The Chronicles of Etinerra

Sermon by Giselle to the people of Enonia - Summer 26, 59AD

Good citizens of Enonia and the midlands of Irecia, my fellow worshipers of the Light, I bid you good morning.

I come before you today as a humble servant of the Light. I come before you as someone who shares your pain, your struggles, your sorrows and your joys. You have suffered especially hard for these past few years – war, disease, uncertainty, loss. You have preservered despite the many challenges before you. Truly, you shine with a Light all of your own, a Light which has lead us in the darkness, a Light which makes us strong and whole.

The Light. We call to it, we pray to it, we do acts in its name, but what is the Light? What does it mean? What does it stand for? Where does it come from and where does it lead us?

I know that as a little girl, I was raised in uncertain times, then in tragic times. I was born in the rubble of the Doom and I was raised during the wars with the Bestials that saw us driven to our knees. In those first few years, we as a race cast about, praying to old gods who did not seem to listen or care. It was a priest of Light who healed me of sickness, who helped us to find shelter… who prayed over my Father’s body when he died. He was always telling us to stand, to be strong, to find the Light within. I did so, in his honor and now in honor of all those who strive to shine Light into this darkness.

I believe that we sometimes forget the most important aspect of the Light… that it is from within. We pray to it, but in reality, we are praying to ourselves and each other. We call to it, but in reality, we are calling to ourselves and each other. We do acts in its name, but in reality, we are doing acts for each other and with the support of each other. The Light shines within you, within me, within all of us. It is our destiny to let that Light shine forth… or not.

Think about sunlight, about the light of a fire, of a lamp or candle. It seeks to shine in all directions, to all corners. Darkness persists when the light is not strong enough, or when it is blocked. You can see the shadows, sometimes clearly, sometimes fuzzy. The light seeks to get around the darkness. When there are multiple candles, lanterns or windows, then the light can reach in all directions and no shadows remain. That is what the Light in us tries to do. Alone, we are one flame. Together, we are brighter than the sun above and no darkness may remain.

There are other things that seek to exist alongside the light. The light still shines. These other things may seek to catch ones eye, but the light still shines. And although a flame or two may not be lit anymore, the light that still shines from other lanterns and candles still shines, still seeks to cast away the shadow and darkness.

There are those who seek to use the Light to their own purposes, to “catch” the Light and bend it, reshape it. They tell you that the Darkness is because of those who do not let their Light out, who rather harness their light within to other purposes, such as praying to the old gods. They seek to make you afraid, to hold that fear as a weapon and to hurt others, to deny others, to drive out others.

Some lights are different colors, different flames, different shapes. The light of candle and of the lantern is different from the light of the torch, the fireplace, the sun, and the stars above. Yet they are all flames, and they drive away the darkness in their own way.

I do not believe in the old gods. Whatever they are, they chose to be silent, to turn their backs on us in our time of greatest need. They showed that they live for us to worship them and that they cannot or will not help us. It was our light within, our belief in ourselves, and the miracles that WE can perform that has saved us from everlasting darkness. This I believe in all of you, that you can open your light and continue to do wonderful, good things because of yourself.

Yet I do not deny the light of those who seek out the old gods. Just as a candle may be removed from a chandelier, and it may be used elsewhere, it still shines. It’s own purpose. So too, I see the pagans. They are us. They are men, women, children of our flesh and blood. Their light may be elsewhere, but we are all still walking the same life, and we all contribute to shining away the Darkness. In time, they may rejoin the Light, the great chandelier, or they may not. None can deny that they have found some power of the divine within. Although I believe it is their misguided light that shines forth in the name of another, it is still divine and it still pushes away that which would overwhelm us.

As of this moment, as High Priestess of the Duchy of Irecia, I declare the group known as the “Lightbringers” to be heretical and unwelcome in our churches, in our homes, in our lives. They seek to pervert the light to a means that darkens the Light and makes us weaker, not stronger. If you are a Lightbringer, I forgive you. Your light has been used, but you may rejoin us, by renouncing the darkness of this group. If you continue to opress the misguided pagans, you are not acting in the Light, you are acting no better than the Bestials who would enslave us. I will not forgive such acts anymore.

To the pagans, I say this – I see your faith and your beliefs and your searching for the truth. To those who believe in the Light and yet still put a cup of water on the window sill for an old god, or put a small flower on the bed to appease an old god, I see that you are hoping for help and guidance from anywhere. Despair and fear are powerful, but be strong and the Light will shine forth for you. I forgive you, I love you and I will not push you aside. I will sit with you, pray with you and we will push away the darkness together. I do not cast you away, but rather walk with you, and welcome you with open arms. I believe in YOU and your Light. Not your god. Rather in YOU.

I know many of you have come here to learn of my intentions for the priests and leaders who have misguided many of us. They will be held accountable and atone for these acts. Those of the Light will be dealt with by me and a council of priests. We will take care of our own and perhaps heal our own. Darkness and despair can damage and harm, but we will seek to heal them and guide them back. Those who are of the Duke or the King must answer to the laws of the Kingdom of Men. I will pray for them and seek to counsel them.

My dear travelers of the road of Life… I pray that the Light comforts you, guides you, shines in darkness and lifts you up. I pray that when you feel weak, or sick, or injured, that you see the Light within and know that we are all connected through it. May the Light shine ever always in your heart and mind.

An Enlightening Visit

The hour was late as Joran arrived at his small home to pray. The outside walls bore evidence of the violence of the past four days – burn marks, broken windows and splashes of paint and rotten vegetables from protesters and thugs. The inside was clean as usual, with Grel and the faithful all having cleaned up. Several were still sleeping in the attic. Grel’s heavy tread could be heard on the floor boards as he moved from window to window, watching for more trouble.

Joran sighed and slipped to her knees, the prayers and chants coming to her mind. “Oh great Tangadorin, All-Seeing…” she began and the crystal that was affixed to the ceiling began to glow. Joran’s prayers faltered; this was not the light of fire, but something else. The light grew brighter, and more bright, and then seemed to detach itself and float down to the ground in front of the kneeling priestess! It grew to human-size and then a glowing body stepped out of it. The light was so bright that Joran had to throw up her arm over her face and look away, but it dimmed a bit and she could glance into it. The light seemed to shine everywhere, and there were no shadows cast. It was soft, and hard at the same time, soothing her wounds from the previous days, and calming to her heart.

A voice spoke – low, melodic. It seemed to drift along the light.

“I … am pleased, Joran. You have done well. You have revealed a darkness that was forming and threatened all that you have worked for in My Name. You have stretched out your hand and removed this darkness and you have even brought My Name to the lips of those who believe in the things that have been created in the name of mortals. Even now, I hear their voices as they talk about Me, wonder about Me, wish to learn more about Me.”

“It is by this, Joran, that you bring Me to Life. Their prayers, their acts, just as your prayers and acts, Grel’s prayers and acts, all these serve to strengthen Me and make Me whole again. They again begin the cycle that brings Me forth and allows Me to share My Knowledge and My Sight. Together, we will continue to shine the True Light forth and reveal all that must be revealed.”

“It is because of this, Joran, that I give you the sight to understand more of My Word as recorded in the book that you have. As you read and learn, you will continue to act for Me, and when you are ready, you will have grown more strong through My strength.”

“Know that I walk with you always. I see you. As you and the others grow stronger, so too will you strengthen those around you. And soon, you will be strong enough to take up the task that is needed… the task that will bring me to the Renewal that you have started. The Renewal of Me.”

“Go forth and see all that is to be seen. Learn all that can be learnt. Do not let the darkness hide the Truth from the hearts of men. Do this in My Name.”

Joran blinks and the light and figure are gone. The tread of Grel can still be heard. Did it happen? Was it just a heartbeat of a dream? Joran rose on shaky legs and walked over to the locked chest that held the holy words. She opened the chest and drew the book out. Flipping open the pages, she turned to a section that had been perplexing her… and it was as if a veil had been lifted, for the words made sense now! With wonder, she began to read, and could tell that she was taking a next step into learning more about Tangadorin and His Plan.

A Song of Sects and Violence IV: Bedtime Story
Balto's Journal

After all the fuss, we sorted ourselves out. I didn’t see Pyrea or Ragar, but maybe they were helping the town and keep guards with the prisoners. Or maybe they were hauling Belaldur’s chestnuts out of the fire? I have to confess I was busy with a wedge of cheese set out on the bar upstairs.

The rest of us – let’s see, that was myself, Joran and Joffrey, Itsy and Mazlor, and Fergus, Willie, and Josef, plus Veckstos – dashed across town to the Temple of the Light. Joran joined in healing and aiding the wounded as Mazlor talked to Averin. I looked about and saw a few finely clothed merchant folk, one with his right arm awkwardly cradled in his left. Walmar’d been waiting some time to be tended, but triage had put the many burned and concussed and stabbed and all ahead of him.

And, my, wasn’t his son Kaymar red-faced with impotent rage. His wife Roebuck was there, too – staying calm but wondering why nothing could be done to help her husband. I sidled up and, as Kaymar clutched at his purse, offered my services for a fee. Watched carefully by Roebuck, Fergus resocketed Walmar’s dislocated shoulder. I pulled power from the earth to reknit his broken arm, and made a fuss about mixing together mint and willow (and I told them, ground gemstone) into a tea to ease his pain and soothe him.

I asked and received a royal for the treatment! And Roebuck asked me to visit her in the days ahead to talk of the herb and nature lore I had used. Perhaps I can get back my cloak then – it was all I had to use as a sling, besides the furs in my armor.

As I was finishing up, Mazlor emerged from the back with Gazelle. Averin would stay at the temple, organizing the relief, and Isty would stay with her. Gazelle, grabbing her spell book, joined us in our desperate effort to protect the Duke from the machinations of the Lightbringer faction. We collected our steeds and raced for the Keep.

We got there just as a parade of dignitaries and armed folk were entering it. Joran, Gazelle, and Mazlor muscled through the watching crowd – “In the name of the Light” – and we made the gates. Gazelle demanded, as a Flame, that we all be let through, and we were admitted but told to await the Marshall’s pleasure in the barracks. Fergus objected, but the guards let only Veckstos out, to report to his superior, the Captain of the Duke’s Guard.

After a bit, we were summoned to the Keep library. Gazelle left for the Duke’s welcoming reception; she patted my hand sympathetically and promised to have some food sent in for a late lunch. Once that arrived, we set to with gusto. I put aside a couple pastries for later, and advised Willie and Josef and Fergus to do the same.

The Marshall, looking grim, came into the room. Mazlor, after verifying Roehm’s identity, showed him the papers, one at a time, proving Orielt and Godfrey complicit in the plot on the Duke. We warned him, too, that the skinwalker was still loose. Marshall Roehm declared he would confine Orielt and Godfrey to their quarters, once the fête was over. 20 trusted men would guard the Duke. And Roehm would take some of the papers to prove the conspiracy to the Duke.

After the reception ended, and the crowds passed, Ynnivax came to gives us the news that Godfrey had gone quietly to his room, while Orielt raged and had to be bound. Gazelle took both their magic talismans. The Duke, furious, demanded the right to try them both under the King’s Law. Callista, the Captain of the Duke’s Guard was astonished; clearly Veckstos had failed to brief her before the reception. And Vekstos was nowhere to be found. We all set a password so we could know each other, with a skinwalker on the loose.

Come sundown, we were escorted to the kitchen, a fine place to snag a plate from the foods prepared but not served at the cancelled state dinner. As we made for our rooms for the night, we heard a great commotion, and a Duke’s Guardsman rushed to me, gave the password, and told me, “There is a monster in the Duke’s chamber!”

We ran towards the sounds of battle. The door to the Duke’s room glowed a dark pulsing purple, jolting the guards as they tied to open it. Joran quickly dispelled the magic, and a guard kicked the door open. The Duke was gasping, badly injured, and three beleaguered guards were fighting a viciously animated bed!

Fergus charged at the bed-beast, while Mazlor cast dispel magic at it (to no effect). I summoned insects from the Keep, but the Keep had been scoured so that only centipedes and earwigs and ants responded, and they were too slow to make a difference in the battle. Joran ran to the Duke with a potion, then helped him to the door, where she casts a healing spell on him. Mazlor met them there with two more potions, and the Duke is nearly good as new.

The bed-beast killedone of the guards, and nearly offed Fergus twice, but Fergus hit it a few times, and I got in a good smash with my cudgel before some guards came up and finished it. As the beast perished, Pyrea’s friend Joseph – who turned out to be the Duke’s court wizard – and Marshal Roehm arrived and conferred with us. Joesph wanted the Duke safely back in Rondorin, and he had a way to get him there!

In the basement, Joseph showed us a magical gateway, one of an ancient network that connected all the keeps before the Doom, and swears us all to secrecy. After rotating some stone disks so the right symbols showed (Here Fergus’ strength and my keen eyes were most appreciated) and an elaborate spell, the gateway opened and the Duke and Joseph stepped through, to return in a few days. Roehm would cancel all the Duke’s meetings and parties and tell everyone the Duke is recovering in secured chambers. The Duke charged Roehm to root out the conspiracy and catch the skinwalker – and Roehm turned to us, his troubleshooters.

A clue soon presented itself. That which we thought was Veckstos was actually the skinwalker in his shape. The guard he’d gone off with was slain.

As for the conspiracy, Orielt was dragged to the dungeon and a second holy symbol taken from her. She tried using a word of command but Callista punched her mouth and gagged her. We went to talk to Godfrey in his room as we took him to the dungeon.

And then such a babble of the Light this and the old gods that between Mazlor, Joran, and Godfrey. I mostly tuned it out, but one point stood out. Godfrey was converted to the Lightbringers by a silver-tongued cleric. Mayhap he’d been charmed? Perhaps the kindly Godfrey could be freed of the spell? I must talk to Joran or someone who can dispel magic. Bed first, though – well, perhaps another turn through the kitchen before that.

A Song of Sects and Violence III: Under the Eagle Alehouse
Balto's Journal

Rabbit stew, a lovely honey bread with butter and jam, and spiced fruit tarts for dinner! After, I meditated in the kitchen garden behind the Mug & Pot. As I finished, a grand ripe peach trembled on the branch above me – I caught it as it fell. Just as I was feeling a bit fashed and ready to look for a bedtime snack!

I was up with the dawn the next day, and I went for water with the cook. He sat me down with a crust of bread and the last of the stew from last night, while he made the morning’s porridge. Willie and Josef and Fergus came downstairs, and we were soon joined by Jorann, Mazlor, Joffrey, and Isty. Pyrea wandered in from the street, accompanied by our old companion Ragar. As the cook set some bacon to sizzling, we realized Belaldur had not come downstairs, but our concern for him was outweighed by the threat to the Duke.

I’d asked Ward to look into the Eagle Alehouse, within and below which it seemed the anti-pagan agitators were organizing. So, just as the town started to stir, we made our way back to the Militiaman & Bawd. A bleary-eyed Ward told us our suspicions had been confirmed by his spy, who’d last night heard much cheering and shouting from the Eagle’s cellar. It sounded to her like a rally.

And more news from Ward: The Lightbringers and their townfolk pawns had been sprung from the keep! The men and women guarding them had all been killed. Those in the town jail, though, were still locked up tight.

So we determined to recruit help at the Temple of the Light, then report to the Marshal, return to the Militiaman and Bawd to pick up a guide, and move through the tunnels to challenge the Lightbringers. No help was found at the Temple; though High Priestess Gazelle was very gracious to her rescuers, Godfrey and Orielt were away helping the Marshal prepare for the Duke’s visit. Gazelle gave Mazlor a couple of healing potions, showed us the Mess Hall (but no second breakfast!), and returned to her healing duties. The Temple was full of the wounded and fearful, so she did have her hands full.

We arrived at the Keep to find security so tight I’d have had trouble sneaking just myself in. And with all the noisy big folk along, well, we just had to submit to disarming and waiting for permission to enter and speak to Roehm. I had my moment of quiet rebellion in not identifying myself as a spellcaster, so at least I was not accompanied by a personal guard.

Roehm told us the escape last night had been done with someone familiar with the tunnels under the city – and one such tunnel led right by his dungeon. He berated himself for not putting men at that secret door. Perhaps a guard had been suborned, but I thought the thieves hired away from Ward would also have known.

We told the Marshal that we, too, hoped to use the tunnels to strike at a gathering of agitants. He offered a company of 10 guards from the Keep. Orielt and Godfrey’d been pestering Roehm and his men, asking for guard schedules, procedures, and protocols in advance of the Duke’s sojourn – so after some discussion we decided not to ask Godfrey to accompany us. And Mazlor advised Roehm to change the rotations, unbeknownst to Orielt, who was not to be trusted.

With nine footmen and Kelly their sergeant, we walked our horses back to Enonia, dropping our horses at the stables by the gate, then headed toward the Militiamen and Bawd. Mazlor hadsergeant to keep her forces a block away so as not to spook Ward. He was still annoyed to have Mazlor there, but signaled to me to take the party to the wine cellar. There he brought forward his spy, a diminutive human female, to be our guide through the tunnels.

Mazlor and Isty went back up to move with the guards and militiamen above ground. The rest of us went into the tunnels. We soon reached a portion of the tunnel that had been hastily floored over, and the spy told us gloomily there were bodies underneath, but it was the fastest way. The floor certainly seemed rickety, but I skipped along the edge of the tunnel with a guide rope and most of us got across. The big folk in bulky armor, though, had trouble finding safe footing, and Willie broke through the floor, fell waist deep, and started yelling that the bodies were trying to claw and bite him. Ragar and Pyrea rushed back and helped him out, but two Damned climbed through the hole Willie had made.

We ran, but the two Damned soon caught up to the rear of the party. The Damned duo were quickly dispatched, but that route is now blocked to us by the rest of the now-alerted Damned. We explored a maze of passages and found a secret door, but I couldn’t work out how to make it open. Meanwhile, in the largest undercellar room, an orator was working a couple dozen townsfolk into a frenzy, before introducing the rioter ringleader, Marcus.

Mazlor and Isty have made their way to join us, and Kelly’s team (minus a few militiamen detailed to hold exits) soon after. As Marcus begins talking, Joffrey blessed our party; Pyrea cast a shield on herself; Jorann cast hold on both guards; Mazlor cast silence on a stone which I slinged just past Marcus.

Marcus and the man who introduced him leapt off the stage into the crowd, trying to escape the realm of silence. We charged into the room, Mazlor ordering the townsfolk to hit the floor or be declared resistors. Well, of course, half the crowd couldn’t hear him, and the rest bleated like sheep in their panic! Further, two Lightbringer fighters burst into the room, causing more consternation. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t use any spells!

Mazlor cast a hold spell on Marcus and his lieutenant, and Pyrea cast a webbing spell on them (and half the crowd besides). Ragar got two arrows into one of the Lightbringer guards; he turned and fled a couple of steps before Pyrea cast hold on the fleeing guard and a group of townsfolk trying to flee past him. I put a sling bullet into the fleeing guard’s brain. The other guard surrendered. The townsfolk caught in the web were screaming bloody murder, so Pyrea cast sleep on most of them, and the others pretended they too were dozing. Kelly cleared all the living and unwebbed Lightbringers out of the way, while I freed a few coins from the dead man’s pouch.

Meanwhile, Marcus spat out angry words and tried to rally his remaining follower. Ragar suggested quiet would be the less painful choice, but he ignores her hint. Ragar and Fergus made a stronger argument with their arrows. I tried a trick shot, hoping to knock a few teeth out, but my stone was caught in the web. Serves me right for trying to show off. Afew more taunts from him greatly challenged Mazlor, but Marcus eventually shut up.

Waiting for the webs to dissipate, I went with Pyrea, Josef, Jorann, and Joffrey to look at the door at the end of the corridor from which the two Lightbringers had sprung. Pyrea heard from behind the door the rattle of chains and a low moan. The room had a pair of cages against the rear wall. One held a man – delerious, ill, and shackled to the ceiling – in a tattered and bloodstained uniform of the Duke’s forces. Joran quickly cast a healing spell and he breathed some easier. I make short work of picking the locks on the cages and chains. Josef looks through a window in the wall behind the other cage and sees a drunk troll and a very nervous militiaman.

We gave the Duke’s man some water, but he was not recovering his wits. We took him to Mazlor, then returned to explore further – one more door, which turned out to be to Marcus’ room. My lockpick snapped as I try to open his chest, so whatever treasures are in there are lost to the Temple of the Light. Pyrea and Jorann gathered up all the papers.

Mazlor had begun to send our troops and prisoners up. I expect this lot would go to the Keep – ought to be some room there now. Joaran kept ministering to the man we rescued. He was more himself now, and thankful he was rescued, but anxious to get a warning out to the Duke.

This man is named Veckstos, and he had been guarding Collin, the Duke’s Secretary. He told a chilling tale of how first Collin, and then the partner of Veckstos, Aschton, had been killed and replaced by a shapeshifting monster. The monster was named Reezus (by the sun and stars, these humans have odd names!) and he is the mastermind behind the plot on the Duke and the anti-pagan furor.

Mazlor left off questioning Marcus and moved to his lieutenant, but to no avail. The web had yet to dissolve, so Joran cast dispel magic, releasing all from its sticky embrace – and cancelling the hold as well. Marcus instantly cast sanctuary on himself, and his lieutenant got ready to fight. Ragar puts an arrow through the orator’s skull. Marcus ran for his room, but Joran and Isty took him out. I suggested Marcus be searched and Mazlor declared anything on his person will be taken to the Temple of the Light. So I shrugged and took the purse from the orator, instead.

Mazlor quickly looked over Marcus’ correspondence, and was shocked to discover that Godfrey had been deep in the plot against the Duke and supporting the Lightbringers for many months. Orielt, too, though of course we had all thought that already.

And it’s midday, and the Duke is due any minute now! I suspect I’ll be missing yet another meal!

A Song of Sects and Violence II: Stirring the Pot
Balto's Journal

The trip to Jakar’s Rest had been peaceful, and I had gloried in the chance to get away from all the tumult of the city. On the way back to Enonia the next day, though, we came upon a man staggering about, clutching his chest.

As my uncle had lamented, I have always been too trusting! I dismounted to aid him, while Willie and Josef kept a wary eye out for any ambush. I gave the traveler water as he clutched at my arm; he declared himself better, remounted his horse, and trotted off, looking a bit nervous. Then I discovered my purse had been untied! There was nothing missing – I must have instinctively jerked away from him while he tried to pick my pockets – but for the principle of the thing, we raised a hue and cry and chased him a few minutes. I took some gentle chiding from Willie and Josef for not recognizing such an obvious ploy, but we were all amused that this lesson cost me nothing but time.

We ate second breakfast in the saddle, but broke for lunch as we met some returning Meesha-followers on the road. We shared our food, they their drink and flowers – and news of further unrest in Enonia. Truly, what trouble is caused by such nonsense as religion! Even those who come closest in their worship to the reverence with which I hold the natural world, by focusing their attention on only an aspect or avatar, blind themselves to the wisdom of others. Mayhap the Meeshans come closest to my views.

At any rate, forewarned we approached the city warily, and checked in at the Mug & Pot. None of our companions were there, so we went next to the Temple of the Light – well-meaning folk there, but they look at only one part of the natural world and put it on a pedestal! As though night must not follow day, winter not give way to spring, hunter and prey not dance with each other. But I digress….

A deacon at the temple told us our party had gone seeking books, perhaps at Parabellum’s so we headed there. Fergus quickly filled us in – Collin, the Duke’s secretary was dead! and a magical double had taken his place. The Temple of the Light and the Marshal had been notified, but the Duke was yet away and unaware. A network of old tunnels linked various of the buildings of Enonia, and Ward was displeased that they were coming to the attention of the authorities. The city had stayed in tumult since the pagan parade, and we could see smoke and hear rioting from the area by the Temple of Tangadorin. We headed there, my hope being to spare the bakery from looting and ruin – I wanted more of Turgon’s Tasty Treats!

On the way, arrows rained down on us from the rooftops. Belaldur was injured, but the archers broke and ran. They descended to the street and headed north, getting closer to the mob. Torrin, Jorann, Pyrea, and Joffrey had headed down to protect the bakery, the pagans, and their temples. The rest of us – Willie, Josef (also hit by an arrow), Fergus, Belaldur, Mazlor, and Itsy – gave chase to our attackers, and several turned to fire at us again, while two started climbing back to the rooftops. I called to some insects in the area and harried one off the wall, then sent the swarm against another who was trying to flee. The rest escaped, calling, “Back to the Eagle!” While Beladur and Fergus trussed up our captive, I went back to heal Josef. Willie and Fergus took him back to the Mug and Pot. Belaldur, Itsy, Mazlor, and I went to the Militiaman & Bawd to check in with Ward.

The pub was closed, but Ward let us in. He identified our prisoner as a worthless rogue named Karl, who’s been hiring men away from Ward’s organization. At Ward’s suggestion, the clerics went out to tend to the wounded. Then Beladur questioned Karl for us, Ward putting a dagger tip beneath a thumbnail for emphasis. Karl had been hired by a Light Bringer priest, Marcus – blond, tall, shiny armor that would make him a focus in any fight. Oh, and Marcus had not just sent Karl’s archers to kill us – other bands, hidden near the pagan district and by the Temple of the Light, had orders to take us down, as well. Karl bore us no ill will – he’s no fanatic, just wanted the gold. His employer and crew, at the Eagle’s Alehouse, he had no particular loyalty to, judging by how quick he gave them up.

Ward told Belaldur of a back way through the tunnels to the Eagle’s Alehouse. Ward offered to lead us there to confront Marcus, but worried we were too few. I went to call back in Mazlor and Itsy, and we all left Karl in Ward’s care as we went back to the bakery to collect the rest of our party, and to snack on the last of the cakes. It was near suppertime, so we went back to the Mug & Pot for dinner and conversation.

Dark doings in Enonia
Jorann's meditation

I find myself with a few calm moments and I look back at the events of the last few days.
Grel came back to town with news of a plot to assassinate the Duke and lay the blame on our Temple. Joffry and Lidia returned to Enonia and much to my delight, Joffry has been anointed by Tangadorin as a fellow priest. Kjeld decided it was time to come out of hiding and have a parade for the Old Gods. I knew trouble would follow, but Tangadorin would want his name spread, so I agreed. All in all, the parade went better than expected, only near the end did some hooligans disrupt it. A small fight broke out which I was unable to stop, but none was seriously hurt. The city guards told us to disperse, and that was the end of it, or so I thought.
The next day, some unknown trouble maker roused a mob to attack the worshippers of the old gods. Things were getting far out of hand. The marshal’s men put a swift and fairly brutal end to the uprising.
We decided to seek out the Duke’s assistant who was already in town. We never saw him, just some of his guards. Mazlor heard about a haunted house where the residents were worried, and since we had nothing better to do we investigated. Turned out there are secret tunnels al throughout Enonia. One was under the house. We followed it and found two men burying an indistinguishable body. We apprehended them and had them lead us through the tunnels. We took the body to the Temple of the light. There Mazlor and Averin conversed with the corpse and found out that it was the Duke’s assistant. He had been killed and apparently replaced with a doppleganger just as Irem was.
Things look very bad, I am not sure how this will turn out! I pray to Tangadorin that he will help defend his people, and help reveal the truth of this awful plot.
The next day, we went to the Temple of the light, to perhaps get aid in our search. Averin told Mazlor that the High preiestess of Rhonderin was on her way, but she feared for her safety. As hers was a voice of moderation and acceptance, we decided it would be a good idea to see to her safety. A good thing too, for we foiled an ambush set to attack her. In all honesty, we were not doing spectacularly. We were greatly outnumbered and Things were not going well. Gizelle called for everyone to stand down, which we did. Then I went forth with the leader of the ambush to explain. The other cleric tried to convince Gizelle that we were there to attack her and he was there to defend her. I tried to explain the truth, but with Mazlor held, I feared this would not end well. Gizelle used a spell to determine who was lying, and promptly dismissed the lightbringer. With the help of her and her guards, we dispatched the lightbringers and took most prisoner. We escorted Giselle back to Enonia and sent the lightbringers to the Marshall’s jail.
The next morning, we awoke to news that the lightbringers had all escaped. We finally got to see the Marshal and told him of the plot and secret tunnels. He belatedly remembered that there was a tunnel leading in to the dungeon which he then caused to be locked and guarded. The Marshal told us that Orielle and Godfrey had been questioning him profusely about the guards and preparation for the Dukes arrival. Mazlor told him that they were not to be trusted and he should prepare some contingencies. We asked for some men to help us with a planned raid on a lightbringer stronghold, and he gave us 10 men.
Ward had informed us that there was some gathering going on in the basement of the Militiamen and the Bawd. We decided that Mazlor and the men would attack from the ground, and the rest of us would go in through the secret tunnel. On our way, we encountered some damned which effectively cut off any retreat. We managed things quite well, with Mazlor’s team gaining access from above, and us from below. We managed to capture the ringleader Marcus. The orator was killed, and many townsmen taken prisoner. We managed to rescue a former guard of the duke named Vextos.
We then rushed back to the temple, grabbed Giselle and went to the keep. Unfortunatly, we were too late! The Duke had arrived! We made our way into the keep after the Duke’s party. By This time, it was just me, Joffrey, Mazlor, Itsy, Fergus, Balto, Vilheim and Joseph, Giselle and Vextos
The marshal had us taken to the Barracks, where we were detained. Vextos was eager to report to the commander of the guard. Giselle had a guard escort him to the commander to report. Then she left to prepare for the feast. Eventually, we were escorted to the Marshal’s study to wait for him to speak with us. When he finally came in, Mazlor showed him the papers that we had discovered in Marcus’s lair that implicated Godfrey and Dame Oriele. He took a few to show to the Duke and arranged to have both of them arrested. Yinnivax came in shortly after and told us that Godfrey had gone quietly, but the Dame went screaming and shouting. We asked about Vextos, but no one had heard from him. Kalista, the captain of the Duke’s guard came in, and when we told her about the skinstealer and Vextos, she was surprised, Vextos had never reported in. It seems that Vextos was the skinstealer! The body of the guard who escorted him was found. Mazlor, Fergus, Balto and I were allowed to sleep in the kitchens to stay near at hand, but Joffrey, Itsy, Josef and Vilheim had to stay in the barracks. In the middle of the night. a gurd came and told us there was a struggle going on, the Duke was in danger! We ran to the Duke’s chamber, but there was a magical shield on the door and the guards couldn’t get in. I quickly dispelled it, and we broke through. We found the Duke gravely injured and three guards fighting an animated bed. I ran to the duke and gave him a healing potion. I would have healed him there, but he wanted to get out immediately. So, while Fergus and Balto helped fight the bed, I helped the Duke out of the chamber. Once he was out, I cast a cure spell on the Duke, the guards almost attacked me while I was at it, but Mazlor assured them it was ok. The Marshal came with the Duke’s mage Joseph. Mazlor and I did not wish to leave the Duke’s side while he was in danger, so the Marshal, the Duke, Joseph, Mazlor and I all went to the basement where Joseph swore us to secrecy, as he took the Duke to a magical chamber which he activated to send the Duke back to Rhonderin. The Duke said he would be back in two days, and charged the Marshal with finding the skinstealer. The Marshal then charged us with the task! We have two days to find and kill or capture the skinstealer! This seems to me to be a form of Chaos magic., I suspect Grel will be up to this task. I must meditate and commune with Tangadorin.

A Song of Sects and Violence I: Pagans on Parade
Balto's Journal

With the end of the Black Riders’ reign in the North, most of our party made for Enonia. Belaldur was bound to protect the Duke, after all. Fergus – with Willie and Josef in tow – Mazlor, Itsy, Toran, Pyrea, Creresai, and someone’s man Joffrey gathered with us to discuss things with Joran over lunch.

The worshippers of the old gods were planning a festival, followed by a celebratory march through to the center of town. The Enonia Temple of the Light was officially neutral, but the townsfolk were none too pleased. “The old gods have no power,” they jeered, but also: “We let them live and worship, just let them do it where we don’t have to see it!” “Why must they flaunt their wicked ways?” “Backsliders and heretics – nothing but trouble coming!” “Those old gods – demons more like! – brought the Doom upon us!”

The 21st day of Summer, the followers of Tangadorin and Vanir gathered on the street in front of Tangadorin’s Temple. Messha’s flock also was there, handing out flowers to all, and I spied Wikton from the South, who favored not Vanir, but some other blacksmith avatar. And Fergus revealed his affection for the old man we had met on the road, Almund, who he said was yet another god. Grel flew overhead on his magic horsey. Music played, flowers were woven into hair and pinned to tunics, banners were painted – and tables groaned with food and wine and beer flowed from kegs. Eventually, Joran imposed some order and the parade began.

The streets were lined with onlookers, some curious, some angry. Mazlor, I saw, spoke to a large group of them and led away perhaps three dozen. I kept pace with the parade behind the crowd. I watched for those most vehement against the old religions; while their attentions were thus diverted, I helped myself to a few purses.

The pagans reached the marketplace, many of them quite drunk – the kegs had come with them! A half dozen townsmen with cudgels stormed up, shouting “Just go! Your gods are not welcome, nor are you!” Some of the pagans were angry, too, but for a time Joran kept the peace. I continued to use the distractions to enrich myself.

And then the thugs swung their clubs at the Meesha worshippers, right by me. I knocked one back and intimidated him into flight. Fergus and Ceresei grappled another down. The town guard showed up, broke up the small fights around the square, and ordered the marchers to disperse.

After a little business and a snack with Seralno, I met my party at the Mug & Pot for dinner. Beladur had been seen on the rooftops during the parade (I must speak to him about hiding in shadows.). The Falcons had been seen, and most of the Heroes of the Duchy, protecting the pagans from attack. Not good, as we’d wanted to keep a low profile and deflect attention away from the pagans.

We were at the Mug & Pot not just for its fine victuals, but because the Duke’s Secretary had a room there. He’d arrived a few days before, to prepare for the Duke’s visit. We’d also taken a room there, as it happens just below his. I went to scout his room, found his door guarded inside and out. The Secretary was not in his room the whole night.

The next morning, Mazlor had a meeting and I was hungry. I went to Turgon’s Tasty Treats and bought half his stock for 30 gold. Turgon told me I should see the goblyns by Jakar’s Rest – they have become unworldly, lost their faces and their limbs gone gnarly and spindly. So I decided on a journey, Willie and Josef and Ceresei joining me.
Ours was a pleasant trip in the summer sun. The sweet smell of flowers wafted out to us as we approached. The goblyns – now eyeless, stoneless, barkskinned, almost trees – moved with the rhythms of the land through their garden of flowers, bees and butterflies dancing with them. The leader came to me, and I gave him the withered flowers in my hair from the parade the day before. He planted the flowers before the central tree in the garden, brought them back to life, then sat to meditate. Giddy with awe and joy, I danced back to my pony.

We headed then to Jakar’s Rest. It was midafternoon when we arrived, and I shared out Turgon’s baked goods among the villagers. Jakar’s glaive was covered in vines and flowers, so you can’t see the weapon. Same with the three columns of Meesha’s shrine. There’s been no trouble, no harassment here, and many from the village had gone to Enonia to dance and parade and enjoy the town. We’ll likely pass them on our way back tomorrow.

Battle of Upland Keep
Balto's Journal

I found Beladur easily enough, breaking his fast with a few companions. I joined him for a second breakfast to be sociable, and told him the message from Godfrey. Godfrey was calling in the favor Beladur owed him, the price of his being brought back to life.

I offered to join him in the trip back to Old Fawn, and he gladly accepted, saying he’d feared I’d fallen overboard or some other nautical nonsense. We ended up with a good group of adventurers – Grel, Sally, Itsy, Mazlor, Fergus, Pyrea, Belaldur, Ceresei and of course Willie and Josef I knew. Another mage, Taron, was also heading back to Old Fawn and traveled with us. Grel had hired a trainer, Yasir, who likewise came with.

On our second day, we met a man named Almund. He had a 3-legged dog and carried a raven on his shoulder, leaned on a staff and had a cloak of many shifting colors. We greeted him, and several of us felt moved to give him some coin, which he accepted gravely and for which he thanked us. He was pleased to see a follower of Tangadorin and a priest of the Light traveling together. Grel was awestruck, and I was stirred to remember a tale of an old sage named Almund, who had protected the littlelings when we first came into these lands. Fergus, too, seemed amazed. When we were done talking, Almund leapt high in the air and sailed on in the direction of Yew.

That night, we all shared a dream. Grel was standing on a plain, the rest of us behind him. He faced an iron door and he hammered on it, asked his god for help, pushed and pulled at it with assistance from Taron. Then Ceresei slapped him and we all woke, without the door opening.

In Old Fawn, Godfrey told us of a plot to kill the Duke in or around Enonia and blame the followers of the old gods. Belaldur was charged to protect the Duke. We all thought to help him in this, for our own reasons, but as the Duke had not yet left for Enonia, decided to first try to get Anastasia out of Upland Keep. Belaldur and Grel, joined by Fergus and Mazlor, pay a visit to two sage sisters known to Belaldur, and get intelligence on the chaos tower, the Natass family, and Upland Keep.

We headed to Upland Keep by way of Yew. Near the village of Arwith, we picked up a tail of thugs intent on talking to Pyria and Taron, and recruiting them to the Virridviola Guild.

We reach Yew to find Reynault has already left with his men for Pencurth. We hurry after him, as we have ambitions of sneaking into Upland Keep and opening it up for him. On the way, we run into Ivan Nattus, who does not seem to like us. The next day we rendezvous with Reynault and make our plans.

We set out for Upland Keep, slipping in through the cliff and caves. There is a bit of a fright with an undead creature, but we make it past and we all climb up the well. We quietly make our way to the main building, fight our way through the audience chamber, then upstairs. We kill the leaders, then take the gate towers and open the gates – just as Reynault’s men appear in the dawn light. We harry from inside the tower as Reynault’s men make short work of the massed forces outside the castle. After a parley, the Black Riders of Upland Keep surrender, and relinquish their treasures, in exchange for a promise of a fair hearing before the Marshal.

Spring in Carbaugh's Keep
Balto's Journal

I slipped away from Yew to Carbaugh’s Keep and there I tarried the whole spring, reacquainting myself with the ways of my people. Or something like them, anyhow.

I had vague memories of riding out as a young child to meet the clans. My father’s farm and inn were right by a main caravan route, so we stayed in touch. After the Doom, and after we moved in with my uncle, though, there was little contact with my culture. Our foods, our ciders and wines, our stories mother and Da shared with me and my sibs as best they could. Still, we were a small collection of littlelings living among the big people. Once Da died, and mother joined with Uncle Sisko and Aunt Kiyra, there were fewer tales of heroes and wise men, more instruction in running a shop.

So I was glad to find a group of littlelings keeping traditions alive. Only, they were somewhat off from the ways of the clans that I remembered. And even a bit off from the way mother kept house and farm and inn, too. More regimented than the clans, a touch more attuned to nature and balance than my family had practiced, and then this devotion to Orlando and his secret writings.

Fun folk to spend time with, and I will treasure this season and the lessons learned – but I never quite bonded. Unless I joined their order, I could not know the teachings of Orlando – and unless I knew the teachings, I was not willing to join! At an impasse, I was relieved to receive a message from Old Fawn, summoning Belaldur to the priest who had raised him from the dead. I made my goodbyes and rode for Yew.

Songs of the Bard, 15th Day of Summer, 59th Year After Doom

Exciting times in the lands of the Midlands of the Duchy of Irecia! The Duke himself, Duke Archanis Reynald, is visiting the town of Enonia to hold a war council with Marshal Roehm, Marshal Kevlin and Marshal Ynivax. Several other nobles will be attending, and some of the higher priests of the area will be joining them. It is said that the Duke’s advance retinue are already in Enonia, busy with planning for the visit. The Duke’s personal secretary, Collin Vilcin, has been seen staying in the Mug & Pot Inn.

Mercenary companies are already returning to the lands around Enonia, eager to be a part of any war plans developed in this council.

The Eagle’s Alehouse has opened again and is back in business. Following the untimely death of Avael Guntin in the Winter, the inn had been closed, but it has opened recently under new management – a gentleman named Divos Senos-son. He is reputed to cook quite well and attracts many craftsmen and merchants, unlike the previous management that had a more shady clientele.

Rumors are thick that one of the Heroes of the Duchy, Canon Mazlor, might be elevated to High Canon and become the Priest of the temple in Yew! His reputation throughout the Midlands is well known, most recently participating in the Battle of Upland Hold which broke the back of the Black Brotherhood to the north.

A pagan festival is slated to take place on the 20th day of Summer! Encouraged, perhaps, by the tolerance of the Marshal and Temple, two pagan priests by name of Kjeld and Turgon have proposed a festival to take place – a procession to the Marketplace and special booths and craftsmen who are members of these cults. It is not known if Jorann of the Tangadorin cult will take part, but considering the prominence of herself, along with the cult protector Grel, it’s not likely they’ll miss this celebration. This announcement is not without controversy, as the bills posted around town about the festival have been defaced or torn down.