Tales of Shore Blossom

Letters from Odiri - Pt. 9
Adventure 15 - Sunblade Success

My Dear Eucarion,

I have returned from yet another adventure. I really wish I could convince you to leave the temple for more than just an evening visit. These outings are just not the same without you.

Syd was determined to get back to Ashiko’s Haven to retrieve the Sun Blade so I decided to join her along with Kodu, Frivolity and Adi. Our travels to Ashiko’s Haven were mostly unfettered except for a particularly intense attack against us at the waystation. The Goblin Queen is getting bolder and sent the Silver Demons against us. We had to dispatch a Goblin Boss and his Warg, a Hobgoblin Warlord, a Bugbear Chief and a pair of their feral wolves. Adi gathered any missives on their persons to review with the council but, I don’t think they truly care. They are so focused on the inside of the wall that they willingly choose to be blind to what is going on behind it. Elder Yen made that perfectly clear after the Summer Festival.

Once we arrived to Ashiko’s Haven we retraced what steps we knew of and happened upon a beast I have only heard of before. They told me it was called an Umber Hulk. This thing was massive with clamping jaws and slashing claws. I was surprised to see Kodu has gained some proficiency with elemental magicks and used them to our advantage that day. I have little memory of this fight as I seemed to have be under this creatures mental control. It all seemed to go dark and in a moment I was in an entirely different hall with Xiao nosing my hand trying to snap me out of my daze. It was terrifying knowing my body was manipulated without my control to move, walk, speak, who knows what I did in the blank spaces of memory.

When I made my way back through a maze of halls to the action I was just in time to witness Adi cast an illusion of several members of the charter pretending to attack the Umber Hulk and running away. That mad magick fellow realized we could use the brute force of the monstrosity to crash through the wall into the chamber we knew held the Sun Blade. Lords and Ladies you should have seen it! The Umber Hulk smashed in to reveal a room filled with eight legged horrors, seven in total.

It was a mess of fire between Kodu and Adi then Frivolity cast a field of darkness to distract the Umber Hulk. So much happened at once it was hard to keep track but eventually Syd captured her goal. The Sun Blade was hers and it looked like it belonged in her hand all along. The one concern I have from this outing was not Syd but Kodu. His demeanor has changed. I can’t put my finger on it but he is different. I think we all felt it.

We were met with one last challenge before the key brought me home. Seven Urk. Emblazoned with the Goblin Queen’s mark. We took them down with little effort between Syd’s new toy and Kodu’s growing abilities, but it makes me anxious to the pit of my stomach that her hoards are spread so far and wide and with such force. I fear she will be the death of me. It would do me a world of good to see your face tonight.

Lovingly,

Odiri

PS – I’ve taken residence in Frivolity’s new manor but we can talk about that later. Use the back gate my room is in the south west corner of the back of the house and the staff is under direct instruction not to harass you.

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Fuck This Town
Hok'ee's musings.

So, whatever fresh Hell has opened between  Mom and Dad I suspect that the wisest thing I could do is stay out of it, for all that I can't actually do that.  Mom's opening a new business in Port Shore Blossom, as if our trade interests weren't enough to occupy her, and she's decided she's taking me and the Faervel Moonblade with her.  Ever the dutiful son, I follow, even though this sounds to me precariously like the beginnings of a divorce.  

As soon as I got there, I made friends… sort of.  I ended up splitting drinks with this endlessly diverting naked gnome and a jolly minotaur who were engaging in improptu gymnastics together at the tavern.  Shortly after that, I also had the company of an extremely grizzled elf along with his halfling …friend?  And some kind of aristocratic tiefling deviant who I'll have to keep an eye on.  

"Grizzly Elven" seems to have some kind of bug up his ass about my breeding, as if the Vanyr and human aristocracy haven't been gleefully fucking one another back and forth across national borders throughout all of known history.  The last thing I need is someone else who's decided to blame me for being alive after Othanar died, so fuck 'im.  

Either way, I've made yet another inadvisable pact, this one binding myself to the "Brotherhood of the Carved Table" or whatever they're calling themselves at the moment.  After having to prove my worth by smashing bottles, I was permitted to sign on to the charter, which also included an unstated mission to defeat the Seven Yomi Princes, some kind of highfalutin' demon generals or something.  Seemed like a good cause, and also one "noble" enough to earn Faerval House favor, so I'm still in.  

Our first mission together was to hunt down the tormented ghost of a famous half-elven hero, destroy her, and plunder her tomb.  Heroics and economics rarely mix well, but right now it's the only game in town, so I'm going to do my best.  

There was a lot of yelling and a lot of personal drama, in between cutting a trail through forest and swamp, directly to the banshee's tomb.  The first night we camped, we were attacked by spear-wielding frogs.  By the time I woke up the fight was already over, but the debate over whether frog people count as people had just begun.  Eventually the priest let them off with a warning, and we went on our way.  

Once we got to the tomb, the halfling scout used some king of magic fan to lead us to the banshee, though we had to fight through some living armor and some other crap first, though the quick thinking of the bard kept that relatively low-casualty.  

The Banshee nearly killed half of us with her scream (I'd have been dead were it not for the Armor of Winter), and the nameless host of ghosts and corpses she had with her didn't help, but we put them down eventually, thanks in large part to that guy who can turn into a dragon. 

Anyhow, we destroyed the banshee and then she thanked us for killing her, and bequeathed all of her stuff to us… which neatly circumvents the ethical quandaries of tomb-robbing.  Let's hope that all of our missions shake out so neatly.

Then we found out that there was a magic fountain in the tomb that would grant "beauty" to one person who sacrificed a magic item to it.  Which of course started off a whole new shouting match, with everyone eventually deciding that Racist McElflord should be the one to use it because we can't be having people with scars breaking up the scenery… without bothering to ask him if that would be something he wanted.  

After much more shouting and hand-wringing, and arguments going back and forth, eventually he did.  

And that's when I learned that this city has fucking branded me.  Key-shaped scar on my left hand, definitely wasn't there before, but matching keys borne by everyone else, which began to glow and yanked us all back into this city. 
Can it do that at any time?
How does it choose when?
Are we now trapped in this city forever? 

Man, fuck this town.  

On the up-side, at least the Faervel Moonblade seems more or less satisfied with me for the moment.

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The Master and Apprentice
A lesson in locks

"Do they hurt?"

 

"No. They itched as they broke skin, but no longer."

 

"You're doing it wrong. Here… level your hand so you feel all the pins across the rod", Syd rotates the lock so the monk can see. "Like this." The monk grabs the lock and makes a second attempt.

 

"So what’s up with the shiny bits? Is that normal? Why can you shoot fire from your hands like Soveliss?" She asks. 

 

Kodu smiles, "Aion has ignited my spark. This has not happened to a non-dragonborn in decades. The last human this happened to in the order was a woman by the name of Nevarene, a descendant of Kovakaru the Founder.  All in my order hail from dragon blood, yet this is rare. I have found the favor of the First Dragon. "

 

"Yeeeah… that sounds cool and all, but what about the shooty things?"

 

"As a child, they were just katas to hone my focus. I am just discovering that they were more than that. Now when I repeat the motions, say the words and my blood burns then fire or ice can emerge from my hands. I have not discovered the extent yet, but I'm leary of this kind of power. Nevarene the Reckless' tale does not end well. Her ambitions in sorcery accidentally killed many of the order.” The lock clicks, Kodu smiles and meets the urchin's eyes. 

 

"Oh, hey! Congrats! Now for something not so infantile.” She smirks as she reaches into her bag and produces another lock. 

 

"Have you been practicing with the blade?"

 

Syd shrugs, "The balance is way different than what I'm used to. I guess that makes sense… there's no blade."

 

The monk chuckles and looks up from the lock, "This is why we practice. Last thing you need is to burn your own arm off; the blade is longer than that with which you are familiar."

 

"I know, I know. You're not my mom; she’s dead and I’m older than you."

 

Kodu smirks at her unending pragmatism and lack of fear for gallows humor, "That she is and that you are, Syd Streetwalker, that you are. How goes the search for Olma? Anyone at the docks see her board a ship?"

 

Syd goes quiet, losing her tough exterior for a split second, "She’s a fighter. She's ok; I know it. I just wish I didn't leave things the way I did. Go figure she'd leave right before I could come back with enough money to make hers and my dream happen."

 

The lock pops open and the priest hands it over triumphantly, "Now let's go get tea before putting up more signs. I'll talk to the farmers in the morning to see if she went out that way. If she's within the walls, she won't be missing for long"

 

                                                                                   *

 

The last week had been long. The monk hadn't made himself available for his standard services to the town on account of the molting. Never had he encountered such an odd experience; the constant itch, the flaking skin and the concern that this might be some serious affliction acquired from one of the many unnatural things beyond the wall. It wasn't until the silver scales had broken the surface of his skin had he begun to realize what was happening. Then came the joy; Kodu always believed his dragonspark was faint and would never actually receive Aion's blessing. Even though this wasn't a trueblood transformation, he relished in every sleepless, itchy night and focused his meditations more intently. During a traditional form exercise with Mato in the garden,  Kodu transitioned into Strike of The Golden Fury only to release a bolt of fire into a tree in the garden. It was embarrassing, but Mato was his usual calm self; he even made a joke about being glad they weren't inside. The priest of the First Dragon had tried similar katas and found Silver Waits Patiently, Cacophony of the Repelling Wing and Defense of the Towering Mountain all had effects associated with them. To prevent the danger of practicing those specific katas, Elder Yen also taught Kodu a couple less dangerous parlor tricks to help him hone his focus in channelling primal energies as well. 

 

 Then came the next excursion of the Beyonders. Syd had a message sent to Kodu at the shrine asking him to go beyond the wall to fulfill his promise of procuring the Sun Blade. Although he hadn't finished his transition, he was honor bound to this task. He liked the time he spent with her. She was a good teacher and an even better friend. Although she did not cling to a code, her heart was in the right place and she was quickly teaching him so much more than how to open locks. Her lessons included speaking a type of language learned on the streets (this had helped his understanding of idioms more than Eucarion's explanations of the metaphors being made), tricks to noticing details that others would miss and, perhaps most importantly, the natural balance of chaos and law by offering a starkly contrasting point of view on things the monk had thought resolute. Needless to say, his training would have to wait so he could help his friend. 

 

Going beyond the wall was met with the normalcy that all of the Beyonders had come to expect. He smirked to himself at how not more than three moons prior, the town had thought the idea foreign and suicidal. Adi's ability to summon a force mound made camping far less dangerous and efficiently reduced the amount of downtime by cutting out an entire guard shift.

 

Then came the attack in the morning. Goblins from the Goblin Queen's elite forces. They proved to be negligible, but the priest's suspicions were confirmed that they evils beyond were beginning to send more significant threats closer to the town was unnerving. The next nine days weren't as exciting. Odiri the Little was able to conjure berries to eat. Syd and Odiri's tracking ability steered the group away from most threats. All and all a fairly eventless journey to the temple.

 

The temple of Artimestia on the other hand? Dangerous as expected; Adi's brilliance won the day. Things were as the group had left them. More candles burned in the primary chamber. The room with the zombie ogres was still empty. The next room, however, had the largest insect Kodu had ever seen, this was also the only insect he had ever seen walk upright. The battle was a blur, He remembered using Strike of the Golden Fury, but that's about all. One blink after, he had teleported to the first room. As the monk rejoined the battle, Adi had tricked the creature into breaking through the wall into the room with Syd's prize. There were spiders… big ones. The room was covered in webs with markings to Atropos. A Strike of the Golden Fury cleared the webbing, but this temple was desecrated and needed to be cleansed (no longer was this temple his promise to Syd, but a promise to the gods to restore the sanctity of the grounds). Syd  was quick to rush in through the confusion and grab the Sun Blade. The rest of the battle was easy enough. The others tried to run after Frivolity put a large black darkness on the insect's head (apparently there was something about its eyes), but Kodu knew victory would come. He pressed the attack and felled the creature. The spiders were easy enough to clear out after that. Now Syd had her blade. 

 

Continuing on through the temple was simple enough. A group of urk heretics didn't put up any sort of fight. The keys interrupted the charge of an Urk Chief. The Beyonders were home again. The work of the temple being unfinished. Another project for another day. 

 

 

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Have You Seen Me?
The Elephant Not In The Room

I can't find Olma. I know everyone she talks to. I know everywhere she would hide. I can't find her. The last time we spoke, the night of the festival, we weren't exactly at our best. When that tentacle literally almost killed me on our first outing, it figuratively almost killed her. I tried to talk her down, but she knew all my tricks. 

"You can't get me to feel otherwise. You're not leaving these walls again." she said, "Not with me anyway. I won't watch you die. It's stupid."

"And you would know stupid." I shot back.

"Do what you want, Syd. I know you will. Let's see how well you do without me there to protect you." 

"Like you did from that Water Weird?" I sneered.

"Go." she said quietly. 

"That's it?! Just 'go'?? After everything we've b-"

I barely had time to dodge her hammer. She splintered the door with it. The door we built together for the hovel we had shared for years. 

I went, and I went beyond wall. Three times I left without her; three times I came back alive. I wasn't just alive, I was living. There was excitement. Treasure. Friends. Purpose. When I returned from my last adventure, I finally had what I felt to be sufficient evidence to convince her that this was right for us, that I knew what I was doing… aaaand to rub it in her face. I love a good "I told you so." I donned my new armor, filled my pockets with my new wealth and, humming the song Elura wrote in my name, went off to find her. She was gone. If she left… if she shipped out… she took nothing but her hammer. All of her other stuff was left untouched. I asked everyone she talks to. I went everywhere she would hide. I can't find Olma.

                                                       * * *

I made missing person posters. I put them up everywhere. I titled it "Have you seen me?" and drew her as best I could. I know I did it only to comfort myself; if anybody knew anything, I would know it by now. My only hope is if some outsider saw her board a ship or something. I don't understand. She's so big, how could anyone miss her? Then again… I miss her. Alot. Olma, wherever you are… I'm sorry.

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Sempur: The Tale of Step and the Word of Water, Part 2
pt. 2

"… For the wise leaser of the O'Aes'Sidhe, Hasani, had learned the Akashic word of "Water" when she was a only a child. That word, carried in her heart, was a secret that helped the O'Aes'Sidhe in their travels… for you see the Moshan Wastes are an unforgiving land. Long cursed by Moshan the Deceiver to divide the lands of Great Asoka and the lands of Solomon the Lesser, his friend and rival."

Or so the storytellers would have you believe. The truth was a bit murkier, for Moshan was a ruler in his own right. His people had discovered a way to conjure demons to this world and quickly used that power to subjugate nearby territories. Solomon the First and the Young Asoka joined together in a several year crusade against that new-formed kingdom. Eventually the walls fell and, in a last ditch effort, Moshan attempted a dark and potent ritual as a final . The ritual failed, or was stopped, or was successful in a strange way depending on the storyteller… but in all stories the city turned to sand and the lands nearby were desiccated by the energies released.

"For in the desert lands Water and Shade are life. A blessing of either is a sign of true compassion in those lands. So you can imagine the surprised reaction of young Step when he realized that he had accidentally swigged down the ancient word of Water when he stole Hasani's drinking gourd…"

"Now the travelers of the caravan were baffled how to get the word back. Certainly they would have to open up the child's belly to retrieve the word, for they could not allow such a sacred thing to pass through the young man in full fashion."
He gestured and hopped as one does when they need to pee, earning a laugh from the crowd gathered around him.

"Others of wandering folk argued that the boy should be given sour cactus to make him to spew the word back up."

"But Hasani, wise in her many years, simply took the boy to where water was needed most. Another youth had grown weary from heat and dehydration. She spoke in nonsense and the light-voice of those under the sway of Moshan's vengeance, a condition known here as Heat Stroke. The idea of losing his friend because of his own folly was too much to take and the youngster, Step, began to cry."

He motioned out the story as he continued, drawing the crowd in with a softer voice.

"Wise Hasani, swift even in her great years, put a vial to the first fallen tear and reclaimed what had been lost to her. The word of Water was then put back into the drinking gourd where it belonged."

"And so the word of Water remains with the O'Aes'Sidhe to this very day and we are left with some importants lessons as well. Who here can tell me what we've learned from this tale?"

Mr. Sempur takes some time collecting answers from the youngsters mixed into the crowd and then gathers up the loose bits of copper tossed to him for his efforts. There are many lessons to be learned from that tale, but the hidden lesson was one that Sempur had recently begun to question…

Arcane majick has long been a thing feared and reviled among his people. Known as the Majicks of Book, Bargain, and Blood they are taboo throughout Asoka. Even the witches, the Wu-Jen, find themselves on the fringes of society for this fear is so pervasive and their practices are sometimes mistaken for Majick.

Sempur had recently met both a practitioner of Blood majick and a practitioner of Book majick. Niether had seemed as monstrous as the depictions of Moshan's ilk. They had used Moshan's own fires to battle many dark creatures. The Weretigers, the Banshee, and the Undead Beholder would all have been very difficult to harm without such power…

He then shakes his head and reprimands himself, thinking in the tone Hasani used to employ. "You have left old walls behind, old notions, old preconceived ideas. Go, experience, and learn. Find truths in your journey and return with wisdom.

"Thank you all for coming. My next tale will be of Step and the Green Wall. A story that introduces the first great city of Asoka, Rehoboam."

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Story Time with Odiri - Pt. 8
Adventure 13 - Spooky Places

(OOC – Collaboratively written in part. CW – Implied nudity, Gross lovey dovey shit)

Odiri stares at the man sitting on the end of her bed fishing his boots out from under it, mapping his chest and back’s every scar illuminated by the early morning light in her mind. Despite their recent bouts of intimacy, she had yet to muster the courage to ask Eucarion about them. “Do you really have to leave so soon? I feel like you just got here” she pouts as she gathers the sheets over her chest with a curious modesty that only seems to afflict those the morning after.

“Because. I’m sure Mato has something new for me to be doing today.” He scoffs. “Well, after he makes me scrub the floors. Penance, for a night away.” Odiri laughs quietly, “I would think those floors would have already been scrubbed within an inch of their lives last week if that is Mato’s response to you staying out all night. I’m surprised I was not relegated to the same fate when Shei scolded me for the fountain water mess our clothes left.” Odiri’s eyes were mischievous and bright as Eucarion snorts “Hah, well, he’s still going to make me do it again. I don’t mind it as much as you think I might.” Between finding the first boot and lacing it closed Eucarion asks “What have you been up to the past week anyhow? Beyond the Wall again?”

Odiri scoots up to sit against her headboard yanking the sheets out from under Eucarion to retain the only shred of modesty she had left. “Yeah, we went out. Adi and his press for more information regarding these ancient places suggested we finally make our way back to the Thousand Sage Temple.” The moment Odiri casually mentions the haunted temple, Eucarion drops the second boot he had just recovered in shock. “You did what now?! Odiri, good gods” She tilts her head and smiles at him,” I came back to you did I not? I would not have agreed to go if I did not feel like I would be safe enough to return to you.” Odiri leans over the opposite edge of the bed to snatch Eucarion’s shirt from the floor and tosses it over her own head. She was swimming in the fabric in a comical way but she knew this would delay his departure as he would not leave without his shirt.

“You may have returned this time, but next time you may not.” Eucarion responds while pulling on his second boot. “Who else went with? I would hope a group of decent size given the danger of the challenge.” Odiri leans back in her new garment and slides the long sleeves up her small arms. “We had a decent group. Adi, of course. Then there was Naligor, Kodu and Soveliss. Oh and the new one I wrote to you about Mr. Sempur. And we scooped up Frivolity on the way to the wall at his new home. It’s beautiful. Huge! Two stories, ten rooms. Massive entertainment rooms. I should mention he offered Adi, Kodu and I a room for free in return for our services. I am sorely tempted. Free board for some guard work does not seem too bad. I plan to talk to him further on his conditions.” She smirks at Eucarion. “I think the privacy in a large house would be a little easier to obtain than living in this place.” she gestures vaguely to the room.

Eucarion responds while focusing on lacing his second boot "Hm hm, well, the privacy would certainly be appreciated. Walls certainly are thin here, and it's not as though you can join me at the temple. Mato would have a fit. But that does sound like a solid group. You headed to the Wall after?" Odiri shakes her head at the laughable concept of her ever setting foot into the Temple of Stars regardless of it being the home to her object of affection. “Our way to the wall was easy and rather fast as we had Adi’s cart and now Frivolity’s cart. To my surprise that one Sempur is quite like Syd in the way he can navigate the city. Our trip to the waystation was unfettered but we were dismayed by a lovely note left by those kobold shits thanking us for the meal. They had eaten nearly half the stored provisions so we’ll need to re-stock and protect that damn place. The rest of the travel time over the next 4 days was completely boring and uneventful, aside from the occasional snide remark from the boys about your…gifts. We did a quick loop of the temple to see if anything had changed. Heavens forbid more kobold tribes make their mark on the clearing, we have enough of them to deal with.” Odiri slides up on her knees behind Eucarion and uses her small hands to comb through his thick silver streaked hair gently as she speaks. Every so often she would let a finger slide against the edge of his ear knowing his sensitive reaction to it.

"Mm, that's a shame about the provisions. Could Adi cast some sort of spell on the waystation, you think? To protect it, or hide it. I've seen him do all sort of insanity. I’m sure her could do something for it." Eucarion enjoyed her attention with a soft hum "I expected some sort of commentary to the matter of my…" Eurcarion trailed off, a little at a loss for what to call his marked affections. He turned around some to face her. "You know; I've still never been inside the temple."

With practiced precision Odiri starts at his left temple and plaits Eucarion's hair up and over his ear while continuing "I believe Adi was distracted with his goal to get to the temple but I shall speak with him on the matter when I see him next. As for the temple, none of us had set foot in it till then. We examined my copy of the map and decided to enter from the southeast entrance. Though it was clear any entrance of the four would do. The first room was a grisly visage of carpet of bone shards and a message scrawled across the north wall stating ‘death is the only exit’ but otherwise empty. I was unsettling yes but I knew it was nothing but a fear tactic from those kobold idiots. The following room was not so empty as we were greeted by five Specters. I can’t help but feel a little sorry for the poor bastards. Doomed to the earth by whom I assume was Blood Spattered Snow Bitch with no way to ascend to planes beyond.” She pauses her story to kiss his left shoulder on the thick scar that carved him from his collarbone to his shoulder blade then shifts to the right side of him to mirror the braid starting at his temple.

Eucarion shivers as she kisses on his scar. Finishing donning his boots, he remains sitting on the bedside. "I do quite like this 'Blood Spattered Snow Bitch' thing. So, you dispatched with the spectres I assume, and then what?" As Odiri continues to braid the hair on the right side of his head she explains “The specters were surprisingly easy to fell with the new arrows in the case. Soveliss lit up the entire room with fire that miraculously avoided our party and between Naligor turning into a massive white bear and Kodu doing his whole…choppy, kicky shit we took down all five specters without a scratch! That room had another circle of standing stones like the ones we found in the caves under the Dwarven ruins and a a stone dais that was unfortunately trapped with arrows. Poor Mr. Sempur was hit fairly bad but oddly refused healing from any of us. Once we disarmed the trap we were rewarded with a decent bounty of coins and gems by a chest hidden below it.” As she finishes the second braid Odiri runs her fingers tenderly over the two small scars on Eucarion’s upper arm and sets to work bringing the two smaller side braids together into one larger braid down the back 

Eucarion sits patiently, waiting for Odiri to finish her work, enjoying her light touches. Since they had begun seeing one another in earnest, he'd gotten a lot more comfortable with the unfortunate condition of his body. With her, at least. "This Mr. Semper seems an interesting fellow. I imagine I'll be meeting him at some point. Did you go any further in?"

“He is very interesting. I dare say he tells a better story than I. We came to the second room down a hallway. It was very odd because the door to the room had no handle. So of course Kodu, being Kodu, kicked it in….after a few tries” Odiri titters at the memory of it as her hands methodically make their way down, passing strands of hair over and under each other. “Well! That room was sealed off for a reason. Because inside was a fucking wight and six zombies. All seem to have been dwarves in life but sadly just like the specters they were doomed to this sad undead way of things. This fight was especially frustrating because the hallway was so tight that Xiao was stuck in the back where we had taken post for most of the journey. But between the fire majicks of those who posses the talent, my bow and Kodu’s staff we were able to reduce those monsters to ash without my sweet boy’s help” Odiri smiles up from her braiding to glance at the door knowing Xiao is waiting politely on the other side as he had been all night. She turns back to her work on taming Eucarion’s hair. “Xiao is still very sorry for the whole cold nose thing last week.”

Eucarion blushes a bright scarlet to the tips of his ears at the memory. "Well, it's gonna take a minute for me to forgive him for that one." He grumbles out, "In any case, sorry he wasn't of much use to you. Wights are the worst." As she finishes the thick braid she realizes the leather thong he had it tied with was nowhere to be seen so she passes the tip of the braid over Eucarion’s shoulder and asks ”hold this?” before pulling up the sheets and lifting the pillows searching for the missing scrap. With a resigned sigh Odiri slips off the bed and shuffles barefoot with Eucarions top hitting her knees. Eucarion takes the braid in his fingers, peeking at her handiwork with a hum of satisfaction as he does. He watches her stumble about the room in his shirt, smiling in amusement. "Did you go any further than that? Into the temple, I mean." She digs through a pile of her own leather armor and pouches to recover a sturdy strip of navy blue dyed leather.”Uhuh! Ohh, found it!” She slides back to stand in front of Eucarion and takes the braid from his hand tying it off with the navy leather.

“Oh and apparently Naligor can turn into an octopus now? That was new. Well we finally moved on when we dismantled every last one of them we noticed the warning written on the east wall that said ‘look to the ceiling’ I was expecting some hideous monster to drop from above as a cruel joke but there was nothing not even a cobweb. Then that ungodly unsettling wind chime noise we heard back in the Kami Mine again. Ugh” She shivers off the thought of the ethereal noise. “We passed on to the next room after Kodu bruted his way through the door and were greeted with another empty room. Our progress seemed to have come to a dead halt when we encountered and iron door that could not fall victim to Kodu’s limbs. I was sure our keys would glow at any moment but to my surprise Soveliss came through with a spell of acid to melt down the door at its seams. That brought us to a massive, yet mostly empty room. It seems to have been maybe a training room at one point as there were empty stone weapons racks along the walls. In the last room we made it to before the keys brought us home was a funeral preparation area of some sort. What we thought were two corpse at first ended up being zombies! I've heard so many terrible stories of the curses that zombies could inflict so our group dispatched those undead fucks the best we knew how. Fire and brute force. I am so proud of Xiao because he landed the killing blow on the 2nd of the two. Once we were safe we found a variety of decorative jars and trinkets to pass off to Elder yen and… Poof… back home.” Odiri crawls into Eucarion’s lap and kisses the scar through his left eyebrow and smirks at him impishly “and..well, you know the story from there.”

Eucarion chuckles, putting a hand to Odiri's hair, ruffling it and kissing the top of her head. "Hmm, yes, I most certainly do." He sighs, rubbing his hands along Odiri's arms lovingly. "You gonna give me my shirt back, miss adventurer?" Odiri’s lips curl in a mischievous grin "why would I do that? If I don't give it back you have to stay for breakfast" With both cunning and coddling Eucarion won his shirt back and stood to leave.  "Send word for me?" he asks standing at the door.

Odiri hops off the bed to follow him to the door and pulls his hand hard enough to make him lean down. "Kiss me proper and maybe I will. You wouldn't want your last kiss to me one on the cheek if I die beyond the wall without you." He obliges her, taking a knee and gently kissing her lips. Pulling back after a tender moment, he smiles. "I suppose I'll just have to come with you then." Odiri smiles warmly after getting exactly what she was looking for. "I look forward to the day that I have you at my back in battle once more." She hesitates glancing at the floor and back up at him. "I love you Eucarion…"

"It may be sooner than you think." Eucarion rises to his feet, looking down at her and feeling only light. "I love you too, Odiri." Not opening the door any more than he has to for her modesty, he gives a last glance back, slipping out and away.

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A Conversation in the Temple Kitchen
Takes Place Post Chapter 12

(OOC: Written in collaboration.)

It was late in the afternoon by the time Eucarion finished patching up one of the temple walls. A novice had put an elbow through a thin bit of it, or so Mato had explained. In a matter of a week, Eucarion's temple life had fallen into a comfortable routine, there constantly being work in need of completion. Curiously, he thought as returned to his modest quarters, he had hardly encountered Oranssi since he arrived. Turning a corridor, Eucarion found he was greeted with… armor? A shrine? A shrine in a way, but built out of personal items. Chainmail hung up with an accruement of weapons staggering down the armor, with a torn and tattered banner of the Goblin Queen presented over the weapons.

Eucarion recognized the heraldry, and the sight of it with the amalgamation of weaponry left a hollow feeling in his gut. He'd rather not see that banner at all, but seeing it so thoroughly trashed did bring him a degree of satisfaction. This had to be Oranssi's, buy why would he construct a shrine for the unburied dead? It certainly must have been one, based on everything he could discern from its construction. Everyone had their demons, Eucarion supposed…

Just then, the ring of a prayer bell from the shrine in the main hall. Oranssi, having returned from a journey, enters the hall, kneeling down and praying. He is dressed in his elven soldier's uniform.

Eucarion notices his entry through the viewlines between the columns. He approaches quietly, but stops at a respectful distance, not wanting to disturb Oranssi's prayers.

Oranssi finishes, opens his eyes half way, and speaks, not moving any other part of his body. "Eucarion, you are very much a being of rumor. I was informed you had left Shore Blossom."

The suddenness of Oranssi's voice startles Eucarion a bit, but he makes no show of it. "I've always been the subject of rumor, Oranssi." He approaches, standing just within the other elf's periphery. "Whoever told you was certainly mistaken. I have taken up residency here. Many welcomes on your return from beyond the Wall. I suppose this is why I have not seen you around the temple?

Oranssi rises and faces Eucarion. "Ah, you must be in the south wing. And yes, we have just returned. Sadly, while our party grows, it has become more divided than ever. I do not see us winning this war."

Eucarion crosses his arms high on his chest. "Hm. So there have been some developments to the situation?"

"Some, but, I must say, I am hungry. Meals have been less then welcoming." As Oranssi leads Eucarion to the kitchen hall, he adds, "I must ask, does your attraction to Odiri have anything to do with her plucking finger?" 

"A meal does sound good right about now." Eucarion nods and follows after Oranssi, walking beside him. He is palpably uncomfortable at the subject of Odiri. "Why? Has she been particularly… out of line? I know she has been denying your healing, which I have told her is entirety foolish.""

"Just her projections, and the timing of her outbursts." As they enter the kitchen Oranssi grabs a pan off a wall hook. "What would you like?"

Eucarion gives a vague motion of his hand. "I'm not picky. Honestly, everything I've eaten in this town, your expertise included, has been a welcome change from whatever mess I was cooking myself in the woods." He finds a nice spot to lean on and observe, cracking his back as he settles in. "As for Odiri, I'm sure you can understand where her anger may be your doing and not necessarily mine."

Oranssi cracks a smile. "Not everything is about you." He conjures up an assortment of ingredients and begins his preparation. " I knew my actions would have consequences. I just wish that the others were not so blind to both the tyranny and creature comforts that Shore Blossom has presented." Oranssi places a plate of grilled mixed greens with a nut paste gyro in front of Eucarion. "Oh how I wish I had this spell ages ago. Sadly, it leaves me weaker of hunger then I was before."

Eucarion gives a little snort of amusement, but he brushes the comment off as Oranssi hands him the food. "Oranssi, thank you, but please, eat first. I have been here all day while you've been off doing god knows what." He pushes the plate back in Oranssi's direction. Taking a more serious tone, he adds, "Part of the reason Im here at all is to step away from all this madness that our company has gotten caught up in. Your actions might have been rash, but I'm glad that you at least see that something must be done here in the name of self-preservation."

"And Kodu would agree with you on that."

"Ha. At least we would agree on something at all."

Oranssi takes the plate, pausing a moment. "Eucarion, do you feel the guards would survive in their present state?"

Eucarion props his head up on his arm, elbow on the counter. "I doubt any of the guards here have ever seen real combat. If there is to be an invasion or even an attack of any serious magnitude, they'd be of little help."

"My thoughts exactly. And honestly, if we were not in proximity of that dragon, I fear the Wall may have chosen them." He brings over a glass of grape wine to Eucarion. "I hope I have your support, but I have begun a training regimen with the guards. They may have not seen battle, but at least they can be prepared for it."

"I am trying to lay off the drink, but I suppose wine doesn't count. Thank you." Eucarion takes the glass. "You absolutely have my support, and I'm perfectly willing to instruct them." He laughs bitterly, swirling the wine around. "I was a high commander once, you know."

"Exactly why I ask. On my examination of the this city, and with Naligor's input, we," Oranssi gestures with his finger back and forth between the two of then, "are the only factions of military here. There is the council, but they are figure heads." Sipping his own cup of blessed wine, he adds, "They can be more dangerous than we could ever be…"

"This council hides much. Unsurprising. It's just what governments do." He pauses a touch too long with the memory of disquieting thought, but he shakes his head and continues. "Frankly, Mato is the only one I trust among them. At least he is willing to part with any sort of information. But still. The lack of a standing army is a concerning indicator of how things run around here. No military means very few in the city have any kind of martial skill. The guards hardly count. Makes a population easy to control, no?" A thought strikes him rather suddenly. "Huh. Perhaps it is exactly because we can fight that the Wall chose us to champion it. Same with the last group."

"And that is why I blessed the table. In some form or another, we adventurers left a mark on that table. Have you noticed that none of the townsfolk sit there? Just us. It's a contract that we unwittingly signed." Oranssi takes a deep, steadying breath, his anger rising quickly as the memories of betrayal came flooding in.

Eucarion reached out, placing a hand on Oranssi's shoulder to ground him. "It just as easily could have been our first going beyond the Wall as it could have been that table. In any case, I do not think there is anything to be done for it now. Madam Saru lied, whatever her reasons for it, but now we must find how to live with this curse."

Oranssi sighs. "Is it just our fate then, to be toys of war?"

"My god, what a way to say it." Eucarion quickly downs the rest of his wine. "Yes, Oranssi. I've concluded it's fucking inescapable."

A somber silence overtakes the kitchen as they both consider this. A sobering notion that no amount of wine, blessed or otherwise, can clear from the mind. Eucarion sighs deeply, drawing his gaze away from Oranssi. A glimmer catches the corner of his eye. Oh? A set of beautiful silver daggers strapped to Oranssi's belt. How hadn't he noticed those before? An idea strikes him.

He motions with his head towards the daggers. "Are those dragon bone?" Oranssi nods. Eucarion smirks, eyes bright with an uncharacteristic glee. "Wanna spar?" 

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A Crumpled Letter

A crumpled ball of parchment lays on the edge of the fountain in the center of market square. Upon inspection it is a letter. Unsealed. Unsent. Forgotten.

It reads:

"Dear Mum,

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write. The past few months have gone by so quickly. I am so sorry I missed Tomb-Sweeping Day. I miss my brother in every waking moment and I know you and father do too.

I have settled in a quiet but beautiful port town. You will be proud to know that I have found employment at a small clothier here. While being a shop girl may not be that exciting it is a safe profession like you always wanted for me. You will be sure to tell father of my employment as I know he is worried I will follow in Orryn’s footsteps. The only adventures I go on are trips to the market in the evenings to spend time with a handsome young gentleman (a halfling of course) who has been courting me proper like. Flowers and all.

Please send my regrets again to Gerrik for canceling the wedding but you know full well, we were not meant for each other. I have faith he will find someone that makes him as happy as my gentleman makes me. I promise to write more now that I am settled.

Your Loving Daughter,

Odiri Reed Olividae

PS – Please don’t try to trace this letter. You can’t."

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Sempur: The Tale of Step and the Word of Water
pt. 1

"Gather 'round and open ears. For today I begin the adventures of a young hero from a far away land."

With a small stick he begins to draw in the dirt.

"Our tale begins, as many do, atop a camel. A camel in the Goshan Wastes."

He finishes the outline drawing of a camel, a man, and the sun.

"A hard land of sand, sun, and dangerous creatures… it is also the land of the O'Aes'Sidhe, the traveling folk of the desert lands. And our hero starts his life as one of them."

"Now the Traveling folk are a mysterious group of dwellers in that land. It is said that in their far roamings under the sun they have unearthed a few of the secret words of the world. Our hero, who we will call Step, is no different. For at a young age he found the words of "here" and "there"… but that is a tale for another day. Today we speak about the desert and water. For water means everything in the hot lands. It means life or death…"

Sempur leaned into the crowd with a flourish. His performance didn't really rely on his charm. He couldn't compare to the local Expression workers, the ones people call Bards, but he did well enough to earn some coin and curiosity. More than good enough for his needs.

"Now Step was a bright child, full of wonder and curiosity, but I'll start his tale as many do… with how his curiosity got him in trouble…"

The crowds here were easy to impress. The ate up truths and lies about his home country with equal fervor. That was well enough. Too much truth would start rumors and eventually leave a trail that could be followed. However it was still nice to tell a story somewhat close to his own.

He continued the tale of how "Step and the Word of Water", but as a few familiar faces passed through the crowd he reflected on his recent journey beyond the wall.

He had arrived in this town weekend freedom in the undiscovered. Surely the Awakened could not find him somewhere they did not know about. The people here were odd and he still had not come up with a decent lie to cover his own talents. He could not pretend to know the majick of this land. He was no Wu Jen with their arcane mysteries. Perhaps he could avoid using his talents. That would be for the best…

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Log I : Day 10
Eucarion's Journal

(OOC: Long overdue lmao)

Tribulations. My god, tribulations!

I returned from my sojourn rather late in the night before Solstice. I'd promised to be back in town by then, but I am plagued to admit the reason was not so plain as I had told Odiri. While away in solitude on the coast, I had penned a necessary letter to my wife. It was not lies, per say, but I did omit some truths I probably should not have. It would be her first word from me in nearly six decades. To inform her that I was potentially engaging in an affair would be… well… Can a man really be blamed? 

At first break of dawn on Solstice, I was up and out the door, hoping I would go unnoticed. I had a boat to catch before it left town. Prior to my departure, I'd come to an arrangement with the captain of a small vessel. For the exchange of some furs I'd poached while beyond the wall, he would ferry my letter to my wife. I pray it finds her. Alive. 

When I returned, intending to rest a little longer, I found at my door an attendant bearing a package of clothes from Madam Saru. Ah, the festival. I believe the attendant was there to help me dress, but I asked him to simply explain the process and leave me be. Blessedly, he obliged and did not press the issue. I bathed privately, happy to be clean of a week's-worth of grit, and dressed. The garments, as comfortable and refreshing as they were, left me feeling rather exposed. I would never dream of wearing something that left my marred skin so much uncovered. I had kept a few of my noble garments, but such attire would probably draw even more attention onto me. I'd just have to bear this. Once I'd finally come downstairs and made my way to our company table, I saw that everyone else was similarly dressed, to varying degrees of success. Frivolity seemed the worst among us. He was practically wearing the thing backwards. I have a number of suspicions to his curious demeanor, but perhaps he is not so unusual for his kind as he seems to my elven sensibilities. I have hardly encountered any Tieflings before him. In any case, this only somewhat relieved my anxieties. I was quickly distracted from my thoughts by my - now concerningly regular- excess of drinking and some rather rowdy discussion to the debatably natural quality of Madam Saru's breasts. 

I only half-heard Shei make some announcement to the common room before down the steps descended a familiarly short frame, but a completely unrecognizable face. It had to have been Odiri, but… my god. She was something lovely. The palpable discomfort from wearing such complicated dress did take away from her pretty visage some, but I refrained from saying anything at all. The others were not so considerate, to say the least, and ripped into her. I tried to be of some assistance to the situation and suggested that we should all head out to the festival, hoping to draw attention off of her. I helped her to her wobbling feet and offered my arm, which she seemed to happily take. I felt my heart flutter in my chest— it cannot be helped.

Walking into town, we fell behind the rest, of course, but I did not mind. At least it gave us some time together. The thought crossed my mind that she may have done this for my sake, considering I'd expressed so frequently before my vexation with her unladylike. Perhaps she'd taken it as a cue to go the most womanly extreme? In truth, I rather liked her messy self. It was endearing in its own right, but, beyond that, she could keep up with me, and even best me. Oh god, what thoughts are these! 

We arrived at last to the center of town, where the festival was in full swing. It seemed like the whole population had come out for the celebration, buzzing with a happy, fervent energy. I had never been one for such festivities back home, but this was such a welcome change from the usual pace of things. It was silly, really, but I felt a little lost among all the commotion. Crowds has always unnerved me—difficult to predict, hard to control, dangerous in combat— but even more so still since I left the woods. As much as I may have been helping Odiri along, her comforting presence was undoubtedly helping me more. 

An arena of sorts had been constructed for the purpose of a tournament of wooden swords. A number of poor were gathered around the entrance, unable to pay the small fee to spectate. Kodu and Oranssi paid for them all. I would expect such behavior of Kodu, but Oranssi's charitable spirit was more surprising than I'd like to admit. Not that I have ever pinned him for selfish, but to reach out to strangers so openly was pleasantly unexpected. Kodu and Frivolity both entered to compete in the conclave. I thought the whole thing a trifle, had no desire to participate, and would join Oranssi in the stands. Odiri paid her entry fee as well, which did not surprise me any, but I did point out to her that it would be rather difficult to fight in a dress and when so heavily ornamented. She'd be at considerable disadvantage. She was rather indignant at the comment, but was unable to leave my side unless she wished to forfeit my steadying arm. I suppose there were some more selfish benefits to chivalry.

The tournament would not be for a few hours, so we were off to kill time at the festival's many game booths. Again, Odiri and I strayed behind, chatting amongst ourselves and handing a flask back and forth. I suspect that our companions have some sort of investment in our <s>courtship</s> relationship, because as we walked, Soveliss cast some sort of illusion upon me. Rather suddenly, the expressions of the party changed to ones of shock and awe. I was rather confused at what he'd done until Odiri tugged at my sleeve and offered her flask. I glanced at my reflection in it and was startled by the sight of my own face, clean and free of hideous scars. I had nearly forgotten my own natural appearance. Even in the woods, I avoided my own sight unless it was necessary. Once, I'd been rather a beauty. Noble breeding and good fortune will do much. I assume the gasps and dismay from the others were at the realization of this fact. But the war took that all from me. I am a man of little vanity, and if not for the constant stares of passerby, I would hardly feel the loss of my good looks. But the fact that— at least upon first meeting — so many cannot return my gaze for fear or disgust of me is difficult to ignore. For a moment, I felt normal again. Soveliss must have seen my amazement and offered kindly to teach me. I do not know if I will take him up on that, but it is certainly tempting.

The first game was a ring toss. Albion, who I did not think had a dexterous bone in his body— no offense—, easily won. A victory came with a prize of some sort, and his was a scroll with some mechanical contraption sketched on it. Everyone else was given a paper prize of some sort, all of which were either dispensed out to passing children or stuck onto Albion's horns for the fun of it.

Next was a water jar game. I had thought not to participate at all, but the spirit of competition got the better of me after seeing Soveliss, Kodu, and Oranssi all fail. I won, but my prize was a little bag containing two tin soldiers, one of which was beheaded. Rather morbid for what I assume was meant to be children's game. It is only by virtue of having to manage myself so often that I was able to shove down the images that particular little trinket conjured. I hastily put it out of sight. Beheadings were never so clean in real life.

Next, we approached a booth where Mato, of all people, was sat on a stool. I only will admit this in the privacy of this journal, but something stirs every time I see that man. I have had a few men in my time, sure. I'm no stranger to such things. But by god, he's a specimen. He welcomed us and informed that the object of this game was to guess his age. That could not have been fair. The man was ancient! We could ask questions, but there were rules to be followed. Kodu being… well… Kodu, went about it with an absolutely inane line of questioning. Admittedly, he has learned much in the ways of correct social interaction, but there is still much road to travel in his unfortunate case. I've met many monks, but none like him. Perhaps it was his specific sect? Or is this merely a product of so few years of life? I fear I am out of touch. He did successfully guess, however, so I suppose there is that to say in his credit. His prize was a rather large jar of Griffin Grease. Whatever the hell that is escapes me, so I can only guess at its use. We did have to convince him to keep it, as he almost immediately went to hand it to a child. His charity may get him into trouble some day. I do not think he is naive enough to be taken advantage of severely, but who is to know? I worry sometimes.

As we proceeded on to the next booth, Frivolity was having quite some trouble with his yukata. Bits were coming undone and he could hardly walk in the thing, tail swinging about. As ridiculous looking as it was, I could only feel pity for him. Shei approached and tried to assist, but she only made things worse. In the struggle to re-dress, the garment ripped, revealing that Frivolity was wearing a corset underneath. He ran away in embarrassment before any more could be revealed. A corset was hardly much to make a fuss about. Though they are women's garments, I have heard of some fops wearing them to improve their figure. Frivolity certainly seemed like the type who would. Suspicious, sure, but to what conclusion? It's rather good then, I suppose, that Frivolity's abilities rely so heavily on magic. That can't be safe to wear in hand combat.

Next was a slingshot game, in which Kodu was the victor. His prize of a mosaic tile was handed off to a happy child. Odiri was positively fuming by this point of the day. She'd taken a turn at every single game and lost miserably, her grip on my arm tightening angrily every time she returned to my side. Others certainly noticed her pint sized fury, including the lucky child. They approached, handing her the mosaic tile piece and saying, "Us kids gotta stick together!" She was stunned to silence as the rest of the party laughed at her expense. Guiltily, I must add, myself included. I can only assume she'd been mistaken this way before. Not that that makes it any better, but. She pressed on ahead of us to the next game.

We came to a target shoot, which Kodu, Odiri, and I entered. Not much of a challenge itself, but my competitive spirit was renewed in facing off with Odiri in particular. A true vie of skill! About as much as I expected, Kodu struck out with some of the worst shooting I'd ever seen. I knew it wasn't his chief skill, but there was no way he was really that bad. Perhaps his luck ran out? The targets were reset for just the two of us. I knew I was the better shot, but why was I so tense then, next to her? I glanced over, covering my apprehensions with a disdainful glance in her direction. She caught my eyes, fumbled, and only for that did I win. I feel a bit of a cheat for that, but the knowledge that it was my look that so unset her is… well…  She was livid, of course, but got a good laugh at my expense when the prize turned out to be a petrified mouse. I mean, I thought it was neat, but I let her have her moment of gloating over my perceived misfortune. We moved on to another game, a coin guess run by Madam Saru, but I was distracted by Odiri's intense rage and paid it no mind. Soveliss won, and still hotter her anger burned.

Before we could move on to the next game, the gong sounded, signaling the start of the tournament. Heading to the arena, Frivolity caught up with us, dressed in his usual clothing. I felt like that was a bit of an unfair advantage, considering everyone else was still in festival garb, but I digress. As we got inside, Odiri started savagely stripping off all her ornaments, throwing everything into my arms as she girded up her loins. Smart, so I suppose I'd have to bear being her attendant for the time, not that I minded. I wished her victory, and she seemed surprised that I was speaking honestly. What reason had I to wish her ill? I believed she would win. She's ferocious, she's capable. 

The first match was between her and and James, one of the guards at port. Probably the quickest bout I've ever seen. She hit him once, and he was down with a discombobulated surrender. Ha! I had a bit of a laugh as she strode back over. As we watched the next couple of matches, I leaned over the railing to pass back and forth the flask. A bit of liquor always goes down well with entertainment. The match between Kodu and Bob from the Gate when about the same with a single strike finish. Kodu did help his opponent to his feet; he's a good kid, even if he is a bit of annoying shit. The only reason I haven't put him into a headlock over language semantics yet is because I know he'd beat me. I've never been good with hand-to-hand, and I don't think I could live down that kind of defeat. Frivolity matched up against Gabriel, another port guard, and felled him on the second stroke. Naligor had finally arrived to join us by this point in the afternoon, resting off a hangover perhaps. Charka certainly missed him, seeing as she immediately perked up at his presence. He gave his hellos, we exchanged some snidery, and he went to sit up elsewhere in the stands, where he was filled in on the proceedings by a fantastically boisterous local. A mysteriously masked entrant next went up against Tim, Bob's partner. I couldn't particularly recognize who it was, though his stance and style seemed familiar. More than a few hits were exchanged before Tim was unfortunately felled by the man.

Odiri handed her flask back up to me as she went out to face Frivolity. I had full confidence that she would win, but as the bout went on, far longer than all the others, I found my worry growing with each strike. I had not expected Frivolity to be quite so good with a sword. Odiri was getting absolutely pummeled, so I couldn't help but whoop with joy when she finally landed a hit on the tiefling. Across the jaw! Spectacular! But one good strike is not enough to win a battle. I could see her wobbling on her feet as Frivolity rained down blows on her, and it pained me that I could do nothing but sit there and grind my teeth as she was beaten down. Odiri fell, and I immediately hopped over the barrier, lifting her up and carrying her out of the ring. We retreated up into the stands and I tended to her. In hindsight, my god, how that must have looked. Well, if our relations weren't obvious before, I'm sure they were quite obvious then. As I cast healing on her and made her comfortable, Naligor came down to give his simpering commentary. I said I wasn't her lover, which is true. We have had no relations of that sort… yet. (Oh god, head out of the gutter, Eucarion. You're married! I should at least wait until I get a response…) Soveliss had some similar jabs to throw, to which I responded in kind. None too pleased, he dropped the illusion that had been keeping my face clean. A few heads turned in our direction and I knew I was being stared at, but it simply didn't matter. All my focus was on Odiri.

As Odiri came in and out of wakefulness, I sat with her across my lap, intermittently fanning her and carding my hands through her hair soothingly as the next bout went on. Admittedly, my attentions were rather occupied as Kodu faced off against the masked man. The man hardly got a hit in between Kodu's talented assault. With a stellar hit, the mask tore and the man hit the ground. A-ha! It was Oranssi all along. I knew I recognized something about him. Some devilish part of me was rather pleased to see him knocked on his ass so gloriously.

After a break of an hour's time, both Odiri and Oranssi awoke. I was expecting Odiri to move, but, to my great satisfaction, she remained, propped up against my legs. The final bout between Kodu and Frivolity began. I expected a rather interesting match, but it was a stalemate! Neither would strike first! Mato eventually came down to the arena and called it a draw. The fury of the crowds at such a poor conclusion to the tourney was quickly quelled by Frivolity purchasing ale for everybody in the stands. The prize, an enchanted scabbard, was handed to Kodu. 

The festival was once again bustling as the commotion of the crowd spilled back out of the arena. We moved on to play the rest of the games. I decided to sit them out, give Odiri more of a chance. One of those perfectly silly, chivalrous notions. In any case, I didn't leave her sight. She didn't seem quite steady on her own after that knock out. There was a bag toss, where Naligor won, and a fishing game, where Soveliss won an orb engraved with strange runes. We came to a "dunk the fool" sort of game, where the fool in question thought it funny to prey on Odiri. The barker didn't help any, as he mistook Odiri for a child. Twice in one day! Certainly does happen often. He did apologize and allow her a free turn, so I suppose there was something to be won. By the time she turned around to take a shot, Kodu had climbed into the fool's seat. Odiri was absolutely thrilled and, with a single well-placed shot, knocked him into the water with one of the most disturbing giggles I have ever heard.

The last game was a challenge to lift a barrel of water without spilling the water inside. Kodu, Albion, and Naligor all failed, but Oranssi, the clever shit, played smarter instead of harder. He cast something on the barrel, lightening it to where he could lift it. Absolutely cheating, but commendable that he'd even try. Soveliss, I assume because he is a fellow caster, noticed and caused an illusion of spilling water, forfeiting the win for Oranssi. The others encouraged me to give the barrel a go, so I obliged them. Oranssi's spell was still active, so I lifted it easily. I considered doing a one handed maneuver, but flashing a smirk in Oranssi's direction was enough to rub it in. The look on his face! Ha! Golden as his corps. The prize was some sort of packet of pink powder, which I handed over to Odiri. As much as there was groaning from the peanut gallery, she was  pleased and that's what mattered.

As we continued to walk about the festival, admiring the sights, it began to rain quite suddenly. Then, everyone in town was frozen still, as though turned to stone, and as the hum of civilization was rendered deathly silent. A glowing dome of light from beyond the wall enveloped the sky above us. Naligor, trying to sense the nature of the magic, was brought to his knees in agony. As quickly as it came, the dome vanished. The people, too, vanished, and only the members of our party were left. Our keys began to glow with an unknown intensity, and we were all suddenly outfitted in our usual gear, armed with our weapons. In the distance, a black dragon, ridden by a weretiger and flanked by kobolds, rapidly approached us. There was no time to think before we were launched into a brutal battle. Odiri landed a shot on the dragon, and Naligor called upon the power of the moon as he transformed into a spider. We scarcely got into a formation before the dragon hit us full in the face with its acidic breath, swiping at us with its wings as it touched down. Frivolity brought down a few of the kobolds with a sleeping spell, killing them instantly as they hit the ground. My arrows flew true and Soveliss landed blows of fire on the dragon, but Kodu really shined in this battle. He grappled the thing! I forget he is so young, and I am only reminded at the strangest of times, in such feats of power most. As the weretiger jumped off the dragon's back, Albion landed a solid swing of his axe into him, shoving him with his horns too. Odiri shot at the dragon with her pistol— since when did she have a pistol? Naligor transformed into a direwolf, redirecting the moonbeam onto the tiger, while Frivolity downed the rest of the kobolds in the sky. The dragon faced our repeated blows as the weretiger was transformed back into a man, attacking Naligor. Soveliss jumped in to light up the tiger in a blaze of fire, but as he did, all his hair suddenly fell out! There would be a time and place to poke fun, and most assuredly I would, but that time was not then and nor was it the place. Motes of sunlight enveloped us as Oranssi healed our wounds. We fought on, viciously. Kodu beat down the dragon, killing it by slitting its throat in a fantastic spray of acid and blood. My god, he's something else. The man surrendered, but I could see from his attitude he meant it tauntingly. I was about to step in to defend his right, but Albion knocked him out cold with a mighty thunk of his axe. 

After some argument as to what to do, we decided to take the dragon and the weretiger elsewhere to be dealt with and that the blood in the streets would be cleaned off. If the elders were to believe us that this happened, at least the print of the dragon's body would have to be left. As we carted everything away to a warehouse in port, a sudden rush of magic overtook the city once more and all the commotion of the festival resumed. There were no burns. There were no prints. There was no damage. There was not a thing at all. I felt keenly disturbed, as did the others. Naligor ran to fetch Elder Yen as Oranssi did Mato. 

When they arrived at the warehouse, Soveliess tried to explain what had occurred, but Elder Yen did not care to listen to any of us. Mato commented that such an event "might have killed the last group", launching us into an even greater frenzy of questions. Thought it had been vaguely mentioned before by Madam Saru, she had not given the whole story. Mato explained that the last group of adventurers to come into town and carve her table had indeed disappeared during the rebellion, but there damages were found unrelated to the actions of the rebellion and the group's corpses were never found. In a fury, Oranssi stormed off with an exclamation of "that witch!" and nothing more. Soveliss tried to convince Elder Yen with the goblin scroll he'd found on the last outing beyond the wall, but nothing would sway him. At least Mato was sympathetic to our case. Yen doubts and in doing so, he invites war. How could he be so confident in the Wall's ability to protect the city? It may have in the past, but the town had never faced such dangers as now. There's Blood Spattered Snow Tiger, but there is the Goblin Queen too. What's more, only we, those who had marked upon the table, experienced what we had. We, of our own foolish wills, had gone beyond the wall and been branded by its keys. Branded indeed! Are we slave to it now, forced to fights its battles? And we did this, yes, but I alone did too. I joined this group of my own volition, and so have led myself to cursehood? I would have sooner stayed in the damn woods than involve myself in another war! Mato noticed my silence and reached out to me for my thoughts, but I could say nothing. He offered that we talk over tea on the matter, which placated me some. Odiri placed her hand on my arm, a small comfort that quieted the roar of my disquiet thoughts. As others vowed to stay and fight, I could not speak up.

We parted ways for the time, nothing else to be done then. Odiri and I walked solemnly back to the Rose Shell, seeking rest and decompression from the day's madness. But no relief there. The moment we entered, our eyes turned to the table. All the work, gone! Odiri's carvings, Adi's. All our marks upon it. This had to be Oranssi's doing. Odiri was outraged. I tried to console her, but she brushed me off and stormed upstairs. I followed, uneasy, and found her room a disaster of rage. She'd cut her foot on a broken mug too, so I stayed to tend to it and offer what comforts I could.

I will not lie here. We kissed, again. And we would have gone further too had I said nothing. Wandering thoughts of Allaya plague me still, and so long as I know not the state of her, I cannot break faith. I like Odiri. I do. But… No. I cannot. Too much noise occupies my agitated mind. I will speak to Mato, and perhaps take sanctuary in the temple if he should allow it. As much as it pains me to leave my companions, perhaps some time away from all of this will do me good…

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