What gentle dream?

Cedric: Entry 15

Although I still dislike them as a means of travel, there is one good thing to be said of boats: they provide ample opportunity and reason to speak with other people. I am beginning to understand more about my companions each day.

I ought to start things from the beginning. We returned to the port city and reunited Deedlit with Xavien; he seemed less happy than expected, however I also feel as if he the kind of man that is naturally stoic. Taz and Gareth left soon after, to discuss something I believe. Xavien paid us for our work, although Deth attempted to haggle him into paying us more. It is perhaps fortunate that Taz had already left by that point, otherwise I believe she would have joined his efforts. Regardless, he gave us the money and I divided it equally. I also had the chance to speak with Xavien with what we had experienced while in the city, and he mentioned that he knows not only the elf in the library but Vandal, Trina, as well as others whose names were familiar but that we had yet to meet. It seems they traveled together for a while, much as we have. I wished to ask him more about them and his story, but he seemed reluctant to speak about it, let alone continue entertaining company. Therefore, I turned my attention to Shel. I gave her the necklace I purchased for her—she was delighted, and wears it wonderfully—and made plans to meet with her later. I do not normally wish to give such gifts or speak of such things publically, but the others were distracted enough that I did not feel it was a problem.

After it became apparent that Gareth and Taz would not be returning any time soon, and given Xavien’s dour state, I decided to go to the marketplace and sell the ruby Shale had given us. I imagined it would fetch a higher price in the port city; at the very least it was not hard to find a buyer. Pneu and Lady Jaela accompanied me; I’d nearly forgotten that Pneu can be quite amicable when she wishes to be, if admittedly quiet.

Shortly after we sold the gem and divided the money, Deth ran up to us in a panic. Gareth’s mother had joined Fahrezz and the others, apparently, and was threatening him and Taz somehow. Deth needed us to accompany him to find them, and that was all he needed to say. I ran with him, anxious to find them and help. Pneu and Lady Jaela followed, although Anna did not show up until a later time.

The sight we found was an odd one. An older woman stood in the alley with a large bone golem behind her, and a small girl with a toy ball stood nearest us. Fahrezz was in the child’s body, and he made sure to taunt me. I nearly staggered when I used detect evil on him, his aura was so great. I will need to avoid such a redundancy in the future. I also found to little surprise that Deth is evil, as is Gareth’s mother. Gareth himself is not, however, which gladdens me.

Deth’s trigger-happy nature was appropriate for once; he shot the woman almost instantly. I quickly subdued Fahrezz’s host while the others entered combat with Gareth’s mother and the golem. I was worried at first that it would not be good to kill her despite the fact that she is evil, but Deth assured me we had permission enough to do so. Apparently she was the one that had sent the dog creatures after Gareth, and that was why he panicked. There is clearly more to this story than what I’ve been told thus far. Regardless, she was quick to flee and after that we were able to destroy the golem with relative ease. Gareth was knocked unconscious in the process and picked up by the golem, but between Lady Jaela and myself we were able to restore him to physical health once the golem was destroyed and we pulled him from the resulting pile of bones. Taz was fortunately largely unharmed, despite having spent most of the battle inside a bone cage of the golem’s making; Lady Jaela is to thank for destroying it before it caused Taz too much damage.

Of course, once the battle was finished there was still the matter of the child that was Fahrezz’s host. She regained consciousness with relative ease, and I asked her name: she answered only “Number 47”. According to Deth, mortals may only be hosts for Quori if the agree to it. In an adult this would likely warrant them being killed for aiding such an evil creature—assuming they were given full disclosure of what they agreed to—but I do not think a child is competent enough to understand what agreeing to such a pact entails. Thus, I wished to take her to a temple and find a way to free her of the influence of Fahrezz. The others disagreed, seeing her as a threat somehow. We fell to arguing, but before a consensus could be reached Pneu slit her throat. Lady Jaela and I attempted to stop her, but it was to no avail. I nearly turned my blade on her for such an act, until it became apparent that she had no idea what she had just done.

I was reluctant to believe her at first but looking back, such behavior is uncharacteristic of her. She does not shed blood without purpose, although I do not know if she would have thought of the child as guilty or not. Regardless, her confusion at my accusations seemed genuine enough and so I cannot blame her. It was likely her sister, Sally, which killed the girl, meaning that it seems she can take control of her body for short periods of time.

Of course, hindsight is always sharper than our view of the present. I was unsure of whether to believe her at the time and furious for what had happened regardless, and so I left before I did or said something I knew I would regret. It pained me to leave Gareth after all that had happened, but I trusted Deth and the others to watch out for him while I cleared my head. I knew I was in no state to help him, and did not wish to burden him further with keeping me in check.

Lady Jaela followed me, thankfully, as I made my way through the city to a park. I paced through there and she followed me, calming me down until I was able to discuss things in a rational matter. I expressed my frustration at the entire situation; I asked her if she thought there was even a possible right solution to such a thing. I know that killing the child was not the thing to do, and yet… I do not know if there was anything else to be done, either. Even if I had been allowed to take her to a temple, it is uncertain if they could have done anything for her. Sadly such thoughts are too late now. I will need to watch Pneu more closely from now on… as best as I am able to, at least.

Lady Jaela admitted that she is not always certain if there are right answers to every situation. I suppose this is what she was speaking of before, when she asked me about questioning faith… This worried me somewhat, given that she is the leader of a faith, but then she is still but a child and has much to learn. I hope she is able to better come up with answers than myself. I am far better suited to swinging a sword about than philosophizing. She jokingly mentioned that she is just the opposite, which did draw a smile from me. I think… between the two of us, we will be all right. The morality of the situation was not clear but we both acted as best we could to make it right, and I feel at times that is the most we mortals can hope for.

We spoke for some time after that, largely regarding the others in the group. I expressed my concern for Gareth given recent occurrences, and she told me she intended to speak with him; I’m glad for that. I also vented my frustrations with the others, not merely Pneu. I will not list their faults here, as such things are not worth dwelling on. I care for them regardless, and have faith that they will improve, besides. Even Deth, who is evil for the moment, is not beyond changing for the better. Dealing with them all is trying at times, but they are irreplaceable to me.

After we spoke and I had calmed down, we returned to the tavern. I had to bring her with while I met with Shel (although I very nearly forgot as such, I was so overcome with nerves) but she did not seem to mind. There was also a note pinned to my door, telling me where Anna was. I thought it was strange, and asked Taz to take care of finding her for me. She was happy to oblige, which I appreciated.

I met with Shel at the designated time and place. Lady Jaela was kind enough to give us space, staying just close enough that she could keep an eye on us but not being intrusive in the least. I was extraordinarily grateful for that; I prefer to keep such talks as private as possible. Shel did not mind Lady Jaela’s presence either, especially after I explained that I had made a promise to Gareth that I would not spend any time with her alone. She is regrettably—but understandably—terrified of him, and does not wish to make him angry. I made sure to explain to her that he only means well; they all do, even if their methods of showing it are… often unfortunate.

I told her I had gotten her note and asked if she had gotten mine; she had. Just to be certain, however, I told her I forgive her and still care very much for her. What she did, while undeniably bad, was at the very least understandable in light of the environment she was raised in. She protested, saying she still felt bad, but I told her she shouldn’t worry about it any longer. If I have it in me to consistently forgive the behavior of my companions, I can certainly forgive her. She smiled and said that after we left Ravenmoor she had hoped she’d see me again, even if she never expected to… I was glad to hear that, because despite myself I felt the same. And I told her that even if the situation isn’t ideal, I—I don’t want to lose her.

She was reluctant to agree at first—she said that even with Xavien and Deedlit she did little more than get in the way—and I was admittedly concerned about the possibility of putting her in danger. But I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving her in Arenal, so far from contact and travel, and while I could give her money to send her to Aundair I would rather spend time with her while I can. I may very well die on this journey—I have long since accepted that—and I want to have her beside me in the meantime, selfish as it may be.

So I told her as such—that I want her with me, and again that I still care so much for her—and she had one final question for me. She wanted to know if she was the one I really wanted… And I did not even have to think about the answer. I told her “yes”; that I would not have offered or said I cared for her if it were not the case. In response she hugged might tightly, and I leaned down to kiss her. I did not realize how much I missed doing so until then. Lady Jaela whistled when I did—undoubtedly something she picked up from Taz—but I did not pay it heed. I simply smiled, knowing that in the morning I would get to see Shel again and she would be traveling with me.

I smiled the entire walk back to the tavern, in fact, where it seems the others had been keeping very busy. Anna was back from wherever she had been, and was working on something with Taz. I watched for a while, but it was very complicated and for the most part I did not understand what they were doing so I left to go to sleep.

In the morning we congregated for breakfast prior to leaving, as we always do. Needless to say, it caused a commotion among the others when Shel arrived with a bag in tow and I stood to greet her. Gareth immediately pulled me outside the tavern to speak in private.

He was not pleased in the least but not… angry, either. He seemed more worried and frustrated than anything. He asked me why life was hard, and I told him it is to make us stronger. It will do me to good to remember as such. He also told me I am an idiot for bringing Shel with, and I told him that he is probably right. I think if nothing else he understands what I feel for her, even if he does not agree with it. He said he would not “put his neck on the line” for Shel, and that he made no promises about keeping Deth in line, either. I assured him that I do not expect him to do either; I take full responsibility for her safety. Furthermore, I reminded him that Deth owes me his life and I trust him to honor that debt by not harming Shel. He seemed somewhat placated by that, but was also concerned about the fact that the carriage is already cramped, and one more person in it—particularly a person that many others in the group actively dislike—will only make things worse. Prior to reuniting with Shel I had noticed this problem, and was already planning to purchase a horse or two to alleviate the problem. I told him this, making sure to clarify that Shel would ride with me on one horse and that I would give him the other, as he is the other largest person in the group and cannot enjoy being cramped in the carriage.

He was satisfied with this arrangement, but reminded me also that Shel is not a combatant. When I mentioned that neither is Anna, he brought up the fact that Anna at least is crafty… Not to mention extraordinarily lucky. I cannot protest either of those statements, but neither could I stand the thought of leaving Shel. I told him as much, and he gave me a look that made it clear he was still very concerned. He then asked if I had ever seen someone I loved killed in front of me. I admitted I had not, and he assured me that while he had never experienced it either, it is not pleasant. He went on to say that he did not want to see me break down if she were killed… He cares about me, I am glad for that. He does not say as such directly, but I believe conversations like this show it.

I reassured him that I would not allow myself to break if, goddess forbid, something were to happen to Shel. He stared at me for a moment, as if judging the certainty of my statement. Whatever he saw must have been enough to soothe his worry for the time being, as he relaxed somewhat and finally consented to her coming with. I thanked him, and was about to say something more—I had not yet had the chance to ask him how he was holding up after the days’ past events—but then Deth informed me mentally that Sally was claiming she had never killed a blonde before.

I bolted. Of course it was no difficult feat for Gareth to catch hold of me and prevent me from getting too far, which was frustrating but I understand his concern. He demanded to know what was going on; I told him but before he released me he insisted that I calm down, and promise I would not do anything rash. I gave him my word and then I ran the remainder of the way back into the tavern.

Sally was floating outside of Pneu, scaring Shel nearly to death. Fortunately she cannot do anything to her like this, but that did not soothe my worry in the least. I told her she would not harm her, and that I would strictly insure this. The first appropriate temple of the Sovereign Host that we run across I am going to inquire as to a means of removing her from Pneu, or at least removing her control over her; I am unsure if “Protection from Evil” will be enough. I will do the same for any future hosts of Fahrezz that we come across… Ironically, it was mention of Fahrezz that got her to leave Shel alone for the moment. Deth and Taz told her that he would be happy to know that she was killed—I do not doubt that—and so she would only be helping him by harming her. It would do me well to remember Sally’s hatred of him in the future, should I need to stoop to negotiating with her.

After that, Taz brought up many of the same concerns Gareth did: namely, that Shel is not a combatant, nor is she good at crafting as Anna is. I told her that I already knew this and had discussed such things with Gareth. I also told her that if things become too dangerous, I will pay for her fare back to Aundair and the living expenses she would incur while staying there. I hope I will not have to, of course. Regardless, my words seemed to placate her for the time being.

With our situation more or less settled upon, we left the tavern to find the boat the high councilman had provided us. It was incredibly large, with a suitably sized crew. They showed us to the rooms we were each provided with, and then we set out. All of them were extremely respectful and even amicable to us, although in the coming days Pneu and Deth were able to fantastically ruin their notions of us by causing mischief constantly. Ah well. They did not harm anyone, which I suppose is a start.

Shortly after the living arrangements on the vessel were made, I sat down beside Gareth on the deck. For a long while I had been thinking over how to best repay him for all he has done, and thought I had decided on something acceptable. I told him that although I know he prefers to wander, for as often and as long as he wishes he has a place at my family’s table and a room in our estate. It was the least I could do, I thought, but— in response he cried. Only a single tear, but a tear nonetheless and I have never seen him so much as saddened by something before. I do not want I worry I overstepped some bounds by making such an offer… Although it will always stand, regardless of whether he chooses to make use of it or not. I apologized, of course, and wiped the tear away before I hugged him because I was at a loss for what else to do or say. He said it wasn’t my fault; that he merely did not “do family things” as he put it. That would make sense, given what we saw of his mother. I asked if there was some other way I could repay him; in response he called me “weird.”

I do not think h Am I truly so strange? He claimed the most normal parts about me were my horns and tail. I asked if I was strange because I cared, but he insisted that it is normal for people that care, to care. I asked why I was strange, then, since I cared about a number of people. He said it was because I cared about him, and so in response I listed off all the reasons I had to care about him. He did not seem to think such a list could exist, so of course I had to prove it did. Here is what I remember of it:

1. Saved my life at least twice
2. Keeps me in line and helps me be a better person
3. Consented to me bringing Shel with
4. Helps protect the others in the group
5. Helping save the world, although he has no obligation to
6. Most of all I like having him around; he is my friend.

When I finished the list he called me a ham, of all things. I do not understand why he would call me that, but before I could pry more Lady Jaela shooed me off. I hope it was not because I was making Gareth feel worse. I caused him to cry once already, I would feel terrible if I were to do so again. I feel as if I am a horrible friend to him right now, offering him things he does not want and unable to help him understand that it is all right and even good for people to care for him. Perhaps Lady Jaela was more successful in her endeavor, if that was indeed what she spoke to him of. I truly hope she was. He is a good man, and there is no reason for him to think himself incapable of being loved.

Fittingly I later spoke to Deth, asking him to keep an eye on Gareth. He admitted that he already does—quite closely—which I am not surprised to hear. It is more for my own peace of mind that I asked… Things cannot be easy for Gareth, given everything that has happened, and I want to be sure there are people there for him. Deth also mentioned off-handedly that he has known about Gareth’s mother since the first week of our traveling together, and wanted to kill her even before it was known she had joined with Fahrezz. It was not my place to ask him why, so I did not, but I do wonder what she did to make Deth hate her so. Undoubtedly it was something to Gareth, but…

I also made sure to thank Deth for… not shooting Shel, although I should not have to phrase it as such. He made it clear he was only doing such on my behalf, which I know full well but still appreciate. He then proceeded to make a lewd remark regarding the fact that I have still promised Gareth that I will not be alone with Shel for any period of time at all—and I had to storm off for a moment in sheer embarrassment. Honestly, I do not think any of my friends have the least bit of shame or sense of decorum—!

But I digress. I returned quickly, because I was still not done speaking with him. I told him that even if he was only refraining from harming her on my behalf, I fully believed that she would prove herself a good person and trustworthy. After all, my trust in him was not misplaced. When I told him this he tried very hard to insist otherwise, but eventually I prevailed in convincing him that I had not been wrong to make the choice to trust him. Even still he told me I should “cut my losses” and not “gamble” again, but I told him relationships with people aren’t like that. He tried to assert otherwise, but for all he claims to know about mortals the fact remains that he still understands very little about them. Otherwise, he would not have come to me for advice about his feelings regarding Gareth. He did not have much to say in response to that, as I expected. I was in a much better mood following our conversation.

The next few days passed without much event, although as mentioned before the others made sure to keep entertained in a number of occasionally unfortunate ways. On our third day of travel I approached Taz, and asked her to speak with me over dinner. I needed her advice on how to best handle the situation with Lady Jaela and Crozen; she seemed genuinely surprised that I was coming to her asking for help. I told her that she off all people seems to know the workings of politics best, and would know better than myself how to deal with dishonest people. Although many of the laws of Thrane do not apply to me now that they have been handed down by illegitimate authority, I am far from experienced in the realm of illegal activity.

She asked me what I knew of the situation already, and I told her as much as I knew from my initial discussion with Lady Jaela and Deth. I explained that some of the cardinals were still loyal to Lady Jaela, and that we would need to return her to the capitol in order to prove she was not only still alive, but still a legitimate Keeper of the Flame. A good deal depends on variables that, at the time, I did not know. We decided that proper plans could not be made until we spoke with Lady Jaela; we thus agreed to speak with her the following day.

Beyond the business of the conversation I found Taz is delightful to simply speak with, even if our views vary on a number of levels. I enjoy learning about her perception of the world, even if it saddens me at times.

She comes from a poor background, and although she is an elf and thus very old compared to myself, she did not see much of the Last War. She was instead busy hiding away in the shady parts of town, although she did have some experiences with warfare. That is how she came into contact with the woman that knows the pirates we encountered, if I recall correctly. I have no doubt that her experiences and upbringing were why she is so suspicious of people, and why she can be so ridden with avarice at times. Her concept of family is only “people that you owe”, which… pains me to hear. There are so many people in this world that have been grievously hurt, or forced to grow up in circumstances nothing short of horrible. I do not doubt she is one of them; she is so guarded. At one point I asked if she was well; her drinking earlier had raised my suspicions. She assured me she was fine, and while I could tell that at that moment she was, something larger was weighing on her mind. She was not inclined to tell me what it was, so I did not pry. Still, it is unfortunate she has such a difficult time trusting people, and so often assumes the worst of them. I know that there will always be people that wish to do one harm, but they are not the norm. I hope one day she will understand that.

She also told me to my face that I am sheltered, and I told her in return that I will be the first to admit as such; that much I have learned from our travels. Growing up I rarely encountered anything worse than occasional verbal barbs or disdainful glances from fellow nobility that my mother and I would meet in Fairhaven. We never traveled to or through the more dangerous parts of the city, so I saw little of the crime and poverty Taz knew. Not only that, but bandits or enemy soldiers rarely troubled the estate. I believe that had to do more with my family’s reputation than the placement of the estate; we are a relatively short distance away from Fairhaven and I knew many other estates near by that were troubled while we were left alone. The truth of the matter is that there are few people who would attack the estate and surrounding lands protected by a house of tieflings, let alone one headed by a paladin known as the “She-wolf of Aundair”.

I told her all this, along with some of my family’s history and what exactly tieflings are. I explained how we must strive against our blood and the impulses it calls us to, and how because of our success in doing so and the teachings of Dol Arrah I believe there are few indeed who are beyond change and redemption. This is why I tolerate the misbehavior of the others; I firmly believe that all of them will—and have—become better people. I do not think she put very much stock in my beliefs, but I don’t mind. It is not the duty of a paladin of Dol Arrah to forcibly convert others, but rather live as a beacon of light so they might see the rewards of virtue and seek it on their own.

On that matter of discussion, I asked her why she had not tried to better her circumstances. She has certainly made enough money adventuring that she would not need to return to such a life after traveling with us. She said she enjoys what she does, which I suppose is reason enough for some to continue what they do. I do not think it would be healthy for her, but I will not stop her either. I will simply continue being her friend, and encouraging her to continue putting her skills to a more noble use as she has with us.

We also discussed crafting for a bit, and she explained to me what she and Anna had been working on: combusting arrows. I was most impressed. She said there are a number of things that she’s capable of crafting; I will have to keep this in mind in case I require something to be made. She also mentioned that she had found Anna in jail the previous day… I will simply say that I am glad Taz was able to get her out of it. After dinner and our discussion we went fishing. It was a most enjoyable end to the evening.

During the afternoon of the next day I spoke with Taz and Lady Jaela about the political state of Thrane, and what ought to be done in order to most effectively return Lady Jaela to power. As we had discussed before, the truest way to return her to power is to reconnect her to the Flame itself. Her former dragon guardian may make this difficult, given that it responds to and protects exclusively the Keeper of the Flame; until she is returned to that position, it will likely regard her and the rest of us as a threat. There is also the possibility that since she has been disconnected from the Flame, a new Keeper has been chosen by it. This new Keeper may or may not have been bent to Crozen’s will, through magical means or otherwise. This could prove particularly problematic in that the Silver Flame may not re-take Lady Jaela as its Keeper if it has already chosen another one… And ousting Crozen and the Quori from power within the Church will be significantly harder without a Keeper of the Flame to wield authority enough to do so.

Of course, none of this will matter if no new Keeper has been chosen. In that case our work will be easier, although there are still a number of other challenges we will face. Lady Jaela is not certain if the allies within the Church she once had will still be her allies when she returns; Crozen is a master manipulator and torturer. On this note, however, she did have information and evidence linking him to a number of assassination attempts. This information is carefully stored within her room, assuming it had not been found and subsequently destroyed. If nothing else, we may be able to rely on this as a means of ousting Crozen and his associates.

Our best option is to return to Flamehold and have Pneu observe Crozen in her own way, before deciding on our next move. Very likely we may have Lady Jaela fake her own death, either by Taz creating a false body called a “Simulcra” (should she have the skill to do so by the time it is necessary), or by finding herbs that will give the illusion of death for Lady Jaela to ingest. Obviously I would much prefer the former option, but should the latter prove necessary Taz will accompany Lady Jaela’s body and Deth will keep in contact with her. I was quite surprised that Taz volunteered, but glad. I believe she is growing more fond of her each day. I had thought of having Deth do as such—although he is a traitor to the Quori now, he could enter under the pretense of having killed Lady Jaela as a means of returning to their good graces—but Taz assured me that the Quori are not the type of people to take traitors back no matter the reason. Yet, she later said we ought to have a plan in case Deth were to betray us to the Quori. How odd.

That same comment about having a plan in case Deth were to betray us prompted Lady Jaela to remark that perhaps Taz ought to begin sleeping with him as she does Gareth in order to keep him here. Honestly, where does she get these ideas? That is not how such things work, not in the least! Gareth is staying with us because he is a good man and our friend; Deth is staying with us because he is fond of us despite his protests otherwise. Taz is a lovely woman but I am certain the sating of her sexual appetite has nothing to with why they are or will stay with us. Clearly the others have been a much more detrimental influence on Lady Jaela than I had previously imagined. I understand that their behavior is their own volition, but I do wish they would be more discreet about it if only to keep from imparting the wrong ideas onto her. I do not mind Gareth teaching her the vital points on a body, as it will help her defend herself, and learning dice games from Taz is unsavory but far from harmful. But misconceptions like that have the potential to hurt her seriously as she grows older.

…Regrettably, it does also cause me to consider that perhaps I ought to explain the proper matters of physical love to Lady Jaela. I had hoped to avoid such a conversation until I had children of my own, but to think on it now she is four short years from adulthood and she ought to know the truths of the matter. I do not know if the Church of the Silver Flame allows its Keeper to marry or love, but in the wider scope of things it is better for her to be properly informed rather than not. I certainly would not wish for her to keep her current ideas of what it means.

Regardless, Taz also stated that she has some contacts in Thrane after all that may be able to assist us as well. I expect we will rely on them as well as Pneu’s observations to judge the political climate and act accordingly. If it turns out that we must bring Lady Jaela herself into Flamehold under the pretense of death, I will use the amulet she wears in order to keep her from sustaining any damage—assuming that it is kept on her. I truly would like to accompany her myself, but given that I am not allowed to lie even in these circumstances, it would be nothing short of foolish for me to do so. I believe the plan we have is a good one, given what information we have. I will continue to consider other possibilities as we travel, but this is certainly a respectable start.

On lighter matters I feel as if I ought to note that every now and again throughout the past few days Shel has been wont to run up and hide behind me; I was somewhat startled the first time she did so. All but invariably it has been due to some cruelty or japing on the part of my companions, but at least they have not harmed her outright. I would not stand for that. I do my best to reassure her each time that they will not harm her—that their behavior is only show—and she slowly seems to be growing less skittish around them as a result. I’m glad. She has also proved a great comfort to me as well, whenever my companions’ antics are too frustrating for me to wish to deal with. One such time when I sought her out she asked if I was allowed to be alone with her yet. I blushed and spluttered, of course, and sadly had to answer that I was not. I ought to speak with Gareth about such things; I certainly do not need to be chaperoned when with her any longer. Although… We are not married, and I am still under the obligation to my house to sire no bastard children. I will have to take this under consideration. Perhaps Taz would know of some preventative measure to be taken, although I dread the thought of asking her… But then, it may be better if we continued to merely spend time with one another chastely for the time being, so that I might come to know her better. Although it is not as if we would cease to do so if we were to spend nights together, and she has asked specifically to do so. I cannot rightly disappoint her… Perhaps if I assure Gareth and Taz both that I will have Dawnslayer with me when we are alone, it will soothe their worries, particularly Taz’s. I intend to always have the sword with me—to do otherwise would be an insult to Dol Arrah—so it would not be a lie.

I also spoke with Shel about keeping her safe, and learned a number of things about her that will help me to do so. I am going to teach her to wear light armor and use a shield in the coming days, and purchase her a sickle with which to defend herself in emergencies. Fortunately I do not expect she will need to use it, as she knows how to ride well enough and so can safely accompany me on the horse I will buy. No doubt the others will protest her carrying a weapon, but I might always say that if they feel she is a viable threat while armed then they will no longer be allowed to reasonably complain about her inability to defend herself. Beyond that she has few skills that could be of use in our travels… However, I feel that if nothing else she will learn something on the way.

Afina was rather distracting through most of our conversation, although thankfully her commentary was not snide but merely embarrassing in that she found us both “cute”. I worried Shel by inexplicably blushing at least once, and lost my train of thought a number of times. She seems to be a nice enough woman despite this; her behavior is certainly not born from spite.

Shel told me about her time between now and when we first met. She left Ravenmoor soon after we did, moving from inn to inn with money her father had given her for such a purpose. She did not want to remain after what had happened for fear of her life, and I do not blame her. Soon enough Xavien and Deedlit found her, and brought her along in order to deal with people during the daylight hours. They traveled through the halflings’ lands, but did not see any of the dinosaurs there. She noted she picked up a bit of Elven while traveling, but nothing substantial. I asked her if she had given any thought to following a faith, after… all that had happened with her last one. She confided that she was somewhat wary about religion given her past, but was willing to at least learn about the deities of the Sovereign Host and the Silver Flame. She expressed particular interest in the teachings of Dol Arrah, which gladdened me. While I would not want her to follow to her teachings solely because of my own faith, if she becomes interested in them because of myself and comes to genuinely love them on her own, I could not ask for more.

Our conversation ended after I explained the threats facing us, and why we are traveling to begin with. I took particular care to explain Fahrezz and the other Quori to her, as he is the threat I will have the most trouble defending her against. He and the others are also the only ones I feel we have cause to have legitimate worry over in regards to the ability to kill or otherwise stop us in our quest. She seemed to understand most of what I said, although she admitted that—understandably—much of it also went over her head. It is a great deal to take in at once, but I do not doubt that in time she will come to understand things better and even become a helpful, vital member of our group.

Despite everything that has happened in the past days, I am optimistic about the future. There have been a few setbacks and unfortunate incidents, but I believe things can and will continue to improve. We ought to reach Xendrick within the next two days; I am looking forward to docking and making more progress.

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Taz: The Whispers of Information Are Not for the Faint of Heart

When we returned to the city, Cedric’s favorite farm girl was waiting for us. We headed back to Xavian’s house to reunite him with his long-lost sister. She did not seem to look forward to this endeavor. It was a touching family reunion, but it wasn’t my problem at the moment. Fahrezz called in his favor.

He spoke in my head, like Deth has done on occasion, and told me that he wanted to talk to Gareth. Just talk at the moment, nothing else. He wanted me to bring him to the town square so they could have their chat without the others around. It was a sensible request, given that two of our party members want to kill him on sight. Fahrezz said that he could claim he mentally compelled me, if necessary to maintain cover. He said nothing false, but I judged that he was leaving something out. I struck a Deal. He would not harm Gareth unless Gareth attacked him first. When I questioned him on this point, he said that he’d be hard pressed to harm Gareth anyway, since he’d be in the body of a little girl at the time. I was certain that Gareth could take on a little girl if necessary. HE’S not part of Ganatari’Ran’s plan. That I know of.

On the pretext of gaining information about his mother (a topic that was curiously apt, given later events), I took Gareth off on a walk. He was fairly unguarded with me, and said that Nadine would do anything it took to get the attention she wanted, although he was unsure as to her master plan. He said that she was possibly still looking for him (A+ prediction, Gareth). Deth is aware of the situation with her, while Pneu knows that he doesn’t like his mother, but not much beyond that. When I asked him what her weaknesses were, he said that he was her biggest weakness. Noted. She also has a temper and is very vain and focused on appearances. Gareth mentioned that the Quori would have the world “asleep forever.” I did not inquire further for fear of making him suspicious, but this clearly bears looking into.

That was the point at which Fahrezz showed up. As promised, he was a little girl with pigtails, bouncing a ball. He seemed to find it necessary to maintain the most annoying lisp, the purpose of which I imagine was to grate on the ears. He did not chat long, though, before bringing out his companion: Gareth’s mother.

Gareth immediately froze, panicked. I’ve never seen him like that, not even with the dragons. She said that she’d been worried about him. Like hell you were worried, bitch. Worried that he was free of you. Worried that you wouldn’t be able to get him back, use him up until he’s gone. Quite right, too. She said that she’d joined the plots of the Quori and the Church because it was “obvious who the real winners were.” Judgment unimpeded by crazy in that instance, at least. She wanted Gareth to come back with her…and brought a giant bone golem that she referred to as Gareth’s father. Unclear as to whether Gareth’s father was actually part of the bone golem, or whether she was just batshit. Fahrezz’s friends helped her make the thing; she most likely couldn’t have managed it with her meager talents alone.

Kept talking, still talking, SHUT THE FUCK UP PEOPLE LIKE YOU ARE THE WORST. ALWAYS GOING ON ABOUT WHAT’S YOURS. IF YOU CAN’T HOLD IT, IT ISN’T YOURS. Quite so, yes. She slapped me. I nearly laughed. You think you can own others, you stupid bitch, but that’s only going to get you stabbed in the back. Slaves are more vicious than most. I stood in front of Gareth. She wasn’t getting her hands on him, not if I had anything to say about it. That was not part of the Deal.

Before Gareth could do anything, the others showed up. Deth must have contacted him to learn our location. 1 usefulness point to Deth for shooting that bitch. The Deal was therefore complete: I brought Gareth to talk. I did not promise more.

She trapped me in a bone cage. I hate that woman. Gareth started muttering something, would she go after us if he went with her, some shit like that. Stupid plan. Who even DOES that? I decided to let Deth handle talking him into following a smarter course of action. Those two share a peculiar bond. Nature undetermined. Further research required. I had to shoot at the cage for a bit to break it. It finally shattered thanks to Jaela, of all people. It seems that she’s finally learning how to put that knife to good use. 1 usefulness point to Jaela. Used one (1) bomb. 1 usefulness point to Pneu for badassery. Used one (1) bomb. I just wanted her to die, die and leave Gareth be. Parents should know when to let their children alone. But she disappeared. I hate her.

The golem finally collapsed into a pile of bones, and the little girl was unconscious. She was back to being a little girl, with no sign of Fahrezz’s presence. Received 499 gold from Cedric. 1 usefulness point to him for donations to the cause. Deth wanted to kill the kid, leave one less body for Fahrezz to come back to. I didn’t see how it mattered, since Fahrezz seems to have those in abundance, but probably Deth was just letting his natural spite get the best of him. Cedric said no way. While those two were arguing, Pneu took care of the kid herself. Well, Sally did, really. Regardless. Cedric flipped the hell out; I’ve never seen him so mad. Has he really never seen a dead kid before? Only idiots romanticize children.

It was at that point that we heard people approaching, so we all took off. I’M not going to be caught in a road with a dead kid at my feet; my anonymous mama didn’t raise no fool. (Or maybe she did, later; I wouldn’t know.) Wandered about for a bit to shake off any pursuers, then headed back to the inn. The others had all made it too, except for Anna. There was an address left on Cedric’s door, stating her location. It was in Pneu’s handwriting. Cedric wanted me to fetch Anna. I guessed that she’d been arrested; that girl has surprisingly little sense for someone with so many intriguing ideas.

My hypothesis proved correct. Anna was in jail. I came up with a cunning plan to free her without anyone being the wiser. I applied some blue whinnis poison to my knife (used one (1) vial) and changed into a small boy. I approached the jail and asked if I could speak to the warden, looking quite pitiful. I said that I wanted to talk to him about my sister. He led me into his office and shut the door. While having a crying fit, I hugged him and pricked him with the knife. He collapsed. I concealed him under his desk, turned into him, and walked out. I told the guards to release Anna, that the boy had some new evidence. She was released without difficulty. I went back to the office, filled out the paperwork, propped the warden back up in his chair with an empty bottle of wine, and changed back into the boy. Mission successful. I have missed this.

Returned to inn and found Anna. I suggested that she remain indoors until we left the city, just in case. I don’t think that she understood why, but she followed my directions nonetheless. We had quite an enjoyable crafting night. Manufactured: 10 explosive crossbow bolts. 1 usefulness point to Anna. Most diverting. Spent: 100 gold.

Morning. Manufactured: one (1) cure light wounds potion. Five (5) bombs. One (1) shield extract. I went downstairs to find Shel hanging around. Apparently she’s coming with us. Uh. Well. I inquired to see if she had some heretofore undisplayed skills, but no. She’s coming to be Cedric’s groupie. Eh. As long as she doesn’t get in the way. It would be annoying to have to cheer Ced up after she gets stabbed by Shale or something. Gareth said he wanted to talk to Cedric; they left; Sally said that she’d never killed a blond before and that it would be interesting, and then Cedric stormed in. He’s gotten so cranky lately. 1 entertainment point to Deth for notifying him. 1 entertainment point to Sally. I think what this has showed us is that Cedric is a sentimental fool. Note: make antitoxins. Drow are poisonous.

We headed out to the port to find a very nice elemental ship with a very obliging crew. Saluting elves. How nice. The first mate, Arthurian, looked quite excellent; I decided that it would be fun to romance him. He was quite receptive to this.

Manufactured: Three (3) antitoxins, two (2) block seed potions, three (3) cure light wounds potions. Used four (4) block seed potions in the process of romancing Arthurian. Aw yes~

Cedric wanted to have a chat, so I had dinner with him. At first I thought he wanted to scold me for something, but he wanted my advice. I never thought I’d hear him utter that sentiment. He wanted political advice, specifically advice on how to restore Jaela to her position. Some of the high cardinals are still loyal to Jaela. How many? Which? Further research needed. I formed several plans, some of which I would have to keep secret from Cedric if I decided to implement them. I don’t know how he expects to stage a coup without anyone getting hurt.

The conversation turned to other topics. He inquired about my past, what I had been doing during the War, things of that nature. I told him…certain facts. More, perhaps, than was wise. He will not know the difference; it is not in his nature to ferret out weaknesses in the characters of others. Taesaria is getting mixed up, somehow; she had a past, but she’s forgotten it. She’s a street orphan too, now? That wasn’t in the plan.

I changed the subject. Cedric was all too happy to talk about himself and his own family. He’s a tiefling, which is a human with the blood of a demon. That explains the horns and tail. The founder of their house was a half demon, and the family has a tradition of becoming paladins. He said they strive against their demon blood. What happens if they falter, I wonder…? Apparently, the goddess Dol Arrah called on them to become paladins. Her territory is the sun and inherent goodness in mortals. We talked crafting for a bit. I explained the crossbow bolts. He is so very naive. No doubt it stems from his entirely nice-sounding family. I suggested talking to Jaela to get more information on Crozen and his aims.

1 entertainment point to Deth and Pneu each for trolling the entire ship. Also 1 entertainment point to Cedric for fishing with me.

Had our talk with Jaela. It seems that most of the people would remain loyal to her if she could re-establish contact with the flame. That would disprove the accusations of heresy in their eyes. Our goal seems to be getting Jaela into the chamber so she can do this. The dragon there is faithful to the keeper, which may be a problem if Crozen has found a replacement. Jaela said that this is possible. She doesn’t know that it was the Quori who broke her connection with the flame, which is interesting. Crozen has told the main body of the church that Jaela is dead, which could be enough to have tricked the flame god-thing into finding a new keeper. I’d like to know how to dupe a god.

Fahrezz is the real problem in their minds, since he can spy on the church and keep an eye on how our plans proceed. We don’t know how many agents he has, but it’s safe to assume that everyone is suspicious. I suggested that we may need a contingency plan if Deth switches sides, to which Jaela suggested that I seduce him into staying with us. 1 entertainment point to Jaela. Cedric sputtered most amusingly.

Plan: Pneu observes Crozen in her way. I observe Crozen in mine. I have no doubt that one of us could quietly assassinate him, but the goody-two-shoes don’t want that to happen. Such foolishness. The fortunate part is that the majority of the church is not aware of the heresy accusations and sees Jaela as the legitimate keeper. Perhaps if she re-emerges, we could cause a schism. I do so love schisms; they make things so interesting. Tentatively, we can fake Jaela’s death and have me bring her to the guards in the know. Opportunity, but for what? Simulacrum? Herbs? Further research needed. We need more information on the new keeper, if there indeed is one, and Crozen. 1 more entertainment point to Jaela for quoting me. She’s a nice kid, and a fast learner.

Night. Dream. Fahrezz.

He showed up as Maith. That was odd. He does not have the silliness for it, but it was nice to see his face again. Even if that’s all it was. We had a chat. He doesn’t remember killing Sally, which isn’t surprising. He’s having a lot of fun playing with Cedric; he seems to have chosen him as his favorite toy. I told him that the others had agreed to my bringing Jaela into the city, fake-dead. He found it very funny. Note: have Jaela hold cloves of garlic as I arrange her. For amusement. He finds Nadine more of an annoyance than anything else, although she’s currently useful as part of their scheme with Crozen. She’s a prophet, the official soothsayer for Crozen. She has little talent herself, but the Quori make her prophecies correct. Fahrezz doesn’t like Crozen, either…the silly man keeps trying to act like he’s in charge. What a fool. He has no idea of his own insignificance. And you know all too well, Heartling.

He asked where we were headed, and I told him we were bound for Xendrik. He does not seem inclined to follow us there, says he hates the place. It’s the scene of the Quori’s last defeat. If I interpreted his comments correctly, the giants trapped their dimension away from ours or something of that nature. He certainly seems to hate them…said that once the dream goes off, the Quori would like nothing more than to kill what remains of them. He did warn me that Nadine will probably come after us, seeking Gareth. Come and try, bitch.

Fahrezz is a quite fascinating individual. Danger seems to thrill him. He told me that if I wanted to, I could kill him in the dream world and he’d die permanently. It had the ring of truth, although somehow I think he was overstating how easy it would be to kill him. He likes the risk, the knife’s edge. I’ve known ones like him. They all die young. He has not. No doubt the multiple bodies help with that.

He said that it was harder to hide things in the dream world, and that Ganatari’Ran has near omnipotent sight there. One can never tell what she can see and can’t see, but the power doesn’t work nearly as well in the waking world. Good to know.

He also suggested an excellent trick to play on Cedric, gave me the image of a farm girl to be. Apparently Shel isn’t his first liaison. He suggested that I be her at some point, just for a minute, just enough for Cedric to see. Fahrezz wants to break him. It’s the least I can do to cure him of his naivete. All the world is good and agreeable in his eyes; it’s a wonder he’s not dead already. He needs to learn; they all learn in the end. Once he recovers, he will be stronger than ever.

Then. Him. His face. Unkind. Broke the mood. Only briefly. Recovered. Recovering. Fahrezz seemed to be in a mood for some excitement, which sounded good to me.

He sees through it. No one sees through it; none of them see through it. They’re all so stupid, so dull. They have not seen the edges that the world holds; they do not understand. They go through life valuing their abilities highly and thinking that others speak the truth and they let the facade be reality. They kill time, and they lie, and they are casually cruel, and they teach their children to be the same. No one tears it down; no one LOOKS.

And you think you care if this wasteful world is asleep forever?

I care. (And I.) I do not want the world to disappear. It has its uses.

I don’t care. Why would I? When has it cared for me? When has it cared for anyone? It is as indifferent as those who inhabit it.

But you don’t count. (Which I will count, in the end?) What difference does it make?

He sees. He knows exactly how insignificant everything is, everything and everyone. We are paper tigers, and he knows it. He laughs at it. He understands this. He has pieced the fragments together and gotten closer than I thought anyone would. Closer to the true nature of the world.

Fahrezz said that he took requests for which person to be. First thought was

It was only to gain the upper hand. Nothing more. Only to beat him.

When I hesitated, he inquired as to any companions I’d been interested in. I had an idea, mostly because it was funny. Deth’s current body is quite pleasing. Fahrezz found this as hilarious as I did. I thought it only fair to take requests, too. Judgment error. It was a game. No matter.

He wanted Taz, the blank Taz, the one without a true face. He thought I would balk. I would not balk. You cannot rattle me. I was that one again, the empty slate, as I had not been since I was a small child. Since before I left them. It was…odd.

He means to undo me, to learn my secrets and unravel my true nature. It will be fun to see him try. He has missed the point; he is missing the final piece. Or he has all the fragments and is not putting them in the correct order. He has not yet passed this test. He is looking for an answer where there is none. He is looking for a person where there is none. He wants the real Taz, but there is none.

And we proceeded. It was…most pleasing. He is as skilled as I expected. And fun, such fun. 1 entertainment point to Fahrezz.

Afterwards, he turned to V again. YOU. He asked what I wanted to do. KILL HIM. Kill him. Don’t— (Don’t…) DON’T. He challenged me to kill him.

Froze. Knife at throat. Not really him, would be empty anyway. Fahrezz claims I don’t want him dead. YES. NO. YES. NO. I want you destroyedI want to see him know that I am better, that I’ve beaten him, to suffer… Why? Because he knows your first face? (Because he has always beaten you?) Because he reminds you of what you left, of a Law you only pretend to follow?

Fahrezz does not believe in Deals.

This is good to know.

I believe in Deals.

You have broken one.

Only one.

You have nothing left to believe in.

Isn’t it beautiful?

Day 28: Entertaining. Success.
Day 29-33: Interesting.

Money obtained: 499 gold.

Ranking of companions:
Fahrezz: Entertainment value- 1 point.
Cedric: Usefulness- 1 point. Entertainment value- 1 point.
Jaela: Usefulness- 1 point. Entertainment value- 2 points.
Anna: Usefulness- 1 point.
Deth: Usefulness- 1 point. Entertainment value- 2 points.
Pneu: Usefulness- 1 point. Entertainment value- 1 point.
Sally: Entertainment value- 1 point.

Ranking totals to date:
Fahrezz: Entertainment value- 1 point.
Cedric: Usefulness- 19 points. Entertainment value- 8 points.
Pneu: Usefulness- 19 points. Entertainment value- 24 points.
Jaela: Usefulness- 9 points. Entertainment value- 6 points.
Gareth: Usefulness- 24 points. Entertainment value- 12 points.
Anna: Usefulness- 18 points. Entertainment value- 15 points.
Deth: Usefulness- 17 points. Entertainment value- 16 points.

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Pneu's Sing-a-long: A song of my people.

Ain’t no wind blows, while she’s gone
Stagnant air, while she’s away
Ain’t no wind blows, while she’s gone
and she’s always gone too long
Bring my wind back, let me sway

Wonder where, the wind has gone
without the wind, my soul’ll decay
Ain’t no wind blows, while she’s gone
and this cloud, just can not roam
any time, she goes away

And
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know
Hey, I ought to leave that young thing alone
but ain’t no wind blows when she’s gone

Ain’t no wind blows when she’s gone
Absent breeze, is my dismay
Ain’t no wind blows, while she’s gone
and this cloud, just can not roam
any time, she goes away

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Pneumonia: Daddy brought home the bones

We made it back to our old friend the vampire. He was still stalking around his usual hangout, though he didn’t seem as happy as he should have been that we returned his sister. Then Cedric and I sold the gem that the tentacle face man gave us. Later on we got to meet Gareth’s parents. They were swell folks, but his daddy was a bit grouchy. He seemed to calm down a bit after I broke his knee. I managed to carve some fairly decent daggers from the bones I collected from the corpse. I wish we could have talked more I’m sure he had great stories to tell. I made two new friends at the tavern. They were my apprentices for the night. I trained them well.

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Sally: My body is ready

How long has it been? Two years at least. I killed her, watched the life fade from her eyes; it was so… refreshing. The sweet smell of blood, running down the nape of her neck. The look in her eyes made me feel so… mmmmm. So young, so tragically pathetic. I only wish I could go back and do it all over again. Every fiber of my being aches with longing. So much anguish. So much fear. Now, I want them all. Every one of his vessels. I want to smell their blood, bathe in it, rub it all… over… everything… But there isn’t enough time, I can’t keep fighting Nuahwah for her body. I have underestimated her resilience. She has kept so much from me, but as my strength returns I can sense her resolve slipping. She has become corrupted by the weakness of these outsiders. She needs to remember, she has the hands of a killer. I need to shower her with death. I think I’ll start with the blonde woman, best to start small, I want to ease her back into it. Then we’ll get rid of one of the others. It is a difficult choice. Gareth would be an interesting kill, he is strong enough I might even consider fighting him in a more traditional sense. I think his mind needs to broken before I can break his body though. Deth would be the most satisfying to slice into, I still owe him, but I’d rather carve him up slowly. Cedric I don’t think it would be right to kill him; he is already such a sad little man. He would be so much more fun to play with. Imagine the faces he’d make if he watched me filet his precious little cleric girl or better yet when I impale his little lover girl. It has to be done correctly though. With taste and flare and dazzling display. I have to show my darling sister how much fun it is, the beauty of red on white. More, importantly; My dearest Nu must realize the bonds of sisterhood are much stronger then these impuissant vermin can offer her. I’ll have her watch them die, watch their pathetic alliance crumble, watch as they turn on each other, and turn on her. She’ll come back to me pure and untainted. Then I can destroy her and wear her body, so she’ll never be tainted again. We will be one forever.

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Cedric: Entry 14

The next room we found Larri, sitting on a throne of sorts and staring into what appeared to be a stone composed of flesh. Presumably, it was the madstone. I approached, speaking in Elven with the hopes he would respond. I told him we meant him no harm, and wished to discuss the madstone and a book in his possession. Unfortunately it was to no avail, as when I approached a sort of eye opened on the staircase and walls flew up to separate each of us. Gareth derided me for my lack of strategy, but honestly how does one strategize in a tower composed of chaos? I would have told him as much but it quickly became obvious we had a number of tasks ahead of us if we were to get to the madstone.

I will not bother going into the details of every obstacle we faced, but needless to say there were many of them and a number of strange things happened to all of us as we traversed them. Poor Deth seemed to have the worst of it when we were all done, although Gareth’s head was on backwards, and Taz—despite being male at the time—had become pregnant. Anna looked as if she had suffered a number of obstacles as well; she was scorched in places and otherwise a mess. Thankfully Lady Jaela was largely unchanged and unharmed by such things, although she could still not speak properly.

When we turned our attention to Larri, I again attempted to speak but he suddenly dropped the madstone and fell over. When I went to examine his body, it turned to ash the instant I touched it. I picked up the madstone, and now hold it in my possession. I hope that its effects will not affect me before we are able to destroy the diadem.

Shale then gave us the payment he promised—a very large ruby, which I am holding on to for the time being—and then demanded the madstone and other items of the diadem as well. I asked if there wasn’t some way we couldn’t diplomatically resolve our differences, but he was insistent that the closest we could get to such would be paying us generously in return for the items. Of course, such an offer is unacceptable. Deth’s trigger-happy nature proved to our advantage for once when he simply shot Shale in response.

He was surprisingly easy to best, although I suspect it was largely because he was evil (as well as an outsider) allowing me to smite him. The feeling of delivering holy wrath is intoxicating and I will not deny that it was most satisfying to see Shale’s innards oozing to the floor before he disappeared. I believe I understand why so many paladins are more eager to destroy evil than attempt to redeem it… But I will guard myself against such urges, to better keep the teachings of Dol Arrah. I shall smite evil—and enjoy it—but only when truly necessary.

After Shale disappeared we continued on to the next room, where there were a number of ornate boxes. They contained a number of things that I will not bother to catalogue, as most were useless and those that were not were sold for money that was split between us. I will mention, however, that Xavien’s sister was somehow inside of one. Unfortunately she was also naked, but I gave her my cloak for decency’s sake. As it turns out, her name is “Deedlit” and she has no memory how she wound up in this tower or in the box, although she does remember that she had journeyed here as part of a quest. I offered her our assistance, thinking perhaps we could aid her as we continued our travel to destroy the diadem. She politely declined, saying she could take care of it on her own.

At the very least I felt I could help her find her clothes again, and to that end I picked up Pneu’s bag, which contained a number of the boxes. She accused me of being a thief—admittedly I should not have picked up her bag without permission—but such behavior from her is more to get a rise out of me than out of a genuine concern for the law. So, before returning her bag I pulled her into a headlock and ruffled her hair roughly until she managed to escape shortly after. (If there is one thing about my companions I have come to realize, it is that—with the exception of Lady Jaela and Gareth—they are best managed by treating them as rambunctious younger siblings.)

It did not matter in the end as ultimately the boxes containing the items disappeared, leaving their contents to spill out everywhere. The rest of the tower disappeared as well, and we found a number of items. One was a silver holy symbol of Dol Arrah that whispered lewd jokes when it was worn. I will have to destroy such a thing; it is a disgrace. We did find a number of useful things as well, fortunately, such as platinum pieces, gold, silver, a number of pearls, some unique arrows, and a multitude of bullets. We split up the loot accordingly, although I later sold the pearls in town and gave the resulting gold to the others after. I am waiting until we return to the other city before selling the ruby Shale gave us; I suspect it will fetch a higher price in a city more accustomed to trade.

In addition to the castle disappearing, the strange affects we had suffered disappeared as well—mostly. Taz was still pregnant, and most distraught about it. I… suggested she visit a temple in order to take care of the—complication. Although the loss of potential life is a tragedy, it would be cruel to expect her to carry the pregnancy to term. She seemed confident she could deal with the problem on her own, which to her credit she later proved true. I am simply glad she was not hurt or emotionally upset by the ordeal.

As we walked back to the city, I spoke with Deedlit and asked her if she knew why she was not affected by its energy. She did not, and upon looking at her more closely I began to wonder if she was not in fact mortal once more. She seemed utterly surprised by the very idea, but Deth later proved unequivocally that it was true. Unfortunately his method could have had horrible side-effects if we were wrong—he gave her a potion of cure light wounds to drink—and so I scolded him for that. Honestly, some times I feel he is more day-to-day work than any person in the party. But no matter, I will find a way to teach him proper morality somehow.

I returned to the library with every one but Taz and Pneu, although those that accompanied me chose to stay outside. It was undoubtedly for the best, as the elf was as difficult to deal with now as he was before. It took a good deal of shouting simply for him to pay attention to me… I did not expect him to hold true to his word, either, but I was pleasantly surprised to find he had. In fact, he was so surprised we had returned alive and sane from the tower that he gifted me a ring he called simply his “chocolate”. I would have preferred real chocolate, to be frank, given what I later discovered the ring to be…

After giving the ring to Deth and later selling some of the items we acquired in the tower, we went back to the tavern where we were staying. Taz was there and fortunately unharmed in addition to no longer pregnant; I was relieved to see it. We also found an extraordinarily drunk Pneu standing atop a table, aiming to throw knives past (thankfully not at) an equally drunk man. I attempted to get her to stop, even bribing her with gold, but she refused. Fortunately, she did not harm the man, and stopped throwing knives after her two successful attempts.

It didn’t take long for things to devolve into even more chaos after that. Deedlit was drinking entirely too much, and when I expressed my concern for her well-being she began to… insinuate things. In what felt like a repeat of history itself, the others immediately began to pressure me into following through with the lady’s desires. Fortunately, I learn from my mistakes and knew well enough to say no. Unfortunately, simply saying “no” is rarely enough with my companions. They continued to insist, and so I used what I knew would be my best defense against them: a distraction. I grabbed Gareth and kissed him ardently on the mouth. He was as shocked as the others. It’s hardly anything more than has already happened. Suffice to say the distraction worked, with only minimal repercussions.

Deedlit soon passed out and I carried her back to my room, giving her my bed, before returning to watch over the others and make sure they kept themselves out of any horrible trouble. Nothing of exceptional note happened, and I went to sleep after the others returned to their rooms. Not wishing to be improper and sleep beside a lady I had only just met, I took the floor. Despite this Deedlit seemed intent on sleeping beside me—she must have woken in the middle of the night—and I awoke with her curled around me. Ah, well. No harm came of it. It also seems she has a ways to go before she re-acclimates to being human once more; she was startled by the sunlight and expected it to burn her.

After saying my morning prayers to Dol Arrah I left to eat and visit the market place while I left the others to sleep off their inevitable hangovers. I had thought about waking them as repayment for being so raucous the night before, but waking Deth before he wakes on his own is a poor idea. I attempted to get the ring the elf gave me appraised, but no one could determine what it was, or what it did. With no other options left to me, I decided to put it on. A naked young woman appeared in front of the shopkeeper and myself; I promptly looked away and removed the accursed ring. The shopkeeper offered to buy the ring hastily after that, which of course I refused. Such an item is utterly immoral, as I later found out the actual soul of the woman is trapped within the ring. That damn elf was the one to do it; if I had the strength or legal means to bring him to justice here I would. For now, I must concentrate on righting greater wrongs. The young woman in the ring is capable of speaking to me even when I am not wearing the ring; I introduced myself and she told me her story—what she remembers, at least, and what she could articulate. Her name is Afina, and she has no desire to be removed from the ring. She fears death, it seems, moreso than being stuck naked in a ring for the remainder of eternity. Apparently she is capable of disarming traps and has some knowledge of spells, but can only assist me with such while I wear the ring. I will have to find a temple in which to entrust the item, as I cannot rightly use such a thing. Even if she doesn’t mind being trapped within the ring, her nudity is utterly improper.

I went back to the tavern to find the others had finally awoke. I asked Deth if the ring had worked, and he signaled in his own snide way that it had. Such mannerisms grate on my nerves more often than not, but in this case I was too relieved to be irritated. We discussed leaving, then realized we would need a note of sorts to signal to the guards at the gate that we were allowed to leave, seeing as they had originally barred us entry. We went and spoke with Councilman Theorin, who gave us such a note and indicated that Ali Forquan wished to speak with us again. With the exception of Pneu and Deedlit we all endured the necessary steps in order to speak with him.

He had a number of important things to tell us. According to him, the only piece left is the diadem itself and the knowledge of how to use it in such a way as to destroy it, not activate it. Unfortunately Ali did not know how to destroy it, only activate. He did however know where we could obtain such knowledge. The diadem is giant technology, and giants still roam the continent of Xendrick. Although much of their empire has crumbled, ruins with important information still remains. Specifically, the city of “Horruck Nagos” should provide us with what we need to know. Sadly it is a ways into the continent, and the continent is filled with “drow”—dark elves—and a handful of remaining giants. He warned us to be on our guard, particularly against poison and sneak attacks from the drow. Before we leave we shall have to restock our supplies, with particular mind paid towards defending ourselves against such things. It’s doubtful, but perhaps Pneu would be so kind as to offer advice on such matters.

Ali Forquan was kind enough to arrange an elemental ship to take us to Xendrick. Admittedly I would have liked the chance to travel with the Captain again—I am certain the others would have as well—but it would be not only foolish but also ungrateful to decline the offer. I am sure the ship will serve us well, although I am not eager to travel by sea again in the least.

When we left we found Pneu and Deedlit had left to go… take care of some things. Deth was exceedingly vague about it all, and I am fairly sure the excuse he gave was a half-truth at best. He is terrible at lying. It ultimately didn’t matter, however, as either way they were delaying our departure and were nowhere in sight.

I… grew exceedingly impatient, after a while. I was anxious to see Shel, and sort things out between us although I did not say as such. Of course this did not prevent Lady Jaela or Gareth from picking up on the reason behind my impatience, much to my embarrassment. I eventually conceded to wait in the park with them, enjoying the weather and speaking of holy things with Lady Jaela. It was admittedly a pleasant way to pass the time, despite my impatience.

Eventually Pneu and Deedlit returned, but it was then that we realized Taz had gone off. We found her back in the tavern, horribly drunk and unwilling to leave until she finished her drink. I had her pay for the tankard itself and then Gareth offered to carry out, bless him. I am curious as to what drove her to drink so suddenly, however. As mercurial as she is, such behavior seems unlike her: until now all her drinking has been celebratory in nature. I will bring it up when I speak with her about the politics of Thrane, and the plans to re-instate Lady Jaela.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to seeing Shel again. I will admit I am nervous, and hold no small amount of trepidation. But I also feel hopeful, and genuinely happy at the prospect of seeing her again and discussing the state of things between us.

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Pneumonia: Every little thing he does is magic

We found our way to the end of the castle, but there was a final test; an obstacle course. It was as unpredictable as the rest of the castle and that almost made it challenging. Everyone was having lots of fun on their own; because we were separated. There was screaming and running and then I lost my arm. It still sorta worked though. I could feel it, but not use it. When I got to Larry everyone else joined me. Then Cedric killed him. He talked him to death, then vaporized his body to destroy the evidence. Shale decided he wanted the yucky eye thingy that Larry was holding so he attacked us. Then he got hurt and ran away. We found some treasure chests and there was different things inside of them. One of the chests had a new friend inside. Best treasure ever. I’m sad we didn’t get to keep the big trunk animal. It looked liked fun. After we left the castle everyone returned to normal; all the fun was over. So I took some of the silver we found and made my own fun. I threw a memorial party for Larry. There was games and drinking and more drinking. Larry may you rest in ashes. The next thing I remember was waking up with Gareth and Deth. Which is strange cause I swear I went to sleep in my own room. Later my new friend and I went shopping while the others went to talk to an elf. When they came back they said something about going to Xen’drik. That’ll be super fun I’ve never been there before, but mother has told me so much about it. I wonder how she is doing. I should take Gareth to see her if we pass through town.

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In the Heart of the City of Sharn There Were Two Children

-You lose. Again.
-Shut the hell up, bastard. I’ll turn your bones into kindling.
-As if you could, girl of many faces.
-I’ve got a name.
-You have what he gave you.
-So do you.
-Never said otherwise.
-So you don’t get sick of dancing to his tune? Being his tool?
-We have a Deal. I am what he made of me, it’s true. And no. I don’t ‘get sick’ of surviving.
-…
-What?
-That man, yesterday…
-He told me to kill him.
-You look sad. Losing your nerve, shadow-boy?
-I hadn’t killed anyone who wasn’t trying to kill me before. He said I’d feel different.
-And do you?
-No.
-He lies like he breathes.
-Well, you’d know, wouldn’t you?
-‘I am what he made of me.’ You’re not the only one who knows the Law by heart. Survival is the only law.
-Debts are the only rules.
-You are what you make of yourself…
-…and what life makes of you.
-I’m not a pawn. Anyone’s pawn. Father’s least of all.
-Then you’re fooling yourself, Taz Mai. As soon as you’re born in this world, there’s someone who makes a plan for you.
-How poetic.
-* smirk * I’ll protect you.
-I’d rather choke on my own blood.
-* laughter *
-SHUT IT.
-Always so hostile.
-…bastard.

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Taz: Survival is the First Rule of Defense in an Unkind World

We emerged into an ordinary-looking throne room, which was rather disappointing after the rest of the castle. Larry the Mad was sitting on the throne, with a giant fleshy orb in his hands. He was entirely preoccupied by that, and didn’t react to us even when we addressed him. Cedric started to approach, and the next thing I knew, we were all separated by high walls. I could hear the others’ muffled shouts, but the walls continued up as far as I could see. There was a ladder at the end of the passage. With no other way to go than forward, I proceeded onto it.

It was a very exhausting letter to climb, but I finally reached the top. I found a bridge with a talking horse standing in front of it. He very kindly offered me a ride, but the movements of the bridge underneath us made it difficult to stay on. Mr. Horse was unequal to the challenge of keeping up, and I found myself in the water below the bridge. At some point during the ride, my clothes had turned orange. Fortunately, the effect was not permanent, as it was a most unflattering shade.

AND THEN SUDDENLY I WAS PREGNANT. WHAT THE FUCK. I hadn’t even slept with anybody recently, and I was a MAN. STUPID TOWER.

I managed to swim across the water to the other side. My swim was uneventful, except for the fact that an elephant swam up to me, apologized, and then swam away again. During the swim, I grew a two-foot long beard. I thought it gave me an appealing look of eminence. The next room was filled with a large number of gems, one of which fit into a small niche. I grabbed about twenty of them. (They didn’t stay gems, alas; upon inspection after leaving the tower, they had turned into maggots. Most unpleasant.)

AND THEN I GOT EATEN BY A COFFIN. Got out of it easily, thankfully. Then I got to hang glide down a cliff, which was quite fun, and then I was somehow back together with all the others and Larry was sitting in front of us again. Everyone else was in as much of a state as I was—Deth was two feet tall and pregnant, which I found highly amusing. She did not share in my amusement. Pneu had only one arm, but was carrying around the other. Glad to see he’s of a practical bent of mind.

We approached Larry, only to find that he was dead. When Cedric touched him, he crumbled into dust. It was a most intriguing phenomenon, but before I could examine it further, Shale made his agenda clear. He wanted the madstone and the other pieces that we had, and he wanted them now. My companions were not keen on this idea. I wasn’t, either; Shale is an entertaining fellow, but I can’t say I trust him. Too deadpan. Never trust those without visible emotion.

1 entertainment point to Pneu for smacking Garreth on the ass with his severed arm.

Shale removed his hood during the course of our scuffle, and tentacles flew out. I didn’t see what was directly under it, but it was obviously something horrifying. Used one (1) bomb. 1 usefulness point to Cedric for smitery. 1 usefulness point to Garreth for taking off Shale’s arm. Shale ended our fight by vanishing into thin air. Ha! Chased him off! For now, at least…

We proceeded on to the last room, which was FULL OF TREASURE CHESTS. I grabbed some before Pneu could snag them all. Found: 5 potions, some excellent arrows, a giant autographed portrait of Larry, A MOUNTAIN OF SILVER, and a naked girl in a box. The naked girl turned out to be Deedlit, Xavian’s sister. How very convenient. We convinced her to allow us to accompany her back to his abode. 1 entertainment point to Pneu for accusing Cedric of being a thief.

The tower vanished around us. Deedlit seemed to be all right in the sun, although she still shrank away from it. Odd. Everyone had gone back to normal. So had I…EXCEPT I WAS STILL PREGNANT. DAMN IT. DETH GOT FIXED; WHY NOT ME? The treasure chests vanished, burying our surroundings in a mountain of silver and other assorted trinkets. HOLY SHIT. Alas, it was beyond our capacity to bring back all of the money, but I took as much as I could carry. Obtained: 100 platinum, 166 gold, 750 silver. 20 crossbow bolts. One usefulness point to Deth for his donation. There were also many ridiculous things, including busts of all of us and weapons that LOOKED useful, but were mainly good for party tricks. I found a bomb launcher that launched pillows. I wanted to take it with me, but it wasn’t terribly portable. I also identified the potions I’d put in my bag earlier. 1 cure moderate wounds potion, 1 potion of heroism, 1 potion of shield, 2 potions of lesser restoration. The potions of lesser restoration were given to Deth and Cedric to help them regain their strength. The arrows were given to Pneu, as she has more use for them than I. The windfall almost made up for being pregnant. Almost.

Deedlit does not seem quite as vampiric as her brother. She drank a cure light wounds potion without trouble. It seems that something in the tower cured her, although she had no idea what.

We headed back to the city. I had to fix my problem before I could do anything else, so I headed back to my room and mixed up that potion again. It worked, but then there was the small matter of removing the parasite. Used 1 cure light wounds potion to regain strength. I headed to a temple, which took care of it without even charging me. They expressed their sympathies for the loss of my child. Suckers.

Returned to the inn. One entertainment point to Pneu for providing a spectacle. Received 41 gold from Cedric. Not sure why. One usefulness point to Cedric. Gave one block seed potion to Garreth. From the way he was eying Pneu, they were going to need it. I asked if they wanted some company, and they responded enthusiastically. HELL YEAH. :D

One entertainment point to Cedric for KISSING GARRETH. HOT DAMN. Garreth, Pneu and I retreated to Garreth’s room for a most enjoyable time. One entertainment point to each of them. HOT DAMN again. Garreth left afterwards, saying that Deth refused to sleep unless he was in the room. (How cute.) Apparently, Cedric had obtained the ring that Deth needed for dreamless sleep. Pneu and I continued on after Garreth left us. DAMN, the things she can do…

And then I fell asleep, and the good feeling was gone.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck WHY ME?

Ganatari’Ran, she said her name was. Deth’s erstwhile boss. I can see why he was scared shitless of her. Lady’s got a PRESENCE. Worse than Father. Worse than Shale. Worse than anybody I’ve ever met.

She said that Deth was a failure in his mission. Apparently, I’m her next choice. She said that Shale wanted Hell on Earth. According to her, he plans to wake the Dael Kyr. Further inquiry needed. She claimed they wanted to ensure their own survival by affecting the dreams of everyone here. She was vague on the specifics, but she did say that it involved everyone dreaming the same dream.

A Deal was offered. She wanted the diadem in their hands, Jaela to be delivered to their agents once we get back to Thrane, and Deth killed if I got the opportunity to do it without risking myself. In exchange: Exemption for me from this dream they’d be giving everyone, and a monetary reward that roughly equaled out to fuck_damn_.

I was careful in my wording. I did not accept the Deal. I said I’d keep it under advisement. She said she’d be watching. Taking it is the reasonable option. Join the winning side. Survival is the only law, remember? You are NOT letting Lady Jaela be killed. She was telling the truth about the reward. Leaving some things out, but your fate would not be in question, according to the Deal. Do I take the Deal? Do I have a choice? If Deth and Fahrez fear to cross her, what chance do I have? It is the rational course, and yet… Sentiment? Never. Not me. I don’t trust her, that’s all. These people operate under laws different than ours. I am a pawn to her, and that feeling is what I mislike. That’s all.

She addressed me as Taz Mai. How did you find that name? Fahrez couldn’t have told you. Deth couldn’t have told you. Is it the dream itself that betrayed me? You are in a trap.

Morning. Unsettling. Felt as though someone was still watching me. How much can they see? How much do they know? Their power here is not unlimited, or they would not need to rely on me. But I am not naive enough to believe that I am their only option, whatever Ganatari says.

Prepared: Five (5) bombs, one (1) block seed potion, one (1) extract of bomber’s eye. Jaela fixed my remaining weakness from the procedure. 1 usefulness point to Jaela. (And you will throw her to the wolves?)

Headed back to see Ali. He told us that he did not know how to destroy the diadem. It was forged in the continent of Xendrik, and he said that the knowledge we seek should be in one of the ruins there, Harouk Nagag. We need all the pieces in order to activate or destroy it. He offered us passage to Xendrik, said that once we land, we could get more specific directions. He warned us that the continent is overrun with drow, and what remains of the giants.

Left. One usefulness point to Garreth for giving me a post-drinking ride.

These people

You do what you have to do to survive. That’s all. Nothing personal.

Just business.

But who will you be at the end of it?

A pawn?

Or a corpse?

In summary.
Day 27: Quite the enjoyable day.
Morning 28: NOPENOPENOPE.

Money obtained: 100 platinum, 207 gold, 750 silver.
Loot obtained: 20 crossbow bolts, 1 cure moderate wounds potion, 1 potion of heroism, 1 potion of shield.

Ranking of companions:
Pneu: Entertainment value- 4 points.
Garreth: Usefulness- 2 points. Entertainment value- 1 point.
Deth: Usefulness- 1 point.
Cedric: Usefulness- 2 points. Entertainment value- 1 point.
Jaela: Usefulness- 1 point.

Ranking totals to date:
Pneu: Usefulness- 18 points. Entertainment value- 23 points.
Garreth: Usefulness- 24 points. Entertainment value- 12 points.
Cedric: Usefulness- 18 points. Entertainment value- 7 points.
Anna: Usefulness- 17 points. Entertainment value- 15 points.
Jaela: Usefulness- 8 points. Entertainment value- 4 points.
Deth: Usefulness- 16 points. Entertainment value- 14 points.

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Memoirs of a Vento Mortis: Ossu III

Nuahwah had questions about her training. She seemed perturbed that she was unable to undergo the same training as her sister. I didn’t understand what she meant, until she explained that Sahloo has taken the name Sally, and was initiated into the order of Whisperers. I told Nuahwah there is no way I’d ever let one of my apprentices become a Whisperer; tramps the lot of them. Seduction is best left to those without practical skills. I honestly couldn’t believe she would request something so absurd. Especially after hearing how Sahloo was initiated; Whisperers are disgusting creatures. No, Nu will become a Windwalker like myself, she will have pride, and live with dignity. No man shall ever taint her, she will remain pure and innocent for as long as I live.

I think I should do more to separate those two. Sahloo has always been a bad influence. I really wish Sarrarra would just train her normally, the experiment is clearly a failure. I want to inquire as to the reasons Hecaasis Magus had for approaching us in the first place. The sisters are a rarity, but they are also Vento Mortis, and there certain levels of progress I’m not prepared to accept. Leader or not if this fails we all may be in jeopardy. Putting the clan at risk to satisfy a fleeting curiousness, contrived under already suspect circumstance seems downright irresponsible. I initially agreed to take part in this, thinking it was for the betterment of my people, but my faith in the project is being severely tested.

After sending Nuahwah off I questioned the practices of the head Whisperer. My thoughts were that my apprentice may simply be concerned for the well being of her sister. Lioiouu was as cooperative as I expected him to be. He politely informed me that his training methods were approved by the elders. The interrogation of his students proved to be more lucrative. Their reticence was remedied by an inebriant I augmented rather liberally. It appeared that the males had engaged in a recreation of non-consent. This of course only solidified my belief that my apprentice should have nothing to do with those trollops.

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