Wherein No-one Knows How to Magic

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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