Aniks Aliforn

Aniks Aliforn- Alas'thil (a.k.a. Niks)

Aniks Aliforn né Alas'thil is a drow arcanist (and former rogue) who serves as the Champion of the Divine of the Goddess of Death, Pharasma. Though his life has been streaked through with pain and loss, from his enslavement at the hands of his siblings to the death of his first wife and child, he has found happiness with Celuriel Aliforn.   As a member of the Lost Ones, Aniks travels across Istralar in pursuit of the Shards of the Void by direct command of Pharasma herself. Though his task is brave, it has led him down dark paths. He has seen friends tortured before him and gods felled by his party's own mistakes. He has been punished by the Herald of a goddess and scorned by some of the most powerful beings to walk Istralar. Yet despite this, he carves a brighter path to a kinder future, hoping to one day be at peace with his wife and draconic child in a world less likely to fall apart at the seams.   Aniks holds rank both in the nobility of the Aletheian Empire as a close friend of Emperor Aneirin 'Cyne' of Aletheia and recognised defender of the nation, and in House Alas'thil as the brother of its current matron, Nivinle Alas'thil. Though it is not well-known, he holds membership in the Eagle's Shadows as well, alongside many of his party members. The archmage of Galasthin, Lyadrí An'thimael, is close friends with his eldest sister Daeris, and has been assisting him and his friends in their struggle against the Shards since their fateful encounter with the Unbroken March.  

Aniks's Adventures

The following accounts of Aniks's adventures with the Lost Ones are quite long, and thus have been folded up for your reading convenience.  
For a Drow, I have lived a strange life. In the beginning, I was no better than any of them. I am still not. I would never say I’m better or worse than my kin. I’ve just chosen to walk a different path than most.
— Foreword to the Barkeep's Journal, part 1
 
Beginning of the Tale: a Shard and a Vampire
After a strange incident with a barrel of 'elven ale' that the party had purchased from a traveling duo of feminist elves that seemingly tore Aniks out of existence, the barkeep found work at various pubs and taverns across the northern reaches of Aletheia. It was during his employment at a drow bar on the outskirts of Ilendras, the former elven capital, that he rejoined the party to assist them in the dangerous Underdark city of Yuethin'tar.   There, he helped rescue Liese Celadrion from the experiments an evil alchemist (and leader of the Mages Guild) had been performing on her, assisted in diplomacy with the matriarch of a noble House, and fought alongside the party to destroy the strange plant beast that had been threatening the Serendel Forest region.   As the beast received the killing blow from Kazric Szithna, the entire party, Aniks included, was thrust into the Boneyard (also known as the realm of the Dead) due to an all-consuming explosion caused by the strange blade Kazric used and the soul-eating artefact within the monstrous plant. This was, of course, the moment Aniks chose to reaffirm that he didn't believe in gods... to an angel, whilst the celestial form of the ancient god Groetus loomed above them. After an amusing conversation, the party spoke to Pharasma and were restored to life, but charged with an important mission to find each of the other four soul-consuming artefacts.   The group's next steps were to seek a home for themselves; a location that they might use as a base. Receiving a short list of potential places from Cyne Undria had them travelling again: first to a dilapidated druid's tower, and then to a necromancer's tower. This is where things became again interesting for Aniks. Whilst the party, predictably, cleared out most of the undead, they became stuck within the tower due to its enchantments and were only able to escape with the assistance of Celuriel Geltharieth, a strange vetala vampire they'd found within and left unharmed due to her surrender.   Wanting to keep her safe and not turn her into the guards of Port Amarin, where she'd teleported them to, Aniks was given the burden of looking after her by the rest. Over time, they bonded and became.. some semblance of friends. Needless to say, however, the party chose neither tower as their base.
 
By No means does that make me innocent in my past actions. A small part of me knows that, if I were to return to the Underdark, my past would finally catch up. While I do not dislike my homeland, being there for a prolonged amount of time... I am concerned that I might slip back into the person I was.
— Foreword to the Barkeep's Journal, part 2
 
Memories, Balls, and More Vampires
After a period of travelling, the party arrived in Undria for a ball they'd received invitations to during their time in Ilendras. Aniks was surprised to find a house befitting a drow (and taking into account their light sensitivities) awaiting him, and when he wasn't resting there, spent the time before the ball exploring Undria with Celuriel and other members of the party.   It wasn't entirely peaceful: the party encountered a revolutionary plot to overthrow the government that had involved Pin Whisperbreath's cousin, spurred on by the drow and a mind-controlled Kazric. Aniks spent the majority of that particular fight struggling against black tentacles that had encircled him whilst the rest of the party dealt with the threats, rescued Kazric and Tarragon, and forced the revolutionaries to surrender and join them. However, in chasing after one of the more powerful drow combatants, they fell into a trap within a mirror.   The mirror forced each member of the party to go through their most horrific memories, with Aniks's being his family's betrayal, then a series of puzzles. To break free, they had to share a secret... and experienced a pleasant memory as they were thrown out. Aniks's happiest memory was that of his wife spending time with him in their kitchen, telling him something rather important - on reflection, this hurt more than his most horrible memory.   Then came the ball. Aniks reflects on this as a bit of a disaster for him. Trying to intervene in Celuriel's dance with another vampire led to his mind being dominated by a female vampire that led him aside and questioned him on the party before deciding she wanted to give Celuriel a 'gift' - and promptly bit him. Thankfully, Pin and Ashlyn's timely intervention drove her off and rescued Aniks in time for him to participate in rescuing Cyne from an assassin's attempt on his life. He later agreed with Kazric after the half-orc insisted Aniks should have instead attended the drunken party he'd thrown in their accommodation.
 
My time on the surface has changed both my thoughts and my outlook on different races. I find Drow to be twisted individuals if raised in their culture, and I have tried for 50 long years to stay away from the Underdark, from my people.
— Foreword to the Barkeep's Journal, part 3
 
Liberating Minds and Keeps
Their next missions were to claim Fort Kildaine, a bandit-infested fort, as their home and to investigate the possibility of restoring Ashlyn's memory at Celesthem Temple. The latter mission was first. Aniks very much disliked the Temple's structured, overly-clean nature, and worried over the dark entity that their entrance scan had detected in him. He spent a little time watching his friends participate in their religious rites, then spent around ten hours watching Ashlyn's memory be restored through a ritual until he had to intervene and fight with them against a strange series of monsters, finally freeing them from the ritual's grasp and unlocking Ashlyn's memories by slaying a child version of Ashlyn in front of the paladin's very eyes.   It was then time to liberate Fort Kildaine, a process that took a long while due to the party recruiting outside help and facing serious trouble from a vampire attack on the way, later leading to another party requesting their help with retrieving their lost comrade from the fort. Aniks was able to sneak inside and scout ahead with various members of the party, then helped fight in the assault - eventually proving his strength by assisting in the takedown of Ruben Goldblood.   The aftermath of Ruben's defeat was far more troublesome for Aniks than the taking of the Fort, however, as the party attempted to break through a demonic door. Aniks thought he could force it through, and in doing so accidentally connected with the demon itself - which proved horrifying, as it shattered the former protection he'd had from the strange entity lurking inside his mind and allowed his demon lord, Andirifkhu, to mark him as her Champion. The demons inside were no match for the party, but this was one mistake he couldn't undo.   He spent the next month doing research in Celesthem Temple to find information on Pharasma's artefacts, and training in Ironfalls (their town) to grow stronger for the inevitable battles ahead. It was at the end of the month that life took another turn for the worse for him, as Cyne's sister was kidnapped by the drow of House Umbra, meaning the party had to travel to the very city he'd spent the first half of his life in to rescue her.   And meaning he had to bargain with both a demon lord and his family for information to somehow rescue her, unaware of the plots his siblings might have.
 
Coming to the surface I was given so much more than a chance. I was given another life.
— Foreword to the Barkeep's Journal, part 4

Physical Description

General Physical Condition

For an Arcanist, he is shockingly well-built and flexible - a fact that's almost certainly due to his past as an assassin and rogue of House Alas'thil. Small lilac scars run along his body as evidence of those dark times. Underneath his shirt, two larger scars mark his flesh. One rests over his heart, a mark of his stupidity, and the other running from his right shoulder to the centre of his chest.   On the inside of his left wrist, a tattoo of a spiraling blue-white comet curls its way up his arm, the tail of the comet curling up his arm. Similar comets swirl in delicate, brilliant spirals across his shoulders. Strange patterns decorate his back, all markings from his goddess - the Lady of Death, Pharasma. As a Champion, such marks are his fate for the use of his powers.   Aniks has golden eyes, which are extremely rare among the drow - they are more frequently a feature of elves or a blessing from an outsider in years long past. His face is angular but his cheekbones are not as pronounced as most drows are; despite this, he is relatively attractive. His body temperature is noticeably lower than most others - a feature he shares with Cyne, though the source of their afflictions differ as Aniks's is part of his Championship.   He can generally be identified by his eyes, his snow-white hair, his bartending clothes, and the silver longsword that hangs at his side.

Physical quirks

Aniks has a habit of cracking his knuckles with his thumb while speaking - something that annoys his wife to no end. When he's bartending, he often cleans glasses once or twice more than they should be.

Special abilities

Arcane magic, Connection to " ", Powers of Deaths Champion,

Apparel & Accessories

Aniks' clothes are by necessity practical. While you could often find him in something befitting a barkeep. He is more likely to be in casual clothing with a traveling backpack that has a black mask hanging from it and always tends to wear worn traveling boots. His clothes are almost always of dark colours. Most notably, he has recently added an item to his travelling repertoire: a cloak made of woven shadows, the only article of clothing Aniks has successfully taken back from his wife on many occasions and a rare gift from Nivinle Alas'thil and Emperor Aneirin 'Cyne' of Aletheia.

Specialized Equipment

Despite not having his family's affinity for shadow magic, shadows have always been his friend. His training as a child assassin, gifted him with a lack of empathy when killing, as well as a good handle on any weapon he can pick up. With training, he had gained an understanding of his arcane magic, though he still is not sure if it's entirely his power.   He also has a pretty good understanding of how to run a business, as well as make a damn good mixed drink.

Mental characteristics

Personal history

so what if his past is dark? mine is worse.
— Celuriel
 

Early Life

There was nothing special about his birth, to Aniks's knowledge. He was slightly higher in status due to his mother’s nobility, for she was Matron of House Alas'thil, but nothing stood out as particularly special about him. As the second child to Vasindra Alas’thil and her personal guard Alaran, Aniks grew up under the strict teaching of House Alas’thil. While he was of nobility, the nobles of his House were not just expected to exceed: they were expected to excel. Children went on missions to assassinate and suffered brutal trials; many were lead to their deaths. That was what life was like for Aniks growing up - he was a child assassin who excelled in the art of killing, instilling a great deal of pride in his house and proving his worth.   Due to their closeness in age, Aniks was often trained alongside his elder sister Nivinle. Even as a child, he showed her great respect as they trained at eachother's sides; this respect has not diminished. When Nivinle proved that she had inherited the family's gift for shadow magics, their mother, Vasindra, turned her into her personal assassin. Shortly after, their father Alaran escaped House Alas’thil. It was not an easy escape: he both failed to rescue his children and lost his arm in the process.   With him cast aside, their mother took another consort. Eventually, two more half-siblings were born: Vasestra and Rikzyr. Aniks remained distant from them, either busy on missions for house Alas’thil or seeking the secret to Nivinle’s shadow magic through research. The close skills they had shared now seemed like a chasm now that his elder sister had magic, and she no longer trained so closely with him.   The child’s first taste of true failure ended in his enslavement. His younger half-siblings requested his aid with their mission, and he'd agreed. It should have been a simple assassination. Whilst he succeeded in beheading the target, the drow was caught: betrayed by his own siblings, who in their cruelty had informed the target's House ahead of time.   Aniks spent the better part of a decade in the dungeons of Castle Umbra. Festering an intense hatred for his siblings and their betrayal kept him going on through some of the darker days, of which there were many. Through some research, a drow noble had learned exactly who was in their dungeon. With no small amount of manipulation and enchantment by Eilistra Umbra, kept Aniks as her own personal assassin loyal only to her. Intent on using him to become the Matron of her house. That eventually backfired after Aniks broke free, slipping a knife into her heart and escaping to the surface.  

Freedom and Claire

Aniks spent some time wondering about Northern Aletheia, working as a mercenary guard traveling with caravans or ales or goods. Despite being late into his eighth decade of life nearing his ninth, people tended to stay away from him. Shockingly he had learned a fair bit about bars and taverns from this. After many winters and moons, to his people was now considered an Adult. It had been around this time on the surface that he had run into an adventuring group. They had captured him, thinking he was an ‘Evil Drow’.   The group had left him practically on the verge of letting him die from hypothermia, save for one. A human by the name of Claire Therwell she had cut ties to the group and released Aniks. The duo traveled Alethia for a little while before Aniks revealed who he was and where he came from. Before Aniks shorted his name to Niks, so Claire had something to call him. The two survived some near-death experiences in their travels. The longer they were together Aniks felt odd, he’d come across a new feeling, we, of course, know this as love. The urge to be with protecting and care for somebody else, to put their need before your own. He learned in a somewhat scary moment that he valued her life more than his when he took a rather massive scarring greatsword which almost killed him but definitely would have killed her. For a Drow, love is merely a tool and is looked down upon as a sign of weakness. They could have been right, this love had got him killed. He almost discarded this feeling, how could he love a human? He eventually decided that living on the surface wouldn’t be that terrible. That was of course after he woke up in the arms of Claire.   A couple of months later Aniks had done a slightly human tradition, he bought a ring and asked her to marry him. It was one of the few times Claire or anybody had ever seen this Drow turn almost entirely purple. The two of them settled down, and before long had a child. A small Half-drow boy they named Alain Therwel. Aniks felt happy, he’d almost forgotten about his rage towards his family. In fact, he’d honestly say that this time period in his life had been the most relaxed he’d ever been, they even had another child on the way a couple of years after their first. They would never see their second, there was a terrible winter. Claire and Alain got terribly sick. Aniks took care of them the best he could. He went to find clerics and medication. The clerics turned him down or never followed up. He, of course, knew this was because he was a drow, and despite the desperation of his voice they still couldn’t trust him. Any medication he was able to get his hands on helped numb their pain, but in the end, he spent the last couple of days after the new year taking care of them. Forcing a smile and making sure they were comfortable, praying that they would be all right. Hoping that their sickness would pass. Those prayers seemed to go unanswered. They passed in what he hoped was peaceful in the night.   Aniks wrapped their bodies, cut down enough trees, and lit the funeral pyres. Aniks spent one last light in their house, a house he called home! He never slept that night. He barely checked outside and never really looked at the pyres, only enough to check if they were gone yet. He still can’t remember that night all too well, nor would he want to. Aniks awoke from his numbness, took his late wife's blade, made the bed one final time, and locked the door.  

The Adventure Begins

Aniks for a decade spent time being a bartender an empty job but it kept his mind off of his worries. Eventually running across a group of adventurers that were looking for a decent meal during their travels and tried to hire him. Reluctantly he joined them, he wasn’t too fond of the company in this town. He’d feed these adventurers and move on to the next city. Aniks refused to give them his name, they kept calling him “Drowbie or Barkeep.” Odd nicknames but Aniks could care less. The group traveled stopping a group of would-be Bandits, 15-year-olds at best who tried to rob them. It was no contest. This group also came across another, two women with several different vats of alcohol. The strongest one, Elven Ale was paradoxical in nature. Elves make wine and Dwarves make Ale this drink just didn’t make sense. Take a drink something happened to Aniks, he found it hard to remember. He remembers seeing that adventuring party in different Bars serving them but not much else. Till the city of Ilendras where he joined them as a permanent member of their traveling company. Not knowing of the doors he'd open, he now walks a path filled with Gods, Champions, and Adventures and has very little choice in the matter.

Gender Identity

Male

Sexuality

Straight

Education

Drow Nobility early in life, anything from the Surface that is new information about it. Recently a large amount of information has just been but inside his head, several languages included. While he was studying the Boneyard he learned a lot about Psychopomps, Souls, and other things regarding his Goddess.

Employment

Owner of a Bar, which is basically run by all of his drow friends when he's not there. As well as himself? People still think he's working at the bar when on the other side of the world.

Accomplishments & Achievements

Removal of his former champion mark, Spoken to Death on several occasions in person. Raising a family, moving on from his anger issues regarding his family.

Failures & Embarrassments

Not able to save his wife and child, His Former Champion Mark, Elven Ale. Having to explain to Celu how he got his new champion tattoo, having to speak with Pharasma after dying.

Mental Trauma

Death of his Wife and Children. Watching Celu being dragged to hell. Black Marble. The last person he judged.

Morality & Philosophy

In regards to mortals Good and Evil are relative, anybody can do acts of good and acts of evil. Aniks knows he's not a good person but he at least tries to not be Evil. In combat, he does generally have a lack of empathy for people especially when he's going for the kill. His early life kind of numbed the idea that killing is a terrible thing.

Taboos

Basically Lichs, and anything to do with his younger siblings. Still had zero tolerance for Half Drow racism.

Personality Characteristics

Motivation

Currently, Aniks's motivations are based on the protection of his wife Celuriel. As the drow knows Ludrissiel will one day come for them. Aniks has slowly started acquiring allies, favors, and powerful magical items to help defend Celu. Another thing to motivates the drow is he wants to help the Inheritor and her Champion as he feels personally responsible for what has befallen them. Whether that is truly his fault or not, he still feels responsible.

Savvies & Ineptitudes

When it comes to understanding a subject he does relatively well as if interested Aniks has a curious mind. Asking questions, though they might not always be the correct ones. For example, when talking Jinne, a samsaran who follows The Way. He quickly understood the basics of how the Dreamers wished to access True Magic and guessed how it would be channeled. However, he has a terrible habit of keeping secrets as that both helps and hinders him. Aniks has been trying to take things slowly, as running ahead on ideas has resulted in issues. The drow as been learning to see and ask for all the angles, as he doesn't want to create an issue out of his ignorance to a situation again.

Likes & Dislikes

Aniks has a deep love for his wife, Celuriel Aliforn and without question, this extends quickly to their adoptive draconic daughter Avariel when she finally hatched. He enjoys showing Celu new activities, and feeding her new food, reading to her in the dark when she can no longer see. Every second he has spent with his daughter is precious. He especially enjoys when the wyrmling drags him off to show her hoard and how proud she is of her new shiny thing. Given how Aniks grew up, he has an appreciation for blades, even taking to making a few of his own. Reading and writing also fill Aniks time when he's relaxing.   Aniks has gained an intense dislike of Ludrissiel, as she is responsible for a majority of Celuriel's trauma. His younger siblings but at least he considers them tolerable. Has a bar that he wants to burn down, and generally doesn't speak to Whisperbreath anymore. He also dislikes being backed into a corner or being placed under mind effect effects such as love potions or unnatural lust spells.

Virtues & Personality perks

Patience, pragmatic, stubborn, extremely caring to those he likes, and an understanding that evil and good are slightly relative when it comes to normal people. Hence why he can work with his sibling. He also is able to cook and is a polyglot. So translations or a breeze.

Vices & Personality flaws

Aniks has an extremely short fuse if you know the buttons to press. Has a terrible habit of keep secrets. Loyal, and has died because of it. Suffer from memory loss not cause by Celuriel's time as a vetala. A terrible work relationship with The Steward of Skien the herald of Pharasma which results in their swords clashing more times than he wishes to count.

Personality Quirks

When speaking to himself, it's constantly in Undercommon. Has always been a rough sleeper, especially if he sleeps alone. Being with Celuriel, and formerly Clarie, lets him sleep soundly through the night. Sleeps with knives under pillows.

Hygiene

Not afraid of getting bloody and dirty, but like being fresh and clean. His keeps things clean but with the number of people around his bars, he is in a constant state of cleaning especially when his party is around. He honestly doesn't mind cleaning it helps him clear his mind.

Social

Contacts & Relations

The Lost Ones: While not around when the group originally formed, Aniks had been around long before they were gifted their name, and was there the night they had been claimed as champions. Spending far too much time as their barkeep, he has seen all manners of things from these adventurers. Often covering them with blankets on many a drunken night and had grown close to many of them. Aniks considers the Lost Ones to be like an extended family of sorts. While he enjoys the company of some, there are others in this close group that he has little trust in. Still, he stuck around long enough to know he is not escaping them any time soon. He has gained some other allies while traveling with them which is helpful.   House Alas'thil: Born a noble to House Alas'thil he has remained in decent if not good standing with the house after his return. While he lived under its rule, House Alas'thil was not the most powerful house in Vaermyrhel, however, due to his homecoming and other circumstances that changed. Now with a Champion as their matron House Alas'thil becoming the ruling House in Vaermythel and the neighboring areas of the Underdark. While technically a Lord of the House, this was more of a reminder by his sister he was still of Alas'thil blood. Aniks does not normally deal with the House and all of the politics as he had issued on the surface that takes priority over Underdark Politics. He has shown an interest in helping his House, whether it be in minor or major ways.   Eagle's Shadow: New to the shadowy organization the Eagle's Shadows, he is not a very active member of the group. As he was sworn into the group as secrets had to be kept. He has yet to speak about his membership to said organization, even to other members of the lost ones. Who some share the same membership.

Family Ties

His connection to his drow side of the family is the more complex side of his family ties, often giving him a headache when it comes to the younger siblings. His only sister that shares his blood in full is the current Matron of his house. She is older by five years and Nivinle and Aniks have an understanding to not mettle in each other's affairs. Aniks still hold Nivinle in high regard and trusts her and values her opinions of the matter they have discussed. Even going as far as to warn her of issues that may cause her and their house problems in the future. The younger siblings are a thorn in his side, they do not share the same father and have betrayed him in the past. He tolerates Vasestra and Rikzyr but only just. They are more useful alive than dead, and he found he had lost interest in revenge. The two are far closer than they should be if they were to attempt to flirt with Celu again. He would have one less brother in the world, as Vasestra is more useful to House Alas'thil. Then there is the last child or the first technical. As Aniks has recently discovered an older sister to Nivinle and him, related to them by their father. Daeris a rather powerful draconic Sorcerer who has a shockingly good heart. While they have few interactions, thanks to the fey sending the Lost Ones forward in time for a short while, Aniks has made the effort to write to her. The two have shown in their few interactions a decent sibling relationship forming.   Before he met the Lost Ones, Aniks met a human by the name of Claire Therwel. While Aniks didn't originally think much of her, as her adventuring group had kidnapped him for basically being a drow on the surface. As clearly he was up to no good. While traveling and chained up she had expressed genuine concern for him to make sure he wasn't freezing or starving. Eventually, tell the group she would be leaving with him, as what they had done wasn't right. The two traveled together for some time, Aniks eventually opening up to her and finding her company enjoyable. Eventually becoming a couple, then later married after Aniks died saving Claire's life. It was only after finding out she was pregnant the two stopped adventuring and they settled down. Alain Therwel was soon brought into their life, raising him as best they could as new parents. It wasn't too long after their first, their second child was on the way. Aniks never got to meet them as one winter together, Claire and Alain feel sick. While he had tried to help them, find clerics or medicines to help. It was all in vain. They were taken from him early into that following year. It would be sometime later before a note from Claire had landed in his lap, written from her from the afterlife. This leads to some closure for him and tells him the name of his daughter he never met Emily.   For the past couple of years, Aniks has grown close to an elf named Celuriel. While traveling with the Lost Ones, Aniks found a Vetala Vampire. While not initially trusting her, Aniks grows close to the sheltered Vampire and explains the world to her. As she had been living in a tower for the past nine hundred years. While he was conflicted about his feeling toward her, Aniks had grown fond of her. The two become rather protective of each other. This inevitably leads to the two of them becoming partners. Aniks helped her regain her mortality the two have had a healthy relationship, even discussing starting a family after an incident from Aniks. Recently Aniks had proposed to Celuriel and during a small break where the Lost Ones were left to their own devices arranged a small wedding. The two had also had their surnames changed to Aliforn, a combination of two words from Elven and Undercommon which roughly translate to Dreamcatcher.   Currently, the couple is learning how to raise the newest member of their family Avariel. A hyperactive Dream/Nightmare Dragon who is only a handful of weeks old. Avariel is their adopted daughter.   Aniks was adopted by Atropos, daughter of Pharasma. Aniks still doesn't know how to feel about being adopted but he likes Atropos.   Aniks's biological family tree can be seen below.  

Religious Views

While a former worshiper of the Demon Lord Andirifkhu, that was rather early in his life. However, faith in any divine was quickly removed after a series of events in his life. Prompting the comment later in life "I don't believe in gods" which was said in front of an Angel, under the moon god Groetus, while in the Realm of Boneyard which is ruled by Pharasma. Aniks acknowledges gods exist to say otherwise is beyond insane, it would more accurate to say he does not put faith in the gods.   As Aniks is the Champion of Pharasma, he naturally refers to her as his Goddess. Despite the fact he is not an active member of her Faith, his time in the Boneyard has left him with a large education from midwifery to the judgment of souls. The champion has a healthy respect for the goddess and trusts her more than he does other divine figures. Knowing at some point he will heavily rely on her power to help him in the future. Still, the nature of the Goddess of Death is not something he'll truly ever understand. Aniks has also been adopted as a younger brother by Pharasma's youngest daughter Atropos. He is unsure if this will change anything.   Aniks also feel some personal responsibility for actions he's taken that majority affected another religion and is attempting to help in his own way.

Social Aptitude

Aniks was of course born to nobility, so speaking formerly is not difficult for him. His House has never been one for flowery language and is rather blunt in conversation when not gathering or trying to hide information. However, speaking formerly is not something he does when he is around the Lost Ones or while he is being a barkeep.

Hobbies & Pets

Aniks has a handful of pets, the first was an older cat by the name of Thrasymachus. A lazy and mischievous cat that often walks on top of the many books shelves Aniks and Celu own or pushing down glasses left on top of counters and tables. Promethea was one of the few times wild magic gifted him something good. An orange chicken that lays spicy eggs had appeared near Aniks during one of his adventures, Kraia his friend and Druid awoken the chicken. She is a bubbly chicken who follows around his heels while working around in the bar, but has ventured off on her own little adventures from time to time. During which she has met and befriended a baby cow she has named Promoothea. They are best friends. While unnamed, Celu has a fluffy white cat that Aniks also takes care of that is constantly laying on top or near her while she is home. The two are hardly apart from each other while home.   As for hobbies, Aniks has taken up writing in more than just his journaling of his adventures. While nothing major he does find himself writing other short fiction stories, as once his adventures with the lost one are complete he wishes to retell the story. So the short stories will help with that eventually. Aniks also has taken up reading, as his house is filled with plenty of books, many of which Aniks and Celu have spent collecting. They often read together, but Aniks does enjoy reading to Celu when it becomes too dark for her to continue reading, as he has no trouble reading. Recently Aniks has started to enjoy smithing weapons, as he and his elder sister Nivinle have forged two blades of Umbrite. A metal that has the strange property of absorbing light, which is helpful for those who seek to stay in the shadows like the two siblings.

Speech

Aniks is fluent in several languages, though often thinks and speaks in three in his more used ones, Common, Undercommon, and Elven. While speaking in common he often uses a more informal speech, but can speak in a more formal way if he wishes. Undercommon and Elven are where it's easy for him to speak formally as he was raised in those two languages. Going back to Undercommon when angered, and curses in Undercommon are often under his breath. The Drow is a polyglot from learning languages, however, a vast majority of the Aniks's languages were just 'known' to him after a run-in with a shard. He can speak these new languages as well as his more fluent ones.

Relationships

Aniks Aliforn

Husband (Vital)

Towards Celuriel Geltharieth

5

Honest


Celuriel Geltharieth

Wife (Vital)

Towards Aniks Aliforn

5

Frank


History

After rescuing her from the necromancer's tower she'd lived in all her life, Aniks volunteered to let her sustain herself from his memories. She managed to retain her sanity through his act of kindness. However, he didn't leave it there. Aniks became the first person she truly cared for and considered a friend over the course of many adventures and months, and when she was stolen away by the devil Meretrixia, he went as far as contacting a goddess and diving into Tenaerul to save her. It is only through his care that she has now had true life restored to her and no longer has to live as a vampire. In addition, the two have recently gotten engaged.

Relationship Reasoning

Aniks cares for her and wants to see her live life, since she didn’t have much of one to begin with.   Celu hasn't felt like this towards anyone before and isn't sure what it all means, but wants to try this new thing called 'love' even if it gets her killed by her sister. Happiness is nice, and she's not going to give it up easily.

Legal Status

Engaged

Aniks Aliforn

Ally (Vital)

Towards Emperor Aneirin 'Cyne' of Aletheia

4

Honest


Emperor Aneirin 'Cyne' of Aletheia

Ally (Vital)

Towards Aniks Aliforn

4

Honest


Aniks Aliforn

Ally? (Important)

Towards Kazric Szithna

-3

Honest


Kazric Szithna

Bro (Important)

Towards Aniks Aliforn

3

Honest


Aniks Aliforn

Partymate (Vital)

Towards Ashlyn Alarian

5

Honest


Ashlyn Alarian

Partymate (Vital)

Towards Aniks Aliforn

5

Honest


Aniks Aliforn

Partymate (Vital)

Towards Cid La Flaga

3

Frank


Cid La Flaga

Partymate (Vital)

Towards Aniks Aliforn

3

Frank


Aniks Aliforn

Partymate (Important)

Towards Lirien

0

Frank


Lirien

Partymate (Vital)

Towards Aniks Aliforn

3

Honest


Aniks Aliforn

spouse

Towards Claire Therwel


Claire Therwel

spouse

Towards Aniks Aliforn


Nivinle Alas'thil

sister (Important)

Towards Aniks Aliforn

1
1

Honest


Aniks Aliforn

brother (Important)

Towards Nivinle Alas'thil

1
1

Honest


Wealth & Financial state

Aniks is moderately well off, as he does have a large amount of coin coming in from his adventures. Still, he often saves his wealth in order to accomplish other goals such as the creation of magical items and weapons he would think are useful. The drow also owns a bar, though the funds earned from that are kept separate from his gold acquired from his other lifestyle. That money is often placed back into the bar, and for finding trade deals to increase the variety of drinks in the bar.

A dark elf bartender who is a self-trained arcanist, he also might be at every bar ever? We're still working out on how.

View Character Profile
Honorary & Occupational Titles
Former Champion of Andirifkhu, Champion of Pharasma, Sir Aniks Alas'thil, Lord Aniks Alas'thil
Professions
Currently Held Titles
Year of Birth
5499 EA 127 Years old
Birthplace
Vaermyrhel
Spouses
Claire Therwel (spouse)
Siblings
Children
Current Residence
A small house in a mountain side in Ironfall.
Gender
Male
Eyes
Golden
Hair
Short wild silver hair
Height
6'
Weight
140lbs
Quotes & Catchphrases
  • "I don't believe in gods."
  • "You're smart, figure it out."
Known Languages
Elven, Undercommon, Common, DSL, Abyssal, Draconic, Infernal, Celestial, Aklo, Sylvan, Aquan, Auran, Ignan, Terran, Gnome, Halfing, Giant, Orc, Dwarven, Aboleth, Necril.
Character Prototype
Ender: Albie former elf bartender but a very shifted personality.
Silver, Aniks's Sword by AlbieDraws
 

Silver

  Aniks's sword, Silver, is an intelligent black blade that he obtained through highly suspicious circumstances. Though it may have some lingering connection to the Spiritblade, Silver has never once shown evidence of this sort of connection.   Instead, Silver likes to flirt, joke around at Aniks's expense, and generally cause problems every time its intelligence is acknowledged.
 
Aniks with the Cloak of Woven Shadows by AlbieDraws
 

The Cloak of Woven Shadows

This silk-lined cloak of black shade was personally crafted for Aniks Alas'thil by the combined might of Emperor Aneirin of Aletheia and Matron Nivinle of House Alas'thil, and given to him by Shadows associate Kala during his travels in Takawaoku.   It offers magical protection in the form of a +5 resistance bonus to all saving throws and so long as it is charged, also provides both a +5 competence bonus to stealth checks and a +4 insight bonus to all saving throws against scrying effects. When the hood is worn, the wearer may decrease the illumination level in a 20 foot radius as per the spell darkness.   When the wearer is hit with a melee or ranged attack, as an immediate action they may expend the cloak's shadows to replace themselves with a shadow duplicate and teleport to any open square within 30 feet, provided that this square is in shadow (the shadows of allies and enemies count towards this effect). They take no damage from this attack, which instead destroys the shadow duplicate.   Using this ability removes the stealth and scrying benefits of the cloak until it is recharged by a spell of 3rd level or higher that possesses the darkness descriptor; this charging process cannot be made faster than a standard action by any means.
 
Wedding_Wings.png
Aniks & Celuriel's Wedding Rings by AlbieDraws
 

Wedding Rings

  Aniks and Celuriel married in secret in 5626, witnessed only by Kazric, Nivinle, and Cyne in an attempt to keep the wedding hidden from the eyes of Ludrissiel Geltharieth.
 
Aniks's Spellbook by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
 

Spellbook

  Aniks's first spellbook was obtained in Geltharieth Tower - originally a cursed book, the book twisted itself into a spellbook when Aniks's arcane powers first bloomed.   His second was crafted instead as a blessed book, holding a far greater wealth of information than the first and hopefully being less cursed to boot.

Extra Journal: The worry of a Barkeep.

How far do the Shard's influences go? How far can they see…   Licia claims that a shard made an attempt at her life while she was younger, so why not affect the other champions. What part of their lives could have been affected? Or was it a special case with her, being so closely tied to her goddess? Was Ashlyn’s prolonged life the Everlight’s attempt to hide her future champion…   I am circling around the issues here, I haven’t been able to say it out loud, but Silver’s soul…   A soul of silver and black, crackling with red lightning.   I worry how much I’ve been unintentionally influenced by those long-forgotten gods. I held the Spirit Blade and awakened something, my power according to Silver. A trustworthy source of information, when they themselves implied they had a past before being summoned. “I’m your power’ the sword had said.   Is it?   As a child, I could hardly summon shadows. Showed no power in the arcane like others in my family. It had only been when I reached inside The Void and touched a Shard. A dead god, technically two before ‘my power’ appeared. The feeling of the blade hadn’t left even as I failed to take the Spirit Blade. But that hadn’t explained the spellbook. A book I took from Celu’s Tower, one that had compelled me to keep it away from Ashlyn. That book had changed, it became mine. A book I had no right to. A book that can only be read by those who were dead or half-dead in my case.   Is this my power? Or is it only mine because I wield it. Was it always there hidden deep within me or had the Shard just warped reality to suit some unknown machination. The arcane magic is just a by produced of touching a broken god.   What of the day I had focused on that power, mediated on it. A day that had forced every single arcane caster within Ironfalls to fall asleep… I have yet to recreate this or try for this matter. I don’t think I want to. I shouldn’t have been able to do that. It was only those touched by the Arcane.   That cannot be a coincidence. When the Shards are so closely connected to the creation of the Arcane. The protectors of that magic, who were erased from history by the winners of that war so long ago.   I understand my connection to the Spirit Blade, I might have even spoken to that old dragon god. Well been spoken to, but I cannot even say that for sure. It had known me, known the face I was Death’s Champion. During the battle with the Harp. The blade’s color was not red, but orange. None of the Shard gods were red, not even the Devil who is now bound to another goddess.   Red   I will deliver a prayer personally to Death herself, asking, hoping that it is not them. I wouldn’t know what that means to be connected to them. Nothing good. That much I can imagine. Add on the myriad of other issues about myself and how I am able to speak let alone create a coherent thought is beyond me.   What does it mean to have a broken soul, and still be able to walk? Function even, how many people across the planes can say their soul is shattered. Pharasma herself, the oldest goddess and mother of souls said I would have to die completely before I am whole again. What would that mean to be whole again, I don’t feel different, I’ve seen my soul flicker when I had died. But I feel the same as I usually do. Yet people across Istralar had seen me in their bars. An Archdevil even confirmed I had been in hell, yet I have no memory of that. I have no memory of any of those ‘other’ Aniks’. I wonder how many there are, do they share my same thoughts. Do I share any of theirs? What broke our soul in the first place, was it the Entity? Something I saw in the Void when I was ripped from reality? How could a magical drink produce such an effect? I still don’t understand why that happened. I have no memories of that time. Celu hadn’t taken those memories After taking that first sip, I just was. I was there at every bar with them, existing in the background, but not there. I don’t even remember how I got to the cave and appeared in the forest to reunite with the people who would eventually become the Lost Ones.   Would being whole again change me? Would I even be Aniks?   I just don’t know. The Mother of Souls said my memories protect me from that event, which sundered my soul. By what. What broke my soul.   I hope that this event is separate from the shards. While I have wanted things before, never had I wanted more than to hide this want. As if placing even the ink on these pages might make that fear a reality. There is a great hope deep in my mind I have hardly acknowledged, wishing that my broken soul isn’t connected to the shards.   Why am I the one this happened to? The others hardly have to deal with this. This slowly growing dread that you can’t trust even yourself at times. That you can’t trust your own memories. How many times has the Entity used me without me knowing? Had it used the other broken fragments of myself.   What had I done to earn this strange fate?   Regardless of my worry, I will carry on. I might have my issues, by I will hold on till the end. Till this story is finished and the Shards are bound back to fate. All of them. Even if I have to bind another god. What’s one more god matter, I’ll be judged for it all the same. I just want peace, a world free from destruction.   I should talk to Celu about this, my worries, she’s a seer. Maybe I can find some comfort in the words she gives. I just need to talk to somebody about this, somebody who will listen.

Journal #74: The Succubus's Ultimatum

Again shorter journal entries, too much traveling for long journals. Worried our Medimian friends would find our secret via my journals. I saw right, the fact the shard is killed people, taking their souls. Damn that succubus.   Our knowing tour guide Zir’aan (completely missed the mark on that one), brought us to the closest village in this endless jungle of leaves. It hung between those looming trees, a village high in the sky. With several layers of floors, it wasn’t a terribly large village.   I couldn’t stay in that village for too long, I would have burnt that village cinders. To sum it up as I do not wish to speak on it for longer than I have to.   A rather powerful succubus has been easing the suffering of the people by manipulating them into forgetting they were eating their fellow villagers. On top of this fact, they were using slaves. Those people who had been transformed into food still died. Still were consumed by the shard. We still left that place.   I wanted to kill that succubus shard be damned.   Regardless of whether her attention was ‘good’ or not.   These people would have suffered the Earth Mother’s Gift effect. Starving or not, whether those villagers were transformed or not… I don’t want to write on this further, these people were losing their free will. Not knowing what they were doing, not really…   In trade for her life, she teleported us to the city of twin souls.   Rhaead

Journal #73: Dancing with Demons in the pale morning light

Upon leaving the Peacemaker, the humidity hit like a train. Lush jungle forests were our arrival point near the coast of the Southern Continent. So an easy to find our way given our notes Elias had given us from the few question we got to ask him. Via those notepads that connected to Elias. The Peacemaker wasted no time in departing, making another jump using the ley-lines. Leaving us along with one goal. Find the shard.   Find the Earth Mother’s Gift causing the disruption of Teleportation-based magic and growth-based magic, and bring it back to the Mad Alchemist.   Gods damned we’ll be doing that.   Another task, where it seems we’re being led around because of some hook in our mouth. We’re doing this for Cyne. He has so few family members left, I do not want him to lose anymore. If we can save this one, it should help him. Not in the war, but at least help him hold on to himself a bit better. The man holds the weight of an empire on his back. While I can never know that burden he bears, I do wish we can lessen the load. Even if the burden lifted is only a fraction. Anything would help.   We made for the coast, Licia using her innate ability to fly to orientate ourselves away front the endless thick jungle around us. It was a short trek to the northern coast of Takawaoku. Bright sands and a nice blue ocean, the other things that ruined that coast were importantly a crashed ship. A small sailing one nothing recoverable but that was to be expected. Sailors and ships have been having issues coming into the borders of the southern continent, the shard effect already covers the whole of Takawaoku. For sailors that take the form of dangerous storms. Taking to the sky once again, Licia located a river for us to follow. We agreed that going upstream would be the best option to find some sort of hint of civilization.   I had expected bandits when the river lead to dusty and dirt roads, that never happened. What I have never expected, was bloodthirsty large birdlike creatures who actively speak Abyssal and decare their worship of a demon lord. Screaming in the voices of their victims. A wonderful start to this place, given who we travel with. The demonic chickens were dispatched with ease. That had somewhat set the mood for the encounters we’d fact in this jungle, save for the dance.   The road had broken into a camp? Ruins for sure, but a camp had been made for them. The joyous sounds of a party could be heard. Mixing with the sound of a roaring campfire. Demons and shades danced around that flickering light. Succubi and Incubi with a smattering of shadow demons upon a quick glance. They seemed to be living here if only temporarily. So why were there so many outsiders here?   We tore through them.   With a paladin, technically two if you count Idonia, the demons posed little challenge to use. It was only in midst of combat that I told Idonia to spare one of the Incubi for questions. The idea sprang from the crumbling black bodies of the Outsiders. Compared to another shard that consumed its victims upon death, it was eerily familiar. The Incubi I had saved were quickly bound in some manner to Idonia as we despatched with the shadowed demons and succubi. If they hadn’t been demons, I might have felt bad. Though it had been for other reasons.   With a bit of questioning from the Incubus, who was named Za’ran we learned a bit. The most important was that outsiders were starting to collect here. Unable to teleport out of the southern continent, or return to their plane upon their body's demise.   Not even death would save them.   My concern was warranted then that the first demon had dead turning into that oh so familiar black dust. We haven’t dealt with so many outsiders to know the exact details of how they return to their native planes. That idea hadn’t fully formed at the moment of questioning, but only took shape upon learning no outsider could leave.   Za’ran would serve as our guide. As they knew the general geography much better than any of us. If the shard hadn’t been constricting dimensional travel of any kind I would have killed the Incubus myself. Speaking with the outsider was ninety percent innuendo, everything is sexual with the demon. Yet that is to be expected with this type of demon. We always seem to pick somebody on this journey of ours. We might end up needing to watch Ashlyn as she might just kill the Zar’ran? Zar’an, Za’ran I should probably ask him how he spells his names.   Our traveling group broke for the night, our new guide showing us to a location that would help us in the morning. Well, ‘help’ is a strong word. To where the demons brought people, to this village as Za’ran said. Gods damn it.   I was on the first watch, Celuriel doesn’t like to begin woken up so that made the most sense. Idonia joined us on that watch but made no effort to talk to us. It was an uneventful night. Cintha joined the next watch, as we went to sleep. During another watch is when we awoke, well I woke up. Celu groaned and went back to sleep. Descending upon the campfire were the departed remnants of people who die. Ghost.   While others struggled to hit the phantoms being Pharasma’s Champion has its benefits. I found dealing with ghosts far easier than before, whether it be by blade or by a spell. Walking that thin line between life and death. Upon the first of the ghost’s deaths, I wanted to test that idea I had. Pulling on Pharasma’s domain of souls, I watched those souls, those gnomish ghosts disappear in a blackened haze.   It was feeding the shard.   In the heat of combat, we feed the Earth Mother’s Gift.   The more we killed the stronger it got.   This right here will cause an issue, mark my words. Celu is asleep and I think I should get some as well.

Journal #72: Another Shard

I wish we could take Avariel with us but I will not risk my child in a land plagued by a shard. Not till it’s dealt with, though it’s looking like I might end up binding another god before this over. Options are limited, research into healing is complicated. Champion status notwithstanding, miracles are difficult to create. I will take what works, even if ripples become a dangerous tidal wave.   Once again, I have a habit of writing ahead of myself. Cannot really write much so it will be a shorter journal. Where should I begin, the last journal was off, the haunted fey mansion right. There are a couple of minor but slightly important details I discovered. One that The Beauty is Istralar herself, she had gifted us more power after returning from that sealed demiplane. Spoke to us, Death and Luck. Powers that well up inside me, independent of Pharasma’s domains. I cannot channel it like my goddess powers, perhaps it is a bit too unrefined. The best comparison, channeling from her is like pulling on a deep vast ocean of power while touching this small reserve is like water cupped in my hand. One has very limited uses, hard to manipulate. That manipulation coming in the form of a spell. Her’s can be shaped, formed into anything I can imagine within that Domain.   Besides being gifted this power, there are other ways to grow those little fragments. It just takes far too much time. Time we never have.   The other happened by accident. Though it’s arguably the more important. I cannot remember what brought this to my attention, but I wanted to ask Azyel about information he knew about on the shard. Keep him up to date with some of the facts we learned about. Upon which I was told he had scried on the Shard, and saw something interesting. Someone interesting, or the possible remnants of someone. Summoning up his god, Azyel force onto me a vision of a shard. A force blocked it, interrupted the sight we were meant to see. It was a small figure, smaller than any gnome I had ever meet. A blank void encompassed the tiny figure. Ribbons lying haphazardly over stitched hands. Despite seeing a face, knowing there was a face to that figure, I cannot remember it. Could not even tell you if its face was smiling, sad, or devoid of emotion. It had lasted a moment, but a single frozen still moment remained ingrained into my mind’s eye. Before that second passed brought out of the vision.   A doll.   I saw the Runner. The Seventh   Those had been the two most important moments that I will speak about. Most of that month had been spent working, researching in Galasthin, and strangely enough, just being around Daeris. Avariel seems to really like her. While we are away on the Southern Continent Daeris happily agreed to watch her niece. This whole trip was spurred on by two incidents The death of and capture of Cyne’s Father and Mother respectively, and the arrival of those ships on the war front. After getting caught up with the other members of The Lost One, which lead to a handful of revealing. Including the fact they let Azsire go! If I needed another reason not to trust Sonja, she left for Moonfalls with others. Save for Syrin and Azsire, the former having being afflicted with a wound from that blade. So many issues, we had to prioritize what we needed to look into. Originally it was going to be Syrin but Ashlyn receiving that letter had changed that.   Rushing to his side, we offered words of comfort but how does one do that. The wounds are still there, still open. I would not even know where to begin, I had offered something different. A chance to say goodbye to his father, so we can get information on his capture wife and who attacked him. Cyne declined the offer, but I had told him I would get back to him as soon as I found out anything. He was dealing with airships, why is so much happening? What is happening, what are we missing, given the connection finding his mother became important. Returning to Ironfalls, I tore an open rift in space to the boneyard. Celu and Ava following behind through be portal. With some help from the tiny flitting psychopomps, his soul was eventually brought before me. Andron was understandable pissed, I would be as well if I had just died. Granted I have died seven times? I had to keep my emotions calm as the deceased lord vented his frustrations to me. He had thought my speaking with him was some foul necromancy. Andron’s exact words were "YOU! What foul assassins did your kin send? What manner of foul necromancy is this?! You cannot hide this betrayal! Where is my wife?!"   It had taken a minute but I had been allowed to bring his memories forward to conjure images we could use for a better description of these assassins. Several people formed in that black marble from the champion empowered spell. Something flared inside me, equating to watching the Ivory Demon knock Celuriel out.   Pure unfiltered wraith.   It swelled inside of me as I looked at a pair of familiar icy blue eyes. Eilistra Umbra had been killed by my hands, knife through her heart. She should be dead! She had kept me AS HER PET, HER PLAYTHING! IT TOOK YEARS TO ESCAPE HER GRASP. NOW SHE’ IS BACK FROM KILLING MY FRIENDS PARENTS!   It broke.   Celuriel had squeezed my hand, breaking my attention from the drow. Quilling the vortex of emotions I had swirling about in my head. I had turned to Lord Andron to make him a promise.   “I can promise you this! This one dies, I make sure of it.”   It will not be now, too many things to do, but she will die.   Coming back to the material plane, I had pasted that information to Cyne. The others had tracked Lady Ceridwen, via some spell of Malina’s creation. What would you know, she on the airship. Through scrying spell, asking the Aletheian avatar, and deals with my goddess. We found the exact ship she was on.   “Lady Ceridwen is aboard the Peacemaker, the central of three elemental airships; on the Strida Battlefield at the ruins of Eldstholm of Terenholt; in the contested territories between the Aletheian and Medimian Empires; on the continent of Valathe upon the corrupted planet of Istralar; on the Material Plane.”   Learned a couple of things from that, our artifact from Tenearul was connected to Terraarcana. The previous Avatar of Terraarcana.The airship had teleported in but is using Leyline technology, jumping to locations using Leyline. Apparently telling us Istralar was corrupted. Who is still me that information thought? Pharasma or something else. Why is Istralar corrupt? Too many questions, not enough time.   After some planning on how to deal with the ship, diplomacy was thought to be one of the first options we should take. Licia and Malina bought us to the battlefield, where after some debate I finally sent up a magical single to flag the middle ship. The Peacemaker, it was only fitting that the captain of that ship be Elias.   There had been something to note beforehand. Elias hadn’t just stolen Lady Ceridwen it seems, but a daughter from a high-ranking official from the Medimian Empire known as the Ruby of War. Another Daughter had approached us before going up to the ship thinking that the Aletheians had stolen her sister. A fiery Ifrit named Idonea Daughter of the Ruby of War. A no-nonsense type of woman, who hefted a large battle-ax, dressing in a red plate and Medimian colors. After explaining that we’re both in search of a kidnapped family member. There was a very loose alliance formed as we processed to enter the peacemaker.   Shockingly Elias was civil, not that he wasn’t before. I just didn’t think that it would that reasonable. Of course, there was a deal to be made, he needed champions, everyone who accompanied us up to the Peacemaker was. Including Idonea. Not shocked in the slightest by that revelation, nor was I shocked that Cid’s Mentor was doing fine. Not present on the ship but still ‘fine’ according to Elias. So we talked, ending with a deal that would be best summoned up as killing two birds with one stone. Champions are required to deal with Shards, with a decent amount of success anyways. Elias wanted to look at the shard once we brought it back. Even going as far as to say, we’d figure out what to do with it once we had dealt with it.   The Aletheian party and the Mediamian party, just Idonea at the moment, agreed that we’d explain what she was getting into. Idonea agreed to this on the condition that she would be able to bring somebody along. Simple enough, we agreed and knew that speaking about the shards, in general, was difficult with the Seventh around. We brought the two to Liese’s Tower. I hadn’t asked but what was that human saying? Better to ask for forgiveness than permission? Dealing with Shards makes everything so complicated. We’d never have to work with the enemy, but silver linings. Maybe we can learn something from this.   We hadn’t explained everything, both parties knew that would be idiotic. Secrets on both sides, us and them, Cintha and Idonea. Cintha was human, mute, and a member of the Amethystine Regiment owned by Idonea. Clad in purple robes, her face had clear signs of burning and used some form of sign language. I hadn’t been able to read her signs, but that was to expected. She wouldn’t know if I had been signing.   Sharing what we needed to, the basics of shards, their dangers. It had practically been the same information we had gotten at the beginning but with the added bonus of the dangers, we’d often face when battling them. We answered questions but nothing too specific. If it came up then we would deal with that.   After sending the Mediamian Party home, Liese gave me an earful, which was well deserved. As I brought two enemies into our home. While it was clearly wrong, there are limits to teleportations spells. When it comes to the shards, I have a terrible habit of hyper-focusing on them. I wish we did not have to deal with them. We must pay for the actions of the gods? We may be Champions, but the shards were created by the Seventh and the end of that civil war between gods. Was this why we were chosen to clean up that mess. Those Dangerous Shades?   After that, the party dispersed with information from Elias about the Southern Continent we gathered gear for the trip. Wrote a letter to Daeris and sent it to Lyadri through the Messaging books. Spending one last night with Avariel till we came back with the shard. I promised I’d take her to the moon, so when the moon was high in the sky. I cast Angelic Aspect and carried Avariel in my arms as far as she would remain awake. Where I glided back down to Ironfalls. Placing Avariel into a tired Celuriel’s arms and crawled into bed myself.

Journal #71: The Haunted Fey Mansion

The last person I expected at my door was Jinne, it had been two weeks since I returned from the Boneyard. Purposely avoiding the other members of the Lost Ones, I had spent most of my time with my family. I had of course seen them out and about around Ironfalls. Jinne showing up one early morning was not what I had expected. I half expected Ashlyn or Kraia to have dragged Celu and I somewhere.   To summarize this long, long day with a Haunted Fey Mansion. The Lost Ones wanted to gain more power and weapons, so Liese offered a planar key to some demiplane. We met a father and his children, his wife. They had been cursed in different ways. The youngest was a ghost who thought she was still alive. The Middle while was a ghost as well but retained his mind, though it was clear both suffered from some missing memories. The oldest sibling, was mutated into some twisted fey creature from a broken deal we believe to the Eldest was involved. The wife was brought back to life, having been killed or died after meeting her family. They apparently didn’t like the marriage of the husband and wife. It’s implied that Ludrissiel was the one who tied the wife’s soul to a phoenix. Our new traveling companion Malina, was the one Saloc had mentioned Vonymos’s Champion, had enraged the combination by saying she was wrong. When we had learned that save for the father and the middle child, most of them had triggered that set them off. The Father was a vampire. Malina meant well but she is young. She was overly attached to the youngest girl, promised she would come back.   Fey is both helpful and annoying, because of a small pixie or fairy. The Voice took advantage of that, and force us into a deal to reclaim a blade he once owned from within that mansion. Talinde had wandered that house alone and hadn’t done especially well. We found him in the study of the Father encased in Crystal. Burdyr claimed to meet the world’s Avatar but everything he described was like The Beauty. So the Beauty is Istralar. It seems that our time we were only able to save the oldest child, we had knocked him out during our fight with the Wild Hunt. Using champion powers to aid him bringing back to a human form.   We still don’t know everything that happened within the walls of that mansion, like how the mansion was split into three different pocket dimensions. Ashlyn found a friend from her thousand-year journey, named Percy.   Celuriel finally has gone to sleep, Ava seems to have calmed her nerves once we got home, with a fair amount of whiskey as well. See her sister’s writing in the Mansion had drilled fear into her very bones.   Ludrissiel will dies, this I swear.   I might not be ready to face an ancient lich now, but I will be. I have been gifted a small amount of my own divine power. This alone will not be her undoing, but it’s another step in this journey.

Journal #70: Forging Bonds

Celuriel is thankfully not pregnant. A thought that plagued my mind while I was stuck in the boneyard. Having the ability to perceive souls is quite useful if you're checking on your partner to see if they have a little one on the way. Celu and I have spoken on that topic before, we both have an understanding that as long as Ludrissiel is still allowed to roam Istralar. No child of ours would ever be safe.   Confirming she had not, lifted some of the building stress and worry I had in the boneyard. Thankfully it seems the several weeks I spent in the spire again amounted to two weeks on Istralar. Pharasma’s Domain is rather tricky when it comes to time, a minute here could be weeks in the material plane, or a year of our time in the spire could amount to only four days passing. Thankfully the month or so I spent crafting magical items was not locking myself in my room in the spire tinkering with things, weapons and copy spells cover. While the crafting did take up a majority of my time, Pharasma still had me perform similar duties as I had before. However it was clear this time I was not here to study and learn, so I had a little more freedom to do as I liked. I must admit, my time in the spire without Celu was definitely colder.   Shockley, I was not without company. A couple of people had made this trip the boneyard more bearable. Kazric of all people had made their way into the boneyard. Not dead, I think. I had been returning from my sparring session with Skien when he had shown up. Well, he had clearly shown up while I was clashing swords with the Herald. She apparently was not going to let me leave without ‘testing’ me again. Personally, I think it was her way of getting back at me for yelling at her in Undercommon. I am still surprised that my body was willing to fight her after directly coming from our fight against The Harp. Was it stupid for me to wield my blade against her in my extremely tired state, yes. Would I have done it anyway, probably? Skein and I have never seen eye to eye, our personalities do not mix well. Regardless of my hazardous relationship with my Goddess’s Herald. Kazric had somehow entered the spire and had identified which room I was staying in and had left me a box. He left me a note as well, talking about his kids and how he has given them small daggers already. That he was delivering my inheritance I had gotten from Alysia, and that somebody had given the others and myself fifty thousand gold coins. I would have asked him about that later, though because it is Kazric I have to ask around that. Another loose end we will have to deal with. At some point.   The other person who visited more often was Atropos. There was no real rhyme or reason for the visits, they just happened. Being Pharasma’s daughter I expected her to be different. She still had that air of eternity her mother had, but still acted like a child. For example, I had collected Celu and my belongings from the Inn we had lived in for a time. The mounds of books Celu had kept at the inn room, her birthday blanket I had gotten her, the dartboard, and tiny knives. Coming back to the room, I had found the little god laying across the couch. Kicking her ashen legs like a child, as she read one of the books I had read to Celuriel. She had a stack of books she had apparently been looking through and picked one. Hogfather the title of this one read. The image alone had struck me as childlike, but a comment here or there would remind me that she was older than her divine form depicted.   Still, she’s my eldest sister now, as she adopted me. Not much of a choice when a god refers to Pharasma as ‘Our Mother’ and says I could be her brother if I like. I of course told her I would not mind another sister. The fact she is a god was not lost on me, in fact, it made all of this even weirder. I still have a hard time fathoming that I can include gods in my company. Atropos was not bad company, in fact unlike my other siblings, seeing often brought a smile to my face. Upon reflection, the way I speak to her is not unlike how I had spoken to Alain. Kind and caring, as if she was family. Even though I often forget that she is a god, compared to her. She has lived eternity while I am a little child.   Another piece of my life that I must get used to, the divine. She has adopted me and I will eventually understand what that means. If not now then much later, though our first conversation has me leaning towards a certain topic. First Chosen Son. A title, one she thought I should have. I am of nobility but I doubt that is the type of title she spoke of. The future is never set in stone and can always be changed, but Atropos has personally shown or offered a path that I can go down.   Atropos was a nice division from my short time in the boneyard. The majority of my distractions came from a small bundle of scales I named Avariel. After a rather short but informative conversation with Pharasma, I had quickly returned to my room within the spire. As the fight with the shard gods had finally started to take its toll. Bone and muscles ached as my bags were placed across the bed. Removing the cracked egg which was leaking some cloud vapors. The Wyrmling hadn’t completely broken out from her shell.   I would like to say I saw her first moments breaking out of her shell, but the fight against the shard gods had taken a serious amount of effort. With every intention, I had planned to stay awake to see them break that egg. Pondering the idea of helping the baby dragon by removing the cracked portions of the shell, but thought better of it. Placing the cracked egg inside that special box I made a while back which had padding inside it. The mistake was sitting on the bed, heavy eyes and exhaustion bound me to the bed. Sleep quickly capturing me for I assume a long time.   It took a while before I gathered enough will to remove myself from the bed. Hells it even took a while to remember dragging myself to the room, Pharasma’s words had been ever present in my head. I was just existing on top of the non-existence sheets that I had sworn had been there when I had sat down to watch the egg. That thought had at least forced me to turn to see the egg. The baby dragon had taken a day or two to crack through its shell. It is of course the time I fall asleep when she breaks out. Being greeted with the broken shell.   Groaning from the soreness of yesterday’s battle, the broken shell had gotten me to lean up, get out of bed, face blank as I was still waking up. More going through the motions of waking up than actually, with some recognition that I was not long alone.   She had not gone far as there was a suspicious bundle of blankets she had dragged off the bed. In what I think was an attempt to make some sort of burrow or miniature cave. The Wyrmling would at least be easy to find. As she just admits clouds, the entrance if it could be called an entrance just had thin white wisps of clouds. The creaking of the bed caused a stir in the blankets, shifts in the clouds.   Not moving too much from the bed, I slid over and off the bed. My back pressed against the frame I would wait. Knowing better than just grab the blankets and risk the baby trying to lash out at whatever grabbed them. What is an extra hour or two when I had already waited a year for this dragon to hatch. That patience was rewarded.   The snout of a Wyrmling poked out from the blankets and their clouds. Sniffing the air around their makeshift home. Carefully the baby crawled out of their blankets. They were a tiny wyrmling, scales the color of the clouds that emanated from their body. The only color this child had was the strange patterns across their leathery wings. Shimmering from purple to pale blues and plenty of other colors. There was a solid moment with her halfway out of their blankets she just looked at me. Each paw was measured as they stepped forward, testing air. There was tension in her movements but I stood still. Eventually she gave a full once over with her nose from a distance then paused. Draconic white eyes narrowing as her tiny form crouched.   “Dad!” Then pounced.   The newborn scrambled up my chest and around my neck. Curious about my pointed ears and climbing up to my head to make themselves comfortable. Messing with my hair, which at least got a chuckle out of me. She looked down from atop my head at the sound. I swore if dragons could smile like people she was trying.   “You are rather happy!”Replying in draconic language. Draconic thank gods I knew that language. Granted I think I know what? Twenty different languages?   “Am with Dad!”   Then stood up, attempting to regain balance on top of my hair. Little paws twisted on my head turning around? Then crouched and pushed off my head landing on the bed. The little dragon explored the bed, which to her was massive. The dragon was intensely smelling the remaining sheets and pillows. Almost looking for something. I watched the small wyrmling patrol the edges of the bed and keep going back to certain areas.   “What’s wrong” I had asked?   “Nother smell! Not Dad!” She said snout pressed against a pillow. Celu’s side of the bed. Kind of impressed that she was able to tell the difference between Celu and I. Especially since neither one of us have been here for a while. To be completely honest I really do not think I would introduce myself to a one day old so Dad would be fine for now. Might take a while before we can have proper conversations.“Who?”   Wait, does Celu know Draconic? She’s not going to like that. Draconic would not be that hard to teach to Celu, the days I spent here I had been speaking in Draconic but I had slipped into Undercommon when speaking to myself about random things. Avariel often gave me what I learned was her confused look when I spoke in another language.   She finally broke away from her furious examination of the bed and asked that question.   “Who other smell?” she pressed her nose to the sheets and then looked back at me.   “Mum”   “Mum!” Tail began to swish back and forth, proceeding to do another lap or two of examining the bed. Looking at the door “Where Mum?”   Before attempting a running leap off the bed. It was a nice attempt but thankfully my years as a parent taught me to know when a child, draconic or not, was about to do something bad. I without a second thought Dimensionally slid in front of the baby catching her. I am going to have to keep my eye out for her. Scrambling and wiggling out of my grip she climbed her way up to my shoulder. Snout pressed against my cheek.   “Why stop!” Both of her paws were placed on my cheeks, stairing intently at me.   “She’s not here. Mum’s at home. I can’t go home just yet.” I told her. Patting the little nubs that were her horns.   “Meet Mum soon?” her tiny head tilted.   “Soon I promise.”   Thankfully with the proper books I had borrowed from the library in the Spire I learned she was a dream dragon. Which also meant I learned she was a she. A fair amount of effort went into coming up with a name for the small child. Nothing really fit till I landed on Avariel. Using Celuriel’s elven naming scheme, I came up with her name. Celuriel means river-celu girl-riel, weird to think I have been calling Celu river for years without thinking about it. Cloud Girl which translates to Avariel. Not the most creative of names when translated but Celuriel thought it was sweet.   What I had not expected was when I fed her for the first time I gave her chicken, shockingly hard to find in the boneyard, her form flickered. As she tore into some meat I had given her, once white scales blackened and clouds began leaking shadows. White eyes are almost brighter now against those dark scales. Tearing into her food I blinked. A Nightmare Dragon, calling out her name caused her to look up, and the Dream Dragon was staring at me. As if nothing happened. So this must have been the effects of living both in the Ivory Maze and Tenaerul. Still how much she was affected will only be revealed in time. I still have not the faintest idea of what triggers the transformation. I had originally thought it was aggression or some draconic instincts, but quickly ruled that out when she yawned in my arms nodding off to sleep as a Nightmare Dragon. She switched back quickly after sleeping. It seems like Avariel's Dream dragon shape might be her predominant one.   Avariel hardly left my side during my time in the boneyard. Finding my shoulders and specifically my hair nice to play with. If I was not focused on creating the few magical items on the list. All my time was devoted to Avariel, strengthening her wings going from gliding to flight within a manner of days. Working on her draconic which would take time, and learned at a very young age Dragon can start hordes. Or try to at least. Catching the white wyrming dragging pillows onto the bed to further grow hordes of anything. Loose coins, two of Celu’s knives, pillows, blankets. While her horde has been growing, it still can be held under one blanket. She had dubbed it her ‘cave’ which was three pillows and a single blanket. Avariel had me construct it for her when her cave attempts collapsed. Still she has yet to sleep in her pillow cave, she spends time there sure. Especially when Avariel found something new in the room she wanted to add to her cave. As for her Sleeping? I will almost alway find her curled around my collarbone or snuggled under my arm.   Avariel grew a fair bit while in the boneyard. When I first held her she was hardly larger than half my forearm. Only being a week or two old I never thought her growth would be this noticeable. If I must compare her to something a rough size comparison would probably be a smaller cat. I think she has a fondness for when we are walking around the spire to sit on my head. Any larger and it might be an issue for my neck if she tries and sits on my head.   Spires Edge was the only place I took Avariel that was not inside the spire. Make a special effort to avoid the Herald the past couple of weeks, thankfully after our last conversation she has yet to make an appearance again. Thankful as I am, I would rather not end up fighting her with Avariel around. Regardless of that, I had taken special care to remove all of our previous things from the Inn Celuriel and I spent a majority of our ‘nights’ in the Boneyards. Also telling the Innkeeper that we would no longer be needing the room and I would be retrieving my things from the room.   Watching my daughter explore our room with her tail wagging as she bought something from the room she wanted to put in her horde was adorable. While I had been carefully collecting our belongings she had been gathering a small pile of her own. Celu’s things were ninety percent books or daggers and the rest were things like clothes or other small things she had bought or taken from the boneyard. From the small time we spent there, it was nice to see the city at the edge of the spire again. Gathering everything took about two hours, an eighth of that was convincing Avariel that I was not taking her hoard of treasures and we would be going back to the room with them. So I had to put ‘her things’ inside my bag. I ended up tying the few things she has claimed in one of my shirts and placed that inside my bag of holding. Teleporting back to the room, where she dragged her treasures onto the bed and into her pillow fort. In her attempts to untie the shirt bundle destroy her cave. Which I quickly rebuilt.   In truth that trip was one of the last tasks I needed to do before I could leave, and spent a majority of my time packing up some of the things Celuriel and I missed that were in the boneyard. I packed Celuriel’s birthday gifts, the blanket with the woven symbols similar to her champion mark, a couple of books we had been reading, and after telling Avariel we would finally be going home tomorrow. I think the idea of meeting Celuriel made her less worried about her treasures. It was a bit more difficult to get her to sleep that night, Thankfully I knew that one of the best ways to get a child to sleep was to have them burn themselves out running around and playing. A trick I used on Alain when he got old enough.   I told her that if she could find all ten copper pieces around the living room, I would give her a silver coin. A particularly shiny one. Telling her to wait in her cave, till I called. Quickly hiding the copper pieces around the living room. Some were easier than others like under the carpet or on the top shelf, shoes. Others not so much. Inside a book, in my sleeve. She found them, after a handful of hints for the more tricky ones. Calling out to her the white form soared into the room, prepared to scampler about and find the copper coins. While not perfect at flying, she had mastered gliding and takeoff quite well. I think she will master flight once we get back on the material plane. I was proud that she saw the coin in my sleeve, it slid further in and she happened to be looking at the moment. Eventually earning the silver coin which she happily took from me.   That had done the trick, I had scooped wyrmling up in my arms with little complaint from her. Silver coin tightly clasped in her mouth, I had to carry the other coins in my hand. Sorting her new treasures into her cave, she finally picked a spot near my upper arm to lay down. Not asleep just yet the small dragon asked about her mother. I answered as much as I could till her eyes shut. Slumbering quietly in my arms, letting my eyes close as I drift into dreams.   Morning came and passed, and the room was cleaned. Removing any sort of pillow fort constructed by wild wyrmlings. Her small collection was about seventeen copper pieces, two silver, two of Celu’s daggers and a small sortment of shiny things and one of my shirts. Once that had been safely placed inside my bag, Avariel found her perch on my shoulder and as I expected as soon as I touched the door. I was touching the door to my house. Leave it to the Goddess of Fate to know exactly when we are ready to leave to send us home.   Fingers curled around the door of my mountain home, the sun casting it’s bright light on Istralar. Avariel also adjusted as I felt her tense around, her scaly skin pressed against mine skin trying to hide from the bright light. From habit, I was able to reach into my bag and find my key. As my vision cleared I opened the door with ease.   Only to be met with a scattering of womens clothes everywhere. Ones I had never seen before today. Carefully I took a step into the house, following the trail which led into our living room.   Celuriel’s honey gold eyes blinked as I stood under the frame from out doorway.   “your home” that rare smile crossed her lips.   Still she remained standing where she was, as currently wearing a white lace shirt which was under a corset. Lukas, wearing a more confused expression than she was, had his hands busy working on lacing up said corset. Avariel was silently observing the two new people, as I thought she would. She had never seen another person, a living person that is. Tense the only noise the dragon made was sniffing the air of this ‘new’ building. Her eyes broke from mine, finally noticing the dragon staring at her.   “How long was I gone this time?” I asked, leaving my bag on the couch in a relatively clothes free spot.   “two weeks...” she replied, then to the vampire who finished fiddling with the corset “Lukas we can do this tomorrow.”   Agreeing to this, Celuriel was free and rushed over. Wrapping her arms around me pulling me into a huge. The vampiric bard had silently removed himself from the room, and when we heard the door shut we were alone. With the two of us embracing, Avariel took this chance to examine the smaller elf, to accidentally brush one of her ears. Causing Celu twisted her head to face the baby dragon. Her body tensed on my shoulder as she looked back to me. In what I believe was excitement, it’s a learning process as I have never raised a dragon before.   “Smell like mum? Is?” Avariel asked in draconic, twisting her head to the side waiting for a response.   “Avariel, this is Celu, your mother” I answer in draconic.   “Mum!” She chirped.   Avariel quickly transferred herself onto Celuriel’s shoulders, which did not work out as planned. So her back legs were still clinging to my shirt as her front paws were on Celuriels. The wyrmling had given Celuriel a similar once over she gave me when she crawled out of her first blanket cave to find me. From the small conversation in Draconic, Celuriel’s eyebrows furrowed together. So Draconic was not a language she knew. We will have to work on that. The small dragon pressed her snout against Celu’s cheek.   “Tomorrow I’ll make sure to find a book on Draconic.” I told her as she cast a spell to be able to understand the small dragon.   “thank you.”   “Would you like to tell your mother who you are?”   “Mum! I Avariel!” The dragon’s sentence got Celu to tighten her grip on me.   “did you name her like me?” She had hardly taken her eyes off the wyrmling as she scrambled around the two of them.   “I did. I thought you would appreciate it” a smile clear in both my voice and my lips. Which hers quickly pressed against when I told her I had named Avariel in a similar fashion to she was named. It was a quick kiss as she turned to look at the dragon again.   “hi Avariel” she whispered with affection. Quickly accepting the dragon into her arms, which meant she released me from our hug. The draconic language enabled her to speak with the dragon who was eagerly wagging her tail happy to have finally met her mother. Celu kept looking between me and the baby dragon who kept calling out to her. Listening to the Dragon recount her time in the Boneyard.   Finally taking time to look around our living room, these were all new clothes. Even what she was wearing now was new. I am rather happy that Lukas and Celuriel are being friendly, which is good. Well I am glad Celu is being friendly towards him. Given that he seemingly has decent fashion choices, I would need his help in about a week's time. If everything goes according to plan.   Completely engrossed by the child in her arms, I found myself half listening to Avariel talk about her vast hoard of treasure. Collecting the new mounds of clothes Celu had acquired. It ended up being two separate mounds which with a wave of my hand and some simple magic invisible servants picked up the folded clothes. Ushering them to our room where they would be properly hung or stored. Was it lazy, sure was about to spend nearly a half hour putting up clothes when I could be doing other things. No I was not.   “Mum! I...” Avariel paused for a moment, looking at me head cocked to the side. Quickly turning back the Celu when she had found the words she needed. “I can explore cave?”   So she was learning, clever as dragons are. It is still a strange sight to see the rapid growth of her vocabulary. It was not a complete sentence but speaking to her in draconic was helping. From two maybe three words to attempting a sentence was something. Her growth had also been rapid as well, but that will slow down eventually. Thankfully the books I had found in Pharasma’s Spire on early dragon development had said this would be the case. Avariel would continue to grow in her early weeks till she reached a suitable size. Meaning she could range from a tiny cat to a small dog in her first year and only grow from there. Thank the gods Celuriel and I have long life spans.   Understanding her request, Celu placed Avariel on the couch. The trails of clouds thinned as she raced across the furniture. At least finding her will be easy, just follow the fading clouds. The two of us watched the enthusiastic child scample from place to place. Celu wrapped an arm around me.   “this is our dragon. she is our dragon,” Celuriel said, not speaking in draconic. Her eyes traced the path her adopted daughter made through the living room. Currently on her hind legs examining the bookshelves lower, then quickly darting away to check other bits of furniture.   “She is,” I said resting my head on hers. “I will tell you this now, she is probably going to steal some of your daggers for her hoard. She already took some of the dagger you left behind in the boneyards. Avariel likes things that shine a lot.”   Narrowing her eyes, she contemplated the information I had given her. “if she takes any, you're replacing them.”   That did not need a confirmation, I had already bought her several daggers. There is a hanging rack in our study of her more fancy daggers.   With a quick kiss on the cheek I started unpacking my things on the couch and pulled Avariel’s little bundle of items. Unraveling the shirt Celu looked at the tiny hoard of things. ‘that’s two, ' she said, poking the dagger the dragon claimed.   I spent a majority of that day speaking with Celuriel telling her what my month of in the Boneyard was like. Being adopted by a goddess to collect her birthday present we had left behind. Something she was happy to have back As well as explaining Avariel's more unique quality, her switch between her dream or nightmare forms. Telling her I had not figured out what caused the change, but she remains in her clouded white dream form. Which Celuriel quickly corrected. Saying she is not white anymore, gesturing to the scampering dragon. Avariel who was exploring our kitchen trailed by scarlet clouds. In the boneyard her clouds were always white but now mirrored the outside, her scales slowly changing in color to mesmerising patterns. Losing her white color for others.   From what I can guess, from the couple of weeks I have spent with Avariel. Now in the material plane where people sleep, she reflects that. Cloud mirrors the time and sky, and her scale changes form the amount of people dreaming around her. Which makes sense given that few things actually sleep in the Boneyard. A small dragon surrounded by mystery and she is not even aware of it.   Celuriel had to cast her communication spell a couple of times before Avariel tired herself out, becoming a cute yawning dragon in Celu’s arms. She had been completely enamored by the small wyrmling. Avariel quickly fell asleep in her arms. Needless to say, Avariel has been sleeping in bed with us. Favoring sleeping between two us curled up on a pillow, unless Celu is just laying on top of me. Which Avariel copies laying across my collar bone.   It was so nice to be able to just relax with Celu and Avariel. I was worried about how Celu would react to her, I was not sure what to expect. Her falling in love with the hyperactive little child was the best outcome I could ask for. The past two weeks of watching Celuriel play Avariel and learn Draconic have been entertaining.   Upon the next day I had to get to work, both as a barkeep and more importantly some personal matter. Avariel, who was back to their white scaled look, was conflicted on who to join today. As Celuriel had plans to train with Kazric. I was not about to subject Avariel to watching her mother fight. So I would be taking her for the morning till I finished with some basic tasks. Avariel and I said goodbye to Celu for a bit as she was getting ready.   Finding a place to mail my letter to Commander Lyadri was weirdly hard to find. I was unaware Ironfalls had a post office. A process that took longer as Avariel was practicing gliding and small attempts of flight. She would take off from my shoulder glide for ten or so feet, an extra five if she was able to flap her wings twice. Then land rushing back to crawl up to my shoulder. Her flight was improving getting a full one maybe two flaps before hitting the ground. That pattern had been repeated twenty plus times if not more. I lost count when we passed the keep. Dropping the letter off at the post office without much incident. Which I expect at least a month or more before that letter is received, unless magical transportation is involved. A week at the minimum. Not really sure how the postal system works outside the country. Within Aletheia it is not that puzzle out. A letter going to Galasthin no clue, given who that letter was for I am a little unnerved about the response I would get. Still that cannot preoccupy my head the entire week I will deal with when I have to.   Next was the simple task of being a barkeep. Specifically the inventory, Alvir has been doing a pretty good job but I have still taken care of a large amount of the paperwork when it comes to discussions between other wineries or distilleries to have them ship ales and wine here. As expected few people were in my bar this early in the morning, so pleasantries were exchanged and the introduction of Avariel was had, and walking around with a baby dragon tends to draw eyes. That and she was very much exploring the bar and on top some of the tables.   Going into the basement I was pleasantly surprised by the inventory of my bar, I had not had the chance to sit down and actually go through my stock in a long while. I was shocked to see most of my stock was still in good numbers, I had set up the deliveries from other businesses around Aletheia to make sure I also had stock. Though looking through the leisures and recently bought it would seem I still need to order more Dragons’ Spiced Wine. If I recall correctly before leaving for Iskaldhal it was my most addition to the bar’s collection. I had heard it was good, but apparently some of the people of Ironfalls enjoyed it. I scribbled notes to double the product shipped to here.   There were also things down here that were not marked with my system and were instead in a corner labeled. A handful of beer cags and ales that I am sure Kazric had procured for the bar. Those were a lot lower in number, so I scribbled down their names and the number we had in stock. Might as well attempt to write to those places the ales were from if people started asking for them once they were gone while I was at it. Regular shipments from other towns came on specific dates, Kazric’s shipments were sporadic in types of drinks and their numbers. Alvir had kept strangely good notes, despite him telling me he had already done inventory this month with me. Which was impossible, technically, given I had been in Iskalhald and the Boneyard. He shrugged and let me continue doing inventory.   Why were people so insistent that I had been here when I clearly have not been? While I was scribbling down more notes, Avariel was practicing flying off of barrels and shelves. Still not being able to take off just yet, despite the amount she has tried. Was only a couple of weeks old but now that she was trying to fly. She was quickly learning how, when she was not being distracted by new things. I had to pull her away from a valve once. Avariel on my shoulder I made my way up the stairs to the ground floor, being that it was morning hardly a soul had entered. Save for the few folks who eat here in the morning. The Bar was far more active as the sun started going down. It felt strange not to have Celuriel with me especially when I know she was somewhere in this town. She said she was training with Kazric. A concerning thought, but I told her I would finish up most of my more simple tasks today and come find her. Going behind the bar I stuck the note on our inventory underneath the bar for later. We had more than enough for the rest of this month.   That left a few options before finding Celuriel, getting a book on draconic for her and adult things. Avariel being on my shoulder, well I am not walking into a sex shop with a child. Well I could so the book was first, I could deal with that other one when Celuriel could take her off my hands. The book store was a place I was quite familiar with, Celuriel had on more than one occasion sent me to order books. So finding the book came with little trouble, even if Avariel was sneezing up a storm because of the amount of dust in the shop.   Celu should not have any problems learning the basics, She had picked up Undercommon quick enough. So I got her an all encompassing book on the language. Should not take more than a month for her to be able to understand it, if we are not pulled away by something.   Honestly that happens more than I would like, however I made sure these two weeks I had with Celuriel were without the lost ones. She’s currently while I write this is reading in bed, Avariel is curled in her lap. Truth is I have been taking a major break from the journal and well the Lost Ones in general. It has been nearly a week in a half since I had gotten back from the Boneyard. Celu has been picking up Draconic quite easily, that fact she wants to be able to speak to Avariel helps.   It’s been nice, just the three of us. I’ve been busy of course, I had to take care of some family matters which I will get into, as well as check on Ypolita. But the later half had been just us. Where was I? Right, I had just written about picking up the book.   Stretching in the sunlight, the two of us finally went to see Celu. It had been a couple hours since we left the house, and walking around Ironfalls shopping was a quick way to pass the time. On second thought, I cannot remember a time where I had been to the training yard. Or at least the new one. It was about what you would expect, training dummies, weapon racks, a building for storage, nothing fancy. I had to keep Avariel from attempting to glide when she saw her mother, she almost escaped. Telling her to hold on for a second.   Celuriel was leaning against a Scythe made from ice, Kazric was a yard or two away. My mind needed a moment to process, Celuriel was not wearing her typical jacket, her normal look in general. Dressed in a strappy top with relatively tight trousers my face flushed as I looked at her. Lukas had clearly added to her wardrobe I remember thinking. Walking across the training yard, Avariel had finally escaped my arms and glided to her mother. The tiny dragon perched on her shoulder, snout pressed against her cheek.   Kazric was the first to notice my lilac face and he raised an arm flexing. "I KNOW RIGHT BRO? LOOK AT THESE GUNS"   “Sorry what were you saying Kazric? I was a bit um… distracted.” Following my gaze, which was clearly the most difficult thing to do with Celu around. I had noticed, her deep blue woven tattoos were not just around her forearms anymore, they were now full sleeves. Celu had stopped time with the help of Magdh, I am not surprised her champion tattoo had grown. It was a good look for her. Which only adds to the list of reasons why my face was lilac. Never considered if I had a thing for tattoo sleeves.   Kazric lifted Celu onto her shoulders, the icy scythe hitting the ground turning into water "THIS BETTER?"   Avariel leaped off at the quick motion I took a couple steps to make sure I caught her. I rolled my eyes at Kazric. Who was gone. Celuriel was walking towards us like she had not been on his shoulders.   “Did you send him forward in time?”   “erased” she corrected “he’ll be back soon.”   “That looks good on you” I had said.   “it's just clothes” she looked at them “Lukas didn’t even pick these.”   “Still it’s a good look.”   My affection for this elf aside, I need to write about my conversation with Ypolita. It happened later that night, finding her was easier than I had thought. Celu would be watching Avariel tonight as I spoke with Iomedae’s Champion. I had found her but waited outside still she was done. The silver eyed champion eventually was finished with what she had been doing inside the building, where I was waiting, reading outside the door.   She was a figure from mythology, and she stood feet from me. A story that became real, it’s so surreal. There had been casual conversation but it had been small and I was mostly checking how she was getting long in the modern era. She seemed alright and was getting bye.   “We need to talk, I need to show you what you’ve done for us.” I told her. Offering a hand, which when she took it I sent us the barrier. Thankfully it still stood, but the faint transparent gold of Iomedae had changed. Still faintly transparent but that drizzling color was now replaced with black. Seeing it, I thankfully breathed a sigh of relief. Given the shard's effect on time, bringing Ypolita forward had not caused the collapse of the barrier. The two of us stood looking at it. Then I told her.   Everything I could manage.   How the effect of the Worldrend had created a terrible corruption on the world, how Iomedae’s Champion had sacrificed herself to construct a barrier. Not herself, the Ypolita that stood next to me never experienced these events. She was taken during the final moments of the first champion's assault on those long-forgotten gods. The Harp had taken a part of her life that she would never experience, and she looked upon her work. Her mark on history, that she knew nothing off. Not bothering to explain the complex situation that she exists in the present cause, time was never in my speciality or Pharasmas.   Ypolita being time-displaced was not her only trouble she needed to deal with. Her goddess was another. Explaining the Unbroken March, and the circumstances that lead to Iomedae’s Fall. Taking responsibility for that, but having spoken to Iomedae she knew I had no ill intent when I had caused her descension from my suggestion to bring the Unbroken March to Pharasma’s Realm. As well the other two gods who fell. How I had bound her to the March and why I was able to do that. The constant struggle that the Goddess faces, how she herself would now be susabilte to the influence of the March because she is now it the champions of two gods, bound into one being. Ypolita would have to figure out how to identify the two’s influence as she will eventually encounter the March present. Whether she likes it or not.   With the Inheritor’s Fall came the temporary issue of the barrier, there had to be some divine figure holding it up. Cyne, the Emperor had taken that burden but the weight of such a task was killing him. He had been a champion of an Eldest, and thus had difficulty holding the barrier. So a deal was made, Though not by Cyne. In time he too was offered a deal which given who he is as a person was an easy guess if he would take it. Alysia, his younger sister, had made a deal with the Prince of Darkness himself in order to save her dying brother from the strain of holding the barrier. Asmodeus would take that burden, taking Iomedae’s place. His sister became his champion, sacrificing herself to sustain the barrier, though not in the same fashion that had constructed it in the first place. It is something I wish I had not learned. The only reason I had known about this, is because I had judged her soul. Pharasma’s last test when it came to her lessons on judging a person unbiasedly. She was the last person I had expected to see. As fair as I am aware there are only two other people who are living who know the full events of what happened here. Cyne and Kazric. Eventually, Cyne took his deal doing what he viewed as right for the country. I told her this, everything in regards to Cyne and Alysia because those two are the reason for this portion of her legacy. She protected Aletheia by containing Tenaerul’s corruption, and the torch was passed to the siblings. It is just sad to know how much that family sacrificed.   Ypolita had asked questions, which I had answered to the best of my ability. It is a hard conversation to write about, so I will not be going into detail about what was actually said. While I cannot speak for her, the silver eyed champion did seem to be proud of what she had done. That Iomedae had gifted her with that much power to create this barrier. Honored from how I spoke about her, but eventually she asked to be alone to process what I had said. I told her when she was ready we could return to Ironfalls. I had taken a measured walk away into the field, so I couldn’t hear her but she could still see me. It could have been minutes or even an hour I waited, keeping track of the time was not my first concern. Ypolita was solemnly paying respects to a life she never had, to a person she would never have a chance to become. That was not something I wished to interrupt.   The silence was the ire part of the waiting, alone with my own thoughts, I can hardly imagine what thoughts plagued her mind. It was a long while before I heard the grass rusted telling me she was here. Standing and brushing myself off I asked if she was ready to return. With a nod from the silver eyed champion I offered my hand again. Moments later we were back on the cobblestone streets of Ironfalls. Departing from each other, I let her know if she needed anything I would help as much as I could.   I do hope I did the right thing in showing her that. I want to believe it was right. She deserves to know at the very least. A woman of legend ripped from time, all because of broken gods who are unbound by fate. Only being here because of our intervention, our choices.   The moon hung high in the sky as I walked back home. With one final little task I could not get done with Avariel yesterday. Being that she is a baby. It was however important for other reasons. As I had mentioned in the first line of this journal entry, I had not gotten my partner pregnant. Thankfully. While what happened was accidental, we both had talked about it and agreed that now was not the proper time for us to have children of our own. To many outside forces, such as the shards, our status as champions of Death and an Eldest, would and could affect any children that she and I have. Not to mention her sister is very much still out there which is the biggest issue that looms over our future.   At the moment our family is small. Myself, Celu and recently with her hatching Avariel. Our draconic daughter is a good way for Celu to practice being a parent. As I write this, Celuriel has actually put Ava to sleep. She has done something similar before, having read to the lunar dragon Veldrin. Who at times was also recently hatched and very hyperactive. We had left the two alone to deal with some Aletheian Noble business and I came back to her reading to a calmed dragon. She had done the same for Avariel, but kept reading till she had fallen asleep. She is doing well, but dragons are not elves so raising Avariel will be different from another child. Eventually, our small family will grow, once it becomes more safe for us to raise children of our own.   That being said, we cannot really risk having a child at the moment but we are adults. Sometimes moments become intimate. Which lead me to stand in front of our local adult sex shop in Ironfalls, as we would need protection. It had been a very strange night, an emotional conversation with a woman from myths and legends, to standing in front of a sex shop by the end of the night. I had never stepped into this particular shop but it had plenty of similarities to others the Lost Ones have been too. So finding what I needed was easy enough. Still, in my attempt to find what I needed, I could not help but flush when I looked at something on the shelfs lead to thoughts appearing in my head. I had found what I needed, and quickly made my way to the front.   Weirdly enough this was one of the few times I had listened to a merchant, who had greeted me with a smile when I had entered, when they tried to sell me on buying more. Which they commented was better than the box of condoms. They were a fey, which gave me a moment's hesitation, I was never sure on all the rules to the fey. Was buying from them okay? Celu had been very adamant that she stab any fey that attempted something. The Fey merchant routed around on a shelf behind them for a spell scroll that was named Block the Seed. I nodded after they explained how it worked. Which was easily explained by the name of the spell itself. I had bought both incase I did not have that spell prepared. They tossed my purchases into a bag and I took my leave from the shop.   Making my way back home, upon which Avariel had rounded the corner and attempted to tackle me to the ground. She had failed, but given that she is going to get much bigger, I doubt she would have much trouble in the near future. Celuriel walked around the same corner as I brought Avariel into the living room, placing the bag on the table. Ava told me what the two had been doing, Celu on the other hand had decided to look into the bag. Catching her face becoming slightly pinker.   “are these for us?” She asked thankfully speaking in a language Avariel did not understand. Elven this time. Then looked back inside the bag “how are these used?”   “Yes those are for us” and just like she had done before I kept my face perfectly level. Quite similar to how she had when Celu mentioned that I had other parts of me that had turned purple “and as for how that's something I can show you later.”   Avariel looked between the two of us as she usually does when we spoke in other languages. Unaware what had been said, thankfully.   Moving past that, the only thing of note I had done that night beside spending time with Celu and Ava was message Nivinle. It had been a brief message.   “There are family matters we need to discuss. As one will help House Alas’thil with information I had recently discovered. I will be there tomorrow to talk about these matters.”   There were certain family matters I had to take care of, House Alas’thil was one of them. The Fey who have shown us in the future, I am taking advantage of that. Cyne has yet to contact my house in the future for spies and assassins, I am moving things forward to help Aletheia and my house. As well as I needed to construct that Umbrite blade. Which currently is on my desk sheathed as I write this. Still Nivinle would likely test me when I got there.   Night came and went, and I had left for the Underdark in the morning. Telling Celu I had to deal with my family and I would be back when I could. It was weird having to leave her, I know she can handle herself quite well. Normally I would not mind taking her with me would not be an issue. Avariel was not somebody I wanted to bring to meet my siblings. Not when she is so young.   With a snap I found myself in House Alas’thil study, though I think it would be more accurate to call it Nivinle’s study now. It was how I remembered it, organized and clean. Weapons hung on the wall ornamentally, and her desk was indeed neat. Compared to mine, hers was practically bare. Books of ten find their way to my desk, which I keep organized when Celuriel puts them there. I had passed the time by reading one of the books on shelves, it was common surface herbs that could be used for poisons. Much to my horror, Vasestra & Rikzyr had been the ones who found me in the study first. Before they had attempted anything, a sharp look and a couple of words had sent the youngest Rikzyr to get Nivinle. I remained silent even when Vasestra attempted conversation, eventually commenting that ‘I wasn’t any fun.’ Fingers wrapped around Silver, making it clear what would happen if Vasestra had tried anything.   Thankfully the silence was interrupted when the remaining two entered the door. As expected Nivinle was straight to business. Sending the younger siblings to the training hall. So Nivinle had remembered my little trial to test how well I wielded my arcane magic. Leaving the two of us to chat for a minute. Leaving out some of the more important details, I gave a brief summary of the events. Nivinle every so often asks questions to get a better grasp of the story I told. However I had told her I was for more than just telling her I had returned to Aletheia. Our trip to the future thanks to the fey had carefully been removed from my telling of events. As that had involved time travel and events of the future which included her.   That had been a topic, which brought to the table two important things. Our sister Daeris, and moving events forward in time to help the Empire and House Alas’thil. Speaking on Daeris I explained our relation to her with details and facts I learned from our small conversation. I started with Daeris not being of Alas’thil Blood, and from what I could tell Daeris would never be one to want to be a matron. Her religious stand alone said as much. The other had come from Cyne’s note. There had been plans to start communication with our House in order to help with Riven’s waging war. Which she was participating and our Sister were actively fighting against. Though they seemed to have differing opinions on how to deal with his forces. Nivinle adjusted accordingly to the new information, and correctly deduced I was going to set up a meeting between herself and Cyne. In return for sharing this information, she pulled out a small book from her pocket. Nothing fancy about this book, perhaps fifty to seventy pages. The methods to forging Umbrite. How long had it been for her? She said she had to get that information, Gods for me it had been almost a year and a half. The Boneyard keeps people and things stagnating unhealing, so I haven’t physically aged anymore by spending more than a year there. Not that a year will do much for a drow. Maybe a couple of weeks a month? I seriously need to spend a year in the material plane just to fix everything.   We would be forging our blade together, after showing some mastery of my arcane ability. Of course she would be wanting a blade as well, at the time it had not even come as a shock. It was just what made sense. The Matron of a house of assassins should have an umbrite blade, it absorbs light. Making the job of any assassin much easier if their steps betray them. While I am somewhat comfortable with my skill in stealth the Umbrite Blade would only help.   Half expecting the ‘trail’ from Nivinle I had not shown up in my typical wear. That today was boots, grey pants, and a black shirt, the spiralling comets on full display. Sliver was strapped to my side as well as another blade, but that one would never be drawn. Nivinle and I had taken the walk to training halls. It was about how I remembered it, the rafters to pratice silent assassination and balance, the rows upon rows of weapons for the less magically inclinded, the perfectly dark room which still held blind spots via the colums. Making sure you always have to watch from every direction, keeps you on your toes.   Rikzyr had chosen a spear, and not surprising anybody Vasestra was testing her whip. The crack echoing off the wall as I opened the door. It seems like my brother had finally chosen a weapon, half a lifetime ago the child had difficulty picking a weapon without asking. On a quick glance Rikzyr was the only one wearing armor, studded leather forms the looks of it. Nivinle had said Vasestra had some magical ability, she likely had her own magical defences. I would have to make sure to keep an eye out for her.   Nivinle had one stipulation for me, I in her words “not allowed to kill them.”   “More useful alive I know, I won’t turn Rikzyr to ash.” I replied, waving my hand in the air dismissing the idea. I had not planned to kill them anyways, what would be the point? They would not even be worth it. They wore sinister smiles as I broke away from Nivinle, Silver had not even been drawn yet. Considering if I had needed to draw Silver at all, ignoring all comments by the flirtatious blade. Ignoring the blade’s comment at my family especially. Their stance was relaxed as they stood next to each other.   “It’s hardly fair, Rikzyr and I work so well together and big brother is all by his lomesom…” Vasestra had a whine to her voice when she said big brother. In her moment of being her general terrible self, I had dimensionally slid between the two of them. Weaving wild arcana into another spell, I had telekinetically thrown both my younger siblings to opposite ends of the training hall. I had become so used to dealing with creatures with difficult natural resistance to spells I almost forgot, they too had similar resistances, it just had been much, much weaker than what I had been fighting recently.   Vasestra just looked insulted that I had thrown her across the room. Both stumbled to their feet, Rikzyr had to remove himself from a weapon rack. By the time they had gotten to their feet, Silver was in my hand. Remove one from the fight first, Rikzyr would be the easiest to contain, no magic. Using the distance to her advantage Vasestra had remained in the general area she had been thrown. My brother had charged me instead, he caught a bit of my shirt as I shifted to the side. Moving farther back keeping an eye on Vasestra, I raised a wall of force with the arcane words and gestures around the youngest child. Climbing out was going to be rough, the boxes walls were twenty feet tall. If he tried breaking out I mentaly wished him luck. That brought enough time to…   Bones vibrated from the sonic attack Vastretra and released. Looking rather pleased with herself.   Right, I had forgotten how much she loved hearing her own voice. Being a bard made perfect since, when yes she was that type of assassin.   “Compared to Skein, that's nearly pleasant.” I muttered. I had to stop myself, I had almost mentally thanked Skein of all people for her training. The little brother pitifully slammed his spear against the wall of force, nothing happened as expected. Before the sound became too much of an issue, I had again slipped between the dimensions disappearing into the rafters. It had been years since I had been up here, I kept my eye on both of them as I cast two spells, Haste and Greater Invisibility. Which gave Vasestra time to do similar, well she had gone invisible. By the time I was done with my spells a Fiendish DireBat had begun to lift Rikzyr out of his box. Shame.   She’s hiding, brother then. I flung a fireball at the Bat and my brother. It had not been a strong summon, as it burnt to a crisp and disappeared to I assumed somewhere in Hell. I had silently moved across the rafters, which was the smart move as from the spot I had found the spell. Vasestra and Soundbursted the area, she was planning on stunning hoping I would fall, but that means she could have seen where the spell started. I would deal with her in a moment, Rikzyr had rolled from the flames. Appealing above him I imbued Silver with a spell, another fireball. Thankfully it connected. He screamed as the scimitar stuck with the force of a condensed fireball. Though he is still standing, hardly from the looks of it. He swiped wildly attempting to strike his invisible attacker. One had come close but Silver brushed it aside with relative ease. The connection between spear and blade alerted him to vaguely where I was. Rikzyr attempted eye contact, eye darting around for the smallest hint of movement. He breathed a sigh of relief as I saw some wounds close, I breathed a sigh of discontent. Rikzyr had landed a sling blow in his flurry as heard me. The air around Silver cracked with lightning, the only sign to Rikzyr where I saw while I was invisible. Imbued this time with Shocking grasp. Rikzyr dropped as Silver left his body, he was breathing. Likely only due to our sister's quick healing.   Now to the troubled child, still invisible. Easy solution, I pulled on Pharasma’s Soul Domain. Even in the dark her soul was bright in comparison. It was pink, but pink is a similar color when compared to love which only made me more concerned for her in general. She was a troubled child. She was not far. The pink floating orb, dashed around attempting to get closer to her fallen brother, she had cast a spell, removing the invisibility from me. That had gotten a relatively surprised expression on my face. She cracked her whip across my thigh invisibility dropping.   “There’s no point in continuing Vasestrea,” I said, blinking away the soul vision.   “If big brother is tired?” Vasestra said in that annoying way of hers.   She was a handful of steps away, in those handful steps, Silver became dangerously thin. Placing a Mythic Fireball inside the scimitar. The strikes were effortless and found their mark, they would have trouble against Skein. Vasestra child's play. She survived, her voice screaming in pain went silent as she curled into a ball.   “Heal yourself and Rikzyr before he dies” I would need to remember to weave more combinations of spells together. Dimensional Blade and Mythic Fireball are seriously dangerous. Vasestra's bardic voice sung Rikzyr back to conscientiousness, watching to make sure she would not try something. Eventually healing herself to a less painful state.   Ear twitching to a single soft thump against the ground hit my ears, I twisted, blocking the blade. Sparks flying off as they clashed. Nivinle had aimed for the neck. Our weapons broke off, and she had forced me to back up from the attack. Wide-eyed now, I could almost feel my heart thump in my chest. The fact I heard Nivinle at all was astounding.   “Now to see how you fare against a real challenge since your warmup is over.”   I raised Silver in response, fighting Nivinle was unexpected but curiosity had gotten the better of me. As children, she and I were equal when compared to our skill with a blade. I had to be as I was her training partner more often than not and she needed somebody on her level. When she started developing her magic, that had changed. As I had none.   “It has been a while since we sparred with each…” Nivinle’s blade was at the bridge my nose, reflexes kicking in I leaned back avoiding her blade. She is going for killing blows. With effortless grace she stepped away from me as I turned to face her. Straight into it then.   Mentally counting my reserves I was fine, save for my special spell strikes. I would only get one more of those so I would have to make that count. My elder sister was not somebody I needed to worry about killing. Thinking like that would only hasten my death.   In retrospect I had completely forgotten about the other two, they were two busy licking their wounds and I assume had left the room to avoid what I could only describe as sheer destruction. Pouring a bit of my arcane reservoir into Silver, the air around the scimitar crackled with bluish-purple lightning.   There had been a silence growing of who would move first. Both looking for the slightest advantage on the other. Nivinle lunged a longsword sliding across a quickly raised Silver. The lingering lightning arched to the attacking blade as it passed by. Nivinle’s form left little room for error or openings. No large sweeping motions, no spot left unguarded. As our blade clashed, each motion was calculated and perciese. My attacks had done just about the same, being caught by her sword. Nivinle had slammed her leg into my side. Quick on the reaction, I wrapped my free arm around her leg locking it in place. Going for a swipe with Silver, her leg twisted, rotating herself to bring her other leg up to my face. Head ringing from the impact I leapt back, her blade catching just under my shoulder.   The cut was deeper than I had thought.   For what I had thought was a graze, blood was already trickling off my finger tips. More blood than it should be, deal with that in a moment. Block, avoid, retaliate. Look for any advantage against her which are few and far between. Skien had cleaned up my Dervish Dancing Form, though I was paying close attention to my movement. The sweeping motions while good for a normal fight, Nivinle would and had taken full advantage of habits formed once she saw them. I leaped back, but as Nivinle gave chase she faded from reality. Like her body just thinned out, similar to shadow. I drew on my reservoir of mythic power and flick tossed a daylighted dagger into the wall. I winced from the light, but I had limited spots where she could appear.   This was Nivinle. My Sister would never fall for something so simple as a redirection, she had not. The question was what would she do, she would be casting or preparing something. My mind was too focused on avoiding my sister. That had been an issue with my upbringing, the cold hard focus of an assassin. She too had been raised like that.   Still Bleeding...It’s not going to stop. Temporary fix then.   Fingers slide across the bleeding wound, I drew on Pharasma’s Subdomain of Ice and healing. Creating a red ice band-aid that would stop the bleed for a moment. Before my fingers had left, before my connection to Pharasma. Nivinle had stuck. As silent as dead air, the slender blade had grazed my ribs. Cursing I swung Silver but she caught it with her sword, The purplish blue lightning arched across our blades before they slid past each other. Nivinle flicked her wrist, her slender balde slamming into my forearm disarming Silver. Ice. It’s likely the only thing that could help.   I slammed both my arms onto the ground, summoning a blizzard inside the training hall. Standing in the center, Nivinle disappeared from my view. Silver appeared in my hand again, still cracking with lightning. Ignoring their comments about how badly this was going, I felt Pharasma’s cold touch again as I drew on her power to manipulate the ice. It was not the only Domain I channeled Death had been working into the idea. Pulling the blizzard around Silver, the storm spiraled collecting more and more of the icy cold storm. Till room was once again devoid of it’s self contained winter. Leaving me with something worse.   The shadows in the room were crawling towards Nivinle. Wrapping themselves around her. Crawling is not correct either; it was like all the shadows in the room were being dragged by chains towards her. In her shadowy cocoon, I had a half thought that broke the calm. Creating a ripple of worry across my mind. A memory of being submerged in a similar deep darkness, when a demon lord had claimed me as her own. When she had borrowed my body for a moment.   Without hesitation, I thrust Silver forward and unleashed the spiraling icy torrent towards that concentrated veil of darkness surrounding my sister. The blizzard lanced forward as it tore across the ground, ripping chunks of small stone from the ground. The sound of a whirling snowstorm roared off of our training hall as it rushed towards the other end of the hall. The orb was slammed into the wall, leaving a visible dent and a trail from where I had pointed Silver. Frost coated a decent portion of the room, which cracked from the warmth of the hall. Then the final snowflake fell and rested. The veil of darkness swallowed the rest of the room in a silent fury, engulfing any light. I flinched at the rushing shadow and for a moment I had felt like I returned to that oppressive darkness but steeled myself from whatever was about to happen. I could not see, it had been magical darkness or something else. Still I kept my feet planted and looking toward where she was. I gripped Silver with both hands as the world grew lighter. Returning to the world's typical darkness. Nivinle smiled.   Vantablack wings unfolded from her back, the feathers fading into nothingness like a hazy shadow's edge. A deep winter’s chill ran through my spine as I watched the Nivinle raised herself to her new height. In a strange mirror of her Demon Lord, six armed and now in Marilith’s body. Her scales were dark grey and a deep green underside. Her skin was no longer the purpley grey instead having light grey. Long black horns appeared on her head tipped white at it’s point. My grip tightened on Silver, as she pulled on the darkness around her. They were crude blade shaped objects that appeared around her hands. Even in the dark her golden eyes gleamed in the dark. With blade and darkness in hand Nivinle took her stance.   Shit!   Frost on the wall cracked from the difference in temperature, Nivinle rose then arced down diving into the shadows. Her marilith form jutting out of the darkness like a striking viper from the nearest pillar. Dark blades like fangs swinging down upon me. I had leaped passed but her other blades caught me. Thankfully shadows hurt a lot less than real blades but she had caught with that bleeding sword. Right on the top of my hip grew warm. That blade of hers was far too thin to feel pain immediately. Leaping back I saw the blood fling off of her blade as she recoiled herself for another strike, I cursed in Abyssal.   Drawing on my pool of ever shrinking mythical power, I telekinetically grabbed training hall weapons. They had been scared from the blizzard, now shook and flung themselves at my sister. Along with the loose rumble I had broken. With expert precision she almost casually knocked the spears, swords, and daggers from the air. That had given me enough time to cast the other spell. Feathery white wings unfolded from my back, as the spell Angelic Aspect took hold. A halo ignited above my head as with little effort I was in the air above her.   The smile across her face told me enough to know even in the air I was not safe. Slithering through the air from a massive beat of her wings she gave chase. Skien’s training with flight base combat was a blessing, especially the quick moment. I would never let her know that. Soaring above the rafters I look back at fingertips charged with lightning. Nivinle was weaving herselves through the rafters. She wrapped herself around one of the support pillars, shadow coalescing in her one free hand. Destructive bolts of lightning illuminated the training hall in it’s false light as I released the spell at my sister. Two cracks of thunder rung out as my spell clashed with a shadowy mockery of the same spell.   Gods I’m generally concerned I think she’s having fun? Viper-like she uncoiled from the pillar like lightning, I hardly had time to think. At least the real blade!   Any sense of calm stillness I had in my mind was gone. I knew she would not kill, to her I was a very useful pawn to move around. Still, at the moment, I would be lying if fear had not crept into my bones. It had not reached my face, as I was still too preoccupied with my sister's blades to acknowledge the fear I had. Similar to a wound that hadn’t realized it needed to bleed yet. Silver clashed with her thin blade, bones vibrated as they made contact. The cold grip of necrotic energy spread through my arms and legs.   From the force of her blade. Nivinle swung with all her shadowy demonic strength. It had been more than enough to knock me from the rafters. Recovering quickly as my wings extended, I glided back up. Taking a more defensive stand. Nivinle coiled around another one of the support pillars of the training hall.   What is that cracking soun…   I shot up into the rafters, narrowly avoiding the chunk of pillar my elder sister had thrown. Broken by her new marilith body constricting the stone till it shattered. Even with the addition of shadowy wings, Nivinle moved through the air like a serpent. Slithering through the rafters, I noticed a lack of her shadow-made swords. She had to be using the shadows somewhere else. Where?   Reflex kicked in before my mind could process what happened. Silver parried a black chain attempting to wrap itself around my neck. My eyes finally caught up to what was happening, Inky black chains jutting out from the shadows from the ceiling attempting to ensnare me, their umbra links silent unlike their iron counterparts. Without thought I was soaring through rafters, diving under and over. Which did little to help, as one chain faded another materialized near me. Nivinle snaking her way behind me, directing the shadowed chains. Pulling my wings tightly against my back I dropped into a dive, the chain missed my wings. The cold ethereal shackles wrapped around my ankle. My head turned only to notice far too late.   The massive Marilith form of my sister holding the chain with all six arms flung herself to the ground. The umbral replicate wave from Nivinle plunge took a second to reach me, despite all efforts on my part. Following the path of the chain I fell down to the cold hard ground. Nivinle slammed into the floor, quickly following up my body, bouncing once. Winded I could not even scream as several shadowy spikes pierced my body.   Nivinle had woven her shadow magic into her champion powers. Creating traps that existed in the dark, she had laid pools of condensed shadows which she had flung on top of. Then her wings of pitch black shadow burst, dissipating. A wave of necrotic energy washed over me, withering my insides as I lay there gasping for air so I could just scream.   Instead of a scream to my shock, I let curses in Necril as air returned to my lungs, more shadowy bands wrapped around me locking me firmly to the ground. In retrospect, I think my use of Necril was a product of walking Celuriel over the past year. A common response, if she is not ready to get up, is her cursing in Nercil, she’s never really been a morning person.   Being wingless made Nivinle no less dangerous, I might have lived in the dark for most of my life, but shadows were hers to command. She had always had an affinity toward them.   She had won...   Slithering towards me, like predator stalking prey Nivinle had been smiling. She had been enjoying herself   One last gamble.   I slide above her, escaping from her bonds appearing above her now falling. Pulling on the domains of Ice and Death, implanting my last spellstrike with Mythic Fireball, Silver igniting in a cold flame as the blade itself became paper thin. Both my hands slick with sweat gripping Silver as I, like Nivinle had done before, had gone for the kill. It is the way of an Alas’thil after all.   I cut her cheek, the smallest of cuts as she moved out of the way. One of her six arms caught my sword arm and flung me into the wall. Icy white and blue flame leaking out from when Silver cut through the wall. The fireball ignited leaving a spiral of blue flames scorching the impact. I turned slumping to the ground, Silver still impaled into the stone. Nivinle jumped into the shadows, her Marilith form fading as if it too was formed of shadows. I moved my head to the side, her thin blade sunk into the wall next to my neck. Nivinle’s smile had slid back into a smirk, she had won and she knew it. Our sparring match had made her hardly break a sweat, she was seemingly unharmed. Blood rolled down her cheek falling to the ground. A shallow wound for sure. Compared to myself who was far worse of having nearly died from necrotic shadows and a perpetually bleeding wound.   There was a silence between us, our matching golden eyes locked on each other, neither sibling choosing to speak at that moment. Then the unexpected happened, which earned an eyebrow raise from Nivinle.   I laughed.   The kind that hurts.   “Oh if Vasindra could see us now, the two of us would destroy her!”   I had taken a glance around, ground shattered and broken, weapons lay around thrown from the weapon rakes, spears shafts splintered to the point they would be better used for kindling. Nivinle’s broken pillar had torn several new chunks out of the ground and cleared a sizable amount from another pillar it collided with. Breaking a part of the wall on the other side, letting a group of on-lookers peer into the commotion Nivinle and I had made. Staring at their marton and their lord. How many knew I was their Lord. The cold flame sputtered out leaving a large spiral scorch mark into stone, the twisting blizzard lance had broken a chunk of the wall, drow looking in.   “That will suffice.” Nivinle said coolly, removing her blade from the wall.   “You actually enjoyed that didn’t you?” I asked, pulling myself up with Silver. I was leaning quite heavily on the blade, on the other hand removing the red ice band-aid I had given myself. My clothes were torn and more importantly bloodied.   The smallest twitch of her lip had told me all I needed to know. If it had been Vasestra or Rikzyr. Nivinle would end up killing the two. Her brother being Death’s Champion allows her to test her abilities, more than she would normally do.   “Vasestra” Nivinle called. Now scanning the crowd for our scarlet eyed sister. She as well as others were peering around the corner. She almost jumped at hearing Nivinle call her name. “Grab a priestess to have Aniks healed.”   Without a word our sister disappeared into the crowd which whispered and murmured as they looked at Nivinle and I. Even at a casual glance there were twelve to fifteen drows looking at us. Not counting our siblings of course.   “How many do you think are spies?” I whispered mouthlessly in abyssal.   “One is fourteen.”   “More than I thought.” I said ending Angelic Aspect returning to my natural form. “What I wouldn’t pay to hear that spy report what they just saw.” I said wincing as I patted off the stone dust of my trousers, Nivinle seriously did a number on me, I would be sore for a solid week.   Vasestra soon arrived with one of our house's few priestesses. I had always found it odd that House Alas’thil was low on people that were capable of Magic. Arcane or Divine. Save for the Nobility, I would wager maybe seventy five percent of all people under House Alas’thil were unable to cast magic. Past what was naturally gifted to all drow. It had been nearly seven decades, perhaps we had gained more over the years. Growing up it was limited to our priestesses, some shadow jumpers and our direct family which had the arcane. Still why has Nivinle sent for a priestesses instead of bring Vasestra? She was a bard, she might not have many spells to heal.   The Priestess was taller than me, with curly white hair dressed in typical Alas’thil fashion. Practical dark clothes, with a blade in every hidden spot that would make sense. Beginning her incantation, she looked nervous and almost scared. Glancing between myself and Nivinle. Eyes shifting any time either one of us made even the slightest motion. Constantly on guard as if either one of us would attack her. Thankfully the cleric knew the spell ‘heal’ otherwise it would have been plain awkward with how quiet it was.   “Once we are done with all of this, where do you want to begin?” I rolled my shoulder to see how well this curly hair drow had healed me. It had been as well as it could be. She waited near the Matron, still unable to relax.   “You’re dismissed.” Nivinle said, waving her hand.   “Yes Matron” Bowing she quickly left the room, Vasestra also took that moment to leave.   “Return to your patrol and other duties!” Their Matron commanded. Onlookers fled into the rest of the house, spies likely fleeing to report what they had seen. I stood near Nivinle, sheathing Silver. “Remove the blood from yourself and your Clothes, forging umbrite cannot have any contaminants. Your room should still be open. Once you're done, I will begin waiting in the testing room.” I gave her a nod, Nivinle step forward and disappeared. Shadows stepping away to gods knows where. Possible to contract people to fix our training hall. I was alone with my thoughts. My family is very strange.   Having my wound healed was fine, it hadn’t really fixed the soreness. I had fallen somewhat forty feet being dragged to the ground. It honestly hurts to breathe. A full breath of air filled my back and ribs with pain. Fingers traced the wall after I left the hall, gliding across invisible pathways I only vaguely remembered from my childhood. My mind wondered as my feet took a familiar path from my childhood. I still had so much I needed to finish. The Umbrite Blade, House Alas’thil and the empires alliance, the paperwork for surnames, dress shopping, booking a place for an event. Thoughts cut off by a set of male guards that rounded the corner. “..see her?” the blue eyed drow whispered, only hearing the tail end to her words. A taller drow, wearing dark padded leather armor. A rapier at his side.   “I value my life too much to even attempt that.” The stocky of the drow whispered. He was in more basic clothes, still in our house's fashion but I had seen a chain shirt.   “Really? I would love to have that tail coil…” He was cut off as they had finally noticed me. Too entertained by today's activities to pay attention to a simple drow walking in the corridors. The blue eyed drow began to say something, but stopped. Pace quickened as his eyes widened, he must have realized I was the person who fought Nivinle. Given the topic of conversation, it seems she had gained quite the following for lack of a better term. They rounded the corner, getting a very pointed look.   My room was similar to how I remember, but with notable differences. Empty for the most part. Shelves were bare, what books were there tickled memories. Poisons, history of Vaermyrhel house wars, ancient drow fighting styles, a book on shadow magic. I pulled that book from the shelves, walking around the room.   A simple balcony overlooking Vaermyrhel, same slate gray walls. My desk was small and covered in a thin layer of dust. Absently mindly I picked up a dried bottle of ink. Opening the book on the table, I rolled the bottle between my fingers. I found myself thumbing through that book on shadow magic. A half smile as I saw notes from a child me attempting to find the trick to Nivinle’s new magic. I have even bothered with the bed, it was a bit too messy for my liking. A part of me wondered how often Vasestra snuck in here to escape from Nivinle’s watch. When that thought crossed my mind, I instantly flung a prestidigitation across the bed. I had half a mind just to burn the bed. As that would be something she would do.   My room was seemingly stuck in a timeless state. Nearly the same as when I was tricked and basically sold to House Umbra. Just a bit more empty. I tossed my back on the back of my desk chair, removing my shirt as well. Lukas’s heart might just start beating again just to have a heart attack at how destroyed my clothes were. Nothing a simple Mending spell could not fix. After a quick shower, I could of course use magic to remove the sweat and blood. Cleaning myself with magic just never feels the same.   Bathroom was about the same as when I left it. Thankfully it could still draw water. It was a quick rinse off. My own blood pouring down the drain. An uncommon sight as most of the time when I had washed off in the past, it was someone else's. Particularly messy ones at that. It was cold and most of the time I would prefer something a bit warmer. Especially given how I had been growing colder recently. A cold shower was fine after sparing.   Thankfully my pants were mostly unharmed . so I slipped those on without issues or drafts. My shirt on the other hand, well it looked more like ribbons at this point in some places. That would have to be mended. The spell was cast as I sat down, I still flipped through the book.   ‘I still don’t understand. I can summon orbs of darkness, yes I cannot conjure a simple dagger from the dark Our Mother has to have told Nivinle the trick to it. I need to pay attention to their conversation and see what I can glean for them.’ My past self wrote. The notes were surpreatic from page to page. ‘It’s genetic, shadow magic is strong within our family, but it only seems to be predominantly in the females of our family.” Knock Knock Knock! Who would be at the door? I hooked a knife to my belt and approached the door with some amount of caution. Anything was possible within this house. Worse comes to worse, I clean up some ash and tell Nivinle. I opened the door expecting a knife in my side, instead found a drow with clothes folded in their arms. Half a head shorter than me, she was a light red eyed drow with straight white hair pulled back into a bun. A few locks framed her face. There was a stupid amount of silence before I broke it, leaning against my door frame. “Yes?” I asked in a drawn out and slightly exasperated tone. “Nivinle had asked me to bring these to this empty room. Said I could find you here!” She almost sounded chipper about that, which had slightly taken me back. I half expected her voice to be far more harsh. I looked down at the bundle of clothes, neatly folded in her arms. Nivinle had sent these? She never did without reason, what was her angle? Thoughts cut short as the shorter drow was staring dagger at me, scanning me up and down. “I was wondering why Nivinle would have me bring a Lord’s Attire, but looking at you now! Those gold eyes are a dead giveaway, you look so much like her! You're her brother, so it makes sense since you would need a Lord’s outfit! But I should have asked this to begin with, just who are you!” That last part came out more like a command rather than a question, snapping me back to the reality of the situation. She expected answers from me. Normally in Vaermyrhel a man was expected to answer any question posed by a woman. “A barkeep,” I said driely. “Now can I have my clothes?” I extended my hand toward this delivery girl. She clutched the clothes, expecting answers before she handed them over. I shut the door. Not loudly, but I wasn’t about to deal with an overly curious drow. “Well that was rude!” I spun on my heels not even bothering to draw my knife, I summoned Silver to my hand. She was sitting on my old bed, not a care in the world. Not even flinching when pointed Silver at her. Lowering my blade, she placed the clothes neatly on the bed. Pressing them out with her hand “Here I was being nice and you shut the door in my face.” How had she? Magic of course but what type? For the first time I looked at her, something had been bothering me. Most spies weren’t this causal, they referred to Nivinle by name not title. They wouldn’t want to be seen at all, no this was something else. “So just who are you?” She repeated just staring at me. “A simple barkeep” “And I’m next in line to become Matron” sarcasm thick in her voice. “A name would a nice start, or why you choose to fight Nivinle” “Nivinle?” I asked, no she was a curious drow. At the moment, the people of House Alas’thil don’t know I am still around. At least the common ones it seems. Her face brightened or paled as he realized why I had said that. “Matron Nivinle!” She quickly corrected her mistake. Deeply sighing I walked over to the table placing Silver on the table. Blushing to? “Why did you choose to fight Matron Nivinle!” “Do try to make sure you use Nivinle’s title around her. I don’t think I need to tell you how much she values respect and loyalty.” It hadn’t even come out as a warning to her, more like a helpful suggestion. I snapped “Shadowdancer, that’s how you got past.” She nodded. It had been her clothes that had been bothering me, they weren’t typical Alas’thil grab. It was more flowy. The drow clearly had daggers hidden on her person. Shadowdancers were rare, as he had known a few in his time in the Underdark. “Aniks Alas’thil” I said leaning back against my desk. “Aniks Alas’thil... See, was that so difficult? I am Laetrissa.” She got a look from that one. Then paused. I grabbed my shirt and tossed it on ribbons or not. Like a child asking to be told a story Laetrissa spoke “So why did you fight the Matron! Being that she is your sister and all.” “Why do you want to know?” I said. “Curiosity” She said with a shrug. “I have been gone for a long, long time. Nivinle was simply testing my abilities so to speak.” “That’s it?” “Basically.” “And you survived?” I shrugged. I had barely survived. If Nivinle had wanted to kill me, she had more than every opportunity to do it during that fight. “Was she the one to give you those scars!” “No my sister was not responsible for them” I said now, cautious about what I said and did. If Nivinle had sent Her why had she? “You said this room was empty, how long has it been empty?” That gave her pause. She sat there humming to herself as she thought. Closing the book on shadow magic, I tucked it into my bag. I wanted to keep it as a memento of sorts. Besides I think Celu would enjoy reading a baby Aniks’s note from when I was younger. She turned to look at the motion. Still thinking about the question I had posed to her. “Empty? No. People have been in here, just nobody lives here. I haven’t been around as long as others in house Alas’thil. Proved myself to Nivin...the Matron The Collapse?”   “Collapse?” “Yeah after Mount Elendûr erupted, all hell broke loose in Vaermyrhel. House Alas’thil rose to power, we call it the Collapse.” She said as if it were a matter of fact. “Besides the point, I think the only person who comes in here nowadays is Vasestra.” “Why is she coming into my old room?” I asked fearing the “Your old room?” She looked around as if through a whole new perspective. Then shook her head “She’s a Courtesan of House Alas’thil, apparently she brought plenty of people in here to kill them. Not recently it seems given the dust but we’ve been busy here.   “I’m going to burn that bed” I said flatly. I could feel my fingers twitch starting a part of the spell Fireball. I am not going to lie to my passions as they were a bit thin.“Is there anything else you want to know?” “Well you don’t live here so…”   “The Surface.”   “But whe…”   “Being a curious drow will only go so far, to tell anyone in this house where I sleep would be beyond stupid.” I said cutting off her question. She had told me enough already, Laetrissa was a gossip and curious. If I found out about Vasestra’s position of courtesan, something that I wish I could remove from my memory, without asking for that information. This drow was likely going to be questioned for any little detail about this Alas’thil Lord she had spoken to. I almost felt bad for her.   “Laetrissa, as much fun as this has been. I would rather not leave Nivinle waiting because I was distracted speaking with someone. So if you please.” I gestured to the door. It was likely the mention of my sister that made her leave. She faded into shadows, jumping to somewhere within the house. “I’m not sure how well she actually fits in here.”   The new outfit was nice, in a drow sort of way. A proper silk shirt with a black jacket with white trim, our house symbol on back. This wasn’t used for assassination, running around with our house symbol would be stupid. These types of jackets, or any noble attire were for public appearances. It still was, however, functionally as an assassin's jacket. Small pockets for poison vials, hidden sleeves for daggers and throwing knives. A pale sash and dark trousers. Those have been placed inside my bag, and I tossed the shirt and jacket on. The ribboned shirt was promptly also tossed into my bag. I wore the jacket loose, and I hate to say it, it was nice. Nice looking and nice to at least have something from my house.   It was at this moment that I pulled out my journal of communication. Messaging Cyne. Well I technically messaged Emperor Aneirin, I didn’t even want to talk to him, what secretary? I don’t care to remember what her position is. It was a quick message, nothing formal, nothing casual. Asking for a meeting before the end of the week, both for reasons regarding Aletheia and helping the war front, as well as a slightly personal matter. As I was not sure on how to completely change my surname given that I have an Aletheian Title. His reply came quickly, giving me a time and date he had some free time in his rather busy schedule. I thanked him, shut the book, gathered my things and went to meet Nivinle.   House Alas’thil was as far as I remember, devoid of any smithing rooms specifically. I know we had room to test new traps and contraptions but nothing to create from scratch. I found the room with ease, but it’s insides had been temporarily gutted and rearranged. With the addition of new equipment, it smelled of a blacksmith. The room was unsurprisingly nearly empty, Nivinle was leaning against a table reading the journal containing the secrets of umbrite forging. A mass of darkness on the table beside her which were in fact, umbrite ingots. She wore far more basic clothing than previously, ready to forge. Already displaying it’s light eating qualities. Shutting the door, the truth of the matter is if you’re reading this. I will not be recounting the forging process. As smithing umbrite ingots is an understandably fickle process.   Informing Nivinle of our meeting with the Emperor, which she was pleased with. Should I be concerned, yes. Am I, yes. I firmly believe that both Cyne and Nivinle would and should be wary of each other. I cannot see Nivinle assassinating the Emperor when the benefits of allying so closely to him far outweigh anything else. Questioning if she is smart enough to realize this, means you don’t know my sister. In a year's worth of time, she’ll have a large chunk of the underdark under her thumb. Given how I wasn’t to destroy my new jacket, I replaced both the jacket and shirt with the ripped shirt. I would rather be wearing something like that as it seemed we would immediately be getting to work. I had put the Alas’thil clothes into my bag. Neither of us had mentioned them, nor did I mention the gossiping drow she had sent. It was mostly about the process ahead of us.   Our whole experience on forging the blades took about four days, I say about as one of those days took place when we had to visit Cyne. I’ll get to that in a minute. Weirdly enough, I enjoyed my time forging blades with Nivinle. We spoke on a myriad of topics. Everything from how she ‘acquired’ the umbrite information or our older half sister Daeris. A good Galasthin Drow, she was quite interested in that topic. However, I had told her she was related to our father. Which both of us questioned if we had any other siblings running around? Not that we could figure that out with any ease. It was sheer luck I had found out about Daeris. I had even mentioned how she had quite the amount of ‘followers’ which was funny to me, as when she and I had to attend more formal functions as children she very much scared other children from other houses. In my living memory I don’t think I have ever seen or heard of her taking interest in somebody. Vasestra and Rikzyr had occasionally stopped in, thankful never together. They never stayed too terribly long, while Rikzyr never did. Vasestra lurked and much to my disgust staired.   When I had told Celuriel about this, she had made it very clear she’d be going with me the following day. Not that I minded that, the issue was our daughter she had curled up in her lap. Asleep, apparently tired from running around the house. Celuriel had refused to move so she just continued one of the books she had been working through. We tossed a couple of ideas, but neither one of us wanted her in the Underdark. We finally came to the discussion to ask Mery if she was willing to watch Avariel. She was my first choice for somebody who would be able to take care of a baby dragon. He had done it before with Veldrin. We had asked and thankful she agreed, convincing Avariel to stay with Mery was an issue until she saw Veldrin. Happy to have a new ‘Friend’   Celuriel was a wonderful deterrent for my younger sibling. The look on Rikzyr face, when she looked up from her book to see who had entered the makeshift smithry. He had paled, I swear I could see the blood drain from his face. A vampire might have found his pale state a miserable meal. No word has been spoken, never even found out why he had entered. Celuriel had gone back to reading, not even bothered by him. Vasestra was another story, she had at least let her in the room. Which my sister had noticed. Celu was a hard person not to notice when she was glaring. There had been legitimate reasons this time for her appearance today, some report that needed Nivinle’s attention. Not that she had to leave for it, just look over them. From what I had gathered Nivinle had been expanding outside Vaermyrhel. Nivinle hadn’t made any effort to hide the conversation. I continued to sharpen the edge I had been working on this morning. Vasestra had lingered as she usually had.   Things were civil as most of her conversations were directed towards Nivinle. It was once he uttered her first whiny “Big brother…” Fingertips brushed her face, wiping away blood from her upper cheek. The dagger had planted itself in a shelf behind the younger dark elf. It was still wiggling from the force it had been thrown with. Celuriel had been sitting near me so I had seen the blur of motion. A second was surely waiting to be thrown.   “Vasestra I would leave before she takes a second to aim” I said seriously but very much hiding a smile across my face. I had noticed that the temperature had dropped for a moment as Vasestra spoke again.   “Brother dear she’d have to throw something far worse than a dagg…”   “No but she’s been practicing with her scythe as well” I replied, having stopped sharpening to gesture rapidly forming icy scythe in Celuriel’s hands. That gave her pause, not pressing her luck. As I very much think she saw the look in Celu’s eyes. She left.   Despite Celuriel being here that didn’t change our use of Undercommon. In fact, Celuriel had only spoken in the language when we talked. She mostly kept to herself, bringing a rather thick novel to keep herself busy. Nivinle had hardly spoken a word of acknowledgement to Celu. Honestly it was likely one of the better outcomes I could have asked for. What hadn’t gone unnoticed was her quick examination of Celuriel. She had probably marked out to herself where each dagger Celuriel had on her. She had already known about our engagement the day prior and had mentioned that to Cyne for paperwork for legal name changes. Nivinle made it very clear that regardless of any changes to my name, I was still of Alas’thil blood. Actually I had told her that last part. I knew I was Alas’thil.   By the end of the fourth day, the same day Celuriel had joined us, We had completed the blades, after our first attempts to understand the fickle nature of forging umbrite. Nivinle’s blade was far more befitting of somebody of her station as the Matron of a house. A longsword with black jeweled and sporting a hooked guard, it suited her. Mine was far simpler. It looked like a normal black longsword, save for the fuller. It was shorter, maybe a hand’s length instead of a normal fuller which steached down the length of the blade. Mine was missing, hollow, completely empty. This was meant to be Silver’s replacement body once I enchanted the blade with something I have been working on.   Ah Celuriel found my Alas’thil Noble jacket, like as I write this. She asked where I had gotten it and when I told her she looked at it nodding. Slipping her arms in between the sleeves and walking out of our bedroom. I honestly expected that to happen sooner. Six days. While she has her style and her own clothes, she also claims some of mine as her own. That one we will be sharing. Even if she looks amazing in it.   Then there came the meeting with Cyne.   The most shocking part was Cyne and Nivinle got along... I think. It’s hard to tell with Nivinle, getting along with her could be her smirking at a joke to her tossing you around in her demon form. What I found more shocking was Nivinle was dressed in a black dress. Not that it isn't proper attire when meeting the emperor, it was just weird for me to see her like that. I was in a simple shirt, boots, and trousers. I wasn’t going to dress up for Cyne. Still when you're attempting to ally yourself with the nation's Emperor I expect you would wish to put your best foot forward. I half expected the dress was nothing more than some illusion and she was practically dressed underneath.   It went surprisingly well, for obvious reasons I cannot speak or write about my conversation with the Emperor about national affairs. While I find that ironic given what I have written in these books. However, that information is so ridiculous. Why would anybody who reads my journal believe in dead gods? That it’s hard to believe, especially given that people who have faith are hard to shake. National secrets and allies that can be used. Anything can be used really.   Still I had not expected for them to get along. Only to see this I saw a scary similarity between the two. In some regard mind you, thank god not in all things otherwise I would be concerned. Once the Aletheian and Alas’thil dealings were done. I had my more personal topics to discuss which Nivinle stayed in to listen.   First was Lukas, which was the topic of how to deal with him given his connections to Moonfalls. I had tossed out an idea, Not sure if Cyne would take up the idea but at least it was out there.   The second involved the changing of my last name, as I had been knighted by his grandfather. I wanted to go through the proper channels to have it changed. Promptly turning to my sister, who had given me a proper raised eyebrow. Almost hearing what her next words would be if she would have spoken.   “Yes yes I know, I am still of Alas’thil blood. Nothing I do will ever change that. Changing my surname isn’t an attempt to forget that. There are a lot of reasons why it’s beneficial.” It would be easier to deal with nobility without them connecting to that last name, nor have my actions affect Nivinle’s dealings. Though she’d somehow turn that into an advantage. It hadn’t been long after explaining, more to Nivinle than to Cyne, he had gone to get that paper work. Wasn’t even that complex, I had changed my name. Signed a couple of forms, might have agreed to help Cyne with paperwork in the future.   Aniks Aliforn. A blend between Elven and Undercommon, which roughly translates to Dreamcatcher. I’d have to get used to that, not that I use my full name often. This I did have to keep from Celuriel for a bit.   Cyne had figured out the other reason, having seen the ring on my finger. Asking when the wedding was.   “If I planned this week correctly. Couple of days from now something small so her sister doesn’t find out. Less people know the better, hence why I haven’t told the others.”   “Do you have a venue?”   “No, haven’t found the time to go searching for a small church.”   “You could always use the chapel here in the palace.”   “Really, that leaves a person to officiate, neither of us are particularly religious?” I asked   “If you're really stuck for ideas, I technically could do it.” he said, looking through some of his notes from the meeting. Nivinle watching the exchange. “Or you could ask your herald.”   “Skien? We’d be at each other's throats before she even began. She’s broken more of my bones than Nivinle has over the years.” I said not realising they were not aware of the herald’s and I's unique relationship. “I think both of us would be thankful if you did.”   He nodded at that, scribbling another note at the bottom of the page. “Just tell me when this is happening, so I have everything on my part ready.” We went over everything he had discussed in a more brief way. Certainly there was an alliance being made and what that would mean for both House Alas’thil and the Aletheian Empire. With our meeting over, we had told Cyne that we’d had family business to attend to. Nivinle was first out the door, but I had stopped. Cyne organized the small pipe of notes he had accumulated. Not just from the House Alas’thil notes, he had been working on other war time information. I hung on the frame, turning to look at Cyne. “I know this is a bit out of the blue, Cyne. About Licia… Just, just don’t let her break your heart.” I gave him one of those half hearted smiles.One when your friend is genuinely telling you something. This had been the first real time He and I had spoken for any length of time since I had spoken to his sister last. See Licia deal with Syrin, I just didn’t want my friend getting hurt. He hadn’t said anything, so I left.   Leaving me with one last thing on my to do list. It had been a very busy couple of days once I came back from the boneyard. Still coming back with Celuriel with my new sword in hand for the rest of the day. I spent time with Her and Avariel. After we picked her up, she was very excited to have met another dragon. Ava had attempted with her limited understanding of language to tell us all those things she and Veldrin had done. Only really calming down once Celuriel and then later I read to her. It’s small moments like this I enjoy, especially when certain swords don’t pester me about this new sword I had brought in.   I had noted, there were no longer just two cats running around. Celuriel it seems has been picking up stays, I hope they are strays, and claimed them on their own. I was fine with this, but I had told her we’d need names them   Night came and passed, and I required Lukas’ help. Dress shopping. Something I do not have a chance in hell to understand compared to Lukas. He didn't need much convincing, he had already taken Celuriel shopping more than once. When Lukas asked the shop. I had pointed out a very specific one.   Dragging Celuriel out of bed, with a notable amount of effort. Not a morning person. It’s all those late nights reading. Gathering Lukas eventually and The three of us found ourselves eventually in front of our destination. Avariel was gleefully nestled in my arms, half in my coat as winter was slowly taking Ironfalls. Celuriel was confused for a moment asking “why are they all white?”   I gave her a look, a confused one mostly. I know she enjoys romance novels. She has to know what a shop of white dresses means. It was a decent sized shop on the main street of Ironfalls. Must have shown up during the past couple of years. It hadn’t been just a shop for wedding dresses, they just happen to specialize in it. Proud of that fact, they had prominently displayed several dresses in the windows. This would be one of the few times I broke into my Bar coffers to pay for things. As I tend to keep my adventuring money, and my business money as two separate piles.   All of the funds I earn from the bar, have either gone into the bar, establishing trade and precure ale, wine, and beers from around Aletheia. Other times are for the construction cost of houses such as a project I asked Mery about. As Talinde and Burdyr have been staying in the keep, and I used some of the bar money to have a house constructed. Regardless of my choice of how the money is spent. Paying for her dress and my clothes for our wedding was no question. I expected it to cost a pretty palatium so I bought a decent amount coin with me. The owner of the shop actually greeted Lukas. Not as a customer but as a friend. Lukas had struck up a sort of friendship with the dwarven women. He had apparently helped out a couple of her patrons, and said dwarf had taken a liking to him. So she was more than willing to help after the vampire explained his appearance. The building was neat and organized. Each one of the seamstress dresses were proudly displayed in some manner. Each unique but clearly their creator's style had woven similarity between them. Mannequins from the size of halflings to the tall forms of Elves. Impressed by the sheer quantity of these I found myself nodding. Even I could appreciate the work, magical or otherwise. It wasn’t just a shop for dresses, as a portion of the shop did have tuxedos and other formal wear. Similar mannequins were set around that area. It just seemed this establishment just made a large amount of coin from their dress work. I’d have to remember that I would need to find something to wear as well.   Lukas had taken the lead and directed us to a couple sets, Celuriel had wrapped her arm around mine. Eyes looking around as we walked to sets. She whispered questions that I answered with similar hushed tones as Lukas and the seamstress Eldeth caught up. “why are we here?”   “Well you’ll need a proper dress for the wedding”   She looked at me, then around at the dresses. Her face is a mix of emotions, the slight pink tent telling me at least one of them. She tightened her grip on me “our wedding. when is it?”   “Day after you’ve found a dress you like. It’s not the proper wedding I promised you, it’ll be a small one. Less likely for your sister to show up.”   The two of us sat down, Avariel crawling over to sit in Celu’s lap. Confused to see her mother was acting strangely. Strange to her at least. She nodded at this, eyes turning to the dirty blonde dwarf pulling a step later from behind her desk. Approaching the two of us carrying a tape measure. Asking to remove her coat, and stand up so she could get proper measurements to find some dresses to start with.   Celuriel had transferred the dragon, who had been distracting with a prism, to my lap. Ava just rotating and pushing it into the light. Mesmerised in the rainbow. Eldeth propped up the step later next to Celu, pencil and tape measure in one hand and note book in her other. The Dwarf worked efficiently taking notes. Asking a question about what her tattoos meant, does she want them showing. Preferences in color, tails, sleeves, sashes. Which Celuriel answered to the best of her abilities, nodding as she spoke. Scribbling more notes on the bottom of her tiny book. Hustling off to a section of the store, practically dragging Lukas along to carry her collection. She took her seat again, Avariel rolled the prism towards her mother. Looking between her and the crystal. Her mother pushed the crystal back.   When they returned about a half hour later, after collecting what she viewed as an acceptable starting point. Ushering Celuriel to follow, I gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. Gesturing for her to follow.   “you’re not coming?” She said looking back as I remained on the sets.   “He’s not allowed to see you in the dress before the day” The dwarf said, slightly confused by this.   “Mum! I follow.” Avariel wanted to follow her mother, losing interest in the shiny crystal. Bounding after her, but I quickly scooped her up. Handing her to Lukas.   “Avariel if you follow Mum you have to stay with Lukas. You can’t crawl on her.” I told her in draconic, when she turned to see why I had picked her up. She showed a toothy equivalite to a grin which I hoped means okay. Still trying to understand what certain facial motions mean for dragons. Turning to the Bard speaking again in common “Avariel wants to follow Celu, mind watching her while I find an appropriate wear for the wedding.” Lukas agreed holding the dragon, but mentioned he would be bouncing between the two to help with our choices.   “Careful, she likes nibbling on pointed ears.” I said walking off leaving them to help Celuriel. Lukas looked at the cloudy dragon with light horror as she wiggled around in his arms.   What I ended up with was a nice button up white shirt, black velvet vest, nice slacks, dress shoes. Lukas made good on his promise, Avariel sitting comfortably around his shoulders. The vampire replaced at least six of the jackets I had picked, and switched belts a couple of times. Finally deciding that a sash would be better. Which led to a constant debate on what color it should be. The tie had to be the same color.   It was around the second jacket, Eldeth appeared with a bundle in her arms. Carefully putting one of the jackets back on display. White was a bit too much.   “Your Fiancée said you can hold on to these while she’s changing. Quiet girl that one, thought she’d be one of the sneaky knife types given the outfit.” Handing over seven knives. Each of varying sizes, thin and flat to hide in boots, small for quick hidden retrieval from your waist. A few I knew she had experience throwing at doorways and recently annoying sisters. She patted me on the shoulders “Glad you put that one back, wouldn’t have gone with the vest.”   On Lukas final appearance eventually came back, sorting through some sashs on a wall, then plucking one of a dusky purple color. I had already been done for a while, looking at the color. Putting the dark purple sash and tie back in their proper places. Leaving me alone for a little while. Avariel was no longer around his neck or his arms, so I had assumed they were nearly done. Otherwise I would have heard Avariel by now, She hadn’t quite figured out the door yet. So I wouldn’t have to worry about her leaving the store.   Celuriel eventually joined me, taking the set next to mine. Dragon trailing behind her. Celu was smiling. I’m glad she’s been doing that more and more lately. It’s nice to see her with one. I had been sitting down somewhere near the front of the clothes neatly folded across my lap. Her daggers and knives, and their sheaths laying across them.   “she didn’t find all of them. I still have three on me.” She said a hint of pride in her voice. Smile creeping across my face as I offered the daggers back.   “Impressive, ready?”   She nodded, slipping her last knife into her boot. The dwarf looked rather pleased with her work, something Lukas seemed to mirror on some level. The covering with the whole ensemble inside zipped up lay across her desk. Where I placed the clothes and counted the proper amount of platinum after being told the cost.   Messages then were sent to the two people once we returned home. Lukas electing to start and talk with Eldeth. Mery and Cyne got two different messages. Mery’s message was asking if she could babysit Avariel again. Celuriel and I were going to be out of town and wouldn’t be returning till the day after tomorrow. Which thankfully Mery agreed to, I love my daughter and her hyperactive nature. I still want to spend time with my Fiancée on our wedding day. Besides I think letting her be around actual dragons will help her. Cyne’s message was simply we’re ready on our part, are you. Which everything was.   This was going surprisingly well. I’d even go so far as to say smoothly, should have expected something to go wrong. The following morning I made a simple breakfast and told Cyne we’d be there at noon. Our daughter happily bound into the keep after seeing Veldrin, telling her we’ll be back tomorrow. I thanked Mery again for agreeing on such a short notice. Saying hi to Ashlyn and Midna as they passed by.   Prepared for the wedding, we went back to our home, gathered what we needed. Then I took Celuriel’s hand and teleported to Alethiea. Cyne had been expecting us, being directed by some guards to where the two of us could go. Get changed and ready. It was the last time I was Celuriel before he was in her dress. Off she went, her bag of holding containing everything she needed. While the guard ushered me off to a room for privacy. Then told me where I had to go to find the palace chapel, the changing room being an offshoot of the halls of that chapel.   Weird, I remember feeling a strong sense of anticipation. Only noticing it once I slipped into my clothes for the wedding. Some hollow feeling in my gut, not hollow it’s hard to explain. Like I was in freefall without featherfall or a fly spell. Hadn’t felt that in a long while. Wrapping the dusky purple sash around my waist, slipping into the jacket next. Fixing and fine tuning the last bits of my suit. Putting the full outfit together, Lukas was right about the changing of the jackets. I looked good in it, pleasantly surprised even. Still not sure about the Epaulets but it worked. I slipped out of the changing room and into the chapel. High ceils, a set of ten pillars on each side of the room. Rows of long seats that held multiple people next to each pillar. The seats, furnished with a royal Aletheian blue for the patterning. An Alter at the center, where of course Cyne was standing near. Looking far more formal than usual. I also don’t see him in his Emperor’s Regalia often so I don’t see him dressed up like this often. It was bright, there were some shadows but the chapel was of whites and golds. So the other two figures dressed in black stood out like a sore thumb. Kazric and Nivinle. Each of them sat on different sides of the chapel. Kazric looked over, cosmic eyes widening as he saw me as I shut the door. “BRO WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME YOU WERE GETTIN MARRIED!” He said in a very Kazric way, it was even weirder seeing him in a tux. More than Cyne in his emperor regalia. It had gotten the other two to turn to notice my entrance. Apparently interrupting their conversation, as I caught Cyne saying something but I had barely heard the tail end of it.   “That was kind of the point of a small private wedding.” Voice carrying throughout the chapel thanks to the acoustic.   “Lucky I saw you guys walk’n back with the dress!” He said.   “How… did you know it was here?”   “Fuck’n MOON Dragons” His ultimate answer to justify this. Walking across the aisle I turned to my elder sister. Holding herself with all the athortidy of a Matron dressed in black silk. Wearing jewelry quite befitting of her noble status. Silent in observation of myself and Kazric. “Hadn’t expected you to be here” Kazric I am not really surprised about, it’s Kazric. I even would have expected her sister, but on such a short notice I had hoped this small wedding went unnoticed. Better Nivinle than Ludrissiel I said during a pause in her and Cyne’s conversation. “Unions like these are uncommon for our kind, you're a Lord of my house.” Nivinle said coolly. What was unsaid was a bit more interesting. This was not a simple curiosity or my sister wanting to be there on my wedding day. No, she had other reasons for being here. A reminder among other things. Nodding to her was my only reply, what would I say to her. I don’t want her here? Even if I had said that, it wouldn’t be true. She is one of the few family members I care about, the sorcerer is still up for debate. As well as my father, who might still be alive? If this was the proper wedding, I would have sent her a formal invitation. As not doing so would likely cause more issues than it’s worth. Still she is here now. From one of the side rooms a guard slipped into the room, walking towards Cyne. Whispering a message into the emperor's ear. Even as I approached the altar, the whispered words were hard to hear. Not that I needed to know. The guard had come from the opposite door I had. Celuriel wouldn’t be coming through that door. Cyne nodded then dismissed the guard who rushed back through the door. The silence of anticipation rolled over the chapel. The others would have felt it, they weren’t staring at the door how I was.   Was I nervous, who wouldn’t be. Thoughts floated through my head, had something happened? Her dress and how it looked. Ludrissiel. NO I couldn’t even consider that her sister would appear. I could feel her presence via one of the magical rings I still had on.   Seconds stretched on for what felt like forever.   The silence had grown, I could feel it sneaking into my bones. The small conversations that had started in the background, remained there in the background. Faint and fading to nothing more than murmurs.   It felt like an eternity.   Every heartbeat under my held breath was noticed as I was lost in thought.   Click   The silence broke as the door creaked up, how long had I been holding my breath. God I could feel my heart pounding.   That eternity had passed, as Celuriel entered the chapel.   Each step across the aisle echoed softly across the walls. Compared to her surroundings, the dusk purple dress was striking. I understood why Lukas had chosen that specific color for my sash. The veil which was draped around her face was held in place with a small tiara. Face obscured it was hard to see her from a distance. A bateau neckline, her champion tattoos were on full display. Her dress beautifully displayed plenty of dusky fabric flowers following what looked like a single vine that started a bit lower to her waist up to her neckline. As she took her place next to me, through the veil I saw both of her honey gold eyes. I was reminded that Celuriel had been very good with makeup, as hers complemented the dress she wore. It was remarkably fey, not the traditional white, but that was fine. More than fine. The choice fit her well. Lukas had attempted to get her into a white dress, because she had been adamant about wanting to wear this one. Celuriel could be extremely convincing when she wants.   Celuriel was gorgeous.   We both had half hidden smiles across our faces. I doubt we could have kept a serious face for this. Cyne cleared his throat.   “Dearly beloved and honored guests: We are gathered here today to witness Aniks Aliforn and Celuriel Valeria Geltharieth in this union of marriage...” Cyne continued but only half listened, too caught up with the person in front of me.   Vows were exchanged, ‘I do’ were said and rings were slipped onto fingers.   “By the authority vested in as Emperor of Aletheia, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride.”     It wasn’t an eternity but it lasted long enough.   Aniks Aliforn & Celuriel Valeria Aliforn.   Our names, truly our.   Celuriel wrapped her arm around my fingers interlaced with hers.   We had thanked Cyne for helping us with this, then my sister had approached. Holding something, something. Two small boxes, and daggers forged in Alas’thil fashion.   “Gifts from house Alas’thil.” Nivinle was nothing if not efficient. I never thought she’d be one to hand us wedding gifts, hadn’t even expected that. The larger of the small boxes was placed in Celuriel’s hand, as well as the two Alas’thil daggers. I was handed the smaller box. Celu’s smile widened as she looked over the daggers, examining their quality. More for her collection. Her attention was turned to the box, as I looked at mine. It was a signet ring for a noble, not one a Matron would carry, it had the house’s insignia. Celuriel box contained dark ear cuffs commonly worn by women of House Alas’thil, and if not a bit better quality. Nivinle turned to the Emperor “Now, our meeting?”   We watched the two walk out the chapel thanking Cyne one last time, it’s still weird that they actually get along. Multitasking both being here and a meeting, but I still wonder what was going through her head. Being an ally of the emperor is likely on her mind, but what is her angle for being there. Surface level the ring was quite clear, even Celu’s new gifts. She had already stored the daggers somewhere? I never understood how women could hide things so easily. In wearing that we would have affiliations of House Alas’thil. We turned to Kazric, the only other person in the chapel, who had also disappeared without a word leaving a couple of bottles of alcohol. A folded note under one of them. It was a quickly scribbled winking face ‘ ; )’   We had gathered our things quickly, bags of holding for the several new bottles. Never separating for more than a couple of seconds to grab something here or there. “Ready to go Dreamcatcher?” I asked.   She nodded, hugging me tightly. I however scooped her up in my arms. I wasn’t going to carry her out, but this would be the next best thing. The arcane words were spoken and we teleported back to our house in Ironfalls. Home, a bit more silent than the past couple of days as it was lacking a small scaly child, but time alone with the Mrs. Aliforn would be more than nice. Just us.   Putting my wife on the couch, I covered the small little thing I had to deal with before she and I could do anything. Mostly pulling out Kazric’s bottles, and one other. Kazric’s gift were nice, if not strangely labeled. ‘Knock a dragon on it’s ass’ was one we’d probably stay away from for a bit.   Today was a special day however. I had promised myself on only the most special of occasions I would bring out likely the best drink I had on me. The single bottle Cayden had gifted me in exchange for that elven ale. It was a bit larger than a normal handle, and smelled of honey. The amber liquid was smooth as it was poured into the two glasses I had found. One for each of us. I hadn’t known what to expect and the rim of the glass touched our lips, Alcoholic Ambrosia. It was good, no that wouldn’t describe it properly. It was one of the best drinks I had ever had. It also put the two of us on our ass with a single glass, the Drunken God had given it to us.   It had been a perfect day. Despite how quickly we had gotten drunk, it lasted long into the night. Clinging to each other similar to how we had the last time we had drank together. Again neither of us even considered the hangover in the morning. What should have been a terrible hangover in the morning, was nonexistent. The sun’s morning rays were what eventually woke us up after our late night doing what newly weds commonly do. It was like we had the opposite of a hangover happen to us. It was like we had gotten the perfect amount of sleep, woken up completely rejuvenated as if we had slept off every ounce of our stress and tension in our bodies. A lingering effect from the drink. I don’t remember how long we stayed in bed. Our only plan was to get our daughter later that day, but we enjoyed every second we had alone.   Even if we picked Ava up, it’s not like we had anything to do. Just be a family together. A small little vacation till we eventually get dragged off into another shard fight. I am writing most of this during those couple days after the wedding. It still feels weird to say Celu is my wife, or write it in this case. Not in a bad way, just I hadn’t thought I would be able to call her that without some large ordeal. I haven’t told the Lost Ones yet, they talk a lot so word would get out eventually. They will know eventually, just not yet.   Ava just woke up, she had been sleeping on my lap as I wrote at my desk. She really loved spending time with Veldrin. The lunar dragon had attempted to teach Avariel how to weaponize her breath. She had been successful, Ava showing us at every opportunity she could that she had mastered it. I might need to start asking Ashlyn and more specifically Mery if Avairel can play with Veldrin more. Might be nice, Celuriel and I could have a date night every once in a while. This might be a decent place to end this journal entry, try not to think about the dangerous future ahead of us, we need a break too. Till something important happens I’m going to spend the rest of my time with Celu and Ava. My strange and loving dreamcatchers.

Journal #69: Broken and Forgotten Shades

The Harp is contained, placed inside a demiplane of Azsire’s creation. At least I assume so. I have not been back to the material plane, as I have spent the past couple of days in the Boneyard. Apparently, Kazric had been here as well as, to drop some things that belonged to me. Some magical items, and weirdly enough an excess gold I had gained from Kazric. Kazric being who he is, had just mentioned it was just a gift from somebody. Something to look into later.   Atropos has been keeping me company on occasion, I’ve caught her reading some of the novels Celuriel and I left behind during our last extended stay here. In addition, I had spent time completing my letter to the Commander of the Galasthin Elves. Something I never personally thought I would have to do. As well as crafting some magical item that will be more beneficial next time I am in a fight.   In truth, I do not want to spend time thinking about this, not for the next couple of weeks. Despite my year in the Boneyard it was hardly what I would call a break. Till the Lost Ones decide to do something that requires us to leave Ironfalls. Celuriel and I will be left to our own devices once I return that is. Hopefully, that will be longer than a week, besides a few personal matters I have to take care of, Celu and I hopefully should spend the rest of our time together without having to see them. Thankfully none of my tasks have anything to do with the Lost Ones.   For once I am stalling, even in writing this, there is a bit of hesitation I will admit. As we originally thought the harp was telling us a tale. With each trial of combat, it gradually unfolded its story through words. Telling us it’s perspective on their side of the story.   Her side.   I will not bore my future self upon the recollection of that first fight. When we stepped out of the comfort of that rod of security and plunged into the domain of the Harp. Nothing about these fights were easy, and even less made sense. The first and likely least important of those fights were of that Skeletal Mage. Which wielded dancing dragon skulls and severing my connection to a part of my power. It might have been the least important in regards to the song and story the harp was telling, but it taught a lesson. One important thing to remember, one that could possibly save us. I learned that it was possible to sever somebody's connection from their source of mythic power. While I have only acquired that power recently. I am still learning how far I can stretch these abilities. However, in that loss of connection, I had to heavily rely on Pharasma’s power to recreate a temporary link to my mythic abilities. As evidence of having to draw on that power, it warped one of the spells, changing its looks.   A swirling blue fireball released from my fingertips during the fight, cloaked in Pharasma’s divine energy. The swirling blue bead soared through the long hall we fought in hitting the draconic skull where I had aimed. For a fraction of a moment, the bead disappeared inside the skull. Blueish white flames jutted out of the empty eye sockets, the bone of this skull creaking and cracking under the strain of the fireball. Finally exploding under pressure, the skull fragmenting into hundreds of pieces leaving the undead dragon’s splinter bones to mix with others that were gathered at the sides of the hall.   I was taken aback at the fireballs display.   Licia was the one to deal the final blow to that skeletal mage.   With our adversary defeated, the shard flung us further into its grasp. A rather simple yet still dangerous puzzle. Each of us was invisible to each other, including the other group. The objective was simple though it was not explained to us. Become visible to others. Which thanks to Ashlyn’s brilliant bag of holding contained large amounts of flour and other mundane things (I swear we need to inventory that bag). That is about the length I am willing to speak on the matter. As it is Sonja I wish to speak of during this trail.   The more time we spend with Sonja the less I trust her. Her psionic abilities or some ability of hers has me concerned for many reasons. During this trial, Sonja’s group was placed under her control. Some last-minute trump card as Azsire put it. It comes back to Silver Orbs around their neck.   I will speak plainly for once in this journal. Given Sonja’s connection to Riven, and how dreamers have stated to be anywhere and everywhere. Depending on the strength and range of this little spell she had placed the others under. There might be a hidden army waiting and unwilling. That thought alone makes any and all dreamers untrustworthy. While Jinne might be my friend, I cannot say I trust her. It’s still strange that she’s shown up at two shards.   Who can I trust?   The Lost Ones? Not all of them apparently.   Cid is a liability as long as Elias has his mentor, Licia has issues with how much she speaks and who she speaks to. I don’t blame Burdyr for trusting this other group, he doesn’t know. Lukas has a whole set of issues that connect back to Riven’s Crew. I have some ideas about how we might avoid that. I will attempt the civil route first if not, there is a second option. Though the second option is risky for me if I let my thoughts stray too much.   That is off-topic.   I can trust Celuriel above all else, Kraia is trustworthy as well as Licia if she is not around somebody she has feelings for.   On the discussion of this part, I once again learned Skein and I do not work well together as she offered little ‘guiding’ help. This will come up again in a more major way and further cements my thinking of her Herald is nothing more than…   Her ability to answer a simple question in such a pivotal moment with little more than a shrug vexes me. Why am I the only Champion to have such a stubborn herald they have to speak to. The context for that will be explained later.   Eventually, this task finished as well. The Harp separating our two groups once again. Leaving us to deal with Heralds. Through our connection to our god and by extension the Heralds. Those that stood in front of us were nothing more than counterfeits. Though from my personal experience Skein’s counterfeit was damn near close to the real. Even going so far as to target me and killing Celuriel in the process. Thankfully she was brought up by the quick weaving of spells. I drew on Pharasma’s power far more than I would like to construct a bridge albeit temporarily back to my mythic powers. It was not an easy fight and Skien was more a hassle than I would have thought. Thought that is to be expected, she is the herald of the goddess of Death. We faced every Hearld that a Champion could contact.   Skein Sunlord Thalachos The Grand Defender The Night Monarch The First Blade The Personification of Fury   Each of them fell, with considerable effort on our part. While my attacks did little against Pharasma’s False Herald. It felt rather satisfying to release a simple disintegrate, watching it’s light touch her force sphere that protects her. The last false herald on the field. Allowing my comrade to deal the final blow. Let bards and storytellers depict these fights if they ever get their hands on this book. I will remember these fights as they were, not some fight of fantasy. We were people way in over our heads and at this point fighting more to stay alive than anything else. Heralds, constructed by this shard or not, are still extensions of their gods. All terrifying in their divine nature.   These false heralds are still a pale comparison to those forgotten shades.   Strangely enough on this small island where we fought against false heralds. It was not the shard that took us to another plane, it was Syrin. Who tore open a hole in reality, eyes glowing silver and a black crown on top of his head, bleeding from it. It was also around this time that we also received a boost. It’s hard to explain, it felt like burning. Powerful, and bursting with arcane energy, but no explanation was given as to where this gift was granted from. The others also received a boost as well.   Syrin and Sonja’s group offered a small moment of rest for us if we passed through the portal, as they continued to fight animated objects falling from the ceiling. We took an hour to sleep and rest, hidden away in a room of Azrise’s icy construction. He was floating there smug as usual. This rest seemed to have completely healed us. Strange these mythic powers.   It’s hard to describe what happened next, inside Azsire’s icy shield the musical portal was placed on the floor. Someone pulled themselves through it. I assumed this might have been a ploy from the shard in an attempt to teach us their story.   While not in this journal I have spoken about the Barrier that holds back the corruption of Tenaerul. How the former champion of Iomedae selflessly sacrificed herself to raise a powerful barrier. Which I might add, has had another god power it since the Inheritor’s fall. While I had knowledge of this I never came across the name or could not remember her name.   Ypolita.   It was she who stood in front of us, ripped out of time. Eyes burning in their silver color. At first, I assumed she was nothing more than a false version of herself. The Champion was cautious as anyone should be, as she expected to be fighting the Betrayers. Not find more champions she had not recognized. Taking the chance to speak with her, I took a moment to look at her soul, still unsure if she was who she said she was. As I still do not understand how to read a soul properly, I know one thing to be certain about a champion's soul. Only one person can be connected to a god like we are. She was still connected to Iomedae of the past, but her soul seemed off. Flickering or better yet struggling to be. Her soul burned bright, with flames and swords dancing around, but the silver and black cord was new. I had yet to see that. How can people's souls be so vastly different? While I understand that statement to be ludicrous, to begin with, each soul is in fact different. Champions also have their souls effect in a manner of speaking, as do those chosen by Avatar’s but some things still do not add up. Like that black shell on Syrin’s soul. Shells not right, orb would be a better description, the Silver sparks leaping off of their souls. Once again I am getting off-topic, quite easy given everything that happened while we battle the harp. Honestly, just this adventure to find and deal with the harp could be a novel in itself. However, I should still speak about the walking temporal problem that Inheritor’s former champion caused. We gave very little information about the future but still had to ask questions to understand where Yoplita came from. This battle between the Champions and gods took place before the Worldrend, in fact, it took place before Terra Arcana’s tragic end. It seemed she came from a time where Terra Arcana still existed. We all came to the decision not to reveal too much in case this does in fact affect our timeline.   We had learned other important details, Yoplita had been alive during the capture of the Voice, the reason for the Eldest to take champions for the first time.   We asked about the other champions she was meant to battle this treat with. Noting that most of the champions here, their predecessors were also her allies in this fight. As well as some of the other gods one would expect in such a major fight. Save for one. Ypolita had turned me, saying that it seems Pharasma had finally chosen a champion.   I am Pharasma’s first champion.   At that current moment, it felt like a part of the world had been turned upside down but I couldn’t figure out why. I have my suspicion and it is a question I had asked her myself. Still, who knows when it comes to her, she is the goddess of Death and Fate. She lives up to every title she is given.   Titles huh… I need to tell Celuriel about that.   With our question not really exhausted the champion asked if we would be helping. The final push before we arrived at the harp.   We leaped into a world twisted, warped, and distorted. No grass covered the hills, instead, patches of bright colors littered the ground. A large hole comically sized where it seemed those animated objects that fought the other group fell through. Strange objects sticking out of the ground as if they were meant to be there. The bridge that led to a normal-ish castle in distance had been replaced with a strip of piano keys. This whole constructed arena was jarring to look at but we set our mind to the task ahead. Even the music was tense in the air, and for the first time, I was not sure we could trust it. We have always had music to follow us in battle, in traveling and more. However our enemy was the Harp so not even Music we have grown so accustomed to can not be trusted. To get to the castle that hopefully held the Harp, swarms of nutcrackers, and chess pieces blocked out the way. One last push, I had thought.   I was wrong.   We systematically took care of each of the pieces ahead of us. Targeting the casters, the rooks I believe. I honestly cannot recall, most of it was steel and magic. They were troubling as they were casting a dangerous amount of higher tier spells. Sending down falling stars to deal with us. The swarms were dealt with hastily with fire, and the chess pieces were dispatched with a fair amount of effort. The music was coming from some invisible playing construct. One of them was destroyed but I was not sure if there was another.   We stepped across the bridge stopping outside the castle gate, as it occurred to us, when describing the fight it was not what Ypolita saw. Kraia and I asked her to touch her shoulder, what the Inheritor’s Champion was normal and not as terrifying. Looking behind us to a war-torn field, with mounds of bodies. Far more than we had taken out. The castle looked far worse in this version than the warped castle of crystals and off cartoonish mushrooms that grew off some of the sides. I have to question if the Shard is masking her vision or is Fate itself? We steeled ourselves and opened the door taking a few steps. It led into the courtyard with another door which led into the true castle.   A single shot rang out, dropping Licia with a near-perfect bullet in the middle of her forehead.   Dead.   Moments extended and stilled as Celuriel channeled her power to freeze this moment in time. We were no longer alone, as the shades had shown themselves.   Ypolita commented that she had expected seven gods, not six. The Seventh as she said ran away as they always do.   I could go on and describe them, those forgotten to history. They to our vision were warped and destroyed like the land around us. For example, the shade that would the Spirit Blade was some dragon humanoid toy with a large plastic sword, however once we place a hand on Ypolita. We still could not see their true visage while we could still see their true self. Something blocked their face. The Blade was a draconic humanoid with two dark wings, towering in size, and a blade that looked all too familiar. A blade I once thought I could steal, that I once held during that reforging, my interaction with it was partially the cause for Silver coming into existence. I have detailed the Shade that was clear The Blade. The Statue overgrown with plants was the Gem I believe. The Harp was the woman with blue fairy wings carrying an instrument of their name. As for the March, she was a purplish devil with wings. As for the two remainings, there was Angel, who glowed with a blue light instead of typical golden. The last being the gunslinger, I want to say it was some sort of Axians. Then the last one was missing. The Seventh. I know who the Seventh is but their name alone causes enough trouble. As loud as we are I would not wish to drag their eye in our direction, regardless of the form they take.   If I recall, Celuriel had drawn on mythic powers and I bolstered those with Pharasma’s Resurrection subdomain in order to bring back Licia. We each took our spots, cast our spells, and for a few summoned allies in the form of heralds. Sunlord Thalachos and The First Blade would join us in this battle. For a moment I thought of asking Skein for help, but the moment passed. Neither her nor I have ever seen eye to eye, she would have caused unnecessary complications. Especially given what I know what happened to The March.   We moved around the courtyard and ready ourselves, our blades in our hand. Spells coursing through our veins, and tired beyond belief. Time moved forward and we took our stand against long-forgotten gods. For a majority of the fight, I simply flung spells as adamantite clashed and gunshots rang out. I found myself near Ypolita on more than one occasion during the brawl, which led me to a rather interesting idea. While I could not deal any finish blows that could render these shades destroyed. I could however point Ypolita in the correct direction. The Statued Druid had cast several spells that caused walking to be damn near impossible. I took a step off of the castle's walls, removing myself from the Celuriel company, drawing on my arcane reservoir to a dimensional slide next to her. For somebody who showed great disdain for Arcane magic, a person who was fighting against the spread of the arcane. I was shocked that she was willing to let me cast Dimensional Door on her. As she was one of the people who was affected the most by The Gem’s land disrupting spells. The Inheritor’s Chosen of course chose the largest of her foes, The Blade. Most of my time in the battle was ushering her around or moving around. I knocked out quite often, and was healed by Celuriel who I was thankful was nearby on several occasions.   The Blade eventually fell to Ypolita or Artemis I could not tell you. As well as the Druid, and The Gunslinger. That Axian was a dangerous foe that required him to be Dimensional locked down as we moved around just as much as I did. Thankfully Celu had summoned a portion of her Mythic power to bind the Axian. Then The Spirit Blade again, as it mimicked its rebirth in the material plane. Each time one of these and Shaded Gods had fallen, they had released some giant burst of energy. Save for The Spirit Blade which came back from their first apparent death. Still, I wonder What kind of Dragon God were you? Who were these gods? The March and Harp were the last ones we had to deal with as The First Blade, and our Angels had kept the other three The Blue Angel included. That portion of the fight had broken out of the courtyard and back into those twisted lands. At this point I was near death, the only reason I had not died or gone down more than the several times I had. Was because of Buydyr’s new ability. As a champion, he was given a special ability which was to shield. In the form of a protective charm of sorts, in my case, it was an iron ring. He would take half of all my pain when somebody had attacked me. Celuriel made a comment about the Dwarf giving her Fiance a ring. It is a little note but it is an important one for a handful of reasons.   The tides of this fight had been slowly turning in our favor, and the Shades knew that. That being said it was bloody and when the harp fell I could hardly stand after its burst of energy. The March still flew overhead, my friends trying to finish her. The last of the Shades pointed a finger at me. A single green beam raced through the air and struck me.   There was not even a thought that had raced through my mind before my body fell apart, dissolving into ash. I cannot even begin to describe the level of pain of having one’s body turn to ash from pure arcane power. If I could change anything about that moment it would that Celuriel was paralyzed and could not do anything but watch.   This was likely the same moment that had killed Buydyr if I had to guess. I however had found myself in a black marble room, thankfully not the throne room this time. Red eyes gleamed down in annoyance as I looked at her. Skein with arms crossed watched me in silence. Then something happened on the Material Plane. The March had died, deciding to take Ypolita with her. I could feel it, as a soul. Shattered as mine is, I still do not understand how I was able to feel her Death. Knew it was happening across the planes of existence. I could not, would not allow her to die. If this was her, really was her, then she had not raised the barrier. Which affects the timeline massively. This was under the assumption she would return to the past once this shard was dealt with. So I had to ask Skien a question quickly.   “Was this the real Ypolita?”   Simple yet dangerously important.   Skien deemed me worthy of a shrug. So I made a choice and cast a stone. I have yet to see if the ripples in time will dissipate or become a tidal wave. I once again channeled Pharama’s power to stop this? Change fate? I was not really sure what I saw doing. It had worked though. In truth, while I do not dabble in time and theory regarding its manipulation. In the most basic sense if the barrier is still standing and without issue. Then nothing really changed in its flow, just a semi-real version of Ypolita, a time remnant was brought forward in time. Our attempt to stop the March from altering something in the past grounded Ypolita in our time. This is not out of the realm of possibility, as something has happened in the with The March. While the Starstone Gods had their ascension undone, nothing about the actions in the pasts as gods had been undone. Everything just moved forward, adjusting according to the new changes. Skien had made no comment, and I was pulled back into the Material Plane far quicker than I thought I would be. I still felt like I had right before being disintegrated by the March. In pain and hard standing. Thankfully I was brought back with everything intact, The Voice being there was something I had not expected. The Eldest in his red coat, and combed black hair. My guess is she used her one favor from him. While I would regret it, I had thanked him. Ypolita had noticed The Eldest who was meant to be locked away and was about to start saying something before I yelled for him to leave now.   It was nearly over.   We could finally almost get some rest. It’s weird to think for me that was less than a couple of days ago me. We still had the shard to deal with.   The Harp of Virtue lay behind the door, in their most complete form. While a harp was there, so was a woman who sat playing it. I will list a handful of things. As I wrote before we had not destroyed the shard. This is all according to the harp.   ~The Seventh had done this to them, turned them into shards. ~She claimed a shadow had been lifted from her, implying the Seventh was in a way still manipulating them. ~They could not remember their name. ~They were fighting to protect arcane magic. ~She did not know if what had been done could be undone. ~The Seventh is... ~Which Ypolita feels like she should but the name does not ring a bell.   I just had an idea, I wonder how close to a useful idea it was. Binding and all. Eventually when we could not speak any longer, then some concerning Youshi and the Android he was possessing decided to be her voice. Azsire took the Shard and placed it inside a demiplane, pulling us out of the Shard’s created world. How strong is this snow elf?   Then we could rest, for my own personal reason. I took it upon herself to speak with Ypolita. As I hold myself personally responsible for some of the troubles she will be facing in the future. I sat next to her pulling out a bottle of alcohol saying she would probably need it once I was done explaining things. Telling her not to use her champion powers that much till we could fully explain what had happened to her. As she needs to be brought up to date with. Something I planned on checking once I was done shopping… Today is going to be one of those days.   The Harp’s Tale   The dawn now breaks on horizons above The day now brings tears of loss and love Six stand alone, their hope, their cause: Worthy? they claim, descending the floors, Seven now eight bring war, not peace Ever afraid of the truth in grief Three stand bare, their hearts their own To love, to kill, to lie under stone. Six and eight and three - take two Leave them here to speak of you Families, partners, allies, and foes If none are left then nobody knows Unknown death, a mystery assured A familiar fate to try and ignore Let six and nine walk through this gate To face their judge and mysterious fate Let those who walk the path of dreams Take darkness by the hand and lead Let those who walk in Holy light Take up their Arms and join the fight A song is born, your actions true Be promised they'll remember you Should you shatter this symphony In turn, do not forget me As you don your robes and armour Do not forget what happened with Xaahra.   "As the light fells deepest dark Soon too do dreams awaken stars A new adventure, full and whole: Let the planes hear your call. Veiled in truth, concealed in lies: To brashly act is to be unwise. You stand apart yet one in truth Wearing the scars of your broken youth Find, fight, kill, change: What is the path, will they all be the same? Answer us this and conquer your tale And be prepared - you should not fail."   "Breach the void and rip the planes, Stir what lies in magic's veins. Defy your truth, confront their lie, Take no solace in their sweet lullaby. This is no time for peace or speeches, Upon their stage countless rest in pieces. History's pages blank of knowing, March on to the music, the art of showing. What has happened before will happen again, Til no man alive can tell foe from friend. Hark - the herald angels sing - Death upon your new-born kings! Mortal freedoms worth naught to their gods, Yet here you stand, against the odds. What happens now if fate is twisted? Will they know you ever existed? Or will your names bend to nothing, Unheard sounds when men are bluffing? Enough; they come; their blades are sharp to sever any who might learn from a harp Six for nine, they come for all: prove your full strength, you must not fall!"   Beyond these doors is our final stand. Our hopes, our dreams, to be wiped from the land. The past stands with you, the future untold To listen, to see, it is she you must hold. The law has fallen, no justice upheld No word of ink will toll these bells Mask your fear, you brave of souls Lest you become like we dolls.    

Journal #68: Return of Black Marble [Text Roleplay]

Black marble. It always came back to black marble. The icy portal hadn't been gentle with Aniks this time; hadn't let him fall out onto a beach of soft sand or into the bed he'd been given during his last stay. No, he landed hard onto the cold marble, at the feet of Pharasma's Herald. The Steward's gaze was colder than the floor, the red glow of her eyes practically boring into his skull. "Get up."   It’s gone. Winked out of existence, as Aniks fell onto the black marble floor. That mental connection Celuriel and He shared because of those magic rings. Snuffed out like a candle’s flame between pinched fingers. She didn’t make it this time. That was his first thought as he was once again in the Boneyard. The drow rose up, where once there might have been a glare toward Herald it was dulled. Not even looking at the Steward. Aniks doubted he was back because Skein wanted to “just talk’ after his most recent death. There might have been a tiny spark of rebellion in his golden eyes, but his mind was preoccupied with other thoughts.   The Skein didn't seem to care about his lack of emotion, not that he could properly tell - the sharp metal of her helmet and shadows concealing her face prevented most attempts to tell what the Herald felt. Her arms were crossed across her chest, sharpened gauntlets tapping an impatient beat. "You found a Shard. You hold weapons powerful enough to destroy it. You let it go." With each sentence came the sound of metal scratching on metal. The Steward's wings flexed, ready for flight. "Why."   "Do you want to know or Pharasma?"   "The Mother of Souls requests answers, Champion."   “We still have not dealt with a single one Skein. None of them are gone, not really. The Gem now fuels the Blade and is loose in the world. We have bound Iomedae to The Unbroken March for what might be an eternity. The weapons we have would only do that same to Norgorber and Cayden. We were told to deal with those artifacts. Without knowing the what, the why, or even how to deal with them. Just that Pharasma wanted them dealt with. So why didn’t I take that chance to mark another one of the shards of our list? I’m not willing to sacrifice our lives in another fight that would have to lead us to our graves. So *please* tell me how we screwed up this time.”   The Skein's hand slammed into Aniks's face with some heavy force (25 damage her red eyes flared brighter for just a moment, but stopped short of causing further damage to the Champion. "Countless undead are being allowed to run rampant because I must provide help to you. Threads of fate that should be no longer are because I must be here instead. You will not waste my time with petty sass." A beat of her wings pushed her back from him, putting a few paces between Champion and Herald. "You chose to land in circumstances that would provoke a fight if you followed our Lady's will. You chose not to invoke help. You chose to accept the offering the Shard gave you without question. Must I go on?"   “Chose? You think I choose that?!” Aniks said, pulling a bloodstained hand away from his head. Golden eyes now practically burning with anger. The drow knew he couldn’t face the herald and win. Maybe on a really good day, but not today. Definitely not today. Still, the distance between them was noticeable, and Silver’s weight on Aniks’s side became very apparent to the drow at the moment. “Neither… Neither side could agree on an outcome, because each of us thought we ‘knew’ what was best for dealing with the shard. Use it, Study it, Test, Destroy, Save, Cure the shard! The ONLY thing we agreed on was to deal with it after we removed it from that castle. And I HAVE asked for help, but you’ve shrugged at me. While I stood here in this room asking about the fate of another champion I made a choice. We stood in front of the Harp and I made a choice to not sink a blade into it. I have made mistakes, gods I have made many, but I try to choose what is right! ‘Neutrality, at these times, is vastly more important than you'd ever be expected to understand.’ Pharasma herself said that. So how can I be neutral without knowing about the shards? If the first response is to destroy them then there is no neutrality in that. That does not mean I agree with how things ended, and without question? Ha! Skein do you think me blind to trust her so COMPLETELY! They are dangerous to Istralar, I have not forgotten that. We are in desperate need of a history lesson, what we have learned cannot be taken as absolute fact. Life is never so black and white, and still, gods have yet to tell us their side of the events. For one reason or another, I do not care, but I’ll be damned before I have to bind another god to those shards for what might be an eternity when there might be other options we just don’t know about!” It had been a long time since he accidentally slipped into Undercommon.   The Herald let him rant. She stood still, tall and silent, until he finished - then let the silence hang in the air, tense and electric. It wasn't her voice that broke it, nor her footsteps that sounded against the black marble from somewhere behind Aniks. The voice was unfamiliar: warm and rich, echoing in the open space as if it sought to fill every facet. "The Herald has no time to understand mortals or their languages, Champion." Its owner stepped past Aniks's side, pausing in stride halfway between he and the Herald. Whoever they were, they were at least roughly humanoid in shape - the implication of clothing hung on a featureless form, blank face turned more to the Herald's direction than to his. Two stag-like horns rose from its head, each orbited by a golden halo of eyes. The Steward stood for a moment longer, glancing between the two. "Minder," she said warily, addressing the newcomer. "This is no trial." The faceless creature nodded to her, eyes blinking out of turn. "My sphere becomes involved. She has allowed it. Would you?" The Steward considered them briefly, before once again closing the distance between Aniks and herself to more gently flick the Champion on his forehead. Positive energy, the sort that burned through his veins, rushed through Aniks at her touch - she'd healed the damage she'd done - as the Steward of the Skein turned back and faded from view, draping incorporeality and invisibility about herself. Leaving Aniks with this newcomer, who now paid him more attention. "You did make choices, Champion, realised or not. You choose to ask and think. You choose to wait and watch. You are mortal. The choices you make dictate a thread of fate, flawed or perfect. This is the case irrespective of decisions made. You request history? You wish to avoid determining the fate of gods? How fateful that we meet now." The figure gave him a slight bow, all of its eyes focusing on Aniks. "I am Saloc, Minder of Immortals. Your speech on neutrality intrigues me. Your soul does like defying expectations, doesn't it?"   A cold breath was let out as soon as the Herald left, releasing some of the tension he had. Aniks could still feel the imprint of leather from Silver’s hilt on his palm. A small part of him was shocked that he had been ready to fight the Herald. Then his body relaxed, and sooner or later the adrenaline would fade. “I ...thank you Saloc.” Those last two words came out exhaustly, it seems that spark of anger had drained him completely. That and Aniks thought he covered all the basic answers the Herald would have beat out of him. Even if she couldn’t understand it. But would he need to explain that to Pharasma again or did she already hear it? Given that he was in the palace he didn’t know. Aniks paused giving the faceless figure a more proper bow than the Minder of Immortals gave him. “My soul? I couldn’t tell you how it’s defying expectation. It’s just there… well, I’m just there. Sorry...normally I would introduce myself, but you already know me it seems. What would you like to talk about?” The usher spread their hands wide in an open shrug. "It is hard not to know the soul of a Champion who has both lived so close to me and who stands for the Lady of Graves. Not to mention the rest of your soul's intricacies, of course." If they could smile, they would. "There are many things I could ask you. Let's start by asking for your opinion on what occurred with Champion Ypolita: it was intriguing, wasn't it? What made you decide how you did?"   Aniks’s eyebrows furrowed thinking about the champion “I’m not sure...not about why I chose to save her, that I know. What happened is the concerning part, or more so how it happened. This version of Ypolita has yet to sacrifice herself to contain the corruption of Tenarul. She was from a period of time where arcane magic started appearing in the world. The Inheritor’s champion could channel her gods powers without an issue, She was clearly from the past. Ypolita also saw things as they were or would be for her.” Time manipulation on this scale was alway a bit hard to grasp for the drow. The Fey did it once, this was sort of similar in a manner of speaking. Just she was sent far further into the future than they had been. Aniks scratched his head thinking. “I don’t know how the shard managed to pull that off, but it did. However the shard tried to kill her. When I died and came here during that fight, I could still feel it’s attempts. If I could feel that, across the planes in this room. If this truly was Ypolita from the past, she couldn’t be allowed to die. It wasn’t the proper place or time, to have the shard undo her sacrifice was not something I would allow. So I choose to help her. It just worked a bit too well. I didn’t get to check if anything had changed, that was only ten minutes ago I think. But now she’s here, connected to the present day Iomedae. I can’t say or explain what happened here. She's just here now.”   They nodded, contemplating Aniks's answers in a silent pause. "Connected to the present Inheritor in her current form, at that, and not the Inheritor alone. The skeins of fate must be quite tangled for Pharasma to call multiple of Her ushers into the matter, and I can see how. You returned for a time before you were called back? What was behind the choices you made, with the Shard and your unlikely allies? They have continued the path without you, but you were there when the most important decisions were made."   Ebony fingers brushed through his hair as he thought of how to answer the Usher. “Answers. I wanted answers. With every step we seem to be going further and further into the unknown. We’re far past the point of no return when dealing with these artifacts. They have to be dealt with. Still the Shard wanted to show us a story from their perspective but why? It’s still only half the story. The world seems to have forgotten things and I don’t want to make mistakes that could change the future because I was ignorant of history lost or hidden.” The Barkeep felt or more actually became more aware of the inconspicuous black blade on his hip as he mentioned changing the future. “I will not make decisions alone, when there are other champions who walk the same path as I. If I must I will but that was a moment where we could learn. For now we know where the shard is. I have my concerns but we have a way of dealing with it, if it comes to it. Even if it means binding another god.” He didn’t like that he said that or meant it. “ Ypolita’s resurrection, does she have to return to her time?”   "Would you have succeeded if she were meant to?" Saloc responded, his arms spread in a shrug. "You chose to invoke deific power in a mortal choice, all of you, just as you have before. As you will again, no doubt. It wouldn't be the first defiance by mortal hands. More importantly: do you want her to return? I wonder if you know the consequences in your choice, if she stays?"   Aniks remained silent. “I can’t see the future, but our choice has been made. I stand by mine. I’ll deal with it later. As for returning, as long as her barrier stands, I have no issues with her staying unless the ripple becomes a tidal wave.” Aniks shoulders slumped Another thing to think about, when had life become so complicated. “Was it Pharasma who wanted to ask my reasoning behind what happened thirty minutes ago? Or was Skien showing her disdain for me dying once again.”   "Her barrier?" Saloc seemed amused. "Interesting questions, Champion. I think many people want to know your reasonings right now. Mortal ideas are hard to predict: your wills are far less tied to the things we see, after all. The Steward acts on the Lady of Graves' will, whether intentionally or not: both could be right, to some extent. As could be 'neither'. Sometimes, fate wills something to happen entirely of its own. What do you think your friends will do with the Shard now?"   The drow paused for a moment. Both his hands brushed through his hair and sighed. " I don't know. Question it hopefully, but I am concerned. The Shard had a moment clarity, but said the 'shadow' was coming back. Whatever that means. I suspect they would revert back to the shard instead of the personality. That icy elf knows too much and had the chance to learn more because the demiplane is his, I wish I had more time to question the Shard..." He paused for a moment "As for my reasoning I... they can ask me what they want. Skien and I just have a very interesting relationship, so my response was less than perfect."   "More time, Champion? Ice freezes and magic pauses. You've found quite an interesting temporary method for buying more time without even realising it, haven't you? Very interesting." It was impossible to tell what emotion Saloc displayed at Aniks's ramblings, but the eyes spun loops on their halos. Something had definitely caught his attention there. "Would you like little facts on why the Steward grows so annoyed with you?" He didn't wait for an answer, stepping away from Aniks to gesture to the marble stairway they weren't far from. "The Steward sees threads, and you are an infinite source of tangles both as you are and as what you will be. The Steward sees death of her fellows, and you dance with death more often than you believe. The Steward is also hard to get along with and cares little for the mortal world, to which you remain linked. On a similar topic, the Steward likely does expect you to speak with the Mother of Souls within your visit - do not feel any need to rush, but take care not to forget."   “I was not aware of that, but that was not our doing. That was the work of the Azsire. I glimpse his soul, unsurprisingly it was covered in ice. So his mastery of ice is not unexpected, but if it was pausing magic like you said and to see ice on his soul. Clearly A champion but it’s too… specific” Aniks went silent for a moment. Crossing his arms, putting a single curled finger to his lips, storing some thoughts in his head. He shook his head for a moment. “Sorry, too much information the past couple of days I haven’t had a chance to write everything down yet. Haven’t had time to think.” A smile came across his face “That’s interesting, but shouldn’t that be the same for most mortals? People are constantly changing, shaping the world and events around... ” Then the drow paused for a moment, shoulders dropping like some more tension was released. He honestly couldn’t really deny how odd *The simple Barkeep* had become. He couldn’t claim to be mortal, not after what he’s seen and done. “I… am the champion of Pharasma with a shattered and broken soul. The Irony is not lost on me there. Still unaware of how, but I think I know when. I’ve tried to steal a Shard when it’s being reforged by reaching into the Void. Which gave me this,” he flicked Silver on the hilt. “Traded away the Championship of Andirifkhu to another, Celuriel protected me from something but she never said what. With some mist from another world being around me or something like that. But I’m digressing, infinite tangles seems a bit much. Especially for one person, even if I get myself into trouble. In regards to my future and what I will be, whatever that might be. At this point I think asking for a normal life is out of the question. Still I assume I can’t ask what I will be, infinite tangles probably mean infinite outcomes. Or problems” He started walking slowly to the path Saloc showed him “Your welcome to follow if you have more questions. You’re much better at conversation than Skein and I find this enjoyable. It’s nice to know more Ushers. I didn’t meet all of you my last stay. As for my meeting with Pharasma, It might be a bit selfish and a bit childish but I don’t wish to spend that long here. I want to return to my plane, and spend time with Celuriel. Need to speak with Ypolita to make sure she is okay in this new world she found herself in. Family matters and figure out what to do with… the dragon egg” He had to resist touching the egg in his bag, if it was a psychic dragon esoteric dragon whatever it will be hatched. It would be really difficult to protect.   "A champion? I see you have a lot to learn still. You'll have your time to think, Champion, do not worry." Saloc was unnecessarily cheery about that. His cheerful tone maintained even through Aniks's interesting levels of self-introspection. "You were correct, by the way. Predictions are not in my portfolio, but I know the viduus scribing for your group. They haven't been so busy since the last large batch of your rank. You'll find a way to muddle through it all eventually - our Lady would not have chosen you if the choice didn't serve her well."   That could be a concerning sentence, considering Pharasma's most famous domain. Saloc seemed unbothered, if amused at Aniks's haste. "Time will work with you as long as the Mother of Souls wishes it. You have no need to hasten, but you should go to Her if that is your wish - I won't follow, it isn't my place to. Did you meet Vonymos last time you were here?" Bouncing from topic to topic seemed a skill of the usher's, if this were any indication. "The Mourning Storm is keeping an eye on your Celuriel and compatriots during your stay, and likely after. An interesting choice, don't you think?" The drow had paused turning back to the Usher, his foot hardly had been on the step for a second. “Not a champion, an Avatar’s chosen then. Clears up the affinity for ice. We were never given a proper name for the Galasthin Elves and their connection to that entity.” Fully turning now he sat down, both his elbows on his knees. He was going to finish at least some of this conversation before talking to Pharsama. “Before I continue on topics you’ve spoken of, we have failed to talk about my stance on neutrality since it peaked your interest. Especially since I will be talking to Pharasma at some point during my temporary stay. That aside, I have only met a single Usher I think in my last stay. The Mourning Storm was not one of them, which if I recall correctly that usher deals with the… nevermind. It is an interesting choice to say the least… As for the people they are watching, infinite tangles doesn’t that apply to the other Champions as well? With the ability to channel a god’s power. No matter how small it has to give a similar effect. I cannot be the only one with that problem. Which leads me to another question about former champions...” Say it Aniks easier to ask them than Pharasma. “Am I Pharasma's first champion?”   "Each Champion is as a storm to twist fate, you aren't wrong," Saloc admitted with an open shrug. "You are twice-marked and four times sought, which does complicate your presence, Champion. Their souls are not so confused, either."   All of the Usher's eyes blinked twice at the question. "Hmm. Our Lady has not told you? It is usually the realm of other gods to gift the mantle of Championship. She and her equal have each not Chosen in the permanent pasts. They have the right to step around the first agreement, after all. Does this... Ah, but I think you should ask these questions to Her. I have kept you overlong. Are you ready?"   Her Equal? Four times sought? Andirifkhu and Pharasma for sure. Aniks thought, two others, somewhere in his head he knew one of them without having to think about it. The last thought? Aniks was too tired to attempt to figure that out. For now. That question, his last question was. While Aniks couldn’t put it into words. He wanted to know, there was however a fear in finding out that answer. And he wasn’t sure what that answer meant, so he stood up. Giving the Usher a proper bow. “I … no, she has not told me about this. Saloc I thank you for your intervention earlier and our conversation. Perhaps next time I am in The Boneyard I will have a better chance to continue this conversation. I believe I am ready.” Something gave Aniks the impression that if Saloc could wear a smirk, there would be one on the demigod's bizarre features. The Usher nodded to him, eyes swivelling and blinking. "It's always a pleasure to speak with interesting mortals. Seek me in the Tumulus if you feel inclined to answer more of my questions when you next find your way here. For now, I wish you luck with what you would ask of our Lady." He indicated the stairway and the sleek doorway that stood at its top. There was no room for more words, at least not to Saloc, for when Aniks next blinked - his eyes reopened to an empty room.   "I'll keep that in mind." Aniks said to the room at large. However it was empty and he was alone. So he did the only logical thing and started walking up the stairs. So he could have a conversation with Death.   With the absence of both the Skein and the Usher, the Spire was oddly silent - a silence that seemed to press down on Aniks's lonely words and that chased his echoing footsteps up the stairs. The doors soon loomed above him, taller than ever necessary. A whisper on the edge of the silence: We're here. We're helping.   The pace of his stride didn't change. The Echoes being the only thing that accompanied him left the building feeling empty. For a moment that is. The whispers were new. Again he didn't stop, but he did look around mid walk in an attempt to find where it came from.   A giggle - childlike, if anything - caught the very edge of his consciousness. Nothing physical, nothing present - just a ripple of audio to accompany his walk. The halls remained empty to his eyes.   There was a sigh for a moment as he slowed his walk. Despite the Herald wellness to fight, Aniks did feel safe-ish. Now at least, and a laughing child wasn’t the creepiest thing he’d seen or heard in this spire. He pulled a bit on the soul domain of Pharasma to see if he was truly alone. ”Do you want something?” He asked.   A bright light flickered - dazzlingly bright - for.. maybe half a second before ducking out of his view. It was a female whisper, young and highpitched and very much childlike. Careful, careful! You'll hurt yourself, and our Mother wouldn't like it. I just want to watch you. Aren't you going to her?   Recovering from the temporary blindness, he rubbed his eyes. Not exactly what he expected, and after a moment of running through her words in his head at least twice. “I *am*...” Aniks blinked looking at an empty hall. The bright soul light had stopped him, but he continued walking. Slower this time. “Our mother? I was unaware I had a new sis. One I don’t know the name of?”   Another giggle, as a cold and small, painfully small compared to his, hand wriggled its way into his, its owner materialising with the contact. A child, no more than eight years old. Ashen skin, greyer than his own, with loose curls of white hair and matching white eyes that seemed alert with curiosity. Her dark dress trailed against the black marble. "I'm the last sister," she declared with a smile, her eyes flickering between Aniks and the door separating them from Pharasma. "You can call me Atropos if I can call you Aniks?"   “You can,” Aniks said, leaning down to be at similar heights to Atropos. She looked so much like her mother, far less intimidating than Pharasma by far. Still the similarities were noticeable. The drow gave the last sister a soft smile, “You know I am not your real brother Atropos, despite the similar hair color. Why do you think she is our mother?”   She beamed back at him, entirely amused at his question. "Silly. She chose you, so you can be my brother if I say so. And she's the Mother of Souls according to a lot of people, so she can be your mother that way too." The Usher's words were light and childish, but that didn't mean they weren't spoken by a being with endless experience. "Unless you don't wanna be the first chosen son~?   “Hmmm...” Aniks pondered for a moment looking at the small child. “One more sister couldn’t hurt, and I happened to like Pharasma.”   "We'll need to come up with a title for you!" Atropos said, continuing to keep up her bright smile. "Well, you've got Champion already, but that's not unique to you. Maybe we can ask Mother, since you're talking to her anyway. Oh, but do you have any ideas?"   “I’ve never really been good with naming on the spot. I can give it some thought though, I don’t think this needs to be done today does it?” The drow admitted sheepishly. He looked back to the door for a moment “Wait *we*? Are you going to join me while I talk to her?”   The girl considered his questions for approximately half a thought, then shrugged. "Not today, no! But it's nice to do things in a timely manner, so I'll think about it even if you're too busy with all the other things you have to do. We have... well, I can't just tell you how long." Her free hand tapped something glassy and invisible at her waist. "Long enough, of course, but anyway - do you want me to come with you? I don't have to~"   Aniks stood up looking down at Atropos “I guess some things are better if they are a surprise huh. You can come if you want, I have no issues with it.”   If the satisfied look on her face was anything to go by, that had been the answer Atropos wanted to hear. She squeezed Aniks's hand lightly. "No being needs to know when their end is, it'll just make them stressed," she said by way of explanation, and glanced away from him to peer at the door. "Of course I want to come. I don't know what Mother has to say to you and I know she's listening but I need to tell her that you're my brother now, too! Oh, but she wanted to speak to you, so you have to go first."   There was a small laugh which left him with a genuine smile. “Why am I not surprised she’s listening. Well I’ll see you in there sis.”   Atropos rolled her eyes. "Is this why the Steward thinks you hit your head? Seee me? I'm holding your hand, silly little brother, we can walk in together! She's just waiting for you to open the door~"   Aniks raised the hand in question “ Ah it’s been a long day, sorry.” So Aniks walked to the door, to open it with his new sibling.   The door, predictably, opened at his touch, soul-deep creaking echoing about the halls as it opened into Pharasma's throne room. A familiar place for Aniks, and one swelling with power even now. The Lady of Graves was evidently in attendance, but for once, there was no overpowering compulsion to kneel or look away. The goddess's presence threaded through the atmosphere just enough to bring the promise of Her power to the forefront of Aniks's mind, and lingered there. Lurking, not acting. Neutral. Was it that power that prickled against his neck, or the sensation of being watched by eyes unseen? The Lady of Mysteries sat atop her throne as usual, that much unchanged. A soft ticking emanated from somewhere behind her, though her attention was focused more on the Champion and his Usher companion than either it or the black rose that twisted in her hand. "I have decided to allow my Champion the opportunity to speak first," she said, expression inscrutable. "Speak what you will, Champion."   Walking a handful of steps into the throne room the champion closed his golden eyes for a moment. His breath cold and it entered his lungs and as he exhaled. Being watched wasn’t a new feeling, only moments ago he was being watched by the girl holding his hand. Still Pharasma, his goddess, was the only thing he needed to focus on, at this moment in time. “Thank you. There are many things I wish to ask. We have heard much but I fear we have learned little. When we set out on our journey to deal with these artifacts, these fragments, we knew nothing. Other than they needed to be dealt with. We understood they were dangerous but did not understand why. Never questioning why the Mother of Souls wanted them destroyed, the answer we thought was obvious at the time was disrupting the natural balance of souls. Which might have some truth in it, but certain revelations leave me questioning. Was there more to this. These fragments, I understand, are dangerous. We have seen what happens when they are left alone. We have yet to truly remove any one of them from the material plane. The Blade has consumed the Gem and is loose on the world, The Inheritor now battles the Unbroken March in a manner similar to Seren and Marvaeth. The Harp is stuck in a demiplane but easily retrievable. You told us off six but there might be an unaccounted seventh. So the first question I ask you, knowing I likely will not understand all the motives behind your reason is why? Why do you want to see these fragments destroyed?” Next to Aniks, Atropos drew in a sharp breath - and released a bubbly giggle, her free hand covering her mouth at the passive stare the noise earnt her. She looked up at Aniks. "Oh, you've got a lot to say!" The Lady of Graves didn't seemed perturbed either by Aniks's speech or by Atropos's interruption, instead taking her time to consider a response - one that would be measured out, word after careful word, when she had decided. "A full accounting is not within your measure to receive. To comprehend. You are mortal. There are limits on what your mind can hold." She held his gaze. Cold. Dispassionate. "You have learnt by the will of your earthly guardians the beginnings to this conflict. You are aware of what the shards were and the power they hold. You recognise similarities in the situations but you do not understand the difference." She paused to ensure he followed her train of thought, then continued without hesitation. "Whilst a force exists that will undo the bindings of fated existence, the fabric of the Material Plane risks its thread. This is the destruction I seek: elimination of this planar threat. Should the Inheritor claim victory, the March will be re-bound."   One thing at a time Aniks some of these are more important than others. Another breath, another statement. “The Unbroken March was the one shard that has technically been dealt with. At the cost of one of the weapons, I wonder if there is another way to deal with these shards without having to bind them to a god. I do not doubt Iomedae can handle this task, as well as the others. Still a fragment that has been re-bound serves what purpose? Stopping this force, this planar threat? I assume a connection between those shards and the threat you spoke of given you wanted us to destroy them. Yet I do not know what it is. Is it just some destructive force caused from leaving these shards unchecked on the material plane? Or is this something else or someone else behind that force and the shard are just some other piece of the puzzle. Could be neither.”   Atropos looked between her Mother and declared-brother with a look of patient understanding. This time, she didn't interrupt. "Each shard has been unbound from its rightful fate. From what should bind them." Pharasma treated each word as if it held infinite weight, her expression as intense as before. The ticking clock behind her echoed in her punctuation. "You learnt of six shards. You raised blades against six shades. You come before me, and you speak of seven." With the finality in that sentence, it seemed Pharasma deemed this an adequate answer. She turned her attentions elsewhere. "The shards must be destroyed or rebound. Fate requires power. Power lost in their undoing. Power that must not be reclaimed, but provided anew. You speak of the Harp." It wasn't a question. It did, however, require an answer.   “The seventh did that? Unbound them.” How? Aniks whispered more to himself than to Pharasma. He was still unsure if he could say that name, the seventh would work for now. “The forme… the current champion of Iomedae, Ypolita noted that she expected seven there. One ran away, as it always does. The Harp in its moment of ‘clarity’ explained that seventh was the reason for their transformation. Which included itself. While the information cannot be trusted at face value, I do not think it should be overlooked either. Especially if that were to be true, we run thin on options to deal with them. At most without any guidance two more, then were left searching for another way to destroy or rebind them.”   "The seventh has caused more trouble than you would ever understand. Freeing its influence granted the Harp clarity to answer you with the truths she knows." There was something odd in the goddess's tone, some dual-level of comprehension. She did not clarify. "Seeking an exact measure by which to destroy the shards has been a task left to the Champions for good reason. You have obtained the assistance of guardians best suited to learn and teach without risk, and in doing so expose them to your own mortal dangers." "And our immortal dangers," added Atropos, with a significant glance at Aniks. "Mortals like playing with the shards sometimes."   What topic next, when will she start asking questions? She likely heard most of what I said in the hall with Skein. Aniks thought, then.... “Twice in our trials of The Harp we saw or learned something only champions reacted to. The question and the shadow. Why was this the case?”   Pharasma raised an eyebrow. "You dart from topic to topic without diving deeper into nuance. You see only the surface with your eyes. This is why you struggle to find your truths." She looked away from Aniks for the first time, meeting Atropos's eyes for a flicker of a moment. The girl gripped Aniks's hand tighter when Pharasma looked back to him, inordinarily grim all of a sudden. "No deity should allow their chosen to be corrupted by a shard's reach. You receive our warnings and commands for the sake of your salvation. It was not Champions alone that felt the second instance, but the realm itself."   Aniks paused for a moment then sighed with a smile. Which despite the smile, Atropos likely felt his hand tighten slightly before relaxing. If he was going to ask now would be the time. “I am unsure of how much I am allowed to say. The Seventh’s name? The other side to the story of the Betrayers. The implications behind the question and what that means for the third brand of magic. Desna’s Champion was met with disapproval for lack of a better term when she began asking questions. So forgive me for being unsure, the topics I wish to question and dive deeper into might have certain restrictions. Am I allowed to speak freely in this throne room?”   "Nothing is restricted for a mortal to speak to his goddess, save that which he feels is unwise to suggest." Pharasma said coolly, her expression unmoving. "You stand within the heart of my palace, at the foot of my seat of power. At the precipice all souls find themselves. Foolish would be the one to question your right to speak." It... didn't sound like that message was meant for Aniks. Yet that feeling of being watched, that odd tingling - lessened. "Words have power. In this place that power means little. Upon the Material Plane, it could sway the balance from its precipice. Consider that as you speak, Champion of Souls."   Golden eyes rapidly darted around the throne room, empty save for the three he could see. Quickly dragging them back to his goddess, his eyebrows slightly furrowed at the first part. “I will remember that then. The question said a god gifted arcane magic to the world. Regardless if this was true or not, the way it was described by Iomedae’s Champion sounded completely different from the arcane magic we have today. Corrupting the world around it, something happened to it, changed it after the fact. At least I think so. While I would like to know why or what the change was, I am more concerned for the outcome of people or otherwise who display an affinity with this psychic magic. If history begins to repeat itself, and physic magic has this original corrupting nature similar to arcane magic from before the worldrend. I would like to assume the gods would not repeat that portion of history but that is a just assumption. I have hope in this matter given that psychic magic has been around longer than I originally thought. But only time will tell.”   Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. ... Tick. Tock. Tick.   Neither Pharasma nor Atropos cared to react to the skipped beat of the unseen clock as Aniks finished talking; the former's expression had not changed, whilst the latter was still standing firmly with her mother's champion (and her newest brother). "No single pantheon of deities wishes for the same outcome as another. The actions of the gods should not be assumed by mortalkind." Pharasma remained as cold as ever, even as she rested her hand atop the hourglass at her side. "Corruption is a word used in many ways. Magic is change. The magic of minds remains susceptible to influence from what your kind term the occult just as the magic of gods is tinged in divine will. You have lived long enough to see the fickle actions of mankind. What do you believe will occur at the rise of incomprehensible powers? It has already begun."   This time the drow’s head tilted, eyebrows furrowing at the ticking started again. What? In a moment. Aniks thought to himself. His eyes very much looked at the hourglass for a moment, after the ticking continued then back to the goddess who held it. “What I believe? Anything from scholarly study to systematic slaughter. Mankind is fickle and each person would react differently to such a power. Form groups of similar ideals about said power…” Aniks shook his head. “If that’s the case, then time very much will tell what mankind will do. I failed to ask this properly: was arcane magic a gift to mortals?” The clock stalled once more - a tock unheard amongst the ticking - as Aniks's question hung in the air. This time, Atropos tilted her head, giving her mother an inscrutable look. Pharasma gave no reaction to it, again, instead evaluating Aniks almost clinically. Her words were, as ever, considered and sharp. Doubtless she had already Seen how this would go. "A gift, a curse, a reward, and a punishment. Each individual from the lowest mortal to the highest deific power views it with their own interpretation, no matter their role. Many of these offerings are granted to mortals. Mortalkind did not start out with the gift of fire, nor did you claim feelings of hope or despair. Neither were gifts that shook the branches of creation. Changes to the fabric on levels almost unparalleled are rarer than you can conceive of, Champion, and bring with them challenges you cannot understand." Enough with the Arcane Magic questions Aniks thought, history will help but it won’t help immediately. Honestly he wasn’t completely sure where to go from here. He had questions, plenty of things he could ask. It’s what he should ask that was the problem. With the information overload, from the battle with the shades of former Gods, to Ypolita being removed from her place in time. Any question could be important, but would it help the other Champions. He had to change questions. “Some of the others have made it clear they want to restore the shards back to their former selves. Is that even possible, I don’t want them exhausting themselves, expending all their time and effort on finding something that might not even be possible given that gods themselves said it would take a miracle.” Then he paused, visibly confused. He had noticed it before but twice? “... Why does that keep happening, that hesitation in the clock?”   "The clock reflects the shudders of time." The goddess's words were spoken with heavy finality, but Atropos frowned. The child's whisper echoed inside Aniks's mind. "You're asking big questions. Fate needs to be Seen before some can have answers, and--" The mental communication dropped sharply with the shift of Pharasma's gaze from Aniks to her daughter. Atropos looked adequately chastened. "I shall speak more clearly, lest Atropos find the need to clarify." Pharasma continued, as if she hadn't been virtually interrupted. "A rebinding is needed prior to any redemption. I have spoken on the necessary power involved in this. If the intent is to maintain the shard, the power needed would not be the sole requirement. Danger lurks in their existence. That threat must also be nullified. Just as their destruction is a pathway you must walk without full guidance, so is the ideal of restoration. The consequences require forethought, if this is to be your path. Do not assume all are the same in their nature."   The Goddess's comment about time left him visibly confused, why was time shuddering? How is that even possible? Then he remembered magic was a thing, and was still confused. Solas said ‘time would work with you as long as the Mother of Souls wishes it.’ So what purpose does a stutter serve? Was it because he mentioned Arcane Magic? Then his golden eyes only looked at Atropos after she stopped speaking. Giving the child a small squeeze with his hand. Even if she was a god, he’d seen parents scold their children before. He had been one after all. “So we must find our answers in destruction and redemption elsewhere. If my companions do not choose the complete destruction of a shard. Then before any action we take they must be bound. Whether by borrowed power or another undiscovered method that much has to be done. Or the Material Plane will suffer the longer the shards remain unbound from their proper fate. Makes sense given their effects on ley lines, warping towards where the shard had taken root and the fact they can warp reality. How do *we* bind something like that though, you said we must have the help of these Guardians? Those are the people chosen by Avatars? To further help us understand how to bind or destroy the shard?”   "Make no assumptions of what I say, Champion. I do not order you to seek guidance." This time, Aniks had earnt the 'parental' rebuke. Pharasma still seemed neither pleased nor displeased. The eternal calm was likely a perk of deific power - and her lack of humanity. "Again, I provide clarity. Those chosen by, and those who are, and those who shall perhaps be. Those fallen, those enslaved, and those mortal lives touched by whispers. You have gained many allies and acquaintances in your quests. Some shall guide you where you wish. Others shall see you fall. The title of guardian is one to be claimed by many, most of all those earthly guardians that wish to interfere and aid you." She let Aniks think on that, smooth voice ringing out in the echoing marble chamber. Still empty, aside from them. Atropos returned Aniks's grasp in the same moment, her smile more fixed. The Afterlife's architect continued without warning. "Seeking aid is a forgone conclusion. It was upon your agreement that their moribund son sealed your unsteady prize. You would not succeed, now, without their aid. This decision was yours. Yours are the consequences. You must now answer to me. I will continue to allow your questioning. Do not avoid mine." She didn't wait for an agreement. "By what motive do you seek a method other than destruction?"   Aniks went silent, the question asked was one similar to that of the Herald. It took a moment for the drow to gather his thoughts on that matter. ‘His motives’ in the past two days the drow was forced to reexamine this quest. “I want to make sure we have every option available to us. As we will eventually run thin on options to deal with the shards. This task we have been set on is understandably more complicated than we originally thought it was. While I do not completely agree with some of my companions' desires to heal these broken and forgotten gods. I can understand why they would want to. But I will not stand by and let them spend an endless amount of time on healing *just* one, when others are still remaining in the world. The longer these Shards are left in Istralar the more dangerous they become, the harder they are to deal with.” Her Champion paused looking at his Goddess “Dealing with the Shards in a similar manner to how we have with the Unbroken March is the easiest path, but it is clearly not the only one we need to take. While I could have done similar to The Harp, but I was not willing to sacrifice my comrades in order to do so. The agreement we have with that other group was the best we could come up with. Given our circumstance at the time. I cannot tell what will happen because of it, I can not see the future. However destruction of the shard is a path I am *willing* to take, if it allows the best chance of success. However I cannot ignore any additional paths if they could deal with the shards in a proper manner.”   Pharasma nodded once. "Your reasoning is yet your own. Your sense remains comprehensible. Do not forget that the Shards each have influence of their own. Record your findings and justifications, Champion, and review them as you progress. I spoke before on this: no deity should allow their chosen to be corrupted. Learn avoidance before intervention is needed. You have already lost one ally. This is not a mistake you will repeat."   As before, she waited for him to process this before continuing. "You have yet to seek methods of sensing a Shard's influence, barring the Champion of two. I sense that you have much more to ask: do not include this in those questions. This is not something for you to ignore, but something for you to learn of by other guardians."   “That bard is already lost?” Aniks said, not that he’d expected otherwise. He willingly sacrificed himself to the Harp but...Right time passes differently in Boneyard. An hour in here could be seconds or days. It might not have been as instant as Aniks thought. Or it was, the Shards were former gods. He could check once he was finished with some of the tasks he needed to do back in the material plane. “After dealing with the Gem of Life I started recording my thoughts into a journal the night we returned from the Boneyard, and have been for a good while now. As for sensing the shards, I have met this Samsaran, Jinne, with a silver orb that reflected the world's ley lines. This gave me an idea on how we might track the shard’s influence on Istralar, but this will not help on a shard's effect on people. I will have to look into that more, and need to research ley lines as well...”   Then a thought formed in his mind, one that might be rather important in the future. “Is it possible for you to tell me *how* exactly we temporarily removed The Seventh’s influence from The Harp. Did we do anything specific we could replicate?”   "We have spoken about your assumptions, Champion," rebuked Pharasma, her gaze cool - the room's temperature dropping slightly as she spoke. "You record much - this, I have seen. What I do not see is the verification that all is as it should be. Study the past. Learn from it. You will not find the best resources on a world's veins in any book. Nor will you find many warnings of your encounters hiding outside your own." Atropos raised her free hand, waiting until she received a nod of approval to speak. She looked at Aniks. "You need to talk to the other gods, too. They have things they won't tell other gods, but you're different! Champions are different." "Atropos is not wrong. Seek the pathways that will give you knowledge. Regarding the seventh - you should recognise the answer to your own question. They must be broken of strength and will, as you have accomplished thrice. For each success, expect the next to be more of a trial. This foe is not unintelligent."   The drow nodded at the two goddesses as they spoke, listening carefully to the two of them. He’d have to take advantage of something Pharasma had told him for his last question. His next questions were not about the shards. They were about *her* specifically “I doubt you would find my next questions surprising. In various ways Ypolita, Saloc, and even from your daughter, I learned you have not chosen a champion before. When I asked The Minder about being your first champion he had said something interesting to me. I believe it was... ‘It is usually the realm of other gods to gift the mantle of Championship. She and her equal have each not Chosen in permanent pasts, They have the right to step around the first agreement, after all.’ I am unaware of somebody who is your equal or what this first agreement is? Which other gods seem to be bound by, but not you or this other? What I should have asked back then was why you had chosen a champion *now* not why I was chosen.”       "The Minder speaks to you of deific business. You would not be the first mortal to hear of it, thus he deemed it fair to speak of. This is not a question you have need of me to answer: the annals of your own histories will hold the answer. Atropos." Pharasma gestured for her daughter to answer, eliciting a small smile from the girl in question. She turned to Aniks, rocking back on her heels. "When mortals were still young on their worlds, it was really common for gods to touch the worlds themselves. We directly interacted with mortals, we manifested ourselves, we created miracles and disasters - we changed whatever we wanted. And mortals loved it, mostly. Their prayers could be answered directly, if they were dire enough." Atropos spoke quickly, with all the airs of someone reciting from tales of eld, rather than with the emotion someone who'd lived the experience. Not that she hadn't. "But... you know what gods are like, a little. Some couldn't hold back. Some destroyed whole worlds, or gave their favoured species unfair dominance. Some punished too much, others granted too much. It wasn't really chaos, because the gods of law wouldn't let it be, but the gods of chaos wouldn't let it be law, either. And caught in that mess, mortals had so little will. It broke into a divine war, and that fell into a binding agreement. We would never interfere like that again." Atropos looked solemn enough whilst speaking that, but any lasting solemnity vanished immediately as she grinned at Aniks. "There're exceptions, and a lot of terms, but that's all the complicated stuff. The big exception you care about is Mother. She's got to be able to intervene directly sometimes. Death doesn't have limits. And... it's the same with Time, isn't it?" Tock. Pharasma raised her hand. Atropos fell silent, though certainly didn't stop smiling. The elder goddess remained as passive as ever. "By making a choice, I right an imbalance. By making a choice, I state my position. Your task is one beyond the axes others focus on. My choice enforces that amongst mortals and the divine, and prevents your fate from being seized. You continue to seek to understand motives that stretch beyond your capability of knowing. Take care with your words, Champion."   Time? Pharasma has been spoke with Time itself? Aniks looked at the small goddess. Aniks’s curiosity had gotten a question to slip through. Though it was more of a string of thoughts he had than question. “Your right… Wait, are they a god? Or Time itself personified?”   Then Aniks straightened looking back at Pharasma herself. If anybody would know his last question she would. Still there was a bit of hiestation, he’d gotten quite good at avoiding “ “ or finding work arounds to thinking about… what it was.   “Before my final question, I must apologize for interrupting any conversation you were having with Pharasma prior to my arrival. I thank you for being patient with me. This question is more of a personal matter, and it’s the reason why it’s last. I have struggled to speak about this topic, or even think about it. So I now must take advantage of the fact we are in your throne room and may speak freely, My Lady. There is a haze across my memory, not caused by Celuriel when she was a Vetala. It happened when I had met the Lost Ones for the first time. Something, Someone came into my life. My soul sundered, my memories hazed and I was removed from reality according to them. Despite having some vague memories of being with them, I have no memory of being removed. I would hazard a guess all three are connected and happened when I disappeared the first time. It had stopped A demon lord from claiming me as her champion. And has tried to stop any mention of its existence. I know I could channel on your powers to attempt to remember exactly what happened but I worry about the outcome. I wish to know who or what that entity is, why my memory is fragmented, and how my soul broke if that is the case.”   His eyebrows are furrowed, Aniks wanted to know this. Even if the information hurt him to know. His grip tightened slightly as he had asked. Aniks had cast a stone across dark unknown waters, completely unsure of how Death would answer.   Atropos chimed in first, granting the elder goddess time to consider her response to the needy mortal by answering about time. There may have been some irony there. "Time is! There are some deities who come from beyond this universe-- and sometimes beyond all creation? And time is one of those, in a way. That deity - that manifestation, since it's both and such - it's... not really one you want to think about, or draw attention to? We've kept most information on those away from your plane for a reason: don't try to learn more about the elder ones. Don't look for more on Yog-Sothoth. It's not safe, even for you."   The words rang into a stifling silence, into which not even the clock tolled. Pharasma's voice cut through the silence as a scythe, sharp and measured. "If you were a true deity, full many of these answers would hold greater learning for you. You stand here with the beginnings of power, granted to you by powers you know not, and wield an infant's understanding of what you ask. Like the children of your kind, you do not comprehend the danger you risk in the asking. Your memories hide to protect you from their knowledge. Atropos speaks of elder deities: it is their most powerful that could provide understanding. And yet you have your own tasks and mission. I will not see the whispers of Time take my Champion from his task. Know that you will know your answer. In time. It is Written. So long as no act can see Fate break that thread."   *His question would be answered*. Eventually, the amount of relief that gave him was good though the concern did not leave. Just lessened for now. The Drow thought that might be the answer, and expected the bit about his memory. As usual, when talking with the oldest being in existence, he was left with more questions than he began with. The wording of her reply to his last question toyed with his mind. This time he had answers and some direction for his quest. Then there was the third unseen entity in her throne, and how could even process that? An Outer God? He had a book about cults and had vague memories of that name Yog-Sothoth. He’d only looked at the book once but that name was mentioned. Her Equal. That was information, but he wasn’t sure what to do with that. Instead, he’d listen to both goddesses, as Elder Gods were not beings he’d *want* to know about. “Thank you, My Lady. I am grateful for what you have answered, and I will not forget the task you have set for us. ” Aniks said with the addition of a respectful bow to the Goddess. “If I may, I would like to rest now.” The Drow waited to be dismissed, still holding the tiny goddess's hand.   "You will listen once more, Champion." Still watching him, still holding true that eternal neutrality: Pharasma did not seem to care for his exhaustion, nor for her daughter's curiosity. "The goddess Desna seeks audience with her champion. Speak with the girl once it is done. You will earn much knowledge for when next you set foot in this hall. Atropos. I shall allow this decision to pass until my Champion returns. Do not forget this, Champion."   Atropos looked equal parts happy and uneasy, glancing between her mother and Aniks as if she were on the verge of saying something; a simple look from her mother seemed to push her into staying silent. She squeezed the Champion's hand, and took a step back.   Pharasma nodded once, resolute, and spoke with finality into the oppressive silence. "Go, Champion. Return to your partner, and return again to your task. Do not return until you have acted or learnt."  

Journal #67: The Nature of the Shards

It’s the last night we are spending in Rod of Security, and we have learned too much for me not to write something down. Our second night within the small island to be exact. Instead of spending that last night in a bed in that comfy inn on the island. We decided to spend it under the stars in a hammock. Mostly because of the previous night Kraia and Phaiyah had a rather loud and whip-cracking night. While my time in Castle Umbra has left me rather numb to those sounds, I covered Celuriel’s ear as she was not. Tonight however it is just the sounds of the ocean and the wind. She’s just reading now, luckily this is a two-person hammock otherwise writing would be difficult.   While we have learned of a sliver of the shard’s natures. With all things, it seems like we need a lesson in history. As the implication of what the shards might be is a terrible thing indeed. If the information is to be believed, my idea of using weapons of the sources would hold little value in dealing with them. While it would be an interesting thought experiment, I doubt it would be helpful regarding the shards. For obvious reasons, I cannot go into detail on what the shards might be. Far too dangerous to have information like that in a book. Despite my keeping, this and my previous book in a more secure location, not to mention I am not completely sure I could write what they are.   I’ll have to ask Pharasma, as our education via the shard is...   Well, one might say heretical.   It seems despite my want for that history lesson. It might be a bit harder to find that information. Let alone ask those questions unless they were done properly worded. However, it would be wise to remember to not trust the information given or shown to us here. It feels stupid that in words, paper, or mind, none of these are truly safe. As I share my thoughts with Silver among other things. I have taken up thought without thinking, it is rather difficult. Different than recollection but helpful for moments when I am looking at something. I do not think it would be wise to write anything on their nature, given Azsire has been wandering around invisible.   I do owe somebody an apology, I might have been slightly more hesitant if I had at least the information we had today. What is that human saying hindsight is twenty, twenty? Still if given the choice again I would have made the same choice.   Avoiding these topics, for now, I cannot say much was done here. Besides general conversation about what our goals were. I had spoken to Jinne as she seemed a bit sad. What I had failed to mention was when we dealt with the undead. They had silver orbs on them, the symbol of dreamers. We had been finding dreamers asleep throughout this castle's trial. Their corpses were the furthest we had seen any dreamers during the trial. We spoke of somethings the Dreamers and their logic but it devolved storytelling. While Jinne might be my friend, I am worried about her connection with Sonja and the others. As well as the Dreamers goals, especially if my dreamer had been connected to somebody else.   I am concerned.   Weirdly enough through some sorcery, Ashlyn had arrived, blinding me in the process. Because of course, the paladin with all her radiant energy shows up in a ball of light. She had messaged my beforehand but it had not seemed possible for her to come by book. A combination of Leise and Cyne I think. Mery’s going to be pissed. It’s good to see her again, she’s honestly one of three people I can openly trust.   It came to my attention as Ashlyn started introducing herself to the new members of our party and the other group. That Celuriel might like Ashlyn more than I had originally thought. As Celu tugged on my shoulder asking if we should tell her about our engagement? Something she had not asked when we spoke to the other. It hadn’t even come up with them. Hence I was taken aback and was happy that Celu cared enough to want to tell her.   The only other thing of note was our discussion on what to do with the shard or our plan for attack and such. Redemption of the shard, turning it to good, and all that no sense. Destruction of the shard, how to contain it. Azsire demiplane was the only answer we could come up with. I do not trust that elf, especially since he’s made himself too important. Too necessary. People like that cause issues. Add on top of the fact he is not completely trusted by that group either and well it should be obvious what I think about Azsire’s role in this. He does have a strange connection with Syrin, they never seem to be that far apart.   Celu told me we need to go inside, she saw Kraia and Phaiyah walking near us. At least we will be getting some sleep tonight, we’re going to need it.

Journal #66: A Friend and A Story

Aniks, having told at least Celuriel, was going to try and speak with Jinne for a bit. She was welcomed to join or she could just continue doing whatever she wanted. Regardless of her choice, Aniks found himself with some fruit in hand wandering around this island until he spotted the Samsaran. Sitting alone watching the ocean or what past for the ocean in this plane. Still, Aniks had more than one reason for wanting to check on Jinne. He made no attempt to hide his approach, he still wasn't very loud when he moved. "You doing alright Jinne?"   The samsaran didn't flinch at the question, instead of glancing over her shoulder and gesturing for him to sit. Despite her posture - knees hugged to chest, bare feet digging into the white sands - she could still offer him a saddened smile. "It is easier to be finding the comfort necessary in a place like home," she murmured, turning her eyes back to the seemingly endless sea. "Thank you for concern. No, not yet. I will find peace through time as their souls find rest."   “Right you’re an Islander, this place is quite nice.” He paused watching the azure waves crash across the shore. For a moment he followed her gaze when was the last time he had been to the ocean and just relaxed? Port Amarin didn’t really count, nor did the black sand river in the boneyard. The Drow sat down in the sand, arms resting on his knees. Offering one of the small oranges he found in island’s inn to her.“I hope you don’t mind the company for a little bit, I thought you might need to talk to somebody.”   "I do not mind. I would be hidden by the leaves if I wanted to find silence." Jinne smiled faintly, again turning her attention to the drow to gratefully accept the orange he'd acquired. "Thank you, for both. Syrin was asking similar, but his mind is too busy. I will not make worse that situation. My choice has done too much already."   The smell of citrus mixed into the air and was soon overpowered by the ocean in front of them. He placed the handful of oranges he had in between them, in case Jinne wanted more. The sounds of waves crashing replace the silence would have been there. “That journal, I would have given it back if we had to trade. It was much fancier than the ones I carry.”   Citrus, sea salt, crashing waves, and warm sunlight: this at least felt peaceful. "Do not be thinking that it is more special because it is prettier," Jinne gently chastised. "It was a collection of many Dreamer stories, told and written. They dream, and I keep them close... but they do not need to be in ink to be precious memories, yes? What is in the journals you keep? I do not remember if we talked much about ink and paper last time."   “Well, when we spoke of giving things up we assumed they would have to be important. So for you to give it up, I thought it would be special for a different reason.” Aniks said pealing apart another orange slice to pop in his mouth. Then with interest in his voice “That would have been interesting to read if I had the chance. But they don’t need ink to be special if you think of them as precious then they are. As for my journal, it is just a record of my travels with this group, as well as some thoughts. Which wasn’t something we spoke about. That conversation was of faith, my interest in The Dreamers, and how they work as well as other things.” Jinne listened with a smile, pushing her feet forwards in the sand to let her hands lay in her lap instead of clutching at her knees. "They are precious memories. I can tell you about them, maybe, but that is not a today's topic, is it? I would like to hear more journeying stories from you, too. Those are precious tales to you, yes? ...You kept the orbs, too. They are also precious, but also linked to our ways. Are you still being curious, then?"   “Once we’ve probably dealt with the shard, then we can exchange stories. As for my stories, well some of them are more precious than others, but I can tell you some of them.” Aniks was paying attention to the ocean again, finishing the small orange he had been working on. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t curious about The Dreamers and how they work. We strayed from that topic quite a bit last time we talked.”   "That is because there are many things to be talking of," Jinne said simply, rolling one of the oranges between blue palms. The contrast was odd. "It would be nice to hear the stories of yours. Maybe with your partner? She has seemed shy... but this is to be wandering again. There are many things to be said about the Way and its dreamers. What are you wanting to hear?" “Celuriel is… well it depends on if she likes you or not. Besides she likes stories so I could see her listening to us for a while.” Which wasn’t untrue, Aniks had certainly bought a fair amount of books while in the boneyard. The drow reached for another orange, placing the whole peel of the last one in a separate pile. Then he thought about some of the questions wrapped in his head, some simple others complex. “You explained that in dreams you had the best chance to find this true magic? But you never explained how or why that is?”   "I hope she would be a friend. You smile when you talk of her, in mouth and eyes. It is nice to see, and I would like to know the girl behind it." Jinne wasn't one for mincing words. "So, when you are dreaming, your mind is wandering through this world of your creation. It is a magic all its own, yes? Because the Dimension of Dreams contains many infinite demiplanes to be sharing what you create like it is real. A magic you have can be affecting some of reality. This is not a magic given by a god, and it is not arcane either. Or psychic," she added as an afterthought, glancing back to the inn far behind (and above!) them. "If we can be using that, especially when our minds are already wandering, we can find little... doors, yes? Ways to step to new paths that take minds on adventures. Some of these paths are leading you steps closer to the magic and understanding, but there is always barrier. Unless other magic is used, yes? Then the dreams are more vibrant and the magic stronger than one barrier... I am sorry, this is much remembering and talking."   Aniks had been smiling and hadn’t noticed. It made sense that thinking of his fiancee would make him smile. The idea of Jinne wanting to meet Celuriel was funny to him. As Aniks knew Jinne’s idea of his partner, wasn’t going to match up to the actual Celu. The drow knitted his fingers together placing his chin on top of them. Listening as if she was teaching a lesson. “That be interesting, you’re always welcome to meet her. As for the dreams, that’s pretty close to how I thought it worked. It’s essentially lucid dreaming. So the more clear or vibrant a dream is the closer you are to that magic because the mind creates easy paths to follow, but something stops you. Maybe because of the nature of dreams, one could handle and understand more making it easier to touch that magic, but not wield it. For example, a human child can fly as easily as breathing in a dream, because they understand how it works in the dream. But can’t when they are awake or something like that.”   "You are understanding very easily the essential theory, yes!" She was genuinely pleased at this, granting him a bright smile. "It is also important to know about things that can interfere with dreams, because they could be the ones making the barriers if they are not self-made - sometimes, we can find out even who made them. Desna is special with dreams, you know? She leaves a mark where she touches them, and it burns with her power. But when you can see the paths of that power, it is like... it has colour, and it has flow. Flow that is not just hers, flow that is in all magic. In dreams and in life." Jinne drew an image in the sand as she spoke - a doorway leading to a barrier made up of a swirl, with one strand of its waves leading off into the sea. "And I would like to talk with Celuriel properly. Maybe she will no longer gift me with glares..?"   “Hopefully, Celuriel’s rather protective of me... huh I think she’s making a sandcastle right now,” He leaned forward gesturing to a spot not too far down the beach where Celuriel was. Ironically it was because of her mention of Celuriel and the drawing that made him remembered something. But he was going to finish his thought before mentioning it. “If they are self-made, then they can change and have possibly have many different personal barriers. Also, Is it a good thing for Desna to be involved with those dreams? I guess what I mean to say is she often the causes of barriers for Dreamers” Then paused for a moment pointing to the drawing his eyebrows furrowed a bit. “I’ve seen that before. Or similar to that at least. I think it was because of that card the Dreamers gave me.”   "Desna is a goddess, yes? It is not a good or bad thing for her to be there, it is just... a thing that is. Her barriers are many times to heal and to help, so they have goodness within them. To walk the Way is not to dislike the gods, not for the most of us." Jinne looked pensive at his mention of a dream, watching his reaction with curiosity. "When, if you have mind to say? I am glad for you to have seen, and also surprised that Celuriel is using the knives to be making her fortress." She'd taken a moment to glance up when Aniks indicated his elf.   When? Not what I saw? If she wanted to know exactly what I saw she would have mentioned it. So why when? Anik thought however he was smiling. “Celuriel’s very fond of her knives, if she had one that wouldn’t damage books. She’d probably use one as a bookmark.” He remembered having the dream, but not exactly when. So he thought, watching his elf across the beach shape a tower carefully. “When? That had to be around the time we went to the Celesthem Temple. So two-ish years ago I think, not including the time stolen from us.”   "Could you not be finding a knife made of paper for her?" Jinne wondered, on the topic of Celuriel, before wandering verbally back over to the more important of the two topics. "At the temple of.. that is the Aletheian temple, yes? Maybe so much magic made it easier to wander into the Way's gifts, or maybe a Dreamer was present...? It is possible to have magic 'leak', especially if much power is involved - maybe their dreams and yours were close in the Dimension?"   "Or a really thin sheet of metal shaped like a dagger, with flat edges of course." Aniks remarked picking up a third orange. Then thought about it for a moment, another dreamer? "That's the place. But it was sheer coincidence that I was there when I had that dream. So I'm not sure how much those other things might have affected it. I'm no expert on the topic. I can't recall having another dream quite like that one."   "Metal can be damaging books... it is maybe not the best choice. Maybe I am having, um, bias? I have had a book broken by metal recently because I did not see where I was walking, and did not See the consequence." Jinne looked up at the thought, seeing if she could see any sign of her friends on the cliffs and sighing when nothing came to view. Her fingernails tugged at the remnants of orange peel she'd been playing with - at least it smelt nice, even mingled with salt. "Are you sure it is coincidence, and not fate? Aletheia has many dreamers, because they are welcomed there.. it is not so harsh a country, yes? Sonja misses being there." A slight frown pulls at her brow. "If there are dreamers at that temple.. I think she would have knowledge of them? She is very smart. Oh! I do not wish to pry into the privacy, but maybe there is a hint in the dream you had? It is something you should think on maybe."   Given the state of his first journal, he was inclined to agree. It had been worned over the past two years. He cared about how his books looked. "You might be right with the paper-knife then. I hope that metal it didn't damage the book too bad. As or whether the dream was the product of coincidence or fate who knows. But the dream wasn't really anything special. Silvery haze, blindingly white pendulum that swung behind me on a endless path I was running on." However when she looked back for her friends he continued with "Want to check up on them?"   "A pendulum? Time, running.. running out? White is many things - maybe it is death, but maybe it is light, or safety, or... The haze, it is magic, and the endless path - a journey?" Jinne's thoughts seemed to be racing ahead of her words, if the scattered interpretation was anything to go by. She caught herself after a moment, shaking her head. "I am sorry, it is often my task to lead interpretation if it is wished for. I do not know if the others would be wanting interruption at the moment. Sonja, she is the only one I am very familiar with, and she was needing to research some pieces. The others, Zelas is kind but needing the space..." She trailed off before touching on the others. They didn't seem to be as close with her. "We could visit your Celuriel and her castle, if you would like to move on from silent beach?"   The drow collected the remaining oranges and the discarded peels. Then stood with a stretch dusting himself off, but given the nature of sand he wouldn’t get all of it. “Perhaps in time I’ll figure it out. However I really haven’t had a dream similar to that in a year or two, or how for that matter. And you don’t have to apologize Jinne, you did nothing wrong. Well if they need space, then I guess I need to properly introduce you to Celuriel.”   The ebony elf walked the length of the white sand beach. Then stopped at a spot near Celu, examining her work on the rather impressive castle. A low whistle of approval escapes the drow “that’s really good celu.”   Jinne stood, too, her cloak tumbling down her back in its newly-ragged length, and she followed Aniks barefoot along the pale beach. "There is maybe chance that you could, if you were searching to have another," she mused as they walked - but fell silent when they reached Celuriel and her castle. The dark-haired elf didn't spare her a glance, instead slowly blinking at Aniks's compliment.   "it is not as tall as it should be yet. the tower fell onto the courtyard." She gestured to a pile of 'rubble'. A pair of feet had been moulded at its edge. "...onto the rats."   “Shame nobody will miss them.” His smile was mischievous as Celuriel mentioned rats, and was still a bit cautious about attempting to help. He didn’t want to ruin her hard work. So Aniks sat near her, so she could easily continue to work. Leaving the small oranges next to him, and after a moment he pulled out two different knives. So she could have more tools to shape her castle. “Celuriel, there is somebody who wants to meet you. This is Jinne, she’s a friend.” Celuriel didn't hesitate in stealing the knives from him before anything else, testing their edge on a scrap of blue fabric sitting in her pocket and making a "hmm" of content when they cut smoothly. Jinne watched politely, sitting opposite the couple carefully - didn't want the castle to shift with her movement.   "we met her in the shard before. why are you friends?" Well, Celuriel had never been anything but blunt. Jinne seemed taken aback by Celuriel needing to ask that.   "We have talked much about much, including his smiles for you," the samsaran offered, gifting Celuriel with the serene smile she usually wore. "You are a sailor..?"   Celuriel looked down at her coat and back up to Jinne, expression slightly puzzled. "no." She looked to Aniks. Jinne blinked, and did the same.   “Celuriel has a style she likes to wear. It’s just more common to see it among people who live near or work on the sea.” Aniks said with a simple shrug, as well as giving an explanation for Celu’s puzzled look. “As for your question, I’m friends with her because we’ve spoken before. I haven’t known her too long, but I’ve had interesting conversations with Jinne that I have enjoyed. It doesn’t take much to make or have friends. You and Mrtyu were friends.”   "Mrtyu?" Jinne breathed, her smile growing ever so slightly. "You have met with Death's Consort?"   "yes." Celu was confused by the bluenette's smiling, so she kept her focus on Aniks. "we are friends because we love idiots and the garden was pretty. and because we talked a lot.” Jinne didn't really seem to know how to handle this.. coldness, shying back. "Maybe you could tell of the garden..?" she suggested. Celuriel frowned.   "it's a big garden. there are flowers and trees. dead people live there, but I can't see them most of the time. it is pretty?"   "Our lore - samsaran lore, not anything of the Dreamers - says that the first samsarans were born from the flowers of that garden," Jinne murmured, looking at her hands. "I have never seen it in memory or Seeings, so I am happy others are able to."   “Celu, are you just building a random sandcastle, or do you have a design in mind I could help with?” Aniks asked, but he thought something else as he spoke. Did she just… well that was bold of her. Still he found Celuriel’s words filling him with an odd amount of pride. Glad to know he wasn’t the only person with odd feelings for the gods. However that aside this introduction was going about as well as he expected. So he turned to Samsaran, “we’ve met a fair few people, and seen some places. As have you Jinne, and it’s interesting to hear of how Samsarans were created. As I told you last time, I was not overly familiar with Samsarans in general. Oh right I nearly forgot, you wanted to hear a story or two. Was that something you wanted to hear now? Or after we dealt with the shard? But if not now, if you have questions you can ask those instead.”   Celuriel looked at her castle for a long moment to figure out the answer to Aniks's question, then shrugged. "it is a castle. its design is castle. you can help. you have probably been to more castles than me." She offered him one of the knives, and a wooden spade.   Jinne smiled at the little interaction before focusing on what Aniks had said to her - she was clearly intrigued by Celuriel's odd mannerisms, even stranger than her own. "Oh! If you are finding the want to share, I would welcome much storytelling. We have time before the dreams should take us still, and the skies of our minds are clear and unmuddied by the shard at the moment - it would be a good time, if Celuriel is also feeling like listening? Or telling." Said girl didn't expect to be consulted. The only sign of that surprise is the way her blade slid into a near-perfect wall when she didn't want it to; she glared at it.   "...what are you telling?" she asks Aniks, indirectly answering Jinne's question.   With knife and spade in hand, he began removing the toppled tower that tragically fell on a rat. No point in leaving a fallen tower down, less room to expand the castle. So Aniks worked on fixing that tower before anything else. A part of his mind questioned where she got the wooden spade but his mind quickly filed that away under ‘Celu’s weird knack for finding things.’ “Well… it wouldn’t make sense for me to retell a story you’ve heard before Celu. So something you haven’t heard. Hmmm, well huh I could tell you about the time my father disappeared. It’s not a sad story, it’s just something that happened. Or what I can remember of it, I was rather young. That was nearly a century ago, so you might have to excuse some gaps in memory. As I hardly could speak any more than Undercommon and Elven.”   Aniks took a moment to understand how Celuriel used the knife to shape the castle. In his head he sorta understood to some extent how it was done. The drow still looked as Celuriel sculpted, as he scraped together what was probably one of his earliest memories.   “It's not even a particularly odd drow tale, I assume it's a rather common one really. Betrayal. It happens even at a young age to any drow, but I was never really sure why my father Alaran betrayed us. My Mother always said he was going to try and kill my older sister and I. In his attempt to escape from my house by having attention drawn to the two dead noble children or use us as hostages to then kill. She used it as a lesson to teach us never to let our guard down even if we had to sleep. Good way to get a child to sleep with a knife under their pillow, and to check every corner of their room. In fear of assassins and killers, a good lesson to learn for any young drow noble. Glad I grew out of one of those habits at least.”   “In light of more recent events, I’m not so sure anymore. See I never knew my father, not really. To be frank, he never seemed to be a drow that worshipped Demonlords. Weapons seemed to be his religion. Sure he was my mother's personal guard but not by choice of course. The Man was a skilled swordsman that nearly rivaled Vasindra. If not for her skill in magic making that gap so wide, part of me wonders if he had a chance at all. I never really thought about him too much after it happened, I wasn’t upset about it or angry at him. When I was younger, the betrayal made sense. Besides that particular night when he escaped, it would have been pretty easy to kill us. We were exhausted from a day of training, so I hadn’t even woken when he entered my room. Showing that in some regard he could be stealthy for a swordsman. Then again it’s not hard to sneak up on an exhausted child fast asleep.”   “In fact I didn’t really wake up till we were outside my sisters room. So silent as he crept around, nearly getting the chance to pick her up as well. That’s about when my mother got wise to whatever he was planning. Whether a guard tipped her off or bad luck on his part I couldn’t tell you. A very sleepy Nivinle basically demanded one of the guards tell her what was happening as they stormed into her room, she wasn’t as stoic back then. She was just a child after all. At this point, my tired child self attempted to get out of my Father's arms. In fact, if I was some hostage. Alaran never showed it. Or held a blade to my body which should have told me something. Some of the guards and my mother made it very clear they would stop my father from doing...” Aniks made some gesture in that air “whatever he was going to do. He fought stupidly well while holding me. All while attempting to find an exit. I was scared, it was a pure fear only a child could have. Knowing I should be scary, but barely understanding why. I couldn’t tell you if I cried but I can’t really remember the fight. My father was cursing at the other drow guards in another language and I am embarrassed to say I don’t remember which one. I have hazy memories of the words but it could have been common or gnome for all I know. It’s been years since I thought about that night.”   “When my mother entered the fight, everything changed. Normally when those two fight, from what I recall Vasindra never really aimed to kill my father. This was an exception, he had crossed some line. While they were our parents, we were Her children. I don’t think she took too kindly to Alaran attempting to take or kill us. Which really allowed my mother to let loose one him. And she was terrifying, she ripped me from my father's grips. While she had ‘some’ concern for her son. I doubt if she hadn’t taken me from his grip so quickly, she would have fought with little care for my safety. Back then I always thought my father was using me as a shield in that fight. It would have made a perfect way to escape, especially if he got his hands on Nivinle as well.”   “My mother tore into him, there were no words to this fight, their last fight. When I finally got behind the guards after I was tossed, which ushered Nivinle and I off for protection. We looked behind through the guards legs, our childlike minds unable to really understand why our parents were fighting at the time. I remember the hall shaking as my mother casted spells. I could feel it in my bones as she raised a hand. Letting loose howling wind that cut the stone walls as easily as blades through flesh. Flinging Alaran back into the glass window, hearing the glass crack. She was near him in a second, the poor man hardly could stand after that as she raised a blade intending to kill him. Instead of blocking a blade he chose another path, letting her blade take his arm that held his balde. His other arm shattered the window. That’s how he escaped, while he lost his sword and an arm, it was just enough of a chance to let him leave. Escaping into the underdark to who knows where. Leaping out should have been his death. He wasn’t a caster, or somebody with the natural abilities to help him with this. The last thing we saw was our mother cursing in abyssal, flinging some spells at her target hoping to kill.”   “They never found a body, and there was no real blood trail to follow. How much of that is true I am not sure. When Nivinle and I snuck out to see if our father left a trail of blood the next morning we found nothing. Just broken glass that was too small to be cleaned. He could still be out there, in his old age for all I know. My Mother, while annoyed at this, would have made mention if she had killed him. As a lesson to teach us, but she didn’t. We had questions sure we were curious kids, but learned not to ask them quickly. Still given that night, I’m not sure what was going through his head. But I don’t think he was trying to kill us. This wasn’t some happy story, it was just on my mind recently. Mostly because I found out I have another older half sister. A girl named Daeris. She went on some quest to find her parents which led her to the information she wanted, but never found them. She found siblings instead. When we talked, she gave me some brief details on what happened to her parents. Apparently my house took our Father from some drow sorceress. As she disappeared by some spell to who knows where. Part of me wonders if after all this time he just wanted to get back to her? Or just escape. Maybe he wanted to take us with him. But that's just a story, not even a long one. It’s kinda weird thinking about my parents again. How little of my life they were actually in it.”

Journal #65: Clash of Ideals

Moments are so quick, but some can last far longer in memory and leave a far longer impression. While it was not the proper place for asking. I asked for Celuriel’s hand in marriage. That moment is something I will treasure, as seeing that smile was worth it. Our conversation that night aside, I still had to promise her that one day we'll have a proper wedding. A real wedding for us would only cause too many issues with her sister around. Once we deal with this shard and settle down for more than a week, finding a church to actually wed us will be on the top of my list of things to go.   One of these days, we are going to be able to sleep in. That being said, The Lost Ones and co eventually stumbled out from their rooms. Celuriel and I commandeered the couch and our breakfast was a simple fruit. While others spoke on small things, Burdyr in his new ginger young look cooked for the rest. Some fried dwarven dishes. Was not altogether interested in what he was cooking. Eventually, he took notice of Celuriel’s knife plucking it from the door frame. While I swear I cleaned up last night, I am honestly surprised I missed the knife in the door. The ginger dwarf correctly assumed the knife was Celu’s. Which the dwarf gave it back to her. Making some not so subtle reference to the two of us keeping him up last into the night. It is still weird seeing him so young. Mentally speaking he is the same grumpy dwarf, psychically speaking however Burdyr is just younger. Apparently, this was his physical prime...   While breakfast lasted as long as it usually did with this group, and we eventually gathered our things. There is no clear indication of where we would leave this timeless demiplane. We just had to leave, take the same door we enter from to leave. Nothing overall that special about it. So we proceeded back into the five stages. Into a nearly empty room.   The fourth stage would be depression and the room I found myself alone very much fit that stage. The room was pitch black, so dark that the edge and borders were none existent. Besides myself, the only other thing was a mirror. Just my luck.   Across the trim of the mirror, a command was written. “Let your voice give sound to the thoughts that haunt you. Let your words set free your mind of burden.”   Ludrissiel, the divine lich. That is Celuriel's only sister. I do not think I need to explain much as to why she plagues my mind. The memories Celu has shared, the nymph with the broken soul, with millennia worth of trauma she has dealt with Celuirel. It is not something that I can ignore for long, in the grand scheme of things. What little I have a glimpse from a past version of her from the other shard creating her from twisted memories of her still alive. She was a threat. Celuriel sharing her memory of the Lich her sister painted her in a terrifying new light. She is not something we can just ignore and wave our hands hoping for the problem to disappear. It is something I often have to ignore because she can so quickly change and disrupt this life with Celuriel I have become so accustomed to. It is not a matter of if Ludrissiel shows up, it is a matter of when.   And I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready.   I often feel like I am lagging behind the others, I am going to need them to help me defeat this Lich. But it is not something I can easily start preparing for, there so much we are just ignorant of. And I do not think we are going to get more than one chance to defeat her. Given that I doubt we will be the first ones to strike.   She is out there now. Making deals doing something and I do not know what it is. Ludrissiel has a connection to the Gothadrin royalty but what purpose does that hold. Sure there are the obvious things like power, supplies, connections with the vampires, and or undead nobility but there has to be another reason.   And that worries me.   She can be doing anything to further her schemes while we are here tracking shards and dealing with shards. It’s something we have to do that I understand. But any second I fear Celuriel will be taken away.   That was the topic on my mind.   Eventually, as I spoke my grieves to the mirror, a version of Ludrissiel mocking me through the mirror. For a handful of moments, the pitch-black ground started to consume me, dragging me down into that blank pitch-black abyss.   But I had expected that fact a long while ago.   It’s not if when dealing with that lich, it’s when. Hours, days weeks, years, decades, any moment. Still, as I was sinking into the dark I had another one of those moments. If I was dealing with a mirror on my own, then Celuriel is dealing with her own. I turned back to the mirror telling it I do not have time for this. The mirror shattered, the false image looking annoyed at my response. The walls faded and I pulled myself up from the ground, my legs only have sunk in ankle-deep.   The walls fade, opening up into a larger room similar to the one I was just in. There were several pedestals but that wasn’t my real concern, I could see through some of the walls, other people looking through and at their mirrors. Celuriel’s room was the one I cared about, and I would be lying to say I was not concerned about the grievances she could speak of. As I phased through the wall, to Celuriel I took on a ghostly appearance but she did not notice me at first. While I could not hear her words at first. My appearance as a ghost did not help, but through as we spoke it was clear the thoughts that plagued her mind were similar to mine. Celuriel was worried Ludrissiel would take me from her. A new fear was planted in my head, as I naively thought the lich would just kill and or turn me into an undead creature. It could never be that simple. Still, I looked at her.   Telling her no matter what the case was I would always choose her.   During most of this, she would not look at me. However, my words struck a chord with her, and found her hiding in my arms. Given how I broke out of my mirror prison, I needed her to walk away not focus on her thoughts so I got her to talk about us getting married. We could not get married if she was still stuck in here. Explaining how the room worked, Celu told me she did not know how to leave. I gave her a smile as it was not the first time we were in a situation like this.   “Funny you said the same thing at the last shard, but I cannot take you away this time. You have to face it, but you don’t have to do it alone.” So she did, and the mirror shattered. Swiftly after she kissed me.   Eventually, those walls fell down, and Kraia wasn’t doing especially well in her trail so I attempted to help. While reminding her of friendship and other things worked when I told her to remember her animals it snapped her right back to herself.   With that, the others had already started either helping people or had already finished with their mirror problems.   Which left a new saying as well as pillared bowls.   ‘REFLECT ON WHAT YOU HAVE SEEN AND SHARED. PLACE THE WATER OF MEMORIES WHERE IT BELONGS.’   Each one was labeled with a single word, which we could pick from to pour the vails we got when we first entered. Given who I thought about, and choose ‘Love’   Honestly, I can’t remember what the other pedestals were labeled.   With that, we were teleported into a church?   It seemed to be a church. Empty and of typical dwarven design. Two rooms to the left and right of the rooms respectively. Apparently one was a bedroom and the other a study of some kind. What drew our attention was the altar at the end room.   I’m going to have to summarize what happened next, Essentially we had to pick somebody we hated or disliked. Had a problem with anything of that nature. Then tell them something we don’t like about them. I made sure Celuriel played nice since her clear pick was Licia. I stood next to Talinde. On a surface level, a drow and elf would be an obvious choice. Talinde even remarked on that fact. Still, that was not my issue with him, not really. In fact, I do not have a real problem with Talinde. Yet I picked him so I had to say something, the over-reliance on his deity, especially since he can’t reliably tell the difference between them was my issue. His problem was also quite simple. It was five years, apologizing to the Talinde was simple. What happened was terrible. Spending five years in isolation must have been horrible. However, I noted that given the power that scepter of his holds, we did not want it interacting with The Unbroken March. Given the outcome that came with dealing with that Shard. I still stand by the decision of not bringing him out was the better option. It was an unforeseen side effect of the shards' temporal displacement. Even if we knew, I am not sure we would have changed our choice. I would not have.   Though something occurs to me, could he have not just left the Scepter's inner world? Understand this while as a whole our group is responsible for Talinde joining us. We have been a bit distant. Given the type of people this group is, it is shocking given they have strong personalities. While I am not excused from this, I have had other things to deal with during the time we found him in that dungeon. It also was not on the top of my list to be first in line to speak with a Galasthin Elf.   The others eventually put their vexations out into the world, which the Altar then changed to then make us say something we like about the other. Despite what I said earlier to Talinde, I do admire his faith in his goddess. While for me Talinde spoke on matters regarding Celuriel. The next was that of cooperation, how we could help each other. I have to admit I do not really recall this part. We have learned a lot recently, small moments such as these have become harder to remember. I recall on my part, something to do with not overly reliant on the scepter to track the shards. They might be a way for users to track them, but at some risk. I might have to start looking into ley lines.   Wait, those orbs. Jinne’s special one mirrors Istralar's ley line pattern. Could that possibly track the shard as well? The idea makes sense, if it were still a representation of the ley lines then it would not. Though the word she used was mirrored. If it could be mirrored once, then why should it not be possible again. It was some special mithral alloy right? I wish I could learn more about that.   I am getting off track.   The last of this Altars trail was a simple game. Each person would place their hand on the altar and think of somebody you would betroth, somebody you would slay, and somebody you would desire.   Clearly, my answer for betrothed was Celuriel, which her choice mirrored mine.   My list of who I would slay was longer, which included Celu’s sister, Whisperbreath, and Lirien.   The Desire was a bit difficult simply because I was not allowed to choose Celuriel twice. Given that I had to pick somebody, I picked Pharasma. Something that I know will never happen but was the least likely person I could pick that I would not get stabbed over.   I found Celuriel’s slay and desire interesting, Pin for obvious reasons, Vasestra and Rikzyr for others. Perhaps it would be better not to leave her in a room with those two. Her desire was Kazric which means I think she has a type.   Also, Youshi chose Celu for their killing. My opinions of the possessed android slipped. Drastically.   Kraia wanted to marry her druidic apprentice, which I think wouldn’t hurt her like Cyne would in the end. Speaking of which, the only other one that really was shocking was Licia’s list of desires. Of course, SYrin and Cyne were on the marriage list I think, it was still the desire which was eye-opening. There were quite a few gods on that list, in fact, she had the longest list by far. I’d list them but honestly, it is not something I wish to keep track of.   Learning far too much with the strange trails this castle or shard is putting us through ends about there. That basically brought this trail to an end, our ghostly dwarven guide stepped in. As something was affecting the outside of the trail or was it something else. The guardian was unclear about what was actually happening. So till it was solved, the other group would be taken from their trails and place with us.   A wonderful idea.   While the tension was notable, Licia’s and her former fiance got to speak alone. This was a mistake, according to her father Teras. The shaman had spoken too much about our goals and mission. While I cannot speak on how much was spoken, I wish people would use a bit of since when speaking. And not alone with someone who had attempted to kill you in the past.   I had a lovely conversation with Sonja.   We spent the better part of half an hour debating what we should be doing with the shard. I still cannot trust her, not with her close ties with Riven. It was not something we could have mentioned in front of her crew. Add on top of the fact we scried them attempting to buy mind control collars and my trust in them or members of their group was nearly non-existent. Jinne was the expectation, but I cannot think this more than a sheer coincidence.   Sonja wants to use the Harp.   The Harp which by song alone has brought thousands to its door only to be destroyed. In some valiant effort to… well, each story is different. They all end the same. In the shard winning. This human has no clue the world of the danger she has placed herself in some misguided attempt to use these shards. For the good.   While I will admit my short-sightedness in wanting to destroy the shards was naive. That is more of a response from seeing what those shards are capable of. Dethroning three powerful gods because of simple mistakes, a simple assumption. They should not be allowed to continue to exist in their current form. I know not if they can be changed, become something helpful. As they are no.   So the idea of using a shard for good, to impart that ‘good’ will to other people is appalling. I understand the idea of wanting the world to be a good place. Given what the Harp has done in the past, I have to question whether a world is influenced by its song, whether it be for good or ill intent. Is that the right thing to influence people to be good? How much freedom would that world allow? When would the line be drawn? What is good? Who would define what good while under that influence?   I have issues with that.   It would not be a better world, it would be one of less choice.   Removing evil or ill intent from the world would make the actions of the good less impactful. I might be a decent person in Ironfalls, but in no way am I a good one.   If I was a good person I would be the champion of another god.   The debate turned into two people talking but not listening to the other. Nothing was going to be done at that moment but the groups agreed to not destroy or take it if one got their first.   Eventually, during the debate simmered down, Kraia and I collected the rest of the group. Burdyr and Talinde had escaped into the Scepter demiplane during the argument, I had not noticed.   Two groups eventually departed because we were not staying here and waiting for the guardian spirit to dismiss us. Once again we left where we came through the entrance of the chapel. Appearing in a rather dark room, even for myself.   Supernatural darkness. An annoyance for me, nearly impossible to see.   This is dragging on, the trail asked us more questions about where all souls go or end up. There was some question about our moral alignment. Random really, it was not the most important thing about these. It was a question about the gods.   One I fear to write.   As it brought the champions to their knees.   While the information could be true, it has to be questioned given the shard's influences on the events. The Harp, after all, is trying to tell us a story. Eventually, we found yourself in another room with little blue flames. Stone and dark marble cast in blue light, with twelve tombs. Each slightly different, with symbols but their nameplates were removed or scratched out.   These blue flames were souls, I cannot remember why I thought that. Twelve flames, graves maybe it was just hunch. When I looked at them they were hazy and did not notice me.   However, we were able to figure out their symbols connecting them to their appropriate tomb. Cid was the one to figure out that the candles littered about were the key to interact with these dwarven saints. As they were some Dwarven Saints, when we lit their soul flame with the candles for a moment we could interact with them. In life, each of the saints had certain affinities with things like gods. Some of love, of archery, others of nature. Our job was to lead them back to their tombs.   I took care of three of the twelve.   Venus the Dwarven Saint of love was easy. I borrowed Celuriel attention and a candle and once I lit it under her soul flame. This one was quite easy. A simple kiss was enough to grab the attention of this saint. She giggled, not Celuriel, that would be concerning. I took Celu’s hand and we walked to the rose cover tomb of Venus. Venus followed and her spirit returned Juno was more marriage focused Saint as she was also called ‘The Voice of Bolka’ The Dwarven Goddess of Marriage. Again Celuriel was present for this, as we were recently engaged. Seemed like the two of us were an appropriate pairing to tackle this one. So I asked for her blessing on our recent engagement. Simple and easy to get Juno’s attention. I had not expected the response we got. It was a good one, but still unexpected. "Your marriage will always hold my blessing."   However Juno’s voice was not alone, a second intermingled repeating the same words. The voice I hear is distant, but two-toned; almost as if it's two voices at once. That gave me a moment of pause.   Bolka might have given her blessing to our marriage.   She returned to her tomb, which was close.   Jupiter, the husband of Juno, was close and rather easy. I believe he was the leader or a leader figure so I pulled out Silver. Poured in a bit of my arcane power into Silver letting it spark with lightning. I took a knee raising the lightning imbued Silver to the Soul. After letting the Candle of course. Jupiter eyed me, apparently approved, and started to follow to the correct tomb. Juno decided to spiritually slap him from a tomb away.   Not sure how that works but it did. In hindsight, Jupiter might have been eyeing me in a way Celuriel might have wanted to stab him. Being checked out by ghosts now, great. I can recall our systematic slaughter of some undead in a crypt, we walked a tomb as it was the only direction forward. Then through some series of events then eventually running into the other group again, we had to separate our group depending on Arcane and Divine Casters. The separation was obvious for us but I am not sure I can get into just yet. After solving the puzzle or was it some riddle involving magic. Regardless we used magical circles and our two groups were placed or teleported near the other groups which led us to a room divided.   It was an octagonal room, which was cut down the middle by a five-foot lava pool. If I recall correctly I believe there was some kind of force barrier above the lava making it impossible to leap across. Licia was the first to interact with it.   I say it because what happened next was indescribable.   There’s no force attempting to stop my writing these words even though something, someone might know what I am about to write. In truth, I do not know what we saw. I could theorize and hope for hours I get close to some amount of truth but never no for sure. As our shaman interacted with the lava strip, something bubbled up. Steam turned to shadow, which boiled up congealing into another more recognizable form. Limbs, then the torso, and finally a hooded skull. No that was not right. Where one skull should have been, multiple stood almost as if to look at each of us in that room. Its empty gaze looking around, silent and the figure's presence alone took up the whole room. Not a single eye was turned away from this figure clad in shadow. Yet its grip remained firmly on Licia's arm. Locking her in place, then as it leaned in closer to her, jaw opening to unleash an unearthly howl. It echoed in the camber, unlike anything I had heard before. Eyes wide I felt nothing but terror as I gazed upon that thing, as I felt it’s piercing scream I could feel it reach my bones. As I heard it, my mark reacted to its wail. I felt Scared but it was not just my emotions. I couldn’t even tell you why. Its outcry was silenced by a bolt of silver magic. Sundering it on the spot, turning it back to the shadow which thinned out till it was like it never existed in the first place. While I would say this was glossed over, I believe it would be more accurate to say we just did not speak about it much. The shard, the Harp was telling us a story. Like I said I could talk about this for hours on topic and what it could possibly mean. What the shard was attempting to tell us, but I feel like few revelations would come from that conversation. So, for now, we kept quiet, our thoughts kept mostly to ourselves. That I remember I was too busy trying to process what I had just seen.   Our true objective was simply to get everybody to one side of the room. However, that required a sacrifice of something material. It was through trial and error that we figured out it could be anything. It was Celuriel and I that tested this as was on the other side. Originally it was meant to be Jinne and me, which she was willing to sacrifice a journal. I found out this was a collection of tales from other Dreamers she had met and recorded. As Celu and I crossed to test the water of this puzzle it triggered a summoning. Each time somebody swapped, as a spirit was summoned to combat anyone who had changed sides. Dealing with the ghost it had attempted to possess Celuriel.   It was not even a second thought before I was pulling on Pharasma’s Soul domain severing any attempt to control my fiancee through possession. Needless to say, I was livid, and the spirit was visibly confused at why their attempts to commandeer a body had failed. We made short work of it after. With the other dealing with their dwarven wraith, Celuriel and I made it to the correct side without much trouble.   The last and final of these areas was a simple long dwarven room similar to many of the others. This time there were only two doors. One for each of us, tell us different things. It required us to have some level of musical talent, something I was and am lacking. Never needed to learn, was not that type of assassin growing up. That and I was busy behind bars while other people played music. So I remain in the bad, holding Celu’s hand resting my chin on her shoulder.   After some attempts, both doors unlocked to the same, bone pit room which had a light blue glowing music sheet circle around a golden door. It was a rushed decision but we agreed on going into the Rod of Security for some rest. Especially when the bones shifted.   Hence why I am able to write this, it’s our second and final night on this island. Which luck for us we have not slit each other throats. Yet… Ashlyn’s back so one wrong word and somebody might lose their head.

Journal #64: Ring of Amethyst and Diamond

Having, of course, been a fair amount of time since their last meal. Aniks had taken it upon himself to find the kitchen and at least make something. It wasn’t too terrible to find. Rather small compared to Sigrun’s but it worked. He began rummaging through the cabinets, which much to his surprised were stocked. His eye furrowed, looking for some inspiration for a meal while looking through these cabinets, likely he would only be feeding Celuriel and himself tonight. The others had rushed to rooms not saying much. While clearing room on a table, he half-turned looking at Celuriel. “I have to ask,” unable to completely hide a smile as he spoke, “why have you been so catty to Licia?” Celuriel leant against the wall, watching her drow explore their newest temporary hideout like he owned the place with a faint frown tugging down the corners of her mouth. Kitchens weren't her domain and she had more than a few things to be thinking about - her mind wandered. And so she was barely focused on reality when Aniks spoke, her focus snapping back at the sound of his voice. "catty?" she repeated, narrowing her eyes at his smile. "oh. she's annoying. and too 'good'." She paused, silently stepping closer to him and helping with the table-clearing. "and she doesn't deserve what she has." “There’s enough room for you to sit on the table, unless you want to stand,” Aniks said gesturing to the empty space they had just made. As he went to collect and place ingredients on the rest of the table. That gave him an excuse to think about what she said. As that was clearly not what he had expected in the later comment. “Annoying yes, ‘good’ I can agree with. Still not a stubborn as Ashlyn on some matters.” Then he frowned pulling out a whisk, not useful so he put it back. “Not all of us get the best hand when they are dealt. Some are just lucky than most.” Celuriel obligingly perched on the table, letting her legs sway in the air now that there was room to do so, and continued to watch Aniks figure out the kitchen. "Ashlyn didn't want to kill someone when they slept," she commented, her tone still even and not-quite-neutral. "and she--"   She stopped herself short, making a noise of disgust. "she doesn't matter. neither one does. she has a luck deity. her 'hand' is better. it is pointless to care. why did you get a scroll?"   The whisk was back in his hand as he looked back at the elf. Taller than him because of the table, odd-looking up Celuriel. With a single finger, he pulled over a bowl, a couple of eggs in hand. That did not sound like Licia but… she said it didn't matter. Besides no real reason keep dwelling on something like this. This might not be the best place to talk about that. He was in a decent mood given what this day had thrown at him, Celuriel was helping. The ebony elf bumped into her softly. Then a small smile appeared as he cracked eggs. "Well, I think my 'hand' is quite better than hers at the moment. The scroll? Oh, I am making something. Eventually, when we are not constantly running around for once. Still, even before that, I need to get that umbrite forged. Have I ever made you aletheian toast before?"   Celuriel took full advantage of him wandering close to run her fingers through his hair. He didn't have long hair; that wasn't stopping her. Today had been a day she didn't want to remember, and Aniks would at least be a pleasant distraction from it all. "is what you're making a secret?" she asked, already guessing the answer would be positive. "and no. why does toast have a nationality?"   "I think Aletheia was where somebody first made, or popularized Aletheian Toast." The drow smiled as fingers ran through his hair. Moving the bowl now closer to her. Continuing making breakfast, for lunch, or was it dinner? “That? No, it’s hardly a secret. I want to forge a blade I am comfortable with. Apparently, when I fight I resemble a Sarenite Dancer.” Aniks said clearly annoyed at the fact he dances through a battle. “Besides that was not the secret I wanted to keep.” The explanation of Aletheian toast seemed to just annoy Celuriel. "what makes it different to normal toast?" she asked, tapping his shoulder when he slipped into annoyance. That was her domain. He needed happier emotions. Still, she took a moment to consider things as he talked and cooked. "...you do dance. I want a new scythe. do you blame Ashlyn? you copy her sometimes."   Notably? She didn't mention his actual secret. She'd let him start that when he wanted to.   The table was oddly enough lacking any toast, there were a couple of sliced loaves at the table untouched. It looked like he was making scrambled eggs. Not toast. He plucked a small frying pan that had been hanging from the wall. Ironic given who was mentioned. He answered her first question by showing her how Aletheian Toast was different form normal toast. As he finally lite a fire under the frying pan, placing a piece of bread on the pan that had been soaked in eggs. Speaking about other things as he cooked “I would prefer my dancing to be seen by you only. And I hardly think Ashlyn has anything to do with how I fight or dance. Nor do I copy her!” He smiled at that claim, almost wanting to see comparison if anything.   Then took a moment, her request for a new scythe interested him. “What would you like it forged out of? I could forge that once we are home for more than a day. Actually, there is a fair bit I will be doing once we are in Ironfalls again.”   Celuriel hummed softly in quiet understanding of this new form of toast as Aniks placed it into the pan. Toast was bread that had made friends with fire. The egg was new, the pan was new, but it was technically still toast. "the bloodied emperor will invite us to more of his balls. I would not be your only audience. will you avoid dancing then?" she asked, a smirk tugging at her lips. She definitely sounded amused with him. "make an illusion fight next to ashlyn and watch. you move the same."   Aimlessly, her fingers drummed a pattern against the tabletop as she considered weapon materials. "what are you planning? and I don't know what materials are good for a scythe. you decide." Soon a plate was placed on the table, aletheian toast started to be stacked up. Other breakfast foods were being pulled together. “Wanting to go to more balls, are we? If that were the case then I would have no choice but to dance in front of others. Ashlyn on the other hand, if she caught me doing that, she would probably try to properly train me. As for your new weapon. Mithril or Adamantine would make nice scythes, If anything steel if the other two cannot be forged. ” Aniks carefully kept his face straight as he spoke. “Planning nothing out of the ordinary. Need to find space for the dragon as it is hatching. Name it. Collect more spells, forge your scythe, tell Ashlyn I want my armor back. Send some messages. Take you out on a date, where I propose to you with the ring in my pocket.” She shot him a glare for his last comment, flicking grains of sugar in his direction in lieu of snowballs or daggers. "you are horrible at keeping secrets." The glare nicely concealed whatever other emotion she might be feeling, and she was glad for it. She at least could hide things. "we can't avoid more balls. ashlyn has a wedding. the emperor will have a wedding. those lead to dancing. if she tries to take you away for too much training, kazric will steal you back for me." That had implications. She didn't explain them, instead stealing a piece of aletheian toast and nibbling on it as she watched him move around the room. Cooking remained strange to her.   "what are you going to do with the new pet." A single eye was closed as the sugar grains hit him. An amused smile across his face. Placing the plate of the rest of her meal next to her. Which had more than just the toast. As well as Syrup, which Aniks triple checked that is was just maple syrup. He slowly ate his own food as he spoke. “You make a point about the balls. Though next time we go to one, I will not be so hesitant to dance with you. As for the unnamed dragon. Well, I have been thinking about it, and I am not completely sure calling a dragon a pet is smart. They are a bit too intelligent to be compared to other pets. And given where I found it, I might want to keep a close eye on them. So raising the dragon as we travel seems like the better option for now...”   Before he spoke again, there was a pause. He seemed to search for the right words. Aniks leaned over the table, his face not too far from hers, though he still had to look up. The drow had an earnest smile and Shockley his face was devoid of any sign of blushing “Secret or not, I mean it Celuriel, I really do. You mean so much to me. The only reason I stop myself now, is I want you to have a proper surname. I do not want the woman I love having the surname of Alas’thil. And at the moment I could only think of one that name that would fit. But I want you to be happy with that name as well.”   Silence rung out in the kitchen for a small eternity at Aniks's proclamation. Celuriel stared at the drow intently, a flush of red dusting across her cheeks betraying her emotions, before just... closing the space between them and kissing him. Not deeply; she had words she needed to share. Drawing back a fraction, she spoke.   "names are just names. we wouldn't need to care immediately. and," She lightly flicked his hair. "I will be happy with you. you have my love even if you are stupid sometimes. if you want a name that sounds stupid, then this doesn't need a name attached."   The door creaked across the room. Before either inhabitant or invader could say something, a blur of steel embedded itself into the doorframe. Celu's dagger. "Kitchen's busy then," Teras's voice said with barely contained amusement. The door shut with a click. Impressive Aniks hardly noticed her throw this time. He was understandably distracted at the moment from her words. The click of the door let Aniks steal another kiss. This time he was the one to break away, moving to be more in front of her. Instead of leaning over to her. A smirk rolled across his face “Hopefully that message will be enough.” “Now about those names. If it’s not something we need to care about immediately...” He said closing his eyes, this would take some nerve. He opened his eyes breathing out. The Barkeep took both of her hands in his own, gently pulling her off the table. Then took a measured step back letting her go. Aniks reached into his pocket his whole hand around the ring, so she couldn’t see it. Carefully removing it from his pocket. “I know this is not the proper place, and we still have things like your sister and the shards to deal with. But right now, I want you to be happy. You are my gorgeous partner, strange and mysterious, with a beautiful smile when you dare to show it. You’ve protected me even when I could not see the dangers and countless times I have been grateful that you entered my life and changed it in ways I still do not understand.” The drow got down on one knee, shifting the ring in his hand so she could see it for the first time. Holding it out to her. “A future with you is something I am willing to fight for. So Celuriel Valeria Geltharieth, will you marry me?”   Celuriel didn't look impressed by him moving away from her, but he had words to say and she was patient. For him, at least. She made a noise of confused complaint at his arms around her waist, his expression the only thing stopping her from scowling at (and potentially injuring) him for moving her without asking like that. Oh, but her own expression was a picture worth painting as he began to speak: she stared at Aniks in sheer surprise, the rare smile he spoke of taking a second to flicker into view before her hand flew up to cover it. She stepped towards him at the question, looking at the stunning amethyst-diamond band of shining silver for barely a moment: staring into his eyes was far, far more important right now. "you know the answer already," she murmured, dropping down to hug the stupid drow close. Her stupid drow. He could put the ring on her after. "you saved me from the tower. and Hell. and you show me how to live, and love, all the time. even if you do that in stupid ways sometimes. we're not inviting my sister to the wedding."                            

Journal #63: The Five Stages

We slipped inside the Castle quite easily, Sigrun being one hell of a distraction for the people fighting outside. Ghost and all, with those Silver Orb priests healing those people no matter the side. The Castle itself was of typical dwarven from the pillar to the broken ceiling and a nice rug, a single golden hammer on the carpet. While the others pondered the golden hammer, Kraia, and I were more interested in the carpet.   The hammer itself was clearly magical, my question was where were the others. They had gotten here, and where the Shard was. I half expected some distortion once we entered the castle but it seemed very plain. By dwarven standards at least, it was still a castle. Despite its shabby state.   It was only once that hammer was touched that everything began. The previous guardian in the incorporeal state appeared. Dwarven as expected, however, he was far larger than any dwarf I had ever seen. Even larger than Burdyr once he channeled some of that divine power to increase his size. Pretentious prick that ghost, the artifact is never just sitting there at the end of the altar. Of course, there were challenges by the gods. Or lies created from the harp. I know that another group is in here somewhere, the question is are we going to face them at some point. I wonder what Licia will do? A better question is what are we going to do with Sonja. What is her connection with Jinne, the dreamers? Or is Jinne one of them? She seemed like such a nice person, but that future? How could she have known? Too many questions left unanswered, and I might like the answer once we get them.   The previous guardian dwarf essentially yelled at us, Burdyr for being pointy-eared people here, and was the definition of a stereotypical dwarf. Just more ethereal. We explained the reasoning for being there, the same as the previous group. Burdyr was told to keep the Golden Hammer till the trail is over. I wonder if it does anything? Commands authority of this castle? Regardless I need to learn to keep my mouth shut, as whatever I had mouthed off to the thing. You would think I would have learned from my training with Pharasma’s Herald but no. I was just annoyed at this spectral ghost telling it to just get on with it. Or another phrase similar to that one. The ethereal ghost did not take kindly to that, smashing the ghost battle ax into the ground. Shattering the stonework under our feet, crumbling away as we fell into the dark under the castle of Torag.   Quick thinking and a few words later, I had control of my fall with the spell Fly. Attempting to find Celu, who was walking through the air. I breathed a sigh of relief as she had just as quickly created a safe way to fall. In our descent, we were split from the others. I sent in a small room for the first of the challenges. A single bowl was in the room with the dwarven god Magrim’s symbol. That dwarven god of the afterlife. The ghostly guardian spoke of a trail of single combat. We could check on our opponent, or simply deal with it and open the door.   I opened the door, wanting to get over with. Some Wolfman, not a werewolf but something close, stood there watching me. I kept out of the combatant reach especially as I did not have time to get hit. Luckily I still could fly so that was made quite simple as I shot scorching rays at the wolfman. I had a moment of thought, given the shard's influence in events that this person might be real. It was only a moment as I apologized for this. Killing them with another volley of spells.   Celuriel was in trouble, that mental bond through the rings we shared told me. So real or not, I did not have the time to pity the creature attacking me. Or even figure out what was happening. I was not going to let Celuriel get more hurt than we had. The door unlocked, leading into a much larger room with several other doors. That mental bond also told me in a roundabout way where she was. I knew the door and sprinted like a madman but as I attempted to find some way to open the dreaded thing. My panic was quilled as the door opened, Celuriel stood victorious. I hushed in becoming rather protective of her. She had healed herself, which might have explained she did not seem as in pain.   Once Celuirel was taken care of, we started deciphering each of the doors. The Dwarven Pantheon or some of the symbols lay on their surface. We need to find which god it was, then attempt to perform some action close to that god. Or wait till they finish fighting the creature they fight. We unlocked some doors, others they finished fighting. That was not the important part, we spent a lot of our resources but we still needed to press on.   Which left leaving this stupid room, the only notable things were an altar and three tombs.   The Altar had this Scrawled across it in dwarven runes: Give a prayer to the Lord of your Heart and receive of Them their Blessing,   To sum this up, we prayed to our god to receive a bottle, fill it with water from our rooms, and place it on the Altar. The contents of the water changed as well as the text on the Altar.   Enshrine your Gift upon this Pedestal, When All are Ready, Indulge in what was Given to be able to Truly See Forward. Do Not Forget To Take Your Gifts To The Next.   Regardless, the tombs on the other side of the room had runes that glowed a soft gold. Each of the castle tombs was, of course, different, listing the years they lived and died, cause of death. Things like that.   Azdar Kolmthal (2084 - 2141) - fell in the heat of battle to a blast of sorcery   Burin Fadmek (2045 - 2141) - claimed by the molten depths of the forge during the Collapse   Veyloh Garandrum ( 2062 - 2141) took down her assassins with a blaze of divine power but perished in the subsequent explosion.   With some consideration and a handful of spells we ducked into the rooms we used for single combat. I flung a bright orange bead to the center’s tomb. Burin Fadmek I think. What we hadn’t thought about was the fireball being able to ricochet off the middle tomb flinging the spell to the door behind the altar, tearing open the door. Leaving this little trail finished.   Nothing changed besides the door, no voice-guided us so it left us with one real option. Press forward into the next room.   Directly in front of us were bowls, each with different symbols. Symbols we saw in each of the bowls in the room began with this trail in. Mine was Magrin the dwarven god after, which I doubt this was a coincidence given my goddess. When did I start calling Pharasma my goddess?   I should probably figure that out later. Tangent aside. I thought of a difficult memory as we were instructed to pour the bottle into the correct symbol. We did as such, and another door flung open continuing our progress.   To our left were tables of candles, some unlit others not. While the room was large enough to hold all of us, it was by no means large. The only other thing of note in this room was a fountain. With a simple instruction to drink from it. I walked over to the candle and lit three. Warm against my skin, which lately has only been growing colder.   I turned back to the fountain, a hand full of people looking around the fountain. Wondering if they should take a drink. In the middle of the discussion, I chose to join them. It was around this time Kraia chose to drink the normal-looking water. I half expected her to disappear, but she turned translucent almost ethereal looking. I thought my hand would pass through her given her new form. It didn’t. I heard her. I took my hand off, and silence. Testing this again and I once again heard her. Talking to somebody, was it her brother?   A side effect of using too much power from Pharasma.   “Why can I touch ghosts” was my immediate response. My brain filled in the gaps rather quickly, I just thought the changes would be more noticeable. The Coldness sure, but this was different. I could touch ghosts. Licia chimed in with a simple “Champion powers?”   “Well add that to the list of champions fuck” I misspoke and meant to say Champion Powers. But gave up and reverted to curses. I was annoyed to say the list, I don’t know how to feel about this change.   “Aren’t I the only one you’re supposed to fuck?”   I looked at Celu, heat rushing to my face. Any thought in my mind was just lost that quietly. That was rather blatant, she has never really been that forward. Celuriel was smirking but had a glare directed to Licia. Why Licia? Sure there was that unnatural lust spell but that is far as that ever went.   Burdyr drank soon after, just disappeared. Talinde became a ghostly figure. I poked him once or twice but learned some things but nothing fancy.   Eventually, Celuriel and I stood in front of the fountain, we agreed to drink it together. I think the two of us were putting it off a bit. I knew what was going to happen given the context of what Kraia and Talinde were talking about. They were in another world. A false world based on memories we gave the trail but were changed. Twisted into an illusion of what if’s and could have been.   The two of us drank the water.   I didn’t make it.   Kraia, well Artemis technically, had flung me out of the illusionary world. Cling to illusions I thought were real. I felt them disappear in my arms, heard them screaming. This world showed me what could have been, a life with Claire, with Alain and Emily. Memories of that life still linger in my head. Emily was scared of thunderstorms, crawling under our sheet burying her head into my chest to hide. I can always remember Alain holding his sister for the first time. Excited to be a big brother and wanting to know her name.   This should have made me sad and it did. This world was meant to make me happy, but that's the tragedy of that world. I still outlive all of them. I dealt with my emotions and found myself in a small room with an odd lantern displaying another world. Lucky Celuriel had made it through and I found himself next to her. Sitting down near her. She was silent for a while. “You could always go back” “I’m fine, I have gotten over it once. I can do it again. I just need a moment.” The words came out slow, it was hard to speak. The emotion’s memories are still clear in my head.   “You were happier there”   “That's your opinion, not mine. It was a different kind of happiness. Different kinds of families. I’m... happy here.” The words were heavy, not hard to say. I meant every word.   I stayed near her for a good portion of time, I didn’t want to go anywhere. The others could deal with their problems and needed a moment. It would have been a lot worse if Celuriel wasn’t there. She reminded me of a different future one I wanted. Even if she doesn’t believe what I said then. I am happy with her, more than happy.   Well, well get to that in a moment.   As we pulled each other out of these false worlds, our trail was passed. Talinde took a while, as he was being rather stubborn. I still wonder what he was doing with those drows. If they were adults it would have been different but there were kids. I think he’s old enough to have been a part of the purge. Some of us were offered the chance to willingly enter into the false world. As we are being judged during these trials. Burdyr was the only one to attempt it. Talinde brought him back, similar to how Burdyr was the one to bring Talinde to bring Talinde out of his illusionary world. It seems this trail is placing us through the five stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But why? What does this have to do with anything? If one of the gods has given us this challenge then to what end. Part of me worries that there is morning going on here. There is always something going on, but I mean something more than that. That harp is affecting this trail but to what extent. When is this no longer just some trail about things relating to the gods?   Anger was next, and oddly enough we passed by sleeping Dreamers before we dealt with aggressive fire-based elemental or execution devils. No puzzle required, just lots of smoke, dead bodies, and destruction. However, once our aggression was dealt with quite thoroughly. Which included an execution devil winking at Celuriel. Thankfully that was the most extreme thing to happen. Still, our path was barred, as the only door forward was clearly not bugging.   Somebodies were burning with unnatural flames, I approached one. The flame consumed the body, transforming it. Changing the body to somebody I knew. A voice, hardly more than a whisper. Loud enough for me to hear.   "Good luck, love. I know you can do this."   I picked up the body of Claire, she looked so peaceful. Much like the night after she died. I turned around, the large fire that once held a rather large fire elemental was still blazing. I picked up her body walking over carefully placing her within the fire. I remained silent, as others approached other bodies. Ten in total for each of us. Celuriel eventually stood near me as I watched the flames devour a facsimile of my late wife.   "Never thought I would have to do that again," I said more to myself than to Celu. In response, she held my hand. An attempt at comfort, another reason I am glad she’s here.   While the others dealt with other false people, Celuriel and took the time to organize the other corpses in the room. At least they would get some level of respect, in the back of my mind I wondered if these were just constructed by the trails or were they fallen people repurposed for other means.   Licia darted around like a panicked bird in a house going from body to body, mostly the ones we didn’t change. I did note that Talinde brought a young drow girl to the centerfire. As did the others. It wasn’t something we needed to do, for the person I saw. It was a…   It’s ironic really, odd that it came full circle in a way.   Eventually, I accompanied Celu to her burning body. An ethereal beautiful version of herself, her sister’s voice whispered to her.   "If you'd behaved better, we could have ruled together - as much as I love you, Celuriel, this is entirely your fault."   It only took a moment before she violently dragged her false self over to the funeral pyre and nearly slammed herself into the fire.   Despite the circumstances of being here in this castle I am glad she’s expressing so many emotions. She’s really changed from that silent vetala I knew back on the train. I’m getting on a tangent again, this happens a lot when I remark on anything regarding Celuriel.   And given what I did during the bargaining stage well…   The text on the door changed, instructing us to release our anger. I slipped Silver into the door as if I wanted to slip this blade through somebody's ribs. The motion flung me through the door as if it wasn’t there. Leaving me in a relatively simple room, with a simple cloaked figure. Several different dwarven makes hung off the wall, some paintings, and bookshelves. A desk that the cloaked figure sat at had an open chair on the other side which I sat at. No one else popped up on this side of the door. So we would begin doing this alone.   Bargaining stage.   Trading something of equal value.   It took me a second to think about what I would bargain for. However, most of my thinking was concern about what my companions might bargain for.   After placing some level of faith in them. The figure had told me a handful of people finished bargaining.   I removed a necklace from around my neck. The ring I had gotten from Claire when she sent me that letter. I pressed it onto the table, making a click against the wood.   “Claire told me I would find a better use for this, and I cannot see myself proposing with this ring. As it was made with another woman in mind. As much as this is a memento of somebody I loved, Celuriel convinced me I could love somebody again. Somebody I want to marry. So a bargain for a wedding ring that Celuirel would love, in exchange for a ring that Claire once loved.”   It was a rather simple bargain. While it is an important thing to me, I hardly thought this figure could wrap a request that simple.   They deemed it as equal in value. While waiting I struck another deal for a spell scroll. Nothing too fancy, but I needed something for another project.   I remained silent for a good long while, looking at the odd trinkets from a painting of dwarfs to barrels of what I assumed was some kind of dwarven ale. Not that I could recognize any of it.   My silence was eventually broken, as each of us finished our bargains. I assume the others were placed inside a similar, like a small demiplane. Then once our deals were stuck, the gods or whatever is creating these tests for us to go through. Then stuck us all together, telling us the last thing I personally wanted to hear.   All of our deals would be read aloud for everyone to hear.   To say I was rather flustered was an understatement, as reading out my bargains left very little interpretation for what I was planning. Most of the time when you plan a lady hand in marriage it’s meant to be secret. However, I knew I didn’t have a say in the matter and just kept silent. I made sure I was standing near Celuriel at least.   Nobody wanted to change, even when we were given the choice.   The figure even mentions we had to unanimously agree on what was given to all of us for the bargain was.   Celuriel started leaning against me when she heard what my bargain was. I couldn’t really hide what I planned to do, so everybody knew eventually I was going to ask for her hand. I would be lying if I said I didn’t blush when the dealmaker read out mine. When the ring appeared in my hand I quickly snuck it into my pocket before she had a chance to see her engagement ring. But just as I had received my deal, she and I received her. She really started to lean on me, a side effect of receiving the information? Well, whatever happened it was passed quickly but she was lost in thought after that. I expected as much given what she learned.   Once everyone received their bargain, we were told to leave the door to the south and we would have a night of timeless sleep. Something we really needed, and as we crossed the threshold my stomach growled so I decided to raid the kitchen in this odd multi-roomed building. Others scampered off to deal with new emotions, changes, or memories. Which left me cooking alone for Celuriel.   Just some quick notes.   Myself: A ring made for Claire for a ring made for Celuriel. Celuriel: A century of memory stolen, for the location of her sister’s phylactery. Burdyr: Became physically young again for years of his life, and remove half of Talinde’s champion-ness and place that burden on him. Kraia: A family lance for a bracelet her little brother lost. Licia: Why Syrin killed his party and almost Licia, in exchange for all the memories she has with her former party. Cid: Gold and a Gun for ammunition Youish: Money for a Night of timeless sleep Teras: A locket for a photobook. Talinde: Unlocking memories for always remembering the faces and their last words of everybody he has killed. Lukas: Full emotions back for all of his protection from positive energy.

Journal #62: Discussion and a price that will be payed.

We forgot to drink water.   I have not had a hangover that bad in a long time. Celuriel's was likely just as bad as mine. However, I was lucky as she hadn't stabbed me from the pain. We both were pretty miserable when we woke up the next day. Given how the night went, and the conversation after I had forgotten entirely to try and get her to drink water. Given the topic of discussion, it would be understandable to some extent. Still, my forgetfulness might lead to some dangerous problems for us in the future.   With the morning fast upon us, the two of us regretfully removed ourselves from the bed. Making sure both of us were dressed, I made sure to pick up our scattered clothes from the night before. Celuriel had 'borrowed' one of my shirts, which meant I likely was not getting that shirt back. We clung close to each other for most of the morning. Breakfast would have been a bit more complicated with her leaning on me. So I picked her up and placed a counter next to where I was cooking. Leaning her head against the wooden pillows known as cabinets. Not up to helping cook like she had yesterday.   Breakfast was average, Sigrun noting that I seemed oddly at home while doing this. Besides dealing with the pain, Cid bore some marks from last night. As did Sigrun, to be fair, they had been exceedingly loud. After our morning meal, Sigrun invited us to a hot spring down below her humble abode.   Minus the hangover, I would say that the hot spring themselves was quite enjoyable. Not in the humid and muggy kind of way, like a hot day after a thunderstorm had just rolled by. No, it was more like it coded you in a warm relaxing bath. A great stress reliever, really. Not that I had much stress left given the night before.   As we made our way down to the basement, I find it quite funny that the only person who cared about their appearance enough to cover up was Licia. She did the last one in the springs as she had called out to Sigrun. She was asking for a bikini, or something similar. The rest of us who chose to get inside the large pools had no problem being nude in front of each other. Granted, people like Talinde and Lukas, for obvious reasons, chose not to join us. The vampire running water would have been a dangerous combination for himself.   Of course, Celuriel was next to me. We were still miserable from headaches and lean on each other. We could barely do anything more than that conversation was quite tricky as well, I found. People around us speaking felt loud in my ears. When Licia finally decided to join us, her immediate response was the cast of daylight in my face. Normally that would just blind me. Given the state I was currently in, I could swear that it was physically hurting me. I slipped under the water, muttering to myself and towards Licia a slew of undercommon curses. She had told me when I surfaced that that spell was from Cyne.   That ass.   Celu, add to experience something new for the first time. Holding her breath. Last time when I had swum in the lake where The Beauty said we could sleep for the night. Celuriel and been a vampire, so she watched me from the bottom of the lake. As she did not need to breathe, as a normal person would, we have not been anywhere where a large abundance of water had been common since. She attempted to do the same, though, after a while, there was a panicked look, and I had to drag her back up. Being rather confused about why she couldn't continue to stay underwater—going so far to cast an air bubble spell. Just stay under there out of spite. I would not call it much of a threat, but I did say I would drag her out of there as she could not stay there all day. The look she gave me suggested that she do exactly that. Luckily she eventually rose again when she felt like commenting on something or when she just wanted to.   I wonder if that's just something she likes to do and does not know it yet. Sitting at the bottom of the water must be relaxing.   It was around this time we decided to fill in, Burdyr about many of the things we had experienced catching him up-to-date on who people like Riven Drast were. Licia's father, Teras, told us how he had met the Dwarven Prince, Sigrun, and how he knew about certain things like the shards. I would say I am rather curious about those witches; information before the World Rend would be valuable to know, especially if they have knowledge of the shards themselves. I still have many questions about what they are, why they were created, what purpose do they ultimately serve, and who this Xaahra is.   We even spoke in a roundabout way of our insurance policy on how to get rid of two of them. We're quickly running out of other options. When they pressed us for information, Licia simply stated that if that information were to become more widely known. We would be the most wanted people on this Istralar.   It was right around the time kraia, who had been a dolphin for quite a bit, had tried messing with me. So I pushed her away with my feet prompting Celuriel to tell me to stop messing with Kraia. I'm not sure why she would do this, is that would have been the first time she made a request of that nature. Maybe it was the hangover, or maybe she's starting to care about these people she's been around for so long.   It was around this time I had remembered Lucas's offer to make a hangover cure. The topic itself head straight to the conversation of Gods and who worshipped. More specifically, what did the vampire worship? I took upon myself to exit the Hot Spring. Lukas was reading; I wasn't too shocked to find out he was attempting to listen as well. Requesting two hangover cures, are also gotten somebody, Teras I think or was it Sigrun. Probably later. A bottle of ale well, the vampire worked on the Cure. Striking up casual conversation and then eventually hitting the question, I wanted to ask. Somebody named Theo, a friend of his and found two goddesses he had taken a liking too.   ~Seramaydiel, an empyreal lord who looks fondly after musicians and peacemakers.   ~Shelyn The Goddess of love.   The boy is a softy; they have nothing to worry about.   Once The Hangover cures were made, I thanked him and then returned to my spot with Celuriel. I was given a warning that it would taste bad. The warning I got did not do it justice for how disgusting that was, given my face as I down the concoction. Celuriel quickly did the same; she hid her face underwater immediately after. Though I clearly saw the glare, I got from underneath the water. I really need to learn to make those; it would be rather helpful if I am simple barkeep.   I gave the alcohol to whoever wanted it.   Then the topic turns to a much more personal discussion about Cid's most recent revelation. The two that I found out from the sapphire Shrine no less than two days ago. How he once considered betraying the party for a large sum of money. And how he's been giving out information about our whereabouts and other things to some mysterious contact. Anytime we ended up in an in. Apparently, he had been messaging this person. The first one was quite common and easy to understand. The Gunslinger was, of course, a mercenary first and a hero second. While I can understand it, I personally have issues with betrayal, and I am not willing to deal with it happening again. We took precautions after that.   It was the second part that he decided to reveal, his mentor had been captured by some mysterious force and had been sending him small bits like a fingertip. This is the course that only happened once. Cid seemed to be getting teary-eyed at the thought of his mentor being tortured by this person. not that I could tell really because he was also in a hot spring. According to him, he's been giving only the bare minimum of information. Which, in my opinion, is still too much. If we would have known about it sooner, perhaps we could have done something. But the fact that we have somebody giving information out is not something I am fond of. He kept trying to avoid certain topics surrounding back to other ones, eventually just breaking down and not talking. He did, however, mention who had been signing it. somebody who went by the moniker of the simple letter 'E.' I slipped under the water and screamed.   Elias.   That damn Alchemist has been getting information sent to him, and we do not even know how much Cid gave in detail. I could go on and on about how bad that particular little bit of information just screws everything. Personally, I have no attachments to the Gunslingers mentor, and if anything, he's a liability. I doubt Sid is willing to stop giving information. But at what point does he start to give out too much.   I just hope he wises up before it's too late. Or before we have to put a stop to it ourselves.   We eventually decided to get out of the hot springs. Getting dressed once again, it was about roughly time for lunch. Celuriel was quite eager to cut more potatoes, though I gave her other things to do. As the potatoes were not something, we used them while cooking lunch.   I will say as I got into cooking lunch for everybody. I messaged The Emperor as I surveyed Chicken and other dishes to people.   I scribbled in my journal to Cyne.   @cyne Your an ass.   His Secretary Veronkia replied as I realized my mistake.   @aniks Darling, your grammar is horrendous. @cyne not you Then I wrote the correct name. @Aneirin Your an ass @Aniks Good afternoon to you as well, Lord Alas'thil. Since you're there, would you care to deliver your opinion on Licia's decision? @Anerin No, she has been rather tight-lipped about it. @Aniks Then you should ask her. It wouldn't do for her to be hiding something she's so eager about. @Aneirin Aaah, we did notice she was rather happy. She always gets flustered when you're mentioned. Hardly can get a word out of her. @Aniks She's gone mute? A shame. Ask her if she's recovered from her trip yet if you want. @Aneirin Will do, I'll make sure her father is in the room when I do.   I had finished lunch with Celuriel's help, as Artemis came barging in, nearly wrecking the food as he attempted to cook. We quickly served the food after, but Kraia went in and started whispering things to Artemis, and I swear I heard my name mouth, and Licia's. Finally, getting a chance to sit down, I had to make a separate plate for Talinde as some of our conversations about him, in general, made him anti-social, locking himself in his room. Or the room he used. Burdyr eventually brought that plate up. As for lunch itself. Kraia poured some weird salad dressing on her salad and got 'crotch tentacles' as she called them. Blaming me for the new wiggly appendages, but nobody else had gotten them, so it had to be the dressing.   Oh, I gave Licia hell, as I assumed correctly from my conversation with the Emperor. When asked why I was doing this if I already knew what had happened.   I told her I wanted her to say it.   It would make it all the better.   When the rest of the group got involved in my teasing of the Aasimar. When we spoke about another dream date or something to that extent, Kraia jokingly told Licia, "Make sure you use protection!" "Aniks didn't," Celu chimed in.   I felt my drink rush up my nose as I started coughing and spitting out, attempting to say her name. Blushing quite purple in response to Celuriel's comment. I could swear as I looked at her, her face perfectly neutral in expression. She simply stated a fact.   "that's not the only thing that turns purple." She said smoothly as she took a drink, I could swear I saw a glint of mischief in her eyes.   I swear I could have felt myself burning up from how purple I got. The party gave some odd looks at me after the comment, as they implied the same thing I had from that comment. I could not fathom why she would be saying this, and I worried she would be going into detail if they asked any questions.   She pointed to my ears.   "see..." she said as if that was the most obvious answer in the world. To her, it might have been. A large amount of alcohol in our system last night which left both of us flushed faces. As I was not the only one who had ears that changed color last night.   Though I highly doubt her word choice, she meant my ears.   Eventually, from Kraia's constant scribbling her journal, she rushed upstairs from as she summoned Kazric from somewhere.   I was slightly concerned about the amount of noise I was hearing. When Artemis stormed around the hall, grabbing me in his jaw, rushing me upstairs, I was met with a terrible sight. I do not think I will be able to unsee. Kraia, with her special ring on, had a terrible effect on the tentacles. She had ten or so drow penis's and Krazric, who also had tentacles as well, for some reason pants unbuckled compared sizes. Kazric had asked or more like wanted me to compare sizes as well as technically we all had drow genitalia. Now I try to write without going into detail or explaining the more explicit moments with my traveling companions. Otherwise, I would have a tally somewhere in this journal of the amount of time somebody slept with somebody. I simply walked out of the room as I did not want to see more, which I avoided writing about other things I had seen. I am, of course, also avoiding writing about Celuriel, and I am the first item in bed. Being very coy about writing anything in regards to the act of as those are our moments together, and I am not sharing them. With a horrified look on my face, I went back downstairs. Sitting next, Celu. I must have had some look on my face as her first response to this was to grab a bottle of ale. Pouring me a drink, then herself. Huh, guess at some point we need to find a drink she likes.   That was basically the rest of our day, a lot more casual than the previous night, as I am pretty sure no one got up to anything. Oh yeah, we lost Nialnir; he just left saying our story was a bit boring. Yeah.   The next morning was meant to be a day of planning, Licia scrying changed that. It became a battle of time, as we had to race to a place where the Harp of Virtue. Plotting a course and having Talinde cross-reference the Shards location, calling Licia and me out for a reason I cannot go into at the moment. While watching the Scry spell, we picked the Sapphire Shrine as the closet point to avoid a magical storm. I using a spell could carry six people myself included, Talinde offered to place people in his staff, but he will not bring anybody out inside the storm. On my chariot, Myself, Celu, Licia, Teras, Kraia, and Cid, the rest were placed inside. I assume some demiplane.   The storm was much bigger than we thought as we arrived at the Sapphire Shrine. Forcing me to cast a spell, to temporarily have to use the Ancestral Regression spell in order to see becoming an elf in the process. Lightning is not my friend, and they are constantly blindness for a drow. Celuriel though I looked stupid, and not to look at her with that face. So I put on that black mask I received when returning to the material plane. The trip mostly went without much of a problem flying through the air, Kraia as our navigator. At the beginning of the trip, at least. Because, of course, nothing happens at the beginning. Casting spells to trigger Magical effects unknown to us. The storm itself seemed to want to draw on our powers, I thought it might be trying to fuel its strength given that we were Champions, but I am not sure. Cid was like a lightning rod, all the metal in his guns, and he was soon the first victim to the storm's influence channeling some of his war god's powers into the chariot making it warlike and spiked with metal and making us more of a target for the actual storm. Celuriel even became in a trance-like state; I was concerned for her safety as the necklace, the one she received from Tenaerul was glowing softly and warm to the touch. Was concerned the actual necklace was affecting her somehow. If the storm was messing with her, it was a bit too late before I noticed she was casting a spell. Well, I am not sure of the other effects I had quickly cast a dispel magic from the dagger. On the attempt to break her from this weird trance, but her spell went out first. She was creating a magical ward around The Chariot. Green and Fae-like warded shields around the chariot protecting us, thankfully as if to demonstrate this fact and bolt of lightning head attempted to strike The Chariot. Finding the warding instead in that split-second of her casting whatever spell she had cast.   Eventually, it became rather noticeable that we hadn't gone anywhere. Stuck suspended whether it is the storm itself holding it with gale-force winds or the magic of The Shard influencing the storm itself will never know. A storm like Elementals appeared attempting to destroy us, that however, wasn't the main issue as we dealt with them quickly. It was the aberrations of the tentacled monstrosity that appeared in the void like cracks and the living runes that came after. Well, we tried to limit the number of spells we did. We still tore through them, Celu had one of the operations wrap its tentacles around her. Which unsurprisingly got my attention, as her safety is incredibly important to me currently.   It was only as we tore through whatever Monsters the storm seemed to throw at us that we started moving again through the sky. Time had passed, but we're not sure how I assumed The Shard had something to do with it as we arrived at the Temple of Torag. Landing roughly a couple hundred feet from a battle that was taking place—knowing that we would have to deal with the storm while inside the temple, a choice was made. Licia Kraia and I channeled Champion powers and their respective domains for the situation to clear its entirety. It's not something I am willing to try again. Manipulating that much Divine energy coursing through us had its effects. The champion drag, as I will call it from now on, the aftereffect of using too much our Divine patron's power. Was rather rough on the body for Licia and I. as we had been using our powers a little bit more than the rest. I haven't observed any physical changes in Kraia yet, but it seems that the two of us have changed slightly. Well, physically, we remain much the same. However, there are aspects of us that have changed. As I've learned for some reason, I can touch incorporeal things, but that happened inside the temple watch is the next journal entry.   We accomplished our goal.   As we channeled the correct domains, attempting to sunder the clouds above. Yet the battle remained down below as the three of us had to catch her breath. The others inside the staff were quickly removed and told to get ready as we would soon be going to the temple.   As we steeled ourselves for the battle to come, I heard a sound one that I hadn't expected to hear at this specific location. Cracking. The soft, very clear sound of cracking. The dragon egg that I had been carrying was hatching.   Hopefully, it does not hatch too soon.

Journal #61: The Dreamcatcher

Journal Entry #61: The Dreamcatcher [Text Roleplay]   The Barkeep was surprisingly shocked he could keep his drink down tonight. The last time he actually drank, well elven ale was heavily involved. That being said the alcohol had hit him. It was clear as Aniks climbed the stairs carrying Celuriel swaying slightly. Or the slight lilac tent to his face. After climbing an eternally long spiraling staircase, which was only about three full rotations. Still felt like forever for Aniks. The drow’s eyebrows furrowed as being on the same floor made it very hard to ignore Sigrun and Cid. He eventually had to open a door to open on the other side of the house. Awkwardly while holding up Celuriel he opened the door to the room. Slightly slurring as he spoke, “Gods I sswear, they better not be at it all night. I don’t want to hear them alllllll night.” He extended the ‘all’ in a way only somebody drinking would do.   Celuriel hadn't felt the world move this much before, it was.. an experience. Very experienced at being inexperienced, she was, so she did as she always did in such environments and clung to Aniks. Literally, this time. Her rose-red cheeks had to look interesting against his flushed purple. She wished for a mirror. "they're go.. go-een... gonna be," she said, lips turned up into a barely-restrained laugh at the flash of insight. This was weird. "mayyy-be th'elf'll be loudrrrr. do.. do beards do... quiet things? muff-le." She was sounding out the words as she spoke, finding them all quite new again. "aniks. a-niks. an-iks? ani.... ksssss." She paused. "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaa-nik-ssssssss."   The drow took a couple steps into the room. Then with his feet started removing his boots. There was a mirror near by, some dresser or desk. Aniks wasn't pay attention, as taking off boots and paying attention to Celuriel's laugh was a chore. It was adorable. "Nooo, They jusssst as loud as elves. Be... beards beards are just muffle theirrr vo-ices." The shoes came off, flinging them across the room with each leg. He shuffed over to the bed, he heard his name repeated by the elf in his arms. "Yes?" Unsure if she was asking a question or just saying his name.   Celu let her head rest against his chest, listening to the sound of his heartbeat as if entranced for a solid minute before realising she'd been responded to. Had to cling a little to not fall when he started kicking off shoes, but... that wasn't bad. "do you knoww... what your name iss... in elfvfish?"   Aniks attempted to put the elf on the bed. He expected some level of resistance on the matter. The drow's face was quite puzzled, if he had considered his name in elven. He clearly couldn't do it now, his head was too fuzzy. "Nooooo, I can't immmangine what it would be. Do u know?"   Celuriel was not letting go of Aniks. He could join her: he could not let go of her. That wasn't allowed. She smiled prettily at him, eyes half-lidded. "it's... areyou sssure you want tto know?"   Her grip, as he expected, was ironlike as he lowered her to the bed. He found himself next to her in bed shortly after. His eyes narrowed. Now seeing the room in full. He left the door open. He waved a hand. Letting the mage hand close the door and was he meant to lock it? Turning back to elf next to him, he poked her stomach "Yes. Wh-y why would'nt I waant to know?"   Celu made a noise of annoyance at the sound, hitting him back with one hand - about as much as she'd willingly remove from him, to be honest. "because you're weieiirird?"   "I I am not thaat bad." Aniks said cuddling up to elf. The drow took a deep breath in, moved slightly to get comfortably and relaxed. His eyes were closed for a moment as he spoke. "now im curiou-us what is mine... my name in Elfish"   Celu looked up, leaning, letting her face rest close to Aniks's, and smiled at him. "aniks." The dark elf sighed deeply. A smile clearly on his lips. Then very sarcastically said "aniks? Thaaats a very de-cent name in-in elfish"   "then I am.. happy that you took iiiiit," Celu murmured, letting her head drop back down onto his chest. "you're.. good t'me."   “I diid’t take it. I was givven it. By my Mother?” Aniks corrected. Though he wasn’t sure who gave him his name. His mother probably named him. The drow placed a hand on her back as a response to her resting on his chest. “Of’coursss you’or my dre-emcatcher.”   "gonna catchh.. more'n your dreams." She leant into his touch, not quite content to remain still. "ludri... drizi... loodri... lewdruseel's jealouss of my name b'cause it's pretty-er. do you liike... my name?"   "Celuu. Celuurieeel, celurieil. Youor name is reallly pretty, i luv it." He repeated the name, she could likely hear his smile as he spoke. His only other free hand brushed some of the hair from her face. Mostly so he could look at her eyes. "Did... did you enjoy toooonite? We needed to re-relax for once."   "we hadd fun," she replied softly, peaceful smile on her lips. She was willing to move one arm from him - with it, she ran a finger across his lips. "drinmking's fuuuunnny. this'isisz nicer than.. shrines. banshees are... louuud. aaniks is reaaally soft..."   "Noow look whoos bein weirid." Aniks said after her finger left his lips. The drow leaned in to kiss the top of the elf's head. Then reached for the loose hand trying to hold it with his.   Celu accepted the handhold, pulling their clasped hands closer. "miiine," she said, looking up through her lashes at her drow. "why're youuou kissinnng my.. my haiir?"   "youvvv cauught me" It was likely the alcohol in his system that made his turn a lighter shade of purple. She has always made it clear he was her's. That didn't cause him to blush before? Aniks would think on it more but he just enjoyed the warmth for once. " becausse, the ...its its hard to kissss youor face whin when youor lay-ing there"   Celu adopted a determined expression at that, and struggled to push herself upright and further up to be closer to Aniks's face. Sadly, she was very drunk, so the attempt was.. not very good. "aaanikss. kiss me. Proprererly."   Her determination was something to be admired or was it adorable? Probably both Aniks thought. Her attempts to get closer lead to both his hands being free. Which his partner found those two hands around her face. Pulling her into a proper kiss, as she put it.   Celuriel made a noise of complaint as Aniks let go of her, swiftly followed by one of surprise at the kiss; she was happy, though, and demonstrated that by a) not stabbing him and b) hugging him. She was so warm, given how everything recently had gotten cooler. Being this close to her, that kiss, it was difficult to keep certain thoughts from his head. He was forgetting something? That thought was quickly lost in others as he kissed her nose. “Sooo much msmischief tonite, youuu think we can make ssssome of our own my dre-emcatcher?”   Celu's look of surprise and surprisingly embarrassed blush slunk into an... almost predatory smile. Former vampires, hey. "m'gonna out-mis..miss-chuff all of them."   Cue fade to black. Wink wonk.   Time became nearly irrivently, it was clearly night. Moonlight flooded the room, creating a soft blue shade to the room. Time was the least of his worries under the warmth of blankets. An arm stretched under their pillows, which Celu rested her head on. The other was curled around one of her hands interlocking with her fingers. Holding him in place. The two pressed closely together cuddling. The Barkeep hadn’t opened his eyes for a while, it felt like a while at least. Falling asleep was nearly impossible tonight. He was sobering up though, Aniks had a nice buzz going. A part of him wondered if Celuriel had drank any water last night? Aniks hadn’t, but he has had much more alcohol than her. So the hangover wasn’t going to be terrible for him. For her, without water? “celu… i need to get up. you need water, helps with drinking.stops the hangovers.” Most of that was whispered into her neck. He didn’t move, he waited for her to let her go. Hopefully.   Celuriel's sleep was always deep and full of colours she barely recognised; myriad whispers of futures and pasts murmuring incomprehensibly into the depths of her dreaming. Thus: it was not an easy task to wake her. Unless your name was Aniks, whose whisper cut through the sleep and reminded her of.. all sorts of things, especially that night. She stirred lightly, murmuring a curse in some form of Necril before dragging her eyelids awake but a fraction. "..mmm? i'm sleeping..." If anything, she snuggled closer into him.   “i know, i know…” Aniks whispered an expected as much. The soft rise and fall as she breathed was all he needed to know to tell. Still, Aniks didn’t want to consider how stabby she would be with a blaring headache from the hangover. “i just need to get you some water. It will stop the hangover tomorrow. i’m only going down stairs to the kitchen. won’t be long.”   That got her attention with the smallest intake of breaths. "...oh. come back or i'm... knives," came her retort, slightly more awake and slightly distressed. She loosened her hold on him, but only slightly.   "promise" Aniks said leaning over gently kissing his elf on the cheek. "no longer than five minutes." "...don't make prom'ses of feeeey," she whispers back, smiling as she once again lets her eyes fall shut.   " only if that fey is you." Aniks whispered back, before removing himself from the bed. Quickly slipping into at least his underwear and pants which had been scattered along the ground. He silently moved to the door. He wasn't about to walk around this house nude. Slowly he opened and closed the door, disappearing from the room. Heading for the stairs.   The stairs were, amazingly, still stairs. Random sticky patches lined them; the walls bore scratches from pauldrons and weapons. The house seemed mostly quiet now - quiet, but not silent. Aniks would quite easily pick up the noise of clinking glass in the bar area downstairs.   Aniks was thankful only buzzed. If he wasn't, the stairs might have been more troublesome. He still remained quiet, more from how he naturally walked. A side effect of growing up in a family of assassins. The noise didn't bother him, he assumed that a couple of people were still up. Still he had to pass the bar area to get into the kitchen. So he did.   Downstairs was... dark. The sort of darkness that comes only at the dead of night. Thankfully, Aniks was a drow and thus had little issue with it-- meaning he could quite clearly see the vampire that froze when he realised he'd been spotted.   The vampire that was holding a small pile of blankets, a number of glasses, and, most strangely, a bucket. The vampire that was only a few steps away from the clearly unconscious forms of.. what appeared to be Teras Galewen and Sigrún?   "...vhy ze fuck are you avake?!" Lukas hissed, eyes wide.   Aniks paused for only a moment, his eyes narrowed "you assumed I fell asleep."   "Vell, you both vent silent?" he offered, stopping himself from shrugging instinctively. Balancing! "and you would know that how?" Aniks whispered. His tone told Lukas two things. First being the drow never fell asleep, his voice wasn't groggy. The second was he expected some answers. "when did they drop, I just heard their glasses a second ago?"   Lukas looked back at the two with a look of sheer exasperation. "Vell I have ears und zey vere betting on how long ze others vould make noise. Zey have been out for.. not long? Miiinutes?" The glasses clinked as he instinctively shrugged and nearly tripped from the movement. Both Teras and Sigrún looked to be breathing, but... Sigrún's neck had a number of deep purple marks, the kind left by a lover, and Teras's seemed to bear a number of old traces of bites and scars. Nothing recent. Lukas seemed to notice his observing of the sleeping adventurers, his brows dipping in a frown. "Mein gott, you are all so paranoid. Theo passes out on me all ze time, I am not letting ze glasses bring in ze outdoors." He gave in and put the glasses back down on a table, bucket also landing next to Sigrún with a gentle clunk. "Vhy are you down here, more of ze alcohol?"   As the Vampire explained everything became apparent. Aniks didn't even answer, he simply disappeared into the kitchen. Returning with two glass pinched between thumb and and forefinger with a large jug of iced water in his other hand. Though it was hard tell exactly what it was. "You try growing up as a drow assassin, doesn't take much to be paranoid. As for why i'm down here." he shook the jug lightly, the ice sloshing around in the water. "Water."   Lukas made a noise of annoyance at the mention of Aniks's family. "Assassins are so messy... Do you sink ze ozzers vould be suspicious if zey wokr up to pitchers like zat? ...Actually zat makes it a better idea." In the short time that it'd taken for Aniks to disappear into the kitchen and return, Lukas had carefully draped blankets over the other two.   "Oh ja, ze aasimar guy got into all ze veird alcohol too? If he is still naked und declaring veird sings about his sword in ze morning, I am blaming ze humans."   "only the bad ones are messy." Aniks said, he was almost concerned how quickly that came out. Guess that Alas'thil blood is hard to change, prideful in their craft. He almost sounded like Nivinle for a second. "don't worry about it, if they wake up with hangovers it's their fault." They didn't have to worried about getting stabbed.   "Vhat..." Lukas stared, shaking his head. "Vhy am I asking? I don't really vant to know. Anyvay: it is funnier if zey drink it zen realise it vas put zere by me." He grinned, fangs visible in the darkness: bright white stood out. "Do you and ze girl vant anysing? I found ze alchemy room, you know." "do what you want. we'll be fine just stay out of our room, we might stab you out of reflex. goodnight." Aniks said.   Leaving quickly as he was still under the five minute limit he gave himself. Walking down the hall, his foot kicked something in the dark. He blinked watching the object slide towards the stairs. Even with his darkvision he hadn't been paying that much attention. It's probably why he missed it the first time. A handful a steps later and he was leaning down, placing the two glasses on the ground, quickly exchanging it for the square... Aniks narrowed his eyes. It read 'Dong of Darkness'' HE KNEW HE FORGOT SOMETHING! His eyes widen and the realization. He could feel his face flush, yet his blood went ice cold. It was overall an odd feeling. Gods he didn't know how to feel, OH GODS HE HAD TO TELL CELURIEL. How would she even take it? would she need an explanation?! His ears raised at that thought. Gods he was so stupid how could he forget about protection?! His mind ran through what seemed like a million thoughts, before he picked up the two glasses again. The deep breath didn't help but it made him feel slightly better. The flushed drow silently walked back up the spiraling staircase, and back to the room. Eventually opening the door, and silently shutting it.   He silently placed the glasses on the bedside table, pouring each of them a glass of water. Careful not to let the ice make to much noise. The Jug was tenderly placed on that table and Aniks pick up a full glass. He sat on the side of the bed near her brushing some hair from her face "celuriel...i need you wake up." Get her drink the water. You can tell her after, You gotta tell her Aniks thought. He sighed, so many thought rushing through his head.   Celuriel stirred lightly at the touch; it would seem she hadn't been able to get back to the depths of her dreams yet. She glared at him, eyes lidded. "m trying to dream."   Dreams? She use to be worried about constant nightmares. The glare didn’t bother him that much, Celuriel was never happy about being woke up. Swirling the glass ice clinking in its cup “sorry but i need you lean up to drink this. trust me you don’t want a hangover.”   Celu glared at the glass, instead, seeing no understanding from Aniks. Never before had she shown such sullen ire to a glass. "what is it?"   "water" Aniks said, taking a drink from it.     "...that's boring." She struggled to sit up, succeeding after a minor bit of fighting with the blankets and pillows. "it's coold.."’   "yes it is but we're not drinking anymore tonight. i need you to at least finish one cup" Aniks whispered, much sweeter than he normally would when cutting somebody else of from alcohol. He handed the water over to her. He reached over to grab the last glass of water. His drink quickly brought down to half, sat between his legs. He used the accuse of drinking the water not to stare. As staring at her now brought with it a flood of thoughts. As well as mental images of what could be. GODS Why can't I deal with this in the morning, no it has to be now he told himself . He was clearly lost in though…   Celu drank the water a little too quickly, coughing when done, and put it on the bedside table a little too hard. "are you coming back to bed?" Not at all a pointed question. She could see he was worrying about something, but her head still felt fuzzy - her everything still felt strange. "i can't catch your nightmares if you stay away from me."   The coughing brought him out of his thoughts, all his attention on his partner. The worry not completely gone from his eyes but momentarily set aside. He took the empty glass and refilled it replace both his and hers back on the table. Incase he could convince her to drink another later. That’s a loaded question, his ears dropped slightly. One Aniks knew he’d have to answer. The fact that she wanted to talk about it brought a small comforting smile to his face as he crawled across the bed. He leaned against the backboard of the bed. “it’s no nightmare, but we need to talk about tonight.”   He looked almost shy? His face was very *lilac* as well and he spoke so softly only she could properly hear him.   Celuriel immediately nestled back against her drow, dragging the blanket with her. "was something bad...?" Perhaps being drunk made that sound more emotional than she ever usually would show, but she seemed worried.   Arms wrapped around her waist pulling her in closer, resting his head on her shoulder before he spoke. Cool air filled his lungs, for a long moment he held his breath. Air slowly released from his chest before he spoke. “It shouldn’t be,tonight was nearly perfect. I just was a *bit* lost in the moment, forgot a couple of important things” Which was an understatement given the night, still his voice as quiet and near her ear. “How much do you really know about we did?”   She shivered at the cool touches, the cold whisper; temperature was still so strange. She turned in his embrace just enough to see his face properly, and murmured an even-toned response. "...we had sex." Celu was either incredibly vague, or pretty blunt. Any in-between stage was rare. This... was definitely the latter. "did you hurt something?"   He didn’t look hurt and was nothing really wrong presay. His face was an odd mix as she looked, still a bit lilac around the cheeks. There was a moment of silence as he just watched her as she spoke clearly both concerned and happy. As she clearly didn’t know some things, otherwise she would have made mention of it. “Nothing hurts, no. You do know what could possibly happen as a result of having sex?”   She considered the possibilities, cheeks flushing at.. some of those images. The occasional hum of mechanical sound coming from Kraia's room didn't help that any, instead serving as a distraction. Her brows furrowed in thought - until her eyes widened. "you're thinking of pregnancy?" Immediately, without pause, she hit him - not gently, but not with any weaponry. Open-palmed against his chest. "Ludrissiel will kill me.."   It was slightly amusing watching her puzzle through ideas and watching her blush for once. The open-palm strike got a solid ‘oof’ to leave Aniks. Arguing against her thoughts on Ludrissiel would only lead him to sleeping in the bar. Aniks knew how adamant she was about it. Besides they probably needed to ‘talk’ about this not ‘argue’ about how Aniks *WOULDN’T* willingly let that happen without a fight. Pregnancy or not.   “yes I was...” The drow whispered while very carefully watching her expression about the topic. “...it’s a possibility. a very low one, being that we’re elves but still a chance.”   "we can't," Celu whispered back, cold fear evident in her voice. She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so many different emotions in a night. "the shards exist. she would find out. we do not know what Champion powers could do... we are not ready," and she hid her face against him, dark hair shielding her expression. In a lower tone but no longer entirely a whisper, she asked: "if it happened. if it were true. is that what you want?"   " i know..." it was a simple enough statement. Two words that were clearly a mix of emotions, and figuring out which ones was hard even for him. The Drow turned his head slightly looking as his elf, hidden behind her nearly pitch black hair. Aniks wasn’t blind to the problems. Two of those technically had ends, the third? He wasn’t sure what would happen if two champions have children. Especially given their gods. Besides if she was, it would put her in danger more than Aniks would have liked. It's something that they wouldn't know for a little while. Pondering on these thoughts, there was a long pause as he considered this. His voice was still whispering as he spoke. “yes. it’s something that i have thought about and considered, especially after the world seems to keeps showing me hypothetical children. hard not to think about it when that happens. but your opinion matters just as much if not more.”   "hypothetical..?" Celuriel was ever confused by the things they encountered. When the alcohol was gone, and when her dreams were done for the night, she would have to ask Aniks how much of this was unusual for adventurers.   It still felt odd to have an opinion, and she lapsed into silent thought to also give it consideration. Had there been a clock to tick behind them, it may well have spelt out five agonising minutes before she sighed, uncertainty lacing every breath. "a child cannot live in a world where she does. it would be taken from us. but imagining a world where my sister is gone is hard." She was thankful to not have her expression visible, instead demonstrating her fear through nails slightly digging into her lover's skin. "...if it were true, I would not be the one to kill it." Ludrissiel would inevitably have that honour.   The silence was something Aniks could deal with, as for the nails. That he had to do something about. While he didn't stop her, the drow simply pulled her slowly into hug, kissing her shoulder lightly. Trying to comfort her, let her know she was safe, she was here. "Yes, one was an illusion to depict the future, the other was well I'm still not sure. She spoke, but I am pretty sure it was something else taking that form... you want to see them?"   "no. yes? ...if you think it's a good idea." Celu lent fully into the hug, gripping him just as tightly. She needed this touch right now; nothing they were talking about was anything she had thought about for longer than a heartbeat. "if it won't hurt you."   "it won't, it's a simple spell." Whether it was a good idea or not, he wasn't sure. Having no decent illusion spell in his collection to produce such an effect, Aniks drew from that small pool of mythical energy within himself. He knew the spell he’d use, Minor Illusion. He tried his best to keep from removing himself from her too much. With a mix of both quick arm motions and a handful of arcane words whispered in the air. Two images were rather clear in his head. On the edge of the bed the air shimmered with a mix of purple and grey before the lingering arcane energy disappeared. Replaced with two illusionary children that came into existent. A slightly taller young girl stood next to a younger boy, both with light smile across their faces. These hypothetical children clearly showed traits from their parents. The pale skin, white hair, golden eyes were some of the few more noticeable familiar traits. His arms once again wrapped around his lover leaning against her. Waiting to see what she would say.   Celuriel fell completely silent, staring over at the children. Pointed ears. Golden eyes. Alive, with a smile reminiscent of Aniks's own. She... didn't know what to say, instead turning away from the images to hide against him and remaining quiet for a moment as she processed what had just happened. Then snuck another look, and repeated that process.   Finally, she whispered - loud enough for him alone to hear - "what names would you give..?" Her reaction was… adorable? Aniks clearly couldn’t place it but it was his turn to be silent as he thought. A small smile came across his face, as she asked that question. Resting his head close to hers, Celuriel could hear the soft sounds of contemplations. He didn’t want those names to be Drow like, besides elven names often sounded more pleasant then a Drow's name. “Hmmm… Ilyana or Allisa. Perhaps Sindel? I was rather fond of that one. As for the boy, I just saw him in the shrine so… " The Drow paused as another minute when by, he hadn't had the time to consider names for a boy."Alder or Lanre? I was never great at naming on the spot. Also might be better for them to have a different surname then Alas'thil.”   "allisa would make the emperor sad," Celu commented after another few minutes of listening to the sounds of their own breathing, still barely audible. "it is close to the girl he lost. sindel is better. my mother told me we were named for nature. 'celu' is 'river'. I don't know hers... I don't know how to think of names. sicil... siciriel? knife-girl." She breathed out slowly, listening to the sound - reassuring herself, perhaps, that her breathing was still there. "...think of a better surname for them and you. then you can give it to me as well."   “I don’t think we can name her that...” Aniks said a smile clearly across his face. Knife-girl? It was so not what he expect he couldn’t help but have a quietly laugh as he spoke. This would explain why Celuriel only referred to her cat as ‘Her Cat’ or ‘Cat’. Probably should name them as well at some point. She was of course right about the name Allisa, he had almost forgotten how close it was to her name. Somepeople named their children after fallen friends, this didn’t seem like an instance where that could be the correct thing to do. At the latter comment Aniks unconsciously hugged her a bit tighter, nuzzling into her. “ Hmm... might be awhile before I find a good surname for us. I’ll definitely find one, before I get you a ring.”   Celu made a soft noise of pleased surprise at the increased amount of cuddling. He wasn't as warm as before, but that didn't matter. "you already gave me a ring," she reminded him, definitely hiding a small smirk, but didn't push the matter. "how do people make surnames? ours are long. the other elves have long names too. but the plant's is short, and the halfling's is made of Common."   The dark elf removed a single hand from a very warm hug. Gently lifting Celu’s hand as if the two were going would inspect the ring in question. “Not the Wedding Ring I thought you would like, but if that’s the one your happy with…” While clearly teasing, he did plan on finding her a ring. Probably after they dealt with the Harp though. As for the surnames question. That one took a minute, as he didn’t have a good answer.“Hmm some adventurers take accomplishment as last names like Dragonslayer or Lightbringer. Not the best last name, but those are my opinions. Many complex elven names explain or tell what their family means or stands for. More Common names are often like two simple things combined together and changed slightly like Kraia’s last name.”   It took a moment for Celu to catch onto what he was doing with her hand - the realisation, seconds later, pinkened her cheeks. "..." She... didn't know what to say. So she stayed quiet and waited, letting him muse on family names.   ..Family names. For them. She captured his hand in a gentle grip, lacing her fingers between his. "then we need to decide what sort of family we would be?" she asked quietly. Silently wanting to confirm that they would be a family. As the conversation and long pauses progressed, the illusionary children dissolved into the air. Leaving the edge of the bed empty. Aniks hadn’t realised the spell was about the dissipate, or that they had been talking for that long. It took his attention away from Celuriel for a moment. The empty space soon lost his attention, returning to person between his arms.   Their interlaced hands softly fell down, a similar grip returning from Aniks. His head now leaning against hers. His voice quiet as well "hmmm a caring one to start, but I already thought of you as family."

Journal #60: A bartender once again.

After all this shrine mess, the fey time displacing us, dealing with the dwarven prince’s scry blocking everything to do with Licia’s Father. The Lost Ones and our traveling company finally decided we need a break. Which encluded a ludicrous amount of alcohol, which Sigrún supplied as well as a place to relax.   The large house, one of many according to Sigrún, was clearly built with a more Viking aesthetic in mind. As it fits the own quite well with her runes blades and winged helmet. The longhouse was surprisingly wide and might have been two stories tall? A third if there was an attic. We spent very little time outside admiring the peaked roofs, despite it look quite nice. We skipped the living room heading straight to the bar, which was shocking large. Larger than my bar in Ironfall.   Before we really started to relax. Silver found themselves in a bin that held umbrellas, complaining as I unbuckled him from my side. My decision to place my scimitar into that bin was simple. I did not want him whispering in my mind every time something happened. As when The Lost One’s drink, there is always a bit of magic involved. When I told them I did not want to hear them, they simply called me a bitch.   In retrospect, given how that night went, really glad I did this.   It was definitely one of those nights.   Licia’s and her father had taken a table for themselves. Celuriel was never too far from me, and Sigrún, Burdyr, and Cid found themselves at the bar. Then to my amusement, partly due to Burdyr’s convincing Talinde joined the bar. Kraia kind of kept to her self, but I made sure she had some drinks if she asked. Lukas and Nailnir had placed themselves far from the rest of the group. Chatting to themselves for a large part of the night.   For once I was a bartender again, but I took it slow at first. As Sigrún and Burdyr were having a drinking contest. Starting slow was always a good option, only to increase to alcoholic percentage in the drinks later. So the first rounds I passed out, were not too strong. Just something to warm everybody up. Given that Teras and Yoshi had not had food in a while since Teras was kept in a dungeon for a while. Licia’s father would not being eat heavily tonight.   Asking if he wanted me to cook anything special he was not so sure if a drow could make elven dishes. Which wasn’t something I was overly familiar with but I could have attempted? Then again, after seen Sigrún’s pantry. I could not have pulled it off if I tried. Stew was tonight meal.   It felt surprisingly good, to just have to cook and serve drinks again. I almost forgot that I liked being a tavern owner. You tend to forget what a normal life is like when you deal with dragons, gods, and shards of the void. Yet that is the life we live. Sigrún gave me full permission to use her kitchen. Just like my shadow, Celuriel followed me simply saying something about wanting to watch.   “Well, then you can help me,” I said putting a handfull of potatoes next to me I had yet to cut. “here cut these.”   I heard one thud into a wooden cutting board next to me, the knife an inch deep within the wood. The sudden sound made me turn, her dagger, not a kitchen knife, was stuck in a starchy vegetable. “Well… that’s not one we can use.” I said clearly amused when she asked why. I explain several things to the inexperienced chef. One was she used that knife to stab people, two you do not stab you cut and third, she was not using the correct knife and how there were many kinds of knives for cooking. I pulled out a second knife from a drawer more accustomed to the choir of cutting study vegetables. Similar to the one I was using to cut the potatoes. Jokingly adding I would have to get her different knives for her birthday. She very much enjoyed that idea.     Well, I know what one of her presents is going to be, different kinds of knives from the kitchens to the elven ones.   After her first batch of cut potatoes for the stew were done, I had to show her how to properly slice them. Not because they were bad, because she might have cut off her finger with how she used the knife.   Every so often I would hear a call for drinks, and disappear from the kitchen to pass or refill. As well a making sure Celuriel was okay chopping the potato. Strangely enough, Talinde joined in on the drinking. I started him with light fruity drinks. With every idea to add more alcohol throughout the night which the fruitiness would cover the alcohol. Which for an elf, I am surprised at how well he handled himself. Then again his partner in crime for the night, Buydyr was just as hard and he’s a Dwarf. It might be a war priest thing.   Sidenote; it was around this time, I had the bright idea to get rid of the rest of the Elven Ale. A bottle left for Sigrún for helping I think or did I wrote something about letting us stay here. The other used for tonight. She made a comment as I told her that I would leave the bottle, my reply was she likely be stabbed and I would be locking my door tonight. She ended with the Cid that night. They were not quiet.   At this point, I started enjoying myself. Making sure both Celu and I were far away from Elven Ale. I still had a fair amount of drinks throughout the night, which I shared with Celuriel. I had not been that drunk for a long time. It was nice. Being able to relax and just not worry about things.   Till Talinde started using magic on the drinks. Those drinks had very odd and apparent effects on us. The safest among them was Burdyr had gotten a second set of arms. Others were more Suggestive, needless to say, I had to cover Celuriel with my cloak. As one of her drinks had replaced her clothing with a bikini. While I will admit finding the sight rather attractive, I thought it better to cover her. So I covered her in my cloak, which also gave me an excuse to hold her. I think I remember Celuriel using her champion powers to change some of the effects the drinks had on us while she was in my arms. She used it on me, which I am rather glad mine was not permanent. I do not need to write what it was, I remember.   Burdyr was the first to fall asleep or more accurately just drop. Departing from Celu for the first part that night, I got Burdyr blankets. The other war priest had taken it upon himself to take the Dwarf upstairs. I left him with the blanket and went back to Celu.   The two of us eventually found a room, which she demanded I carried her there.   As for the rest of our night, I was reminded in more than one way that Celuriel is a gorgeous woman that I love.

Journal #59: The oldest sister

Promethea had already nozzled herself into Aniks lap, clucking softy while asleep. Content with her meal at this odd family dinner. Eating with The Lost One's or Celuriel wasn't that odd. To some extent neither was Nivinle, though she kept writing down notes instead of talking. Assumingly still planning for whatever happened in that future. Those people weren't the weird ones, it was the new drow next to him. The smiling one. The one Nivinle said was her, their sister.   While she had been silent, for all of this fae time displacement only really sharing words with Nivinle. Aniks had caught her watching him once or twice. The two siblings were taller than this new sister; she was a shorter drow and looked nothing like their mother. It was their father she looked like. The white freckles, the lilac eyes back in the shrine he thought that drow on that screen looked familiar. Now with her in front of him, it was hard to deny the similarity between the two. She clearly wasn't that much older a decade, maybe two. To say he wasn't curious was be a lie.   What was her name, Daeris?   A good portion of the dinner was sat in silence, save for casual conversation. Again Aniks couldn't bring himself for much more than that. The future only one year without them was concerning. A fair amount of things left unattended. The Emperor in bed with that Princess after the Barkeep warned him, Canthe said he knew of Drast? The Shards moving around, both Riven and Elias. The giant scar now in that endless desert. Too many thoughts swirled around the drow's head. Gods Aniks would have to apologize to Ashlyn, she finally understood her distrust of Cyne. He couldn't just ignore it anymore just because they were friends. Then what about the Samsaran? Jinne knew they were from another time? The Divine casters working with the Dreamers. That temple, so many questions about those Dreamers. How far do those temples go back, why did she say they belong to the world. Gods, he needs a list of things he needed to research.   The Barkeep's eyes widen, his thoughts tossed aside from a cup being placed on his head. Tapping lightly. He had been so lost in thought, he had failed notice the freckled drow remove herself from her seat next to him. He turned his head to see Daeris pulling a cup off of his head. "Mind if I borrow you for a second."   She gestures just to a couple of trees fifteen or so feet away, still in clear view of everybody. If Nivinle had pulled him aside, he would be more inclined to believe she would be up to no good. Still, the sorceress in front of him followed Milani, that freedom goddess if Aniks could recall. Still, what good drow would ever willing to work with a matron? Were they working together? Unless something happened. Questions to ask. Aniks excused himself quickly, not ignoring the quick glances.   Aniks leaned against a tree, folding his arms. He was clearly unsure how to even look at her. He kept his face nearly neutral, with his brow slightly furrowing at the drow. She was fidgeting with a small platinum rose pendant. She had yet to replace it on her new cloak.   "Thanks..." the freckled drow said. Then she titled her head as Aniks raised. "For the cloak, I mean. It's really nice."   "Your welcome, Daeris?" She nodded as he clearly was asking if that was her name. "So, what did you need?"   It came out rather blunt, but Aniks siblings had been a mixed bag to being with so. The question had a reason for being that blunt. Younger siblings screwed Aniks over and left him in Castle Umbra. Nivinle and Aniks have a loose trust, and on some level, like each other. Then this drow worshiped a Good Goddess but stilled worked with Nivinle. Or at least looked like she was. That was something he would ask.   As her eyes widen, Aniks notice the slit-like pupils. "Oh, I wanted just wanted to talk to you!"   She paused, narrowing her eyes, folding her arms. Annoyed. Not at him, but more at the fact something like this happened twice within less than a decade.   "You're a lot harder to find that I would have liked, but that's not really your fault is it. I swear any time I go searching for people, they are always time-displaced or time locked."   "Does this happen often?" Aniks said a slight smirk as the drow started ranting.   "Gods, I hope not." she protested. "Twice is enough for one lifetime, but enough about that. To sum up, a stupidly long story, went to find out about my family, learned my father had two other kids. Ironfalls was a dead end for you, as your 'friend' said you weren't coming back." She gestured to the Celuriel. "Went to Nivinle next, then got dragged into helping her deal with Drast. I swear if he wasn't such a problem, one of us would have killed the other by now."   Aniks ran hands through his hair. Not exactly what he wanted to hear. "As much as I want to know…" The younger brother shook his head. "There is a lot to unpack in that, mostly that Drast is a large enough threat to get Nivinle involved. Something to note for the future I guess. That is currently besides the point, as you just wanted to talk?"   "Yeah! I always grew up alone, hardly had friends never knew my family." She listed those facts on her fingers. Her face was so expressive as she spoke. It was odd to see on a drow's face Aniks thought. "The friends part changed, of course. Thorid, Spiros, Rosa, Alistair, and Lyadri. Eventually, I wanted to know about my parents. Took about a year to find anything on them. This led to me finding out about you two..."   Daeris looked up. She thought she was talking too much, nervous and all that but Aniks's face. He visibly flinched as hear that name, as whatever that connection was they had. That mental link, neither one was happy about that.   "What?"   Having trouble finding another person's time lock. She knew Her. She was looking for the Commander. That was the last person Aniks thought he would hear in this conversation. "Commander Lyadri? From Galathin?"   Daeris paused for a moment. Tilting her head to the said. Clearly noticing the reaction of the name. Her mouth opened as if to speak, but closed it. Then looked back at the rest of the table. Furrowing eyebrow showed she obviously was 'looking' at them for the first time. Aniks turned to the rest of the table. Some of the group was different, of course. Ashlyn and Pin were gone.   "Yes… I was." She said paying closer attention to, he assumed the giant beaver. Her head slowly turning back "... you're that drow she was complaining about."   "Glad to know I made an impression," Aniks said sarcastically.   "Gods, that was a rant," Daeris said, rolling her eyes. "Even I couldn't get all the information out of her. She stubborn like that, but apparently you had done something to at least get remembered."   Aniks paused for a moment, it wasn't something he forgot. It was one of the few times he willingly channeled Pharasma's power of the Soul. That had changed recently but his first attempts with the magic had been larger than they probably should have been. Removing souls from Shardic influence, letting them free, and attempting to remove that 'things' control over the elf. Something like that wasn't easy to hide.   "So…" Aniks shifted his feet in the snow. He looked back at the table. Their sister was eating. "How do you get along with Nivinle?"   "Not well... still it's more of the lesser of two evils. And she's a champion of a demon lord, so that's saying something. I fight her on so much, especially when it comes to Drast, and it's so hard to read her. We agree to disagree on a lot. Your siblings on the other hand, the other ones Vasestra and Rizkry, rikzyr? Whatever his name was. Nearly killed him once, Nivinle didn't seem to mind. I would have gotten the other one but she stopped me. They deserved it, wouldn't stop trying to flirt with me."   "I like you already," Aniks said with a smirk.   Daeris return the same question "Do you like Nivinle? From what I have heard, you're odd."   Aniks was silent for a long moment. He was clearly staring at the table.   "We have a decent relationship, I think," Aniks said. "I spent about half my life with her. I respect her and I understand why she is the way she is. Still she is possibly one of the most dangerous people I will ever meet. So I am always wary of her. The younger ones there are terrible, and I am surprised they are even still alive."   She paused for a moment, either sibling clearly unsure of what to talk about.   "Hey, Daeris, you know you do not remember any of this right."   "I know…" she said a bit sad "Still, at least you'll be back in the world. Avoiding all of this. Hey, maybe I'll get to find you this time."   Aniks smirked, "Well then, at least tell me a little bit about your life."   So she did. In very Daeris fashion, she told Aniks of her times with her group of ragtag adventures about some mage that hired them, dealing with dragons, the long and difficult process of dealing with Lyadri in general. They spoke for a long time, Aniks commented every once in a while. About their gunslinger, or monk. Apparently, that group also had a strange large animal companion. Daeris seemed to brighten up at this. Aniks looked over to the dinner table, which seemed to be ending. He was enjoying this conversation, despite how odd all this was.   "I hate to interrupt, but I think we might be leaving soon."   "Oh… well OH! I could ask you to do something! Really quick? When you're back and have the time of course. Could you write me a letter? I should already be looking for my family, so your writing might help me find you quicker." She was almost like a child as she spoke.   "Where would I send it?" She considered this for a moment   "Yeah, I travel a lot. Hmmm Lyadri? She probably would contact me, or just teleport to me."   Great, I have to write to the Commander of all people. Aniks thought.   "I will send it there unless something happens to it." Aniks finally said this does mess with time a bit, but so does Cyne's Letter to himself. Fate would probably stop it if Aniks wasn't meant to take the information of the future to the past.   She smiled, she smiled so much for a drow.   Arms wrapped around Aniks. As she hugged him.   "I can't wait to meet you again!" Daeris said, hugging the awkward drow. It took a couple of seconds, but he returned to hug.  

Journal #58: The sign says it all

Journal Entry #58: The Sign says it all   Besides Celuriel's involvement with the fae, I rather hate how easily they just warp the world around us when they need help.   Regardless of my vexation towards the first world beings, one of them deemed it an important time to take us. Forward one year, stealing us from the sapphire shrine in the middle of our trail. Only five of us, Myself, Kraia, Licia, Cid, and Burdyr. Being woken up in a warm and colorful place. It looked similar to that twisted piece of land called Tenearul, without the corruption. The First World home of the fae and the Eldest. Possible more.   Luckily this, well, the best way to describe this fae who stole us from our time was Summer-like. Or perhaps Spring-like, somewhere in between. Whatever the theme might have been, it was clear from her explanation that we could be placed back in the proper time if we helped with her icy problem. Apparently, one the factions of The First World the Ice Queen, If that was what she was called. Had come to Istralar a century too early, freezing the world permanently. In order to defrost the world, we had to collect our friends and family, delivering them presents and bring joy back to the world. Or something to that effect.   The concepts the fae work with are so hard to grasp. As if they all play a child's game where the rules always make sense to other children, but you would be hard-pressed to find anybody to understood outside of those faes who play that game.   We agreed, not that we had much choice. Burdyr took it a little better that I personally thought. Give how often we get kidnapped into helping in something winter-themed event. Dealing with Santa Clause and Krampus and whatever this Christmas is? Adding some strange, powerful ice fae to the mix did not seem entirely out of the ordinary for this mix.   This Summer Fae handed us a bag that looked shockingly similar to one that turned me into a child. Explaining how presents would defrost our loved ones by bringing them joy. Each of us would bring two or three people back here.   Artemis was gifted with the magical flight. We had magical cloths applied to us. Three of us had a deep red coat with white fur as it's trim, with a long red hat with a fluffy white ball at its tip. Cid has dressed a deer costume? With a strange round red nose. I had an odd green and red striped shirt with another green shirt over that. The pointed curling shoes with bells were a bit much. We found ourselves Ironfalls frozen bodies everywhere. Seemingly going about there daily life before being frozen solid in less than an instant. It was silent, so silent that wind seems twice as loud in comparison. No chatter among the town folk that covered the town with a blanket of background noise. Just a lingering Icy silence.   Not the best introduction of Ironfalls for Burdyr.   The center of the town hardly a soul around, save for that flirty baker. The bar, my bar was still standing, but I went around back. Checking on Promethea, my awoken chicken. From the bag, we gave her rather good grain. Unfrosting her little body, Promethea was incredibly happy to see me. This made me miss the little girl; still, it would be too dangerous for her to stay with us for long. Inside, Kraia had triggered another Rune of Lust and ended up kissing an iced Alvir. With the added bonus of the ownership of the bar and the kiss from Kraia. We had another deforested person to add to our collection. I forgot he had a thing for small people, I wonder if Kraia will actually do anything with him once were back in Ironfalls for more than a week. While Cid took care of Saeryn with a fancy new bow, I checked upstairs. Apparently, both Saeryn and Alvir's last memories were of some forested person or creature. Clearly, the thing that froze them. Upstair was empty, no track of Celuriel. It was hardly lived in.   I would be lying if I had said my concern wasn't growing, as the bar and our home in Ironfalls was empty. Devoid of Celu.   Eventually getting to the inside of the keep itself, Kraia released her family from there respective cold prisons. Which, as a normal family would do, asked when she would be home and when she could watch her Neice and Nephew. While I am not sure about what gift was used on her whole family, Her parents got a bag of some planets, read into that as you will, probably some smokeable herb of some kind. I was never one to understand smoking. You could get easily inebriated from ale. This was besides points. As Ashlyn's family was next, we found them and, of course, in their room. Ashlyn and Mery, defending Midna from I assume some sort of icy threat. for Ashlyn it did not take much, I pulled the adamantine firing pan out. Given that that was her weapon of choice all those years ago, it made a rather good way of defrosting our Paladin friend. Midna got a full set of armor, two more resemble her adoptive mother. After explaining the situation which, prompted me to pull out a sign that simply said: 'Fae Bullshit' to explain the time huh and everything. Ashlyn using the bag, pulled out fine jewelry for Mery. Another collection of people for our merry band of misfits. Kazric was not hard to find. It seemed he had built himself a rather large and phallic like tower on one of the mountains in Ironfalls. We found him guarding his two children. Giving him good ale was sufficient enough, I believe Kraia pulled that ale out. The children, on the other hand, I took care of. I pulled out two different kinds of magical daggers, which for them we're basically really short swords. One was flaming, and I believe the other one was ice. I gave each of them the daggers as a present, and they defrost it almost on the spot. And they clung to my legs, which while cute. It hurt a bit.   They just remind me of Alain a bit.   It is around this time that we realized the sack could truly pull out anything we need. I pulled out a compass as I felt I needed to find Celuriel. The compass worked.   Outside the edge of Ironfall, a small home was built. The special compass leads straight there. I was happy we had found her. I knew she wouldn't be happy that we disappeared for any given amount of time. My head was plagued with thoughts of what she could have gone through, what she thought.   She was not alone.   Her sister had paid her a visit before the world had frozen over.   The Lich knife in hand raised above her head, with all the intent in the world to bring it down onto her sister's chest. Recreating an all-too-familiar scene from their past. Celuriel was sleeping quietly, frozen in bed. I panicked. Which also might have been brought on by the fact that her sister was merely a handful of steps away from us. I was too worried I would not be able to defrost her. I could not think of something, I knew she loved books, no title came to mind that would be sufficient enough. Give it a year, I was not sure how she felt about me.   When I voiced my concerns, Kraia slapped a bow on my head she had pulled from the bag. This had been my first idea, that may be just myself would be enough to defrost her. I was too worried she would replace her feelings for me with anger.   When I went next to the bed, the shell of ice metaled away. Her glance up to her sister And showed so little shocked that it told me she expected to see her. When she looked at me, on the other hand, two things happened.   "one year," she said quite angrily.   Then I found a knife stuck in my side.   Despite the pain of having one of her many knives removed quickly from my side. I explained everything how we were going to set it straight and what happened. Why we had not come back and just disappeared in the middle of the sapphire shrine. I know she probably wasn't happy, I'm really glad that worked. The simple fact that she defrosted, but despite me being gone for a year of her time, she still cared so much.   She also commented on my stupid outfit, which I agreed with her; it was stupid.   Next trip was to see the emperor himself, as we were pretty sure we can defrost, Licia handled this one. I cannot necessarily call what items should be pulled from the magical sack in order to defrost the emperor. The effect was all the same. Cyne to several different people in his room, the, strangely enough, he wasn't the only Frozen person In his bed. Siglinde was still on her side, peacefully sleeping, unaware that she was frozen.   We explained to Cyne our predicament and exactly what was going on. Then I had an idea I asked him if you wanted to write a note to his past self. Avoid any mistakes and such. I had multiple reasons for doing this. However, it could also help as much as it could hurt. He agreed and took up a solid page worth of encoded notes.   His note translated below took a while too. Though not the orginal copy, Licia took that to our Cyne. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   Cyne (self?)--   It feels incredibly strange to write a letter to myself. Doubly so since you're in the past. Weird shit never ends. I'm guessing whoever gave this will explain where and how they found me, because that's more their story than mine. And I'm hoping the differences in our worlds aren't so great that you don't have any issue with deciphering this.   I could give you a full accounting of all the shit I've had to deal with in a year, but even with our lord giving me a little longer to write, I don't have THAT much time. Needless to say: there's a lot that could happen. Especially if, as in my world, that party of idiots get themselves killed. That sort of changed everything.   Some of the bigger things. Can't avoid marriage forever; need an heir. Mine's not born yet, but WIP with Veronika's sister (Siglinde). Made the best of it and took control of their country. Also Ordan and Terenholt, because they were useless alone, and Medimia because somebody needed to put their foot down. And a few others. For various reasons. Ruling gets more entertaining when you only need to worry about a handful of people. Would suggest you make a decision that doesn't lead you to having a controlling wife who has to hide certain aspects every time Ashlyn visits (though she likes the paperwork, which is one of many benefits).   Drast's people are everywhere - including in your ranks - which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Use them. If it comes down to it, the Gothadruni nobility have the right connections to arrange a meeting. Listening to the occasional demand stops innocents from injury, and allows easier espionage. Work with Aetha re: shards. She's surprisingly brilliant. Other champions show up. Find them quickly, they're useful. Same to former party's allies. Alas'thil respects you. Galasthin would have been useful to take and use, but concessions had to be made. Might be why Alas'thil respects me, come to think of it.   Your parents will be used against you. Let them die. Ceridwen prepared ahead, Andron deserves his death. Ashlyn largely stays in her little town after. No need to fear her disapproval.   Whatever happens in your world, remember mine. Rule with steel and shadow, and our Empire will flourish. There's no need to spill an excess of blood if you speak velvet and send the right fools to their graves. My world is a kinder place to its inhabitants than it was a year past - and as I always expected, it would never have become so if I'd sought 'happiness'.   Best of luck. Shadows keep you.   By the grace of truth, High Emperor Aneirin of the Aletheian Empire and all its Lands, Champion of Hell, King of Gothadrun, King of Ordan, Emperor of Medimia, and far too many other titles for me to care about.   P.S. Don't trust wine; it might be cursed, blood, or both.   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   Somewhere along the way, Cid at the castle picked up some random person in a maid outfit. Not sure when but he had snuck out while we were in the castle.   I wonder if Licia trusts Cyne enough not to decode this. She probably won't. Her face would be priceless when she read about Cyne's heir. Turns out, Siglinde was pregnant at the time. Convincing the party, we should visit my older sister Nivinle, the more the marrier. I cannot say I was not curious about how she fared a year later. That and we needed more people as Burdyr had only Talinde. Besides, Nivinle was probably an easy person to defrost. She was the only sister I cared about…   But not even that is true anymore.   As we teleported into House Alas'thil's Study. It was changed more of a war room, glancing at the maps several houses I was unfamiliar and their territories House Alas'thil had gained a large amount of land and influence. Two drow were there both familiar, though I had never met one person. Nivinle arms crossed as another drow looked annoyed in the middle of speaking. At a general glance at the table and knowing my sister as I do. I used the magical sack to pull out a book of plans and contact.   Plans to control and manipulate the Aletheian Underdark.   It worked, her first response was how did you get this.   Waving that aside, I pointed to the other drow. One that looked quite similar to a picture I had just seen. The drow with the rose pendant. While she smiled on the screen picture back in the shrine, now she looked like she was in the middle of an argument. A worshipper of Milani and, according to Nivinle, our oldest sister. Older than both of us. The lilac eye and white freckles dusted across her face told me without much of a problem whose child she was. This drow did not have the golden eyes the Alas'thil bloodline was known for. This was a child from my father, one of the few people who could match blades with Vasynda (our mother) without the need for magic.   I knew that drow looked familiar. I just never assumed she would be related to my father. With quick exchanges, I pulled another item from the sack. A Milani style cloak, and with that, the drow free and quite confused, and it required another explanation with the sign.   Fae Bullshit   Daeris was named, and for the most part, she kept to herself only talking to Nivinle. Still talking about in more hushed whisper about their plans to deal with Drast as I later found out. Had he become such a dangerous force within a year that my sister had to get involved. I know Drast had dealings in the Underdark.   Burdyr's people were next, which was just Talinde. With a failed attempt to pick up Sigrun along the way, she was just frozen in mid-battle and continued said battle after we unfroze her. Leaving Burdyr with some large great sword. More on that later, but back to the other war priest. He was just outside the Sapphire Shrine. We gave another Fae Bullshit explanation and joined us. I hate this time manipulation. Makes things too complicated, besides we seem to deal with it far too often for my liking. Celuriel's is fine as it does not steal years from us.   Licia was the last one left, as she needs one more person. The easiest one for her was Canthe, the Cleric of Desna she hit it off with when we dealt with the Unbroken March. Finding her inside a strange temple. Again I cannot say or remember what others pulled out of the magical sack too, it was much easier to remember the things I had pulled, the frying pan, the knives, the plans, and cloak. I do not really count myself as I did not pull myself out of the bag.   Thus things got complicated.   Inside one of the dreamer's temple, Cante was speaking with Jinne of all people.   Plucking a silver orb from the bag, it did the trick.   She knew, knew that we were not from this timeline. That we had been displaced. How she knew I would never find out, but I am not sure why I cannot trust her anymore. Her mention of Drast and Cyne knowing more about that was concerning. Apparently, the world had become bad enough were other churches started to realize themselves with the dreamers for some reason.   Jinne is nice, but there is no reason she should know we had been time-displaced. It does not make sense.   I cannot trust her. I just cannot bring myself to believe that this Cult is doing something good. I am going to skip over all of that mess as she did not join us when we returned, back to an icier First World. Have we destroyed the minions of that Ice Queen, saved the world from being frozen and had dinner. Sharing all the nice things we are thankful for. I spoke with my new oldest sister. I do not have the time or the desire to go into detail, there are things we still have to do, and things about that fight I want to forget.   My hand is starting to hurt, I am getting tired of this.   I understand how Ashlyn felt now. If only a little. I cannot just ignore some of the things I learned from this future.   It seemed blick.   We were returned to face our nightmares, inside the Sapphire shrine apparently only having some strange dizzy spell. Celuriel had looked at me when I 'woke' up, concerned slightly.   Note to self: Attempt to contact Commander Lyadri An'thimael, should help Daeris find both Nivinle and me faster. I never thought I would have to write about that person again. How my sister made friends with that Elf, I'll never know.

Journal #57: The Trail of the Sapphire Shrine

There are no words, but I could express in this journal that would accurately describe how I felt about Cid. That is a topic that I will get into when the time is right, still something that needs to be talked about eventually and explained. Putting the mercenary aside for but a moment, we arrived on the snowy steps of the sapphire shrine.   Large translucent ice crystals around a Courtyard some even big enough to hold a person as we found out. The building itself is slightly hard to see in the weather. It had three clear nondescript doors. As we were looking at those doors, the people who have been sealed in an ice crystal prison began to speak. People would not be the correct word to us. It was clear that they were dragons taking human shape. And told us we must complete tasks in order to gain access to what we were seeking.   Access to the Onyx Shrine.   Our draconic friends, Vorthomin and Sigrun would not have to participate in the trials constructed by these Protectors of the sapphire shrine. The protectors and divided us into three groups a team that thought with logic. One who is best at surviving in combat. And the last was well I am not exactly sure what that classification was for the groups was as follows.   Logical team: Licia Nialnir and Myself Survival team: Kraia Burdyr and Nialnir The other team: Celuriel, Talinde, Lukas   Once in our respective doors as told by the dragons taking human shape. Another division was placed upon us. As well as another problem. Something was wrong with Nialnir as so the protectors of the shrine put his soul to sleep, placing another spirit inside the body to inhabit and help us. Overly thrilled that they are messing with Souls. Then again, I am not exactly sure what is going on within these shrines.   The other division that was placed upon us is between the logical and the survival teams. We must pick a partner to share a mental link with. They will be listed below.   Connections Cid and myself Licia and Kraia Burdyr and Nialnir   This created an issue as having a mental link between the two connected teams. My connection had an issue from what I learned. I got to hear some of the words being spoken from Cid and Cid alone. As the survival team was placed into a maze.   Our goal was simple to collect enough points to find the keys to unlock a door. The keys have been floating blue crystals likely sapphires as I never saw them to be able to tell what they were. The logical team was sent into a room separate from The Maze with their only connection inside the maze being that of the one they picked to have the mental link with. Our job as we were given a key Listens to how they would obtain points. Colors and shapes dictated point values and multipliers. Well, special shapes hearts, diamonds hourglasses those types of things had specific types of challenges I required to get those points. It had been a tedious process, but eventually, we have passed.   The goal finds three Sapphire Key and unlocks a door.   Test of Self: A sacrifice or a secret Test of Heart: Hypothetical questions Test of Reason: Riddle Twist of Fate: Swap Places   It had been the test of self that let me hear some of Cid's true thoughts about the party. More accurately, he had once considered selling us out for a large sum of money. I am not going to lie, I knew of his mercenary life before the party. He is still a mercenary now; however, my opinion of him has dropped significantly. I have dealt with one betrayal in my life that led me to great pain. A second one will not be tolerated.   I wish I could say that is where it would end for my issues with the mercenary. But that is not the case. It would seem he held another secret. One that is actually worse than the hypothetical selling out of the party for money. The gunslinger had been leaking information, Every single time we had stopped at a Tavern. Through the mental link, I was not able to tell how long he had been doing this. or for what reason. This was a betrayal. As this was willingly giving away information. There are things we know things we have that cannot be known to the public or even within our closest allies. If he is giving away information where we are other things, it's such a liability.   We need to speak with him. in a place where he cannot Escape or shoot us for that matter. I just don't know. The leaking of information would make sense for certain topics. The question is, where is this information going. Cid is the most obvious candidate because of his mercenary background, the most likely to actually give out information for some sort of reward.   I'm rambling, and I am thinking about this too much, we need to speak with the mercenary. Once the maze trial was complete, the six of us as well as the spirit calling itself Yoshi. A former participant of the trial quit failed and died within its walls. A new challenge was placed in front of us. A simple door that opened up to a pathway, a long one that was open to the void. Near the end was some strange steel like ship in the void at the end of that pathway? A door which was shut, our clear objective was to get to the other side. Of course, we were told this by the protectors of the shrine. Some of us were unsure of how to handle that.   As there was some discussion on this. My journal, the communications ones, and started signaling that I had received a message. Celu was asking a question.   @aniks the vampire and the elf will not stop arguing. they also will not accept that I am right. these puzzles are stupid. would I be in trouble for getting rid of one of them.   I scribbled a reply.   @celu If you have to, please choose the vampire. He'll probably come back if you don't kill him properly, but you'll get your point across.   @aniks you don't need to say 'probably.' He's a vampire. They come back. the elf also came back last time he died. do you think that happens every time?   To be honest, I'm more inclined to believe my partner over the war priest in the vampire who we know little about. I wrote another reply.   @celu This is true, but I think you would get him the first time. Not sure I do not think he would come back unless we bring him back, or his goddess steps in."   @aniks i'll tell you if either death becomes necessary.   It was right around then after my quick little chat with Celu the party actually started discussing the door.   Ironically I think our former Paladin changed my viewpoints on some things. As I was the first one to leaped into action for a change. If this void on the other side of the door was lacking, I simply cast a spell that produced an air bubble.   It was around the time it felt like the shrine was pulling something from our head. Getting a running start, I will leap into the void. Trying to run on the pathway but finding my movement already set. I was moving without my feet touching the ground. Not by any magical means such as flight or my wings in my angelic aspect form. My course was already set, and I kept moving towards the door, unable to stop. That was an unnerving experience.   The void itself provided another danger besides the lack of control of our general direction. While I have actually felt the void that strange burning cold sensation. This was intense pressure, this was different, but it was constraining us, strangling us, as we float there crying open the door.   Upon touching the door, it gave each of us once we arrived at a question relating to our party. The spirit was out of luck as they could use the memories of the body they inhabited. Not that they knew much about us. My first attempt was a failure. It was only on the second attempt that I made it inside. To be more simple. I believe it was something along the lines of who is the most liked in the group. Honestly, I cannot remember.   To be fair, the only notable thing about the room that I was in was that there were many chairs and some other strange metal things. It is all foreign in different ways. Inside this, I guess we could call it a void ship? I am not sure what to call it. This was just an illusion created for the participants in the sapphire shrines trials.   With a party trickling in from the other side of the door, nobody was in clear danger. We examine the room around us. There seem to be beds though they were cold to the touch and in some pod-like shape. Lots of flashing lights and sounds. Window screens that lit up displaying text but that seemed off, there are things missing logs telling us something was wrong if we went to sleep.   Eventually breaking into a different one of those window screens, it told us that three people were already here. Already sleeping. Which didn't bode well as it seems the prior participants in a similar trial didn't last long once they fell asleep.   You did not have to be a well-trained wizard to figure out who those three were. Needless to say, I was worried about this.   Blow this common area several different many trials granting us card Keys existed. Only three of them truly mattered for me personally, so those are the three I will choose to go over as they were a bit odd.   They are not in any particular order, mind you. Even though I write the first one, it does not mean it comes before the second or third. Some rooms only required one person while others required three.   I nearly had done the trial about self-sacrifice but thought better of it. I was not too Keen on having my partner yell at me again, even though all signs pointed to being Resurrected immediately after. The dwarf had been the one to pick up that specific trial no, he wasn't all too sure how to actually do the deed.   I handed him a knife.   "I do not want to get yelled at again by Celu. So here…" I mean it clean, swift motion with a single finger across my neck "one clean cut should do right across the neck."   It was a bit morbid, but I was rather blunt about it. Burdyr only questioned if I had actually killed myself before. I remained quiet for that. It should have been a clear enough answer for him.   Once the dwarf had performed his act of self-sacrifice, the Dwarven gods seem to favor him. Torag, who I am not overly familiar with their Pantheon but that name at least as familiar as a high-ranking member of the Dwarven Pantheon. And deemed this warpriest is champion.   So it was not two weeks, it was more like four days, and we did end up getting him killed. That's great, another champion I'm curious to see how many there will be by the end of this. Whenever the end of all of this will be anyways.   I had participated alone in a different truck. Trial questions. Actually felt bad for doing this one as there were no correct answers, and there were several of them. Each one displays an illusionary figure to give examples of the question. Two of them stood Out Among the other things. I before Licia had a chance to see her father, which I assume the only reason why they would know that we were searching for this human was that it had been pulling information out of our head. I felt slightly bad, but the moment passed.   By the introduction of a little boy. Silver white hair and golden eyes pale skin. A clear representation of the future, a future with Celuriel. The question had been something regarding my preference for the past versus the future. The life I could have versus the life I once had. I picked the life I could have, the one I was currently having.   It was a very short trial, but this was the second time I have seen a hypothetical child between my partner and me. It makes me hope for a future where I can see our children smile.   That, however, is a future that is not around the corner. It is a future, but I will have to work towards it.   The third one, a strategic trial, was like a mini-war game. The only notable thing was the image of a drow. A happy one. It was strange to say though I've never actually seen this drow before the trial before. She looked familiar. I mean, I know who she looks like. It's mostly the white freckles that remind me of my father, that among other things, was the most standout trade from my father. White freckles were rather rare among the drow. Not to mention both this drow had lilac eyes. Something both Nivinle and I never acquired. Though I am quite happy with my gold ones. Still, I can't shake the feeling this dark elf looks so like my father. I hardly have any memories of him, but I remember what he looks like.   Regardless of that. The colorful keys, reds, purples, and blues of different shades and tints were gathered. Using different color combinations to gain access to different chambers. Which was not an easy task as sleeping gas was used. The door I had picked had Celu in it.   It didn't look like she was having a pleasant sleep. I quickly picked her up channeling my gums power of repose he's her dreams hoping that whatever happened if you sleep would be guarded by this act. When I brought her back up to the common room, Licia broke the enchantment on her. Which apparently was a rather nasty dream, as she was holding me when she woke up.   Ok, it was clear that we needed sleep. However, sleeping pods, one of them now containing Zalni due to us messing with the systems and the dragons teleporting in somebody that we asked. We hadn't thought it would bring in the person. I'm just glad we didn't pick somebody like Cyne. That would have been rather complicated.   Well, I thought I was going to stay up, just to keep calm down Celu for a little bit. Licia made it rather clear; we all needed to sleep, not even bothering to set up a watch. This had proven to be a mistake.   She'd pulled us into a Dreamscape. Something I wasn't overly fond of. This was in order to catch Burdyr up-to-date with the newly-acquired champion status. Well, this was all in good. Several people weren't here. Anybody lacking a tattoo wasn't even with us. With the addition of the monkeys Azyel had somehow managed to bring into the Dreamscape, Nialnir's strange reasoning for killing two of them, it had been a rather, annoying waste of time. I'm not going to lie, given how there was such emphasis made on sleep. Even though we were told that things were fixed once all the correct key cards have been placed. It still felt stupid that we had all been asleep. Again this was our mistake. I am not overly thrilled to let it happen again.   The visit to Dreamscape tangent only got worse when the Monkeys led by Kraia herself in Monkey form to a rather dark door clearly reminiscent of our dear friend of the emperor. When he stepped through. That made things a bit awkward. I did not really look him in the eye. I do not think I can look at him for a while.   I'm sure that he noticed. He's always annoyingly good at things like that.   When our talks were over, and we all started to wake up, we had found ourselves in those pod rooms. Lukas and Zalni had dragged us in there. Before we really had a chance to understand what they were talking about. Nightmares that look like us but weren't us. Never a good sign really when it was coming out of a very odd vampire, to say the least.   We were given gifts by the shrine, the one that matters to me most was two rings that allowed Celu and I to have a link between us that allowed us to know our general direction and state of being. It was rather awkward to have to explain so close to the others what these Rings were called. True love rings, as well as the reason why they worked.   Then something else had happened.   That will be documented in the next journal entry as I'm not going to make this one longer than I have to. We had slipped into another dream sleep I'm not even sure. Apparently, one of the say had thought it best to snag us from our timeline and flung us a year for. Dealing with some crisis that came several centuries sooner than expected freezing the world. Not like that hasn't been expected, every once in a while, we do get placed in very strange circumstances.   You learn to roll with it. Most of the time, they happen to be very cold in nature. Last time we had to deal with the alternate pain from another timeline, which is attempting to steal divine power from a being known as Santa Claus. This time some fae creature simply known as the winter queen or ice queen. She Frozen the world, and we were tasked to unfreeze it using happiness.   We woke up in a daze, returning from our stolen year. This should not make sense, I am just going to chronicle that adventure with summer and winter fey in another journal entry following this one. Celuriel had no memory of her counterpart one year in the future. She looked a little concerned when we 'woke' back up.   What happened next was more concerning, as we had to deal with our nightmare. Our fears. I cannot say I was particularly happy with this shrine pulling on our collective thoughts to create these nightmares. Pulling Silver from my belt, any one of our fears could have been created from our thoughts. A part of me had hoped we would not have a nightmare version of a lich in the room. The fight was a blur, as soon somebody opened the door.   I was rather glad Celuriel had not joined this encounter. It was painful. Sliding from the chamber, I saw them. The nightmares. In total, there had been six. A bright shining angel clearly Ashlyn, but who feared Ashlyn? Celuriel might have, but no, I think she liked her in her own way. That left what, Licia, Kraia, Cid. I knew my fear, it looked me in the face. A psychopomp version of myself, lighter skin eyes completely endarkened. With pitch-black feathered wings. I would have said Cid, though A nightmare had been taken from Cid. Represented in the form of a cold, heartless machine. Talinde's was simple, a version of himself that leaned on his other champion powers. Stained with the powers of Marvaeth. A truly vampiric version of Lukas Scuttled around somewhere Quickly hiding in both an orb of darkness and invisibility. While one remained invisible to our eyes. Our attention was quickly drawn to the mechanical gunslinger. We knew the dangers of leaving that creature alive; it did not resemble Cid at this point. Dismantling this night terror given light and life within a couple of seconds. Not without getting a handful of shots off. The Nightmare version of Talinde destroyed Nis that soul, trapped inside that shrines body.   That was not where my attention was a draw. It was in the winged version of myself. This Psychopomp, this Aniks. A possible future if I rely too much on Pharasma powers. It would warp me into that thing. While I cannot excuse my actions for wanting to prove I could beat this version of myself. I could hurt him, but not best him. Trying to both stall or defeat this creature. Few attacks worked, and Silver had to be infused with spells in order to even touch that thing. No spell seemed to work, the Psychopomp even brushed away Silver with a small twist of their wrist blade in hand. Any time I had attacked winged self, another caster had cast spells, the first indication of the sixth nightmare.   It was around this time, the nightmare staff struck my side. A terrible pain spread from my side. Rushing back the nightmare elf, caught effortlessly catching it. My version went slightly red as I took my eyes off the Psychopomp. Watching the nightmare of talinde make a single motion, showing quite clearly his elven grace as the staff again left his hand. The world went black.   I had died. Again. I am not some Paladin, I have no shield or plate armor. I would say I am slightly jealous of Ashlyn's ability to fearlessly jump into combat. Being a hero, I could care less about the hero part. Apart from me wishes to be able to do the same again, to leap into combat as the former rogue I once was. Now, I am some strange Arcanist bound to a blade. Still, I am not even sure if Silver somehow connected to The Spirit Blade. Silver talks like the blade had some recent history, but Silver is arrogant. I am worried about asking, not for the conversation itself, because if that idea, they might have a connection. When I attempted to steal the Spirit Blade from Riven when I stuck my hand into the void sphere. He was angry that I was stealing this blade from him. It was the after effect that one action turned me into this arcanist. Or it was the root cause of it, the trigger perhaps. Once that fight was over, once Riven had stepped into the void. We had escaped from Castle umbra, hidden away in a Demiplane. Wondering the Dark Castle of our friend, I still felt a remnant of a hilt. Silver soon followed that feeling a couple of days later. It's unlikely they are connected, but if they were, maybe it would help track that shard specifically   For all of the steward's training, I am still not a warrior like that. I was raised as an assassin. Licia had brought me back. That makes it my fourth death in total. Which had only been a matter of seconds, but funny enough the thing about death people do not speak about it. Is how things seem to elongate like time. It could not have been more than ten or so seconds but felt like an eternity. The shining angel had been dealt with before I was quickly brought back. The Corrupted Talinde was in a furious battle with the dwarf. Trading blows, I quickly cast a spell at my nightmare, but they shook it off. Death being something not easily shaken off, I stumble for a moment before truly being able to regain my senses. I cannot remember why Burdyr had not finished Talinde's night. Seeing how dangerous the normal war priest could be slide over, driving the blade into his chest. Making sure he could not come back. Burdyr and I then took on my nightmare. I believe Kraia and Lukas were dealing with his nightmare. I hardly noticed Lukas joining in the fight.   The Psychopomp had finally started to subsume to its wounds when Burdyr set his sights on them. I had another go at the creature, not being able to finish it off. Burdyr had that honor. Another spell had gone off. No longer invisible, stood another form.   A pale, almost grey familiar figure stood angry. Not gold, dark red or black eyes but ones of blood red. It was hard to notice how dark around her eyes had been as her eyes nearly glowed. She had the same dark hair. A nightmare version of Celuriel. One who seemed to like being a vampire. I felt something when I looked at the nightmare, I expected Ludrissiel, not her. This was somewhat worse. I raised a hand and flung a spell at her.   Her body started crumbling into ash, ironic that the spell worked against her. It made it more painful. Any conversation with the nightmare version of my partner would have been more… something. I cannot place the emotion. That nightmare of the oracle was not done once she was hit with disintegrate.   From the crumbling body, a distorted spirit rose from the body. Her eyes glow even in the spectral form. An evil smile played at her lips as she gave a message. A single one.   "You can't hide her from Fate forever. It comes, fast or slow…"   She had been the last, thankfully.   Dying had been one thing; the words had been something else entirely. I found myself near Celu. Just holding her. I only now release one of the reasons she probably felt me die. Those rings, gifted from the shrine, left a mental connection in our head. I never noticed the connection coming back once I came back to life. It was just there.   That's when I noticed something for the first time. She's changed me, and I have not even noticed when it started to happen. Before, when something like happened, I would keep to myself. Bottling all up. Wanting to be alone, as I did that after the mirror in Undria. When had Celuriel become a person I go to for comfort? Not that I am complaining about it when she is around my nerves are at ease. Just her presence brings me comfort, it might have happened in The Boneyard. We had spent so much time together, I am rambling about her. Again not a bad thing.   One of the Shrine's Dragons had appeared in a humanoid form. I held back the urge to put Silver through their chest. Regardless of that, they would give us our reward passage into the Onyx shrine. As well as power. They warned us of what could have been or what will be. If one were to rely too heavily on the powers gifted by the gods. A welcomed warning, but It is rather intense.   We were also gifted one request, something that would help us on our journey. It seemed that we were not limited to anything in particular, as my request for something to help protect Celuriel when her sister comes. Granted me a small token, an orb-like Gem. Licia got the same but of another color to help get her father back. Others had items. Pocketing the gem, we wanted to sleep on normal beds. I personally requested a shower after that bloodbath. The protector of the shrine summoned beds in the common room and a very open shower.   It was a quick shower, Celuriel telling me to cover up once I was done. Sleep came even quicker than the shower, I did make a copy of Cyne's letter and decoded it.   To avoid any complications with dragons in the future. I will not go into detail about how we got into the Onyx Shrine. As some secrets, I will remember but not need to write them down. Safer that way in the future.   I was surprised at how easy entering the Lich's domain was. It almost would have been perfect, as we had been speaking about it our plans for a while. Apparently, the Magus had other ideas. For Nialnir had been annoyingly hasty as we finalized our plans, leaping through not invisible like the rest of us, basically screwing our planned stealth mission.   Moral of the story.   A bargain was stuck, deal fulfilled, a father obtained.   Overall it took less than twenty minutes, though I am not sure overall how long it took to come back to the Sapphire Shrine. Our next thought was trying to relax, and I really need some ale in my system. I said my goodbye to the Crystal Dragon, which oddly enough as we left for Sigrun's home. Vorthomin said I could call on him any time, maybe I will take him drinking. Or just see in a couple of months how he is doing.   P.S. Source

Journal #56: Gold is not what King’s Envy

After leaving the lost cause that was the Prince, our goal was now set on the Jade Shrine. Which we acquired one dwarf, which I was not terribly upset with. His opinion of the Prince really changed my mind on him.   That was not what we did this morning.   No, The Lost Ones are outside far from the walls from that Dwarven city. A soul gem of what I thought was a metallic golden dragon sword in hand ready to fulfill my promise to the Dragon, regardless of the color of their scales. Which the other tried to convince me otherwise, the Dragon might have been lying. Which I knew, but reasonable even if the Dragon was say for instance was a Red Dragon. Also, they would want to be free, which I could have argued to whatever Dragon to not look too much into this and leave. If they were evil, but we were all wrong.   As my blade stuck the Soul Gem, Vorthómin was freed after what could have been centuries. A hulking crystal dragon appeared as if he had always been there. Stealing down, placing his gaze on me.   For a little while, at least.   I could almost feel Licia's Gaze as the Dragon shimmered, what little light there was reflected like a prism on the small hill we found outside the city. As my thoughts on this being a Golden dragon just shattered in front of me. Regardless I welcomed him back to the land of the living.   Vorthómin had made it fairly clear he would accompany us to the Shrine. Regardless of the choice that I suggest of the crystal dragon enjoying his freedom, instead of heading straight back into danger.   Each of us then discussed which Shrine and how we are going to get there. Flying was the best option, but with the Arcane problem, I was not able to help. As Burdry was quite clear on not dealing with anything Arcane. Thank the gods for druidic magics, as Kraia turns herself and Cid into Dire Eagles? At least I thought they were Dire Eagles.   Strangely, I miss the train. As riding Dire Eagles was not the most comfortable and something I probably would not like to experience again. Especially as when we got closer to the Jade Shrine, Dragons become more abundant. You could almost hear their cries in the sky. Seeing was another problem as the area seemed to be caught in a snow storm. Eventually, it becomes difficult for Kraia and Cid to continue to Fly.   The last straw was the two white dragons, who saw us as an easy snack in the air. Noticeably as we despatched the dragons from the sky, the bodies falling into the stark white ground below. Vorthómin had stayed back, watching us. Watching how capable we were. Reading a Dragons feeling was hard enough, but as the storm picked up, it became damn near impossible too.   We land, Kraia carving the last Dragon she killed. Which with some luck, we found a cave that would fit our needs. Nothing special a giant carver ten or so feet from the entrance. Vorthómin had to help us enter as the wind became so loud some of us could not even move at times. We thought about closing the cave that went further into this lucky resting spot, I guess our thought process was we would deal with whatever came from that entrance.   We were forced to get comfortable. As the storm had no signs of letting up. Lukas had brought to our attention that the Demiplane inside the scepter was odd, and he received a note inside that plane. Which was concerning, but I got back to that later.   I have to say, approaching Vorthómin with the Dragon egg was nerve-racking for sure. What he told both eased my worries and brought up new ones. Raising the odd purple egg with pink speckles to the crystal dragon's eye Vorthómin as best as he could guess narrowed down the child's type.   That this egg was an Esoteric Dragon. As to which of the five he could not place. Occult, Nightmare, Etheric, Astral, or Dream. Time to do research into that.   As the storm remain constant. As some of the others began to speak on Ghoran Syrup, I decided not to participate in this conversation. I found myself watching Celu, who was gazing farther into the dark cave. Then an idea formed, a cold one. Stepping outside the cave, I made three snowballs. Finding myself near Celuriel again. Then as I handed her one, I explained that snowball could be thrown at people. I thought for a second she would toss it at me, but she took a couple of steps near Licia. She tossed with an accuracy I had only seen in her games of darts, nailing Licia in the jaw. Licia shot me a glare seeing that I was the root cause of her attack. I tossed a snowball up and down, thinking about if I should give her another. Celu turned probably to ask if she had done it correctly. My arm already flung the snowball, hitting her in the face.   Celuriel froze clearly not expecting that, narrowed her eyes at me. Then rushed over to the entrance to create her own collection of snowballs she would fling at me.   The battle was long, and both of us suffered, and it was evident by the end of this would likely not be the last fight in the frosty war. I fully expect a sneak attack from her at some point when we were not doing something heroic. It is a small moment.   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Change to Third Person as Text Roleplay happened with Lukas ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Removing the snowman from his face, a small thing Celu made to distract Aniks so she could shove more snow in his face. It had become a bit too cold for any long term fight in the snow. The two went farther in the cave were the rest of the party was. Perhaps he had missed it in conversation as he was busy tossing snow at Celuriel. As he walked back in thought, but something bugged him.Eventually once Aniks remembered, the vampire was tapped on the back of his head. “You never told us what was on that note, did you?”   Lukas spun around from where he'd been blatantly trying to eavesdrop on what looked like a private conversation between the party's two warpriests, eyes wide with faint fear at being touched by someone in this group. He blinked a few times at the drow and his odd question, fear quickly transforming into his usual smile. "Ja, vell, none of you vere like, even a teensy-veensy bit interested, you know? Und it vas addressed to me, not any of you, so vhy ze heck vould I just like, say vat is on it? Aniks shrugged some snow fell off his shoulder as he did the motion. "I asked half my question, but then as the conversation turn to something more disgusting I left. My other question unasked." As it just as concerning on how he received a note, as to what that note said. "I simply asked because one curiosity, and two I would be concerned for our safety if context of the note was dangerous."   "Vhat vas-- oh, ze syrup? Vell, you know, it's really just natural. Vhy does zat need to be disgustink?" If his posture and expression were anything to go by, Lukas was being entirely serious (or as serious as he could be) and wasn't simply trying to distract Aniks from the topic of their talk. He shrugged. "Anyvay, I don't sink it's, like, dangerous. Maybe to, like, me since I'm not vhere I'm 'meant' to be but vhy should zat matter?"   He was silent just staring at the vampire. Not where we thought a part of the conversation would go but "While natural, it's really not something I would use on my food. Or even want to taste for that matter. Regardless of my personally preference on thing like that. As for why that matter, because sometimes when somebody is missing for long enough. People go looking for them."   Lukas considered both of these things, dismissing them with a headshake. "Vell, it isn't my fault zey can't scry into ozzer planes. Zey vere ze vuns to srow mein coffin into some kobold sing, anyvay! I vasn't even dressed!" His protest sounded entirely genuine, if somewhat childish in how he phrased it. He crossed his arms. "Honestly I don't even know vat zey vant for a response! 'Ja I'm in some cave in fuck knows vhere' vill probably make zem all more angry."   " The truth maybe? Minus the not being dress. That's a little weird." With a mocking raised eyebrow Aniks said "What is you family looking for you?"   "If I tell zem ze trüs, at leaast vun of you people vill get mad at me for saying it, zo. Ve are vampires, so zere's no trust from you, ja?" He ran a hand through his hair, not breaking eye contact with the drow. "Und ja, actually. Mein cousin is being all like 'vhy aren't you being uuseful' like zat's going to help like, literally anyzing. You know how it is vith family, right?"   Aniks shrugged Lukas wasn't wrong about that. Likely somebody would get upset, that was the problem with good people. They get upset often. However Aniks hardly knew this Vampire so even he was weary of him. "Trust takes time to build, especially when you have such interesting circumstances to how you were found." Another eyebrow raised his voice was flat and sarcastic "No as a male drow I have never once had a problem with family."   Lukas looked taken aback by the sudden sarcasm. "Ja, exactly. You know ze vomen have all ze power vhere I'm from too, right? Zey aren't gentle vis it eizer!" While he was complaining, it did still seem quite lighthearted. "Und I am not zat dumb. I don't expect aaany of you to trust me, but at ze same time I have no fücking idea vhere ze hell ve are und being lost in zis frozen hellscape seems like ein very bad idea!" Even if he was a vampire, and wouldn't freeze to death. "Zough in saying zat.. I could just write ein plea for help on ze note, since it's like magical or somezing."   "Please they're probably pleasant compared to drow matriarch or drow women in general." He smirked as he was still had not found a society more painful than that one ...yet. "Understandable, it hard to explain all this, where would you even start" Gesturing to the people around them. "Were they just asking you to come home or..." Aniks left it open for him to choose to answer.   Lukas shrugged, exaggerating it to emphasise the confusion. "Nein, it vas more a lot of "vhy aren't you at zis place" und "if you're a prisoner let zem see zis" or vhatever. Honestly I read it like once then vent back to vandering around ze weird place. Vhy does he even have zat staff? You can read ze note if you really vant to, you know. It's like, somevhere here." It took a little bit of rustling about in pockets that seemed a little too deep to be entirely nonmagical, but Lukas did eventually pull out a pristine envelope only marred by the precise letter-opener slit at the top. The wax seal still sat in its place on the outside: bright red, and stamped with an ornate crest. He glanced at the crest for a second - too familiar with it to care - and offered it to Aniks.   "Gods only know why he has that staff. Was the blood lake the only thing you explored?" His head turned to look at the elf and dwarf. They seem to be getting along. Aniks sat across from Lukas, the fire at his back. As he attempted to warm up a bit with the letter in hand. Eventually pulling the letter out reading it.   Lukas took Aniks's movement as the perfect cue to settle in a liiittle further away from the fire. Not the greatest fans of fire, vampires. "Oh nein, zere vere so many sings there! I started in zis like, little shrine area but like no vay vas I going to stay staring at ze veird crystal shit going on. Crystals aren't meant to like, move, you know? So zen I valked around for a vhile and found zis crazy forest place zat I walked srough and it just kept getting, like, bigger. Und zat vas vhere ze lake vas, plus some veird animals zat really didn't like me - probably because I'm dead, but vhatever. Zere vas even more past ze forest vhen I eventuaaally got ze fuck out: like, mountains vorth of stuff!"   The letter was on dense parchment; the heavier kind used by the rich, it would seem, rather than any scraps used by peasantry. The writer was clearly overly familiar with the sort of fancy script that high-class children were forced to spend months learning, for anyone less experienced with nobility might have struggled to read the blood-red ink.   Thankfully, Aniks didn't struggle that much.   Dearest young cousin Lukas,   I will depart from our usual etiquette this once due to your odd behaviour as of late. I thought you were well informed about the need for communication!   You had better have a fine explanation on why you cannot be scried on at the moment, let alone be contacted by other means. Where are you? Why aren't you at Moonsfall? Sir Blackmoore tells us Lord Drast's ally is moving forward with her plans while you hide away doing nothing of significance! Why are you not making something of yourself?   The lord's friend offered us this chance to reach out on behalf of your current employers. He said this paper works both ways - a trick of alchemy, less detectable than the usual magics. Use the back to explain yourself, please, or we shall be forced to recover you ourselves from whatever situation you've managed to mire yourself in. If this is some waste of time born of cowardice and idiocy, there will be consequences!   If this note is received by your captors instead: please use the back to arrange a suitable method for us to reclaim our wayward cousin. I shall be glad to discuss appropriate compensation. If he is deceased, then please at least return to us his ashes for the family's graveyard.   With much love, Lady Ottilie von Schultheiss   “Of fucking course they’re involved” Aniks mutter in undercommon as he finished the letter. Something to mention to the other later, when Lukas wasn’t around. More for his safety than anything else. Putting the letter back in the envelope. The dark elf handed the letter back. “Your family are at least concern about you. To some extent it seems. I did not expect that much inside that scepter's world, much less living creature or moving crystals.” The description made Aniks wonder if that world was something more that a Demiplane or something else entirely.   Lukas looked surprised at the sudden language switch, blinking back confusion and accepting his returned letter. "Ja vell zey could try showing some ozzer vay zat doesn't suggest I'm silly enough to get, like, killed. How vould zat even happen easily, ve're verdammte vampires." He leant back, resting against his hands. "Und me neizzer. I vas like "oh wunderbar he's put me in some prison place" und zen it vas an entire like, place? Gott, I should write ein response to zem at least. I vonder if mein pen has ink."   His eyes narrowed as he tured his head to the side. "Your young even by Vampire standards aren't you? That might explain their level of trust in you. Do you want to go to this..." he made a gesturing motion trying to recall the exact place in the letter. "Moonfalls. Sounds like they are not giving you much choice in the matter. Do you know the people in that letter or you just getting roped into some grand plan of somebody else's design."   He... absolutely didn't almost fall over at the audacious accusation levelled at him! No, that was simply Lukas's hand slipping. "I.. don't know vhat you mean, I... am not gut enough at ze lies to make zat believable, am I?" He sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Ja, zey're pretty ageist. It's kind of rude, you know? Like, zey have all zis experience but zat does not mean zey can totally ignore mein vords like zey do. I know Cousin Ottelie, ja, but ze others? Eh, not very vell. Ze lord vas scary as scheisse ze only time I saw him und Blackmoore is vay older zan me und ein old 'family friend' so I know him only from ze fancy parties." He found it weird that Aniks was asking about his choice; it was pretty obvious by his visible confusion. He shrugged to cover it. "Like obviously it is some grand plan. Ze heads of ze various covens are alvays doing zis, it's not like ve don't get anysink out of it."   Aniks waved it off with a hand gesture “No, it was both that letter and a handful of moments while you were around. I probably could not pin your exact age, probably no more than 150 if I had to guess, but that is a *really* rough guess. It’s understandable to some extent that vampires would be ageist. As they technically could live for thousands of years. However a person word should always be considered. If your wrong they should at least explain as to why you are.” Aniks was slightly amused by the reaction from the vampire. As that was unexpected “Regardless of who they are, it’s important for you to understand their motives. If you do not agree with them, why work with them?”   Lukas blinked at the guess, mouth slipping into a smirk. "Vun hundred und fifty? Mein Gott do I act zat old already? Zat's like, more zan a century off. Ja, you see, becos I am vay younger zan zem - ze Contessa de Marchelle is like, at least a zousand years und she is not ze oldest - zey sink I need to just listen und do vat zey say. Like zat'll vork, right?" His smirk turned vaguely sad at Aniks's second question, being more plastered on than genuine. It didn't suit him. "Vell, if I do not vork vis zem, zey might actually just kill me? Or do ozzer terrifying sings. I had zis friend from House Rennell who vas turned like five decades before I vos even born und last year he refused to dance vis zis pretty voman from ze Güldenbergen family, und his sire vas so mad zat he is making poor Travis clean ze entire mansion und live in ze servant quarters as a servant for ze next decade. Und zat is a very light punishment!"   "Farther than I thought, I was thinking between eighties and hundreds. I cannot Image living that long, maybe it's just the type of mind set." Aniks said amused that he was that young. A thousand years is damn near impossible for a drow, most drow hardly live to be in their three hundreds. It was hard to image. "If they are that harsh..." Which Aniks didn't truthfully think that was all that harsh. There could be other benefits for a position like that, but that was just his upbringing taking. "How did you end up here and not in Moonfalls? Were you not worried about punishment?"   "Zat's because you're a drow und you elf people have veird views of time! Ze Falkenrath family is mostly, you know, human, so ve get turned on our 18th most of ze time, und so it has not been zat many years. It vas a whole process, like zere was a cool party and everysing. Und ze old fockers are even veirder zan any elf vis how zey treat time. It is like zey are always playing chess vis ze rest of us, really."   Lukas shrugged. It felt like he was doing that a lot lately. "Do you really sink I have an answer for zat? Because I don't! I vent to hibernate in my bed after a lot of really long lectures about a lot of really boring sings zat I didn't pay ZAT much attention to - vhich is probably part of a mistake but ve don't need to sleep so I'm not exaggerating vhen I say it took three days - und voke up to you people. I am guessing zat ze kobolds vere meant to like, deliver me to a place or somesing und somesing vent pretty wrong vhen you showed up?"   Lukas took that moment to consider something. "Und, vell, if zey punished me it vould probably not be death. Maybe horrific research experiment or torture or humiliation or somesing like zat, but I vould be alive. Your group really vants to kill me und zat is like, ninety-six percent of ze reason I am not trying to mist form into ze snow und olly ze fuck out. I kind of like zis life, ja?"   Aniks put both his hands on his face and pulled down sighing. "Ugh this is the problem with 'good' and 'evil' Some times people are so blinded by one they cannot see the world for what it really is. Shades of gray" It was a small gripe about the people he hung around. Aniks leaned back his hands propping him up. Aniks smirked "I would think Elves might have a closer opinion of time with vampires, as they tend to live much longer than my kin. They, those older vampires, Lukas play the game. It does not matter how old you are, how long you could live..." He gestured an excetera excetera excetera with his right hand " Anybody could play that game of chess, it just a matter of how one views the world. Easiest way not to be some piece attempt the game yourselves." Aniks paused for a moment unsure where to go from there "What do you want to do?" By the look on Lukas's face, it was pretty obvious that he hadn't expected that little tirade. He seemed quite taken aback. "Ja, you're definitely older..." he muttered, clearing his throat. "Ah, vell, I do not really care for ze games everyone else plays vith eachozzer. I mean, I sink I vould be happy just, you know, staying in ze background und fighting papers und letter-writing instead of vatching out for... traps, trigger-happy clerics, the sun, vampire hunters like ze famous Alucard, adventuring parties who like killing sings, armies..." He counted each option off on his fingers, stopping after a bit and just smiling at Aniks (and then immediately dropping the smile when he met the eyes of someone a few steps behind Aniks. I wonder who.) "But you get ze point! Zis is all too complicated, und silly, and honestly really dangerous. How ze Hell did your family agree to let you leave?"   Both Aniks eyebrows raised "I thought Alucard was a myth? Like an old wise tale. "Aniks shook his head as he hadn't expected Alucard to be a real person. "People have choices, if you do not want to play as some pawn piece. You should find a way off the board, and avoid death in the process." Before getting to his family his eyes narrowed at the drop in Lucas smile. Realizing he wasn't looking at him anymore. Aniks leaned back his head looking behind him. "What's up Dreamcatcher?" Lukas brushed his hair back again, unable to really sit still. "All zese heavy questions und also talk of Alucard? I sink he vas definitely around a vhile ago, but I sink he is long dead now. Zough apparently he has come back like, multiple times, so it is totally possible zat he is actually a person zat exists. Scary sought, ja?" He very clearly didn't want to address the heavier questions, instead looking behind Aniks at the woman he'd addressed to let her speak for once. Celuriel had the decency to look slightly guilty for being caught with a dagger in her hands, a pile of snow gathered at her feet at easy reaching distance. It wasn't like she'd ever learnt to pretend innocence. "...I'm not letting you talk to vampires unsupervised," she said flatly. Lukas shivered under her glare, and quickly picked up the talking before she could make some other sort of threat.   "I-if everybody plays ze game zen zere is no real vay of leaving ze board vizout dying, nein? I sink zat ship sailed like.. years ago, vhen I actually died und became like zis. Or maybe vhen I vas born first. Is zere even a vay to not be a pawn or a player und not be dead?" He could totally play off that stutter.   "Well if I cannot talk him alone, then you can sit next to me?" Aniks said, looking at her for moment. Then looked back at Lukas, waving off the last part. "You know what I mean. You might have died but your not dead. Your walking, talking and can make your own choices. It's just a matter of what choices you make. Sometime to leave the board you need play a bit before you can leave. It's hard to say really, I managed it for a little while, but everybody is different. What worked for me might not for you. It's complicated, but it is life. "   Celu considered his offer, sending Lukas another 'watch-it' glare when Aniks looked away from her. The vampire managed to not flinch this time at least. "...Fine." She sat next to Aniks, knife very much still held in one hand. (It is to be noted that the pile of snow was still easily within reach.)   For his part, Lukas managed to not look intimidated by the party's second most terrifying member joining them. Probably because she'd been lurking nearby the entire time. "All zis talk of choices und games is good but like, ze reality of all zis is zat if I actually tell ze family vhere I am, zey vill probably show up und zat will not go vell for anybody! Same for if I just like, write und say "hallo I am lost in ze snow". If I say I am not following zeir order und finding zat place, zey vill hunt me... und zat leads to same result. Und vhatever I do, it's risky because all of your friends hate even ze good vampires, so like..." Shrugging motion. Again. "Ja, 'complicated' is like, ze best description." He frowned at an errant thought, not really liking the idea of it. "I... could like, tell zem I am vorking vis some Aleseian people who I sink are vorking for ze lord because you vere zere vhen I voke up?"   Aniks smiled as she sat next time but it his face became more contemplative as Lukas went on. "While that last one could work, it would only delay your problem. As they could contact them this lord to check. Hmmm this isn't something that should be handled with a sloppy hand. You would have to lie, but a lie like this won't last forever. Your family could track you down regardless, and finding a way to hid you might work but that note is problematic. As it got to you in a different plane. You have some time before you need to response. Any longer and problems from that could arise."   Aniks ran his hand through his hair sighing. His smile dropped now lost in thought "Honestly if you where to explain my friends you intention, with that letter as context they would likely help you. In some manner anyways. I think this might be something that need to be tackled from multiple angles. There is not some easy answer, Hiding you in the specter will only last for so long. Which cannot be healthy for you. I might suggest in the morning showing everybody so at least your not 'hiding' anything. Ask them to help give you ideas and see if they come up with anything useful. Telling them now might only reignite the 'killing you' attitude. I hardly doubt they would after hearing everything."   Lukas, quite frankly, looked intimidated by Aniks's suggestion. That didn't mean he wasn't considering it. "Ja, I get vat you're saying, but it could also just mean zey kill me und send ze ashes back to mein family. Zen you don't have to deal vis any of zis." Lukas smiled wryly at the ground. "Vatever ze hell you're after seems like, really annoying if it has SO many dragons und terrifying ozzer sings. Vampires just make sings more veird, ja?"   Aniks with both his hands raised leaning forward"It's your choice, none of us can make it for you. While I cannot think of a solution yet, I'll keep thinking on it."His elbow rested on his knees now. Lazily just placed there. "Your right about the dangerous part, it's why I keep asking new people if they really want to stay." This time Aniks shrugged. Not completely sure where to go. While kill him would solve our problems, sort of, doesn't really solve his.   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Change to First Person back to Aniks’s Journal ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   Poor thing does not even know how concerning that not was. He does not even know how dangerous the people he is getting involved with.   Eventually, the conversation dragged on to the point where I was getting tired, so I excused myself from Lukas’s conversation. We set up a watch list were Celuriel and I was the last ones on the list. As Celuriel was not a person who liked to be woken up. It took a couple minutes to set up a tent and sleeping bag.   Honestly, I cannot remember what woke Celuriel and me, I just heard a bunch of orcish or Giant or something. It woke up Celuriel, but I told her I would see what is going on. She promptly squinted at me and feel back into the sleeping bag and a bundle of blankets.   Apparently, it was ice giants, and Licia was right; we should have sealed the back part of the cave. They spoke about a pretty long-haired lady, which was Talinde. Wanting to give her him as a sacrifice or something. I was still waking up, so I did not hear everything. Honestly, I did not care as we just wanted to wait out the storm and talking to the giants devolved very quickly, as they died or were turned to stone.   We seal the cave with Walls of Stone and listened for a long while, probably longer than I should. Voices eventually came back and a female voice, who sounded very annoyed for being woken up. Forcing the Second voice to stay there, as he could not explain why there was not a tunnel there anymore.   There was silence for a long time. The Giant, on the other side, slowly started to hum a song, really severely.   I returned to sleep as we layered a couple more slabs of stones on that wall. After a quick discussion, during my shift awake, we would wake some people a bit early. In case they have something that can get rid of the stone. I soon found myself back in my tent with an elf who was silently sleeping. Unknowingly ignoring the outside skirmish. As soon as my head was on a pillow, and I had some semblance of warmth. I fell asleep.   Kraia nearly had a knife cut her face as she woke us for the last shift. Celuriel does not like being woken up.   For the most part, it was tranquil as we packed up our things. It was uneventful at the beginning. Only towards the end did things begin to happen. Eventually, as the others started to wake up and attempted to make our exit. A little halfling appeared on the other side, on our side of the wall.   She was plight, but we avoid the most essential details as to what and why we were here. Merely avoiding the storm in the closest cave, we could find, as for our reasoning on attacking her giants. Self Defence, which she understood after we mentioned the sacrifice they wanted to bring her. The storm did not die down unlucky, so as I began to question the halfling about all manner of things too distracting. Being civil and reopening the wall, we blocked off. As Licia and Kraia compounded their powers of Desna and Gozreh. A modified version of Control Weather that followed us. Simple enough, The Halfling in our conversation with her told us they were going to the Jade Shrine like us, but there was something wrong with the shrine. Too Active, she said or something.   Sidenote, Licia’s hair was now a dark blue. Probably from using champion powers.   We said our goodbyes and left before anything else could be said.   Eventually, we made our way to the Jade Shrine. However, dragons flew around the city or shrine. Landing outside the town, we decided to contact Sigrun. She was in the city after scrying on her, messaging her she quickly made her way to the outside of the shrine.   The Jade Shrine was on lockdown, according to Sigrun. No chance of getting in, which was partly our fault because of relieving the Necromancer hold on the Onyx Shrine. Which put most shrines on high alert. She could, however, bring us to any other shrine. After getting a recounting of all the shrines from Vorthómin.   So after picking which shrine we could attempt to get through, we found ourselves outside in the cold at the Sapphire Shrine.

Journal #55: Soul to Soul Talk [Text Roleplay]

Curiosity might have gotten the better of him, dragons in general were always something the barkeep had interest in. Now in the palm of his hand, a purple gem held the soul of one. Speaking to a trapped soul wasn’t something he had learned in the Boneyard, but maybe there was a way? Aniks gave it a little thought closed his eyes. Drawing both on his little spark of divine energy he had to cast a spell to also mingle it with a subdomain of Pharasma. Hoping to create some sort of Soul Telepathy, if that were even possible. Aniks sent some thoughts out to test the water “Hopefully this can allow us to talk.” The first thing Aniks felt was... cold. Icy cold, the kind he'd only experienced a few times before - the kind that heralded Death's grasp. Except instead of wrenching his soul to leave behind a corpse, this cold was different- it settled around him as a shroud, lending an odd feeling of weightlessness.   At the very edge of his consciousness, he caught a distant whisper on the wind: "Hath juddgement Finallye comme?"   Before he had a chance to speak, however, unseen fingers (claws?) caught his wrist in a sharpened grip of burning ice. They bid him answer a different question, one not spoken with words but thrust into his mind: Tis one thing to serve at Her side and another to draw forth a soul's will - are you ready for this step, Champion of Death?   If anybody had been near him, they saw Aniks visible taken aback. Eyes opening slightly shocked, he rolled up his sleeves to check his wrist as the lack of heat was disturbing him. That however wasn’t what had really caught is attention. The correct identification of who he was, had thrown him off. As the existence of Champions was myth, well there was that ancient magma dragon that knew they were Champions. Besides this dragon had felt Her presence, mistaking for their final judgement. “Champion? Well given what I did, denying that would be a rather large lie to get past anybody. That being said, knowing Champions are more than myth, must mean you are quite old. You misunderstand, I have no attention of passing judgement on you. Curiosity lead me to attempt a conversation.” An amused laugh in the back of Aniks's skull - the kind of chilling laughter that sets the hairs on one's neck on edge. It is telling of your mental state that you would confuse those who speak with you. The step has been taken. Converse freely with the bound.   The icy grasp on his wrist released him, leaving the lingering burn of cold to remind Aniks of its presence. The whisper, once quiet, now sounded far closer - far louder. A deep voice. Masculine. "Time cannot Stoppe for one soul alone. Only ye fools wouldst yet number the waves as they Come. What questions doth thine curiosity Seeke from the living past?"   His eyes narrowed to the small gem, two voices. No only one came from the gem. He looked at the spiraling comet on his arm mentality sighing. “Sorry this is the first time I tried something like this. I hadn’t expected a second voice to speak. So please forgive the confusion in the last statement. As for my curiosity, a name for a name would be nice so I have something to call you. Though Aniks likely knew the other none dragon voice/thoughts knew who he was.   "Mortals wish for the strangeste of Thinges. Ye may Calle me as Vorthómin, the Shield of Glóandi, the Terrorlight. It is the Name that shall mar the Tombes of mine enemies." comes the response, the voice low and crackling with badly-restrained power. The soul was vibrant.   "Well, you may call me Aniks" The silence from the other was not surprising. "I hardly think it's strange would you like me to call you dragon constantly. Well Vorthómin, I am unfamiliar with Iskaldhal is Glóandi a city you protected?"   A cool grumble echoed from the trapped soul. "Glóandi is that whyche setts Flame to the Darknesse. A questionne for a questionne. What form dost thou take, mortal by name of Aniks?"   "Before you judge my form" Aniks thought almost knowing this could only lead to problems if he lied. "I am a dark elf, but I do to perpetuate the stereotypes of my race." Aniks then waited to see if this dragon Vorthómin would react in a negative fashion.   "Thou muste hail from the Western Scourge. Yon Northern kin hath loste all Righte to claims of Darknesse. Doth thou seek redemption in our lands, Elf?"   "You are correct that I come from the west, my northern kin must be the Snow Elf, as for their claim to the darkness I am unfamiliar with that. As for redemption here, no I am not. If I might ask what form to do you take?"   "Thou maketh assumptions. Thy kin still show such Ignorance in youth. I bear the scales and fangs of a True Dragon, mortal, one far Elder than even the Longestte-Lived of thy kin. If tis not redemption thou seek, what dost thou intend? Mine wrath shalt fall upon thee if tis to spread the Darknesse within!"   "Currently we are looking for a companion's father. I have no attention of spreading Darkness." It was simple but he was telling the truth. "Vorthómin, I meant to ask what kind of scales you had, I knew you were a Dragon. I was missing a couple of details as to who your were."   "Thine kind wouldst greet me with Trickerie; tis only fair that thou shalt be exposed to the same. Mine hide is one of a Thousande Shades - a Glorie any Kinge would come to envy. In what depth doth this "father" lie? The Missing and the Dead are oft the same in the Northern Lands."   "I have no reason to lie, as why would I openly admit to being a dark elf. If I want lie I would have tried some race that is more trustworthy outright. Though it's a two way street as I cannot prove anything you say as well." Aniks paused for a moment, probably for the best he didn't explain everything as to this gold dragon. "As for my companions father, it seems we are going to some place call Akha Ekhursan."     "Trickerie and Lies aught not to be confused, Elf. Thou art headed to a Place most Foule. Art thou stumbling without Sighte into the Den of Evil?"   "Where I was born they were often one in the same. We are currently doing research into the place. Though I am unsure how helpful books can be from just from one trip to the library."   "If thou seek knowledge on Ancient Evils, thou must delve into Scrolls moste rare or seek the Wisdom of those few souls that hath survived its deepest depths."   "An interesting place to start, find a person who had once traveled there and survived." Aniks found himself quietly nodding agreeing. Then stopped as this probably looked weird just nodding at nothing. Scrolls might be a bit more tricky but not impossible. People we're a bit easier to find. He would have to talk to his friends to see where they were going next. "How long have you been trapped in this prison Vorthómin?"   "A fool's question. Tis yet evident to mine eyes that the Power upon thine soul is far from mastered. Thou wouldst heed mine caution now: thou art wielding Weaknesse in blinding fashion. The Darknesse wouldst fain ignore such a potent treat. Yet, tis an answer thou hast asked for. The Hands of Time art not apparent in the Space between Life and Death. Thou art linked to both: mine soul remains Entrapped betwixt."   He remained silent for a while, then decided to cross reference the dragon. "It's a learning process Vorthómin, I will take more care when choosing my words.That being said, am I correct to assume you have never entered Akha Ekhursan. As your first response was to find scrolls and people. But you have heard of it, as you called it a din of evil?"   "No beast nor man of sanity wouldst enter its fell halls. Prithee, even the Mistress of Undeath wouldst not wish to sully herself. The land is Tainted with Darknesse of an age long-past, stirred to unlife by Foule Necromancie and deeper whispers. Mine claws hath not grasped the spires that doth encircle it past its loss. Tis truly a Darknesse that even the greatest of Dragons meet forbidden artes within our once-held depths, far beyond Evil's usual reach. Tis a sign of the coming Toll, shouldst thou consult Prophecie."   "Ahhh was there once place or a person where people consult prophecy here, are they scrolls that have been written down?" Well that did match up some of Licia's scrying. We'd be dealing Undead no doubt about it, though the Mistress of Undeath not going to there? Was it the god or the other lich on this Icy continent. "Well a question for a question, I believe it's is your turn after that."   "Mortals gifted with Prophecie art rare. More so art those far greater than mortals that beare both Power and Prophecie; tis a Danger to beare doubled strengths. Tis a Weaknesse most Obviouse. Confining one such being to a Place wouldst require thine strength to transcend theirs at maxim. Tis possible. Thine research shalt find more purchase in the realm of Paper and Scroll, unless thou find incredible luck to uncover the Lost Realms wherein Seers might meet." There is a long pause. "Wherefore didst thou obtain a Blessing of Death?"   Aniks paused and pulled out the newer journal as well as a some to scratch down notes. 'Lost Realm where seers meet?' was written in lightly across the top of the page. As well as some other notes from before. He would probably write down anything else that seems interesting. "In all honestly, I could not give you a good answer as to why I have a 'Blessing of Death', as the one I had got was vague. You did not hear another voice when I contacted you did you?"   "Thou art alone, mortal, in this Realme of Nothinge."   Aniks sighed then in his voice, his eyes looking at the spiral tattoo. “Your just going to remain silent through this aren’t you” Then after a moment he shut his eyes again turning his thoughts back to the Dragon “As I thought, I believe I will be answering your question next.” "Thou hath motivations of Mysterie and power moste rare. What art thine goals in this fragile life? If thou wouldst care to speak them aloud."   “My goals?” There was a moment of pause “Long term? Live a life where I do not need to be a ‘hero’, where my partner and I can just explore Istralar. Short term well that is different, there are obstacles in the way, Artifact needing to destroyed, families to be dealt with, dealing with shadowy groups pulling with strings in the background. Temptical ‘hero’ work.”   "Thou wouldst find value in reflection. Only a Foole would grant Darknesse its demands through the Finality of Death. Shouldst mine Release lie within thy power, thou shouldst accomplish it with greate haste. Dost thy partner aid thee in thine travails, or dost he seeke employ of differing kind?"   "There is work to be done Vorthómin, and I know that. As for releasing you it might be within a day or two. Causing a commotion inside this city would be problematic, however you have my word that I'll try." Aniks rotated the stone in his hand thinking of a question to ask. "She does, and I am grateful that she's willing to help as much as she does. Why did you ask that?"   "For thee to travel without Companie wouldst be a minor Tragedie. Thy kin draw breath centuries past humanity's fall. That much of Time with thine owne thoughts defieth thee thine Sanitie. Absence from thine partner couldst lead thou to ruin shouldst thine Darke foes claim them. Tis a Storie retold thousandfold. Thou spoke of Familie. Dost thou possess it?"   Vorthómin had hit the nail on the head, the one thing he feared above almost anything else. Was Celuriel Sister taking her and not being able to do anything about it. So he remained quiet about it, though that lingering feeling didn’t go away. That feeling of not being prepared enough. “Siblings by blood, though only one I speak with. I have lost a family too, and found another. Since we getting personal, what caused you to be sealed away?”   A deep sigh echoes across the rift to Aniks. "Tis not Unexpected that thou wouldst ask of it. Thou seeketh one with Power necessarie to repeat the acte with thyself. My Heart hadst the Fyre of an Armie within his scales. He didst seek the fall of Darknesse. Twas not a Fight for but one Dragon - nay, an Armie wouldst hath hadst yet further struggle. But my Heart wouldst not be accused of inaction, and thus our kin rallied. If thy Enemie doth not bear a Scar of Searing Glass upon his truest face, then the Battle was our loss. Mine Heart hath yet to fall when mine Imprisoning Blow was dealt by the Wicked Darknesse. Yet he doeth naught for mine Safetie, and our bond lieth still. He hath not escaped Fate's grasp, her Plans too varying to Suggest. Dost thou hath Power and Strengthe enough to Protect thine partner?"   "Vorthómin, I expect you might have to answer some of the same questions from my companion when I release you. As for your question. One could only hope, as I will not know till the time comes will I?" It was a fact of life, he couldn't know if he was strong enough. Not till the moment came. He He very much doubted that a years worth of training in the Boneyard with a Herald and his 125 years of experience could match that of a Lich. A being who had been alive for a millennia. Not to mention that looming cataclysm in the future. How could anybody be ready for that. "I have darted around some questions, so you must excuse me for this next one, You may not answer it if you wish. However I have a feeling my companions likely will ask you when your free. When we had attempted to scry on the shaman's father, it showed us some of the insides Akha Ekhursan, though another member of our party had mentioned the Onyx Shrine. Is there anything you could tell me about it?"   "Shouldst thou be present upon mine Freedom, I shalt prevail upon thee to aid mine speech." The silence stretched out between Aniks's question and Vorthómin's eventual answer, the thrum of noise's absence loud in the drow's ears. "Thou sayeth its appellation with such assurance. There is much and more to speake of the Shrine of Onyx, of its Gatewayes and the Rituals once helde deep within its depths. Thou must know the stillness of all Shrines. The Darknesse betwixt Entrance and Skye wouldst wish vibrance upon it; wouldst hope to draw forth Remnants. It is Power moste Olde, and Power thou shalt not encounter if Luck strides next to thee. The Foulest Necromancie may twist Forme and Functionne, but it cannot Awaken the Darke Depths of a Shrine."   Something deep within the depth of the Shrine, power a Necromancer probably wants. Given that it’s dragons what could it be? “That is at least something good, they cannot access the shrine in full.” However knowing there luck, they might know what that power is by then end of all this. “I believe it is your question next?”   "Thou must hath a Plan if thou seeketh prisoners of the Darknesse. What doth thou believest to be the path to thy goal? Thou hath little knowledge of our lands, t'would seem, Elf of the Western Scourge. Thy answer shalt bear Greate Amusement."   “I honestly hope it is more of a stealth mission, get in get out. Without drawing attention to ourselves, unlikely but I can hope. Realistically a frontal assault would be suicidal, so finding an unguarded route might be in our best interests. We had done some research before coming here, but I think we might need to do more, as your land’s text might yield different results.”   "Tis a foolish thought for thee to wander into Darknesse unaided but by thy own magicks. Shouldst thou wish it, and shouldst thou hath no other Path open to thee, thou might findeth success not in Onyx but in another Shrine - for tis Knowledge moste ancient that their Paths entwine, ley-guided deep within Iskaldhal's Heart. I hath already told thou that thou must Research thy fates. Do not preclude that Necessitie. Yet I offer this Fate for thy considering."   “I will take your words to heart, a path like that would be helpful. Yet the more we know the better. We can never be too prepared. If I were to show you a dragon egg would you be able to identify it?”   "Dost thou carry a Precious Childe with thee? Few Dragons hath Abilitie to Identifie alle of our kin by egg alone, yet thou may perchance hath luck if the Childe bears traits of mine own kind or those Moste Common. Where didst thou locate the Hope of our kin?"   “Yes and I have had no such luck at figuring it out this mystery. I had found it deep within a demon’s ivory maze, hidden away. I do not think a purple egg with pinks spots is not among common eggs.” Given that the land he found it in was Tenaerul, it might have been normal once and twisted by the land around it. “What would you like to do when you are free?”   "Freedom... I hath the wish of soaring through verdant winds and azure skies once more. Tis confining to be entrapped within the Nothinge. Thou speaketh of a Wounde? How didst thou fare against the Unspoken's lasting Wrath? Such places art aberrant beyond thy wildest imaginings, sundered tears of the Loste in many Times past..."   “Wound? You have to forgive me unless you are speaking of my time within that maze, I am unsure what you are talking about. If the maze is what your talking about then none of us wish to see that place again.”   "Thou Called it as Tenaerul; a Worde moste apt for a Scar of the Wars. Thy maze of Ivorie doth soundeth like the work of Baphomet and His Unholy minions, but tis the Scar that granted the Foule Creatures passage. Thine Scar like as not still weepeth with the Anguishe of its many Dead, a boon to the Summoninge of those Seeking to bring yet further Darknesse."   “Huh, I guess I need to organize my thoughts better. As this Telepathic bond is not something I am used to. We dealt with Tenaerul as well as we could have. Spending as little time as possible within that twisted place. However we still needed to go to The Ivory Maze to escape, and once passing those trails we escaped. I found the egg there. Overall that is not a place I would like to visit for a second time in my life.” "Thou wouldst be Wise in that Decision. The Wounds still breathe the Whispers and Cries of those Loste to the Wars of eld; their Bloodie wills still bear Power moste Dangerous. Thine precious Childe may yet be of Goode; equally, its Darke beginning may Twiste the Childe within its shell. Thou must prayeth that it doth not carry the Taint of the Sundered. For a Dragon to be born with that Defying Will... tis a worrying concept. How hath thou treated the Childe? Doth it yet show signs of Freedom?   “It is not the circumstance of how or why we are born than defines us. It's the journey that defines a person. Though that thought had crossed my mind once or twice I can only hope that hasn’t happened. The child has been silent, no knock, pecking or rocking for well of a year. During that year, I had made a box filled with a soft quilt to carefully place it in. Watching over it every night when I returned home.”   "Tis not uncommon for a Childe to remain Silent until the Kiss of a greater Wyrm yet smiles upon them. Hast thou introduced it, perhaps, to true Fyre? Yet thou mistake my former words. The Darknesse within a Wound festers akin to that which fyrste corrupted thee. The Greate Destroyer is but one force of Corruption: the Sundering didst open the Pathway for Darknesse to blaze anew as the very skies themselves burnt with Power. Shouldst the Taint of a Forgotten have grasp on thy Charge, its Soul might be fouled and twisted into a Being of true Monstrosity..."   (Vorthómin sounded distressed at this prospect.)   “True Fire, dragons fire wait before all that. I might be able to check in the child’s soul had been warped. GIve me a moment I might be silent for a second” Realizing he had never looked at the Egg with Soul Vision. Within a couple of seconds Aniks held in his hands the child in question. Making sure the Soul Gem of Vorthómin and dragon egg made no physical connection. Unsure of how ‘healthy’ that could be. Again Aniks pulled on the Soul Domain glimpse this child's soul.   As Aniks again called on Pharasma's power, a bolt of icy energy shot up both of the drow's arms. It was a lingering cold that nestled into his skin; a stilling of the blood, and a reminder of the line he walked. Next time he looked at a mirror, he might find the cobalt swirls of Death's power engraved across his shoulders. Or perhaps he might not, if he wore a shirt. He would eventually spot them, regardless.   The chaotic-patterned egg was a simple and smooth thing in reality. Dragon eggs usually had no visible magical aura, and the mystery egg was no different. However, through soul vision, the fledgling soul could be glimpsed within. Like any innocent child's soul, it burnt bright with the untempered golden light of life. Unlike a human, whose soul might shine entirely singularly in colour until an older age, the draconic child's soul glimmered with flickers of other shades. Of the most visible were flashes of silver wing-like shapes that occasionally encircled the soul almost protectively, and small swirls of vibrant pink that danced within its core. It would seem a dragon's soul looked quite different to that of a human (or elf, drow, aasimar, etc)   The Egg replaced Aniks in bed, he swung his arms pacing trying to get some semblance of warmth back into his body. The soul gem still clutched in his left hand. He was muttering some curse in Undercommon as his hands took turns rubbing his forearms trying to create heat through friction. After he gave himself enough time to look at the dragon’s newborn soul. The drow quickly lessened how much he pulled on Pharasma’s power by canceling his glimpse into other souls. The icy feeling was new, and he wondered if it was some sort of backlash or reminder. If the cold didn’t go away soon he’d have to figure out how to warm up again, besides adding more layers of clothes. After giving Vorthómin the description of the child’s soul through the connection. Aniks continued “While I am not overly familiar with dragon souls, our concern can be lessened as it is not as bad as it could have been. Prehabs before they breaks into this world, we could possibly shrink the twisted land’s effect on the child.”   "Thou dost bring this elder soul much peace with thine words, mortal, but thou must needs be cautious in thy proceedings. To interfere with Life is to toy with the Divine."   “I am glad I can bring you some semblance of peace. As for your word warning, I will take caution but I’ll be fine for now.” Aniks retrieved the egg placing it back in its proper spot. The lingering chill still clinging to his body.   "Thou doth possess Honour despite thy fell beginnings. Thine Northern kin wouldst have learnt much from thy actions... Verily, I speak naught of Import. Thou hath not continued thy Questioning, mortal. I wouldst not taketh thine 'turn', as thy might speak."   “A Question?” He avoided the first part, as he disagreed. He’ll deal with the cold after he was done speaking with Vorthómin “Your far more familiar with this country than us, is there anything you can tell me about the artifact known as The Harp?”   "Thou must needs learn the Importance of Specifitie, mortal. This land holdeth many Countries and yet further Instruments of String. Song hath long been the vessel of Information betwixt mine kin, and thou shouldst hold nay Surprise at thine mortal fellows imitating their Elders. Tis no surprise that Harps number the Many Greats crafted by mortal and Elder hand alike, though thou might avail thyself of Native custom: twas not until Humans, Gnomes, and thy purer kin became truly settled that their delicate Instruments were summoned unto being. Wouldst thou grant more light upon what thy wish to Learn?"   The dark elf sat on the edge of the bed, “I believe it was a harp connected to virtues, I heard tales about heroes being changed by its music. Even being told we might have already been affected by something like that…” A single finger poked his back, then again as he was mentally speaking, and a final time before Aniks was brought back from the world of thought he had been so lost in. The hybrid spell broke down as Aniks’s mind had something new to focus on. He no longer drew on the soul domain, but still felt lasting effects. Aniks turned to face Celuriel, Vorthómin thoughts now gone from his mind. He’d get a chance to speak to him when Vorthómin is out. Besides Aniks pocketed the soul gem, not willing to try making contact again tonight.

Journal #54: Basics to Necromancy, why is this even a book.

Our trip to Gildomar was a two-day journey, we rode knowing that at least that we'd be going to the one sold clue to finding Teras Galewin, Licia's Father. Using a phantasmal steed, I had conjured the trip was far faster than the eight days.   However, that changed as we had to pass some guard towers. Nothing too out of the ordinary, save for the fact I had to dismiss the phantasmal steed before they could see the arcane horse. An annoyance sure, but things like that are required if we want to be quiet and not arrested. Arcane magic is strictly prohibited in the country of Gildomar. Not that that is much of a problem for somebody who lived without arcane magic most of their lives.   The dwarven guard meets us as we approached the gate and where confused. The two Aasimars, the 'purple' elf, the other two elves, the plant man and the Vampire. Which Lukas was promptly pulled into the Scepters demiplane. That's an adventuring group for you, then the guards started paying attention to me. Being reminded of that odd feeling, as they looked at me. Still never calling me drow or dark elf. They whispered, badly I might add, about him being the same as Duergar just for an elf. What happened to the drow here? A continental-wide genocide like in the Kingdom of Galasthin Elves?   Unsure what to do with our odd group, given that we need to go to the capital, the guards thought it best we were given a guide. From within the walls that barred our path, they called a dwarf by the name of Burdyr Donderiall. An older dwarf with a greying mohawk with the thick eyebrows. With a long braided bread that extended below his chest. This dwarf was well built, a war pick lay at his hip a shield at his back. He had a gruff attitude and had very quick opinions of us, unsurprisingly. With the addition of the dwarf, my phantasmal steed was no longer an option. We rented a cart to travel the remaining distance to the capitol. Which luckily for us only add some extra time for us as we were not that far   Burdyr was quickly confused by our party. The speaking star cat, the lack of breathing from Licia, my existence. I can see he has never really left his country. Yet, at least this would be helpful to have a guide for once instead of stumbling around in a new country for once. Turns out our trip into Gildomar was simple. As when we stopped at the first Inn, The Golden Chains, Burdyr had pointed it out. Nialnir had bought two casts of Ale, and I wondered if we traded one alcoholic for another. As Pin had chosen to stay in Ironfall, not returning with us. Asking some questions and getting a decently hot meal, the Prince was surprisingly easy to find. Locking himself away for an experience that further help his country. Getting to him was another question. As he would only expect apprentices in the Mechina, most do not survive the trails.   Soon The Lost Ones found themselves in front of the large building known as The Mechina, no research, no nothing. In a moment of clarity, I suggested doing some research, anything about what lays ahead. That was never going to happen, so we walked in. Attempting to do this as quickly as possible. No such luck on that part, two days we spent there. So much for being quick. Lucky for us, Arcane spell were in full use. As we were given full permission by the Prince. After Licia explained what we were doing here.   Ashlyn would have HATED this place. So many doors in this dwarven building. I doubt it would be standing if Ashlyn was here. The first of these odd puzzles where a room of eight doors locking a puzzle, which with secret chests. Most were a random gem, a magical rod, or other things, save for the one that attempted to steal my soul. That one had a Soul Gem, one that had already been used. I had a moment where I thought to simply pass the soul on to The Boneyard. Pocketing instead, I thought I would ask this Prince about it. Before doing something drastic with this Soul Gem.   Another large room, golems this time of sand and obsidian, stood guard. Two of each, and I drew Silver picking one the Obsidian Golem as my target. Spells were damn near impossible to land on the hulking figures. Having to think outside of the box to defeat that beast. While my friends started to take care of the rest, Talinde included now. A binding spell did the trick it for my opponent. Holding it in place, I shattered the Obsidian Golem. After the fight was over, I had to pick the shards of obsidian from my body, like thorns stuck in you after jumping into a rose bush. I was completely unaware that they explode when they are destroyed. Another chest is hidden inside this room, which contained dragons, blood, hides, and a few other things. The amount of dragon paraphernalia was concerning.   As we passed into the next room, which I could only assume to be some Alchemical Lab for the Prince with a liquid pool in the middle. Potion racks to our left as we entered, The Table to our right contained other alcoholic substances and dust. Directly in the center was in the pool, around the rim dwarven runes inscribed the following 'The depths show nothing but what is given, and do nothing but what is spoken.'   To the left of the pool was contraption which looked like some sort of potion mixer. To the back left was a table of metals, Nialnir took a piece of adamantine from the table. While I held on to Mythril for my own purposes. While the last table to the right was a table of reactions, reaction starters, like thunderstones or flints and steels.   The door which was on the other side had a riddle of sorts. Each in different languages. Undercommon: "My face may be stone, but my heart is [blank]. I do not drink, I do not breathe: my heart is all I seek."   Aquan: "Power distilled must be first considered. Waters turned to rush clear once life takes root." Terran: "That which is cold must first meet that which provokes." Ignan: "That which provokes must first meet molten power. Auran: "That which changes mind must first be tempered by that which is cold." Planar tongues? Undercommon does not make any sense as to why it would be here. While we explored, a halfling appeared out of thin air.   Kraia had returned, also being displaced in time like I was in her god's realm. She just rounded the corner as we walked into the Alchemical puzzle room. Burdyr was rather confused as Talinde was release in the golem fight. Now another person popped into existence. The poor dwarf could not understand how we kept producing people out of thin air. Which later, Lukas and Artemis appeared also appear from nothing, so I can understand why he was confused.   A potion puzzle was next, which was just mixing a potion with several ingredients in a specific order, with a secondary puzzle involving a shapeshifting pool that we asked to make the key to the door. It works. Simple is sometimes better. The door unlocked with the heart-shaped key, both vertical and narrow hallway of whirling pain. Buzzsaws of differing speed, height, directions jutting out of the wall. Nialnir and Kraia wild shaped into the tiny animal, easily passing by the dangerous hall.   As they rounded several corners, they tripped an alarm. Waking the dragon guard in the other room.   The buzzsaw filled hallway was stopped with combination metal rods and black tentacles. As well as some clever use of stone shape pressed into spinning blades to stop the buzzsaws that the first plan could not. We quickly made it past the hall into a smaller room, two large double doors lead into the room with the Dragon.   There was our first rest. Annoyingly using the arcane spell, rope trick, we pulled ourselves into a pocket dimension. This was an attempt to get our magic back as well as let the Dragon calm down.   The Dragon was an absolute abomination of a fight. We sent out the Vampire Lukas, as bait as vampires are rather hard to kill. Nialnir started with black tentacles, which the black Dragon laughed taking flight, sending their very own black tentacles. Yes, that spell is back, Burdyr and Nialnir had been held captive for a large amount of the fight. The others and I took care of the Dragon, in its acid-filled camber. Which while challenging, we have certainly dealt with worse. With the Dragon took care of, and us harvesting some of the Dragon. I took a chunk of dragon bone.   More doors, traps, and devil summoning circles lead to a small conversation with Cyne and our Second rest. Another Ropetrick, before we touched this teleportation key.   If this journal seems a bit scatterbrained or lacking in the information, it is because I am tired, and this dwarven Prince annoyed me. I would rather not think too much about people like him. His single-minded view and how easy it had been to manipulate the Prince. We did not, but a necromancer had.   This is so stupid.   And tiring.   One day there will not be some vague calamity around the corner, where I do not need to worry about some lich that could appear at any time. Where dealing with politics and having to gingerly walk around a topic about gods and race. One day, sorry, this is starting to get into the realm of tangents.   As The Lost Ones touched the teleportation key, we enter the core room of the Mechania. Eight rooms all empty. With one in the middle of that large room. It became clear as we looked through each room that we probably needed to get into the center room. In fact, the core of the Mechania seemed more to be living quarters then a lab. With all the creature comforts, somebody would need to live alone with little interaction with the outside world. We found notes from an arcane caster. While odd, the Prince did give us a pass while inside this build despite the rules of the nation being anti arcane. The arcane caster in question was proclaiming their thanks for the Prince for his understanding of his work. Then I went on about some work with Necromancy. Which lead to some suspicions about who this person was. Which was all but confirmed when we found a book under some carpet. Basics to Necromancy. We looked at each other. This was not a good sign.   Finding a key hidden within a study in his desk. As we unlocked the door, to be met with the Prince. How do I describe this nobleman, well definitely not noble for one? Skittish, afraid of his own shadow, closed-minded. Burdyr and I were the only people that could speak Dwarven, which Licia had caste tongues to speak with the dwarf. Despite him clearly knowing and reply to questions asked in common in dwarven. He forced the elves outside as he could not forgive them for what they did. Which apparently happened like a thousand years ago.   Being a dark elf, I partly got a pass. Sort of. Again It was like I was treated like a myth, not some bedtime story of creatures lurking in the dark.. I would have gone in aways, the Prince's words be damned. I pulled the soul gem out, asking a question about it. Which leads our assumptions about the Prince being manipulated by a lich to be true.   That's not our problem, well it is, but if this Prince is too stupid to see reason than could care less about what happens. As conversation devolved into another fight.   You know what I am just going to bullet point this as I am cold and tired and want to go to bed. Talking to the Soul Gem took more out of me than I thought.   The Prince and Finding Licia's Father   ~ The Lich and The Prince constructed an anti scrying disc that was bound to only Licia's Father, Break that we break the problem we had found him. ~The Fight wasn't that difficult. However, Talinde might need to be looked at. Something's off … ~We decided not to help the Prince deal with the Lich. ~The Onyx Shrine is under the control of the Lich, which is WHERE her father is. It's one thing after another. ~Sigrun after watching the Scrying spell needed to warn others about this new information. How this Necromancer has a hold over one of the Dragons Shrines. ~We decided to go to the Jade Shrine, then using that Shrine to sneak into Onyx Shrine as they all are connected. Hopefully, once we're inside, we can scry further as inside the Shrine there was some barrier stop Licia's spell from actually finding her father. Gods, I hope that idiot is worth all this trouble.

Journal #53: Stolen Book [Text Roleplay]

A hand opened and closed tightly, writing for prolonged periods of time always hurt Aniks. No matter how often he wrote. The ink was just about dry on the page as he finished another journal entry. He placed the also dry book, pen and ink on a bedside table. Then to the only other person in the room “As soon as we get a chance in Gildomar, I would like to go to a book shop. Rereading these journals and those texts in The Boneyard left me wanting to read literally anything else with a story.”   Celuriel had remained quiet during his journalling. Silence was a trait she had always possessed and made use of, and her time in another realm had not robbed her of it. Still, her hands held the stolen book with a surety of its existence that could have given way to uncertainty only recently. Four days to them. Many more for Aniks and herself. "we were in a library." He had breached the silence: she would respond. "you could have taken one too. he didn't care."   For a moment he was concerned this, but only for a moment. He only gave it that moment, because of the type of books he could have. "Honestly, I would be both interested and concerned for the types of books Cyne would have." Then with a small smile he said "I could have, but the less time around him the better. He wanted to be alone."   "this one is both myth and.." She had to pause to think of the word, golden eyes meeting Aniks's. "alchemy..? it has many plants." It was a thick tome, too. Well-read and well-cared for, bound in a rich black leather with golden decorative inlay. A number of bookmarks - clearly not placed there by Celu, who didn't see the point - still stuck out of the pages. She made a noise of dismissal. "he wanted to drink sweet-scented wine and forget. you could walk into the other rooms. he didn't care about Ashlyn... praying."   "Would herbology fit?" Aniks suggested. Alchemy from what he knew about it encompassed a bit more than just plants. But myths? What kind of book was this he wondered. The bookmarks would suggest somebody hade once used it often, those pages from the book at least. "I would guess that's just his version of coping. Your right, but he just did not want us in the same room. I would not like to have seen what happened if we stayed."   "herbology?" Celu considered this and his continued wonderings for a few moments. "...yes. they both are useful words. and he was too dark for anger. he would have moved," she suggested, though didn't seem entirely sure and quickly followed that up. "maybe onto the floor. his drink was strong."   "If both words would work than isn't that rather druidic, in a round about way. Is the book interesting?" Aniks said. Then he felt bad as he smiled "I have to admit, if it was not so sad. Cyne drunk on the ground would hilarious."   She shrugged at the first question. "ask q druid. it is a very strange book. it has a lot of myths, but then it thinks about their causes. there are a lot of plants mentioned. people have written in the margins." At his suggestion, Celu thought about this - and smirked. "you have a bar."   "So it's searching for the kernel of truth in old myths. That's odd" He said eyebrows raised. However Celu's suggestion to get Cyne drunk was amusing. He glanced down at the second journal, it looked dry. He lightly tapped the ink to test it, it was dry. The book then was softly closed. "While it might be possible, I don't think we'll be seeming him in my bar anytime soon. On the account of him being the emperor and all."   She shrugged lightly at his eyebrow raise. "I expected it to be odd. nothing about him is normal." Sliding a stray parchment fragment into her page and shutting it with a soft thump, she offered the heavy tome to Aniks. "do you want to read it?" She'd learnt how to share better over their time away. A certain consort had been helpful there. "...and you're wrong. he is an emperor, but he needs time away too. if he refuses, trick him."   Aniks stretched releasing a yawn in the process, setting down on the bed next to her. He consider what she said, with a single finger he pushed the book back. “Not while your reading it. Besides what's it called?” To be frank, not many people they knew could be considered ‘normal.’ Cyne was definitely odd and fit that description. A smile appeared across his face. “Trick Cyne into getting drunk. A mischievous suggestion Celu. How would you approach this?”   "...let's find out." The book's title wasn't engraved into the leather: it took opening it to find the name. Celu didn't mind. It gave her a way to avoid speaking it. Emblazoned on the title page and accompanied by a series of inked symbols was 'a Complete and Selfe-Updatyng Treatyse onn Magykal Propertyse of Mundane Mythe'. She considered his question with a thoughtful smirk. "he would need to arrive in your town... tell him that ashlyn needs to speak with him as soon as possible. involve his assistant if he refuses."   “That’s a title for sure…” His head tilted confused at first by the spelling, or the older spelling of these words. “Ashlyn’s birthday would be a good day to do it, them being family and all. Giving him a glass shouldn’t be a problem either, it’s getting him to continue to drink....” The dark elf pondered this, as if this could possibly work.   "it's old. this book is old. the early pages are not easy to read." She flipped to a random one, showing him reams of close-written text in a more archaic form of common - and a number of handwritten annotations beside the printed text, taking up the majority of the page's margins. It wasn't all in the same hand, either: different inks, different handwritings. "any of your birthdays would work. if you use strong alcohol or..." Was there a word for mixed-together drinks? She didn't remember. "mixtures, then he will drink more. and when he has started, distraction will make him drink more."   “This book has traded hands a few times, I wonder what would have driven people to make additional notes. Corrections comments for somebody else to read down the line?” He paused for a moment, at least he could read common from another era. It would probably give him a headache after a couple of hours. “Elven Ale would work just fine, but that basically drugging him at that point. As for cocktails and mixed-drinks, best to use heavier alcohol masked with other fruity drinks which would cover how much he’s really drinking.”   Celu stopped in her flicking-through of the book's pages to turn and glare at him. "you are the one who knows best what pain elven ale causes. don't use it on someone who can lock you away." Was she being selfish? Yes. "if it is that easy to hide alcohol's flavour, then encourage him to drink more than necessary by using competitions. the madman could help." She looked down at the book, scanning the page she'd landed on. "...the writing is both, and speculation. new and old blood discussing what the text assumes. look. this one has many theories on the sleep potions used in a sleeping princess myth."   "Your right, Azyel is a much better choice. So the better question, is are we going to accurally do this." Aniks, of course, still needed to get the Elf back for his magical prank. He'd like to burn down the fact bar across the street from his, but that would be arson. He'd settle for something else. "A deconstruction of a myth, I guess some people rather enjoy that sort of thing."   She considered it. "the distraction would make him less sad. but we can't for a while." Celu wasn't forgetting the shard's existence. "...the deconstructions also impart ideas. poison is too easily made, I think."   "Depends on the type of poison, while many are easily made or found. Venom from Serpents or natural chemicals that educe death very quickly. Cyanide being used a lot in food poisoning on the surface. The longer and more complex one like Drow Poison can have other effects. However since that book has both Alchemy and Herbology I would image that sleeping potion had...." He stopped, Aniks up bring was showing. Basic knowledge on poison came hand in hand with training with a shorts swords. He hadn't spoken about poisons in years. "likely been a mixture of both." He shook his head to clear his thoughts. "We'll be busy for a while, I think."   Celu leant against him, a small smile playing around her lips as he went on a tangent. His passion was nice. "there wasn't ever much detail about poison in the books I read. not beyond the basics. necromancers prefer other methods. would sleep potions work on us?" He'd managed to interest her, which was... probably a good thing?   He thought for a second, recalling decade old memories. If Celu had been a normal elf, her asking about poisons would be concerning. but she wasn't normal. Which was nice. "Depends. If the sleeping potion was naturally created, then it would possibly effect us. If the potion was magical in nature which cause an enchantment to be placed over the drinker. Well it would be wasted on us. While not a potion, basic drow poison when used correctly renders the victims unconscious for about an hour regardless of race."   She nodded slowly, taking this in. "we should find out, for the first one. it would be better to know ahead of time. there... I could see my sister using this type of thing. it would fit her." Being so close to Aniks made that topic easier to talk about: nonetheless, he doubtless felt the shiver. "does drow poison make you dream?" she wondered. The difference between unconsciousness and sleep - was there one?   Feeling the shiver, Aniks putting his head on her. A small way to attempt to comfort her. "Nivinle used it on me once" He said in a slight whisper. "I don't think I dreamt of anything. When I used it when I was younger, the unconscious never showed indication they were dreaming." He was quiet for a little bit, thinking about the first part of what Celuriel said. "Great both our families would use poisons, I am rather sure that naturally potions and poisons could effected us. However I'll double check for you."   Celu hoped he could feel her confusion. "she used it on you...?" she murmured in his interlude, falling quiet to listen to the rest of his words. "she would use anything that would help her. if these affect us, then she would use them. where will you find the poison? you aren't going down there for them." Down there meaning the Underdark, obviously.   "Only once, while we were training. She had stolen a poison dart and jabbed me." Aniks said. All in all it was probably one of the better ways to have the poison used on him. "Drow Poison can often be found on the surface in black markets and in the hands of slavers. The later being more likely. However the Underdark is by far the easiest place to find it."   "...if you go back, they might try and keep you there." She didn't sound impressed with the idea.   “I doubt it, Nivinle and I have an unspoken agreement not to get involved in each other's personal business. It’s Vasestra who might attempt something that stupid, and I don’t think Rikzyr would care.” It felt odd to say their names. Vasestra and Rikzyr still weren’t common in his mouth anymore. “Did you mean it, go back to The Boneyard? It was nice when it was just the two of us.”   She gave him a flat look that clearly stated her disapproval of his relatives, but moved on. "yes. we did not have to deal with as much stupidity. and nobody tried to pity me for not knowing things. would you really want to visit the first world?"   Given that his comment about going to the first world was made while he was half asleep. Aniks hadn't given it much thought, so now he did. "It would be interesting, but I think I personally might not know enough about Fae. I would likely leave that realm having something taken from me."   "...no you won't. you're mine and they're not allowed." Celu didn't seem to even give that sentence much thought.   “Your claim on me is rather ironclad. You haven’t claimed like Fae have you?” Aniks asked clearly unaware if she had, or even could yet.   Celu let him watch her consider this, before shaking her head. "...no, but that doesn't mean they can. I have a knife for that."   At this point, the mental image of Celuriel stabbing Fae amused the slightly tired Aniks. He could feel himself leaning on her a bit as he thought of this. Smiling slightly he spoke "As fun as that would be to watch, we'll have to think of something else."   She wasn't going to point out his sleepiness. He knew how to deal with it better than she did. Instead, Celu brought up a suggestion: "we could go to hell and barter the rat. and say hello to the dark one's new patron."   He shifted at the mention of hell, but when Aniks released his breath a short quiet laugh came out. “Not the vacation spot I would have chosen, especially just to screw over Whisperbreath. As for his patron, I’d rather not deal with more deities that we have too.”   "..he wouldn't be worse than the ones we have met," murmured Celu in response, a small smile dancing on her lips at his laugh. "trickery in language is better than what we felt happening in the dark lands." The necklace was cold. It was always cold, but it was especially bad when she thought about that place. "...we could go to an elemental plane."   The dark elf raised the ring with the blood red gem, both showing curiosity and concern. “To many questions about that place remained unanswered, which some of them I wish would stay that way.” Then before this could be a topic of conversation could spiral downwards. He dropped his hand and focused on the elemental planes. “We could buy an air ship and explore the plane of air. I heard they're massive floating cities and cloud dragons. Whatever a cloud dragon is.”   Celu frowned at the ring, wondering if it, too, came with unnatural ice at times. Or perhaps that was just her necklace. "which--" Cloud dragons? Cloud dragons were more interesting. "an air ship..? do cloud dragons exist?"   "Unless there is another way we can get around the plane of air. An Airship would be a normal way for somebody without natural flight to get around right?" Then paused thinking about the cloud dragons. He pulled a loose fist to his lips, something he often did when thinking or remembering. "I remember finding some information on them when looking for information on the Lunar dragon, but skipped over it because it wasn't what we were looking for."   "are there airships that have more things to do? the last one was boring." So boring that Aniks... she didn't want to talk about that right now. The beatings he'd taken in Pharasma's realm had been punishment enough. Not that she'd been allowed to watch. "we should look for more information on all of the dragons. they seem interesting."   The room was quiet for a moment as before he spoke. "Unlike the one we used before. This one would be meant for personal use. It would be tailored for person. So if you had one you could probably fill it with books or hang your knife collection on the wall in a display. Think like a portable house" Then as he thought about about dragon comment, he sheepishly smiled. "I still have no clue what that egg is... and I've kind of been hoping it was a from a dragon."   "a wall of knives?" She seemed to like this suggestion, if her smile was anything to go by. "we should do that. then we can throw out unwanted visitors. and it is safer from teleportation." Looking up from the corner of the room she'd found herself gazing at to give him a half-amused stare, Celu simply.. watched his idiot grin. "...how would we adventure with a dragon?"   "We already sleep with knifes under the pillows in Ironfalls, gods help me if I scare you anywhere near that wall" he said with a quiet laugh. Though Celu stabbing him with a knife was something that was possible. While he turned to look at her, he was taken aback by her smile. "Umm, well I would assume like we do with Artemis, but more scales."   "if the dragon is from the egg, it won't be big enough for that. not for a while." Celu paused, realising something that she's never really had to consider in the past. For varying reasons. "how long do elves survive? you've mentioned the rat dying soon before."   “No, probably not. I guess we would keep it like our cats. If it even is a dragon egg.” Aniks said clearly not taking into account dragon having to grow. Being around Artemis kind of skews the certain things. “Typically? 350 years, maybe a bit more.That being said that’s without the lifestyle of an adventurer. Whisperbreath, 20 years maybe less.” "...why do you ever listen to her if she's dead so quickly," Celu was quick to ask in response. "350 years sounds like many. maybe your possible dragon will be grown towards the end of those. would the marks change the adventuring risk?"   Aniks sighed “Sometimes people who live the shortest lives, often have the most to say.” There was a pause for only a moment. Then his voice became monotone “...still shouldn’t have listened to her of course.” Aniks paused attempting to do rough tired math in his head. Honestly he didn’t want to give that thought of how quickly the champions marks would change there life span, for better or worse much consideration. “If we were normal, we might see the dragon reach decent age of adult? Which is a nice thought. Given the tattoo, no clue. These marks, might extended our lifespan but we will likely be sent into extremely dangerous situations. So…” He trailed off.   "our patrons know fate. they will not risk us anywhere too dangerous until we have run out of use." She didn't exactly comment on her own patron often: that didn't mean she didn't think about the elusive Magdh. Still, Celu looked a little uncertain about their topic of choice. "...I am older than you. by a lot more than three hundred." She was always a quiet speaker; this was quieter still. Not that it mattered with how close they were. "the necklace and my sister... how we know lifespan with their involvement?"   “That’s something we might not know, just being a champion put us on this game of fate. We will just have to play our cards right. ” He said in a quiet voice, still thinking in the back of his head how this grand game would end. Then his eyes widen as he never told her this before. “Nine hundred years older, give or take a couple decades.” It was weird to consider that she was nearly a millennia older than him.

Journal #52: Longest Four Days of Our Lives

One long year and three months, that is how long Celuriel and I were in The Boneyard. Currently, this journal entry is being written from the icy continent of Iskaldhal four days after we dove into that pool that leads us to the banks of the river Styx. In some tavern, in the veiled kingdom Naarim. Four days, while I am happy, the time difference is negligible, there are some issues that the past day and a half caused. That is something I will mention near the end of this entry. Where to even begin.   While our morning started in The Boneyard getting ready for the rest of the day, it quickly changed to being in a tavern masked covering our face. I assume Pharasma had just placed us there, one second in the Boneyard. The next an inn with new masks. It was like we shifted realities like we blinked and were there. With the rest of them who were at the entrance not even noticing our odd return.   Sidenote, I found the choice in masks rather odd and interesting. Celuriel masks cover just around eyes, it was dark but fit her well. Though the mask covered little, her hair covers most of her face at any given time. The stand out feature was the crown of darker purple-black flowers if I had not been so concerned with how we got there. As for mine, it covered most of my face, but when I had the chance to look at it. It looked or at least felt familiar, it was dark in design. I just could not place where I had seen it before. Tangents aside, I cannot even call this trip to the losing time.   Renting a room, I was quickly brought up to speed.   ~ Kraia was training with her goddess. ~ Dragon pantheon is a thing, Kazric is the champion of the moon dragon. He landed on his new patron when he was taken from the void. ~They found a vampire. Named Lucas, a self-proclaimed 'nice' vampire. Which means he pays people for their blood. ~ They had a vision in the temple of the beginning, which was originally behind the door. ~In Nialnir vision Sonja spoke with Jinne (maybe, knowing our luck it is), while I am unsure of a solid connection it cannot be discounted. ~Found somebody in Cid's Vision, a woman that was single-handedly dealing with an adult dragon. ~Licia had told me to never let Syrin, and her be alone. ~ We were currently attempting to find Syrin, Licia's former lover and his traveling companions, which is why we ended up here. ~ The Harp is already affecting us, it wants the best story possible. As if we directly tried to destroy it, it would destroy us. By sending another group to stop us or get in our way. Hoping the two group's destroy themselves in the process. These shards need to be removed from existence.   Back into the life of an adventurer.   I can not say I am surprised by this, just tired of it. To show you how messy this is. Syrin and Sonja the two we wanted to find the most are floors above right now. There was much debate on what we would do with them. While killing them now would be helpful for the simple reason. One being we could get information from Sonja, and deal with Licia's former lover, and that creepy pale elf. Who had an affinity ice-based magic?   Doing this would have caused problems, though. The Shard would have found another group on a single entity to deal with us as soon approached it. So knowing the enemy would benefit us when it comes to our fight for the Shard. Killing them, or more specifically Sonja, would make it difficult for us. Being that her mysterious other group would have more of an eye on us. Though like us I hardly think that if we killed her, her 'friends' would not bring her back.   It's just a mess, but we will deal with it.   We realized this when walking through for Licia. We were looking for a magic shop to find martial components. A scrying spell that would get a better picture on Syrin. It had worked. Worked too well. As we watched them from the shadows, thankfully we choose to scry at the right time. They spoke of control collars and changing them into something less easy to stop on the neck. They left that house, only to find a portion of our traveling companion. Zalni, Lukas, and Talinde who had not followed us, had crossed paths. Being that they were loud and activity The Icy Elf and Syrin thought to would nice to help them, gesturing to the collar in one of their hands.   We quickly attempted to find them with some success. Syrin and the Elf had blocked off Lukas in some back alleyway with a wall of ice. Agreeing that it might be better to have Licia hide, she turned invisible. Thinking quickly, I dimensionally slide onto the roof looking down upon the scene. I spoke to them as if they were normal strangers. We spoke little asking the regular question adventurers do, what brought you to a place like this, where are you from. The best way to lie is, to tell the truth. In a roundabout way, I did. I spoke to Lukas and Talinde, asking if they were claimed down enough to return to the tavern. When they agreed they would be at each other's throats, I asked the icy elf if they could lower their spell. They did.   We went our separate ways.   Nothing bad had happened. As we quickly teleported back into our rooms, we continued watching the Scrying spell. As our luck would have it, they noticed Whisperbreath. A drow in this city wasn't uncommon, and the veiled contrary had slavery. We saw it in the market square, we chose to look away from that as doing something would be reckless. A drow near a Ratfolk that is not a combination you find quite often. As we continued to watch, those two strolled in the tavern we had been staying at. Followed by the rest of the party at some point, then Sonja. They spoke on a few things, but what mattered was they were living tomorrow. Having done something within the city.   It had almost worked.   Eventually, some of us grew bored of this, and since we had a funeral tomorrow, I went to bed.   First off, normally I would be okay with a vampire waking me. Usually, that was Celu, but given that now she was an elf again. It was not her. I had heard a noise and given who was in the tavern I reached for Silver and silent approach to door in our common room. Celu had woken up for a second mumbled something. Probably some Infernal curse, then quickly fell back into a mound of pillows and blankets. I slipped into the common to find Lukas attempting to sneak out had tripped Talinde's trap. As Talinde knew he would have tried to sneak out, he had laid a trap in advance. He waited for Lukas, springing out of his room. As if he had caught some villain about to slit all of our throats.   These guys, I swear.   Somehow after telling Lukas if he did not behave, Talinde was going to kill him and explain that if he had not done anything to warrant killing him than Talinde had no reason to bother him. I felt like a mother chastising children bickering over nothing. This only ended with Lukas dragging Talinde for a night on the town.     I watched them go and climbed back into bed. Hoping that would be the end of it.   When the door slammed open in the morning, I woke up mumbling something in Undercommon. Honestly, I could not tell you what it was because it was overshadowed as Talinde was yelling at Lukas   "You shouldn't be seen fraternizing with somebody dressing like that!" "You shouldn't be commenting on how a lady would choose to dress!" Lukas had replied. I pulled the cover over Celuriel and me. She had shift indicating she had been woken up by the two's midnight stroll. "can we go back to the boneyard." "No next time we try your patron's realms." "you want to go to the fey?" "No, but I'm not ready to get more bones broken from Skein." "You could have joined us in the garden." "Something tells me I wouldn't have been able to." As we spoke, it became clear that neither of us was going back to sleep. We would be leaving behind certain people, as they did not have anything to do this funeral. We dressed for the funeral, had gotten something to eat, and Licia had teleported us the gates of Alethia. As we did not want to get sent to jail when we meant to mourn the loss of our friend. In retrospect, I thought Celuriel and I had missed the funeral, while I was sad that I thought I could not make it. The Boneyard had plenty of things to keep my mind off of it.   Dressed in black, the town guard had let us in. As it was clear why we had shown up. With some hastily scribbled notes to Ashlyn, we found the room we were meant to be. A room for family and close friends had been put aside for the funeral. We said our greeting, Midna Ashlyn's Adopted child was as cheery as ever. It was clear a face she was putting on. She must have been watching Ashlyn as her expression and mood was about the same. Just more spacey, more than usual anyway. Mery could barely get a word in before having to leave, the High Priestess Aetha went to I assume, console her. As Alysia Undri was a close friend to Mery. I will speak very little of the proceedings as even I do like having to explain why I was a bit distracted. Her immediate family spoke to the crowd at large, I took special care to note Cyne was looking healthy. His speech as 'The Emperor' was unsurprisingly distance and cold. Makes sense as the leader of an empire should not be seen crying or weak. I felt bad for him while I cannot imagine what he is feeling. I think I might understand it more than my companions. As losing somebody you love, a sister, a wife, a child. Whatever the case is, losing family is always the hardest. Licia, Celuriel and I had checked on him for a brief moment, Drinking and dealing with the loss his way, we left. We ask Ashlyn if she could order the guard to not let anybody but Immediate family in to see him. Thankfully agreed to do this. Celuriel somehow had stolen another book. Again proud but for all the wrong reasons. Returning to our friends, I asked some questions to the guards outside of the room. Some of the nobility had come around looking for Cyne, and I was curious as to who they were. While poking at the nearly uneaten cake, Celuriel had hidden behind me. "There is an elf in the shadow," She said. Her golden eyes bore into some curtains and somebody in the shadows. Given her sister, I understood why she might be hiding. Approaching the curtains, I place the plate of cake on the table. Being that it could be anybody, I still was not ready for Kazric. That being said as soon as I saw him, he kind of stood out. He flung a piece of cake as I exposed his hiding spot. He missed, or I was quicker than he thought. Regardless of that, we spoke on little things, he avoided the questions about his patron, which Licia had to cause him to say his now-famous line of 'Moon Dragons.' Which is a clear sign we would not be getting any information out of him. It was a somber day all around. There was one last thing about this day. When we went back to the elf gate, as we had to take several teleports to get back to our rooms in that Tavern. As Licia had used her one Greater Teleport. In the process of doing this, we ran across one Mad Alchemist. It seems he is back in Ilendras. As we went through the Elf Gate. The same guard as before finally revealed as to who he truly was. Elias the Mad Alchemist.   Our return to the tavern was nearly uneventful, Lukas and Talinde were shirtless boxing for some reason. I swear we will find them one of this day naked in bed together. I chose to go to bed or just to count these events. We are far from the days of traveling across Alethia watching the forests, mountains, and stars go by.  

Journal #51: Desk Duty of the Spire [Text Roleplay on going]

~The Daemons in the trench coat~   While on desk duty one night you see a medium height elf with a trench coat come up to you and asks for directions to the Spire. With your passive perception you can see that their walk seems very strange, almost as if off balance.   Sitting behind the desk flipping the another page The Bones Land in a Spiral Aniks looked up at the approaching elf. "Your in the Spire," He said slowly as if this should be clear "are you okay?"   "Of course I am okay. Now which do you keep the souls that are awaiting their judgement. I just want to check up on them and make sure that they're okay and not lonely or hungry or anything"   An eyebrow raised on the drow, the page half turned as he now looked over the 'elf' "Hungry souls? What are you really here for? "   "What are you implying. I am a human of my word and my word is that I'm here to check on the poor defenseless souls who need someone to talk to. Now if you could please just point me in the direction of those souls I can be on my way"   Well you realize that the face is an elf mask   "Take of the mask" Aniks said closing the book, giving this his full attention.   "What mask are you talking about! This is genuine human skin! I want to speak to your manager since you're being so incredibly rude right now!"   Both elbows on the table his palm and fingertips now pressed against each other. The pressed hands pointing to the 'human' in front of him. "I want to express to you my 'manager' is busy currently. While the assistant manager might be free, she is less than friendly to people. So you'll have to come back another day." "Listen, we came a long way for this journey and we're not leaving until we ea... save those souls! You know what, we don't need you! I'll find it on my own"   Eat really? Terrible Freudian slip there Aniks thought. "Let's not..." Aniks said appearing in front of the 'human'.   “Hey hey hey buddy, getting a little close now” the human with the elf looking face said while backing up and tripping over his face.   Aniks paused watching the 'human' stumble. Then raising his left hand ready to cast a spell if he had moved quickly. "Eating a soul? Really. Who are you?"   Eating a soul? Don’t be silly! What I meant to say was... seating a soul! You know like giving them chairs to sit on! People do that right?   "Avoiding the question, who and what are you."   “I’m... James... McMann and I’m a human! I should be asking who and what you are!”   "The mask, remove it."   “Mask? Like I already told you it’s genuine human skin! I already told you that once! Does it look like we know what a mask is!”     "First that's a elf's face your wearing, not a humans. Second no it doesn't look like you do, however many there are know what a mask is. Third..." A crack of thunder echoed through the room as a bolt of lightning escaped Aniks outstretched hand nicking the mask's ear. His face now deadly serious." next time I won't miss."   "Okay okay you got us" It pulls off the elf mask to reveal an even worse made human mask. Seriously it looks like a patchwork quilt made of skin! "I'm not a human, I'm an elf. My name isn't James McMann it's Elfarion Mcelff. Now that our misunderstanding is cleared up if you could just show me the way to those souls I'll more than grateful"   Aniks walks over and rips of the human man. "Enough Lies."   So you rip off the mask and you see partially coalescent clouds of bloody mist in the form of a ghostly, cloaked figure, perpetually dripping and reabsorbing a crimson trail. "Okay, would you believe that my name is Tief McLingg? And I'm a Tieffling?"   See the creature in full, Aniks casted a potent magic disintegrate.   You disintegrate Tief McLingg, jerk, and you hear a worried yelp from underneath the trenchcoat   "Get out of the trench coat..." Aniks said in a flat tone.   “lright alright, but before you kill me, would you believe that my name is Not A. Daemon and that I was just the legs for this whole operation! You killed the brains! Just leg me okay? We only did this as a dare!”The thing does not crawl out under the trenchcoat   Aniks cast lightning bolt on the lump in the trench coat.   You killed Not A. Daemon and burned the trench coat. Congratulations you monster.   Grapping the trench coat and folding it neatly on the desk. Aniks paused grabbed the broom underneath the desk, and swept the ashes onto a dust pan and into the trashcan to the left of his desk.   =======================================================   ~The Entitled~   While on desk duty one night a shady looking tiefling walks up to your and rings your bell that every desk has, why is it there even though you always are? You’ll just never know   The bell ringed through the spire echoing. Why the tiefling rang the bell, Aniks didn't know why as he had been making eye contact with them. He hated the 'night' shift, but he placed down his mug. "Is there anything I can help you with?"   “Well first off it is incredibly rude that you’re not addressing me as ‘sir’. It seems not even Pharasma can find respectful help these days. You’re lucky my father’s not here to hear about this, he would be throwing a fit right! You’re lucky I’m here, the more level headed of the family. Did I make myself clear?”   For a moment, just a fraction of a instant, Aniks understood why Celu wanted to harm people she found annoying. However the dark elf but on his best 'Barkeep' smile. "Is there anything I can help out with, Sir"   “That’s much better. I’m glad to see the help can still be trained properly, even here. As I was going to say before you were ever so rude, I’m here looking for the lavatories. I’ve had a long trip so don’t take too long to think on that. I know how slow the help can be to respond sometimes”   Elsewhere, Celuriel looked up from her seat in one of the many libraries as if sensing a disturbance. She shrugged when nothing more revealed itself, and resumed reading a detailed account of a conflict nicknamed, according to the Elysium-origin book, "the Skeleton War".   Aniks picked up the mug again sipping it. They could sleep in tomorrow, but he still had to deal with the bullshit today he thought. "While that could be arranged. I must inform you, unless you here for another reason I am not allowed to let you farther into the spire."   “THIS IS PREPOSTEROUS! Who are you to deny me? You are simply the help and obviously not a very well trained one. Do you know who my father is? You would not like me to get him involved! He is very quick to anger and often does not leave the help unscarred. I would highly recommend that you reconsider what you just told me and learn your proper place! Perhaps my eloquent vocabulary was too much for your simple mind to understand and you just simply misunderstood what I am looking for. If I must, then I will lower my speech to your level and hopefully you will understand this time. I Have TO Go To ThE baTHRoOm. I will not lower my speech again so I hope you understood that time, your simple terms always leave a bad taste in my mouth and blood in my ears. Did I mention to you how bad it would be for me to get my father involved?”   Aniks leaned down placing his chin on interlocking fingers. He blinked slowly as the teifling went on and on about his father. "Perhaps if you would have taken time to look around this small room yourself. Before expecting help. You would have seen the two doors to the left of the entrance behind you. Now is there anything else you need to day, Sir" The Tieflings eye visibly twitch for a fraction of a second before the monologuing starts “The absolute disgrace! You dare pull such a stunt on me of all people? Why you are the rudest person of your standing that I have ever met! Luckily for you, since I am in such a hurry I shall keep my berating speech short. As it seems you lack even the tiniest sliver of respect, discipline, or obedience I have decided I shall tell my father about everything that has transpired here after all. You will be made an example of! My father is Valens Fausta of Traianus, Lucilius, and Fausta Law Firm one of the most influential and powerful law firms in Hell. We have an army of lawyers at our disposal which shall be used against you due to your own failure to fall into your proper place and treat me with the respect and obedience that I demanded from you. I honestly have no idea how Pharasma keeps someone like you around, my servants at home know that the moment I look at them they are to drop on their knees and thank me for how well treated they are. It would be very helpful for you to see how servants are meant to be treated since Pharasma obviously isn't going to discipline you herself. Did I make myself clear? I would hope so, I am in a hurry so I will not wait for you to respond since it will take you at least five minutes to even comprehend what I just said to you. Let us hope you never need a good lawyer as you will not get one from my father's firm. You can expect a letter from my father as well. I hope you learn from this encounter and treat the rest of the pristine guests here with the respect that you are expected to give!”   The Tiefling turns away and walks towards the bathrooms.   Aniks sipped the coffee, swirled it around for a second thinking it wasn't strong enough. Then looking at the restroom door shaking his head still a blank look on his face "Entitled people..." He sipped on the coffee.   =======================================================   ~Flowers mean what now?~   It is a few days later that the next interesting encounter occurs. An extremely large woman, her dark skin practically glowing in the stark lighting of Pharasma's 'reception', wanders into the room. Not a shred of clothing clings to her shapely form; instead, clusters of leaves and vines tangle their way around her lower body, both decorating it in blossoming flowers and frost-covered remnants of what was once there. She doesn't seem to notice the drow at first, taking the time to scan the area for someone not present, then turns to him with an alluring smile.   "Sweet little youngling. Looking for a lost lover? Oh, no, you've moved on from those, I can see it in your eyes. Such eyes they are! Become a knight, the princesses await one. Anyway, precious iris. Where does Elysium lie?" Aniks pulled out a tome, the records book he had to keep for people that would be passing through the courts. He thumbed through the book, probably three hundred pages in where the bookmark was. Several names had been written down, he turned the book around to face the woman. Pushing it in her direction along the table, with another hand a pin press lightly against the page. As normal, when he didn’t have to deal with daemons attempting to eat souls or the odd entitled tiefling. He greets them with a normal smile, instead of a fake one so often used while he stood behind his bar. He replied in Celestial.   “Thank you for the compliment, however a knight? Madam I am happily taken at the moment. So I do not see any princesses in my future. Before I can direct you to Elysium, for the record book, can you write your name, planar destination, reason for going to said plane.” The pen tapped the three areas of concern as he spoke them. Indicating where they should go in the records book The woman laughed, the flowers adorning her waist fluttering their petals with her. "Knight you may not be, but night's mare do you ride. The wandering stars cling close to you, you know, even with the fairies' kiss glittering on your cheek. The future dances for you, sir of night and not knight." She smiled warmly at him, peering down at the small book. "Your inks stain petals darker than dark, irisbloom, and I bow to none but the green. Write for me, my pretty flower. Let calm weathers seek you for a time. I am Ràitheann." The name rings no bells. "Elysium is my home and my place, and the verdant dance is over for a time. But through Death's castle is the prettiest path, for in Her garden there are the most darling flowers. I will return there, to my forests and lakes, and draw the chill behind me."   Aniks was visible confused, you could see the drow turn his head to the sound at her words. Like a puzzle he could figure out if given enough time. She spoke in riddles or like she was some poet. He stopped speaking Celestial as he lost focus whispering in Common instead. "nightmares? fairy kisses I don't get..." He had to consciously stop his hand from touching his cheek at the mention of fairies kiss. He turned the book instead taking the pen in hand. While not the best scribe, he took her words down but had to ask how to spell her name. He left the book open to dry the ink, now speaking in Celestial again "The Eight Courts are through left door. Follow the stairs two flights up and you will have found your destination through the Ivory doors. The Elysium door is the carved oak door, painted with majestic mountains, and a wild glade. There should be some Lilac near the door, some pervious visitors left them. Now is there anything else I might do for you Madam?"   Another peal of melodious laughter as the woman bobs a curtsey towards Aniks for his assistance. "Thank you, sweet little irisblossom. My tasks have reached their paths end, and gifted me with the future's scents - but not sense, no; sense is for the sensible like a princess of a tower, wouldn't you think? Shower her in blue-stroked bells and the pale lilies of death before winter's kiss scatters snowdrops, and oh - the snow's touch shall bring many to you. Ware the blue, little blossom, as I bid you a farewell." She blows him a kiss that - instead of leaving any visible mark - scatters yellow buttercup petals across the room in a miasmic swirl of yellow as she follows his instructions and leaves him to contemplate what the hell that was.   Aniks at first simply smiled and waved as she left the reception area, after he could no longer hear her steps. His face became that of utter confusion. “What… was that!?” Aniks had unknowingly went back to undercommon as he spoke quietly. While overall that was a pretty normal exchange, he could barely understand her. Was that just the way she spoke or did everything have some double meaning. He fanned the ink now finally dry. Closing the book he placed it back on the desk, where it rightfully belonged. He grabbed a broom to sweep up the flower petals he thought about what had happened. Which might have been a mistake. The dark elf was rightfully confused as ‘a Princess in a tower’ clearly meant Celu, but how would she know about that? Could she? Stranger things have happened. Shower her in flowers or where those flowers just code for something else? And something about Winter too, before winter? No, He was jumping to conclusions again. After he finished sweeping, he sat down attempting to decode what she had said.   =======================================================   ~Clockwork Construction~   One night of desk duty you are approached by a strange damaged humanoid clockwork construct that seems to be missing a lot gears and springs and is visible damaged. So damaged that you can notice its left arm doesn't even more and appears to be limp the entire time. Its voice very weak and raspy as it slowly speaks to you. "I have travelled so far, suffered many... cruelties, and I fear that the only questions in my life may never go.... answered. If I ask you the...m will you tell me truthfully...?"   Aniks paused for the briefest of seconds. Unsure, as Aniks got to his feet. His voice, while concerned, might have been out of habit. Like he was taking care of some drunk patron who had mistakenly attempted to out drink a dwarf "Before that do you need help!?"   "Help? It has been so long since I was offered... help. It feels almost foreign. No, no. I am fine. I have been this way all the way since.... since.... since I was created I suppose? It's all so fuzzy now. All I have ever known is a lifetime of being used and recycled for scrap. It's a wonder I still have some parts left.... I suppose you could... help... me in one way. All my life.... I have never known who created me. Nor for what purpose. It has all been a mystery to me. If you could... help me then I will finally have peace. Will you figure out who created me and for what purpose?"   Aniks looked at the construct, golden eyes conflicted. "I would like to tell you I could help you on this quest" He lied. "I am bound by other duties and cannot leave this plane till they are done. Your creator might be here, they could already be judged or even on another plane entirely. I am sorry, there is not a lot I can do for you."   "So the...re's nothing y...ou can do? S...urely you h...ave records or something.... anything.... Coul...d you atleast tell me what the meani...ng of life is then? Since the....re's nothing el....se you can do....?" Oil slowly leaks from its eyes as it talks   The Drow paused for a moment " You asked a question without answer, however I'll try my best..." Looks like he'll have to give them some answer. Might as well make it a good one right. "The meaning of life is what you make of it. Your failures, success, the journey, the lost. Everything you are is what your life is. Is made up of these moment. If you want I can take you to another plane or heal you? A stepping stone along the way."   "Life is wha....tever I wan...t it to be? Life is wh....at I make of it.... My entire li....fe has been about find....ing out what the meani...ng of life was..... why I was so brok....en and tor...n apart.... I see no....w that life w...as always abo....ut my journey.... Thank you frie....nd for finally giving answer....ing my question.... No, no, here wil....l do just fin...e. I'm ju...st go....ing to sl....eep no....w. Go....od n...ight fri...end." The construct collapses into a pile of springs and gears and oil slowly begins to leak out the bottom of the pile.   A slight smirk appeared across the Drow's face, one that might have been sad for only a moment. A moment later Aniks used some simple spells to clean up the oil. The parts, now being placed inside a bag of holding. He was silent as he collected the fallen construct. "Let's hope you can sleep easy then."   While it took a while, Aniks had bought an armor stand from somewhere in Spiral's Edge. On nights they had to stay at Pharasma's Palace, he spent a little bit each time attempting slowly to rebuild what remained of the construct. While he knew this wouldn't bring this odd clockwork creature back to 'life'. It was like a puzzle, and hey at least somebody would remember him.   =======================================================   ~The Great Serpent of Ronka~   It is at the height of noon - as evidenced by the chiming of a clock somewhere in the Spire's many rooms - that the next visitor enters the reception.   Although, at first, it really doesn't seem like there's anything there. It's not until he hears it that he realises something... else... is present. It's almost a... hissing noise...?   Before Aniks thought to speak, his eyes fell on spot under the desk. Silver was kept there, They had asked to be kept close by as 'there was no one to talk to' as Silver put it. He silently pulled on the domain of soul from Pharasma's powers. If the being was invisible he would just look for their soul instead. Finally he spoke "Hello?"   Finally. Finally, the time had come. The Champion had reached out to power and sought out the flame that burnt within the visitor. The hissing increased in volume and tempo, and finally - Aniks saw... the small wriggling snake that had climbed up onto his desk, its yellow-brown soul burning brightly within its undulating form. "Sᴄʀᴇᴇᴇᴇᴇᴇ!" it answered.   Thus Aniks had a new desk pet, even if he wasn't assigned Desk duty. He had gotten a tank, and mice and rats to feed it every day.   =======================================================   ~The White Dread and the Knife~   As you put the serpent in the tank, the doors slowly open and in walks a deathly pale figure, white as snow, a beak orange as a carrot. As it walks up to the desk you hear the maddening sound of the being that defies gods and mortals alike. As it opens its horrifying maw it lets out the roar of a thousand burning souls, "HONK"   "NO! I thought shooed you away yesterday!"   As you put the serpent in the tank, the doors slowly open and in walks a deathly pale figure, white as snow, a beak orange as a carrot. As it walks up to the desk you hear the maddening sound of the being that defies gods and mortals alike. As it opens its horrifying maw it lets out the roar of a thousand burning souls, "HONK"   The Barkeep, as he did yesterday, reached down to grab the broom. He rounded the desk broom held a if it were a spear. Aimed in the direction of the goose "Leave!" Aniks paused fainting shot at the pale beast.   "HOOONK" replies the being that has seen the rise and fall of civilization, the being that has seen the rending of so many souls and mortals alike, it does not seem please with you mortal. Tremble before it's mighty roar!!!   His eyes narrowed "fucker that's my knife you stole from me!" Which he had stolen from Azyel but that was besides the point. The broom hit the side of the goose, then smacked the knife attempting to dislodge the knife.   The Barkeep, as he did yesterday, reached down to grab the broom. He rounded the desk broom held a if it were a spear. Aimed in the direction of the goose "Leave!" Aniks paused fainting shot at the pale beast.   The goose had never been challenged by a mere mortal before, especially not one that knew the weakness of all goose kind. This mortal was a true challenge, one the goose knew would take all its strength to defeat. With the fury of a thousand burning suns, the goose issued it's challenge to the careless and dangerous mortal "HONK". The goose knowing that it needed to use its full power just this one time, drew out the one weapon it had always hidden. Hidden within its quartz colored feathers, the goose pulled out the knife that had defeated so many. The god defier would not be defeated so easily!   His eyes narrowed "fucker that's my knife you stole from me!" Which he had stolen from Azyel but that was besides the point. The broom hit the side of the goose, then smacked the knife attempting to dislodge the knife.   The goose had suffered a mighty blow but the goose would not be defeated so easily. As wicker (straw? Whatever old brooms are made of) and steel clashed the goose, as David and Goliath fought, as a mere mortal fought the greatest of all warriors, the goose’s rage boiled and bottled up until the goose could take it no longer and let out another piercing shriek that has deafened daemons and demons “HOOOONK”. And with that, the goose was disarmed as the blade clattered to the ground. His defiance and arrogance had finally sealed his fate   "We do this every week!" Aniks said picking up the damned goose! He had to cover his neck, incase the goose attacked. The Drow took the goose out of the spire. He placed the goose on the ground, dimensional sliding back to the door. Closing it for now. He would check in ten or so minutes before reopening the doors. He reclaimed the twice stolen dagger and went back to his seat.   As the dagger was slid into its sheath, it... wiggled. Wiggled and resisted, and shot into the air to hover menacingly in front of the drow - the symbol of Nethys glowing faintly in the air behind it. It was alive! ...Or, at least, animated.   Aniks eyes narrowed at the floating dagger "What? Are you going fly back to Azyel?"   The dagger flew in a loop, then swung down towards the desk.. where it promptly began attempting to carve what looked like letters into the ebon surface.   Aniks looked down at the desk "Even in another plane he's screwing with me. What is today?"   The dagger paused in its carving and adjusted the word it inscribed into the desk to read: TUESDAY.   "That was rhetorical, finish your message before I have clean up this mess to"

Journal #50: Death's Champion

Planar travel always brings with it odd complications. For example, time is far more flexible in differing planes. The rules are ever-shifting compared to our normal sense of time that the Material Plane has. Sleeping was the only way I could think to track the ‘days’ here in Purgatory, as the sky remains in a constant state of falling twilight. If that is a rather good measurement of tracking time than Celuriel and I have been here for a little over a year. Which means hopefully The Lost Ones had dealt with the Harp.   This is going to be a confusing journal entry as I do not think I should explain this training chronologically. So segmenting my experience might be the quickest way to cover my training as Death’s Champion. Which includes the dreadful time I had to spend with the Steward of Skein. A large amount of my early time in the Boneyard was devoted to training with her. Later learning of the nature of souls at the banks of the River Styx and the River of Souls, I will admit that was the more interesting. A lot less painful as well. As it was not only the ‘soul’ the Psychopomp told me about, but the different types of Psychopomp within Pharasama’s Realm. Her courts had also been explained to me. As for my personal training with Pharasma, well it had started on my birthday when I had turned 125. I still do not understand why she would even want me to pass judgment on souls. It worries me as to why she even lets me. Skipping over the basics of midwifery, which yes I had to cover even being a midwife. Pharasma was the Goddess of Birth after all. She had also taken to give me secretary duty, as the Spire was large and complex in its design. My general thoughts on the Spiral's Edge the one city inside the Boneyard, as well as a few other things I would like to note about our time here.   For the love of gods starting on this year-long excursion to the Boneyard is going to be annoying. I guess the painful one is a place to start, the less I have to think about the Hearld the better. Physical training was taken care of by Pharasma’s Herald. The Steward of Skein was for lack of a better term an asshole. Very few things she and I agreed on, I could probably count the times we had agreed on something on my right hand. Strange, how during my training I had the oddest sense of nostalgia from home. Especially with her very aggressive form of teaching. Odd that I had drawn a comparison between Pharasma’s Herald and most Drow Matriarchs. Exclude the evil nature and maybe the pointed ears and they were shockingly similar. At least in my opinion. Never saw her face under that steel helmet so I could not tell you if she had pointed ears. Not to say I was not curious mind you if you were stuck with this Psychopomp that long, you would be curious as well. Especially when the only emotions she displayed came from glowing red eyes.   This woman clad in plate, which has been adorned with skulls on her shoulder, gauntlets, chest piece, basically everything with a joint. A bit overkill if I were, to be honest, scary at first but after seeing her for Several weeks she lost the initial scariness. She had white wings similar to most angels, those too were covered in metal armor. This is not even the worst part, it was her blade. That is where the true fear came back. While nothing especially worrying or special about it, it was used with extreme precision. Apparently, in her free time, she hunts undead for ‘fun'. If she is even capable of having fun. I would be an idiot to not say her title of Herald is was not unearned. Perhaps only two or three people in my life were that were almost or as skilled with a blade. Though one might have been through the hazy memory I could only recall hazily from my childhood. The moral of the story is I hate her, we never got along, but I can respect her.   I still am unsure of how she views me on the other hand. Given that neither of us could have a normal conversation without some dig at the other’s expenses. I often wondered what thoughts were hidden behind that steel helmet of her.   Silver was of little use to me during our sparring. Ironically this helped the Herald’s training as they spoke through our telepathic bond allowed Silver to distract me. Given Silver’s personality, I became very adept at ignoring they flirtatious comments directed at the Psychopomp and her sword. She had forced me to train with every common weapon she could get her hands on. Of course, the dark elf knew and was comfortable with dagger, shortswords, and rapiers. Several comments were made about that little fact, which I ignored, some of them came from Silver. I think they were jealous I was much more willing to swing a shortsword than them. The other weapons she had tested me on that took a miserable time to gain any level of proficiency with. As she told me, I wouldn’t always have Silver nearby. That she wouldn’t train somebody who wasn’t willing to wield any weapon given any circumstances.   The sparring itself was clearly in the favor of Herald. I do wonder if I was not an Arcanist would I have had a chance against her? She noted my fighting style with a scimitar was a method common among Sarenrae worshippers and clerics. Which I made a note never to tell Ashlyn our paladin of Sarenrae that. How I had even picked that up, I will never know. Another side effect of my incident when Riven reforged that blade. The Psychopomp did not hold back, I have several new scars from our fights ones. Small ones at first but soon they became either bigger, or more abundant. At a certain point she had gotten so bored with our training, she tossed her blade aside and decided she would use her fist. Which lead to beat downs and bluish-black bruises on my ribs. She held no mercy in her heart.   Eventually, she had picked her blade back up, the dull iron blade. As she deeming me expectable now, while I had been able to fight back with Silver. More than once I had to enchant Silver to be able to keep up. While I have never stuck a vital wound or even more than something Licia could cure with her spells. I had been able to harm the Herald. Or block her blade when it came arching through the air at my neck. It felt good that I was able to clash with the Herald. Though I had never won one of the fights, if I had wounded the Herald I took some level of pride that I had gotten better. One thing I had learned about the Boneyard is wounds do not heal naturally. Something the Steward failed to mention, sure she got some twisted kick out of watching me the first couple of days as I came looking progressively more beaten up. Scars and cuts she had put on me. It did not take long before a psychopomp had told me about the Boneyard’s odd trait. Which for a short while the psychopomps had healed me after our match. Which only allowed the Steward to be more aggressive as she trained as she knew I would be healed by the end of it. Ice ran through my veins as the positive energy washed over me. The healing magic the Psychopomp guard was cold. It felt like a cold brand had been pressed over sword wounds to closes them. To seal them shut. The worst part is it lingered with me, like taking an ice bath and drying yourself off. The cold still clung to you. Even once it is over with I could feel it, the icy feeling outlining where the cuts had been. The chattering teeth became background noise for me. Some Psychopomp had tried to heal me immediately after the Herald and I was done and for a week or so this had been the case.   Dimensional Slide was the one ability I used often during our sparring. She broke my left arm during one of her correct predictions on where I would be. Slamming the broadside of her blade into the area as I reappeared. It might have been worse if I had not quickly blocked with Silver. Still, the force had broken my left arm. The lesson there is, I should use it often, but not often enough to become predictable. Another lesson was the more hurt area was, the colder that feeling was when it was healed. I had let them use magic to reset the bone healing it a bit but nothing more, that chill had lasted hours. Subjecting myself to any more than that, and I might as well have been an ice statue.   I had originally thought the chilling feeling was a side effect of the Boneyard's present on the positive energy. Given who rules here that might have been a reasonable thought. Well, that was because it was a Psychopomp who had channeled that healing energy into me. Not the plane warping the positive energy. I found that out by stepping into the Garden Anima where I learned that. Celuriel and I went back to our room in the spire. I was shivering as we made our way to the room. Being as stubborn as I was, I finally conceded to let her heal the rest of the bruises and cuts as blood had now started staining my shirt. Expecting another bath of chilled positive energy, it was much better. Unlike the psychopomps, it had been far more comfortable and warm. I pulled her into a hug after, knowing I was rather thankful she was with me here. As a year without her, I would have been miserable here.   After that, I started to ask Celuriel if she could heal me instead of the psychopomp here and around the spire. Funny how when she was a vampire she was near me because I was warm and kept me safe from dreams and nightmares. Now I am going to her because she was warm and I calmed her during her nightmares. That and Celuriel was more comfortable to be around than the general conductors of souls that had healed me before.   Back to the pain in my ass known as The Steward.   For a week or two, I had placed down the blade. I was forced into to telekinetically hold different 300 lb objects, iron, oak, bone, ice while doing different tasks. I was still confused about how she got the bone, but thought on it for more than a moment and decided not to ask. We started with balancing 50 feet in the air on a thin board. Another time either on the ground or on the board in the air, she would yell which way her blade would be arching to my face and I would have to dodge. While I would have to keep the 300 lb block from dropping. I am rather proud to say I only fell off only once dropping the telekinesis for a feather fall. The Steward also would not tell me where some of the strikes were coming. Later she had me block her attacks while telekinetically holding up a shield. Which was easier to move around than 300 lbs blocks but as soon as she started throwing spells at me. Well, Chain Lightning nearly killed me on several occasions. Lucky she never went as far as killing me. I do not think I could explain that one to Celu, she already wasn’t allowed to watch. Angelic Aspect was a spell I had gained some level of comfort during my sparring session. Which aerial courses were made and I was drilled over and over again. Falling about a hundred feet if not more, as dealing with the fall was just as important as dealing with the control of the flight. This lead to probably my worst injures from The Herald. After she deemed my flight and aerial acrobatics passable (barely as she says), it came to aerial combat. I will not even try to hide it, I was horrible at it. I mostly cast spells at her. Silver remained mostly just a sword at my side at first. Adding the sword was horrible as my wings got in the way trying to swing at her. Having extra appendages, wings on your back is such an odd feeling.   Regardless of my piss-poor attempts to fly and fight. During one of our midair fights The Steward of Skein had disarmed me. I was paying attention to where Silver fell, I had forgotten I could have summoned him back to my hand without much thought. I was focused on not being skewered by her blade and lost my one way of defending against that. The Psychopomp had grabbed my arms and start flipping in midair dragging my body along. Spinning around she flung me down to the ground, which I caught myself nine or so feet off the ground. Two large steel boots dug into my chest and ribs. Connecting me with the ground leaving me with the sound of a sickening crack in my ears. Two broken ribs as I later found out. I snarled some Abyssal Curses at her as she got off my chest silence and watching. The training ended early that day, I stumbled through the spire in pain ignoring anyone who tried to heal me. I found the Garden Anima as I usually did, my teeth now gritting as adrenaline had started to wear off. I attempted to look as if nothing had happened, the Gardener had pointed me in the direction of the Spire’s library.   It is not even that surprising Pharasma’s tower has a library, it had appeared endless. I roamed the towering shelves looking for some sign of her. Head-turning from side to side, see the only psychopomp holding books organizing shelves. It had been about twenty rows in where I had found her pile of collected books. Silently reading as a Psychopomp stormed away down the isles, probably having attempted to get those books back from her.   Dropping any false face I had shows I was in pain. I slide down next to her on the floor back against the bookshelf, piles of books around her. I had to explain what happened as I came back early to find Celu in the library, clutching my side. As I recounted to Celu what lead to this, and cursing in a reaction as she poked broken areas. She had healed me in the library instead of our rooms. I had remained there instead of returning to the Herald’s training room. The Steward had not said anything the next day.   In all the time I spent with the Steward I had managed to royally piss her off only once. At least I assume she had gotten pissed at me. Who could tell behind knows behind that helmet, those glowing red eyes? While I take pride in it, it was mostly accidental. Remember the curiosity of not knowing? Well, I almost found out what was under that helmet of hers. As our blades clashed with one another locking at the hilt, I used telekinesis aiming for her helmet as a distraction. To my surprise, it had worked but my hand covered her face. Then as I realized that The Herald’s helmet was telekinetically launched into the air, before I could even lower my hand. The Herald had moved it ungodly speeds to fling me across the floor with her fist. Cold steel gauntleted fists Swifty punch my jaw expertly knocked me unconscious. I can not say it hurt, as it was quick and painless. Well till I woke up. For reference, this was the only time she knocked me out, despite both of us knowing she could at any time.   It was a painful way to wake up, touching my jaw first before anything else. I was not even aware were I was We were in our room in Pharasma’s spire, and we choose to spend the night there instead of a room we had rented, but I’ll get into that in a second. It was probably one of the most restful sleep I had gotten in Pharasma’s Spire. Which is saying something because Celuriel and I found our room within the dark spire rather hard to get any amount of restful sleep in. My hand had rushed to my jaw as I tried to say something but found it too painful to speak that much. Thankfully, Celuriel had a place down her book and explained what happened as the Herald had brought my unconscious body to the garden.   Our guest room within the spire was not anything special. A room to sleep, a room to bathe and what I assume was a living room? It’s really hard to tell with the dark gothic style of the Boneyard in general. There was a table in that middle room as well as a couch, nearly empty shelves on a couple of the walls. There was still an every presence chill that seemed to linger around the building and our rooms. I cannot even call this place a building, spire or tower just makes far more sense. The gray-colored walls and dark sheets left a gloomy feeling in the air.   Both Celuriel and I had trouble trying to sleep. Restless and often we would find ourselves awake for some reason or another. I had probably seen her yawn more in the Boneyard than on the Material Plane. There had been enough nights where we sat there reading, or if she had a nightmare. If it had been a particularly bad night without rest I would pull on Pharasma’s Repose domain to at least ease her sleep. Thankfully Pharasma never commented on it, as this use of her power had to be known by her. She was likely aware of every time I used it, that and she was likely to be in the same spire. Our time in this room only lasted about a month as neither one of us wanted to say here for long. Strangely enough, we were not the ones who came up with the idea to fix this little problem of ours. When the two of us would wake up in that first month, I would go and train with The Herald. While Celu spent time in the Garden with Pharasma’s Consort, Mrtyu. I went on a bit of a rant as Celu told me who and what he was. I could not believe Pharasma, of all people, wooed him. The idea of that stoic and all-knowing Goddess being curious about a warrior dying with love on their lips was… I could not believe it. Regardless of having that scary image of a Death Goddess flirting with somebody aside.The idea that fixed our restless sleep came from Mrtyu in a roundabout way. As Celuriel had found out there was a single city within this realm. Spiral’s Edge, while spirits who are going to be brought back and psychopomps were among its denizens. Living people, often worshippers of Pharasma, duskwalkers, and the other outsiders were spread throughout the city. And where there is a city, there is a place to stay. So once the idea was brought up, it did not much for either of us to agree on it. We would find another place to stay while we were on this plane. While the Boneyard was a near endless graveyard of crypts and tombstones. Our late ‘night’ travel to Spiral’s Edge was lucky eventless. As my last encounter with traversing on this plane was annoying. As a rogue Psychopomp had attacked us, scythe in hand. At least I assume it was rogue. Hearing a howling wolf was still a bit odd given besides Groetus the skull-faced moon, or the occasional Psychopomp in the sky. I had yet to see animals at all or even people. Just tombs and the dark spire looming behind us as we walked. Spiral’s Edge a city of second chances or at least that is what it is called. Curving streets spiraled around the low buildings. Few buildings went past a second story unless they were a temple or some sort of estate. Keeping to the theme of the boneyards the building was grays blacks and a general dark theme. It fit with the gothic theme of the city’s architecture very much fit the plane well. Iron fencing with there spear-like tips that scrapped the unchanging sky. Those fences guarded most estates and people littered the streets pay no attention to us. I made sure my wrist was covered at least to avoid any problems in case somebody knew my spiral tattoo was more than an appreciation of the Goddess of Death.   The two of us strolled around the confusing spiraling city getting lost. Eventually, find our way to a nice tavern by the name of Hades Castle. One of the few builds with more than a second story. Its walls had been painted a dark gray, it’s shingled roof was a maroon color. Lamps hung outside emitting a dull orange glow on the cobblestone streets beneath our feet. It hummed with the familiar sound of life taverns often have. Compared to the echoing sounds of our steps that faded into a loud silence within Pharasma’s spire. Just having the background noise was infinitely better on my nerves.   We rented a permanent room, and after some discussion with the Elf manning the tavern. Convincing him that we’d be able to stay for a long while. Which proved to be true. Producing the coin upfront helped convince the Tavern’s owner. We were allowed some modifications to the room as long as we had paid in advance and made sure our payments were made on time. In truth, while we wondered about this new city, we had asked around for a place that commonly held people for a while. This is one of the few places known to constantly have people renting a room for more than a couple of months. Which would explain why it had more than a second story. Three stories to be exact. We had managed to get a room on the third floor. As that was where the more permanent residents were, according to the elven tavern owner. Key in hand, we went to our new home, the fourth room on the left. We silently opened the door since it was already late. It cracked open to an empty room. Everything had a slightly lived-in look, which was probably the tiny layer of dust that covered the furniture. Easy to clean with a couple of simple spells. There was a middle room, furnished with a couch a table across from it, to the right of the door was a bar which had stools stood on top with a kitchen behind it. The cabinets above also had room for I assume book on cooking. Which to our luck there was a market for about four or five blocks over so that was nice. While Tavern food is nice, eventually Even in the dead of night it was a softer quiet hum to the tavern that kept us asleep compared to the loud haunting silence in the dark spire of the Goddess of Death. In the morning we get dressed eat then teleport back to our guest room in the spire. Going about our day a normal.   Our room over time slowly acquired small things that made it more comfortable to be in. It gained a sort of personality all its own, both similar and different than our house in Ironfalls. Books slowly appearing both which I was never too sure if stolen them, but I had tried to curb that habit as long as I near her. But her sleight of hand was getting better. As well as odd things Celuriel and I picked up when we choose to go out and explore Spiral’s Edges. Some odd knives as we had become accustomed to sleeping with sharp daggers under our pillows, and within arms reach. Gods forbid if somebody tried to break into our room, they would be in for a rude awakening. A half-built construct stood on an armor stand. It was only half-built as when it had fallen apart in front of me. While at the reception desk of the Eight Courts, a clockwork creature had stumbled in the front door. Destroyed and already looking like it was missing half of its body. Asking for answers I could not give. His journey had been long and they suffered a lot in the quest for their creator to find it’s 'propose'. I gave them an answer as their mechanical life came to an end.   I had to collect the pieces and decided to rebuild the construct. Using an armor stand as a base, some nights spent a little time piecing the clockwork construct. Since I have never touched a construct before, it took a while. It was like a puzzle just larger and more complex. Even though I know I probably could not bring it back to ‘life’ at least somebody would remember them. Celuriel’s only comment about my construction project was “you really like fixing broken things don’t you” My little interaction with reception duty will be logged after this entry as they varied. Anything from two demons in a trenchcoat, to a snake, an Angel who might have called me attractive. Flower language was so hard to figure out, buttercups and iris. I had to find a book on flowers to figure out what she said or possibly meant. Celuriel visited once, but only to ask what to read, as she had finished the books in the library she wanted to read.   While I would not call it an odd addition to our room, Celuriel expressed interest in dartboard she had found in the market (which had been replaced once because of extended use). Which hung in our room on the opposite side of our bed. But not for darts. She had bought smaller throwing knives six in total. The two of us would just silently throw knives at the board before bed. Despite my former life as an assassin, Celurial was surprisal had a damn good throw. Her grouping while all over the place at the beginning quickly grew smaller to about the size of her fist.   Like a normal dartboard, it had painted scores as well as those two rings. Prompted us to by another six, tying a black ribbon to on a set, and white ribbons to the other. Each of us took turns throwing one knife till we ran out. Then count up the points we had earned. If we felt especially lazy that day, I would simply mage hand them back to the bed. In the year that we have been here, neither one of us had gotten a perfect game. Which to us would be a score of sixty. While overall I had a more consistent score overall, Celu had the highest current score of fifty-nine. Which I was personally responsible for, I write this smiling but she was upset with me as she knew she could have gotten that perfect score. I had purposely throw my last knife to block hers grinning as I did it. I knew what I was doing. It made it nearly impossible for her to get her perfect score. A spell like true strike would have made the throw children play. Celuriel shot me looked as she aimed her last knife, taking extra care to aim for the sliver of space between the knives. She missed and the sound of a knife sticking into the board soon was followed a sound of annoyance coming from her. She simply poked me with an annoyed look across her face. I was as she said, ‘erased’ from time. Only for half a minute as punishment.   That has been some small part of life for the past year, Spiral’s Edge no longer had a confusing pathway to us. If we wanted to find the largest bookshop of books not from this plane. It was two blocks pass the market from the road where the quilt stand was. Which I had bought something from once and had to quickly stuff it in my bag of holding. The Pillars was the name of the store, which fit the build nicely as it had pillars of the book reaching to the ceiling. Stacked horizontally, apparently, every book in that pillar had a second in the store hence why they could afford to use it as a decoration piece. I was shocked at the variety of books in the store but found little time for reading outside of the text other teachers had me read on the soul. I did find some books of note that I found interesting, for one reason or another. I had to make sure Celuriel did not steal from the store.   All roads lead eventually lead back to the center fountain in the middle of the city. A mockup of Pharasma’s tower was in the mild, It was made of dark stone or at least that's what I could tell. As the curtain of water that shot out from the peak and down into the pool below made it hard to see any finer details of the fountain. It was probably thirty feet in diameter? Hard to tell, what was not hard to tell was the large number of coins that glitter from the lamps hung around the city center. Copper, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, the menting might be different and from different periods but the idea was still the same. Two children had ran passed us as we were coming back from a clothing shop, Celu had refused to give me back my jacket. She had staked her claim on the white leather jacket after I gave it to her when she had gotten cold while in the spire. The Children laughed speaking about something, their words lost in the city center, each clutching what I had assumed to be copper coins.   Four copper coins glimmer form the lantern light as they fell into the fountain with a plop, they were silent for a moment making their wish. They looked at each other, wish making concluded with broad grins. They laughed and disappeared to I assume create mischief or find their parents. Explaining to Celu why they would get rid of money for a false wish to Celu. As she had asked why they would do that. I could not come up with a decent answer for her to explain the waste of money. In all honesty, I still do not understand why children seem to love tossing coins into fountains. After their wish was not granted the first time it does make sense they would keep doing it. Alain would ask for a copper any time he saw well or fountain. I guess even if he had not gotten a wish, the fact he was happy about it was endearing. Maybe that was the point. Wishful thinking? That might be a bit hard to explain to Celuriel so I passed when the thought came to me. It had been like a small glimpse into a life we would have once this was all over.   Often on nights where I was not completely exhausted from sparring with The Steward or a night we just run around the city I had to look over scrolls and dusty tomes. The Psychopomp that had been assigned to teach me on the banks of the River Styx had found and given me Pharasma’s holy book to start with. The Bones Land in a Spiral. This might have been the first time I ever had to read a holy text, it was a vague prophecy from long ago, useful information about helping with safe childbirth, how to properly bury bodies and other general things. While not a dry read completely, I found that mildly interesting so finished the book was not a chore.   Flipping through the pages, unraveling scrolls, and going through history books. While not often, as she was preoccupied with books she wanted to read. Celu had helped me study on more than one occasion, but more often just kept me company on rather long nights, or to convince me to sleep as it was clean I was getting annoyed at the readings.   Now is probably a good time to speak of my other teacher along the banks of the River Styx and the River of Souls. A couple of months into our time here Celuriel and I found ourselves in the Garden. The Steward was absent but in her place was a different psychopomp. Class of Psychopomp he fell into was a Memitim Psychopomp. A protected of souls and oddly could easily be mistaken for an angel as that would have been a good description of him. Pale white wings, dark clothes with the spiraling pattern across the sleeves. He had the build of a typical angel, icy white blue eye, his hair was long and greyish white. But not as if he was old, well he was probably ten times my age. Again Celu had stepped behind me as this one again brandished a Scythe. This was Samael.   “I was informed I will be instruction the young champion on the manner of the soul.” He spoke as if he were of nobility, now looking at the two elves that had entered the garden. I remained silent. My eyes locked on the psychopomp.   “I am Samael, while our lessons are not bound by location. I fear what could happen if I leave the River Styx for too long, or on a regular schedule to someplace with Our Ladies palace.” Celu’s grip tightens on my upper arm, as the Adamantine scythe effortlessly cut through the air. It shone with a bluish light from unknowable runes across its blade as it arched silently down. It carved away a piece of the air revealing the black sands shores of the River Styx. The whole, in reality, as defined by a bluish-white light around the image. The Psychopomp looked at me expectedly.   Telling Celuriel I would see her later and be soon on the banks of the River Styx. Boot sinking slightly into the shifting black sands beneath me. Samael follows soon behind me. As I looked back into the rip in space, the view of Mrtyu and Celuirel disappeared as if the rift closed. “You’re awfully silent, given what I have heard from The Steward of Skein. I thought you would be ‘louder’ like your companions.” Samael had said, his scythe now more like walking staff as he stood me. He was a head taller than me. I deeply sighed at that muttering quietly “That because we drive each other up the fucking wall.” “Well as I said previously,” Samael had started walking along towards banks “our Lady had deemed it the correct time for you to learn about souls and their creation.”   And thus began the long process of learning of the soul. Often along the bank of the river Styx, rarely anywhere else. Regardless, I will attempt to summarize my lesson a best as possible.   The Soul is the life energy of a living creature. Each soul comes from the positive energy plane, with notable exceptions to this natural path. Souls, however, do not just pop into existence, primordial deities siphon off energy from positive energy plane to craft those souls. Which said Souls eventually find themselves a vessel while traveling the River of Souls. Then once that mortal vessel reaches the end of its life, the soul returned to the river to the Outer Sphere. Few gods have any power of this type of creation, I guess those who have the ability to manipulate souls.   There are exceptions as Samael had pointed out, Fey brings the most common exceptions. As a soul passes through the first world the remnant of the leftover energy from the soul produces fey. Samsarans of course also are an exception as their souls often reincarnate before their task is done, then they go to be judged after. Souls that are bound to be resurrected, often linger but find themselves in Spiral’s Edge if they were not quickly brought back. Lichs, enough said. Hell, when they have their hands on their souls, breaking the souls down so that they could use as some sort of currency in the form of Soul Fragments. Which devils, demons, and night hags, also use souls in a similar fashion.   Then, of course, there are souls that can be trap via spells   The exception being what they are, all other souls eventually find themselves in one place. The River of Souls on their way to Pharasma’s Spire to receive their final judgment. It was not a river, it more of a path the souls took to find their way to the Boneyard. You could see it anywhere in the boneyard as long as you could see the sky. The stream of souls that arched its way to the dark tower. Every guarded by fateful psychopomps. While from a distance it looked like a pale white aurora, if you flew up to the River of Souls it was colorful. With the different colors of people’s souls. Some in the orb shape of souls, or in the form of their previous life.   Overall these lessons were the most civil, and in all, I enjoyed them though they were sprinkled throughout my many other tasks. Much more enjoyable than the Heralds, and desk duty had been. Well, it was hard to say. Anything could pass through those doors.   Samael had also given those books I had taken long night pouring over. One of the older tomes being the classification of Psychopomp. I’ll just generally list the classes of the servants of Pharasma.     Ahmuuth psychopomps: Owl masked humanoid that mortal could often call upon to help them kill the undead, or usher them to the afterlife. Peacefully, if that can be arranged.   Aldea psychopomps: A swarm of Pharasma’s sacred bird the whippoorwills that are covered is a pale blue mist. They are in charge of reducing souls that are endangered, often from Necromancer attempting to manipulate souls and things of that nature. As well as False Prophets, but Samael hardly went into anything with Old Ones.   Catrina's psychopomps: Skeletons dressed festively which often have flowers in their design. One of the more color psychopomps, they are really in charge of lessening the general terror and the shock of finding out they had died. While not meant to comfort, they are meant to calm the souls down during this transitional period in their new unlife.   Ember Weaver's psychopomps: Often shawled and glowing these are the psychopomps that bring souls to the River of Souls, often information brokers with other psychopomps (Amuuth, esoboks, nosois, and catrinas) who look for lost souls.   Esobok psychopomps: Pharasma guard ‘dog’ so to speak. Smarter than an average animal, they are absolutely loyal to the lady of graves and are uncorrectable. This is honestly impressive but is often found as hunters of the undead.   Kere psychopomps: guards of graveyards that prevent the spread of taint in sacred places from undead and necromancers.   Memitim psychopomps: Angel-like psychopomps that guard the river of Souls and the Boneyard. Protectors of fallen souls, This was likely the psychopomp that attacked us years ago. Also, Samael was apart of this classification of psychopomps.   Morrigna psychopomps: The most human-looking psychopomps, their general job is to stop interference in the natural process of life and more specifically death. They are more often seen with packs of Esoboks while They hunt undead.   Nosoi psychopomps: Tiny four-winged auburn bird with black-tipped wings. They are also known as scribes psychopomps or death’s messengers. They record every death for mortals and keep the judgment that Pharasma gave them.   Olethros psychopomps: Spiral masks and white silken gowns these women carry bronze mirrors with them. Birth. Death and the fate of things in the balance between them are what that concerns them.   Shoki psychopomps: They collect linger souls that have not made their way to the river of souls.   Vanth psychopomps: A skeleton humanoid bird creature with blade wings, often called reapers or angels of death. Watcher of the River of souls, they are also scythed wielding reapers with the scary ability to sever the silver cords of astral travelers. The scythes have runes that match some of the oldest writing in the boneyards many tombs. Rarely this psychopomp dress for war but have ancient brass armors.   Viduus psychopomps: the librarians that wonder the Pharasma’s Spire. They focus on studying and writing down the lives of extraordinary mortals and things that are meant to be kept secret.   Yamarji psychopomps: One of the upper echelons of psychopomps. Final Judges, the grand magistrates and the important one “dragons who eat souls” as they are a cross between a crow and black dragons. They are the law lord of the Boneyards.   Psychopomps Ushers: Unique psychopomps that have transcended their form class. Potentially independent with the power of a demigod. Funny enough I did find out The Herald is not an Usher.   A few times we spoke and had lessons outside the River Styx. It had been far more civil than I thought it would have been. When I received new readings I would have to study, that lesson would take place on a balcony on the spire looking at the River of Souls. Other angel-like psychopomps floated near to stream of souls heading to the tip of the spire. I could not fly for prolonged periods of time being that I lack wings. Then the next time we would speak Samael would ask me questions in regards to the books. Which meant I had to spend several nights reading dry texts.   It had been on one of those long nights of reading the books Samael gave me that I learned that I could look at souls while they still were in a mortal vessel. To explain souls are orb-like but can take the form of a person if that chooses.   I had turned to Celu one night, having just gone through a rather long chapter on the ‘Color of Souls’ and got curious. Was it even possible for me to even see Souls? Closing my eyes drawing on Pharasma’s power. Blinking as the world had lost color, the walls of our rented room were now monochrome. I had thought the lights had gone out, as this was similar to my Darkvision until I had looked at Celu reading.   “I just figured out how to look at souls, everything’s grey save for yours” I had told her.   Her attention now taken away from her book “what is mine like? nothing let me see my own before.” “Well, it about this big” I placed my fingertips together as if I were holding a ball maybe six or seven inches across. “It’s a colored orb in the middle of your chest. The center was a deep crimson color but near the edge softened mixing with a scarlet color.”   I was surprised it had been that simple and I had not thought to do something like this before. Then again I had been hesitant to use her powers, the consistent thing I had done with my champion powers was help sooth celu’s nightmares. Besides that, the passing of the trapped souls and whatever I had done in that mindscape had really been the only thing I had channeled her power for.   See that is the odd thing about souls as I found out. Souls are colors that have meaning to them. Unless the soul takes the form of their previous mortal vessel, but more phantasmal in nature. While in the spectral depiction of their former life, the soul does not reflect that color. Instead, they have an aura around them, reflecting the color of their souls. If the Soul had fallen in combat, the injury that had caused the death would also be emanating a sort a glowing aura as well.   Given the state of my soul, I did not look. While curiosity did want me to. A broken soul is a complex thing to explain.   Given that I had taken several nights to write then, three at this point. While I had robbed her of her perfect score, she got a sixty last night. She made sure I documented it here.   I guess I should speak about our birthdays, as I had forgotten about mine as it has never really been a holiday I celebrated often. Pharasma seems that mine would be a good time to start my judgment of souls. I had completely forgotten about my birthday, as when the Goddess of Death calls for you. It is in your best interest to answer her. I had to judge souls with her, this like the other training did not happen every day. As my time between, judging, training, studying, and desk duty was relational. I would never know what the next day would bring until we walked into the Garden that morning.   I will give a vague overview of what happened as somebody's judgment is not to be written down in a journal like mine. Pharasma judged the souls alongside me, correcting me as I misstepped. I questioned their live, religion, choices while taking a bit on this, this action took less than an instant for Pharasma. As expected.   At first, the souls were random, farmers, soldiers, merchants. Anything and everything was told to judge as I stood near the Death God. Then it became more difficult, which leads me to believe Pharasma had been cherry-picking the soul after a while. Soon the souls which more complicated matter had appeared in front of me. They were meant to be emotional, Pharasma had been trying to get me to feel something. She wanted it to obscure my judgment. It had worked once in a while, but I learned to look at things objectively. Or try to at least tried to, a couple got me. Pharasma quickly corrected me. Her attempt included Young lovers killed by their partner, younger children lost to illness or childbirth. The illness hit harder. Then as the souls seemed to have similarities to my story, my life. A young man raised as a hitman realized this life was not for him but was killed by his family. Another tragic loss from illness, but instead of moving on. They turned on the world but was killed while being caught by some adventuring group.   There was only one soul that I judged that I knew personally, they were the last soul I had to judge according to Pharasma. The Goddess of Death had my attention before I had to judge this soul. Across the echoing throne room, my name had been spoken making me turn. I was stunned, as I not expecting them. I had a hard time falling asleep that night, new information had been swirling around in my head. Annoyingly unable to shove them far into the back of his mind. However, judgment waits for no one.   While neither one of us had really known when her birthday was, I chose to celebrate her birthday as the day we took her from her tower. As I felt that was a day, as good as any to pick. Which I pinned down to twenty-eighth of Arodus. Over the past couple of months here in the Boneyard. I had slowly started to acquire a couple of items from around Spire’s Edge that I thought she would like. Hiding them away in a bag of holding, or having bought a couple of books where one had not stood out more than any other.   I could not give her the entire day, as my morning activity was to watch the front desk. As soon as we made it back to our room in the Tavern, eventually cooking dinner and making a cake. Which honestly I had such a hard time frosting the damn thing. From my bag of holding I had pulled a folded dark quilt wrapped around something square. Her present. Her present was rather simple, it was a thick leather-bound book with gold leaf lettering. Myths and Legends of the World: Aletheian Edition a book series of a team of writers collecting the early myths and legends of countries. However, they were more stories to tell than historical events. Something a bard might tell in a song or story, I had picked it up when I was flipping through this thick book and saw Eurydice and Orpheus myth. Being that these were the names we took in Tenaerul. I had wrapped the book in a dark green quilt with slightly brighter green three-pointed knots and around the border was a similar knot design.   At first, she was slightly confused at the cake, until I explained why. She told me that I am not missing mine this year, apparently, I was not allowed to be selfish about this. Unless Pharasma pulls me away again on my birthday I had thought. The two of us spent time in our bed reading from her new book. We had started with that myth of Eurydice and Orpheus, as neither one of us knew the myth. Curiosity had been the reason to start there. Given the fact that the two of us had our names replaced with theirs during our time in Tenaerul. Soon it became too dark for her to read, so instead of lighting the table lamp, I read. Which being a drow, her vision was not as sharp as mine in the dark. She listened sipping on a mug of hot chocolate, as she used her new quilt to keep warm. Now the funny thing about that book, Myths and Legends of the World one night that we read that book. Now though it focused on our empire, it had spoken about early Istralar. While we had read this book together it was on the second or third time we had sat down to read it, that something had caught my attention. More specifically it spoke about the world's first anti-paladin, the twisted fusion of elven paladin and some long-forgotten god. Now, this was common knowledge, or at least as common with somebody who had an education, looked a little into the history of the gods or the world. That was not what had caught my attention. The Antipaladin was the one who started the Worldrend. A combination of god-given power and arcane power, their attempts might have been successful. The force of the fusion of Divine and Arcane magic backlash had ripped opened a hole in the material plane. Exposing him to the Source and Void. Which was the inciting incident. That both created the fusion and drove them to insanity. I paused for a moment, looking at the page. I paused my eyebrowed furrow as I reread it over Celu shoulder.   Setting down my drink, I got up to go over to our bookshelf. Where was it, My finger ran across the spines of several books. The Bones Land in a Spiral, no that one, Boneyard Ecology, nowhere was that book. My fingers eventually fell upon a book simply called Divine Politics. An encyclopedia of most common gods and how they connect to one another and their relationships with one another. Samael had given this book to me rather early, I had nearly forgotten as I had read it months ago at this point. Pulling the book from the shelf I sat back with Celu. Thumbing through the page till I found a similar passage on the Antipaladin and the Worldend. It was about a page and a half. My finger glided down the page as I skimmed looked for something.   “...and through the blending of Arcane and Divine magic, the insidious fusion of the Antipaladin was born. The cause of the Worldrend. An unseen side effect from combining magics as well as exposing the former elven paladin and forgotten god to the Source.”   It failed to mention the void. It just mentioned the Source.   I flipped the book around my finger on the inconsistency. Celu had already turned two pages past the second on the Worldrend and The Fusion. Showing her the issue, she turned back to the page. While we talked about it for a little while, both of us returned to reading her book. However I had looked into a bit, there was not a definitive answer to what they had been exposed to. It had been either The Source or the Source and the Void, no book had a solid answer. Though given what we have dealt with I would not doubt for a second that the Void had been involved. As it could easily explain the insanity. While I am not sure it could explain the fusion but the Unbroken March had a similar combination in that spider-like creature.   But another thought had occurred, The Shards of the Void were forged from the Void. Talinde had been able to track these Void created objects, using that scepter however some of them had Talinde had not been able to say definitely that it was a Shard of the Void.   So what if had been Shard of the Source?   The Source was the pool of true magic, at least that is what those Runed Blessed Dreamers seemed to think.   Could it be possible to forge a weapon from the Source? To have a weapon that could deal with the Shards of the Void.   This is rather hypothetical of course, I cannot even prove this on inconsistent books and loose connection I’ve drawn. Given how dangerous the Void Shards are, I cannot imagine a Weapon made from the Source would have a better outcome.   Still, I think if worse comes to worst, at least finding out if this is possible might be beneficial. Especially as we eventually run thin of options for disposing of the Shards of the Void.   The ritual under Castle Umbra might be helpful if the ruins and symbols had been left unaltered (which would be a miracle and damn near impossible). Maybe I would find a way to alter it, change it to pull from the Source to forge something, instead of the Void. Perhaps we could if they had any notes left over from the Bloodwalker Riven. Perhaps find out who constructed the ritual, better understand what took place, and what it took to bring forth such a powerful force as the Void. Besides the sacrifices of the plane touched beings. Still, at a certain point, the Lost Ones are going to run into that problem, we cannot keep smashing two Shards of the Void together to destroy them. We have to find a consistent way to destroy them. I just wonder what the cost might be if this would be possible.   Just the thoughts of a tired dark elf.

Journal #49: The Dark Spire [Text Roleplay]

One of the first things that struck Celuriel - after they'd clambered out of the river and thoroughly examined the beach - was how cold the Boneyard was. She could see black sand - could feel it shifting under her feet like a living thing - and dark skies that stretched on endlessly above the shadowy waters of the Styx, but neither really struck her quite as much as the cold that seemed to claw at her veins in an altogether too familiar gesture. A shiver ran through her as she stepped closer to Aniks - who, here, felt like a beacon of warmth. "your lady lives in winter," she commented, peering around at the expanse of greyish-dark. Jutting tombstones teased the edge of the horizon, like great teeth poised to consume those who drew near. He would be safe among them - he was Her champion - but their sight sent a thrill of uncertainty down her spine. In the distance, Pharasma's Spire stood watch. They had to go there; she knew that much. Whether it would be as easy to exit as it had been to enter, she was unsure. This was no longer ground she knew well, and the symbol on her wrist tingled unpleasantly. "are we going to your appointment?"   Cold, it was the first thing he noticed climbing out of the river Styx. Aniks hated the cold, or atleast being cold. It brought up rough memories from his early life on the surfaces. While a part of his mind would have found the surroundings interesting, especially the black sand. The stream of thoughts were broken and crumbled into the back of his mind by the smaller elf brushing up against him. With his thought a bit more clear he realised just how cold he was. Which probably meant Celuriel was as cold. Aniks paused pulling her in close as a minute of silence. "I can fix wet clothes, the cold well..." His golden eyes fixed on the looming dark tower which stood out grey amd black landscape. Three times he'd been in that tower, and a fourth time would happen before the end of the night. "Do we have a choice?" Aniks said with a half smile, trying to put Celuriel at ease. She stared at him blankly at the question, her brows furrowing into the makings of a frown. "not really." Without waiting for him to start trying to make them more comfortable with magic, she pulled away from him, taking the first steps towards the gravestones before spinning around and giving him an expectant look. She had been patient for centuries. This was not a time for more patience.   It seemed that the plane's denizens agreed. She barely flinched at the sound of wings behind her, but didn't dare look. She knew the precarious nature of her standing here well enough to avoid the confrontation, instead falling into a tense silence, her golden eyes fixed on Aniks's. If he didn't know her so well, she might have been able to hide the glint of nervousness lurking within her heart.   The new figure was skeletal - perhaps unsurprisingly - and as black as the sands beneath their feet. A skeletal bird's mask decorated where a face might have sat, had it been mortal, and ragged black wings of raven's feathers wrapped around it as a cloak. A scythe - glimmering the distinctive blue-green of adamantine in the faint light, and bearing a number of symbols unrecognisable by mortal eyes - rested loosely at its side, clutched in one bony hand. It didn't comment on the former vampire before it, instead focusing on the Champion. When it spoke, its voice was hollow - echoing across the river and cutting sharply into space. "Tʜᴇ Lᴀᴅʏ ʜᴀs ᴄᴀʟʟᴇᴅ Yᴏᴜ. Yᴏᴜ ᴡɪʟʟ Cᴏᴍᴇ."   At the appearance of this being clad in black feathers, Aniks face lost what gentle features he had. His golden eye narrowed almost erasing all trance of barkeep from his appearance. From his glare right down to his posture, it showed that he was a dark elf. With silent footsteps he walked next to Celuriel. Golden eyes only flicking back to her once notice the look she gave him. Aniks would have been a fool if he had forgotten his first experience in The Boneyard. Something he wasn't willing to relive again. Now being keenly aware of where Silver was strapped to his belt, the blade felt have against his side. Being that Celuriel knew Aniks as well, what he said was as much for her as it was for him. His lips barely moved as he whispered to Celu in elven "We'll be fine"   Then he spoke to what was he hoped was a psychopomp sent by the Pharasma. "Are you an escort for us? Or are you just a messenger to guide us on the correct path to Pharasma." Aniks made sure to stress the 'us' part while speaking to the Scythe wielder reaper. He had wanted to talk to Pharasma, as some of what the fallen gods said disturbed him. Some questions he knew he had would not get a clear answer from her, but still his question would be told to the Mother of souls herself. The most pressing being why bring Aniks here now, they were going after shards? So what was this all about? Celu's expression didn't flicker as the creature behind her moved, its tattered wings disturbing the cool air. It stepped - or perhaps floated - forward, tilting the bony mask in a manner reminiscent of morbid curiosity. "Mᴏʀᴛᴀʟ ǫᴜᴇsᴛɪᴏɴs ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴘᴏɪɴᴛʟᴇss ᴀɴsᴡᴇʀs. Yᴏᴜ ᴡɪʟʟ ᴄᴏᴍᴇ. Tʜᴇ Lᴀᴅʏ ʜᴏʟᴅs ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴀʀᴅs." The scythe's metal shone silver in the Boneyard's odd light as the psychopomp raised it, and Celuriel couldn't entirely hide her flinch as the blade carved down through the heavy air. Its path left a spiralling trail of deep-blue magic in its path, the edges flaring white.   The colours hung in the sky for a long moment, iridescent and shifting. The psychopomp observed it with the detached calmness that belonged to his kin, and touched them. The change was instant: from its bony fingers erupted a stream of darkness, eroding the blue into a spectrum of colours and shapes. Eroding it into an image - still or otherwise, it wasn't clear - of an ebony hallway carved of dark marble and lit with faint flickering light. The psychopomp stared expectantly at Aniks.   "Yᴏᴜ ᴡɪʟʟ ᴀɴsᴡᴇʀ ᴛᴏ ʜᴇʀ."   Aniks couldn't help but have a slight look of annoyance. "Sorry my mortality creates pointless questions" his voice was laced in sarcasms. The golden eyed drow gave Celuriel the same look she had given him early, and expectant look. Making it very clear, as Celu said before jumping into the murky water with him, not alone.   Celu nodded almost imperceptibly to him, slowly - and with no small amount of caution - stepping back to his side. She seemed reluctant to look at the psychopomp, her gaze instead fixed on Aniks.   The psychopomp waited.   The pair passed through the scythe made portal, stepping on the black marble floor. Needless to say his breath is held as they past by the psychopomp.   Thankfully, it did not follow. Small comforts. The new hallway was - to Celuriel - somehow icier than the exposed sandy banks of the Styx, evoking an involuntary gasp at the chill clawing at her skin. Strangely, Aniks did not feel the same level of coldness - to him, the new surroundings were a welcome break from the familiar chills of outside.   There were two directions to this hallway. To their left, a gridded portcullis of blackened steel stood its ground. The winch with which they could raise it sat unguarded on the wall beside it, the dim light of the moon outlining it in white. Untouched. Celu stared at it in contemplation. To the right, a set of smooth black doors decorated with a familiar blue-white spiral hung ever-so-slightly open.   Without so much as a word, Aniks casted Prestidigitation on Celu then on himself. The ebony elf then took a look at both paths, he felt like the portcullis was likely and exit. He half expected if that was true, he would be meet with more Psychopomps. That would give the same Go-See-Phrasama response. So he apporched the spiral door. Originally he hadn't noticed it being slightly open, but Aniks being Aniks after a second carefully openes the door.   Unlike the last time he'd been given the opportunity to wander the Spire, this doorway didn't lead Aniks (and his shivering partner) to the Eight Doorways. Thankfully. Instead, he found himself standing at the edge of a small courtyard garden filled with strange fruits, flowers, and animals that seemed to fit perfectly into the odd realm. A familiar smooth staircase wound its way around the edge of the courtyard, its lowest step resting next to a small pond. Celu found herself seizing Aniks's hand as her eyes landed on the only other humanoid inhabitant of this ethereal garden.   He was male, and he was human - in appearance, at least. His eyes were dark and sunken, and roses decorated his blackened hair. Whilst a rusted sword hung at his waist and a stain of bloody red dripped from his stomach, he paid no attention to either, instead focusing largely on his apparent task of picking fruits from the garden's trees. Once his basket was full, he turned to greet them with a gentle smile. "You'd be Her champion and... my apologies for the assumption, but would this soul be your consort? Welcome to a fragment of the Garden Anima, though I sense your stay is brief. Has She called you both?"   "She has" Aniks said before moving into the garden. " Excuse my ignorance thought I have plenty of questions, the most pressing I am unaware of how to reach her."   "This isn't your first visit?" asked the stranger with an amused smile. "No, no, I know it's not. Your group are noisy, and I know the Herald is looking forward to your return. Our Lady can be found up the stairs - though the chill surrounding your consort suggests that she might find it more comfortable to await your return here." He surveyed the two with an oddly penetrating look, his gaze lingering on the slight tint of blue that Celuriel had been trying to conceal with her dark hair. "I can't tell you if that's caused by her fey nature, the lingering claws of undeath, or simply the Lady wishing to speak with you alone first, but I can share that it'll only worsen if you reach the Spire's summit together."   "It's not..."Aniks mood slightly soured. The Herald looking forward to his arrival was concerning, mainly because of there first talk went terrible. Aniks still didn't regret what he had said to the Herald of Pharasma he felt like it was justifiable. With a clearly false smile "That's wonderful, I can only imagen what Pharasma's Herald wants" Then Aniks turned Celu he squeezed her hand slightly tighter "As much as I want you to be there with me..."   The man grinned light-heartedly at his response, very obviously recognising the disdain, but fell silent to allow the young couple their moment. After all, there were many flowers blooming in the garden and he was the one who could tend to them.   Celu glared up at Aniks. "you're not leaving me here for long." It wasn't a question - she didn't care if he had to defy a goddess, she wasn't letting him out of her sight for that long. Not after what he'd done last time.   "I won't..." Aniks said pulling her into a hug, this was clearly for him. It was probably a bit longer than it should have been. He was worried, Pharasma as of late was starting to unnerve him. At first she was just another god, but now he wasn't so sure. Aniks pulled away leaving her with a white leather jacket around her shoulders he had bought for the snowy countries. However he didn't feel cold. "Please stay warm" then went to the stairs, to find the Mother of Souls. He calmed himself trying to clear his thoughts and mostly his worries about what was going to happen when he saw Pharasma again.   "if you stay safe," Celu whispered in return, reluctantly letting Aniks leave and slipping on his jacket. A comforting hand landed on her shoulder as she watched him ascend the staircase.   "He'll be safe with my Lady. Now, yours is a life ended and renewed. Whilst they have their chat, why don't we talk for a while?" suggested the stranger, gently guiding Celuriel to a park bench as Aniks disappeared from ear- and eye-shot.   Meanwhile, the Champion in question found himself climbing a near-endless staircase. Occasionally, other figures - strange psychopomps with forms ranging from stunningly beautiful to aberrant and grotesque - would pass him, never saying a word. Unlike his first visit, nobody stopped his ascent. Eventually, after what felt like hours of climbing, he reached a set of white marble gates that seemed to glimmer in the starlight pouring in from pale arches around the tower he now found himself in. A familiar angel-like figure stood waiting, shooting him a wordless look of annoyance before pushing the gates open and striding in, clearly expecting him to follow.   Even to Aniks, the architecture was gorgeous, and this was the same Dark Elf who has only really consider the two women in his life to be gorgeous. It was more that the barkeep was trying to pay attention to things like that. It was an attempt to chill his nerves. He thought slightly on the psychopomps, if being Pharasma's Champion turn him into one. He would very much was to keep his body looking normal-ish. Especially after seeing some of the odder looking... he stop that line of thoughts, it wasn't going to help him now. His mind was silent till he was the Steward of Skien. Aniks returned the look of annoyances with his own. He thought he would have added a sarcastic bow, one that meant for nobles I am displeased that we have to speak again "A better welcoming than last time I suppose, I swear she would not be happy with me, unless I took out all the Undead in existence." he whispered to no-one impractical. Following in the same determined pace as when he departed from Celu.   "Even then," came the sharply hissed reply from the woman ahead of him, carrying back to his ears as he stepped onto the familiar dark marble floor of Pharasma's throne room. The foreboding presence of his Lady was immediately apparent, pressing at the corners of his vision with all the strength of true divine power. Ahead of him, the Steward stepped forward and sunk to her knees, her steely wings folding in deference. "Your Champion, my Lady."   She didn't need to say a word. Aniks felt the compulsion to step forward, to kneel before the woman he could now find the ability to look at. If the psychopomps he'd seen before had been beautiful, they paled in comparison to Pharasma. White hair and expressionless pale eyes paired themselves with silver skin and sleek robes trimmed in red, and as her gaze fell upon him, he could feel the full weight of the burden she'd laid upon them three years prior. Could feel the full weight of all that he held around his soul, for good and bad. She seemed to be waiting for him to speak; to kneel.   A small smile came from the drow, he had gotten her. It was surprisingly easier than he thought. The smile was short lived as he enter the final room. He took a second he they entered the throne, something was off. Everything looked normal so what was it. He stood next to the Armored Psychopomp and kneeled. As much as he hated that, Pharasma of all the beings in the world, desevered respect. Plus agrueing over whether he should kneel or not was not something he wanted to deal with. Then Aniks released what was off, he has seen Pharasma. He could look at her, the compusion to not look at her was gone. He still remained looking down at the black marble floor. Last time he stood not to far from this spot when he was in this throne room."Was there something you wished to bring to my attention?"   The temperature in the room palpably dropped. The Lady of Graves needed to say nothing to indicate her disapproval at his demeanour. "Steward, leave us." The words had barely left her mouth before the steel-clad angel had vanished - teleporting to some other part of Pharasma's domain, most likely. The room hung silent in anticipation of the Lady's speech and instead echoed with the click of heels against marble; a sound that stopped much closer to where Aniks knelt.   "Not many would dare bring a guest to the realm of death. Yet my champion thought it his right. Not many would actively seek return here, either, in the face of their procrastination." They both knew she didn't refer to anything recent. "Three years have passed whilst you dwelt in a shard's embrace. Three years of increasing danger. Though you grow stronger, you yet fail to impress." She let the words stand in the air, her disappointment illustrated in the pressure exerted through her sheer power.   "I would not have selected you had I not seen more worth in you. You shall learn, and when your learning is complete - and only then - you shall return to the Material Plane."   With that Aniks was back to normal. Well as normal as one could be infront of the Goddess of Death. In truth Aniks had thought this might be a reason for her calling, infact he was slightly hoping for something like that. It just happened a lot sooner than he had thought it would. However this learning was not what removed his nerves for this meeting. It was the comment about bringing guest, that had snapped him back to into a more familiar version of himself.   "-as long these people in the other room are Champion's I will do my hardest to keep them out of harms way." He repeated from their first conversation privately, where Pharasma spoke through Celuriel (He never did get a proper explaination as to how she did that.) Then for the first time Aniks choose to look at Pharasma. His golden eye beamed with determination. "My stance has not change champion or not. I brought her because I do not want Celuriel to be in the Material Plane to have her kidnapped by her sister while I am here studing here in The Boneyard. While she is here, she more safe from her sister. As safe as she can be that is, I would not have to worry about her as much. I never thought it was right or wrong, I just wish for her to be safe." Aniks dropped his head back to the black marble floor. It was cool to the touch, however that might be just Pharasma's presence dropping the temperature. Aniks paused before speaking again. "This training, will it be similar to that a Psychopomps as well as more than general knowledge on how to be your champion?"   "It was not unexpected that you would bring your consort. You would be wise to assume other beings will not tolerate unexpected appearances so well." Pharasma's eyes shone white in the pale light of her throne room, emotionless and cold as Aniks made his plea. She was not one so easily impressed, nor one who would bother wasting time on pointless words. "Mrtyu, or another of the ushers, shall ensure her safety when you are otherwise occupied."   As Aniks knelt, he felt the whisper of wind against his skin as the Lady of Graves returned to her throne. "To train you as a psychopomp would be to relieve you of your status. Your soul is not yet ready for judgement. You will be trained as a Champion. My herald will assist in martial matters. The psychopomps will guide you through understanding the River. When you are ready, you shall learn judgement." She didn't need to explain how he'd learn that. It wasn't something you could write down. "I grant you this opportunity to ask questions of your goddess. When they are done, and whether answered or not, you will find guidance past the doors."   " Thank you" Aniks said he meant it as well. Then the idea of Her Herald teaching anything martial made Aniks loose the slight smile he had. Of Course thats why Steward of Skein was looking forward his return. He could almost feel the pain in his near future. He tossed that painful thought aways. Question Pharasma? He had already gotten the information about being trained. His soul, how to fix it was something he would like to know. If she knew about the fall? So many things." As much as I would wish to ask you plenty of questions , I will limit myself to three. Is there a way to fix my soul here in Boneyard?"   It was a long moment before Pharasma spoke, and her words were chosen with deliberate care when she finally did. "You will better understand the answer to that when you have come to know the River, and the way a soul is formed. Souls are capable of much change in their existence. To damage a soul, in mortal terms, would most often refer to the influence of negative energy - such as that used in undeath. This can be undone." Aniks felt a sudden chill as her gaze turned piercing - even without meeting the gaze, it felt like somebody was staring through him at all he hid, at all he held dear. The cold was icy, and yet unfamiliar.   "You, however, were led to a place where causality and reality fell thin. Your soul remains confused by the journey, recognising that it should both be present in this realm and that of mortals. It leaves whispering imprints upon the fabric of fate where you might walk. It is a complex form of damage. The Boneyard has methods of repairing it. They will not be used until your mortal path ends."   " Something to deal with at a later date then..." Aniks said more to himself then to the Goddess of Death.There was a slight pause before the second question"Cayden and Iomedae said something after their fall, you might have already know that this was going to happen? Is this true?"   This answer came noticeably quicker. There was no doubt that she hadn't guessed this question would come. "The pathways of fate are not unknown to my sight. Mortal decisions shape them, ever-changing. I knew of the chance. There were far worse outcomes avoided." After a brief pause to allow him to think on the ramifications of that, she continued. "Some pathways now lead you to question my decision of not sending out a warning. Fate wanders where it will. Interference is unnecessary and unwanted."   Remaining silent he thought on that. It was about the answer he thought he would receive. " I would be lying if that was not my first thought. However I choose not to think to long on that, you have reasons for what you do. Though you might have seen this question coming, why choose me? You have been interested in me for a while, from what I know of you your very... distant when it come to mortal affairs"   "That is not an answer you will be able to understand. You are mortal. Though you possess strong intellect, you know little. To explain the myriad of reasons to a mortal would take longer than they have - and they would, in the end, still fail to comprehend." She didn't say it unkindly. Nor did the question surprise her, from the continued evenness of her tone of voice. "But let it not be said that there was no attempt made. You walk through dangerous times. War lingers on all horizons. Entities beyond your ken seek to intervene, seeking perversion of what should be amongst countless other goals. I selected what would best serve my interests, regardless of your own comprehension. Do not waste too much time thinking of 'why'. You are Death's champion. Time is not yours to waste."   The dark elf was unsure how to feel about this. It was, again, the answer he knew he would get. The grand game of gods was often played with that. However it was not useless questions. Aniks thought it would be possible he could ask other questions before this training was over. Just not now. "Then I will keep this in mind on the trails ahead. Thank you for answering my questions, though I might have others they can wait for another time. If you have nothing else you wish to tell me, I have used my three question so I will now leave you to your work." Aniks stood and gave the Goddess of Death a bow, a respectful one. He stood there to see if he would be dismissed behind those doors. Where Pharasma said there would be guidance.   "...You shall not delay. May your training be well, Champion." A slight gesture towards the doors had them flung open to reveal the waiting form of her Steward, one hand already resting on the blade at her hip.   The door was shut and no click was heard. Yet Aniks knew that trying open the door was a useless effort. The steward was near. His hip felt a bit heavy as Silver sat in silence as he caught sight of the sword. Had she had it before? No he would have noticed. Though it was just as likely she went to pick the blade up. Aniks that might have been the case, this kind of training wasn't the pratice you'd get in the inner planes. "We are not even going to be close to acquaintances, by the end of this. However we could be civil about this..." he made a gesture with one hand to the room around them. "Well as civil as one could be when you know your lose terribly."   Any emotion behind the steward's gaze was impossible to discern, made that way likely intentionally by her shadowed helmet. "Your shortcomings are already well-known." It wasn't a kind response; more one that held an edge - and it was swiftly followed by a sharp blow via her wing, intended to knock Aniks to the floor (DC25 reflex save). "Your constitution is frail. Your strength is lacking. You hold emotions that swell to irrationality. I am led to believe that your power lies in magic and skill. You will prove so before we talk."   Behind her, a stairway swung into motion, its guardrails connecting to the dark floor on which they stood with a hollow ringing sound. Not waiting to see whether Aniks had taken her blow well, the Steward strode down them, fully expecting him to follow.   Aniks might have thought how the Steward wing's were way harder than he thought it would be. However as he was now staring at a marble floor. His thoughts leaned more on 'no I was right, we're going to hate each other.' He brought himself up from the cool black marble floor. He remained silent as talking was clearly the wrong thing to do. So he followed, keeping the personal thoughts to himself. As if he said anything , it would be labeled as an excuse and so far this was nothing.

Journal #48: Not Alone

After my failed attempt to get the umbrite, which included a walk to check on my half-siblings, of course, I did not say anything to them, simply watched them. I know that I should probably feel something when I looked at them but in all honesty. I think I just stopped. Stopped caring about them.   Putting my mess of a family aside for a while, today was the day we would embark to the continent of Iskaldhal. A land that is blanketed in snow, so much snow, in fact, it reflected the light perfectly. Which made the ground shine like, well I wouldn't know. Being a drow, I was blind for most of our travels through the snowfields.   That morning had gone by without much of a problem, being told by Mery our paladin Ashlyn would not be traveling with us. Our three-year disappearance had left the sorceress missing her would-be fiancee, so she would not be joining us this time around. Neither would Saeyrn, the elven ranger from the Elven Kingdom of Galathin, she would be staying in Ironfalls.   With all that sorted out, The Lost Ones headed to Ilendras, a place we were quite familiar with as we had once saved it from a different shard of the void. We planned on using the Elf Gate found in that city to the one in Iskaldhal, Which I think connected to the Tower of Sathelis? It's been a while, I haven't seen the spelling nor have I had a reason to remember that place, being that Celuriel and I were in The Boneyard. Currently anyways. I'm getting off-topic.   Teleporting over to the gate we had shown up quite early, as traveling across the world brought with it some time zone issues. The Elf Gate was set up quite yet. The two guards that were stationed at the gate were normal. However, as we talked to them, one thing became apparent. A different group of adventurers had shown up and used. The group of adventurers should have been on the boat. Now instead of having fifteen days ahead of them. It was us that was several days behind. A race to the shard. I wonder if they had destroyed the shard and have moved on. Is it been a couple of months since then? I would be concerned if they hadn't been dealing with the harp by now.   Then as the Elf Gate activated, we crossed the portal into a new land. While I could go into a description of the Tower of Sathelis, however, we were told we could not stay there very long as they do not take kindly to guests. So we left without much of a word, but something was off about all of this exchange. The snow elves were just odd. Maybe it was just how they looked at me. It was not the typical look an elf gives a drow. It was different.   As we left the tower, we followed the stone path until it trailed off into cobblestone, then dirt. The cold air almost burned my lungs, as the scent of what I could assume was pine trees filled my nose. While this was nice, I noticed very quickly my hands would cover my face blowing hot air to warm it up. Soon the mountains opened up into the somewhat frozen lake. Along the pathway, as our ragtag group found a… Well, I cannot remember him that well an Aasimar? Or just a human. I cannot remember.   Regardless, this man holding a black cane. He was a regal man, trimmed beard with dark hair. This was Nialnir Mippin. This introduction was meet with goblin corpses lay at his feet. Being that our party was somewhat nice, we decided to give this man, a chronicler of events according to him, a lift to the next town over.   Upon our travels, my scimitar, a sentient blade named Silver, decided or noticed something about the man's cane. It is constantly trying to get me to be more social and make friends. Personally, I believe my weapon just wanted to make a pass at his cane. If that's even possible, I think I am going to keep Silver away from anything that can think and is vague weapon shape. Needless to say, I hardly spoke to the man.   It became increasingly difficult to see, to the point where I had a new form of blindness, snow blindness. Celu had to lead me around for a bit while we were in town. Gain without much of a problem; we got caught up in stupid events as we had somehow decided to deal with a local kobold problem in their mines. As the kobolds had been kidnapping people and miners, when we could be doing anything else. Anyways, we spent the night at some tavernas we have done so many times before. Nothing special really, I woke up early in the morning too by some snow goggles. Again I was not called a drow or even a dark elf by the general store employee. Concerning but I'll figure out something, it's still weird.   It makes me uneasy.   Being that we are the 'heroes,' we attempted to deal with those kobolds. The mines were not too difficult to get to, and it was a clean sweep. The Kobolds were nothing is not annoying; we took care of them with ease. They kept screaming about bring down the moon, or their goddess maybe both. Unlocked the makeshift cages and dealing with these off traps was honestly the more dangerous part of this mining adventure.   Once things die down having dealt with the remaining kobolds, exploring revealed a path leading to a door. While I cannot recall was written across two stone doors in draconic close to a dark pool water and the figure with an even darker cloak. A description of this person will have to remain a cloaked figure, as that was all I could see. Speaking to them revealed little, but as the others tried to ask what was behind the door, it eventually turned its attention to myself.   "Don't you have an appointment to get too?" they said. Which then I felt a compulsion to leap into the cold dark water.   Now, before I continue, I have some concerns as to who this person was, they knew I would be leaving. While I haven't found any clues as to who this was. As far as I know, they are not some Psychopomp of Pharasma and seems to be an entity whole their own. It's worrying nevertheless that somebody on the mortal plane knew that. It's scary even to contemplate what that would be.   Then as if on cue, Pharasma spoke telling me I shouldn't resist. Before people could attempt to stop me from leaping into the water, I in a few words explained I would be taking a trip like Licia. As they noticed I was eyeing the water, they understood thankfully. I turned to Celu quickly explaining telling her I needed to go to The Boneyard.   She replied, "not alone."   Then the two of us plunged into the depths of that dark pool.

Journal #47: Matron Nivinle Alas'thil [Text Roleplay]

After the shopping trip to gather the colder weather clothing, Aniks had decided to put one of his plans in motion. While the materials of the blade did not have to start in his home, he had other uses for umbrite besides wanting to fashion a blade out shadow metal. Before starting he made sure people knew where he was going and that he be back, teleport was a useful spell afterall. Aniks wrote “@Nivinle I feel like it is at least important to inform you that I will once again be departing this country again tomorrow. I am teleporting into Vaermyrhel in an hour so I can purchase umbrite for personal use. I would also be lying if I was not curious to see what progress our home has made in those three years.”   Her response came surprisingly quickly for one who hadn't had much need for the book over the past three years. "@Aniks Arrive in my study. It is better for us to speak about this in person."   With the hour past of packing for Celuriel and himself for the winter countries. Aniks casts the spell of teleportation, when the dark elf appeared in what Aniks thought was the study she spoke about. A place both drow study in their early life. He did have a pang of nostalgia while appearing in the room, not much of one.   Nivinle Alas'thil, apparently now matron of their house, fixed her cool stare on him from her seat behind the desk. These three years hadn't changed her much. Her clothes were noticeably finer, but still as practical as ever, and Andirifkhu's tattoo remained on display behind a protective sleeve of translucent fabric. "Umbrite is a dangerous material. You've done your research, I hope."   "Right down to business then, I would expect nothing less" Her bother said with a raised eyebrow. He remained where he was in the study glancing at all the changes over the years as he spoke. None of the books looked familiar, the furniture had been replaced . The only thing that seemed to be the same was some of the ornamental weapons displaced on the shelves and long the walls. "Umbrite a rare metal and is something both you and I are familiar with. The Benefits with the metal work well with people who tend to hide shadows, and forging the metal is complex and..." He paused both thinking and looking at a particular familiar weapon, He thought it was his mother' blade. "if I recall correctly Duergar are the most common race to know how to deal with this metal."   His staring didn't go unnoticed. Nivinle raised a hand and called the weapon to her without a word, catching it with a casual sureness to her grip. "You recognise this still? It serves me well. As a memento. A reminder. A warning," she said calmly, driving the sword's point into the wooden surface. "Regardless, you are correct in the basics. The method of forging the dark metal originated from the deep dwarves. They aren't skilled enough to keep to secrecy. You've seen the Emperor's blade. Our kind forged that." She leant back in the chair, leaving the blade alone, crossing her arms. Andirifkhu's mark almost seemed to glow in the dim light. "Unworked umbrite ore is near impossible to find when intentionally looking. Even then, it appears only in the deepest echelons of the Underdark. Always shrouded in complete darkness. The miners suffer for finding it. Luck leaves them. Death comes sooner. Insanity is welcomed. If they had been more intelligent, our siblings would have introduced you to a vein." Instead - and it went unsaid - they sent him to House Umbra. "How much of this information is new?"   "I remember that blade almost decapitating the both of us when Mother thought is best to personally test our skills in combat and teamwork. She was never one to hold back, even when we were in our early fifties." Aniks finally walked forward near the desk. Their mother had once pressed that blade against his neck, while Nivinle had been pinned by her magic in their first attempt at working together. It wasn't a pleasant experience for either if he recalled "As for new information, I had not known that Drow were the ones who forged that blade. When I asked him about it, he said it was a gift from the Drow. As for the more unpleasant aspects, only rumors and hearsay. I had thought the metal's difficulty to find created those rumors, being that people often died while searching." He paused rolling his head back and forth as if tossing a thought inside in his head. "I'd rather deal with the vein of the dark metal, House Umbra was an experience."   "No, she wasn't. Even in her death throes, her bladework was inspiring." A smirk played at Nivinle's lips as she glanced at the sword once again before returning her attention to Aniks. "Good. An emperor recognising gifts from our people is useful. Anyway. The deaths surrounding it are partly from the difficulty. The rest are from its luck-destroying properties. Fades when worked, most of the time, and rarely affects the wielder. But unworked sounds like what you want." There was a slight questioning tone in her voice. She very clearly expected an answer from Aniks."And Umbra kept you alive. Umbrite would have killed you, though Vasestra hoped the former would as well. You'd prefer the grave over what you've been through?" It was a very blunt question, and one devoid of emotion.   "In a manner of speaking, yes unrefined would work, but I lack knowledge on the forging of the metal. Umbrite is useful unrefined for certain people, but I wish to be in a more workable form. The dark metal would also help cover my missteps in stealth." Aniks said. He took note of the smirk, as it showed him that even in this oddly formal meeting, if you call this a meeting. She wasn't being as stoic as the last time, prehab's the past 3 years have been good for House Alas'thil. "At the time Yes, I personally found Eilistra's use of a toxic potions to bind me to her more than unpleasant. All because she loved that I was 'beautifully broken' in her eyes."   "Then you have a design in mind for it," Nivinle said with a raised eyebrow, paying close attention to Aniks's exact phrasing. "Unless you plan on learning how to work it from an ingot form. An experience that takes time. Time you should put towards preventing missteps in stealth. You're an Alas'thil." The words were sharp and condescending, but her tone remained as serious as ever - quite unlike their mother, who would have been forcing him to train under threat of whipping at this point for admitting his failures. House Alas'thil was proud, especially on matters of stealth and assassination. "...I meant now, not then. This Eilistra. Did you deal with her when you left?"   "I might be Alas'thil, but this arcane ability has forced me to change how I do things. A minor annoyance really. As for time spent, I need to learn to use them effectively so I am not helpless while in combat. That also includes my ability to use the magic outside a fight. Hence why I'm interested in learning how to forge Umbrite, I have never been one to start with the basic level of anything. With as much as my group travels I'll have plenty of time to learn both. " Aniks said coolly. It was true that House Alas'thil never started Aniks or Nivinle with the basics of anything. They were nobility and was expected to be better than the common Drow of the house. It was a harsh way to learn growing up, but so is the life of one of Drow nobility. The ebony elf had a grimly joking tone as he said "Death does not like it when I die, besides dying currently would be a problem for me." Then returning to a more normal tone he continued "I had told you this before while I was stuck in that child-like form, I had slipped a knife through her heart."   "Helpless?" It wasn't scorn in her voice. More.. interest. Intrigue. "Smithing umbrite cannot be done while moving, but other training can. Get yourself to the standards our House holds. You won't have forgotten them. When you have, we can arrange something with the forge." There wasn't any way Nivinle could let the books holding secret techniques go wandering across Iskaldhal. She'd have to acquire them first regardless, but that would be too reckless even for a matron to excuse. The elder elf shrugged off the reminder of memories lost. It had been three years. This happened. "Good, on both counts. You dying would be problematic. And in speaking of vengeance: will you visit our siblings today?"   "How else would I describe learning to be an Arcanist without formal or even informal training. As an assassin, I had more than 60 years of formally brutal training compared to 3 months of being an Arcanist. That training I still have not forgotten, it's just a little bit difficult to perform certain feats, that were once easier for me. The form is this there, but now I can use magic to counterbalance the skill I had lost. If I need to disappear, I know I can do just that." He said, then took her words into account and with a raise of his eyebrows. “If you wish to test me, I am a rather patient dark elf. Or is this to see how capable of an Arcanist I could be for House Alas’thil? We have never really been known as the house with an overabundance of arcane power within our walls. Unless that has changed as well.” He paused for a moment curious about why she would mention them. Then with a smirk similar to hers "You mentioned placing them less comfortable position, I would be lying if I was not curious."   "Both suggestions are accurate to an extent," Nivinle allowed, holding up a hand to ensure he didn't speak until she was done. "Arcane power is not our House's strength, but those who wield it do so well. Our mother has proven that. So have I. I do not wish for my wandering sibling to fumble his spells in battle and scar our reputation. When you wielded blades alone, I didn't need to care." Indirectly telling him that yes, he was still one of the better fighters in their House and she'd never had to worry about him because of that. "With this new power and lack of practice, even Vasestra might defeat you with her magic. So train. When you're done being helpless, I'll allow you to prove that skill in a test, as you guessed." She paused, a glitter of amusement in her eyes. "Perhaps even against those two. It might be encouraging. As for their circumstances. Rikzir has largely been involved with the defence of our builders. He is to assist in the creation of a number of traps and systems that require fine handwork and personnel testing. He is also responsible for maintaining sanitary standards, as this is on our grounds." She didn't bother mentioning their younger sibling's lack of magical power. The lack of healing spells or prestidigitation was his issue. "Vasestra is aiding House Arkenviir in penance for upsetting their work in the Umbra ruins. I believe your elf ruined her plans from escaping those duties." House Arkenviir was known for magical research and forbidden knowledge: whatever Vasestra was doing probably involved a lot of heavy lifting and being subject to magical experimentation. Nivinle didn't expand with detail.   The drow absentmindedly shrugged his shoulders "I had expected as much, obtaining Umbrite and working it was not something I thought I could do in less than a day. As well, I knew it was not something that coin alone could by. As for your test, you likely right. Alone Vasestra could have a chance to defeat me, as much as that annoys me to say. I refuse to stay like this for long.” A smirk played across his face for only a moment as he said: “If I were to be tested against our sibling, I’ll refrain from turning them to ash.” Aniks paused for only a moment at the later part of Nivinle statement two things had become clear to him. He pressed his hands together bring them to his face. Deeping breathing in then out loudly clearly showing displease with at something Nivinle had said. He closed his eye for only a second as he breathed out. Aniks made sure his quick smile was hidden by his hands. He was still so happy Celuriel had removed his brother’s more intimate body parts “I would prefer not to a uncle out of incest.” Clearly not hiding the disgust in his voice “Why could she have not just taken a male from a different house to get pregnant from. At least that would strengthen some tie to a different house. Do the house a favor, and not remind them to regenerate is a spell.” Just knowing Vasestra and Rikzir had tried was enough to make him disgusted. He set that disturbing revelation aside returning to a more formal tone “Speaking of Umbra, I do have some news for you about the Bloodwalker and the Human from three years ago. Nothing major mind you, just that Riven is far south in the Empire and heading south still and that Human, well she’s heading to another continent.”   "They're well aware that 'regenerate' exists," Nivinle commented with a raised eyebrow. "It would seem that even such a spell cannot completely combat damage. In any case, her success would not be one for long. House Alas'thil does not need the reputation they would bring through those acts." The topic ended there, as far as she was concerned. Aniks's news, however, was concerning. "I have heard whispers of the 'lord of blood' returning for the past year or so. If this human not only survived but is only now leaving as he heads south, I would assume that he trusts her enough to handle a task elsewhere. Does it interfere with your plans?"   "That we could both agree on." Bring that disturbing chapter to a close. Aniks had to keep the pride he felt in check for a moment when he found out what Celu had done, was more permanent than he thought was. "Not currently no" He paused for a moment considering what she said "Riven is going to be a problem but not now. He's been heading south for a while it seems, about two weeks ago I found this out. So they might not have chosen to leave at the same time. The human is taking a boat with another group of adventurers. I am working under the assumption that those two are a part of a small group, working to a comment goal. And in working to achieve that goal, they do not need to be near each other. I am still working on piecing all this together, I have little information to work on."   Nivinle listened to Aniks's explanation with an expression of intrigue. Finally, she gestured to the chair opposite the desk. "Sit. If this goal is what lead to the events of your previous visit, then I have reason to care. Tell me what you know about these adventurers, and about this goal that Drast and the girl seem to be working on."   Aniks sat across from his sister. Being that Silver was close at hand, he placed the blade in across his legs. Entering the Underdark without a weapon was asinine, he placed his interlocking fingers on top of the pommel. Then leaned forward giving this his full attention. “No, we were here to retrieve something Riven had stolen. The only house that might listen and provide information was our since I had at the time had bared Andirifkhu’s Mark. Not because of their goal, it matters for you however because he was establishing a sphere of influence in the Underdark. If I recall he was the one who was leading Drow in a revolution. Something that will become important in a second” Then shook his head “I cannot tell you what their goal is if I knew half of the problem would be solved. I can tell you of at least three but I do not have a name for one of them, though it is likely there is five of them. Since the throne room, we found Riven in under house Umbra had Five thrones. I hardly think a Matron of any house would allow more than her throne in her house. Riven was establishing a foothold in the Underdark. Revolution, Working with house Umbra, the growing influence he had. That is the important part to consider. Now while he performing that ritual, he let slip it was my fault that he came across this information. In truth, it was my fault, but that information let me know somebody within the walls of the Celestem Temple had told him about what I had researched. While I and The Emperor had requested that research to be gathered, it did not contain a ritual.” He held up three fingers.   "This person working with Riven was first, high enough rank to acquire information that should be kept absolutely secret. Second, the person is likely skilled enough with rituals to either understand how to perform a ritual they found while collecting our research or created the ritual from scratch. Which the latter suggest a higher comprehension of magical ability. Third, most likely excluded information from that research we had asked for.” He pulled down each finger as he made a point “This person has to have a high enough rank in this temple to have access to dangerous information, meaning they would have a considerable amount of power and information at hand at any given moment. That temple contains some dangerous knowledge. I do not have this person’s name. Now to the human. Sonja and her new group is concerning. I do not doubt for a second that one of my group's previous lover which had tried and failed to kill her, is traveling with Sonja by sheer coincidence. That, however, is currently besides the point” Aniks waved a hand while saying that as if the information was not important “Sonja had been apart of a different group, which that was starting to gain a bit of recognition in the empire. As they were invited to the Ball in Undria, similar to my group. When they helped us reclaim the fort, then ventured into the Underdark to save their friend who had been kidnapped while we attacked the fort. That does not matter. That human had survived the encounter and returned without a problem from the Underdark. As we meet her fifteen days ago. I caught her in a bit of a lie, she claimed Riven kept her as a pet while in the Underdark. Yet if I recall you claimed she skipped around house Umbra without a care in the world and like she owned the place. Something she would either do if she had Riven’s protection, or if she was working with Riven. The fact she made it out alive, implies the second. Since a pet would probably not have made her way out of the Underdark.   She also knows exactly what artifact we were after, which she would only know if she was speaking terms with Riven and person at the temple. As for the other two missing members, I have either meet them and do not have enough evidence to connect them to the prior three, or they have yet to show their hand.” He paused taking a break but clearly wasn’t done yet. “ But Riven had made me realize something, it doesn’t make sense. Why try and start a revolution within drow society, it’s a losing battle. So why, unless there is an ulterior motive to his actions. Influence over the realm or political power in certain vital circles, like the one in the Temple and Sonja who had likely failed in her attempt. Logic would likely dictate the others have or are attempting the same. If they had that, accomplishing want they truly wanted would be easy. Trusted Temple member, well-known adventurers, a revolutionary with connection, they could accomplish many things given the power they could amass. Easily too depending on what they are asking for. So it makes sense that this group wants something, what that something is I am unsure. That is what I am concerned about, they are slowly setting themselves in an important position, which makes them harder to get hands on.   Nivinle stayed quiet through his explanation, listening with curiosity lingering in her eyes. At some stage of his speech, she'd withdrawn a piece of paper to take notes - not in Undercommon, but in a twisting code that made no sense to Aniks's eyes. "You're not mentioning what these artifacts are." It was a question of sorts, with the finality of a statement. "That much would be useful. Anyway. Useful and intelligent of them to place themselves in high seats. Protection and lack of suspicion in most cases. Your group has a lot of trust. Another adventuring group, as the girl did, would get similar. The Temple has implicit trust aboveground, and House Umbra were strongest of us. Most importantly, they all have power." She let a shimmering purple light hang above her hand in indication of what she meant. "Which indicates they will not be found in merchants guilds. Looking into recent ascents would give leads. List any you know of." A piece of paper was placed before Aniks, a red quill at its side. It already dripped with blood-red ink. Nivinle shrugged, and began touching on a different topic. "Drast's motives aren't as simple as you think. Initially, he had three noble Houses on his side. V'drath, Visthala, Szithna. Something changed after his visit to Arkenviir. Something that spurred V'drath and Umbra into conflict, and Umbra to ally with him instead. Civil war would have been easy to spur had he stayed on V'drath's side. But he switched. And claiming civil war or revolution does not explain the vampires." She gave Aniks a long, evaluating look. "You said he heads south?"   Though his mind quicker raced through limited options, really limited, as he took the paper. One stood out but it was a loose thread at best, but he was at the fort. That would explain the comment he made about three parties being involved. The Bandits, Us and that group, and the mad scientist was the former master of the mages guild? No he was Aniks thought, those memories were still jumbled in head. "I was not fully aware of the civil war, only hearing mention of it in passing. At the surface it does not make sense, a lack of information is clearly the problem for that. As for vampires I could not tell you a connection between the war and the vampires. I believe I was once told they hold some power in the empire, being that their long lived creatures I would not be surprised. He could have gone to them for any number of reason, power,information, favor, vampirism. And yes, he was near the southern border of the Empire." Aniks wrote the Alchemist's name down, just his first followed by his former position. "The only one that fits the bill that I am aware of was a former master of the Mages Guild in Ilendras. Yet the connection is not a firm one, it's just as likely for Alchemist to apart of that group, or just as likely for him to be attempting pay back for my groups involvement in his removal from the Mages Guild. With the Alchemist that would cover what direct information on Arcane and Divine matters. Riven would be a connection to the Underdark and darker dealings. Sonja would be the trusted adventurer able to move from place to place without any problem. Other options could be nobility, military, religions, and possibly those remain two could even be outside this country." Then a pause as he leaned back letting his hands off of Silver. His face now taking on a more serious tone as he looked at his sister. "How much do you know about recent news, as in important world altering new?"   She looked almost amused at his comments regarding the vampiric involvement, though that dissipated as he continued to speak. "I will address three points before answering your question. The first being that the vampiric nobility underlying this land is tied heavily to the Empire's nobility, though not in any direct way. Vampires can't breed. However, south leads to another country. Gothadrun. If Drast has allies among the vampires of Gothadrun, his plans will advance quickly. They parade openly in the higher courts. It is part of why few challenge them." At the side of her paper, she drew a deliberate line through a rune she'd placed. "The second being that I have heard of this alchemist. He had many dealings in Yue'thintar. Finding him isn't impossible." A second line. "Finally: you have missed the most obvious candidate from your list." She didn't ask before summoning it to her and writing a name in looping script. Emperor Aneirin of Aletheia The paper was flung back by magic, settling down in front of Aniks in the barest wisp of wind. Nivinle didn't expand on her addition, instead following what she'd said and answering his question. "Nocticula has risen. Iomedae and Cayden have fallen. Norgorber too, to our lady's pleasure. These are what you refer to?"   Taking a second to look, the name made since but Aniks couldn't bring himself to write it. Cyne He'll circle back around to it. Something else took his attention away. Nocticula Risen? No that wasn't our doing, a side effect? Maybe. His face remained the same as he silently pondered this but spoke moments later "A single artifact did that, their fall was due to one mistake. I am being vague on purpose as these artifacts are something Pharasma herself had personally tasked us with getting rid of." He had hoped his mentioned of the Goddess of Death interest in removing them would stress how dangerous they were. "I am warning you now, as your brother and a champion. These artifacts should never have existed. Messing with them would be suicidal."   Interestingly, there wasn't a trace of greed or lust for power on the older drow's face. Instead - caution ruled. She raised an eyebrow. "Accidental godslaying artifacts. You insult me by thinking that I'm foolish enough to toy with artifacts that dangerous, brother. If this human girl seeks one, what calamity might Drast intend.." She looked sharply at him all of a sudden, eyes narrow. "How many of these exist? If one could slay a god, and Drast is splitting up his little group..." She'd allow him to make the connection there.   He shook his head "Insult? No it's because of the power of this artifact I am vague and given warnings. I warn you because Riven is likely in possession of one of them, a blade that reapers the soul from a body if I were to hazard a guess. Unless he's within the city I would advise staying far from him." Just talking about that blade reminded him of his personal attempt to claim it. And the side effects that came after, Again he thought that he might want to question Silver later. But placed those thoughts aside for a later date. "Pharasma said we needed to destroy six of them, two have been destroyed and I do not doubt that this group would want the others. We leave for a third tomorrow, which should leave us a 15 day head start on Sonja. Best to cut their attempt to claim them, instead of wrestling one from them."   "Noted. Disposables, then, if he does become a thorn in my side." She didn't need to explain that Aniks was dealing with Aniks-problems himself unless he asked specifically otherwise. He understood that already. House Alas'thil was clear on that. "Don't presume your plan will succeed. What are your plans for if she retrieves it first, or clashes with your group?" Honestly? Nivinle was testing his thinking processes at this point.   It was an unspoken agreement to not meddle in the others affairs. "We had picked an artifact with the best chance of success, while achieving other goals in the process that could possibly help aid us in this. If it comes down to it, my group is not afraid of fighting. I have only known the Paladin to shying away from one fight and rightly so in that instance. If they take that artifact then we'll track them down within reason. If it's temporarily lost to us, then we might find another to track down. Though..." his shoulders dropped and a long deep sigh escaped him "my group is ungodly stubborn and on more than one occasion slow when getting things done."   "Why does your group being slow affect you? You're capable alone. Especially once you have regained acceptable training," she rebuked. She didn't look particularly impressed. "Make them follow you instead of the other way around. They'll keep pace. Regardless, I also notice another failing. Are you aware of any of her powers? Or her allies? Those should be considered."   "There are benefits to traveling with a group. Especially after I found no information on dark elves in Iskaldhal. I might be able to sneak around unseen but if Drow were few in number I'll stand out like the moon at night. I know very well how surface folk treat our kind." Aniks paused thinking "She carried no weapon of notice, but I doubt she's not carrying something small at least. I had never seen her with a spell book or cleric symbol...." he paused again something twitched in the back of his head. Not a complete thought trying to come forth, but Aniks clearly had forgotten something. What was it? " She's possibly a Sorcerer or another kind of caster of some kind, she travels with a wizard skilled enough to teleport, I could get the information about that former lover of one my companies easily. If they follow, than leading them into a location were we hold all the cards and have more advantages would be easier."   Both his hands pressed against his face then dragged them down " I've warned them, I can only do some much before I choose to have them deal with the folly of their actions. I've done well in hiding, my names, titles, and blood on the surface. If it wasn't for a magic mirror they would never no my name. Given time I can expand my spell book to make that easier to deal that, few of them are too stubborn to listen my words so magic will have to work. As for hiding bodies, Ash is easy to hide , tricking them into drink a poison, a bit harder. Not impossible but tricky." Then musingly Aniks waived his right hand in the air, a slight laugh left him "If we do have to kill them, we could just leave that Half-Elf, Elf? The one that tried to kill one of my companions, alive. He did almost kill everybody in his former group. Would be a good scapegoat to leave that one alive. Being that he has done that once before."

Journal #46: Emperor Aneirin of Aletheia

Pharasma’s domain, The Boneyard, a place where it takes weeks to find a blank journal. I had to use the last fifty pages to jot down all the notes I had decided to study life here in The Boneyard. It was not enough, but finding a blank journal was an excellent way to keep track of things here.   Before I begin recounting my training here, I should finish up what I was doing in the material plane. Flipping through the last couple of pages of my other journal, it seemed that I wrote about our return to Ironfalls, Azyel’s rune of unnatural lust, and seemed to stop there. So our trip to see the recently crowned emperor was not explained or my journey to my eldest sister to acquire umbrite.   It’s been what five months since a small group of us decided to travel to the city of Aletheia. Celu and I went of course, as did Kraia and Licia. As Licia was planes walking when we visited last, so I was responsible for the teleport. While I aimed for the courtyard, where we watched Cyne be dragged around meeting a potential wife. Overall that was amusing, so when we ended up in an unfamiliar jail cell. I was more than a bit surprised, and then we were met with a familiar face on the other jail cell. Sonja, the human adventurer who helped take our keep. Which was a bit of a problem, but that will become apparent later. I was less surprised that Pennyswaggle was there.   We talked for a moment, trying to convent the guard on duty to let us go. Pennyswaggle annoyed him into letting us go, a useful guy on occasion. Sonja asked if we could meet up for drinks, being nice we did not think anything of it and agreed. Leaving the jail, we walked to the palace inside without much of a problem.   Speaking to the new emperor was an ordeal, however. His personal assistant, a Gothadrun woman, named Veronika. She was sitting in what I assumed to be an entrance room, a study? Alysia Undria, his younger sister, had warned us about her. How annoying she could be. Ashlyn could have cleared this up in second being that she was a princess and all. However, Veronika was demanding out names and not allowing us to go and find Cyne, save for Sir Pennyswaggle, who she knew and let him pass. Kraia and Licia I told her I was nobility from House Alas’thil, that I had been knighted, as well as my full name. Leaving out my other more impressive title, she, of‌ ‌course, did not believe us. She also kept calling child, on account of her being a halfling. Amazingly enough, she claimed she did not have any knowledge of my house.   As if we were running out of options, who else rounded the corner but The High Priestess of the Celesthem, Aetha. She somehow was able to convince her with a couple of words to let us in. The Palace looked great, but still stupidly bright. We wondered the place until we found a room door that was darker than the rest. In case he was sleeping, we opened the door quietly to find a room that was just painted in darkness. In reality, it was just a rather dark room with grey paints and dark silken blankets. A quick glance at the bed showed the Emperor fast asleep. Alysia explained that with the Iomedae recent fall, her former champions sacrifice to bring up the shield that bound that twisted Tenaerul. Cyne took up that mantle being that we were out of the country when Ashlyn was meant to take that mantle, which caused some unintentional backlash. However, it seemed that they found a cure for that, but it’s if he wants to use it. That could explain why The High Priestess was there, to ease the pain of that burden he placed upon himself.   Now seeing that he was asleep, I wasn’t going to wake him. Instead, I took a second look into the room, which my eyes found a rather extensive and diverse bookshelf. I was even surprised to find volumes one through three of The History of the Aletheian Empire. I had only seen the second volume, while I thought about casually pick one up to read. Celuriel questioned how the history of a whole nation could be written in a book; the others had woken up Cyne.   To save a rather lengthy conversation, we spoke on things that must remain quiet. Licia had been talking with Cyne since he knew of some rather stupid things I had done. Azyel went to war with Cyne, which makes him a war hero. That is concerning, for no other reason other than it’s Azyel. Regardless of how or why that happened, we moved on from that topic. As is showed how much had changed since the three levels we’ve been gone. Apparently, people have been attempting to break in to meet Aletheia’s most eligible bachelor, which I made mention to.   “I could pass that on to you as well” Cyne replied showing, while sick, he still had enough of his sass to talk back.   “Like to see you try,” I replied.’   “You unmarried of a noble house, Knight of Alethia, shouldn’t be to hard,” He said matter of factly. Listing how easy it could be.   “Good luck. We’ll be out of the country.” I told him which was in the truth. Cyne could have this done, but the only reason why I poked him about that was that we would have been out of the country before anything happened. Besides, I think he needed the sass to get him going.   Celu was not happy with that exchange, and in all honestly, if Cyne had done it. I would have been slightly pissed.   That was beside the point.   Eventually, we came to the topic of Veronika, annoying, and according to the Emperor, a rather good sparring partner. Before leaving a rather ‘fun’ idea came to mind. I quickly told Cyne of her attitude to small people and how she probably needs to be a bit more educated. Which I hoped I helped with. We left Cyne’s room and walking pass Veronika desk, and we walked passed without saying a word.   I popped my head in as we walked out telling her.   “You should probably pay attention to who you let into the Emperor’s room. House Alas’thil is known for there assassin.”   With a look of horror, she ran to Cyne’s room. Cyne eventually messaged me that her reaction was priceless, then to my concern, blood appeared on the page. I hope he’s going to be okay. It’s rather hard to check in on people when you are in a whole other plane of existence.   On the way to meet with Sonja at some bar, Celu had gotten a hold of something. Well, three somethings. Held in her arms were Cyne’s copies of The History of the Aletheian Empire. I was proud of her for all the wrong reasons.   Should probably make sure she does not steal from shops.   Now when we meet with Sonja in some random bar, this created a problem for us. At first the small group, which was here for restocking there material. It was something along those lines, that was not the important part. That important part came up in her casual conversation, which was the most…   Vexing, It was rather vexing to use a word that fits. As in that current moment, we could do nothing about it. Sonja had spoken about Riven Draft. In such a casual way which indicated familiarity with him. While she was annoyed with how she was treated in the Underdark, annoyed being the right word as her tone, and being held in the Underdark against your own will is not something you would be ‘annoyed’ at. While her friend was getting fleshed warped in another drow household, she was prancing around Castle Umbra. She had unknowingly confirmed my thoughts on a few things. As the information my older sister told me, contradicted this. Though the two of us went into this in more personal detailed which will recount later. Though I highly doubt this was mere coincidence, A name Licia had not heard in a long time had left Sonja’s lips as we talked. Syrin her former lover and fiance. Things could probably have been worse, by the end of it in all honesty it probably will be.   Regardless as we choose to leave, Sonja made it abundantly clear that she knew where we were going by saying before we teleported away. “We will see you at the Harp” The next shard we had decided to destroy. We teleported away with the clock ticking, a race to the shard in another country.   Luckily, we thought we had some time before they would even arrive at the Continent of Iskaldhal. Roughly a month according to information in Sonja had said, her traveling company would be taking a boat across the sea to Iskaldhal. The Lost One decided to use fifteen days and use the Elf Gate in Ilendras to the Tower of Sathelis.   We broke up different sections of information we need to find out about Iskaldhal. Celuriel and I took up the research on where we could arrive since we cannot stay in Sathelis, how to avoid dragons in the country, as this continent is riddled with them. Finally, how to avoid any of the Harps powers, and any myths surrounding the shard in general. Hopping around to a handful of libraries in Aletheia to gather this information. I say we did a rather good job in the time we had, as did the others. There a couple of nights spent just pouring over the books he had borrowed and the quick notes we had taken.   Towards the end of the fifteen days, I had caught Celuriel around a pile of dusty books. In the middle of the night, asking what she was still doing up. The elf simply replied “...I’m trying to help.”   I sighed, approaching the table where she sat, plucked to top of book from the pile and sat down beside her. Staying up with her till it became too hard for either of us to focus on what we read.   Luckily for us, we wrapped up most of the information that night and copied it over for the rest of The Lost One. So sleeping in was an option for once, that was nice. The last two days we spent shopping for any and all necessary items required for the icy continent of Iskaldhal. I am not one for shopping normally, but that was nice to just relax for once. The last day I decided to start one of the few plans I have had which required me to return to Vaermyrhel to House Alas’thil.

Journal #45: 3 Years well spent.

It’s pleasant to be back in Ironfalls after I time dealing with the Unbroken March. It's grown a lot from what we’ve seen. Our personal houses in the mountain behind our keep had been finished. About a couple of days after returning and getting informed of this in Celu and I had moved into ours. It was surprisingly pleasant to have a place where people would not walk into bright in early looking for food. While I built another shelf for Celu’s ever-growing collection of books. I could have sworn I saw one of her rare smiles as she looked at her books. She’s currently in bed reading through a book she recently stole from the Emperor. Volume one of The History of the Aletheian Empire. Now, I’m writing down this journal entry of the past four days I am sitting in our windowsill overlooking the nightlife of Ironfalls. The dark outline of buildings and the twinkling lights from the town below from our mountain home. Despite knowing Kazric was probably walking around invisible, causing all kinds of interesting events to happen, it still seemed peaceful.     Once again, our lives, as usual, have become far more complicated. I will not even attempt to explain or hid some of the events that took place. It's too dangerous for common knowledge that must be kept to a few people as possible. That knowledge must be kept to The Lost One and them alone. However, I am not just going to skip to that part of the tale. We first must meet talk about the purple theatre and the show that was put on.     We briefly went over what we'd do with the book once we had it. We planned to take the Unbroken March to the boneyard and ask Pharasma if they were ways to destroy them. If not, then ask for her to hold on to the Shard until we could find a way to destroy it. All in all, we had thought it was the correct course of action. Before we left, I reminded our companions that we would need to get Jinne’s Silver Orb back. UNsure as to why, but I hardly think The Commander would be willing to speak to a dark elf if it was not significant. As we escaped the timeless room, our crew was found our selves spread throughout a purple theatre. Large currents of purples and tan walls with a handful of balconies. I found myself near Celu and Cid. Accompanied by several floating books, oh what do you call them. I have never seen a theatre production. Floating Theatre Program, that what they were called. Construct ushers attempt to usher us into the darken leather chairs. We denied them and replied with blades and bullets.   With our companies and us taking out their ushers and book, a voice boomed over the room. Telling us that the first act, 'The Dancer.' We turned, expecting to see the curtain rise to reveal the next entertainment to keep us busy. Instead, four long spider legs slide from under the violet cloth as four sets of glowing eyes one set being blue another purple, green and white. A large unknowable shadow of a spider held those bright eyes. The color combination of our lost friend that had been ripped from the timeless room. Our onslaught began as The Lost One started to target the legs, bullets, blade, and magic found their place in those legs. Each was had special resistances similar to the four people that were kidnapped.   One of the legs, I cannot remember which color had swiped Celu, with her Icy Scythe in hand she tore through the leg that held her. She couldn't escape. Celu had called out for me and in fearing she could be pulled under alone with that spider. I leaped from the top of a chair, closing the distance in the air with a dimensional slide. Cutting through the air, I appeared in the air in front of Celu. It was a risk in doing this because I had almost missed.Wrapping my arms around her, she gripped me, and I cased the other teleport like a spell. Dimensional Door, the two of disappeared from the grip of the spider now hiding behind some of the farther back chairs.   Needless to say, I was somewhat scared I couldn't pull that off. I had never used dimensional slide in a vertical manner which teleporting into that spider's range was risky, but it paid off. At least now I know that I can teleport mid-air, which could be useful to know. Celu took the needed time to heal, as I flung spell over the cover the theatre chairs provide. Meanwhile, Cid was laughing like a mad man as a rain of fire and metal bombarded of creepy legs. In the background, I could hear our companions, but I had yet to see them. This room was rather large and in saying that, It was still impossible not to notice the utter destruction Artemis was creating. I swear the beaver is the most dangerous part of The Lost Ones.   With each of the legs' destroyed' the glowing eyes faded and they were slowly pulled back into the main body of this beast. Yet the shadow twisted and compacted into itself till all that was left was a large sphere. As the curtain finally rose, we caught a glimpse of the fleshly greyish purple sphere with another darker purple curtain behind that sphere. Ten eyestalks unwrapped themselves from its spherical body. A fanged smile appeared as it's a single silver orb of an eye opened, cutting off our magic.   Cutting off our magic was one thing, but those eye attached to that creature had spells. Dangerous ones, I was glad that thing had his anti-magic eye. Cid was not as lucky, the war god's champion had been caught in the monster's onslaught. A sickly green ray and hit the mad gunner. Crumbling him to dust.   I cannot recall what happened. Next, I teleported need the ashen pill that had been my comrade and threw up a wall of invisible force rushing over Cid Celu close behind. It wouldn't stop the Anti-magic eyes, but the creature couldn't stop them fire his own magic rays into them. The wall would stop the ray, We called out saying that Cid had been turned to ash.   Seconds later the Elven Cleric of Desna Canthe teleport next to us, with Zalni Pin's master the one who supplied the teleport. Cid was brought back within a second, still. Cid had dead, if Canthe hadn't been there, we might have to need a vase to clean the ashes. I am not sure Licia would be able to bring back some from a Distenagrate spell.   With another round of ray volleys, the five of us protected, Canthe Cid Celu Zalini and I were safe from that creature destructive ray abilities. That wall was useful but The others had far more luck, Pin was successful in casing the chains of light spell. Then our friends unleashed on the creature. They had been doing alright before however chains of light as never failed us yet. This time was no exception, however, one day it will, and I dread to think of the creature that we face where that spell doesn't kill. Ashlyn or Artemis one of those two had gotten the final blow. I hope this creature was fictitious since this whole theatre had created by the Shard. It wouldn't be hard to figure this might be some creature from a fantasy book on unknowable horrors or pulled from some bestiary of some kind. The violet curtain closes on the first and leading into intermission. Intermission was combat filled. Strange ice cream women and a large bucket of popcorn that were extremely flammable Zalni and I had a swarm of popcorn around us, A icy scythe had flung itself across the right side of the theatre to destroy a large chunk of the popcorn. Celu had skillful throw her scythe, it was something she made look both beautiful and terrifying. The Gnome and I had blown up several different large popped kernels of corn and buckets will with the oiled snack. All around it was a good time.   The second act started soon after intermission, that second act required 'volunteers.' Canthe and Aster were voluntold to participate, they were teleported to the balcony unconscious. The purple curtain raised to show us the four kidnaped people. The Commander, Jinne, Saeryn, and Eirian all with the same voidling like eyes as those who were affected by The Spirit Blade. Honestly, I wasn't sure if that was a creation from the Shard or actually the people. Whatever the case was, we couldn't harm them. Ashlyn went to face Jinne with less than stellar results. I believe was the first time She had every fallen in battle, not dead mind you, but still, our Paladin can take a hit. Jinne I thought had been a caster, but I was wrong. At least I thought. The Commander teleported into the balcony above, summoning an angel.   While Zalni and Celu took care of the summoned creature. I decided to deal with the voluntold, finding my way to the balcony with Artemis, Kraia, and Licia. We removed Aster form the button while on the other side, Whisperbreath took her sweet ass time trying to remove canthe. Using the ghost touched dagger, I lifted the sleeping curse from Aster who woke up in a groggy state. Kraia took the unbridled wraith of physic caster falling unconscious to the mental attack. With Licia close in hand, I chose to return to the Angel which Zalni had wrapped in chains of light. As I teleported next to the angel, I plunged Silver through the chest of the winged creature. Whisperbreath and all of her infinite wisdom thought now would be the best to remove Canthe. And they accuse me of overthinking situations. Lifting the final curtain-raising showing the Silver Orb.   As Celu and I ducked behind the chair before the silver orb was revealed, unsure as to what the last raising curtain would bring. The two of us were only a handful of the row before the stage. Our attention was quickly broken as our ears twitch reacting to a sound behind us, we turned quick our eyes now trained on the Elf in the balcony. The Elf hissed the incantations I fully expected to be hit by that spell. The Commanders reputation of the Elf who lead an army to purge the drow from the Galasthin Underdark. I had every reason to believe I would have been stuck with her spell. As the Arcane words finish leaving her lips. The Commander flung several crystals she had pulled from a bag. I branched myself but nothing.   Turning to Celuriel, her honey gold eye’s flared with the yellow of flame before becoming completely dull. Quickly racking my brain to try and think of what she had hit by. Feeblemind, she couldn’t speak when I asked her what was wrong. I turned to look at the fully raised curtain, showing the Silver Orb. Wrapped in a force cage, guarded by blades and concealed in global of darkness.   I bit my lip trying figure out what to do, I tossed a force sphere to protect her. Deciding dealing with the orb was the quickest way to keep her safe. As the force sphere went up, I hugged celu and teleported onto the stage. I made sure to keep her in my sights while I was on stage, if anything went wrong, I would have been there in seconds. I was lucky enough that The Commander did not attempt to follow up with any other spell.   The silver orb was under a well-constructed trap, but each of us took down one of the barriers. In the process, The Commander had targeted Whisperbreath teleporting near her then disintegrated Whisperbreath while taking down those barriers. She was brought back rather quickly but still, I hope this puts a bit fear in her. We had thought that once we grab the orb and it would be over. Yet it took a bit more, we had to use the sphere as a focus to deliver spells to the Shard's possessed. I flung spells at The Commander and the flirtatious idiot Eirian. Providing a more than satisfying fireball to his face. The Commander, after waking from the possession, took the orb and dealt with Eirian and Kraia woke up Saeryn.   Using the orb had a problem. The orb, when casting a spell, had made my veins flow silver, I can not imagine prolong use of this sphere being good.   Once that was done, the Shard was revealed to us. I had picked it up just a book now, and the real one according to Jinne. The Galasthin Elves with Saeryn and Zalni plane shift away tell us to meet with them once our job was done. As we agreed to that, they disappeared, and we teleported to the boneyard.   A mistake.   Now I have to say do to oaths and secrets that are best left unspoken. This journal will not hold them, nor will I will leave it out for the public. Perhaps once this is over, I will write all of this down in a book, my whole life story.   Nevertheless, I will continue to tell you the story of how gods fell because of our actions. Upon arriving at the boneyard, the Shard fell out of my hands and began to use its fate-altering magic to warp reality. Before it had completely disappeared into the floor in front of Pharsama's Spire, we were whisked away by the Herald of Pharasma to a plane adjacent demiplane.   The Steward of The Skein a woman as armored as Ashlyn with skulls decorating her shoulder and breastplate. Not real ones mind you, though I am not sure if that is entirely out of her wheelhouse. Her ivory white wings had some protection metal shielding across the top of her wings, her almost white armor was disturbing when you looked at her helmet. Her helmet shielded her face from view, it was as if her face was hidden in shadows, save for her angry glowing red eye. Glowing red eyes that burned with anger.   Demanding an explanation for what we had done and why would bring that Thing to Pharasma realm. The Shard lay on the ground in the blank room, motionless across the floor. It's terrible work stopped by the Herald. The Steward had blamed us, which in a way was our fault. Yet how were we meant to know that in bringing The Unbroken March to the boneyard it would change fate? We had little knowledge on this, The Shard had a radius but never did we think it could affect the gods. We had thought Pharasma would at least have some level of control to stop this Shard in case something terrible had happened. Not accepting our questions or our answers as to why we did this. The Herald of Pharasma had told us Iomedae has fallen and we would be going to Heaven to see what we had done.   Though I would have loved to have detailed our treck through the upper planes of heaven, it was not the first thing on my mind. That and heaven is a bright place, annoyingly bright at that. I was squinting a good majority of the time through the first ring of heaven. Are they called rings? I’m am being told by Celuriel that they are Levels of Heaven, well that’s an odd name for that. Setting the bizarre naming conventions of the upper plane aside, we passed through the Threshold of Heaven, another odd name for the first level of this place. Everything in this first level was quite silent, eerily so in fact. However, where we wanted to reach was the Proelera were heaven armies and the realm of Iomedae.   Iomedae’s castle was destroyed, her Herald and angels were silently weeping for the lost. Then as we looked to the side alone, grieving was a woman with short black hair, clad in silver and gold armor.   Iomedae sat alone, looking at the crumbled remains of her home.   The Lost Ones approached the lonely women part of the group hadn’t come to the realization that this was the fallen inheritor. A loud silence fell over the party as we attempt to find words, but few left our mouths. In those few words, we tried to explain our actions, but she was indifferent, what happened happened. Yet two things came from that conversation. Pharasma most likely knew this would happen. That and Iomedae was not the only god who had fallen due to the shards fate-altering abilities. The ascended gods from the test of the Starstone. Cayden Cailean and Norgorber had fallen as well.   Cayden had chosen a couple of moments later after speaking to Iomedae to show his face. Decanter in hand, As much as I personally find the god interesting I have heard too many drunken stories in the bars I have worked at in the past. Cayden being the ever helpful god explained a bit more than I am willing to share in this book. The Assassin god being the quiet creepy god he is, just stood behind me the whole time. It was unnerving to know he just appeared behind me.   Now I need to stress this they have NOT completely fallen back to being mortals. No, they have been gods far too long to have their power completely removed. As we spoke of the ramifications of our actions and what to do about them. We left feeling a bit better than the Herald of Pharasma made us felt. I swear that Herald has a flair for the dramatic, she is not wrong to have scared us, but just the context of a god had fallen look at the mess you made. She could have given us more context, not scare us back to Pharasma’s Realm. Now I am not saying we had not got off scot-free, just it was a lot better then we had thought. Not good but better than the darker thoughts we might have had.   Before leaving the upper planes, I toss Cayden one of the three bottles of Elven Ale I still had. Hey, he might not be my god, but I can admit enjoying the stupid smile off my patrons when they tell Cayden’s stories. It’s gotten me through some rather annoying long shifts. Cayden had a standing offer to go and get a drink with him, which sounds nice but well we will see about that. We have a bit to do before I can personally think about drinking with the God of Alcohol.   One good thing came out of giving him that drink, I found a new bottle in my bag, Cayden’s gift for giving him that Ale. As much as I am curious about what kind of drink this is, I feel like it might be better if I save it for a special occasion.   That and make sure Whisperbreath doesn’t try and steal it from me.   We returned to the mortal plane, in the Kingdom of Galasthin Elf.The experience of leaving the plane of heaven left me blind and being flung through the air with several others. Our messaging books decided this was the moment to update us, with three years of messaging. However, not before our Oracles and Shaman had visions. Licia had healed my blindness, and in doing so, Celu soon after broke away from the vision she had.   She had seen her sister, though in the vision she was her sister. Her sister sat in the large throne but was not alone. A nobleman was seated across from her, they both sat within a luxurious room, but they apparently were not the most finely dressed. Another had entered the room dressed in scarlet and silver and brunette hair and according to the Celu was clearly the better dressed. Her vision ended there.   Each had visions of a different kind, most had little meaning save for Ashlyn who was the death of the Emperor, Well the former Emperor, since Cyne had both been crowned the new Emperor and took the place of Ashlyn in the ritual. We would probably need to return soon. We need to get caught up with three years of Aletheian problems and speak to Cyne.   My messages were from what I can only assume Nivinle, essential updates about two or three, he did inform me that our half-siblings were no longer in a comfortable position. Which did bring me some sense of happiness? I honestly just don’t care about those two anymore. The odd message I received was a drawing of an eye, a stylized version of one but still, it was drawn across the page. Why must things be cryptic can we just have somebody explain their intentions for once.   Short tangents aside, we quickly reclaimed our companion for a wizard tower, said our goodbyes to the Galasthin elves and Jinne reminded me to do my homework regarding the Mother of souls.   Now, for the next bit, I would like to remind readers that early in my adventure before my friends learned of who I was. Licia had chosen to cast a spell on me. A spell that I personal in this group have almost never had any luck with, save for one instant. Licia had thought it would be amusing to cast Unnatural Lust on me. It worked, and I never truly forgotten it.   Since now you have been reminded, Licia’s vision had been of her mother pulling a note and Wayfinder from a hidden box she had never seen before. Her mother is in the very same city we were in, Licia went to see her mother, and we joined her. Now, as family goes, she had the most NORMAL. Alenia Galewen was incredibly sweet to the point where Celu tried to decide if she wanted a normal life if she used Alenia as an Example, so we agreed on a middle ground of the strange and some level of normality. Licia introduced us and explained why she was there. Her mother asked if she was dating since her previous partner wasn’t with this group.   I took this time to tell her mother no she was not, though she had cast a rather interesting spell on me. Licia became rather shy at the mention of this one previous incident between us. Her mother grilled her till Licia finally caved and said the spells name quietly and very quickly, I had trouble keep my smile in check. Her mother disapproving of the use of the spell drew a frowning face on her daughter's forehead. After this, Ms. Galewen got past the introductions, she handed over the Wayfinder and a letter from her father. We departed soon after, with Licia supplies the teleport back to our home Ironfall.   Ashlyn soon departs becoming a blur of pink and gold as she raced to her family. The tree and the Elf soon disappeared to find what I amuse is a bed. Kraia left to find her family, Zalni and Whisperbreath truly started their training. I went with Celu to my bar.   Being that I was wearing nothing more the burnt rags due to my clumsiness in The Endless Archives. I wanted to shower, or just change into something that wasn’t half destroyed. As the two of us entered the bar, a drow bartender stood behind where I would generally be, it was Alvir. Apparently, he had started working as my replacement while we were gone. His double take was well earned, as I entered. Before stopping and giving a better explanation for our return. I rushed upstairs to my room, grabbed some regular clothes because I’ll be damned if I run the bar tonight. Coming down with comfortable clothes before speaking with Alvir and Pennyswaggle, who just appeared in the bar as he does, I thought for some reason that would be best to check the stock in the basement.   The basement was as I thought, similar but some of the things had been rearranged. Understandable given that 3 years had passed, Celuriel had wandered down into the basement with me. It seemed like in my absence, somebody had replenished my stocks. I would not put pass Alvir to have sent orders to neighboring cities for restocking, as I noted for some of the barrels and bottles were from other portions of Aletheia as I walked down a couple of rows this basement held.   What happened as I approached a suspiciously upside down and empty barrel was a rune, which I had not seen, had been placed just within arms reach of the barrel. So if I wanted to check, I would have had to step on it. When the rune went off, I was once again caught in the thrall of That stupid vexing enchantment. Now embarrassingly enough I was not upset at what happened, far from that. Having to quickly put down Celu once the rune faded, I could not help feel a bit of heat in my cheeks. My face must have been a shade of lilac, even in the dark. The Elf quickly disappeared up two flights of stairs to our room. In retrospect, even under the enchantment of Unnatural Lust, it was a bit much to have picked her up.   Better her than Licia, Lirian or Eirian.   I get hit by that spell more than I would like…   After a moment trying to organize my thoughts, since my mind had a hard time trying to not think of what just happened. I walked back up to get caught up with Pennyswaggle and Alvir. I was met with the scene of my bartender horrified and the rest of my patrons two steps from knocking boots with the closest person to them. Some of the people did not seem to mind once the spell was over, others shot glares at each other their eyes tell the others to never speak of this again. Alvir had made a quick note to who had done this. I know the perfect person to talk to for revenge. Pennyswaggle had mention something to me, and though we passed the information up rather quickly, I didn’t forget it. I had brought it to the attention of Cyne the next day when we meet him. Altogether it was a rather pleasant night. Where for once, I felt like a typical patron in a bar.   Once I had enough food and used up all of the Pennyswaggle tolerance I had built up, I retired for the night, where Celuriel was curled around a pillow. It was rather cute to have found her nuzzled into pillows. Since I had spent an hour or so talking in the bar below, so I assumed she was asleep. The two of us slept back to back.   I thought things would be a bit more awkward in the morning, but when she woke me up demanding for delicious breakfast as compensation for yesterday. I couldn’t help but smile a bit.

Journal #44: The Samsaran and Her Dreamers [Text Roleplay]

After while of being in that timeless room, letting the events of the shards trails shimmer down. Aniks will start shuffling around in his bag till he pulls a single white business card out. Which glowed softly with that strange white light. He will approach the Samaran, Jinne “Excuse me, if you do not mind I was hoping if you could answer a question or two? Does this look familiar to you?”   Jinne stared at the card for a long moment, pale eyes wide with surprise. "You have a card from the Way? Are you... also a dreamer?"   The Drow had a slight confused look "Dreamers, Is that what they are called? No I am not. I found some of travelers who were preaching the way and they gave me this ."   She nodded in understanding, smiling at him. "They-- we?-- are dreamers because the Way is easiest to see in the dreams. These cards, I see those wanting to be like priests share with those who seem lost in some, ah, way. It is a way of helping, yes?"   Aniks nods slightly "The priests only explained basics of your beliefs and outside of them, I haven't really seen anybody speak about this or really caring around silver orbs. It is what made me remember I had this card. Sorry to say it but I have not dreamed of anything in months."   Jinne shrugged, toying with the torc-style necklace she wore as she spoke. "Maybe you have not needed the help, or maybe it is waiting. If you want, touch it to my orb before you rest. It will give you a certainly interesting dream, that way; I do not know if I said, but the orb is... special when it touches magical things."   The Dark Elf pauses to consider, but with a quick glance at the book and the odd scenario “I had a pretty good dream catcher,” He said slightly more coyly then continued with “as for you offer. Perhaps another time maybe, when we are not in such an Interesting situation. I have to ask, I once met a Priestess with a handful of silver orbs, she claimed they were a magical focus of sorts. That Orb has to be special if it can interact with that book over there.”   "You say ask, then you use no question." Jinne smiled as if pleased at herself for noticing. "Yes, orb is very special. It is... representing magic of the planet, if that can make sense to you. Like a map. Was the priestess a dreamer?"   "My apologies, my mind is running a bit thin," he said with a slight smile. "I meant to ask if these spheres were magical focuses. Sorry, you might need to explain the whole planet thing, I relatively new to magic and unfamiliar with some of the core concepts. As for the priestess, I have had very few conversations with her, so I do not know her on a personal level."   The samasaran's smile didn't falter as she glanced at the orb, still held firmly by Lyadrí. "Is not a problem. They can be foci, because they are born from magic itself. Do you know about ley-lines?"   "Ley-lines, the invisible lines of magic that run across Istralar? With my general knowledge this ‘Way’ I find it hard to see connections. Those orbs are by products of magic, I highly doubt they just pop into existence.” Then looks at the high-elf “There is no adverse side to holding that sphere to something that magical for a prolonged period of time? Too many questions but that's because of a lack of understanding from my part.”   "The smaller ones that do not do as much, they are made from special mithral alloy that is more susceptible to ley magic. If exposed in special way, the ley magic traces out a map on their surface. It is a ley network of its own that can charge from others, yes? Like making a new candle from old ones. If it is charged properly, it can work to increase spell power." Jinne seemed pleased to be able to explain this to him. "Mine is special, because it is not a unique network; it is reflection of the planet we stand on. There are not many ways to make this; it is only for those able to walk through the way. Mine, it was made by the me who lived many years ago. For ad-verse effects... it should not have--"   It was here that Lyadrí butted into the conversation, shooting Jinne an irritated look. "Do not mistake this for safe. Ley magic is incredibly dangerous for most of the population. I would imagine most would suffer serious side-effects from magical saturation were we not in a time locked dimension, similar to the effects of standing in areas of high magical concentration. Over prolonged periods of time, that would lead to spontaneous and volatile combustion. If misused - for instance, for channelling evocation magics through - this orb has potential to cause an ecological disaster similar to that which affects the Sunari." Jinne looked surprised at this revelation, but not upset.   Taking mental notes, learning anything about magic could possibly help him in the future. An orb like that could be useful to have, but dismissed the thought quickly when the High Elf chimed in. Still useful to know however. The drow’s eyebrow raised quickly but he shook his head “I was caught off by that last comment. I had forgot your a Samsaran, a race I am not overly familiar with or their special gifts. The only other thing I could think that might take a bit to explain for is the search for the true magic, the way? I might be remembering the goals of the religion? Religion, wrongly but was this organization's whole goal to find that magic? I found the explanation of the goal I was given very confusing.” Then glancing back to the sphere and the book his eyes narrowing, he spoke more to himself than the others the room “Hopefully we can avoid dangerous side effects from this interaction…”   The samsaran seemed overly excited to have found someone interested in listening to her; the elf, on the other hand, promptly rolled her eyes and went back to ignoring them. "Religion is a good description for the ones who live their entire lives trying to find what we refer to as 'the way', yes, because it is something they believe in - and is something we consider to be above the gods because of how it works. Magic, as we know it, comes into the world through ley lines and through divine gifts, yes? But these gods are not on the same Plane as us, so they could not receive magic the same way. And ley lines do not seem to extend to space. So there is a way they can send their power, yes? And, if you look further beyond mortality's curtain - how did they receive this power? We assume there is something that began the universe, that caused Asmodeus and Ihys to come into being. This 'something', we think, would be the Source of all magic. Now, think more on it - if we could find a shortcut, or a way around the usual paths, could we not access that true magic? There is more talk to be had on the differences between divine, arcane and new psychic magics, but... this is shortest description I can think of." She paused to let him consider what she'd said before addressing his final murmur. "I do not think anything should go wrong as long as you succeed in finding way through these trapped souls. Have you looked yet at the book again?"   “No, I have not. I will look over the book in a second.” Aniks glanced over to the book. What came next Aniks tried to reply in a way a friend would if they were having a conversation at a bar or on a walk. He was not trying to discount the idea of what she said, but explain what he saw as the outcome to this true magic. “Though what your saying in theory makes since, a shortcut of that nature would be extremely dangerous. Though mind you I completely understand the desire for such a shortcut. It might be slightly hypocritical for me to say. Knowing my track record of what I have said to divine figures and what’s on my wrist, but magic like that might be better left out of the hands of mortals? Now hear me out, my reason for saying something like that is simple. If it is a special magic that only deities can tap into from another plane, like you say it is, I cannot image the effects on the body if a mortal could use it. If such a magic exists then what are the odds a normal person to weild it would be extremely low. If by some miracle some person among all the races a person could wield it, they would be a singularity. They would stand above everybody else, no other person who would be able to conjure a spell would even compare. I do not think I need to explain why a single or even a handful people even able to wield such a power would be dangerous to the world at large even if they have good attention. I simply see the outcome of such a power being, less than pleasant.”   Jinne smiled almost impishly at his suggestion of danger. "If the magic wielded by deities was so dangerous, then... how do you handle it? You are not a god. There is also the magic they gift us. It cannot be entirely diluted by our own strength; the really powerful clerics seem almost like demigods themselves, yes? And, for a third point... they were scared when arcane magic came to be, because it was not magic from them. They will be scared again when psychic magic comes to light. It is not that we cannot wield the power they do. The current evidence says we can, but limited by our bodies. It is that they are scared of what might happen. If one person were to try to stand up as stronger than rest, though, is that not similar to a god ascending...?" She shrugged. "It is something we shall play with as time moves forward. Perhaps there will be reason to stop, but none of the paths I have Seen show that we need to yet."   Upon glancing at the book, Aniks would be able to notice that its shimmering pale-blue exterior no longer seems to glow as brightly. Upon closer inspection, some of the pages seem to have begun to blacken.   Aniks raised an eyebrow when glancing back at the Samsaran not expecting to turn into a debate, in a manner of speaking. With a slight laugh at the mere concept he said "I would hope I am not a god. As for clerics they draw strength from their gods , not this true magic, and if they do use that 'magic' the god would be a filter of sorts. As for Demigods, I am not so sure about that, from what I understand of them it would be easier to tell the difference between a highly skilled cleric and compared to a demigod. Then the matter of Arcane and Psychic magic, is not fear of the unknown something that any being can experience god or not? Also that is what I was trying to get across about my comments about mortals. I am not saying that we cannot wield such a magic, but a normal person is more what I was referring to. Their bodies, the body of normal everyday people could not possible hold a power that god's draw from. If a person, a singularity, like that exists without the assistance of a god's help in controlling that power. Well they would not need to ascend would they or even be forced to, they are still mortal wielding the power of gods, they would not be bound by the same laws as gods." As he paused a thought occurred to him "You said that sphere was made by you, but a past you? Was yours the first to be made, or did your past self learn about it from somebody else?"   Jinne looked to be enjoying herself until the question about past lives. That made her happy sparkle dim slightly. "The gods should know the difference between magics and where they originate; it is the loss of control that made them more angry about arcane magic coming to be. But regarding normal people for a moment, as you say. Normal people with that much power are those who ascend already. They are the mortals installed in the outer sphere, like... ah, Iomedae, Cayden and Irori. Three different ways of finding that singularity to then be ascended, but it is not unusual in their terms to be given more power than anything else. And if they were to be powerful and try to avoid the rule of the gods, then that is why the other gods remain powerful, yes? They would control the person, at worst making repetition of, you know, the Destroyer. When the gods united to stop one of their number from destroying everything - it would not be so different to have them unite to stop one member from breaking the order. I would expect Heaven and Axis to deal with that, ah, daily?" She looked at the sphere, mulling over his final questions - clearly, that one wasn't such an easy thing to answer. "It is... hard to look into the past and see the order of things. I can see its creation in glimpses, only ever glimpses. I know there are others, but which life did I see them in? Were they before, or were they much later? It cannot be said with ease. Past my immediate previous self, things become very hard-to-see."   " I am sorry if that question brought unwanted feelings, like I said I am not overly familiar with Samsarans. I was unaware there is a limit to what you able to recall. " Then Aniks went to the first set of statements. He fold his arms making a face as if he was thinking "I guess that would be the case. The Gods would just force that one being to follow the rules or be sealed. If you use the ascended gods as example of people finding ways to tap into this true magic. However being how I was raised I am unfamiliar with those stories, save for Cayden. Every bartender knows that story, probably heard similar bets made" The last part came out slightly exasperated as if he was remember every time Cayden was mentioned while working. "However I highly doubt every normal person could be as successful as those three. As for arcane magic, it looks like history is slowly starting to repeat itself with that third new magic."   "I am not hurt by your question, do not worry. It is just confusing to look back through so much. Maybe you will see that one day, as you are the chosen of Pharasma?" Jinne suggested, waving off the apology gently. "For the other gods who ascended... ah, Cayden was one of a few who used the Test of the Starstone. Iomedae and Norgorber were two others. Irori ascended by finding perfection of the self, and Urgathoa is said to have stolen the secret to undeath from Pharasma and originated it across the planes. There are others. More among the demigods - Kurgess is son of Desna and Cayden, Nivi was turned by gambling and influences of the Underdark, and Kostchtchie... made a very bad deal with the Witches. You may find their stories to be interesting." She looked towards the floating sphere that the party had identified as leading to Canthe and Eirian. "...Talk to the cleric about the gods when you succeed, maybe? It would be good for you to know more of what you deal with." Meeting his gaze again, she seemed to think about his last sentence for a second before answering. "...It may be that it falls to us to prevent history from happening the same way. The psychics play with minds and spirits. If the gods damage those realms as they damaged the physical world..." She trailed off, shaking her head in dismay.   “I might be her champion, but I hardly understand what you mean by maybe I’ll see one day.” Aniks extended his arms yawning slightly. His eyebrow was raised about that comment. “I should really take you advice about learning the stories of gods. Besides Pharasma, I care very little for divine figures of any kinda. However I should start holding my tongue more often now. Prehabs once this is over I’ll have to pick up books that briefly go over gods and their stories. I have a lot of things I probably have to research sooner rather than later.” He deeply sighed, then stopped being reminded of Cyne and how he complained about the mass of paperwork. Aniks would try and enjoy this, it would be interesting. “Is that not why Champions are chosen, to do their gods will on the material plane. To help in times of great need? Or at least that is what they say. Only time will tell it seems.”   "The gods are ones you should learn of, yes!" Jinne encouraged, amused at the drow's apathy towards the outer sphere. "And... yes, you are chosen for the will of the gods. But, ah, you need to think of what that means. You follow their will, and if they want what you do not? ...I do not know what would happen to you, but it maybe would not be good. Your role, I hope, is to tell them the truth of things. Prevent the coming trouble through information and speeches, so they do not think the psychics are daemons trying to usurp the natural order? Your war is... two-sided."   The drow subconsciencly started rubbing his wrist, not because of the Lady of the Graves, But " " and the scars of the Demon Lords lasting marks. when she left. "I do not follow anybodies will but my own, despite being claimed by Pharasma. It’s an odd relationship, I also own her a favor or two.” Then looking away from the Samsaran. A phantom pain shot through his arm causing him to notice and stop. He had seen it with Kazric and he imagined that the transfer of the mark to his sister was a similar level of pain. “I can image the side effects of disobeying. As for the champions, I highly doubt that explain the truth is all that there is to this. Psychics like the first Arcane casters were just herald for what came next? Am I wrong?”   "...Would you answer if I asked how you owe the Lady of Prophecy a favour?" Jinne wondered aloud, missing any of Aniks's pained expressions. "I am not sure it would be rel-evant to this talk, but.. she is, of course, the most important goddess to many of my kind." She tapped her fingers lightly against her own bare wrist as she wondered aloud, before snapping back to the actual conversation. "The first arcane casters were what alerted the gods to their existence. They could not hide it forever. And then the war started. Maybe there is a way other than convincing that you can take, as part of or separately. But it maybe will not be written in history, this time."   "As I said before, it's an odd relationship. Normally I do not like revealing I'm a champion, I hate being noisly like my traveling companions. It draws unwanted attention. After what I did to the crystals I find it hard to hide that information at all from you or the Commander. Before I was championed by Phrasama, I was another's chosen. When this happened she thought it was important enough to speak with me in person. Though it was in a rather round about way of doing do so. It was mostly to warn me to not give in to the temptations of that demon, as well as a few other things." The he paused his ears slightly lowered as he spoke next. "I might of in a moment of desperation, pray or pleaded with her for protection. Not for me, both for another that was placed in a dangerous situation. She helped despite who I had asked the help for. She strangely helpful to somebody she herself said was 'one without faith.' Again another thing I am learning about Samsarans, did she have a hand in creating your kind." The drow paused thinking about that whole relationship, he of course left a lot out but still. He could not help but think how odd this Goddess's treatment him was. Especially the last time. He shook his head out of reflex tossing the idea for now out of his head for now. "I hardly think the gods are not aware of this new magic, I doubt it will be much longer before things get Interesting. In the grand scheme at least, I would find it hard to believe that another war of that magnitude could happen again tomorrow or in a month. I would in this grand game of gods , we are barely past opening moves. That's just an opinion of what I have seen."   "It is not strange for the goddess of Death to ignore your faith. If you think, many of the gods need to influence the mortal world to share power and influence from far away. But she is powerful, and she is inevitable. She does not need your faith," Jinne explained, looking intrigued about his situation. "I do not hear about her helping many, though. For that, you are special... though I think you maybe know this." She grinned, then returned to being serious. "The Lady created samsarans to perform duties that we do not understand, and to be living representation of the eternal cycle of rebirth and reincarnation - and to prove beyond doubt what happens to the ones who fall to either end of the moral scale. To be good leads to goodness in the next life and a final rest that is wonderful... to be evil damns you. It is the lesson in our biology." She paused, considering his speech. "Some will know, but many will not. The other outsiders, they are nearly certain to be unaware, or it would be known throughout time already. I do not think it will be much longer. Strangeness has become common... ah, we should hope that it has not begun when we leave.."   “Does it get boring?” Aniks said with odd look in my eyes. “Reincarnation I mean. We must be children compared amount of years you’ve experienced. Though maybe the fact that you get to experience life through different eyes each time leaves it a bit different. Sorry, it’s just rather... hard to wrap my head around that idea. A life that stretches on. If it’s a bit personal feel free not to answer.” That odd look quickly disappeared, resuming a more normal look for the drow. “I have to disagree with you there, I am not that special. No more than the others standing around us. Fate, now fate is tricky isn’t it? I guess we really won’t know about our purpose or why we were chosen till it’s closer to the end will we?” Aniks kinda weighted the next question in his head, but thought it better left for another time. Jinne seemed nice and questions about her past and her race, she was very serious about them. “You can change the topic of conversation if you would like, It seems like we might start spiraling into conversations better to another time when we have more information, or in a safer spot.”   Jinne had very clearly not anticipated that question. "Boring..?" she murmured, accent thick as usual. "It is... how things are. I have wondered if life is boring for your kin-- ah, maybe not the fallen el-- drow specifically, but... non-samsarans. You see, the many selves reflected in my soul are selves I can see glimpses of. I can travel the world and find markings that a being I once was left. It is... heavy, to find the marks of so many years past. And the memories, they give so much knowledge that otherwise would have disappeared. If I was just immortal, life would maybe become tiring after years of endless life. But that would be my fault for not enriching it, yes?" She stretched her arms wide in an open shrug. "And you say 'no more than others' whilst standing in a room containing subjects of prophecy, powerful heroes, Champions of gods and chosen of other beings. This, I think, means you are special too. What fate has in store, I would maybe think you can find out. You were talking about visiting the Bone-yard? If she is pleased, you could ask the Lady." She watched for his reaction, but continued with barely a pause. "Ah. I am not sure we have said anything too secret yet for us to need to veil it, but I understand. It will be safer when the book's reign ends and we step into... however many days have passed?"   The dark elf laughed a little at the role reversal "Feel free to ask and I'll try to answer to the best of my ability, however I do feel I may not be able to provide an accurate answer to a normal life. I've had very little time with what you would call a "normal" life." Although he didn't pause when she brought up idea of speaking to the lady of graves. The dark elf did way the idea off with a hand motion. " Well would that not just be the easy route to ask the Goddess of Fate herself. However I do not like the idea of being bound to one fate. Though the idea had crossed my mind to ask her I feel like it would be unwise to do so currently."   Jinne tilted her head sideways, observing him with curiosity. "You have not had a normal life? This cannot just be the Champions, no? Were you caught in the Purge, or other challenges?" Hey, he'd said she could ask. "I know you face differences because you are drow, but I have not met many of your kind through my travels. So, it is mainly hearsay. I have known outsider-touched twins, though. They faced... similar, I think." She looked uncomfortable for a moment, entirely of her own doing. "And you were given a way to talk to the Lady for a reason. Why do you not think-- oh, do you think that could be affecting it?"   Raising both arms in a shrugging motion “When I say ‘normal life’ I mean one who lives most of their life mostly on the surface. So I think this would fall under other challenges, I was not apart of this purge. Those other challenges just come from being raised in the Underdark. I can hardly call my kin ‘normal’ when ninety percent of the population are evil and raised in a society that favors betrayal, slaves, and the worship of demons. Of course that is normal from them.” The dark elf moves his head side to side thinking about it the come. “Though I am not entirely sure as what you mean by that, I find myself simply hesitating when it comes speaking or dealing with her. She is more than a bit intimidating, and I am very concerned at her ‘kindness’ honestly I even unsure if it’s kindness. It does not help that I know very little about her.”   "I did not realise the drow were so... cruel. How is there society when they are demon-worshipping... betrayalists? Traitors?" Jinne asked, shooting a sidelong glance in Lyadrí's direction. The elf, at this point, had moved slightly further away to pointedly not enter that specific conversation. Jinne frowned, focusing instead on Aniks's other answers. "That? By that, I mean the book. The March; the third; the sliver of legend. But if it is not that influencing you, then is just your own thoughts as you say." She considered this. "Kindness may be her reaching her goals. Or it may not be. She is a goddess; we cannot tell too much of them. Still, I am... learned in religion. What knowledge of her could help?"   “I have yet to meet a drow that I personally can call “good”. Dark elf society at a base level is a matriarchy. To say women rule with an iron fist would be an understatement, to disobey them is ground for death. In order to advance your standing as a House, or personal standing, one would often have to kill. Families draw blood more often that I could care to count. Which leads to betrayal and a lack of trust between drow. For demon worshipping, though I can only imagine demons lords find it easy to control, manipulate, and suppress the abyss stained elfs. Those who worship those demon lords can subjugate others below them. They are not people I would find myself seeking to speak with for extended periods of time.” Aniks paused making more mental notes. “Third? That is the first I have heard it been numbered. If the topic is still Fate that we are talking about, this is how I view this. If I were to ask The goddess of Fate on my future, I might create tunnel vision focusing far to much on her words. Locking me into that one fate, not to mention in legends of prophecy few every escape their fate. Which is not something I think anybody would be a fan of. As for her and religion, I know her general distaste for the undead. She judges everyone and will judge everyone before having them pass on. My knowledge is basic ranging from her spheres of influences to her general likes and dislikes. At this point any information to understand this goddess would be helpful.” "I had thought most of the rumours to be only that. I did not expect the dark elves to have such... stain. Taint." Jinne murmured, obviously shocked. "It is good that you found a new family, then? We are alike in that. My adult found family were better than the ones I was made to grow with." Instead of lingering, she quickly went back to the more important topic - Pharasma. "I... in honesty, I do not know why it is the third. The number, it came to me mid-sentence. But regarding fate. I think you would never find the Lady one to give you answers that would make you fixate upon them. To force you into a fate like you say, it is not what she does. She would give words, but to shape or hint instead... I think." Jinne wasn't about to give a certain answer on the goddess's behalf. "What you are not considering is the cycle. Life unto death. You say she is a judge, but that is only the end. Remember that she is also Mother of Souls; she is the beginning as she is the end. You must also consider how things have... changed. Prophecy is not Fate, and Prophecy has grown less strong as the threads of time travel forward. This... has already changed her followers. For you as a Champion.. I am not sure how that will affect you. Ah, but the other champions are of different deities, yes? She is neutral with most at official level, but... she has friendships. I know she was seen in the realm of Desna once. You could use this, one day." “Even rumors have grains of truth in them. Dark elves are not even complex, nine times outta ten you know what your going to get while dealing with them. As for family, I could call some of them that.” Aniks was slightly confused about her shock. Do people not know how evil drow can be? Were some people raised to believe that drow’s acts were nothing more than rumors. “If it was not for my family, I would not be thinking so hard on this. As much as I like to ask the Mother of Souls for hints at my future. Would you also not worry about the hints she gives, if they possibly tell of a future that was less than desirable? To be fair I will not know till I try, but I would rather to try in more favorable times. Her areas of concern are something I should probably be more familiar with, there is much to learn. I have to say, I am rather unsure how she falls into the beginning of one’s journey of the soul or as a living being? The remarks on prophecy were just an example of people in legends. Being a champion would and probably will change people destiny. As for the Lady of Grave’s friends, that interesting. With her line of work, I am surprised she even gets time to relax with a friend.”   Jinne was amused at Aniks's confusion, much as Lyadrí seemed amused at his words. "...You are surprised at my surprise? I grew up on a very small island. The only drow were in stories - the kind it is not good to believe." She offered him a smile. "I am glad you have a found family instead. It is better that way. As for what the Lady might say? Prophecy and fate already guide my life, so my words will be, ah, biased. But if you received hints that you did not like, then you would be able to anticipate the darker changes and find way to improve the outcome. Divining tells us these things." She paused at one of Aniks's statements. "You do not know how she represents the beginning? Two of her divine areas are birth and rebirth. She knows when some-one is born, she can see their fate, and she guides their soul and rebirth. The samsarans, we are physical representations of her status as a shepherd of life and death. The roles are equal in importance." She seemed almost shocked that Aniks had missed such an important detail. "With her friendships... I think that is why she has the psychopomps. Even the divine must have time to attend other business, yes?"   “I was, I have never been on a island. So the thought had never crossed my mind. What were drow then, some tales to keep children from sneaking out or else they would be kidnapped?” Aniks shifted his weight. “Another way of looking at it. It could be used to avoid those darker time. I slightly hate that you have convinced me to ask pharasma in the near future about these topics. Being born in the underdark, I was not taught about the surface gods. Only on Demon Lords I had some semblance of knowledge, but my family was not one who power was based in clerics. I really only learned about surface gods 2 decades ago, and cared very little for the religions. So no, I only knew Pharasma as the Goddess of Death. Birth and rebirth, that is new information. I had no clue how far her realm of influence extended.” He paused considering how much Pharasma knew about somebody's fate once they were born, he looked at the spiral tattoo on his wrist for a moment. How much did she know? “ Yes, Psychopomps...those beings that guide the souls to the afterlife. First time I meet one they tried to kill us. I have to say the thought of Pharasma taking a break to relax with Desna or another gods asuming.”     "...You have not been to an island?" Jinne seemed confused at that concept. "But... everything is an island, if you think on big enough scales..?" She shook her head, moving onto his other questions. "Drow were the villains, the ones we were told stories of to make sure we would never disobey. We did not want to be taken like that, yes. You assume mostly right." She smiled impishly at hearing that she'd managed to influence him a little. "It is good for you to ask things! Through knowledge, we can make better decisions. And it is odd that you were never taught more, but... is better to not have false propaganda in your mind to get rid of now that you are free of them. If they had taught you that she was evil, you would have more trouble... why did a psychopomp try to kill you? You were raising the dead?"   “By that same logic, you could easily say that nothing is an island and the oceans are nothing but large bodies of water. I have seen the Ocean but I have not traveled to an island.” With a smirk at her words about the drow he said “Even when you should be completely safe from Dark Elves, they are still used as a cautionary tales. They are a good example to use to scare children into minding their parents words.” The impish smile did not help him feel better about asking Pharasma anything. “ I would not say it was that odd, my ‘house’ was not one who was powerful because they had clerics. We had some but few, so religious studies were not the forefront for young drow to learn about. I do not think it would have been much of a problem, I had somebody teach me a fair bit about the surface. As for that Psychopomp, it happened probably right after I meet them…” Gesturing to the party, doing whatever they do. “I cannot remember the reason behind why he attempted to kill us, it happened so quickly after entering the boneyard. I believe he said that living things should not be here, or something along those lines.”   Nodding at Aniks's words about the islands, an idea struck Jinne. "Are the drow also the monsters used to scare.. the other drow?" she wondered aloud. "It is good that you had some-one to teach you of the world. Religious knowledge, spirituality... it has been part of my life for so long that I do not know what I would even be like if I had not been raised with it. One of my previous selves, she was a cleric - so it has even been present in my dreams and memories. Knowing only of demons, it is not a kind way to live." She frowned, thinking on the psychopomp issue for a moment. "You were not invited? Then I am not surprised. It maybe thought you were ready to practice the darkest sorts of necromancy. You know, the types that involve souls."   "No, not in such general way. Even at a young age Dark Elves are conditioned to the monstrous acts they come in later in life. Demons, Devils, and everything in between is more of the stuff of the stuff that feels dreams of children. I can't imagine that it was a very pleasant life your former self had. What an interesting story must be able to tell if you could remember. As for religion I understand the necessity for it I've never found it important." Then pausing realizing something. "Again it happened a while ago, so I cannot say for sure. Now as for the practice of necromancy, that would have been impossible. I've only been able to cast spells for 2 months."   "You have only cast spells for two months?!" Jinne had planned on addressing his first sentences, but that-- that changed things. "That cannot be right. I did not imagine a goddess would choose such.. inexperienced champions? You are not all new to this life?"   “An unattended side effect of dealing with these artifacts...” His voice showing a clear vexation for the incident. Though his tone changed after that “I will admit though I have lost most of my skill with blades. It has been a rather pleasant experience trying to come to terms with these abilities.” The dark elf cocked his head to the side and looked at the Samsaran “No, I would hardly call us inexperienced. We have all dealt with some troubling problems in the past, it’s just a recent change that I was able to cast this arcane spells.”   Jinne frowned, slowly understanding what he meant. "So, you were adventuring and then changed? This was... before or after the mark chose you? I did not think the Lady of Graves would bestow arcane magic, but the elves - and drow by extension - are innately magical. So, it could be more that?" The way she was looking at him - it was more as if he were a puzzle, now, rather than just someone to talk to. "Such changes are very rare, no?"   “Correct. I was championed by another at the time, while the change happened but within the week I had removed that mark. Very painfully I might add. The Lady of Graves had nothing to do with the arcane transformation and neither did the other one. As I said it was a side effect of deal with artifacts, well that is my working theory at the moment.” The drow paused. Thinking about the transformation, trying to ignore the odd look the Samsaran was giving him. “In a world full of magic? I could hardly say, I am still finding out I *now* have more languages stuck in this head of mine. As for the rarity of these events, I can image there have been changes as drastic in the past similar to mine. If they have been recorded or not is beyond me, and I would have to find that information myself.”   "The marks are removeable?" Jinne seemed somewhat horrified by this concept. "I do not want to imagine that pain. Were the artifacts like this one? They do not seem like the type to give without also giving something bad too, no?" She looked contemplative as she considered this new issue. "More languages. Are you certain a druid did not-- no, you are not an animal... These things, they do not happen spontaneously that I know of. It is usually fated in some way, perhaps in prophecy, and triggered by beings interested in causing the occurrences. An aboleth taking a slave would maybe raise their intellect and teach their tongue, but I do not think it is their power to give arcane magic. These artifacts, do you know what they were linked to? In creation?"   “Apparently they are, but on a hunch I took a gamble.” A gamble which he was still unsure of the outcome for now. “Similar in catagoritory prehabs, as for the negatives for a transformation like this. Besides the exchange between my former skills, and the arcane ones. Well if you consider having flirtish blade summoned as a outcome of this, share your thoughts on occasion as a negative then no. The negatives have been few.” Aniks could swear he could see the gears turning in this blue girls head. Before saying anything he recalled some of the new languages. “I would hate finding some ancient scroll somewhere that says I was prophesied to have this change. As for beings, Pharasma herself has said we have attracted the attentions of being across the cosmos.” Then a pause. A longer pause came from Aniks “I do know where these artifacts are connected to, however I hope you can understand giving out information like that is dangerous. The less people know about these the better.”   "Your point is very strong. Information is dangerous, especially when books are stealing the text written in our world..." She shot the March a wary glance. "Do not think I am trying to convince you to share - your secrets are to be kept by you - but do you not think that this information on Champions is also very dangerous? If many find that you were able to lose a Mark, it is possible for you to become targets for the power-hungry. Especially if it has a relation to magical power. That is one benefit of divine over arcane: it is rarely useful to try and steal divine power from another mortal, for it is not our power to give out. But the arcane, it comes from you." Jinne blinked. "Ah. You very much do not like fate, do you? Prophecy is not bad."   “I am glad you understand that, as for the champions. Champions are still but myths to people, given time the people will find out they exist again whether we like it or not. People will seek us out for good or bad reasons. Thus some of the knowledge of Divine Champions will return, these artifacts however should be destroyed from history. As for the marks I hardly doubt anybody without power equal to or greater than to the divine figure that placed them could remove it, a mortal such as myself could never remove a divine tattoo. Though in the future I will attempt to do better in keeping that secret a bit more quiet.” A deep sigh came from the drow at the last part. “It is not that I hate fate or prophecy, it that I have a problem with not have a free will of my own. Choice, having my choice is important, I do not like having outside forces decide what is best for me.”   "It is not the divines you need to be very concerned with. Imagine a dedicated cleric of Fumeiyoshi learning that his god had chosen another. To prove his dedication, he finds and slays this Champion and uses the magic of the grave to raise the former as his... puppet, then declares to the god that he has become superior. For the darker gods, they might agree and approve of this." She watched him carefully, brushing her fringe out of her face. "Nobody with sanity will wish Pharasma's anger. The others, they are more at risk. Information is power, and you are controlling it at the moment... so you must be very careful." Changing tack - and tone - completely, she suddenly smiled. "Prophecy and fate do not take free will. It is form of divination. The forces you talk of, they look at how your actions will occur and make prophecies on their best guesses. It is why they are usually general - because many times, the path walked is not obvious. There is one of me, but it is so vague that I cannot find much aid from it - only bear expectation, from the interpretations of others. It is no more a chain than anything else in this life."   "I do not need to imagine something like that, since I've already seen something similar happened like that. I would think The gods have different selection processes for their champions." He thought about it for a moment. "I do have to thank you the information you gave me, and for the words of warning." Aniks was once again slightly thankful for the topic to change. " Perhaps I do miss understand, it is one of those topics that I must be ill informed about. If you have what about yourself do you think that is why you keep showing up in these archives, or do you think that is some other reason entirely?"

Journal #43: Family Matters

After a long and subsequently a terrible couple of days of emotions of both guilt and hope and everything in between, we finally reach our destination of Liangxin. A far eastern city which was impossibly large and seems to be strictly controlled by some sort of military force. Entering from the airship docks we were prompted with a series of questions and strangely vaccinations. Perhaps there is a sickness in the city? Who really can tell anymore. The person who had to deal with me had made a passing comment about my kind, which told me a significant amount dark elves had recently shown up within this city. However ‘recently’ could be any amount of time, I would guess within the last couple of year. Long enough to notice an influx of drow within the walls of Laingxin. This city was the last known location of this traveling group of elves adventurers.   Before our investigation into where these lost elves were, Celuriel left the group as she said she would. I would be lying if I was not worried but nevertheless, the party teased me for getting in a fight. I have some reasons to be worried, but I had already given her my book to contact us if something comes up, or if she needs to find us.   A second later we decided that it would be for the best for us to at least have a clear point, a base of operation, to work out a form while gathering information about this traveling group. This was a local inn and or tavern, I am rather sure it was an inn. The thought there was if we went to a well-established inn and asked around it was more likely for them to have information on the elves, or if they have even passed by. We paid for a couple of night in advance, asking for around. One of the Elves was at least familiar with, something about having been here or searching for a library. Of course, our first thought was visit the biggest library the city had to offer. Well, not the biggest as we later found out.   Finding the library was easier than I originally thought, finding the elf was the more difficult part. Asking the librarian behind the desk near the front door if they had seen any of the elves, the picture we showed them helped. The Librarian said the ones she had seen that day were the elves known as Canthe Pa’lustris and Aster Lau’turea. The six of us broke up into different floor looking for them. Some going from the fifth floor down some going in reverse from the ground floor up. Among the searching, we found them hidden in a room filled with books a large square table in the middle. Canthe was a high priestess of Desna and a reasonable elf the more silent of the two was the Half-Elf Aster. Only speaking when he found something of note to comment on. While waiting for the other to gather on the location, though everybody filed in with Licia and I struck up a conversation with Canthe. I made a bet of 5 gold pieces, on who had the stranger adventuring story that bet one that is still unsolved. Through some mental connection, the elf shared the information we vaguely told them trying to gather their group as well. The Commander had an issue that we would deal with later. The sibling to Cante, Eirian Pa’lustris who within a couple of seconds managed to annoy me more than most people I have ever interacted with. He had found Celu and brought her along, she was clearly not pleased ducking into a corner away from everybody.   Though I will never say it to their face, I was and now am incredibly grateful for this stupid series of events. Bring Celu kept her within the time dilation that we had to deal with. Another portion of time has been stolen from us, but at least she was not alone.   The traveling group from Kingdom of Elves were confused as to why they had a search party sent after them. According to them, they had sent messages back. However, Liangxin and the country that this city claimed to be a part of had all information warped and changed, especially when it came to any propaganda. Which lead to my telling them, it never made it out of the country. Explaining the quick thought, if what they said was true, then their letters home would most likely have been altered or never made it out of country. The thought leads to me thinking of a connection between this strange magic and The Unbroken March. The closest artifact in the description that could have the potential to do something like they described. I was correct, but I would not know that till later.   Though we found our elves, we had not found all of them. Thus a rescue mission was made for The Commander of the Galasthin forces, an elf which I had been warned about. According to Eirian, who had placed her in this difficult spot early in that day, to begin with, had said The Commander was underneath the city in a large archive. With some information gathering, we learned that this larger library had entrances all over Liangxin. With two fail attempts to find those entrances, one at the Cafe where Eirian pushed The Commander in, the first was in the library we found Canthe and Aster in. Our third and final attempt before we succussed was under one of the four large bridges, diving deep into the water underneath. Entering a labyrinth of water-themed puzzles, traps, and blue tinted walls. Testing both our minds and skills. With less than stellar results with some of the puzzle based for the mind, taking for too long and some being so simple it took less than a second to finish. When we found our way into the next set of the puzzles, the next room, the elven party lost contact with their leader.   It took far longer than we probably should have taken to get into the Endless Archives. The round balcony of Archives had shelves upon shelves of books of any and all kinda. I could spend a long time there, but the less time near a shard the better. While some of the party decided to stay and read, I decided to explore rather than read. Licia follow which I was thankful for. I have to admit, I have not been thinking before acting some of my actions have been rash. It was more of an attempt to keep my mind and body busy so I would not focus on other things. As all of us fully explored the archives, a few of us found constructs that disappeared as soon as we spotted them.   Licia and I after descended down several floors of this library found Commander Lyadri An’thimael, with a very warm reception I might add. By warm I meant once I made my presence known asking if she was the commander, I was greeted with a toasty fireball to the face. A reasonable response for an elf whose mere name is synonymous with an event that took place in the Kingdom of Galasthin Elves simply known as “The Purge.”   I do not think it would be that hard to draw the lines knowing that I am a dark elf.   The Commander was also behind a wall of fire, protecting her and another from outside forces that had been attacking her for the past week. During this time of speaking with the elven military leader, the party finally started to make there way down to rejoin with the two of us. With a detailed explanation of the current situation and the past days worth of information since we took a rest within a large room in the water labyrinth before finding the archives. The Commander informed us that one, it was stupid for all of