The Lance of Marduk

The Time of Cool Winds - Interjection
Sigurd Fearstone

I’ve received a few letters from father. He sends his regards to us and speaks of his journey with his comrades. Jorlur, the youngest of us, still has not forgiven him for mother’s death. Lyra, the eldest, and I have moved on though – are fully aware of what happened and have forgiven father, for the most part. Lyra has finished training to become a fighter, taking up axes. She’ll begin training to be Hall Guard in next week.
I’ve made progress with my path as well. I was squire under the command of Irir, the garrison leader of my father a few weeks ago – he is a strong fighter but very much so insane. I’ve made progress in wielding Balmung, a broadsword passed down from generation to generation since the conflict of Kerif a century ago. It’s still too heavy, but I will surpass father’s skills eventually.
Honor
Sigurd

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

We have found the spy. Bjorn promptly crushed her head in. It was the elf that Aryawwn had encountered earlier. She had already taken several townsfolk to the graveyard and began an arcane ritual – they were sacrificed, poor souls. We fought off the dead fairly easily, and cleansed the area – no more dead shall rise from the yard. The problem is far from over, but the immediate issue is resolved.

I find myself at a loss. I noticed my companions are held by something, but tonight, I found what holds Phenex and Aryawwn. I was lucky that I did not break that moment. I do not think that we would be able to know more about each other if I interrupted. I owe the two of them some extra ale later – not now though, considering they’ve had a good amount already…
Lilin – a name worth remembering. I will tell Phenex in the morning that I have met her. I will get her to Zarathustra. But not now. We currently have a larger matter to deal with, the cult of Orcus…

Loyalties
Phalanx

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The Rat
The Princess Diaries

Not yet “friendship,” but companionship I’ve got with the dwarf. No, he has a name: with Bjorn. Phenex was determined to figure out who the rat in the city might have been, so we split into pairs to gather information, and Bjorn agreed to go with me. After apologies, thanks, and bargaining, and we reached that baseline. “Companionship.”

But I’m leaving gaps. The wizard is dead. Bjorn finally kill him – executed him, moreover. The entirety of Winterhaven saw the spectacle, after the tragedy Mykhail caused them. The blasted wretch blasted through his cell and killed a poor guard. Mykhail’s death comes much less regrettably than Vairis’s, I must say, though I almost set the wrong wand upon his head. Ironically enough, both our dead companions – that same word Bjorn used, and I understand: I’m not sure I could call either a friend – lay resting quite near each other. But once more, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Bjorn and I sought out Ninaran for more tips. She readily complied when I approached her and lead us to two individuals she felt might offer perspective on the situation. While Phenex and Bjorn went off in search of a flower maiden near the keep, Phalanx and I followed her word to delightful sir completely ignorant of the situation but well-versed in history, eager to offer what knowledge he had. A gnawing feeling inside me kept echoing the possibility I didn’t want to admit until reality forced it upon us. Ninaran knew too much about the scenario while everyone else was in the dark; why wouldn’t she have told someone, or at least enquired? Her innate curiosity wouldn’t have let her keep it that quiet.

When we returned to Winterhaven, well, we didn’t. Several farmers had gone missing and sinister activity had been observed by the graveyard, so we went down there to address the threat. When we arrived, we ran into none other than Ninaran, surrounded by a small army of the reanimated corpses, illustrating the fate that befell the missing farmers. Among their ranks stood Vairis and Mykhail, or what was left of them. Bjorn’s eyes flared and his beard practically stood on end. He immediately reclaimed Vairis from the realm of undeath for the Raven Queen and charged at Ninaran, nearly killing her in a single stride.

Phenex, Phalanx and I dealt with the rest of them, until Phenex realized they had a ritual circle going which she made an effort to deactivate. The dogs kept knocking me down, so I simply swung from the floor and hit more reliably than ever before.
Everything that was dead died again, and… Phenex approached.

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

We’ve made it back to Winterhaven in one piece. A small token of appreciation from the lord of the town, enough to snag myself a new blade – not much sharper than my old one, but far sturdier. We’ve also begun the search for a spy among the town. They’ve been monitoring us since we have arrived. No one seems to have knowledge of a spy as far as we can tell – it is too soon.

On a side note, Mikhael is no longer with us either. Fool decided to go wild again. Bjorn settled the matter – swift justice. Even Phenex added a light touch of her own.
We begin the search officially tomorrow. I cannot think much right now and my wounds still ache some.

Loyalties
Phalanx

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Reflection
The Princess Diaries

“Death wish.” She approached me with that and the wand. Somehow I told her. I told Phenex about Trestin.
I miss him. He lived within walls, behind guards, among shelves, between pages, where he was most comfortable. If he ever left, it’d be to watch the chaos below from his privileged vantage point and devise shrewd plans to avoid further such dissonance – never a single experience to his own name. His world was so detached, never in need of a reality. Wherever it was his mind dwelled, he did everyone well enough there. He was never meant to be a fighter. His sword-dancing never carried half the power nor the grace of the lithe dips of his wand coupled with a single silver utterance. He could make the world hold its breath. He could make me stop breathing. He won’t. Now every painstaking breath reminds me he lives only within the pages, ink staining my memories, stealing the air straight from my lungs every moment that my mind wanders back. That’s far too often now.

But now the taste of ink festers in my mouth. I spoke of the stain. She knows what I’ve done, and… she doesn’t hate me. She doesn’t think it was my fault. Of course it was my fault.

It was the first battle under my direction. They told me afterwards that he had joined the front line to be there for me. What kind of irony is that, that he stepped in for me and I shoved him right onto their swords? I didn’t know he would die. I thought he was safely slinging spells from the sideline. He was a brilliant mage, but never suited for combat. Had I known that was his troop, I’d never have had them cover. If it was meant to inspire me, why didn’t they tell their commander? It was a suicide mission to get us out, and I could never condemn him. But if we died instead, it’d all be over, all lost – they’d be lost without our saving and our scheming. Why did they trust me commanding!? I wasn’t trained for that. I was trained for logistics and for mitigating damage on all fronts, not for sentencing the ones that mean everything to death.

I watched him die. The silver shriek that made me glance back, the tiny spark flying from the wand held against his sword that caught my eye, the blaze as it caught their banner too, the sharpened steel now gleaming through his chest, the glass glazing his already grey eyes, the color draining from his already pale skin, the red streaming from the steel and shattering the silver, etching toxic tracks, putrid lines burning into my memory, sickening scores to play over and over – I saw what I did. I shackled him down to the pyre, and he set it ablaze when reality caught him. We kept running. The next day, when all was clear and our defeat turned a flaming victory, I came back and scavenged his wand.
I let him down. I of all people was meant to protect him, and I killed him. His charred body lies in a mass grave. I’ll carry that forever, along with this last piece of him.
I couldn’t stay there. I’ve seen what I can cost people. That’s what I did, and that’s what reality got him. He had to face it, so it’s my turn. Life’s too ugly when it’s real. I never wanted them to see how disgustingly ugly a life I lead.

Phenex is a beautiful creature. She saw her family die; she knows that pain. She doesn’t know what it means to cause it. Bless her heart though, for all the forgiveness, all the acceptance, the warmth and the resilience; may all the gods she doesn’t honor bless what she’s’ become, praised what she’s reached out of nothing to attain, and if one blessing remains for me, keep her in my company. So much more happened, and I’ll write to that later, but I couldn’t chance letting the feeling fade. Thank you Phenex.

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

Aye, what a fight. I’ve just woken up, the second after Phenex – she seems to be preparing food again. I would just like to say something. I do not mind being the decoy, as I have the armor for it and I want to protect the others, but I cannot say that I will get used to it. My head is throbbing and I can barely hold my quill. I’ll write before I forget this story later.
We approached the waterfall, only to be ambushed by kobolds. They were not terribly strong, but they managed to overwhelm Bjorn. He shortly got back up with aid from one of us. We rested once more before we challenged the lair.
When we entered the cave, we saw a horde of kobolds charge at us. Everyone except Phenex managed to escape the wave of crude spears. I breathed a wave of acid that bathed our adversaries, searing the flesh from their bones. We branched from there, trying to strike down the kobolds. A strange sight though – a goblin with twin battleaxes began skulking around us; rumors from town dubbed this mysterious leader of the kobold pack as ‘Irontooth’ for that iconic helmet he wears.. He closed in slowly as we were wravelled in combat. Bjorn charged at him with that reckless abandon that I’ve already grown fond of. Aryawwn and Phenex swung at the other Kobolds with some success. One fell, two fell. There, the battle plummeted into a scene I still remember with my bones.
Aye. The smell of blood and the taste for combat. I fight out of anger at times, but only in one occasion have I had such a bloodlust. No reader, when I lost Vairis, that was not it. I best be careful. I don’t want those around me to fall to it again. I don’t think I could lose one again…
I digress, but all of a sudden, I felt a sudden urge to flick off whatever was above me; I noticed my comrades did that too. Weird.
The kobold sorcerer made his move, throwing fireballs of a rather pathetic heat compared to my fire-breathing Riiae. I was unlucky, I took several to my head, as did Aryawwn and Bjorn. The army of rats tried to surround us, trapping Bjorn and I between their ring of death. I called down the power of Bahamut and swung at Irontooth to my left. I barely scratch those glimmering molars that smile at pain – lucky bastard. In response, Irontooth and the kobolds swiped at Bjorn and I with a combined brutish force. I passed the test, my armor managed to deflect most of the damage. Bjorn was not as lucky, he was knocked unconscious…again… Phenex and Aryawwn did their best to repel the other kobolds, yet the rats remained there, tenacious bugs. I eventually fell to them as well. I was just barely conscious, then I felt a surge of power in me. Some of my wounds healed, Aryawwn has my thanks for that. Irontooth shifted his attention to the two, I swung at his feet, cutting away part of his thigh. I stood back up, blocking the attack of one of the nearby buggers. I steeled myself for the next round. Irontooth rushed by me, swinging at Phenex. I believe there was a ploy to protect Aryawwn from more damage – she was on her knees, still slinging spells. Aryawwn was not so lucky in the end, a fireball whizzed by my face and hit her square in her stomach. I was ready to act. My morale was high – I would not let us lose to those fleas. It escalated higher when Bjorn managed to stand up, barely, but with that same ferociousness. I bellowed out, challenging Irontooth. He turned to face me, and as he did, I cut off his jaw with the teeth of the helmet intact as it flew away, breaking that sinister smile of his. We tried routing the remaining forces, but Bjorn then I fell unconscious before everything settled.
I’ll hear the story from Phenex later, after everyone is rested.
I can’t feel my left arm, I saw some herbs nearby that might offer some medicinal aid. I should also spend some time checking everyone’s bandages. Phenex did the basics right, but now that I have the time to, I should try and apply the proper treatment while our healer is still unconscious (Phenex looks exhausted, and should try to do a minimum amount of work for now).
I feel strange though… I should rest some more later. I do not wish for this bloodlust to resurface – There is no way for me to quell it right now, and what makes it strange is that there was no trigger for it this time. Well, a little indulgence would help maybe – to leave the corpses of the kobolds to rot… no, no, no. I shouldn’t do that… I don’t know. I will consult the others about this. A little more positive news though, I feel that my skills have finally returned to me after so long. A month without proper combat has left me very rusty. I feel as if I could take on an army again..

Loyalties
Phalanx

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Entry Seven
A Tiefling's Story

I just got up; my comrades have yet to stir. I can barely feel any fiber of my being, so much blood was shed in such a short span of time, and not all was Kobolds. There were far more than I had anticipated, but it all worked out in the end. The party all seemed to work well together; they are becoming linked as one unit. I’m so happy that they do now. The battle was far too close for comfort though; several fell only to rise once again. I did quite well and proud of that, Lilin would be pleased to hear. In the end my comrades had fallen to the ground, I alone had to finish off the Shaman. It came so close… I almost lost Aryawwn… I almost lost my brothers… I couldn’t let that happen. They’ll be pleased to hear that I tended to their wounds and will be preparing breakfast in the morning.
The Good news is that we now know that the Cultists will attack Winterhaven in the coming week, I’m unsure if we should evacuate the town because we have also learned that a rat lives in that old village. I suspect the Noble-man, or the Smith, possibly the Elf… I’m truly unsure. I hope it’s the Elf… wait am I jealous of the Elf? I think we should find the rat sooner rather than later. In other news there is a shit ton of treasure (just an English one this time), to bad I’m not getting any of it… I promised it to the dwarf so that he would save Aryawwn. Thank you Bjorn… On the bright side we now have far more gold than we could possibly use and I think Aryawwn will love the Chainmail in the Goblin’s possession.
We won, that’s all that matters now. I think my comrades will want to give the Goblin burial rights, I’d say fuck it, but I’m probably going to be out-voted. I’ll carve a “Fuck You” sign anyway, just to place on whatever “Sacred Construct” they manage to think up. I personally think if we are to do that with the goblin then we are to do that with all our foes, the goblin was the leader, but that doesn’t make him more important in my eyes. I’d say just pile them up and burn them, that’s about as much as they deserve. They were raiders, murderers, and thieves; they get no inch of respect from me; no matter rank or faith. They are all as worthy as the demons they serve.
~Phenex Bat-Laylah

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Not Dead
The Princess Diaries

Trestin, I miss you. Why wouldn’t you smile? Why didn’t you take my hand?
I’m still shaking. I’m alive.

So many kobolds. They didn’t look like much, not after that fight we had outside. The minions flanked so poorly and fell so easily. Then more came.
No-one else seemed to grasp just how tough they were. I knew exactly when we’d strike them and when we’d flail aimlessly, but the others still gawked when blood didn’t pour. That’s not to say I drew blood – at least not until I couldn’t distinguish theirs from my own…
Phalanx brought me back to my feet. Bless him, he took so much for us. Bjorn went off on his own and fell, but as soon as we reached him (was it Phalanx or Phenex? I once more stood back, incapable), he struck them down, thrashing like a madman. It was so much blood.
I was near collapsing in that small well where we entered. When I saw Bjorn and the paladin go down, I knew that was it for me. I could still heal myself, but they were our only chance of finishing the job. It was all a red haze. I knew I was going to die. They didn’t have to. I did all I could to keep them alive as long as possible, I truly did, and they outlasted me. A few more blows, I believe I struck something, and then the world swirled into a whirling miasma, depositing me into a sea of clouds and fog. It’s true, water puts out the fire.
You were there. Why didn’t you welcome me? So long I awaited that embrace, and you turned me away. You wouldn’t speak to me. You left me to choke on my tears, all that water, red water, was that blood? It was mine, my blood, my pool, my drowning, and you didn’t help, didn’t raise me up, you didn’t take me with you, why did you just stare? Why did you reject me? I didn’t know, I couldn’t save you, I did my job, and you won’t let me live with it, won’t make me die with it, what am I to do!? I know you were the one who should have lived. I should never be the one. I didn’t mean to kill you.

Bjorn. I heard his gruff, muffled voice when you remained silent. He saved my life, I owe him everything. I’m sorry for everything, everything I’ve said to him, done to him. Without him, I’d be dead. Not even death wants me. There’s nothing there waiting. I’m so sorry. To you; to the order, the living, the dead; to the gods; to whomever /’ve betrayed, neglected, or let down; to anyone polluted by my intrinsic, immutable taint: I’m sorry I’m not good enough for anything. Bjorn fell to keep me alive. Just an ounce less luck, and they’d all have died for that. I should have just died instead.

Why won’t you accept me anymore?

Phenex finished it. I have new armour. We have new gold. The kobolds are dead. Winterhaven is safe, safe from the minor threat. A few more days and they’ll be worse than dying again. We have to stop the cult. I’m nothing if we don’t. I need to mean something more than a mistake.

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Entry Six
A Tiefling's Story

A Mental Note:

I had an odd dream last night, not one that I had wished to discuss,I had awoke in the dead of the night, heart pounding out of my chest. I look across the room. Aryawwn was in the other bed, sleeping. I decided to leave; this is what got me to the market place that morning, even before Phalanx was up. I really must see Lilin. I miss her more than anything else from home. I wish I had gone with her all those years ago. I must get to Zarathustra, Ariel and Erem can point me in the right direction.
I don’t know where it is, but what I do know is that it is to the East, and is a coastal city. I was there once when I was four, back when I didn’t have a sense of direction… I still don’t have a sense of direction. Zarathustra is a predominantly human settlement, with humans making up ninety percent of the population. It’s an odd town. I remember Grandpa telling me when I was young that the people of Zarathustra are unlike those in the west. The city is full of scholars, which is why Ariel and Erem moved there. Zarathustra has temples, but not to the Gods of the west, the people of Zarathustra are Angel worshippers. Westerners and the people of Zarathustra have never got along, which is probably why ole Grandpa Mastema was so well accepted there. Phalanx always seems to get shivers when I mention that city, something is not right. If only we talked to each other more often, none of my comrades want to open up, but I can tell each of them are broken in one way or another.
~Phenex Bat-Laylah

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Entry Five
A Tiefling's Story

Kobolds, I hate Kobolds, I’ll enjoy spilling their blood with my new toy. To explain I guess I should say we made it back to Winterhaven after we left the Keep. Which I was wrong about; it was a perfect place to go! The morning after my last entry I fixed everyone breakfast before we decided to enter the tomb which we had rested out in front. We entered to find a large stone sarcophagus of a captain of the Imperial guard. I told Bjorn not to touch it… he touched it. Fuck. A skeleton clad in plate armor arose from his grave, yet he seemed passive. Bjorn as a servant of the Raven-Queen (a less useless god than Pelor, sorry Aryawwn) is hell bent on destroying all undead. I tackled the dwarf to the ground and sat on his back, kicking him when he struggled. This allowed Phalanx and Aryawwn to speak with the captain, who we learned was named Sir Keegan. As a gesture of good faith they laid down their arms, Phalanx even tossed his shield across the room. Keegan was still hesitant; his job is to protect this keep from intruders, like us.
Bjorn managed to break free of my grasp and launched himself upon Keegan, slamming his hammer on Keegan’s shield. Aryawwn hoping to reason with them healed the undead knight and tried to strike Bjorn for his hasty actions. Phalanx succeeded in knocking Bjorn unconscious. I picked up Phalanx’s shield and turned to face my comrades and the knight. I shouted “STOP” and each fell still and silent. I walked over and pulled the unconscious dwarf to the other end of the room and tied him up so that his he came too, he wouldn’t be able to do anything. To make sure I took his weapons from him. Now I was carrying Phalanx’s shield and Bjorn’s Hammer, not having drawn my sword once. I stepped forward and spoke to Keegan, who I found to be a very reasonable and well humored individual. I said, “Please Sir Keegan forgive my friend for he is a follower of the Raven Queen so he is a bit Cuckoo for Coco-Puffs when it comes to the undead” to which he responded asking “what are these Coco Puffs, are they as good as Lucky Charms?”. I answered, “They’re cereal, and no, but Reese’s Puffs are the best of them all”. We continued to talk and he told us that the keep was built to combat a dark cult, which Keegan hoped should not return. I told him they have, he simply replied with a “Shit”. He told us that the cult was defeated by the Imperial forces and wizards put in a seal to block of their dark powers (Keegan added, “well wizards don’t really “put in”, but you get the idea”, I chuckled). I asked him who they were working for and Keegan answered that they were the Cult of Orcus. I screamed “Son of a Bitch” at the top of my lungs and threw Bjorn’s hammer to the floor. We promised Keegan that we would stop them, and he gave us his sword, which now lives in my sheath. Keegan crumbled to dust before us, Aryawwn and I scooped his remains off the floor and returned them to his crypt. Phalanx carried the Dwarf back to Winterhaven.
When we returned to Winterhaven a guard asked us to accompany him to the Lord’s manor and we did after putting Bjorn in his room and returning his gear. The Lord of Winterhaven tasked us with wiping out the Kobolds which hunt the roads, and we agreed to the quest.
This morning I did something different to my usual routine, I woke early and headed out to the shop. While at the shop I ran into Phalanx, who was selling some of the loot we collected from the Keep. He was certainly surprised to see me up at the wee-hours of the morning. While looking around the shop I asked him since it took an army to defeat the cult the last time, maybe he could get his paladin friends to join with us, I know all too well what Dragonborn Zealots are capable of, they could easily crush this cult. But he seemed to sidestep the question, even when I persisted. Something’s not right, I can feel it in the left side of my brain; my right side has been numbed by alcohol. I continued searching in the shop and managed to find a piece of Malachite, the Guardian Stone. Malachite is a Copper-Carbonate, my dad use to carve these green stones into the shapes of Pantherines and Tapirs. They are called Guardian Stones because the ancients believed that these stones would crack if danger was near. I bought it; I knew exactly what I was to do with it.
This comes the more awkward part of my morning. I haven’t mentioned my thoughts on my companions much, just their general actions. Phalanx is like the big brother I never had, he is protective and caring, he reminds me of Lilin in that way, just he’s tall, much taller… WAY taller, and a Dinocephalian Therapsid, but that’s beside the point. Bjorn is an odd one, a bit brash, but likeable; I’m certainly glad to have another like myself in the party, even if he is on the opposite side of the team (I think if you’re reading this right now, you’ve already figured this out). I admire his passion for vengeance, a vengeance I want seen through fruition. Then there’s Aryawwn, I don’t think she thinks to highly of me, I can understand. She was of noble birth and raised in a world where sacrilege is a greater crime than murder. We come from two different backgrounds, they clash. She is the rock and I am the stream. I mean no disrespect to her, if only she knew that. I feel as though I haven’t been much of a friend to her, we barely speak to each other, we’re opposites on this team. If only she knew I cared, and am sorry for anything I did to upset her, I mean her no ill fate. By this I felt the Guardian stone is the best way to express my thoughts without coming on too strong. Malachite is meant to protect, to bring success to its possessor, to bring her/him luck and love.
I brought the stone to Aryawwn who was sitting at the desk, preparing for the morning. I approached and greeted her, she greeted back. After an awkward silence (in which more of my kind are born, or at least that’s what Kezef said, but he was always a joker) I gave her the stone and told her the significance of its history both with the ancients and my own family. She thanked me with a smile. Strange, this was the first time I’ve seen her smile. She should more often; she’s got a good one. After another awkward silence, I backed out of the room saying my goodbyes and stuttering when I told her that I’d wait for her in the Tavern with Bjorn and Phalanx. When I was out of her line of sight, my face turned a darker shade of red and I began to clutch my tail… what the hell am I doing. Feeling embarrassed I proceeded to the Tavern.
~Phenex Bat-Laylah

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