Asternia, Augor, and Oren

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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