Tales of Shore Blossom

Story Time with Odiri - Pt. 3
Adventure 6 - Boars and Arrows

Odiri and the fellow ladies visiting the bath house settled into the sauna before Odiri continued her story “Upon entering the Rose Shell I found my adventuring crew was up already debating on going on an excursion. Every one of them stopped mid word to turn and look at the unlikely pair Xiao and I made. I’ve never seen Eucarion move so fast as he fled up and over the chair he was sitting in to hide behind it. I couldn’t help but laugh at such a drastic reaction, from an elf no less.” Odiri smirks recalling the different reactions to Xiao’s presence. “Albion and Roth were both wildly enamored! Roth immediately lifted Xiao into the air and began to rub his snout against Xiao’s, while Albion proceeded to coo sweetly and pet Xiao all over. Oranssi was overjoyed and fed Xiao from his hands.  I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of these manly men coddling a panda as if it were an infant. My joy was interrupted with growling sharp words of violence against my new found friend. I turned around ready to retort against Eucarion, only to meet his dog Charka’s gaze instead. It was in that moment that I realized it was not just Xiao’s words in my mind but also Charka’s. ‘Mean nasty dog saying such things’ I cursed at that dog. All at once Eucarion stood from his hiding place behind the chair and pointed at me accusingly, ‘You can hear her too?’ then his face went blank for a moment. ‘So you hear him as well, interesting’ I asked.”

All of this ruckus was summarily silenced by the arrival of Madam Saru bearing a sealed scroll. She handed it to Eucarion with instructions to deliver it to our wizard, Adi. In the blink of an eye that scoundrel, Soveliss, stole the scroll right from his hand! Without even hesitating Soveliss opened the scroll to discovered it was a detailed map of the interior of a temple. I will admit my curiosity got the better of me and I looked at it with the rest of the men. There was Dwarven writing that was kindly translated for us by a patron of the Rose Shell. It was a map of the Thousand Sage Temple. I believe our entire group came to the same realization in sync. This was a map of this mysterious haunted temple that we know to be the entrance to the Kobold city of Shan-Dao. We decided that we would leave the dawn of the next day to make our way to investigate this temple. We knew the general direction to our heading from interrogating the Kobolds prior. We traveled without interruption to the Gaea Shrine which at this point had become a bit of a customary pit stop. I made a rudimentary shelter from thick bamboo for Xiao and I to sleep in because I was well and truly tired of being awoken in the middle of my rest by boulders. Surprisingly we woke fully rested and unmolested for the entire evening. I on the other hand was feeling unsettled as I was going on nearly 48 hours without a sip of alcohol due to the ritual and the venture planning. We had made the decision that morning that since the Dwarven Ruins were a mere 3.5 hours beyond the Gaea Shrine we would have Roth continue to cut the path he had started from the front gate. This time he had Albion to assist with the labor and Xiao to eat the leftovers.”

We made good time and decided to take a short rest in the ruins over the hatch the party had discovered in a previous outing. Oranssi declared that by magic means we were safe from evil but Eucarion and I decided to work together check the area with our enhanced abilities for creatures of all variety to finally rest assured that we were in no immediate danger. It was…odd that he suddenly decided to work with me instead of against me but I was not going to complain. I have started to enjoy having someone around who understood the forest the way I do and he’s-” Odiri pauses mid-sentence and closes her mouth abruptly and blushing. She stutters“I-i-it’s just nice to have good back up! Anyways, apparently my irritability was apparent from the teasing as taunting I received from the boys. Soveliss decided very inopportunely to suggest I find religion over the drink and without hesitation I nocked an arrow and drew on him. My blood was boiling and I had a headache wider than the sea we traveled to get to Shore Blossom. I was ready to let my arrow fly true right into his smarmy ass when Eucarion stopped me by bodilly pulling me away from the situation. His arms around me were enough a shock to make me drop my bow. The joking stopped from then out.”

After we rested up for a brief bit we continued due east to the Thousand Sage Temple but this time we opted to save Roth and Albion’s trailblazing for another time and instead used Eucarion and I’s expertise to guide the group through the bamboo sea. We traveled for about 2 hours until our passage was abruptly halted due to the appearance of the largest boar I’ve ever seen. The forest’s of my home were home to many boar but never one as large as this. The team worked in impeccable harmony to bring this beast down. Even Xiao took a shot with his massive paws. Until that time he was so placid but to see him in his defensive prime was truly a sight. The killing blow was administered by Albion and his axe. He swung the axe with such strength it cut the beast clean in half! We gathered the tusks for Elder Yen and the hide of the massive thing for use as a possible shelter when tanned properly. While working to strip the meat from the animal there was an unfortunate conversation between Roth and Albion that culminated in Albion dropping his trousers and shouting ‘I am not a cow!’ while gesturing proudly to his sizable manliness. I will tell you ladies,” Odiri lowers her voice, “I swear that thing was as big as I was.” After an awkward chuckle she continued “We kept traveling east till nightfall. We knew it was unwise to travel in unfamiliar territory at night so we decided to camp. I was eager to get more personal time with Eucarion, y-y-you know to talk more about our newfound ability to hear animals! So I volunteered for the mid watch with him only to get turned down. As crushed as I was going to sleep that evening, I awoke to a delightful gift of a delicate crown made of bamboo leaves in my hair. I knew it was him, I assumed had to be some sort of retribution for the flower crown but when I looked up at him to get some verification he just gave me a questioning smile. Like he wasn’t sure if he was allowed to smile. I wish I knew what happened to him to cause the scars. Not just the ones on his skin but the ones he’s hiding from the rest of the world.” Odiri scratches the back of her head realizing she has just made the company she has been captivating so far awkwardly silent. “Sooo anyways, we continued on for another day. Uneventful and dare I say boring trek through the bamboo. The next night I volunteered for the mid shift again hoping Eucarion would join me this time but instead he chose to take a moment to rest instead. I just could not win with this aggravating elf. So while he was in the deepest of his meditations I slipped a bamboo shoot crown of my own creation onto his head. I spent the rest of my shift waiting for him to notice it but he stayed deep in his meditations for my entire watch and when I woke he was already up and about planning our next day’s travel. I was disappointed I did not get to see his reaction but there was mapping work to be done. We continued to travel east not knowing how many days it would take us, but mapping each step as we went. We traveled uninterrupted until the 3rd day which we came upon a band of nasties off in the distance. With Soveliss’ quick thinking he disguised himself as a hobgoblin with Albion and Roth as his defensive team and Oranssi, Eucarion and I as his ‘prisoners’. Though it was just illusionary magicks Oranssi was unsettled beyond belief and almost blew our cover. I was nervous as Soveliss conversed casually with the team of another Hobgoblin, a Bugbear and a Goblin astride a Warg all emblazoned with the mark of the Goblin Queen and The Silver Demons an elite group under the Goblin Queen I am told. Though they spoke in goblin, I later learned Blood Spattered Snow Tiger had appealed to the Goblin Queen for aid regarding the Kobolds being slaughtered. The joining of these two would be disastrous. The moment the Silver Demons band turned to leave Soveliss attacked. We were blessed with the advantage of surprise as we downed each beast one at a time. Soveliss used some sort of magick to end the fight once and for all that felt like we were drowning in light and wind and when it settled the beasts were down. As shaken as we were from such a skirmish we pressed on to the east knowing we had to be close to the temple with foes as foul as the ones we killed. Less than 3 hours later we spilled into a huge clearing with what we sought in the center of it. The forest was cleared back by nearly a perfect 20 foot in a ring around the single story, blue tiled roof temple. As we circled the temple I noted the entrances and aligned them with the copy of the map of the temples interior I made off the original on my night at watch. I knew in my gut that we did not have the resources or manpower to take this temple at this time, but I spent serious time studying the exterior and the surrounding clearing. I noticed there were what looked like game trails leading to and from the trail out to the surrounding forest. Twenty in total all marked with a crest. I recognised the Iron Rats and the Bamboo Spiders as clans of Kobolds I had encountered already. Eucarion pointed to a crest of two small paws and explained that was of the Silent Raccoons. There were 3 more crests than none of us recognised. A star, a pair of hooked fangs and an owl with outspread wings. Moments after I finished sketching the last of the crests my key began to glow and as I looked up so did the rest of thiers. Even my Xiao had received his key from the wall’s magick in the form of a white shape in the fur of his hindquarter.And by the Walls Whim here I am back safe and sound in Shore Blossom” Odiri stands to exit the Sauna and gather her belongings. “Ladies, it was a pleasure to chat as always! See you next time! I’ve got to go wrangle those boys together to go make a yurt!”

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Story Time with Odiri - Pt. 2.5
The Ritual of the Companion

Odiri finds herself in the ladies’ section of the public baths relaxing in the warm waters in the rare company of other females. She hears Xiao’s voice in her mind whine and pout from the front of the bath house where he was denied entry without hesitation. She shakes her head softly to clear this from her mind and attempt to concentrate on the company she was currently with. “So where was I? Oh yeah! I have a panda now!” Odiri grins at her bath mates shocked faces, “I was told by my mother that when I reached a certain age and if I followed our family’s ways I would have the magicks to summon a creature of the forest to be my protector and companion. As a child I regularly dreamed of what could be. My mother and father had a life bonded pair of hawks. The clearest sign of true love that ever could be.” Odiri sighs wistfully.

“Knowing that I was to travel across the sea to find my own path, I held off performing the ritual my parents taught me because I wanted my companion to already be at home on these lands. So I gathered the herbs for burning and the offerings to the land and braved the wilds beyond the wall alone. Dumb, I know, but the danger is part of the magick. If I can’t risk my life for my companion, why would my companion ever risk his life for me? My parents spent an entire night in the branches of a 4 story tall pine, channeling the winds to bring them their hawks. Once through the gates I followed the wall left for most of an hour. There is a small band of clearing between the Bamboo Sea and wall itself so my passage was quiet and easy. When my heart told me I was in the right place I stopped and faced the thick bamboo. I settled into the spot knowing this ritual could take hours even days. I spread my bed roll and carefully laid out the offerings I had brought and kindled the coals and scented herbs in the censer on loan to me from Madam Saru. Then, I waited.” Odiri looks around the bath to see that surprisingly her bathmates were paying rapt attention when typically, her stories are met with annoyed glances and shushing. So she continued “I didn’t really know what to do beyond the offerings and the incense. My parents were…vague at best, when describing the remainder of the ritual stating only ‘you’ll know what to do when the time is right’. I stared into that bamboo forest for hours until my eyes began to water with fatigue. At first I thought my tired eyes were playing tricks on me as I watched the bamboo sway in the distance. The crunch of the bamboo parting some 40 ft in front of me struck my ears like thunder. Suddenly as alert as ever I concentrated on the swaying bamboo and listened carefully to determine if I was about to meet my companion or my death.”

Odiri brushed her wet wayward hair away from her face, determined not to cut it short again after seeing it was not the style of the women of the port, and went on, “Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. Before I could even see him I could hear him. His voice is a low rumble like the sound of a waterfall far in the distance. He hummed a soft mindless melody, like a child would. I started to panic because I could not tell if this was in my mind or in my ears. I was sure in that moment I had gone mad.” She looks away from her small audience embarrassed and blushing.   “The bamboo parted in his wake almost like water. This fat little bear with what I could describe as almost a smile on his face waddled directly up to my offerings and gave barely a sniff before mowing it down with a hunger of a starved man. I will admit as gentle as his humming and contented chewing noises were I was still frightened. If he did not truly accept the offerings, I had made he could have cut me down where I sat as he was merely a hands width away from me. I stayed frozen as a deer startled by torch light as he jutted his massive head forward and began to snuffle against my belly. Then I heard that humming stop as his face lifted to meet mine and I heard as clear as day though his mouth did not move ‘do you have any more?’” Odiri shakes her head as if she is still in disbelief from this experience “I moved slowly and deliberately without taking my eyes off him to pull a steamed bun from my pack. He gently ate the proffered food from my hand to my surprise and proceeded to flop in front of me like an old dog on a hot day. I ran through every story my parents ever told me about their fateful night in the tree and was interrupted by his rumble of ‘you know it’s polite to introduce yourself’ I stuttered out my name and he rolled over and offered his tummy. Well, I thought to myself, when a dog offers its tummy it’s looking for a scratch. So, hesitantly at first I reached out my hand and began to rub his soft white tummy fur and when I began to hear his pleased intonations I continued on until I was using both hands to rake at his dense fur. I couldn't believe it! This wild panda bear was lying nearly in my lap huffing and groaning in enjoyment as if he were some giant dog! I had done it. The ritual was a success! ‘What may I call you?’ I asked. ‘Anything you want’ he replied blissfully as I rubbed his tummy in repetitive circles. I thought for a moment, what would be a great name for a warrior bear? ‘Xiao! King of the Rock!’ It was a fable my parents would tell me of a mighty warrior though he was short, he was unbelievably fierce and loyal. I could see the light start to fade in the sky and I knew I could not stay beyond the wall after dark, Xiao at my side or not. So I stood and looked at him and asked him casually, still nervous to be honest, if he would like to walk with me.”

“We made it back along the wall slowly and casually. Even though it was full dark we strolled. I felt no rush any longer as I could feel the connection between he and I build with every passing moment. It started with what felt like the finest silk thread tying us to each other. If he or I strayed too far from each other I could physically feel the tension in my gut as if this thread would snap and all this would be for not. Every pace built upon the thread. Once we passed back into the town the commotion started. First, were the guards who immediately started to squawk and flail until I shushed them calmly and they realized Xiao paid them no mind. This only helped build this now sturdy cord of trust between us. He and I wandered lazily through the evening and into the morning building a companionship with every footfall at each other’s side.  The look of disbelief on the guard’s faces were mirrored on every citizen awake in the wee hours of the morning to see us on our meander from the gate to the Rose Shell.” At the suggestion from one of the ladies, Odiri and the gaggle of ladies migrated from the bath to the accompanying sauna.  

(To Be Continued in post Story Time with Odiri – Pt 3)

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Letters to the Timeless One
Part 2

(translated from draconic)

Most honored Master,

Much has happened since my last letter. I have gone beyond the wall twice. I am understanding the common language more and I have made many discoveries about the world outside of the order as well as discoveries about myself.

I will try and summarize as best I can. I am beginning to understand the language more fluently. I still speak with an accent, but I am finding that others understand me more with each passing day. I am still having trouble with their use of metaphor in standard terminology. I tend to take things literally when something is stated figuratively. I have begun to realize that when something does not make sense to me that I should just assume that they are speaking in the figurative. For example; Eucarion, an elf that I have met here, once stated that we can kick something’s ass. At the time I thought he meant we would actually kick something in the hindquarters which prompted a conversation about how that would be the last place I would strike due to it not having any strategic value. Elder Yen later explained to me that he did not actually mean kicking someone in the ass, but that it meant to defeat one’s opponent in a humiliating manner. I then understood the parallel, having one’s hindquarters kicked while sparring would be a humiliation indeed. I then used the phrase later and I am pretty sure it was well received by Eucarion. The prominent lesson learned is that when something does not make sense to me, it probably has meaning to others that I just do not understand yet. In similar fashion I have learned that some elves can indeed turn into wolves. Oranssi is not one of them, but Naligor is. When they refer to Oranssi as a “Golden Wolf” it is the name of his order in the same way that I am a Fist of the Infinite. I feel stupid for not realizing the parallel sooner.

Since I brought up Naligor Cat Friend earlier I feel I should discuss his transformation next. On our first outing I had no idea he had the ability to shapeshift. I can understand why he kept it a secret since it is fairly unnerving to watch his body twist its form into a new one. He can become all manner of creatures. I’ve seen him become a dog, a Ghost Tiger and even a giant spider. It is truly a marvel to watch and his diplomatic skill in animal form has saved us from quite a few altercations.

I have made two new companions since going beyond the wall the first time as well, Eucarion and Adi. I mentioned Eucarion earlier. I like him. He is pragmatic and straightforward Elf who was repaying some sort of debt as an oathbreaker; He is now free of that debt and has seen fit to stay on for adventure beyond the wall. His talents are similar to Odiri the Small in that he seems to be able to navigate the wilds with ease. His demeanor is much less like little Odiri. He is deliberate in action and fairly grim at times. I am pretty sure the only thing he likes is his dog. Then there is Adi the Intellectual. He reminds me much of Jonna in that he can recall information he’s read about easily. His intellect is astounding and he works arcane magics deftly. He has been able to control the flow of battle on a large scale by minimizing the number of opponents that our melee fighters need to focus on. A handy elf to have around. He has promised to help me research the Fangs of Skotos and I have promised to protect him while he attends to business he has beyond the wall. I find it disheartening that he is perplexed by the presence of the gods in our daily lives. How can one lose touch with that which is represented in the world around us? He has seen the power of the gods firsthand now through Aion the First’s redeeming of heretic souls and Oranssi’s channeling of Artemisia’s healing energy. I look forward to the day when he realizes that the quest for knowledge and the quest for faith have the same destination.

There has been progress on the mission, but only in the form of information. This Yomi that I mentioned goes by the name Blood Spattered Snow Tiger. It seems like a long winded name and in her visual appearance she does not seem to have blood on her at all times, but at least I have a name to look up at Elder Yen’s library. She seems intent on killing those that travel beyond the wall. I am uncertain as to why, but it makes no difference. Whether she feels threatened by our excursions, she is just intent on ruling the lands beyond the wall or if she has other reasons; she has been hostile on multiple occasions by sending many undead to stop us. Even though she has marked me by my beliefs, she has assaulted other expeditions when I was not present so I can conclude that it is not a personal vendetta against the clergy of Aion. Time will tell.

I conclude this letter with something of a deeply personal nature. On an expedition to the Dwarven ruins we had come across on the first excursion past the walls of Shore Blossom we discovered a trap door. Upon opening this door we angered a creature, later to be identified as a troll, and it assaulted us. We defended ourselves, however we killed this troll. I am having a difficult time with this. We killed it. This was murder. The dilemma lies in that it showed no signs of peaceful resolution. There was no parlay. There was no interest in parlay from the beast. It wanted to kill us for sullying its home. Adi assured the group that these creatures are inherently evil and often employed by goblin armies as brute force attackers. This information has not put my mind at ease; we still ended its life after burglarizing its home. Are these creatures not beyond redemption? Are the naturally wicked allowed to be judged by the good without provocation or evidence? Should we be judged harshly for our actions? Was this self-defense since the creature was unwilling to convene peacefully; if so, does this justify the action of killing it? These questions weigh heavy on me and I could use your guidance.

Your servant past, present and future,

Kodu, Fist of the Infinite

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Log I : Day 6
Eucarion's Journal

Things do not bode well. I fear that with the most recent developments, we shall soon be embarking on our most dangerous journey yet.

No hookahs at the Rose Shell this day, as Oranssi was with us. Plenty of drinks, however. I'm noticing that I've begun to indulge quite a bit. I've always been a drinker, but having proper alcohol instead of the barrel hooch I was making in the woods has been an absolute blessing. 

It was a rather calm morning, until Odiri entered with an absolutely massive, bizarre looking bear in tow. Charka and I were both rather surprised, I enough to <s>jump</s> delicately move behind my chair defensively. It seemed we were the only two taking offense to the panda (a native species of bear to this region, apparently), as everyone else was all over it, cuddling and feeding it. Charka threatened to snap its balls off if it came any closer, which led to the discovery that Odiri could also understand animals. Was she trying to one up me? I wouldn't be surprised, that scheming pint. I'm going to have a problem if that bear wants to make a friend of me. (Fuck bears).

Madam Saru entered and, Adi not among the party that day, handed me a scroll to deliver to him. Charka was particularly nosy about its contents, but I refused to open it. It would be a violation of trust and honor to mess with a man's privacy that way. Soveliss, however, is a man without even the slightest scrap of honor. He stole it right out of my hands to get a look. It was a map, and a fellow patron of the teahouse identified the dwarven text as "The Thousand Sage Temple". This must be the temple of the east, the entrance to Shandao. We decided to head there, though this led to a debate on the purchase of horses to speed up the journey. Oranssi suggested buying a cart instead, as Roth and Albion were both perfectly capable of pulling one. A good idea, certainly, but I can't help but feel uncomfortable to the idea of using our companions for labor. I'm sure other elves of my breeding would take no such issue, but the circumstances of life have taught me to think otherwise. I try to distance myself from such…. high thinking. 

Regrouping at dawn, we set off along Roth's Road, camping quietly that night at the foot of the Gaea shrine. The next morning, we continued through the Bamboo Sea. Roth swung his axe mightily, clearing a path as we went. Albion tore down the smaller stalks, while Xiao (the newly minted name of Odiri's panda companion) ate the debris. It was a pretty effective system. We made it to the dwarven ruins, the party resting briefly as Odiri and I checked our surroundings of animals. She's particularly cranky. Withdrawals, I imagine. 

About 2 hours after we got back on the road, we were attacked suddenly by a giant boar. Aha! One of my favorite things to hunt. Violent bastards. My arrows pierced clean, but were rendered unnecessary by Albion, who chopped the thing clean in half. From the size of the thing, we'd enough hide to construct a sizeable tent. Perhaps we could set up a proper waystation at the shrine with one? As we rested and cooked the meat for rations, we got on the subject of whether or not it was morally correct for Albion to consume animal products, considering… He took the opportunity to make a show of his own… animal product. I'd sooner be slain that admit this anywhere outside of my private writings, but I have never in my life seen such sizeable beef. The life of a soldier exposes a man to all sorts of nudity, but no man I have ever seen even begins to compare to such raw meat. Odiri, who I quite suddenly became consciously aware was the only woman in our company, was absolutely taken with a vague, implacable horror. Looking again at the minotaur's mighty third horn, I think I understood the source of her horror… Albion was quickly coerced back into his trousers.

We got back on the road, traveling through the forest until we were forced to rest on the road at the fall of night. Odiri wished to join me on the middle shift, but I convinced her to rest. As an elf, I needed much less that even the hardiest halfling. The idea struck me to make her a crown as a compensation for denying her (why did I feel the need to compensate at all?), so I sufficed to braid her one of long, thin bamboo leaves. When we rested the next night, I found a similar crown in my own hair the next morning. I cannot entirely explain the warm sensation that conjured in my chest. It was … nice. It was very nice. But between the broad strokes of good sentiment, there were inlaid deep cuts of infidelitious feeling… I shall have to think on this further. 

On the sixth morning of uneventful travel, I woke with a start to the sudden recollection that it was the day we had settled for the swindling of the Bamboo Spider clan. My key glowed, but I willed it to stop. I am certain the remaining others could handle the exchange without me. My presence with the current party was more readily needed. 

As we traveled deeper into the forest, Soveliss and I ground the company to a halt at the sound of goblin speech in the distance. A group of them were loudly discussing that Threefangs, the hobgoblin our party had encountered in the mines, had been murdered by thieves. Thinking quickly, Soveliss disguised himself as an emissary of Skotos, throwing Goblin Queen insignia on Roth and Albion to masquerade them both as guards in his employ.  Odiri, Oranssi, and I were disguised as their prisoners, Soveliss casting an illusion of chains upon us. As uncomfortable as I was, it did not even remotely compare to Oranssi. He boiled with rage. I wish there was something I could have done to comfort him, to reach out at least, but the goblins approached and we had to keep the illusion. There was a hobgoblin, a goblin mounted on a warg, and a bugbear, all bearing heraldry of the Goblin Queen and of the Silver Demons. I had never previously encountered their faction, as I knew they were a specialty unit, but I knew they were to be feared. They discussed with Soveliss the complaints of slaughter from the kobolds. The Yomi Princess, Blood Spattered Snow Tiger, had appealed to the Goblin Queen for her assistance. Not good. Not good at all. They were convinced by the illusion and were about to leave us be, when Soveliss lit them up. The illusion was broken as we burst into battle. Roth slayed the goblin with a single mighty stroke of his axe, chopping it in half. I brought the warg down with a clean shot through an eye. Odiri managed a shot at the bugbear and Xiao a swipe, but Soveliss brought it down with another burst of fire, reducing it to a flurry of ashes. Oranssi seemed only somewhat recovered, but I chose to wait to speak with him. Traumas of the war-torn past are nothing to be discussed in the open. There would be a time

At last, we arrived at the Thousand Sage Temple. It was a massive building of a single story above ground, countless levels below, flanked on all sides by many game trails. Well used by many, many kobolds, from the looks of them, and each marked as clan territory by different banners stuck to branches. Three we recognized, but three others we did not. A star shape, a hooked fang, and an owl with open wings. This was clearly a place for their congregation. But entering would have to be a mission for another day. It was late into the afternoon, and we were all weary of the long journey. Our keys began to glow, and homeward we were sent to regroup. 

Dangers lie ahead, I fear. Many, many dangers. 

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Log I : Day 5
Eucarion's Journal

Excellent spoils from this adventure! But at the cost of my sense of smell. I am by no means sensitive, but after some of the horrible things encountered, I wish I had been born anosmic.

The Rose Shell was particularly lively when we began this expedition. Madam Saru had recently received a shipment of hookahs from the far east, a delicacy of the Empire of Ashoka. Roth and I shared one over breakfast (during which we discovered that Frivolity has apparently never eaten eggs? Oranssi attempted to explain, but I have not the sacred patience for this sort of thing…). The hashish was rather interesting, ours smelling of rose, others of other scents, all producing different colored smoke. A rather spectacular sight Oranssi was not particularly fond of smoking, finding offense in it to his pure body (though he curiously has no issue with alcoholic imbibements), and voiced his disapproval. Madam Saru took great offense to this and, to our surprise, announced to the entire teahouse that hookahs were banned at Oranssi's behest. As all eyes turned to our table; the anger stewing in the room was palpable. Some townsfolk approached us, but Frivolity paid them off for their troubles and they dispersed quickly. Crisis (mostly) averted. 

Adi arrived late to the morning, presumably having overslept from late night studies. I do wish he'd loosen up a little. Drink, find a woman, do something that isn't to do with his books. Though, perhaps the sorts of texts he takes up in the night satisfy him perfectly well in such respects… In any case, from him we learned that Elder Yen is willing to write out letters of credit for us to use elsewhere in town. Frivolity made plans to purchase a home in town and rent servants from Madam Saru. Perhaps I should seek out some similar sort of living. One can't reside in a hostel forever. (Well, can't, or shouldn't?)

The party briefly parted ways. As soon as Oranssi left the building, the hookahs were brought back out again. Music! Revelry! Colored smoke! All under the condition that things be put away only when Oranssi was around. Truly admirable business strategy. And, sure enough, when Oranssi and the others returned 3 hours later, away the hookahs went. 

Of two possible expeditions, we chose to venture out to whatever settlement lay at the end of the Old Coast Road. Heading east on Roth's Road, we arrived at the Gaia shrine and rested briefly. The camp was becoming something of a waystation by then from frequent use, though that was the first time a rest there had passed without incident. Continuing on, I sensed a tiger out in the forest. I female voice spoke at my side, asking whether to attack it or not. Looking around, I saw no-one but my hound. She spoke again. Charka! Incredible! After so many years together, I could hear her as clear as I could hear my own voice. Observing her more closely, I could see that she had changed since our arrival in Shore Blossom. She seemed smarter, less of an animal and more somehow like a person. A strange, strange place this port is… The tiger left on its own. Charka laughed at it, saying there were too many of us for it to even consider attacking.

Continuing through the Bamboo Sea, we eventually arrived at some old dwarven ruins. There was little left to look at, the place was so old. Some stone foundations and flooring remained about the area, some walls as well. Adi seemed rather frustrated by the little writing that he found. It was far too weathered to read. At the center we found a hatch that, upon prying open, led to a foul smelling stone pit of some sort. Before we could even think to proceed down inside, a horrible growling noise put us at attention. Weapons drawn, we were met with a 15ft tall, absolutely gnarly troll. Oranssi attempted to blind it, but failed. One after the other, we all missed our shots at it, though thankfully the beast missed its own. Frivolity put his new black powder pistol to use, sending a shot squarely into it with an echoing clap of an explosion. Roth landed a few meaty blows upon it (he's most assuredly the strongest in our party. It's quite a sight to see him in battle!), and my arrows flew true. Frivolity cast something rather mystic, the sky momentarily flashing black as a hammer-meteor slammed down on the troll. Kodu grappled it as Roth landed another blow, seemingly killing it. We approached, but the horrid thing was far from giving up the fight. It reared up, attempting to claw at us and missing again. Adi dispatched it quickly with a hail of fire and assistance from Kodu. I've faced many a troll before, and that battle, even as gruelingly long as it was, could have gone so much worse. I'm endlessly thankful it didn't, but I pray I shall never have to fight another troll so long as I live. I thought I was quite done with them when I departed into the woods…

We proceeded carefully down the stone steps and into the pit, which was about as horrifically musky as one would expect. Based upon the massive heaps of goblin-stamped gold, the troll must have been frequently in the employ of the Goblin Queen. Blood money. All of it. Not that I felt any remorse for killing it in the first place, but knowing that we had dispatched such a monster only confirmed my satisfaction.  A beautiful, massive axe sat upon the hoard. Adi identified it as the mythic weapon of Joyous Wu, a hero from Romance of the First Kingdom, which excited him greatly. We unanimously decided to gift the axe to Roth, as he was most fit to carry it. Adi enchanted away the foul smell of the chamber, a cleanliness which Frivolity promptly ruined with overwhelming perfume. Typical. Shutting the hatch, we settled in for the night.

My watch with Adi was disturbed by voices overhead, speaking in raspy, sickly common. We presumed they were goblins and woke the others to prepare for battle if we were discovered. When they inevitably opened the hatch, we were met with the truly overwhelming stench of two ghasts. Nothing like actively rotting flesh to send you reeling. Frivolity, being Frivolity, challenged them to single combat, but they paid no attention to him. Oranssi attempted to call upon the powers of his goddess to cleanse them of their undeadedness, but they resisted, eyes clouding over with a necrotic force as they moved in to attack. Adi trapped one in a web, Kodu grappled the other. We made short work of them, Roth dispatching one and I the other. 

We made to return to bed, but Adi was vocally adamant about removing the corpses first. Perhaps it is that I've so frequently slept next to death that I did not care as much. He did not wait on any of us to move, simply taking both up and out the hatch himself. Now there's a man who gets things done! We slept well. In the morning, as we counted up the gold about the chamber, our keys began to glow, returning us home with our loot in tow.

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Story Time with Odiri - Pt. 2
Adventure 4 - Flower Crowns in a Clearing

Odiri wakes startled from her drunken napping to realize that once more the party has left without her. “Damn it all!!” She flags down a server who hesitantly asks her if she wants another bottle of sake, “No, actually, hot tea seems smart.” The server looks startled for a moment but bustles off to accommodate her request. Odiri notices a small beetle crawling across the wooden table and she scoops it up delicately to inspect its colorful shell. “Well since they’ve all left me behind, I supposed you will have to be the only one that hears my story tiny one.” She continues to address the beetle oblivious of the hot tea now steaming in front of her and its server sitting nearby. “Our last time beyond the wall was such an adventure. I’d like to say it was all positive but in reality in it was…sobering. The moment I move beyond that wall I always feel at home. Being in this city, as quaint as it is, is still foreign to me. The boys had some things to attend to at the Shrine of Stars but I am not one for religion so I stayed behind. But to my surprise when they came back with a new face and I was finally introduced formally to some faces I’ve seen about. Soveliss and Adi both seem to be intelligent men each of their own talents and I look forward to more outings with them. Then there was this MASSIVE fellow” She gestures wide gently as the beetle still lazily crawls across her palm. “Albion, the first minotaur I’ve ever met in person. What a KIND man and with skin as pale as the moon. I may have been, mentally obscured by drink and may have climbed onto his head. With his horns to steady me I felt like I could conquer a thousand armies. I will say though I was happy to be aloft when that sour grape of an elf, Eucarion, walked in. Immediately his great weasel nosed hound set to growling at me.” Odiri leads the beetle to her other hand to easier pick up her tea before it cooled too much. “I should have guessed by his dog’s reaction he wouldn’t be much nicer and boy, I was right.”

“The rest of the Table Troupe had come across a mine far to the north at the urging of Master Kenten, but, were outmatched without me by a number of foul meanies so I agreed after they begged me to go with them to help guide their way through the forest. My memories are….foggy to say the least I have snippets of memory for that morning I may have imbibed quite heavily.” She takes another sheepish sip of her hot tea and passes the beetle to the table where it sits still only flicking its antenna at her.” I remember going down Roth’s Road and I remember being tied with a rudimentary belt to Albion’s head via his horns to keep me still. I also remember at that height being able to see a totally different type of forest beyond the bamboo sea. My first clear memory is those damn boulders again! Kobold are the foulest of creatures. Cowards at best, always attacking us in our sleep. Fourteen of them total split even between the land and sky. In an attempt to prove my worth to that grouch Eucarion I miss that damn winged beastie by a hair and Eucarion steps around and takes my shot without even a pardon. Gods of all, he infuriates me. We, as a group, made quick work out of the rest but one that we beat into talking. That cursed tiger lass is the one behind the kobold attacks and now we know where her lair is thanks to that spineless cur.”

Odiri lays her head down on the table to get as close to the small beetle as possible and lowers her voice out of respect for the beetle’s tiny ears. “We found our way back to the Gaia shrine at first light with very little problem but instead of continuing on eastward like last time we went due north. We came upon a serene pond and before Frivolity could finish explaining what had happened previously at this place the white light of the wall called him back to town. The rest of the group filled Albion and I in on the water spirit that lives in the pond and to give it much distance as they say they saw it away with a boar right off the water’s edge.”

“Not even half an hours travel north and we were attacked by tigers. I wasn’t worried I knew their tactics by now I could face them without pause but then, Adi, our wizard casts a terrible fog so thick you could barely see your hand in front of your face. I’ll admit, I panicked. He shouted some tactical maneuver but with fog rolling in and a tiger about to swipe my wee self in halvsies I ran backwards out of the fog and waited for those shitty kitties to come find me. The sounds coming from inside the fog made my blood run cold. I was so scared my travel mates were in trouble I was about to dive back into the fog to do what I could but, instead a tiger came out of the fog at that exact moment. I took it down as I did the last with an arrow firmly in its skull. I took a moment to jeer victoriously at Eucarion as he appeared out of the fog. In an attempt to impress him further I went to nock another arrow and I just got all…wibbly” Odiri flails her hand floppily in demonstration. “That damn arrow just fell straight to the ground” She blushes hard enough that her ruddy skin almost matches her fiery hair. “Brightwood found that mighty funny” she snorts derisively. “When the final of the three tigers were felled we took our great care in appropriating the good worth something to Master Yen.”


She lays her hand down inviting the beetle back up on to the back of her hand and continues “The rest of my party assured me we were not too far from our ultimate destination of the outing. I couldn’t be more glad because I was still fairly shaken from the blinding anxiety of the fog. A ranger is nothing without their sight. Albion was a calming presence as we continued, again me atop his head. But, our surroundings very abruptly changed from the dense smoothness of the Bamboo Sea to the emerald crispness of a coniferous forest. The light reminded me of home so strongly it brought me to tears but I wiped them away quickly before anyone saw. We came upon a grassy clearing filled with spring flowers and in its center held our target. The mouth of what was originally just a cave but was obviously widened by man’s hand. We chose to rest that eve in the clearing because there was a general consensus that we would need that precious rest before we entered this mine. I found a quiet patch especially abundant in wildflowers and spent the sunset lit evening weaving chains of flowers. It was a calming technique taught to me by my grandmother. Just a simple mindless task that keeps your hands just busy enough. To my greatest surprise none other than mister salty pants himself, Eucarion, decides to join me in my craft. We spent what felt like hours silently making lengths of chains trading different colored flowers with each other without making eye contact. If we spoke whatever spell of kindness this was would be over and he would go back to hating me. Eventually he stood to tend to his bizarre leggy dog and watches were posted through the night. At my time of watch, I decided it would be a waste to just leave the lengths of flower chains to wilt on my pack so I decided I would give everyone a gift!” A nostalgic grin spread over her face “Ohhhhhh their faces when they woke up! I festooned both of Albion’s horns, wove what I could into Adi’s beard, threded them along Oranssi’s tabard, made bracelets for Brightwood, but Eucarion, that was my crowning glory. Literally! I had braided chains into a circlet atop his head and tucked all the remaining flowers into his dark messy hair.” She starts to titter to herself “He looked like a maiden ready for her handfasting. I have pulled many a friendly prank but none as glorious as this. Adi, Oranssi and Brightwood were understandably disgruntled but took the joke in stride. Albion was delighted which was more than I could have hoped for, but Eucarion was the biggest surprise. I was sure he would tear it from his hair immediately but, no. He left it there!” She finished her tea just in time to scoop the beetle up right before it toppled of her elbow.

“We set forth into the maw of that mine with warnings of a giant frog, evil spirits that inhabit inanimate objects and a very dangerous poltergeist. Immediately after entering the first chamber we caught a ghoul by surprise! Oranssi’s quick thinking showered the entire chamber with the light of the sun and the poor creature shrieked and ran. Without hesitation I clipped that nasty right in the back, felling him. A smirk over my shoulder was met by Eucarion tearing all my hard work from his hair. A shower of crushed petals fell in his wake as he stomped away.” Odiri sighs and frowns, then slides her neutral smile back in place. “In the following chamber was this massive frog I was warned about, Green as the forest, spotted in black, not actively menacing but large enough to cause worry if one got to close. We gave Mister Froggerton his space and continued on to the next chamber. To our surprise we spotted a Hobgoblin making camp. Brightwood, who I have come to learn is a phenomenal master of disguise, approached this nasty creature in the guise of a fellow goblin. Though they conversed in goblin I was later informed that this creature was on a reconnaissance mission from the Goblin Queen to insure that Blood Spattered Snow Tiger does not overtake the area. Thankfully, these hateful women are not aligned. Brightwood decided he had extracted enough information and we cut that hobgoblin down with little effort. Once stripped of his valuables Oranssi and Eucarion, visibly shaken by a rage I don’t quite understand, fed the corpse to Mister Frogertton who promptly fell asleep. In the next chamber we were faced with this dreaded poltergeist they warned me of. Adi’s skill with tactical magic is apparent because the ghosty nasty was dispelled before I even had a chance to nock an arrow. We discovered a well in the corner of the same chamber. I was eager to explore it as I am small and a good swimmer but Adi chose instead to send his familiar in the form of an octopus down the well to investigate. We discovered the well flows down to an underground river that eventually meets what looks to be manmade stone structure.

Odiri stands and starts to make her way out the front door of the Rose Shell cupping the beetle carefully. She starts to head away from the busyness of the port towards the farmlands continuing her tale to her beetle friend. “There was a chamber off to the left with a cart full of iron which was a relief because if we hadn’t have found that our trip would have been for not. But the chamber forward from the well was where the party really fell apart. Upon entering all you can see it’s the blanket of spiderwebs across the ceiling. While I may be partial to most creatures I am not a huge fan of spiders myself so I was already on edge. My skin crawled with the suggestion of my fears. But nothing prepared me for what lay on the back wall. A tapestry long and tall woven with great detail. Great detail of the vilest, most horrifying acts of violence imaginable enacted upon the elves by the goblins and their queen. I feel sick even thinking about it now.” Odiri finally reaches the farmlands and opens her cupped hands to reveal the beetle. While staring at the White Wall beyond the fields she finishes “The rage in the room was so thick I felt I would choke. Eucarion decided without a question that he was to destroy it with fire but Adi extinguished the flame as I tried to reason with Eucarion that an item this old should be documented regardless of its context. I truly feared for my life in that moment as Eucarion raged on with Oranssi and Brightwood joining in. Adi talked sense in into them as they respect his scholarly nature but I feel my decision to take the tapestry home with us may permanently destroy any trust I had gained with the Elves.” The beetle takes off from her hands and flies up and out of sight. She whispers to herself staring into the sky, “Why did I leave my forest?” She catches a bright flash out of the corner of her eye and suddenly the boys are standing midfield and she can’t help but smile. “Ah, that’s why.” She waves them wildly and jogs over to hear what she missed.

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First Expedition
An excerpt from the journal of Adi Singhasari

7 1.2 5513

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Debarked Jubilant Sylph without incident; established residence in Port Shore Blossom, updated correspondences to match. Appointment with Elder Yen tomorrow

 

1 2.2 5513

 

Met Elder Yen with Eukarion, others in attendance.  Received remaining effects of Huang and explanation.  Kodu, fist of infinite, committed to help Huang; to research: Golden Sunset, Azure Wind, Verdant Justice, Mist Claw, Heaven’s Thunder; stolen by Fangs of Scotos, divine (profane) assassin cult involved yomi, tiger woman (tiger-form rakshasa, boar form rakshasa in attendance?).

 

It seems Ten Flowers Huang’s attention drifted from her earlier correspondence, focusing less on the advance in the metaphysics of ectoplasm in conjured constructs, now to historicity of the First Kingdom.  Elder Yen related that she left to study hints of ruins to the south and east of Shore Blossom, but had not returned and was feared dead.  He managed to call her ghost, though could obtain little intelligence from her.  This tells me several things: she died of violence, she was left unmourned, and she was not in thrall to a necromancer or other sorcerer.  Elder Yen made some offer to me to entice me to find her and put her soul to rest which I ignored and have since forgotten.  It might have been valuable but I was concerned about my colleague for her own sake.  Eukarion Crowsley volunteered to accompany me in this despite his debt being mostly discharged.

 

Outside, one of the shop’s boys introduced himself as Kodu, Fist of the Infinite.  He is concerned with the state of Huang’s ghost, and generously volunteered to assist me; this was only somewhat conditional on mutual aid.  He required assistance retrieving five elemental weapons of his order, Golden Sunset, Azure Wind, Verdant Justice, Mist Claw, and Heaven's Thunder,  which were lost to a divine assassin cult known to him as the Fangs of Scotos, one of which he knows to be wielded by a yomi that appears as a tiger woman.  I should hope that it is a lesser demon and not a tiger Rakshasa or else the task of retrieving it will require far more preparation and study.

 

I’ve read about the weapons previously; they were held holy to his temple, forged by metallic dragons of enchanted jade to be wielded by their champions to fight the forces of Scotos.  I’ve drafted several correspondences inquiring about further details of their history to my colleagues and peers; however it is my hope that Elder Yen may introduce me to learned people who may have the information I seek here in Shore Blossom lest my research, hampered by slow correspondance, last longer than human patience.

 

Kodu seemed gratified by my offer of help but frankly I am glad of the puzzle.  Self directed research is enjoyable and I’m certain following the trail of the First Empire will be a fascinating journey, but the need to solve an intricate, multi stage problem on a human time scale is invigorating.

 

I was given part of Huang’s effects, those that remained here I presume, which included many notes; amongst which was directions to the terminus of the empire of stone’s old coast road.  As I write this, I am joined by Nalagor Dornrock and Frivolity Ramshackle, a tiefling from Sigil of all places.  They offer to aid me in my expedition to the Old Coast Road.  Ramshackle desires greatly to return to Sigil; this requires rather complex magic that is currently beyond me.  I must remember to send for information related to teleportation and planar travel.  We all have agreed to set out at first light tomorrow.

 

As a postscript, the Rose Shell Inn and Tea House, run by Madam Saru, is hospitable and employes an extraordinarily disciplined waitstaff.  I believe I will use this as my place of residence until I can reliably afford better accommodations.

 

2 2.2 5513

 

Titanic walls, enchanted, only one exit in opposite direction of goal. Produce magical key upon exit.  Enchantment also prevents overgrowth.  Dragonkin, Roth, cut path to shrine north.  No game trail?  Forest also enchanted? Continue conjuration research from Inn.

 

I’m told there’s only one exit through the city walls and it of course is in the opposite direction of our goal.  Though named city walls, to my mind we left the city behind for miles of farmland before approaching the fortification.  The walls themselves are extraordinary, and dwarf even the mightiest of dwarven ramparts.  Whereas the greatest dwarven fortifications are known to grow to twenty meters thick at the base and nearly fifteen in height, in contrast to human fortifications which are built to only two and a half thick at the largest; so does this titanic edifice eclipse dwarven walls with proportionally greater height and depth.

 

In addition, they are enchanted with at least two effects.  The first and most obvious is to produce a white jade key, either a physical key or a representation of one, on the person of all who exit the walls.  The purpose of this key is to teleport its bearer inside the wall; invaluable in times of emergency, useful in saving a return trip, and irritating in that the keys will often act on their own volition.  The second is that it prevents overgrowth; the bamboo forest was stopped in its expansion a short distance from the base of the wall.  I should also note my disapproval that the forest was ever allowed to grow so close; any enemy could advance to the base of the wall with little difficulty.  The strength of the fortification leads to complacency.  As well, where does Shore Blossom get its lumber if not the bamboo sea?

 

The more I explore, the more questions are generated.  Strong enchantments lie upon the land and its people, not merely the walls.  This is not the only incongruence I have found, and there are surely more subtle differences to be discovered.

 

3 2.2 5513

 

Night attack by Bamboo Spiders; Kodu continues inexact and selective incomprehension (brain injury, enchantment? Worth letter to teachers at monastery?)  Agreement to trade weapons; receive trade goods, ally against other kobolds (iron rats, etc), 10 days hence.

 

Since it occurred on the opposite side of my reverie, I suppose I should include it here though it occurred before sunrise: we were attacked when we camped at the walls by raiders from a tribe of kobolds.  Though quickly dispatched, one was interrogated.  It was found that these are known as Bamboo Spiders, and carry heraldry to match.  In exchange for an agreement under some duress the kobold agreed to return to trade for improved weaponry on the condition that they act against the Iron Rats.  I was initially shocked at the agreement but quickly came to realize its wisdom; a tribe more amenable to trade is allowed to dominate its more antagonistic neighbor, giving us a more peaceful land, both a positive peace and a negative peace.

 

After sunrise we trekked east along the coast through the forest.  It was largely uneventful, though useful in picking out a trail.  I have a feeling we will have to return to this trail often.

 

4 2.2 5513

 

Territory of monstrous spiders, Naligor transforms to negotiate with matriarch, many dead kobolds with extraordinary gems. Camp on beach, structure on island in distance

 

Some twelve miles from the city we encountered thick webbing covering the forest.  I suggested detouring around the patch of forest to avoid whatever monstrously large spider could be producing the webbing, but I was overruled.  Many are laboring under the misapprehension that the woods deeper inland are somehow more perilous than the area immediately upon the coast.  None could articulate exactly why this should be.  

 

Regardless, we pressed on and encountered a monstrously large spider, as expected, attended by smaller, but still excessively large spiders.  Naligor took the shape of another spider to communicate with this matriarch.  A deal was reached, and we progressed through its territory.  Many dead kobolds were found, and some with extraordinary gems.  These rubies and sapphires were of outstanding size, clarity, and brightness.  With the exception of literally priceless regalia borne in state ceremonies, they are the single most valuable things I have ever laid eyes upon.  How did kobolds, which are otherwise remarkable when they bear a sword worthy of the name, come across such wealth?  

 

5 2.2 5513

 

Huang found; attacked by multiple assailants.  Laid to rest.  All belongings missing.  The bandits can read, frustrating.  Attacked by undead, led by voice; voice threatens, then disappears. Known as Blood Spattered Snow Tiger

 

Today we came across the terminus of the Old Coast Road, denoted by signposts of the same excessive proportions as the city wall.  With it, we found the body of Ten Flowers Huang.  She was attacked by multiple assailants; no evidence of such were found nearby.  All her personal effects were missing; I had previously held out hope that she had been ambushed by bandits or monsters, some malignant force with no interest in the written word.  Frustratingly enough I had no such luck.  I want to find her effects, both for value of the information and to exact revenge on whoever now holds them, but I believe tracking it at this time is beyond the realm of mundane senses.  I will begin researching appropriate divinations when I return to town.  

 

She was laid to rest in a profound ceremony led by Kodu.  At its culmination, the touch of the divine could be felt, and she was without a doubt put to rest.  It was one of the most impressive displays of divine might outside of spellwork I have seen.  I have never known the gods to be so close to mortals; perhaps this is another marker of the strange sorceries laid upon this land.

 

We were attacked by undead in the night; a fog rolled in around us and a necromancer’s voice addressed us briefly.  It did not name itself, but was known to the others to be Blood Spattered Snow Tiger.  It summoned a trio of hungry ghosts in our midst, two zombies and one ghoul, who were put down with some effort.  

 

Unfortunately, after this the keys called us back into the walls before I could investigate more of the area, ruining any attempt to follow her research.  I have quite a lot of unfinished business at the site, to say nothing of the settlement that surely must be at the roads terminus.  Two new avenues of magical research now must come to the forefront: resisting divination, to occlude our presence from Snow Tiger, and resisting teleportation, to prevent being interrupted again.

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Log I : Day 4
Eucarion's Journal

As much as I am infuriated by my adventuring companions, I find myself growing increasingly fond of them. It's… conflicting, to say the least.

We began this journey by gathering at the Shrine of Stars (a temple, really, but its keeper insists that it should be called a shrine). Adi ventured there to speak with the priest, Mato, and I was curious to come along. Mato is a rather interesting character. I have never seen an elf so dark of skin. Some dark skinned bloodlines exist, or so I've heard, but I cannot possibly imagine how such might exist in this corner of the world. He keeps his shine well. Though I have little admiration for religion, I can certainly appreciate aesthetic beauty. The buildings were all interconnected by blooming, well maintained gardens. There was a certain serenity and comforting aura about the place. It was… nice. Simply that. Of course, any serenity was immediately broken by Frivolity launching into a characteristically obnoxious prayer that bounced and echoed around the courtyard. When I rejoined Adi from my wanderings about the grounds, he was in the company of three others, an elf with a familiarity I could not quite place, a half-breed of some mystic talents, and a minotaur of such massive size and oddity that my attentions were entirely occupied by him. I've never been particularly sore about my height, but it's difficult not to be aware of one's inadequacies in the presence of a giant (6'11, as I later found out). Mato offered drinks on his line of credit, so we moved to the Rose Shell to discuss the day's matters. 

At the Teahouse (Inn? Tavern? Does everyone in this town have an issue calling things what they are?), our usual table was occupied by a fantastically inebriated halfling, Odiri. Others seemed already familiar with her antics. Charka has a particular dislike of small folk, but she was thankfully well-behaved. As we all were seated, Madam Saru came by, collected our rent, and repeated the same show of coordinated service from before. It was admittedly a little less impressive the second time around. 

Between drinks, Odiri made quick friends with Albion, the minotaur, and scrambled up to make a nest in his horns. She's a spitfire little thing! And hardly much of a lady. When I gave my name in introductions, the other elf became rather sober and stood at attention in deference to me. A-ha! Golden Wolf insignia. This man was Oranssi Lasi. He knew me, as I expected he might, but only that I was here on "special assignment". For the best that way. I encouraged Adi to allow him to join our party, if only because his respect of my person had convinced me of his usefulness. (Embarrassingly, I hadn't realized how much I'd missed the power that comes with the status of an officer). We discussed in detail our charter and each signed it, though we still had no name for our company. Odiri suggestions were… lackluster. Adi filled everyone in on what had occurred on the previous adventure, where they had failed to defeat a poltergeist in some mines beyond the wall. This would be our mission.

The following morning, we made our way past the gate and onto Roth's road through the Bamboo Sea. It seemed a little more trampled than before, probably from our own frequent use of it to navigate the forest. As we went, Odiri stayed up on Albion's horns for much of the journey, rambling in her slow recovery from drunkenness. Charka was itching to get a bite at her, so perhaps it was for the best that she was up so high and out of reach. We arrived at an old campsite of a previous adventure and settled in for the night.

During my watch in the night with Oranssi, we were surprised by kobolds dropping boulders on our heads. A fight ensued as everyone awoke. Odiri missed, but my first shot flew true and knocked one dead out of the sky. She was none too pleased about it. Oranssi was really something incredible! His healing magic felt like the warmth of a summer day and restored me in an instant. So young, but with so much power! My respect is his. Brightwood mowed down the kobolds on the ground with fire, burning them to a crisp. Two of the flying kobolds made to flee at the sight of this. I had them in my sights, but I hesitated. I could not bring myself to shoot them. Kobolds they might have been, but that didn't make it any less wrong to shoot them in the back. Adi felled them all, however, with a spell, and they were quickly dispatched by Albion.

One remained alive and was beaten to peace, for lack of a better way to put it, by Frivolity to be interrogated. Apparently, our half of the company was not the only half running a hustle on the kobolds. Brightwood, disguised as a blackskinned dragonborn, had been convincing them that he was an emissary of Scotos and was turning them against their mistress, Blood Spattered Snow Tiger. From the kobold's terrified confession, we learned that her lair was far to the east, half a day's walk beyond Shandao. Setting him free, we gave his fallen comrades their last rites and buried them. I dug the graves of the two I had tried to let escape… It seemed right, somehow. 

The following morning, we pressed onward into the forest to the Gaea shrine. Atop Albion's horns, Odiri supplied more potential names for our company, and all were found by the group to be pretty terrible. But 3 hours! 3 hours of that halfling's rambling! I contemplated setting Charka on her next time she set foot on soil. Frivolity managed to get away from it, at least, even if it was by means of his glowing key returning him to the gate. Must have been summoned back, I suppose.

Detouring around a purportedly dangerous pond, we were met with three ghost tigers in our path. Adi cast a fog, into which we all retreated for cover. This proved to be something of a mess. While we were hidden from the tigers, we were hidden just as much from one another. It is only by virtue of my instincts as a soldier that I did not panic, but my chest was gripped with paranoia. I kept an arrow nocked and thought twice at each step. A yell from Odiri and a tiger's roar following her to the south. Brightwood screamed to the east, the second tiger upon him. Then, a thunderous boom, and the yowl of a tiger from above. Above? Another thud, another yowl. What the hell was going on over there? I cast an illusion to the north to lead the tigers away and could only hope the others would catch on to it. I stepped carefully out of the fog and spotted a tiger, confusedly looking in the bushes where the spell had led it. Perfect. This would be my kill. I launched an arrow at it, and missed! But agh, it had given away my location. I retreated back into the fog as it launched a meaty paw at me, missing by inches. Another arrow nocked, another arrow fired, another arrow missed! What terrible luck! An arrow whizzed past my face from behind, missing the tiger as well. Oranssi, perhaps? Luck was not his either, it seemed. The fog dissipated and my tiger was the last one standing. Odiri, smug thing, fired her own shot at it, but ha! No luck for her! Brightwood circumvented the problem of aim entirely and, instead, burnt the thing to a crisp, felling the beast. He was rolling with laughter at our collective failure. I considered for a moment shooting an arrow into his ass, but it would've been a waste of a perfectly good arrow.

We trekked onward through the forest as it turned from bamboo to familiar deciduous trees. The fading light of day filtered through the thickness of the foliage, bathing us in a warm, green light. By the time we reached the entrance to the mine, night had fallen. We made camp in the clearing. I went out to hunt, as usual. When I returned, I saw Odiri making little chains from the numerous flowers. Not that I'm normally one to engage in such silly activities, I felt it might recover my sanity a little from the previous encounter. I quietly saddled up in her vicinity, sending Charka away as a gesture of good will. We sat for some time, silently exchanging flowers to better suit the colors of our chains. When I awoke the following morning, I found the locks of my hair threaded with tiny buds of yellow and blue. I'll never give Odiri the satisfaction of knowing this, but I did smile.

The mines and our mission ahead of us, we proceeded inside. Us eves went ahead, easily navigating in the near total darkness. Beneath our feet, the crunch of dirt and fragments of bones. In the first chamber, we were confronted by a ghoul, but quick work was made of it by Oranssi, though Odiri took the kill. Little shit. I picked the flowers out of my hair in disapproval. Her distraught face! That certainly made up for it. Curiously, we next passed a giant frog. Just… sitting there in it's own chamber. Odd. It seemed harmless enough, so we pressed on.

A goblin soldier had made a camp in the next chamber. As much as I desired to kill it outright, Brightwood was sent ahead, disguised as a hobgoblin, to investigate. He bantered convincingly, and we learned that the goblin was there on recon for the Goblin Queen, who intended to invade the region. This was grave news. Very grave news indeed. What reason could that horrible bitch have to be in part of the world? Had she not tormented the lands enough? Killed enough? My blood boiled. Then, the goblin offered Soveliss some of his jerky, stating he had just eaten some elf. Before I could even draw an arrow from my quiver, the cave was illuminated as Brightwood unleashed a fury of fire on the goblin. Good man. A half-breed he may be, but he has the sense to stand up for his kin. Again, he was slain by Odiri. As much as I would have liked to murder him myself, I was happier to see him dead. Stripping his corpse, Oranssi and I offered his naked body to the frog. Seeing him swallowed whole lightened my soul with a deep, deep satisfaction. I will be sure to return and make a friend of that frog. 

Finally, we reached the chamber with the poltergeist. Adi's owl familiar scouted its location, and Adi guided our attacks with his sight of it. Oranssi lit it up, and my arrow slayed it with a ghostly, withering wail. The chamber it inhabited was massive, and entirely empty save for a simple well. Adi's familiar, transformed into a celestial octopus of some sort, went down to investigate it, nothing of interest was found, though perhaps the waterway below lead elsewhere. In another chamber, we came upon a cart full of iron ore. Albion, massive beast that he is, picked it up to take it home with us. A pretty bit of coin it raked in. 

The last chamber of the mine, though as devoid of life as the rest, was not so empty. The ceiling was coated in a thick gauze of crisscrossing, interwoven spider webs. No spiders to be seen, but the quantity was certainly impressive. The most outstanding feature of the room, however, was a massive tapestry hung on one of the walls.

My breath caught in my throat and I could. not. breathe. It depicted a battle, goblins destroying an elven army in full-blooded, visceral realness. Spurned by embroidered hellishness, I felt old memories rise to the surface of my vision. Images of limbs. Of faces. My stomach turned in knots, but I managed to keep together. Odiri suggested that the tapestry be preserved as a relic of history. History! HISTORY! That's all this was to them? I truly forget how removed civilians are from the horrors of war. History my ass. I quickly struck fire and made to burn it, but Adi put out the flame before I had the chance. He made a case that the preservation of it was important, regardless of the offensive of it to anyone. His opinion I have come to respect, so I conceded, if only the thing were put away quicker.

We exited the caverns, and I could not have been happier to see the sun. To breathe real air and be away from that place. Blessedly, our keys began to glow with a familiar, and our party appeared before the gates. Oranssi reprimanded the guards for their gambling, but joked aside with me about his deck of cards. I offered back my dice. He and I have much to discuss, I think. 

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Log I : Day 2
Eucarion's Journal

It has been long since I have felt the comforts of civilization. I forgot in some respects what it was like, having been away long enough to forget it all. Not that I regret leaving, but regaining the sensations of an urban life has certainly been welcome, even if it does come at the fair price of adventuring.

It is still unclear to me why it is the Silver Griffins come forth only at this time to wrest me from my isolation. I highly doubt that it truly took them so many years to find me. They may have known all along where I was; the woods are not so deep that it would take 56 years to find a single man within them. Why not act sooner? I digress. Their bargain was exceptionally generous. I fully expected to be summarily executed upon discovery, but I am thankful to receive a second chance. 

Adi Singhasari, the man I was charged with escorting on his travels, is an amiable fellow. I can appreciate any man of great accomplishment. His passion for knowledge is genuine and refreshing. Upon arriving in the city of Shore Blossom, he went immediately to speak with Elder Yen. Though technically my job was done and my charges lifted, I felt bound by duty to see through this man's mission alongside him. So, I followed.

Elder Yen's Emporium is one of the biggest shops of its kind I've ever encountered, which is surprising for the small size of the city. I was truly impressed upon first entry. A total monopoly, to be sure, but good on Elder Yen for his capacity to run such a place. Elder Yen and Adi discussed the disappearance of Ten Flower, whom Adi had come to Shore Blossom to seek. It was likely that she was dead somewhere on the Coastal Road. Our mission then would be find her, enact her last rites, and put her spirit to rest. After Elder Yen handed Adi her compiled communications under oath that they would be well-treated, Adi and I both opened lines of credit at the Emporium. This process was interrupted by a rather obnoxious Wood Elf (who I later came to know as Naligor) who assumed he was included in our party. Rather presumptuous… 

As Adi and I exited the Emporium with the intention of finding mercenaries to aid us in locating Ten Flower beyond the city's walls, we were chased down by a monk, Kodu, who had been sweeping inside and overheard us. He explained that he was willing to offer his fists to Adi's service if we in turn aided him in the location of some artifacts. At this point, they began speaking in Draconic. Why a human monk would know Draconic so fluently is lost on me, as was the rest of their conversation. To Kodu's credit, he did interrupt himself to apologize to me. In Elven! Huh! Fancy that. 

Naligor joined us out front shortly after and offered his services as well, in Elven. The dialect of a Wood Elf. I do not consider myself as greatly bound by racial relations as some others of my kind, but I will never not find the minor linguistic disaster that is the Elven of Wood Elves to be grating on the ears. It's horrible, really, but we all switched to conversing in Common soon enough. Curiously, Naligor has mastery of some shape-shifting magic. A druid, I suspect. I've heard of them, though I have never really interacted with any. They're certainly nonexistent in the military. He took the form of a wolf and introduced himself to Charka. I cannot posit why she approved of him, but she did. And if she approves, then I must at least tolerate him for her sake. I sincerely hope she will not be going into heat anytime soon….

From Kodu and Naligor's back and forth, I overheard them mention one of their adventuring companions. If I heard them correctly and it was indeed Oransi that they spoke of, then our paths have crossed before. He is a healer for the Golden Wolves, the highest order of Royal Guard. Is a healer? Was a healer? Perhaps he too deserted and is in this town for his own reasons. If not, that is much worse. That means there is a reason for a Golden Wolf to be in this corner of the world and not in the capitol. I must keep an eye out for this fellow. 

We all proceeded to The Rose Shell Tea House and Hostel, where we were told by Elder Yen we would find more adventurers for hire. The owner, Madam Saru, was as welcoming as one would expect. She hides much, I think. Every word she speaks is covering a deeper intention. My curiosities linger here. She runs a tight ship; her staff is incredibly well-trained. That, I can easily respect. And my gratitude to her as well. She was generous enough to compensate us a night's stay in her hostel, and she bid her staff to bring us some buns. Steaming hot. Delicious. I've missed this. (And sake. Oh god, how I've missed real liquor. Brewing nonsense in the boonies can only slake thirst so much). 

Madam Saru regaled to us the tale of the table we were sat at. It was a map, incomplete, of the region, recovered during a rebellion and having sustained damages. She sought adventurers to map what was not there. Odiri, another of the party's adventuring companions, had done a slapdash job of carving additions to the map from a previous outing. She sounds to be… fiesty, to say the least. Naligor attempted to cook food directly on the table, discovering it was resistant to fire, but was quickly stopped by Madam Saru. 

After an argument on the semantics of languages with Kodu, we came to the discussion of conscripting some adventurers, and at this point, Frivolity Ramshackle (what a name!), roused from his drunken stupor at the table to voice his interest. According to Madam Saru, as Frivolity himself was a number of drinks too deep to coherently explain, he was seeking a gate of some sort. To Sigil? I have not heard of such a place. In any case, the five of us were assembled.

The following morning, we moved to depart the city. Heading due north, we passed through the bustling merchant's district, following the main road through some distance of farmland. A rather peculiar sight, to see farmlands inside a walled city, but the residents must be feed somehow. It was rather idyllic. One long, empty road, flanked on either side by fields of grains and rice paddies. I considered briefly the possibility of such a life. But no. My cards have never fallen so simply. 

We came at last to the wall itself. A massive, towering thing of hewn white stone. 50 feet in height, at least. At the exit, two guards. Kodu, Naligor, and Frivolity bantered with them as we left. I imagine they've built up some sort of rapport with them already. One of them wished upon us the blessings of the gods as he drew up the gate. Not to say he was a fool, but all the gods have long been dead to me.

As we moved beyond the gates and towards the Bamboo Sea, glowing keys of white jade appeared on each of us. Mine, as a mark burnt into the leather of my shoulder strap. Charka's, as a dark outline of a key in her fur on one shoulder. It was explained that these marks would return us by magic to the gates of Shore Blossom if the need for such return arose. Frivolity called it a curse. A curse, sure, but a rather damnedly convenient one.

We followed along the outside of the wall, as the texts left by Ten Flower indicated. Most peculiar was that the Bamboo Sea ended rather unnaturally at this border between civilization and not. Still with an inconsistency bid by nature, but there was no reason for there to be a gutter of only grass about 5 feet between the wall and the forest. That, and there were no trails to be spoken of anywhere in the forest. No game trails either. But game and other creatures do exist in the forest, according to the others. Animals simply must not venture so close to the edge? Strange things afoot.

As we walked, there was again discussion of language semantics, followed by Kodu's affirmation that, while fully capable, he would never kick a man in the ass. Finally, something we could agree upon. It's simply not honorable. The head is a far better, more tactical choice, in any case. However, I cannot abide by Kodu's suggestion of experimentations with the magic keys and finding volunteers who would agree to being killed for the sake of testing the keys' functions. While his quest for knowledge is admirable, it is deeply disconcerting at times. 

After a 14 mile trek, we came to our first night's rest. On the mid watch, Naligor and I were ambushed by kobolds. My first arrow failed me, though it did grant me enough time to rouse the others from sleep. In the ensuing battle, Kodu snatched a kobold out of the air and drove it into the ground with his fist, killing it outright. I was sorely impressed and decided not to be on the wrong side of that man. Charka stepped in and killed a kobold who was heading right for me. Good girl. Adi cast a spell and knocked out the kobolds, allowing the rest of us to kill them easily. I had not yet seen him use any magic, and this first display was tactically excellent. Frivolity interrogated the single surviving kobold and convinced him that we were the enemies of their enemies. In 10 days, he was bid to return to trade with us. Ha! What a great ploy! 

As that kobold scampered away, Kodu preformed Draconic last rites for the corpses. Kobolds they might have been, but all warriors deserve the honors due in death. The smell of flesh burning was a familiar one, though I tried not to dwell on it. I am no stranger to death by any means. But the fires turned white and a flash of brilliant white light engulfed them. The corpses were turned into a fine white dust, leaving only the smell of incense lingering in the night air. Kodu said that they were redeemed by Aion, his god. All are capable of such redemption, he said. I doubt that, truly. That cannot possibly be true for me….

The following morning we made it to the coast, heading east along it. We stayed primarily in the forest, as the terrain there was much easier to navigate than the intensely rocky shoreline below, only occasionally moving down to the shore where it was impossible to pass otherwise. A second night passed, though this one without incident.

On the third day, we continued through the forest. Naligor took the form of a ghost tiger, a creature some of the party had apparently encountered in the Bamboo Sea previously. It had not particularly occurred to me that Naligor could shift into things besides a wolf. It had been discussed among the party, yes, but seeing it actually happen was a whole different thing. 

We were forced to a halt by blankets of spider webs in the forest. These simply could not have been ordinary webs and were certainly home to giant spiders. I have a particular dislike for spiders. I'd had quite enough of dealing with them in the woods and was keen to avoid them then, but tactically, I conceded that going through the webs would be the best decision. Taking a route around the forest would take too much time and likely lead to more spiders anyway, while the rocky coastline simply could not be navigated to any degree of effectiveness. There, we were more likely to drown. No sooner did we get into the thick of the spider webs than we were accosted by the queen and three of her young. Naligor transformed into a giant spider and spoke to them in a tongue I could not understand. The negotiation must have gone successfully, because the spiders retreated upwards and we were allowed to pass. Naligor picked me up and threw me onto his spider back. I've never ridden anything in my life beyond a horse. However, if I could have a spider for a steed, I'd pay fantastical coin. Never had a smoother ride in my life. Charka was particularly distressed for my safety and trotted along beside me as Naligor and I went along.

The forest was absolutely littered with kobold corpses. Where I was able to ignore thoughts of death before, here, they were absolutely unavoidable. The horrible sight was all there was to see. In the mutilated and decaying bodies, I saw reflections of the faces of my past. They were the fields of my slaughter in memories I tried for so many years to escape. Their belongings were littered about with the remains of their lives. The spoils of carnage. We scavenged the kills of unknown others and stole greedily from the dead. Necessary, yes, but at the cost of the dignity of life. I remained silent for fear that if I spoke, I would be sick.

Needed relief came when we went down to the shore. The sun had just begun to set over the horizon of the sea. Clear blue water, as far at the eye could see, under a sky of shifting colors. As I looked out, it occurred to me that I had not seen the ocean in 56 years. More than that, perhaps. We set up camp, and I stripped off my weapons and armor, taking off my boots to wade in the cool, refreshing water. I dug for clams, plucked seaweed, and caught fish after fish after fish, with all the glee of a child. It was a joy I had not known for quite some time.

We feasted like kings that night, and slept under a blanket of stars in the cloudless night. Charka curled about my head as she always did, allowing me to use her flanks as a pillow. These stars, I thought, were the very same that I had stared up at so often in the woods. But here, now, the difference was that they were not my stars alone. The sight of them was shared. With recent companions, and unconventional ones at that, but not in loneliness, at least.

The next morning, we did not have to travel far to reach the road. Two stone pillars of colossal size marked it with great Dwarven script: Imperial Coast Road of Shore Blossom. And still less distance we traveled until we came upon a corpse. A woman. Elf. She'd been there quite some weeks and was in very bad shape. Brutal violence had been done here. Adi did not need to look hard upon it to identify it as Ten Flowers. A terrible loss… I suspect he might have loved her, from his sorry look. I know that look well. 

As Adi walked Kodu through the necessary last rites for Ten Flowers' faith, I could see that my Elvish companions were experiencing contemplations of our race's mortality as I was, though I doubt that either of them saw it as I did. Death, once so foreign a concept, had been made a close thing. Violence had become so dearly intimate.  Just as easily as I myself have taken so many lives, I have had so many lives taken from me. Mortality is real. Death is inevitable. No gods nor monsters can change that. All things must die. Even that which once was once untouchable. Even that which is nearest to the heart. Even in paradise.

I did not return to life to see only death. This is not at all what I had wanted. 

Ten Flowers' cremated remains were carried out into the sea, as is right and necessary. But as the sun of our third day set, a thick fog set in across the ocean, blackening the sky and turning it to night with an alarming speed. From the Bamboo Sea, another fog emerged, engulfing the forest. Thunder rumbled and the sky opened up with a drizzle of rain upon our heads. Something was terribly wrong.

A voice emerged from the mist, one that appeared familiar to Naligor, Kodu, and Frivolity. It threatened death upon us, and Kodu shouted back with death threats of his own. The voice called fourth a ghoul and three zombies, which swiftly came down to the shore to attack us. My performance was lackluster, I suspect an effect of my being out of practice from battle, though my companions certainly made up for my shortcomings. Adi performed distracting illusions as Naligor took the form of a panther and Kodu hailed his fists on the foes. As we dispatched the last zombie, the voice called back that he was not done with us yet, and the keys on our bodies began to glow.

Suddenly, we were returned to the gates, safe for the time being. But I have been roused to the call of bigger things. I exect to be venturing out again shortly…

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New Beginnings...
From Naligor's Journal

Shore Blossom Port is a marvel of a town; The culture is diverse, the people are merry, and the  town itself is a gem. Yet… all of its luxuries and beauties are not enough to quell the fear that lurks behind their smiles. These people are afraid of something(s) that lies beyond the outer walls. A great evil seems to have taken root within the Bamboo Sea and we must purify it before it overgrows and spreads to the Port. With this unlikely band that myself and Odiri have found ourselves apart of, I believe that we can bring hope back to these people and give them some insight on how to survive the lands outside. 

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