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Entry 26: Riloth the 19th the 22nd

Dear Spellbook,

I tried sleeping after resting and writing about Edgewater, unfortunately, the same potion that cured me of my lack of sleep prevents me from sleeping when I want to. After lying in bed for a restless hour I gave up. I suppose I can go over my preparations for the day, or go downstairs and gamble, but there’s not much thrill when nothing’s on the line, and it seems I am not as good at chips as I once believed.

This morning, I woke up and dressed in my travel gear. Before going down to make my bet, I pulled my father’s sword out from its hiding place under my bed. This was the first time I’d held the blade since placing it there when we entered town.

At first glance, my father’s sword is nothing to look at. Just over three feet from pommel to tip, the rapier is brilliant white steel, free of knicks or dents. The crossguard is a simple bar, and the cage protecting the hand is plain bent steel wire. Daulf called it an expertly crafted blade. It is free of adornments save one. Set in the crossguard sits a stone of dark onyx. When Daulf saw it he stopped speaking mid-sentence and ripped the blade from my hands for a closer look. Saying a brief prayer, his eyes grew a lighter shade of blue and glowed faintly.

Gently handing the sword back to me, he said, "Boy, I do not know where your father got this blade, but keep it hidden. Men would kill—or worse—for a blade like this. This is an ensouled blade. Unless you learn how to use it and unlock its potential, I wouldn’t let it be seen by anyone who might decide they want it for themselves."

Ever since then I've kept it hidden. I was far from adept with the blade, so Daulf suggested I not wear it, lest I invite a confrontation I couldn’t win without magic. I brought it out briefly each night, since Edgewater, and trained with one member of our group or another. Daulf provided the majority of my lessons, lessons sort of being his whole deal, but Trish and Roland took turns giving me pointers on their own brands of martial prowess. Before his disappearance, Bearskin dismissed my sword as a toothpick, and instead tried to teach me to wrestle—then he called me a toothpick and instead began supervisings my physical conditioning. As much as I hated it, my increased stamina has been crucial in these resets.

Each time I held the blade, I tried to ignore the memories it brought forth, but now, sitting in my room and free of training to otherwise occupy my thoughts, the questions came back.

Where did this weapon come from? Was it really my fathers?

I shook myself out of it before I began to spiral.

Focus on the matter at hand. You will not get any answers stuck here. But...

An idea struck, and I closed my eyes, focusing and willing the auras to return to my vision. When I opened them, I saw the faint gray mist obscuring everything, but my father's sword glowed with its own inner light. The aura of the sword was an extremely light blue, bordering on white, like a thin cloud backlit by the sun, and smelled like a crisp winter's day.

Wait, smell?

I brought the blade to my nose and sniffed it. The odor was definitely coming from the blade. Out of curiosity, I pulled you out of my bag and sniffed. You smelled like, well, a book. But more than usual. Normally your odor is subtle, but now with this Will sight, it was as if I was smelling all the books I'd ever opened, all at once.

I proceeded to smell a few other objects in the room, including the few magical ones, but nothing else seemed to smell any different. I banished the colors and the scents disappeared with them.

Colors and smells? This must be my mind assigning recognizable sensory information to something I can’t otherwise comprehend. But what is this information? Time to wonder later, I need to place a bet.

Strapping the sword to my belt, I made my way to the gaming floor, placed my bet and collected my winnings—all of my winnings, to the misfortune of the drunken dwarf. As always, I made Levar’s my first stop.

After making my purchase and taking my daily pick-me-ups I asked him. "I’ve heard that these potion ingredients can have some pretty nasty side effects. Do you have anything here that could temporarily remove a person’s hearing?"

Levar answered, "Hmm, yes they do. In fact, if you drank two more of those clarity potions you’d experience paralysis and kidney failure. Why do you ask, specifically?"

You don’t say?

I had prepared a lie, but decided to go with the truth—or at least part of it, "There’s a harpy running free in the region. I plan to hunt it, and I fear wax ear plugs would not suffice to protect me if it came to a battle."

Levar simply nodded at that, as if he heard things like this every day.

"Ah yes, harpies are vile creatures. Their bodies can be used for a whole host of potions, but all of them are evil creations that warp the mind. I’ll tell you, I have been petitioning the Alchemist Guild to ban the sale of so-called ‘Love potions’ for years now. Love potions? More like rape potions if you ask me. I’ll have none of that,” he said firmly, and let out a heavy sigh before continuing, “but my pleas to the guild fall on deaf ears.”

“Haha, but that's what you are here for isn't it? Deaf ears?" He laughed to himself, and I’ll admit I grinned.

He continued, "I have just the thing, and I’ll give it to you for free if you promise to burn the monster when you slay her so no one can use the body for any immoral acts that would give us Alchemists a bad name."

I agreed and, after much deliberation and muddling about his shop, he gave me three small kidney beans and a small jar of a yellow liquid.

"Those there are kobold kidneys and that is a vial of bee venom. The kidneys will give you a terrible allergy to bees, and the venom—if you rub it in your ears—will cause them to swell up mighty fierce. I had to get creative. I could have just given you some dire wolf tallow and medusa hair, but those would react poorly with the clarity potions. Take the beans and in an hour you should be suitably reactive to the venom. But be careful,” he added hastily. “It will last a few days, the allergy at least. Not the swelling."

I thanked him and left, fighting the temptation to ask about where the medusa hair came from. Now that I had a solution for dealing with the harpy’s song, I needed a weapon that could handle those ogres. A well placed Firebolt could take one out of the fight, unfortunately my aim was far from perfect. I expect they would shrug off anything short of a shot to the face in their entranced state. I needed a more reliable weapon.

But first, I needed to task my minions. While I was no longer laying low, that was no excuse to stop performing my due diligence—or tasking other people to do it for me.

Since leaving the Parlor, I’d held some coins in my hand, focusing on them as I walked. If I wanted to conjure an item on my person, I had to either have held onto it for days, or to have focused on it for a few minutes. I don’t have a better way to describe it other than that. I think about an item I have on me and eventually I can conjure it.

Racing ahead, I positioned myself in the alley I shortly expected Rail to flee into with her latest ill gotten gain. Affecting a nonchalant attitude, I flipped a coin into the air, caught it and repeated.

Before Rail could speak or flee, I called to her, “Want to make a bet?”

Rail was about to turn, but my question caught her attention.

“What kind of bet?” she asked.

“If you can guess what hand this silver coin is in, you can have it. If you guess wrong, I have a job for you—a simple job—and I’ll pay you one now, and one later.”

This, I’d found, was the quickest way to earn her cooperation. The girl didn’t trust easily, but she trusted her own ability to see through a hustle. Cautiously she approached, hiding her stolen coin purse behind her back. She stopped a few paces away.

“Alright, I’ll play,” she said.

I gave her a nod and pressed my hands together with the silver coin between them, and then pulled them apart into fists, the coin in my right hand—she always picked the left first.

As expected, she picked the left hand, and I opened them both revealing the coin to be in the right.

“Flood,” she cursed under her breath. “Two out of three?”

“Sure, why not?” I answered.

I repeated my action to hide the coin, this time keeping it in the left. She examined both hands, taking a step closer. She began to point to my right hand, but paused and looked at my face. Seeing something there, she pointed to the left.

Flood, she didn’t pick left last time.

Dismissing the notion that she could be aware of the resets, I chalked her success up to her reading my face. I had been looking at the left hand, not thinking she would deviate from our previous unremembered interactions.

“You got me,” I said, opening the left hand.

For the final time, I repeated the hand clasping, and kept the coin in my left hand. Guarding my expression, I stared at her face. Once more, she picked the left hand—and then I cheated.

Sending my mind out to the Font of Space, I focused on both the coin in my left hand and my empty right fist, willing the power of the Font to move the coin. I felt it appear in my right hand the same moment it disappeared from the left, and then opened both hands to reveal she had guessed incorrectly.

She cursed once more and then asked, “So, what's the job?”

I explained, and once Rail was set up, I quickly set up Gill, Twiggy, Julian and Sam, and then continued with my preparations.

Preparations completed, I wandered into the wealthier area of town I’d had little excuse to explore before then, in search of a blacksmith. There was one off the main market square, but he specializes in the less exciting, more mundane products of his trade like hinges and horse shoes. I needed weapons.

I followed my ears as I picked up the rhythmic sounds of a blacksmith at work; they led me to an open-air smithy near the east gate. The smithy was large for the town's size and boasted three forges. A pair of young boys worked at two, and an older man toiled away at the third. Together they produced a song of pings and clangs as they worked the metal in their forges. They looked to be related, with their wide frames and hairy everythings. The man worked shirtless with only a leather apron. He turned as I approached, revealing a long braided beard tucked into his stained apron and an unruly mop of hair. The boys, fully clothed, sported thick beards of their own, made more impressive by the fact they otherwise appeared to be in their early teens. Their beards lacked the impressive length of the older man. It was a wonder they all hadn’t burst into flames from a stray spark.

Seeing me enter his yard, the elder smith stopped his work and greeted me, "Welcome to my shop, is there something I can help you with?"

"I hope so. I’m looking for a crossbow,” I said, and then added, “A big crossbow."

His face brightened at my request and he said, "I got just the thing. I bought it off an adventurer and spent some time fixing it up with my boys for fun. It’s just been collecting dust. Come on let—" His answer was cut off by a shout from inside.

"Hilroy! I swear you’d give this smithy away for a sack of dirt if I wasn’t around!"

At the shout, the man flushed, though his smile only grew wider.

In a campy, over-eager tone, he said, "Oh, I mean I have a wonderful ancient artifact of wonder and power that I lovingly restored through storm and adversity. You are lucky you got here when you did, I just finished it and expect dozens of orders for replicas at any moment. You have the exciting opportunity to purchase the original, which may or may not be the weapon of a lost dwarven king." He ended the pitch with a wink.

The voice yelled in the exasperated tone of a long suffering spouse, “You don’t have to lie to the boy, just don’t sell yourself short.”

Hilroy led me to a back workroom through his shop, where a massive crossbow sat amongst other half-finished projects, all covered in dust. The bow was three feet wide and made of a white steel, reminiscent of my father’s sword. Absent-mindedly, I touched the blade at my hip. On closer inspection, the color was different, but the bow was free of rust, and gleamed in the dim light. It had straps attached, so one could carry it on their back while traveling.

Hilroy stood behind it, "I don’t understand that woman. Just yesterday she was complaining that this contraption was taking up too much space and was bound to kill someone, and now she’s trying to make me play hardball to unload it."

Hardball is an orcish game where they use a ball chiseled from a block of stone. The goal of the game is to get your ball through the opposing teams’ hoops as many times as you can before the ball becomes completely covered in blood, breaks, or the other teams are incapable of "playing" any further. Those are all the rules. Orcs aren’t big on rules.

"How much does she want for it?" I asked, not feeling the need to cause the man any more marital strife.

Rubbing the back of his head and looking away, he said, "A full gold. She thinks the markings on the side are runes. I told her they were probably just art. But the metal of this bow is unlike anything I’d ever seen, and that's no idle boast. When I cleaned the grime and grit off of it, it was completely free of rust. I suspect it's magical."

I looked over the etchings, and they did appear to be runes. I didn’t know what they did, but I recognized some of the patterns from the fortress near Edgewater. The runes were scuffed and completely removed in some areas. Who knew what would happen if they were powered. I closed my eyes, and enabled my Will sight to examine the weapon. It took on the same grey hue indicative of non magical, non living objects. The runes too looked mundane in my sight, though I had no real idea what they should look like.

“The metal doesn’t seem to be magical.” I said, thinking aloud, as Hilroy watched me examine the bow with keen interest, “Those are certainly runes, though they seem a bit, well, ruined.” I laughed at my own joke, and Hilroy did too, on the inside. Probably.

I’ve heard rumors that dwarves had devised some method of preventing steel from rusting without magic, could this be such a piece? If this is, it is worth far more than a single gold. If I ever escape from these resets, I will have to let Hilroy know the value of this treasure.

Ignoring his poor sense of humor and my own misgivings about ripping the man off, I continued, "I’ll pay you a gold if you throw in the bolts and a quiver."

By then, it was almost lunch, so I took my new weapon back to the Parlor for a meal, gathering strange looks as I passed people with the massive weapon strapped to my back.

Maybe this isn’t the best way to lie low.

I entered the Parlor to Simon’s questioning stare at the weapon. Removing the crossbow from my back, I hefted it onto the counter.

“Watch this while I eat lunch. I’ll be back,” I said. “And don’t steal any bolts, I counted them.”

I left the confused man and made my way to the dining room where the burger was being served once again.

By now, I was eating purely for sustenance. The same meal had quickly grown tiresome, even if I discounted my unsettled stomach. I could find variety in the town, but that would take time I wasn’t willing to waste, and risk altering my minions’ reports at best, and reveal myself to someone else in these resets at worst.

After lunch—cup of coffee in hand—I retrieved my crossbow from Simon. The coffee at least was a welcomed treat each day. He was busily sorting papers behind the counter at my approach, the crossbow nowhere to be seen.

“Where’s my crossbow?” I asked.

Simon let out a sigh and said, “ Your weapon has been moved to the weapon check closet. Please wait one moment.”

He disappeared through the door behind the counter and returned a moment later with my crossbow, which he struggled to carry without scraping the wall or floor. He hefted the weapon onto the counter. I lifted it and looped the straps over my shoulders. Simon watched me, expectedly, and I stared back.

“Oh yeah, the bolts, thanks!” I said, remembering what he must have been waiting for. He left once more down the hall and returned with the quiver.

“Thanks,” I said once more, as he stood expectantly. “Uh, Bye, I guess”

Awkwardly, I left him as he stood, as if waiting for something from me.

What was that all about? Simon is so strange at times.

Walking through the town with a full belly and a heavy weapon strapped to my back, I decided that tomorrow I needed to task Simon with purchasing the bow—and maybe a cart.

With more effort than my last trip, I struggled through the woods to my practice clearing. The crossbow on my back kept catching on branches, forcing me to stop. I drew my sword and used it as a machete to clear a path, but still the branches caught. The journey that originally took a half hour now took nearly double that, and when I finally reached the clearing I collapsed exhausted. Before Bearskin’s training and the weeks of walking, that trek would have been impossible for me. Fondly, I remembered how I’d struggled to keep up with Roland and the rest the day we ran after those cultists in the woods, and how far my conditioning had come in a short time.

After a little time recovering—and my entire water skin—I began setting up my training for the day. I had five bolts with which I could practice with the crossbow. To ensure my practice proved valuable, I needed to replicate the circumstances of the battle as closely as possible. I wasn’t sure exactly how far the ogres had been from the debris of the wall, but I had a suspicion that I could find out.

Finding a soft patch of grass in a warm beam of sunlight, I made myself comfortable for some meditation. After only a minute, I was in my mental vault, the door I had modified still in its diminished state.

That’s telling. Not everything is resetting in these resets. If I am trapped here too long, I should expect to begin to see gains in my Will capacity

I turned to my bookshelf of memories, and pulled the representation—icon? avatar?—of you that resides in my mind. Holding you open before me, I thought back to my first encounter with the harpy, when I’d been drawn into her spell and added to her group of admirers. I could see myself, standing amongst the ogres and men, staring up at the tower. The mind altering power struck me like a wave, filling me with longing, but reflexively I pulled my awareness back, limiting my experience of the moment. Suddenly it all felt much less real, as if watching the scene through a window. I could sense the presence of the magic, but it didn’t affect me. From this muted view, I examined the surroundings. We stood in the fortress, between the hole that had once been a gate, and a stout stone building. As best I could judge, the gate was fifty feet away, the ogre’s bulk should be an easy target at such a range, but I still needed to practice.

I exited my mental vault and stood up from the grass. In my meditation a grasshopper had found a perch on my shoulder and I blew it away with a blast of air from my palm, drawing lightly on the Font of Air. The wind was stronger than I could produce with my lungs, but not greatly useful. I suppose if I needed work, I could work a bellows in a smithy, but that would garner more questions than coins.

Tomorrow—the next today—I would be shooting from a perch atop the rubble of the gate. With my refreshed memories of the events, I recalled that the rubble stood about as high as the rock in the center of my clearing, so I would practice from up there. Looking around the clearing, I found an area where the trees were less dense, and paced out fifty feet from the rock into the woods in that direction. At the measured distance, I looked around for a tree to use as a target. I need one that was as wide as the chest of an ogre. Finding one off to the side, I made sure I had a view of the boulder’s top from it and then cut lines into its bark. I marked it where I recalled the ogre’s waist and neck stood relative to my own, and then cut an X in the center of the “chest” as a target.

Returning to the boulder, I climbed atop it and dragged my crossbow up behind me. I quickly realized that the boulder, while as tall as the rubble pile, would not do as a perch. Leaving the crossbow up there, I got to work piling up a stack of wood to create a platform from which I could stand, using the boulder as a rest for the weapon. After a good deal of work, I had a serviceable pile of wood and a longing for a second water skin.

I pulled the crossbow off the boulder, and loaded it atop my shaky platform, sticking my foot through the loop beyond the stock, and pulling the thick string with both hands. I’m not embarrassed to admit that drawing the string took a lot of effort, the draw weight had to be well over two hundred pound.

There is no way I’m getting a second shot off once the ogre is struck.

Having loaded the bolt into the bow, I hefted the weapon onto the rock. I'd handled crossbows on occasion when our caravans had them to spare and was familiar with their use—though none this powerful. Resting my head on the stock, I sighted down the arrow and aimed at a knot a few feet above the neck line.

The arrow shot down the stock accompanied by a deep thwack, the string vibrating in the silence that followed, which was punctuated by the thud as the bolt hit the tree.

I left the crossbow at the rock, and walked down the range. The bow was much more powerful than I'd expected. The arrow lodged itself deep into the tree, two hands below my target and a little to the left.

Well, it looks like I can just aim for the chest.

Filled with confidence, I walked back to the clearing and resumed practice. For the next shot, I aimed two hands above the X, and felt myself pulling the bow slightly to the left when I pressed the trigger. The bolt landed just above the X, once more to the left. The first bolt directly below the latest.

Well, I hear consistency is key.

With each subsequent shot, my aim improved. Once aware of the pulling, I was able to prevent it, but drawing the bow became increasingly difficult, to the point that I had to rest between the fourth and fifth.

The final bolt landed within the upper "V" of the X.

I quickly wrapped up my practice session with some Firebolts at the rock. Loading a two hundred pound crossbow five times did nothing to improve my accuracy, but I consoled myself with the fact that my arms would be fresh in the morning.

My journey back through the woods went much faster with the crossbow left behind. My father's sword sliced through the branches with ease and I made it to the camp around town in record time.

I made a beeline for one of the wells I'd seen dug and saw a line fifty people long. Dismissing the idea of waiting, I made my way to the front of the line where an older woman was drawing a bucket.

"How much for that bucket of water?" I asked her from behind.

She turned to me and laughed, "Ha, sonny. I waited in that line for over an hour. At my age, you don't have many of those left."

"How about a gold?" I asked.

She laughed harder at my offer.

"HA! Better make it two," she joked, not believing my offer.

"Great, it's a deal." I said, as I conjured two gold coins from my purse to my open palm.

She watched my hand, not believing my offer was real, and almost dropped her bucket in shock. Lunging, I grabbed it before it could spill, and placed the coin in her now free palm.

"Pleasure doing business with you!" I called back as I walked away with my prize.

Lifting the bucket to my mouth, I ignored the grimy wood of the rim as the fresh cool water sated my thirst.

New rule, bring more water everywhere.

After drinking my fill, I dumped the rest over my head and made my way back to the Parlor. I spent the rest of the day relaxing in the baths, ate a good—if repeated—dinner of seared lamb with a cave salad, and then returned to my room to write about Edgewater. Though it was unnecessary, I went to bed after writing and tried to sleep. Even though I didn't need to go to sleep, realizing I hadn't gone to bed in days was unsettling.

Unfortunately, Levar's potion prevented sleep from coming, which brought me here. The reset will occur soon, I can’t sleep, but maybe I can meditate and work on entering my vault more quickly while I wait.

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TK523

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

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