The Rise and Fall of Glamorfell

are we there yet...
We're all a little mad down here...

(I wrote this at 0215 so if it seems a little odd, please bear in mind that I’m frigging tired.)

“Ok, that’s going to be a problem, you can’t just eat the dwarves.” Yelenya hadn’t expected this conversation to go well, but this was getting irritating.

“Sayd decided that we need all the help that we can get, and part of that help includes dwarves. You ever deal with a dwarf? They’re loud, grouchy, arrogant, and oblivious. They make great frontline soldiers, as long as the front line doesn’t move too fast, and they are good at defending territory. Basically they make great cannon fodder while sneaky people murder the attacking force.”

Chief Sootscale looked angry, fortunately Pirrak didn’t have much to say. Yelenya let go of Pirrak’s snout with one hand and held it up in a calming gesture.

“I know, I’m betting that you feel slighted that we aren’t willing to treat you as expendable assets and just get your people killed needlessly, It must really irritate you that I came here asking to borrow some of your boys, a half dozen or so to start so that I can keep an eye on the Brightlanders.”

She could see that she had his attention and lowered her right arm, letting the sleeve fall over her silver dagger. She knew that he wouldn’t forget about it, but if it gave him cause to put down the axe…

“We will talk.”

Yelenya grinned.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

“So, how was your trip?” Yelenya looked up from where she was making faces at the baby. She was entertaining her… niece,,, while Svetlana was doing all the things that she had trouble with while taking care of the baby. In this case, taking a bath. Yelenya kept her gaze mostly averted.

“Not too bad, I think that I got the help that I’m going to need later. I am however going to have to start actively recruiting before things here get too hectic. Less work and more play, who was watching the little angel while I was away?”

“Wally volunteered, and did ok, until Ralla got the wrong idea. She thought that maybe Wally and I had… I explained that that was very unlikely to happen, I am happily married, and that if I had cheated on my husband you would probably be furious it wasn’t you.”

“How’d she take that?”

“It took her a moment, and then I had to point out you tendency to chase anything in a skirt. And why the workers that are showing up get very polite when you’re around.”

Yelenya giggled. Kids brought out her protective instincts, even if they’d never be hers.
With a few sniffs warning she changed Yellie’s diaper and went back to making funny faces at her.

“You’re pretty good with kids, how come you don’t have any of you’re own?”

“I have Sayd, and now a whole country, to help grow up.” She smiled happily, “The first time i changed a diaper I was kinda grossed out… that was… 95 years ago I think.” She grew slightly more serious, “For a while there I was far less picky about who I took to bed, or a carriage, haystack, barn, you get the idea. I’ve only preferred women exclusively for twenty or so years. In all that time I never once came close to having a baby. I heard that if, and it is extremely rare, I ever do get pregnant then the baby will be born human. Heh, can’t even perpetuate my own species. Doesn’t that just suck.”
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Spring was coming on slowly. Way too slowly. Irritatingly slowly. The Stag Lord’s fort was crowded, although there was space to be had. No one wanted to go into the basement if they didn’t have to.

Sayd climbed down the ladder and carefully looked around. She had already snapped once and that was usually enough, but it had been a long mostly violence free winter. And that was never a good thing where a dhamipr was concerned. He cleared his throat, his Varisian was a little rusty but that was all she had spoken in the past few weeks.

“Are you still mad at me? I did what I thought was best…”

He had to admit, the glowing eyes in the dark would have been terrifying. Worse was actually being able to see her stalking him. And she was growling. The last person she had growled at like that was that kobald skank. He almost smiled at the memory. Almost.

“You knew this would happen to me. That I’d start thinking like this…” The whisper of a voice.

“I needed someone that I could count on. I didn’t think-”

“no, you didn’t. Leave me alone.”
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Yelenya stood at the edge of the woods. It was a long shot, but she accepted that. There was a freshly slain deer resting on a tripod made of branches behind her. She was so focused on what was around her that she could hear the slow drip of blood into the waterskin she had placed beneath it’s neck over the wind. The smell was pretty strong, but there was an undercurrent of fur and old dried blood, barely perceptible. There was silver arrow on the bowstring but her cloak was covering that. If if was who she hoped it was then it may be necessary. Her heart beat was steady, her breathing easy, she stood on the balls of her feet. She could make out the shaggy muzzle and an angular shoulder in the twilight. Run, fight, hide, take a chance, she was dancing on the razor’s edge, completely relaxed, at peace. She didn’t try to hide her fangs as she smiled. Sayd wanted a completely loyal guardian. He was going to get an absolute monster.

“I brought dinner, sweetie.”
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

These were set in no particular timeframe although they are in chronological order. The last one is in the spring before we restart playing and obviously is Yelenya trying to recruit Jeva to her budding organization, and an hint of her mental changes. The first one is Yelenya going to visit King Sootscale to deliver the mushrooms that were collected from the sewers (she paid some people to do it, then bought them baths afterward.) and trying to recruit a few kobalds to help keep an eye on things. The second one follows the first immediately, and is the first time that Yelenya and Yellie get to spend time together. Even in Varisia dhampir are kinda rare, so even Svetlana doesn’t know everything that there is to know about them. The second to last one is my portrayal of how, according to what I’ve read, dhampir get obsessed with something, in this case it’s how Yelenya is rather upset with Sayd due to the fact that she’s feeling rather… maternal about the country that we are starting. This was a girl who, when she was rather young (considering her life expectancy) adopted a kid and did her best to raise him. While she doesn’t always agree with what Sayd says or does, she does feel the need to protect him when she thinks that he needs it. Once she becomes “locked in” on the country she’s likely to burn the rest of the world to ash to protect what she thinks is hers. Yep, that’s one way to ensure her loyalty. And to make sure that she doesn’t snack on too many of the inhabitants. (remember: it’s only cannibalism if you’re the same species.)

I also wanted to do a Wally/Yelenya thing, kinda a buddy cop thing starring Deter and Hannibal Lecter, with a lot more humor. But I fell asleep at the kitchen table, so I am going to bed now.

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The Stolen Prince

From the journals of Josef Akulov:

“…it was around this time that Sayd’s obsession with the Whispering Queen became clear. I often noted him staring silently at the pages from that strange book, the ones that look like a wood-cut fairly tale, for long periods of time, lost in thought. He spoke began speaking of wish fulfillment and bargains and fey contracts, puzzling through how we could approach this Duchess of Hoarfrost or even the Whispering Queen herself and perhaps treat with them. He asked myself and Kaede about the fey frequently, listening to what legends and tales we knew, seeming entranced by them.

It was only later that I heard the tale of the Singing Tree from Teret, of how he, Walorin and Sayd had slain the mythic creature, and how it turned into a porcelain white statue of a beautiful woman holding an apple. The story reminded me of something I had heard long ago, about how when certain creatures die, their essences are bound up into such things. I asked Sayd about it. He told me he had sensed the apple was amazingly powerful but that its magic was fleeting, and he bit it heedless of the risk. How since then, he could feel the energy of the forest inside him, the cries of the birds, the stalking or predators.

For our purposes I will call this the Apple of Discord, because I believe it holds the key to Sayd’s predicament. It was after he ate it that his fascination with the fey began. And it was after he ate it that his demonic attributes slowly began to temper. I recall seeing him one morning and questioning whether his horn had always been so small. A few weeks later, it was gone entirely, his tail, too.

I asked him about it and he dodged the question, an almost guilty look on his face, clearly knowing something he refused to let on. He seemed glad that the horn and tail were gone. He looks just like a human now, albeit possessed of an otherworldly beauty. His green eyes still flare with light in moments of emotion, but one could easily miss it. We all remember the morning he woke up screaming, saying that he had been “stolen” by some other power, before finally admitting it was just a nightmare. And since that time, I have oft seen him staring at reflective surfaces before turning away in shock…"

From the journals of Woodrow Hinderbound:

“Of all of them, I admire Sayd Krynn the most, although he is incredibly unwise and lacks any commitment to agreements or promises. He is possessed of a nearly sociopathic boldness and ignorance of danger, coupled with a warm and charming personality. A natural leader. When I first met him, I was immediately struck by his clearly demonic nature. Had I to guess, his fair countenance and only minor visible demonic attributes suggest his blood bears the mark of an incubus or succubus in the family tree. Curious. Demons are of course the least trustworthy of all beings, creatures of pure and raw greed and spite. Yet when I next met him, at the battle that ended my employment with the Stag Lord, his horn and tail were gone. At first I thought he had merely disguised them, but after speaking with some of the others I realized that is not the case.

There are only a few things that could permanently alter one’s appearance so. Unless someone deliberately polymorphed him, then I must agree with Josef’s speculation. The very nature of the magic in his blood has been changed somehow.

I watched as he took a lock of green hair, a valued possession of the Stag Lord’s and wove it into his own hair. It was an exceedingly curious thing to do, especially considering what Josef and Kaede mentioned, that this article is some kind of token of some First World monarch. Yet so skilled is he at deflecting questions with an easy smile, that no one seems to be paying attention to what is clearly strange behavior…"

From the journal of Theron Shadeslip:

“…I found him in a grove, just as they told me, him kneelin’ by a mirror pool and lookin’ all pale at his reflection, like he been talkin’ to it. I tell him what he needed to know. I came ta him lookin’ like an owl, smoking a cigarette, tell him I’s here ta help, that I ken tell him things he need ta hear. That he’s my master, now.

He thinks his soul’s been stolen, an maybe he’s right. He been enchanted by powerful juju, and no lie. But I ken tell he thinks it’s all fer some grand purpose, that he’s a pawn in some fey scheme. Tha truth is, he ain’t stolen. Naw, he’s the one that stole somethin’ from the wood, ate a piece a’ the wild that tweren’t meant fer mortal people. An’ now it’s in ‘im, growing, changing him. Makin’ his senses more acute, his heart more carefree, his soul more mischievous, that’s all.

He afraid tha demon in him’s gone, that he’s weaker for it. But I wouldn’t serve no weak master. The elders from my village were right. I can feel the mark a greatness on him. He jes needs someone to whisper secrets in his ear, and that’s something I ken do."

From the journal of Sayd Krynn:

“The magic of my blood has been unraveling for months now, reforming into something else. I felt it when it happened, when I ate that apple, but I thought it was merely new power, the flood of the wild rushing into me. It’s not. The magic is reshaping who I am.

I can hear the moaning of the earth when I lay down at night. And Theron, who knows many things, sought me out…

The power I feel is immeasurable. When I was young, I always possessed talents, what the scholars said were magic. To me, they felt innate. I knew they came from the same place as my horn. From my blood, from something inhuman in it.

Whatever that apple did, it broke down the barriers of what my magic can accomplish. I feel as though I can do anything, if I merely wish it. The fabric of magic itself is before me, like a grand tapestry. I catch glimpses of it, a lattice of light more beautiful than anything the waking eye could ever see.

I am not sure if what I have seen in the Stolen Lands are illusions or reality. Did the Whispering Queen really steal my soul, or was it just a dream? Have I made a bargain with her? I even begin to question the words of that Calistrian priestess who told me of my life. I was stark mad with fever when I spoke to her, and Bokken didn’t recall seeing her at all. Could she have just been a vision? And if so, was the wild story she told merely nothing but a fantasy of my addled mind?

What I know is this: when I look in the mirror now, I see myself, but with ivory skin, black hair, and red eyes. And the look on my face is always one of painful disbelief, as though I had done that other me some incredible injustice.

What that means, I do not know. But it feels real. As though I am looking at a duality of some kind. As though I have done myself injury, but I know not why. I can sense that the Dark Me is sensitive, frightened, and thoughtful. He is someone I would befriend. Yet, I can see in his eyes that he will never be friends with me. Because I will burn the stars. Because I have no use for fear.

I call him, the Dark Me, the Stolen Prince. It is what he looks like to me, a part of me that was taken. Noble and lost, forlorn but not forgotten. When I am King of the Stolen Lands, that will be my title. It is the only kindness I can pay to the man in the mirror, the man I sacrificed to become Sayd Krynn. I would do it again."

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Divinations and Fallen Paladins
Kaede's letter to Emiko Lin

Honored Emiko Lin,

I have found the other fallen paladin, matching your description. His name is Akiros, and the scarring — both inside and out — is truly seen.

We discovered him during final battle at the fort, in the employ of the Stag Lord himself, as his recently-elevated second in command. My companion Sayd managed to win him over to our side during the fight, and fallen paladin’s prowess was instrumental to our victory. He has since joined us in our travels, and is currently with us in Restov as we prepare to attend the Surtova wedding tomorrow.

Not much is yet known about his history. So far, I have noticed two things about Akiros: he possesses some deep brooding gloom about him, but when in a battle rage he attempts to smash and destroy — Teret’s axe was nearly broken in twain by the fallen paladin when we first fought him.

I will attempt to dig deeper into his past, but I am loath to press too much, for fear of losing what we’ve managed to gain thus far. I will say this: he is nothing at all like Kalkamedes.

Yours in Honor,

-Kaede

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How I spent my winter vacation...

It was early night, which was fine for Yelenya, she happened to be more active at night anyway. Lady Vellara sat on the couch talking with Sayd about the deals that the Black Cats had made. Yelenya was not terribly interested in the particulars as much as she was in the overall cost/benefit ratio. There were some things that had been on offer that she had been skeptical about, fortunately it seemed to her that Sayd had managed to get the most milk for the least amount of moo. She remembered the short time that they had worked milking cows… the farmers’ son had been cute, which was why she and Sayd now had a “called shot treaty.” The fire was busily warming the winter chill from her bones almost as well as the two baths a day had finally gotten the road dust off her skin. She was a bit disturbed by the Pharasman Intercessor, just because someone was dead didn’t mean that they were a bad person, just as being dead didn’t mean that they were going to stay where you planted them. She was walking, talking, proof of that. Yelenya rested her head on the outside of the elven Lady’s knee, and a few moments later was rewarded with some gentle scratching. It was nice to be in a civil environment, civilization itself could hang however as far as she was concerned. The elven woman, the oldest of the group as far as the dhampir could tell, was more than a bit unsettled by her actions. The scratchies, however, were the best that she’d had in a while, and if she was to hide in with the nobs then she should get into a pampered mindset. She didn’t mind the priests of Erastil, and the Toreg’s could be dealt with carefully, and she liked the Sarenrae optimism, but the Asmodeus would be hired as legal council on an individual basis to keep them from getting a foothold in the land. The nobles could also be kept at varying distances dependent on Sayd’s needs… which just left the cat in the room. Her sense of smell was actually pretty decent for a humanoid and she could still smell the perfume of the little butterfly that had rested her bottom in that chair over there. Akilina… dear Lady, did that girl have any idea what she was getting herself into? The girl certainly came off as a cat’s paw sheathed in velvet. Yelenya found herself tossing a quick hope out to Erastil that the girl was stronger that anyone, including her, thought she might be. Several of the other girls, although Yelenya looked younger than several of them they’d have to live another 90 years fast to catch up with her, had impressed her enough that she had toyed with the idea of hiring them. She had always known and feared what her role would be in any settlement that the Black Cats had created. She was already drawing up personnel lists: she wanted Edgarin for his advice and honesty, and at the moment there was no better choice that Jeva. If there was to be a “night of the long knives”, and Yelenya and Sayd had survived a few in the past few decades, then having a werewolf working for you was about the biggest knife there was. Mentally the pale woman grimaced although she kept the luxurious “spoiled twit” look on her face, she was going to have to start recruiting early and often. Grennel might be able to offer a few suggestions, but caution was going to be important in the early days. Varn would, perhaps, be amenable to trading information, and the Kobolds would be pressed into service. It was time the little lizards started pulling the weight collectively rather than just sending a few off to fight. In the mean time she’d see about visiting the Honey Queen and making a friend there. She could bring Lyla some new flowers. Varn’s purple trollop, how dare she swipe Yelenya’s favorite color, might be some help once she got over Sayd being betrothed. Yelenya would have to make sure the woman understood the girl was off limits… possibly pointedly. Sheesh, adding people to her protect list without asking her about it was rather rude of him, but as long as the girl never did anything against Sayd then she would never act against Akilina. The lack of the Iron Wraiths returning was bothering her… Yeah, that was it… Yelenya cracked her eyes slightly and stared at Sayd from between her lashes. Her little boy was all grown up… more or less… and may the goddess watch over them all. This had been a long year, the next ones looked to be even longer. As the conversation went on from evening into night, with the others piping in now and again, Yelenya kept her own council. Mostly she was figuring out what to wear and how many weapons could be brought in before people started looking at her funny. Lots… she finally decided.

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why not pt 1

She walked down the street huddled against the chill and the snow, the big bag by her side looked to be filled with groceries. It actually contained her reversible overcoat, she couldn’t be too sure that walking around three sides of a walled compound with watchtowers wouldn’t attract attention. Her hands were in her pockets and her head was lowered, her boots crunching on the mashed snow that covered the icy sidewalk, her attention was on the walls and the guards huddled in their ramshackle towers. She rapidly became aware that there was someone, or maybe a group, following her. She reached an alleyway and turned down it. She made it almost to the end before they stepped out in front of her. She didn’t understand all of the language, but she got the gist: there was going to be bad times in her immediate future if she didn’t get away. Her right hand tightened slightly on the grip of the snubnosed .357, her left on the curved knife, both in her jacket pockets, as a small shiver of fear ran up her back. She managed to dodge a punch or two before a blow struck her high on the cheekbone, the shock of it threw her off balance and she started to fall. Yelenya managed to kick the feet out of beneath one of her opponents and send him crashing into another as she fell, the ice aiding her. She took a kick to the back and threw herself into the wall to avoid one to the head as she regained her feet. Yelenya dashed out of the alleyway panting and slid into the street before she managed to redirect herself. She was breathing heavily as she broke contact and got away, her pace slowing to a normal stride as she wandered aimlessly back to their hide site. She climbed the stairs up to the apartment that they had taken over several nights ago. There wasn’t much of a watch posted, mostly because it was becoming daylight. She tapped out the code on the door before opening it with a key. Sayd was the only one visible that was still up, his back to the door and a cup of coffee, probably spiked with brandy in one indolent hand. He stared at the wall, hate burning feverishly in his eyes, as she stalked up next to him. There was a picture of a man wearing a helmet in the shape of a skull of some sort, a candid shot taken as he was giving orders to his lieutenants. It was an old photo, Sayd had it for over a year. The man had cost them several of their companions previously and now they were going to get another crack at him. Yelenya had memorized his face long ago and to her it was just a piece of paper with a dead man on it, Sayd had been consumed with gaining revenge for the loss of his comrades. Without looking he held out his other hand and she accepted the glass of red wine, sipping slowly. Finally he stirred:
“Report”
“There are watchers on at least three sides, and they are not shy about making contact, I imagine that they are augmented by watchers on the roof of each building, possibly cameras although I did not see any. The watchers… there are too many to simply force our way through, we’ll need a decent diversion to draw their attention so that I can slip the wall. The wall itself is shoddy, but topped with broken stone and glass, the inside may have barbwire, but I cannot be sure until I get a better look. The only obvious way in is the front gate, four guards in towers, but they were staying huddled up under shelter. Long range interference is a possibility, but without a way to deal with the watchers and anyone else outside the gate it is at best a one shot deal.”
Sayd nodded distractedly and turned to her to say something, but his mouth worked wordlessly for a moment before a far too casual “how does your head feel?”
“It hurts, I got hit by the watchers, two or three times, is it bruising?”
“Ah, no, no you are bleeding rather alarmingly from the left side” He pushed her hair back and sighed, “new rule, no more wearing stud or otherwise sharp backed earrings when on the job.” He pulled her ear free from where the metal posts had stuck into her skin with a wince. Yelenya opened her eyes a little unsteadily as he packed a folded cloth, her cashmere scarf, against the wound.
There was concern in his voice “do you think that you will be up to some snooping tomorrow night? Maybe we can send the new girl in…”
“No, I’ll hit them tomorrow night, see if we can learn something.”

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Curtainfall

Curtainfall, by Edgrin Galesong
Based on his experience of the assault of Death Hill

What madness drove us there that night
To catch an eagle fast in flight
I do not, can not hope to know—
Save that our leader bade it so.

“Tis our sworn duty,” so he said,
whose silver tongue so well misled,
and none but gods could hope to win
the fury from blackhearted Krynn.

So matched Sayd pace for pace we did,
Until we found the place where hid
The Stag Lord and his savage men,
Curled fast like vipers in their den.

A portrait now, of Death Hill’s gate:
a place the gods had loved too late;
so black and frozen lay the posts,
so thrilled with hunger screamed the ghosts,

And zombies rising from the snow,
And archers stalking those below,
Gave currency to my own fear.
Twas then I heard what I must hear.

The voice sang out o’er midnight’s pitch,
each word to bind my faith as stitch.
Twas HE who sang the demon’s part
And met my fear with steely heart.

“So now we dance the game of knives!
The one with surest hands survives!
In dark and night, the wolves may glower,
But I, Sayd Krynn, shall stand the hour!”

Let all men know from here to Geb,
from the rushes to the spider’s web,
from temples draped with gold and pearls
to the hovel where the river curls:

The Stag is dead, his heart lies still;
His life was cut by ferocious will;
The Black Cat howls, his voice is power;

The Stolen King has stood the hour.

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The Demon in Winter, Part Two

The window burns to light the way back home,
a light that warms no matter where they’ve gone.
They’re off to find the hero of the day—
But what if they should fall by someone’s wicked way?

- Metallica

16 Calistril, 4711 AR
I knew I was dreaming, but it was more than that, some magic or witchery I have not before now seen. I spoke with a woman, and she was not a figment of my dream. I felt her kiss on my cheek, so familiar. Her voice was poison, and cure. We stood upon a plain of cratered white rock, devoid of ornament—the stars stood as pinpricks of fire, and the soft blue glow of Golarion bathed us like angels. I was on the moon.

I did not see her for true, for she appeared as many figures, all women. At once she turned her head and locks of white cascaded down, and she looked at me with the pitiless gaze of Pharasma, the Lady of Graves, but a moment later she held her fingers aloft with songbirds resting on them, and appeared as the seductress Quintessa Maray. Languidly she transfixed me with her words and morphed through slow turns into any woman I might know, from Yelenya to Baba Migori.

She did not speak but smiled, drinking in my wonder, waiting for me to do more than gaze in awe.

At length I smiled back, as one does, and opened my mouth to speak. “Who—”

“Are you,” she finished. Her voice was as soft and cool as mist. She pursed her lips.

“Do you not know me, Sayd?” she said. Except she did not say “Sayd.” She called me by my birth name.

I nearly became angered with surprise, when I realized that I did know her. She swayed slightly in front of a promontory of white rock.

“You are…Phoebe,” I said. “The priestess of Calistria. Phoebe Kissingdeath. You saved my life.”

She smiled sweetly, beaming at the recognition, and before my eyes she assumed her true form—a svelte young halfling woman with purple and black hair, shining green eyes and a playful smattering of freckles on her cheeks.

“Tis your true form,” I marveled. “Why did you not show me before?”

“I walk in many guises, dear one,” she said. “But Sayd, I fear I must press on to the reason for my…visit.”

“Go on,” I urged. Looking about the blasted landscape, I wondered if I could control the stuff of my own dreams. With effort I caused an ornate table and two chairs to appear. On the table was a tea set and a rose in a vase. She seemed impressed and we sat down, laughing to ourselves at the absurdity of having tea on the moon, in a dreamscape. I poured us each a cup.

“Sayd, when I saved you from the Maghrattan’s poison before, I told you a story,” she said. “Do you remember?”

“You told me I was special to Calistria,” I said.

“Yes,” she fretted, twisting her napkin. “That was true, in a sense. But also a lie. I said I had read your past, that you were born as a pawn in a fued between followers of Nocticula and Lamashtu, both Demon Lord of the Abyss. That is indeed what I saw in my vision. And that you were rescued by a knight loyal to Calistria…here, look—”

She spread her hand and an image appeared in the air of a yellow desert in far southern lands. In the background, a massive temple sunk into the earth. In the foreground, a weathered knight in a brown robe, a massive sword slung across his back, carried a baby away from the wreckage. A blond baby, with a tiny horn and tail.

“That man, his name was Bonn Meridyth. No greater swordsman ever lived, nor fiercer drunk—or so they say. He named you on the day of your birth. He carried you across the sea.”

“Phoebe,” I said, “I’m literally all ears, and I find this endlessly fascinating, but perhaps you’d tell me why this is so suddenly and vitally important that you would use sorcery to cross the leagues and tell me of it.”

“You do not wish to know this,” she sighed.

“I am who I am, dear,” I said softly. “Knowing the past will not change that. I knew the people who raised me in Kaer Maga.”

“Then I will not tell you,” she said. “What’s important is this: you have a benefactor among the priesthood of Calistria. This person calls upon me for favors in watching over you, because I am close by and they are far, far away….” she paused. She look up at me, her finger rimming the edge of the teacup, and her eyes grew greener, her smile more sly, and she laughed.

“I am sorry, but I can’t keep doing this,” she said, barely containing the gales of laughter. She collected herself, but one look at the apparent consternation on my face set her off again.

“Oh Sayd,” she said. “In truth, I have not come to warn you of anything.” She licked her lips.

“You’re not Phoebe,” I said.

“You know exactly who I am,” she said. My blood turned to ice in my veins.

“You….you are not her,” I said. “This is impossible.”

“Mmmm,” she laughed, “perhaps I am just her servant, then. Perhaps she is too busy for ego-stroking whelps like you.”

“Why are you in my head?” I demanded.

“I came to touch you,” she said, smiling. And slipping across the table faster than I could move, she put her hand into my chest and broke something I didn’t know was there.

I was back on Golarion, in a misty thicket. I was watching myself. There I was, and Wally, and Teret, and only us. We stood before a white statue of a beautiful maiden, a shining red apple in her cupped hands. I watched myself reach out and take it while the others hesitated.

And I could see it for what it was.

It was all the stolen wilds, the still water and the raging water, the hurricane and the flower petal, the claws of the beast and its fury, the mountain’s fall and the inky black of the abyss condensed into a single glistening dewdrop. I watched myself bite it. I watched Sayd throw my head back, savoring the taste of the fruity flesh, and no one who lived was ever more beautiful.

You can’t stop it now, fool she whispered, this time invisible. This time inside me. You INVITED us in. She laughed, waves of fluttering ecstasy filling me. Don’t you know why your kind calls them the Stolen Lands, dummy? Because they are full of the stolen. And now they’ve stolen you, too. You just couldn’t help it, you HAD to have that apple. Do you know why it tasted so good? Because the gardens of the First World are BEYOND PEER, you joke. All you needed was a little touch, blond baby. Your blood is strong to protect you, but not strong enough.

When I woke up, I could smell them all—my friends, the horses, the shrews. I could hear water dropping from a branch across the meadow. I felt so hot, so fevered. I saw my image in a dark puddle, so hot with living. I knew then that Sayd Krynn of Kaer Maga would never leave this place. I would stand at a clear pool’s edge and he would stare at me from the waters, trapped, a prisoner of the world.

It is the 16th day of Calistril, 4711 AR.

I have been Stolen, ne’er to return, and the thought makes me smile from my soul, and my eyes shine with pale fire.

The night hath been to me a more familiar face than that of man; and in her starry shade of dim and solitary loveliness, I learned the language of another world.
- George Gordon Lord Byron

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Horse work

The day was sunny, though cold, and she could feel the warmth in her bones. She disliked it. The light bothered her eyes and while, less effectively than at night, she kept an eye on the land before them she mulled over different ways to limit the sunlight. Options considered and discarded littered the paths of her musings as she sat cross legged atop her horse. It was an unconventional way of riding that allowed her to slide off to the ground at a moment’s notice. Bucksy (they would have to find a name they both agreed on) was trained, but not to the extent of Silverwind, and she was not a natural rider and so she fought from the ground. Different materials wandered through her mind, sooner or later everything turned up in Kaer Maga, and the list was rather long. She settled on glass, made partially opaque. There was likely something more durable available, but would be difficult to source locally. She made a little snicking noise and the horses’ head came up and he turned right as she tapped him on the side of the neck. Teret was fussing with a buckle on his armor as she steered her horse over to where he was riding. Silverwind snorted a little nervously, she had spent a lot of time feeding and grooming Bucksy to make him less nervous around her, and inwardly she smiled that the horse was as twitchy as the human. Her voice was further muffled by the purple scarf she had pulled up to just under her eyes and she spoke in what was, for her a shout, "I need you to train my horse so I can fight on him. Silverwind can teach him how to fight on his own, right?

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Beginnings Again

Today is a good day. Today we hunt the Stag Lord. It has been a very long time coming. We chose to hunt him earlier, and while I do not blame him defending himself, he will still die, and I do not care what he thinks about it. Shelyn teaches us to love, and I do the best that I can, but I will not grieve his passing. Everyone that i’ve killed, I remember even if dimly. The Stag Lord I will remember, possibly for hundreds of years. I am no oracle, nor do i pretend to see the future, but I do see the past. And soon we will be at a turning point. Jacob Featherstep is coming with us… better to have named him Chickenfeather, it would give him room to grow. I am somewhat disappointed by his lack of field skills, although after waking that manticore he was game for fighting it. I worry a bit about him. Guts will get you killed. We succeed in killing our enemies through speed, surprise, and violence. Without at least two we have a debacle like in Albany’s woods. If he can shoot and is willing to learn, we can teach him the rest. I rather wish we had Kimi, and Jeva. Poor lonely Jeva. Slip her over the wall and let her be herself. I worry that our companions do not understand what is going to happen here: this is not going to be clean, we are not shiny knights in the sun with pennants fluttering. This is going to be extermination, no quarter given until we’re done. I don’t think it has dawned on them yet. They have been spoiled fighting mites and kobolds. They haven’t had much experience fighting they’re own kind. I don’t have that problem, nor does Sayd. Monsters never do.

She put Sayd’s journal back in his pack and sipped her cup of tea. Kaede and Teret were beginning to stir and soon it would be time to break camp.

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Repose

I dream of peace; love the idea, hate the consequences. I prefer the life I live now: chasing oblivion, slaying as I will, drinking the last gasps of life. It warms my soul, if I flatter myself in believing I have one, and brings everything into focus. The cold night air surrounding me when I rest beneath the stars, the warmth of my companions when nature forces me to shelter beneath a tent and blanket. I freely admit that the visual capabilities of my allies irritates me, I would vastly prefer to hunt throughout the night, a unfortunate issue that they cannot see in the dark. Well, magic overcomes. Perhaps. I have a new amulet, for the moment, and that pleases me. Poor Albany, forced by another hand to defy his nature. I very rarely get angry to this extent, but I would happily drain that fey to the dregs and defile her corpse. Later, perhaps. So many things rely on chance: the kobolds, Olegs’, the Black Cats, the Stag Lord. So many chances, so many things. I gambled a bit on one of those chances earlier, Jeva. I have no urge nor reason to try to bend her to my will, the optimist in me thinks that if she is shown that there are ways to exist with the monster rather than surrendering to it she may follow. It costs nothing to be kind, and it may buy a life. My companions, the foolish ones anyway, do not trust her. I do trust her, specifically I trust her to be her. I would love to bury my face in her fur and whisper that everything will be alright, ultimately though it is her choice as it should be. My gaze catches on the piece of sable unicorn hide, the weather will dry it, under Kaede’s guidance I have scraped the meat and fat from it. Poor thing, to have lived a decent life, to be twisted against your nature, and now I muse, be made into a vest. I think the fastenings will be dragon teeth through rings of legendary boar bone. That would be a fitting gift. I care not about favor, but it amuses me to do the unexpected. Yesterday we killed a unicorn. Today we journey to get paid for it. Soon we go to end a very specific life. And flowers will bloom.

Yelenya stretched silently. Her list of things to do was long, and as days went by they were ticked off one by one. She rubbed her thumb on the unicorn hide and bid it’s previous owner to rest.

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