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The following are excerpts from the journal of Thalia Velerin, half-elven daughter of Sandpoint's herbalist, Hannah Velerin. A bard and close friend to Ameiko Kaijitsu, Thalia was among the group that accompained the young noblewoman on her long journey out of Sandpoint in the summer of 4711 AR.
21 Arodus, 4711
This journal will be an account of my journey north of Sandpoint. It's my first time leaving home for any serious length of time. I shall miss Mother, I think, but I won't be going out alone. Ameiko is coming with me--or rather, I'm going with her. She's the one organizing the expedition, determined to track down the secrets of her family's legacy after what we discovered in that cave.
I guess I should start at the beginning. The Licktoad goblins had been menacing travelers along the Lost Coast Road with a bevy of stolen fireworks, so Sheriff Hemlock reinstated the old goblin bounty. Ameiko's little brother, Yuto, just completed his monastic training and had wanted to prove himself in an actual battle. I hardly recognized him the first time I saw him after so many years at the monastery. He's grown so tall and lanky! It's like the rest of his body is struggling to keep up with his arms and legs. I've taken to affectionately calling him "Sprout," though I don't think he appreciates the nickname. It's hard to tell since he's so quiet and reserved all the time. A sheltered life has not done much for his social development, I fear.
Ameiko asked Aurora and I to go with Yuto to keep an eye on him. Aurora! I still can't believe that I now count Nualia Tobyn's estranged sister among my friends! Mother tells me it was quite the commotion in town when Father Tobyn's wife gave birth to twin aasimar girls when I was still a young girl. How one sister could turn out so bad and the other good and pure... I hate to think it was something here in Sandpoint that set Nualia down her dark path. If only Father Tobyn had sent her to live at the temple of Shelyn in Magnimar as well... But what's done is done. Aurora came to Sandpoint a few years ago and sought Ameiko out, seeking forgiveness for the tragedy Nualia inflicted upon the Kaijitsu family. Ameiko did not blame Aurora for her sister's sins, and since the two have become good friends. I was a bit jealous at first, but I've come to know Aurora since then, and she really is a good person. Certainly, her friendship has helped Ameiko in some of her darker times.
A few other like-minded individuals joined us on our expedition. There was the dwarf Rugger, an exiled noble from the Five King Mountains. Loud, crass, and covered with spiked armor, his love of heavy drinking seems outmatched only by his love of killing goblins. Also there was Roga, one of the Shoanti Horselords from the Velashu Uplands. It was pretty obvious from the start that he has something of a crush on me, but his crude come-ons certainly aren't winning him many points. I fear his aims are misguided, for what they're worth. My secret heart is for another, should Shelyn bless our union. Last there was Yoska, a bloatmage from Kaer Maga. I thought Rugger would be the most uncouth companion on the trip--sadly, I was mistaken. Past his mere physical repugnance, Yoska is abrasive, argumentative, and amoral. He is an open member of the Szcarni, and he wears his ties to that criminal organization as a badge of pride. I'm not sure how he convinced Aurora to bring him along, but she's always talking about trying to see the inner value in all people. May Shelyn grant me the wisdom to see what she sees in him--until then, I'll just have to tolerate his presence, I suppose.
At any rate, the six of us tracked the goblins back to their village in the Brinestump Marsh. It seemed somebody else had beat us to our goal, however, as the village was a shambles. There was evidence of a fierce battle, and we found the goblin survivors hiding in the chief's hut, surrounding corpulent Chief Gutwad himself. Despite their recent losses, the goblins were still as belligerent and dangerous as ever, so we did what we had come to do and took them down. In their treasury, we found an ornate chest of Tien design, along with the remaining fireworks and a map that lead us deeper into the swamp. There, in a cave, we discovered the undead remnants of a honest-to-gods samurai and his honor guard, and after defeating them, found an even more shocking secret. The samurai carried a letter from Ameiko and Yuto's grandfather, Rokuro Kaijitsu, addressed to their father!
The ships bearing the message were blown off-course in a fierce storm and the message never reached old Lonjiku, but it indicated that the colony of Brinewall to the north had been breached by unknown assailants, and that a grave secret of the Kaijitsu family line was hidden in the castle there. Yuto was intrigued, of course, and when we brought the message back to Ameiko, she decided it was worth leaving town and investigating. I knew she had been growing restless the last few years, and I suppose even if this hadn't come up, she'd be looking for an excuse to head out sooner or later. I'm glad she invited all of us along for the journey. It's going to be quite the adventure!
24 Arodus, 4711
Here we are, on the road out of Sandpoint! I watched the town recede into the distance behind us until I couldn't even see the Old Light towering above the other buildings of my home. May Desna bless our travles! We spent the last few days outfitting the caravan, buying supplies, and determining who would perform what jobs during the journey. The caravan is owned by a man named Sandru Vhiski, who is an old friend of Ameiko's from her adventuring days. Rugger had served as a guard for Sandru's caravan in the past. It also turns out Sandru is Yoska's older brother, but the two of them don't get along. Sandru doesn't like Yoska being in the Szcarni, and Yoska had some choice words for his brother about abandoning the family in its time of need. I do hope the tension between the two of them lessens somewhat or it may be an uncomfortable journey. There's an older lady named Koya who's part of the caravan, too. She seems to be something of a mother figure to Sandru. She's a cleric of Desna and a skilled harrower, and she seems to have Yoska's grudging respect. Ameiko also convinced her friend Shalelu to come along. She's an elven ranger somewhat famous around Sandpoint. I've seen her around a few times, but she seems like the type who prefers to keep to herself. She and Roga seem to have some sort of history, though. Hopefully, her presence will distract him from his misguided attempts at flirtation.
We hired a few other locals to come with us on our journey. Ameiko's handling most of the cooking, but Shayliss Vinder is coming along to assist her. I can just imagine the fight she and old Ven must have had when she told him she was leaving! Shayliss was something of a harlot in her younger days, but after her sister Katrine died, she calmed down a whole lot in deference to her father's wishes. Shayliss is all old Ven has left now, and I'll bet it was hard for him to let her go, but she's got to go out and live her own life. Viks Rovanki, the local tanner's son, is serving as a wagon driver. Aurora bought a new supply wagon out of her own funds and is painting all sorts of beautiful pictures on its sides, so we needed an extra driver. Viks is the quiet sort. Perhaps being out of his father's shadow will help bring him out of his shell.
Ameiko seems in high spirits for the first time in a long while. A strange melancholia had settled over her in the past few years. After what happened to her father and half-brother... That sort of thing would be hard for anybody to get over. I've worried about her some nights, all alone in that big, empty manor house, surrounded by dark thoughts and the ghosts of the past. There are many people in Sandpoint who admire Ameiko, but she hasn't let anybody get too close to her. Even Aurora and I, her closest friends, she keeps at arm's length. Here we are, only one day on the road, and already her smile seems to come more easily, laughter replacing her frequent sighs. May you leave all your worries in the dust, my dear Ameiko, and may Shelyn at last melt the ice around your heart!
The topic of today's conversation among my fellow goblin slayers centered round just what exactly a "Rusty Dragon" might be. Apparently, beyond the name of Ameiko's tavern in Sandpoint, a Rusty Dragon is some sort of perverse sexual act! By Shelyn's grace! None of the others could quite agree on what exactly it consists of, but suffice it to say that some of their suggestions made me blush something fierce! I was too embarrassed to participated much in the dialogue, though I did suggest that Calistria's Book of Joy might provide some concrete details. Not that I've ever read a copy of it, of course...at least, not that I'd admit to.
26 Arodus, 4711
We reached Galduria today, home of the Twilight Academy. The wizards there seemed rather pompous and full of themselves, even for wizards. Yoska made sure he told them exactly what he thought of their "superior arcane techniques." Personally, I question how Yoska's bloatmagic might be affecting his health. The man is grossly overweight, using leeches and other techniques to intentionally increase the amount of blood flowing through his body. He claims it allows him to access increased stores of magical energies, but I fear what so much blood pushing on his brain and his heart might do to him in the long run. Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the vile little mink he keeps as a familiar! He calls her Sorshen, named after the ancient Thassilonian runelord of lust, so he says. The creature seems to be a manifestation of Yoska's foul thoughts, and she always seems to be sneering at the rest of us or laughing at some private, cruel joke. Last night Sandru woke us all up with his yells when he found the mink perched on his chest while he slept, simply staring at him. Talk about creepy!
Despite the Twilight wizards' attitude, they were eager to trade for some of Ameiko's glassworkds we brought with us from Sandpoint. In return, we bought some minor scrolls and silver arrows for the people of Wolf's Ear further along our route. On the way out of town, we passed another caravan heading south. They warned us about ogrekin in the woods to the north. We'll have to keep a close eye out for them over the next few days.
Rugger and Shalelu seem to be getting along pretty well. They both seem to share a hatred for goblins, and I've heard them swapping stories about their favorite kills. When I asked him about her, Rugger said that she's not bad, "for a pointy-eared lassie." High praise coming from that one, though I resisted the urge to brush my hair back over my own slightly pointed ears. I'm glad Shalelu wasn't around to hear him say that; I think she may be a bit less forgiving than I am.
29 Arodus, 4711
This morning we came across evidence of the ogrekin. Fallen trees and debris blocked the road ahead, remnants of a scuffle between the giants and less fortunate travelers. We managed to bypass the roadblock well enough, and all of us were on high alert the rest of the day. Fortunately, it seemed the ogres had moved on, and we reached Wolf's Ear safely.
The clerics of Erastil were happy to receive us, and were especially grateful for the scrolls and arrows. They were tight-lipped about their reasons for needing the supplies, but Shalelu whispered something about lycanthrope activity in the forest. I hope such creatures stay far away from us!
The high priest took quite a liking to Aurora, as most men tend to do. Who could blame them? It's easy to fall in love with her, and it's not just her physical attributes that snare men's hearts. The aasimar is blessed with supreme confidence in herself that comes from the strength of her faith in Shelyn. She knows she is beautiful but she doesn't flaunt it or abuse her looks to manipulate others. Truly there is a purity of spirit within her that could only be angelic. If only I were so blessed!
It was difficult growing up as a half-elf in a human town. I never knew my father, a Varisian wanderer Mother had a dalliance with shortly after she came to settle in Sandpoint. She took my birth as a sign of Gozreh's will and raised me with love and kindness, but I still felt out of place. I didn't want to walk Gozreh's path as Mother did, and the human children always treated me with disdain for being different. The only other half-elf my age was Tsuto Kaijitsu, and despite him being sullen and cruel even as a child, I stayed near him as an exercise in commiseration. At least he knew some of what I was going through. It wasn't all bad, though, since because of Tsuto, I met Ameiko.
Her father was very protective of Ameiko. He restricted her comings and goings from the family manor, controlled who she could have as friends. That didn't stop her from sneaking out to visit Tsuto late at night, and I'd often stay late at the academy to get a chance to talk to her, too. In Ameiko, I at long last found a kindred spirit among the people of Sandpoint. She was exotic, precocious, full of a zest for life. I wanted to be like her. We'd stay up way past her curfew talking about all sorts of things. I pressed her for details about her family and her culture. She taught me the Tien language, how to perform a tea ceremony, the stories and songs her mother would tell her. Having no true culture of my own, I adopted the Tien lifestyle, or at least a version of it pieced together from Ameiko's stories and what few books I could find on the matter at the Curious Goblin.
I owe much to my friendship with Ameiko. The years when she left town were the hardest in my life, and it was after she came back the second time that I realized just how deep my feelings for her are. Much deeper than I suspect she knows. It's confusing, to have these thoughts about another woman, but Shelyn teaches not to deny the truth of your heart. I haven't told anybody about these feelings, least of all her. I don't think she's ready for such a complication in our relationship, and I worry about pushing her away should she not feel similarly. Not to mention what Yuto might think! So I wait, and I pray to Shelyn as I keep my secret heart hidden away for now.
1 Rova, 4711
Today was the most exciting since leaving Sandpoint! We arrived at Roderic's Cove early in the afternoon. The port town had been antagonistic towards the nearby pirate city of Riddleport for some time, but they capitulated recently due to pressure from both the pirates to the north and goblin tribes to the south. Now the cove is little more than a vassal to Riddleport. The streets were crawling with members of the Cat's Claw gang, minions of the new Overlord of Riddleport, somebody they refer to as "the Burner."
Yoska took the lead in trade negotiations. Who better to deal with a bunch of criminals than another criminal, after all? It's just as well; I wanted as little to do with that bunch of sleazy men as possible. They met us in a tavern called "The Maiden's Cove," of all things...and the sign made it clear that the "cove" was exactly what you'd think it was. Disgusting.
As we were finishing our trading, somebody bumped into Aurora and lifted her purse. She noticed the theft almost at once and we gave chase, along with the game members we had been speaking too. As she fled, the pickpocket's hood slipped back, revealing decidedly fiendish features--she was a tiefling! This only incensed Aurora further, and she did something I'd never seen before. She began to glow with brilliant light, as if to rival the sun itself! If we didn't have the whole town's attention before, we certainly did now.
Yuto caught up with the thief first and threw her to the ground. The gang members descended upon her, screaming invectives and kicking and beating her savagely. I thought they were going to kill her, but then Yoska sent a spray of clashing colors over the thugs, incapacitating out all but one of them. He quickly backed down and explained that one of the Burner's captains, a man named Orik Vancaskerkin, was in town looking for this tiefling woman. He said her name was Lavender Lil. Aurora said that she would deal with the tiefling, and the man looked as if he would protest, but a glare from Yoska sent him scurrying off without another word.
Aurora took Lil into the nearby stables, and the tiefling began to spill her sad story. She said she was a former prostitute from Riddleport. Orik Vancaskerkin had developed an unhealthy obsession with her and tried to force her to fall in love him using an alchemist's concoction. The alchemist was a friend to Lil, though, and tipped her off, but when the potion didn't work, Orik killed the alchemist in a rage and fled the city. He returned years later, a prestigious captain in the Burner's fleet. Lil had sought asylum in the church of Calistria, but the Burner brought a powerful elven priestess of the Savored Sting with him when he rose to power. She siezed control of the church and evicted most of the old clergy, and Lil along with them. Hunted by Orik's men and with little coin to her name, she fled to Roderic's Cove to try to find a means of escape.
Her story was compelling, but Aurora did not seem much moved. Only the tale of Orik trying to magically compel love from Lil roused her ire, for such a thing is blasphemy to one of Shelyn's clergy. That salient fact was probably the only thing that kept Aurora from just turning Lil over to the pirates. Instead, she gave the tiefling some coins and sent her on her way.
As we headed back to our caravan, it seemed as if a hornet's nest had been stirred up. The Cat's Claw were swarming Roderic's Cove, looking for Lil, no doubt. I hope she manages to survive on her own. I've heard stories of vile acts reportedly committed by tieflings, but I know what it's like to be ostracized just due to a quirk of your birth. Lil seems like a decent person, despite her act of larceny, and I doubt she deserves whatever fate Vancaskerkin has in store for her. May Desna smile upon her.
With reports of violence and unrest in Riddleport in the wake of the Burner's ascenscion to Overlord, Sandru has decided to steer clear of the pirate city. Tomorrow, we'll head north through the hills towards the Velashu Uplands, and from there onwards to Brinewall.
2 Rova, 4711
This morning there was talk about going back into Roderic's Cove to spite Orik Vancaskerkin. Rugger and Roga seemed dead-set on somehow sinking his ship. I suggested that we might disguise ourselves as Shoanti and throw all of their tea in the harbor--I had heard the Andorens did something similar during their battle for independence from Cheliax. Yuto pointed out that pirates were more likely to have rum or grog aboard their ship instead of tea, and in the end we decided it was just too much of a risk to attack the pirates for no real reward to speak of.
Before we departed, Yoska made us all search the wagons. He had a feeling that Lavender Lil might try to stow away aboard our caravan, and his instincts were correct; we found the tiefling hiding invisibly atop Aurora's supply wagon. Dropping her invisibility, Lil begged us once again to take us with her. With the Cat's Claw riled up, her chances of evading capture without our help were slim at best. We held a vote, and while some in the group were against taking her, the majority of us felt pity for the woman and ultimately allowed her to join the caravan. Aurora took special interest in Lil, saying that the tiefling would serve as her personal assistant as payment for her travel expenses. The priestess took her aside for a private conversation soon after we departed. It will be interesting to see what sort of dichotomy develops between the two of them as the journey goes on.
I had a chance to speak with Lil tonight when we made camp for the evening. She's actually much more charming than our first encounter would have led me to believe. An orphan on the streets of Riddleport, she started off as a storyteller to try to make a living, but was picked up by a pimp and forced into prostitution. She developed bardic abilities and was able to escape servitude and went into "independent business" until the Vancaskerkin incident. I noticed the bladed scarf she wears as fashion and as protection. I offered to teach her some traditional Varisian dances in exchange for some good adventure stories. I know Ameiko loves such tales. The way her eyes light up when she hears of adventures in distant lands sets my heart aflutter.
4 Rova 4711
As the days go on, I've been noticing several interesting relationships developing between my traveling companions. Aurora has taken quite a shine to Sandru. I've seen the two of them talking late at night, the way she smiles at him or lightly touches his arm in passing. Sandru seems nice enough, but there's something slightly distant about his manner. It may take a while for him to warm up to her.
Rugger and Sandru are pretty chummy as well. The caravan master smiles at most of the dwarf's ribald jokes, and smiles even wider when Rugger shares some of his "special stash" with him. The dwarf has an annoying habit of butting in on everybody else's conversations, loudly offering his own (largely unwanted) opinions and advice. He's been restless for several days now, probably itching for a good fight. I'm glad he finally got rid of the rotting goblin pieces he was keeping on his spikes as trophies. Now that they're gone, though, I can unfortunately confirm that the foul stench that surrounds the dwarf coming from Rugger himself.
Yoska and Koya have struck up a strange sort of friendship. They have been sharing the fortune-teller's wagon since we left Sandpoint, and it would appear that Koya finds the bloatmage's rough manner bemusing. I've seen the two sharing tea laced with satyr's tears, a common treatment for gout. I wonder if they're sharing more than just medication. Perhaps Yoska is trying to further needle at his brother by getting close with his surrogate mother. If the affection is genuine, though, the two would make an...interesting couple, but it takes all kinds, I suppose.
Fortunately for me, Roga has been kept busy driving the caravan's horse train, so his unwanted flirtations have lessened somewhat. He knows this area of the Velashu Uplands rather well, as this is where his clan calls home, so Sandru has been relying on him more to guide the caravan along our chosen route. I can count on Shalelu to distract him whenever she comes back to the wagons from her scouting trips, and the Shoanti's been trying his questionable charms on Lavender Lil as well. I think he's getting a bit frustrated at his lack of headway with any of us. Perhaps Aurora would be willing to give him some advice on his techniques.
Of all of my companions, Yuto is the only one who seems to withdraw from social interaction. He made a few half-hearted, fumbling attempts to speak with Shalelu early on, but he seems to have embarrassed himself into submission. He has uncanny focus in battle, but sit him down and ask him to have a conversation and he gasps and flounders like Norah, the mascot of the Hagfish back home. I'm sure there's a more relaxed and gregarious side to his personality buried somewhere beneath all the discipline the monastery instilled him with as a boy. I'll find a way to draw him out yet.
5 Rova, 4711
This evening, I began teaching Lavender Lil how to dance. An appreciative audience gathered to watch the two of us, including Aurora, Roga, and Sandru. I made my living performing in various productions at the Sandpoint Theater and singing at the local taverns, so having a crowd watching me is nothing new. Things started out innocent enough. I walked Lil through the basic steps of a few traditional Varisian dances, and the tiefling seemed to be picking it up rather quickly. It was when I decided to start incorporating the scarf choreography when things became awkward.
Lil said that she normally spent most of her time performing for clients at the temple of Calistria, so she felt wearing clothing would restrict her movements. She suggested I remove my own clothes and teach her to dance in the nude! I felt a flush coming to my face and quickly hid my embarrassment behind my fan. Roga laughed and wholeheartedly endorsed Lil's suggestion, leering openly at me. I looked to Aurora for aid, but she merely smiled and nodded her encouragement.
If I had to bet, I'd say the two of them put Lil up to it. Aurora's always saying that I'm too high-strung and need to learn to loosen up. For her part, she's perfectly comfortable with her body and her beauty, and she doesn't see anything scandalous about nudity. Roga was probably looking for any excuse to ogle me further. Am I the only person in this party with any sense of propriety and decency? My dancing is an art form, a tribute to Shelyn, and a way to bring some light and beauty to the world. I am not some tawdry ecdysiast! I will not strip for others' entertainment.
Ultimately, it was Sandru who came to my defense. He began to tell a story about an exotic Vudran dancer he had met in Korvosa, and I took advantage of the distraction to make a quick exit. Later, once I had calmed down, I thanked Sandru for his intercession on my behalf. "It is always my pleasure to assist a lady in distress," he said with a bow. It is good to know that at least one other person here believes in chivalry. I caught Roga glaring at Sandru after our conversation. Does the barbarian blame him for ruining his fun? I fear our caravan master's kindness may have made him a target for the horse lord's ire.
6 Rova, 4711
Roga is becoming increasingly hostile toward Sandru. It seems every time he walks by the caravan master, the Shoanti has a fresh insult at the ready. Most of them seem to imply that Sandru has romantic intentions towards the caravan's horses--that is a grave insult among the Shoanti. Between Roga's barbs and Yoska's animosity, Sandru has fallen into a foul mood. Aurora is doing what she can to keep him from going completely crazy, and I saw her exchanging some harsh words with Roga earlier.
I am growing concerned about Ameiko as well. As we draw near to Brinewall, her initial enthusiasm for this expedition seems to be waning. She grows listless and withdrawn once more. Perhaps being this far north of Sandpoint is bringing back bad memories of the tragic ending to her previous attempt at adventuring. I know little details of what exactly happened as Ameiko refuses to speak of it, but I know that she came close to death and that another of Sandru's brothers, a man named Alder, passed on into Pharasma's embrace. Stay strong, Ameiko. It is not healthy to dwell on the ghosts of the past.
7 Rova, 4711
Tragedy! Some fell malady has overtaken Ameiko! It seems her growing ennui was a symptom of an even greater problem, as she collapsed at breakfast this morning. She has slipped into a coma, and none of Aurora's or Koya's efforts to rouse her have elicited results. Yoska thinks that the coma is a result of some sort of spiritual possession. Koya's divinations indicate that the cure for this affliction lies within Brinewall, and so we make haste for our destination.
Could this be tied with the Kaijitsu's family mysterious destiny or the colony's sudden fall to ruin? If so, why was Yuto unaffected? I have stayed at Ameiko's bedside all day, holding her hand and lending my strength to her. Her rest is uneasy, and every so often she stirs and mutters cryptic phrases in her native tongue. "The one treasure lies behind two seals in the third vault." "Beware the cuckolded cuckoo." Her ramblings make little sense, but perhaps whatever spirit has taken her is trying to communicate some message. But what manner of spirit is it, and why must it make Ameiko suffer so?
Oh, Eternal Rose, hear my prayers. Watch over your child Ameiko Kaijitsu! May your love see her through this trial, and the love of her friends who surround her.
9 Rova 4711
At last, we have reached the ruins of Brinewall. Somewhere within lies the means of restoring Ameiko, and I will tear apart every stone in this forsaken place if necessary to find it and bring her back to us.
The ruins of the colony were silent as we began our exploration. Empty buildings fallen into disrepair dotted the area around a large hill, upon which an impressive castle loomed. There were no indications of what might have happened to the people who lived here long ago, nor what foul fate caused them all to vanish without a trace. Near the docks, though, there was a curious sight--a heavily damaged longship of the type used by Ulfen raiders from the Land of the Linnorm Kings. A battle had taken place there recently, and the corpse of a massive sea drake lay on the beach, several scavenging reefclaws picking at its decaying flesh.
Near the colony's graveyard, we found an old shrine to Desna, and there we met a most curious creature. Appearing as a tiny, pixie-like woman with colorful wings, she calls herself Spivey and is a priestess of the Song of the Spheres. Aurora says she is a lyrakien, a member of a group of angelic beings called azatas who hail from Elysium. Spivey was the companion of an elder cleric who was killed years ago. Stranded on Golarion, she wandered until finding this shrine and, feeling a compulsion to stay here and watch this place, she settled in as the new caretaker.
Spivey told us that strange monsters have claimed Brinewall Castle, birds who walk like men, with vicious beaks and claws. The creatures sometimes creep into the village to scavenge and hunt, but her magic has kept them from getting too close to the shrine. She also saw the Ulfens' battle with the sea drake, and told us of the lone survivor, a woman who made for the castle after slaying the beast. She did not return. I fear she has fallen victim to the monsters there, but there is a chance she still lives, perhaps as a prisoner.
At length, we made our way into the castle proper. There a motley assortment of creatures rose to fight us--the bird-men Spivey warned us about, an ettercap, several troglodytes, and a family of ogrekin. Never had I seen such a diverse group of creatures working together. The battles were fierce, but our combined might and magic won the day. Once past the courtyard, we entered the castle's throne room, whereupon we saw the strangest thing I think I have ever seen! Four of the bird-men (Yoska says they are called dire corbies) were dressed in ridiculous stage costumes, most much too small for their hulking frames. Leading them in a strange play was a red-skinned Tian man with white hair and a prodigious nose. I've heard stories of the oni before, but never had I seen one in the flesh.
The oni called himself Kikonu, greeting us with mocking laughter and punctuating beats of his taiko drum. He seemed more amused than threatened by our presence, and even as the dire corbies set upon us, he remained behind, giggling and hopping about. Only when Rugger got close enough to try to grab him did the oni seem to realize his peril, and he swiftly fled through a dimensional doorway as we finished off the dire corbies.
Nearby we stumbled upon the lair of a depraved little fey called Buttersnips. I managed to calm the hyperactive quickling by praising her "art," taxidermied creatures of all shapes and sizes. I got some information from her about Kikonu and the other creatures living here, including a bird-woman who shoots "fiery death from the skies." Negotiations turned sour when Rugger asked if she was going to eat the rabbit she was working on stuffing. Insulted by the dwarf, the quickling tried to stab him, but he managed to grab her and hurt her enough that she eventually relented. We cajoled Buttersnips into cooperating with us, but that one is dangerous. We may have to return before we are done here.
Our resources strained, we reluctantly returned to the caravan to rest for the night. Spivey had gone to the caravan to see if she could help Ameiko, but her condition remains unchanged. The lyrakien remains in our camp, providing fine music to help ease our weariness. I gave Shalelu several well-crafted arrows we had found in the castle to use for our defense, and she seemed appreciative of the gift. Soon, I resumed by vigil by Ameiko's side. Lil joined me as well. She was learning a bit of the healer's arts from her time with Aurora, and I was grateful for her assistance. I asked her if there were many tieflings in Riddleport, and she told me of the relatively large population living in the pirate city. Despite their numbers, the tieflings are still ostracized, and Lil said she felt like an outsider even among her own people. I told her of my own feelings of loneliness growing up in Sandpoint, and how Shelyn teaches about seeing the true beauty inside anybody, despite their outward appearance. I told Lil that I thought she was beautiful, no matter what others might say. She smiled and grew pensive for a long time. I think I might be getting through to her.
After Lil departed, Roga came and gave me a wildflower that he had picked, wrapped with a pretty red ribbon. After the grueling day in Brinewall, the simple gesture warmed my heart and made me smile. I thanked him, and he blushed and quickly scampered off. Perhaps I was too harsh on him earlier. This doesn't excuse his crass behavior towards Sandru, though. I wonder if he will apologize to him at some point.
Later that night, I sent Yuto to Aurora's wagon to get some more warm compresses. When he returned, he was blushing furiously. I asked him what the matter was, and he told me that Aurora and Lil were in the wagon together, engaged in some sort of "vigorous activity." Well now! It seems I am not the only one who could see Lil's inner beauty. Apparently, Aurora follows the more polyamorous teachings of the church. I can only imagine what Yuto saw...and when I do imagine it, my heart beats faster and my breath catches in my throat. The darker side of my id wonders what it would be like to join the aasimar and the tiefling in the wagon, but I swiftly stamp it down. Carnal pleasure for its own sake is Calistria's way, and it would be a betrayal of my own heart's devotion to Ameiko. But oh, what pleasure it would be! Truly, Shelyn tests my faith. I must maintain my focus, for I am sure tomorrow's trials will be no less dangerous.
Hey, I just wanted to chime in and say that this is very interesting stuff, well-written and with great focus on the characters' and NPCs' personalities and interaction.
Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the kind words, Monrail. I've got one more post before I'm caught up to where we currently are in-game, but we play again on Saturday, so I'll have a few new posts to make next week as well. :)
10 Rova, 4711
This morning, we returned to Brinewall Castle to continue searching for a cure for Ameiko. We encountered a large squad of troglodytes Kikonu had sent to try and track us down, but we made quick work of them. The smelly brutes were no match for our own smelly brutes, Roga and Rugger--you can't see my wry smile at the moment, but that's a joke.
In the main donjon, we came across the ghostly remnants of the castle's guards who still haunted the place. Aurora called upon Shelyn to ease their pain, settling the restless spirits at least temporarily. Attracted by the sounds of our trespass, a foul wight rose to challenge us, but it soon fell to sword and spell. By the dragon-shaped helm it wore, Yoska identified the wight as the shell of the man who once commanded the guard of Brinewall. Indeed, in a nearby room we found half-written missives indicating that a large force of unknown composition had attacked from the sea nearly twenty-five years ago and quickly overwhelmed all of the colony's defenses. I shudder to think who could have brought such might to bear, and with such swiftness and efficiency to decimate the guards but leave all of the buildings largely intact.
We ascended a tower, in search of the bird-woman Buttersnips had mentioned. We found her aerie at the tower's peak, but she made efforts to parley with us. An old curse had apparently rendered her mute, but she was able to communicate telepathically with anybody in contact with her. She introduced herself as Ziobe, and said she was a former lover of Kikonu's. Their relationship soured when he mocked her by speaking in her own voice, a voice that was lost to her long ago. Now she only desired to kill the oni. We agreed to work with her to dispatch the fiend. She promised to lure him out into the open, away from his minions, where she would use her fiery arrows to assist us in bringing him down.
We hid at the appointed meeting place, and soon Kikonu showed himself, arriving via dimensional doorway with a bouquet of flowers in his grasp. The oni had dropped his human disguise and revealed his true form, that of a crow-like man with large, feathered wings. Ziobe initiated the attack with her flaming arrows, and the rest of us leapt out to engage Kikonu, catching him by surprise. The fight was tough, but Yoska manged to blind the oni with a spell, then Yuto knocked his feet out from under him before Rugger pounced, pinning the fiend and thrashing about with his terrible spiked armor.
At last, Kikonu lie still, but no sooner had the oni fallen than Ziobe turned on us! I don't know what motivated her to do so, and I tried to talk her down, but she called on fell magic to instill a great fear within my heart. Helpless, I turned and fled. Aurora was able to instill me with a sliver of Shelyn's love to calm me down, and in the face of such warm emotion, the fear shriveled to nothing. It was with a strange sort of detached bliss that I watched the rest of the fight, as Yuto managed to climb a tree to get close enough to the flying harpy to drag her to the ground, where Roga and Rugger were waiting to stab and slash her until she fought no more. Aurora released her magic from me, and my normal mindset returned to me.
A part of me feels regret for Ziobe's death. I understand that slaying our enemies is necessary if we are to prevail in our journeys, but I take no joy from it, especially when it seemed like we could sway their hearts and minds to a nobler cause. Aurora said the harpy's curse was a byproduct her dark powers, and it was likely her soul was pledged to some foul deity or demon. Still, I wonder if there was something I could have done differently, something I could have said to cause her to stay her hand and in turn spare her life.
The fight with Kikonu and Ziobe drained us, and so we have again retreated to the caravan to rest and recover. Every day we delay is another day Ameiko lingers in her coma. Oh Shelyn, may we find what we seek soon! It pains my heart to see Ameiko suffer so.
11 Rova, 4711
What an incredible day! There are so many emotions swirling around in my head that it's hard to focus enough on writing, but I'm afraid I may forget some important details if I don't get things down on paper as soon as possible.
We returned to the castle and finished our explorations of the upper levels. The remainder of the dire corbies awaited us, along with their leader, a female priestess of a foul demon-bird. They had desecrated the castle's shrine to Desna and made it into their lair, and so it was with righteous indignation that we slew the foul monsters. In cleansing the shrine, we came across a cache of treasure left behind by the old priests, including several arrows enchanted to slay fiends and a phylactery to guide worshippers of the Song of the Spheres.
In another chamber, a giant bat threatened us, but Rugger brought it down with one well-placed throwing axe right between its eyes! It was quite an impressive throw! We also came across the sad remains of a child who had been crushed by falling debris. His spirit had risen as an undead attic whisperer. The urban legends about such creatures stealing children's breath turned out to be true, as it took Rugger's voice from him before we were able to lay it to rest. The dwarf's voice came back eventually, but for a short time, at least, we were spared his crass comments and proud boasts. The child had apparently made drawings on the wall before he died, childlike depictions of ninja warriors, bird-headed men, and magical ogres wielding axes. These, then, were the mysterious assailants who sealed the fate of Brinewall all those years ago, a veritable army of ninja and oni from Tian Xia. Whatever their purpose here, they certainly made sure nobody survived to tell the tale.
We descended into the chambers beneath Brinewall next. Most of the rooms down below were empty of dangers save for one aggressive fungus-thing. In the castle's dungeon, a hulking ogre sat guarding a lone prisoner, an Ulfen warrior-woman--the sole survivor of the battle with the sea drake outside. Once more Rugger shone in combat, having trained long years to dodge the attacks of giants. Before today I would not have believed a five-foot-tall dwarf could out-wrestle a nine-foot-tall ogre! We released the woman and returned her gear. She identified herself as Kelda Oxgutter, and explained that she and her fellow raiders had come here to try to raid Brinewall's treasury. She had acquired information about a secret passage that lead straight to it, and even after her companions fell to the sea drake, she tried to brave the passage alone. Unfortunately, she ran straight into a foul monster, all wings and tentacles from her description, that knocked her out and turned her over to Kikonu. I'm glad the oni decided to lock her up instead of killing her outright. We sent her out to the caravan so she could recover from her ordeal.
We came upon a crypt, and a large cavern at the far end, the same cavern where Kelda fought the monster. The beast tried to fool us with illusions, but we were wary for trickery. We enetered the cavern, prepared for a fight, but we were unprepared for exactly how horrible the monster was. It was an enormous abomination that vaguely resembled an octopus, but it had ten tentacles, two of which ended in savage claws. Its face was hideous, with a gaping maw filled with jagged teeth, and huge batlike wings held it aloft. Roaring in some abyssal tongue, the fiend attacked!
Yuto attacked it with shuriken, but the weapons did little harm to the monster. It cackled at us and launched rays of flame with a wand it clutched in one tentacle. Roga rushed in alongside Yuto to try to keep it distracted, jumping up to try to slash it with their blades. Yoska tried to assault it with magic, but most of his spells sputtered and failed against the demon-spawn. I produced the arrows we found in Desna's shrine and gave them to Rugger, and the dwarf did his best "Shalelu impression" as he fired them at the beast, scoring a few telling hits. However, the monster was savaging Roga with its claws and managed to grab Yuto with its tentacles, squeezing the life from him! I ran in to try to keep the two of them healed, but then the monster turned its fury on me, its claws tearing into me. Darkness came upon me as I fell to the ground...
Fortunately, it was not the end I had feared. I came to a short time later to find that my companions had barely managed to eke out a victory, slaying the monster. Though hurt badly, we had enough healing magic to tend to everybody's wounds. Nearby, the monster had a pile of treasure, including a magical seal, the companion piece to one we had found on Kikonu. There was also a horrible statue of that bird-demon. Roga foolishly picked it up despite Yoska's warnings, and the cursed thing immediately weighed him down as if it weighed a ton. Every time he tried to get rid of it, it would reappear atop his head, like some infernal chicken come to roost. He is going to have to bear the curse until we find some means of lifting it.
At last, we came to the vault of Brinewall Castle. The two seals we found unlocked the magically sealed portcullis, and beyond was a bare treasury, looted of all valuables and with signs of a fierce battle that took place. As we entered, the dust swirled, coalescing into the ominous shade of a long-dead man. I recognized him from paintings in Ameiko's manor--this was Rokuro Kaijitsu, her grandfather! Rokuro recognized Yuto as well, and he paused instead of attacking. He raised his arms and cried out, tears running down his spectral cheeks. "Take the Seal away from here," he said. "Take it to my child--it is no longer safe--and I am no longer worthy of guarding it..." He pointed to a hidden door before crying out again and disintegrating. I hope his spirit may find peace after all these years.
The ninja and oni must have missed this vault when they attacked, for there were still three chests. Several magical items were here, but most importantly, the central chest held a magical box containing a stone statuette of a Tien dragon. As soon as I saw the box, I blacked out. Visions came to me rapidly, strange and wondrous, yet I somehow instinctively knew what I was seeing. I saw an army of fiends emerging in a storm from a vast forest, descending upon the nation of Minkai. I saw Emperor Shigure of Minkai murdered by a man he thought of as a friend, a fearsome warrior in jade armor who grew to the size of a giant. I saw Rokuro Kaijitsu, whose real name formed in my mind as Amatatsu Tsutoku, selling his ancestral blade Suishen to an Ulfen merchant named Fynn Snaeveld in the city of Kalsgard to finance his family's flight from Minkai. I know the sword is intelligent and knows much of the Amatatsu family's legacy as one of five royal bloodlines of Minkai, and, indeed, the last bloodline to survive!
The final vision showed Ameiko waking up as if from a deep sleep, but not inside a wagon. She was clad in the finery of an empress, seated upon a jade throne. This is the truth about Ameiko Kaijitsu, the woman I care for--she is the eldest scion of the Amatatsu family, the true heir to the throne of Minkai!
The visions faded and we came to, but with a further sense of wonder. Somehow, the statuette, the seal of the Amatatsu family, had infused all of us with a divine right to rule. Though, save for Yuto, we were not of Amatatsu blood, in the eyes of the gods, we were each now scions of Amatatsu family! The seal radiates powerful magic, and the warding box is designed to keep the magic hidden, so we quickly put it back in the box. We returned to the caravan to find Ameiko had woken from her slumber as soon as the box was opened. I immediately ran to her and embraced her in the biggest hug I could muster! She was happy to see us as well, and she said she had experienced the same visions.
Needless to say, the whole experience has been a lot to process, for myself and for Ameiko. We haven't spoken much about what the whole thing means or what we are going to do next. Such decisions do not come easily. Only Pharasma knows what fate has in store for all of us. One thing I do know is that I will stay by Ameiko's side no matter what she decides to do. I may literally end up following her to the ends of the earth if she chooses to pursue her destiny--our destiny, now that the Amatatsu Seal has chosen us as well. For now, however, the hour is late and I must quiet the swirling thoughts in my head long enough to get some sleep.
12 Rova, 4711
After a night of soul-searching, Ameiko has made her decision. She is going to follow her destiny. She wants to go to Kalsgard to recover the sword Suishen, and from there cross the Crown of the World to Tian Xia to claim her birthright and take the throne of Minkai. It will be a perilous trek, fraught with danger and excitement. She's leaving the Rusty Dragon and Sandpoint far behind to travel halfway across the world to lead a nation of people she knows little about. None can say her bravery is lacking.
Reaction to Ameiko's decision has been mixed. Aurora is very enthusiastic and wants to help Ameiko acheive her destiny. Yuto is reserved as always, but he supports his sister. Roga is looking forward to the journey, though the curse he's suffering from has dampened his spirit somewhat. Yoska, however, is strongly opposed to the whole idea. He's made it clear that he thinks the whole trip is a fool's errand, and the only reason he's sticking with the caravan is to make sure his brother doesn't get himself killed helping "a girl he owes nothing to." Rugger is bemused by the fact that the magic of Amatatsu Seal has somehow made him some sort of "double noble," since he's a member of the Taggort family of the Five Kings Mountains. He seems resentful of the fact that Ameiko and Yuto have suddenly and "magically" become nobility instead of being born and raised among the high classes of society like he was. He's mentioned that he wants to put the Kaijitsu siblings through what he calls "real noble training," which apparently involved getting stabbed and poisoned repeatedly so that they can survive real assassination attempts! So far, I fail to see the difference between the upper crust of dwarven society and the rest of their violent culture.
As for myself, I am both excited and nervous about what lies ahead. Leaving Sandpoint for Brinewall was one thing, but to leave Varisia and, indeed, all of Avistan behind is quite an increase in magnitude. Already, I'm the farthest I've ever been from home. Will I ever come back this way again? Will I ever see my mother, or Sheriff Hemlock, or even old Das Korvut and his silly muttonchops again? Despite the pangs of homesickness, I know in my heart that I'm making the right decision, not just for Ameiko, but for myself. If I turned around and went home now, I'd spend my whole life wondering about what might have been. This is the moment that my life changes. The time for my great story has come. Perhaps, years from now, the bards will sing of Thalia Velerin and her adventures with Empress Amatatsu Ameiko across the Crown of the World! But that will be a long way off, and for now, there are more practical matters to worry about.
The Amatatsu Seal is a powerful artifact, and the box it was kept in is a potent ward against divination magic. Now that we've opened it, though, it's likely that the enemies of the Amatatsu family know its location. We'll have to be wary and move swiftly as we cross the Nolands into the Land of the Linnorm Kings. We've picked up a few new travelers in the caravan. Kelda Oxgutter is along for the ride to Kalsgard, the Ulfen woman promising to reward us for bringing her back to her homeland. In exchange, she's helping Shalelu hunt for food during the journey. The lyrakien Spivey is also coming with us. We presented her with a Desnan relic we found in Brinewall's shrine, and after communing with the goddess, Spivey said its recovery was the reason Desna had bid her wait near the ruined colony for all these years. With her sacred task complete, the azata is anxious to travel again and see new sights.
Sandru has finished mapping out the route to Kalsgard, and so we bid farewell to the ruins of Brinewall, and we look northward to adventure!
15 Rova, 4711
The journey through the Nolands was relatively peaceful. Sandru seemed a bit worried about encountering some of the barbarians who call the bleak wilderness home, but if any of them had noticed us, they kept their distance, perhaps preferring easier targets. We occasionally caught glimpses of some of the larger predators of the region, bears and mountain lions and the like, and the sky is still thick with sea-birds and ravens. We've joined an existing carvan route as we entered the Land of the Linnorm Kings proper, and it should take us up through the Grungir Forest to Losthome and thence on to Kalsgard.
Kelda has teamed up with Shalelu to help scout for additional supplies as we journey, and tonight they managed to bring back a whole elk. Everybody seems to have taken a shine to the Ulfen woman, especially Rugger, who claims that real women know how to use big swords and heavy armor. The two share stories of battle by the campfire, and I swear he's totally "dwarf-crushing" on her...well, the other kind of crushing, not the kind that involves armor spikes. It's too bad we will be parting ways when we get to Kalsgard. Maybe we can convince her to stay on with us longer?
Spivey is a lively traveling companion. Being an outsider, she has no need for food or drink, so having her along is not a drain on our supplies. Her magic is useful in removing our fatigue after a long day's journey and tending to minor injuries among the horses and travelers. She knows a lot of great songs and is skilled with a lyre, which she can summon from thin air. She and Ameiko are working on composing a song in memory of the people of Brinewall. Yoska's familiar, Sorshen, seems to have some sort of strange obssession with the fairy-like azata, though. The mink always goes very still when Spivey is around and watches her intently, almost like she's getting ready to pounce. I've seen Sorshen stalking her when she's not paying attention, too. I doubt that Spivey's in any danger, but I wonder if Yoska knows about that particular quirk.
The bloatmage is probably too busy yelling at his brother. They had another row earlier today. I didn't catch all of what was said, but I think Yoska had some negative things to say about Ameiko, and that set Sandru off. I think it was the first time I actually saw our caravan master legitimately angry. I know Yoska is concerned for his older brother's well-being, but his time with the Sczarni has not exactly instilled him with the best set of manners. Despite their familial ties, it's clear that the two of them are not going to see eye-to-eye on many things during this journey.
17 Rova, 4711
Yuto noticed something peculiar during our travels today. Among the flock of ravens that has been following our caravan for the past few days, he spotted one bird of great size, perhaps as big as a small dog. One of its wing pinions was blood-red in color, and it seemed to be watching us. When he told Sandru, the Varisian shuddered and made a warding sign across his chest. Sandru says the "blood-feather" raven is a bad omen.
Yoska bid Shalelu to try to shoot down the bird, but as she raised her bow, the raven dove into the nearby brush. The elf went to try to find it, but it was long gone by the time she got there. Left with an uneasy feeling, we picked up the pace through the forest.
We came to a small fishing village along the Rimeflow River. Here, we traded the goods we had brought with us all the way from Roderic's Cove for fresh food and supplies, as our stocks were running particularly low. The Ulfen villagers are a rough and hearty lot, far more rugged than the Chelaxians and Varisians of my home. The rulers of this land, the eponymous Linnorm Kings, rise to power by finding and slaying one of the near-legendary primeval dragons that haunt the frozen wastes, and bringing its head back as proof of their deed. I'd heard tales of the newest of the kings, a woman, actually, called White Estrid. She caused quite some controversy, however, as she brought back a living linnorm named Boiltongue whom she had forced into service in exchange for its life. I told the story of White Estrid's adventures around the campfire tonight, with Kelda filling in some of the gaps in the tale, and Ameiko seemed to particularly enjoy the exciting story.
Afterwards, I spoke with Ameiko about what we might expect once we reach Minkai. Everything I know about Tien culture I learned from her, and she learned it all from her parents. The Kaijitsus were the only Tien family in Sandpoint, though, and Amieko has about as much experience among her own people as I do. She's understandably nervous about suddenly becoming the rightful heir to the throne, so I did my best to alleviate her concerns. I told her that she is the bravest, kindest, and most compassionate person that I know, and that Minkai will have never known a better leader. I'm sure she knows flattery when she hears it, but still she smiled, which warmed my heart in turn.
I had a chance to speak to Lavender Lil tonight, as well. The poor girl doesn't get much respect from most of her fellow travelers. Rugger frequently slights her for her fiendish blood, and Yoska accuses her of theft every time he can't find something that he's looking for. The rest of the group generally ignores her, save for myself, Aurora, and Ameiko. We girls have to stick together. She's worried that she may not be welcome with the caravan past Kalsgard, but I assured her there would be a place for her as long as the three of us had any say. I think her night of intimacy with Aurora was a one-time thing, a way of thanking the priestess for saving her life, but neither aasimar nor tiefling seem to have been bothered by the whole event. They are still good friends, and Lil is slowly beginning to understand the wisdom of Shelyn's teachings. If the others don't chase her off, we'll make a convert out of her, yet.
20 Rova, 4711
After passing through the fort of Losthome, we turned northwest towards Kalsgard. We set up camp for the night at Skalsbridge, an ancient bridge that crosses the Thundering River where it joins with the Rimeflow. The night was cold and misty, and I'm grateful that Rugger and Yuto remained alert. Still, we were almost caught off-guard when a boat full of Ulfen raiders pulled up under the bridge and attacked us! The burly warriors swarmed the caravan, over three dozen of them with sharp axes and howling voices raised in battle-cries! I raised my own voice against them, standing back to back with Ameiko as we inspired our allies to be courageous in the face of the assailants.
The fighting was fierce, and our wagons were heavily damaged in the assault, but we proved the better warriors. Whereas we only suffered minor injuries, we brought down nearly all of the Ulfen raiders, with a few survivors fleeing into the night. Each one wore an arm-ring with a gold lion's head. We tried to question one of the men, but he died suddenly and violently before we could get any information. Yoska said he was under the effects of a powerful geas that caused his death to prevent him from giving out any information. This does not bode well for our visit to Kalsgard. Our enemies know we are coming, and they have access to powerful magic. We will have to be very careful as we search for Suishen.
We scavenged the raiders' boat for repair materials. We'll have to spend tomorrow fixing up the wagons, but Sandru and Rugger should be able to repair all the damage the raiders dealt. It will only be a few more days until we reach our destination, should Desna smile on us.
These are great updates!
I really like your writing style - compact and entertaining at the same time, with the focus rather being on the emotions experienced by the PCS and their interaction with the other members of the caravan than on verbose descriptions of the individual combat encounters (even though I like those from time to time, as well).
Looking forward to the next instalment!
These are great updates!
I really like your writing style - compact and entertaining at the same time, with the focus rather being on the emotions experienced by the PCS and their interaction with the other members of the caravan than on verbose descriptions of the individual combat encounters (even though I like those from time to time, as well).
Looking forward to the next instalment!
Thanks again for the kind words, Monrail. If anybody else wants to leave comments or critiques, feel free to do so! I've got two more posts before I'm caught up on last week's session. Hopefully I'll get them done today since we play again on Sunday.
25 Rova, 4711
Our caravan arrived in Kalsgard today without any further incidents along the road. This city is enormous! Up until now, Magnimar had been the biggest city I had been to, but that entire city could probably fit into just one of Kalsgard's districts! Thousands of people work, trade, and thrive here in the Linnorm Kingdoms' capital and largest port city, and not just Ulfens. There are many Varisians and Tians, the latter having an entire city district to themselves. There's also quite the substantial population of dwarves, a fact that Rugger greatly enjoys.
Of course, in a city this size, not everybody lives a life of wealth and luxury. Our caravan has set up camp in the Bone Quarter, one of the poorer and dirtier parts of the city. The poor and the destitute call this place their home, but it's also where most Varisian caravans visiting the city end up, since the newest district of Kalsgard has the most open space available to house the wagons.
After so many weeks on the road, everybody was grateful to be around civilization once more. Kelda thanked us for bringing her back home and offered us a magical scabbard for our efforts, but as she was preparing to leave, Aurora and Rugger pleaded with her to stay on with us longer. The dwarf even offered to pay her wages out of his own coin purse! Kelda seemed reluctant at first, but since she really had no plans for the immediate future, she eventually acquiesced and decided to sign on for the journey across the Crown of the World after she takes care of some personal business in the city.
Koya and Spivey went off to explore the city together, and Sandru left to speak with his fellow caravan masters about acquiring maps of the Crown of the World and possibly hiring a competent guide. I was excited to go shopping with Ameiko and Aurora; we had acquired a large amount of treasure at Brinewall, and magical gear aside, we simply had to find fashionable clothing suitable for our newfound status as scions of royalty! Yuto was going to come with us to help carry our bags, but Yoska and Rugger dragged him off with them, instead. I saw the bloatmage and the dwarf whispering and giving pointed looks towards Ameiko's brother. I wonder what it is they are plotting?
The Amber Quarter had a wide selection of tailors and jewelers at which to spend our hard-earned gold. We found some fine fur outfits to keep us warm during the long journey north. We also did some information-gathering while we were about town, discovering where Fynn Sneavald, the Ulfen merchant who purchased Suishen, does business. We also heard about a great reaver named Snorri Stone-Eye who had died. A great funeral ship is being prepared for him to send him off into the next life.
When we got back to the caravan, Rugger told us he had made arrangements for a dinner party at a place called the Hall of Splendid Valor. The way the dwarf grinned when he said the name makes me a bit leery about the place. Still, I'm not one to pass up a free celebration...
26 Rova, 4711
I woke up this morning in Ameiko's bed with a headache and only muddled memories of what transpired last night. My heart was in my throat as I got dressed and headed outside, fearing I had done something terribly embarrassing that I would regret for a long time to come, but by my friends' bemused expressions and Ameiko's good-natured smile, it seems I had managed to maintain the majority of my dignity, at least. Over breakfast, the others helped me piece together exactly what had happened.
The Hall of Splendid Valor turned out to be an extravagant bar and brothel modeled after an idealized version of Valenhall in far-off Arcadia. The employees were dressed in "azata" costumes, which is to say, wings and very little else. A large feast had been prepared for us, including sweetmeats and all sorts of fine drinks while the rowdy patrons watched beautiful warriors in impractical armor duel and wrestle for their entertainment. The whole place was rather tawdry but the refreshments were good, so I didn't complain too much, especially after my third or fourth drink.
I had tried to be good. I thought I was drinking iced tea. When I asked where it was from, the waitress grinned and said it was imported specially from a place called "Long Island." Aurora neglected to inform me that, in bartender parlance, that means the drink is a cocktail of potent liquors. After drink four, my memory starts to get a bit fuzzy. I remember giggling a lot, and singing quite loudly, and not much else. Aurora said I passed out fairly early, so she had Roga carry me back to the caravan. He turned me over to Ameiko, who watched over me to be sure I didn't hurt myself or get sick during the night. I was relieved. Drunk and unconscious, I can handle. It's being drunk and still awake that scares me. I prefer to keep my private thoughts private, thank you very much. I don't need Drunk Thalia blabbing them to the world.
One thing I do remember, though, is Yuto being lead off to one of the back rooms by two of the employees of the establishment. This, then, was the culmination of Yoska and Rugger's master plan--to get Yuto laid. Ameiko was understandably furious when she found out, but Rugger insisted it was all part of Yuto's "royalty training" and that he was a "real man" now. Yuto remained quiet as Ameiko railed at him and the other boys, but I noticed the faintest hints of a smile on his lips. Now if he can just learn to actually talk to girls, maybe next time the others won't have to trick him into another brothel.
Once things calmed down and the hangovers faded, we sought out Fynn Sneavald. The old merchant made a living purchasing relics from Tian refugees in need of funds after the grueling journey across the Crown of the World. He remembered buying Suishen from Ameiko's grandfather, but he said that recently a group of thieves broke in and stole the blade. We showed him some of the lion-head rings we took from the raiders who attacked us at Skalsbridge, and he said they were servants of Asvig Longthews, a local ring-giver (a minor chieftain or land-owner) who may have been behind the robbery. Since Fynn was robbed, he was owed weregild in compensation, but with no thief forthcoming, he was now entitled to blood vengeance. He told us that if we tracked down the man who stole Suishen and defended his honor and property rights, we could keep the sword as our prize.
We headed outside of town to have a talk with Asvig. Bypassing the magical wards of his estate, we came across the tall warrior, his witchy wife, and numerous followers preparing for a feast in honor of the late Snorri Stone-Eye. We tried the civil approach, but as soon as we mentioned the missing sword, Asvig ordered his men to attack! We were outnumbered, but far better prepared for a fight than they were. Rugger grabbed Asvig and squeezed him into submission while Yuto kept the many warriors at bay, using their larger size against them and constantly tripping and knocking them into each other. Yoska conjured a fog filled with illusory phantoms to distract the guards and spread fear, while I summoned a giant wasp to keep the witch at bay. In the end, we proved victorious, but a search of the estate did not turn up the missing blade. Interrogating one of the warriors revealed that Asvig likely put the sword along with other treasures Snorri Stone-Eye's funeral barge in honor of his jarl.
It looks like we've got a boat to catch!
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WELL, Look what I found lying under her pillow when I put little missy down for her nap. HAH, looks like it's time for the Ruggernaut to add some more accurate details of our goings on, since Talia has decided that one arrow means it's nap time - poor gal can't hold her poison.
ANYwho. SO first of all, allow me to correct a few things. I don't smell. I just have a strong natural Dwarven musk, which is more than the puny olfactories of humans are ready for, it's a sign of high stature and noble standing, I'm just along on a trip where no one seems to appreciate such things. Although I feel good about this Kelda Lassy, another person who knows how to strap on armor will be a welcome change from the dress-wearing ninnies I'm surrounded by all day. TALIA- WHEN YOU FIND THIS, THERE IS A BEAUTIFULLY MADE CHAIN SHIRT IN YOUR CLOSET NOW, PUT IT ON SO YOU DON'T PASS OUT INSTANTLY WHEN YOU GET SHOT NEXT TIME.
I also want it to go on record that I do in fact find most of this whole "Mystical box makes you king of the empire" crap to be just that, crap. I mean really, Whose going to listen to that? From the sound of it, the current regime where we're headed doesn't, and why should they?! IT'S A TALKING BOX!
Honestly, what society bases it's rulership on things like this?! ORC Society makes more sense! "Roar roar, me da biggest, me da best" That is at least logical at the basest sense.
Now don't get a dwarf wrong. I'd be happy to see Ameiko come into her own and earn the right to rule a kingdom, and I intend to lend me spikes to the cause, as I'd never stand to see a land ruled by demons, giants, or demon-giants, whatever this ten-goo, or owny, or any of this weird kat-cho tee-en words they are always on with mean. But know that if this lass wants to see a Throne, I intend to make her EARN it. Much like I am earning mine. Why I'm out here at all. My ancestors bacame dwarven kings by being the best warriors, the most skilled artisans, and wisest sages of our people.
You don't get to be the top of the heap because you stumble upon some old moldy green metal-wood that happens to be possessed says you get to.
That's all my edits for now, but believe I'll be checking in on this little record book to make sure the FACTS are being presented, keeping history is important Talia, so make sure what you say is what you mean!
I'm off to wax me beard. ~Ruggers Taggoret
28 Rova, 4711
Damn that dwarf! He took advantage of my moment of weakness to delve into my most personal of thoughts! He had no right to scribble in here like a child playing at scribe! He didn't even spell my own name right!
I had stern words for Rugger as soon as I realized that he had defiled this journal. There are...very private things in here that I'd rather he not go blabbing about to everybody in the caravan. I told him I'd shave his beard if I caught him doing it again, but he just laughed it off. What nerve! If he's so interested in making sure the "facts" are right, why doesn't he go write his own journal instead of doodling all over mine?
Yuto's note makes a fair point, however. If Rugger was able to discover this journal, I need to find a better hiding spot for it. Imagine if somebody who actually meant us harm stumbled upon this. The warding box that keeps the Amatatsu Seal safe from divinations has extra compartments that are not use. I'll slip this journal into one of the empty ones for safekeeping when I'm not writing in it. That should keep it safe from nosy ninja and dwarf alike.
Right, the ninja. That's how this whole situation came about. The morning after the raid on Asvig Longthews' farm, a Varki woman approached our caravan. She had been recently beaten, judging by the bumps and bruises that covered her. She introduced herself as Uksahkka, a tracker and business partner of a guide named Ulf Gormundr. Ulf had performed a lucrative job for Asvig and had gone to his farm a week ago to claim his payment, but hadn't returned since. When Uksahkka went to look for him, Asvig's men beat her and threw her off his property. She had heard we had been to the farm and asked if we saw Ulf, but unfortunately he was not there. When we mentioned we were interested in investigating Snorri Stone-Eye's barge, Uksahkka became concerned that Asvig might have locked Ulf on the ship to burn with it when the burial at sea commences. She agreed to help us get aboard the ship if we promised to rescue Ulf. No man deserves such a gruesome fate, and besides, Uksahkka said Ulf would be willing to guide us over the Crown of the World, a route she promised he knows very well.
Under the cover of a fog-shrouded night, we met Uhsahkka on the shores of the bay. She had acquired a pair of kayaks for us to row out to the barge with, circumventing the jarl's honor guard. Not all of us could fit in the kayaks, so only Rugger, Yoska, and myself were there, along with Spivey for magical support (she can fly so she didn't need to use a boat). While Uksahkka was teaching us how to use the kayaks, a gigantic spined crab emerged from the water to attack us! Yoska's magic enfeebled the monster enough that Rugger was actually able to grapple it, keeping its large claws at bay while I plugged away with my crossbow and Yoska burned it to death with scorching rays from his wand. With the threat dealt with, Uksahkka sent us on our way, telling us to meet her at the shrine to Shelyn in the Fire Quarter when our task was complete.
We slipped aboard the funeral barge as it headed out to sea. The pyre had already begun to burn, but it would not reach its full strength until the ship was far enough away from shore to ensure it wouldn't endanger others. The hatch to the hold was nailed shut, but Rugger pried it open. We left Spivey above decks to keep watch as we entered the hold. The hold was laden with treasure, but a surprise was waiting for us down below--Snorri Stone-Eye himself, risen in undeath as a horrible monstrosity! Several chains kept him trapped in the hold, but he still charged us with axe raised to strike! Rugger intercepted him, deflecting the axe strike and wrestling with the undead reaver. The dwarf managed to pin Snorri and tie him up with his own changes, allowing us to dispatch him rather easily. We searched the hold, but there was no sign of Suishen or Ulf. We did manage to snag a few choice bits of loot, including a finely crafted winged helmet.
Suddenly, Spivey sounded an alarm. We rushed back above deck to discover the funeral pyre blazing with full force! Our kayaks had been cut free of the barge, and four dark-clothed men with blue masks stood ready to assault us--ninja warriors! Rugger rushed forward to engage the ninja, and the fire flared us, separating Yoska and I from the dwarf and leaving us to face a pair of the deadly assassins. Yoska conjured the haunting mist he had used at Asvig's farm, concealing us and filling the ninja with fear as we dove off the side of the burning vessel. We managed to swim to the kayaks, and as we got to the boats, we saw Rugger diving overboard with a dead ninja clutched to his spiked armor.
The ninja had few clues as to who had sent them to attack us, but luckily we had unwittingly recruited a new ally. Yoska held up the helmet and declared it was actually a type of angel! I was skeptical, but upon prodding from the bloatmage, I spoke to the helmet to convince it of our good intentions. To my surprise, the helmet began to move and speak of its own accord! It was indeed a cassisian angel, a servant of Desna named Helgarval. Like Spivey, Helgarval had been a familiar whose master had died, leaving him stranded on this world. He had made it his mission to do good deeds so that he could find his way back to Elysium. Helgarval had uncovered a link between a group of oni and a trade guild in Kalsgard called the Rimerunner's Guild. He had followed their agents to Snorri's funeral barge, but he got trapped in the hold when they nailed it shut. Helgarval agreed to accompany us on our mission, settling on Rugger's head in his helmet form. That must be a strange feeling, for both parties involved.
Back on dry land, we went to the shrine of Shelyn to meet up with Uksahkka, but when we got there, it was under attack by a towering earth elemental! The big raven with the blood-red pinion was back, and it flew off as the elemental turned toward us. Yoska used his magic to enlarge Rugger, putting him on equal footing as he wrestled with the stony monster. Spivey and I kept Rugger healed, as the dwarf took quite a beating from the elemental's rocky fists, but eventually we prevailed and it crumbled to pieces. The priest at the shrine was shaken but unhurt, and he brought us to where Uksahkka had been hiding. Unfortunately, the room was empty except for a poisoned dart and a large black feather. It looks like we have another friend in need of rescuing now.
We returned to the caravan, but not before being tailed by a Tian youth and accosted by a beggar with a cryptic warning for us. It seems our enemies are catching on to our activities in town. Thus, the next morning, I disguised myself as an Ulfen woman before gathering information about the Rimerunner's Guild and the big raven. The guild is run by a woman named Thorborg Silverskorr, and it is one of the more powerful organizations in town. Thorborg supposedly has connections to many influential individuals, including King Sveinn Blood-eagle himself! The bird is apparently the companion of a monstrous sorcerer named Goti Runecaster, a troll-blooded monster who lives in the hinterlands and causes mischief for the people of Kalsgard. It's likely he is allied with the ninja.
We returned to Fynn Sneavald to get a letter of introduction to the Rimerunner's Guild. Disguised as Varisian merchants, we secured a meeting with one of the guild's factors. Most of the guild members are unwitting dupes who know nothing of their superior's illicit activities. Under the cover of trade negotiations, we were able to steer the conversation towards Thorborg. It turns out that she's spent much of the guild's resources on building a fortress called Ravenscraeg in the hills outside of town. It's a good bet that this is our enemies' base of operations, and where we might find Ulf, Uksahkka, and Suishen.
As we left the guildhall, we were approached by Lavender Lil who brought us into a nearby alley. She had been keeping her ear to the ground the past few days, and she found out that the two women Yuto had lain with at the Hall of Splendid Valor had been found dead in the river this morning. Apparently, our enemies were now seeking out anybody who had had contact with us and killing them. Suddenly, an arrow streaked through the air and struck Lil in the shoulder! She cried out before collapsing, and as we turned and saw the sniper on a nearby roof, another arrow caught me in the chest! Poison burned through my veins, and I managed to gasp out a spell to briefly debilitate the sniper with hideous laughter before my vision swam and I sank into unconsciousness.
I awoke a few hours ago back at the caravan. The others managed to deal with the would-be assassin and bring Lil and I back to our camp without further incident. That's when I discovered Rugger's "editing" of my journal. Unfortunately, I don't have time to be mad at him, as we have other, more pressing dangers to concern ourselves with. We've decided we can't wait much longer. Tomorrow, we head to Ravenscraeg to deal with our enemies before their attacks get even more deadly.
Tucked into the front cover of the journal is a piece of rice paper, decorated with illustrations of songbirds and cherry blossoms. Delicately crafted Tian characters spell out a poem across the page:
How I long to feel your lips
Pressed against my own
Long I've kept this love
Locked up tight within my heart
Scared to set it free
Fate has brought us close
Bound by strings of destiny
On a journey far
What place will I have
When you sit upon the throne,
Empress of Minkai?
Will you keep me near?
Do you feel for me these feelings
That I feel for you?
Shelyn, hear my prayer
All I ask is that my love
Love me in return
29 Rova, 4711
As if I couldn't hate these bloody ninjas any more! Now, the bastards have gone and made it personal--they've kidnapped Ameiko right from under our damned noses! The poison in our food this morning was just a prelude to an attack by a large gang of street thugs. While we were fending them off, one of the Frozen Shadows somehow slipped past us and absconded with my closest friend. The superior tracking skills of Shalelu and Rugger found the ninja's trail leading out of town towards Ravenscraeg, and so we gave chase at once.
We were as alert as we could be, but still we rode straight into an ambush. Four ninja got the drop on us, riddling us with poisoned darts and explosive shuriken. We were badly injured and the ninja closing in for the kill when Yoska saved the day, raising an illusory veil full of twisting patterns and alien shapes that nauseated our assailants, leaving them vulnerable to Shalelu's sleep arrows. The ninja's leader turned invisible and moved in to try to assassinate Yoska, but I caught her with a well-timed hideous laughter that incapacitated her long enough for Rugger to get his hands on her. I am not a violent woman, but I was frustrated, angry, and scared for Ameiko, so I thrust the ninja's own dagger against her throat and threatened to kill her if she didn't tell us what we wanted to know. In my rage, I might have done it, too, but I was saved the trouble as the blood geas killed her instead of allowing her to talk.
Disgusted with myself, I brooded silently along the rest of the way to the ninja's fortress in the hills. We're camped in a secluded vale nearby, and we plan to assault the fortress in the morning. I've prayed to Shelyn to find my center and have calmed down considerably, but if I find out they've hurt Ameiko, I don't know if I'll be able to keep my darker side in check, and woe betide any ninja who I come across!
30 Rova, 4711
Today, we launched our first assault on Ravenscraeg. We made our way up a series of precarious switchback stairways, Yoska conjuring an illusion in front of us as a lure for our enemies. The fact that he chose to make the illusion resemble his brother Sandru says a lot about the bloatmage's character. Nonetheless, the tricked work, as a large insectile beast emerged to attack the illusion. While we fought the creature, several bird-men ninja assailed us as well. Unlike the dire corbies we fought at Brinewall, these bird-men were tengu, more civilized but no less deadly. We battled our way up to the longhouse atop the cliff face, and upon entering the main hall, swarms of ravens swooped down at us. Yoska dealt with them handily, incapacitating them with a single spray of colors. A large mixed force of tengu ninja and Ulfen warriors poured into the hall, but Roga, Rugger, and Yuto held the line and we prevailed against their superior numbers.
Scouring the upper levels of the fortress, we came across a strange alchemical laboratory. A man trapped in a glass cage begged us to free him, but we spotted strange bumps moving beneath his skin, and Yoska told us he was infested with a swarm of hellwasps! We wisely left him in his cage despite his protests...which were actually the swarm controlling his corpse. Creepy.
We did rescue a local merchant named Lute Haggersly who had been taken prisoner when a deal with the Rimerunners' Guild went sour. He told us that the troll-blooded menace Goti Runecaster operated this lab, performing all sorts of sordid experiments. He also said that recently a tall, red-skinned giant woman came to speak with Goti, and while he didn't recognize her, she spoke with the voice of Thorborg Silverskorr, leader of the Rimerunners' Guild. It's possible that the guild mistress is actually an ogre mage, a dangerous type of oni. We will have to be cautious when our paths meet.
We sent Lute down to the safety of the caravan as we ascended Ravenscraeg's tower. Along the way, we battled a werebear, though it didn't pose much threat as Rugger grabbed it and held it firmly in place for the rest of the group to beat on. At the top of the tower, we confronted the blood-winged raven that had been plaguing our steps for the last few weeks, along with a large group of tengu. The bird turned out to be a spellcaster, summoning another earth elemental and a storm of sleet to interfere with our movements. Yoska conjured another loathsome veil to nauseate the ninja while Rugger and Yuto battled the elemental. Roga pushed his way through the chaotic melee to try to get to the big bird, but it called forth another swarm of ravens to distract him and escaped through an open window! I'm sure we haven't seen the last of him.
With the tower and the upper levels of the fortress under our control, we've set up watches while we rest and recover our strength and magic. Despite my anxiousness to find Ameiko, I know it wouldn't be good to rush into the lower levels of the fortress in such a depleted state. May Shelyn keep her safe--we're coming!
1 Lamashan, 4711
Our vigilance paid off over night, as Shalelu intercepted several warriors trying to sneak past our camp to reinforce Ravenscraeg. We needed to move quickly to rescue our friends before Thorborg Silverskorr could summon more allies. In the caverns beneath the longhouse, we came upon the Frozen Shadows' storage room. After fending off an attack from some ceiling-dwelling menaces, we noticed a fiery glow coming from the well. It came from none other than Suishen! The Amatatsu family's legendary blade had been tossed into the well, but it had wedged itself into a crevice about halfway down the shaft. Helgarval and Sorshen were able to slip into the shaft and retrieve the katana.
The sword spoke to us, glad to be rescued and elated to be in the presence of the family it was created to protect. Yuto communed with it briefly, but there would be time later to catch up on the history of his noble bloodline. I held onto Suishen for the mean-time as we continued our exploration.
Past an underground stream, we came to the furnace room, where two hulking trolls wearing fur coats and hats worked the coals. Yuto took quite a beating in the fight, the giants' sharp claws tearing at his flesh, but Aurora was on hand to tend to his wounds. As the first troll fell, I felt Suishen urging me to use it in the fight, and though I don't really know how to properly wield a katana, I drew it forth from the scabbard, orange flames bursting to life along the length of the blade. Just holding the sword made the chill in the air seem to recede from my skin, and I felt power in my hands unlike I've ever known before. I saw in my mind the image of an old but spry Tian man, giving words of advice about my stance and how to move my feet to dodge the trolls' blows. With a cry, I danced forward and drove the sword into the remaining troll's belly, slicing it open in a fiery line that seared the monster's innards and laid it low.
The others gave me a strange look, and I blushed, surprised by my own sudden aggressiveness. But Suishen seemed pleased, and I kept the katana in my hands as we pressed onward. After fighting through past a group of monks, we found a secret door that opened onto a hallway of fine stonework, a new addition to the fortress. Down some stairs, the hall was choked with zombies, and behind them stood the half-troll sorcerer Goti Runecaster! Suishen revealed even more powers to me, granting Rugger the ability to walk through the air as if he was on solid ground. The dwarf walked right over the zombies' heads to get to Goti, but the wily sorcerer used his magic to disappear. Another power the legendary sword granted me was the ability to see invisible creatures, however, and I conjured some glitterdust to reveal Goti to the others. Rugger grabbed a hold of him and he didn't last long after that, and the zombies fell when Aurora channeled the power of Shelyn to overwhelm them with positive energy.
The hall opened up into a massive multi-level chamber with a strange pagoda rising from the center of the room. A half-dozen human and tengu ninja stood at the ready to make their last stand, along with the blood-feather raven and a woman who could only be Thorborg Silverskorr. The woman smirked and disappeared, and with my magically enhanced sight, I could see her rise into the air and transform into a hulking, red-skinned ogre mage! Roga and Yuto moved to hold off the tide of ninja as Aurora and Yoska supported them with their spells, but Rugger and I set our sights on the oni and the annoying bird.
Still enchanted by Suishen, Rugger began to climb through the air towards the highest tier where Thorborg and the raven waited. I focused myself as I performed a masterpiece I had been practicing over the last few weeks--the Minuet of the Midnight Ivy. I felt the power suffuse my steps as I leaped upon the wall, spinning, pirouetting, my feet somehow finding the tiniest of footholds to propel myself upward. Lightning crackled through the air as the raven blasted Rugger with electricity, then the creature squawked in surprise and terror as Yoska's magic ripped its sight away. A hail of ice and bitingly cold wind blasting the chamber as the oni unleashed a cone of cold, and I winced in anticipation of the pain, but to my surprise, Suishen absorbed the energy of the spell, leaving me unharmed! Is there nothing this wondrous sword cannot do?
I pranced onto the walkway surrounding the pagoda, where Rugger had already managed to get his hands on Thorborg. She proved a tenacious foe, shaking the dwarf off and smashing him with an enormous iron-shod club, but the dwarf kept coming at her. Though blind, the raven was still a threat with its spells, so I moved in on it, flaming sword weaving a deadly web of red-hot steel in front of me. At least, that's how it was in my mind. In reality, I was probably flailing desperately like a child playing at knight, but fortunately, my opponent was blind, so I had the advantage. The bird tried to scramble away from me, but I kept at it, hacking and slashing until at last it stopped moving. Triumphant, I turned to see that the others had finished off the ninja and made their way up to battle the ogre mage. She battled valiantly to the end, but the outcome was inevitable, and at length she fell.
After recuperating from the fight, we moved into the last few chambers. In the first was a caged winter wolf who tried to make a deal with us for its freedom, but both the angel Helgarval and Aurora could sense the powerful evil the beast harbored inside, and we chose to put the beast down rather than truck with it. The final chamber housed cells which held Ameiko and Ulf Gormundr, kept blind and beaten by their wardens, two strange frog-like creatures who shone bright light forth from their eyes. We cut them down quickly and freed our friends. I immediately hugged Ameiko to me, and I felt her sag slightly in relief. She had never lost hope that we would come to rescue her.
For his part, Ulf was grateful for the rescue as well, though my concerns were focused on Ameiko, of course, and so I didn't really pay much mind to the Ulfen guide. We went back down to the caravan, where Aurora tended to Ameiko's injuries. With Shelyn's aid, the physical scars quickly faded, but the emotional effects of her capture and imprisonment will likely stay with her for some time. She seems a bit humbled by the whole experience. She says it brought back some old memories of Tsuto and the goblins who killed her father. The others came in to check in on Ameiko throughout the rest of the day. Yuto took up a guard post outside the wagon and never left, and I stayed at her bedside the rest of the night and showed her Suishen. The sword spoke at length then, telling stories of her grandfather's journey from Tian Xia and the evil oni who now rule over Minkai. We sat and listened, and I couldn't help notice Ameiko looking at me with a different light in her eyes. I looked back at her and gave her a shy smile, and she smiled back in return.
For once, I will not speculate on whether that smile might have a hidden meaning. There will be time enough for over-analyzing things later. I am just happy that the Frozen Shadows are at last defeated, and Ameiko is safe and among those who care for her.
4 Lamashan, 4711
It's almost time for us to leave Kalsgard behind and begin the next leg of our journey to Minkai. What will follow will be the most difficult challenge we have faced thus far--crossing over the frozen expanse of the Crown of the World. In recompense for rescuing him from the Frozen Shadows, Ulf has agreed to guide us along the Path of Aganhei, but he has made it quite clear that it will not be easy-going, especially during the winter off-season. The Crown of the World is one of the most hostile wastelands on Golarion, fraught with perils both natural and monstrous. May Desna smile upon us and grant us the luck to make it through in one piece!
We've spent the last few days liquidating the treasures we liberated from the ninjas' fortress. With the truth of the Rimerunners' Guild now public knowledge, it won't be long before Thorborg Silverskorr's trade empire falls apart. Fynn Sneavald has invested in our caravan as thanks for preserving his reputation, providing us with a second horse train and a couple of skilled drivers who will not quail in the face of the rigors of the road ahead. Aurora used her personal funds to purchase an ornate royal carriage. It's exquisitely crafted and large enough to fit four passengers comfortably, so the ladies (Ameiko, Aurora, Lil, and I) have claimed it as our new wagon. The exterior is bare, giving Aurora a broad new canvas on which to paint.
Rugger indulged in a little vanity of his own, though in the dwarf's case, it came in the form of a massive woolly rhinoceros! For the past few months, he'd been bugging Sandru about finding a "proper war beast" to serve as a mount, and now it seems he's finally got his wish. He's named the rhino Goti-Drangi, or "Giant-Killer" in Dwarven. The beast is even hairier than Rugger, but at least it seems to possess better manners. Of course, the first thing the dwarf did was affix a keg of his special stash to Goti-Drangi, "for emergencies," he says.
Tonight, with all of us gathered around the campfire, Sandru gave a speech about how teamwork and friendship would triumph over any adversity our caravan might face. I could see Roga rolling his eyes at the caravan master's words, but Aurora was sitting next to him to elbow him in the ribs whenever it looked like he was about to interrupt with a snide comment. When he had finished, Aurora presented us all with a pair of new, waterproof boots, each set custom-tailored to suit our individual preferences. I entertained the group with the story of Amatatsu Aganhei, the Tian explorer who first discovered the path across the Crown of the World, the very path we will be following soon. Afterward, Roga and Shalelu got involved in another drinking contest, a rematch to the stalemate they had battled each other to back in Sandpoint. This time, Shalelu proved victorious, and Roga spent the night strapped to a wagon wheel, left to the tender nuzzling of Goti-Drangi!
While Sandru discussed logistics with Kelda and Ulf, Ameiko and I watched the antics of the rest of the group from the fireside. Since her return, there have been subtle changes in Ameiko's behavior. She seems a bit more reserved and pensive. She sits closer to me than she did before, and I catch her sneaking glimpses in my direction out of the corner of my eye when she thinks I'm not looking. Is she nervous? Did Rugger blab to her about what he read in my journal, or has she picked up on my secret pining? Do I dare to hope that a fire has begun to kindle within her heart?
I feel it is too soon to confront Ameiko with my hidden feelings. I have purchased a special something to give her as a gift on Crystalhue, the holiest day of Shelyn's faith. It is the traditional day to begin new romances--just writing the word makes my heart flutter! The wait will be hard, but it's not wise to rush these sorts of things. I shall see how things develop; I shall wait, and I shall pray that my dreams may soon actually come true.
8 Lamashan, 4711
We've camped inside the fortified walls of Turvik, the last bastion of civilization before the Path of Aganhei begins. Everything that we've experienced before has been leading up to this--over four thousand miles of ice and snow stand between us and Tian Xia. It will be almost a month before we even reach the Rimethirst Mountains, the offical border between the northernmost reaches of Avistan and the Crown of the World itself.
Sandru and Ulf have seen to the final preparations to make sure the caravan is ready for the rigors of the journey. I have been spending my time of late practicing with Suishen. The legendary blade has seen potential within me and deemed me worthy to learn how to wield it properly. I don't have much experience with swordfighting, but I've been picking things up pretty quickly. It's almost its own kind of intricate dance, except one or both partners end up bloody or dead. The grim reality of our situation made itself clear to me earlier today when I thought about just how many people our group has killed in just the last few weeks alone. And not just monsters...men and women, each with their own lives, their own goals, their own dreams. My experience with the harpy Ziobe's betrayal back at Brinewall was not lost on me, though. I know there are fundamentally evil people in this world that are beyond redemption. Still, each life we take makes the world a slightly less beautiful place.
Yoska has been providing me illusory targets to practice with so I don't hurt anybody...mostly myself. Once I'm good enough, Roga has promised to spar with me and teach me a bit about how he is able to meld spellcasting with his swordplay. It's a lot to learn, but there are a lot of miles ahead of us.
4 Neth, 4711
One month has passed since we left Kalsgard, and we have arrived at the base of the Rimethirst Mountains. The past few weeks have been relatively uneventful, which has given me time for my basic magus training to sink in. I am proud to call myself proficient with the katana, though I sitll have a long way to go before I can actually claim to be a skilled swordswoman. At least I won't embarrass myself in melee combat, which seems to be enough to satisfy Suishen.
I've also spent the time practicing skills important to courtesans in Tian Xia--geisha, as they call them. Besides musical talent, calligraphy, etiquette, and the ability to navigate courtly intrigue will all prove useful when dealing with the nobility of Minkai. Ameiko needs some brushing up on her skills as well, and while there's no way I can imagine the rakish girl behaving like some pampered princess, she'll have to at least put on airs to maintain some semblance of legitimacy in the public eye.
This afternoon, our caravan happened upon an elven scout from a local clan of Snowcaster elves. The Snowcasters are a unique elven ethnicity who call the icy taiga their home and protect it fiercely. Fortunately, we made friendly contact and the elf invited us to trade with the members of his nearby camp. Shalelu seemed quite intrigued by these reclusive elves, and she shared stories with the tribal elders as we re-supplied our wagons.
6 Neth, 4711
We've crossed over the Rimethirst Mountains and have officially left Avistan behind us. Our first impression of the Crown of the World is this rugged hill country, full of wind-carved badlands and folded hills. Ulf says that giants used to live in this region, and Rugger seemed eager to put his "giant school training" to practical use again. At one point, we came to a passage that seemed to lead toward a collection of burial mounds, but a spectral voice warned us away, lest we suffer the wrath of the ancient spirits that lingered there. Not wishing to disturb the dead, we decided to err on the side of caution and gave the place a wide berth. A large winter wolf seemed to shadow us until we returned to the road, at which point, it turned back and let us pass without incident.
After crossing the hills, UIf presented us with a choice of paths to take. The primary route of the Path of Aganhei runs northwest through the Erutaki lands of Hasanaliat, skirting the Bearleg Lakes and the Gaarjuk Hills towards Unaimo, the last major trading village before the path climbs onto the High Ice. This path is easier and generally faster, but it crosses through more inhabited lands, which might expose us to danger if anybody is watching for us. The alternative route would be to cut through the Gaarjuk Hills, though there would be fewer chances to resupply or seek aid along the way. We decided to try for the easier route along the main path. Let us hope that Desna continues to guide our journey and keep us safe from prying eyes.
12 Neth, 4711
Today we reached the Bearleg Lakes, a broad, marshy moor with several frozen-over lakes and streams. The past few days were not without incident. A few nights ago, as we set up camp, a pack of winter wolves descended upon us. Their leader was a large alpha female who claimed to be the mate of the wolf we killed in Ravenscraeg, and that she could smell his death in the furs Rugger crafted from his remains. Despite their numbers, we were able to fend off the aggressive beasts. The next day, the caravan stumbled into a massive ooze whose coloration caused it to blend in with the snowy ground. The acidic menace wounded several of our horses and damaged the wagons before we could pull ourself free and escape, causing us to have to spend a day healing wounds and repairing wheels.
Even the lakes are not free of dangers, as we learned when a hulking frost drake burst out of the ice while our scouts were fishing for additional provisions. Rugger managed to wrestle it to ground before its icy breath could wreak much havoc, and Roga showed off a new trick in which his entire sword turned into crackling flame before he drove it deep into the beast's chest, slaying it in one thrust. Kelda seemed impressed with how handily they dealt with the drake, as a similar monster had killed almost all of her raiding party back at Brinewall.
I think Yoska is getting bigger. Not fatter, per se, but...larger. Full of blood or whatever other foul humors he's experimenting with. He claims that it's a sign of his arcane powers increasing, but I'm sure it can't be healthy. Sometimes he has a mad look in his eyes, like a barely controlled rage simmering beneath the surface. His familiar, Sorshen, has been acting strangely, as well. She seems sluggish or groggy, and sometimes her skin roils like there's something inside trying to get out. Sandru says his brother knows what he's doing...still, I'm keeping a close eye on him.
14 Neth, 4711
The cabins around here must be cursed or something. Ulf says the Erutaki use them during the summer months to hunt the animals who migrate to the lakes, but so far the only cabins we've investigated have been inhabited by monsters. The first one we came upon yesterday was occupied by what at first appeared to be a lone old woman, but she soon revealed herself to be a horrid specter of flame who summoned will-o-wisps to attack us. After fording the Taraska River earlier today, we came upon another cabin, though this one was haunted by a horrid bugbear who mounted the skinned faces of his victims on the walls! Note to self: if you come across a lone cabin in the woods, it's probably not a good idea to go inside!
17 Neth, 4711
Today we came upon a herd of woolly rhinoceroses foraging across the high flatlands. Shalelu, Ulf, and Kelda managed to bring down a few of them to keep our food supplies topped off. However, a few hours later a hulking two-headed ettin and his two pet bears came upon us, claiming we had stolen from his herd. We managed to calm him down and convince him not to attack us if we provided him with a vast feast in his honor. Both heads seem to be ruled by one stomach, as the ettin agreed. We treated him to steaming roasts of rhino with baked potatos and sweet wine. Little did he know that it was all an illusion conjured up by Yoska! My "after-dinner entertainment" was a song designed to fascinate, and I managed to convince him to part with his magical fog horn before leaving us in peace. We made sure to be long gone before the ettin realized we had managed to pull the wool over his eyes!
28 Neth, 4711
After several more days of travel, we've reached a small bastion of civilization in the harsh frozen wilderness, the town of Iqaliat. Our caravan took a pounding a few days ago from a large warband of ice trolls that assaulted us in the middle of a blizzard! We managed to fight them off and burn those we felled so they would not return to harry us, but we ran out of repair materials and had the limp the last several miles, fearful that another ambush would destroy some of our wagons. Fortunately, the white dragon we spotted soaring overhead the other day remained far away and didn't swoop down to rain icy death upon us, otherwise I wouldn't be around to write this entry! It's a dangerous life, being an adventurer, and definitely short on creature comforts. Sometimes, in the cold and the dark, with the frosty winds howling outside the wagon, a part of me longs for a soft bed by the warm hearth in my mother's house back in Sandpoint. That was a safe life, to be sure, but a dull one without meaning. Here, on the Crown of the World, my comfort comes from the bonds of friendship I have forged with my traveling companions, my warmth is the fire that burns in my heart with each challenge we overcome, with each mile past on our journey. And, oh, how the fire burns brighter with each smile shared with Ameiko. The peals of her defiant laughter in the face of adversity are enough to banish any ill wind that blows my way.
At any rate, Iqaliat is a small cliff-village of a little over a hundred native Erutaki who dwell just off the beaten Path of Aganhei. Ulf suggested we come here because he had been given a token of friendship from the village hearthmistress on one of his previous expeditions, and he wanted to meet with her to discuss the situation for travel here in the off-season. Unfortunately, it didn't take us long to discover that Iqaliat is facing problems of its own. The white dragon we sighted earlier in the week has apparently been laying siege to the village, terrorizing the citizens and even carrying off and killing the unwary. Complicating matters, the primary route of the Path of Aganhei to the east has been blocked off by what the natives call morozkos, "the hungry storms," supernaturally powerful blizzards that seem to move with a malign intelligence of their own. This is not the normal season for the morzkos, and the hearthmistress said that they have been venturing further and further south from the High Ice than ever before. Add to that the tales of strange black pillars appearing across the icy plains guarded by the walking frozen dead, and you have a recipe for disaster.
As we left the hearthmistress' home, we found an angry crowd gathered in the square outside, led by the village's aged shaman, an oracle named Tunuak. The shaman claimed our presence here would increase the dragon's ire, and the wind spirits would only be appeased by our sacrifice. I know when somebody is trying to work an audience, and fortunately, I know how to address a crowd as well. I countered Tunuak's arguments, proclaiming that we were here as agents of good, that we would prove our worth by stopping the dragon's attacks and freeing Iqaliat from the grip of terror it held them in. The chief and the headmistress were swayed by my words and joined our side, convincing the villagers of our good intentions.
Tunuak seemed enraged, more so than should have been necessary, and used his magic to turn invisible. Suishen's powers allowed me to see him clearly, still, and I used my magic to fascinate him before he could escape, then "suggested" he come clean as to his true intentions. The magic loosened his tongue, and Tunuak revealed that he was the one who had stole into the dragon Vensundavag's lair and destroyed her eggs, deliberately provoking the wyrm into attacking the village. It was all at the whim of a "beauitful wind spirit" he called Katiyana, who wished to destroy the village for some unknown purpose. We turned Tunuak over to the chief to face judgment, and exploring his demesne, we found evidence of his engagin in demonic rituals dedicated to a demon lord of cold named Sithhud. Pictograms depicted a winged woman controlling the morozkos from a great tower amid a series of black pillars. The hearthmistress called that place the Nameless Spires, where the spirits of the winds reside--she revealed that Tunuak had taken a vision quest to that location over a year ago, where he must have fallen under this Katiyana's sway.
The dragon is the more immediate threat, and we depart in the morning to find its lair and stop its depredations. It seems then we will have to trek to the Nameless Spires and deal with Katiyana next if we wish to complete our journey to Tian Xia.
It's well written but I don't know entirely how to process this. Two questions:
When is Sandru going to start beating or threatening to beat one of the Lady-folk?
Could your describe your gaming group? Including who plays who.
As to the first question, I'm not quite sure how to respond. There's never been any indication that Sandru is a misogynist or would have any reason to assault any of the women in the party. I don't think the character is written to be that way, either: perhaps you or your DM has a different interpretration of him?
As for the second question, or group consists of six males and one female, with ages ranging from 23 to 32. We are all close friends and have gamed as a group for over 6 years. The female player is bisexual and plays Aurora, the priestess of Shelyn, while the male player who plays Roga is homosexual. Everybody else is heterosexual, including myself.
Our gaming sessions are frequently infused with mature content that others may find offensive, but we understand that it is all just a game and we are very comfortable with ourselves and each other. For this journal, I've been challenging myself to explore the thoughts and relationships of a homosexual female character, including mature themes and situations, which I understand may be off-putting for some people. I would never force anybody to read something that makes them uncomfortable, however.
Upon reflection my questions could have come off as over aggressive and for that I apologize.
Something to know about me is that I tend to think that women are better than men and I have no issue with strong solidarity between women.
With that in mind the reason I was going "Hmmm..." is because the women are all very saintly (for lack of a better term at the time of writing) or are that empathetic kind of misunderstood while all of the males (or at least main cast males) are jerks. Even the quite one (The monk) is just a smug quiet jerk. So over all to my perceptions this was starting to look as if Lifetime made a fantasy movie. So it threw me off.
Also, I described this to another player of mine and he was saying that the group was all males while I was thinking it was predominately women. Hence why I was curious about the group make-up.
Upon reflection my questions could have come off as over aggressive and for that I apologize.
It's no problem. I just wasn't sure where you were coming from.
With that in mind the reason I was going "Hmmm..." is because the women are all very saintly (for lack of a better term at the time of writing) or are that empathetic kind of misunderstood while all of the males (or at least main cast males) are jerks. Even the quite one (The monk) is just a smug quiet jerk. So over all to my perceptions this was starting to look as if Lifetime made a fantasy movie. So it threw me off.
That's part of the way the characters are being role-played. Roga and Yuto both have a Charisma of 8 and Rugger has a Charisma of 6, which is reflected in their personalities and their interactions with the other PCs and NPCs. Roga and Rugger are good people and well-meaning, but have very abrasive personalities. Yuto started out as simply naive, but the influence of the other male characters in the party has slowly corrupted him into, yes, kind of a smug jerk. He resents the relationship Thalia has with his sister because it's stronger than their familial ties, since he spent nearly all of his life in the monastery away from her. Yoska has a Charisma of 12, which isn't bad, but he's definitely an antihero, what with being a Szcarni bloatmage with a chip on his shoulder regarding his brother. The female characters definitely have their flaws as well, but since these writings are from the perspective of Thalia, these are downplayed. She looks up to Aurora as a role model and, of course, has deep feelings for Ameiko which blind her a bit to their shortcomings, not to mention she's averse to admitting to her own foibles.
That's how I see it, any rate. Perhaps the other players in the group might want to comment about their own characters?
At any rate, I'm glad you're reading the journal and I thank you for taking the time to comment as well. I like to hear people taking an interest in my writing. I hope to have another content update soon, though with Thanksgiving coming up, it may be put off till next week.
|Hall of the Mountain King|
I play Yoska, who is a jerk.
As the youngest son of a Varisian family where his mother died before he could know her, family is very important. The mean reason he is a bloat mage is to have enough power to protect his, very vulnerable family.
He blames Sandru for their brother's death and thinks that Sandru is putting Amiko before blood family.
All of this, plus some self hate, couples to make him unpleasant. That much conflicting emotion makes for someone who finds it hard to just let things go.
That being said no one ever thinks any of my characters are likable, they're almost always confrontational.
Ruggers is actually pretty likable. I think Sandru comes across as naive and isolated and not smug at all. Roga is foolhardy but basically a harmless jock.
Keep in mind that this journal is also Thalia's version of events and therefore it's sometimes colored by her being massively prejudiced and sometimes flat out wrong... and that's when the story hasn't been altered for convenience sake. Thalia mostly only cares about how these things affect her storybook romance with Ameiko in my opinion.
There's huge sections of Ruggers being genuinely concerned for Ameiko's safety or the whole Yoska having a crying jag on the solstice that just don't make it into her version of the story.
P.S. Still enjoying the diary!
This is Ruggers, Who isn't so much as a jerk, as he's just a dwarf.
As far as his interactions with the rest of the party go, he is extremely out of his element, and because he's naturally crass, he just doesn't hide his opinion of the way the people around him think and act.
He's well meaning in all cases, and really is just trying to improve the lots of everyone around him, it's just he's operating under the impression that everyone would be better off being a dwarf fighter.
This of course ends up with a lot of perceived rudeness, and condescenion of the characters that fight without armor, or can't drink gratuitous quantities of alcohol, or anytime anyone gets poisoned. He never overlooks the opportunity to say I told you so.
Once the journal actually catches up with where we're at in game, I think many of the characters' more positive traits will come out, especially around the Crystalhue scene, and a few others.
As of course everyone has pointed out, this is Thalia's POV, and she is about as far on the opposite end of Ruggers' approval scale as anyone else in the party. In both attitude and ability.
30 Neth, 4711
It took a few days to arrive at the dragon's lair, a vast rift in the icepack about sixty miles away from Iqaliat. The Erutaki gave us enchanted climbing claws to help descend into the icy chasm, though with Suishen's aid, the less adept climbers in the group were able to air walk down alongside the others. The chasm was filled with a chilling fog, making it hard to see more than a few feet in any direction. It is unnaturally quiet, the only sounds our nervous breathing and the clanking of Rugger's armored plates. Then, suddenly, the icy ground before us was torn asunder as the hulking dragon burrowed forth from the earth, roaring with rage and defiance! White scales glinted like silvered ice in our magical illumination, and the ground shook as it leaped to the attack! We've faced no shortage of fearsome foes, but just being in the presence of the powerful wyrm was terrifying. My voice rose in an inspiring chant to steel our hearts, and the battle was joined.
Vegsundvaag unleashed its freezing breath upon us, but our magical wards prevented much of the blast from harming us. The dragon darted in and out of the fog, making it impossible to track by sight. I saw Rugger disappear into the haze, Roga and Yuto hot on his heels. There came shouts and roars and the sounds of spikes tearing flesh, and by the time I got close enough to see what was happening, Rugger had grabbed the wyrm by the neck and was riding it like it was a horse he was trying to break, except with more spiked punches raining down on it. The dragon struggled to free itself from the dwarf's deadly grasp, all the while suffering slashes to its flank from Roga and Yuto. Yoska meanwhile fired scorching rays from his wand, each blast of flame leaving horrible burns across the dragon's scaly hide. Rugger threw his weight backwards, exposing Vegsundvaag's neck. Roga focused his magic into his blade, transforming it once more into a jagged spike of pure flame and shoved it through the dragon's neck. Flesh bubbled and boiled and the dragon let out a strangled cry as it thrashed about wildly, finally dislodging Rugger in its death throes. Smoke rose from the corpse as it crashed to the ground and, at length, lay still.
Needless to say, we were ecstatic in our victory over this beast of legend--we had brought down an actual, full-blooded dragon! We helped ourselves to the sizable hoard the wyrm had amassed for itself over the years and are on our way back to Iqaliat to rejoin our caravan and give the villagers the good news.
2 Kuthona, 4711
We returned to Iqaliat hailed as mighty heroes for defeating the dragon that had been plaguing the Erutaki village. The villagers held a great feast in our honor, and there was much joy and merriment to be had. Afterwards, the chief and the hearthmistress took us aside and explained that they had been interrogating Tunuak whil we were out hunting the white wyrm. The corrupted shaman had revealed that his mistress, the dark-winged woman he called Katiyana, had found some way to reclaim the ancient power of the deposed demon lord Sithhud, who used the morozkos as a roaring scourge to slay the unwary and bind their remains to serve him in undeath. If she were to gain full control over the hungry storms, we would never make it across the Crown of the World. Our only chance of surviving the crossing seems to be a journey to the Storm Tower to deal with her before her plans come to fruition.
We're going to have to stray from the Path of Aganhei and cross the High Ice towards the North Pole of Golarion to get to the Storm Tower. Ulf is nervous as he's never taken this route before, but between the maps we acquired and the stories he's heard, he's confident that he can get us to the Storm Tower and back on the path without getting lost. The hearthmistress gave us a few items to help ease our travels, wands to resist the cold as well as an ornate silk banner enchanted to keep the caravan warm and comfortable when we camp. We'll spend the next few days fixing and stocking up the wagons before venturing into the frozen wastes once more.
12 Kuthona, 4711
The High Ice is a place of strange beauty, in spite of the extreme nature of the environment. Even with the layers of heavy furs and magical wards against the cold, the frigid chill still seeps into my bones. If not for our precautions, I fear my fingers would freeze up and snap off just from being outside for any length of time. It is dark all the time, the icy land deep in the grip of polar night, and we have to rely on magical torches to guide the horses across the treacherous terrain. The stars are out all day and night, the circling in the heavens the only indication that time still moves and that the world has not, in fact, frozen solid. Cynosure, the North Star where Desna makes her home, hangs almost directly overhead at all times as we near the very top of the world. And for the past few days, the wondrous polar aurora has rippled overhead, bathing the icy expanse in shades of green and purple, Lady Luck smiling down upon us.
The last few days have not been without peril, as we've had to deal with mean-spirited will-o-wisps, raging snowstorms, and another tribe of violent ice trolls. We also passed by one of the strange black monoliths the Erutaki mentioned, a small host of frozen skeletal creatures guarding the site in testament to its fell necromantic power. Whether they are related to Katiyana's plans for the region are unclear, but I doubt there is much room for coincidence in such an inhospitable region as this.
In the light of the aurora, we can see the great range of the Alabastrine Peaks rising up on the horizon. It will still be a few days yet until we reach them, and then several more days until we come to the Storm Tower to confront Katiyana. The dangers yet to come have taken a backseat in my mind, however, for the winter solstice will be upon us in just a few days. The holiest day of the year for the faith of Shelyn coincides with a great festival in honor of Desna as well, and so we will be taking a brief pause for the day to celebrate both Crystalhue and the Starlight Festival. My heart flutters with anticipation at the thought of at last revealing the true depths of my feelings for Ameiko, and as always, I continue to second-guess myself. Is it too much to lay at her feet all at once? What if she doesn't feel the same way about me? What if she does? How will the other members of our group react?
Peace, you nagging doubts! Be at ease, at least for a few days more. Soon enough I will put my heart in my hands and put my faith in the goddess. For now, let me try to get some rest.
So this is a bit late coming to the party, but I play Aurora, the Cleric of Shelyn. I'm also the only girl in the gaming group. I figured I would hand out some Aurora backstory for the people that are following this journal, and as kind of a response to @the NPC.
I typically play the rakish chaotic neutral rogues, the questionable moral witches, and other characters of a more antihero persuasion. I decided with this adventure path to challenge myself to stray from my role playing comfort zone and play a character that was truly and unquestionably good.
Enter the Aasimar Cleric of the goddess of love and beauty, Aurora.
Aurora has a bit of a complicated backstory. When I decided to play an Aasimar which went something like "Oh yeah, if I'm gonna play good, I'm gonna play SO GOOD! I'm gonna be the prettiest princess of a cleric EVER!"
The DM suggested something for my backstory which I really like. Aurora is the half sister of Nualia Tobin (Rise of the Runelords), and came to Sandpoint to try and heal some of the wounds inflicted by her kin. Ameiko was one of the first people there to befriend Aurora which has lead to a lasting loyalty from Aurora to Ameiko.
Aurora basically believes that true love is going to win the day every time. She demonstrates this in her actions towards Ameiko/Thalia which she thinks will have terrible complications for them in Minkai, but thinks that their love is pure and wants to see it win. She also feels especially devoted to her goddess because she can sympathize with having a horrible sibling, and so takes her religion VERY seriously. She feels a personal burden to be the best person, best friend and best everything that she can possibly be to make up for the shortcomings and evil of Nualia.
Aurora is also fast friends with Ruggers, because she can see that he is a truly good person, despite his occasional overzealous tendencies towards fighting. They have become great friends and drinking buddies.
Aurora has a bit of a crush on Sandru, (which seemed like the best choice for the whole "Japanese dating game" mechanic in this AP) and feels sympathy for Yoska. She wants to see the two brothers reunited as a true family, which she never had. Roga is brash, sometimes crude, incredibly foolhardy, but genuinely wants to help. Thalia is someone she is on a personal quest to make as amazing as possible because of Thalia's feelings for Ameiko.
And Yuto, well, see below.
p.s. Sorry about the rambling/incoherent nature of these posts. Brainiac is the writer here, not me :)
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<b> Crystalhue </b> -excerpt from the Journal of Aurora, Cleric of Shelyn.
Okay, so Thalia has a journal to keep her thoughts from spilling over and bubbling up and making a mess, why shouldn't I? Seriously though, a mess. MESS! Here goes.
A ring. A RING?! Does he even know what that means? Have I been overlooking something this whole time that has been right in front of my eyes? No. Couldn't be. Could it? No. There is no way that Yuto knows the significance of such a gift on Crystalhue. Still...
I mean, I've always been fond of him, he was just so, so naive. But then he will do these amazing things in battle, or prepare tea for the whole group trying to bring everyone together and then-
Ameiko would KILL ME.
Ugh, I got in enough trouble explaining to Yuto what a "rusty dragon" was.
And what would Sandru think? Nothing. That's what Sandru would think. At least I think so. I mean, I'm not a trade good or a horse or a wagon so it's hard to believe that SAndru could really care that much for me no matter how many times I've tried to get him to open up and talk, he's just so ...reserved?
I can only pray that Shelyn has other plans for my heart.
Like a man intrinsically tied into your life who has always been kind to you and saved your life on multiple occasions giving you a ring on Crystalhue? How DENSE am I?
This Journaling thing is hard. I don't think it's made my brain or my heart any less confused.
For now, I had better keep this whole situation under wraps.
WRAPS! That's the perfect present to give him back. I can make him new hand wraps out of my blue dress. He sees me wear it all the time, he knows it's my favorite, if he takes the gift then he HAS to know it means something. ... I hope?
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15 Kuthona, 4711
The winter solstice is upon us. It is Crystalhue, a time of intense artistic creation, a time of roaring fires to fight the winter chill, a time to prove that the spark of life burns strong within us. It is the Ritual of Stardust, a time of love and friendship, a time to leave the worries of the past behind us, a time to send our dreams to the stars and into Desna's care. Even here, at the top of the world surrounded by endless miles of ice and snow, the gods are with us, and today we celebrate a momentous year.
We set two blazing bonfires in the camp, one to represent the Eternal Rose, the other for the Song of the Spheres. The light of the flames kept the dark and the chill of the polar night at bay. The early morning and afternoon hours were filled with the Shelynites creating new works of art. Ameiko worked on perfecting a new musical composition on her harp while I toyed with the lyrics of a song about our journey so far and the adventures yet to come. Aurora painted like a woman possessed, filling several canvasses with portraits of our fellow companions. I posed for a painting brandishing Suishen, and the even the taciturn blade seemed less dour than usual, proving that the spirit of the holidays can even affect inanimate objects.
As the day wore on, the more devout Desna worshipers gathered about the second fire, lounging serenely and daydreaming the hours away. Yoska decided to take his daydreams to the next level by indulging in copious amounts of opium, sharing some with Koya. I can only guess what sort of dreams may come in such a drug-addled haze, but judging by the bloatmage's periodic mewling and twitching, his were likely less than pleasant. Seeing the proud illusionist whimpering like that struck me as rather pitiful. Sometimes I forget that beneath Yoska's harsh outer layer (in all of its thickness), there are emotions, hopes and dreams, pains and fears. Sorshen stood protectively over her master, snarling at anybody who tried to ease his sleep. I hope his dreams may one day become more pleasant.
Eventually, we judged that true night had come, so Koya and Spivey stoked the fires, throwing handfuls of sand and powdered gems into them. The resulting sparks flew into the night, symbolizing the stars in the sky where Desna resides. The time had come to cast mementos of past troubles and future dreams into the flames. Rugger surprised me by going first, throwing an ornate metal crown into the fire. He stared at it silently for a few moments before wandering off to get a strong drink. Shalelu tossed in a lyre-shaped pin, a memento of her tempestuous relationship with a notorious Varisian bard named Cosmo whom she'd prefer to leave in the past. I consigned one of my old scarves and a newer paper fan to the flames, leaving my past in Sandpoint behind while looking forward to a new life in Minkai once Ameiko reclaims the throne.
Yoska stirred from his drug-induced stupor long enough to participate, in his own disturbing manner. He conjured illusory duplicates of his family members: his mother who died in childbirth, his brother Alder who died while adventuring with Sandru, Sandru himself. One by one, the illusions bowed solemnly to the gathered procession before marching into the fire to wither and melt rather realistically. Most of us were quite off-put by the display, especially Sandru himself, whose face remained lock in a grim stare as he watched his dead brother and his own doppelganger burn and ascend to the stars.
Fortunately, things shifted to a more celebratory tone thereafter as Rugger and Sandru brought out the spirits to share among the party. Rugger also hefted a large sack full of gifts he had been working on for the past few weeks. He produced a set of white dragonscale gloves for each member of the caravan, crafted from the remains of Vegsundvaag. For Kelda, he produced a full set of fine dragonscale mail. The stoic Ulfen woman seemed impressed by the armor's craftsmanship, but it didn't stop there. After a few more drinks, Lil convinced her to ask Rugger to braid her hair like he does his beard! I hid my giggling behind my fan as the gruff dwarf set to work untangling the knots in Kelda's long blonde mane. Dwarf-crush! Those two are so cute together!
The next turn of events were quite shocking, as Yuto revealed that he had purchased a gift for Aurora. He presented her with a beautiful silver ring. He said that he found the ring pretty and thought that she might like it, because she liked pretty things. Aurora's eyes widened in surprise, and I gasped as well. Crystalhue is a time for beginning new romances, and nothing is a clearer indication of courtship than a gift of jewelry on the holiday. I don't know if Yuto knows exactly what he's just gotten himself into, but it's not my place to interfere. Maybe there could really be something between the two of them, and it's not my place to get in the way of that. If not intentional on Yuto's part, then perhaps it is the will of the goddess fostering a new love on her most holy of days. At any rate, Aurora retreated into the royal carriage to scramble for a return gift for Yuto. She returned a short time later with some fine silk hand-wraps, which I couldn't help but notice seemed to be made of the same material as one of her favorite dresses.
Ameiko had retired to the royal carriage shortly after the drinking began, and now she emerged clad in one of the fine kimonos she had purchased in Kalsgard. Her hair was done up in an elaborate style, her makeup tuned to perfection, and she looked every bit the part of a beautiful Tien princess. She moved with impassive grace as she bowed to the other revelers, treating them as if they were members of her royal court, though when she looked at me I saw the laughter in her eyes and the twinges of a sly smile at the edge of her lips.
She kneeled by the fire and produced her lap harp, and even the most inebriated among us (Roga, who had lost another drinking contest with Shalelu and was curled up by Goti-Drangi) fell silent as she began to play the song she had spent all day composing. It was a moving ballad of unrequited love, and my cheeks flushed as I realized she was singing about me. Once the song was complete and the others turned back to their own conversations, Ameiko took my hand and we slipped away behind the royal carriage, where she had set up a folding screen to establish a modicum of privacy.
We looked at each other nervously for a few moments, neither quite sure how to begin. I must have been really nervous because I nearly thrust my gift out at her. It was a beautiful ring I had purchased in Kalsgard, a single pink diamond glistening in the reflections of the firelight. I think I babbled something about it its beauty paling in comparison to hers; all I could hear was the pounding of my heartbeat in my ears as my throat was suddenly dry. Ameiko smiled and took my hands in hers. She told me that she knew I had feelings for her for a long time, but it wasn't until recently when she realized that she harbored similar feelings in her heart. When she had been captured by the Frozen Shadows ninja, she had feared she was going to die. In her time of need, the only person she could think of was me, and how she might never get to see me again, to hear my voice.
I told her that I loved her, and she smiled, but she closed my hand around the ring I was offering to her. She said she still needed more time, and that the middle of a perilous journey across the frozen wastelands wasn't the best time to start changing the dynamics of our relationship. I could tell that she was struggling with a similar sense of weirdness to what I went through when I first discovered my feelings for another woman. I was a bit disappointed, to be sure, but I understood what she was going through. There will be time yet to chart a new course for the two of us, but I'm glad that at last I don't have to hide how I truly feel about her. We returned to the fireside, and as the embers began to burn low, I laid my head against her shoulder and stared up into the night sky, to the stars above where I had sent my hopes and dreams.