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.

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. “

 

 

Dead Reckoning (Xander’s Journal Pt.16)

Xander sits alone in his room, his gear and clothing scattered about, stripped to the waist save for a medalion bearing a seven-pointed star.  His spellbook and a selection of inks and needles are arrayed alongside his Black Blade on the table before him.  Glowing runes flash intermittently across his chest and arms, as he slowly scribes the magic symbols of another spell into his skin for later use.

The silence is broken only as he mutters snippets of words or half a sentence at times, usually through gritted teeth or in a burst of emotion.  Oblivious to everything else, he uses the minor pain to focus his mind to the task at hand.

What you did is unacceptable, father.

I would be healthy again if you hadn’t puppeted me in my sleep.

It was necessary, as you would have realized had we had the time to reason it out without everyone watching.  There was no way they would have allowed it had they known, and the demon-child has been watching everything like a hawk since our foray into the last complex.  She had to believe you were asleep before she would let down her guard.-

But it’s my life not yours, that rests in the balance here.  I can feel it even now, small gestures to accompany or enhance spells that I have never even studied before.  That tome is ancient, powerful, and evil.  Not just for what is in it, but for WHO is in it.  I want Nothing to do with this branch of magic.

You were born to wield this magic, haven’t you realized that?  The circumstances of your birth have made you ideally suited to study the Necromantic arts and curses.  I know you disliked Hathus, but he embraced his birthright, and his enemies were the weaker for it.  How often, without his curses, yes, CURSES, would someone have been dealt a solid blow rather than a near miss?  How often would your companions weapons have hit empty air by scant inches instead of biting deep?  He used what he had, and all of you were the better for it. Furthermore, there is nothing he could do that you cannot duplicate.  You deny yourself.  It will cost you if you do not come to peace with it.  Just because your mother and I have suffered the effects of a curse with evil intent, does not mean you should not use your abilities to their fullest.-

But nothing good comes of it, it is the purview of dead things, things that should be dead, and those who would wish harm or ill-will on others.  There is no place for that in my life.  I only want to learn how to break these curses, so that you two may be free of them, and hopefully Ko as well.  I don’t want that part of my life, I just want you two free.

And we will be, the curse that binds us was created by this Karzoug creature that you all seek to deny.  The ruins we entered were to the northeast, in his ancient domain.  Every step you take to finding his servants and stopping his return is a step towards breaking our curse.  This Runeforge place seems like it holds some promise, as does the complex in Alaznist’s domain.  Somewhere there will be a cure, we have but to find it.  However, holding yourself back serves nothing and noone.  Embrace your life in total, and you will be the stronger for it.-

Xander sits back, finished with the last symbol.  He stares off out the window, lost in thought.  The silence is broken again, this time by the rumble of his stomach.  He glances down in disgust, noting the runes glowing even more fiercely against his now ashen skin, and moves to get dressed.

“Of course, it’s only been two hours since breakfast.  Zutha must have been a halfling.  I just  hope I don’t start looking like Bill soon.”

Halfway down the hall, he glances down to his empty scabbard.  With a thought, the Blade appears in his hand, causing an involuntary shudder as he slides it home.

Funny, I have never let it out of my sight in months.  Too many things on my mind I guess.

-Of course, I never doubted You.-

Giants and Dragons and Dire Bears, Oh MY! (Xander’s Journal pt 15)

Sandpoint has weathered the storm.  We have fought off Giants, their pet Dire Bears, and a Dragon and emerged victorious.  The only real casualty being the barracks, and a good chunk of the church roof.  Not one person was killed, thank Desna.  Our planning and evacuation paid off, not to mention the benefits of a flying giant squid.

It seems that these are the vanguard of a larger force, according to our captives.  They were sent by the leader of the giant forces to gather stones from various locations in order to find a tomb of a general from the wars between the Runelords of old.  It seems that we have once again found ourselves in an even larger meat grinder.

We now know what they are looking for, and why.  Where remains a mystery, but I am confident that we can determine that in time.  Quink is working on correlating the locations of the ancient ruins, so that perhaps we can find this tomb ourselves.  It could contain something we can use since it was the burial site of an enemy general to this Karzoug.

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Fruitless.  The stones lie somewhere to the south, but no one knows where and we can’t really judge by air in the undergrowth.

Looks like plan B is to just march on in to the leader of these giants, ask him pretty please can he stop murdering the countryside, and also can we get the stones you collected so far?  Madness.

But, it’s all we have.

 

Victory? (Xander’s Journal pt 13)

Hathus is dead.

I’m not sure how to take that.  I don’t know how I feel about it.

Whether he stays dead or not, will be up to him.  They intend to speak with his spirit and see if he wants to return, so that we might find a strong enough priest to raise him.

Either way, I don’t know what happens next.  I didn’t like him.  I thought his father was irresponsible, I still do.  I thought he was taking advantage of something that might not even be true.  And he was.  Not even sure what happened years ago, just that people died, he lived, and we never got a straight story on why.  Now he’s dead, and we may never know what happened.

I didn’t like him, but I didn’t want him dead.

I wonder if things would have been different if I hadn’t wasted my time on a useless spell.  I wonder if things would have been different if we had been better prepared.  If Naru had been with us, would it have been different?  What could we have done differently?  What mistakes did we make?  How do I keep this from happening again, possibly to someone who matters?  What if it had been Ko, or Osanna?

What happens next time?

Courage or Cowardice (Xander’s Journal pt 12)

I don’t even know how to say this.        You are a coward.  That’s how you say it.

I abandoned my friends.    I “forgot my sword” and had to go back for it, but the truth is I was just scared.  I didn’t want to face another chance of turning on them, at least last time it was just a Black Arrow I didn’t know.

While they went to clear the dam, I struggled to get control of myself.  I don’t know what to do.  I am fine most of the time, but I wake up in a cold sweat every night after watching myself kill one or more of them in my dreams.     Like I would ever allow that.  Haven’t I stopped you before you could do harm in the past?

There has to be something I can do, some item that will shield me from this.  I can’t believe that no one has ever had this problem before.   Well, most aren’t so weak-willed.  And don’t even begin that thought that I am doing this to you again.  We both know that’s not true.

I have been pouring over the notes and books that we have found and things I got from Quink.   I guess it helps that I’m learning Giant-speak with what is going on now, but that’s about the best I can come up with.  Although, I have found some interesting techniques involving creative methods of storing scrolls other than on paper, but nothing so far on mind-shielding effects or techniques.

Tomorrow I have to face them, I only hope they see what I have learned as a valid reason for being gone, and not for the shame and fear it truly was.

Of Forts and Ogres (Xander’s Journal pt 11)

We have retaken the Fort.  There was another one of those super rare Lamias there after all.  But it fled, rather than die.  Which is worse for us I think, because now it knows us and will be better prepared.  They battle was easier than we thought, most of them were trapped in the collapsed tower or the burning barracks, and the shocker lizards surprised the rest.

I’m not sure which was scarier though, the half fiend woolly rhino running through the halls, or Samael having a force of ogres at his command for half an hour.

Once again I failed to stand strong under the effects of a compulsion.  I wonder if it has anything to do with my father’s link with me?  Does that make me more susceptible to other influence?  I don’t think he would do that purposefully, but unknowingly, maybe.  It is a strange situation we find ourselves in.

We go to the dam tomorrow, to see what we may do to stop a tidal wave of destruction, and a free path for that beast of Lamashtu to run through the lower valleys across Varisia.

I only hope I can figure out how to stand clearheaded among my allies, without fear of attacking them.