The Twin Kingdoms

Where it all started
The call of the sphere

The hall.

The shining sphere.

And the five of us gathered around it, called by its mystical song to join the Adventurers of this land.

Faye Tannerson, called to fame and glory.
Nura, seeker of knowledge.
Vall Shadowstep, Elvish, of light step and even lighter fingers.
Myrielanna-quevanrinal, Elvish walker in forgotten forests.
Chrysta Bal-Trydimite, of Clan Felsic, dwarf in the service of the beginning and the end.

This is the beginning.

Only Pharasma knows how it will end, or who will see that.

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The Prelude

Callech, mid-afternoon on Midsummer’s day, and preparations are proceeding nicely for the feast this evening. The children of the town are running around, playing, laughing, having fun. A very special day for a number of the children of Callech, for today is their 16th birthday and tomorrow they will be adults, required to put aside childish things and take their part in the running of the town.

Time for a break, and the kids lounge around on the balcony of the Adventurer’s Guild, overlooking the town square, and overlooking their parents setting up the feast.They catch their breath, planning what mischief to get up to next, when there is a loud crack behind them. They turn, and see the doors of the Adventurer’s Guild slowly opening.

A rush, a push, a stampede as all the children race in, trying to be first, absolutely sure that they have the spark, that they are the one the Gods have chosen to be the first of the new generation of adventurers. Faye Tannerson pushes her way through, bigger than the rest, she doesn’t let the other kids get in her way. She reaches the front desk and pushes other kids away. She places her hand on the orb and shows a self-satisfied grin as it glows, confirming what she has always known: she is destined for greatness.

The other children touch the orb, and each walks away disappointed as the orb stays dark. Until…

Nura, quiet, intelligent Nura. She of the books and knowledge, the orb shines brightly at her touch.

Faye doesn’t quite manage to hide her disappointment.

The adults have noticed, and some have come inside the Adventurer’s Guild hall to provide a bit of sanity to the proceedings. Vall Shadowstep, Elf, father of three, fixture these last 25 years, steps in and separates a little scuffle that has broken out. It seems that young Tanny seems to think he deserves another touch of the orb, he is obviously destined for greater things, and obviously the orb needed a bit of time after Faye touched it to recharge, and…

Vall grabs Tanny’s hand and pulls him away from the orb, touching the orb in the process. Once again, the orb glows at his touch. Vall looks at the glow beneath his hand and doesn’t say much, just a simple nod of the head, as if to say, “oh, so that’s what it is.”

The afternoon progresses, and everyone who wants to try the orb gets their chance, but no one else make the orb glow, until…

A elf walks into town, from the south, an elf that no one else has ever seen before. She walks confidently through the town and into the Adventurer’s Guild hall, as if she’s done this a thousand times before. She places her hand on the orb and is satisfied with the glow that comes from it. She introduces herself as Myrielanna-quevanrinal, and tells everyone that this is where she’s supposed to be.

Early evening, and the sun is starting to set. Twilight and warmth and the excitement of the Adventurer’s Guild makes for a particular sort of leashed enthusiasm as people wonder, what next?

A dozen dwarves enter town from the south-east, from the direction of the mine, marching purposely. Despite the long relationship with the dwarves the townsfolk still have trouble telling them apart, but even the most unobservant of them can tell the two in the centre of the group are different. They are dressed in priestly robes of Pharasma, the Goddess of the Beginning and the End, and there is a presence about them.

They stop at the base of the stairs to the Adventurer’s Guild hall, and one gives the other a blessing. They exchange words briefly, and then the blessed one walks up the stairs into the hall. Everyone knows what to expect and they are right, as she places her hand on the orb and once again it glows brightly. She is Chrysta Bal-Trydimate of Clan Felsic, and she has been called by Pharasma.

The feast occurs, for it is Midsummer, and this is a feast that will go down in the history books of the town, as they host the first of the new adventurers for over 50 years.

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Barbarian Diplomacy
Gargling by any other name

Personal diary of Vallinaestrallindranor Sindastrindannil Donvannalasunduslen.

(The following entry is written in some kind of code, completely apart from being written in Elvish)

It seems now, finally, we have been given the chance to test our skills. The local river merchants have been having issues with trifles going missing from the return leg of their journey. Ordinarily I would class this as the cost of doing business on the road and river, but these missing items were bound for my community, and this I will not brook.

The youths I accompany seem to have grasped at least the basics of preparation and outfitting. Faye needs some work, but she is young – there is plenty of time for her to learn, if she survives. I am glad to have a cleric with the powers of the tales of old along; the thought of going with such company into the fray without the services of a healer is not one that I wish to entertain for long. The young Elf seems to grasp the gravity of what we might face, at least. We’ll see if that holds. Nura is quiet and bookish as ever – the announcement of her destiny has done little to change her interaction with the world. Again, we will see if that holds.

For the most part the journey downriver was uneventful, excepting for the minor matter of a few rabid bats. It was in this time that I realised how much my skills have dulled with no real opposition to test them. Near thirty years in this community has changed me, more than even my banished wanderings did. Perhaps it was fatherhood that did it. Anchoring me to one place, and forcing me to think of others beyond myself, I could see how that could happen. And the woods around the village provide nothing beyond bears and wolves for challenge. My swordcraft needs work.

This tea is a vile necessity. Curse those rabid bats and my blunted skills.

After loading and unloading the barge, we began the journey back up the river. Encountered a water elemental, newly awoken, but an ancient spirit nonetheless. The Barbarian gargled at it for a while, and it burbled back, but left us alone. Apparently Faye has promised on our behalf that we will return to the site of the Green Crossed Rock to negotiate further.

The journey home is not yet ended, and we have not yet seen hide nor hair nor flashing claw of the creature that appears to have been breaking into the barger’s cargo and stealing from their inventory; I cannot imagine after what we’ve seen that this is a simple creature performing this burglary. The attack is too targeted, too precise and regular for it to simply be a wild beast.

We will see.

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Back into the Woods

Leaving Callech behind was like a weight lifting from me. I had not realised how used to being alone I had become, nor how comfortable I had grown with being a forest-walker. The soothsayers, curse them, named me well.

So far, it’s been relatively quiet – except for the rabid bats, of course. Finding the herbs to treat ourselves so that we didn’t contract the disease was a test of my newly-acquired skills. I had not expected that so much would depend on them, so fast.

It has been a good opportunity to get to know the other people whom Fate has chosen.

I suppose I should feel more kinship with Vail, a fellow Elf, but too much lies between me and my people for that. Perhaps when we have travelled together more, that will change. Perhaps I can leave behind the resentment. For now, I will act as we are all told to do, and be the young, high-spirited adventurer.

Being around Faye helps with that – she sees everything as a marvellous new experience, and throws herself at every challenge with sometimes alarming enthusiasm. She surprised everyone when we encountered the water elemental, though. While the rest of us wondered how we could possibly defend the boat from such a creature, she stumbled her way through what amounted to formal negotiations, secured us safe passage, and promised to return to sort out a treaty between the elemental and those who used the river for their business.

Chrysta is the first dwarf I’ve had much to do with, but she seems to be both dependable and serious. Her piety is strange to me; worshipping a God (or even paying lip service) is one thing, but to actually be someone who can experience their God’s power and receive commands is something I can’t imagine. Perhaps this accounts for her sometimes otherworldly air?

And Nura, so self-contained. In some ways she’s hardly part of this group (but who am I to judge that). There were old sayings about wizards and their mysteries that no one ever really credited, but now it seems they were true all along. Unlike Chrysta, Nura’s power depends on no one but herself. What must it have been like to suddenly realise that was there, sleeping inside her all her life?

She is restful to be around. With her, I don’t feel I have to show the ‘Elf’ face that everyone expects.

They each react so differently to the celebrity this has brought them. Some revel in it, some remain (as least outwardly) unfazed. And I? I feel like a mistake has been made; how could I be both Fate-chosen and cast out?

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Nura's Journal: Bat Country

I was reluctant to tear myself away from my studies – so much still to learn! But some knowledge comes only with experience, and certainly some of what I would know must lie far from Callech.

So at Galath’s request I agreed to accompany Faye Tannerson, Chrysta Bal-Trydimite of Clan Felsic, Vall Shadowstep, and Myrielanna-quevanrinal downriver to investigate the cause of some thefts from the barge cargoes.

Chrysta got my name wrong, and I am afraid I was a little short with her; everything I have of Grandmother’s is precious to me, and her name most of all.

(It occurs to me that my last remark could be read as a cheap joke about dwarvish height. Not what I had in mind!)

In any case, Chrysta thoroughly redeemed herself by the letter she wrote to Faye’s parents. I don’t really mind Faye that much, but sometimes she does need reminding that she’s not as mighty as she supposes.

Question: the orb signals power, but what is the exact relationship between the two?

Does it recognise a destiny that was always latent within us? That would be flattering to believe; I’m sure that Faye and Myrielanna-quevanrinal, if not the others, have always assumed they were destined for something special. And it is tempting to think that I am my grandmother’s heritor. But because it is an attractive thought does not guarantee its truth.

Does the orb, perhaps, bestow greatness at its whim? Could it be that if John Millerson had touched it before I did, then he would have been selected for heroism and I for a quiet life? That is a sobering thought, which does not make it false.

Or, perhaps, is it neither? Is the orb simply a ball that glows for some who touch it, and all that follows simply a consequence of our own self-belief? Chrysta tells us belief is powerful, and evidently it is for her; why not then for all of us? Is heroism something that anybody can manifest, if they are tricked into doing so?

Pondering: if I were to make a ball that glowed at the touch for some, would they likewise be inspired to a life of heroism? I would love to know the answer – and surely I will soon enough be able to make such a thing. But if there is more to it than simply belief, that might be cruel and perhaps fatal to anybody I tried it on. I shall not leap into such a plan too quickly.

Pondering also: do all orbs glow for the same people? If we seek out another village, will its orb glow for me? Must test this one, at least.

I suggested setting up a trap for the thieves, perhaps a decoy box to chime loudly when tampered with, and Myrielanna-quevanrinal put two together. One never knows, but perhaps it will assist us.

On the first night downriver, I slept, and was awoken by a commotion: small bats attacking those on watch, and Faye shrieking something that hurt my ears and swinging her falchion around.

She seemed to be having some difficulty dealing with the bats that targeted her, so I employed the colour-magic I have been studying. It promptly knocked two of the bats out of the air; unfortunately it also stupefied Faye, but I was able to dispatch the remaining bat with my staff while my remaining companions dealt with the rest.

I had captured two of the bats under a blanket, thinking the elves might be able to shed some light on why these creatures had attacked us. Myrielanna-quevanrinal inspected them and determined them to be rabid – a sobering thought, since most of us had been bitten during the scuffle.

We made it to the next town, and Galath’s people unloaded the cargo and headed back for Callech. Myrielanna-quevanrinal and Faye detoured into the forest and found some herbs which I am assured are an effective Elvish treatment for rabies. I sincerely hope so.

Pondering: should I keep a journal of potential physical symptoms? If indeed we have been infected, will that affect my grasp of magic, or Chrysta’s channelling?

As the boat proceeded upstream, we were interrupted by something unexpected: it was being pulled away from the bank by a peculiar whirlpool that resolved itself into something shaped a little like a human. A water elemental! I’ve read about these!

To my great surprise, Faye has some command of Aquan (it’s on my to-do list) and was able to speak with it in a very limited way. It seems it is an old creature that has just recently woken up – the timing can hardly be a coincidence. Nearby we noticed a large rock, badly worn, that must once have had an inscription in Aquan. The area has a faint whiff of magic to it.

The elemental seemed unwilling to have travellers bringing boats through its domain. Faye’s understanding of its speech was limited, but she managed to arrange passage for our group this one time; the rest may have to wait until we are better able to speak with it.

I am still not sure exactly what it might want or dislike, but at my suggestion, none of us will pee in the river any time soon…

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Chrysta's First Letter to Mother Augite.
The Novice and her Journey - wet

Dear Mother Augite,

Thank you so much for taking my old clothes and the letter to my parents. Be gentle with my mother – Aphanite will be quite sad, as it is approaching a year since my rock-brother Graben died, and she will be remembering the pain. We all still miss him very much, although we could not possibly begrudge him his early journey into the Eternal Sleep. Not with all the pain he had endured. My dear father, Almandine, will be gruff and seem heartless, but I know he is hurting too. Tell them I miss Graben also, and think of him often.

chicken-bones-hotbin-2-3mo.jpgBut I have not told you of all that has happened since Midsummer, when you and I parted ways. The training was all that you told me it would be, and I have had a lot more contact with the shortlives. I have also discovered more of Pharasma’s blessing with the news spells she has given me, although I think the chicken bones that I was practising turn undead on had already turned in other ways.

My companions are a mixed lot, as you saw at the Adventurer’s Guild Hall. Faye is terribly young, and concerned more with fame and fortune than anything else. I was concerned about her at the beginning, but she has since proven that she is more than a giddy child. Nura is always pondering that which she has seen around us. For a human, she is very centred and calm, and were she interested at all in the life of a holy spellcaster instead of a book-based one, I’m sure she would be excellent. The elves are … interesting. We did not have much contact with them in Callech, did we? Now I know why. Introspective, quiet, and given to long silences instead of sleeping. Myrie has a special affinity with nature, and her plant-searching skills and my own emerging healing ones will make us a fine team during this time of adventuring. Vall is skilled in other areas, but they came in most useful on our first trip away.

For it was not six weeks since Midsummer that we were asked to help on our very first mission. Faye has many friends in the community of her own age (she being less than a score of summers old. These humans!) and the father of one, Galath, is a boatman up and down the river, taking goods to Tremayne and those little necessities back that make life so joyous. The round journey takes three days – one down on the current, and two back by horse-drawn power – but by the time the boat is back here in Callech, some of the goods are missing. Galath feels that the boat is being raided by something or someone. He trusts his crew completely as they have all been working together on this run for many years, so he is worried that something is taking a bit here and a bit there when no-one is looking.

We started by checking the crates from the latest load as they were hauled into the storage shed beside the wharf. Sure enough, there were odd markings on the crates, like little scratch marks. Also, the ties that held the boxes together were torn in an odd manner. We decided our best bet was to head down the river and investigate, but Faye was somewhat concerned – she still lives with her parents and they are not, according to her, entirely happy with her new career. Not that they’re not terribly proud about their daughter becoming an adventurer. No, it’s just that there are unsavoury characters around who might wish Faye an unkindness. So I wrote a short note to her parents, to reassure them that she was being accompanied by reputable companions.

I’m not sure why Myrie laughed at it and kept it, but so long as Faye’s parents’ fears are allayed. It is difficult for parents to let their children out into the world, but it must be done. My parents were glad that I had discovered my vocation, but it pained them a great deal to have their last child leave home so soon after the loss of their youngest.

We considered many different ways to deal with the unknown threat to the cargo. Nura suggested exploding packages. I fear she may be the sort for loud noises and bright flashes after all. Then the other suggestions flew – chalk dust, bells in the lid. Myrie and Nura argued over the abilities of Elves to do … something – it wasn’t clear. But Myrie’s trap-making abilities, honed through her woodcraft and the catching of delicious rabbits, soon proved very useful as she made a pair of boxes with noisemakers inside, that would quickly alert us to any unauthorised attempt to open them. How wonderful to see that the skills that support a woodlands dweller can be adapted so readily! The comparison of weapons, though, was confusing.

I have a bow!

I have a sling!

So who has outrageous fortune?

We boarded the barge at dusk, and watched the boxes being loaded on it – skins from the tanners, ore from the mines. Faye’s sire’s name is Tannerson, and I am afraid there were some coarse jokes about older versions of it, that I was unworthy enough to laugh at. But then I was also laughing at my own inability to remember the names of my companions. Why can these others not have nice, sensible earth-bound names such as Pegmatite, or Spessartine, or old Aunty Feldspathoid? It took me quite a while to get my tongues around the strange syllables, and I fear I may mangle the names yet again. Galath and his men cast off from shore, and it was a joy to watch their obvious skills in the river as they ensured the barge stayed in the centre of the thalweg.

We settled down for the night, taking turns with the sleeping. As it was a trip down the river, only two boatmen stayed awake – one at the front bow of the boat to keep an eye on the channel, and one at the back stern who turned the rudder and followed the current. Then, in the darkest grey time before the dawn, Myrie and Faye (who were on watch at that time) heard a noise.

A squeaking noise.

Mother Augite, I am glad I was not by myself on that boat, for just the thought of those little flying things sends shivers down my spine even now.

A flock of bat-like creatures flew in on us, attacking as they came. Faye and Myrie swung at them, and hit one or two. They were horrid little things to try and hit – in a moment the rest of us were up and swinging or shooting, and to my shame, I hit not one. Luckily, my newly-purchased armour saved me from injury (and I thank you so much for the donation that allowed me to purchase the higher quality scale mail, for I think that it was this which protected me from their nasty pointy teeth). Vall and Faye both suffered bites, and in my hurry to try and help them, I tripped over, fell on a crewman and bruised him mightily! Then Nura let loose a colour burst, which stunned the critters (and rendered Faye rather … batty … for a while). Poor Faye was wandering around, saying in a very dreamy voice “Hey, I’m on an adventure!”, until she was able to shake off the effects of that spell. Myrie was able to nail one of the creatures to a crate with a well-aimed shot, and I managed to pick myself up and rush in, swinging my war hammer and crying to Pharasma to aid me!

Alas, I have not yet proven myself sufficiently to receive that aid in battle, but the others managed to subdue and destroy the creatures finally. However, it was at this instant that Myrie realised that the bats carried more than shiny, pointy teeth. Both she and Faye had contracted some foul disease from the creatures’ bites, and were starting to feel the effects. To help all of us who were injured in the attack, I performed that spell you taught me, the Positive Energy Burst, but we knew that Myrie would have to go and scour the nearby woods in the morning to find the plant which would give them the cure they so desperately needed. The light of morning saw them heading into the area near the river, where Faye soon discovered that she has some trouble recognising paths in the woods.

Which way are we going?

Why?

I don’t know where I am!

crash

That’s a tree.

thump

That’s another tree.

Whack

That’s just a branch…

The trip back up the river was a lot slower, by virtue of needing to pull the boat against the stream. Did I mention that I used the rest of your kind gift to buy a pony? His name is Quicksilver, and he was with us and able to assist in the pulling. I hope it helped a little. We were able to keep up by just walking beside the boat, admiring the scenery, and hearing the thumping noises of Faye falling over again not far away. In truth, I think the illness was affecting her somewhat, and to give her her due, she was valiantly insisting on assisting, even through her affliction. Vall caught up on his sleep on the boat, although Nura says that elves don’t do that.

He’s sleeping

He’s contemplating the mystical!

How do you know?

I read. And I make things up.

Finally Myrie and Faye had enough of the plant to make their special tea, which they had to drink over the next few days. I swear, Mother Augite, that not even Postulant Greisen’s worst attempts at a healing potion smelled as bad as that which they were forced to imbibe. Remember when Greisen persuaded Sister Muscovite to try her fresh tisane? And poor Sister was throwing up purple for a week? It smelled worse than that.

Barging.bmpThen the boat started moving away from the shore.

This was odd, because the front was being pulled by the horse, so normally the back just followed on and stayed close. Suddenly it was being pulled into the middle of the river in a most unusual manner! I ran and jumped onto the barge (just), while Nura … I don’t know how to describe it, but the word “nancing” comes to mind. I wonder if she has elvish blood. I grabbed a rope, tied it to the seat thwart at the back stern and threw the other end to Faye.

Who missed it.

Luckily, Myrie caught it and they hauled the end of the boat back to land. Vall, who was still on the boat, grabbed one of the punting poles and poked the water on the other side, where the end of the boat was swinging.

And it was a whirlpool!

Water_Elemental.pngNow I don’t know a lot about rivers, but this seemed unusual. Even the boatmen were surprised. We managed to get the boat back parallel to the bank, and tied it in place, while a small water elemental rose from the surface and glowered at us! It didn’t seem very pleased, so I quickly called the blessing of Pharasma down on us while the rest got ready for battle.

And then… surely Her blessing was a part of it, for it turns out that Faye, that seemingly incautious, foolish young thing, has trained in the speech of the water itself! Her speech seemed halting, as if by a child, but she was able to calm the creature down, and communicate our wish to pass.

It turns out that the Elemental, being a spirit of the river, takes umbrage at the number of barges that travel up and down each day, but is willing to negotiate a trade settlement that allows passage in return for adequate payment. And who would have thought that Faye would be the instrument of that peace! Were I to ask for a boon from our Goddess, I would not have thought to request such a solution. We marked a local rock so as to be able to return to that place easily, thanked the creature, and were able to continue on our way with no further incidents! Mother, if you had told me I would be talking with river spirits when I first came to work with you, I would not have believed it – and neither would you.

In other news, the new Temple of Pharasma is coming along nicely. I do not want to seem boastful or indeed as if the new acolytes to her congregation are in any way my doing, but it is wonderous, is it not, that so many of our people in Callech decided to join our temple since I started my new journey? Enough that at least you will have plenty to train and I’m sure you will not miss me in the slightest.

I do hope none of them think that learning the healing skills will suddenly make them adventurers as well. It may. It may not. But only Pharasma knows for certain.

Keep well in Her care, and I include you in my prayers daily.

Your loving Novice,

Chrysta Bal-Trydimite.

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Nura's Journal: Goblins ahoy!

I have been thinking more about the spark of heroism that we share. In particular, I am curious as to how it relates to Chrysta’s powers.

Do her powers indeed flow directly from Pharasma? If so, why is the spark involved at all? Surely a god could give power to anybody she chose, spark or no. Unless the spark is bestowed by the gods themselves, as the means to channeling that power… but frankly, if that were the case, one would think the gods would choose folk more godly than myself, or certain other people who I will not name.

Or do her powers come entirely from the spark, with her belief merely shaping the form of that power? In that case, belief in even a false god would be equally powerful. It would be interesting to find somebody else with the spark and test the power of a concocted faith, but sadly a little impractical, and I suspect Chrysta might take it amiss.

But let me write down our recent exploits. We set up for the night at the anchorage where the barge had previously incurred thefts. Vall and Myrie explored the region and found that we appeared to be in the ruins of an old settlement built up from cleverly-assembled drystone.

Myrie brewed the anti-rabies tea. It was not entirely to my tastes, but I grimaced less than some. I sincerely hope that will be the end of that matter. Faye complained about my use of magic to defend her from the bats, but I told her that it wasn’t my fault if she was more distractible than a bat, and the conversation ended there.

We made camp for the night, with both the elves on watch; their eyes and ears are keen enough that there’s little value in me staying up, and I need my rest to keep my mind fresh.

During the night, as we had expected, our thieves paid a visit. By the time I woke, Vall and Myrie had more or less taken care of the first intruders. Little creatures with bizarrely oversized heads and sharp teeth – goblins! It seems there was a tunnel next to the anchorage, and they had emerged from there to raid the boat.

Between Vall’s sling and Myrie’s bow, two of them were gone within seconds, with the last one injured. We captured it, but none of us were able to speak with it, and it kept shouting – presumably for its friends – so we were obliged to silence it permanently.

Or as Chrysta put it, “return him to the darkness from whence he came”. She is oddly verbose, especially for a dwarf, but I have a fondness for that sort of flowery speech. Heavens know there’s enough of it in —’s old notebooks!

Meanwhile, more approached from the land: three goblins, and a disgusting rat-dog (dog-rat? Well, the size of a dog, with the charm of a particularly vicious rat). I flung my staff at one and cuffed his ears, but Faye, Vall, and Myrie seemed to have matters well in hand, so I returned to the boat to stand by Chrysta and make sure no more goblins came to attack us from the hole.

When the fighting was over we investigated. The place has a very faint aura of magic; it may be worth our while to return here at some point and investigate further. We found some items obviously stolen from the cargo, which we returned, and others less identifiable, which we kept.

An unfortunate incident: one of the bargemen fell into the fire during the commotion, and Chrysta healed him along with Faye and Vall. Afterwards, the other bargemen began to look askance at him and at us; until now both goblins and elementals had been nothing more than myth, and it seems they blame us for the reappearance of both. The timing is certainly curious; whether or not it is true, we shall have to be careful to avoid provoking antagonism. I have no desire to be chased out of town by a frothing mob.

Have been asking Myrie about L., an Elvish hero of the old sagas. I had wondered if she might know him – elves do live a long time – but the topic seemed to be a sensitive one. I am not sure whether I have missed some rule of elvish etiquette, or perhaps there is some personal reason why M. finds the subject unpleasant. Is there a history between them? Most curious.

I wonder what lies in store for us next?

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Chrysta's Second Letter to Mother Augite
Things that go "ARGH YAY WOOF" in the night.

Dear Mother Augite,

Before I resume my tale of our journey back up the river, please let me thank you for the kind package. I had not thought to include a tea-making set in my supplies, and the next time Myrie wishes to brew a plant potion, I’m sure it will come in useful. Also, I have managed to find some lavender among the plants along the wayside, and will enjoy a refreshing brew from time to time. Thank you also for the kind wishes from Novice Griesen. Has she really passed her Postulancy already? I am pleased that she has found that her way is the way of the Monk, for she was unsure for a very long time.

Barge.bmpBut I have left you hanging in the tale of our journey up the river. As I had mentioned before, we were headed upstream, against the current, and the two noble donkeys in the boat worked hard to keep us going. I have tried to draw a picture of them, but I have not the skills of Sister Ochre whose illuminations have so graced our Temple’s records.

And it was during the journey that I looked at the damage caused by those rabid bats, and realised that it did not match that which we were to investigate. So our foe had not yet been vanquished.

By nightfall, we had reached the location which was obviously the preferred stopping point. The nighttime camp site is well used, with shelter, cesspit, and fireplace, but we realised that as this was the regular location, it would be so terribly easy for anyone else to plan to raid the boat right here.

With the sun dropping down, we set the campfire, and there was storytelling and food. And, while checking for good watch-keeping spots, Myrie worked out that the place used to be a bit of the old civilisation. There were broken walls, fitted stones, and it was tucked nicely in the elbow of a river – it might well have been a trading post or the home of some landowner. Vall also determined the layout of the walls, and between him and Myrie, they worked out some hiding spaces.

The anti-nasty-bat-stuff was ready to drink, and luckily I didn’t need to. Apparently, it tasted worse than it smelled. The others made assorted gagging noises, and Myrie couldn’t keep it down, regurgitating the mix within moments. Luckily, she was able to swallow the second dose. From the complaints around me, I can only assume that being bitten by bats is really low on the “To Do” list.

The other guys curled up to sleep at about moonrise, and we worked out some watches.

“We could get Myrie to fire a shot at Faye to wake her up.”

“If she’s really good, she’ll nail her through the ear.”

“Hey – if she hits the ear just right, she can end up with a pointy ear like an elf!”

“Hey NOOO!”

While all was silent during the earlier watches, it’s a good thing both Myrie and Vall were alert, so when there was an odd noise at the grey end of the night just before dawn, they heard it. From the barge. There was something moving on the end of the barge away from Faye. Something scratching, and sneaking, and nasty.

Both the elves got onto the barge, and saw…. three things that weren’t part of the crew. That smelled. And that were goblin-like. So much so that they were indeed goblins.

Myrie loaded up her bow, and Vall got a couple of nice fat sling rocks ready as well. Myrie has a thing against goblins, so her arrow flew with extra vigour and hatred, and hit well. Vall hit another with his slingshot, hard enough to vapourise its head and hit the side of the boat on the other side. The scream of the third one, upon being drenched in the blood of its companions, was enough to wake Nura and Faye, although tucked over in the side of the boat, I slept on.

And now they started with the “Hairy Chrishna” jokes. Thanks. Guys.

That goblin took one look at Myrie, and started to run, but Myrie prayed to Our Lady of the Longbow to hit him, and her prayer was answered! Vall ran up to the one Myrie first hit, and skewered him. In her sleep-confused state, Faye leapt to her feet and started flailing with her sword at the darkness, whereas the calm-thinking Nura came over and started shaking me from my dream of the homeground. I fear we shall have to work out a better way to wake me in the future – not only do I not want to leave my companions to fight without help, but to require a special wake-up call will take one of them from more important matters.

Like killing goblins.

Myrie dragged the injured goblin back, preparatory to questioning it with impunity. We also noticed that the goblins’ feet – and only their feet – were wet. Thus, they had travelled in the water, but not deep enough to swim.

The blighter wouldn’t wake up, so I gave him a heal spell and brought him back from the brink. Bleary-eyed, I bandaged the little blighter with its own rags, but none of our party speaks Goblin, which made things difficult. Nura wouldn’t let Faye waterboard the goblin either. However, we had worked out that the claws on the goblins matched the clawmarks on the barge’s boxes. And then Myrie noticed that there was a hole in the bank that we hadn’t seen before, one that’s rather small and goblin sized, and probably where they came from.
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But we still couldn’t talk to him, as even in his slightly healed state, he spoke nothing we could understand. And this led, Mother, to my first deliberate killing of a being who was not already sick, or dying, or in such pain that there was no cure. The goblin could not be allowed to give warning to any others, so the party decided that he must be silenced. Permanently. Mother, I sent him back to the darkness whence he came. I do not yet know how I feel about this – on the one hand, I deliberately cut short the life of a creature who was at that moment not harming me, and whom I had just healed. Orc_dead.jpgOn the other hand, had we left him even tied on the boat, there is a good chance he would have alerted his companions in some way. I realise that life is fleeting and death is certain, but I do not yet know if my role is to hasten it along. I would appreciate your thoughts on this dilemma.

Then Vall and Myrie noticed a noise coming from the stones that lay past where the boat crew slept. We quickly plugged the hole where we think the goblins came out from with those materials we had at hand – loose rocks, mud, and dead goblins.

Vall: “Oh my god, Nura – Look at (Myrie’s) butt”

Goblin_Dog.jpgThere was a thing with red eyes in the bushes past the crew, and a smell. A deeply horrid gangrenous smell, blended with a load of meat outside. I cast a “Bless” on everyone, and Faye yelled at everyone to pull back as this was DANGEROUS!

This woke five of the crew (the others were still asleep), but some of them took fright at the view of Vall running past with a rapier, and covered in goblin blood. One guy ended up flailing into the fire, and caught alight, but Faye tackled him to the ground and rolled him to stop the flames. This also set her on fire. And the creature, which was some sort of goblinish dog, leapt at Vall and bit him, hard – and then clamped its jaws.

Vall swung his rapier at the ugly thing, hit it, but wasn’t able to loosen it. Nura used her powers of protection, and Faye rolled herself out. The dog bit harder, drool leaking out the sides of its mouth.

I stayed back, watching the whole thing, and making sure nothing nasty was coming near us. The crewmen were running towards me, but something else was coming in from whence the dog had appeared. Vall disemboweled the dog, and had to pry open its dead jaws to remove it. The wounds were nasty, but there was no time to complain as three more goblins came from the bushes and started firing at us.

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Or more particularly, at Vall. Who had somewhat attracted their attention by gutting their dog. Both goblins were useless, though, and one destroyed his bow in the process. One fired at Myrie, causing a nasty scratch down her cheek and she shot back, barely missing the beast. Even I tried a slingshot, thought they were quite some distance and my aim was impaired. Once more, I failed to hit at all. I shall have to practice more often.

Vall swung hard at one of the little bastards. and reduced it to a nasty sludgy pile of bleeding, while Nura came back to me, keeping an eye on that hole for fear they would reinforce themselves from behind the main fight. The goblin furthest away from Vall pulled his little sword and went for the big elf, but bounced off the armour. Faye was so pissed by this, she screamed, swung her falchion above her head, and despite the clumsiness of the swing she cleft the goblin in twain. Myrie loosed an arrow at the remaining goblin, where her hatred of the creature inspired a greater effort. He was spiked through the middle, and dropped.

I cast a couple of Positive Energy Surges, and healed the crew and Vall, especially that crew member who had burned most dreadfully. Then we investigated the tunned from whence the goblins had scurried as they attempted to rob the barge.

There, inside, it was not a tunnel so much as the basement of an old building. It smelled of goblin, and their dog, and there were lots of bits of stuff everywhere. The area I could see led onto a larger one, and I could feel a slight breeze blowing towards me. Sure enough, at the end was an opening that led out to some rocks just out of the campsite area. This was where they had come from, and how they had ambushed us. Vall and I ferreted through the junk, and found some gems, coins and knick knacks. They matched the sorts of goods that had been going missing from the barge, and although Nura searched for magic, there was nothing too special. We gathered it up, brought it out to the group, and as we emerged we caught the end of Faye’s lecture on fire safety. None of the crew were even listening, and Myrie chucked an acorn at her.

Morning finally dawned, and we searched the bodies and checked around to make sure there were no other nasty friends around. Vall and Faye started a poetry slam on how to kill goblins, which the rest tried to ignore as we scarfed down our breakfast. Luckily Vall avoided the embarrassing rash from the goblin dog, which is lucky as there was no way I was going to touch that sort of rash. Not there, anyway.

We showed our finds to the crewmen, who were able to identify some of it as definitely missing from previous boatloads. Those items they could not identify, we kept.

Vall: The rest of your stuff has obviously been fenced.

Myrie: Who calls it “fencing”?

Vall: People with rapiers!

The trip back was quiet, but some of us realised that the crew was somewhat intimidated by us now. It’s quite possible that my carving one of the goblin’s thigh bones into an amulet at the front of the boat didn’t help.

But Galath explained that they had not been expecting goblins. Goblins are fairy stories. And such things make them … uneasy. Luckily Vall was able to calm their fears. His skills at diverting their attention were almost patronising in their simplicity.

And finally we slid into the home port.

Mother, I am starting to realise the complexities of this world. The people seemed glad when we were Called, yet they’re afraid of what this means. And yet, even if we weren’t here, the creatures would still arrive and make like difficult. They are glad of our skills, yet fearful when we use them.

And this is such a position of responsibility. This is the first time I have killed a living thing like that. I feel sure it will not be the last. Thank Pharasma that I know the meaning of life, of death, and of the Journey we must all take.

My love to all at the old Temple, and I shall try to visit when I can.

Your loving apprentice,

Chrysta Bel-Trydimite

Treasure: 100go each
This adventure – 400 xp
To date: 700xp

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The Price of Being Chosen

Back in Callech again, but for some of us, everything has changed – and not for the better.

In the end, it turned out that the barge thieves were goblins – stinking, creeping goblins. It took us virtually no time to deal with them, and the strange dog-like creature they brought with them. Nura and Chrysta didn’t even need to engage them – between my arrows, Vall’s knives and Faye’s sword, we were more than a match for them. There was an unfortunate moment when one of the bargemen was startled by Vall rushing past him in full battle mode (despite Faye’s attempts to wake everyone quietly). The poor man fell straight into the fire, and it was only due to Faye’s quick thinking that he was not more terribly injured. As it was, Chrysta’s healing powers were needed for both him and Vall, who had suffered a wound at the hands of the goblins.

After that, the journey back to the village was uneventful. For some of us, though, it grew considerably uncomfortable as the bargemen began to regard us with some level of fear. Oh, they were grateful enough that we had dealt with the threat to their livelihood (and for Faye’s impromptu fire safety lecture), but now we were not simply a source of pride for them. It’s one thing to be able to say your village was chosen as a place where magic awakened and adventurers were chosen. It’s quite another to see that in action as these chosen ones display legendary abilities and throw themselves into battle without a second’s thought.

I suspect this will fall hardest on Faye. Vall may face difficulties with his family and acquaintances, but he is an Elf, and will undoubtedly have held part of himself in reserve. Nura, likewise, is far too self-contained to really feel the burden of ostracism that may spread from the bargemen to the good citizens of Callech. Faye, though, takes real pride in both her adventurer status and her place in the life of the village. How will she reconcile these with the distance that will inevitably grow between us and those whose only experience of the magic is to witness it – or worse, be hurt or killed?

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River Song

We decided to go back and continue negotiations with the water golem I mentioned previously, although we were concerned that the language barrier might be a problem. I have read of magic that allowed understanding of any language, but I had neither the time nor the resources to research such a spell, so we were forced to rely on Faye’s surprisingly-good grasp of Aquan.

There was some discussion as to whether we should all go together, or only those of us with something to contribute to negotiations. Chrysta suggested that if it was true that our presence attracts trouble, more of us might mean more trouble – but does that mean we should split up and deal with two smaller troubles, or stay together for increased might against one big one? It rather depends on whether the relationship between heroes and trouble is additive, or some form of exponential, or perhaps a square-root type relationship. We should investigate this at some stage.

For the time being we all went together, taking Galeth with us. Chrysta and Myrie spent some of their legitimately-gotten gains on horses, and I shared Chrysta’s steed; I’m yet to get the hang of such things, but I didn’t fall off.

It took us about half a day to reach the elemental. Faye spoke with it and relayed its words to the rest of us – I never knew “glub” could contain so much nuance. Sadly its speech was heavily dependent on proper nouns unfamiliar to us, and it lacked modern reference to explain them. It wanted the Kingdom of Something restored, the Power of Something-Else (Or Maybe The Same Thing?) returned, and the Some Other Thing Again (Maybe?) recovered.

However, it understood that this task might prove difficult. In the meantime, it wanted tribute in return for safe passage. Fortunately Faye had the good sense not to translate my suggestion for a “tribute of gold”; she tried to palm it off with copper coins but it was smart enough to recognise their low value.

In the end Faye offered it a song, and to our great relief it agreed to accept songs for tribute. An excellent outcome all round. Afterwards we discussed the potential of songs about glub.

After escorting Galeth back to town, we headed back downriver to investigate the ruins we’d seen previously. Heading down into a basement, we smelled the distinctive odour of goblins, and Vall found and disabled a wicked trap before it could harm us.

As we descended the stairs we were not entirely surprised to find half a dozen goblins waiting for us, two rather larger than the others. In my excitement I mishandled my staff and hit Faye in the ankles; one of the big ones charged in and hit her, but Faye hit him with her falchion – actually, let’s say “smote”, it was hard enough to count as smiting – and then I caught him a hard blow that left him dazed until Chrysta was ready to finish him off.

Meanwhile Vall and Myrie were laying waste to the rest of them, working well as a team. One fled into the next room, and Vall and Faye gave chase then pulled back after sighting quite a few more goblins and a couple of the rat-dogs.

How did we make it out? DID we make it out? Am I writing this from beyond the grave? I shall leave that story for next time.

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