Part 12: Vice

2 to Verdant Sun, Voelis

It has been quite the day today! All of that walking, traveling, and adventuring makes me tired. I’ve been with the heroes of prophecy for almost a month now, longer with Shadow since he and I are traveling buddies, but I’m not used to this much travel. Even when you and I used to go to the cities to the north on the missions, travel was much simpler. We had the cart and the horse. As I’m writing this, I don’t think I’ve even seen a horse here in the Emerald Isles yet. But travel with the heroes of prophecy is nice, too, though I miss sharing the night with you.

Wonderful news, Heath, the centaurs made it to Dia just fine. Shadow’s directions to her worked out well, despite the darkness outside. It turns out Dia had decided to surprise us by making our camp ready for our return. What a very kind thing to do! The two injured centaurs found her easily enough and were able to get some rest.

Dia, Morninglord bless her, was trying to feed our dinosaur. Triple did not want any of the food Dia had set out. It wasn’t meat in the way Triple would have wanted it. You know, warm and tasty, or something like that. I cast some spells on the food to try to entice it to eat. Dia and I started trying to encourage him to eat it by speaking in draconic (“Good boy! Good boy! Who’s a good boy?”). Triple eventually ate all the food then sat down to sleep.

Briar said something to the centaurs but I couldn’t hear it over the heavy breathing of our dinosaur. I saw the others trying to make camp, but as soon as Actaeon came closer, we all started getting a little sick. Dia asked what the awful smell was. I promised to tell her about the waste pile, but we all needed baths first.

I’m so ugly now. Thank the Morninglord that Briar was kind enough to block me from view while I bathed. I can’t let them see this. I think Briar picked up on something while I was cleaning myself and my clothes. I shouldn’t let my behavior be this odd. But Briar kept calling attention to Actaeon – telling him to wash again – whenever I splashed too loudly or when I slipped on a small rock.

When we were clean and I had magically dried all of our clothes, we sat around the campfire and began eating. Briar conjured a meal from the Horn of Selesnya, but once again she and Clio only partook of the non-meat substances it provided. They avoided eating the fish that Shadow caught, too. I asked them about it. Briar chooses to avoid eating meats because her mentor, Herkus, also avoided meats and she was trying to emulate him. Clio, being a dryad and so very connected to nature as she is, feels more comfortable eating just plants. I think I was just trying to impre I decided to be vegetarian for the night, just to see if I could do it.

But here’s the interesting thing, Heath. Today, I ate bugs. Bugs! Briar and Clio said that they occasionally ate small bugs if they were desperate for food. Briar caught some locusts and cooked them for me to try. I learned something about myself tonight. I do not like eating bugs. But I also kept eating them. Mother said to try every new food at least twice. First, to see if you like it or not. Second, to make sure you do or do not.

Bugs are vile. I need a drink. Like, a real drink.

Of course, then we had to ask if Torag ate meat. Beef, I mean. He’s a minotaur, so we were wondering. He just laughed at us and said, “I can eat meat.” He left it at that.

Briar called to Chief Hakar and the Noya centaurs with the horn. We’re just waiting for them to arrive now. I need to tell Dia what happened in the tunnels.

1 to Verdant Sun, Voelis

It’s a bright new day and… I feel…

What a lovely night! What a party! But, why did I drink so much? Mother always hated it when- Never mind.

Honestly, there’s not much I remember after the drinking game. Chief Hakar and his people arrived at our camp. He was so relieved to see the two centaurs we rescued and decided to have his people camp with us for the night. While we were exhausted and getting sleepy, he said he would watch over us and protect us in the night before leaving.

We got to intermingle with centaurs, a first for me. And, apparently a first for Briar! That cannot be true, but I don’t think she’s been around many centaurs. Not for some time, anyway. Oh, Heath, it’s so funny how awkward she is around even her own people. At first, I thought that she liked one of the men that we had rescued earlier, but she kept denying it. Maybe she doesn’t know how to flirt, or maybe she truly wasn’t interested in him, but it was funny either way.

We and the centaurs traded stories back and forth. Hakar liked hearing about us rescuing his people in the tunnels from the troglodytes. He said he and his people, the Noya, were a more peaceful tribe of centaurs. Like I wrote before, Hakar and the Noya respect the Lord of Storms. Hakar even challenged us to consider Amalj’aa’s wisdom before we so blindly fight against him. But despite this, even Hakar understood that Amalj’aa’s campaign against the Emerald Isles was overly cruel, and he understood why we would stand against the titan.

During the night, we met a fine centaur man named Nyx. He approached us and asked which of us could possibly out-drink him with some of his specially brewed spirits. A drinking game! He expected Torag and Actaeon to join him, but he didn’t expect me and Clio to do the same. I can hold my liquor well enough. I’ve been doing it for almost eleven months now Sorry, Heath. I’ll do better.

Now, here’s where the night gets a little blurred. I distinctly remember the flavor of the drink. It was a thick syrup, not unlike what I used to steal from the mess hall in the temple. The flavor was probably supposed to be grapes, but it came out more as a sweet nectar. I started to feel a little tingly after just the first taste, but Nyx wasn’t paying me any attention. He ignored me and Clio entirely, jesting with only Actaeon and Torag.

At this point, Briar said I was getting a little giggly. I tried joking with Clio about the game, but she was very serious. It was a game, she said, and she wanted to win. So I asked Nyx if there was a prize for winning. I didn’t want a prize. I just wanted some more. I want to go back to sleep and dream of you. And this drink would get me there.

Nyx finally took me seriously, I guess. I was two drinks into it and was feeling fine. But I didn’t want him thinking that, so I pretended to be a little more tipsy than I was. Nyx kept trying to figure me out, but decided to make a wager with the game. He wagered that he could beat all of us in the drinking game, or he’d give up his magic shield. I wagered an obsidian dagger Actaeon had given me from the tunnels. Torag, Actaeon, and Clio put in something as well, but I forget the specifics. Because after the third drink, my head started to reel.

Yes, I definitely don’t remember everything that happened after all of this. Torag was out of the game after his third, making a mess of his clothes before Briar helped him to his bedroll. Clio sat down and rested, but didn’t wake up until morning. I remember everything getting blurry, but apparently Nyx had done the same. So Actaeon won. He gave me back my dagger and won the shield from Nyx.

All I remember as Briar took me to my bedroll was the sound of Dia playing her lute and singing silly songs. The centaurs were laughing. I wanted to hear her sing. I wanted to listen. Shadow kept telling me to go to sleep, and I remember being angry at him for not letting me listen to Dia.

But it’s probably for the best that I didn’t stay up. I lose myself when I’m drunk. What if I said something to her

No, I’m not doing that.

Morning eventually came, and I managed to get myself awake for the Sacrament of Sunrise just in time. The sunrise feels so good. It brings a clarity to my thoughts. I cannot drink that heavily again. What if I said something stupid? I don’t want to lose my friends.

I finished the song and kept kneeling, intent on repenting for my indulgences. I overheard Hakar and his people leaving. He gave to Briar a chest with some magic potions as a thanks for saving the two centaurs last night. Briar spoke to the centaurs, giving them her sling as a means of defending themselves.

Wow, Heath, she is adorably awkward around people. I wonder if Herkus wouldn’t have been more helpful if he had taught her how to talk to people. Sure, the nature-based druidic magic is neat and all, but being able to look into someone’s eyes and say coherent sentences would be a blessing for her, too.

Briar and I made a deal. She would continue to tutor me in Sylvan and I would teach her how to speak to people. She taught me common greetings, and I’d teach her when to use them!

While we broke camp, we told Dia of our adventures last night. She was unhappy about staying outside with Triple again, so I gave her my fishing tackle and your flute. I lied and said it was out of tune, and asked her if she could fix that for me. Really, I was just hoping she wouldn’t be so bored this time. A writer, a poet, a singer. And she’s stuck outside with a relatively untamed dinosaur that doesn’t like her food. We promised to be as quick as we could in the tunnels this time.

Well, it’s time to go back into the stink of the Mithral Forge. I hate being away from the sunlight. But this is what we have to do. We’re heroes. We need to do heroic tasks. Like wading through a waste pile for things made of mithral. But, to be fair, Clio looks so lovely in that armor.

1 to Verdant Sun, Voelis

I want to celebrate. I really do. But… why must being a hero involve killing people? Why can’t anyone just surrender? Why does it always have to be to the death? I feel horrible about this. The Morninglord’s Blessing gives me control over light and fire. I don’t… I don’t want to be a killer.

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. I just feel bad right now.

When we got to the tunnels, they were strangely quieter than last night. We had killed some of the troglodytes while trying to rescue the centaurs, but everything was now eerily quiet. We searched the rooms and found nothing. Except for the broodmothers’ den. The troglodytes had all been killed, but not by us. Their babies were-

In the chamber at the end of the tunnels, we found a roughly hewn seat of sorts, like a throne for a king or queen. More dead troglodytes were in here. Briar, taking on the form of a large snake so she could see better in the dark, led us through the tunnels towards the forge. She had found heavy boot prints in the throne room.

As we entered the tunnels, we could see a light up ahead. We saw some figures holding torches. They were wearing the fashions of the League of Storms. They called out to us to identify ourselves. Actaeon threw an insult. They drew their weapons.

They had a group of large snakes with them. Actaeon and I took care of one. Another wrapped up Torag, but he was freed when Shadow and Clio slew it. Torag then pummeled the other snake. Briar cast a spell that made large vines and weeds grow out around the Leaguers, stopping them from advancing.

Things took a turn when another one of those brutish gygans came from around the corner. It threw a javelin, pinning Torag for a moment, before grabbing onto and stabbing Actaeon. It was just like before. But this time, we were more prepared. We knew how to fight them.

Briar conjured knives of ice and hurled them at our enemies. Shadow and Clio fought from a distance. Actaeon and Torag freed themselves and kept the gygan and the Leaguers distracted long enough for me to summon the Morninglord’s Blessing. The Leaguers fell dead. Actaeon’s javelin of lightning pinned the gygan to the wall. Torag leapt into the air and I turned away, not wanting to see what he was about to do. The gygan fell dead as well.

Before we could gather ourselves from the fight, a trio of chicken-like lizards came at us from a different tunnel behind us. These cockatrices, Shadow said, could turn you to stone, not unlike the basilisks we fought. Briar and Clio defeated them without much trouble.

I hate that I killed four of these men, but at least it was fast. I know what Actaeon told me, the night after the Vega centaurs tried to kill us. I don’t like this. These men probably had families, parents, children. They were doing what they thought was right. Just like us. Are we so different? But we’re going to save the Emerald Isles. They serve the one that would send it to darkness.

I know I have to fight. I know I’ll be forced to use my magic to kill again. Maybe Actaeon’s right. Maybe it gets easier.

I hope he’s wrong.

We didn’t see any more Leaguers or their snakes or cockatrices. The mines were empty here. Actaeon found the skulls of the long-dead dwarves and began collecting them. Once we get out of here, we can give them to Revica in Altea and give the Steelleaf clan some closure on what had happened here so long ago. Briar and Torag looked down a large pit that leads further into the mines below us, possibly into the Underdark. Clio found what she thinks could be the entrance to the forge, probably leading down deeper.
We’re going to rest here after our fight. Torag and Actaeon need to bind their wounds. Shadow offered to go bring Dia and Triple here. There should be more than enough room for the dinosaur to join us. If anything, it would give Dia something to do and we could catch up with her on the adventure of the day.

I should have asked Nyx for more of that drink.