Ghosts of Illidia

No one is alone

I cover Lux with Ashleigh’s altar and stare out over the cityscape. I think about the last time I was here, what feelings had been stirred within me, what thoughts were coursing through my mind. I wrap my cloak closer around me as a coldness spreads through my body that has nothing to do with the air. It seems so long ago.

I think on Brian and Mhairie. I’m happy for him, for both of them. It warms my heart that he has at last found happiness. He seems content and at peace. …Will ever I feel this way myself? No, I tell myself, you walk a lonely path. Marius’s words come back to me. You are not Ashleigh. I remember the fury, the anger, the offense at those words. As I gaze out at the quiet city, I realize that those feelings came because he was right. I was changing. I felt it in my soul. I have come so far from the girl that once sat here.

A feeling of great sadness comes over me as I think on the past few weeks. I had pushed away all those who would love me, all those who would care about me. I had pushed away parts of me, thinking that if I was alone then I wouldn’t hurt again as I had hurt when I saw that Ashleigh was not in Ellery’s liar.

Ashleigh… Jig’s words come back to me. Maybe he not dead. At the time, I had refused to believe that. I couldn’t allow myself to hold onto a hope that seemed so far away. I needed to grieve for my friend, my companion, my god, my love. What if he were to see me in my present state? What would he say? What would he think of me? I felt a feeling of guilt wash over me. I started to cry softly as I acknowledged the truth. Micah held the truth of it. I should not have left. I should have stayed. I should have continued on my own path. This was not where I was meant to be. No wonder I felt so lost. I pushed away everyone and everything, blind to anything but my own pain, my own hurt. I walked away because I knew that was the best way to do it, quick and simple, like the cuts I had put on Micah’s finger.

I missed them all.

I missed Kiira and her companionship, her quiet concern, her support, her love. I know I hurt her. I know my words cut deep. I meant them to. My heart hurts as I remember the cruel words and the harsh silence. I was wrong to have treated her as I did. She did nothing to deserve that. I was supposed to protect her, to love her. She is one of my closest friends. I wanted to deliver her baby not because of some sense of duty, but because I loved her and I wanted to share that with her. I wanted to see the baby safe into the world. I wanted to see the joy on Kiira and Jericho’s face as their child wailed. I wanted to put the baby into its exhausted mother’s arms as she wept in pain and relief and joy. I wanted to be a part of that because she was my best friend. I promised not because she needed me, but because I wanted her to need me to do that. An ache filled my heart as a lump got caught in my throat. I missed her so much.

I missed Jig and his broken common, the friendship I had just found in him. I miss his way of thinking, so simple and yet so complex. I miss him trying to teach me orcish. I loved seeing the understanding on his face when he finally was able to read. I was finding that I enjoyed his company, that he meant more to me than I ever thought possible. There was a depth there I had only brushed in passing. His face comes back to me as I tell him that I’m leaving. I see the hurt in his eyes and I know that there are some things that I cannot heal.

There are wounds I’ve created that are deeper than I know. I thought if I was alone that things would be better. But they’re not.

I let the sobs out then, the ones I’d been holding back. I cried for everything- for my friends, for this journey, for Ashleigh, for Sabwa, for Grimm, for Marius, for Micah. Fool girl! I chided myself. You left them. How could you? You left the most important people in your life behind without a second thought. They love you, Alanna. They love you. You are worth something. Your path is not a lonely one. You are not meant to be alone. That will never be your path. You are meant for other things. Alone is not one of them. Weep if you must, but then let it go, let the pain leave with the tears. Stop holding onto the hurt and let it go.

I look up at the stars. They were the same ones I had seen when I lay on the roof with Jig and Marius, although not as brilliant and clear as they had been then. It hit me all of a sudden. ... I had to get back. I had to go back to them. First I would go to Illidia and then I’d return. I knew that it would be hard. There were things I broke I’m not sure I can mend again. But I’ll be damned if I wouldn’t try. No more of this foolishness. No more of this folly. The time for childishness is over. I have grieved now. Let that be enough.

You are only as needed as you allow yourself to be. The wisdom in the words Lux spoke to me earlier started to sink in. I thought they no longer needed me, that I didn’t bring much to the party. I felt lost, helpless, unneeded. I thought no one would miss me. I thought I’d find my own path elsewhere. I was wrong. I know that now.

I hear my mother’s voice come back to me from a time long ago. Use your power for good, Alanna. Embrace it. Explore it. You have the power to change the world if you only believe in yourself. You are destined for great things, I see it in you. Promise me you’ll use your power for good.

“I will, Mother,” I whisper into the silence. I am Alanna Silverkin. I dry my tears. The time for tears is done. A great task lies ahead of me and I must be prepared for it. I must set out to change what I can and go where I am needed. I have much to do. I’ve already wasted far too much time.

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Celestials?!?!?

We made our way out of the Wood Elf area with little trouble. We talked to Micah together and told him of what had transpired. I don’t know what he intends to do, but at least now he knows exactly what is going on and can do whatever it is that he sees fit to do. Other news hit me harder. Alanna has decided that she needs to split from the group for awhile. I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, I think that she should be free to do as she pleases. If she feels that she needs to be elsewhere, then all the more power to her. But having lost Ashleigh so recently, I feared her split. I feared that, no matter her intentions, that she would not be returning to us in one piece. The world is dangerous and Alanna is but one human. I don’t know if I would travel by myself anymore in unknown territory. I tried not to let her know my misgivings, though, and did my best to let her know that if she felt she needed to go, that I would support her. But my heart is heavy with the impending split.

We finally made it to Shelby, where Ethnie was from. I returned her to her sisters and started to make my way to the inn we would be staying at. All of a sudden, I spotted Diego Mastiff in the crowd. Smiling, I made my way towards him to see if I could say hello to Dahlia, who was usually somewhere around where he was. As I walked his way, however, he started to walk out of the city quickly. I caught up to him and asked where Dahlia was. Unsurprisingly, he seemed mad over something. He said he didn’t know where she was and thrust a note at me as he walked away. The note said:

Diego, I wish to express my deepest disappointment in the decisions you have made as of late. If you wish to go home so badly then do so. But do so without me. Diego Mastiff I relieve you of your blood ties. I am grown and do not wish to return until I have found my son. I am able to take care of myself. I am leaving. Do not try to follow me. It is no use. Dahlia

I think Jig ran after him. I just stared at the note a few moments, a million questions swirling through my head. Making a quick decision, I ran back to the inn to inform Marius that I was looking for someone and might be awhile in making it back to the inn. I found a small child who said he had seen someone fitting Dahlia’s description heading out of town. I ran as fast as I could, only to find Dahlia under attack by a large group of Spider Monkeys. I did the best I could to help out in the fight and together Jig, Diego, and I managed to fend off the attackers. I did a double-take at Diego, however. In the midst of the fate he had transformed from a fire elf into a large red hound-looking thing. Dahlia’s mask had ripped and a bright glow seemed to be coming from under it. I mended her outfit as best I could and we made our way back to the inn in Shelby, Dahlia under the cover of a blanket. I found out that Dahlia was actually a celestial!! I was stunned – of all the things I thought she might be trying to hide, being a celestial was not even on the list. Diego was not a fire elf either but was actually a hound archon, sent to protect and accompany Dahlia as she searched for her son. I told them that I would do what I could to help, though Dahlia didn’t even know a name or a description of what her son looked like. She said simply that she would know him when she saw him. She seemed interested in Jericho and Ethnie, Jericho most especially. I told her that we were going to look for him and that she could accompany us if she wanted. Jericho knows a lot about celestials, if his books were any indication. And Dahlia hadn’t cared when she thought I was a drow. Maybe he will be able to help her. I also told her that I would try to get Ethnie to come talk to her as well, since she had wanted to speak with her. I left to go back to my room, a meeting set up in Jigston a month from now. We would all leave from there to search for Jericho and Logan.

When I got back to my room Alanna was already there. She had come in while I was in the other room and left, upset that I had been in a fight. I didn’t even get a chance to tell her what had happened. I knew she was extremely upset—she didn’t even try to check the baby, which she almost ALWAYS does whenever I do the least thing out of the ordinary. I had let her leave, hoping that she would cool down and I could talk to her later. As soon as I walked in, however, I could tell she was still quite angry. I made my way to the corner of the room and started to prepare myself for trancing. We ended up having an argument, with Alanna telling me not to wait up for her and I replying with the same. I knew she was still upset about what had happened to Ashleigh but this was ridiculous! She even accused me of not caring about the baby! It’s my child! I care about him or her more than she knows! I couldn’t stand by and let one of my good friends die if I could help it. I hadn’t walked into battle alone! I knew that Jig was a good fighter and I could see that Diego was as well. I left the inn angry. This is not good for someone to be. I tried to calm myself walking around the city and thinking. I passed Alanna once but we were both still too upset to resolve anything. Fine. If Alanna wanted to act this way, maybe she needed the time to grieve properly and to find herself again. Since we were so close to Amber Rose Port, I resolved to talk to Marius and see what he thought about everyone splitting here instead of there. The people who were planning on continuing on to establish the new Sabwa would be able to catch a boat rather easily and start the new village. We had been planning on going after Jericho and Logan right after that anyway. If we left from here, we could probably manage to get both of them before Alanna returned from her journey. That would give her time to collect herself and would also be one less thing for her to worry about later. With everyone who had gotten scattered in the transport spell, I worried what would happen if we waited an entire month to try and retrieve Jericho and Logan. My mind once more settled, I made my way back to the inn to speak to Marius but found everyone already in bed except Jig, who handed me a note that Alanna had written which I promptly tucked into my bag without reading. I had had enough to try and deal with for this night. I decided to go to sleep so I could be up early enough to catch Dahlia and Diego before they left and to try and speak with Marius.

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Arriving in Tir Vodi

We continue on our journey. Alanna summoned some riding birds for us and we continued on the journey without incident until we reached the wood elf city of Tir Vodi. The days still seem a little surreal – I keep expecting to see Ashleigh stroll around the corner or to be at the bar in the inn when we walked in. Relieved at being able to return at least one child back to her parents in this mess of things, I readied myself to take Enya back home. I felt it would be easier for the child and the parents if I had gone by myself. Maybe that way I could have talked to them a little as well, but Jig insisted on coming along. So all three of us left together. We returned little Enya to her overjoyed, emotional parents. I left them to their happiness and returned to the inn. Excited at finally being able to play my music without hiding anything, I made my way up to my room and changed into the shimmering silver dress that I had purchased earlier at the tailors. Small bells attached to the bottom half of the dress and to the sleeves softly spoke as I moved. I made the decision to let my hair down, as I had kept it in a ponytail for the entirety of our journey so far. Pulling out my mirror, I carefully brushed my hair until it was exactly perfect and then grabbed my lute and made my way to the stage. I stepped daintily to the stage, smiled, and played with all the heart and emotion I could muster.

It all made little difference, however. No one seemed to even notice the change, and I didn’t get to finish my performance up. Partway through, Marius came to get my manacles and, a short time later, Alanna came and got me. It turns out that Micah could very well be infected with the Drokthiiri blood from the time he spent with Ellery. We spent a lot of the night holding him down and making sure that nothing happened, helping him as much as we could. I thought to check on Ethnie to make sure there was nothing going on with her and found her, thankfully, sound asleep on the bed. Breathing a sigh of relief, I quickly changed back into my regular clothes and made my way back to the room that Micah was in. There wasn’t much I could do for him, so I just tried to play some music to calm him and lift his spirits.

After a lot of struggle, Micah did not fully transform. His wrist was broken in the process of us trying to restrain him and Alanna set his wrist while I healed it. I think that the wrist, at least, will be alright. I feel so badly for him. He’s had to deal with so much already, why must there always be bad things piled on top of bad things! I made my way into the room I was sharing with Ethnie and fell into an exhausted, heartbroken sleep. One step at a time I keep telling myself. Get through today and deal with tomorrow when it comes. One step at a time; one foot in front of the other.

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Life Moves On

It seems strange that life would still go on when my world stopped, but go on it did. We continued to travel. The little girl, Enya, was from Tir Vodi, a city about two days journey from where we had left off last night.

After my emotional goodbye to Ashleigh that morning, I decided to push aside those emotions and focus on what needed to be done. While leaving, I ran into Kiira and Jig. They were coming to get me. I could tell they were being careful not to hurt my feelings and were seeing if I was okay. I appreciated their efforts and felt a joy that my friends cared so much for me. All of this had only strengthened my resolve to save Jericho so I could deliver Kiira safe to his arms. I couldn’t bear the thought at losing another person I loved. I felt fiercely protective of not only Kiira, but also Jig. They were my constant link, my first friends. And one of our numbers had fallen. I did not look forward to the day when I would have to part with them as well. So I enjoyed their company while I had it and pushed aside thoughts of goodbyes. I couldn’t handle it right now. The pain of losing Ashleigh was still too fresh on my mind. I focused again and we headed toward Marius’ hut. Grimm seemed better now, surprisingly. I didn’t think he would heal that fast, but perhaps Micah had healed the poison from him. Grimm was making a mess of hut, but he left with some of the others to go into town for a drink.

I talked to Marius about my thoughts on summoning a familiar like Mu when we got to the new Sabwa and asked his approval and guidance. He seemed pleased and said that he would help me and guided me on what needed to be done to achieve this. Then I mentioned about Micah healing Grimm and Marius said that Micah was still too weak to do that. I puzzled on this for a bit but decided I would think about it at a later time. Enya and Ethnie were still in the hut. Ethnie was rocking Enya and humming to her. It was beautiful. I looked at them and part of me yearned for a child of my own, to be there rocking my own child in this peaceful hut. But it was not to be, for the person I would want to share that with was no longer… I abruptly stopped my thoughts.

Before we left, Kiira thought that we should buy a dress for Enya and Ethnie since theirs were covered in blood and dirt. I bought some scraps for my familiar while at the tailors. We got two beautiful dresses for them. Kiira seemed to have a great attachment to Enya and I knew that she would be a great mother. I wondered if she was thinking of the baby as she brushed the girl’s hair and washed the dirt off of her and I yearned again, briefly, for a child of my own. I took some of the scraps I had acquired and made them so they could be bows in Enya’s hair. I drew the symbol of Ashleigh on the ends of them and told her of the man who had saved her. When everyone was cleaned up and set, we started on our way to Tir Vodi.

Along the way, I had the opportunity to talk to Micah. At first I felt awkward because I could tell that he was grieving and I didn’t want to disturb him. After all, who was I to him? I was a friend of the rest of Sabwa but Micah didn’t even know me, much less consider me a friend. But my desire to hear of Ashleigh, hear someone talk of him, was greater than my awkwardness and I asked Micah if he could tell me some stories of him and Ashleigh. I saw a fresh tattoo on his arm with Ashleigh’s symbol. I pushed back the urge to start crying again and instead focused on the tale that Micah was unfolding. He told me of how he and Ashleigh had met, of his own journey, of his regrets, of his shame, of his story. I felt my heart go out to him and I found myself telling him about the werewolf we fought in Jiles. I know I started babbling, but I couldn’t stop. The words just kept coming out. I talked about how that werewolf was evil, about how Micah and Logan were good inside. I started spilling my thoughts about [Ellery, about how he was brilliant and horrible, about how his crossbreed was at once terrifying and beautiful. It was then that I noticed Micah’s uncomfortableness with the subject and I realized how insensitive I was being. I cursed myself and told him that I was sorry. I was just spilling my thoughts, which I usually did to Ashleigh and I didn’t mean to be insensitive about it. He seemed okay with it and we changed the subject. I asked him about the Brujha tribe and he told me a little about it.

We camped that night, halfway to our destination. I asked Grimm if he could engrave the hilt of the daggers I had bought at the previous town with the symbol of Ashleigh. He remarked on the poor work of whoever had made them and told me he would fix them for me.

The following day, we reached Tir Vodi. Kiira wanted to take Enya to her home. I knew I couldn’t handle it so I opted to stay behind instead and get rooms for all of us. Jig went with her and I felt a sad pang in my heart. But I turned my thoughts instead to getting rooms for everyone. I noticed that Marius was disguised again, but he no longer looked like Ashleigh. I told him that it was okay if he wanted to and he said it didn’t seem right. I felt my entire body give a sigh of relief. I didn’t think I could handle it, seeing someone that looked so much like him. I missed him already, so much. It’s strange the times you take people for granted when their with you. I miss him more now that he’s gone and I know that I won’t be seeing him again.

I acquired four rooms for us at the inn. The boys started drinking and I asked Marius if I could use his room for a bit. He gave his permission and I slipped up there. I laid out the altar and held my necklace. I sat in silence for quite some time, not really wanting to speak. Then I started talking of the journey and about the things that were on my mind. I fell silent for a short time. Then there was a knock on the door. I folded up the altar and opened the door.

Grimm was holding a drunken Micah. He was bringing him up to his room. I noticed then that Micah’s eye was the same eye from my dream, the one that looked like that hybrid creature Ellery had created. I told Grimm to lay him on the bed. I asked if I could borrow a dagger from him and he gave me one of mine back. Then, as he left, he told me to be careful with Micah because it’d been awhile. I almost laughed aloud at the thought, but my worry about his eye was greater. I examined him and tested for poison. He seemed fine, just drunk. So I cut the tip of his finger and put the blood in a basin so I could examine it. It was unlike any blood I had seen. It was a thick purple. I thought maybe it was what lycanthrope blood looked like. I went to get Marius. I showed him the blood and asked him about it. He told me that lycanthrope blood was like that of a human. I knew then that this had something to do with the drokthiiri in him.

It was then that the transformation started. Micah’s body started to convulse and bones started to pop. I put a rag in his mouth so he wouldn’t bite his tongue and started to tie him down. I was afraid of the thing I had seen in Ellery’s liar and I started to panic. I sent Marius to go get Kiira’s manacles. A few minutes later, Jig came up and helped me to tie him and hold him down. He was transforming. The fear started to overwhelm me, but I focused on the task at hand. Poor Micah. Kiira and Marius joined us. I suggested that Kiira play him a song of the Brujha tribe while I got close to his ear, whispering so he could still hear the music, that he was a good person, that he didn’t have to transform, that he would be fine, to stay with us, to hold on. Jig managed to get the manacles on and we had him tied down. His skin was turning brown like the spot where he was injected with the needles. Eventually, he stopped the transformation and returned back to human form. We mended his broken wrist. I sat by him all night and cursed Ellery. Poor, poor Micah. I would find a cure for this. I’d help him. I silently promised him and I intend to keep that promise.

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Loss

It is difficult to find the words…difficult to even pen this entry. One of our party; a dear friend has fallen and I don’t think any of us will be the same again. It started with a slit in the floor. Just a small slit—if I hadn’t happened to glance that direction, I would never have even noticed it. What it turned out to be was a secret area under Ellery Silvanni’s house. I went upstairs to stall Ellery should he come in while the rest of the party descended down to investigate.

It appeared, however, that the hidden area posed more problems than any of us had yet realized. Ashleigh came back up a few minutes later and told me to fetch Collin and make our way down to the hidden area. I found Collin and woke Marius up to be ready, then descended down into the secret area. Still unsure of exactly what was going on, I made my way forward and gasped in dismay as I saw Drokthiiri creatures trapped in various cells around the room and deep gashes in the floors. Taking a deep breath, I found a niche in one of the open rooms and readied my bow in case it came down to a fight. I didn’t see any of the others, but I was ready.

Startled, I heard Jig cry “Micah Micah Micah!” Smiling that we had found him but apprehensive of the slamming noises and air of danger about, I stood and I waited to see what would happen. I heard a maniacal laugh and then, one by one, I heard the cell doors around me unlock. Frightened for my friends’ safety, I too began experimenting with the buttons and levers that were in the room around me. One of the doors slammed shut, blocking any exit and I heard Ashleigh cry to open the door. After a few frantic moments, I managed to find the correct switch and opened the door once more. Then I heard Ashleigh yelling “Flee!”. And I did just that. Little did I know that this would be the last thing I would ever hear him say.

We made it to the ladder leading upstairs when we realized that Ashleigh was no longer with us. Just as we turned to see if he was coming, the door leading towards him slammed shut with a final, heart-wrenching crash. I hurried everyone up to the house and out onto the street. Alanna managed to summon some riding birds and we set out. She said she needed to remain behind so we let her stay while we tried to get the others to some sort of safety.

We made it almost to the next city when the birds disappeared. Marius made a hut for us to get into while Jig and Collin left to check up on Alanna, who still had not returned. I took the time to try and talk to the survivors of Ellery’s dreadful dungeon. There was a beautiful woman, who I had thought an elf at first glance but who didn’t really seem like one when I looked closer. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but she really didn’t seem completely elven. In fact, when looking closer, I was sure she was human, except for this gut feeling that she was elven. It was strange. Anyway, her name turned out to be Ethine. She had lived in Shelby, a city just past Amber Rose Port. She had been celebrating her sister’s birthday and drinking a little. She walked back with a man named Emery, her sister’s husband’s cousin. That was the last she remembered before she showed up in Ellery’s dungeon basement. This surprised and concerned me a lot. I hope that Ellery was the only one performing this dreadful experiment. But that someone got taken who was nowwhere near The Thickett pointed to something, perhaps, even more dire. There was also a wood elf child by the name of Enya. She was still in her nightgown and seemed to have been taken from the nearby town of Tirvodi. We will try to return her when we get to the city.

Jig, Alanna, and Collin got back around midnight or so. It was then that it hit me. Ashleigh was gone. Truly gone. I had hoped, in some corner of my heart, that they would find him, cocky smile and all, in a room somewhere. I felt numb; in disbelief. Could this kind man, who was always there should any of us need him, be truly gone. He had willingly taken on my curse so that I could be healed. I would have followed him to the ends of the earth for that. I had wanted to help him, wanted to be there for him as he had been so many times for all of us. It didn’t seem possible – didn’t seem fair. I couldn’t even cry—it all just felt too surreal; a bad dream that I would soon be woken up from.

But it was not. Alanna left to be by herself somewhere. I didn’t blame her. I could not imagine her pain. Could not imagine what it would be like to finally find love and know it, only to lose that person such a short time after. It is a wound that I don’t think will ever fully heal. I feel for her; wish that there was something I could do or say. But what do you say when you know that no words will ever bring solace, will ever make things right again? I almost wish, in a deep, dark, selfish corner of my mind, that we had not even found the secret door. Then Ashleigh would still be with us. What is done cannot be undone, however. All that happens in life helps to shape who we are and what we do. Perhaps that is his last gift to us. I know that I will never forget the lessons he taught us, the gift of self-reliance and inner confidence that he radiated and that he taught all of us to have. My thoughts turn to the others in my party, to Jig and to Alanna and I grieve for what I know will not be long in coming. I begin to understand why my village keeps to itself, with elven friends only. For I know that the life of a human; the life of a half-orc are both painfully short. This parting is so hard, more than I ever thought it would be. The next ones will be even worse and I fear what must inevitably happen. I vow to treasure each of them for as long as they are with me; the span of which will be barely a hundred years, if we are lucky. A tear trickles down my cheek as I mourn the abrupt and painful shortness of years.

It is not until later that the mourning fully comes. Micah takes a few of Ashleigh’s items from Alanna and performs a funeral ceremony. Memories of Ashleigh flash through my mind and I smile, sad but happy for all of the good that was Ashleigh. The tears start pouring down and I do nothing to stay their progress. It is good, to mourn this man, to remember him. He was a good man and I will always remember him, will remember what he taught me. His death will not be in vain.

Our hearts grieve while our feet move on. One step in front of another. I don’t think any of us will be the same again. Yet, to honor Ashleigh Cavanaugh, we do what we know he would want. We move on, and we continue to help others in any way that we can. He will not be forgotten.

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Destruction Deceit

Soem feelings not meant to be ignored, but sometimes it good that you do. I want to throw wood elf down tube 2nd time we come back when h yell at Alanna. I say it ok though and leave. I wish I threw him down then, but glad I didnt cuz we have Micah! He being held in cell in secret area. Area look weird and have blood and Drak things there. I go to speak with gnome with friends, but then I see Micah. I crack neck and charge after gnome. He somehow dodge and throw me in cell. I ok though, cell very thick, but bars only metal. I bend them and release self but I be smart and wait. I wait for him to come back. He do come back and try and talk to me bout calm down. Well I kick door, but it heavier than thought and he go flying back, he retreat and I go save Micah, but he stuck SO i see what can do then straps get scarrred and seem to run away, i no know why, they do though. Micah say something about one door have bad thing behind. I look in door and see weird wereman and plant thing combined. Like drak thing and wolf combined. We try and leave when I hand him to Ashleigh and say go with him. I try and break down door but it no work, hurt self, then creature come out door. It look mean and smart, so Alanna run while Ashleigh and I there. He say he have spell so I think to hold him while he cast it. Ashleigh touch me though and all of a sudden I just run. I get attacked on way and I keep running. I can’t stop till up ladder almost to top. i look down and see Alanna and Kiira behind. We run out to get Grimm and Marius safe when we se big metal door close behind us. Alanna cast spell and make birds appear. We ride but Alanna say she have to stay to keep spell going. I no belive her, but she seem to be telling truth after I look at her a bit. We ride for few hours. Everyone ok and I even get to bring Hammer of Grimm, but Alanna still not back. Me and Collin go back and run towards her to met up with her. After very long run we find ourselves back in waterfall city. We worried about Alanna so we go back to building. We find her in basement. She say she praying and she need to do this. I say why need to ? We argue about things and I tell her she prey but I going down to do something that make difference. She follow me after that. Metal door still closed, but we find switch that raise door. Inside are dead Drak things and bones. We go in room with lots of buttons and press them all. A big pit had opened up in middle and we find switch to close, but purple eyes look at us in dark. That were drak thing have purple eyes. I start to worry about Ashleigh. Alanna and I make plan to trap him and kill it. She summon wolf in room and I close doors in time to hear bang io door as purple eyed woll hit door. I slam metal grates almost all the way and pull switch to open pit. It attack through small hole and I cut with dagger, only take finger, but Alanna attack with green beam and thing shrivel up. It then fall down hole. I proud of her but she run across fast and go try find Ashleigh. We look and find wood elf dead, Alanna say that she told him so, it funny she say that cuz he dead, he not going to hear. But then she offer me his head. He very bad man so I take it. Scratched up but it make good…. What I gonna do with all skulls I have? I keep them, but what they really do? I not moo with more than 1 at time… Maybe I make belt or even chest strap of skull. THat scare people who want to fight good. Anyway We see no Ashleigh but we find needles. I take some and Alana take rest. I try and giver her mine but she want to see room instead. I hold on to needles of yellow and red blood. We then try and leave but Alanna want to tell someone,m, I say bad idea, but she say it ok to tell so people take care of. We go tell wood elf parents. They seem almost ok with son death, dad does anyway. He seem to want to protect name not son. I want to throw him down trees to, but i not. He bump me and i angry for some reason. We finnally leave and go see friends in Marius hut. Alanna sad, but she tell them Ashliegh dead. He not dead, I see him do so many things that easier than that in time as friend. He just get away. She no understand, but it ok, she see. Now we wait for everyone to get better

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Some Scars Don't Fade

The pain still feels fresh, like a dull aching in my chest. I feel tears that start falling in warm streams down my cheeks as the dream comes back to me.

I’m standing at a campfire reaming into Ashleigh. I’m telling him how foolish and stupid he was. He’s sitting before the fire. He has one arm on a bent knee and he’s looking down as I pace on the other side of the fire and vent my frustration at his sacrifice. His skin is the white it once was. He has that normal cocky Ashleigh smile, like he always does. There’s blackness all around us. The fire illuminates his face as well as mine. It’s the only thing between us; it seems to be there for this purpose. I’m telling him that it didn’t achieve anything and that it was foolish. He apologizes.

“I’m sorry. I told you that the road I walk is a solitary one. I never meant to hurt you… I never meant to hurt myself.”

“I never expected your love.”

“But you always had it.”

Then he explained why- how he saw a demure looking woman walking in the woods. How I was the reason he watched the party as long as he did- he wanted to make sure, he said with a smile on his face, that the drow and the half-orc were as safe as they seemed. How he always waited up for me, even when I was out with another man. How he always made sure I was fine before he went to sleep unless I specifically asked; and how on those rare nights he couldn’t sleep. How I’ve helped him in more ways than I can know. And how he’s sorry that things happened like this.

I’m staring at him and it was like an overlay where you can see two things at once. I saw the door come down between us, the one that had separated me from him in Ellery’s liar. I hear myself saying the words of my message spell. “Ashleigh, run! Flee! Everyone’s safe, run!” Then the moment’s pause followed by “I believe.” I believe stuck out to me in the dream.

Then I see Ashleigh as he smiles his big Ashleigh smile. “Now so do I,” he says and he winks. The dream ends with the last impression I have of him smiling and winking.

I sit up in bed and start wiping my tears, patting Conor reassuringly on the head. My constant companion the night before as I sobbed my grief, I appreciated his quiet support. I get dressed and grimace a little at the slight pain of my new tattoo. I glance at it. The symbol of Ashleigh on the top of my left breast, by my heart. I remember getting it the previous night, but I don’t remember the pain which was nothing compared to my grief. It’s strange the things you remember and the things you don’t. I fix my hair, trying to make it presentable. Then I take out the altar and lay it across the bed. I hold the necklace tight in my hand as I sit in front of the altar. The tears flow freely now and I do nothing to wipe them away.

“I still can’t believe you’re gone. I keep thinking that if I just leave this room, you’ll be standing outside of it leaning against the wall waiting for me with that cocky smile of yours. But I know that it won’t happen because the truth is that you’re gone. ... I miss you already. ... It hurts. I know it probably always will. ... Thank you for all that you’ve taught me. You’ve changed me too, more than you’ll ever know. ... Thank you for always watching out for me, for…” I falter and struggle to hold back a sob, but it manages to escape and I weep and weep, allowing the sobs to escape, feeling the pain in my chest and the tightness in my throat. “Ashleigh,” I sob as I get on my knees and lay my head on the top of the bed, my tears falling onto the altar and absorbing into the fabric.

As I start to calm down I see his face in my mind as my memory brings it to the surface, that last image I had of him before waking. Slowly I smile, although I know my smile is a sad one. I sit up and lean back onto my feet. “I’ll always believe,” I say. Then I close my eyes. ”...And I’ll always love you,” I whisper, a new tear trickling down my cheek.

I stay sitting for some time, my eyes closed, trying to calm myself, holding that image of him smiling in my mind, the sad smile still on my face. I feel the pain go down to a dull ache and I wipe my tears. I sit cross-legged on the ground. Conor comes over to lay beside me. I stroke his fur and close my eyes once again, focusing on the image of Ashleigh smiling. I try to imprint that image onto my memory so that if ever I need it, it’ll be there, just like Ashleigh.

I know I’ll never be the same. How could I? I have loved and lost. Now I can understand the ache that Brian felt. I accept it as a scar I’ll always carry… and treasure.

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TIme of Giant evil bunnies!

So many thing happen. We find faster way to get to waterfall, use carriages pulled by big hungry birds. They move fast and that good. During time of riding I start to think hard. Life been so hard for me and now I see so many things happening in front of me. This is very important to me, my friends and I wonder what Kord really want me to do. I join him and now he still not help. I decide what to do but need words to express and see others emotions. I start tlaking to new and old friends. I spend day speaking with all and finding secrets out, finding feelings until I happy I know what do. Marius can hide us in special room where fire can be made. I make fire and change out of Kord pants. I inite all friends to be there, I really want Alanna, Ashleigh, and Kirra there to see me change. I say speech about my life. I tel abotu feelings of wanting leave but stronger feelings of love and happiness being here with them. I tired of not being heard from all sides, friends, strangers, clergy, gods, demi-gods, all will listen now when i say things. I rip up Kord smbols and burn up candle of life from ceremony. I decide to forsake Kord, no like him anyway, he no help friends. If he too busy for easy answer then he too busy for me and it his loss.

We reach waterfall soon and in rush when we hear Grimm tired and in danger. We take speed there and then find small man by waterfall who can lead us down. He say ok for small fee (it funny how money buy things when really it worth nothing) and then take us down under trees VERY fast. We go down in few seconds rather than hour. Stomach little funny but ok. Finally we find Waterfall base and hear he behind waterfall. We go back and he being attacked by big furry evil rabbit things with huge claws and once even have large pointy tail. Grimm held tight and being attacked while being held. I get mad and run to help. Around corner I no see one rabbit thing hit me hard. I grab him and crush his body quickly. I no like these so they get no honor from me. I go to Grimm after and remove rabbit holding his arms. I crush him and then biggest one seem to want to fight me. All friends also fighting, but they far behind me as I surrounded by these creatures. I in own world, just see Grimm and evil bunny things by it. I go after big one. He really big, bigger then Grimm even. I no care, I seem to trip as I come to him and he simply grab me and pull me into air….perfect :) Grimm then go down and look dead. I mad. I let him grab me, easier for me to wrestle if already touching in hug. He try and hurt me but really he just dumb and try and punch. Get a good hit on face…but last one he do. I grab him and throw on ground. His tail with pointy end keep trying to hit but not long enough. He good wrestler, but I know many move it not know. I crush and I burn it with gauntlets, I punch and wrestle. I hear sounds of water and I get bath as big jet of water hit big creature bunny. I smell good, but still winning. People fight it while I hold. It randomly get up and try and hit me but I keep throwing on ground. FInnally he just die from all wounds from friends. Everyone start leaving but this good fighter, I take his head. It take a while but I get it. I get back in time to see creatures of bunny kind evil come from woods. We go up and safe. I start burning skull to make helmet or trinket from at least. I then told I may be infected AFTER I put in green flame room. I reayd to break down door, but Alanna and Kirra say it ok and I just wait so I wait. Finally i let out only to go see Grimm and see NO HAMMER!!!!!! I know what I must do, mmust not worry others, but I know not strong enough to fight all, so I ask Alana for Magic of invisble again. I tell her I go and she can help if want. We go down. I go invisible and grab hammer. Bunny beast evily walk around. I throw things to make sounds so it go away. I grab hammer and it come back but then invisible sap strength cuz it really hard to move hammer. Sounds of banging steel come from outside so I drag hammer fast to tube. I put hammer in, and then see lots of eveil creatures comming. I push in Alanna, she not happy but she look like she stay before I go up, So i make her go up first. I stay still I hear and smell creatures as they come close. I hold on and jump in in time to pull string and see half of beast be cut in half. I make it up and then Alanna happy. New friend who not very friendly start yelling at us for using tube he say we can use, he weird. He start yelling and I get urge to push him down tube. Only a moment of time, but he not treat Alanna like that. I have word with him later instead I decide. I go up stairs and bring Hammer to Grimm. I wait upstairs with Grimm when I see folder with pictures of moons and words. It open by me so I read it. New friend come up and grab folder from me as I look at pictures and words. He start to ramble about how it ok to look through things of his and it ok to look in his underwear drawer. I really not want to see underwear, but he saying things in weird way. He say it ok, so why he take it from me and walk away with it? I talk to him later I think. So now we wait for Grimm to wake up. I hope he ok I want to talk to him and make him feel better like he make me feel better. I hope hammer make him happy to see.

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Rescuing Grimm

After talking to some of the local wood elves, we managed to procure a rickshaw to try and get to Grimm. I rode with Marius much of the way and began to feel much better after talking to him. It was good to get to know each other better. I even heard some interesting stories about the young Jericho. I only hoped we could make it to Grimm before anything happened to him…the messages were getting more and more ominous.

We went as fast as we could and finally managed to get to the city where the waterfall was located after only a couple more days. The person who was driving the rickshaw knew of a wood elf who took people under the canopy. Thankfully, we managed to find him, his name was Ellery Silvanni, and get under the canopy fairly quickly. Marius sent a message spell to Grimm and we quickly ran around the waterfall and made our way behind it. What we found there was more horrible than anything we had yet faced. We had heard rumors of a race called the Drokthiiri living under the canopy, who kidnapped people at night and were a source of fear for young children. We had never expected to actually come in contact with them. They were monstrously tall, over nine feet from what I could tell. Their skin was dark with randomly placed patches of a dark green fur. Their blood didn’t even seem normal – it was an odd yellow-green color that made me shiver in my boots to see. To our horror, we saw Grimm in the midst of a pitched battle with them. He was horribly outnumbered and looked to be fighting a losing battle. Our group jumped in to help. After seeing them hit Jig a few times, I pulled out my bow and decided that it would not be prudent for me to get any closer than I was. I don’t even know how Jig managed to take the blows and stay standing.

After a violent and pitched battle, we managed to triumph over the beasts. Grimm was alive, but unconscious. We made our way back to the lift to take us back above the canopy. To our horror, more and more of the things seemed to be pouring out of the woods as we frantically attempted to get everyone in the lift and above the canopy safely.

After a few tense moments, everyone managed to make it up to Ellery’s house and above the canopy. Everyone was alive, though both Jig and Grimm had a possibility of being infected. We learned from Ellery Silvanni that the Drokthiiri used to be normal. They became Drokthiiri when infected with this disease. Shivering in fear, we let Ellery take a few blood samples of both Grimm and Jig to determine if they had been infected. Jig was confined to a single room while we used my manacles to bind Grimm while we waited for the results. We waited what seemed centuries, but were relieved to discover that neither of them had been infected, though Grimm was badly poisoned and was still unconscious. Jig was released and Grimm un-manacled.

Marius took Grimm’s injuries hard. I didn’t notice until we made it back into Ellery’s house, but his poor wings had been torn off somewhere along the line. Marius seemed beside himself, tears streaming down his face as he clutched Grimm’s limp hand. I wanted to go to him, but our relationship was still too new. I knew that when I was upset, sometimes all I wanted was to be left alone. I didn’t know Marius well enough to determine if that was one of these times for him or not. So I took out my lute and tried to unobtrusively strum some calming music while he took watch over Grimm.

The day was long, and I don’t know how long it will take Grimm to recover. I think that tomorrow I will try and relieve some of the intense stress by looking around the town. Maybe I’ll buy a dress; something to perform in…Anything to try and forget the problems for a short while…

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Crying on Conor

I can’t quite sort out all the emotions I’m feeling and I’m not positive that I want to. But I know that I need to. These feelings are raging inside of me. I feel that my chest is going to explode with the pressure. I want to take my fingers and scratch my body, my arms, my face, my chest and let out some of the pressure that’s building up. But all I can do is cry and sob into Conor who licks my tears and sits in silent support.

The past few days wash over me like a wave. I close my eyes and let the tears fall in warm trickles down my cheeks as I remember.

Flashes. Entering the city. Flash. Walking through the city. Flash. The joy on Marius’ Ashleigh-like face as he carried the bag of food. Flash. The view from the top of the lift. Flash. Marius hiding the seam. Flash. Explaining my faith to Jig. Flash. Riding with Collin and Ashleigh. Flash. Ashleigh lying on the bed. Flash. Ashleigh’s smile as he looks at me over his poker hand. Flash. Jig throwing the ripped symbols into the fire. Flash. The stars from the roof with Marius and Jig. Flash. Watching my friends enter the tube and disappear with it. Flash. Ashleigh getting hurt in battle. Flash. Shadows from my hands as I cast. Flash. Grimm as he collapses. Flash. Examining Grimm. Flash. The rage I felt when I saw where Grimm’s wings had once been. Flash. Carrying Grimm. Flash. Casting a fireball. Flash. Frantic calls to Jig. Flash. The fingers of the creature as I watched them twitch and burn. Flash. The fierce protection I felt for Jig when he was shut into the room. Telling Jig a story. Flash. Ashleigh offering to calm me as I held the flask. Flash. The deep sorrow and pain on Marius’ face as held Grimm’s hand. Flash. Casting invisibility on Jig and myself. Flash. Making the sounds of hammers. Flash. Jig pushing me into the tube with the hammer as I watched the monsters start to close in on him. Flash. The fear, rage, and guilt as I sent the tube back down and waited for Jig to come back. Flash. The absolute despair as I saw the empty tube return. Flash. The bile in my mouth as I heard them eating their own. Flash. Seeing Jig with the hammer. Flash. The overwhelming guilt and shame as Ellory questioned. Flash. Ashleigh standing at the top of the stairs. Flash. Standing outside, trying to breathe, wanting to tear myself into pieces. Flash. Looking over the edge. Flash.

Anger… Rage…

I want to kill them! I want these monsters, these atrocities, gone. I don’t ever want them to hurt anyone else again. I want to bring death. I’ve never felt this way before. There might be a way to reverse them back to what they were, but will they ever be whole again? And how many more have to fall victim before this is over? Can we stop it? Is there a connection between what happened in Illidia and what happened here? Is there a connection between the lightening storm and these monsters? And then there were the dreams- those dreams! We all had them. We all saw. It can’t be mere coincidence. But what are we to do? What can we do? I feel this despair and I can feel myself weeping more as the sobs try to let out all the feelings of frustration and sadness inside of me.

I don’t know what to do. What can I do? I am not very useful. I feel worthless. I am not very skilled in battle nor am I very skilled in healing. I’m trying to understand the poison that Grimm has in him. I’m trying to find a cure for it, but I feel so useless. And I feel so angry. I wish I could go down there and rage war on them. I wish there was a way.

And now my thoughts turn to Grimm. Poor Grimm. I feel the sobs trying to escape through my throat and I don’t hold them back as I weep for his loss, for his pain, for his fear, for his determination, for his loneliness. We were too late. I keep doing the “we should have”s in my head, but I know that they’re no use. Ashleigh says there’s a way to get his wings back, maybe. But Ashleigh is a god. Can’t he do it? If we all believe, could he do it? He says he needs a spell. Can’t he just use his healing spell and try to regrow the wings? He hasn’t even tried! What use is a god if they won’t even try? I know he can do it! He just needs to try. What good is godhood if you are so limited? Poor Grimm. I wish I could hold him, help him, heal him. But I know there is nothing I can do. Poor Marius. His face breaks my heart and I weep for him. His family is scattered and hurt. I can’t even imagine what Marius is feeling right now.

Oh, Conor, good, loyal, patient Conor. I hug him and bury my head in his fur, feeling his loyalty and love. And in the comfort of his fur, I weep, trying to quiet the demons within myself wrestling with each other to be heard.

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