The Lance of Marduk

The Princess Diaries

I was expecting Phenex to rouse me for my shift any minute. I take the midnight guard shift; neither side of the night offers a sound rest. That would be no different if my sleep were to span these hours uninterrupted. Instead of her gentle caress, I awoke to the snarl of a hobgoblin and blades clashing before me as one of the dungeon’s patrol troops descending upon us. More than a little frazzled, I stood, readied my weapon, and prepared for a beating.

They had us choked inside the chamber where we had sought to conceal ourselves for the night. A few leapt in to begin skirmishing while others held back to fire at us. Then their mage locked eyes with me. I’ve no idea with what might he assaulted me, but I felt utterly violated. But the next instant when it broke, my stomach lurched violently: Phalanx had jumped in to take the onslaught.

I’d sooner be torn apart by a thousand aggressors than throw another of my dear companions in the way to save myself again. Please, noble protector, let my body be torn to shreds before stabbing through my heart once more. Sword, arrow, and spell unleashed upon our Phalanx while he resolutely accepted each and every one to shield us.

I don’t remember what happened, but it didn’t go well. At some point in there, the mage blasted us all. I fell. Of course I saw Trestin again.

Trestin, do you still know me, still remember yourself? Your words haunt me. Your silver eyes lacked the luster that always reminded of your shining brilliance. Your glassy eyes reflected back at me my desperate face frozen in time. Your grey eyes offered no hint of warmth. Your blank eyes simply gazed onwards, into the looming void, past me. But this time you spoke. “Stand. I have something to tell you, but you’re not yet ready.” And then only silence, reverberating with that disapproving, empty stare. Why, why not, why can’t I know? You and I both stood for that, adamantly, that the truth might not be hidden from any who seek it. Am I that despicable that I’ve lost the right to our fundamental values?
It felt as though steel wool raked forcefully across my flesh.

Bjorn once more, however clumsily, managed to save my life. I deserve nothing more than this crude, battering care. Shortly after, I came to and the fight was almost over. That is, both our enemies and ourselves were near death. Phenex, Bjorn, and Phalanx all fell. Sydienne and I were left to keep our companions alive and keep ourselves from dying. I raised Phalanx, as Bjorn and Phenex got nearer to death. I ordered Syd to revive Phenex, while I returned the favor to Bjorn. I still stand in his debt, him having saved me twice now. At last, the patrol fell, and I collapsed immediately, missing my watch shift. My debt only seems to grow more extensive.

The next morning, we explored the passages Gruck had lead us past. We happened upon a chamber with a number of statues: a golem in the center whose extensive reach we simply had to evade and two dragon statues with blasting traps in the main chamber, and four cherubs with buckets crowding the exit. I was commanded not to investigate as I pleased. My companions refused to look within this exit chamber, believing there to be a proximity trap which would be activated by stepping in the wrong spot. I had to leap past Bjorn to attempt any form of investigation while he and Phalanx stood smashing the statues on the end. When no traps triggered, Phenex and Sydienne hesitantly followed me into the chamber.

The door wouldn’t open, even when I gave it my all. There had to be some trigger going along with the statues. Water runes were carved inside the cherubs’ buckets, but no one seemed to appreciate my idea that we pour water into them. I decided to reach into one of them and see if I’d find any indication of how to open the door. It turned out the proximity trigger was just where my hand landed.

A force field of sorts locked Bjorn and Phalanx outside, trapping Sydienne, Phenex, and myself in with the statues as the chamber filled with water. Thankfully, none of them seemed to notice that it had in fact been me to activate the trap after all – or at least, they didn’t lather me with blame. Smashing the statues seemed to be the only thing left we could do, though it still appalls me that the door was meant to be opened by such barbaric means. As I destroyed the last one, the water drained and the door opened.

We walked through to find a horde of undead. A ghoul and a homunculus made it a noteworthy army, but all were destroyed soon enough. It did last long enough for me to regret my actions. Phenex was viciously assaulted by the ghoul and near collapsing, and I chose to let loose my wrath rather than performing my duties. She remained in pain and fell almost immediately after. I revived her, but she suffered needlessly.
Phenex was right: I keep putting my companions in needless danger. Maybe they’re better without me. I’m sorry.

I stand here claiming once more to be repentant for the sins I commit again and again.
I hope my party haven’t noticed a change in my prayers. I no longer feel the presence of Pelor. I appeal only to Ioun as of late, and I dread the day when she no longer responds.
I don’t want my entire world to thrust me out…

Not Fun
Sydienne Terragon

For me, today was a quest failed. Descending further into the Keep, we were greeted by a horde of Hobgoblins. I, for most obvious of reasons, was confined to the back. However, I managed to do the best I could and enchilada’d one of the Hobgoblins, granting Phalanx a turn to heal. Just as suddenly, a dire-spider broke the Hobgoblin’s ranks. Bjorn, reacting quickly, broke one of its legs – literally. In an attempt to impress these new friends, I shifted into fox form and attacked the eight-legged beast. The spider promptly bit me and knocked me down. Ah, well… Somehow I was able to get back to my paws and make my fourth kill. In the meantime, Phenex was busy making one of the Hobgoblins her bitch. Aryawwn was very much unhappy. I am quite aware that she wants to be Phenex’s bitch – or so I gather – but I honestly don’t think a Hobgoblin is much competition… After she had finished threatening her almost lover, I noticed her curiosity in the side corridors. Truthfully curious myself, I took this as an opportunity for small talk. I attempted this twice; my attempts were fruitless – I’m pretty sure I creeped her out… Phenex’s bitch led us further down into the Keep. This did not give me a good feeling. In fact, I felt rather uncomfortable when first we spoke to him. Shortly after we entered the crypt of Sir Keegan’s family, the worst happened: I and Phenex became entrapped in a gelatinous cube… Wonderful. She was able to escape, but apparently found my company more agreeable than her more familiar companions’. Though extended periods of time usually do not faze me (half-elf), I was truly bothered. Firstly, I easily should have spotted the trap. Secondly, I wanted to slaughter the wretch that led us here. Finally I evaded the annoyance. By that time, most of the enjoyment was over. There will be other small battles, I suppose, but I have yet to be of actual help to this group. Shamefully, I followed the others to the reward in the side room. Phalanx took for himself an enchanted amulet. His glowing smile brought my spirits up a little, and I made a small smirk at his happiness. Thus the day was ended and we decided to take a rest. I read Father’s letter once more before laying myself down… I will not forget. These trivial trials will end soon, and sure enough, we will be headed out on my quest for vengeance. I just need to convince everyone of my trust and worthiness… Enough for today.
Green glades & golden grains,
Sydienne ~

The Time of Cool Winds - Interjection II
Sigurd Fearstone

The past two days have not left me with much time to write. Father has not sent us much about his whereabouts. I’ve been asked by a group of avengers taking refuge in Bern after their last base was destroyed if I wanted to take up their arts. They were observing me during my training under Irir and have deemed me worthy of joining their ranks. I did want to join. They completed the necessary procedures with Elder Tirado – I’m an initiate now.
They follow different deities, but have banded together – they seem rather tightly knit. I begin training tomorrow.

The Time of Cool Winds - Part Eleven
Thoughts, Ruminations, and Old Stories

We awoke this morning expecting to reach the root of the issue of our adventure, and that was, as always, far from the case.
We proceeded to make our way further down the keep. We were greeted with the sight of Hobgoblins, and they quickly prompted us with a call sign. We answered incorrectly. I thought that was the case – the response we found with Ninirin sounded a bit odd. They proceeded to charge us, blocking our advances from the staircase. They swung at Bjorn and I wildly as Phenex, Aryawwn, and Sydienne pelted the rallying hobgoblins from afar. The hobgoblins were unfazed and linked shields with each other, a phalanx. A clean one, these hobgoblins knew what they were doing. They began to take advantage of the wall they forged, and began attacking us with flails. They swung so often that I could hardly get a counterblow in, but there was a moment of weakness as one of bastards so weakly swung that I caught the flail and ripped it out of his hand – a short sword was promptly drawn. They may have trained to use a phalanx but they have no idea what a Phalanx is capable of. Formation broke, and a large spider charged at Bjorn. The bugger snapped at Bjorn and brought him to his knees, choking on the venom. Time seemed to pause for a second and saw Bjorn take a quick swig of a potion, he was back on his feet swinging away at everything that exists. We slowly advanced, removing the rubbish from the wayside gradually. I managed to fell the spider, the eight-legged bastard lost a leg earlier, and I took the remaining seven and his head. Phenex charged from behind us and slashed away at the rubbish as well. She managed to kick one of them into a nearby well during this fight. We promptly cleaned up the rest of the battle, and captured the fallen minion in the well.. He was named Gruck., a coward by hobgoblin standards – I required almost no effort intimidating him.. He lead us to the tomb of Ser Keegan’s family.

It was old, yet not so dusty. Something felt off. Aryawwn, Bjorn, and I began consecrating the burial sites – the dead do not like to stay dead around us. Bjorn finished one and the other two burst open, revealing the children of Keegan. A rather sad twist as the Keegan line had been corrupted as far as I know; Bahamut granted me the strength for this encounter. I swear I could have heard “roll for initiative” but I must have been hallucinating for a second. We managed to dispose of one as Gruck began cackling madly – I turned around and he only needed to seee my eyes. He immediately quieted down, but still cried out “We shall perish together!” A Gelatineous Cube shimmered into view – Sydienne and Phenex were engulfed, and our attention suddenly became divided. Aryawwn and Bjorn handled the remaining Keegan as I shifted my attention to help our suspended allies. Phenex managed to break out, but Sydienne was not as lucky. I challenged the Cube, right after stabbing the cackling Gruck in the throat – I cannot focus on something else when there is a cackling idiot next to me. I breathed acid at the Cube, to no avail. Following that, the Cube retaliated against me. I never knew a block of gelatin would hurt so much. We then proceeded to the old stand-by, swing at the thing until it dies. Phenex entered and exited the cube at regular intervals during this time and Sydienne finally managed to break out of the ooze.. The cube was slain at last with a radiant cut with my blade. A nearby room held a chest – an old symbol appeared to be carved in it. It looked like a symbol of Bahamut, which makes sense considering Ser Keegan’s armor. Inside the chest itself were several belongings to the Keegans and a strange amulet, it had a light enchantment on it – everyone said it was fine for me to have it. I found myself smiling after the whole ordeal wrapped up. I saw that everyone else was in high spirits as well. I will say that this is the most enjoyment that I’ve had in a long time. Our wounds are patched up, and we are taking a short rest before resuming our romp through this keep of horrors.
I’ve begun to move on from your death, Perth. I’m beginning to fully enjoy living again. I’ll fight to live all the more for it – I’ll live for your sake as well. Here’s another round to your life and the life I will find for myself in the future.
I honestly think that we are getting closer to our goal of killing Kalarel, the bastard. Let’s just hope things turn out as well as they have been for now.

Entry Nine
A Tiefling's Story

I made a terrible mistake today… I almost got myself and my comrades killed; all because I wanted to take pity on my foe, all because I didn’t want to be as bad as he… This demands further explanation of course. I cooked breakfast in the morning as usual, now I’m glad my father taught me how to cook when I was younger. I could see the smiles on my comrades’ faces, except Aryawwn. I feel so bad for what I had done to her yesterday. I never meant to hurt her, neither physically nor emotionally. I overreacted and I wished I had the courage to tell her that I was sorry. I decided last night that I’d leave her be, I’d let her make her own choices for they were not mine to make for her, she is the captain of her life and I mustn’t beguile her. I’m sorry I’ve been awful little one… I hope you do not see me as the monster so many others do, I only did it because I love you… soon I will not be your problem and you may choose as you please and I will not get in your way. I do not know where you will go after we stop these men, nor do I know the paths of Bjorn or Syd. Luckily I will still have Phalanx with me once we all leave Winterhaven and go our own ways. I will leave you alone little one…
We headed further into the keep soon afterward, soon facing a horde of Hobgoblins. The Hobgoblin is the smartest and most skilled of all the members of the genus Cobolorumi, far more powerful than their kin such as Goblins or Bugbears, but not as powerful as the Ogre, yet still far more intelligent than any other, this is what makes them dangerous. We were trapped on the stairway as the Hobgoblins formed a phalanx at the base. I was unable to strike them so a shot at them with my crossbow, not my best weapon, in fact it is my worst, yet I still managed to hit things, including a gargantuan spider which was dispatched by Phalanx. I succeeded in kicking one of the Hobgoblins into a well before we slaughtered his comrades. A task I still feel none too proud of… but I’ll get back to that. I conversed with the Hobgoblin, who was named Gruck, in his native tongue, the dwarf constantly asked questions, I gave… adequate responses (?). I offered to spare his life and even free him if he took us to the Necromancer, but I had him on a tight leash. That’s when I felt it, a blade to my throat, not Gruck’s, but Aryawwn’s.
This caught me off guard… she didn’t want to take a prisoner, I didn’t want to take a life which I didn’t need to take… dear girl am I but a monster to you? I do not know what her past with captive was like, but I am inclined to show my foes mercy if they are inclined to yield. This went for the Kobold back on the path to Winterhaven… I didn’t want to kill him. I do not wish to be judge or jury, let alone an executioner, the business is sickening. I wish we could push them as any would be… taken to a court for their crimes and imprisoned upon decree of guilt. But no… we give the wizard a prison sentence, only kill him after he takes two lives. I’ve seen countless humans, elves, dwarves, and other races thrown in prisons for the same crimes as the Kobolds, Orcs, and Goblins. But when these races commit atrocities they are put down like dogs… because the “civilized” people don’t see them as people, they see them as monsters. Why are they called monsters? They live on the fringes of societies they hunt, kill, and steal to make a living and any opportunity which may grant them a more secure life they leap at, but such is only offered by the foulest of the “civilized” races. I’ve seen it in Greymont, these races can learn and live like the “civilized” ones, but they are outcast and forced down the darker roads for people see them as nothing more than the beasts of the field. If a human or elf robbed a man and left him dead in the street the killer would be arrested. Had it been a Goblin or a Kobold, they’d slay the little bastard, not a second thought crossing their minds. Don’t think I don’t know what would befall me if I were to do the same… I wouldn’t have a human’s luxury…
I moved quick enough to pull the dagger away from my throat and rip it from Aryawwn’s hand. After Bjorn tied Gruck’s hands I returned the dagger to Aryawwn… I didn’t know what to say… I didn’t say anything. But I could see it in her eyes, the same rage she saw in mine after the incident on the road, only then it was directed at the wizard… I know that look… betrayal…
Gruck led us to the tomb of the Keegan family, but it was a trap. Two of the Keegan’s busted from the stone and attacked Aryawwn and Phalanx. Gruck tried to escape, but I knocked him to the floor, but before I could act it was upon us: The Gelatinous Cube. Syd and I were trapped with it and I could feel the burning as the microbes ate away at my skin. I busted out but Syd was still trapped within, Gruck was laughing, he knocked Aryawwn prone, and he laughed… I struck at him but missed as he rolled away, only to be struck by Phalanx’s blade. The cube took the fight out of us, but we managed to slay it and Syd managed to escape and dish out the pain as well. I do enjoy her company. We all found a chest, which I was worried was actually a mimic, foul beasts, but luckily it was just a chest, Phalanx got an amulet, he seems to love it. He smiled a most contagious smile. I feel Phalanx has it figured out… his experience is far more recent than Aryawwn or I’s, yet he stays happy, he doesn’t let his past consume him. I guess it is a wisdom that comes with age. I smiled and turned to Aryawwn, but I couldn’t read her… dear girl I know you will leave me, but do not leave sour… please do not be scared of me… please do not hate me… I could take goodbye… but not that… not again…
~Phenex Bat-Laylah

The Princess Diaries

Phalanx stopped the pounding in my head.
We came across a squad of hobgoblins down below. Hobgoblins operate under a militaristic society, highly capable of strategy and unfalteringly resolved to their one duty. My companions fail to understand this, twofold. When they couldn’t hit the horde as reliably as usual, Bjorn proposed that we opt to surrender as a means to progress. I swear, at this my eyes just flared. Whatever cures were in place, my head utterly burned. Bloody fucking hell, damn my soul if I ever surrender, even consider resigning when my moral ground stands so resolutely opposed to my opponent, when I know their purpose must be stopped, when my heart is in it, if I back away.

I’ll swear by anything, home is not where the heart is.

When we finally whittled them down, Phenex insisted upon “rescuing” one of their kind she kicked down a well mid-fight. No. Throbbing once more. I held a dagger to her throat, making clear that her rescue was not an option, but she twisted my wrist around and threw me off. She took him prisoner. I may not agree with their cause, but I will never take someone a prisoner in their own home. We were the intruders. He need not be the leak for all his people. It’s a cruel choice to suggest that he either die right then and there or sacrifice all he’s ever stood loyal to. Not only that: it’s a wrong decision to offer. How could anyone so integrally a part of the group willingly betray their home, ostracize themselves from their people and forever join the enemy, unwelcome in hostile territory, wanted dead among former friends?

Only if they never truly belonged.

He wouldn’t. Militaristic, united, determined: a hobgoblin minion won’t betray the hive. I knew he was leading us into a trap, I just couldn’t see which. He led us to the tomb of the Keegans.

In this keep overrun by the undead made puppets of this dark cult, Bjorn consecrated the remains of Lady Keegan in an effort to preserve her virtue. Phalanx and I attempted to do likewise for their two children, but before we could proceed, the caskets flung open and zombies sprung out. Remembering our exchanges with Sir Keegan, my heart ached to see this fate befall his own children. Faithful servants of Bahamut, thrown into the grasp of Orcus, souls torn away from their family, perhaps never to rest soundly. Ours is a cruel world.

Gruck writhed on the floor, cackling maniacally, howling that he’d go down with us, then knocking me to the floor. A giant jelly materialized out of nowhere and engulfed Phenex and Sydienne. That ooze, that prison, everything about it shrieked to stay away. Sydienne, for the longest time remained trapped inside, while Phenex kept escaping, only to fall back into its grasp. One of our sirs killed Gruck shortly after the monstrosity descended upon us. I wanted to rescue dear Blessing, but first came Ceinwein. Then, I was prepared to reach in, give her my last, and die for her. I don’t know how I could still love her. She leapt out. It never came at me. It died then.

I’m sorry, Gruck.
May this quest not desecrate all my values.

Strange Beginnings
Sydienne Terragon

I had been in fox form for about a week on my journey. I grew tired and craved the comforts of man. ‘Twas in a tavern that I decided to rest. A strange dragonborn with a strange accent invited me to his party. Strange, but kind. I accepted his offer to join them, but rejected his offer for a drink. My father… No, the man who raised me… I just needed some rest. The next afternoon, I had a peculiar and intense craving for bear meat, so I enchilada’d one for my new mates on the way to the Keep. I spent most of my time confused and insecure – these companions were very familiar with each other, and I was the newcomer – yet I believe I impressed them with my skills. Actually, I gave them quite the surprise when we first entered. As they debated over the best way to avoid the floortraps, I shifted into fox form and leapt over them. The action was so normal for me that I forgot it was not such for the others. I noticed something else strange (this group is full of strangeness). Several times I caught the dragonborn staring at me. Each time I was the first to look away – eye contact was not yet comfortable for me. Either way, if the look on his face was sadness, then he caught me pawing Father’s letter. If it was lovestruck… Well, I wouldn’t be surprised; there appears to be a lot of quest-cest between these adventurers… Anyways, a dragonborn’s infatuation is the least of my concerns. I hope to be less awkward and more friendly towards my groupmates tomorrow. ‘Tis time to retire.
Green glades & golden grains,
Sydienne ~

The Time of Cool Winds - Part Ten
Thoughts, Ruminations, and Old Stories

The Keep is as dusty as it was earlier. We’ve made our way through to the hall where we were before, with the undead we initially encountered. There was a section of the fort that we have not explored yet – and it was a good thing that we did not. Ancient runes littered the floor, an eerie menacing light hovering about them. For the most part, we struggled with passing them – Bjorn did not have too much issue with them though, surprisingly. We had the misfortune of triggering two of them – it reminded me of how Elder Tirado softened the recruits during training to say the least. Following that, we wandered into more of the undead. Easily dispatched.
Ahh. I do not believed I’ve mentioned our new companion, Sydienne, a half-elf. She manipulates her form into that of a dire-fox. Her skill with other magics is reassuring as well. I am glad we have a new companion – the odds are now a little more fair, granted, they never seemed fair in the first place. She wears her burden on her sleeve, not literally of course – she constantly has her hand on one of her pockets. But again, it is not wise to press matters that are not to be weaseled into – that and she has made it abundantly clear that she does not wish to discuss the matter.
Once our predicament with the undead resolved, we took a short respite – turns out there was more to be done, a secret door was promptly found by Bjorn and…/sniff/ opened rather quickly. A false wall concealing more undead dissipated before our eyes as Aryawwn walked through it – she is becoming more brazen lately, I wonder what the matter is? Could it have to do with the matter I heard that evening? Either way, I digress – the undead here were promptly disposed of as well. Phenex took some rather drastic actions against Aryawwn, I hope she knows that Phenex cares for her as I saw her sulking a short while ago. I hope I am just imagining that she is sad.
Something caught my eye – one of the blades on the wall of the secret room. An unusual design. Sigurd would love to see it. It reminds me of a scimitar, but not quite… I’ve seen this design around, just not this variant of it… I believe it originates from around Zarathustra… a shamshir?

Ahh. Speaking of the room, there was a riddle to solve – I’ve never been particularly good at them, but I actually knew the answer to this one. Granted I did not solve it, but I knew it in the back of my head. Bahamut will have mine if I don’t remember that in the future…
The riddle gave us the banner of the 5th. Just by looking at it, there is a magnificence emanating from it – imagine what it would be like if we were to fight under its shadow!. Aryawwn took it with her – I trust her to make the right decision, even if I don’t agree that clerics should be on the front lines with us. My, my. Where is my head today? I forgot to mention what the riddle asked for as well. It asked what goes forth like a herald, what many seek and all value and cannot be found on the bottom of a chest. Honor, as Sydienne said, or reputation as Aryawwn.
Honor… it is still strange for me to say it.
It still tastes bitter, but much less than before. My son, Sigurd, has sent me a response to my letter. Lyra and Jorkur are getting by well. Lyra will soon be of age to take on Council Guard for the Hall or the Cathedral and has begun training. She will make a splendid warrior. Sigurd is under the tutelage of Irir, an insane mind who I served under, thankfully, for a short time. Sigurd has also been working to learn the trade of blacksmith in his free time. Jorkur has taken up the path of Ars Arcanum – runepriest training. He has always had a proficiency for the more arcane skills.
Lyra has forgiven me, as did Sigurd, but Jorkur is still overcoming his anger – he did make it clear he misses me though. It makes me so happy…but it does not matter so much that you forgive me completely, my children. The fact you still care to talk to me warms me – it makes the exile all the more bearable to know that you still care for me…
One last thing and I must rest, the hour grows late and there is very little to guard against. I spoke to Phenex about Zarathustra, and I told her what occurred there with Perth. She was surprised, unsurprisingly. We will make the journey there as soon as this whole debacle settles down, and that will not be for a while, my gut is telling me. Still, it is probably one of the more positive things for Phenex to hear in a long time.


Entry Eight
A Tiefling's Story

It’s been a long time since I last wrote in this thing. I was a little preoccupied the night before this. Yesterday morning we had set out to find the spy laying wait in Winterhaven. We spoke with Bear-man and then split up to speak with several suspects. Phalanx and I spoke with the smithies, a nice fellow, found out he was working on a Homunculus. Good, this town needs it, not much would stand in the way if the Gnolls grew a pair and came down from the Lake, or worse, the damn Frost Giants in the Mountains beyond. Aryawwn and Bjorn spoke with the elf; I don’t think they got far.
The wizard was also put to death that day. Bjorn cleaved his head from his shoulders. As a last respect I placed two silver coins over his eyes… only they’re silver bitch, have fun in Helför (For those who are confused that is another name for the Shadowfell).
The next morning we split up again to speak with more suspects. Aryawwn and Phalanx went to speak with the enchanter (I don’t recall his name so I will refer to him as Tim). Bjorn and I headed out to the meadows to speak with a woman who picks flowers, I wasn’t told how young she was, she is the age I was when my family was slaughtered, here’s hoping that the same fate doesn’t befall her. We must have scared the Hell out of her approaching through the long grass, just a Tiefling and the stalk of a vicious hammer visible. If that didn’t scare her the mention of undead did, the poor dear… She’s definitely not the rat. I ended up carrying the dwarf away, he was… well… being Bjorn really.
Upon our return to town the spy revealed themselves in the manner of a serial homicide and raising of the dead, including the bodies of Vairis and Mykhail. The undead were nothing for the team and I shut down the sigil, but damn that dwarf can move. I think that Bjorn actually broke the sound barrier, his feet were not visible and his cloak twisted in the air as if he were a wraith. He shot himself across the graveyard and straight into the body of the elf. I just want to say I fucking called it. She wouldn’t have survived even if she managed to kill every one of us; her wounds were far too severe.
After the battle I spoke with Aryawwn, came to learn that she had lost her lover not long ago. She blames herself; this is why she wishes to end her own life… I never could understand those who wished to take their own, is it just not the most precious thing to some? This beautiful play of chemicals bore of long bloodlines reaching eons back in time, to live in a world set in a never ending expanse of space held together by intangible forces that cannot be comprehended by any god here or out beyond. And this expands forever past more distant worlds and gods with untold names past people and stories we will never know, hear or even tell. It’s precious to me, the life of myself and those I love. If only she knew I loved her. I did my best to console her. I revealed myself to her, I haven’t told anyone before about little Aphid, I didn’t even tell Melanie about him. He was almost two years of age… Peor’s last son… it was my job to protect him… I tried… I failed… I hid… my heart ached as I heard him cry… my heart broke when he stopped. I hope Aryawwn at least understands that our past truly doesn’t matter, it can be bullshitted by six assholes sitting around a table, it’s what we do now which is most important of all, we live not for our sakes, we live for the sake of others, our friends, our family, our brothers of metal, our sisters in arms. Please don’t leave me little one… not again…
So much for that… we all got hammered that night, even Aryawwn had several drinks. They were her firsts and that was obvious, she was out cold quickly… but Bjorn fell first which was odd. Poor little one, never overdo your first, I made that same mistake on my seventieth. I laid her down in her bed, on her side of course… I tried to lift the dwarf, but collapsed… Phalanx helped us out.
In the morning we got a new comrade: Another half-elf but older and less racist than dear Aryawwn. I knew she was a magic user but I was unsure of exactly what she was… that was revealed when we entered the catacombs. There were these odd traps throughout the crypt, we were unsure of what they were. We leapt across them, I helped Bjorn by slugging him in the face teleporting him across. I very much love Bjorn, he is the most humorous of our party, and is quite a character. I heard the fall of feet, but was unsure of what it was until a massive Fox leapt towards Bjorn and me, it looked like a more built version of one of the Maned Wolves from the New World jungles, turns out it was our new comrade Sydienne (Syd) is a Druid. I was excited; these are one of the few mage classes which I truly admire.
It was Aryawwn who tripped, the screaming I couldn’t bear it… it rang through my skull, I felt as though I had descended into the infernal winds of Jahannam itself. When I came to I was alone. I could hear the sounds of combat in the halls and I rushed to aid my comrades, but I failed to notice another trap… the screaming didn’t stop this time, I heard it for the next several minutes, not until Bjorn broke the door with his hammer… I apologized to my comrades for my absence, they didn’t seem to mind.
What happened next set my heart to fire… the end of the room had a false wall, that definitely had untold numbers of undead behind it. Before we could plan Aryawwn leapt through it, not for the taste of death on her steel, but to kiss the queen herself. But she didn’t just put herself at risk she put our brothers at risk as well. Her selfishness will be her undoing much as Phalanax’s love for adrenaline and my own god damned mouth are to us. I set fire to several, accidently hitting Aryawwn as well, I came to her aid even when she asked for the Queen to claim her as if that would undo all she thinks she has done…
My mind racing I failed to draw the blood of my foes, luckily my allies had my back.
After the combat ceased, I took hold of Aryawwn’s gorget and shoved her against the wall, a look of fear rolled across her face, I could feel my eyes… I know the feeling… I didn’t have my pupils… I told her that even though I felt sorry for her, the moment she puts the lives of our brothers at stake it is no longer her problem, it is mine. I wouldn’t have her do that again, if she wants to take her life she should do it at her expense not theirs. I dropped her and my anger faded… my vision returned to normal. My face no longer sat stern… instead it was a mixture of sorrow and disappointment.
Aryawwn… I love you… why can’t you at least love yourself… would he truly accept you? Like this? Did he die for you to follow suit? Or did he die to give you second chance to cherish this beautiful world you live in… to live out your days happy… please child do not do this… it is a dark road… and hell shall follow that pale horse and the horseman which rides upon it…
I came to her again that night, I held her in my arms… dear girl I am sorry…

~Phenex Bat-Laylah

Back Down
The Princess Diaries

Phenex convinced me to try a little ale with her last night after what we shared. It burned in my mouth, but she insisted. I can’t stand feeling that muddled, sloppy, debased, don’t think that’ll happen again. Bless Phalanx, he cured a hangover that’ll surely keep me away from that poison indefinitely. He apparently also recruited another half-elf to the party during one of the blank spots in my memory. She made us bear enchiladas for lunch with an interesting blasting trick.

She’s of more interest than that, though. Just as we ventured back down into the unexplored depths of the keep, a fox burst out of nowhere and of course I leapt back, nearly onto a trap. She’s a druid, a shape-shifter, and she deemed that moment, then and there, in the dark, fully vulnerable, the appropriate time to show us – not tell us of – her beast form. I must admit, it is rather impressive, though…

Bjorn’s a clever fellow. The dungeon was lined with traps, and none of us are particularly talented at jumping (save the Sydienne, our new fox-lady). Bjorn simply didn’t try: he had Phenex punch him and then teleported straight past the first trap! Phalanx apparently got the bright idea to throw me over rather than letting me try for myself… But we all made it across. Or at least, we made it across one.

Next came my blunder. We all had to cross eventually, and everyone kept gabbing about how to best cross, not seeming to realize that the next idea they suggested left just as much up to chance as simply jumping, so while they prattled on, that’s what I did. Stumbling is also what I did. A blood-curdling wail arose from the trap as my foot scraped across and I found myself propelled dead across the way, into an opening, surrounded by zombies, left winded and disoriented by the blast. They only battered me lightly.

Thankfully, everyone came to my aid rapidly enough – everyone except Phenex, that is. She got hit the hardest of anyone (save for myself, that is…) and subsequently triggered another blast herself in trying to catch up. But I actually held my own. More than that, I demolished them. By the time Phenex arrived, they were all already dead. Our attention shifted to a strange sealed door behind us…

Bjorn smashed it down. As it fell to splinters around us, we noticed a latch on the wall. Evidently, that was how it was meant to open. Oh well. It opened into a small antechamber with nothing of note, except that its back wall was purely illusory. While the others stood about baffled, I charged straight through the wavering projection into a room of more zombies. Once more, they struck, but I was ready. I blasted them and my companions burst in right behind; I felt unstoppable.

Phenex didn’t think so. She caught me in her first onslaught of acid, and when the last of the rotting limbs fell – she scared me. As I let my mace drift downwards, she knocked it clashing to the floor. In a whirl, she lunged straight at my neck, thrust the full force of her weight against my chest and pinned me to the wall, fire in her eyes, terror in mine. I half expected her to kill me on the spot. Instead, she berate me that I had best dare never do anything like that again. The one time I did well, I led the charge, I felt proud, she tells me to fall back in line, to stop being selfish, to act with sense or go away; she wrenches me away from all sense of accomplishment; she demonstrates how pathetic and vulnerable I am; she shows me I’m no good: she rejects me.

How could anyone ever pretend I was an asset? How could I ever have led an army?

Dear blessing, do you want rid of me too?

An enchanted banner posed a riddle, and Ioun rekindled what little faith I had in myself, spurring me to propose our answer (the equivalent of which, mind you, Sydienne had posited long ago, until I stupidly shot her down). I bear the banner now, which ought to make me of some use, however minimal it may be. The banner no longer burns.

Tomorrow, we go deeper within, see if we can muster the slightest inkling of how we might even confront, let alone disable, the forces that threaten Winterhaven and the entire realm.
I trusted her. She smashed me into the wall. My head’s still ringing. My heart’s still crushed.


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