Primal Elements

An Odd Adventure

This trip to The Isle of Light and Dark started off much like everything Tianna has had experienced since leaving home, with her knowing nothing about what to expect when she got there. This trip, however, was turning out to be far more bizarre than she could have imagined. She expected a trading post with some sort of conflict, but as far as she could tell, this island was not used for trading at all. Why all the secrecy? Why was nobody willing to take them across to the island by boat? It all seemed a bit fishy.

The odd little man who had been willing to get them across on his flying machine was certainly interesting… and a genius… and perhaps a little unstable, but his flying machine had gotten them to the island even with a giant icicle knocking it out of the sky. With some direction, his inventions could certainly be an asset to the cause. He just might need a little bit of space to avoid blowing anyone up. If he was able to get them all of this island after they got whatever information could be gathered, she would be happy to have him.

If… If was the question… The airship was a wreck… And 8 bit seemed to be using it as spare parts to create little robots rather than fixing it. Tianna didn’t think he quite grasped the severity of the situation they were in.

The strange creatures in the caves were also disconcerting. What was causing such a gathering of these balance-seekers? It seemed that only time would tell, but until then the group would need to keep a watch out for them. They were certainly a fearsome foe.

A New Family, A New Home

For the third time in her life, Tianna found herself with a new family. Brothers and a sister to make the circle. The responsibility to keep them safe. She had felt this responsibility before, but somehow this was different. She had chosen this course. She could have chosen not to join the circle… At least at the surface, there appeared to be a choice, but what choice was there really? To decline would have been the most selfish action she could imagine, and that was not her anymore. Her selfish hate of her first family was no more, and she was not about to do the same thing that she had long accused them of.

This family was no more a choice than either of her other families had been, yet it came with such a burden. How was such an odd group of individuals going to be truly united enough to revive a religion and save the world. Both seemed so outrageously challenging that she at times thought the gods must either be playing some terrible joke or were completely mad. Yet it had an air of truth to it. All of the evidence seemed to point to some bad weather brewing.

It seemed the less daunting of the tasks was to attempt to gain followers to this forgotten religion. Though even that had its problems. How was a group of people, most of which are not particularly religious, going to get anyone else to join in the cause. How were they going to unite a larger group without first being united themselves. The god, Tybel’s words gave her some confidence that it would not be betraying everything she believes in to revere death as well as life, but that was certainly not an argument that would win anyone over. She felt that she needed to truly feel support for this religion in order to be of any assistance in winning people over.

She started accompanying Paki to each of his visits to help the sick and wounded. The way he cared for people was interesting. He saved those that could be saved and helped those that could not be pass peacefully. In a lot of ways, it made more sense than prolonging their suffering with endless treatments, but at the same time, Tianna was unsure if it should be another person’s place to make such decisions. Shouldn’t it be the duty of the gods to determine when someone should pass on. Perhaps… Or perhaps they just made people like Paki. Tianna had started to feel some connection to the faith she was building, but it would perhaps take a bit longer for her to be fully committed.

The one thing she did know was that the gods had spoken and the consequences could be dire if they failed. They needed a base of operations and they needed help. Starting with people that they could help first seemed like a good strategy. She chipped in what she could in helping Paki talk people around. The real trick was going to be knowing when to trust them enough to let them see the site of the base. Tianna was not sure how you could ever be sure enough that allowing somebody in won’t compromise the entire mission, but on the other hand, the entire mission is about getting nations to work together. How can we expect nations to work together when we cannot even find people to trust.

There are no easy answers to be found. Only more questions. I suppose time will tell how all of this turns out.

Julian's Journal, Entry Seven

Julian’s Journal, Entry Seven

I’ve been glad enough to have a Crucian archer on our side, but apparently there are drawbacks which were not evident at first. It seems that elements of the Crucibal military want Jerrick dead. And they’re not to be taken lightly. We were lucky – in particular, Jerrick was lucky – to survive their ambush. It’s not certain that we’ll survive the next one. Still, mortal danger seems to be an integral part of my new life. If I had really wanted a quiet life, I could have stayed in Lower Ballarian, perhaps married Hara. But I wanted opportunity, and I was willing to accept risk for it. I got more of either than I had expected. At any rate, the Brotherhood Circle is part of my life now, and a vital advantage. So I suppose I’ll have to get used to a Crucian death sentence.

I accompanied Paki to his dinner with a Tarrenheim scholar, and I’m glad I did. Although he was unwilling to speak directly, he indirectly confirmed my suspicion that Liam Woodsworth had survived. More than that, he hinted at how we could find him. He also warned us about how manipulative the man can be.

He also had some interesting things to say in response to my questions about political ideology. I have been thinking a great deal about political ideology because it seems to me that the only way we can forge a stable alliance between Crucibal, Atrocida and the Palatine Empire is to offer a compelling vision of reunification. Our scholar friend pointed out that the three must once have been united by a common ideology, but the exact nature of it is lost to history. The prophecy hinted that the key to this riddle may lie in Crucibal. That’s a problem – see “Crucian death sentence” above. Still, I’ve been researching and meditating on the problem. Once we figure out the right approach, we still need to pitch it. Perhaps we can attach it to Paki’s religion – its theology might be flexible enough to accommodate a more specific political ideology.

We did find Woodsworth. As it turns out, the man is a diviner of extraordinary skill. I respect a man of vision, and a man who is willing to think practically about the future. Woodsworth has already considered becoming president of Atrocida, and his concerns are ethical and practical rather than the result of laziness or timidity. In particular, he is concerned about his opposite number – a master opportunist so unpredictable that even Woodsworth’s most powerful divinations cannot reveal his identity or guess at his actions, and only hint at his very existence. We’ve reached a possible understanding for the future – when Woodsworth figures out the identity of his enemy, we will assassinate the enemy and assist Woodsworth’s coup d’etat. Then, as the new head of state, Woodsworth will pursue a defense and foreign policy agenda designed to deal with the threat about which the gods warned us. I feel more than a little presumptuous plotting the fate of nations like this, but this is the task that the gods laid on us. It’s a task in which my own rational intellect must sync perfectly with Paki’s faith and extraordinary intuition, with Tianna serving to keep us both grounded. Since the circle ritual, I have increasingly sensed how the personalities and abilities of the others balance and complete my own.

When I first saw Adamston, I decided that I liked Atrocida. I questioned this impression when I saw the decadence of Pandemonium and the inequality of Crag City. But Del Yorris confirmed my first impression. Each city has a distinct character, and Del Yorris is a city that works. Civil services do a good job at protecting the public health and safety, but there’s still plenty of opportunity for the entrepreneur. I liked the city so much that I decided to begin here implementing a plan which I’ve been mulling over for a while.

When I was helpless and destitute, the people of Lower Ballarian took me in, protected me, and provided for me. In gratitude, I employed my considerable abilities to protect their prosperity. The mirror of the gods helped me to see this more clearly. I have learned two lessons. One, my aristocratic upbringing had partially blinded me to the worth of people of lower birth. Two, there must be other people of ability who find themselves in desperate straits. People in exile, in hiding, in prison, in desperate poverty, who could accomplish extraordinary things given even a small chance. That’s what Atrocida is all about, at its best, but too often people don’t get that chance. But those people are an undervalued resource, and identifying an undervalued resource is how a man gains true wealth.

So my project is to identify clever people of no social status and get them to work for me. It often costs little to get a poor man out of prison. If he’s the sort who returns loyalty for generosity, then I’ve made an excellent investment. Of course, not every such investment will pay off; many will be incapable of much gratitude, and even of the grateful, some will lack the sort of resourcefulness I’m looking for. But the person who proves both loyal and resourceful will be an asset of tremendous value. I can slowly build an intelligence network. It might not be as quick as Liam’s divinations, but I will also be able to act through it. This is a long-term project, of course, which will take years to mature, unless I have some extraordinary luck. But I could have agents in every city, providing me with intelligence and acting on my behalf. I could provide them with income, education, and credentials to reach positions of greater access. I don’t want to be a politician – I want to be the man whom the politicians have to talk to before they do anything.

I’ve already encountered a person of extraordinary ability in Del Yorris – the gnome inventor Ezekiel “8-bit” Skyboom. He’s invented a working airship! What a ride! He needs a patron, and we need him. The others, excessively worried by the constant threat of crashing or falling to our deaths, don’t fully see 8-bit’s potential. But he can offer us mobility that very few can match, a (relatively) stable platform for action. If Ballarian is going to invade, we will need an air force. And he can get us to the Isle of Light and Darkness.

The airship crashed, but it was not a design flaw. A giant, sheathed in heavy armor carved with the runes of Winter, smashed it by calling down an immense icicle from the heavens. It seems likely that this giant is a sentinel, stationed atop a mountain specifically to keep anyone from approaching the Isle. Someone has secrets here – secrets they’re willing to kill to protect. We’re going to find out what they are.

Paki's Quest 1
Uncovering the Past

Paki lay in bed mulling over the past few days. The formation of the circle had altered his perspective in a profound way. Before he had been a lost child wandering the world looking for his place. Now that he’d found what he was looking for, Paki felt the burdensome weight of a monumental responsibility resting upon his fragile shoulders. He was at once extremely proud and terribly frightened. At least he had the rest of his Circle to help with saving the world. Saving the world!? But he felt quite alone in his quest to resurrect the Brotherhood. Something deep within told him it was the key to the greater task. Or perhaps one of several keys. Either way, he felt it was very important.

Paki wanted very badly to be successful, but he was daunted by the challenge. First he needed to understand why and how the order had been destroyed so that he could make the new one resistant to the same fate. This evening’s dinner with the professor should help with that. He needed to be careful not to bring too much attention to himself until he knew more. Unfortunately if was difficult when he didn’t understand this land’s culture. Strange to think that he was originally Atrocitan when he had spent important formative years wandering through alien planescapes and then in Lower Balleria. Paki realized that he would need to become more sophisticated and quickly. Perhaps he should enlist Julian’s aid.

Thinking of Julian brought to mind their argument over building the base. Julian’s sense of self-importance was annoying at times, but a part of the man that Paki had to accept. Upon further contemplation the trait was both a strength and weakness, and some of what Paki would need to learn to emulate. Feeling and acting important made others take you more seriously. Julian understood that and had been raised with it as a guiding principle. Paki himself felt so disassociated from the normal ebb and flow of social order that he had trouble grasping the motivations of others. That was another skill he would need to develop. In any case, Julian was part of his Circle and no argument would ever damage that bond.

Paki's Metamorphosis
And the World Shall Tremble in His Wake

Something tugged at Paki, pulling him onward. It wasn’t a physical force and he had to concentrate to really feel it. The amulet helped him focus on the sensation, but he knew that it had always been there, calling to him. Something deep within him resonated like a dowsing rod and instinct told him it was right to find the source. So it had been since attuning himself to the amulet in the temple of the Brotherhood. Paki was glad his friends agreed to follow his instincts. They had been on the trail for some time now but he felt the destination just ahead. Then he saw it, a circle of ground that might have been a shelter at one point but only a few large stones remained standing.

He moved to clear some of the debris away that had collected on the holy ground, for that’s what he knew it was, but something strange happened as he crossed the threshold of the circle. One moment he was outdoors in the ruins of a long-forgotten shrine and the next he stood within that shrine as complete as it had once been. Immediately he knew that he was in the presence of the Brothers, Aron and Tybel. Paki felt a sublime peace in this place. In the center was a stone table and he instinctively sat at it expectantly. The others followed, though much more cautiously, and took seats themselves. The last of them to sit was Lylee, which seemed natural since she had been the last of them to join the company, and then the feast appeared.

When they finished the feast Paki followed his instincts through one of the two vine-covered exits and they embarked upon a most unusual journey, prompted directly by Aron and Tybel themselves. Though long and arduous, Paki understood that the journey was meant to bind the friends together and prepare them for a great task, hinted at in the Brothers’ words in their central temple. From his reading on the Brothers’ lost religion, Paki knew of the priesthood Circles and suspected this was what Aron and Tybel had in mind for them. This suspicion would be confirmed at the end of the trial, but not before Paki and his friends were forced to face the most frightening foe imaginable – themselves.

Paki stared into the pool of water, open to anything that his gods would show him. He saw only his reflection. With puzzlement he examined his image. It was clearer than one would expect from a simple pool of water – more so even than a good mirror, which he’d seen from a distance in the city. The more he stared at himself the more real his image appeared, taking on depth and tone. Though the effect was interesting he couldn’t help but feel disappointed, having expected something wondrous. Then he met his own gaze – and was lost.

Kind eyes gazed lovingly down at him as his baby fingers caressed his mother’s face. They were large brown pools that promised protection and happiness. He could hear her voice and, though he did not know the words, it was comforting music. There was a deeper voice in the background, his father’s, which complimented the music like a bass beat. His eyes drooped and he started to drift off, but the music changed rhythm and pitch, becoming strained. Now he was huddled under a bed with his mother while a strange fog rolled in through the open door of their small home. Screams could be heard from outside and his mother was calling his father’s name. The young boy reached out a hand and touched the fog, which curled around his fingers playfully. He turned to his mother, confused and frightened, and watched with horror as the fog melted her flesh away, pouring in through her mouth, open in a silent scream. He scrambled away from the corpse as it rapidly decomposed, running out into the street. There he saw others dying in similarly gruesome ways, their spirits wailing as they were caught up in torrents of whirling fog.

The boy ran. He ran with eyes tightly shut against the terrible sight as tears streamed down his face. He ran with hands covering his ears in a vain attempt to ward off the cries of the dead and dying around him. He ran screaming at the top of his lungs to drown out the terrible sounds. He ran until his strength gave out and he collapsed in silent darkness. Time passed and he gradually became aware of shapes in the blackness. Numb from shock he wandered through the now ever-present fog. The boy’s eyes learned to pick out shades of gray among the darkness and fog. A mountain took form in the distance and he moved inexorably toward it. Eventually he became aware of a presence beside him. Keeping pace at his side was a looming skeletal figure shrouded in robes and carrying a large staff. The boy was not frightened of the figure. Either he knew on some instinctive level that he was in no danger or all fear had been burned out of him by his recent experiences.

They reached the top of the mountain an indeterminate amount of time later. Time worked strangely in this place. Atop the mountain was a black lake, still as death. The boy knelt next to the lake and peered at it. The surface was motionless, opaque and non-reflective. He reached down slowly as if to touch it but a bony hand on his shoulder made him stop. He looked up as the skeletal figure reached down and touched the surface of the pool. A thick black substance clung to one of its fingers when he lifted it back out. It then used the finger to inscribe something on his forehead. As it did so he felt a chill spread from the point of contact throughout his body. From that moment he knew that he belonged to Death.

Paki screamed as he backed away from the pool. Memories flooded his mind, every sensation and emotion that had been suppressed flaring back to vivid clarity. His family and friends dying gruesome deaths as their town was pulled into the Gray Wastes during a freak dimensional vortex. The events that followed as he wandered the Gray Waste and adjacent dimensions, hiding and fighting for survival until he found the elemental plane of Earth, which he knew would take him home. Once more he recalled stumbling out of the mine in Lower Balleria and being taken in by the locals. They were kind to him but he could tell that he frightened them. Events leading up to the present flashed through his mind and he saw the same thing in the eyes of those he met along the way. He was forever changed by the traumatic circumstances of his childhood and everyone could see the mark of Tybel etched into his very soul.

Terrible circumstances had taken his childhood – his innocence from him. Divine powers had marked him for great purpose. Though Paki looked like a child still, he did not know his true age. In truth it didn’t matter. The important fact was that he could not afford to continue clinging to remnants of the child he had been. He would accept his past and work to become a man capable of achieving great things. He would be loyal to his gods, to his friends, and to his mission. Any who opposed them would learn the true meaning of fear.


Tianna had always felt that anger inside of her. Anger at her first family for abandoning her. For being ashamed of her. Her logical side knew that she would be dead if they hadn’t, but that side rarely won when it came to her parents. She hated them. That hate had driven her to extreme loyalty to her family in Lower Balaria. For that she was grateful. She was proud to be their daughter and prouder still to help them in any way she could.

For the first time ever, Tianna felt ashamed of that hate. She saw herself as a child with the fever. She saw the pain in her parent’s faces as she wasted away. She saw the money they spent on every healer or remedy that might have some effect. She saw herself recovering. She heard the healers say that she would be too frail for the tests; that she wouldn’t survive them. She saw the curtains drawn closed, heard her mother and father announce that she had passed away. Watched her own funeral from her bedroom window.

That night her mother and father cried as they gave Tianna to a stranger to take away. They handed him a large sum of money for his trouble and a folded parchment and another pouch of coins for the family he was delivering her too. Tianna’s last memory of her parents was their silent images fading into the dark. Tianna wished now, more than anything, that she could thank them. That she could somehow make up for the years of hate that had built up inside. Her emotions finally saw what her logic had all along. Her parents loved her more than anything and had risked everything to save her.

Tianna wished that she could see her parents again. Their faces burned in her mind. She wanted to thank them. To let them know she was doing well. But she knew that for there to even be a chance of that, she needed to prevent the events described in Aron and Tybel’s prophecies. She knew that the group had a tough road ahead, but the drive to save both of her families made the path clearer than it ever was before.

Tonight, Tianna carved only two images into her staff even though it had been the fullest day of her life. She carved a wrapped parcel, a reminder of the gift her parents had given her by sending her away, and a compass pointing due north as an indicator of her renewed purpose.


The Fire within

My name… is Jerrick Macht von Awesome. I know that now. I know that better than I have ever known it before. Something important has happened, something I will never find the words to describe. Something that will haunt me until the end of my days. My dreams… are now… my memories.

I was born in Eurotas, capital of Crucibel. Son of Richtor, bowman to the Marshall General’s honor guard. Father was of the belief that if you were going to raise something to be proud of, do it right, and do it yourself. My failures would viewed as a reflection of my father’s teachings, he just wanted to make sure it was true. If I was to be a failure, he wished to know that he did everything possible to absolve himself. If I were to fail, it would not be for lack of a military-grade education. My love of the bow, I learned from my father. As my mother, Gretchen, was with her potions and scrolls, he was with his bow. They were inseparable, in time, I would be the same way. If this ever makes to the public before I grow to an old age, I only wish to let the bowyer, that fashioned me a replacement bow, while secretly repairing my shattered bow, that you have afforded me a kindness I will never be able to return… at least… not yet.

I was a miniature version of my father, I talked like him, walked like him and carried my bow like him. Wherever father walked, his smaller reflection would follow. He did not wish to shield my eyes from the truth, if I were to live in the harsh world, I would need to know such harsh realities. I’ve seen father interrogate, hurt and kill many people. Then… the trials came. I fearlessly leapt into the fire, because I knew my father would have too, and emerged the other side, and as I did, the look of pride on my father’s face, as he took the irons… and branded me for the first time.

In the academy I was the odd man out, the best archer by far, but I was always that quiet one, the one whose father is the Marshal General’s personal archer. “I hear… he can fire one arrow and put out BOTH your eyes.” “That’s nothing, I hear if you pick on him, while you sleep at night, his bow comes to life and exacts his revenge.” “That’s not what I heard, I heard if he smiles at you, you’re going to die the next day.” As we learned more, I wished for more, I was thirsty to drink from the fountain of knowledge, and learn to be the best archer I could. And I welcomed all targets… nonliving or living.

Upon graduation, we each took tests, we had to demonstrate how much we’d learned and how effective we were at applying this knowledge, I don’t know how I did, I don’t remember caring, but I was assigned to a special forces unit, Fire Storm. We were the silent ones, whenever you hear those bedtime stories of Crucibel being able to have diplomats and leaders go to sleep, and never wake up? That was us. If high priority targets needed extraction and things were expected to get messy, they called us. We were killers, we were thieves, but we were still soldiers… worse… we were still kids.

I remember, the first man to die at my hand on the field. I remember the first relic we liberated. I remember the first man to beg for his life, right before he sold out his country’s secrets to us.

I even remember… that day. We were in Balaria, send to assassinate some high ranking officials, the trap was set, when it was us walking into the trap all along. They knew… they had to know, our plan was too perfect, the only variable was us, and I would rather die than to hear a brother of mine sold us out to an enemy. We dispersed, too many of them to take out by outselves, we were a tactical unit, not a small army. I was finally cornered. I pulled out my longwsord and began to defend myself, I was bested, beaten, drenched in kerocene and set on fire. “That Crucian plague must not be allowed to spread HAHA!” , he chortled. I was wounded, battered, and bleeding out, the fire felt warm… but it too, in time became uncomforatable. And I closed my eyes… and waited to die. My bow, my life, my Firesong, shattered, never again to fire another arrow.

The miracle of kindness is why I’m still around today, able to do what I do. Part of me yearn for home, especially now. Other parts understand my mission, a mission with a success condition no less that the safety of the world.

I am glad I lost my memories. Had I retained them, I would have slaughtered my saviors, and rendezvoused with my unit, and began anew. I was wiped for a reason, a purpose, given a clean slate so new deeds can be written, and yet now, this slate is not so clean, the writing underneath has been exposed, can both stories coexist? Will one inevitably overwrite the other? What do I tell Crucibel when they ultimately find me? The Gods of Life and Death are working side by side, they are in balance, the old religion, the old teachings, live on in a boy, a boy not tall enough to reach the tavern bar, not strong enough to open a village gate, but strong enough, that he is.

A druid, oddly familiar, and her wooden companion. A rogue, gifted with a silver tongue, and steps as light as air. And finally the fighter, with sword and shield she protects, looking to find her place in the massive world.

All we are is tasked to save the world… how hard can that be?

Julian's Journal, Adventure Six

Julian’s Journal, Adventure Six

I begin to accept that my destiny has changed. Stumbling across the ancient temple of the Aron-Tybel Dyad, in the company of the strange child Paki, has placed us in a unique position. I had already begun to expand my horizons, from a privileged child with no real responsibilities to an entrepreneur responsible not only for a new and risky business venture, but for the lives and welfare of thousands in Lower Ballarian. Now my role expands again. Aron and Tybel seem quite seriously to have charged us with saving the world.

Of course, we did pass their tests. About the long and arduous journey we took through their mysterious land, I shall say little. Except that I can apparently walk on water, which discovery pleases me. On the other hand, my mobility – my lightness – deserted me for weeks in that strange place. I have always thought of it as a natural part of me, and I’m a little disturbed to think that it can be cancelled by an anti-magic field.

About the mirror test I shall write at more length. This test was designed to reveal the viewer’s true self to himself. It seems to have been intensely traumatic for Paki and Jerrick, far less so for Tianna and Lylee. I was, I suppose, somewhere in the middle.

My mother taught me that it’s impossible to live a moral life without continual self-examination. That’s easier said than done, but I try. I have relatively few illusions, and I expected to see my character flaws. The two I expected in particular to see were cowardice and vanity. And in a way I did see them … but not quite in the way I had expected.

I’m going to describe this vision as though a series of images were displayed in front of my eyes. But that’s not really how it was; it’s only the best way I can think of to describe it. As experienced, everything was simultaneous. It seemed to happen all in an instant, but that instant seemed infinitely long.

I saw the fight with the Beholder. I had expected to see it, because I had expected the mirror to accuse me, as Tianna had, of cowardice. But, re-experiencing my emotions of the time, I realize that I felt fear, but I also felt excitement. I kept both in check and tried to think clearly. I decided that our best option was to flee. But I moved into danger to attempt to convince my companions of that, and nearly died. I took cover from the creature’s beams, but when the opportunity presented itself, I emerged – despite being terribly wounded – to strike the killing blow. And even when I hid, I did so out of planning, rather than blind fear. I had, I realize now, no intention of abandoning my comrades.

I also saw the fight with the Remorhaz. I saw myself alone, against a creature vastly more powerful than myself. I was alone because the monster had just swallowed Lylee whole, and I knew that she was tougher than I was. But I did not flee, nor even seriously consider doing so. I saw myself sliding along the snow beneath the creature, dagger slicing open its belly, Lylee covered with slime falling out of the gash, thudding on the snow, me hurling aside my red-hot dagger to sizzle in the snow. That was brave, and I have to admit, I looked good doing it.

My parents, as long as I knew them, were cautious sorts. Careful, conservative bourgeois. They raised me to be the same. Where did this daredevil streak come from?

So I did not find the cowardice I had expected. Instead, I found a different sort of cowardice. I saw myself murdering the caravan master. A single, precise thrust through the heart of a helpless man, while I pretended to be looking after his welfare. And why did I do it? Because I was afraid. I knew that we were touching big conspiracies, and that I didn’t really understand who was involved, what they were doing, or what the results might be. I was afraid of taking the wrong side, and I was afraid of making enemies. So I eliminated the caravan master to reduce our risk. That was a cowardly act.

And would I have done it if he had been a noble, or a prosperous merchant? This is the worst of the blindness which the mirror exposed. I knew that others saw me as arrogant, but I didn’t think I really was, because I was courteous and generous. But to the lower classes – like the Mud People who saved my life out of kindness – I was arrogant. I thought – not consciously, perhaps, but on some level – that I was better than they were. That’s how I was raised. I was raised surrounded by dozens of servants who really were, legally and socially, less important than I was. My father, my tutors, even my gentle mother, all raised me to think this way. That my life, my time, my attention were more valuable than those of most people.

For the past two years, I have despised the Upper Ballarians for the way they treated my friends the Mud People. But for the fifteen years before that, I was just like them.

And yet … I don’t know whether I can afford true humility. My pride is my strength. My ability to think and move quickly, decisively, and effectively are all linked to that pride. And now, it seems that the fate of the world may rest on how good my moves are. This importance I’ve gained by sheer chance may make it impossible to deal with my new insight that I’ve been living with an inflated sense of self-importance all along. Overconfidence has been my greatest flaw, yet I may well find myself condemned to a life of acting more confident than I really am. Because if we’re going to save the world, I need to successfully close the biggest deal in history. And the first rule of making a deal is: always act like you know what you’re doing.

Paki's View: Sessions 4 & 5
Paki's Awakening

Pandemonium was aptly named. Paki’s first introduction to the city was an attack on it by undead hordes. Interesting. Since the party was approaching from behind the army, their plan was to barrel through and into the city before the army had time to focus on them. This might have worked out flawlessly except that Julian decided to run into the middle of a group of huge zombies and insult their mothers. Since everyone else was busy trying to keep him from being squished it was up to Paki to keep the wagon moving toward the city. Not surprisingly it wasn’t difficult to keep the horses running for their lives, but it was challenging to keep them from panicking and dumping the wagon in the process. Luckily it all worked out and they were lauded as heroes by the city folk when they made it through. Paki was a little uncomfortable with the attention, but he bore it with solemnity. Luckily the crowd bored with solemnity very quickly and moved on to the others. Julian seemed to thrive on the attention. Almost immediately after the crowd moved on to other distractions the party was approached by Sir Octavian Tallmark of the Homeland Guard, who attempted to take possession of the goods in their wagon. Julian politely turned him down, which he later explained was because the man represented a different “faction” than the one Mayor Woodsworth seemed to prefer. That was good enough for Paki, though he found politics confusing.

While the group was resting and recovering from their trip and Julian was exploring the local political scene, Paki investigated the city’s sick houses, as was his habit. There were a large number of them catering to the various adventuring bands and defenders of the city, but most were well manned and provisioned. He offered his services at one such location and was put to work grinding herbs for basic medicines. While doing this task he noticed a man who was not receiving attention. When he asked about the man he was told that there was nothing that could be done for him. Paki examined the man himself and was unable to locate any significant illness or injury to account for his catatonic state. When a contingent of local clerics arrived and attempted all manner of healing magics they were unable to help either. Curious now, Paki was able to rouse the man briefly and communicate with him in a very rudimentary manner. Through this conversation he learned that the man had taken an amulet, which was still in his possession, from an abandoned temple a few hours north of town. Paki was surprised to discover that the temple was of a lost sect dedicated to the brothers Aron and Tybel, the gods of life and death. As he himself had a close connection with Tybel, Paki decided to return the amulet to its rightful place and possibly aid the man in the process. When he rejoined the group and explained the situation he discovered that Julian was looking for the same man. So it was decided that the party would rest up then journey to the temple to return the amulet.

The Temple of Aron and Tybel was a life-changing experience for Paki. Upon their arrival he immediately felt a resonance with the place, especially the half dedicated to Tybel. There were a few trials to test the worthiness of visitors and then they made it to the heart of the temple. With his companions keeping the guardians busy, Paki and Julian were able to determine the nature and purpose of the room. There was a bonding ritual dagger blessed by both brothers and fertile soil. Paki knew what he had to do and he did it. Using the ritual blade he fed his blood to the soil, thus completing his pact with the brothers. The ritual bound him to them through the amulet he still carried and thus was The Brotherhood born anew.

Julian's Journal, Adventure Five

Well, I don’t have much in the way of faith, but I do pride myself on my insight and resolve. I deduced that if a Trial of Faith presented one with fearsome difficulties, the only way to pass would be to persevere. Note that this does not necessarily imply that perseverance guarantees survival; it’s a necessary condition, but not automatically a sufficient one. That is to say, the gods might be perfectly content to design a test of will in which a person of strong mind but weak body could keep faith and yet die trying. To live in the world is to know that the justice of the gods is imperfect at best.

All of which meant that I had excellent reason to forego the test. It seemed unlikely that multiple rewards would be given; only one of us needed to pass the test. But when Paki stepped through the veil of darkness alone, I knew that I had to follow. I could never forgive myself if the test destroyed him and I didn’t at least try to help.

But I didn’t intend to act in blind faith. Well, not figuratively speaking, at least. Literally, I was indeed blind. I proposed that those of us who had not yet taken our leap of faith should hold hands. In this way, anyone who fell could be carried by the others. If Paki or Jerrick were lying helpless in front of us, we might hope to find them by stumbling over them.

It was indeed a fearsome experience, walking through the cold darkness and feeling my pose and confidence drawn out of my body. By the time we made it out, I felt quite … common. But we made it through together – albeit Copac had to carry Tianna towards the end.

In the end was a holy chamber inhabited by a tree and a shadow, both of which attacked us. The shadow seemed invulnerable to mortal weapons and Tianna succeeded at opening diplomatic relations with the tree, which left Paki and me at loose ends. We investigated the altar and found a knife marked with quite archaic runes. I was able to puzzle out their meaning, more or less – the knife was meant to shed one’s blood on sanctified fertile soil, of which there was a convenient patch nearby.

Not being the holy sort, I had no intention of actually cutting myself and bleeding all over the place. It seemed like a rather foolish thing to do, really. But Paki is the holy sort, and he did just that. It was a rather frightening spectacle, but afterwards the temple seemed to recognize him as one of its own. So did the amulet, which allowed him to lift the curse on our merchant contact.

That done, it became possible to fulfill our mission. The details of the deal are complex and have been specified in Appendix A. The important thing is that I have successfully set up my ore-for-food scheme in such a way that the villagers should be able to keep it going without me. The important thing is that I am free of the heavy burden of obligation which I have been carrying. It’s quite a relief.

What now? Ever since his experience in the temple Paki has been behaving strangely. I even caught the kid trying to be a street preacher, which was equal parts pathetic and unnerving. Well, we’re apparently contractually obliged to go adventuring (see Appendix A), so I suggested we might go looking for other temples of the ancient life/death cult. It seemed to satisfy the boy’s need to do something about his new religious convictions. There’s also the chance that we might get some more information about the ominous warnings we encountered in the temple (see Appendix B). I don’t really think of myself as the saving-the-world type, but I do want the world to keep existing. After all, that’s where I keep my stuff.


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