The Lance of Marduk

The Time of Fading Greens Part 4
Thoughts, Ruminations, and Old Stories

I am ready to continue.

After we resolved this Dwarven/Duregar dispute, we returned to Nevah and reported the situation with the portal. Though displeased by our actions, Nevah was glad to hear that the portal remained undisturbed.
We questioned why Nevah was here and she revealed why.

We were adventuring in a ruin of some kind, as you know. This ruin so happened to be a temple that was once devoted to Nerull. Yes. Nerull. And what was his weapon? The legendary Lifecutter – we so happened to find a replica of this godly weapon while searching the upper levels upon our entry and presented it to Sydienne. It turns out that Nevah was guarding this weapon – not a replica. She has been guarding it since Teflon vanished into the Far Realms. Nevah has wanted to destroy the weapon but she has been unable to since the portal exists. We somehow managed to convince the Deva to entrust the soul-obliterating god weapon to us random group of adventurers to destroy it. We deemed the Dawnforge of the Dawnholds would have a chance at melting this weapon. We then pressed for information regarding the Cult of Orcus we have been pursuing – she was more than helpful in this regard. However, there was a catch – as always. We had to pass through a portal that only operated upon the revelation of the user’s darkest secret vocally.

We all declared our secrets.

Phenex was first.

I was second.

The rest followed suit.

They all heard that terrible event of mine. I killed my wife.

I killed my wife…

Midtravel, we paid a visit to the Shadowfell – the domain of the Raven Queen. She has heard out the fact that we now possess the legendary Lifecutter and asked for us to hand over the weapon. Ioun appeared to attempt to talk some sense into the Queen so as to convince her that she could be corrupted as her predecessor did. Bjorn ended up handing over Lifecutter, much to our chagrin, and we finished our journey to the other end of the portal.

Upon our arrival, Aryawwn and Phenex immediately began questioning Bjorn as to why he did that. Much to our surprise, again, Bjorn had the gall to swap Sydienne’s replica with the actual Lifecutter and gave it to the Raven Queen. Bjorn’s faith in the Queen is quite strong – he hoped that she would do the right thing and destroy the scythe, and this was his test of his god.

We arrived to a chamber occupied by cultists and a captured Trestin to our surprise. We did what we were best at, fighting.
The cultists summoned forth demons to aid them, but we managed to defeat them all and rescued Trestin. I would have really appreciated more help fighting the demons – I ended up fighting one alone, and once I had nearly defeated it, Aryawwn came and simply cooked it with a divine fireball. What happened next would change everything we’ve been doing up until this point.

The lynchpin behind this entire debacle was Vairis.
The cult we’ve been dealing with, this whole Blackguard, the deal with the Duregar, everything.

A fight would be an understatement – an emotional struggle would barely describe it either. We fought and critically wounded Vairis, but he ran. All of us except Aryawwn who tended to Trestin gave pursuit.

After what seemed like an eternity of pursuit, we defeated and captured Vairis using an Cadrin airship captained by Aryawwn.

I assure you – this simple account cannot describe what we all felt this day.

On the ride back to Cadrin, the Raven Queen joined us on the flight. She was outraged by Bjorn’s deception. She could have easily destroyed us, and the situation continued to deteriorate. I stepped in, and flared the scythe’s blade placed my hand under it and stated my intention to trust in Bjorn and his justice. The others followed suit. In retrospect, that wasn’t the smartest thing to do considering that there might have been turbulence that would have cause all of us to just stop existing. The Queen then took the scythe, proving her power over our realm, but returned it immediately, trusting us to dispose of the tool.

Since the events of that day, I’ve been in retreat in the woods around Cadrin. Our plan is to head out soon to the Dawn holds. But when is the main question right now.

No Going Back
The Princess Diaries

It must have been nearly a week now. It feels like a different world since we came back up. Did I make the right decision?
Well, we were in a different world. Or a different plane, subspace of this world? We left Cadrin, that’s for sure. I’m not sure I’d call any of that the city proper, to be honest. The ancient crypt, yes, I mentioned that, and the Orcus cult excavating. Just after the cultists, I left off at… oh, the dragon! A reanimated dragon guarded the chamber not far beyond, but now it’s been reduced to dust. That felt amazing, knowing that our little rag-tag group has now slain a dragon.
Blah blah blah, farther down deeper, and here’s where my mind stopped keeping up. Within a chest, Bjorn and I discovered pages scrawled in an ancient language with transmutation circles carved in. Up above, there was a library, filled with long-lost books in ancient tongues no living being could read, none of which I more than batted an eye towards. But here there was an urgency: these were single pages stashed away in a chest, locked away such that merely opening the chest caused an explosion. I spent the next few hours only partially conscious of what was going on around us, deciphering the text.
The text which revealed a plot to destroy my entire home. The walls, the walls which won the war, the walls the elves targeted, the orders from the black guards, the “orders beyond the throne,” everything since then had been a plot to turn the city into a giant transmutation circle and transform its populace into an army of zombies or something, maybe I’m wrong, it’s all a blur, just an adrenaline rush to stop it!
Except more important things came up. I can’t believe I just said that, more important than saving everyone I knew for near all my life… but dear gods. We met a deva down there who mentioned guarding a weapon – a weapon of the gods, one which reaps souls through mere contact. A weapon with which you bleed out your very essence of existence at the slightest grazing… resting within the temple. The temple which these dark cultists had been excavating. She sent us to investigate a portal into the far realms. And this is where all perspectives became irrelevant. As we drew nearer to the room containing the portal, I felt a presence tugging at my mind, edging its way in – a gnawing curiosity, the insatiable urge to see what lay within that room, a need to find the portal. Lady Ioun saw fit to use me as a vessel through which to discover the age-old secrets sealed within the temple. I was able to serve her directly, to feel her presence as never before, and dear gods it felt…
Incredible. Painful. Cathartic. It tore at my mind, but the mere concept of what was going on – the experience was exhilarating! I had a god in my head! I had to succeed, to find what lay beyond that wall, to display the worth of my faith, to express my will to serve my goddess. Phenex did whatever she could to hold me back, but Phalanx managed to open the wall, and once we got in, so did the gods, period. I simply stood there in awe of the newfound impact we had had on a global force in our world. But them the moment passed, and we moved along. We returned to the deva to report on the situation regarding the portal, after resealing it off with a rune that My Lady provided us to keep it hidden.
Shortly thereafter, Nevah, having found no viable alternative to placing all her faith in our simple party (and having seen neither any harm in the matter nor a reason to distrust our lot), bestowed upon us the scythe she had been guarding alongside the portal for centuries, Lifecutter. That weapon simply should not exist. The presence of such a powerful artifact was exceedingly humbling, and seeing it happened into our possession left me simply dumbfounded.
Following this revelation, Nevah lead us to another portal, and here’s where we truly left. But dear gods it’s so overwhelming, I can’t even skip to there! The portal was… weird. It’s not like we could just walk into the shadowfell (surprise), but as price for passage, we had to reveal our darkest secrets. It honestly doesn’t make sense… I suppose their secrets didn’t register to me at the time, but I can easily write that one up to shock. I only caught two of theirs, neither of which I suppose change much… hell, now I have to think about it. Phalanx killed his wife – but there were extenuating circumstances! In all honesty, his secret only made me feel bad for the fellow, being forced through a terrible situation where… let’s just say I can relate. Phenex fucked her cousin. Nope, I don’t have to think about it, and I’ll avoid letting that one register. Didn’t hear from Bjorn, or Sydienne.
I had to mention my mother. I thought I’d gotten that image out of my head forever. She was turning blue, damn it, but still twitching! And I just ran… When Trestin showed me the note, when he and I burned it, we hid from the world every degree of our involvement exceeding that of any other. Only Bjorn knows – Bjorn and Sydienne, but she’s gone now – and hopefully that’s that, just word of it and now it’s gone forever.
But through the portal, we materialized in the shadowfell, standing before none other than the Lady of Death, the Raven Queen. She knew of the scythe – the weapon that had hidden from her reach for centuries, the weapon which could end her war on Orcus, the weapon which corrupted her predecessor, the weapon which no being should ever wield, the weapon which lay in our possession – and she wanted it. At this point, My Lady appeared before us as well. It felt as though we had been plucked from our lives and thrown into a new realm where every action was of immense significance and simply fell above our heads. After a long conversation describing the conflicting interests everyone had in the scythe, Bjorn simply handed it over to the Raven Queen and we were whisked back into our world. I freaked out. He had potentially catalyzed the descent of Death into a state of soulless oblivion, of course I would freak out! But hardly missing a beat, he pulled out Lifecutter from within his robe, revealing that the weapon he handed over was simply Sydienne’s replica. My breathing and my heartrate caught up with their natural rhythm.
And then it pounded right back out of step. The room we were deposited into contained cultists, nearly finished carving transmutation circles and performing rituals before us, but more importantly, at its opposite end, Trestin. Trestin’s frail and unconscious body lay helplessly chained to a pillar across the room, behind the cultists, who, at this point, had unquestionably become targets. And so we fought. And so they fell. After their defeat, I immediately made my way over to Trestin to free him and ensure that he was in a stable condition. The chains fell easily and his breathing was regular, but his mind appeared to be not entirely there. Then, in just those few moments’ pause, the caster made it all too apparent that we had not finished our task. He finished his ritual and summoned demons, one of which Phalanx took on individually while the rest of the room raged on in chaos. I tried to stay close to Trestin while keeping him out of the fray, and eventually, even the demons succumbed. But then, out of the shadows stepped Vairis.
Yes, Vairis, the probable lich and mastermind behind this whole fiasco of attempting to destroy my home. He offered us a reunion speech, seeming to wish to step into the realm of civil discussion at this point. We conversed, caught up, discovered just how much he had used us. The exchange cut deep with the foul fangs of deception. However stoic an outward appearance he attempted to project, Bjorn in particular was clearly devastated by such a deep and fundamental betrayal.
But all this talking had to come to an end at some point, and when there was no more to be said, we launched ourselves at Vairis and his lackeys. The fight amounted to a great deal of artful dodging – I would expect no less of such a crafty rogue – and ultimately, while all his underlings fell, we found ourselves unable to pin down Vairis. The tide of battle turned when Trestin rose and fought back through the mental link Vairis held on him. As soon as he struck this grave blow, Vairis took flight back through a portal routed to the citadel, giving rise to a chase that would span the city and the surrounding countryside. Bjorn, Phenex, Phalanx, and Sydienne instantly set to pursuit, while I found myself otherwise occupied.
My Silver lay before me in shambles. While he managed to shake Vairis’s mind, he nearly shattered his own. I tried to carry him out and follow behind the others, but quickly realized that this extra burden which I refused to discard would keep me from ever catching up to the nimble traitor. He and I walked off to the infirmary, and I learned the story of Vairis’s arrival in the city and rise to power. And that Trestin truly did die. I was indeed responsible for his death. Only, when Vairis tried to raise him as a zombie, someone intervened and released his soul to come back to life on this plane. And that struck a chord in my heart. Someone out there sees what happened as vile enough, sees him as significant enough, that they gave him a second chance. He means enough in this world that someone out there was watching over his soul and freely sent it back to live the life he was meant to have. He certainly means the world to me…
It killed me to realize that I was with Phenex. That sounds so terrible… I had written her a poem apologizing, hoping to make everything right so that we could continue on and be happy together, but when this is the reality that I was leaving… He broke free of Vairis’s hold because of me. My return reignited a spark within him that flared against this unnatural control. Trestin, I’m so sorry.
Sydienne came back with word that Vairis had passed through the city gates and the four of them stood no hopes of catching up. Her arrival jolted us back to reality and to the gravity of the situation at hand. Satisfied that Trestin would recover with time, I dashed off to commandeer an airship and give us a practical shot at winning this chase. Syd and I boarded a military vessel and flew after the rogue on horseback. Bjorn trailed after Vairis by a surprisingly short distance, but all the same, he would never – could never – have caught up. At my command, the catapults launched and Vairis’s horse was crippled, launching him a short distance such that Bjorn was able to bind the Halfling and take him back as prisoner. The dwarf was fuming, and I dare not think of what might have happened had the shots killed Vairis instead…
So we all returned aboard the vessel, all six of us, including that filthy traitor, and set back to Cadrin. But it’s never that simple. The Raven Queen found out she had been duped. A crackle of thunder seemed to shake the ship as a cold wind crept in, and her imposing form materialized before us within the ship. Once more, I couldn’t help but feel that we were in over our heads, but Bjorn faced her boldly with unwavering conviction. He held firmly by his decision to not hand over Lifecutter, with the entire Lance behind him. Staring Death in the face, we stood our ground, prepared to surrender our souls as we lay our wrists below the blade of the scythe. Mere mortals, we told a goddess she was in the wrong and should entrust the matter to us. Had she fancied, she could have taken it and been done with us, but she deferred to us to decide upon the fate of the weapon. Now, we have a god’s scythe in our possession: at least until we can destroy it.
Bjorn went off to conclude things with Vairis. Phenex and I openly told my father what there is between us. I made it clear that I will be leaving. And the two of us officially started dating. Goodbye, Trestin…

The Time of Fading Greens Part 3
Thoughts, Ruminations, and Old Stories

Abridged at DM’s discretion to maintain chronology and prevent spoilers.

Let’s start off with where I last finished: our scheme to take on the Kenku.

We actually encountered a man who appeared to be working with the Kenku for whatever reason. Phenex confronted him. Subtle is not a word I would use to describe that situation. However, by his appearance here, despite the ruckus we caused, the Kenku had to have been nearby. We scoured the inn for some hideout in the morning, clearing out the inn with, again, commotion. After scaring a poor youth into a pantry and examining nearby, clearly-normal features of the room to a ridiculous amount of detail, we found their hideout, hidden downstairs under some crates.

We found more than just Kenku. A foul beast called a Krenshaw. A beast whose visage is the definition of “nightmare.” One of many things that I hope never to face once again. We fought all of them and garnered nothing more than just a few papers.. Other than our failed attempts, Bjorn and the Raven Queen had a meeting – one that we could only hear Bjorn’s side. Phenex and I decided to burn the Kenku on a pyre – they were killing, but they still deserved an honest death.

We returned to the keep to find Trestin totally fine, much to our surprise. He could only wonder as to how the Kenku got his voice, but he managed to point us to a possible clue in the Third Ring of the city – a weird symbol, one of Orcus scribed onto a wall of an old crypt that was part of the sewer system.

We arrived, and just as Trestin stated, there it was. A symbol of Orcus. We noticed that it was a door that required blood to open; and as you would expect, I offered mine to open it. And lo and behold it was our old acquaintances in the Cult of Orcus that was there to greet us. We were greeted by halberdiers, necromancers, and mechanical beasts. They were dealt with without too much issue. Nothing says “old friends” more than the clashing of swords and lightning.

Shortly after that, we tore through room after room trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. However, we found more than we bargained for. We encountered Duregar, We attacked them. They were innocents, we didn’t know. But still, we attacked innocents…

We soon encountered an ancient Deva, Nevah. She had been guarding a portal opened ages ago that lead to the Far Realms by someone named Teflon or something like that. Rather, she was guarding the portal… on the other side of the compound. There was something unusual about this situation, but we agreed to confirm that the portal was still closed. We continued through the temple, and found a conference hall, with a Duregar politician named Hjalmar engaged in dealings with the leader of those bothersome Blackguard from Cadrin. We left that meeting be for that time; it would continue for much longer, and Bjorn was agitated about this situation, but this was not our priority right now.. We planned to return after we confirmed the state of the portal.

We found that the door was closed, at least it was perceived that way. Aryawwn became dominated by the goddess, Ioun. She desperately tried to find out what was behind that door, and Aryawwn was the means to find out what was behind the door. That wish was granted soon, Bjorn bashed opened the door. The portal was actually sealed using runes. Here, the Raven Queen and Bahamut debated as to how to answer the matter, as petitioned by Bjorn and I respectively. They finally reached a consensus and hid the space from eyes with a rune of suggestion.
It was around this time that we met Reagan, the leader of the guard protecting the Duregar workers. It was at this time that we learned of our actions – we apologized much later for our actions, but…emphasis on much…

We made our way back to the conference room and well… I can’t really describe what happened. First, a capture and then an interrogation that ended with some more killing. Following that, we had our rather… grand and unexpected entrance to the meeting room, it was an exchange of words and plenty of killing – a rather one-sided verbal and physical slaughter. My comrades and I had taken to calling the leader, Ser Twiginass (real name: Sigenbas). It’s what makes the most sense after understanding his personality through our linguistic sparring. After our conquest, we captured the Duregar politician, Hjalmar, and brought him and the deal he was making to the attention of Reagan.

The deal was to search for a “stick” of some kind. Twiginass said they would know when they found it. In exchange, the Underground city of Njarovik would have a legion of the undead supplementing their forces for protection against the city of Dwarves, Dawn. Hjalmar wasn’t much of a man in the first place based on our first impressions, but Reagan made him…less of a man upon hearing the details of this deal. Placing an undead army as additional troops for the city of Njarovik would only send the wrong messages to the Dawn holds.. It was at this poin that we told her our end of the events that transpired. Suffice to say, she was livid, but she understood and tried to let this pass, and pass it did.

Forgive me. For now I must rest. I am still tired from all the turbulent events that transpired. I shall write more in a moment.

Entry Fifteen
A Tiefling's Story

Trestin was fine; in fact he was completely oblivious to how the Kenku were able to obtain his scream. I asked if he suffers from night-terrors but neither he nor Aryawwn believe he does. Aryawwn was ecstatic that he was alive and a smile rolled on my face. To see her happy is enough for me. To see them together reminded me of the loves of my past: Vesta, Melanie… women who brought a smile to my face, but I’d rather see happy than be with, and dear Aryawwn is the third. Trestin was able to point us to a possible location the Orcus cult has been hiding and we prepared to set out, but first I wanted to speak with the king. We left Aryawwn and Trestin alone to catch up. I spoke to King Luther, telling him of the fate of the Kenku and of where we will be heading to deal with the Orcus Cult. I told him if we were not back in three days that he should send reinforcements. He was not thrilled with the idea of his only child going down into some unknown dungeon to face necromancers. Bowing to him, on one knee with my sword planted to the ground, I promised him by the grace of the Gods I would bring his daughter back. And with that blessing he let us go; I guess I am now Aryawwn’s unofficial bodyguard. Certainly it would be interesting to be her official bodyguard, I’d like that.
We made our way to an old sewer system which connected to an even older crypt. The crypt had several noblemen entombed, many bearing the symbols of Erathis, which I find as an interesting note, many in Cadrin today worship Pelor who is Erathis’ husband. At the end of the crypt there was a secret door with the symbol of Orcus engraved into it, some dried blood gave the indication that it needs blood to open it. Phalanx, always the scapegoat, took the burden on himself. Bjorn and I hid so that we had an edge in the fight, but we were immediately knocked on our asses by two halberdiers. Aryawwn kicked some serious ass, killing one Halberdier and the Necromancer. Sydienne killed both Iron Guardians, knocking one into the water, I killed the other Halberdier. With the first room down, we had three paths which we could take. Examining the room I came to a shocking revelation. This temple is ancient, from the wear and tear I’d guess thousands of years old, from a time before modern memory. It seems as if it was older than Milo itself. I wonder what divine it had been attributed to… but there is something cold about this place. Something more distant and greater than Orcus ever has been. Something in this temple’s solace is reaping the air…
We will continue soon enough…
~Khuda Hafiz (Gods Preserve You)
Phenex Bat-Laylah

For Phenex
The Princess Diaries

Who would have thought that you’d be my savior?
A devil with horns, such an unruly sight.
But with the heart of a saint you endured my behavior
And held me so close as I shook in the night.

Beyond mercy’s sense, your essence so kind,
And you were the one whom I left behind.

I guarded my secrets when you never asked,
Till they surfaced by chance in the night sky starry.
To you I cried first, confessed to you last,
With fragments of dead dreams; for that I am sorry.

Your soothing voice warms the back of my mind,
And you were the one whom I left behind.

That thorn in my mind’s incessant stings
Drove me past conscious control of my life.
My firebird, songbird, spreading your wings,
You take off to flee from my senseless strife.

A gift from the gods, you’re my blessed find,
And you were the one whom I left behind.

What if I promise to turn around,
Fit the fragments back together,
Pick my life up off the ground,
Rebuild my world, for you, forever?

Every cloud is Silver-lined.
His was the past we can leave behind.

Entry Fourteen
A Tiefling's Story

Well that did not go to plan… like, not one bit. I lost it… why the hell do I ever try to do anything? Every time I try to fix something, every time I try to help; the damn thing blows up in my face and I’m the bad guy. Fuck that. While waiting for the Kenku, a different sort had come: a man by the name of Edgar Dent, the go between who supplies them with their contracts. He was very steadfast in the “rules”, if you could even call them that, on how the Kenku operate their little gig here in the city. But something came over me. This was a man who supplied these assassins with contracts. This was a man who out of the virtue of association was responsible for an unknown number of murders. This was a man who made his money in the blood of innocent lives. There are those who say that it was going to be done anyway. There are those who believe that those lives did not matter. But, I have had all that I have ever loved taken from me, I cannot sit around when innocent people lose their loved ones over wealth and revenge. We’ve killed Kobolds for far less.
I struck out against the bastard, pinning his hand to the table with one of my daggers. I couldn’t break my gaze at him. I knew he was never going to tell us where the Kenku were… I didn’t care, I wanted this man dead. I don’t care who he is personally, I don’t care if he is a “nice guy”, this man has profited OFF THE DEATHS OF THESE PEOPLE! This is different from someone who crafts a sword; a sword is only as dangerous as the person who wields it. This was a man who had blood on his hands and he couldn’t be punished for it… Now with the contracts I can prove his involvement in the deaths of several of Milo’s citizens. We can turn him over to the local authorities; he’ll spend the rest of his sorry life in prison, if they find him of course. The Kenku are dead… but justice has not been done… yet… or…. Will it ever… once again here I am… alone in my convictions… alone in this world… Lily… Lily…
My comrades and I eventually discovered that there was a basement to the tavern, but it was getting far too late. We all went to bed. Phalanx slept outside, Bjorn and Aryawwn had the master suite, but apparently Bjorn slept on the floor as Aryawwn and the pig had the bed. Aryawwn… she is growing more distant… but it’s fine (it’s not)… no it’s not… Trestin is fine, but I feel that he is not… I worry of how this will affect her… I don’t think she could lose him again. What should I do? If I go now, there will be trouble, but if I stay there will be double.
I was crying again last night. Here I am, trying to do some good, leave this world better than the way I found it, but no matter what I do my plans and hopes backfire. The curse which has stained my flesh will haunt me until my death, I am a monster… I have no way around that. A Tiefling, a race cursed for their betrayals long ago, forever to live in shame and hatred. We are hunted and abused for the sins of Bael Turath, pushed through the ages by the blood of the fiends. We are treated as monsters and the only way to survive is to become one. Lily… Lily, I love you, but all those years ago, I told you that we were not the monsters those boys said we were, I told you we were good at heart. I’m not. I’m weak. I’m scared. I’m alone. This curse is only broken in death. I see the way they stare; I hear the words they say. Everything we do as is judged far more harshly than most others. In order for these people not to consider us cruel, we have to be six times more just. In order not to be considered vile, we have to be six times as kind. In order not to be considered treacherous, we have to be six times as loyal. Lily, it’s hard; it’s neigh impossible to ever live up to such standards and thus so many of us fall. We are struck down so hard, at we feel we must strike back… but in the end it is are kind that are the monsters. In order to survive in society we have to take a hit and not strike back, but in order to survive this world we have to strike first… we lose either way…
I had my own room, well no, not really. Sydienne was there, in her bestial form. I felt really awkward when she climbed up on the bed. She isn’t a pet, she is my comrade. She’s not even a beast, but an elf (half-elf, but you get the point). As weird as it was and as worried the questions were in my head, I felt comfort with her there. Her fur was soft and her body was warm. She licked my face when she saw that I was crying. The uneasiness left my body… I was happy. I’m not alone in this world. I have my friends. Well, I have most of them…
In the morning my spirits were lifted, Sydienne came down the stairs with me, still in fox form. She has been in that state for more than twenty-four hours now. I wonder about her, why she feels more at home as a pet than a person. What happened to you my friend? Maybe she’s just that way, but I sense something dark in her past. She fits right in to our sorry lot; at least Phalanx can go back to his wife. If she does have a shadow in her past then she doesn’t outwardly show it. She is happy and that makes me happy. My father always told me to be happy, no matter what Hells the world can conjure, face them with a gleam in your heart, be strong for those who need it. Nothing else matters if you can bring a smile to someone’s face. I wonder if it is just a Tiefling thing to have flap-jack philosophies or if I’m actually and truly psychotic.
We all were ordering breakfast, mostly Ham as it was the cheapest. Bjorn was helping Aryawwn with her hangover. Phalanx and I were sat at another table, and the Barkeep must have thought I was out of my mind when I pulled up a chair for Syd as he only assumes that she was a mere pet.
The party was all back together now, and we had to find the birds. The other day I had discovered that the Tavern had a basement yet no determinable entryway to it. There was only one door we hadn’t checked, the backdoor. I distracted the barkeep as Sydienne wandered into the back, she came back with a ham and I asked her, “Whatcha’ got there girl?” but this was actually a clever disguise for “what did you see?” at least I hope it was, Sydienne understood and that is all that mattered. We headed back upstairs and hatched a plan to get through the bolted door she found on the otherside. The plan didn’t go as expected as Bjorn just knocked out the barkeep and Phalanx scared a man into the pantry. The party split up to search, the bolted door hiding only a storage room, Bjorn and Phalanx were waking the barkeep to learn where the basement entrance was, I stationed myself at the pantry and talked to the kid. I learned his name was Felix, he was about sixteen or seventeen and this was his first job. He was pretty much shitting his pants as he had no idea on what was going on; he didn’t even know there was a basement. Poor kid, I talked with him to calm him down, I told him about my first job, killing rats in Greymont. After we had learned that the Basement entrance was hidden beneath the storage room, I unlocked the pantry door and followed the party down.
Kenku, there were seven of them, and they weren’t alone. They had a Krenshar with them. Krenshar are a relic of the past. Now found only on distant continents, deep within primeval forests, or in the possession of carnivals and mercenary gangs. I’m not sure where they got this Krenshar. As Kenku they could have easily brought it with them from that lost world in the east. They seem to be some kind of kin to Cats and Hyena, collectively Feliformia. Their lost world quality matched well with the Kenku, making their presence both earthly, yet otherworldly. We killed them all, and I collected the contracts they had from their table. Bjorn went into some strange trance, at first I didn’t realize because he was looking straight at me and said, “Oh, my queen!” I was dumbfounded and in my infinity density said, “Thank You,” in a slightly concerned voice. Then it hit me, he was speaking with Death… well one of the aspects of Death, specifically the Judge: The Raven Queen. We could only hear his side of the conversation, so Phalanx and I decided to get busy. We dismantled the tables and chairs in the basement to make funeral pyres for the Kenku, they may have been no-good assassins, but everyone deserves a proper send out. Phalanx and I left the basement when it was all said and done. Drawing one of Haurvatat’s symbols in the dirt and kneeling before it a gave out a short prayer under my breath, “Healing hands, look after these people, both those unknown to me and those I love. Master of the Wind, light my way, though the sins of my past can never be erased, may my future be bright”. Aryawwn came out of the Tavern shortly after, and I could see it in her eyes… she knew he was alive… I don’t know what will become of her. Please by whatever grace or devil controls her fate, leave her be… do not torment her like this. She deserves none of this; she doesn’t deserve to be toyed with. I know we will get through whatever horror is in store and I’ll fight for my friends and these people till the end, but I fear that she will not make it all the way through, not in one piece. No matter what happens little one, I’m by your side…
~Khuda Hafiz (Gods Preserve You)
Phenex Bat-Laylah

The Princess Diaries

There is no trust.
He’s alive.
He’s home.
They knew.
It all tumbles backwards.

Bjorn was granted audience with the Raven Queen, and she bestowed upon Boop a blessing. He entered a trance-like state as he spoke to her, speaking aloud in our world while whisked away to her realm and oblivious to the happenings around him. It seems his Queen drove him to a realization on the nature of justice within her domain – the pudgy bloke is capable of deep thought after all – but more to my concern, he mentioned Trestin.

Trestin is alive. Then the theories, the blasted theories, lies, lies, bloody lies! He approached Her Grace declaring that “we think” such a wild range of possibilities may have swallowed my Silver; they had to have all known for some time to dream up that nonsense, and they kept it all from me. Why wouldn’t they tell me!? They don’t trust me. I can’t afford to trust them. Wariness aside, I must keep one: Bjorn is the one to trust. Whether they all knew or not, he answered me directly – my faith lies in him alone.

We caught the last kenku from yesterday. We invaded their lair beneath the tavern and promptly slaughtered their flock. Their krenshar left us rattled, but when it died, the tide turned overwhelmingly in our favor. We looked about the room, gathered up the kenkus’ scattered contracts, and then She visited.

Finding our way down was not the most straightforward of matters. Obviously we were to infiltrate their hideout, but arriving in the tavern was our last clue to its location. My memory turns grey on the matter of last evening… I awoke this morning hung over after that horrible helplessness, and Bjorn offered me a cure that left no trace of that vile poison in my body (or food, for that matter). There was a man connected to the birds, and somehow from him, our lot determined the roost was inside the tavern, but the in-between… goes fuzzy. I do know the man tried to help me. Not everyone caught in these plots is a terrible, twisted monster. If those theories were right, if Trestin did get roped in… no, no! Of course that’s not true! But… sometimes good people find themselves in bad situations…

We broke in behind the bar. We found a basement. We went down. Fear and feathers, ferocity and fiends. Phalanx and Phenex burned the bodies. I heard Bjorn. Sydienne always watched. She sees the most. He’s back in the keep, Bjorn said. Sydienne and Phenex went there, and she must have seen. They told him, left me in silence.
This is a bad situation. I’m not sure I’m one of the good people.

The Time of Fading Green - Part Two
Thoughts, Ruminations, and Old Stories

I have gathered my thoughts, and I can now write. We arrived in Milo a short time ago. Where we were greeted by a party of knights raced past us as soon as we finished. Aryawwn was summoned to the keep, where we encountered her father sitting upon what appeared to be a glorified chair. We spoke our greetings and Sydienne, Bjorn, Phenex, and I were ushered out for an evening meal; Phenex stayed behind and waited for Aryawwn. We finished our meals and were escorted to our quarters. Something exploded as we were walking; we rushed over to investigate the scene.

There appeared to be no damage as we approached the wall. Upon speaking to a nearby guard, we discovered the rebellion we had heard so much about was still in progress – the “defeated” faction was still conducting guerilla warfare against the city. There appeared to be capable mages in the group as the nature of the explosion was magical. The minute we could no longer gather information from the guards, we began to advance towards our lodgings. I left to train with my bastard sword.

It was nearly midnight when I began to walk back for the night. A shadowy figure, who later was found to be Aryawwn sneaking out, skulked away from the house. I immediately took pursuit, however, heavy armor is not ideal for stealth. At all. The figure lost me once they reached the alleyways; it was too dark and there was no way I knew the layout of the city as well as they did. I rushed back and warned the others. We checked Aryawwn’s room when I made the observation of the figure’s figure. It turned out it was her running out for some reason. We immediately grabbed her gear and ran out to follow what little trail there was. We soon caught up with her in a small glade outside of town. There was magical residue, but there was no clear indication to what type of spell it was. Aryawwn cried out and slashed at her arm with the knife she kept with her – something has been bothering her since we arrived and it finally erupted out her.

The following day, we attempted to follow Aryawwn to her father’s castle. She dismissed us without saying a word to us – calling on the guards to prevent us from entering. We departed, and decided to pursue a different method of investigation. There was a trail left from the explosion and we decided to follow it, why would a bunch of suspicious people be able to gather information from the secretive population. We encountered some of the rebel forces and they were not very receptive of the idea of us not peeping a word to the higher-ups. We engaged in rather one-sided fight, without Aryawwn we suffered quite a bit. We were captured and thrown into a prison hut. I managed to get out of my bindings but the guards quickly discovered my escape and rebound me – they did not expect me to pull out trick 43 from the handbook as they retied me.! My silent triumphing was cut short as the guards took us to their leader, who quickly released us. We were quickly thrown back into the hut where we stayed for a while until all of a sudden, everyone began scrambling and packing everything. We exited the hut once we were sure that everything was clear for us to come out. We found our gear neatly piled over by a nearby tree. Bjorn had his suspicions, and he was right to have them. I felt uneasy about this convenient piling, but there was no immediate danger near us. We had to get out of here before something else happened.
We soon found out that we were rescued by Aryawwn and her band of friends. A strange man named Doric approached me from the group. He quickly challenged me to a sparring match. During which he began to yell strange things about his allies. This was no time for a match, but I welcomed a challenge as a reliever before something worse happened. Everyone else seemed to think so.
As we arrived back to the city, guards in black armor approached us. The one in command told us to follow him. We did – after we dropped our stuff; they were kind enough to let us do that. They were also kind enough when they brought us to an interrogator. He may be doing his job, but that is far from what a normal interrogation should be. Back in Bern, they would be much more violent with prisoners, and I couldn’t help but sneer and mock him in silence.
Upon our release, we went our merry way. Alcohol, merriment, and relaxation, at the tavern. Yes, we stayed at the inn. Phenex and I had a discussion about a symbol she had burned into her door. A personal discussion too personal for this journal I’m afraid. Perhaps I’ll write it later if it weighs lighter in my conscience. There was a good reason we stayed at the inn. Our quarters were ransacked when returned in the day. Everything was set back in order and we started our work.
We played the investigation game some more yielding some rather interesting things about our friends in the black armor.
There was a scream as Aryawwn dashed away frantically. We gave chase, but we should have tried to calm her down, retrospectively. It was her misfortune that we ran into tenku as we caught up with Aryawwn. She was badly injured and we began our counterattack. These birds were much tougher than we anticipated. Their coordination was extraordinary – we resorted to techniques that were much more deadly than normal. The birdbrains knocked me out but we were able to take down two and receive some very useful information from them. Phenex and Aryawwn gave chase. The trail was lost, rather it was everywhere. We have to change our tactics to a more… aerial point-of-view. By that, I mean using Bjorn’s devotion to the Raven Queen to our advantage. We begin soon.


Entry Thirteen
A Tiefling's Story

The Kenku are an interesting species. I think they descend of the primeval survivors of Jehol, and this would make sense, as they are most common in Jehol, Bamar, and Xia-Zhou. They are not birds, despite being called bird-men, as they have fingers. All Neornithes have fused hands and complete wings. The Kenku are likely some form of stem Availian or possibly even more closely related to the other clades of Maniraptora (Troodontidae is a safe bet). They have the ability to mimic sounds, thus with a scream they brought us into a trap. Yet we held our ground very well. Bjorn killed one and I killed the other, but the third escaped. Aryawwn and I tried to follow it, but I was too weak to give chase. We came to learn they were hired by a cult of Orcus worshippers (I’m seriously getting tired of these bastards; my beef is with a bigger foe). There is a near certainty that they are in league with the Black-Armoured guards. Sydienne was the first to realize that since they need to hear something to mimic it, and they were using Trestin’s voice, Trestin was in trouble. We rushed to find out what they had done to him. But we ended up splitting the party; Sydienne and I went first to the library to pick up a book on the local topography and the layout of Milo, to hopefully find out where a cult may end up hiding. Then we went to King Luther.
Sydienne and I entered the King’s chamber and I informed him of the Cult and of Trestin’s peril. He was surprised to hear the latter because Trestin was fine, he was in his chamber. My heart sank lower than it has ever before, well that’s a goddamn lie, I heard Dragonborns snuff my family including a two year old child, but this was gut-wrenching. I fear that the one who Aryawwn loves more than any other may already be dead. I think he died months ago… I fear this is not Trestin. There is something wrong with this city. While I would never pick sides in a civil war, I refuse to stand by as innocent people are threatened by black guards, black birds, and the black magics of the Lord of the Undead. I draw that line in the sand. Sydienne and I requested the help of some guards in finding the Kenku’s roost.
We happened upon Phalanx, and found out that Bjorn and Aryawwn have located a Tavern the dinosaurs frequent. With a humorous tale from Bjorn I headed over and staked the place out, I bought Aryawwn some wine. I need to speak with her, but if I am unable, I asked Sydienne to take her to Luther. I have a plan to deal with the birds. I can see this going one of three ways, and one of those ways is likely to get me killed. I went over the plan with the others, only Aryawwn doesn’t know, and I do not want her to know… I’m sorry my love…
~Khuda Hafiz (Gods Preserve You)
Phenex Bat-Laylah

Entry Twelve
A Tiefling's Story

Thank the gods for Phalanx’s concoction, I haven’t been this stone cold drunk in a month. I promised I wouldn’t drink, I promised I wouldn’t return to that horrid, loathsome place at the bottom of my psyche, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t just hurt myself in the same way again. Aryawwn… I had to let her go… it’s for her own good… Trestin is alive; her love, her fiancé, her best friend.
I guess I should play a bit of catch-up, after we left Winterhaven we traveled back to Fallcrest. We spent a while there restocking our supplies. Bjorn bought a pig for some reason, Mariel, she is beyond adorable. Helped us find truffles on our way to Milo. Oh yeah, we made the five day trek across the Vale to Milo, Aryawwn’s home town. Both in Fallcrest and when we camped, Aryawwn and I slept in the same bed; it’s been so long since I felt the warmth of another… I know what you’re thinking, but heaven’s no nothing happened. It’s just been so long since I held someone… or someone held me… and once again that’s gone. Damn I know how to pick them, don’t I; either it’s a one night stand or they are already bound to another. I can get this happening to a gal once, but thrice? Damn I really know the perfect ways to break my own heart. Vesta… Melanie… now Aryawwn… I’m beginning to think fate hates me.
We got to Milo to learn that it had gone through some nasty political upheavals, and apparently dear Aryawwn is now a princess, as her father, Luther, is now Milo’s King. Cadrin… I think that’s what they call the inner circles of the city. Apparently the rebellion is still underfoot as there was an attack on the outer wall, but no one was hurt. That night Aryawwn ran into the forest, we had to follow after her. I was worried something would happen to her. My mind raced with images… Ghouls mostly… I will never shake that night. In an odd flash of light we found her alone in a glade. She was on her knees. I rushed to her and held her in my arms, told her that we were there for her, and kissed her on the forehead. In a surprising reaction she pushed me away and cut into her arm with the dwarven dagger. She had hatred in her eyes… the look broke me… what had I done wrong… I failed her. I could feel my soul boiling, and I could feel my eyes roll back in my head. I didn’t want to let her see me like this… I didn’t want to see her like that… I ran… I could think of anything else to do but run… once again I ran… some friend I am… some hero I am… I didn’t help her… I didn’t protect the baby… maybe I am better off gone, maybe they were right and maybe he was right.
The thoughts of my uncle’s words rang in my head once again. Some days I believe he was right… I don’t wish to talk about it. Phalanx, Sydienne, Bjorn, and I headed out to follow the lead of the terrorists attack on the outer walls. We did find an outpost in the forest. We tried to speak with them; I didn’t want to kill anyone… If anything I didn’t want to get myself involved with this war. I can’t stand war, especially if they are civil wars. There is so much needless death over things that are unimportant, of little importance, or of importance to only those at the top. I can’t stand killing people (any sentient really), unless they are murders (This includes warlords and genocidal pricks), rapists, or in allegiance with forces that wish to destroy innocent lives, but these people just want to be free and I can respect that. But three men ended up dead, and we ended up captured. We were brought to their camp but were soon rescued by an interesting band of people. Aryawwn was leading them. I came to learn the big fellow was named Doric, he and Phalanx became fast friends. There was a ranger, for all their buildup, they really aren’t as interesting as they think they are, and he was no different. There was a bard, Emile was his name, and he seemed to by hitting it off with Bjorn. Upon the sight of my beloved Aryawwn I ran into her arms. I looked into her eyes, mine still a blank white, and I saw something was wrong. That’s when I saw him… Trestin… he was alive. Upon this realization my soul split in two, I smiled at her and I told her that very few people ever get a second chance, especially like this. I asked Trestin to take good care of her and I kissed him on the cheek, and left her with him. I am so happy for her… but my heart has been swallowed, it happened again. My mind turned to Vesta… motherly and sweet, as close as we got, I knew I had to let her go, she was married and I didn’t want to take that from her. I thought of Melanie… free-spirited and beautiful, I had to let her go, she had a lover and I wouldn’t take her away from her. I do not recall the names of my drunken flings, only present to make me forget about how alone I was. Now dear Aryawwn… he is more important to you, and I will not take you from him… Once again I was alone… on our way back all I wanted was a drink and to drown in my self-loathing… drunkenly strum and longingly stare… my mind focusing only on my precious desert flower.
But we were stopped on our way to the bar… five guards clad in Black Armor… they took us deep in a crypt to what I think was meant to be a torture chamber… turned interrogation room. The old veteran did the questioning, all about the rebels… first Bjorn, then Phalanx… he asked me about who was helping them and what they were planning. I told him straight up that the elves were helping them, and that they were preparing for war. The Veteran told me that the war was over. “It’s only over when both sides concede”, I replied. He hit me, the blow was quite hard. Like a fucking idiot I reply to such a dick move with a smirk, he slapped me again. Bjorn stood up for me, but he was lucky that he didn’t get his head lopped off. The Veteran then went over to Sydienne. I couldn’t hear her, but whatever she said didn’t please him, he slapped her. I seethed with rage. Who was this bastard who seemed to only get his panties filled by smacking around women who couldn’t even draw a blade on him? We were released and Aryawwn came to my aid, asking if I was alright. I was glad to see she didn’t hate me, that she still cared. But my heart sank when I looked at her.
We finally were able to go to the bar, everyone having a jolly-good time. I sat in the corner with my lute, strumming the tune to the song “Big River” by a traveling Bard named John. I drank alone, away from everyone else; though my eyes darted around. Everyone seemed so happy. Sydienne even got to drinking. Bjorn was talking with Emile, and Aryawwn sat with Trestin. Phalanx walked up to me, and we had a talk. I don’t know where I’d be with him. He is kind of like that big brother I never had, almost like Kesef, except not as silly… now that I think of it Kesef was more like Bjorn. I apparently got drunk enough to trip over my massive Rapunzeline pony-tail, in rage I told it to fuck-off and with a flash of the dwarven dagger I lopped off my pony-tail. Picking up the massive bundle of hair I tossed it to some unknown direction never to see it again. Maybe I was letting go of the past, maybe I was getting rid of something that was weighing me down, or maybe I just needed a haircut.
~Khuda Hafiz (Gods Preserve You)
Phenex Bat-Laylah


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