Archive for the ‘Dear Father Mulcahy’ Category

Cleric Journal: Day Two Hundred and Fifty One




I’d totally forgotten about the goblin slaves that had been following us.  Frankly it wasn’t until one of them pulled on my sleeve that I could focus on what was going on around me.

“Are we to be freed?” he asked, much braver than I expected from one as downtrodden as he.  It was Ratbiter, the one who had spoken with us when the others cowered.

“Yes,” I said, looking him square in the eyes.  “I will give your people the same chance I gave the last group of goblins I freed.  You can go off on your own, return to your tribes if you desire.  Or you can follow me.  I will give you a free choice in your fate.  You can work with us in some capacity, or you may decide to take up arms in our cause.  The choice will be yours.”

Ratbiter looked at me confused and shook his head.  “You are a very strange man,” he said.  The other goblins grumbled and nodded in agreement.

The hob warriors, I noticed, were listening carefully to my words.

“We tolerate no tyranny in my company.  If you deal with us, you deal square.  Everyone draws wages.  Everyone is fed, clothed and housed.  No one will be deprived basic dignity.”  I looked down the line of the warriors, catching each of their eyes.  “Dignity and honor above all else.”

No one said anything until we got to the tunnels leading to the dungeons.  The first room we came to was the goblins.  I asked Ratbiter to go in and talk with them, tell them what I said and asked him to lead them out to the courtyard.  He is a young goblin, in his prime.  He studied my face for a moment, took in my armor, my holy symbols which hung across my chest and scratched his chin where a wispy bit of beard grew.  I waited, allowing him to think and was rewarded with a short nod.

He huddled with the other goblins and they entered the room as a group, calling out to acquaintances and offering their deals.  We went on, letting the arguing and cries of disbelief echo in the halls.  One of the warriors shook his head, but there was no anger in his face — just bewilderment.

When we got to the Hob prison, I halted us and picked out the warrior who had made a move to support his squad leader, the one Bÿglar had to hold at bay with his spear.  I faced him.  “What is your name soldier?”

He saluted. “Gronk, Shield Breaker,” he said proudly.  “er, sir,” he finished.

I smiled at him, making sure to show my teeth.

“Warrior Gronk.  Inside this room you will find what remains of the Black Heart Legion.”

He blinked and the others looked on, curiosity sweeping the room.

“They are in bad shape.  Does your legion have any healers?”

He nodded, gravely.

“Okay, choose two to run back and gather healers.  I’d like you to lead the rest of the troop here to go in and help them as you can.  Any that are ambulatory can help the others.  I want every one of them out of this hole and into the light of day as soon as feasible.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Dignity and honor,” I said, “does not include putting a man out of his misery to save face.  Every one of them were overwhelmed by dark magic.”

“Wizards,” Gronk said and turned his head and spat.

I turned and spat as well, which made him grin.

“They’re all jerks,” I said, clasping him on the shoulder.  “I am relying on you and these men to see that those inside are treated well.  They are our brothers.  Let’s see them rescued in such a way that they can have some respect.”

“Sir, yes, sir,” Gronk said, stepping back and saluting.  “We will preserve the honor of Black Heart Legion and in doing so, safeguard our own.”

We left them to their task and the three of us; Liz, Sparkle and myself — went to find the lizard folk.

The way was worn from millennia of foot traffic.  Before the lizard folk trod these halls, acolytes and worshipers came here to implore and venerate their god of choice.  Heck, for all I know, lizard folk did walk these halls.  There were many, many temples within this warren of catacombs.  I would not be surprised to find some off-shoot of Semaunzilla (may she help Liz cope with what is to come).  Walking this path made me at once scared, exultant and sad.  The civilization that saw the rise of this fortress had seen the peak of humanity’s achievement.  The tolerance and love that this place had once represented astounded me.

And yet, the desecration here has been profound.  How many gods fell the day Abigail and her cadre slaughtered those within these walls?  How long did it fester before the frogs came here?  Was it feasible to consecrate these halls once more?

We stood outside the prison and hesitated.  Liz looked back at me, holding her hand out for me to take.  I stepped forward and she pulled me close to her, leaning her head against my shoulder.

Sparkle slipped to her other side and took her by the arm, lending her support and a kind word.  Then we opened the door.

Dozens of lizard folk stood in eight different cells lining the periphery of the great room, with an open courtyard in the center.  There were old and infirmed, young and wounded, but mostly they were beat down and exhausted men, women, and children who had been held captive for more than two years by callous and cruel masters.

They did not cheer when we entered the room.  They knew enough of what had happened when their warriors had returned to them and when their shaman leader, Ssarwick, Liz and Jira’s father, had taken his own life.  They parted as we walked in, making a path for Liz to approach her father.

None would look at her as she walked amongst them.  They kept their heads bowed and by the faded colors of the rills that ran over their scalps and down their necks, they were ashamed.

Liz knelt where her father’s body lay.  They had cleaned his wounds and adorned him with feathers and baubles that they had managed to keep.  His staff lay across his chest, with his hands folded atop it.  He looked peaceful, but worn.  The years of captivity had been unkind to him most of all.

I was startled when one of the youngest children, a girl younger than Liz had been when I first met her, began to sing a throaty song that filled me with ennui.  Soon the others took up the song and Sparkle moved to stand beside me and take my hand.  Presently the lizard folk were pushing us forward, toward Liz, closing the circle behind us and burying us in their lamentation.

Cleric Journal: Day Two Hundred and Fifty




Prior experience drove my action.  It was a gamble, but one I thought was very low risk.  I slapped the squad leader, open handed, and barked. “What part of my position confuses you, soldier.”

One of the warriors let out a growl and shifted his foot, as if to step toward me, but Bÿglar barked something in goblin and positioned his spear at the man’s throat.  Then he said in an even, but forceful tone.  “Anyone who has a problem with my captain gets to wait for the rest of us on the other side of the far river.”

The one who growled stared at Bÿglar, anger and resentment warred on his face, but his training and the rank on my shoulder carried a significant amount of weight.

It was the squad leader who saved the situation, ultimately.  He straightened his shoulders and saluted.  Even though we were of different legions, I did still out rank him.

“We were told to take this position and watch for any who would seek to disrupt the surrender of this fortress.”

“On who’s command?” I asked, lowering my mace back to my side and standing my ground.  It only took a moment of officer glare which I’d learned from that old, grizzled hob sergeant back at wizard Tim’s keep to prove my final point.  The squad leader took a step back and glanced at his men, shaking his head.  The tension fell away immediately.  I glanced at Bÿglar who lowered his spear and stepped back to stand at my side, but leaving enough room for both of us to use our weapons should the need arise.

“How did you come here?” I asked, returning the hob’s salute.  Always respect and honor.  That is the trick with these proud people.

The squad leader nodded, acknowledging my return salute and stood at attention, his head high, and rattled off details.

“We were heading down the old trade road between Farspire Keep and Black Crescent lake roughly a week ago when our commander ordered us to reverse march and head here.  There is a wizard that he has had dealings with and scuttlebutt was that he had shown up in the night and convinced Commander Blüd Hammer to come and assist in the taking of this fortress.”

I nodded.  “And the frog wizards?  Any sign of them?”

The squad leader shook his head.  “They all look alike to me.”  He paused.  “Well, all but one.  There was a mottled purple fellow who was leading the frogs in their surrender.”

“How does he fare?” I asked, suddenly worried for Nebuchadnezzar well being.

“Safe as I saw him last,” he replied.  “Had a dab hand at keeping his people calm.  How many warriors do you have with you?” he asked.

I looked at Bÿglar who only shrugged.  This was my command, after all.

“I’ll introduce them to you,” I said, grinning.  I stepped out of the room and waved the others forward.  Once they were all in the room, the squad leader goggled.

“Is this all that survived?” he asked, horrified.

“Yes,” I said gravely.  “We lost two.  A lizard folk warrior and a fairy”

The warriors laughed, but stopped when I glared at them.

“Is he serious, or mad?” the squad leader asked Bÿglar.

“What is your name?” I asked the man, cutting across any reply Bÿglar may have thought to make.

“Squaddie Kregal, sir,” he snapped off with another salute.

I saluted back.  “We have slaves to free, Kregal.  I’ll need your squad to help me get our people out of the dungeons.”

I turned to Bÿglar.  I need you and Kregal here to go with Bob and see to things outside.”  He saluted which garnered an approving look from Kregal.  ” Bob, can you see about finding Nebuchadnezzar and make sure that the surrender is going well and that no one is slaughtering the frogs?”

Bob smiled at me and gave me the same salute Bÿglar had.  I squinted at him, but he moved across the room, ignoring me further.

“Liz, I want you with me for sure.  Rufus,” I pointed to the weasel gnome.  “I’d like you to accompany Bob.  If you find Tim, tell him he and I will be having words as soon as I get out of here.”

“What about Leviathus?” he asked, his voice dripping venom.

“Do not kill him,” I said.  He looked very disappointed.

“I want the frog wizards alive as well,” I said to the entire room.  “I want to know how we free the lizard folk from this binding they have over them.”

Sparkle went to stand beside Liz, waiting for me.

I motioned for the hob warriors and after one moment of hesitation, their squad leader, Kregal, motioned for them to follow me.

“Obey him as you would obey me,” he growled.  “Do not embarrass Broken Finger.”

As a unit the dozen hobs grunted, “Ooo, yah,” and moved out into the hall in two lines.  I was very impressed by the size of them.  Very large men.

I went to Liz who had not said anything about Jira dying and took her hand in mine.

“Let’s go free your people,” I said.  “They can go outside, can they not?”

She looked at me, her beautiful eyes shining with unshed tears.  I saw the pain in them, knew the agony she was internalizing, the blame she was building, brick by brick around her heart.  I could not stand that.  Not with her.

I pulled her around and drew her into my arms.  “Life is a series of choices,” I whispered to her.  “Jira and your father made their own choices.  It is our lot to honor those decisions and make our way in the world despite the pain and loss.”

She squeezed me, her strong arms clinging to my back and she wept into my shoulder.  No one said a word as we stood amongst the hob warriors.  Sparkle waited at the other end of the hall, keeping her head to the side, giving us space.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.  “I should’ve been there for you and your family sooner.  This is my failure.”

She dug her claws into the point where my back plate intersected with my breastplate, making sure to poke the tender flesh underneath my armor.

“You are a fool,” she said, nuzzling my neck for a moment, then turning and walking to Sparkle.

I let them go ahead, heads bent in whispers as they went forward to the prisons.  The hobs moved with me when I followed.

So much loss, so many mistakes.  I just prayed that we could salvage something from this unmitigated disaster.

Cleric Journal: Day Two Hundred and Forty Nine




I dozed, however briefly while the others kept watch.  Liz woke me after a bit and suggested that we’d given Nebuchadnezzar enough time to spread the word, and that we should move out.

Seemed like the logical thing to do.  We regrouped, I tossed off a few minor heals and we set off.  The halls around us were abandoned — meals were left on tables.  We found one room with a spinning wheel and loom that had obviously been used until minutes before we passed by.  Everywhere we went, we found dropped tools, discarded weapons and cowering slaves.  Three times we found goblins huddled in rooms, afraid to flee, but having no other direction, chose to stay where they were.  Bÿglar had the most experience dealing with goblins and he rallied them to follow us, the whole time asking them questions and probing for knowledge of remaining resistance.  They knew little, but it was clear from their words and the evidence we saw that Nebuchadnezzar had done as he promised.

One of the goblins by the name of Ratbiter said he overheard Nebuchadnezzar telling his masters that they should make their way to the central courtyard and await our coming to accept the surrender of the fortress.  That seemed like good news.  Of course, we were wary and proceeded as if an ambush would appear around any turn.

We scouted for another hour and finding no one else, followed the goblin’s directions to the courtyard.  Rufus was dubious, and Bob tolerant but I could tell he really did not like the goblins.  They were expecting an ambush of epic proportions.  So we were not surprised when it occurred.  What did surprise us was who was waiting to cut us down.

Hobgoblins.  Two dozen with swords and shields bearing the insignia of the a legion I had never heard of.  Bÿglar was apoplectic, however.  I was familiar with the Black Heart Legion, of course.  They were the ones who had abandoned the Night Wing Legion, my legion, to protect the strategic bridge while they hied off on some other mission.  The surviving members of that legion was housed below in the prisons.  So who were these new players?  And how in the nine hells had they come to be here?

As I had said, we were moving in a typical “we are going to be ambushed in any moment” mode so Sparkle spotted their set up before they saw her.  She scooted back to us and reported exactly what she saw, down to the approximate ages of the troops we faced.  That girl had a wicked sharp mind.  She not only told us how many, and where they were stationed in the room, but described their uniform coloring and visible insignia.

As she was sharing with us , Bÿglar quite literally choked, swallowing and gasping at the same time.  Not the brightest moment in the boy’s life, but what can you do.  He not only knew the insignia, but was terrified of the hobs who wore them.  Of the hobgoblin tribes in the portion of the world, and as far as Bÿglar knew, the entirety of known history, this was the most powerful legion by rumor and myth: The Broken Finger Legion.

Seriously, when he whispered the name, I had to ask him to repeat it, because, you know.  NOT SCARY.  I mean, sure, names can be misleading.  But Broken Finger Legion?  I actually laughed, which it turns out, alerted the Broken Finger troops to our presence.  So much for stealth.  The hobs did not charge into our midst, thankfully, so I decided to follow my last rousing success with diplomacy with another go.

Hob elite warriors are a cut above the normal troops.  My body guards, Shadow One and Shadow Two were, or had been, of those elite.  They were not just brute force, but could think and use tactics, important things like that.  They were also very loyal and obeyed orders from a superior officer without hesitation.  That was  my best ploy of avoiding bloodshed.

These were some of the very best any legion had to offer and we’d be hard pressed to defeat them without some heavy explodey stuff from Rufus, or losses on our side.  Luckily, I also out ranked them.  Bÿglar confirmed that the ranks Sparkle had described were definitely elite warriors, but only one was a squad leader, the one with the yellow stripes on his right pauldron.  I wanted to mention that yellow frequently denoted cowardice in many myths and cultures that I had read about, but the look on his face was enough to quell my tongue.  Still, I needed him, so I pulled him up with me and sent the others back down the hall with the goblins.

Around the bend in the hall was an open room where the hobs had set up behind crates, blocking the exit on the far side that would lead us to the main entrance hall and eventually out to the courtyard.  If all the frogs were out there, waiting to surrender, then these hobs must be either confused or led by a very smart strategist.  My money was on confused.

I pulled the Night Wing Legion insignia from my pouch and put it on over my right pauldron, making it visibly clear who I represented.  Then I pulled out my symbol of rank, Captain in this case, and lay that over my left pauldron.  Bÿglar gave me an approving nod and swallowed hard.  At least he didn’t choke this time.

Hobs value bravery, honor, and discipline above all else.  They respect violence and a forceful leader.  I’d walked this walk before.  I knew what to do.

I strode boldly down the hall, with Bÿglar at my side.  As we turned the corner, he called out in goblin for the warriors to come to attention and salute a superior officer.

Yep, confused.  The warriors glanced back at their squad leader, who happened to be standing behind a stack of crates closest to me, so I stormed up to him, swearing with my most colorful Abyssal phrases, one which caused Bÿglar to stumble a step.  None of them raised their blades to me, but confusion reigned on their faces.  Especially on the face of the squad leader who stood nearly to my height, but with shoulders that would make Bob proud.

“I have taken this fortress,” I bellowed, slamming my mace into the crate in front of the squad leader, smashing the wood and spilling rice onto the ground at our feet.  “On whose authority do you hold this position?”

There was a moment right there, a second after I uttered those words, where I could see the calculation in that squad leader’s mind.  He could kill me and Bÿglar, likely saving a lot of hassle for himself and his squad.  You know that look, Father, I’m sure.  The squad leader’s eyes twitched to his squad and he drew a breath.

Cleric Journal: Day Two Hundred and Forty Eight




I knew rage.  The world swam with blood.  We stalked the halls slaughtering frogs everywhere we found them.  Twice we were forced to fight a lizard folk, but somehow we managed to subdue them rather than kill them.  I believe it was Bob who had the steadying hand there.  Me, I was out of my mind with grief and anger.  It wasn’t until Liz pulled me back from killing three frogs who had surrendered did I even realize I had been wounded in many places, nicks and bruises that while not life threatening, would have slowed me down in previous battles.

I was just sick of all the death, if that makes any sort of sense.  Even as I write that sentence I realized the irony of my words.  I had to sit in that hall and collect my thoughts for in that instance I could see how easy it would be to slip over the edge and become that which I loathed.  Liz disarmed the frogs and locked them in a storage room.  I closed my eyes and tried to breathe.  Breathing had been a struggle for a while.  I had driven myself beyond exhaustion in the hours we stalked the halls.  My throat hurt from the shouting, which would be a problem when I got around to healing the others.  I couldn’t find the divine for a bit.  Rage is not conducive to gods who abjure mindless violence.  Violence against a worthy foe is one thing.  Slaughtering the weak, despite their complicity in heinous crimes, shaded the white with too much gray.

So we sat in that hall, Bÿglar and Sparkle at one end, watching for enemies, with Bob and Rufus down the other end of the passage.  Liz sat with me and placed her hand on my knee while leaning her head on my shoulder.  She did not speak, but her presence helped to cool my blood.  Impudent wrath coursed in my veins.  I wanted to lash out, break things, make them pay.  But no matter how many of the frogs I killed, it could not assuage the pain in my soul; could not fill the hole in my heart.

When my breathing had calmed to the point I could hear more than the throbbing heartbeat in my ears, I began to hear other voices.  The three frogs, bound and captured, wept.  They did not rail or shout.  That was for the brave and the foolhardy.  These three, simple followers of a corrupt power, wept for their families.

Gods I hated myself in that moment.  Is this how good people did bad things?  Granted the frogs were, as a civilization, cowardly, base and greedy.  But honestly, doesn’t that apply to many of the world’s people?    I must’ve sighed heavily because Liz patted me on the leg and stood, holding out a hand for me to rise along with her.  When I was on my feet she hugged me and called Rufus and Bob to join us.

“Merric has a new plan,” she said as if she could see inside my head.  The other two looked at me, watching for a clue to my mood.  I didn’t have much of a plan, of course, but with Liz’s prompting the idea formed to the point I could articulate it.

I went to the storage closet and reached for the door.  Bob’s hand shot out, grabbing me by the wrist, a look of fear in his eyes.  How far down the line had I travelled this day?  I turned and pulled him into a hug, letting the comfort of his stout frame and warm heart settle the last of my wrath.

“I won’t hurt them,” I said as I stepped back.

He looked into my face, touching my left cheek with his gloved hand.  He glanced at Liz who nodded and that seemed enough for him.  He stepped back and I opened the door.

The three frogs began to wail then.  I was an avenging angel, mighty and covered in the spattered remains of other frogs.  I cannot imagine what we must’ve looked like in that moment.  So I did the things I understood to do.  First I used one of the cantrips I had learned on that first day I could feel the divine.  I pushed the limits beyond any I’d tried before, but I seemed to succeed.  In one instant I looked a horror, and in the next, I was scrubbed clean.  Blood and gore vanished in a blink and I knelt to the frogs, cutting their bonds and helping them each to their feet.

They were wounded and afraid.  I knew a little of resolving that so I did the best of my calling.  I healed them, calming their fears and bowed my head.

“I beg your forgiveness,” I said in the language I had always attributed to Liz’s people.  Seems it is a broader language, one shared by any of the scaled races, and apparently, the frogs.

They did not respond, of course.  I mean, would you?  They did look at one another in confusion and fear, expecting some new torture, but I did not rise, and the others stepped back, giving them access to the door and the hall.

“I beg you take my words to the remainder of your people,” I said, looking up for the first time.  “Tell them we would parley with the wizards.  Tell them we will make a truce with your people if they come to terms.  Tell them we will take the slaves you have captured and free them to their own devices.”

They looked around, eyes nearly as large as my head, panic apparent on their faces.  “Or flee,” I said, understanding.  “Tell any you see that we will not attack any who go unarmed.  We are here for our friends.”

“And Leviathus,” Rufus broke in.  Man he really hated that guy.

“And the human wizard,” I said, nodding.  “Will you take our parlay?”  I think Alfred would be comfortable with my attempt, though he was a much wiser ambassador than I.

Two of the frogs edged toward the door and when we did not stop them, hopped down the hall as if hell hounds were on their heels.  Perhaps that is an apt description of who we had become.

“I will take your message,” the final frog said.  I sat back on my heels and looked at this amphibian.  He was mottled purple and green, colors that seemed more rare among those we’d ever fought.  Perhaps it was a matter of rank, or a happenstance of birth.  No matter, he looked into my face and did not shirk.

“We know of your coming,” he said, his voice as serious as any I had heard.  “The old ones spoke of your coming in the ancient of days.  He bowed then, touching his webbed left hand to his forehead.  “You are he who comes to break the world.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it,” I replied.

For a long time he watched me, his eyes luminous orbs that held a depth and wisdom greater than I had ever considered the frogs having.  “You may not have a choice in the end,” he said.  “But I see in your eyes that you speak truth.  I will warn the Lump of your words.”

I shook my head at those words.  Lump?  The froggy wizards were considered a lump?  Could that be a happenstance?  After all the years of being called Useless Lump, the coincidence boggled me.  I moved aside and let him go. Bob escorted him to the end of the hall where Bÿglar nodded, accepting my actions without question.

“What is your name?” I called out.

“Nebuchadnezzar” he croaked and then was gone.

I sat back against the inside of the closet and closed my eyes.  Let the others watch.  We had some time before word would come back.

Either we would parlay, or we would fight to the death.  Whichever, I was too tired to think for a little while.

Cleric Journal: Day Two Hundred and Forty Seven




“Everyone okay?” I asked, as I let Liz down on the ground before the dais.  There was a considerable lump on the side of her thick skull, but the lightning had done far more damage.  She had a hard head.

I bent to her and lay a blanket of healing upon her.  She had not been too sorely wounded because she returned to consciousness with a growl.  “Swords,” she bellowed and Bob chuckled.

Rufus pushed her harness rig into her hands and scanned the room, practically pouting.  “I wanted Leviathus,” he said, more to himself then the rest of us.  “Jerk.”

“Hear, hear,” I said.

Liz looked at me and grinned.  She knew how I felt about wizards.

“He’ll rally better forces to storm in here,” Rufus said, sitting down on the edge of the dais and allowing his feet to swing.  “Now that we’ve seen him, he can’t let us live.  Dealing with this ilk may be gaining him powers or knowledge that no one in the university can officially acknowledge, but it will go toward his ability to get tenure.”

I looked at Bob who shrugged and looked up suddenly as Sparkle came bounding into view, her blades driven into the back of a behemoth frog nearly twice my size.  When the freakish thing fell to the ground, she rolled off and onto her feet with the grace of an acrobat and gave a little bow, while flicking her blades behind her, throwing off blood and viscera.

“Glad you could join us,” she said, bumping me with her shoulder and grinning.  “I was sure you’d met your match.”

Before I could speak, Rufus looked at me with a screwed up face.  “How did you break his hold?” he asked, obviously confused.  “Leviathus is one of the best I’ve ever met with mind cage spells.”

I shrugged, and reached out to stroke Liz on the side of the face before standing and helping her to her feet.  “I’ve managed to survive similar experiences,” I said with a shrug.  “I guess I’m getting good at breaking out of cages.”

“And the mystical missiles I saw him cast?” Sparkle asked.  “Explain that.”  I wracked my brain there.  That was one of the spells a novice learns early, something that builds over time.  Wizard Tim had told me all about them when he used them around Liz and I.  How had they not hurt me.  I looked down at my chest, feeling where the heat of them had passed into me, and remembered the amulet that I had claimed from Gore Fist’s gear.  Tim had told me it would absorb a certain amount of magic cast at the wearer.  Too bad for Gore Fist that didn’t extend to being bit in half by a giant insect.  That was a nasty way to go.  Still, his loss was my gain.

I pulled the chain out with all my holy symbols and everyone stopped when the Bountiful One’s sphere pulsed a golden spasm of light and we each felt a wave of peace and healing wash over us.

“Okay, I’ve got a few things that helped me out.”

Bob chuckled, climbed off the dais, and walked through the dead frogs, making sure none still lived.  Bÿglar helped him while Liz donned her gear.

“Bad idea, that,” Sparkle said, pointing to the discarded serving tray where Liz had been struck down.  “Seemed like a good idea at the time.”  She looked right me, unabashed.  “If they had all just left like she asked, we could’ve avoided some unpleasantries.”

I glared at them.  “Might include the cleric in your plans next time.  Would prevent people I care about being bludgeoned.”

No one said a peep.

“Besides,” I groused.  “We have to kill them eventually.”

“Eventually is not now,” Sparkle said, her face set and her voice haughty.  “It was a clever plan.”

I continued to glare but did not press that subject.  Eventually I was able to stare all of them down.  Bÿglar looked away first, Sparkle last.

“What happened to Jira?” I asked, remembering Liz’s sister suddenly.  “She was fighting against the frogs.”

Liz placed a hand on my arm and pointed.  The lizard folk had fled, all but Jira.  She sat against the wall on the far side, by the halls to the north.  She had slain two dozen frogs before she had fallen to their spears as they fled the hall.  Liz and I went to her and found she was beyond healing.

“My father,” Liz said, reaching out and closing Jira’s eyes.  “He is tied to her.  With his death, she was free of their magic.”  She paused.  “He allowed himself to die, probably killed himself to free her once they knew we were here to rescue them.”

I looked at her, astonished.

“It is the control they have over them.  For one of the warriors to die is to condemn those captives held behind.  He knew he was dying as did she.  He chose to help us in the end.”

I stared down at Jira and felt the hot sting of tears in my eyes.  Why must the world be so cruel?

Liz took my hand and I was comforted by her touch, as I hope mine comforted her.

The rest of my troop appeared behind us, bloodied and ready to continue our incursion into the froggy stronghold.

“Where is Magda?” I asked, looking at each of them.  That’s when I noticed the scorch marks upon them, singed hair, clothing blackened from fire and soot.  They had all survived Leviathus’s ball of fire with minor wounds.

I quickly took inventory of their burns.  They would all need some healing and Bob’s right hand would need some salve.

None of their wounds were life threatening.  So what of Magda?

Rufus shook his head when my gaze fell upon him, as if I had missed a clue.  He pointed back to the antechamber where Leviathus had detonated his ball of fire and I felt hope bleed out of me.  Numbly I climbed upon the dais and pushed aside the battered and burnt screen that had give those in the antechamber seclusion from the public throne room.  Perhaps it had taken a portion of the explosion, minimizing the wounds that afflicted my friends.  The rest of the chamber had not fared as well.

The entire area was blackened and scorched.  Anything that could burn had burned in a flash of fire so intense and quick, that only ash remained.  No lingering fire had continued after that initial conflagration and no smoke hung in the air.  Everywhere was the stench of char, however.

Ash lay inches deep in some areas and it took me a full fifteen minutes before I found her.  None of the others came back to help me search and I was glad for the solitude.  When I found her, broken and burned, I let the tears flow freely.  I cupped her small body in my hands and carried her out into the throne room.  The others were on point, watching the doors and making sure we were not counter attacked.  I stopped beside the froggy throne and held her body out to the room in supplication and shame.  I had failed her

It was Bÿglar who came to me and offered comfort.  He had his holy symbol out, that hybrid of Kithri of the healing touch, and Semaunzilla (may she ease the pain of lost friends).  He held it and placed a hand on my shoulder, reciting a prayer I had said during a lull in the battle for the bridge.  I did not recall those words exactly, but they had a ring of truth.

“We honor our fallen,” he intoned, squeezing my shoulder.  “We do not wail at their loss as that would dishonor their sacrifice.  Rather we weep for their transition unto the far shore in hope that their next battle is even more glorious than the death they have achieved this day.  And that, when we meet on the plains of light, that we are joined again in friendship and camaraderie.”

I had said those things to this young man, and the others in my legion when we had suffered such grievous losses.  I had meant those words then, and they resonated with me now.  Still it did not take away the pain of seeing this sweet face, contorted in death.  She who saw the truth in me that no one else had spoken.  Her counsel while it had been brief, would be sorely missed.

I lay her on the seat of the throne and turned to face my companions.  Liz knelt rearranging Jira’s limbs and setting her weapons within her grasp.  If she had heard Bÿglar’s words, she gave no indication, yet she shed no tears.  Even though she had also lost her father this day.

“We find the wizards and kill them,” I barked, allowing the pain to course through my words.  “Then we see to the surviving slaves.”

Cleric Journal: Day Two Hundred and Forty Six



I stepped back, much to his surprise.  The look of shock on his face was a thing of beauty.  His mouth formed the question, “How,” before his throat emitted a shriek of pain as I brought my mace up, shattering his elbow and sending the wickedly hooked gutting knife spinning from his spasming fingers.

His instincts were strong.  Years of running away from a losing fight had ingrained a strong sense of self preservation in him and he turned to flee.  As I mentioned previously, slow wizards who did not have large burly folk to hide behind did not live long in the real world.  Oh, they were amazingly powerful and totally worth their reputation of bringing mass carnage and destruction to their enemies, they remained frail arrow-catchers.  Interrupt their elaborate intonations, hand gestures or concentration and they become a liability for those who have the responsibility of keeping them alive.  Most stories I’ve read are clear on the amazing utility and criticality of having a wizard when going on a major expedition, but that a group leader who wants to survive will balance carefully the pros and cons of bringing along one of the twitchy, temperamental flowers.

Of course, I had a wizard with me and he was doing a yoeman’s effort when it came to taking out frogs.  Leviathus made it to the edge of the froggy line and turned, cradeling his arm against his body, and made a gesture with his good hand.  That one I recognized as well, with a bit of personal nuance: mystical force missiles.  The shards of aether spun from his hand and flew through the air, arcing around a frog warrior that stumbled away from Bÿglar, holding his guts in his hands, and flew at me.  Magic sucked went it is used against you.

I tensed, expecting to feel the barbs bypass my armor and lance into my flesh, but when they struck, it was no more than a hot breeze.  The smug look of absolute victory on Leviathus’s face turned to further astonishment as I looked at him with a grin.  I don’t know why I wasn’t skewered, but I was not looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Roaring a battle cry that I had heard Bob use before, something Dwarfish that roughly translates to “I’m going to kill you so hard your mother dies from the blow”.  Leviathus turned and began pushing frogs out of  his way in a vain attempt to escape.  No matter, if he managed to go beyond my reach, I’d just hunt him down.

Then I realized Liz was not moving.  I forgot the wizard, vowing to make him pay later, and turned to assess the room.  Bÿglar was holding his own amid a sea of froggy bodies.  Liz lay behind him, unmoving.  Sparkle was against the far right side of the dais, using her twin swords to great effect before dashing over the dais and to the other side when a large group of frogs attempted to rally against her onslaught.  Smart girl.

Bob and Rufus where on the dais.  Bob keeping those brave, or foolish enough to charge the wizard at bay, while Rufus cast his own versions of death and carnage against those who grouped together in a scrum larger than three.  Bob’s great axe cut a wide swath of death all around him and the bodies stacked before the throne grew ever higher.  I could not see Magda, but she was small and quick, so I had no idea where she would be.

While we were greatly outnumbered, we had superior skill and experience.  The courtly frogs, sycophants and functionaries had either been cut down or fled.  Warriors flooded into the hall from three doors from the north.  Nothing came from the doors to the south, which made sense as that was the direction of the prisons.

I looked for the lizard folk and found them in the back of the room, struggling.  Jira fought like a wild thing, screaming in obvious pain as she slew frogs around her.  The others, bound by magic, fought with their enchantments, choosing to kneel and pose no threat, rather than join the fray.  Obviously they were still controlled by the frogs wizard.  I wonder how Jira had managed to break their bond.

Bÿglar was being pressed hard and with Liz unmoving, there was a real threat of him being overwhelmed.  I had to help him, but one mace would not be enough.  I thought back to wizard Tim and how that first time I met him he animated his two fallen companions to follow us away from that ruined keep.  Clerics of other orders were reported to be able to raise the dead as undead and command them.  I decided it was time to try something unthinkable.

I pulled in divine and contemplated my actions.  I was not going to raise the dead back to the living.  Rather I wanted to bring a sort of animation to the frog corpses and have them fight for me.  Seemed like something I should be able to do.  I began to weave divine energies into a web of sorts and cast it out over the nearest dead frog.  I could see no wounds on it, so I was unsure how it had died, but it looked big enough to cause some havoc.  As the divine settled over the mottled corpse, it twitched, then rose.  For a moment it stood there, as if it could not think what to do, which was precisely the case.

“Go kill my enemies,” I commanded and it swung its head around and lumbered toward a knot of frogs that had been gearing up to charge Bÿglar.  A thing about an animated corpse, it didn’t feel pain or fear.  The frogs it attacked, however, could feel both.  The knot of six frogs fell far quicker than I had anticipated, giving Bÿglar a reprieve.  I rushed in, grabbed Liz under her arms and dragged her back, allowing Bÿglar to make a controlled retreat back to Bob and Rufus.  I looked around frantically for Sparkle, but saw three frogs drop to my left and knew she worked her blades from the shadows.

The frogs began a riotous retreat, trampling the slow and wounded in an attempt flee the undead frog.  In the desperate retreat, the lizard folk vanished.  Were they trampled or did they retreat ahead of the frogs?  Where were the wizards that directed their actions?


Cleric Journal: Day Two Hundred and Forty Five




I reached into my vestment and pulled out my holy symbols, hanging them outside of my armor.  I had forgotten that I had so many different ones, though the new one was the most awkward, being spherical.  The symbol for The Bountiful One called to me in that moment and I held it in my right fist while I pulled a tiny sliver of the divine into it.  To my surprise it pulsed with sound the moment the energy entered the sphere.  Thrice it emitted a tone like the bleat of a swamp night bird, which confused me as you can imagine.  No other holy symbol had ever made a noise.  Then it began to glow with a golden light which suffused the room even through my clenched fist.  The light seemed to make the room I was in waver for a moment.  The cage I was in faded, the horror below me stuttered as if a layer of fog lay between it and me.  I increased the flow of the divine and the light increased tenfold, casting the entirety of the chamber in a bath of golden light that did not cause me to look away, but filled me with a peace that I had not felt in a while.  Not since Kithri healed me, as a matter of fact.  Or no, one time since.  This reminded me of the in-between place where I met the Sorceress after defeating Illitharad’s brain abomination back when I had almost died and Liz had taken up my journal.

And that realization synchronized the images that were flitting before me, the flashing of the room I had been in when I was struck, with Leviathus and the frogs in attendance, against the cage and the tentacled horror, and a realm of golden light where there were no solid objects.

It was this third echoing place that the sound was true, as far as I could discern.  The bleating of the night bird came more frequently as the sounds of the battle that raged round me in the first scene warred with the sound of the monster below me.  I was in three places at once.  Three realities overlaid upon one another, each flashing in and out of existence like the beating of my heart.  Only the first two were flashing by so quickly that the third, the golden realm was becoming more and more solid until, from one moment to the next, the bleating became the mellifluous sound of one whose voice had not been heard in seventy thousand years.

“Who wakes me from my slumber?” a male voice echoed from the golden realm.

I glanced around, looking for the source of the voice and seeing nothing grew still.

“Who speaks?” I asked.

The voice hesitated for a few moments, whether to gather his thoughts, or because the distance for the sound to travel was so great.  Eventually though, he spoke once again.

“You are Kithri’s ilk,” he said, a statement of fact and curiosity. “Yet not just.  There are others who hold your loyalty.  How is it you wake me from oblivion?”

I only had one thought and held up the holy symbol, his holy symbol, the sphere of the Bountiful One.  “I have called you with your symbol, it appears.”

Soft laughter echoed through the golden realm and I thought to feel ashamed.  But for some reason, a new strength flowed into me, not unlike a hand on my shoulder, a warm smile, or a kind word.

“Is it truly you, Merric?” He asked.

I nodded, not finding my voice, but that seemed to suffice.

“You must wake from this,” the Bountiful One said, his voice urgent.  “Thanks I owe you, beyond your reckoning, but you must wake and defend yourself.”

And the world shifted.  The golden light flashed and the images before me shuddered into motion once more.  Me in midst of battle, me in a cage, me in the gold infused aether.

I blinked and I sat in the cage, looking down at a great maw with teeth.  I thought to climb to my feet and see if I could somehow escape the cage before I became some creatures dinner when Magda showed up.  She appeared at my shoulder, her wings beating furiously and I realized she was attempting to fly upward with me in tow.  But she was too small, despite her magical strength.

“What is it?” I asked her, and she let me go with a squeak, allowing me to settle back against the wall of the cage.

“You would not respond to me,” she said, her voice higher pitched than was normal.  She looked harried with panic.  “You must break out of this cage.  I cannot free you.”

I looked around, remembering other cages.  Other times I had been held against my will and anger rose in me.  I stood abruptly, sending the cage swinging and a tentacle lashed upward, smashing into the bars and sending my cage careening wildly.

“Flee,” I cried to Magda and I reached upward, grabbing the crossbars at the top of the cage and kicked at the place the monster had smashed.  The bars there were bent and I aimed to finish the job.  I kicked and I kicked, each impact bending the bars outward a fraction more.  And each time, the tentacles struck the cage I spun even more erratically until I thought the chain that held me suspended from the ceiling would break and I would plummet into the maw of this great beast.

Finally, when I could no longer tell which way was up, the side of the cage gave way and the world shifted.

Miranda, the elven sorceress strode into the golden aether, resplendent in her flowing gown of silk.  She was adorned with jewelry of the finest craftsmanship and she carried a wand that glowed with power.  Miranda whom I had freed from centuries of enslavement to the Psi-Flayer, Illitharad.  She with whom I shared a moment of intermingled existence in that instant I had nearly died from my psychic thrashing.  Her sweet voice spoke to me words both urgent and dire.

“Wake up, fool, ” she snapped at me.  “You are stronger than this charlatan.”

“Charlatan,” I asked.  “I hang in a cage about to be fed to some monster.”

She shook her head.  “If you do not wake, you will lose another ally.  You will grieve already this day.  Do not make the accounting worse.”

I had only shared a conversation with this woman the day I slew the brain abomination.  How strange to be speaking with her now.  She had gone on to the next life.  I had seen her transition.

“Perhaps I am not here, Merric.  Perhaps this is a construct of your own mind to work out the puzzle you are trapped in.  Either way, you need to come to your senses before another dies.”

“Who has died?” I asked, startled.  “Liz?  Does she live?”

Miranda shook her head, made a “tsking” sound, and turned to walk away.  “Wake,” she called over her shoulder.  “Do not play the fool.”

The worlds flashed again and the chain that held the cage snapped and I plunged downward toward the monster.  Then the golden room faded and I stood in the midst of battle stupefied.  My companions fought with the frogs, the dead and dying littered the halls.  I could not see Sparkle, but Bÿglar fought over Liz’s fallen form, a dervish with his spear, killing any frog that dared to come within his reach.  Others fought behind me, beyond my vision, and the sounds were horrifying.  Rufus shrieked words I could not understand and lightning lanced across the hall, flinging frogs aside like rag dolls.  The strong odors of offal, ozone and blood washed over me like a tidal wave and I found that my limbs were free.

In that moment, and the barest of moments it has been, Leviathus lunged forward, his short dagger aimed at my throat.

Cleric Journal: Day Two Hundred and Forty Four




I wanted to protest, really I did.  Idiots who can throw lightning bolts should have thicker skins and less fragile egos.  Wizards have the highest mortality rate of any adventurer out there.  In their fledgling adventures, they die at a higher rate than hirelings, mules and, if you can believe it, goblins.  True facts.  Every wizard you meet will be the only survivor of a class of thirty to one hundred and fifty, if you count the big wizard schools like the one at Skyfell.  Pretty much one out of a one hundred and fifty survive to see the level of prestige and power enjoyed by Timoteus, Rufus or this new arrow catcher — Leviathus.  I wanted to hit him a lot, but no, don’t let the cleric break the silly, racist wizard.  Let’s let the lizard girl act as bait.  What could possibly go wrong?

I’m very upset by the chain of events, I want that out in the open right now.  No one asked me if I liked this plan, and no one thought through all the perils as only I could.  I’m not trying to be arrogant here, Father, truly.  But when I saw Liz come out of the back wearing nothing but a livery and carrying a tray, I flew into a rage that required the others to restrain me.  The noise did not go unnoticed, but they just shrugged it off.

Liz stepped around the curtain and began to walk across the room amidst the shocked whispers and outright exclamations.  The merchants totally agog at seeing the colorful, lithe, sultry lizard woman wearing nothing more than a hanky and carrying a tray.  It was obvious what her role had been in the trysts or whatever delayed the king.  I garnered that from Leviathus.  He said something lewd about her, and the tastes of kings, while the merchants, feeling braver now that they had a new target for their scorn, made crude remarks about Liz and her availability to service them later.

Seriously.  First of all, ew.  Those merchants were disgusting.  Second, back the hell off my independent and powerful female partner who totally doesn’t need me to rescue her, but is walking among the enemy naked and unarmed.

She paused in front of Leviathus and asked if they would be so kind as to return to their chambers as the king would not be seeing anyone this day.

I mumbled, “or any day,” but Sparkle slapped me on the back of my head as she loaded a crossbow we’d liberated from the more well maintained guards.  Each of them had a spear or bow of some ilk and I stood there, ignorant of the plan and angry at the exclusion.  Fine, yes, if they had asked me, I would totally have said no.  Too dangerous, especially since wizards were involved.  Damn it.

Leviathus, not used to having a lowly servant talk to him, drew his shoulders back, indignant to be directly addressed by a one of Liz’s obvious station.  I just wanted her to smash that stupid wizard in the head with her tray.  No such luck.

The merchants agreed to leave and were halfway across the room when Leviathus turned to Liz and asked if he could see the king, that he usually was given special dispensation, especially in light of who he was here to represent.  She played her part well, bowing and apologizing, but saying that her master forbade her from discussing specifics of his schedule.  She said he felt confident that the king would see him eventually, just not at this time.

Then, being a wizard, he could smell the lies on her.  Okay, I have no way truly of figuring out how he knew, but things happened very fast.  First of all, I saw him shake his head and all the alarms in my head went off.  Then Leviathus began casting a spell that involved hand gestures and light trails that appeared in his casting.  Luckily for me, I’m a mimic, watching and learning from other’s behavior.  The spell Leviathus was casting was the same one Tim had cast when he blew up large swaths of frogs with great fiery balls which exploded on impact.

“Run,” I called and did just that, without waiting for anyone else to respond.  I was out on the floor knocking Liz off her feet when the ball of fire exploded behind the curtain.  Fire and smoke rolled out of the antechamber and people and frogs were screaming.  Once I was sure Liz was out of harm’s way I rolled to my feet and swung the mace at Leviathus’s head.  I missed, but managed to kill a frog that had run up behind him for some reason.  Then pandemonium erupted in the room.

Liz rolled and took out Leviathus’s legs with a tail sweep.  It was very well executed, but a half a breath too late.  He launched his next spell and lightning arced through the room, catching Liz a glancing blow and she thrashed on the floor as smoke rose from her.  One of the frog retinue stepped up with a ceremonial baton and hit Liz in the head with it.  A resounding crack echoed through the chaos and I killed that stupid frog before he could draw back for a second strike.

I called my friends to help me, but none of the answered.  Liz lay at my feet unconscious and smoking while Leviathus readied a third spell.  By the look in his pinched face, I had a strong suspicion that this one would end me.

Where were the others?  Surely they had run when I did.  They had avoided the fiery explosion.  Say they survived it.

Jira, Liz’s sister, and a squad of controlled lizard folk guards ran into the room shoving their way through the frogs that were making a hasty exit away from the spell casting mad man and the crazed mace wielding man who stood over the fallen lizard woman.  She saw me and stopped, shock on her face.  Then her eyes traveled to the fallen Liz and rage flooded, the scales burning a deep orange around her gills.  I had learned to recognize that in the way Liz reacted to me, and it hurt my heart to see her reacting so.

I started to call out to Jira, to elicit her help when Leviathus waved a hand and the lizard folk fell to their knees, heads bowed.  All but Jira.  She fought him, and he knew it.  I could see the sweat trickling down his face as he waved his hand at her once more and she went down to one knee, but did not bow her head.

Of course, watching this spectacle left me vulnerable and I was caught unawares as a club struck me from behind and the world went dark.

Dark long enough for me to find myself sometime later in a cell, alone, with all my gear, which I found peculiar.

Then I recognized where I was, more or less.  This was one of the junctions we had discovered in the tunnels beneath the palace.   I looked round and realized I was in a cage that swung in the air above an offal pit and that in the muck below me something large and tentacled slithered, waiting for its dinner.  Me.

I sat down on the cross bars of the cage and looked around the chamber, wondering what temple this room had once housed.

Not that it mattered in that moment.  But it felt pretty important as I began to pray.

Cleric Journal: Day Two Hundred and Forty Three




Despite the morality plays, the allegories, and the comical tales, striking off the head does not kill the snake.  Not when the snake is a fortress filled with narcissistic, megalomaniacal, greedy, power mad frogs and the head is one sodden, flatulent, paranoid monarch.

Turns out, the room was barred from the inside and no one could get in unless his majesty, what’s his face, let them in.  Made our immediate life easier.  We took our time exploring the immaculate quarters.  The walls were hung with tapestries, the floors thick with carpets.  A bed that would’ve fit Alfred filled a full third of the room nearest to the doors we had entered through.  We had to climb over chests and other furniture which indicated that the kinglet here had no idea the doors existed.

There were many artifacts here as well.  Some looted from other places, Rufus assured me, but among the larger pieces were several tablets and statues that had been plundered from one of the many temples that had once filled this fortress.  I did not recognize any of the orders or deities represented which disturbed me quite a lot.  It would have been no more morbid to place the dismembered body of a loved one out as art.

We helped ourselves to some of the king’s food stuff, as it was likely to go to waste.  Liz allowed what was safe and palatable, which we were all thankful for.  With our water skins refilled and our packs heavier for the fresh food, we girded ourselves for battle.

Sparkle tested the doors, looking for alarms or traps and was not surprised at all to find several of both.  They were all rather easy to spot from this side of the door, meant more to catch anyone entering without the king’s assent.  We had no idea how many guards to expect on the other side of those doors, so we just hefted our weapons and waited while Bÿglar, the strongest of our lot, pulled the doors open.  They swung open easily, with pulleys and counter-weights hidden the walls to ease the movement of the thick doors.

The two guards on the other side barely moved when the heavy portal swung open.  Apparently the king had a habit of making grand exits because they just stepped to the edge of the stair and waited to proceed him.  I almost felt bad when Liz and Sparkle killed them.  Okay, not really.

Frankly from this point forward it was a boring exercise to open a door, kill the six or less frogs in that isolated chamber and move to the next.  No one was anticipating a revolution or over-throw from the inside.  They were just prepared for one to come from outside the king’s private suites.

All told we killed thirty-seven frogs before we made it to the throne room.  That was the easy part.  Not to give an impression that we were not battle tested.  There were some very large, very experienced warrior frogs in that lot.  Nearly a dozen.  Most of the rest were sycophants and functionaries.  By the time we entered the throne room, we had not found the froggy wizards, but we did get a surprise.

Seems the frogs had allies beyond the edges of the swamps.  Someone who had a vested interest in assisting the froggies in their play for swamp-wide domination.  I thought maybe it would be Illitharad, the Psy-Flayer.   Him I was anxious to introduce to the business end of my mace.  But it was not to be.  Instead it was another wizard.  One that Rufus knew and loathed more than he loathed Wizard Tim.

Just beyond the dais where the king’s throne rested, a small gathering of emissaries stood, huddled together, exchanging worried glances.  There was a screen which allowed the king and his retinue to stand behind and scan the room before entering.  I found this to be very advantageous.  We watched them for a moment, the frogs in the room casting worried glances around.  Apparently it was not uncommon for leadership of the frogs to turn over from time to time.  This we gathered from their comments.

There were three fat merchants huddled together, listening to a tall thin individual pontificating on the subtle changes a kingdom could undergo when a new king was raised from the ranks of the conspirators.   This was the wizard.  He was telling the quaking merchants that their wagon trains would be safe and that the next king, whomever it proved to be, would need their supplies just as readily.  The voice was callous and meticulous, with precise diction and the hint of an accent that I had never heard before.  It was Rufus who recognized him, and for good reason.  For it was not just another wizard, but one of the masters from the university in Skyfell, the gods curse all wizards.

“Leviathus!” Rufus weasel gnome growled.  There was murder in his tiny gnome eyes and I was willing to assist in whatever form of the act he cared to entertain.  This Leviathus had just finished telling the merchants that with his assistance the current king had expanded their territories to sweep up even more of the lesser demi-humans and that within the season he would be personally responsible for the final dissolution of the Black Heart Hobgoblin Legion.

This drew exclamations of relief and even glee from the three merchants who went on to decry the hobs as beneath contempt for their barbarity and expressed the hope the wizard Leviathus would help eradicate their entire species from the world, men, women, and children all should be slaughtered in their beds.

Gods, I hated people like that.  So much so, I was happy to introduce  Leviathus and his friends to my gods on their way to hell.  Interestingly enough it was Bob who stayed my hand with a surprised glance from Sparkle who not only agreed that we should not kill the wizard, but that we should also not kill the merchants.

We waited in the antechamber while Sparkle and Bob bent their heads together.  Eventually Bÿglar and Liz joined them while explicitly excluding me and Rufus from their plotting.  We were to watch that no one tried to come back here and look for the king, though by the conversation the wizard and the merchants were having they did not truly expect for the king to show his hoary face this day in any case.  He had already made them wait two days.

So imagine my surprise when Sparkle returned, took Rufus aside and gave him something which brought a smile to his weasely face.  I was the only one not in the know and I was becoming more and more frustrated by the whole thing.  My muscles were growing sore from the battles we had undergone and I wanted to finish this while I was young.

Cleric Journal: Day Two Hundred and Forty Two




I dreamed of Abigail — raven haired beauty, tall and lithe, mystical and broken.  We were lovers, she and I, or had been before I sacrificed her to my blind ambition.  She had been my first among hosts, my confidant and my light.  Ultimately I had entrusted her with the most glorious and heinous of deeds in our final victory over the pagans.  I sent her to her death gladly, for I believed she was going forth unto the glory of our god.

Her glory was as ashes in my mouth for I missed her with every fiber of my tattered soul.   Tattered it was Father, blistered and debased.  But the ending, well, the ending was at the end, and this was the beginning of that.

For you see, Father, in my dreams I was willing witness to the long trysts and budding romance that sweetened the ever growing madness.  I relished in my role as co-conspirator to elaborate plans that brought down a civilization.  And most of all I was a foolish contributor to deep philosophical discussions which served to justify our already twisted vision of a perfect world.  As we, she and I, made our way upward from novice to acolyte, curate to prefect we fed each other’s wildest fantasies and most broken dreams.  The higher we rose in the one true church, the greater our ambition, the wider our spectrum of choices and in the end, the total dissolution of our moral responsibility.  At the end, we proclaimed with righteous exuberance, justified by whatever means we deemed prudent.

Purging the heretics, the foreigners, the mages, and the poor had always been part of our master plan.  Overthrowing the emperor and bringing down the Nine and Sixty kingdoms? That had not entered our conversations.  But it had grown in my mind over the years.  And in the end, the voice that whispered in my dreams told me to fulfill the prophecy, to cleanse the world with blood and fire, I would have to sacrifice my heart; my Abigail.  When Brother Durham released the demons within the fortress walls I rejoiced.  When the Alliance Temple burned; when the Fortress of All Faiths fell to my Abigail and her seven companions; when the emperor choked out his life’s blood around the hilt of my dagger; I rejoiced.

But in my rejoicing I learned that I was alone.  Alone but for the laughing face of the Man in White.  Oh how I had played into his darkest schemes.  How foolish I had been.  Upon my death I would take up the visage of the wraith, for even the lords of the nine hells would not look upon my face.  But the Man in White had failed to consider the weakness of love, the fallacy of blind faith, and the hubris of hope.  He never foresaw that my love Abigail would fail to kill them all.  He never conceived that Kithri and her seven would escape into the wilds.  And for this the world may be redeemed.  I will set the wheel spinning and see what the heavens deliver.

When I woke, I lost more of the dream than I captured here on this page.  The fact I keep slipping into this as if it was my plans, my life disturbed me, Father.  These were the mad dreams of another man, another time.  The similarities in all our names can be no coincidence.  Do you dream of the wrathful youth you had been in a previous life?  Are similar dreams why Brother Durham adheres to the Law so stringently?

And our mission, the cursed existence that we perpetuate has a purpose greater than I had ever dreamed.  We preserve the fallen, I realize that now.  We are of the descendents of the seven, there can be no other explanation.  I know this with the certainty of my spiritual connection and my divine power.  This is why we hide in a swamp at the far end of what was once the greatest civilization in the history of the people, is it not?  What else do we preserve?  Who are we hiding from?  Do the zealots still hunt us after seventy millennia?

I want more than anything to come home and discuss these things with you.  I want to watch your eyes as you read this journal and ask you to explain.  I want to see the relics and the liturgy in the light of what I have discovered.  But mostly, I want to return to the innocence that I once eschewed.

But that is the fanciful wishes of a child.  I am set upon a path that may preserve the light in the end, but not unless I fulfill my appointed tasks.  So I rose and took up my mace, left the dusty bones of a thousand dead and climbed the stairs to free those who had been enslaved.

No one challenged me when I gathered my things.  They just followed suit and without a word spoken, we climbed the sweeping staircase and opened the grand doors into the heart of the frog stronghold.

How the frogs had never discovered this place became apparent when we attempted to open the doors.  They had been ensorcelled for more years than Rufus could calculate, but again, I knew the work of Edna who skirted the lines of purity and foul magic.  She had sealed those doors before Sister Agnes cut her down for the use of unclean forces.  I saw that moment in my mind’s eye and witnessed the smile upon Edna’s face as she accepted the dagger that would purge her of her sins.  One mage among the world of sorcerers who gladly came to the light and gave her blood to seal the fall of the temple.

The knock spell Rufus conjured was a simple thing, but the frogs had no idea these doors existed.  That much was clear when we opened them and saw the rooms beyond.  Opulence and finery lay draped on every surface of the frog king’s bedroom.  We were stunned by the chests of coins, the casks of gems and the snoring form of the ruling frog himself.

I took no satisfaction in crushing his skull.