Althaea's Journal VI
Session 6

Althaea’s journal entry for 18th of Sunburst continues

When the worried Dulkan re-entered the travel chamber, we came to know that the same time had passed inside and outside of the chamber, although our physical presence might have been someplace else. Carric attempted again to move the spheres of the floor – after some protest from Dulkan. Now, for some reason, the spheres would move. Perhaps the room had been out of use for so long that it needed to warm up. As they now moved, a discussion ensued of what alignment the spheres should take relative to the three doors and the vessel holding the power-generating gem. The doors and the vessel formed four ends of a cross while the middle sphere – around which the rest orbited – was at the centre of the imaginary cross. Carric noted that while the central sphere could represent the sun and the second sphere could represent our planet orbiting the sun, the third sphere could not represent our planet’s moon as the orbit was not correct; also what would be representative of our second moon. Therefore we had no knowledge what the third movable sphere could represent.

As Dulkan had some knowledge on dwarven craftsmanship, he suggested that we should attempt sliding the spheres along their tracks to see if we would feel a clicking or some disturbance in the sliding of the sphere. We did not: apparently this was not a tumbler –type lock.

We re-aligned the spheres, and again Carric placed a piece of tourmaline in the vessel. As before, there was a flash of light going through the room, and a distinct humming. After this powering, or activating, of the chamber we decided to inspect the doors. Carric chose to open the door which had held the spear trap the previous time we had activated the chamber. Mindful of possible danger, we all stepped aside as not to directly face the opened doorway– should something be hurled in none of us would be in harm’s way. The moment Carric opened the door, there was a sudden feeling of shift, and we all lost our balance, slid and fell against the wall where the opened door was. Gravity had changed in opening the door, and the doorway now led to a deep, dark pit. Unfortunately, as the door swung open outwards and not inwards, we could not just pull to close it. While I was still thinking what could be done with the door, could we perhaps lower someone down with a rope to pull it shut, Borel acted. He made a valiant effort to try and reach for the gem to deactivate the room to return gravity to normal. But his leap was unsuccessful and alas, he failed and fell out of the doorway. Luckily he had been caught by his belt buckle on the hinges of the door. He was now fighting for his life, trying to hold on. We threw some rope down, and this was the opportunity to try to close the door altogether. Borel thus tied the rope to the handle of the door and with an extraordinary effort Dulkan, Carric and I were able to provide enough muscle power to pull both the door and Borel back up and shut the door. As soon as the door was shut, gravity was returned to normal. Carric then lifted the gem away, deactivating the travel chamber and the magic of the room dissipated.

The third door that had been sealed when we first came to the chamber and when we first attempted to activate the room, was now open. This doorway led to a room, apparently formerly occupied by a wizard. All furniture had been broken and their remnants were scattered across the room. In the wall opposite the door was a small niche, containing magic scrolls. Scrolls immediately attracted Carric’s attention. As Carric and Dulkan advanced towards the niche, a trap in front it was triggered. Part of the stone floor slid from its place and flipped, sending Dulkan trapped beneath the stone slab. I could see a glimpse of the tragic that was inside; the floor was littered with the bones of those unfortunate souls who had previously sprung the trap. We could hear Dulkan’s voice underneath the stone slab, telling us he was all right apart from hurting his posterior on the fall.

We now considered how we might save Dulkan. Carric suggested we should spring the trap and jam the stone slab to prevent it from closing. As the room had broken furniture, I suggested we might use some of that debris to jam the trapdoor. Surely enough there was remnants of a sturdy table that could possibly do the trick. Carric then went ahead and sprung the trap. I had but just exclaimed that should he tie a rope around his waist for security, but I was too late. Fortunately enough, no such measures were necessary, as we were able to jam the door and Carric was agile enough to jump away from danger, being now aware of the danger. So, we fished Dulkan out, no worse for wear.

Carric and I then inspected the niche. There were three scrolls: two were written in a language neither Carric nor I could read. One scroll was legible to me and it was “Feign death” spell, to be used only once. I carefully placed the scrolls to my case, as there could be later use for them. After removing the scrolls, Carric noted that there were magical words inscribed in the wall behind, roughly translating into something like “curiosity killed the cat”. Very nearly indeed.

We then continued exploring this structure inside the Spire. We found a room that had apparently functioned as a gallery showcasing statues and other works of art judging from empty pedestals and showcases in the room, but there was not much else there. The objects and artefacts likely furnishing and decorating the room had now been burned – deliberately, as the ash was in piles in centre of the room. Furthermore, someone had been camping there, not just burning the stuff, as there was indication that a campfire had been kept in the room.

After completing the inspection of the gallery we found a staircase. As we descended down the stairs I could feel a sense of magical transport, and as I had ritual casted “Detect magic” spell I could tell that indeed there was a magical passage in the staircase. The others felt it too, but we still continued.

In the bottom of the stairs we found a door leading to a room that had apparently functioned as a library, as there was a book case with books and parchments in the shelves. I also detected magical glow in two of the rugs and two hanging armours in the room. I was reminded by my blunder with the tapestry and of Dulkan’s sufferings with the other trap; I remained carefully near the door of the room. As I informed the others of my observations, to caution them to take care when handling those artefacts, Borel’s following actions were inconceivable, placing us all in jeopardy. He wished to agitate the magic in the objects and decided – I cannot believe I am writing this – to take a piss on one of the rugs! Had he not learned to at least to be careful in dealings with magic, if not respecting it?

The objects promptly animated and attacked. Unfortunately I had positioned myself close to one of the armours that I had to quickly “Blade ward” myself; this choice proved most useful in the following combat. I had my hands full trying to combat the armour with “Acid splash” so I had little time to pay much attention how the fight was going for my comrades. I was taken off guard to this battle, stunned by Borel’s behavior and I was still a bit perturbed by my previous encounter with the magical trap that my acid splashes did little damage. From what I could observe, Carric’s magic was also a bit awry today, and he did almost as much damage to the surrounding structures as he did against the rug attacking him. The book case was unfortunately too close by, and many of the parchments were ruined in the collateral damage. The rug Borel had pissed on was now attacking him, trying to smother him. Dulkan leapt to his assistance, and was able to help him before the other armour attacked him. Dulkan then decided utilize higher ground as he jumped on a table, and with precision strikes of his rapier he dismantled the armour by cutting leather straps holding it together. The others defeated their adversaries much sooner than I, so they could come to my assistance. I was indeed in need of assistance as the acid I was able to conjure did little to slow the armour down.

As the fight quieted, I found myself in a really poor shape. For the first time, I had to perform “Cure wounds” on myself. We all needed a short rest. During our rest we had ample time to inspect the book case with Carric. He found a book that could be useful when attempting to use the travel chamber, although its cover and bindings had been dissolved by collateral damage from his acid spell. I found a series of ledgers, where the most recent one was from 73rd year of the reign of Merexia. When consulting historians, this could be used as an indicator on how long ago the structure had been in use. The ledger held little other interest at the moment, as it was not much more than a catalogue of the tributes given to Merexia. Another parchment I found dealt with the worship of Quirion.

Carric, on the other hand, found a book describing the worship of Ochrana. Borel showed quite keen interest in the book and asked Carric whether he could have it. Surely enough Carric agreed, and immediately Borel took a moment to read. He then asked Dulkan for his dagger; took it, and went away. Coming back he had a fresh injury on his hand: as my mother had educated me well, I knew that the worship of Ochrana can involve blood sacrifice, and the most valuable blood one can sacrifice is their own. However, Borel chose to be secretive about it, and I saw no reason to confront him on his choice of worship. But what I did consider confronting him for was his reckless behaviour with the magical items, which had placed all of us in perhaps unnecessary jeopardy.

After this hour of rest, we continued. We passed a very ornate hallway, which had apparently been decorated with some works of art, but none prevailed. Common all the rooms we investigated were traces of fire, with furniture of the room piled, and burned. Then we came to a great hall, which was a lounge area of sort. The floor was at a higher terrace along the walls and at a lower level in the middle of the room. But the most dominant feature of this room was an impressive oak tree growing in a big pot in the middle of the room, although no light was coming from anywhere. It was not lush but not scrubby either. It apparently grew thanks to some magic. After the short rest I had to recast my ritual “Detect magic” spell. As it took effect I was alarmed to find that the type of magic the tree was gently glowing was the same magic that had taken a palm’s width out of my height! I was alarmed and in a hurry now to warn my friends; Carric is always interested in things – magical or natural in nature – and Borel expresses a very childlike enthusiasm with little regard of repercussion or personal safety. I cried out a warning, just in time as Borel was apparently preparing to climb on the tree. After the shock had worn off, I suddenly realized that my clothes fit me better again. Dulkan noticed this and came to me to confirm of my feeling to be true. He attempted to lighten the mood by telling some clumsy but endearing joke about me not having to shorten my name again to fit my shortened height. Dear brother, what a nice gesture!

Onwards again we went, passing through a dining room. As we entered a room that had apparently functioned as kitchen, I immediately smelled the ocean and, when listening carefully, could hear muffled voices carrying from a distance. I saw that there was a crack in the floor at the corner of the room, and instantly realized that the smell of ocean and the voices were coming from there. Carric identified that as oceanic and luckily he could understand it. Apparently a Sahuagin Priestess was speaking; rather chanting to agitate bloodlust amongst the Sahuagin. This was a mass of some sort, for the worship of a deity called the Bloodmother, likely a Sahuagin name for Ochrana.

We understood that no time could be lost as they were preparing for a major manoeuvre; having captured an important landwalker, as they expressed it, for interrogation and the arrival of someone called the Baron.This meant that we were close to Sahuagin activity. Apparently the staircase had magically transported us closer to the sea than we actually were supposed to be. The crack was too narrow to lower anyone down for inspection, so we pressed forwards, but carefully as voices carry both ways. I also detected magic again. Thanks to my mother’s secret study, I was able to identify the magic in question: it was an arcane door with an arcane lock. We took a brief moment trying to open the door, but as there was little to go on how the door might be opened, and as we were pressed for time (rations grew fewer with each day passing), we continued forwards.

We passed barracks and reached an armoury with weapons and protective gear; Borel was interested in what it had to offer. I voiced the idea that we could perhaps upgrade the men’s armour and weapon. In this room there was a well, which could be our means to get to the lower level where the Sahuagin were. We decided that Dulkan should fetch the men without delay. Dulkan shot of with speedy, light-footed run. We decided to utilize Carric’s spell of invisibility to gain intelligence of what lay ahead. We came to the conclusion that we should send Borel down as he had the best fighting ability and, by the stealth of his invisibility, he could swiftly capture the Priestess for questioning, or kill her if capture was not an option.
As soon as Borel reached bottom of the well we realized we had made some miscalculations. First of all, Borel could not see in the dark and had to light a torch, which was a serious handicap against the invisibility. Second, Borel is hot-headed, and could ruin our changes for surprise attack by impulsiveness. We definitely needed the element of surprise as we had no way of knowing if we were to be outnumbered, even when fortified with our nine brave men.

But, we had no other option but to wait for Borel and Dulkan to come back, as we could not very well shout at him that we had changed our mind and needed another reconnaissance man. I think I had never heard so much splashing, shuffling of clothes and clinking of armour when Carric and I were listening intently on Borel’s procession. Luckily the chanting continued uninterrupted, indicating that the noises coming from Borel’s movement did not carry but were only seemingly amplified in our ears.

But, alas, it seemed that I had been premature in my relief; there was a discord in the chanting, and then sounds of quick-paced movement and scuffling were carried up the well. Luckily Dulkan and the men arrived at the same moment, and without delay Dulkan jumped down the well, eager to get to Borel’s aid. Carric went down next.

It was up to me now to give a motivational speech for the men and encourage them for the coming battle. This is what we came in for, this is what you were destined for, and now the fight is on. I poured a sense of pride and belief in ability in them in form of bardic inspiration. I bound my spell in encouraging lyrics of my song, and my notes followed the men down the well. I wished to aid their belief in their ability, and so I cast a curse of “Bane” against the enemy. This allowed greater injury by the men’s blades on the Sahuagin. I hoped this motivational speech and my abilities as a bard would help the men follow my orders in the battle.

I was the last to go down, and I could hear the sounds of the battle, making me anxious to participate in the fight as well. Once I was finally down I could see that the well opened into two passages, and that a fight was going on at both passages. The corridors were very narrow; only two men had room to stand side by side. To the left were Borel and Dulkan, fighting against five Sahuagin. Towards south, so in front of me was a hoard of Sahuagin attempting to corner us. The men, encouraged by my words and spells, were holding their ground steadfast. To my right was a sturdy wooden door, which Dulkan jammed using his halberd. It was in the nick of time, as the door soon began to tremor from the blows when yet another group of Sahuagin attempted to open it. Had they succeeded, they would have completely surrounded us.

Borel and Dulkan came victorious from the fight on the left corridor; they had slain the last Sahuagin. Borel and Dulkan then joined the men fighting in the passage leading south. I could see the Sahuagin Priestess in the southern corridor, aggravating the Sahuagin to attack us. There would have been no need for that: each time the Sahuagin drew blood from us, the smell of it made them frenzied. The Priestess summoned a magical trident, and it made a massive hit on Dulkan. I was concerned as I could see that Dulkan was in very poor shape, but I could not help him by curing his wounds as I was too far and I needed to assist the men. I felt torn, but I knew that Dulkan, even in his injured state was a trained fighter whereas the men needed encouragement and supervision: they were now on my responsibility.

Borel and Carric were in close combat with the Priestess, and soon they managed to overpower her. We by no means had upper hand of the fight and therefore we had to forego the idea of capturing and interrogating the Priestess. When the echoes of Carric’s words for the spell of “Chromatic orb” ceased and the Priestess was dead the Sahuagin suddenly lost all courage and cohesion, and they scurried away. Emboldened by this triumph the men began pursuing those Sahuagin who fled. I commanded them to come back, as there was still a group of Sahuagin behind the wooden door, attempting to break in. The first wave of men had been too enthusiastic and could no longer hear me, although I had made sure before going in the battle that they were accustomed to hearing my voice and obeying my commands. The second wave of men did hear me and I could lead them to flank the Sahuagin that were left. It was no feat to conquer the remaining Sahuagin. Carric had come with me, but Borel needed to stay with Dulkan as he attempted to stabilize his condition.

After the fights had quieted, and the men who went pursuing the fleeing Sahuagin came back, it was time to address the men and praise them of their bravery. As Dulkan was not able, I did this task – and quite happily, I might add since I had been the one actually leading them in the battle they had joined our quest for.

We had now ample time and opportunity to inspect the structure further. It had apparently been some sort of temple for Ochrana. There was an indoor harbour, allowing access from the sea. Finally, in a raft in the middle of a shark tank we found poor Kerach, who was the captured landwalker, as we all had suspected when we heard Carric’s translation from the Priestess’s words.

Now that things had settled down, I got anxious of Dulkan’s wellbeing. I remembered that his injured condition was facilitated by Borel’s inconceivable behaviour with the magical rug. It had been quite an unnecessary fight with little to gain from it; but when considering that our aim agenda was to fight the Sahuagin, agitating the magic rug had been selfish and reckless.
Althaea Nailo

The Bloodmother's Disciples
6th Session

Now again reunited, the Party, led by Carric’s curiosity, again tested out the Spire’s teleportation chamber. And again the chamber sent them into danger; Beyond the mystery door was a deep tunnel… one which turned the gravity around, forming a deep pit. With ingenuity and strong muscle the Party managed to rescue themselves from the pit trap and get back to the Wizard’s lair.

Postponing the research into the chamber, the Party found a few of the wizard’s scrolls, also behind a magical pit trap. After disabling the trap and saving Dulkan in the process, the party investigated the rest of the upper floor and descended downwards through a magical staircase they found.

At the bottom they found a library full of moldy tomes on a few different subjects of varying mundanity… and several objects that shimmered magic. Borel, suspicious of the rugs and armour, decided to provoke them into betraying their aggressive nature. And they did. A pitched battle against the ancient, animated guardians of the library followed, a battle that the party won. Despite the massive collateral damage Carric’s spells caused, he and Althea managed to save two more tomes, one of which held interesting observations into stellar phenomenon. Now the party had a clue with which to crack open the mystery of the teleportation chamber.

Another room finally allowed the Party to continue on their actual mission: A crack through which they could hear the Sahuagin. Somewhere on the lower level, a Priestess of the Sahuagin gave an explanation to the Sahuagin activity: A cult, worshiping what they called the Bloodmother. The Priestess gloated over their discovery of an “important landwalker”, and the imminent arrival of “The Baron.”

The Party, alarmed by this Sahuagin, sent Borel, made invisible by the sorcerous powers of Carric, to find more in the lower level. He rappelled down by the only known entrance: A well. In the dark, damp bottom floor he sneaked to the big audience chamber… and blundered to an entire company of Sahuagin warriors and their Priestess! Still, being invisible, he managed to lure the sea devils to the Well, where the party descended to face them.

What a battle it was! Sea devils pouring in from all directions, the Party and their band of sailors held their ground. It would be only a moment when they would be completely surrounded, as only a wooden door and a propped halberd stood in the way of a group of Sahuagin. The Sahuagin Priestess joined the fray too, a summoned trident striking at the party and their mass of soldiers.

But as defeat crept nearer, it seemed that Zariss intervened. Emboldened by Althea’s inspiring words, and the curses she threw at the enemy, the sailors managed to gain the upper hand and started to push the Sahuagin back. Dulkan, Carric and Borel took the fight directly to the Priestess. Dulkan ducked and weaved his way to lunging distance and Carric and Borel hurled magic and javelins. Despite Dulkan being struck down by terrible blow from a magical trident, they managed to fell the cultist leader.

This show of force was too much and the Sahuagin routed. A handful managed to escape to the sea and the reinforcements waiting behind the door were flanked and crushed. A victory that Althea immediately praised by song and speech.

As they took stock and saved their fallen comrade from Sithrak’s grasp, the Party found Kerach in a dungeon, surrounded by sharks and barely holding to life. With their spiritual leader dead, hopefully the Sahuagin would cease their raids. This thought, along with the thrill of victory, was the light that saw them to rest in the Party’s camp.

Sword and sorcery, lessons in

The four of them were gathered in the nest of the slain harpies, a chamber of too sophisticated construction to be the make of any half-intelligent thing of the wild. A long forgotten place left behind by an ancient civilization, evidently. Beneath the litter on the floor they had discovered designs of astronomical nature.

“An astrolabe!” Carric exclaimed, and his curiosity for the thing was lit instantly. The others helped in cleaning the grime of untold years from its intricate grooves while the sorcerer’s hands were busy in taking notes.

As Dulkan ploughed along a planetary orbit with an arrow point, he cast an inquisitive glance at Carric. The sorcerer was already lost in contemplation. Though those eyes were transfixed upon the astrolabe, something else entirely appeared to be moving in his mind. Was the majestic play of the heavenly bodies inscribed into the floor somehow too mundane and limited for him, merely a hint of some deeper truth? Dulkan tried to decipher the meaning of that intense yet absent gaze. Then, with the suddenness of a flash of lighting, he remembered seeing those very same eyes on another face years ago…

The day had been long anticipated, the day of meeting Sir Gorholt of House Kuon, the famed swordsman and cousin of Sir Morgath. It was all part of a greater gathering of Duskport nobles at the Marram palace, but the only thing in young Dulkan’s mind was the bronze dragonborn knight. Moreover, there was to be a private lesson in the art of the rapier, a weapon with which Dulkan had quickly developed a personal bond since he had begun practicing it for less than a year before.

To Dulkan’s pleasant surprise, Sir Gorholt had turned out to be a very different character from what he had expected. He was nothing like his imposing no-nonsense cousin Sir Morgath, but instead a very amiable and charismatic fellow who didn’t care about decorum. All of Dulkan’s apprehensions melted away.

Vulkan was there too, smoking a pipe and watching from the shades as the rapier lesson began on the courtyard.

“I prefer to use sharp blades in practice,” Sir Gorholt told Dulkan. “It teaches one to respect the blade. Fighting is a matter of life and death.”

Dulkan saw the dwarf give a nod of approval.

“Don’t worry, we shall start at a slow pace,” the knight said. “Now, show me some attacks.” They began their sparring. The apprentice tested the master’s defences with some basic strikes, which were easily parried. Then the roles were switched. “You seem to have a grasp of the fundamentals. Let’s try it a bit faster.”

Thus they continued, until the fighting turned into a blistering fury of thrusts, cuts and counter attacks unlike anything Dulkan had experienced before. Still the master was in total control, and there was no chance of accidental injury. Dulkan decided to add a feint into the whirlpool of exchanges.

“Nice try!” laughed Sir Gorholt, who avoided the trap. Amid the sparring he began lecturing. “Guile is a necessary aspect of a mature repertoire. But you should concentrate on the basics: footwork, positioning, clean execution, awareness of the points of the blades.”

“Great peaks stand on wide foothills,” Vulkan shouted from his bench.

“Exactly,” said Sir Gorholt. “Now let me show you something.” He launched an offensive that forced Dulkan into an uncomfortable stance. The sudent found his blade entangled with his teacher’s and then twisted out of his grasp. The sword clanked on the flagstones at the master’s feet. Both laughed. “You will learn clever tricks such as this in time. But first you must put your efforts into cultivating the fighting instinct. Conscious thought moves too slowly, so clear your mind of calculations. What a true fighter must do is to create and exploit opportunities, and that requires instinct. When two men cross swords, the victor is he who has done his thinking in advance and whose hand doesn’t wait for orders. There is something liberating about it, don’t you agree?”

“So don’t think, just act?” suggested Dulkan, still trying to catch his breath. Perhaps Sir Gorholt offered something more nuanced in response, but his own simple maxim was the lesson Dulkan took to heart that day.

In the evening, after a stately banquet, Dulkan was resting on a divan, staring at the ceiling, his mind mostly absorbed in the precious memories of Sir Gorholt’s tutoring. Still feeling a bit peckish, he decided to pay a visit to the kitchen and see if there was any of that pheasant left.

He met two chambermaids engaged in a heated conversation near the dining hall. The dwarf he recognized as belonging to the Kiln household, whereas the human wore the livery of the palace.

“Lady Yagasha’s strictest orders!” said the human woman in a piercing tone. “They are not to be disturbed.”

“But she hasn’t had a morsel since breakfast,” the dwarf argued.

“I don’t care. The order stands. Take it back,” demanded the palace servant, her hands waving away at the platter of food and drink carried by her colleague. With great reluctance the dwarf finally went her way towards the kitchen.

“What’s this?” asked Dulkan from the imperious maid, who seemed somewhat pestered at having to explain herself again.

“Lady Yagasha and young Lady Edessa, they are not to be disturbed.”

“Edessa? So she is here as well. Where?”

“In the library. But you are not allowed to go there, young master.”

“No, of course not,” said Dulkan and the two departed. But, of course, that’s where Dulkan now headed. Not through the main door, but instead towards the vacant hall directly above, and then through a window, climbing down the rusticated masonry, dropping on the balcony just outside the forbidden room. The dark curtains were drawn, but a faint strip of light between them indicated that someone was indeed there.

Lady Yagasha. He had heard the name before, but only in passing and only in the most distinguished circumstances. She was somehow involved in affairs of governance — a diplomat or a counsellor perhaps — and she had intimate connections to the Marram family. Apparently she was also a potent sorceress.

Ah, that was it. She must have been hired to teach Edessa. Dulkan’s heart raced as he approached the windows of the library. How many weeks had it been since he had last seen her? Too long, he thought.

Dulkan peered through the slit between the curtains. There she was, standing near a table. Her back was towards the window, but the long, wild, black tresses were unmistakable.

She seemed to be doing something with her hands. There was a momentary iridescent shimmer emanating from an object in front of her. Then she turned to her right, and Dulkan could not suppress a gasp of shock and dismay as he saw her silhouette: a bloodshot eye, a track of dried tears running down her pale cheek, her lips quivering.

Dulkan could barely make out Edessa’s words: “I just cannot control it.”

“We try again,” a deep, feminine dragonborn voice responded from out of Dulkan’s view. “This time with the white one.”

Without any signs of protest the young sorceress made her way to the other side of the table. Dulkan noticed several curious crystalline orbs of various colours sitting there on silver tripods: red, blue, green, black, white and many of different metallic hues. Was it just a trick of light or did Dulkan see something move languidly inside some of them? He could not understand the purpose of the things, but evidently they were magical devices of some sort, and certainly ominous.

Edessa rubbed her weary eyes and set her fingertips on the surface of a milky white orb. Something indeed moved in its centre, as if translucent layers of nacre were coiling and twisting in there.

Those eyes again. Edessa concentrated on the movements inside the crystal shell. The gaze struggled to focus not on the material object itself but on some hidden phenomenon beyond Dulkan’s senses. He too was spellbound by the mystery of the event. The flowing and whirling currents under Edessa’s fingers grew erratic and acquired a flame-like aspect. Her gaze kept searching.

“Concentrate,” adviced the deep voice. “Maintain your calm and keep the motion slow.” Then, after a pause: “I shall return shortly.”

Dulkan pressed his nose against the glass. He noticed a shadow disappear from the room. Now was the moment to save Edessa from what appeared to Dulkan a pointless exercise in cruelty. He was about to tap on the window when something suddenly appeared by his side. A scaly hand gripped him firmly by his neck and pulled him backwards. He found himself flying through the air, carried by the hand and by some irresistible force. He screamed, struggled and flailed his limbs uselessly, but soon he was dropped down, and he landed on his knees on the grass of the garden below the balcony.

“Nosy brat!” he heard the same voice speak behind him. “Your presence is not required here, young master Dulkan.”

Turning, he saw the purple-robed figure of Lady Yagasha descend on the lawn, floating softly like a feather. He was still trying to comprehend what had just taken place, as his anger and awe left little room for clarity in his head.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” asked the Lady.

Dulkan stood up. His voice wavered as he spoke. “Why are you torturing her like that?”

“Such insolence, such ignorance. It is unbecoming for a Kiln,” she said and stepped towards him. “I could show you what torture really means. I could do it right now, with the snap of my fingers. But no. You should instead be chastised by the elders of your own people. Go at once and confess this escapade of yours to Lord Uratha.”

There was little else Dulkan could do but to acquiesce and head towards the garden gate. The humiliation! And to end such a great day on such a sour note. He was not going to let some trickster order him around. He had no intent of speaking a single word to his Lordship or to anyone else for that matter. And why should he? What authority could be founded on reading some dusty old tomes and playing with fancy faerylights?

“Halt!” There was a strange commanding tone in Lady Yagasha’s voice. Dulkan found his body freeze in place. He could not tell if this was another spell or a subconscious fear of the Lady taking hold of him. “Turn around. Come here.”

His body obeyed again.

“So, you do not respect me,” she continued. “Nor do you respect the arcane arts. This must be corrected without delay.” She wrapped her hands around the boy’s face. “You shall learn your place, human. Behold the true nature of reality unveiled!”

Of what followed Dulkan could never form a clear picture as he tried to reimagine it, not even when he regained consciousness in his guest room the morning after. First there was a sensation of passing through a membrane of icy water. On the other side, the world was a luminous ocean where every speck of dust held within it a galaxy of stars. He remembered discerning a shape like the face of the sorceress, but it was a vast nebula on the far side of an infinite gulf of space. She spoke to him, her voice a choir of millions, and he felt his own material form disintegrate into a hive of vibrating particles. Then a scream of terror. Nothing more could he remember.

“Are you alright?” Borel’s hand on Dulkan’s shoulder gave him a start.

“Oh, I was just thinking… But why bother. We have Carric here for that.”

Althaea's Journal V
Session 5

Althaea’s journal entry for 18th of Sunburst continues

After Dulkan’s stern talking-to, Borel looked a bit queer. The reason soon became evident as he quickly retreated behind some bushes where he vomited violently. Apparently during the night more than just passing of knowledge had taken place. As he seemed to be well after this purging, we began our march towards the Spires. I was relieved to notice that after having spoken his mind, Dulkan as well as Borel seemed to be fine and our party was once again united.

By high-noon we reached the immediate area north of the Spires, which was barren area littered with large boulders and streaked with ravines. Wind howled in our ears – at least for those of us that could hear it – as the forested area had given way for the barren, jagged rock area where the wind could blow with all its might unhindered. The men seemed exasperated for wearing the earplugs, as understandably artificial deafness was not the best of state for keeping good spirits. Ironically, the earplugs also prevented any encouraging speeches or marching songs to lift the spirits. Dulkan suggested that I would remove the earplugs from the men. However, this was not as easy a feat as I had imagined, especially with the circumstances: the wind howling and no shelter to use a lit candle to warm up the wax. So, after some futile attempts, I resigned. Also, we had not yet reached the Spires and there was a point in using the earplugs, anyway.

Almost as soon as I had made the decision to let the earplugs be (of course, after consulting with Dulkan to maintain the chain of command for the men), the decision proved correct. We had continued approaching the Spires and had divided our party in four groups to cover more grounds. I wanted to keep an eye for any disturbances in the nature as a sign of Sahuagin or Harpy activity. Carric and two of the men formed the far left group; next to Carric was Dulkan accompanied with two of the men. I was on right side of Dulkan with two of our men, and Borel was on the far-right with Krüg and the rest of the men. Suddenly a song was carried in the wind, seemingly coming from right of Borel’s position. It was very compelling and alluring song, but thanks to vigorous training of my mind against being charmed I was able to understand that this was now the Harpy attempting to mess with my mind. We had agreed in signalling with lit torches, and as I turned to give Dulkan a yell to warn him, I saw his lit his torch as he was leading his men towards left and Carric’s position. Apparently there was something amiss on that side as well. Quickly weighing the pros and cons I considered it was important to keep pursuing Harpy we had set our sights on. Thankfully Borel had agreed wearing the earplugs so he was alright, not affected by the Harpy’s song. However, poor Krüg had not wanted to wear the earplugs and was now under the influence of the Harpy. The men had apparent difficulties in constraining Krüg, who was squirming in their grip. Borel was on top of the situation and took Krüg’s head between his hands and grounded Krüg back to reality by looking into his eyes. I then persuaded Krüg to wear the earplugs, and apparently startled from this experience he grudgingly accepted wearing them.

Although annoyed that the song had had no apparent affect, the Harpy was now taunting us as we begun pursuing it. The Harpy could take great leaps from rock to rock aided by its wings whereas we had to circumvent larger boulders, which made it difficult to follow the Harpy’s pace. I could see that the Harpy was heading towards the westernmost Spire, whereas we had a joint intention to head towards the wider passage between the easternmost and middle Spire, though we had not stated this aloud. I had to make a quick judgement call again, and decided that as we had no idea where Dulkan and Carric had gone to, it would be the most sensible decision to keep following the Harpy as we had already committed to it. Perhaps it would lead us to its nest. That would increase our possibilities of killing it.

We followed the Harpy to the foot of the westernmost Spire and saw it climbing up the Spire. Luckily we had prepared well for our quest, as we had equipped ourselves with metal spikes and rope. We had originally considered that this gear would be needed for descending down the cliff face towards the sea, but the climbing gear is as suitable for ascending as it is for descend. Climbing up took some time, of course, but the Harpy was in no hurry; apparently it was just toying with us. A bit vexed that its singing had not disturb us but smug enough to consider we would not pose a threat. Then it circled around the Spire and we could see it no longer. Regardless, we continued our ascent.

After some climbing we saw a ledge of a sort, just few meters away. From this height I could see Dulkan and Carric, and decided that we should light a torch so they could see where we had gone. Then we saw the Harpy again; this time with a clear intent to attack us. Alarmed by this we hastened our climb. We were all tethered for safety in case someone was to lose their footing. Borel was in the lead followed by me, then our four men, with Krüg holding the rear. Then, a double attack! One Harpy attacked Borel and another Krüg, so both ends of the line were under attack. Luckily we had a level ground under our feet, and with a few swift blows from the axe of Krüg and the sword of Borel, the cowardly Harpies sent of flying, badly injured.

We continued inching our way forward on the ledge, and finally we came to find some stone-cut stairs leading up. We decided to wait for Carric and Dulkan here, which would also give the men a short rest from the climb and from the fight. The other Harpy had managed to wound Borel with its claws so I cured his wounds with my spell.

Soon Carric and Dulkan reached us as the lit torch had grasped their attention. We came to know that Carric had surely but killed one of the Harpies with a mighty spell of the “Chromatic orb”. As the other Harpy was badly injured, I considered that the threat posed by the Harpies might be over.

Dulkan and Borel decided to climb up the stairs to get a better view of the surroundings and to see what was at the end of the stairs. Carric and I were catching our breaths and keeping the men in good spirits. We saw Dulkan and Borel ascending, and then finding some sort of stone-cut room at the end of the stairs as we heard them exchange a few words.

After a while, as sound of conversation between Dulkan and Borel had ceased, I sensed there might be something wrong. So, leaving the men to rest Carric and I climbed up to see if there was something wrong; and surely they were. Atop the stairs was indeed a room carved in the rock, which now apparently held the nest of the Harpies. Having let our guards down too fast, there were yet two more Harpies in the area; an older one and a younger one, both now attacking Borel and Dulkan. Quickly judging which of my spells would be the most useful in this instance, I used my “Acid splash” spell to attack both of the Harpies. The splash missed the older one but squarely hit the younger one. This was aiding Borel’s sword and Dulkan’s rapier, which were swifter than the wings and claws of those of the Harpies’ and we were victorious yet again; Borel and Dulkan had not suffered a scratch.

In a moment of blood thirsty triumph Borel hacked off the head of the younger Harpy. This made me think that it would be very uplifting and encouraging for the men to see that they had been a part of a feat where a Harpy had been slain. I attempted to persuade Borel to lend the head to Dulkan so he could give a motivational speech (of sort, as they were still wearing the earplugs) to the men. Borel acted as a selfish child and refused. Dulkan was amicable and yielded; he hacked of the head of the older Harpy to show to the men. So, Dulkan gave his “speech”, then revealing the head of the Harpy from behind his back for victorious glory. Then Borel followed performing the same thing, as he apparently did not wish to be left out from the moment and to flaunt his fighting skills. Then he gave the head to Carric.

We then re-entered the room to inspect it. There were carvings on the floor, resembling those one might find in an astrolabe. High up was a nest where some silver wings and copper claws was found, which I took to add to the petty cash used for the men’s upkeep. Dulkan found a pipe made of bone, which he gave to Borel.

I asked the men to come inside and take a rest as evening was now approaching. The men climbed in and I began removing the seal wax from their ears. It was not easy, as seal wax is definitely not intended to be used as earplugs, texture-wise. But now without the wind it was easier to use the candle to warm the wax, and I could use the hollow stems of the feathers of the Harpies to create negative pressure inside the stem which then sucked the warmed wax out of the men’s ears. This process took a while, as it needed to be repeated 20 times, but luckily by patiently explaining and showing how to do it, I was able to teach one of the men how to continue the wax removal. I was then able to join Dulkan, Carric and Borel in further exploration of this structure.

A door led to a room immediately adjacent to the room the Harpies apparently used as their nest. It had a foul stench due to corpses in varying degrees of rotting. This room led to a corridor with two doors, a fancy one and one less adorned. Borel was hacking at the fancy door to open it, but to no avail. I suggested that I could attempt a modified acid splash spell to the lock, as the acid of my spell is powerful enough to corrode metal. The room behind this door had apparently served as a bedchamber. As the great room at the entrance had functioned as an astrolabe, probably during the Age of War, this was the private room of the astronomer working there. No-one had been to the room for quite some time as everything was covered in thick layer of dust and cob-webs, and textiles and wooden furniture of the room had begun to decay. I performed a ritual casting of “Detect magic” spell. This helped me identify that a tapestry depicting full moon over mountain peaks glowed lightly with magical residue. I could not pick up the type of magic, but the tapestry clearly was not the origin of the spell but rather its magic had rubbed onto it from something else. I was wondering would there be something behind the tapestry, in itself or on the wall. As I touched it, a feeling of electric current ran through me, and suddenly I felt a bit strange. I felt as if I had shrunk! Dulkan came to me and took me to his arms to give me comfort and solace as he had apparently seen my alarmed state. Comforted by the embrace of his arms, indicating to me thusly that all was well, I calmed myself down and was able to continue exploring the structure. I could not express my gratitude for his understanding and I left it for later when circumstances would be more favourable and calm.

Borel lifted the tapestry with his axe, but there was nothing there. We left the tapestry be so no-one else might accidentally be harmed by it, and continued our exploration.
We then opened the less adorned door, which led to most peculiar of rooms. It was round, floor carved with symbols that apparently could be moved, and with my spell I could detect that the whole room gave a magical glow. We entered the room to inspect it. Indeed the floor was structured so that the three small spherical stones in the floor could be moved along the lines carved to the floor. We attempted to move the spherical stones, but they did not budge.

The structure of the room triggered a memory of my mother reading a book about interdimensional, or astral, travel that could be done using two identical rooms. Carric suspected that the room, or “travel chamber”, could be powered by gems; and indeed there was a vessel where a gem could be placed. As Carric placed a piece of tourmaline, a semi-precious stone, to the vessel, Dulkan stepped out of the room. As soon as Carric dropped the stone to the vessel, all three doors of the room went shut and we could feel, or sense, a hum or vibration going through the walls, and indeed the air, of the room. Borel tried the doors, but two did not open and the opening of third door triggered a spear trap, so he quickly shut the door. Again Carric and I attempted to move the spherical stones of the floor, but to no avail. I suspected that we would need coordinates of sort, and wanted to check the magical fan in Carric’s belongings as both apparatus were intended for magical travel. The fan did not prove useful. Apparently we either needed some other combination of alignment of the spherical stones and the gem used to power the “travel chamber” to actually get somewhere. What an intriguing conundrum!

As soon as Carric removed the stone from the vessel, the humming ended and the glow dissipated, and very amazed Dulkan opened the door from which he had just moments ago left.

Flight of the Harpy
5th Session

Harpy.jpgThe 18th of Sunburst started poorly for Borel. The dragon blood he had drank came back up as black, sulphuric retch. No worse for wear, he and the Party spent the morning and noon to reach the Spires, a group of bluffs. The wind proved strong that day, howling in the rough, broken rocks leading up to the cliffsides. The Party, aware of the Harpy threat, spread out in small groups and headed for the coast.

If not for Althea’s preparations with the waxen earplugs, the Party could have been in serious jeopardy, for two Harpies ambushed the group. Staying well out of sight and out of their reach, they began their alluring songs, trying to lure our heroes to deep and sharp ravines. But with the greater resistance possessed by Althea and Carric and the inconveniencing but life-saving earplugs, the Harpies’ attempts were in vain. As one of them left towards one of the Spires, half of the Party, including Althea and Borel, gave pursuit.

As the chasers climbed the steep cliff faces, the Harpies harassed them with singing and attacking them on the narrow ledges. With their overwhelming show of strength, Borel and their berserker follower Krüg drove the Harpies off again, with Carric slaying one of them with a pinpoint accuracy-spell.

Finally the party found an entrance into what seemed to be a cave high up the bluff. Borel and Dulkan investigated and were ambushed by the remaining inhabitants of the cave: Two more Harpies. Pushed to the corner, the Harpies were no match to the combined strength of the Party and were slain.

Victorious, the Party brought their followers in and began the arduous earwax removal process that would continue deep into the night. The cave proved to be an ancient, ruined observatory of sorts, and the place contained a pathway deeper into the mountain. Two nearby rooms shed light to the nature of the dungeon: It apparently was a home to a person of great Arcane knowledge. In a dank bedroom the Party found an interesting and potentially dangerous piece of magical curio: A tapestry that managed to shrink Althea by half a hand’s width.

After the elf diplomat found consolation in Dulkan’s misunderstood embrace, the party left the tapestry alone, moving to a much more interesting and potent chamber: A magical room that the magically literate part of the party identified as a teleportation chamber. With three rotating rings embedded on the floor and a slot for a gem, the still-functional chamber had innumerable addresses where it could lead. After finding one that led to a trapped door, the party decided to take stock at their situation and investigate the rest of the dungeon…

Althaea's Journal IV
Session 4

13th of Sunburst
In the morning we gathered at the breakfast table of the fisherman halfling’s kitchen. Borel fetched Dulkan, as he had evidently overslept. I was anxious to discuss the matter of presenting our case to Alexha, and what information we should divulge. We agreed that information on Khariss’s death should be given as otherwise there was no reason to discuss of an alliance. However, we considered we should emphasize that the matter should be kept a secret for few for now. I wanted to make a favourable impression on Alexha right from the start and suggested that we should ask for an audience instead of just barging in and demanding it. So, I wrote a note signed with Nailo seal. This was also a subtle way of hinting that, should I want, I could also demand an audience of nobles due to my family position, but that out of courtesy I kept things on voluntary basis. I asked that Alesha would address the reply to the fisherman’s house we were currently staying. I could have chosen the Golden Goat tavern, but I decided that while I was waiting for an answer I would have time to thank the couple so kindly accommodating us for our first night in Arry.

After breakfast Dulkan wanted to visit the nearby temple of Cruxis, and we all decided to accompany him as it would take a while before any answer could reach us. The area adjacent to the temple was filled with stalls selling nice, quaint little things made by local artisans. Dulkan and Borel wanted to by some silver rings. While there were some really nice things for sale and I was playing with an idea to purchase something myself, I decided that I would save my money for greasing the diplomatic wheels when necessary. Also I did not want a lot of extra stuff to carry with me as I had no idea how long it would take us to finish our tour of the Dusk Coast. Dulkan had a very intelligent discussion with the acolytes of Cruxix on religious matters. Borel took a moment to pray; this surprised me as I had never considered Borel the religious – or praying – type.

I then got back to the fisherman’s house to wait for a reply whereas Carric, Dulkan and Borel took this opportunity to entertain themselves. I used my most eloquent words to let the couple know our appreciation for their hospitality whilst also subtly letting them know that as thankful as we were and by no means wishing to offend them, I understood what trouble it would be for them should we continue to enjoy their hospitality – especially when they had just lost their livelihood and might be short for money – so we should find lodging elsewhere.

I received Alexha’s note in the afternoon inviting us to town hall. In the note Alexha kindly offered us board in the town hall whilst we were to stay in Arry. As soon as we arrived at the town all, our belongings were taken to our quarters and we were ushered to a council room where we were met by Alexha and her assistant, Timothy. Now was the time to present our case, and what delicate diplomacy it did require! I began on the issue of the Sahuagin problem, of which we had intimate knowledge thanks to our encounter with the Sahuagin yesterday. Once our appreciation of local problems was thus established, I continued asking what was being done on the matter. Apparently help had been requested from Duskport but so far to no avail. In the meantime they had sent a spy called Kerach, an ochre-coloured dragonborn, to find out the extent of the problem but little intelligence had been received from him. Now that the ground was set – establishing a problem requiring help and indicating that we had ability and willingness to resolve it – we presented Alexha and Timothy the information on Khariss. The news was received surprisingly well; they had actually considered something might be wrong as the Sahuagin attacks were getting bolder and more reckless. As Khariss no longer protected the realm, the underworld creatures were not in check anymore. This provided a platform to discuss how the protection of the realm might be achieved in the future. We argued that as it would take time for the other dragons of the region to react to the situation – if they even were eager to react to it – this was the opportunity to create a dragon free rule of Dusk Coast and its cities, an alliance of the people. I led Alexha and her assistant to understand that now also considerable wealth was available where it was possible to build and maintain troops and fleet for protection of the realm as the yearly tribute to the dragons was no longer necessary. I was surprised at how difficult it was for Alexha, and especially her assistant Timothy, to grasp the bigger picture. This made me appreciate Lady Ashinka’s quick thinking even more. Alexha apparently could only consider matters at hand and close to home, and the most pressing problem for them at the moment was the Sahuagins. Timothy was eager to dismiss the whole proposition as Lady Ashinka’s vanity and ambition. I was able to argue for the benefits of an alliance, for protection if nothing else. Alexha and especially Timothy were mostly concerned for keeping the city treasury untouched: I was informed they could not spare any material support for other members of the possible alliance at the moment as their fleet and troops were already in full use. I assured them that at the moment only the show of support – and interest to be part of the dragon free alliance – was needed. I considered it best to give concrete evidence of the benefits of what such an alliance could do as for safety of the people by offering our assistance to their Sahuagin problem. Alexha was at a loss on what to do on the matter, and her take on our offer of help was conflicted. Alexha was confident that Kerach would come back with a solution. Timothy was more pessimistic on Kerach and his help, which led me to understand that we needed to take charge here. Alexha’s undecided manner to deal with their problem was less than convincing of her character and her ability to act under pressure: what help could they give in possible future conflict. However, we were asked to make a treaty with the people of Arry, and by Zariss we would achieve it! We asked for troops to accompany us to the quest, but this was met with reluctance. I then suggested that we could recruit volunteers from the city; I considered that the people of Arry should be quite fed up with the Sahuagin problem to which the city rulers were doing little about. At least this was acceptable to Alexha. We decided to host a tournament where volunteers could be drafted. We decided to have armed and unarmed combat categories, where the winners were given a chance to fight with Dulkan and Borel, respectively. I used my wits to come up with posters advertising the event, and we went to Golden Goat to further promote the event.

14th of Sunburst
We were all working together to get the tournament going. I suggested we should give prizes to the winners. As a bard I can appreciate the function of songs and mementos as reminders to people of more glorious days and victories giving hope to people when facing adversity. This would help strengthen the idea in peoples’ minds that no dragon is needed to protect people of Dusk Coast as they can do it by themselves. We visited the stalls near Cruxis’s temple again to select the prizes. We found a bronze belt buckle with wave ornament embellishment to the winner of unarmed combat and a similarly decorated bronze dagger to the winner of armed combat, both with an appropriate inscription. We sprang for the prizes collectively; Timothy as the person responsible for the city’s treasury seemed unwilling to part with a coin.

15th of Sunburst
So, Dulkan was to fight the winner of armed combat; Borel was to fight the winner of unarmed combat; I was to give prizes, and Carric was to host the tournament. I was concerned how the short notice might affect the attendance of the event: would anyone be there? Nervous as I was, I asked our captain and crew to participate so that people would have at least some fights to see, and thus have positive associations with the capability of us tributaries; it would be embarrassing indeed if no-one was to show up for the fight but everyone to see it. In the end nine willing fighters signed up, and these coupled with five of our sailors we were able to provide a spectacle worth seeing for the town’s people. And a spectacle indeed it was: I had no idea that Carric was such a show man! I admired his performance how he inspired people to get excited and involved, cheering for their favourite fighter in the tournament.

By the end of the evening all nine combatants were willing to partake on our quest to help the city and its people. All the better: heroism of someone coming to help you is all fine and good, but no story is told more enthusiastically when than when a person you know has participated in the adventure.

We agreed to meet at the docks in the morning to head for the island of Assarna.

16th of Sunburst
This morning I went to see Alexha and Timothy to take care of the final details. Most important of which: I went to collect a signed copy of the treaty. No need to state things aloud, but we would not move until I had a signed treaty securely in my pocket. Fortunately Alexha had had no objections to the draft of the treaty I had left for her to study, and now we both had signed copies of mutual agreement of help and assistance. Alexha had promised to provide us with a ship and rations for four days for us and the volunteers. However, this was all the assistance we were to get in official form from the city of Arry. I attempted to negotiate for more equipment, but to no avail. No armour was to be lent from the city; thus Dulkan searched the town to equip our eight men with light leather armour. This took some negotiation from Dulkan to get the men – who were mostly fishermen after all – to agree to wear the armour in battle. One of our volunteers was a dragonborn, who would not take our offer as he considered had enough protective gear of his own. We had to pay for the rent of the armour ourselves. I was happy to do this, as I had seen the fighting skills of the men: the armour would provide them some protection and balance the situation in battle so they would not instantly get killed. As I considered that lowering down from the cliff face would be a far safer route to the caverns than sea approach, we also needed some rope. But the city was not to equip us with rope: instead Timothy suggested that we could buy our rope – albeit with 50percent discount – from a local shop. By this time of the negotiation I had grown weary of these people: like spoiled children they were complaining about their problem but not willing to do much about it, even when other people were willing to take care of the problem for them! Before our negotiations would have failed to a case of ropes costing ten silver wings, Carric intervened. As my most courteous diplomacy had taken a short leave of absence, Carric said he would pay for the rope himself. I had raised this issue as a matter of principle instead of small trivial annoyance it truly was.

As we were waiting for the men to arrive at the docks Dulkan approached me and with a low voice he was wondering about leadership during this particular adventure. Although we four had worked as a team of equals, now with nine other people to consider it would be easier if someone was clearly in command. In the passing I remembered Dulkan’s concerns about ultimate power and how corruptive it can be, but quickly brushed it aside: I believe anyone can be tempted by power, but I had faith in Dulkan’s resolve. He would not be alone as I would be there for him, had he any qualms or problems. I judged that Dulkan indeed was the best choice for a commander as he was more level-headed than the impulsive Borel, and due to Dulkan’s noble background he would have had practice in giving orders and being responsible for other people. Carric, while having the ability to encourage, had fighting skills reliant on magic making it difficult to lead a party of armed men used to mundane forms of fighting. For that reason I knew that also I could no perform this duty, no matter how inspiring I could be.

It was a delight to see how Dulkan drew himself up and took charge of the situation. He had the men fall in line and addressed them with authority and command I had not seen in him before. I knew how vitally important it was to have the unwavering allegiance of men and that we would need to be unified as leaders as well. In combat the ability to follow orders could save many lives and indeed be crucial for the success of the mission. This is why I was slightly concerned when I saw that Borel’s attitude was not in alignment with our agenda, and that he was clearly undermining Dulkan’s authority as I saw him gesturing with our dragonborn volunteer, who also apparently had authority issues.

We set sails for Assarna after Dulkan’s commanding speech. We only had one problem: where to navigate. Luckily one of our volunteers had once visited a small village close to the southern tip of the island, which was our end destination. We had also considered at least attempting to contact Kerach but I suspected this might be difficult as, like all spies, he might be suspicious and not reveal himself to us: he would have no way of knowing that we had made an agreement with Alexha.

In the evening as we reached the village, a welcoming party of sort were meeting us at the dock. Like in all small places, people were quite inquisitive. They seemed surprised that we had come to take care of the Sahuagin problem: for them the Sahuagin had presented no problem. Be that as it may, we and our nine men needed a place to stay the night; the sailors were to stay at the boat to guard it. I decided to pay for the lodging for our men as Alexha had not provided any petty cash for them, and it would be quite a demand the poor fishermen forming our volunteers to pay for their keep. In the evening a towns gossip – or trader, as he called himself – approached us, eager to sell us some moonshine and even more eager to get new material for his gossip. Carric took this opportunity to enquire whether an ochre-coloured dragonborn (as these were the descriptions we were given of Kerach) had been to the place. True to form, as these town gossipers usually do, no relevant information parted his lips before Carric parted with some silver wings from his purse. But the bit of information thus gained allowed us to know that this ochre-coloured dragonborn had headed to a close-by hamlet inland. Thus, that is where we should go.

17th of Sunburst
After breakfast we headed for the hamlet inland – or cluster of houses as even a hamlet might be too pompous a word to describe this lot. We were unable to find Kerach in the hamlet, but we did get to know that people sometimes went missing near the Spires – the name the locals had for the sharp, high peaks near the cliff face which was our destination. We could apparently get more information from a wood-cutter called Barrak, who lived at a short walking distance to the woods nearby. So, we decided to exchange some of our precious time with the possibility to receive information so we should not head blindly into a battle. We went to the house, the whole lot of us. Dulkan took this opportunity to train the men: hopefully he would be able to give them some advantage in the battle ahead. I had not sung for a while, and was missing the feeling of unity with universe through singing and playing a musical instrument always gives me. I also wanted to entertain and encourage the men, as I knew this seemingly aimless wondering around might be boring or confusing to them; we did not need questioning of our manner to lead at this point. This was apparently a valid concern: again I saw Borel chipping away Dulkan’s authority and lowering the moral of the men as I saw him discussing with the visibly displeased dragonborn volunteer. This man clearly was the fighter amongst our volunteers, but apparently had not been involved in any organized combat: any trained soldier would know that over half of the time spent in battle is waiting as the logistics involved in manoeuvring a large numbers of people are not easily achieved. I was not happy about this situation with Borel and the dragonborn, but could do little about it.

As the night fell we had to give up and take lodgings in the hamlet. Dulkan suggested that I should visit the wood-cutter in the morning alone as it might be that the sounds of weapons training and the large number of people had scared him off. We all agreed to this plan.

18th of Sunburst
In the morning, as a I started heading for Barrak the wood-cutter’s cottage, Borel stopped me. He had snuck out in the night to meet with the wood-cutter himself. Apparently my singing – my singing! – had scared him off. He had had dealings with a harpy, who had almost killed the man. But that my singing could be mistaken for that of a harpy’s – what an insult! I was happy my good nature and diplomacy were not tested in having to deal with this sort of insult straight to my face. So, now we knew that there was at least one harpy to consider in addition to the Sahuagin. I was happy I had my diplomat’s pack with me – most importantly the sealing wax of the pack – as was able to issue makeshift earplugs to men. Rather, eight of the men as the dragonborn did not want any. I had thus extra two pairs of the earplugs, and could use them for Dulkan, Borel or Carric, should the need arise. Or, for myself.

Before we began our hike towards the Spires, Dulkan had a stern talking-to with Borel, asking what he meant by wandering off alone without informing his intentions to anyone, and going against the proposed plan. We of course were happy to get the information, but this kind of impulsive and egoistic behaviour was not in the best interest of the group morale or cohesion. Also, had he fallen into trouble, no-one would have known what had happened to him. Dulkan also asked Borel about his chat with our dragonborn volunteer, but Borel admitted to nothing. I was now concerned how well we could work as a group and decided I needed to do something about it.

Althaea Nailo

Fourteenth adventurer
and a marching song

It was the morning of the day after they had docked at a small village on the coast of Assarna. They were marching west across rough terrain where stunted bushes and thin wisps of grass fought over little islands of turf on a sea of stony ground. The day was growing warm and pleasant, but the bare landscape had something sullen about it that made the company reluctant to disturb the silence of the place with their usual banter.

They were thirteen in number, with nine venturesome recruits from the town of Arry. But, in the uneasy imagination of Dulkan, another one suddenly appeared by his side: a short, stout and wide-shouldered figure, an aged man who somehow managed to match Dulkan’s brisk gait despite the difference in statures. The grave face of the dwarf was webbed with scars though not much of it could be seen from among the steel-grey bristles of his beard and bushy eyebrows. Or so the vision presented him.

“Greetings, friend,” started the imaginary dwarf in Miners’ Cant. “Or should I address you as Commander Dulkan now?”
“Ah, Vulkan. It was Althaea’s idea,” replied the other in the same tongue.
“Don’t sell me fool’s gold, boy! I know this is precisely what you wanted all along. I know your ways.”
“And what if it is so? Someone must lead, and I have the skill and learning for it.”
“Do you indeed?” grumbled Vulkan. “Your chief skill resides in skipping on merlons, and your learning comes from reading those fanciful, romantic adventures with jewel-adorned endings.”
“The sieve of your memory is so coarse. Remember that I have also studied Arazur’s Manual of Strategy and the Kolmhaag military annals. And I have seen how you lead the soldiers. Trust me, old man, I know my way through these tunnels.”
“Hmph! The squealing of the smallest goblin may sound deep as it wells up from the chasms. Your steel is yet to be hardened. You don’t know what it’s like, and you don’t know where you are leading them.”
“You always pound with the heaviest hammer,” thought Dulkan with frustration. “We’ve encountered the sea devils once before. They’re not so tough. I felled two of them without suffering a scratch on my skin.”
At this reply, the dwarf turned his gaze on the group of sailors walking behind them. “And what about this dross? What do they weigh? Could they achieve the same?”
“They’re spirited enough. And while they are light in technique, they will show weight in commitment. Under my leadership they will prove themselves rich in worth.”
“And when the hour is darkest, do you have what it takes to send them to die? When the fire of your enterprise is about to go out, would you throw these men under the furnace?”
“It won’t come to that.”
As the vision of his mentor kept quiet, Dulkan’s response echoed in his own mind. “It won’t come to that,” he tried to assure himself. Then he turned back to Vulkan with what confidence he could gather. “People shall tell tales of our great deeds, and when they reach your ears you will learn to respect my abilities. Now begone, you hounding little shadow!”

The image of his mentor stepped away and evaporated. Returning to reality, the rustle of gravel made Dulkan aware of the silence of the others behind him. The time was ripe for a gesture of leadership and camaraderie.
“Alright, good fellows. How about a song?” Dulkan said. “I know a fine one from where I grew up, a marching song that fits the occasion. Here’s how it goes, join me when you get the hang of it.”

In the ruby light of early dawn
over mountain’s height, through valleys low
go men of might and men of brawn
March right left right left right left, ho!

White land, black land, Red Castle band*
goes marching sword and shield in hand
Pride and honour and duty demand
we defend our home, we make our stand

Our banner I sight, it calls me to don
a mail shirt bright, to string my bow
to join the fight and fight until it’s won
March right left right left right left, ho!

[Repeat chorus]

The answer to our plight is the blast of clarion
and our fires ignite to strike fear in our foe
We rise to smite them and see their host gone
March right left right left right left, ho!

[Repeat chorus]

\* Explanatory trivia: The first line of the chorus is a reference to the Kiln coat of arms. It depicts a red castle, a symbol of the fortress of Kolmhaag. The left half of the background is white and the right half is black. In the jargon of heraldry this would be described or “blazoned” as “Per pale Argent and Sable a castle Gules”. Dulkan had a mark of cadency in his personal coat of arms, namely a white five-pointed star in the upper right corner, or “a mullet Argent in sinister chief”.

Saviors of Arry
4th Session

On the 13th of Sunburst, the Party prepared. Not wanting to barge in and demand audience, they sent a letter explaining that they would like to meet Alexha, the leader of Arry, on a matters of grave importance. While they waited for her answer, the party spent time and some coin in the local temple of Cruxis, where Dulcan also asked whether the Dragon Divines shaped the world after themselves, or whether the dragons shaped the Divines after themselves. A question where he received a swift answer: The former.

Later in the evening the Party’s humility paid off and Alexha invited them to stay in the diplomatic suite, embarrassed and impressed that the Tributaries chose to stay in their humble lodgings. She met them, along with her direct and stern halfling assistant Timothy. The Party explained Lady Drusia’s plan and asked for her to sign a declaration of allegiance to the new, united Dusk Coast. While Alexha was on board, seeing the benefits of a new leadership free from dragonic rule, Timothy expressed concern that Arry could offer any concrete aid when and if Lady Drusia would seize Duskport.

For indeed the Sahuagin had increased their presence on the coast significantly, raiding the fishers and other defenseless ships, straining the patrol fleets. Alexha’s requests for more ships from Duskport or help from the Dragon Knight Order had gone unanswered. The Order had requested for evidence of anything major enough to warrant a full mobilization. To find it, Alexha had send out her favourite intelligence agent Kerach to find out what the Sahuagin were doing. The last thing he had found out that they were seen around the southern tip of the island of Assarna.

The Party decided to hold this as a precedent of mutual assistance and take care of the problem. To foster solidarity, and get some backup, they suggested for a tournament, the winners of which would be given the chance to help the Tributaries to defeat the Sahuagin threat. The next two days the Party spent organising and holding the battle of brawn, eventually scoring a solid number of warriors to aid them in their quest.

On the 16th of Sunburst the party left for Assarna. They landed in a small coastal village where an enthusiastic half-elven trader told them that the Sahuagin were seen at the southern tip, but that they kept their distance for now. Wishing to learn more before heading into the Spires, as the locals called them, the party headed to a village deeper inland that would contain more information. The next day they heard that lone wanderers disappear in the Spires, and also a remark that the place was supposedly a site of a great battle a long time ago. They also learned that Kerach had come this way and headed to the Spires a week ago.

Sacrificing time for information, the party, now a proper band, waited for a woodcutter who supposedly knew about the dangers of the Spires. As night fell, the person still hadn’t shown up. As the party rest in the warm hospitality of the village, Borel sneaked off to the cottage of the woodcutter, believing that the big, armed group could have scared the man off. And it had. Borel found the nervous man and with an offering of drink, heard his tale. A horrid creature had almost lured the man to a trap with a beautiful singing voice: A harpy had almost killed him. Armed with this knowledge, the party used Althea’s sealing wax to make earplugs for their troopers.

As the 18th of Sunburst dawned, the heroes of our tale set off to the Spires, hoping to find answers for their questions and Sahuagin for their blades…

Althaea's Journal III
Session 3

9th day of Sunburst
This morning the night’s sleep had refreshed our body and spirit. We knew not yet what was to become of us: would Baron Goran still feel vindictive, and what Lady Ashinka had planned for us. After breakfast I had visitor, whom I was allowed to receive in the library. My heart leapt with joy as I recognized the visitor’s tall and magnificent form as that of my father, Yaris Nailo. I enquired whether my message had reached him and how my mother was feeling. Father assured me that Anthea was quite well, not worrying too much about my present situation. I inquired should my father have any knowledge of our future, but he knew not, or was not allowed to tell. Still feeling that I should meet with my mother to reassure her of my wellbeing I asked father whether he could arrange me to meet with her.

That afternoon I was happy to get back home with my father, even if it was only to visit. He pointed me towards the garden to look for my mother. She was not in the garden, but I knew where to look for her – I went to the secret gate leading to my mother’s study, and spoke the word that allowed the arcane lock to open. There she was, in her study, surrounded by opened books and scrolls and parchments. I called for her, and absentmindedly she looked up from her work to respond to my greeting. After declaring that I was alright and was taken good care of, I inquired whether she could shed any light on the particulars leading to the current situation. Mother was notably irritated and frustrated at herself. She replied that she did not have any information to give, reproaching herself for not foreseeing these important matters. I knew that any attempts to calm her would be in vain; therefore I merely changed the topic. I introduced Khariss’s scale to her as well as the other spoils I had taken with me from Khariss’s lair. Perhaps they could be of help to allow clear her visions for the future. She took them and absentmindedly placed them somewhere on the table. Knowing my mother, I feared that the items would be forever lost in the nooks and crannies of her study. As I had the opportunity to consult my mother, I ask her guidance about learning a new spell. Current events had made me anxious to be prepared for attacks, and I wished to learn “Cloud of daggers” spell. She said I should listen to my inner music to tap into it for the spell, as I usually do. As I was leaving mother had not apparently forgotten the items I had given her, as she said I should hold on to them as she had no use for them herself, and they belonged to me. So I took them with me.

I was happy to have my parents to fill the day with activity to keep me occupied as by the evening we had not heard of Lady Ashinka nor given any information of our fate. It was, of course, very thoughtful of her to allow us to rest after yesterday’s events. I knew not how my companions had spent their day; I was just hoping they had taken this opportunity to rest to full advantage.

10th day of Sunburst
We were informed at breakfast that we were to meet some of the council members at Lady Ashinka’s manor. We were met there by Lady Ashinka, Sir Morgath Kuon and my father. Lord Uratha Kiln had apparently been call to Kolmhaag with some urgent business. Baron Goran was not there, of which I was grateful. We were invited to give a full disclosure on the events of our adventure. Dulkan raised a concern whether guards had been dispatched to protect Khariss’s treasure from looting. Sir Morgath assured that it was taking care of. As soon as this matter was settled I once again told the story of our journey, and this time the story was given full attention and consideration it deserved. I expressed my wishes to gain information on the broken spear point and of any speculations on what kind of a creature could be responsible of Khariss’s death.

Now we finally came to know of Lady Ashinka’s plan. Her vision was to form a single, a dragon-free alliance joining Duskport and other major cities of the coast line. We agreed with Lady Ashinka that it would take some time before the older dragons could react to the new situation and we could use this to our advantage. She produced a map illustrating territories of major dragon and lesser, younger dragons of the region, and all of us leaned over to study it with eager interest. As a dragon’s lair usually locates at the heart of one’s territory, the dragons of the region may not even be interested in taking over this area as they were contently ruling their own domains. Some of the younger dragons, while perhaps eager to conquer Duskport and the surrounding areas, did not hold enough power to do so.

The idea of a new, dragon-free nation for Duskport and the surrounding areas was revolutionary but exiting. My father was obviously of Lady Ashinka’s opinion. Sir Morgath was more conservative and cautious, but when pressed, he admitted that he served first and foremost the interests of the people of Duskport rather than its ruler, whoever it might be. Dulkan was very elated at this prospect, and his feelings were met by those of Carric’s. Borel is clearly used to feeling strong and invincible, so being free of the rule of someone mightier appealed to him. As I had not yet presented any strong feelings one way or the other, Carric asked me directly. I had had time to consider and thus I expressed my opinion: I too was interested in the dragon-free rule, based on the will of the people rather than the whims of a dragon. However, as the Baron was likely to attempt to hold on to his power as long as possible – and the news of Khariss’s death would not perhaps be well received by all as I knew only too well – my condition to joining this coup was it should be done with diplomatic finesse and with minimal bloodshed. I also pointed out that while Khariss’s treasure was now at disposal of Duskport and its citizens, it was possible to pay for guards and knights for protecting the people of the realm and thus it was not necessary to aquire protection of a dragon against demons and other dark forces.

Lady Ashinka suggested that we as the victorious tributaries should use our newly gained glory to become a diplomatic envoy negotiating with the nobles of the coastal cities to persuade the people to join in the alliance; a nation ruled and defended by its people. We were to work both among the nobles and common folk as Lady Ashinka’s emissaries. I realized we had a difficult task ahead of us: to negotiate and persuade people to join our movement by exploiting our reputation, but at the same time maintain secrecy of the coup and deal carefully the news of Khariss’s death as it could cause panic. I also feared feelings of betrayal of the public if we present ourselves as victorious tributaries, when we even did not finish the tribute due to Khariss’s death. We need to find out a diplomatic way to come around this obstacle, should it arise.

Arry was chosen as the city to start with: we were to negotiate with its ruler, Alexha. We discussed at length whether to approach Arry by land or by sea. Sea route won, luckily, as I argued that as secrecy would be the key, slow and cumbersome travel by land with many layovers on the way would attract more attention than subtle preparation for sea voyage and quiet departure.

After reaching an agreement on mode of transport we were did some preparations for the travel. Lady Ashinka equipped us with some money and travel equipment as well as provided and prepared a ship. Carric was interested in the properties of dragon blood and was seeking a wizard. I knew that even the most sensitive inquiries could easily spread rumours. I decided that I should ask my mother’s help, as she would definitely not let slip that the tributaries possessed dragon blood. Even though we had endured a lot together, I was still hesitant to tell Carric and Borel that the wizard I knew was my mother. Ever since I was a child I knew that the society judged my mother’s interests in wizardry scandalous and that this matter should be a kept a secret within the family. But consulting my mother was the best way of keeping matters involving the coup secret as not to endanger our mission. After careful consideration I sent for my mother to meet us in the garden adjoining Lady Ashinka’s house. She was not able to tell much, but she could inform us that she had foreseen that we are to meet with someone who can tell us what dragon blood can be used for, and could actually make use of it. Carric was very appreciative of my mother’s help; he obviously could not care less that she was someone who was not supposed to know wizardry. I was amazed of his reaction as I had always thought that it society considered a non-wizard engaging in wizardry so blasphemous that people would always react to it with disgust. As it happens, Carric was merely academically interested in meeting such a person, also possessing a gift for foresight. Borel was not as tactful: he had apparently noticed some family resemblance, and enquired about that. I was annoyed with him, as I thought he should have been appreciative enough with the help I provided as to leave these uncomfortable questions unasked.

Some final preparations included Carric substituting some of his gems for a diamond, which he needed as a spell focus. Borel changed some of his gems into money, and some of this money he used to buy better armour. I was not too happy to hear about this exchange of gems for money, as subtlety would be the key and it would not look good if the tributaries were suddenly flashing a lot of wealth around. It could raise too many questions.

11th day of Sunburst
I am concerned about Dulkan. He did not look well rested in the morning; actually he looked rather ill. However, there was no time to enquire after his wellbeing, and the last ten days had educated me that when a member of our party looks poorly, it is best to enquire the reasons when alone.

We boarded a parry called the Cloud Lily and set for Arry. As soon as we had departed and had settled to our quarters, I sought Dulkan to see how he was and if he required healing of the body or of the mind. I found him inside the cabin. He was deep in thought, fingering the silver crown with aquamarines he had taken from Khariss’s lair as his share of the spoils. After noticing that the person entering was me, I think he was happy to see me and asked me to sing him a song to comfort him. I sang a sweet, slightly melancholic song about two young lovers. This allowed him to settle a bit and allowed him confide in me: he had seen a terrible nightmare of corruption sometimes coming with great power. He continued in telling me of his dealings last night. He had attempted to discreetly visit his mentor Vulcan in the Kiln family home in the darkness of the night, but had been intercepted by a guard. Revealing his great torment he confessed he had in vain attempted to reason with the guard and had had no choice but to kill him as not to attract attention to our mission. As the guard had been able to call for aid before Dulkan could silence him, Dulkan had to forego his plans to meet with his mentor. I felt his pain and attempted to comfort him by reassuring that he had had no choice: as horrible as taking an innocent life is, a greater cause had been at stake. I am not sure how much I was able to help him in his torment. With resolve written all over his appearance, he wanted to give me his aquamarine crown, and I was only to give it back to him once he had shown he was worthy. As I respected his feelings and decision I accepted this responsibility; however, I was not sure whether I am able to assess his worth. I already knew the man I had grown to know during these past few days was a carefully considered man who would not have taken a life lightly. Now that I knew what troubled him, I could choose a more fitting song for his comfort. It was a song of an ordinary man who can achieve greatness through conviction and appreciation of things larger than himself.

12th day of Sunburst
We were faring in good weather, making a good time for the journey when the captain informed that a group of halfling fishermen had stranded on a reef. Our party was eager to help, and we navigated closer to see the situation, mindful not to get shipwrecked on the reef ourselves. As we got closer Carric noticed that while the halflings were indeed in trouble, they were equally concerned for us, trying to warn us of something. Carric soon noticed what it was: a group of shark-people, Sahuagin, had apparently attacked the halflings and were now attempting to attack us! Five of these nasty creatures soon engaged us in battle, one assaulting Borel, one Carric, one Dulkan and one attacking the members of the crew. The fifth creature coming behind the others launched a spear at me, hitting me directly at my right shoulder. I was able to deter the creature after his attack with “Dissonant whispers” which allowed me enough time to regroup myself to try my new spell “Cloud of daggers”. This spell was able to hit the creature hard enough to send it back to the sea. I noticed that my companions had been successful in their own battles. Although Dulkan had managed to kill two of the creatures, we were able to send the rest scurrying back into the ocean. Understanding that this event would be quite the story to tell, it occurred to me that as our mission was to persuade people to join us under a dragon-free rule, an image of invincible tributaries would be beneficial to our cause. Thus I healed the wounds of my comrades’ right after the battle, seemingly then coming unharmed from battle. The halflings were then rescued and their gratitude was most heart-warming. As they were from Arry, we had no trouble taking them back to their homes as it took us no effort or time at all.

Carric was interested in looking at the anatomy of the creature: I was interested as well, especially on how these creatures breathed; with lungs, gills or both. Both, it seemed.

When we reached Arry harbour I wanted to thank the captain and the crew for their courageousness in battle and gave them 15 silver wings to have a drink to our health in the local tavern. I truly wished to thank them, but this would work for our benefit as well: if we were to present ourselves eventually as the emissaries of a new rule, it would be crucial to get the stories going that we could protect the people, especially the peasants, from the attacks of demons and any other unholy creatures, and that protection of a dragon would thus no longer be necessary.

As we were discussing where to take lodgings the next night, one of the halflings kindly offered his hospitality as a form of thanks. I was mindful that a poor fisherman giving lodgings to four people would be quite taxing to his household, so I was thinking we should find some other lodgings for the rest of our visit. When we came to the house of the fisherman his wife kindly served us fish pie for supper. After being fed we were all tired from the day’s events, but felt that a drink or two at a local tavern would still do us good. Borel and Dulkan went ahead, Carric and I followed.

When Carric and I reached the tavern called the Golden Goat, we found Borel gambling and Dulkan entertaining a group of locals with the tale our today’s adventure. We listened to local gossip and heard that the attacks of the shark-people and other strange events had been increasing lately. Carric and I did not seek company actively, but as I had expected, the captain and the crew had taken my 15 silver wings and put them to good use. As the captain noticed us, he waved us closer and loudly greeted us as heroes and told our story, as I had intended. It is always better to have someone else tell of your heroic actions rather than to tell it yourself: the crowd listening to the tale would not as easily consider it coming out of vanity or exaggeration. Happy my little scheme had worked and that we were already the buzz of the town I hoped it would help our case tomorrow when we were to meet with Alexha. Unfortunately we were too tired after the day’s events that I completely forgot to send a brief message to Alexha so she could be expecting us. My father would have been very disappointed with me.

Althaea Nailo

A letter to Kolmhaag, 11th of Sunburst

A solitary candle lent its soft light to Dulkan’s chamber well before the early rays of the Sunburst morning. His mind could find no peace, being still smothered in the horrifying atmosphere of the nightmare that awoke him: a vision of absolute power and corruption, a taste of the tyrant’s authority to decide the life and death of lowly subjects… A sweat-drenched shirt was tossed to the corner.
A thing lying on his desk wrested his attention. A golden ring, quite ordinary in appearance given its surrounding scene of restrained luxury. But for Dulkan it had a weighty significance, for it was his family signet ring he had carried for so many years. How odd did it felt to see it sitting there, abandoned, as if staring back at him, and suddenly Dulkan realized the degree of pride and honour he had felt in wearing it. The incident of the previous night at the Kiln residence, shedding the blood of the dutiful guard, came back to him with a bitter pang. “Whatever honour I am due,” he reflected, “I must henceforth earn with my own works.” The ring was no longer his to hold.
Dulkan sat down with the intent of writing letters. But to whom? He yearned to receive the advice of Vulkan, and he bit his thumb at the thought of Edessa waiting for news at Kolmhaag. However, he was in no position to engage in idle correspondence with his dear companions of house Kiln as if he were still living in the happy old days. His obligation was clear. On the envelope he wrote “Lord Uratha, Kolmhaag” in his characteristic unornate style. The rest of the words came slowly:

My Lord,

Many things of great significance have come to pass since I was appointed a tributary, matters of political nature and also of mutual personal importance. I have chosen my path, and however much I regret the thorns upon it — of which you shall learn soon — I am adamant in my resolve. I must go my own way.

I see dark clouds in the horizon. We must settle our affairs after the storm.

Along with this letter you will find my signet ring. I bow before you and bid farewell, for now.



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