The Lance of Marduk

In The Dark of Night
Sydienne Terragon

I awoke with a start as a shout split the fabric of my dreamings. Hastily I shouldered my rucksack and snatched up my scythe.I swayed as I stood – it must’ve been somewhere around 2 in the morn. In my haze, I perceived our two tanks, Phalanx and Bjorn, blocking the entrance of our treasure room. Shaking my head and steadying myself, I watched in confusion as Aryawwn lowered her weapon and began walking towards our assailants. Phalanx boldly stepped in and sacrificed his health, taking each arrow strike as a drop of rain; he swatted them away just as easily. Moments after cutting down those pesky flies, the arrows, he went down – as did Aryawwn and Phenex. Willing myself out of my stupor, I reacted with fire, enchiladaing the boss of the horde and healing Phalanx with flames. Immediately I was struck back, taking a great amount of damage. Phalanx stood and returned the favor, healing me and puking acid on everything within reach. Finally we were able to get some fresh air and elbow room. Unfortunately Phalanx was soon down again, but I had the chance to advance and attack the wretched minions. One fell to my blow and another retaliated. I took an arrow to the knee. A shrill scream seared my senses and I turned sharply to see Phalanx back up, bloody sword over his shoulder and standing over the still erect body of a headless Hobgoblin. Turning, he snarled at the rest of our foes, and they began shaking in their boots. Using their fear to our advantage, the ladies and I rushed the archers. I viciously attacked with flame and claw, phasing between beast and half-elf more rapidly than ever before and only getting shanked twice. Aryawnn healed me before we and Phalanx finish them off. She promptly passed out…
As soon as Aryawwn recovered, we decide to head out – and by “we”, I mean everyone but groggy me (oh, the wonders of sleep deprivation!). Anyways, the decision led us stumbling into a rather large and spectacularly decorated room: in the center on a finely chiseled dais, a sword-wielding golem; on the side, a standing dragon in each courner; and guarding the exit, four cherubs holding water basins. Something didn’t smell right…it was then that Bjorn took one step too far. The golem animated immediately, taking a swing at the unintelligent dwarf. I chastised him for being imprudent – it was just as I had expected. He learned from his mistake rather quickly, and while he and Phalanx wandered over to the dragon statues, I accompanied the ever-curious Aryawwn in her inspection of the cherubim. I don’t know why everyone seems to let her wander off by herself all the time – it never seems to be a good idea… Phenex eventually joined us and mumbled something about putty; I wondered to myself what in the cosmos she needed that malleable clay for… During our investigation, we found that the cherubs had water runes inscribed inside the basins. Ecstatic, I called out to Melora, goddess of wilderness, nature, and sea, in praise! …Phalanx reminded me that nothing in this Keep represented Melora, only his god… Well then. No sooner than those disappointing words had escaped his jaws, some invisible barrier set itself up between the ladies and the gents. Apparently the cherubim were another proximity activated trap. Something told me to suspect Aryawwn for this. I didn’t blame her, but I was a little annoyed that another one of us was being less-than-cautious. Quickly the small chamber began to fill with water; while the men worked away at the two cherubs nearest them, I took this opportunity to beg Melora for halp. One of my teammates alerted me by hacking away at one of the cherubim. I gaped my mouth and stared at the disgrace – no, it was the perversion of these beautiful pieces of artwork into booby traps that was the disgrace here. It pissed. Me. OFF! In a fury, I gritted my teeth , followed my friends, and swung my scythe at the last one. Unfortunately, I am not quite as strong as my companions and only maybe chipped it… Damn, my weapon sucks.
And then the worst happened… Behind the door hid a troop of undead minions, a ghoul, and a homonculus. These foes… The epitome of many’s nightmares. I had no trouble staring them down. In the Upperdark, I had watched many a foul being become a ghoul or create a homunculus. Such acts against nature must be destroyed. Although I tried to kill them with fire, Bjorn was the one to deliver them… after I accidentally set him on fire. I’m sure there will come a time when I am not useless, but today was not the day. Once the big two were taken care of, the fight was rather easy and short-lived. During the last moments of battle, Phalanx showered the minions in acid and I took out three of them. We all took a moment to catch our breaths before looting the room. Between these moments, I had a feeling of great victory and the words “level up!” flashed through my mind. Strange… In our last search of the room, I happened to find a bag of holding. We were all very impressed and everyone agreed to let me have it. I smiled in satisfaction – not because this could benefit our next adventure, but because for once I was allowed a share of the non-monetary spoils. ‘Tis finally time for all of us to get our full rest.
Green glades & golden grains,
Sydienne ~

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

A rather rude awakening today, I would say. Phenex was on watch, ever so slightly half-asleep – I had just woken her for her shift. A short while later, loud yelling and clanging woke me. All of us stood up, still dazed from our rest. A hobgoblin patrol stumbled into the small treasure room. We assumed a wall, protecting everyone in the back, while Bjorn and I stood at the forward. The hobgoblins were just as annoying as they were a short while earlier. Another soldier slid into view in the doorway. He leered at Aryawwn – she began walking forward on her own. I jumped in front of her, and I was taken up front instead. I stood in the doorway holding my ground while everyone else fought off the remaining troops in the alcove. They tried to best me and get into the room – I would not yield. The scaled hobgoblins swung at me repeatedly only to fail miserably. The mage tried to strike me down but his efforts did not have the power. Archers tried to shoot past me at my comrades, but I could see the shots clearly and stopped them from advancing further than my position. I only faltered momentarily by the mage and the massive shockwave he conjured, but I was immediately returned to consciousness by Aryawwn while Sydienne pelted at the foes with her flames. Before standing, I took the opportunity to aid Sydienne as she had taken several blows upon my awakening. This mage we faced was the hobgoblin patrol’s captain. I loosed a wave of acid and seared away at a number of the patrol. The mage hissed at me – he was having a rather bad day at my hands. Slowly our party advanced out of the room – I was not sure as I was in and out of consciousness. I mustered what energy I could and regained my composure, I struck at the mage, cleaving the annoyance in half – the rest of the patrol realized I had nothing but eyes on them. They would dare attack anyone else? Farewell. The conflict resolved, I dealt the final blow against the two archers.
We moved to another pathway, unexplored. We ended up in a room filled with odd contraptions and traps. A mechanized statue that swung on regular intervals with a stone blade. Two dragon statues that knocks those who enter a certain range back. I had the misfortune of being the first victim to the dragons. Towards the exit, a set of cherub statues. We passed the former two and reached the exit. The statues loomed over us, we checked to make sure what we were dealing with, and we did not notice too much. Just to be safe, I began to smash the statues, Bjorn had the same idea. We managed to destroy both of them, and I thought it safe to advance now. I was wrong. As Aryawwn approached the door, the runes dimly glowed brighter. Bjorn and I were sealed off from the rest of the group who was in the small passage. The room began to rapidly fill with water and spinning – the balance of the flow was off since we destroyed two of the statues. I tried to yell to our allies trapped in the swirling maelstrom: “break the statues!” I don’t know if they heard me, but Phenex affirmed by waving that they would. They finally managed to break the statues while I continued to tackle the barrier in a rather futile hope that I would be able to break it. Aryawwn managed to break the final statue, and the runes were undone. We moved onto the next room.
A horde of zombies shambled into view. Among their ranks a ghoul with sharpened talons and a homunculus that twitched ever so slightly. The ghoul rushed forward, swiping at Phenex. She took a nasty gash, then the ghoul’s jaw unhinged and tore into her skin with its teeth. The homunculus then stumbled into view and a light emanated from its eyes and Phenex stumbled from an unseen force this time. The undead began sliding forward towards us, groaning all the more. Bjorn moved forward to support Phenex, and I stepped forward to take the brunt of the upcoming swarm. Sydienne began to throw fire at the homunculus and for some reason, it redirected towards Bjorn. The benefits still applied to us, as usual, but we still had the misfortune of having Bjorn being hit. Bjorn recovered and promptly reduced the homunculus into what resembled a smashed plant pot.. A second swift movement, and Bjorn pummeled the ghoul into a pile of rubble. Aryawwn moved up next to me and tried to lash at the zombies, she missed. I turned to the right, grabbed Aryawwn’s head and pushed her down and let loose another wave of acid – the zombies whittled into dust as the acid ate at them. The remaining zombies stumbled towards us. A quick clean blow from all of us and the matter settled.
We are resting in a small alcove now – a bag of holding. This will come in handy for later adventures We rest now – I feel something big is coming up.
Loyalties
Phalanx

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Entry Ten
A Tiefling's Story

I… am still… a little shaken… I need more time to recover. No watch for me tonight, because you know it went so well last time. Oh that’s right I need to write about last night. I was on guard duty when another one of those fucking Hobgoblins showed up with an entire raiding party! I called my comrades to arms and we fought the foes to the best of our abilities. I was shot in my shoulder, I think it may have shattered because I can still feel something in there. The wizard (not Mykhail he’s in the shadowfell… or Hell… probably Hell), no the Hobgoblin wizard; He was a fucking asshole… cheap too. Phalanx managed to wreck house with them though. Aryawwn fell near the beginning of the fight… Bjorn did the best he could to patch her up… which wasn’t very good really. I came to her and tended to her the best I could. She is my priority. If nothing else I will not fail her.
I charged out to face the archers, a pair of she-hobs. Sydienne had my back as did Aryawwn. But I fell… not like I ever had before… as I was blacking out I saw Bjorn collapse as well… I was out of it then. I could feel a burning within me. As if I were on fire, a beast which only sought vengeance and was fueled by rage seemed to muster itself from within my sorry state.
I saw something odd when I was down. I saw the room around me dissipate and I was laying alone in a black room which moved as fabrics do in the wind. I saw a light cast down to me. It came from a bird, more majestic and unlike any I have seen before. A great bird with a grand wingspan and the most luminous feathers it was. It had teeth in its beak and a set of claws on its hands. It enveloped me in its presence. That’s when it spoke, not physically but telepathically. It had a womanly voice. She told me that she would look out for me. I had many questions. Who was she? What was she? Why is she looking out for me, a goddamned, good-for-nothing Tiefling? Before I asked she answered one, “Someone loves you dearly child, she has asked me to protect you, to get you home safely. I can’t be there all the time, still I will be there when you need me. I will keep to the promise I made with your desert flower”.
Desert Flower… That is something I haven’t heard in a long time… Lily… my dear Lilin…
And as if to answer my previous questions, the bird seemed to become a loose white fabric, twirling into the figure of a woman. She appeared to be in her forties, Arabic in form, with dark hair, brown skin, and buxom figure. The fabrics formed a gown and hijab which bathed her beauty in a radiant light. Six great white wings, with an almost iridescent hint of reds and blues, spread from behind her form. An angel… an Archangel…
That was when I could feel my condition stabilize… and the beautiful maid left my vision. I came to to see another beautiful maid in my vision… dear precious Aryawwn.
We came to the next room to see some… well obvious traps. Bjorn managed to deactivate the swinging Automaton-like statue in the most dwarfish way possible. Syd, Aryawwn, and I ended up trapped in a magic room with four little Putti statues. And yes they were Putti not Cherubim. A Cherub would be offended if you called her a Putto; Cherubim are massive fiery beasts with massive hooves, four heads, four wings, four hands, and skin of coal. Still the result was the same, smashed the babes quickly so that we could be free, Aryawwn did the final blow.
The next room was filled with undead… like three metric fuck-tons of them. Upon entering I saw a Zombie on Bjorn’s left and I rushed to slay it, but as it fell something approached… a ghoul… I… I… I… I can’t even bring myself to think of those wretched creatures… I had never feared anything more in my life. That beast was the haunt of my childhood. The creature rushed me and clawed me, grappled me, and bit me. I had flashbacks to that day… I went down, paralyzed as Phalanx and Bjorn struck the beast. I couldn’t move… It happened again…
When I was thirteen… Lilin and I had decided to sneak out of the house. We had heard that the Glowing Lotus’ were blooming; an amazing sight and a once in a ten year occurrence. These bizarre flowers came from the Feywild deep below Midgard, their bioluminescence helped them survive in the Underdark, and they were brought up by the now free slaves of the Fomorians when they left the Feywild. We snuck out in the dead of night when everyone else was asleep. We grabbed our coats and rushed into the woods up the hills which make the base of the Southern chain in the Dawnforge Mountains. We walked for four hours before we found the grove. The flowers opened up before us, their light radiated across the meadow. Few sights are as wonderful. And few sights are as horrid as what the illuminated. A Ghoul was there in the grove; it began to snarl and rushed toward Lilin. I leapt in front of her, and it tackled me to the ground… its teeth dug into my arm. I tried to fight back, but I soon was paralyzed by the beast. I could see Lilin, she rushed at it, smacking it with a large stick. It lashed back, knocking her prone… It stood over her. That’s when it was hit by a bolt. The Ghoul leapt back from Lilin, a wound ripped through its gut. It yowled at the new comer. Only to be shot again, this time in the head, it was dead… Lilin came to me, she cradled me. I could look up upon her face: tears, terror, and love in her broken eyes… That’s when I saw Mocoton standing over us. He carried me home… I awoke the next day with a Lotus in my bed… and an apology letter from Lily. She blamed herself. I couldn’t bear to see her cry… but we were there for each other.
Now I felt alone… cold as this thing stood over me. That is when I realized I was not alone. I had my brothers and sisters, and they needed me. I began to move my fingers then my arms; I lifted up to cast a fire burst at a pack of the undead. Phalanx was a little surprised. I collapsed again, not yet able to move my legs and lower back. I clutched my steel and thrust it upward at the undead. Bjorn made short work of the Homunculus and Ghoul, while Phalanx killed a shit ton of Zombies. My comrades helped me to my feet, though I stumbled. Phalanx caught me and set me back up, only for me to fall again, this time on Aryawwn. I think she smiled though… does she? No that can’t be… I mean… Trestin? Or… I guess… ohhhh…
~Phenex Bat-Laylah

PS – Find Lute in town.
PPS – Also get glasses.

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Denial
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…

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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 ~

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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.
Honor
Sigurd

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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.
Loyalties
Phalanx

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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

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Together
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.

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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 ~

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