Whether it be social, recreational, or professional, some of what represents me is here. Post a comment, or contact me at should you so desire.

The posts are in reverse chronological order, and are pegged by topic on the links to the left. For more of an introduction, please see the About this site page listed above.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Team Fortress 2: Playing a Pyro

In light of the recent Team Fortress 2 update, I decided to write my thoughts on my favourite playable class in that game; the Pyro. For anyone unfamiliar with the game, I suggest checking out a review of it here on Post-Launch Reviews, and the game’s official website here.

Monday, 25 June 2012

My 100th post! A near-year in review...

It's time for another amazing blog update by me, and guess what? It's my 100th blog post! So, what to do, what to write about? Well, beyond the norm of telling you what's been going on recently, I'd like to reflect on my life since my first post.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Hobbit Board Game

There has been a considerable lack of Dungeons and Dragons in my life as of late. Understandably so, as I just moved to Edmonton, only know a few people here, and getting a bunch of people together to play is hard enough, let alone when you don’t know a lot of people, or the ones you do are busy with work and living 2 time zones away. So, exploring the city as I have been, I was lucky enough to come by a comic book shop a couple of blocks from my new apartment.

I was looking for something interesting to play, something D&D related, and could be possibly played by 2 people. I didn’t want to pay a lot, and I’m not too sure about the newer D&D board games. My online search yielded two games which might prove interesting, namely Dungeon and The Hobbit board games. The problem with these is that they are hard to find as Dungeon was released in 1975 and even though several editions have been released, it’s not exactly flying off the shelves. The Hobbit has a similar history.

My mom says I am lucky, actually, the exact wording she uses is a little more colloquial, but the meaning is the same, haha. Suffice it to say, as I was perusing the wares of this comic book shop, a Happy Harbor Comics, which is an amazing place full of games, comics, and all sorts of things, I came across The Hobbit board game!

It was on the bottom shelf, behind some old science-fiction books, used, and had a slight hole in the bottom of the box. I thought, well, I’m here, I might as well ask and see how much it is. The employee at the store looked at it, raised an eyebrow, looked at me and said, “Really?” I laughed and asked how much it was.

He didn’t know. Apparently, they forgot they had the game, and it wasn’t in their system. He told me that he didn’t even think the game had all of its pieces. I joked that it must be pretty cheap then.

I paid $10, which is a steal for a board game, old or not, and I brought it back to my place thinking that as long as the instructions were there, I could make any piece which was missing. Turns out, I didn’t need to, the pieces were all there, and in great shape!

Now, enough about how I got the game, I’m sure you want to hear more about the game itself!

First thing I have to say is that the game concept is unique, as far as board games are concerned. When I think of board games, I usually think of Monopoly, Risk, or party games. Classic games, but not what I was looking for. In The Hobbit, the goal of the game is to steal from Smaug the dragon. Seen here on The Lonely Mountain, he is surrounded by a hoard of jewels he has presumably collected.

Starting at Bag End, you play as adventuring hobbits, making your way to the Lonely Mountain, passing through some of the familiar areas from The Hobbit novel like the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood.

Along the way, you may run into goblins, have trouble crossing rivers, or navigating dark mountain passes. You may also run into Gandalf from time to time who offers you some assistance in the ways of a gift. Each time you land on an Adventure tile, the one with a sword on it, the player to your left draws the next adventuring card and describes the encounter, like the one below. You immediately succeed on the encounter if you have the right gift from Gandalf, but if you don’t have the right gift, you spin the wood/water/sword spinner hoping the gods of chance are in your favour. You can steal from Smaug before you get the mountain, but if you fail, Smaug steals from you, adding to his hoard.

Once you arrive at the Lonely Mountain, you can steal from Smaug using a system which is inherently backward if you’ve ever played D&D. You roll a d20 (20 sided die), and hope to have a result less than or equal to the sum of your adventuring points (gained by succeeding on encounters) and jewels (gained in a variety of ways). It was a little odd at first to be hoping to roll a low number, and how a critical failure in D&D would be a critical success in this game, haha.

All in all, I found the game to be enjoyable. It was different from most board games, featured some of the lore and spirit of The Hobbit, and was an amusing way to pass the time. The entire game is pretty much chance as you win encounters and jewels by the roll of the dice or by drawing the right card, but where it lacks in strategy, it makes up for in just plain, simple fun!

A Game of Thrones (book) /Game of Thones (TV show) review

So, most of you will probably see the title and think, "Really? You're just getting to this now?" Or, possibly, you're thinking, "Way to jump on the bandwagon, took you long enough." Well, I have some thoughts on that, and an explanation as to why I'm only getting into this series now.

First off, I have been busy the last year, as anyone who frequents this blog will know. I'm not saying I was busier than anyone else, even though I could have a case for something said of that nature, no, I'm saying I chose not to devote any time to serious reading until this summer. And yes, I am aware that the book has been out since '96, and the show since last year, but beyond the fact that I simply hadn't heard of the book until last year, there is another reason I waited it out.

Hype. I have a problem with hype, which in itself is a tricky issue because the line between popularity and hype can be thin sometimes. Maybe it's the hipster coming out in me, but sometimes I have an issue with things when they first come out. When I see how excited other people are for something, sure, I get excited, but I also get wary. Have you ever gone to see a movie in the theatre and afterward you thought, "That was awesome!", and then you see it again, at home, months later, and you're like, "Well...I was wrong."? (*cough* G.I. Joe * reference to some friends who told me about this experience, haha)

That's what hype is to me, that's why I delay some things. Anyway, long rambling aside, I just finished watching the first season of Game of Thrones, and reading George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, and here is what I think:

I liked them both! By the way, some spoilers below!

Let's go into the book first and then I'll talk about the show. The book was very fascinating, and kept my interest the entire way through. The book does a great job of establishing the world in which the characters live, one which is similar to a medieval time, with a little magic mentioned here and there. Not surprisingly, the book is political, I mean, it's a GAME of THRONES, a struggle for power, and the book does a fantastic job of setting the scene, establishing the rivaling parties and their interests, and moving the story forward with a pace which is quite exciting, but also easy enough to follow along. The characters are very intriguing. Here is a book which features the flattery of court, of kings, queens, knights, lords, etc., and combines this perspective with faults, with depth, vices, and goals.

First off, I love the way the supernatural is portrayed throughout this book. At first, it seems like if magic existed at all, it doesn't anymore. That time has passed, or at least the belief has, for the most part. Yes, there are a lot of religious beliefs and a lot of near-superstitious devotion to things, but most people don't believe in the Children of the Forest, or the Others, and the dragons are long gone. Or are they? As the story unfolds, these elements come back, and undermine the beliefs of many characters, and give a depth into this world with which we are just becoming familiar.

Every chapter is named after a character and follows them along and provides us with their perspective on things. I really look forward to seeing this develop in the future, where maybe the same incident will be covered in two chapters, from two very different perspectives, and maybe hearing the thoughts of some other characters not covered before. It's not a new feature, by any means, but it works, and might be the only way in which you could represent the entirety of 7 different kingdoms without feeling detached.

The TV show does a pretty good job of this without going so far as to break things down into chapters, although one could argue that this is what episodes are for. Anyway. The acting is quite spot on, and the casting was magnificent. I had to ask some people because I watched the first episode of the show and then started to read the book, so I had to ask if maybe I was just biased because of how I went about it. Most people I ask agree that the casting was pretty fantastic and that the actors do the characters justice. The only main difference is age, as the characters are sometimes much younger than their real-life counterparts, but this can't be helped with such adult content as war, sex, etc. But, everyone looks the part, acts the part, and I can't help but see their faces when I'm reading the book. The first season does a great job of following the plot of the first book, complete with quotations from the story. And the show isn't just a translation from the page to the screen either. Some bits are added which contribute to the general feeling of the scene and capture the spirit of the world, if not necessarily canon. 

One thing which I, objectively, look forward to, is the struggle between good, evil, and expectations from a book, TV show, or film. Obviously, the struggle between good, evil, and the grey area in the middle, is fascinating, and something I will really enjoy, but, objectively, I look forward to how the story develops and whether or not things will work out in the end. I say objectively here, because I know I will have an issue with this story, in some respect.

Let me be a little more clear. When asked about how he saw the conclusion for this series, Mr. Martin was quoted as saying something as bleak as, "A barren wasteland, covered in ash", or something equally haunting. He has a reputation for killing characters; a reputation I've known about for quite some time.

So, I know this series will be more realistic. I know people will struggle, and that, as one character says in A Game of Thrones, "Life is not a song, sweetling." So, I say I will enjoy this objectively because I mean to say that I will find the way in which the story was written, composed if you will, to be thoroughly interesting. The way an author or artist puts something together can be thoroughly fascinating, even if the piece itself isn't, or disappoints me in some way.

I'm not saying I need everything I read or watch to be as happy as My Little Pony where friendship is magic, as I appreciate the "realism" which can be provided in a setting such as the one in A Game of Thrones. I'm just saying I hope I don't get too sad while reading this. (all of you ahead of me in the books are laughing at me, that's okay)

What this means, is that I don't know where the books are going, and that's great. It also means that I can expect a lot more bloodshed, betrayal, and maybe an unhappy ending. This is also...good. But sometimes, I want to escape this world of realism, and go somewhere where right wins out, and honour is more than just a word, and I'm not sure if that will happen with these novels. Not that this is a bad thing, it just might mean a slower progression through the books as I take a break from anything particularly heartbreaking.

If you haven't read it, and like the sound of it, give it a read. If you're too busy to read, the show does it justice, even though the characters aren't always just.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Technical Support Representative with Shaw: Day 1

Today was my first day of training to work as a Technical Support Representative with Shaw. It was a pretty easy-going day, and weirdly enough, there wasn't much training and not a lot of the day was spent learning about my job specifically.

I am in a class of 20 people or so, for this training, and today we learned more about Shaw's history and vision. It was a bit of a boring day, but I was still getting paid for it, so hurray!

Shaw's vision and atmosphere seem pretty incredible. I haven't worked in too many places before, but if Shaw's support and enthusiasm is even half of what they're showing and promising so far, then it will still be a pretty amazing place to work. The environment in Shaw seems to be an extremely supportive one, both for their customers and their employees. Everything seems to revolve around helping everyone have the best experience, obeying common sense, and making things better. I was impressed, and I am not easily so.

One incredible thing they offer are benefits, and sure, you work anywhere big and they're going to offer benefits, but this is really my first "big" job, and their benefits are open to anyone at the company, even part-time employees, and they seem pretty amazing. I'm not going to get into them, but it's nice to know I'm covered. For all those I know who suffer and have had to deal with mental or social anxiety issues, they'd be happy to know that Shaw seems to cover counseling anonymously and around a schedule which works for you. So, even though I don't think I'll be taken advantage of any of that, it was nice to know.

The company seems pretty enthusiastic about everyone being happy, satisfied, and interested in their work. They showed us around the office and told us that if we wanted to shadow a different part of the company, we could. I might just do that and follow some more technical people around, see how things work. I saw some oscilloscopes in the basement, and would be interested in knowing what people are up to down there, haha.

Another good thing is that while this is a part-time position, the chance of me being able to work full-time hours is quite high. They told us today to simply ask when we got around to speaking one-on-one with a manager and that the manager would probably be very happy with that. This is good, because as much as I love time off, I love being productive, and I need the money. I was going to say that I love money, but really, I don't care.

Someone asked me today, as I've been asked often, what engineers typically make, and after giving them an approximate answer, they asked me why I didn't seem super enthused by this. I told them that I don't really care for money. I didn't get into engineering for the money; I got into it because it's what I want to do. I joke that I'll probably never be rich because I don't care about money. Honestly, once I get things moving, I think I will be both vocationally and financially successful, but at the end of the day, if everyone and everything is provided for, and I'm doing something I love, that will be perfect. 

The commute isn't too bad; about an hour each way, which is "outrageous" for Edmonton or so I'm told, but I'm so used to that commute from living in Toronto where the TTC's motto (Toronto Transit Commission), in my opinion, was "It takes an hour to get anywhere." Plus, I love reading on the bus, so as long as I don't miss my stop, it'll be great! That last point is thrown in because, unlike Toronto, the buses don't call out individual stops so you really have to be aware.

As for my apartment and living situation, I'm a little behind. Truth be told, it's been a little difficult not having a vehicle or access to one. It's difficult to move furniture when your friends, family, and friends of family all have small cars. Still, everyone's been very nice, a friend of the family who hasn't even met me in person yet has offered to borrow a truck to help me move furniture, and Brittany has been very gracious in letting me stay with her until I get settled. She hasn't even voiced a concern over my luggage sitting in her living room. Of course, I think it's a combination of her graciousness and my ability to be as unobtrusive as possible, but still, it's been good.

I should be moving my stuff in and settling a little more this weekend and now that the job issue has been sorted out, I feel so much better about everything! It's all been working quite well so far, so I look forward to a great summer!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Mark's Journal #24: All Good Things...

Mark’s 24th Journal – 20-04-11

Losing a limb is a feeling with which I can almost relate. Having a limb forcibly ripped apart and grafted as an unwanted gift from a self-proclaimed Queen is another matter altogether. As we stood there, taking note of the situation, Leviss was angrily telling us that he would not live with this undead, flaming, boned arm. He demanded that we hold him down and cut off his arm right now. We argued for a long time. Finally, I grabbed him by the arm, feeling it burn my fur but not caring, and I told him that he needn’t be afraid, that we were here with him and that, while strange looking, his arm could not be made to serve evil, to hurt me. I then issued a challenge to him: instead of losing an arm because of the Queen, he should endeavour to shove it down her throat. Leviss seemed distracted enough by this to agree to leave his arm for now.

Investigating the other rooms, we found a variety of treasure. Leviss constructed some bags of holding, and with that, we took nearly 25 000 pieces of gold and 10 000 residuum. I said it would be a good idea to spread this worth among the people. We certainly didn’t need the money, and she probably stole it from the people anyway. In one room, there was one door we could not open. It had four secure locks and after half an hour of trying, Gabriel was only able to breach one lock. The door wouldn’t budge, and it was too strong to be destroyed, so we decided to leave it so we could try to hurry, find the Queen and warn the people of Ori of an upcoming war.

Avaron felt the dark magic of the Queen moving toward Hampton. We set off, through the swamp, but we had to rest as we had not had proper sleep in almost 2 days.

When we got to Hampton, it seemed quite deserted. We went to the Sheriff to warn him, but it seemed we were too late. The Sheriff, busy packing his bags, told us that most of the people had already left. We climbed on top of the roof of the Sheriff’s building, hoping that the others could get a good view of things. To the north, Leviss pointed out the last group of people leaving Hampton, and to the southeast, Gabriel and Avaron could see darkness moving out of the swamp. Zombies, ghouls, and other dark creatures started attacking empty buildings and before they could get to us, we decided to quickly portal to the Roost.

Once there, we rode out, making our way to Aristaal as quickly as possible. Avaron checked our licensed job board and it said, “All hands to Fur-Lonn!” With this in mind, we made our way to the central city, making the journey in half the time.

Upon landing in the city, everything looked normal, except that there was a large concentration of purple tents on the northern side of the city. Gabriel pointed this out, and even had we not known already, it would be easy enough to see that it was the King’s forces. A Disciple of the Shield, upon seeing us, told us that a lot of the city had been evacuated. When the King landed in Portsmouth, a council was called with leaders from each of Ori’s major cities, and it was agreed upon that the people of Ori had enough of the King’s rule, so they politely refused to welcome him and his men.

Making our way across the city to where the Erathis Temple used to be, we find that it has changed quite a bit. No longer a temple, it was more of a community centre. A new building had been built and people were rushing to and fro, conducting business. Inside, Avaron pointed out that there was a small statue of P3TR. A Disciple greeted us and explained that the temple had been a focal point of the community of Fur-Lonn and that the Disciples had upgraded and brought the people together, turning this building into an unofficial town hall. Community events, city business, as well as the organization of the entire Disciple of the Shield order were conducted within this building. Congratulating him and his order for all the good they were doing, we asked if there were any rooms available. I could tell by the excitement in his voice that they would be all too happy to house the Guard. Apologizing for the mess of our gear, as we had no time to rest let alone clean up after our journey, a Disciple offers to clean our gear. Asking to be informed of any change in the state of the city, we all fall sound asleep.

Awakened, later in the day, a Disciple escorted us to the civil room. There, a group of elder Disciples awaited us. Described to me later as strong looking, but obviously diplomats, these elders told us that they were worried about the King’s men and what was approaching from the south. We offer our services in helping with the evacuation, and the meeting is over.

Gabriel and Avaron decided to go to the Roost, there to prepare our supplies and research more about this situation. Leviss and I stayed behind to help in any way we could. At the Roost, Gabriel upgraded the party’s jolt flasks, and Avaron researched old magical items. Leviss also had a bit of time to make a scope for his bow. In addition, Leviss and I help to clear out the northern section of the city. The people, while war torn, were not devoid of hope, they were working together like never before and while it was a sad situation, it was good to see that from the aftermath of calamity, came a trust and respect among the people that possibly had not been seen before.

Upon Avaron’s and Gabriel’s return from the Roost, the Council informed us that the last group from Hampton never made it, and that the Queen and her forces had arrived. The King, sending a messenger, requested a table be set up in the centre of town.

In the centre of Fur-Lonn, there was a statue of the King. It has always been there, but now it feels quite strange as the King and Queen meet under it. The King was escorted by a dangerous looking drake guard, while the Queen had Nala at her side.

Not wasting any time, the Queen states that if she gets what she wants, she’ll leave. The King says her having it would be too dangerous, and that he doesn’t have it anyway. At this, the Queen pointed her finger at the King and with a sudden, shrill sound, the statue of the King was blasted to bits. Nala and the drake guard move to fight, but all eyes were on the King and Queen.

Terrible ripping sounds and cackling laughter came from both of them. The earth shook at our feet, and a thunderous noise pounded at my ears. The King growled and grew to over 20 feet tall, with golden scales, huge claws, a monstrous head, and wings. The Queen, dark as ever, grew into a slightly smaller but similar form, with scales that shimmered like a moonlit pool and hearing this description, I was reminded of the giant drake we saw through the portal at Aristaal. I do not know how, but witnessing this, I knew, somewhere in my mind, that these were dragons. These were the, so thought, mythical beasts that reigned over men and held no quarter for their enemies. Taking flight, they charged, swirled, clawed, and attacked each other, flying over the city.
Suddenly, more rumbling was heard, and screams started erupting from outside the city.

“It’s the armies, they’re attacking the city!” I yelled. “Disciples, get your men out, protect the people of the city!”

“We need to get those two out of the city, or they’ll knock what’s left into the ground.” Avaron yelled.

“Well, they want the ring, let’s give it to them, but only when we’ve cleared the walls.” Leviss chipped in.

Moving east, we figured that once we get out, the ring will bring the battle somewhere where the losses will be fewer. Running around city streets, cutting through alleys, we turned corner to be confronted by zombies. Just behind us, something hits the ground with a horrible crash. “It’s the Queen!” Gabriel says, and with that, she takes off once again, looking wounded. With our path cut off, we decide to hack our way through the Queen’s horde.

As the zombies surround us, and try to grab us, our work is made so much easier when Leviss is almost grabbed. The zombies burned when they touched him, and he used this to clear a path. Firing lighting and fire from his newly grafted arm, he clears a path through which we run.

It was only through Leviss’ quick thinking, and my innate balance, that I was able to avoid falling down at every turn, as the streets were unrecognizable, covered in rubble. Nearing the upper class section of town, Avaron sees a family trapped in a collapsing house.

I don’t even take the time to think, sliding immediately under a beam, preventing the house from collapse. Avaron and Leviss slide past me and start ushering people out. Before Gabriel’s able to make it in, I take an arrow to the chest.

“Release the lizard lion, Gabriel!” I order. Gabriel loads his crossbow and begins firing bolts from behind the creature. “What’s out there?” I ask.

“King’s guards, coming close," he says.

While I struggle under the weight, Avaron and Leviss make quick work, Leviss comforting and moving people, Avaron simply picking children up by their shirt collars and throwing them out. That’s when I took another arrow to the chest.

Coughing up blood, I fell to one knee, the gap barely large enough for someone to get out. I no longer hear anything, except the blood thumping in my ears. I feel tired, why can’t I sleep? It’s been a long day.

Suddenly a voice calls out to me. “SURVIVE!” Leviss shouts and with that, I feel renewed! Hefting the weight above me, I stand up tall and proud. “Here to attack children? Wait until I’m done here and we’ll see who’s the better man.” I call out to the royal guards.

A cross between a thundering roar and a hiss is heard, among Gabriel’s laughter. With a quick command, he raises the beast on its hide legs and charges all over the street. Trampling guards, knocking everyone out of his path, he makes some quick work.

“Come on, move!” Avaron shouts as she helps another out from under the building. My strength wanes, my muscles cramp, and an arrow hits me in the shoulder. Laughing maniacally, I ask how soon until I can put these muscles to real use.

“One moment, I have to deal with something”, Avaron says. She steps out past me, unsheathing her sword. Fire erupting on her sword, and lightning crackling on her staff, she slams them together unleashing a terrible storm. “There, let’s go Mark!”

Dropping the corner of the house, dust rises everywhere and I move into the fray. Rising out of the cloud like a demon, I surprise 3 men, swinging my sword two-handed through them. Leviss moves to my side and tries to intimidate the rest. “You’re done. Get out while you still can.” Whispering to me, he says, “It’s not working, but I’ve picked up your shield.”

Gabriel leaps off the lizard lion and puts it away, loosing three arrows in the process. I can feel the wind and heat coming from Avaron’s magic from across the street as Leviss and I hack and slash at our nearby foes. With a low spinning sweep, forged in practice, Leviss leaps over my back, dropping my shield just as I grab it to shield him from an attack. He stabs a guard in the hand with a light arrow, firing another as he hits the ground.

Gabriel told me afterward that none of the guards attacked him; they seemed to take no notice of him, most likely because of the unspoken promise made to the King.

As the fight ends, we are left with two families unsure of where to go. Leading them on, our path is cut off when a building to the left of us is destroyed by the King’s unexpected crash landing. Growling and taking flight once again, Avaron changes our direction and we cut through a building, miraculously still standing. Made of stone, it was obviously a noble’s pursuit of living in a castle. Hiding out, Leviss checks the backdoor.

“We’ve got a problem, there’s a hooded figure out there, controlling a whole mess of zombies,” he says. “We can’t go around them, and we obviously cannot go through them with these people.”

“But, no, yes, I can do it!” Leviss says, and with that, he opens the door, and takes a knee. Due to my connection with Erathis, I can always just make out, from sound and smell alone, what’s happening just next to me. Humming a little under his breath, with guidance from Gabriel, “Take into account the wind, see the grass swaying, it’s blowing softly to the north.” Leviss looks through his newly made scope and fires a shot.

Whistling through the air, it seems to take forever for it to hit its mark. With a whoosh and a thud, the zombie controller is taken out. “ we have another problem”, Avaron says, “the zombies are coming this way.”

Grabbing the families and making for the next street over, Gabriel stops me at an alleyway. “The royal guards are riding hard from that alleyway, just there. But, the buildings, they’re about to collapse this path, if only they had some help.” Avaron, Leviss, and Gabriel place some alchemicals into position, as I huddle around the families, telling them we’ll be okay. I hear the sound of hooves, and tell them to hurry up.

“One got past, but Leviss is almost done!” Avaron yells just I hear a battle cry from a guard. I rush at him, shield high, knocking the horse out from under him.

“Got it!” Leviss shouts as an arrow whirls past my ear and hits the guard. Sidestepping into his reach, the Kingsman’s next attack misses, the spear going over my shoulder as he slips and falls flat due to Leviss’ jinx shot. Grabbing the flag and slamming it down, I pin his cape to the ground, shielding him and myself from the explosion as the buildings collapse near us.

Making it out of the city, it seems the Disciples of the Shield have a phalanx going, trying to move the people who had the misfortune of being stuck between the two armies. The Shield next to me says that we are completely surrounded. I order his men to retreat on the western side, so that the armies can advance, but meet each other.

“What do we do now? We can’t release the ring here, but we have to help these people!” Avaron shouts.

“What about the lizard lion? Could we make a defense?” I ask.

“No, he was hurt pretty badly back there.” Gabriel says.

Suddenly inspired, I look at Avaron and Leviss and say, “Let’s try it your way.” Taking the model of the lizard lion, I throw it as far as I can, into an oncoming hoard of guards. “Shazam!” I yell over and over causing the lizard lion to grow and shrink repeatedly, throwing guards everywhere.

Avaron, reaching for the ring, utters a cry of surprise as she realizes she doesn’t have it. Looking around, Leviss finds it on Gabriel’s belt. “What are you playing at Gabriel?”

“I don’t know, I had nothing to do with it!” Gabriel protests. “Must have been done without my knowledge, by the King’s promise” Avaron suggests.

“Well, whatever it was, here we go!” Leviss pulls the ring out for a single moment and as he does so, a shriek is heard from the city. The Shields call out that the dragons are coming right for us, just as the two armies clash around us.

Slamming into the ground, the King lands among the zombies who rip and tear at his flesh, while the Queen lands among the royal guards who cut and stab at her. Sweeping out an area around them, the Queen rushes at Leviss lifting him up. Moving way too fast, Leviss puts one bag of holding into another, creating sounds of thunder and lightning.

In an instant, he is gone.

The crossed bags created a vortex that swallowed him and all of his stuff whole. Rising to my feet, I scream!

Before I can say or do anything, the Queen flips out, thrashing around. The King slams into her, and throwing him off, she stabs into his chest with her arm. Laughing and saying this will do, she rips out his heart; still beating, larger than my head. The Queen starts to chant.

Magical energy crackles all around us, and with a heavy thud, something new hits the ground. An evil looking machine, and at its core, she tries to place the King’s heart. Gabriel pushes past, takes a knee and with a deafening boom, fires his wand. The energy hits the heart, throbs with the next heartbeat and then explodes, blowing the Queen’s head right off.

The heart moves into the machine and the King, with his dying breath, says it’s too late. Avaron shouts out that all the magic in the area is being drawn into the machine. I rush to it, and without thinking of anything except Leviss and how quickly life can be extinguished, I try to rip the machine apart.

Nothing works. It won’t budge, it won’t yield, and going mad with grief, with pain, anguish, I thrust my hands inside hoping to gum up the works. Pulled inside, I am cut, struck from all sides, and I feel death wash over me.

The machine fired a beam of arcane energy into the sky. The sky, now darkening in the evening appeared to be cut, but other than that, nothing changed. The Guard, or what was left of them, looked on as one friend was gone, and another, the one called Mark, was lifted out of the machine. Suddenly opening his eyes, he says:

“I can’t believe you’d survive. What’s going on here? You were given up for dead, how did you survive?”Explained to us all later, it turns out that the voice of Bahamet, the dragon god, the seeker of justice, was speaking through Mark.

Another voice answered him, and off to the side was a blue, spectral figure whose presence held strength, and wisdom. The Guard explained to us later that Bahamet explained that this world, the land of the Capital and of Ori, had been cut off from all other worlds, from all other planes. During the spell plagues, a sickness that threatened and ended the life of many dragons, the King and Queen, simply two dragons, created this shard of a world in order to attempt to create the perfect world, where all would adore and worship dragons. The King, obviously still working within this plan, ran this world for ages, while the Queen, it seems, wanted out, thus the machine.

Bahamet, growing angry, says that justice is needed. Atlas reassured Bahamet, saying both dragons are dead, pointing to their dead bodies on the field of battle. Bahamet, still speaking with the shifter’s voice, laughs and says that this world will no longer be cut off. It is open, to the rest of existence and all its wonders, and all its dangers.

The above was taken from a cleric of Ioun who, recovering from a leg wound, started recording the events of the day. The rest, continues my story.

Waking up, feeling very battle worn, I look up, and feel Avaron and Gabriel at my side, and I see Atlas. I see him, as clearly as I once did, and I ask him what is going on? He explains all to us, and says that before, Moradan’s words were whispers, muffled by the veiled wall of this world. Now, all is open, and he can hear and see Moradan in a way he never thought possible. In time, continuing my work, perhaps I could hear Erathis, Atlas prompts.

“You are free now. You have grown so much in such a short time, but there’s still more out there. So much to see, so much to learn. The planes are open to you, and I, your guide as always, can take you there.”

Excited by this offer, but worried about leaving things as they are, Atlas says, “Don’t worry lad, the offer is open, take your time here, wrap things up, think it over, I’ll be around.” And with that, he left.

Avaron, Gabriel and I spent the next few weeks cleaning things up. The Disciples of the Shield made quick work of everything, getting all the cities back in living order, and helping to make the connection between Ori and the capital more harmonious and civilized than ever before. We visited the Roost, there Avaron spent much time among her father’s old things. With Gabriel’s help, we tracked down Tori and her druidic flock and family. Telling her of our adventures and Atlas’ offer, she wished us well, whatever we decided. She has had enough of adventuring and she assured us that she would take care of this world, if we chose to leave.

Back at the Roost, Gabriel, Avaron and I spent most of our time alone. Gabriel made alchemicals in the workshop, and made meals to delight royalty from the kitchen. I organized all the books and materials in the main room, spent some time taking care of Quinn, and our other horses. Avaron spent most of her time, in her father’s old room. None of us really knew what to say, or what to do.

One day, merely two weeks after Atlas’ offer. We had a meeting in the main room. No one called a meeting, but all three of us suddenly had things to say. Gabriel said that he has seen many things, but this world does not offer to him the same chances of discovery or wonder as other planes might. He told us that, his whole life, he has been free to go wherever he likes, but now he wants to stand by our side no matter what. Avaron said that she has been studying her father’s work and that she feels better about everything. She has always pursued truth and knowledge and she feels quite sure that she’s outgrown this world. She wanted to go out into the planes and learn what she could, in honour of her father.

Sighing, the others, knowing I had been moody, waited for me to speak. I told them that I missed Leviss. Not only did I lose a friend, but I lost a brother.

“Leviss and you, Avaron, have been more a part of my life than anything else, I guess that’s why losing my eyes wasn’t so bad; I knew I still had you. But, now he’s gone. Leviss, my right hand man, always cheering me up, always stirring up fun, trouble, and adventure, now he’s gone, and I have a hard time not hardening my heart because of that. Erathis has not spoken to me, as Atlas suggested, and I feel terrible.”

“Erathis has always expected you to speak for yourself. She will speak to you when you’re both ready,” Atlas suddenly said, putting a hand on my shoulder.

“Also, Leviss is not gone. He’s out there. The bags merely opened a tunnel to another plane taking Leviss with them. I can feel him, he’s out there, and if you choose to go, you can find him.”

“As for you, lass, the same thing happened to your father. His portal didn’t kill him, it merely misplaced him. He’s out there, probably scaring bad guys as we speak.”

It was like a cloud had been lifted. Leviss, alive? Alan, Avaron’s dad, out there, a chance to meet and reunite Alan with Avaron? It seemed too good to be true, but here Atlas was, saying it was so.

I leave a copy of this journal to you, my avid reader, to think what you see fit. I cannot claim to have all the answers, but I wanted the world to know what happened, from one who was there. Knowing our past is a good way to learn and grow as a people, so don’t make the same mistakes I have.

I leave you now, my sword sharp, my armour fit, and my shield solid. Gabriel joins us on our epic adventure, Avaron goes in search of her father, Leviss, and answers.

I go...for the chance to bring light and order to the universe.

I get my friend back.

I search of fate.

Mark's Journal #23: Unwanted Presence...

Mark’s 23rd Journal – 18-04-11

Lying there in my bed, drifting off to sleep, I heard Leviss tossing and turning. Instantly awake, I feel the hairs rise of my arms as I hear Leviss whispering. It’s almost a hiss as he mentions the King and Queen. I try talking to him, to calm him down. He murmurs about how the Queen will arm us, and that a great battle is coming. Grabbing him by the arm, I repeat that everything is going to be alright until he rolls over and is silent once more.

Suddenly, my body tenses, and I feel the world swirling around me. Waking up in a soft bed, I roll over and throw up. I’ve been teleported! Half kneeling next to my bed, I can smell the damp, cold air, feels like a cave. The floor is stone, but not hewn. Calling out to everyone, Avaron and Gabriel say we’ve been taken to a cave somewhere, and that they were drugged during their watch. Leviss groans and says it would be nice if people asked before taking us somewhere.

Gabriel, moving noiselessly around the room, although I could follow him by scent alone, says we’re in a room that doesn’t seem fitting as a bedroom, its walls being wet, the room being cold, but yet there are four beds, one for each of us. Avaron wonders aloud how we could have been teleported as the King shut that down.

It also seems that all of our gear is with us. Putting most of it on as fast as possible, Avaron moves to open a door at the far end of the room. Giggling outside the door is a voice I all too easily recognize: Nala.

She says, “The King doesn’t hold all the cards, and I’m not the easiest to trap or keep away. Come, the Queen wants to talk with you.”

Moving down one long hallway, which had many paths on either side, we finally make it to one large room. Among the many things I could smell and hear, the Queen stood out. It’s hard to describe, really, it’s like, her presence overpowers everything else, but in a subtle way. Take your sense of smell; most of you don’t really think about it that often. Say you’re in a room, and suddenly, you take notice of the smells. That’s when you realize that there’s one scent, be it sweet or not, but that one scent, unnoticed by you before, is the strongest smell in the room, and now you can’t ignore it, you can’t help but smell it. That’s what the Queen smelled like. That’s what her presence felt like to me.

Taking all of this in, I asked her why she summoned us here. Moving slowly, purposefully, she tells us that she is disappointed. She made one simple request, for us to get the ring, and it seems that we have failed. Trying to be diplomatic, I explain how difficult it’s been. Suddenly, she stiffens, stops talking, and growls a little bit. Growing upset, she demands to know who made a deal with him. Confused, we ask her what she’s talking about. She asks us if the King gave us anything, or if we took anything from him. Gabriel pulls out the coin, and tells the Queen how he stole it from the King. She makes sounds of disapproval, and I can almost see her pursing her lips when she says that in doing so, Gabriel has bound himself to a promise, that this is old magic, and it seems he has chosen a side. Remembering my lectures, as a child, on law and order, I question her claim, pointing out that since the terms of the promise were not made, as the King said no such thing, how could one be expected to hold true or even agree to such a thing? She laughs and tells me I know nothing. She shrugs it off and says it doesn’t matter, as her army is ready anyway. Telling us to leave, to join her later for dinner, she promises gifts for us. Remembering Leviss’ dream, I feel apprehensive. Leviss demands that we be released. He tells her that he has had enough of being toyed with. The Queen tells him we can leave when we want, but we may not want to just yet.

Nala offers to escort us around or back to our room. Deciding to take the opportunity, Avaron suggests the tour, and begins asking Nala questions. Nala explains how the Queen found her in the King’s breeding camp, and saved her from a life of pain and torment. Nala shows us many rooms, a grand dining hall where she says we’ll be eating later, among other decorative rooms. Gabriel seemed intrigued by one of the rooms, but I didn’t ask why just yet, better to talk later. Nala tells us that she has been watching Leviss, Avaron, and me, for years. Avaron, being the daughter of a very powerful mage, and we, her friends, bear watching, to see what we might do with our lives. I ask her if she was watching us in Aristaal. Nala says yes and no, that her mission there was a little more important than watching me. I can’t but help feel that her voice is more melodic when she speaks to me, not sure how I feel about that. Avaron says the Goblin Invasion was her mission, wasn’t it? Nala says, sure, it created a bit of chaos, and we all can use a bit of that, can’t we? Apparently, Ori has been a bit of a testing ground, trying out things before striking the mainland.

Testing things out!? That’s what you call needlessly murdering, relocating, and destroying cities? That’s what you call giving goblins power, and possessing innocent clerics? Your tests have killed so many people and have been a blight upon this world. Trying to be calm, but not being able to stand for this, I ask, what could make her do such a thing, if she has given any thought to the consequences?

She stops, sighs, and says yes. For instance, P3TR’s death, she tells us, was “a side effect, a misunderstanding” and that she is sorry for our loss, but the lives she has helped destroy will be nothing compared to those saved by the Queen’s plans. Utterly disgusted, I tell her to take us back to our room.

Once there, I can’t sit still. Pacing, angry, but having nothing to distract me, and no desire to be at peace just yet, I tell everyone that we have to be very, very careful. We have to plan for the unexpected, as it seems that twists and turns are an everyday thing for us now. Everyone agrees, but no one seems to know what else we can do. I decide to try something unexpected myself. I move to Avaron, sitting on her bed, and I pick her up. Holding her by the shoulder, I demand to know what she would do, if grabbed in a fight, and unable to teleport? She says she’d be fine, and her hands crackle a little with energy. I say, okay, but what if your magic is worthless, unusable here? I say to Gabriel and Leviss, I have Avaron, she can’t escape, what are you going to do about it? Gabriel asks me where my bag is? Feeling with my other arm, I realize he’s stolen it? Okay, but I still have her, losing my bag won’t help that. Leviss whispers behind me that he has an arrow fixed on me and can fire 3 before I fell to the ground. Leviss chuckles and says that Gabriel has his crossbow aimed at me, knife ready in his other hand and that I have no idea where Gabriel is, that he could strike at any time.

Impressed, as always, with my comrades, I let Avaron go. I apologize for my behaviour, but I just don’t feel right not trying to be prepared, and I needed the reassurance that I wasn’t alone. Assuring me they are ready, we await dinner. Gabriel goes on to tell us that some of the tapestries in the various rooms we have seen, which bear images that seem to suggest a history. Remembering the visual history on the tapestry in Aristaal in what feels like ages ago, I ask him to go on. He says he doesn’t know what it all means, but it seems like wars fought with many and varying creatures.

Sitting in the dining hall, the Queen’s dinner is large and smells great. Reasoning that if she’d wanted us dead, she would have done so already, I dig in. Leviss refuses to eat, even with the Queen’s prompting. The Queen doesn’t eat, but goes on to say that some of Ori’s citizens have recently stood up to the King. Landing in Portsmouth, the people there told the King that he and his men were not welcome. This act of defiance forced him to travel by a longer road, around the city. She chuckled and says that it’s nice to see him having such a hard time. I make a mention of chess, how I used to play, and that it would be nice to know her big plan instead of watching it step by step. She says we will know enough, in time. As we finish our meal, she tells us that our gifts are not ready yet, and to go back to our rooms until they are.

Getting back to our room, Avaron laughs and says there’s a chess set there, obviously given by the Queen. I ask Leviss to play. Upon sitting, he touches one piece, says it was a good game, and walks away. I asked him what he saw. Who won? He laughs and says he did, of course. Telling him he doesn’t know that for sure, and shaking my head, Avaron says she’ll play a game with me. It was a good game, Avaron is a good opponent, and sometimes her unpredictability really throws me for a loop. I just barely beat her, and I thank her for the game.

During the night, we awake to Leviss’ screams, and I soon realize they are not coming from this same room. Rolling out of bed, I grab my sword and shield and ask what’s going on? Gabriel says Leviss is gone, but his stuff is still here. Grabbing that, he ushers me out of the room, on the trail of Avaron who had just gone through the door.

There, in the big hall, we found him. Avaron, talking aloud but to no one, shockingly says how the Queen has him on a table and seems to be ripping his arm off! Appalled, I charge in the Queen’s direction. Smashing right into a wall of dirt, I realize the dirt is moving. It swirls around me, rising, taller than I am, forming some sort of maw, and a bladed arm, sharp as glass, smashes into my sword arm.

Telling the others to get to Leviss, I make to handle this dirt gollum. Taking a wide stance, and wiping the sweat from my brow, I clench my teeth a little.

Gabriel rushes past, I block an attack from the gollum, and Avaron says we’ve got another problem. More dirt creatures spawn, all over the room, and make their way to Avaron. Leviss screams again, as I hear a blast of arcane energy from Avaron. Hmph, she says, they double when you kill them.

Gabriel leaps around 2 such creatures and fires 2 quick crossbow bolts at the Queen. They bounce off of nothing, falling at her feet as she rips the skin off Leviss from hand to shoulder. Groaning, screaming, and just talking incoherently, Leviss sounds like he is barely holding on. Calling to Gabriel, asking him what happened, he growls back that he didn’t miss, she blocked the shots. Avaron, on the other hand, was laughing. Calling out to her, she said the dirt creatures couldn’t touch her. Hearing her voice bounce all over the room, one second to the left, the next, to the right, I realize she’s keeping out of harm’s way by teleporting. Digging my feet into the stone, I brace myself against the gollum’s attack. An avalanche sweeps by me, dirt, rocks, all cutting my face, as I turn my sword flat and smash through what would be its body.

I take a big hit, cut across the shoulder by the glass-edged arm. Avaron’s saunter through the room is halted, as I hear her call out in pain as she hits the floor. Gabriel says the Queen is gone and he’s almost at Leviss.

Calling out to Erathis, asking her for help, I smash my shield and sword together. For an instant, the world, dark as it normally is for me, shines blue with a flash of light from my armour that spreads, lighting up the room, and washes over Avaron. Her eyes snap open and I see dirt creatures moving toward her as my vision goes dark once again. Spinning on the ball of my foot, I swing my arm around, catching most of them with the tip of my sword, finishing in a crouched position behind my shield.

Gabriel lets loose a trick arrow, packed with glue, at the dirt gollum which immobilizes it, avoids two quick slashes from dirt creatures, and vaults over the table. Calling out in confusion, he says that Leviss’ muscles and skin have been ripped off of one arm, but that he has stabilized the young Kobold, for now.

Slash, withdraw, thrust, spin, shield block, spin, shield smash, I continue my dance, drawing as much attention to myself as possible. I hear Leviss’ voice across the room, filled with the same wonder and curiosity he has for the Keepers, saying, “This is a lot easier now that I can see my bones!” And light arrows rain down on the foes beside me.

But it wasn’t enough, as the dirt creatures attacks sift through my armour, I drop. Gabriel moves quickly, helping Leviss with cover fire, and revives me. I hear Avaron’s voice say, enough of this, as she twirls her staff around, slamming it into the ground, hurling a blazing fireball of sand, acid, and fire, right at the dirt gollum. Hearing her step, I know she is taking great care to inflict as much damage as possible. Moving as her teacher from Aristaal taught her, even I can almost feel the energy rippling out of the air, channelled by her heart, through her arms, and directed at minion and gollum alike.

Smashing my sword and shield together once more, the blue radiance sweeps out, killing every minion within 25 feet around me, but I can hear them doubling, can hear them getting back up. Gabriel runs, pulls his rifled wand out, slides under the swinging sword arm of the gollum, and just as the gaping maw comes down, surrounding Gabriel in a storm of sand, glass, and acid, he pulls the trigger, completely annihilating the gollum!

With that, the battle is over. Moving to Leviss, I could feel the heat coming off of him. Gabriel wasn’t exaggerating before; Leviss’ arm is only bones now, but it seems to work normally. Surrounding these bones is the source of the heat, a green fire which burns like my blue ethereal armour. Asking him how he feels, Leviss tells us that he feels fine, extremely sore all over, but in that way from which one knows they’ll come back. Telling us that the Queen thought she was giving him a gift, he wants us to remove his arm; and we stand there, quite shocked, alone, in an otherwise quiet cave.

Mark's Journal #22: The Return of the Ring...

Mark’s 22nd Journal – 11-04-11

Upon waking, we decided to go to the Roost, there to research a little more into some old stories. Avaron mentioned that some of her father’s old books contained fairy tales that mentioned this dark queen and that finding out more about her might be a good idea. Upon attempting to use our door to make the portal, all that happened was a tiny note fell to the floor. It stated that long-distance teleportation had been canceled by the Imperial Magister.

Frustrated, but more so curious, we decided to go talk to this Magister and find out the reason for the teleportation block. We were directed toward the northern sector of the city, and it was a long walk. It is amazing to think that this whole nation is one large city, everything self-contained. Along our walk, Avaron, Leviss, and Gabriel pointed out how beautiful the area was. The walls were made of a purplish, polished looking brick, there were gold, red, and purple flags hanging everywhere, and not one thing appeared out of place. Gabriel pointed out that most of the buildings here were shorter than in the other parts of the city, except for some spiralling towers. Avaron mentioned that these must be wizarding towers as they reminded her of the ones in Aristaal, only these were much larger, and the architecture was quite extravagant. Some towers looked as if they were built straight up, then bent almost in half, and then extending off on an unnatural angle, and yet, appeared as if this was all part of the plan. Off to one side, the others saw a tower being made and described the sheer wonder of it. Wizards, presumably geomancers, were hefting the largest and smallest stones and brick, bending it all as if it were cloth, and doing what would take 100 men more than a month in a half hour’s time. Everyone was pretty impressed, and even I, the usual naysayer of magic, had to admit that the control and power were formidable and amazing.

Not too far into this area, some guards made their way over to see us. Looking tough, but not unfriendly, they asked for Avaron’s staff. Upon asking why, it seemed that only those with a proper licence for practicing magic could wield a staff in this area. Attempting to convince the guard of Avaron’s training in Aristaal, he chuckled and said that this was the only wizarding area, and that Aristaal did not count. Seeing as there wasn’t any other way to continue on without granting their request, Avaron surrendered her staff.

Directed by the guards to the admissions office, we talked to a Magister. He said that the King shut down teleportation as a precaution against possible invasion. After questioning the Magister concerning the details of any invasion, or any threat, the Magister seemed most ready to agree in any actions taken by the King and that it was better to be safe than sorry.

Walking back, the four of us agreed that the more likely reason is that the King does not want us to leave and that he does not want the Queen or her forces to enter, not that invasion was really likely at this point. Avaron retrieved her staff from the guards and we walked back to the inn. It was a long day, as the walk took about five hours, each way.

The next morning, as we enjoyed a breakfast, we observed the patrons at the Comfy Chair Inn’s tavern. Everyone seemed very concerned with their business, and all seemed to be excited at how much business and progress they could make today for the city. It would be inspiring if we didn’t know of the oppressive hold over the city and its people.
Making our way to the palace, thereby to possibly learn more about the King’s motives, Leviss saw a bunch of wizards hustling out, carrying my ring! After attempting, and failing, to make a distraction to possibly take it from them, the wizards hurried down a busy street. Following as best we could, we rounded a corner just in time to see thugs finishing off the wizards and disappearing into a sewer. These thugs meant business, having beaten the wizards’ faces beyond recognition. Appalled by this, but also curious as to this abnormal display of crime within the city, we followed the thugs into the sewer.

Dirty, dark, exactly what one would expect from a sewer, we made our way until we caught up to the thugs. Attempting to make a trade, some of Gabriel’s alchemical supplies for the ring, the thugs grew highly suspicious of us, and the fact that we seemed to have everything they wanted to trade. By this, they must have meant explosives, as Gabriel had plenty of supplies made for just such a purpose. Their suspicion grew and our situation escalated into a fight. There were more of them than I thought, and they seemed to have a hexer. Upon being hit by him, Gabriel turned into a frog, and I changed into a titmouse. Unbelievable that feeling was, let me tell you. I think, with my shifting ability, I was a bit better prepared than Gabriel for this, but it was still highly unusual. Changing back and forth, I attempted to draw the attention of the thugs nearest me. The hexer retreated, and Gabriel followed. I heard some rubble fall, and Leviss shouted out that some areas of the ceiling looked vulnerable to collapse.

This was one of the more unnecessary fights I have ever been in, fighting over a ring these thugs obviously did not want, in a sewer, when a trade would have been perfectly reasonable. Don’t get me wrong, I have spent years training my body to be ready for a fight, but I have spent more of my time training my mind for the purposes of avoiding and resolving conflict.

Helping Avaron finish off some nearby foes, I was trapped beneath some rubble as I rounded a corner. Frustrated at this situation, and fuelled by the desire to get the ring back, I shifted from within the rubble. Punching my way out, my body cracked and broke in that oh so familiar way, and when I stood up, my eyes blazed with a blue, spectral fire. Avaron told me, later, that it was pretty intimidating. Like my armour from Atlas, or any other part of me, I’m sure it looked worse than it feels. Laughing, thrilled by combat, Avaron and I made our way farther into the sewers. We rejoined Gabriel and Leviss who were loosing arrows at the rest of the hexer’s comrades.

The battle ended, and we got the ring back. It was indeed the same ring that Atlas gave us, but this time, Avaron sensed some magic within it. She tried wearing it for a time, and upon taking it off, noticed that it was warm to the touch. Experimenting with it, we came to the conclusion that the ring was a magic absorber, something we never would have realized had I continued to wear it. Now, that we had it back, how were we going to hide it from the King? That is when Avaron and Leviss realized something quite extraordinary: my bag, the one given as thanks for our raid on a storage warehouse in Aristaal was a Bag of Holding. As Leviss explained to me, the bag was capable of holding almost 200 pounds of material but the bag itself never weighed more than five pounds. It was, let’s see if I can remember correctly, “ extra-dimensional space in which items were no longer part of this material plane.” Basically, we could hide the ring inside, and the King could not detect its magic or its presence.

As we looked around, we asked many questions. What were these thugs doing? Why did they want explosives? Obviously to destroy something, but what? Was this just the first of an entire system of crime run under the city? Crime is not something we wanted, but honestly, it was a relief to think that some of the city’s citizens were willing to defy the King.

Investigating some more of the sewers, we realized that part of it followed a curved path that must align with the wall aboveground. The walls of the sewers at this point were made of the same magically tough material as above and nothing we did could make a dent in it. We made a plan to return to the inn and investigate these sewers more lately. We hoped to continue the work of the thugs and possibly break the slaves out of the King’s camps.

Coming back to the inn, I am sure we were a confusing and awful sight. Our group is already quite unique looking, but adding the muck and toil of a battle in the sewers, and well, we were an absolute mess. Making our way back to our rooms, we found the King and his guards there to greet us. With a deep, confident voice, his next words, “Clex Adar”, boomed out through the room, cleaning us of the mud and sewer water. Explaining that he knew his wizards had been assaulted, he asked if we knew anything about where the ring had gone. Hesitant about telling him, we sidetracked the questions enough to settle upon telling him that we knew where it was and that it was hidden where no one could find it. However clever we thought we were being, he knew right away that it was in a bag of holding, but thankfully, did not push the matter any further. His main concern was hiding it from the Queen, and he said that as long as we did so, everything would be fine.

After he left, I stayed up most of the night, thinking about our current adventures, and writing this journal. We seem to be, as I said before, mere pawns, in a fight between two large forces. The King’s plan seems obvious: power, absolute, at any cost all for the “good of the people”. The Queen’s motives, however, seem elusive for the time being. She seems to be an agent of chaos, and Avaron seems to favour or at least be willing to favour her side. I know that mostly this stems from the idea that nothing can be worse than a citizen-eating power-crazed King who encamps half-breeds for slavery. I don’t know what is to lie ahead, that’s Leviss’ job, but I hope that we have the strength and conviction to change things for the better.