For the love of order

5-May (Maral)
Tipping Points

A fulcrum is, as everyone knows, a place where opposing forces are held in balance. Like the center of my merchant’s scale, the needle pointing directly up to indicate perfect equilibrium between the polished metal weights on one side, and the chunk of mithril on the other. But it is also the point at which the balance tips from one side to the other. And it is also the point that gives a lever power to effect change.

I have never sought a starring role in the mad schemes of deities and planes, and it does not come easily to me to assist in what might upset the status quo. But as I was preparing to exit stage left, Gilly cornered me, and put it in terms that made the decision obvious. (It’s usually Gilly in these situations, isn’t it? No idea what gain she’d find in strengthening my influence, it certainly isn’t in the direction she’d advocate. Maybe her earnest heartfelt words are actually honest this time?) “Maybe this isn’t the world-changing thing it hints at being. If that’s the case, you don’t have cause to complain, do you? Of course, maybe it is. But if it is, and you’re here, then you’re meant to be here. You, Maral, are important to this, and not just because you’re skilled at fighting. If — and I’m not saying it is — this is a conflict between cosmic forces, those who represent all you deeply love in are counting on you to represent your heart. If you refuse, if you turn away, the things you believe in will come out the worse for it. You don’t need to advocate or make speeches (frankly, if they needed that, they’d have someone else), just be yourself, and be true to yourself.”

So I’m in, come what may.

The next few days give me a rude awakening to holes in my training. I’m sure half the cadets would have been able to identify a rust monster, if not the chaos-spawned ‘mouther’ we found later. Fortunately, I carry an extra suit of armor. I must make a point of getting at least basic understanding of underground creatures.

We returned to Atur, learned a bit more about the prophecy, and a good bit about the Fulcrum, and went to seek it out. It was a reasonably uneventful journey, until we found ourselves followed by a giant metal floating eye-thing. Victor said it was an ‘arbiter’, a sort of lawful outsider construct. It was generally uncommunicative, though it did allow that its mission was to observe and report. At least it is on our side, as much as we have one. Eventually, we spot a silver dragon in the distance, also keeping an eye on us. Apparently the extraplanar interests are generally aware of our intended Fulcrum visit. Which might be a good thing — if they have foresights and prophecies about it, that makes it seem more likely that it’s real? that we will succeed? and then there it was.

The next few hours were a jumble of challenges. The first two were complex — first we fought duplicates of ourselves, and won with surprising ease. Then we exchanged riddles with a ‘sphinx’ (a sort of lion with bird wings, a human woman’s face and torso, and an inordinate love of puzzles). I regret letting the party down there — if I’d been paying better attention, I’d have figured the Mror Holds one, and we’d have won instead of merely coming to a draw. But it seemed a good enough performance. Proceeding, we were tested against a dizzying array of skills useful to adventuring, and repeatedly required to leave one of our group behind to continue (though we could go back to exchange them if needed, which we definitely did). Eventually, we (well, the magic people) passed a grid where you needed to produce various magical effects to advance, and then we were at the end. Or at least, something like an end, a chamber like the one housing our first battle, with alignment-based alcoves on four sides. Very symbolic. It took a bit, but we figured we needed to augment the natural party alignments with summons. Seemed cheating to me, but so did Gilly’s ‘mage hand’ trick in the stealth challenge, so there it is.

This triggered some manner of revelation in Syama, and she discovered the power of making a bridge out of moonlight. Something in me says this will end up being vitally important sometime later when we least expect it. I only hope it’s useful before then as well.

The arbiter approached us afterward, a bit more talkative when we confirmed that we had passed the Fulcrum’s tests, and the dragon approached with somewhat greater distance. Gilly called it something in her dragon-speech, and it seemed pleased. Then we were left to ourselves, and we decided it best to keep our recent activities quiet, as least for now, lest we expose our hand in a game we don’t know we’re playing. Or, as Dolg and I would have it, to not need to trumpet our successes at every chance, but instead take a humble stance and let our nature shine through.

But the strangest part was two nights later. As we pitched camp with a storm approaching, and having actually made a fire for the first time in weeks, we were approached by a human, an elderly man with but a wineskin for supper. He claimed to be a traveler, unversed in magic, having survived difficult places by virtue of friends and luck. We gave him a place by the fire, and some of our food, and spoke of philosophy, history, tales of adventure and such like. Various of the group seemed to not entirely trust him; Gilly even pointedly refused to sip his wine. When the orcs attacked in the night, we feared the worst — was the man in league with slavers? Were we about to be enslaved or killed? I fought with strength and speed born of desperation, the sort of performance you know you can’t rely on reproducing. Though at the brink of collapse for much of the fight, I kept going, and after some tense moments, we had the leader cornered, invisible, a elf-child captive in his arms (or as it seemed, floating in the air). He demanded free passage or the elf would die. Without thinking, I grabbed the hostage, trying to hold my balance at the edge of pit Victor had made to hem him in, trying to cover the elf with my shield and trying not to think about how inaccessible my axe was in this configuration. A thought ran through my head then: was I trying to be lucky? In the last few seconds I had taken extra swings that would normally be unwise, desperate to save my skin. Then I’d grabbed the elf and instead of backing away from the pit as would be sensible, held my ground even though it might mean we both fell in. Yes, that sounded like relying on luck. Immediately after, luck found me again. Struggling to keep my footing, I inadvertently rotated my shield, which caused the orc’s falchion to miss the elf’s throat as it glanced off darkwood instead. We set upon the orc with a vengeance… and then he, the other orcs, and elf melted away like mist before the sun. The old man, suddenly imbued with a divine majesty, proclaimed his approval of our actions, said that he hoped Syama would become the P.N., and give us ‘his gift’, flasks of highly potent magic that we could call upon in our need in future. Then he was gone, Gilly’s cry of ‘Who are you?’ vanishing into the downpour.

We discussed the details of the visitation, Victor writing everything down in the relative comfort of his rope trick space, and came up with no fewer than seven deities our visitor might be (or be the representative of, though as several of us noted, he had offered approval and gifts on behalf of himself, not another — might some gifts only be plausible for actual gods?) Eight if you count my thought that it might just be an “after you think you’re done” test of the Fulcrum, though none of us thought that likely. Syama seemed particularly interested/concerned in the possibility of it being The Traveler, on the account that it is said one should be wary of his gifts. Gilly pointed out that a gift’s hidden effect might not even be negative for us — if our actions resolve the current surfeit of gods into a more reasonable accounting, being tied to one might elevate him over gods of similar domain.

Gilly was in a surprisingly foul mood after this, and threw herself into the work of scouting and being prepared for a fight. We passed over the village with the innkeeper lady she had talked with before, to avoid having to reveal or lie about the Fulcrum, and stopped in another. There we met a young halfling man, who wished safe escort to Atur, as he needed to travel there to claim some inheritance. Gilly sized him up, and must have believed him, as she said of course we’d help him, and we can work out any payment later, etc.

The only actual danger on the route back came from a pair of shocker lizards, reptiles that hunt with electricity, but probably should not have tangled with a party of our prowess. But beyond that, there was the intensity of halfling flirtation. I swear, it seemed like it was only the complete lack of privacy on the road that kept them from sharing a bed. At one point, I pulled her aside and tried to gently broach the subject, and she practically exploded at me. “If a man finds me desirable, if I choose to accept him as a lover or not, what business it is of yours? I don’t tell you who to bed and who not to. You say you’re saying this as my friend? If you’re really my friend, let me make my own decisions! I’m a big girl, I can handle myself. I know which weeks to refrain, I know what tea to make if my course should be late, I’ve got priestly connections if I need them. Don’t you blush and look away, Maral Glorgirn. Oh, and don’t you even dare try to insinuate that I might be doing this for his money.” I hadn’t! I was just… Sigh. I don’t understand Gilly. I really don’t.

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On the road from the fulcrum

On the way back from the Fulcrum, the party encountered an old man, who discussed philosophy, history and other matters with them. During the night, a band of orc slavers attacked, already holding a captive elf. As soon as they were defeated, all of the orcs and the elf disappeared.

The old man, now looking younger and more radiant, gave them offered his approval of them and gave them each a small flask as his blessing. He also indicated that Syama may become the przywrócenie niszczyciel. He then disappeared.

Where he had been sleeping, there was a fragment of a staff. (I think I forgot this during the session.) It does not detect as magical, but has arcane markings on it. However, there is not enough of the markings to determine anything from them. Victor can think of three highly divergent ways to finish the symbols without even a moments thought.

After considering the events of the night, the party reaches several possible conclusions about who the visitor might have been. Either a messenger of the deity, or possibly the deity hirself, for any of these gods are possible:

(Note: the links go to wikis for standard campaign settings. They are mostly correct, but there may be minor inconsistencies, since this campaign has some fundamental changes.)

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24-Mar (Gilly)
There and Back Again (2x)

I hadn’t dared bring my journal into the swamp. It rains a solid hour every day! I’d be miserable if I slipped up and all my notes were turned to inksmears, lost to time. How much can truly be lost? Would those black stains yield to some magic spell that restores their order? Could anything erase the deputy chief’s face from my memory? Or the magistrate’s? I wonder if I rather remember those days, or forget them. Hard to tell…

We traveled to a swamp adjoining Lake Dark, in search of my dear near-twin Felda, at the urging of House Tharashk, who were hired by the city to bring her to justice. I cannot recommend the swamp, it is a miserable place, full of disease, blood-sucking creatures both natural and un-. And the boggards! It turns out this is the special time of years when the adolescents need to go kill someone to get to be full tribe members. Greeeaaat. Brilliant time to go slogging through the muck looking for a fugitive. At least we know she’s somewhere in the hundred square miles of it… oh wait… we don’t. Thank the gods there are only a few parts of it that are much more likely than the rest.

It’s a long story, and most of it uninteresting, so suffice to say: Some bits worked out very well — I still giggle a little when I remember “So, I’m terribly sorry about this!” and that girlish smile. Some parts, not so much — Felda was not buying the ’I’m a sympathetic relative, here to help you’ angle in the slightest. Ah, well, you win some, you lose some. In the end, we carted her off, and Victor’s Prestidigitation is phenomenal at cleaning clothing after an encounter with swamp.

Back in Atur, our wizard friend Kalzan had found several references to the przywrócenie niszczyciel. A pity they didn’t say all that much, but it was certainly interesting, and gave us a link to the Fulcrum. I hadn’t heard of it before, to talk Kalzan and the party, it’s a magic force of Neutral that gives gifts to groups who go there. Sometimes. Maybe if the group has a alignment that will nicely stack the deck in some way in the age-old struggles of good and evil, law and chaos. Hard to say precisely. I love secrets like that. Looking forward to learning more.

He also had a task for us in exchange for his research time, to visit the Ironroot mountains and harvest some weird mushrooms. Most of the details came via Victor, who understands this sort of thing best. With the optimal season for that job being now or quite soon, and the party not wanting to carry debt, it seemed the best choice for our next adventure.

Of course, Maral had to start getting cold feet again. Apparently he doesn’t realize that being involved in a thousand-year-old prophecy is awesome. Oh, he might have to leave, oh, doesn’t think he’s up to traveling with such interesting magical people, oh, oh. I could tell he was weak-willed about it, though. Gave him a little talking-to, worked like a charm. By the time we were halfway to the mountains, he’d apologized to the party and said he’d stick with them. Each case where he comes around to Gilly’s position makes it easier for the next time.

The caving was a bit of an adventure in its own right. We managed to avoid tangling with a group of elves, who thankfully spoke Common. I really need to learn more languages, but there’s so little time! I can barely keep up with the necessities and these ‘suggestions’ from Fortunado. I can understand needing to learn arcana, and thankfully I could learn that, where I’ve only reaped frustration at attempting to learn spellcraft, but why on earth should it be important to excel at picking locks? Any rate, exploring caves was a bit of a mess. Apparently, only Victor knows much about the critters that live in caves, so we were a little slow off the mark in each fight, getting armor rusted or trying to flank the unflankable. Never in serious danger, though the way Maral swore to pick up basic dungeoneering, you’d think we were.

Found the mushroom in the end. Turns out it spits acid, would have been nice to know that beforehand, oops. But all’s well that ends well. Once we were heading back, Syama starts pushing hard to get us all to travel to the Fulcrum next. Maral is not keen on it, and suspicious of her story about getting an urgent prophetic dream some days earlier, but not mentioning it until now. Trying to mediate and triangulate, when bam. Out of nowhere.

“Accepting gifts from unknowable powerful magic forces often comes with strings, with conditions, and they don’t have to be seen or known to be effective. Right, Gilly?”

What. The. Fuck. What does he know? How the hell does he know it? My heart rate goes into overdrive, but the training kicks in and my face doesn’t show a sign. I make a quick pretense of frustration with the intra-party conflict to buy a moment and size up the situation. He’s really just trying to make a reasonable point and looking for support. Poor naive guy. He has no fucking clue what’s going on around him.

I take a long walk, thinking about that. What happens if I get killed by some lucky shot, and Maral still doesn’t know what granddad is up to? I like the guy, I don’t want him to get fucked over like that. Unless of course I end up killing him myself. But that seems less and less likely. Time to write a ‘in the case of my unrecoverable death’ letter. Fortunately, I was paying attention the day they went over the right protocol for such things. Cryptography is hard, I’d probably mess it up thoroughly if I was trying to design this myself. First step, make a pair of alphabet strips so you can ‘add’ letters without messing up. Second step, generate a fuckton of random characters, and write them down neatly on two copies…

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A task for Kalzan

When the party picks up the information about the przywrócenie niszczyciel, Kalzan also has a request for the party.

There are certain fungi that grow in the caves in the Ironroot Mountains that are best picked at certain times of the year. One specific type has just come into season. For the next four weeks, it should be possible to find caves not far into the Ironroot Mountains that contain the fungi. After that, it will still be possible to collect it, but that will require going deeper into the mountains and thus be more dangerous.

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Ancient Prophecies
Among the musty scrolls

When the party returns to Atur, they check in with Kalzan to see what he has learned about the przywrócenie niszczyciel.

He has found three references to the term. All of them are in manuscripts over a thousand years old. (Actually, copies of manuscripts where the original is that old.) None are in infernal, so they are missing the context that would most obviously clarify the meaning of the phrase.

Two of the references are very brief and clearly expect that the reader knows what the przywrócenie niszczyciel is. They seem to indicate that the przywrócenie niszczyciel is a person who will live at some time in the future.

The third has more detail. The przywrócenie niszczyciel will arrive and play a crucial role during some major change or transition. The transition will happen regardless of his (her?) actions, but the przywrócenie niszczyciel will be crucial in determining how the change happens and what direction it takes. There is also a vague reference linking the przywrócenie niszczyciel with the Fulcrum.

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24-Feb (Gilly)
Sleeping and waking

Gilly spread her wings, catching the breeze. Flying was more a matter of Will than flapping, but using the muscles was pleasing enough. The sunlight was delightfully warm, and made her scales shine their burnished gold. Below, a few shepherds gazed up in wonder before running to attend to their flocks, which fled at her approach. < Which of them is the wiser >, she thought. Triumphant in her dominion, she briefly reviewed the array of magics at her disposal, then joyfully breathed a great gout of flame at nothing. Ahead, a tower came into view beyond trees. Ah, home sweet home she thought, and went into a swooping dive. The wind rushed past her, filling her ears with its roar, which woke her up.

Gilly awoke with a start, the darkness and quiet of the darkened room a sharp contrast to the sunlit flight. The dream again. And the words, bubbling up from her throat, words she’d never heard before. Ordinary words, < bread >, < blue-green >, < devour >, and other words, words of power. And her fingertips itched. Why- she glanced down and stifled a gasp. Without a sound, the claws retracted, leaving her fingers as they were. She looked worriedly at her bed companion. Still asleep, thank goodness. Seeji had been kind and … eager to please. Definitely a good choice for last night. Unlike poor Maral, she laughed to herself, who looked bewildered and stressed at the attentions of three different dwarven ladies, and clumsily left the party alone. Perhaps in the morning Seeji would be amenable to…

Stop trying to distract yourself, Gilly told herself. You’ve got to take control of this. First, to keep the claws thing from happening unless you want it. Then to figure out what this language is… probably Draconic? Then…

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17-Feb (Gilly)
A morning conversation

When I found myself awake early, I thought I’d have a chance to write down some of our recent activity. No such luck. Maral was already up, clearly agonizing about something. When I asked him, he explained it was about this helm, and whether he should wear it in the upcoming fight, or Dolg should. And he was obsessing about it! He had twenty arguments both ways, and most of them were psychological instead of about potential town defense strategy.

I listened, cause that’s what I do best, and it was a total mess. I thought he was sticking up for himself, growing a spine, and it deserved encouragement. I should have realized earlier where this was headed. Fortunately, he had several more rambles about the obfuscations of the Corps, which gave me time to collect my thoughts and hit on what would hopefully be the right line of questioning. I could tell he wouldn’t take well to being told what to do, even though he was asking my advice.

“Maral?” ‘Yes, Gilly?’ “You trust your uncle Thosun, right? He’s a good guy, and he’s looking out for you?” ‘Of course.’ “And if you had him here, you’d ask his advice, and take it?” ‘I suppose … yes.’ “Well, remember that he was worried about you, that you would fall in love with a commander, try desperately to impress him, take some crazy unwarranted risk and get yourself killed.” ‘Now, Gilly -’ “AND that’s why he asked me to travel with you, to make that not happen. So you need to ask yourself: is it more likely that you’d go in wearing the helm, feeling like you could take on the whole tribe yourself, and get killed trying to be more of the fight than makes sense? Or that you’d go in next to Dolg wearing it, and overstretch yourself trying to keep pace when he’s taking down ogres, and get killed that way?” ’What’s that supposed to mean? What are you trying to get at here?’ “Calm down, Maral. I’m not saying you should wear it, I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I am saying that that’s more important than whether Dolg cares as much about the village as you do, and whether your passion or his collectedness would serve the battle better, and all the rest of it. That’s the question you haven’t been asking, and the one you need to be asking. That’s what your uncle would want.” ‘… You’re right. I should.’

I left him to mull that over and went to fetch a bit of porridge before reviewing the locations I’d been casing for launching sneak attack crossbow shots. And the escape routes, of course. We still don’t know how many ogres are coming, and they just might not blunder into all our little traps. Always good to have a backup plan, even if some of my compatriots don’t want to admit it.

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That guy in Iron Town

When the party returns to Iron Town, they find that Firkul has found two possible allies. One decides that ogres sound too dangerous, but Gilly persuades Errol Winthrop that he should come to help the village.

Errol is considered rather eccentric by everyone who knows him. Fun-loving and adventure seeking, he is currently travelling alone during his Wanderjahr because none of his friends are willing to take on the risks that he actively seeks out.

When the PC’s met him, he was debating between accepting their offer and another offer to capture giant spiders.

Errol is a short but solidly built human, with flaming red hair. His skin is shockingly dark for a red head. Even more startling is the gear that he carries. Various jars, flasks, tubes and bottles hang off of him, attached at every conceivable point. Every time he sits down, it is slightly surprising that there is not the sound of glass breaking.

As the party travelled with him from Atur to Garlek, they were attacked by some giant spiders. While Error carries a crossbow, he did not use it during the battle. Instead, he poured the contents of a vial into a bottle and threw it at one of the spiders. The bottle shattered when it hit the spider and its contents burst into flame. A bit of it even splashed onto the neighboring spider.

After the battle was finished, he went down and examined the spider corpses. He extracted part of one and put it into one of his many containers. He mentions that he might have time before the ogres strike to convert into a poison adequate for applying to a weapon. He also has some Terinav root that is almost finished. It is a contact poison and could be applied to the palisade. He does note that it is slower acting than the spider poison.

He has also brewed a few concoctions that could be useful for Maral and Dolg. He has two droughts that will make them larger and stronger, although somewhat less nimble. He also has an oil that can be applied to a weapon that makes it more effective against chaotic opponents. While some of the benefits are not likely to matter when fighting ogres, it does grant the ability to automatically confirm a critical hit.

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17-Feb (Maral)
Garlek

Garlek certainly didn’t look like a village that would withstand the assault of an ogre tribe. Even with my basic training in soldiery, I could easily spot how the palisade (never that sturdy) had been broken through and insufficiently patched up, leaving weak spots for future assaults. The defenders were, naturally, farmers and craftspeople by trade, and only fighters by necessity. Still, as Gilly and Dolg went with Espen to scout the ogres, and Syama and I talked strategy with the mayor and the local healer, I could tell that they would succeed with the right help. Why? Because they loved the village. Their commitment to it, and to each other, fills my heart in a way I don’t know if even my friends would fully understand. Their bond of duty and trust reminds me of that I once knew in my clan, but more powerful. Twice, once because they have so much less, and again because they honor it consistently. I spoke with Garn Redaxe, the mayor, at some length — his stories of his adventures and of others’, of people who have cherished this little village, invigorate me. If my grandfather were half the man that he is, I never would have been treated as I was. I pray that I may impress Garn in helping defend Garlek against the ogres, and know his approval and gratitude. Gilly would say this is the sort of thinking that gets you killed, but she’s wrong. There’s a time to think about safety, but there’s a time for standing up to defend the greater good. And I just know we can win.

Fortunately, Gilly only complained briefly about the odds after the scouting party returned. I’m not sure if it was Syama and Dolg’s arguments or the distraction of the scouts’ news, but in any case I’m glad of it. They hadn’t managed to figure an approximate count of the enemy, but they did spy something possibly as interesting: the ogres were searching for and harvesting a specific plant. Why was unclear, it was supposed no good as food or spice or poison. Gilly wondered if it was perhaps for a potion? Clever girl, she is. We brought it to Clwniver, the healer, who said it did have some interesting properties, related to necromancy. Strange. We thought about it some, and decided it unlikely that the ogres had a magic user working for them — Espen said he’d seen no sign of that all the time he’s been scouting. Syama suggested contacting the Blood of Vol temple when we returned to Iron Town, and Gilly volunteered to do so. It’s good to have someone who can talk comfortably with people like that — I don’t think I could, even if I was a talker.

We made a lot of tactical plans and traps, which if they work right right will keep the ogres at arms’ reach for long enough for us to fill them with bolts (and sharpened sticks, burning oil, and caltrops). Fortunately, they all depend on the reliable stupidity and bullheadedness of ogres, so I think we have a good chance. We’ve loaded the wagon with kids to evacuate to Iron Town. Well, the smaller kids at least. The bigger ones are staying to help load crossbows and the like. It makes me proud to see how these villagers devote themselves to the village-as-a-whole. Will write more from Iron Town, the chatter of little ones makes it impossible to concentrate.

We’re in Iron Town now, and the noncombatants safely ensconced, so we can do a bit of shopping. A hundredpound of caltrops, a hundredpound of oil… good thing we’ve a wagon, even I wouldn’t want to carry this stuff! We dropped by the Blood of Vol temple and learned something interesting but very disturbing. They’ve a chair made of bones in their anteroom! Okay, that wasn’t it really. It sounds like the ogres are attempting a ritual that can possibly bring a recently deceased person back to life. Of course, it only works if you do it exactly right, and being ogres, they’re likely to make some undead-ogre-kid monstrosity. Which could complicate the battle… We ended up adding holy water to the shopping list. Rather a lot of holy water, much more than I should hope we could use, but the priests seemed to be okay with them bringing back any they didn’t use, so I think it’s okay. I can’t tell people how to spend their money when I want to spend mine on a nice backpack. (Not enough money for it! I could have managed if I only brought one healing potion, but that would be dumb.) Gilly even managed to sweet-talk one adventurer into joining our mission.

Back in Garlek, the preparations are going nicely, and Gilly convinced a local to deliver a message to a giant scout, that they were wrong about the ritual and it wouldn’t bring the kid back to life but instead make her a horrible undead monstrosity. Let’s hope that means one or two fewer ogres wanting to follow the chief in. The big surprise was that Garn offered that Dolg or I wear the Helm of Garlek for the battle. It’s an amazing thing, a powerful force for the specific purpose of defending Garlek from ogres.

And… I’m conflicted. I know what it can do, not just from hearing stories, but also from wearing it to ‘ask’ it if it found us worthy. I felt its vast knowledge of ogre-fighting technique flood my mind, and I know what I could do as its wearer. A sling bullet true to the temple, a cleave through the bellies of two ogres momentarily distracted by some motion out of my range of vision. I’d still be at risk of getting clobbered by a greatclub, but with healing… It would improve our chances so much, and I would be the hero. I want it so much.

But… Dolg would as proficient with it, maybe a little less, maybe some more. And I know he yearns to be key to the fight. We haven’t fought together much, but I’ve seen his frustration on the occasions when his hands and feet strike less than true, and it falls to me to provide the less than subtle waraxe backup.

But would his mission of perfecting himself be helped by a sense of accomplishment brought on by equipment? Especially equipment that he won’t be keeping and continuing to use?

Am I just making up arguments to convince myself that it’s okay to take it myself?

Why is it wrong to want to be important to the group, especially if it means shouldering serious risks?

ARGH. This is just like that time when I failed the examination for the Corps. His eyes were sad, why? “Be wary of wanting the right things for the wrong reasons” he’d said, and NEVER explained it. Why they never explain… Infuriating!

I can’t think straight. I will pray to Abadar for guidance, and see if my dreams are any more revealing than this maze of thought.

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27-January (Gilly)
Early-morning reflections

Thank goodness, Maral is finally getting to be a useful
traveling companion. I was getting worried that he’d
just keep moping about until he ran out of money or got
himself killed while I wasn’t looking. But since we’ve
arrived in Atur, he’s been a lot better. First he found
allies and together we solved a murder that the
authorities mistakenly suspected my involvement in. Then
he actually took initiative in finding the group some
employment! A simple guard-these-crates job, but still,
it’s something.

I think having a group to work in is helpful. Glad he’s
finally sticking up for himself instead of just being
grumping about. I mean, sure he’s got a hard path,
getting shat on by the family like that. But I’ve had
it worse, and you don’t see me complaining. Wonder what
he would say if he knew… as interesting as that question
is, best to save that revelation for now. If it upset
him enough, we could lose all the progress we’ve made so far.

And it has been definite progress.
There was a moment when it looked like he might have
slipped into his funk, when the merchant casually noted
the unusualness of a Glorgirn guarding merchandise instead
of overseeing it. But his sense of duty kicked in when we
were doing the actual guard work.

Two serious attempts (probably from the same source) on the
goods in one night! I think the description as ‘moderately
valuable’ might have been a bit of an understatement. Good
thing we’re all young enough to stay up all night when we
need to, so we can be there when the bar is stealthily slid
back, or the loading bay not-so-stealthily smashed in by
a battering ram. In one shot, no less. At least it gave
me a chance to assess our companions’ skills, and no one
got hurt (that we care about, that is).

Dolg’s unarmed style seemed better at defense than offense,
though that may have been the luck of a few rounds. While
he wasn’t doing much damage to start, he was holding a
position against four assailants and not getting clobbered,
which is pretty impressive without armor. This gave me time
to get a few choice shots in from the darkness. I have to
remember that I’m running short on the best arrows, can’t
depend too much on my luck. Syama wasn’t putting the enemy
out of commission, but not her job in a properly configured
group, and she was doing nicely at her real job, getting
the fallen back up. Once we had both Dolg and Maral going,
they made short work of the rest. Two dead, two captured,
none escaped — now that’s what I call success!

Our employer complained about the bandits getting blood on
his nice warehouse floor, the bastard. What the fuck does
he think the alternative was? Maral showed rare form,
offered to hire out cleanup. Which is easy enough, and
cheap, so probably the better bet than the sharp answer
that was on my lips.

Maral was in ebullient mood after the fight, but as the
morning wore on, he started withdrawing again. I’m pretty
sure he’s never killed a man before, the gentle soul. Sigh.
Yet another thing to gently work around. I’ve got my work
cut out for me.

And you know what would be awesome? If we could take our
nap before the depositions to the constables about how the
bandits were killed/captured. Ah, well.

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