The Age of Reason

Leter to Vanja

Dear Vanja,
I hope this letter finds you well. You’re probably relieved to be on your own again, back to the wind with only yourself to take care of and to rely on.
Quite to the contrary, I’ve begun entertaining thoughts of settling down in Desya. Arwen brought up the idea of buying a plot of land and starting his own tavern. The more I thought about it, the more the idea appealed to me. I wouldn’t want to run an inn of course, but having a place to call my own would be nice. I would enjoy very much participating in the artisan community the way my parents once did. Not that I want to start blowing glass. No, I think that my experience with traps and snares would lend itself nicely to locksmithing.
Unfortunately, there are rumors of dragons and it seems like another adventure is imminent. We’re headed north, I believe. I never thought I would be the sort of person to long for a quiet life while on an adventure.

- Arthur Glazier

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Arwen's Journal- Aftermath

Do you ever have the feeling you’ve been thrust into things you’re not quite ready for?

We destroyed the gem that a demon was going to use to enter our world. I’m sure that puts us on his hit list.

We destroyed the eice trade in a major city, although the head of the ring escaped. I’m sure we’re on her hit list now too.

I still have a dragon in my head, although I haven’t talked to her in a while.

And to top it all off, I just met Shaligh again. I’m not ready to meet her, so I used a hat of disguise to create a fake personal-Owen- who’s been alarmingly good at weaseling his way into her life in my stead, perfectly poised to discover what’s really going on inside her head.

I’ve been doing well so far, but this is far too much too soon for me. I’m afraid it’s going to blow up in my face soon.

In other news, we now have a boatload of treasure to split between our party. I’m thinking real estate. Or a trade expedition to double our money.

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In Search of a Girl... Again.
Blake's Journal

Betancourt was as expected though more helpful. He offered me a job finding his daughter, in exchange for help with port authority. I need the help if I am going to track the destination or the source of the cursed icon. I agreed, (for what choice did I have?) and began investigating immediately—starting with her bedroom. Her favorite color was blue, and by that I mean she wore nothing else. She had broken things in anger, and left a note with shades of intent, evidence explaining her absence. I dare not say more yet for fear that someone may stumble across these pages, but I think I know who it is. When I found that her feet don’t touch the ground…
I left to find Levrim at the Boot and confront him. I decided to roll the dice and ask him straight out. He responded, confirming my suspicion, which put us in a tough spot. We agreed that we wouldn’t say aything until we could meet up later. I’m headed back home as soon as my communication comes back from the Order, and we will meet up and decide what to do then.
Everything is just another step away. Answers hidden behind locks that require unrelated quests and keys that are as elusive as anything else.
On a desperate note I am starting to realize I can’t do this by myself. As strong as I have become since I left home… I am not so prideful to think I am able to handle anything. I am playing with fire, and I don’t yet understand it all. I need help. I long for a companion with whom I could talk candidly and rely on to watch my back. I miss Selena, but even were we reunited now, I couldn’t ask her to come with me.
I have much to think about. Sleep is calling, and I am out of paper. Goodnight.

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What happens when a man dies
kestren

The captain of the guard who seemed to be a very noble man sacrificed himself for us and for his men. He destroyed a magical object and faced the consequences without fear. It turned him into a monster, and I can’t help but wonder what happened to the noble man that once was there. If I had broken the object would I have suffered the same fate? I now wonder if there is some way to protect people from such wild effects. These demons, and gods and all they do to torment man must be stopped. Who can save us from our weakness? How can a man change the stars?

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So Close
Blake's Journal

I am now back at the Boot. So much has happened, and my mind is spinning. I cannot hold my thoughts from straying. Dinu turned out to be a success, sort-of. The head was here, though it was just destroyed. But I am getting ahead of myself…

Acting on the information of the paranoid Franke, I made my way across town. The short one from before, with the boot issue, came flying past me being chased by vermin. I made a note to find out that story later. I noted that the people of the night avoided the side of the city I approached. I saw no thieves, no guard. When the cat is a way, and the mice are too…
Something was unnatural. It was in the air. The place was sealed, locked down for the night. What I wanted was inside, and I needed to be too. As I searched for entry, I noticed the gnome, this time without his boots and with a look of desperation. I followed close, and caught them using a window to break in, which I promptly took advantage of. I stayed to the walls and windows, climbing up for a survey in the shadows. It wasn’t long before things began happening. To my mixed dismay and exultation, I had found it.
From my perch I saw people under the influence of a demonic force, most likely the effigy I was in search of. I saw several members of the company I saw before. They must have been delvers, dang it. I should have figured that out earlier. I should have tagged along and been there for the discovery. But such is the clairvoyance of hindsight.
Levrim came out, acting like a fool, pretending to be possessed, which to his credit was quick-thinking. A man came out and transformed into a he-goat demon, a kind of mehrim, and I despaired, knowing what he had done. I prepared to leap down and assist in the fight, but I had begun to move closer to where I suspected the icon, and found myself unable to do more than watch. I was trespassing and might not be able to recover a thrown knife.
To sum it up I found the remaining pieces dissolved into blood.
I’ll admit I was angry. Still might be… To come so close, so close, and be thwarted…
I can only blame my slothful investigation. UGH!
I fled before becoming detected and made my way to the Boot, where I sit now, waiting for the Delvers to return. I must see if they are fine before going to bed.
Tomorrow I will speak to Levrim again if I can, and pay this Betancourt a visit. Too much has slipped through my hands. I need help, and I won’t be deterred.
I’ll poke around for bounties and jobs too. Those mean employers, and as I found in Hamil, employers know their markets. I will find out who shipped it here, why, and where it was going. And how these Delvers got involved.

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Levrim's Journal

At Dinu, we watched over the workers as they unloaded the boat and though I kept my eye on the dubious chests, I saw nothing wrong happening. However, I did notice Celine, now sporting a traveler’s mask, watching us from a distance. I assumed that she was avoiding Franke, so I left Raniel to deal with him while I wandered closer to her to see what she was doing here. We had assumed she had left our little group, no longer wishing to risk life and limb beside us, but her presence meant something deeper was at work. However, she said very little about her absence and I left it at that.

I wandered the streets some more, trying to find any credible news that would validate my doubts or rid me of them, and as I wandered, I was hailed by a brother of the Order of the Golem. He had little concrete information, but shared by doubts of Celus’ intentions and motives and warned me to avoid that man in the future. He then gave me a ring and bid me farewell.

Meeting back with the others, I found that Franke had invited us to visit with his employer, a Mr. Betancourt. We did so, but Celine declined coming on this either. I thought it odd at the time, but during the meal they gave us, my suspicions grew more and more as they spoke of a missing daughter. I gave no concrete evidence to the parents and afterwards confronted Celine with my suspicions. She admitted some things, but asked for my patience and cooperation. After having been brought back from death’s door by her divine power, I felt I owed her that much. I will say nothing of this to Mr. Betancourt.

While we began considering what to do next, we overheard rumors that local guardsmen were behaving erratic, even violent. We decided to look into this and see if some coin could be made, but soon found that the local militia’s barracks was teeming with some foul magic. As we studied it, trying to decipher what it could be, the sun set and several of the guardsmen began shuffling about in a strange, eerie trance. Celine approached one and while he was somewhat coherent, little he said made sense and he and his fellows soon attached us. The militia’s captain, apparently not under the sway of whatever dark force was at work here, stepped in to help us, obviously confused by his men’s violent behavior, but even with his aid, we were overwhelmed.

I awoke later tied to a chair, same as my fellows, and looking at a large sculpture of a man’s head. However, almost without even needing to look for it, you could feel the power that permeated the barracks emanating from this bust. Something deep below the realm of conscious thought began tugging at my mind, pleading with me to gaze into the stony eyes before me and a guardsman soon shuffled in and began whispering the same thing aloud. We all averted our eyes, but none of us could escape the bounds that held us. Desperate for some chance at escape, I let my body relax and my voice, slow though it was, to mimic that of our captors. Fortunately, they assumed I had become as them and released me. I shuffled off in search of my weapon and shield, trying to figure out how I could help the others.

Once I found my shield near where I had been captured, I was surprised to hear Theoro’s voice hissing at me from some shadows. Being that he had been trying to find a way out of his cursed boots, he had not been with us and I had thought of his aid. I hissed back to him where the others were held, then shuffled around, trying to learn more as the other guardsmen began gathering, speaking of attacking the city. This went on for a few minutes until, as one, they stopped and turned to the building where the sculpture and my friends were. I could only assume that Theoro had managed to free them and they now were trying to destroy the accursed thing. I shouted a warning that they had little time then drew the guardsmen attention to myself in an effort to buy them more time inside. It was terrifying, trying to stay out of reach of so many shuffling, vicious pursuers, but knowing that I had to stay close or they’d turn to attack my friends.

Fortunately, that time was brief as they suddenly stiffened and dropped to the ground, whatever foul energy that had filled their minds dissipating in the night air. Whatever my friends had done had stopped whatever was controlling these men. However, as I went back to where my friends were, I was surprised to see the captain, face contorting from agony into an inhuman form, stagger out of the building. It was only afterwards that I learned that he had broken the sculpture himself and had taken the brunt of whatever energy escaped when it was destroyed. He screamed, then was gone, a goat-headed demon in his place that turned and attacked us in rage. We were forced to kill the thing.

Afterwards, as the guardsmen began to recover, we wearily told our tale, for they had no memory of any of it. I later slipped back into the building to get fragments of the head, one that seemed dedicated to Eadwig the Bloody. Was this some random item someone had somehow triggered, or was the Trapped God up to something? I didn’t know, nor did I know if I wanted to know.

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Dinu Investigation, First lead
Blake's Journal

I will try to document my investigation, though I am running out of paper and have little time. I should note the nervous captain-man made his rounds through several establishments of varying class. I followed, thinking maybe he could lead me somewhere worth being nervous. Instead he headed to The Unfortunate Mariner. He had a password—but I’ll be hanged if I didn’t miss it. I did make a note of a particular knock he made. I need to not be so distracted!—I tried to get in the back but I couldn’t seem to focus on my story. Then I saw her again! As much as I wanted to talk to that “Franke” guy, something about her had my instincts buzzing (just my instincts mind you.) I bid goodbye to the now belligerent barkeep “Gelf” and followed her, attempting my “you dropped a gold” trick, but to no avail; she only walked faster. I followed her to the Queen’s Boot, but not wanting to spook her I backed off.

That’s where I met Levrim. I knew a… kindred spirit right away. After I revealed I was of the Order, we chatted some. I recieved information about the gold, Mr. Betancourt (which seems supercilious doesn’t it? I couldn’t help but imagine someone a bit portentous,) and the scoundrel of Hamil. I cannot shake the instinct that Celus is a forked-tongue son-of-an-Orc, but that could be skewed by the lack of help he has given Blaze. Maybe. I wish I knew what my father’s dealings with him involved. Was he the traitor my father was investigating before..?
Ah! I digress. Levrim knew nothing particularly helpful, so I shared some of my feelings on the scoundrel and since I wasn’t going to use it, I gave him the ring as a token of friendship. He seemed excited. He did confirm that the lass in blue was travelling with him.

I headed to the Holy Lance to complete the circuit and was surprised to see the nervous wreck that is Franke. After ordering a quite satisfying Snowberry Ale (for 2… Or 6 copper), I nearly caused Franke a heart attack, just by sitting at his table. Again I heard of Mr. Betancourt, and got my location. He said the objects stopped by customs go to the garrison-fort on the far end of town. My gut confirmed. I am heading there next. My steps are quickened with the cold focus and determination of a hound with a fresh scent.

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Dinu Investigation, Day 1
Blake's Journal

First day of my investigation of Dinu, and hopefully my last, though I know that such optimism is unrealistic. But that’s just the thing. I am feeling optimistic for the first time in a while. My gut tells me I am close to something.

I stuck to the crowds, and headed to port to find what I could about the head. I passed a somewhat crass pickpocket bragging openly to a friend, excited about some ring he’d stole, so as I passed by I swiped it. Steal if you must, but learn discretion and humility! I didn’t want it, mind you… it was pretty, and enchanted, but my hands bear room for only the rings of my girls right now.
Things seemed amiss. The captain too nervous, a pretty girl wearing a mask, and a spry little fellow with some sort of foot problem. The antics were more humorous than offsetting, but still bears noting. I pursued quietly, hearing some bits of conversation including the fair one mentioning she had need of alternate travel into town. I’ll admit she reminds me of Selena—jewelry hangs about her as if in open defiance of thieves and pickpockets. She calls attention with her movements, dress, and beauty, but she hides behind a mask? Not to mention she leaves no trail behind her…
Sufficiently intrigued I found myself wanting to pursue further, but I am constrained to follow my course. Clutching to Blazer’s ring I investigated the gold. I felt in my gut something was odd, but I couldn’t tell what it was, and having nothing to go on I followed the goods. A demonist icon isn’t going to be found on people as often as it is in a collection, or so was my thought. It occurred to me with that much gold I could buy Blaze her dream growing up: a horse with golden-red hair, (because it was important they match.)
I spoke to Phillip, guarding the gold and discovered some rumor of attacks in the garrison district. Friendly enough, despite much animosity from the crowds.

I have to find something soon. Since the trail went cold I have noticed my hope starting to crack—my recent optimism notwithstanding. Even so, my determination has never been more resolute.

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Remembering
Blake's Journal

Sleeping roadside again. Third night this week.

I am so tired of meat. I know some in Roran who hunger for just a scrap of rabbit or mutton, but I crave sweeter things. The one positive I have found in visiting Hamil is the Crooked Bass, and their delectable pies. Oh if I could… The first thing I am going to do with Blaze is enjoy a succulent slice of the Bass’s best pie.

…She will be eighteen years next week. Hold on, girly.

Three highwaymen tried to steal from me yesterday. I left two dead and one without fingers on his left hand. I gave them warning! Need to not do that anymore, it’s not like they listen…

Anyway, I lost some of my journal to the sudden rainfall. I was careless. The only important pages were those about the stone, (the rest were mainly my thoughts on Selena and Blaze’s kidnapping.) I’ll use the remaining paper tonight to preserve what I remember about that night:

Overwhelmed by grief, I had decided to go deep into the Southern Slopes to hunt, and to think. I had wandered farther than usual, to a ravine I’d only visited a couple of times and only in the spring. I noticed some tracks left by beasts from the waste, no doubt headed to Greenwood Forest—they’d been doing that recently. Thinking it was better to go through than around, and so avoid the beasties, I dropped into the ravine. Now covered in a thick white blanket, it proved somewhat tricky to pick my way through, and I nearly slipped on windswept ice that covered the ravine floor. As I paused to recover, I heard a sharp CRACK as a tree exploded farther up the mountain, showering branches, snow, and icicles all over. I was used to this phenomenon happening in deep winter, but I was startled nonetheless at the snow-slide that followed. I had too little time to pick my way up the icy wall of the ravine, so I slid further down and hid in a cave I had not previously encountered. As the snow filled the entrance I despaired a little at the discovery of my missing bow, no doubt somewhere a half-mile down-slope.

I was suddenly aware of three things that caused all other thoughts to be wiped from my mind and a chill to run down my spine. First, I realized that the cave I was in was massive, and had been dug out, as if it was shaped by massive claws. Second I realized that I was no longer cold, but quite warm. Third, I could see as if it was day. I turned around quickly, becoming more fearful but determined to face any threat head-on. Once I turned however, I blinked twice and involuntarily sat down in shock.

I was looking into the face of a black dragon.

It stared at me for what felt like ages, looking at me like I was insignificant, and as much a threat as a stray ash on the hearth. I spoke to it then, though I cannot recall my words, and was shocked to hear it respond in Eastern. It asked my name, and what I was doing in his mountain. Or hers, I suppose. I told the story of Blaze’s capture by the demonists, and my dedication to recovering her.

I asked why I was still alive, and it responded in characteristic vagueness that my grandfather had pleased it, and so it felt no hatred for me. The words it spoke next haunted my dreams for a time. It said, “You are as unaware of the world and its larger motions as the animals you hunt and skin. You are insignificant, and you have no comprehension of the storm that is to come. But you amuse me. You plan to kill those who hold her?” I nodded. It then pushed forward a small red gem or stone roughly the size of a large sling-stone. “You are useful then,” It continued. “This stone is a gift, from the heart of my enemy. Go and gather her, and never return here.”

The dragon melted the snow at the entrance, and turned away.

I do not remember the journey home. I still have the stone, and it bothers me that I don’t want to part with it.

The rain has stopped. I am going to try and sleep. I have to make it to Dinu by tomorrow, and begin searching. Hopefully my sources were right and the head is there. It may very well be the clue I need to find the cowards, and kill them.

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Curse-be-gone

Theoro

Noam,

Well we arrived in Dinu and I went to many magicians. They all claimed to be able to take off my cursed boots. But none of them could. It seems that my companions continued with an adventure without me. However, they were all captured except Kestren. He found me and we had to help save the rest of them. Afterwards, we got into town and I found someone who was able to get the boots off! I hope Felix is happy.

Love,
Theoro

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