Author Archives: Dennis

Eleven Years

It’s hard for me to accept that I haven’t seen my mother in exactly eleven years. The sadness I used to feel is very different now. I find myself wondering what she would think of who I am now, how she would feel about my place in life. Whether she’d be proud and what she thinks I should improve.

Through the Silverpine Hills

Previously, the adventurers travelled from Allenham, through the Riverlands, on their way to Pinefall. The came across a village where they got directions, a hamlet which had been attacked by monsters, a strange murder of crows, a stag with a demonic looking creature having burst out from within in. Some of these encounters were strange, but none more so than meeting a grievously wounded knight, alone in the wilderness but for his wounded horse, who gave a confusing recount of who he was and why he was so wounded, before ageing rapidly and ultimately perishing.

Eighth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

While Astrid started gathering enough stones to create a proper burial mound for Ser Florianus’ remains, Emma asked Emrys to mend his shield and gorget. Emma took the shield with her, thinking it might be of use later on, while the gorget was used as a grave marker once Astrid was done putting Florianus to rest. James took a moment to go through the rest of the equipment that Ser Florianus had on him when he died, hoping to find something of use, but unfortunately the only things among his belongings were mundane items and trinkets.

The adventurers had found a ring of crystals around a small crater of molten slag from which Ser Florianus had supposedly emerged. Luca tried to harvest some of the crystals from the slag, but found it very difficult to extract one without damaging them. He managed to retrieve a small purple crystal but chipped it while doing so. He tried to use it for a very simple illusion spell, but it didn’t seem to work like the orange crystals from the catacombs below Lynnecombe did. James, much more nimble of fingers managed to extract seven small crystals of different colours from the slag.

The adventurers travelled onwards and a conversation started about the strange encounter they had with Ser Florianus. James feared that Bristlecone might already be affected by what is happening there where Floranius claimed he came from. Especially his mentioning of Ser Benten confused them, and they wondered aloud whether it’s possible that the Sheridans have been around since the Age of Fear. They realised they only had a few more days before the Darkmoon would stand in high sanction, and Luca realised that it would be the Night of Violet Eyes, a rare night where both the Bloodmoon and the Darkmoon would stand in high sanction.

After finding a small stream with mountain fresh water, the adventurers set up camp and bedded down for the night, deciding not to light a fire because the light would travel much further in these woods than it did in the woods of the Riverlands.

Ninth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

During the night, James found that he couldn’t keep his eyes open during his guard shift with Astrid. The Silverpine hills were putting a heavy strain on his calves, and the higher exposure to the sun meant he and the rest had caught a bit of a sunburn, further taxing his system. Eventually, Astrid told him to rest and she would finish the rest of the shift on her own, an offer he gladly accepted.

The night went by without any incidents even though packs of wolves could be heard howling in the distance. Luca wondered whether Astrid’s golden yellow eyes were a sign that she might have an affinity with wolves, who he believed shared that trait. The following morning Luca observed that Astrid seemed more fascinated by the eagles and birds of prey flying high above the hills than she was with any wolves.

Emma implored Sedna to send a message of warning down the rivers, streams, brooks and rivulets, to Tom of Shady Brook, telling him about the fate that befell the people at the hamlet of Calvin’s farm. He responded that he appreciated the warning and that he would remain at Shady Brook but prepare for any attack. His response was swift and confident, further confirming the suspicion that Tom was more than a simple farmer.

Several hours after continuing their trek through the valleys of the southern Silverpines, the adventurers encountered a narrow valley exit, flanked on either side by high, steep walls. It was guarded by a towering hill giant and his two dire wolves. The hill giant was eating part of a large elk bull and entertaining himself throwing scraps to the dire wolves and watching them fight over it. He and his two animals were so preoccupied with this that they failed to notice the adventurers who therefore had ample time to prepare a solution for the conundrum the dangerous valley gate keeper was forming.

Since the adventurers had spotted a debris of bones, including humanoid bones, around the hill giant, they concluded that reasoning or bargaining with the brute was unlikely to yield any success, and thus it was decided to confront him en force, using the dreadful flute, newly acquired from Liliana’s lair, as an instrument to sow chaos among their foe. Emrys used his sorcery to shrink one of the two dire wolves down to the size of a regular wolf, and James played the dreadful flute, while Astrid and Emma engaged in melee and Luca sent bolt after angry bolt of eldritch energy into action.

They dispatched with the giant and his wolves in record time and took a short break to recover from the adrenaline and search through the giant’s belongings. James found some beautifully crafted, studded leather vambraces, while Astrid decided not to let the elk meat go to waste.

After resting up the adventurers continued on until the sun began to sink lower on the western horizon. The picked a high spot to take another look at their progress and orient themselves against the landmarks which were provided to them. They were likely only a couple of hours away from Bristlecone, but decided not to push it and make up camp.

While doing so, the adventurers noticed a large, grizzly bear rutting around the base of a nearby tree. It was far enough away for the adventurers not to feel immediately threatened, but too far away to make out what the bear was doing. They did notice that the bear had an odd mark on its flank, that of a circle with a crescent moon over it.

When the bear eventually departed some of the adventurers went to investigate the tree that the bear was rutting around and found a large growth of mushrooms there, many of them munched on by the bear. Luca, who had experience with mushrooms, knew them as ghost mushrooms and understood them to be toxic and a strong hallucinogenic. Emma could add that they were often used by Kaedwyni druids for rituals of communion. James, Luca and Emma decided to harvest some of the mushrooms and take them along with them.

That night the watch was arranged in a different way than normally. Luca and Emma would take the first watch, James and Emrys would share the second watch, while Astrid would take the third watch by herself.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

During the first watch, Emma decides to take some of the mushrooms while Luca observes to make sure that she is alright. Soon after chewing down the earthy and acrid fungus she started to notice that the sparks and embers from the campfire started to leave wonderfully coloured trails and traces and that everything around her started to glow with a radiant, multi-coloured light. She tried to step out of her own body and was surprised that she could look down at herself, Luca and the rest of the camp.

She wandered away from the camp, towards where the bear had been eating the mushrooms, delighted at how colourful everything looked, despite the darkness. She returned to the spot and decided to see whether she could follow the tracks the bear may have left, finding that the tracks looked like small pools of radiant water. She followed them all the way to a small clearing on the side of a hill. On the opposite end of the clearing that was a small cave entrance that the tracks lead towards and she decided to enter.

As Emma got closer to the cave’s entrance, it grew larger and larger in size, until it was tower over her higher than the giant had been. She continued into the cavernous depths of the entrance and felt she was stepping onto water. Darkness was all around her, except for the entrance behind her which looked once again small and very far away. She bent down and dipped her fingers in the water and put them to her mouth, tasting the salty flavour of the sea.

For a moment she turned back and decided to head out of the cave and back to camp, until she started hearing a clear, female voice sing that same song that she had heard Muirgheal sing, the sea shanty about Admiral Karadin and his treacherous daughter Rhosyn. Finding her bravery she turned back around and ventured deeper into the cave until she finally saw a huge ship. A galleon. A warship. It’s sails were ragged and it ropes were ragged. Approaching it she found a rope ladder hanging along its side, which she began to climb. All the while she heard the song, Daughter of the Sea, being sung.

On deck Emma found the corpses of sailors who had died during a violent battle. She oriented herself and decided to head up to the rear deck, ascending a set of stairs. There she found a figure standing at the rudder, wearing a bright, blue cloak. All the while singing the last verses of the song. Emma approached and called out, “Rhosyn?” but was met with silence.

As she raised her arm to remove the blue hood from the person standing at the rudder, Emma heard a verse she had not heard before, more troublesome and haunting than the verses before;

I heard, I heard, across a moonlit sea,
The old voice warning me,
“Beware, beware the Daughter of the Sea”,
“Beware, beware…”
…of me.

Emma removed the hood to reveal a beautiful woman with blond hair and a fair face. When the woman looked up and Emma’s eyes met hers the woman’s hand shot out and grabbed Emma by the throat so fast that Emma’s consciousness was brought all the way back to her body sitting across the campfire from Luca.

Luca and Emma spoke about what Emma had seen and what it might have meant. The rest of the night went by without incident, but the next morning Emma convinced everyone to spend a moment trying to find the clearing in the woods with the cave. They managed to find it, only to find that the cave was a small burrow to a very angry wolverine and not the cavernous hiding place of admiral Karadin’s flagship.

The journey continued, and by mid-morning, the adventurers found a the beginnings of a trail which quickly lead to spotting the first plumes of hearth fires in the distance. It seems their wilderness journey was coming to an end, and that Bristlecone might finally be in sight.

Travel to Pinefall

Previously, the adventurers settled the conflict between the Allenham townsfolk and were asked by the magistrate to take care of the Procyon threat that was still lingering in the dense forests around town. They found and engaged a large group of Procyon scouts, lead by mage. The fight was stiff, but the Procyon eventually retreated. The adventurers pursued the retreating elves into the ruins, hoping to strike a crushing blow. Unfortunately, they were lured into an ambush and it was their time to retreat. The elves did not pursue. Instead, when the adventurers returned to Allenham, they found that the Procyon had attacked the Allenhouse, killed the guards and murdered the magistrate.

Sixth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waning.)

Early in the morning, Emrys woke up on a bench in a common room of the Allenhouse with a folded piece of parchment on his chest. He had fallen asleep the previous night trying to compose a sad melody regarding the events of the past few days. The parchment was a letter, which read as follows:

Dear Cendelius,

While observing the Allenham townsfolk as they go about plundering and devouring the forest, I have noticed a human woman who stands out to me. She is the daughter of a notable and has been touched by… something. It is neither fey nor shadow, neither radiant nor dark. She is under the influence of someone, or something. I suspect that the disappearance of Lady Sehanine is weakening the bond between the woman and whatever it is that’s manipulating her. The evening after tomorrow, when Sehanine is fully obscured, is when the bond, and whatever is causing it, is at its weakest. I know it is not in your nature to help out the humans, but we must act. That is why I send this scout, Kalindras Duskstrider, to bring you this message.

Forever in your debt,

Valadar Amberwind

The morning was used to hold the ceremony for the late magistrate Strickland’s funeral, lead by Emma and attended by a few townsfolk. It was a modest affair, on the grounds behind the Allenhouse.

Soon after, James and Luca returned, looking tired and dishevelled, recounting a curious tale of their encounter with what Luca thought was a Succubus; a malevolent fiend from another realm. The fiend had been influencing Martha Allen and was likely behind a lot of the trouble in the village.

It was time to move on and depart Allenham. But before their departure, the adventurers took a moment to freshen up, raid the Allenhouse larder, and Luca paid a visit to Falibor’s smithy and paid handsomely for a bag of iron filings he wanted to use in a ritual.

A search of the Allenhouse revealed a small lock box in Strickland’s office, which James opened with the set of curious tools, revealing some of Strickland’s personal correspondence with family, a pouch of coins, which James tossed to Luca who clumsily tried to catch it, and what looks to be a signet ring with the seal of House Strickland of Fairfields on it, a field with a rising sun.

The pouch contained eight platinum dragons, three gold crowns and twelve silver stags.

Luca used the last remaining pearl to divine the properties of the potion and the flute that he and James had found in Liliana’s cave. He crushed the pearl and mixed the powder with some wine and used the paste to create intricate arcane equations on a flat surface. Placing the items among the equations, he divined that the potion was meant to temporarily boost a person’s speed, while the flute had a much more sinister purpose; playing a melody was able to frighten all but the most strong-willed people to hear the tune.

The newly acquired donkey Theo was burdened with all of their belongings, their treasure chest, all of their food, several tents and bedrolls. The stubborn animal bore it all without complaint.

Without any ceremony, the adventurers departed and followed the path north, along the river. Because of limited fodder for Theo the donkey, they decided to keep their eyes out for grazing pastures to rest. The weather was warm, cloudy and oppressive, but it was only later in the day that thunderstorm rolled in, offering some refreshment with a cool drizzle of rain.

Eventually a grove was found near the end of the day, which allowed for Theo to graze and the rest to pitch a tent. The trees hard ranger marks to Sylvanus carved into them, signs that it was often used as a campsite. Never far away from small tributaries or brooks, Emma took it upon herself to try and fish using Muirgheal, which the trident obviously appreciated. Unfortunately, the river fish were too small and not easily caught, but eventually there was some fish to supplement their ration dinner.

A guard duty was set up. James and Astrid took the first guard. During the second guard, held by Emrys and Luca, Luca felt as if there were eyes upon him, though he could never find who or what was out there. Lastly, before dawn, Emma was awoken to hold the last watch, allowing her to commune with Sedna and get an early start of the day.

Seventh Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is low.)

The following morning the journey was continued until the little village of Shady Brook was found, a small settlement of farmers living off the land surrounded by woods. Old man Henderson, negotiated some trade with the adventurers; food in return the elven short sword that was recovered from the fight with the Procyon in the ruins near Allenham.

Another villager, Tom, could confirm that Lord Destan had come through Shady Brook on the first day of the second ride of Spring Blossom. He had been interested in the Aen Adhar, the local moon elves of the Riverlands, as well as the woodland spirits that the Riverlanders made strange, pagan offerings to in tribute.

Emrys shared that the moon elves of the Riverlands was the tribe that he belonged to and that they were inclusive of humans, but that his upbringing was mostly elven. And there were conversations about the last conjunction of planes and the curious spirits and creatures that stayed behind, possibly evolving into the woodland spirits that the  Riverlanders paid tribute to.

New directions were received to a small, nameless hamlet. A few hours north the path would end, and then the directions were a collection of landmarks that would lead to the hamlet, where a man named Calvin lived together with his and another family.

After saying their goodbyes the adventurers followed the instructions and went off the path, following landmark after landmark. The lack of a path meant that progress was slower, having to occasionally backtrack and redirect their journey. After crossing a stream, Emma and Emrys noticed the carcass of a dead stag in the underbrush. Upon closer inspection it seemed as if the body of a demon had burst from the inside of the body of the stag, limbs and claws sticking out from the stag’s body, as well as an overgrown, bat-like head bursting forth from its neck. It was a grizzly and unnerving sight.

The adventurers followed the tracks that the stag had left behind back to a strange ring of crystals surrounding a familiar crater of slag, indicating a portal site. Luca scraped some more Lyrium ore residue off the slag, like he had done at the portal in the catacombs underneath Lynnecombe.

The journey continued for another couple of hours until a good pasture was found, deep in the woods. Camp was set up and Theo was left to graze. Luca, who had continued to feel a sense of unease since the previous night, decided to create some rudimentary, pagan offering mounds around the campsite. The same guard was arranged as the previous night, but during the first watch, a large murder of crows was seen gathering in a tree close by. Crows, the adventures had learned in Shady Brook, was a sign of the attention or perhaps presence of one of the woodland spirits. Fortunately, the camp was set up in a place that didn’t seem to bother the woodland spirit, because the rest of watch went by without a problem.

Eighth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

The following morning the journey continued, making sure to ever keep the murder of crows, which seemed to be tracking the adventurers, at a safe distance. With a few more detours, tracking landmark after landmark, they reached the small hamlet of Calvin’s farmstead. Unfortunately, the two farmhouses were the witness of a vicious attack of monsters. Both houses were ransacked, the doors broken open and the inhabitants killed; a family of three, and a family of four.

Searching the houses some more food was recovered and Emrys found a journal, written by Calvin’s wife, who kept careful track of several mundane events. Luca had found simple warding sigils carved around the inside of the door and window frames, much akin to the decorations he had seen in the crag leading to Liliana’s cave. Further investigations revealed that whatever attacked these poor souls, there were several of them, though the adventurers were not able to divine kind of monster they were.

All the while, Astrid and Emma had found simple shovels and were digging the people a grave next to older graves nearby and they added a few more burials to a growing list of burials of late.

Finally, the adventurers departed the hamlet and made their way further north. Several hours later, they found the landscape changing; the trees changed from broadleaf to pine, and more and steeper hills started to dot the landscape. Slowly, they were leaving the Riverlands and crossing over into the Silverpine Hills. With the change in trees, so did the forest become less dense and more easily navigable, but the adventurers paid for that with the extra effort of climbing steeper hills.

Near the end of the afternoon, the adventurers noticed a man on a horse in the distance, who didn’t seem to respond to any hails. It soon became clear that both the horse and the rider were wearing barding. Leather for the horse, and a silver-gilded plate armour for the rider, denoting them as a knight of the Order of the Lance. When they came even closer, it became clear that the knight was badly wounded and almost unresponsive. Up until then the adventurers had been very cautious and Emrys had used his magic in preparation for potential battle.

When they finally caught up with the man, Emma used the healing powers granted to her from Sedna to help the young man. His helmet and pauldrons were dented, his gorget and shield were cracked, his lance was broken and there was an awful gash in the side of his breastplate. He had blond hair, matted to his face by dried blood and sweat. The horse was also wounded, but seemed like it would recover, given some care and attention.

Luca recognised the sigil on the knight’s shield, a lightning bolt hitting a tree, it was a historic sigil belonging to Ser Florianus, one of the knights who fought and fell at the Battle for the Crimson Tower, when the Knights of the Silver Crusade were betrayed and ambushed. When the knight had regained some lucidity, he was asked for his name, but his response sounded confused, claiming to be “Mark”, then changing his mind to “Florianus.”

The knight started to rapidly age, and within no time he had aged several decades. Emma comforted him, assuring him that this would be his final death. Right before he drew his last breath, when he had aged a hundred years since the adventurers first encountered him, he wanted them to pass on a message:

Tell the lord commander McAllister that it was an ambush. Tell Ser Benten, no the lord commander, that I failed the protect the mage, no defeat the mage!

Liliana the Instigator

Previously, the adventurers settled the conflict between the Allenham townsfolk and were asked by the magistrate to take care of the Procyon threat that was still lingering in the dense forests around town. They found and engaged a large group of Procyon scouts, lead by mage. The fight was stiff, but the Procyon eventually retreated. The adventurers pursued the retreating elves into the ruins, hoping to strike a crushing blow. Unfortunately, they were lured into an ambush and it was their time to retreat. The elves did not pursue. Instead, when the adventurers returned to Allenham, they found that the Procyon had attacked the Allenhouse, killed the guards and murdered the magistrate.

Sixth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waning.)

While all of the Allenhammers were vast asleep, their doors locked and bolted, trying to process the events of the last several days, Emrys and James had decided to patrol the streets of the town in case the Procyon returned. Emrys stayed in the centre of town while James patrolled the outskirts. Boredom soon struck Emrys, so he sat himself opposite the Allenhouse and started playing a tune on his lute.

Luca was asleep in a room in the Allenhouse, getting assaulted in his dreams by flashing images of all the knowledge that his master had poured into his head on the eve of his departure from Kingsport. At midnight, he awoke with a fright. The images of his dreams were fleeting, but he was left with some flashes of recall; of a person stumbling through the a dark wood, awash in purple light, of a bloodied hand, and finally of a dormant cottage and the smell of lavender in the air. He felt a throb coming from Blackstar standing in the corner of the room he was in, and a dark voice resonated in his head; “Consume. Consume. Consume! Consume!!”

Clumsily trying to sneak out of the Allenhouse, Luca bumped into Emrys outside. He noticed the only two moons in the sky were the bloodmoon and the darkmoon, casting all of own in an eerie, purple light. Exchanging a few words with Emrys about not being able to sleep, and Emrys went back inside the Allenhouse to catch some sleep, while Luca walked over to Syldarael’s cottage. James, who had been honing his skills in rural stealth had long since noticed Luca and decided to follow him.

When Luca approached Syldarael’s cottage, a figure darted from her herb garden and dashed into the woods. Luca went to inspect the garden when James walked up next to him. They concluded that the person who had been in Syldarael’s garden had likely collapsed there, but had not made it to the front door.

The two decided to see if they could follow the trail the person left behind and eventually found a wounded Procyon scout hiding in a hollow created by two conjoined trees. They saw that the elf was grievously wounded from a wound to the belly. A gash was bubbling dark brown blood and they both concluded he was not long for this world. James tried to comfort him and asked him if he wanted to have a message passed along. The elf reached inside his cloak and retrieved a piece of folded parchment, dipped in wax to make it water resistant. Using the light of the flames Luca had produced in his hand, they read the letter:

Dear Cendelius,

While observing the Allenham townsfolk as they go about plundering and devouring the forest, I have noticed a human woman who stands out to me. She is the daughter of a notable and has been touched by… something. It is neither fey nor shadow, neither radiant nor dark. She is under the influence of someone, or something. I suspect that the disappearance of Lady Sehanine is weakening the bond between the woman and whatever it is that’s manipulating her. The evening after tomorrow, when Sehanine is fully obscured, is when the bond, and whatever is causing it, is at its weakest. I know it is not in your nature to help out the humans, but we must act. That is why I send this scout, Kalindras Duskstrider, to bring you this message.

Forever in your debt,

Valadar Amberwind

When the adventurers had read the letter, Luca took hold of Blackstar and summoned an eldritch bolt of energy which robbed Kalindras of what was left of his life. Luca felt a jolt of pain and again the dark voice resonated in his head, letting out a satisfied sigh. James, who already had some reservations about the weapons the adventurers had found near the portal in the catacombs underneath Lynnecombe, decided not to bring it up. Instead, he suggested going back to Syldarael and asking her to take care of the body for them, while they investigated the contents of the letter. Syldarael, startled and confused at their request, decided not to ask too many questions.

The adventurers thought that the most likely “daughter of a notable” would be Martha, so they decided to head to the Allen farm first to check in on her. First, however, they decided to drop the letter they had found off at the Allenhouse for their companions to find once they woke up, just in case something happened to them during the night, they would at least have a lead to follow.

After dropping the letter off on Emrys’ chest, who was asleep in one of the common rooms downstairs of the Allenhouse, Luca and James headed to the Allen farm. They spoke about the three moons and the full eclipse of the Silvermoon, which they figured was also referred to in Valadar Amberwind’s letter. Luca told James that the position of the moons had an effect on the ebb and flow of magic, and James said that it also had effect on people.

The streets of Kingsport are even more empty on a night as tonight. Even the guards stay inside.

When the duo approached the farm they noticed that all was quiet. They decided to approach the house through the fields, in case the farm had guards out. They spoke quietly about the Arms of the Senhadrim, about their effects, and about how James didn’t trust their influence. He claimed that he had seen Emrys be controlled by Toruviel. When they came to the house, they decided to approach it along the side, near the garden where they had their parlay with Herman not so long ago.

If we don’t have to, let’s not kill anyone.

They found a window on the ground floor which had its shutters locked. Luca used Blackstar to detect the presence of people. He noticed a few, but none of them behind the window. James took out a leather satchel lined with a bunch of curious tools which he unfurled and used several of these tools to unlock the shutters. Both of them climbed into a hallway. They verified the presence of one of the people that Luca had noticed using Blackstar, and found that Herman was asleep in a study, laying on a sofa with a book on his chest. They proceeded down the hall.

After quietly searching the house, they managed to make their way upstairs, finding Martha’s room. She had one part of the house all to herself, but her door was locked. Again, James produced his satchel and opened the door in no time. The room was candle lit and they could see Martha in a state of half undress, laying on a large, four poster bed. She seemed to be moaning and touching herself, while a curious, red vapour undulated above her. Luca decided to hex the vapour and it responded immediately by rising up, coiling up like a snake and bursting through the shutters and out of the window, retreating towards the woods.

Checking on Martha only to find her semi-conscious and not lucid, they decided to bind her hands and gag her, just in case. Then they gave chase, using growth of old Lyrian ivy vines along side of the building to climb out of Martha’s room. As they did so, it became clear that Martha had often used the vines to sneak out of her room. The strange vapour had left a trail which was easily followed as the two ran into the woods. Eventually the vapour trail lead to a small grove, lined with bindweed, which Luca knew was rumoured to thin the fabric between realities.

Near the back of the grove, they found the start of a path leading down into a small crag. The further the two went down the crag, the more decorations could be found. There were primitive, isometric shapes carved into the rock; spirals, triangles, stars and circles. Also, they found stick figured made from vines and sticks hanging off of the branches and roots from the trees above, as the two descended down deeper into the crag.

At the end of the crag they found a cave in which sat a stunningly beautiful woman, with fiery red hair and an alluring and revealing dress, laying on a bed of furs. She spoke to Luca and James, introducing herself as Liliana and trying to get them to come closer and spend some time with her. Both of them were simultaneously attracted to her and repulsed by her. They knew something dreadful was about to happen, but they also couldn’t deny their attraction to her. They also noticed that the entrance they had come through had disappeared, effectively locking them inside the cave with Liliana. They kept resisting her calls, until finally she became angry.

The fight was very confusing. Liliana showed her true form by sprouting a pair of large, leathery bat-wings from her back, growing a set of curved horns from her forehead and displaying vicious, claw-like hands. She summoned small, vicious fiends that kept on attacking and poisoning the duo.

The strangest was that during the fight, she would occasionally use her powers to transport one of the adventurers to a strange, alternate reality where the cave was made from pulsing flesh and they had to defeat two of the small, vicious fiends in order to return. While banished, the remaining person would have to withstand Liliana’s preternatural charm.

Due to Luca’s strong mind and James’ elven lineage, Liliana was not able to seduce them the way she wanted to. She managed to entrance James for a moment. She kissed him, draining him of much of his life force and then ordered him to attack Luca, but he was able to shake off the effects of her charm. It was touch and go for a while, but they managed to defeat her and the fiends she summoned. As she dissipated in a vapour with a screech, Liliana’s voice entered the adventurer’s minds with an ominous message:

Until we see each other again, boys…

The luscious furs dried and turned to dust and the remaining fiends shrivelled to nothingness. The entrance to the cave also reappeared. When the adventurers stopped trembling and regained their breath and bearing, they rummaged through the remains in the cave to find a couple of tourmaline stones, a curious potion in a ceramic, green bottle and a strange, dreadful looking flute.

Suicide, Mental Health and Gatekeeping

Someone in my family committed suicide a few days ago. It was quite unexpected, not just for me, but for a lot of people. Apparently, he had been quite unhappy for a long while with things stemming from childhood, things that he was addressing in therapy. I keep wondering what it is about one person that they can lead a life of misery, setbacks and struggle, without ever earnestly considering the thought of suicide, while another lives a relatively affluent life whose happiness was derailed during a formative period, who then decides to take their own life?

It makes me reevaluate existential pain and suffering. The human psyche is too complex to compare two situations. It makes me reevaluate a lot of the mental health gatekeeping which happens. Someone claims to have ptsd, and others jump on that person for suggesting that their pain and suffering is en par with the suffering of others who have a more “legitimate” form of ptsd, like soldiers. You simply can’t compare the two cases on such a superficial level.