Wherein No-one Knows How to Magic

Journal - Second Entry

Having guessed that Layne’s demon would awaken at dawn the next morning, the six of us left before sunrise. We were several hours out of town when the long shadows behind him began to quiver. They rose up into a twisting void, the darkness falling across us. We were nearly defeated. Bloodied, Layne drank the mysterious potion that he found in the lockbox beneath the cavern waters. He became filled with a radiant light that tore through the shadow. Otherwise devastating blows glanced off him. The harbingers came, and gathered the demon’s soul as payment.

Lyndee had been proven a talented fighter herself, but she did not fight like a priest. We questioned her. She refused at first but—after what happened with Sonil—we refused to travel with those we do not trust and would not continue without the truth. We learned that she was a rogue and had never been devoted to a temple. She told us that when the city of Keilaris had vanished, the Alestines, and her family, had disappeared with it. She wouldn’t explain any more, and would not tell us why we had gathered these items.

A crater spread before us, the last location of the missing city. Standing on the edge of it, under the light of a full moon, Keilara cast a ritual over the flame of the candle. A pink smoke was spiraling toward us from the sky when a man, allegedly the protector of the city, asked what we were doing.

Before we could answer, I find myself standing outside a small hillside village. I see a young goblin girl running home with a fresh bundle of vegetables from the market. She lays her bundle on the kitchen table. Her mother is in the next room, tending to a sick Goblin child. I see Greym, talking to Lyndee as she hands him a potion bottle, which he takes to his son. Next, it’s morning, and I see Greym riding off with Lyndee, and nine Goblin children waving goodbye as he rides east.

We woke up among statues, a dinner party turned to stone; their glasses still raised in celebration.

The others had visions as well. Layne saw two clerics ride into a small town on the eastern coast of Laurythia. He said they were Lyndee and Keilara. They are surrounded by townsfolk offering trinkets and food in tribute. Lyndee climbs atop a fountain to address the crowd. She gestures towards the sky then runs her fingers through the water in the fountain. The people drink. Lyndee and Keilara enter the temple, as the leader of the town guard hands them a satchel of gold and gems. Shortly after, they burst from the back door, sickened. They only stop long enough to vomit before sneaking out of the town under cover of darkness. Lyndee is still carrying the satchel. He recognized the villiage as Drathwynd.

Mika, the protector of the city, saw a pirate ship near a small town on the eastern coast of Laurythia. The next morning, the ship sails east as dark clouds move in from the west. A red rain falls from the sky and a tall man in dark robes walks up to the town gates, which open with a wave of his hand. He enters the temple in the center of town, six robed women following him. They rummage through treasure left by the pirates as tribute. They do not find the item they seek as they cast aside coins and gems. The man is angry. He strikes one of his followers down with a dark spell and casts her body at the feet of the temple clerics. They erupt in a vicious plague and fall dead on the floor. The robed man and his followers leave town and head north as the townsfolk are left to die in the wave of sickness. Next to where he was sleeping, we noticed the symbol of the eastern goddess scratched into the floor.

The itchy one saw the tree where we had found Keilara’s body. She is still alive, riding west on the main path. She stops to move a broken tree branch blocking the road and is ambushed by a group of villagers. They are angry. They swarm and beat her into submission, before stripping off her robes and tying a noose around her neck. The mob searches her possessions and find a small parchment. They question her and seem satisfied with the answers, they hang her from a tree and leave her for dead. They steal her horses and head northwest. A man in dark robes steps out from the woods and he watches her die. Five women in the same robes loot the remainder of her possessions. The man casts an enchantment on Keilara’s corpse. When he finishes, he glances northeast and turns to his followers. He waves his hand and four of the women kneel and drink from a black vial around their necks. They fall to the ground. He and his last follower slip into the woods just before we arrive.

Pip saw a pirate fleet sailing in the stormy seas south of Avaria. The sky is filled with dark clouds and the seas are rough. With a bright flash, a bolt of lightning crashes into the lead ship and it splits in two. As the storm destroys the fleet, a solitary bear is foraging along the shore. The bear’s ears perk up and it tilts its head upwards. It growls at the sky as it stands upright. It moves towards the water and swims out to the wreckage. A few moments later it is dragging a pirate’s body to shore and proceeds to return to foraging. Its ears perk again and looks back up at the sky. It lets out a sad roar as it nods towards the unconscious pirate. It continues to grunt and snort as if arguing with the storm before once again swimming back out to sea. It again returns to the shore, this time dragging the unconscious body of a blue skinned female. It gently starts to lick her face and lays down next to the pair, who appear to be the only survivors from the sunken fleet.

I believe Ursis also had a vision, but I do not know what it was. He seemed to look disapprovingly at Pip and shook his head, but Pip says it must be my imagination.

Through a door near the end of the dining hall we entered a kitchen where some sort of enchanted broom was cleaning the area. After destroying it, an enchanted mop appeared from some adjacent room and began tidying the splinters of its fallen brother. We let this one live. We opened the pantry searching for rations but all of the food was rotten, and by the smell we guessed that it hadn’t been edible for nearly six months.

We explored the rest of the quarters, and found ourselves in a library where Greym had stabled our horses. His vision was harder to understand than the others and he didn’t share much. He bowed towards us, and I bowed back, the vision seeming to warm him to us. It was decided that Greym would permanently join our party. He has been a loyal friend and we have protected each other ever since.

We continued down the hallway to find a room of cages, some holding stone animals, and others holding nothing at all. The empty cages were labeled “Mimic”, “Basilisk, two”, “Corgix”, “Ochre Jelly”, “Minitaur, two”. The cage labeled “Chimera, two” was not empty, but only held one of the creatures. We noticed a pixie hiding among the poisonous frogs and newts. She had also been turned to stone but wasn’t mentioned on any of the plaques. A signet ring, identical to the one Layne was wearing now, rested around her forearm.

Along the passage to the north we found an alchemist’s lab and two more statues. In the cupboard we found two bottles labeled as de-petrification potions. We asked Keilara if she could use the books and materials in the lab to create more, and even though she had no training in alchemy, she would try.

Whatever else this building held was locked behind a number of doors, heavy, richly finished, but veiled in a layer of dust. Layne used his finger to draw a dirty picture in it and felt an imperfection in the smooth surface. Sweeping the dust away, he saw a small hollow carved into the wood, elaborately patterned, a perfect fit for his ring. He gently pushed it into the carving. There was a click as it found the right spot and was held there, but the door did not swing open. We pointlessly pushed and pulled on it. We looked again closely at the locking mechanism, noticing a second, similar hollow in the wood.

We took one of the de-petrification potions to the Pixie. Some considered simply breaking her arm off, but the rest of us rejected the idea as too cruel. We used the potion, and an… assertive… pixie sputtered to life. She said—in maybe different words—that she was attending a party in this section of the palace and had a bit too much honey wine. She remembered climbing into the cage and then nothing but darkness.

We took the rings back to the southern door and it swung open easily. There was a room with traps along the floor and a pair of chests on two pillars at the back of it. With every step each stone tile changed from cold grey to yellow, to orange, to red. I threw a spare sword at the glowing red trap below Itchy’s feet to test it, but he caught it instead and threw it back. I learned that the red tiles exploded, not enough to kill but enough to hurt. We made it to the end of the room, with the—false—belief that the traps must be protecting something good. One chest was a mimic that attacked us when it was touched. The other contained only a third signet ring.

We returned to Keilara to see if she had made any more potions. They were oily and yellow but similar enough in colour to the others so we tested it on the statue we guessed was the apprentice. Slowly, he began to sink through the floor. We tried to stop him from falling but our fingers grasped through him as if he wasn’t there. Soon, he disappeared through the stones under our feet and was never seen again. We thought it best to use the true potion on the other alchemist who introduced himself as Cactus.

Cactus told us that the Alestines and the Silvestines were celebrating a wedding and coronation in the main palace. He wasn’t much for parties and had spent the majority of time in his lab. Some days after the banquet, he was ordered to prepare de-petrification potions with his apprentice who, he said, was apparently slacking off somewhere else. They had spent the last few days—the last few days of memory anyways—preparing hundreds, maybe thousands, of bottles of oily yellow liquid. He suggested that we could learn more if we explored the palace across the hedgemaze to the north, locked just beyond the door with four ring-shaped carvings.

We took the remaining potions that Keilara had made, just in case, and used the three rings to open the door to the west A long hallway led to what appeared to be the guest quarters.

We moved from room to room, searching the guest’s possessions for another of the rings. When we got the end of the hallway, we heard rustling from one of the rooms. We opened the door, carefully, and there was a basilisk, curled between the sheets of a feather bed. It saw us in the doorway, and an icy gaze began to make our limbs numb and heavy. Most of us moved quickly enough to surround the creature, but Pip was nearly petrified. She took her chances with another of Keilara’s potions—this one slightly more orange. She did not seem cured, and was now not acting like herself. She threw herself awkwardly in front of a bite aimed at Lyndee, yelling something about her “bee love head”. I don’t know what insects had to do with it.

After finding a fourth ring in the stomach of the—now dead—basilisk, she moved to the next bedroom where she found a pair of racey undergarments in a chest at the foot of the bed. She slid them on and oiled herself up with another of the potions.

It had been long hours since we journeyed to this place and the beds looked inviting, so we barricaded ourselves inside and slept here. Pip chose the room with two figures twisted around each other on the bed. She invited Lyndee to stay with her, but Lyndee chose a room by herself. Pip usually isn’t so friendly, Layne says it’s because she has a stick up her butt. I thought that, being a healer, she would have taken care of that.

Journal - First Entry
From the Storm to the Harbinger

After nearly four fortnights since the storm, I find myself increasingly confused by the strange customs and lore of this plane. From this point on, I have chosen to keep a record of our travels in the hopes that it will help me to better understand the present and in turn, will shed light on my past.

I am told it began with a great storm. The winds threw themselves unforgivingly against the ships until they finally tore through them. I woke up on the beach with a strange creature licking at my face. I later learned that this creature was called “bear” and I heard his name, “Ursis”, in the wind. There was a man laying nearby, still breathing. When he woke up an hour or so later he introduced himself as Layne, a great pirate of a now devastated clan. So Layne, Ursis, and I set out in search of riches and glory, as I am told the custom is.

We joined a passing merchant’s caravan and set north towards the kingdom of Avaria. The caravaneers were strange but nice enough. We spent seven days on the lookout for bandits, sharing stories by firelight. The others told their stories while I listened, since I can’t remember any of my own.

We allied with Wikka, a long-eared cleric; Rogar, a scaley fighter; and Sonil, a dark man with many secrets. Our party left the caravan in Taliston, a city on the eastern shores of the Talis River. With our purses light and rations dwindling, we set out towards the job board at the center of town.

There were a few notices for missing pets, a bounty on the head of a chieftain, and a note offering one thousand Talons for an untold task. The last caught our attention.

We met with a woman in the temple who told us that she was searching for something lost. She said only that we would know it when we found it. We were to meet with her tracker near Silvervein, a town a day’s travel away. The job seemed unusual, but paid well.

The temple’s halls were lined with statues of a beautiful woman carved in blue stone. With the overwhelming newness of everything, I hadn’t noticed that blue skin was a rarity here. Most men were squishy and pink, some were green and wrinkly, even less were tall and scaley, but few — and by few I mean none but Layne and I — were blue. Of course, Lanye is paler, sometimes it is noticeable only when you are looking for it or under the right light. He reminds me of the cold, of ice, and of the mist over the fields of Taregyn; like a man out in the cold too long before he seeks fire.

Since then I have worn a cloak and hood in public, mostly as a ward against questions I can’t answer.

Needing rest, we made our way to the inn. I remembered one particular job posting and found Blynn working in the tavern. The small goblin said that her “Mittens” had been last seen near the well a couple of days before. Some wondered if Mittens was real, but we went to search the area anyways. There were a few gashes in the stonework; claw marks from either from a predatory cat or large dog. The others said that if Mittens had ever really existed… it probably didn’t anymore. We used some items from our packs to make a simple trap and went back to the inn for the night. The others who had stayed behind hired a mercenary, Hoggar, a bestial, giddy thing, to help us find our item.

The seven of us left town at dawn, past an unsurprisingly empty trap. Our journey was fairly quiet, except for a carrier pigeon that may have been, but was not, carrying a message to our enemies. Sonil had used one of his well-aimed spells to be sure and the creature exploded in a burst of feathers. At least it wasn’t a complete waste; Ursis ate what was left of it.

We arrived at the shop, The Bottomless Quiver, where we were to meet Nerik, the tracker. There was some sort of strange conversation, possibly an argument between Wikka, Layne, and the owners, but Layne would not explain it more than four times. It had to do with “imposters” or “frauds”, but the couple seemed nice enough to me.

The tracker led us to the place where he had last seen a group of Kobolds. Following their footsteps and rotten stench, we ambushed the abominations. I landed a finishing blow on the skull of the last survivor just as the others shouted at me to leave one alive for questioning. They did not have the item but we took a map from their bodies instead. The journey back was quiet and we returned quickly to the temple.

The woman, who I now understand is called Keilara, told us that her item was stolen away to a Kobold’s lair. She said the map would show us where it was, but since it was written in Goblin we would have to translate it first. We were again given few details, except that we would know the relic when we found it.

We entered the tavern hoping Blynn could translate our map but were told that she was missing. We were led to her room but found only an electrum piece in her bedding. Layne thought it best that he hold on to it and added it to his satchel. Sonil noticed a strange lamp, shinning in an otherwise dusty room. When he touched it, a door opened up to the rivers flowing underneath the city.

Wikka pulled a lump of enchanted chalk from her bag and used it to trace our movements through the twisting passages — and to label the door with the “whores” behind it. The passage eventually opened up to a portcullis flanked by two guards. They warned that there were a number of dangerous creatures ahead the culvert was closed to the public. After some persuasion they were convinced of our obvious skill and allowed us to pass.

We waded through corpses that seemed to be turned out from the inside, and eventually came to an open area where we saw Blynn among the carcasses. Before we could reach her body we were ambushed by a cloud of insects swarming furiously around us.

We were beaten and bloodied when a streak of black tore at the swarm. It was much larger than a kitten, with two curling tentacles rising from its shoulders—I recognized the thing as a displacer beast. Even though I had been told that they were violent and filled with hatred, this one was fighting to protect Blynn’s unconsious body.

My knowledge of local fauna may be incomplete, but I knew enough not to wager against the displacer beast.

When Blynn woke up, she thanked us for finding her Mittens.

She thanked us for saving her life. We accepted the gratitude, too proud or maybe too surprised to correct her. After escorting her back to the inn she offered to reward us with her single electrum piece, if only she could find it. Layne returned the coin that he had taken for “safe keeping”, and asked only that she translate our map. She also brought us a basket of fresh muffins to take with us on our journey to the lair, which we now knew was hidden among the northern reaches.

We took another night’s rest at the inn. Whether it was the darkness, the drink, or the number of our party, we left with our friend Wikka still in bed.

Along the road, almost a day out of town, we spotted a camp of Kobolds. They had a prisoner hung upside-down near the far corner of their camp, his cloak falling limply over his face.

The bodies of the savages littered the camp as we cut the man free. He said that he was itchy. I tried to make him a salve for his rash, but found the local herbs unfamiliar.

We made camp downwind of the path. Sonil offered to scout the area for dangers while we set up but returned with nothing of note.

In the early morning we were awakened by a scream and the crashing of broken glass. We followed the sounds south, across the road, to a gnome sobbing over the broken pieces of a mirror. She tried to hide a bunch of strange markings on her back as she pulled the silk of her robe around her naked body. She explained that she was searching for an artifact but could not read her map. We offered to help her find it if we could keep any other treasure that we might find. She agreed, introducing herself as Tamra, and asked if we were adventuring with a man with a long black beard who smelled of dead birds.

We hadn’t noticed that Sonil did not come with us. No one had seen him since the evening and he hadn’t woken any of us to take over the night watch. Sonil was missing and, with him, our map.

Tamra said that he had visited her several hours before. He had seen the map on her back but she refused to let him copy it and berated him until he left. A cold draft across her exposed back woke her early the next morning. Her tent flap was hanging open and she noticed that her quill had been disturbed.

We followed Tamra’s map as quickly as possible. I copied it from her back on to a piece of parchment and attempted to recreate our own. Layne said my map didn’t look quite right, but I was fairly confident in my ability.

Back in Taliston, Wikka hired two drakes to track us. She met with us later that afternoon as we were wandering, lost, in the forest. Layne hired the pair, hoping that they could set us on the right path. We looked over the land to the north and the south but the forest was too thick.

Somehow we made our way to a cave guarded by a creeping ooze. Our attacks seemed to glance through it, but the fight was simply tedious and not particularly hard. When the ooze sunk through the cracks between the stones at our feet we spotted a pool of water at the far end of the cavern.

At the bottom of the pool there was a tomb that had been recently disturbed. The item Tamra was seeking had already been taken. There was an inscription written in an old language describing the mask of an unknown wind goddess.

Glimmering under the surface we noticed four small lockboxes. The water was shallow enough that we could easily reach the bottom and pull them out. Wikka, Layne, Rogar and myself each took one. I opened mine to a soft blue glow and pulled a strong, balanced spear from it. The point shines brightly when I hold it, dimly when I pass it to Layne, and—other than being skillfully crafted—seems perfectly common otherwise. Wikka found a statue of some god unkown to me, but traded it to Roggar for his box. Layne found a strange potion that none of us could identify. And Wikka’s second lockbox, which was apparently much bigger on the inside, brought forth a woman dressed in heavy shining armour; a paladin that swore to serve Wikka without end.

We tried to find our way to the Kobold lair by following the map I drew but found ourselves, again, wandering lost in the woods. The itchy one then pulled his own map from his pocket, and admitted he was on his way to claim the chieftain’s head when he was captured.

Finding the lair was easy enough with a proper map. When we arrived, the face was covered in old growth and shielded by the thick forest above—no drake could have helped us find it. The floors near the entrance were old and weak and when Ursis, being less than agile, stepped on one of the weaker boards the floor caved in under us. Most of us were able to jump to safety in time but Wikka fell in and was injured.

The rest of us made our way through the twisting lair, finding the chieftain. When we attacked the Kobold sitting in his elaborate king-chair of feathers and bone, we realized that this creature was weak, too weak to be the leader of an entire clan. We sparred with the rest of his “court” and finding the last abomination standing strongest of them all, guessed that he was the true chieftain. Though harder to defeat, he, too, was slain. Layne struck a powerful finishing blow and was cursed with the chieftain’s last breath.

The shaman begged that we end the fighting and allowed us to take our relic, a candle, and leave peacefully. We also demanded the head of the double, since the body of the chieftain had vanished into darkness.

I know Keilara had faith that we would recognize the relic we sought, but I can’t help but think it was ill-placed. A candle. Honestly, it looked completely unremarkable to me. But the Shaman seemed intimidated enough not to cross us, so we hoped that we had not wasted a trip.

We returned to the temple and, after leaving Wikka with the temple healers, went to speak to Keilara.

She inspected the artifact, telling us that this was indeed the item we were sent to retrieve. We learned it was called the Light of Seilessa, but it’s purpose remained unknown to us. Next, she said, we were to meet with Greym at Runehide keep, enter a tournament and win a prize that she needed. Again, this was all we were told.

Since Wikka had been injured, Roggar and the paladin stayed behind to take care of her. Sonil had abandoned us, Hoggar had his own matters to attend to—and honestly I think we were glad to be free from his irritating chuckle— and Tamra, having fallen in love with Taliston, stayed behind to open an Alchemy shop. Keilara arranged to have a newly vowed paladin, Pip, join us. She seemed tense, maybe a little stuck up, but we were happy to have the help.

Before leaving town we stopped at the shops to buy more supplies and to upgrade our equipment. Knowing Ursis could use some better armour, I paid for a special set of bearding for him. I paid a fee for what they called a “rush order”, and was sure that we would be back within a week.

We met our guide at the Orc village and decided that Layne, who was eager for another brawl, would be our champion. The competition was easy for him and he was awarded many precious gifts. Among gold, gems, and tokens, he was given a decent holding of land on the marshes south west of Taliston, an intricately carved signet ring, and an… ample princess, apparently a great beauty among Orcs, to take as his bride. That evening a feast was held in his honour with enough drinks to satiate even the most thirsty pirate. In the morning we found him in bed with both princesses and a dire badger, and a strange marking on his back that none of us told him about. A song was written in his honour, and sometimes we hear echos of it while we travel.

A pigeon brought us a message from Keilara saying that we would meet with her sister in Portridge. As we were leaving we noticed a figure in white robes tending to the dead. The itchy one was eager to leave the stench-ridden hole so we went without introducing ourselves. Pip worried that it may have been a sort of divine intervention, but Itchy said that he doesn’t believe in those gods. Pip said believe or not, he must be either a brave or foolish man to intentionally insult them.

Layne confided in us that he had been hearing voices, but dismissed it as an effect of the night’s spirits.

On the crossroads, Pip explained that the white-robed figure was a member of the Revian order, who are worshipers of the old gods, the keepers of the dead, harbingers of death, and some other number of scary things. She told us of the ancient city of Keilaris that had vanished nearly three hundred years ago, leaving a crater and a viscous plague in its absence. The last person seen entering the city was the Revian known as the White Herald; the paladin Eric Whitemane. The city, she said, was the home of the worshipers of the blue goddess, believed to be the descendants of frost giants.

I wondered if I was a frost giant, but decided that I probably wasn’t tall enough. Although… I am technically gigantic.

I should probably speak now about my past. I remember only glimpses of it, like a dream, or like shapes through a flame. Sometimes I am reminded by something—a smell or taste, a word or melody—and an image flashes in my memory but fades before I can grasp it. I remember ice and fire, waves and boats, a loving smile, and then nothing. A traveler taught me an old Syndr phrase: Law pain i reviar mistar ae. It means “Not all those who wander are lost”. It comforts me. I like to think that I might be on some unknown path, like I am heading somewhere, even if I don’t know where that is.

After the city had vanished, the only person known to escape was a Silvestine, one of Aluvia’s six affluent families. From what I understand, “affluent” was a generous term for them, as they lived mostly on the edge of high society. Rumours spread that it was a gift from the Silvestines that caused the disappearance of the city and the ruling family, the Alestines, with it. Their name fell further into disfavour, and most proud Alluvians spat when the Silvestine name was heard.

Some hours down the road we found Keilara’s naked body strung up in a tree surrounded by corpses. We lowered her body to the ground where she convulsed, rising up again. She began scratching at the itchy one, and I was joyed that our thoughtful Keilara had survived. But when I hugged her tightly, she crumpled to the ground. Vowing to right my mistake, we wrapped her body in a collection of cloths from our bags and lifted her onto Ursis’s back so that we could find the Revian priest and beg him to resurrect her.

We hoped that she did not have a DNR filed away at the temple.

Layne continued hearing voices, and it seemed to be a sort of count down. That morning it had whispered “…one day”. We began to worry.

We met with Lyndee, Keilara’s sister in Portridge’s temple. The other said that they did not look like sisters. Lyndee’s bright red hair fell in waves over her soft face and delicate shoulders while Keilara’s, dark and straight, brushed against her striking features. To be honest, all the squishy pink ones look the same to me.

We told her about the crossroads and the tree, pointing towards the bundle on Ursis’s back.

Keilara’s body was taken into one of the chambers and prepared for a ritual. The priests summoned a harbinger so that we might make a deal with it. We offered another soul in exchange for Keilara’s, hoping that the demon possessing Layne would appease them. The harbinger told us that if we failed to overpower the beast another soul would be chosen. As the deal was made Keilara’s eyes fluttered open and I hugged her, but more gently this time.

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