The Rise and Fall of Glamorfell

Aftermath of Nonna Popov's Farm

Sayd held the child close to his chest as their horses walked grimly through the mud, in the falling rain, shielding it with his magic. A bolt of lightning shot across the sky on the western horizon, followed seconds later by the rolling crash of thunder. The night was as terrible as the Black Cats’ mood.

The dark held no secrets for his demonic vision, however. He looked back behind him, over the companions in his wake, and forced a smile as Yelenya caught his eye. Elissa, soaked to the bone and terrified, was leading the blind Kaede; Yelenya was in her own world of wrath, no doubt plotting revenge; Miles Bandy followed along, hollow eyed, and Teret, riding a borrowed nag Obediah had liberated, looked a broken man, his eyes downcast.

They had wanted to burn the farm to the ground, but he didn’t let them. A cool hand was required in a dangerous situation, and despite his reputation as a hothead, his time as Prince had taught him to temper his baser instincts for revenge. This was a matter for the priests to decide. Still, he could hardly recall a time when, despite apparent victory, his friends had seemed more demoralized.

He sat at the head of the table as they waited for Vagda, the last council member to arrive to this midnight session. To their credit, none of the council members complained about being woken from their slumber at such a late hour, or in the case of Edgrin, dragged from their dance hall. Grim faces echoed the concern that he and the others could do little to hide.

Sayd sat silently, thoughtfully, while the blind Kaede, with input from Yelenya and Teret, filled in the council on the precarious situation in which their nascent country now stood: a cult of the Hag Goddess Gyronna, hundreds of years old, stalked these lands, and had taken root in Foundling’s Reach right under their noses. A curse that could only be ended with the sacrifice of a male ruler plagued their town. Babies were being swapped out for hag children. All eyes turned to the rescued child, now asleep in Elissa’s arms, as this point was driven home.

Then the strategizing began. Should the public be warned, or should this secret be kept quiet until it could be handled. Could an outside force be aiding this cult, was it part of a broader conflict, could the Queen of Whispers be behind it?

Oleg, hesitantly, offered “If it had been little Yellie who was taken—by that monster, Kedrova…I don’t know what I would do. But still, if word of this spreads, it will hurt our growth. Who wants to move to, or trade with, a Gods-cursed town?”

At this, Sayd held up his hand, calling for silence. So far, he had not spoken.

“This is not a question of economics,” he said, at length, apparently choosing his words carefully.

He paused for a long time, though his face clearly indicated he was framing his thoughts. Edgrin looked like he might sneak a thought in, but he held his tongue. Finally, Sayd continued.

“I grew up in the Ankar-Te, in Kaer Maga, the City of Strangers. I scrambled down the streets with liches, beholders, gnolls, blood mages and thieves of every stripe and description. In a place like that, these cultists wouldn’t make one bat an eye.”

He stood up, circling behind his seat to put his hands on the top of the chair-back, and stared down at his council. “I am a creature of dark magic, born from the Midnight Isles, if the priests can be believed. I was carried to Varisia from the desert lands, far to the south. I grew strong in a place of adversity, of impossibly cosmopolitan strife, where nothing is held sacred, and everything is for sale. I have fought in wars, I have traded secrets, ended countless lives, most deserving, and so much more, in the name of conflict, fame and treasure. When I pressed for command of the Black Cats, I wanted nothing more than to carve our mark on these lands and make us all fabulously rich. I mean truly, that was my goal for us: power, celebrity and massive wealth. I have always felt that tradition was foolish, that nothing was to be taken for true, that by expanding our minds, our awareness, our tolerance and our willingness to learn, we would all grow stronger. That was the lesson of my homeland. That has been the true compass of my life.”

He gazed around from one person to another, searching their faces for recognition. “You are asking yourselves what this has to do with out current predicament, I have no doubt. Well, I assure you, it has everything to do with it. Because this—” he said, gesturing around at the room, and the town beyond the windows. “This is not Kaer Maga. And that’s the point. People grow, and change, and learn truths, based on their environment. In Kaer Maga, to hold something sacred is to court weakness, because there is no constancy there, and the thing you choose to love is just a commodity to someone else. Opening yourself to caring, to thinking in moral terms, will just break your heart. It will shatter it.”

Sayd looked down, momentarily, before continuing, his voice certain. “We all brought our baggage with us here, to this place, didn’t we? Kaede runs our projects, lays plans and keeps books with the sagacity of a Tienese minister. Teret trains our men as he was once trained, passing on knowledge and discipline. We apply our wisdom, our resources, our backgrounds, to the work at hand, don’t we? Only, not all our wisdom is equal.”

Waving down Elissa’s raised hand, like something one would see from a school child, Sayd continued “I dreamed of creating a land of equality, where people like me, like many of us, would not be judged for how we look, for the circumstances of our birth, for our creed, but would tolerate and accept new things. Such was the reality of my homeland, and as I have fought across the world for all these years, I often sorely missed it, when Yelenya and I were judged. Absalom was the only city we visited, outside the breadth of Varisia’s city-states, where we felt anywhere near as welcome. Many of you know that I honor all the gods, that I am a man of faith and mysticism. Desna is the patron goddess of my homeland, and she has always held a close place in my heart, beside Calistria, who teaches us to respond a thousand fold to the merest slight, and Nethys, who cares only for the power of magic. These are the ones I most often prayed to.”

“That was the man you met in Restov, three years or more ago, now. Quick to anger, caring only for the thrill of conflict and the comforts of wine and pleasure houses. Eager to match wits with death, perhaps too eager…”

Sayd’s smiled softly at this. “We walked these lands together, every day charting our progress on maps, filling in details. I, who had seen much, saw things in the Narlmarch that were new to me. I had been away from society before, on expeditions, but never for so long. I came to appreciate the long silences, the quiet marches, the riot of colors in the autumn, the endless plans of snow in the winter. And there was something different about this place, I am sure of it, for all of us. We had to rely on a very fragile lifeline, represented by Oleg’s outpost. After protecting it from the Stag Lord, many of you began to think of the people there as your friends, and perhaps more. Yelenya and Svetlana took to each other as only two Varisians far from home can do. Teret befriended the Free Irregulars. Wally took to the other locals, Elissa met Kalkamedes, and when we discovered Hollow, you made that many more friends. But not me.”

“I confess that I never trusted or revered a single soul we met except Baba Magori, and Josef, who was an outsider like us. I practically called Jhod a spy for the Stag Lord; I converted Woodrow and Akiros to our side because it was strategically sound; I held a grudge against Oleg for trying to out-negotiate us for a very long time. I was angry at Elissa for leaving. I despised our enemies and had no problem eradicating them, showing not an iota of sympathy for breaking my word when I did. I do not regret any of those things because I believed I was doing right by my friends, and because I kept us alive, and led us to victory. But things have changed.”

At Sayd’s self-indicting words, reactions from knowing smiles to frustrated groans to bitter looks to empathetic understanding crossed the faces in the room. He appeared completely indifferent to the reception, clearly intent on his message.

“What have we accomplished here, with our emphasis on control, with our focus on constant trade, on growth, on commerce. Do you know I actually was upset at how many halflings have flocked to our lands? Rather than think, here are people who want to be part of something, I asked myself, why have dwarves not answered the call? We need masons. We need miners. I asked myself, why is this society not growing as I command it? Why do the people listen to charlatans? Do they not see everything we’re doing for them, to protect them?”

He laughed then, a rueful sound. “How blind I was. How fucking blind.”

Sayd walked slowly around the table, stopping behind Woodrow’s chair, and placed his hands uncomfortably on the Asmodean priest’s shoulders. “What do we think Woodrow wants? So many of you have feared his motives, I’m sure. After all, he worships the Prince of Darkness, doesn’t he? But he is just a person, like all of us. I imagine wants the same thing as many of us, power and authority, to shape his own destiny, and this town’s. This kingdom’s. Despite our very different philosophies, Woodrow and I are friends. He’s very valuable to me.”

“Thank you, my prince” the priest offered at Sayd’s pause, his face clearly unsure of whether a dagger might be suddenly jammed in his throat. Yelenya looked on curiously, trying to deduce what Sayd was up to.

He continued stalking around the table, speaking as he passed each chair. “Kalkamedes and Elissa want a peaceful place where they can raise a family, and no one ever goes hungry. Vagda wants the principles of Torag and the noble traditions of the dwarves to have a place here. Everyone has their own vision. I’ll tell you what I want,” he said, stopping back by his own chair.

“I want a land of peace, a land of plenty, where the people are happy and content and can go about their lives, living and growing old without fear of the dark and horrible things of this world, and where I can settle down, after a long life of war, and create something beautiful, and watch it grow, and build a family. Because here is the reality, for those of you too young to have learned it on your own: the world is a dangerous place, and although I may romanticize the philosophical cosmopolitanism of Kaer Maga, the fact is that that place was a death-haven where the weak and the innocent and the good were driven under the heels of the strong and the devious. I grew up an orphan—”

He paused then, sudden emotion flashing across his face and rising in his voice, before it subsided. “I was raised in a stone alley hell, and it did nothing but make me callous, and cold, and controlling, and quick to wrath. I don’t fight fair and I don’t show mercy. And that’s fine. That’s who I am. The world needs killers like Yelenya and me, because there are bad things in the dark. But she—” he said, gesturing at the child asleep in Elissa’s arms. “All of them, they deserve to be safe in their beds at night, don’t they? They deserve that. I want to give them that. Not to atone, or anything. The gods know me well. I have no doubt they will welcome me into Heaven when my hour comes. This isn’t about atonement. It’s about what’s right.”

“Think about that for a minute. What is right? What kind of society did we want, and what have we built after two years? I see a town a land that we labor on ceaselessly, trying to position ourselves for the best trade opportunities, because that fills our coffers and allows us to expand even more. We worry about the kobolds: will they seize more territory than we want them to? Will they ally with the trolls. We have juggle the needs of our neighbors, and all of it is to the end of growth, expansion and wealth. It makes sense, right? A wealthy society is a happy society, right?”

In a sudden motion the shocked everyone, Sayd slammed his hand down on the table, hard enough to splinter the wood. “WRONG!” he shouted, anger showing on his face.

He chuckled then, calming down, and brushed the bangs away from his beautiful features. “We have labored to create a society of strong infrastructure and very intelligent planning, where none of the people are of a mind. Our citizens endeavor to create new trade opportunities, farm the land, work the mines and the rivers, trying to make coin and something of themselves, but nobody believes in us or in this town. They are all, individually, in it for themselves, although I suppose to an extent, the halfling population can be said to be in it together. There is no loyalty to this council, this town. We’ve created economic opportunities, the people have flocked to it, but they don’t have anything resembling a common purpose. Now, this is no one’s fault—we made a choice, to foster the economy and growth, rather than looking after the spiritual and philosophical needs of the people. But what has it given us? A budding town where a single—” he said, raising one finger, “a single dissenting voice, granted, that of a bard who specializes in turmoil, but a single dissenting voice could wreak chaos among the population. A budding town where we do nothing to care for the women wronged by their men and by society, and the cult of Gyronna has now taken root. I will follow this path no longer. From now on, my sole purpose is to frame and shape the development of our society along moral and philosophical grounds, to create a bastion of communal ties in our town, the outlying farms, and the kingdom.”

Oleg raised his hand, saying, hesitantly “But what does that have to do with this cult, again?”

Sayd nodded, listening, and then continued. “It has everything to do with the cult. I will tell you what we all know to be true, now: the cult of Gyronna has existed in these lands for centuries, poisoning the earth, spreading their hatreds, fanning discontent. You can ignore it, if you want; you can ignore that our castle is being built on the site of an old monastery to Gyronna, that we have heard rumors of the Tiger Lords to the north welcoming her champion into their fold. SHE IS PART OF THIS, ok? If there were a priestess of Pharasma or Desna here with us now, she would read the threads of prophecy and confirm it. We are beset, in these lands, by old fates, old lies, and weaknesses between our plane and the First World. These are real dangers we face. This hag coven is out there, plotting our destruction, and they are whispering in the ears of the Troll King. They would have turned the kobolds against us had I not been there to shore up our alliance! The Queen of Whispers and the Duchess of Hoarfrost claim these lands as their own. Agents of the Surtovas and the Drelevs try to weaken us. The Empire of Cheliax and many others have no love for our anti-slavery laws and our protection of halflings. Open your eyes. We are walking a razor’s edge, and this cult is evidence of how we are going it alone.”

“We have slept at the temple of Erastil, and drank from his pool; we have shaded ourselves in the shadow of his statue, many of us. Did you not feel peace? We have seen the Grim White Stag, not in passing, but he came to us and taught us how to bind ourselves to the forest. I have drawn plenty of attention from the gods in my career, or it has felt like it, but never have I seen so powerful a sign. When we first came to these lands, I began praying to Erastil, along with many other gods I worship. I could tell he had a special place here, but as we explored the Narlmarch, it became apparent how special. Old Deadeye is in these lands. He is watching them. He sent his servant to aid us. He wants this town to flourish. He is protecting us, that’s what he does, and I’ll be damned if we will not repay him for it. And I will say it before you all: the God of Hunters is my patron now. I prayed to him before we faced the Stag Lord, because of the desecration of his symbols I saw there, and he delivered us; I prayed to him when we faced the minions of Gyronna, and he delivered us. If the Hag Queen exists to cause strife between women and men, Erastil does the opposite. He teaches that families and communities must be strong, and that tradition and seniority have power. I am the Elder, here. I am the father of this kingdom. The flaws in our society are down to my lack of social leadership, and that ends now.”

“We will crush this cult of Gyronna, but not without addressing the underlying problem, which is that women are being mistreated by some in our town and our farms. We will take whatever steps we must to ensure that families stay together, that no women is cast out by her peers, and that men who galavant about causing pain are ridiculed for it as faithless and worthless.”

“In short, we need an ally more powerful than Gyronna, more powerful than the Queen of Whispers, and my heart tells me that Erastil, the hunter god who watches over us in the deep wilds, is that ally. He has revealed secrets to me. I have seen them, walking the wilds, alone, in the cries of the birds and the turning of the seasons. They say that Erastil gave the first bow to man, and taught him how to follow and slay his quarry, that we did not starve, but instead grew strong. In the cities and metropolises of the world, people only care about image, about prominence, about status. These things are all as illusory as a figment I could conjure.”

Sayd resumed his seat, the chair scraping over the wood. “All that matters in life is power. But how do we use it? I am weary of endless war and bloodshed in the name of gold and platinum. I will bend my energy to making Glamorfell a bastion of Erastil’s power, that the God of Hunters may protect us from the supernatural evil that has tainted this land. No more or less than that. I ate the Apple of Discord, and it changed me. You have all seen it. The wilds are in me, now, too, and I can no more escape it than I can escape death. I choose to embrace it instead, and in so doing, find us victory.”

“Now let us discuss how this will be so.”

Desnus 23, 4713 AR
The Diary of Teret Feron

It’s been many moons since I have written in here. I near forgot I had such things. As I read back in past entries, I think I would rather still not have recalled it. It is only a reminder of how I have failed. Though Silverwind is now a memory, freely roaming the plains with his forebears, I cannot help but feel that I have failed him. I cannot help but be reminded of the times he had stood over me, as I lay fallen on the field. Mortally wounded, in body and spirit. How many times had he gripped my mail in his teeth and dragged me to safety? Yet, I stood as he was ruthlessly taken by the Hag, Toboura the Fervent. Forever shall she be marked an enemy, I shall mount her head upon our gates, and tear her flesh from her bones, whatever may be in that decrepit sack of hers.

Silverwind acquitted himself well. I suspect he knew the danger as we rode into the building. We always do, as soldiers. Part of me thinks he knew it was his time, but if not, he never flinched. It is an ending I hope I too can be deserving of. A heroism in the face of certain doom, for the sake of many, or even just one. I look upon the belongings of his that are scattered about my home. Small bits of memories that linger, forever after in a world that probably would not know what he offered to it. I am reminded of the battle at Harysford with the Lebeda army, such as it was. Neither of us walked away unscathed, but it was surviving that time that banded us. Through everything that occurred after, he was my steed and I his master. He knew I would guide him as best I could, I knew he would never stop carrying what I asked of him. Many riders fell that day, many good people on both sides. The rain that fell mere moments after the rebels conceded did nothing to wash away the grime, the smoke, the smell of death. It was a stain, one I tried hard to wash through good deeds, if not always to great effect. I do not believe Silverwind ever carried such a stain. I like to think that even now, he roams unblemished with a great herd. Perhaps, some day, after my life passes from this world, I will find him, and we shall ride again to find glory in the afterlife. It can be but a small, but hopeful wish I shall carry, I have nothing more to offer the dead who have given so much.

Yelenya's House

Yelenya’s house is off the beaten path, close to the river. The house itself is fairly unremarkable, but it looks a little weird. The windows are close to the roof and the sides are as smoothly made as possible. The door opens opposite from the way it looks, opening out rather than in. There are potted flowers around the outside of the house, and appeared to be tended with someone with more enthusiasiam than skill. Inside the house is rather sparse, basically one big room. There is a table set low to the floor with cushions to sit or kneel on, and a small stove to cook (or aid in metalworking). Her sleeping arrangements are rather odd as well with a hammock slung nearly even with the barred windows. There are two other rooms, one is set up as an armory/wardrobe, the other contains a copper bathtub and necessary. There are flowers in pots throughout the house except for the table. The shell of a giant turtle rests on the table like a huge bowl and at first glance appears to be full of white pebbles or shells. Closer inspection reveals a collection of bones. There is a small box resting on top of the pile. The box is made of wood, worn smooth and polished, with a lid made of giant mantis chitin. Despite being a permanent residence, everything looks almost packed to leave at a moments notice.

Sayd and Akilina's House

Far from a kingly manor, Jagged Hollow, Sayd’s cave dwelling, can be found far away from a side street, practically beyond the walls, a long walk down a plain path. Bright, colorful flowers grow along the way. Everyone knows the Prince lives there, but the only evidence is an increased patrol of guards who walk the grounds.

A simple gothic arch of carved oak opens on a patio, behind which a weathered looking circle of stone monoliths stands, some low enough to sit on, some taller than a man. Although they might appear to have religious significance at first, they are actually astronomical, laid out to track the progress of the heavens as the seasons changeā€”a primitive observatory, no doubt built to please the Princess Akilina.

Down a gentle slope, a stream that cuts through the property cascades down some rocks and opens into a flowing pool, perfect for bathing. A small fire-pit with plenty of logs and rocks to sit on is positioned nearby.

A cavernous entrance by the spilling stream is well-lit by a hanging lamp. A guard stands here, watching the flitting butterflies and listen to the sound of wind-chimes handing from the low tree boughs. A stone door, of dwarven make, lies under the natural arch.

Inside, Jagged Hollow is incredibly spare, and lit mainly with phosphorescent mushrooms that cast everything in magical blue, green and purple light. A long room with a dining table, kitchen and hearth, the smoke no doubt directed through some carved chimney, is clean and homey. A small sauna contains a bath and a brazier for creating humid heat. A massage table here and a collection of perfumes and oils seem out of place with the dimly lit surroundings.

The bedroom, by contrast, contains richly dense white carpeting and is very well lit, not only by the phosphorescent plant life but by a massive dwarven skylight. It reveals the sky by day and the stars by night. A series of cranks closes shutters at the top of the shaft, for inclement weather. A plush bed is immaculately made up in white linen sheets and overthrown with warm white animal furs. Newish wardrobes, dressers and a walk in closet are almost entirely bare of clothing. The furnishings have all been imported from Brevoy in the latest styles, except for the bed itself, which is large and cut from local lumber.

In one corner, a set of bookshelves are packed to overflowing with novels, treatises, histories and maps. Books on troll lore, Brevic noble lineages, legends of the First World and descriptions of fey are all visible. A cozy chair and an end table are clearly meant for reading. There volumes are given places of special prominence and look well read: The Parables, The Eight Scrolls, and the Book of Magic, the holy texts of Erastil, Desna and Nethys, respectively. A copy of the Asmodean Monograph, no doubt a gift from Woodrow, lies nearby as well.

In another corner, a small shelf contains icons and statuettes representing Erastil, Desna, Calistria and Abadar.

A large mirror is turned towards the wall, due to the owner’s apparent distaste of his own reflection; still, since the room looks like it is soon expecting a princess, it will no doubt see use. Colorful art decorates the walls: flags from campaigns long past, artifacts from Sayd’s mercenary career, maps of the kingdom, as well as paintings and sculptures.

Jagged Hollow looks like it exists mainly for sleeping, eating, and bathing in a very secure place, considering Sayd spends most of his time exploring or working in town. There is a spare room, totally empty, that could make for a nursery if need be.

A Moment of Relief
Kaede's Home

Stillness, and serenity. A mote of dust, caught by a narrow shaft of light peeking past the shades, drifted across the room, and alighted upon the bald pate of a small stone statuette of a man resting cross-legged in meditation. The silence was broken by the muted voice of a young woman:

“Wait here a moment, Walhaim. I must make a brief inspection.”

Sunlight filled the room as a hanging straw mat was thrown aside, and a petite elf dressed in plain robes lithely stepped into the doorway. Turning her head slightly, she spoke in Tien, “Master, please check the ceiling. I will take care of the rest.”

A small thrush fluttered into the air from her shoulder, and flew a circuit at ceiling height. The woman stalked into the room like a cat, stopping to inspect bits of string placed on windowsills, mats left askew, and glass vessels balanced precariously (and particularly) atop piles of papers and books. After a few moments, the thrush landed once again upon her shoulder, chirping briefly as he did. The woman nodded once, satisfied.

“Nothing amiss, Walhaim. Enter, and kindly take care not to track anything as you do.”

At that, a diminutive halfling stepped tentatively into the doorway, carrying a stack of books, papers, and scrolls. He coughed politely and said, “Umm… where shall I place these things, Lady Kaede?”

Kaede, already engrossed in a document she’d pulled from depths unseen, gestured absentmindedly towards a low wooden table in the corner of the room. “Over there will do, Walhaim. And if you would, please prepare some tea for the both of us”.

Walhaim glanced around the stone-walled room; it had been a long walk, further from the Council chambers than he had expected. The decor here was very plain: unfinished wooden tables and cabinetry, a lone chair in the corner piled high with books, a hanging scroll on the otherwise-empty wall stitched with a strange foreign-looking symbol, and straw mats and cushions placed strategically around the floor. Placed in the center of the back wall was a shrine with unlit candles and a small statue. Tucked into the corner of the room, was a bedroll, with a stiff-looking pillow laying on top. The only other notable feature was a fireplace set into the wall, with a nearby stack of firewood.

Without looking up, Kaede sighed from behind her paperwork. "The house is far from the chambers because it’s quiet and serene here in this part of the city, chairs are an unnecessary luxury, the symbol means “Focus”, and the statue is of Irori, Master of Masters. I have great plans for you, Walhaim, but none of them involve woolgathering in my doorway. We need to study these blueprints, make the necessary adjustments, and have them back to the Ministry by evening. The Council will not stand for delays in construction, but nor will I suffer the edifices of our kingdom to be little more than haphazard piles of rock and mortar".

The halfling started, opened and closed his mouth a few times, and then shook his head and said, “Y.. Yes, Lady Kaede. Straight away.”

A small thrush chirped from upon the elf’s shoulder.

“Master Yukimura,” Kaede chided, “that wasn’t very nice”.

No Time for Hesitation
The Wisdom of Yukimura

Yukimura glowered at the scene, in the way that only a bird could. Those four-legged beasts were in serious trouble, and would not last long in the river’s current.

“Get moving, girl. Even if your nestling companions had the faintest shadow of a plan, they’d never make it in time.”

Kaede nodded at the thrush on her shoulder, quickly spoke the words for a spell, and the air began to shimmer near the ground at her boots. A moment later, she raced towards the shoreline, faster than the swiftest horse. Through his empathic bond with her, Yukimura felt Kaede calling upon her powers of prescience, reaching into the future…

that one. that’s the sturdiest rock.

Kaede planted both feet on a rock at the edge of the bank, and leapt into the air towards the center of the river.

slow down. land lightly.

As she sailed over waterborne Sayd’s head, Kaede called upon her otherworldly bond to slow her descent to that of a falling feather, touching down upon the cart on her tiptoes.

the cart is unstable. crouch slightly, take this path.

Keeping her balance perfectly amidst the rocking motion of the cart, Kaede smoothly picked her way to the front, and untied the panicked beasts of burden that were still tethered. Reaching behind into her haversack without looking, Kaede produced a small vial, drank the contents, and flung the empty clay vessel over her shoulder. Within moments, she was doubled in size, the cart creaking under the sudden weight.

“I’m not in need of a bath just now, if it’s all the same to you, girl”.

Yukimura took flight from Kaede’s shoulder as she hopped into the water.

there’s a narrow ledge here to brace against. keep a wide stance. lean slightly into the current.

Despite rushing water pounding against her chest, Kaede easily kept her balance and grabbed hold of both sets of reins.

almost there. watch for the eddy hidden beneath the surface. turn towards it as you walk past.

Gritting her teeth against the cold of the water, with wet hair plastered against her face, Kaede slowly walked across the river-bottom with both animals in tow, towards the far shoreline.

take hold of that vine, it has deep roots.

Clutching a fistful of vegetation, Kaede pulled herself out of the water onto the shore, handing the reins to the waiting gnomes as she did so. Kneeling for a moment to catch her breath, with a hand pressed against the ground, Kaede spoke softly, audible to none but herself and her master:

“Fate finds a way.”

the last year
pt 2.

The Last Year pt2.
“Seriously, suck it up, armor up those ovaries, and stab me.” Not exactly the words that one should probably say to a half-orc holding a sharp object, but nobody is perfect. Yelenya gasped as she got stabbed, there was a tug, and a clicking noise, and she got stabbed again. The process repeated for a while and then began again on the other side of her head. The earrings were a fairly simple design, a knot made of braided silver wire was poked through the front of her ear lobe and pulled through to spiral up her ear to where it would end in another knot. The tricky part was the carving of the rings that were spaced inside the wire. Each time they killed something that she felt was notable enough for a memento she took a little piece of bone or armor and when she had accumulated enough she had carved, as best she could, it into a ring shape and a little symbol of what had donated the object. Tuskgutter had a little piggy for instance. She had been a little dismayed at the preponderance of wolves, although she had gotten pretty good at carving them, and the kitty didn’t do the manticore justice, but she thought it was a rather striking look. The good news was that Sasha was actually a pretty good seamstress, the bad news was that it was over so soon. Dhavid came over to look at the limp form of the dhampir with her head in the half-orc’s lap and wandered off muttering about needing a drink and that he’d be in his bunk. Winter was boring. Staying in one place was boring. The test for her earrings had been a nose piercing, and she was tying to talk (nag) Kaede into getting her ears pierced. The fact that, so far, it had worked was encouraging. Or maybe it was just the chance to stab the normally unflappable elf. Winter was boring. Yelenya was a terrible seamstress, but she had made little stuffed animals for all the children within a two week ride. She was a horrible singer and an acceptable storyteller, but she had taken a turn babysitting every kid in town so that their parents could have a little time to themselves. She was a murderess, but crime was fairly low (suspiciously so in fact). She worked almost every waking hour at trying to make things better, because she could. She had time. Lots and lots of time. and after a whole three months she was bored. So, self harm it was. Still, she liked the look. As she lay on the bench Sasha picked up one of her braids and flicked her thumbnail against the pale bead at the end of it.
“The ones in your ears were all animals, this one has a man carved into it. How come?”
Yelenya smiled. "That was the Stag Lord. The rings are all animals, the beads are finger bones. Just a little something for me to remember them by. "

Bonelessly the dhampir stood and hugged the half-orc. It was time for Yellie’s dance lesson. She wasn’t going to miss that.

the last year
pt 1.

The Last Year PT1.
The streets were actually getting busy, people were doing relatively well, and it was kinda quiet. Even if it was too bright out. The sunlight felt good on her skin, but the light was continuing to be an issue. Lady Vellara might have a few ideas about a solution to that one. She was a City girl. Yelenya was looking out over the town as she walked atop the walls, her bare feet feeling the stone, and gently bouncing Yellie as she sang (horribly off key) to the little girl. The occasional skitter-step or twirl usually drew a giggle or a laugh from the precious little thing in her arms. She had to be careful though not to dislodge too many stones, even one the size of her fist would pick up some speed on it’s way down. At least the view was nice, there was plenty of fresh air, and the sunlight felt wonderful.. even if it was too bright.. and they were fifteen feet in the air.
Yelenya had been trying, and succeeding to a limited degree, to get to know the folks who had been moving into her town. She liked halfling, although there were always individuals that managed to get on her bad side, and the ones here were pretty well definitely halflings. People should be what they are, no less, and try for more. Fortunately there was a common ground, they liked to celebrate the end of the day, and she loved to dance. A five or six nights a month she’d invite herself to a gathering and watch, and change diapers, and help cook food, and tell stories, but when it was time to dance she just couldn’t help herself. The dancing was different that what she was paid to do, less formal, and different that what she would do as a distraction, less… anyway, it was a celebration of life. For a dead person with a heartbeat that was one heck of a draw, and she loved it. There was always one or two who looked at her funny, as though there was something wrong with her for having eyes that glowed in the night, or having fangs, but she never tried to hide it. She didn’t care so why should they.
Yelenya, laughing with happiness, stumbled away from the crowd and collapsed onto the ground, her chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath. The nights were getting warm enough that she could dress down and still be comfortable. That meant a skirt and a top that left her arms and shoulders bare. The night wind on her bare skin felt wonderful and she stared up at the stars, wondering what was going on up there. Her nose brought her back to herself, kobolds had kind of a dry/musty smell to them. Even the ones that Sootscale had loaned her. She turned her head slowly so as not to disrupt her neckguard, she had made a few modifications and the silver coins laced into it would occasionally chime if she turned her head to fast. There were a pair of little red eyes in the shadows. She sighed.
“Hey, lady, are you going to tell us more stories?” The younger halflings were so cute.
“No sweetie, I have to go to work.”
“Are you going to come back next time?”
“I’ll think about it.” she teased as she took her bow and the quiver of arrows from where she had set them. The halflings were smart enough not to mess with her things, although a demonstration for the dumb ones was occasionally necessary. Properly equipped for work she followed the kobold.
“You’re sure they’re in there?”
“Yes Lady Sneaky-Stab, two tall folk, one with brown hair, one with blonde.”
Dealing with kobolds was occasionally taxing, but they were good at what they did. Yelenya reached into the shadows and scratched the little scaly creature under the jaw while she looked at the others in attendance. She occasionally had needs that could only be fufilled by a big strong man, like scaring the crap out of a few of the criminals that had wandered in. She disliked wasting a potentially useful resource, the bard that had paid them a visit last year would have been useful if he could be properly motivated.
“Wait for the signal, etcettera, etcettera.”
Akeros raised an eyebrow. “This isn’t the first time I’ve done this.”
“I’m aware, but I see new faces in the guards, and I like when everybody is on the same page.”
She handed her bow and quiver to a guard and climbed the wall to the vent window. The warehouses were all the same design, and a visit to the archetect had ensured that every one had windows that she would fit through. It was a tight fit in armor, nearly impossible with a pack and her quivers, but tonight she was distinctly… underdressed for the occasion. The men were discussing business matters. Apparently they had not gotten the memo she had put out, or they thought that it didn’t apply to them. Her rules were pretty simple, and any who abided by them were more likely to be in her good graces. There was always crime, and she had no issue with people making a living, but it was better to be organized. She disappeared into the shadows as she crept across a beam toward them, and then she really disappeared as she got closer. They might notice the dust that she was stirring up, but it was doubtful. She picked the larger of the two, he seemed to be in charge, and dropped on him like a sack of potatos. Her dagger flashed once across his throat and then she was latched on. His struggles weakened as she bled to death and she sucked the wonderfully warm blood down. The other man was frozen, terror on his face and piss soaking his pants. There were a few moments when she caught his eyes and stared at him, hopefully it would be enough. His screams were not pleasant as he ran for the door only to find Akeros kicking it in. She dropped the dying man and jumped at the screaming one, a perfect pounce before the end. Akeros caught her by the neck with one hand and held her there as she thrashed and snarled at the brown haired man. When an angle opened up she bent her head down and snapped her jaws shut on the guard captain’s leather gauntlet. Still gnawing on the heavy leather she heard Akeros give him the list of rules and a bill for the door, and tell the terrified man that if he needed help figuring out what the rules meant that he could stop by the office and someone would explain it to him. She waited until the guards led the man away before calming down. Akeros handed her a bucket and she managed to make it around a corner before she retched all the blood she had drunk back up. Akeros nudged the now dead man with the toe of his boot before handing her a bottle. The rather unsophisticated stuff that Wally brewed was terrible, but it did get rid of the taste of the blood, and she swished and spat a few times before downing half the bottle in one long pull. Drunk Dhampir’s were a hazard for everyone so she held off after that. Yelenya knelt beside the corpse and massaged his face until the terrified look eased, then she closed his eyes. A piece of silver in his mouth and a copper over each eye finsihed the preparations. She prayed silently to whatever god was listening, and prayed to Sheylin for forgiveness for herself. When she stood she was steady on her feet. She patted Akeros on the shoulder as she left, she trusted him to do a good job with the investigation. Home she lit one candle as she got ready for bed, more for the warmth than the light. She had moved some of her flowers indoors before she had left for the night and they perfumed the air. She caught sight of herself in the small mirror. She had forgotten to clean the blood off her face. As she slept she dreamed of the faces of all the people, of every species, that she had killed. Tonight had added to the list, it was far longer than she wished, but still she slept on.

The Diary of Teret Feron

Once again, we step into a much larger world. Where a young man, worth no more than a private’s stipend, becomes a faithful companion, who swears his allegiance beneath a shaded flag of white and black. When this started, our aim was a tyrant, an abomination upon the land. We picked apart his people, removed each brick, then built our home in his fallen castle.
Now we face the same, every day is a needle pricking at us. Scraping away our patience, our resolve, pushing our dark desires to the forest. The Lebeda house would never have suffered refugees placing themselves upon their land, they would have slaughtered them. While I cannot wholly bring myself to applaud their methods, I can see their design. I cannot say it isnt effective, if brutal. We send a party to tilt against otherworldly beings, things we would engage ourselves, but cannot, lest our own walls crumble. Why, by Iomeade’s grace, should such things even BE here? In some way, small though it be, I understand the Stag Lord’s stupor when we approached him. The burden of command is one that snaps weaker steel in twine. Some, break worse, some deeper imperfection, exposed like a chink in the cleanest mithril suit.

I often find myself longing for the days when we could simply leave the merchant’s crumbling fort in the north, caring not what he thought or needed. He was easy to make the target of our blame and angst. These days, it is not easy by any means one could measure. We have people, many sycophantic, to whom we report. Our every action directed by the plebeian, “to whom do you give your gold m’lord?” Myself! You foolish mink. I step in front of some fire-spewing demon with a chain that tears limbs from body, shits ashes that burn the eyes, and you want to know to what I spend my gold on? A bath and a whore.

Very different these days. Now we face an ever widening responsibility. The scope of our mandate growing. I think the Sword Lords overstep themselves. Pushing our boundaries with no risk to themselves. Probing our ever growing list of enemies. An undead prince, lords of Tigers, a woman who whispers to beings who could tear our city down without a thought. I wonder what the color green holds for this…woman. It is more and more difficult to find proper motivation with each passing moon. Very different, these times.

Still, I find myself drawn to Varn’s Daughter. She is youthful, full of spirit. There is a brashness, but unexpected cleverness that invites me. It is invigorating in a way. I cannot quite name it, and I think, I do not wish to just yet. I will enjoy what I can, a fine meal, a patrol, and simply let it come to pass. I have earned no quarter in that department, and will expect none. Much more to that story, I hope, yes, even dour as the situation feels that there is still more pages in this diary to explore it. That it is not written yet, is something I will hold onto.

Note / Journal from Wally to the Fey Tristessa
short and sweet, he's no poet.

Hey girl,

So I got some good news to report, though i reckon you already heerd about it. 3 more generations on the side of man! Challenge of the Fang? Check!

Seem strange to me there be so many talking wolves in this forest, appear to me they be in the majority, hell i ain’t seen a non-talkin wolf for months!

It was a fine victory for us tho- full of puzzles and tests of our temperment and such. Finally endin’ in us scaling up a walking treant and storming a hut….
Maybe you had to be there.
Then carving an old woman, still kickin!, from inside some kind of stomach pouch of a witch-wolf!

Speakin of which though, it was a pretty close call for this heer correspondant- but it coulda been worse! That old witch we done pulled out of the wolf-belly told me i got the lycanthropee. Explains why some’a my wounds were a little weepy and itchy. Anyhow, long story short, i been born anew in the old narlmarch! Sad day we couldn’t do the same for my buddy Kundal, he was suffering from the same ‘ffliction and out at all hours of the night assaultin’ them little halflings. But we gave him a hell of a send off!

You know I ain’t much for writin. But we goin’ be having us a big party soon – y’all should come on by!


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