Monday, 31 August 2015

Kampi's Saga: Queen’s Day Tournament - Uberland

Another entry of Kampi's Saga. A little late on this entry, the weekend prior was the Queen's Day Tournament, a day long event hosted by the kingdom of Uberland in honour of their Queen. I had family visiting so I didn't attend MC this Saturday, but Kampi now has an amazing round shield that I received as a gift! Pics sooner or later. 

The third Day of Wodin
Month of the Harvest
Local Year 5315

Rune: Ansuz
Divine Association: Wodin, the All-Father
Literal Meaning: Æsir
Interpretations: Communication, Divinity, Wisdom
  • Right-side: Blessings, Inspiration, Insight
  • Inverted: Illusions, Manipulation, Misinterpretation

Following close in the wake of the Festival of Osis, the end of this past week Dagger Deep was host to yet another tournament day; this time to honour the birth of the Queen of the realm of Uberland, who was unfortunately unable to attend, but her husband, King Rife, did make an appearance.

Before the events of the tournament began that day, I had a long sagacious discussion with my fighter friend Higgs, who is a credit to his profession given that most lack the wisdom and insight he possesses. Whilst we conversed outside the duelling ring, his attention was drawn to the severed head I kept at my hip, and I told him the story of it and he listened intently. At the conclusion of my tale and after his first hand observations, we together made numerous profound speculations on the nature of the creature this once belonged to:

Perhaps the most simplest remark that he made now seems so obvious that I feel an utter fool for not noticing it despite all the time I'd spent with it: He noted that although the head has two eye sockets, it only had one eye, for the left eyelid had fully grown shut. We further ruminated over other marks of its form: Again, it's pronounced ears seem to speak of goblinoid lineage. It's prominent brow and cheek ridges are rather predatory in look. It's nose though is unlike a goblin or ork, being that it's rather bulbous and the arch of it flat and wide. The jawline is like that of a man and the lips; now sewn together may appear meek, but I recall them barely covering the prominent fangs before I bashed them out.

We remarked upon the matter that despite coming into possession of this thing over two moons ago, aside from the noticeable reduction in odour, its hasn't rotted as any severed body part should naturally. This sign, when coupled with the ominous dream I had before the strange circumstances where I acquiring it, that the ivory capillaries on the back of the skull (which reminded Higgs of similar looking veins the Illodian mage, Vash Jar, suffered during a magical experiment of his going wrong), and the druid Nash determined that it faintly emanates some sort of magical aura, that not only the head but perhaps the creature itself was of supernatural provenance.

Upon the culmination of this new knowledge, a resounding sense of dread grew within me when it all pointed to a singular thought in my mind: Could this thing have been an progeny of the Ruler of Asgard himself?

All this evidence (the omens, the single eye, the dream, the faint enchantment), pointed toward that conclusion; though I searched desperately for a comforting doubt, somehow I knew it could be true.

If that was the truth, it was one that raised additional questions, the paramount amongst them being 'why would the All-Father create such a monstrous creature, unleash it upon the unsuspecting folk of Bella, and then lead a loyal votary to that benighted settlement to meet and slay it in deadly combat?' Just as an arbitrary test of one's mettle and convictions?

One cannot claim to know the motives of the gods and of the Æsir, Wodin, is perhaps the most mysterious and unpredictable, but it appalled me to my very core to think that the people of Bella suffered because of a mere trial of my resoluteness. The thought was enough to make me consider renouncing my faith...

When I had the chance I professed this troubling revelation to Relan as soon as possible, under the original pretence of discussing the nature of divine servants; angels and demons as they are commonly referred to here, though he was quick to admit angels are a rare thing to visit this realm compared to demons.

When he inquired to my line of questioning, I told him of the realizations I had concerning the purpose of my voyage north, the events there, and the token that returned with me, and how I was distressed by the possible ramifications.

Relan's wisdom seems boundless for he allayed my concerns with a single of phrase: He stated it was his staunch belief that although many societies may portray them as such, not all the members of races deemed ugly or savage are born malicious and evil; and thus perhaps it was the curse of undeath that drove it from a perhaps normally seclusive nature to one violence and destruction.

I quickly grasped the meaning of his statements; if this were true, perhaps it was my fate by the will of All-Father to end this beings torment and prevent it from bringing further calamity.

One cannot imagine the relief this interpretation gave me; my faith had been restored. I was further honoured and humbled to be the apprentice to such a wise teacher.

A humorous aside: The jötunn, Mordag, believed himself a hound after sampling one of his
experimental herbal concoctions. Many began referring to him jokingly as 'Mor-dog'.

Another occurrence of note, was the recurrence of the former Black Rose member Dimitri, who spoke his undoubtedly honeyed poison to any willing to treat with that traitorous blackguard. If it were not for the respect of the laws of society (the decree of outlawery, written by the late Hand of King Wilumarius, Marcus, has since disappeared), I might have been moved to action against him. Instead I watched him closely from a distance whenever possible, attempting to discern the true motives beneath his pleas for forgiveness on his past misdeeds.

Dimitri, 'reformed' ex-member of the Black Rose
Many I spoke with trust Dimitri as much as I do, which is little to none. Even Relan, who preaches of redemption, is quick to agree that the time for that scoundrel's absolution has most likely passed, particularly when I noted that he still bore the hand taken from Rosalia a fortnight past; a physical link to his former master, Sakacuron.

For this and more, he reminds me of the Sly One in too many ways, and for that I watch him all the more closely above the rest.

Onto the event itself:

The tournament was more casual than Osis Day and the format was different, though there were some similarities: Separate fighting rings for those wielding swords and shields, polearms, and a ring for magic casters which later became anything-goes; some fighting each other armed also with their abilities as well as weapons, some wrestled, etc.

An old 'friend', Claudia, wielding a glave-like polearm.
What made many of the martial events differ from the previous tournament that marks were awarded to those who drew first blood in each weapon duel, complete defeat in the case of the magic/anything-goes ring, or forcing one's opponent out of the ring by wrestling. There was also a quest to locate and gather hidden gems of varying sizes, which were then traded to the event hosts for points: uncut pebbles were worth a single point; small cut gems, three points; large cut gems, five points; and the lone massive cut gem a score of points.

Ivar Ironsinger was a surprisingly good archer, for a dwarf.
Another archery contest also made an appearance, and though I journeyed to town this time equipped with my own bow and arrows, I didn't have the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the archery contest during the event, for I spent much of my time talking with several folks and participating the field sport where the two teams attempted to capture the flag belonging to the opposing force.

I did spent some time once the contest was concluded practising my skills with a bow:

The cocksure-and-carefree warrior Ajax allowed several of us to try out his dwarven crossbow; I found it relatively easy to use; but I had wary feelings about such a potentially powerful weapon of war required so little training or mastery to easily end lives.

Ajax's apprentice, Erin, from a place called Averland, taking aim.
The Uberlandian barbarian Duggan lining up a shot.
All contests awarded points: the rings awarded five points to each victor, a single to each loser; archery scored points from the distance of the target: one for close, three for middling, and five for the farthest; the winning team in capturing the flag per round was awarded twenty to each surviving participant, half that number to the victorious dead, and three to each member of the losing team.

After the eighth hour, all of these contests were concluded, the total accrued points for each participant were counted and the top three victors were announced: Kendrid the ardent warrior (also one of the tolerated vampires of the Deep), and Persius the gladiator (and this year's champion of the Festival of Osis), and Boz, master of the flaming spheres.

A series of pitched mock battles were then announced to take place in Ork's Field. Alternating, Boz and Kendrid assembled their teams; I, along with my friend Higgs and Ajax's apprentice, Erin, where selected for Kendrid's force.

Kendrid against Ivar.
Though I am wary of Kendrid's vampirism (I suffered more than once from his maddened blood-thirst) he is an distinguished tactician, for he led our side to victory twice over our designated foe by effectively deploying us on the field of battle.

Ajax, as to be expected, was deadly accurate with his crossbow.
He felled several opponents (myself included) during the pitched battles.
Following the pitched battles, a final event remained; a 'gauntlet': the top three were to be put through the trial of making their way from the hillock by wood henge to the cryer's post where the first to retrieve the pennon there would be crowned champion of Queen's Day. Between them and their goal, were armed participants of whose goal was to prevent them from achieving theirs. Each time one of the three fell to wounds, they were renewed at their starting place by magics.

During several crafty attempts by Boz and many bold ones by Persius, Kendrid prowled around the outskirts of the whole town, altered his attire to deceptively approach under the cover of dusk, and make a final dash for the banner and grabbed it before he could be stopped; thus he was titled champion of Queen's Day.

The gladiator, Inebrius, enjoying one of many of his drinks that day.

Following the tournament:

A stern Brynn
After twilight had fallen, as I sat down in the tavern, preparing to sup upon the repast I had brought, Relan mentioned to me during his visit his intent to assist his fellow clergy member Sprig and her compatriots in the Wild Ones band on a potentially dangerous otherworldly ritual to summon forth the being known as the 'Soul-Eater' that had of recently slain the warrior Sir Kalliades Draco. Ferdinand was to preform the complex blood ritual inside wood henge; priestess Sprig, gladiator Persius, shield-maiden Brynn, and another fighter were to slay the creature and recover Kalliades' soul.

The group wanted to risk no more than the five of them inside the magical barrier with the summoned being; though there was high chance that if they were defeated/Ferdinand was slain, the barrier which kept them inside but also kept others out would drop and the Soul-Eater would then be unleashed upon Dagger Deep. An endeavour fraught with peril, for not only did they risk their own souls should they fail, they gambled the lives of the Deep.

Relan, I, and several others were then mostly present for moral support, guarding the ritual from outside interference, and on the off chance assaulting and killing the being if the Wild Ones' own attempt did fail. Once Ferdinand preformed the ritual, not one, but two beings were brought forth into the circle. The four combatants engaged them and those of us able to illuminated their foes with rays of light.

A sketch Sprig drew of the ritual
Following a tense battle in which our heroes nearly succumbed, they succeeded in bringing down both creatures and retrieving the soul of their comrade and leader Kallides. All present no longer had to wait with baited breathes, and once the barrier was down this brave group was met with praise, respect, and relief from their peers and companions.

Relan must be very proud of his pupil and I have even more respect and admiration for Sprig, whose selfless sacrifice is beyond anything I have witnessed. I am blessed to know them both and have them as close friends.

As my master and I made to leave the town, I began to think that the ordeal that Relan had to watch his former apprentice go through, coupled with the recent passing of his former master Marcus and all the other recent hardship, are beginning to take their toll on the bishop of Ithus; signs of physical and mental exhaustion are becoming apparent, from his weary actions, repeated remarks, and his refusal to pause from his research, stating that he will not be late again with priority knowledge.

I related my concerns to him and pleaded that he get much needed rest and respite.

This land doesn't need to lose another one of its few shining beacons to darkness.

Praise Be To The Æsir

-Ref 'Kampi' Vandillson

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Kampi's Saga: Information Gathering

Compared to last week's entry, this entry of Kampi's Saga, is somewhat shorter since I was NPCing most of this mission and Kampi was only present pre- and post- mission, though he does relate several unfortunate turns of events.

The third Day of Wodin
Month of the Harvest
Local Year 5315

Rune: Ansuz
Divine Association: Wodin, the All-Father
Literal Meaning: a god
Interpretations: Communication, Divinity, Wisdom
  • Right-side: Blessings, Inspiration, Insight
  • Inverted: Illusions, Manipulation, Misinterpretation

Four days past, the legendary holy warrior, Marcus Quintus Titus, departed from this mortal realm.

Dentellai "Ravensfuri" Imladrim, Princess of Ter'Solma, cradling the head of the late Marcus.

As I have been told by many, Marcus was noble soldier in the service of his god and his liege, whose reputation far preceded himself. I deeply regret missing my chance ever meeting this man face to face; I was given a opportunity that very day when both the paladin of Cheeba, Seremen, and the Mare of the town both approached me on separate occasions with the inquiry of myself being employed in the town guard (which saw very few of since my return; their numbers before then were dwindling).

Though I was am quite honoured to have been singled out for the duty of keeping order in that somewhat benighted town, I had already failed myself as a reliable individual by putting off my intended meeting with the Hand of King Wilumarius until after I had returned from what was to be a brief journey to Uberland with my friend Seppo.

When I finally returned later than expected, I soon heard the terrible news of his untimely passing from my best friend Tobias. I had missed my chance to meet with a legend by my foolish decision to briefly postpone that meeting. A harsh lesson to learn.

Unsurprisingly, many around me are aggrieved from the news of his passing, and all that I am able to do is give feeble support; I cannot even begin to fathom the sorrow of those closest to him, having never met him myself. I am unsure if it is by my own actions or just fated that I may always remain an outsider in this land; a mere observer of events or hearing them second-hand.

My mentor, Relan, was once his apprentice; I can tell he was still somewhat in shock by the revelation. I have only witnessed him being fully emotional once since I've known him in our relatively short time together, but when he rambled to me late that evening, his steady rational tone belied hints of deep mourning. His concerns touched upon the final destination of Marcus' soul when it was driven from his vessel: hopefully to a much deserved rest with his god Mitra, and not being wrongly cursed to the Abyss. Relan, seeker and obtainer of knowledge, has heard rumours of either.

He also touched upon his concern of recent news of Marcus' lost son; once believed to be dead, he still may live. Though Marcus denied this Gaius of being his real son, Relan states he feels compelled to find him if the rumour of his survival proves true, and take him as his ward in belief that there was a small part of Marcus who still held hope that it was his son.

The pair of us, during our late night rumination, met with the final apprentice of the late paladin, Ariha, who was deep in morning, listlessly bearing the steel helm of her master. My offer of deepest condolences sounded hollow and meaningless when it left my lips. She, as the prophet of her faith and the now lone Mitrite, relayed to Relan that she felt Marcus' soul had gone to Mitra, but she expressed her dismay at the prospect of that Gaius may still live, for it would dishearten Marcus not to see both his wife and their son in Elysium (the afterlife Mitrites believe in).

How did this whole tragedy occur? I should start with the beginning of the days events...

I arrived to Dagger Deep with my friend Seppo in tow, who had been from these lands nearly as long I had. He was still quite reticent journeying here after the savage attacks he suffered last time by were-creatures, but I promised I would do my best to safeguard him whilst he discovered what had happened to the shop he shared with his business partner Claudia.

As I strode into the Deep, I was greeted by a young elven girl I had not seen since I had left over two months ago. It warmed my heart to see the shining face and receive the lovingly embrace Sprig after all that time apart. After a few pleasantries were exchanged, I briefly departed to attend to Seppo's errand.

Speaking with the seamstress Azreal (whose business now dwelt in the shop), she sheepishly claimed that Claudia was 'gone'. Easily knowing that she wasn't telling the whole truth, I pressed her further and she told the answers I bore would be answered by the new barkeep.

When I later encountered this alewife, I quickly discovered she was again my old acquaintance Talon in another guise, this time as 'Takumura'; a name which she claimed was a family title. Whether this claim is actually getting closer to the truth of her heritage or yet another façade, I have yet to tell. Regardless, I left Seppo, who was kind enough to repair my right vambrace with a crude tools he had available (a testament to his skill as a craftsman) to sort the business details out with his (former?) partner whilst I met and talked again with Sprig; we were soon joined by Relan.

The discussion between us soon turned to one of concern over the nature of 'Infernal' and 'Abyssal' mana, which Relan had confused during our previous talks but now explained in full: This Infernal mana, as it is now known, is a parasitic threat to divine casters, as it relentlessly consumes the energy granted by the deities to their agents, neither side being able to sever the link. Abyssal mana was what certain beings hailing from the Abyss used to fuel their spells, concentrated within crystalline shards.

As our conversation came to an end, I saw a familiar face: It was that of Elfranco, young adherent to the god Thor (not the bloodthirsty deity known as Korne, but the true Guardian of Midgard). Since my time away, I was delighted to hear he had begun tutelage under a new teacher, though I was somewhat disconcerted he still seemed rather meek in his convictions and admitted he knew very little about the faith of his new master, whom he only knew as a woman named 'Scout', a name I did not recognize.

After a philosophic discussion where I attempted to engage Elfranco's contemplation, using the lessons I recently learned from events of the previous week, we joined in on a teaching Relan was giving in divine runes. From there we parted briefly was until we unexpected met again outside the court when Relan had inquiries with Marcus. There, below the high steps of the court, I learned that Elfranco's mentor, this 'Scout', was actually Marcus' apprentice, Ariha. Surely, the Norns had woven together the strands of all the fates present.

Ariha, the last apprentice of Marcus and the sole remaining Mitrite.

Perhaps revealing a certain reluctance at feeling unprepared for taking upon an apprentice of her own, she relayed to Elfranco he was welcome if he felt it more appropriate to study under me; overhearing this, I politely injected I was still under tutelage to Relan myself and would be unable to do so even if Elfranco wished it: Though he is a follower of one of the Æsir, I feel that both these somewhat insecure souls might learn from each other.

Relan and I made to depart from the town, for he desired to continue his research into the foreboding events, and I promised to escort Seppo to Uberland whilst he retrieved some of his smithing equipment. When we was taking our leave, that was when the enquiries to my possible enlistment in the town guard were made and I made my regretful decision not to follow up on them and personally meet with the legendary soul now lost to us.

When I returned at last with Seppo, it had already grown dark. Our late journey back from Uberland had been further delayed on the account the sole of my boot had become dislodged, impeding our progress, forcing us to halt and affect limited repairs upon it.

Seppo generously offered buy me a meal and I acquired at the C&A for us; I then took a seat with Tobias and his friend Sigmund and they recanted to me the dire events I had missed during my absence:

A host of therianthropes, led by their progenitor Silverfang, came into town with an elven female named Nym. Soon after, a group consisting of prominent members of the Black Rose (Kroth, Dimitri, Pter), along with a small escorting force, entered the surrounding lands and sent a diplomatic envoy to treat with the citizens and their visitors. They stated their intentions were peaceful to the folk of Dagger Deep but they demanded that Nym be handed over to them. To prevent escalating hostilities between the Black Rose and Silverfangs' pack, it was agreed no fighting was to take place within the gates of the town. In attempt to gain the good graces of some of the townsfolk, the Black Rose further agreed to aid in solving a recent clutch of demons that were terrorizing the realm.

Eventually, the Black Rose and the therianthropes moved their respective groups to Ork's Field, just outside of the entrance to Dark Wood and a long dialogue commenced between them. The Black Rose demanded Nym, whom they claimed placed the original curse upon their lord Sakacuron (then known as Zechariah) eons ago that drove him to obtain his lost true love, Lillian, and thus was the true cause of all the tragedy that ensued.

Pter, the executioner of Marcus, surrounded by forces of the Black Rose.
Silverfang countered that since her reappearance, Nym has done nothing but aid the unfortunate, whereas the Black Rose have been aggressively preying upon the region for the past several months and that their service to the dark lord is one of fear, not respect. After a rather drawn out exchange, the two forces finally came to blows, with many of the citizens of Dagger Deep allying with therianthropes: The Black Rose was vastly outnumbered in force and after a few more desperate appeals, they were driven to rout from this land.

During that time, two major things were said to occur:

First, the ancient spirit Dimitri met with Nym and in a surprising turn, through strong words, clever deception, and/or powerful magic, changed his allegiance from the Black Rose to Nym, and aided in driving out his former allies. He was also heard to proclaim that together they would rebuild a noble holy order called the Blazing Sun, which was what the Black Rose was originally before it was corrupted.

Such news I find difficult to believe and even if it is true, it'll be a cold day in muspelheim if I ever fully trust that blackguard.

The second, far more tragic event of that day concerned the nature of the death of Marcus.

I was told that Pter, the one-armed declaimer of the Black Rose, returned to town during the commotion where he met with the Mitrite. The details are lost to me, for I was and have been coming to terms with very shock of the event and did not inquire, but from what little I've gathered, witnesses to the event said Marcus willingly had his soul ripped from his earthly vessel by Pter. Speculation abounds on the hereafter of his spirit, whether Pter damned him to the Abyss or granted him mercy by sending it to the Elysian Fields.

It's difficult to imagine that any of high members of the Black Rose could show mercy, but I'm sure that all who loved and/or respected the man hope and pray he now rests in piece in his deserving afterlife. I know I do.

Again, I wish I had a chance to meet that man. Of the threads of fate that I'm intertwined with, ours was never meant to cross.

With that, I have nothing more to write beyond this small measure which I honour him:

Sola Fide

-Ref ' Kampi' Vandillson

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Kampi's Saga: Unrequited Vengeance

Here's a long entry of Kampi's Saga, filled with many images of the day and some of his inner most thoughts. Skal!

The second Day of Thonar
Month of the Harvest
Local Year 5315

Rune: Thurisaz
Divine Association: Thonar, the Guardian of Asgard
Literal Meaning: Giant
Interpretations: Emotion, Force, Instinct
  • Right-side: Catharsis, Protection, Purification
  • Inverted: Compulsion, Danger, Malice

Following an uneventful stay here in Helm's Deep, I once again visited that mystical place that lies to the north: Dagger Deep. Despite all the calamity that is inexorably drawn to it, I, along with many other individuals (noble intentions or otherwise), continue to fight for it.

As is oft to occur, during the latter part of my journey to the township, I came across several friendly faces: my close friend Tobias, his cheerful companion Ori, along with their colleague in the mage school of Illodia and disciple of the sacred, Sunset.

We gathered around the sparring ring, where several aspirants desired to test their mettle by a trial in combat against a pair of seasoned fighters under the watchful eyes belonging to arbiters of their respective guilds.

We obliged many of them, taking turns in the ring. After the competitive drive a week ago during the Festival of Osis, it was refreshing to hone ones' skills with some light sparring whilst passing on advice to the newly initiated.

After the melee, my companions departed to attend Illodian concerns and I met and talked at great length with my mentor Relan, whom I had not seen before I had departed on my wayfaring up north. We discussed many things. He further tutored me in the divine script, which I am now convinced was composed long ago by dutiful scholars as an alternative means to cipher holy writings when runic (which I believe to be the true script of the gods, at least of the Æsir) would be more widely known. Relan politely disagreed with my conjecture.

It seems Relan and I disagreed on much after that day; I am unsure if that is beneficial or unfavourable to our relationship as mentor and student. Though I was physically distant from him for sometime, before that and even now there is still a certain feeling of being remote from each other that might go well beyond having different faiths. This was further intensified by several discourses during the twilight hours later that day.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

During our walks about the town, we encountered several odd beings, the first of which were a pair of ghostly azure lights that spoke in airy voices and flitted about interacting with locals in an occasionally mischievous fashion. They were soon joined by a silent third that appeared to be their lead. Initially they were thought to be fairy-folk until it was pointed out they were 'wisps'.

Another unfamiliar face was that of an elder dressed in a patchwork cloak who walked with the aid of a staff. He inquired about some marbles he had lost and was willing to pay for their return. There was also a man who bore a large 'pet' serpent. Such animals are rarely found where I am from and I find it difficult to reconcile that mortals would willingly consort with such creatures given their sullied connection with other scaled monsters; my mind leaps to the sagas containing the vile world-serpent, Jörmungand, and the malicious wyrm, Nidthogg.

Back to the topic of losing ones marbles, we came across a most disturbing man, black hooded and spear-wielding, who raved about 'the ten marbles of mankind' and what the 'All-Father' compelled him to do; one witness to his frenetic jabbering later relayed to us he had mutilated his own face by the will of his god, which I am without a doubt certain is not the true All-Father, Wodin. I must keep in mind that if he appears again the future and continues to besmirch one of the well-known name of the Chief of the Æsir, I may be bound to reconcile his disbelief, perhaps forcibly.

The light rain that did on occasion fall from the sky this day, along with the crow (a lesser bird of black plumage, similar looking to the more worthy raven, but smaller in size and low in bearing) that was seen circling periodically, and the appearance of these 'wisp' creatures, had my mentor Relan grimly proclaim them heralds of a certain god-like entity that had appeared the past year, known as the Morrigan.

A crowd had gathered at the tavern to witness the silent wisp manipulate the board of a tafl game known as chess, distributing certain pieces to select patrons, retrieving, and arraigning them upon the board in a select pattern. Relan and I departed the tavern briefly to attend to personal business whilst discussing the possible distracting omens of game-pieces and marbles, when suddenly the collective in the bar was beset by a legion of armed assailants bearing a cobalt-hued twice-barred cross as their unifying emblem.

Relan and I quickly joined the fray and after a heated battle, our gathering managed to drive off the aggressors, but only after we were aided by a small group of female newcomers (their dress was similar to those of the Celtfolk I knew in my youth). It was quickly established the four women were followers of the Morrigan; their high priestess was named Deidra, and the three sisters were Anu, Badb, and Macha. They were also accompanied by a shimmering insubstantial form, that Deidra claimed to be a divine servant granted by the Morrigan that she could beckon to full form at will.

Suspicion was thick in the air, for many of our group unfavourably looked upon the followers of the Morrigan from past events that occurred a year ago. Deidra beseeched us to aid her, for a powerful being known only as 'the Paragon' had become host in the body of the kender Rosalia and now strove with its force to perform rituals at the elemental portals of this land to create a weapon capable of slaying deities.

Despite past misgivings, we allied with the high priestess. In preparation, the blessing of Ithus was placed upon several of our weapons, mine own included. Deidra also offered many of us a magical boon from the Morrigan; I initially rebuffed her offer, stating that I preferred to keep to my own faith (despite just accepting a boon from Ithus; outside of the Æsir, I place my trust in Relan's god); she seemed to understand my motive and accepted it with grace. After a brief supplication by Relan, we collectively marched with haste to the first location the Paragon was believed to begin its rituals: the water portal near the river Galadriel.

Unfortunately we arrived at the river just as the unhallowed ritual was reaching its completion. Though the sisters of the Morrigan were able to dispel the protective barrier the servants of the Paragon had erected around those performing their vile rites and we met their force in combat, we were unable to break their lines before the ceremony was completed. The ground quaked, throwing all prone as the elemental link collapsed and its power was drawn into the large two-handed greatsword wielded by the Paragon.

Our foe quickly withdrew by magical means whilst we contended with the remaining forces. During the battle, my mentor Relan had been dealt a grievous wound: his right eye had been dislodged by the thrust of a blade, partially blinding him. Whilst I safeguarded his vulnerable state from threats, he, through admirable discipline, returned the displaced orb to his head and recovered the injury through the grace of Ithus.

The High Priestess related to our group that the Paragon and her its forces must be moving to the next portal in the supposed cycle: the earth portal. We gathered our forces and redoubled our efforts to the thistle-filled plain known as Andi's Land. Again we arrived just as the ritual was under way and again the earth shook despite our valiant efforts. I slew many a foe and I fell repeatedly to the weapons they wielded, the crushing embrace of half-bred offsprings of orc and troll, and to the arrows of their keen-eyed archer.

A few of our group focused repeated efforts on capturing the Paragon's hosted form to prevent the future rituals, but it proved too difficult with the powers that it and its allies brought to bear against those who attempted to seize the form of Rosalia.

Though soundly beaten again, we were still determined to prevent the Paragon's plan to further infuse the sword with god-slaying power; once we regathered our band we pressed off to prevent the twice-successful ritual from being further performed. We had also learned that the Paragon was using the blood of particular individuals they had captured to fuel these rites, and those who were believed to be sought by the enemy took to hiding or disguising themselves; two of such were Lord Caius, Protector of the Deep, and Sir Odez of Uberland, respectively.

Our plan partially succeeded, for while we were mistaken in our knowledge that the air portal was to be the next target and travelled there to secure it, it delayed the Paragon from being able to complete their ritual at the portal of fire. When news of their location reached us, the bulk of our force sought them out to engage whilst at my suggestion a small group remanded to defend the air portal should our foe succeed in gaining the elemental potential of flame.

The wise and kindly jötunn Mordag was able to direct us to what he believed to be the precise location of the air portal and we arrayed ourselves around it to repulse any force encountered with our lives. A pair of clever females worked on supplementing our position with an array of hidden traps, whilst the rest of us steeled our nerves and replenished our faith in our gods or connection to nature.

Time pressed on, the sounds of battle few and distant. Tobias was able to pass on his recently mastered knowledge of the uses of several plants to me. Eventually a shieldmaiden dressed in the garb of an Uberlandian came upon our group by her lonesome, persistently inquiring about the presence Lord Caius.

We were correct to be wary, for she was strange in her demands and heedless to the appeals to halt her advance; she strode through several snares yet she seemed unmindful to the wounds they inflicted upon her. It wasn't until the strength of the giant knocked her flat upon her back her progress was halted, after which she withdrew indignant by her lack of answers. She must have been undoubtedly under the control of the Paragon, seeking to use her relationship with Caius to draw him out of hiding.

Hereafter we heard the full force of our foe in the nearby hinterland and drew alert and silent; we believed they were searching for the air portal and would soon come upon our ambush. We prepared for the inevitable.

Soon we heard friendly shouts approach from the opposite direction and they sought to engage with our enemy, who responded with cries of their own. Suddenly, a great rumbling quake told all that they somehow had managed to complete their ceremony as it was later learned with the blood of Odez, whose attempt to disguise himself was unsuccessful. Our small band was incensed that the Paragon must have managed to tap into the air gateway via a nearby ley juncture.

The final prospect was obvious to all now: a single portal remained between success and failure. Tobias, myself, and several of our well-rested comrades proceeded hence with all haste to the last portal. There we again prepared for a final stand. In readiness for the inevitable onslaught, I chose to accept the again offered boon from Deidra, the high priestess of the Morrigan: She laid her hand upon my arm and after a brief lull I felt empowered beyond what I have ever felt before. It was as if the Æsir imbued my weak mortal frame with their combined potency: the might of Thonar, the courage of Tyraz, the very will of Wodin. I was ready for anything that may come.

Yet, gradually over the course of time, Deidra then revealed to us glad tidings: she had received divine presage that the Paragon had failed in its task to harness the control of all four gateways to create its weapon and all that remained for us was to meet them at a particular location and banish them once and for all!

Feeling that the end was within our grasp we proceeded as a group to the place that was to allegedly be the final battle, but we to soon discovered their force outside of the town and quickly learned we were deceived by a falsehood worthy of the Trickster himself: Whilst we departed the fire portal a small band of their warriors secured it for an imminent last ditch attempt at completion of the ritual.

With my last motes of energy I flew back to the portal with all the swiftness and determination I had, alone spearheading a vanguard to the spot. I arrived just as the warriors of the Paragon arrayed themselves out to safeguard their holding. Knowing that time was critical, I did not wait for the remainder of my allies to arrive; I felt that alone I might cause a distraction and weaken their defences, however slight.

I approached their line and a tall man wearing plate, maille, and a feathered cap, carrying a two-handed blade over his shoulder, called out to me as a northman in the surprisingly familiar accent belonging to the lowlands south of my homeland, challenging me to a duel with him. Driven by the pride of an honourable fight, the confidence granted to me by the gods, and the belief that I stood a better chance fighting one on one, I engaged my challenger.

To the best of my ability I parried his great blows and managed to score a few of my own upon him, and we seemed evenly matched until an honourless archer drove his arrow shaft deep into my chest. I knew then I would not last long and prepared to meet the greyness of death, when a blur tacked my foeman; it was Tobias and the remainder of our force crashed against their own. I eventually fell but an ally soon had me back on my feet and we proceeded to drive the Paragon's allies from these lands and banish the being from the exhausted kender.

At last, we were successful in preventing the god-slaying weapon from coming into being!

Exhausted over the events of the day, I voraciously supped alone back at the tavern whilst many celebrated. Afterwards I joined again with Relan and we resumed our earlier conversations; I told of the power I felt from the boon granted by the high priestess of the Morrigan, and he advised me to cleanse myself to remove any possible 'stain' left from the blessing belonging to a not entirely affiliated god. He seemed to perhaps wisely continue to harbour mild suspicion against the Morrigan and her followers despite their beneficial actions of that day.

We also continued our discussion about the followers of the Black Rose and how they've been able to taint those of divine grace with a form of 'Abyssal mana' that consumes what is granted to the pious by the gods, gradually replacing their faith with a corrupted mockery. A dangerous threat to all followers of the holy ways.

Our late night conversations were soon disturbed by the arrival of a infamous figure: the outlaw and servant of the Black Rose, Dimitri. After a tense exchange with him, Relan and I gathered a band from the tavern willing to attempt capturing him (for the greater good or the bounty). Laughing mockingly, he slew several valiant fighters by ripping their hearts from their chest or by setting some aflame, one of which was Relan, whom I managed to pat out before the flames wholly consumed him. We then lost his form in the thick underbrush near Fort Rowanoak, and our attempts to locate or cajole him out proved fruitless.

The two of us soon met with Rosalia and that broody hestkuk of a mage Philip. Rosalia was acting somewhat delirious; I though she was merely completely exhausted being host to that Paragon being all day, but turns out the reason was more dire than that: Through events I don't entirely understand, the little kender's shrivelled right hand was not her own and her mind constantly bickered with the spirit contained therein. Supposedly both belonged to the long lost wife of the mortal who became the dark lord of this realm, Sakacuron, whose desire for her was so great it drove him to acts of unforgivable evil.

Her wanderings brought us to the darkness near the river Galadriel, where we were soon joined by Dimitri. Since Relan did not make against him, I stayed my hand out of respect for my mentor and his perhaps wise course of action, though I constantly struggled with the urge to throw myself at that arrogant villain, even if the death he granted would save me from what I saw and heard that evening.

After some discussion, it was decided that Dimitri would remove the hand and see it back to his master; the process may forever haunt me. Through magic, Philip, perhaps in a misguided act of pity, made it so Rosalia's screams would not be heard, for Dimitri cut off her hand with a knife. The slow act we witnessed was almost too much to bear; I wished I had an axe to lend to hasten her suffering. I have newfound respect for the little kender for enduring such pain.

Once the appendage was free, Relan returned her to life; with her old hand in place of the other, she was herself again. A tense dialogue followed where I was but an observer to an array of subjects perhaps beyond my understanding, or rather willingness to understand. The affairs of locals I told myself, though I feel that I must grow to learn such tales as I know that this land is now perhaps my new home.

Eventually their discussions came to a close and we parted without a violent incident occurring. My mentor and I had a fierce dialogue on the nature of morality and how ones actions were justified: Relan would seek to satiate the looming threat of Sakacuron and the Black Rose by reuniting him with his lost love, hoping that by granting what him what he desires most this world might be saved from his ravages. For Relan, it seemed that end would justify the means.

I deny this, for to me it is akin to giving a mass murderer a pardon, disrespecting all who died in his wake in this and other worlds in his pursuit of his passion, as noble as it perhaps once was. I know deep in my soul the Æsir would wish us to fight until the very end, just as they plan to do at Ragnarök, despite knowing it is to be their doom. Attempting to appease the threat is to accept defeat and dominance by it.

My teacher said wearily that there were many paladins and acolytes in the land who'd agree with me; though I am sure it was not meant to be one, but I somehow took that observation as slight.

We ended back at the tavern, which was empty from the late hour, where we relieved our exhausted and sullen souls by partaking in heavy drink with the kender and the mage before we all retired for the night.

Praise Be To The Æsir

-Ref 'Kampi' Vandillson