Mark’s 20th Journal – 03-20-11
The night passed uneventfully. Gabriel, Leviss, and I kept busy, and eventually slept, although not too well. In the morning, we packed up and made our way back to Aristaal. As we approached, we were greeted by students and professors, all incredulous at what we had done. After all we’ve been through, it should have been a compliment, but at that time, it felt more like a weary burden. The professors told us that the city has been evacuated, mostly to Fur-Lonn. As we were talking to him, I realized we were surrounded, enclosed by a large group of shocked people, all treating us like more than just heroes. I made a little speech about how there was still work to be done, and that the city and the people who used to live here were relying on their hard work.
After this, the crowd dispersed, save for one man in black robes. Avaron mentioned that he had a symbol on his robe, an eye within a shield, which I found to be interesting. He approached us and apologized for the lack of contribution from his order. He explained that his order, known as the Disciples of the Shield, was dedicated to preserving life, and honouring P3TR’s life, and sacrifice. I told him that we appreciated his help and that there was still much to do so he might as well help with that. This seemed to please him, and he went on his way. Disciples of the Shield? An entirely new order that sprung up after P3TR’s death? They warrant watching; Gabriel doesn’t trust them.
We went back to the Roost, and attempted to talk to Avaron about Greg. I explained how we couldn’t heal her and how that, along with everything else, warranted some discussion. She told us that Greg’s body was chained to the spirits of the people he had killed. She explained that all we were doing was defeating one spirit at a time and that while she was unconscious, she cut the chain. Apparently, this monster had been killing for some time as Avaron said she recognized some of the spirits from Portsmouth.
This is all highly unusual. When people die, they usually just die. Atlas’ presence is unusual, to say the least, but to have a monster that feeds on the spirits of those it killed? That is all too much for me to really want to comprehend.
Gabriel shared his distrust of the Disciples of the Shield. I agreed with him that they warranted watching, but I also warned the others about perception. We have grown, a lot, in our travels. We have seen things and developed to a point where the common people not only respect us, they might even fear us. We are a formidable and dangerous lot, but we are here for the people, we are here to make them safe, and in order to do that, we must have their trust, and not lose sight of what they need.
All of us, in a need to feel productive, but also, to avoid the outside world, set to work on things in the Roost. Gabriel made some food, and some alchemical items. I must say, he is handy to have around. At the very least, he knows what to do with a set of ingredients. Although, I would hate to be there when he gets his Basilisk powder mixed up with his pepper. Avaron investigated the possibility of making mounts, in the way that her father must have for the goat and drake and lizard lion. Leviss, moving into the workshop, began working on extra magical items to protect us. Borrowing my amulet, and Gabriel’s brooch, and constructing an amulet of orium for Avaron, Leviss infused them, and while wearing them, we all felt much stronger of mind and will. What was I to do? I decided to work on some blacksmithing. I had a little learning on such things back at the Erathis Temple, and I’ve always been good with my hands. I thought I would keep myself busy working on some weapon designs. I also spent some time making sure everyone’s weapons were sharp, straight, and in solid scabbards.
Gabriel presented us with some interesting alchemical items. He gave us a jolt flask which should be handy for distracting some close enemies, and a wound patch, for some quick healing. Leviss upgraded my armour, making it more like strong drake scales. Avaron presented me with a gift as well, a bookmark. This magical bookmark, when placed in a book, will read out its contents in the language in which it was written. Also, when placed in a blank book, this bookmark will imprint on the page whatever is spoken to it. These were very useful, wonderful gifts that I still have today.
Making our way back to Aristaal, I asked for the members of the council to meet with us. I made some suggestions as to a method of warning between the cities, a way of uniting the people of Ori instead of living so separately. The council informed us that the Disciple of the Shield have been very good for things like that. They formed a messaging service, running news and letters between Fur-Lonn, Aristaal, Portsmouth, and Hampton as often as possible. I found this to be very interesting; the people of Ori were beginning to feel connected in a way they hadn’t before. The Disciple of the Shield seems very driven, and I hope, with guidance, can continue to be a force of good.
As we were about to leave, Leviss slowed our horse and mentioned that some children were trying to talk to us. Apparently, Portsmouth Printing had put out new adventuring trading cards, and they wanted Avaron and Leviss to sign the cards portraying them. With a sense of pride from us, and awe from them, Avaron and Leviss signed the cards, and we were on our way.
Making our way back to Fur-Lonn, we met up with some travellers and made camp with them. Leviss and Gabriel told some stories. It was nice to be welcomed, instead of revered.
Avaron’s old house had become a cleared gravel lot. Before we had decided to settle, we went to the Erathis Temple to see what had become of the place. There, we found a bustle of activity. There were tents and people everywhere. I recognized the smells and sounds of a busy camp, and waved over a cleric. He was a follower of Erathis and he told me that the clerics from all orders, as well as some Disciples of the Shield, some from Hampton, and some from Portsmouth, arrived and were making the best out of a bad situation. I praised him on a job well done, thanked him and the others for rebuilding my old home, and he agreed to take care/make use of our horses while we were in town.
Needing to find out a little more about what happened to Greg, we went to the Temple of the Raven Queen. The followers of the Raven Queen are very concerned about death, and we thought it might be a good place to start, to learn about spirits. Having learned that the Head Cleric was busy, we were asked to come back later.
We decided to grab some dinner at a tavern; none of us ever actually sampled the food around town before. As we were eating, I heard a familiar girl’s voice whisper, “It won’t be long now, your eyes will be open.” After asking the others, who heard nothing, I reached for my steak knife, which I could tell had been changed. It was a dagger, similar to those given by the man in black, engraved on the hilt, it said, “Trust no one.” I told the others what had happened, and we quickly went outside. Avaron could sense a portal, and we followed this to a back alley. Once there, we found where a portal had been, but it was now just a solid wall. With no one around, and no idea what was going on, we made our way back to the Raven Queen’s temple.
The Head Cleric was oddly familiar, and it did not take long to realize he was the nephew of the inn-keeper of the Warmshearth Inn from Aristaal. With the same, wacky, personable manner, he answered our questions as best as he could. We told him about Greg, about the chaining of spirits, and asked him about such matters. The cleric was utterly disgusted. He said that this type of action was awful, that a person’s spirit is their own and once they die, they move on. To keep it around, against its will, and to enslave it, was horrible. He told us that he has never heard of this ever happening except in old fairy tales. Stories telling of a “Dark Queen”, not the Raven Queen, who would torment the living and dead alike and was always overthrown by heroes.
Upon leaving the temple, we were greeted by two Red Cloaks. Avaron quickly told me that they looked like Imperial Guards, heavily armoured and looking far more serious and dangerous than the guards around here. They carried an order from the King to take us to the Imperial City. Their attitude was serious, and they seemed ready for a fight. We requested to be allowed to speak with the local Cloaks, and with that, warned the local guards of the portal and to be on the alert.
I suppose we could have fought these Red Cloaks, refused to go with them, but we had no real reason to do so other than a feeling of unease. The King has been around forever, and he was the highest semblance of order in the world. I do not follow any authority leader without question, but if we were being summoned, there must be a reason. None of us wanted to leave our home, I could tell that, but we also were curious about what was going on.
After getting our horses, we left the city, making our way east toward Portsmouth. I must say, the Cloaks escorting us seemed highly-trained. They had discipline, and they seemed quite capable of their job. As we made camp one night, the Cloaks taking their own fire, one of them went to the forest, presumably to relieve himself. Coming back, he walked straight toward our party and began talking to us. We realized quite quickly that it was Ray, who said that he will watch over everything in Ori, and that big things happen once every so often on adventures and that we should see what fate has in store for us. He told us of a contact in the Old World, named Carl, who will help us once we get there. We should look for him, and listen to his council.
After a few uneventful nights, we made it to Portsmouth. Moving toward the docks, I could hear a crowd of people, urging and arguing. Motioning to Gabriel, he moved forward to see what was going on. After a short time, he came back, and told us that there was a large, three-mast ship, with purple sails, and an Old World crew. The people at the docks stopped us, declaring that they did not want us, the Guard, to go. They asked what right does a King, so far away, have of taking away Ori’s only protection? We do our best to reassure the people that they are always under our protection, that we will not be gone for long, and that the people of Ori were more capable than they realized.
I told my comrades later that I began to wonder from this point whether the people of Ori would learn to stand on their own. The Kingdom, including the Imperial City and Ori was the entire world. No one knew of anything outside of it. Yet, the people of Ori had made a home for themselves without any real interference by the King. With the Disciple of the Shield, and this latest demonstration, I began to wonder if revolution was at hand.
If I only knew…
Boats. Let me tell you a little something about them: they smell, they’re small, they’re vulnerable to attack by both men and nature, they’re unsteady, and I do not like them. Being blind is hard enough on solid, dependable land. On a boat, where a sudden, unexpected surge can send even the most able-bodied crew flying, keeping your balance is incredibly tough. Gabriel seemed to hate boats more than I did, and for the first few nights, he had to fight off seasickness.
Avaron and Leviss seemed to have a good time aboard ship. Avaron spent most of her time learning what she could about the star charts and other things cosmic from the ship’s navigator. Leviss, touring me around the ship like a helpless old man, spent some of his time playing music with an interesting character named Squeeze Box McGoo. All in all, the trip was long, uneventful, and boring for me. I spent a lot of time, in my cabin, wondering what lies ahead. I had only heard stories of the great capital city, a city that was as large as a nation. I was excited, but also concerned. Why were we being summoned? Why now? And, what had happened to James since he had been recalled?
Finally, after too long of a trip, I’m sure, for Gabriel, we made it to the Mainland, to the great Imperial City! Leviss described it as, “Very neat, very tidy.” Avaron described things with a little more detail. Beautiful, pristine, bold, the city made it very obvious that it was the Capital, that it was a city fit for a King and His people. Purples and reds everywhere, and the people rushing in and along the dock gave the place the feeling of progress and business that struck of a successful people. Leviss chipped in here, saying that the walls of the buildings were made of a shiny, well-hewn stone, that he didn’t recognize, but definitely looked impressive. Poor Gabriel was extremely uncomfortable here. He said it was too stifling, too organized, nowhere to move, that the air was even constricting. I reminded him that we wouldn’t be staying long. I remember feeling, at the time, that I wished I could see it; the clerics at the Erathis Temple went on and on about this place and, while I feigned to listen most of the time, I had to admit that this place was supposed to be the peak of civilization, the shining beacon of what we could accomplish.
I’m glad I didn’t see it, and you’ll soon know why.
Helping to pull our ship in was an old man. According to Gabriel, he had grey hair and a massive beard, and his skin was tightly drawn over his shirtless body. But, he was in no means feeble. This man was doing the work of several other men, helping to pull our boat in. After getting off the boat, this old man introduced himself to us. Unsurprisingly, his name was Carl. He told us that he was the innkeeper at the Angry Owl Bear Inn, and that we should come back later when we had the time. As we were escorted throughout the city, everyone remarked at how clean it was. The trees were all cut the exact same way; there wasn’t a single weed on the street, and not a lot of people either. We did hear, at one point, a man playing some drums on the corner, but he was quickly led away by some city guards. Everything was neat, and controlled. That much was obvious, and I could feel our group grow uncomfortable at this. I was raised by the ideals of law and order, but lately have been discovering a whole new side to myself. Still, I wasn’t ready to make judgments based on a clean city and one escorted tour. I said nothing, and continued onward toward the palace.
Arriving there, the most unusual thing that could be said about the place was that it had a lawn. The city, what we had seen of it so far, had no more than the odd tree here and there, perfectly groomed and placed. But, I could feel the grass beneath my feet once more as we approached the palace. There were many people inside running around carrying out what I can only assume was important royal business.
Finally, after 2 long weeks, after seasickness, boredom, and curiosity, we were led to the Treasury Room where we were told the King would see us. A fairly large, circular room, the floor was laden with gold coins. I had to be extra careful walking through there as the path to the King was not very straight or clear. There, in the middle of the room, on a giant throne, sat the King. He was an old man, extremely old, 80 years or more, with milky white eyes, long stringy hair, or so Leviss said, he appeared as if the weight of the world were truly on his shoulders, slouching in his giant chair. He asked us if we were the group referred to as The Guard. We answered that we were. He acted royal, and by that I mean, he was good-natured, but seemed a little condescending. I had never met a king before, but I guess that’s what one should expect from someone so important. He seemed to know a lot about us. He knew we had been adventuring for awhile, and he knew that our licence was illegal. He seemed to be perfectly okay with all of this, thanking us for a job well done and saying the licence was not a concern. I could tell by his tone of voice that he was speaking to us as if we were children, and I guess, with his age, we might as well have been. Only Gabriel, being an elderly man himself, even came close in age. Still, I did not like being treated as a trifle, and could tell he was hiding something. Just then, I felt a couple of taps on my arm from Leviss. We had worked out awhile ago that if silence was required, he would tap my arm to let me know how many people were about, or draw my attention to something. I could tell by the way he tapped me that there were guards all about the room. I had to hand it to them; they were extremely disciplined. I did not hear them at first, did not hear them shuffle their feet, or cough, or anything. Yet, Leviss’ attention indicated that there were two guards around the King, and several by the doors. I could feel the tension rise in the room, and just then Avaron asked the King why we were summoned. The King chuckled and said that he just wanted to thank us for all the good we had been doing. He made mention that there were several people who wanted to undermine him. Confused, we asked why he could not have sent that message along, instead of bringing us here from Ori. I could tell everyone was growing a little impatient, and I did my best to dissolve the situation, but I was upset as well. We had things to do, and not only were we summoned here for no real reason, we were being talked down to by a seemingly feeble old man. Anyway, as I was observing all of this, the King began having a coughing fit, and between spasms, we all heard the King mention something about a Queen. He would not admit it, and thanking us for our time, he sent us away.
We decided that we needed to figure out what was going on, so we went to the Angry Owl Bear Inn to talk to Carl. He told us that 60 years ago, the King commissioned the city; he cleaned it up and took care of everything and everyone. The city was changed into this shining example of civilization and things have been relatively quiet ever since. But, some people did take notice of a fenced wall around the city and that no one who has ever gone to investigate it has ever returned. Avaron asked Carl about a Queen, but Carl seemed confused by this, saying the King had never taken a wife.
Making our way outside, we took a look at this fence. It was a red and white wall, several stories tall, fancy, but seemingly just a fence. We asked what was on the other side, and Carl’s response was unusual. He said that he didn’t know, nor particularly care what was on the other side, yet he seemed oddly determined that we check it out. Avaron and Leviss checked the magic of the area and determine that the wall had some kind of charm illusion or something on it. Basically, the fence made the interest of people in it fade. Anyone who grew concerned with the fence suddenly had a mood change.
We went inside a nearby building, hoping to get a view of what was on the other side. I have seen and witnessed some horrible things in my life, but nothing could have prepared me for what was on the other side of that wall. The smoke we had seen upon entering the city seemed to mostly be coming from what appeared to be a large work camp on the other side of the wall. Looking through his scope, Gabriel was able to see a “hospital” of sorts, from where weird-looking people were coming out. Some were tall and blond, some were short, most had pointed ears, these “people” seemed like they were stitched together from other creatures we had seen. In this camp, there were also many royal guards whipping the creatures and using them for slave labour.
This terribly upset me. Here we were, in what was supposed to be the beacon of order and civilization, the dream city for Erathis clerics, and it was a city built on slavery, where everything was controlled and no one appeared to have any freedom at all. I wanted very much to get out of this place. It had an evil sense about it, and nothing good had happened since we left Ori. Reminding the group as such, we decided to use Avaron’s key to go back to the Roost, and try to get a sense of how things were in Ori. Avaron could immediately sense a dark evil magic growing, seeming to come from near Hampton.
After much deliberation, we decided to try to ready ourselves in the Roost. Unsure of where to go, back to the Mainland, or to Hampton, we decided to work on some things until we figured out what we wanted to do. Avaron researched her dad’s old books, looking for fairy tales, or any mention about a Queen. In her search, she found some obscure references to a Dark Queen who gave power to someone, who then wreaked havoc before being brought down by some hero. The fairy tale book was old, estimated to be over 800 years old by Avaron, and we began to wonder if there was some truth here.
Deciding that it was best if no one discovered our ability to get back to the Roost, we decide to go back to the Mainland, there to find out more and possibly take a boat back to Ori. It wouldn’t be the fastest way, but it might be the wisest course of action. As we stepped out of the door, we heard a familiar voice downstairs. It was James! He was calmly talking to Carl who seemed quite scared. Avaron, Gabriel, and Leviss snuck quietly down the stairs only to see James, dressed as a royal guard, calmly talking to Carl. James had a big scar along the side of his head, which was partially shaved, with some sort of runes tattooed. He calmly tried to take Carl to see the King. Carl was very scared of this, acting as if these men had come to kill them. Carl begged them to leave him alone, telling the guards that we were upstairs and that they should go after us. They escorted him out and we were left alone.
Well, what else could we do? We followed them. Going out a back door, we crept through an alley. What were they doing? What happened to James? This and more ran through my head as Leviss ran into a guard. We were surrounded, and Carl and James were nowhere to be found.
Bracing myself for battle, Gabriel tried a different tactic. Quickly loading his crossbow, he tried to immobilize the guards. We didn’t want nor need to fight them anyway. His first shot hit, but his second went wide and struck the guard right in the head.
Barely hitting him, the arrow took the guard’s helmet right off. I could immediately tell something was wrong. Everyone went quiet, and I could smell something odd. The guard, roughly my height and build, had the face of a giant drake! We had assumed the guards were human; their helmets just a precaution, but now it seemed like we were finding more examples of the King’s breeding program at work. All this flew through my mind as I drew my sword and began to get down to business.