator's den at the Mountains With No Peaks to head back to the caravan, where we learned that Nihyel has finished all of the work we've given him to do. Since Eze'kiel's hand is no longer golden, we decided to have him study the drawing Tariel took of the sorceress's summoning circle. Tariel spoke with Celothel (about what I can only imagine; his last parting from her seemed interesting, to say the least), and we set her to work alongside Nihyel to see if they can discover anything new about the summoning circle together.

With that task complete, we headed toward Glendale. The weather is cold here, as were the guards at the front gate who made us pay 100 gold per head, except for Harald, the lucky bastard. We did so, and entered the town to find Eze'kiel's family, who seemed relieved to see that he and Tariel were alive and well. His uncle, boisterous but lovable, reminded me of the kind of family I would have liked to have growing up while his mother was the definition of royalty with an exquisite yet powerful grace. Eze'kiel and his mother had a very touching exchange, and I was glad to meet her.

Presently, we have convinced them both as well as a few other refugees to accompany us back to the caravan and into Ator's protection so that our party may head into the storm for answers.

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Ator, a Whore, and the Soul
Eze'kiel's Log, 21.

We’d exited the tunnel and it was some ungodly hour. I’m not too sure when. My mind was disturbingly quiet. Whatever amalgamation of flesh and demon we left in those caves, I pray to the Three it would be its final tomb. I’m not an expert in this field, but I’ve fought enough grins to assume. That she-devil probably loaded some poor soul full of all sorts of demons and just let him be torn apart, left mindless, to consume anything it could… once we arrived. We saved as many as we could, but still, I can’t help but fear that’s not enough. That man pushing me to safety, resigned to his fate, still haunts me.

            Tariel and I split off to look for our horses and we chatted to ourselves, lightly, tiredly, about the horrors we’d faced. It was just to fill the air, I felt. After all, sooner than later, we’d have our horses, and be resting semi-peacefully. Except for the part where they were missing. I was defeated at that point when not a moment later someone who’d fled the monster, into the booby-trapped cavern, emerged. They looked awful, tired, and exhausted. They were pleading for help: their companion fell through one of the traps that we’d managed to avoid thanks to Pump, despite warning them. More specifically, the first pit fall Tariel almost fell in.

Tariel and I helped her out, crushed her arm by the looks of it, but we think she’ll live. My first thought was to cut it off: guess that’s just what I would’ve done. Glad I asked, Tariel says that would’ve killed her. I’m much better in the company of my cousin and party, don’t know what I’d be doing without them after all.

By the time we’d sorted out that businesses and just began to head back, we heard something. Two pops. The first one I shrugged off, but a second one, it developed a rhythm in my head, and it’d only be a matter of time until it’d be a third, and that got my heart racing. I suspected “Calamity Jane” had taken our horses. Now I felt I was right. Tariel said they came from the campsite, and I took off as fast as my legs would carry me.

I came across the campsite, signs of a scuffle, Harold on the ground unconscious with some funky, green-salty stuff stuck to him. I looked around and one of the rescued pointed out to me that messenger bird that came with the bounty hunter’s “warning”. Hurled a javelin at it, and it dropped a few bottles, apparently, she left them for Harold. The Hunter obviously has some standards: not killing Harold, giving him care. Hardly seems like a bad person. But no one steals our Apples.

We patched up Harold and he was ready to get on the hunt again quickly. I uh, saddle’d him and we rode off after their tracks. Much too literally. I found riding horses easy enough. I can sufficiently say, I did not enjoy my first time riding a man, and hopefully I never must again.

Once we’d retrieved our horses, Harold and I set off after Apolline. We rode hard and fast, and I think she was taking her time (albeit, making good time) so we could catch up to her. It’s worth mentioning, Harold is keeping up the entire time, and is frighteningly fast. His legs look like blurs, and he has the stride of a fifteen-foot man but stands maybe a foot shorter then I. It’s incredibly impressive what this man can do.

Apolline looked strapped into the saddle, so I did my best to ride up and help free her. I warned the Hunter to call off her animals: if they’d torn out my eyes or gnawed at my legs, I couldn’t be held responsible for replying in force after all. She didn’t seem to like that very much, however, and replied with that green salt crap again. It hurt, stung, and felt a bit like Sulphur or Phosphorous: like when you inhale it, but instead on your skin. It’s not much more pleasant. A bird kept harrying me, but it never touched me, and the dog seemed more interested in Harold than I. I managed to dash up in a burst of speed and cut Apolline free (mostly), narrowly missed cutting down that woman too. Would’ve slain her horse but she was riding Apolline’s. Not long after that, I tried to swipe her gun away, and when I missed, I faded to black. Guess she shot me better then I realized.

I woke up with Apolline free, Harold sweaty and covered in forestry, and the hunter escaped. Hopefully it’ll be the last we see of her on such terms, but I doubt it. I passed out in my tent, a crumpled man in ruins: it’s rare I lose like this, and I’m not one for letting my friends down. I slept awful. Knew it was a nightmare when I came to, and I sighed. I felt that horse trample my bones. I felt that woman load powder and ball into my wreck. I woke up sweating, with a yell. I hope I know peace, sooner than later.

I woke up that morning, unrested, but with resolve. I did my usual: bathed, clothed, stretched, armored. I stepped into a field though and turned to my old friend, my own shadow. As far as the Three go, Thronn never left my side, that’s why I put him above the rest. He’s given me a lot of peace too. I decided Thronn was my patron when I went South, and I saw not all men here were not monsters. If Thronn is humanity, I’d like to be the most human, and when I finally look at him, know that divinity is mortal. I mused with myself and my shadow in the field, head to the dark, connecting the dots in my head. What matters most right now is my family: and I’ll go as far as I can. I’ll save my Mother, I’ll pull Atriana from the storm, and if Father is too far gone, I will set him to peace. My bones ached, my mind was sore, but I felt cold steel in the fibers of my soul.

In the morning, we set off, took a day or two. Tariel protected my mind: he’s a strong man, and a blessing for all of us. I slept peacefully. I hope this ends soon though. We’d gotten back to the camp and I spoke to my mentor, who taught me to wear woad. He’s a good man, it felt nice to speak to him about his children, his life. All the Seven Stars started somewhere, the Highlander order: it felt nice to hear the stories of my childhood again. As you grow up you burn that fuel, it was replenishing. Celothel was freed, the gold undone, thanks to Nihyel. She spoke to me after, expressing her gratitude. She told me if we could break the golden arrow, she’d assist us. In truth, I almost broke it when it was in front of me, and I can’t speak for if I will or won’t when it’s trying to assail me and my friends. But I can’t sleep easy thinking I’d be pushing all our problems onto another civilization, even if it’s not a death sentence.

I realized she was closer to me than I liked, and she gave me a wink, before we departed. She scares me. I’d rather a homely warrior-woman myself than some prissy eco-terrorist with loose legs. I want to have a few kids to fill the castle halls I grew up in around the time I take her back. I didn’t get to meet my Grandmother, but she met me I’ve been told. I’d like it if my children got to meet Mom and Dad.

When we spoke at night, not far from Glendale, Harold mentioned to us that he’d spoken to his Master, who was proud of all of us and our efforts in the tunnels, and wished to meet us to help us traverse the storm. His master has been elusive, but if he can award us means to traverse the deadly Storm, so be it. He can be the Emperor, a Dryder, even a bloody dragon, that’s enough for me. As a bonus, he promised he could protect the caravan! No more lugging around the helpless and leaving a big trail for our enemies to pursue us across. We don’t have to worry about anyone getting caught or killed. In truth, sounded too good to be true. But I’ve trusted Harold, he’s proven a good boost to morale, a talented fighter, and a pure soul. I’ll follow anything he sees in his head, just the same as I’ll pray to my shadow I suppose.

We departed the Caravan at some point, as per his request, and made our way to the Mountains That Were. I’d visited them before in my travels around Oren, having to avoid the Flayfort. I pondered their history: what could tear the tops off mountains? The way they were done no less, it always looked so precise. You’d think after so long, their wounds would heal, but maybe not. We wandered for a while and Harold looked confused, then that look of realization came across his face: “the shadows”. He was being guided to the shadows of the mountain’s peaks, where they once were. He meditated briefly, acknowledged this, and entered.

We traversed from where we were, to somewhere else. Through the shadow came another world of sorts, verdant and lush, gold and glittering, mountains that were whole, a filter of life across my eyes. Not long after, slender and scaly, equally glorious and dazzling, rose a long, snake-ish, piercing-eyed, dragon. My first instinct was to draw my sword, but I knew better, and tossed it aside. For my betterment: the dragon could devour me, slay me, roast me, but I felt at peace here. The surprise was just… instincts are instincts.

The Dragon’s name is Ator, who thinks he can help us stop the storm. Harold gets his power from Ator, and acts as an agent for Ator, but he could give us something as well. A means to reach Ator and communicate as Harold does, but also protect us from the effects of the storm. In the meantime, he will provide surveillance and research it, to discover a source, and hopefully, a means to stem the tide. The means to apply this were a short ritual: we closed our eyes, and meditated, not too different to when I meditate to Thronn. He said some words, about life, binding us, the ebb and flow of the cosmos. My mind was silent, until I felt the touch of a claw on my spine. I felt it hesitate, and mark elsewhere, just lower. It felt nice for Ator to mind my tattoo: Thronn’s eye, nape of my neck.

When we had come to, I recall looking up at him and tilting my head, “Are you Thronn?”

Ator was puzzled and seemingly amused, “No, I think not”.

I’ll come face to face with my shadow one day, I suppose.

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Escape from the Smiles Cavern
Tariel: Log 20

I was unfortunate enough to witness perhaps the most twisted of all the sorceress' horrors. Like most others, he looked normal on the surface, but something felt off about him. I began to notice him in my periphery, but I was too slow to react. Were it not for the efforts of my friends, I wouldn't be here right now. The transformation was fast and gruesome, tendrils burst from the man's skin and latched on to those in the area, myself included. He began sprouting ghastly appendages and absorbing any soul unfortunate enough to get grabbed. I myself would have become victim if not for the fast action of Eze'kiel and Harold. The mass continued to grow, and it became increasingly apparent that our weapons had no effect upon the creature.

We managed to make a narrow escape. However, we went into these caves on a mission, and couldn't leave until it was complete. We had to investigate the domain fo the sorceress. Ancis was "kind" enough to provide us with some controlled explosives. We were able to open up a hole in the floor of her lodgings with a directive blast. I'm not entirely sure what I expected out of a mad woman's home. It was oddly, plain, the most stark features being some odd drawings upon the wall. Their design was curious, but they were rather well-drawn. Before we had a chance to examine them, the one began to animate before us. It was of an odd design, with a glowing molten core, and a large great sword entirely too large to be wielded in one hand, grafted to its arm. The battle was difficult, but short fought. The creature itself was made of gold. We weren't able to get all of it, since it was a lot of gold, but we collected as much as we could. After the scuffle concluded, I got a chance to look at the room better. There was a very large mural depicting Morrigan, it was outlined with a magic that seemed to turn the cave walls to gold. There was also a strange depiction of a shriveled hunched figure on the opposite wall. The ensemble was completed by a ritual circle scribed onto the floor. I could tell from the chalk marks that it was recently in use. In retrospect, it was likely used to create that horror that chased us throughout the cavern. I decided to sketch a copy of both the circle and the shriveled figure for later examination.

We made our way back down out of our makeshift entrance. We reunited with the refugees, but our respite was short as the various horrid noises echoing throughout the cavern heralded the return of the horror. We quickly made our escape with it close behind. We thought we might be able to flee through a small crawl-space. It was tight, be we all managed to fit through. Much to our surprise so was the horror. It squashed down and pushed into the cavern like meat through a grinder. Eze'kiel stayed behind a bit to get more attacks in on it, sadly these had about as much impact as all previous attempts. We were immediately met by a 10 foot tall ledge. For many young, spry adventurers, this would be a small issue. However, when you have a group of refugees in tow, things become a bit more complicated. The problem was compounded by my own lack of physical strength. It's times like this I regret my sickly nature as a child. Even something as simple as climbing a rope can be a difficult task for me. One of the survivors managed to help me up. I wanted to be back with the rest of my party, but I knew that I would need as much of a lead as I could be afforded.

We traveled a rather short distance before arriving upon yet another daunting obstacle in our path. Ancis quickly demanded a crossbow, thankfully I had mine on me, even if it's been of little use. The next obstacle took the form of a 30 foot gap, which could only be crossed via rope bridge. The crux of it all is that the rope bridge had to be fire simultaneously by two marksmen into posts on the other side of the ravine. The practicality of this solution is astronomically low, so I can only assume this path is often avoided. Thankfully we had Appoline as our second capable marksmen. Appoline and Ancis both hit their marks on the opposite side of the chasm. Many of the survivors rushed across, but once they were about halfway, the instability of the rope bridge became apparent. Many had to slow down, and take care not to entangle themselves within the gaps of the netting. It was slow going but most of us managed to make it across. With only a few survivors and the last of my party left to cross, a hasty decision was made. The creature was right on our rears, so Harold severd the rope and made a flying leap onto the bridge as it swung to the other side with a few people still clinging on. It was a very risky gamble, but it paid off. Everyone was able to climb the remains of the bridge, and the horror was left no option than to fall down into the chasm, and climb back up.

We made it a good bit further past the chasm, and were met with a further complications. A very narrow ledge that spanned a 15 foot distance. Once again, this was a place where my poor physical shape was problematic. It was an issue for me, and several others. Many of us fell down into the pit, survivors and party alike. Thankfully the fall was not all that great, so we were all able to survive the impact. However, a few of the survivors had fractured arms and legs. A rope was tossed down to us, and we climbed it to safety while it was pulled. At this time, someone in our party most have thrown more of the dynamite at the beast. I was unable to see how, but a loud bang and disgusting, splurching sounds left little to question. Unfortunately, not all of the survivors made it. By the sound of the screaming, one or two were unable to make it across the ridge. We had no time to turn back and save them, it weighs heavily on me now, but at the time I was concerned only with my own survival, and that of my friends .

We followed Ancis through the winding paths until we reached our final obstacle, a rock scramble. The sediment was very loose, and it made climbing the pile quite troublesome. Once again, I was forcibly reminded of my inability to perform physically oriented tasks. This obstacle suprisingly proved the most challenging. Had we more time, there is no doubt we would have been alright, but Ancis put us on a hard timer. The horror shuffled ever closer, the closest it had been. As soon as Ancis made it to the top of the pile, he lit a fuse of a set of explosives, designed to collapse the caverns. I was surely done for, until Harold was able to throw me to safety. Eze'kiel was also threatened by the blast, but one of the survivors with a great shove, pushed him to the top of the pile. There were a few who were unable to make it to the top before the whole thing went up. It's very unfortunate that it happened, but I don't hate Ancis for making the decision. That thing was an utter monstrosity, and we could not afford to let it out into the world. We need to find the Sorceress fast, if she is still able to create horrors like that, we have our work set out for us.

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Got Meself A Fuckin Book!
Harald: Log 19

The world sure has changed since I was put in that shithole dungeon. I have met some interesting people though! I tracked down the "Knight of Sungaard" and his retinue, turns out the knight is actually Prince Eze'kiel of Augur! Never heard of him, but interesting nonetheless. Next in our merry little group is Tariel. He's some kind of spiritual advisor/doctor/bird handler. He also sweats a lot while he sleeps. Thirdly there's Appoline, runaway noblewoman from a place called Fartsford. Oh, also Fartsford has sent a mercenary after us! This is fun so far! Don't know why I'm writing all this down, don't got anyone to fuckin send it to right? Hardly matters though, it is nice to write for the first time in fuck knows how long. Guess part of me wanted to be sure I still could write. Might as well start writing about important stuff I guess, for starts; that bif fuck-off storm blowing in! Big ol magical maelstrom full of bastard ghosts. I remember what I saw in that storm and the hairs on my neck stand on end. Master, I really fuckin hope you have a plan on what to do here. So many innocent people are getting caught up in this, they need help.

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Journal Entry One
Apolline, Log 18

Well, I suppose it's about time I started writing these things down in a journal rather than in letters to people who might actually read them, because what has been happening to myself and the rest of this group is, perhaps, too horrific for anyone I care about to hear.

The first day of our trip toward Glendale, which lies between Sungaard and Flay Fort, has come and gone. During the journey, Tariel noticed that the wildlife in a certain area was restless. When Harald and Eze'kiel went to investigate, they came back with a half-gilded Celothel in bird form. She was not happy about it, and later that night Eze'kiel convinced me to let her stay in my tent. Neither of us were happy about it.

Nihyel has cured my blindness through a strange serum that peeled the gold coating from my eyes. It was just as horrific as it sounds, and frankly I'd prefer not to relive that memory any more than is necessary.

We met before going to sleep to discuss the journey and what the future had in store. Eze'kiel admitted to being a prince in his native land of Oren (Oh. My. GODS.), and both he and Tariel have family that appear to be in danger. I promised them both any aid that I could offer.

Today, the second day of our journey, we attempted and succeeded at curing Pump of his demon-ism. Before, however, he gave our party a few tips about fighting people who can wield magic as their weapon, so that we don't have problems like blindness or paralysis or golden hands welded to weapons again. We beat Pump's demon handily, and Eze'kiel got the glorious last hit as the beast was attempting to devour him whole.

Nihyel is very excited to have his cure functional, even if it was on Pump rather than Boro, and I am very excited to continue on our journey with full sight restored.

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The Sacrifice, the Storm, and the Gilded
Eze'kiel's Log, 17.

I guess I lucked out, as far as debilitating magics go. Apolline was blinded. Tariel couldn’t move. My hand was fused to my sword. A bit awkward: but it was always a part of me. I remember wanting to guard them, but you couldn’t not hear Tovyn as he grabbed that lanky bastard Jack Knife and screamed, “You’re coming to hell with me”. The tower fell on them. Tovyn, Aunt Julia, and Jack Knife. I try to hold onto my rationality sometimes: defend my friends, they’re vulnerable. But I can’t describe what feeling I felt as I rushed forward. I guess it was actual hatred. After everything today, that just makes the most sense to me.

Cleaning up was hellish. Bodies were piled high. Rubble was everywhere. I don’t remember how many I cut down. I was keeping count at one point. I wanted to write a song about our victory: not that I’m a bard by any stretch of the word. I was hoping I might become a legend too, like ol’ Gabriel, but Tariel said it best. This was pyrrhic. I sat in silence for a while, in quiet contemplation. Boro had died just as we had gotten to know him, after we’d spent all day with him. I feel like I’d only just started to get to know Tovyn, to relate to him. We talked of the sacrifices he’d made; that we’d make, for our people and those we love. And the selfish bastard got to give everything he had. Twice. They’d better not forget him. I won’t. I have five stripes to my woad now.

            I don’t know how I’m going to look Mom in the eyes and tell her I found Julia and she slipped right through my fingers. I know she forgave herself, in the end. Tariel can barely move, but, I’m sure his insides are churning, and his heart aching. Seeing her was so bittersweet. I still remember the light coming in through the windows, her hair a brilliant white, wizened eyes and an experienced face, as she said “Oh, is that you there, Eze’kiel?” and “I think it was a metaphor”. She seemed so crazy at first. And the more she was with us, the more guilt I saw in her. And I know that any of us: Tovyn, Apolline, Tariel, would have given anything to alleviate that from her. The Hands brought her in, convinced her this world was a sandbox meant to fold. But if I have any say, I’ll hunt those Hands to the last and chop them off at the knuckles. Julia wanted redemption, so my actions will carry her spirit to it.

            An interesting fellow caught my eye though as I left Apolline to Lucius’s loving care, and to watch Tariel. A squat man, copper hair, thin beard, red and green attire with an interesting medallion (I could’ve sworn it were Hightower, but there was a dragon over it?) approached, asking for a Knight of Sungaard. I paused and dismissed him quickly. But he told me he heard “we were gonna kick the Emperor’s ass”. I wanted him in our ranks, quickly. The guys crass, seems low-born, from Oren, but he’s got a hell of a sense of humor and being around him almost made me forget about the troubles of today. But, of course, every drop of sugar has its salt these days. The storm was travelling, South, towards Sungaard. The monsters the Sorcerer spoke of within.

            I gave the bad news to the group, after introducing Harold. Tariel and I were, obviously, more worried than the rest, and felt the urgency of the matter, but neither him nor Apolline were fit to travel. I’d take what Northerners I could alone, but honestly, I know it’ll only kill us all, and as much as I like Harold, his timing is strange: directly after a bandit attack, an Orener approaches promising his sword (fists?) against Oren. He seems simple and honest, and I appreciate those qualities, but he’s dodgy and clearly has his fair share of secrets. I’d rather not travel entirely alone with him yet. That said, it was 3am, we needed sleep, and we weren’t going to cover ground in the night either… this battle was unfortunate in every sense of the word. Tariel and I retired: I wrote a Ballad to remember those sacrifices made before I slept.

When I woke up, (after tying my sword hand to my sheath so I don’t stab myself in the fucking night) I noticed Tariel start shaking in the night. I feared (oh gods I feared) he might spring to life, attack me as those did in the Church. I wouldn’t know what to do: I can’t kill my family, least of all like this. But I threw something at him, and he stirred. My hand then was free, pulling towards him, against my protests and resistances. It clasped his shoulder, and we exchanged a brief glance, before it tensed around his neck and he was being strangled. I didn’t need to fear him. He had to fear me.

The only instinct I had was cut my arm off. I lifted my sword and sized up my arm, but my left hand trembled, weakly, my off-hand. I tried to envision it, cutting off my hand, sawing through the forearms, bone and sinew splintering and spewing. It made me sick, to do that to myself. I tried to force it down, but my weak body wouldn’t let me. I did the next best thing: arm can’t function broken. I lifted my knee and smashed it. Probably a worse idea. I can’t feel a severed arm. I was screaming though, every bit of air that came in went right back out with a roar, my arm bent backwards, my elbow jutting through my arm out the other side. I couldn’t even pull away now. Consciousness failed me.

Harold woke me, and I woke Tariel, frantically looking for wounds, terrified I’d killed him. I was shaking him and looking for bruises on his neck before I realized my arm functioned, or that he was awake. I’d never been more relieved in my life. I’ve killed scores of the wicked. I’ve hunted bandit and beast and returned them to what’s above (or below). Tariel is my younger cousin. I know he’s protective of me but gods I couldn’t bear to hurt one of my best friends, let alone my blood. The thought lingered in my mind like a javelin in a beast. Harold gave us some wisdom, why we would dream this (but it was the fucking sorcereress of course) and recommended we drink. I drank much more than I could handle. Before Breakfast. I remember the bartender talking but my ears felt like two glasses were pressed around them, and my mind was foggy with a slew of emotions. If I get my hand back, I’m never drinking again.

Tariel was gone, at some point. It hadn’t occurred to me at all Apolline would probably be suffering some horrid dream too. Apparently, she nearly suffocated in her sleep. She could’ve died. It’s been a few weeks, but we’ve endured hells together, and lost too many friends and family. Losing anyone, let alone Apolline, would’ve weighed too heavily on my heart. Apparently, they sent for Tariel to help her, but his Heartfire is probably waning from a lack of respite. We’re all useless.

Harold talked of his time in prison with Tariel. Apparently, the man was accused of treason for being a brazen moron and charging a dragon, after its glory. Half the hundred-man troop dies, he walks out alive, so they say “fuck him”. I’d be pissed too. He spoke of the love his people have, blinding them to the Emperor’s faults, and the love he has for them. Harold might make a freedom fighter yet. A strange man, strange story, but I’ve met stranger characters. I’ll warm up to him more, but for now, he’s at least pleasant company, and a good laugh. I remember coming to and going to check for letters. Atriana replied.

But it wasn’t her. I know it wasn’t. I remember my letter. It was me. It was my personality on paper, I’m a bit wordy, a bit of a braggart, but my compassion and love shone through. The callousness of her tone, her lack of punctuation: it seemed like any semblance of intellect left her. And she said Augor’s troops were attacking Sungaard in the nights? The storm had come down? My mother and Norsem fled to Glendale, South of Sungaard. It was a lot to drink in. I can’t imagine big Jon Norsem fleeing South: man’s totally out of shape. But if he made it, we’ll hear him howling for miles before we get there. He’s interesting, not to mention, he’s always been one of my biggest supporters. But I digress. Atriana sounded like my father, Anduin, when we’d fled Augor. I could practically see the blood dripping from her lips as she cursed our family, cursed me, marked us cravens, and promised blood. Sungaard was fallen. I don’t know how many Northerners lost. But some people had to have made it to Glendale. Anyone who hadn’t, I’ll pull from those beast’s hands with my teeth if I’ve got to.

We saw Nihyel on the way to Apolline’s tent: we needed to get going to Oren, at least right now. He was outside, no doubt testing something. I grabbed him and told him “Pack up, you’re coming with us”. He was flabbergasted and seemed to protest, chiming “What’s in it for me?” So, I gave him the one thing he couldn’t pass up. “Headmaster of the University of Augor”. He took it, hands down. Even made me call him Headmaster. This was an easy title to hand away. We hadn’t even thought of building a University yet, but now was as good a time as ever.

I could tell we were interrupting something private. But even more so, serious. Lucius relayed that the storm was also going for Falcon’s Peak. I warned him of the dangers in the storm, but he seemed unwavering. Maybe I’ve just been meeting good people, but I admire that in him. I hope he becomes King, Duke, whatever it is that puts his people in his just hands. I promised relief, if we could gather my people and rally them. I intend to keep it if possible. We discussed the plan: Harold, Apolline, Tariel and I. Go to Oren. Save my family. Rally our men. Figure it out from there.

Nihyel had us recover his lab from the wreckage, pulling heaps out. I don’t mean to sound nonchalant about it, but I discussed selling my soul to Tressa. I’m not sure it’s an option. But with all the circumstances… I’m growing desperate. Tovyn sold his soul to the Devils for power, he gave everything for his people. I’d be doing mine a disservice if I wasn’t willing to do the same… but I find my courage faltering at the idea. If I truly must, I will figure it out. Pump approached us after. Sometimes I stare at him and watch him move, and block out the words. It’s been brief, but the thought “It should’ve been you” has crossed my mind more times than I can count. Boro wanted redemption, peace, his family. Pump is selfish, self-serving, and a psychopath. I’d gut him then and there if I wasn’t convinced he was so dangerous. He was rude as ever, and he’s attached himself to us until Nihyel can cure him of his demon in him. After that, I hope he makes like an Orener (except Harold) and dies.

Last thing I wanted to do before I left was let the Northerners know we were moving out, so I spoke to Winh. She was injured, but us Northerners are tough. They did me proud, and, they were proud of themselves. We had a brief exchange about the storm… the monsters within. Winh didn’t believe they were there, and in truth, that’s the biggest worry on my mind. If my people don’t take this threat seriously, and see what’s in the shadows, then we’re walking into a death trap. She pointed something out to me though, about the paper. I hadn’t realized it when I was reading it, but the words were acting funny, in a familiar, strange, and off-putting way. It disturbed me. Sent shivers down my spine to read the letter again. I studied it harder, and I thought I saw a message, but I was wrong. Tariel though: he’s smarter than I, keener. He read through the letter and he uttered it, and I felt it in my mind. Like a dart, thrown into my head. “It calls to us.”

I’m coming, Atriana.

           

           

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