Xander’s Journal- Epilogue

Xander’s Journal lies on the table in the Library, next to it is a scroll and a pouch with several thousand coins worth of gems, including a very large diamond.  Leaning against the pouch is a note, with Bill, Osanna, Samael, Naru, and Glenn’s names across the top.  “To whichever of you finds this, please read it carefully.  I had to take a journey to address some personal questions, but I hope to be done soon.   Once again I must ask a favor of one of you.  In case it is Glenn reading this, there should be enough in the bag to get someone to use that scroll, if the others aren’t available.  I don’t know if I will be seeing you once it is cast, since that is the whole point of this trip.  Either way, I want you all to know that it was a pleasure getting to know you, and travelling with you.  In case I don’t come back from this, I will always call you friends.  I will remain in the small chamber off the entry corridor.  That should be more than sufficient.”

 

This is it.

I should be happy, relieved, or something.  I know I should, but I can’t help but feel kind of lost.

Mother is cured, Father is physically alive again, and Varisia is safe from Karzoug, at least.    From what I hear, they are going to Kyonin, where Father will notify his family that he is alive, then move somewhere to start over.  After all these years, the love is still there.

I’ve spent the last several months in the Library, trying to get the Librarian to assist me with taking the actual dangerous books here and separating them from the inane.  Like Zutha’s journal.  That never needs to have eyes set on it again, by anyone.  I think I might have gotten through to the thing, now that I have changed my argument from “Dangerous” to a more codified “Potency Level” system of sorting.

We did it, all of us lived through it, sort of.   I died.  With all the trials and tribulations we went through, for months and months, that actually shocked me.

I mean, I know enough about magic, arcane and divine, to understand that we have the power to cheat death.  Osanna and Glenn died, and we brought them back.  Hathus died, and he didn’t want to come back.

When I died, though, I didn’t get a choice.  I was dead, I was in the Boneyard, and the next thing I know I was laying on the ground with Samael looking at me.

I think about that a lot actually.  It’s like I was robbed of something important.  I never got a chance to decide to go or stay.  I don’t know what I would have picked, and that bothers me.  Mother and Father are alive and healthy, but I know Osanna and Bill would have taken care of that either way, they gave me their words weeks ago.

The things I have done in the Library are more a way of killing time and busy-work than anything meaningful.

Everything I have done since coming back is… nothing really.  I started out with these grand plans, but when it comes down to it, I had no reference point for actually deciding what to do after something like this.  Now, I don’t even know if  I should be doing anything.

Desna… I believe she guided my steps, rambling and erratic as they were, to this path.  But, even knowing that, I don’t know where I stand now.  I’m here, but I don’t know if I should be.  Actually, I wish I’d had more time in the Boneyard.  Some time to think about things, to reflect.

I’m trying to listen for her, trying to understand the next steps, but I don’t hear anything.  I can’t make it out anymore.

I have to know.  And there’s really only one way to do that, really.  I just don’t see any way around it.

I won’t know for sure until I stand there, in the Boneyard again, what my answer really is.     

Finding Faith (Xander’s Journal pt 21)

Xander has been a strange character to play.  I originally had a completely different plan for how he would progress, and what I planned to make of the character.  That seems to be the way of games though, at least good ones.  They always make the character grow from the story, not the stats.  In the religion box on my character sheet from level one, I have had Desna written in as his deity.  Not because I ever expected to have any divine casting or such, but just because it seemed like the one that fit.  Just lately, I had to choose a new feat.  I looked through everything, and realized that I had all the combat potential I needed, and most of the feats are either combat or skill bonuses.  I finally figured out that I was going to take Deific Obedience-Desna, and that also prompted him to take the Evangelist prestige class, based on his resolution that he was likely to die, an attempt to make peace with it, and reach for something beyond in the afterlife.  This entry takes place in the 3 weeks between the return from Runeforge, and the start of the journey north to look for the ancient city.  This one is kind of long, there have been a couple games and a lot of life since my last post.

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Twelve hours out of Runeforge.

So.  I suppose I am writing these in order for someone to understand what happens, has happened, will happen.  We seem to be the center of a maelstrom, and I only hope that it doesn’t grow to sweep over all of Varisia.

Runeforge… that happened.  I still don’t know what the ramifications are of that rune on Glenn’s forehead.  And from the guy who shared a room with Zutha for a while, that’s saying something.  But everyone seems to be ok, and we have the weapons that we think will help to destroy Karzoug.   I still don’t know why you even bothered to make one for yourself, it’s not like you need anything else with me here.  At least you were smart enough to keep it to a bow, even if the insult is nearly unbearable to begin with.    Shut up.  I have enough to get straight without your complaining.  After all the times I… SHUT UP!

Anyways, as I was saying, we made it into and out of Runeforge, and think we got what we needed.  We also got several dozen refugees, most of which seem to be the original Azlanti peoples from the time of Aroden’s mortality.  Who knows what kind of backlash that will bring, but we couldn’t just leave them there.  At least they have a community and a life outside of their fishbowl.  Those refugees came out of a ten-thousand year stint as fish in a magelords private tank into a world that they have no experience with, in the dead of winter, homeless and penniless.  Now they have food, a swath of farmland they can work in the coming season, and houses to keep them close together until they can learn the language and the area.  If we die there, at least I can stand in the Boneyard and say that I did something to help people who needed it.

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36 hours out of Runeforge:

I found my way to the temple of Desna that evening, and for the first time in a long while, I prayed.  I am walking into death’s arms by my own reckoning not a month hence, and there were things that I needed to get off my chest.  Oddly, I felt no better.  It lessened the weight on my heart not at all.  I took myself back out to the farmsteads where the refugees are staying.  Magical travel definitely has its perks, the several days saved traveling back and forth can be used for research and helping to get things settled.   After talking to the couple who spoke Thassilonian, I found that they were as well as could be in this short time.  Letting them know that I would be back each day until the supplies were delivered, I headed back home.  Home.  For the longest time I hated it, and now that I have come to love and miss it, I expect to leave it possibly forever.

I stopped, and fell to my knees in the fields, miles from anyone.  I had finally gotten the adventure I had been seeking for my entire life, and now that I know what it is, I found I didn’t want it at all.  Me to stand between Karzoug and the masses?  Osanna, I can understand.  Glenn has jumped in front of most of us so many times that I have reserved a daily allotment of spells for him.  Samael even.  Bill is looking for vengeance for his brother.  Naru is doing what she thinks will protect the lands.  But myself, I am here only because of a string of bad luck and a madman’s curse.

I slumped on the wet ground, loathe to get up again.  After a time, it seemed I could hear faint music.  I looked around, but could see nothing.  The music became more insistent, though it remained faint.  I stood, and started off to look for the source, but it seemed to keep changing, each time I started off in its direction it would quickly shift the point of origin.  I don’t know how long I spun in circles there in that field, but when I realized the music had stopped, I looked around.  There in the snow, I saw something.  I had passed back and forth over that ground repeatedly, my steps clear at times, at others blurred by several passes, yet it seemed a pattern emerged.  I had run in circles, with nothing of a plan in my mind, yet I ended 20 yards from my starting point in a straight line pointing home.   I had to laugh, running about like a headless chicken and I was still pointed right where I had meant to go.   Maybe there is hope for this quest after all.

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48 hours out of Runeforge:

“You sure you want this just like this?  You don’t strike me as the type,” the smith asked, looking at me askew.   I sighed, “Yes, I’m sure.  Please let me know when you can have it done.  I have to get it over to a wizard as soon as possible, so that he might finish the dweomers I need bound to it.”  At the time though, I wasn’t sure at all.  In the middle of the busy market, dust and bustle fighting for dominance in the afternoon breeze, I was second guessing myself.  The peace, the surety, that I had felt the previous night were gone – lost in the fear of embarrassment and ridicule that had haunted me for most of my life.  Walking away, I half-turned around to tell him to forget it, when a flash of brilliant blue caught my eye.  A swallowtail?!  In the middle of winter?  I whirled back around, searching for it again… there!  No, not a real one, but an almost lifelike work of art bound the braids of a woman shopping in the stall across from the armorer.  Royal blue, darkening almost to purple, iridescent wings cradling the side of her head.  It was enough.  Laugh if you will, but I will take that as a sign that I am doing the right thing after all.

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72 hours out of Runeforge:

I spoke with the priest of Desna again.  He assures me that not all dreams are foolishness, and not all dreamers need be asleep.  What kind of riddles are these when I need some answers?

Took the armor to the enchanter, he assured me that it would be ready in a couple of weeks.  The others said they are going to need at least that long.

Back at the farm, the people have received the first wagon, they should be good for the remainder of the week.  Time to get back to the library.

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1 week out of Runeforge:

Travelling back and forth between the library and Sandpoint.  I want to find out anything I can about this Shalast place we need to get to.  Current maps are useless, but I’m hoping that digging through all this I can find some of the older maps and try to see where they match up, even vaguely.

Trying to figure out how to approach Bill about Mother.  Still not sure if he will help or even if he can.

The music came to me again twice this week, both times after I left the refugee village.  I wonder if one of them is doing something to me?

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2 weeks out of Runeforge:

Most of the books and maps are useless.   The closest thing I have so far is that it is near Leng, but I can’t find reference to that kingdom or runelord at all.

Four more times this week.   The last two while I was here at the library, neither of which were within a day of visits to the refugees.

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72 hours until our suicide run:

Bill tried to help Mother.  He needs something to trigger the cure, blood of a mortal who has achieved immortality.  So unless I can get Cayden drunk again, we have to get it from Karzoug himself.  Joy.

The music has come every night for the last 6 days.  Now, it seems less frenzied, and more settled.  It feels like that last time we all got drunk together actually, when I was dancing, but more natural.  Strangely, I can now see exactly how I got from my start point to my end point, and all the steps in between, even though I was not really conscious at the time.  It’s never the same twice, but always feels identical in the moment.

I guess I did the right thing after all.  Osanna always talks about Sarenrae as if she speaks to her directly.  I think maybe I am hearing Desna hum to herself or something.  Which is probably for the best, I would make lousy clergy.  I’ll pick up the armor tomorrow and go back for a last fitting.  Hope I don’t look as foolish as I am afraid I will when it’s on.

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12 hours til we leave:

I stood and looked at myself in the mirror.  I could not help but ask, is this really me?  The smith had done a flawless job, the butterfly stood out in brilliant cerulean blue, stark against the silver of the mithral chest plate.   The heavy armor fit well, hardly weighing more than my old breastplate alone.  The cloak the priest at the temple had suggested when I came in to tell him goodbye and give my thanks for the conversations went well with it, midnight blue and trimmed in silver stars, comets, and moons framing everything well.  In this outfit I could pass for a Desnan Warpriest!  I wondered what the others would think, but managed to dismiss it.  I doubt that anyone will comment too much, except maybe Samael.

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First night on the road:

I was mostly right.  Not a lot of comments from the others, except a half-hearted curse from Thrune.  To Hell with it!   If we go to die, I will damn well die proud!

And here’s the strangest thing.  The closer we get to facing Karzoug himself, the less and less I seem to be worried.  I mean, I’m worried for Mother, and Sandpoint, and to a lesser extent Varisia as a whole, but less and less about myself and the others here.  It’s strange, I have come through battles that should have killed me, plagues and curses that almost did, and possession by the closest thing to a walking deity on this plane, and it took all of that to finally put me at peace.

Even now, I look up at the stars, and I know, not think, not hope, but KNOW, that everything will work out.  Maybe not for me, or those with me, but the larger picture will be clear, and life will continue here.  I mean, these same stars witnessed the dawn, the rise, and the fall of Thassilon.  They were there for everything since then, wars, peace, life, love, death and loss, yet they still shine down on us just as they did before.  They are there, have been there, and will be there long after our fight with Karzoug.  Win or lose, it’s kind of comforting to have that kind of permanence to hold on to.

For He’s A Froggy Good Fellow… (Xander’s Journal pt 20)

We did it.  Or well… Ko, er… Glenn and Bill did it at least.

We tracked down the guy chasing Glenn for getting his mentor killed.  Wow.  That was some piece of work.  We couldn’t even take a swing at him for fear that he’d dodge and we’d hit a friend instead.  Cheaty son of a pugwampi.

Bill finally figured out how to get that flower to work enough to get Zutha out of my head (and my sword).

**I still think that given time we would have been able to gain control.  Really? It took you over a weak just to form a coherent thought again.  What was it Osanna said, something about Pride and falling?  Luckily, we can fly.  Or Featherfall.  Heights aren’t a threat to us.  Sure, whatever you think.  For now, I think you should keep playing dead until you can behave.**

We got back down to Alaznist’s facility and killed the Dullahan, and what do you know, Glenn is human again.

Weird.  I don’t know what to make of him now.  I mean, so far, he’s just as easy to miss as a human as he was as a frog.  Still trying to figure out the princess and the pauper thing, I mean, him?  Really?  A noble heiress?

Now we have to try and figure out where this Runeforge place is, and how to get there (and back I presume).

Plus, there’s still the matter of that book still existing, and I know Osanna won’t just leave that be.

I also have to find some way to convince Bill to help Mother.  If he can break these, surely she can be cured as well.

Awakening

Like a gaping, Stygian maw, the entrance to the catacombs beckoned me toward its desolate depths. The entrance to the ruins was nothing more than a hole in the ground at the base of a small hill, half-hidden by brush and scrub that concealed its opening. I stood on the topmost step of a winding staircase that lead down beneath the cairn, plunging deeper into the earth than I could see, even with darkvision. I stared down into the twisting pit until a voice behind me caused me nearly to jump.

“Well, here we are again.” It was Osanna. I half-turned to face her as she came up next to me, staring down the spiraling staircase. “We’ve already been through here once. We should just be able to walk in, no?”

“I’m not so sure about that,” I murmured as I turned to look at the others – Sir Thrune, Xander, and Bill – as they came up behind us. “I have no idea what the magics in here might be capable of doing, let alone the Dullahan itself. We know it’s still in here. I’ve dreamed of it.”

“Probably better safe than sorry,” Bill agreed, sounding a little bored as he nodded.

Osanna shrugged. “If you say so.” Continue reading

Where Angels Fear To Tread, part 3 — Vanished Memories

“Sini,” Glenn panted, pausing to hold a stitch in his side, “where are we going?”

“Away from the Daemons,” the kobold replied simply, glancing back over her shoulder at Glenn. “And goblin should call Sini… Chief Sini.”

Chief? Glenn stared at her for a moment. “We’ve been running for hours. Shouldn’t we find shelter, or at least a place to sleep? Won’t it be dark soon?”

“No sleep,” Sini said, shaking her head. “Souls don’t sleep. No dark, either. No night in Abaddon. Hunted now…just run. Always run.” Continue reading

Not Alone

“That message WAS from you!”

Glenn glanced up from his mead as a tall, crimson-haired half-elf slid into the chair next to him at his small, corner table inside the Jubilant Jester. “I was wondering where you’d gone off to!” Zelia continued as she flagged down a waitress. “I haven’t seen you in months, I thought maybe you’d gone off and died or something.”

Glenn offered her an awkward smile, waiting until the waitress had brought another flagon of mead around before replying. “I did.” Continue reading

Where Angels Fear To Tread, part 2 — Beyond The Rift

All I want to say about this piece is that I have a bit of recommended listening to go with it:  an Israeli trance band called Infected Mushroom.  Any of their albums are acceptable, but I would especially recommend either Classical Mushroom or Converting Vegetarians (disc 1), both of which can be found on YouTube.  For reference, this is mostly what I listened to while I wrote this piece…if that says anything.

You’re welcome, Derrick. Continue reading

Into the Depths (Kief’s Journal)

So I’ve been promising a journal entry for a while now. This is a little late so I ended up just rolling what I was going to write last week into this week’s entry and making it one post.

Meet Kief. The party turd. For those of you who are new to the blog or who maybe haven’t heard through the grapevine, Glenn is dead and Kief is my new character. I hope you like him as much as I do.  Who knows if he’s here to stay?

As a little side note, since Kief doesn’t explicitly say it in his entry, he is in fact a half-drow, but was posing as a normal half-elf when he first met the rest of the party.

* * *

Kief sits at the bar of the Rusty Dragon early one morning, nursing a mug of ale and idly writing in a small, leather-bound book. Ameiko watches him with veiled amusement as she prepares her tavern for the day’s activities.

By the Sting, what a headache. It’s been a while since I’ve had quite that much to drink, and nothing even came of it, as far as I can tell. I remember one of the pitspawn coming into my room with me last night, but she was gone this morning when I woke up, and the door was locked.

Bother.

Sandpoint has decent ale and at least one pretty tavernkeep, I’ll give it that, but otherwise it seems like a wretched little hole – almost literally after what happened to the town garrison. How I ended up getting dragged down into that pit with the rest of this lot, I’m still trying to work out. Something about the town being built upon some ancient ruins, and people started disappearing after the garrison fell into a sinkhole, and then a kid went and wandered into the pit by himself, and of course the “heroes of Sandpoint” had to go investigate.

I didn’t sign up for that. Or any of this. Some heroes they turned out to be, anyway – they couldn’t even keep one lousy grippli alive. When I first met them, even I was convinced I was the most normal of the bunch for a moment. Two pitspawn – one calling herself a paladin of the Dawnflower, even! – two humans and a half-elf. You’d think the humans would be relatively normal, but no – one of them has a flower growing out of his eye, and the other can spontaneously grow fur and a tail like some kind of dog. As if that weren’t bad enough, the half-elf is apparently possessed not only by a spirit residing in a cursed sword that he carries, but also by the soul of some ancient wizard that he’s trying to revive, whose power he can’t really control. Oh, and he looks — and acts, based on how much he eats — like some kind of ravenous undead.

And they have the gall to question why I hid my true heritage from any of them.

Lena finally asked me to come here to find the frog after we heard about the so-called “heroes of Sandpoint” who saved the town from a group of marauding goblins. I knew she would, eventually – I’m surprised it took her this long, actually. It didn’t take her long to put two and two together once she heard that one of the “heroes” was a grippli swordsman. I’m sure she would have come herself, but, well…she’s not really in any condition to be traveling across Varisia right now.

Turns out her little hunch that something was wrong turned out to be right. I got here too late; the frog is dead, and his friends can’t even figure out how to raise him. Yeah, some heroes, all right. Something about his soul being bound somewhere in Hell or the Abyss or something. Although…the tavernkeep said it wasn’t Hell or the Abyss when I mentioned it to her this morning, which makes me even more worried. What were they up to last night? I had this bizarre dream that they were having some secret meeting with a figure cloaked in black. Was it a dream? They wouldn’t let me join them at their table last night. Some friends. I wonder if they treated Glenn like this – no wonder he got himself killed traveling with them.

Still, I promised Lena I’d help him if he was in trouble, and I’d say being trapped in one of the Lower Spheres qualifies as “trouble.” So I guess I’m sticking around for a while longer; I told her in the letter I sent the other day that I’d do what I could to help this lot bring him back. She’d want me to. She still loves him, despite everything that’s happened. The others mentioned he was cursed – well, hell, Lena and I knew that much, he saved her from whatever it was that chased them out of those ruins months ago, but I guess there’s more to it than just the physical transformation. The flower that the big human has growing out of his eye is supposed to be able to break curses; they said they went back into the ruins that Glenn and Lena were in to begin with to find it, so that they could break the curse on Glenn and the half-dead half-elf. Well, so far he hasn’t done either, as far as I can tell, but maybe something will actually come from the secret meeting they had last night.

Alive for Now. (Xander’s Journal pt. 18)

Well, still alive.  For a while at least.  Mostly because they need me, more than anything else.

Samael would rather just kill me, I can see it in him.  Osanna is getting to that point as well, Paladin of Redemption or not.  Sadly, I think most of them would.  The thing is, I can’t really blame them either.

I suppose it’s not without cause, I brought this on myself.  Or… rather, my body did while I was asleep.

Apparently, after I tried to kill Bill, they performed the surgery to implant Alaznist’s flower and were successful.  However, the Dullahan reappeared and killed Ko and Osanna.   Osanna has been brought back, but Ko seems to be trapped somewhere, his soul never made it to the Boneyard.    Whatever that thing is, somehow it took his soul to Abbadon instead.  Joy.

So, we need to go get him.  Or find another way to free him.   Especially since I like Ko, or Glenn, or whatever he wants to call himself now.  Besides, it’s my fault they died, yet again.  If I hadn’t gone crazy, Samael and I would have been there too, and it wouldn’t have been two unprepared people getting ridden down while their backs were turned.

And if it happens again, Osanna has already made it clear she’ll kill me herself.  So be it.

Whatever Kills You Makes You Stronger… (Xander’s Journal pt. 17)

This was supposed to be posted last week, while Xander was unconscious in the Citadel.  RL got in the way, so I’m breaking it up in 2 pieces to account for the last weeks game being separate entrys.  —————————————————————-

 

Xander’s body lies in a cell in the Fortress of the Nail, fading in and out of consciousness and stripped of everything but undergarments.  Samael and Osanna stand outside, looking in, Samael holding Xanders Black Blade. 

“We’ll leave him here while we get everything else taken care of, they’ll keep him unconscious and unable to do anything else.  Then we can tend to… this… situation.  Until then, we should keep the weapon away from him.”   They turn and walk away, as he fades back into darkness.   A few hours later, as they start out from the city, the blade flickers, and disappears. 

Strange dreams plague him, twisted snippets of battles against giants, ogres, sometimes fighting against them, other times it seems leading them.  The undead in the crypt again, attacking his companions, he steps forward, bends them to his will, then turns on his earlier comrades and attacks with the undead at his side.   A new battle, once again versus giants,   They smash through the giant and ogre forces, instinctively he knows they are looking for Karzoug, fighting into his fortress.  It feels great to be fighting alongside the others again, but then he realizes they are… different.  Darker.  An unholy aura surrounds Osanna, Samael seems to be nothing but a dark force within his twisted armor, Bill is a withered version of himself, his eyes glowing with fell magic, and Ko is bouncing everywhere, black tendrils writhing down his lolling tongue.  A… Deathknight, followed by a Graveknight, a Lich, and a small Mohrg?!?   They turn towards him, seeking his will to continue.  What is this? 

-The Future, a Future that can be, will be, if only you embrace it…-   Not his father’s voice this time, another, softer, with more gravel and greater power coiled within the words.  So seductive.  -Don’t you want this?  You can have it all, anything you wish.  Take what you will, when you will, none to gainsay your word.  Respect, Fear, Obedience to anything your desires demand.  No more Half-life, no more being caught between two worlds you will never be a part of either way, A world as You make it.  War when you desire, peace when you desire, the devil worshippers sent packing from these lands once and for all.  Isn’t that what you always wanted?-

No… I don’t want this, I never wanted this…   -You will learn to accept it, and embrace it in time, and you will find strength in it-

Xander struggles to sit up, wildly thrashing about.  His hand falls on the hilt of his sword, and he recoils from the seductive power radiating from the weapon.  Visions of the others, warped by necromancy into twisted caricatures of themselves, race through his mind.  Half remembered images of attacking them in the Alaznist complex, the thing bound into the sword, he can’t think of it as his father anymore, guiding his hand.

No… One hand reaches out to trace the arcane runes carved into his chest, calling on the magic to turn his body to mist, that he may escape the cell.  NO!

Summoning his last bit of willpower, he slams his own head against the bars of the door, blacking out before he can complete the casting.  His last conscious thought, “I hope Bill survived, and that he can break this before they have to kill me, or I kill them all. “