Reign of Winter

Thought in a Cage
An excerpt from the journal of Nobel Black

My frustration grows. My deafness affords me a contemplative world in which I can easily ignore outside distractions, but it comes with having difficulty drowning out the noise of my own thoughts. This is part of why I keep this journal: organizing my thoughts on paper helps me maintain clarity among a cacophony of ideas.

Deafness is isolation, isolation can lead to despair and madness, but even madness has its use in the form of insight. Insight about Baba Yaga, witches, my companions, our destinies. I seem to be the only one who asks the questions that need to be asked. I may be deaf but my companions are blind.

Should we be following Baba Yaga’s trail or should we be pursuing a different agenda? Baba Yaga is selfish evil beyond measure, a woman who would serially kill her own children for her own purposes. This is an evil that should not be released from containment, yet here we are attempting to do just that. Could we find a way to stop the White Queen Elvanna and her reign of winter without freeing Baba Yaga in the process? How deep does our pact with Baba Yaga go and what are the consequences for bending or breaking it?

Selene, the righteous avenger, has no qualms about involving herself in a war that is not hers – killing natives of an alien world while she herself is an outsider – yet she continues to hold me in suspicion. I have learned much from Seph’s tutelage and I notice the frequency with which she scans me for evil intent with her soulseeing eyes. After all this, the blood and battle, the trials and tribulations, she cannot accept what I am?

She fears me because she fears my darkness, but she only fears the dark because she lacks understanding of its true nature. She naively lives in a world of black and white; light is good and dark is abhorrent evil. This is a child’s worldview. The truth is that shadow is the origin of all things. It existed alone at the beginning and gave birth to the light. The perception of darkness has been turned by sinister minds who have used its ample bounty for malign purposes. I am not them.

Fenn seems too preoccupied with books and the pursuit of power to live in the current moment. Perhaps it was his upbringing in a world where your parents and then your mentor can be killed at the whim of those with more might that made him see power as the only worthy goal. This is myopic. He seeks power in arcana and misses the potency found in fellowship. He ignores the signs suggesting a shared history with Seph. Is it that Seph’s constant harping reminds him of the late wizard mentor who never wanted another apprentice? The friendship we once shared has been tainted by this witchcraft.

What is Taryn thinking? She remains my greatest mystery. Though we have travelled together for some time, I cannot say I really know her. She outwardly appears to live and breath for brawling and ale, but that cannot be everything. She could have stayed in Irresen or anywhere on Golarion for that kind of life and it would have earned her more prestige than possibly dying on an alien world as an unknown and unremembered stranger.

I have come to think of her as Baba Yaga’s Wolf. If Fenn, Selene, and I have become her Riders then that would make sense. The Riders are solitary figures, never really working together in previous accounts I found in the hut’s library. The only thing that would bring riders together is the hunt, and every hunt needs a hound, leading the chase with teeth bared.

I wonder often about my father and the Black family curse. Is he even still alive after all these years, or did the madness that consumed his mind finally overwhelm his body? My mother took my hearing to stave off the voices that were working on my young mind, but perhaps the family curse is more insidious. It’s not the voices without but the voice within that haunts me now. This journal is my sanctuary.

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The Ivoryglass Infiltration, Part 2: Dawn Rises on Yrax
An excerpt from the journal of Nobel Black

We pursued the 10 legged bear creature down the hallway now that our mission had become overt, but he disappeared down the next hall. Seph was surprised how quiet the place seemed for the central fortress of the Drakelands forces. Perhaps they were simply waiting for us in ambush now that Yrax, the fortress commander, had almost assuredly been warned.

I was marveling at the beauty of the structure of Ivoryglass – its dome and walls composed of ice, crystal, and stone that allowed the place to be quite illuminated by the daylight outside despite having no windows – when I noted something odd about a segment of the wall. It didn’t feel magical and it seemed sturdy enough so I prepared to move on, but Fenn had already been alerted by my interest. He walked toward the wall, then passed straight through! In turn, Selene, Shatha, Taryn, Koyo, and Seph all seemed to simply walk through a solid section of wall. Briefly, but only briefly, I thought I actually heard a voice, a discouraging accusation that they had left me alone. In hindsight it must have been my own thoughts, however unsettling. Exasperated, I investigated the wall again to find it was indeed an illusion, a very convincing illusion.

My companions appeared to be gone when I finally breached the wall, but I could still smell them all nearby and knew that Fenn must be playing a joke. What better time to engage in such antics? I let Fenn know I wasn’t fooled and he dropped the ruse.

The hidden passageway led us straight to Yrax, a huge white dragon resting on a pile of exotic furs, presumably hunting trophies from across Triaxus. He was eager for revenge after we had killed his pet Akhlut, and he was fully prepared. The battle was fierce and protracted. Fenn and Taryn had trouble damaging the commander which Fenn and I tried to improve by dispelling his magical effects. I was essentially on the defensive much of the time healing my allies, and the few times I tried to go on the offensive I found it difficult to penetrate his defenses. Shatha, Koyo, and Selene took the fight to Yrax, but while Selene could consistently strike Yrax, our newest allies couldn’t seem to land a blow.

The battle turned when Taryn scrambled underneath him and pierced Yrax’s softer underbelly, and Selene crushed his throat with her shield shutting down his breath weapon. His assault slowed, Fenn was finally able to bring hellfire down on the dragon and Shatha, with a weapon blessed by my magic, was able to finish it.

Selene was nothing short of a miracle against the venerable dragon. The Dawn has risen! Anywhere Yrax moved she went to face him, preventing his full might from being leveled at one of her friends. When he did shred Taryn with his wings and claws or freeze Fenn and I with his icy breath, Selene continued harrying him so that the injury dealt to us was only half of what it may have been. Her courage inspired us all such that no one gave any quarter even when things looked grim.

Well, all except Koyo who, after several failed attempts to bite and blind Yrax led to here being mauled, appeared to flee. In reality she went to find the bear skin totem we had come for lest we were forced to retreat. We found her going through the pile of furs after the battle with the bear skin in her teeth.

Fenn and I had given much of our energies to the victory with little in reserve, but our thoughts were already moving ahead to the hut and where we might go next.

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All That We Know
Notes from the journal of Nobel Black

Baba Yaga is missing
- she should have returned but did not
- why didn’t she return? what is capable of containing her? Why does she need our help?
- our quest doesn’t really seem to be getting us any closer to her. We still have no clue where she is. How did our involvement in Atrosa or Triaxus help our quest? By stopping someone else access the Aeon Pit we could have helped Baba Yaga, but how does she benefit in our involvement between warring clans on Triaxus?

The dancing hut is a powerful artifact that can travel across space
- it seems to be a variable pocket dimension
- can it travel through time?
- could Baba Yaga be trapped in the hut’s pocket dimension somewhere and the keys are helping us achieve the correct arrangement?
- we have thus far been forced to follow Baba Yaga’s bread crumbs but could we learn to operate the hut ourselves? Maybe Fenn could figure it out.

Baba Yaga’s affliction is also acting on the hut
- Dawnbreak inside the hut has become psychotic as a result of Baba Yaga’s absence. Selene was able to help him through counseling.
- could this same affliction affect us since we are now bound to Baba Yaga when we received her power?
- we must return to help Dawnbreak when we can
- could the hut itself be afflicted and account for why we cannot just go straight to Baba Yaga?

Baba Yaga’s daughters
- they all seem to end up dead
- the ghostly apparitions of her former daughters indicated Baba Yaga does this to them
- blood magic?
- is Irresen simply nothing more than a farm where she raises daughters for slaughter like livestock? The best way to keep an animal caged is to let it think it’s free. By establishing the country of Irresen and putting her daughters in charge, she caged them while also keeping them occupied with running a country and competing with each other.

Artrosa
- another dual function: a prison and protection for the Aeon Pit from which Baba Yaga has drawn power.
- every place we have gone is interconnected in that they are all means to provide Baba Yaga power, but they may not be related to each other.
- what does Triaxus provide her with? The cold? Dragon scales?

Baba Yaga’s son
- she has a son that no one has ever heard of
- she only sees people, including her own children, as a means to and end. What purpose does this son serve? Why is there only one? I know there’s only one since witches always talk deliberately and the phrase was “Baba Yaga’s son”, singular. It can’t be the same deal as with the daughters.

The Reign of Winter
- if we don’t stop her, the queen of Irresen will throw all of Golarion into an ice age
- if we do stop her, it means Baba Yaga is free once more to do whatever horrible things she does across all of the cosmos
- can we damn other worlds to save our own?
- if Triaxus is the source of the cold, could we shut it down and stop the reign of winter?

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The Ivoryglass Infiltration, Part 1: Elementals
An excerpt from the journal of Nobel Black

The glacial crevasse opened to an open plain of snow and ice with Ivoryglass in the distance. I was kind of expecting a colossal crystalline tower based on the grandeur of its name, but instead Ivoryglass was a large ice dome. Simple to maintain and defend given it had only a single entrance and no where from which to stealthily approach given its position in the middle of an icy plain.

We would need to cross a mile of open ground. Selene has never had any concept of strategy that didn’t involve garnering maximal attention. To deal with her shine, I covered her in a blanket. She still rattled and clanked like an iron golem, but that was the least of our problems. Fenn seems hell bent on burning his way through all of life’s challenges, but for once he used his magic for something constructive. Fenn scouted with scrying eyes and discovered 2 guard huts by the front entrance and another group of guards on a regular perimeter sweep. We waited until we understood their pattern and then made a break for the side of the dome, away from the guards stationed near the entrance and avoiding the patrol.

Fenn and Selene used their staff and spear respectively to melt a hole through the side of the Ivoryglass dome. Once we were up close, the structure was surprisingly large and the wall took nearly 30 minutes to melt through, all the while Taryn, Shatha, Koyo, and I stood watch for the patrol. Seph spent 30 minutes lecturing Fenn about the structural engineering of a dome and how Fenn could best do the job of tunneling through the wall. I don’t think he had a clue what he was talking about, but he seems to know how to push Fenn’s buttons. I can empathically feel his joy when he does these things.

Our breach took us into a shrine to an evil dragon god, which Shatha wasted no time soiling with his urine and feces. It was kind of undignified but this was Triaxus and I wasn’t about to tell a Triaxian dragonkin how to handle his business when it came to evil dragon worship.

Several other rooms revealed nothing of particular interest, and then we found a large pool of near freezing water. I told my crew to hold back as I invisibly approached the water and surveyed the room. Not 6 seconds later I note a splash next to me and turn to see Taryn washing her fucking tankard in the pool! I opened my mouth to protest only to realize that Selene was half way around the pool. In astonishment I looked to Fenn who was then standing on my other flank poking the water with his flaming staff and asking if I had found anything! They must think this shit is funny because I’m deaf, but I pray to Magdh that these idiots don’t get us all killed.

Sometimes the fey part of me just gets too curious and usually that part gets me in trouble. Spying nothing in the area of such a large, still pool, I asked myself “I wonder what’s at the bottom?” I transformed into a water elemental and entered. Immediately an Ahklut, a huge half whale-half wolf, emerged and grabbed Taryn in an attempt to swallow her. Instinctively I ensorceled the creature so that it couldn’t attack us and it dove down into the water dragging Taryn with it.

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Taryn and Fenn hold there own by combat prowess and power, and Selene is invincible, but none of them could do a thing in a predicament like this. Taryn and Selene can’t swim or fight well in water, and Fenn has a hard time blasting something submerged. My strength is in versatility and in having a tool for every job, so this one was mine. As an elemental I chased the Ahklut into the deep and started pummeling it until it released Taryn and tried to flee from the room. It tried to overrun Shatha and Koyo but became wedged in the connecting hall where Fenn and I, now both water elementals, were able to end it. It had to look unreal to our companions to see a shadowed water elemental continually slam on the beast while another water elemental spoke Ignan and threw fire.

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After the fight I looked at Fenn confusedly. A fire mage as a water elemental? All he said was, “It looked like a good idea.”

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The Riders of Baba Yaga
Notes from the Journal of Nobel Black

On our overland journey to various places, I often have opportunities to reflect and occasionally this leads to significant insight. On our way to Ivoryglass, I recalled something very interesting that I read while digging through the dancing hut’s library, and I have begun to form connections.

The huts library has many interesting tomes including books from Golarion regarding Baba Yaga herself. One such volume discussed the 3 Riders.
1) Bright Morning: the white herald, a woman capable of shining brightly, emissary of the dawn and morning (Selene)
2) Red Sun: the red herald, a horned man with cloven hooves, the most aggressive of the 3, he can erupt in flames, emissary of the day and setting sun (Fenn)
3) Dark Midnight: the black herald, the mysterious rider whom is seldom seen as he operates under cover of darkness and takes frightening forms, emissary of the night (Nobel)

We thought it had been an accident that we found Midnight, but now I am not so sure. We have become exactly as the tales describe the 3 riders; living embodiments of dawn, dusk, and night. This may be the magic of our oath working on us, but each of us were already on a similar course prior the blood oath by the nature of our backgrounds and personalities. I conjecture that we may actually have been chosen by Baba Yaga and our entire meeting engineered in some fashion. The legends even state that she chooses riders from far off realms, and tends not to grant the power to those who seek it.

This is pure speculation, but very little with witches seems to be outside the realm of possibility.

Taryn:
She wasn’t present for the blood oath and never took the mantle of a rider. I can’t find any mention of a 4th rider. How does she play into this? Is she some element I have not considered?

Elements: Earth (Selene), Fire (Fenn), Wind (Taryn?), Water (Nobel?)

Perhaps she is a wild card and was never intended for the Crone’s plan. Could she part of another plan? Wheels within wheels.

Though I have chaffed at the yolk of our servitude to Baba Yaga, I have to admit to myself that I have never been more free. I have seen more than most mortals and possess unimaginable power. Then I remember the atrocities committed in Irresen and beyond by her and in her name, and I feel the weight of my chains again. How many worlds does she touch?

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Good Deeds Get Punished
An excerpt from the journal of Nobel Black

On our flight to Ivoryglass we spied a wolfen humanoid being accosted by 2 huge predatory insects, very strange to see on the wintery mountains of Triaxus. After aiding the outnumbered wolf-headed being at Koyo’s suggestion (though she may have regretted it after narrowly dodging a fireball from Fenn amidst the chaos of the fighting), we came to find that he was a member of a local tribe and was looking to regain the regalia of his lost chieftain who had been killed in a nearby glacial cleft. We agreed to help, Fenn begrudgingly so, and quickly found the icy crevasse in question.

The crevasse contained several dangers, not the least of which was Fenn himself who nearly scorched Koyo a second time while attempting to destroy 2 beasts that had been nesting within. Koyo is a sight to behold in battle, her fighting style as much about the beauty and grace of fluid movement as it is about lethal blows. She arcs and flips like an acrobat, her 2 wondrous tails flowing behind her, before landing savage bites upon those unlucky enough to have raised her ire. Fenn became the focus of her aggression after the second time he blasted her in 30 minutes and she had to be talked down from mauling him.

What goes around comes around, and for Fenn it did come back around. We were ambushed by an ice worm and Fenn caught the brunt of it. His injuries were so severe that we thought he had been killed. Its icy breath caught Taryn and myself, injuring us as well with shards of icicles. Selene just shrugged them off of her steely hide.

We put the worm down only to be caught in the frigid blast of its death throes. Taryn and I were overcome and lost consciousness. Koyo was gravely injured but remained standing. Only our vanguard, Selene, and her bonded dragonkin, Shatha, remained functional.

Selene quickly began healing us with her divine energy, starting with me that I might provide additional rejuvenation. Before we could get to Fenn, he started breathing and coughing. He had survived!

Even Seph rejoiced and flew to Fenn, licking his face…or maybe he was spitting in his face. It can be hard to tell with Seph. Despite their rivalry, I think Seph truly likes Fenn as I can feel his emotions through our empathic bond. He hasn’t ever discussed with Fenn his theory about their connection, but perhaps in time. Maybe he fears it would bring up old wounds. Whatever it is between them, it is not my place to interfere.

After another nearly successful attempt on our lives by the roper that had killed the missing chieftain, we found the body and recovered the regalia. Shatha and Koyo proved their skill with Koyo even shouting commands to Taryn and Selene. They are welcome additions.

Fenn has the luck of the gods! He has miraculously overcome insanity and near death. Is this from the power invested into us by Baba Yaga, pure luck, or some divine intervention? I pray to Magdh to keep Fenn safe, not only for our friendship, but also because he is our most powerful weapon against our frozen enemies. His behavior has become increasingly concerning and at times he seems almost suicidal. There have been moments in a fight where he has declined my healing power despite grave injury. I am not sure if this is pompous overconfidence or tactical decision making, but I guess it hasn’t failed him yet. I pray his luck continues.

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New Allies
An excerpt from the journal of Nobel Black

It has been very difficult for me to get used to having such close contact with so many people after years of mostly solitude under the tutelage of Snakeroot. I had learned to entertain myself during those formative years, but after joining up with my current companions I found they weren’t amused by my sophomoric pranks.

Having never before been in the spotlight, it was very unsettling to become one of the heroes of Spurhorn. I have always found it difficult to suppress my hauntlings in crowds, and it became all the more challenging when throngs of jubilant people wanting to meet us. Several of Taryn’s drunken brawls the night and day after the Battle of Spurhorn were actually provoked by my hauntlings getting loose and making mischief in the crowd.

I retired to the quiet of my temporary chamber in Spurhorn keep to recenter, but found a mysterious note written in Taldan on the floor the next day. Her name was Koyo, and she was also from Golarion and had become stranded on Triaxus. Recognizing that we were from Golarion she inquired if I could assist her in returning home. I eventually found her the next night and offered her a task. If she couId find and make her way in to the dancing hit, then she would prove herself resourceful enough to survive our journey.

Unbeknownst to me Koyo was a kitsune and had learned to change into a small white fox. She followed Selene back to the hut and scratched at the door until kindhearted Selene opened up. Selene saw a small beautiful fox, shivering and looking wide eyed. The hospitable Selene, sensing no evil, let her in and gave her some food. When I arrived 2 days later, I could smell Koyo and instantly knew that she was the fox. She revealed herself to my companions surprise, and I welcomed her.

Simultaneously, the dragonkin that Selene had saved during the battle had bonded to her. The act of laying on hands at the moment of its near death had imprinted Selene on the creature, who now swore to follow Selene. Selene had become what she had always wanted to be: a knight in shining armor, stalwart symbol of righteousness.

We now set out for Ivoryglass, home to a dragon warlord, in order to retrieve the second key, a bearskin. I am sure that our new companions will prove invaluable as we trek across hundreds of miles of this alien landscape. Though I hope to get Koyo home, our trajectory has shown that we may go further away before we can hope to return to Golarion.

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Beyond the Stars
A Downtime Tale

On the night of the 3rd day after the Battle of Spurhorn, life was beginning to return to normal for the Legion. Seige weapons were being placed back in storage and the blacksmiths fires that had burned day in night creating weapons of war were finally cooling. After 2 days of chaotic celebration, a quiet descended upon the fortress.

While Selene, Fenn, and Taryn tended to their own affairs, Nobel and Seph rested upon the highest point they could find in Spurhorn, gazing at the stars above. Some constellations were familiar like the Stair of Stars that loomed directly above. Others were distorted from their normal alignment but recognizable like the Caravan. Many more were wholly foreign. One such alien constellation appeared to form the shape of a giant, never blinking eye. Nobel found it particularly unsettling.

It bothered him to see such unfamiliar arrangements. The night sky had always been a static in his dynamic life. When he first left his family to live with Arana Snakeroot in the Deep Green, he could look to the stars and know that his mother could see the same sky. When he left Taldor for Irresen, the stars remained, and again when he was transported to Iobaria. Now, he felt truly lost without his last constant here on Triaxus.

“It’s not the stars that changed”, Seph intruded into his thoughts. “It’s you. When you were born, you could not fly. All you could see was where you were so you wandered aimlessly. Now that you have learned to soar you can see ahead and behind, above and below. What seemed important, now trivial. What seemed impossible, now attainable. This is perspective. It is good to have wings!”

Thinking on this wisdom, Nobel fell asleep to dream. In his dream he once again found himself in the lush dreamscape he so frequently walked in his dreams. Over time, he had come to realize that this place was in fact the First World. Though he had yet to fully understand why, he knew he belonged here, was drawn here in spirit even if his body remained in a far away place. Or perhaps it was drawn to him, like the time a portion of the First World broke through into Whitethrone to defend the Dancing Hut. It was in this dreamscape where he could sometimes commune with Megdh.

This time he found himself coming the end of a path and looking down over a sheer cliff face at a large black lake below. The sky above was starless and rolled with constantly shifting black storm clouds like a stormy sea, but the lake below was motionless and lit by tiny specks of light giving it the appearance of the night sky. The world seemed to be inverted. The trees and vegetation on either side of the trail were too dense to offer another way and as he turned to look back, the trail behind was swallowed by the forest.

Without warning a 3 headed hydra broke the waters of the lake, but caused not a single ripple. One head looked above, one below, and one fixed on Nobel.

It spoke and he could hear. “You cannot go back for your destiny drives you ever forward. To proceed you must continue the becoming. Everything you have seen has prepared you for the transformation. Though you journey outward with ease, the journey inward is the true path to liberation. You have learned to form the shadows themselves and become one with them. Look now upon what you are and become what you must.”

Nobel looked down at his body to find he had become nothing but a shadow in the shape of a man. He felt weightless and in his shock he started to lose his shape entirely. His left arm began to break apart and dissipate into the air. Nobel willed it back together and the shadow once more took the shape of a man.

“Become what you must. Your destiny is beyond the stars.” With that the hydra slipped below the waters glassy surface and disappeared. Only the beacons of light in the water remained.

Nobel found his form to be fluid. He willed it so and his shadowy substance took the shape of and eagle and he soared above the lake. He turned and plummeted toward the water. Just before he hit the surface, the shadow eagle became a sea serpent and he passed into the lake of stars.

He awoke to the dim sunlight of Triaxus with the words echoing in his head. “Become what you must. Your destiny is beyond the stars.” He found he was once again a man, but he now realized he could be more. His only limitation was perspective.

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Taryn's moment
A drink at last

As I sit this morning, head throbbing and mouth filled with cotton, I feel I should write down my thoughts on the last few days as I have experienced a spiritual awakening like none other in my lifetime.

I remember little of the past 36 hours. I do remember that there is not a warrior in Spurhorn that can out drink me. I also have vague memories of posing a passed out Fenn and Seph in several “compromising” positions and bribing a talented artist to capture them forever in portraits. Nobel insisted on keeping those, something about “when the time is right”.

Cayden’s cup was put to good use, fights were started for no reason at all (mostly be me). Many a man lost a bet (and usually a finger) playing five finger fillet with Selene. The commander seemed very put out after the first day. Yelling something about never before has he seen such wanton disregard for order and discipline, half his men can’t get up and the other half cannot stop spewing and shitting… I took it as the compliment I’m sure it was meant to be.

Now 2 days after the battle I sit drinking of the magical elixir my God has provided for me, the warmth of its healing powers spreading through my limbs and the throbbing in my head fading away to a gentle focused calm. My faith having recently been tested I feel truly blessed this morning to know that my God is not only still with me but approves and supports my task as well.

You see upon arriving here I found myself sinking in to the depths of despair. This current task that has been set upon me has led to doing the bidding of an evil crone. I feared that such dark company would cause Cayden to look upon me with disappointment and scorn.

Then my despondency only deepened as I was sent to an unknown realm to fight a battle that was not mine, for a people whose code of honor was unknown, in a society that has no readily available spirits or ale. Truly I have been forsaken; Cayden Caileen has abandoned me for my evil choices.

My comrades did not, out of necessity, know my despair. With the impending battle ahead they will need me and it would shake their confidence in me to know the true doubt that now permeates my very soul. So I will fight and possible die this day. Death with honor will be a welcome reprieve from this despair and godlessness.

As we head off to battle, the Spurhorn commander pulls me aside to inform me that if there is a victory this day there will be drink and celebration. A flicker of hope, a tiny flame easily extinguished, will it be enough?

The battle itself was grand; we slaughtered our way through dragonkin only to come head to head with a pair of dracolisks. The battle took a sudden turn for the worse and as I charged forward and struck out at the nearest beast, it slowly turned its gaze upon me. Suddenly all was darkness and silence. Was I dead, I must surely be dead? And an eternity in this void is my just reward for aiding that evil crone.

I began to pray, asking Caileen’s forgiveness, in my heart knowing that aiding this vile witch was the wrong choice. My only thought is for a second chance, a chance I would spend plotting and waiting for an opportunity to rid the world of Baba Yaga’s evil forever.

As suddenly as it began the darkness was lifted and the sounds of battle came flooding back. Was this Cayden’s doing? Were my prayers answered? Could it be that my god was with me after all? There were no sure answers but there was now hope. There would be time to contemplate this later, now there was dragonkin blood that needed spilling.

Exhausted and drained of resources we watched as the Drakelanders scattered, stinging from the complete routing Spurhorn had dealt them. The commander then approached us. Expecting a thank you and payment we were instead greeted with yet another request. The route was not enough to satisfy him, he wanted the Dragonkin commander dead; he wanted the opposing army completely demoralized. Covered in blood and barely able to lift my arms, I could only smile, here was a man after my own heart.

Heartened by the recent hope that Cayden was still with me I eagerly headed off with my companions to slay her. And slay her we did, it was a glorious battle that came to a magnificent end when Fenn used his fire magic to burn the life from her high above our heads for all to see. We returned too much cheering and revelry, the people of Spurhorn touted us as heroes, truly a wonderful feeling.

My pain and doubt from earlier this day had faded somewhat but were still there. Then something truly miraculous happened, the spiritual awakening I mentioned earlier. I was presented with a mug, thinking this was the mug of ale I had been promised I was filled with joy and very grateful to finally have a drink. As I took hold of the mug however I was immediately brought to my knees, and there I knelt covered in blood and openly weeping. For this was not just a mug, this was Cayden Cailean’s cup! His spirit filled me with warmth and healing the moment I touched it and I knew immediately that my God had not abandoned me. His presence in my mind said to me “Do what you must, a means to an end. Those that would infect the world with darkness and fear must be brought to justice… at all costs. But for now, drink and celebrate”. I knew then what my choice must be.

As I finish writing this it occurs to me that my companions upon seeing me fall to my knees and weep must have assumed that my joy at being reunited with drink was positively overwhelming. And to be honest it did feel quite good to have a drink in hand but, the tears were something more. A profound release, a release of despair, self-doubt, and great loss. I will let them have their assumptions, that moment was for me. I will continue forward on this path with a renewed fire in my soul. But for now, I must renew a fire in my belly…

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The Battle of Spurhorn Part 2: Just One More Thing
An excerpt from the journal of Nobel Black

The battle continued to rage around us. Triaxians and dragonkin on both sides dying by the dozens. It was sometimes hard to tell friend from foe. Then again, I’m not sure I would have considered any of them friends since we were basically forced to fight in this conflict. Just one more opportunity for senseless bloodshed on behalf of Baba Yaga. Although I guess I should be thankful for her borrowed power that day.

We were assailed by a dragonkin and a pair of dracolisks and our adventure was nearly ended. Taryn struck at one and was petrified instantaneously. I manifested one of my hauntlings to fight for us, but then the other dracolisk gazed at Fenn and turned him to stone. I caught its gaze next and was briefly overcome as well leaving only Selene remaining.

Selene fought on alone and the trio of draconic creatures had difficulty piercing her metal flesh. Her divine form also proved highly resistant to the dracolisks gaze. However, she was outnumbered and had only my hauntling to aid her. Suddenly I felt my body surge with Baba Yaga’s power and I broke free of the petrification. Combined we were able to turn the fight in our favor. Selene then recognized that we could use the dracolisk blood to return our allies to normal.

We deafeted several more dragonkin before the battle was finally ended, but found ourselves exhausted and our resources greatly taxed. We looked forward to the revelry of victory as we watched the Drakelands forces scatter outside of Spurhorn, their sieging army routed. Then the Spurhorn commander approached not with our due payment, but instead with a request for “just one more thing”.

The opposing commander was set to flee with her troops, but if we struck at her immediately while her force was in disarray, we could prevent the Drakelands forces from reorganizing. We agreed, and though I proved rather inept in multiple attempts to hinder her, my companions performed marvelously. As she attempted to flee, Fenn finally dropped her from the sky with a fireball. Selene collected her icy scimitar, a strange reflection of Saranrae’s own favored weapon, the flaming scimitar.

The people of Spurhorn cheered, deeming us great heroes. Not only did we collect our prize, a double headed eagle (which to my surprise was an actual living eagle with two heads rather than the statue I was expecting), but we were also rewarded with various fine treasures. No treasure compared to that bestowed upon Taryn, a mug blessed by Cayden Cailean. It was odd to see Taryn, drenched in blood (most of it not hers), actually weeping, though when it became known that the cup held limitless beverages of the bearer’s choice I understood why. Taryn, who would have started a war for the opportunity to taste ale again, now would be thirsty nevermore. She spent the next 2 days “worshipping” Cayden Cailean. The natives who had seen her as nearly godlike in battle came to know that she was divinity in drink.

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