A Light in the Dark

Jern Staalbred: Journal - Pt. 22
In which we succeeded in murdering some strangers

The fire erupted, engulfing the area around the slavers’ camp. Rather than escape through the bottleneck, they opted to arm their fighters; gladiators and mercenaries; and take formation between the walls. Ameira provided information about one of the mages, a commander who when hurt, sapped life from one of the slaves to knit shut his own wounds. A pronounced asshole well deserved of the best we had to offer.

After a few moments wait, a few of their warriors rushed forwards towards where we were stood, waiting. One with an axe and blade took a swing at the air around me, leading me to dodge directly into the way of another’s axe. It bit in and jarred me out of sidestepping a left hook coming in from a third.

They seemed to expect me to be much more hurt by their combined efforts than I was, but I still rewarded them with a spat glob of blood on the ground, before adding my own strikes to the party. Let the slave with the gauntlet know that we’re here for their captors, and brought the bastard with the greataxe down to a knee. Caught a glimpse of another one of the slaves, a Dwarf, looking kind of confused and uncertain in the middle of their camp.

A sudden pain wracked through my mind, linked through Ameira’s butterfly if her sudden scream in my mind was any indication. Shook it off as best I could, but it still left my nerves on edge. Didn’t have time to wander over and see how she was doing unfortunately, as I still had 3 of their number attacking me, however, that number quickly changed, with the slave taking my advice and turning to face his captors, 2 more rushing over towards us, and the dwarf taking arms at our side shortly after.

Traded a few more blows with the big bugger with the big axe, while his friends got in their cuts and scrapes. Thought I heard a sucking sound inside his chest as I slammed Princess into it, and it seemed he heard that too, as he was too distracted to avoid his head being crushed by my next blow.

At some point in the melee I heard Ameira cry out, Phaeron’s heart was stopped somehow. Wasn’t sure what all I could do for him, but made him my focii as I began channelling energy through my movements.

A moment later I spotted him moving out of the corner of my eye. Would’ve sighed a breath of relief, but I opted to focus instead on my own survival.

The caster was apparently still up and being a twat, as I felt my heart nearly pulled out of my ribs. Pounded my chest a couple times and swallowed the feeling down. The gauntlet gladiator’s adversary didn’t fare so well, as said gauntlet pushed through meat and bone and extracted his.

Last couple threats were extinguished quickly. An archer that had been firing at the clouds this whole time let loose another arrow that zipped by Ameira. The two of us moved in on him. Advised that he’d be wise to step down. He agreed.

Took up his weapons and put them away.

Gathered up the lot of the gladiators, Ameira went to find the cook. She found her. And her frying pans. Plural. Very fucking plural. The cook offered no name, and closed the door to her wagon. Put herself under siege. Not the wisest move tactically, but she does have the food.

Separated the corpses from their magical gear, and put them aside for burial rights. Wonder how many more of these fools are out here, and how many more we’re going to start running into once they realize their people aren’t coming home.

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We Fought Narhveer's Men...And We Won
But not everything is as it should be...

The fires have been set.

They are moving to encircle the outer edge of the camp with one exit remaining. I’m testing my power, my strength.

I remind them of the plan. Kill the guards. I see no priests. Odd. I see only one wizard. I inhale, then send the flames from their fire out sideways, not vertical. I do not want the food spilled. A little goes to the flames, dangit, but there’s still plenty. Shouts of alarm and people scramble as I get the outer ring to come in to complete the circle around each wagon.

The four wagons are like islands in the sea of fire. Very good. Excellent even.

I utilise the wand of magic missile on the wizard as he moves to fling open the gladiator wagon and orders them to get out and fight. Another is handing out weapons. I relay this to the others, not happy about the gladiators being made to fight. I use the wand of Melf’s Acid Arrow on the bastard, which has him very angry. He grabs a gladiator and steals his vitae to heal himself. I declare the wizard’s death. I tell the group that I’m going to do something reckless. Jern is in position, Fyraiia is already running some interference. Awesome.

An arrow misses me by a bit, the archer looks young. Not my priority target. Another arrow, also wide. What a bad shot.

I drop a globe of darkness as I call to Warmonger to give me strength and see victory. I open a way in the fire, and try to take the wizard’s head. No luck but he’s hurt. I’m in human form and call out, ‘Fight for your freedom’ not perhaps the most rallying cry, but I don’t want to fight the wizard, guards, and gladiators. Jern is under attack, but no one is assisting him. Where are the others? I try and direct them to help Jern, but his growls tell me otherwise.

I see the wizard casting a spell, it’s dispel magic! I try and break his concentration. I’m not panicking without focus. The pain that comes with that spell…. I call for a fireball dropped on me, by Fyraiia, by Daniel. I call for assistance, Sslith’lac, Gronx. Where is everyone?

I drop into pain as my shield and darkness break. Not good! I can’t fight. I roll away from him trying to keep the pain to myself and the sense of betrayal. I try and focus on getting rid of the pain. Ylena, Pyrico, help. Help please.

The pain isn’t fully blinding, but I’m having difficulty in focusing around me. Then a cool warmth touches and spread. Like a mother’s embrace. Thank you Ylena! Thank you.

I now act in pain trying to get to Pyrico’s Talon. I see the wizard standing over me. He’s not smiling, nor is he chuckling. He’s just staring at me. I hear the swoosh of wind over wings and Phaeron is tackling the wizard. Good. I’m almost to the scimitar. Then there’s the words of a spell. My heart skips, it’s a death spell. Heart Stop. This spell plus the previous, I’m certain this man is a necromancer. And Phaeron drops. Anger courses through me and the wizard approaches. Psyren! I need you! Phaeron’s heart has been stopped!

She has the wands that heal. But where is she?

He approaches like Toza would. Methodical. Calculating. No emotion escaping. A poor replica of my Guardian former. For he was also menacing and foreboding.

I roll, grab my scimitar and take a potion of invisibility. I need to gather myself. I drop of light healing potion by the man missing his vitae. He’s still alive. I then begin to head to Phaeron, raising my shield spell. An arch of light arcs through the air, landing in Phaeron! He begins to stir, and I follow its course to point of origin. Psyren.

I nod to her, though I’m certain she didn’t see. So I send relief and a thank you. I turn on my heels and head to the wizard. Determined to see his head fall. ‘Stay still. He is mine.’ I tell Phaeron. I’m not going to risk losing him twice in the same battle.

I quietly cast Bladethirst, the necromancer looks towards where I was, but I’m still moving swiftly. I wait for the strike, then slice across his back, bearing some bone it would seem. Good! I follow with the diagonal strike, bringing a foot up to roundhouse him. He’s in a defensive stance. Is he out of spells already? I don’t bother to ask as I continue my spin, “Your head is mine,” I growl as I line my blade for his neck. There’s an explosion of fire! And as I’m getting ready to reverse my direction, the body is dropping and the head is rolling. I snatch the head up.

I head to the gladiator who’s not with it and get the potion I dropped by him and pour it down his throat slowly. I’m back in my natural form, for I need to fly up and see about stopping the fighting I’m hearing. He slowly comes to, then takes a look at me and crab crawls away. Typical human, I may have muttered as I sighed and began to fly. Always assuming the worst. I raise up the head, and I call victory over our communications, expecting the others to demand surrender as the wizard has fallen. I then fly towards the archer.

I show him the head, “Drop your bow and live,” I tell him steadily. Jern is there followed by a flame maned dwarf. Jern makes some wise cracks which don’t help. But he’s a dwarf. The young man does so. I land and walk towards him, studying him. He has no magic objects upon him. Not even his bow. Odd, the gladiators were armed with magical weapons. I’ll examine later.

“Drop your belt. The sword belt,” I clarify to ensure there’s no mistake of intent. Jern heads to gather the weapons. “Any other weapons?” He shakes his head. He’s nervous. Good. “Where is Baelok?” He seems taken by surprise.

“I don’t know,” Damnit, not the answer I was wanting.

“You know of him then?” He nods. “Is he alive?”

“He was when I last heard,” a safe answer. He knows I’m not happy with the answers, but he doesn’t know that I won’t harm him for his lack of knowledge. He’s not tainted. That is important. He surrendered.

“Pray to any God, save the one that the state worships, that he remains alive,” I tell him, allowing some anger to flare. “Come,” I will give him some trust that there are no other weapons. I have him walk ahead of me.

“Gladiators, assemble!” I command. It was ingrained for us to appear and line up when that command was given, lets see if it holds true here. Even Gronx, Sslith’lac and Psyren show up. Old habits I guess.

I inspect them as I retake my human form, as my natural makes them nervous. I should be used to this…. I stop to look at a man’s gauntlet. It is dwarven crafted and Jern has taken to acting like my second starts to question him about it. I don’t know the crafter, but I like the weapon. I smile, “we can perhaps be friends,” I comment. This man was the first to aid Jern when none of mine did. He is also not nervous of me. Perhaps because he’s immune to fire? I note the magic auras, then motion to the man.

“How’d he treat you?” There’s shrugs, a few comments of not badly. I nod, “Gronx, he’s your charge.” He intimidates the man, when there’s really no need, but I leave it be. I tell him to do as he’s told. Psyren jokes about how Gronx doesn’t speak. I’m not worried. I instruct Gronx, Sslith’lac to strip the guards of their uniforms and gear. That has the dwarf, Azerite, questioning why the uniforms. I reveal nothing. Someone asks about destroying the wagons, I strictly forbid it. We need them. I look for the cook, and comment that I hope the cook is still alive.

The prisoner points at one of the wagons, “That’s her wagon.” A woman camp cook. She free or a slave? I head that way to see. I know she has a temper, as a thrown cast iron pan goes flying pass me as I open the door. I catch the second, and try to be civil. I would like to offer her a job. Finally I just state I’m taking the wagon, after failing to get a name. Either it’s been stripped, or she’s withholding, I don’t know. Lheare takes prisoners, if she wants to be one fine by me, I’m not going to ill treat people. I head back with Jern, asking him if he would honour me by becoming my blood brother this evening. He accepts without asking for details. It takes me my surprise. He has sworen a lifeoath to me, which takes me by surprise and honours me greatly but I don’t have the words. I explain that it’s a blood oath and would make him officially a part of my tribe. The Truenaming Ceremony will have to come when we get to our destination. He presumed as much on the former and is intrigued by the later.

I question about the cook, the new dwarf really likes her cooking and comments of it. And he declares that she likes me. Right….

I give leave for the gladiators to eat. The prisoner will eat when we eat. I send Jern to eat first then help with clean up, we need someone who’s normal talking to these men. I go looking at the other wagons. Phaeron meets up with me in the second gladiator wagon and we talk about the necromancer, how he was foolish. And about what I’m planning with the dead. I explain the funeral rights and ritual, one in general for the people I don’t know, and one specific for the one I do. I surmise I’ll do a separate one for the fallen gladiators. So make that 3 rituals, but all easy.

I found the cook. Now here’s hoping that the one who took care of the horses still lives. Phaeron points out that the archer wears leather, the others plate. I point out scouts wear leather too. But fair point. Maybe he was aiming poorly on purpose… I will need to talk to him.

He flirts a bit and I tell him to go eat, dying is hungry business. He heads off, I look at the wagon, I could be used for transport, just leave it unlocked. I make a mental note to look for tracking enchantments, and send it on the line to Fyraiia, in case I get too busy.

I step out and look at the death. There’s guards. And gladiators. Lots of gladiators. What in the Nine Pits of Hell did they do? I inhale and speak, seeing Sslith’lac, “Strip the gladiators of their weapons and enchantments, but their bodies in a third area.”

I begin reflecting the objectives of this engagement which a large burly man, perhaps of Brokki stock, diluted a bit, moves in my path and takes a stance that would be a challenge issued where I have been. I look at him, almost bored and take the stance of ‘I will listen, but I’m unafraid.’

“If your aim was to intimidate me, you are falling short,” I begin the words, studying him. His weapon is enchanted with cold. Lovely.

“Think what you will.”

I arch a brow. He moves to block me again and I cant my head slightly, curious. “You want first pick of your fallen comrades,” I state. This may be the group leader. There’s hierarchies amongst the pit slaves. This one possibly ranks high in the group overall or in the fallen alone. Tread carefully, but don’t show weakness.

You vultures are going to content yourselves with the guards stuff. You will leave the gladiators be." Ah yes. Guard the fallen and honour them.

“Can’t. If they are raised as undead, they will be armed and armoured. Which is a problem. If members of the Kabal find them, they will strip them of their gear and use it against us. Not happening,” I’m not moving on this, but there are too many dead here…. I need to keep face, let him keep face…..

And we stare at each other.

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What's going on Fyraiia?
Oh look! It's a caravan from Narhveer's Territory!

Bodies have been burned to a crisp, this is the way of funeral pyres.

Loot has been packed away. We move away from the site of combat and death and an hour before what would be sunset in this murky grey world, we make camp.

I keep the embers hot and the fire low as we eat dinner and discuss watches. I tell Daniel he doesn’t get a watch. But the others seem to have no argument about them. The bald dwarf is first, Gronx and Clarence are second, I’m third with Sslith’lac, with Jern joining me on fourth.

Phearon and I move away to talk. He pointed at where the constellation known as the Lovers would be at this time of year. I look, try and remember what month and season we are in, then agree. It would be great to see them…. He grins mirthfully, and I know there’s a bit of sweet mischief in his head. The mist goes high up, I tell him. Too high…

‘How high have you been?’
I shrugged, ‘High enough to know that going higher is too cold. The air thins, and it’s too cold…’ He smiles and takes me by the hand. He pulls then lets go as he takes off.

Damn him! I switch to my natural form and take off after him. I have always been the swifter flier. I catch up without trouble. And we are going nearly vertical with a tight spiral. The clouds get thicker, the air temperature noticeably drops, for me. Even with the cloak on that resists the cold, I can feel it. Several strokes later I was having a hard time with shivering setting in, nevermind the thinner air. Phaeron went on, and disappeared. I was slowing my start of descent when Phaeron wooshed up and wrapped his arms around me, and his cloak now on me. His wings continued to move us up. I could feel his chest working with the effort. ‘You shouldn’t…. I’m over 100 pounds..’ He took a few breaths before replying, ’I’ll manage.’

He continued up and I snuggled into the warmth, fighting my shivering to try and cast warmth. But it doesn’t help after a bit, so I just snuggle in closer, marveling in silence of his draconic strength. The power.

I close my eyes, then suddenly the temperature rises. I open my eyes. The air is thinner. And the beauty! A sea of clouds reflecting star light! The stars are here. There’s no magic aura, so there’s no explanation that Vrynith can’t burn through it. Phearon tells me that Vrynith was weakened before the mist came.

Frustrating. So much allowed to go wrong. I sigh.

I begin to talk about dying, but Phaeron doesn’t believe me. I tell him about it a little, him putting me on the pyre, a drunk priest casting fireball, but still he doesn’t believe that I died. I tell him, admit to it, that I’ve been reverying about my time time dead, talking to Pyrico and a strong feeling that I missed something. He says I probably didn’t and I’m looking for something not there…. I shake my head, and finally suggest we should wait before considering soul bonding. I point out that when one dies, often the other follows. And my death results in banishment, but the shock would still happen. He argues, with several valid points, and finally I give an option. We bring this up after a year, or when my brothers are free. Whichever comes first. I’m certain he knows that my family is extremely important to me, we were all very close.

Then maybe I won’t feel so horrible about moving forward in my life. How can I enjoy my freedom and happiness knowing that they are enslaved? Being tortured? Used in fighting pits? Used in experiments? My mind may be running wild as I do not know their precise fates…

The sky above the mist though is beautiful. We are slow to descend and slower still to share my tent. Phaeron does a patrol before joining me.

I come out of revery as heavy footfalls stop by my tent. It’s Clarence. I let him know ill be out. Phaeron is still resting. I get my other cloak and head out trying to not disturb him.

Seems Clarence had issues with Daniel running after lights not there. I tell Clarence I’ve got it. He tried to stay awake, but I shooed him off to his bedroll. I remind Daniel I can move quicker than him when he goes on about lights that aren’t there. Perhaps he’s mad? There’s nothing when I look in normal sight and magic sight. He sits and watches, I have Asra watch him, then give leave to watch what he watches.

Sslith’lac and I discuss my path of honour, I humour him, and we carry the discussion for 2 hours. Very informative. I wake Jern, and we work on Ronarian. I do the patrols he does his thing. A bit before dawn, I begin warming breakfast. At the end of our watch I had out food to everyone as I wake them. Seems I was able to channel my father, everyone ate without complaint.

We began to walk, I was to be grounded, not my favourite but I’m not going to argue with an elf annoyed at me. About midday, Fyraiia curses and draws weapon, I pull Pyrico’s Talon particially out and look for danger with fire in hand. There’s nothing on magic and normal sights but I have a tingly feeling. Fyraiia waves us off and we begin walking again. She laughs a short time later and ignores my question. I want to fly and she shakes her head. I grumble underbreath and continue to trudge. She gasps a while later and looks worried? at me. I inquire and again she makes no response.

I’m the topic. How vexing to not know what’s being said. I motion that I’m going to scout ahead. Enough of this one sided thing. I feel better once I’m away from the group, and work to look for trouble.

I find a caravan. I duck. Last one I saw I got banished shortly afterwards. I move to get a better view, and spot Narhveer’s markings. It’s a long way from home…. I grin. He has my brother. These fools might have information. I try to get a better look, and finally take wing.

I look for guards, priests, and wizards. I count four wagons, at least 2 have bars on the windows. Slaves.

I discuss options with the group.

- Why are we attacking them?
-Why not? They are Kabal. They belong in the Southwest not the Northeast. They are a long way from safe port.
This gets a partial agreement.

Horses, wagons, slaves are to be unharmed.

Everyone else is in danger. It’s midmorning. I suggest waiting for lunch.

We kill them, release slaves, get loot AND eat a lunch that we don’t have to cook ourselves! This has everyone on board. Even Daniel.

It’s hours of watching, gliding, soaring. I keep my people on course. I begin to worry about being wrong. Maybe they eat while traveling. Damn.

Oh no! Wait! The wagons are making a defensive barrier. Guards are posted. Good. I watch as they make fire and set to cooking. Perhaps we’ll keep the cook. Maybe. Are they all freemen? Or do they have slaves minding the horses? The cook fire? The guards are freemen.

I make sure Fyraiia is with us. We may need her to stop teleportation.

We discuss battle plans. Set fires and block their exits from all but one approach. I’m certain I can do this. I meet up with the group and get enhanced. Daniel is exited about lunch. A mighty bow and 7 arrows get handed to Clarence. Jern takes the crossbow and a score or so of bolts. We have our kill line, and I told Clarence he has mage guarding duty. I head off to set fires. Perfect landing and take off twice, but the third time, I swear I found the only twig to land on. All well, I take off again.

No one is to escape. I begin to mark the wizards and priests…

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Jern Staalbred: Journal - Pt. 21
In which we planned to murder some strangers

We continued on our way through the plains for the rest of the day, setting up camp. There seemed to be some trouble with Daniel frolicking throughout the night, but by the time my watch came about, it was long since dealt with.

Breakfast was hot and my belly was filled. We packed up and continued off on our indirect path.

Roughly mid-morning, Phyara suddenly stopped, armed herself, and stood on guard for a minute, looking about at some otherwise unperceivable threat. I took my own weapon to hand, and prepared for whatever she had noticed. The moment passed, she sheathed her gear, and we continued. I stayed prepared.

Another short while and she began cackling. When questioned, she offered nothing.

Further walking, and further perception of some kind of threat. She expressed that she was in some kind of communication with an ally? Name I didn’t recognize. Ameira flew off to go scouting. Another stop shortly after, getting frustrated of being constantly on alert for who knows what. Asked her if whatever she’s hearing is something that we all need to be aware of, or if it’s just an issue for her. She shook her head sadly. I put my hammer and shield away and turned away. Feeling a little worried that she’s touched in the head. Maybe there’s something in the fog. Going to start preserving my breath as we go.

A little while later, Ameira sends some info back. She’s come across a caravan way out of the way from where they should be. Plots us a path to intercept, and continues to watch them; determine intent and allegiances. We’ll be meeting them for lunch.

The caravan broke to eat, a little game of toss the kitty got played; apparently balance isn’t considered that important for a cat when sleeping.

After dusting himself off, Daniel granted out boons of strength from one of the wands he picked up. It’s time to meet these newcomers.

Plot out a strategy of smoking these bastards out of their camp into a bottleneck towards us. Get into position. Ameira sets the flames. It’s time.

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A bad idea #3

Combat.

We need to discuss capabilities and work out battle plans. I have discovered a couple of weaknesses of my own that I must amend.

The cohesion of this group nigh approaches that of companions. It intrigues me to note that there was little to no dissension in the dissemination of forcibly acquired resources.

I have 1 kill to my name, but must share the glory with Stolid, as they successfully held our foe that I might kill them.

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Let Their Blood Flow!
Our first strike is true though muddled.

They are twelve. They are Kabal from Toza’s domain.

Do I know them? No.

Are they tainted? Are they free willed? Do I care? No.

They need to die. We need to take their goods, food, equipment.

Do they have anything from my father? From my brother? A hint of them.

These are the first I will plot the demise of.

Twelve. Three wizards. Four priests. The rest warriors or scouts. We will have to work together.

Kill the wizards and priests first, I tell my fellows.

I fly back to verbally report back and hatch a plan. Shadow, Jern and I talk, seems Fyraiia hasn’t forgiven me and Phearon is silently judging. He probably hasn’t forgiven me for telling him that I will travel without him after hitting Ironhold. I don’t dwell. We decide to use the landscape to our advantage and hide amongst the hills while they walk through the middle. I will be in the air watching before launching my attack. Gronx is charged with rousing Daniel as I want fireball to start up.

Shadow actually casts Mage Armour on me as I cast Shield upon myself. I in turn cast Bladethirst upon Jern, Shadow, myself. Daniel spreads Bull’s Strength amongst us who engage in melee, and Shadow cast Blur upon everyone except myself. I want the buggers to try and hit me.

We get into place, and it seems to be going as planned until a scout spots someone…. and our advantage is lost. Damn. I mistakenly tell Daniel to wait, while Shadow pops up and throws a knife. I finally allow Daniel to release Fireball when he tells me he is casting it. Wow! Already? Seems mother will be ashamed of me for neglecting my magic development.

I rise up then dive in targeting a priest with my scimitar. It’s been so long since I last fought in my true form, I feel exillerated! The wind screams around me, Warmonger, watch this! I almost shout but I mustn’t lose my advantage. I cut clean through the priest’s neck and his head flies off as the body stands in shock before dropping. There’s curses but no one really seems to take a look at me as the fighters run to kill our magic users. Damnit!

I inhale the scent of blood and look for a target, while cloaking a priest in the remnants of Daniel’s fire. Feels great to be in a fight. A priest, I think, tries to fight me, I’m about to release my fury when a wizard casts Shriveling upon me. A higher spell than what we have on our side! I can’t shake off the disease like spell, so I instead fly at him, after spiralling away from chains erupting out of the earth, then flipping between a pair of warriors to finally unfurl my wings and in two thrusts I’m fighting him. He clearly was prepared as my scimitar finds little purchase in his flesh. I’m committed.

I can hear Jern’s and Daniel’s pain, Shadow’s frustration, Mr Biggles’ alarm. Our plan failed. I need to kill this wizard quickly and move on! But the wizard is tougher than expected. He’s wise enough to cast quickly and defensively, denying me an easy strike. I hit him again, then there’s someone on my back harrying me. I’ll kill that priest after I kill the wizard. I perform a quick flurry upon the wizard, punching him in the face was satisfying. There’s triumph from Daniel, then excitement as he drops a fireball upon me. Good kitty!

The priest behind me drops, blood tentacles rip themselves out of corpses! Damnit! No! This is bad, very bad! I push to find an advantage and apply my scimitar to his gut with a hard kick high. He drops. I take his head to make sure he won’t cast again. The tentacles drop, thank Pyrico. I think I would have lost most of my friends if I hadn’t killed him as swiftly as I did.

I survey the fighting. Gronx is by Daniel. Good. He needs a meat shield, as he calls them. Shadow and Jern are working together. Biggles is too short to see in a quick glance. There’s two wizards, one hurt, one not hurt. I go for the unscathed one, and impale him upon my blade. He’s hard to get off, but someone manages to get the last guy.

Awesome!

They are all dead and Jern is stripping them down. I note that they are all human, mostly men. I don’t know these people. That’s a relief of sorts. I grew up in Strom, where these people may have hailed from. I look the Phaeron, his expression is dark and moody. Fyraiia on the other hand has a tired expression, sweat upon her brow. She’s been busy doing something… countering spells? Stopping teleportation out? Or in? I’m certain she’ll tell us. Eventually.

I go through, checking for tracking, traps. I read through the spell matrixes quickly, knowing what I’m looking for. I’m trusting Biggles is as well, I did show him once. I don’t have time to thoroughly go through the wands or scrolls. Biggles gets the divine scrolls. I am going to ask him later if he went through them.

Gear wise, all I take for myself is a ring of protection. It’s clean. There’s bracers, won’t go with my attire. There’s cloaks, I a!ready have two. But I think they set one aside for me. Here’s hoping someone at Ironhold can enhance and mix enchantments. Shadow suggests it as I’m thinking it. Interesting. I think I’m starting to like her.

Gronx and Sslith’lac pile the bodies for me. I set them aflame, quietly praying to Pyrico. “Cleanse those tainted, Lord of Flames, so that they may be reborn clean and whole. For those who joined without taint, allow Shaylona or Serania, or another to have them to punish them for their poor choice of treachery. Warmonger, look here at our fallen enemies. We are on a war path.”

No bodies this time are desecrated. I was annoyed, flustered in battle, but the fight was clean. Though I do hope the untainted spend time being tortured and traded in Hell and the Abyss. I turn from the pyre and make ready to travel as I see Biggles preparing to heal us who are hurt. My injury is closing, the sores not seeping, but the blackness to my flesh isn’t lightening.

I sit down in his pulse zone and clean my weapon and clothing, watching the taint. It is slowly receding and lightening up. Good! Shadow mentions playing with my tattoo and having it pulse multiple targets instead of just me. Interesting. But what about pain?

I do not want to die again. I don’t think they realise I died. At least I think I did…

I suggest Shadow and Biggles looking at all the layers and together we figure out just what it does. Phaeron had mentioned a sadistic person at Ironhold may be able to undo the tattoo…. I inform the pair of what my scabbard tattoo is set up to do.

Then we’re off. No point staying here. Someone will find the bodies.

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Jern Staalbred: Journal - Pt. 20
In which we learn the sound of Ameira's alarm

Woke up suddenly in the night to the sound of the alarm going off, and the sound of excruciated screaming.

The elven spellblood is looking panicked, standing overtop of Ameira, who is writhing on the ground in agony. Lock down the spellblood, who says she tried to dispel magic, and maybe wasn’t expecting a negative reaction.

Biggles shuts down the noise, and I grab hold of the sorcerer. She’s not going anywhere.

Found out that she was trying to remove Ameira’s slave tattoo, at her own request. Now she’s broken and the elf doesn’t know if that’s cause the spell worked or cause it didn’t work and this is the intended reaction.

We determine physical healing doesn’t work. Consider other arcane possibilities without finding any answers. Offer up the alternative of divine intervention, in case this is indicative of soul damage.

Figure Pyrrico owes Ameira a favor for returning him to the world, but as none of the rest of us have any real connection to Pyrrico, and I don’t know how to pray to him, our most likely option for assistance is gonna have to be through Nameless. It’s not a Great option, but you go to war with the army you have.

Biggles puts out an APB for his god. HIs god responds by tossing a couple of people into the trees above us. Couple of humans that call themselves Makkos and Fynn. Gaudy flame-motifed robes, but Makkos has the symbol of Pyrrico.

Talk to them. They’re both drunk as shortbeards. Try my damndest to get information about a prayer to the fire god out of Makkos. We need to burn something, and we need to focus on the fire, and we need to ?, and then profit.

All that, and Finn’s a caster. The two didn’t really have much to offer. Decided to pull out the books of rituals, and try to put together the same circle we used when we were awakening Pyrrico. Hopefully the ritual itself doesn’t define the intent behind it. I certainly don’t know enough about them to draw any conclusion there. Set Ameira in the center of a pyre made from wood and herbs that we believed to be holy to the firegod, drew the circles, started drumming, and we set to work. Shadow took point on the ritual itself, calling to Pyrrico, offering up some of her hair, and leading the dancing. Had the followers apply fire. Hours and hours later, Ameira was no longer screaming, and appeared to have fallen asleep.

Stayed up throughout the night outside the tent that Phaeron took her into, as if my being on watch would somehow be of assistance to her slumber.

Sun got up, and so did Ameira. Either the ritual worked, or her affliction was temporary. She seems to be herself, give or take what sounds like a hell of a headache. Once she had some tea and the chance to get her head together, we explained the situation. Her tattoo is still there.

It’s agreed that the Bastard probably knows where we are due to the obvious alarm system that got triggered.

We opt to take the fuck off. Give thanks to and part ways with the followers of Pyrrico.

Days go by without little of interest. Ameira enchanted up some temporary flaming butterfly tattoos that apparently allow those they sit on to talk at a distance. Got out of the forest.. Again? Either way, into the plains.

WIth Ameira scouting the air, and Shadow scouting the ground, we eventually come across a group of Kabal casters and warriors. Still not too used to communicating via art, but for as weird an enchantment as it is, it works.

Got details on the numbers, and the look of the guy who’s likely in charge. We’re going to take advantage of the fog to get ahead of their troupe and set up an ambush.

The Cabal group wandered almost in between us, but must have spotted someone as they stopped and demanded we show ourselves. The column is engulfed in flames from multiple directions. The big asshole fighter boss apparently saw me, came over and tried to bisect me. It didn’t work completely. Managed to take him down with Shadow’s help, as well as another couple of the bastards. It was a quick, but messy fight.

Gathered the bodies together and began stripping them down.

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Pain. Nothing but Pain
Is Pyrico Angry? Or Am I Now Out of Favour?

We are almost out of the Phelmyr. Almost to the plains that lead to the magic maelstrom that hides the resistance cell at a place known as Ironhold. What type of place is it?

Underground. Is it like the abandoned and wasted elven city? Is it a dwarven citadel? Or something far more cruder and cut rudely into Merlay’s flesh by human hands? Or worse, Orc claws?

Eventually these musings will be answered.

I had awaken from revery about thirty minutes ago and began these musings while waiting for Fyraiia to look up from her spellbook. Wizards truly do not pay attention to what’s around them. I already noted that aside from the Orc’s stick in the ground, there’s no watch posted. Sloppy relying upon just that. These people clearly do not realise that the magics can be defeated by one skilled at doing so. Eventually maybe I will be able to, but it’s not a goal. Not yet.

She’s still in her book…. how droll.

I consider how to suggest watches be divided. Daniel will need his full rest if he casts spells, and truly I don’t trust him nor Jeff to do a watch. Fyraiia too shouldn’t be doing watches as the case in point clearly tells me. Shadow could take the first four hours and I take the last four hours, we both seem to share some of the same skills of stealth and alertness, though her wilderness skills are admittedly better than mine.

The Orc will continue to be lazy and rely solely upon his stick. So he won’t do any watches, unless perhaps Shadow or Biggles convince. Thinking of the halfling, he shouldn’t do watches either as he’s a spell slinger too. Jern is always willing to do a watch. So is Jorrum. Dusk and dawn are key attack points, a dwarf awake at both points would be good.

Movement? I turn my head to see Osozo depart. All his gear packed and he slips into the forest. What is he up to? I send Asra to follow and report, to come back before dawn.

Now where was I? Oh! Best watch schedule. So dwarf book ends, elven stealthiness at the beginning, my sneakiness at the end. Psyren, Gronx, and Sslith’lac should take up watches…. except Psyren is a user of the invisible arts, so she’ll need to rest fully to recharge. So then, that means Jorrum should be first and Gronx or Sslith’lac second with Shadow being the second person on watch. Then myself with the other warrior then Jern. Stealth plus brawn pairings should work well.

I must mention this.

Oh! She’s looking up! Yay!

‘Does the offer still stand, Fyraiia?’ She looks up, slightly puzzled. I move my hair and show her that tattooed brand.
‘Yes, yes it does,’ she replied. She touched it gently, which caused me shutter and force my hands to remain still.
‘Must you touch it?’ I really don’t like being poked and prodded.
‘Yes. Now stay still. Actually, lay down,’ she suggests. I do so, and try to remain still while she examines it.
‘Is it magical?’
‘Yes.’ Great….. lets see the bastard probably has it tracking my location, or pinging off when he focuses on it. So he doesn’t have my locket nor my father’s ring to find me. If that’s the case, a forest of antiscrying won’t help me. I need nondetection, misdirection, or both to screw with him. What else would he put in it? Well, nothing pain inducing since nothing caused me pain when I refused to toe the line and be a good slave. Perhaps something to dampen my natural abilities? Naw, he didn’t know what I am. A linkage to the thing on the Shadow Plane that hunted me? That I sensed as soon as it arrived AND I could feel it getting closer….

Fyraiia distracts me from my thoughts. She says she’s doing to try something. I ask if she’s going to erase it. No, dispel magic. Ok, I begin to say. I almost suggest Greater Dispelling, but I don’t get the chance.

The camp site is gone. The noise of the night is gone.

Blinding, searing, pure white agony light steals my sight. I’m blind but not.

The searing shredding pain tears up and down my neck, down my spine, ricocheting in my skull, freeze burning every nerve in my body… it’s far too much for me to push aside or through. I can’t contain it. I can’t fight it. My head! My head is going to explode or freeze or both. There’s no sound. I’m nowhere. Floating in hot burning freezing pain. I can’t escape it. There’s no salvation no stopping nor end. It goes on forever!

Then nothing.

Void.

I have my mind. No body.

- Have I died? -

Nothing then Void then Black.

- A pit? -

I have my body. I’m solid and drifting in the Void. I’m gently falling without sound. There was no sound.

- Am I dead? -

There’s something but nothing under my back. It’s solid and plyable. I can’t move…. I think I’m breathing. I move my hands to touch what is at my side. Feels like grass but it isn’t grass. I extend my fingers. There’s comfort.

Embers slowly, softly, begin to form and glow around me. I turn my head to watch the inner light dance. I have a head I can move! I move a hand and extend a finger to touch the flame, then suddenly flames begin springing up everywhere near me. I move slowly to sit up embers begin to glow further out now, a dance of flames move outwards.

Beautiful. - I must have died…- “Where am I?” I have a voice, it’s a whisper.

I look around, taking it in. Darkness above me, fire and embers around me. Where am I indeed. I know not this place. I slowly move to crouch and catch a glimpse of my red hand and black talon. How did I miss that when I touched the flame? I’m in my natural form. I died. Sadness swirls in my calm, followed by determination. I will get back to the Prime! But first I must figure out where here is.

“What do you seek?”

A voice that I do not know booms from around me. Cool. Detached. Commanding.

What do I seek? Nothing. I didn’t come here of my own will. What do I seek? My brothers, my sister’s soul, my parents, my friends and tribe. An end to tyrannical rule and the fear of being hunted.

“Freedom,” I reply to the unknown voice. Control over where I end up would also be nice but freedom is more important.

“You are already free from he who wrongly laid claim upon you,” the distinctively male voice replies.

I shake my head. “He still hunts for me,” I murmur. “I mean freedom from the Kabal. A world of people free to worship as they wish, to live as they want without being forced to follow the one god and words of the high king. To form their own kingdoms and begin their lives anew. No more slaves, be their bonds be visible or not.”

Yes, a lofty end goal, but it’s realistic… possible.

“Who are you?” I ask, curious. The glow from the fire is growing but the blackness is still ever present. I stand to look better, stretch my wings out before wrapping them around me and allowing the membrane to drape like a cloak from my shoulder. I look into the darkness but its unfathomable depths reveal nothing to me.

“Have I changed so much you do not recognise me?” I think I detect some mirth. I cant my head trying to place the voice, I have a vague sense of familiarity, but I can’t place it.

The fire dances around me playfully. Then there’s a break in the darkness. A pair of wings unfold and spread out, glowing far brighter than the flames around me. The avian head comes up crowned with feathers of flame. Pyrico! His tail is long, almost to the length that Mother had seen years ago.

I drop to my knees and place my hands upon them with my head bowed, but my back straight. “Forgive me for not recognising your voice, Lord of Flames and Renewal, please.” His voice has changed. From the time in the egg, to before that when I was a child nattering away to him. Did I bring him back a little wrong? Or is he still settling in? I must have died to be in his realm.

“You embrace the flames as much as they embrace you,” he observes, floating beyond my reach.

“I’m able to do so as I possess the blade you gifted Mother, and then gifted myself for the duty to guard you. My own ability isn’t yet strong enough.” It’s true, I rely upon the blade to keep me safe, hoping that my natural resistance will grow. I watch the flames and caress a couple with my fingers.

I have already been told to trust the fire. To embrace the fire. Fire and Shadow I am.

“Your friends care a great deal about you.” A statement. I look up at him. What have Jern, Gronx, Psyren, and Sslith’lac done? Was Phaeron part of it? “They seem to be under the impression that I owe you for bringing me back.”

I’m shocked by my friends’ presumption on this matter. “How? You being brought back was important. You are renewal and rebirth. You are hope. To say such… it’s like saying the sky owes us the rain that falls than being glad that it falls in season…” I shake my head. Why would they say or think such? “I am glad you are back. I am happy that you can renew hope.” What else can I say? Have they angered him? Or I?

“Your friends acted to help you.” A wing moves and a group of flames band together and then a pillar of fire shoots off then calms to a simmer, “Observe,” he motions that wing. “The one who calls herself Shadow seems to know you.”

I get up and walk carefully upon the embers to not squish any flames to look into the mirror of fire. Within, I see Jern drawing sigils, taking up his wooden drum. Shadow is speaking words unheard. Then she’s dancing. Phaeron carries my body to what looks like a pyre and places it there. My body, I am in a great deal of pain. I look to Pyrico as he flashes bright then dulls. A well muscled, young elven man is walking towards me. He gestures back to the mirror. Another flash occurs… fireball lands directly on my body! If not for the scimitar in my leg, I would have died again.

“That which you seek is already upon you,” he whispers. I look from the ritual hastily put together to the elf with fire in his eyes. What am I seeking? Before I can give voice he touched my leg where the tattoo is. Searing pain washes over the tattoo and blinding white pain returns to my eyes. I drop with a gasp. And jolt awake in Phaeron’s arms, startling him. My head hurts so much. My body is weak. Phaeron embraces me.

Did I anger Pyrico? Have my friends offended him?

“You’re awake,” I nod.

“My tattoo is enchanted,” I drop a hand to check upon the scimitar. It’s still there. I sigh. That’s a good thing.

“They are,” he goes on to tell me about how the scimitar scabbard tattoo is a back up to the tattoo on my neck. It is a locator, more like she’s over in that direction type. Great.

“I won’t be able to stay in Ironhold,” I tell him. “It will be a matter of time before the Kabal learn that those who hunt me will lead them to me and those I’m with. I already was part of a cell that was destroyed, I’m not going to be the cause of another one.” He protests and I continue, “Lheare has uses for you. You are her shield and sword to guard the people who can’t fight in your cells. You can’t be with me and help her. Our paths may cross….” I fall silent. He’s too angry and raw to listen. I turn my back and elect to fall into revery. That fight against a house champion that I won. It was a bloody affair, I was very broken, but I had the strength to kill him.

At breakfast, Shadow told me I’m stupid. I didn’t respond. The child was able to do a ritual…. she’s not a child in the Gods’ eyes. I notice her hair is a lot shorter and as a thanks, I give her the ring of lore. It was going to be helpful later for me, but she’s seeking her people. I rant at Fyraiia for causing me pain and missing the layer that listed it as an ability of the tattoo. Oh! And fun stuff! The one on my leg will destroy Pyrico’s Talon if I manage to get rid of it. Gah! I instead choose to be quiet as we travel. Fyraiia doesn’t want anything to do with me, so be it. She’ll be one less person to stop me from leaving.

We travel a few more days then hit the plains. I use my fire butterfly tattoo from Psyren to connect people together so I, Shadow and Phaeron can scout while the others travel together. Jern, Jorrum, and Fyraiia are now synched up. It’s on the second day that I find a group needing their lives taken.

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A Bad Idea #2

I will remember that party for a while. I wonder whether I should enumerate the details of my youth for my elder self.

The secondary goal of my original band of companions has been accomplished. The celebration that ensued was most entertaining. I indulged in flirting and frivolity deliberately. The irony amused me, and appeared to be unnoticed by my compatriots.

There ensued much discussion as to the path we should take to accomplish what is now a subgroup’s primary goal.

Travel has been undertaken, and I continue to practice my woodcraft. There are many interesting herbs in these woods, mostly of a medicinal nature.

Rock continues stolid. Chimera lives up to their name. We are all psychologically traumatised, but that one has been severely damaged. I would not commit such an analysis to parchment, but in this case it is so very obvious that I do not believe that our enemies do not already know it. They are now making an effort to be more amiable. I will have to watch them carefully. Both because this may be a ploy, and because they are a weak point in our group. Beautiful slept through the entire incident!

Plains travel undertaken, therefore Plainscraft practiced. More plants identified and collected. It occurs to me to use all possible categories of herb.

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History Will Repeat if it's Not Taken to Heart
They refused my mother, and now they refuse me

It is good to have the memories of my family and Sslith’lac quiet. I know it’s only temporary, thank you Ylena.

I awaken to breakfast in bed. Phearon is trying to woo me, how sweet. We head out, looking to spar, but ran into Jern. An idea has been kicking around: the abandoned city. It’s elven, it’s beautiful and I’m certain a mage with the right skills would be able to learn a forgotten history. I want to make it an outpost. I have an eye on a building to make mine… I will need a safe place to perform higher level rituals. One that is synched to my lineage, since Mother’s is out of my reach I must make my own.

I ask Jern if he thinks Dwarves would use it, fix it and perhaps live there for a spell. Phaeron agrees that there’s merit. Jern made a comment that I took wrong; I thought he was insulting the Elven craftsmanship. I reminded him that I’m half elven.

So we went to talk to the lady elder, and she wouldn’t even consider it. No outsiders near their village. The forest is theirs.

I pointed out several facts:

  • Pyrico hatched down there. His followers are very likely to be enroute to pay homage to the God of Fire.
  • Both Nameless and Warmonger have been amongst them. For my people, that would be a clear sign that stuff will need to change. Apparently not to these people.
  • The Kabal know of the elven island. They clearly won their first fight, and the elves are not yet ready to fight. Having reinforcements close by is a good thing.
  • The Kabal have already wiped out most of the free people in the time of their slumber. Pretty much, the Kabal have won, and we’re refusing to go down quietly.
  • The city is not directly under the island. So those that end up in residence would not be trespassing onto the island.
  • After they refused my mother’s gentle suggestion to ally, they lost their God AND had to flee into stasis.

Pretty much, she and perhaps the council are going to doom their people.. I wasted time and energy. And I’m angry. Great, I really know how to wreck things further. But Jern is right. Perhaps we should just take the town they forgot about, seal the tunnels that lead to the island and to the Abyss with the elves.

Though I will say, yes! I did garner eyes to the forest. Pyrico is FIRE not air. Fire is VISIBLE. It is a force. And I ensured that it was covered by my signature. Which as the Efreet pointed out that’s not a good thing. But I choose to bite my tongue.

Phaeron gets us out of there. No doubt he’s hoping Lheare will be able to win them over. I mutter under my breath a desire to see things burn, but I refrained from it. Good thing Daniel was sleeping or whatever he does before the noon. I quietly pack up my things and ensure everyone is ready to head out. I want to get to killing Kabal and strengthening us. We perhaps should run sparring drills… We need to learn how to compliment our strengths.

We are seen off the island by a quiet yet polite elf. The ship is a ship… Too close to the water, but I keep to myself. I could have flown over, but the elf wouldn’t like that. And I am certainly not wanting to be in my natural form around them.

Travel through the forest was easy. Too easy. Pyrico had indeed vanquished all the traps and beasties unnatural. And game is plentiful. We get something daily, the remains salted to use as rations when we hit the plains. It’s rather nice.

Each night I teach Stromic to those interested. Then help Jern as he needs to learn my Mother’s tongue. Then I sit and learn from Sslith’lac. I need to mellow my anger. He’s a monk and begins teaching me centering techniques.

Looks like we will be on the plains tomorrow. Tomorrow will be the start of our battle to get to the Maelstrom and this place called Ironhold.

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