Helt Requiem

Awakening
Kaicoran Dawn

I awoke from strange dreams to a dark alleyway dimly illuminated by the night sky. Blurred memories swirling in front of my mind’s eye refused to focus and for a moment I couldn’t remember how I had ended up in this alleyway… or even where this alleyway was.

Fragments of memory came into view. There was a bald man… gems… a house… a dwarf… blood… fire… Arturia…

All at once the full memory snapped sharply into focus with painful clarity. I reeled inside my head as I felt every corner of my mind burn with such intensity that for another moment there was only the sensation of hot, searing, blinding clarity washing over my entire mental being. I drew in a sharp breath instinctually and tried to steady myself by grasping at the images and sensations of my immediate surroundings. The stone floor of the alley was hard and cool. The night breeze was warm and thick. A slight odor of smoke still lingered in the air. The stars above were shining brightly overhead in the cloudless sky. I was in the Shining District.

As I clung tighter to the present the raging inferno of mental fire subsided to a dull flame that moved to the back of my mind as it continued to burn steadily. I took in another deep breath and attempted to sit up only to now feel my body cry in protest as I became painfully aware of the injuries I had sustained.

My clothes were covered in blood, although most of it didn’t appear to be mine, and there was still an arrow sticking out of my left shoulder which was throbbing painfully in addition to the dull pain in my chin. I sensed that the last remnants of the effects of the hero’s feast had worn off in the time I had fallen asleep and all I could feel now was the soul crushing exhaustion that permeated every part of my body. It’s possible I may have pushed myself a little too hard this time… Sister would not have been happy about that.

Using Lawbringer I was able to prop myself up and hobble out of the alleyway into the street; still struggling to barely stay upright. As soon as I left the alley I felt a pair of hands grab Lawbringer and my bag and then put my arm over a narrow set of strong shoulders bracing me up as I walked. I looked up to see the face of a concerned pale-skinned teifling woman examining me with disbelief. There was just the slightest hint of a sweet-smelling perfume.

“…Petaline?” was all I could manage to say as she leaned me against the wall of a nearby building.

“What it the world have you been doing?” she said while further examining my injuries, “And who have you been fighting? You know, you really need to reconsider what your definition of fun is.”

At which point she pulled sharply on the arrow imbedded in my shoulder; removing it as a fresh pang of pain shot through my left arm and side of my chest. I winced as she examined the shattered glass tip.

“Have you been poisoned?” she said with an extra layer of concern entering her voice.

“I-… I don’t think so.” I said feeling the wound myself. It was shallow enough and would heal under Mythia’s hands with little trouble.    

Looking at the arrow tip and then to me her face went from concerned to questioning to almost slightly amused in a matter of moments, “You really should stick to just stealing things if you’re in that much need of excitement,” she said with half of a sarcastic smile.

“Well there was some of that too…” I said remembering the gems and golden rope in my bag, “How did you find me?”

She looked a little sheepish for split second before regaining her usual casual attitude, “Don’t take this weirdly, but I had a dream about you and I don’t usually get those but it seemed important and… here you are.”

“I had a strange dream too…” I said still feeling the dull burning in the back of my mind. Another wave of exhaustion hit me and I steadied myself against the wall while trying to stay on my feet.

“Alright, alright, I told you not to be weird about it,” she said bruskly while grabbing me again and bracing me against her shoulders as we walked down the street to the nearest inn which was call the Blackthorn.

Before I could do anything, she gave some coins to the innkeeper and took me up a room where I was promptly placed on the bed.

“You should really get some sleep,” she said with tone of authority.

It didn’t take too much convincing. I got under the covers as another wave of fatigue hit me and I felt Petaline lay on top of the sheets on the other side of the bed. I had no more energy left for speaking.

I heard a voice from the other side of the bed before sleep could take me, “Goodnight… you nut…” with a slight chuckle.

Then unconsciousness.

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The crimson webs within webs
I read this fantastic record of that!

Tamyr sat in his small room on the Corsair boat, his attention torn between re-reading one of the many book he had brought along with him for the journey, writing in a journal about the progress of the journey so far, and hoping that the angry yells out on the deck from the Corsairs weren't the final declarations of mutiny. He had already been threatened to be thrown overboard twice now, and he didn't think that he could persuade them again with the promise of untold riches that they would receive for delivering him to the island. 

"I still believe," Tamyr scribed into his Journal, "that if we take passage 5, from 'Army of Earth,' Vol III, and cross-references it with Chapter 84, Entry 395, in 'The Restoration of Wind,' by the author Americ Landil, who also wrote such amazing works like 'Animals of Stone,' 'Murder of the North,' and 'Memory of the Tombs' (which I might say expertly defends the hypothesis that the "magical" ley lines of Helt, as recorded by Sage Winterfell, circa …., ((which took me a while to find, actually. I had to scour the library in the monastery, searching for the works of Uyr Uyrsib that referenced Uyr Uyrsib (((no relation, but from the minor sketches I have found, I swear are the same person, though they are divided through time and space by nearly several hundreds of years and full continents apart)))…"

Tamyr's hand slowly came to a stop as he mentally double-checked his resources and facts, scrambling from his bed to his backpack in the corner, pulling out pieces of parchment upon parchment upon parchment upon parchment, carefully aligning them on the floor, connecting the red pieces of string that spanned between pages torn from different books (they were his own copies, he swears ((though the monastery might have been relieved of it's copy prior to it coming into his possession))). The red strings created a complex and intricate web; each string leading to a vast array of others, all culminating onto a pin that had hastily been struck through a small island, a mere pinprick of land, southeast of Cabraithia. Tamyr traced his finger over one strand of the web, following from page to page, nodding to himself that he remembered correctly.

Tamyr returned to the bed and resumed writing, "I still believe that these two writings confirm my visions. The book is real and is in terrible trouble of being found. These visions She has given me have culminated in this expedition. I feel like Cogh, beginning his great voyage, and I too shall keep record of my actions upon this world. For I know that I have been chosen to join my brother monks, to lead them to these trials, where their awesome strength and courage, granted by Acadia herself, shall sunder all obstacles to return this once-lost object of absolute power to its rightful resting place. For what are monsters and fiends to a servant of Acadia? What can demons do but fall before my brothers? Death shall triumph."

He continued writing, filling pages with his theories, detailing each string the the web he had created, referencing books, and paintings, and poems, and legends, and vision, and magic. This was his ritual on the seas, his acts of meditation and self-alignment to this singular focus. It didn't matter that he had already filled 5 other large journals with nearly identical words. He knew his purpose, and would allow nothing to destroy that strength of will.

The angry shouting intensified once more that night, and fearing that the Corsairs might really turn the boat around this time, scrambled to calm their anger. "I promise, my nautical brethren, that once we stand before the Black Dragon, who has had unfathomable time to gather his wealth, will pay you for your troubles…"

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The Storm Below (A meeting in a Lighthouse)
-World Event

The man in a suit listened intently, his thoughts swirling, his mind engaged in fractals of competing and self-rejecting thoughts as he listened to the Watcher speak.  Almost everyone was there, and more engaged than they had been in almost a thousand years.

The girl in the sun dress was hanging by his side, saying nothing but reaffirming with her expression and stare every word.  The sisters sat at the far side of the table, inseparable now that Angela had woken.   The battlemaid sat with the son of angels, still unsure of how to proceed.

Death spoke next, and the man in the suit nodded.  He glanced to his left, and the two men there nodded at his subtle agreement.  They would join the fight.  Then the battlemaid spoke to their minds of the Telling.  The signs that had long been ignored. The Pestilence that stirred, the Blood that would soon come forth.  Three would emerge.  One would have to be stopped.  And the Traitor was back.  

The pillars had to be removed before the skye fell.  Before true madness returned.  They all understood.  But this second war had started out of nearly nothing, and each of them understood what significance it would bring.  The end of their way of life.  The realm of hunger had to be fought, and the prince of assassins would lead the charge.

But the plans swirled.  More was happening in the storm below.  A new solution would have to be made.  The man in the suit glanced knowingly at the two girls to his right, and they understood.  He spoke.  the sisters were troubled, one was outright furious, but the woman in the sun dress calmed them.  More would be awakened.  The young Shepherd would be chosen.  This would be War.

The one lost to time would return long ago and would need to fix what he already had, the Sleeping would begin to awaken, the sarcophagus would open, Charon would alight, and the sanctuary would be broken.

The threads of Convergence would sing one last time.

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A Letter- Dance and Assassination

Dear Kayla,

I wanted to start by saying, don't be alarmed at how much gold I sent you. I did not mug a rich noble or sack a treasure room. The way of coin is different here. Gold coins are the most common and even simple purchases can include them. It is very different from home and from other places that I've traveled to, but I feel we can use this to our advantage. I have a deal and other jobs lined up to get us a fair amount of coin that I will send your way. With luck, we should be able to afford to contract a healer from the capital.

While things are still calm here, I'm worried that there is a storm brewing just out of sight. While searching for leads of our end goal, some our companions were captured, Kai's young sister, Asura, being one of them. In searching for them, we were approached by a Lady who wanted us to kill one of the other influential people of the town. I was unaware of the offer and could not state my disapproval about participating in so called political assassination, but the group ended up accepting the offer. I fear this might make things more complicated, but it is decided and I will protect them as best I can.

As such, I have furthered my skill in sword combat. I laugh how much my skill has changed since I started those many years ago. I was brutish and aggressive with my sword, but now I dance around like you and the other girls did during Fructidous festival. I'm sure you would laugh with me. That reminds me, while training this past week I was extended an offer to learn <s>Thomottergy</s>, <s>Thaumo </s>, detecting magic. While it is not as impressive as your spells, I am still happy to announce that I can cast some type of magic. I will show you when I return.

We are about to move out now, I think we found were they are holding our companions.

I'll write again soon

Your younger brother

Weslyn

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Session Review ACT 1 Part 2
-Campaign Marker

It has been a hard week.

The forces have revealed themselves.  A dragon in human form by the name of Kael has been sent by Death as a guide to the Requiem participants who call themselves Aralondil.  The Patron as he is called is revealed to be a Dragon also.  One of countless years of study and practice, immeasurably powerful and interested only in the success of his hoarde, Sanctuary.  The Patron and Death both want the item that has been sealed away, though they cannot retrieve it themselves.  Aralondil must choose a side eventually, though currently all but one of them has sided with Death.  Asche, attracted to power, has drawn the eye of the Patron and is growign increasingly close to him as he goes out of his way to provide for her.  

As Aralondil begins to settle into the city Kael tells them of mentors that they may take, those who know of the true nature of the Requiem and would help.  Each of the members goes to a different mentor to learn their particular arts.  

Asche finds her time divided between the temple of Phillip where she received answers and training, and the Patrons where she received protection and the promise of power.

Asura, Mythia, Ohm, and Kane found themselves at the Campus of the Four Sisters, studying the ways of Teonas, Arcadia, and the other goddess sisters, and studying with the great library and university of learning.  They learn battlefield divinity, the healing arts, Psionics, and the Way of the Fist.  

Dastan studies at the edge of the Shining District with the Rangers and had a particularly interesting drinking game with a Drixl.

Kaicoran and Snaf visited the guild in the Shadow District, learning from Petaline, Basil, and Carl Baird the ways of the rogue and illusion magic.

Pyry trains under a master elementalist at the Mage Tower in the Central District where she learns that her heritage may allow her to control more than she thought possible.

Weslyn also trains at the Temple of Phillip and has found success in the fighting pits and is quickly becoming a favorite among the fighters of the temple.

Each has increased in strength and holds the promise of further growth and power as they study more.

Ever aware of their task, they gather after a period of training and a well-deserved rest to venture outside the city in search of a missing artificer and a man that might know the location of their first task, the first seal of three such that must be unlocked in order to access the Vault.  Kane, it appears has already gone ahead of them with the other Arcadian Monks, and they hope to reunite with him later.

Sidetracked along the way they discover a hidden chamber in mountain tunnel that must be opened with the enchanted spear they found in their first cave, and Pyry becomes separated.  A few rare books, mysterious rooms and magic, and an uneasy sense of danger later they are back on track, a little more wealthy.  They decide to return another time when they understand more.  Weslyn feels uncomfortable about it, and senses some elusive danger, though it doesn't show its head. 

A fight to rescue a fisherman from strange feral wolves leaves them feeling hungry, and they stop at a game station to buy some fish and hire a bored mercenary (Jordan).  Pyry and Asura find a number of useful plants they hope to make into potions.

Their mood is darkened when they come across a field of dead Arcadian Monks, apparently slaughtered by blades.  Though they do not find Kane's body among the dead, they cannot be sure if he survived as some of the bodies are beyond recognition.  Saddened they continue forward, searching for the cave where the artificer was last seen.

Aralondil engaged in a fight with the demons that killed the monks and captured Arturia, the artificer.  The fight is intense and it seems that Kai, Mythia or Asche could die, but in a moment of desperation Pyry convinces the younger Erinyes to fight against her mother in the interest of being released from her contract and working to being redeemed from the life she was born into but never wanted.  Ohm tried to get the mother to surrender but to no avail.  Weslyn, Ohm, the young Erinyes girl Lorina, Asche, and Jordan surrounded the mother Erinyes, and under combined fire from all of Aralondil and unable to fly because of Pyry's rain, the Erinyes died.  Several items were scavenged from the cave, and the artificer and Erinyes were taken to the surface where Aralondil promptly welcomed the sight of a campfire and a long rest.

The morning was cruel.  Lorina, Asura, and Arturia were kidnapped and Aralondil was robbed.  A note was left by a man calling himself a "friend", later to be identified as Liecheus, a member and joint organizer of a cabal of villainy in the city.  After teleporting the remaining members of Aralondil, now down by two, into the hospital campus Mythia was exhausted.  Most of the group wanted to act immediately, so those that could move began to search for answers.  In desperation Asche went to the Patron for help.  He provided that help in exchange for an agreement from her.  

Asura and the others were being sold in the governors's palace in the Shining District.  Asche was promised that if she needed help that the Patron would come, and was given a fantastically expensive dress.  Asche used the dress and Dastan the black suit that he had won in his drinking game to enter the Governor's palace where they were quickly cut off in communication by a magic field.  

Pyry sought help from the Altarin, searching for a water entrance to the governor's palace, and found an ally in Eric, an Altarin prince removed from his home.  He recognized royal markings on her and agreed to help immediately upon hearing that her sister was in danger. They entered through a nearby fountain, found their way to the underground spring, and followed it under the palace.  

Once inside Asche and Dastan met a number of wretched but beautiful house guests, including one dressed in exquisite white who purported to be the Patron's daughter, and a woman in white furs who others simply called the Witch.  Dastan became separated and made a deal with Liecheus to buy Asura for 600,000 gold.  He signed his name to a flesh-bound book.  Asche found her way downstairs and actually saw Asura, but the situation became dangerous.  Pyry and Eric couldn't come out of the water without being discovered, and Asche drew attention as soon as she was revealed to be unprotected in a room of demons, slavers, thieves, dark servants, and pit fiends.  Pyry attempted to punctuate Asche's power with magic, but the pit fiends reacted violently.

Pyry and Eric made it out on their own power, but after a Herculean effort Asche managed to escape the basement only to walk into a room of demons and called don the Patron to escort her out of the pit of fiends.  

Discouraged because of their failure to rescue Asura, and now rejoined by Mythia but missing Asche (as she was with the Patron) and having no idea what happened with Dastan, Aralondil fled the scene.   

A bone devil boldly pursued them and attacked.  Knowing the collateral damage it could cause, Aralondil fled to the lakeshore to fight it.  As it attacked it summoned a Fire Elemental and brought with it three Imps.  Eric assisted in the fight, keeping Weslyn from being consumed in flame as he fought it almost singlehandedly.  Eric, Pyry, and Weslyn fought the Elemental, Snaf and Mythia fought and killed an imp each, and the rest fought the bone devil, seeking to keep it from the weaker members.  Partway through the fight Asche came by the Patron's power, but fell to raking claws of the bone devil.

Finally victorious, Asche managed to score the final devastating blow to the bone devil as it attempted to flee and Kai caught an imp as it attempted to escape, tying it up with the promise of presenting a contract to it.  

The fight was observed by the woman in white fur, the Witch from earlier.  She proposed that Aralondil kill Liecheus in exchange for the location of Asura and information on the others.  Aralondil grudgingly agreed.  In finding that the objectives both also coincided with their first task, and given that Kai had pickpocketed an extravagantly wealthy criminal, they decided to take a week to prepare, outfit, train, and rest before tackling Liecheus and the First Seal.  They each returned to their mentors, concerned for the fates of Asura, Dastan, Lorina, Arturia, and Kane.

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Afraid
-Asura Dawn

I wish Kai were here and could feed anything frightening he has ever seen to the imagination of my captors.  Pyry would rush in with whatever she has learned and cause storms to erupt around us, and Asche would untie me and carry me out of here like the hero of my dreams, jumping and kicking at anything that tried to stop her.  I try to imagine what everyone can do, but it ends in dispair.  I only have my mind to write in, my imagination is my quill.  I haven't been able to use my hands, or voice, or even cry for days.  

Liecheus is the only reason I haven't been touched or raped or eaten.  I don't feel better with him here, but I am grateful to be alive.  Some of the other girls aren't.  It was a well of hope to see Asche, but she was with Liecheus!  What happened to her!?  Where were the others?  Lorina recieved much worse treatment than I did.  I could only hear her muffled cries.  And then to be beaten, and healed, washed and presented still cold and wet in front of so many hungry eyes…  

Now it is cold.  I am in stone, sitting in a cage in front of a creature that watches me constantly when Liecheus isn't here.  I don't knwo where the rest are, but I fear the worst.  They want me to open a seal.  I don't know how.  They get so angry.  There is this devil here that looks like a man, he hung me on a spike like a slab of meat.  I was in so much pain I passed out.  They take me to be washed occasionally.  I don't know why.  Last night Liecheus removed the bands on my hands and head.  He said he wanted to hear me cry.  To know I still could.  He was angry.  There is a dark sickness here in the shadows, and it makes me feel more naked than mere exposed flesh.  

I am so cold.  I am so alone, except when I am being watched or surrounded by predators.  I shake uncontrollably.  There is no escape here.  The bridge they crossed to get here is broken now, and I don't know where the traps are.  If I triggered just one of them on my way out I know I would die, and while I have given up I don't want them to use my body like they said they would.  I don't want them to show Kai or my sisters or Dastan.  Mythia and Ohm would feel so bad.  It might even make Snaf cry.  

I am done fighting.  I will try to activate the magics they want me to, and unlock the seal.  I don't have any other choice.  I just want all of this to stop.  I'm out of tears.  I don't want to become art like the other girls.  I'll just give him what he wants.  

I hope my friends are alive.  

I hope they never come here.

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Giving the Devil Its Due
Mythia Cross

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sVqGYXBVG0 

I stared deep into the eyes of the woman in white. Unease settled over me, and not just because the smells of ashes and smoke and blood were heavy in my nostrils. I stood before her, trying to appear tough and dignified. But I was weak, wounded, soaked and chilled from Pyry’s rain. Though Petrovin had restored my mana earlier with his dragonfire potion, the recent fight and the wound I had received from the imp had taken their toll. If it was a fight she wanted, a fight she would get, but I would not be the first to start it. Not in my condition.

The woman had watched us patiently while we fought the imps, the fire elemental, the flaming skeletons, and the bone devil. I don’t honestly know if she was helping the bone devil (possible), or helping us (very unlikely), or if she had simply remained a spectator. Regardless, if she hadn’t helped us fight, then she hadn’t helped us win; and if she hadn’t helped us win, then perhaps she hadn’t wanted us to win. To be honest, I had the feeling she watched the fight to see who was stronger—us, or the demons—and that either party would have served her purposes equally well. I think if they had killed us, she would have offered the demons the job. No, she did not want to help us. She wanted to take advantage of us, to control us, manipulate us for her benefit.

I didn’t want anything to do with her. But when the fight was done, she approached us anyway. There was no avoiding her, though I wanted to so badly.

Tired, wounded, and concerned for the others in my group, I did not want to remain in her presence a second longer than necessary. I wanted to get somewhere safe where my companions and I could rest and eat and heal. They were my first priority, not this dangerous stranger. So when she asked who the leader of our group was, I raised my hand and immediately asked her to say what she came to say.

She took my first statement as an insult. I suppose I could have said it a little softer, with a smile. Like my mother, I can be charming and diplomatic if I wish (in fact I prefer to be), but I never did have the additional touch for deception that she did. How else do you think my father came to become such an important businessman and politician in our city? How do you think my oldest brother got a position as an assistant to the governor? How do you think she secured smart marriages for my brothers and half the other influential bachelors in town? My father wasn’t pulling the strings alone. I could do it, too—pull strings, put on that mask of joviality and diplomacy—but not so effortlessly as she did. Not without great thought and preparation. Improvisation is not my strength, especially socially. Approaching me unprepared, in poor emotional and physical condition, was not ideal for the woman in white nor for me nor for my companions.  

The woman in white curled her lips into a sneer and reprimanded me for my greeting. I made no apology, as I had done nothing wrong—though perhaps it would have been the cunning, deceitful thing to do. I suppose I was out of the energy required to be cunning and deceitful on command. Still, that’s no excuse. I have to learn how. I am a leader now. They chose me. I will become what I have to become—for them.

The woman, still eyeing me angrily, continued on, and asked who we were. I replied we were Aralondil, the Determined Light. I don’t think she liked that. Nor was she impressed. She did not give us her name.

She did give us a deal. Information on where our friend Asura was—if we would finish a job for her. It sounded suspicious to me. Just the way she worded things, the disdain in her voice, I didn’t trust it at all. It worried me that my companions seemed to be engaging with her in a friendly way, but I let them ask questions and say their piece. She did not describe what the job was. In fact, even when I asked, when I insisted, she would not describe the task that she wanted us to perform for her.

In no possible scenario would I ever agree to a deal like this without first defining the job that she wanted us to do and then consulting with my companions about it. The woman in white seemed to want to stop me from doing either of those things.  She was pushy—and if there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s being rushed and pressured. My father taught me that’s the mark of a shady salesman—that’s the way to lose customers, by trying to push them into a deal too quickly and making them uncomfortable, losing their trust. This woman in white was not selling herself or her deal, at least not to me. Unfortunately, Kai seemed hooked immediately. Anything to get back his sister as fast as possible, regardless of the cost or consequences. I could see her working on that, on his weakness, on his desire to see his sister safe and whole. Preying on him, using his love for her to needle tiny bits of information away. And Ohm, ever the innocent one, ever the good-hearted friend, also began to show our cards when he attempted to bargain for the information himself.

The woman in white seemed to soften for Ohm and Kai, but I think that is only because she was pleased at their compliance. I had no such desire to comply, and so she disrespected and disdained me when I again insisted that she reveal to us the nature of the task she wanted us to complete. I made it clear that I would not accept her bargain without knowing the task first. The woman in white threatened to take back the deal, asking what I could possibly give her that would cause her to entertain this “fantasy” of revealing the task. Fantasy? Is it fantasy to want to know the terms of a business arrangement before entering into it? No! If a prospective businessman had treated my father like that, he would have walked away from the negotiating table and never looked back. I was tempted to, right then and there. This woman was going about the process of persuasion all wrong. Now I was the one insulted. I would rather spit on her hand than shake it. I wished I were Mercanis. He was a ruthless businessman, even more than my father—he would have sent her running for the hills with her tail tucked between her legs.

But her words and threats frightened Kai into appeasement. He whispered to me, saying that this could be our only chance to find information to rescue Asura. I replied that we didn’t know that for sure. In fact, I had faith that we would discover a way to Asura, no matter what. But being manipulated and frightened, Kai used the only bargaining chip he had at his disposal: bribery.

He offered the woman in white a sum of 1,000 gold for her to tell us the task. The woman accepted. I did not think it was fair at all. How could it be? She had manipulated and frightened Kai into giving her money for something we should never had had to pay for in the first place.

Something fierce inside me awoke, something I didn’t know I had. I felt what my brother Ferrous felt when he beat down a bully for me—Ferrous, who was normally about as dangerous and menacing as a cinnamon roll. I felt what my father felt when he sat on the judgment seat of the city, sentencing criminals. I felt what my mother felt when my father was slandered by political enemies and business rivals. Responsibility for protecting the people that are mine. When I was alive, I was never responsible for anyone but myself, so I never knew what it felt like before. The emotion quickened my mind, my blood, and my temper. I nearly ordered Kai to stop, not to hand over the money, for all of us to leave. But I knew that’s not what the rest of my companions wanted. Especially Kai. So I held my tongue.

She told us that she wanted us to kill Leicherous. That’s it. That’s all that 1,000 gold earned from her.

A mocking reply escaped my lips. “Was that so hard?”  

Her eyes were daggers when she looked at me, and I deflected them back with my own gaze. Perhaps I was a tiny bit intimidated on the inside, but at least I didn’t look it on the outside. Appearances are half the battle, mother always said. If you look confident, people will believe you are confident.

Asche was immediately wary, and after she told us more of her observations of Leicherous in the Shining District, I knew she was wise to be. Killing him would be no easy task. It would require resources, forethought, strength, and skill. But all of my companions agreed that—especially since it seemed that Leicherous was competing with us in order to break the seals—killing him would align with our ultimate goals of completing the Trial of the Requiem. I don’t think a single one of them voiced an opinion against it, though each of them had a different reason why they agreed. I think perhaps I was the only person who didn’t want this deal. But I didn’t say that. I wouldn’t dare. I was a leader, not a dictator. If this is what my group decided they wanted to do, I would become what they needed me to become. I would do what they needed me to do. Even if it meant shaking hands with this evil woman on a contract for another evil man’s life.

The woman in white held out her hand. I took it, looking her in the eye, saying nothing. A flash bound our hands together for a moment, accompanied by magical symbols. The seal was complete. The contract was signed. I let go as soon as I could, flexing my hand involuntarily.  

The woman in white proceeded to define the terms of the deal. We had two weeks to kill him. If we failed, we owed her 10,000 gold. For what, I have no idea—that’s not how business ventures work where I’m from. Where I’m from, the client pays for a service, and if that service fails, their payment is restored. Yet the woman in white has not paid us—in fact, the only good we get in exchange here is information, and yet she wanted to charge us gold in the case of failure? That didn’t seem fair to me. The only consolation in my mind was that we were about to put all our money in a bank, and if we failed, we would likely die trying, and if we died, then she would hopefully never be able to collect on her 10,000 gold, what with it being locked up in a goblin vault somewhere. A slim hope, but a spiteful hope nonetheless.

She warned us that Leicherous was a powerful chaotic magic user, that he would have Asura with him in the hidden mountain, and that Lorena and Arturia were likely being held on another plane of existence.

She did add an addendum of sorts—that if we completed this task for her, she would stay out of our way forever if we also stayed out of her way. And that if either one of us broke this addendum, we would have the full legal rights to kill one other. This was the only part of the bargain that I liked, because I hoped it meant that we would never see or hear from her again once the contract was fulfilled. But I was wrong. The woman in white hinted that she may return to us for future business contracts. If I were a dog, I would have growled at her. One contract with her was bad enough. I didn’t want us involved in whatever her machinations were. Like I said. She wanted to control us, manipulate us. Everything in me screamed that this was a trap. But it was too late.  

Finally, she introduced herself, saying only that we could call her The Witch. 

They say the road to hell is easy. Shaking hands with The Witch was definitely easy.

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Thoughts and...Regrets
The story of Ohm, the Half-Giant

Returning to Sanctuary was…strange. Everything…seemed different. Surreal. I think that…the others handled it better…than I did. Sanctuary was…a continuation…of this new experience for them. For me it was…home. But not home. Knowing that I had died…I could not see anything the same way. It was like…seeing the city for the first time. And it was…concerning. It made me think of coming…as a child. I thought…of my father. I wondered…how quickly the Nii clan…had claimed my possessions. I wondered…what happened to my mother. I was…lost in thought. I…was glad to have Snaff with me.

Many things happened…in such…a short amount of time. I was not accustomed…to things happening so quickly. It’s hard…to remember what happened first. We stayed in an inn. We found clothes. I was…relieved. We realized…we needed money. And we learned that…the library’s destruction was… deliberate…and that…my home was part of the investigation. So, we…sought out some simple tasks…for a bit of income.

In the course…of all this…we met a man named Kael. I thought him…strange, but…well-intentioned. He told us…he was a Brown Dragon…in service of Death. Others…like him…were to help us to…become stronger. We would have to…be stronger, he said, if…we wanted to succeed the Test of Requiem. I was told…to meet a dragon named Litalia…near the monastery.

It was…just after meeting Kael…that we were summoned by the Peacekeepers to…meet the Patron. I had…known of him, but…never met him. I had never wanted to. You see, I had never…cared much for those in power. What would be…would be. I only wanted…to learn.

The Patron was…imposing. I chose…not to speak up. He did not seem like someone…whose patience I should try. He was obviously…accustomed to getting what he wanted. That he was Lord of Sanctuary…did not bother me, really. But, I was worried…that he would try to use us for his purposes. Kael…later…confirmed this. Right or wrong…good or less good…I had made my promise to Death. So…I was wary…of the Patron.

After that…we went to meet those meant to help and guide us. I had not spent…much time…in the Central District. The Great Library was…remarkable. As I was standing on the commons…I wished I could see the books there. I was…a bit sad…for a time. Then…I met Sharene.

Sharene was a Celestial. She was…a very kind and…a very beautiful person. Her aura was…bright…and clear. She’d been badly burned…and couldn’t use her hands much…anymore. So she was studying the magics of psi. It was refreshing for me…to meet someone so young and…determined to overcome difficulty. Her aura…brought more light…and clarity…to mine.

I told her I was there…to meet Litalia, and she guided me to the hospital…and said farewell. Litalia…did not have time to meet with me. After a brief introduction she…instructed me to go with Tomas to…find a room in the monastery. Tomas was one of her students. He was a quiet fellow. He told me he studied the more…harmful capabilities of psionics. Nevertheless…he was very helpful. He helped me find…a large room, and…had the servers bring me some fish.

I slept. Visions of swirling auras…filled my mind. I dreamed of my companions. I dreamed of astra…separated from their corpora by death. The essentia of that binding was…released. But…I could not see where it went. I saw…partly-formed images of the Astral Plane. The separation…between the Corporeal and the Astral planes is…only a thin membrane…in dreams. Yet…it remained…just beyond my reach.

I woke feeling thoughtful, but…well-rested. The bed was very soft. I lay there for some time…pondering my dreams. I hoped that Snaff was alright. We hadn’t been able to talk much…since all this had happened. My thoughts were…interrupted…by a fairy. It wasn’t a rude interruption. Just…a friendly one. She…said her name was Starblaze. Our group…had piqued her curiosity outside the mountain. But Kane had scared her away. She said…I seemed more friendly. I told her she was welcome anytime…and I would leave a bit of my supper unfinished for her…like in the old stories. That made her happy. After that…she said goodbye.

The morning got more exciting…after that. After the group was…reunited…we discovered more trouble in the city. The blacksmith who we had talked to before…was in trouble. We offered to help. We even enlisted the help…of the Silver Foxes. They were…another adventuring group. Rivals…some would say. But…I didn’t see why it had to be that way. We made a plan, and the Silver Foxes agreed to…take Jordana…the blacksmith…to a safe part of town. We would try to get some funds and…materials…to get her started. We also agreed that Mythia…the pretty Alaryan in our group…would be our leader. I thought…it was a good decision. I could tell…she had a good heart. Though…I don’t always see eye to eye with followers of the Divine magics. They tend to…only see good or evil. They tend to…overlook…the need for balance in all things. Even so…I am glad that Mythia was chosen.

It was then that…I told everyone of Arturia. Litalia…had briefly mentioned her to me. Arturia was a master Artificer…for the hospital, and…she had gone missing near the coast. I thought…if we helped her…we could help the hospital. And perhaps…we could find some materials to help Jordana. Mythia and the others agreed. Now…a part of me wishes they had not agreed.

Searching for Arturia proved…difficult. We had to avoid traps…and fight wolves…and…even fight a demon. Somehow…the demon’s daughter…Lorena…agreed to help us. I found myself…hoping the others would forgive me… for getting them into such a mess. Even after we found Arturia, it was not over. We rested on the cliffs…over the sea…and in the night we were robbed. Azura, Arturia, and Lorena…were all kidnapped. The man…who had offered us places around his fire…was murdered.

I was very…very sad. I knew that…all of this was my fault. So…I decided…to try to keep my mouth shut. And, I hoped that the others…especially Kai…would forgive me.

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Wolves and Shades
Kaicoran Dawn

Wake up little shade…

I felt the morning before I saw it. I could feel a bird flitting its way through the air stirring up the wind outside. Opening my eyes, I caught a small glimpse of blue streak pass my open window and out into the open sky twittering a happy song. An energetic blue jay was greeting the rising sun.

I turned back to my room and took note of my belongings. Even in the bright morning light my room seemed to still have small pockets of shadow hiding away in corners; as if they were only biding their time until the sun would be sleeping once more. I guess it would only be natural for the shadows here to cling more tightly to their strongholds inside of the shadow guild.

The room I had been given was plain and sparse. A small bed, a writing desk with a few drawers, and a single chair were its only inhabitants other than myself and the shadows. Snaff and I had passed the first test of entry to the guild the night before and we had been promised training this morning. I gathered my things and left the small room and its shadows to find my teacher.

In the common area I found that most of the members had left to do some task as a group including the masters of the guild. Rochelle stayed behind and taught me new techniques of illusion and how to access a creature’s fears through the shade in their eyes. It seems that fear is a powerful weapon against most creatures. I have seen many creatures look at me with fear even before I could use the shades. I do not understand why. Maybe it is only Sister who can see me without my shades.

Snaff was also trained by young Basil in the arts of the rogue and she seemed to take to it naturally. Once training had finished we set out to meet the others at the blacksmith’s workshop.

Along the way I stopped at the monastery to ask about the young girl we had prevented from burning in the baker’s shop. I was told by a monk that she was being taken care of and did not seem to need the gold that the monks had given me in return for bringing her to them.

At the blacksmith’s we found the rest of the group waiting for us. Mythia had found a very interesting crown that reflected the light in fascinating ways. She had been with Sister at the temple of healing and it seemed that Sister was happy.

The doors and window to the blacksmith’s shop were shut and no sounds of metal came from inside. I convince the door to open and stepped inside to see if the blacksmith was still there. The rest of the group followed and we found her injured and with all her tools and most of her possessions taken. It seems that she had a debt that was unpaid and her debtors came to collect.

The other group called the Silver Foxes arrived and discussed how we could help the blacksmith. We needed her to equip us with weapons and armor so we could better complete the tasks ahead of us. The Foxes didn’t seem to like that I was part of our group. I saw again on them the same look that I had seen many times since entering this city. I am not welcome here.

You are welcome with us little shade…

We left the blacksmith’s shop to find a missing arcanist outside of town. After leaving town we passed through a tunnel lined with statues of kings. We found an interesting hidden room in the side of the tunnel that held many strange books and another that had metal doors without handles. Pyry also found an underwater room with coins and other interesting things but was almost lost after opening a door that released some of the water down a path with living stones. After creating light in my hand, Dastan and I were able to retrieve Pyry and return to the top without being injured by the stones.

Eventually we left the hidden rooms and continued through the tunnel to the other side. I could hear the noise of angry creatures as we came closer to the end of the tunnel and drew a knife to throw in preparation. We came upon what seemed to be a fisherman being attacked by many wolves; he was already surrounded.

Dastan reacted first by letting loose a shot from the bow he had taken from the blacksmith and from there our group became entangled in the fight. These wolves seemed sick to me. They did not act in self-preservation like an animal should but instead fought until the absolute end of their strength and only then could be silenced by death.

I frightened a few of them away using the shades; hoping perhaps they would be free of their sickness in time. Ohm, although being a gentle creature in his heart, crushed several of the wolves that ventured too close to us. In the end, they were all killed or fled except for one which was injured beyond healing but still made its way toward Sister with hate in its eyes. I quickly intercepted and cut the unfortunate creature’s throat so it could finally rest. The blood felt warm and sticky on my hands and smelled of copper; the creature’s life flowing out from the wound until it was no more.

Good…very good…

With the battle finished we talked with the fisherman who told us of the cave we were looking for and mentioned other strange things happening in forest. It seems that something is poisoning the minds of the animals here. The rage of the wolves felt similar to the rage I saw in the face of the flames in the bakery… very curious…

 The fisherman went on his way and we decided to rest for a short time before continuing on our journey to find the arcanist.

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Boys Will Be Boys
Asche's thoughts

Went to try and see Crystal but no one would tell me where she was. Saw Marisha fighting in the corner and was drawn to her. Almost had a fighting match with her but was “saved” by Lance who has dark good looks yum. He told me where to find Crystal (who goes by Crystaline). On the way, he told me about his sister who also had a flower from the patron. He no longer knows where she was and I said I would find out if I could. Her name is Mary and she is 16. We also made a deal that he would show me the way to the Solitarium in exchange for him training me or taking me out to dinner. I didn’t want to promise anything since 1) I didn’t know if I could trust him and I would need to see what Crystaline thought and 2) I didn’t want to upset the patron by going on a date with another man.

At the Solitarium where Crystal resides, Lance left pointing out a window up top that I might use to sneak in.. A Hebridonian man stepped outside with tattoos and metal covering his body. Not like, armor metal that you can take off, but metal that is poured into the bones and skin to become one with the person. I decided to talk to the man first before trying to break my way into anywhere. His metal was soooooooo cool. His name was Rictor and we became fast friends. He let me in after some chatting. It really helps to be honest with people, but I wonder how much honesty will hurt people. I just don’t like lying flat out. Anyways, I met Crystaline and she agreed to teach me and some other awesome things happened and I was blessed by a Patron. And I found out that the people that sacrificed Asura and killed Kai, Pyry and I were disciples of Fenrir and that there may be some in this city. Crystaline said they would go after the Arcadian monk Kane and his brethren first so I sent a message to them letting them know. I was given a cloth of shrouding and a discerning ring. The ring will let me know what is about. Black for the disciples, red for demons, orange for devils, white for celestials, and silver for record keepers.

As I was writing a letter to Kane there was a commotion outside. I had been followed by twisted dogs shaped creatures that made the ring turn orange. Rictor and Crystaline left on a mission and I was instructed to train with Lance in the meantime. I went to find Lance and his friend Laina to let them know about being trained. Lance tried to apologize for something by saying he really hoped I didn’t think anything by his flirting (which really kind of hurt). It reminded me of my younger days when the boys would follow after Pyry and they would only turn to me as an afterthought. So of course, I said I wasn’t enamored with him and then he turned all silent and dark. I don’t understand boys. No matter how much I try to understand them, I don’t think I will ever understand them. I was given a room at the school/monastery and ate in my room alone. Although it was a small, simple room, it felt like home. Sadly, it costs 1 gold a night. I really need a lover now. Or a job…. I’m worried about that. That night, I think I was visited by the patron… but I’m not sure. I felt like I was given a choice between an open mind, more femininity, or more strength and in my state of just coming from the temple of Philip, I chose strength. Strangely, I felt disappointed in my choice. Well, not me but me. And so I got angry with myself. Again, why would I need more femininity? Why was I again reliving my frustrations from my youth? Why was I not feminine enough for men? And with that, the feeling of the patron left me alone with no gift. Despite that, even with how strange it was, I slept very well.

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