CW: Threat of child murder, children related whump.
The first entry.
I'm going to be a father. Again.
God, what have I done? I'm old. I'm experienced. I should have known better. I did know better, but truly, I didn't think it was possible. Elves and halflings are incompatible mating species. Why take precautions against that which simply cannot happen? But of course our union had to be blessed by such an untimely miracle! This must be punishment. Deserved. My wife is hardly three months dead, and here I am, rutting about like some animal, carelessly sowing my seed, inconsiderate of consequences.
I don't think Odiri even understands exactly how bad this all is. She is young. She has never experienced nature's miracles as this before. I doubt she has loved more men than can be counted on a hand. She's spoken of her want of children in the past, but her desire to breed has taken her with such a desperate force that it has made her willfully ignorant. I had hoped Odiri would listen to me and agree to give up the child, but she flew into such a tearful rage at the suggestion of it that it swayed my weakness. She'd sooner die trying. Allaya had said nearly the same words to me. I could do nothing but relent. That light of happiness in her eyes! That hope! I'm a fucking monster.
My heart is torn. If I could give Odiri the world, all that she ever wanted, I would. I swore off family in respect of that which I left behind, and now I break that promise for her sake. Is it my fate to be an oathbreaker all my life? I am haunted. I know this will end in tragedy. It cannot end any other way. Halflings may be hardy, but no woman deserves to suffer the pain of a lost child. I saw how it tore Allaya apart, again, and again, and again. There, it was a matter of duty. Obligation. Necessity. Odiri may see this that way, but how could she possibly care enough of her dying village to risk her life for it when she abandoned it? And even if this does end in success, somehow, our child would be nothing short of an abomination, unfit for life, incapable of a normal existence. I cannot imagine a worse fate.
I love Odiri. I love her with all my soul. And for this reason alone will I stand by her in this business. To do anything less is cruel. I cannot leave her alone to suffer, and suffer I know that she will. Even in the best of scenarios, pregnancy is a visceral thing. In the worst, it is deadly. She needs to be protected, helped. Better that I be with her and support her however I am able. This is all my fault, anyway. The least I can do is make my repentance.
The following entry.
Our most recent ventures beyond the wall continue to shake my awareness.
Having spent a few days settling Odiri into my cottage, we both found ourselves desiring a change of scenery and the company of others. Heading to the Rose Shell was a terrible idea, of course, as there were even more meddlesome newcomers to the charter. My attention was first drawn to the two Odiri has already told me a little about. R'kanna, a young dragonborn bard, and her guardian-escort, a stern-looking woman by the name of Tempest. I'll admit, I was not terribly fond of them at first. Why the hell were so many dragonborns coming to town all of a sudden? Was this one related to Roth too? Perhaps not. She was hardly grown, so much so that Oranssi felt the need to ask her age before handing her sake. (As though that ever stopped anyone). It was difficult to find her nearly as intimidating as the others of her kind who I'd met. She had all the countenance of a child, too honest and open, her emotions worn plain on her face. And friendly to a fault, too. I noticed that she went out of her way to introduce herself to every person she came in contact with, even if briefly. Tempest was certainly of much fewer words. Though, Charka very adamantly liked her, making a point to sit at her feet for the duration of the afternoon. If Charka likes her, she must be good. Really, I trust her judgement more than I do my own.
The other newcomer in particular intrigued me. A snotty little half-elf with a familiar face who I honestly could not place. Something about him was infuriatingly familiar. Frondel, as he introduced himself, was apparently a local who lived out in the farmlands. Suspicious. I'd certainly never seen him before. But good god, I already hated him. No manners, no respect, and no tact. Shameless little lech, too. The only thing more naively excitable than his penis is his juvenile personality. Since when did we allow children into our company's ranks? I'm sick of playing a damn tour guide to toddlers!
We were eventually joined by Kethra after she had finished a performance on the main stage. Fronel was immediately rather enthusiastic about her presence in our company. Figures. Shei arrived with a round of Maiden's Breath, of which Oranssi had taken the liberty of ordering extra for Odiri. I gave her a pointed look and she caught my meaning, begrudgingly requesting tea instead. Though, her little vengeance on the matter was to also limit me to tea. To Shei's credit, she did attempt to bring me my usual wine, only for Odiri to push that away from me too. Just because she can't drink doesn't mean I shouldn't!
I got a chance to catch up with Oranssi as the others conversed amongst themselves. It is admittedly a little bizarre to see him so infrequently after having essentially lived with him for over a month. He was wearing his paper mask, hiding his face. As he briefly expleained, he was the one who had died and been resurrected on the last adventure out. Ah, so that's what Blood Spattered Snow Tiger had meant. He did not elaborate any further, and I did not press him. I'm sure he was still recovering from the whole assuredly nasty experience. Death is a hell of a thing, but to be wrenched back into the mortal coil from it is another. I made no comments as to his drinking of unblessed wine. I understand a thing or two about the need for numb comforts in the face of trauma…
The following morning, Odiri was in a bit of a state, to say the least. She was looking sicker and sicker by the minute as we went around to retrieve Frivolity's cart and made our way to the Rose Shell. She hardly managed a step inside before the overwhelming smell of food sent her reeling back outside, leaning heavily on Dusty for support. I was deeply concerned and tried to convince her out of going with us, but was met with a slur of curses in Abyssal. It would not be a stretch to say that, from the frequency of it, I have acquired a working knowledge of how to swear in Abyssal. As the case was, she would not be moved. I retrieved our usual weapons inside, grabbing the protective shortsword and sheath for myself as well.
Heading out to the wall, we passed Tim and Bob, who once again were beside themselves at the sight of Kethra. They greeted Frondel by name, inquiring after "Lena". It's honestly infuriating that I can't place who he is. Though, I had a delightful little moment of amusement at Frondel's expense when his key appeared as a tattoo on his face, sending him wailing. Wow, must be so hard to have your face disfigured. I really wouldn't know. I was distracted from that mess, however, by the voices of False Indigo and Griffin Bait complaining to the matter of being taken beyond the wall again. It honestly had never occurred to me that horses might be included in my ability to understand animals. Collien and Dusty both gave their own snide comments on the matter, before returning to monosyllabics. I feel… more than a little foolish…
We retraced our path from our last trip beyond the wall, going along the Wall until we reached the River Mara. R'kanna was particularly upset that we had not been sharing our maps with everyone. Sweet summer child. By sunset, we had reached the same camp we had made the week prior. Odiri was fussy with me over something or another. Truthfully, I do not recall. It's been a frequent occurrence as of late. Forgivable, considering…
There would be no rest that night as R'kanna nudged me out of my meditation. No sooner had I grabbed my sword than we were assaulted by four wolves, three direwolves, and three werewolves. Odiri shot a an arrow of lightning into the cache of direwolves, but was knocked down. I jumped in to defend her, striking two at once with a sweep of my sword. One was instantly slashed dead, the second finished off by Charka. R'kanna, hackles raised and in that naturally terrifying capacity all dragonborns posses, roared at them, attracting the werewolves in her direction. "You fools," one called to the others, "we are not here for her!" Ah, for Naligor then. Of course they were. One went in and ripped a chunk out of R'kanna's shoulder, to which she responded, "You bite like a bitch!". Bold! I like her spark! Tempest ran out into the water, conjuring the visage of her goddess Calypso and sending a wave of thunder through the field. Frondel screamed, shit himself, and went invisible. Of course. (There are times I am grateful for my keen sense of smell. This was not one of those times). Oranssi shouted back to the werewolves in Naligor's defense, and out of his mouth came a surge of motes of light, transforming into a swarm of locusts. Kethra, running out to the water to join Calypso, sang a clear note, dropping the werewolves to their knees, Xiao killing one of them. I slayed another wolf, and R'kanna killed two more with a strike of lightning. The attackers began to retreat, but we would not let them get away. Oranssi struck a werewolf with one of his silver draggers, Tempest felling it with a deft throw of her trident. At that moment, Frondel finally decided to join us, shooting out a pathetic magic missile that miraculously felled the last of our opponents. I gave him a stern warning. As much as I despise him, he had signed the charter. But if he wouldn't pull his own weight, I would make sure this was the last time he ever went beyond the Wall. Ever.
Odiri and I got into another spat as she went to dress the wolf corpses. There was no way she would get a full night of rest if she stayed up to work, and her rest was much needed. I was already averse to the very idea of Odiri going on this adventure. It was just too dangerous for her to be beyond the wall. I know she is capable, but there are things in the wilds that simply cannot be predicted. She was none too happy, of course, and relented only when Tempest came between us to settle things. I stayed up the night finishing the pelts, frustrated. I must be more aware of how public our arguments tend to be, because the following morning, everyone was coddling and tending to Odiri in one way or another. That certainly wasn't my intention… Later, as Odiri rode very pointedly ahead of and away from me, I asked that the others dial back their attentions. They were overwhelming my love's sensibilities.
As our journey up the riverbank continued, Tempest was mysteriously called back by her glowing key, leaving R'kanna anxious and in our care. I kept a little closer to the cart. R'kanna had more than proven her worth and won me over. Perhaps it is because she is still a child, but her's is a refreshing sort of earnestness.
Suddenly, in puffs of black smoke, five weretigers surrounded us. Above, Blood Spatter's voice echoed, commanding their attack. Kethra and Odiri were the first into the fray, Kethra singing an inspiring praise for Odiri as she struck one with an arrow. Oranssi cast a spell over us that would enable us to walk on water, urging us to the safety of the river. I stayed in the fray, knowing I could not be harmed so long as the enchanted sheath remained on me. Frondel was knocked out in a single hit. I wouldn't have left him there, but the thought absolutely crossed my mind. Acting quickly, R'kanna threw him easily over her shoulder (Is she really so strong or is Frondel just a toothpick?) and ran to the water. Oranssi revived him as they reached the river. I ordered Charka to go with them and to help Odiri, who had come to the water's edge, but would not cross over it for fear of it. I could not go to her myself as two weretigers attacked, and I cut them both down in a single stroke. R'kanna struck with a fury of lightning, as Oranssi flipped his tunic to his battle colors, sending out a dagger suspended by spiritual magic. The sky grew dark as great grey cloud gathered over our heads. Blood Spatter was incensed, and commanded a strike where it would hurt most.
"Kill the child." That's what that bitch had said. "Kill the child."
I thought at first that she had meant R'kanna, but that ghostly hand raised a claw in Odiri's direction and time just <i>stopped</i>. My entire body was put in blindness, skin humming with anger and my mind acting in that ancient animal instinct all fathers have for their brood. I remember cleaving one of the tigers down, sword cutting through flesh in vengeful satisfaction of death. The other vaporized before my eyes, particles of ash sticking to the slicks of blood on my arms. Xiao had grabbed Odiri, throwing her on his back and running her to the water. Or he must have, because Odiri fired the last killing arrow from atop him, shouting up into the sky that a mother is nothing to be fucked with. It was over, but my bones were left still vibrating in anxiety and coldfire fury.
I threw my sword aside and ran across the water, sight like a tunnel focused only on Odiri. She wasn't moving, hardly breathing. I picked her off of Xiao, taking her in my arms and getting her back to the shore, collapsing to my knees in the rocky sand, surrounding her with my body and embracing her close to my chest. Her skin was cold, clammy, and I knew the look in her eyes. It was that of soldiers who had seen too much death, too horrible for words or for the mind to make any sense of it. God, I wished I'd never have to see her suffer that. Nobody deserves it, but not her especially.
Around us, voices. But they felt distant, like words through water. I could feel the familiar burn of the key glowing and the change of the ground beneath us. We were back, but it was a dim acknowledgement. I stood, but kept Odiri in my arms. All along her body, muscles twitched light and irregular, commands to them misfiring and fizzling out. Putting her in one arm, I took Dusty and Collien's reigns to walk us all away from this place. I did not wait on the others. Who were they?
I could not help but feel the weight of brutal irony on me like a ball and chain, dragging as we walked slowly on the narrow road between the farming fields. I had wanted the child dead. I still do, in some ways, only because I understand that the weight of its life may be too much for Odiri to bear. I would rather have only her than them neither. But this has…. shocked me. I knew I shouldn't have let her go beyond the wall. I knew it, and I tried to stop her, but she would not be swayed. Stubborn, stubborn girl. I love her so much I despise her at times.
I did not let her out of my arms until we had made it to our bed, until she fell into sleep and breathed calm again. I cannot let her out of my sights, never again.
On my life, I swear I will see that Yomi bitch slain.