Tag: The Blackwing

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.

The Day of the Moot

3rd Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

The day of the moot arrived and I felt myself getting nervous. A lot was riding on Quentyn’s ability to convince the Glisterians, as well as on his ability to keep Ser Fosco’s greedy manipulations in check. My part had been played out, or so I thought, and I decided to ask Quentyn to go over the numbers one more time. That morning, I woke up thinking that the economy and thus the prosperity of all the inhabitants of the Oldmark and the New was all that mattered.

I arrived in the kitchen to break my fast and I found that Creighton and Mund had joined the lord of the house at the table. Godric and… his brother came in shortly after but seemed unsure of whether or not they were allowed to join in. Quentyn had lost his temper with them and banned them from the kitchen table the previous day and now they just didn’t know where they stood.

To my surprise and disappointment, Quentyn welcomed them at the table by setting up their couverts. I don’t know much about rearing knights, but I imagine it’s much like children and training animals; you have to be consistent. I wonder if our lord’s temperament isn’t unsuitable to the task of instruction. But Quentyn managed to make the men comfortable and they soon were feasting upon Mund’s excellent cookery.

A few moments later the good lord had visitors asking for an audience. He received them immediately, thinking, like I had, that there was another emergency to deal with, but to our surprise three women from The Hoof, lead by Mirthe, brought a beautifuly woven robe, dyed in the colours of the House Martell heraldry, with the Martell crest adorning once side of the robe and Harren Demonsbane’s crest of the stag adorning the other.

It was a beautiful garment and it convinced me to visit the looms on The Hoof to see if I could commission something nice. Winter was coming and my clothing had become quite threadbare during the last two years so something new was in order. Mirthe told us that the embroidery had been done by Gustav’s daughter, and my mind was racing to come up with an appropriate design for myself. Hopefully, I will be able to afford something.

After the women had left I took dictation from Quentyn of a letter he wanted to send to Lord Simony Balta, the Western warden of Vaasa. Normally, I wouldn’t offer my services as a scribe like that. Not that I feel it is beneath me, but I do think my time is better spent elsewhere. I made an exception because I wanted Quentyn to get used to the feeling of being a lord. And a lord needs a steward and council that dictates letters like this. I’m surprised Quentyn doesn’t call on Creighton for these type of tasks more often.

He wrote that Lord Simony’s scouting party had not been seen in or around Glister and that we would be honoured to send a party to investigate their disappearance. He assured Lord Simony that he would send word as soon as possible.

After drying, sealing and sending the letter off I broached the sensitive subject of Quentyn’s successor. I felt that if he was going to be an adventuring lord, that he should make clear who his successor would be in case of his untimely departure. I told him that it was a good housekeeping to have it in writing even if he had no ambitions to put himself in harms way.

He admitted that he had not given it any thought. I asked after his family members and he shared that he had an older brother, already standing to inherit the family’s lands and titles, and a younger sister whom he didn’t consider up for the task. He was going to give it some more thought after the moot.

We spent some time running through the four scenarios Creighton and I had come up with. He picked up the particulars and highlights of each of the four scenarios, but I never got the feeling he truly grasped the intricacies. Put Quentyn in a room with people and he burns brightly, but ask him to do basic arithmetic and he is no more enlightened than most others. Luckily, he is surrounded by competent advisers like Brother David, Creighton, Jago and myself.

Once I was satisfied that Quentyn would be able to convey the significance of each of the scenarios to the Glisterians, albeit in an unsophisticated way, Brother David joined us to share his experience in talking to the Glisterians during the morning. He said that many of the Glisterians had intimated that they were wondering about the need of the moot. Does this mean that a moot had not been necessary? Had it just been Wulfric’s way to move Quentyn to action? Wulfric’s call for the moot had finally spurred him to action.

The moot holds a revered place in Glisterian society. The outcome of a moot is considered an almost spiritual bond and an obligation that cannot be undone. A charismatic person with a knack for politics could maneuver Glisterians in accepting things and forcing the lord in backing plans that might not be in their best interest, simply by manipulating the moot.

The conversation once again turned to Quentyn’s reluctance in accepting magical aid. He was opening to me casting a passive enchantment that would allow our group to whisper messages to one another and communicate together without others knowing, but he was not going to budge on accepting the blessing of Ilmater which would allow him to further convince his audience. He saw it akin to beguiling the Glisterians. Before the last word had been uttered on the subject, Jago came to the keep.

Jago had spotted Ser Fosco on The Hoof, talking to Wulfric. I immediately dispatched the Blackwing to spy on the conversation. It also sparked my memory; I had plans on doing further research on Ser Fosco’s ancestry. I departed for the study and started to take more time in research. The books on Cormyrian lineages and genealogy that the late Lord Marbrand had in his library did teach me something about House Ganivet, but nothing concrete. I could neither confirm or deny any of the Ser Fosco’s claims. I decided to accept his word on his honour as a knight.

When Blackwing returned she didn’t seem too happy. I had to bribe her with corn in order for her to tell me what she had found out. “Knight man, the knight, he pleading. The knight ask things, favours, ask “look kindly.” Wulfric kind, big man kind. They shake hands. Friends when leaving, I see.” I thought it was unsurprising that Ser Fosco was going around making contacts with the Paragons. I would have done the same if I had been in his position.

Brother David overheard Blackwing giving her report and decided to go and talk to Wulfric to see what had been discussed. I went upstairs so I could get the elevation I needed to spot Ser Fosco. I suspected he was going to go and see the Widow next, but it turned out he was headed to Glister proper. Later I would come to suspect he had visted Haëlla next.

When I came back down I noticed Quentyn was busy dressing his squires Godric and his brother. He was using some of the clothing he had brought from Cormyr to outfit the squires. The clothing had been little used over the last two years and seemed ruffled and faded. I decided that a small enchantment to mend small tears and clean the stains was in order.

Drehil do kren.
Undo the damage.

Once we were all ready we departed for the longhouse. This was the first moot in several years, since Quentyn was awarded his inheritance, and so a lot of people had showed up. I took my place with Gustav and his daughters who, as always, represented Glister proper. The Hoof was represented by Wulfric and Gottfryda, Wizard’s Hill by Arnulf and the Widow, and Haëlla represented Glister South.

With all of Glister’s eyes on the moot, I decided it might be best to have Blackwing flying across the Oldmark to keep an eye out on the surroundings. This would be a perfect opportunity for the settlers to turn cloak and put the longhouse to the torch and take over.

Ser Fosco was present with his squire Duncan Croga and two Cormyrian soldiers. Their attempt at unity was a lot more impressive than Quentyn’s as they were dressed in armour, complete with tabards which matched the colours of House Ganivet.

I pulled out a thin piece of copper wire and cast the enchantment that allowed our group to communicate with one another and asked Brother David to talk to Ser Fosco since he was unaware of what to do next on account of never having been at the moot. This is probably what we looked like when we first attended a moot.

Faal zul tinvaak nol gut.
The voice speaks from afar.

Creighton opened the ceremony of the moot and gave the floor to Quentyn, naming him Lord Quentyn Martell of House Martell, Lord of Glister and all its environs. It sounded very regal, and I noticed Quentyn’s chest swell up with pride.

When Quentyn spoke, he spoke of his plans for the settlers, about the Gift and his investment and how together, the settlers and the Glisterians would provide the Cormyrian refugees a new home. Initially the people of Glister seemed confused by Quentyn’s tone, which I admit sounded like he was asking the Glisterians for permission. He seemed to notice it too, and quickly shifted his tone.

When it was Ser Fosco’s turn to speak, my blood began to boil.

Ser Fosco made a counter offer. He wanted to liberate a keep, though which one was unclear. I assumed it was the keep in the Southern foothills of the Galena Mountains, occupied by lizard men and forcing caravans from Hulburg to detour on their way to Glister. I wondered whether Ser Fosco was even aware of the situation at the High Pass.

Ser Fosco’s offer was such a naked grab for power that I could hardly contain myself. It was clear he was only interested in a land grab, securing a holdfast for himself that would allow him to survive the winter in warmth and comfort, safe behind sturdy walls. He had no interest in helping the people he had lead her build their homes and make a new life!

Quentyn must have realised the same thing, because he pivoted back to his original offer. To my astonishment Brother David interrupted and started pleading for Ser Fosco to liberate the keep. Ser Fosco saw that as his opportunity to change the tone of his offer, but not the content; he would liberate the keep in honour of “his lord” and hold the keep in “his lord’s name.”

I couldn’t stand to watch the charade continue. I lost my temper. He was showing not one of the five chivalric virtues and I accused him of self-enrichment. The moment my outburst had faded, I once again realised why I had left Cormyr behind. I was not good at this part. Naked calculations I could do, but I could never then wrap their conclusion in subtlety and subterfuge.

I felt sick to my stomach as I felt the confusion at my outburst ride through the crowd.

Quentyn rallied, however, he offered that the keep would be held by Godric and his brother, Quentyn’s two squires, with their mother’s permission — a jape that send laughter throughout the crowd. It was a power move and it had paid off. Everyone was very positive to see that who they considered was one of their own was being elevated to the same level as a knight.

While all this was going on, I had spied Gunnar standing at the entrance to the longhouse, just outside. He had been looking on with some interest at the proceedings, fascinated by the spectacle. At that time, Blackwing informed me that close to a dozen people left north from the Newmark. The descriptions I could made me think that they were Sembians, but I couldn’t be sure.

I was about to leave to talk to Gunnar, but Quentyn saw me get up and motioned me to sit back down. Apparently it would be considered bad form for me to leave mid ceremony.

Quentyn then asked for Ser Fosco’s fealty, and the knight knelt. Vows were exchanged between the two men, much to the satisfaction of the Glisterians. At that point the moot was adjourned and Quentyn took Ser Fosco and his men to the Timbered Keep for a celebration.

I immediately went to talk to Gunnar and asked him about the departing group. He seemed genuinely surprised that people had left the Newmark, and was more than a little baffled about how I had known that. He said that some men were hard to tie down and that he had never expected all of the settlers to remain, regardless of the outcome of the moot. I asked him to hold a head count at the camp and report to Wizard’s Hill in the morning.

After talking to Jago he offered to go out with Widukin to investigate where the departing group had head for. I resigned myself to not being able to do something about the situation, so I decided to walk Gustav and his daughters back to his home. Gustav seemed very pleased with the outcome of the moot, and that Quentyn had taken charge of the situation in such a lordly fashion.

I returned to Wizard’s Hill.

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

When Gunnar arrived at the keep the next morning, he bore news that Mateo Princepis had lead several Sembians into the wilds north of the Newmark. To Gunnar it seemed that they had never intended to settle. Apparently, they had come to the Oldmark to eavesdrop on the moot and when it went the way it did, they decided to leave.

I invited Gunnar to break his fast and asked Mund to see him out once he was done. I retired back to the study to investigate Ser Fosco’s heraldry a little better.

Arriving at the study I noticed several things were out of place. I immediately retreated in my last memory of the study and started to compare what I remembered to what I saw. I have always had a strong ability to recall, which has helped me to study as fast and as hard as I have in the past.

I started to check the windows and found that one of them had not been locked properly. I looked out of the window and saw no real tracks in the soil underneath, nor did I find any soil on the inside of the window. I realised quickly that I should ask Jago to take a look at the study the moment he returned, and I decided to leave as not to disturb any evidence.

Just as I was locking up the study a thought came to me and I rushed down the hidden spiral staircase to the laboratory to make sure the bloodstone was still there.

To my horror, it was gone.