I spent most of today getting to know the people in Nature's Gate and practicing in the Live Oak for the festival tomorrow.  I attracted a crowd, but few things of note occurred.  Two arrivals at the Live Oak were of interest, though.  One of them was a tall man with an air of authority who had an escort of eight guards. He's apparently a nobleman from Mother Green.  The other was a man that I drew a complete blank on. He had spiky blond hair (it added a hand-length or so to his height), some sort of uniform, and -- here's the really weird thing -- a huge single-edged sword nearly as big as he was stuck to his back.  There was something fundamentally creepy about the sword-guy, so I asked a barmaid to keep an eye on him.
Enough about him. I need the sleep, so I'm turning in early.

Post-Midnight Addendum

So much for sleep.
     The swordsman kicked down the door to my room about half-an-hour ago.  Oddly enough, his eyes glow in the dark...  Anyways, I took a hit trying to get away from him, but he was only using his fists, and didn't hit quite hard enough to knock me out.   Fortunately for yours truly, the nobleman had taken the room next to mine, and both he and his guards decided to get involved.  After I blinded the swordsman with a little cantrip, Lex's standing guards (the whole lot of them were drunk) subdued him. The only real injury the swordsman sustained were from some magic missiles cast by Lex.
     The swordsman wasn't willing to tell Lex or myself much of use; I was able to get him to tell me he was from Soldier (though I have no clue what Soldier is), and that the gem we found on him is what he used to track me. Apparently the gem glows when it comes close enough to me...  The fact that the gem exists is somewhat more disturbing than the kidnapping attempt.
     I went to the temple to get the bruise healed, and to tell the clergy what's going on.  One of the acolytes is going to try to question the swordsman.   I'm going back to bed now; I doubt that this mess is over, but hopefully it won't pop up during the festival.


     Well, it was a different mess that popped up, but I'll get to that later.
     I slept right through the cleansing ritual that kicks off the festival.  After I got out of bed and went down to acquire a meal, I found that Lex had already purchased it for me.  I guess he's alright, though he's both somewhat aggressive and transparent as glass.  Also, a knight from Gellian had arrived in the inn.  His presence probably isn't co-incidence.  After breakfast, I went out to help the priests with setting up for the dance.
     That's when I discovered that among the people auditioning for the play for the festival was my assaulter, Cloud Strife.  Apparently, the clergy reached the conclusion that he was insane and had "cleansed" him of his madness.  That's what I get for forgetting to show them that gem...  Anyways, I offered to give Taishou (she's the acolyte that I mentioned yesterday; she landed the job of director for the play) some pointers, but she wasn't particularly interested.  She did agree to keep an eye on Cloud, though.  Then I got back to what I was supposed to be doing in the first place.
     There was unpleasant surprise in front of the Live Oak at noon (I was heading back there for lunch, as was everyone in the play -- Lex, who was playing the king in the play, had offered to treat them to it).  There was a hysterical old man that was proclaiming that we would all die.  When Taishou, myself, and a few other people from the play tried to get some answers from him, he informed us of both his former employer and his source.  We hurried him straight to the temple after that; hopefully, Sospitas' people can help him.
     The play was, well, amusing.  I doubt Taishou was pleased with the results, though I do say that the "kindly stranger" was justified in the stance she took towards the "mercenary."  I should probably try to find out if Cloud was acting on his own initiative, or if Taishou blundered while directing.
     Then came the dance -- my first major performance without Mark.   I think I did well enough for a bard of my experience.  There was an impressively sour note in the whole affair, though --the dance was crashed by an undead monster.  The monster was some sort of light/ life absorbing shade that could mind control people with a touch.   Those under the control of the monster gained supernatural strength.  The monster was crying out "Taxil" repeatedly, and I think it was coming after Lex.  However, Lex's guards shuffled him off and the monster was intercepted by several adventurers -- including Taishou, Cloud, and the cast of the play, actually.  The girl playing the princess is a sorceress, the woman playing the "kindly stranger" is a monk, and the knight from Gellian had played a bit part.  Cloud battled a mind-controlled town guard with just his bare hands, and succeeded in knocking the man to his senses and acquiring his sword.  The shade actually got Cloud at this point, but the knight and the sorceress were able to destroy the shade.
     Quite the unexpected mess in this town...  I'm moving on to Living Valley from here.  Taishou, the sorceress (Kalira), and the monk (Lotus Blossom) will accompany there, for assorted reasons.  In theory, Cloud will go to Benden now...   But I doubt he will.


     Well, we've finally arrived.  I'm staying at the temple tonight, but I'll get to that later.  Our impromptu group split up once we reached town -- Taishou and Lotus went to the local temple of Sospitas, Kalira went exploring, and I went in search of the local musicians.  I found another aspiring young bard named Joseph; he's a nice guy, and we traded songs.  Unfortunately, Cloud's been stalking me, and it took the resident paladin (Sir Bedavere) to chase him away from the temple when I decided to visit there.   Charliss Belmont -- high priest of the temple -- is looking over that gem now, and agreed to let me stay the night here.


What a disaster...  And what a miscalculation on my part.  I should've realized he was that desperate...
     I got a little stir-crazy just sitting there in the temple, and decided to go into town on the mistaken assumption that Cloud wouldn't try to attack me in broad daylight.  I went to the Exotic Intoxication (they're a chain, if I remember right), and got Joseph to agree to a duet.  Cloud came in with Kalira (she hadn't realized he was trouble, yet) and took a seat.  Sir Bedavere showed up a little later; Taishou had brought him there.  We took a break and decided to mingle with the patrons.  I lost track of Cloud at that point (one of the disadvantages of being short).  What followed is pretty simple -- Cloud retrieved his weapon from the bar, forced his way to where I was in the crowd, and smacked me over the head with a weapon that's about as big as I am.  As I understand it, this is what happened next:
1) Lotus (who also happened to be there), Kalira, and Joseph all moved to subdue Cloud.
2) Taishou decided to block the door, while Bedavere also moved towards Cloud but was taking his time.
3) Joseph and Kalira both started casting spells at Cloud, while Lotus attacked him.
4) Cloud, apparently worried about being blinded again, smacked Joseph with his sword.  He's still in critical condition, and it'll be quite some time before he comes out of the coma.
5) Kalira and Lotus brought Cloud down.
     Cloud's in jail now.  After I woke up, we (we being Charliss, Taishou, Kalira, Lotus, and myself) went to question him.  Charliss made him drink a serum that makes people more susceptible to suggestions.  Unfortunately, Cloud on truth serum is no different than Cloud in what passes for his normal state.  He needs to take me to someone in Benden, and he claims that he has no idea what happens after that.
     As a suitable note to end a rotten day, Charliss told me that the gem also reacts to Lotus' presence.  I'll worry about that tomorrow.


No matter how bad it is, it can get worse.
     The beginning of today's weirdness started with the arrival of Lex and the knight from the festival (Sir Phillip).  Kalira, Lotus, and Taishou were giving Lex a new look.  I said hi to Lex, but Taishou & co. promptly shuffled him off to another room.  I suspect I'm not supposed to know what's going on with that.
     I then went to check on poor Joseph in the temple's medical ward.   That's when the assassin walked into the room with me.  It was fairly obvious something was wrong from the beginning; the man was on edge, and he also had sufficient lack of grasp of the appropriate that he tried to hit on me when I was standing next to a man in a coma.   When he got a little too close for comfort, I made a break for it -- unfortunately, someone had been doing his research.  I couldn't leave him in the dark, he had some poison- coated daggers (which he started drawing at this point), and I doubt that I could have successfully blinded him.  By all rights I should have died there, but there was an unexpected development of what turned out to be good fortune -- Cloud, who had somehow gotten out of jail, had followed the assassin all the way here and intervened at this point.  To sum up what followed, I got slashed but the poison didn't work right (it should have been lethal), other people arrived at the scene, and Cloud managed to take a dagger from the assassin and kill him with it.
     The assassin's body had a tattoo of a black rose on it; whichever group sent this one sent a professional.
     After I showed them that my non-human half isn't elven, Lotus had her own little revelation -- she's got two runes in a language nobody knows on her neck, one on each side.  According to Lotus, the runes heat up to the point of burning clothing when she gets angry or excited.  Her mother is alive and relatively well, but refuses to speak to anyone. Hopefully I can get some answers from her (she's at the monastery in Nesis), but I won't count on it.  I wonder if... But what I need for confirmation isn't here.
     Taishou, Lex, Kalira, Sir Phillip, Lotus, and myself are headed to Benden now, along with Cloud.  Charliss suggests that we'll need to head there and take him with us to find out what's really going on.  I'm dubious (and Taishou was out-and-out opposed to it), but Cloud probably won't try anything unpleasant if we're in a group that's beaten the daylights out of him before.  I just hope this turns out for the best.


     We had a somewhat unusual welcome at Nature's Gate:  since most of the higher ranking clergy were gathering spell components, there were only a few neophytes to be found when Taishou went to check in with the local clergy.  One of them came running in after we heard an explosion.  That's when Janelle came running in; she's one of the neophytes, and told us that the explosions were going off under the crypt near the temple.  Janelle requested our assistance in stopping the desecration.  This is when Magus entered the scene; he was here doing research, and agreed to help out in order to pay back the temple for allowing him to use their library.  After some debate (probably to Magus' amusement; among other things, we don't have an actual leader for our thoroughly mismatched group), we also agreed to deal with the desecrators.
     Interesting little mess, that...  I missed the final act, as Lotus was severely injured and I decided to help her leave the crypt.  But since my companions were kind enough to fill me in, here's the summary of what was going on:
1) The desecrators were orcs accompanied by a skeleton clever enough to use a crossbow.
2) The orcs set three crossbow traps, performed one ambush (this is where Lotus was put out of commission), and dug a tunnel through the crypt area (to get around the cave-in they caused).
3) There was a gelatinous cube in the crypt.  Taishou would have walked right into it if she had taken a right instead of going straight.
4) The object of interest for the robbers was the crypt of Byron D'Artan; they took the really important objects (including Byron's journal; we have the scrap that got left behind) before our group arrived.  The scrap is written in an unknown language.
     We're now heading to the Runestar fiefdom; as Magus is traveling in the same direction, he'll accompany us to Threshold.


Well, I can't blame him for not telling us who he really was; that's the whole point of traveling incognito.
     It's also not surprising that his family has active enemies.  While Lord Runestar probably hasn't aggravated a hundredth of the people that father has, he undoubtedly has many enemies.  An undeath cult would easily be among them.
     I guess they wanted the money just as another slap in the face; they have no intention of returning Lady Runestar.  Sir Runestar must be taking care of business in some other part of the world; this would already be dealt with by now if he was present.  Since we managed to take both of the priests alive (nice trick, that), Magus means to question them tomorrow.
     Now we just need to figure out how a certain vanishing dark priest fits into this mess.


     While I'll never learn it myself, Charm Person does have its uses.  The priests belong to the Order of the Undying, Versuvius is their boss, and Versuvius probably has a boss of his own.
     We're going to try to intercept the priests heading to Benden with Lady Runestar.  I just hope we're not in over our heads.


     Well, that was anti-climatic.  Versuvius both a) has some rather incompetent underlings, and b) didn't have enough sense to use a larger escort.
     Magus will escort his mother home, and re-join us later.  We're going to continue to Benden.  Hopefully we can find some resolution to this mess there.


     Benden isn't the best of cities...  The guards are corrupt, there are thieves all over the place, and assassins have been showing up in their regalia in public.
     Cloud's contact has apparently had a run-in with the assassins, and is nowhere to be found.  Cloud's been asking around, and from what he's been told there was a steady stream of Soldiers coming into town with abductees in tow.  The guards refused to intervene on the behalf of the abductees -- or rather, on behalf of the few that made escape attempts.  Cloud's lack of success appears to be the exception, not the rule...  As I understand it, the Soldiers and their victims meet up with the contact, and then vanish without a trace.  Cloud still refuses to tell me what's happening to them.
     Cloud's convinced that his contact is still alive, so Taishou told us of someone that would probably know.  This person -- a local crime lord named Nagan -- periodically shows up at the Golden Dagger.  We sent Cloud, Lotus, and Sir Phillip to the bar -- Taishou did something to annoy the guy, and Lex, Kalira, and myself would be too inviting as targets -- it's that sort of place.
     They didn't do so hot on their mission...  Phillip had a nasty bruise that I promptly healed, and they refused to tell us just what happened...  But the result of whatever they did is that Nagan will apparently be part of an ambush tomorrow night at the Dagger, meant for our three comrades.  They obviously couldn't go, so we debated for awhile about whether or not Lex, Kalira, and yours truly should go there tomorrow night.  But that would be ridiculously dangerous, so we're not going to try it.  Perhaps we can get somewhere tomorrow.


     Yet another miscalculation involving inns on my part.  At least the people that got whacked by Cloud this time had it coming to them.
     It was mostly due to dumb luck, but we got quite a few answers.   In summary...
1)  There are now 28 assassins in town.
2)  The assassins are well-equipped -- some (including the stronger of the two we dealt with) have magical weapons, and all have that poison.
3)  They're developing a stronger version of the poison.
4)  They're out to kill those like myself because their employer believes us to be a threat.
5)  Their entire guild has been enlisted for this task. There apparently 300 or so assassins in total.
6)  Cloud's contact is indeed dead -- all thirty assassins ganged up on him.
7)  The assassins have staked out the warehouse where the contact took Soldiers and their captives.
8)  They've managed to kill every Soldier who shows up in town.  The one with the flaming sword had 6 detector gem "trophies."  The Soldiers are being killed due to their involvement with the quarry of the assassins.
     Tomorrow we're going to head to the warehouse.  There should be more answers there, but we clearly can't end this mess here.  Somehow it's not surprising that the assassins are based somewhere in Tear.


     My people...  Yeah, I guess we're all of the same kind.  I'll need to speak with one of my relations to be sure, though.
     Taishou cased the warehouse before we moved out.  We meant set up an ambush for the assassins (with a Soldier and two people who set off the gems as bait) and so I gave Lex my crossbow, but the whole ambush thing was unnecessary -- which was very good, since Sir Phillip insisted on using his horse in the ambush.  How do you effectively ambush someone with a horse in the middle of a city?!  Good thing no assassins were actually present.
     We entered the warehouse, and found out that it was temporarily safe.  I saw a Soldier up in the rafters, and Cloud got him to come down.  The Soldier is named Derek Strongblade; he's an old friend of Cloud.  Derek was also trying to set up an ambush.  We found the robes of the contact and several buster swords inside the warehouse.  Not the best of sights -- each sword represents the death of a Soldier and at least one of my people.  Of more actual import was the broken magic circle on the floor.
     Cloud and Derek weren't very happy when I asked them why a dimensional gateway was required to send them home.  Considering what's involved here, accepting their answer really isn't too hard.  If there are other planes, then I guess there can certainly be other worlds.  Unfortunately, neither Cloud nor Derek know why their king is interested in us.  Of course, if I'm right about what ties us all together then the reason would be more or less certain.  I'm wondering how a man on another world found out about us in the first place, and what he's doing to those he's already collected.
     I also learned a couple other things from Derek and Cloud -- the Soldiers had an additional mission to ransack the homes of their quarry, as the king wants our possessions along with ourselves.  In addition, the assassins are out to the kill our families...  Which is severe overkill on the part of their employer; it's not like those people had a choice in the matter!
     I've only been in this city for a few days, but I hate it.
     Derek, Cloud, and Taishou will make arrangements with the temple of Sospitas to direct any arriving Soldiers to Runestar Manor.  Lady Runestar should be able to help them, and should provide them and their charges -- for that's what they are now -- with a temporary home.  Derek means to organize them all to make a counter-strike against the assassins.  Since Derek has to remain in this forsaken city for a little while longer in order to organize this, we've been asked to take care of his charge -- a young man whose family has already been slaughtered by the assassins.  Or rather, Cloud's been asked to do it.
     I wonder if Magus is going to be annoyed with us for foisting all these people onto his family?  We'll find out soon enough.  We're leaving this place as soon as it can be managed.  Next stop, Lotus' home at Nesis.  I just hope her mother will speak to us.  If she won't, then we'll have to go to the sage.  If only I could know for sure...
     I doubt that the eternal torment father earned so many times over was his actual fate...  No, he's probably the favored proxy of whichever of the dark ones snatched up his spirit.  Even in death you're still the cause of much suffering, father.   If you're aware of it, then I bet you're pleased by this.  I just hope the curses of all your victims have some negative effect on your final disposition.
     I can't hide from whatever is coming, and neither can Cloud and Lotus.  Considering whose son he is, Magus will probably be dragged in no matter what.   Kalira, Taishou, Lex, and Sir Phillip can probably safely stay out of this...  Lex has something he's supposed to be hiding, Sir Phillip's main concern is Lex, and all four of them are in this simply because they were in the right places at the wrong times.  They should probably get out of this while they still can...  But the sad truth of the matter is that we need them.  I just hope it doesn't result in their respective ends.


     Looks like that guild has decided to try out new formulas...
     The servants of the Goddess can't cure the poison; I'd really like to know just where the guild can get all of this stuff... And more importantly, just how they could develop their "regular" toxin in the first place.  It's rougher on my people than on others, but if I'm any indication we can resist toxins with more ease than most others.  What's the poison preying off of?
     Fortunately for Cloud, There's a good alchemist in this town.   Since he can analyze the coma poison, I went ahead and gave him a vial of what seems to be standard issue for the assassins.  He seems to be having trouble analyzing it, though.   Why aren't I surprised?
     Cloud needs a little time to recover; Magus thinks it's dangerous to wait on him, but we're doing it anyways.


     Yet another day where my continued survival seems to be a freak accident.  I guess I'm going to owe the Goddess a great deal if I come out this mess alive.
     Not only are approximately 298 assassins after us, but it looks like the Order of the Undying has also taken an interest in us.  Hopefully it's just due to some whim on the part of the order's leader or some of it's clergy and doesn't reflect the interests of the deity.
     I guess I need to spread the word about those people.  Since they have an unhealthy interest in the Runestars, Magus probably does as well.  Just thought of something that's rather unpleasant...  I better bring it to Magus' attention if he hasn't thought of it himself.
     On to Nesis, I guess.  I just hope this doesn't turn out to be a huge waste of time.


     What a weird day...  Mack McCallis did make a good call, though.  Also, seeing Magus and Sir Phillip in action is quite educational...  Which is as it should be; Magus is Magus, and they're both trained military.  Tactics and strategies are something I never studied with Mark; it wouldn't kill me to start learning now.
     Note to self:  Ask Cloud about dynamite.  Is it a fancier form of alchemist fire, alchemist fire under a different name, or what?
     We really need to work on the more subtle approaches that are available to us...  Brute force won't always work, and some members of this group aren't as well-suited for it as others.  Ah, well. A group of somewhat tenacious bandits has been handed over to the people of McCallis, the mismatched group of heroes saved the captives, and everything is now better in this tiny little corner of the world.  Back to business, I guess.


     Zane Goodman asked us to look over the Sagotche Manor...  As we've been given to understand it, the place has been haunted since the disappearance of the Sagotche family 19 years ago.  Zane wants us to deal with the problem, as the townspeople aren't able to.  Rumors say that the Sagotches weren't always involved in honest matters...
     Taishou, Cloud, and Lex went to give the place a preliminary look-over, while Magus finally penned a scroll for himself.  I guess I'm not going to be in the investigation team; they've all insisted that I take a break, which is sweet of them.
     And so I did.  This place had a couple of folks songs that Ihadn't heard before, and these people were happy to have a professional musician in their midst.  I'm surprised more bards don't know about this place; Mark did.  So I had a good day.
     The preliminary expedition didn't do so well, though.  The spirit of the place can't cause physical harm, but it can instill unnatural fear in someone.   Cloud was able to shrug it off, but Lex and Taishou wound up diving out of the nearest window.  Good thing they were on the first floor.
     As I understand it, there are at least two spirits in the place.   Now that the group is a bit better informed, they'll give it another go tomorrow.


     You know it's a bad sign when 1) there's been no sign of one's friends for more of a day, and 2) when just one shows up and asks you to follow him, no questions asked.  It's a worse sign when the place that Magus led me to was some underground complex underneath Sagotche manor, and the spot in specific is a massive room meant for both keeping and breaking slaves.  Magus was unhurt, but Taishou was just barely standing and both Cloud and Lex were down.  The reason for this was five orcs and three skeletons...  One of the orcs was a priest of the goddess of brutality, and he had almost brought down the group single-handedly -- by the time he joined the battle, all of his flunkies were out of commission.  The priest is dead -- Magus was able to defeat him in the end -- but it was an incredibly close battle.  One orc is still alive, and they also found a journal and some scrolls...  What's on two of the scrolls is bad enough to cause a Detect Evil spell to pick them up, but they were the key to defeating the priest, as I understand it.
     The alphabet in the journal is dwarven, but the language is probably orcish.  Magus will read it tomorrow.
     I've heard of skeletons in the closet, but dungeons in the basement is a little too much...


     Magus' usual brand of persuasion worked its magic...  The Sagotches were slavers who died for converting to a deity who wasn't quite as bad as their original one.  The two children of the Sagotches are now clerics of Sadie.  The journal is more of a sales ledger than anything else...  All that remains is to send Liza and Takken Sagotche -- the two poltergeists -- to their final dispositions.


     It's done, and we're leaving Marcola.  Family history can be a bloody mess.  Sadly, that was quite literal for the Sagotches.  Just how many other little conflicts are we going to be stumbling across, anyways?


     We've now arrived in Aertier; not much of note here.  Only bit of interest is that there're absolutely no buildings with a second story in this town.   Not like it matters.

Post-Midnight Addendum

     Cute.  The reason why the inn only has one story is so that it's harder to escape from the lynch mob, I guess.  Though escaping through some parlor tricks is kind of amusing...  I'd really like to know how this Gruknok fellow found out about our group taking out some of his men.  They obviously didn't report back to him, and I doubt the people who hired those two thugs got word to him, either.  And I doubt this guy can scry on them if the best spell he can cast is a Charm Person spell.   Maybe we'll find out how he pulled it off when we deal with him.


     That was interesting...  The dwarves must have had fun designing that place, but the orcs didn't have much luck defending it.  You'd think four orcs and the hell hound that showed up later would have more sense than to rush into the long pointy object... That one acid trap was annoying, though.
     Taking out the wizard without getting scratched was a stroke of luck, though.  The total failure of that Color Spray spell to effect anyone was probably the big thing; if it had worked on everyone caught in it, the battle would've been a lot uglier.  Ah, well.  While some people tend to leave blazing trails of destruction, we're managing to leave a trail of small towns with fixed problems.  That's something, I hope.


     We haven't been in an honest-to-goddess city in about a month.   Greenhill's a welcome change, for me.  I can't account for my comrades, though.   I really need to get better at figuring people out...
     Anyways, Taishou and myself are currently in room 29 in the Trader's Bed and Breakfast, the best inn in town.  Taishou wanted to cut costs, so we're now sharing a room...  I should've realized it was a social blunder, but what's done is done.
     I wonder if Lotus was joking when she asked for dragon cuisine?


     We all more or less went information gathering...  More accurately, I went information gathering, and the rest went to take care of their own errands.   Some miscellaneous info learned today:
1)  Cloud will need to employ a dwarf to acquire a masterwork buster sword. Not much of a surprise.
2)  Bandits are apparently moving about on the route to Krylain.  The presence of the bandit group hasn't been confirmed -- there are no survivors -- but even some Greenhill patrols have vanished without a trace, and no shipments have been able to come in the mountain route for the past few weeks.
3)  Due to the lack of goods (and missing people), Lex and the fighters weren't able to acquire everything they wanted here.
     Magus is going to stay behind for a bit; he's doing bit work as a scribe, and is claiming that he's dead broke.  So we're going to head on to the monastery without him.  It doesn't make much sense to me, but I guess that if Magus has something he wants to take care of here, it's his prerogative.
     We're heading out tomorrow morning.


     That... hurt.  How can Cloud and Sir Phillip just shrug off that kind of injury?  Good thing Lex had the sense to buy those potions two days ago...  It's also a good thing that Lex stopped the wizard from launching a fireball at us.  All in all, it was a well-executed ambush, and I'm glad my companions were sufficiently skillful to beat it.  Of course, if they weren't skillful enough I wouldn't be writing this right now.
     I wonder where the companion of the druid I put to sleep was?  More importantly, where's the lair of these people?  We took the three most notable members of the bandit group hostage, so we'll probably be able to find out from them.  We just need some Magus-style persuasion.  We'll take them back to Greenhill.


     Looks like we'll never find out where the lair is.  Well, it's not like what was in there belonged to us in the first place; from this point, dealing with it is the city's responsibility.  That's just how it works.
     Cute.  Magus had to talk Lotus into relinquishing a wand she couldn't use in the first place to Lex, who could use it.  Lotus' self-discipline just keeps deteriorating...
     Well, at least Magus is ready to accompany us now; that's always nice.
     I guess that tomorrow morning we're going to try again.


     Ah...  Where to begin?  I guess I'll start with Lotus' mother.  Ms. Blossom is a vegetable.  She's in her own little world now, and I have no idea what it'll take to bring her out of it.  Of course, she probably doesn't want to come out of it.
     The two nuns that brought her in to the monastery are long gone...  One of them was Sister Christine, who founded a monastery in Tear.  The other simply vanished without a trace shortly after Ms. Blossom was brought in; she'd only been in the order for a short while.  So much for answers on that score.
     And there's the other matter...  One of my kind is here, and he's dying.  A new form of poison is circulating, now; this one kills slowly, and defies all magical attempts to purge it.  He's been in a coma for about a week, and they can't tell when he's going to expire.  What's more disturbing is that when they tried to clean his wounds with holy water, it burned him like acid...  And the burns couldn't be healed.  We're going to try to gather some herbs in the western forest; it's his only hope.
     I'm going to need to ask mother a great many questions about father when I finally meet her again...


     Not much of note occurred today; we're simply trying to reach Krylain is rapidly as possible.  It was kind of odd this morning, though.  I think Abdua Tealgoblet was the hobbit's name.  I guess Magus simply doesn't want to tell us what was going on there.  I guess that was an innocuous-enough line to use as a code phrase.


     Krylain's a pretty good city...  It's a shame that Benden is the thing I've had to compare it to recently.  While there's a thriving black market for poison here, the officials and guards aren't the mess that they are at Benden.
     Anyways, I'm currently in the Silver Bear Inn.  Lotus and Taishou went elsewhere, Magus is here, and Lex, Sir Phillip, and Cloud are on the floor above me.  Cloud and Sir split a room.  Lex really is transparent as glass...  Though I guess that suits most people fine.


     Quite the interesting day...  Magus missed out on the fun, so I'll fill him in about "Lex" later.  I should make this a bit more coherent.
     Kryl Forest is home to many plants with magical properties; the strongest of these is Sun Grass, which can apparently cure anything.  We'll be finding out how good it really is in about three days.
     Anyways, Kryl Forest has recently been infested by undead.  Specifically, it's been overrun by zombies, skeletons, and ghouls.  I wonder if the Order of the Undying is operating around here?  Regardless of the risk of being eaten, we went into the forest, laid some of the should-be-dead to rest, and grabbed the Sun Grass.  It got a bit odd when we reached the river where the grass was, though...
     Another shadow-thing appeared, and they're definitely after Lex.   Though I guess I can refer to him by his real name, now...  Taishou's confirmed that he really is Prince Vandemax of Mothergreen.  It's no wonder that he is now in exile... He had to choose between rulership and magic, and he chose magic.  But how can he be a sorcerer?!  It's not a human trait, and no races with that trait could've bred into the royal line; if such a race had, the family would have been ousted.
     Vandemax's story doesn't really fly; I think he's being honest about his father wanting to kill him, but his explanation for the name Taxil doesn't fly.  Taishou's suggestion that it might be his truename has merit, though.  But if his enemies know what his truename is, why are they fooling around with shades?
     We'll need to get Vandemax to answer that, I think.  Maybe Magus will be able to make more sense of this.
     Lastly...  Lotus has been behaving herself a bit better, now.   I guess coming home was good for her.  I wonder if her permit to buy poison is good in the whole country, or just for Krylain?
     Oh, well.  Once Harold has that extract made, we're off to the monastery.


     The assassins have a lot more firepower available to them then we had thought.  The monastery has been razed to the ground.  The assassins fought the monks, but it looks like they brought an entire team of wizards with them.  Our kinsman is dead; so is the Mother Superior.  Lotus' mother is unaccounted for...  What made her important enough to spare?  We've concluded that she's been abducted; bodies weren't all that hard to find.
     The only place to go now is home...  If the assassins are willing and able to bring this much force to bear, then I'm afraid you're in danger, mom.
     Gloecoast is the nearest major port.  We're already on the way there.


     Today was a very bad day...  As of right now, I'm sitting in a chair that's in front of a jail cell that holds Cloud and Magus.  Sir Phillip is keeping watch on them right beside me.  What was going on in Gloecoast, while unpleasant, didn't appear to be as bad as it really was.
     It seemed reasonable enough...  We agreed to help the city deal with what appeared to be grave robbers and a lone rampaging vampire.  Human women had been dying at about the rate of one per night, and the humans in the city, lead by a certain John Sebastion, had imposed a blockade on both the land and water routes to the city.  The blockades were to last until the dwarves put a stop to the killing.  In addition, body- thieves were running amuck, and were managing to steal corpses despite the presence of patrols.   Naturally, we suspected the Order of the Undying.
     I didn't have much luck with the town guard, but Magus and Taxil did better at the dwarven temple to Aestar.  From what we could gather, we concluded that the guard captain had been dominated by the vampire, which would explain both his refusal to see anyone and the gaping holes in the patrol routes around the perimeters of the grave yard.   Armed with this information, we made the mistake of trying to deal with the grave robbers ourselves.
     I definitely need to ask mom some questions...  Anyways, Versuvius and another priest of the order, escorted by fifteen zombies, walked/fell right into our ambush.  Versuvius and his companion lost miserably.  That's when the disaster came...
     As it turns out, vampires don't need to feed every night; I'd guess they only need to feed once a week or so.  So what we had mistaken for the actions of a single vampire actually reflected the feeding habits of six or so.  They had been on the battlefield the entire time, and dominated Cloud and Magus before they left with Versuvius and the other priest.  It was very nearly too late when we realized that it had happened; I managed to put both Cloud and Magus to sleep before they could kill any of us.
     Which brings us to where we are now.  While they insist that they're fine now, I don't believe them.  Their gear is elsewhere, and they're staying in jail until the high priest of this temple can cast a Break Enchantment spell on them.   Sir Phillip and myself decided to keep watch on them while they were in prison.  Sir Phillip's suggested that it would be pointless for both of us to stay up all night, so he'll take first watch and I'll take the second watch.  I better go to sleep, now; I figure that I'll need my strength -- or rather, my magic -- tomorrow.

Post-Midnight Addendum

     I blew it!  I almost completely blew it!
     Magus had charmed Sir Phillip while I was asleep, and had convinced Sir to give him that flaming short sword and his spell book.  Sir Phillip then tried to quietly leave, but fortunately, he can't go ten steps without tripping over his own feet.  So he woke me up, just in time to deal with Magus and Cloud's escape attempt.
     Cloud started pretending to throttle Magus, so the guard was going to move him to another cell.  That when I finally noticed that Sir Phillip's short sword was missing, but Cloud was already out in the hall by then.  Once Cloud was out of the cell, he tried to attack me while Sir Phillip got the guard out of Magus' way.  The guard and myself managed to bring down Cloud, but then the guard became occupied with Phillip, and that's where I blew it.  If I'd been willing to take a little pain, I could've stopped Magus from escaping, but for all practical purposes I let him get away.
     He's currently in the guard house, conversing and planning with his comrade in vampiric domination.  This is out of our hands, now.


     Today turned out better than I thought it would.
     It started off with Vandemax and myself being arrested and charged with conspiring with the vampires.  Fortunately, the guards weren't dominated, and agreed to let us go to the temple of Uminati with them in tow.  After speaking with Rendal, they realized the truth of the situation, and let us go.  After that, it was more or less Rendal's show.  She had already cured Cloud, and once we reached the guard house she cured the captain.  By that time, Magus was already gone and had taken most of the funds of the guards with him.
     We then payed a visit to the merchant-bard John Sebastion, whose reputation was now in doubt courtesy of a false lead the dominated Magus had given the dominated Cloud (Cloud had told us that he was considered expendable by the vampires once he was fixed... Magus had counted on us capturing him).  Fortunately, Sebastion seems to be clean, at least where this matter is concerned.  Since he could scry, he helped us locate Magus, and Rendal fixed him before he could start a civil war, of all things.
     In other words, it took a high priestess and a master bard to head off the blood bath that was going to occur because I screwed up.
     The vampire problem in this town has been dealt with -- the vampires left after giving Magus his marching orders -- and the blockade is now lifted.  Unfortunately, shipping has been backed up so badly that it'll take about a month to book passage to Tear.  If only we could teleport...  I'll try to get out a message on the first ship that's headed there; I can send word, even if I can't get there in person.
     I just hope the temple will still be there when we finally arrive.
     On the other hand, I probably worry too much...


     What a weird day...
     Let's begin with Bofar.  Bofar is a human male fighter who is utterly convinced that he's a dwarf.  He tries to talk like one, act like one, and drink like one.  As I've been given to understand it, he was dropped on his head when he was a small child, and no one bothered to cure him.
     Now, there's the Human Peoples Front.  The Red Bandannas had broken apart into many tiny factions, many of which were trying to cause trouble in Gloecoast.   In other words, they're the leftovers of the movement that Magus tried to begin while he was under vampiric control.  The Human Peoples Front was the strongest and most obnoxious of the splinter groups, and we -- or rather, Magus and his companions -- were hired by Toras to deal with them.
     Magus and Taishou took care of a great deal before waking me up; that was fine be me.  Trying to talk to the Human Peoples Chicken Front or whatever they were called (there were only two people in it, and they were angry about the Human Peoples Front running over their chickens) is something I don't mind missing out on.
     We eventually found the group (they were ranting about how the tavern owners should be happy that the Human Peoples Front is willing to drink their beer), and Bofar went for the frontal approach.  It turned out that the reason why the HPF was the strongest was because they were nearly all wizards.  If there had been any more of them, we would have lost the battle.  As it was, the only reason we survived was because Cloud showed up after the leader of the HPF fireballed us.
     That was an extremely unpleasant experience...  To be honest, I think that's the first time in my life I've ever suffered severe fire burns.  If I wasn't what I am, I quite conceivably would have died from it.  As it was, both Magus and myself were rendered unconscious by it.
     I've had worse days, but this is definitely one of the stranger ones...


     I guess we'll have to wait a couple weeks to find out just what she was thinking...  Assuming that she wants to return to this side, anyways...  She will, I think.  No one in this group is done with their lives on this side.
     I'm guessing that those tablets Harlan had been dropping off the side were reconnaissance for his fellow sahuagin.  The fact that we knew he was dropping off messages and not doing anything about it must have amused him to no end...
     The sahuagin assault force was rather unconventional...  It's almost a shame that Harlan died; he could have explained what was going on.  I'd really like to know what merrow were doing out in the ocean...  I guess it did help a great deal that most of our group was on deck during the tacking.  Cloud held off the merrow practically single handedly while Lotus and Sir dealt with Harlan and the four-armed sea devil that came up one of the lines.
     Where the disaster occurred was part two of the raid.  The merrows smashed a hole into the cargo hold right at the waterline; said hole was above the waterline once the tacking was taken care of.  Miss Marianna and myself made our way to the entrance to the hold when we heard the opening of the hole; by the time we got there, there was enough water in the hold to make it impossible for either of us to open the door.   That was just was well; a pair of sea devils and a relatively small shark had jumped into the hold as soon as enough water was in it.
     Why did Lotus jump into the hole after them?!  Especially when the hole had been widened to the point that two merrow had gotten into the hold?  I guess we'll find out when and if she returns from Diostarma's realm.
     The sahuagin retreated after one of the merrows in the hold went down.  Enough was enough, I guess.
     Magus seemed a little nervous about the prospect of raising Lotus...  I know she's not the most pleasant company, but she does mean well.  Is there something you aren't telling me, Magus?  I guess you'll tell me when you think the time is appropriate; I do hope that's soon.


     On one hand, it's good that the temple of Parevida has the horn back; I thought the relic had been lost for good.  On the other hand, people are living in the valley now, and the constant noise makes the valley uninhabitable for practically anything that can't sleep through a few dozen dragons roaring.  To make things more annoying, carrier crawlers had moved into the caverns beneath the valley over the past two decades, and the noise is driving them berserk.
     There just isn't anything we can do here.  The people of Lyton want the noise to stop, while the people in the temple have a sacred duty to make sure the horn can be heard throughout the valley.  No one is willing to compromise on the issue, and that's pretty much that.      Lastly...  As I understand it, he could create pocket dimensions whenever he felt like it.  Why would he bother with some sort of underground complex?  For that matter, why would he hide it in the same valley as the area he stole it from?


     Beyond an ettercap getting itself cleaved in twain by Cloud, not much happened today.  There is something odd occurring in this area, however...
     It looks like a group of 6 or so humanoids have been attacking travelers in this area.  The thing is, the wagon showed signs of acid damage, and the trail was swept completely clear of debris.  I'm guessing the humanoids are nearby, too.   We saw a group of 'em moving around in the forest, and they hid when they realized we had spotted them.  It's a shame that it was too far a distance to recognize them...


     There were more signs of the humanoids today.  But nothing came of that...
     I finally bit down and started fooling with the unknown properties of that gem...  An anti-devil protection field?  If that's what it was, then it was a really weak one...  Maybe I should've tried to hit someone while the field was acting on them; all that happened when I simply put a hand on anyone with the field working on them was that they felt warmer to the touch.  On the other hand, I felt sick while the field was working on me...  Also, it causes a very small shock when it misfires.  I also tried to fool around with the psionic property, but all I got for my troubles was a headache.  So much for that.
     Vandemax's ring, on the other hand...  Now that's a nasty piece of work.  Vandemax had just recently discovered that the ring had a divinational property, and asked Taishou and myself to investigate it.  That didn't work very well, to put it mildly.  As I understand it, it took me about an hour to regain my senses, and it did take an hour for Taishou to do so.  I guess I should just be happy it wasn't permanent.  I wonder who gave him that thing?


     No wonder he worships Dyce.
     That has got to be the most foolhardy thing I've ever seen him do.  But it worked!  It honest-to-goddess worked!  It's a good thing, too; we'd all be just meat or goo if he hadn't managed to pull that off.  If Lotus wants dragon cuisine, I guess it can be prepared now.  I'm guessing that his teachers in Soldier would be proud of him right now.
     With a bodyguard like that, I might actually come out of this whole mess alive.
     On another note, that hobgoblin is the first sentient creature I've ever killed.  I can guess why the rest aren't bothered by killing things -- Magus, Cloud, Lotus, and Sir are trained military, while Taishou grew up on the streets and Vandemax is a trained politician.  But I don't have that sort of background.  I don't know what I'm getting at; I guess I'm just bothered about not being bothered about it.


     Not much happened today...  Magus used Identify on some of the items in that dragon's hoard while Taishou was casting Make Whole spells on the wagon.       After she did that, Taishou and myself took turns trying to activate that ring; I guess simply tried to match each other on a one-for-one basis.  We finally activated the ring simultaneously, and the result was quite interesting.
     Apparently, whoever has the right spell can center a Clairvoyance and a Clairaudience spell on this ring, probably from a ridiculously long range.  Someone's been scrying on us -- or rather, on Vandemax -- ever since he got that ring, I suspect.  I wonder if he/she/it has been enjoying the show?  Once we're home, we can do some counter-scrying and figure out what's going on with this thing.
     The results of that had better be enlightening.


     Lysel's a bit livelier than it was last time I came through here, though not in a good sense.  No thanks in part to you, father.
     Tear would have an over-abundance of young sorcerers and sorceresses if they weren't being murdered as soon as they started manifesting their powers.
     Of course, it certainly doesn't help a person if monsters move into the nearby hills right when one's powers start to manifest.  Fortunately, Katrina will probably be alright; she's on her way to Ilian now, and hopefully Magus can keep her from being lynched.  Vandemax also thinks he can help her, but he's with "Cloud's Warriors" right now (it's such an awful name, but I guess it works).  Maybe Vandemax (or Lex Green, as he's currently calling himself) actually can help her; we'll just have to see.
     Those harpies are pretty aggressive, but it's not like the people around here know how to deal with then.  Those guard patrols are pathetically easy meals.   At least the monsters got cheated of their meal tonight, though it sounded pretty angry while it was flying off.
     It looks we're going harpy hunting with Caroline tomorrow; I'm sure you can appreciate the reason for my delay, mother.  I'll see you soon enough.  It figures that Magus has met you before; I guess he was with Lord Runestar that one time...


     That wasn't fun...  It would've been really bad if all of those Stirge had managed to reach us; as it is, Taishou's in really bad shape.  Fortunately, she can heal Caroline and herself tomorrow morning.
     Well, I now know how all those creatures Vandemax Magic Missiled to death felt.  That wasn't as bad a crossbow bolt through the lung or that fireball, but it still hurt.  I guess I don't handle pain very well.  Oh, well.  At the least harpies didn't get any meals tonight.
  Now, if only Vandemax wouldn't be to so eager to cast magic!  Can't he grasp the simple fact that using magic can get him killed in Tear?!  Hopefully he'll keep himself under control in Ilian.


     I guess they picked a good lair.  Three of them are dead, but the other three have managed to establish a stalemate.  They're no match for "Cloud's Warriors," but we can't reach them to kill them.
     Caroline did quite the job of tracking this morning...  Following an eight-or-so hour old blood trail for several miles is a pretty good trick.  I'd say she has potential.
     I guess we'll just have to wait them out.


     That was a near-disaster...  The ambush with Vandemax's Rope Trick spell worked quite nicely, except that we got over enthusiastic and didn't properly prepare for the combat.
     That was rather disturbing.  Harpy song is quite pretty, but the simple fact that I would've stood there smiling serenely while they disemboweled me is not remotely pleasant.  It's a good thing Vandemax managed to ignore the harpy song and start casting the spells we should've had active on us in the first place.
     The harpies' goods were rather interesting.  That bag was revolting, though.  Most of the goods were returned to Lysel, or while be returned to the families of those six guardsmen in Ilian.  Most of this stuff belongs to the kin of their victims.  That works, I think.
     I guess poor Starlight will have to put up with having Cloud and myself riding him at the same time.  You really should have your own horse, Cloud.  Though I'm afraid your logic for not having one does make sense.


     It's good to be home, though I wish I was here under better circumstances.  The job that Andrea has for us isn't going to be enjoyable.  No, I take that back; "Lex" will probably love it.  I guess that if he catches anything it'll be promptly cured, though.
     I wonder what you're up to, Actrevius.  You might have a couple more pieces in the puzzle, and I'd like to see you, anyways.
     As I said, I wish was here under better circumstances.   It's good to see you again, mom.


     I guess I'll cover things in chronological order.
     First off, mother counter-scried Vandemax's ring.  Vandemax recognized the man on the other side of the scrying window as the head wizard of Gellian.  As it turns out, the head general of Mothergreen is the person who gave him that ring, and Sir Phillip was assigned to keep an eye on Vandemax.  Vandemax had the ring destroyed shortly after this, though we probably should've kept it as evidence.  Sir Phillip isn't in good standing right now.
     And then, the job that I was not looking forward to...  I didn't do a very good job of gathering information; Taishou (or should I start calling her Cherry?  Though I'll grant that she wasn't enjoying nearly as much as "Randy" was) did a much better job.  I guess I owe Cloud again...
     That certainly wasn't where I was expecting Actrevius to show up; though I must admit that the fact that he's managed to turn some of those women away from their profession and towards Valos, of all deities, well...  Seems about right, actually.
     It's probably just as well that Cherry, Busty, and Randy went ahead and attacked that assassin; she was probably making her way towards back-up.   Though Actrevius did a rather good job of taking care of himself...
     I'm afraid Lotus has gone over the edge...  Is that happening because of the monastery, or is it because she's been called back from the other side?  I hope she can pull herself together.


     Well, Lucas, I guess I owe you an apolo
     On second thought, I guess that you and father have both gotten exactly what you deserved.  You summoned him in the first place, and everyone has paid for it.
     I wonder how Actrevius and Lotus are handling this?
     Don't be too upset, Vandemax.  By the time we're done taking revenge for our people, you should be more than able to take your own.


     Obnoxious day, and a really bad night.
     The day started going wrong when yet another part of father's legacy came howling in -- a wild magic storm that was severe enough to mess up Cloud's hair.   Unfortunately, the mansion of Lord Kunesen happened to be nearby.  We sought hospitality there, were granted it, and got to be witnesses to an extended stint in vigilantism.  And the sad truth of the matter is that our absence wouldn't have changed what occurred in the slightest.
     John's methodology was pretty cold-blooded, though I guess he was justified.  But did he really need to do what he did?  By all rights, this should've been placed in Kunesen's hands; it was his daughter that those three murdered.  But then again, it was also his fiancé that was killed...  This was just a bizarre night.
     Something I'm confused about... I guess Clark saw Nami looking at the painting, ran back to the shed, grabbed the stage prop that happened to be a genuine battle ax, and then ran back to the theatre house (which, by all rights, no one should've been in at the particular time), where Nami was still looking at that painting, and John, who somehow also happened to be there at the same time, showed up in the nick of time to save her.   Thinking about it too much will probably give me a headache...  We should've stuck everyone in one room as soon as the killing started, but with our luck people would've been dropping dead a wagon length away in plain sight and nobody would've noticed.
     Why did he have to stick Debu's corpse in the hot-water decanter?!  That was pretty weird; I wonder how Magus or Vandemax would handle getting soaked in blood?  It's not that ba   ... Thank you very much, father.  Well, at least I know why that sort of thing doesn't bother me.  I almost wish that it did.
     Cloud was muttering something along the lines of "it's about time" when we found about the mansion's water system.  It's a mix of gnomish technology (stuff called pressure valves, and things like that) and a pair of Decanters (one cold water, one hot water).  Is that sort of thing normal on Asteria?
     I wonder why father left this place alone?  It simply didn't matter to him?  I guess we'll never know.  I just want to get out of here ASAP.


     Triceratops look a lot tougher than they really are.  Sir and Cloud pretty much proved that today.
     Lotus was determined to commit sacrilege...  The lord of the dirt isn't a very particularly pleasant deity, but he is the one that these people answer to, and they aren't bad people.  Was she trying to do it on general principles, or was she trying to do it simply because she's Lotus?  I'm not sure if I really want to know, to be honest.
     Those fortunes are kind of interesting...  Lotus was indifferent, Cloud seemed skeptical, Vandemax seemed a bit puzzled, and Magus and Sir both seemed to be accepting.  The one I got was kind of interesting...  Is there a route to Asteria that doesn't involve winding up in some psychotic king's experiment?  If it becomes open to us, we may well be obliged to take it.
     Now...  I can't put my finger on it, but something just isn't right.  I don't usually bungle spells like that.  Maybe...  Oh, I don't know just what's going on; hopefully I'll have it figured out by the time we're attacking the assassins.


     Well, today we won a hollow victory.  We killed a bunch of raw recruits, a few slightly more experienced members of the guild, and have a consolation prize of one prisoner out of the five people at this camp that actually mattered.  The other three sub-ordinates under the captain of the training camp escaped us, and apparently managed to snatch away the commander's body right under our noses.  Lightshroud and mother are going to be disappointed, I guess.
     This is quite the odd sensation...  My hearing isn't as acute as normal, I simply don't notice something even when it's right under my nose, and I'm often not even aware of my immediate surroundings.  I guess I'm going to owe Taishou after she fixes my head tomorrow morning.

Post night-fall addendum

     We nearly lost Cloud to a digester, of all things, when a trio of them managed to sneak up on the wagon.  Cloud took an acid bath, and to be honest this is about the worst I've ever seen him do in a battle.  Good thing we had brother with us.  I wonder just what he makes of today's events?  Oh, well.


     Well, we got a lot of information, but not much of quality.   To add insult to insult, the assassins had a captive tiefling that they also managed to escape with, courtesy of yesterday's debacle.  To make matters even worse, the captain had a ring of regeneration, and thus wasn't snatched away under our noses; instead, he got up and walked away despite the fact that Cloud had reduced him to mush.  And that's simply because we didn't take the time to loot him as soon as we killed him.
     We're going back to Ilian and then across the ocean back to the Southlands; we need to reach Runestar Manor ASAP.  The assassins have someone who could take on an entire army of Soldiers and win; hopefully, we can get down there before he's ready to pay Lady Runestar a visit.  I wonder of Lightshroud is aware of this wizard?  Well, of course he wasn't; he'd have mentioned him to us if he was.  Unfortunately, time is on his side, not ours.  This will probably be extremely close, if we're successful.
     So, the Order of the Undying dislikes the assassins.  Hopefully they'll thin out each other's numbers.
     Lastly, the stupid ring of Featherfall was actually a ring of Clumsiness.  That would explain why the druid wasn't wearing it...  Why did he keep something like that on him in the first place?  To spite those that managed to slay him?  I guess I'm not going to worry about it.
     Let's get on with it.


     Today was kind of odd.  We ran into another old friend of Cloud -- a cleric of Rose & Thorn named Spin Dashlin.  Spin was pretending to be an amnesiac farmer named David Ilsvalin.  He's apparently married now...  I would have liked to have spoken to the woman who was supposed to be his wife, but we had to leave.
     Spin's been investigating something around here, but he wasn't willing to drop any hints.  He's been pretty thorough; he knew where the ogre lair was, and wasn't killed by the resident ogre magi when he found the place whenever it was that he found it.  Speaking about the ogre magi, it didn't do too well trying to fight us.  Why'd he use his frost attack on the wagon?  Oh, well; we're better off for that.
     Maybe I should keep score on all of the times Cloud has been hit with Charm spells...


     Well, it's done.  Lightshroud received the news of what happened pretty well.  We should probably be glad it's Lightshroud that we were reporting back to, and not some other king who wouldn't have handled the news as well.
     Meeting Eric Noah should be interesting.  It's nothing new for Magus, but the rest of us haven't already met every single half-way decent person who's a somebody on the planet.  I do hope that Eric will be able to shed at least a little light on what's going on.
     Brother is staying behind; he means do what he can on Vina's Arm.  Do take care, brother; if the assassins know you by name, they might be willing to send out a bit than a lone hitman to deal with you.  Hopefully you'll still be alive next time I'm able to come home.


     I don't believe that man...  He'd hop in bed with a succubus even if he knew what it was, just for the sake of hopping in bed with something of the opposite gender!  That girl can't possibly be a human.  Does he just not care?
     And now I guess I'm stuck spending the day of the goddess helping take care of some sort of bizarre family squabble.  Thank you very much, Vandemax.
     Adding further insult to insult, it looks like sister has taken up stealing.  She really has deterioted...  I'm not sure if there's anything that can be done about it, though.
     Enough about those two.  I'm going to bed.


     Well, now.  That was pretty disgusting, but hopefully it'll teach him to take care as to what he sleeps with.  That was not how I wanted to spend this day, and that's pretty much that.
     Eric Noah's an interesting case...  He didn't really tell us anything, but he promised to transport us to the festival at Castle Atla (he's the judge in the annual pyrotechnics contest), and after the festival was done he'd transport us to Runestar Manor, which will save us over a month in travel time.  We'll owe him, I guess.      I wonder if Taishou's ever going to explain why she needed to sleep all day?  Oh well.

Post-midnight addendum

     What the heck are those things?!  This particular shadow creature almost had us -- Vandemax was unconscious for most of the fight, Cloud's mind is very close to resembling cabbage right now, while sister and Sir couldn't even harm the thing.  To make things more irritating, the thing was rejuvenated whenever healing magic was used on Vandemax.  We killed it anyways, but still...
     Seeing Cloud in his current mental state is really kind of weird...  He's behaving a lot like a child right now, actually.  It's just disturbing.  I'll be glad when Taishou fixes his head tomorrow.
     The first one could control minds, the second one could paralyze, and this one could inflict direct damage to the mind.  It's almost like it's some sort of family that's hunting Vandemax...  Does Eric know what the things are?  We'll need to ask him.
     I hope mother had a better day...


     Well, hopefully Vandemax didn't arouse too many suspicions at the banquet.  That's probably too much to hope for, but oh well.
     It's been most of year since we last saw Kalira, but none of us really spoke with her.  I guess that'll need to be remedied.  I wonder if she's surprised that we're all still alive?
     Odd.  I just left a rather exclusive banquet, and I don't really have anything to say about it.  I guess it happens.
     As a final note, it's good to have Cloud back in commission.  That was just weird.


     Well, it's good that sister and Vandemax didn't kill each other...  It'd be quite nice if that's the end of that, but that's too much to hope for, I think.  I'm still not sure why the flare-up that occurred yesterday did so, but it's probably not over with.  Or rather, knowing those two it isn't.
     Not a bad festival; it's nice to be able to sit back and relax for a bit.  Or at least, it is as long other problems don't come barging in.
     I guess we'll see what tomorrow brings.  Hopefully it won't be a certain wedding...  I guess I'll attend if sister actually goes through with it.  But still...
     Oh well.


     I've been living on borrowed time ever since I met that assassin in Living Valley, and I guess I just took out another loan.  As I understand it, the Cloudkill that Gruknok dropped on the wagon should've killed me.  I guess I owe the goddess again.
     We're going to go ahead and get Vernon raised.  The man might be better off if we left him to rest in peace, but we'll do it on general principles.   Sister isn't particularly happy about that.  We'll be leaving him on Vina's Arm, though.
     Farewell, Starlight.  You were a good traveling companion, but I'm afraid this was just a matter of time.  May you have a good time in the Beastlands.
     I've had that horse for almost five years, and losing her to a punitory ambush is rather irritating, to put it very mildly.  But then again, I guess I should count myself lucky then I didn't die, too.  It was just that kind of day.


     That's... cute.  It seems sister is the rule, not the exception.  That's rather depressing, actually.  I guess I'll try to do what I can to sooth tensions here, but it seems that the bulk of my siblings are hopelessly delinquent.
     Derek and Cloud were babbling something about "Braver" and that the assassins already seem to know about Soldier's special techniques.  Apparently, the most skilled members of Soldier have special techniques that they can employ if they experience massive physical trauma in a short amount of time.
     This seems to indicate that the assassins have a trans-planetary contact.  Sir Eric Noah was kind enough to explain that any knowledgeable wizard of adequate skill could make the transfer with some difficulty.  I'd guess that the wizard working the assassins is working with someone on Asteria.  That would make things a tad bit messier.
     Either the high general or the king has been keeping a very tight lid on what is occurring over in Mothergreen.  I wonder what Gellian is offering the man, anyways?  I'm also wondering if he's actually going to receive it.
     We'll ship out in a couple of weeks; I guess we're having an extended vacation -- as that's what the festival amounted to, and that's what the weeks ahead will amount to.


     To keep the men sharp, Derek sends Soldiers out on periodic patrols.  However, a couple of men who were n the vicinity of Hornstaff Tower have vanished without a trace, and Derek has asked us to investigate it since we're heading out anyways.  I guess he's regarding as a matter of "send out more men and possibly lose them," or "send out Cloud & co. and not have to worry about it."  Hornstaff Tower has been oddly quiet lately, so we'll check it out.


     No wonder Hornstaff Tower has been so quiet lately.  For all practical purposes, Fhelzor had died; that thing that attacked us in the tower really wasn't him.  The poor man had somehow managed to awaken a sealed Glabrezu, and then had wound up merging with the creature, probably to the chagrin of both.  The Glabrezu was the dominant mind.
     Anyways, the Glabrezu had captured one of the Soldiers, killed the other, and forced us to fight him when we were exploring the tower.  We were both fighting blind and without Cloud in that battle, as the glabrezu swamped us in darkness and then used a power word to stun Cloud.  Fortunately, it walked right into Sir Phillip's spear.  It started babbling something about "foul spawn of baatezu" and tried to do something when Sir Phillip skewered some internal organ, as no lightning bolts hit us at that moment.  I'd just as soon as not know what it was trying to drop on us.
     Regardless, it's dead and the bulk of Hornstaff's belongings will be auctioned for the benefit of Runestar Manor, as Fhelzor had no surviving kin.  Taishou and I will do what we can to consecrate the tower tomorrow.


     I've been on the road for over four years, and I don't think I've seen a blizzard quite like this.  Currently, I can look out the window of my room and see that about 3 feet of snow has accumulated.  It is not quite midnight.
     While we're very close to Nature's Gate, the severity of the blizzard has forced us to take shelter in the mansion of Cornizan of the Very Embarrassing Last Name.  Cornizan has three students and a janitor in the mansion with him.
     Why Taxil?  There's probably more to the name than Vandemax is letting on, but no one seems willing to confront him about it, at the moment.
     As one last note, it's nice to have name recognition, as long as its from a positive reason.


     Well, that was nice.  Today began as a rather non-simple murder mystery -- Cornizan had been slain, and the residents of the mansion were innocent, which then became a search for the route to Cornizan's laboratory -- from what I could gather, the man had captured an aboleth and was going to examine it -- which then became a rather unpleasant battle with some bizarre manifestation of Sir Phillip that was the result of him picking up a cursed spear (not a single one of us got through that unscathed), followed by a brief battle with Sir Phillip himself when the aboleth seized control of his mind, followed by an underwater duel between Magus and the aboleth.
     Oops.  I guess that's a run-on sentence, but I'm not going to worry about it.
     Since Magus is rather embarrassed about it, I'll be nice and not record for posterity just what the aboleth managed to do to him.
     Since the mansion is now secured, we'll stay here until a sufficient amount of snow melts.  At that point we're off to where it all began.


     Well, it's encouraging that Gavin wasn't picked up on the Detect Evil spell.  I'll using the rest of that family of spells on him tomorrow morning, but I think it'll be safe to let him travel with us.  Safe for us, anyways; I'm extremely dubious as to whether or not it's safe for him.  Anyways...
     Cloud's presence here caused more than a few odd looks to be cast our way.  I'm afraid it'll be even worse at Living Valley.  Actually, it would be a pretty bad idea to bring Cloud into Living Valley.  Which is an understatement.
     The man who used to work for Lucas is currently named Oliver; they weren't able to fix whatever ails the man.  He still insists that we're all doomed.   Though now, I guess we need to figure out whether or not his source was actually Lucas.   As a side note, the head priest of the temple has left for the High Temple of Sospitas, apparently with the intention of furthering his studies there.
     Lastly, there's the matter of sister's behavior...  The sad truth of the matter is that she apparently isn't any worse than the rest of us.  Still, this is ridiculous.


     Another one of those Taxil monster things showed up and tried to kill Vandemax.  Or Taxil, as he's calling himself now.  I'd ask him just why he's going by that name now, but right now I just don't care.  There isn't a single living person on the planet who'd care about that sort of thing, or just about anything, today.  Oh well.


     Well, that's an unpleasant surprise -- vampire spawn have been plagueing Living Valley.  It began only a couple days ago, but there are quite a few of monsters and they've done substantial damage.  Charliss Belmont, Sir Bedavere, and the rest of the clergy have been trying to destroy the things.  To Charliss's credit, the monsters have been having difficulty replenishing their numbers at the same rate that Charliss has been destroying them.  The spawn are far weaker than true vampires, but dangerous nonetheless.  There's been some concern as to the whereabouts of the leader.
     Cloud, Taishou, Gavin, and "Taxil" will go out on patrol tonight; Magus and myself will remain the temple -- Magus due to the fact that he doesn't quite feel ready to enter the fray again, and I myself will be trying to lend what small assistance that I can here.  Those four should be able to take care of themselves.

Pre-dawn addendum

     Vampire spawn really are weaker than the true vampires...  Cloud & co. were destroying them with complete ease (Cloud actually took on four at the same time and tore them to pieces), and the few that showed up to test temple defenses were annihilated with relative ease.
     Their leader is of a bit more serious magnitude.  He showed himself when he tried to assassinate Charliss.  The Order of the Undying seems to have a broad membership.  Anyways, he failed to slay the high-priest, and fled -- which was undoubtedly the wiser course, considering that Cloud & co. were present when he made the attempt.  And so, the the elven asssassin vampire leader is accounted for.
     Gavin seems to be especially eager at the thought of fighting with the vampire.  Oh well.
     The sun is starting to rise, now; I'll pay my respects to the goddess, and then I'll probably sleep for the rest of the day.  I think I'll place a "Wake Me at Your Own Risk" sign on my door...


     Magus decided that he was ready to spring back into action now, and between him and Taishou they hatched a scheme to get into the lair of the vampires.   Surprisingly enough, it worked.  The vampire spawn didn't bother to wonder why a lady of the night would be plying her trade under the current conditions, and took her back to where they were keeping all of the other future spawn.
     Once there, Magus with his portable hole (which Taishou was carrying eveyrone but Magus around in) and "Taxil" with his Rope Trick spells managed to set up an ambush for the vampire leader.
     In short, the vampire leader died before he could really react.  The rest of the spawn were also terminated.
     That should take care of the troubles here; I do wonder if the assassin (and assassin he truly was, before the Order of the Undying "converted" him) had more to do in Living Valley than kill the high priest.
.      Either we'll find out or we won't, and that's pretty much that.


     If there's any logic at all involved in what that man wants for his "apprentice" (and I use the term very loosely; he hasn't actually taught her anything), I cannot see it.  So the village girl has gotten tired of living at the temple of Sospitas.  I can understand that.  But why does he think that the safest place for her to be is an incipient warzone?!  And why does he think a civilian would be safer traveling with us than staying in a temple?  He should realize by now that we attract trouble!  Even after what happenned to Vernon, he doesn't undertstand that Catrina would be caught in some stray area of affect attack and flat out die!  I did not rescue that girl just so that our misguided prince could get her killed!
     I think I'm done...[note to the reader:  at this point, the language swaps from Draconic to Dwarven]
     On a less angry note, Taishou and Charliss want us to go to Sir Byron d'Artan's birthplace.  We agreed to do it without any real hesitation, though "Taxil" tried to strike some sort of deal with Charliss behind our backs.  I can guess what it was about, and I trust in the good priest's judgement.
     Magus will remain behind, and craft a couple of magic items.   I'll try to figure out a way to repay him later; while the raw materials have been paid for, the small sacrifice of life energy that has to be put into each and every magical item is another matter.  I've almost got the hang of the artificing process, though I'm afraid that there's nothing I could make that Magus would have any use for.  I'll pay him back in another way, I guess.


     The sun set quite some time ago.  This has been a long night.  After we questioned Taxil (more about that later), we continued on and came across an orc "singing" praises and appeals to Sospitas.  We weren't sure what to make of this, so we investigated.
     As it turns out, there's a tribe of orcs that converted to the worship of Sospitas about eight or so months ago.  They seem to be rather happy with their new religion, and they may even amount to something in the future.  As it was, Taishou was able to get them to abandon at least one of their bloodier traditions (they had an eye-for-an-eye system).  Just how the receptive the local elves will be to this is an unknown.
     Filrna was willing to be reasonable, though I guess it was kind of amusing that was the three elven prisoners who really held the upper hand -- they had a fireball scroll concealed in their cage, among other goodies.  Anyways, while her two companions were unmitigatingly hateful, Filrna was willing to see reason on the day when no one can lie.  That was a start, anyways.  I wish her luck.
     That tribe is off to elsewhere, now; they move around a great deal.  Hopefully, Gavin's advice will aid them in living more in tune with the area
     And now, the joys of questioning each other on the day of Truth.   First of all, Taxil's logic for taking Catrina to Mothergreen is rather dubious.  Since she wants to go out and see the world, he'll stick her in an impenetrable cave?  That really, really doesn't make any sense.  And then there's the matter of the cave.   It sounds like something major was sealed away under the castle, and while Taxil insists that it's perfectly safe, I'll admit that I don't trust his judgement.
     Next, is the matter of his name.  Prince Vandemax believes that he has been reincarnated many times, and Taxil Necrobane is apparently the name that he had assumed in almost all of his incarnations.  If he desires to be called by what he believes to be his true name, than so be it.
     We really need to get Cloud to tell us more about his planet...   As he gave it to us to understand it, that recent gnomish invention known as "plumbing" is wide-spread on Asteria, among other advanced technologies.  Dynamite is one of those advanced technologies; since magic seems to be rare on Asteria, it looks like her people have found substitutes.  That wizard that the employer of Soldier had placed in Benden City must've been irreplacable...


     Well, this makes things a bit interesting.  I guess that somewhere on Parasonnea, another route to Asteria must've been opened.  That's the only reason I can think for how the Mercenaries of Mellek arrived here.  They've been hanging out in Artania four about four weeks now.  Cloud seems to be nervous about it; I guess that's reasonable, since the Mercenaries are a rival of Soldier.  Mellek was the kingdom that hired Soldier in the first place, so I doubt that these people are here for a good reason.  Well, their employer undoubtedly thinks it is a good reason, but nevermind.
     The mercenaries have been working with the town guard; they're trouble, though.
     Taishou has reported in to the local temple; sister is attempting reckless in relation to the Mercenaries, but since Sir Phillip is with her, I probably don't have to worry about her too much.  I hope.

Post-midnight addendum

     Well, first of all, we know for a fact that the Mercenaries are supposed to pick up where Soldier left off.  They don't seem to have detector gems; otherwise they probably would have tried to had sister and myself arrested on false charges, if not simply attempt to walk off with us.
     I really do need to get better at judging people's character; I was talking to two assassins right before I turned in and didn't realize it.  Hearing someone admit "Because I'm brainwashed" while inside a Zone of Truth is somewhat creepy.   We should probably get Taxil to analyze the poison that we picked up off of those two; I'm curious as to what it does.
     It's a shame that Hold Person also freezes facial muscles; I'm curious as to what that one man's expression would've been.  I doubt that creeping in through someone's window only to find a wide-awake spellcaster on the other side is a pleasant experiance.
     Lastly, the Mercenaries tried to do something to sister, but backed down when they found Sir Phillip in the room they thought belonged to sister.   That might've been amusing to witness.  We'll try to do something about the Mercenaries tomorrow.


     Today was rather painful, or at least the first part was.
     First of all, those "muskets" that the mercenaries run around with are a bit better than Cloud had indicated they were.
     Second, while Cloud had described dynamite to us, actually experiencing it was something else.  A rather horrendous something else.  Three of the five Mercenaries were killed in the blast, a few nearby homes were destroyed, and I was brought to the brink of death for the second time in about 30 or so heartbeats.  The rest of the group fared a bit better than I did, though.  At least, they were all conscious when the smoke cleared.
     The rest of the day was enlightening...  Father had tried to "create" some killing machines, and up until now I had thought he had failed miserably.   Apparently, some of my siblings who are now over at Mellek turned out to be the genuine article.  I'm curious as to how the king is getting them all to work with him -- psionic brainwashing, magical compulsion, or a deal they couldn't refuse?  The last is perfectly possible; the sad truth of the matter is that brother and myself are the exceptions, not the rule.
     The Mercenaries have their own wizard over in Gelian.  After we go to Mothergreen, we'll be paying him a visit.  It seems that anyone with what's a fairly common spell among wizards can travel between the two worlds, as long as the proper set-up is established.  The Mercenaries and my siblings have been trying to annihilate Soldier over on Asteria; as we understand it, for the first time in its history Soldier has broken contract.  The army of unstoppable demon-lings destroying everything probably has a lot to do with that...
     Glaedus, the Mercenary who told us this, will come with us.   If someone says in a Zone of Truth "I want to help you," he can probably be trusted.   I guess we'll see if we made the right choice.


     Taishou and Taxil went to see the priest at the local church of Sospitas.  What they were told there must've been interesting.  Tomorrow, we're visiting the proper birthplace of Sir Byron d'Artan.
     For duty and diety...  We'll help you however we can, Taishou.


     Today, Taishou, Taxil, and myself met Byron d'Artan.


     Well, that was a short trip.  We had left Artania this morning, and now we're back.  Having to buy new horses, among other things, does that sort of thing to one's travel schedule.
     That was some group.  I'm surprised that they were simply engaging in petty banditry instead going around wiping villages off the face of Parasonnea.  I wonder if a noble's caravan was supposed to be coming through the area when we arrived?  I doubt they were after us in particular.
     They weren't half-bad, though; the wagon got trashed, and so did just about everyone but Magus (who, once again, got through the whole thing without a scratch).  The wizard must've had access to more spells than what he had dropped on us; I guess I shouldn't complain that he didn't use them.
     Combat-wise, I'd say that Sir Phillip has proven himself once and for all.  But on other levels...
     I wonder who made that wizard's shield guardian for him?  He certainly couldn't have done it himelf.  I guess he'll pay us a visit sooner or later, knowing how we attract that sort of thing.


     Well, that was unexpected.  We had come to the fortress of Teno at the request of one Professor Totermus -- a presumed-lost sage of some skill, though not in the same league as Eric Noah.  Nowadays, recieving a missive from a dead man isn't that big a deal.  But we weren't expecting what we found there.
     First of all, the country of Reilos is also on Gellian's dinner plate.  Fearing assassination, the heir to throne -- she prefers to be called Ruby -- fled the country, and has taken sanctuary with Totermus's associates.  As is the tradition with that kingdom, she's a priestess of Pax Deos.  Gellian's leadership certainly is a bit lacking on the moral side...  Sir Phillip, of course, is ummoved; in his eyes, Gellian can do no wrong.
     Why are we still travelling with him?
     Anyways, now on to Totermus's associates.  Reaching the attention of the Ancient One is a somewhat dubious prospect, though I guess we should be honored.  Regardless, he considered the situation serious enough to send some of his people down.  This is probably the closest they've come in many centuries to actively getting involved in the affair of mortals.  Even father wasn't dire enough to stir them.   On second thought, he was dire enough to keep them from stirring; it would've been a disaster if he had been provoked into enslaving them.
     This brings us to the last order of business.  Katrina was brought here ahead of us; hopefully, being involved with us won't be the death of her.  Apparently, her family is a long lost relation of the Vandemax bloodline, dating back to the shake-up that marks the start of our calender.
     Taxil and Totermus want to use her to unseal that cavern beneath the castle of Mothergreen.  None of us particularly care for this, but we don't have any real say in the manner -- they'll go ahead and do it without us, if we don't come along with them.
     We'll leave Phillip behind to keep an eye on Ruby, and Lotus behind to keep an eye on Phillip.  Hopefully, this won't be a disaster.


     Today was kinda surreal.
     At least we now know just what the Cult of Spelsof is worshipping.
     If finding the place is that easy, then it's safe to say that Gellian knows it's here.  Hopefully, they aren't aware that any two members of the Vandemax bloodline can open it...  Though now that I think about it, it wouldn't do them any good to actually aquire access to the Spelsof Magitek Factory.  The guardian is more than capable of taking care of it's own.
     Which brings us to the guardian.  Taxil made the thing in a past life, and bound it to the Vandemax bloodline.  Perhaps his reincarnation into the bloodline isn't coincidence.  The fact that Taxil held that much power in a past life is kinda disturbing.  Hopefully, he was much more responsible back then.
     The Factory itself -- apparently, a factory is a place where they produce weapons of mass destruction -- is located in a city buried beneath the Mothergreen Valley.  The guardian spoke of a great disaster; I should have asked for the year that it occured in.  It also said something kind of odd -- about how all our souls were bound together.  Our little hodge-podge of a group was formed by dumb luck more than anything else.  The guardian might be onto something, though.  I just can't tell.
     1801 AB...  I should see if I can figure out what the AB stands for.  I guess that answers what year the disaster was in, but it doesn't actually mean anything.  Or at least, it doesn't mean anything yet.
     I'm just going try and blot out from my memory just what the guardian regared as a suitable test of our power...  Magus took Katrina home once we got out of the place; hopefully, Taxil's now done with trying to haul the girl into dangerous situations.
     I wonder if the gnomes can tell me just what "nuclear fusion" is.  Probably not.


     So much for keeping a low profile while in Mothergreen.
     A temple to Rael, located in a small farming community, was desecrated by drow working in conjunction with the Order of the Undying.  We didn't realize just what we were walking into when we entered the temple, and decided to confront the people that I had detected in the sanctuary.  We almost certainly would've lost Cloud if it hadn't been for Taishou.  Facing multiple invisible spellcasters backed up with nearly twenty drow archers was not a pleasant experience.
     Underneath the temple was the reason for attacking it in the first place -- a book that contained a thorough description of undead dragons.  It was an explanation of just how one worked, as opposed to how to make one.  Taishou knows a bit more about that book than I do; she wants her faith to acquire custody of the book.  We agreed to it, as that seems to be a safe enough decision.
     Just why the Order wanted the book is painfully obvious; the distubring thing is that if they're risking men to acquire a mere textbook, then I'd guess that they're extremely eager to begin production of these creatures.  Hopefully, that isn't going to happen.
     We'll take care of the funerals for the victims of the drow, and then we'll be moving on.  Though perhaps the funerals aren't necessary...  We'll see what tomorrow brings.


     Our stay in Taxil's home kingdom has simply been one bizarrity after another.  Today, we entered the town Hannelton, which is finally celebrating the winter festival.  As I understand it, that blizzard a few months back had thrown off the normal schedule.  Anyways, while I was busy trying to make the local musicians into somewhat respectable performers -- the surprising thing is that I actually pulled it off -- Taxil went to get drunk somewhere (Why?!  There are more construcitve things to do to deal with depression!  I think.  I can't actually get drunk, so I might not be the best authority on that matter), and found out about the epidemic of furniture stealing.  Yes, furniture stealing.
     It turned out that the culprits were those two assassins we ran into after leaving Benden.  They were selling the furniture in order to get enough money to buy a small mercenery army to kill us with.  Unfortunately for them, what they had already accumulated in the way of men wasn't remotely adequate for the job.  Taxil and myself put the whole lot of them to sleep within 6 heartbeats.  The two assassins were dealt with shortly after that.  Those two need to retire from their profession, I think.


     Taishou actually tried to turn them onto the right path; her relic allows people to see her way of thinking.  They seemed to be somewhat swayed, actually.  I guess we'll find out how that turns out eventually.
     My musicians are progressing quite nicely.  Well, they aren't mine, but actually teaching someone and having it pay off is a nice feeling.
     We're really just wasting time here -- the castle is within walking distance -- but we really, really aren't looking forward to what awaits there.


     What a sod...  The guy (Magus couldn't remember his name, and I never heard it) decided to take me hostage because he thought I was Magus's significant other (no offense, Magus, but you're a tad bit too distant for my tastes), and somehow screwed up and kidnapped one of my musicians instead.  I'm curious as to how he managed to live this long.
     His keep was interesting -- Cloud and Magus are going to mount that magic ballista on Cloud's wagon -- but not quite enough to cope with us.  Between them, Taxil and Cloud killed the man in a few heartbeats after Taishou and Magus smashed his invisibility.  He died in the middle of teleporting, though.  I wonder if his corpse arrived safely?  Or did it become one with the scenery?
     His hired help managed to escape with my musician, but one of them returned her home anyways.  They seem to be getting along quite well.
     And so we'll need to spend another day or so recovering from this exertion.  Perhaps we just aren't meant to be heading there yet.


     Today was simply unpleasant.
     We all woke up with a premonition of approaching disaster.   I went out to alert my people in Hannelton, and to see if I could figure out what was going on before.  I was not expecting the cause of the premonition to home in on me.
     I knew that whatever was coming happenned to be traveling in my general direction (I could hear the screaming mobs fleeing in -- and then away from -- my direction), so I decided to lay low.
     When the priest of Xerces with a locator gem and that creepy vulture-man-thing (Magus identified it as a Vrock) walking into the room I was "laying low" in, I'm pretty sure I saw my life flash before my eyes.  I was reasonably sure I would die, but instead I found myself thinking of the Vrock as my best friend in the whole wide world.  The Vrock asked me some questions, and I was very happy to answer them.  It then told me to be a good little tiefling and stay were I was.  I was, of course, happy to stay where I was.
     At which point Xanadus and the demon that he had summoned from the Abyss went to do battle with my companions, since I had happily told the Vrock where they could be found.  Fortunately, my companions mopped the floor with them when the actual battle came around.  Xanadus and his companion weren't nearly as good as he thought they were.
     I remember being very unhappy about the Vrock's death; fortunately, Taishou managed to fix my head.  I guess I owe her another one.
     At least I now know what being charmed is like...


     Cute.  Xanadus was a test sent by one of our friends among the assassins.  I guess my companions passed.
     Tomorrow, we're going into the fire.  Taxil thinks that fighting on the Holy Day of his god will grant him some sort of advantage -- and the truth of the matter is, it will.  I'd rather avoid bloodshed, though.  As I understand it, Gellian is hoping that between them, Taxil and the High General will do most of her dirty work for her.  I think Taxil realizes this, and he just doesn't care.
     I'd rather have a nice chat with the High General (I'm curious as to whether or not he really deserves to die), but it's not the safest of ideas.  It's a shame that Cloud's so blatantly dangerous.  I'm sure that the general is fairly aware of all of Prince Vandemax's companions, and could quite possibly recognize us on sight.   I think he's a tad bit more likely to speak with the harmless musician in the party if she's by herself than he would be if she was accompanied by the second-in-command of Soldier's forces on Parasonnea.
     It's quite risky, but I just want some answers.  I do hope that curiousity will have a somewhat harder time killing me than it had killing the cat.
     You better not get us killed, Taxil.


     That was some day.
     To begin with, Sir Phillip and General Cyrus had their own plans on just how'd we meet with the general.  Sir Phillip escorted Taxil straight to the quarters of the high general, while the rest of us remained in the courtyard of the castle.  From there, we promptly got ourselves into assorted forms of trouble.
     Or rather, sister did.  She got herself thrown into jail in less than an hour, though she escaped without any difficulty.  Sister takes some sort of unholy joy in stealing from people, though at least she's stealing from people who could withstand losing their money pouches.  But then again, the people couldn't withstand the loss don't have much to take in the first place.  The poor quite obviously aren't worth robbing.
     I'm not sure just what happened between Taxil and Cyrus, but they reached some sort of agreement.  They dueled in public while Taishou kept an eye on them and the rest of us escorted Taxil's parents to safety.
     As a side note, Taxil didn't last very long.  It's just as well that it was Gavin wearing that ring and not me; with the punishment being inflicted on Taxil being split evenly between the two, Taxil still collapsed in a few heartbeats and Gavin was staggering around as though he was on his last legs.  I suspect I would've quietly keeled over dead if I had been the one sharing the link instead of our ranger.
     As another side note, I completely forgot to disguise myself when we were escorted the former royal couple.  That oversight is more than a little embarrassing, but I hope it won't cause me too many problems further down the road.
     As it turns out, the general wasn't responsible for the death of Taxil's sister.  In a couple days we'll do what we should've done in the first place and have Taishou ask her goddess about the matter.  And that should take care of the matter.
     Perhaps the most nerve-wracking moment of the whole affair was the simle fact that Taxil almost forced Sir Phillip to kill him after all we'd been through.   Lapses of judgement on Taxil's part are pretty common, but that one would've been quite costly for the ex-prince.  Fortunately (I think), Sir Phillip d'Leiden held back on the blow that would've finished the matter.
     I guess I do owe Sir Phillip an apology...
     The former royal couple of the former kigndom of Mothergreen is quite unhappy with the current situation, but at least they're still alive and they'll have their daughter returned to them soon.  I think they'll just have to live with it.
     I do like the fact that we pulled this off without killing anybody.  I hope the general will appreciate that.  I wouldn't be surprised if the people we beat senseless instead of killing didn't appreciate that.
     It's been quite a year, hasn't it?


     Well sister, you did agree to it.  It would help if you would actually flat-out tell Vern that you won't marry him, but for some reason you aren't willing to do that.  I don't particularly approve of forcing a marriage, but most of the group seems to be looking forward to it.
     Happy birthday, Lotus.  Though I'd guess that that most certainly was not the present that you wanted.


     Well, this year's festival was a disaster.  But I'll get to the unpleasant parts later.
     First off, Taishou and Magus had gone plane-hopping.  To be honest, I am a bit jealous.  Going to Sigil doesn't sound that great, but visiting the Upper Planes is another matter.  Those two purchased for everyone some decidedly odd gifts...  I probably don't have enough limbs to play the instrument that they got me.  I guess that teaching myself how to work the thing would be an interesting exercise, though.
     We were specifically asked to once again perform a play at the festival.  The subject was a little close to home...  On a sheer whim, Eric Noah agreed to play himself.  Anyways, Eric tossed out an interesting tidbit during the rehearsal -- the Betrayer was specifically a human sorceress, not a wizard.  I guess I'll need to do some research and see if there were any other documented human sorcerers during that time.  There other odd bit is that Eric seemed pretty uncomfortable about the matter of who actually struck the final blow to father.  I guess we'll find out why eventually.
     Not long after the play ended, Taxil died.  Yet another of those stupid Taxil Monsters showed up, and this one actually did the job.  Or rather, since it could swap places with Taxil at will, it managed to get Cloud to cleave our walking magical disaster in half.  At that point, it drifted over to his corpse and somehow merged with it.
     We were able to raise Taxil within an hour; oddly enough, the merging of the creature with him has granted him a new ability -- he can channel small amounts of negative energy into his spells, at the expense of additional magical energy.   In a sense, he's traded life energy for the ability to draw it from others.
     I decided to go ahead and tell Lord Phillip d'Leiden about Father.  Like everything else, he took it in stride.  I think.  Anyways, he agreed not to tell anyone else about it, so I can probably count his sense of honor to keep him from telling people who really shouldn't know about it in the first place.  I think it was the right thing to do.
     Lastly, there's the matter of sister.  The good thing is that she finally put her foot down and cancelled that ridiculous wedding.  The bad thing is that she was running around with the magical earrings of the former queen of Mothergreen.   While we were escorting the king and queen to safety, she was running around looting the castle.  I guess that she was wearing those earrings simply because it would be a slap in the face to Taxil.  She also said straight out that she has no intention of returning them to the rightful owner.
     The sad truth of the matter is that Lotus is utterly self- centered and doesn't have a single redeeming quality.  I guess that she travels with us simply out of habit and because no one is really willing to take her to task.
     If the legend that King Lightshroud mentioned has any validity (and I wouldn't be surprised if it did, to be honest), then I guess it could be said that Lotus had a great deal of potential.  In light of what her mother is, I also guess that it can be said that Lotus is a horrendous disappointment.  I guess I'll just hope that she stops sliding any further; I think she's beyond any help at this point.

post midnight addendum

     That was a rather unpleasant dream...  It was really odd, actually.  We (by we I mean Cloud, Magus, Taishou, Lord Phillip, Lotus, Taxil, Kalira (why?  why was she there?!), and myself).  Also there was a silver dragon accompanying Lord Phillip.  We were launching an assualt on father's castle in the Baator, for some reason.  I wasn't able to figure out why, but I knew we were searching for something.  Anyways, the castle was a horrid place and there were chosen ones everywhere, but everyone was displaying capabilities that they most certainly do not possess right now.  My dream ended rather abruptly after one of those Purified by the Flames of the Pit showed up.  Taishou scribed some sort symbol in the air, the Pure One scribed the exact same symbol, and I died.  At least, I think that's what happened.   I felt some sort of wrenching sensation, and then everything went black.  It's probably just as well that that's where it ended; being treated to myself being tormented in Baator until someone could finally resurrect me...  The souls of those who die that deep in the realm of the Chosen are more likely than not to be caught by something while navigating their way out.
     That's a rather depressing line of thought...  I guess I'll try to go back to sleep now.  I just hope that my rest won't be quite as troubled.


     I have this feeling of emptyness somewhere inside of me...   It isn't remotely pleasant, and I'm not sure if it's ever going to go away.  Is this the norm, or is it just me?
     Maybe it was a vision, maybe it wasn't.  Two nights ago I died in a dream, and yesterday I died in reality.  At least the man who killed me didn't get away with it.  Taishou finished consecrating the burial place of his ashes about an hour ago.  Unless someone deliberately finds the maniac and ressurects him, it isn't going to be possible for him to come back, period.
     I'm starting to wonder just why I've been deluding myself...   Yesterday's battle rather painfully demonstrated that just about anything that can actually pose a threat to the rest of the party can crush yours truly like an insect.  I wasn't even the main target of the attack that killed me; it was really targeted at Magus, and the fact that I was reduced to a smoldering corpse was simply a side effect.
     I guess what I'm getting at is that I really have no business tagging along when our band of stalwart heroes (though for some of them, I use that term very loosely) goes into battle.  In an actual battle, I'm almost completely useless.  Sure, there are a couple things I can do on the battlefield, but the effects of those things are practically neglible when compared to what Magus, Taishou, and Taxil fling around as after-thoughts.
      I'm still committed to go to Cloud's planet.  I guess I'll have to see how that goes before I make any final decisions.  I want to see this situation through to the end.  I hope that the party won't be too inconvenienced by the presence of an mere observer.
     You know, it is rather sad when one is reduced to hoping that one won't be too much of a burden to one's companions.
     Maybe things will seem a bit better in the morning.  That doesn't seem to be all that likely, though.

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