Tales of Shore Blossom

Log I : Day 34
Eucarion's Journal

Odiri and I have settled back into a sort of routine. It's… nice. It really is. Having some semblance of normalcy restored has done wonders for the both of us, I think. It helps, to get the mind off things. We have started to visit Rose Shell regularly for that essential purpose of good company and fortifying drink, though we both watch our consumption with a bit more care these days.

This day's particulars revolved around going out to construct another waystation at the mouth of the Mara. Our ventures had taken us to that point frequently enough that we felt setting one up there would be useful. Adi had already been sitting with the two of us for some time, planning the particulars over wine and hopeful feelings, when Albion arrived with another minotaur in tow. I resisted the urge to inquire if they too were related, only to receive an answer anyway to the end that, yes, in fact, they were cousins. Sweet hells! This has gone beyond all absurdity. While I am actively trying not to believe that all uncommon species are related, the evidence is proving severely contrary. The minotaur was introduced to us as Z'embre. She seemed young? Not as young as R'kanna, perhaps, but I admit I am not versed enough in minotaurs to really know. Any good impression I might've had of her was immediately scotched by the first words out of her mouth, directed at Odiri: "I've seen babies taller than you." I gave the benefit of the doubt that that may in fact be true for minotaurs, but the fucking nerve of it!! She couldn't possibly know the sting of that particular insult. Odiri was practically shaking with anger, and it took a bit of convincing to get her to sit back down. Albion — very successfully, I might add — softened the issue with an order of Maiden's Breath for the table, inquiring playfully if Odiri drank it by the bucket or by the bottle. God, I've sorely missed his delightful hospitality.

We were joined by the final member of our outing party, the man who had been playing a drum on the main stage most of the afternoon. Another fucking bard? Oh joy. I could make from the look of him that he was a far islander of some sort, or from a coastal fishing village at the very least. His tanned, weathered look was reminiscent of Tempest, and she was definitively from the islands. He introduced himself as Bumi, and Adi vouched for his abilities. He had already signed the charter and been of assistance in an outing. Z'embre intended to join us as well and maintained her confidence, though I was a little dubious to the quality of her character. When inquiring to the nature of our animal companions, Odiri and I had inquired back if minotaurs kept pets at all. She stated she had a pet once, but she had eaten it. I'm still not entirely sure what to do with that information, but given Charka's state of things, she is going to be kept squarely the fuck away. None the less, Z'embre signed the charter and that was the end of it. 

As we each took our leaves for the evening, I walked Odiri back to Frivolity's manor. I knew she needed to return there for her rounds, but the parting was bittersweet, and the walk back to the cottage seemed more difficult than usual that night. I've gotten more than a little used to her being around, enough so that I don't sleep nearly as well without her. Bad that I avoid our bed for its vast emptiness and sleep in the loft, but worse that in inevitable waking from endless terrible visions, the house is simply … silent. It seems like another life entirely that I lived so long alone. I could never go back to that now, not ever. Perhaps I am going soft, but I cannot honestly say that this is worse. I am better with her. She makes me want to be better. To try, anyway. 

There is, of course, the other half of this dilemma of parting. Odiri has succumb to the same plague as I and finds herself kept from sleep. Not at all when I am at her side, but I am not always there. This comes as no surprise, considering all she's gone through. It is something of a miracle she isn't worse, but I suppose the worst possible scenario has already come and gone. I'm well aware she's still on the poppy, crutching herself for cure on its sweet smoke. The stuff is downright vile. I've seen too many good men go down that road and lose themselves in it. It was offered, but I never ventured near. I'm a terrible drunkard as it is; I fully expect I'd be immesurably worse with harder substances. I wish she would just stop with it, and I've tried to be subtle in making my displeasure known. But what is there I can offer her in substitute? If this is the thing that will ease her suffering, then who am I to stand in the way of that and demand that she suffer instead? I have said nothing to her face, but I am certain she understands this.

The following morning, we gathered up again at the Rose Shell to equip ourselves and breakfast before heading out. Odiri promptly shoveled all of the honeycakes set out on the table into her satchel, though a good half of them made it into her mouth beforehand. Halfling appetites never cease to amaze me. Where does it all go?? She has not a lick of fat on her. (Well, except for where it counts…) Odiri was not too pleased with my side-eyeing, so we got into a bit of a spat as we geared up. Far too loudly, Albion made the observation that we seemed quite like a couple, but we hadn't yet "done a mating dance". I'm shook. Is he really so daft not to know by now? And if mating dances are a legitimate concern of validation, oh my stars, there has been plenty of dancing. (Perhaps not of late, for circumstance, but plenty enough before).

 We left town, Odiri and I leading on horseback as usual, Albion piloting Adi's cart with Bumi and Z'embre in tow. Tim and Bob seemed their usually amicable selves, though Odiri called them out on failing to introduce themselves as "Timothy and Robert" to the new lady. I would say I can't believe she's still bitter about that, but I suppose focusing on this sort of petty thing that keeps the mind occupied away from dwelling on serious tragedies… Interestingly, Tim inquired as to Bumi's halfling girlfriend. Was there really another halfling in town? I couldn't catch her eyes that moment, but I hope Odiri is pleased by the news. Her kind is not common in this town. I've only experienced so much second-hand the misunderstandings she certainly feels more intimately, so it may be good for her to have another who can better understand. Perhaps it could bring her some familiar comfort, ease her pains. 

Keeping a good, uninterrupted pace, we managed the journey in a clean day and reached the bank of the Mara by sunset. We'd begin building the next morning. Odiri and I set about hunting dinner, which would have been entirely peaceful if not for Bumi's shitty little remarks! Asshat. I have an inch on him in height and probably more than that in the other all-important measurement-based department. I'm not bitter. Still, we ate well that evening. As we decided our watch rounds, Adi cast a semi-transparent protective dome over our camp. Looking up, the darkened sky seemed tinted with a mauve glow by it. I rested lightly, distracted by conversation outside, some of which centered squarely on Odiri's snoring. She only really does when we are beyond the wall and she is particularly exhausted, but I cannot say I am bothered much. It's kind of cute.

I had not particularly wanted to make any conversation with Z'embre on our watch, but Charka encouraged me, remarking that she had haunting eyes worth probing. I would not call it a terribly successful interaction. I've always been a bit shit at socializing. Z'embre herself was strange too, gazing long into the fire, talking of escaping her past. Well, that I could understand more than a few things about…

We were interrupted by a thunk above us, then the shattering of glass as the spell was broken. In puffs of black smoke, we were surrounded by five white-furred, blue-eyed weretigers in black leather, each of them bearing Blood Spatter's mark. Adi went invisible and cast himself a distance from the combat. See, when Adi does that sort of thing, I trust that he's aiding us. When other parties that will go unnamed do that, not so much. Odiri, Charka, and Xiao all managed to get attacks in before the tigers returned in kind. Z'embre was struck, but their swords glinted off her in a barrage of sparks. I'm thankful now that I insisted she take the protective scabbard, though I really don't think that much damage would have been done to her massive frame anyway. Bumi, Albion, Odiri, and I all are stabbed, though I struck out with my sword and sliced across the two in front of me. Albion, gleefully enraged, nearly killed one of them outright. (It's taken some time and distance to really appreciate how incredible he is in battle). 

Bumi panicked in the fray and, suddenly, a thundercloud decimated the area, knocking some of us prone, as Bumi was flown back with a nimbus of wind into the forest. Something had taken in his eyes, storms in his irises, as bolts of lightning sizzled all along his body. Storm clouds circling above his head, the distinct smell of rain. Gathering energy, he shot a chromatic orb into one of the tigers, exploding on impact in a burst of lightning. I stand corrected about the excess of bards in the company, because this man was most certainly not a bard. 

Adi sent his owl into the fray, distracting one of the tigers in a flurry of feathers. Then, a column of fire erupted from it, engulfing the tiger and destroying it, leaving only ashes. From the darkness, Adi shouted to us that the tigers were linked in some sort of spell and that they should be taken alive. But before we could act, another of the still standing tigers pulled out a black bag and was gone in a wicked spurt of blood. In his place, unmistakable white robes. Blood Spattered Snow Tiger herself, in the flesh this time. Z'embre, in the perfect position, stabbed into her, causing Snow Tiger to retreat with a shriek and drop a spell of death on us. Adi cast counter to it, and it fizzled out with a hiss. 

I saw my chance and charged in with my blade, cutting into that bitch with lightning. Bumi, coming to his senses, rushed to my side and slashed into her with his fire spear, searing her flesh enough to consume her in a column of flame. In an explosion of ash, she was gone. And in another second, a red orb appeared as she reconstituted and stood before us again, cackling. "You didn't think it was going to be that easy, did you?" No, of course it wouldn't be. The moment she threw up a shield, Odiri pierced it with a powerful arrow, enough to . Crying out with rage, "Curse your treacherous magics, elf!", she threw down another death spell, which Adi again dispelled with a masterful bit of sass: "Give it time, you'll hate me more."  He tried to banish the tigers from our plane, but to no success. They were firmly tethered. They attempted, ineffectually, to kill themselves on their blades to aid their mistress with their life force, but could not do so quick enough. 

Xiao charged forward at Snow Tiger, lunging at her and catching her in a grapple. I did not think it could be done! Close enough for a second strike, my shot so perfectly opened up, I cleaved my sword into her, thunder and lightning careening in all directions with blinding, booming, violent force. With a scream and a burst of white hot energy, she and all the weretigers were reduced to ash. I do not know if the silence that followed was muteness by shock or the ringing in my ears rendering me deaf. She was dead. That bitch was actually dead. Gently, I brought my sword down, resting its tip in the dirt. It hummed with lingering whits of energy in my hands, resonating like a tuning fork with the equal hum of due satisfaction in my chest. I could not help but feel a smile curl into my lips. God. So this was real power. 

As I gathered myself up again, coming out of my strange, intoxicating trance, as Adi examined the only thing that remained of that bitch: her kimono, sprinkled with freshly plunked stars and shining like the heavens. It had been cursed in her possession. But now, it gleamed holy again. 

We had not even a moment to appreciate the beauty of it as in the sky over our heads formed the great smoky form of a red-eyed wolf. "Well that was most foolish," he mocked. "Oh well, more territory for me. Tell my son I'm waiting for him." Transforming with a whirl of blackness, The Wolf of a Thousand Deaths streaked blue across the night sky, heading towards Blood Spatter's tower, no doubt to claim her fallen territory. Two down, five to go.

We returned to bed and, though my skin still vibrated with a static lightning, I slept calm as death, free of terrors, holding Odiri close to my chest. Some retribution for us, at last. In the morning, well-rested celebration and the happiness of work. My mid-day, we had finished the yurt and, by lunch, the keys returned us to Shore Blossom.

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Odiri's Journal Pt .19
Adventure 32 - Ghost Shade Keep

TW: Domestic Abuse , Miscarriage

Entry dated prior to main recap

Eucarion and I fought last night. Worse than ever before. I thought him asking me to get rid of our child was the worst fight we would ever have but I was wrong. I want to blame my mood swings but he was beyond infuriating. All I wanted was to go out beyond the wall for a small adventure. Being cooped up in the cottage was driving me mad. There was only so much domestic “bliss” I could handle. I remember the women of my village reveling in this concept they call “nesting” while pregnant but it was hard to make a nest in a tree I knew was not my own. In my temper I may have shattered nearly every dish the man owned. In response Eucarion manhandled me in efforts to lock me into the bedroom as if I were some petulant child. I must clarify while there are bruises, he did not hit me. He is not Gerrick he was just trying to protect me. I have a hard time blaming him for the marks he left after watching the father of my child completely breakdown. It was then, I learned that Tannion, his son, was not Allaya’s first. That she had lost 7 babes before their success with Tannion. His fear, his rage, it was all justified. I can only apologize and make amends. Starting with fresh dishware and humble appreciations for Eucarion conceding to a small adventure while I still fit in my armor.

Main Recap

I don’t much feel like writing today but if I don’t get this down on paper now I never will and may just abandon this journal all together.

The “Reaper” showed up on <s>our</s> his doorstep with her little cult insistent on visiting at the ungodly hours of the night between midnight and dawn. Our ease was already off kilter due to the spat a few days before. I had just replaced the crockery I had destroyed, I had no desire to upset the precarious balance we existed in with this half crazed follower of Persephone especially at that hour. Serena persisted that I specifically needed to come pray with her. If it were not for Kethra’s bribe of honey cakes and hot tea if I came with them to the temple, I would have slammed the door in their faces.

Eucarion and I went with them; I significantly more begrudging than he. Eucarion seemed to genuinely desire to participate in this nonsense. As much as I don’t want to admit it, the Temple of Stars is a beautiful place. At this strange serene hour only the acolytes of Persephone, Lunor and Sidreal were awake doing their pious tasks. Serena led us to a room draped in dark fabric decorated with candles of mostly black with a few scattered in of white and grey and a solitary green one that V.Gates seems to tend to personally. While I was distracted observing my surroundings, Serena took her opportunity to remove very stitch of clothing. While modesty isn’t exactly my strong point it just seemed a little bizarre to be entirely nude for a religious ceremony. I wasn’t much very much better in nothing but my shift and dressing gown but no one seemed to mind either her nudity or my casual dress.

She led me through a series of candle lightings explaining the cycle of things. She speaks of re-birth but I still struggle with the concept even after I personally brought Xiao back to me in a form of re-birth. I lit the candles in the order she instructed but I didn’t feel any different. What good is this garbage ritual if nothing happens. I expected something. Some sort of breeze or even the barest hint of calm to my own internal turmoil but I got nothing but woken up at 3am.  At the conclusion of all this I headed back to the Rose Shell with Kethra as promised for my honey cakes and tea. Eucarion curiously stayed behind at the temple with Serena and V.Gates. I was beyond exhausted at that point and rather than walk all the way back to the cottage Saru sleepily offered me a room to nap at no cost. Despite what other’s may think of her she is a compassionate woman. A business woman at her core but still not as heartless as most paint her to be.

The next morning, I was woken up by Shei and a cup of coffee. I panicked a moment realizing I would have to get back to the cottage to retrieve my armor and Dusty if we were to go on the adventure today that we had planned in the walk to the temple. As Shei stepped aside I found all of my necessary belongings for a trip beyond the wall. At the moment I thought nothing of it assuming Eucarion had brought my things but when I made it downstairs to see that Eucarion was just then arriving leading both Collien and Dusty I had to stop and wonder. I later found out from an exasperated Eucarion that Shei had “liberated” my belongings from the cottage while he was still at the temple at the behest of Saru and was even so kind as to leave a note.

I filled Dusty’s saddlebags with as many honey cakes as I could get my hands on and grabbed two especially large apples to treat False Indigo and Gryphon Bait. I raided the case for the arrows that I have become very fond of and Makiko’s gloves and cloak. Taking off Eucarion’s gifted rabbit fur cloak in exchange for this cloak of invisibility was unexpectedly difficult. Spending time in the cottage gave me a particular insight on this gift. What I thought was just a simple cloak was in reality the closest thing to a proposal that I will get. The cloak was in the Crowsley house colors. His colors. I may never be Mrs. Crowsley, but he loves me enough to cover my shoulders with his colors.

Our travels were to take us back on our path to the Ghost Shade Keep marked on Serena’s map. We made it back to the river’s edge along the wall without a problem after I bribed the cart horses with their apples. As we set up camp at the river’s edge once again Eucarion and I had the first pleasant conversation we’ve had in days regarding building a waystation there with the new boar hides we had been tanning. I chose to take my morning watch as usual and Kethra was kind enough to volunteer to wake up with me for that shift. I was restless and anxious trying to sleep before my shift trying not to think of what happened the last time we were out along this river causing Eucarion to lose some of his own meditation time attempting to soothe me back to sleep every time I woke.

Sadly, when sleep finally found me it was interrupted by an insistent nose in my side from Charka warning me of incoming Hobgoblins. The fight was over quicker than it started, suffering only an arrow high on my side missing anything vital. With Xiao’s help Eucarion spared the last of the Hobgoblins and chose to interrogate it. I had no stomach for the aggressive banter of interrogation knowing Eucarion would make sure I knew anything that was worth knowing I tended to my own wounds. Charka and V.Gates in his newly found wolf form were suspiciously missing after the fight was over. In time both of them trotted back into camp and V.Gates resumed his natural form and provided me that icy water bath of a healing I braced for.  That bitch and Eucarion argued through most of Kethra and I’s watch over her indiscretions. She had a fair point. He had only forbidden her against Naligor. She is way too smart for her own good, and if she has a litter from this heinous act Eucarion may have a fit.

I was another 2 days up the river to Makiko’s Trust. I’ll admit I slept in the cart for most of that time but we were in no danger with Eucarion leading us. We chose to spend the night at the Trust before we took the ferry across the river. That next morning was especially odd. While trading watch shifts with the dog f*cker he very solemnly apologized to me before going to bed. What did he do wrong? Serena seemed equally disconnected and distant from everyone during breakfast tracing the ruins on her halberd and mouthing prayers to herself. I shook it off, ate my breakfast and steeled myself for crossing the river.

The ferries we noticed had been repaired recently I hope from our own charter and not from some other nefarious group out there, all of which are out for our blood. I made sure that I stayed as center on the barge as I could to keep equidistant from any chance of falling into the water. V.Gates boasted of his swimming prowess and I am not entirely sure if it was meant to mock me or comfort me but regardless I clamped my eyes shut and trusted the party to get us across the river.

The other side was like being on an entirely different plane. The forest was thick with a low-laying fog but the muggy hot humidity I expected in a forest like this the place was a cool mist like the kind that hovers over the marshes behind Eucarion’s cottage. It took us two days before we saw the crest of the tower. Further proof that followers of Persephone are insane. Who would build a temple like this so far from any sort of civilization? The morning of the 3rd day of travel since the river found us at the base of a very purposefully desecrated statue of Persephone. As non-religious as I am it still hurts to see art like this destroyed out of spite. Up a rocky paved-ish road 20 feet was the tower we were seeking. Four stories tall made of crisp white marble and dark basalt topped with a massive crescent moon, it loomed over us silent and slowly being taken back by the forest’s moss and vines. I reached out using my magicks and was hit with the sting of fiendish presences. After a short discussion turn argument Serena “volunteered” V.Gates to go into the tower first by pushing him through the archway in.

I guarded the back as I was want to do in these frustratingly narrow hallways the 1st Kingdom was so fond of. Within a few rooms time of exploring we happened upon three undead revenants. Normally these things are of no threat as they only seek to destroy whom caused their demise in the first place but the vile necrotic brand of Utos on their necks was a clear sign there would be no reasoning with minions of The Fallen Warden of Souls. The fight was brutal and got worse as time went on. I did my best to defend Eucarion as he did his best to defend me. Xiao was hit especially hard and my heart dropped when I definitely heard one of his ribs break but he kept fighting as fierce as ever. When I felt we finally had the upper hand those undead hellions called for re-enforcements in the way of a wraith and two wights. Upon seeing that wraith all I could remember was the spread of necrotic evil that shot through my body the last time I was run through with one of their blades. I couldn’t let that happen again so I shot off a thunder arrow and did what damage I could before a booming voice echoed through the tower demanding that The Reaper was brought to him. Our enemies seem to very demanding these days.

Continuing to fell each enemy one after the next was a blur and yet somehow even MORE reinforcements were called upon us when a swarm of 4 hungry dead entered the fray. V.Gates produced a formidable orb of flames trapping all four hungry dead in a doorway but also trapping Eucarion from getting past to us. One of the hungry dead launched itself from the fireball and grabbed me. As much as I fought to get free of its grip I could not. It grabbed at my face and I could feel my own vitality being pulled from internal depths that should not even have a sensation. The feel of a cold breeze blew through me starting at my toes up through every part of me and escaping from my mouth in a wisp of my own life swallowed by the hungry dead as if it were the finest delicacy. I kicked violently against it desperate to regain my ground save me and mine from this threat but, try as I might could not break loose. That cold wind ripped through me again and again, each time more painful than the last. I had so little left in me but with one last ditch effort I gathered what energy I had left and put it all into one last kick and was rewarded by the foul thing releasing me and swiftly being cleaved clear in half by Eucarion.

We were finally free of assailants and I did what I could to stay on my feet while the rest of my companions pulled the corpses into the sun to be reduced to ash. Before the keys brought us home we were handsomely rewarded with a chest of goods found under the wraith’s throne. But in honesty I couldn’t care less. I just wanted to sleep off that horrid feeling of having my life pulled from me one breath at a time.

 

CW: Graphic, Emotional AF, no really, I cried just writing it so…be warned

TW: The Miscarriage

Continuation of Main Re-Cap
 
Eucarion helped me into bed that afternoon. After such a rigorous battle I felt sore and aching. If only I had known what that ache really was I would not have been so eager to sleep. I woke to the most agonizing pain that felt equally like being stabbed and like a giant hand was grabbing me from the inside and pulling. All I could do was call out for him as I was in too much pain to move from the bed. It felt like hours. I bled and I cried. When he finally was there the look of pity instead of fear on his face told me everything. It was happening. What he’d warned me of.
He had begged me not to go out beyond the wall and this was my price to pay for it. Three days of pain, tears and apologies. I remember so little of it. I don't know if my mind is trying to protect me or if I genuinely have lost my memories. I can recall him drawing me a bath then I felt like I was sleeping and I would wake in the bed cold then it was back to the bath. Over and over with dark spots in the timeline like ink splatters on text. My clearest memory was apologizing with every waking breath I could muster. This is my fault. If I would have stayed home we would still have our daughter.
I held her wrapped in the green cloth I intended to be her first gown. I hadn’t even had a chance to lay a single stitch of thread before I stood on his back porch staring at the smallest empty grave I’ve ever seen in my life. I had no chance to rock her, no chance to sing to her. There would be no bassinet to build, no toys to trip over in the night. I would never have the mother’s joy of hearing her first cry or first laugh. All of this was my fault. I traded this for one fucking trip beyond the wall.
He couldn’t stand the sight of me, undoubtedly furious I had done this to his child. He drank and avoided me, keeping to the the back of the house. As much as leaving her grave felt like it would end me I knew I had to go back to Ramshackle Manor for his sake. I didn’t want my presence to taint his home any longer. When I found him to let him know that I was leaving he was entirely intoxicated staring dead-eyed into the marshlands beyond the porch. He had taken to throwing out the dishes I had bought him into the marshes each with a crash. Though they were yet a week old I had a sentimentality to them. I had never had a chance to buy him a gift before, even one that was born from my transgressions against his previous crockery. My already broken heart felt like it was crumbling into ash as I watched him throw a particular set of cups I had picked out for their painted family of raccoons. How metaphoric it all is, him throwing away my gift to him like I threw away his gift to me. I left before I had to witness the crashing demise of what was left of our “family”

CW: Drugs & More Angst
Entry dated several days later
 
I can’t believe I landed in a cell twice in a week. With nothing to hold me back I fell back to my normal habits. I probably shouldn’t have been drinking this heavily after what happened but I don’t fucking care anymore. It’s almost freeing to a point. Frivolity gave me time to “settle in” which I think is her attempt to let me grieve. I don’t want to grieve I want to escape this empty feeling that buzzes through my veins like an upturned ant hill. I feel consumed by it day and night. I’ve tried everything.
It started small. A short ride with Dusty turned into a breakneck race against the sunrise atop the thin aqueducts bridging the farmlands. When that stopped making my heart beat I found myself trying to pick fights in the Drunken Fish, knowing I would be safe from Eucarion there as he’d been banned for the exact same thing I was trying. No one would hit a pregnant girl. Curse this abominable lump that continues to fucking torment me. After insulting the proprietor's wife I finally won my prize of a solid fight. Hearing my blood pump in my ears while I lay pummeled on the floor of the bar was the first feeling of life I could hold onto for even the briefest of moments. It wasn’t till I was approached on the docks while smoking my pipe by an overly friendly fellow that I found the truest ticket to peace of mind. Pure opium from the The Empire of Stone. It cost me more than a few coins but it was the closest thing I could find to happiness. I spent the next two days in a fog of carless warmth. It was like falling asleep in the softest warmest field of sweet grasses. 
Regrettably that night I had not fallen asleep in said field but instead in an alley or so the city guard tells me. I work up in the holding cell with none other than the spiteful almost father. He barely said a handful of words to me with little to no meaning. I could barely hear his words through my fog as it were. He wouldn’t even look at me. I don’t blame him. I smelled like a gutter rat that fell into a pot of incense and probably looked twice as bad. I wouldn’t know as I had the housemaid take the mirror from my room in the manor so I would not have the daily reminder of my failure. The town guards looked at me with pity which only provoked me further, causing me to end back in the cell not even 3 hours after my release after a screaming match with the market square constable. I didn’t need anyone else's pity. I was pitiful enough on my own. 
20 years of age, failed to be a mother, failed to be his love, thousands of miles from home. What’s the point anymore?
The docks are always so quiet at sunset.

CW:Death & Angst
Entry dated one day after the last
My mother told me at the death of my brother “If your spirit tells you it’s time to weep then, listen.” I didn’t understand. I was so young then. We were only 8 when the river took Orryn from us. She had no body to mourn over. No grave to visit. I should count myself blessed.
I’ve overlooked my fortunes. I had almost 2 months in the home of the man I love dancing every night to a music only we could hear. Loving kisses and lingering hands over our growing daughter are memories no amount of drink or smoke can strip from me. From us.
I mistook his eightfold grief for hatred. There is nothing I can do overnight to repair the damage that has happened the last few days but for now, we have found a quiet comfort in each other's presence. Time will tell if we'll ever dance again but for now sitting on the back porch hand in hand watching the fireflies dance over her headstone will have to suffice for now. 
I’ve named her Aster. 

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Log I : Day 32
Eucarion's Journal

I had not wanted Odiri to venture out, but many, many broken dishes later, and we conceded that perhaps it was for the best that we get some time out of the house. Our first night poaching for adventures at Rose Shell went fruitlessly, but on the second, we were recruited along to Serena's mission to Ghost Shade Keep, a temple of Persephone in need of restoration. That would have to do.

The next morning—more precisely before the next morning at the unholy hour of 03:30— I was roused from my sleep by voices from the porch. Odiri's sleepy and disgruntled mumblings layered with the brisk voices of Serena, V. Gates, and Kethra. I entered only to be confronted by Serena as to Odiri's state of things. A few glances from her to Odiri's bruised wrists and pointedly back to me were enough. She did not need to see the marks on her back and ribs to know what had transpired. There was no hiding it. I kept my distance and did not venture further into the room, that invisible wall held by my own shame and more than a few vague threats from V. Gates. No words were exchanged on the matter further. Heavens, what they must think of me… 

Serena was particularly insistent that Odiri come to the temple for prayer. Persephone was calling to her. I had actually been doing quite a bit of thinking on the matter of my faith recently and was by no means opposed to the venture, though I stayed out of the conversation. Kethra managed to convince her well enough with the luring promise of honeycakes afterwards.

The Temple of Stars is a wholly different place at night. Though it is a quiet place to begin with, it is even more this way. I recall staying up many nights and peaceably wandering the candle-blessed halls during my residency there, appreciating the serenity of the illuminated emptiness, chambers full of prayers, distant only by their echoes. On our way to Persephone's altar, we passed acolytes of Sidereal and Lunor, followers of night wardens understandably preferring these hours for their worship. As soon as we entered the room, Serena doffed her clothes. Ah. Skyclad prayer. Considering V. Gates' boldness, this does not surprise me in the least. (I hope this is not a requirement to be a follower of the goddess…) Serena brought out her candles and attempted to guide Odiri through a prayer cycle. She was distinctly against it, but relented at Xiao's behest. As soon as the cycle was completed, Odiri hopped up and was quickly ushered out by Kethra for her prize of honeycakes. I remained with Serena, learning prayers with her, though I too eventually took leave, seeking a place to meditate in private. Before I left, Serena presented me with a necklace bearing the sigil of Persephone. I was grateful for the gift, though putting it on left a bizarre feeling in my chest as it clinked against my wedding band.

I stayed to meditate some, and my meditations followed me as I walked home to retrieve my and Odiri's gear. There's something particularly lucid about the air on a summer night. As initially unnerving as my introduction to Persephone through Serena was, I regret in many ways that I was unfamiliar with Her and Her following for so much of my life. Perhaps I would have reconsidered my faith sooner. I have witnessed wicked atrocities in my lifetime, enough so that it is difficult to believe in that life and light hold any dominion over the mortal plane when such horror exist concurrently. There is great comfort to be found in the thought that death doesn't have to be a savage thing. When so many of those I have held close have gone out in brutal violence, truly the best thing a person can be wished is a peaceful passing.

Arriving at the cottage, I was more than a little peeved to find it broken into. I had very purposefully picked such a distant place for my residence so that I and it would exist unmolested, but it seems that just about everyone feels it is their right to invite themselves over. When I entered to grab Odiri's gear, I was greeted with a note from Shei that she had already handled it. Infuriated, only mildly, I saddled Collien, took Dusty in tow, and rode back to the Inn.

Morning come proper, our party grouped over breakfast and set out. We agreed that, for both mine and Odiri's sake, we would not sail up the river. Rather, we'd travel the same path to Makiko's Trust as we had before and cross with a ferry there. Hopefully, we would actually make it this time. As we rode out past the wall, Odiri made nice with the cart horses, plying them with apples. The poor sods deserve it for putting up with our endless antics.

We camped again at the mouth of the Mara, and Odiri and I discussed briefly the possibility of making a waystation there, since we had the boar hide now to do it. It was our first civil conversation since the last big argument we had. About something entirely trivial, yes, but. It felt… good. A very simple kind of positive feeling. I was a little more at ease after that. Not for long, however, as Odiri's sleep was plagued by fits. I hardly rested much myself, turning to her side to soothe her whenever she woke. 

I took the midnight watch alone, chatting with Charka on the matters of my worries for the better part of it, until my bow started to glow. Goblins. As I sent Charka off to quietly wake the others, I began to sense their approach myself. 3 of them. Hobgoblins of the Silver Demons. My concentration was totally interrupted by Charka relating that V.Gates wished to challenge them to a 3 on 1 duel, which has got to be one of the dumber things I've ever heard him suggest. I veto'd the idea immediately, shooting one at a distance and commanding the others to leave one alive. V. Gates transformed into the direwolf and, out of the corner of my eye, I could already see him and Charka making eyes at each other. Oh no, not this shit again…. With a cry of "don't fuck my dog!", I loosed a second arrow and downed one of the hobgoblins. Xiao killed the other flanking hobgoblin, and the final one was captured with Serena's magic and Xiao's grappling. 

While I bound the hobgoblin for interrogation, I noticed that Charka and V. Gates were rather suspiciously missing. Reaching out to find her, my senses were blocked by a mental wall. Oh no. I'm going to kill that slutty fucking iguana. Though, if anything, my interrogation was more ferocious as a result of that bit of offense. I managed to glean three particularly important details from the hobgoblin captain. The Silver Demons, the Order of Night, a corp of elite mercenaries, had been dispatched against us. The Yomi Princes were not in collusion with the Goblin Queen, but rather served directly under her orders. And the Goblin Queen is still in her fortress at the heart of the Sha Desert. V. Gates returned at this point and asked a few of his own questions about Ghost Shade Keep. Honestly, I did not overhear much of it; I was scolding Charka at the time. I caught up with the conversation rather quickly when the hobgoblin insulted Persephone, putting Serena in a rage. She drew her halberd and went to behead him, but I stopped it just short of his neck. Hobgoblin he may be, but the rules of war apply. I asked him for his surrender. He refused. So I let go of the halberd, releasing the full swing of its energy with a thunk into his neck, killing him. 

Bedding back down for the night, Odiri and I nearly got into another argument. I could not sleep afterwards, and stayed up the night, further arguing with Charka. If she has pups with him, I may just die. I would have preferred Naligor, if it has come to this. Taking a cue from Oranssi's book, V. Gates breakfast the following morning was particularly burnt.

Two days of travel up the riverbank passed uneventfully. Though, Odiri was back to being upset with me. Apparently, she had overhead some of what I'd said to Charka and was more than a little irate with me that I cared quite so much about her puppies. Charka has been loyally at my side for 56 years now. Of course I care about the source of her puppies. I'd practically be their godfather. 

When we arrived at Makiko's Trust, it appeared that it had been in use in the time we were gone. Life was starting to return after the slaying of the hydra. It seemed that people, humanoids, had even been there. Members of our company? No, more likely, any number of our many enemies patrolling the area. It being sunset by the time we arrived, we rested the night. In the morning, fishing for breakfast. I noticed that Serena seemed particularly despondent, far from her morbidly cheery self. She wouldn't eat, just sitting there on the waystation's edge, caressing her halberd. Restless dreams, perhaps. I understand a thing or two on the matter…

We boarded a barge and managed across the river in one piece, though Odiri stayed very squarely in the center of the boat. I really must find a time to teach her how to swim. Perhaps it would serve to ease her fears.

On the other side of the river, we were met with a thick forest shrouded in mist. Wet, lush, mossy, and green, full of ferns and high-canopied trees. Through this, two and a half days of travel, made truly wicked by the stifling moisture of the air. But at last, we came to Ghost Shade Keep. Before us stood a great tower of four stories, carved to appear as thought it were out of one massive piece of white marble and basalt in the colors of the goddess.  Atop it, a crescent moon, swathed in moss and sticky ferns. At the doorway, a defaced carving of Persephone, her holy visage crumbled in chunks on the moist forest floor. Serena seemed horrified, rippling with a rage at what the servants of Utos had done to this place.

Entering the ruined temple through a grand and ancient arch, we proceeded down a hall until we arrived at a room that appeared to have once been a place for the forging of weapons, complete with a kiln. Everything was lit in a dim glow of witchlight, giving a cold ambience of shadows cast far against the walls. 

Before we proceeded into the fray of enemies that certainly hid behind the next door, Kethra stopped to sing for us. I have grown to like her more than Elura, in some ways. She is of a quieter breed, more earthly, less wild. And her song. Some of the things she's sung has been as frivolous as any other bardic thing, but this was different. "Cleanse my body of its pain. Cleanse my mind of what I've seen. Cleanse my honor of its stain." There is no way she could possibly have known how deep a chord it would strike with me, but strike deep it did. My soul was roused, and I was ready to fight.

Using V. Gates for cover, we slid open the door and were met by three walking corpses, still fresh, one human and two dwarves. All bore necromantic brands on their necks of Utos, marking them all as turned Revenants. This was going to be messy. Immediately, V. Gates turned into a bear and was grappled. Odiri and I sprang into action, both laying in on the remaining two. Xiao, in a wild flurry of claws, slashed one up, but was himself attacked when he came into the fray. Serena summoned up the smiting power of Persephone, black fire bursting forth from her halberd as she plowed it through one of the dead, the flames turning white as they made contact and seared the flesh. A bite from Charka and it was dead. Right. Fire was needed to kill these. Picking up one of V. Gates' fallen fire spears, I slashed at each of the remaining two. One ran from the combat with a cry of "Fuck this!" as he called for aid into another room.

For above, the voice of Utos. "So I see a minion of my traitorous wife is here. Seticor, kill them all! But bring me the Reaper." Of course, he meant Serena. It does not surprise me that a Paladin would have personal meddlings in the affairs of gods. A door opened and inside the chamber there, a fearsome wraith flanked by two wights. I knew the damage these could do. One had nearly killed Odiri the last time she was out. I wasn't about to risk that, so I drew out my sword and struck with a bolt of lightning into the room. The wraith immediately came after me, but V. Gates finished him off before he reached me, exploding into flames. 

As Charka killed another Revenant, the final one ran to another door, calling for more aid. I went to that door, preparing to attack, but yet another door opened and out from there instead came four hungry dead, swathed in pale robes with bloody mouths, thirsty for blood. V. Gates dropped fire on them, cutting off my position from the combat. Through the flames, there was little I could see or do, though I heard Odiri fire off a lightning arrow, Charka kill one of the dead, and V.Gates turn into a hissing scorption.

When at last the fire was moved enough that I could get back in, I got a full view of Odiri being set upon by one of the soul-sucking fiends, white smoke swarming around her and wrestling out of her body her very force of life. Struggle as she did, she could not break free of it. Trumping fears, I was enraged. Another one of them went immediately for me and, in a single strike, I cleaved it down, evaporating it into dust. Struggle as Odiri did, she could not break free until, at last, she wrenched herself loose. The moment the thing's body was separated from her, I laid into it with a flourish of lightning, carving it apart across its chest until it burst under my blade into ash. 

As Serena retrieved a chest of gold from under the wraith's throne, V. Gates and I dragged the remaining bodies out of the temple and into the light, where they dissolved into ash at first touch of the sun. Utos' voice called threats after us, but we were gone quickly from the place, keys glowing. In a flash, our wounded party was returned to the gates of the city. 

Odiri and I made our way back to the cottage, but some fearful sense plagued me. Something was terribly, terribly wrong. Odiri had not died in that temple, clearly, and yet her aura bled of the sense of death. After I had healed Odiri of her wounds and put her to bed, I made my way to the Temple of Stars. I am not one to follow signs, but portents such as that are a difficult thing to turn a blind eye to. It was time for me to do what I had meant to. Before Persephone, I made my ritual offerings and prayed in petition. If Artimesia would stay deaf and blind to my desperations, then to death herself I would turn.

Persephone, Goddess of Night, Keeper of Death, Ward of Knowledge. I call on you and seek of you your aid. All my life, I have been a man of faith. But too much of suffering lays heavy on my heart. I have seen such horrors, and given bodied penance for those wrongs which I have done. Still, I am sent plagues in the face of earnest supplication. Before, I have accepted these as necessary punishments on my path. But now, I fear I have been forsaken in an hour of greatest need. My goddess no longer keeps me, if ever I was in her graces. So I come now to you as I am, pleading your mercies. Accept these sinning hands into your fold, and I will bare my soul and faithful serve. I ask for nothing, for there is no salvation I deserve. I only beg your sacred grace that those I love may pass in peace when they are done and gently west into your cloak of night.

I can only hope that I have been heard.

 

The following entry.

CW: Graphic, Whump, Emotional Whiplash

I have no desire to write this. The past days have been torture to me and to revisit them is to suffer them anew. Yet, there is a function here that I must fulfill. It was not until I went to war that I began to understand why my father kept a journal and insisted I make a habit of it. He was trying to help me, the same way he had been helping himself through his tragedies. There are certain pains a man comes to know in his life that cannot be spoken. Often, there is no-one to speak them to, because to speak is bring that burden of suffering down on another. But, not to speak, to keep pain locked away, is to invite madness. In the writing of something, in the explanation of it, there is a cathartic medium. Speaking, without really speaking.

For the sake of my remaining sanity, I will try to put this into words.

I should not have been away from Odiri so long. When I returned to the cottage in the early hours of the morning, I heard her weeping and calling for me. I ran to her and, throwing open the door to our bedroom, found her in a pool of dark, viscous blood. My mind fizzled with static. It had begun. I should have seen the signs sooner. The fight with the wraith had taken so much of her life. Of course. Of course these were the consequences.

I stayed at her side for who knows how long at first, holding her, letting her rock hysterically in my arms, supporting her against my chest, hushing her in a mantra, whispering comforts into her hair, telling her it would be okay. I didn't know if it would be, but it would have to be. Gradually, I could feel myself growing cold, hardened by experience. There would be time for emotions. Panic would only do harm. There was nothing that could be done to save the pregnancy now. She would have to ride it out. Between fits of her hysteria, I explained to her as much as I was able of what would happen next, what we would have to do. I do not think she could really understand me, but I knew she trusted me with her life entirely by the weak and ready ease with which she allowed her body into my arms.

For two full days, I carried her back and forth from warm baths to the bed, not letting her out of my sight for even a moment longer than I had to. I did not sleep. I hardly ate. I ran like a machine, going through rote motions of care done so often that my hands functioned on memory, archaic knowledge of so many times I had to do this for Allaya. I was not there for each of hers, but there for enough to know the process as well as any midwife. Over and over and over again, Odiri wept and apologized, and over and over, I hushed her and did what I could to soothe her. When she fell out of consciousness was the only time I lost my resolve and wept, healing her and clutching her hands, keeping her above the water and praying with all the soul in my body that she not die like this. Please. Not like this.

What could I have done to prepare her for this? There was only so much I could manage to say. It is a pain so visceral that it cannot be put in words, not the physical fact of it, nor the weight of the loss. I could not bear to look her in the eyes and ruin her little happiness while she still had it. That was all she would ever get, because always, always, this would be the result. How dearly I regret that, of all the instances in my life that I have been absolutely wrong, this had the one time I was right.

By the last day, Odiri fell silent, too weak or too far gone to say anything more, only moaning in pain and gripping my unwavering fingers tight through the waves of contractions, letting go with a fainting grasp when lulls hit upon her. What was there to say but grief? The only words she spoke to me, the only time I left her side, were in feeble request that I fetch a wrapped package from her chest. In it, fine cotton cloth, soft, green as the first buds of spring. She had meant to make clothes for our child of it, but…

When it was finally over, the child was no bigger than my fist. Odiri lay there, exhausted, half submerged in thick, red water, cradling it in her arms like some agonized facsimile of the intimate first moments of a mother, a spent deadness in her eyes. As I cleaned her off, I could not help but think with guilt on the timing of my prayers, what I had asked to be done. But with that, some measure of dark relief. I carried Odiri to bed, laying her down to rest. Three days was the sum of her suffering. Allaya had had miscarriages lasting longer than a week. I cannot help but feel that my goddess had heard me and paid her mercies.

There is a little grave now on the cottage grounds, in the dirt, away from the wounding marshes. I dug it myself as Odiri dressed our daughter in her unmade clothes, for the first and last time. She tells me it was to be a girl. It was too soon along to say, but mothers know these things innately. I would have liked a daughter. Though a son was needed for the Crowsley line, I had always secretly hoped for a girl. Foolish, foolish!, to think on all of that now…

I could not bear to be around Odiri. She remained at the cottage a few days more to regain her strength after such an ordeal, and I kept at her side only as long as needed, checking her health. It was not that I blamed her what had transpired. No. That was not it at all. If there is anyone to blame for this, it is me, for having put such a thing to fruition. But the sight of her roiled in me such a pain that I was driven to fits, feeling returning to me in sudden bursts rather than gradual trickles. Still, I remained numb. I drank, sat listlessly on the back porch, throwing pottery and emptied bottles into the marsh. I thought I would be angry. Enraged. I hoped, in a way, that I would be. Anger was at least some type of feeling. But I was left dead. Any shred of hope that I had carried with me was burnt, leaving only simmering coals of despair in the cavity of my chest. The wind had been knocked out of me.

That was how Odiri found me, the day she left. She had to, of course. The terms of her contract with Frivolity still stood and she was obliged to return to it. She was not recovered yet, but there was no use of her to stay longer. I did not look at her when she came to tell me. She'd bought a tea set, when she had gone to replace my dishes after the last fight we had, with a family of raccoons painted on it. A mother, a father, and a little cub. One by one, Odiri standing behind me, I threw the pieces of it into the marsh, and when the door shut with a finality on the other side of the house, the last cup leapt from my fingers and shattered against the porch step.

One would think that after so many times, it wouldn't hurt so much.

I don't remember much after that. It's all a blur. Days were spent in immutable unfeelingness, drinking heavily enough to cause violent fits, only for each to be extinguished in seconds by wracks of tears. Rinse and repeat, chasing some scrap of that vicious feeling if only to know any emotion at all. More than once, I found myself waking up in gutters, shambling home shamefully at all hours of the day and night, pocked with bruises, reeking of decay and misery. I avoided everyone I could, Odiri especially. I could not face her, and it would be a terrible thing for her to see me in such a state. She deserved better.

Our paths did inevitably cross. That particular night, I can make out pieces of. I'd gotten in another fight and, badly beaten and blackout drunk, I found a stretch of alley to pass out in, vaguely noting that it was occupied on the opposite side by a similarly unfortunate figure. Shaken awake. Some port guards. Being moved. The other person, again. And then, waking again, in a holding cell.

Shit. So it had come to this.

Head throbbing, hands shaking, too sober, too lucid, I looked about my confines until my eyes settled on my cellmate. My blood turned from pebbles to ice, striking and burning with coldfire as it banged around my far too spacious veins. Odiri. God, she was as bad as I was. I recognized the smell on her immediately. Sickly sweet, thick with smoky poppies and scalded licorice root. I should have expected it. If my vices were these, she must have turned to hers. We did not exchange even half a dozen words. Only sad, side-eyed glances and glares in my direction. Perhaps she was too far gone in it. Perhaps she had finally come to hate me for what I'd caused her.

The guards were afraid to speak to me in any reprimand. It was pretty clear that this had come as a full face surprise and nobody was entirely sure how to act. I should absolutely have been charged with something, if not a whole slew of things, but I was simply released after some vague demands of "not doing this again", the cell warden tripping over his words, unsure if calling me Commander was appropriate or not given the circumstances. It occurred to me seriously that I stood to lose it all. I had staked my life on this place, and there I was, throwing it away in mindless despair. Looking back at Odiri only confirmed me. I noticed that her bump had not entirely receded. It was just… there, a bitter reminder of why we had found ourselves this way at all.

No. No, this would not do at all. I could not throw my life away like this. I could not throw her away like this. I had to get my shit together.

I sobered up in a matter of horrible days, sick often and nearly incapacitated by aches. Most of my wine hold, I dumped out into the lawn; I suspect that patch of greenery may never grow back. Some time was dedicated to cleaning up the marsh, which by that point contained more glass than grass from so, so many broken bottles chucked carelessly into it. I re-entered society, throwing myself into a regimen of training and prayer in at attempt at cleansing, any distraction a welcome knot in my rope out of spiraling, black sorrow, a hard crawl back to sanity. Endlessly, worries of Odiri occupied me. I made a point to pass the manor to check on her, hoping to catch sight of her. Always, poppies bloomed in smoke at her window, curtains drawn. Still, I could not face her. I doubted she wanted to see me, after everything.

I was a fool.

A dock hand had spotted her on the far pier, fighting with Xiao and screaming, and told a guard to run and get me. I continue to be granted miracles. I cannot bear to think what might've happened had I not been in town at the time. My heart pounded out my chest as I ran, seeing her from a distance. She'd stepped over the railing, held only by Xiao's vicelike jaws clenched at her clothes. No. My skin hummed. My heart hammered. My lungs bruised against my ribs. I was not going to let this happen. I was not going to lose her like this. As I rounded the corner and dashed to the edge, her sleeve ripped in Xiao's teeth and she tumbled back. I reached for her, grabbed her, pulled her back over the railing, reeled her close, held her tight to my chest and did. not. let. go.

She fought me as though she were rabid. Clawing, kicking, punching, screaming, trying to break free of me with all her might and fury, but I held her through it. I held her until she had exhausted herself and the two of us were left sitting on that pier, panting, crying, spent of will, drained of energy. She sobbed, "It's my fault", over and over, inconsolable to the last breath, but I spoke over her mantra and forced her, begged her to listen.

I had tried, more than once. Many times, in the past, but recently again, on the nights that I did manage to make it back to the cottage, intoxicated and out of my mind with grief. I'd nearly done it a few times. Just, kicked the stool in and gotten it over with. I didn't. I was still here. This was the eight child I'd lost and I was still fucking here. Alive. Screaming, hurting, but alive. What had happened to us was not the end. It was not the end of me, or her, or of us. I loved her then. I still love her now. And I would always love her. There was still life yet to live.

It struck her. It must have, because something shifted behind her eyes. She said nothing at all, only leaned her head against my chest and left it there. That was enough. And so we sat, in perfect silence, made mute by the quiet understanding of loss.

I think we're gonna be okay.

View
Serena's Journal
Adventure 27 - Harvest Heralds New Arrivals

(OOC: This is super long and references some things from past events only discussed in Serena's backstory.)

You awake abruptly in the middle of the night, covered in sweat. Yawning and disoriented, you make your way to the bathroom and splash water on your face in an effort to cool down. It feels like a sauna in your small apartment in spite of the air conditioning and strategically placed fans.

‘That’s San Diego for you,’ you think. The summer has been stifling. Still – you can’t remember the last time your sleep was interrupted by this kind of heat, and you don’t seem to be getting any more comfortable. Sighing, you make your way back to the bedroom and turn on the lamp on your bedside table. According to your cellphone it’s only 2 A.M. You don’t think you’ll be able to get back to sleep.

It’s been awhile since you thought about the purple journal you stole from the library. A vision of it flashes in your mind and you don’t think to question it. Now seems as good a time as any to read a little bit more – maybe it will relax you back to sleep.

The dark cover feels cool in a way nothing else you’ve touched since waking has. You sigh in relief as you climb back into bed, absentmindedly tracing the designs on the journal’s spine with your thumb.

I Am The Reaper

Where to begin? The time since I last wrote has been some of the most joyous I can recall. My mood right now is impossible to explain! I clearly need to gather my thoughts and find some clarity. Thank you, My Lady, for guiding me back to this journal.

Several weeks ago I woke early, as I have every day for the last five years, and travelled to Persephone’s altar. There I have knelt each morning until Sister Magda came to get me, each time being gently chastised for my lack of covering – perhaps less gently on especially chilly mornings. I have felt since the first time I knelt before my Lady that she expected only myself and the gifts she provided – my body, soul, and Cora. To add layers to my ritual seems like blasphemy.

On this morning I speak of, Sister Magda came to get me later than usual. She wrapped a dark robe around my shoulders and smiled.

“It is time, child. Persephone seeks your divinity,” she squeezed my arm as we walked together towards her office. Comfortable and modestly appointed, the room was home to much of my learning while I lived at this temple. I sat down in my usual chair and waited for her to explain.

“Couriers have reports of signs we’ve been waiting for since we found you. There are rumors of undead and necromancers beyond the walls of Port Shore Blossom, directly defying Our Lady’s will. Your pilgrimage begins the day after tomorrow – you must travel to this town and oppose Uthos, the fallen Warden of Souls.”

I was overcome with pride. I had known for years that Persephone had chosen me as her Reaper, but tiny tendrils of doubt had begun to form in my mind when there was no sign from Her. I had been foolish to doubt – clearly this was Her path for me. 

Sister Magda and I talked for a long time about my upcoming journey, and it was decided – I would travel alone to Port Shore Blossom and seek my purpose. If Persephone wished for me to have assistance, she would send willing bodies to me. If not, I would conquer these necromancers on my own.

The next day, I again went about my ritual and prayed. Sister Magda did not come for me that morning. She was chosen in the night by Persephone herself. I can only think that her true purpose was to serve the Goddess by guiding me and sending me on my way, and she was rewarded with a good death. This final blessing before I set out is a lasting confirmation in my mind that I am on the right path.

On my final night in the temple we feasted and celebrated the blessing of Sister Magda’s death. She has earned a new title, Magda the Arrow, for assisting me and so many other acolytes in finding our way. After a final ritual, this time at midnight, I left home amidst the wishes of a good death from my brothers and sisters. It is the kindest, most holy greeting we can offer. I carry their words and Magda’s teachings with me as I head towards Port Shore Blossom.

The journey itself was filled with trials from the beginning. I took rides on carts, ships, and horses when I could- otherwise I walked. At least a dozen souls are freed by Cora when my strength was foolishly underestimated. Many men mistake my friendliness for weakness, and the smart ones who Persephone allowed me to spare were given my name: Serena the Reaper. I hoped tales of my journey would spread quickly, for as much as I enjoy killing, I needed to move as fast as possible and would prefer little resistance.

When I reached the border of Arestia I came upon a small city that seemed to specialize in trade. Such a place must also have travelers, and I thought perhaps I could find a simpler way to reach Port Shore Blossom if I could enter the company of the right one. On the edge of the city, which I later learned is called Rost, tales of my own life reached my ears sang by the most beautiful voice I had ever heard, the notes as ephemeral as the wind which carried them.

Intrigued, I moved towards the sound and past the guards standing watch near Rost’s main gate. There was a lively village square peppered with merchants, adventurers, and children. In the center of it all, a boisterous crowd had gathered around a half elf of indeterminate gender who was masterfully playing a lute and singing:

.. from a town once rich and whole,
They found her asleep amidst death and ash
Awaiting her Lady’s call.

Chosen by fate and frozen by time,
Wrested from all she’s known -
Serena the Reaper sharpens her blade
Awaiting her Lady’s call.

The bard bowed and, demonstrating a masterful control of the crowd, dispersed her admirers. She knelt to check her bag, which had amassed a small fortune during her performance, and I took the opportunity to introduce myself.

“Hello, I am Sister Serena. I have never heard anyone sing about me before!”

The bard chuckled without looking up, “Oh, you’re Sister Serena? Believe me, that isn’t the first time I’ve heard that. I’ve searched all of Arestia for the Reaper, and no one knows where she is – she's death on the wind and impossible to track.”

She places her lute on her back and casts her eyes – one green, one blue – upon me for a moment before realization dawns on her. “It’s you!” She said, wide eyed, and I felt myself grinning.

“It is! I loved your song. I hope you have a good death, whoever you are – I will pray to Persephone for you,” I said as I turned to walk away – I still needed to find reliable travel, and quickly. I felt the half elf grab my arm before I could move away, something no one had ever managed to do twice with both arms remaining intact.

“Can I come with you? I have so many tales left to learn, and all the stories I’ve heard of you are so beautiful.” Her voice took on a decidedly feminine pitch as she purred, “I’m quite the companion..”

“I don’t see why not. I only intended to be in this city for as long as it takes to find a way to Port Shore Blossom – so as long as that isn’t a problem, our paths are one.”

I soon learned her name was Kethra Siannodel, and she had been searching for me following a recitation by another bard, of a poem wherein I lulled someone into a permanent sleep. Persephone’s work is indeed beautiful, and I could not fault Kethra for her fascination. She quickly proved herself to be useful in many ways, one of which being an uncanny ability to find us transportation and a place to sleep for the cost of a few songs or swings of Cora.

After what seemed like an eternity, our travels took us to the Dragon Isles, home to the dragonborn. Against my wishes we were told we would need to halt our journey temporarily in order to re supply. I immediately sought out a temple to pray properly, and hoped this island would be home to a true holy refuge. Kethra left my company in order to find sleeping arrangements and perform – her way of recovering from the journey, just as praying is mine.

The island was of limited acreage and the town took up much of it, but it was a rather simple endeavor to find the Temple of Persephone with some searching. I approached the temple with a wistful sigh of relief and pulled open one of the massive doors. I must have closed my eyes for a second in reverence as I entered, because next thing I knew I had walked into a large lizard.

“Oh, how convenient, I was looking for you,” said a deep voice with little inflection. “Sister Serena, I assume?”

As I regained my footing, the golden scaled dragonborn introduced himself as V. Gates and began to explain that an Elder had given him a mission to find his cousin Roth in Port Short Blossom. This same Elder had also had a vision from Persephone herself regarding my pilgrimage, and had set this strange creature on my path as a bodyguard. He was apparently an Acolyte of Persephone’s ancient aspect – Nature.

How tumultuous were the trials to come if I needed an entourage? I have never needed a bodyguard and I am a bit wary of the way V watches me when he thinks I’m not looking.

I left him to go pray, only to find that he was flanking my every step. It had been weeks since I had been able to speak to my Lady in the way I am accustomed, and so I donned my usual attire and knelt at the altar with Cora balanced on my knees.

Several hours later, I came out of my trance to find V kneeling behind me. At my first movement he stood and handed me my clothes. I told him we were to meet Kethra at the nicest inn in town, and we walked towards it in companionable silence.

Several days and one sea voyage later, we arrived in Port Shore Blossom. There had been moments during the journey where I was sure Kethra would leave my company – she had no interest in Port Shore Blossom, referring to it as a ‘backwater’ and insisting it lacked enough character for even a simple bard’s songs. I reminded her: this is my path. My Lady seeks my divinity and I will not deviate from Her plan. And so Kethra stays, for now. In spite of all efforts to the contrary, I would miss her if she sought her own way.

Our arrival was not marked by any fanfare – this is a not a port so much as a vast sea mimicking the shape of a bay, and it sees an innumerable number of travelers each day. The first order of business, of course, was to extricate Kethra from the arms of our Captain who has made himself far too friendly with her. I wished the man a good death and nodded to V – it was time to speak to our Lady once more before this leg of my pilgrimage commenced.

As we left the port and entered the city, which was hardly the backwater we had been lead to believe, I was struck by the realization that there seemed to be no poverty here. Even the street urchins wear shoes and clothes without holes in them, and they do not seem to be begging for scraps or coin. Strange. One of them approached our party and introduced himself as Ferret, then asks if we need directions. I explained we were seeking the temple, and he darted off ahead expecting us to follow. 

Kethra announced she was going to find some lodgings, as is her custom, and another small child appeared and lead her away. Interesting.

Ferret lead us on a short, brisk walk directly to the temple. He wished us well and did not ask for money in exchange for his help – even more strange. I fondly replied that I hoped he has a good death, which V interrupted by also wishing him a long life. Druids are insufferable creatures.

The temple itself is really more of a compound sporting tall walls and pagoda rooftops. Incredibly detailed foo dogs are carved out of the jade rimming the doorway and oversee the entrance. Inside is a high ceiling with dozens of ropes dangling down, each littered with prayer strips to nearly every major deity you could wish for.

Upon entering, we are greeted by a Priest who wanted to guide us to the appropriate altar. I informed him that we are here to visit with Priest Mato, the abbot who oversees this compound and should be able to point us in the correct direction. We are lead to an office and soon thereafter he arrived, dressed casually and quite easily one of the most handsome men I had ever laid eyes upon. A voice as smooth as silk said a prayer which caused a silver tea set to appear – Priest Mato even provides a bowl for V to drink out of.

I informed him of my mission, and he had clearly been expecting me. He gave me exactly the information I required – we were to find a collection of adventurers known as the ‘Charter of the Carved Table’ who could normally be found at the Rose Shell Inn. Given its description, I surmised we would be headed there anyway – our Kethra was probably preparing a performance there as we spoke.

The abbot also passed along information regarding the three necromancers – Lord Xuun, Bloodspattered Snowblossom, and Shadow Wolf. Cora thirsts for their souls, and it’s just a matter of time before I appease her, Goddess.

After another conversation regarding dragonborn problems, V and I were lead to Persephone’s altar. It is a beautiful sight to behold – awash in grey, white, and black candles and dotted with marigolds and sugar skulls. There is even a single green candle for V to pray at, and he seemed as pleased as one with his temperament could when he noticed it.

We prayed and made our offerings, then headed to the Rose Shell Inn. Along the way we almost immediately ran once again into Ferret, who helped us find a more direct route. By the time we reach the Rose Shell the boy seems to be afraid of me – how strange a culture that does not understand the joy and comfort the promise of a good death can bring.

We entered the Rose Shell Inn and I was first struck with how large it was – easily three stories, with an expansive common room and second and third floor balconies visible from below. The common room itself is quite welcoming, decorated with paper lanterns and banners bearing sigils in delicate Dwarven calligraphy. An impressive stage was clearly the focal point of the room – impressive enough that it was clear our Kethra would be quite at home here. There was also a quite rare sight to one side: a case filled with clearly well crafted and powerful artifacts. The case itself was made of glass, a material that was incredibly expensive.

I wondered, again, just what Persephone had in store for me. This place was not anything like I had anticipated.

I spotted Kethra with little effort, seated close to a halfling and an elf, although they didn’t appear to be interacting. She was, however; speaking with a delectable creature wearing a kimono dipping slightly off one shoulder. Interesting. V and I wandered over just as Kethra was requesting some jasmine tea from this woman, named Madame Saru. She apparently owned this establishment, and told us of Kethra’s performance briefly before wandering off to get us keys to the rooms we were informed we had at the inn. Perfect.

The halfing and elf seemed entirely uninterested in our presence, which was unfortunate given that they were seated at a large, intricately carved table just like the one I was told to seek out. Each of the pair had an animal companion, the most interesting of which being a large black and white bear wearing a blue vest – Sister Magda had told me about these, and I believe they are called pandas. As I sat next to Kethra the panda seemed to spot an easy target, and soon rolled onto his back in order to tempt us to give him attention. We obliged, much to the creatures delight, and the clear annoyance of his compatriots.

I introduced myself to them both, extending my hand and wishing them a good death. The elf, covered head to toe in black leather save his face and his hands, seemed to take offense to my good wishes. Nonetheless, he introduced himself as Eucarion and his companion as Odiri. I inquired about the Order of the Carved table and the necromancers – I need to kill them soon to appease Persephone. 

Both Eucarion and Odiri were clearly inebriated, as they scoffed at my assertion that we would, of course, kill the necromancers and disrupt whatever plans Uthos had been devising. Eucarion soon went on a tangent regarding the details of the necromancers, all of which I already had from my conversations with Sister Magda and Brother Mato. I did catch something about signing a charter and being part of their adventure party – apparently only a signature was required to have access to the glass case full of relics – and at that I noticed there was indeed a charter on the wall with some signatures. Interesting.

As Eucarion drones on and Odiri orders more rice wine, I make a decision. If joining with this party was indeed what my Lady asked of me, than I would do it. V and Kethra shared my path, and so they must join as well. I stood and walked over to the charter, black quill in hand. I skimmed its contents – something about a binding oath, a stern note about carving and repairing the namesake table itself, and an assortment of names ranging from simple to excessively pompous.

I grinned, and experimentally wrote:

Serena Bliss

I paused and waited to see if something would happen. A tingle, maybe? Would an alarm be set off? Surely there was some variety of enchantment on his parchment to prevent just anyone walking in, signing the charter, and stealing all the artifacts away?

Nothing. Perhaps I was just protected by Persephone? Hm. A terse conversation leaked in through my thoughts – apparently V had managed to rile the elf. Perhaps his purpose was fulfilled, if he was destined to die this day by instigating a fight.

I pondered a moment more – if I was protected, perhaps V and Kethra would not be able to join this Charter so easily. Picking up my quill once more, I wrote:

V. Gates
Kethra Siannodel

Again I waited. By now, Odiri and Eucarion had noticed my work on the charter and were staring open mouthed in my direction. I asked quite reasonably if they were aware that the charter did not seem to be enchanted, hexed, or trapped in any way.

As I went to write once again, Odiri dashed across the inn to stand at my side. She demanded to know what I was doing. Rather than answer, I decided to experiment again.

First, I drew a smiley face next to the first and most pretentious of names on the charter – surely with a name that long, they could afford proper security. Second, I left a kind reminder to other members of the charter who would hopefully be reading it in a more sober state:

‘Did you realize just anyone could wander in and sign this? Luckily we are more concerned with matters of life and death than treasure and jewels.

With Love,
S.’

Odiri was dumbstruck, and Eucarion shouted something about it being impossible that no one had ever thought to enchant the charter. Apparently they had just assumed it was? As Odiri went outside to calm down, Eucarion came over and took the charter off the wall. It seemed he did not want anyone else to write on it. What an interesting time to come to that decision.

As he put the charter into the glass case and locked it, Madame Saru arrived and presented V, Kethra, and I with keys to that very case. V immediately asked for a ledger regarding the case’s contents, and he and I both inspected with reverence an actual artifact bearing the power of our Lady herself. Incredible, even if the staff does harness an aspect I am not altogether in tune with: life. V carefully put the staff back in its place and inquired about the next day’s agenda. Madame Saru said if we wished to venture out beyond the walls of Port Short Blossom she would prepare a feast for us first thing in the morning. She mentioned we could also take the opportunity to withdrawal whatever items we needed for our adventure out of the case.

Our two new ‘friends’ soon retired along with their animal companions, and V wandered off with Madame Saru. Fascinating! Seems he does indeed have interests outside of brooding and male posturing.

I awoke in the morning an hour or so before everyone else in order to pray and prepare. Upon my return to my room, my conquest from the previous evening had just woken up and an attendant was knocking on the door. He asked if we wished to have a bath in the room or in the bath house attached to the inn, and we chose the latter. Kethra joined us in the bath, fortunate both due to her company and because I had forgotten said conquest’s name – which could have made for awkward conversation.

After our baths, Kethra and I returned to the inn to an incredible breakfast spread. Nearly every breakfast food I had ever heard of, along with some I had not, was laid out for us to choose from. As we finished eating and storing extra portions in our bags, V decided it was time to gear up. He quickly claimed several items from the case, and disrobed for all to see – to the shock of Odiri and Eucarion. 

I myself decided to use a set of plate armor that I had noticed the day before. It is known as the Mantle of 1,000 Perfections, and upon putting it on I realized that it had once belonged to Lord Xuun. Incredible! The idea of using the necromancer’s own armor to slay him gave me quite a thrill, and I revelled in it.

We soon thereafter left town and proceeded towards the gate. Odiri and Eucarion were in the front on horses, while V drove the cart that Kethra and I had settled into. As we reached the wall we came upon two guards who introduced themselves as Timothy and Robert. Timothy looked particularly dehydrated – a dangerous condition to be in when stationed at a post such as this. I heartily recommended he hydrate as soon as possible, lest he meet Persephone soon. Ordinarily I do not like to give such warnings, but I get the feeling his passing would upset the party. Such a disruption would surely dampen our chances of success on our mission. I can’t have that.

As we passed through the wall I was overcome by the strangest sensation. It was not altogether unpleasant, but my neck began to burn as if a harsh sun was being shone upon it. Kethra cocked an eyebrow and handed me a mirror, and in the place where I felt the burn there was now a tattoo: a white jade key surrounded by a black outline. The egg between V’s horns bears a similar mark, and Kethra’s lute had a new charm – also a jade key.

This place gets more unusual at every turn! Is this magic from the city itself, or another gift from the Goddess? Odiri does not remark on its source but does assure us that every member of the charter who passes through these gates receives a key. We take her word for it, and returned to the matter at hand: where on earth were we going?

I had a map, given to me by Sister Magda on our last day together. It seemed Odiri also had a map, and they were quite similar minus one or two differences – the most important of which being a place called Ghost Shade Keep. If I remember correctly it had once been the keep of Lady Moonshadow, who was a renowned Priestess of Persephone. For some reason I feel like I was told once it might be haunted, but I can’t think of by who or what caused their souls to be restless.

Reaching Ghost Shade Keep meant we would have to cross the river, which apparently was not an option unless we found some lackadaisical means of conveyance. That meant first going up river and out of the way to Makiko’s Trust – a waystation known as a stopping point for travelers, merchants, and ferries. I idly mused about discussing swimming ability as a prerequisite for joining the Charter while Odiri informed Eucarion of our destination. For two creatures in love, they certainly do bicker a lot, but Persephone can be mischievous in the paths she chooses for us.

Unfortunately, though, several days journey did not bring us to Ghost Shade Keep. Multiple battles delayed us even before we reached the waystation. First it was boars, wild and snarling and clearly out of their minds from the meddling of some fiendish presence out of sight and ever vigilant.

I was reminded of a possession I witnessed once while very new to my Lady’s service – a child no older than seven had been overcome and murdered her entire family while they slept. She was covered in blood and a mass of rage, teeth, and flailing limbs by the time Sister Magda and I reached the house. We prayed, and Persephone instructed us to put the child out of her misery at once. Sister Magda said that even if we could cure the possession the girl would still have to live in agony knowing what she had done to her loved ones. We must be merciful to those who deserve such kindness.

One of the poor creatures came directly for Kethra and I, but we quickly dealt with it – a task made even easier with a burst of confidence and inspiration from one of her poems in my name. Finally the rest of the boars were dispatched and I quickly prayed over each of their bodies before Eucarion and Odiri went about butchering them. The animals’ eyes immediately faded from an angry red to their normal color and it seemed they were indeed possessed as I had thought. After a short break we continued on our journey.

The next day, again around lunch time, all except Odiri were surprised by eight predatory striped cats which I now know are referred to as ghost tigers. A ghostly vision of a tiger woman dressed in black silken robes appeared while we fought and I immediately assumed we were looking at Bloodsplattered Snowblossom. V roared to attract the attention of the majority of the beasts, but the necromancer bellowed in return to counteract his endeavor. Two tigers leapt into our cart and I heard Eucarion curse in Elvish as it began to rain, leaving his and Odiri’s vision obscured.

With no time to worry about what was happening outside the cart, Kethra and I fought in tandem as we had since the very first time we ventured out together. One tiger was fed to Cora as her blade cleanly sliced the creature in half, and I deftly flipped onto the ground to give Kethra room to cast. Eucharion’s pet came to her aid just as the tiger was knocked out of the cart and similarly sliced in half as it landed at my feet. The other six tigers seemed to be dead as well, and there was no further sign of Bloodsplattered Snowblossom.

I took the opportunity to dedicate the kills to Persephone, and a ghostly fire appeared over each body. As the fires faded, so did the tigers’ remains, leaving only pelts, claws, and teeth amidst piles of ash. The familiar smell of incense and myrrh coated the wind as the storm dissipated. It seemed Odiri needed healing, which V took care of immediately with a single talon pressed against her forehead. A familiar expression came over her face – Odiri had clearly been visited by our Goddess, but is either too proud or too naive to admit it. 

Two blessings from Persephone demonstrate we are on the right path. Bloodsplattered Snowblossom is indeed one of the necromancers I must find and kill. We kept moving through the day and I had little time for conversation with dear Kethra – I felt more at peace then than I had since the day Sister Magda died, and I needed to meditate on what had transpired.

We made camp and the night passed uneventfully once again. If the last two days were any indication, I was sure we’d be fighting something by lunchtime. By late morning we had reached the outskirts of Makiko’s Trust and found it completely abandoned. There wasn’t a single sign of life there either on land or in the water. V moved to investigate and said something about a large predator as Odiri fired a single arrow into the river.

I had never fought a hydra before, and it was quite exhilarating. Eucarion tied the massive creature to the bank of the river which gave us time to prepare. Someone, I’m not sure who, said something about needing to set the thing on fire – lest one of its many heads grow back and multiply before we could finish it off. Kethra grievously insulted the thing, calling it a ‘death noodle twat wasp.’ After what seemed like an eternity the hydra was dead and we were free to explore the waystation. It was entirely surrounded by bones from various creatures, mostly humanoid, and other signs of death. Clearly the place had not been used in a while, and a poorly located sign below a widow’s walk informed us we should ‘BEWARE: HYDRA.’

Within an office Odiri discovered a lockbox and easily opened it to find an incredible stash of artifacts and coin, including a fan which belonged to the sister of Lord Xuun’s lover. I wonder if we can use it to put his soul to rest?

As I pondered our next steps, I was startled by a bright white flash: we had somehow been brought back within the walls of Port Shore Blossom. At first I thought it was some further trickery from Bloodsplattered Snow Blossom, but I was informed the magic of this place occasionally calls adventurers back to its safety for their own good.

It appeared that both guards had been wisely drinking water while we were gone. I wished them and our new compatriots good deaths and went to pray. I am annoyed that we did not reach Ghost Shade Keep. We must try again as soon as possible.

You close the journal, exhausted and frustrated. There’s a burning sensation on your left side and you reflexively reach out to touch it. Your hand comes away sticky with blood, and on further inspection you find four deep scratches. Claw marks?

‘I’m so tired I’m hallucinating,’ you think. ‘That is, if this isn’t a dream to begin with.’

You tuck the journal safely away and turn off the light. A sense of peace washes over you as you drift off. In the morning your side is tender, and there are four faint, silvery scars like those from a tiger’s angry paw.

View
Log I : Day 29
Eucarion's Journal

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. 

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Odiri's Journal Pt. 18
Adventure 29 - What a day to stop drinking

After a rather intense conversation with Eucarion I have stopped drinking. He insists it’s the best for my health. I had been doing fairly well for a few days not drinking at the cottage but as soon as we took as visit to the Rose Shell my mental strength wavered wildly. I could smell the sake and ale a block away from the teahouse. What nightmare had I gotten myself into? I focused on my task of asking Shei for a few of her favorite recipes. Living with Eucarion now, I feel like I need to impress him all over again and I would start with cooking for him. Sure I’ve roasted him a rabbit or two on our hunting trips but want to REALLY impress him.

The place was a mess of folks that afternoon with Kethra doing her lunch show and some new half-elf lad that seems to have Eucarion on edge. If I thought R’kanna was recklessly spastic this new one, Frondel, takes the cake. I groaned in protest as he signed the charter. Great another fresh face to keep alive. Oranssi seemed pleased to see us and promptly ordered a massive order of Maiden’s Breath for the table. I had to bite the inside of my cheek so hard to pass on the glass offered me even with the insistence from Saru that it was “Good for my health”. I had made a promise to Eucarion I would stop drinking. I ordered tea as Eucarion scooped the proffered glass up and with a heated glare at him I responded to Saru that he would have tea as well. If he was to have me stop drinking there was no way in 7 hells he was allowed to drink in front of me. That just isn’t fair.

Oranssi explained very flippantly that he died. I am not dispassionate enough to be cold about his dying but, I was perplexed why he was not more elated to be alive. I am sure death is an unpleasant experience but by the grace of his deity he was alive once more that is something to be celebrated. Instead he hid behind that ridiculous paper mask once more and curiously enough was drinking the Maiden’s Breath he ordered for the table himself. Does death relieve you of your religious vows? I avoid religion like Asokan Plague but this made me curious…and jealous beyond words. I make my own vow to stop drinking as this pious fuck breaks his –to drink-!!

It was nice to see R’kanna and Tempest were still in town. As odd as the duo were they were refreshing. R’kanna’s bright eyed innocence made me smile and Tempest’s brutal honesty was thought provoking. With a good group around the table we decided we would test Frondel’s meddle beyond the wall the next day. I was hoping to stay for the evening show that Kethra would accompany R’kanna’s performance but the temptations of drink were too strong and Eucarion and I decided to have a quiet evening at home – I still hesitate to call it that as I’ve only been living there for less than a week, but it’s the first place that’s felt like a true home since I left the Forestlands. No Offense to my Lady but living with someone you care for with every fiber of your being will always outmatch the grandest of manors.

When it came time to return to the Rose Shell for our pre-adventure breakfast I just could not step foot in there. Every smell made me sick and I was not totally sure of my ability to keep my hands out of Saru’s wine cellar. I instead sent Eucarion in to pack rations for when I felt like I could hold food down and my preferred armaments from the case. I lead the trek to the wall hoping the fresh air would clear my head I was not far enough from the cart to hear Frondel desperately trying to flirt with Kethra. Good luck with that! She seems mooneyed over Serena who was suspiciously missing from this adventure. Bob and Tim seem rather familiar with this Frondel as they greeted him by name and inquired after a “Lena” whomever that is?

I was wildly distracted from Frondel’s panic attack about The Wall marking his cheek with a key by the fact that I kept hearing disembodied voices from behind me and when I turned to check I saw no one but the party that I expected. It wasn’t till I looked up to Eucarion to ask if he had heard anything till I saw it in his face and we both turned to stare at the cart horses who were both very clearly complaining about being brought beyond the wall. I don’t know why it never occurred to either of us that if we could understand Xiao and Charka that we should be able to understand the horses. I was a little horrified of their sentience. Especially for Gryphon Bait, I should talk to Lady Frivolity about renaming the poor gelding.

 Our plans had been to travel back out to the Mara and see what’s past Makiko’s Trust so we inevitably passed the picked clean carcasses of the boars we had slain. I hope after a few more weeks in the sun those massive rib cages will collapse and let nature take back her creations. R’kanna has taken a shine to map making and has asked to see my map while we traveled. I couldn’t help from smile at her excitement to have the map in her hands. When we finally made it to the river to camp she asked very sweetly if I would take a look at the map she was drawing based on mine. After a quiet evening of helping her with minor tweaks I was feeling oddly proud of her accomplishment. Even though she is only 5 years my younger her pleasant innocence makes me feel protective of her. I see very clearly why now they have sent Tempest with her.

My exhausted sleep was brought to a halt when Tempest slipped into the tent and woke me with warning of wolves. I slipped back into my armor as quickly and quietly as I could and grabbed my bow. Only to be greeted by the visage of 4 wolves, 3 direwolves and 3 werewolves all circling the camp at the edge of the vision the firelight afforded me. I let off a lightning guided arrow to the center of the 3 direwolves who were right in front of me but was subsequently pummeled to the ground by the same mongrel. Eucarion dispatched the beast for me with a flourish of his sword; a skill I knew he possessed but had yet to witness.  Color me impressed. Though I am always impressed by anything he does. He makes the most perfect griddlecakes I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Sorry journal, I must be hungry while I write this to be thinking of breakfast foods in the middle of describing a skirmish. There were so many wolves it was hard to focus what was right in front of my face. I was impressed to see the cohesive work of Tempest using a wave of thunder to slam the werewolves into the water and for R’kanna to bring them death with her lightning. I was NOT impressed to watch that flirtatious half elf scream like a babe and hide within the invisibility cloak. Fucking coward. I wonder what rules there are to strike people’s name from the charter? By the time his balls dropped enough to join the fray he mustered just enough a magic bolt to down the last mongrel attempting to retreat.

I set immediately to dressing the kills as a way to come down off my battle nerves. Normally I would be back in my bed roll with a bottle of rice wine by now but since that just isn’t an option I set to what could distract me the best. Delicately removing the pelts from the wolves to preserve their value. Eucarion and I got in a terrible fight that night. His obsession with making sure I get enough sleep seems to be a fight we will never stop having. Since the BEGINNING! He repeatedly insisted I go back to bed and he would finish dressing the wolves but he just didn’t understand that I –needed- this task to calm myself. Right then I didn’t –need- sleep. Our shouting match was interrupted and mediated very quickly by Tempest. Logic prevailed and I returned to bed but I sleep still did not find me for hours.

Rather than be awoken at dawn by the marsh birds I woke several hours later to the bustle of Oranssi making breakfast and the rest of the camp being torn down while Kethra and R’kanna sang a pleasant upbeat tune. I was in no mood for a meal feeling completely out of sorts oversleeping like that. Everyone treated me fairly awkwardly that morning after the fight but I haven’t fully processed that morning yet. I’ll return to this.

As we traveled up the river that day we stopped for a brief moment to update our maps only to see Tempest’s key call her home in a flash leaving R’kanna in a panic. But there was no time for that because without even time for a breath 5 weretigers appeared spaced equally around our caravan in poofs of black smoke. In her typical dramatic ways, the skies darkened and Blood Spatter’s voice boomed all around us directing the weretigers to “kill the weak ones as a lesson”. As we all took our respective opportunities to attack the weretigers closest to us Oranssi casts a spell over us all and shouts for us to run to the water. I feel like a fool now but I had no idea he had cast a spell of water walking in a plan to put us all out of the tiger’s range. One by one they ran out to the center of the river suspended effortlessly but I couldn’t pull myself to do it. Not that I don’t trust magic but… if it failed and I drowned… I feel like, more than ever, I have a reason to be alive and I couldn’t risk it.

Frondel was downed with one swipe from the weretiger but I had no love lost for him just yet my concern was for keeping my Eucarion alive. In hindsight, it’s selfish to forsake these newcomers to the ministrations of Blood Spatter but my priorities stand. Charka tried valiantly to encourage me into the water with the others but eventually gave up to save herself. I don’t blame her, she was being smarter than I. R’kanna in all her stunning battle thrall grabbed Frondel and threw him over her shoulder as easy as a sack of oats and ran to join the party in the river. Even after the weretigers reminded themselves of their goals and refocused their energies on the newcomers we continued to pummel them down one by one leaving just myself, Eucarion and Xiao on the shore.

In a shocking change of direction Blood Spatter directs her minions to focus on me. The 3 remaining weretigers rushed me prompting Eucarion to slice one clean in half and R’kanna to bring her lightning down on the other two completely frying one.

I barely got to see this before Xiao grabbed me in his teeth and flipped me onto his back before running me out onto the water’s surface. I think I killed the last one but battle nerves do odd things to your memory. I’m home at our cottage now writing this trying so hard to remember what my mind blanked out.

tear-stained pages with unsteady writing “Kill the child” she said. That’s what I couldn’t remember. It’s been days here at the cottage and Eucarion has been my shadow day and night and now I remember. The sickness has been overwhelming for weeks now and the morning we left for the wall was no different. I had to send him in for food and armaments just to keep what little I had been able to keep down in my stomach. I’m surprised I kept my gut settled until the morning after the night of wolves. I did not want to admit it to myself at the time because I wanted so bad for this all to be a secret but all the awkward behavior all morning was due to some continued conversation after I fell asleep. They all knew. Every one of them was aware of our circumstances. They were kind enough but everyone still seems uneasy. But that fight. The weretigers. What my mind so was desperately trying to keep me from. “Kill the child” I thought it was R’kanna. I thought I was safe. I did not know she spoke of my child. If it weren’t for Xiao I could have died. We could have died? Can I say ‘we’ this early? We could have died. Eucarion tells me I shot the final blow after screaming an obscenity about being a mother at the creature. I just remember being held by him. I felt so cold and like I could not keep track of time for a whole day. He tells me this is a type of shock that is common in soldiers. I’m worried that he is not sleeping trying to take care of me. The darker the circles get under his eyes the more I feel like a burden. I almost think I should go back to the manor. This pregnancy is literally my weight to bare. Not his. I made the choice to keep it.

 

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Odiri's Journal Pt. 17
Adventure 28 - In a Mood

CW: Cranky HARSH language, feminine issues

TW: vague suggestion of baby killing

~ aggressive jerky handwriting ~

My mood is foul; my head is pounding; I want to sleep for days. I can’t believe Elura cajoled me into going out beyond the wall a mere day after getting home from the last trip. With MORE NEWCOMERS AT THAT. These two seem EVEN MORE insufferable than the last. Another fucking gold dragon born this one a lass named R’kanna. She must be young, though I have no way to age a lizard person twice my height. She bounds about like a puppy too fast for its own feet. She comes direct from the Dragon Isle chaperoned by a dark haired human woman by the name of Tempest. Boy, does she live up to her name. She is cold and unforgiving and brutally honest. If I were a lover of women I would have courted her in a heartbeat but alas. I am being courted…seemingly for eternity. Or at least my meager lifetime. He will never wed me I should get that idea out of my head and focus on something positive. Of which I cannot think of a single thing right now.

R’kanna seems to be a fair lute player and that set Elura’s sensibilities ablaze. That envious harlot just HAS to be the center of attention. It seemed like the same day played all over again in front of me as Madam Saru weaves her tales of heroism and adventure to those two poor souls. But unlike Serena, Tempest asked questions and seemed like she had a damned brain in her skull.

Zui overlooking these proceedings from his table on the side selling his special brew claimed ominously that once they sign the charter they can never leave. Ho’kee didn’t help dispel that rumor so Saru interrupted to insure us that we could indeed leave from the bay by boat.

I was blissfully intoxicated for the remainder of the day into the evening and woke with a start that morning realizing I was going to miss breakfast and rushed as fast as Dusty could take me to the Rose Shell. Naligor already had the cart with False Indigo and Gryphon Bait hitched, how did I sleep through that? I shoveled a few honey cakes in my mouth and washed them down with a flagon of strong ale to ease my hangover. Lords and Ladies it’s been ages since I’ve had a proper hangover.

In my packing I overheard Tempest chastising R’kanna for something to do with her engagement. What a bizzare culture, the dragon born, to marry one off so young. Maybe she isn’t young and is just simple. If that is the case, I pity her fiancé.  

At the wall “Robert” and “Timothy” introduced themselves again. When I called them out on their new introductions they exclaimed that they have never been so lucky to have us bring by so many beautiful women lately. I suppose that makes me a fish carcass drying on the shore. Tim and Bob, FUCKING PIGS.

Elura has some half-baked idea of making a map of the immediate surroundings, exactly one day’s travel from the gate in every direction. We started with due east. As we passed through the last of the wall Ho’kee and Xui attempt to terrify R’kanna and Tempest that their new keys were a curse. I assured with a shout over my shoulder they were fine.

We made it a half day’s journey before Naligor and Elura alerted me to a black panther stalking us slightly behind me. I dismounted calm and casual and called out to the sleek huntress. I had seen her many times over but she’s never encroached this close to our caravan. Not even when it was just Eucarion and I out for a hunting trip. I convinced her that we were not her quarry this day though she had her eye on Zui especially. She was gracious enough to warn us of yet ANOTHER pack of Ghost Tigers not far ahead.

Note to self: Keep rabbit on hand as a gift of offering for Huntress’s mercy.

We took heed and traveled quiet..ish. R’kanna has my Lady’s same sense of “stealth”. I took the lead and we took those striped asses by surprise! I let loose another of my arrows imbued with the skies might and brought lightning down on 3 at once. Naligor, the freak of nature he is decided to grapple the fucking tiger in the form of an octopus. What an idiot. A useful idiot but still and idiot.  Zui’s style of fighting still amuses me beyond words but it is damn effective. After bolts of magic and fire between Elura and Ho’kee and an impressive trident strike by Tempest R’kanna takes down the last tiger like it was nothing.

For a young thing she is… a little terrifying when riled up. Tempest set to soothing her while I dressed the kills. Zui came by begging like a fleabitten in the street for one of the tiger fangs. I ripped a back tooth from the jaw for him but he seemed disappointed and pointed to the true fangs which I repeatedly told him no. I tried to explain in vain that the fangs are only worth something to Elder Yen as a full set and if he wanted a single fang he could purchase it back with his cut of the proceeds. I had no temper for his childish behavior. This persistent exhaustion plagues me and I hope I am not falling ill by some fever brought overseas by all these damned new folk.

After finishing the full days trailblazing we camped and returned home with no run ins.

~ New Entry – Only slightly more composed script ~ 

I believe the impossible has happened. I’ve never been late by more than a week. This exhaustion will not release me and dawn’s bile has come. This is what I wanted was it not? This is what I begged for at each pairing. Then why does fear grip me so? Fear of the unknown. It’s been two days since I came home from the trip with Elura. I’ve been avoiding Eucarion. I don’t know how to tell him. Or how he’ll react. I should probably not be drinking…or smoking….but it is the only thing that breaks up the incessant pacing I find myself stuck in. This is a miracle to be celebrated, why am I so scared to tell anyone? I miss my mother 

~ Same page significantly more composed handwriting ~

He knows. He knew before I even told him. He was not thrilled. He even went as far as to suggest I rid myself of it. He insists it will kill me. Halflings are infamous for their sturdiness. In birth it is no different. My mother carried, birthed and suckled myself and my twin mid-migration. If she could travel over a year’s worth of time it with twins, I can do it in a small town with a…half-elf? Eucarion eventually accepted that I would not be “rid” the blessing nature has bestowed on us. Though this moment of acceptance was interjected by the worst round of dawn’s bile yet. He seems rather practiced at caring for the woes of a mother-to-be. I know he has a son but how does the raising of one child craft this perfect understanding things like missed lunars and the precise place to rub on the back of my neck to relieve the nausea? He asked me to move in with him. Temporarily. He wants to keep me close by and does not want to me to have to walk or ride between the cottage and the manor so frequently in fear for my health. I am starting to feel like I am being treated like an invalid when it’s been nary a fortnight since even I had a suspicion. In attempts to soothe my Lady’s worries of having the house unguarded I offered to train a replacement and assured her I was not breaking my year’s contract of service but rather putting it on hold until after the child is born and I can return to duty guarding her and her home. It all feels very odd to call Eucarion’s Cottage “home” knowing I will eventually have to go back to the manor but for now I will enjoy the many many full moons between now and then in the arms of the man I love and a house we can call “Ours”.

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Odiri's Journal Pt. 16
Adventure 27 - Nuances of Newcomers

CW: Language & Feminine Business

After three straight weeks holed up in Eucarion’s place leaving only momentarily for refills of wine and food from the market, he and I decided it was best for us to spend some time at the Rose Shell so we would not forget how to socialize like respectable beings. Midway through our 4th, 5th? bottle of Maiden’s Breath we notice a newcomer, a half-elf with flaming red hair much like Soveliss’ enter. Madam Saru was immediately fussing over her and it appears she is some sort of performer like Elura, by the name of Kethra, but this one seems to be adepts specifically with instruments unlike Elura’s broad stroke talent.

While her performance commanded a standing ovation Eucarion and I were hesitant to readily accept new comers after what seemed like a nice balance of calm had fallen over the port town. Shortly before the ovation died down entirely an odd pair of even more new comers entered the Rose Shell with no hesitancy. I am always immediately suspicious of those with this much confidence. The first of the two was a massive gold dragon born with an odd egg shape floating between his horns. While his scales were similar to Roth’s in color they had entirely different snout shapes and that egg was definitely a different thing. But as Roth is the only dragonborn I’ve ever met till now, I don’t know if Roth is the odd one for NOT having an egg?

Alongside the dragonborn, who introduced himself as V.Gates, was a pleasantly short human that I could almost make eye contact with without tilting my head that introduced herself as Serena. She has the most chilling habit of wishing those she meets a “good death” like your average person would wish someone a good day. I have come to understand after a few days with them that this is particular to their Goddess Persephone.

After Xiao promptly introduced himself in his typical manner Madam Saru instigated conversation of the charter. I think I attempted to explain the Yomi Princes and they drama surrounding them but much of that evening was blurred by alcohol. What I do remember was that my love almost came to fisticuffs with the dragonborn over a question of age and the blatant vandalism of the Charter document by that death happy harpy, Serena.  For better or for worse there were three new members for the charter of the carved table.

Important to note: That god damned dragon man not only bedded Saru on his first night in town but also received a token of her favor the next morning after a rather brazen display of his manhood on the breakfast table. Soveliss will be furious.

Also, how many of my compatriot’s privates will I be shown in bravado before the shock wears off?

The next day I woke up early from Eucarion’s place and went home to the manor to saddle up Dusty and hitch False Indigo and Gryphon Bait to Lady Frivolity’s cart. If these new charter members were so riled to go beyond the wall, I wouldn’t have them on foot during these dangerous times. There were rumors that the charter went up against Blood Spatter Snow Bitch and were met with death but I have yet to validate the story with one that was out with that party. Regardless it meant beyond the wall was even more dangerous than it ever had been.

When we met the gate boys they introduced themselves rather formally as “Robert and Timothy” What the hell was that all about? Regardless, I challenged Tim to a rematch at the Harvest Festival despite his insistence that his training with Eucarion and Oranssi would win him the match. I reminded him he conceded after one hit in the last match.

As we passed through the gates to the other side of the wall Eucarion and I turned back to watch in amusement as the newcomers received their keys. It’s always a delight to watch their panic before assuring them it’s for good cause. After that ordeal was dealt with we realized we have no intended heading. Serena admitted ownership of a map of sorts and we agreed on a “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” moment. When piecing our maps together we noticed her map had a significant overlap in between what Elura has and what I have. On her map though, was Makiko’s Trust. A ferry landing and waystation on the edge of the Mara River. In this decision to get to the river Eucarion discovered I cannot swim. He was none too pleased on the verge of upset that I never told him. He insists on teaching me but I will avoid that lesson for as long as I humanly can.

Traveling with these new members to the charter was quite pleasant with the occasional soft singing heard from Kethra. We trekked west along the wall but the calm was disrupted during lunch of our first day of travel by three giant boars. A beast I knew well thankfully. Serena, Kethra and V.Gates proved themselves as worthy additions to the Charter with their quick actions. The boars were obviously tainted by The Bitch and Serena quickly saw to blessing the corpses as they questioned my love and I on the source of the evil. We made it to the river’s edge by nightfall and camped. I saw to a quick and rather immodest bath in the river but hell be damned if they saw my womanly goods I couldn’t care less I just wanted the blood and grit that comes from skinning animals that size off my body.

The next day directly after we started back on our path after lunch we were ambushed by 8 Ghost Tigers. In a pack, they were none other than the Bitch’s. Solitary tigers have left our group alone for months as we have come to an accord with them they leave us be, we leave them be. But when they came at us from the brush from every angle we were in bad shape. Pulling the most energy I could, I let loose an arrow that channeled the skies themselves and it hit the center of the 5 tigers surrounding Eucarion, the animals and I with a bolt of lightning spreading from the tip of the arrow out beyond the first tiger, to the two at its side and again to the two at their sides. Watching a single arrow wreak so much destruction amongst our enemy filled me with a limited fierce pride in my skills. My faith in my ability to be any good to our party was starting to wane. What good was a few arrows against Naligor’s shapeshifting and Adi’s intense magicks? Even Eucarion has his skill of a soldier that I don’t.

Pity party aside, the fight against the tigers was one of the most stressful I’ve been through in some time. Having to split my attentions between making sure the newcomers were not being over taken and keeping my own hide on my body was an effort and a half that earned me a claw to the side. Mid-fight the skies darkened and the sun was blotted out by an instant and heavy rain. Then there she was in all her spectral projected bitchiness. She addressed us with a cockiness I’ve come to expect. Her empty threats of death don’t scare me anymore.

As the battle wore on the rain took its toll on my aim but luckily our new members seem to be able to hold their own. Charka was acting surprisingly compassionate by jumping into the cart to defend Kethra. That unlikely duo downed a tiger after a flawless hip check from Charka slammed the tiger perfectly into Kethra’s crossbow bolt range. Serena was a flurry of movement with her giant halberd cutting the second to last tiger clean in half.

As Charka brought down the last tiger the skies started to lighten and I realized my garb was not just wet with rain but also with blood. I felt sick and instantly tired until V.Gates tapped me on the forehead with a single claw and I felt like I had been plunged under an icy lake. My skin felt like it was equally cold and on fire in the same moment. I gasped deep as I felt my claw torn side knit together with that icy energy. As much as I appreciate the healing, and I will NEVER admit this aloud, I prefer Oranssi’s warmth of Artimestia over this cool darkness of Persephone.

After dealing with the tiger corpses we continued down the river and camped. Over dinner Eucarion and I had to explain the hateful hag that was Blood Spattered Snow Tiger and the havoc that she has caused outside the wall. It pleases me that these newcomers are just as commited to bringing her down as we are now. The next morning after only a short ride we finally saw Makiko’s Trust off in the distance. It looked abandoned and run down. What was even more startling was the massive dead area in the water surrounding the ferry landing that Eucarion and I could sense. No fish, no frogs. Not a single shore bird.

I shot an arrow long and wide to test the waters and as soon as my fingers released the arrow I heard V.Gates warn me of “Large Predators”. In a blink five massive reptilian heads breached the surface. I knew what this was. I’d only seen it in book but it was a fucking hydra. I fucked up. That will teach me to blind fire. With an exasperated sigh Eucarion burst into action used his magicks to ensnare the beast off the coast so it could not advance on us and take down one of its five heads. I feel I may have been the cause of that sigh and I hope he is not still upset with me. I bring my lightning down on the next head completely obliterating it. But if I remember correctly fire was necessary to keep the heads from regrowing. I don’t remember but someone from the group definitely shouted that we needed fire. Eucarion quickly set to making fire arrows for us to share with rags and oil. V.Gates and Serena took turns at the thing between Eucarion and I’s fire arrows while Kethra emboldened us with heroic song and a sharper tongue that even Elura possesses. If I recall she called the monstrosity a “Death Noodle Tat Wasp”

Surprisingly our ragtag team downed a massive hydra with little effort thanks to my Dearest’s quick thinking. As we approached the ferry landing we noticed very quickly this hydra had been in residence for quite some time. The grasses and waters were piled thick with bones of all variety, adventurer and animal alike. Inside the main building of the landing there was ample room with a cot, a rain barrel and even a desk. The desk was covered with the debris unique to abandoned places but under it all we found scroll tubes of shipping manifests, and a ledger of ferry crossing times. Under the desk we found a large lock box. My hands almost worked in a mind of their own fitted with Makiko’s own gloves it would make sense that the lock box found at a place titled “Makiko’s Trust” would open as easy as a 5 copper harlot.

Among the knickknacks and coins, I found a delicate black lacquered fan case. Inside it was a magical fan painted with intricate air elemental. I could feel the magic in it but was too disconcerted with the feeling that this fan was the sister to the one I had given to Eucarion. Lady Shen’s belongings were nothing to be taken lightly as her history is as dark as the lacquered case I was holding. The keys couldn’t have started to glow a moment too soon as that same overwhelming exhaustion I had been fighting this whole trip came over me. The ride back to the manor felt like days but a warm private bath was just the ticket to a good night’s rest.

~ Next entry in shaky unsure handwriting ~

The bath did nothing to ease my exhaustion or my nerves. I’ve counted my days over and over. I’ve missed my lunar. I’ve missed it before. It could be nothing. It could be the stress of adventuring for the first time in 3 weeks. It could be…no, it cannot. It’s physically impossible. I wish it could be. I’ve wished it from the moment he admitted his love to me but, nature would not allow it. It has to be stress.

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Things I have learned
Hok'ee's musings.

Some people just despise ferrets, and if you dare to defend the fuzzy little bastards, those people will never forgive you nor listen to another word you say without endeavoring to insult you to your face.

You can escape the city if you leave by water. 

Elura will not be upstaged.

The Charter contract and lock box are in need of greater security.  

The forests to the east of the city are infested with panthers and ghost tigers. 

 

 

Also, I owe Odiri 750 gold, to move taken from my cut of previous and future expeditions.  It's worth it for the armor.

 

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Log I : Day 27
Eucarion's Journal

Sweet hells, if the ruckus our company brought to Shore Blossom was one thing, then the new arrivals are in a whole new league of mess. 


Nearly three full weeks of much needed vacation time were broken up by this! Odiri and I had been having a lovely time banging away and drinking ourselves into all sorts of states. Really, we were only leaving my cottage to replenish our stocks of liquor and let the bed laundry dry. But no, of course, such simple pleasures of life cannot be left alone. 


The state of the company had been an odd thing in the past month. Many came and went, and a large party had only just returned the previous night. As such, Odiri and I found ourselves seated alone at the carved table, geefully draining Madam Saru's supply of Maiden's Breath. A red-haired half-elf, obviously a newcomer to town, entered the Inn and was almost immediately ushered up onto the stage with  a whirlwind of instruments. Though I prefer Elura's talents, this bard, Kethra, put on a fair show and absolutely delighted the crowd. I was distracted much of the performance, in any case. I really couldn't pinpoint their gender. And, even after we were introduced and I picked up that Kethra's companions used feminine monikers, it seemed much to directly ask. I wasn't aware half-elves could experience cycles as full blooded elves can, but perhaps the androgynous look was the cause of being between changes? I'd never gone through such a thing myself. I had only ever been a man, for the obvious limitations of war. Naligor, if I recall correctly, is the only one among us elves in the company to have seen the other side. I suppose it makes little difference. Kethra was the one I liked best out of the arrivals anyway, if only because she seemed the most sane of the bunch.

She was seated at a table not far from us, certainly close enough for me to overhear her conversation with Madam Saru as she was attended to. Kethra would be staying at the inn, especially since there were some "difficult customers who had vacated their accomodations". The snide comment did not go missed, though Odiri lamented to me that had I not been booted from the Drunken Fish, we could have taken our business there instead. 


Suddenly, the afternoon sun streaming through the main door was eclipsed by the absolutely massive frame of a golden-scaled dragonborn, tall and broad chested, with great horns almost like an elk. Between them, curiously suspended in air, was a golden egg. I have little experience with dragonborns as a rule (Roth being a rare and favorable exception), but this one was something entirely novel. Beside him, with enough of a height difference between them that I was forced to actually move my head to get her into view, was a young woman in fanciful clothing, bearing on her back a halberd nearly two heads taller than she was. She had her arm tightly around Ferret, one of Kodu's kids. I assume he had hepfully led them to the Rose Shell, but his face read clear with discomfort and terror. 


Without any invitation, the two came and plonked themselves at our table, dragging over Kethra with them. The dragonborn immediately went to pet Xiao, who happily rolled himself over and presented his belly. Traitor. Charka bristled and came to sit a little closer to my feet. Knowing this would be terrible, if only based on the fact that Odiri and I, especially drunk as we were, should really be the last people to act as welcoming party, I went to take a hard swig of my wine, only to choke on it. The woman, introducing herself as Serena, greeted me with an unnervingly wide smile and stated she hoped I woud "have a nice death". While we bantered a little on what sort of death I desired, the dragonborn ordered "the hottest cup of oolong ever made", which had to be brought out with tongs. Between this and craning my neck to stare up at his genuinely unsettling height, he introduced himself as V.Gates. If I'm not mistaken, that's "hello" in Dwarven. Why? Of all the things? There was no time to ponder the matter, because he had already charmed himself halfway into Madam Saru's drawers with some deadpanned joke about contortion by the time we attention was turned back to him.

Odiri and I ordered up another round of Maiden's Breath…

Serena explained, far too loud and excitably, that she and V.Gates had come to town on a mission to slay necromancers in the name of their goddess, Persephone. Or that is as best I understood it in my increasingly inebriated state. I'm probably off. V.Gates had the additional purpose of locating his cousin, our Roth. (If anyone tries to tell me that not all dragonborns are related, then boy do I have some contrary evidence…) Kethra had more or less involved herself as Serena's entourage. What she possibly could have done to earn an entourage is beyond me. In any case, the three wished to join the company. Odiri and I attempted to explain the state of our collective hunt for the Yomi Princes, but our efforts were ignored outright. Serena stood up, waltzed up to the posted charter, and signed everyone's names on it. She didn't even read it! Was there really no enchantment to prevent this sort of thing?! Odiri hopped to her feet to take a look herself, only to see Serena writing "Did you know that anyone can sign this?" at the bottom of the parchment and planting a smiley face next to Frivolity's name. As Odiri exited to have a calming smoke of her pipe, I took the charter off the wall, rolling it up and locking it in the glass case, to prevent this sort of thing in the future. I can't believe the thing wasn't enchanted… Had we really all just assumed that it was?

I returned to my seat, throwing back more wine and laying my head in my hands, as Odiri came back as well. As much as I dislike her grass habit, I cannot blame her for turning to it in that moment. V.Gates gave some sort of patronizing remark in my direction, calling me "child". Child! The nerve! Even the oldest dragonborns only get to about 80! Odiri held me back as I clenched my fists and sized him up. He would probably kill me if we went hand to hand, but it was an affront to my honor that would not stand. Shei, smart girl, came to diffuse the situation, bringing me a jug of water and whispering to V.Gates that "High Commander Eucarion is 252 years old". Damn fucking straight I am. Uppity overgrown lizard.

Madam Saru presented the three new apparent members of the company with keys to the glass artifact case. A few new things had made their way into it, including a Rod of Resurrection that V.Gates immediately took out. I was legitimately concerned a moment that he might break it, but he handled it with such reverence and great care. I was… impressed? Curious, certainly. I cannot recall if it was I or Odiri who proposed that we go with them, but, as much as I was displeased with the idea, Odiri and I were, again, the only two of the party in adventure-ready condition. Somebody would have to bring back the items if the new recruits died out there. 

The following morning, Madam Saru had set up a breakfast for us as usual as we all geared up to leave. To the collective surprise, V.Gates disrobed in the middle of the hall to don a set of armor from the case, then a second time to hand the same armor over to Kethra instead. I couldn't help but notice his sizeable organ. I'd always thought that dragons had… well… not that. Was he bigger than Albion? He had to be bigger than Albion. V.Gates caught me staring and dropped his … meat … on the table, causing everything on it to rattle, asking me if I'd like a closer look. Oh god, it's been a while. I averted my eyes, embarrassed to have been so conspicuous, and declined the offer. I mean, really. Self control is a virtue. Odiri was sitting right there, anyway. In the same moment, it became rather apparent that Madam Saru had not been nearly so shy. She approached V.Gates and presented her favor, tying a white ribbon about his wrist and wishing him a safe return. From the look in her eyes and the tone of her voice, it was clear she had meant a safe return to her bed. I can't fucking believe it. A 7 foot dragonborn is the first in the party to bed possibly the most famous courtesan in all the kingdoms. Soveliss is going to lose his shit. 

Retrieving Griffin Bait and False Indigo to pull Frivolity's borrowed wagon, we made our way to the gate, where Tim and Bob introduced themselves as Timothy and Robert, making eyes at Kethra as they did. I understand a thing or two about being dry on the job, but the lack of subtlety! Serena made a few menacing comments to the matter of dehydration and dying, quieting them uncomfortably.

We barely got into the Bamboo Sea before coming to a halt. In the commotion of Serena's incessant demands to go somewhere, we had failed to decide where exactly we'd be going. After some deliberation between Odiri and I, we settled on somewhere on the opposite bank of the Mara River. Odiri seemed terribly upset by the idea of simply crossing the river and insisted we find a ferry. She can't swim? Well, that would certainly have to change. As much as I also hate being in the water, I'd of course been trained in the military. Drowning is a terrible way to go. I'll find some time to teach her. Our best bet was heading towards Makiako's Trust to cross over, the hope being that we would not encounter anything particularly dangerous along the way. It was silly, really, that we had to play tour guides to these children…

At noon, we stopped briefly to rest. No sooner had we pitched a camp than we assaulted by three massive boars.  The appeared rabid, enraged, eyes glowing red. Xiao dispatched one quickly, by the remaining two charge Odiri and I, nearly goring us on their tusks. As I wrestled one off me, I could see in its eyes a malevolent intelligence. Possessed, perhaps, by some malicious force. We broke free of them as Serena slashed at them with her halberd. Odiri felled one, sticking it cleanly through the eye. From behind the cart, Kethra's unsteady voice, delivering a rousing speech and nailing the final boar through the neck with her crossbow. Excellent shot! 

Serena prayed over the slain boars, their eyes clearing with a glow of pale light. V.Gates immediately went to chuck the whole boars into the cart. Fucking amateur. I pulled them back down as Odiri and I set to work on them. I was only half-listening, but V.Gates and Serena bantered back and forth, Serena expressing frustration that V.Gates had gotten into Madam Saru's bed before she had, threatening to bed down some other pretty thing in vengeance. A … curious relationship they've got there. None of my business, I suppose, though I am wildly intrigued.

We managed 15 more miles up the bank of the Mara before nightfall forced us to make camp for the night. As I stoked a fire, Odiri walked down to the water's edge, stripping down to clean herself of boar guts. I couldn't help but watch. There was something beautiful there. Her, wading nude into the brackish eddies, skin glistening with rivulets of red-stained water, silhouetted against the breezy marshes, hair fiery in a feast of color like the dying sun low in the sky. I can't explain it, really. I thought a moment to join her there, but, well, the present company. When it was just the two of us out to hunt, there was no need for modesty. I wandered a little further up the river, out of sight. After a feast of duck and river fish, we settled in for a peaceful night. 

The following morning passed quickly as we traveled further up the Mara. Unfortunately, the trend of being attacked at lunch continued. Catching us by surprise, 8 ghost tigers burst from the bamboo. The sky darkened, the sun blotted out by the ghostly projection of Blood Spattered Snow Tiger, booming down at us that we were not welcome in the Bamboo Sea and that she had already killed one of our own. I was struck with worry. It hadn't occurred to me until that moment that we had not seen any of the party that had gone out before us. Could one of ours really have been slain? No time to think as all hell broke loose. Odiri fired on instinct, striking one of the tigers nearly dead with a clap of lightning burst from an arrow. Two jumped into the cart, clawing at Kethra and Serena. V.Gates, voice thundering as loud as Snow Tiger's, called the tigers to attack him. Ah, smart dragon. He had the protective scabbard and they could do no harm to him. With them in his range, he unleashed a blast of fire in their faces. Odiri and I landed two kills of our own from horseback as Charka and Xiao slayed two more from the ground. Torrential rain began to pour down on our heads. Serene leapt over the side of the cart, narrowly escaping a wild claw, but leaving Kethra alone. The bard let loose a clear, shrill note, knocking one of the tigers out of the cart, Serene slashing it in half as it went airborne. Charka leapt into the cart, fending off the remaining tiger from Kethra and giving her the chance to pull her crossbow. One well placed shot and a wink from Charka and another tiger was down. Serena and Charka slaying the final two, the illusion of Blood Spattered Snow Tiger retreated. Serena summoned a ghostly fire with her prayers to bless the corpses as the rain receded, leaving behind the sacred scent of myrrh on the restored pelts of the tigers. 

After a blessedly quiet night, we cleared the last leg of our journey up the river and arrived at what supposedly was Makiako's Trust. All that stood there was an abandoned waystation with a few broken barges. Reaching out to sense any lurking beasts, Odiri and I noticed a suspiciously empty spot in the water. No fish. Nothing. Odiri loosed an experimental bolt into the spot, just as V.Gates said something to the end of, "I think its a large predator". Oh, no shit, we immediately discovered, as a five headed hydra reared up from the water with a roar. I ensnared it thorns, taking out one head with an arrow. V.Gates breathed a lick of fire in one of its faces, wading into the water to attack the body. Rather shockingly, Kethra insulted the thing viciously, calling it a "death noodle twat wasp". Bold words, and it seemed genuinely hurt? Unbelievable. Odiri and I slung fire arrow after fire arrow into the damn thing, as Kethra's barrage of insults continued. God, what a slog of a fight. A final fiery arrow from my bow and the hydra collapsed, dead. 

The hydra must have been at the waystation quite some time. Bones littered the surrounding area, mostly humanoid. All we found of interest there was a lockbox and some ledgers in dwarven. The ledgers were thrown in the cart, as Adi might find them interesting. Odiri deftly opened the lockbox with the enchanted gloves. Makiako's Trust. Makiako's lockbox. Makiako's gloves. Perfect. Inside, some coinage, a medallion in the seal of the First Kingdom, and a shapeshifting fan capable of calling the winds. Looking around, the only other observable thing was a bit of text written on the roof of the waystation opposite the river. "Beware of Hydra". Yeah. Wish we'd known that a little sooner. Our keys began to glow, and we were all returned to the gate.

I must say this now. One thought of late gives me cause for great concern. Odiri has missed her monthly. I haven't said anything. As a man, it is hardly my place to comment. But I've resided in the company of women enough to understand feminine business. Besides that, it's a difficult thing to keep private in close quarters and from keen senses. I know when she's supposed to be having her lunar tide, and it's been nearly a full week. I suspect she may be too stressed by all the recent adventuring. The alternative is impossible…. isn't it?

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