Sept. 16th - a plot update for those who are lost or need a reminder! Journal of mine...I am weary - in body and soul. It is all I can do to take up the pen and get my thoughts written down after the Summer Wars. I am no longer sure of anything. Trust has been broken. Opposing views are creating division between the Tharossians and the Portal Guard, between the Celestial Divine powers and the Arcane. I was brought to this land to help heal it, and all I see is more destruction. Perhaps the Risa Fae were right in isolating this land and destroying the Arcane Mages, but that feels off to me also. The destruction of all for the transgressions of some is never an answer. Truly, I can not see the answers as clearly as I once did. The lines between friend and foe are beginning to blur. During our Spring meeting the ritual to determine the truth of the orbs revealed that at least one is indeed sentient. A being of great power acts through the smaller orb, the one that was stolen. For good or ill though, I can not say. Its sheer mental presence overwhelmed Reika and Laya causing them to collapse at the same time an orc party raided the ceremony. How convenient that the orb was stolen at the same time. I had my suspicions about that oh so convenient theft, and now they are confirmed - there is a traitor in our midst. More than one. I fear we may be overrun by those who have been corrupted and turned to the Dark in the Everwar. If this is true our group may be eaten from within before we ever really come to grips with the situation we find ourselves in. I am certain I know who the originator of this corruption is, target zero if you will, and he has been busy recruiting. After questioning the skeleton of Shagarash’s general, we learned that the corruption is spread first through the ritual of a willing sacrifice. To bad for the thin general that he didn’t realize he was signing up for an eternity of darkness and cold so deep it burns the flesh from bone in an empty silence broken only by his own mental screams as he descended into insanity. The heart of the sacrifice is used thereafter to begin the infection, the corruption. Those who touch the bones of the sacrifice may be used as a conduit for communication by the damned soul, but corruption only takes place upon contact with the heart. One among our number came in contact with such an artifact. One. I noticed soon after his contact with the artifact that he began avoiding me and anyone who might have the ability to sense the magic being worked upon him. No one has called him out. Maybe no one else has noticed. I have yet to decide what to do with this information so I will keep my own council on this for the time being. It was during the Summer Wars that lines began to be drawn within our group. The leader of the Portal Guard, Sir Ceannric, wishes to close the Portals to prevent any more people from passing through. I feel this is like closing the barn door after the cows have escaped. I also feel he is hiding his true intentions, just like so many others. I do not trust him, so steadfast in his righteousness. No one is that noble. The Tharrosians seem to have only one purpose, gather power. Their leader, Xoticus, attempts to pry open the doors of magic that have been nailed shut on this world for centuries regardless of the natives’ wishes. His lack of willingness to understanding of the Risa Fae causes my hackles to rise. And he is now in possession of an Illithid spell book! I do not need to be a foreseer to know his attempts to decipher the spell book is dangerous. Such disregard for those who are not Tharrosian will lead him, perhaps all of us, to war with the Risa Fae as well as the Everwar Darkness! There are others like me who remain neutral. That blasted elf is one of them. It irks me to think we might actually agree on something. There is another side to this twisted shape forming, one led by Grimble. Though young, he is wise to wait and see. I believe I will cultivate friendship with this one. Our world views on neutrality may mesh quite well. Reika and Laya are mysteries to me. We were thrown together because we all had some magic left to us in a drained land, but I do not really know them or their motivations. I wonder how long our partnership as Sentinels can last. Reika seems troubled, as if seeking something, and Laya I can not read. She is like the face of a granite wall, giving away nothing. So where does that leave us, oh journal mine? Currently, in need of strong drink! I am a healer and a fighter, not a courtier who thrives on twisted political intrigue and lies. So I will do what I can for now. That means I need to teach my students to protect themselves and create a cure for the corruption. It also means we need to get that orb back and speak to the sentience we contacted so ill preparedly once before. There are rumors that a band of orcs have been seen with the orb near our encampment. Several of our number have gone in search of the orcs to wrest back the orb. I can only hope that those who are successful have our best interests in mind. _________________________________________________________________________________________ July 12th Oh damn! A reminder, future reader, that the smudge in the diary is “cherry” juice not blood. Though there is no shortage of blood in this new world. The connection between Orik and the skeleton’s heart was not the same as it was with Kailos who touched a similar heart directly. Within hours Kailos was overcome with fever and a crawling sense of presence within his body but no possession took place. Orik’s symptoms came on faster and the soul trapped within the heart used him as a conduit to speak with us. Orik’s experience was most similar to Grisson’s, however, we do not know how Grisson came to be possessed. Did he also touch a heart during the ritual he spoke about or was it something else? No matter what, this soul could not control Orik’s body as Sicarius did with Grisson. Perhaps there wasn’t enough time to form a complete bond or the soul was too weak? More questions and no answers to be found. I need to talk to Kailos. Orik’s possession began most dramatically as he fell backwards to the ground and began seizing. Once the convulsions stopped, a voice not Orik’s began to speak, begging for release. It asked us to either return it to full life or kill it. The soul said it had known nothing but darkness and pain for centuries. The silence of corruption and the black veil within the heart was all it could talk about. While it could not physically control Orik, it certainly would not let go of the light either. It screamed in terror when we asked it to release our companion. All it wanted was someone to talk with it. The soul refused to relinquish Orik just as Sicarius refused to release Grisson so once again we struck a bargain. I hate our apparent powerlessness in the face of these possessions. Our bargain was this, in two months time we would find a way to release the soul from the dark. We promised nothing more and there are many ways to grant “release”. I can not imagine the soul is sane any longer, but I do not wish to destroy it. We can learn so much from it! There has been an argument in camp about the use of necromancy to bring flesh back to the bones. Is it necromancy if the soul is still present or would this simply be a more advanced type of healing? Also, I wonder about this person held captive in a corrupted heart. How did they get imprisoned in the first place? What arcane ritual was this person involved in? Are they linked with Sicarius? What do they know about the Everwar? My list of questions grows longer by the moment and this trapped soul is our best source of information now that one of the orbs is stolen. Sir Garyth is, of course, in favor of immediately destroying the heart as is Bard Arion, Sir Ceannric and Sir Xoticus. I understand their reasoning. There is no doubt that this is poor soul is also dangerous. I even caught Grayson the necromancer fiddling with the wards around the skeleton, and though what he intended is unclear I trust him as far as I can spit. Commander Kronos McKragg keeps his own council. Do none of them see that this is our opportunity to actually LEARN something? Yes, take precautions, yes plan for the worst, but don’t throw away our only source of information just because it is dangerous! I do not know how we will learn anything if we keep destroying clues without examining them first! If we allow the threat of danger to keep us from taking action we will certainly lose the Everwar. I would be hesitant to ask Orik to connect with this soul one more time. I do not know how it will affect him or even if Orik is someone who can be trusted. But this may be our only chance to learn more about these possessions and the darkness behind the Everwar. A compromise must be struck. I will speak with Commander McKragg. Perhaps we can find a way to learn what we need from the trapped soul without returning flesh to the bones or subjecting one of our number to a mental link. I will ask the rest of the Sentinels, those with power and my allies for help creating a ritual or potion to do just that. We can not keep throwing away sources of information just because they are dangerous. We will never learn anything, which I believe is ultimately the more dangerous option. _________________________________________________________________________________________ July 3rd Oh! Roasted vegetables in a tangy sauce, grains smothered in butter, and this world’s version of cherries baked into a golden crust. My belly grumbles in a sublime joy that can not be expressed in words. Is it time for seconds yet? I almost don’t want return to my writing. It might curdle my dinner. The rest of the tourney was uneventful, and the time for the orb ritual came faster than expected. In our desire to know more about the orbs we did not take proper precautions especially with the happenings of the day. All went well until Layah and Rika began to link with the orbs. I knew I should have been one of the Sentinels to try the link. But once again, the elf got in the way. Her caution and distrust drive me to distraction! Yes, I do have a personal interest in the orbs. No, that doesn’t automatically mean I will try to sway the situation to my own favor! She should know me better than that by now. Or maybe she knows me too well? In any case, Layah was chosen to replace Ra’hel in the ritual at the last minute as Ra’hel was struck down with an unexplained illness on her journey north that I have not had the chance to study. I do not know if that change influenced the ritual, but both Layah and Rika were laid low, struck down in the middle of connecting to the orbs, and perhaps the intelligence behind them. As the energy around them rose, a thunderstorm broke. As the first drops of rain fell, the two let loose long shrieking cries I will not soon forget and collapsed insensible to the ground. In our rush to get to our stricken comrades, Arion and I neglected to secure the orbs. Drained of energy as I was from the possession and the ritual I was useless. There was nothing I could do to help my friends and so needed to rely on others. I hate how weak I was! That weakness meant I needed to break the wards that protected the orbs and allow Lotharian and other healers into the circle. I believe my mistake is to blame for the disappearance of one of the orbs for as I released the wards we were attacked by an orc band. The confusion of healing Layah and Rika and the orc attack gave our enemies, perhaps Sicarius, the opportunity to steal the key orb. Grisson was mysteriously absent from the ritual, though with the revelations of the day I can almost excuse him. But who then? The orcs never came close to the orbs which means the thief is someone we trust. Someone else must either be possessed or be in partnership with the orcs. To make matters worse, I feel these possessions are spreading! I do not know what happened during the search for the orc camp as I was still tending to Layah and Rika, but I was party to the aftermath. The group brought back a chest and a body. I do not recall what was in the chest because I was too distracted by the body, or rather the skeleton. Inside of its ribs untouched by decay lay a heart, a perfectly preserved lump of flesh swarming with darkness. The fact that the heart had not decayed like the rest of the body filled me with a sense of foreboding. The way magic twisted around it reminded me immediately of the heart that struck Kailos. His contact with the heart caused excruciating pain and fever, not possession. No one touched this new heart directly but a recently arrived mage, Orik, was the first to touch the bones. What happened next makes me think that the Overlords of the Everwar are using these artifacts to entrap and corrupt those who come in contact with them. Ah, Layah and Rika call now. They seem to have snuck some of the “cherry tart” away from Liska’s watchful eye. If the elf only knew my true weakness she would never have another argument from me! Bribery by pie, but only cherry will work, or maybe pumpkin. Yum! _________________________________________________________________________________________ June 2nd Duty done. I can’t believe some of the injuries our people are getting! I know we can’t die...so far. But do we really need to test this at every turn? One of our younglings just tried to confront a bastique on their own. A bastique is Osterra’s version of a grizzly bear… on hallucinogens... with a beehive stuck up its...ahem, never mind. I return to the task of committing my memories to paper. Writing has always helped me work through my confusion and distress. Marina, dear loyal Marina. She wavers as I did between being a warrior and a healer. I hope she finds a balance for her own well being. Her encounter with Sicarius in Grisson’s body may help her find her path or destroy her faith in self. We shall see. We debated upon letting her fight this creature clothed in Grisson. If she was to win, she could not hold back for fear of hurting her friend. She needed to attack with all the ferocity of a she-wolf protecting her cubs. A hard thing to do when you face a companion. And if she lost? We had agreed to let it roam the tourney using Grisson’s body as its vehicle. What would it do to Grisson, to our people, if it was given free reign? I do not know how the others felt, but I was prepared to put a blade in its back the moment it left my wards even though I did not know what that would do to Grisson. While it appears that no one can die here I do not trust the rules of life and death in this realm. Marina did not disappoint. She held back nothing as she attacked the creature residing within Grisson. She will become a great healer and warrior if her will remains strong. After trading blows for a short eternity, the creature made a mistake. It could not control Grisson’s body with any finesse and Marina gutted it on the field of battle. Grisson returned to himself, bloodied and confused and gutted. As she had wounded him, so did Marina help to heal him. But as we worked, we heard him muttering, “red Sicarius, crimson Sicarius.” Once he awoke, both Marina and I spoke to him. Grisson is filled with remorse. He calls himself “Kin Killer,” and I fear for his state of mind. He knows he can never return to his home on pain of death to clear his blood debt. I worry he will become reckless in an attempt to redeem himself. Our dealings with Sicarius are also far from over. I do not for one instant believe he is gone or that he will honor his bargain. I will keep a watchful eye over Grisson as I do another of our band. One who seems to be deliberately avoiding me or so I have noticed. This being who knows so much about the Everwar gives a name to one of our enemies, but we are ill prepared to deal with this possession. It casts a shadow over all of us. Who can we really trust? I wish to trust Grisson, but he has already been overtaken once, and it would be foolish to believe that Sicarius does not have claws in others. I can not trust anyone, as I will relate once dinner is over. I smell the most delicious scents coming from Liska’s kitchen. She spoils us! _________________________________________________________________________________________ May 30th Arion did in fact need my help. Now that our inner circle knows about me, there is less need for me to hide my true strength which gives Arion carte blanche to use me as a pack mule whenever she needs to move that bloody great harp! I think she should learn to play the pipes. Much more portable, those are. Now, where did I leave off? Ah, Grisson and his memories. After working with Lotharian using her Remember-me-not potion Grisson learned just enough to become desperate for more, and so he came to me. I was working with a group of healer trainees at the time who also witnessed the proceedings. Marina, one of the trainees, became indispensable. Celestial healers work with elementals, creatures with a capricious nature to be sure. As we needed to call those with great power, Marina and I warded Grisson first. It is a very good thing that we did. Grisson had a few moments of clarity as the healing energy worked within him, and he remembered. Here is what he described - Sir Artus, Grisson’s father and a knight of the realm, was engaged with him, the kingdom’s Magus, and ten servants in a ritual atop the Magus’ tower. He recalled the ritual being, “good for my people,” but not its actual purpose. This opens up a rotten kettle of fish! What were they doing, and how did it go so badly wrong? For some reason during our session Grisson became fixated on the color of his father’s robes...red. That color again! Once this happened, we lost him. He began chanting, “red Sicarius, crimson Sicarius,” in a hollow sepulchure tone. The Grisson we know and love disappeared as another entity took control of his body. Sicarius. I immediately sent two of my apprentices off to fetch Xoticus and Sir Garyth. I may be well versed in bargaining with and befriending elementals and powerful beings, but a mage I am not! This possession was well beyond my ability to deal with alone, and Marina, strong as she is, is only a trainee. Sicarius means no one well. This entity wove a tale of great woe for Grisson and continued to expand on his memory of the tower. Sicarius influenced his host, whispering deceit and seduction into Girsson’s mind. Sicarius claims he persuaded Grisson to do nothing he did not already in the very darkest corners of his heart wish to do - kill his father. Grisson massacred all present at the ritual with Sicarius spurring him to frothing madness. At this point, Xoticus and Sir Garyth arrived. Sicarius left off telling his macabre tale of corruption and began to mock the dark god Tharros in an attempt to raise Xoticus’ ire. However Xoticus remained patient and thoughtful while the entity slung its bile, calling the Black Lion a clawless, toothless kitten. Apparently these two beings have had dealings with each other in the past involving the Everwar. Sicarius implied that Tharros lost their battle, claiming ownership of the chaos and eternal war on Xoticus’ home world. Sicarius did not mock Sir Garyth’s Lords of Light which makes me wonder if the entity had encountered them before for good or ill. No matter the situation with Sir Garyth, it quickly became apparent that Xoticus and Sir Garyth had no more power than I to cast this entity from our friend. I bluffed for as long as I could, but in the end we were forced to make a bargain. Sicarius would leave Grisson if one of us fought him and won, wounding our friend in the process. Marina volunteered to be his adversary. And now Sir Kronos calls! Can I get nothing done today? I must get this down before the details fade! _________________________________________________________________________________________ May 25th This is my first chance to sit down and gather my thoughts since the Rites of Spring tournament hosted by our gracious sovereigns, King Osric and Queen Helena of Nova Regnus. While the tournament itself seemed to serve its purpose in uniting the “Travelers,” those who came through the portals, and the natives of this land, several troubling events occurred. One of the best things was my first meeting with Lotharian the apothecary. We seem to have come to an understanding. She is frightened by anything that smacks of the arcane but is curious as well. While she doesn’t completely trust my work with elementals she is willing to learn more. Her artistry with herbs is also a thing of beauty. As long as her fear does not bind her, I believe we may work well together. Which brings me to Grisson. I had a fascinating conversation with him, Xoticus, Layah, and the fun Tharossian the night before the tournament. It appears that Grisson’s memory loss may not be caused by passage through the portal as with so many other cases. In our discussion, he revealed that he can not stand the color red. It repels him at the same time that it fascinates him. A difficult predicament to be sure with the proliferation of red about the tourney. Upon seeing the color, Grisson falls into a trance chanting the words, “red Sicarius, crimson Sicarius,” and becomes unaware of the world around him. Upon explaining this, Xoticus attempted to bring him into the Tharossian fold along with myself and Layah (as always) by claiming that this was a sure sign of Grisson’s connection to Thaross the Devourer. Grisson was not swayed. His trance is not about connection or acceptance, but rather shame and guilt. The red reminds him of blood...spattered on his face, dripping from his hands. In his need to find answers, Grisson worked with Lotharian to find an herbal cure for his memory loss. From what I understand, they had some small success - just enough to bring him to me with more questions about his past. I can not begin to explain how quickly that healing session devolved into a nightma…(unintelligible squiggles as the pen tears across the paper and the author cringes in shock). Bah! Arion calls. She has kept a closer eye on me than usual since my heritage has been revealed. I do not know if she does it to protect me or to protect the others from me. In either case, it grows wearisome. I will continue my account once I have appeased the arrogant elf. _________________________________________________________________________________________ May 5th It has been a long strange road getting to this new land. This new world. As always, I wonder why I am here, brought to this particular place at this particular time. Portals are not new to me, though I have never had any control of where I am going. I simply end up where I'm needed. That doesn't mean everyone is always happy about it. My...heritage... makes meeting new people problematic at times. I dislike starting over. INTENSELY dislike starting over. I am unsure how to go about revealing myself without causing a riot in the process. Though that may be a moot point during the Rites of Spring. I have noticed that my personal energy gets siphoned off much more quickly than I'm used to when dealing with the orbs. I may not have enough to maintain my avatar for the Orb Ritual. We will see. I worry about the Ritual too. The Dark Fae has read the signs in the heavens. She says she will have access to the most amount of Menel or sky magic from the astral bodies above us the night of the tourney. It must be done then or not at all. Our limited access to leyline energy is making it an absolute necessity to find power elsewhere, hence our dependence on the heavens. Still, a major magical ritual on the same day as the tourney? With strangers wandering around? There is so much that could go wrong. Arion shares my concerns, but there is nothing to be done. We need to make strong bonds with our fellow travelers and this tourney may be the best way to do it. Still, we must all keep a weather eye out for danger.