The Turn of the Tide
Entry 22

9th Day of the Moth, Year of the Crown

My first hint that another of my kin was present was Gwingaerel. As I led her to the stable, her flesh quivered and she stepped high, her ears twitching in excitement. She was spirited and affectionate as I treated her at the stall, but I still had no notion the Watcher was near until I heard her call and rushed to meet with her.

The news is scant thus far but the result is unavoidable: we go now to Oakenfell, and to the Council of the Code.

But far greater a revelation is this: At last, I have made contact once again with others of my Order — and it seems others will soon follow, as the Watcher is no doubt able to contact others. This may prove to be a turning point in our battle with the Betrayer.

I could not contain my excitement with this turn of events, but Orieth was sure to advise caution:

“Take care, Elf,” said she. “Thou hast known gladness on this path, and often hath it turned unto dust. Ware the wierds of Elfin magic, lest thou be deceived. Thine are a subtle race.”

For now I shall remain cautiously optimistic, my expectations somewhere between those of owl and steed.

The Emerald Field
Entry 21

19th Day of the Seal, Year of the Crown

I had no sense of time or place. The very concept of space eluded me. My eyes saw no ground and I felt no up nor down, yet I sat up in an emerald field with a clear sky lit by a bright sun. A breeze touched my face though I felt it not.

“Awaken,” said a voice to my heart.

“But my time is done,” quoth my heart in reply.

“Awaken, for only now hast thou found the path,” said Perius. “Thy time begins now. Awaken.”

But my eyes were closed, and the field was not there. I tried to go past, but a nothing pulled at me and brought me round. I turned and walked with the nothing, with the voice, with Perius, and he took me by the hand to guide me. The sunlight faded; the grass grew grey; the breeze went cold.

Then, of a sudden, a rush: a river of cleansing fire ran through me, filling me with passion and confusion. I yearned to be born, to begin, to burst forth, but I was not yet in the world.


I opened my eyes to a clamor all about me, my limp limbs pulled aside in a long hallway (where was this?) while others shook and sheared metal at one another. The armored ones (pirates!) still attacked, and I had fallen, but strength filled my vessel as an icy liquid trickled down my throat, Razhad holding it aloft over me. I gaped around and found my place; I stood, and before me stood the warrior, the trainer, the Self-Made Master of Castle Mellinius: Bearded Tundry himself, armed and armored.

I leveled my staff and let out such a blast of flame that its tongues licked the walls black and left the front ranks hollow, scorched shells of evil men.

I was reborn.

Nilbuds tale Part 2

Moss looked surprised as the disembodied voice shrieked throughout the small antechamber. Nilbuds’ hood flicked down, her suddenly appearing body leaping across the room and hugging the old Halfling tightly.

She winced, despite seeing her old relation, overcome with pain and fatigue from the use of the cloak, but her uncle’s embrace bolstered her spirit. Nilbud felt at home for the first time in many years, despite her discomfort at traveling barefoot for days and the near drowning that preceded it.

Before pleasantries began, Moss quickly said, “They must not see you. Come with me," he turned hurriedly, then, with a second thought and a deadly serious look, “Be as quiet as a field mouse on his first trip into the widow’s kitchen!”

Moss led Nilbud down a series of dark corridors, behind large tapestries, and ducking behind pieces of furniture into what she assumed to be the servant’s quarters. They were surprisingly dark, dusty and quiet for such a large household. Moss took out a lockpick and made quick work of a door that appeared to be stuck, but in reality has been rigged with a cleverly unobtrusive lock. The room was small and dirty, the only things in this room were a small bed, a washbasin and a rumpled pile of sundries in the corner. Moss quietly instructed Nilbud to wash up and get some rest, shaking his head before she protested, “You stink more than a pole cat stuffed with your great aunt Lily’s feet! And once you’re finished, dearest…do not leave until I come back for you.” He gave her a massive hug and kiss, despite her “odor,”I’m as happy to see you as a newborn is to see his mama’s breast. Rest. Rest, rest, rest. I’ll be back as soon as I can”.

With that Moss left, Nilbud heard a soft scraping and a click as the lock reengaged. After a quick wash, Nilbud laid down and fell into a deep sleep for the first time in days too exhausted and feeling secure enough, despite the rampant fear she had seen behind her uncle’s eyes.

After some time, Nilbud awoke in the dark, with only the moon shining its light through the high windows. The sounds of barking seals outside made her feel less alone. Nilbud began her exercises: punching the stone wall with abandon, striking the sturdy bed struts with her feet until she heard footsteps in the hall. She stopped, still. Then, the scrape-click of the secret lock and Uncle Moss slipped into the room and stood before stock-still Nilbud. Perhaps it was her rested eyes or the shadows thrown by the pale moonlight, but her uncle looked different. Where he was usually round, he appeared gaunt and haggard, the lines on his face no longer from smiling, but from scowls and stress. Worst of all, the light which shone so brightly in his eyes was diminished, a mere ember of what she recalled. Those eyes she held most dear, and it pained her — moreso than hours beneath the cloak. Those eyes that were the first to truly see her, past her ugliness and beheld her possibilities and strength within.

Nilbud and Moss looked at one another in silence for a measured moment. Nilbud became aware of what she must look like to her Uncle. She had certainly grown since last they met, not only in stature and strength, but in capability as well. For the briefest moment Nilbud felt proud of all she had accomplished.

Moss broke the moment with some food with him that he had palmed from the kitchens and they took a simple but pleasant meal together despite the less than pleasant conversation. “The Keep? Taken over by pirates. And that Queen — the Regent? Mellinius. And her young King — her son, Nilbud, her son, are being held captive." He nodded solemnly, his art for two-way conversation with himself as true as the day she left.
“They loot trading ships travelling past The Bite. A devious plan. Smart, though, smart. And the bodies wash up on the rocks below. They aren’t gentle pirates, oh no. It started a few weeks ago… A ship packed to the gunnels with ruffians arrived, below. Oh, below. Yes. That’s where their dock is. For Mellinial ships. The Queen Regent denied them entrance to the port, sussing out their plot with incredible aplomb, but had few guards at her disposal. A fight broke out, and these brutes took control. They locked the young King in his chambers and took the Queen to the cells.” he gestured at the walls for some reason, then continued, "They allow her to see her son only for a few minutes each day. By a sad…or happy accident Honey and I made our way to this very place a few days later and were taken. And with far less acuity and pitched battle than this Keep put up, I am sure.
“They stole my goods and butchered my mule for her meat…I miss that ole gal worse than a man misses the sun at the end of a long winter…” his reverie broke with a slight careful touch on his hand which had paused its continuous break and bite of the breadloaf. “At first they threw us into the cells with the Queen, but soon decided to make better use of us. I am “employed” as a house boy, cleaning up and serving these shits with whatever they demand and whenever they demand it. Honey is being used as the caretaker of the King. Her sweet face and gregarious nature enamored her to the young monarch and they have much fun together filling their days with games and stories to distract him from the reality of the situation. The Queen still visits daily, but her state is getting worse. The waterrats are mistreating her…The Queen…don’t worry, Nilbud, but it’s something awful, not feeding her well, giving her the boot whenever they get drunk and angry and taking advantage of her womanhood when they are drunk and really angry. I’ve been doing the best I can to bring her what bits of food and medicine that I can sneak to her — they separated me from them upon my employment…but opportunities are few and far between.” At these final words Moss began to weep silent tears of desperation, mixed with a hint of hope as he gazed at his niece. This sight filled Nilbud with anger and pity, and there arose a new feeling inside of her, one of justified righteousness and opportunity.

Nilbud comforted her uncle and regaled him with the story of her adventures since she left the Underfoot household. He was clearly impressed, particularly with the parts of the story that took place in the Greenbirth and he almost gasped at the mention of Merla’s clothes chest. Nilbud left off the part of the story about her trying to end her life, but Uncle Moss knew her too well and after the ‘end of her story’ she looked up to see that knowing gaze and immediately spilled all her thoughts and fears on her uncle.

He patted her hand gently, “Dearest, remember the true story of Merla Underfoot? The one not told in tales around a campfire? The one of a simple Halfling,” he patted her hand again with a broad grin and dance in his eyes, “who followed her heart and ended up inadvertently doing great deeds by helping those she loved. She saved Lothar. She saved Kai’ckul.”

She nodded and then, as she could see his anticipation nearly crackling with intensity, she showed her uncle the cloak and what it could do. Moss, a well-traveled Halfling had thought he had seen everything, but even he squealed in delight at the feats his niece could accomplish; not just the turning invisible thing, but her newfound martial talents as well.

Suddenly a brightness and a twinkle came to Moss’s eye as the beginnings of a plan dawned on him, "Pirates? Notoriously superstitious folk. I’ve even witnessed the group making one of their number go outside spit and turn around three times just because he said aloud the name of Daring Dane Yuth…some notorious pirate, apparently. Died 250 years ago. Some fatal mistake. Hubris or some such. Silliness.

“What if we make them think that this keep is haunted? Using that cloak and…you, combined with some," and with a flourish, "sleight of hand and rumor mongering? I’m sure that between the two of us we can create enough chaos that you could steal away with the Queen and seek out help from the mainland.”

Nilbud immediately protested, “I will never leave you in the hands of these men! I’ve seen what they are capable of and it is not pretty…About as pretty as me."

Moss shushed her with a knowing nod and a hug, “We only have one chance a this dear one, and Honey and I can take care of ourselves. They don’t treat us too badly as long as we do what were told. Worst case scenario? I’ve stashed some packs with provisions over there in the corner in case we need to escape. I would prefer to go with my wares and cart in a few weeks when you can return with help. On the other hand, I don’t know if the queen will last that long. She is the one that needs to disappear and soon." He paused, deep in thought, tapping at his chin, tongue protruding between his hips, "Her husband, the previous King…Ormond, I believe…died when his son was born and if anyone has a reason to haunt this keep and protect he royal family, its him! Let’s start tonight!”

The Light of the Coruscant
Entry 20

18th Day of the Seal, Year of the Crown

“Tarry not when the lives of the Innocent are at risk, for she who fails to save a life hath indeed taken a life.”
“Question not when the life of an Innocent is in need of saving, for a life saved can be challenged later, but a life once lost cannot be unlost.”
“Worry not for the hale and the hardy unless the weak and the slow are safe, for though all are Innocent, those least able to help themselves are most in need of help.”
“Grieve not for Evil and suffer Him not to live, for while thou entreatest with Evil, Evil slayeth an Innocent.”
— From the Book of Arnarwyn the Coruscant

I take solace in these words of my forebears. As we approach the Castle Mellinius, the need to do what needs doing weighs on my mind, but the Coruscant accomplished great deeds in a time of nightmares by following these very words.

These men have chosen their fates. We have not the luxury of time for deliberation and deliverance. Their doom comes for them on the flying hooves of six steeds, with the fury of fire and sword. It will not waver.

A New Hope
Entry 19

15th Day of the Seal, Year of the Crown

What a change can be seen among my companions now, against that group which, blinking, stumbled out of the pavilion at Greenbirth!

We who fought and nearly died at the hands of mad wolves and rats of unusual size, who grappled with truths larger than ourselves in the hopes of finding purpose, now press boldly forth on a quest in whose worthiness none have doubt.

I dare say our company finds its courage in its cause. We go now to protect those in need — those whose salvation can also bring help to others, and whose freedom means much to us as well. If in the doing, we can right the wrongs we set in place that starry night at Greenbirth when we failed to contain the pirates, so much the better.

But one can see the change on a smaller scale. Elias — once so wide-eyed and bumbling — begins to take his first steps toward knowing self-confidence, rather than simple-minded foolhardiness. And nowhere is the change more clear than in young Nilbud: the girl who not long ago felt so devoid of worth she cast herself into the sea. Now, I see her train each morning, noon, and night with practiced discipline — not by pummeling her own head as before, but with coolly focused strikes, rigorous and reliable. I begin to see the faintest hints of pride within her. And who is to blame her for it? I feel it, too.

Is it my own foolish hopes, or does the tide turn?

A Halflings Tale
Part 1

Nilbud was beat against the rocks and by the waves, undulating and underwater, churning and believing this was the end — the end she thought best; quiet, solitary, and calm — yet, this as turning to be anything but.

Sand crunched in her teeth, and despite being completely waterlogged, she somehow felt war under the blanketing caress of the Undercloak. She spat, coughed, and sputtered, and raised her head with a grunt as her bruised and battered body resisted the minor physical exertion. She was on a beach. Somewhere. A mountain ranged before her and the water lapped behind her, kissing her bare toes, which were most definitely freezing.

She curled up, drawing the Undercloak around her, fighting through the throbbing pain and gathered her bearings. Had Kai’ckul not wanted her to perish? Certainly, Namaka had disagreed with her choice of departure and spat her out here, on this quiet beach somewhere along the Father’s Footprint. Had Merla taken offense, and was now berating her and beating her brain against the inside of her skull? It certainly felt so.

As dawn crept into the sky, Nilbud made out these were definitely the Raniar Mountains…which meant that Honey and Uncle Moss were possibly close at hand. Maybe she was supposed to reunite with them? What was the purpose of being kept alive? Of being denied what she had thought best? She didn’t know. But she did know she as glad, despite her best efforts to dispose of herself and the undeserved Undercloak, that Merla’s gift still clung to her shoulders.

Frustrated, alone, and with too many unanswered questions — feeling powerless and confused — she let her feet guide her westward, following Wala’s lead and finding the Melliniar Road.

It was desolate. Nary a person to be seen, and wildlife was few and far between — though thankfully normal-sized. She walked through the day. Through the night. Some inner store of strength fueling her, despite the travails her body had suffered at the hands of the Water of the Fathers. She had endless time with her thoughts, but no sleep, and thus no dreams to commune with her relative or God-mentor.

Eventually, the black stonework of Castle Mellinius grew into focus, denoting The Bight and the end of Western Kai’ckul. Ranius’ Arm terminated here, at the Castle, but her family supposedly had come this way. And still might be here. She approached, weary, sand still in the webbing of her fingers, crusting her unruly locks, and crunching in the creased of her clothing.

Her instincts awoke her from her walking reverie, her questing and trance state. Something was wrong. The Castle — though known to be home to a family of two and a household of spare staff and few guards - was too quiet. Flipping the hood of her-Merla’s—no, her cloak up, she passed under the portcullis as the waves battered the rocks down below and the wind whipped around her.

Nilbud passed under the portcullis, beset by panic. Some part of her believing the gate would slam shut behind her, trapped in the desolate, far-flung locale. Moments stretched into minutes and the gate remained aloft. She breathed a sigh of relief and pressed onward into the outer courtyard of Castle Mellinius. In spite of herself, invisible thanks to the cloak and knowing she could not be seen, she clung to the outer walls tentatively. Even careful, a crunching came from underfoot. She looked down and was stunned: Crunchgrass. But how did it get all the way out here? The Greenbirth was a week away, at least.

Before she had much time to ponder, a bark blasted at her from across the courtyard. A dog roused by the sound rounded the corner, snuffing intently along the path she had traversed. And an immense dog it was. Nilbud immediately recognized him as the very same one she had wrestled into submission back at the pirate encampment…in the Greenbirth…unless there were a proliferation of these monstrous versions of canines.

Just as this recognition dawned on her, the huge man who had claimed to be the dog’s master came around the corner to see what had piqued his trusty pup’s interest. While the giant Mastiff sniffed and whimpered knowingly scant inches from where she stood, the man saw nothing and tugged back on the dog’s collar, dragging the beast back across the courtyard with incredible effort as it dug its paws into the soil, not wanting to budge.

Mentally declaring a mild expletive, she punched herself in the head, wishing for the thousandth time she had run when she had Walter’s bag in hand. These must be the very same pirates from the Greenbirth. She immediately knew she must continue on. How had these pirates come to reside within Castle Mellinius? Had Uncle Moss and Honey come this way as well? Too many answers to needed questions would be found here.

Knowing herself to be clumsy, and not wanting to slip and make a racket, she decided to move through the open gate rather than scaling the wall. She moved carefully so as to not make the slightest sound — there were enemies around. Nilbud rounded the corner of the arched opening and found herself face to face with the massive mastiff sniffing the air wildly and huffing in confusion, seeking the source of the odor which had just reappeared.

Recognizing the smell of the Halfling, the dog backed away, placing its head low to the ground with its tail in the air in an act of playful submission waiting for a fun wrestling match to begin. The beast of a man sat in a nearby chair, picking his nose with fury. He looked over, making no attempt to hide his disgruntled state of mind, stopped his nasal inquiry and flicked some snot at the dog, yelling loudly, “Mutt. Stop being such an idiot! Here. Confounded thing grows, but not it’s brain. HERE I SAID!” and reluctantly, the mastiff was brought back to heel.

With another sigh of relief, Nilbud slowly creeped away from the odd couple towards the entrance to the keep. Aware that any amount of aggressive humans may await her inside, Nilbud hesitated momentarily at the door. How to get in without being noticed?

Spying nearby crates resting near the building, Nilbud climbed up and looked into the nearby window. As her eyes adjusted to the light, she saw a small form working to clean out a sooty fireplace. Seeing him occupied and alone, Nilbud decided to take the advantage and slowly opened the door to slip inside. Despite being as quiet as possible, the figure murmured an apology, “Dearest apologies, sirs, I will be finished shortly, as promised.” and turned from his task.

Nilbud saw a countenance she recognized immediately — despite the dirty sooty, smeared face. His name escaped her lips before she could even think to keep her voice down “Uncle Moss”!!!!

The Rules Have Changed
Entry 18

12th Day of the Oak, Year of the Crown

The world cracks and my head spins. Everything has changed.

I write hurried thoughts now as the others patch wounds: we have reached safety now for the first time in hours. My wounds need healing but I can scarcely keep these thoughts in my head without them careening about, madly caroming off one another.

The Dwarfs of Carn Orn did have dealings, but not with some mortal leader of wyrmspawn. They dealt with Undying Celadon. It was Celadon, Wyrm of Death, locked for untold ages in chthonic sleep and now awoken, no doubt, by the deeds of Maegwir with whom they dealt. There can be no reckoning with Celadon; no demands; no peace. These Dwarfs will not be swayed by any words of Elf or Man — indeed, why should they, if they be not moved by decency, by brotherly love?

We cannot hope, I think, to persuade these Dwarfs to help their neighbors. But with some luck we may be able to broker their help in containing the creatures that have begun to spill from the depths. They need no longer work through wyrmlings to reach Celadon, so perhaps they will no longer defend them?

More importantly, there is work to be done. Lykk must be found, but most importantly of all, banners must be raised from one coast to the other.

I fear the Lost Wars have returned to Kai’ckul.

Beauty Beheld
(a prose interlude)

Eldorin slid gracefully into the water and flailed madly to push himself further and deeper.

The water was dark, but lit from the bright light they had cast to the floor, and all around him were glittering points of firelight—a million shimmering facets of light reflected from multi-hued surfaces, each one of them an epic tale of bygone days. Here, a chalice seemingly from the dominion of the Elflord Dornion of the Age of Fathers. There, a scepter, likely that of one of the Arbiters of the Nathrach of old. Armlets, rings, cylinders, circlets. To every side they were piled high, in a ring around the chamber. Chests, barrels, tables, racks; each brimming with artifacts of yore, spilling out onto the chamber floor.

A hot, throbbing sensation among the cold water brought him back to his body: while he gaped slack-jawed about him, he still held his breath. He grabbed a handful of something from a barrel-top and swam for the opening at the top. Instinctively, he gasped for a breath only to inhale water and gag, causing him to gasp further. His sight went black, but he fought it back. With technique forged over ten lifetimes of Man, he closed his eyes and halted the palpitations of his throat.

He reopened his eyes and clambered through the opening, where his arm was pulled up by the welcome hands of Lykk Darling. One heave and Eldorin was to the side, choking out water while the next volunteer slid into the water.

Eldorin caught his breath and rolled over onto his back, closing his eyes and thinking back. He could not go back down. They could not retrieve this lot. There was simply too much for any of them to carry out of here; it was too dangerous in this place, with enemies lurking; for too many reasons. But the history! The tales, long dismissed as the foolish fancies of a dying generation, now proven true! How many new tales could be told with what was here?

As he beheld the beauty and wonder of the longspear Lykk perused—without doubt an ancient artifact of great importance—a tear came to Eldorin’s eye.

They would return.

Bestiary - notes
Entry 17

Short of frame — no higher than a Dwarf at best — and covered in green scales like the wyrms themselves, while some hairs protrude between the scales. Their small limbs end in talons though they fight with spear or sword like any of the civilized races. Heads horned and jaws like a lizard. They are not exceedingly hardy, but truly seem to be crafted from the very mold of the wyrms. Indeed, their breath exudes a noxious fume that can be lethal.
NOTE: I have an untested suspicion that perhaps the wyrmlings we have found are merely the spawn of Celadon; thus, their green colour and perhaps the nature of their breath may be linked to him — if so there may be wyrmlings of other colours and hence other abilities….

Similar to the wyrmlings in colour and flesh, but much larger and brawnier. These creatures are at least man-height, and while they do not seem of much greater intellect, they are adept in combat and often lead wyrmlings. Wyrmkin seem to have no “dragon’s breath”, which seems odd. Again, I must wonder if there are wyrmkin of other colours….

These creatures are no larger than the wyrmlings but covered in a tawny fur or hair, with wispy tufted ears. We have not yet great experience with these, but I suspect these may be somewhat defter of the mind. Certainly they are drawn to beasts, and already we have seen them fight alongside wolves. Where the wolves come from that would side with monster against Elendil is a mystery to me.

It also seems that some creature among these Lost Races (for indeed so I suspect them to be) may possess the power to make vermin into a familiar of sorts, witnessing events through the eyes of such a creature, and perhaps even exerting some degree of power of will over the poor things. More information is needed.

An Inkling of Dread
Entry 16

12th Day of the Oak, Year of the Crown

NOTE: The human Lykk Darling has thus far eluded my deeper observation as such a fresh recruit. At first he seemed naught but a mindless pawn under the strength of Khalo‘s belief, but he grows daily into a powerful force for good. I cannot help but recall the promise shown by young Nilbud, and the fragility of her psyche — the despair that lurked just beneath. I must take care to show support for young Lykk. Kai’ckul knows he deserves it; for all his troubled missteps, he is a good child with a strong heart. Moreover, if not for him we should never have discovered these imprisoned Dwarfs nor persuaded those above to let us back down here. Indeed, we may not have escaped with our lives. For that matter, we may yet not.

It is now nearly time to put down the pen and pick up the staff. If fortune favors us, we may yet turn this hold around.

But to do so, we must delve deeper and burn out the heart of what infects this place, and if that be not possible, plug it up. But what will we find down here? Plenty of Wyrmkin and Wyrmlings: that much is clear already. But my heart tells me something else lurks here. Exactly what I know not, but it fills me with an inkling of dread that slowly spreads and blots out all before it.


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