After we left, part 10

*Editor’s note: This entry and the next few that follow contain unverifiable information, due to the absence of proper identifiable characteristics in the landscape described and as such should be taken with a helping of skepticism.

By the gods, there is a village in the mountain. Words are going to fail me in describing this properly. There was a void as far as the eye could see in all directions and floating in it like corks on a bucket of water were little islands, most only big enough for one small building. A few had room for several small buildings or one large building. And exactly two had room for small castle-like structures. One appeared to be at the center of whatever in the hells this place was.

That in and of itself wasn’t all that strange. I’d heard of the island cities of the far off continent after all. What set this apart from those stories was that there was nothing here for these islands to be suspended in. Well that and all of these little islands (I’m just going to call them islands) were sort of moving in and through the void that surrounded them.

The three of us just stared like a trio of slack jawed fools staring at the spectacle of it all. After watching it for a while it became clear that folks were moving from one island to another by waiting for them to a pair of islands to move closer to one another.

A few more minutes and it finally clicked. The various smaller islands were moving in orbits around the center island. Moreover, they were doing so with a regular and timable pattern. The music we could hear from outside appeared to be coming from a building that looked like an inn about halfway between us and the keep at the center.

I nudged the boys and started forward. I think I had the timing down on catching and riding these various islands from one to another. We’d been noticed by some of the locals but none of them seemed all that concerned about us. They all looked far more put out by whatever was making the racket in the inn, though they did keep a healthy distance from us. It made me wonder if they could smell us. Or maybe they smelled the worgs. I’d ask someone when we could find someone who didn’t want to be away from us.

I looked down to make sure I wasn’t running around without clothes again. I’d stopped doing that but the heat of the desert and the exertion of the climb made me doubt my own ability to act civilized.

With nothing better to go off of and this being what was likely to be our only chance to try and resupply on our way up the mountain, the inn or tavern of whatever it was seemed like as good a place as any to start. It was at that moment that it hit me, I couldn’t feel my connection to the lady. And the bird that was hers was acting weird. I thought that without her I’d go back to being dead so I started to freak a little until I saw Shojin hold his hand to his chest. Ok, so I wasn’t in this along.

Gnoman, who at the most stressful of times is composed, whether with the cold and calculating nature of a stone cold killer or the calmness of a tranquil pond, spoke up with the smallest hint of concern in his voice.

“Something is wrong here.”

I tried to get the bird that was mine before I was the lady’s to fly around us in a lazy circle. Nothing. I tried to look through the bird’s eyes. Nothing. Well shit. I tried to call forth my ladies wings, the weird weapon I’d been wielding since I figured out how to make it. Nothing.

I figured whatever was going on and wherever we were, we were on our own. Thankfully there was no visible threat to our wellbeing. We exercised some caution in our approach to business and I slowly pushed open the door.

We’d not even made it through the door to what was now clearly a tavern and possibly an inn of sorts when a voice called out from inside.

“Hello travelers. Come in and take a load off. All are welcome in at the end of the world.”

I was curious to learn more. If people lived here it must not be that dangerous. Since the barkeep was smiling at us I figured he was the owner of the voice so I made a beeline for the bar without waiting for the guys to even make it all the way through the door.

I had faith in the lady that we were here for a reason, time to try and figure out what that reason was.

After we left, part 9

Three days later and the sand started giving way to rockier terrain and we were slowly gaining altitude over the desert sea we’d been on for weeks. Dead, desolate and empty. I don’t know that I’ll miss it.

More importantly I still don’t have a plan. I’ve been finding time every day to quietly pray to lady in hopes that she will offer something more than vague glimpses, but despite her continued cryptic images I just know deep down inside that we will make it.

This must be like what Ezrella and Z felt when they had faith blind in their gods. Just a deep feeling of knowing that they will keep you on the path you are meant to be on. I can’t see it but I trust that the lady will keep me on her path. It is why I devoted myself to her. Sometimes I feel like my birds are looking at me with her eyes. I don’t tell the boys this. I worry that they will worry that I am starting to lose my mind.

The boys don’t say anything as we make our way higher and higher but I can see the concern growing on their faces. We may have food to get us through, it tastes like crap by the way, but we don’t have any way to deal with the elements or if the destination is an island as the lady has shown us a way to cross the sea. We don’t have any real way to climb or descend a mountain depending on the need. And our meager supplies, the stuff we’ve had since we started this journey together are only getting us so far and only barely such at that. Next time I am planning so much better for a world saving quest. Like stopping at shops planning.

I spend most of the time pissed at myself. Pissed that I have acted so often like a petulant child. Pissed that I have been the easiest me and not the best. The lady deserves better. My friends deserve better. By the gods, I deserve better.

So as we set up our camp such as it was, during my watch I pledged myself to the lady anew and in that pledge I promised that I would be the champion my lady required, not because she required it but because she deserved it. She saved me from death. From oblivion. It doesn’t mean I can’t burn the place down. But now, I’ll be doing it for a cause. That’s better right?

Now that repledging myself to the lady happened last night. This morning we’d been walking/climbing for half the morning when we happened upon a most curious sight. Well it wasn’t just a sight.

It was a hold concealed behind some rocks. Under normal circumstances we wouldn’t have paid it a second glance, but under these circumstances and with these companions, we just had to take a look. It was just big enough for each of us to pass through and there was some noise coming from the other side.

So we went through the hole and found the most curious thing.

After we left, part 8

Ok, it has now been two full weeks with these disgusting asshole worgs. If I’d not been paying attention myself to the passage of days, I would have known that the time had passed when the worgs just stopped walking, dumped our asses into the sand and just walked back the direction from which we came. For a talkative bunch of shits they were uncharacteristically quiet at the end of our time together which made me wonder if they had come to hate us less than they first seemed.

We’d been seeing a mountain range all along the horizon to the south for the better part of a week and it didn’t feel like we were all that much closer at this point, but it didn’t matter. I had my mission and so we continued south. I checked the egg as I had been every day since it started to shift at my touch. All seemed well and I hoped we would get where we needed to get before this thing hatched. I didn’t know what we would do if it did. But that thought didn’t matter. The mission did.

So we walked. So far in this journey we had gone whole days at a time without talking. We went through the day through the muscle memory of having every day being the same. I’d seen death and wonder with these men and they were willing to travel with me to the end of the world on what had to appear to them as the whim of a tiny lunatic.

I can only tell them the stories I see so many times, but without their seeing and feeling what I had they could only just help keep me safe on this trek to visit what I hoped was a benevolent silver dragon somewhere over the mountains in front of us. We were closing in on our destination with every step we took and I kept avoiding what that meant. Was that the end of the journey? Was that just a stop on the way? How did it fit in everything we’d done and seen so far? I had so many more questions than answers. How were the two, now three of us expected to play a role in stopping something on what seemed to be a cosmic scale.

The lady had been giving me nightly glimpses of what lie on the far side of the mountain. In some it was a jungle peninsula and in others it was an island. I could only guess that they were from the past and the present or future but knew that I would have to set eyes on it to know for sure.

As night started to fall on our first day back on foot Gnoman spoke up.

“So there is probably gonna be snow on the mountain and it looks like we are about three days out from starting the climb. Do you have a plan for dealing with that?”

I said the only thing I could think of.

“The lady will give us what we need.”

I hoped I was right.

Shit. I needed to come up with something fast. At least I finally have something to distract me from thinking about how eventually I need to make things right for the man. The symbolism isn’t lost on me. He was just doing his job. I am just doing my job. I still feel like garbage about it.

After we left, part 7

A week into our journey through this nothingness I had two dreams in the same night. The first was like watching where we were but having the clock move backwards quickly. Eventually the desert became a dense land of the most verdant greens. There were lakes and rivers and I was seeing it above as if from the perspective of my birds. It was breathtaking. My descriptions are a shit description for the unparalleled beauty of this land. I figured that she was once again showing me things from the past and the intention was that it functioned as a history lesson, but I couldn’t connect it to our current endeavor. People just don’t talk about whatever the Wastes used to be. Only what they are.

The second dream was different. It was in the desert and I just somehow knew that it was in modern times. There was an old dwarven man. The top of his head was devoid of hair but his full white beard hung down past his waist. He stood beside a cart surveying the full extent of his current situation. A wheel had come off the axle. It didn’t appear to bother him. He took his hat off and wiped his brow with a dirty rag and set to work. That was how I knew he didn’t have hair. He had tools and was in the process of fixing it with those and some kind of magic I was unfamiliar with. He had no shortage of artisans tools in his cart. It wasn’t entirely clear what he was doing, but based on what was in the cart it was something both magical and manufactured. I didn’t understand it at all but it looked cool. He had a four legged mechanical beast that made no sense but appeared to be a travel companion of some sort. It had legs but no clear body makeup that I was familiar with beyond that. He was speaking to it and it appeared to understand and respond to him. I could hear what he said and I had no idea what the lady was trying to tell me showing this.

I told Shojin and Gnoman about both dreams in the morning. They listened as companions do, Shojin clearly the more interested of the two, but neither of them had any explanations for what either dream might have meant. Not that it mattered. It was just around midday that day that we met the man.

He was something called an artificer. I greeted him warmly and insisted that we help him right his cart. The boys did not object… too much. I asked for him to tell us his tale in return. His name was Sanchun and he was apparently something called an “Artificer” and his four legged thing was equal parts assistant, travel companion and he claimed friend. He came from under the mountains in the north. He was out searching for any of his children that were still alive. He explained that his children were a dozen magi-mechanical men, something he called “Warforged”. He said that he had made them to protect others, but had miscalculated when they were needed.

He said he still had one son still at home, but he was trying to collect the others. He’d caught word here and there of strange mechanical men, and had the misfortune of finding the remains of one along the coast on his journey. He called him December. While clearly saddened that his son was in this state, he didn’t seem too concerned that he appeared dead. He believed he could fix him once he returned home. It was something that he had apparently had to learn how to do over the years when some of his more ambitious children had bitten off more than they could chew in a fight.

For our troubles he gifted us with a simple looking box. He said that each of us just needed to touch it every evening when we made camp for the night and in the morning there would be enough food for each of us to survive the day. It wouldn’t be fancy, or flavorful but if it was the difference between eating and not, it could be a lifesaver. He showed us the food it made, as he had another one for himself, and it looked like a bar of compressed sawdust and didn’t smell a whole lot different.

We thanked him profusely before heading on our way and he on his. Strangely, the worgs behaved themselves throughout the entire encounter. It almost seemed like they were wary of this strange lone man in the middle of nowhere.

One final note on the day, if the lady was now showing me not just things that had happened but things that would, I’d have to go back and read through my notes on the lady’s other dream messages. Maybe there were other things that didn’t make sense because they hadn’t happened yet.

After we left, part 6

It’s been a couple of days since I was able to write in this. I need to make a couple quick observations should this work serve others at some point in the future. The desert that feels like it is going to fry you like cheap meat at the local tavern through the day is downright bone chilling at night. And with a general lack of fuel for a campfire it has forced us to stay closer together than the three of us are comfortable with when we make camp for the night. It keeps us warmer than if we didn’t though so nobody really complains. There was a weird conversation about it on the first night and it was just not a thing after that. It’s just what we do.

Gnoman talks in his sleep. Different accents, voices and languages. I’m confident that one night he was speaking something demonic, but not speaking those languages myself I can only guess. I don’t question it or even say anything. I just accept it. He’s Gnoman, just like all the others that are Gnoman. His hair smells like burnt meat and honey. It makes me miss home.
Another thing we don’t talk about is our dependence on the worgs for survival. They patrol/hunt every night. We get their scraps. It’s not enough for us to live on forever, but it’s better than nothing. It’s usually mangled enough that we can’t tell what it was in life and they refuse to tell us. Which is a whole other thing. Apparently if you aren’t strong enough for them to fear you or respect you, they call you food. It’s a joke to them. They constantly insult us for not being dangerous predators. They also talk constantly to each other as though we aren’t there. Every once in awhile Gnoman will laugh at something they say, but when asked what was funny and he explains it doesn’t make sense to Shojin and I.

I was able to get them to call Shojin Jenny so maybe they aren’t that bad. The smell is though. They smell like a wet whorehouse filled with warm fresh shit. It is not a smell I’m getting used to and I fear the day that I do. I attribute most of this to their returning to camp covered in gore nightly from their hunts. They rarely eat in front of us but when they do there is no mistaking that they are wild beasts. It’s both awe inspiring and utterly disgusting. Tearing flesh from… something. Eagerly licking their lips of whatever blood and other juices is left there. I look forward to never having to watch them again.

The best thing I can say about that trio is that they are fiercely loyal. To each other at least. They regard us only slightly better than they do humans which they view as something, according to them, so beneath them that they are only food should nothing else be available. This is apparently the highest insult amongst their kind.

The only thing that lets us know we’re heading in the right direction are the sunrise and sunset. We know we’re heading due south. Every night I pray to the lady and hope that she shows me something, anything that lets me know that we are heading in the right direction but so far if I am having any dreams I don’t remember them when I wake. Shojin has been dreaming about his mom most nights. I think it’s sweet and I’ve tried to talk to him about it but it’s something he’s not really wanting to talk about. I can tell it makes him sad but I don’t press.

Every night when we make camp, Gnoman does something he calls Caw Ta’s. He moves his body like he would in a fight but much slower. It’s all very deliberate and beautiful to watch. He said it helps him keep centered and “stay in tune with me”. I have no idea what that even means, but on the third night of this I asked if he would teach me. The lack of a real scrap was getting me a little squirrely and so I figured I could use the opportunity to stay on task. I talked Shojin into it as well and it felt good for the three of us to do this together.

All in all, it feels like the solitude of the desert is bringing us together.

After we left, part 5

No sooner had we shut the door than there came a scratching upon it. And growls. So initially we decided to just move some of the rubble in front of the massive double doors with the thought being that it should hold until morning at least. And it appeared to. Nothing attempted to force entry into the outside.

There were some noises though from deeper into what we suspected was a tomb. So, you know, cool. I sent one of the birds to check for a source to the noise deeper inside, but there was no light so they couldn’t find anything of note, other than a tunnel that was collapsed, so there wasn’t a whole lot of investigating that could be done deep inside this place which was fine because we didn’t have much time for any sort of a respite before there came a series of three sharp raps on the doors to the outside. Initially we ignored it and nothing came of it.

The darker recesses of the room we were in, upon further inspection were littered with remains. Bodies of various sizes and in various states of decay. Mostly humanoid, but some, the fresher ones had arms that appeared to end in blades.

The knocking on the door again. This time accompanied by a muffled voice none of us could make out. Gnoman moved closer to the door to try and get a better vantage should the voice speak again.

Then came the howling as if from a pack of wolves. Again though, muffled by the doors.

Eventually though, our waiting was rewarded. The voice called out again. It worked out that Gnoman was at the door, he was the only one who could translate what was said.

Apparently a goblin warchief called Bloodtusk was informing us that we were in his territory and our choices were to pay a usage fee for travelling in this part of his domain, or face his wrath.

Being not in the mood for a fight, Jenny and I agreed that we should try and find a nonviolent solution. So negotiations ensued. I heard both Gnoman and a chorus of voices on the outside erupt into laughter at one point so I assumed that everything was going well. When asked what was so funny, Gnoman said it didn’t translate well into the common tongue from Goblin and proceeded to say something about the blood of the innocent and bathing in a puddle of piss. Yeah, I didn’t get it.

When it was all said and done, Gnoman had gotten us mounts for the next fortnight as well as assurances that we would be left unaccosted for the duration of our time in the warchief’s domain.

Completion of the deal did require opening the door though, and this… war band… was a sight to behold.

There were a dozen or so goblins of various sizes and it was clear who the leader was. The goblin in front with the bloody tusk emblazoned upon his leather armor. He stood fully a head shorter than any of the others in his group. Respect for the small.

It turned out that mount was a somewhat loose term and that we would be riding on Worgs. Jenny had a slight frame and I’m not big so we got fairly standard looking ones. Gnoman’s though, was a thing of nightmares, and thing is an accurate descriptor for the trundling and massive beast that seemed to peel itself away from the darkness. It growled from somewhere deep inside it’s chest, and spoke because apparently Worgs can speak.

“Sleep, food. We leave at first light.” The other two laughed at this.

Blood tusk and his group stayed for the remainder of the night and they weren’t so bad once you got to talking with them. Jenny loved his group’s cooking, but it looked like people stew so I politely declined. They did give us a few days worth of food when they finally departed though.

And in the morning we set out south once more, but not until after what felt like hours of watching Gnoman slowly sweep his arms though the air collecting the ambient moisture into canteens for us all, mounts included. He said he’d do this as needed on our journey, for which I was thankful. We’d never bothered to stock up for any kind of actual duration on this journey through the desert. Crap.

After we left, part 4

I woke up in a strange place today. Strange in that I don’t remember getting to where we currently are. The forest is nowhere on any horizon. Gnoman and Shojin seemed pleased that I was finally awake. I came to find out that Shojin had woken up a day prior. The last week is mostly a blurred blank. I can remember bits and pieces of what happened but I had to rely on Shojin and Gnoman to fill in the blanks. So a lot of this is going to be based on what they told me and for some of it I just have to hope they weren’t screwing with me.

The day after my last entry we began towards the forest as we had for the days prior, but as we got closer a few things became clear, the land under and around the forest was barren of any greenery which would make sense if there was no light hitting the ground I guess. At our closest point to the tree a couple things became clear.

There was some kind of weird fruit on the ground that looked safe enough but when I tried to eat one Gnoman moved faster than should have been possible to smack it out of my hand. He didn’t know why we shouldn’t eat it, only that something inside him said it wasn’t safe. I’ve traveled with one Gnoman or another for a while now so I had no reason not to trust him. It looked pretty yum though. I slipped a few into my pack for… further study.

Beyond all that though something was wrong. Wrong with the forest. Wrong with the ground. And soon enough, wrong with me.

The forest wasn’t a forest as much as it first appeared, but was apparently just a single tree, gnarled and so much bigger than simply massive would even begin to describe. It made no sense how a single tree could get this big, but there is so much in this world that I do not understand I just accepted it for what it was.

The ground around the tree looked dry at first glance but it was something more. It was almost blighted in how it looked. Almost as if poisoned by something. It was also so littered with white sticks that it was hard to even see the ground around the base of the canopy. But it was clear that there were no sticks underneath it. As we continued closer it became clear that it wasn’t sticks but rather bones of varying sizes. The most prominent among them looked like some kind of humanoid with a skull that looked very much like a bull, only they were my size. And that was all we saw in both directions around the tree as far as we could see.

At this point we stopped moving closer to the tree. I guess as we’d been advancing Shojin was concerned about my behavior because I just started carrying on full conversations with both my birds and the Raven Queen.

As we started to make our way around the tree now, and I am only guessing at this point, our proximity to whatever malevolence is housed within it and I collapsed as we were making our way towards the seashore to circle around this monolithic tree.

I vaguely remember seeing a boat on the horizon I think. Small and swift as it glided across the waves.

After I was out I guess they initially tried to wake me and when that didn’t work they took turns carrying me. Gnoman seemed to know what needed to happen for us to survive and it appeared that the longer he was near the tree his strength was almost bolstered. That plan worked for a solid day before Shojin started getting weird. He spent most of the day talking to his mom and someone named Michael. It made me sad to hear about that because I wasn’t there for him when he could have used me. He’d never talked about a Michael before. Must have been from his time before we met.

Gnoman seems to be no stranger to loss, though it’s losses he doesn’t talk about, or can’t maybe, but it’s made him kind of wise. He was at least able to keep Shojin going in the right direction and he carried me. As they were making camp on the fourth day is when everything went sideways. Shojin was becoming more and more agitated as the evening wore on and as they were eating he threw his food down and charged toward the tree screaming some incomprehensible gibberish. Gnoman had to tackle him knock him out and tied him up to not have to go through that again. He had some pretty nasty rope burns on his wrists.

Gnoman could have just left us at this point. We were both useless for anything but taking up space at that point. But he didn’t, and I’m grateful for his compassion and tenacity here. He was able to fashion a stretcher of sorts and for a quiet day he drug us behind him.

After being out for all of the fifth day, Shojin started to come back to consciousness but was still out of it a bit at first. With the tree finally somewhat behind them and distance increasing his senses slowly returned throughout the sixth day. And so tree at their back and the southern desert Gnoman ahead of them they pressed on, again taking turns carrying me.

On the sixth night, they heard howls carrying on the cold desert wind but nothing came of it, at least not that night.

They continued travelling south as scrubby grassland gave way to sand. So much sand. And still they travelled on, which was honestly stupid. I was the only one who had any idea where we were heading and I was not conscious at that point. I guess they were just hoping that I’d wake up.

As they worked their way south they came across something in the sand. The sand had a crust of what they believed to be blood in the shape of a tusk. It was easily eight or nine feet long. Having no idea what it was or meant, they just kept moving.

As dusk started to roll in I started to rouse and that brings us back to the present. I don’t remember any of what was happening in the world around me while I was out but I did have a crazy dream. It was probably just a fever dream, but it marks the third time I have dreamt of dinosaurs. But this time the great lizard had a rider. A newborn baby with light projecting from his eyes. I don’t tell the boys about any of this.

And the man. Always the man. Why wouldn’t he just move.

As we took shelter from the night winds behind a large hill we saw something shimmer in the darkness. It looked like gold. After a little digging we found that it was a giant door. It took us several hours to clear enough sand to be able to get either of what were massive doors open. They were so worn by time and windswept sand that it was impossible to see what was carved on their doors but it was probably quite beautiful in its time. I can’t shake the notion that I have seen this place before, but I know I’ve never been here before.

There are howls on the wind which the boys say are the same as the past last night. Prevailing theory is that something is stalking us. We decided to take refuge in whatever this place until at least morning. But I mean hey, if we’re here already, might as well look around.

After we left, part 3

After the last few days I thought that I was prepared for anything. But as I sit here in camp, exhausted from the events of the day I think I was wrong. This morning I was greeted by something I was entirely unprepared for.

As we were preparing to break camp this morning, it seemed strange that Gnoman had not gotten up when Shojin and I did. After checking, it became clear that he wasn’t breathing. That bothered me. I’ve seen Gnoman die before, well a Gnoman anyways, but not one that had travelled with me. I never expected Gnoman to go in his sleep. That seemed almost antithetical to who and what he was. Shojin and I spent most of the rest of the morning digging a shallow grave and finding enough rocks to cover it. We said a few words and as we were gathering our things to leave we heard a noise behind us, turning to find Gnoman.

Now it clearly couldn’t have been the one we’d been with. His dress was different and he had an almost feral quality to him. Like the rage was almost more than his form could contain. His greeting was like that of a madman, sharp and almost a scream.

But as Shojin and I are so wont to do, we just followed our routines that came to Gnoman and we were once again heading south.

We broke for lunch later than normal due to the delays of the morning, but we were hungry so it made sense. As we were about to start back on the road south, we were beset by a raiding party. They were too numerous to count, but the one thing that stood out was that they were all human men. They claimed the reason they were planning to rob us was that we weren’t. Anything we had acquired on our adventures were things we were not fit to own. “Our kind” didn’t deserve them. We weren’t pure enough.

New Gnoman… vehemently and violently disagreed with that assessment. He’d decapitated two before they even knew it was to be a fight and three more just after the fight began proper. After what felt like an hour fighting these racist garbage people I was so exhausted I didn’t think I could fight anyone else if my life depended on it.

Shojin looked like he’d been on the receiving end of a right proper ass whipping, but that was his normal post fight look after all. Gnoman was on his back propped up on one of the decapitated men. His breath had this raspy rattle sound to it and blood was pooling underneath him from some wound we couldn’t see. As we moved to try and help him he stopped us.

“It’s my time”, he said.

It was nearly time for dinner when we’d finished burying him. We may have only known him for part of a day but he died, even if unintentionally, protecting us. By and large, the Gnomans we have met seem to be good men deep down. We left the bandits in a pile by the side of the road. Let the critters feast. At least they would be good for something then.

We’d not made it maybe another hour down the road when we decided to break for dinner. We’d dug two graves and fought for our lives. It had been a pretty full day. As we were setting up what ended up being our camp for the night a person came walking up the hill beside the road. A slow leisurely sort of walk. The sun was at their back so we couldn’t see his face. All we could see as they approached was their somewhat loose clothing, and their hair being blown back over their shoulders in the breeze.

As they grew closer we could begin to hear the notes on the breeze of their playing a flute. It was catchy in its own way. They stopped playing long enough to wave when they were still a hundred or so yards off. So friendly, maybe?

It wasn’t until they were right on us that we were able to see the nearly ear to ear smile on the face of Gnoman. Happy, jovial and friendly. So not like any Gnoman we’ve known before. I was able to get him doing the Jenny thing so there is something to be said for that bit of consistency.

We told him of the day we’d had but left out the pair of Gnoman’s we’d encountered and travelled with. When we spoke of the battle in the afternoon, he got a sad look on his face. When I asked him what was wrong, he said that it always saddened him to hear of things turning to conflict.

Violence should only ever be a last resort he said. Something to be used after all options for a peaceful resolution have passed. It seemed like there was more to this, but it looked painful so we didn’t press.

Before we could even suggest it he had asked if he could travel with us because we seemed “interesting”. We of course accepted.

After the events of the day, I’m left with lots of questions. Why is this one different? Why are the rest of them so filled with rage? Is this one filled with the same rage, but he’s trying to be something else? Would we be burying him tomorrow? I hoped not. This one was weird, but he seemed like our kind of weird.

A peaceful Gnoman? Nope, was totally not prepared for that.

After we left, part 2

Alright, so it’s now been a little over a week since we left our friends. I don’t cry all the time but I still call Shojin Jenny. Something weird happened on the road heading south today. I saw something off the side of the road in the thick brush and trees.

“Jenny, what is that over there in the trees?”
“Please stop calling me that.”
“Jen-nay please.”
“I think it’s no man.”
“Ok, but what do you think it is?”
“Pretty sure it’s no man.”
“Sure, but what could it be?”
“The psychotic, amnesiac, sometimes friend we run around with. Gnoman.”
“Oh yeah, that makes more sense. Cause it totally looked like a man and you kept saying it wasn’t a man, but it really was a man. And it’s like the most murdery, manly man we know.”

We were not surprised when he didn’t know who we were. He was as surprised as he usually was that we knew who he was. As usual, he didn’t have any pressing business elsewhere so it felt good to have him travelling with us. Well maybe not better so much as just safer. He knows how to wreck shit and he never seems happier than in the chaos of battle.

The best part though is that since he didn’t remember us I was able to get him calling Shojin Jenny as well. Shojin is so pissed at me now.

But the mission hasn’t changed. We still think we’re looking for a ruined temple somewhere in the Golden Wastes. At least we think it’s there. It’s the only desert we know of on this continent. We have no idea what we’re going to find there. The dreams aren’t clear on that front.

I didn’t tell Shojin this but I woke up with The Egg in my arms today. I’m a little worried it’s the egg making me hold it, but it might be the lady trying to tell me something. She can be vague like that. Sometimes all I want is a straight damn answer. Did we even do the right thing leaving them? I’m constantly asking myself that.

Shojin made an observation today that really got me thinking. In all the time it took us to travel to Highbreeze from that Inn in Hammerfall we were accosted, distracted, abducted, and pursued over hill and dale at nearly every turn but we’ve made better time and encountered no obstacles since it became just the two, now three of us.

We’ve stayed somewhat clear of the road itself while still trying to keep it in sight since what happened with the horse cart guy. It’s still eating at me and I think it will for some time. I’ve killed before, and it feels like often, but that man wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was just trying to stop some “thieves” and it doesn’t matter that I was just trying to scare him. I killed an unarmed man in the street.

If I make it through what comes ahead, I’ll have to answer for that. I need to answer for it. “Actions have consequences”, my father used to tell me. I don’t know that I ever understood that before I rode off looking like a pickle. But I pushed these thoughts back when they come up. The mission has to come first.

As we moved into the afternoon we saw a shadow start growing on the horizon to fill our entire view in both directions. At first we thought it was a storm moving in from the south, which was weird because storms never came from the south. It wasn’t until we were getting ready to set up camp that we realized it was a massive forest, and by the gods now Shojin won’t shut up about trees.

I wanted to be upset when Gnoman finally punched him on the chin, but the quiet that followed once he’d been knocked out was a welcome relief. Just in case I sent Huginn and Muninn off to get a closer look and report back and now I think the Lady is having some fun with me.

They showed me what they saw and it made no sense. It just simply wasn’t possible. Whatever the forest was it was not nearly as close at it appeared. It was just simply massive. We’d get a better look at things tomorrow and possibly the next day, but something was off about the whole thing.

Gnoman caught me checking on the egg before I bedded down for the night. He said that it looked valuable. I told him simply that beyond measure. It stirred a bit under my touch. I still wasn’t sure what would happen if it hatched, but I hoped that the lady would show me the path forward with it. Maybe it would be a path to redemption, but I’m not sure I deserve it. We’ve talked about it as we walked and Shojin said that everyone deserves a second chance.

But there are some wrongs that can’t be righted. The man was just doing his job. Dammit, I don’t even know his name. He’s just the man that wouldn’t move.

I was awakened by one of the birds just as I started to have a dream that I think came from the Lady. I was dreaming of mountains and the sea and a little island that looked sort of familiar, but somehow also foreign.

I found the following note in Munnin’s beak.

Focus Violet. Focus. The destination may be shrouded in mystery but you cannot lose sight of it. Not until you know just what is at stake. So suck it up and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

It was in my handwriting.

After we left, part 1

From the time we heard the door click behind us and Z asking what was going on until we stopped to have something that could pass for a meal I had trouble stopping myself from crying. I so badly wanted to say goodbye. It felt wrong not being able to say anything to my friends about the Journey Shojin and I would be undertaking, not that it mattered because between the two of us all we really had was a basic geographic direction and a vague idea of a building we were looking for. 


Ancient Temple.

We trusted those guiding us would give us something more to go on as we neared our destination, but we knew it was going to be some time before we reached it on foot. We also replayed the prior days events. I felt really bad about killing the man who owned the cart place and when we were back this way I would try to find some way to make it right. 

It seems like whenever Shojin and I are at our best, we cock up the plan and people die. I don’t think this is what the Lady wants me to do and I doubt whatever it is that Shojin now sees would want that from him. We try to be good people. We really do. Chaos just seems to manifest when we are around. 

Also, Shojin is an ass. Once I was finally able to compose myself I thought of something that would help get me over missing my friends and was only at most a week out of the way from where we were going. Ok, maybe it would have been more like three weeks, but still. He was having none of it. 

I said, “Shojin, it will truly make me feel better.”

And he said, “No time, Payday.”

So I said, “Shojin, it will distract me from missing our friends.”

And he said, “I can appreciate that Payday but we don’t have time.”

So I said, “Shojin, it will only be a short detour.”

And he said, “Payday, I know you. It will be at least a month. We cannot afford that delay.”

So I said, “Shojin, look into your eyes,” (I put on his face) ,”and deny yourself.”

So he looked visibly disturbed and said, “Payday, that’s really creepy, please stop. What you are suggesting now is weird and not even something I’d be into.”

So I said, “Shojin, if you truly cared about my mental health we would do this.”

So he said, “Payday, you are acting like a child now. We do not have the time.”

So I stamped my foot like a proper lady and proceeded to cuss him up one side down the other and called him everything but a half-orc.

But he was right. We didn’t have the time. I would just have to hope that I lived long enough to make it back to Dillard so I could see Clever again someday. 

Shojin wasn’t just an ass but he was a dumbass. For some reason, and he did try to explain the logic as to why, above and beyond the pile of loot we’d come across he left a bunch of his personal stuff behind. Some made sense, like his cloak. The stuff he left in the bag with no instructions or notes for the girls on how to find it, not so much. 

The one thing I refused to leave was egg we’d found when searching for Shojin after he was taken. It was likely near priceless to the right collector, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave it in anyone’s care but my own. It feels deep down like my future and the egg are tied together, but maybe that is wishful thinking. It’s probably just the guilt I feel over destroying all the other probably corrupted ones. 

Damn, I cocked that up without Shojin even being there. I don’t think I’m very good at this whole adventurer thing. But I’m trying. Every day I’m trying. I want to be better. I need to be better. 

And with Shojin at my side maybe I can be. Maybe we can be, but I worry we don’t have enough time. 

Of course I don’t even know if the dragon inside is still alive or what I will do if it hatches, but we’ll figure it out. It’s what we do. Maybe another pet? Maybe we need it to stop what we both fear is coming.

Side note, Shojin hates it when I call him Jenny. So I will only call him that moving forward. At least it helps take my mind off of missing our friends. I think he knows that.