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Journals of Ayoi: Part 4, Killing Time

Tarmare 6: 12888

Today we shall begin an interesting adventure long talked about but never begun. Long ago Al-Rathis came across a legend about an ancient meteor which crashed somewhere on the continent. Deep within the crater this created, lays a special material known as Celestial Steel. The legend gives only cryptic clues on how to find the location. This morning we will begin traveling southwest from Twin Shores on a journey to find the location of impact.
    I am highly interested to finally get out of this area and see more of the world. I hope that finally the Dark Goddess is smiling on my journey. Sasha has discontinued trying to hide as a manifestation of her former self. This is good. Her soul is still horribly blackened by greed but at least she is moving closer toward accepting her own form.

Tarmare 17: 12888

Today Al-Rathis informed us that we should have gifts for the dwarves in the mountains south of here. Unfortunately he did not inform us of this until we were well away from any large city. We are currently in a small mountain village and I have asked Cawanan to pick something up. His choice of 50 lbs of tobacco was somehow fitting if rather ... pedestrian. The others I believe are coming up with something on the spot as well. Thankfully he did not wait until we had arrived at our destination to inform us of local customs.
    I believe that the hairy dwarf had originally wanted us to travel around though the wasteland to the west of here, but got too caught up in walking to notice that we had gone off the road and were traveling into the hills. By the time he finally realized that we weren't headed into the pass, we were walking a slow pace through the mountains knee deep in snow. If perchance I have pause to read these passages at a later date, please note to not let the warrior plan the route of travel.
    It is cold here. Much colder than I am used to, and I hope that I am not completely ill equipped to deal with it. The wizard Elena seems in similar wear. Hopefully it will not get much colder.

Tarmare 21: 12888

Today we left the last village we will see until we reach the dwarven hold. We set out in high spirits but soon realized that the trail was more difficult than most had anticipated. Al-Rathis still seems undaunted but the rest of the party is cold and tired. It is only a matter of time before someone succumbs to the harsh environment.
    About mid-day we encountered a group of frost giants. This was my second encounter with members of this species and to date I have found them an overrated bunch. This time, as with last, they demanded tribute from our group, and as last time they were refused. It was then only a matter of moments before combat was engaged.
    As I said before giants are a group that is less impressive in action than in lore. The whole pack: four giants, a half dozen ogres, and roughly two dozen hunting wolves, lasted mere moments before being either left for dead or running. Al even managed to kill one of the giants in a single series of hits. It was only through dumb luck that we were injured at all. Unfortunately though for some of us, these giants were very lucky.
    Tellzan was without his armor at the time and was badly beaten. Elena was caught off guard as well and found herself caught in the grasp of one of the things. I myself was nearly killed in a single blow from a giant which managed to bypass every defense I had placed upon myself somehow to place a single vicious blow with his axe.
    All party members are currently in good bodily health more or less. I have created a magical shelter in which I am currently writing this passage, though I am having difficulty keeping a steady hand. Even with the magically raised temperature in this sanctuary, it is still quite cold and the air seems thin. I am not a mountain climber by any stretch of the imagination as most of the party is not. You would have thought that Al-Rathis would have taken this into consideration before we left and given us a bit of advice on what gear to bring. A bedroll and a blanket would have been nice as a cloak would have been. Though it is uncharacteristic, I may just try to sleep tonight.

Tarmare 22: 12888

After a hellish night of cold and thin air which brought low most of the party, we started into the cold today. I'd had enough of these mountains by then and when Al started marching off at half his normal rate I reached my breaking point. I cast a spell, had everyone join hands, and folded through the shadow lands to our destination. I should reiterate my former assertion: Do NOT let the dwarf lead the way!
    We were almost immediately challenged by the dwarves at our earlier arrival, and quickly gained access to the halls of this clan of the Daernarthor. Al-Rathis immediately headed off to the Hezgorad clan hall with us in tow. It is much like every other cave I have been in, simply more well lived. Nothing strikes my memory as being particularly special until we were finally brought before Al's father, whom I had met once before. There we began to dine and Al-Rathis began to tell his stories.
    It is a modest meal in great quantity, though I imagine I am missing what most would consider the best part as I do not drink beer. Perhaps it is because I am not inebriated that I notice, but Al seems to have a lot to prove. He is simply going on and on endlessly about every little thing he has done since his last visit, as if to make up for quality with exceedingly high quantity. I don't think anyone else will even remember most of it in the end. No one seems to have noticed me yet scrawling my thoughts here at the table while I attempt to look interested, and while I wait for this loud drunken meal to be over.

Tarmare 27: 12888

After several days of Al-Rathis essentially visiting with his kin, he decided it was time that we continued our journey; this time on toward a mage and scholar of great repute whom I shall not name to protect his privacy. He informed us of many things, most chiefly that in order to find the first official stop on our quest we needed to wait for the winter snows to thaw. This is in order that we might find the streams which run "golden" close to our intended location of travel.
    It seems that Al-Rathis did not think through this quest very thoroughly. We probably could have pressed on at this point, for by the time we reached the mountain range in question it would be spring. This was decided against upon however and thus we made our way back to Bluewater this evening.
    If ever another living creature should read these logs, I should note that I really don't mind travel as much as you would think one who's primary hobby requires a large audience would. I have gotten quite used to carrying around a 4-foot tall harp on my back while walking hundreds of miles, and I do find foreign travel stimulating. I do however, dislike deep mud, cold, starvation, dehydration, snow, ice, and being ambushed by disgusting and vulgar creatures every other day. I put up with it because I must, but I much prefer a soft bed and good company. That is exceedingly difficult to find in a self-absorbed and heretical community such as Blue Water without having to make it worse by walking to the damn mountain tops to visit with short, drunk, bloated humans with hair growing out of their backs for no reason. Not that all dwarves are that vile, but they are rather physically grotesque, just as humans are morally so. Just because Al can't find anything to do here does not seem good enough reason to me to risk death.

Tarmare 30: 12888

Long ago Sasha and Al-Rathis had heard that members of the order of Zhakrin were searching for our party or at least the party as it was then. As we were no longer occupied with our quest except in a perfunctory sense, it was generally agreed to look into this matter.
    Now I must be quite blunt in saying that the Zhakrinites in this land are mostly if not exclusively human, and have taken to soiling the pure notions which are the essence of the Dark Path. These pretenders who seek to only use the power that death encompasses for their own ambitions and benefit, have attempted to accost us on several occasions.
    Many years ago, back when we were in possession of the artifact that I was sadly unable to seal away due to the interference of Sasha, these pretenders stole the item from us. We tracked them to their lair but in the end we left before we were fully discovered.
    Now in our haste of escape, which was surely more complicated than I now remember, we left the castle in which these humans lived under the care of an ancestor of questionable repute. This sudden change in power left several things undone with us unfortunately, and not all for the bad where we are concerned. This ancestor claimed to owe us favor for his new position so it is not unreasonable to assume that we might be sought after for more pleasant reasons.
    Now since we had no idea which Zhakrinites were looking for us, and for what reason, we decided that it was best to observe them in stealth. Sasha and Cawanan took to this task and brought back reports after a single evening that humans from the city were being used to search for us in proxy. The humans were tracked back to a warehouse in the city but no further information was gained.
    The next night brought better results. Sasha came to us soon after dusk to inform us that three beings were controlling these watchers and that they had moved to a nearby inn.
    Several minutes later we arrived at the inn, now closed. Sasha took the liberty of rusting the lock off, unfortunately breaking local law. At that point however nothing could be done about it and thus we entered.
    At the top of the first landing we encountered a personal guard of some sort. I heard a part of a conversation about a thief and the guard ordered an unseen man to disarm himself. At this point Sasha began casting spells at the man and things got worse. The confused guard began challenging those now about him and almost let out a call. Quickly I cast a silence spell and motioned for the guard to follow me down the stairs. Once there I cast a suggestion on the poor deluded man, and had him run out into the street in search of this thief. With a final bluff I sent the guard off and safely away.
    A little more than a minute passed before the guards came into view. They were quite civil and proceeded to search the immediate area. I informed them of this thief I had heard about, and told them that my companions had run into the building. A small group of them then proceeded to make a room to room pass, and found all in order with the exception of a lone black cloaked figure at the top of the third floor. By all accounts this being would not allow the guard passage to search the upper floor and it is a wonder that they did not attempt to bring the creature in line at that time.
    With the exception of some minor property damage it seemed that all was in order. We had also, much to my chagrin as we soon realized, allowed our target to hide from us. The guard soon left and we were alone. Luckily we stood nearby to plan our next move.
    As we stood there Cawanan suddenly shouldered Tellzan and ran off. We followed behind, Al-Rathis tracking him. After several minutes we found Cawanan in an alley, bringing a human man out under help. The man was very confused and Cawanan informed us that he had seen this man vomit up a substance in the alley after being drug there by the creature at the top of the stairs. This substance then coalesced into a humanoid shape, and quickly retreated when Cawanan engaged them.
    After taking this gentleman back to his wife the party parted company to find a place to sleep. As for myself I decided to attempt to procure more information. I questioned the guard whom I found continuing his rounds and found that he did not know anything about the beings on the third floor. I searched the room over the next several hours and found two things of interest: First, the room window looked out into the grounds of the temple of Arden. Second, there was a small amount of dust around the room. This dust I shall take tomorrow to an alchemist to identify.

Corvere 2: 12888

This night a member of Sasha's family found us while we waited in the rain and cold for trouble to find us after the events of last night. He claimed that her father was dying and that her presence was required. I cannot believe that all of this unpleasantness was just so Sasha's hideous and heretical family could find her. Well I actually can believe it, but I dislike it intensely. I grow sick of her excess baggage weighing down our travels. I need to dry off ...
    It turns out that the dust that was found was from a mummified creature. Apparently certain chemicals are used in that process which are readily identifiable when found. Not that it matters now of course. Despite (or because of?) the horrible things her family has done simply in ascertaining her location she has gone off at their call. She has always been drawn to necromantic power, and even though she now protests against its outcome I think she secretly likes it. Given half the chance I believe she would sell her soul for enough of it, and she would certainly sell any or all of her traveling companions for some.
    Perhaps it would be more correct to say that she is jealous of her family's power. After all Zhakrin did turn her gaze from Sasha and she was forced to grovel at the feet of the living land for protection. Now she has turned her feverish power lust toward that path, but I would say still finds it lacking. I think she secretly still desires the powers her family holds and has an ever burning anger toward their superiority.
    This is more text than someone so self-focused deserves. She said she will return in two weeks and so we will wait and that is sufficient. I do not believe she will return.

Turningspar 8: 12888

About a week has passed since Al decided to go looking for trouble in the lands to the West of Blue Water and dragged the others with him. Since they did not return I ventured out today to the town of Jetta in hopes of meeting them. There is a tower here that protects the area and I have spent the day waiting outside. As night now falls I see that I may be here a while.
    Looking back a bit it seems that Al and Sasha have something in common: They both have a deep-rooted need to prove something. Al-Rathis is physically grotesque and childlike in manner, but he is not a bad man. He genuinely wishes good to just about all living things, which I think it is safe to say is also a childlike quality. Unfortunately he is perhaps the biggest evangelist I have ever known. It is absolutely impossible to keep him still. He has no hobbies other than slaying "evil" creatures, and he insists on indulging in that venture even in inappropriate circumstances. It seems such a waste that he can't calm down a bit, for sooner or later his activism is going to end in an otherwise normal individual being at the wrong end of his axe simply by circumstance.
    The only one he seems to listen to is Sasha and in a queer sort of symmetry, the only one Sasha cares about even remotely is Al. At least when choosing who to sacrifice, Al would be last on the list. Al by contrast refuses to sacrifice anything, which I should simply say is admirable and ignore some of the unpleasant side effects, since it is that quality that has occasionally saved me when Sasha had already scratched me off as expended.

Turningspar 10: 12888

Much to my surprise I find that Sasha has indeed returned. Today around sunset Elena came to collect me and when I was transported to their location, there she was. I do not imagine I will ask any questions since her journey was personal, so it should be left at that.
    The party had earlier in the day stumbled across a pit some 800 feet deep that was being excavated by undead. This night we traveled down into this pit and found a large object made of an unknown material. Down at the base of it we found a spike which seemed to be articulated in some fashion. Beyond this we discovered nothing. It seems that the group had been on the trail of these creatures for some time, and only recently discovered this location.

Turningspar 24: 12888

For several days we have been traveling through the Northern lands. We have sought a tower in which it has been rumored the undead which inhabited. Tonight we have come to it. The tower sits atop a cliff over the ruins of a dwarven tunnel and has been corrupted by some sort of evil presence.
    When we approached the cliff face a small army of undead met and surrounded us, clawing and pressing us forward. For several moments all was well as between our magical prowess and physical might we held them easily at bay as we moved forward.
    As we approached the cliff however disaster struck. Suddenly and without warning our magic failed us and the hordes pressed forward. We drew weapons and defended ourselves, moving slowly ahead. Sasha disappeared from this and was not heard from for several moments.
    As we nearly reached the cliff face a blast of fire erupted above us. For an instant we saw the form of two beasts fighting a hundred feet above, and then they were gone. As we turned our attention back to our immediate concern we were once again distracted. A body plummeted from the sky and hit the ground 20 feet away. In almost the same moment Cawanan fired a volley of arrows off in the distance and another creature burst into flames and fell.
    At once our magic returned, and once again we were able to hold the army of undead back. As we looked around for what would come next, Al took a moment to push his way to the first body we had seen fall to a grizzly discovery. Sasha, her furry and bloodied corpse, lay sprawled on the ground before us. It is somewhat sad that she was able to live through her journey to the relatives of her life when I first met her only to die there.
    All through the night we traveled, led by a shadow to the leader of these forces. Apparently the watcher of the tower was expecting us and had orders to show us the way. Why exactly then they decided to attack us when we reached the tower is a great question, but one that will I am sure will never be answered. Perhaps it is significant that they ceased their assault after Sasha was disposed of?
    We reached after several hours, a second tower which is our destination. At this point it was that the mentor of Sasha was once again contacted to help in her unnaturally quick return to life. The will wait then into the next day. Our guide does not seem to mind.
    I am mildly amused sitting here reading back over my last several entries that it seems Sasha's presence, like an infant, screams out to be continuously recognized. Everything has to be about her. Sasha this, and Sasha that. Just when I think it's over she goes and gets herself killed again just to be the center of attention for a little while longer. What about Tellzan? He's been here the entire time too but I don't see him eating up paper! If there is any justice in this life Tellzan will get his day soon. After all he IS he most pleasant human I have met, that I can remember at this juncture in time, and far more well adjusted than either Al or Sasha, despite being a priest of the god of war. Well, enough of that for now.

Veluna 2: 12888

It seems that the entire recent adventure was entirely abortive save for one bit of information gained. The tower we were led to was a hideous and foul place, run by, of all things, a gigantic brain. I will have to add "gigantic brain" to the list of things I dislike. I do not precisely remember what it said to us, save that it was the servant of another more powerful lord. It was apparently non-memorable. We did indeed then go to see this lord of his.
    The being we saw seemed to know each us all, though I at least do not know him. He, Vainegal thal-Zeroth, is a great necromancer from ages past reborn, and a peer to the spirit that possessed Al-Rathis for a time. It seems he wishes his old empire back, and one look on the map is enough to convince me that if he really wants that location, he is welcome to it. Of greatest import is that he, for reasons I am sure I do not wish to know, was willing to teleport us to the location of the "lost" dwarven halls of Aken that we had begun to search for several months ago.
    And so it is now morning, on this first month of spring that the party will travel to them. I meanwhile have another lead to follow. If this group is going to take on a being as powerful as they eventually intend to, a plan of action must be formed. We have so very little information at this juncture that no more progress toward this goal can be made. And so I shall travel West in search of an ancient and most powerful being to ask how such a feat as this may be accomplished.
    I am leaving Cawanan behind this time. Though he protested greatly my mind is made up, and due to circumstance he is no longer in a position to disagree. This journey should be relatively safe, and due to the nature of the one I seek, is almost spiritual. It may be long however, for there is a certain amount of searching that will be involved, and I am unsure of the distance I must travel.
    It would be far easier to simply ignore the goals of Tellzan and Al-Rathis and not go, but I do not have any leads to follow on my personal quest at this time, and perhaps I will find one on my journey. I certainly do not wish to clamor through the caves of an old dwarven clan! So I will find out what I can, and hope that it will be of use to them if they should ever turn their gaze once again to wishing harm upon this new upstart-god-in-the-making. This may be my last journal entry for a while.