Tales of Shore Blossom

Chaos in the Blood
It's a hell of a thing

It was getting  late as I made my way back into the Rose Shell, my usual impish smile available for all the new friends I've been making in this land..  The once-long and luxurious red hair on my head was gone now, and only a few days' growth on what would almost be a completely bald pate.  It doesn't bother me much, though.  I think the worst of it was when I came to dinner a few hours after the dragon attack.  Shei had this expression of shock.  "Odiri told me, but I hoped she was lying," she had said.  I laughed it off, giving her another smile, and she melted just like she had all those other times.  That told me enough.  Charm and looks go a long way, hair or no hair.  Poor thing.

My pockets are loaded with trinkets from our quest.  A spectacular victory today.  Naligor, Kodu, Syd, and I.  We did something no one had expected.  We destroyed a yomi prince.  

I make my way over to the table.  Our table.  Madam Saru's spell had repaired most of Oranssi's prayer, though I think Adi is going to have to redo all of his corrective work.  But it's time to add something of my own.  

The chaos in my blood calls out, a thousand tiny, disparate voices all screaming their individual wants.  But not this time.  Pushing down the bedlam of magic always begging to be released, I reach down into my boot and pull out a dagger.  I sit down at the table and begin to carve.  Adding to the map Odiri had been designing, I add something.  Just one.  A tree.  But not just any tree.  A treant, corrupted by evil.  More importantly, the treant is covered in flames.  Because treants burn.  One less Yomi Prince.

As I finish my distinctly unmagical carving, I see the familiar presence of Madam Saru.  "You aren't usually the one to do the carving," she remarked.  

I thought Odiri might like the support," I replied.  I offered her a confident smile.  "Of course, that's nothing compared to the kindness that you provided."  She smiles and offers small nod of acknowledgement, but her cheeks didn't quite flush at my compliment.  Damn, she's good.  More worldly and adept than sweet, innocent Shei.  Much more of a challenge.  Even if I ignored her rather excellent reputation among the upper crust of my homelands, her skill and looks would be enough to catch my attention.  But no matter.  I was famished after this last trip.  

"Madam Saru, would you have someone send dinner up to my room, please?" I stand from the table, preparing to head upstairs.

"Oh, of course," she replies.  "No gambling tonight?" she asks with a persuasive tone.  The mad energies in my veins are almost humming now, demanding some use.  I give them some relief.  A few arcane whispers and nn image of a gold brick materializes on the table.  Several locals in nearby chairs find their gazes drawn to it.  "Something like this?" I ask.  Chaos in the blood; it's a hell of a thing.   

"Soveliss, you tease!" Madam Saru replies.  The image vanishes.  "You're welcome to gamble in my room," I reply with a grin.  "Then you might be teased some more."  I let my eyebrows waggle at her.  The chaotic swirls in my head are demanding more.  More magic, more madness.  MORE.

She offers a wry grin.  "I'll send your food upstairs."  I bow to her politely and make my way up, keeping a tight rein on the howling in my blood.  I wave to a few other passersby, offering more trademark smiles, then enter my room.

The moment the door is closed, the smile is blasted away, replaced by a silent scream as the magic begins to flare up all around.  An end table holding a very nice vase with wildflowers in it is dissolved by a splash of acid.  My writing desk begins changing colors with rapid abandon.  A disembodied hand flies about the room, knocking things over.  I go through this every night.  But the return from adventure and combat, those nights are always the worst.  Magic feeds itself.  The more I use it, the more it wants to be used.   Chaos in the blood.  

It must have been fifteen minutes of this.  Maybe more.  My mind raced.  We killed a Yomi Prince, Kodu, Naligor, Syd, and I.  And the prizes we got were extraordinary.  The staff delighted Kodu beyond belief.  One of the five elemental weapons.  The ogre I manipulated him into fighting and slaying yesterday must be completely gone from his mind now.  Naligor certainly didn't seem to mind.  I am findiing that he and I seem to think alike in many things.  A welcome respite from the loathing I've been getting from others.  Oranssi has a quiet, elitist racism about my human side.  Nothing I haven't dealt with a thousand times from elves like him growing up, but it's disappointing nonetheless.  He is like Kodu in that he doesn't like my methods, but his way of expressing it is… unworthy of a cleric of Orestia, I believe.  

Kodu, once he got past the initial shock of my techniques, still has a lot of limiting ethical issues that get in our way, but it seems like I'm finding new ways to circumvent that.  He just needs plausible deniability, like with yesterdays's ogre.  That seems to work well enough for now.

I scored some points with Syd, the newest member of the charter.  She had smuggled some kind of magical potions for herself.  From the ogre's stash, most likely.  I saw their magic auras.  I said nothing.  Our eyes met for a moment.  I knew what she had, and she knew I knew.  Maybe keeping her secret will be the start of some trust there.  She seems skittish, like she doesn't trust many people.  Living on the streets, I suppose that might be a normal development.  Maybe we'll end up being friends, though.   

I don't think Eucarion hates me, per se, but I think he sometimes hates my looks when he is so very scarred.  I wonder how he earned those scars, but I don't think I'll ask.  It's his business.  If he wants to share it, he will in his own time.  And at the festival the other day I think he came under the impression that I'm trying to steal Odiri out from under him.  

I'm not pursuing Odiri.  At least, not the way Eucarion seems to think.  Odiri is simultaneously the easiest and the hardest to read.  She wears her heart on her sleeve, and tries to hide her feelings with anger.  She feels inadequate, with this constant need to prove her worth.  To whom?  Well, I think that's based on how drunk she is.  Half the time she wants to prove things to herself.  The other half, to Eucarion.  I think ift he two of them can get out of their own damn ways, they might be able to find some happiness for a while.  

But she's also hard to read.  She seems to have a quiet disapproval of me, like some of hte others do.  The others make sense to me, even if I don't agree with their reasons.  But Odiri I can't figure.  She seemed genuinely surprised when i was nice to her the other day.  As if she thought I might be cruel.  Maybe I've laughed at her random follies once too often.  But how do you explain to someone that you laugh to fight off the screams?  That the magic fights every second to consume you, and that it's like this powerful opium that feeds itself endlessly?  Laughter seems to be the only weapon I have against the bubbling chaos in my blood.  

I'm lost in thought.  Minutes?  Hours?  Slumped against the frame of my bed as magics wizz and fly around the room.  Then there is a knock.  

Chaos in the blood.  My eyes come back into focus.  The slack-jawed look of vacant horror is shaken away.  With a word, I dismiss the errant magics running rampant in the room.  They've been fed well, and are starting to quiet again.  I force myself to my feet and make my way to the door.  I plaster on my usual pleasant smile and open up.  It's Shei, carrying a tray of food.  "Good evening, Shei!" I say warmly.  She flushes and smiles in turn.  "Good evening Mr. Soveliss!  I have your dinner." I gesture for her to come in.  "Shei, really!  You can just call me Soveliss.  'Mister' is so formal.  And I'm terrible at formal!"  I offer a brief chuckle.  "O-okay, S-soveliss," she says.  I notice her hair shift, and I see a wildflower tucked above one ear.  Like the ones I had destroyed earlier.  Best not to call attention to that little mishap.

I pull a coin seemingly out of thin air, letting it dance on my knuckles for a moment.  I give it a final spin, then flip it in the air for her to catch.  "How do you do that?" she exclaims.  

I give her a serious look, locking eyes with her.  "I'm magic." 

I can't keep the straight face up for too long, and I crack a grin.  She gives me an exasperated look and swats at me.  With a final titter, I snatch up one of her hands.  "It's all in the wrist and knuckles" I say, tracing imaginary lines.  I feel her pulse quicken, and her other hand is gliding up my arm, beginning to stroke my ear.  

The ear is a serious erogenous zone for those with elven blood.  Maybe Shei's hand went there by sheer incident.  

Or maybe Shei was less innocent than I had given her credit for.  

She was warm.  I knew this because she had suddenly pressed herself against me.  "Shei…" I started, but she was already leaning forward and kissing my earlobe.  "This is a bad idea" I said as my traitorous hand reached around and began to pull on the srawstrings of her apron.  "This will not end well," I tried to insist as she began unbuttoning my robe and and my disobedient hand began to search for ways to loosen her dress.  

Mutinous hand or not, this really could end spectacularly badly.  Yet now not one but both hands disagreed.  

Chaos in the blood; it's a hell of a thing.                
  

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“I value your life, even if you don’t value mine.”
adventure 10

Awakening that morning I had no clue, that on that day, events would trigger change, for us all.

“For the festival.”said the note in Madam Saru’s personal hand. The note was attached to a small trunk and when opened it housed a yukata. Something I haven’t worn in close to 80 so years. Shore Blossom was holding a festival, a time of peace and healthy competition with no worries.

Yet there are worries: war, corruption, and greed. Incidents that were not started by us adventurers yet now we find ourselves in the middle of the consequences. I had hoped to be able to breathe and bathe my mind in positive memories. However, now all I can see is the veil opening up to me, readying to join my spirit among the stars and earth once again. For I, Oranssi Lasi, will once again adorn my armor and give my life to protect others,both their physical form and their will to choose life.

So for when the next dragon attacks, we will not be alone and they will be ready.

The safeguard over the city trapped us in a fight. The unknown energy that shielded Shore Blossom left us prepared to fight. However, it was not on our terms and in an empty city of Shore Blossom. The black dragon, with its weretiger rider, escorted by winged kobolds, left us with little strategy and time. We fought, armored, nerves tense with only the sounds of our enemies breath to break the silence.

The kobolds advance. Naligor took the lead and launches his moon beam, striking only the tail end of the dragon as it swoops down and lands in the field. Meanwhile, Ramshackle made quick work of the kobolds. Before any of us could advance on the dragon it belched out its acid breath, drenching Odiri, Eucarion, Brightwood, Kodu, and Naligor. They cried out as layers of their flesh begin to slide off. I prayed to Artemestia to help keep their flesh intact as I began to prepare a larger healing. Brightwood launched several rays of fire at the dragon. Trailing behind the rays was Kodu, as he jumped and grappled the dragon by the throat and collar.

Albion throws up his ax at the dragon, knocking off the weretiger from the dragon's back. He then used his horns to push the weretiger into the center of our group. Naligor then moves his moonbeam to the weretiger. It transforms back into a human. Immediately it charged at Naligor and struck him clean and sharp. The dragon thrashed about trying to break free of Kudo’s grapple, yet was unable to shake him. I release my concentration and cast a full heal. With new energy everyone attacks with strength against the weretiger and dragon. Kudo using his new energy to squeeze tighter. He unleashed a few strong kicks and sword slashes the dragons throat. The dragon cried out, then bleed out, and died. Our attention then goes to the weretiger trying to plead for mercy through Kodu and I. Albion looked perplex and simply knocked it out.

With much debate we clear the bodies to not create a panic in a time of peace. Hoping the people would reappear. We move the bodies into an empty warehouse by the docks. When the doors close sounds of people could be heard again. I and Naligor stated we need to show this to the Council. I go and retrieve Mato, Naligor goes to retrieve Elder Yen.

When I reach Mato, I speak with much force and a militaristic tone that that he needed to come with me. With no debate he followed me to the docks. With the reveal to Mato and Elder Yen, they were underwhelmed at best, concerned yes but not bewildered or shocked. That is when we state our plans and Elder Yen conveys that he sees no worry or threat. Both of them tell us about a similar occurrence long ago and mention the original adventures table at Madam Saru’s. Brightwood and Kudo are under the impression we were chosen as possible champions of the wall. I believe differently. The Council, with little concern, is using new comers as disposable pawns, and as a network for generating riches for the town. We were not beings of free will, we are being played by welcoming smiles. A poison that will, if not kill, will infect. A powerful magic that only can be activated by an oath or inscription, a magic similar to Blood Splattered Snow Tiger…

“That witch!” I exclaim as I storm out of the warehouse at the docks and hurry my way to the Rose Shell Inn. I entered the Rose Shell and gazed upon the table, a table no local ever sat at, or touched, only we adventures. The one table we all have sat at, the one where we have all in some way left a mark. I with a crude carving of a blooming flower. Naligor’s scratches from his nails over excitement of going over the wall. Albion’s finger indentations from his great strength. Eucarion and Ramshackle, with their sloppy table manners, slipped meal knifes slashes on the wood. Brightwood with his burning techniques scorched series of thin lines. Lastly was Odiri, who out of all of us, has been carving away, detailing a fine map from our adventures.

We are all slaves, bound by this table by deceit, and falsehood. These bonds must be broken. The only way I know. I placed my hand on the table and cast Mend. The table's wood grain began to shift and fill up, erasing everyone's marks I was called out to in horror by a bar maid.

“What are you doing?!”

I did not divert my gaze; I needed to be assured that all markings would be gone.

“I am protecting us.” I stated, the bar maid tried desperately to get me to stop

“Odiri worked so hard on these carvings!”

After the last carving filled, I lifted my hand and pointed to the table “And she almost died because of it!”

“But, But sh-”

“Fetch my things, I will no longer stay here. I am returning to the temple of stars!” not allowing her one more word in. I will not be persuaded by lies anymore.

I return to the docks, with a great debate over the events that have just happened going on. Master Yen has left and only Mato remained. The next I saw of Odiri, I made sure she knew this.

“I value your life, even if you don’t value mine.”

War is coming and I must prepare. For the battle field will take more than life, it will take everything.

“I value your life, even if you don’t value mine.”


 

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Letters to Ayli
Part 1

(Translated from draconic)

 

My dearest Ayli, Will of the Eternal;

 

I miss you. I miss our childhood. As we grow, simplicity loses its edges. Remember back when the three of us would sit in the gardens and talk about everything? One particular night comes to mind; You and Jonna convinced me that the world beyond the Dragon Isles was kind, honorable, and compassionate; that the clarity of what was honest and good was distinctly and vividly set apart from the evils of the world. I believed you… I want to believe you still, yet, now being so far away, I suspect the two of you were wrong. In my travels beyond the monastery I’ve come across questions and concerns that I feel the temple had not prepared me for. I feel lost more than anything. Master Eternal always said that I was “wise well beyond my years”, yet I feel as though I do not have the strength of spirit to ponder the dichotomies that I have encountered in my travels. I fear as though the very core of my thoughts are broken.

Not long ago I killed a heretic kobold in anger. He was a heretic, yet I killed him for slighting the First Dragon. I was vengeful and full of rage to the point that I even denied this heretic the grace of redemption through Aion’s cleansing fire. This is not who I am; or so I thought. I did it. It was I who denied the creature’s soul the mercy that was not mine to deny. I’ve been merciful to so many of its brethren, yet not this one. And for why? Was it anger? Was this justice? Had he not proven himself unworthy of the touch of eternity? These questions I asked myself after the act. It was an action done in spite. The questions, although relevant, came at a time that would suggest that they were a way to justify my guilt.

I helped others murder a troll. This was murder. You know me. I do not attack without provocation. In the face of this monstrosity though, I attacked first. We opened the door to its home and it simply defended its hearth. Is that dishonorable? Any of the goodly folk that I know would do the same. I was assured, after its death, that these creatures are inherently evil and that we did a good thing. Yet isn’t destroying evil in an evil way an evil act? We later found evidence that the beast did, indeed, have a nefarious motive, yet that was weeks after its death. Does the evidence exonerate such a breach of honorable conduct? Are we not sworn to slaughter the servants of the Dark One without need for probable cause? How is this any different? If it isn’t; then why do I lament with such intensity over it?

I chose not to help my traveling companions slaughter a truly evil goblinoid creature as a result of the troll’s unethical end. I had no evidence of its malicious duty and I would not engage. It did not even have the opportunity to attack before one of my cohorts maliciously cast a spell into its back. From behind! I was horrified! The others of the group joined in. It was… I have no words. This was the most cowardly and malicious act; yet, this very action set in to motion a ploy that could save hundreds, if not thousands of lives; lives that I have sworn to protect. I take no pride in the manipulation or lack of honor, but I can’t help but smile at the resolution. To add to the turmoil of the situation, the human-elf that put this murder in to motion committed the highest form of heresy to do so. I find his actions appalling, however, the end, I fear, completely justifies the means. I hate that I must admit that, but I will not lie. Am I losing me in the turmoil of the outside world? Is this what Master Timeless wanted me to experience to find my "true self"? Is finding my “true self” worth losing my finite depictions of what is moral and ethical to what achieves the best result for the common good? I can’t answer these questions. If I do… I don’t know. You have always been more intuitive than I have been. I miss your clarity of reason. I want you here. I need you here. I fear that once I return to the order I will not be the same person that I once was. Perhaps that’s what Master Timeless demands of me.

 

Oh! And I wrestled a black dragon to the ground and as my friend, Eucarion, would say “kicked its ass”… the world outside the monastery has its perks. You see, kicking something in the hindquarters is embarrassing, so, in common, we say that to imply that it was an embarrassing defeat to the opponent.

 

Your most beloved friend in past, present and future,

Kodu, Fist of the Infinite

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much to do about nothing and chimeras
adventure 9

My thoughts were strange. No longer flashes of still images or perfect retelling of memories. They were a void, my feet are planted on nothingness. Yet I felt the pulses of earth, is this Gaea? I look up to see a lone star and as it shined, I knew it was Artemestia. The rays from the star collided with the pulsing of the earth, and they begin to take translucent shapes of figures. The pulses quicken in frequency until they are so rapid that the void beneath my feet is still. Standing all around me were spirits of people and beings I have once known. Eyes closed in soft ethereal light, I let out a single breath and all at once the spirits begin to whisper. I was unable to concentrate on a single voice, no spirit moved and my feet felt glued to this voided floor space. I tried to take a step but it was as though the floor moved with my movements. That was when I was able to denote a spirits whisper “Oranssi…only with permission, Oranssi”

I awake in the Rose shell Inn. It was night, late night, 2am I figure. I open my room door and to my surprise and joy the cauldron I had commissioned from Kenten had arrived! I leave the inn and head straight to the wall. I am greeted by the guard, while the other slept. I lift a finger to my lips for silence. I pay him his allowance and leave the city. The Bamboo Sea was silent, and I passed through it easily. I headed on a direct course to the way-station and the shrine of Gaea. My pacing was trance like, quick but unnerving, as if I was not in my body, yet I had control of its actions. I arrived at the shrine just as dusk broke. I have no idea how. But here I was, the camp was untouched. The shrine of Gaea felt more alive, not like a beacon, but like a home. I then understood I was a channel between Gaea and Artemestia to converse with each other. I light a cube on incense and mediated.

My mediation was interrupted, for my body began to feel the strain of the distance traveled, and from the added weight of the cauldron. I retired to the yurt. I awoke hours later to the sound of footprints and lively murmurs. I exited the yurt to find Kodu, Brightwood, Naligor, Odiri, Adi and a new face, a youngling holding close to Kodu. I introduce myself to the youngling, she goes by Syd, as Kodu takes it upon himself to attempt to scold me. He maybe a monk, but he would not understand the connection to the veil.


 

I ask “Where are you adventures off to?”

Adi explains that he wished to examine the dwarven ruins once more.


 

“I will join you.” I said. However, we wouldn’t be able to make it at that time day, and so we stayed one more rotation. In the morning I prepared everyone a delicious meal of omelets.

Everyone seems to enjoy my cooking, honestly it is one of the few things I can happily remember, in all parts of my past, although slightly tainted, Alga…

I snap back to the cauldron when I hear Naligor exclaim in a fury that the animals we have encountered have not been spoken with just killed. Bless him, but I was not able to get a word in on the argument. Once breakfast was concluded we made our way to the ruins. Adi expressed interest in exploring the troll hatch we had found, and with much debate among us who fought the troll. Naligor, Adi and Kodu lead the charge, I whispered a blessing in hopes I would never have to use it.

We see a light and headed toward it and enter a new chamber, two hob goblins sat there conversing. Brightwood listens and turns himself into a Hobgoblin and approaches them speaking goblin. He leads one of the goblins in our direction where we were ready for him. Brightwood lights him up with an array of flames, as Syd sneaks up on the Hob and jabs at the hobgoblin. Naligor attacks, knocking it prone to the ground. It flails and dies. That is when Brightwood relays to us he has a plan. He takes a handful of ashes and covers himself and morphs into the fallen goblin, he then cries out apparently for the other goblin. The other goblin emerges and Brightwood says “we have been betrayed, by Blood Splattered Snow Tiger!”

My eyes widen and heart drops when Brightwood says this, the scene of war was started. The blood of innocents will be spilled, and he the diplomat fanning the flames, creating the chaos, allowing life to slip away and be treated like it were nothing. Him with a smirked smile, I couldn’t contain my emotions anymore.

I growl at Brightwood, “Brightwood your human is showing.” Feeling furry of rage building, memory flashes screams piercing every fiber of my body. I quickly cast calm emotions on myself, to suppress the memories and to focus on assisting the group.

Brightwood and Adi find a series of scrolls, detailing the Fangs of Skotos. Evil in a true form loyal to the Fallen Stars, and in turn the Goblin queen. While not being assassins a body count surrounds their being. The conversation then goes on a tangent about elemental weapons and the faith of Aion.

We continue south, according to Odiri, into a growing mist. We begin to hear footsteps not of our own, but that of the undead, hollow and heavy. That is when we see a wight and wraith. Odiri, the first to attack launches a silver arrow at the wraith. It in turn lunges on Odiri and stabs her with a ghostly blade, piercing right thru her leaving darkness in the wound. Odiri with her strong soul is able to repeal the darkness. I grab my blanket and cast daylight on it. As I cast, I toss the blanket and cry out,“shield your eyes!” The wraith and wight scream out angrily. The wight then charges Brightwood and stabs him with the same ghostly stab Odiri was afflicted with. However, Brightwood with his spirit was able to repel the darkness. Adi then conjures and summons a magical silver sword and bestows it to Syd, who then sneak attacks the wight and intelligently hides under the sunlight blanket. Odiri, not to be out done also attacks with another silver arrow striking the wraith and Naligor delivers the final blow. I prayed that the darkness not take Brightwood and Odiri. Kodu grappled the wight down yet was unable to stop its cries for help, “Master the lair has been invaded!”

A skull with red flame orb eyes and green fire floats into the cavern. Adi and Syd both finish off the wight and it crumbled to ash all over Kodu. We then turn our attention to the skull. Odiri, now flustered, launches an arrow and chips a lone tooth on the creature. Xiao attacks and Naligor launches his moon beam at the skull. Adi informs the group that this creature can cast spells, I in turn cast silence, focusing it on the creature’s left flame orb eye. Knowing that it couldn’t speak it fled from the chamber and launched a wall of fire at the group, engulfing us. Brightwood tells me to prep holy water as he launches one of his thunder spells only chipping another tooth. Kodu took this opportunity to grab hold of the skull and return it to the silence, flailing mercilessly Syd shanked the skull as it cracked into several pieces, I used the water in my water skin casting bless on the water, as it drenched the skull pieces. Adi assured us that if these steps weren’t taken it would revive. As this happens Syd and Kodu were called back to the wall, as their keys glowed I was able to heal them barely. I hope not much trouble would find them on return.

After a quick recovery of health we continue exploring and come across a Chimera. We were not prepared for this, especially another creature with flames. We may have been tired, but we were not ready to give it the advantage. While Odiri shot her pistol in a hail of thorns, Adi encased the chimera in webs. Naligor sees the webs and transforms into a spider. I use my guiding bolt to not only damage it but to allow it to be weakened for the next attack.

When Odiri sees Naligor as a spider she screams in chaos, I snap at her, “Suck it up buttercup, and focus!” No solider should be distracted from an enemy. That is when the Chimera used its heads to attack, lashing out flames and setting Brightwood to fall. I go to his aid and Adi uses pyrotechnics to blind the chimera, I pray and bring Brightwood to his feet “ On your feet Solider and move!”

Brightwood doesn’t move, instead he channels his rage and launches fire from his finger tips, blasting all three of the chimera’s heads. As a final strike Naligor jumps down on the Chimera sinking his fangs deep, causing the Chimera to drop and die.

I tell the group with a creature in this much unnatural state and size I must perform the burning ritual, and I would need to fully concentrate to allow the chimeras soul to pass over safely. Brightwood informs me that this large creature is hollow, it has no more soul. A single tear crawls down my face, for the former souls cannot be blessed. They were subjects of extreme agony and pain. The treasures were collected and argued over and we all were brought back to Shore Blossom.

 

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Story Time with Odiri - Pt. 5
Adventure 9 - Spiderweb Spelunking

Odiri returns to the Rose Shell after a much needed bath. Deconstructing a Chimera was messy work. The Rose Shell was quiet that evening despite the upcoming festivities. Making her way up the stairs to her room she passes Eucarion’s door and pauses long enough to consider knocking, but realizing she could not sense Charka’s presence she knew he was not yet back from his foolish outing into the bamboo sea alone. He told her not to worry in his letter, but she could not help it. Upon entering her room, she was greeted by a familiar face. The house maid was lowering a stack of fine lacquered boxes onto the side table in her room. “Madam Saru got your note and decided to throw in a little extra, you lucky little thing. Get a good night’s rest you’ll need your beauty sleep” the maid chuckles and turns to leave.

Odiri was rather abruptly awoken the next morning by the maid’s perky demeanor throwing open the paper shades letting the sun in. “I have my work cut out for me so get up and eat some breakfast” she snaps as she sets out an apple and a small pastry. Odiri rubs her eyes groggily and messily throws her magicks out until that intangible force found Charka’s life energy. With a sigh of relief, she tucks into the pastry. Odiri hesitates mid bite and realizes she doesn’t even know the house maid’s name despite the regular interactions they’ve had over the last month. “Shei! Open the door my hands are full!” an elegant voice exclaims. As Shei pulls aside the door Madam Saru bustles into the room with her arms filled with nearly a dozen individually cloth wrapped packages. Odiri can do nothing but look on with horror instantly regretting asking to borrow something to wear for the festival.

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 “Soooooooo, Odiri! Tell us about your adventure! I’m just dying to know!” Madam Saru says with a voice dripping with a little too much interest. Both Shei and Saru’s backs were turned to Odiri as they set about unwrapping packages and relieving the lacquer boxes of their contents. “Well…” Odiri starts hesitantly as Madam Saru has never directly asked her about her trips beyond the wall. “At any other trip starts we started here…but I guess you know that. I woke in the early hours of the morning to the sound of footsteps near my door. I saw a folded piece of parchment slip under my door. It was from Eucarion. Telling me he was going beyond the wall alone. Like a fool. He says not to worry! How could I not? And if he signs it ‘Yours’ does that mean…yours, ‘yours’? Like together ‘yours’?” Odiri abruptly stops and blushes realizing both Saru and Shei were chuckling at her. “But enough of talking about him. Anywhoo, I go downstairs and I was surprised to see Kodu for the first time in what seems like forever. He and Naligor were off talking about those relics that everyone seems to be obsessed over. No one has really taken the time to explain it all to me so… I just…shoot what they need me to shoot and we call it a day. But that new girl, Syd.” Odiri narrows her eyes as Saru smiles neutrally over her shoulder. “Oh yes Syd, quiet the scrappy young thing eh?” Saru titters as she turns around brandishing a blackened metal comb and a block of perfumed wax. With a grimace Odiri continues while Saru hands the perfumed wax to Shei to set by the window to warm.

“Syd is an interesting one. She has signed her name to the charter so I feel obligated to trust her but there is something in my gut that tells me not to. Anyways, that evening as we all sat for a meal we had a rousing conversation of finding purpose. So many of us are on so many different paths but they all met here. Kodu seems driven to put a name to our purpose. Naligor and Oranssi seems so driven to push the council into change. Then there’s the wall’s sentient magicks and apparently there’s a dragon out on the coast and some old fort waaaay out there and and and!” Both Shei and Saru stare at Odiri with cocked eyebrows as she quiets and stuffs the last of the pastry in her mouth. “I’m sorry… I know all this would be much more interesting if I had an ear for politics but… I just don’t…”

“Dawn came the next morning and we set off after that wonderful breakfast. I was startled to see a horse and cart outside! Apparently Adi had come into a decent sum of money to be able to afford such niceties but I am rather excited with how much help this will be to our adventures. No more strapping bloody kobold wings to our backs! We set off into town but with Syd at our side I felt like I blinked and we were at the farmlands. I wonder if this is what it feels like with the rest of them when I lead them through the forest. While the jury is still out on the nature of her, I do feel like she may be quite useful to us. We made it to the waystation with ease. Though I could have done with a little less ribbing from Naligor about the last time we traveled this road. He means well but he frustrates me so. I felt a swell of pride upon seeing Soveliss, Kodu, Adi and Syd’s reaction to the yurt. Regardless of what was going on while it was built I am so proud of the accomplishment. I can’t wait to bring Albion, Roth and Frivolity so they can see how tall we made it for them. Much to our surprise we discovered Oranssi inside the yurt meditating, but then I saw the cauldron he commissioned set over the fire I realized why he had ventured out alone. Still foolish.” Odiri shakes her head slightly and looks up from the apple core she had just finished to see Saru advancing towards her with the metal comb now liberally coated with softened wax.

“Uhhh what’s that for?” Odiri askes ask she shifts uncomfortably on the wooden stool Shei had perched her on. Madam Saru smiles unnervingly “Don’t you trust me? I promise, you’ll walk down those stairs and Eucarion won’t know what hit him.” Shei pipes up from behind Saru as she is unwrapping the cloth packages “Like the time you got him in the back of the head with the coin pouch!” There was a shared laugh before Saru began to rake the waxy comb through Odiri’s wild mess of hair. Trying to concentrate on the sweet spicy smell of the wax instead of yelping with every brutal rake of the comb as Saru flattened her hair into a soft waves Odiri continues on “After a night’s rest and a filling breakfast we headed directly to the Dwarven Ruins. It had been decided the night before that the expeditions beyond the wall for the near future should be focused on sites referenced in the Romance of the Seven Kingdoms as it may lead us to better understand this land. Though the boys and I had been here several times before only once did they go down into the caves under the hatch and that was a whole mess with a troll from what they told me. I was eager to explore the caves and continue my map making. Before even opening the hatch I used my magicks to check below to see if any natural beasts lay below. What made me truly nervous was there was nothing. The forests around me were overflowing with the life energy of natural beasts but there was nothing below me. Not even a rat.”

“Upon going down the hatch I was shown where the Troll was burned and I set to work sketching the layout of the first massive room of the cave. It was empty but a light shown from a corridor beyond. We followed the light out of instinct only to be stopped suddenly by the sound of Goblin being spoken . We spied two hobgoblins in the distance sitting watch at a henge. In an instant Soveliss was disguising himself as a hobgoblin using the tabard we took from the elf eater in the Kami Mines. Kodu was none too pleased with the blasphemous nature of Soveliss’s collection of spiritual trinkets he uses in his trickery. I will admit watching him mouth agape like a landed fish was entertaining for a moment. Soveliss spoke at length with the hobgoblins before stepping away, bringing the leader of the two towards us hiding in the shadows. OW!” Odiri grit her teeth after a particularly hard yank of the comb through her hair. “Soveliss true to his nature blindsides the creature as Naligor transformed into a wolf so closed to me it unseated my arrow and I missed the shot. That Syd girl finally showed her worth as she slid from the shadows like ink and stabbed that hobgoblin with speed rare to see. My Xiao hit that nasty hard enough to knock a few teeth loose. Then Adi and Soveliss finished the job with their fire magic.  Soveliss’s deception was far from over though. He quickly made it look like he had been injured to convince the other hobgoblin run and tell their mistress they had been betrayed. As the Hobgoblin ran by us I let an arrow fly over his head to put a little more fear in his pace.”

Madam Saru finally finishes manipulating Odiri’s hair to slick it against her head and takes her two small braids from the back of her head and crosses them across her crown pinning them into place with a tiny metal fork. Shei brings a delicate hair comb with a waterfall of small pale purple flowers made from silk to Saru to fit into braids. Odiri bites her lip, feeling awkward with the adornment as it was much heavier than it looked. Shei handed yet another ornament to Saru, this time one a mother of pearl rose to settle on top of the cascading purple flowers. Odiri takes a deep breath and tries to focus on the story rather than the fact that now Shei was starting to take a knife to her fingernails to clean the day to day grime out from them. “Once all was said and done, Kodu became absolutely unglued at Soveliss! I tried to mediate the conversation as Soveliss was explaining the ‘usefulness’ of his holy symbols to Kodu and Oranssi but they would take none of it. Oranssi spit out ‘The human in you is showing’ and the tension in the party was palpable. Honestly, I am again offended by Oranssi. He can be so compassionate and strong one moment and the next he is spitting out racial slurs in front of our human companions! He should honestly be ashamed of himself. We recovered a fair number of missives to these hobgoblins detailing something to do with The Fangs of Scotos and the Artifacts that they were being paid off with. I’m told they are a radical sect of spies loyal to the Goblin Queen. I am not sure exactly what happened but somehow Kodu and Soveliss found an awkward peace between them. Our peace did not last long as we moved forward to the next cavern noting a chamber to the right to be visited on the way out. The next cavern greeted us with an eerie cold mist that chilled you not only in body but in heart. The sound of footsteps was followed by a haunting shout of protest as two undead nasties came from the shadows. It was a Wraith and what looked to once be a Dwarf but was now a Wight.”

Odiri watched Saru and Shei mix dried red safflowers and oil in a mortar as she went on “I was instantly anxious. Undead rarely mind the attentions of physical blows so what were my arrows to do? It was then that I remembered the silver tipped arrows myself, Oranssi, and my Eucarion commissioned from Kenten.  My arrow flew true and I hit the wraith and it hissed in pain. I was so happy that I was not to be entirely useless in that fight. Naligor summoned that wicked moonbeam to assist but it just pushed the Wraith to my direction and I got hit. Bad. I was stabbed right in my left side where my tunic rides up and I felt like I had been stabbed with a blade made of ice and dread. In that moment I felt like I could fall dead if I breathed wrong as I watched black veins spread from the wound. I wasn’t ready to die. I had so much more to do…to say. As if a miracle the black veins receded and only the wound was left to kill me by blood loss rather than undead magicks. Oranssi pulled a blanket from his satchel that was apparently imbued with the light of the sun which put those undead arses at quite a disadvantage. In the flurry of our group's attempts to take down our threat I see Adi materialize a sword of silver for Syd as she had nothing to defend herself against these beasties. With Soveliss and Adi’s magicks along with the speed of Kodu and Syd, the Wraith was weakened enough for Naligor to burn it to a crisp with the moonlight.” Madam Saru takes a fine calligraphy brush and paints the resulting brick colored oil and flower mixture onto Odiri’s fingernails with deft practice strokes with a warning not to touch them to anything while the color is soaking in. Odiri spreads her fingers wide and holds them out stiffly as the Madam instructed looking much like a startled cat. Shei passes a small wooden box of pale face powder to Saru with a brush made from rabbit fur. In between swipes of powder across her face Odiri presses on “After a much needed healing chant from Oranssi and a few more spells slung the Wight called in his ‘Master’ from what I assume was the chamber on the right we passed up as this creature came at us from behind. I was expecting a bit more from a ‘Master’ not some floating skull on fire. I was creeped out sure but this thing was tiny.”

“But leave it to the halfling to underestimate something for its size. Despite our best efforts to subdue this creature, its spell casting abilities bested us with a massive fireball that brought me and almost everyone else nearly to death’s door. Our success was due to the unlikely team of Kodu, Oranssi and Syd. Kodu manhandled this skull into a field of silence cast by Oranssi while Syd bashed it clean through with a dagger. For safety we doused the beast in holy water and upon completing this task both Syd and Kodu’s keys began to glow and they, I assume, returned home.” Madam Saru takes Odiri’s brief pause as a chance to capture her face with one firm hand and she carefully apply  the lightest touch of carmine powder to her cheeks and mixes the barest trace of it into the Safflower and Oil mixture to create a shocking red to stain her lips. Having never worn makeup Odiri was not prepared for the visage Shei shows her in a tiny hand mirror. Flustered and more awkward than ever, Odiri explains “We saw an encouragingly bright bit of natural light at the mouth of the remaining cavern and upon further investigation down the corridor to the forward cavern. We were faced with the largest monstrosity I've ever faced, a chimera. It had the hindquarters of a goat, the forequarters of a lion, a set of dragon wings and three heads, that of a horned goat, a lioness, and a dragon. Much to our entire party’s dismay, in our hurry, we did not take time to rest up our, by that time exhausted, magick men. It was finally time for me to try out my new pistol gifted to me by Frivolity. I took all the steps he taught me and it rang out loud and true hit that beast with not only a bullet but with a little spice I added my own magicks. As the bullet left the pistol thorns materialized from the projectile itself and spread out from its course and hit like rain falling on a tile roof. Directly after my shot Adi trapped that heinous monster in spider webs that seemingly appeared from nowhere. I am repeatedly impressed by his tactics and his ability to stay incredibly calm.” Shei wipes the excess oil and safflower mixture from Odiri’s nails leaving behind a delicate peach colored stain and pulls her tattered sleeping shift over her head replacing it carefully as to avoid disturbing the delicate hair combs with a shift made from fine linen.

“Naligor had to ruin everything by turning into a damned spider again. I couldn't help but scream but my fear of dying overwhelmed my fear of spiders as the Chimera’s dragon head doused us all with its fire. That one hit took Soveliss clean out. I was not sure if he was alive or dead but I had no time to find out as I had to keep my own ass alive to make it back to this damn festival.” Odiri cursed as she started to indecisively look over the now unwrapped packages revealing a number of gaudy silk yukatas “Xiao was hurt bad and all I could do was keep fighting alongside the men to keep the beast at bay. Naligor poisoned it and Adi blinded it. Oranssi pulled Soveliss back from the darkness in time for me to reload and take another shot with my pistol. Naligor felled the beast with a valiant leaping bite in his spider form from the ceiling. While my field dressing skills are more apt to deer and rabbit they came in handy tearing this monster into manageable pieces to bring home in the cart for Elder Yen."

"A tempting exit beckoned us from the back of the cavern up into the bamboo sea but we knew we needed to finish the task of exploring so I could finish the map. Upon a cursory look about the current cavern we found a broken hammer mended into fine weapon to be added to the case and an intricate Arcane tapestry. We found our way back to the corridor that lead right from the standing stones and came upon quite a curious room with a black and white tiled floor with a bookcase and a cabinet standing in the center and upon moving these plain pieces of furniture,we discovered a chest! Precautions were taken to check to see if it was a Mimic but we were relieved to find it was just an ordinary chest. Adi took his sweet Elven time to chisel the lock open and after and hour we were rewarded with the contents! A majority of it seemed to be personal effects, a small mirror, a decoratively carved staff, A fancy new hat for me and a book of spells and uhhh…” Odiri pauses hesitantly “Oh look at this beautiful green one!” and lifts a jade green yukata with pumpkin orange trim and a subtle grey wave patterning in the body. Madam Saru snatches the yukata from Odiri’s hands and helps her into it. While tying the matching orange obi Shei asks curiously “And uhhh?” Odiri laughs obviously uncomfortable by both the questioning and the constricting nature the obi “Oh, just some old coins. Nothing special… so! Yeah we were on our way back out to Adi’s cart and I shouted about wanting to go home and as if the wall heard me our keys began to glow and we made it back just in time for today.” Madam Saru eyes Odiri skeptically as Shei helps her into a pair of child size wooden getas. “Looks like it all fits. I’ll add the loan fee to your monthly bill and if you decide you’d like to keep it we can work out some sort of payment plan. Low interest of course.” Odiri smooths her hands nervously over the folds of fabric while staring at the door knowing she can't stay in her room all day. Madam Saru gives Odiri a small push towards the door with the parting words of “If you do not try, there is no opportunity to succeed.” Saru smirks back to the house maid, Shei, when Odiri gets out of earshot “Get all of this cleaned up and make sure her room is cleaned thoroughly. Every inch of it, I wouldn't want any…dust, to get away from us”

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Shooting Lessons
Ramshackle and Odiri making a ruckus

"Lady's grace, Odiri, park your ears and raise the flag 'ave I got a nobby top-shelf bangup barking iron chant for you," Frivolity exclaimed excitedly at the halfling proffering a black powder pistol pommel first to the ranger. 

"What is it?" Odiri queried quizzically. 

"That codger Kenten made 'em. Barking irons shoot metal shot or sometimes stone instead of arrows. Thought you could do with a bit of shine and polish now that we've got some jink, it'd be unlucky not to garnish you up seeing as your our tout."

"WHAT?" she interjected.

"Oi, don't mind my pucker nattering, blood. Its a, how you say bangup barking iron gunne. All fire and brimstone. If you know what I mean. We can be twins now, you see, me and you practically sisters of the gunne. 'cept for me being a Ramshackle and you not."

"Ooo an iron gunne," Odiri said excitedly "…wait did you say sisters?".

"Oh, um my common trade cant is a bit different than yours is all," Ramshackle lied 
[OOC rolled a 13 on that deception check]. "Now Odiri, the barking iron has three parts: the lock, the alley or the barrel, and the pan. Watch how I afix the flint rock to the lock so that the spring chips it against the frizzen and makes a spark," Ramshackle demonstrates.

"Wait Frivolity, I thought you said it only had three parts?" 

"Well the frizzen is the other third of the lock, you see. Rule of three. Now look at the alley will you? Its this pipe where we gently load the shot. Before you load the shot, you'll want to swaddle it with a scrap of rag. Wrap the shot three times to be sure as Sigil. Once your shot is clothed liked a begger, take your dagger, and drive it down the alley until you feel it grind against the dead end. Here you try" Ramshackle says offering the pistol to Odiri again.

Odiri takes one of the cloth wrapped lead balls and pushes it against the alley mouth with her thumb and forefinger, her other three fingers lightly grasping the pistol while she lines her blade up to ram the ball down the alley. 

"Good. Now let the lock spring shut and sparks fly!" Ramshackle calls out. 

SNAP the lock closes spraying sparks as Odiri tries to fire off a shot. "Nothing happened?"

"Yes, because we haven't filled the pan with powder," Ramshackle explains with a smile. 

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Oranssi with the troubles of women and yurts
Adventure Seven with Eucarion, Odiri, and Naligor

I am nearing a choice. I feel it in my everyday activities. My emotions and physical body are like a silk worm’s first strand of a cocoon. The worm knows it is there but can’t break it or change it, it carries on to find a place to metamorphosis into its next cycle of life.

So to be female or to stay male? Never has a choice felt granted to me, for I never have had to study the behavior and physical awareness of them. Perspective, my first change came in war where I had to have my mind on survival, not only for myself, but for my comrades and country.

The variety of people in Shore Blossom has opened my senses to possibilities. But they are mundane in that their acts equal themselves out, so I must look to other options. I know a great many male adventures and figureheads in Shore Blossom, but females the numbers are fewer and easier for me to focus attention to.

Madam Saru… a woman? Creature of? No, no…woman of the Rose shell tav- Inn. I must remember her temperament. She is not a logical creature, but one of high tension emotion, and greed. If a copper piece is in her future, and she doesn’t have to lift a finger she will gladly lend a lackey. For she would never have her gentle skin be touched, or exposed. Yet she is wise, full of knowledge of how things operate and connections, and some honor to those close to her.

Hmm…

Then there is her Tiger Blood- NO! That villainous creature does her gender no favors. She is similar to the Goblin queen, a sinister creature that only wishes to have the world to them alone, no emotions or care for the lives she takes and enslaves.

Bhaaa…seems like females are nothing more then little-

Wait. little…the little beast. Odiri.

She is a strong fighter, lovely in her dimensions, cheerful, and in tune with her surroundings. Yet she is also a glutton. She has fallen prey to drink. However, in that state she has found ways to lighten the tone of any adventure, befriending most that she meets. Yes, Odiri is a creature to interact with, and to guide a more persuasive decision.

Tea…simple, filling; cough, the foul lingering smell of smoke, the Rose Shell Inn. I am seated at the grand table with Eucarion, Odiri. Sadly, Odiri has already succumbed to the drink, to the point she is not clear in the mind. Saru gestures to us to show a new grand attraction for adventures. My heart sank for her last venture was not to my liking. She revealed to us a display case, lovingly designed. Roth’s gifted battleaxe was the main attraction. She told us that this case is for all those under the charter and Roth will allow access to his ax when he is not using it. I hope to one day place an item in it.

My senses pick up on a figure that has just entered one I knew but have not felt in a fortnight. I look up to see Naligor. I great him promptly, and so does Odiri with lewd gestures. He didn’t seem to mind for they have been friends for sometime. He joins us for a meal and tells us of what he has been doing these past few weeks. He shockingly reveals that the wall is not just magical, but a living being.

All while Odiri attempted to convey simple instructions to Saru of provisions we needed, unfortunately it was next to my ear. Instead of gesturing to either Eucarion or I to assist, she continued to get louder. Is this typical of females? I tried to get Odiri’s attention but to no avail. She dribbled and stumbled and so I placed silence on her. I was then able to convey to Saru of the provisions we needed, after that I lifted the silence. This enraged Odiri, who, now coherent and clear headed, barked her distaste in my direction. Even though the silence achieved the desired effect.

Some of the provisions would have to be done with Kenten, and Eucarion had business there as well. So with little persuasion to go beyond the walls and help with construct of a way station, Naligor joined our party. On our journey to Kenten a conversation of the flesh had arouse leading to the discovery that Eucarion is married. I had heard rumors of such things but never a true confirmation from the person himself. My head was a buzz with questions, but Odiri had taken off. I see her and called for her. She exclaimed she had forgotten something and wouldn’t explain further, but there was something else in her voice an odd tone, not of forgetfulness, but of pain.

I cast Hold Person to see if I could come to her aid, that is when Xaoi reared up in a defensive mood on me. “I mean your mistress no harm. I just wish to know what is the matter.” Xaoi's stance became more aggressive and with Eucarion’s insight he tells me the Xaoi would “fuck me up” I released Odiri. As she and Xaoi ran off I exclaimed to meet us at Kentens.

She didn’t…

Concerned, on return to Rose Shell Inn, both I and Naligor headed to Odiri’s room for an audience. She allowed Nalligor to enter, but not I, a person who sympathies with life and balance of emotions. Confused, I join Eucarion down stairs; he confides in me that this may be his fault. I question him further and the ways of marriage and of women. His responses are just as confusing and illogical, are all females dictated by a destructive line of emotions? I discovered this was no more true for when Odiri and Naligor come down the stairs, She barely glances at Eucarion before storming off and Naligor now on the verbal attack. My mind was becoming too clouded ,too unfocused, I needed clarity and so I cast Calm Emotions on myself and took my leave, for a bath.

The next morning when we left for the wall tensions were softer but still explosive… Not much was said, only part way to the shrine we set up camp. That is when the Kobolds attacked. They surprised us, piercing a jagged blade into my chest. You inflict a wound on me I will return the favor, except mine was more fatal!

Naligor continues to amaze me with his abilities, with connection to his goddess he is able to control the moonlight, and with his connection to nature he changed his appearance to a spider. Which did not sit well with Odiri, who has fear of spiders, and yet can launch an arrow without hesitation into a Goblins brain? Do all females have such fears?

We rested and arrived at the shrine of Gaea. We used the day to setup the yurt and way station. At dusk we broke bread and discussed the potential of the way station. However, the tension had reached a high point. Odiri and Eucarion, headed off to the woods, both I and Naligor would have difficulty following them. We would let them have their space, for now me and Naligor talked of what adventures I have had and what this way station could really be. On coming to the conclusion that we should explore the mines for hope of the future of Shore Blossom, both Nalligor and I wanted to share this information with Odiri and Eucarion. Naligor was able to use his drudic magic to find Odiri and we approached in the middle of a confession. A poorly and quickly built treaty? We listened as Odiri and Eucarion discussed emotional connections. Matters of the heart can not be taken as lightly as a business contract. They aren’t being honest with themselves, the truth will give you clarity. So I called upon a zone of truth, for they needed clarity. Except I would later need to cast Calm Emotions on both of them so they can function and be prepared out in this wilderness.

We explored the mines. Newer, more dangerous creatures have taken residence. Possibly because of the destruction of the poltergeist. Adi and I will need to create many, many wards, before we can make it safe for the people of Shore Blossom to use again. When we leave, me barely with my physical life, Naligor shows us a glowing gem. He points it to the forest just beyond the mines, he tells us it is a stone of Hana, another magical item in accordance with Romance of the First Kingdom.

We travel for a long while Odiri focused guiding us thru the dense forest, then the trees became more even, more uniformed, and wild flowers grew everywhere. I felt a strange connection to this place. Then as Naligor’s stone grew brighter we found a garden, very much alive but returning to the earth. As we walked we found over grown stone passages, crumbling statues, fruit trees, and in the center a large building that looked of dwarf and elf design. We noticed the keys began to glow and shimmer, as a piercing, chilling, feminine wail could be heard coming from the structure. No more progress would be made before we were brought back to the gates.

 

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Story Time with Odiri - Pt. 4
Adventure 7 - Truth at the Waystation

After an intense week beyond the wall Odiri treated herself to a hot bath and a bottle of sake to enjoy alone in her room. Looking forward to the peace and quiet of her room she climbed the stairs to the residential floor of the Rose Shell Tea House only to be startled by one of of Madam Saru’s ladies airing the quilted bed. “Oh I’m sorry I did not know you would be back from your bath so soon!” the maid apologizes meekly. “I’m almost done with your room and I will be out of your hair.” The maid bustles about picking up a few empty bottles scattered in the room and asks “How was your last adventure? You seem…different” Odiri chuckles thoughtfully and sits down on her low bed. “I don’t even know where to start.” Odiri’s face dims and floods with palpable uncertainty.  The maid sits down next to her on the small bed and smiles comfortingly at her “The begining is always a good place to start?”

Well how far to go back…” Odiri takes a small sip of sake to calm her nerves recalling the events of the last week. “You remember the boar hide I’ve been tanning out in the farmlands? Well, we had plans to build a yurt out of it, a day's walk Northeast from the wall as a waystation for the Carved Table Charter folks. We made arrangements with Madam Saru to get enough supplies to keep at the waystation for emergencies but knew it would take her time to gather them up so, Oranssi, Naligor, Eucarion and I started to plan our trip. I’ll be honest… Eucarion and I were fairly intoxicated for the early hour because we never really stopped drinking from the night before. I don’t remember too much of our planning time in the tea house other than Eucarion shouting at Naligor for making advances at Charka. I can without hesitation claim that I have never once, and hopefully never again after this last week, heard a man say ‘Please don’t fuck my dog!’ Charka seems to actually take a shine to Naligor while he is in his wolf form which is equally disquieting and seemingly natural.” Odiri shakes her head slightly and takes another sip of sake and offers some to the maid.

Oranssi was on about having a cauldron commissioned for the waystation and Eucarion forgot he had his armor fitting with Kenton so we left the in Tea House to make our way to the forge. We made it about halfway there before, the boys being boys, start getting lewd. The four of us were walking abreast with Eucarion and I in the middle. Naligor had the poor taste to bring up the incident on the ship over between me and the first mate and that gods awful fermentation he supplied. In the midst of all this licentious banter Oranssi asks Eucarion, right over my head, ‘What? You’ve never fucked a halfling?’ At first I was appalled that a man of his standing would be so vulgar let alone in my presence, then I realized…..I wanted to know the answer. But, the answer I got next was not one I was ready for. ‘No, but I have vows to keep’ he responds. I lost my step. Naligor continues to ask questions that I really did not want to know the answer to. I easily fell paces behind them. I was…. In shock I think. Eucarion had a wife. I was so fucking naive to think he did not.” Odiri pulls her knees to her chest and hides her face but continues muffled, “I told them I forgot something back at the Tea House and just took off as hard as I could run only to be halted by magical means. I turned back to see Oranssi using his this magic to keep me in my place and Naligor pleading for him to release me. As my distress swelled within me, Xiao came to my defense standing at his full height in front of Oranssi. I felt the magic release from me like a dry twig snapping.  Without even looking back, I bolted as fast as my small legs could take me back to my room, tears welling in my eyes. How could I have been so blind, so dumb, so ignorant? What fucking meaning does a few flowers crowns in the forest have against the covenant of marriage? I couldn’t get his nonchalant face out of my head. Thoughts of ‘how could he have lead me on like that’ just spiraled in my mind as tears poured from my eyes for what felt hours. Naligor broke me out of my tearful, alcohol fueled, heartsick stupor by begging me to come downstairs for something to eat. I wiped my face free of tears and steeled myself to be the polite person my parents raised me to be despite the despair sitting like a brick in the pit of my stomach. As we reached the bottom of the stairs my ears were assaulted with casual talk of whores. In that moment I had decided I would leave Port Shore Blossom. They had no use for me. These pigs had their ranger. I was just some woman to be referenced in the same breath as a whore. I planned to take the next ship out of port which I knew was coming in a few days. Just enough time to help them finish the yurt and leave.”

Odiri stretches out of her defensive curl and continues to drink from the bottle of sake occasionally passing it back and forth with the maid who had been comfortingly rubbing small circles on her shoulders “I walked out of Rose Shell without saying a word or even meeting a questioning glance. My distress melted into a rage.That rage consumed me like rice paper in a fire. I needed release so I spent the rest of that damned day stretching and tanning the last of the boar hide. I returned home to the Rose Shell buzzing with aggression. Having lost all ability to sleep I sat in my bed and stewed in my growing anger till the next day. We left as soon as the supplies from Madam Saru were ready around noon. We loaded the bamboo skid attached to Xiao with the various foods and supplies and took off. Naligor knew I was in rough shape and bartered with a couple extra casks of wine for the trip and I was beyond grateful. Since we had not left at dawn like we usually do we only made it to about the halfway point between the wall and the Gaea Shrine. I chose to hang back with Xiao and the skid to keep as far away from Eucarion as I could. Just the sight of the back of him tore at me like thorned vines that seemed to get tighter the more you struggled. I couldn’t understand how he could go from charmingly playful one moment to heartless the next. Tensions were high that evening as we decided on watches. All I could think of was that bamboo crown I woke with on our last trip outside of these walls. I volunteered for the morning shift with a spiteful mutter to Eucarion ‘because apparently halflings need sleep’ and curled up against Xiao forgoing a tent for the favor of the good weather and a warm panda.”

I tossed and turned for a few hours not able to truly rest. When I finally felt the tiniest hand of sleep grasp me I was awoken by the searing pain of a serrated blade in my gut. I thought ‘This is it. I’m not even going to get a chance to get on that damned boat. I am going to die here and now.’ My instincts betrayed me, rather than locate my attacker, I looked for him. When I saw Eucarion was at least standing, I focused my attentions on my own survival. But I was plagued with the bitter pill that I still cared for him despite his transgressions. There were fourteen of those nasty Kobolds in total, split between the sky and ground. My insecurities drained away as we successfully began picking them off one by one. Naligor has come into some powerful magicks allowing him to control the moon’s light for his own defense which came to be quite helpful. What I was not prepared for was Naligor to take the form of my worst nightmare. A Giant Wolf Spider spilled forth to replace him where he stood. I could not help but to scream…and continue to scream. I was hysterical. I was beyond help. I was exhausted and completely unglued and felt as though my heart would literally fall to the ground from under my ribs as I just continued screaming between ragged breaths. Even though I saw Naligor return to his human form I could not help but scream a few more times even though I myself did not know why I was screaming. Was I screaming about the spider? Was I screaming about my broken heart? Was I screaming because the mere thought of Eucarion had kept me from true sleep for 2 nights. After a gulp of air my hysterics seemed to slowly dissipate and all I was, was tired. Tired in body and tired in heart. Naligor was sweet enough to ‘ignore me’ for a few hours after passing me a bottle of Maiden’s Breath to let me regain my composure but Eucarion felt it necessary to used this moment to dig his malicious words into my crumpled heart even deeper by pointing out I had ignored him all day. I crumbled into Xiao’s fur and begged every goddess I could name for sleep.” Odiri’s eyes are glassy with the promise of tears as she recounts these memories but continues on knowing she will rest easy upon completing her tale.

I was blessed with a few hours of the kind of sleep that only comes when your body has reached it’s limit. When I woke the four of us traveled in awkward silence the rest of the way to the Gaea Shrine. We hit the clearing at twilight but I had no intention of wasting time. The faster we built this waystation the faster we could go back and the faster I could get on a ship a leave this wretched place. I busied myself with whatever task I could that kept me away from him. I found myself so entirely exhausted that evening I was asleep the moment my head Xiao’s fur. The next day was nothing but manual labor. I knew the harder the work the easier it would be to sleep so I hurled myself into work. Between the 4 of us the the yurt was erected in no time. We had a bamboo and mud insulated floor, a rock lined fire pit in the center and a roof high enough to accommodate even Roth. Oranssi surprised all of us with the fact that he is a rather accomplished cook. We attempted to celebrate the successful build with braised boar stew and flowing libations but my temper got the best of me and before I realized what came out of my mouth Eucarion was gone with Charka in pursuit. At first all I could think was ‘Good! Go get stabbed by kobolds you callus ass!’ but before long I could not concentrate. My eyes strayed to the door of the yurt over and over again. Soon the words of Oranssi and Naligor were drowned out by my misgivings. ‘What if he was hurt? I know he is at least as drunk as I was. He should not be out there alone!’ I left in the middle of Naligor’s sentence without a word. I stretched my magicks out through the bamboo to locate Charka. If I could find her I could find him.”

Xiao lumbered behind me worried for my safety in the dark. I was nearly blind save what little filtered moonlight came through the bamboo. When I became close enough to hear Charka’s voice in my head and Eucarion’s voice in my ears speaking again on the subject of his wife Allaya, I was stopped dead in my tracks. I felt as though ice had frozen over my whole body only to break like a dam at my eyes. I was under some pathetic illusion that I had no tears left. ‘But what of your son Tannion?’ I choked on my tears, feeling like I would drown. ‘A son now too?’ Every word he said to that dog was another wave crashing over my head pushing me under. I crouched to the ground trying to regain any shred of mental equilibrium lest I be found by the sound of my heartache. I just couldn’t understand my own expectations. An elf of his age, should be married, should have children, should be home with them. Xiao distracted me momentarily, nudging at my elbow, encouraging us to go back to the yurt for more food but I pushed him away to concentrate on the conversation that had drastically shifted from his family to his affections…..for me.”

A startled gasping sob slipped from my mouth and I knew I had been heard. He called out my name and alcohol fed compulsion had me respond in the negative. But he knew it was me. I could hear them advance on me though the bamboo. From my crouched position all I saw was his boots. He asked how much I heard. My answer affirmed that I had heard more than he probably wanted. I reached inward for the only shred of calm I had left and I stood and met his eyes. ‘ You should return to your home and family.’ I told him ‘I know what it is like to leave a family behind I know our experiences are unique and I could never compare my losses to yours but I understand. We understand. You have a family here now too’ He seemed lost in thought and mumbled ‘I don’t know if she would take me back even if I did return’ His pain was palpable and overwhelming my senses and all I wanted to do was take it away. No one deserves to live life in this kind of this pain. That tiny shred of calm dissolved as the waves of anxiety began to build again and I was left with my head in my hands. His hands found mine and held them between us so he could see my face.”

The warmth of his hands on mine flooded my every sense and suddenly those waves pushing me under were tranquil as a pond on a still day. ‘I can’t go home, this place hold more for me, I can’t leave this’ he told me as our eye locked and our hands closed tighter onto each other. I asked boldly ‘this?’ and squeezed his hands questioningly. A flood of warmth like the sun took us both by surprise and all inhibitions seemed to drop from my mind. We hesitated realizing this was magic. As if it had a mind of its own my mouth spilled open with a profession of my favor for the beauty of his eyes. In that moment I was incapable of speaking anything but the truth. My mouth started to utter my desire for his kiss but I quickly dropped his hands to muffle myself. My cheeks burned furious with my inability to contain my words. It’s true though. All I’ve wanted since I first laid eyes upon him was to know what his lips felt like against my own. Never in my life had I been so instantly compelled by that sort of thought as I had with him. His own cheeks spread with a blush as his own truth compelled mouth divulged that he found my height adorable. I couldn't help but smile warmly. Usually my height is a joke at my expense but this was the first non-halfling person in my entire life to complement me sincerely on my stature.” Odiri smiles so brightly at the maid she it was if she was glowing from within.

The wildflowers surrounding us without warning started to grow steadily higher as a mist that caught on the rays of moonlight swirled delicately. Undoubtedly the efforts of a certain druid. As the flowers began to climb around me Eucarion scooped me up to keep me from being engulfed by this magic driven flora. The dense muscled arms of an archer held me tight against him and I felt like I was drowning again but this time in the warmth of his skin against mine. I steadied myself by wrapping my arms around his neck. I could not help the blissful smile that spread across my face. I could feel his heartbeat thunder against me as his breath hitched. ‘I’m glad you’re staying’ I whispered to him. Within the same breath our faces drew closer and I felt that familiar snap of a spell falling. I cupped my hand against his cheek, thumbing the pair of scars there. Without hesitation we closed the distance knowing our lips would meet of our own decision not compelled by the magick that was. It was careful and delicate with the faintest taste of unspoken guilt.” She blushes distracted by the memory that still made her toes curl in her boots even days later.

As the magic grove of flowers started to slide back to their natural state he lowered me to the ground and very purposefully met my eyes again. He squeezed my hand gently and assured me ‘I’m okay with this’. But was I? I was conflicted. This is what I wanted? Right? I wanted him to return my attentions. I wanted to hold his hand. I wanted to kiss those scars over and over until whatever caused them left his memories. How could I feel this strongly for a single creature in less than a month’s time. Especially a married one. Our hands held each other still as we returned to camp in silence after agreeing we should, if at least to hold Naligor and Oranssi accountable for their interference.I could have I would have stayed out in those woods alone with him all night but holding his hand would suffice for now. Despite the tingling numbness that grew in my arm from holding it nearly over my head to keep our hands clasped, I enjoyed it. Regardless of my conflicted thoughts. Our peaceful return to the yurt was ended in the smug yet giddy faces of Oranssi and Naligor. Any remaining doubt of their interference was squelched as they asked playfully how our evening had been.  Having no patience after what ended up being both a physically and now emotionally exhausting day I set Xiao on Oranssi with a small hand gesture and the handsome elf at my side followed suit with Charka against Naligor. What could have turned into an all out brawl washed away with a wave of Oranssi’s hand. I felt calm and centered but Eucarion still seemed…troubled. I didn’t expect things to be fine and back to normal just like that but I also did not expect him to spend the rest of the evening as far from me as possible. I curled up in Xiao’s fur and watched him meditate with his back me. I realized in all of this that it was the first time I’d seen him with his hair down. It was longer than I expected.”

The next morning I woke to the smell of the most amazing porridge being made by Oranssi. I really would have never guessed his talents for food. I ran my fingers through the mess of tufts and cowlicks that graced my head and tried to look at least a little presentable while Oranssi ladled out our breakfast. I watched Eucarion from across the firepit trying to decide if last night was a dream or not. It wouldn’t be the first time I had dreamed about him. It wasn’t until I caught his eye and a small smile peeked out from behind the mess of his undone hair. The night before wasn’t a dream. We kissed. My eyes traced his lips savoring the memory of that kiss like a sweet candy. It took me a moment to realize Oranssi and Nalgor were addressing me and I snapped out of my reverie to listen to what they had to say.”

They feel that the town with somehow magically benefit from us encouraging more townspeople to go beyond the walls with us. While I understand the needs of industry and agree that maybe down the line it might help but I struggled to impart the concept that a town of this size and seclusion would not take kindly to rapid change. But Oranssi and Naligor charged ahead with their ideas starting with checking in on the Kami Mines. Well enough, there was a chamber I had yet to map. Our travel to the mine was casual and comfortable as sense of order had been restored to the group. When the bamboo gave way to the brilliant jade of wooded forests that reminded me so much of home.Filled with joy by this gentle green light, I scooped up a right handful of wildflowers and proceeded to toss them at Eucarion like tiny floral javelins. He had yet to tie up his glittering hair that fell in waves to his chest so it turned into a game of trying to get them to stick to his endearingly messy tresses. On my last attempt to hurl from the handful of flowers I had grabbed, he catches the small daisy and tucks is behind his ear with a playful smile over his shoulder and my heart stuttered in my chest. ‘Slow down sister’ I kept telling myself. Being this infatuated was starting to cause me to lose my focus. I hadn’t realized we had already made it to the clearing that held the mine. My eyes drifted to the rocks we sat at to make those first flower crowns. We set up camp and discovered Naligor’s new trinket, an amber stone was glowing faintly when faced Northwest. He explained its history as the wedding ring of Lady Hana from the legendary Prince Yuan. The stones magick was attuned to the physical location of Lady Hana and we knew we could use it to find her tomb and pay our respects.”

On my morning watch an hour before the sun crested the horizon I snuck from my tent to lay yet another flower crown upon Eucarion’s meditating head. I paused just long enough to find the boldness in me to lightly kiss the scar in his left eyebrow before retreating to my duties of prepping my map making scrolls. As we entered the mouth of the cave I felt the reassuring warmth of Eucarion’s hand against the middle of my back. It flustered me for a moment because, as commonplace as casual touch is in halfling society it most definitely was not the case here. We made our way to the Giant Frog’s chamber and to both of our surprised Naligor turned into nearly a mirror image of the frog and we all conversed briefly now that we had the magicks to do so. The frog was named Third One as he was the third in his family. We found that he had fallen into that cave, poor thing, with no way out in fear of drying up. I vowed that in exchange for safe passage we would do what we could to relocate him to a safe place with more food in due time. My quest to map the uncharted chambers to the left were met with the distraction of 2 shadow creatures dispatched in the first chamber and two massive one eyed grub like monstrosities in the chamber beyond. The four of us worked surprisingly well as a team with the addition of Charka and Xiao we felt unstoppable. I did my map work and we left the mines without trouble.”

That evening was spent in drunken revelry, Even Oranssi seemed joyous by proxy. I have memories of pinning poor Charka down to adorn her with a flower collar similar to the one he was still wearing. She was beyond upset as her jaws could not reach it to remove the offending delicate accessory. When I awoke curled up against xiao by the fireside for my shift the next morning I realized ‘The ship leaves today, I've missed my chance to escape now’ I cocked my head to the side to watch Eucarion put his boots on at the edge of his tent. When did I start enjoying such mundane things as watching him get dressed. I laughed at myself. I did not need that boat to escape what I was running from, I needed him.”

We set off in the direction the ring guided us in for days We passed thick forests filled with life and spilled into a much lighter forest blanketed in the widest variety of flowers. Our travels were unfettered and left us to many a flower crown weaving. In my current company I knew we were all at least a little homesick for the beauty of the Vanyrian forests.  A few days into the lighter forest we arrived to what was clearly an orchard that went on to the horizon in every direction. There were fruit trees and garden paths paved with stone. We happened upon once magnificent fountains now dry and crumbled with age. Benches in alcoves surely meant for whispered conversation and stolen kisses now lay empty. You couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with sadness. This place must have been a sight in it’s prime. We spotted a domed roof beyond and made that our way towards it. The closer we got a haunting echo met our ears and as the noise grew, fear hit me like a stinging rain and I reached up to grab Eucarion’s hand and pressed myself against his side. I knew that noise only from stories. It was a banshee. After a weeks travel we were in no shape to face her. As if the wall could hear my fears the key at my belt began to glow along with with the rest of our group and in a flash we were back in that same spot in the farmlands. We stood in that grassy field holding each others hand still not sure if what we were doing was allowed. We finally let go of each other and… I haven’t seen him since. It’s been at least a full day. I can’t help but worry that….this was still all some alcohol fueled day dream.” Odiri looks up at the maid hoping for some sort of answer. The maid smiled vaguely and stood from the bed pulling the empty bottle of sake away from Odiri’s hands. “I may not have all the answers for you, young halfling, but I can tell you this, if you speak from the heart to him the way you just did to me….” and turns to leave the room without finishing the advice.

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Log 3 of Naligor Dornrock
The Sassmasters Strike

It has been many moons since my last writings of our endeavors. I was wandering the farmlands and fields of Port Shore Blossom for many days. I was seeking answers, getting to know the locals, and learning how they were holding up. The responses I received were a mixture of hope and melancholy. I visited the Wall sensing that there must be something more to this than just a transportation spell. As I placed my hand upon the wall, I could sense something reaching out to me; a sentience that I had not noticed before. Further research and are study required. From there, I headed over to Master Yen's Emporium to see if he had any magic items that could help us on our journey. He drew my attention to an amber necklace and informed me of its history. Yen told me that I should take it with me in case something happened with it. I thanked him for his suggestion, paid my 25 gold, and respectfully took my leave. 

I traveled my way back to the Rose Shell Inn & Tea House to inform my companions of my findings. To my surprise, the Inn had been quite changed since my last visit. More carvings were added to the central table. A charter had been added for all who wish to join our cause, and many unfamiliar faces that seem to have joined up. I put my signature up upon the charter for those to know that I intend to help this Port rebuild and thrive. 

It seemed Odiri, Eucarion, and Oranssi were the only ones’ present at the Inn. It was good to see my friends again :) For some odd reason, Odiri and Eucarion have become good friends which is… fine. Though I have my suspicions. To my surprise, Odiri had gained a new fluffy animal friend, Xiao the Panda. I walked up to him and started scratching his belly and giving him a little bit of food I had on me. He could sense my friendship with Odiri and we immediately bonded with hugs and growls. Charka soon followed up and started joining in on the cuddle fest. I finally greeted the party and was brought up to speed on their outings from the Wall and the progress they had made.

On our way through the town, for some reason, Eucarion told us, off-hand, that he was still married, even during his prior involvement in a war, which sent Odiri into an emotional getaway. We tried to figure out what was wrong but she made her way quickly back to the inn. My concern peaked for her but we had to go to Master Yen's for some supplies and information. Note to self: Kick Eucarion's bitch ass

We made our way back to the Inn and I immediately went to Odiri's door. She wouldn't open the door for anyone, until she heard the sound of a POP from my bottle and a little bit of persuading. She slowly opened the door and let me in. I told everyone else to go downstairs and that we'll return momentarily. Odiri was emotional and sobbing everywhere. Her tears reminded me of my previous village and the ravaging that had occurred. I sat down next to her and I let her confine in me and reassured her that no matter what happens, I've got her back. She seemed hesitant at first so I followed up with, "Whenever we go out, if we're together, I'll always have one of Madam Saru best drinks on me. So, if you feel like this or just want to keep that nice buzz going, it'll be there at your convenience." A smiled came across her face as she warmed to up to the idea and we hugged. Her attitude immediately changed back to her spunky halfling grit and we made our way back to the group with renewed spirits.

We set out past the wall and I, as always, gave my goodbyes to the guards. Who, due to my absent mindedness, I always give them new names. We set out to make a new way station. We traveled for many days, and made a rest stop halfway to our destination. I took the midnight watch that night and decided to pray to Lunor for guidance and wisdom. I casted Moonbeam upon myself to magnify my connection, holding my moon stone in hand. Unbeknownst to us, Kobolds and Urds were preparing to strike. Though the party was attacked in their sleep, once again, I narrowly avoided being attacked as my moonbeam destroyed three enemies at once, sending them to Lunar for their treachery. We gave a strong come back and I transformed into a giant wolf spider and took out many of our foes. The battle ended swiftly with Odiri screaming in fear of my new form. I transformed back to let her know it was just me. Of course, to calm down a drunkard halfling whose fear of spiders is even worse than that of the Great Samwise the Brave, I gave her Madam Saru's sake. She was appeased but I was told to NEVER do that again unless absolutely necessary.

We made our way to way point after the surprise evening and we were finally able to create a massive yurt for all those who travel the land. We all sat by the fire, discussing plans for both the outside world and the fate of Port Shore Blossom. Myself and Oranssi came up with many great ideas and observations. We came up with a game plan for how we can both help the town and renew their morale. While we were in the middle of our discussion, first Eucarion left because he's a major wussy, followed by Odiri, for some reason that I fear. After we had finished our game plan, Oranssi and I snuck up on our drunken friends to discover that they are having a heart a heart to about their feelings. Although I may not be overly keen on Eucarion, I'm happy that they can find some happiness together. As they continued, we started added spells to "increase" the mood. A 'Zone of Truth' was cast and flowers started growing around them as they finally kissed. I'm glad Odiri is happy, but if anything happens to her because of Eucarion… well… wolves protect those that they call 'Kith' to the DEATH

From there, we made our way to Master Kenton's Mine which was abandoned in a hurry with many valuable ores and materials still to be mined. We believe that if we clear it out that we'll be able to get more armor for the town and show the people that they CAN survive outside the safety of the wall. I've never been to this mine before, but from what the party described this was no place to be trifled with. In the main part of the mine, I met a massive frog named "Third One' and decided to become a giant frog to interact with him. We learned of his sad history and how he became stuck in this mine with nothing but flies to feed him. We promised him that we would help him find a new home at a local lake. Which is a magic being at the moment that we need to deal with later. We moved past him and went down a path that none of us had been through yet. Oranssi took point with myself 10 feet behind him. Oranssi was able spot two shadows but couldn't see them. We waited for his maneuver to act. He shot a light arrow into the cavern and the fight was on. Oranssi took many blows but I put a moonbeam down on the shadow behind him and burned him with holy moonlight. Oranssi burned the shadow in front of him that was trying to steal his strength. We went further in and a giant slug fell next to Oriri and we took the battle head on. I struck and pinned the slug down as a wolf and Oranssi finished him off with holy flames. 

With that, the mines were cleared out and we rested outside the mine. I took another midnight shift and noticed the amber necklace that was given to me started to faintly glow towards the northwest. The party took note of this and agreed that it would be worth an investigation. Many days past as we entered the deep woods. As we traveled, I explained to them to story of a First Empire wedding that was supposed to occur. Prince Yuan was to be wed to the owner of the necklace, Lady Hana, deep in the heart of deep forest. But that was to never be for their marriage was postponed by unforeseen events. As we made our way to the heart of the woods (also known as Lady Hana's Grove), we started seeing more flora and animal life about; many statues and fountains laid about, broken and old. I asked the group if we could bring back this old area and renew it to its former glory but as we did that, a loud scream from within temple said " LEAVE THIS PLACE!!" it was a Banshee (presumably Lady Hana herself). We were taken back inside the Walls to reflect on what progress we had made. I worry for Lady Hana's spirit for she must be tied to this world for some reason. It would be a shame to have to put her out of her misery. If there is some way to help her, I will encourage the party to find an alternate route. 

People need to know of the dangers outside of the Wall and the High Council needs to understand the gravity of their situation, and how we can help them become a strong Port City once again.

 

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Log I : Day 7
Eucarion's Journal

My troubles only seem to grow the longer I remain in this town… 

Odiri and I had been sitting and drinking at the Rose Shell since quite early in the morning. I was relatively deep into my sake, but Odiri was swimming in it. Oranssi had only just sat down with us. Some new additions had been made to the teahouse. Next to where the company charter had been hung on the wall, Madam Saru had installed a glass display case with a fine metal frame and large glass doors. Inside, there were many racks, but only one weapon held inside. Roth's new axe, the ancient artifact we had found in the troll cave. At the top of the case, a sign declared the contents to be property of the charter. Rather considerate of Madam Saru to make such a thing for us. We had certainly not asked for it. But it was good to know our party had her support and approval. 

Naligor, who we had not seen in quite some time, entered, signing his name on the hanging charter and taking a seat at the table. He had been spending quite some time out with the farmers in the fields, making friends of them. I was willing to bet from his smug look that quite a few were women, and at least some of them were happy to host a hero in their home for the evening. He was not satiated enough, clearly, because he immediately made moves on Charka, who was more that pleased by the attention. I do not think my heart will bear it if I am forced to godfather the spawn of such an unholy union…

Odiri ordered up as much Maiden's Breath as Madam Saru could muster, though Naligor ended up paying for it, as she drunkenly explained our plan to set up a waystation at the Gaea Shrine. Oranssi cast a silence on Odiri for a brief moment to explain the plan a little more legibly to Madam Saru, over which Odiri was righteously infuriated. Madam Saru offered to purchase supplies for us at wholesale price from Elder Yen. A sound deal was made, and the materials would be ready for us the next morning. Then, we would depart on our mission.

We exited the Rose Shell and headed to Kenten's to acquire other necessities for the journey. Naligor kept plying Odiri with more booze as we walked. I asked if she should really be drinking so much. There must be only so much a body as small as hers could handle. She indignantly replied that she was just fine, while Naligor regaled to me with a story of her last serious bout of sobriety. She had vomited wildly over the side of the ship that brought them to port. Lovely.

Oranssi and I bantered on the matter of our sexual conquests, and Oranssi was rather surprised to hear that I'd never had a halfling before. Beside the fact that I'd only known a few in my entire lifetime, I had kept rather faithfully to my vows. The pause to the conversation was palpable. Ah, of course, none of them knew I had a wife. A great deal of shock all around to the revelation. Was it so unusual for a man my age to be married? Odiri had an unexpectedly visceral reaction to the information. Visibly upset, she made to run back to the Rose Shell. Oranssi tried to stop her, but Xiao reared up protectively. I'd seen that bear do serious damage before. I warned Oranssi off. It was better to let her go. To follow her would be unwise on all accounts, so we proceeded to Kenten's.

At the Forge, we placed an order with Master Kenten for a large cauldron. Having one at the waystation would be particularly useful. It would take some time to make, but he lent us a one gallon pot to use in the meantime. Oranssi seemed particularly excited. Admittedly, there is little in life that can make a soldier as happy as the prospect of a warm meal.

Kenten overheard that I had requested a letter of credit from Elder Yen and inquired as to what I would be needing from him. I requested a shirt of chain, which he was more than happy to fashion for me. Oranssi and Naligor sat by the hearth, imbibing on meat pies and drink, as Kenten took my measurements. I observed his measurement taking, and I must say that I was rather alarmed to see what had become of my figure. Not that I had much bulk to me before, but I had grown rather thin with woodland living. He set to work, linking chains here, splitting them there. I watched him at his work, comfortable and familiar. One thing I truly regret about leaving the military was the loss of custom fittings such as this, though I would sooner perish in ill-fitting armor than live in a fine suit with the crests of my old shame. In about an hour, he had fashioned a set of chain and a grey gambeson to go with it, a color of my house. I thanked him, and we departed back to the Rose Shell.

As Oranssi and Naligor went upstairs to fetch Odiri, I chose to remain at the bar. If it was my confession of marriage that had so deeply upset her, it was for the best that I not try to mediate the situation just yet. Oranssi returned downstairs shortly, joining me with the excuse that Naligor had gone to handle the situation. He'd spent a cycle in a female form, whereas neither of us had ever, so he was likely the best to converse with her. The military wasn't really the place for women. I'd had a few women among my corps, and I have heard that women were more prolific adventurers within the Republic, but my experience of them was limited for the most part to wives, servants, and whores. All deserving respect, of course, but not so easily understood. Oranssi agreed with me, and Odiri chose this rather unfortunate moment to overhear us. She seemed to be absolutely seething with anger, all directed to me. As she stalked off, gesturing rudely as she left, Naligor joined us, as well as Madam Saru. He seemed rather peeved with me as well, while Madam Saru seemed all too knowing of where I had gone wrong. Ah, Odiri had taken my actions for flirtation… Not to say that they weren't, but I had not thought the effect of them would be quite so dramatic. Naligor was ready to fight me in defense of Odiri's honor, but Madam Saru protested that the only fights she would allow in her establishment were the ones she could sell tickets for.

The following morning, Odiri was no less angry. But her anger had turned to ignoring me outright. Naligor took her side, while Oranssi tried to keep out of it entirely. An awkward start to the journey, to say the least. We retrieved the supplies from Madam Saru, loaded them up into a skid for Xiao to pull along, and set off. On the way out, we stopped to converse with some of Naligor's farmer friends, who kindly offered us a cart though we had no need of one. This put us behind enough that we were out the gates at noon, forcing us to camp on the road at nightfall. Odiri had not spoken a word to me the entire journey. She took the morning watch that night, firing back at me that apparently halflings need to sleep. I took the first watch, though I admit I was beyond focus. I spent it all pacing, considering whether or not to apologize, and for what? Naligor swapped off with me, and I went to meditate.

I was woken suddenly in the night by a sharp stabbing pain in my side as I was pierced through by the serrated blade of a kobold. There were fourteen of them, seven on the ground and seven in the sky. I recognized their heraldry quickly as the same we'd seen at the Thousand Sage Temple, an owl with outstretched wings. The hilts of their swords clicked and glinted with bone baubles, rodent sized and likely harvested from the pellets of owls. Rather morbid little detail, but there was no time to think hard on it. I quickly dispatched the one that had stabbed me. Naligor killed three immediately with the fire of a moonbeam, a ritual he must have been performing in the night, reducing them to ashes. Oranssi similarly took out the one behind him with a brilliant flash of the light of his goddess. Odiri killed the one attacking her, but we were all pelted from above by a round of boulders. Naligor transformed himself into a giant spider, causing Odiri to scream bloody murder at the sight. I took out the one above her head before it could to any damage in her distracted state. Even if she didn't care for me, I still had to care for her. Naligor dispatched the one that had attacked Charka, and all I could imagine, with a shiver, was the consequences of her gratitude to him. Oranssi healed everyone as Odiri fumbled her shot, still struck by the sight of Naligor's spider form. The kobolds flew down upon us and struck with slashes, retreating into the air again. As I dispatched another kobold with a well fired arrow, I sensed what Naligor was up to with his moonbeam, sending Charka out to the treeline as I retreated. Naligor moved the moonbeam into the path of a kobold, burning him to ash with it, then hopped up a tree. He pounced out of it and onto another kobold, taking it down midair. This only further terrified Odiri. 

She continued to scream until Oranssi took out the last kobold and Naligor turned back into a more sensible shape. He knelt beside her and proffered a bottle of the Madam's finest. Naligor joked that Odiri could ignore him for a few hours if she felt she needed to. I snapped back that he should try being ignored for a full day. Odiri definitely heard me, as I hoped she would. It was childish, but I was getting antsy. All this, because I mentioned my wife? Before long, Odiri was asleep, curled into Xiao's massive form. He made a perfect bed for her, and I couldn't help but laugh at how adorable the sight was. Laughing? Wasn't I supposed to be mad?

Morning came, and we trekked nearly another full day to reach the Gaea Shrine. Being twilight, it was too late to start any serious work, but I threw my efforts into gathering materials for the next day. Odiri still wasn't talking to me. I staved off my thoughts with the force of hard labor until I could do nothing but rest empty-headedly.

I woke early for the morning watch, walking about the camp in observation. I was still drained, more so emotionally than anything. I had known what I was doing all along, playing courtship with Odiri. I dare not admit that my gestures of flower crowns and weaving were flirtation. Though they were, to make that concession would be to forfeit my vows. These games had to end if I was to keep that faith…. and yet I did not want them to. When I gifted her that crown, why did her smile fill me with such addictive warmth? Had she not given me that ounce of her interest… Had I not been so kind in the first place… 

As the sun began to creep over the horizon, peeking its rays through the bamboo and illuminating the grasses, I came upon Odiri's sleeping form. She had slept again in a nest of Xiao's fur. Little drops of dew, sure to evaporate in the rising heat of the day, crested her short hair in a halo of crystalline jewels and kissed upon her eyelashes. My chest ached sharply. She stirred, and I dared not look any longer. 

We spent the day setting up the waystation. A large yurt was erected, with room enough for a fire inside and a ventilation hole at the top. Naligor put down a layer of packed moss for flooring, then I cut apart bamboo and he packed it again for a more permanent solution. I toiled with the same abandon as the night prior, seeking any escape from my thoughts. By the evening, we had a decent shelter erected. There would be opportunity to improve on it further, but it was good enough for the time being. Some celebration was in order. Oranssi excitedly concocted together a stew of the last of the boar meat, and imbibements were passed about the fire.

I do not recall what set me off. Odiri had said something, of course, but it seems so silly now. In response, I took along some drink and stalked away into the woods, Charka following at my heels. I walked far enough, found a quiet place to collect myself, and Charka and I spoke at length. We did this often, but never before could Charka respond to me in a tongue I could speak. She'd always been a great comfort to me, but now we could truly converse, more so.

My thoughts were wild. With anger, with hatred, with confusion, without clarity, without aim. Something in me did stir for Odiri. She and are are much alike. Though not in species similar, we are both kin of the forest and, through that, we have bonded. Why else then would such conflicting feelings of utter vexation and care coexist?  I had not meant to hurt her, but I, the fool, had so heartlessly led her on, and the mention of my wife had set her to despise me. This was not what I had wanted at all.

But was what I wanted permissible? 56 years I had not seen Allaya! 57, counting the year I had been away in the field before I departed. I did not even tell her why. I bequeathed her my estate and all of my possessions with an apology, but vague! So vague! My last kiss goodbye to her was with the promise of return, and that promise, among so many, I broke. Though my love for her never wavered, even now, how could I know that her's remained constant? I know not what hurts my soul more: the idea that she may have found another and replaced me, or that my betrayal may have driven her to despair. At first it was fear for my life that kept me from her, but now there is only shame. How could I go back now? But the hope clings desperately to the bottom of every bag of horrors is so difficult to let go of. Perhaps Allaya waits for me. Perhaps she is as forgiving as I remember her. Breaking my vows would mean forfeiting that possibility, however slim. It would be a sin. It would be wrong. Morally reprehensible. A punishable offense. The only honorable thing to do would be return, even so many years past and with my tail between my legs. Yet fear grips me, and I cannot bring myself to go.

This is all without speaking of Tannion. My son! My only son! Who knew me so few years of his life and now has only legends of scandal to know me by. He will be soon of adventuring age. I can only hope he can eke himself something good of the world that is untainted by me.

Drawing me away from that truly depressing line of thinking, Charka asked of my thoughts on my companions. Well, sexually speaking… Kodu was a good fellow, though a confused one, and certainly chaste by measures of monkhood. But I would rather have taken my knife upon myself than ever argue with him about language semantics ever again. Frivolity was absolutely out of the question. Imagining such a union was painful. Much the same for Albion, though for entirely different reasons. Naligor was the devil and, useful as he was, needed to stay the hell away from my dog. Charka didn't like that. She asked of Oranssi and I sputtered. No, certainly not him. Not that I didn't like him. He was a fine lad. Attractive enough. Loyal. Not too many hangups (lies, many hangups). I hadn't been… entirely faithful to Allaya when I was on the front. Soldiers have needs that unfortunately cannot be fulfilled by wives at homes far, far from the battlefield. It's an entirely forgivable transgression! But never again would I go with soldiers. A handful in a lifetime was enough. No-one else struck my fancy much. But of course, there was Odiri. Back to these dangerous thoughts! As truly maddening as she was, she fascinated me uniquely. Infuriating, yes, but infuriating in a good way. She kept me on my toes. Kept me interested. And why, why did I feel this need to protect her? Certainly it could not only be chivalry… could it? 

Our conversation was interrupted with the sound of weeping. Drunk, undone, I drew my bow and called into the woods. Odiri's shaking voice replied. Oh. I set aside my bow and went to the source, finding her huddled with her arms pitifully about herself, face streaked with tears. I remembered the dew on her lashes…

She wouldn't speak to me at first, denying that she was there at all though I could see her clear as day. I asked how much she had heard, and the answer was much. Under any normal circumstances, I would have been absolutely livid at being so intimately intruded upon, but I couldn't bring myself to anger at the pitiful sight of her.

Her next words surprised me. She said I should go home. That I should return to my family, if only because they were my family and it was the right thing to do. She knew what it was like to leave people behind without a word, to leave them not knowing whether you were alive or dead or what without them. Her own family? Had she done the same to them? (Were we truly so similar?) She knew her own situation could not be the same as mine, but still she knew the hurt that it could bring. There was, of course, this family to consider too. Our company that we had made. A family of sorts, but not the one I'd left behind.

That shook me, and yet I found myself finding reason after reason not to go, tumbling into despair. How could Allaya possibly want me back? My name is blackened. My house is debased. I myself, so wounded, am a disgusting specimen. How dare I even think to return with my filth to her pure bed? Again, the thoughts that she had found another reeled me. Perhaps she had indeed found another and was much happier without me. And if I did go back, it would be my old post or nothing at all. How could I go back with the , looming possibility that it would be a waste? I had left for a reason. Why then return?

Odiri wept again and wrenched her hair between her fingers, covering her face with her hands. I know not what compelled me, but I put my hands to hers and pulled them away. I wanted to see her eyes. I wanted to know her in truth. I told her that I could not leave. There was so much more reason to stay than go. I couldn't leave this. "This? ," she asked, and I knew she meant us, the hands, our eyes meeting. 

Suddenly, I was overtaken by honesty. A spell, I'm sure, and not of my own doing. I am incapable of such strong casting. But spell or no, I was forced to speak true my mind. Odiri seemed as much taken by it as we both eyed one another with hesitation and confusion. She blurted out that she liked my eyes and something else I didn't quite catch because she clamped her hand quickly over her mouth to muffle it. Kiss, I think I heard? Oh my. I was stunned. I'm sure I was running rather red in the face, redder still when I told her I thought her shortness of height was adorable. She took no offense to that, to my surprise. 

The many flowers we stood in began to grow quite suddenly as a thin, lovely mist surrounded us. More magics, I was sure. Someone would pay for that later. The grasses about us grew so tall that they began to engulf Odiri, overtaking her stature. Instinctively, I picked her up, fearing that she would be lost in it. She wrapped her arms around my neck for support, and I could feel the warmth of her body held against mine in the cool night air. She smiled. Lightly, but my breath caught in my throat. "I'm glad you're staying," she said. I don't know what came over me, but I was emboldened. Compelled. I leaned my head in close to her, and she mirrored the motion. I felt the spell of truth break, but I did not stop for it. Our lips met. Chaste. Brief. But they met none the less. 

Perhaps it is my fate to be an oathbreaker.

The "mysterious" growth of nature around us subsided and the mist retreated back into the moonlit woods. I set Odiri down. We exchanged looks. "I'm okay with this." And I was. The guilt would catch me later, but then and there, it was okay.

We walked back to the camp, silent, hand in hand, not caring if we were seen together (because Naligor and Oranssi were the most likely culpruits of the magic anyhow). Entering the yurt, both were suspiciously smiling and doing nothing at all. They asked what we were up to. The gall! We lied, but the jig was up. Ah, so it was them. Xiao lunged up to attack Oranssi, who dodged. I sent Charka on Naligor, who was pushed to the ground. Of course, Naligor said he liked his women on top and I was absolutely disgusted. (Charka wasn't. Eugh). Oranssi cast a calm over us, sitting both Odiri and I down. Embarrassed of the whole situation, I drank again and found the most distant corner to meditate in for the remainder of the night.

In the morning, Oranssi made a breakfast of porridge in his pot. He really loves that pot. It's rather endearing. Odiri had made some effort to dressing herself. She'd even done her hair some, it looking a lot less disastrous than usual. I was immediately made conscious of what a mess I must have looked by contrast. I had not even put my own hair up…

We discussed the future of Shore Blossom, Naligor and Oranssi filling Odiri and I in on what conclusion they had come to the night prior. It was clear from the day we all arrived that the town was stagnant. A sole port of trade with distant lands. Only enough farms to subsist a population, but not expand it. Or sustain it long. And the lands beyond were rich with resources, but only we few were brave enough to face the very real dangers of gathering them. If the Goblin Queen intends to claim the city, as she most certainly must with her presence here, a single magical wall would do little to stop her. I have seen the damages done at her bidding. I have seen what she has done to a well-protected lands, and I cannot bear to imagine what would be the result of an attack on a land as incapable of facing her as Shore Blossom stands now. The town must be changed if it is to stand any chance. Odiri pointed out that bringing too much change too quickly could prove disastrous. In this, she was right. Shore Blossom is an old place, founded on tradition and legend. To break those overnight is an impossible feat. Naligor suggested to go through the Council of Elders. Madam Saru and Elder Yen were already on our side. The rest could be convinced to see our side. Small steps are necessary with the public, and Oranssi suggested that Odiri, though no diplomat, could use her skills as a storyteller to benefit the cause. 

We proceeded to the ruins of the mine, having discussed earlier that mapping it out clearly and ensuring it is safe would prove useful in the long run. We traveled north, encountering the Pond of Echoes halfway on our journey. Despite being warned not to tempt fate, Naligor skipped a stone across the water. A tendril reached out and dragged it under, but nothing more. We moved on quickly. The woods grew familiar with both a path previously traveled and with tall, deciduous trees. As we walked, Odiri plucked up flowers from the ground and threw them playfully at me. I paid no mind for the most part, though I did catch one bloom and tucked it behind an ear. The unusual green reminded me of the color of her eyes.

Arriving at the clearing and making camp, Naligor pulled out a clear amber stone. He explained that it was an artifact he purchased from Elder Yen, a stone from the wedding ring of Lady Hana. It was given to her by the hero Prince Yuan, and it would glow brighter when in proximity with her tomb. After exploring the mine, we agreed to use it to try and find the tomb.

The following morning, I woke with a crown of flowers in my hair, but only in mine. I cannot help but say it made me smile, and I left it there with my hair undone beneath. The favor would be returned. I imagine I'll get quite good at weaving flowers this way, though that's certainly not the point of the exercise.

We entered the mine. Oranssi took the lead, then Naligor, then Odiri, then myself. I walked with my hand on Odiri's back, protectively guiding her in the darkness. First, we encountered the giant frog. I'd been pretty eagerly looking forward to meeting him again! He seemed much the same, though a little less full and a little more digested. Naligor transformed into a fellow frog to converse with him alongside Odiri and I. We found out that the frog was rather pleased by our hobgoblin gift, though the taste was rather foul, and he had been having difficulties keeping fed. His name was Third One, as he was the third tadpole of his pod, and he'd fallen into the mine while looking for food outside his pond. The ground had simply caved under him, and he'd been stuck there since. We promised to aid him in finding a better home as soon as we could, and in return he promised us safe passage. 

In the next chamber, we encountered two undead shadows who attacked Oranssi ferociously. There was not much that Odiri and I could do to help, as our arrows could do little damage to them. One was dispatched when Oranssi fired a celestial bolt into it, destroying it with a celestial chorus. The other was taken out by Naligor with an explosion of moonbeam fire. Healing up and resting briefly first, we proceeded into the next chamber, where two stalactites dropped from the ceiling, one nearly missing Odiri and the other nailing poor Oranssi. They were not stalactites, however, but writhing, disgusting, one-eyed fiends. Charka and Xiao took out one of them, and Oranssi the other. Satisfied that the mine was clear, we vowed to return with Adi so he may cast wards on the place and prevent any further such unfortunate interactions.

Returning to camp, we drank heartily that night the last of the drink we had taken along with us. Spirits were high and the evening was spent pleasantly. Charka gained a collar of flowers at some point in the drunken revelry. It definitely suited her, as much as she hated it.

The next morning, we followed the amber stone of Lady Hana as it glowed this way or that, guiding us to her tomb. First north west, then west. The trees seemed to grow as we went, taller and thicker, and the forest teemed with wildlife. Otherwise, it was absolutely deserted. We did not encounter another living soul across so many days of travel. The next day, we found ourselves in another region of the forest. Here, the trees were large, virgin trees, spaced evenly apart from one another. Wildflowers licked our ankles, while floating petals and leaves kissed our cheeks. This place was lighter, brighter, and the beams of the sun came through the canopy, illuminating floating pollen as though they were tiny, dancing, glowing orbs. For two more days we traveled through such beautiful forest, feasting on the many fruit trees and berries. Plenty of flower crowns were exchanged, of course. 

Finally, we came to an orchard bearing fruit of all sorts, some of which I had never seen before in my life. Garden stretched as far as the eyes could see, criss-crossed with cobblestone paths and bright with color. Stonework stood about of fountains, benches, and statues, but all were decrepit and uncared for. The garden itself seemed overgrown, as though nature had begun to reclaim the space as her wild own. There was a palpable sense of sadness to the place. Ah, Lady Hana's tomb. This most certainly was it. I wish I had better the tools and skills to fix this place. It could be so lovely.

In the distance, we began to hear a deep echo resonating throughout the garden. Louder and louder it grew, until it was a wail. A banshee. It was the screech of a banshee. As if sensing our eminent danger, our keys began to glow. Odiri grasped my hand tightly, and in an instant, we were at the gates. She did not let go until we were well inside the safety of the walls.

Alone now and writing this, I think on Odiri. The guilt is only beginning to catch up with me, and I know not how to proceed. I fear that I am doomed. If not doomed, then at the very least I am damned.

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