Part 5: Festivities

10 to Verdant Sun, Voelis

I am so extremely tired. It has been an extremely long day. I am a little tipsy, so I’m going to focus and write all of this before I fall asleep. Long story short, we did not die. Thaos and his cronies told us that our sacrifice had been fulfilled according to the terms that I – as Princess Anora – had set forth. They were so angry with us, but they could do nothing. A centurion from Vaevictus’s palace guided us through the streets back to see the king. The people were celebrating our victory! I guess a lot of people had watched us through the night. People threw flowers at our feet as we walked. I tried to be resolute and stern. You know, like a princess. It was hard not to smile.

We arrived at the palace just as the rains finally began to fall, ending the drought and probably saving the farmers in the region. When we had first come to the palace two days ago, it was quiet and melancholy. A kind of gloom had been hanging in the air. This was all gone now. The God King was jovial and happy! Servants and attendants were everywhere. Some of the people from the streets followed our party in. The room became extremely loud as the king congratulated us and started a full week of festivities to celebrate the heroes of prophecy.

Dia found me and told me that I – remember, I’m still dressed like Anora – should get some rest after the sacrifice. Briar asked to come with me. I thought at first it was because she was worried about me and the princess, but I think she just wanted away from the noise. Anora was sitting quietly and worriedly in her room, but immediately brightened when she saw us come in.

I quickly removed the Anora Mask, apologizing for entering without knocking (it was my room, right?) and for getting blood on her nice dress. Briar and I explained what happened so Anora could corroborate the story and so Dia could write it down and begin composing some fantastic tale of our victory over the Lord of Storms. Briar asked that Anora keep an eye out for the League of Storms as they may want to retaliate in some way that circumvents the oath of the sacrifice we had fulfilled.

When Briar, Dia, and I left Anora’s room (myself now wearing your Mask, my love), we found that Vaevictus’s party had already commenced. The God King was drinking heavily and Dia was marching over to him, probably to reprimand him like she had a few days ago. Shadow found me and he and I began to mingle with the people. Briar found Clio and the two of them stayed away from most of the festivities, speaking to each other in their language that the rest of us did not understand. Actaeon had disappeared.

I felt bad that Briar and Clio were off on their own, and I meant to speak to Clio and see to her injuries more and, but Vaevictus was approaching. Despite his drinking, he was very articulate. He told me that he had heard from Dia about how I came to the Emerald Isles and that the treasures of the Dragonlords were somehow tied to this. He claimed he was in my debt for saving his daughter and would try to repay this in any way he could, starting with helping me find these treasures. The treasures were last in the possession of a man named Estor Arkelander. The story of Arkelander would be told in one of the performances of the amphitheater and that I should attend to learn about him. He warned me that the actors would portray Arkelander as a mere legend. This was not the case. Arkelander was real, but the rumors say that he is presently an undead captain of a ship called Gjallarhorn.

That’s just perfect. Here I am, lost in a strange land, destined by prophecy to save it from a literal god, and the way home is guarded by an undead captain. Writing about this experience now, I guess I was a little shaken. So much that Vaevictus put his arm around me and told me to keep my chin up. He then found me the most expensive and sweetest wine I think I ever tasted. I’m sorry, Heath, I know you don’t like it when I drink. It just…. It makes things easier, you know?

A lot happened at this party. The God King had some secret words with his son, Torag. Torag came away from the conversation with a very large, dragon-like hammer made of bronze. I don’t remember when Actaeon came back, but he seemed in a fairly good mood as food and drink were provided to us all. I think I had too many drinks because Shadow started hovering around me too much, pushing away bottles and goblets. It was probably for the best, I suppose. At some point, I saw Dia speaking with Briar and Clio before leading them away.

Sometime later, Dia found me, Shadow, Actaeon, and Torag. She found a place for us to rest, away from the noise of the palace. I guess she did not approve of the festivities and was a little eager to leave the palace. Or leave Altea and get on with our heroic tasks. I wasn’t sure because my head was feeling a little fuzzy still.

Dia took us to the Dragon’s Tooth Inn where the innkeeper, Delphion, happily gave us each a room for the night. The last thing I heard downstairs in the tavern was laughter as Actaeon began arm-wrestling a few patrons while Torag kept eating. Shadow helped me into my room and told me to “sleep it off.” Probably a good idea. I thought I should write this down quick, though, before I forget it and fall asleep. I don’t think it is even noon yet, but I’m just so tired.

We did well last night. But poor Clio, she was crying so much! I should talk to her. And Actaeon, Shadow, and Torag are so brave! And Briar with the ice and fire magic and-

Wow. I just fell asleep at the desk. I should go to bed.

8 to Verdant Sun, Voelis

Too much has happened today. It started with a nasty nightmare. Not from the Lady of Dreams this time. Just the usual. It hurts today. I wonder if that will ever go away.

It’s not really a new day, though. I think the evening finally came, and I missed the Sacrament of Sunset again. I swear, I can almost hear the Morninglord laugh at me for missing it consistently. A good laugh, though. I mean, I made my vows finally just like you and I had talked about and then… I keep missing the Sacrament. But as I was thinking about this, it turns out I’m all out of incense anyway. So I read a few verses and said a few prayers and called it good for now.

Actaeon, Shadow, and Torag had all gone to rest in their rooms, too, but I found them all back down in the tavern again already. Shadow told me that he had a conversation with a few farmers. Apparently some teenagers had been going missing in the last few days. Before we could talk further on the subject, we heard Briar and Clio approaching. Dia had shown them to a vineyard behind the palace. The two fey preferred to sleep outdoors and the vineyard was more appropriate to them than the loud tavern here.

Briar had spoken with the keeper of the vineyard and learned that his daughter, Corinna, had disappeared. It was just like what Shadow had learned from the people in the tavern. Briar and Clio meant to speak to Vaevictus and Dia about this. Torag mentioned that he wished to speak to his grandfather, a dwarf named Azorius, about the God King’s enormous bronze hammer. Actaeon went with him.

Before Shadow and I left the Dragon’s Tooth Inn – we intended to go to the market before finding the theater – we overheard a table of dwarves talking about the Mithral Forge. That was one of our heroic tasks: relight the Mithral Forge! Shadow and I introduced ourselves and spoke to the dwarves. Their leader, Revica of the Clan Steelleaf, used to work in the Mithral Mines centuries ago before it was cursed by Khar’shan. Revica asked us if we intended to go to the mines. Then he asked us if we could bring back the skulls of the dwarves that perished in the mines, promising us gold if we helped him and his people find closure from the loss of their kin. We promised to do what we could.

Torag and Actaeon found Azorius’s Hall, the forge of the dwarf. This part confuses me, and I think Actaeon explained it this way just to confuse me. He said Azorius is Torag’s grandfather. And he is a dwarf. And he is the God of the Forge. But then, I have to remember that Torag looks like a minotaur because Amalj’aa cursed him, not because he was born this way. And Vaevictus is not a minotaur. But he’s also not a dwarf. But… None of that makes sense. Now that I think about it, I don’t think Acaeon was trying to confuse me. I think he’s just as confused as the rest of us. Torag included.

Azorius told Torag about the Mithral Forge, explaining that he had created it himself. It was like Revica told Shadow and I: the Forge was in the mines. The mines were south of here in the Obsidian Sierras, and that if we followed the river south, we would find its entrance. Azorius told him that he would help “finish” Vaevictus’s hammer if Torag could find the proper components – a magical sword and star metal – and he would join our quest to save the Emerald Isles.

Briar and Clio found Dia and Vaevictus in the palace. Vaevictus was still drinking, even this late in the day. Briar tried to speak with Vaevictus about the missing teenagers, but Vaevictus apparently shrugged off the request, saying that he would put his best soldiers to the task. Dia and the fey were very unhappy with this. Dia mentioned to Briar and Clio that there was already news from down south. The roads to Ellandyr were now closed as a massive hurricane had suddenly appeared on the coast, and the League of Shadows demanded the destruction of the Temple of the Five.

Our group met together again at the market. We told each other what we learned. Our path would take us first to the Mithral Mines, but we could all sense that Briar and Clio were upset with the God King’s dismissiveness about the missing teenagers. When Briar mentioned the hurricane, I asked what that meant.

Amalj’aa conjures storms on the sea, trapping people on the Emerald Isles. That was him. The Lord of Storms brought me here. Trapped me here. He killed my mother. Oh, Heath, what do I do?

But no, maybe something happened. Maybe she’s alive. I survived, right? Perhaps others did, too. And it doesn’t matter anyway. I’ll keep searching for her. Maybe she’s with you, Heath. And that’s fine, too. It’s okay.

I told everyone that I wanted to see one of the plays at the theater tonight, and they agreed to join me. We passed through the market, purchasing a few things that we needed. As we were leaving, a strange man approached me and asked me to buy a magical necklace from him that he found in the Necropolis to the west. I was about to do so when another merchant stopped me, chasing away the stranger. I learned that the stranger had not found the necklace in the Necropolis. He stole it. The Curse of the Graverobber was upon him and he meant to place that curse on me to end it for himself. I thanked the merchant who saved me and bought a beautiful ring from him as recompense.

I hate wearing rings. You know that. But what else could I do? He saved me from a curse! So now, I have a pretty ring in my pocket. I guess I could wear it. I don’t know. Not important, but I learned that we cannot take anything from the Necropolis lest a curse come upon us.

The amphitheater was gorgeous! You and I always meant to see a play sometime, but it was always so expensive. This was open to anyone who would view it. The play was The Fall of Estor, exactly what I wanted to see! It was a tragedy that depicted Estor Arkelander’s final days. He defeated the Gygans, campaigned against the centaurs, and made his sacrifice to Khar’shan to spare the lives of his crew. He sailed on the ship Gjallarhorn.

This was just as Vaevictus had told me! But the play did not say where this would take place. As the play concluded and night had fallen, I found one of the actresses. She was a beautiful woman named Sima. I thanked her for the performance and told her it was the best I had ever seen. Which was true as I have nothing to compare it to. I think Sima was only interested in talking to me because I am wearing your Mask.

She explained that the master of ceremonies, Tasos, was the owner of some of the original scripts of The Fall of Estor. Perhaps the location of the Gjallarhorn could be found there! Sima promised to meet with Tasos and find me at the end of the week. She would tell me what she learned over drinks.

I think she was asking me out! She was stunningly beautiful and I couldn’t help but agree to this. After Sima left, Clio told me that she suspected Sima was hiding something or was just trying to trick me in some way. I feel so stupid. Here’s someone who smiled all pretty at me, waved her eyelashes at me, her body language was… and I just… I got all flushed. How dumb am I? I can’t…

Besides, she only liked me for your Mask, Heath. No one would ever look at me if they knew the real me. Not like that. Not like you.

Our plan, we decided, was to go to the Mithral Mines and begin fulfilling our heroic tasks. But before we left, we decided to go to the Dragonshrine and fulfill the other task here: drinking from the Horn of Selesnya. As we walked, I think Actaeon could see that I was disheartened. I told him what Vaevictus had told me about Arkelander, but that I needed to know where was the Gjallarhorn. Actaeon told me that I would find better answers in the Necropolis. But… well… Actaeon said… No, it’s not important.

Suffice it to say this: wherever Actaeon goes, I’ll follow him. I don’t know everything about him, or even what he looks like. But… he seems far wiser than I first thought about him. Maybe…

Okay, so the Dragonshrine. This is bad. Aesop, the caretaker of the shrine, explained that the Horn of Selesnya was stolen. Earlier today, actually, during the storm! We all could not doubt it: Amalj’aa was furious with us for saving Anora’s life. He meant to hinder us as much as he could. His servants probably snuck in and stole the Horn.

Fortunately, Briar and Shadow were able to find the trail. The Horn was full of ceremonial wine and the thieves were spilling it as they fled. Clio recognized the tracks of the thieves as Goatlings, the servants of Khar’shan. She said they were a bad omen. Briar took the lead as she was able to follow the tracks without trouble. The tracks went through the back allies of Altea until they left through the southern gate and deep into the Wildwood.

We followed the trail for probably ten miles, going further and further into the trees and the night. I cast a spell of light to help us find the way. Clio explained to me that very few non-fey creatures venture into the Wildwood, except for the druidic people of the Emerald Isles. The jungle was dense and thick, but Briar found the path without trouble. As the sky darkened fully, we were surrounded by blackness. My light spell saved us, I should think.

We came to a small clearing and decided to rest for a moment. But before we could do this, we heard a clamor in the trees ahead of us. A girl around my age came through the vines, wielding a short sword. She was covered in mud and dirt, fear in her eyes. She saw us and asked, “Are you really there?”

Before we could reply, six goat-like creatures sprung from the trees behind her. They hissed and spat at her, saying horrible things about eating her and the rest of us. One lunged at the girl, but Actaeon’s javelin flew through the air. It missed the goatling, but caused the goatlings to bring their attention to us instead of her.

They rushed at us, slinging stones in our direction. Clio and Briar each took a nasty hit. I threw a flare from my lantern to blind the one coming at me. But before I could do anything else, Briar stood up on her hind legs and shouted. She crashed down her hooves and her staff into the ground. A resounding boom blasted from around her and three of the goatlings fell dead. Two others were crushed by Torag, who ran in and smashed them into the mud. The last goatling took his claws to the girl, but Shadow rushed in and blocked the attack. The girl stabbed with her sword, cutting down the goatling.

We caught our collective breath as the girl introduced herself. She was Corinna, the daughter of the keeper of the vineyard. But she said her friends and others were at a temple deeper in the Wildwood. They had met a woman named Demetria and a satyr that served her. Demetria promised them so many things and they were charmed by her. Corinna only escaped when she realized the magic Demetria was using. She ran away and found us.

During this conversation, I guess we did not notice Briar and Clio step away for a moment. They returned and Briar was rambling and panicking. He held in her arms a dazed and stunned gnome named Herkus.

As I’m writing this while we rest, Herkus just… Okay, he’s a squirrel now. Or an owl. Owl-squirrel? I don’t know. He’s… He’s in Briar’s hair. Briar is.. Briar is okay with this.