The Rise and Fall of Glamorfell

Walorin Journey Entry 1

Not too long after my journey begun, it come to a screeching halt. Screeching like a dive-bombing roc on a clear day in the Peaks.

Going was slow, on account of the fact that me and waistrel was hunting for our own food most of the time.

One night i woke up being dragged from my campsite all scooped up in a crude net. Going slow through the plains being dragged by some fiesty blue pygmy groseros. No sign of that horse. After awhile we came up on this sickly tree, and they dragged me between the roots to their underground compound. I dun know, but i reckon i was going to be dinner, or a sacrifice to some small blue god. but i couldn’t see a durn thing b’cause we was under th’galldurn ground.

well lucky for me i weren’t there for long, when i heard a whole lot of commotion and saw some of them midges running back and forth. Shadows on the wall!

And in they walked. A bevy of beautiful ladies led by a man with a shield. An they was kind enough to let me loose. Well needless to say i joined in the retribution ‘gainst those little blue devils! Can’t have em out there waylaying decent folk in the night.

they also had in their company two small lizardfolk. i never had much experience with such as them, but so far they seem interesting. One of em is a big fucker with a sword, and the other likes to make traps out of twigs and dust. I think we will git along just fine.

Anyway- the ladies was surprisingly good fighters with some tricks up they sleeves! i ain’t ne’er seen real magic before, but they was shooting flames and life in equal measure. and it was a good thing too, coupl’a them girls got knocked down pretty hard! We had a great fight on the way out, and once we did make it to the light the little fools followed us out! All the ladies held their own, and we managed to get all them blue fuckers gone.

so it be seeming that these fine ladies and shield-butch are the law in this area – can’t say i got a problem with that, and they done invited me to join em to bring law to the place. Seein has i ain’t got nowhere else to go, and as how i don’t want to wake up in anymore nets, i gladly accepted they kind offer.

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Sayd to Elissa - 13th Gozran, 4710 AR

Take your rest beside me a moment, for you look as to faint. Dry that tear. Let me pull you close. Now, listen: even the songbird has talons, my darling, though they be but small. The butchers who lay cracked and scorched before us know that well, now. You think to pity them because we came into their house and slew them. I understand better than you know, child. But would they not have done the same to the Sootscales, our friends? Would they not have done the same to Oleg and Svetlana? Do not look for purpose and righteousness in violence, Elissa. Snuffing out life is seldom so black and white as we wish it to be, to ease our consciences.

There are things that happen in life that we might call evil, even though they are but faultless happenstance. That old hunter, back at the fort, who lost his leg to a boar—do you remember? An animal does not pause its charge to consider consequence. It acts upon instinct, bred into its blood by mighty forebears. And so you acted today. You played to a script writ in blood, in your blood, by a powerful hand. You saved my life. Don’t dare be ashamed.

kisses forehead

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Elissa Rosemantle - Gozran 13 4710 AR

There was nothing unique about my station – there were thousands of us after the Goblinblood Wars. When the conflicts started, both my parents were drafted into Isger’s woefully undermanned army. They told me that they would be back soon, that the refugee camp they were sending me to was for my own protection while they kept us safe. I never heard from them again. Now, years in the future, I can barely remember them. They are lost in a tide of faces, the howling of goblins, the sounds of grotesque feasting, the screams of the innocent and guilty alike. Noone was spared. In their ravenous carnage, they managed to do what hundreds of years of social programs had not: they had created an equal Isger. Everyone was equal, everyone was food.

I spent a few years at the camp before i was shuffled off to Child Holding Facility 23. There was nothing cruel about it, none of the tales of victimization associated with children being removed from their parents. But it was also very brief. Living conditions were spare, food was even more spare, and at all times, smoke was on the horizon. We all knew what was coming. It was no surprise when it did.

Goblins love to burn things. Really, that sentence describes almost every interaction you’ll have with them. They burn things, and whats left, they eat. When the town burned, the orphanage burned, the children burned, the staff burned. The goblins taunted us and waited, knowing their meal would come to them when the heat became too much. I refused. The pain was unbearable, but the last thing I wanted to see was a set of those was one of those overlarge mouths, crammed with hungry teeth and those fevered red eyes. I hid beneath my bed and after a time the screaming stopped: there was just the flames. I must have passed out before my flesh caught fire, but I remember the moments before very well. The agony, the blisters, the smell. They will never leave me. I was cooked alive, a goblin meal served overcooked.

I dreamed of a grey presence, compassionate and yet cold. It touched my eyes, and I slept. My dreams were first peaceful, of whippoorwills gliding low over still waters. But again, I saw fire. Forests, cities and towns burning. Of a two-headed dragon whose flame consumed nations. Endless war.

When I awoke i marveled that, somehow, I was still alive. I lay on the ground for days amid a pile of heaping ash and smoking rubble as both the rains and the winds came. Over time I was found by a band of silent sisters, garbed all in grey. After I told them of my visions, they became excited. They spoke of me as chosen of their goddess, a bearer of prophesy. The symbols I viewed convinced that that I was to be moved to Brevoy, that cold land of strife and chaos. These kind women nursed me back to health, or what health remained to me. They treated the majority of my burns, but it was soon discovered that whatever had spared me had visited upon me a curse: my arms were forever blackened, blistered, raw with the smell of burned flesh. These burns alone carry the memories of the fire, of the immolation that consumed my body that day. And they do not let me forget.

I try to keep to myself. The visions can be overwhelming at times, and I’ve quickly learned that nothing alienates friendship quicker than prophetic rantings. Unasked for, I have been gifted healing abilities along with my curse. If my former life has been reduced to ash, at least my new life, the life after the flame can have meaning. I have tried to lend my skill in healing, my desire to see the suffering in the world reduced by whatever small quantity I can manage. I have vowed to leave the past and the flame behind me.

But it was not to be, yesterday. After being trapped in that tree, unable to breathe or think or stretch, I was close to losing control. I felt it slipping, every moment. When the creatures boiled forth from their holes in the ground, massing and surging and screaming and shouting… the… the resemblance was simply too much. Too much to be coincidental, surely.They were goblins in all but skin. They were the horde, the consuming force that would annihiliate innocence and peace wherever it touched. It was too much; too much to be anything other than a test from whatever has cursed me. I grabbed the wand of flames from the body of Sayd, that poor tortured demonkin, and the rest is a blur. I knew instintively how to use it- how could I not, I who was re-birthed in a similiar flame? I activated it again, again, again. I flew about the meadow beneath that looming, malice filled tree and visited death upon those creatures in the form of purifying flame. I only remember patches of what happened next. Small blue bodies, pitiful in their tiny way, pitiful in the world’s treatment of them – now ash. A pile of ash that blew away on a spring breeze, leaving only bones. After a time, my hand grew hot. That piece of wood seemed like an iron in a forge. It dropped from my hands, rolled into mud that blood and battle had churned into the ground. There it lay smoking, and I stared at it, stared at my numb hands and my wretched, blackened arms.

Whatever test I was given, I have failed. I have failed at mercy, at compassion, at restraint. I see those monsters in every creature who is less than human. I am not sure how to proceed, or if I can proceed any further.

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Sayd's Diary - 8th Gozran, 4710 AR

The red ink I’ve used here is mite’s blood. ’Tis an odd time to scribble ruminations, to be sure, so many measures below ground, but the company takes temporary respite from melee and I have come close enough to death this day that I require a few moments to collect myself.

Since last I wrote we have come far to the southeast, crossing perhaps 60 miles of trackless wilderness, the last four dozen of it in the hilly Kamelands, which do not want for beauty. Far as the eye can see roll pleasant grassy hills, a sea of tall grass with eager rocks jutting forth to bathe in the still bleak sunlight of this month. The homogeney of visual motif against the wild contours of the terrain itself is striking. It is still cold, though. I walk shirtless at times and let the grass caress me, laughing good-naturedly at the others huddled in their furs, and feel a nomad. It is on the back of Onyx, my new steed, that I truly appreciate the sweep of landscape laid before us.

We are not alone. There are fey in these lands, as we had observed, and they grow bolder. One morning someone awoke to find slugs in their canteen. I think it was Kaede. Another found our bags upended. If these creatures wish to play games of mischief, I for one would oblige them, and expect to do so at the nearest opportunity.

At length Mikmek led us to the very tree we sought, that which resembles a clawed hand rending the sky. It was the only feature on a scrubby hill. So alone it stood that countless bolts of lightning had shivered it down the years. I attributed this to the wrath of Gozreh, jealous as she must have been at the lone tree reaching towards the heavens, showing fearlessness under the vast scrape of her purview. And yet the tree still stood. Teret found a patch of more nearly tilled earth under the hoarfrost at its base and, lacking shovels, we dug upon this area using naught but our cookware until we unearthed a bundle of rags.

Among the thief’s ill-gotten gains were a Pathfinder’s wayfinder, a wand capable of conjuring flames, a book with several incantations inscribed in it, a beautifully worked dagger and a silver ring. Each of us had a turn at proving useful as Kaede and I described to the others the function of the wayfinder and the importance of the Pathfinder Society, Addy was able to divine the purpose of the wand and make use of the spells we recovered, and Yel proved adept at putting a price on the dagger and ring. Teret, unbeknownst to any of us, is a fluent speaker of the Osirian tongue (!) and proved the most useful of all when it was discovered that a long missive in precisely that language was scrawled within the battered book.

The gist of the writing, as Teret explained it, was that the wizard from whom these items were stolen was indeed a Pathfinder and furthermore was nearing his destination, the so called Accursed Halls, an ancient Azlanti ruin that could only be entered—and quitted—one night per moon. We delighted in this finding but, promised as we were to Mikmek and happy for his company, we decided to continue on our original mission and leave this likely treasure trove’s exploration for a month hence. As we went on our way I explained the key facts of Azlant and its ruins to my companions.

‘Twas several days later while combing the countryside in our mapping endeavor that I heard a low guttural hoot and knew it immediately for a troll mating call. I began urging the others to make haste away from the sound, but they were slow to react. As I had caught the sound, so had the creature caught our scent, and it quickly presented itself on a bluff to begin mocking us as lunch. Though oddly dressed it wasted no time hurling itself from the cliff like a maid from the battlements and crashed down to the ground below. I watched, my pulse quickening, as it raised itself, it’s bones slowly reforming, its dislocated joints cracking back into place, its laughing gaze upon us. As Morris and Paco reared I grabbed hold of their reins and fled, yelling at the others to do so. Thankfully, they listened. After what seemed hours of flight the creature lost our trail or gave us up as too much trouble, and I rode on in silence, annoyed that we had dallied when I knew full well what the creature had in store for us.

In time, now several weeks gone from the fort, we came to the Old Sycamore, the base of the mites. I rode forth dauntless and yelled at the tree itself, demanding surrender, entrance, or both. There was no forthcoming reply. Dismounting from Onyx, I searched in vain for a way in until Yelenya found one hidden amongst the roots of the mighty tree. It was but a small hole, such as a man would have to squeeze through. Bickering erupted regarding the wisdom of a descent beneath the earth, where our vision would be limited and where the footing, the roots and the stalactites would conspire against our swordsmanship, but I drew steel and crawled in and the others followed.

That was scant minutes ago. Now a veritable army of mites lay dead by our hand, as well as a massive poisonous centipede that was nearly my death. The others now laud my bravery, not realizing that I acted purely on instinct. Let another tell the tale. I know what I did, and have no desire to recount it now—besides which, I hear a sudden footfall across the chasm—

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Sayd's Diary - 24th Pharast, 4710 AR

24th Pharast

We have returned to Oleg’s post after two weeks in the wilderness, and I am surprised to say that I already miss the wilderness. There are men here now, stout hearted and well trained, sent by royal leave to garrison our humble wooden pile of a home. I spoke with their leader. He seemed strong, confident—arrogant, even—and professional. I have met his like many times before. He is the mercenary ideal, powerful and stern. I do not doubt he has the loyalty of his men, nor that he will be well able to protect this fortification. For that I am glad. He did not seem to care for me, though whether it is my appearance or my manner that put him off, I know not. I am not sure why, but the entire crisp and brutal picture of him is irresistibly alluring. I fear for poor Svetlana’s chastity, no to mention my own. I get a bit weak kneed thinking of his even-keeled, slightly contemptuous tone. There is a half-orc woman in his retinue whom I caught glimpse of but briefly, but whom I desire as well. What is monstrous is so beautiful in her. I picture a medusa turning me to stone, locking my perfect features in marble forevermore, placing me as a trophy in her hall, and find my face flush. Such thoughts are why I miss the wild already. What I was made for is not spoken of in society, and the society of this wooden box is very small, and very vocal.

Sixteen days past we left the outpost on our first foray into the wilds. I had received a message from Quintessa that morning, delivered by a blue bird—so charming! Whether she truly wishes my company or merely to use me for her masters aims, I do not know. I shall be satisfied to do either when we next meet, or to twist her back upon herself, into my creature.

Yelenya had the misfortune to rouse a trapdoor spider some days into our exploration, and it proved quite deadly. It put Kaede unconscious on her back and poisoned me with its bite, a poison which thankfully only weakened me for a spell. All our attempts to pierce its tough carapace were met with frustration afore Teret hacked it across the underbelly as it flung splayed through the air towards him. It was a savage cut, a cut to be proud of. Then Yel rushed forward and planted an arrow in its eye, the scrambling thing. I would like to rear a giant spider as a pet as they are quite lovely. We found, in its deep nest, a number of coins, another amulet of the Stag Lord’s, and a picture showing a tree with a red X on it. Most curious.

One night I awoke of a sudden with the feeling that I had been caressed, and sure enough I found that my hair had been sculpted into a nest with a mixture of berry juice. A robin’s egg sat there on my crown. ’Twas the work of the fey, I doubt not, and I for one was delighted, though Teret made quick work of the egg for his breakfast. Some days later he woke to find that his horse had been muddled with such that all straps and buckles were loose on its kit. I smiled at that, for they are creatures of play, our admirers, and like me they harbor no ill until they do.

I realize with sudden distress that I have not remarked upon the beauty of the landscape at all thus far in my writings! Although it is plain and field typical for this part of the world, the blanket of snow that lays on the ground gives the landscape a diamond splendour, and I enjoy particularly sliding down the hills of snow and ice as we make our way. Being immured against the mild swings of temperature that humans appropriately despise, I have no ill feeling towards this season of snow and black skies. The Gnarlmarches as they are called were even more rare, for that is an old and wicked forest, and I delighted to step into it.

A broken village lay in ruins at the edge but we passed this, noting nothing. Within the forest my companions felt ill at ease whilst I giggled at the prospect of what might come. Yel found eight men—bandits, she said—carrying a boar some days into our journey. I quickly donned the Stag Lord’s crest and, sitting astride Teret’s steed, made my way into their midst, presenting myself as their friend. My heart fluttered with mad pleasure as I sculpted their own thoughts with my words and strummed the chords of their souls with my careless thumb. I am a melodist, yes. The world is my instrument. As I led them, inwardly dying of ecstasy, into the midst of my waiting and hidden companions, I turned back and struck them down with dark magic. We set upon them and slew them, then. Did I picture my smoking demon goddess licking her lips as I stomped their insect lives? Well gods, you make me sound so culty when you say it like that.

Something strange happened, then. As their blood hit the snow, I felt the forest tremble. The surface of the ground seemed to change, as if drinking up the crimson water of life. I knew not what it meant, but there was no time to consider it.

Their leader called out a warning ’afore we could silence him, urging his fellows to return to their camp and warn the others, and with fleet foot I began to race after the portion of the men who had stayed behind with the boar. My companions followed, but the noise we crafted in rushing was so violent that it occasioned an avalanche of snow from the ridge above us, trapping Addi. I know not what happened after as I became separated from the others, having slid down a gully while avoiding the crash of snow. The wood seemed to hiss darkly as its barren branches and rough pines moved, and it took me almost a minute to regain the trail. By the time I arrived, the fight was over. Teret lay on the ground, pierced by several swords, while Kaede and Elissa worked to revive him. Yelenya cleaned her blade and described what had happened, how Kaede and Teret, the latter on his horse, closed the distance between themselves and the bandits with remarkable grace, only to see the brigands escape when Teret fell. Yelenya had managed to kill one in close combat. I do not like to see her risk herself so, but was very proud of her for doing so.

With Teret cured by Elissa’s incredible favour, we searched bodies for goods and recovered Paco, who had wandered off and returned to us sullen, irritable and alien. Teret followed his tracks to find him, then led us back and after the bandits once more. The young man’s facility with tracking was of great use to us, as though the bandits trail was not ostensibly difficult to perceive there were never the less a few moments that required a soldier’s discernment.

As we continued along we came across a meadow where the snow could not hold fast and where a large patch of moon radishes waited, throwing up their spiced aroma. In the midst of this tangle of valuable vegetables rolled four kobolds that I immediately recognized were tripping balls. We approached them rather openly, more quizzical then afraid, when two more kobolds came around a scruff of brush and antagonized us warily. They spoke only broken common but Addi was able to translate back and forth fluently, he and they both speaking the draconic tongue. Their leader’s name was Mikmek and he became our fast friend. He allowed us to take three bushels of moon radishes, which we later returned to Svetlana for thirty platinum coins, and traveled with us back to Oleg’s. I took to the tiny creature immediately and hope to create peace between the Sootscales—his tribe—and the people of the outpost.

And here we are, now returned. We traded with Oleg and Yel obtained some potions that will heal her in the event that she is injured. For 110 pieces of gold I bought a beautiful black horse that Vekkel returned with, and named him Onyx. He is combat trained and will serve as my steed for our coming adventures. I also ordered a shirt of masterwork quality, made of chain but with close specifications so that if falls lightly and is covered with dark silk for a stylish look. It will be several weeks before it arrives. Tomorrow we set out again, this time in search of mites and of that tree with the red X o’er its darkly inked roots.

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Kaede's Diary

Revered Master,

Our fellowship grows. The night of the warehouse fire, we hired on the healing services of a young woman by the name of Elissa Rosemane. She is an Oracle of no small ability, but one afflicted with a curious curse: her limbs are burned and charred, as if by fire, and those wounds never properly heal. She still has use of her hands and arms, but is nonetheless clumsy with the dexterity required of proper martial combat; as such, I remain close to her at all times whenever we are in danger.

Elissa also has visions of some impending apocalypse, a disaster fated to befall the continent. As you have no doubt already surmised, wise Master, these visions are of great interest to me. It is not clear whether they are real divinations or simply delusions, and I have endeavored to discover their true nature. This unworthy Ki Mystic has taken to spending time with her in camp after nightfall, discussing the things that we each see. Although Elissa is reluctant to speak overmuch of her past, I will prove that I am an ally worthy of her trust.

However, bemused Master, your eager apprentice digresses as usual. Before we even set out on our expedition, the leaders of the other charters each contacted us in turn, proposing to travel partway with the Spirit of Restov. The Wraiths offered protection and training, the Varnlings offered mead and companionship, and the Excursion offered information and a potential alliance. I was most interested in speaking with Baron Hannis Drelev, the leader of the last of these, and the rest of the party agreed. The next day, we traveled to the docks where his group was set to embark upon their mission (without Yelenya, who once again disappeared without a word, but at this point it’s to be expected).

After a time, we met the leader of the expedition himself. Drelev was joined by Imeckus Stroon (his brother-in-law), Lord Terrion Numesti (a military man), and Quintessa Maray (a strikingly beautiful female minstrel, ostensibly a political advisor), although they all left to go elsewhere when we arrived.

Our meeting was very preliminary, with caution being the watchword, neither party willing to tip its hand. Baron Drelev spoke of trades, alliances, and was receptive to answering what questions we had. Sayd quite rudely left in the middle of discussions (no doubt to chase after the minstrel), leaving me to finish matters. In the end, we wished each other well, and hoped for a mutually beneficial meeting in the future. Somehow, Toreg managed to keep from embarrassing us, coming off as awkward rather than offensive (which, for him, is a feat of great charisma).

I find the Baron interesting. Drelev is like most humans (and I mean no disrespect here, exceptional Master): he is impatient, ambitious, morally deficient, and irrationally confident. But he has an undeniable sense of purpose about him; I think that he has potential as a future ally, albeit one that we’d need to be wary of.

After a few days of river travel, we arrived at a small village. We stocked up on provisions, and I accompanied Toreg to a nearby shrine, where he graciously (well, graciously for Toreg) explained to me the manner and background of this foreign deity, who wields the powers of life and death. The other members of the group went to a local wizard tower. Sayd apparently got into some sort of trouble with the local watch, but I knew better than to try to get the truth of it out of him, so we just gathered our things and set off for the outpost to the west. The days of travel were mostly uneventful, but we did encounter two things of note along the way.

The first: an overturned cart in the middle of the road, with maimed bodies strewn about like broken toys. As we closed in to investigate, we noticed a lone figure feasting upon one of the bodies: a ghoul, its long tongue lolling out of its mouth. We wasted no time setting upon it, with Teret being the first into the fray, as one would expect. Although the ghoul was fast, and it landed strikes upon both myself and Aduialon, we had it outnumbered, and quickly dispatched the undead fiend. Naturally, its powers of paralysis had no effect on me, although Aduialon did contract a disease that took him several days to overcome.

Upon inspecting the corpses (and with Elissa’s help), I noticed that they had been dead for a week or more, and had been maimed in a very particular way: their hands were severed. I am thankful for the documents on local lore that the Way provided me with for reading during the long overseas journey to Brevoy; this grim sight could only be the work of Kessel, a notorious bandit who fights with a pair of hatchets. I regret that we did not have the time or the tools to give Kessel’s victims a proper burial, but we’ve marked the location on our map for the future. Irori guide their souls to the afterlife.

Our second encounter was with a hunter, another victim of Kessel’s, a man left with naught but a thin shirt, boots, and his bow. He was standing over the corpse of a deer he had just slain, but suffering from hypothermia and in bad shape. We nursed him back to health, and in return Lorrence shared his bounty with us. Sayd lent him his fur cloak (I may have to adjust my opinion on the tiefling Bard), and bade Lorrence to meet us at Oleg’s outpost to return it once he was settled.

Finally, after a few more days travel, we arrived at Oleg’s outpost. We were greeted by his wife, Svetlana, who sat us down for stew at her table, in a very motherly sort of way. Oleg himself was visibly disappointed that our party was not the detachment of soldiers that he was expecting, although given our motley appearance, I could hardly be offended. But it seems as though we’ll have an immediate chance to earn Oleg’s respect. For months, he has been beset by Kessel’s bandits, who extract tribute from him on a regular basis, using threats to his wife to keep him in line.

Tomorrow morning, before dawn, is their next scheduled visit. My party intends to ambush the would-be thieves, catching them unawares and taking advantage of their reckless confidence. I am uncomfortable with the idea of an unfair fight, but in this place I am a lone wood chip of Law, floating along the raging rapids of Chaos. If I fight the flow, I will surely drown, so I must instead try to direct the passions of my companions as best I can. I’ve convinced everyone that we’d be best served by taking the bandits captive. We won’t end this conflict without bloodshed, but nor will we become those that we despise.

Some would call it luck or fortune, insightful Master, but we both know that this is surely destined. Oleg is a man trapped. True to my namesake, I will shatter his prison of Fate, with my own two hands.

As always, I am your faithful apprentice,

-Kaede, the Fate Breaker

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Sayd's Diary - 25th Calistril - 8th Pharast, AR 4710

A Note to the Reader

I realize, of course, from the outset of this record, that it may find its way into hands beyond my own, hands such as yours—you being the one who holds it now. Who are you, I wonder?

Perhaps you are the one who killed me. Rifling through my belongings for treasure, according my fallen form no more dignity than a smudged gnat on one’s arm, you stumbled upon something else, something far more precious: the story of the life you took. What could be more thrilling than that? Look ye down upon my beautiful corpse and laugh, cackle even, if it suits you. Hold my perfect face in your hands and drink in what it means to be alive, to conquer, and know that had our places been exchanged, I would have lapped up your dying tears, mocked your body to my friends, stripped you of your wealth, spit upon your wreckage, nudged you by my heel into a shallow grave, made haste to your lands, enthralled your wives and daughters and took them to bed. I would have you do no less to me, nor less truly to your own will.

Or perhaps you hold me captive, and peruse this storm of ink with growing wonder and mortification. “Heaven, what manner of thing have I put ’neath lock and key!” you exclaim. If it be so, you had best not keep reading, poor friend! Look ye up, twirl on heel, face the darkness. Am I there? Go now and see, is not the cell door open, the window unlatched, the night air blowing, the guard dead. I am fled, baby, but shall not forget this disservice.

Or perhaps you are my child, my companion, my lover or my friend and I have proffered this volume for your amusement, that you may see from whence I’ve come, by what dangers, and with what audacity. If it be so, you must have my love, dear heart.

But perhaps we are ages apart, my life a bygone dream. You are far from me, distant, some scholar of histories. For ought I know, you value these words as worth more than cut rubies, if I have done something rare and worthy of memory. The distance between ruin and glory can be measured with a dagger’s edge. I am as like to land on one side as the other.

If it be so, then know this: whatever legend history carves, I was more comfortable in the arms of blushing maidens, and would have stayed there.

25th Calistril

Domains under heaven, long united, tend to divide; long divided, tend to unite. So it has ever been.

The Sheh Gong Fua of Jinnanese author Guo Kiyamoto begins with these words. I happened to steal a glance at them over Kaede’s shoulder as she perused the volume in Baron Drevel’s personal library. A passable translation to Taldane, she told me. I asked her what it meant.

“In my homeland, there are many who see the wars of men as inevitable,” she said. “Some scholars see the world in constant transition between two states. They say that when something reaches perfection, it suddenly turns into its opposite. Love becomes disinterest, humility becomes great pride. What Kiyamoto means, though, is more direct. [‘BLOODSHED,’ her second voice groaned.] When a nation has long been unified, it has no way to tend but toward division, to division by force. To war. And when it has long been at war, it has no way to tend but toward unity. Reaching perfection in one state, it becomes its opposite. That has always been the way of Tian Xia, or so the sages believe. So Guo Kiyamoto believed. It is like your River Kingdoms,” she said.

It is all kingdoms of men, I told her. There is no unbroken dynasty, no immutable people save in Axis, which lies beyond the veil. Creation and destruction, order and entropy, are sides of a coin, and like any good coin, with a flick of deft finger you can spin it on edge.

Here begins my tale.

The domains of Rostland and Issia were unified some two centuries past by Choral Rogarvia, an infamous Iobarian sellsword, and his army of red dragons—thus the nation of Brevoy was born. We all know this. A small child could tell you the story.

Two hundred years hence and Choral’s line has been vanished, obscured even from divination. The Surtova hold the Dragonscale throne. In the south, the Aldori swordlords prepare to cleave the land in twain, tucking it tight under a red blanket of blood. All the beautiful nobles smile as they wave to their folk, as if poise and cold blood could carry the day, as if mere machination could bulwark them against a truth so rude that even Guo Kiyamoto, a halitosis ridden maudlin-eyed fraud, could learn it. The fields will burn. I knew none of this until yesterday. Yesterday, I agreed to strike the match.

26th Calistril

My writing last night was cut short by exhaustion. Today I am refreshed, and had occasion to break my fast with Baron Drelev on an assortment of chilled fruits and pastries. It is how they take them in the distant Icerimes, he tells me. Our ship shall arrive at the Crossing in but an hour, and it will no doubt be a long day of travel, perhaps the first of many. I must record what I can for now.

I have been calling myself Sayd Krynn since my days of petty thievery, and thus my new companions know me. I shall list them: Teret Feron of Silverlake, Kaede, who styles herself Fatebreaker, of Tian Xia, Aduialon of Kyonin, Toreg Whitefire of somewhere, perhaps a donkey’s ass, Elissa Rosemane, and of course Yelenya. We are joined as well by Morris and Paco, mules I purchased yesterday morning, the former naughty and the latter nice. Together we form a company, The Spirit of Restov. Our mission is ostensibly to bring law to the Greenbelt portion of the Stolen Lands, though in truth we are but pawns in Brevoy’s current power struggle. It is not so bad, being a pawn. The boards of drunkards and old men have but wooden pieces, true, but the pawn from a king’s board is made of platinum adorned with sapphire, and smells of woods milled in distant Casmaron, shipped west for a lord’s ransom.

I hesitate to go into depth regarding the first meeting of The Spirit of Restov, trusting that others have done so. In brief, we met with Jamandi Aldori, the cold and beautiful scion of duelists, and were encouraged to secure the Greenbelt to the Aldori’s advantage. We also left Ivan the Butcher in the hands of unhappy captors, and expect his escape will be into Pharasma’s court if anywhere. I would rather fill the page and my remaining time discussing my traveling companions, each of whom intrigues me in their own way.

Yelenya of the Lidded Eyes I have known for nigh on forty years. She has become the only constant in my life, far closer to me than my “family” ever was. A dhampir, she ages even more slowly than I do and will no doubt outlive me. She has always looked as she does now, though her fashions change with the years. A keen archer, she is quiet, methodical, unconventional and deadly. I have learned much about the undead in my endless quest to make her more comfortable.

Toreg Whitefire was the first of our new companions that I met. An uncompromisingly rude dwarf, it is shocking—and a testament to his endurance—that he has lived so long. He is smelly, uncultured, greasy-bearded, talks to himself, farts pungently while letting out toothless cackles, pets the skulls that adorn his shabby outfit and invariably says the wrong thing at the worst possible time. Still, his conjurations are impressive and I have always preferred the company of strange characters. If you are going to have to travel with someone, they may as well entertain you. I suspect the dwarf’s antisocial antics will create more amusement than they will harm.

A pair of elves travel with us as well, though neither seems much like the elves I’ve had the pleasure of traveling with in the past. Kaede Fatebreaker is a dark haired, mild mannered elvish woman from the continent of Tian Xia, more specifically the country of Jinnan, which I had only heard of in passing before meeting her. Her clothes are exotic, graceful flowing things, and she moves with the skill of a trained martial artist. She is sober-minded and wise, but unaware of how offputting her pedantic, librarian-esque prattling can be. A spirit dwelling within her—her dead mentor’s, I believe—has a habit of punctuating her thoughts with his own annotations. What fun! She is perhaps my favorite of these travel mates, precisely because she sees a different world than I do. She sees things that I do not.

Aduialon of Kyonin, on the other hand, is brisk and lively, if a bit laconic, and has the detached air of a long time student of combat. He wields blade and baleful magic with equal skill and possesses a wit to match his rapier. He strikes very quickly. It never ceases to amaze me, the gracefulness of elves. Regardless of how skilled, no one moves quite as beautifully as they do. I know little more of “Addy,” as we have taken to calling him (for none of us can pronounce his damned name), but shall endeavor to learn.

A pair of humans travel with us as well. They are likely surprised at being outnumbered by a predictably surly dwarf, two elves, a child of the night and a creature of the pit, but have been well heeled enough to avoid pointing this out. Teret Feron of Silverlake is tough in body and mind, uncompromising and sober minded, but with a sense of humor. He carries more cares than his youth should allow. He thinks himself green, little realizing with what trepidation we veterans enter bloodshed. I think him a fine swordsman, and defending his allies is obviously important to him. He seems to have bonded with Toreg after the dwarf saved his life, and has become fast friends with Elissa as well.

Elissa is, of course, our healer, brought in at my suggestion, though it was Yelenya who found her. She is not a priest of any faith, but gains her powers through some kind of divine action nonetheless, as those rare few do. I have heard them called oracles or prophets in the past. She was burned in her youth and the scars have not healed on her arms; indeed, I can smell the charred flesh still. What effect this strange charism has on her unique gifts, I know not. I am glad she is with us, though. The road ahead will be dangerous, more dangerous than any of my new friends realize.

I did not tell them that I have haunted these woods and plains before, not three months past, on the very mission that now unites us; that I had seen this “Stag Lord” we are bound to seek, had watched him fell my comrades in arms with chilling surety, or that he had stabbed a spear through my flank, grabbed me by the throat and hurled me off a 90 foot ravine into a maze of brush and brambles. I was alone, then, separated from my living allies, who were scouting, and unable to aid the dead ones high above.

I survived because I refused to die.

On the third day, Yelenya found me drinking from a creek on my side, having followed the trail of blood. She had managed to save Lullaby Jack as well, though the sharpshooting goblin’s leg was done for, and managed to get us to Restov, the closest major hub, where we could convalesce. But here, the river boat has arrived at the Crossing. I shall write more tonight, or on the morrow.

26th Calistril, evening

The fire feels wonderful. I can sit cross-legged nearly in the blaze and not get warm enough, though. The elegant white mink cloak I bought for the journey is draped over my shoulders, and I have freedom to write. I have just finished telling tales of Kaer Maga to those still awake. It is important that they enjoy my company, if not that they trust me quite yet. Despite the tales I have heard of the Hotspur, I am no great warrior. I am a proficient swordsman with a deft hand, strong arm and quick feet, no more. Influence is my coin. My tongue is my weapon of choice. I was crafted to be a thing of beauty and allure, warm feelings and friendship or frank eroticism, whatever the situation calls for. When I speak, when I fall softly into the luring, song-like cadence of command, they listen. I can feel their willingness to fight harder, to stand longer, and this will be well needed. Toreg and Kaede are as my sword, Teret as my shield, Yelenya as my black feathered arrow. With them I will take my revenge.

I should speak of the boat. We met with Drelev and his expedition and took the first leg of our journey together by river. The man impresses me. He is reserved but worldly, well bred and firm of speech. We discussed his plans to do business with Lord Irovetti in Pitax, and I warned him to be honest in his dealings with the man. Irovetti is no fool, though many think him so. He has a supernatural skill at landing on his feet, like a cat. I would not bet against him, no matter who the opponent. He and I had a friendship of a kind when I lived there, though it spoiled over a woman. How often it does.

On Drelev’s barge I also met an exotic beauty, Quintessa Maray. She wore turquoise and gold, her rich skin smooth as butter. Her eyes were faceted gems. Without words, I knew her. We are cut from the same cloth, that woman and I, and she knew it too. She brushed against me as she was leaving, thus starting the dance. Where will it lead? To love? Carnal abandon? To betrayal and death? I can hardly guess. When two black cats cross paths, it is the world that curses.

5th Pharast

I have not had the will to write for over a week now. This interminable countryside stretches on and on. I do my best to keep my companions in good spirit, but the boredom of endless footfalls vexes me so. We met a hunter named Lorrence to whom I gave me good mink cloak. I must be good at times, to keep people on their toes. I no longer fear any doubt of my ability in the minds of my companions. My songs at night are so rapturous that I myself begin to be lost in them. I cut down a ghoul several days ago. At times such as this, my hand and head grow weary, and I find myself thinking on Absalom, and the one who was taken from me. Her breath smelled of cinnamon.

7th Pharast

We have arrived at Oleg’s outpost, a dingy fort that is nonetheless appears a palace after the distance we have trekked. I understand a bit more the life of an explorer, or pilgrim, or soldier. Any haven of civilization is a welcome thing when one walks the wilds.

Oleg is a curmudgeon of a man who hates the world because it took his arm. He fears that someone will steal his beautiful young Varisian bride from him. It is a rational fear, but the hotness of jealousy it stirs in him could almost warm my hands. Were I alone and not in the company of new friends I would seduce his woman and jilt her later when I grew bored, in some distant place. As it is, however, I will need to be a trifle subtle in my ploys.

8th Pharast

I do not delight in such women as put on the pretense of seduction without offering the fulfillment of it. Svetlana, Oleg’s wife, is one such. Despite her flirtatiousness she is in fact a virtuous woman. Fie to that. I’d much prefer an innocent and docile looking creature under which a raging tempest of passion brews. To prick such as that is like popping a child’s balloon, and like a balloon it is consumed in the experience. I will let Svetlana come to me willingly when the time arises.

My journal last night was cut short by preparations. We were called upon to defend the outpost from seven bandits led by a man named Happs. It is these same brutes who come to collect tribute from Oleg and Svetlana every week. We laid in wait for their entry by predetermined design, thus ambushing them between a gout of flame, a conjuration of grease and a blast of abyssal beguilement. Despite that, the battle proved difficult. Yelenya was a specter of death and she, along with Addi, did in for their leader. I myself was shot in the chest by a longbowman at close range and impressed my companions by swigging a potion, breaking the shaft and standing again. I was impressed as well by Kaede and Toreg, whose martial prowess were in full display. Regardless of the happenstance which put us together, this is an excellent group of operators.

We took three alive, though I hushed one with a dagger through his throat when he failed to please my interview. That got the other one, Storr, just a human kid, talking. We learned much of the bandit leader, Kressel’s, defenses, and I was able to confirm much of it through trickery when interrogating Happs afterwards. We voted to let Storr live, and he has chosen to stay and help Oleg as penance. I pity the child. The world can be a confusing place for those of us not born to riches and honor. I was suckled at a gnoll’s tit. I was reared on the milk of monsters.

Happs we executed, calling it law. I clove his head from his shoulders while he knelt in the snow before me. It feels incredible to win and live, and write the ruin of your foes in ink like you wrote it in blood with your blades and your arrows.

On the morrow we ride south, looking for little dragon-men to treat with, or to slay, as they want.

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the 24th Catril, AR 4710
Diary of Teret Feron

today was the day of selection. In truth, I believed my chances were slim. When I arrived at the town hall, some piece of my heart sank as I saw the assembled. Grislied old veterans, youthful warriors, scoundrels, even some who appeared to practice the arcane or mystic arts. A very retched smelling one as well. I don’t think i’ll ever forget that smell for the rest of my life. It’s an odd thing that. How fate provides both what we seek and what we seek not.

I remember very little of the speeches, other than that there were a fair few. Megar. That one caught my attention. I know little of the local legends and tales, but that man wore many of them as best I could tell, like a cloak. That sort of theatrics could do well to garner some breathing room at a table, but could also draw an arrow to your back faster than anything. The other though, that caught my attention, coincidently, was the man I was tasked to follow. Ivan Ivanovich. The man had the look of a man that should stink like the dwarf who had his own standing area. When my name was read, my throat caught, and while I hoped it appeared stoic, I simply could not breathe or speak. I’m glad for that though. My gift was never with words, and I would have made a fool of myself.

The others chosen, I do not know what to make of them. Two appear to be old fellows. Something was amiss with them. Probably brigands. Two elves. One, a lass, wore the most vibrant red dress I think i’ve ever seen. When you blend in as well as that, you are clearly not from Brevoy. Her words marked her as such. Kaede. I think I pronounced wrong to her face more than once. Still, she has a presence that speaks of martial discipline. She also had an assort of weapons I envy. I can appreciate that. The other, I don’t think he spoke the whole day, and I’m not quite clear on his name anyway. The way he moves though, it’s something i’ve never seen. In truth, he performed a feat I could scarcely believe possible, but I will get to that.

Yes, indeed, as we left the announcement, the entire town of Restov erupted into one giant display of debauchary. Had I not been suffering the effects of the night before, I might have considered taking part. It did not take long, truth be told, for us to find a piece of the action. The bathouse we stopped into, sported quite the crowd, and engendered us well with spirits aplenty. That though, was probably ill-advised. The pale one, Yelonda? Yelenya? The red hed. She came back, brushed past all of us, and spoke with the silver tongued one. Those two, I don’t know for sure if they started the mess that followed, or if they had just the luck or good sense to sniff it out, but somehow they discovered our fearless leader, Ivan, had been upto something. When we attempted to follow him and his minions, we tracked them back to a butchery. I dont know what posessed us to enter, but we did. I did not make a good accounting of myself, as I tried to enter wearing my full suit. I may need to invest in lighter clothing. Something to consider.

Inside though, quickly devolved into the first conflict our ragtag band encountered. I don’t know for sure what had happened, or why the men felt hte need to burn the building, but we initially faced two men. I held my own, striking one lightly, but the elf whose name I can’t pronounce yet, he made these movements. I swear he is posessed by a demon. The silver tongue did well, and the female elf, Kaede, she held her own against one of the men face on. I must say, I am some impressed. The foul smelling dwarf, and the archer, I’m not sure what they were doing this entire time, but at one point, a bird appeared. It practically tore the face off of one, while the dancer near removed the head of the other. It was an impressive confrontation, one I feel that probably I was out of my class within. All of my time on the road, in the wilderness, standing toe to toe with a man who wanted nothing more than to end my life, and still, I find myself a novice in combat. Sometimes I am unclear if this is the life I was truly meant to live.

It ended quickly enough. The man, Ivan, he took to the roof. I dont know what occurred on that roof, but they caught up to him and tied him down. I’ve seen pigged ready for the pit tied looser. I followed the dwarf though. Probably the worst decision of my life. The building was catching fire, and I think i intended to find out why they the place ablaze, but when I got down the stairs, the dwarf was releasing animals. It was a sausage factory, and while the thought to lose my breakfast then and there swirled about, I felt the need to assist the man. The smoke was thick though, after he ran from the place, I attempted to follow suit. There was a table. I remember it, only a little bit, there were papers. I only glimpsed it, but I grabbed them. I remember the echo of a voice. It may have been the dwarf’s.

When I awoke, the digusting dwarf was attempting to mate with me I think. Either that or save my life. Given that I lived, as a building burned down behind us, I have to relent and assume it was the latter. Despite the rough exterior, and that is not an exaggeration, I think the man means well, and for my part, I intend to see that repaid. He’s earned a friend. I remember the guard arriving, asking questions, and then arresting us. I think I said something to our defense, but I dont even recall it.

When I came to, our band of merry men was in custody. A woman though. Oh, what a woman. She had the walk of authority, the grace of tiger, and the air of command. SHe was mysterious. I wasn’t sure if she said something snyde to me, but at some point, I came to, and stopped staring at her. Jamandi Aldori. One of the Swordlords. It had all made sense after that. The Silver tongued one, whose name I still do not know, spoke with her at length. I gathered only pieces, but was glad to know the papers I had procured assisted in whatever their discussion had been. I heard later that IVan had been arrested. Our deal, our pact with the swordlords had been to continue our mission. I argued for better supplies, to which she granted to stipend. I think we needed it. We lost men for our party, so our faculty to better equip ourselves is a welcome one.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I don’t even know that I will see tomorrow’s sunset, but for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel like this is another contract. It feels like the start of something better. The charter has a lot of hope in it. Sometimes I think it bears a weight that can possibly be borne, but on the chance that it does, I welcome it. I hope to someday return to Brevoy, but not before i’ve found whatever it is that is thats out there for me. Perhaps to the company of Jamandi Aldori, or to learn from these swordlords, but if not, perhaps I can find something in these stolen lands. Something I could never find here. Perhaps I can find a home again.

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toreg's journal entry 24 Calistril, 4710 AR

today was another day of trouble for toreg – in order to escape the heat from conrad ashdreger for our disagreements i was forced to join this ridiculous group of women – some may be men – but they have beardless faces smooth as a whetstone – having yet to see their fallocs or any other sign they are men i will go with the assumption they are all women until new information arises – things started to go wrong almost immediately when a drunkard human started to accost me for no reason in the bathhouse the group wanted to attend – why are humans always bathing – their florally smells stings my nostrils and the animals can smell a human coming from miles away – after that fun – the group climbed into the second floor of a burning building – all following an especially creepy woman who gives me the feeling that she is partly undead – at least her eyes are dead – i will need to investigate her further and if needed rid the world of her if she truly is an abomination – despite the madness of e
ntering a burning building i begrudgingly followed as i did not want to explain why i was the only living member of the group only minutes after we were formed – thank goodness i did too – when i arrived there were two men attacking these so called comrades of mine – the sorcerer wench fancies herself a fighter despite her lack of physical prowess and most likely would be dead if i hadn’t summoned my trusty eagle to peck the life out of our assailant – after i single handedly solved that conflict the crazy sorcerer ran off after another man without stopping to heal herself – i was already growing weary of bailing the party out of sticky situations already when i heard the yelps and cries of both cats and dogs coming from the first floor – i went downstairs and found about a dozen animals in cages and immediately began to set them free while the fire raged around me – i probably would have been able to save them all had another weak willed woman – terret – i believe her name was stupi
dly followed me and began choking on smoke and she collapsed to the floor – i helped her instead of saving more of the poor cats – she will pay for her stupidity but not today i decided and dragged her limp body from the fire and provided my excellent first aid – the cats screams while they died will haunt me for sometime but i find some solace in knowing they are now embraced in cold arms of Pharasma who will shepherd them to the astral plane – their pain is over while mine continues – in some ways i am jealous of their shedding their corporal bodies – then as if i hadn’t had enough torture for the day i was dragged away by local law enforcement and charged with arson – all after i save that pitiful woman from certain death – the group probably knowing how important i am to their success came to retrieve me from my shackles and i learned of something quite horrible – the man they dragged in with them – the one the sorcerer blindly chased despite losing quite a bit of blood was proce
ssing and selling dog and cat meat for sale – those poor poor animals had to suffer in cages until they were given over to Pharasma all to fill the bellies of this horrible group of humans and all the other cursed races they have procreated with to make half this and half that – if you needed any further proof of the weakness of humans look no further than the half orc – what being in their right mind would lay with an orc then have and raise its offspring – it should have been cleansed with fire just like the undead they resemble – let Pharasma sort them out – the mead is starting to haze my vision so i will stop writing now and fall into a slumber on the floor of this inn – how i long to sleep under the stars – but humans find that to be odd and will persecute me further if i attempt to do so inside the city limits – soon i will be able to cozy up to my trusty elephant companion warmed by his warmth while cooled by the soil i lie of top of

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Adventure Log for 24 Calistril, 4710 AR
Letters from Sayd

To the esteemed Lady Chelsee Wintermere-Byrne, lately of Kyonin,

Darling halfling, I devoured the first volume of your latest offering, The Hellbrides of Tantalus, in a single rapt sitting, as a man starved. What wonders you weave! That Darkmyr and Lucian could be brothers!? The tragedy is palpable. My concern at who Arielle will choose has me near breathless. I will begin the next volume forthwith. How a doughy faced halfing woman of middle years, bespectacled and frowning, bereft of the lineage she was married and widowed into—or so I imagine you, as we have never met, toiling over your manuscripts in some manner of tree-hut in the woods—should conjure such realistic and passionate erotic scenes is a grand enigma to me, one of life’s wonderful little quirks. Should I ever have the chance to meet you I should be delighted to suck each of your toes in turn and lavish upon you such a spectacle of indecency and lust as even your own vivid imagination might hardly create. Until such time I remain,

Your greatest fan,
Sayd Krynn
Restov, 24 Calistril 4710
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My sweet Ursula,

Your letter found me in quite a thrilling scenario. Before I recount it, let me express how warmly touched I am that you and your husband still write me after so many years apart. As you know it was hardly the first time I have knocked on a stranger’s door whilst soaked to the bone in rain in the pitch of night, but it was certainly the first time that I was fed my free dinner from a trough with a collar round my neck. Such fun we had!

I am now in Restov, Brevoy, a charming little city of chaos, though I leave on the morrow as part of an Expedition of Exploration with five other souls to scour the Good Earth of Evil Doers. It is a job and a purse, but at least has already got me a dinner date with Jamandi Aldori, a prominent and unabashedly gorgeous lord of the city. If you ever come to Restov, you must visit the bathhouse on Howling Road, which includes a tavern and eatery. I have spent the better part of two weeks in there ravishing such comely creatures as even Pitax scant offered, and am the better beast for it.

I was in something of a fight earlier and was quite well stabbed by some slab faced varlet, though I expect the wound to heal. I needn’t frighten you with the riveting details, suffice to say that I have not lost a step. I was delighted to hear that your daughter will be joining the priesthood. I will be sure to congratulate her personally when I am next in Riddleport.

To answer your question about N: I do not pray to her with words, but with my life seek to weave a tapestry of such beautiful ruin that, passing from this world to the next, she might see it and smile.

Your faithful hound (woof!),
Sayd

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