[Suggested] Journals of Donovan Part 11- 20

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[Suggested] Journals of Donovan Part 11- 20

Post  Kiel Reid on Tue Mar 08, 2011 2:20 pm

(As a note I found these journal were given to Garrett Maevers via the forums. Credit should go to the players who created them for all I did was copy and paste.)

Part XI: Awakenings

But a scant few moons. A scant few moons, and so much has changed.

When my pen last swept across this page, I was still fresh from the wastes. Many of my memories were still hidden behind mists and shadows, lost to my waking mind. I was in a place of hope, surrounded by steadfast companions who had chosen me to help them ensure justice in a land of brutal cruelty. I knew nothing of the dangers facing this Haven, save that the stalwart hearts and brave deeds of those who fought for righteousness could surely overcome them. I knew nothing of my life before the wastes, though I fancied myself a learned philosopher, or perhaps a writer of stories. I knew nothing.

Now how I wish I could know nothing once again.

My reintroduction to truth began the night Ovak called the people of the Haven to council. I had arrived early for the meeting, and sat waiting in the Inn when five men walked through the front door. Cloaked but clearly dressed for war, I knew in an instant that something was different about them. There were not local men, and I knew of no adventurers that fit their description. As they stepped into the firelight, the knot of suspicion and concern that I had felt about their arrival vanished as a chill ran down my spine. I knew these men.

Even as I sat there, unmoving and agape at the faces arrayed before me, names began bubbling up from my forgotten past. Images of the tall elf, Curufin, darting around a foe to open his defenses to a swordstrike; glimpses of mischief in Kabre’s eyes as he loosed a shot from his deadly crossbow; the memory of Valane casting down his spear and hurling white fire at a towering fiend; the notion of Brikal eerily ghosting from tree to tree and melting into darkness, and the sight of Drake diving in front of a blazing orb all flooded my mind.

These were fighting men.

Their voices reached my ears, and I heard them ask for a man called Donovan. My own name, though I had never forgotten it, rung like a bell inside my head. I whispered it to myself, as if trying to remember the feel of it passing across my lips. Donovan Thynedar. Something seemed missing, as if the incompleteness in my mind was imposed on my name as well.

I stood then, taking a few brief strides toward the men. They noticed my approach immediately, and a sense of warmth arose from somewhere deep inside me. I saw no threat in their wariness, but instead felt… pride? Recognition played across their faces, and I knew my murky visions had not been works of fancy.

These were fighting men, and they knew me.

They greeted me as an old friend, and in the dancing gleam of Atrum’s hearth I saw the emblem etched across their armor: a rising phoenix of pure silver set across an azure field. I grasped their hands and drew them close, dazed by the intersection of my two lives. Smiles and pleasantries faded, and Drake’s eyes grew hard as he and the others took on an air of formality. When he spoke, his voice carried more weight then his slight frame seemed capable of holding.

“You left this when you disappeared, Donovan. We've carried it ever since..." Slipping a hand underneath his cloak, he brought a long, cloth wrapped package into the flickering firelight. It was curved slightly, looking like a shadowy crescent in the dim light of the Inn. Something about it seemed to resonate, like the mere appearance of its shape was stirring something deep within me. As Drake unwrapped it, I realized I was holding my breath. When the wrappings slid to the floor, Drake was holding a gleaming silver blade. It seemed to burn with incandescent fire, and when Drake extended it the pommel to me, my hand leapt for the hilt.

As my hand closed around the blade, its familiar weight poked at the miasma in my mind. The steel, cool and smooth against my skin, seemed to slash at the haze inside my head until finally my eyes caught the inscription etched into the blade. "Power through Honor" was written down one side, "Might by Right" adorned the reverse, and as I read them the hold on my memory was strained to the point of breaking. The aches of wounds long forgotten seeped into my flesh, and scars that before held no meaning now sent echoes of pain up my spine. Trembling, I held the crosspiece of the sword up, knowing what I would see. The sapphire phoenix was as I remembered it, wings flared to form the catches on either side of the blade. It was Lightstorm, the blade held by the commander of the Order since its inception, and it was truly beautiful.

It was also too much. The mindfog burned away as if caught in the noonday sun.

Memories played across my consciousness like troops marching for inspection: riding my horse Falchion on my father's estate, joining the Order of the Phoenix and training with the men of the Guard, earning my first command at Harrison's Breach, leading the Guard against Ulzahuk the Fallen, right up to trying to outrun the cataclysm with Prince Addison's tiny form held tight against my chest. Then the roaring blackness, then nothing. My voice cracked as I spoke to the men before me... my men.

"I couldn't remember... who, or what I was. I... think I remember now." With each passing minute, things became clearer.

"Really?' asked Kabre, lighting his pipe and looking every part the dour dwarf I remembered him to be, 'So, who exactly are you?"

Before I knew it, I had slipped into the formal bow of the court in which I was raised. Holding my blade aloft, I answered in a fashion befitting my former station.

"I am Donovan Thynedar, servant of the Light, Knight of the Azure Cross, Commander of the Phoenix Guard, and now Constable to the community of Final Haven." The last was new to them, but none of them appeared to flinch at the addition.

"Well, at least he hasn't lost his mind completely,' quipped Curufin as he laid an intricate suit of armor on the rough hewn table, 'and thanks to us, he hasn't lost his gear either."

Valane snickered as he added a set of bracers to the armor. "Yeah, Cap. Next time you want us to follow you across a nearly endless wasteland, the least you could do is carry your own stuff."

"No kidding!' joked Brikal, resting a swordbelt and sheath next to the growing pile on the table, 'You were never that hard to track when you knew what you were doing. If we ever need to sneak around anywhere, maybe we should knock you on the head."

They all laughed then, and it was like a salve had been applied to my soul. I couldn't stop looking at them, as if I feared they would vanish if I looked away.

My men, my friends, had followed me across the wasteland of the cataclysm. Though I had made many friends since I had arrived in Final Haven, these men were part of my past, part of me. I was no longer alone.

"So now what, Cap?' inquired Drake as he lowered himself into a chair, 'Are we still an order? I mean, are we still the Phoenix Guard?"

Scowling, Curufin threw one of his gloves at Drake, hitting him square in the chest. "Drake, you retard. Of course we're still an order."

"Yeah,' said Kabre, 'Though I don't know what we're going to do with ourselves. A place like this can't be as bad as the wastes."

Valane laughed a bit, saying, "True enough. Without some big world ending evil cropping up every week or so, we'll be bored to tears."

Then it was my turn to laugh.

"Actually, gentlemen...' I chuckled as I began sorting through the pieces of my newly-regained armor, 'Considering what I've seen of Final Haven, I don't think we'll be bored at all..."

Part XII: Mistrust

As it happens, I was right. We weren’t bored at all.

The other members of the Phoenix Guard and I were offered little chance to renew our friendship before we were once again called upon to defend the Haven from an encroaching evil.

Curufin, Kabre, Valane and I were enjoying a drink when Brikal and Drake sprinted into the common room to inform us of strange shapes staggering into the village. We quickly gathered our numbers and took up arms in defense of the people, and as we did so I felt a strangely familiar sensation of calm. Unlike the other battles I had been in since my arrival in the Haven, I felt no terror at the thought of the coming fight. There was an excitement of sorts, and a wary cautiousness that came with the fatal consequences of failure, but no dread or apprehension. It seemed… routine.

As I stepped into the blanketing night, the slightly lighter shade of the starry horizon revealed huge shapes ambling toward the Inn. Sensing no friendly intent, those of us gathered at the Inn arrayed ourselves for battle. Misshapen men, or more specifically the magically animated parts of men, appeared in the light of our torches, and within seconds the battle was on. Many of us fought fiercely, and with Roland and Ka both cleaving huge wounds through their stitch-marked flesh, we expected the monstrosities would soon fall or flee from our defenders.

They did neither.

Within minutes, even our strongest were weakened by their relentless attack. Many of us fell back into the Inn, and did our best to heal the wounds inflicted by the creatures outside. Ka bravely ventured out alone in an attempt to draw the creatures away from the doorway, but even his formidable skills were soon overwhelmed. As his limp form slid across the Inn floor, I realized just how close we were to losing both the Inn and our lives.

Our fortunes seemed to turn for the better when two men appeared out of the night, seemingly wandering into the fray. They claimed to have the knowledge to stop the creatures, and in our need we accepted them into the Inn. Though I have no such abilities, I was under the presumption that those present tested the truth of their claims and knew the intent of their magics. Looking back on it now, I would guess that such measures were overlooked in favor of an expeditious solution. In hindsight, such trust was much in err, and is not a mistake I intend on repeating.

Regardless, we defended the two men as they completed their long ritual, upon the completion of which the floor of the Inn split asunder, revealing the desiccated corpse of a man lying deep within the earth. A putrid light erupted from the hole, and the corpse rose up from the ground, restoring itself as it came into view. By the time his feet came to rest on the floor before us, a tall man with narrow features and sunken eyes regarded us all with an air of indifference. We would come to learn his name was Florin, and that he was the master of the men who raised him, who in turn were the masters of the creatures besieging the Inn. We had been used – fooled into aiding in the restoration of a great evil. Our attempts to dispatch him on the spot met with powerful magical resistance, and they left us gaping as they vanished into the night.

The next day brought a visit to the Cult of Io, supposedly a group that knew much about Florin and possessed some counter to his magic. Sadly, we found the Cult had been dispatched well before our arrival, ambushed and cut down while they slept. Both Dallid and Grok made some inquiry into the circumstances of their deaths, but neither seemed able to ascertain the identity of those responsible. The next day offered no further answers, and as darkness approached the people of the Haven came together to deal with another threat whose time had come.

Part XIII: The end from the beginning...

As night deepened around us, the stalwart defenders of Final Haven stood ready to strike out against the corruption that had befallen time itself. Gathering our numbers and our strength, we all listened to the stories of our sages. Their words helped to prepare us for the fight ahead, and even as we listened those gifted in the arcane arts cast their magic circles to protect us against the dark powers sure to be arrayed against us. Looking around at the armed and armored adventurers making ready for war, I felt a sense of pride in my companions. The Guild of Light, my own Phoenix Guard, and especially those like Atrum and Nuk - who owed their alliegience to no one - all were prepared to wager their lives to set things aright. True, it was in their interest to do so, but I still saw nobility in their actions.

When we began, it was logical that Ashe would remain close to the sundial and that Ka, Arthos, Curufin, and Kabre would remain near her. Our troop marched quickly into the night, though it was not long before we ran into opposition. Men and monsters threw themselves at our column, trying to prevent us from reaching our goal. While we were able to fight off the attacks, we immediately feared that they were simply delaying us, trying to allow a more insidious foe to prepare for our arrival.

Quickening our pace, we streamed down the trail toward our objective. Perhaps our estimation of the enemy’s intent was correct, as we were soon set upon by a vampire of incredible power. Atrum, Corbyn, Azara, and I fell behind the group with the sundial in our attempt to deal with the creature, thus allowing the others to continue toward the goal. I found myself grateful for the enchantment of our arcanes, for when the vampire engaged us, it held a ball of eerie energy in its hand. Knowing that hesitation would only give it the chance to gather more of its foul power, I charged the creature with Lightstorm held high. A wicked smile flashed across the vampire's shadowed face, and with only a few strides left between us it hurled the pulsing orb of light, striking me in the shoulder with incredible force. Had it not been for the protections placed on me before our battle began, I likely would have fallen from the currents of dark energy surging through my being. Because of the shield, however, the sickly light diffused harmlessly in the air around me, leaving the vampire and I locked in deadly combat. With Lightstorm slashing at his form, the vampire countered with a spear whose ghostly tip and frigid blade passed through my armor without so much as slowing down. Just as my wounds were making flight imperative, Atrum appeared at my side and began attacking the vampire so furiously that the undead beast gave ground to his onslaught. I fought alongside him for a moment, but a cry from behind me caught my attention. Some of our number were injured by the trail, and without aid might soon perish. I chafed at the thought of leaving Atrum's side, but it appeared his prowess with the spear might grant me enough time to tend to those on the trail. Indeed, Atrum was eventually able to drive the creature away and all of those comprising the rearguard were able to be saved.

By the time we were able to rejoin the group bearing the sundial, they had nearly reached our objective. As our sages began to set things aright, the land around us shifted and time itself appeared to ebb and flow around us. We found ourselves fighting in what I believed to be the past, trying to prevent the problem with time from ever occurring. A man who I knew as Joseph was there, sitting in some sort of circle surrounded by a nimbus of shielding energy. We thought him to be in opposition to us, but we could find no way through his shield to stop him. When he finally did emerge, he flung a huge ball of fire at Drake and would have burnt him to a cinder if not for the enchantment of protection activating and channeling the deadly fire away from him. To the shock of all who witnessed it, however, Joseph simply sneered at Drake and threw a second searing ball of flame. No one knew of any spellcaster who was capable of holding so much energy, and having expended the protecting enchantment, Drake was burned almost beyond recognition. Stunned, we all watched as his limp, smoldering form fell to the ground. Mere seconds later Dallid was at his side, and through some miracle of healing managed to keep Drake tethered to this world long enough for his flesh to be mended.

Steel and magic swirled around us in a deadly exchange, and the people of Haven fought hard and well for their safety, their friends, and their future. We were eventually able to bring down Joseph, who we learned might have been also known as the Master, and restore the sundial to its proper function. As the last of those attacking us fell, a great cheer was heard from the defenders of Haven. We had faced the Master, the forces of some great Warlord, and traveled back through time to emerge victorious in our own. Together we carried our wounded back to the Inn, and were within sight of town when the vampire appeared again. Weary but resolute, we turned on the creature with a vengeance. Dallid and the vampire exchanged energies again and again, until finally the wounds dealt by our warriors and Dallid's magic rent the foul undead apart. Further still up the trail Atrum collapsed, though I do not know for what reason. Seeing nothing I or the other Phoenix Guard could do to aid him and realizing that the village was largely unprotected, I sent the men on ahead to protect the town and his Inn. He recovered without incident, and we drank a salute to our success.

Part XIV: No rest for the righteous

I lay down in my bunk that night, and with the events of the day still fresh in my mind, sleep was long in coming. Despite some arguments with Grok about property, the community was beginning to work together and gain some ground against the forces arrayed against us. I made a note to try and understand the Orcish perspective on ownership and regain her trust. She seemed somehow betrayed by my taking opposition to her acquisition of some equipment from one of the Guard. Somewhere in the mix of combat, she had found an item or two that had been cast aside while fighting and declared them hers. She made some reference to Orc custom, but appeared to me to be greedy and self interested. It was later pointed out to me that I should be more understanding of the ways of other cultures, and that maybe Grok had thought herself in the right for insisting on ownership. I disagreed, and she thought my decision was based on bias toward my men instead of fairness as I understood it. Nowhere in my experience as a leader of men was I ever taught that the misplaced weapons of one's companions were fair game for right of salvage, nor would it ever be considered honorable to keep an item found in battle after the owner had asked for its return, but perhaps they were taught differently. Still, I wondered if they were going to make such efforts at understanding as far as our customs were concerned. The argument had left me feeling separated from my Orcish friends, but I hoped that once they came to know my men we all could work together in defense of the Haven. I made plans to draft a set of laws that would, in time, allow all people in the Haven to live in peace regardless of culture or upbringing. When sleep finally claimed me, I was harboring a delicate hope that we might someday bring security to this troubled land.

I would soon learn that the beasts of Haven have a way of sniffing out - and then snuffing out - hope. Had I realized that fact sooner, perhaps I would have awoken to something other than the rending of my own flesh.

The bliss of sleep was torn away as a thorny projection pierced my chest, followed swiftly by razor-like vines whipping at my legs. The shock of such an awakening quickly fading from my mind, I took up Lightstorm and began hacking my way out of bed. The plants were everywhere, and could hear scuttling sounds and screams coming from elsewhere in the Inn. Fear for my friends gave my blade new speed, and I fought the creatures back out into the hallway. I could see the beetle creatures then, similar to the ones we had fought in search of a mysterious Druid that had been antagonizing the town. Beyond them, I could see a great hole in the floor of the Inn where the vines were writhing and snaking their way down the hallway. Shouts of pain and alarm were coming from the other rooms, but no one else had been able even stand as yet, much less fight their way into the hall. Seeing that I needed to buy enough time for the others to rally, I set my sights on the hole ahead, raised my blade high, and attacked.

Slashing my way through the vines, I came upon the first of the beetle creatures and quickly managed to dispatch it. Closer now to the hole, I could see what appeared to be some great plant-mouth that was perhaps the source of the vines and the invasion. Cleaving another beetle in twain, I spared a look over my shoulder in hopes that some of the others had fought their way free.

No one was there.

Still trapped, my friends were in danger of being torn apart in their bunks. There was no choice to make. I threw myself at the mass of vines and let Lightstorm sing as I cut them to ribbons. I was making headway when I heard Curufin's voice call out from the hallway.

"Donovan! Behind you!"

I turned, but too late. One of the beetle creatures had been in the rooms terrorizing one of the members of the Guard. When I went past to engage the plants, it had an open shot at my back. Even as I spun to face it, I felt its claws and pincers tearing through my skin. Staggering, I felt the strength drain from my limbs and my legs refused to allow me to remain standing. Crashing to the floor, I felt Lightstorm slip from my hand as the beetle gouged again and again into my wounded back. Just before my legs went numb I felt the vines wrap around them, dragging me backwards across the floor. Light receded from my vision twice in rapid succession: first when I was pulled into the hole, and again when oblivion claimed me.

Part XV: Captivity

When I next awoke, I found myself deep within the ground. Thinking for a moment that I was dead and buried, I was content to lie in the embrace of the mother and wait for the gates of Elysium to open before me. Only the immense pain that crept into my back and limbs as I became aware of my surroundings convinced me that I was still alive. Keeping my breathing even and not moving a muscle, I began to channel the Light through my limbs, healing my wounds and restoring my life's energies. Though some practice medicine or herbalism to heal, and others call on shamanistic magics or the energies of the Circle, the healing I had learned involved something else entirely. Within all things, within all acts of goodness and mercy, there lies a light that opposes the darkness. From it all virtue stems, and it is without question the most powerful force in all creation. On occasion, living things can transcend their mortal limitations and touch the Light, and when they do acts of legendary greatness are sure to follow. Others, like myself, have learned to channel tiny portions of the light through themselves to heal wounds and the ailments of themselves and those around them.

As my skin and sinew knit back together, I allowed my eyelids to slowly open enough to see where I was. All I saw was earth, and for an instant I feared I had been buried alive. Collecting myself, I took a more detailed look at my surroundings and found that while I was in the earth, I was not exactly buried. I was in a cell of sorts, carved out of the ground and just large enough for me to lie down in. The open wall was covered by the same vine-like tendrils that I had fought in the Inn, and it would appear that the room beyond them contained more cells like the one I currently occupied. The sound of someone in armor shifting his or her stance alerted me to the fact that I was not alone.

Quietly, slowly, I placed my hands on the vines and tried to sense for their energy. Though I had never done so, not even to a plant, I did know of a way that the light might be drawn out of an individual. Normally the premise for doing so was to transfer that light to another person in an attempt to keep them alive, but one skilled enough could simply tear the light out of someone and cause them a great deal of pain in the process. I had hoped that the vines might be vulnerable to such treatment, but none of my efforts bore results.

Seeing no way out of my imprisonment, I took a closer look at the room beyond my cell. The sounds of shifting armor I had heard earlier were coming from a single guard posted near a cave opening opposite my cell. The armor was clearly not made for him, and he stood uneasily looking into the passage beyond. My recently reclaimed military experience told me he was a conscript, and likely more fearful of the person who he was working for than anyone he was guarding. On the premise that his fear might be something I could use, I struck up a conversation with him.

Sadly, I found his fear to be more powerful than I expected. Despite my promises to aid him and his family (who apparently were also threatened by the person he was working for) he refused to free me from my cell. Our conversation was nearing its end when a voice upbraided the guard from the passage beyond my sight. From the conversation I overheard, the guard was supposed to alert his master upon my awakening, and by speaking with me had disobeyed orders. The new figure, presumably the master himself, stepped into the room and introduced himself as "Bear". I returned the courtesy and told him my name, after which he asked what punishment would be sufficient for a guard who had failed in his duty. Some mention was made to a "pit", and I could tell by both the Guard's reaction and Bear's inference that the "pit" was a most undesirable place to be punished. Thinking quickly, I suggested that the guard be imprisoned in one of the cells adjoining my own, telling Bear that he might appreciate his duty all the more if he were to experience it from the other side. Bear agreed, and sealed the Guard in a nearby cell. He seemed to have some sort of command over the vines themselves, and I thought him to be a mage or druid of significant power.

We talked for a moment, and he was somewhat forthcoming with information about his plans. He intended to create his army, and the people of Final Haven were simply in his way. He seemed to entertain the idea of bringing me onto his side for a moment, but my comments appeared to upset him. He warned me that I might yet see the pit and made his exit. Moments later the Guard appeared outside my cell and asked me if I really believed I could protect his family. When I said that I believed we could, he poured a liquid on the vines trapping me in the cell. They recoiled from the opening, allowing me to escape. The guard explained that he carried a vial of some substance that he used to use while farming, and that it was useful in fighting the plant creatures. Once out in the room, I thanked the guard and checked on the condition of the other prisoners. While none were in need of immediate aid, none were able to travel either, and I made a silent promise to return for them as soon as I could. The guard and I slipped down the passage, only to find a stone wall facing us just a few feet down the corridor. Reasoning and a quick search discovered the trigger for the secret door, and we were quickly on our way again.

After going up an ascending passage, we came to a room filled with more of the plant-creatures. A single sandy pathway was the only means of avoiding their grasp, and across the room an opening revealed another passageway leading up. One stray step might land us back in the grip of Bear's thorny servants, but going back held no real promise either. Taking the vial from the guard, I agreed to go first and ran along the sandy path to the other side of the room. When I arrived safely, I motioned for the guard to do the same. He did so, but he seemed to trip on a rock projection in the floor. At the same instant his foot struck the rock, a great rumbling began in the cavern. Fearing a cave-in, I grabbed the Guard's shoulder and pulled him up the passageway.

Part XVI: An escape into chaos.

My fears of a cave-in were well founded, and with the cavern falling in around us there was no option but to run blindly forward, desperately hoping to out-pace the collapsing walls. The passage that led us away from the room where the plants had been ascended for what seemed like an eternity then turned sharply to the left. The new passageway was wider, and appeared to run straight instead of moving either deeper or towards the surface. I felt a weight in my gut when we stopped ascending, as I knew full well we had precious moments to spare before the whole system buried us both. Running on, I began to hear voices in the distance. The roar of falling rock and the echoes of the tunnel made it difficult to discern who was speaking or how far away they were, but the voices sounded aggravated.

The guard and I emerged from a cloud of dust to see a number of people arguing in the passageway ahead. I recognized them as members from both my own Phoenix Guard and the Guild of Light, and my spirits soared. If they had come this far, it stood to reason they could guide us out again. I was unsure of what they were arguing about, but I didn't have time to concern myself with their squabbles. I barked out orders and gave the command to run before I realized what I was doing, and only afterwards did I realize how natural it felt. We all streamed out of the cavern and into a deep hole, and I made quick use of a nearby rope to get myself up and into the open air again.

Turning to my rescuers, I extended my hand to help them out of the hole. Now that I could see them in the light, I saw just how tense several of them really were. Kabre and Curufin were on edge, as were Ka and Azara. Almost as soon as they emerged they began bickering and snapping at each other, and before long violence seemed a real possibility. I intervened, and asked Kabre to explain the reasons for the hostility. He reported that a philosophical difference had hampered cooperation between the Guild of Light and the members of the Phoenix Guard, and that he thought their methods to be burdensome and coddling. Arthos replied that the Guard was being cold and uncompassionate, and I was able to see how the disagreement had begun. Still, I was disappointed in both my men and the Guild of Light for nearly coming to blows on the over the issue. I deemed that both groups simply needed some direction and some time to think about their actions, so I assigned them to protect the town and learn more about Bear's forces. Arthos was wary at first, and requested that I answer some questions about my escape. I did so, and apparently my answers were sufficient to quell his doubts about my capacity. We split into teams and began to address the problem of Bear and his creatures.

Part XVII: Dealing with the Druid, dealing with each other.

As I walked toward the Guild of Light's hall atop the hill, I noticed a palpable tension in the air. There were still unresolved issues stemming from my rescue, but the threat posed by Bear took precedence over any squabbling among the defenders of the Haven. Still, I knew that such animosity would need to be dealt with, either by my own action or by the passing of time. Fate would grant me an ally in the keeping of the peace with the arrival of Captain Robin Steel and the curious Ug in Final Haven. Robin enjoyed the same independence that I did upon my arrival in the Haven, and the Orcs quickly saw her as someone who possessed the objectivity that I now allegedly lacked. We found that we had much in common with each other, and I was happy to count her among the residents of our community. Ug appeared for all intents to be an Orc, but insisted that he was an Elf. Few argued with him about it, since his knowledge and ability with magic seemed more than adequate to make up for any shortcomings. He proved to be an interesting contrast to Thaka, a young woman who appeared to be very Elven, but was a member of the Broken Tusk tribe and considered herself to be an Orc. The Tribe also added Iza and Marg to their numbers, and having a formidable force of Orcs to help defend the Haven appeared to be quite the blessing.

We were able to find the families of both the sweeper and the guard we rescued from Bear's tunnels, though those poor folk had not seen the last of Bear's foul magics. Some of them were once again taken by him and subjected to a spell that transformed them into bears for a time. Fearing that whatever plans Bear had for the people of Final Haven might be soon wrought upon us, we decided to take the fight to him.

The town's scholars and Elder Quetzal had discovered a way into Bear's lair. A complicated ritual involving a crystalline dog was needed, though the details of the spell were never revealed to me. We knew that the bears he sent against us were townspeople under his control, so we did our utmost to only incapacitate them as we fought our way closer to our enemy.

Creature after creature stood against us, but we had brought the full strength of Final Haven against Bear's minions, and they could not stand before our assault. Finally Bear himself appeared, hammering blows down upon our troops and roaring his defiance. He was a fearsome sight to behold, a force of nature bent on fury and hatred. His rampage took him across our lines until he found himself surrounded by cold steel and righteous anger.

In his rage, Bear had stepped into the center of a circle comprised of Roland, Azara, Ka, and myself. Our swords bit at him, opening crimson wounds in his thick brown hide. His anger boiled over, but his body began to fail him, his strength staining the ground in dark pools at his feet. His final flurry nearly stole my life away, but at last we laid him low in a barrage of singing blades.

In the days that followed, I tried to turn my attention to the needs of the people, but there were more tensions between the Orcs and the rest of the town. Despite our initial friendship, I began to look on exchanges with the Orcs as burdensome. There was a distance between us, one that mistrust was serving to widen. They had voiced some measure of opposition to my position as Constable, but I had no real time to concern myself with their opinion. Either I was the Constable or I was not, and so long as I was I had a responsibility to the townspeople. I saw no reason to defend my performance, as the state of the town would speak for itself. We had trained the able villagers into a defense force (Which I dubbed “Shieldhaven”), and seeing to their supply and protection was more important to me than answering my critics. There had been a rash of slayings among the villagers, seemingly due to Dark Elves and their arrows. We had few leads, but I put the men to work on finding those responsible. With questionable characters, strife among the defenders, and curious cakes in the Haven, the opinions of my detractors were tertiary at best.

Further disagreements with the Orcs had brought the issue of law into question, and we learned that the Orcish culture had three simple laws: Liar liar beat you up, finder’s keepers, and might makes right. Needless to say, many of us were unwilling to accept those laws, and they were equally unwilling to accept our more complex system of governance. So divided and heated were the discussions that we feared violence would result, and Robin was given the opportunity act as arbitrator between the town and the Orcs. The Orcs agreed to live by whatever laws Robin would write, and the Phoenix Guard and the Guilds of Light and Hope agreed to evaluate the laws once they were written. I still held hope that we might come to a peaceful resolution, but something about the situation worried me greatly. The Orcs had been very threatening in their demeanor, and many in the town were concerned that they had ill intentions. Though I did not believe that the Orcs wished anyone ill, I had begun to question their intentions within the community. They seemed heavy handed, bullying their way through situations that might have been easily resolved with some patience and understanding. They also were dead-set against me having any position of influence within the Haven, apparently still bitter about my decisions concerning the items that were taken. I had no real idea of how to make things better between us, since the principals I knew to be right had guided my decision. A conundrum, but one that I had no answer to solve. Even seeking the counsel of Dallid, Gideon, and Atrum gave me no solutions, though talking with them did much to raise my spirits. Each offered a different form of the same wisdom, suggesting patience, compassion, and understanding. I hoped that they were right.

With the passing time, I ordered the Guard to conduct patrols of the surrounding lands and make regular visits to the farms on the outskirts of the Haven. Valane mentioned some project of great importance, and asked for leave to research and accomplish it. I granted his request, though I was aware of how may of my men were away from Haven on one errand or another. Brikal and Drake had already been dispatched on a deep scouting mission, leaving only Curufin, Kabre, and I in town to represent the Phoenix Guard.

Luckily, that was about to change.

As we surveyed a valley to the southwest of Haven proper, Curufin, Kabre, and I came across a group of travelers making their way across a ridge. We immediately recognized them as survivors from our Order, and hailed them in our traditional fashion. They greeted us as brothers, and we were grateful for their company. Among them were Sethreal, a Ga'vin warrior of great courage; Brant, a master of cunning and infiltration; Ethos, an empath whose upbringing gave him an inquisitive nature; and Ravinal, an enigmatic man with a powerful connection to the land around him. They bolstered our numbers significantly, and the later return of Drake from his mission brought us near to a full complement. Others also arrived in the Haven, people such as Lao, a learned man whose counsel offered much to the Haven; Ming, a monk whose quiet wisdom quickly proved a great asset; Ikarius, a tall man that I found to be both a stalwart companion and good company; Tak, a ga'vin warrior whose experience in the field was evident from the moment I laid eyes on him; and Sacozu, a woman who sought to purge the scourge of undeath from the world; all of whom would prove worthy souls. Hope seemed to blossom in my spirit, and I knew to expect something to come along and crush it in short order.

Part XVIII: The Bleeding Woodlands.

That very night brought talk of the Guild of Light dealing with their Dragon problem by fulfilling some request it had asked of them. They and the Orcs seemed to have the measure well in hand, but I sent some of the Guard to keep an eye on them anyway. I knew that this was something the Guild had to resolve for themselves, but I wanted to have some people nearby in case they were in need of assistance.

While we awaited news from the Dragon's quest, Roland, Nuk, and Atrum came to the Inn with a request for assistance. I initially offered them Sethreal and Ethos, but the look that Atrum gave me said that he expected something requiring more experienced warriors. Leaving Drake and Ethos to defend the Inn, I took Sethreal and joined him on his errand.

As it happened, the errand was the re-assembly of a tree that had chopped apart by local villagers. The villagers had been paid in grain to do the task, and the tree had begun to bleed when they hacked at it. The blood carried a disease of sorts, and the infected blood had come into contact with the grain. Even the river where the villages had washed the blood off of themselves carried the infection, and we were forced to quarantine both the river and the grain silo until we could remove the cause of the disease. We also had looked into finding the person who hired the villagers, but gained little information about him, save that he was a shadowy figure.

The clearing where the tree was located was empty when we arrived, but it would not remain so for long. As we began smearing a compound on the branches and reattaching them to the tree, creatures from the forest began circling our position. Prior to our arrival, we had believed that the bloody tree might also have something to do with the Dark Elves attacking the villagers, though the likelihood of their involvement seemed to wane with each passing moment. When the animals began to attack, Roland and Atrum fell on them with a fury, while Sethreal and I stood guard over Nuk. She continued to reassemble the tree, and we tried to keep the beasts from interfering with her task.

The fight dragged on endlessly, with the creatures sweeping in to weaken us and then returning to the safety of the forest. Finally, Roland charged after some of our attackers, hoping to draw them off from us and buy us the time we needed to repair the tree. We heard the sounds of combat coming from down the trail, and then we heard nothing. Atrum and I looked at each other, knowing that one of us had to go in after him. Despite being fresh from the wastes Sethreal had fought with great force and courage, but was best suited to remain in defense. Nothing was said, but a quick estimation of each other's abilities told us all we needed to know. I stayed with Sethreal to protect Nuk and the tree, and he went off into the darkness after Roland.

When he emerged moments later, both he and Roland were in sorry shape. Atrum's pouch of potions did a great deal to help that situation, and once again we held off a rush from the creatures of the forest. Nuk's voice rang out in triumph from behind us, and we saw the blood rushing up into a tree made whole once again. The creatures, either frightened by the bloody tree or by the resistance we gave to being eaten, retreated into the woods. Weary but successful, we returned to the town.

Part XIX: An argument and a gift from the villagers.

I found myself sitting by the fire pit outside the Inn later that evening, thinking on the bleeding tree and other events the town had dealt with over the past few moons. I was not alone, as Robin, Grok, and a few others had gathered around the fire as well. I don't remember how the subject was breached, but somehow the topic of law came up, and the divisions between the Orcs and I became apparent once again. The laws Robin wrote had appeased the Orcs by removing me as Constable and installing Roland as my replacement. I was to become “Elder”, and deal with the civil matters of the Haven, while Robin herself was to become Magistrate and preside over the legal and criminal processes. I had no issue with stepping aside as Constable, though some in the Phoenix Guard grumbled at the thought of having the Orcs decide who could and who could not hold a particular position.

Whatever the source of the discussion, the result was that Grok began saying some less-than-complementary things about my capacities and my performance as Constable. Though suffering her insults was aggravating, I held my tongue in the name of peace. Better to let her slight and slander me then bring a war to the people of Haven. My pride and honor were both strong enough to bear such a burden, so I refrained from commentary. Drake, however, was not willing to hear his commander slandered in such a fashion.

Drake managed to insult Grok and incur Robin's wrath in just a few sentences, and the aftermath of his retort nearly brought us to the war I had been working so hard to avoid. Later that night, the Orcs arrived in force to confront Drake about his insults, demanding that their “Orc Honor” be satisfied. Something in their words rung hollow in me, and I realized that I was beginning to truly resent my former comrades. I had borne their words and barbs silently to preserve the peace, and now they were provoking the issue. As we argued, I watched my men take positions around the Orcs, ready at any second to cut them down. They clearly had heard enough of Orcish slander, and I could see in their eyes the desire to kill them and be done with it. I gave them the signal to stand down, and for a moment they hesitated. I gave it again, and in such a way to broker no argument. They relaxed, but I knew then that a line had been crossed. It would take all my efforts to keep that precious peace, and not even my own men would help me in the endeavor. Drake went to stay with the Orcs that night, and I hoped that we might learn enough about each other to live together in harmony.

The next day brought reports of a mob of villagers marching through the streets. Our scouts were dispatched to investigate, and it appeared that they had captured a man they claimed was Florin himself. Though we doubted that the villagers had actually managed to seize the fleshcrafter, we didn't want them lynching someone based off the presumption that he was Florin, so we sent a force to retrieve the prisoner and bring him to the Inn. There was a feeling of comedy about the whole incident, a jovial humor that lasted right up until they brought Florin through the door.

Many of us were stunned to see what appeared to be the man who rose from the dead out of the very Inn we were seated in come shuffling in guarded by townspeople. He seemed passive, and all of us were immediately suspicious of another trick or trap. An in-depth investigation revealed that the man was indeed Florin, but only half of him. Somehow the good and evil halves of Florin were separated from each other, and the villagers had apprehended the good half. I had heard stories that Florin was once a man of great skill at healing who had fallen to darkness, but no one had expected him to arrive and be willing to die to prevent further harm. We resolved to use this Florin to find the other Florin, and hopefully put an end to the threat that the evil half represented.

After assembling our numbers, we took the good Florin and made for the lair of his evil other half. We were only a small distance up the trail when flesh golems descended upon us in force. In the confusion, all but a small number of people spread out to fight the golems, leaving the good Florin lightly defended. The golems took the opportunity to bash their way in and grab the good Florin. I gave chase to the golem that snatched him, as did Marg and Vaus, but none of us were swift enough to keep up with its tireless, ground-eating stride. Denied our only asset, we organized an offensive against Florin and his entire force of golems, resolved to end the danger once and for all.
Somehow, either from the good Florin or by research, we had discovered that the evil Florin possessed a spell that could deal damage through armor and over a huge area. Nothing could be done to resist this spell, so we made ready for it to strike us. The healers of the Haven came together, and we worked on a method in which we could restore as many of the fallen to health as we could in a short time. As prepared as we could be, we marched to war.

Part XX: One man, two sides.

Walking with the rest of the healers near the back of the column gave me the chance to glimpse a heartwarming sight. The entire population of Haven, united against a common foe, marching together to rid our land of a dire enemy. It seemed, if only for a moment, that perhaps all our differences could be overcome.

Because of my placement within the pack of adventurers, I heard the sounds of combat before I actually saw the fighting. Florin's creatures had come out in force, and behind their ranks we could glimpse their master in the throes of a dark ritual. As we fought towards him, it became certain that his magic would be unleashed upon us all. All we could do was wait for the spell that we knew would come, and hope to return as many of our companions as possible to fighting form when it did.

Our only warning was a faint shimmering in the air around us, and for a long instant I wondered if something had gone awry. I saw them first, beams of searing light erupting from the ground to tear through flesh and bone alike. Then I felt them, like bars of white-hot steel lancing through the very center of my being. The pain was brief, but there remained an ache and a weakness that left my hands shaking and my knees trembling in their effort to allow me to stand. Though I did remain standing, fully half our expedition did not, and we healers sprung into action.

Working in concert, administering potions and performing acts of medicine ranging from the mundane to the miraculous, we were able to restore all of Haven's defenders in an astonishingly brief amount of time. At the same moment, our warriors pressed into Florin's lair and encountered his second wave of creatures. As they fell back I noticed that our lines were thinning in the center, and that should a few more of our fighters be forced to retreat, that we might suffer a breach. Seeing that another could tend to the wounds of the person I was treating, I strapped on my shield and joined the fray. Florin's creations were much as I remembered them, powerful and fearsome to behold. I hewed at them alongside Curufin and Sethreal for a moment, then swept left along the lines to guard Roland's flank. One of the golems was laying about with its massive fists, ripping holes in the earth and shattering bones with its tremendous force. When its attention turned away for an instant, I fell upon it with all the fury I could muster. Lightstorm dove into its flesh again and again, hacking off slabs of flesh and splitting bone from bone. Despite my attacks, the creature turned to me with a deliberate slowness that chilled the soul. Its fist reared back, and I knew then that there would be no avoiding the blow.

When the strike came, I felt my shield slip from my hands and wondered for a moment why the world had become green and blue. A dull roaring sound had replaced the din of battle, and I no longer felt the weight of my armor on my shoulders. All seemed a pleasant fantasy, until my flying body made contact with the tree behind the spot where I had been standing. Stunned, I saw Dallid grab my shoulder and felt him dragging me across the ground. He was clearly speaking to me, but I heard none of what he said. The roaring sound still filled my ears, though I recognized the green and blue as the canopy and sky above me. As the numbness left my limbs, I expected an agony unlike any I had felt before to replace the deadness and tingling. Assessing my condition, however, proved to me that the blow had not been nearly as powerful as I had imagined it to be. My shield, which I had thought destroyed, was at my side, and I was in only a third of the pain I had expected.

I sent Dallid away, since I was able to treat my own injuries, and began to channel the Light through my being. The world became sharper, colors became more vibrant, and I was filled with an energy that seemed to spark up and down my spine. I watched the battle turn into a stalemate, with the creatures stopping our fighters at the entrance to the cave. By the time my wounds had mended, we were charging into the cave time and again, only to pull our warriors out bloodied and weary. I made my way down to the cave mouth, and found Grok lying unconscious near a man I did not recognize. He appeared to be healing her, but I watched him closely to be sure his actions were indeed benevolent. One of Robin's men approached shortly afterward, and at nearly the same instant the people near the cave entrance pulled Lao's mangled body from the cave. I set the crewman to keep watch over Grok and covered Lao with my shield as I began to heal him. We were near the opening of the cave, and several times my shield was the only thing between Lao and a golem's attention. Even as I healed him, I wondered how much longer we could survive. Grok appeared at the mouth of the cave, obviously having recovered from her earlier injuries, shouting for a weapon. Without hesitating I offered up Lightstorm, and only later did I realize the significance of my action.

Though I did not know it then, Roland and Kabre had come up with the plan that saved the day. Somehow, Roland disguised himself as a flesh golem and entered the lair without difficulty. Using Kabre's crossbow, Roland was able to bring down the evil Florin and leave the golems without a master. After that it was just a matter of bringing the creatures down and keeping them there, which was much easier with a man inside. We were victorious, and one of the greatest threats to the Haven in recent memory was gone, hopefully for good. I returned to the Inn pleased, but wary. We had encountered a number of goblins on our way to Florin's lair, and they had taken issue with the Orcs bringing us into their territory. The Orcs had no intention of harming the goblins, but that was not how the goblins had seen the incident. Coupled with the destruction of a pair of Wargs (believed to have belonged to Gnosh, leader of the Goblin army), we had reason to fear that he might seek some retribution against the Haven.

We were right.

Kiel Reid

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Join date : 2011-02-01
Age : 32
Location : Naperville IL

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