Tales from Forgotten Europa

Ruins
Some stones burn, others char and blacken, and still others bear the flames and live on

His boots are a supple gorgeous black, hand-tooled and embellished with interpretations of curls, wings, leaves, and vines. Silver fastenings and silken ties secure them to his legs. Ancient boots, meticulously cared for, and veteran of untold wheels of travels. He kicks over a broken shard of whitish stone, leaving a small grey scuff on the toe. He notices it. He always notices such things.

There is no scent for him to notice, but he does anyway. He can smell woodsmoke, and the more acrid tang of other things burnt beyond recovery. He can taste the past on the still air, even though the fires burned down decades ago. He hunkers down over his gleaming boot-tops and draws up a handful of loose scree. it sifts through his fingers slowly, sand passing through the neck of an hourglass, time unceasing. But time has never mattered and never will. He turns up his ancient eyes to the watery Octubrim sun and squints. Hours, days, seasons, years, none of it matter in the grand scheme.

He stands up, brushing his leather gauntlets against his breeches and surveys the lay of the land. The hillock has somehow remained untouched since the fire. Deeds and tithing ensure that none have encroached but for the flora. Shrubs and bushes, grasses forcing their way up through the seams of old flagstones. Boulders and slabs of broken rock. A dwarf might be lured closer and notice the caliber of the stone all around him. Instead of granite and fieldstone, these ruins are comprised of the finest alabaster and marble from far off Istanbul and Carthage. Tons of the finest white stone, all tumbled down and forgotten, covered with the patina of decades of weather. Still, enough remains to build a manor house, such was the breadth and scope of the towers that stood here not a manling’s lifetime ago. Now all down to rocks and stones and dust, sifting through the elf’s fingers.

He turns, his rich brocade cloak spinning around him and he faces his mate, stunning even in her drab city attire. Rich, voluminous crimson velvet done in an antiquated Spanish style, the very picture of eldritch beauty, save the scowl she greets him with. She does not wish to be here, reminded of so much, the memories returning unbidden with brutal clarity. No, she’d much rather be somewhere else, damn near anywhere else.

He has come to see and to think. He knows to go to the beginning, to where things start. Home and hearth, blueprint and plan, all things have a birthplace, a start point. And even this blackened, forgotten ruin is a birthplace as well as an end-place. This is where things changed, where he evolved into something more, where all of his kith and kin grew and changed or withered and died. Here, tucked into a pocket park and a small, valiant copse of alabaster towers, he sees the years gone by, the blood spilled, and the decisions made.

His decisions made, he moves to join his mate, offers her his arm, and leads her out to the cobbles, to the carriage parked over long-gone bloodstains that he can still see. Of course he can still see them, just as he can still smell the smoke and fire in the wind. Decisions made.

“Let us go and find our son.”

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Across the moors
An old friend gazes across the moor at his enemies

The knight shifts, his gleaming and embossed armor clinking very softly, almost silent in the stiffening morning breeze. His almond-shaped eyes take in the scene before him, a morass of grey and olive, squelching muds and oozes, hillocks covered with grasses and mosses, and everywhere the autumn-blighted skeletons of dark cyprus and willow trees. And through the morning’s early haze and shadows, his elfin eyesight picks out the forms of his enemies.

They hunker on a long, low series of hillocks barely half a wheel away. The smoke from their fires muddying the newly-bright Octubrim skies, adding to the fog. They are many, and even from here, he can pick out their off-kilter shapes and forms. Their barbaric standards and symbols already assembling for what will be today’s butchery in the mud. Many bodies, numbering in the hundreds, are drawing up, cajoled by the screams and whipcracks of what must be their sergeants. The knight stood fully erect and stretched. His men needed no whips to be driven to the line. Turning to face them, the knight saw his own camps emptying, the staff teams already breaking down the tent lines and camp sites, his horsemen already through prepping and brushing their proud white and roan stallions, his archers already stringing their long, powerful wood bows. And everywhere the proud, defiant emblem of his army and his purpose, the straight and true ivory arrow, embroidered on every surcoat, or mounted on every standard. The Army of the White Arrow was readying itself for combat.

Lord Kil’Derek settles his own bow across his back, a glorious waldenwyrd bow, carved with runes in his native tongue, and weighted with the blessings of countless priests, friars, and clerics. Blessed in every town, every village, every hamlet that he has passed through, every land he has saved. The bow, for all its august presence is nothing compared to the arrow itself however, tucked serenely in its quiver, the lone occupant, and safely secured to Kil’Derek’s hip, flanking the elfish knight with his silver longsword. The white arrow always travels alone in its quiver. Its Lord never needs another.

Horns begin their nightmarish song from the hills to the South, the hills where the enemy rouses itself. The song is part martial beat, and part dirge ,and entirely horrifying to behold. There is no question that the Dark Powers themselves side with that army. The songs and cheering grate on every man-jack in Kil’Derek’s force, and unnerves them as much as it infuriates them. But they will go forth with their own war-song on their lips. Driven forward by thoughts of glory and victory and led by their sterling white knight, who has never lost, and never given ground to an enemy, regardless of who or when or how badly outmatched he has been. The Knight of the White Arrow is charmed, touched by the godes and will never fail. Hopefully.

Kil’Derek mounts his war-stallion and draws forth his spyglass to view his enemy. Already his cavalry move east to flank the crew of Ork and Troll he spies before him, but he knows his artillery will serve him little, mired down in this everlasting muck. His pikemen will have to win him this day. His spyglass shows him teh standard of his enemy, his opposite number, the fell general he must kill today. Oddly enough, instead of a severed head, or single glaring bloody eye, the banner he focuses on bears the silhouette of a drooping tree of some form, brown on a dull grey field. Such a strange icon for these animals.

Kil’Derek draws his bow across his lap and begins to string it, as his field party begins their own drum and pipe war-song and his men ready themselves for the charge across the morass. He has already forgotten the standard and instead whispers softly to the arrow on his hip, promising the victory they both want so very much.

And so the armies of the White Arrow and the Mangrove Tree clash under a bleary red sun rising sluggishly to the east, in a muddy bog in the farthest reaches of North Germania.

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Vellum
Hastily scribbled notes in a heavily magicked tome

You,

The efforts and deaths of three scriers have led me to this book, to these words, to this introduction. I cannot possibly explain everything to you, as I lack the time and certainly the strength to manage this for long. Content yourself to know that I have spent a year to understand what is going on, and this has led me here to you.

I am within your brotherhood. I am indeed a Seeker, which is how this all began. Discrepancies and turbulence in the veil awoke my mind to the possibilities that lore was begun, lore which is new and yet already proscribed against. I write to you because although I have no clue where and when you are, you are indeed the only Known Quantity. You must be. You were to be that way from the very first, measured and re-measured, precisely sculpted since your birth to be what you are, what you must be. Forgive me if I say things that confuse you, that make no sense. You should know of what I speak, and if you do not, then I am gravely concerned about telling you too much of delicate matters. I speak of how you came to be in Araby, your ancient home, years ago. You know our credo. It is not enough to know, but it is the learning that makes both the lore and the seeker worthy.

I killed a man in Turkesh who knew more than he would say. I blotted from this realm a princeling of Libya, who pretended to be far more than he actually was, but his vizier told me much. It seems that our brotherhood’s theorem of life originating in the Dark Continent might be quite true. At least man’s life. Our most potent and eldest of lore exists there. Truthfully, our weave itself seems to stem from the deserts and savannas that are now lost to us. Something to think upon.

But I digress.

You are hunted now. There can be no other way for it. I know not of the Event that occurred to you, although we all can sense its gravity. One of our number, no friend to you, has posited a theory regarding that great weights are now freed and swing rapidly. What they will impact remains to be seen, but you have already begun to notice the enhanced consciousness of your existence by now. There will be more. Ward yourself and your friends well, cousin wizard. There will be much much more, and you undoubtedly now bear the power to sustain you all through this. Never tell me what it was that transpired in the North. Mortals can only know but so much before they fall into an abyss whose scope they cannot perceive. Gods save you that you never learn such a lesson, if that is indeed possible for you. Those who know and seek to know believe that new tokens have been birthed, and will come for them.

The Seekers will now be both friend and enemy to you. Take what you will from the rest of this missive, and trust me or not, for I seek as they do, as you do. And you should suspect me as well, by now. But I come to you bearing only good will and some small information that might help you. Regardless, we may meet if the fates decree and should we, I will introduce myself bearing a blue lily, so that you might know who I am when you see me.

And now my message.

Danger walks the land once more, there are powers in play that dwarf what we all know and understand. They conflict and compete with some great prize in mind. From what I know, there will be a sceptre, a rod of tremendous powers that will be vied for. A sceptre that can make Kings and change destinies. A totem not unlike our own wizard’s staves, something that can channel and intensify and focus. Something that can take up dreams and build them into realities.

I say ‘will be’, because it does not exist yet, I have learned. But the making of this mighty artifice falls somehow into your domain, yours and the people you are bonded to now. I know not the why’s and wherefores, but this artifact could be a deciding force in the hands of many. And all hands will grasp at your robes to claim it. Guard yourself and your tomorrows well, for many of these forces will be no friend to you, or to the Continent at all.

It seems to me that you will be crucial in deciding the fate of these things, you already have your fingers on the pulse of the matter. Again, be wary you who trust, even myself. Such power will be tempting to everyone.

Including you. Guard the most against yourself, brother. Trust yourself not. Your reckoning is coming. And of course, I understand what happened in my city and I hold you not accountable at all for it. I know how things lie. I doubt I will have the means to contact you through your libram again. Nor will I be able to read your diction here either. Be wary, because if I can reach these words, so can others.

I miss our fellowship. I miss our history and our forsaken futures, brother wizard. I trust this finds you well, and ever seeking. Trust in what you learn, and in what your own mind presents you. Know thyself and gain power over thyself. Now more than ever, the old adage is so very, very true.

Be well.

~Adigato Fermeni

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Adeptus Mechanus
Through a brass cog darkly

He toils under the polluted soot-grey clouds, just like always. This is Hell, but only a dreary souless one. The absence of life, of emotion, of purpose. For some Hell is but the absence of god. For some, Hell is merely the absence of hope.

He stands and stretches his stiff back and shoulders. Fitful rain drizzles down, acrid and bitter, stinging his upraised eyes. His skin has gone the deep charcoal of the chimney sweep, of the bootblack. It might wash off, but not in this polluted rain. His hair and beard have grown so long and remained dark in spite of the miles and years in his life. So old for one whose life has seen but a few dozens summers. Somedays he feels like a grandfather, creaking back, bleary eyes, and pained joints. But he is no grandfather. THAT much is certain. Oh yes, very much certain. No grandpere he.

He shakes his head to clear it of foul water and fouler thoughts and fetches up the oilskin satchels he is to carry to the Factorum Obscurata. Such an ugly place. A tremendous edifice, built in the Low Gothic style, replete with minarets and a huge collection of rain-deformed gargoyles. Stiff tan walls made of cured local stone, the Factorum lacks windows of any size, and as a result was either damp and dreary or damp and horridly stifling. He prefers the cold weather of autumn that had only recently arrived. He has seen over a dozen winters here and definitely prefers the cold to the heat. The heat would kill you, if the Factorum or the work didn’t.

He reaches the immense iron-bound door when he is startled by a lightning strike, slamming into the building far, far up in the sky. The flash of light is so stark and brilliant and the boom of thunder so close and vast, that he loses his bearings entirely, head turning upwards instinctively. Ten feet from him, perched on the door’s great arch is a blackened figure, crouched and staring. Runnels of what might be blood cascade down its freakish features, tracing under its stark glimmering eyes, and pours from its somehow-grinning mouth in a freshet. Worst of all, every inch of its skin is crawling in the obscenely-inhuman light of the thunderstroke. He KNOWS this thing, and it has come for him. The scream tears itself from his throat and he crumbles into a heap, dumping his satchels, spilling the contents of one all around him.

He breathes. The rain patters down, and the echoes of the thunder begin to fade from his ears. He lifts his head and looks again, and sees only one of the hundreds of acid-scarred gargoyles perched on the lintel above him. Mute, dense, and stupid, gazing at him with a face nearly washed away by decades of poor weather. Only a gargoyle. Only mute stone. Stone has never hurt. Until just now, he would have said the same of the rain too. He had never feared storms.

He exhales a long shaky breath, half sob, and begins gathering up the tubes and cogs which spilled from his satchel, and lay in the shallow brackish puddles around him. He needs to bring them inside immediately. The Mechanus Overseer would be looking for him soon. He does not look up again, not willing to tempt the fates or dare another look into his yesterdays.

For some, Hell is the absence of hope. For others, Hell can be torture, nails and chains and fire and blood. And for even some others, Hell is something you carry in you. A memory, a promise, an unanswered prayer. No matter how you fill your mind or your time, no matter the weight of wine or years, Hell waits within. Patient and cunning. For any chaotic storm to bring it to the fore once more.

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Shadow and Light

Vasilli’s fate is sealed, nothing can change that now. I have come back to Moskovia for one purpose, and that will be fulfilled tonight. The debt owed to Clan Hardforge will be paid in blood. I go to see that they get every drop they deserve.

The warehouse burns, and all I can do is think of the fight to come. The days of caring for the ebb and flow of commerce and all of the politics and power plays that go with it are long gone for me. Whether this thwarts some larger more sinister plan by Vasilli and his handlers, or whether its just smoking him out of his hiding place is of no consequence.

Sure enough, Kal got word that Vasilli would be meeting with some of his associates, and a small army of sell-swords, after his precious inventory was destroyed. That won’t help him though… tonight his life will end.

The meeting place is easy enough to find, as are the dozens of men surrounding the inn. My comrades come up with a suitable plan of attack… a bit round about if you ask me. I can remember the days in the tunnels with the ‘breakers deep under the karak. A good plan was as important as your axe and your mail. It’s been a long time since any of those tactics seemed useful. Blast through like a vengeful storm and don’t stop until there’s nothing left… this has been the only plan I’ve needed for so long… since the fields of Felkirk.

Eventually everyone is comfortable enough to get underway, and the mage opens a hole in the outside wall. There they are… mercenaries… a dozen or more… most clad in some kind of mail or even plate. I suppose Vassili was willing to break the bank to keep Kal from breaking his neck.

In a split second the internal debate spills out. How to balance the dark and the light? Rage versus righteousness. Can one embody both of these things without betraying one or the other?

The brutality of the fight is abhorred by those around me who don’t understand. It is not ruthlessness for its own sake, it is not the demons that I cage gaining control of my will and feeding on the victims they’re presented. It is passion made fury.

Would the priest call for Thorain’s favor halfheartedly? How would Asgard’s generosity turn if he did? No, he beseeches those blessings with all of his being, why should I do less? Why should Beordun expect less of this child than any other? Why should Kal expect less than total support of his cause? No, every ounce of my spirit is unleashed and those of weaker stock fall broken to the ground. Many try to run, but they are marked as cowards and dispatched as such.

The battle is a blur of silent screams. The Stormhammer blasts apart the bodies of Vasilli’s hirelings. With one vicious stroke the sound of thunder in the distance breaks the imposed quiet of the scene as another body falls to the ground. All of the elements are in concert now, and the wisps of eldritch energy play on the massive stone of the dwarven relic as it claims another. With one final stroke the ring of a breastplate being fractured fills the room… more… but none present themselves… “MORE!”

Let those who cannot recognize cower, let those who dare not comprehend condemn, but let none doubt the fury born of Asgard’s fire!

For a moment the urge to take the fight beyond these walls is almost too much to ignore, then Kal appears at the top of the stairs, covered in sprays of blood most of which are not his own. The look in his eyes says it all… it is done. The look is familiar, justice and vengeance are served, but there is no sense of victory, no satisfaction, only more questions. Too well I have known that feeling and borne the weight of what it represents… I hope he got more from Vasilli than just his worthless life.

Kal’s look snaps me from the wild dream of combat, and all I can do is kneel and let my muscles burn.

As I look around at the aftermath I can only smile to myself as I remember what the wizard told me. There are many eyes watching, hoping to control a bit of Beordun’s power for themselves… I hope they like of what they just saw…

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Unveiling

Room, I need a room. Dwarven tempers are rising, soon judgments will come to their fruition. This apprehension will soon be broken with flesh macabre. More blood will be spilled, but to what effect? Pawns in someone else’s game. Minds of stone see nothing but revenge. Offer to the counter offer. Death for death, an irrevocable blood thirst veiled in honor. But lives here are mere blips, implements of a grander scheme.

Vasiili regurgitates coin so naturally. Full of bile and acid, it is tainted for nothing but his ego, a selfish need to gain more. This is no offering, it is a bribe for weak hands, unable to carry the weight of its meaning. Make an enemy ruin another enemy. Corrupt those who endanger you with their honor and deal a crippling blow. Disappointing that he even thought this would work. He is irrevocably blinded by his success.

Yet to take him out is to be a puppet of an even larger scheme. With him gone, the state would annex his assets, push its own people into his trading routes. Someone is getting ready for this as we speak, I know it. We’re like puppets dangled by a silken string. A force easily redirected to ones benefit.

He knew. Someone knew… like a knife over my flesh, I slowly cut my past out, pieces I know nothing of, yet which are so dear to me. The momentum is against me. Some remnant of my past, that which they already deem with suspicion and disgust is no match to their thirst for blood of this man. They distrust me, yet I bleed for them more hen they will ever know.

The eye says to follow. Careless and cold, my only real connection, my salvation. Yet, it doesn’t know my loss. To it time never skipped. Now it watches me. What is the intent behind that stare?

Thank you for your concern, I am whole and well recovered.

A hard lie to tell, yet this is not my friend. I am empty, disadvantaged. What I say can harm me.

My journey has been quite fruitful. Gods are playing dice. They are involved now. The city of no name is a city of lies, a city of gods and fools. The architect calls it home.
I am much pleased to read your words. I’ve been disconnected as of late. I follow the group per your request and it leads me to a blood feud, which I’m sure you must by now know. Vasiili, a merchant I know little of, who is housed near the queen’s seat of rule, seems to have garnered too much attention for his own good. Coin will flow like blood. Tell me, of what importance is he, what does he know? His network seems to spread far and wide. A hole which will need to be filled. This takes me to another question. Who is gaining from this directly? If I am to do such service for a man, I’d like to at least see him in person. It is not a small favor after all.
[etching of the fallen mage’s signet ring] has made a mistake and played too close to the fire. Hope it was of not much consequence.
I must bade you farewell, time is short. Please let me know as soon as possible.
[no signature]

Khalid stands up, casts protective spells, puts on his cloak of flame, and flies directly to Vasiilis place. Flight is short and forceful. As he nears the compound, arrows start flying. They are no match to Khalid’s wards and most veer off. With an arrow embedded in his shoulder, Khalid lands in the middle of the henchmen, looks at who seems to be in charge, reaches for the arrow, breaks it off with not even a flinch and says, “Take me to him, he is expecting me.” The men stare at the flaming wizard, his eyes quickly stare them down, giving second thought to any further advances.

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Episodes in the Abyss

The ride south was uneventful, and if Raethe had not felt reborn over the past few days, boredom might have driven him mad.

The dwarf rode with purpose once again, and though his immediate task was clearly in Moskovia, his eyes were fixed readily southeast toward the once and future seat of the Stormforge Clan.

Jan slept on Raethe’s shoulder much of the day, and soared off into the night after sunset. The bird was a strange source of comfort, even when it wasn’t perched close by, as if Beordin’s blessing was with him always. The dwarf let himself get lost in the enjoyment of the cool Russian air and, of course, the sense of not being doomed to disgrace.

The calm of his thoughts quickly snapped back to reality when an all too familiar feeling washed over him. There was something out there… something loathsome.

Moments later the group was ambushed by a lone mage. Ordinarily not enough to cause the dwarf any anxiety, but this manling was shrouded in chaos magic! Raethe charged alongside Kal, and as they closed the mage tore a rift in space and time. Kal was quick enough to easily avoid it but Raethe was not so agile. The pony stopped short and threw him headlong over the reins and into the unknown.

Raethe crashed through the rift and seemed to hang in space, like he had leapt into a deep lake. Spinning left and right he tried to get his bearings. It took only a moment, and he was able to see and hear, but that wasn’t what struck him. It was his “other” senses that seemed amplified here. He could sense things for miles around. The overwhelming madness that is the Abyss was laid out before of him, and he could feel his markings begin to excite.

He moved swiftly, though he could make out no discernable ground beneath him. There was something close, something big, and it was no happier about the dwarf being there than he was himself.

Although he could sense it coming, the creature still managed to get the drop on him. A massive tentacle struck from out of nowhere and wrapped itself around Raethe’s midsection. The creature pulled him into view and Raethe was stunned at the sight of the thing.

It was massive, many times larger than the giants he had fought, as large perhaps as the dragons of legend. Dragons, however, were always described with a sort of reverence. Great and terrible beings of near god-like power, the dragons’ ancient bloodlines made even the least of them formidable and worthy of respect. This thing was an abomination.

The creature’s massive body defied any form, and it had eyes and what might have been mouths all over it. Dozens of massive tentacles whipped about trying to pulverize the tiny dwarf.

Even as he was being crushed by the creature’s tentacle, Raethe had no trouble tapping the fury in his soul. He lashed out with the Stormhammer, hitting the tentacle and forcing his release. He charged at the body of the creature with a fire in his eyes that was born of his true and utter hatred for its nature. Striking true, his hammer landed blow after meaningless blow. The creature seemed completely impervious to any harm he could do.

Soon Raethe found himself immobilized by several of the creature’s appendages. Each of his limbs was wrapped tightly and his body was constricted. He was being pulled closer to the center of this thing, and soon its massive mouth was in view, along with one large eye which looked at him at once with malevolence and indifference.

Raethe’s rage was useless, no strength he could muster would break him free. With every bit of his will he focused his contempt on the creature, spitting curses in languages no man or dwarf should know, and for an instant he thought he saw fear register in its massive eye. Then he felt its grip begin to weaken and he could breathe again. Then, as the creature’s tentacles trembled trying to keep a hold of him, thin bolts of energy lanced out from Raethe’s flesh tearing through each of the foul limbs.

Black ichor sprayed through the strange environment and Raethe dropped back down at the base of the thing as it wailed in pain. This time Raethe fought the urge to strike with the Stormhammer, keeping it ready only to knock away any errant tentacles that lashed out at him.

Instead, he focused on the essence of the creature. The same blasphemous power that Raethe had hunted for so long and become so familiar with. The same energy he was now able to wield as a tool against its rightful masters. The more he focused on the creature, the more it cried out and thrashed around. Soon it moved less, until it just trembled and jerked, its tentacles limp and lifeless. Then, the great eye turned a milky white, the colossal mass shriveled, and it was no more.

Raethe found himself energized with the death of this chaos lord, and found he could now force his way back through the chaos-mage’s rift that had now all but completely sealed.

As with all things chaos, the rift was unpredictable, and Raethe found himself free falling about 20 feet until he crashed atop his pony. The poor beast was killed by the impact of the dwarf landing on his spine. Raethe himself was seriously hurt to begin with, and was badly concussed from his landing.

Thankfully Khalid was nearby, and as he began to call forth the blessings of a god Raethe knew nothing about, he could already feel other eldritch power at work, snapping his broken leg and ribs into place, and healing his punctured lung.

His head still ached, but as Jan landed gracefully atop the Stormhammer and cawed, Raethe felt the worst effects of his concussion subside. He straightened his goggles and cloak, shook his head at the deceased pony, and took up his pack. The gates of Moskovia awaited.

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Random Meditations

Empty…

I saw a god today. Curious why so simple was this transaction. He was there above the lost dwarf, so pleasured by his own righteousness. Ecstasy of anger filled his capacities. Jacob, the skin he wore stretched with agony. It cracked at the seams trying to contain that which so horrendously forced itself in its place, unnatural, egotistic, and raw. Poor soul I suppose, though I’m sure many would say a deserving one. Perhaps it was, in the terms of the earth such things are as gravity, they weight down on the soul. Was this what he thought of when he dreamt of meeting his creator?

It’s the lost dwarf whose soul seems the heaviest of all though. The ground cracks under his weight. The Dwarven people, who identify themselves so ecstatically with the earth, they too cracked under his footsteps. And they bled rivers, hot rivers, steaming red. His masochistic purification of the disease in his own veins became ritual and unwavering. Did he think he could kill this feeling? Think not, feel not, overwhelmed with rage. When everything he knew was gone it got only worse. In becoming the judge’s hammer he himself became the guilty. It was a chaos driven justification for ridding the world of chaos. The necessary end to such a conviction is death, for the job is not done until he is gone, the last earthly drop of hell.

Yet he lives, his plan cut short by the only power capable of such miracles, forgiveness, redemption. These were not available to this scarred mind until god himself made it so, a furious god that gives no favors, only takes and uses. Arbitrary Dwarven judgment, rules for rules sake, rules carved in stone. To a primed mind even suicide gives a path to salvation. I wonder where this forgiveness will take him.

Empty…

Why do I feel so empty? Any man would tremble to such a sight, yet I am denied this. I am sorry my lord, I have sinned. So hard I try to find my path yet it fails me. I fail me and in this I fail you. I so much aspire to know the truth, yet I am lost in myself. Why did I not tremble?

I have this equation I have been working on. It is to calculate the weight of a soul. It is so perfect, I must be close, yet the numbers don’t make sense at times. The things I seem to feel important have little impact and the things I take for granted can throw the balance to extremes. I have much work left.

Empty… there is nothing.

I met a man who put blood to my hands. He was a fool in the city of fools who knew more of me than I knew myself. Would a lie in a city of lies be a truth or a lie like everything else? He knew me and his words put pain to my ears. If you’re lost and the way out is to hell do you just close your eyes and turn another corner? What he said gave me the first hope of knowing what happened, yet now I’m unsure fulfillment will be what I find. Perhaps that is the path these fools have chosen.

Too many questions, I know. There are more. A merchant named Vasili has taken pleasure to others pain. The lost elf thought he found himself a home, yet he also found its destruction. The merchant took arms to Kal’s Dwarven family and now we’re off to seek revenge. Dwarven laws again. It is a conviction to punish that which spoils the soundness of life. Would I not do the same? I feel no sympathy, yet I am so guilty for this numbness. I should be enraged. All I can do is help, because I should. I want to help, but will I just cause more pain?

He knew me. I have to push forward.

Empty…

This book, I know it. Pages too fine for the words they carry betray the contents as a distraction. The eye, I so much want to see. It’s the eye which matters, so easy to miss, it feels familiar to my fingertips. The longing, the excitement betray it. The printed eye so graceful and inquisitive as if were looking back at me, drawing me in. Look through the eye and know the truth. Is this truth worth it? The words it reveals excite and scare me. The eye knows me. It knows me like the fool knew me. It sees me, beckoning to pursue my path of discovery. Will I see me or someone else, a version of a man seen through someone else’s eyes, incomplete, fragmented, biased? It’s all biased. If I find who I am it won’t be me. It will be a man, forever disjointed, a moment in time filtered through the conscious eyes. If that’s what is to come, why do I yearn to follow this path?

That equation, it says a man’s soul carries little but a few defining moments which might, just might carry on beyond their limited horizons. A depressing conclusion as it would be, would mean a sort of salvation. Past just might be constrained to the past unless… it isn’t.

Empty…

These amateur wizards are a distraction. They make me lose my focus. One plucked me from the sky too easily. My powers grew weak with the lack of concentration in one direction of study. Another summoned power beyond my knowledge, a chaos creature with formidable prowess. I might have bled if it wasn’t for the others. None of this seems to frazzle me. I fell 120 feet, not a trivial distance, yet as I was falling all I could think of was the wizard’s eyes. They betrayed fear. I pitied him, I despised him. He should have not done this. It was a poor choice. I am loosing focus.

Empty…

The lost elf is close to his query. Vengeance froths his words. This focus for a price to repay. He is sure of this deal as any swindle he ever undertook, yet I am unsure things are so clear. All this seems too simple and too odd. Perhaps some things are so. This all seems to be on someone else’s terms. The elf is so sure of everyone, even the queensguard Sir Hans. He practically told him his life story. The eye, the merchant, now the queen, too many are making choices which affect us.

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Of Gods and Monsters
excerpt from the Memoirs of Dorak the Axe Bearer, Thane of Karak Belgrin

The following chronicles a part of one of the more famous quests of a mighty dwarf that once lived in Norska. Though he passed over a millennium ago, his legend lives on…

“9th of Harvestmont, 18,506 Anno Drannorae.”
That Evening

“We have just finished dealing with Vasili’s thugs. Kal is called away on clan business this night, and the rest of us head back to the Inn. There’s a package waiting for Khalid – a few books he had requested back in Odessa. I sense there’s arcane power in them, and when I mention it to Khalid his eyes widen and he quickly excuses himself, leaving me with Raethe alone.”

“I sit at an empty table and call the wench over. Agitated and angry, I give her a piece of eight in cold and ask for a hearty meal, and tell her to keep bringing spirits until I can move no more.”

“The tavern is dim, and though it is late a few locals still linger about finishing the night’s meal. Raethe sits at a table with me and shares the meal, though not touching the spirits.”

“I have my axe laying on the table at my right, still bloody from evening’s events. My shield lays to my left, ready at a moment’s notice, the distant fire’s flames dancing red, yellow and orange on the golden sun. Raethe sits nearby, his hammer, with its scars of desecration on the stone head, propped against the table. I eat in silence for a moment, glancing at my ‘companion’ now and then.”

“Suddenly a large black bird with gold eyes – the Rook that has been following us since Belrael, flies in and sits on the top of Raethe’s hammer. I’m no stranger to omen, and I’ve studied dwarfen religion for a long time. I know what a Rook is… I know what it can mean. Not being able to contain myself any longer, I chug a mug of mead and looking straight at Raethe ask in a steady but deliberate voice: Tell me, dwarfslayer, why are you still here?

“The room goes silent for the moment, as all the patrons freeze and moments later slip out of the tavern, leaving Raethe and me completely alone. They know slayers, and they’ve seen me around, and one way or another they’d rather not be part of this conversation.”

“The Rook flaps its wings once, and an eerie silence surrounded us. I feel more and more there are forces at play here that are beyond my understanding. Raethe looks puzzled for a moment as if not sure why I would ask that question. As I found later, he didn’t realize I did not hear Beordun’s words. I must say I’m puzzled a little as to why everyone BUT me heard the words of my god, but as a priest you learn to accept that gods have their reasons and it isn’t up to me to question them.”

The following section was enciphered with dwarfen runes and did not become legible until a hundred years after Dorak’s passing.

“For reasons understood by all dwarfs, I hid the following from the prying eyes. In a surprising reaction to my question, Raethe did not explode in anger or let his emotions rule his actions as I expected. Instead, he resolved himself to telling me a story – a tale, of who he is and what brought him to his current state. To make the long story short, he had discovered years ago that his clan had turned to chaos, and in the attempt to do the right thing he went on a rampage to try and punish his own clan for turning to chaos. He spent years hunting his clansmen and wiping them out – ruthlessly, mercilessly, and meticulously.”

“Having completed his quest, he turned to madness, trying to end his life in combat, not sure where to go next. And so he sought the slayer king, hoping to find a worthy death and earn admittance to Asgard.”

“As it turns out however, it was Beordun’s right to bring vengeance on his people, and Raethe, having done so himself, took that right away from Our Father. Fortunately (or unfortunately), a single member of Raethe’s clan survived and is in hiding, and as a punishment for Raethe he has been quested to seek him out and protect him, so that the clan can be restored and brought to light again.”

“I do not know what to think. I cannot say I condemn Raethe for what he did entirely, as chaosdwarfs are an affront to everything I stand for. But I know I would have asked for guidance before going on such rampage. He slew his entire clan, and without divine guidance he certainly killed innocents.”

“In any case, it is a hard tale to spin, and a lot to digest for one night. I looked into a distance lost in thought when I saw another vision – of my father years ago. When it faded I felt it was time to get some sleep.”

“I looked at Raethe with a bit of pity, for it seems that he’s been quested to save his clan at all costs, even if it damns him for eternity. If gods have put me on the path of traveling with this dwarf, then who knows? Maybe, just maybe, my task is that much harder – maybe, just maybe, I’m quested to save… him?!”

“In the morning we head out for Moskovia. In the morning I’ll pray to Thorain. In the morning…”

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The Plot Thickens
Blood on the high seas flow to Archangel

From the journal of Captain Kal Deigo Date: 1039 Seasons on the Third Moon

I’ve often found myself wondering if I was born into a crazy world or if I simply am a weirdness magnet. I’ve been traveling together with my strange quartet for quite sometime now and every day something new and intresting happens…

We we’re sitting at the campfire on our way back from “the lost road” and me overhearing a conversation between a GOD and Reathe. (see yesterday’s journal entry) and I thought it would be a good time for me to take Reathe aside to talk to him about these recent events. As I stand to leave; I see Dorak holding his hammer drifting into the fire, his knuckles turning ivory white with strain and his eyes swimming. I hear him mutter something…

“Sun to a boy is a toy Sun spinning by his bed Not what is seems… Cut off your head..”

Then his head snapped up and he went back to tooling his weapon. Frankly, the only reason why it even stuck out to me was the lilting tune he muttered it in. I’ve always been a fan of music and I seem to have a gift for getting songs stuck in my head.

I spoke to Reathe and questioned him about Byordin’s words, I knew that he had done something to walk the path of the slayer, but when he said he slew his own clan for a sin they had committed… I never realized. Dwarves clans can be hundreds even thousands of members deep. My adopted clan, Hardforge, is relatively small with only 342 members including myself. (I should know… I had to memorize every name and all of the fathers, boy was that a fight! I thought Ashka was going to murder me when she found my cheat notes…)

Anyway… I feel for Reathe, the more I speak to him the more tortured I feel he is. But for once, I see hope. If he can save the last of his clan, then he can be free, I just hope he can save himself. I’ve traveled the seven seas, I’ve seen the black fields of glass in the west and I’ve seen the remains of giant walkers in Afrika, I know men make deals with devils by their actions… and I know a cursed man when I see one. I can cheat at cards like no ones business… maybe I can help him win a bit of himself back…

Enough for now… We’ll be back in Archangel in the morn.

(2nd Journal entry) From the journal of Captain Kal Deigo Date: 1039 Seasons on the Full Moon

I have killed men tonight. I have killed men whose souls I dam to the most unimaginable depths of hell. The Lord, Vicilli, has shed my cousin’s blood these last 3 nights. He has shed this scared ether to bait me out but I wasn’t here…I was in the city of lies.

I apparently have made an enemy by refusing to be extorted on the river. He has made a grievous mistake this day. I offered challenge and like a coward he sends his minions. They were all dispatched but one made the death confession of who his master was and that he resides in Mosko.

I have also made the Warbond between me and my companions real by voicing it aloud to a council of Dwarves elders. This should be clear to the Dwarves, they know honor and they should know that the blood they ALSO split on the rivers flows here from dwarven veins. By speaking the Warbond allowed, we are warrior kin and bound by steel. The human has no sense of things… his reaction was simply “I won’t kill someone for no reason”… since we have been together; his hands are the most stained. He has burned and killed a group of poor press ganged minions, he spilled the most blood on the river when he could have easily made false gold or some other deception instead of hurling spheres of arcane flames and he has been called both deceiver and murderer in the City by the mad painter. It’s amazing how easily people forget that. I have not. Perhaps I judge hard but even without understanding the Warbond, a man should understand other men and know his own sins.

In the plus column, the girls are all right, thank the divine masses (any god good enough to listen), but Ashka has every right to be cross. Killing a dwarf is like killing an ancient oak, the life you snuff has taken hundreds of years to culminate and its roots dig into the very center of the earth. 3 have passed and all due to me coming here.

And I saw the lady in white again… for a split second she sung her tune and haunts me. As I fought Vicilli’s murders, I heard it and made it my own. With every note my blade grew more precise and the din of battle grew silent.

I will ponder this more but for now I need to travel. We head for Mosko in the morn.

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