A Proudfeet tale
~Entry 1 - Beginnings~
Well, here I am, in Norwick. Can't believe it, never thought I'd set foot in Narfell, let alone be here on my own.
The carts that brought me here were coming to get lumber, and so this is where they dropped me off. I had to sneak off, of course; they weren't necessarily aware that they'd helped me get here. And at first, I wasn't even sure where -here- was, all I knew was that they'd stopped and that they were getting ready to load the carts up.
So you could colour me very surprised when I got out, and found myself in a rural town with dirt roads, and a massive stone town hall. Almost like the man (and yes, it was definitely a man) who built it had an inferiority complex.
But I poked around for a bit, met a woman named Chae who smelt of death but seemed nice enough to me (maybe I had nothing she wanted? Always look innocuous, it's a good way to stay safe), and a hin named Roslyn, who was a detective. A hin detective! We talked for a while, and they told me that whilst Jiyyd had been, well, won, that there were still devil outsiders there. No more portal, but it was hopelessly contaminated by evil.
My heart fell.
Not only were there demons and devils in Jiyyd, but the old Silver Valley was full of trolls. TROLLS! How on earth can I, an Acolyte of the Hin Fist, hope to defeat such monsters? I was ready to sneak back into that wood cart and head back to ma and pa.
But Roslyn, Arvoreen bless her heart, told me that there was still hope. There were other hin still in the region, and that together, with some help from the tallies, we could probably get in there, beat the trolls and demons and devils back, and lay Rinnel and Lynna's ashes to rest on their old farm.
Could we do it?
I don't know, but I need to find out.
~Entry 16 - Testing myself~
When seeking to learn about your ki, there are two main avenues of exploration.
The first is to centre yourself in a calm and peaceful place, and to look inward that it might be drawn out over time.
The second is to place yourself in a high stress environment where you are forced to look inwards to find the resources to survive. This is far quicker, but far more dangerous and likely to result in failure and death.
Of course, me being me, I went for the second. For all the supposed wisdom I have, I can be rather intractable.
Three deadly foes:-
A Vampire Monk
An Evil High Priest and his minions
I have survived, having cleansed a tomb of undead, emptied a cavern of evil outsiders, and stopped a ritual to bring disease to Peltarch.
What have I learnt?
Well, other than that I need some tougher armor...
I have learnt, that I am stronger as part of a small but cohesive team.
I have learnt, that I can withstand blows that would fell many others.
I have learnt, that I am not peaceful like many monks are... that I am violent and aggressive.
To be fair, I already knew that last one. With nicknames like “Murder-mitts” going around, it’s kind of hard to avoid.
Yet... that doesn’t bother me?
I am three things:
A scout:- the eyes and ears of a city
A defender:- a shield to protect the ally
A solder:- a weapon to destroy the enemy
So, what have I learnt about my ki?
If I have an elemental affinity, I’m yet to discern it. I seem to have a connection to all four... moving like the wind, overwhelming foes like water, defending like the earth, with the passion of fire.
I know my ki is strong... it empowers me, drives me onward. At times it feels consuming, like I am simply ki given material form, that who Merlynna is matters less than finding an outlet for my ki.
Is it internal or external? I can feel it in both, affecting the situation around myself, but also affecting me inwardly.
Is it ranged or melee? Definitely in melee... I feel no desire to engage in ranged combat... I’d rather sit back and watch others use a bow than get involved myself with my sling. My actual preference would be to somehow be launched into the combat!
Rule 34 - A hin fist will seek to know themselves, for until one knows themself, they will not be able to know their enemies
So... melee and strong. That’s my ki. But that’s a pretty broad definition.
I need to know this, to understand it properly, to be able to use it, control it, shape it, rather than having it do that to me.
Mastery of the monastic arts is mastery of self.
Maybe I have a longer journey to go on than I had hoped.
~Entry 15 - Embracing the truth~
So... striving to become the Master of the Monastic Arts.
That means I need to prepare myself to face Linam the Swift again.
And that means that I need to learn how to strike faster, harder, more accurately.
And it means that I need to understand my ki... my chi? Inner flow of energy and consciousness... the thing that I disrupt in others when I stun them, the thing that I channel when I force my body to heal rapidly.
It's not something that I like to admit, but I have to. To myself, even if to no-one else.
My grandfather never really understood how ki worked.
Neither did I.
Clerics and druids channel the power of their deity to wonderful effect. Fighters train and martial themselves. Barbarians rely on pure adrenaline. Rogues use their wits and guile, much like bards use their presence.
None of them has anything quite like ki that they draw on.
Gods, writing it down I feel like a fool. I've been harnessing, using, disrupting a power that I didn't even understand.
Linam used ki to balance massive boulders on top of small stones. By rights, it shouldn't be possible. The weight of the boulders alone should crush the smaller stones. They shouldn't balance there, they should fall off. Yet Linam managed it, and seemed to do so with relative ease.
Which tells me that ki can be projected and used as an extension of will.
Rinnel has nothing written down about how to do that.
So, I went and sat with the masters in the dojo in Oscura. Asked them about it, as the only monastery within easy reach.
After an appropriately gruelling training session with a very noisy punching bag, one of the masters answered my question.
Ki is the inner strength of a thing, whether it is a person, a tree, or a rock. All have ki, whether they realise it or not.
Ki is as hard as stone, yet as soft as a feather.
What this means, is that your ki is not unlike a lever through which you may move the world around you. But first, you must learn three things, and decide on two more.
Firstly, you must learn the character of your own ki. Each person's ki is different, and has a different strength, a different feel, a different taste. Some have an affinity for one element over another. Some are better at using their ki at range, whilst others might only be able to use it close to their own body, or within themselves. And some have a weak ki, whilst others are strong. These truths will help you understand the character of your own ki, which is like a board that you carry with you everywhere you go.
Secondly, you must learn about your other resources. Every life is different, for each is shaped by the circumstances and choices within it. This is everything from gold and magical items, through to friends and family. These things become the rock which you may place under the board; if it is strong enough, it will withstand the load, but if it is not, it will fail and so will you.
Thirdly, you must learn wisdom. Wisdom is learnt through understanding the relationships of those around you, the needs and wants of the community, the challenges they face, and so on. Wisdom can be found in the history of those who have gone before you, through their losses and victories. The more you know, the more you are able to make informed decisions, wise choices, and to control your circumstances. This is how you find your place to stand, for without this, the board and rock are useless.
With this done, you now have two choices to make.
What is it you desire?
What will you sacrifice to make it a reality?
Use your ki, your resources, and your wisdom, and you can achieve your desires, if you are willing to sacrifice what it will cost you. A strong enough and long enough lever with a dense enough rock and a sufficient place to stand, can see one person move the whole world.
Be aware though, that sacrificing can change the nature of your board, of your rock, and of your place to stand. This can mean that by seeking what you desire, you ultimately bring yourself undone.
This is why few ever attain true mastery of the monastic arts. The cost is too high, and the very act of seeking it can destroy the seeker.
Yet, without suffering, there can be no victory.
Without pain, there can be no revelation.
With this new knowledge, I know I have a path to follow.
To learn the character of my ki.
To learn about my resources.
And to learn wisdom.
For I know what I desire. Mastery of the Monastic Arts.
And I will give everything that can be sacrificed to achieve it.
Rule 6: A hin fist will use every edge they can, for their enemies will not hesitate to do the same
This is the truth that I must embrace.
I cannot sacrifice everything I have, for it will leave me empty.
Yet there must be sacrifice, suffering, and pain, for victory to be achieved.
Wisdom is found in learning what must be retained, and what must be released. Wisdom is seen in knowing which battles to fight, and which to retreat from.
Today, I fought a battle I would previously have run from.
A vampire adept, deep within a tomb. Supported by his spawn.
I downed four incredibly expensive potions, stepped into melee with him, and slew him where he stood with the aid of my allies. His coffin was destroyed, and his eternal unrest was ended.
Previously, I would have celebrated this, but today... no.
It can be argued that without the potions, I could not have defeated him. That without allies, I would have failed.
These things are true, but these resources are still MY resources.
The will to face him was mine, and mine alone. None forced me, none demanded it.
The training I have done, the equipment I have obtained, the fitness I have... these are no less mine than the name I bear.
Today I do not celebrate, not because I did not do something worthy. But because I did, and it has taken me far too long to do so.
Today it leaves me pondering how much I have been holding myself back, how much I have neglected my potential, how much I have failed in the instructions given to me by Linam.
Today, I embrace the truth.
I have been weak.
I have been unwise.
I have been ignorant.
And I cannot allow myself to remain so.
Firstly, I must learn of my ki. Whatever it takes, whatever it costs. I will walk my own path, and I will find the answers I seek.
I'm coming for you, Linam the Swift.
And when I do, I will be ready.
~Entry 14 - On Becoming~
It's been a long time since I wrote here... quite honestly? Because I wanted to try out the lifestyle that Bell tried to draw me into. That lifestyle is not... well... disciplined. It could be, I suppose, but it seemed to be more marked by chaos than anything else.
Having never really "let my hair down" as some of the tallies would say, I thought I should honestly see if it is for me or not.
Should I mark this as my teenage/rebellious stage? I am unsure.
In any case... this is how it went...
Not long after Merlynna met with Bell and got to know him, there was an... let's say influx, of new and young hins into the Narfell region. Whether they grew up there and became adventurers, or moved in from other realms, well, the stories are mixed. But through circumstance they became known as the Hincredibles, and their ranks included:
Macavity Teagage, also known as Crackshot Macavity; a scout and archer supreme, known for his willingness to ask questions and to speak the truth whether it is wanted or not.
Ray Biers, also known as The Hulk; a barbarian who shouts rather than speaking and is rather uncontrollably violent most of the time.
Fern Aublaise, also known as Inferno; a sorceress supreme who consumes all her foes in fire, and at times, her allies.
Bellamin Silvershaper, also known as Captain Peltarch; the just and mighty hero who protects the weak and innocent, doing things for the good of the land.
Merlynna Proudfeet,* also known as The Iron Fist; the one who strikes fear and fist into enemy's hearts across the realm.
Batilde, also known as Bat-Hin; the unofficial leader of the Hincredibles, because it seems to be only she who can keep the others in line. She has keen scout skills, a focus on protecting the balance of things, and a kind and gentle heart.
Together, the Hincredibles set out to right wrongs, protect the innocent, and smite evil. Well, let's be honest, there was a lot more smiting of evil and probably evil than anything else. Oh, and earning gold, because being SuperHinroes is expensive, what with wear and tear on outfits, healing potions and gadgets, paying fines for law-breaking, and so on.
Early on, Macavity decided that all proper heroes had to have an arch-nemesis, and he settled on Vera as being the one, what due to her wielding a scythe and looking all brooding and stuff. She, for her own part, was equal parts amused and annoyed, and took it upon herself to both antagonise Macavity and help out the Hincredibles to confuse him, as much as was possible.
Roaming across the land, they went everywhere from up north on the Icelace Beach, down south to the Wyverns, out to the west to Fort Ormpur, and east through the Gnoll woods and the Gypsy Camp. There was no stone left unturned for the Hincredibles to adventure, at least, in so far as they only went places that would not see them mercilessly killed in an instant.
Of course, what with time together and the intimacy of battle, partnerships emerged. Bat-Hin and Captain Peltarch are now courting, and Inferno and Crackshot are as well. The others haven't paired off, partially because of insanity on the part of the Hulk, and partially because Iron Fist has no interest in romantic relationships.
The main thing that has marked the progress of the Hincredibles, is the swathes of dead foes left behind by them. Their small stature and voracious appetite for smiting has led to some using the analogy of a plague of locusts, consuming all before them.
Their greatest hour may be yet to come, but at the same time, these adventurers are maturing and developing into more full and rounded individuals, meaning that the rapacious character of their early days has passed, giving way to a measured approach to life, or at least, more measured than they were previously.
As I write these things, and look back, I know that I have enjoyed my time playing pretend with the Hincredibles, and I will likely continue spending time with them. Yet, it is not the life for me. Mine, is a life of discipline, of hard work, of committing myself to the tasks before me without hesitation or concern for self.
I tried becoming... happy. Peaceful.
But it's not for me.
Instead, I must seek, strive, and become the Master of the Monastic Arts that my great grandfather Rinnel longed to become.
I must accept the mantle he has passed on to me, and become more.
Only time will tell if I succeed, or die trying.
But I will not live my life wondering what could have been.
~Entry 13 - Fun?~
I’ve met a most interesting hin, a paladin of Yondalla. His name is Bell, Bellamin Silvershaper, and he’s perhaps the most curious person I’ve met in this land.
Not because he’s fast, or strong, or tough, or smart... the realm has its fill of those people.
Not because he’s slow, or weak, or sickly, or stupid... the realm has its fill of those people too.
He’s curious to me because he genuinely sees value in hearth and home, peace and love, joy and hope, and happiness and fun.
I met him in the commons a few days ago... we chatted a little, which was nice? But I ran into him again outside the gnoll woods; he was with Erurk and Rubo. They invited me to join them, which was fine by me, and so we went into the woods for a trip with Rubo’s own unique brand of hunting.
He’s not the fastest. But he kept up, determined to be a part of what was happening.
He’s not the strongest. But that didn’t stop him stepping in to combat with his short sword and giving it his all.
He’s not the toughest, but he wanted to protect me.
He’s not the smartest, but he knows the right things to say.
We cleared out most of the gnolls without trouble, until we came across a gynarch who proceeded to knock Bell down with only 3 swings. He died, quickly and messily... and I did the best I could to keep my calm. Picked him up and walked out of the woods, where Rubo raised him after praying to Garl.
And do you know what Bell did, when we’d brought him back? He apologised for the trouble, and got up, ready to try again.
Together, we cleared the gnolls, the spiders, and the goblins before getting back to Norwick.
Afterwards, we went up to Peltarch, sold everything, and got some rest... and he and I had a long talk.
I took a moment to look through Rinnel’s Book, but it was no help.
Rule ?? - (the hin fist rules have nothing on this)
Bell said that I wasn’t just a weapon.
Bell said that family and friends are important, that they should be why we fight.
Bell said that it was important to rest, to have fun, to be happy.
I... don’t know.
I don’t know what to say or do in response to that.
We went to Hero’s Bluff, ate pastries, and fished. It was... fun?
I don’t know if there’s room in my life for happiness and fun, or for family. Friends, sure, to a point; but anything more?
Relationships are complicated, and who would want a wife who might one day disappear and never been seen again?
There was one more thing Bell told me. He said that if I kept bottling up my emotions, that I would crack. That I was working too hard, losing sight of what’s important.
I think he’s wrong, that I’m doing what I need to do to fulfill my calling.
But what if...
What if he’s right?
~Entry 12 - New gloves, a new challenge~
The time finally came, and I got my new gloves. They're accurate and powerful, and make my strikes the same. They made a good difference with the worgs, but I knew I needed to try something tougher.
So who did I speak with, but Cecil? He just happened to be in the Peltarch Commons, and so did a few other worthy folk... so I suggested we head north, to the Giantspires and the Ogres who live there. Cecil agreed, and we set out.
I have to say that it was an eye-opening experience for me, as we got past the manticores and hill giants without issue, then into the Giantspire Ogre caves.
Across a bridge that they guarded with casters and axe-throwers, then into the caves proper where they had set reloading fire traps to alert them to the presence of their enemies.
Note to self: duplicate that if I ever need to defend somewhere long-term. Or get Vick to do it.
The axe-throwers were fine enough... I am definitely stronger than when I last took them on in the attack against Peltarch. Their casters they call Stoneshapers, and they're not too bad for me. Their warriors though, they would probably take me out one on one. And their berserkers... ergh. They are fast, hit hard, and seem to have no fear whatsoever.
Rule 22 - There is always a stronger foe to test yourself against
We pushed our way through the caves and came out on the other side into daylight... a brightly lit forest, filled with oversized animals and more ogres.
Cecil and I tested ourselves against a giant bear, and came out victorious. I have some ideas about animal essences and enchanting that I want to try out, so that hide will come in handy.
But the ogre berserkers... One came running at us, along with several of his friends. And let me tell you, they were no friends of ours.
I'm thankful that we fought them at a choke-point, so they couldn't surround us, or I doubt I'd be here to write this entry. As it was, my vision was getting blurry and I'd taken a hell of a beating.
Kathea went down, bleeding out. Cecil was healed almost continuously by Rubo and by drinking potions. Tirreth stayed invisible and cast what spells he could to aid us without putting himself at risk.
Eventually we were victorious, but we wisely decided to retreat... and a good thing we did to, for we ended up having to sneak invisible back out to the Icelace beach under the watchful eyes of the ogres.
I need better defenses next, or I won't survive long enough to get stronger.
~Entry 11 - Contrasts~
I've been working hard at getting stronger. There's three elements to it for me, firstly, knowing the land and its occupants, secondly, equipping myself well, and thirdly, training hard to master my art.
I'd be lying if I said it was easy, or simple. In some ways it is simple; follow the steps and the outcome is almost certainly assured. But following the steps is notoriously challenging, and it is why so few succeed at becoming a master of the monastic arts.
I've been able to secure multiple items for enchanting, now I simply need the gold and the individuals needed to complete the task. Tirreth is helping me out, which is wonderful, but I think I'd bleed him dry if I got him to do everything for me.
I'm seeing more and more of the land all the time, even took myself deep into the Rawlins and fought bugbears and wyverns. Trying to dodge their poisonous tails is challenging indeed!
But I'm finding that orcs are maybe the most challenging foes I face regularly. And it's how no two orcs are alike... that gives me the most trouble.
Took on seven orcs with bows at once... no problem.
Took on a single orc with a hammer, nearly killed me.
Why is the orc with a hammer more dangerous than seven with a bow?
Rule 16 - No two days are alike, and neither are two foes ever the same. Treat each warily
What this does show me, is that I need to focus on improving my gear perhaps even more than I need to improve my martial prowess. Magic turns a blade or hammer more ably than even the sharpest strike.
Merlynna devoted herself to her art, knowing that it was not enough to simply try hard. She had to move towards mastery.
The noise of the cities and the people in them were a distraction, one that she would have to overcome in time. It was like a rushing waterfall all around her; the noise, the movement, the risk... so easy to be swept away and pulled under, never to resurface.
So she began to split her time between the wilderness and the shaped stones of the civitas, seeking out real waterfalls to counterbalance the ones she experienced amongst the people.
Water flows... it does not seek to force its way, but instead it wears down resistance, leaving a tunnel where a mountain once stood. If she was to master her art, the way of water must be hers.
~Entry 10 - Battle!~
I haven't written here for a while, Arvoreen alone knows I've had the time, but I've struggled to find the words to record what happened.
I have never been so terrified, and felt so useless in my life.
I was in the Peltarch Commons, talking with Roslyn and mostly ignoring the other folk when a real commotion took up near the west gate. I headed over, quick on my feet, and found myself face to face with a literal army of ogres. I looked up, and catapults were firing rocks and burning oil into the city from far outside the walls. All in all, it was a horrific scene of chaos, fire, and death on large and hairy legs.
I knew I had to do something, so I launched myself at the nearest ogre.
I swung at him, tried to dodge his hits.
He laughed at me, and half-caved my head in with a few blows from his club.
As I lay on the ground, bleeding and unconscious, someone must have healed me because the next thing I knew I was up and trying to take stock of the situation again.
Rule 12 - Never underestimate your opponent
The adventurers and folk from the commons had swarmed to the ogres, and were trying to keep them away from the citizens. Peltarch Defenders and Guards did their best, but most seemed utterly overwhelmed by the size and ferocity of the strike. Buildings tumbled and/or caught fire, victims of the siege weaponry.
And the enemy came in wave after wave.
I took about thirty steps back from the front, took out some golden shurikens I had "collected" from kobolds, and begun hurling them with precision. I don't know that they made much of a difference, but I figured that I was better off alive and doing something positive than running away or dying.
Around me I heard the screams of the injured and dying, did what I could to keep people up. Quickly ran out of balms.
And the rocks and fire rained down.
I dodged them all, no issue to one trained as I had been, but my allies in this battle did not fair so well.
Shurikens flew, as did arrows, spells, and blades. The enemy, beaten back, retreated for a time, giving us a moment to catch our breaths and work out some strategy. I had a far better understanding of what I was facing now; some of the ogres were weaker than others, and they became my focus, along with the ones who apparently could see invisible and sneaking folk, as well as casting spells. Ogre mages, and ogre priests, I'm told.
I hate them all.
I don't know how long the battle went on for. It seemed like days, and I know that the sun fell and rose at least once, possibly more. A massive bear appeared amongst our troops, a druidess named Fadia, apparently. She fell to the ogres, but she gave them hell while she stood. A knight on horseback lost his horse in the fray, was knocked down... I don't know what happened to him. A mage was slain by axes thrown mercilessly. I almost suffered the same fate, had to pull out three of them from my chest, leaving a huge sucking wound. I gasped for air, thought I was going to die, but an ally slapped a balm onto it and it healed through the divine magic infused in it.
I don't think I'll ever take healing for granted again.
Potions were drank like water, everyone ran out of spells, even out of arrows at one point.
In the end, the ogres scaled the walls, opened the gates, and attacked through the docks. Ally after ally fell, and I would have shared their fate if not for my quick reflexes, which allowed me to leap over a wall and take cover when I had a trio of powerful ogres on my tail, including one with a sword as big as him that must have had my name on it.
It was soon after that, I heard the cry "To the king!", and my heart sank. Their casters, able to go invisible, had a target: the king of Peltarch. Thoughts of my own safety pushed aside, I ran as fast as I could for city hall, joined by the famous blue bard, Zyphlin, as well as others. One ogre mage was dispatched on the way there, thankfully reducing their numbers. We rushed in and did what we could to secure the building, but it is hard to defend against that which you cannot see.
A bump, a thud, and there he was! Trying to sneak past one of our number, guarding the way to the king. A cry went up, he ran for the door, but did not make it, slain in his attempt.
Zyphlin checked on the king, and finding him unharmed, we put guards on the door and headed out to finish the job. Ogres remained in the field, ogres remained on the walls of the city, but none remained inside the city walls. I stuck to the shadows and edges; there was nothing I could do without becoming a hinnish target for axe-throwing practice, so I watched as the heroes cleared the way.
Grand total for me? Saved three people from bleeding out. Slew about 5 ogres out of the hundreds who came through. Nearly died three times, probably more. Drank nearly every single healing potion I had. Still feel sick to my stomach from what I saw.
I put in a report to my superior, Vick, but I don't know what good it will do.
If ogres can attack the city like that, unless we can wipe them out (which is not a task that I am up for, by any stretch of the imagination), then the best that I can hope for currently is to provide advance notice of their march so that others can deal with it.
If ogres are strong enough to cut Defenders in two with a swing of their blade, if they are strong enough to slay heroes by the handful, then the best that I can do currently is hide and try to survive.
I need to get stronger.
Linam the Swift would be disgusted with me.
Chastened by experience, and seeking to fulfill her promises to her master and her superior, Merlynna seeks out challenge in the Spider Woods shown to her by her friends Cecil and Z. Alone in the woods except for a veritable army of arachnid, she practices her sparring in the most deadly way.
Limbs flail, mandibles flash. Webs are spun, poison spat. Again and again and again her enemy comes at her, but she is quick… quick enough.
After defeating her foes, she rests in a nearby stream, meditating on the way before her, and the path that she has trod to come this far.
What will tomorrow bring? Arvoreen alone knows, and he bids her prepare for it.
~Entry 9 - Risking it all~
Fresh off the high of the last week, I now find myself brought back down to ground level.
Things went south, and I am responsible for my own part in it.
The how matters; biting off more than we could chew, poor tactics, and a lack of situational awareness. All are cardinal sins in the rule book of the Hin Fist.
Rule 1 - A Hin Fist is forever a student of the way, and must always remember this for a learner’s mind brings humility and life, where a knower’s mind brings pride and death
I forgot that I am a student.
I forgot to humble myself before the reality of the situation.
The reality that I am not a master.
The reality that I am not yet properly equipped.
The reality that I am not fully aware of all the dangers of this realm.
The reality that I am a small hin in a very big world.
And the reality that it is better to leave heroics to others: my job is to survive and to ensure that what matters is passed on.
Perhaps one day I will be a “hero”.
But today, I am a sore and sorry hin who had to carry her friend’s corpse back to town, and watch as some cared about the death, and others ignored it like it was an everyday occurance.
If that ignorance is what marks a hero, then let me forever remain a student of the way, and let me cry for the dead. To wash their skin, fix their hair, and mourn over them. To smooth the pain lines etched in their foreheads, and to sing softly to them of the blessed fields that await them.
Let me remain Merlynna. Just… Merlynna.
~Entry 8 - The Grand Tour, and another Answer to Prayer~
After a night of rest and meditation, I found myself speaking with Cecil, Mister Z, and Ros again. We talked about the need for a Master for myself; they had questions about the other Monk Orders, so I told them about the main ones. It's always interested me how little others know about the Monastic Arts when they're there for any who want to seek them, but I guess I've always been more singularly focussed than others.
After some banter and some hinnish pastries (thanks Mister Z!), Cecil offered to take me on a tour of Narfell, well, to the places that we could reach together without too much risk. The other two gladly joined us, and so together we set off from the land near the Legion Tower, heading south to Norwick.
For me, this was an important exercise, as we are taught to always know firsthand whatever we can.
Rule 3 - A Hin Fist never believes what they are told, they check to make sure
Arriving in Norwick, we found a bard named Unen who joined us and continued south, heading towards the Graveyard. Cecil told me that the town of Norwick was built on cursed land, and rebuilt four or more times, which seems insane to me. I don't think I'd build anything on cursed land, let alone rebuild it. A dog to their vomit, and a fool to their folly, I suppose.
Yet as we walked towards the Graveyard, a most strange sight greeted us. Four massive boulders were balanced precariously on found pointed smaller stones, and within them was a kneeling hin, wearing robes.
As we approached, she spoke, saying "Unless you are a challenger, I have no words to say to you."
My heart raced within my chest, as I asked myself could this be the Master I have sought?
I raised my voice, and spoke up, saying "If you are a Master, I would challenge you"
"I am Linam the Swift. Who am I to face?"
"I am Merlynna Proudfeet, Acolyte of the Hin Fist."
"Very well then Merlynna. Prepare yourself and face me."
After a few moments of centering breath, I launched myself at Linam. And true to her name, she was swift indeed! Whilst I landed several blows, her own blows punched through my defense and left me winded. She smiled slightly, and beckoned me on, leading to a good minute of us trading strikes, dodging, shifting and spinning. As I neared the end of my strength she stepped back and raised a hand, bringing the challenge to an end.
She was astonished that I had managed to hit her, and did not dismiss me off-hand, instead telling me to train further, and then to seek her out when I was stronger that I might provide a challenge to her. Finally, she asked how I would train, to which I replied that I would seek out strong foes and learn from the book of Rinnel Proudfeet, my ancestor who learnt at the feet of the Masters of the Dojo of the Four Winds. Satisfied, she nodded and thew a medallion at me, a medallion that now adorns my neck, before leaving the area. It's almost as if she was waiting for me, and indeed, once she had gone, the boulders fell off the stones they were perched on and crumbled into dust.
If this was not enough, Cecil kept his word and took me on a tour of the Graveyard, the Rawlinswood, the Gypsy Pass, and then back to the Nar's Pass. Each had its own adventure, each its own peril and excitement, but nothing could compare to the reality that I have finally found the Master who will train me.
Linam the Swift, I will honour your teaching, and become stronger that we might duel again soon.
~Entry 7 - Laying the past to rest~
The big day had come. I had trained and worked hard, and finally, finally I would attempt to do one of the two things I had come to Narfell to do; to inter the ashes of Rinnel and Lynna on their old farmland, in what is now troll infested swamp, but what was once the Silver Valley.
Several adventurers and friends I had made offered to help, so I told them to assemble at dawn at the Legion Tower near the ruins of the Temple of Kelemvore. I thought there would be five or six of us… Mister Z, Faelar, Roslyn, Atel, Filfred, Talyna, Theaon, Vick, and Leroy were all invited, as was Keerla and Carol. Of those, I figured about half would make it.
Instead, I ended up with a veritable army. Cecil the Northman, Inquisitor of Vlana Borodin of Peltarch, as well as a man who fell from the sky who once was a tree (I still have questions about that), another bard named Isolde who is good friends with Ros, a mage with a blade that dripped flame, plus most of the people I just named and a few others I'm certain I've forgotten. It was overwhelming, especially when some of them were as big as at least three hins!
But, this fell under good old rule 28, so there was no way I was going to turn anyone away.
Rule 28 - If you need help, ask!
I deferred leadership to Theaon; as the head of the Legion, he had the capacity to organise such a motley crew, where I would have just ummed and erred, and probably erred badly. We split into frontliners and scouts, with others finding their own space, and off we set across the Scar on the ferry.
Getting to the other side, I rang the gong. A sign that I had finally arrived, that even if this ended in failure, that I had done my best. I had made the attempt. Keerla guided us deeper into the ruins, and then…
... then the urn began to rattle in my pack.
Confused, I took it out and looked at it. But it wasn't moving anymore, so I tucked it in my belt, just in case.
As we got closer, the urn rattled again, so I took it in my hands. Something was definitely up!
Finally, we got to the hill that led to the swamp that was the Silver Valley. The urn shook so violently that the lid came off, a mist seemed to billow up and envelop us all, and after a few moments, I saw two people I had thought I would not see again this side of eternity.
My beloved Great-Grandpa, Rinnel, and his wife, my Great-Grandma, Lynna.
Smiling and waving us on, they led us all into the Silver Valley... and it WAS the Silver Valley, just like it was in their day. All the people were there, although they couldn't see us. Valley Vittles was there, as was the Tea Garden, the Locksmith, the Caravans and the Training Barracks.
Afterwards I discovered that this was a vision, one that not everyone saw. Only those who had been there before, or knew enough of the Valley, were able to see the vision given to us by Rinnel and Lynna.
As we continued through the Silver Valley, I stopped at the Altar on the hill, and offered up a prayer of thanks to Arvoreen before we moved on to the farm.
The old farm.
It was exactly how they'd told me it would be. A few pigs running around, Bessie the cow out the back, rows of beans and carrots growing, and washing on the line.
I couldn't believe it!
Rinnel and Lynna met us there, and beckoned me over to a tree in the back of the plot, where I was able to scrape back the soil, put their ashes down, and offer up prayers to Arvoreen and pay my respects.
Afterwards, Lynna hugged and kissed me before going to her final rest... my cheek still remembers her touch. I cried like a baby, I admit it, but they were tears of joy, tears of relief, tears shed for remembrance, and hope, and promises made and kept.
Rinnel remained, and I swore to him that I would keep my word, that I would finish his journey, find a master to train me, and become a master myself. He smiled at me, held me at arm's length to look at me, before taking off his own gloves and passing them on to me.
I don't know how he did it. But somehow he did, and those gloves are with me still.
I held him close for what seemed like an eternity, but it passed all too soon, and he too departed.
With Rinnel and Lynna both at rest, I finally heard what the others were saying... that the trolls were coming for us. With the intervention of the ancestors at an end, the adventurers had to do what they had come to do, and cut a path through the swamp for us.
I have never seen such carnage. Sword, bow and spell were used in a flurry of violence and victory, with no evil left stirring in that place. It was all over so quickly, and before I knew it, we were back at the Ferry, and across the Scar to relative safety once more.
Of all the people who went with me that day, there were three who stayed closer to me than any: Roslyn Underhill, Mister Z, and Cecil Northman.
All three will be in my prayers of thanks tonight, as I rest well and remember the good times with my family.
But tomorrow, the search for a new Master of the Hin Fist begins.
~Entry 6 - Answered Prayers~
Rule 27 - A hin fist seizes every opportunity, for there is no knowing when the wheel of fate will turn back again
I'm trying to get stronger, and I'm trying to earn the coin I need to get some magic items. Cheating it may seem to use magic, but if everyone's doing it, I just don't have any options if I am to compete and survive here for this realm is incredibly tough.
The Sunite Paladin Caling helped me out some though, having found a pair of Hin Fist gloves which she sold me for a fair price. The difference they made was apparent, because my strikes afterwards were not only more sure, but also stronger.
During a trip to the kobold swamps with some strange folk who were altogether too bloodthirsty for me, I ran into a scout named Vick. I've seen him in passing a few times, but he's the quiet, retiring type. He was watching from the trees, making sure that we didn't get overwhelmed by the lizardfolk who were there, or the swamp wisps that seemed to co-exist with them. How does that work, anyway? How would you tame a swamp wisp, and what do they even eat?
Once back in town and after I'd cleaned my robes, I spoke with Vick again. Seems he's part of the Peltarch Far Scouts, and as they don't require any woodscraft skills, he was happy to accept me as a potential recruit. For now that means that I patrol the area around Peltarch, train with other Far Scouts, and write reports about what I've been up to. All seems fair; it's the sort of thing I used to do for Ma and Pa with the wagons, just on a bigger scale.
After that, I was in the Peltarch commons when I met someone I never thought I would see in the flesh; the monk Keira, you know, the one who used to be in the Sisterhood? She's a lot darker than I was told in the stories, but I guess time does that to some people. In any case, we spoke for a while, or rather, I spoke and she listened whilst being a bit on edge, and eventually she asked me to show her how I train when I had time.
Might I have found the master who can train me at last?
~Entry 5 - Worgs~
So it seems that I'm getting to know the local terrain up here at Peltarch pretty well. Most of the adventurers seem to stay here, as opposed to Norwick, which makes it the logical place for me to be to meet people and build important relationships.
Rule 5 - A hin fist should build key relationships wherever they go, so that they always have support in times of need
Whilst in Peltarch recently, I met some elven scouts who are part of the Wolves, a scouting group who, according to them, is like a huge extended family. We talked nice with each other for a while, but they told me that if I wished to join, that I would need to train in woodscraft; reading tracks, hunting unseen amongst the trees, and so on. It's an option for the future I guess, but for now, I think I'll keep looking for a master to train me.
After that, I was invited by a tallie to go hunting worgs. I remember the tales that Ma used to tell, about how worgs ridden by goblins would come at night and steal away bad children, but it seems that these worgs are not ridden by anyone. Instead, they've been tamed by the local orcs who are dubbed "the dead ones" because they get killed by adventurers an awful lot.
Amongst those I met that day was a nice human named Z, a crafter by trade who says he can make me wonderful gloves, when I have enough coin. Which is fair enough, really. Can't ask someone to work their trade for free.
So this big group of folk rolls out of Peltarch and up into the hills, including Scott, a fellow with the finest pair of gloves I've ever seen, and he's not even a monk! He let me borrow them, and they magically resized for me, which was wonderful. With those gloves, and the blessings of Chauntea by Mister Z, I was able to strike with a precision and power that I've never had before…
Is that what it feels like, to be a master?
I guess magic is a bit of a loophole, a cheaters way to compete. But if all the world is cheating, there's not a lot of options.
The worgs were tough, and their howls put your hair on end, but they fell like all the baddies do in the books, and we went back to Peltarch victorious.
Speaking of magic, I noticed that the orcs, kobolds, and lizardmen all use spells like Entangle and Grease, trying to slow down and stop us so that they can then control the battlefield. It's not a bad tactic, but so far, the only thing slowing me down is my own inexperience.
There's only one way to address that.
~Entry 4 - To Peltarch, and an adventure~
After a good night's rest, I headed back to the giant chasm, apparently named "Sam's Hill", probably by someone with a sense of the ironic, and turned northwards.
Having been warned about the tribesmen, I stuck to the treeline, figuring that if nothing else, I'd be less of a target. Sneaking and sliding, I was able to get a fair way without any issue, when I heard voices up ahead.
Diving into a bush, I peered out and waited.
I didn't have to wait long.
Coming along the path was a blonde human woman, quite pretty, but poorly armored and looking a bit out of place, with none other than Roslyn! Seeing it was her, I rolled out of the bush and greeted her. She seemed pleased to have met me again, and we quickly got talking about my task. They both agreed to help me, and accompanied me the rest of the way to Peltarch.
When we got there, Ros gave me a wonderful gift, telling me that it was so that I could "freshen up my look" in a tailor named "Vanity Plates". Carole (the blonde human woman) and I both had a bit of fun there, but quickly enough we headed outside, hoping to catch up with Ros again. Carole ended up being a bard, as did about fifty other people!
No, no, I exaggerate. There were three or four bards in the commons. I've never seen more than one bard at a time, but there were 3 or 4 of them! Apparently there is a school for them in Peltarch, which goes some way to explaining it.
Perhaps I should found a Monastery, if I become a master?
No, don't get ahead of yourself Merlynna.
Rule 9 - Don't face tomorrow before you have to, today has enough of its own worries
Facing today means that I need to face the fact that I'm just not good enough of a monk to put the ashes to rest yet. But… I met someone who either is NAMED Caling, or IS a Caling, whatever that may be. But she was nice, and she organised a party to take me through the kobolds, along with a man named Leroy, and another man whose name I didn't catch.
What IS a kobold? I thought to myself, having never seen one before.
I soon found out. Small, scaly, yappy things.
And THEY have monks!
Between Caling and Leroy, with a bit of help from the other fellow, they managed to clear out an entire cave of kobolds who had spellcasters and sneaks and all sorts of things. I skulked, watched, and learnt, picking up what treasure I could, before returning to town to split the treasure.
Leroy very kindly showed me where to get the best value for the treasure, and then he showed me something I never thought I'd see.
I thought they were a legend!
And he offered them to me. To me! For only a thousand gold!
Roslyn Underhill, I will be saying an extra prayer just in thanks to you tonight, because your generosity, together with the coin from the kobolds and my life savings, meant that I had enough coin. Just.
And after that, I met Talyna and Atel...
The pen marks get a little scattered here
Atel, and Talyna, they were there at the founding of the Silver Valley. Atel remembers Lynna.
Have I found the people who can help me find their old farm?
I need to organise a meeting of all the right-sized folks I can, along with a few tallies, so that we can make some plans for a trip to the old Silver Valley.
But that's tomorrow. For today, I need to get stronger.
~Entry 3 - The not-Silver-Valley~
I asked around a bit; what could I expect to the north of Norwick? Some of the locals sneered, insisting that only death, or boredom awaited in that direction, but a kindly old man warned me about some tribal folk who had taken up residence in what was called "the gypsy camp", and that if I went north and east a bit, I'd find some of my kin. That would be welcome indeed, because when most folk around you are twice your size, you need somewhere you feel like you belong.
Sure enough, after heading north for a bit, there was a giant crater with water at the bottom, a tower manned by dwarves, a weird smelling restaurant, and another road to the east.
I checked out that road, and quickly found myself at a barricade staffed by a mix of what turned out to be Troff Legion soldiers, and Hin defenders. I looked further, and there were right-sized homes, farms, animals… it WAS the new Silver Valley! I must have remarked as much, because one of the Troff soldiers quickly shushed me.
"We don't say that"
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because three times the Silver Valley has been destroyed. Maybe it's in the name, maybe it's not, but it's not worth the risk. This is definitely not-the-Silver-Valley."
A little confused, I wandered off to find out more.
Approaching one of the archers, I asked them about it, but they didn't want to talk at all about what had happened.
Some things are apparently too painful.
But even in that place, with signs of gypsies, hins, gnomes, and soldiers living together peacefully, there were signs of trouble. Apparently someone blew up a temple to Kelemvore, the tally god of the dead or some such, I can't keep up with all the religious nonsense. In any case, the temple was a heap of rubble, and the priest didn't want to talk about it AT ALL.
I don't understand all this not-talking-about-things. You have to accept reality and not pretend it's not real, it's one of the rules!
Rule 17 - A Hin Fist always faces the truth, no matter how painful
I settled myself for a rest at the Jiyyd memorial lookout. They've set up some stones so you can look over this river and see where Jiyyd used to be. There's flags and remembrance plaques and things. It was… peaceful, if sad.
I couldn't see any trolls, demons, or devils from where I was, and I think that's probably a good thing. I know they're there, waiting for me.
But today's not the day for going over to face THAT truth.
~Entry 2 - Explorations~
With the decision to stay in Narfell and to attempt the task of putting Rinnel and Lynna's ashes to rest, I began to explore. I knew only what my family had told me of the place, and that's no way to be aware of your surroundings
Rule 4 - A Hin Fist is always aware of her surroundings
One of the Norwickians told me that after the fall of Jiyyd, that they moved the Silver Valley to the south and west of Norwick, but that it wasn't there anymore. I went to look, and ran into some goblins. Goblins!
They had wolves with them too, so I beat up the ones that came after me, then slipped into the treeline and headed up the path that was there. Overgrown it was, with few cart ruts left; it hadn't been used in years. Sure enough, there was evidence of an old settlement of hins and gnomes, but the place was abandoned, lost, and obviously the site of a great violence.
Saddened, I headed to the east, to see what else was around. Beetles that fed on corpses, snakes, and more wolves! Then to the south, undead in a graveyard (why do they not burn their dead???), possessed pigs, and shadows. Beyond that, a lake, and many, many more goblins.
This land is every bit as dangerous as I was told.
I decided to head north, and see what lay in that direction.