Tales of Shore Blossom

Odiri's Journal Pt. 23
Adventure 40 - Saru Signs

CW – Sex, emotions, graphic horse death

TW – Discussion of miscarriage

 

I have found myself in possession of or rather possessed by a tiny whining monster that has stolen my heart. Charka’s runt. About two weeks ago I was woken with a start on a crisp night by the overwhelming urge to check on Charka. I saddled Dusty in the dark and made my way to the cottage. I could hear her mutterings and cursing rattle in my head and knew I had arrived at the right time. Upon entering his home I was witness to a very frazzled slightly panicked elf trying vainly to comfort his lifelong companion who was in a right state herself as it appears this was a new experience for both of them. I might have laughed a little at Eucarion’s flustered glance when I arrived but I know that animals know what they are doing when it comes to birth much more than people do. I led him away to his favorite chair by the fire and told him to leave it to me. Charka’s whelping went smoothly but long through the night into the morning. Eight puppies take quite some time to come into the world. All eight were the stunning golden of a field of wheat at sunrise. There was no question of their draconic parentage. Charka and Eucarion both slept exhausted, though for different reasons, as I stayed to keep an eye on the pups. I drifted aimlessly about the cottage biding my time till Eucarion was awake again and I could return back to the Manor and my work. I left him that morning with a fresh loaf of bread baked with idle hands.

Charka seemed astoundingly happy to see both of us when we came <s>home</s> back to his cottage from the first adventure he’s ever left her behind on. But her puppies needed her more than Eucarion did so he made the hard decision to leave her home. I find myself now sitting in his bed trying to balance Lulu, the runt, sleeping on my chest and my journal on my lap. Eucarion is fast asleep next to me with Charka at our feet and the rest of the litter nested between us. How the 11 of us fit on this bed is a miracle but one I will continue to secretly enjoy as some imitation of a family while it lasts as I know he intends to sell the pups as soon as they are weened.

Our adventure started as nearly every other, with an argument in the Rose Shell. I don’t know how many times we will argue over this monstrosity of the guild hall that Oranssi and Naligor have undertaken in the farmlands, but now even Eucarion is in on my frustration as now that they have decided to add a second story and its visible from the back porch of his cottage. Which up until now was one of our favorite places to unwind after a long adventure. It pains me that one of the last few places we had to ourselves now has this eyesore as a constant reminder of the charter.

The arguments continued on through the night as the necessity of revising the charter was brought back to light in the aftermath of Buin’s illiteracy.  The charter members present in this argument were all those present at its inception so there was little disagreement it needed further protection with the addition of the clause it needed to be read to be signed. Where the argument came in was some cockeyed concept of enchanting the charter paper itself to nearly the point of sentience. That nearly started a riot at the table.

Somewhere in all of this the booming acoustics of my Lady Frivolity was introduced to the din and I about had my limits. I asked Adi very pointedly across the table if he had perfected the spell to ward my room of all noise from the rest of the house. As much as I adore my ladyship, her extra-curricular activities with Albion produce an almighty racket. Oranssi decided to invite himself into this conversation with an infuriating comment about their lovemaking being a “celebration of life”. I couldn’t help but turn bitter and cold. I retorted that there would be no “life” out of that union. Been there. Tried that. Crossing the borders of species was foolish and a useless try as I had already discovered. I was fuming and heated I wanted to slap Oranssi across the face for such a callous comment in my presence. Eucarion immediately bristled and moved away from me at my comments. I don’t blame him for his reaction. I was just a reminder to him of why I was such a mistake. There was an awkward quiet across the whole table. It wasn’t entirely wide known that I had failed thoroughly in giving Eucarion a child but I think enough of them knew to make the silence uncomfortable.

He’s pulling away from me more and more each time we see each other. I think he’s realized that perhaps we can’t come back from this. The cracks in our foundation may be irreparable. It’s like watching the wildlife flee from a forest fire you can’t even smell burning.

Bless Frivolity for her raucous interjection proposing we strike out to the “Tower of 1000 Devils” the next day. None of us were opposed to some adventure but our curiosity about this place was slaked when Madam Saru explained the rumor was this was a prison created by the Priests of Stars for devils of all sorts. Sounded like a place to sharpen my aim like fish in a very dangerous barrel.

What I did not expect was Madam Saru herself to volunteer to join us on this outing by grandiloquently penning her name to the charter. Madam Celeste Saru. We were all in a bit of shock but, I at least was wildly excited to have her as a travel companion. She and I have made a habit of a weekly tea. She is a rare friend in this town that I am honored to have. That, and her gossip is incomparable.

When it seemed the evening was coming to an end I, very intoxicated, convinced Adi to bespell my body into its elven form again with an excited rush. More steady on my legs now with this second try Eucarion and I rode to his cottage as quickly as we could to enjoy my temporary towering form despite his initial lukewarm reaction.

There is a violence in the dance that borders on disquieting when I am in that form. I thought it was just excitement the first time but with a second taste there is a predatory possessiveness that reminds me much too much of Garrick. All attempts at delicacy smashed in the throes of it. While these temporary romps are purely carnal in nature they were ultimately there as a way to convince Eucarion the body magic gave me was much more resilient than the one I was born with. I only wish his reaction to it all was more… considerate.

At breakfast the next morning we were greeted with the sight of Saru garbed for adventure. It was a shock to see her devoid of her hair trinkets and lavish cloth replaced with well-made trousers and a hapi coat and a unique holy symbol round her neck that appeared to be some derivation of Thanos. Of course though, she could not resist her painted face undeterred by the “roughing it” of adventure.

Rather than leer and flirt, Bob and Tim, treated Saru with the utmost deference and respect. Hmm so maybe they do have manners. Saru, astride a dignified white stallion, received the walls key as a small part of her holy symbol in its typical small flash. There we paused to, you guessed it, argue again, over how to get to the tower. Saru let it slip that Tempest and our R’kanna had ventured beyond the wall alone. I could see Eucarion stiffen in his saddle at that comment and I felt equally concerned that Tempest, her “guardian”, would even THINK it was safe for them to go beyond the wall alone.

After a comparison of a few maps including my copy of Ellura’s map we came to a consensus on our travel route. Out through First road to Hana’s Grove to the trail blazed by R’kanna and Tempest to the west bypassing Dark Mire. The goal was lofty but the company was ready and able. It had been quite some time since we had traveled that far.

The first day passed without excitement. The second day was a mess for Gryphon Bait. That poor horse. First we were brought to a screeching halt when his hoof fell through a poorly buried chest of goods. They seemed to be worth a fair amount but I let the rest of the party tend to the findings as I checked for damage to the beast himself. He lost a shoe in the incident but did not do any damage to the hoofwall. I will have to remind my Lady to have that tended to. While I could make play at a farrier it is not my specialty when it comes to my skills with animalkind.

Not too much after the incident with the crate Gryphon Bait came free from the cart. Eucarion and I bolted after him to bring him to heel between us. Upon returning to the cart with the spooked horse we discovered Saru “conversing” with the air. I only found out much later that evening a pixie had been the cause of the loosed horse. Makes me anxious about R’kanna’s new friend even more than I already am.

As the evening came, shortly before making camp, I could hear those disgusting grunts and croaks of bullywugs nearby so I snuck off through the woods to find the source. They seemed distracted by the hunt but there was a number of them enough to make me wish for something a little more secure than my bedroll. When I relayed to the party of our neighboring “friends” Adi suggested that we spend the night in his Mansion. I chuckled thinking he’d finally gone of the magick users deep-end but sure as the dirt under my nails that man had a damned traveling mansion. He conjured a small door that grew in a matter of moments. Once entered we found ourselves in a lavish palatial mansion.

I know I technically live in a mansion but I really don’t. I use the servants entrance at the back of the house and the small stairwell that leads to my room is directly across from the kitchen. I see the rest of Ramshackle Manor on my rounds but it’s not home to me. Home’s don’t have ceilings so high you need magic to sweep the cobwebs.

Adi’s Mansion was unsurprisingly well appointed for this man’s wealth there were even spectral servants in green and gold livery there to take our packs and guide us to a grand dining room where we were all fed ridiculously well. Most of them seemed at home enough in this mansion to be relaxed. Even Eucarion who seemed tense at first relaxed over the course of the evening. He looked like he belonged. And it made me remember that he did belong. This was the life he was used to. Rich foods and expensive fabrics. This was not for me, I felt like I was an imposter in this space. My simple clothes and unadorned face. I excused myself from the dinner table and found myself wandering through dark wood hallways trying to find which room my belongings had been brought to. Well… our belongs. It seems even without telling these invisible servants, Eucarion and I were given a room together. I climbed into the laughably large bed and drifted off into a restless sort of sleep. I did not find true sleep until I felt Eucarion join me in the sea of pillows and blankets.

The next morning is one that I will never forget. During a breakfast as fanciful as dinner one of the misty servants comes to tell Adi a package had arrived for him overnight. Odd. From my understanding this mansion does not exist on the material plane so…how? How did a package arrive? It put us all on edge. Curious, but on edge.  We gathered in the foyer and stared at this delicate velvet box wrapped in a blue foil ribbon, ominously beautiful. There was a sense that something living was inside. Eucarion and I reached out our magicks to see if we could discern what was in the box but it was neither a beast, fiend nor dragon. Adi sent the servant to open the box in case it was a trap and we were surprised by a hard-shelled iridescent egg. Saru used a spell to see into the egg to discover a small moth-like aberration. Out of curiosity or compulsion, who knows, I lifted the egg from the box to inspect it further. Upon lifting it into my cupped hands it hatched immediately and unfurled its chitinous body complete with iridescent mothlike wings matching its shell. My awe struck by its beauty was short lived as it crawled up my arm into my garb and to my back quicker than I could catch it. I squeaked and giggled ticklish from this creature’s invasion of my privacy. I was staring pleadingly up at Eucarion to help me coax the creature from his hiding place in the center on my back when it bit down. I shouted as I could feel its teeth? press into my spine latching securely down. I couldn’t help but let out a panicked whine as I felt it settle its body down the length of my spine becoming fully attached. In a shiver I could feel the creature’s wings unfurl behind me as tall as I. Curiously I could feel the wings now as if they were my own as easily as I could feel the presence of my own hand on my arm. Eucarion slid up behind me and asked if I had feeling in them as he gave the wings a gentle tug which caused the creature to tighten its grip on my spine. I yelped in affirmation and he backed away. With a short bit of concentration, I discovered I could manipulate the wings within a moment I was airborne. What a rush! Creepy spine munching creature be damned I was ready to accept my fate if I had the power to fly. I tested my maneuverability, by circling the foyer a few times ending in front of Eucarion.

I was so distracted by it all I did not notice the heated conversation of the rest of the group was having about my new “condition”. Saru, in a careful voice called to me and Eucarion reached up to snatch me by my ankle and bring me down to the ground. The madam explained to me in quiet controlled voice what the creature really was. Its intentions were to use me as a host to produce more of its kind like a parasite. As much as she tried to keep her voice calming and level I felt the anxiety built in my chest. She told me she could remove it and without hesitation I agreed she set to a quick grave looking ritual involving what looked like crushed diamonds. I grit my teeth as I felt it disconnect from me bodily and fall. Oranssi’s voice broke the silence of this terrifying moment with the utterance “But that was your chance to be a mother…” I could fill the rage build under my skin like lightning and let out a guttural scream. How fucking dare he belittle my loss. Our loss. Yes, hosting some extraplanar insect spawn’s parasitical offspring is JUST like having my own child with the man I have chosen to commit my life to. I stepped forward with my hand at the dagger on my hip but was quickly bypassed by Eucarion who stormed forward after pausing to squeeze my shoulder to give Oranssi a piece of his mind echoing every furious thought in my mind.

This event rattled both of us to the core but instead of finding comfort in each other’s company everything felt disjointed. The company traveled for several more days forgoing the mansion for the protective bubble when we came in to the invisible butler scrubbing a message written in blood off the walls. As we passed through the flower fields of Lady Hana’s Grove in search of the trailhead blazed by R’Kanna and Tempest I watched Eucarion pluck a few flowers here and there to start weaving a flower crown. I was flooded with the warmth of the happy memories. The smile on my face was wiped clean off when I watched him lose interest after a few chains and toss the flowers to the ground. I know logically, they were just flowers. But there was an undeniable symbolism in it all.

Not far into R’Kanna’s Trail we came upon a human corpse. After some inspection we discovered the source of his death was a dart laced with imp venom. What a foul way to go. I was ready to keep moving but Oranssi insisted we bring the poor corpse back to life to question it. Why?! Leave the dead, dead. But no, we had to be waylaid with this nonsense. The poor man came gruesomely shrieking back to life accusing us of being demons asking if we were there to cut him limb from limb. How did ANYONE think this was a good idea? In time he was calmed but then callously questioned on the nature of his death. (apparently by bullywugs) After extensive questioning we came to know that he was in fact a pirate of the ship Lulu Belle whom had been stealing shipments from merchant vessels coming into the bay. He tried to run but was detained by Oranssi for continued questioning resulting in some half truths about his captain hiding and/or retrieving chest of treasure for a “queen”. I can only imagine these foolish men had aligned themselves with the Goblin Queen. I was ready to slit this villian’s throat and move on but Saru insisted he be given another chance. She muttered some spell over him, bid that he follows all laws and regulations as an upstanding citizen of Shore Blossom and had him teleported back to Elder Yen’s Shop with a note pinned to his chest like a wee child traveling by coach alone.

That evening was particularly tense because it seems everyone had an opinion about how the pirate should have been dealt with and not quite everyone agreed. The tension was shifted when I could suddenly sense a wave of small forest creatures pouring through the forest out into the clearing we were camped in. My head was ringing with panicked cries describing the “earth swallowing them”.  In the moment it took me to rack my brain of what they could be talking about I felt the earth shudder below us. At the edge of the clearing I watched the earth open below a poor rabbit and swallow it whole. Naligor shouted it out before I could. It was a bulette. Natures scourge against halflings. No halfling child has grown up without their mother or aunt threatening them with the idea that a bulette would come eat them if they did not do their chores. I had hoped the predominant percentage of elves in the party would deter its attack as they are not fond of elf meat but I was so wrong. It honed in on my scent and came up through the earth directly below me. Its snapping maw came down on my legs and I was trapped there in its ever tightening jaws until in a group effort the creature was demolished.

Eucarion immediately knelt and lifted me into his lap still shaky and buzzing with energy from the fight as he tended to the deep cuts across my thighs. I could feel the struggle under his skin to stay calm under his dutiful ministrations. I dared not make a noise or move too fast under his trembling hands as I fear he would be undone. Originally, I was elated that he rediscovered his confidence with a sword after what he went through in the war. I can see how the detachment from death a bow affords could be comforting after being subjected to the horrors of the Wicker’s Ree massacre. Death at a comfortable distance, not the gore infused intimacy of melee. But, rather than confidence, the sword in his hand bred an undeniable frantic darkness in him.

While he tended to my wounds the rest of the party recovered a stunning gold-plated cutlass and another body bound by shackles from the belly of the beast. We made assumptions this corpse was the pirate captain we were told about earlier. Oranssi made to revive this corpse too and was met with negativity for his views on “casual necromancy” so he moved on grumbling the whole way.

As if this adventure was not bizarre and horrifying enough the morning of the fifth day met us with one last challenge before our white jade keys decided we’d have enough of this nonsense. The sun was bright and the air was invitingly warm. From above we heard a distant neigh. I immediately had the pleasant expectation of seeing a pegasus but was disturbed to see it was in fact a giant roc carrying a horse in its talons. Definitely not a pegasus. With a shriek the roc dropped its prey from such a great height. Albion was SURE he could save the horse by catching it. I don’t think he will ever look at horses the same after the falling steed hit him with such force it burst like a stewed tomato. The poor minotaur was soaked head to foot in offal. I shot off an arrow of lightning into the roc before running off to calm Albion’s hysterics. I watched as Eucarion tangled the bird in vines and pull it down to the ground for the rest of the party to finish it off. Saru landed the killing blow with her rapier. She is quite the talented fighter I would have her in my party any time. I did not think I could have more respect for her but I was wrong. She is as strong and smart as she is sensual and coy. The keys started to glow and I had only the briefest moment to hurriedly explain to Saru what was about to happen before we were transported back to the field by the gate and that was that.

Eucarion fusses in his sleep more and more lately. It’s not the violent nightmares he has had in the past. He’s not kicking and screaming and bolting upright. He sighs and frowns and his brows knit together in the deepest sadness. I haven’t asked what he dreams of because the moment he wakes he leaves the bed rarely to return to it. He will tell me when he’s ready just as I will tell him mine when I am ready.

View
Log I : Day 38
Eucarion's Journal

CW: Feelings whump, children whump, sex.

<meta />

TW: Discussion of miscarriage.

It had been three days since I’d last seen Odiri. Seen properly, in any case. I’d see her around town, but there was always some business to be attended to, or she would be gone before I could catch up. I was beginning to fear she was avoiding me purposefully. Had I truly hurt her so badly our last meeting? I feared the worst, praying my premonitions had not again been true. But the hiatus was broken by a letter, her sending word that I should meet her at the Rose Shell in preparation for a new expedition. So it was under these circumstances I found myself drinking alone at the Rose Shell like some jilted suitor.

I’d never really appreciated the fine art of people watching, but in an essential instant, it became the greatest activity in the world. Albion entered through the great doors, accompanied by a human man. Illyrian, for certain. A scholar, perhaps, by the fine cut of his clothes, but looking absolutely worse for the wear. I know the look of a man with the sole intention to drink, and he got right to business. He was introduced as Biun Odachi as Madam Saru came around to get him settled with all her usual courtesies, ordering over Maiden’s Breath for him to sample. A moment of recognition flashed across his face as he took the drink from her, dismissing her curtly with, “Yeah, you fucked my dad. Get out of my face”.

If pins e’er were dropped, that would’ve been the moment to hear them.

With far, far more patience and composure than was rightly deserved, Saru had him removed from the premises. I’ve never in my entire residency in Shore Blossom seen the Madam so spoken to. Members of our company have quarreled with her, sure, but never with such bold insolence and open disrespect. He clearly knew who she was, to make such an accusation, but to do so to her face! She’s a mightily powerful woman…

The muttering calm that resumed in the teahouse did not last terribly long, as another new face entered. A tall, slender elvish woman. Flame red hair, bright green eyes, wearing the colors of my house (though this fact did not occur to me until I saw those same clothes in a discarded heap on the floor). Stunning girl, and I found my faith wavering more than I care to admit. No, I was waiting for Odiri. She approached with some attempt at grace, but I could tell that something was not quite right. A elven woman of good breeding carries herself like a feather over water. This woman… Not quite. Without invitation, she took a seat beside me, eyes coy. But when she opened her mouth to speak and out came Odiri’s voice, the dots connected and it finally occurred to me what I was seeing.

I cannot say that I reacted with much decorum. No, not much at all.

It took embarrassingly little implication from her to catch on her intentions. Or, rather, what I presumed her intentions were in that moment. And what intentions I still hope they were. I can conceive, of course, the broader reasons why she would take on such a transformation. Curiosity, sure. Avoidance of pains, alright. Jealousy, even. I pray it is one of these and nothing more. I understand very well why she might desire to take the form of an elf and all the benefits of the race it would grant her, but I refuse myself the option of entertaining such thoughts. It would be an elegant solution, but at the cost of what? What then of the halfling I fell in love with? What then of Odiri?

We made to exit, but fate decrees I cannot have my simple pleasures. Bumi, everloving gigolo, left his stage and saddled himself up across the table. He did not recognize Odiri at first in his flirtations, but was quickly clued in by her voice and my palpable annoyance. She played along, citing that she was always welcome to “good company”. Bumi carried on with the most trivial little conversation imaginable, cutting into what limited time I knew Odiri had in this shape. I thought I might murder him. When he and Odiri were satisfied in mocking me, she commanded him away, off to a horribly distracted drum performance, leaving me to whisk her off her shaky legs and up the stairs.

Though Saru gladly gave us a room, I ended up paying up more than a few extra coins for the unfortunate state we left it in. It started when I bit Odiri’s newly elven ear and she put her foot through the footboard in surprise. (Serves her right, for all the times she’d done it to me. Now at least she understood the sensitivity firsthand). It all went downhill from there exceptionally quickly, in that destructive abandon that was so essential an aspect of my typical exploits.

No, here I must give pause. Typical? With Allaya, yes, but that… That is a time long past now. Even my most feverish of courtings with Odiri could never compare to what violent hells Allaya and I took out on each other’s bodies. But her new elven body bid me bold, free to handle without self-imposed restrictions of safety and care. That old savagery, mingling with that newfound hum beneath my skin. I am not that man any longer, but I fear I am becoming him again…

By the time the spell ended and Odiri was restored, we were madly satisfied. We bathed together, sloughing the wicked stench of sex from ourselves and relaxing a moment before returning to “good company”. As Odiri rested against my chest, small form perfect in the nest of my limbs, I saw clearly her arm and the litter of blue flowers that graced it. Genuinely, I had not noticed it before. Too much blood run out of my head, I suppose. I have never found myself approving of tattoos. Unnecessary stains on the body, marks on flesh that should be pure of indignities. But, this…these, were not so. It was not a matter of inessential distinction, not of shame. It existed there as an acknowledgement of suffered pain, but gratitude for having lived it at all. I knew what our child meant to her. What she had meant to us. I raised her arm out of the water, cradled it gently in my hand, running my fingers over where the ink had raised the skin. Asters. Aster. She would guide every arrow that arm ever pulled. Odiri leaned her head back against me, casting her eyes up in expectation of my response. The weight of permanence sat heavy on my throat. What was there to say in the wake of loss? “It’s beautiful” was all that I could manage, the sentiment unspeakable. From how she relaxed into my arms, I knew that it was understood.

Returning to the lobby of the Rose Shell at last, we were greeted by Albion, Frondel, Z’embre, and a hooded figure who had joined our table, introducing himself as “Rennwick”. Bullshit was called almost immediately, attention drawn to the fact that, in our absence, he had been allowed to sign the charter. Without reading it, without any sort of interview, and with his false name. I was absolutely livid. Biun attempted to escape, but Madam Saru conjured servants to barr the door out. He attempted to explain himself, citing some troubled past, until he was rightfully shut up by Madam Saru. “Oh my god, nobody cares.” She laid into him with deadly composure, decreeing that not only would he re-sign the charter with his real name, but he would go on every single possible charter outing that he could until he was dead. The power in her voice put a chill down my spine. Goddess’ mercy, what a woman.

Order somewhat restored, Odiri briefed the party. Blood Spatter may no longer occupy her tower, but many other sorts of evil do. Our task would be to go through it and clear it of all that we had bypassed in our initial combat. Bizarre group assembled, we retired for the night.

At dawn, we breakfasted as usual. As we prepared to open the case, R’Kanna came jaunting down the stairs, accompanied by a small white cat she introduced as Dewdrop.  Everyone seems to be acquiring pets these days. I crouched down to speak to it, but was greeted with a series of literal “meows” and nothing more. Odiri seemed similarly confused, so, from what I could tell at that moment, it was somehow enchanted. When I inquired the source of her strange new companion, R’Kanna admitted that she and Tempest had gone beyond the wall themselves. I couldn’t believe her! To go out there in the dangerous wilds! Tempest is a perfectly capable guardian, I’m sure, but there are things out there that neither of them would know how to handle. I scolded her at length and demanded that if she wanted to come on this adventure, without her designated guardian (Where was she anyway? Huh! Some guardian!), she would take the invincible scabbard. It’s a little silly now, I realize, to hand such an item to one of the more physically hardy members of the charter, but I cannot help but be protective. She is just so very young.

We finished distributing weapons and headed out to The Wall. If it were up to me, Biun would have gotten nothing, but I digress. As we passed by Tim and Bob, they gave their greetings, Odiri retorting as usual that “Timothy” and “Robert” made no passes at her. This time, Tim shouted back that “It’s generally not a good idea to hit on the Commander’s woman!”. I couldn’t help but sit a little taller in my saddle at the comment. That’s absolutely fucking right she is. About damn time that it was acknowledged.

As we passed to the other side of The Wall, Biun received his mark as all newcomers did, but the event was overshadowed by the suddenness with which Dewdrop transformed from a cat into a pixie. Ah, I knew something wasn’t quite right. She was terribly sweet, in the way most pixies are before they play tricks. I wasn’t a fan at first, but I saw with what sincerity she complemented Odiri, and that turned my opinion. If she is something to give Odiri enough pause to smile, then I suppose I can accept her. In any case, I’m glad that R’Kanna is finding friends, however odd.

The journey of six days went quickly and mostly without incident. The mood was light and merry, a sort of peaceful stasis accompanying travel into the wilds. Ironic, I think, that the most grievous misfortunes to befall us have all occurred within the city’s walls rather than outside it.

On the final night before reaching the tower, watches were something of a disaster. Frondel insisted on taking the first watch with R’Kanna. It is one thing to understand nefarious intentions in a man, but the lack of subtlety in boys! Good god, what it is to be young and insatiable. I wouldn’t let him near her and scolded him away, to which he responded by sassing me and calling me “dad”. The comment left me with enough of an uncomfortable feeling that I stepped off the issue, though Odiri rallied up right behind me and give him an earful of her own in my moment of stunned silence, threatening to stuff his testicles in his mouth if he so much as put a hand to our dragonborn. Heavens help me, at least my actual son is an upstanding lad. If Frondel were any child of mine, I’d have long ago put him out of his misery and spared the filial shame.

Bumi took the middle watch with me, a terrible fate I secured for myself for Odiri’s sake. He’d made more than a bit of a suggestion that perhaps all three of us should take the watch together. I promptly sent Odiri to bed. Though… I’d… consider him. He’s not unattractive, by any means. Exotic, for certain. Talented with his hands…. But for the sake of fidelity that I’ve already tarnished once too many in my lifetime, I’ll practice self-control. Besides, I imagine he’s about as insufferable in bed as he is in life. He spent most of the evening rattling on about the possibility of chipmunk companions and attempting to befriend Charka. Attempting! Succeeding! Charka, in her delicate hormonal state, was all over him. One would think she would be satisfied in getting hers (getting 8 weeks of hers…). I regretted bringing her along, in some ways. So heavily pregnant, she couldn’t do too much. Must be quite a few pups. She’s never been pregnant before, and I must admit that I have little experience in animal husbandry. Selfishly, I drug her out because I couldn’t be without her. So many years of loyal companionship tend to breed attachment. And, well, if something were to happen, wouldn’t that be unfortunate for V. Gates… Sweet mercy, that’s awful. I must be better than that, especially with what has all happened. Too much darkness already clouds my mind these days.

In the morning, we gathered ourselves. Odiri seemed particularly displeased with Biun. He never had my trust to begin with, but if Odiri didn’t trust him either, that certainly solidified it. We hunted and, returning with good catch, were greeted by the sight of R’Kanna, Dewdrop, and Albion all weaving flower crowns for one another. My heart stirred with the force of memory merging with present vision, blending the two into a sweet mess of warmth. I spent the rest of the morning feeling unusually tender with the thought. I long for that simple happiness. I truly do. But even if the cracks in the pottery are sealed up with gold, the cracks remain all the same.

Entering the tower from the ground level, we found the first floor clear, already handled by a previous outing of others of our company. We traversed our way through, surrounded by scuttling of creatures in the walls around us. Rising carefully up the stairs, we were met by a long stone hallway of pitch darkness. Odiri illuminated a lamp and hooked it onto Albion’s horns, putting him in the middle of the party, then took the lead. I knew she was best among us to sweep for traps, but it still unnerved me that she was at the front. A terrible sense overcame me that could not be shaken. I kept close behind, at the ready. The path became so narrow that we were forced to march single file through the rest of the black and white tiled floor.

At the end of the passage, an iron door. Odiri pressed her ear against the door, listening and sensing for what might be inside. No fiends inside, but there was something afoot among us. She attempted to explain what she had sensed, the danger not necessarily immediate, but the shuffle of bodies inside the closed room put us on guard. Bumi donned the spider slippers to maneuver his way up to the ceiling, Frondel cloaked himself invisible, and the rest of us readied to rush. Odiri forcefully kicked open the door,

And from there it all went downhill. She was thrown back with an immense force, hitting the cold tile with the unmistakable crunch of tiny bones succumbing to pressure and unnatural angles. The sound resonated like a struck drum on my ears and on my heart, thrumming wildly at the sight of her injured form. Bumi, knocked unconscious by the blast, fell from the ceiling into a heap of death, narrowly missing her. I made my choice. Someone else would have to deal with him. I lunged forward, taking Odiri in my arms and flooding healing coolness into her until she was brought back to awareness. I set her on Xiao and was about to send him off to the back of the line with her, until her arm reached out in an unconscious gesture, brushing me off and affirming her position. My love is a fighter.

R’Kanna grabbed Bumi’s near-corpse and dragged him back, prying open his jaw and forcing a healing potion into him, returning him to life with a sputter. Albion ran in to strike first at our foes four large ogre zombies, reeking and furious. Odiri, senses regained but body still broken, slid off Xiao, sending him in with a flurry of claws to take one of the orcs down as she tossed Bumi her last potion. Foolish, but charitable.

Z’embre was next into the fray, unleashing an arcane spell of fire through her maul. Had she used magic before? I cannot recall. I was not aware that minotaurs could, much less something so ancient in form. Biun, to his credit, did a bit of good, casting a charm on one of the ogres and commanding him to stay put, opening up a window for attack. Bumi, healing himself with Odiri’s potion, took his chance. Furious with lightning-clad rage, he rose up on a nimbus of wind, shooting upside down through the door, cloak fluttering behind him. Reaching into the kimono of stars, he cast down a comet into the room, nailing an ogre down enough for my arrow to shoot in and fell it from a distance. I knew there was no way for me to enter the room, it being so small, but more than that, I could feel the hum rising beneath my skin. I wanted nothing more than to be in there, cleaving my sword into flesh until it was split from bone. But I caught R’Kanna in my periphery, just standing in that moment from having aided Bumi, and all the soft worry of her, the care. There is something in that brand of my violence that I cannot help but want to shield her from. I know there is something monstrous it in.

Whatever benign illusions preoccupied me in the moment enough to halt the humming were shocked apart by R’Kanna deftly chucking a hatchet into the room, slamming it into the skull of one of the ogres, doing enough damage to it that Z’embre could finish the thing off with another whiff of fire. Things settling down, R’Kanna raised her voice to timidly ask Z’embre to retrieve the axe. “It’s gross.” If I were not so occupied by a whirl of other thoughts, I might’ve laughed. Ah, there’s that gentle girl.

The company herded into the room and almost immediately began to argue. Odiri was severely injured enough to need rest if we wished to proceed through the tower, and I fought her case. I was surprised that Bumi did not want to rest as well, considering he’d damn nearly died. But the matter was put to a vote and it was settled that we would remain a few hours. Odiri slammed shut the door, re-arming the trap to protect us inside the room from whatever still might remain beyond. When she moved to work on the other door, our exit further into the tower, she found a set of lockpicks in her hands. I knew factually that she had no such thing in her possession, and questioning the matter earned a wry look at R’Kanna, who turned meek and tried to hide behind herself. Where in the world could she have gotten such a thing? Odiri and I exchanged knowing looks, agreeing to investigate the matter later. She finished the door, leaving a single pin unturned for the “morning”.

I did not need to rest much, drifting in and out of consciousness as my body needed, monitoring the corners others were not watching when awake, deaf to their conversations. Odiri rested against Xiao, myself beside her, healing her in her sleep as the energy came to me. It’s something of a terrible thing to have attachments. They make you unreasonable in battle, forgoe strategy and reason. It’s done me wrong before, more than once. But, gently running my calloused hands through her soft curls, I cannot learn. Some part of me, no matter how beaten the rest of my body becomes, will remain as soft.

I left Odiri’s side only for my turn on the watch, spent mostly poking around holes in the wall, discovering little caches of treasure nestled away by unknown monsters. R’Kanna— perhaps my shuffling woke her— timidly inquired for the platinum I had found. She promised it would be returned. She only wished to sleep on it, build her little hoard for the evening. I chuckled with amusement when I handed it all over. The coupling of ferociously ancient draconic instincts and the meek politeness with which she’d asked was so delightfully incongruous that I found my heart warmed. I remarked that it was odd that she would prefer platinum over something closer to the native color of her scales, but she explained that she liked the way it caught the light more. Every shift of a coin, like lighting, her eyes bright with wonder as she spoke. Vibrant. Innocent.  

I… am aware, of what I am doing. I know fully well the shape of the hole that was punched into my chest, and it is an emptiness that this dragon child satisfies in the simplemost of measures. It’s one thing to understand that losses must be coped with by some means. That is fact. Its another thing entirely to put the truth of the matter into words. It becomes more real that way, gives it power in acknowledgement, meaning in admittance. I have yet to come clean with myself. Odiri, too. We both do it, and not a word between us. I do not think it need ever be spoken, what exact business we have occupied our placeless feelings with. The space between us would again turn miserable after we so delicately found some peace. This way, at least, we can subsist on scraps of what affection might’ve been. I know that we can never really be satisfied.

My mock paternal joy came to a grinding end when R’Kanna asked what I fully expected she might. Of course, sweet babe, she would ask. Why Odiri was suddenly looking so thin again, why we had become so quiet of each other, so careful in company. Had the baby come so soon? Had we found another way? A surrogate? My heart seized up at the thought. Nobody knew, of course. We'd be the last to speak of it. And, until then, nobody had asked. Why should they, for such a delicate subject? R’Kanna’s admirable innocence is the very thing that would not stop her from inquiring so openly. A cruel irony. I stammered over my explanation, but the dam of my emotions held as I told her, avoiding the cleanest words, directing thought through implication. She understood, and immediately her expression fell into confronted despair. I wished I had not told her at all, kept her in blissful ignorance if to avoid seeing any sadness come across her bright face. That was not possible, of course. She would eventually have come to know, by means less kind.

The pixie was the last I expected to intervene, but she flitted over to us, soothed R’Kanna as I retreated into my thoughts, fighting off further darkness. She offered kind words of encouragement, speaking to our dragon girl but looking at me as she said them. Perhaps there was another way. After all, there were great fey capable of granting wishes. The persistent swells of honesty overcame my hard-built barriers of thought in that moment, and I let slip that it was not a matter of a wish or not, but the lack of one there entirely.

It is a second-time admittance to write this, but that was the bare truth. I will not bring more children into this world. I’ve accepted that this vile body cannot sire goodness. Something is broken within it. How many times had I tried with Allaya? How many children unborn did we bury in ornate little graves of glass so small that they could be held in a hand? Tannion was a miracle of a suffering century, granted by fate’s mercies only to quit Allaya’s existential weeping and not for any sake of mine. And still, I cast them both aside. It killed her. And he, blessed boy, went on better without me than with me in his life at all. I knew this all when Odiri came into my life. Only for her sake did I concede a second chance, knowing it would end in misery. And for that mislaid trust in my goodness, my ability, we again were punished. There, again, a hand-sized grave in my marshes, a bundle of my sins, an affirmation of my foul heart. I know that no amount of prayer or penance can save my soul or grant to me the only gift my love desires, but Odiri… She can be still be spared of me.

I tried to put us off the subject, asking what R’Kanna might wish of a fey, but here too my attempts fell short. She replied that she would wish a solution for her friend (Tempest she meant, perhaps), who has found love in a place of disparate lifespans and bodies. It hurts me to have cut her off, and the guilt still shames me now, but I could hear no more of it. The matter rang far too close in pitch to my own dilemmas. Dewdrop, seeing my distress, offered mercy in the form of a prank on the sleeping company. Instantly. R’Kanna brightened. There, that childlike joy. I shakily accepted, forcing my thoughts aside, and we set to frivolous work. As Odiri rose for her watch, hair hilariously teal, I feel into a sleep so dreamless that I would have preferred a nightmare.

As the party all woke, examining one another’s bizarrely colored hair with amusement and surprise, R’Kanna and I took some silly pleasure in observing everyone’s reactions, mood lightened just enough to function. Biun gave an excitable remark to the matter of the novel experience of breakfasting in a dungeon, only to be met with collective sighing and erratic scraps of knowing laughter. Get used to it, buddy.

Odiri cracked open the exit door, and in the next room, we came upon a kiln. The place had obviously been used for the crafting of weapons, as was confirmed by the discovery of parchment plans for a truly wicked looking sword. We collectively agreed that Adi would understand these best. Biun, however, protested wildly, arguing with no sparing of uncharacteristic eloquence that he should have a look. His tongue was silvered, Z’embre pointed out, as he’d tangled his mistruths and proved himself to stand against his own word more than once. Even called out so openly, he would not back down and admit to his lies, challenging our accusations. R’Kanna piped in, inquiring if we were having a witch hunt, and suggesting that the witch hunt should take place at home. The Wall must have heard her, because, in an instant, we were transported back to the gate. Still mistrusting, the plans were handed to Z’embre and Frondel for delivery as we all parted ways, bodies homebound and minds roiling with suspicion.

I cannot help but worry that this company will end in catastrophe.

View
Odiri's Journal Pt. 22
Adventure 38 - Blasted Tower

CW: moar super emotional character development + implied sex

TW: mention of miscarriage

 

While enjoying a morning of tea and continued talk of magick theory for my farmland project, Adi and I got onto the subject of Eucarion and I. The uncomfortable topic of my mortality came up. Adi is pragmatic in these things and suggested, of course, magical means of prolonging my life. I can’t lie that I have often thought about the disparate lifespans between he and I and what that ultimately means. I will die. He will not. He will watch me age and ultimately lose me to time. Until Adi mentioned a spell he had been working on to transform one being into another. In short he had the ability to turn me into an elf. While only temporary for now, Adi was sure in time he could perfect the spell to make it permanent.

This opened a whole world of possibilities to us. Time. Another try at a family.

Adi gave me a taste of this magick that afternoon and it was phenomenal. Strangely there was no pain as I watched my body stretch and fill out. My clothes seemed to morph with me as if the image I had in my head dictated the bloom of garments unfurling a navy skirt and a steel grey shirt laced and cuffed in a matching navy. I looked down at myself to see the same curves and dips of my body. The same freckles on every inch of skin. The only major shift was my hair. Before I cut it on the voyage here it was long and full and now it was back. The end result was just overwhelming. My sight was unbelievably sharp. What my slender pointed ears could hear was almost deafening the first few moments. I can’t imagine what it’s like being able to hear every little thing from the spider building its web in the window sill to the blood rushing through my own veins. Not to mention being nearly 3 feet taller. My first few steps were as wobbly as a newborn colt. Elven grace, my ass. I felt like could fall over at any moment at that height but very luckily kept my feet under me.

Adi warned me that the magic would only last for an hour so if I wanted Eucarion to see it I had to hurry. I slipped through the streets as fast and my new long legs could take me. When I faced the front door of the Rose Shell I paused smoothed my skirt and entered cool and composed. The reaction was priceless. No one recognized me at first. Everyone just seemed to wonder why Xiao had come to the Tea House alone. It was only Madam Saru that saw right through Adi’s magick. She greeted me with a smirk but did not give me away. It wasn’t until I spoke finding my voice unchanged that Eucarion who had been sitting at the carved table waiting for me looked up from his wine. He was expectedly flustered.

Bumi, on the stage, eyed me appreciatively as if I were a stranger and shifted to a sultry beat with his drums upon my entry. I find delightfully laughable even after I spoke and found my seat beside Eucarion he did not seem to realize it was me. Eucarion continued to stare at me mouth agape and I could hear his heart thud in his chest. I couldn’t help but laugh and kiss his cheek. That seemed to free him from his stunned stupor but his next words stung a bit. “But, why?” he asked. Why? I thought it would be obvious but I didn’t feel like addressing that question after spending a significant portion of my morning discussing my own comparatively imminent death so I distracted him a flirtatious wink and suggestive whispers of a limited window of “activities”

After completely puzzling Albion, sweet dim soul, and jokingly flirting with an oblivious Bumi who had joined us at the table, Eucarion stood from the table insisting we not waste any of the time I had left in this form. Saru very generously offered us a room for the afternoon, and we enjoyed some very unique advantages to my temporary dimensions.

It wasn’t until after I had transformed back to myself and we shared a private bath that Eucarion spoke up about my new tattoo. After our loss I needed something to remind me. Something to fill that empty place in my heart. I know ink on my skin will not change what happened and will not magically bring our first attempt at being a family back but seeing the flowers of her namesake permanently on my bow arm reminds me to stay strong despite it all. He held my arm above the water delicately and stroked his thumb over the delicate blue asters littering my forearm and said simply “It’s beautiful”. I know I am not the only one feeling the loss. He tries not to show it but I know he grieves as much as I do.

We gathered our discarded clothes and rebottled emotions before returning downstairs to the company of others. There was quite a scuffle over yet another new face. I say face but he had it mostly concealed. My mind was mostly elsewhere so I missed a majority of the scuffle apparently this new fellow that was eventually identified as Buin Odachi had signed the charter under a false name while Eucarion and I were otherwise occupied. We were rightly angered and demand that he re-signs the charter with his true name or forfeit the benefits. The little shit had the gall to make a snide comment about my height. I almost didn’t want him to re-sign so when the prat inevitably died beyond the wall for some foolish act we could leave him there to rot.

His crude commentary made me ache for that tall leggy body to be mine permanently even faster. I was whipped from my self-pity induced daydream when voices started to rise around me. Saru was verbally attacking Buin for his transgressions. Never have I seen Saru so cutting in her words. She has always been the voice of reason among us. She continues to surprise me in the best of ways. With Buin cowering with his tail between his legs and tasked by Saru with going on every adventure he can with us as retribution for his transgressions and false intentions until he dies, we retired for the evening with plans to continue to clear Blood Spatter’s tower at first light.

While filling my packs for the upcoming journey with honey cakes I was wildly delighted to see our precious R’Kanna sneak down the stairs with a lovely white cat following behind her. I’ve never been fond of cats myself but I thought I would greet the cat as it seemed to be her pet. Eucarion and I went up to greet her and she introduces the cat to us as “Dewdrop” but something was not right. When he and I turned our attentions to the cat rather than the common we heard in our head when speaking to animals we were greeted with “meow” by Dewdrop. I thought in the moment that maybe R’Kanna had found herself a little pet that had been a touch…simple.

R’Kanna had a mischievous smile on her face which Eucarion dug out of her was due to the fact that she had SNUCK OUT! Tempest was apparently still snoring away in their room. What a guardian she is that she sleeps hard enough to let a dragonborn sneak out. Eucarion chided her in a very paternal fashion for sneaking out behind Tempest’s back again and insisted she take the sword and sheath from the glass case to keep her safe. Though she is merely 5 years my younger I feel as protective of her as he does. She sparked a maternal cord in me from the moment I met her. I don’t know if it was because we met her shortly after I had discovered I was pregnant but it’s both heartwarming and breaking to watch him with her. I can’t help but wonder if he would have been like this with our own child.

Our ride to the gate was pleasant if not a little chilly as the weather has slowly shifted from the heat of late summer to the breezes of fall. I had no choice but to continue to give Tim and Bob shit because it was a ritual at this point. What I wasn’t expecting was for them to retort back “It’s generally not a good idea to hit on the Commander’s woman!” I had no witty comeback to sling because I was stunned into silence. No one has ever really openly acknowledged our relationship like that. We’ve never been discreet about our affections but somehow hearing these inconsequential people say it outloud (and shout it at that) startled me.

As we traveled I pulled up to ride beside the cart to catch up with R’Kanna only to see her Dewdrop transform into a fucking Pixie. I knew something was off with that damn cat. I was hesitant with this creature as their folk are tricksters of the grandest kind. What I didn’t expect was the exclamation from this wee thing of how “tall” I am! I was ready to be upset with more taunts about my size until I realized Dewdrop was being sincerely complimentary. I suppose I could put up with that pixie for a bit if she is going to be sweet like that but I still worry about her influence on R’Kanna. She’s so susceptible to suggestion I don't want her to be led astray. The 6 days of travel was littered with Buin muttering to himself in the most infuriating way. My gut told me I cannot trust him and when my instinct speaks I know to listen.

The last night of camping before we tackled the task of the tower had me unsettled because Frondel was doing his damnedest to flirt with our R’Kanna. I wanted to strangle his scrawny neck. I may have been fairly intoxicated before bed but I vaguely recall giving him a stern talking to. I was regrettably saddled with Buin for my morning watch. I sat by the fire drinking my coffee listening to him muttering to himself at the edge of camp. He tried to cordial when he saw that I was awake but I wanted nothing to do with him. He is the first person I truly regret allowing to sign the charter. I made it clear that I didn’t trust him and went back to my watch.

Thanks to the last raid on the tower the 1st floor was clear and afforded us a quick entry the following morning. When we hit the second floor of the tower we were greeted by darkness. Never a good sign. Luckily I had the mask that Oranssi had crafted me and the magic lantern from the case. I lit the lantern and beckoned Albion to lean down and I hooked it to his horn to light the way for R’Kanna and the other who could not see in the dark. Much to Eucarion’s dismay I took the lead to check for traps in the dark. After a few dark halways we came to a door. It wasn’t locked in any way so I leaned my ear to it check for nasties on the other side. I stretched my magick out to search for fiends only to have it find Buin. It was just the tiniest spark in him but what was more disturbing was this spectral image of an anchor chain connecting him beyond. I had no time to focus on it as my ears were greeted by the noise of 4 massive shuffling bodies beyond the door. I alerted the rest of the party and quietly as possible before kicking in the door.

That was a mistake. I was so distracted by Buin that I had missed the pin trigger for an explosive trap. The moment the door was open I was hit with a blast of force. I hadn’t realized Bumi was wearing the the spider climbing slippers and standing nearly above me until that blast knocked his unconscious body onto me. I’ve never felt such intense pain all at once. I could feel several my own ribs break simultaneously. Each breath I took became increasingly harder until it felt like a stab every time i even attempted the smallest gasp. A cough brought blood to my lips. Dizziness overtook me. I had a moment to think ‘this will be a good death. I protected my people. I can accept this’ before Eucarion rushed to my side to heal me. I watched him come to focus as he held my face between his hands and flooded my body with that rush of ice water unique to our Persephone.

I grit my teeth as he lifted me to rest me on Xiao’s back until I could come fully to my senses.

I watched R’kanna burst into action and shove a healing potion down the throat of Bumi’s limp body. He came gasping back to this world and the guilt set in. My own distraction almost caused him his life. I slid down off Xiao stiffly to make my way back to the task at hand. Broken ribs or not there was still a room filled with what looked to be undead ogres shambling mindlessly towards the noise the explosion caused. Z’embre boldly dashed into the room to defend us while we tried to get Bumi to his feet. I tossed him my last potion before entering the fray at Xiao’s side. In a singular move between the two of us we downed the first of 4 zombies. The remaining three were downed with ease with killing blows by Eucarion, R’kanna and Z’embre respectively.

I fought as hard as I could despite every breath still feeling like fire. When all was said and done all I could do was ask politely if we could take a rest.

As they all argued about the safety of the room I reexamined the door that almost killed me and saw the pin would automatically reset when closed. Disregarding the parties squabbling I slammed the door shut knowing the other door to this room was locked and this was the safest place we could be. R’kanna slipped me a set of lockpicks she seems to have acquired with a quick pleading look and a request that I not tell Tempest. I flashed them at Eucarion with a disapproving look and nodded my head toward R’kanna. There was that paternal twist in his face again as we wordlessly agreed that we need to talk to her about where she had “acquired” these tools another time. Completely spent I took to the furthest corner of the room and curled up against Xiao before half of them even realized I had already shut the door. I curled my face against Xiao trying to hide my tears. I was in so much pain and riddled with guilt for missing such an obvious trap. Eucarion came to my side as soon as he mitigated watches and stroked my hair until I finally slept. He must have healed me further in my sleep as my breathing was much easier when I woke for my usual morning watch. I was stiff and sore but it wasn’t the overwhelming pain I was in when I slept. I tucked Eucarion’s hair away from his face while he was in his trance to kiss his forehead before setting my hand and R’Kanna’s lockpicks to the door at the far side of the room. It took me much too long to realize in the sleepy dark that my hair had been transformed to a brilliant teal. I shook it off as some sort of pixie prank and spent my entire watch trapped with Buin again completely ignoring him while I worked on the lock.

When everyone was finally up and awake I saw the rainbow of hair colors the Dewdrop had wrought. Fucking pixies. I popped the lock when everyone had finished their fill of what rations were left. The next room was a smiths workshop of sorts. Z’embre came across what appear to be plans of some sort for a magical weapon and insisted she take it back to the Scholar’s guild for Adi to appraise. I was fully behind this plan but Buin pushed to see the plans for himself. It seems I am not the only one who doesn’t trust him as in all his arguing and cajoling to see the plans he outed himself as a liar once more stumbling back and forth over his own half truths. At the peak of the argument The Wall decided it was time to go home.  

Exhausted and trusting Z’embre to keep the plans away from Buin I left the group standing there arguing. Two days straight of nature assisted sleep has righted me physically but my mind still just feels drained and tired. Maybe another hour in that elven form will lift my spirits.

View
Odiri's Journal Pt. 21
Adventure 35 - Towering Defeat

CW: 90% introspection and character development – don’t bother reading

 

A delightful evening in the Rose Shell was in order to continue the celebration of the defeat of Blood Spatter. I carved the smallest details I could manage on the table along the edge of the Mara with Eucarion sitting beside me plying me with “creative influence” aka Maiden’s Breath. Persephone bless me I needed the alcohol to be faced with the first Halflings I’ve seen since I left home.

The first was Andree. She was plain and quiet but mostly pleasant. I couldn’t help but be on edge though. I watched her weave her way through the tables to join us as I stared helplessly trying to recognize her. Thankfully there was no spark in her eye upon seeing me so she mustn’t be from home. I fear I may have come off belligerent and rude with most of my interactions with her but the fear that overtakes me at the mere thought of my ex-fiance finding me in Shore Blossom is overwhelming and has roiled in my gut since overhearing Tim & Bob comment on Bumi’s Halfling girlfriend. Who I now assume to be Andree even though she has not made mention of it. It turns out she is a monk and holds the same vague aloofness of Kodu including the linguistic challenges.

The second Halfling I did not recognize in person but I definitely recognize by his crest. A Darkfeather of the Darkfeather Rookeries. My mother would be faint with envy to know I met a Lord of the Darkfeather Family. Glyde was his name and he was in town to establish a Rookery. Which came with its own mess of implications. There was always this safety of knowing it took months for written word to travel due to the sea voyage but a direct raven line could cut that time in half which does nothing but make it easier for my parents to enquire around. I’m sure they are looking for me by now and once this rookery is established it just gives them one more place to write to in their search.

“Lord” Glyde is not what I expected as far as Halfling nobility goes. Sure he was blessed with the fine haughty features but his personality was friendly and joking. After his interview and inevitable signature on the charter he joined us for conversation and general revelry. One joke he chirped up with made my heart sink through the floor and my breath catch in my throat. It was an old one for sure. One every Halfling child knows. One that was originally told to me by Orynn. I don’t know how I remember a joke told to me by my brother 13 years ago but the way Glyde told it sounded so much like my brother I probably would have fallen if I was standing.

New folk aside we still had the matter of breaking the news to Soveliss that his plans to raid Blood Spatter’s tower to kill her would be for naught as we had already done her in, or so we thought though I get ahead of myself. Adi took one for the team to explain our success earlier that week but went on to explain we still has the Shadow Wolf to deal with as we believed he had taken up residence in the tower. Soveliss took it much better than we had all expected.  Oranssi stopped me before we left for the evening to gift me a delicate black leather mask. Not one for the bandit games of children any longer I stared at him perplexed until he explained, when worn, the mask would grant me the darksight of any elf. It was the first selfless thing I’d experienced from him in some time.

Breakfast that next day was…. odd. It came to my attention that Andree has a similar sweet tooth to mine and there was a mild scuffle over the honey cakes. I used my height advantage over her (while being tall as I was isn’t exactly an attractive quality among Halflings and landed me at the butt of many jokes it was wildly useful in this context) to steal the whole plate of honey cakes and keep them out of her reach. What I wasn’t expecting was Eucarion to sneak up behind me to use his own height advantage to steal a handful of cakes off the plate to give back to Andree. I did everything to quell the overwhelming feelings of jealousy of his kind gesture. I logically know he was just being nice to the newcomer but as rocky as our relationship has been of late I couldn’t help but question his motives in the moment.

As we all stepped forward to claim our preferred gear from the glass case Glyde and I reached for Makiko’s gloves in unison. I of course reached them first as I damn near towered over the Lord but I felt softened by how deeply he reminded me of my brother and handed him the gloves. Instead I took the leather armor and for the first time since we discovered it the bow at Eucarion’s insistence. He was so much more capable with a sword these days than the bow so as the predominant archer in the party he felt it would be best in my hands.

Our trip out to the wall started jovial with such a large party in tow but it soured by the time we hit the farmlands. I noticed a massive building being erected near the wall which Naligor took great pride in. He was so excited about a guild hall for “everyone”. Who the hell does he think “everyone” is? How was it that nearly nobody in the party was aware of the plans for it, if it was for everyone? It’s a disgusting misuse of what precious farmlands this city has access to! It takes a half acre to feed ONE FAMILY for a year and lets not disregard the multitude of newcomers added to the population that is just more mouths to feed. There are PLENTY of homes in the city proper for those that don’t want to live at the Rose Shell or the Temple.

Naligor tried desperately to explain that the farmer’s land that was being used was taken fairly because they were killed by cambian spies. What the fuck does that matter? The farmlands could have been split evenly between the neighboring farmers to continue keeping food on that land. Adi built his Scholar’s Guild in the city. Lady Frivolity has built her shrines and temples in the city and along the coast edge of the farmlands where she continues to grow food to offset the land consumption. Eucarion has his cottage against the marshes unsuited for crops. EVERYONE except the proprietors of this new guild hall have taken the farmlands into consideration. I’ve been working on a spell to accelerate crop growth for a few weeks now with the help of Adi but I believe he assumed it was for my pipe weed garden hidden behind Lady Frivolity’s stables.

I had been planning to fortify the crops of the farmland for some time now. I’ve watched my own tribe outgrow its own farming practices in favor of imported goods and barely survived the famine that resulted that winter when the croft roads were blocked by snow. I never want to watch parents have to choose if they are to feed themselves or their children again and I will continue to work to this goal for the rest of my life.

I was overwhelmed and frustrated by Naligor’s thoughtless behavior and spent the rest of my trip to the Gaia Shrine Waystation quietly riding beside Eucarion distracting myself with his polite conversation with Glyde’s Raven, Orchard. The normal tending to the waystation’s upkeep was taken up upon arrival. I was pleased that my stash of Maiden’s Breath was still secure under the floor boards which I promptly restocked before Eucarion and I went out to hunt for dinner.

I miss these hunting excursions. We used to go out fur hunting almost weekly just the two of us. Playing off each other’s strengths and skill. Sniping each other’s kill playfully the way we did when we met. Just thinking of that challenging smile over his shoulder warms my heart then makes it ache, for that smile just isn’t there anymore. Too much has happened. Too much has changed. I want so desperately to go back to flower crowns and sunset strolls but I know it cannot be.

The evening came and went without incidence. In the dark before sunrise after finishing my watch, I joined Eucarion at the small shrine in the clearing to pray. With black candles lit kneeling side by side we intoned our prayers to Persephone. Religion was still a foreign concept for me. My religion had always been the earth. It had been hard work and responsibility for one’s own actions. I’ve never prayed to a single deity until now, but with everything that has transpired I felt Persephone’s guiding hand with every action I took. But, while I felt her presence and trusted her guidance the physical action of praying still seemed forced, stiff and awkward. I cannot wrap my mind around why lighting a candle does anything. Why saying these long ago decided words proves my commitment to her and more or less than my own organic thoughts. I trust Serena and V.Gates to put my mind at ease the next we met but in that moment I had Eucarion to lean upon. If my hand faltered when I lit those candles, he steadied it with his own. If my voice tripped over the committing words his voice was close behind to pick up where I fell. This may not be the boisterous romance we started with but it is a love that extends beyond that of lust and desire to trust and compassion and…survival.

There was an unexpected reaction by our companions to Eucarion and I’s shift in faith. I expected aggression and condemnation for following a goddess of death but instead was met with a pleasant cheer. Oranssi seemed pleased that I had found religion at all and accepted Eucarion’s reconsecration with a cleansing rain shower that seemed lit from within with divine light. Yet another selfless act. Maybe dying did him well.

We traveled on for six straight days with no interruptions till we made it to Blood Spatter Snow Tiger’s tower.  The tower soared four stories tall with a single unguarded door.  It was decided as a group to scale the side to go straight to the top rather than fighting our way through 4 floors of hateful hellions. Everyone worked out their own queer ways to get to the top between magic and magical creatures while Adi used a spell to link us all telepathically. I decided to use Xiao’s innate strength to bring us up the side of the wall together but before we reached the top a loud rumbling shook us all.

At the top we were greeted by the sight of Naligor’s father, The Shadow Wolf completing a summoning spell. From a column of black smoke spilled the oh so familiar visage of Blood Spatter. I was angry I could have screamed. She was surrounded by another five weretigers that Adi warned the rest of the party not to kill as we had learned from our previous encounter with her. I brought up my magick to assail her with a well-aimed arrow only to feel her lash out through that energy and shatter the magick I was building. Our magicks were useless against her.

Out of the corner of my eye I witnessed a struggle of power between Naligor and his father as The Shadow Wolf attempted to wipe him from this plane. After Naligor brought his moonbeam down on his father reverting him back to the pathetic visage of an elf, he flickered in and out of existence for a moment then solidified with a determined grimace.

This was enough of a distraction to prevent me from fully dodging the spell unleashed by Blood Spatter hitting me hard enough to daze me. Through my haze I watched Adi slap a weretiger through the window we entered then watched Eucarion…snap. He threw himself into this battle with more intensity than I have ever seen. His aura was a violent thing, broken shards of pottery rattling in an iron barrel of bees. I feared him in this moment.

I snapped my focus to Blood Spatter’s throne which appeared to be the source of the magick quelling energies. I tried to let off a shot to shatter the stone set into the throne containing this power but upon meeting the surface my arrow shattered like glass. But for the first time since I slung that quiver on my back I witnessed the awesome power of these arrows as the pieces jumped up and knitted themselves back together to reform a solid arrow. Distracted again I was struck by a purple bolt of lightning stealing the life from my deepest core.

In the fray I apparently missed The Shadow Wolf leaping from the window in escape. No matter how hard we fought in the end it was for nothing. With a taunting screech for Soveliss to come find her in hell, Blood Spatter was gone in the same column of smoke that brought her. Her voice rang out the direction to “Kill them all” as we were confronted by the damning noise of a hoard of feet running up the stairs of the tower.

All I could think of was, did I kiss him goodbye before we came up this tower? Because in that moment I was sure we were all dead. I had finally steeled myself to fight to the death when the keys glowed hot and angry landing us back in the farmlands in one of the most violent transportations home the wall has ever given us. The party was a mess. Soveliss was letting loose volleys of violent magicks into the sky. Eucarion had fallen to his knees completely unhinged with a dark look in his eyes that shakes me even now. I couldn’t help but scream and kick at the dirt. So much work for nothing. I mounted Dusty and glared challengingly at Eucarion who mounted Collien and we raced at breakneck speed back to his cottage trying desperately to burn out this fever of battle that boiled within both of us.

The next morning, we plied the horses with apologetic grooming and sweet treats of apples and barley mash. They were subjected to much more than a hard ride through the fields. I still have no idea how Eucarion’s boot made it into the rafters.

View
Odiri's Journal Pt. 20
Adventure 34 - Blood Spatter's splatter

In some facade of peace and attempts at returning to the way things were before the last few weeks…months, Eucarion and I had decided upon losing ourselves in the distract of labor. We had just finished tanning the giant boar hides and planned to used them to build a new waystation at the mouth of the Mara against the west end of The Wall.

Adi was a delightful help in making plans for this waystation. He, Eucarion and I spent the afternoon discussing options for design and protection over a bottle of wine at the Rose Shell. I almost felt normal again. I think I even laughed. I mean, really laughed. Not the fake smile and chuckle I wear like a theater costume. I have to keep up the act. No one likes a gloomy Halfling. The wine helped. Shaking that poppy daze in the company of others is harder than I imagined.

The afternoon show was a talented drummer. Obviously a coast dwelling fellow from the wind beaten salt soaked nature of his whole person. Turns out this fellow was a newly accepted charter member according to Adi, by the name of Bumi. I look forward to Elura’s reaction to yet another performer stealing her stage. I adore the woman so and miss her deeply. She had done so much to help Eucarion and I. It’s a shame the plan did not come to fruition.

Albion brought us the company of his cousin. Z’embre was slight for a minotaur Eucarion tells me. She must be young. The first words at me struck me like a slap. “I’ve seen babies bigger than you” She had no way of knowing how much that statement stung which was ultimately the only reason I let Eucarion keep me from launching clear across the table. I am truly over new folks in this town.

I distracted myself with wine and Bumi’s drumming while Z’embre was “inducted”. One more child to attempt to keep from dying from some misguided romp beyond the wall. I sound like some jaded old crone but at this point all attempts at enjoying what youth I had left in me drowned in the seas that brought me here. It’s foolish to look back now and think I left home to “enjoy” my fresh years away from the placid drawl of village living, away from the coddling of my parents and away from the violent hand of my fiancé. To come to this? Death at every turn, tension and mistrust amongst everyone even the charter, and this broken cup of a love affair that I attempt to keep pouring tea into only to find my hands scalded with my mistakes. 

I digress, this pipe makes my words wander so.

Albion and I spent the evening sharing some Maiden’s Breath and a few “laughs” before I had to return back here to the manor. As much as I love my job as Lady Frivolity’s head of security and relish in the feeling of usefulness I have come to resent this room in its cold colors and rich fabrics. I do my duty. I walk the perimeter. I lock each window and door. I check on my Lady’s wellbeing before she retires. I walk the perimeter. I check the lock on each window and door. Over and over. I feel like a mill horse walking in circles to the benefit of its master. It was all muscle memory at this point I could probably walk this whole thing blindfolded. If I can do it under the influence of this flowery smoke, I could do it blindfolded.

Eucarion knows about the opium but has kept his disapproval vague and indirect. I suppose it’s because I keep only to my pipe weed in his presence because he seems significantly less distraught over that than the poppies. For a man who suffers as many nightmares as he does I am surprised he has such a distaste for such a natural cure. As much as Soveliss warned me not get involved with the stuff I can’t see why people are so resistant to such a natural thing. It’s not like some those mysterious alchemic powders from Asoka.

I think the curtains here are Asokan Silk. I hate these curtains. I miss the plain cotton that flutters in the evening breeze above our bed. Is it still “our” bed? I don’t live there anymore. Am I allowed to lay claim to anything in that house anymore?

* a spill of ink obliterates the remainder of the journal entry the next entry is dated several days later*

We finally killed that bitch! Blood Spatter Snow Tiger is DEAD. Struck down with might of my love’s blade. I can’t believe we have finally defeated that fiendish mess of a woman.

We left bright an early as always with a beautiful breakfast courtesy of Madam Saru as always. I loaded up on the honey cakes as always and fetched a few apples for the horses and away we went. Tim and Bob were repulsively sweet on our newest female to the party as usual. I cannot wait to beat them within an inch of their lives at the Harvest Festival tournament for their callous treatment. Am I so unattractive to them that they favor a cow to me? My bubbling anger was quelled and replaced with fear when I overheard them inquire after Bumi’s halfling girlfriend. While I know the chances of her being from my village are slim, any chance of Garrick finding me here are terrifying. The last thing I need to deal with is Eucarion being tried for murdering my ex-fiancé.

I am glad our travels to the camp at the Mara where we planned to make the waystation were unfettered as my mind was entirely distracted the entire day’s trip with the thoughts of my homeland. The guilt of leaving my parents without word of my existence for the better half of a year ate at my heart. I’ve tried to write to them a hundred times but I cannot risk them trying to find me or worse yet sending Garrick to fetch me back.

The evening was a pleasant distraction of bickering between Bumi and Eucarion in a contest of height. A game I know I have no edge on doomed to always be the shortest in the party. Pained with the occasional elbow to the head or knee to the back it was my lot in life in this place.

I settled in for the night in the protection of Adi’s magicks able to sleep unaided by the pipe thanks to Eucarion’s absent minded soothing strokes of my hair and back. But, as always it seems a full night’s rest is a rare commodity beyond the wall. Adi’s protective sphere came crashing down around us as we were ambushed by five of Blood Spatter’s weretigers.

Adi, with the aid of Makiko’s cloak, disappeared into the dark. As much as it panicked me at first I trust his actions as he has never acted out of cowardice like that twerp Frondel. After a sharp blow to each of us we returned the pain in kind with a flurry of action. That drum playing islander is definitely not what he leads on to be. He has a devastating magic in him. He crackled with lighting as the ferocity of storms filled his eyes.

After a solid volley of attacks Adi was able to slay the first of the five with fire but it came with a staunch warning to not slay any more. Their deaths were apparently linked to a summoning spell. The summoning spell of her. Much to our surprise after a second weretiger took its own life, in its place via a column of black smoke, she stood. My blood instantly boiled. I was furious. She had threatened me and mine too many times and it was time to end it.

Z’embre got in a ragged stab causing Blood Spatter to shriek out in pain. Good. Hurt. You deserve it. Xiao and I took down the weretiger that launched itself at us thinking we were in the clear now that she was summoned but upon its death an orb of red light appeared and flung itself to orbit the Yomi Prince. We watched as she clapped her hands in attempts at a spell that was quickly deflected by Adi still under cover of the cloak. After work by Eucarion and Bumi she was a column of ash blowing away in the wind. But before we could even let out a victory shout the red orb poured her back into being.

She mocked us once her form solidified but her confidence was short lived when Xiao brought her to a standstill and Eucarion finished her with a storm of thunder and lightning filled violence. She Is finally gone. 

But once more our victory was halted by the appearance of a smoke vision of The Wolf of a Thousand Deaths. He chided us for our efforts and laid claim to the dead one’s territory and left with an ominous message for our dear Naligor. The smoke transformed into blue fairy fire and shot off through the night’s sky towards Blood Spatter’s tower. That would be a challenge for another day.

I don’t know how Eucarion managed to sleep the rest of that night but he was out cold like the dead, latched onto me like a child holding its favorite doll. It was nearly suffocating and kept me from sleep myself. I couldn’t help but worry for him. He seems…different. His energy is restless and buzzing. Gone was the gentle lap of lake water to the shore his energy used to remind me of.

The next day before the keys returned us was spent in revelry and joyful labor. The waystation was built as a monument of the death of Blood Spatter Snow Tiger. One more carving to add to the table.

View
Log I : Day 35
Eucarion's Journal

CW: Sex, wife angst.

The company was convened by Soveliss' request, his intention being to tackle Blood Spatter's tower and rid it of her once and for all. Nobody had told him beforehand, of course, that she had already been dispatched. So, riddled with anxieties at the anticipation of a shitshow, I met up with Odiri and together we went.

It had really all been going rather pleasantly at first. Many had answered the call, and the air was lively with conversations playing catch-up for weeks of parting. Naligor was back, for one, and Odiri's spirits seemed to be lifted immensely by him. It was good, to see her smiling again. I kept glancing back to check on her, keeping her cup full, but engrossed in other conversations for much of the afternoon. Genuinely, I think she needs some sort of male influence in her life that isn't all me. I love her to death, but I cannot help but feel I'm smothering her.

There was not just one new halfling in town, but two. The first to arrive at our table was Andree, Bumi's girlfriend who I'd heard mentioned. Interesting, that he might have a monk in such intimacy, but I suppose different orders have different limitations. She was quiet and as plain as expected, though especially so in comparison the second arrival. The smallest man I have ever laid eyes on, Glyde Darkfeather. Lord Glyde Darkfeather, of the renwowned Darkfeather house of raven-raising. There wasn't anything in particular that annoyed me about him, save for his generally haughty air and characteristically snotty noble attitude, but I was indignant at the any interaction with him. I had very purposefully removed as many of my noble distinguishments as I could, and I damn nearly regretted it right then. An elven house of honors would always trump a halfling one. Besides, what self-respecting person orders water when the rest of the table drinks? Unbelievable. My only gratitude is that he gave Odiri and I something to chitter and laugh about like we used to. I had hoped perhaps that the arrival of halflings would bring her some comfort, but she seemed none too pleased by either of them, except in that she was taller than them both. At least Andree seemed tolerable, though it was explained to me that she was of a similar countenance to Kodu in regards to his endless misunderstandings of semantics. One linguistically challenged monk was enough!

 When the subject of the potential excursion came up, Adi did the dubious honors of breaking the news. Pretty understandably, Soveliss was none too pleased. He had quite the personal vendetta to settle with that bitch, and I feel more than a little personally responsible for stealing that from him. He went to throw a cup in a fit of rage, but Madam Saru delicately replaced it on the table with a bit of scolding.

Adi, for his part, had his own scolding to do to Oranssi regarding their spat after the library raid. I was a little surprised that he would still care so deeply about the offense so long after it had happened, but I suppose even Adi is allowed to have hangups. Oranssi took it surprisingly well, but it honestly seemed like he hadn't the energy to argue. He looked downright terrible.

The entire evening, come to think of it, seemed to actually have been convened for the purpose of everyone starting some shit with each other. 

Soveliss and Madam Saru got particularly into it over the contents of the glass case. I didn't quite hear the inciting incident, but Soveliss kept insisting that she not be allowed to make decisions affecting the charter or the company while she herself was not part of either. It was that carefully crafted mess that only two equally silver-tongued people could get themselves embroiled into. Some of us took up pleading the case that perhaps Soveliss shouldn't be arguing with the gracious proprietress who so mercifully allows our shenanigans to continue in her establishment, but it was of no use. The argument was only concluded when it abided itself. 

Even the most benign discussions turned sour. While Adi and Odiri chatted away on solutions for the problem of Frivolity's exceptionally loud bed games, she rather squarely called me out in the thick of it. We hadn't need for such spells of silence because there'd been silence in the bed enough as it is. Of course we hadn't been, after everything! I responded that it was something we could certainly change, if it so pleased her, and that definitely seemed to pique her senses.

Andree had already signed the charter, but Glyde was entirely new and therefore had to be interviewed. Oh, so we were doing interviews now? Good. Too many newcomers had been joining up lately, so there really was a need for stricter guidelines rather than any willing body. Even the military has entrance requirements. Soveliess did most of the questioning, and I almost hate to say it, but it improved my opinion of the man. For one thing, he insisted that we forgoe his title. Most nobles of high enough birth would not stoop so low. He had a bit of humor in him too, cracking jokes here and there, until he said something in particular and Odiri just… sunk. I did not want to ask in the moment what the cause might've been, but I offered a comforting shoulder and stayed close to her the rest of our time there. Heavy drinking naturally ensued.

Ultimately, it was decided that we would proceed to Snow Tiger's tower anyway to meet whatever foe dare take residence, and the rest of the evening proceeded rather free of incident. Before Odiri and I departed, Oranssi presented her with a gift. A leather mask that, when worn, would give her sight in the dark as we elves had. He seemed utterly exhausted, perhaps from expending so much of himself in the crafting of such a thing, but just as possibly from whatever still ailed him enough to remain masked. In the mess of the past months, we have yet to speak heart to heart. 

In the morning, we gathered as usual. Naligor seemed damnedly trashed, half-gone into his plate of sausage and eggs. Odiri helped him out with a brew of Elura's special tea (so, so not the intended usage), and Adi finished the job with a sprinkle of some rejuvenating powder over Naligor's food. Restored, he and I bantered a bit, coming to the subject of Charka. Her pregnancy had not gone unnoticed. She's more than a few weeks along now. Is there really so little decency left in this world that I specifically have to ask druids not to fuck my dog for them to, oh, I don't know, not fuck my dog?? I'd rather it have been Naligor, if it had to have been anyone at all. The drinking began rather early that morning…

As we geared up and packed for rations, I watched closely Odiri's interactions with the halflings. When the honeycakes were brought out, Odiri snatched the whole tray off the table, stuffing half into her mouth and the other into her bag, glaring at Andree the whole time. Making no serious effort to conceal what I was doing, I snagged some cakes back and handed them to the poor girl. There was no need for this sot of thing. Andree was probably one of the most wholly amicable newcomers we'd had in a while. Something like that I expected out of my spiteful little love, but not her behavior with Glyde. They had both gone to grab Makiko's gloves, Odiri reaching them first for her good foot of height over the man, but she visibly reconsidered and handed them over to him instead. I cannot pinpoint why that has left me feeling… strange, in that same way as watching her take off the cloak I'd given her had.

Massive party in tow, we headed through the farmlands, stopping by the beginnings of Naligor's construction project. I could see it from my property, but I'd had no idea what it was until now. He was building the charter a guild hall. The idea was considerate, but Odiri's reaction was visceral. I'd never seen her so cross with Naligor before. She raged that the land had been purchased out from under the farmers. What need of we for a guild hall when there was so much greater need for viable food?  He explained in response that the land had belonged to the farmers killed and replaced by cambion spies, that it had been fairly repartitioned as a result of that. She would not be appeased and stewed angrily on the issue until we had gotten past the gate, her mood only brightened in anticipation of Andree and Glyde receiving their keys. Seeing the reactions of newcomers was her favorite part of any excursion. 

Our travel to the Gaea Shrine went without incident. I spent most of it chatting away with Orchard, Glyde's raven, who was delighted by the fact that he could genuinely be understood by anyone other than his master. I've always had a soft spot for corvids. House birds, and all that. Coming to the shrine, we were pleased to find our waystation there unmolested. Even Odiri's stash of Maiden's Breath had been untouched. Odiri and I hunted well that night, she catching and putting out an extra rabbit for our friendly neighborhood panther.

In the morning, Odiri and I set up and made our prayers to Persephone. I cannot entirely express what quiet happiness it brings me to see Odiri brought to faith. It is a deep and simple comfort much needed to us both in these dire times, and I feel closer to her for it. It hadn't occurred to me that none of the company was aware of our change of faith aside from Serena and V. Gates, but the surprised series of questions from Naligor and others certainly were enough of a reminder. I was half expecting Oranssi to lose it, considering I had been the only other follower of Artimestia in our company and he had been trying for so long to convert Odiri, but he was surprisingly accepting of the whole thing, summoning up a beautiful illuminated rain as we went through our respective rituals. "The family's all here". There was something so warm in the thought of that.

The rest of our journey to the tower went similarly without incident, until we came upon the place. Three stories of stone containing all sorts of fiendish hells, baying for blood. At the top, as Soveliss scryed, sat The Wolf of a Thousand Deaths, in Blood Spatter's throne. Naligor bristled in anticipation. This was his chance.

We bypassed going up the tower from the inside and elected instead to scale the sides and surprise from above. Adi linked up our minds so we could speak to one another with our thoughts, to prevent the enemy from hearing our planning. And in such a battle, there would be planning. Soveliss cast a spell and flew himself, Andree, and Glyde up. Oranssi summoned his griffin, carrying Adi on it and Albion, Charka, and myself in Tenser's Disk behind. Odiri scaled the side on Xiao's back. And leading us all in spider slippers, walking up the side of the tower perpendicular to the ground, was Naligor, bold and ablaze with determination.

As we reached the top, a loud rumble came from the topmost level. Landing inside, we saw the tattered, black-robed figure of The Wolf of a Thousand Death transform into smoke as on the throne appeared none other than Blood Spattered Snow Tiger herself, returned from the dead for vengeance. Around her, five weretigers, ready to strike.

Odiri lined up to shoot first, but found that her magic could do nothing to harm the bitch herself. We would have to attack her without it. Glyde jumped into Albion's horns as he went in to attack the tigers, slapping them with the flat of his axe. We learned our lesson the last time around that killing them would only do us harm. In the same moment, Blood Spatter unleashed a spell of death on us and Adi could not save us from it this time, though he got his revenge by backhanding a weretiger out a window.

Naligor cast a moonbeam down onto The Wolf of a Thousand Deaths, returning him from the shadows to the form of an elf. He surged forward at Naligor, pounding him in the chest with massive magical energy. For a moment, Naligor flicked out of existence, and in the next, he was back, shaken and even angrier now. Naligor said to us by way of the mind to stay back from his father. Closest to him, I called his claim and bid my own. That bitch was mine. 

I wish, in a way, that I could say that I was in a haze. That I remember nothing of the combat. But that would be a lie. I remember everything with as much clarity as I do the basic-most actions of my life. That hum again, that sizzling hum under my skin, overtook my body and bid me for blood. I rushed in and struck her, lightning erupting from my blade. Immediately, she commanded her tigers on me. I was surrounded and could not escape their blades, but the sensation of my own warm blood seeping down my arms emboldened me, and one of the tigers found itself struck back. 

Soveliss attempted to cast out a ripple of magic, but Blood Spatter stopped it. Her throne was amplifying her magic. It would have to be destroyed. The griffin swooped in to attack, but the moment he touched it, purple lightning struck him. Odiri gave it a second attempt with a well-placed arrow, but the moment it struck, it shattered, pieces raining onto the ground like glass. As each piece bounced back up again, it founds its break mate and reconstituted together into a complete arrow. The same purple lightning as before arced out and shocked Odiri. My rage was renewed, and Blood Spatter found herself on the receiving end of another strike of my blade. Following suit, Albion charged into her with his axe as Andree gave a second go at the tigers, smashing into one of them with a bone-shaking crack of her staff.

Locked in combat with his father, Naligor transformed into a great beast of fire, the whole room glowing with his furious light. Instantly, The Wolf was set on fire, though he seemed only stoically miffed. Saying back to Blood Spatter, "My debt to you is paid," he fled out a window, swan diving out and down. Blood Spatter, laughing maniacally, took this as her cue to leave, calling out to Soveliss, "If you truly wish to fight me, meet me in hell!" as she plane shifted and was gone. Only the tigers remained.

Soveliss, absolutely enraged, cast a blight on them, as Oranssi unleashed a hoard of golden locusts from his mouth. Their deaths would surely return them to Blood Spatter's domain and give her yet another life, but it didn't matter at that point. There was the need for blood. Around us, the building shook, an army of feet violently ascending the stairs. All the powers of hell come up to meet us in battle. The boon of slaying Blood Spatter a second time stolen for me, I was deep in the swing of madness. Steeling myself and gathering up energy to launch a barrage of lightning at whatever came up that door, I was ready to fight or die. The army approached. Yes. Yes, this.

Suddenly, white light. The gate. We were home. 

Sword clattering angrily out of my grip, I fell to my hands and knees, thrown entirely out of alignment by the full-stop of being transported, seeking stability in solid earth. Around, nonsensical commotion. Odiri cursing, Soveliss throwing fire into the sky, and from the others, crackling layers of murmurs, confusion and outrage colliding again and again. Noise. So much noise. I ran my mental exercises, though there were no slats of ceiling or stars to count in abatement of nightmares, until my faculties ceased to be tangled and I could again read the clarity of my thinking on the walls of my mind. The hum remained. I can feel it even now, some lurking thing below the water's surface. 

I do not think that I understood the essential gravity of what I had done that first time around with Snow Tiger. The mindless pride of victory beat too loudly against my ears for me to truly listen. I have never, never in my many years of life, taken joy in the act of killing. It was simply a necessity, an action to be done without the consideration of emotions, in pursuit of the achievement of greater ends. And the rationalizations were endless, of course. "Goblins are hardly people". "It is all in the name of king and country." "The Gods smile on the deaths of Fallen Stars and their ilk". There is no place for such excuses now, and without their shielding power, I cannot truthfully deny my pleasure in the infliction of death, or the reckless chase of it. In my hands, I held mortal force, the capacity for choice and choosing death. That's real power, the kind that cannot be granted by title, or rank, or whatever shitty thing is given to appease the ego and maintain the grand illusions of authority. No. I wielded death.

And I liked it.

Hot from combat, needy with frustration, Odiri and I raced each other to the cottage. I think the presence of the halfling must have spurred something in Odiri, or perhaps it was my snide remarks, or something else entirely. Of course, every man has his organic needs, but I wasn't about to rush her back into bed after something so traumatic. The body is a resilient thing, but the mind is not nearly. This was her first child lost, after all (First! Goddess help me! Her only child, if I can help it).

But the stars aligned that we should have our carnal dreams fulfilled. We hardly made it to the cover of the stables before laces were being torn out of grommets and boots found themselves carelessly shucked. (Later, I had to fish her bracers out of the marshes). She stayed the night, and we slept well in our bed for the feat of total exhaustion.

In the morning, the late sun woke us with the warmth of its rays skittering in through the window. Still humming some, I felt bold, Odiri's form against mine rousing affairs to be tended to. She obliged me, but, even slow as we took it, it was just too much. She endured for the sake of love's innate pleasures, but I could see how glassy her eyes shone. I'd seen her cry too many times not to know by now the look of the matter. I was in no state of great comfort either and regretted initiating at all; all the adrenaline of the day before seeped out my wounds in the night and left behind only aches.

She becomes Allaya to me, again.

Homecomings were a matter of violence between us. Allaya's boredom left in keep of the estate, my malcontent of war. A perfect storm. Of course, the exertion was good. The release of frustrations in abusing each other's bodies was unlike anything else. In it, a necessary function: rendering the fat of broad suffering to the tallow of the sublime, a conversion of pain into a form more tolerable for bearing, for both of us. Catharsis type one.

But not always so. Not by far. Especially as the familial record began to fill with names, and names, and names, and all our children who never saw the light of day. Sometimes, it was not the door smashing fire of long-parted desires that governed us. Instead, my cloak sweeping ashes in our cold halls, dragging weariness into her gentle bed, and her, the soldier's dutiful wife, complying bare comforts of utility. Catharsis type two. And the pain of it all is worse than anything. Not so much the creaking of bones forcing their last in pursuit of physical release, but the breeding of the worst sort of suffering, if only to have something to share between us.

I've got to stop doing this to Odiri. It can't go on like this. This cycle is doomed. I'm going to hurt her, more than I already have. She swore to bear my pains, but how can she when I am the sole inflictor?

I cannot say if I am doing the right thing anymore.

View
Stalking the Tiger Lady
Whispers from Hell

"If you want to kill me, Soveliss, you have to find me in Hell…"

Those words echo in my head every night as I close my eyes now.  All I can see is the City of Dis, the frozen wastes of Cania, any of the other legendary nightmarish landscapes of the Nine Hells.  This new line of work has been getting to me.  Or maybe the cards are making me more inherently hard-edged than I am used to.  And the cloak, that wondrous cloak I have come to adore so much… it quite literally feeds on my very life essence to function.  And the chaos in my blood responds to them both so readily.  

The Charter has been inundated with a bevy of new members of late, people from across the sea coming to Port Shore Blossom, and seeking us so they can seek out grand adventure and find their fortunes.  I can't say I blame them.  I'm rolling in money now from all of the trouble I've been getting into.  And it has all been such great fun.  

But that is changing.  Of late it has felt less like fun and more like obsession, mixed with aggravation.  Just the other day, when I had called a large group of the charter together to discuss returning to the tower of Blood-Spattered Snow Tiger, Adi and Oranssi had words over some beef involving that city of Shandao that I never seem to get to explore, and in the retelling of their issues, I had a moment of feeling overwhelmed, and tried to back out of the topic.  But then Madam Saru tried needling me about my choice, and not in her usual friendly way.  And I almost lost my temper.  My words were somewhat restrained, but it was clear to everyone that my reply was much harsher than usual, and Madam Saru replied in kind.  

I've become increasingly fed up with her. Whatever interest I once had in her her has completely dissolved at this point.  So when Naligor mentioned he and others had already started construction of a guild hall for us from a piece of purchased farmland, I jumped at the chance to invest.  Getting away from the omnipresent personages of the city's ruling council is just what I need.  There is much going on in Port Shore Blossom that they seem content to let us resolve.  

I screwed up.  More than once.  That no one has realized it yet makes no difference.  We had found the spies.  The Cambions infiltrating the city had been identified.  We were stalking them to their rendezvous, split into two parties to track them separately.  Kodu and Syd had lost theirs just beyond the wall, but Elura and I had kept hidden with magic and quietly followed ours.  His thoughts… set me on edge, if I'm being honest.  I put the cart before the horse, and moved on him before hecould meet with his counterpart.  Elura and I interrogated him, learned of their plans for sabotaging the city, but it did no good in finding his partner.  I was kicking myself, though for once I didn't get any recrimination.  The one time I had earned it…

Naligor was disturbed to learn that he had been manipulated by the Cambions into slowly becoming less and less supportive of the City Council.  Not sure how he's been dealing with that.  But I can't say they were far off the mark.  There are certainly things to dislike about them, and I didn't need any Cambions whispering lies in my ear to come to that conclusion.  

That wasn't my only screw-up.  Some weeks back I had led an expedition to raid the tower of Blood-Spattered Snow Tiger.  We skipped the other levels, all of which I am certain contained fascinating monsters and fabulous wealth, and went straight to the top.  We found her on a throne of skulls, surrounded by a horde of undead minions.  One of them turned out to be Olma, a childhood friend of Syd, who now howled for her death as a revenant.  One of two revenants present.  A pitched battle ensued, and we all learned many things.

Blood-Spattered Snow Tiger is not a weretiger, as we had all suspected, but a far more dangerous fiend of the Nine Hells known as a Rakshasa.  And she demonstrated more power than any Rakshasa I have ever read about.  And though we claimed from her another of Kosu's holy artifacts, she escaped before we could strike her down.  Most of her minions were dispatched, but not before Oranssi had been struck down and slain.  It was only with the magic of a powerful Rod of Resurrection that he was later restored.  I think the experience has changed him.  I don't know if it is for the better or not.

In dealing with the revenants, a horrific revelation came about.  I am responsible for both of their deaths.  Not directly, but they were both killed by agents of that filthy drug lord Blackstone in his efforts to find me.  I was horrified.  I knew his people were after me, but I had no idea they were murdering innocent folk to do so.  

Syd was understandably angry with me.  I couldn't entirely blame her.  I have pledged to her my aid in finding those murdering fucks and seeing justice done to them.  They have since fled the city, but I have no doubt that they will return, and in greater force.

But I digress.  Back onto this latest excursion.  After Madam Saru and I had finished sniping at one another, and we had interviewed yet another newcomer to the charter, a halfling nobleman from the Darkfeather Family, I orchestrated those present to the task of returning to Snow Tiger's tower.  Several of those present regaled me withe tale of having been assaulted by her just hte other night, and them managing to slay her.  She was a fiend who hadn't been killed in her home plane, so she wasn't truly dead, but it didn't matter.  I was livid, but they did indicate that one of the other Yomi princes, Naligor's cursed father, may have taken up residence in her home.  So the end-goal was the same; go to the tower and slay a Yomi Prince.  

The plan was the same as before: fly to the top of the tower and crash the party.  And we were surprised to find that Shadow Wolf (or whatever his name is) was completing a summoning ritual that returned Snow Tiger to her home.  I was impressed, and more than a little excited.  The cards demanded she be punished, and the cloak hungered for my life in exchange for its power.  The others were all ready.  And so our second battle on the top of the tower ensued. The results were much the same.  All Yomi Princes escaped, and minions present were slain, and then that damnable wall called us back again. But not before Blood-Spattered Snow Tiger spoke that damnably-insidious phrase: "If you want to kill me, Soveliss, you have to find me in Hell…"

I'm coming for you, dearest Snow Tiger.  And Hell will not stop me.      

View
Log I : Day 34
Eucarion's Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TW: Domestic Abuse , Miscarriage

Entry dated prior to main recap

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

Main Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

TW: The Miscarriage

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

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

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

<meta />

View
Log I : Day 32
Eucarion's Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can only hope that I have been heard.

 

The following entry.

CW: Graphic, Whump, Emotional Whiplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shit. So it had come to this.

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

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

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

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

I was a fool.

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

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

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

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

I think we're gonna be okay.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.