Primal Elements

Past and Present - The Temple of the Brothers of Light and Dark.

Memories can be a tricky thing, perhaps it was Fate that ordained that mine be closed from me. With every new day of adventure, with every fresh kill, arrow loosed, and dungeon conquered, more memories. To some memories are a recollection of past experiences, remembered when one wishes to recall a particularly emotional moment, or remember a previously learned lesson. Not me. My “memories” are seemingly windows into another life. My memories play out like stories, like a character from a book comes to life and plays out scenes for me, except this character is not a hero, and looks exactly like me.

Paki had wandered off again, presumingly to another sick house, as Paki is wont to do. He told us of a man, unmoving, too weak to function. Around his neck, an amulet. An amulet, blessed by the gods of Life and Death… we quested to return it to its rightful place, and to break the curse on a blasphemer.

3 trials, strength, wisdom and faith. We overcame them and were met with an altar room. A guardian of life, and a guardian of death waited for us. While we kept them at bay, Paki spied a ritual dagger on the pedestal. I say ritual dagger, because what transpired next HAD to be one. The dagger, plunged itself into the hand of this child, rended his hand in two, spilt his blood onto a mound of earth, then healed itself. We didn’t know it right then, but we had just witnessed the birth of a Cult leader.

We returned to town, with the Littlest Cult Leader breaking off to preach. While we negotiated with the now conscious Master of Goods. Julian was able to negotiate our services and a trade in order to fill the ore needs of the village. Mission accomplished, I felt a bit uneasy, as I feared we turned one debt into another. Those fears, however, were allayed when were told we were free to go about our business, the condition being that all things being equal, we weigh his job offers above others. These are acceptable terms.

My memory this time was a bit more vivid, I see a boy who looks like me, only much younger, firing at a training dummy. “In order to inflict the most damage possible, you must take care to aim at vulnerable places, this will inflict the most lasting damage and hopefully lure enemy healers out into the open where you may repeat this process. The young master from House Awesome will demonstrate. “ The young me, without hesitation, raises his bow, after a few sends of aiming, loses 3 arrows in succession. Three arrows, 3 strikes, one in the heart, one In the neck and one in the center of the forehead. “EXCELLENT!! Well done master Jerrick, your parents should be proud, you know, your father, too, was an archer of the Cricubel. The child, face expressionless, let’s out a low shout, “Thank you, sir!” “Tell me, Jerrick, do you know what your surname, Macht means?” Another low shout, “Sir, No, Sir!” After the other children practiced firing arrows at the other dummies, “Finding weak points in your enemies is an indispensable skill, as it expedites combat, and allows you the freedom to bolster other groups elsewhere. That’s the end of the lesson for today, tomorrow, we work with moving targets. “
As my younger self walked away from the drill area, he turned his head to marvel at his work, 3 perfectly placed shots, he’ll go back to the barracks, and no doubt practice some more. Poor training dummy… never stood a chance. It just sat there, drooping more than it had before, arrows in 3 places, my younger self was most definitely gifted, the others, just as droopy, arrows all over the place, red liquid spilling from the various holes, so that the children can acknowledge the point on the dummy that are vital spots. …Wait… no, that’s not right at all. The dummies in Crucibel were always made of straw… I remember that. This was a later lesson. I remember this… I REMEMBER THIS!! Oh gods… these weren’t dummies… These scene came to full view now, prisoners, traitors and other expendables, tied to poles, arrows lodged in them, bleeding everywhere. I remember the scene before, as I readied my aim… I wasn’t trying to aim… I was correcting my shot as the target squirmed.

I didn’t sleep well tonight… and I don’t know that I want to go back to sleep.

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Religion and Prophecy

Tianna has never figured herself a particularly religious individual. She revered what the gods had put into nature but felt that most formal religions were more about looking the part than actually doing any good in the world. This new… or old, depending on how you looked at it, religion was interesting. Their elaborate temple spoke of significant wealth, but the simple chambers of its followers indicated that they did not live extravagantly. Still, she felt the whole thing to be a little over done. The nearly cutting Paki’s arm clean off as a sacrifice was certainly not to her taste even if they did repair it. The puzzles and defenses to get in and out seemed a little overbearing as well. All to protect that holy symbol? Or was there something more, perhaps long missing from the temple.

Tianna could see where the worship of life and death together made sense. They were more like two halves to the same whole. Neither could exist, or at least not fully, without the other. It is certainly a different view than the the rest of the world who would suggest that they were enemies. Tianna had seen first hand how life and death could walk together in peace. Copac and Paki seemed to have a very friendly relationship despite the differences in their elemental alignments. She had seen people and animals drift peacefully into death. She had also seen the other side. The side where life was taken too suddenly and violently.

It was hard to think that any being would view those as equal and she found herself wondering which of these was preferred by the death god Tybel. Did he relish the untimely death of the murdered. Or would he prefer that creatures get the chance to slip peacefully into his realm after living a full life. The display in the temple made her lean towards the prior, but then again, temples are man made and would surely be influenced by men’s interpretations of the god’s wishes.

Paki seems to have taken up the cause of this lost religion with a fervor that Tianna had never seen in him before. Tianna thought that it might be a mistake to blindly accept something that they knew so little about, but she would support her young friend in his journey and see if she could answer a few of her own questions along the way.

At the very least, it seemed that life and death were united in the desire to tell of whatever catastrophe these prophecies represent. Assuming they even tell of the same event. One speaks of flooding, the other of fire… both speak of the untold destruction. Even the prophecy Paki received did not seem to rejoice in the death to come, but instead to warn of a lesson that should be learned. What lesson? Perhaps these other temples will help us uncover this. The moss in the temple seemed to give more useful advice. It seems to speak of enemy nations working together to prevent the apocalypse.

If the fate of the word depends upon Crucible and Atrocida working together, we may be better off just giving up now. How would they, a small group with no particular political pull, going to convince these enemies to work together when the time comes. The only logical answer would be to get more information. Facts that would make whatever is coming seem like a bigger threat than trusting their neighbors. Certainly some scribbles on wall and whispering moss were not going to win them any supporters. Their only choice was to seek out the remaining holy sites and hope that Tybel and Aron had some more wisdom to impart.

For the first time that she recalled, Tianna prayed to a god and meant it. She addressed her prayers to Aron. She was not yet ready to address Tybel as despite the realization that death was not necessarily the enemy of life, she had not decided if Tybel was the sort of god that she could trust and respect. She prayed to Aron for guidance to preserve and heal the world. She asked for guidance to prevent whatever terrible event was coming.

As Tianna thought about the day’s events and got settled down for the night, she added 4 new symbols to her staff. She added a tree with half of it alive and flourishing and the other half dead and bare to represent the unity of the life and death elements. She added a crystal ball to represent the glimpse they had been given at events to come and a ring of water and fire to represent the devastation those events. Finally she added a map to represent their new mission and the hope of continued guidance from the gods.

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It all started...

Being the daughter of a poor blacksmith, my life was full of monotony. Carry this here, go fetch this, quench this blade there. My brother got all the good tasks, even though we didn’t work with the finest materials. My father didn’t have access to the higher quality materials the other blacksmiths had, and in the Palatine Empire, expensive things got the most attention. Despite this however, my father was still fairly busy, a gladius for a middle-classman here and there. Then there’s the occasional wanderer…

Now… to Palantinians, expensive means status, but this is not usually the case with outsiders, who simply want something that works. I remember one such outsider. He didn’t have a huge shield, like the Palantinian guards do, no, he had a much smaller shield, flat on top, and both sides curved to a point on the bottom, and his weapon… it was like a gladius, only the handle extended to either side, to protect the hand, it seemed, and the blade was much longer. My father called him “Mister Paladin”. I remember asking Mister Paladin, why he couldn’t just use a gladius, he told me, “Child, creatures that defy the light, are not necessarily creatures you would wish to fight up close, a little distance is wise.” I asked how a weapon like that could be used, and he demonstrated some techniques to me. I’ve only seen our soldiers fight crouched, and come close to creatures before killing them, I’ve never seen a man stand so high to fight, as if there was some dignity to be maintained while fighting. After the lesson, he smiled, ordered a sword just like his from my father, he had exact specification, and he didn’t care what it cost. “Two weeks,” my father told him, “To gather the materials and forge and assemble the weapon.” Mister Paladin beamed a smile and raised an eyebrow, “Two weeks? You must either be very good, or very sloppy, your competitors quoted 4 weeks or more, with the amount of gold and jewels involved.” My father smirked, “Two weeks is what I said, and in 2 weeks, it will be done.” Mister Paladin nodded, “Two weeks then, you have my business then, good blacksmith, also,” he tossed some extra coins on the table, “fashion a basic version of the blade, smaller, I’ve noticed your daughter has taken an interest in it, and I would be a failure as a champion of Good if I denied her the means to practice.”

In two weeks, the weapon was done, a sword so intricate, so beautiful, it looked more for decoration than fighting, but the sharp blade said otherwise. Mister Paladin inspected the weapon carefully, and after a few minutes, nodded to himself, “The work of a master, if I’ve ever seen one! Two weeks, I would love to see what you would have done with four!” My father smiled, “With four… I would have made two of those.” Mister Paladin gave out a hearty laugh, “Of course! Of course!” He dropped a sack on the table, “as promised, your payment, I added more as this sword has exceeded all of my expectations, good Blacksmith, I promise, this will not be the last time you forge this blade.” With that, Mister Paladin was gone.

He wasn’t wrong, in the weeks that followed others like Mister Paladin came, telling tales of the outside, the poor, the desolation, and the need for others to stand up and heal the land. Each time a Mister Paladin would stop by, he taught me something new, it seems the first Mister Paladin told them about me, and the wanted to help. “You don’t seem to have any affinity for the light child, but I trust you’ll make a skilled fighter someday.” My father smiled.

Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to years, I was 16 and very able with a longsword and shield. The day came… the years of hearing of the problems of the world, the years of wondering if someone like me, a poor blacksmith’s daughter could be something more than just that… On my 16th birthday my father gave me a gift, forging for Paladins brought more customers, and in turn more customers, the money, my father used to expand his supply line, he was using better materials now, but maintaining the same level of quality he was proud of. My brother, now 18, is almost as good as father now, but nothing prepared me for fathers gift: a pouch, full of gold pieces, food and water for ages, a shield, crafted by armorer friend of his, large and round, strong, yet allows for mobility, and the sword. Oh, the sword! A blade so polished, you can see yourself in it, and a handle, made of dark iron, wrapped in leather. It was perfect! “I called in a few favors for the metal to make it. Even with the contacts I’ve made over the years, the metal I used in there are very rare, it is the greatest sword I’ve ever forged, and you get to carry it, out into the world, to become something bigger than what you are.”

I was so elated, I wondered where I would adventure of to first, which is when it happened, a wounded adventurer, now healed, telling the stories of monster hunting bands in the lands of Atrocida to the north, where one could find fame and fortune slaying the wild beasts and bringing in the trophies. “There.” I thought, “If I could find my way into one of those bands, I can make a name for myself, and with that name I will do great things, I named the sword “Invictus” a word a new from childhood, it means “Unbeatable” which is what I felt going out into the world for the first time. I said my farewells to everyone, stood at the edge of the gate to our city, then took my first steps, I was now farther from home than I had ever been, and was continuing to increase that record every second.

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Julian's Journal, Adventure Four

Julian’s Journal, Adventure Four.

Pandemonium is interesting. There seems to be a lot of money and power floating around and a lot of people who are easily manipulated. A good place to get rich … which means there is plenty of danger around. In fact, people seem to court danger quite deliberately. I have decided that I am certain that professional adventuring is not a good choice of profession. I do not seem to be cut out for heroics. I merely intended to clear some zombies from our path. I had a plan. I would use my superior mobility to dash in and hamstring a Minotaur zombie, then dash out again before they could combine against me. I was confident that I could outmaneuver a hulking, rotting corpse. Overconfident, as it turned out. My elegantly slender body was never designed to resist blows from an axe that size. Well, or any size, frankly. I would certainly have bled to death there in the dirt if not for Copac and Tianna. I seem to owe more and more to more and more people the longer I go on. That’s no way to run a business.

Time to put some black on the ledger. I started by delivering the secret weapons shipment to its intended recipient. This required me to defy the Founders and their agent, an officer of the local guard. Not a healthy situation, but the unfortunate death of the caravan leader allowed me to preserve some ambiguity in the situation… enough, at least, that I don’t think the Founders will try to have us killed. Yet. I learned that our contact in the city had vanished on a treasure-hunting expedition. I even got a pretty good idea of where he had gone – an ancient buried temple a few hours to the north which was once, interestingly, a pilgrimage site for the priests both of Life and of Death. I was about to congratulate myself on my deftness at gathering information when I learned that Paki had actually found the man.

But if you think that meant our troubles were over, then you haven’t been paying close attention, dear Journal. The man turned out to be paralyzed and almost incapable of communication. From what little he was able to say, Paki gathered the impression that his unfortunate state was the result of an act of blasphemy – quite possibly the removal of a certain amulet from the temple. Paki seems confident that returning the amulet will lift the curse. I’m not sure it will be so simple, but at least this is likely to be a step in the right direction. I’d love to begin a parley by rescuing the other party from a terrible curse. Assuming he has any honor at all, that should give us a considerable edge in our negotiations. And if he has none, then we shouldn’t be entrusting the People’s future to him anyway.

The first part of the trip was surprisingly easy. We had little difficulty finding the place, nor were we attacked on the way. Although the underground complex seemed a bit ominous, and I scouted ahead warily, I encountered no danger at all until after we entered the temple itself. The temple building is remarkably large and ornate. This must have been one of the holiest sites on the continent before the war, unless that era was far more prosperous than the current one. And apparently it was devoted to a conception of Life and Death which is obscure, almost vanished, today. Did the destruction of this temple deal a fatal blow to that sect? Or was this sect actively targeted by its enemies during the overall confusion of the war? And what did they believe, anyway, these people who saw such a different relationship between Life and Death? Would they see our troubled little Paki as a kindred spirit, or as an abomination?

The foyer of the temple warned us, in letters of fire, that we would have to face three trials. My, that’s some Old Time Religion right there. My family went in for a much more civilized approach to religion. We made appropriate sacrifices at the proper times to propitiate the proper divinities, and more or less ignored them at other times. Old-fashioned religion tends to be earth-shaking, and to honor the priorities of gods, not men. Not the sort of thing that creates a healthy business climate.

But a penniless entrepreneur has to take some risks. So three trials it would be. A trial of strength, one of wisdom, and one of faith.

In what may have been our trial of strength, we faced a bizarre sort of creature – a sort of heat-vampire ghost of a fire elemental. The creature relied on maneuverability as much as I do in combat, with predictable results – that is to say, we chased each other around the room for a while until Jerrick filled it so full of arrows it couldn’t move anymore.

Next came our trial of wisdom. This turned out to be a rather involved puzzle game with seemingly too few clues. I’m currently resting my aching brain as I update my journal. The third trial is one of faith. It’s my guess that our erstwhile business partner failed this third test. Personally, I’m not much of a man of faith. My great-uncle had a sign above his dry-goods store that read: “_We place our faith in the gods. All others must pay in coin of the realm_.” I’ll just follow the lead of the spiritual types and hope their intuition works out.

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Paki's View: Session Four?
Oasis in the Waste

Paki hated the wasted lands they were traveling through. He had difficulty understanding how any caravans survived from one town to the next with the extreme danger found along the way. This trip reminded him of wandering the gray lands and across the elemental planes. Just like those times he walked side-by-side with Death. When things were especially difficult, Death carried and protected him. Paki knew that there was a limit to the protection that Death could offer, however. It had a duty and would carry it out if necessary, even with him, so Paki had to learn to protect himself somehow.

When his caravan was attacked by the Sand Devil, Paki was pretty sure the time had come for Death to do his duty where Paki was concerned. That would have been okay with Paki if it meant that his friends could escape, but knowing that particular creature’s power they would not have made it either. Luckily the nice druid came and saved them. Before he’d met these particular druids, Paki thought all druids were nice. That was because Tianna was the only one he knew before and she was really nice. Then they met Arctis Fallon, who was a mean druid, and Paki learned that there were mean ones too.

The druids blinded and deafened Paki and his friends when they took them into their grove, though Paki didn’t understand why. The place was really big so it wasn’t like they could miss it. The nice ones let them play around in the grass and water. Paki had a great time playing with Copac. The druids wanted Paki and his friends to help them out though they didn’t say exactly how. They couldn’t stay long, since they still had to help the Mud People, so it was all too soon when they had to leave the nice place and head back into the terrible wastes.

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Julian's Journal, Adventure Three

Adventure Log Three

Julian’s Journal

The Wild, Atrocida

I always expected to own a caravan, not guard one. But my mother always told me to profit from every experience. The person who is able to learn from his experiences emerges richer from every encounter. With my speed, stealth, and eye for detail, I was the obvious choice for an advance scout for the caravan. My stealth has proved more reliable than my perceptiveness; no enemy has noticed me scouting, but sometimes I have sneaked right past an ambush without either of us being aware of the other.

Well, anything worth doing is worth doing well. I’m casting back to the hunter training I had back in the village, trying to improve my scouting abilities. I’m slowly learning to recognize different types of tracks – even partial or obscured tracks. Given our food situation, I’m paying more attention to the plants and animals I encounter, trying to work out which are edible and how to find them. I doubt I’ll ever match Tianna’s skill, but it’s good to learn new things.

I never fancied myself a ranger, but life is a dance. Any one pose from the dance, taken in isolation, would look foolish. But string them all together, with life and motion and music, and it all makes sense. For most of my life I was the scion of a noble trading house in Palatine; for two years I was a contributing member of a Mud People village in Ballarian; now I’m a conspirator, a monster-hunter, a caravan guard, a small-scale aspiring merchant, a large-scale deal-maker, a wilderness scout. It would be too many things to count if I did not hold them lightly. The wind blows through wilderness, slum, and palace gardens alike, yet it remains itself.

The Wild, Atrocida

Had a rather Pyrrhic victory over some sort of worm creature today. We defeated them – killed them or drove them off – but not before they ate our supplies. Worse, Paki was badly hurt again. This time, Tianna was too busy trying to hold off the worm to provide assistance. She tried to explain to me how to bandage him, but it was a mess. I was useless. Considering the amount of danger we go into, I have no excuse for failing to learn at least the rudiments of the healing arts. I’ll ask Paki and Tianna to show me. Next time, I’ll be ready. I don’t want to repeat the experience of holding a bleeding child in my arms and not knowing what to do.

Secret Paradise, Atrocida

Amazing. We’ve been traveling through mile after mile of wretched, blasted wasteland. In the two centuries since the war, nothing seems to have improved. But it turns out that, in secret, someone has been doing something. A secret cabal of druid wizards has been patiently working on restoring the land, while hiding their achievements from the rest of the world. It’s an awesome undertaking, which can’t be done without some side effects; I wonder whether the freak storm we encountered a couple of months ago was the result of their efforts.

So intent are they on keeping their secret that Archdruid Arctis would have preferred to let us die rather than risk our revealing it. I can understand his reasoning. He’s responsible for the safety of his whole organization and for the success of the mission to which they’ve devoted their lives. If I were in his position, and I had to choose whether to risk all of that in order to help a group of lost travelers … well, I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t think I’d send a twelve-year-old boy to his death, but I don’t know whether I would have let us inside in his place.

Fortunately, this organization has the resources to make sure we can’t tell anyone its secrets. We had to make the journey to the grove magically blinded and deafened. I thought about trying to resist the spell and fake it, but I think wizards may have some kind of supernatural ability to sense whether their spells are successful, so I didn’t risk it. Besides, we had a deal. Still, it was very uncomfortable to be blind and deaf for so long. I kept running my finger over the intricate pattern of my family signet ring. I know the feel of it by touch from a lifetime of association, and the comforting pattern of the heavy gold was reassuring at a nervous time.

I’m genuinely impressed by the progress they’ve made. So much so that I’ve offered to help if I can without it interfering with our main mission. I considered joining their organization – it’s possible that such a move might increase rather than decrease my freedom. But it’s hard to say for certain. I thought that Tianna would be excited about it too, and she did seem to enjoy the feel of nature, but she seems rather cool towards the other druids. I don’t understand why – I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can from them in the short time we’re here. The details of how they do it are way over my head, of course. But I’m interested in – and a bit worried about – what their long-term plans may be.

The lengths to which they’ve gone to conceal their work shows that they’re aware of the difficulties they could face if their efforts are revealed. Security-minded Atrocidans will be worried at the ameliorating of the border with Crucible. Mining interests may be unhappy at the idea of covering up their ore veins with soil and plants and such. Existing political powers would certainly want to gain control of the process and decide what areas are healed next. Perhaps most troublingly, hungry people will want to turn these forests into farms. That would be a great good, alleviating much suffering, but would the druids be willing to see these trees cut down to make room for cornfields? If they did, it would also be bad news for our own deal, which depends on Ballarian producing a food surplus while Atrocida produces ore and not food. But that’s a long-term concern.

I’ve been asking around, trying to get answers to these questions. I hope to understand things better before I leave. Some of these druids are very interesting characters.

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Worth the price?

Tianna is unsure of these Druids, at least some of them anyways. She admires their goal and the progress they have made on it, but she is not entirely convinced of their morality. She is not even entirely sure why such an undertaking must be kept secret. Would people actually try to prevent this healing of the lands in Atrocida? This is a very strange place, so she supposes it is possible. But to ignore the plight of travelers who have done nothing to cause them to doubt their intentions is definitely not what she would have expected from people who care so deeply for the land.

There were some among them who had been against that action from the beginning though, so they certainly weren’t all bad. Perhaps some of them were just a bit misguided. Perhaps they had been given reason to be wary. Regardless of their behavior or what might have caused it, Tianna hoped with all of her might that they would be successful in their endeavor. This land needs to be healed. The current state of it was all wrong. No land should be as unstable and unforgiving as these stupid human wars have made this place.

She wished she could see things as simply as her friend Copac did. Having not fully understood what had happened earlier, he was blissfully unaware of the double dealings that had occurred. All he understood was that they were helping. He was so happy to see trees and animals. Tianna felt this joy too, but it was corrupted by the problems that humanity always seems to bring. Copac was flourishing in this rich place. The magics that were replenishing the land seemed to be working on him as well. He looked healthier than he had in ages and you could almost see him growing as he worked and played here.

By the time Tianna, somewhat reluctantly, left the grove to continued their journey, Copac was a bit over 10 feet tall. He was very proud of how much he had grown, claiming that now he could better protect his little friend, Paki, from getting so hurt. Tianna hoped this was true and that the remainder of their journey would go a bit smoother. Though she had her doubts, she appreciated Copac’s optimism and did nothing to discourage it.

As they started off on their journey again, Tianna worked on the story on her staff. She added an image of the desert, not just to represent this awful place, but also to represent the feelings she had when the druids turned her group away. Never had she felt so abandoned than when people that should have protected one of their own, turned her away. Then the oasis for the grove, and her somewhat renewed faith in these people. Finally, a pair of trees, one small one large to represent the significant growth spurt that Copac was so proud of.

Adventure3

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Past and Present - 1

“Only when you know pain, will you know truth…”
“Only when you submit yourself to the will of the fire, will you be allowed to know our secrets.”

I did not know it immediately, but it seems I had heard those words before… tonight I dreamt them. A dream so vivid, so real… maybe it was?

In it, I was just a boy, barely 10, towering in front of me, a great fire, raging in the town square. One by one, boys go in, glory and honors to those that come out, but to those that don’t… Their family does not mourn, at least, not in any traditional sense. Threats of exile, because their spawn was not strong enough, their genes are weak… and so on.

Then it was my turn.

In I went, like a child, staring down from a cliff into a lake, the other boys daring you to jump in, only you don’t jump, you get pushed off. I was pushed in, not by boys, not by me, but by adults, adults that, too, experienced the pain of fire. Adults that revered those who were able to walk tall after the Trial, tolerated those who merely made it out with some semblance of life, and scorned those too weak to make it. If the fire didn’t kill you, if you cried, or begged, then you father came in to get you. Although, he didn’t come to pull you out… no no, he comes to put you down. I have seen this in my drea—my memories. Those boys were done a favor, best be executed, that allow you family to live with the fact that they raised a weak failure. So in I was, I did not know what to feel, I was in the fire, was it supposed to burn? I laughed. The flames felt almost cool as they licked my skin, I laugh harder. Out I came, laughing, wondering if that was all there was, cheers and applause. Then comes The Marking, images of great battles and symbols of power etched onto my skin by a searing needle, the brands are then blessed by the men of the clergy, then enchanted by the men of the academy. I thought this would be like the fire, cool to the touched, but the pain, and my flesh was burned off my body and black scorch marks left in its place, the ritual is complete. I am an adult. A man.

Since I woke up with no recollection of who I really am, I’ve seen things… done things. Things the me in those dreams would have killed me for. Things, that, still, somewhere inside, I know I should not be doing, but sitting stagnant is a worse offence than whatever it is I am doing, so I will continue doing so. I am indebted to a village for saving my life. If I was a killer, I live to kill another day, if I was a lover, I live to love another day. Whatever I may be, I am still alive to be them. Eventually, it seems, all my memories will return, and I will be forced to make another decision with my life. That day is not today.

Today, we saw the harshness that the Atrocidan desert has to offer, mutant scorpions, Ash worms, even a dust devil. And underneath it all… a GROVE…imagine that!! Years of land torn asunder, ravaged by my people, ravaged by elementals, and to be fair, ravaged by those that wish to tap the land for its resources, and a group have been dedicating their lives to rebuilding what was once lush vegetation and clean drinking water.

It’s these same druids that denied us passage through (what we didn’t know at the time was) their grove. After some heated discussion between Tianna and the 5 of their order barring us from passing through, we were given some directions, direction that would supposedly take us around danger and lead us safely back on our path… we were tricked.

Was Arcadius so resolute in keeping his secret that he would lead innocent travelers, even a child, to die in the lawless wastes of Atrocida? Only to return and “rescue” us from the very dangers they put us against. Then force us to submit to their demands, of which included, a geas spell, which barred us from ever speaking of what we saw…but apparently not writing about it, to outsiders. Even if we were barred from writing, this is not being written TO outsiders, this is a collection of personal thoughts, and if, one day, the should end up in the hands of an outsider, before their project is complete, then I am already dead, and you can choke on your geas. I refuse to take orders, even being asked to HELP these people!! AFTER their leader knowingly placed us in harms way. This does not sit well with my at all, but I cannot survive this ordeal alone, and there is a debt to be paid, but it is not to these charlatans and fools, its to honest folk, so are being oppressed, and I owe my life to. Some of the group are considering being inducted into this “noble” order once our mission is complete. I guess they don’t see things the way I do, and I couldn’t care any less, the mission is the mission. It will get done.

A few observations:

We took on a new traveling companion, a female fighter that was also hired to guard the caravan, she seems able enough, but she is not bound to the group, but another sword arm, especially a capable one like hers is hard to come by. It will be interesting to see what she will do after our delivery is complete.

For a boy shrouded in death, Paki is certainly intent on living. He is very hard to kill, yet he is the frailest of the group, a true enigma, indeed! The way people and creatures freeze at his gaze, and flee in terror with a few incantations… a marvel to behold. He would be revered in Crucible, there is a value,even in one as diminutive as he… especially when this diminutive creature can bring things 5 times his size to its knees. That is a quality any military would covet.

Tianna is a bit of an oddball, but there is a peace about her. I would venture to guess it’s her attunement to the natural forces that surround us, it could also be that she has a giant tree for a bodyguard, but she instills a sense of calm into the group. Copec, cannot say much apparently, but he has the sharpest set of eyes in the group, I’m glad at least one of us can talk to him. I wonder how long he’s lived? What has he seen?

Julian hides many things he cannot or will not tell. I can respect that. Ones secrets are just that, one’s own. When someone knows, then it ceases to be secret, yes? I would be interested in knowing where the wind takes him when this is all said and done.

So journal, I guess this is where we end our conversation for the night, I will rest as best I can and leave this unnatural landscape, forged with Arcana and Divine energies, if it’s true that Gods created all that surrounds them… then it’s good we’re leaving soon, I would hate to be in their position when some god, not fond of someone muscling in on their creation deal, smites them for playing gods themselves.

And I will dance inside those fires.

I guess parts of the old me aren’t so dead after all.

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Paki's View: Adventure Two
What Does Thy Death Betray?

Paki walked through an empty village of wood and thatch. Open windows stared accusingly from both sides as he shuffled down the dirt street. He was covered in dust and straw, clothes torn, and feet bare. The air was hazy with smoke, sky gray and dull. Shadows abound, the only noticeable contrast to the colorless pallor weighing down the world. He could not remember how he came to be in this place, though it was achingly familiar. Something about it impressed itself upon him with unknown import.

Between one dragging footstep and another (where was he going?) Paki became aware of a presence. Before he could determine the location of the presence it multiplied. First several then many pairs of eyes appeared in the windows, watching him. Try as he might Paki was unable to make out any details. All he could see were the eyes. Wordlessly they stared at him as he slowly trudged on toward… something. Shadows began to lengthen and pool without any change in the lightness of the sky. From the corner of his eye, Paki could tell that the shadows joined behind him, closing off the way he had come.

Though he had very little sense of time, it seemed to stop suddenly as all motion halted, including his own forward progress. Paki became aware of another presence in front of him. A shrouded figure appeared not far away, though distance was difficult to judge in this place. The figure had a humanoid outline but all distinguishing features were either covered by the hooded cloak it wore or lost in the deepest darkness Paki had ever seen. As suddenly as they had appeared, the unseen watchers withdrew. It was clear that they feared this creature.

Paki was struck with the startling realization that he’d been here before in almost this exact situation. As he puzzled over this new understanding he began to feel a pressure building in his chest. The avatar of Death lifted one arm and waved a skeletal hand as if in dismissal, then pain exploded through Paki like a tidal wave. Back in the Prime Material plane, his body stabilized under Tianna’s ministrations and he settled into a deep restful sleep.

Paki didn’t know why the men had tried to kill him and his friends, but he was glad they had failed. When he’d woken up nearly a full day later Julian and Tianna filled him in on what he’d missed. He felt bad for almost dying in the middle of the fight and annoyed at himself for not being more useful. With grim resolve he promised to get better at killing people so he wouldn’t let his friends down. They both looked at him funny when he said that, though he wasn’t sure why.

Frontier was an even stranger place than Adamston, if that was possible. Unlike the mud people’s village where everyone worked together for the common good, there were two very different groups in Frontier. There were the miners and the ones who thought they were better than miners. The miners were always sick because they knocked a lot of bad stuff loose when they mined, then breathed it in. Which was pretty stupid, if you thought about it. But the miners were too busy working to think about those things. What really annoyed Paki was the way the other townsfolk treated miners. If the miners stopped working, the rest of the people wouldn’t have anything to trade so they would be poor, but they acted like they were more important than the miners. They had a place for sick miners to go but there was nobody there to help them and no medicine to give them anyway. Paki did what he could to help them but he couldn’t stay forever. In the long-term it was up to the miners to demand to be treated better, because Paki didn’t think the rest of the citizens of Frontier would suddenly change their minds and treat them better.

When Julian explained about the caravan they would be guarding on their way to the next destination, Paki was confused by the explanation. It made sense that the man who hired them didn’t want the shipment to fall into the wrong hands, but Paki got lost when Julian tried to explain who the wrong hands belonged to and how the man couldn’t just come out and say what he really wanted. Julian gave Paki one of those strange looks when Paki just asked Julian to tell him who to kill at the appropriate time. Was Paki saying something wrong?

Gauths are very dangerous creatures, but not as bad as the beholders that they resemble. Either one appearing out of nowhere was likely to cause panic in men and beasts and that is exactly what happened. Julian wanted to escape with the other caravan guards and drivers but Tianna was concerned about the horses, who could not run, and the shipment that we were hired to protect. Paki could have gone either way but he certainly was not going to leave his friends Tianna and Kopak to face the creature alone. Unfortunately it hit him with one if the beams it was shooting from its eyes.

This time Paki was side-by-side with the shrouded avatar of death as they walked down the empty street in the gray town. He now knew this had been the town where he grew up, somehow engulfed in the drifting borders of the magical wasteland that Atrocida used to protect and isolate itself from neighboring nations. His home was very much like the lands he now traveled as a caravan guard. The silent figure next to him placed a bony hand on Paki’s shoulder and turned toward him. Its touch was shockingly cool but not unpleasant. With the other hand, it reached down and picked a bone up from the street and handed it to Paki. As soon as Paki took the gift he was pulled from the dream and woke next to a blazing campfire. Once again Paki had slept the better part of a day as he recovered from the wounds inflicted by the gauth.

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On The Road Again

Tianna much preferred caravan duty to remaining in the crowded, stinking city that so dramatically highlighted the difference between the rich and poor. Those folks from the mines not being able to get the care they needed really bothered her. She admired Paki’s diligence in tracking down the people that needed his help and was happy he had come to get her. She knew little of the working of the world prior to this mission, and wished that she still did not know how cruel people could be to each other. In the village, it had been understood that every life was valuable. When people were sick, hurt or hungry everyone did what they could to help.

This land may be a harsh and unpleasant place, but at least out here she was able to feel like herself again. Fewer people, a few of what passed as plants around here… Yes, this is much better. Yet still, Tianna did not feel settled. She was still struggling to put her finger on what was bothering when the gauth attacked the caravan. Julian’s response to that attack is what finally made her realize what had been bothering her.

Ever since they left home, he had done everything to show how happy he was to have left. His change of clothes. His comments about finally being back in a city. He showed ingratitude in every way he could to the people who had done everything they could for him. Sure, he had given back and agreed to come on this mission, but Tianna found herself questioning his motives. Was it all for show? The encounter with the gauth seemed at the very least to condemn him as not overly committed to the cause. Running at the first sign of danger was not the actions of a person who really wanted the mission to exceed. It was the actions of a person who cared for himself above others. He had come back when it was obvious we weren’t leaving, but his initial reaction betrayed his true feelings.

If they had lost this delivery, they would have wasted weeks of time for nothing. The village needs this deal to work. The ore the mayor was able to send will only last for so long. They needed to secure another shipment by any means necessary. Letting a gauth destroy those chances was not something Tianna could stand by and let happen.

Tianna felt sorry that she had been quit so harsh in her response to Julian. Every word was true, but she could have been a bit gentler. There was nothing for it now though. Trying to take it back would just look silly now. First impressions are always the ones that stick. Just as Julian’s initial reaction to the gauth had not been outweighed by him staying to fight, a change of heart now would not help significantly.

This was going to be a rough trip with no guide. Though Tianna knew a rough direction of their destination, getting there was going to be a challenge though. As they waited out the night, Tianna added to her staff again. It seemed like this trip was going to make it’s best effort to fill up her staff.

Today she added an hourglass for the hurry to complete the mission, a pair of outreached hands to represent Paki’s healing efforts, a wagon to represent the caravan, a picture of the gauth since it was the scariest enemy they had faced and a fist to represent her anger with her companion’s fleeing and her determination to succeed in the mission.
Adventure2

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