Tag: Ethan Redwyne

Journey to High Pass Keep

8th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

Waking up to the now familiar sight of my friends sitting comfortably in the keep’s kitchen in Mund’s expert care, I found that David had stayed the night. He said that he wanted to remain close to the rest for the first few nights while carrying the stone, until he was more comfortable with the charge.

I understood his reasoning, but at the same time was a little worried; the initial point of swapping duties carrying the stone was so that neither of us would be in the vicinity of the stone for too long. My proximity to the stone had now exceeded for more than a day. I reckoned this would have to do for now since we were about to embark on a journey to the High Pass, a journey which would see us in close proximity for at least several days.

Mund had already made careful preparations for our journey, gathering our food and trail rations as well as prepared us a luxurious breakfast. Our fresh food would likely run out before reaching the High Pass, so I decided to break my fast as best as my body allowed. Light fruits, warm water with ginger root, a bit of porridge with goat’s milk and small amounts of bread.

I am looking forward to next spring, when traders would arrive from Hulburg and Illinvur. I had been talking to Haëlla about preparing some mulled wine. So much cinnamon, so much nutmeg and so much honey. The amounts were very particular. Then raisins and nuts and dried berries, but absolutely no lemon; that was the rankest sort of Sembian heresy.

After breakfast I prepared for my departure by going over my things and deciding on what to take. The bigger things, like a thick blanket and my tent, I strapped to Donkey. Right when I was busy in doing that and getting together the feed that Donkey would need for such a long journey, Donkey got conscripted by the Lord in order to carry not just my own things, but other burdensome things as well! Godric, another companion on our travel, brought his own donkey, too, albeit brown instead of grey. It, too, became the focus of most of the burden.

Our group ended up consisting of the following people:

Quentyn, David, Jago and myself. Oh, and Donkey. The Glisterians Godric, Victor, Tove, Ægir and Hubert, together with Godric’s donkey. The Sembians Costas, Alphio and Adan, all three decided to travel with us a ways as they depart Glister. Why they would travel for the High Pass after being banished from Glister is beyond me. I suppose the are heading for Vaasa to pick up their trade as mercenaries. And then the Cormyrians Ser Fosco Ganivet and Yorick. The Vesperi Kusman who travelled with the settlers but originally hails from The Vast, north of the Vesperin river. Last but certainly not least was the Damaran Warpriest Gunnar. Quite the company, at six and ten, plus two donkeys let’s not forget.

We left wizard’s hill with little fanfare and the next two days we travelled into the Galena mountains to the north. Initially we followed a familiar path along the Stillwater and we came upon the falls where we had cut off the Sembians and fought the ogres and lizardfolk.

9th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

As we travelled beyond the falls the elevation changed and the surrounding flora started changing too. The trees started to become higher, change from leaves to needles and as the trees grew taller, competing for sunlight, the undergrowth changed to a steady amount of ferns.

Travel was relatively smooth. Jago had guided us from the onset, since he was most familiar with the area, and at the end of the day we had reached the edge of Jago’s familiarity. He had prepared well and had plotted our course for the next couple of days.

10th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

As the day progressed I heard more and more people voice some concern about the direction we were taking. After some conversations with Jago it seemed he had angled off too much to the west, leading us somewhat astray from our goal. Once we had course corrected it seemed we were about half a day behind schedule.

2nd Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

Almost five days into our journey and the terrain became even more rugged. The foothills of the Galena mountains were behind us, and now we found ourselves in mountainous terrain the likes of which I had not travelled through myself. While sailing north along the Dragonmere lake, I had spotted some mountains that rivalled some of the mountains we saw off in the distance, but travelling proved to be a challenge.

We decided to set up camp early so that we wouldn’t have to move into the mountains at the tail end of a tiring day. We decided to eat the last of our fresh food. The last chicken was brought to slaughter and the meat and marrow was used to make a perfectly serviceable broth together with foraged mushrooms. Tents were erected and everyone seemed in good spirits. Even the Sembians, who essentially were accompanying the lord and his retinue who banished them from his lands, they seemed to be in friendly spirits.

Later that evening, before watch had been decided and people had retired to their bedrolls and I had laid down in my tent, Jago returned from a scouting run in the area. He reported seeing lizardfolk around the camp. He had tried to bring it down with bow and arrow but the elusive creature escaped him. That turned the mood of our group; despite the merriment, people ended up going to sleep feeling ill at ease.

3rd Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

The bleak mood that we were left with the previous day stayed with us throughout the following day. We were getting closer to our destination and all the dangers we were like to encounter, and having spotted the lizardfolk so close to camp had reminded everyone we were likely marching towards battle at the High Pass Keep. Whatever Lord Balta’s scouts had found there had taken them and we would likely have to confront that evil.

While travelling we kept following the precursor to the Stillwater. The river was nothing more than a stream of ice cold water now, with several other source brooks and streams leading towards it. Often we could simply cross these waters, but sometimes it meant travelling upstream for a little while before finding a serviceable crossing or ford. This forced us to double back on occasion and lose some time in transit.

Some of the more perceptive members of our company had been keeping a keen eye out on the area and had spotted the lizardfolk keeping track of our progress. They never came too close to our party, our group likely being too large for them to comfortably raid. They seemed happy for us to simply pass through their territory under observation.

Later, Jago remarked that this was likely the wrong conclusion to take since the lizardfolk rarely travelled this far north, away from deep or open waters. This was not their territory so their presence baffled him.

4th Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

We finally were able to spot the high pass. Two large mountains forming a wedge shape on the horizon. Would could just make out a hill at the bottom of the pass with a tower on it. Once I saw the placement of the tower I began to understand why Lord Balta had made a move to secure it. The pass was one of two easy routes through the Galena mountains, the other being the Low Pass, and the keep was strategically placed to easily hold the pass it was in.

5th Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

When the sun began to disappear behind the mountains and we were about a day away from the keep we started to make camp. Jago came to me and asked me to take a look at some of the tracks he had found in the surroundings. He wanted to make sure we weren’t being followed by the lizardfolk, and he had stumbled on something odd.

The tracks were that of two donkeys. I don’t know why, but immediately my mind went to a bleak place, concocting a scenario in which we had been walking in a circle and we were looking at the tracks left by our own donkeys. I quickly verified that the tracks did not belong to our donkeys, which had very unique hoof prints that we could use to rule them out. No, these were different donkeys.

Jago was especially concerned with a strange, slithering track that seemed to be following the two donkeys. I concurred, judging by the tracks, it definitely looked like a large snake was stalking these two poor donkeys.

6th Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

We were almost upon the keep. As we travelled in the shadow of the mountain range, the air was cold, but as the rays of sunlight peaked past the mountain from time to time, the entire area was awash in a glorious golden glow.

Vegetation had become sparser and the trees looked sickly and small and I was once again reminded of the influence the demon in the bloodstone once had before we imprisoned it. Arable yield had increased significantly and what had happened in Glister might be happening in the High Pass, too. Rumours had it that the keep was haunted. Perhaps the evil that held the keep also laid waste to the fertility of the surrounding lands like Nar-Narg-Naroth once had.

The terrain started to flatten out and the brooks and streams of water seem to flow through muddy gullies. Eventually it struck us all that the lands seemed to be cultivated and that perhaps the gullies were used for irrigation. We saw some old drywall fencing which likely used to be the way farmland was marked. Perhaps these lands were all part of the keep’s domain. A well garrisoned keep needed food for their soldiers after all.

We finally came upon the start of a well worn path which meandered up the round hill sitting in the path of the high pass, choking off part of the pass on one side. The tower sitting at the top of the hill was surrounded by a sturdy, well-maintained wall. David remarked that the placement of the keep meant it was sun-starved for most of the day, regardless of the season, and so it would need a lot of cultivated land, much further out from the keep than normally.

We started up the path and took several hairpin turns before stumbling upon an old campsite. We found an old campfire, five bedrolls and a host of small belongings as well as three dead bodies, horribly burnt.

It is difficult to find the words to describe the scene. Of the three bodies, one was sitting up against an old, withered tree around which the camp had been erected. Another was laying at a small distance from the tree, and the third was a ways outside of camp, laying in the bushes. Only the last one seemed to show signs of distress, having thrashed around, leaving scorch-marks upon the ground, before collapsing where we found it.

I found the scene to be utterly fascinating and started to investigate, beginning with the man (at least I think it was a man) sitting up against the tree. The burns he suffered were severe. I judged the intensity of the heat to be enormous, which made the unmoving nature of the body a double mystery.

From the smell of the body, I made out that he had been doused in lamp oil. He was also missing much of the flesh off the inside of one of his hands, which I later found sticking to the body of the second burn victim. It seemed as if the first victim had grabbed onto the second victim, which caused the second victim to catch fire.

The first victim was also clutching a small brass coin, which miraculously had survived the heat of the flames. A quick examination of the coin revealed it to be magical, which explained its survival. Gunnar, David and myself discerned the coin to be a Suntoken, items created with the express intent of vanquishing undead by priests. Another remarkable discovery was that the first victim had at one point been wearing a necklace, which was missing.

The third victim was still a complete mystery to me.

I suspected the first victim to be a priest. It would fit with him carrying the Suntoken. And it fit the lack of birds and animals, the sickly growth, the rumours of the keep being haunted. It all pointed to an undead infestation. I quickly sent out Blackwing to call back the others from investigating the keep.

We caught up with the others and shared what we had found. Ser Fosco had stayed behind with several others to set up camp and guard our findings. We ascended the path further toward the keep and found signs of fighting. Weapons, bones, etc. Jago had found a symbol of Lathandar, the Morninglord, in the bushes, probably belonging to the first victim downstairs.

Soon we found ourselves ambushed by two emaciated undead humans. After a short fight, in which Quentyn was hit several times and later reported an unnatural, icy feeling gripping him by the throat when he was hit, I started to form a scenario of what happened back at the camp.

The first victim was the priest of Lathandar. The other two were likely the same type of emaciated undead creatures that attacked us. He was left without his holy symbol and therefore next to powerless. He resorted to self-immolation, both as a method of defence and offence. It had worked, but at what price?

As we continued to ascend the path towards the keep, we kept being beset upon by these undead creatures. Even though the others were doing a very good job of defeating the rather mindless creatures, I was curious to see how my magic would affect them. As it turned out, it worked rather well.

Burning Hands
Ag voth yol nol haali
Burn with fire from my hands

After another hairpin we were beset upon by four others. David had said he wanted to use his divine power to turn the undead away. He succeeded in scaring off three of them, but I wasn’t going to let them survive:

Ag ko faal toor do Dinoksetiid
Burn in the inferno of the end times

Finally, there was another battle. Against five undead creatures, this time. I stood back and watched them decimate the undead. David fought impressively with that wicked looking chain of his. He kept hooking the chain around the legs of the creatures and pulling them to the ground, only to break their bones with the blunt end of the chains.

I came to the realisation that I am ill equipped to use my magic in these chaotic, combat situations. I might well have the time and wherewithal to cast my offensive spells while the enemies are distracted by the swords and spiked chains of my companions, but I doubt I’ll perform very well when I’m the one they’re focusing their aggression upon. I must find a way to make myself more useful in combat. To increase my chance of survival at the very least.

Also, I’ve been so immersed in the study of different Tanar’ri that I have completely neglected my studies of the undead. I was completely incapable of identifying the emaciated creatures that attacked us. Was it a zombie? A skeletal warrior? A wraith? A wight? A banshee? I have no idea. I think I could have been of better use to my companions if I had at least been able to identify the creatures and share possible vulnerabilities.

I am so useless at fighting that I at least have to help my friends in other ways. If I can’t help them, why would they ever agree to help me when I’m in need?


The Temple of High Worship in Fulcester

The first time I left home was right after Danan was born. Old enough to be considered irredeemably useless by my lord-father, he had decided I would honour our family in service of the Earth Mother. I was too innocent to realise what it meant, so initially, I felt excited.

Throughout my early childhood I had been betrayed by my body. My constitution was left in ruins after being struck by the bloody flux. Because I spent much of my time bed-bound my lady-mother often had me tended to by the brothers of the Chauntaic order of Fulcester. I always had fond memories of Brother Leobald. He would prepare my food, administer potions, take me to the balcony when it was warm, and read stories to me at night when sleep could not find me.

As far as I can remember Brother Leobald was the first man to ever show me compassion, care and genuine affection. My lord-father never did, and his men followed his example, though I suspect some of whom I suspect felt sympathy for my situation. I looked fondly at the pastoral order of Chauntea, prayed to her at sundown together with Brother Leobald, and was genuinely excited to study at the temple to please my lord-father.

My lady-mother reassured me that with Fulcester being so close to Redgarden I would be able to visit often and watch Danan grow up and become good friends with him. I was aching for a friend and I suspect my mother knew that. This was the carrot she kept dangling in front of me to get me to be compliant. She told me that I would get to know all the new acolytes at the temple, make friends with them and study Chauntea’s grace with them. I think she meant well. It was wishful thinking on her part.

Arriving at the temple, escorted by Brother Leobald, I found a sprawling estate with a large hill in the middle of it. Atop the hill sat the temple – the largest wooden structure in all of Cormyr, it was said – surrounded on all sides by fields and farms. It was truly a magnificent sight to behold as you stood on the hilltop and looked around, Chauntea’s abundance was everywhere. Her life-giving power was on full display with fields of corn and wheat and grazing cattle, berry bushes and herb gardens, apple orchards and stocked granaries.

It was said that the yield from the temple grounds was so high and so optimised, that it fed the better part of Fulcester. As a result, the temple order was very rich. The lands it held was bestowed upon the order by my family and so, in appreciation, the order donated part of its yield to my family. I was afforded my own quarters in appreciation and I was given servants, Olivar and Annarel.

I first met Olivar the day I was accepted to the order. The ceremony was a long and tedious one, and I remember there were many prayers being offered while we had to stand under the hot sun. My lady-mother had insisted that I was given a shaded position for she was afeared I would faint. Olivar had been lucky enough to end up in the shade of the same poplar tree as I. He was a strong-limbed, sandy-haired boy my age, with bright blue eyes and an easy smile. The overwhelming majority of the aspiring acolytes were women, so Olivar and I quickly gravitated towards one another. Throughout the long and exhausting day we quietly chatted in between prayers. He was an orphan from Wolverton and he had excelled in letters under the tutelage of a local scribe. As such he was accepted as an aspiring acolyte.

Because I was a Redwyne, I wasn’t just afforded my own quarters, but I was also provided a tutor; Annarel. She was a few years older and had started her acolyteship a year before and already had the run of things. She explained where classes were held, when to report for supper, which pastors were friendly and which were strict. She proved to be an invaluable source of information in the first few weeks. She was tall, for a girl, with green eyes, a shock of thick auburn curls and a lovely smattering of freckles. She had been born into a common family but had an uncle in the order who had helped her get accepted as an acolyte. She already knew so much that I would get intoxicated by it when she spoke.

The acolyteship was split up between two tasks; study at the different monastic orders of Chauntea surrounding the temple, and working on the farms on the estate. The former came easy to me, the latter did not. Work on the farms was hard and those days wore on longer than I was comfortable with. I started to notice that there was an inherent inequality being propagated; study was often overseen by female priests, while the farm work was predominantly overseen by male pastors. The highest orders were almost exclusively female and Annarel told me that this was due to women having a deeper connection to the nourishing nature of the Earth Mother.

Both Annarel and Olivar were lovely, and while they were initially selected to serve me, we quickly became good friends. We started sharing tasks in my chambers and the boundaries between us started to fade as we shared things equally. They stopped calling me “my lord” and I stopped expecting them to serve me. Olivar enjoyed his time in the fields more than Annarel or I did, and Annarel enjoyed her time at the temple more than Olivar or I did. And I? I enjoyed my time in the libraries and classes more than they did. We helped each other, tutored each other and covered for each other. This was made easy by being separated from the rest of the acolytes. My family name gave me a lot of leeway to do as I please and as a result, my family name afforded Olivar and Annarel the same. It also caused some friction between us and the other acolytes.

The first winter at the temple was a rough one. For weeks, thick snows and harsh temperatures made pastoral work and priestly contemplation impossible and classes were suspended. We were allowed to continue our studies in quarters, which was heavenly for me. I would sneak books from the library and bring them back to my quarters. I would read. Annarel would read from scriptures. Olivar tended to the fire and would work on his wood carving. At night, the three of us would share my bed in order to keep warm. We were young, we were curious, and under the tutelage of Annarel we began to explore each other and ourselves. Once the cold winds of Auril the Frostmaiden had past and Deepwinter was behind us and we were heading for spring, we continued our ways. During the day, we studied and worked together, during the night, we cuddled and slept together. I look back upon those days as the happiest times of my life.

Annarel was quickly progressing through her studies and as a result she would spend more time at the temple. She seemed happy with that, so Olivar and I were happy for her. In turn, Olivar was growing strong and was given more pastoral responsibilities on the different farms. I was given a few tasks in maintaining the library, so we all seemed to grown in different ways. Fortunately, we would all come back home at the end of the day to my chambers and we would talk about all we had learned that day. We were all happy.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that Annarel and Olivar were progressing as quickly as they were, and I was given a lot of space to spend time at the library, other acolytes had been growing envious. I would sometimes hear that questions were asked, especially of Annarel, which were critical of our status within the order. Olivar had been teased about living in such close quarters with Annarel and had even gotten into a fight with one of the farmhands when the farmhand had opened up about what he would do to Annarel if they had lived together. Looking back now, I realise that I could have predicted what came next.

Because the three of us had been growing in our chosen disciplines it meant we were not always together anymore. It meant that often one person would have duties while the other two stayed in chambers. I knew Olivar and Annarel were having sex while I wasn’t there, just I had sex with both of them when the other wasn’t there. Misfortune struck when Olivar and I were seen together in my chambers by another acolyte who came by to run an errand. We were so innocent of the idea that what we were doing was wrong, that I was stunned when Olivar and I were called before a priest to explain ourselves. High priestess Adelaide of Halloughton questioned us on what had been going on between Olivar and I. Annarel was present but looked at her feet. We knew that lying in front of a high priestess would be a sin, so we told the truth.

The high priestess angrily lectured us on Chauntaic ideas on sex. Chauntea was a mother first and two men being intimate with one another could never produce children. I don’t remember much more of that pious scolding. I just remember that Annarel was moved to a different monstary, Olivar was expelled and made to leave with only that which he arrived with – which is to say, being an orphan, nothing at all – and I was expelled to be sent back to Redgarden Keep.

I never saw Annarel or Olivar again. I would occasionally get word from servants at the keep about Annarel. She had rededicated herself to the Earth Mother and was a rising star in the order. I never heard about how Olivar fared. I can only imagine how hard and unforgiving the world must be to a young boy without food, shelter or coin. I hope he is a farmer or a woodworker. I hope they are both doing well. That they are happy. That they think of me as much as I think of them.

The Lord’s Justice

7th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

The morning start as it so often did with an excellently prepared breakfast. Mund, though a simpleton, has become an invaluable part of the Martell household and it wouldn’t surprise me that behind the eyes of our lovable mute hides a keen intellect. Regardless, his care is much appreciated. He is an empath of rare quality, which is perhaps a result of his diminished ability.

As most mornings, David joined us for breakfast and he handed me the bloodstone for safe keeping. He mentioned being beset upon by troubling dreams and offered the bloodstone as a possible source of them. I was struck by this, since I had the bloodstone in close proximity for two years without ever being plagued by nightmares other than those vivid dreams in which I recall our final fight with the demon. The lovable Mund, however, has been plagued by night terrors. Is it possible that the demon searches the closest easy prey?

After breakfast my stomach felt heavy, and I decided to retreat to my room and lay down for half an hour and mentally set out the particulars of my next task; learning more about Mateo’s green sword. After the food had settled, I started the divinations. I carefully crushed enough of the pearls that I still had left into a mortar and gentle put the powder into a cup. I filled the cup with the little red wine which was available to me, and added a little extra for good measure. I don’t often get to enjoy wine here, and I thought I’d treat myself a little. I stirred the concoction with the feather of a snow owl that I got from Gilbert the duck farmer years before and started the incantation.

Mindoraan faal laas do aan geinzun.
Comprehend the life of a thing.

The trance took me and I heard the hiss and roar of a large, winged animal. I saw the images of several battles flicker past where all manner of people held the sword in fights against lizards, wyverns and dragons. Some of the fighting were small skirmishes, some of them were epic battles, and a deep sense of age and history came through. The sword was not unique but it and each of its siblings has a unique history in the fight against reptiles. Some call it Scalebane, some call it Dragonsbane, some call it Dragonslayer.

I wanted to share my findings with the others, but unfortunately found the house empty. The others must have gone to Glister or perhaps help the settlers at Oak Hill. I went into the study in order to create the schematics I would need to restore the Deamonsbane Lockbox. I had done some minor artificing while at the Circle of Magi, but I was not proficient enough to do it without careful preparation.

I wanted the box to have certain properties. It should be locked by arcane magic, preferably not using the key of one, but of all of us. This would prevent one of us from being enthralled by the deamon in the stone and opening it, and it would have to become a decision made by all. We would become equal partners in keeping the stone out of the wrong hands, and it would make it harder for outsiders to open the box without first having to capture all of us. The components for this spell would be the blood of each of us, and a large amount of gold dust. Luckily, I’ve been sitting on a small treasure of gold coins since I arrived in Glister. I resigned to visit Corbyn the smith the following day in the hopes of having the coins filed down to dust.

Secondly, I wanted to make sure that none could detect the stone while it was in the box. I would have to study a new spell which would ward against Scrying. I was familiar with that spell, so it would take me a while in order to produce a counterspell to it. Unfortunately, my research quickly unveiled that I would require some very rare and expensive components. Diamond dust would do the trick, but where would I get diamond dust in this remote town?

Initially, I wanted to imbue the box with some enchantments which would contain the deamon’s telepathic influence from reaching out of it, but I quickly realised that the bloodstone was already doing exactly that. I wouldn’t be able to improve upon that, which meant we’d still have to make sure to keep the stone away from others. It made me wonder if the Marbrand laboratory was somehow warded and that this is the reason why the deamon’s influence had been low over the last few years. Perhaps the deamon was simply getting stronger, regaining strength after its defeat upon the Thar.

Regardless, I felt I would probably be ready to imbue the box with the necessary magics at the Highharvestide festival. I would resigned to talking to the others about their contribution and their pledge to this project later that evening.

When the others finally arrived back from Oak Hill they seemed really energised by the hard labour they had done earlier that day. I recognised the energy they displayed from my father’s men, and the pastors at the Temple of High Worship in Fulcester. I have always felt uncomfortable around that behaviour, always felt inadequate in the shadow of it. I worked up the courage to join the others and explained to them the background of Mateo’s sword. I also explained to them the plan I had to restore the lockbox. I asked them for a drop of their blood to use in the ritual. Jago and Quentyn seemed immediately hesitant, but luckily David seeemed to understand the bond our shared charge would create. Like swearing a sacred oath, they were willingly gave up a drop of their blood.

8th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

As usual I found everyone in the kitchen when I awoke. Apparently, Jago had suffered terrible dreams in which he had attacked a lizard man and was sprayed by that horrible secretion. The dream was so vivid that he had woken up and immediately vomit. I asked Jago some questions to determine whether the dream he had suffered could possibly have been caused by Nar-Narg-Naroth, but his dream struck me as something else entirely. When David spoke about his demon dreams, I noticed Mund’s startled and pained response. It all clicked for me in that moment; the reason I had never been subject to the demon dreams was because of Mund’s proximity. He had been the target of the demon’s retaliation after being captured, giving him incredible night terrors. I reassured him that we would find a way to stiffle the demon’s influence over him and stop the dreams.

No, Jago’s dream struck me as something different. Something more akin to my bond with Blackwing. When Blackwing pulls a worm from the muddy soil, I can feel the filth in my mouth as sure as she feels it in her beak. There was clearly something he wasn’t quite sharing about his dreams and so I came forth with my suspicion. I had read about people like him, hunters, trackers and rangers, who on occasion would develop these preternatural bonds with the animals in their realm. I urged him to seek the animal.

Most of the afternoon I was caught up in errands. I visited Gustav and his daughters and asked them if they could arrange for the creation of a luxurious robe, one with the embroidery of my own sigil on its lapel. After going back and forth over the details of the robe and the sigil, I struck a deal that the robe could be made for three gold coins. Gustav’s eldest would do the embroidery and she would arrange for the looms to produce the robe and purchase the required leather trimmings from The Hoof. While at it, she also took care of one of my errands; to get some of my clothing patched up.

I really felt that the friendship I had struck up with the old sage was really benefiting me more and more lately. He had nuggets of useful information and kept me endlessly entertained with his stories and silly jokes, and sometimes offered me profoundly wise insights, while at the same time his daughters took very good care of me.

The next stop was Cobyn’s smithy. I found the large man at the forge and chatted a little with him. I asked him if he would be interested in taking on an apprentice so that the settlers at Oak Hill would eventually have access to a decent smith of their own without having to travel all the way to Glister proper. He seemed to be open to the idea, depending on whether the apprentice would be studious and serious.

When I asked him if he would want to provide me with gold filings if I would supply him with the gold, he looked at me like I was a lunatic, and said that he’d be happy to provide me with an iron file so I could do the job myself. I thanked him for his help and in no time had filed down 25 gold coins. I returned him the file and thanked him for it.

I seem to have taken up a position in this town that others might find hard to define. My interaction with Corbyn is excellent evidence of this; he doesn’t quite know why I ask for the things I ask for, he also doesn’t question it and just provides me with what I need. I’d like to think that this is a sign of acceptance. They might not understand me, but they at least tolerate me, sometimes accept me and maybe even appreciate me.

There was one more stop I wanted to make; the shrine of Illmater. I was relatively certain I wouldn’t find David there, but I hoped that his acolyte Zacjeni would be there. Some time ago I had decided that I wanted to make a donation to the shrine to help them in the good work they do for the people of Glister. David had channelled Illmater’s blessings to me on several occasions and I felt that a little show of appreciation was owed.

Unfortunately, I found the building empty. I was about to return to Wizard’s Hill when I picked up some people discussing that the lord’s justice was going to be passed at the standing stones at noon. I decided to stay in Glister to witness it.

At noon a small group of people had showed up for the sentencing. The group had been far smaller than had gathered for the last moot, which was not surprising since I gathered Quentyn had announced the sentencing last minute. I also suspected that the Glisterians were less interested in the display than they were in Quentyn simply lording over Glister as he saw fit, provided that still aligned with the customs and expectations of the Glisterians.

Quentyn spoke briefly, banishing Mateo and ordering Ivar and three militia men to bring the Sembian a day onto the Thar. The remaining Sembians were given a choice between banishment and working off their guilt until the last day of winter. Two decided to stay, one of them notably being the one that David rescued from death’s door after the battle at the Stillwater Rapids. The other three decided they would take the opportunity to leave Glister.

I thought that Quentyn’s speech could have been stronger. It surprised me that he had not prepared the speech in advance. He seems to be a man who follows his intuition, lets his impulses lead him and runs on his emotions, but I doubt that this will ever be enough to effectively lead this village of people.

After the sentencing I joined David back at the shrine and we spoke about my tithing. He rejected any offers of gold, but instead was willing to accept food, blankets and clothing for Zacjeni and himself in order to get through winter more comfortably. I thought it odd on several levels (why not just accept the gold and buy your own blankets, and why would a priest of Illmater be so interested in getting through winter in “comfort”), but I decided to use the rest of the afternoon to make good on what I owed. I went and purchased clothing and blankets together, making sure it was delivered to the shrine.

Returning to Glister

5th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

After the fight at the falls I felt so nauseous and weak that I was instantly transported back to the courtyard off the inner keep at Redgarden. I felt like I was eight years old again, trembling and crying after being worked over to the point of retching, the contents of my stomach voided and desecrating those hallowed grounds upon which every Redwyne man had learned how to handle a sword. While we all rested I closed my eyes to avoid eye contact. Back then I wished to become invisible so that I could escape my father’s anger, now I just wished for everyone to forget what I did.

We broke up camp when the sun was high above the trees. I noticed David and Quentyn having a chat out of earshot of the rest of the group. When Quentyn came back he had a look of concern on his face. It strikes me that it’s been a while since he’s smiled. He was probably never groomed for governance and rule and I suspect he’s finding it hard to keep track of all the moving parts. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

The prisoners were bound to one another by the waist and their hands were tied together. Mateo’s mind seemed to have completely collapsed under the weight of losing the bloodstone. He keeps talking to himself, rambling on and on about how he failed, how he failed his master. The other Sembians seem genuinely surprised and worried at his behaviour. They try and rationalise it to themselves by saying that the mercenary life broke him, like it breaks so many others. I’m not going to argue that living as a sellsword doesn’t come with a heavy price that not every man can pay, but I am fairly certain they know something else, something more, is wrong with Mateo than they are admitting openly.

I had suggested that Jago talk to them to see to what extent they had been aware or even complicit in the theft of the bloodstone. Jago has a sense for people, if anyone could get to the truth of it, it was him. The conclusion was that they had only been aware of the theft when they had already been under way. Mateo had mentioned taking something that would allow them to set themselves up whenever they would get to Vaasa in the North.

We marched throughout the entire day until night fell. We made camp a few hundred steps away from the river. The prisoners were tied to a tree, away from the rest of camp, and Godric and Widukin were tasked with their guard. Having observed them throughout the day, I was surprised at how resigned they were to their capture. They did as they were told, answered when questioned and were only interested to learn whether they would likely be executed once we got back to Glister.Perhaps these are misconceptions, but I was raised to believe that without too many exceptions, Sembians were duplicitous, dishonorable people, prone to infighting and eager to lie, cheat and manipulate for the smallest advantage. I saw no such thing in the way these Sembians behaved today. They owned up to their desire to leave. They admitted to learning about the theft while on their way. But never did they seem eager to turn cloak on Mateo.

Once camp had been established we took Mateo apart from the rest and tried to interrogate him. He had been sobbing and moaning to himself until David slapped him back to responsiveness. After that, he kept on rambling the same thing over and over. He could no longer hear his master and because of this he would fail him. No question was answered with any degree of satisfaction.

I took out a copper coin and held it firmly in my hand. I had prepared for this moment and the magic inside of me was eager for release.

Detect Thoughts
Zu hon faal zu se faal hadrim.
(I hear the voice of the mind.)

As the magic flowed from my core, its tendrils started to pick up the snippets of thoughts of the people in front of me. I noticed the disjointed, chaotic mind of Mateo, and I registered Jago standing behind the Sembian against a tree in the distance. I homed in on the whirling chaos of our prisoner’s mind and his thoughts started to come into better focus.

While I was focusing on his thoughts, trying to make sense of it all, something happened that I can’t quite explain. I noticed another presence somewhere off at the periphery of his mind. Just as I tried to figure out what was going on, Mateo calmed down and engaged that presence in conversation. Soon he was instructed to stop thinking about the bloodstone, about his master or any of the plans he had for the stone. An iron discipline kept his mind unyieldingly clear of any useful thoughts.

In the end, what I had been able to discern from his thoughts, before the gates to his inner monologue shut down, was that Mateo is of no small intellect, which means a strong logical and analytical core doesn’t protect against the abyssal influence coming from the demon in the bloodstone. It was also clear that the demon had approached him in his dreams to guide his actions. It was clear that he was forced into the theft. That which coerced him terrified him in a way he could not put into thoughts nor words.

Quentyn convened a council with myself, David, Jago and Ser Fosco to determine what punishment would be befitting a man who stole a precious jewel from the lord’s keep. We purposefully obfuscated the nature of the bloodstone from Ser Fosco but I don’t think he was fooled into thinking it was an ordinary gemstone, since David passionately pleaded for mercy on Mateo’s behalf due to the influence that had been exerted on him by the demon. I wish the magic of the hon faal hadrim had not fizzled out by that point, because I dearly would have wished to gauge Ser Fosco’s thoughts on what must be a confusing situation.

Initially it seemed as if David was arguing against punishing Mateo completely, stating that he could not be held accountable for his actions due to the influence of the demon. He took great offense against my suggestion that you put a rabid dog down despite the dog being innocent to the influence of the malady. A man is not a dog, he argued, completely bypassing my point. I put it in simpler terms; regardless of Mateo’s culpability, he was too dangerous to be allowed to stay. The demon had consumed his mind so completely, in such a short amount of time, that I could not abide the situation David was arguing for. We settled on banishment, which could be tantamount to a death sentence; if the trolls on the Thar wouldn’t get him, the coming winter surely would.

The matter of the remaining Sembians, who didn’t strike me as complicit in Mateo’s plan and had been only been guilty of leaving Quentyn’s domain without his leave, sparked an interesting debate. Ser Fosco and I agreed that the lord’s justice was absolute, barring any fealties he might have sworn. Quentyn doesn’t owe any fealty as far as I am aware, considering the unbound nature of the region Glister finds itself in. The conclusion of the conversation was that whatever punishment Quentyn would decide to dole out, it should be consistent. So if theft is punished by flogging, or dismemberment, or exile or death, it should always be that way.

While the rest of the group was sorting out who was going to take which watch, I once again slid into obscurity and rolled myself up in the blankets I had brought. The last few moments before sleep took me was spent deciding which spells I would prepare the next morning. I was still carrying Mateo’s green sword with me that I wanted to examine. I would need the proper divination spells for that, but I decided I would try and see if I could pick Old Gustav’s brain first. Perhaps he could explain the nature or the origin of the special alloy, which would help significantly in my research.

6th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

With the exception of some commotion in the middle of the night, the source of which I couldn’t be bothered to discern considering how quickly the ruckus had died down, I slept the night through. I woke up feeling much refreshed as the residual nausea had faded away. I realised that morning that I’ve come a long way from the frail and frightened young boy back in Redgarden Keep. I have struck out on my own and have been forging my own path. I do suspect I still have a tendency to make sure I make use of other people’s comforts to sustain myself. I wonder if it is time for me to move out of the keep and perhaps take up residency on The Gift. Get a hut of my own. I am conflicted. It would be the right thing to do in order to develop myself as a man, but staying at Wizard’s Hill would develop me as a mage and councilor.

Because I had a full night’s sleep in considerable better comfort than most, I woke up early enough to study my spells. I ate a simple breakfast and I got a moment to observe the prisoners. They seemed in remarkably better spirits than the previous day. The Sembians seemed calmed by the fact that they felt it unlikely they would be executed, and Mateo was still unyieldingly quiet, unwilling to betray more of the plans his master had for him. In order for me to try out some self-sufficiency in possible preparation of a move away from Wizard’s Hill, I helped to clear the camp. Buried rubbish, extinguished the campfire and helped people tie packs to their backs.

I did not like it. I liked helping, of course. It was the distraction that I disliked. A solution to the problem of how to protect the stone from further thieves and intruders was beginning to form — nothing that I am currently ready to put down to parchment — but I was not able to concentrate on it. When it comes down to it, I feel like my intellect and talents are wasted on mundane tasks like preparing daily food, patching a thatch roof after a storm, or keeping a home tidy. I have always had the good fortune that the people around me recognised this, but how long will I be able to be useful to Quentyn? And more importantly, at which point will he assume me part of his retinue?

We started our walk and only paused on occasion to alleviate our feet, have a bite to eat, take a piss or remove a pebble from our boots. I accidentally snagged my traveler’s clothes on a branch it reminded me again that I should take my clothing to get patched at the looms on The Hoof one of these days. Perhaps I can then also commission that robe that I was mentioning before. I have been thinking about the herald I would want to have it adorned with; a black bird in flight across a red field, carrying a golden cornucopia in its beak.

At dusk we reached the Newmark and noticed the camp of the settlers having shrunk significantly. We also noticed a plume of smoke coming off from across the Smallwater in the west. It seemed that in our absence squire Croga and Godric’s brother had made good on their promise to start work on The Gift. The plume of smoke was probably a combination of cooking fires, campfires and perhaps some mud ovens. We crossed the moat with the ferry and made our way to Wizard’s Hill. As we passed Creighton’s home, I made a stop to get an update on the progress. He told me that many of the settlers had been lead to The Gift where they found a habitable hill a few hours walk west. They had started to clear the hill of vegetation and trees but decided to leave a remarkably venerable oak tree to remain at the top, dubbing the settlement Oak Hill. He also mentioned that several of the loggers and woodcutters working for the Widow had been helping the settlement out in return for some of the lumber being dragged down to the Smallwater and floated downstream to the mill.

I was pondering the possibility of going over to Oak Hill to see if I could possibly be of service in clearing the land using some of the levitation transmutations and fire invocations I have at my disposal when I walked into the keep. I asked Mund if he had some spiced, mulled cider and he surprised me with some wine! For a change, I must have looked the fool instead of him as I thanked him for it and hid the wine away in my room. The wine, you see, would come very much in handy in the divination spells I was preparing for the following day.

As mentioned earlier, I wanted to visit Old Gustav before trying to divine the nature of the green sword we lifted off Mateo and so off I went to the longhouse. Glister proper was calm and quiet. The only noise came from some of the farm animals and the sounds coming from Corben’s smithy. He was probably working hard supplying the settlers with nails, tools and other assorted metalworks to help them cultivate Oak Hill. I found Old Gustav surrounded by a few of his daughters and I sat with him. I was given some food and a drink by one of his daughters, probably in thanks for coming to sit with the old man. Honestly, I don’t quite understand why more people don’t come to him. He’s got a wealth of knowledge and sage advice! Sure, you might have to endure some of his ramblings and occasionally guide him back on track, but it is absolutely worth it.

As I showed Gustav the sword and asked him if he recognised it, knew anything about it and knew what kind of metal gave off such a green hue. His face lit up and he started to talk. As he spoke, I realised that with Chauntea’s blessing I would grow old like him, but that even she could not prevent my mind from withering the way Gustav’s had. The prospect of my mind failing me the way my body fails me is not one I relish. I should think about ways in which I can preserve my mind through old age. That, or stave off old age altogether!

After hours of listening to Gustav talk — sometimes interesting, sometimes amusing, sometimes frustrating — I had to conclude that it was getting late and that it was unlikely he would share anything useful. I now know all I wished to know about the green hue of the carapace of the Tharassian dung beetle who thrive in the acidic excrement of the Thar trolls. Supposedly, the green of their carapace matches the colour of Mateo’s sword quite closely. I decided to walk Gustav and his daughters home and then retired back to the keep. I would have to find time to properly divine the nature of the sword on the morrow.

7th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

This was a difficult morning for me.

Yesterday we had a heated debate regarding Mateo’s guilt, where David and I had found a compromise; Mateo was not innocent, but Mateo was also not deserving of death, instead he should be punished with exile. We had both given our recommendation and our sagest advice to Quentyn, but we had done so coming from a place we could be live with. We found had established some sense of moral hegemony within our group.

Today, during breakfast, David once again found it necessary to undermine Quentyn’s authority. He started by asking Quentyn whether he had been schooled in statecraft and diplomacy. He then proceeded to explain the concept of the three estates, essentially claiming judicial and authoritarian independence from Quentyn’s rule. Since he and his ward Zacjeni were all there was in terms of religious representation, he asserted he represented the first estate.

I admit that I lost my temper again, but that didn’t last long. After catching some air, I found solace in the realisation why David had kept undermining Quentyn’s authority. He thinks that he represents divine authority in Glister, which is, of course, patently absurd.

I have read about this notion, and it’s a fairly elegant system in areas where there was a divine hegemony. The Zhentilar, famously, abide by this system. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in areas of religious pluralism. How could it when no one religious dogma holds authority over another? I pray to Chauntea and I don’t recognise the moral or divine authority that David represents. I’m sure that Moloch agrees with me. Who knows, perhaps Widukin is a follower Mielikki the Forest Queen and Haëlla sings the praise of Selune the Moon Mistress.

See, for the three estates to work, they all have to accept each other and the role each plays. That also means that the roles that are being played are agreed upon. Do you think a follower of Bane and a follower of Illmater will be able to agree on matters of divine authority? I think not. And why should the second estate, in this case represented by Quentyn accept their authority? He’s not a follower of Illmater either.

The only thing we know is that the third estate, the good people of Glister, myself included, accept the second estate. Everyone, with the exception of David, is willing to submit to the lord’s rule and justice. Not all of the third estate is willing to be ministered to by David as the second estate, since not all of them share his ideals and beliefs.

Finally, Jago and Ser Fosco arrived and I returned back inside. Ser Fosco was looking for leave to join the settlers at Oak Hill, and when he left the conversation turned back to the bloodstone. The option of destroying the stone briefly came up, but I cautioned against it, because I argued that it was likely that the only reason why the demon could be imprisoned in the stone was due to the flawless nature of the gem. If that was to be compromised it would likely mean the demon’s escape.

David offered to bring the gem to his monastery in Illinvur, where his order could likely offer better guardianship over it. So far, this seems to be the best solution I’ve heard. The only thing I can offer is to restore the Deamonsbane lockbox and perhaps expand its protections to obfuscate the stone and dampen the demon’s influence. It would be fitting. It would also require me to develop my skills in artificing. I was taught the rudimentary basics of artificing at the Circle of Magi and I think I could manage, but it would be a costly investment of my time and resources

Not to mention part of my own essence.

Recovering the Bloodstone

4th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

After discovering the bloodstone had disappeared from the laboratory I spent most of the morning in a near-constant state of mild panic. My heart kept racing, I felt uncomfortably warm and I couldn’t concentrate. Images of our battle against Nar-Narg-Naroth kept flashing through my mind like unwanted intrusions.

I managed to tell Quentyn about what I had discovered, and I saw the blood drain from his face in the same way that it must have drained from my own. He assured me he would make preparations to pursue the Sembians and retrieve the bloodstone and that gave me enough direction to calm my nerves. I retreated to the laboratory in order to prepare the necessary divinations, evocations and transmutations I would require in the pursuit.

As I prepared my spells I started to calm down. I felt like I had a clear purpose and I found peace in the focus it gave me. With each line of the necessary incantations I felt my heart grow stronger and more stable. I realised something that had never occurred to me before, something I still have a hard time putting into words.

The bloodstone pulses with magical energy every time I touch it. The tanar’ri inside uses its power to push against its boundaries, and if it wasn’t for its flawlessness, the demon would manage to crack the stone’s exterior and erupt from its confines and unleash itself back into this world.

A mage is not that dissimilar. Whenever I prepare my spells, I go through all the required motions and incantations and store the built up spell inside my body. My body is impregnated with the potentiality of the spell. The spell has a very short fuse that I ignite with the last motions, incantations and components. The magic erupts from my body and is unleashed upon the world.

As such, my body and mind need to be a flawless vault, to safeguard myself, as well as the others around me. I realise my body is weak. But my mind is strong. Hopefully it will be able to compensate for my frail shell. It leaves me wondering about Ulster the Black, who brought shame to my family for being a renegade mage. Was he a manifestation of a man who couldn’t contain the mounting pressure inside of him? Did the pressure fracture his mind and send him into a frenzy?

Deep in contemplation and study, I was called upon by Brother David. He seemed unaware of what was going on, so I explained that the bloodstone was missing. The significance seemed lost on him. He was quite happy to be rid of the bloodstone. I said that the break in had the appearance of a deliberate act, since no other thing of value had been taken. He still seemed unconcerned.

We joined the others in the kitchen where Quentyn was busying himself getting ready to pursue the Sembians. Ser Fosco and his squire Duncan had joined and so had the trackers Jago and Widukin. I immediately asked Jago to join me in the study so that he could investigate the break-in further. He managed to find more tracks and traces and quickly confirmed my suspicions; the break-in had been deliberate and they had gone directly for the laboratory and the bloodstone!

Widukin had found tracks the Sembians left behind and had determined they were travelling north, along the Stillwater, trying to find suitable places to ford the river. Luckily, their lack of knowledge of the lands around Glister made their trek slow going and Widukin was convinced we would be able to catch up with them before they reached the falls, a place up river where it would be easy to cross to the other bank.

I started to get excited at the promise of us being able to catch up with the Sembians and retrieve the bloodstone. How long would it take for the tanar’ri in the stone to corrupt one of them and help it escape its prison? Was the demon the one who told the Sembians where to find the stone to begin with? Had the corruption already set in?

Quentyn informed brother David that he would be needed and to my disappointment he said that he would have to think about it. I was stunned to silence. Why wasn’t the urgency of the matter clear to him!?

As David was partaking in the lord’s breakfast, something he was want to do, Quentyn took his plate and told him to think about it outside. Without saying anything David left. I didn’t understand what was happening. Why would he undermine Quentyn in front of the rest? In front of Ser Fosco!? This wasn’t the first time he publicly undermined him. The last time was at the moot, where he spoke out in opposition of Quentyn. Was David purposefully undermining him? If so, why? If not, then why would he not council him in private? I felt had to find out.

I followed him outside. I asked him what he was doing. Unfortunately, I admit I said it in that blunt and foolhardy way I default to when I’m on edge. To his credit, David calmly told me he needed to prepare Glister for winter. A winter with fifty extra mouths to feed.

What I still don’t understand is; he knows of the work I’ve been doing to increase yield, he knows I did the calculations, he knows I did the risk assessments, he knows what is at risk if we let the bloodstone loose. He saw the spider demon! Why he would insult me by pretending Glister couldn’t afford to lose the manpower to retrieve the stone!?

Most of all, how could he think that Glister would be better off with a lord that was perceived as weak? A lord that was constantly under attack from his rearguard? I told him not to disobey Quentyn again and left. As I turned around I heard a snort of derision, I sound I unfortunately have grown all too familiar with, but I had more important things on my mind than to engage David any further.

He had all of the facts; there was nothing he would be able to do in the time we would pursue and retrieve the bloodstone that would better prepare Glister for the winter. He forced me to regard him as an agent de mauvaise foi, as my mother would have called him.

Back inside, Ser Fosco was keen to show his worth, but wanted his squire Duncan to stay behind and coordinate the settlers in his absence. Initially Quentyn wanted him along, but I convinced him that if the squire were to work together with Creighton the two of them would do well together. Duncan, on his part, said he would take up the charge.

My sense of the squire was that in the long run he would be a powerful ally. His temperament was such, I reckoned, that he would be able to temper some of Ser Fosco’s baser urges and be a positive influence on the knight. The only thing we could hope for was that Duncan’s moral compass was strong enough not to pick up any bad habits from his liege.

While Ser Fosco couldn’t offer up any information on the Sembians apart from that they were battle hardened, he did offer to take several settlers as backup. Quentyn requested three men to join, and I asked for Gunnar to be included.

Quentyn and I spoke in private and he asked me what to do about David. I told him what David had said to me, and that he couldn’t let this stand. David’s convictions were not required, just his obedience. Quentyn talked to Godric and his brother, and ordered Godric to come along and for his brother to make sure the militia kept up with training in Quentyn’s absence.

Right when I thought it was time for all of us to depart, Quentyn picked up a travel pack and departed Wizard’s Hill. It was so sudden and unexpected that I couldn’t talk to him before he left. An hour later he returned with David. Somehow he had either convinced David to come along, or supplicated, a thought I did not relish.

We headed north across the Newmark and into the wild, west from the Stillwater. It was likely the Sembians had stayed close to the river, but it would mean our pursuit would be more easily detectable. Jago took the lead, then Quentyn, then Ser Fosco, then came a settler named Marcus, Godric, another two settlers named Jorik and Henrik, then myself, followed by David and Widukin.

We were about six hours into our journey when we moved closer to the Stillwater to stop and eat. We had taken small breaks to rest our feet, but this was the first time I felt like I wasn’t being rushed. I thought I was able to keep up the first couple of hours, but after a while the strength just left me and I couldn’t persist as fast as the others.

David came to me and said that he had noticed me faltering. He asked me if I wanted to accept his lord’s blessing. I didn’t respond immediately because of the distrust this man had built up in me over the last day. I wouldn’t have questioned his offer before the moot, but now I felt the hesitation grip my innards. I quickly came to the realisation that I was here with a purpose that was important, and that I was willing to do what needed to be done. I wasn’t going to disappoint Quentyn. I said “yes.”

The feeling of strength that filled my limbs felt fantastic! It had been so long since I didn’t feel at least somewhat sick and these rare moments of fortitude were so precious to me that I was always shocked at how easily I had forgotten what it felt like. I decided that I’d be remiss not to use this opportunity to try some of the food and ale that the locals consumed!

I asked Jago how fresh the trail was that we had been following. He guessed no more than a couple of hours old. I quickly did the math, based on the time the Sembians left, the time we left and our speed of travel. They couldn’t have been more than half a league away from us. I sent out Blackwing and she came back a little while later reporting that she had seen torches close by.

When we were on the move shortly after and soon we started to notice sounds coming from what was likely the Sembian group ahead of us. When I let Blackwing take flight again, she gave me a good sense of where the Sembian group was. The rest of our party was discussing the best way to approach the Sembians, and at the same time I cast a divination to allowed me to locate the bloodstone. I felt it throbbing with abyssal power, so close it felt like I could almost touch it.

Locate Object
Haalvut fin miiraad ahst aan fin.
Sense the path toward a thing.

I was so distracted by the tug I felt on the periphery of my senses that I didn’t realise the plan was to catch up and overtake the Sembians and head them off at the falls. Before I knew it Jago had excellently lead us onward and we arrived at the falls without incident.

The falls was nothing more than some rapids on a slope at the edge of a small lake. Somehow the Stillwater had hit upon a block of granite that it was unable to push out of its path nor etch down over the centuries. The block made for a natural dam and a good place to get across the river without having to wade through deep waters.

5th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

We took up position at the top of the rapids and prepared to encounter the Sembians. Jago stabbed his torch into the ground, and I took his lead as I offered up a prayer to Chauntea. When the Sembians came within sight they held their ground for a moment. Quentyn stepped forward and called for them to relinquish the stone and that all would be well. I cannot imagine how he expected the Sembians to believe that, if they would surrender it would only be just for at least Mateo to be sentenced to death, regardless of the extenuating circumstances. Despite my doubts, three torches broke off from the group and proceeded forward.

Suddenly a hulking figured appeared right next to me and smashed Henrik to pulp with a sickening crunch! Chaos ensued and the first thing I did is snatch a small strip of leather from my pouch and twist it into a loop. That was the spark that lit the fuse to unleashing the transmutation power that was stored inside of me. I rapidly levitated up into the air and out of danger.

Fus kotin faal su.
Force into the air.

Hovering high above the battle that was raging down below me, I got a better sense of what was going on. An ogre had somehow sneaked up to us and attacked our party. Across the Stillwater I noticed more ogres, one of which was horned and clothed in more sophisticated garb. It touched the shoulder of another brute standing next to him, and that one turned into a vapour and quickly rolled across the surface of the Stillwater and slid down the rapids towards the Sembians.

It was an ogre mage. I only hoped that the Sembians were not in league with that powerful creature.

From up on high I retrieved a small clump of sulpher from one pocket, some goopy fat that I had purchased off The Hoof from another, and rubbed it together. I sprinkled the jelly with some iron shavings and felt the components tap into the stored arcane energy inside my body like a spigot. A sphere of fire ignited at the location I had been concentrating on, right amidst the ogres across the Stillwater.

Flaming Sphere
Zu’u ag hi voth aan krein do yol.
I burn you with a sphere of fire.

Chaos erupted among the group as one of them caught fire. Another started attacking the sphere with its club. I managed to manipulate the ball towards the other ogres and I noticed the dimwitted ogre who was swinging his club was in danger of hitting his friends. A scuffle started to break out among them and I was glad for the confusion amid their ranks.

Unfortunately the horned ogre mage, well known for having a very keen intellect, wasn’t going to let a simple invocation cause such distraction. It callously countered my invocation with one of its own, extinguishing the fire with a blast of frost that killed the dimwitted ogre outright. It was not just powerful, it was also willing to sacrifice its thralls.

The horned ogre lost interest in what was happening across the rapids and retreated back into the wilderness, but not before sending two of its thralls across the rapids. One of them stumbled and fell down the rapids, swept away by the Stillwater’s current. The other one was met and dispatched by the rest of the party below.

I dared to descend, touch down and run towards the slope leading to the Sembians. I jumped and levitated up again, using my forward momentum to get closer to the Sembian group, who were now stuck in a battle with the ogre that had been turned to vapour and several lizard-like humanoids. The ogre had reformed to its normal form and had been laying waste to both the Sembians as the lizards. The lizards were secreting a strange fluid from the glands close to their necks. It was causing great distress in everyone around them, causing them to gag and retch involuntarily.

Quentyn was badly wounded by a spear to the gut, but regardless helped in defeating the ogre and the lizards. The Sembians had taken refuge among our party, so when the fighting was done they were wise enough to throw down their arms. Quentyn demanded the bloodstone, and received it from the traitorous Mateo Prencipis.

As Jago searched the surviving Sembians for weapons and bound them for transport, and while David started administering to all the wounded, I made sure the Sembians weren’t carrying any more magical artifacts. As it turned out, Mateo was carrying a crude, green hued long sword that exuded a magical aura. It almost looked like it was made from bronze, aged by time. I made sure to keep it with me.

Quentyn gave me the bloodstone. It was familiar with its perfectly round cut, dark, blood red surface with thick black veins running deep within its core. The throb of power locked within was hauntingly familiar. I reckoned David was best equipped, both mentally and physically to keep the stone safe. Regardless of all else, I trusted him to do that.

I tried to help David administer to the wounded and watched him pull a Sembian from the brink of death. The man was in shock and shaking uncontrollably. I offered him one of my blankets to keep comfortable. Until Quentyn decided what to do with them, I was going to treat them more fairly than they had treated us.

At that point, Quentyn decided to execute the surviving lizards, who in turn secreted the vile mist in their death throws. It sent my stomach into violent upheaval and I voided the contents of my stomach all over myself. The bodies of the fallen were burnt, including Henrik. I took my rest near the prisoners. I felt absolutely miserable.