(OOC: Long overdue lmao)
Tribulations. My god, tribulations!
I returned from my sojourn rather late in the night before Solstice. I'd promised to be back in town by then, but I am plagued to admit the reason was not so plain as I had told Odiri. While away in solitude on the coast, I had penned a necessary letter to my wife. It was not lies, per say, but I did omit some truths I probably should not have. It would be her first word from me in nearly six decades. To inform her that I was potentially engaging in an affair would be… well… Can a man really be blamed?
At first break of dawn on Solstice, I was up and out the door, hoping I would go unnoticed. I had a boat to catch before it left town. Prior to my departure, I'd come to an arrangement with the captain of a small vessel. For the exchange of some furs I'd poached while beyond the wall, he would ferry my letter to my wife. I pray it finds her. Alive.
When I returned, intending to rest a little longer, I found at my door an attendant bearing a package of clothes from Madam Saru. Ah, the festival. I believe the attendant was there to help me dress, but I asked him to simply explain the process and leave me be. Blessedly, he obliged and did not press the issue. I bathed privately, happy to be clean of a week's-worth of grit, and dressed. The garments, as comfortable and refreshing as they were, left me feeling rather exposed. I would never dream of wearing something that left my marred skin so much uncovered. I had kept a few of my noble garments, but such attire would probably draw even more attention onto me. I'd just have to bear this. Once I'd finally come downstairs and made my way to our company table, I saw that everyone else was similarly dressed, to varying degrees of success. Frivolity seemed the worst among us. He was practically wearing the thing backwards. I have a number of suspicions to his curious demeanor, but perhaps he is not so unusual for his kind as he seems to my elven sensibilities. I have hardly encountered any Tieflings before him. In any case, this only somewhat relieved my anxieties. I was quickly distracted from my thoughts by my
- now concerningly regular- excess of drinking and some rather rowdy discussion to the debatably natural quality of Madam Saru's breasts.
I only half-heard Shei make some announcement to the common room before down the steps descended a familiarly short frame, but a completely unrecognizable face. It had to have been Odiri, but… my god. She was something lovely. The palpable discomfort from wearing such complicated dress did take away from her pretty visage some, but I refrained from saying anything at all. The others were not so considerate, to say the least, and ripped into her. I tried to be of some assistance to the situation and suggested that we should all head out to the festival, hoping to draw attention off of her. I helped her to her wobbling feet and offered my arm, which she seemed to happily take. I felt my heart flutter in my chest— it cannot be helped.
Walking into town, we fell behind the rest, of course, but I did not mind. At least it gave us some time together. The thought crossed my mind that she may have done this for my sake, considering I'd expressed so frequently before my vexation with her unladylike. Perhaps she'd taken it as a cue to go the most womanly extreme? In truth, I rather liked her messy self. It was endearing in its own right, but, beyond that, she could keep up with me, and even best me. Oh god, what thoughts are these!
We arrived at last to the center of town, where the festival was in full swing. It seemed like the whole population had come out for the celebration, buzzing with a happy, fervent energy. I had never been one for such festivities back home, but this was such a welcome change from the usual pace of things. It was silly, really, but I felt a little lost among all the commotion. Crowds has always unnerved me—difficult to predict, hard to control, dangerous in combat— but even more so still since I left the woods. As much as I may have been helping Odiri along, her comforting presence was undoubtedly helping me more.
An arena of sorts had been constructed for the purpose of a tournament of wooden swords. A number of poor were gathered around the entrance, unable to pay the small fee to spectate. Kodu and Oranssi paid for them all. I would expect such behavior of Kodu, but Oranssi's charitable spirit was more surprising than I'd like to admit. Not that I have ever pinned him for selfish, but to reach out to strangers so openly was pleasantly unexpected. Kodu and Frivolity both entered to compete in the conclave. I thought the whole thing a trifle, had no desire to participate, and would join Oranssi in the stands. Odiri paid her entry fee as well, which did not surprise me any, but I did point out to her that it would be rather difficult to fight in a dress and when so heavily ornamented. She'd be at considerable disadvantage. She was rather indignant at the comment, but was unable to leave my side unless she wished to forfeit my steadying arm. I suppose there were some more selfish benefits to chivalry.
The tournament would not be for a few hours, so we were off to kill time at the festival's many game booths. Again, Odiri and I strayed behind, chatting amongst ourselves and handing a flask back and forth. I suspect that our companions have some sort of investment in our <s>courtship</s> relationship, because as we walked, Soveliss cast some sort of illusion upon me. Rather suddenly, the expressions of the party changed to ones of shock and awe. I was rather confused at what he'd done until Odiri tugged at my sleeve and offered her flask. I glanced at my reflection in it and was startled by the sight of my own face, clean and free of hideous scars. I had nearly forgotten my own natural appearance. Even in the woods, I avoided my own sight unless it was necessary. Once, I'd been rather a beauty. Noble breeding and good fortune will do much. I assume the gasps and dismay from the others were at the realization of this fact. But the war took that all from me. I am a man of little vanity, and if not for the constant stares of passerby, I would hardly feel the loss of my good looks. But the fact that— at least upon first meeting — so many cannot return my gaze for fear or disgust of me is difficult to ignore. For a moment, I felt normal again. Soveliss must have seen my amazement and offered kindly to teach me. I do not know if I will take him up on that, but it is certainly tempting.
The first game was a ring toss. Albion, who I did not think had a dexterous bone in his body— no offense—, easily won. A victory came with a prize of some sort, and his was a scroll with some mechanical contraption sketched on it. Everyone else was given a paper prize of some sort, all of which were either dispensed out to passing children or stuck onto Albion's horns for the fun of it.
Next was a water jar game. I had thought not to participate at all, but the spirit of competition got the better of me after seeing Soveliss, Kodu, and Oranssi all fail. I won, but my prize was a little bag containing two tin soldiers, one of which was beheaded. Rather morbid for what I assume was meant to be children's game. It is only by virtue of having to manage myself so often that I was able to shove down the images that particular little trinket conjured. I hastily put it out of sight. Beheadings were never so clean in real life.
Next, we approached a booth where Mato, of all people, was sat on a stool. I only will admit this in the privacy of this journal, but something stirs every time I see that man. I have had a few men in my time, sure. I'm no stranger to such things. But by god, he's a specimen. He welcomed us and informed that the object of this game was to guess his age. That could not have been fair. The man was ancient! We could ask questions, but there were rules to be followed. Kodu being… well… Kodu, went about it with an absolutely inane line of questioning. Admittedly, he has learned much in the ways of correct social interaction, but there is still much road to travel in his unfortunate case. I've met many monks, but none like him. Perhaps it was his specific sect? Or is this merely a product of so few years of life? I fear I am out of touch. He did successfully guess, however, so I suppose there is that to say in his credit. His prize was a rather large jar of Griffin Grease. Whatever the hell that is escapes me, so I can only guess at its use. We did have to convince him to keep it, as he almost immediately went to hand it to a child. His charity may get him into trouble some day. I do not think he is naive enough to be taken advantage of severely, but who is to know? I worry sometimes.
As we proceeded on to the next booth, Frivolity was having quite some trouble with his yukata. Bits were coming undone and he could hardly walk in the thing, tail swinging about. As ridiculous looking as it was, I could only feel pity for him. Shei approached and tried to assist, but she only made things worse. In the struggle to re-dress, the garment ripped, revealing that Frivolity was wearing a corset underneath. He ran away in embarrassment before any more could be revealed. A corset was hardly much to make a fuss about. Though they are women's garments, I have heard of some fops wearing them to improve their figure. Frivolity certainly seemed like the type who would. Suspicious, sure, but to what conclusion? It's rather good then, I suppose, that Frivolity's abilities rely so heavily on magic. That can't be safe to wear in hand combat.
Next was a slingshot game, in which Kodu was the victor. His prize of a mosaic tile was handed off to a happy child. Odiri was positively fuming by this point of the day. She'd taken a turn at every single game and lost miserably, her grip on my arm tightening angrily every time she returned to my side. Others certainly noticed her pint sized fury, including the lucky child. They approached, handing her the mosaic tile piece and saying, "Us kids gotta stick together!" She was stunned to silence as the rest of the party laughed at her expense. Guiltily, I must add, myself included. I can only assume she'd been mistaken this way before. Not that that makes it any better, but. She pressed on ahead of us to the next game.
We came to a target shoot, which Kodu, Odiri, and I entered. Not much of a challenge itself, but my competitive spirit was renewed in facing off with Odiri in particular. A true vie of skill! About as much as I expected, Kodu struck out with some of the worst shooting I'd ever seen. I knew it wasn't his chief skill, but there was no way he was really that bad. Perhaps his luck ran out? The targets were reset for just the two of us. I knew I was the better shot, but why was I so tense then, next to her? I glanced over, covering my apprehensions with a disdainful glance in her direction. She caught my eyes, fumbled, and only for that did I win. I feel a bit of a cheat for that, but the knowledge that it was my look that so unset her is… well… She was livid, of course, but got a good laugh at my expense when the prize turned out to be a petrified mouse. I mean, I thought it was neat, but I let her have her moment of gloating over my perceived misfortune. We moved on to another game, a coin guess run by Madam Saru, but I was distracted by Odiri's intense rage and paid it no mind. Soveliss won, and still hotter her anger burned.
Before we could move on to the next game, the gong sounded, signaling the start of the tournament. Heading to the arena, Frivolity caught up with us, dressed in his usual clothing. I felt like that was a bit of an unfair advantage, considering everyone else was still in festival garb, but I digress. As we got inside, Odiri started savagely stripping off all her ornaments, throwing everything into my arms as she girded up her loins. Smart, so I suppose I'd have to bear being her attendant for the time, not that I minded. I wished her victory, and she seemed surprised that I was speaking honestly. What reason had I to wish her ill? I believed she would win. She's ferocious, she's capable.
The first match was between her and and James, one of the guards at port. Probably the quickest bout I've ever seen. She hit him once, and he was down with a discombobulated surrender. Ha! I had a bit of a laugh as she strode back over. As we watched the next couple of matches, I leaned over the railing to pass back and forth the flask. A bit of liquor always goes down well with entertainment. The match between Kodu and Bob from the Gate when about the same with a single strike finish. Kodu did help his opponent to his feet; he's a good kid, even if he is a bit of annoying shit. The only reason I haven't put him into a headlock over language semantics yet is because I know he'd beat me. I've never been good with hand-to-hand, and I don't think I could live down that kind of defeat. Frivolity matched up against Gabriel, another port guard, and felled him on the second stroke. Naligor had finally arrived to join us by this point in the afternoon, resting off a hangover perhaps. Charka certainly missed him, seeing as she immediately perked up at his presence. He gave his hellos, we exchanged some snidery, and he went to sit up elsewhere in the stands, where he was filled in on the proceedings by a fantastically boisterous local. A mysteriously masked entrant next went up against Tim, Bob's partner. I couldn't particularly recognize who it was, though his stance and style seemed familiar. More than a few hits were exchanged before Tim was unfortunately felled by the man.
Odiri handed her flask back up to me as she went out to face Frivolity. I had full confidence that she would win, but as the bout went on, far longer than all the others, I found my worry growing with each strike. I had not expected Frivolity to be quite so good with a sword. Odiri was getting absolutely pummeled, so I couldn't help but whoop with joy when she finally landed a hit on the tiefling. Across the jaw! Spectacular! But one good strike is not enough to win a battle. I could see her wobbling on her feet as Frivolity rained down blows on her, and it pained me that I could do nothing but sit there and grind my teeth as she was beaten down. Odiri fell, and I immediately hopped over the barrier, lifting her up and carrying her out of the ring. We retreated up into the stands and I tended to her. In hindsight, my god, how that must have looked. Well, if our relations weren't obvious before, I'm sure they were quite obvious then. As I cast healing on her and made her comfortable, Naligor came down to give his simpering commentary. I said I wasn't her lover, which is true. We have had no relations of that sort… yet. (Oh god, head out of the gutter, Eucarion. You're married! I should at least wait until I get a response…) Soveliss had some similar jabs to throw, to which I responded in kind. None too pleased, he dropped the illusion that had been keeping my face clean. A few heads turned in our direction and I knew I was being stared at, but it simply didn't matter. All my focus was on Odiri.
As Odiri came in and out of wakefulness, I sat with her across my lap, intermittently fanning her and carding my hands through her hair soothingly as the next bout went on. Admittedly, my attentions were rather occupied as Kodu faced off against the masked man. The man hardly got a hit in between Kodu's talented assault. With a stellar hit, the mask tore and the man hit the ground. A-ha! It was Oranssi all along. I knew I recognized something about him. Some devilish part of me was rather pleased to see him knocked on his ass so gloriously.
After a break of an hour's time, both Odiri and Oranssi awoke. I was expecting Odiri to move, but, to my great satisfaction, she remained, propped up against my legs. The final bout between Kodu and Frivolity began. I expected a rather interesting match, but it was a stalemate! Neither would strike first! Mato eventually came down to the arena and called it a draw. The fury of the crowds at such a poor conclusion to the tourney was quickly quelled by Frivolity purchasing ale for everybody in the stands. The prize, an enchanted scabbard, was handed to Kodu.
The festival was once again bustling as the commotion of the crowd spilled back out of the arena. We moved on to play the rest of the games. I decided to sit them out, give Odiri more of a chance. One of those perfectly silly, chivalrous notions. In any case, I didn't leave her sight. She didn't seem quite steady on her own after that knock out. There was a bag toss, where Naligor won, and a fishing game, where Soveliss won an orb engraved with strange runes. We came to a "dunk the fool" sort of game, where the fool in question thought it funny to prey on Odiri. The barker didn't help any, as he mistook Odiri for a child. Twice in one day! Certainly does happen often. He did apologize and allow her a free turn, so I suppose there was something to be won. By the time she turned around to take a shot, Kodu had climbed into the fool's seat. Odiri was absolutely thrilled and, with a single well-placed shot, knocked him into the water with one of the most disturbing giggles I have ever heard.
The last game was a challenge to lift a barrel of water without spilling the water inside. Kodu, Albion, and Naligor all failed, but Oranssi, the clever shit, played smarter instead of harder. He cast something on the barrel, lightening it to where he could lift it. Absolutely cheating, but commendable that he'd even try. Soveliss, I assume because he is a fellow caster, noticed and caused an illusion of spilling water, forfeiting the win for Oranssi. The others encouraged me to give the barrel a go, so I obliged them. Oranssi's spell was still active, so I lifted it easily. I considered doing a one handed maneuver, but flashing a smirk in Oranssi's direction was enough to rub it in. The look on his face! Ha! Golden as his corps. The prize was some sort of packet of pink powder, which I handed over to Odiri. As much as there was groaning from the peanut gallery, she was pleased and that's what mattered.
As we continued to walk about the festival, admiring the sights, it began to rain quite suddenly. Then, everyone in town was frozen still, as though turned to stone, and as the hum of civilization was rendered deathly silent. A glowing dome of light from beyond the wall enveloped the sky above us. Naligor, trying to sense the nature of the magic, was brought to his knees in agony. As quickly as it came, the dome vanished. The people, too, vanished, and only the members of our party were left. Our keys began to glow with an unknown intensity, and we were all suddenly outfitted in our usual gear, armed with our weapons. In the distance, a black dragon, ridden by a weretiger and flanked by kobolds, rapidly approached us. There was no time to think before we were launched into a brutal battle. Odiri landed a shot on the dragon, and Naligor called upon the power of the moon as he transformed into a spider. We scarcely got into a formation before the dragon hit us full in the face with its acidic breath, swiping at us with its wings as it touched down. Frivolity brought down a few of the kobolds with a sleeping spell, killing them instantly as they hit the ground. My arrows flew true and Soveliss landed blows of fire on the dragon, but Kodu really shined in this battle. He grappled the thing! I forget he is so young, and I am only reminded at the strangest of times, in such feats of power most. As the weretiger jumped off the dragon's back, Albion landed a solid swing of his axe into him, shoving him with his horns too. Odiri shot at the dragon with her pistol— since when did she have a pistol? Naligor transformed into a direwolf, redirecting the moonbeam onto the tiger, while Frivolity downed the rest of the kobolds in the sky. The dragon faced our repeated blows as the weretiger was transformed back into a man, attacking Naligor. Soveliss jumped in to light up the tiger in a blaze of fire, but as he did, all his hair suddenly fell out! There would be a time and place to poke fun, and most assuredly I would, but that time was not then and nor was it the place. Motes of sunlight enveloped us as Oranssi healed our wounds. We fought on, viciously. Kodu beat down the dragon, killing it by slitting its throat in a fantastic spray of acid and blood. My god, he's something else. The man surrendered, but I could see from his attitude he meant it tauntingly. I was about to step in to defend his right, but Albion knocked him out cold with a mighty thunk of his axe.
After some argument as to what to do, we decided to take the dragon and the weretiger elsewhere to be dealt with and that the blood in the streets would be cleaned off. If the elders were to believe us that this happened, at least the print of the dragon's body would have to be left. As we carted everything away to a warehouse in port, a sudden rush of magic overtook the city once more and all the commotion of the festival resumed. There were no burns. There were no prints. There was no damage. There was not a thing at all. I felt keenly disturbed, as did the others. Naligor ran to fetch Elder Yen as Oranssi did Mato.
When they arrived at the warehouse, Soveliess tried to explain what had occurred, but Elder Yen did not care to listen to any of us. Mato commented that such an event "might have killed the last group", launching us into an even greater frenzy of questions. Thought it had been vaguely mentioned before by Madam Saru, she had not given the whole story. Mato explained that the last group of adventurers to come into town and carve her table had indeed disappeared during the rebellion, but there damages were found unrelated to the actions of the rebellion and the group's corpses were never found. In a fury, Oranssi stormed off with an exclamation of "that witch!" and nothing more. Soveliss tried to convince Elder Yen with the goblin scroll he'd found on the last outing beyond the wall, but nothing would sway him. At least Mato was sympathetic to our case. Yen doubts and in doing so, he invites war. How could he be so confident in the Wall's ability to protect the city? It may have in the past, but the town had never faced such dangers as now. There's Blood Spattered Snow Tiger, but there is the Goblin Queen too. What's more, only we, those who had marked upon the table, experienced what we had. We, of our own foolish wills, had gone beyond the wall and been branded by its keys. Branded indeed! Are we slave to it now, forced to fights its battles? And we did this, yes, but I alone did too. I joined this group of my own volition, and so have led myself to cursehood? I would have sooner stayed in the damn woods than involve myself in another war! Mato noticed my silence and reached out to me for my thoughts, but I could say nothing. He offered that we talk over tea on the matter, which placated me some. Odiri placed her hand on my arm, a small comfort that quieted the roar of my disquiet thoughts. As others vowed to stay and fight, I could not speak up.
We parted ways for the time, nothing else to be done then. Odiri and I walked solemnly back to the Rose Shell, seeking rest and decompression from the day's madness. But no relief there. The moment we entered, our eyes turned to the table. All the work, gone! Odiri's carvings, Adi's. All our marks upon it. This had to be Oranssi's doing. Odiri was outraged. I tried to console her, but she brushed me off and stormed upstairs. I followed, uneasy, and found her room a disaster of rage. She'd cut her foot on a broken mug too, so I stayed to tend to it and offer what comforts I could.
I will not lie here. We kissed, again. And we would have gone further too had I said nothing. Wandering thoughts of Allaya plague me still, and so long as I know not the state of her, I cannot break faith. I like Odiri. I do. But… No. I cannot. Too much noise occupies my agitated mind. I will speak to Mato, and perhaps take sanctuary in the temple if he should allow it. As much as it pains me to leave my companions, perhaps some time away from all of this will do me good…