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A note from TK523

Today a shout-out to my fellow D&D enthusiast writer friend Actus, he has two ongoing stories here, Steamforged Sorcery and My Best Friend is an Eldritch Horror.

Entry 8: Riloth 19th the 8th

Dear Spellbook,

I just woke and last night I finally made it to the reset, 3:13 AM, but there's more pressing matters at hand.

I counted my money, I have eight gold coins, twenty two silver, a hundred and twelve copper, and eight bits. That is almost enough to buy half of a potion. I don’t think Levar will take a down payment. Do you? No, he didn't seem too amenable to my begging when I showed up last night, but that might have had more to do with the time of day. We need to plan.

How can I get the coin? I could ask Trish, she might have some. Daulf gives money away faster than he gets it, so no luck there. Roland on the other hand is loath to give up a single bit, so he might actually have the coin, but I don’t think he’d part with it.

I could steal it, from Roland or elsewhere, though I have no idea where Roland is off to. I’m sure it wouldn't be too difficult to steal the money from somewhere in this town, given enough trial, error, and resets, but that seems morally dubious at best.

Gambling is an option. If I’m lucky, I could triple my coin in a few high stakes bets. Is exploiting a temporal anomaly for financial gain morally dubious? Probably, but it's not like I get to keep it so I’m going to say it's fine. By that merit though, the stealing is probably okay too. Right?

Alright, I’m off to try to earn some coin


I tracked Trish down at lunch to ask after her winnings. She was eating a sandwich of some grilled meat in the dining hall off the gaming floor. If not for my sickly condition, it may have been appetizing, but the smell of it turned my stomach..

“Trish, I don’t have time to explain, but I need to gather twelve gold as quickly as possible.” I asked her as she was lifting the massive stack of bread, meat, and cheese into her mouth.

She continued taking the bite, before answering with a full mouth, “I’m sorry, I don’t have it. I’m on a bit of a losing streak—but don’t worry. I’m bound to bounce back.”

I guess that leaves gambling. I don’t have the energy to find twelve gold lying around, and it's not like I could steal something valuable and fence it. Well, Trish could probably find a fence, but the stealing isn’t sitting well with me.

Resisting the urge to ask her if she’d found a fence, I made my way to the chips table. As I crossed the threshold from the dining hall to the gaming floor, that strange feeling of loss came over me once more. By then, I’d grown accustomed to it, and I continued to the chips table paying it no heed. I don’t mean to brag, but I am very good at chips. If you don’t know—because why would you? You're a spellbook I'm pretending can understand me—chips is a game where you place five two-sided chips in a sequence under a cover, you then reveal them one at a time and the other players bet on the pattern. Different patterns earn you a different portion of the pot, and you split it with whoever guesses your pattern.

Normally, I clean house. Roland and Trish will no longer play me for actual stakes, so I'm left to fleecing strangers we meet in inns. I say normally because this prison is anything but normal. I sat down at a chips table expecting to quickly double my coin, and I was cleaned out in only five rounds.

I don't know what happened, it was like I didn’t even know how to play. I’ve heard people talk about the strategy of the game, but never really cared for it. I’ve always just been good at it—it came to me naturally and my intuition usually proved correct. Today I did about as good as I would have had I just guessed at each sequence. The sickness and sleep deprivation didn’t help, but it was more than that. After losing my money I stuck around to see if I could follow the game and figure out what I’d done wrong, but even with nothing on the line my guesses were way off.

Tomorrow I need to find a game of pure chance and record the results, then bet on those same results each morning. I wasn’t thinking clearly. Even had I won at chips, it would have been a chore to repeat every morning.

I’m out of money, so it looks like this misery will extend at least into tomorrow. I took a nap before writing this so it's pretty late. I only have one day left to recap so I might as well get that out of the way so I can focus on my new mission.

Riloth 19th the 1st

The first time I lived through this day I woke up around nine, but then fell back asleep for another hour. Since then I have been getting up at that first stirring—much to my body’s protestations. When I finally woke up for good, I felt wretched. I don't think I need to describe that to you again. I checked Trish's room first, but there was no answer. Going down to the ground floor I found Trish gaming there, with a sizable amount of winnings.

"Good morning sunshine! You look," she paused, looking me up and down, "terrible."

I don't know how she does it, but she drank as much as I did and looked great. But looks can be deceiving when it comes to Trish. Contrary to what your eyes will tell you, Trish is a half-elf. When I met her that first day in the caravan she was very effectively disguised as a human girl of around my age. In reality, she is a half-elf of around fifty, though I haven’t asked. I estimated her age by some of the thing’s shes told me about her past. Asking her age would be a bad idea.

Trish had an uncanny ability to disguise herself and disappear into a role. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear it was magic, but I’ve seen her do it before my own eyes and it’s pure skill. From her makeup, to how she holds herself, everything she does while living a role, serves the purpose of reinforcing it. She uses the ability as if it’s second nature, often changing personas in the instant between interactions with strangers as she sizes them up. It seems that every time I see her on the floor gambling, she is under a different guise. That day she was in what I think of as her true self, the one she put on after my pa—the night we met. For all I know, this is just another disguise among many, but I’d like to think by now I could tell.

"Trish, can you track down Daulf and Roland? I’d like to get moving today before noon, but I don’t think that’s going to happen."

She broke her character and gave a deep bow, saying, “Sure thing Master Wizard Theral Stormcaller.” She’d often tease me about the fake name when we were alone.

Trish gathered her meager winnings, and I went over to pay my bill. The host on duty that day was Simon, as always.

He greeted me, "Goodmorning master Wizard, checking out?"

"Yes, thank you. What do I owe for my stay?"

"Well, your room fees are eighty silver, your bath two more, and your meals were twelve on top of that. Adding in your laundry and service fees your total comes to ninety eight silver," He said politely.

Ninety eight silver. A whole gold!

I rubbed my aching head, not sure if it was from the illness or hearing the room charge. Probably both. I handed him a gold coin and said, “Keep the change.”

What’s another two silver I guess.

Then I made my way over to a bench and passed out until Trish came to get me.

A kick to the thigh broke me from my nap.

"Rise and shine,” Roland’s voice followed the kick. “Oh, you're right, he does look terrible."

"Are we all ready to go?" I grumbled as I gathered my belongings.

Daulf answered for the group, "Yeah, we'll have to camp on the road tonight, no way to make it to the next inn before dark. And there weren't enough horses for sale for us all, so we just bought a donkey. His name is Tulip." He spoke the last part with a bit of joy in his voice.

The walk to the east gate towards Orinqth brought us through the wealthy district. Levar was visible through his front window, fighting with a tower of scrolls. In my befuddled state, I’d forgotten he’d agreed to look into the writing from your pages. We also passed the library and the Crystal Dragon Hotel. Two guards stood stationed out front and looked bored and undisciplined.

As we neared the gate, we passed through the wealthy residences that lined the city, as if those who could afford it wanted to be as far from the Parlor as possible while still being in town. They were constructed of stone that attempted to match the brilliant white of the Parlor’s exterior but fell short. Each property was surrounded by a fence that rose to the fortified stone wall at the edge of town. One particularly ostentatious home had a stone minotaur statue towering over its small front fence. The statue stood twelve feet at the horns, and one arm rose high over its head bringing its total height to fifteen feet. I spent the walk staring at my own feet hoping to not fall over and took none of this in at the time.

We approached the gate, and a guard left his post to greet us. He walked towards Daulf with a determined gaze, and met him with a hug, which Daulf returned. They spoke quietly and I couldn’t hear, but when they separated the guard was smiling through tears. We continued on through the gate, and outside Daulf felt his jacket and pulled out a coin purse, puzzled momentarily.

He turned back to the guard, who was smiling sheepishly, and threw it back at the gatehouse yelling, "I told you I would take no payment!"

The guard came out—tears dried but smiling all the more—and retrieved the pouch.

He shouted back "It was worth a try. Know you will always be welcome in my home!"

No one else seemed willing to ask Daulf what that was all about and I was very focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

It was a few hours past midday when we finally left the town and surrounding camps for the wooded forest road—which was mostly my fault. For their own purposes, everyone seemed intent on staying. Trish wanted to relax a bit, Daulf had ample opportunity to serve Illunia, and Roland really didn’t want to visit his ex-wife’s people in Orinqth. When it’d become clear Bearskin hadn’t passed through, I’d become the one driving the departure. Bearskin claimed he owed me a debt for saving him, but I felt that debt had been paid in full—and then some. If he was in trouble, we needed to be there for him.

I needed to be there for him.

As we entered the forest a hawk cried out from above and descended from the sky in a wide arc. Trish and Daulf jumped to the sides in defensive positions. I stood there oblivious to the danger as I’d already begun to lean against Tulip and use my cloak to block the sun from my eyes. I'm usually much more alert in a fight—I swear. Roland stood, smugly, and the hawk landed on his shoulder.

"Oh I missed you girl! Sorry I wasn’t with you last night, I had a, uh," he paused thinking before saying "prior engagement in town."

Roland seems to rotate through animal companions on a regular basis but has never kept one for long. Something about chains of oppression or tyranny of the strong. Honestly, I never listened, he can be a bit much, and it's been a while since he ranted about it. Some sort of Blessing must be at work. He has the ability to befriend creatures in no time at all and train them to help in whatever he needs. Once, he found a squirrel and later that day it was stealing food from my saddlebag. In Edgewater he traveled with a wolf he called Maple, but when we left, it stayed behind. From his interactions with the beast, I got the sense that they were old friends, if that makes any sense.

The walk was brutal under the midday sun. Daulf led with Tulip, talking quietly to the donkey as we traveled, politely ignoring my use of the beast as a support. Roland’s hawk circled around most of the day, occasionally landing on his shoulder. Whenever she landed he’d talk to her, and then wait as if hearing a response, and then she would take off once more.

The walk was uneventful, no goblins, kobolds, bandits, or weary travelers with a sob story and request that we delve into a cave to find their missing cow—which was a blessed relief after our trip from Edgewater to Crossroads. No one talked to me, Daulf and Roland were occupied with their animal friends and Trish spent the journey singing to herself. At some point in town she had picked up a mandolin and plucked it as she sang a tune.

Before man, or sea, or sky or time

There was naught but him, the great, the prime

He made the gods, austere, noblesse

Four he made, like him, but less

 

After creation, from here he fled

The gods were left adrift, unled

Together they began to make

Great works to cover their heartbreak

One day their works no longer fulfilled

The things they made had beauty but stilled

More like them they longed to make

With wisdom and cunning, to heal the ache

 

The sisters discovered in er one day

To make more gods, that there was a way

Sacrifice is what it did take

To give yourself for a new god to make

Rejoice they did as their company grew

But one god refused to share with the new

With the new gods they made the pillars of power

From which came all, from a stone to a flower

Betrayal came from he who’d n’er gave

The cleverest was enraged and vengeance he did crave

He planned and he plotted and then sprung his trap

Around him, the betrayer, his power he did wrap

The sisters saw that their brother could not win

They chose at that moment to throw their lot in

Around Faust, the Wardens constructed a cage

And thus created the world and the war we still wage

As darkness set in, Roland, after conferring with his hawk, led us to a promising camp site. We turned off the main road onto what had once been a much older thoroughfare. The trees here were lower and paving stones sat between their clawing roots. Traveling down this path for a short time, we came to the scattered remains of a fortress. The remnants of a stone wall outlined a square roughly a hundred paces in each direction. The walls had been completely razed along with any other buildings that might have once stood here. The pieces that remained ranged from sand to chunks the size of Tulip. Every piece was jagged and shattered without any signs of stone block construction, as if the walls had been made of a single piece of stone.

Was this a dwarven fortress? Only their Stoneweavers could produce such works, but all of those on the surface were well known. Strange to find one here in the rear end of nowhere. I should return to this site when I finish my isolation.

We made camp in the remnants of some structure that lay in the center of the square. The rubble pile was ten paces on a side, but the debris formed a bowl with a sheltered—if uncomfortable—place to camp in the middle. I tried to help set up camp, but after nearly setting the bed rolls on fire Daulf ushered me to a corner and told me politely to sit down and stay out of the way. Once settled, I sat and wrote my short entry in you for the day and fell asleep.

Strange, I remember more. I must not have been as asleep as I’d thought. Or maybe you’re giving me this memory? Are you imparting this memory from your own perceptions, or plucking them from what I heard in my sleeping state?

Some time after I laid down to sleep, Roland came back to camp with rabbits and set to cooking them on the fire. As he reached towards the flames to take them off, a necklace fell out of his shirt. From the leather cord hung an ovate shaped leaf carved from wood.

Trish saw it and asked in shock, "You worship Assuine?"

"Yeah, what of it?" Roland replied, gripping his talisman protectively.

"You just don’t strike me as the kind of person to worship much of anything. In the brief time I’ve known you, you have been quite hostile to any and all authority figures we have encountered."

Roland grew defensive, his words coming fast and clipped, "That's the thing about you city folk, you just don’t get it. You think authority is something that can be taken and forced on others. You all meekly go along with those who tell you where to work, where to eat and where to take a crap. Authority is inherent. If you need to force your authority on others, you don’t really got any. A parent's got authority over a child since they created that child and got a duty to protect it. Like a mother, Assuine created and protects us all. For that, we owe her our service."

Trish shrunk back slightly at his tirade, and noticing her reaction, some of the fire left Roland’s face.

In a softer tone, he continued, "She’s not too demanding and is generous with her Blessings, though they aren’t the flashiest. I’ve haven’t encountered anyone more worthy of service than her. The gods have authority over us whether you like it or not. Your will got no say in the matter. The only choice you get is to decide which god you want to serve. Don't matter much what you do, anything you do helps out one of 'em. They got the whole world divided up among 'em."

At that, he took a rabbit off the spit and walked out into the darkness alone.

As Roland retreated from the fire, Daulf spoke. "And what is it you believe, Trish?"

Trish sat staring into the fire in a contemplative silence.

"There is truth to what Roland says. Not that bit about authority, that was nonsense.” Daulf said, waving his hand dismissively. “Authority is not inherent, it is given. No one is ruled without consenting to it in one manner or another. But what he said about furthering the ambition of the gods, that might be the truest thing I’ve heard the man say. The gods are real, I know you know that. And they have a vested interest in the goings on in this Realm—for good or ill."

Trish seemed to shrink in herself more as he spoke of the gods.

He continued, unaware of the reaction his words prompted. "Everyone knows, it’s as obvious as the dawn. They watch the denizens of this world with rapt interest. They bless those who worship them, but they Bless those who serve. The thing is, you don't need to worship to serve."

Daulf gestured to me.

"That boy," he let out a heavy sigh and rubbed his forehead. "The only time Riloth's name passes his lips is when he says the date or stubs his toe. But that boy, he has been serving the will of Riloth since I ran into you two—though I doubt he knows it. I can't guess what the god of storms wants of him, but his thumb is on the scales. I've known a few of his Blessed over the years and you begin to be able to pick them out of a crowd. But lately I've sensed more pairs of eyes on him. He doesn't know it yet but he is destined for great deeds and the gods are watching. I only fear who those great deeds might serve. So think on what I've said before you say that you serve no god, because I sense eyes on you as well."

Daulf left Trish alone to be in her own thoughts and no more conversation was had.

Well, that was unexpected. How am I serving Riloth? Is this why Daulf has been glued to my side? What did he mean about other eyes? I need to think this over. I’m going out for a walk.

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TK523

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Bio: Aim for perfection, but don't try too hard.

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