Tir Na n'Fir

The Lost City - A Call Home
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.” – Cora

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

We broke camp the following morning and set out along the roads, keeping the looming cliffs off to the left. The road traveled straight through the hay fields here, and the golden grass swayed on either side of us. We noticed that there were straw thatched huts spaced periodically along the fields, but the farmers that worked there stayed well clear of the roads. The road here was obviously designed for travel, and while there were no inns or buildings along it, there were several cleared spaces and camp sites available for use.

Use them, we did. These sites made it much easier to set up and take down our camp, and our travel was quick and uneventful. I used the down time while we camped to study the book that Tobias had given me, as I had seen mention of a number of spells that might be able to aid with cam preparation and daily activities. I was able to find the descriptions of the spells, but determined that I would have to study them much more before I would be comfortable enough to cast any of them. I missed my connection to my ancestor’s wisdom keenly in this place, though I continually reached out to where their voices should be.

After about a week and a half of travel, we finally saw the edges of the hay fields. The road branched off here, with one path leading straight through the glass forest and another path leading off to the side, around the glimmering trees. The pathway that lead through the forest was littered with shards from fallen leaves and branches, and looked to be quite treacherous for the animals, though we would likely be able to pick our way through unharmed. Lan spoke up then and said that she remembered the brownies we encountered earlier warning us to stay away from the glass forest altogether.

I reached out to touch one of the trees, and found to my interest that they were very certainly alive. I also got a sense of unhappiness from them, but though I tried to use my abilities to perceive the cause of the distress, the only thing I was able to understand from them was that they did not belong in this state. Jaeger reached out to break off a leaf to study, but it shattered with a loud crack the moment he touched it. He then turned into a raven and flew overhead to scout out the pathways. When he returned, he said that it would take only about a week to go through the forest, it would take a month or more to go around it.

In an uncharacteristic display of reluctance, the party as a whole agreed that traveling around the forest would be safer, trusting in Lan’s memory of the brownie’s warning.
Before we turned around I made one last attempt to try to discover why the glass forest was so aggrieved. I had been working with Lan studiously to learn the Fae language, as everything here seemed to speak it. I had refrained from using my spell that let the roads talk to me, up to this point, because the chatter in the unknown language was nearly maddening. I finally felt like I might be able to at least begin to understand what it said, though, and so I cast it again. The chatter was immediate, and I found that I was able to pick up enough to understand the basics of what the roads were saying, but sadly, it told me nothing about the forest or why the trees were so despondent.

I made a note of where the forest was, and wondered yet again if breaking the giant mushroom circle would be beneficial to this area that had been apart from the natural order for so long that the trees had forgotten how to be trees. The more that I consider this path, the more I feel that it may be our only option here. It bears more consideration though, as I have no idea how to even begin such a task.

We took the southern path, leading around the glass forest, and continued to travel for about two days. I noticed that we could no longer see any of the farmers anywhere, but being so close to the forest thought little of it. That evening as we camped, I saw Jaeger and KelLyn huddled together over the fire, working on some form of combined spell. Nothing seemed to happen though, and as there were no explosions or otherwise adverse effects from their plotting, I left them to it. I did notice that Jaeger had gathered some of the glass shards into a pile, and that he used magic to turn them into projectiles which he flung with surprising efficiency at a nearby haybale. He seemed pleased with the results of this spell, and nodded to himself before muttering something unintelligible to KelLyn.

A few more weeks of travel took us on a slightly uphill turn. I noticed that wild onions, chives garlic, and other herbs grew prolifically along the path, and I took the opportunity to gather what I could. I contemplated adding a few of each to my little travelling herb garden, and decided that having such additions would be simple enough. I added a small section to my box, and took several of each of the wild herbs that I found to cultivate for my own.

Eventually we came into sight of the mountain, and saw a large field of bright crimson flowers. There was a ramshackle hut along side the field, and there were five old men dressed in ragged clothing sitting on the porch of the dilapidated building. They each had a pipe in their mouth, and each puff of their breath released an opaque white cloud. They watched us, silently, and made no motion to greet us, speak to us, or do anything except sit and watch. We passed them without a word, and I noticed an odd, cloying smell coming from the flowers in the field. I made a cautious note to stay far away from whatever these flowers were, and we continued along the path toward the mountian. Jaeger said something to Shalev, and Shalev looked at his compass to confirm that we were still heading east.

The paths here were loose and gravelly, but well traveled. We noticed that the glass forest had finally begun to taper off and become more odd looking. The road continued down and we found ourselves journeying beside the forest. The trees were no longer made of glass, but now were brilliantly colored in purple, blue, green, and every other color imaginable. The path lead us through the center of this forest, and we kept to it warily. The trees here also gave off a palpable sense of troubled existence, and periodically Amit would jump up onto the cart and let out a low growl. Every time he did this, we saw well camouflaged green leopards, poised to leap down on the cart, run away. I noticed that they were much smaller cats, and then realized that the pathways babble of “big cat, small cat, small cat” made much more sense.

After another two weeks of travel, we came to a clearing where we saw a herd of centaurs relaxing. I wanted to go and greet them, thinking of the centaur that I held trade with in the desert, but the rest of the party wanted nothing to do with them. The centaurs paid us no mind at all, and I sighed in disappointment at the lost opportunity as we traveled out of the clearing and back into the forest.

Eventually we did clear the forest, and exited out onto a rich pastureland with well tended farms and gardens. We saw the giant mushrooms of the outer ring of this place off to the left. The farmers paid attention to our party, but remained silent as we passed them by. The children though were excited to see us, running up to the fences and shouting to the party to ask if we had seen the centaurs, if we had bought anything from the centaurs, and a host of other questions. I grumbled again to myself about the missed chance to trade with the centaurs as the party responded that we had not stopped to talk or trade with them. The children, disappointed that we had no goodies to share with them, went back to their families, and we continued to travel and camp along the road.

After another day or so of travel, we encountered a farmer on the road who was leading a heavily laden cart pulled by an odd animal that looked like a mix between a camel and an ox. The humpbacked beast was enormous, but placid, and seemed to shoulder the weight of the yoke without a second thought. Shalev greeted the farmer and inquired about what he might have to sell or trade. The farmer said that he was looking for a plow, and when Shalev said that we did not have one, the farmer shrugged and continued to guide the plodding beast along the path.

We saw a large city with a castle built into the cliffs ahead. We saw the homes get closer together, and we saw shops, market places, and a large crater in the center with a house in the middle of the depression. As we got closer to the city, Jaeger did some magic that allowed him to appear human, so as not to cause alarm. I went to one of the closest shops and knelt down to speak to the fae inside. I was able to ask in broken fae if there was a place that we could sleep and trade. He responded in common, seeing my discomfort with the language, and said that the market would be open for trade in three days’ time, and that we were welcome to camp to the west or to the south of town as there were no inns here that could accommodate those of our size comfortably. I thanked the shop keeper for the information, and noticed that he sold barrels. I also noticed that the metal that he used was different, and when I asked politely why he didn’t use iron, he rattled off something about a stronger metal. I asked him to wait a moment, and then brought Tobias in to see the barrels and talk to the shop owner as a fellow cooper. They discussed technique and the finer points of barrel making for a few moments, with the shop keeper telling Tobias that the metal bands he used were made of a gnomish bronze instead of iron. Tobias happily purchased one of the barrels from him, and the shop keeper told us that the name of the city was Wenke. I asked him about the university and he told me that the college was closer to Emer, in the center of the bowl.

I thanked him again, and we took our things to the south of town to make camp while we waited for the marketplace to open. Once we made camp, Shalev set about making an inventory of our trade goods and deciding how best to set up and display the wares we wished to trade. The following morning, we heard an explosion. We immediately looked over at KelLyn and Jaeger, and KelLyn responded “it wasn’t me!” We looked over to the town and saw that there was smoke coming off of a roof on the northern side. Ashley and Osman went to go check out the disturbance, and I mentioned wryly that someone should probably go with them, just in case.

None of the rest of the party made any movement to do so, so I caught up to them to go check out the building. We saw a man standing outside coughing, and three guards nearby asking if he were ok. The guards went into the house and brought out a tray of smoldering ashes. I asked in in halting fae if he was alright, and he rattled off something I couldn’t understand. I asked him to wait, and then went back to camp to go and get Lan to help translate. She conversed with the man for several moments, and I caught the words for “potion” and “healing.” They continued to speak, and I asked about his gardens. The man said that he outsourced for his ingredients, and said that he would hopefully have several potions ready for market, and the preparation of these was what had caused the explosions.

We returned to camp in time to see a large cart full of odd purple roots being poured out into vats and mashed down into a gooey paste. We watched, curiously as the paste was drained onto cloth sheets and then rolled into cone shapes. We asked what this was, and were told that it was a type of sugar that would be available for sale or trade at the market. As we made our way back over to the southern edge, we passed by a pair of looming gates leading into the mountain. These gates were heavily guarded, and when we inquired, we were told that these were the Eastern Gates to the outside world, and that they were currently closed to outsiders unless special permission was granted to pass through.

On our second day of camping, a rider from the south came into the center of town. Shortly after we saw him ride through, Jaeger returned to camp to tell Shalev that the rider had run up to the guard saying Shalev’s name multiple times. Shalev was curious about this, but extremely wary, and asked that we all prepare for a fight if necessary.

The following day, we brought our cart into town and found a suitable place to set up for market. Shalev set up the trade area in formal desert fashion, displaying what wares we wished to trade in the best way possible on the brightly colored rug that he had taken from the guardroom in Sacatha’s dungeon, and then seating himself in the center and sipping cooly on some tea while he observed those that came by to look.

A farmer came by carrying an enormous slab of meat over one shoulder. We saw that he passed by several stalls with a shake of his head, much to their obvious disappointment. When he made his way to our area, his eyes lit up and he nodded his head hopefully and asked if we had any dwarven ale. We did have several bottles of an extremely good vintage remaining, and he and Shalev immediately began to barter. The man said that the meat he carried was a highly sought after cut of the odd humped back cows called water oxen. The “bacon” was cured with salt and would keep for a very long time, and that he would be willing to trade for the dwarven ale.

As they began trade discussions in earnest, the messenger looked over at our trade area and shouted “Found you!” then ran over and said that he bore a message. Shalev asked him to wait until the trade was completed, and the messenger said that it was a message from the oasis. Shalev sighed and asked again for patience while the trade was finalized, saying that his wife had waited this long, ten more minutes would be nothing.

The farmer chuckled at this, but finally agreed after several moments to trade both racks of the bacon for one keg of the dwarven ale. The farmer then brought the large racks of meat over and had them placed on the cart, while the rest of the shop owners groaned in disappointment. Shalev then turned to the messenger and listened as he was told that the negotiations between his mother and wife-to-be had been completed for the past several months and that the wedding was scheduled for only 22 days from then.

He nodded and said that he would begin preparations to depart immediately. KelLyn offered to open a portal for him to transport him straight into the heart of the oasis,and he agreed to the offer. Shalev approached the guards at the eastern gate, and requested permission to go just to the other side of the gates so that he could be transported home. The guards reluctantly agreed, and as they opened the gates with a thundering boom, the rest of the party worked to help Shalev prepare to return home.

We took two of the horses and loaded them up with the best selection of the trade goods he had worked so hard to gather, evidence of the routes he had established in his family’s name: honey, tea, porcelain, alcohol, spices, oils, and a chest full of coins and gems. I made sure that he had the gifts of jewelry and porcelain that he had commissioned specifically for his bride, and I also gave him the scroll that I carried that would grant him protection from the undead. KelLyn gifted him with a potion that would allow him to control low level undead as well, and once the gates were open, KelLyn, Jaeger, Osman, and myself accompanied Shalev through the gates to see him safely home.

As soon as I crossed the threshold of the gate, I felt my connection to my ancestors restored to me with an almost audible click. I sighed in relief, and worked quickly to cast what blessings I was able to on Shalev. That done, I gifted him with one of the bottles of extremely good wine as a personal gift, and a promise that I would come to the Oasis as soon as I could.

Jaeger worked with KelLyn in the rhythm we had seen them establish to gather power for the spell to open the portal. As the power ramped up to a nearly tangible level, KelLyn looked over at Jaeger in surprise as she said “but I have a wand for this spell..”

Realizing that she couldn’t simply release such a large amount of power in a closed space, she began to concentrate and focus the power down into a point. She used the spell that the demon prince had taught her to solidify the power into a solid, shining blue stone about half an inch across. The powerful node of water magic shimmered softly, like sunlight through water, and she looked at it for a moment before turning and handing it to Shaelv. She said that it was both a wedding gift and a parting gift for him, specifying that it was not for his wife at all. Then without another word, she turned and opened the portal directly into the heart of the oasis.

He looked surprised at this generosity from her, but accepted the stone with thanks. then mounting his horse and taking the reins of the one holding the trade goods, he looked at me. He thanked me for all that I had taught him, and said that he would see me again some day. I nodded, and watched as he rode through the portal to greet his mother and new wife. As he and Amit strode through, I saw that there were now walls surrounding the oasis, and that there was a large army standing guard along the walls. I heard the messenger snort out loud and then turn to quickly walk in the opposite direction saying that he was in no rush to return because he knew about the war and what waited.

KelLyn heard him say this and stepped in front of him with a short curse. She picked him up by the scruff of the neck and said “oh hell, no you didn’t tell us about that.” then pushed him straight through the portal to land a little behind where Shalev had walked through. Then the portal closed with a snap and Shalev was gone.

The two gnomes who had been standing on this side of the gates stared at us with wide eyes. She asked if we might be granted passage at a later date, and they quickly told her that if we returned in three months’ time that they would have a tunnel dug out specifically for us to use. The guards and the gnomes granted us permission to stay outside the gate for a time so that we could communicate with our gods, and Osman immediately knelt to pray. KelLyn began muttering to herself, and presumably her goddess as well.

At long last I was able to speak again with my ancestors. They responded quickly, with a question as to where I have been. I told them quickly of the ring, and of all we had faced. They advised and consoled me, telling me that I was on the right track. They confirmed that I could replant a sylvan tree where an existing tree once stood, provided that I had even one single piece of the original tree. This gave me a great amount of hope that I would be able to restore what had been destroyed. I spoke with them more about our current circumstances, and they confirmed my growing suspicion that the circle that kept this place apart needed to be broken. It would cause some chaos to do so, but this place had been removed for far too long, and bringing it back into touch with the world around it would help to restore it over time. Breaking the circle would also free the dragon who circled around the center, and that would be the biggest advantage that we had in dealing with him. I also asked about the spellbook that I had found, and they told me that I would be able to cast the spells when I called on them to do so , if I studied them long enough

I offered to share some wine with them, but the said with some sadness that they were not able to enjoy the gift in a physical form. They appreciated the thought, however, and I thanked them for the advice and comfort that they gave to me. It had been too long since I spoke with them, and their presence was like a soothing balm to my spirit.

Once we had all completed what conversations or prayers we needed to say, we turned and made our way back through the gate, hearing it grind closed behind us. We made our way back to the trade tent and spent the rest of the day completing trades with various vendors; honey for the odd sugar (10 lbs), tea tree and olive oil for corn oil (10 lbs), and a diverse mixture of local fruits and vegetables.

The guy we had encountered earlier showed up towards the end of the day, selling a variety of potions of attraction, ethereal reality, cure all parasites, potions of speed, levitation, and an odd clear potion with blue floaty specks in it. KelLyn approached him and asked about the clear potion. As she spoke to the man, she asked about the potions of speed, and he told her that they were made out of brownies. When she expressed concern about the brownies, the man replied that “they were dying anyway.” which instantly made me dislike him immensely. KelLyn also found his manner distasteful, and quickly finished her business with him, purchasing the clear potion and one potion of attraction.

Before he left, he confirmed that the college was straight towards Emer and to the south. He also warned us about the smoke shops, saying that we should avoid them at all costs, saying that the smoke and fumes from such places could befuddle even the strongest minds. We thanked him for the information and returned to the tent to begin packing up our belongings ot return to camp.

As we packed up our things, Ashley got up and wandered over to the potion seller. They conversed for a few moments, and the potion seller suddenly took an extreme interest in Ashley and took him by the arm to walk with him back toward the shop. It was only after we had finished packing up that we realized that Ashley was missing.

KelLyn and Jaeger suddenly looked up and started running toward where Ashley was last seen, as they had felt a surge of magical energy. The animals were all spooked, and the rest of the party had their hands full trying to soothe and rein in the horses. I told Tobias and Osman to go try to find the rest of the party while Lan and I prepared to depart.

A few moments later, there was a very large explosion on the northern end of town. We looked up in alarm to see that KelLyn and Jaeger were surrounded by some kind of warding bubble, and that nothing remained of the potion makers shop except smoldering rubble. The yellow sphere that encased them slowly dissipated, and Jaeger turned into a raven to pull a levitating KelLyn over and down to the ground. KelLyn came storming back to camp, with Jaeger still in raven form flying after her, swearing in malevolent anger. She was quite upset, and once we were able to calm her down, she told us that the potion maker had kidnapped Ashley and killed him for spell components. She ranted on about how she had then killed the potion maker because it served him right, and he had a piece of her staff that got flung away in the explosion, and was probably in the center city of Emer, and that we were never going to get out of this godsforsaken place. Then she stomped over to the cart and opened up a barrel of her beer to get a drink.

Shortly after KelLyn had finished her tirade, the city guards approached and asked for recompense of the destroyed properties. She negligently handed them some platinum from her purse and began her tirade again about unethical potion makers. The guards stammered their thanks at the kingly sum of money they had been handed, and said that the southern sorceress would almost certainly be arriving the next day to check out the cause of the explosion.

Once the guards had left, KelLyn said that it would likely be in our best interests to move out the next day anyway, as we had already packed up all of our things. Early the next morning, before daybreak, Jaeger once again turned into a raven and flew up high in order to scout the roads ahead for us. and we cleaned our camp and set out on the roads toward Emer and the college.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Shalev is gone. I knew that one day this would happen, that our paths would diverge and that he would eventually have to travel on his own. I am proud of my student, and think that he is well equipped to handle whatever may come his way. Amit travels with him, and this gives me more solace than any protection spell I could have cast for him, though I have it on extremely good authority that he is protected by more than one god.

He has departed to return to the oasis to fulfill his oath to be married. After that? His path is his own to choose. He was recently told of specific things required to become a true paladin of Ma’at, and was also told where to find those who will aid his quest. It is my hope that the roads are gentle on his feet, and that our paths will eventually cross again. If I do not see him again in his lifetime, I will hold to the promise I made to him long ago to revisit the oasis and see his children.

Travel well my friend. May you find the peace you seek, and trust that we will eventually meet again.

I was finally able to speak to my ancestors again, and the conversation was more soothing to me than anything else ever could be. Their advice and consolation helped me solidify my resolve, and gave me hope that I will be able to restore not only the tree here, but the tree in that cursed elven city as well. They warned me that I should not bind myself to the tree, as that would prove fatal, even for one such as me. I do not yet know what it will take to accomplish this task, but I have faith that they will grant me the power I need to do so.

Breaking the fairy circle here is another matter entirely. I need to talk more with Lan and KelLyn about how to accomplish such a thing. Maybe with their advice we can come up with a plan. It is also possible that the dragon, knowing our intent to free it, might offer to aid us, though I think if he could have broken the circle himself he would have long ago.

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The Lost City - A Moment of Rest
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“People of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them, rather they go out and happen to things.” – Cora

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

While we were camped at the remains of Lacosta’s tower, we discussed exploring the ruins to see if anything of interest had been left behind. We quickly saw, however, that nothing remained, and after a few moments we gave up the search entirely.

Lan took the opportunity to swim in the lake, spending long moments frolicking in the water and playing with the merfolk that lived under the waves. She checked for items that might have been thrown into the lake, but also found nothing of note.

During the meal, Shalev handed Tobias, Jaeger, Lan, and Osman each a potion that would increase their reflexes. They took the potions, and I eyed Shalev with a small amount of concern as he did this, taking some note of his action and the way he carried himself.

The watches that evening passed uneventfully, and the next morning we set out to continue around the lake. There were sheer cliffs off to the left, and we noticed that there were caves in the cliffsides where we would occasionally see flying monkeys departing and returning from them. We recalled the earlier warning we were given about avoiding these creatures, and we continued to travel without encountering them.

A day or so later, I requested that we stop so that I could properly celebrate the turn of the seasons. KelLyn and Lan also took the opportunity to perform their own celebrations, though I noticed that KelLyn performed the rites for spring instead of winter. I shook my head at this, and wondered again at the strange relationship that she had with her negligent goddess.

Winter was the time for honoring ancestors in my culture, and I spent several long hours in silent communion, crafting a prayer to those who had gone on before me in hopes that I could gain their knowledge and advice on what we faced. I cut up one of the apples, and opened up one of the vintage bottles of my elven wine to celebrate the seasons with them. After what felt like mere moments, I looked over to see with surprise that hours had passed and that I had been so lost to the ritual that I had lost touch with my surroundings entirely.

This was extremely rare for me, and it alarmed me somewhat to realize that I had been so unaware. I trusted in Shalev, Amit, and Tobias to guard me should the need arise though, and returned to my thoughts on my ancestors. While I have consistently been unable to reach out to them while trapped in this beringed bowl, I did get the sense that they had heard me. I got the sense of approval of my rituals, and made a note to do them again and more often. I also was given a brief glimpse of the knowledge that what I needed was indeed here, somewhere, but also the feeling that they had wished that I had asked for something else instead. To this I took note, but thought quietly that if they wanted me to ask for specific things, they should be more specific in their guidance.

After the seasonal rituals had been completed, we traveled on, and after another four days of travel we arrived at Yup castle. As we walked up to the gates, we took note of the stream that flowed down out of the cliffs and the city itself that was built into them. The moat surrounding the outer gates was full of writhing water snakes. Shalev shouted a greeting up to the castle, and we saw a small face appear over the wall. Lan greeted the face then and relayed the message that we had been asked to deliver them that Locasta would no longer be a problem.

A few moments of shouted conversation passed between them, and then once they were done speaking, Shalev asked if there were a market or a place to trade goods inside. The people at the gates asked that we state our names and professions, and one by one the party members introduced themselves appropriately. I said nothing, but merely watched. One of the guards at the gate recognized KelLyn’s name and then said that as “companions of the arch-mage” we would be welcome to the city.

We made our way through the gates and into the city. The outer city boasted a well kept inn and a bustling marketplace full of vendors of all varieties including a jeweler, armorer, blacksmith, weaponry, stables, and a temple to multiple gods of the area. The people here were mostly dwarfish or fae, and as such all of the buildings here had been built to their size, making the inn too small for most of our party to stay in comfortably. Shalev stooped down and entered the inn to arrange for meals while we stayed here, and asked if there were a place where we could camp comfortably. They agreed to bring our meals out to the center of the courtyard where tables were set up around a fountain. They served Amit a quarter carcass of timberwolf, which Amit eyed curiously before eating with relish. They brought out a plate of fruits and cheeses for me, and I thanked Shalev for the thought to my dietary preferences when in cities.

The meal was sumptuous and we all enjoyed the foods brought out to us. Shalev took the opportunity to listen to the trades happening around us to gauge prices and learn what he can of the way they bartered for goods and services here. I made my way over to the blacksmith to see if he had the knowledge to resharpen my sword, but he did not, so I returned to the inn to see if I would be allowed to visit their gardens. I was emphatically and somewhat coldly turned away, however, and I got the distinct feeling that they did not like elves here. Shrugging it off, I returned to the fountain to sit and observe for a while.

Shalev made his way over to the blacksmith as well, and then after visiting the weaponry, went to get Tobias urgently. Tobias had been acting furtively, which piqued my curiosity some, but he followed Shalev over to the weapons shop where Shalev showed him a deep metal mace that he had found. Tobias bought the mace without a second glance at Shalev, then dismissed him brusquely and returned to whatever he was trying to hide doing. I noticed the sad look in Shalev’s eyes then, and the small nod he gave, as if reaching a decision that had taken a while to solidify. A suspicion began to grow in my own mind then, but I left my student to his thoughts and did not pry. Shalev then went over to the armorer and commissioned a suit of chain armor to be made for him.

Shalev was pointed over to the area between the temples and the stables where there was ample space for us to set up a comfortable campsite. We went over to do so, and afterwards Shalev moved over to the rear wall to the inner city to practice his sword work.

As I sat in camp, studying my book on druidry and reveling in the beauty of the written elven language, I saw Tobias approach me nervously. Such reluctance was not in character for him, and so I set my book down to watch him intently. He presented me with two gifts then; a gorgeous ring of woven platinum and layan threads bearing a leaf made out of the green stone that looked like the same material of the leaf pendant Shalev had purchased in Eyore. The ring seemed familiar to me, but the memory nagged at my mind and I could not recall where I had seen it before. Any inscriptions had long since been sanded away, and I studied the craftsmanship, but could find nothing that sparked the memory further. The second gift was a tattered book that was written in high elven. The book was damaged, and Tobias told me that unfortunately the jeweler had been tearing out pages to use as scrap. About two thirds of the book remained intact, though, and as I glanced through it, my interest peaked as I realized that it was a book of spells in ritual to a goddess named Ehei. These spells were all druidic in nature, and I spent several moments glancing through the pages. The book detailed the descriptions of spells that I would find incredibly useful if I could find a way to craft them in my own ancestor’s names. I asked Tobias if he had heard of the ancestor Ehei mentioned in the book, but he did not know the name. Like the ring, I had the nagging sensation that I should know who this was. It bothers me that I have come across yet another thing that I seem to have no memory of.

After a few more moments, I turned my gaze to Tobias and pointedly asked him why he chose to give me these gifts. I know that courtship in elven cultures can last for centuries, but I also know that Tobias has spent a very long time among the humans, and that as such might wish to press the courtship further. He confirmed my suspicions after a moment when he blushed as dark as his desert skin would allow and declared plainly his love for me. I smiled in return, saying nothing, but letting my eyes speak for me as I gave him a small kiss in a public display of the answer.

For five days we stayed there, camping in the city of dwarfs and fae, having our meals brought out to the fountain. Shalev continued to practice, and I noticed a determination in his strides that made me again take note of his preparations. As he practiced his sword work on the fifth day, the gate to the inner city opened up and a dwarf wearing armor made of deep metal emerged riding on a horse. He spoke with Shalev quietly for a moment in dwarfish, and then invited him and Amit into the inner city.

A few hours later, Shalev returned and told us all of what the dwarf had told him. He told us that the eastern gate should still be open for travel outside of the bowl. He also said, with more than a little regret, that I – as a druid – was no longer welcome in the city. I nodded, and agreed to camp outside of the outer walls. Shalev said quickly that he would camp with me there, and the rest of the party remained inside to complete whatever trades and commissions they needed to complete. Tobias also remained inside the city, saying that he had one last thing he needed to do.

Shalev, Amit, and I made a simple camp outside of the city where we stayed as we waited for the party to complete their business dealings inside the city. I was allowed inside the city to take my meals at the fountain in the courtyard, and it was here that Tobias approached me nervously again with another gift. This time he presented me with another ring, this one delicately shaped silver band with fire opals stylized as flames at the base of a still living tree made of an iridescent green material. He said that the theme of the ring was that the tree will always outlast the flames. I found the gift highly appropriate, given all we had been through, and accepted the ring with a gentle smile.

It was determined that we would all depart the following morning, and I returned to the camp outside as Tobias went with the rest of the party to the inside camp to make preparations to depart.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

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I may have just looked into the Abyss.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.

When I first met Cora’sol Tyrtlarn, there were difficulties in communication, and once we found ways around them, she began my education. She taught me that females are no lesser than males, though that took a bit more work. She taught me joy, and terror, and fear.

As she explained it, for someone who wants spend his life wandering the desert, I am surprisingly aware of the dangers of doing so, and can usually list a dozen reasons why any given action might be unwise, even as I do it anyway. It’s an unusual balance of wisdom, bravery, and foolhardiness.

She taught me an old mantra she heard once, which she thought might help me, when my acknowledgment of danger makes me overly cautious.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Today, I saw my friend die and suspected my teacher would be next. Looking into that dark night, I elected to rage against it. Only I remained, and the I that did was determined to do what I thought impossible. To me, it was impossible that Amit should die that way, and if one impossible thing had happened today, why not a second, a third, or a dozen.

Cora has seen grief enough to see the cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance over and over. I could not deny what I had seen, and so went straight to anger, bargaining that if this was the way that I was to end, I would go willingly so long as I was able to drag that ancient lizard with me. On some level, I was bargaining with the Universe of what I would do, given another chance; and lo and behold, another chance was granted. The price appears to be another quest, and it is a price I’ll pay it willingly. As the quest may take us in a similar direction to Crawlsargot, given the wide range it may rest in, and Ma’at did say it was a quest, I believe the two are connected. She may very well have been warning me of what was to come, and may be getting me ready for it.

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The Lost City - Then the Universe Blinked
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

Adversity is a crazy thing. It comes in many forms, and at some point in your life — you will have to find ways to overcome it. Think of the last time the odds were against you. Maybe you were considered the underdog, or were told that your goals in life are unrealistic. Whatever the case may be, the only thing that’s important is how you overcome these problems. Some people thrive on adversity and use it to fuel success. Then, there are those who can’t carry that weight and let it bring them down. In my opinion, One of the best opportunities you can be given in life is to be underestimated.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Shalev considered taking some of the transparent worm scales to turn into protective goggles. The idea was a good one, though KelLyn warned that the magic that had caused the scales to appear clear would likely not last forever. He earmarked the concept though, and I agreed that having something along those lines might be helpful when we eventually made our way back to the desert.

Shalev also made motion to try taking some of the worm meat, but I quickly put a stop to that. Worm meat was highly toxic and not even his ability to purify food would be able to make it palatable. Ceding to my advice, he gave up the notion and we packed up our camp.

As we traveled, he showed me the teeth that he had taken from the worm, and asked if I might be able to help him carve them into daggers. I agreed to do so, and as I worked, I pondered the odd appearance of a purple worm here. Normally, they were desert creatures, and we were far from the deserts of home. The lake shimmered off to the left of the road we traveled, and there were hay fields growing golden to the right. As we passed along the hay fields, however, we noticed with some alarm a yellowish green cloud blowing our way.

Shalev and I looked at one another and immediately dismounted and began to hastily secure belongings. The rest of the party reacted more slowly, but began moving to help as we explained that clouds like that were the only warning you would get before a sandstorm struck. Lightning feathered out from the billowing sickly looking clouds and the winds began to blow hot through the hay. The storm was moving fast, much faster than even Shalev and I had guessed, and we shouted to the party that we could not run, we simply had to secure what we could and ride it out.

Jaeger looked at the storm clouds and the lightning, and on impulse, ran forward quickly and jammed a long metal rod into the ground a good way ahead of us. He turned to run back, and froze. Eyes so wide we could see the whites around them, he shouted something in the language he and Shalev speak together to the sky. Shalev paled and quickly turned, and I followed the action, to see an immense blue dragon hovering above and behind us, it’s giant wings adding to the heated winds of the oncoming storm. At nearly 250 feet in length, it was quite possibly the largest thing I had ever seen, and as it hovered, it turned it’s massive head to gaze in baleful hate at the party. It was the only warning we had.

The horses, oxen, and cart bolted in terror. Ashley, Osman, and KelLyn were carried off with them, and Ashley lost his hold on the cart to fall a short distance away, landing hard on his back. Tobias also turned to flee, overcome by the panic induced by the dragon’s hateful glance. Jaeger wove one of his spells and reached out to touch Shalev on the shoulder, but shuddered violently half way through his casting. I knew I could not reach anyone in the split seconds that we had, but I was able to gather my willpower enough to shake off the effects of the fear just enough to act. I prayed fervently to my deities to grant me a spell of protection against the dragon, not knowing if even they could do such a thing, but trusting in their power to keep me alive.

They answered my terrified invocation, and gave me a spell to grant personal protection to enhance my defenses. The power of the spell allowed me to completely shake off the lingering effects of the fear in time to see the elder dragon arc his head down toward the party and unleash a wave of lightning that slashed and sparked through the entire area. Lightning bolts flashed out, striking us all. Amit and Ashley were lost to the blasts, instantly immolated. Shalev, Jaeger, Lan, and myself were all gravely wounded. Of the cart, and Tobias, nothing could be seen except a smoldering crater.

Shalev looked at where his friend once was, and then turned back to the dragon shaking with nearly incandescent fury. His armor, still smoking from the lightning strike, screamed in seeming echo of that outrage and I recalled with some trepidation then that it housed the soul of a dragon within it. Jaeger touched the hilt of his own sword, and as he drew the weapon, the area surrounding him began to shimmer with energy.

The greater dragon wheeled around and landed thunderously near what was left party, and Shalev touched his brooch, still shaking with a combination of righteous fury and the lingering effects of the terror induced by the dragon’s gaze. Shalev shone for a moment with divine light, and was quickly and completely healed of his injuries.

I was grievously injured, and on the verge of collapsing into unconsciousness. I looked at where Tobias had been, where Amit had been, and let my own sorrow and fury wash over me. I allowed the depth of those feelings to anchor me and I stood on shaky legs and quickly drank one of the greater healing potions that I had remaining from the bandolier that Tobias had crafted for me. The potion shimmered with a silver light and tasted vaguely of earthy nuts and old forests. I ceased caring about my injuries, and felt energy and vitality return to me. As I made my way over to where Lan had fallen, I saw Shalev grab the bronze spear and stab the monolithic dragon in its exposed underbelly.

The spear proved effective, and sliced into the dragon, causing some small injury. The dragon looked down suddenly in surprise at being noticeably hurt, and said “ow!”, locking eyes on Shalev in disbelief that such a small creature could have caused it pain. Shalev snarled at the dragon in response and moved to stab it again as the dragon raised its foot up to stomp Shalev into the ground.

I made it over to Lan and gave her the remaining greater healing potion, which also shimmered with the same silver light. I held her and helped her to drink the liquid until she was recovered enough to stand on her own. I looked over to see that Jaeger had turned himself into a raven and started to fly up towards the dragon’s face towering above us all. Shalev decided that the spear was not going to be enough, and dropped that weapon to draw his holy avenger, and as he unsheathed the weapon I felt a massive wave of dark energy flare out from the dragon causing everything in a circle around Shalev to wither and die.

As the vegetation grew black, it frosted over with hoarfrost and the air around us grew noticeably chilled. I shivered in response and watched as the dragon brought his foot crashing down onto where Shalev had been standing. At the same time, the dragon also began waving its front claws together in the beginnings of a spell. Thinking quickly, I smacked the end of my cedar wood staff onto the ground once, and pointed the tip towards the dragon’s face as a sonic boom of deafening sound lanced out in a cone.

The dragon’s foot came down with a reverberating crash, causing the ground to fracture out around it. Had Shalev still been standing there, he surely would have been crushed; however where he had been, a white dragon now lay, grasping the giant claws of the elder dragon and shrieking in defiant anger. The smaller white dragon opened his mouth again and blew deadly icy daggers into the exposed underbelly of the greater dragon.

The greater dragon shook off the sonic boom with a negligent shrug as its claws completed the spell to create a giant fireball which he cast towards the smaller dragon at its feet. The wave of sound was enough to capture the dragon’s attention though, and it shifted its foot up to try to crush me with the next step. Lan, who was fully healed, fell to the ground with a shout, declaring that she was a killer whale as she began flopping her way over to the dragon’s other foot to begin gnawing on its toe. Jaeger had reached the dragon’s face, and promptly continued his flight, straight up the greater dragon’s nostril. I looked up at the massive clawed foot and watched as it began its descent. I gauged my movements and moved just a single step to the side, allowing the clawed toes to fall to either side of me without harming me. I drew my sword then and attacked the webbing between the giant toes, praying again to my deities for protection. My blade screamed, echoing again the sorrow and fury of lost friends and hopeless circumstances. Flames sparked off of the blade’s edge and I could tell that the razor line had been dulled somewhat. As I completed my strike, I heard an echoing shuddering boom climb its way up the greater dragon from the inside, as if something had collapsed within it.

The smaller white dragon had clawed its way out from underfoot and had taken to the air to attack the larger dragon’s head with furious claws and bites. Lan continued to gnaw at one of the greater dragon’s toes, and the greater dragon stomped down on her in annoyance, but though the ground caved in and again fractured out, Lan remained unharmed and unfazed as she continued to bite and chew. The greater dragon looked down at her in surprised annoyance and drew breath in to attack us all with lightning again.

Knowing that there was nowhere to run to and no way to escape the coming blast, I braced myself and prayed. As I closed my eyes, the last thing I glimpsed was the sickly colored yellow green cloud enveloping us all.

The universe blinked.
There was an explosion of light and sound as the world around us spiraled into a vortex of nothingness. The greater dragon was drawn, shrieking, down into the void; screaming and shrinking until there was only light. The ground we stood on smoked, the remains of the devastation the great dragon wrought the only evidence that it had ever existed. I fell to my knees, exhausted and unable to comprehend what had happened. I looked up to see a large bronze skinned man with a double set of wings standing in the center of the bubble of strange reality. He looked at Lan, blinked once, and then said in a voice that rumbled like waterfalls “I am sorry, I appear to be late. You are the scholar, yes?” then proceeded to speak in an resonant language that brought to mind images of deep black oceans and frozen voids.

Lan appeared to understand what the being was saying though, as she responded in the same language. They spoke thus for several moments, and the being.. the man.. looked around. He raised his hand and Amit reformed out of the ashes where he had lain, looking surprised and very cranky. The man raised his hand again and the cart appeared, with Osman in the back and KelLyn trying to repair an apparently broken wheel. The man shook his head and wiggled his fingers, and the cart was once again whole along with everything that was inside it. Ashley too had been brought back, and he sat there on the ground blinking slowly. Tobias appeared on the ground in front of the cart, battered and bruised and cut in a hundred places as if he had run full tilt into the forest of glass. I started to go to him, but the man moved his hand again, and Tobias sat up fully healed.

A stone portal opened up and Shalev walked through, once again human and whole. He looked once at the man, and then saw that Amit was there, and ran to check on his friend with palpable joy and relief. Then a black circle opened up where the dragon had been and Jaeger was spit up out of the ground. Lan asked the man his name, and he replied that he was Cerberus Celestius and that he was an astral sage. He looked at her, and then at all of us, and said quite solemnly that he wished us luck. He said that the powers that be had underestimated us greatly. He cautioned that we had some protection here while we were in the fairy circle, and we should use that accordingly to plan for what was coming. Then he bowed once to Lan before he vanished and we found ourselves once again sitting beside the lake as if nothing at all had just happened.

We all looked at one another, unsure of what had just happened, unsure of whether or not we were really here, and just glad to be alive for the moment. Amit still grumbled, but allowed Shalev to continue hugging him. Tobias seemed startled when I hugged him tightly to me, and then I turned to Lan to ask what she and the strange bronze man had been talking about. She translated the conversation as best as she could, as apparently it had been held in the language of whales, and not everything would translate properly.

The man had told her that there was a talisman that we needed to find. One of two artifacts from the desert culture, called the Talisman of Al Akbar. The talisman was said to be paired with a chalice of hammered gold and together they were supposed to be capable of miracles. Both were once said to have been in the ancient city of Kaibar before the desert was cursed to be infertile. Both artifacts were lost to time, and only rumors remained of where they might currently reside.

After gathering our things, and checking once again to ensure that we were all healed, whole, and ready to travel, we started to make our way back to the road again. We stopped after a few steps, however, when we saw that all vegetation within a 30 foot radius of Shalev continued to wither and die. I bade him move away from the cart and I checked him over to see what spell had affected him. I couldn’t find anything, and I asked KelLyn to check as well, since it could be a magical effect. She snarked, but agreed to my request and we discovered that he had been affected by a very powerful destroy plant spell that would last about a week. It was strong enough that neither KelLyn nor I could remove it, and so we decided to stay where we were until it wore off.

I used the time to try to resharpen my sword, but only succeeded in dulling the honing stones. I asked Shalev to see if Jaeger could sharpen it, but he also could not. I sheathed it again and made a note to visit Ishmael as soon as we could to get it repaired.

We used the week to rest, recover ourselves, and to discuss what the man had told us through Lan. It appeared as though the chalice he mentioned was the same chalice that Shalev had heard about in the elven city that could possibly be used to help KelLyn restore her friend Gran Tier. Kaibar was only a small village now, but it was rumored to be near the same regional area where Shalev had lost the sword Crawlsargot. Both of the artifacts were needed to deal with the overarching threat of Lloth and the evil armies, and the elven city where they burned the tree was one of the ways to gain entrance to the underworld. Puzzle pieces started to fall into place with what the bronze man had said about everything being tied together.

After the week had ended, and vegetation started to regrow around Shalev, we packed up and started out on the road again. Lan discovered at that time that a book had appeared in her possessions that talked about extra dimensional rifts. She tried to read it, but ended up getting frustrated. She handed it to me, but I couldn’t make any sense of it at all. KelLyn also was unable to read it, but protested vehemently when Lan took it back, saying that all magic items belonged to her by default. Lan, in an almost uncharacteristic display of command, firmly reminded her that she was not the only magic user in the party and that such thoughts were selfish and unwarranted. The book had been given to Lan, and with Lan it would remain.

We traveled thankfully without further encounter or event, and were able to make our way back to the ruins of Lacosta’s tower where we decided to stop. It was possible that there were things that had been left behind in the tower, and the rest of the party agreed that checking it out was a good idea.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Threads within threads. It would appear that everything we have before us to do is simply smaller pieces of a much larger quest. We survived. Again. Though from what I could understand of the translated conversations between the bronze man and Lan, the fact that we were able to hold our own for so long caused the powers that be to give pause.

They have underestimated us, it seems. Again.

I am curious to see whether or not this bodes ill for us in the future.

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The Lost City - The Queen's Apples
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”
― Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Shalev, Lan, Yaeger, Tobias and I traveled quickly to try to catch up with the rest of the party. Unencumbered, we made good time, and arrived at the small town just as night fell. We saw the cart parked just outside of the only inn, guarded by a small terrified looking boy of about 8. Shalev approached the cart, only to be sternly rebuffed by the trembling child who said “She said no one was to approach the cart, sir.”

Shalev looked at the child for a moment, then silently turned to enter the inn with the rest of us following him. He has said very little over the past day or so, still being mostly lost with his internal contemplations of what Ma’at had chosen to reveal to him beside the lake.

We saw Osman sitting at a table in the middle of the common area, but Fife and KelLyn were nowhere to be seen. Osman told us KelLyn was upstairs and Fife had departed almost as soon as they had arrived, stating that he no longer felt comfortable traveling with us. Shalev blinked once at this news, then sighed and walked over to the innkeeper only to find that nothing had been arranged for the rest of the party. He spoke with the innkeeper to arrange room and board for us and the animals for four nights. Shalev inquired as to whether or not it was acceptable to have Amit stay with him, and the innkeeper replied, with a pale faced glance at the giant cat, that it would be preferable to the alternative. When asked about facilities, the innkeeper informed us all that a bath was included with the room. I promptly decided to make use of the luxury, and disappeared upstairs.

The rooms were small but well kept and tidy, and there was a large bath tub in the center of the space. The tub was made of a single piece of a tree trunk that had been hollowed out and polished until it shone. Out of curiosity, I touched the wood to see if I could sense anything about it. The wood was from a very old tree, and someone had used a modify plant spell at a very high level to create it. I ran my hand over the smooth surface and then sank myself into the heated water with a sigh. It had been a while since such a luxury was available, and so I spent long moments simply enjoying the feel of being clean. Afterward, I gave my adventuring clothes a good wash, laid them out flat to dry, and donned my blue and silver dress, wanting to feel something other than the worn traveling clothes against my skin. I let my hair fall free and then made my way down the stairs to take a seat by the fireplace where I ordered a bowl of the odd but delicious root vegetables that the inn’s cook had prepared and made some tea. As I sat there in the corner, sipping my tea and watching the other guests, I noticed a rather nondescript man also sitting by the fire.

KelLyn descended the stairs shortly after that, also wearing better robes and appearing freshly scrubbed. Shalev approached her and asked if she would go relieve the boy watching the cart so that Shalev could add a few things to the inventory. She does so, and Shalev noted that when Fife left, he left almost all of this possessions with the cart. The only things that he took with him were the potions he carried, the trident, a small bag of smaller coins, and the sword that they pulled out of the ceiling at Lacosta’s tower.

Returning to the fire, Shalev brought me a list of the wine collection that also came from that tower, and he asked me to help him categorize the bottles for value. I helped him do so, and over the next several hours, also helped him rewrite the list properly. I chose one of the better vintages to enjoy during the process, and also earmarked about 20 bottles or so of the best vintages to keep for my own. As we worked, I noticed Osman trying to engage the stranger by the fire in conversation, but he seemed to get nowhere with the exchange.

At dawn, Shalev and Osman came down to head to the farmer’s market to restock the supplies, and they noticed the same man sitting by the fireside. He seemed to be in the same exact place that he had been before, and when Shalev inquired to the innkeeper, he was told that the man had been there just like that for four days straight. Shalev approached the man and asked if he would like something to eat, and what he might like, and the man looked at him blankly before replying “flavorful” before blinking once and turning back to the fire. Shalev took some of the spices that he had back to the kitchens to have the chef add them to a meal for the man.

After that he and Osman headed down to the markets. I walked along with them, helping them restock the cart with a variety of fruits and vegetables. A farmer came in a short time later, driving a cart laden with large red globes. As soon as he appeared, a crowd immediately began to form around his cart, and the farmer began to auction off the fruit – apples. He called them the Queen’s apples, plucked from the queen’s orchards and that they only came in once a year. The townsfolk began loudly bidding for the fruit, and Shalev and Osman also joined them. Shalev purchased 14 apples, and Osman bought 10 more for his own consumption. Shalev asked the farmer how long the fruit would keep, and the farmer looked at him oddly before stating that he had never seen anyone wait to eat the fruits. Shalev bit into one of them with a crunch, and within mere moments had finished the entire thing. He nodded in affirmation that the fruit was delicious, and then as he walked past me, handed me the seeds of the fruit to keep in store for later. I decided to stay there at observe the crowds for a time, and Shalev and Osman ventured off to find armor and weaponry.

As I watched the stock of apples dwindle down to the last 20 or so, a portly man – noble in appearance – came up and began bidding for the rest. I watched him for a moment, and decided to bid the apples up, as he looked like he could afford it, and the farmer looked like he could use the extra income. As the bidding war continued between us, I realized that there was more at stake here than just a handful of apples, as the farmer goaded the merchant noble into offering his daughter’s hand to the farmer’s son in marriage. I looked at the young man and asked him quietly if this was what he wanted. He looked at me, wide eyed, and said that it was. I ceded defeat at this, and after the noble grudgingly carried the high-priced apples away, I turned to the farmer and asked if it would be possible to visit the orchards.

The farmer said that he would be happy to have my company, and Tobias and I traveled with him back to the orchards. I saw the trees before we even got close. The apple orchard was enormous and so very old, and these were the largest apple trees I had ever seen. As we walked up, the trees began to shout angry insults at the farmer. Tobias blinked in surprise at this, and I asked the trees why they were being so insulting. The trees told me that the farmer insulted them and stole their children, and the farmer said that shouting insults at the trees made them throw apples to him as it was the only way to get any to sell. I noticed that the apples that had fallen to the ground were bruised and rotten, and I asked if they would be willing to come to an understanding. The trees became insulting and they called me a city elf and a tree killer. I informed them that I was not one of those elves, but that I would deal with them very soon. The trees told me then that those elves were all dead, and tentatively agreed to talk.

I spent several moments in conversation with the trees and the farmer, in an attempt to help them reach an agreement between each other. The trees agreed to stop insulting the farmer and share some of the fruit if the farmer agreed to expand the orchards, keep them protected, and stop insulting them in return. The farmer looked thoughtful for a moment, as if amicably discussing this had never crossed his mind before now. He agreed to the terms, and then said that he would have to save up to purchase the neighboring fields. I promptly handed him a bag full of gold pieces to help with the purchase, and the farmer said that he couldn’t accept it. I told him, truthfully, that it was just shiny metal to me, and that it would be better served in his hands to help with the expansion of the orchards.

At that moment, an older tree spoke up in a grinding voice that I was one of the Immortals and that he should listen to me. The farmer paled and took the money with thanks, and the other trees in the orchard became very quiet at this revelation. After a moment of startled silence, the trees apologized to me, and I accepted the apology with grace. I asked the trees if they would like a guardian, and again there was a startled moment of quiet. They asked me if I had one, and I told them that I did. They showed me to an area on the northeastern corner of the orchard where the oldest tree had died. The ground was thick with old dead roots, and nothing else grew there. I asked the trees if it would hurt them to remove the roots, and the trees declined, saying that the roots had been long dead. As the farmer started to move in to tear the roots up, I stopped him with a gentle gesture. I made my way to the center of the area and knelt down to touch the ground, I used some of my power to cause the roots to rot to a rich mulch in a 6 foot circle. I took one of my ent seedlings carefully in hand and planted it deep within the rich earth. I thought for a moment, and then took the unidentified pouch with the create earth spell on it and planted it deep beside the seed. I felt a rush of heat as the seed drew power from the object, causing it to crumble to dust around the newly sprouted roots which curled gently around my fingers. I quickly but carefully removed my hand from the earth,and a moment later, a small sapling pushed up through the earth and stretched it’s arms out with a sigh.

I nodded at the work, feeling tired but accomplished, and informed the farmer that the ent would protect his groves, and that in turn he was to protect the ent. The farmer snarked at the fact that he would have yet another talking tree, and I warned him solidly that this grove and this ent were entrusted to him to protect from now on. I would return to check on him, and he subsided into silence as he began to realize what I had gifted him with. He made some notes to build a protective fence around the ent’s clearing and the orchard to help protect against thieves. The trees all rustled with their approval and also agreed to act as protectors as they had agreed until the guardian was old enough to protect himself.

I added a blessing to the orchards, and then Tobias and I began walking back toward town and then inn. As we walked, the trees reached branches down, and I held a hand up to brush along them in greeting. Tobias stared at me, and at the trees, but walked quietly beside me along the road, lost in his own thoughts of my display of power. I knew that if we stayed on the road that the trees would protect us, and we made it back to town without incident.

Once we made it back to the inn, we walked in to see the rest of the party conversing with the nondescript stranger, who had introduced himself simply as Ashley. I noticed that both Osman and Lan sported new, fitted armor, and that Shalev had a bundle of black silks in one arm. As I took my seat by the fire, Ashley turned to me and asked in halting common “what do you do?” I thought about this for a moment before responding simply “I live.”

Later that day, I walked with Shalev over to the poorer side of town, as he had requested my company to help him examine the poor and sick to see who could be aided. As Shalev and Lan worked to heal and feed those who needed it most, I traveled back to the farmer to inquire if he would need any additional help with the groves. He declined the help, and I told him that there were those in town who might need a job later on. He agreed to check if the need arose, and I made my way back to town again. I spent the rest of my time in front of the fire, studying my book on sacred druidry and sipping tea.

I did go by the armorer at Shalev’s request, but found that they could not make better than I already wore. We also visited the apiary where Shalev eagerly purchased about 20 lbs of honey (about 40 half-pint jars). I also purchased 3 small jars of the honey for my own use, and Shalev also purchased a keg of good beer as a gesture of goodwill for KelLyn. I am happy to see that they at least treat each other civilly now.

Ashley still sat by the fire when we returned, and I offered him some tea. He drank it without comment, and Shalev asked where we were to go next. As he did, he pulled out another apple to eat, and offered one to Ashley. Ashley tore the fruit in half with his bare hands and sniffed at it curiously. He took a bite, and then within moments had consumed it all, saying with the first real inflection I had heard in his voice “THAT was flavorful.”

Shalev repeated the question about where to go next, and I stated that I would like to visit the university here, as I was interested in finding the journals and maps of the wizard who had been here before. Osman turned to Ashley and asked if he would like to travel with us, as it would be a good way for him to learn new things. Jaeger looked at me and said something in orcish which I did not understand, then turned to glare at Osman. It is my guess that he is wary of picking up additional party members, and I wonder if Shalev should remind him gently that it wasn’t so long ago that he was the new one among us.

Ashley contemplated the offer to travel with us for a moment or two, then agreed. We packed up our things and made preparations to leave the following morning. The animals had been well cared for and appeared fit and well fed for their time in the stables. Once we got the cart hooked up, I took the apple seeds that Shalev had given me, and planted them in my small traveling garden, next to the tea tree saplings. I decided to ride in the cart for a while, since I was already here, and found a comfortable place to sit and continue my studies.

We traveled around toward Yup castle, where we had been advised by the brownies to inform the people there that Lacosta was no longer a worry. As we neared the area where Locasta’s tower was, the horses became skittish, and the ground began to rumble and shake, cracking up from underneath. I quickly climbed out of the cart, and Shalev was able to steer it clear and back away form the hole that suddenly opened up in the ground.

The hole grew rapidly, and a full circle of teeth appeared around the edge. Lan was still on her horse, and was not able to handle the animal skillfully enough to make her way clear of the threat. Osman, thinking quickly, threw a rope with a grappling hook on it to Lan, and she grabbed it. She jumped off of her horse and Shalev and Osman yanked closer to safety. Free of it’s rider, Lan’s horse was able to scramble up to solid ground and ran over near the cart. They were not able to get her clear of the closing jaws, however, and as they began to close, Jaeger began to chant and wave his hands in a spell. Two large hands made of earth appeared on either side of the jaws, holding the giant mouth open with tremendous strength. Shalev and Osman tried again to pull Lan clear, but there was a groaning sound and one of the giant hands disintegrated back into dirt as the mouth of the now visible great purple worm snapped shut.

Lan was trapped inside, and Osman continued to try to pull her free. Ashley began to cast a spell, and as he worked, his appearance began to change and blur around the edges. Jaeger responded to Ashley’s spell by casting one of his own, and Shalev grabbed the javelin from the cart. He ran to attack the worm, and I, realizing that my bow would be useless here, drew my sword to attack where I could. Shalev was successful with his attacks, and he managed to visibly wound the creature. I was also able to hit it, and as I did, the sword once again began to sing. Once the blade struck the hard purple hide, it screamed and sparks flew off as I knocked several scales loose.

Ashley’s spell went off and it looked like he was on fire, though he did not appear to be taking any damage from the flames. Jaeger’s spell also went off, and the giant purple worm fell to the ground with a loud groan. It was not dead, but it seemed to have lost all will to live, and just lay there on the ground. Osman, giving up the attempt to pull Lan free, moved to summon an elemental, and Ashley also made motions to cast another spell. Jaeger, noticing that some of the scales were loose, ran over to grab one of them.

Shalev struck the worm again and again, and I took the chance to stab at it through one of the revealed patches of skin behind the scales. Jaeger grabbed one of the scales and began casting a spell that I recognized as one KelLyn had cast on the dragon to draw it’s essence down into a point. Osman summoned a fire elemental and asked it to go burn a hole through the worm to get to Lan. Ashely’s spell also went off then, and the great worm turned transparent. Shalev finished the beast off and then quickly began cutting in to free Lan. Osman and Lan dismissed their summoned elementals, as Lan had also summoned a small fire elemental while she was trapped inside the mouth of the worm. Just before they were dismissed, I heard Ashley say very clearly in a tone of happiness “people!” After Lan was freed, Shalev donned the tapestry gloves and protective clothing he had crafted in the swamp, before beginning to cut his way through to the now -visible treasure in the worm’s stomach. He retrieved 2 long swords of average craft, a shield of average craft, a rough hewn building brick made of emerald, and a large egg shaped black stone.

Shalev showed it to me, and I recognized it as a black sapphire, but could not give him any more information than that. Shalev offered it to Jaeger first, and Jaeger took a look at it and said something in dwarfish that made Shalev quickly but gently put the stone on the ground. He told KelLyn that the stone is magical, and she promptly picked it up and identified it as having an extremely powerful Modify Human spell on it. She claimed it for herself and quickly became lost in the study of it. Shalev and Jaeger pulled off 4 of the foot-long teeth to turn into a matching set of knives.

We moved a safe distance away and made camp, and Shalev expressed interest in trying to take some of the transparent hide to turn into an invisible armor of sorts.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

The wizard’s quest to restore the sylvan tree strikes close to home for me. Despite being told that there is no way to regrow a sylvan tree, I have not lost hope that it would be possible to restore one to health, should it be willing. Those notes and maps might give me some of the answers I seek.

Shalev seems to have returned to his roots, after a fashion. Focusing more on being a fighter and a ranger than a paladin. This is good, I think. This crisis of faith that he is experiencing will either draw him to or push him away from Ma’at, but that is ultimately for him to decide.

The more I consider this place and all we have learned about the area, the more I think that the dragon is trapped here within the fairy ring. It makes me wonder if killing it is necessary. Goddess knows it could take us out any time it wants to, and yet it has refrained from attack. It is food for thought.

We have lost one party member, and gained a new one. I hope Fife finds peace with his decision to leave, and may his adventures lead him to all the riches and glory he desires. As for Ashley? He appears to be another spell caster, albeit an eccentric one. His speech patterns are odd, but my understanding of common is only rudimentary as well, so it could be just a lack of understanding.

One of the ents that I was given care of has been planted. It felt right to do so, and what better place for one of the guardians than in an enchanted apple orchard. I know that the trees there will protect him, as he will grow to protect them in return. The farmer does not seem to realize what he has been gifted with, but I trust him to hold to his word to protect the groves and the grounds as he promised. I will make a note to return in time to check on them once these adventures are done. I have one more entling to care for in the meantime, and like this one, I will know when the time and place are right to find it a home.

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Prepared again
Down a horse, up a mage.

We made it to the town, stocked up on food, beer, and supplies, and left a short while later. Ma’at seemed moved somewhat based on my distribution of food and asking Lan to help ministering to the local unfortunates, and this is an excellent way to get rid the coins weighting down my pockets.

Fife has left us, departing to lands unknown, and I have not shared Simon’s fate with the rest of the party. They didn’t ask, so unless they do, I doubt they care much. Osmun invited a stranger by the fire to join us, Ashley, who based on a battle with a purple worm, appears to be a mage. I didn’t notice much of what he did, but I did hear the similar speech patterns I have heard Jaeger, Kellyn, and Lan use when they cast spells.

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A Debt Discharged.
The scales are balanced.

I spoke to Jaeger of his debt to me, and how I did not consider it a debt, as the price I paid for his freedom was insignificant to me, and thus not something I held over him. He aided me with his sword and helped me accomplish the task set for me by my Goddess.

I’ve met Seth, another of the “old” gods, as judged by his comment on Anu, a “new” god. He strikes me as a figure both mischievous and sadistic, and instructed me in the ways of Ma’at, to better prepare me to serve her, and informed me that Amit is an avatar is his own right, and that I was selected to serve him. Time will tell how this pans out.

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The Lost City - A Conversation with a God
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

Shalev spent several hours trying to explain his actions in killing the mercenary to the others. They were still quite angry with him, and the discussions became quite heated at some points. I am concerned at the current level of disharmony in the group, and do not understand their animosity towards him for actions that are no different than some of the things they… that we… had done in different circumstances.

Perhaps it is because Shalev tends to hold himself to a higher standard. For a human, he is quite moral, and he constantly strives to better himself. I wonder if, in allowing himself a moment of humanity, he inadvertently held a mirror up to the rest of the party members? If so then they certainly did not like what they saw. I imagine there will be many long nights where my student and I converse about the ways of the world, as we often do. As an arbiter of balance, sometimes it is necessary to do distasteful things, and there often is no black or white answer to the quandaries that we encounter.

Shalev’s road is not an easy one, and I fear that the party’s current level of ire towards him will drive a wedge between them that will ultimately lead to a parting of ways. I am curious to see, then, how they do without. Shalev’s foresight and planning have often proved a valuable asset in our travels, providing food and water and supplies where otherwise things would have been scarce. They take him, and his abilities for granted, and I can see that it wears heavily on him.

As the debates and moral arguments continued, I separated myself a bit from the group to keep watch against anyone or anything who might approach. As I stood vigil I noticed a flash of red in the trees and instantly focused my attention there, wary of another attack. I noticed a pale, red haired man hiding in the shadows of the forest. Curiously he wore robes that were in a style that was common to the desert, and this itself piqued my curiosity. Someone of his coloring was obviously not from the desert, and yet he wore garments that just as obviously proclaimed that was where he came from. I pointed the man quietly out to KelLyn, and asked if she could sense anything about him. She winced in pain and said that he didn’t just feel magical, but mystical as well, and cautioned against approaching him.

The arguing among the other party members had grown quite heated, and I noticed that the worse it became, the more the strange red haired man seemed to enjoy it. He watched with obvious bemusement, and I disliked his sudden interest in us. I muttered to KelLyn to watch my back and walked quietly over to the man in the trees. I could feel her glaring at me as I approached him, and I greeted him politely, asking him about his noted interest in the arguments occurring. I asked if he was from the desert, and he replied vaguely that he thought the robes that he wore might help him blend in with our group. We spoke for a few moments, and I asked him to join our party instead of remaining here in the trees. He expressed a worry laden with sarcasm that he might be beheaded as well, and I was instantly more wary of this strange man, wondering at just how long he had been watching us.

I took a small chance and offered him my personal hospitality for the duration of a day, and he agreed to accompany me back to the group. He belted on a sword made of the yellowish metal that I knew Shalev had been researching, and then stepped up beside me to walk back to the group. As we approached, the group noticed him and the arguments slowly died away completely. I introduced him to the party with the solemn statement that I had offered him my protection for the duration of the day. Tobias shot an angry glance my way at this, but wisely did not say anything else about it.

Shalev stepped up then and greeted the man with a formal desert greeting. The man introduced himself as Seth and returned the greeting, again with that same bemused smile on his face. Shalev turned and said something to Jaeger in dwarfish and Seth promptly answered in the same language before turning to Jaeger and speaking to him in Jaeger’s native language. Shalev raised an eyebrow at Seth’s display of languages, and offered in the common language to make him tea. I pointed out that it would perhaps not be wise to camp so near all of the remains of the fight, and the party reluctantly agreed to travel a short distance down the road to make camp.

Once camp was set up, Shalev offered Seth bread and salt in the desert custom, and Seth accepted the proffered offering. In return, Seth offered a style of flaked salt that boasted of an extravagance rarely ever seen. Jaeger spoke at length to Seth in his guttural language, and as they conversed I moved again a short way away from the main party. Knowing that we were running short on grains and other food stores, I pulled out a few grains of wheat from my pouch. I concentrated for a moment, and reached out with my druidic power to try to create more. After a moment, I was able to successfully create about a half of a bushel of wheat, and seeing my success I tried again using some of the kernels of corn. Again, I was able to create about a half of a bushel of the grain, and I then said a quick but sincere prayer of thanks to my deities before dragging the heavy sacks over to the cart. I hefted the bags up onto the cart and then moved back over to the edges of the camp to make a small meal for myself while I maintained vigil.

After that we continued to travel around the lake, and as we traveled Shalev asked Seth if there was anything that he wished to trade. Seth responded that he did not, but then asked when the arguments were going to start again. The landscape slowly changed into a moorish area, and I see Fife grow melancholy and wistful, as if thinking of a place he had not been in a long while. Both Osman and Lan approached me, and I asked them quietly if they were able to tell if Seth were fae. Lan started walking around and cursing in the fairy language, and after a few moments something began throwing rocks and water cress out of the lake. Lan then ran over to the water’s edge and stuck her head in the water. The rocks stopped being thrown, and I guessed that she had told whatever lay beneath the murky waters what she was doing.

I heard Seth ask again when the arguing would resume, and I asked him quite pointedly why he was so interested and amused in our arguments. He looked at me calmly and stated that it was a way to tell what people were really thinking. I thought about this for a moment, then nodded my agreement of the statement. I stated that it made sense to me, but then I had been around for a long time. Shalev didn’t understand though, and Seth proceeded to explain his thoughts on the matter. This discussion evolved into a weighted conversation about Shalev’s goddess Ma’at, and I noticed that it continued well on into the evening. The discussion delved deep into perceptions and philosophy, and Seth managed to drive home some points to Shalev that were difficult lessons to learn.

Shalev called Jaeger over to join the conversation with Seth, and I stepped up beside Amit to take over watch duties, as none of the other party members were willing to be anywhere near Shalev at the time. Seth looked at Amit strangely for a moment and then turned to Shalev to comment that he traveled with some scary companions.

Their conversation then continued on in dwarfish, and I turned my attentions out to the waiting darkness. Amit suddenly growled softly at me and shouldered me over towards Shalev and Seth. I looked down at him and then walked over to where they sat. Seth asked me if I could produce a lotus flower for Shalev. I agreed, and watched the flower grow, bloom, and then wilt quickly. I took the seed pods and gave them to Shalev, and Seth went on to describe in detail how to build an altar for Ma’at.

Shalev also learned then that Amit was more than just a mortal being, but was rather a god in his own right, quite literally, and was also known as the Eater of Souls. Amit had chosen Shalev as a companion, and that Shalev had been guided towards becoming a paladin simply so the great cat wouldn’t starve. I could see that this completely threw Shalev. The larger picture of his fate became a little more clear to him in that instant, and it did not set well with him, I think. It is difficult thing to learn that your entire world has been overturned, and he began questioning everything he had ever done.

Seth then turned to Shalev and gently told him that it was time for him to sleep. Amit walked over and shouldered Shalev, still standing in stunned silence, over to the bed rolls. As Amit passed Seth, Seth reached out and scratched Amit from ears to tail in a greeting, and it solidified my thought that Seth was some part of the pantheon that Shalev followed.

Fife came on watch then, and when Seth approached him to talk to him, he rather coldly told Seth that he wanted nothing to do with him because of his conversations with Shalev and Jaeger. He walked away, and Seth hummed something under his breath. He pointed out to Fife that there were giant rabbits in the fields to the north, and that he knew that Fife was afraid of them. He then joined me at the campfire, and we sat silently for a while, simply watching one another.

He asked me if there were anything that I wanted from him, and I questioned his knowledge of the fact that I was a druid. He raised an eyebrow and he told me that just because I had been discouraged from using elemental magics did not mean that they were inaccessible to me. He then told me of a spell that might allow me to sense where druidic power was strongest. He said that it might be useful to me for finding old places where druids once were. He confirmed my thoughts that the libraries would be the best place to search for the knowledge I sought.

As I relinquished my watch, Tobias stepped up and took my place at the fire side. I heard he and Seth begin a conversation about the crazy cleric Duson, who was known to wander the deserts. I heard Tobias also ask about his spear, and Seth looked at it and told him about the control word he would need to properly wield it.

The sun rose, and I saw Shalev begin his morning rituals and prayers. Seth approached me then, eyes on Shalev, and asked me if he always did this. I replied that he did, and Seth pondered him with bemused eyes before going to walk along the edge of the grasses. He dove into the field and emerged a few moments later with several birds nests full of eggs which he then carried over to the fire to make breakfast for the group.

Jaeger went over to find Fife, and managed to convince him to come over to talk to Seth. Fife said bluntly that he didn’t feel like he could be a part of the group any more, that he didn’t support the party’s actions, or their welcome of Seth. Fife refused to say another word then, and turned to walk back to the smaller camp that he, Lan, and Osman had set up.

Seth returned then to the fire with Jaeger and then turned to Shalev to tell him plainly that he had been sent by Ma’at to discuss things and had been given specific authority to redress the balance. Shalev immediately moved to act, and I put a cautioning hand on his shoulder, counselling him that perhaps he should talk to the person that his goddess sent to talk to him. He turned to me, and I told him that I felt he was taking a more personal view of things he regrets, but that perhaps those things had nothing to do with balance. He and Seth spoke for a few moments, and then Shalev prayed directly to Ma’at. After a moment, he started to express the thought that he should take on the sins of the person he killed, but I quickly cut him off with the blunt statement that I thought that was a stupid idea. Shalev thought for a few more moments and then Seth tells him “this is a gift from she whom you worship, and I am glad to give it. Next time there may be other ways in which I greet you.”

Then Seth looked at the sun and mentioned that his time was up and that he didn’t want to risk me shooting arrows at him. He then turned and walked away, and Shalev said that he was going back to the lake. Tobias, Jaeger, Amit, and I accompanied him, leaving Fife, Osman, Lan, and KelLyn to guard the cart.

Shalev reached the site where he had killed the mercenary, and moved to reattach the head. I recommended possibly trying first to simply apologize for the wrongs. I also recommended not defacing the body any further. He asked Tobias to go and get Lan, and then when they returned, he asked Lan to cast a spell to restore the body. Lan said that she could cast the spell, but that it was a very difficult one to complete and she was not sure she could do so successfully.

Jaeger and I talked long with Shalev and brought him around to realizing that the soul of the man he killed remained stuck in the body, and that as a paladin he might have to ask for the soul to be weighed. Shalev looked at us, then at the body for a moment and then prayed. There was a feeling of energy, and Amit walked over to the body and sniffed at it for a moment before visibly relaxing and then walking away again. Shalev said that he immediately felt worse and that it was the wrong thing to do, but did not know what else he was capable of doing. His eyes suddenly lit up, and he grabbed the wishing ring from around his neck. Jaeger grabbed his hand to stop him and then told Shalev that he was free of his obligation. He then drew his sword Antarna and stabbed the body of the mercenary.

There was a bright flash of gold light and Amit started to violently retch. As soon as Jaeger withdrew the sword, the man sat up with a scream, being fully restored to the land of the living. Amit glared at Jaeger and grumbled about having lost his meal. We calmed the man down, and discovered that he had no memory of anything that had happened to him. Shalev talked to him and told him we would accompany him to the next village where we would set him up with enough to make it to Ishmael’s shop. The man said that his name was Simon, and that he could make it to the dwarf village on his own. Shalev agreed after a moment, and then drafted a letter for Simon to carry to Ishmael as a voucher for apprenticeship with him. He also gave him a bag of coins to get started, and then Simon began his long walk to the dwarf settlement and Ishmael’s forge.

Shalev stated then that he felt that his was the right thing to do, and that he was feeling less out of balance now. I can see that he is still quite troubled over the events of the past two days, and his thoughts weigh dark and heavy on his heart. I wonder at what else he and Seth may have discussed, and I wonder as well if he may be entering a crisis of faith. He has much to consider now, and his goddess seems to delight in letting him flounder without guidance unless it amuses her to give it.

I am glad to see that he is taking this new lesson seriously, even though it is a painful one to learn. The road to balance is not an easy one to travel, and he still feels as if he is lacking. I reminded him gently that it is normal to feel so, especially after an encounter that turned his whole world upside down. I recommended that he perhaps take a step back from the party leadership for a space of time, and he agreed with the hope that it would ease some of the growing animosity that he sensed they bore him. I reminded him too that he was not alone, as I, Amit, and Jaeger stood to guard him.

As we made our way back to the camp that we had set up, we discovered that Fife, Osman, and KelLyn had taken the cart and moved on toward the small village. It was easy enough to track, though, and so the rest of us gathered what possessions we had and set off to meet back up with them. I wonder at what we will find when we reach the village, whether Fife will have taken this opportunity to part ways, and whether or not the others will have decided to go with him.

Shalev is silent, heart sore, brooding and weary. His world has been upended, and he has much to consider. Jaeger remains a mystery to me, as I can not speak any language that he does. Amit is still glaring at Jaeger for the loss of his meal, and I wonder when looking at the great cat. How much of what he does is pure facade for our sake? If he truly is a god in his own right, then why would he have decided to travel with us?

More questions than answers lately, and we have yet more uncertainty ahead of us. Seth, whomever he may be still wanders this plane, for I fully believe that he is also divine in nature, and I wonder if we will encounter him again.

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The Lost City - A Paladin's choice
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“Sometimes it’s these little things that make up our character, being able to stick to our own convictions is sometimes harder than living by someone else’s convictions.”

As someone who strives to maintain balance, it is important, at times to take a look at the larger picture. It is also just as important to consider the smaller things, for if you focus too much on the long game, it becomes easier to lose track of your own internal harmony. This is the nature of balance. Yin and Yang.

For being and nonbeing arise together;
hard and easy complete each other;
long and short shape each other;
note and voice make music together;
before and after follow each other;
That is why the wise soul does without doing,
and teaches without talking.
- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Standing there in front of the deep metal doors with the glimmering layan handles and rose marble columns, I was stuck again by the gaudy opulence of this place. Like someone who had been given all the money in the world, and couldn’t decide what to do with it.

Shalev asked the party to check the doors thoroughly before touching them, his previous experiences showing through to a vigilance that I have seen become tiring to the others. Tiring as they may think it, I know that he finds comfort in the vigilance, and more often than not it has proven itself necessary in our adventures. Tobias did as requested though, and told us that there was no indication of whether or not the doors were holy or unholy. Fife also checked the door, looking for traps, and also came up negative. Shalev examined the doors again, and could not figure out how to open them, as they did not budge when pushed. He asked Tobias and I to try, thinking perhaps that the layan would somehow respond to an elven touch.

We looked at one another in wry amusement, but agreed, each grasping one of the layan rods on the massive doors. Then we looked back at Shalev, and pulled the doors easily and soundlessly open. Inside the room was a dais in the center of the space that held an ornate throne. Ebony and mahogany wood benches sat on either side of the raised area, and we noticed that the room was glowing with light. I looked up to see delicate hanging chandeliers that were woven with glowing layan leaves. The leaves were connected to delicate threads of layan that disappeared up into the ceiling, acting as a focus to bring the sunlight down to light the room. I looked at the elaborate and beautiful lighting, feeling the warmth of the sunshine radiating off of the leaves with a gentle heat, and I wondered again at the sheer extravagance that was exhibited here.

Jaeger said something to Shalev in dwarfish, and then he turned into a raven and flew up to explore the ceiling of the great room. Fife, Lan, and Tobias explored the walls, and Lan discovered a passage on the wall directly behind the throne, and another on the right hand wall. We checked the wall to the right first, and Fife discovered a lever for the passage behind the throne.

Shalev moved over to examine the throne itself, and saw that it was carved out of one solid piece of a green stone that matched the brooch that we had acquired from the merchant back in Eyore. The throne was a solid, stylized dragon with deep metal and gold shackles on each leg. Each arm rest has a fist sized gemstone where someone’s hands would rest. The gemstones are the crowns of the heads of more stylized dragons, a star stone crowned the head of a serpentine dragon; and a gleaming opal crowned the head of a more lizard like dragon. I noted that neither of the dragons depicted here matched the great Fae dragon that flew over this area.

On a whim, I took a seat on the throne, and placed my hands over each of the gemstones. As soon as I did so, a mouth opened up on each of the walls on either side of the throne, and a voice boomed out in resonant tones an introduction of my person to any and all who might listen. The introduction was done in my native language, and consisted of my entire name and all of my titles throughout the ages. After about 10 minutes, the introduction ceased with the statement that all should show reverence, causing both Tobias and Shalev to instantly drop to their knee. I noticed that both of them seemed awed, and as they gazed with shining eyes, I felt a little embarrassed to be so outed. I had not ever made a point of mentioning any of the titles I hold, as they mean nothing to me. I hadn’t heard most of the exaltations in centuries anyway, and found myself a little disappointed that none of them sparked any memory that may have once been associated with them.

Curious about the throne and it’s capabilities, Shalev, Lan, Osman, and Fife all followed suit to sit on the throne and be announced. Each one received their own announcement, in the language that they spoke most often. Shalev then asked, bemusedly, that Amit do the same, and the great cat gave him a long-suffering look, but climbed up onto the chair. Again, the mouths on the walls opened up, and again they made their announcement. This time, however, the exaltation was said in a series of growls and chuffs that took almost a half hour to complete. Amit, bored with the whole thing, lazily left the chair once the voices had quieted, and looked at Shalev with cat-like superiority before flouncing back to the edge of the room.

We checked out the passage behind the throne to see a door to the left and a passage that continues along the wall. Inside the door there was a room filled with velvet and ermine cloaks hanging on ebony wood pegs. The party took the sumptuous cloaks, and discovered that there was another door on the left hand side. I ventured back out into the main throne room to check to see if there was another lever near the other passage. Finding nothing, I returned to the party and Fife checked the door inside the cloak room. It opened into a large bedroom that was completely empty save for a massive bed. Fife, Jaeger, and Kellyn flip the mattress over in hopes of finding more treasure, but only revealed more floor and a massive amount of dust. We went back out into the main hallway to escape the dust cloud, and Tobias took point so that he could use his dark vision ability to follow the passage to the right. There were two doors to the left, and we opened the first door into a triangular room filled with shelves that held small ingots of imperial stamped platinum plates. The room was filled, floor to ceiling, and we estimated 25,000 ingots in total.

The party members stood, dumbfounded, at the uncountable wealth in this room. As they began discussing how best to transport it, I pointed out that we already had more wealth than any of them had ever seen before, and that there would be no feasible way to carry it. Tobias and I urged the party members to leave the ingots behind, and if they must, return to them later. The rest of the party grudgingly agrees and Shalev asked KelLyn to come look into the room to remember the location so that they could return later and potentially transport the ingots elsewhere. She wryly commented that there were limits to even what she could do, but paid attention to the details of the location room as he asked.

Fife then moved over to the second door and checked it for traps. He discovered a needle trap which I am able to disarm after about an hour of tedious work. The room beyond was large and square, and completely empty. There was a door across the room on the opposite wall, and Fife also checked that for traps. Finding none, I moved again to start work on unlocking the door. As I worked through the tumblers, however, it tripped a trap that was expertly hidden within, releasing a noxious green gas. I blinked once in surprise, but felt no effects whatsoever, so I continued to concentrate on my task. After the door was unlocked, I stood up and stretched, glancing around to see that all of the rest of the party, including Amit, were fast asleep on the floor. I checked on all of them, and found them unharmed, so I left them to sleep off the effects of the gas and I opened the now harmless door.

Inside, I saw another triangular room with a circular depression in the floor. Inside the depression was a column of layan that rose nearly to the domed ceiling of the room. Encased inside the glowing layan was a man wearing full metal armor. The man was looking straight up into the column of light with an almost sadly reverent look on his face. I looked closer at him for a moment, but then decided that I wanted to wait for the rest of the party before I explored further, so I returned to the room where they lay and made myself comfortable in one corner before entering into the deep meditations that function to refresh my body.

After about three hours or so, the party members began to groggily come to. Shalev passed around some of the bitter espresso beans that he is fond of chewing on, and when Jaeger looked at him questioningly, Shalev also offered some to him to try. Jaeger sniffed at the beans, then following the example he had seen, popped them into his mouth to chew. He made a horrible face and promptly spit them out, muttering something to Shalev in dwarfish that made him chuckle.

Once everyone was up and fully aware, I tried to explain what I had seen in the room beyond, and then gave up in my explanations and just opened the doors so that they could see for themselves. The layan column was still there and still glowing radiantly. The man still knelt in the center, looking up reverently. Since the rest of the party was here with me now, I walked up to get a closer look at the man. The armor that he wore was very old, and appeared to be from the first imperial age. I posed the thought that this mand appeared to be a paladin of an old order, and Shalev checked to see if he could sense the alignment of the entombed knight. Shalev concentrated for a moment, and then noted with surprise that he felt TWO distinctly different alignments of Lawful Neutral and Neutral Good.

I looked again at the man, and then looked at the column of layan. I had never seen so much in one place before, and I wondered with a sudden suspicion if a sylvan tree could survive having so much of its sap removed. I reached out to touch the column, and find it to be warm and solid to my hand. As I rested my hand on the layan, I saw that it descended down into the floor and thought about how far it might go. Suddenly and silently, the layan column began rising up out of the floor as if responding to my thought. It slid up until it revealed the kneeling man inside completely, and we saw that he held onto the cross pieces of a massive sword.

Still touching the glowing layan column, I cast my Nature of Things spell and it told me what I had feared it would. The column was the life blood of the sylvan tree of this land, and incorporated nearly 1500 gallons. There is no way that any tree could have survived having that much sap taken from it, even a little at a time, and I yet again felt frustration with myself that there was knowledge that I should have known that lay just out of my reach. I wondered at the arrogance of such a man, who would take the essence of such a thing to make himself a tomb. I also wondered if this was the original ruler of this land and if the wizard had displaced him somehow.

I touched the layan again with the thought of retracting it back into the depression in the floor, and it once again answered to my thoughts. Once it was down, however, I found that I could not get it to raise again. Shalev asked KelLyn if she would also cast Nature of Things in here, and she scoffed that the sword was so magical that she could feel it from outside in the courtyard. Shalev was intent on removing the sword though, and asked if I might be able to soften the sap enough to get to it. I looked at him for a moment, then nodded my assent, and concentrated on trying to craft a spell that would allow me to return the sap to a liquid form. It took a very long time to do, and I had to maintain constant contact with the material. After a day, the layan column rose up again, and I realized that the rising and lowering was not thought based, but rather time based.

20 hours of focused concentration later, the man’s face, the decorative chain of his armor, and the sword were uncovered. The effort to reveal him completely exhausted me though, and I broke away from the column to stumble over to Tobias. I fell into his arms and murmured to him a request to guard my back before falling completely away into a dreamless sleep to recover. I awoke some time later to the rumbling purr of Amit, who had laid down beside me, and Tobias standing watch in front of me. He filled me in on the events that happened while I lay sleeping, and I found out that Lan had wanted to cast first aid on the man to see if she could discern why he had died. Jaeger had offered to help boost her power, but he botched the spell. There were thankfully no visible effects of the wild magic, though, and Lan was able to cast her spell successfully. She learned with distinct clarity about the weather for the next day, and looked at confusion at Jaeger before trying her first aid again, this time without his help.

She was able to learn that the man had died of old age, and then was encased post mortem by his people. Shalev spoke up then to say that he could only sense the alignment of the sword now, and suspected that the man’s soul had been held within the layan prison until we had released him. The sword had Fyrewerian writing along the blade, and KelLyn read it out to the party saying that the blade was presented to Alberich Chrondor by the Fyrewerians. The blade was three feet in length and it radiated enough magic that, according to KelLyn, it glowed like a star.

I could tell that Shalev itched to hold the sword, but having been burned literally once before, he held himself in check to my silent approval. He said that Jaeger was the only one of the party who was properly aligned to wield the weapon, and though I could see the disappointment in his eyes, he shrugged it off and stepped back so that Jaeger could take up the sword. Jaeger thought for a moment about this, and then asked if we could clear the scabbard of the weapon as well. I once again agreed, and after another exhausting 16 hours, was able to do so. As Jaeger picked up the scabbard, a molded layan blade fell out onto the floor which Tobias promptly picked up and claimed.

Scabbard in hand, Jaeger then reached out to grasp the sword, and paused for a handful of heartbeats before sheathing it home and belting it on. Jaeger also claimed the imperial armor that the old paladin had worn, and I took some care to wrap the body in the ermine and velvet cloaks that I had taken from the closet. I said a simple blessing over his corpse, and then worked steadfastly to encase him once again in the layan tomb. Shalev also blessed the body in human tradition, and the scabbard that Jaeger wore rang like a bell in response.

After a short period of rest, we continued to explore, and we discovered that the old paladin’s spirit was what had maintained the palace here. Every room we encountered was now falling into ruin, and we confirmed that even the materials we had gathered from this place were crumbling to dust. The keep as a whole now felt empty and abandoned. The party returned to the room with the platinum ingots, and after another intense discussion, they took 32 of the ingots from the shelves. I reminded them again that taking it was pointless, and likely could carry some kind of death-effect on it, but they placed the bars into Tobias’ treasure box anyway. Shalev took one extra bar and offered it to Ma’at, but she responded to him with a gentle rebuke telling him directly that he should not tithe from the tombs of others.

Chastised, he put the platinum back, and when he noticed that Jaeger also seemed reluctant and averse to taking the ingots, he refused his share as well, saying that he wanted nothing to do with it. We gathered what items we had with us, and decided to continue traveling away from this now desolate place. On the way out, Osman, Fife, and Jaeger all decided to get into a pumpkin flinging contest using the giant trebuchets on the battlements, but found to their great disappointment that the giant gourds had also been affected by the removal of the old paladin’s spirit, and were now nothing but sludge and dust.

KelLyn asked Jaeger pointedly if he would like her to identify his new sword, but Jaeger refused saying oddly that the sword would tell him it’s name in time. The party broke out into a heated discussion about where to travel next, and I pushed for sticking to the original plan to go and visit the next city in the circle. We decided to travel the long way around the lake, and after about four weeks of uneventful journeying, we saw a group of mercenaries camping along the edge of the lake.

The mercenaries were all human, and wearing mismatched and dented aluminum armor. There were 11 men around the campfires near the lake, apparently paying no attention whatsoever to the fact that we were approaching. Shalev murmured to Amit, asking if he saw or sensed any others, and Amit turned to face the forest with a quiet rumbling growl. I immediately drew my bow and took aim at the area where he stared, and another group of 18 men emerged from the trees, splitting into two smaller groups. They tell us with dark amusement that it would be wise of us to join them for dinner, and Shalev’s response was to draw his sword and ask them how they preferred their remains to be cared for. KelLyn looked distinctly bored with the whole situation, and Lan and Osman turned to look at one another with an expression that the party had come to recognize as their tandem call to the fairy folk.

Jaeger said something to Shalev, and Shalev looked at him with alarm before shouting out to the party in desert common that we should all close our eyes quickly. We followed his advice, and a blinding flash of light erupted from Jaeger’s sword. A wave of energy followed suit, and the group of 11 men by the lake were blinded completely with cries of surprise.

I took aim at the two bowmen on either side of the leader of the first group at the tree line, and Shalev charged after the leader of the second group of men, killing him instantly with a precise decapitation. Fife speared one of the archer’s arms to his chest, and though Shalev missed his second attack, he quickly struck again, hitting one of the bowmen in the face. Fife and I took out two more of the bowmen, and Tobias took out the leader with a solid strike to the head using the morning star that he favored.

The mercenaries hit Jaeger in a group, but Jaeger bemusedly ignored their attacks completely. Lan and Osman cast their summon spell successfully, and an elegantly garbed woman stepped out of thin air, saying quizzically that she had no idea why she should have been summoned here, as everyone seems to have perfectly functional clothing. Osman, thinking quickly, said that he was not perfectly dressed, and her eyes lit up with delight as she began to measure him precisely for a new garment.

The remaining bowmen all turned to target Shalev, and the second group of mercenaries all turned and began murmuring together to apparently elect a new leader right there on the spot. Amit was over by the group near the lake, toying with them as cats tend to do with their prey. Fife watched Amit for a moment before targeting the last one that Amit had tagged to spear in what quickly turned into the oddest game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” in history. One by one he took them out, until at last only one remained. That one he speared through the shoulder, effectively pinning him to the ground, but leaving him alive to question.

Tobias attacked the group targeting Shalev, and Shalev turned to attack the remaining bowmen. His strike was true, and he managed to disrupt the concentration of his target. Tobias missed his brawl attack, though, and one of the bowmen managed to strike Shalev, causing minimal damage. Shalev retaliated by smacking the bowman in the face and removing him from the fight. I targeted the group of men huddled together, and threw one of the exploding pineapple seeds right into the center of them. The seed hit the ground and exploded with concussive force, killing everyone in the huddle instantly and causing minor damage to everyone within a large radius. The spray of falling gore suddenly froze in midair for some reason, along with the two bowmen who remained alive. We all looked around in some confusion, only to see Jaeger sheathe the sword with a smug look on his face.

Searching the remains, Shalev picked up a striking long bow which he promptly offered to me. I could not draw the weapon though, and so I declined and offered it to Tobias. Tobias also declined, preferring his own bow, and it was offered to Fife. Fife took the bow with thanks, and the asked if Jaeger could unfreeze the remaining bowmen, I noted that Shalev offered his share to Ma’at, and raised an eyebrow in quiet observation at the new behavior.

The elegantly garbed fairy woman finished the garment that she was making for Osman, and then she asked what she would receive in payment. Knowing the perils of bargaining with the fair folk, Osman offered her a dragon short rib to use as boning for corsetry, and she quickly agreed with interest, on the condition that he could fashion her a needle out of the bone immediately. Osman did so quickly and efficiently, and she looked at him gravely stating that she appreciated that he did not try to draw her into bargains or traps or additional conditions. She also warned us all that there were four wars going on within the fairy kingdoms right now, and that he should be extremely careful about whom he summons from now on, as she could not guarantee that the next person to answer their call would be quite so… pleasant. Osman took her warning to heart, and then the woman gathered her new supplies and promptly vanished.

Shalev then walked over to question the one remaining mercenary by the lake who remained blinded and speared to the ground. Tobias quipped in irony that it would be wise if he joined us for dinner. The mercenary told the group that he and his men had been hired to fight in the war against the Ros Baban’s on the other side of the mountains. After helping the gnomes until the passages collapsed, however, they found themselves trapped here on this side and decided turn to brigandry. He continued on to tell the group that the nearest township was near Mount Wanake, confirming that we had been heading in the right direction. He also told us of the Wagleburg colleges where there were maps and older fairies who had stayed and become the academics who ran the university. He proved to be a wealth of information, telling us that we shouldn’t bother the dragon at Emer, but that the minions of the beast and others of the township were able to coexist peacefully. He warned that the dragon kept a harem of the most beautiful women so that he could show off his singing abilities, and that as far as he knew the sylvan tree was not there.

This confirmed, to my sorrow, what I had come to suspect when I saw the old paladin encased in layan. The mercenary added, however, that the wizard had journeyed around the entire area looking for tree seeds and saplings in an attempt to regrow or replant the tree. The maps and journals detailing his travels were rumored to be held at the university, and I made a note to try to visit if possible.

After the mercenary had finished his tale, Shalev offered the man a chance to start a new life. He offered to give him a recommendation to work as apprentice to Ishmael in the dwarven city, if the mercenary could give his word that he would give up forever the life of brigandry. The mercenary thought about it for a few moments, and then told Shalev that he would try it out, but could not guarantee that he would not return to thieving to get by. Shalev, not satisfied with this answer, or the risk to his name, killed the man quickly and mercifully. Jaeger walked over to the two bowmen that were pinned to the tree and killed them quickly as well, saying in broken common that they should remember the name Antarna.

Shalev’s action immediately caused outrage in the rest of the party members, and it puzzles me as to why they took such offense at a merciful death. Tobias, especially, seemed infuriated by the action, and has shown great animosity toward Shalev. Fife too seems unnerved by Shalev’s apparently sudden coldness, and I see fear in his eyes when he looks at the man he is supposed to bodyguard.

Having spent so much time with the desert human cultures, I can understand Shalev’s reasoning, though I might not have done the same thing. We could not have cared for the man, and our food stores are dwindling to the point where we could not have supplied him to make it to the next town on his own. Shalev put his own honor at stake for the man’s solemn promise to uphold the law of the land, and the man refused. It was merciful to grant him a quick and painless death this way. Still, however, I feel I may have to act as a mediator among the party members for a time, as none are willing to deal with Shaelv now.

Balance is a difficult thing to maintain, and the balance within the party has been shaken considerably by this apparent betrayal of trust. I am reminded, again, that humans have a much different outlook on things like this, although I do wonder at Tobias’ anger. I would think that he, being from the same harsh desert cultures, would understand more than the rest. Only time will tell, but I think that I will have a difficult time trying to keep the peace.

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If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Wherein Jaeger makes a friend

The doors (Deep Metal with Leyan handles) had a type of hidden hinge I’ve not seen before, moving well past what I thought they should. Cora and Tobias opened them outward revealing a throne room with rows of mahogany benches and a throne of green stone, seen in the pyramid and the treasure from the swamp, decorated with two dragons, one on each side. The light was coming from a Leyan chandelier in the ceiling which Tobias said was worth a fortune. Looking around, I didn’t see any murder holes, sticks on the floor or obvious traps or doorways. My next thought was secret passages, and I asked Lan to use her Palantir to see through the walls to see if there were any doors we couldn’t easily see. She paced the room and quickly identified two areas with something behind them, the throne and the right rear of the room, as you walked in.

Fife was unable to find a mechanism on the right wall, but was quickly able to find a handle to open a door behind the throne, which revealed a dark passageway. Before we explored the corridor, Cora sat on the throne and placed her hands on the gemstones in the armrests. Immediately her titles were announced, which took ten minutes, ending with a command to approach her and be humble. I tried my luck and was announced as a minor noble, and then Lan tried the same thing to the same effect. Osmun and Fife sat next, and on a whim, I asked Amit to do the same, which surprisingly resulted in thirty minutes or roaring while he fought off boredom. I wonder if that was actually Amit’s pedigree being cited or perhaps the spirit within the magic sword which was imbued into his claws.

Having decided we had made sufficient noise, we then lit a torch and proceeded down the corridor, with Tobias taking point and Kellyn remaining to guard the cart. The first room contained 35 purple velvet cloaks on mahogany hooks with another door leading to a bedroom, and continuing down the hall, we found a room which contained 25,000 platinum plates and I had a moment of greed which I had to fight to immediately ask Kellyn to transport all the plates to the Oasis. I did ask her to come to the room so that she could use the transportation staff to get back here if we needed to.

The next room had a needle trap in the door which Fife safely discharged. I asked him to check to see if there were any others, recalling the pyramid and the fifty needles in the door. Cora then snarked “Which explains Shalev’s life.” Fife instead elected to jam the mechanism so nothing else could fire, and Cora unlocked the door, though it took her an hour to do so. There were no traps detected on this door, and Cora once again unlocked it. Sadly, this door did had a trap which released a gas which made all in the room save Cora fall asleep, leaving only her and Osmun, who had waited in the corridor, still awake.

When we came to, several hours later, Cora opened the door and revealed a Leyan circle with a man with armor in the center, looking straight up. Tobias sensed nothing holy or unholy about him and I was able to sense two spirits within the Leyan, one Lawful Neutral and one Neutral Good. Cora expressed a belief that he was a paladin. In addition to the armor, there was a large sword, three foot long, and I suspected one of the two spirits was him and the other was the sword or something else on him. I asked Kellyn to come assist and she could immediately sense the magic of the sword, even through the Leyan, and indicated she could have gotten the man out, although perhaps without doing some damage to it, so Cora elected to try a less destructive way with her own magic.

Cora was able to move the Leyan up and down once, and spent the more than half a day somehow softening the Leyan, until some of his skin was free. I asked Lan to do her diagnostic spell on man, to perhaps reveal what spell or conditions he was under. I suggested to Jaeger that he power her spell, and he carefully asked me to confirm it was magic, not the power of Leilanna being used, before doing so. The spell didn’t go the way intended, based on his reaction, though there was no further effect. Lan cast the spell again and proclaimed that he had died of old age. Checking his body, I sensed only the Neutral Good spirit, and believed his own soul had traveled to its judgement. Scanning the sword, I asked the compass if the blade would harm me if I touched it, and it concretely said it would. Kellyn was able to read the Fywarean writing on the blade, which proclaimed it to be presented to Albrecht Chrondor by the Fyreaweans. I then checked our party to see who, if anyone might be able to use it. Jaeger was the closest, which I told him, and asked him if we wished to attempt to wield it, as if it injured him, we should be able to heal him. He asked for the sheath to be freed first, which took another sixteen hours, before it came loose, spilling a Leyan sword mold onto the floor, which Tobias promptly claimed. I readied a potion and he grasped the sword and paused for a moment, before sheathing it.

We discussed funeral rites for the body, and Jaeger revealed certain communal property beliefs, and mentioned that he must now give half his treasure to the sword. I suggested we prepay him with the platinum in the other room, and Kellyn stated that smelled of politics and would not go well. Bowing to her wisdom, we ceased that line of thought, though we did take the man’s armor and wrapped him in some of the robes from the next room, when I suggested giving the armor to Suliman at the volcano. This was acceptable to him, and we cleaned the Leyan off the armor before Cora began to pack it around him again. Afterward, I stated a desert blessing for the dead, and wished him justice and mercy, when suddenly there was a loud ringing sound from outside. It appears that Jaeger’s sword agreed with my sentiment.

As it was now time to leave, we elected to take some of the bars with us, and were able to fit 32 into Tobias’ box, using the silk rope I acquired at the Volcano to lower the bars one at a time, as quickly as possible. Two were left out, for Jagaer’s share, to be given to the sword, which refused it. I had a bad feeling, and suggested we put the platinum plates back, agreeing Jaeger that taking it was a bad idea, and stating I wanted none of it. I was told that I was incorrect, and I offered a bar to Ma’at, and was told not to tithe with the TOMB of others. The Tomb, and not the treasure. I once more warned the party, telling them that if this was part of the tomb, and not the treasure, there could be negative consequences. Fife derisively stated that I have a hero complex and that no matter what the others did, I would save them. Enlightened to this attitude, I resolved to not repeat that mistake. Prior to leaving, I offered Ma’at all the platinum coins I possessed, both as tithe and apology and she told me to give it to widows and orphans. I immediately tried to remember what I knew of fostering, and began to discuss with Cora the ways to foster orphans and to more wisely spend my money.

We elected to continue back the way we came to go to the next city, and four weeks later we ran into some disreputable men, who told us they wanted us to join them for dinner. I asked Amit if he smelled anyone else and he looked to the North. Cora readied her bow and aimed in that direction and more men stood up. There were eleven by the lake, eighteen here, and I was frankly tired of the frustrations I had felt lately, especially when some spot checks affirmed these men were all evil. I drew my sword and asked them if they preferred to be burned or buried, studying the leader (who had the most complete set of aluminum armor) to see where to strike, when they decided to engage us. Jaeger suddenly told me to cover my eyes and I warned the others in desert common to do the same. The men by the lake didn’t hear us, and Jaeger said something and then said it was over, and we noticed the men by the lake appeared blind. Taking him to be larger threat, most attacked Jaeger, with half as many engaging me. I killed the leader instantly, missed the leader of the bowmen, but killed another member with a bow of a type I had never seen before, aiming carefully to not harm it. Fife managed to pin the arms of two wielding short bows, and Cora killed another right before Tobias smashed the bowman leader. Strangely, those attacking Jaegar paused to discuss who should be in charge instead of continuing to attack. I wounded another of the archers, who Tobias then finished, and then killed another, just before Cora tossed a pineapple seed at them, obliterating them just as Jaeger said something else, leaving scattering of body parts in the air.

Hearing screams, I wondered where Amit was, and saw him playing with the blind men by the lake. Walking over, I quickly dispatched all but one, who was wounded by Fife in the melee. I questioned him, asking why he was here, why he was a bandit, and learned that he had been trapped here. Recalling Ishmael at the volcano, I considered that if I pledged my word, Ishmael might take this man as an apprentice, and give him a chance at an honest life. The bandit was disinterested, and indicated that all he knew was the sword, and felt that raiding was more appropriate than starving. It did not appear to occur to him to be a guard or to try to start over, and I asked him again if he would consider changing his moral outlook, he again refused, and made no attempt to even lie about changing his nature. Given that I had offered to heal him and give him a letter of recommendation if he swore to change his ways, and he still wasn’t interested, I was resolved. Without a further word, I quickly took his hood, a merciful death, I believe. He was a bandit and had raided before, and likely would again.

Tobias, Fife, and Osmun were outraged at my action, thinking I had been unnecessarily callous. I believe they forgot who I am. I am a noble, and as nobles go, I am gracious and polite, and unusually willing to get my hands dirty, figuratively and literally, but at the end of the day, I am a Paladin of Balance and have been raised knowing I may someday pass judgement for crimes. I questioned this man, learning of the war with the Ras Babbans, who are on the other side of the mountain range, and who defeated the Gnomes resulting in the city being sealed and the men being trapped here. He also said the nearest township was near Mount Wanake and near that is a Waglebug college where there are maps and academic Fae. In the city of Emer, we should not bother the dragon, but the minions and others live peacefully, and the dragon keeps a harem so he may show off his singing. The Sylvan tree is not there any longer, and the wizard was journeying around looking for tree seeds or saplings and the maps at the college record his journey.

I had questioned the man, had given him every change to rethink his choices, and if he had truthfully been willing to change, I would have healed and cared for him, and given him money as a backup to start a new life. Instead, he will no longer bother the citizens of this vale, and the fact that the broach was charged by their deaths tells me that on some level, they were out of balance and killing them restored it. There was no intentional cruelty in my action, and he was given three chances to repent, even if he did not recognize them or take them.

Jaeger asked me why the others were yelling at me, and I explained they disliked my actions. He then asked me to translate for him, and told them they should remember the name of his sword, before he ran them through.

It appears he may share some of my views on justice.

We burned the bodies, including those pieces large enough to be seen after Cora tossed the pineapple at that. I’ve requested an inventory of the party supplies, as we should immediately make for the village to acquire more plant foods, as we are running dangerously low, and we will need to barter for what we need. I’ve thankful that I bought so much tea, as it may very well be the thing which gets us the food we need to keep going.

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