The Rise and Fall of Glamorfell

Kaede's letter to Emiko Lin
Awakening

To Emiko Lin:

Greetings, Honored One—

I apologize for my recent silence, and hope to have not caused anyone needless worry. To confirm for you what your other agents have surmised: I have been able to discover within myself a latent talent for the arcane arts.

As such things often go with me, it began after a vision and a dream. I awoke one day — alone and separated from my traveling companions — with a tiny thrush perched upon my chest. To my surprise, it spoke Tien, albeit somewhat haltingly and without any particular artfulness. It calls itself “Yukimura”, and we communed at length about magic, and how to unlock the use of my arcane talents.

I believe that Yukimura is the reincarnated form of my old master. He denies having ever been an “ornery, wrinkly old sourpuss” as he puts it, but also admits to not having a particularly good memory. Regardless, Yukimura has begun to take upon himself the role of a wise mentor, and even seems to delight in it. It’s unclear if this represents the mists of amnesia clearing away, a clever facade on my master’s part, or just playful thrush mimicry. In any case, I find that my master’s soul reaches out to me less frequently, which has certain… social and diplomatic advantages.

These new arcane powers have come with a significant cost. You may have heard of my prowess as a martial artist; I must admit that I no longer possess the agility or strength that I once had. This isn’t to say that I cannot fight — I’ve retained all of my unarmed combat training, and am more than a martial match for a typical spellcaster — but it does mean that I’ve come to rely on Teret and Walorin to provide what I cannot, while I support their efforts. The old Kaede was a flurry of fists and fury, but also couldn’t make her companions over ten feet tall. On balance, I find it to be a favorable trade.

I will seek out Old Beldame, as you suggested. It is with regret that I must inform you that during my absence, my companions destroyed one of her former residences in ignorance, though thankfully it appears that she was not present at the time. Truly, lawfulness requires constant vigilance in this region of the world. I hope that she doesn’t bear any grudges.

Finally, I will see what aid I can lend Kalkamedes. It seems as though I will be able to convince my companions to accompany me without raising any suspicions about my motivations; some of the others have reason to visit him as well. I will inform you of the results, one way or the other.

As always, I am your faithful servant,

-Kaede

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Sayd's Diary - 21 to 29 Desnus, 4710 AR

21 Desnus
The Stolen Lands, we called them. Just a white emptiness on the map. I walked them in the winter winds, strident, while my companions huddled for warmth. I walk them as the earth pushes forth shoots, as brambles snake out into light, as flowers bloom. It was just another job to keep the wine pouring, I thought. I have rushed headlong towards death since I was but a child. Though my line on the map has meandered, my path through time has been arrow straight. This time I missed the mark.

I do not think the world a just place, though I bear no umbrage towards justice. If a man wishes to live in peace, he should keep his hand on the plow reins, not the sword. Oft have I dismissed my fortune as little more than the fall of dice. When one plays the game, he had best know the stakes.

Yet all now stands changed. I have been no stranger to violence, nor violence to me, and, fearing not the consequence, have made bedfellows of bedlam my whole life through. Why am I now so terrified? I thought myself a foregone tale, born of darkness and bound to it in the grave. Now I know that is not so, that I escaped that fate as a babe. My life seems such a fragile thing, a feather borne on the wind. I know not what to do with this feeling but commit it to ink, and hope it remains here only, drying on the page.

25 Desnus
My strength returns. Bokken came back to the hut to find me doing pull-ups from a tree branch. Still, it may be long months before I am the athlete that I was. My sword swings are incredibly clumsy, so much so that I would not trust myself to duel. The dagger is more manageable. I fear to return to Oleg’s in this state. Kesten Garess could kill me easily, and has more cause then ever since I struck him. This last week has seemed unreal. Bokken is the only collaborator who can assure me that Phoebe, that beautiful, childlike creature, was not the figment of my overthrown mind. She is gone, and yet she could be anyone. She wears a thousand faces, each of them calling me onward.

29 Desnus
I believe I am closing in on my friends. Riding alone through the wilds has been difficult but rewarding. I shared my lunch with a friendly dog at a brook’s edge, today. The babbling water recalled something sweet and far away. I left the sword behind, and my armor. I could not make use of them like this. I travel light, dagger on my hip and in my boot. Bread slathered in honey and cool milk. Despite Phoebe’s urgings, I feel less need now then ever to revenge myself upon the Stag Lord. I want to feel the warm sun on my face and drink the wind as it blows across the fragrant grass. There is a majesty to coming so close to death. You can see every drop of dew. I know the feeling will fade, but like a drug, I am taking my fill of it.

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Phoebe Kissingdeath's Diary

Date Unwritten

Perhaps I have gone too far. The Osirian—a pathfinder, I thought—seems hardly worth my time. Still, it is the goddesses will that any slight be repaid a thousand fold. He deigned to call me a cow when we bumped in the street, even though it was his error. He should take his eyes of his compass when he walks the thoroughfare. His look of disgust at my buxom cheeks, the ripples of welcoming fat undulating under my sheer chemise, deserves an answer.

I wore the guise of Curva at the time, of course. She has been my favorite of late, with her silken blonde curls and heavy eye shadow. This ring has given me endless pleasures. When I found it lying half covered in autumn leaves last year I knew immediately what my lady wanted me to do with it.

Date Unwritten

The Osirian is dead. ‘Twas a harsh punishment, to be sure. I meant only to lure him on with the aspect of a nymph, far out into the snow, and leave him stripped to find his way back. Perhaps frostbite would have taken a toe, or aught else! I did not expect those men to spring from the path and waylay him with steel invitations. I made a quick exit. What’s done is done.

Date Unwritten

I know not why I have lingered in these parts. I briefly stayed at an old outpost wearing the trappings of an old wise woman, and was greeted most warmly by my hostess, Svetlana. It did not take long to ferret out her desires. I told her of the moon radish, which is known to grow in these parts. I hope Calistria blesses her with a child, for hers is a kind and loving soul.

Date Unwritten

The fey are in an uproar. I hear whispers as I walk, talk of dark tidings. I saw something while bathing invisibly in a hot spring today. A troop of mites passed nearby, and their leader, a twisted little fruit, rode upon a creature I never thought to know. I remember seeing depictions of him when I stayed in Kyonin, the stylized drawings a perfect caricature. Tickleback, his name is called in the common tongue. The elves called him Mahgretaan. He is a creature of the First World, the bane of the Gnarlmarches for long centuries, as I heard it. His kiss is death. He was a wonder to behold.

Date Unwritten

It all makes sense now. I know why I have wandered these rolling hills, chasing dreams and shadows. ’Twas the will of Calistria. There is an outsider nearby, a dark mirror of me, and he burns for revenge. I can feel his fire, but I must find him before it goes out.

Date Unwritten

He has the blood of succubi pumping through his heart, like I have the blood of lyrakien flowing through mine. His face was angelic as he lay dying. I found him “resting” in an alchemist’s hut, mere days from complete collapse. He spoke haltingly, whisperingly, of how he and his friends had stormed the Great Oak and unseated Grabbles, the mite king. This was the very creature I saw in the company of Mahgretaan. The bloated ancient bit him, he said. I told him to close his eyes, and in his ear I whispered words of salvation, and kissed him. I asked him what his name was.

“Sayd Krynn,” he said weakly. I could not help but giggle.

“That is not a name,” I said. “They are just words in the abyssal tongue. Sayd Krynn means blonde baby.”

“So it does,” he said, and fell to slumber.

Date Unwritten

My magic has failed me and I do not know why. The sickness remains. The venom of Mahgretaan lives up to its legend. That he has not perished is sheer miracle, though he has an audacity to live that few mortals could match. I have communed with scholars in Elysium, and they are suggesting certain formulae for the alchemist to concoct. I am pushing Bokken and his laboratory to the limit with this, but he seems happy to help. I think his mind is gone.

Date Unwritten

He lives in twilight. He is not really here, but still speaks. His tale is full of such wonders that no sane being would believe it, but I know it is true. He tells of how he was born from a gnoll, a high priestess of Lamashtu, as some sort of revenge for offending Nocticula; how he quickly passed into the hands of a paladin, who had not the heart to slay him; how he was raised in a secret city of witches; how as a boy he was borne out of the sea on the back of a whale when his ship wrecked, killing all the others; how he was rescued in Kaer Maga by a dhampir sellsword who taught him the blade, and so much more. He thinks that he is in Absalom, that I am some other priestess, that we are lovers. He told me his true name.

Date Unwritten

He is strong enough to eat today. He will recover. I realized that I have appeared to him and to Bokken without disguise. They see my true form: halfling-slight, jewel toned hair, radiant eyes, a child of Elysium. He is fascinated by me. Could it be that in all his travels he has not met another like him? We spoke quite frankly for hours. I described to him what would become of his soul when his mortal form passed, how it would be ripped apart in the abyss to birth new incubi, how Nocticula only cares for cruelty. I laid his head on my lap and told him tales of Calistria that I learned at the feet of the masters. How her exploits, though violent and cruel, always began with a seed of pleasure and amusement, not sadism and hatred. He is deadly fearful to abandon his goddess for a new one. Nocticula gave him life.

“She has not forgotten me,” he says, looking emotional for the first time. “She would never forgive my betrayal.”

“Nocticula is a toothless bitch,” I say evenly. “She eats scraps from my lady’s table. I have communed with sages from the outer planes, beings whose vision reaches far and farther. Do you not know who saved you on the night of your birth? ‘Twas worshipers of Calistria who stormed the ruined fane where Nocticula’s ritual lay in wait. You were born from Ashgrazaa the Jackal, high priestess of Lamashtu, and held before her as the ultimate indignity and testament to her failure—the goddess of fertility could not even pop the right monster out of her own servant. Then Ashgrazaa was impaled. You were probably meant to be the main course for the celebratory feast. You were a prop. The only reason you live is because a priest, Coradd Raventress, plucked your crying body from the floor when the bloodshed was done and felt pity for you. Do you not remember the wasp broach he wore? Did you not speak of it in your illness?”

His mouth hangs agape.

“That is what the sages say,” I finish. “Twas not Nocticula who has given you your charmed life, Sayd Krynn. Calistria has brought you through the fire time and again. Am I not here at the very hour of your demise to blow life into body again? And who has sent me?”

“But—why?” he says, astonished.

“Because you are beautiful to her,” I say.

Date Unwritten

I am off again, out of this strange land. Spring has arrived. Sayd will never be the man he was. Mahgretaan’s venom should have killed him. He is weaker now. He is sluggish. His body has forgotten some of its athleticism, his hand some of its skill with the blade. But he will live. He will live to take his revenge.

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The 2nd Desnus, 4710 AR
The Diary of Teret Feron

At last, we return to Oleg’s. At once, and almost always now, everything feels forever from here, and forever past. Since the last time I have written in here, much traveling has occurred, thankfully, with little strife. To whomever reads this, with some luck, an offspring of mine, but most likely, an adventurer much alike myself, best you take upon yourself a hobby. I have found the long days, keeping a vigilant eye is more tiring than most anything. The inability to relax, to stop and just let the soreness soak away from you, oh how I miss it. There isnt an ounce of me that wouldn’t gut a Lebeda were one to set foot before me, but I will readily admit I miss how they spoiled their “favored sons”. Back to what I was saying, Adventurer, take what solace you can, because even here, even now, I am not so sure as to my safety. It’s quiet enough, and most nights here I sleep soundly, but always I feel as though there is a knife to my back. Hidden somewhere in the shadows. In truth, it may well just be the ordeals of recent, the sights. So much not of the normal planar of being.

I suppose the best place to start is upon our dealings with the Kobolds. I believe we maintain a mutual understanding with them of the benefits of co-existence. I believe the two of their number that have travelled with us, are more friendly than their peers, but I doubt the least of which that they would put a knife in my back if their king demanded it. The Soot Scales. What an interesting group they are. We recently bested their spiritual leader, a being who conjured an eidolon to do his dirty work. Turns out he wasn’t even one of them. We recovered what looks to be his personal journal, though i’ve only read some bits of it. I like to think of myself as a learned man, even having some level of skill with linguistics, but even some of this is a stretch for my faculties. Still, we have much to gain from the kobolds, and they us, so we shall keep to it. Naturally, being the good folks that we are, we accepted yet another charge from another party to set about some task. This time fetching a crown. This feels like another despot seeking legitimacy, except that Chief Sootscale was the one to cast down the diol, sparking the revolution within their mine. It was sort of inspiring. I do not yet know where or what we have ahead of us in this.

Once we left there, we followed the river lengthwise twice. Once again, our epicene friend was adventuring beyond his means. It appears he suffered to some extent, a wound which imparted a poison within his veins. Naturally, he decided to imbibe some of the -what I took as some sort of delicious treat, but I believe now to be something far different - sample powder the Kobolds had provided. I do not know with any certainty that it proved to solve his ailments, but his unnatural state after taking it within him, marks it likely best for carousing. Still, he is well again, which was fortuitous for us.

Not long after we crossed the Shrike river, or perhaps it was long, it melds together to me, we happened upon a hut. To this moment, I think there was much more to learn there, perhaps something we should have sought, but its a fleeting thought, as a piece of ash upon the wind. After battling the baffling animation of a giant pot, which, for the record, swallowed Walorin without flinching, we managed to set the place ablaze. What secrets that place held, and whether they should be spoken of here, I do not know. Perhaps when we have more time, we will journey south there. We will need to find some way to construct bridges. Perhaps I can see about acquiring some knowledge from the Carpenter that expeditiously appeared. Something about them bites at me, but I think I am chasing shadows there too. So little trust, real trust, not trust of requirement, exists here. That’s Kestern’s problem though. Kestern. That man is an adulterer, but I think, it feels anyway, like this man possess a character that overshadows that. Maybe the man just uses his overbearing nature to shed something of his past. A Garess to the core, stubborn as a dwarf upon a rock.

Returning to our journey though, after violating the property of The Olde Beldame as Yelenya named it or mentioned. It does not sound promising to potentially earn the ire of any property owner, let alone one known as Olde. It implies living long enough to be known well enough as surviving to reach Aged. That wasn’t the strangest, speaking of Yelenya. She stated she wasn’t human. Though she claimed to have said it before, this is slightly unsettling. What IS she? To my mind, it explains things that never quite added up, but at the once, it levels a layer of mistrust upon her. I may hold things back about my past, but my nature is as plain a Iomaede’s justice. It’s there for the viewing, and I make no remorse about it. Hiding your nature to me, is distrustful, but I can look past it for now. She is a valued member of our Spirited group. I have yet to formulate an appropriate way to ask that nagging question. It harkens along with asking her a count of her years. I’ve learned one too many slaps to have forgotten the dangers in asking that.

And then there’s the ghoul. Davik Nettles. I think there is something written around here about him. How maybe we were supposed to negotiate with him? That fiasco. First, the ghoul emerges forth from the depths of this raging river to confront us, mumbling. We agree to its task, one I still don’t actually know, but at least diplomacy won out on that one. Then, Sayd, the adventurous one, bursts forth across the only rope remaining of what must have been Davik’s crossing. I don’t know what was thought here, but leaving behind all of our possessions and transportation seemed unwise. I guess that sums him up pretty well overall. He is surprisingly well equipped with the silver tongue, but appears to have lead within that cavern when it comes to forethought. Alas, each of us is a piece to the whole, a cog in a mechanism that shudders forth. I feel more directionless of late than ever.

So be it, as we used to say in the Lebeda regulars, “Onward we go, its death we face, leave the grace to those, with plenty to waste.” I have managed to finish this poor excuse for ale, and desire enough. Perhaps I will continue writing when I am clearer of thought and more to say on the matter. Perhaps I will go find Sasha and continue our discussion on metal working. She is surprisingly limber…

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Walorin
Journal Entry 2

By Caiden’s ticklish testicles- we done jumped out of the fryin pan and into that fire!

After a long day of escapin’ and all manner of other physical endeavors we thought we might rest up for the night. Before anything much else happened these nice folk had me put my mark on some kinda document. The intent of which was to bind me to this group and attemptin to set straight this crooked land.

Seein’ as i’m the new blood here they put me on first watch- prolly more to keep an eye on me, than out of concern for my natural sleepin cycle. And wouldn’tcha know it, we was ambushed by some screamin’ Amos – running near-nekkid through our camp, wild-eyed and bushy-haired like some kinda coked up squirrel. Now, I don’t know how- but that scrawny bender had managed to grab the attention, and somehow not got eaten by, a band of hungry wolves.

needless to say we had to save that fools scrawny ass- and save it we did! anyhow, as things seem to do, it all ended with everyone chatting away like it weren’t no thing. including one of the wolves.

the next morning we headed off to the kobold karvernz. I spent a good amount of time talkin with the scrappy one, map-pick? matchstick? somethin like that. sharing some of the local food.

Sayd was talkin’ to the big’un about th’current leadership in the karvernz, and its a good thing he did, since the more they talked, the more it seemed like a bad situation. and as such, once we arrived, it seemed like barely 10 minutes before we got into it with the so-called shaman. Sayd fired up or scared off most of the reglar lizards, and we all had a little part in trying to convince em that fighting us would be a negative experience. in the end though, who should arrive but old sharptooth himself and started chewin on my newfound friendlings. I had no choice but to usher him down a long aisle of hurt. while I was busy whoopin’ that stoney goliath- well long story short, the bad guy got away, but not before makin us genuine celebrities around these parts. They was even kind enough to gift us with some right kindly gifts!

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The 13th Gozran, 4710 AR
Diary of Teret Feron

Now, as the sun sets on another day amongst our party, I am taking the moment to write of our experiences. I do not know that anyone will ever read this save me, but should we not escape by the skin of our teeth this next time, perhaps this will serve as our final countenance.

In truth, i’m not sure I know how we survived. After we took shelter within the belly of -these, mites, these little creatures- their nest, I was convinced we were simply setting ourselves up for a death we didn’t see coming. Their king, apparently these being live under a monarchy as well, he called himself Gravels, I think. He spoke with such a shrill voice, he was nearly grated enough to want to navigate the chasm that had separated us and squeeze his little neck.

Unfortunately for us, I believe our task of taking back the Kobolds god, Sharptooth, enraged him, and set him upon the same task, only much more effectively. I think perhaps there could have been some other route for us, but for the arrow that was loosed at them. That seemed to settle all discussions right there.

What followed was a whirlwind of activity. My head still has trouble comprehending it. We fled at that point. He had snuck into the lair of these little creetins, I don’t know, two levels below. They were caverns, but on a miniature scale. Most of us had to duck down to some extent to move about. The climbs though, that, I wont forget. Attempting to ascend, with my armor being what it is, my gear, was a challenge. Our youngest member, sweet Ellisa, she fled the fastest, she made the climb the way I would expect the elf to, Kaede. The one that is still here anyway. One of them deserted in the night. No, our cleric, blessed though she be, fled up into the tunnels. I pursued as best I could, and I do remember, there was a mite, larger than the rest. He held his sword the way the other fighter does. It was probably considered a greatsword by their measure, but really about a longsword’s length for us. He cleaved the elf, before I could intervene. Thankfully, he was larger than the others, but measured no greater in skill, for I returned his favor unto him. From there, it was a flurry of melee. Blood flowed freely on all sides as we escaped. I took, and still feel the effects of, a bite from more than one of their creatures. They looked to be a centipede, but after the first we faced, the giant monolithic one, I am unsure I wish to see another so long as I live. At one point, another mite, one who looked different, — I would even wager one of their females — stepped forth and we took her down as well. She bore quite a bit of strange materials. Enough strangeness that I sought to drag its corpse from the warrens with us as we fled. As one might expect, bearing my armor as I do, I was the last to successfully flee their caverns. One by one, we encircled what we believed to be the only way out. We were quite wrong.

We had really kicked the hornets nest on this however, as we stop atop the, the tree seemed to come to life. The Sycamore that we had sought, believing it to be a treasure trove, turned against us. We suddenly found ourselves caught by some unnatural force. Once again, our party stood undecided on how best to proceed. Some protested we should flee, others that we had the upper hand. With what little information we had, I stood upon the side that maximized our chances of what we knew. I stood my ground upon the top of that hole.

The mites though, we underestimated. They began to appear from the ground. Secret tunnels or some other type of defense. Well executed. Something I shall remember, should it be necessary. As brutal as the melee had been below, we had more options of movement within the sun, but it did not relent then. The Mite King again, upon that wretched beast he rode, appeared, issuing challenges. I don’t know if these words spoke inspired our two kobold friends, but they began to tear into their lines with a ferocity I have yet to seen in such small creatures. It was almost admirable if it hadn’t been foolish. Their King, Gravels? Grabbles? I still do not recall, showed some tactical prowess when he charged into the midst of our party, taking the androgynous one down. Sayd, he calls himself.Most everyone stood their ground. The man we freed, Waloran, proved his skill on that field, felling more than a few of the little rodents. All that rose before us, fell before us, save the king. His ride provided the needed movement off the field of battle. I am sure he will bring more of his little minions to bear. Perhaps, if the time is right, I can equal the battlefield. Silverwind would make as fine combat steed. Perhaps we should see about that when next we arrive at Oleg’s. So many things to learn from this ordeal, so many things to wrap the mind around. Never in my travels have I encountered things such as these, and I am sure I shall see worse before our charter is out.

Regarding Walorin. I think we should keep him. He has a warriors mettle, and it would be nice to have another man to speak plainly with. One who knows the soldiering way, not these scoundrels. Who knows, its too soon to tell if I am mistaken about him as well. I am getting tired. I should rest. We lived another day, perhaps I can survive the night too.

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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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