The FATE of Guilfort

Kel's Journal Entry 7
Kel

Ok, remind me to never make Linea mad. She totally just…what? Oh, right, it’s been a while and I haven’t updated you. Sorry, I’ve been rather distracted thinking about that poem Flor helped me find, and all the Greystone stuff Nan keeps talking about. I suppose I should fill you in on what happened. Of course that means this will be a long entry, so you’d better be ready for a late night. Good thing we were already planning to rest here for a while.

We left Greystone and headed towards Lorindale. Linea and Florence stayed behind to try and figure out more of what’s going on in Greystone while the rest of us headed off to find the altar the evil stone of sickly doom belongs to. Alec continued to hang around with us, though I’m not really sure why. He must like BR’s company or something. It certainly can’t be Nan’s he enjoys.

Anyway, we got a good ways out without much happening. But then we were attacked, and you totally almost went up in smoke, just like your predecessor. No, not goblins this time. The Pretty Obnoxious Imbeciles attacked us after we set up camp. And, as usual, they decided to pick on me first (seriously, goblins, the stabbityclawtooth thingies, and now the POI, always attacking me before anyone else).

A couple archers attacked from one end, and they must have been really stealth as I didn’t notice them until an arrow hit me in the shoulder. I yelled out to wake everyone up, and almost every did. As they all got ready to fight the campfire exploded and caught the wagon on fire. It wasn’t until then that Alec woke up. I’ll have to remember that next time I need to wake him up for something (specifically, that I should use fire).

We managed to fight them off, but only barely. Torg was seriously hurt, our wagon was destroyed, and the box-o-evil was cracked. On the plus side, Alec got a new kidney (from the wizard. Not really sure why he did that though…). And it apparently could have gone a lot worse. Nan gave us a lecture about magic after the fight, explaining how the stream between the wizard and our campfire saved us from a much worse attack, as the water somehow cancelled out part of the fire attack. (Personally, I think he’s making this all up).

Anyway, after that we decided it may not be safe to enter Lorindale, as we didn’t know if the Path had much hold there, so we sent Alec in. Unfortunately he didn’t come back out. I felt like we should try and see what happened, but that crack in the box was looking mighty worrisome, even after Nan tried patching it up, so we decided to go deal with the artifact first, and come back for Alec later (Nan thinks he may have just deserted us, since he doesn’t seem to be willing to deal with much violence, as the goblin hat incident showed us).

Shortly after we started into the forest a couple falcons appeared above us in the sky. I recognized the first couple as Linea’s, but there were two that looked a bit different, and seemed to be not quite as sure of themselves in the sky. Turns out that’s because they weren’t birds, which we discovered as those two came down and morphed into people (Is it bad that crazy-weirdness like this is starting to seem normal to me?). One was Linea, and the other was some guard from Greystone that she somehow roped into following her (how the managed that I don’t know. He looked incredibly confused though. Enough so that it couldn’t possibly have just been from being turned into a bird for a while).

So new guy was Samson (Wha? No, he didn’t have long voluptuous hair. Why would you even ask that? And where did you learn voluptuous?! I certainly never taught you that word). He apparently is from Guilfort so he knew Linea a bit, and she apparently knew him enough to trust him to help (oh who am I kidding. She probably didn’t even consider that. Oh, random person! They’ll help me!). I can’t make fun of her too much though (well…), since she did talk to the box and managed to get it to heal the crack (yes, talked to the box. Remember, she made the box by talking a tree into turning itself into it originally. No, I don’t know if it talked back. I’ll ask her next time I see her. If I remember. And don’t want to be stared at weirdly. Quiet you.)

So after heading into the forest for a while I started noticing the signs of a nearby elvish encampment. And for once we didn’t have to worry about POI jerkheads being there, as they were among the more nomadish groups of elves. We decided to go and resupply there and see if any of them could help direct us to the altar we were looking for, though I didn’t think we should bring the death-in-a-box near the town or leave it unguarded. Eventually they decided to send me in alone (well, unless you count the shopping lists Linea and Lizzy gave me).

There was some commotion going on as I approached, and when I got close someone noticed me and came to ask what I was doing. He seemed wary of me, though I got the feeling it was because I was a stranger, not because I was strange (no comments on being blue!). Turns out someone had vanished the night before, supposedly taken by the “Red Lady” or “Bloody Mistress” or whatever other name they decided to use. I offered (on behalf of the group. I didn’t care if they would say no) to help them try and find that person via tracking or magic, and told them about my friends. They agreed to let us try and help, so I went back to get everyone else (as I left I noticed a guard lower his bow and duck behind a tree. I was tempted to wave to him, but decided to let him think he was being sneaky).

Turns out this superstition they had was an old one, about some lady who came to take the sick away. It sounded similar to the stories we heard about the altar, and figured it must be related. Nan detected a similar “feeling” magic in the area too, which made us certain. While we were doing this Samson took the shopping list from me and picked up the supplies (apparently Torg wanted a plate and silverware as he’s “civilized” now. And Linea wanted a cookie. Why am I not surprised).

They pointed us at where they believed the altar we were searching for was, so we went off that way. We found a valley with some big ziggurat-like structure in it (like a pyramid, lots of steps, maybe I’ll draw you a picture sometime). At the top was the altar, which was also apparently a sarcophagus. We managed to decipher the writings there and figured out what was going on.

Apparently back in the day (no, I don’t know which day) some magic lady elf saved her village from a big sickness by magically taking it all into herself, then going off to die. They started worshipping her for it, and entombed her in the altar. Apparently she got so much worship she turned into some kind of mini-goddess, and is now continuing her “work” by convincing sick people to bring themselves to the altar and kill themselves (sadly we discovered the missing elf here, dead on the altar, among a number of other recent corpses).

It was at this point Nan decided it was time to open his gift from the Lady at his school. In it he found instructions for a ritual that would undo the power of the alter for good (essentially unmaking the mini-goddess). But first we had to fix the altar, which involved using the poultice we made earlier to glue the piece back on. Nan spread the goop on the altar and Red cracked the box open and stuck it on. It sealed, and we could see the stone becoming whole again, but in that brief instance a couple of us got sick from the stone. Sam, Nan, and I all started seeing the red lady (and she looked strangely like Tulia, but…wrong).

Sam and I tried to distract her from Nan while he was busy with his magicing. Sam tried to attack her with his sword, but barely made a scratch. I was trying to figure out how I’d hurt her when I noticed some of the poultice leftover on the ground. I figured if it worked to bind her power in the altar it might work on her, so I dipped my arrow in it and fired. It worked. It obviously hurt her, but also seemed to stick her in place, AND let Linea and Red see her.

I managed to get another shot into her while Red helped Nan, and that seemed to hurt her even more. She was looking pretty bad, but not dead (or dispersed or whatever happens to a god when you hurt its manifestation enough) yet. Sam was having trouble, as I think the lady was getting into his mind, so he wasn’t able to help much. I went to line up another shot when I realized my other arrows were gone (she somehow magiced open my quiver’s strap without me noticing). I went to take out my sword when suddenly Linea comes out of nowhere and punches her in the face.

That’s right. Linea punched a god. In the face. I didn’t even know she punched things! I thought it was all “Hey tree, go eat that guy for me!” with her. But now. She punched the red lady, and it sent her all the way back into the stone. It was kind of impressive. Also scary. I need to not make her mad (or maybe she only punches deities? Then I’m safe I guess).

We managed to weaken the lady enough that Nan’s magic could finish. He said the last words of his ritual and we could all feel something big happen, though none of us seemed to describe it the same way. But along with the power of the lady disappearing it seems Nan’s strength left as well, as he collapsed immediately after finishing the spell.

So now we’re back at the elvish village tending to our wounds (mostly waiting for Nan to be coherent again) and reminiscing about that time we killed a mini-god (Linea keeps dropping the “mini” when she tells people she “face-punched a god to death”). I’m thinking of naming my bow the “God poker”, but Torg gives me a look every time I bring it up that suggests it will mysteriously burn if I ever actually call it that.

So yea, that’s been my last week or so (what have YOU been doing, other than sitting in my pack while I get attacked by everything?).

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Nan: Withdrawl from the Lady Arilynn's class
Musings on my father

My mother died I when I was pretty young. That kind thing has a drastic effect on a boy. Even more impacting was how my father handled it.

You see, my father was a pacifist and a leader in the Church of Unity. They’re a hippie organization that wants everyone to work together for common good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an ideal goal, but embodied in my father caused me to resent the church quite a bit.

I think my mother’s death caused him to feel a bit of guilt about his own beliefs. My father hadn’t raised a finger as my mother was slaughtered, and it’s something I’ve never forgiven him for.

Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t stand his way of life, his casual liasons with the women of our town or his suave and debonair personality. Half the girls in my class were madly in love with him and the other half would have been if it was deemed socially acceptible. My Dad was educated, well spoken and emotional in an attractive way.

There were quite a few times where his charms got him into trouble with married gentlemen of the Guilfort. Always, always he backed from confrontation, even begging for mercy and whinning. That combined with his lack of respect (in my opinion) for my mother culminated in my loathing of my father.

I guess things aren’t as bad now that I’m no longer home. I don’t have to watch him in action any more. I don’t have to see the drinking, the women and his obsession with poetry. Perhaps that, and something insightful Tulia mentioned. “Nan, Carolynn’s death hit him just as hard as it did you, probably worse. What if those are things he does when he’s in pain?”

Maybe they were. Maybe they weren’t. The only thing I knew was that I was never going to live his lifestyle, I would never refuse to lift a hand to protect someone I love because of my beliefs.

And that, Lady Arilynn, is why I disguised the burr seeds on your chair so you wouldn’t see them. That is why I was sloppy enough that I would take the punishment. I did the right thing protecting a friend from undue punishment on your part. You embody a much too strict law, where you refuse to acknowledge the spirit of the law, but rather the wording of it. I refuse to apologize for defending a friend and requite myself of your teaching. I will learn as needed on my own. You may test me if desired, on Gramm’s wishes.

— Nan, Apprentice of the fourth order

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Nan asks for help
Florence in the Library

I found Florence at the library with Kel. Florence can best be described as a cute little bundle of life. Her height was a bit average which helped her out, as she always wore her dark locks to floor length as long as I’d known her. Any taller and her hair would get stock in doorways. She had round face, full lips and a sharp nose. Her eyes were a lighter brown than her rich dark hair, and she still had a few freckles. It was her stance though, that made her the center of attention in any room. She had held her hips just right, with enough sway to focus a man’s eyes. She also had a look for any situation, from coy smile to “watch your next step”. I was always amazed at the amount of expression she could portray on her face.

Which is how I knew she wasn’t happy. Best to make this quick.

“Hey, Florence! How’re things going.”

She shrugged and bent her head towards Kel. “Just doing a little research.”

I laughed. “A little research? That man has his nose in a book even on the road! We’re constantly stopping so he can write down his latest thoughts.”

She smiled, but it hardly touched her eyes. “What’s up?”

My expression went serious. “I found something bad. Any chance we can find a … quiet place to chat?”

Her brow furrowed. “Sure, this way.”

Once we were settled, I sat her down. “I want you to examine my head for tampering.”

WHAT! Nan, do you think there’s black magic afoot?”

“I know there’s black magic afoot. Please, just take a look.”

Florence calmed herself, enter her focus and truly opened her senses. She started inspecting my head. I could tell by those facial expressions that she was a little shocked.

“See what I mean?”

“Nan, you’ve been ravaged! How did this happen?”

I hope my quick suprise and rush of guilt didn’t show. I must have had some remenants in there from Tulia’s rescue. “I found an enchantment over this entire town. I wanted to know what it did, so I amplified it on myself.”

“You what! Nan, that’s dangerous. And besides, you know better than to play with Black Magic!”

“It had to be done, Florence. Besides, I used a ward to protect myself. I hide my core behind a wall and allowed the enchantment to affect my emotions. After which, I restored my core. It’s a pretty neat trick, I should teach it to you.”

Her eyes were suspicious. “Yeah, sometime. So what’s the enchantment do?”

“It makes you respect authority. When I bumped the levels, it made my start to like the Lady Arylinn.” I leveled a series gaze at her after this.

She looked a bit shocked, but also amused. “Well, I guess it takes Black magic to have you see clearly.”

“Florence, this is serious! I think someone in town is using this enchantment to start an army. An army the say is destined to attack Guilfort.”

“Guilfort? Who would want… no who would need to attack Guilfort?”

“I know! I think something foul is at play. I don’t think they intend to attack Guilfort, but somewhere else. I’m not sure what’s going one, but I have my suspisions.”

“And, are your friends privy to such information?” Her eyes were twinkling. She liked to tease me when she thought I was being melodromatic.

“Of course. I think it’s related to the Path of Iron. We know they’re active in Guilfort, I can only guess they’re active here as well. Seeing the kinds of dirty tricks they pull, I think it’s only a matter of time before they control the area between Lorindale and Guilfort. I think the army they’re raising is intended for Tilith.”

“Tilith?”

“Yes. There’s no way their cheap tricks would work in Tilith with the Lady and Gramm there to prevent it. You don’t mess with magicians of that caliber. But Guilfort and Greystone? Well Guilfort lacked a defender until recently and Greystone’s been compromised.”

“You mean, Samson?”

“Yeah, this enchantment has gotten to him. If I had time, I’d stick around and try to clear him up. The problem is he doesn’t know it’s gotten him and he doesn’t trust me enough.”

She leveled me a stern look. “Nan. Honestly. I don’t think anyone would trust you in their heads.”

I had trouble hiding my suprise. “What? Why not?”

“Let’s just say you like to take uncessary risks. Risks most of us wouldn’t want affecting our minds.”

She had a point. Still, I was pretty sure with enough time I could remove the enchantment from Samson. I was also sure that with enough time she could do so. “This brings me to my point. I know I asked you for help removing the artifact, but…..”

“But, you see a conspiracy here and you need me to look into it.”

I smiled, genuinely happy. Her face told me her answer. “Yeah. I think it’s going to be big and I need someone I trust to keep an eye on things and try to fight back. I talked with the others and Linea wants to stay and help too. She’s a good person, and don’t doubt her powers because they’re pretty powerful, but I worry about her… follow through.”

“Don’t worry, Nan. I’ll do this.”

“Think you can free Samson too? He could be an asset.”

Her face soured. “Nan, Samson and I never really…. got along.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah…. Let’s just say he didn’t know how to treat a Lady and I decided he needed to learn a lesson.”

I smiled. Good friends were hard to come by. “Thanks so much. I need to go make preparations to head out. I’ll be back to grab Kel and I’ll say goodbyes then.”

She shurgged. “Perhaps I should come with you. We can talk more about your suspicions as we shop.” She turned her head to look over at Kel. “Probably accomplish more that way.”

I gave her a wry smile. “Don’t mind him, Florence. He’s not used to being around people. Not really. His parents are gone and he had to leave his hometown because of the Path of Iron. He’d never knowingly ignore you if he knew it bothered you. He’s a good guy, just not used to traveling with others.”

She shrugged. “Why would I care what Kel does?”

Now it was my turn to level a look at her. “Florence, I know you. He’s different, exciting. Not only that, but he’s been abandoned and wandering this world alone. To top it off, he treats everyone with respect and curtesy… well maybe not goblins. Still, he’s your ideal type: Someone who doesn’t worship your every move and desparately needs your help, only he doesn’t know it yet. Of course you’re attracted to him.”

She grunted. A surprising sound from a Lady. “You sure do like to overanalyze things, Nan. Maybe one day you’ll actually be able right about something.” She shouldered past me and out the library.

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Kel's Journal Entry 6

Me again, though I suppose you knew that. No one else should be writing in here (though you did disappear for a few days a bit ago, so I’d better check……Ok, good).

So the last few days have been rather uneventful, at least compared to most days since I met Nan the “Maginificent” (heh, got to remember to call him that within earshot), Big Red, and Linea the Distractable. After dealing with the goblins and making sure the sisters were in good hands at the Windrider residence (pretty sure those brothers could take any PoI jerks in the area if they try anything) we headed out for Lorindale. It’s a long journey though, and we’re only partway there. I did get to finally see some non-hateful-book-burning-and-generally-annoying-and-stupid goblins on the road. There really ARE merchant goblins! So that was exciting.

We generally slept outdoors off the path a bit instead of going to the inns in order to keep inconspicuous (don’t look at me like that. Our group doesn’t look that crazy…from a distance…in shadow…if you’re distracted…shutup). Nan had to get himself some “nice” dinners though, so I’m not sure how well that worked. Some people just don’t appreciate the outdoors, or “roughing it” as Nan put it. Alec didn’t seem to mind the prepared meals either, though I noticed he never paid for anything himself. Oh yea, he’s sorta-kinda joined up with us, though we haven’t explained everything to him yet (he’s a little shifty, and he did run from the fight with the goblins, so we’re not sure about him), though if he stays with us we’ll probably have to sooner or later. We don’t want him trying to open the evil-in-a-box and getting himself and everyone else sick.

Speaking of the box, the runes that were carved into it for the ward are starting to turn red. Red is never a good sign (well, ok, I guess sometimes it’s not bad, like when it’s a lizard who’s helping you kill goblins to save people…you know what I meant! Also, don’t tell Torg what I said about red, he’ll think I’m colorist or something). We’re pretty sure this means the evil is starting to wear away at the wards, so we probably need to hurry up and deal with it.

We got to Greystone this morning and once we got past the guards at the gate we spent the day doing our own things (they’ve gotten a lot more strict since last time I was here. Actually, the whole town has gotten bigger and busier since last time). Nan stayed with the box, Torg went off to find the local church peoples (imagine him walking in on your service!), Alec went to do probably-shifty things, I went off to the library to see if they had anything that referenced my puzzle-box-of-MYSTERY (Florence joined me offering to help with my research), and Linea got distracted. Again. (though to be fair, so far she hasn’t had to hide from the city guard. As far as I know…).

The library didn’t have much new since I was here last (came through a couple years ago, back before your time), but this time I had something different to search for. I asked Florence if she could help me search for any books that might reference the puzzle box I got from Gramm, or any of the symbols on it. When I showed her the box she became quite intrigued.

She started drawing all the symbols onto a piece of paper. I thought it was just so she would have a reference while looking (I could just look at the box itself), but then she started tearing it up so each rune was on a different piece. Then she lit a candle, did some magicy magicness to it, and threw the papers onto the flame. She was so focused on this that she forgot to actually tell me what she was doing, so I was rather confused (though it was amusing to see the reactions of the librarians and other people in the library. I think one though we were going to burn the place down!). All the scraps of paper burned except for one, and that one flew up into the air and down one of the aisles. Florence ran after it, and I followed, not knowing what else to do. The paper flew around through a couple aisles, then stuck to the binding of one of the books. Florence grabbed the book, handed it to me, and said “Here, you may want to read this.”

So I took the book, but all that was in my head was “That was SO COOL. I hope they don’t kick us out!”

The book was old, and large. I wasn’t sure if I’d have time to read through it all, so I asked if I could purchase it. Unfortunately it appears books are REALLY expensive (and I got you cheap too. Guilfort must not know what books are worth), and even with the winnings I got from Nan’s bet (that I couldn’t talk to Florence longer than any of the other guys in the bar that first night) I couldn’t afford it. So I just stayed all night reading.

Florence stayed and helped, trying to find any other books that might be helpful or related to the one she had already found for me. I appreciated the help, but I think it took her three or four times to get my attention every time she had a question for me (I was in the zone. You know, the one where you’re so focused on reading that you could be upside-down on fire and not notice it? Is that just me?). I think she gave up after a while and just started making sure I wasn’t disrupted by anyone (some kids heard about the blue guy in the library so occasionally a few of them would come by to see if I really existed. That happens sometimes, and it was nice to have someone to keep them at bay so I could read). At one point I Nan showed up and talked to her (I figured if it was important they would have grabbed me, but they didn’t, so I kept reading), and I think she left after that.

I got through most of the book, and may have found something. It was a poem book (yea, normally not very scholarly or historically useful), but the material was OLD. The language was archaic and I could barely follow what was written, but the book had translations for everything too. Generally the poems seemed useless (for what I’m looking for, many were actually quite good), but there was one poem that had some strange symbols along with the words and one of them matched a symbol on my puzzle box! I copied down the poem (both the original version and the translation) so I can study it later, and by then it was morning and I figured I should find everyone else.

And no, I won’t tell you what the poem said. I already transcribed it once, and I don’t feel like doing so again just yet (you weren’t around at the time. If you’d thought to come with me then I could have copied it directly into you, but NO, you had more important things to do! Wait…what DO you do when I’m not writing in you?).

Oh, and when I got back to the group I heard Nan saying something about Greystone building an army and black magic and other shenanigans going on. Why do I get the feeling I’ll end up involved in that at some point? Oh, I know why. The Nangician had that “I found a thing I have to fix” look in his eye, and I know that’s a contagious look. I hope we at least get to deal with this box before getting involved with that though. I think it’s reaching its expiration date.

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Mixed Motivations

Alec put his face in his hands as he sat down outside the house of the Windrider family. The journey back into town was spent mostly in silence as the wounded Sisters didn’t really inspire the most lively conversation amongst the group. Alec trailed behind, walking with Torg, as he seemed the only one amongst them that had anything interesting to offer. While speaking to a tall, red, tattooed lizard wasn’t usually his style, Alec thought it best to make friends with the most menacing of a group of new companions…

Companions…is that what he really was thinking? No, these were merely some wayward travelers who nearly got him killed. Bravery and valour weren’t exactly the trademarks of the thieves guild and his actions were definitely not inspired by any desire to help these people. But when you see a blue man and a red lizard sprinting after a magician on a horse, you can bet something profitable is about to happen.

After spending 6 weeks in the region, traveling through Greystone, pillaging what little there was of Guilfort, it was about time someone other than the regular mud farmers came along. The Path of Iron were of little interest to Alec, seen mostly as a “local problem”, far removed from the blood soaked squabbles of the royalty and lords of Piriniri. That was much more his pace. A true war is fought in the shadows and discrete back rooms, not on battlefields. That is just where patriotic fools go to die for their misguided ideas.

These new characters were of interest to Alec. He liked people with secrets. Secrets are always valuable to someone, and this crew seemed to have many. But what were they? Who were they, and what could possibly bring such a mismatched group of people together? This thought alone provoked Alec into staying.

Torg, as cynical as ever, kept a vigilant eye on Alec as he moved to get up.

“You make no effort to hide your profession, thief” Torg commented as Alec checked all his various pockets and devices to make sure they were still there.

“Exactly, it’s a profession as noble as the most fair merchant. Where he trades in goods, I trade in secrets…and other people’s goods” Alec quipped back with a smirk.

“Fair enough, but just keep your hands where I can see them around me. I have no interest in becoming one of your marks” Torg said as he strode into the Windriders house.

Alec knew that Torg was either hiding something or truly deadly…both qualities that were appealing.

The companions mostly made preparations to leave Guilfort the next day. Alec could catch bits and pieces of discussions involving a mysterious box and a journey to Lorindale but the talk quickly died out as they noticed him casually trying to overhear their conversations. He was treated apprehensively as a guest. Alec claimed to be traveling from the far east, looking for steady employment, but said little else of why he just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

His looting of the plague homes remained a secret. While thieving outright was noble, stealing from the dead was often seen as the lowliest form of employment. It was akin to begging food at the feet of nobles in the plazas Piriniri. No skilled tradesmen would ever stoop that low.

But Alec was far from home, in a land where his history meant little to nothing. Going home wasn’t an option for now and he needed everything he can get. Maybe it was curiosity, desperation, or maybe it was the blind generosity of these strangers, but ultimately, as the night wore on, he decided that traveling back towards Lorindale would be much more exciting and potentially profitable than sticking around the unfulfilled promise of Guilfort’s easy pickings.

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Nan + Tulia - A parting discussion

She was still sleeping off the attack when I arrived. Tulia is normally an attractive young lady. Her face was soft curves and thin lips. She had high cheekbones, and always managed to show off bit of a blush. She had the most killer dimples, and knew how to use them. Her eyes were icy blue and deep. Many a lad had been trapped in those eyes. Her neck was thin and longer than normal, or at least it appeared so. Perhaps because she was below average in height. She sported an hourglass figure that you could see from a distance. All in all, Tulia was lovely.

Now, she was sporting bruises from her left check and forehead. Her arms and legs were full of welts and her left eye was half closed from swelling. None of this seemed to diminish the smoothness of her skin, nor dampen the deepness of her eyes. I could tell because she just opened them and, upon seeing me, started smiling.

“I see you haven’t left yet.”

I sighed. “How could I, knowing you were here?”

“Nan, I’m sure you have more important things to be doing than checking up on a friend. Aren’t you a journeyman now? Isn’t there magicians business?”

I shrugged. “Taking care of friends always takes precedence. You know me.”

She smiled and took hold of my hand. “Well, I’m glad you’re here. The goddess has been good to me. How did you find me?”

“I found a bit of your clothing where you were ambushed. I was able to use it find you.” An impish grin took over my features as I stated “Who else wears a cobalt dress?”

“Who else has cobalt eyes in this town? I swear, it’s like I’m not from around here.” She paused, thoughtfull for a momemnt. “Nan, what did you do to the goblins?”

“eh? I just put up a shield around the two of us. My friends took care of them.” I strecthed the truth a bit to try to avoid the argument I knew was coming.

Her shoulders squared and she gave me a firm look. “Nan D’Brett, I know when you’re lieing to me. I’m also more sensitive to magik than before, thanks to the goddess. When we were in that shield, I know you did something to the goblins, I felt it. What was it?”

I sighed. Well, no sense in avoiding it. “It was a mere illusion. I returned the trauma they visited upon you and your sisters. Most of them couldn’t take it.” At this point I tried a pre-emptive strike. “It was right, Tulia. They deserved to be punished for the pain they caused you and your sisters. We found four dead sisters and they were caught in the act of torturing you. Would you rather me have left you for dead?”

She tilted her head down and levelled me a look that could have wilted flowers. “And who are you to decide their fate? Who are you to decide they are so far past redemption they need execution? Are you know the judge, jury and exeuctioner for all life? Are we all not judged at death for our deeds?”

I withered. “Tulia, do you really think you could ‘redeem’ those goblins? They were so far gone, they were attacking sisters.”

Her nose lifted in the air a bit as she announced “No one is beyond redemption unless you take away their chance. The goddess offers mercy to all.”

“Tulia, they were attacking you. If I hadn’t stopped them, you might have died! I couldn’t just let them get away with it. They needed to know their actions were not acceptible.” Apparently I was pretty heated a this point, because momma windrider peeked her head in to check up on us. She gave me a withering look that said, with no words necessary, “You let her sleep. She’s not in any condition for an argument.” Yeah, I hear you Ms. Windrider. Tell that to Tulia, not me.

“Nan, it’s the action we take that define us, not the actions of others. You can’t fight violence with violence.”

“I was fighting injustice. They were attacking defenseless sisters. I brought justice to their injustice. What were you fighting out there? Freedom?”

Tulia sighed, and leveled a sympathetic look at me. “Nan, you can’t bring justice through violence. I fight suffering, Nan. It’s the only thing I know which is truly evil, and there are many ways to cause it. You know I fight it. What you did brought suffering on those misguided goblins.”

“Tulia, those misguiding goblins almost killed you! I dunno what I would have done if….” I stopped her, turning away. Linea’s house had all those herbs, and I think perhaps I must have been allergic to one, because I had to wipe a tear from my eye.

Tulia smiled a sad smile and took my hand again. “Nan, I know you care. I just don’t want you to become a monster for my sake. Can you promise you won’t cause more suffering on my behalf?”

I turned back and looked into those cobalt eyes. Time froze for a moment or two.

“I promise to always protect you, no matter what it takes.”

Her eyes, so full of life, dropped in dissappointment. “That’s not what I asked, Nan”.

“I know, but it’s all I can give. You fight suffering and I’ll fight injustice. I know you question me, but I promise I won’t become a monster. I know what I’m doing. I have to run now, Tulia. There’s this artifact we found, you see…” That’s when I described to Tulia what I’d been doing in Guilfort, the path of iron, all of it. As I described my efforts to help our hometown, that warm smile returned to her face, the one I was so found of.

After a few more questions, I told her to get her rest and that the Plague would be leaving with me in the morning. I gave her a kiss on the forehead and then walked out of the room.

It’s amazing how some friends can rattle you. Tulia has some good points. I think my use of black magic had shaken me this time, as I was feeling a bit off. I filed the thought away to investigate when I had more time. For now, I needed to prepare to leave.

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Torg's Chat with The Sisters of Corinna

After finishing off the remaining goblins, Torg went to the trees where the remaining Sisters were bound and cut them loose. He helped them bind their wounds and bowed in thought over the silver circle that hung on a leather cord around his neck.

“Sisters, I appreciate your desire to help others. It is something that I strive to do myself.”

“But when the jeggets are coming at the lodge, everyone has to work together to fight them, to protect each other and to protect the children. A vow to help others and to protect them is good. When the jeggets come for you, a vow to not harm living creatures only makes you so much meat.”

Torg prodded one of the goblins with his spear.

“My friends and I defeated these goblins. Why couldn’t you? How many Sisters were together when these goblins attacked? How can you help others if you cannot protect yourselves?”

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Kel's Journal Entry 5

Goblins. I continue to hate goblins. So remember everything I told you last night about there existing nice goblins? We’re going to ignore all that for right now…

So we arrived at Guilfort and headed over to the Windrider residence (they live outside town so we don’t have to worry as much about the PoIdiots) and found Red there helping with the wounded. Florence and I went to see if we could assist while Linea’s mom yelled at her about the package she asked her to pick up a week ago (which she totally did (I was there!) and had even dropped it off. I think I see where she got her distractability). BRLM (Big Red Lizard Man) said the Path was all over town giving aid to the sick, and being all around nice people (no, I don’t buy it either. I mean, it’s certainly possible these Pathys are nice enough, but still). It reminds me of the forest after The Fire.

So after a while Nan shows up with an injured girl. It looked like she was one of those Corinna sisters (You don’t know about them? they’re cool. Pacifists to a fault, but they’ll help anyone, even in a warzone. You don’t mess with them, or everyone else, even your friends, will take you out.). She was beaten badly, and I was surprised she was coherent enough to tell us about what happened. She started saying they were attacked by goblins outside town (stupid green skinned jerkfaces) and that her sisters were taken away somewhere. Nan asked who was in the group, and apparently heard the name of someone he knows (I learned later it was his childhood friend Tulia). He suddenly just got up, grabbed a horse (which I’ve never seen him ride before) and bolted off towards where the sister said things happened.

Now, I don’t like going into things blind. I also didn’t like the idea of leaving the artifact somewhere I couldn’t protect it, especially this close to Path peeps. But I’ve seen Nan “fight”. He just squints his eyes at things and mumbles a bit. Sometimes strange things happen and he’s OK, but I don’t trust him to not die while on his own. So I checked with Linea’s mom if she could have her sons look after the artifact (they’re all monks, and the kind who can beat you senseless before you know they’ve moved), then grabbed the Ls (Lizard and Linea) and ran after Nan.

He was obviously in a reckless hurry, as he nearly trampled some guy on the bridge. I tried to apologize for him as we ran past, but I think the guy was too dumbfounded at what he saw to notice (you’re used to it, but to most people and books a red lizard and silvery-blue humanish guy are weird on their own, even more so when in the same place, and possibly terrifying when running full-tilt after a crazy dude on a horse. You should see BR run, it’s hilarious and terrifying at the same time). Nan slowed when he got to the location of the goblin attack, and I could see him doing something with a rock before heading off into the woods. He must have been a better tracker than I thought, or done some magic to tell where to go, as when we got there we could see he was following the trail the goblins had left. Linea had cut off into the woods at some point behind us (I think she was following her birds), and the guy from the bridge seemed to be following her (though not maliciously so I wasn’t worried. And I figured he’d get a surprise tree plus falcon in the face if he tried anything against her anyway). I thought maybe he really wanted an apology from Nan or something.

We followed Nan through the woods for a couple hours before coming to a hill. We could hear evil goblin noises (the ones I’ve met don’t make any other kind, and it’s very distinctive). I figured Nan had to be exhausted by now (he’d diched the horse a while ago), but as soon as he hit the top of the hill he dashed down the other side at full speed. Whatever he did was quick, as by the time the rest of us reached the top of the hill and could see he was in the middle of a gaggle of goblins with some kind of magic shell protecting him and one of the sisters (found out later it was Tulia, partially explaining his super-recklessness).

There were other sisters tied to trees, and Tulia was untying a sword from her hand (yes, untying. The sisters vow to never commit violence, so she shouldn’t have ever been holding one. The goblins seemed to be trying to goad/force her into attacking one of them. I told you they were jerks, but this seemed over the line even for them). There were two big goblins and a whole bunch (maybe 20) smaller ones down the hill.

So yea, 20+ goblins against 4 of us? Totally screwed, right? Well actually there were 5, since that guy from the bridge followed us (but he didn’t do much other than stab some goblin’s hat). I figured they couldn’t possibly be worse than those velocibiteyclaw guys, and Red didn’t seem worried either. Linea was…probably thinking about trees and didn’t even notice them or something.

The goblins must have noticed us right as we hit the top of the hill, as suddenly rocks rained down on us. One got me in the head but not too hard, and I swear a couple broke hitting RL’s tattoos. We focused on the two big guys (well, other than Mr “I hate hats” who followed us) figuring we could intimidate the smaller ones if we took them out. I pinned one to a tree with an awesome show from my bow, and Torg (hey, I gotta use his actual name every once in a while or you’ll forget it!) sorta-kinda stuck his spear COMPLETELY through the other one. Linea sent her falcons down to fight them as well.

While we were finishing those two off the rest of the goblins just suddenly went crazy. Not the “I’m going to kill you for that!” kind of crazy. No, this was the “Oh God I’m covered in bees and they’re on fire and I think my sword turned into a shark that’s trying to EAT ME!” kind of crazy. I looked over at Nan to make sure he was OK and noticed a very angry and rather distrurbing look on his face (seriously, those were eyes you never wanted to see looking anywhere near you). After a moment he stopped and seemed to suddenly remember Tulia leaning against him and he went back to helping her.

We finished off the insane goblins (it actually seemed a mercy – even the sisters seemed to think it was the right thing to do) and tended to the sisters who were tied to the trees. Red found a pouch of gold on one of the leader goblins, along with an iron bar, a memento of the Path of Iron. This makes me think the Path paid the goblins to do this. I can only assume they didn’t want any competition in “saving” Guilfort from the red cough.

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I’m running out of doubt about the Path. There seems to be at least a subset of them who’ve become (or maybe started?) murdering evil jerks. If this keeps up I’ll probably start liking them even less than I like goblins. And I frelling hate goblins.

(frelling? Some foreign curse I heard Alec yell at one point during the fight. Oh, right, the guy who followed us is named Alec. He seems a bit shifty, and did cower away from the fight and was generally not helpful until after the goblins were dispatched, but he taught me a new word so I’ll give him a chance).

Oh, and I need to figure out what that song Nan keeps humming is. And when he started humming.

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Nan's Journal: A surprising rescue

Well, a lot has happened since my previous journal. Maybe not so much, be it certainly feels like a lot. I recently ran to the rescue of a few sisters of Corinna. Tulia, my old friend, was among them. She’s still in shock from the whole experience and hasn’t said much. She’s finally sleeping, but I’m still wide awake so I thought I’d jot down the story of the adventure.

I was on the way to Lorindale with my new friends to try to shut down the plague artifact we had found. I decided to check up on Guilfort to see how everyone was doing. That’s where I found Barry and the beaten Sister of Corinna.

Let’s first digress. Sisters of Corinna are awesome. They vow to never harm a living thing and they go everywhere. They’ll literally walk through a battle field and help people out in the middle of the freaking battle! They have guts, and they want to help anyone out. Everyone around knows them and they’re easily recongizable. We all have such high respect for them, that the punishment for treating one harshly is usually death. The sisters don’t like it, but we all enforce it.

So needless to say, seeing a beaten up Sister is like witness an act of war. I’m stunned. I help Barry bring her to the Windrider house. When I’m close enough, I recongize her as one of the sisters from Tilith. The same chapter that Tulia joined.

Linea and her mother start looking at the Sister when she tells us about the attack. There were others. I hate to do it, but I force her to tell me who. As soon as I hear the syllable “Tu-” I’m running to the barn, taking a horse (I hate horses) and riding for where they met.

I must not have been in my right mind. I passed a few people on the road, almost running over some guy who was just trying to say hello. Oh well, time to socialize later. Right now a friend is in danger.

When I got to the site of the attack my nerves were getting the best of me. There were bodies, but none I recongized. Luckily, I had learned enough divination from the Lady Arilynn to put together a hasty tracking spell. Not my best work as a magician, but better than any tracking spell I’d ever done before. Partly because I was using a piece of Tulia’s scarf. I knew it was hers because no one, literally no one, has a cobalt scarf but her. Cobalt is considered poor fashion, but it does go with her eyes.

As I was about to take off after the trail, both Kel and Torg showed up. I was ecstatic they were coming, but with no horses I knew I had to hurry ahead. I simply yelled for them to follow me and took of down the path.

Along the way the horse gave out and I had to follow on foot. I barely paid notice. I was getting closer, I could tell.

They were at the top of a hill. I could hear them. I was too concerned to cautiously approach. I literally ran into the middle of the goblin encampment.

Yeah, dumb. I know.

I figured Torg + Kel would be there to help me out. I was fired up enough, I figured the three of us could take on a few goblins. Well, there were like 20. I ran right into the middle of them. Why? Well, they had Tulia there.

She was surrounded by goblins holding sticks. She had a sword, but of course a sister would never use a weapon. The goblins were beating and taunting her. Her cheeks were bright red from the tears and she had a dazed look. I have no idea how long she’d been like that, but I immediately ran for her.

My mind was in overdrive. First things first, neutralize the threat. As soon as I had hold of Tulia, I placed a physical barrier around the two of us. I know I sometimes brag, but this was a pretty darn good barrier. No way anything was going to hurt her.

I’m not sure she realized what was happening, but she did realize that the goblins had stopped hittin her. She hurriedly undid the knots that tied the sword to her hands and threw it on the ground. She just sort of collapsed against me, sobbing. I put my arms around her. I had no idea what to say, and I was still furious.

I looked up and saw the goblins still trying to attack my friend. I did something I’d never done before. I got inside their heads and I gave them back all the torture they’d inflicted on Tulia. All the horror she’d experienced was now theirs. A fitting punishment, I should think. Most of the goblins couldn’t take it. They were left dazed and whimpering, too stupified to do anything.

The few that were left were quickly dispatched by Torg and Kel. Linea showed up as well, with some new guy. I didn’t recognize him, but I was glad for the help. As soon as Tulia calmed down a bit, I checked her injuries. She wasn’t in shape to walk back on her own, so I decided to carry her as far as I could.

So, while I’m carrying Tulia back to Guilfort, my mind is going into overdrive. Thinking over all the things that have happened the past few years. I find myself singing a song from one of my favorite childhood stories. I thought I’d include it for the rest of you. The story goes somewhat like this:


In the time before times, there was an upright man and an evil queen. The upright man was a healer, a teacher and a carftsman. He went from town to town helping the people and spreading a message of hope and peace.

The queen was the opposite. She was cruel, petty and wicked. Her kingdom was subject to many laws, and entry was punishable by death. He subjects were so terrified of breaking the law, they usually carried out the sentence.

It came to pass that the upright man visited the queen’s kingdom. His charisma, his kindness saved him from death by the people. However, the queen was furious. In retaliation she cursed him. If he could not bring back the heart of a star within the year, he and all her subjects would die.

Distraught, the man decided to seek out a fallen star. Months passed before the next star fell. The upright man was ready. He tracked down the star and captured it.

It may not be common knowledge, but the stars are their own people. When the crash land on our soil, there is still hope for them to return to the sky. This star was a young female of the Star race who had been playing too close to the terra firma and was caught in its pull. She had a fiery personality and was furious at being captured.

The upright man was distraught upon finding the star. How could he remove the heart of such a beautiful creature? He thought of the queen’s kingdom and the myriads of people he met. Is one star’s life worth a kingdoms? Who is he to decide? While it weighed heavily on his heart, he continued on his journey to return the star.

The heart of a star is a desparately sought component for its magical ingredients. During the journey, they had many adventures avoiding those who sought harm to the star. There are volumes upon volumes of story about their adventures, too much for this story.

Slowly, the star began to fall in love with the upright man. It was a subtle thing, and barely noticed, but she no longer resenting him for capturing her. She even learned his love for others, willing to sacrifice herself for the queen’s kingdom.

The man also fell in love with star. The closer they came to the Queen’s kingdom the harder it became for him to think of handing over her heart.

When he arrived back in the queen’s kingdom, she met them at the gates to her castle. The people of the kingdom gathered round, knowing their fate rested on the outcome of this meeting.

“Here is your star”, the upright man said tearfully, presenting the young star to the queen.

The queen looked between the star and the man and her face slowly transforms into a viscous snarl. “What have you done!”

Taken aback, the man and the star withdraw into each other’s arms.

“You’ve stolen her heart, she is useless to me now!” the queen belows. Magical energy courses through her hands and into the sky.

The man and the stars eyes meet for a second. They both are about to say something when suddenly the life is extinguished in the upright man. He falls to the ground. The star drops to her knees besides him, tears falling from her eyes.

The queen ignores the star and returns to her castle.

The star picks up the body of the upright man and travels the land searching for a cure. There are volumes upon volumes of stories about her adventures seeking a cure for death. Too many for this story.

The star had given up hope. It has been a year since the death of the upright man and she is no closer to finding a cure. She prepares to end her own life. She climbs to the top of a cliff with the body and sets him down. Distraught, she sings one final song:

Blessed is the man who does prevail Doomed are the peacemakers when they fail If hope springs eternal, it never did here I guess I lost all my hope last year I tried to steal the moon from the sky I am lost and lonely, I drift in space My dreams are haunted by his face Blessed are the drifters, the stars that die Whose light expires before goodbyes Goodbye, my love Binary star, you’re the brightest blue by far Searched this whole world for love that’s true if only I’d said “I love you”

Moved in sympathy, the moon goddess grants the star her wish. However, the moon has no dominion over the terra firma. Instead, she transforms the upright man into a star and returns the young star to her rightful place. It’s said the love they shared caused them to outshine all others in the sky.

The two are known as the constellation “The upright”.


Tonight, the upright constellation is crystal clear in the sky, and I keep finding myself humming the tune. Maybe it’s a sign of how unsettled I am.

Well, Tulia hasn’t talked, but at least she drifted off to sleep. I’m still a bit unsettled by events. I had no idea the power I could wield. I mean, warding, sure, it’s fun. But what I did to those goblins felt right. I know black magic is considered evil, but I’m not sure what else I could have done in such a situation without hurting the other sisters. I’m just glad everyone is ok. We found four sisters still alive but in poor condition.

If this was really a path of iron setup, like Torg suspects, then I think one of us will have to protect these sisters while they recover.

I am grateful for one thing. These friends I’ve met recently are loyal and trustworthy. I couldn’t have asked for better companions.

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Kel's Journal Entry 4.5

I totally forgot to tell you! I learned something completely unbelievable while in Tilith. Hopefully this news won’t be so unbelievable that you bust your bindings, but…there are apparently GOOD goblins! I KNOW! Completely unbelievable.

Yes, even more unbelievable than the super-ancient puzzlebox with a painting of a blue guy on it that Gramm gave me. Wait, how did you know about that? I planned to taunt you with that information for weeks! How’d you find out…hey, get out of my head! No, just because I’m in your pages doesn’t mean you can get into my head. That removes the ENTIRE purpose of writing in you! Out!

That’s better. So yea, there are apparently goblins who trade with the cities and don’t go attacking and pillaging everyone they see. I did not see that coming. Guess I have a lot more exploring to do before I know even a fraction of everything…

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