"Finding a Balance of sorts" - A journal of Leena
At this point, I don't know what to do.
Well, that seems like a lousy way to start a journal. I wouldn't read it past here, but I guess this writing is for me. Perhaps. Guess I can't stop now, after a start as abysmal as that. Hah, abysmal writing. I wonder who will translate it?
Anyway, Abyssal writing is what concerns me right now, not my affinity for irony spilling onto my page instead of clarity inducing thoughts coming forth from the effort.
I don't know who I'm writing to. Perhaps that will help. A focus.
You truly don't know why you're so adamant about helping the elves, do you? You sit in the middle of a stewpot of drama, personal conflicts, and suspicion, with a little dash of suicidal trips thrown in for flavor whenever movement beats out everyone sitting around arguing.
Lay it out for yourself, a piece at a time.
Why elves? - Mom and Dad were both half-elves. Mom loved her bloodline, or at least didn't resent it, and Dad went through hell because of it, and never really seemed to get over his dislike of them, though he had several elven friends who were very close to him. I guess it had to do with his sense of them being more about -them- than their blood… but some elves, I've noticed, but more stock in the fact that they're elves, and not that they're ... well, them. You know, a person. Who they -are-.
I think those are the ones that Dad couldn't stand.
Mom didn't seem to want me and Elaine to have to go through that... so she gave me a sword as my adulthood gift, platinum, and called it the "Sword of Elven Blood." She said something about working with it, or unlocking something from it, but was never specific. I think that perhaps, freeing the elf camp, and learning more about that half of myself... might be a good start to figuring out what she meant.
Why Raryldor? - No, you don't get to not think about this one. That elf in white is a source of constant conflict. N'jast War, banned from Peltarch, divided leadership issues during quests, even just those few things make a person HAVE to stop and think. He's been hero, harbinger, and herald of things good and not quite so good, and -really- has a habit of calling people child... and more importantly, not being able to see past himself.
Yet despite that, he's willing to sacrifice much of himself. He's nearly died at least once on these trips, I hear. He also inspires others to fight to their last breath, too, despite many people professing not liking him, or trusting him. It's easy not to I guess. Secrets are scary, right?
He's helped me, talked to me, chided me when I was being a whiny brat unworthy of the names of my parents, and trusted me based on what he felt was my OWN merit, not that of my father or mother... and yes, he even knows my not-so-secret, and helped me find places to run to, should I ever need them.
Myself - Okay, now this I fear writing down, but I HAVE to.
I mean, if someone finds it, it could get me in trouble, but everyone that knows my Mom should have an idea anyway, right? But what about the new people? What if ... I'm arguing with myself in a book. Damnit. Wonderful. Here I am, worried about another side of myself, and I'm having an active argument on parchment. Elaine would giggle her tits off.
Speaking of Elaine, I worry about her. She's changing, some. I wonder if I am, but can't see it?
During the last ritual, where I asked Talos for the power to fuel a vision-ritual, and gave of myself, I intended to allow everyone contact with the spirits in the camp, or other related powers, so we could find answers, or at least get an idea of where to go.
What I didn't realize, was that people would see into whatever their focus was upon.
Apparently, for most of them, it was me.
One saw me turn into something not human... my eyes from blue to green to yellow, before my flesh changed, and I was no longer -me-.
Another saw me turn into a tree, and nearly put a hatchet in me.
I ... I saw myself, from above, fighting ... myself, but NOT me. Both looked like me, and could have been me, but in my soul, I knew one was not. I just could not tell which.
I still do not know, but I don't think it matters. Even if one is not me... they're both me in a way, I fear.
I think Mom and Dad suppressed the blood-curse that would have carried over from Mom.
I think something went wrong.
I have the best friends, and support network ever. Elaine first and foremost. Willow, Llyran, Rasuil, Shesarai, Raryldor even. Auntie Rith especially. They all know, so if there's a torches and pitchforks mob after my furry ass after I lose it and hurt someone... they'll try to help me.
Still, I know of places to bolt, now. All else fails, I can run.
I'd best get some sleep. Writing seems to help after waking from a nightmare. I'll keep this book close, I suppose.
I hope these dreams aren't red this time.
An aberration to beat all others.
Yesterday ... was a hell of a day. It started well, it ended well, but I can hardly close my eyes but to see that thing.
It all started innocently enough. I wanted to talk with Batilde, and despite Roslyn's protests that things were, "Going to get philosophical again", the three of us decided on a walk in the woods.
We had barely gotten started, when we ended up walking up on a camp of adventurers, resting by the corpse of a nearly 20 foot tall Gnoll, with tribal markings all over it. They asked me to help discern the cause of it's tremendous size, and having seen such before. I was able to quickly identify that it was ritual magic, much akin to an "Enlarge person" spell, but more of a shamanistic ritual. Satisfied, they seemed ready to move further into the woods, when a hooded woodsman showed up. He told us some things about the woods nearby, including the location of a town, and the direction of a section of the woods that NONE dare to tread, since those that do, seldom return.
Obviously, with Wick, Batilde, Yaule, and myself ... not to mention Z and others who care about nature and/or the balance, the group easily decided that we were going to the town to learn more about the messed up section of woods, so off we went. The town, once we fought off hundreds of Gnolls, and freed a surprisingly spry old woman from their cage, had much to say about these woods, and warned us away, even begging us not to go in the case of some children. We left to the mutters of "fools" and the crying of children, into the apparently cursed woods.
We arrived, finding an unnatural darkness, and an ominous feeling. There was nothing subtle about the wrongness in that place, but nothing specific either. I couldn't even detect anything particularly magical at work, though those attuned to the land as I am all shared my specific kind of unease, and a certain direction of the center of the wrongness. Then, the scary stuff began.
It seemed like the group before us had been a mining trip originally, so I figured Z would lead, but he nominated me instead, so when we got in, I walked ahead, and found what seemed like localized rain, making a puddle between two trees. I checked it out, and happened to note that my reflection in that water made me look much prettier than I consider myself, more like Elaine, my twin. Yes, I know we're twins, but she just ... GLOWS. Her hair always falls perfect, her skin unblemished, she looks like me, but if painted by a master. Anyway, as I was wondering about that, I was pulled roughly away, suddenly aware that I was drowning.
Apparently ... everyone else saw me, and Roslyn, stick our heads into the water and immediately drown ourselves, and only quick thinking saved us, as our friends pulled us out and made us cough up the water. Oh! On the way IN there, we saw a deer walk up to me, and as I pat it, it turned into a decaying corpse, and left it's skull in my hand. Shortly after that, a gypsy warrior walked up, and killed himself in front of us with a knife up through his jaw into his brain. So really, I should have known better ...
A pretty flower made choking vines nearly kill another, and then statues past that were making people turn into statues too, for the looking at, before the rest of the statues turned into gargoyles, trying to eat the group. All in all, tensions were high, so I began singing a little marching song about Druids, to keep us occupied and distracted.
The Druids go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah. The Druids go marching one by one, Hurrah! Hurrah! The Druids go marching one by one, a Flamestrike is brighter than the sun, and they all go marching on, to the cave, to the cave, they are brave ....
I ended up signing plenty of those versed, as we fought, pushed, choked, bled, and suffered, only the knowledge, a feeling really, that if we JUST KEPT PRESSING ON, even when the air seemed poisonous, and on the verge of killing all of us, we'd get there, to the center, to the root of this evil, and be able to face it.
No knowledge I came there with, could have prepared me for what greeted us. The ... "Thing" in the middle of a small, dark, clearing, was not of this world. It was not even of a known plane, and I've been to a few. I've fought demons, illithids, nightmares in the actual realm of dreams, but nothing ... nothing like this.
Beyond our mortal planes, then beyond even those of the Gods, there are more places. Between places. Places that are neither fully real, nor reachable that I know of ... but sometimes, things come through it. I've heard the stories, and read the lore, but the reality of the things ... well that's just that. They do not FIT in our reality. It was unreal, in every sense of the word, except that it was there, making my mind disbelieve my eyes, and my other senses recoil at the smell, the touch, the sight of this horrific thing before me, which was ... well, I'll try to describe it.
When you gut an animal, inside are squirmy, wet, squishy bits, and they're connected by membrane, soft or springy tissues, some of them just stretchy and strange looking. You'd never guess we had all that inside us, from the outside. This ... was as if some colossal creature was turned inside out, given 'life' to pulse and writhe and Gods Above ... screech horrifically, and then reach out with teeth and tentacles and tentacles WITH teeth, and spew forth other monsters at us, as we grew to understand that it was a living thing, a veritable infection on the land, living and growing like a cancer... becoming PART of our natural world, and perverting all it touched.
I resisted throwing up, despite that assault on my mind and soul, steeled myself with spell and sword, and walked forward, cutting down the things it threw my way, shoulder to shoulder with the others who were not deterred, and got close enough to do what had to be done. Blades and spells hacked away at the thing, which thankfully didn't seem capable of defending itself past those tricks and taint, and creatures it spewed up ... so I got close, and began to chant, angrily screaming forth Kossuth's name in a plea to help us destroy the abomination, and raised my hands to the sky, even as it's creatures raked at me with their claws. My spells held me from harm, and then the world exploded in fire!
A firestorm is divine fire, and even as it engulfed my allies and myself alike, none were harmed but my foes, giving up the control of the element to nature itself, to let IT do the purging, and protect it's protector. Flames ripped forth, the earth shook from the tearing of the air itself, and the creature SCREAMED, it's shriek enough to drive you mad if it had kept going ... but it was not finished. I was panting from the effort of the greater spell, being nearly at the highest level of my skill to cast, but it was not yet done. The darkness pressed in where fire had brought light once before, but I had one more trick up my sleeve, and I screamed out that if fire would not do, it could burn in the light of the SUN! I figured since all in this place was dark and gloom, perhaps letting in the thing that it so thoroughly kept out was exactly the trick we needed.
Sunlight BURST forth, and the scream of the creature was infinitely more horrible, while the light form by spell appeared, flashed once, and then everything went WHITE.
And then ... nothing.
Nothing at all
No sound, after that ear shattering scream, so loud we felt reality shake
White, quiet, nothing.
And then drips of water on our faces. The light dimmed, and became sunlight, filtering through the canopy, to fall upon the ruins of an unspeakable horror, something with no name, something that should not exist ... and was burned even past that mere moments later when I was asked to hit it again, just to be sure. 5 times, my mass lightning spell ripped forth, Talos seeming more than glad to hear my plea and aid me, and then there was but ash all around us, motes of dust lingering in the air from the devastation.
Between Z's use of holy water, my fire, Willow's fire, blades and spells all around, and then that final burst of sunlight, it was done. It IS done ...
We returned to the town to tell the amazed villagers, and even managed to get a reward, which was nice. I woke up in a sweat last night, that scream once more ringing in my ears, too ... but I'm sure that too, shall pass with time. For now ... I should probably go find Batilde, and have that talk that's been interrupted twice now. I got to talk to Yaule, and she acquitted herself well in that fight, as did Batilde before she had to turn back, so there's likely plenty to discuss.
Today will be a good day, so long as I don't hear anything like that again while awake...
A new dawn
The wind is blowing, the sun is shining, I'm covered in blood as usual, but a bath isn't far off, and that deer was delicious. The grass is soft, and the animals are going about their business as usual, save for this deer, which Fayt is still enjoying beside me. Overall ... things are GOOD.
I have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy moments like this, and yesterday was a good reminder to do exactly that. I did the usual creeping about a group in Peltarch, standing close enough to see if folks were being interesting, and sure enough, an elf named Tirreth was soon approached by an emissary to some rich Peltarchian about an artifact.
We went out some time after, at the insistence of the gnome who never sits still, Rubo. We were ostensibly Duergar hunting, and since they've been seen WITH Yuan-Ti, we checked out the Spider Caves in Jiyyd's vicinity, since some folks had never been there, and if there WAS a connection to be had there, we'd learn something.
Not knowing Tirreth yet, and having "I love to fight surrounded" Margot with us, I secretly hoped that we did NOT find Duergar, (Which we did not) but the fight against the spiders, all the way to their Queen was good to get my blood going and be worth it, all the way into the Yuan-Ti temple, where we fought a couple before turning back, just to be safe. Mostly because Rubo left and I didn't know this group well enough to risk death-magic slinging Yuan-Ti for fun. We made it back without issue, victorious.
I didn't find out anything important about Tirreth's visitor either, but I did hear that said elf, "Tirreth" apparently, represents Spellweaver. Which is back, if I didn't write about that earlier, but I haven't heard much from them other than about that mages fair they were going to hold, with a focus on filling spellcrystals for folks. Which frankly, is a great idea. People end up carrying empty ones for months!
Not that I'm one of those people. Totally not. Nope. I -always- remember them ... from now on, anyway.
It's been a fair bit since I saw my apprentices, but I've also been traveling. With the demons gone, and the Creel threat not yet arrived, the vampires staying in their holes, and not seeing any of these ever-present Duergar for myself, I've found myself with an abundance of free time, which I really SHOULD be doing something with.
I'm sure my apprentices have been keeping themselves busy, so it's probably time that I put them to a test or ten. Perhaps first ... I'll see how they fare with their Animal Empathy skills. I can do this one of a million ways, but I think I'll divide it up into tests like this:
1.) Find a rare creature, not a deer or badger or hawk, and bring it to me, here. (The "here" will be somewhere slightly more difficult to reach, and will involve keeping said critter alive to get to me.)
2.) Find me a dire animal. Much like above, but with the added difficulty of possibly having to go to Mintas. I might have to specify "Not a rat." Maybe I'll leave that option to see if they make that choice, and ask them "why." I DO encourage Druids cheating, after all...
3.) Combat taming. It's one thing to gently approach an animal, or show up from stealth and immediately say the words, use the calming gestures, or simply lock eyes and make it back down ... and another to face down an animal already actively charging forward to eat your face. I'll get my own dire animal, get them between it and myself, turn it loose, and make them pacify it before either of us get eaten.
I'm sure I'll be able to think about some more tests, but I don't want them staying apprentices forever, so if we want to grow the Circle back to respectable numbers ... it's testing time. Counselors will once again fill out ranks, and hopefully attract apprentices of their own.
Part of attracting new folks will be getting ourselves more in the open, so perhaps I need to reach out to Spellweaver again as I did so long ago, make it known that I'm a resource and partaker of knowledge myself, and perhaps renew my contact with Norwick and Peltarch, The Legion, and other groups in the land so that if anything that concerns Druids or Nature pops up, I'm contacted.
At this point, I can either get more active and grow my Circle, or retire like Fadia, showing up occasionally to dispense Wisdom, or climb a murdermountain to help save my old apprentice before disappearing for months again! Ha! I guess she's earned her time off, having been an Arch Druidess, and building our grove herself, after all.
Alright, time to go back to the Circle, talk to some Elders, and see if anybody else has some ideas!
A random rant is scribbled across the page of Leena's journal.
Vampires piss me off. So do their flunkies. I heard of yet another attack on my friends, and I'm losing my patience.
I try to play nice, I try to make sure that people can plot and scheme and play the 'game' of politics of both the undead and mortal realms, but it's all so frustrating and stupid! Parnell, you are a pain in the neck, even without being bitey. I can't even muster the creativity to write much about it at the moment, but that stupid trip we had to take is your fault, AND you lost my prisoner, so I'm doublemiffed at you, you fanged git.
Note to self! Dust the next stupid vampire you see. If they can't focus on these supposedly 'greater threats' like Quentin, and spend their time attacking my friends, then they'll learn to fear the daylight, in the dead of night, so help me Mielikki. I've already put several of them to the wind, and I'll do it again, and again, and again, until they're GONE. This isn't Waterdeep, because I'M here. My FRIENDS are here. We're not letting this stick, you crusty hangers on, so shuffle yourselves elsewhere, or off this immortal coil of yours, before I do it for you.
*Holy ... shit. .. we did it.
Let me back up.
Today, or rather, a couple days ago, I've just barely slept since then, has been a whirlwind. And I don't mean the kind that kicks up leaves in the corner of your vision, looking like a playful, albeit dirty little elemental. No, I'm talking uprooted trees and knocked down walls, buildings tossed over like a child's kicked over toys.
It started, with a portal.
I'd heard tell of where Aoth went, from Peltarch, so I went looking, intending on spending some time with my favorite Circle sister, and found a portal. So, I did what I do, and stepped in.
Horgrim was there ... with three captive Djinn, one of them a noble (Gods I hate noble anything most of the time. Buncha assholes...), and they were discussing Aldoon.
I won't waste much ink on the goings on, other than to say that we might have swayed the Djinn enough for it to be worthwhile to let them go, and make their cause, something to reconsider.
After that, though ... there was a problem.
No sooner had I returned, than did Isolde point me at Rey, since she'd apparently been looking for me, to help figure out a puzzle. Talbot's puzzle.
This is where I insert the obligatory "Fuck that guy." Seriously, I don't regret finishing him off at all. Even reading back on the copies of his journal ... I get it. Man, I really do. I know how that feeling of powerless anger can well up from seeing the 'systems' that men set up being useless and inconsequential. Really, I get it. I get wanting to let my ego tell me that I know better, that I could do better, and that occasionally, everyone else should just get the HELL out of the way and let me work ...
But I don't give into that. That's the quick and dirty path to "Dark Chuckling" and possibly straight into "Mwahaha!" territory. No thanks. The usual anti-Talbot thoughts hit my head, I shook them off, and set to solving the puzzle with Isolde and Rey. Turns out, if we take the hints quite literally ... there was a key UNDER the sundial. The oft-destroyed sundial. If you DIG under it, you find it.
We of course, broke the sundial in moving it (I swear it's made of poorly fashioned glass somehow), and I set to repairing it with stoneshaping while the others dug. Sure enough, we found a stone marker, a key of sorts.
We repeated the process in the Witch and Seer (And made a mess, which I MIGHT hear about from Elaine, if she doesn't just laugh it off!) and then ended up in a fight with a necromancer in the sewers ... some idiot woman who grabbed the coffin we needed to look in, AND the key within it, and then assaulted us with ... Okay, you can't hear it now, but I'm sighing longsufferingly, in the most dramatic fashion ...
Like, hordes of them.
She kept appearing as an image, telling us that we'd never defeat her army of ... (This is another sigh pause, mind you) Haunted Ham.
Yes, she was a Baco-Mancer.
A boar-derline psychopath ... etcetera, etcetera ...
The puns were amusing, but seriously!? This woman, ... stole a coffin, to join her for 'lunch' down there, which was of course, an undead pig on a spit. She at first claimed the woman in the coffin, Prudence, was her sister ... then admitted to making it up cause she was lonely. She had all the undead pigs because her family died, and left her the family pig farm or something, and she wanted to prove that their pigs were the best pigs, so what's the logical thing to do? Raise a pig army, kill them, and raise them again as undead pigs, of course.
Gods above, I hate people sometimes.
Isolde, the soft-hearted woman that she is, wanted to give her a chance to survive, and 'do better', meaning raise regular pigs, STOP doing necromancy, and be 'good', in exchange for her life. The woman, incredulous, of course 'took the offer', but I have this awful feeling that I haven't seen the last of the Haunted Ham. It's not that easy. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and having power over life and 'death', or undeath really ... I don't see anyone giving that up. Granted, she may not make any more ghostly grunters, but I'll bet MY bacon that she'll have undead workers mucking the stalls, feeding the pigs, and the like. Just you watch.
ANYWAY, once we recovered all the keys, we also deciphered the map, Talbot and Marie's little game, and figured out all three locations, so we wasted little time in going to the first one.
OH, before that, coming back from the witch and seer ... we ran into a pack of Blackcloaks, and Jan their little 'leader' under Kurth, who would have attacked us since we were clearly going for the puzzle, save that ... well, I attacked first.
The very earth, with a cracking, groaning sound, reached up and nabbed almost every single one of them, and then the killing began. I don't take my chances with these guys. They'd almost killed several of us before. Attacked us in broad daylight and everything ...
We threw her off our trail with a little bit of convenient 'slip up' of information, and I transported us to the first village ... to find it in FLAMES.
They didn't have the keys, but they had the locations, Kurth and his boys, and if I thought it was a fight before, the ones before were NOTHING. Thank, the, GODS Arty was there. Between all of us, and Arty's balls of lightning flying in to help, we defeated them, but each time Kurth got away, and each time, some of his men did, too.
Keep in mind, we didn't just have to fight these guys ... we had to disable their contingency resurrection magic every time we fought them, or they'd teleport away, and resurrect to fight again.
We made him retreat with a teleport crystal, and found an ancient cave with Oghman script all over the walls, which our little stone keys opened up, to find a key where a third of a book would have sat upon a pedestal once upon a time.
T.A. was scrawled into the pedestal too, go figure.
We repeated the process once more at the second location, once again finding it burning, once again having a bloody nasty knock down drag out fight, with Lady Kathea providing us safety in her home between them, so the idiots combing the docks on our false clue wouldn't catch us ... but after the second fight, things got worse.
Rey, as part of her repentance for past acts, works at the orphanage a couple of times a week.
Kurth's flunkies hit that, tried to kill the Governess, poisoning her badly, and might have killed her and all the kids, had we not arrived to find the Peltarch guards fighting them, with a half a dozen guards already slain or put out of the fight, by of course, blackcloaks.
We slew them with great haste, to rush inside, and found the Governess terribly poisoned, and the children safely in a basement-type hidey hole. Raryldor had shown up, demanding answers like WE had done something wrong, and generally being a GIGANTIC PRICK, but he at least hit the Governess with a HEAL spell ... only to begin being frantic and panicking when it didn't work, and she continued to wither before our eyes.
He panicked, and HEALED her two or three more times, to a similar lack of effect, while I checked her wound carefully. Purplish-black color, but no swelling, constricted breathing, irregular pupil dilation, and that particular smell marked it as probably hundred-legs venom in the poison, which was, go figure, particularly hard to cure with magic.
I did some quick herb work, and his next HEAL spell did the trick almost immediately. To her credit, the Governess, as she lay dying, told Rey that she'd need to come in 5 days a week from now on, ever pushing for that extra effort from Reyhenna.
Well, now we were tired, spent, and FURIOUS. One more break to rest and pray, and we went to the last spot. The spot least likely to be 'hit', because frankly ... it had been wiped out at the beginning of this Kurth mess.
We arrived, to fire, anyway. Every tree in the place had been burned and chopped ... except the one we came in on, which was of course, surrounded. Kurth may be a lot of things, but stupid isn't one of them. The lucky thing, however, was that not all of his men had survived the past fights, with the contingencies disabled ... so we only had just over half a dozen to fight, and of course, brutal Kurth himself.
Once more, I stoneheld the enemies, but the second casting, on the other half of the 'circle' around us, somehow got put too close, and I HELD half of my group, as well. Oh well, even held, they were safe because the enemy was also held, so with myself and Rey under Freedom of Movement spells, we got to work.
The fight was awful. Brutal. Deadly. The men went down after what seemed like hours, and Kurth himself? Well, he was the hardest to kill of all, and seemed almost invincible, down to the very end. I hit him with everything I had, I used every spell I could give myself AND others, and still, he ran circles around us, laughing all the way, swearing at us to give up, and ranting about how the prize was for HIM, and for us to just DIE.
He died, finally, and lost his head just like Talbot.
We returned, having found a few of their enchanted pieces of gear in decent shape, not slashed to pieces or scarred from lightning too badly to be useful, and Reyhenne opened the bag, after denying Marie her 'inheritance' ... AND denying her the only real request she had, which was for her brother's remains, his head, which Rey keeps as a grisly trophy.
Despite Isolde's efforts to get Rey to reconsider, under the promise of Marie not to being him back, Rey would not relent. Rey kept the head. Rey kept the book. And now ... well, now I'm concerned. I trust Rey in a fight, but not always their judgement, and now they have a book of great power in their possession, and I don't know what's going to happen with it.
The course of HISTORY has been changed with that book, or one like it, at least twice, according to the Oghman scholars. What awaits us now?
What awaits us, and how will we view Rey, if she does use it, however she does so?
Gods I hope we were right to trust her.*
_It was a couple days or so after my little encounter with my apprentice, when I found myself back in Peltarch, and encountering Marlene of the Silver Hand once more.
She paraded herself into the commons after a contingent of her knights went marching past toward the residential district, and immediately set in about this "voice" fellow who seems to command Talbot Anderson levels of zealotlike loyalty, just without the obvious machine components to it.
Apparently, a necromancer was being hunted, but there were forces in the way. The Silver Hand needed assistance, and here we were, a fairly large band of us, all set and ready to go.
We went, a whole pack of us, I can't even list all of the names, honestly. Karrick was there, as I spelled him up often, and he made good on the investment time and time again. That farmer fellow who never speaks was there, I think his name is Roy? I remember that because I saved his bacon at the end … my apprentice was there, and Cia for part of it too, and Korra?
Anyway, like the good gullible little adventurers we are, off we set for orc lands, finding ourselves immediately faced with capable orcs with hammers, as one of them came forward to tell us to leave. In typical adventurer fashion, we answered with death, and on we went. The bastards were apparently all loaded up above us, swinging down on ropes to attack at strategic points, all while their leader watched on from above, seeming pleased when we stepped on traps, and sending his troops gleefully down to 'finish us off.'
Honestly, he should have saved the traps for last.
We were fine, and already well coated in the blood of 100 orcs or so, as that fight was just beginning. I saved my spells for the most part, offense wise, til we reached the more open areas, and then all bloody hello broke loose.
The fight happened in stages. An initial swarm, with many orcs breaking right through to the back ranks, and several of them from elsewhere, spreading out to cast spells and wreak havoc on the grouped up party, many of whom had seen the big leader, Orgon or some such, and attacked him, heedless of being surrounded by his other orcs, and hit from all sides.
I cut off from the group to take out a group of casters, and realized that -more- reinforcements were coming, casters -and- warriors, so something had to be done, and adventurers were falling back, bleeding, from the leader now and again. he was going to need some softening up, but first ... his reinforcements.
Slipping and sliding on blood and bits of orcs, I made me way over to the group ganged up on the huge ogre sized orc, I cast south, where the reinforcements were coming from, and told everyone to KEEP OUT of it, to use their bows! STONEHOLD I shouted, and most people listened, as the enemies, nearly every single one, froze in place within a pillar of rock, by walking into my cloud of floating rock dust.
Get spooked by it even a little, or let your mental guard drop, and with a grating noise like two mountains mating, you're stuck.
That let me pay attention to the big boy, who was shouting at adventurers to hold still and fight, whom I gladly obliged by joining in the fray with ... as a gigantic Earth Elemental.
Suck it, Orgon or whatever you name is.
But he, he was just the distraction. Apparently he was warring with the necromancer one, and we were 'just in his way', but with him gone, we were free to pursue our real task, after a blissful moment to rest and refresh.
I had saved plenty of 'oomph', but I'll never pass up the chance to thank Mielikki for my gifts, refresh myself, and charge back in filled to the brim with blessing and might.
So charge we did ... right into strange mist, which animated a fresh corpse into a talking puppet, giving us the usual "Turn back, it's hopeless" speech. Seriously, it's like these guys all read the same shitty playbook for intermediate villanry or something. At least it wasn't written by a Banite. There was a distinct lack of Dark Chuckles, and Mwahaha'ing in general. So at least there's that.
We traveled into the woods, and were immediately met with a much larger army of undead than the smattering of them that we had just faced, including undead BEARS, which on top of pissing me off, made for a VERY tough fight for some of the backline and newer guys, cause dead or not, bears have NO chill, and hit as hard as they can, every time.
Lucky for me, Theaon showed up, so I had an advantage. That golden sword from Mad, my prize for helping her out, does a little fire, and a little ice, and a little divine smackage to undead, but even when it's nearly hopeless against the stronger ones. Nicks and scratches, even elementally ... but with that Greater Magic Weapon blessing ... well, I didn't have to worry about myself as much, which let me set to healing poisoned and injured folks between waves, and waves there were. I mean ... like the OCEAN. You couldn't see the opposite side of the group for the undead that poured in like water between stones, and our moderately well organized group started to fall apart, til we finally broke through again, and made our way further up the mountain.
It was there that we saw a new trick.
Bones. They clatters, and slithered, and stacked upon one another, to make walls without gates, trapping us! Thankfully they weren't hard to break the first times, but got stronger as we went on. Speaking of stronger, the undead gave way to huge ones, colossal zombies making themselves up out of the corpses of the fallen foes we already cut down, reaching down with clawed and grasping hands at those of us capable of drawing breath, wishing to grab us and squeeze it out like juice from overripe fruit.
The small zombies fell with shrieks of protest and sometimes small explosions of bone and viscera as with some of the big guys, and occasionally my own strikes, one was all it took ... while the bears when down after a fight, and the colossal bastards had to be taken down like TREES, hacked away at from below til they fell, and could be properly set upon while they grasped fultilely at bodies.
The bone walls could be chopped down, which I joined in on too, but not before I made a bit of a mistake.
I was juiced, fully spelled up for the most part, and walking through the ranks of the undead untouched, blows that should have hit me, missing by the barest hair, my Premonition spell telling me where to be without having to think about it, delivering a retalitatory cut at whatever almost got me as I walked ... so when the bone TOWER joined the circling bone walls, I didn't think twice. We KNEW we were undeaad hunting, so I was prepared, and when the tower was building, and seemed to be charging up for something ... I cast out a hand, said a word, and a pillar of flame struck down from the sky like a hammer, blowing it to the hells, and letting us move on unmolested by whatever it had planned ... or at least, that was the IDEA!
Instead, negative energy lashed out at everyone, causing cries of pain and dismay, and at least one accusatory glance in my direction, and then aforementioned hell breaking loose happened ... as ghouls and worse BY THE SCORE poured out, negative energy spewing out of the wrecked structure like bees from a kicked hive, but with no stop.
"DISPEL THAT!" I shouted, starting the attack myself, and watching in dismay as my dispel dissipated before it hit the target, scattering uselessly.
Isolde saved the day a few dispels later, and we moved on, only to get another brief respite from Marlene before assaulting the stronghold of that dumbass necromonkey, who immediately surrounded us with another bone cage, this one too strong to smash through physically ... but which fell to a few dispels once we'd had our fill of fighting the minions he summoned in on us, like ogres, bugbears, and those colossal fleshpiles, smashing their rotting fists onto us, some of them not having much effect, and others being dodged desperately, nimble feet being the difference between life and death.
He must not have been paying close attention, because between taunts and bellowing, and us getting through the wall, the necromancer tried to run, and was swarmed, screaming insults and threats, and finally collapsing in his death throes ... when I sensed what was coming. A pulse of negative energy was about to pop like a demonic pimple, and a dozen people were standing right on top of it. Like a death-curse, this was going to take -someone- out.
I was a second too late to counter the stupid thing with positive enegy, but with the last cast of my blessed chalice, I struck the area with a Healing Circle, splashing the holy liquid about, and jut as I saw the fellow named Roy go down, the liquid hit him, and he stood again, looking shocked to be alive.
The cup crumbled into golden motes of shining dust in my hand, and I let the rest fall to the ground in a glittering pile with a sign. "Worth it." Of course it was.
We made it out, to once again face Marlene, who went off about more holier than thou nonsense before granting us a Word of Recall, all of us, back to Peltarch. Then they passed out bags as thanks, with a diamond, a stack of healing potions (Or a couple stacks, actually!) and some powerful combat potions as well.
All in all, worth it, despite the fact that it was like wading through a stream of undead organs, pulsing and slithering about, each dismembered bit complete with the intent of killing you.
Even more worth it ... my apprentice Imizel said that I was "Impressive." I asked her what she meant, and apparently I do alright when I'm "Going all out." That made me smile, and I hope I can make up for the one bad impression I left with more good ones like this.
With days like this, it makes it -real- hard to think about planning a wedding. . .
I sure hope Arty has a plan for this thing._
I would go from 'having' a nightmare, to 'living' one. If I don't get too distracted to write about our nightmarish necromancer fight …
That's not to say that my life is a nightmare, but putting things to paper will help me think through the situations, and how I ended up in each.
An apprentice walk started things, which ended up diving deep into an abandoned dwarf temple in Jiyyd. Things were going fine. Me, Aoth, Imizel, Korra, and Keerla, all out together.
We traversed the forgotten temple through the fountain's entrance, broken down as it was, and found mostly empty areas all the way back, where previously, there had been demons. We'd seen none in Jiyyd proper, nor nearby, though the last times I went under the well I saw some smaller ones.
We moved back, finding crystal spiders to fight (Surprisingly tough), and then ... catching sight of a dwarf. Then several. Then ... axes.
They threw axes, so we brought the fight, and fought a couple dozen altogether, before moving on, and encountering their casters, who of course, started the party with dispels.
Examining their corpses, all of them, however, brought up the most disturbing thing of the trip, though. They were demontainted. Corrupted. Go figure.
I don't know how long those have lived back here. They had nothing of worth on them, but they were dirty. Crazed. Lost. Wandering aimlessly til we came, they gave the impression of true Revenants. Leftovers, discarded, forgotten.
We moved on, and forgot them too, as we moved to the Temple of Helm to rest, and between the lot of us, we took various naps and breaks, as we'd gone a long way, and spoke much of many things. It was time for it ...
And then, she appeared. Marlene of the Silver Host, Torm's divine champion "The Voice" was their leader, though he was not present, and Marlene spouted much about "Driving out Evil" And that all evil in men's hearts was the cause for such grief in our lands. Once she and her order exterminated all evil, then surely peace would follow.
Aoth played the whole thing less diplomatically than I, which is surprising, as I gave the woman encouraging lip service, before she moved on, the better to both keep her talking, yet get to the end of her talking, soonest.
After our various rests, however, plans of going further East in our trek turned to calling it for the day, so back across the scar we went, only to see clouds move in front of the sun, and a familiar face peering out from beneath shaded trees, with wares. Jin'Lek, the Drow we let live in return for helping us save that Djinni.
Imizel was NOT happy with that, OR my purchases.
You know what? I get it. I look one way from the outside, but am far more ruthless and calculating in person, up close, when I account for risks, and to what means I'll go to get a thing done. If she'd seen that these stupid Abyssal Ooze containers saved our arses against a literal army in the old temple, maybe she'd understand. And maybe not.
Don't get me wrong, I get that anything Abyssal in nature, even if it's only a weapon on the Prime because of how it reacts with the environment here, seems like something you don't -want- up here. But it doesn't leave a lasting taint, or influence the prime in any significant way. I'd have noticed. She doesn't need to just take my word for it though, Drow-buddy that I am.
Hey, he helped us kill more drow than just him, and we can make use of his willingness to help us do it again. That's good enough for me ... I wonder what she'll think if any of the old elders come back, like Hargakku. Don't like drow? How about Bugbear? Maybe Bonegnasher the Ogre? Perhaps I need to find the four-leafed-clover of Druids, and recruit a Drow-id. Oh Gods, I'm cheesy.
Anyway ... I should wrap this up, and write about our minor war against the Orcs, next. First an army with a giant leader, and then a necromancer one who underestimated our cleverness by a lethal amount.
For now ... I think I'll go see if I can check up on my newest apprentice, Cia. She requested it when I invited her in, so the first time, I have TWO apprentices. Maybe ... maybe I'll be able to keep them this time!_
Pushing my red hair out of my face, there was still nothing but red ... and then the flat grey of steel!
Both swords up, I braced myself, and nearly got swept from the cliff at my back anyway, the power of the giant driving the blade my way almost being too much for me, even enhanced as I was.
The other colors came back into focus, so many shades of white, all flecked in red anyway. The battle was raging everywhere, but for me ... I was alone. I went ahead, to position myself to take some of the flak from the lower level, so the others could take the casters out, knowing that I only had to hold on for a bit. Just long enough to let my spells take some of the damage for me, and then I could move.
Blue, bright and shining, hammered into me, or would have, if not for another spell, taking the brunt of the energy and dissipating it in a shower of sparks on my right side, making the giant flinch back, as if fearing a rebound.
Swords flashed out, the giant gasped in surprise, and then groaned in dismay, the ropey unraveling of their insides spilling onto the snow to steam, and spill red around them, and stink. GODS battle reeks. Nobody ever talks about that ...
I took the moment to turn on the goblin, a snow goblin of course, who had been dashing in under the giants attacks that I had to block with both swords, to hit me when I was distracted, and he was most displeased to get my attention finally. He fell looking displeased, his body a twitching marionette with most of it's strings cut, it's head glaring accusingly at me from my feet.
I kicked it clear, as the ground around me was already getting hard to traverse with corpses, and was about to resume my assault on the caster goblins who seemed immune to harm until you'd put ten enemies worth of killing on them, finally falling with a glazed over look, and breaking the rituals assaulting Jerrick's mountain. Farking arcanists...
My enthusiasm for the task of making progress faded fast, though ... as the whistling of something big clued me in to duck, but it wasn't soon enough, and stone chips flew as I was struck by a gigantic hammer. Again, thank Mielikki for my magic, or I'd have been a Leena-shaped imprint in the mountain, with a red smear of an outline ...
Turning to face this new threat, I was greeted with THREE giants. Not one. Not two. Not two giants and a goblin ... three farkin giants, and four or five gobs. I gasped, but not in surprise, taking in a breath for a shout to Talos, one sword held to the sky in defiance, the answering lightning killing the goblins on the spot, and shocking the giants into faltering slightly in their attack, while I reset my feet to take the attacks of THREE Ice Giants.
This was looking worse, and just as I was assessing the wounds of the giants to see which one wouldbe my first victim ... the goblins were replaced with two more giants, and my sense of calm assessment of the battle was replaced with dread. I was fucked.
Five giants. Caster goblins behind, pegging me with small electric spells and magic missiles which would eventually get past my shield spell, and the only escape being a chasm below with no visible bottom.
Tactics, then. I could fall back to the others, see why nobody had made it to back me up, and seemingly not made it to the other casters yet, to break the ritual on their side.
I had about half the potion down, when I realized that someone HAD come to back me up, my own confusion at seeing the shape mirrored by the confusion of the giants as they wondered where the injured redhead went, going so far as to peek over the edge to see if I had fallen ... and I saw Mom.
Lorelai, my mother, had come to back me up. Loreie the werecat, the caster, the arcanist with the crossbow and spell, the claw and the cunning ... suddenly the new target of attention from my foes. I fucked up, and she was the new target. All I needed was a moment to chug the healing. Surely she'd move. Run. Dodge. Go invisible herself!
The relief I felt at seeing her casting the familiar spell slipped away from me like ice off of a warming window, as a goblin, unseen, hit her and disrupted her spell. It took two steps for my cadre of giants to find her, and I'll never forget the sound I heard.
The hammer found her, and her spells are NOT like mine. Stoneskin, and Premonition let me either TAKE or DODGE attacks, the magic wearing off from either gradually, and letting me use it to defend myself against things I have no right standing up against ... and Mom has no such thing.
The sound the hammer made when it hit her turns my stomach, almost dropping me into the snow, and there was no sign of her beneath it. The hammer hit her, and continued down to hit the snow, crushing her beneath it. I couldn't even hear her cry for help. The was that horrifying crunch, the satisfied grunt of the giant, and then finally a scream rent the air ... but it was mine.
I screamed, charging in without healing myself the rest of the way, my light, fast, steps turned heavy, and in two strikes, the offending giant fell dead, his head a pulp of red and grey, some of it missing because it was still stuck to my fist, now the fist of a gigantic earth elemental.
My taller vantage point let me SMASH a goblin under my feet, and see the red spread below me as I shrugged off hits from the four remaining giants, one of whom I pushed off the ledge, trying to get to Mom, to recover her body, since there was NO way she lived through that, a prayer for help on my lips as I started losing any hope of us winning this fight. Saving Dad. Any of it.
EVERY single thing we killed, no matter how fast, was replaced by two. Or more. The ONLY time they let up, was when we were able to disrupt the rituals, where they finally bled off ... and presumably fortified the next rituals even more.
I couldn't hit fast enough. I couldn't kill efficiently enough. Even my massive pillars of rock for arms couldn't swing quickly enough to get to her, but I was making progress ... until another figure appeared. A hooded man-shape in armor of green knelt where my mother's blood painted the snow, but her body was still crushed into the snow so hard that I couldn't see it yet ... and he picked her up from the hole, and VANISHED.
I didn't know WHO made the rituals, who led them, and had to believe that the enemy hadn't just bodysnatched my mother from the battlefield. I HAD to ... or there was no way I'd win.
I retreated, then, to rejoin the others. Leaping off the ledge to pancake another goblin below, I found the others under just as much assault as I was, and they had been cut off from the rope I used to get up there the whole time, so I murdered the hell out of anything near -that-, and waded my way through corpses to get to them.
Every crunch of a corpse became Mom. Every spill of red onto the snow because hers, and every goblin's shriek became her calling my name ...
I killed her a dozen times in that battle, before I woke, screaming, and waking poor Artemis.
I watched all of that dream from above, and within ... like I had a bird above me relaying the battles, even while I was in them ...
I might be drugging myself to sleep for a few nights at this rate. We won, and Mom was at the restreat point in the lodge when we left that battle, the strange man having brought her there, whole, somehow ... and then it made sense when we won. It was Silvanus all along. He couldn't interfere with the enemy, but he could with us, especially a mortal who wasn't IN the battle anymore, lying broken in the snow.
She didn't remember it, for which Im thankful ... but hells, I do.
I remember. And wish I didn't.
Maybe Aoth has it right. I need a drink._
_Just when I thought I was done crying .. .
I talked with Aoth, I talked with Arty, I got hugs from Val, and hugged Tindra hardest of all. She lost the other half of her, that day, too. Well, lost is a strong term, but I know what I mean, and reader, you do too.
I spent a couple days in Peltarch. I wanted to settle myself into the familiar, and just … Be. I thought it would help, and it kind of did. That is, until Silvanus himself walked into the commons to put something into Val's hand ... and my own gift was already in mine, too.
I found it in my home, and somehow managed to completely miss the little statue of Mom that sat upon a letter on my way out ... so I happened across it NOW. You know, right when I had a break from the tears._
I am leaving my diary in case I don’t get to the chance to say this all to you face to face. If things go as we all planned, we will have stopped the assault and saved Jerrick.
If things go as I plan, I am staying with Jerrick.
I’m sorry if this upsets you. You and Elaine took it hard when Jerrick left us back when you were still our little kittens. But you both are grown up now and I… I need Jerrick. My heart aches to be away from him for so long. I’m starting to get old, my hair has streaks of grey. I should be getting old with Jerrick! And I believe he needs me too. That night in the snow when his footsteps approached me, I could feel his sadness, his loneliness. He misses me as much as I miss him.
So, I plan to stay. I’ll argue with the gods till they let me stay, if I must. I know staying with him means I probably won’t be able to leave that mountain either. I’m fine with this. Like I said, I’m getting old. Narfell has a new generation of heroes to answer the call. Like you.
You have grown so much. You have succeeded in life beyond anything I could have hoped for. You have found happiness with Arty. I gave him some advice that I give to you, too. Don’t be willing to die for each other. Rather, be willing to live for each other. Be there for him and with him. When he succeeds, cheer him on. When he falls, help him up. And let him do the same for you. Tell Elaine that, too, for her and Jonni.
And don’t dismiss the idea of having kids! I believe my greatest legacy is that of being a mother. You and Elaine are my greatest treasures. Jerrick gave me Love. Tindra gave me Forgiveness. But you and Elaine gave me Meaning.
Please keep an eye on Tindra for me, though I’m sure she’ll think she’s keeping an eye on you for me. I can tell Tindra is still trying to find her place in life. She let me have her old one, after all. I owe her a lot.
Look out for Tojan, too. She’s accepted my decision, but I know she’s sad. Pixies put on a show of being carefree, but I know they can suffer like no other when it comes to sadness. She’ll be fine, especially if she stays with Tindra. She’ll still have a Kitty.
You and Elaine will always be in my heart. You’ll always be in Jerrick’s heart, too. Be happy that we are together again. Keep us in your hearts.
Love you always and forever,
_I am … overwhelmed.
Overcome with ... I can't even pin it down to one feeling.
One one hand, I'm lost. I'm lost, and FEEL loss. So many adventurers come here with tragic pasts, having lost both parents, and I was spoiled, not only growing up with mine, but getting to train with them to lead a life like theirs, a life of purpose, and challenge.
I HAD all that ... then lost Dad to duty. Now I lose Mom, to the same duty. I remember choking up in Peltarch's commons when people asked about Dad, and being ... just being SO MAD. It wasn't FAIR of the Gods to take him like that. You can't make an offer like that to someone like Dad, and pretend it's free will! That's like offering a fat kid cakes, or a list of chores. It's no contest!
I was heartbroken .. and whenever I met people who knew Dad, and would say how much like him I was, I would get happy from the high praise, then sad that I may never be able to show him, then angry at the circumstances that led to him being away from me.
Now, on the side of a mountain, surrounded by goblins and ice giants, covered in blood that froze to my skin shortly after touching me, only to melt again as I fought, and refreeze when i walked, I realized I'd get to see Dad, and was ecstatic for a chance to see him, to show him how well I did, to make him proud!
And I realized I never thought about Mom.
Mom, who's lost SO much. Who had to sacrifice with Tindra, giving and taking, just to live her own life, and without such, wouldn't have been able to truly be with Dad at all... and it's because of that, that me and Elaine are even HERE.
Mom, you raised your kittens well, but one of them still ended up selfish, and silly, sometimes. And for that, I'm sorry.
You don't deserve my jealousy, or my anger. You deserve my love, and support, and my pride in you, risking it all not just to save Peltarch (Again), but to be with the one you love. I just wrote that I too, would go through an army to be with Arty. How can I fault you for the same?
I can't stop crying, now, and even as my heart breaks every time someone enters the commons who looks or dresses or smells like you at a glance, I KNOW you're there to stay, and I should be happy. And soon, I will be, I promise. I know it. I just ... I miss you both, now. Aoth says I'm going to see you out of the corner of my eye a lot, and she's been right so far. I hope I can get used to the idea that it IS you, watching proudly, even if it's not really you, coming over to give me one of your amazing hugs, and slip those little proud Mom-ments (Comments from Mom, of course!) into conversations about how proud you are of me.
Silvanus had better be taking good care of you two up there. I'm going to practice my Transport via Plants spell a LOT, now, to make sure that I can keep tabs on that mountain, and be able to visit once you guys have fixed the disaster brought upon the place by those pale-skinned bastards.
Silvanus, if you're reading this over my shoulder as I write, or listening through the tree I write this from in my house, thank you for making that possible. I promise I'll try not to resent you for it ... but to be honest, selfish kitten that I am, the gift for my part in what happened does make up for it a bit. I'm going to use it to save people, to turn the tides of terrible battles just like we did when we started working together better, to save Dad.
Dad, you take a break for a while, share the burden with Mom, and enjoy her company. Seriously, enjoy yourselves! Work hard when you need to, as I know neither of you will be able to help yourselves from doing, but seriously ... set that place up and come visit or something.
Mom ... I'm going to hurt for a while. And if you and Dad are watching now and then, if you see it, I'm sorry. I want SO badly just to be happy for you, but it's going to take time. I got SO used to you just ... being here. Show Dad the sword. Tell him I miss him. Know that I miss you.
By the way, you're both invited to the wedding. I'm thinking the Jiyyd project, whatever it ends up being, will make for a nice venue. And if anything tries to crash it ... well, me and Arty are not only US, but with friends like ours ... anything uninvited is FARKED.
I love you both, and can't write any more at the moment because ink smears when you cry on it, apparently. Which is bullshit. I'm going to cry it out, I'm going to probably disrupt the local weather patterns for a while, and then I'm going to pick myself up out of my salty puddle, get my shit together, and resume doing what I always do. Hunting down the bads, helping out the goods, and making you both proud.
You better be watching.
I'm gonna be fine.
I miss you already.
_It started out with a nagging feeling.
Something that was said, an averted glance, a conversation that diverted before it was over.
I pushed it all from my mind as we boarded the boat. The boat to Praka. The mountain. To Dad.
Arty was at my side as ever, with Val along too, a figure of legend from my childhood. Yep, legendary adventurer babysitters. No wonder I ended up like I am. Heh…
We boarded the boat, and landed to see ... something awful. A pile of bodies burning on the cold ground, barely melting the ice around it. Burning bodies are no new thing to adventurers ... especially since I'm usually the one doing the burning, but these people?
They didn't die to combat. They died to hunger, cold, and despair. The mountain had all but fallen, the protections for the lands having fallen harder closer to it ... Peltarch's snow was nothing. This ... this was Auril's will, right here. It's amazing that we are able to keep balance at all, when those such as the furies can be content with this.
They have their place, but it reminds me that without agents such as Druids to keep them all balanced on the Prime, we'd be fighting back things like this ... with no real way to prevent the toll in lives between finding out about new threats like this.
We were directed to Morrison, after being asked if we were here with food and blankets ... (And yes, I've already returned with such for them while they recover), and it was there that we found out just how bad it was. The man before us, though? He was ecstatic to see us, but not surprised! He saw us in a vision, he said. He knew we would come, to help the man on the mountain.
And help the man we did.
It turns out, that these arcanists were enacting rituals to weaken the barrier around Jerrick, Dad, and we had to defeat all of them before we could hope to reach him. Problem is ... well, there were THOUSANDS of snow goblins, and giants among them, between us and him. So. Many. Giants.
Things got crazy. Each altar had four guardians, snow goblin stormcallers, their eyes glazed over, focused on the ritual, and NO MATTER HOW HARD WE HIT THEM they did not falter, or even show signs of pain, or damage ... at least until we sicced Rasuil on them.
After being pushed back a couple times, well ... using an opportunity to fall back, really, after reaching our goals each time, and thinking I lost Mom once when a strange man picked her up out of the snow, and harm's way ... we came up with better plans. Go in invisibly, surround the ritual, defend Ras while he murders the HELL out of the casters, get out.
I used SO MANY POTIONS, and spells, and even shifted into an elemental to be better able to shrug off their damage some, taking the giants on face to face, reveling in the surprise on their faces with their dispels didn't send me away, and instead, got a big rocky fist in their faces.
I chugged five or more heal potions, I blew millions of pieces of goblin off the mountain with blasts of lightning, and had my ass saved when I bit off more than I could comfortably chew by Arty, Val, Ras, Fadia, Theaon, Mom, and of course, Aoth. I can't tell you how many goblin pancakes there are from my elemental-shaped rampage ... but I can tell you the despair and then confusion I had when I saw Mom fall, and then get vanished by a stranger in green.
That stranger .. we saw back at the lodge between battles, with a disoriented Mom at his side, as he spoke vaguely of being very much on our side, and doing what he's able, to help.
Soon enough, once we got our technique down, we CRUSHED the remaining altars, driven by desperation, having had to leave Theaon behind at the lodge after about half of them were taken care of ... further lessening our power. We pressed on nonetheless, and finally, crested the summit ... invisible ... to nary a goblin in sight!
Giants, instead, nearly FILLED the plateau, waiting for us, but thankfully not ready with True Sight, which gave me a moment to take a few things, and gather up my courage, and of course ... a LOT of lightning to go with it. That's when all hell broke loose.
Arty, Gods bless my beautiful Arty, raised his hands to the sky, and I swear I heard him laugh, hair standing on end, and he FILLED the air with lightning. Balls and arcing lines, while I dropped it from the sky in deadly lances, which the giants had nowhere to hide from. Flesh sizzled, giant screams shook snow from the trees and rocks, and my ears rang from the cacophony of sound and impact. It was ... insane.
Then I saw her.
The giants had been shielding their leader, a woman, no a creature ... of snow and ice and hate and spite. She turned her little eyes to me and shrieked, and I stood there a moment, before finally joining the fight, half confused, and half blinded with rage. THIS was what had been besieging my father. THIS was what was responsible for those poor souls in Praka that FROZE to death! THIS was the reason I was stuck wading through ANOTHER army with Aoth, this one more fearsome, and the stakes, somehow higher.
I flew at her, blades flashing, and found that while I could hurt her, sometimes ... even my enchanted swords were having trouble piercing her icy hide.
So I snapped.
I wanted nothing more than to melt this awful thing, this hag, this overgrown bitchsicle ... so I let my rage simmer, then flare, then consume me, and took the shape of a fire elemental, much to her disppointment and brief look of panic.
NOW my strikes hurt her. Now, little patches of melt took her as we piled the hurt on, and she started trying to target the weaker of us, those who wouldn't hold up as well hand to hand, but that left her back open, and we struck without mercy.
She fell, eventually, after what FELT like a day and a night, and we stood there panting, shocked that it finally seemed -over- ... only the grove lay ahead, with what seemed to be a lone figure within, when another figure appeared. The hooded man in green.
When he cleared the path, congratulating us as he did so, he spoke about -his- putting Jerrick here, and other details that made it clear.
This ... was Silvanus.
Half of me watned to hit him for a brief moment, for taking Dad ... but I knew that this was as much his choice as the God's. Dad held me and Mom for a long time, bantered with Ras, and presumably threatened Arty like a loving father tends to do when I introduced my wonderful fiancee, but a thumbs up told me that all was taken in stride, and well.
He addressed everyone, Val as an old friend, Aoth as a new one ... and then Mom dropped the rock on us.
She was staying.
I admit that I was a bundle of emotions already, and that did NOT help ... but GODS did it make sense. I'd fight -another- army to get to Artemis if he was taken from me. And as much as Captain Fortescue is a stick in the mud, he's right. It WOULD take an army to stop me.
So how can I blame her?
She deserves this. THEY deserve this ... and Silvanus, in his mercy, wisdom, and a complete lack of surprise, stated that since Jerrick's weakness in defending the mountain was that he could not protect as well from Arcane with his Divine gifts ... it made sense to keep Lorelai there, and just like that, he cast a spell on her, and we had time for goodbyes, before we were forced outside the little grove, and I had to say goodbye to BOTH of my parents this time._
Tears dot the page at this point, but not many, and the journal appears to pick up again on the next page, as if the author had to take a break.
_It's almost time.
Talking to Mom, I've heard SO many named from the past, people who saw me grow up, people who knew Dad, people that may not have, but are the closest people TO us, who we can trust with something this terrifying, and with such a high price if failure occurs.
I can't lose Dad. Not again.
Knowing he's up on the mountain, doing the Gods' task, that lets me have some peace of mind, and I can focus on my own tasks. All of them, as crazy and varied as they are, can be worked on without worrying about Dad in the back of my mind. Doesn't stop me from missing him like crazy, of course … but it's enough, for now.
Currently, I have little on my mind aside from this trip to Praka, except for the weather, which is of course, related.
I'm concerned, since I haven't heard back from anyone in Peltarch yet, that my words of warning and offers of assistance, are going to go unheeded. WINTER is coming, you dumbasses, and I'm willing to bet you haven't stored enough food to weather one, with our decades of demon-rift summer keeping us warm all this time.
Don't get me wrong ... I don't have to give a rat's ass about Peltarch. Norwick is hardy, they have their chauntean temple, and I'm sure they'll do fine. They don't have as many mouths to feed, nor people who will perish easily under lessened rations, and a few lean months.
City folk may not fare as well, and if people start falling ill from lack of food, in a city like that? Talona will spread her arms and laugh, welcoming them all into her embrace, without needing a single agent there to do the work for her.
I offered to turn our circle to help them, and have heard silence back since ... so my conscience is clear, but my mind is not. How the hell do you walk a line like this? "Hey, your city is gonna starve. I bet your food reserves are low." probably sounded like a threat to the Herald, who didn't seem to take me seriously til I said it ... but even as much as I'm around, I haven't heard a word back.
Dad is on that mountain the first place, because somebody needed to save bloody Peltarch from the storms, and floodwaters, and icy hell falling from the sky. The freak weather threatening to smash the 'jewel' like a little glass bauble, was the result of a powerful natural nexus of power being played with by malevolent elemental princes, like children with a pile of gnomish fireworks.
I hope they reach out before it's too late to help, and all we can do is manage symptoms, rather than treat the 'problem'. I've done what I can for their crops in the fields on my own, but I don't dare march any of the Druid allies we've made out in force, or even ask, if there's even the slightest chance that any of them will be seen as some kind of invading force, or treated with suspicion.
Your move, city folk.
See you soon, Dad._
_I still remember the smell of the acrid smoke, that slightly sulphiric smell, with the hint of still-burning fire in my nose, and the gust of air that came billowing out over the docks.
And then outside the Mermaid.
And then INSIDE the mermaid.
The screams were the worst part, I think. Terrified people who doubtless have seen the occasional 'monster', undead, spirit, or other adventurer-town-riddled anomaly … terrified of this new occasion. Their world turning to fire around them, that pressure of being thrown from your feet as if from a giant's kick, only to feel the rush of dragonbreath-like heat wash over you immediately after ... must feel like the end of the world.
Even on four paws, with a belly full of magical ice-breath, it was all I could do to keep the wolf-mind in me from running, fleeing these individual forest-fires of certain loud death. My whiskers felt the air get shoved brutally around, my poor sensitive nose was on FIRE, and my fur crisped up at the ends when I had to get too close to some of the fire to put it out.
But put it out I did.
Others used water, and mundane methods, but Druids, of course, cheat. For once, nobody chastised me for icing everything over, nor gave me the usual "Showoff" comment. I think we were perhaps, all too somber in that moment, realizing that whatever had prompted this attack was probably because of adventurers, and it only made sense than an enemy would strike back like this one day. Smarter. Stealthier. Like us.
The summons found me shortly thereafter. Steadfast Roslyn wanted me on the strike team, so I of course, accepted. The coming weeks were full of scouting, planning, and recruitment. People who had shown aptitude in covert ops, or the ability to follow orders and execute a plan, were chosen.
We prepped, we prepared, and we set out, to engage deadly Yuan-Ti, well equipped and deadly Kobolds, and even some who seemed ... tainted, somehow. This was doubly concerning to me, but not altogether surprising, given that there were Yuan-ti involved.
There were two problems.
One, a large group is hard to move and communicate in, even when people have their determined roles and 'groups', like we started doing during the Rift War.
Two, hallways. Give me a force to battle, and I'll almost always choose a hallway. Sure that limits me on target range with lightning, and power, since the stuff has to travel through ground to be able to work in such places, but it's more than that. If you can only be reached by a couple of foes at a time, your options become very simple, especially with archer backup. Until the area spells happen.
Cloudkill. My lungs STILL feel like they're burning, even now. My eyes water thinking about it, hells.
Acid, negative energy, fire, all kinds of things were laid upon us in our little clumps, but to be fair, we gave as good as we got in that regard, and didn't end up having any TOO close calls .. until we decided, or were forced into, taking on a literal army.
That's when things got expensive.
If they managed to push us back to where we'd have to move our frontliners out of danger, they'd quickly full the hallway, and we'd be trampled down like nothing. If they filled the hallway with enough Cloudkill, or fire, or ice storms ... there's not much we could do there but try to out-drink them in potions, til they were out of spells to throw. And that option, sucked.
So I brought out the big toys.
Two orbs of Abyssal ooze, one of which caught an arrow mid throw and hurt OUR guys too ... dammit, and two scrolls. Creeping Doom is a hell of a spell. Insets rise up from everywhere, and begin biting. At first, it's painful enough to distract, and start slowing you down, as you realize that you're literally surrounded, and slowly being covered in them. And the more the cover, the more they bite. The more they bite, the more it hurts. The more it hurts, the more you scream, and the wider your mouth.... well, you get the idea.
I should probably put some of this gold to use, and look for more Druidic scrolls of stuff I'd use more, if it wasn't for how rarely it's needed, exactly like Creeping Doom.
Anyway, we crept forward, a doom of our own for any who encountered us, eventually making our way to a lab ... where a very intense fight occurred. Things really went to shit, in there, but it's true what they say. No plan survives first contact.
We went in invisibly, the lot of us, which saved probably half of our number honestly, right off the bat. We came up quickly against multiple Yuan-Ti with their hulking Saurial bodyguards, and I looked for the one in charge, giving orders and slinging spells, who I found quickly enough, and was already dealing with a few facefuls of angry swordswinging from others.
It took a moment, but I found Karrick, and then another group, running back and forth from them, taking down their enemy with them, healing, and moving to the next, using the chaos as my springboard to thin the herd, and stack the deck against their little leader.
I heard someone go down, and a shout to help them, but they did not rise again.
I did not hear the second we lost, but I hear it was quick, at least.
I wish they had made it, but I did not have time to take my attention from the foe to dash across a room full of battle, to find someone who might already be past my help, and then die myself, for my trouble.
Instead, I took advantage of that panic, while another group clustered up to help the fallen. Multiple threats already been dealt with, so I had a single moment that seemed to last FOREVER, where a plan formed.
Nobody had hurt the leader much, yet, despite me seeing her get smacked about a bit earlier, so it was time for the one-two combo! I just needed Arty to ... well, Arty wasn't there. So, I did it. A Greater Dispel seemed surprisingly effective, and her attempts to cast more protections was quickly put our of her mind with arrow, blade, and spell, suddenly much more focused on her!
With how long we were down there, I think my fellow adventurers were ready to see this place behind them, and they renewed their attack on her with vigor, while I had both blades busy doing their grisly work, a greater bull's potion making me hit like a bear. Which I admit, I thoroughly enjoy.
The enemies fell, the fallen were raised back at the docks, and the loot split yielded some pretty fantastic looking stuff, but none of it was really anything that would do the trick for me. Except that ONE thing ...
I now have a scroll of Storm of Vengeance.
I maaaaay have cackled like a Banite a little bit. Maybe.
Now I sit after a relaxing bath, finishing this entry, and feeling good for it. The only thing I worry about in this one moment, is whether next week will see vengeance upon Peltarch for the death of one of the Yuan-Ti leaders, or the beginning of this war the Creel have promised.
Whatever comes, I'm as ready as I've ever been, I guess. I just can't help but think that in both instances ... we missed something important.
Please don't let this be another N'Jast situation in the making..._
The arrogant, ignorant, bloody little fool.
Should I be thankful, or relieved, that things came to light because they were confessed? Now my timeline's all messed up, and I have to risk assigning random significance to events I thought I had figured out to a degree, because somebody thought they were above the warnings.
This tree is going to be the death of my patience.
Those vamp bastards had better have gotten my letter, and not further inconvenienced me by killing my only good source of information, even if she IS mad as a hatter, and probably addled in the head from being alone with such a thing for so long.
I'm tired of playing nice, playing their games, and trying to keep those around me from falling LITERAL prey to stupid assumptions. Oh, if the vampire is not attacking, it must be a friend! It's giving us information, SURELY there's no way THIS can go wrong! Oh hey, it's enemy is ours too! Let's take their side!
People … are idiots.
I think I'm beginning to understand why my father was so frustrated so often. In an effort to be flexible, people stop making sense entirely sometimes, as if the rest of their lifetime of morals or goals can be conveniently pushed aside in a moment for a half-hearted hope at today being easier.
I must write this down, and then re-read it, to see just how bitter I've become, and combat it. If I keep down this path, I'll end up like Raryldor, elitist and judgemental, mercurial in my approval and disdain as he, and THEN where will I be?
The sunshine and optimism part of me knows that if I can just prove things, show everyone what lies under the surface of my enemies and their plots, even if it costs me to do so, it will be worth it, and things will be BETTER because of it. The other half of me, the realist, sees the judgement, hears their whispers, and wants to lash out until I MAKE them understand.
And then, there's Aoth. And her misbegotten "order" .
I'll be honest here, if nowhere else. Should I see the betrayer in their midst again, should she survive whatever sentencing is going to come down upon her, she'd better HOPE she's not alone.
When I looked her in the eyes, and said that she seems the type to chase power regardless of consequence, the heavens should have made a sound like a bell, to ring out with the crystal sound of an absolute truth.
And it was worse than I thought.
Rumors make their way to me from all corners.
Maybe people trust me to look into, or say, what they fear to, knowing that I'm a blunt instrument. Maybe people trust me to just let them speak, and not chastise them for feeling the way they feel?
Laerune is not the only one to question in that Order, and with Aoth gone, I have only Tindra remaining in their ranks that I care about personally. The others, I question, and WILL find out more about, one way or another. They're not getting a shot like -that-, again. Who even DOES that? Puts themselves on a pedestal where scrutiny is inevitable, then messes up THAT badly?
Well, these aren't the only rumors I've heard about lately. Time to go necromancer hunting, next. This is Elvadriel all over again, except this time, it's someone I barely know. Someone who I've bestowed the blessing of nature onto, and healed the wounds of, no less.
I fear a turning point is coming. One where I can no longer include -people- in how I treat the neutrality of balance. You're either going to be WITH me, or against me. With betrayal happening this 'close to home' so to speak, I'm reminded sourly of the Skull-faced dwarf and his companions and kin. If he'd been snuffed out early, would his influence have spread anyway?
Bleh, I'm rambling horribly now. I'm just ... SO mad. At least Aoth talked to me, and I THINK I was able to make it clear that I trust her, and understand where she was coming from with the Order, and wished that it had worked out.
I hope that she'll still respect me when I start drawing more lines in the sand in the days to come. Some of this shit, has gone on long enough!_
_Well, I was worried about Dad.
Damn it all, I was right.
Apparently, unbeknownst to me, Dad has been seen several times, in several places, by several people … and I'm just now learning about it. To be fair though, I've been -really- busy.
My new apprentice seems to be doing well, and with the recent arrival of a wildling, Sasa, an opportunity for us woodsfolk to put her at ease came up. We all went wildshape-hunting in the swamps, together. Just this ... huge, rolling, mauling, pile of animals.
It was beautiful.
We got into shenanigans with the Cerulean Pliskin, and ended up battling a very powerful orc mage in his fortress, which was amusing, hairy, and mentally challenging at the same time, and landed me a cool cup, too!
And then ... there's the children. The brat that I saved from dorwning when it turned out that the teddy bear the Rust Fetishist gave her was actually a portal 'key' tied to the elemental plane of water, that was actually located in Ashald Park's little pond, which turned out to be an ancient nigh-abandoned temple within, which ended up being a very long sentence after all.
These kids keep popping up. Norwick, Peltarch, doesn't matter. Their poor Governess, Grigna, apparently has simply too much work and too many kids to keep track of, so like a rogue band of adventurers, these ones "leave notes" and take off.
Like, for example, to find this girl's doll, which we obviously took, because it's siren's call nearly drowned her. Or to find the "Abominable Snowman" , which turned out to be the equally Abominable-inclined Snowgre ... Horgim.
Each time these kids venture out, like this, they risk death. Worse than we do, because we can defend ourselves, but it makes me think.
Between Captain Fortesque's comments about bringing in the entire army to deal with our misguided adventurer attempts to "help" at the bank, and these kids basically being the biggest pains in the ass ever ... but in the exact same way WE would ... what kind of example are we setting?
I was NOT ready for this kind of revelation, today.
Back to the point at hand, though. Yes, I've been busy, but once I found out from Mom why she's seemed so upset, that she encountered Dad, I got everyone up, asked the Gods for their aid to tell him we wanted to see him, to show us to him, and him to us ... and he appeared. As a ghostly wolf, in pain, and barely there, but he was -there-. I had heard he chose such an avatar before, when he visited others from the mountain, so it wasn't a surprise, but what WAS surprising ... was how worn out he looked.
So I scryed.
We saw the mountain, at Praka.
We saw circle of mages working ritual magic ... and not the nature kind. We saw goblins, and giants, both of the ice variety, and a host of other creatures.
No wonder Dad was having such a hard time.
He's under seige.
Aoth went to get a boat chartered, since I'm pretty fairly certain that magicking our way there is going to be impossible. Speaking of which, I have a couple more preparations to make. Time to wake Arty...
Don't worry Dad. We're coming._
_Some days, things just work out.
Today, was one of those days. I'm sitting here against Mom's storage chest in the glen. We share so many keys, my family and I, and now I have yet another one. I'm mere inches away from the sword that wounded my parents, from the Fey of Terror, before Lorelai and Tindra were made separate.
It started in the commons of Peltarch, when Imizel, who I'd met once or twice before, wandered off, and came back bloodied, and in the shape of a boar. Near-death from blood loss, she must have walked right under the gate guards from being so low to the ground, and right out the west gate she went.
I followed, and ended up healing her up in time to save her life, as she was back in person-shape again by the time I found her.
Kobolds and their lizardman friends had gotten a bit more of her than she expected it seems, and since she was alone, there was no backup, healing, or bandaging to be had, I guess.
So, I went into my usual spiel about not going out alone, and then pried a little into the 'why' of it all. Like many woodsfolk, she was uncomfortable in cities. It reminds me just how many advantages I had growing up, with parents who were comfortable anywhere, involved in lots of things, so I never had to -adjust-. I was just, there.
Aoth came after a time, and we all sat and talked, Candle, Wick's sister, was with us for a while as well.
We spoke of cities, and Druids, and animals, and thoughts. Finally, she asked about our glen, so we set out on a trip South. One confused and reckless cockatrice encountered us on the way there, and after successfully pecking me, and hitting me with whatever ability of their they can petrify a person by … it calmed, seeing no effect, and seeing us cease attacking it out of startlement.
We sent it on it's way this time, but I will need to look into this, and maybe find Ting to see if she knows more about this, to see if we made the right call.
In the glen, we showed Imizel around, and Tom the bard, his dog Bubbah, and Korra all showed up, so I gave them "The Tour", where Acwell's reminder is placed. That little shrine to the brave Druids and companions who fought him, the Defiler, and a lasting reminder of why we do what we do, took our attention for a little while. Then it was time to show them something new. Something grand. Something ... -special-. So, we took them inside, Aoth and I.
I like to make a tradition, of introducing the new Druids to the glen. The stone that Fadia put in place, so many years ago now, and all it can do, serves as a good memory for new folk, as to why we do what we do ... and I always feel closer to my Gods when I am near it.
I spoke for a while, and Aoth and I allowed them to touch it, to see if they could feel what we have felt, know some of what we have known, and it responded. Nature magic bubbled forth, the wind whipped up, and we were covered in sparkling light for a time, as if the place was saying, "I see you."
Imizel agreed to join the Circle, so it seems I have a new apprentice now, and I made sure she and Korra were set up with a few necessities before we all bade one another goodnight, as it had been a long and interesting day.
I feel good, having an apprentice again, but it does make me concern. Every other one I've had, has left. I'm not sure if it's just a Druid thing, or has something to do with me, but I hope to do better with this one. She seems wise, and chooses her words carefully, so perhaps my experiences will count for something, that she won't have to learn lessons the hard way so often, as my hardheaded self did.
Now ... I should go check outside again. Maybe toward Jiyyd. Something's weird about the weather. We've not had a proper winter my whole life, supposedly thanks to the Demon Rift, and now, the wind blows with the promise of snow on it.
Is something happening?
I'm worried about Dad._
_The orcs were not generous today.
They tried to be, seeming very excited to see me, and do battle, but they didn't really have any gifts prepared. A shame, that.
The ones with the Worgs? Apparently, they bit off more than they could chew, lately … as there were over a dozen worgs, but one or two orcs among them, only.
As much as I'd rather just leave the Worgs to keeping the orcs out of there at that point, I know they'll eventually just come and subjugate them again.
Speaking of subjugation ... Djinni came up in conversation recently. Again. Apparently, the one we freed against the drow a few weeks ago was none other than Fidoosh, who Isolde knew about. Aoth got brought before the Citadel because of Aldoon the Djinn's treachery, apparently he has Alina's spirit captive, and somehow we're hoping to find Fidoosh again, to help us fight a badass powerful Djinn.
Maybe we won't have to fight, and will just have to prove his corruption to their courts, but I think that if we find anything we can use, he'll be loathe to let us survive to tell about it.
I still remember the sickening sound of Artemis imploding in front of me from a snap of that other Djinni's fingers. If we had a leg up on this guy, a debt owed to us, or any such leverage, we could work him. Isolde and the crew are the smartest of us when it comes to crap like this, and we'd find a way for sure. Even I can be sneaky if I need to, but it's much more satisfying to be blunt, and gives my friends more room for their own actions.
Either way, I feel like we're coming to a head, with this particular story. We've reunited Sylvia and Horgrim, have ideas on how to help Sarah, are going to try to save Alina, and I think if we just get a few more puzzle pieces lined up, we'll have a shot at seeing the bigger picture here. Because that's how I feel right now. There's some ... really big picture thing, here.
And it all comes back to the Night Parade.
Everything else we do, we NEED to keep our guard up. The snippets I've heard from others, the encounters I've had, even my dreams where I feel like I'm back in the Dream Vestige, they all tell me to be wary, to keep watching, and to fight! But when nothing is happening that I can get to... no leads I can chase like a wolf after prey ... I hate to wait. Like a hawk high above an unsuspecting rabbit. Bide my time, save my strength.
I'm almost back to where I was, I can feel it. I cringe to think how much further along my skills would be had I not fallen to the demons ... and then I feel selfish for feeling that way, because steadfast Aoth fell several times, and then one more time recently.
It makes me want to take the group she was with and shake them til their teeth rattle, and their eyes roll uncontrollably about in their heads.
Ugh, writing is supposed to CALM people. This isn't working at all. I'm sure there's someone I can turn my attention to for a bit. If only I wasn't concerned about what taking on Rass's Creel would cause. I still have yet to go near them, because I know if I did, I'd answer any hostility in such a way that it would affect the Circle. It's simply my nature.
I'll not drag them into this. If we go, we go together, and on purpose.
On a more positive note, I know that the new Druidess, Korra, would go with me. She's Aoth's apprentice, and has the most level head I've seen in some time.
Two other Druidesses appeared not long ago, too. Followers of Lurue. I've only met them the once, and don't know how seriously to take them, yet. One dresses like a princess, and they're both Elves. I feel like I don't relate to them properly in -any- way, but we've only just met. Perhaps we'll see them shortly again, and I'll be able to make a more informed plan to speak with them.
Time will tell in all these things. I just wish I didn't feel like I was WASTING so much of it._
_What's in the box?
Usually, it's treasure.
Sometimes, it's illicit goods. Or evidence. Or illicit goods that ARE evidence! Sometimes it's just someones memories, or you know, a body or two.
Food, clothes, jewels, BOOKS, you name it. I've seen all KINDS of stuff in boxes.
Getting sucked INTO one? That was new.
It started with a commotion at the docks that you could hear from the common, and seeing people bustle about. Being nosy adventurers, me and some others sauntered up, and asked what was up. Ceruleans were present in force, and one of their number spoke to us, wary at first, but seeming to warm up at recognizing me and at least one or two of the others.
Apparently, a ship had been found in the middle of the lake, abandoned, and the whole thing REEKED of such a clusterfark of magic that I couldn't make sense of it.
I found that out when it pulled in, tugged along by the other boat since there wasn't a soul on board, and decided to use my magesight to see what's up.
I damned near went BLIND.
I've seen some powerful magic stuff, but this was something else. It looked foreign, even after all the things I've seen, like it didn't follow the rules I'm used to magic following.
A mage the Ceruleans went to get sauntered up, rubbed his hands together, and cast a few spells to examine the box, before seeming pleased, and opening it up.
He warped, distended, extended, and then was sucked into the box, like water down a drainhole does to drops of blood you're dripping into your bathwater. Frighteningly like that.
Gnarl, Malik, myself, Scott, Vick, and Leroy I think, all tried various ways of getting it closed, as it shot a bright beam of light into the air, but neither my vines, nor rope, did anything but threaten to topple said box, and point it at us.
Eventually, Gnarl got too close, and that was in. Sucked in. I tried a lance on a rope, and it yanked ME in faster than I could let go of the rope. The others soon followed, and then there we were. In a room, large, with bridges going along it. And … portals? Portals which swiftly spat out mephits and invisible stalkers, and air elementals to harry us.
It took us some time of being cautious and trying to figure this place out, before we started gaining ground, and we walked over the corpses of those who came before us ... where it seems that they were ill prepared for a fight, or just plain alone, and overpowered.
We almost lost a couple at the beginning, between little lightning bolts, and air blasts, and claws, with some adventurers who seemed a bit green getting in over their heads, but we kept everybody up for a while.
A pattern emerged, fortunately, which spoke to a way out, in my mind. We passed 'tests' with each room ... once you defeat the elementals and other various creatures, you get to go free. To the next portal.
Air. Fire. Earth. Water.
The air room was hard, because we had no idea what we were doing, and the lightning was getting annoying.
Fire was difficult, because it's so easy to get burned, but we took care of that too. That's the room we found the mage fellow in, that got sucked in before us. He must have been a wizard, and used up his magic on the air creatures.
Earth was ... creepy.
The stone walls sprouted what looked like BABY HANDS at us, grasping, reaching, clawing for us, and then pushing further out the wall, to spawn tiny elementals. And then bigger hands grasped, to likewise bigger elementals ... but for some reason, even the biggest hands looked like giant BABY hands. It was, as I said ... powerfully creepy.
By the end of the Stone Trial ... i was exhausted. I'd used all my wildshape ability, had the stoneskin smacked off of me, chugged a BUNCH of potions, had to fully heal myself at least once, and was starting to wear out. Of course, since Earth was the third, that meant that -water- had to be next ... and Water Elementals are widely feared, for their ability to drown you immediately, giving no chance for saving your life.
We fought. We bled. Some of the water around us turned red, as we WERE underwater, but somehow breathing normally, thank the Gods. The Elementals flailed and split their bodies in sacrifice to their attack, and one of our number couldn't move fast enough when one appeared right next to him.
He fell, and there was no saving him, so we fought on ... and the magic I'd saved? Useless. I wasn't about to lightning us in a small room full of water. Granted, it would have probably hit ALL the enemy too, but what I mentioned earlier about green adventurers? I probably would have killed them. That's hardly fair, now IS it.
It took a while, but we won ... and were promptly spat unceremoniously onto the deck of the ship, along with our fallen who someone picked up, which is good ... because none of the other bodies within were disgorged. The chest was now full of treasure instead of hungry people-eating magic traps ... but we didn't know for how long. So, Vick grabbed the treasure, which was mostly potions, a bunch of gold, and some stranger things that I'm still examining ... and we beat a retreat once the Ceruleans raised our fallen.
Once the spoils were split, we headed back to the commons, where I related my tale, and one girl looked real excited and ran off, but the others looked uncomfortable at best. I can understand that ... since treasure is SUPPOSED to be an adventurers friend!
What foul betrayal.
Whatever, we passed the Test of Elemental Treasure Terror. I just hope my mind isn't getting TOO creative, and that the test wasn't part of a bigger game that we're now unwittingly playing ..._
_Life has been a whirlwind.
Even a literal one, in the case of the minor Djinni we freed from some drow, before the incident in saving Marie from some Blackcloaks a day or two later.
I have to say, I much prefer the swaggering, sneering, two words away from giving you an actionable threat to your face kind of evil, to the type that poisons drinks at parties to create huge undead.
I've done too much lately to write it all down, which makes me want to kick myself, because I need to be better about writing important things down. Otherwise, one good hit to the dome, and you lose them.
In the past month or two, I've seen a brawl in Norwick against these BlackCloak goons, therefore saving Marie, managed to be along to track down who poisoned a drink with foul necromancy at Hedia's party in celebration for defeating the demon threat, and got proposed to at the very same party.
Of course I said yes. It was Arty, how could I not?
We set out, found the brewery, and tackled waves of undead til we got to the lair of a powerful mage.
He had a bad time of it. Even barricaded in a room, where he could unleash his punishing magics on anyone who put their face through the door, Arty got off a disjunction, which blasted through his defenses, and I hit him with the usual sunburst, on the off chance that it might blind him.
My next trip over, while people hacked away at him, I let loose a little Kossuthan anger I'd been holding up, and caught him on fire. Next time, I might just -extend- that spell.
Finally, after some people needed to fall back for healing, I got to dive in, and help cut him up. Some folks wanted to question him, but I simply wanted him dead. It was pretty clear that it was his operation alone, and his box of goods verified that.
No sooner did we get back, however … than did kobolds appear, blowing up sections of the city, with the Mermaid experiencing 4-5 explosions all on it's own. Those little farks.
I turned into a Winter Wolf, and blew out the fires with freezing breath... but I had to use it so much my tongue frosted over. That was weird.
It was nice to see one mystery to it's conclusion, and I hope that to be the end of it. Now to find out what's up with these Kobolds, I imagine.
I wonder what's next? The thought makes me nervous, but hey, at least Mom already found out about me and Arty, as did Uncle Aelthas for that matter, and Arty's still alive ... so if nothing else, at least we'll be facing new stuff together._
_Seeing a deity, is an experience. Some say that their deity tends to show up only at the time of death, to judge whether they move on, or go back, or go … elsewhere. And they have rules. What they're allowed to do, to influence, here on the Prime.
It pisses me off that the infernal and abyssal arses we've been dealing with don't seem to have to play by the same rules ... but deep down, I know they do.
That ... of course ... means that like the Gods, they need mortal agents to make their moves on the prime, which means the one called Abigail, who people talk of being a colluder with the demons here, was likely not along. No, not with what we had to face.
We had to face Glyphimhor, General of Orcus himself, as one of our two remaining tasks from helm. He didn't say his name of course ... just telling us that we had two more tasks, one of which was hunting down an ancient enemy, who even now, was cowering with fear at our approach.
The other task, was that we had to choose one of us, as a Watcher. An Eternal Watcher of Helm, to forever stand guard at his temple, in Jiyyd, henceforth.
We gave it little thought as our minds turned to raising our fallen, and continuing the fight .. which I know some people had hoped was already over. One such person LEFT, right then. Apparently too much was asked already, and they had enough. I believe they died in Jiyyd, alone, at that point. We were too busy to try to deal with that at the moment, as we had a final great enemy to face.
So we did.
We struck forth, made our way into a cavern that used to be where a swamp was, once, and descended.
More enemies awaited us, at nearly every turn. Plenty of demons and the like, but like before, we kept to teams, worked together, and shredded our way through their ranks, like a storm through a forest. This time, however, I took a place a the front. This time, I had more death wards prepared. This time. I would be ready.
I was not.
At some point, the front line faltered, and for good reason. Once again, deja vu like, there was a whole pile of Balors blocking our path.
Once again, I got wholly dispelled.
Once again, I fell, to what appeared to be death magic. This time was so much more vivid. I remember boots rushing by my face, advancing or retreating. The warmth of the stone in that hot place faded out, til I was numb, and all efforts to move were useless, as everything started to go dark.
Then ... green.
I heard the sounds of the forest, and was confused. Where was the screaming of battle, or the quiet of the fugue? Was I ... done?
A hand appeared in my vision. A helping hand, so I took it, suddenly able to move. I let it help me up, my body feeling less and less like a sack of stones, until I was fully back upright, and the sights and sounds of battle were going from silent, to distant, to suddenly, urgently, close and loud once more.
A whispered word I couldn't make sense of was right in my ear, and I knew who's voice it was. The Lady herself ... but I cannot remember what she said. I can only remember what I DID.
I HAD to be there. I HAD to finish this.
Drinking my strongest potions, activating my most potent items, using the last of my spells, I leapt back into the fray, and ended up face to face with Glyphimhor himself. Well, I say face to face ... he only took a couple cursory swipes at me before turning back to the more obvious threats in front of him, and that let me wreak merry hell on his hide with Jonni's damned demonkiller sword.
It was... intense. I could still hear people screaming, retreating, dying, from Glyphimhor's spells ... spells he was sacrificing his flesh to cast, as every time he went to speak them, he opened himself up to us in his face again ... and eventually, it cost him.
The blades sinking into him were getting harder to pull out, as they bit deeper and deeper, and the giant thing's wings finally lost their fire. His guttural roar petered out into a shuddering sigh, a final rattle of sulphrous breath. The crash of his body signaled a ragged cheer, and all I wanted to do was scream in victory myself ... but all I managed was a shocked "It's done..."
It was yet, of course, done. There was work yet to be done. But it was a good start. Maria made good on that start once we got outside, by sealing the rift finally, and it seems that what she started will take a while to complete, but should be done by now ... and all that's left is the cleanup of the demons that we hadn't managed to slay the hell out of, yet.
Next, was the matter of Helm's instruction. One of our Helmites was to stay, forever there ... and though both Morgan and Albryanna volunteered, and the group thought we'd have to choose among us, I knew from the moment I handed that helmet over, that she was going to have to do -something-. I just didn't think it was this.
Like my father before me, his friend and my adopted aunt basically, who helped raise me, Albryanna has acceted a mantle of responsibility from her God.
Helm himself assured us, as we stood holding our fallen, Aoth herself in my own arms, that he had faith that we would prevail from the beginning, and that we really were well and truly done. Morgan was bade to bring the Helmite priesthood back to the Temple, Albryanna to join Helm at his side in eternal vigilance and ... me? I just watched it all happen, and marched with the rest back home, where I got to tell Mom all about it. And Arty.
Finally, a break from the thing that has plagued my waking AND sleeping hours. I wonder how long it will take for something else that's been dormant to come flying out of it's hole to take the demons' place?
Eh, enough of those thoughts for now. I have a sword to return, and a win to celebrate, since Aoth answered the call to return. I don't know what I would do if she didn't ..._
_How do you find the time to write, when you're simultaneously busy beyond words trying to scramble to find people, information, and things … and suddenly burdened with free time, and a lack of an overbearing weight on your shoulders, and it's accompanying sense of unbridled freedom?
I suppose I can start at the end, but that's no fun. So here, dear reader, is a story. It's brief, and written without regard to any particular perspective throughout, though you can consider it in mine by default. MY Diary, my rules. I'll leave the writing rules to the pros, like Isolde, who I just got to see the other day again, finally!
It was a day like any other ... which is a dirty lie, of course. It only FELT like an ordinary day. And for many people, it was ... at least until the birds came. I had asked a group of birds to help me, and they did, taking little rolled up scrolls for me, and dropping them off at several places that I know the look of from above. I also included special instructions to drop them on groups of people, if outside those areas, to make sure I got everyone.
I don't know if I got everyone ... but I got enough. The message was simple.
"The time is now. Come to Heroes Bluff. "
Nothing more, no signature. Not only was there no room, but if a flock of birds delivering messages wasn't an obvious enough clue as to who was sending the message, well ... chances are the person is the type to follow the instructions anyway.
The gathering began, and Aoth soon joined me, there, followed by the person I'd been waiting to see. "Auntie Albryanna." Albry had been around while Mom and Dad raised us, played babysitter, helped train me as an adventurer, and has been a staple of my life for the entirety of it. And I had sent her a specific message. An urgent message.
"See me. Heroes Bluff. Important. - LLR."
She came, of course, armed and armored, because of course she was, with a note like that. Reliably Albryanna. All raven black hair, with stern features, and an imposing figure of polished and scarred steel.
And the same kind and caring figure that was my babysitter for years. She did so much for me over the years, and now it was my turn, though I don't know if my 'gift' was going to be a boon, or an anchor around her neck. I found out moments later, when I presented her with it.
For YEARS now, ever since some friends and I enacted a raid on the Peltarch Renegades tower off in the mountains, and slew Akton Sent, I have had a relic. An artifact of Helm, long jealously kept hidden away, and now in my capable hands, being handed off for the last time.
When this demon mess broke out, much was tried to close it, coming to an end when attempts failed, and the Druids ended up enacting a barrier til something else could be figured out. Over time, some of us learned more in little bits here and there, and it was then that I found out that one of the keys to defeating the demons for good ... was this artifact, and it's ability to do what nobody has been able to do since the Scarring.
Open the Temple of helm.
For so many years now, since I was a younger adventurer, this has been this massive, out of reach, never moving goal, with progress few and far between, and the sinking realization that this was about to become a quest, sorry a Quest with a capital Q, and not just a puzzle or adventure or fight.
We were going to have to draw in allies, fake out traitors, try to stop power-hungry morons from succeeding in helping the demons, and keep fragile alliances together long enough to stand as much chance as a fart in a hurricane against this threat, and I'll be the first to admit ... it didn't look good. Not for YEARS did I even have HOPE that this would ever get better ... and then when we got news that not only was the barrier actively failing, but it was worse than that. It wasn't failing, the rift was GROWING, and in such a way as to indicate that our plane was MERGING with the Abyss, actively.
Not only that, but we soon found out that likely because of the Druids having made the portal before, and our connection to Toril itself ... Druid hearts could be used as ritual fuel to further solidify the tear, and give the Abyss a better foothold on the Prime.
And then they wiped out half our circle.
I wrote about that already, so I'm not rehashing that memory, but it serves me to remember the price we paid for victory, before I recall the victory itself, because that's the good part.
Albryanna accepted Helm's helm, one that prevents one's mind from ever being affected by anything, and we struck forth into Jiyyd after giving people the truth about our goal, and instruction on how to accomplish it. Once more we split into groups, and Aoth was back with the healers and mages, before the archers. Faelar and Ting, Wolves, kept track of their ranks pretty well, and Warziver took point in the frontliner group, where I was.
Into Jiyyd we went, and right into a pile of demons. Vrocks and succubi, and the usual Hezrous and Glabrezus piling in on us, Nefalshnee joining them as they pleased, spreading out our group pretty well with their assult, which I had to pause my fighting to join the healers in. Not many people can cure disease without magic spells of potions, but I know how to coerce magic out of the mundane ingredients in a healing kit, and cured so much poison and disease one after the other that the dust from my efforts hung about me like a cloud.
We kept East with a bit of yelling not to wander off, and press to our goal, since some folks apparently thought wandering toward the CENTER of Jiyyd was a fine tactic. Don't get me wrong, we had a plenty powerful force, but based on my last experience with the Balors ... I wasn't about to risk anything we didn't need to risk.
More tough fighting was waiting for us when we got within sight of the temple, as the demons seemed to have a pretty good idea what we were up to. Porting into the area with their hellish swirls of black and red magic, they poured forth our of their little portals, and were cut down as fast as we could make it happen, which wasn't fast enough foe some. Namely, Hedia and Aoth, in this first fight ... but we fought on, while the last I saw of ALbryanna, she was pressing the helm to the door, and praying to her God to hear her, as I charged off without her, having heard the familiar scream of someone falling.
Jonni's sword is a miracle, I'll give it that. Getting in behind a Balor that just popped in and starting killing people, I got to finish cutting it down with a few swipes, hard demonic hide be damned, his scaley arse bleeding freely with ever clumsy slash. I wish that thing was a scimitar. . .
"It's OPEN!" I heard, repeated in a ragged sort of cheer that was followed by one of those weird pauses where everyone is so wound up in survival mode that nobody actually reacts ... "GET IN, THEN!" i remember screaming, and the idle turned to shouting GO GO GO while I dashed back into the pile of fighters to recover my fallen sister, Aoth, and make a mad dash for the door, myself.
Just as soon as it began, in fire and blood, the battle was over, and we were inside the Temple of Helm ... which was apparently -exactly- as it was decades ago, untouched by man, or time.
With a flash, and a rumble, a helmed man approached us, bathed in holy light. Knees found the floor, eyes averted or gawked, and a silence fell over the room ... save for hushed whispers of shock and profanity all around. Helm himself, congratulated us ... but there was more. We were not done, he said, and we had two tasks left before us.
I think I'll take a break here before I can't hold a sword, and leaving an entry off with the arrival of a literal deity in front of everyone ... seems fitting._