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Everyone who hears our tale of vengeance is baffled by it.

I would expect them to be bemused, for our vendetta is private, based in a supposition of crimes as yet unproved.  But I would not expect them to remain baffled when we reveal the name of the beastman who travels with us.

The reason for their confusion?  They say they have seen Mallion alive and well in Marienberg.

At first we believed this to be a simple hoax.  We were certain of the identity of our own Mallion, despite his bestial appearance.  But time went on, and it became clearer and clearer that people who should have known better had been taken in by the hoax.

We committed a horrible act of piracy and murder in the name of this vengeance.  We treated with skaven to purchase warpstone with slaves - an act which will make us very rich - though the amount of warpstone we will send into the Empire to an unknown buyer could bring down the Emperor and permanently shift the balance of chaos in our homeland.  We set a city to civil war.  We leave mayhem in our wake wherever we sail.

And now, having committed ourselves to this course of action, having committed crimes to heinous to admit forgiveness, a letter comes from Marienberg - written in Mallion's hand and borne by Valadar's most trusted man.

The seal, of course, is not Malliion's.  It is Father's.  I wear Mallion's signet on a chain around my neck even now, knowing that I have no right to use it.  But the wording, the writing, the sentiment - had I not left my brother in Sartosa to come to the meeting where I received the letter, I would have had no doubt but that my brother had written it.

Gallos, for it was he who was sent to talk to Lorandara and me, asked us to return with him to Marienberg.  He had letters of passage allowing us to traverse the Tilean city-states where we are wanted as criminals.  He would not compel us, but he asked.  Everyone who knew of the request urged us to go.  I refused.  I informed Gallos that I would write a letter, the answer to which would prove if the person who had written to me was, in fact, my brother Mallion.  The letter contained two lies.  One was that I had tested the bestial Mallion using the same test I was about to give the pretender, and that he had passed.  I had not yet tested him when I wrote that.  The other related to the piece of poetry I used as my test.  If he is my brother, he will recognize that lie and challenge me on it.

Lorandara did not come to the meeting with me.  She waited behind for Mallion, and told him of my destination when he came out of the meeting which Lord Rackam had arranged to occupy his attention.  I know not what transpired when Mallion and Lorandara returned to talk to Lord Rackam after she informed him of my departure, but whatever it was, he was tense and upset when he arrived at the meeting. 

I told Mallion of the letter, and gave him a different test: a piece of poetry he had written many years ago, the theme of which was peculiarly appropriate to our situation.  I hated my doubt and needed to lay it to rest.  I needed my poet brother to be himself, to pick up the rhythm and rhyme and meter as of old, to duel with words as once he never would with a weapon.

He could not do it.

I think I hid my terror from him well.  It struck me soul-deep.  It helped that I went with the men in the rowboat while he and Lorandara took off flying for the ship.  I had time to take hold of my emotions and conquer them, to convince myself that the loss of one poem was hardly proof of anything.  I determined to set him another test, to give him another chance to show that he was my Mallion.

And yet my heart quaked.  Was he ever my brother?  Had he been my brother, but changed?  How much could he be my brother if the poetry, that which so defined him, was lost to him?

He passed the second test, quoting verses that I helped him write, verses known to none but us two.  We have decided to work with Mallion to keep his poetry alive in his soul.

So our Mallion is truly Mallion.  What will we do if the pretender passes the test - if he knows that which only Mallion knows?  How will we live with ourselves should our vengeance prove to be a hollow thing founded on a hellish misunderstanding?  How so if Valadar is innocent of the patricide with which we have sullied his name?
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My dear brother,

If you are indeed my brother Mallion, I owe you a lifetime of apologies and amends, and Valadar too - indeed our entire race.  I am not sure yet if I hope that is the case.

It would seem there are two of you.  One is with us, changed in form certainly, but I am convinced that he was once my beloved brother.  Among other reasons, he passed the test I am about to give to you.  However, Lorandara (who did not abandon you - she believes that she came on this voyage in order to stay with you as your loyal and loving wife, and her guilt over this possibility is great) wonders if it is possible for the magic that changed our Mallion into his present form to have split him in two, leaving you to wander the wood insensible for a time. 

With this being the case, and knowing that this Mallion needs us much more than you, we could not come with Gallos at this time.  If you are my brother, you will seek to understand and forgive that.  It is certainly not the least of the things you will have to forgive us, should your identity be confirmed.

The following is an excerpt from one of your own poems.  To the best of my knowledge, the working copy - the only one ever committed to parchment - is amongst Lorandara's books on the ship.  I was there when it was written, there through much of the work that followed in an attempt to make it come right, and there when it was abandoned, nearly finished, but unsatisfactory.  I suggested at least one simile that you adopted.  I enjoyed it and regretted that you did not, so I remembered it - at least the stanzas you seemed to like.

I will give the first stanza.  You will give as much of the rest as you remember.  You will recount some of the changes made to it, the details of its composition, the purpose you had had for it.  And if you convince me, we will all three of us return to Marienberg to face the Family and make such amends as we can.
Letters in gold that twist and distort
Music in notes none can hear
Pictures in colours that none here can see
Visions beyond all we know *


It is your turn.  If ye be not my beloved brother, know that our vendetta as stated will continue.  I think I hope that ye be he, whatever punishment my crimes may warrant.  Know too that I acted in what good faith I could muster in a situation where no firm course presented itself, and would retain at least that small measure of honour, slim though it be.

With your own signet ring, I seal this letter.  Please give my kind regards to my mother; would that I could spare her this heartache at the heart of her family!

One who may yet be again

Your loving sister,

Altriona




* Excerpted from a poem entitled Magical Moments, by Graeme Montrose.

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Somewhere on the Bretonnian coast, probably nearing Bordeleaux as I pen the words, is a single elven sailor. He bears with him two messages, one written and the other oral, to the patricide in Marienberg.

The other sixty-nine elves aboard the Imholien vessel Trisk'a'levian are dead. Some, including Captain Amendil with whom I have ever been acquainted, fell to the magic bolts of Lorandara. Others, like the First Mate, made good target practice for me. Many - most - died at the hands of our crew.

I knew we could not risk taking them alive; that we may be able to afford to take slaves of them later, but not now. My heart weighed like a stone within me, but I did not question the necessity. It would seem, though, that my brother has not yet grasped that his gentle lady sister is gone, nevermore to return. He gave orders to crew of all three ships, unbeknownst to me, that no one was to be left alive.

I realized this as we boarded the vessel, having already relieved it of half the souls on board. Even as I was about to give the order, I became aware that the men were not looking to me to give one; they knew already what was expected of them and believed that I did, too. I insisted on one prisoner, who was removed to the Morehaig's Scythe upon my order after the rest of the battle was over.

I challenged Mallion over it. It seems he wanted to protect me and his wife from the worst we would have to do by not telling us of the orders until it was too late to change them. I insisted that in future, he inform me of all plans.

I do not believe he recognizes the difficult position in which he put me. It is I, ostensibly, who command the marines in battle. Had I balked, it would have been I who lost credibility and authority with our crew.

He agreed to discuss future plans with me in advance of the battle, and shared with me one of the goals. We are not going to kill Valadar; we will instead use the warpstone to transform him, and let him live. But first, we must practise with the stone on a prisoner.

Then he asked me to keep this information from Lorandara.

I do not pretend that Lorandara is as well able to handle the necessities of battle as I. She cried as she killed the captain, and I heard her whisper, "I'm sorry," before casting that first bolt. Her relative fragility is undeniable. Yet I cannot fathom how Mallion will go about keeping this plan from her. Nor can I understand why he would want to. Does he still not see us as equals? Must he still pull out the damn chivalry at every bloody turn?

Protecting her in this way is dangerous. It is condescending. And above all, it is impossible, as Lorandara has locked away the green stone.

Mallion made me promise I would not tell her, before he told me. I am getting very tired of keeping their secrets from each other. One day both will come out, and those two must needs deal fairly with each other on that day.

Even now, the old life of genteel and ladylike pursuits intrudes on the new, in the form of a respectful regard that must needs give way to true honour among us three. Perhaps I can still save Mallion if we can find that equality.
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We did it. We pulled off an act of piracy.

I can hear echoing through my consciousness the voices of my forebears, those great elves who built Imholien House into the enterprise over which my father presided with such consummate skill. From deep within my soul rises up a spring of inherited horror at my effrontery, that I, a lady of breeding and refinement, should ever throw off the bindings of polite society in order to keep company with brigands and thieves, leading them on a mission to intercept and make off with black powder and warpstone.

But I am no longer a scion of Imholien House. Here in my journal, I will forevermore thumb my nose at the lot of them. I am the instrument of my own revenge and my brother's, and I will allow no shades of guilt to colour my spirit.

Lord Rackham sent us on a first mission. With the city of Tobaro in such disarray, certain trade lines are not as well-policed as usual. He knew of a shipment of black powder out of Tobaro, to be exchanged with he knew not whom, on an outcropping of scree and rock just west of the Zombie Marsh. (We were assured that the zombies had rotted so thoroughly that it was truly more of a skeleton marsh now; I cannot say whether such news was more reassuring to my brother and sister-in-law than it was to me.) He suggested we arrange to take both the powder and the gold that would be paid for it.

Though we three discussed the possibility of sailing the captured ship into the port of Tobaro and blowing it up, thereby bringing down that cavernous pit of putrescence upon itself and finishing our retribution against the usurpers of the ancient elven port, we determined that such would not be wise, given that it would put us on the wrong side of our business partner's favour. Therefore we determined to do as we had been advised to do, taking the ship full of powder first, then treating with those who came to buy it long enough to o'erwhelm them. Accordingly we hid the Morehaig's Scythe on the wrong side of the outcropping of rock, the narrow beach on the other side of which was to be the site of the transfer. Our other ship, the fill-in-name-here, was to stand just slightly further off, to come up behind the mark and attack it. With Mallion flying messenger, this plan was easily accomplished as the sailors of the coast-hugging cargo ship were offloading the powder. He killed the captain of that vessel, though he was shot by someone off in the shadows just as the fight ended.

He flew back to our ship, where I was waiting with the men for his order to go ashore. Lorandara tried to heal him, and - I can barely find words for what happened to her. She convulsed, crying out continually in an agony of body I can barely comprehend. The sound tore at my sanity, for I believed her to be dying.

As Mallion took her to their cabin, I led the men landward, wading through the shallow water until we reached the beach full of kegs. The screaming behind us ceased ere we gained the beach, and I looked behind to see Mallion flying towards us and Lorandara, seemingly hale, skywalking.

My attention was diverted by a flaming arrow landing mere feet shy of the furthest barrel of black powder. I motioned the men back into the lee shadow of the rock, whence it would be difficult to get a sighting on us with a bow, and called out to the bowmen to show themselves, that we might treat with them.

"Go away, or we will blow it up!" they answered.

"Then neither of us will have it! Treat with us instead!" I answered.

This went back and forth until Mallion planted himself between the barrels and our hidden adversaries. Upon discussion, they revealed that it was not gold that they had to trade, but green stone.

Mallion went back to discuss this with Lorandara, who told him what it was. It seems it is the stuff of chaos, magic in brute form, and above all, worth several fortunes more than were on that ship to be traded for it. He offered to trade one vial of the green stone for the half of the black powder already sitting on the beach. They agreed, and the exchange was made.

Thus we got half of what we had come for, with little killing and continued access to more of that valuable and dangerous material. Lorandara took charge of it, and we are keeping a small portion for ourselves, in the hope that it may prove efficacious at some crucial moment.

I am learning more of the workings of the ship, for Mallion takes little interest in that aspect of captaincy and one of us must. Our second mate is good at interpreting orders, and I pay him close heed so that I might better turn my phrases as the men are used to hearing them. My hands are hardening in ways that handling a foil would never have achieved. Methinks I shall take quite well to this new life.
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Why is it that our attempts at honour seem destined to lead only to deeper guilt?

With the help of the first citizen of Sartosa, Mr. Reginald Rackham, we have hired a schooner with a crew, and a crew for our own ship, in exchange for three eighths of our plunder for the next year, whereupon the contract will be renegotiated. Against Mallion's better judgement, Lorandara and I went to the Lainar to talk to Tidurion. We told him that we had arranged safe passage back to the Empire for his crew and himself. We did not spell out that we were to become pirates, but it was unnecessary. He became distraught, and stormed off.

Smoke is a most fearful sight on a ship. We had loaded the elven and human former crews onto longboats when we realized it was seeping under the door frame from the direction of the Captain's cabin.

Lorandara burned through the lock on the door, and stayed to put out the fires he had lit there while I chased Tidurion through the hold of the ship. Stopping to extinguish the fire in the cargo hold took precious time, and by the time I realized he had reached the powder magazine, there was already smoke coming from it. I could not open the door, so I called desperately for Mallion, who employed his horns to break it.

Tidurion was indeed within, fuses to the kegs of gunpowder already lit, with a pistol cocked and ready in his hand. He shot Mallion, whereupon Lorandara used her radiant gaze to injure him badly. I cut the artery in his leg, spilling his life's blood. We put out the fuses without further mishap.

Mallion's anger was palpable. He pointed out that our misplaced honour was responsible for the damage to our ship, indeed that it had nearly cost us our lives. Where Lorandara and I would still have buried Tidurion honourably at sea, Mallion simply tossed him overboard, wrapped in a singed sail.

It frightened me, to see my gentle brother so menacing to one who was acting with what honour he could in his command. We had to kill him in the powder magazine, and it is true there will be no more quarter to any servant or member of House Imholien. In that I am in accord with my brother.

And yet I cannot find it in my heart to regret our attempt at honour with Tidurion. He had a right to know, and he had always dealt fairly with us until the very last. He claimed as he shot Mallion to be fulfilling his earlier promise, to give him an honourable death should he fall too far into chaos. I am sorry it was necessary to kill him. I would have prefered to see him heed our warning, return home with his crew, and seek employment with some other House where he would not run afoul of us.

It seems in this, as in so many dreams of late, I was destined to be disappointed. The weight of this death lies heavily on my soul.

When Mallion and Lorandara returned to shore, I remained on the ship to oversee the first changes to be made to her. Our fine vessel is henceforth to be known as Morehaig's Scythe. It is a name calculated to strike fear into the heart of any elf and any man who has sailed with elves. The work went well, and the men needed no reminders to obey orders - at least not yet while we are still in port. I have no doubt there will come a time when I will need to assert my authority, but it shall not be yet. It has been decided that Mallion will be Captain and I will be his First Mate.

While I was on the ship, Lorandara and Mallion were challenged by Herr Galeiter. It would seem our escapades have cost him dearly in the eyes of his banking house, and he felt we had broken a promise to him. It is true we had told him we planned to sail back to Marienburg, but we were careful to phrase it as contingent upon factors outside of our control. Since the Prince in Tobaro has put a price on our heads, as has the patricide of House Imholien, it would seem obvious to us that we are released from that aspect of our promise.

In any case, he challenged Lorandara to a duel, clearly expecting Mallion to act as her champion, and the dwarf trollslayer was to act as his champion to kill the monster; an act he was nothing loath to accomplish.

My sister was prepared to fight, using her magic as her weapon, but Mallion would not permit it; nor would he permit me to take up arms, though I have been styled "swordmaiden" by the people of this town. Strategically, he was absolutely correct; it would be a horrible idea to give the banker a way to profit from the death he sought anyway, when we had done nothing wrong. Mallion set out to hire a champion, which he managed adroitly, if dearly. The only person on the island willing to fight the trollslayer was Rackham's own lackey and champion, the ogre Mr. Anastasi.

Mallion sent for me to witness the battle, since it was mine as much as his or Lorandara's. The trollslayer opined to his master that we had chickened out by hiring a champion. Mallion responded that if Herr Galeiter was prepared to fight his own battle, any one of the three of us was willing to fight him, but if he were to use a champion, we would do the same.

Lorandara pointed out that Herr Galeiter could always rescind the challenge, since we were in the process of fulfilling the contract and would see him returned to Marienburg, though not with us. He pretended he had not realized this before, and agreed to rescind the challenge. We made sure Mr. Anastasi was rewarded with two casks of wine for his trouble, and went our way.

As Mallion pointed out, though the rules of polite behaviour are very different from anything we have lived under before, at least in Sartosa, the rules are strictly observed. In Tobaro, Galeiter would have found a way to sic the witch hunters on us if he did not get his way; here, he was able to save face without fighting.

In a day or two, the repairs to our ship will be complete and we will sail to begin our revenge. Valadar will rue the day he sought to o'ertake Mallion as first son of Imholien House. Nevertheless, I have the terrible premonition that revenge will not be as sweet as it is purported to be.
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Lorandara and I have spent a great deal of time these last few days up in the crow's nest with Mallion. The crew, especially the newly-hired humans, are saying horrible things. No matter. They will be gone soon enough.

Mallion has changed. My gentle brother, composer of poetry, he who disliked fighting even to first blood, has decided what we who love him had been unwilling to admit: there is no way to return him to his elven form, or if there is, the risk is too great to undertake it. He had been on the cusp of despair throughout the voyage, but now that it has settled in, he has taken on traits I had never seen before: an iron will and an unwillingness to bend before anyone. Father, who often despaired of his too-gentle son, might well approve more of this one, were it not for the change of form that led to the change of spirit. (It is becoming easier to write of Father as one dead. How many different weights can one heart carry, and still leave its bed each day?)

The result of our conversation was thus. We have no more excuses to continue our journey as Imholiens; the patricide has taken them out from under us. But we need no excuses, for we have a reason: he is a patricide, he has stolen the House from his brother by means so foul they are near-impossible to admit even to ourselves, and we will not yield to his headship of our House.

The law being on his side, we cannot remain in defiance and retain lawfulness. Therefore we shall forfeit the law, make our own laws, and take our erstwhile House apart - one ship at a time.

If we cannot have justice, nor honour, nor any other noble virtue, we shall at the least have revenge.

Before that can be accomplished, we must needs find a crew willing to sail with a beastman, indeed with him leading them. We must also put off our elven and human crews, hopefully without the elves dying of it; I care somewhat less about the humans, who can be put off in Sartosa for all the care I have of their welfare. The elves are different, however. If only one act of honour remains to us before we undertake this, it must be this: that Tidurion and his crew are put off safely in a safe port, whence they can make their way back to Marienberg without difficulty. We will even warn them that if they are found on Imholien ships in the future, they will be part of our prey, and we will grant them no quarter. Mallion will tell them who he really is, to strike fear into their hearts, and will begin the rumours which will beset the patricide until we can lay him low.

Not so long ago, in the pages of this very journal, I asked what value there was in a name. It seems I can keep my name, for its value now is to strike fear of our revenge into the hearts of those once our allies. It is my House I must renounce, and any benefit I might ever again receive as its scion. And I find, with the moment now at hand, that it is an act of freedom to do so. Does the slave note his chains only when they are stricken from him? Does new-found liberty always bring with it this desperate joy? Someday I shall find someone to ask.
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Oh, it is good, good to be at sea again! With all the troubles that beset us and the questions still unanswered, this remains: that we might feel the wind on our faces, see it filling our sails, and know ourselves to be in our element once again!

The banker of Kovnos Merchant House rescued Lorandara and myself from the ruins of Manoro di Gibraldi yester-eve, and took us thence to his warehouse, opposite which was the berth of our ship, the Lanair. We performed such items of personal care as would make us again presentable, feeling much better when we had done so.

Lorandara and I spoke at length with Tidurion. We have decided that we must offer to release the elves on our crew to find new berths on other ships, for we cannot embroil them any further than we have in the battle for our House in which we are currently engaged. Meanwhile, we were forced to bring along the banker, one Jakob Galeiter, for the alternative was his arrest at the hands of the Night Watch for having offered us aid. I am not yet convinced that our ship will be a better place for him, but we could do no better by him than this.

We were visited as well by the Magister of the Golden Order, with whom we had visited before to discuss a cure for Mallion. My brother surprised us all by appearing before the alchemist, who advised us to either kill him or abandon him. He opined that the chaos and disorder that had plagued us in Tobaro would continue to follow us wherever we went, so long as we had Morethlaine with us. We would not give him up, however, and the magister did finally reveal another avenue for our search. It would seem there is a Green Mage in the Borderlands, one Palrion by name, who might be able to help us, and possibly for the price of a few magical items which he had not managed to procure for himself. The Magister uttered the name Karak Azgal, the Dragon's Crag, as the place to go for these items. I know of it only as a horror of legend, but I suspect I will know it better hereafter.

We are determined, Lorandara and I, to go on, and never to go home as long as Mallion remains as he is. I find myself almost elated by this prospect, for I had no wish to go home and resume the life of an insipid lady fending off the suitors chosen for her by a patricidal sibling.

In the morning, the city of Tobaro closed its port until such time as we had been apprehended. Not desiring the type of hospitality which was on offer, we broke out from our cover and made for the nearest gate. There was a chain strung across it just above sea level, which would sink our ship in moments should we attempt to breach it. Its mechanism was a winch in a guard tower guarded by three humans. The battle was short; Mallion injured one, whom Lorandara then killed in a display of radiance coupled with a spoken order to the monster which should keep our new human crew members from trifling with her. I shot the one who was attempting to aim a cannon at us, such that he ceased that activity. The third was killed by Lorandara's radiant gaze. Mallion released the winch and we were off.

We sail for Sartosa, the pirate port, there to deposit the banker and hopefully - if Valadar has not seen through our request - take on a cargo. I did not express to Lorandara that the only remaining alternative would be piracy if Valadar did not release the funds, but truly I see no other way. In the meantime, my sister and I have ceased to function as lady elves and will henceforth act as crewmembers. I am the acknowledged quartermaster, making me responsible for such matters of discipline as may arise. After Sartosa, we will make for the borderlands.

May the elven gods have mercy on us in our quest.
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Behind us at Manor di Grimaldi is an enraged witch hunter, an out-of-work vivisectionist turned outlaw, and plenty of chaos both magical and mundane. That graceful, well-appointed den of corruption is aflame, its owner is probably dead by the spew of the troll she kept in her basement, its visitors and servants torn to shreds or burnt to charcoal or, in a few lucky instances, fled. And did I mention the creatures set loose from the menagerie?

I suspect Lorandara and I are quickly acquiring the reputation of the wrath of the gods on Tobarro. This is the third time we've left a house under less than auspicious circumstances though we have been in the city only five days. Furthermore, it must be noted that that analysis does not take into account the horror rained down on the D'Naufragios after we were quit of them.

I spent the day after Lorandara took off with Mallion simply passing the hours in the house. I met with a banker of a house the Imholiens have dealt with in the past, and arranged to give him half our cargo and have him sell the other half as collateral on a loan to repair our ship and purchase a new one. I do not know if that part of the loan will in fact materialize, as it is dependent on approval from the patricide in Marienberg and he may not give it. In any case, we have enough right now to repair our ship, hire some additions to our crew, and set sail from this accursed city; the which I hope to see happen with the morning tide.

It was later in the day, while I was making myself charming with the ne'er-do-well nobles that Lady Grimaldi keeps around to amuse her, that the lady and the Doctor invited me to see the special menagerie. I went, unsuspecting. I became conscious of the presence of two footmen behind me even as Dr. Plith opened the secret door to a flight of stairs, the which was hidden behind a bookcase. The light of avid anticipation in the Doctor's and the Lady's eyes caused me to halt, suddenly wary, and refuse to descend a single step. Upon closer questioning, the Lady admitted that the intent was not to have me visit the menagerie, but to have me join it.

I was too busy for a few moments to be glad of the advice my father gave me many years ago: do not go about unarmed in the homes of those whose loyalties are suspect. I did not have my foil - alas, it is still in the manor alongside my bow - but I did have my daggers. I drew them and used them to fight clear of the stairs. The footmen were unarmed, a significant oversight on the part of the Lady but understandable, given that guests do not usually go armed about the house, and the Doctor had a pistol.

He fired it at my head.

My mother claimed it to be my greatest character flaw, that when pressed, I went on the attack. Mallion never understood it, and Valadar was too much of a worm to attack anyone openly, so the only approval I got was from Father. He would have been proud of me this night, I think. Grievously wounded, I still retained the presence of mind to slice at the Doctor, injuring him badly in the arm that held the firearm. Then I ran for the front door.

I reached it to find a witch doctor in the front courtyard, with an entourage from the night watch and a warrant for my arrest under suspicion of the murder of the pig Tibault.

I informed him that I was escaping chaos, not causing it, and that I had information about a menagerie of chaos-filled creatures within that very house. I wished to use the information to buy my freedom, but he was having none of that; I decided to rely on noble hauteur and simple protestations of innocence to back up my claim. He went into the house and had two of his men bring me; I went willingly, lacking the strength to resist so many in any case and trusting in fate to provide me an escape. Dr. Plith led them to the secret passage, then closed it behind him; it was I who opened it for them. The witch hunter followed the doctor while the men-at-arms and I were approached by Lady Grimaldi.

It would seem she is a conjurer of chaos. She had with her two beings, whose manner and features I will not relate lest the horror of them overwhelm me again. It overwhelmed the men-at-arms who held me, and they released me as they backed away.

My character flaw reasserted itself and I charged the first of the beings. I do not think I killed it, though I opened its head and arm. The other one turned into the hallway, where I believe it must have killed the other two men-at-arms of the night watch. My action gave courage to my erstwhile captors, who charged the beast.

I came to my senses at that moment and fled in the direction of the dining room. I had just reached it when the noise from the front hall escalated. I heard Lorandara calling my name and saw a flash of light before I closed the door; I was not about to reach her that way, but the dining room was lined with windows and escape was near at hand. I threw a chair through a window and prepared to follow it, praying to Hysh that the fall would not kill me in my injured state.

I did not act quickly enough. The witch hunter burst through the door. Behind him I could see a troll, charging in the direction of the hallway, leaving scattered in his wake some three smoking masses of human flesh that had once been Lady Grimaldi and the two men-at-arms who had held me. The witch hunter had escaped, and I have rarely witnessed such anger. Claiming that he would take at least one chaos-tainted noble with him tonight, he grabbed me. Then he ordered the two servants in the room to fetch oil.

I do not know why they did not simply exit by a back door, but servants are accustomed to taking orders and I suppose they obey whoever seems to be in charge. They fetched it while I struggled, eventually breaking free even as the witch hunter began to light the cleansing fires to destroy the house and everything in it. Whether it was the will of the far-away gods of the elves or my body's memory of similar feats of acrobatics, it was enough to keep me from further injury as I dove through the broken window. I ran for the gate, still bleeding and bloody, leaving the witch hunter too engrossed in firing the house and killing the troll to follow.

At the gate was a well-appointed carriage, and standing beside it were my banker and Captain Tidurion. I dove into the carriage and bid it wait a few moments for Lorandara, who I hoped had witnessed my flight across the courtyard and would shortly join us. She did, and with curtains drawn against curious eyes, we made our way back to the port.

Our ship is as yet unrepaired, though barely seaworthy. Ensconced in our own cabin, Lorandara has healed the most grievous of my wounds and we are restoring ourselves to the appearance expected of ladies. Shortly we shall meet with Tidurion to discuss our next course of action.

For the first time in six days, I am certain that we are among friends.

Altriona

Jan. 14th, 2010 06:12 am
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This isn't a journal, because we stopped in the middle of combat. However, I do need to get some notes down before I forget.

Altriona negotiated with a banking house with whom her family has done business in the past, to get them to fix the ship at the price of half the cargo. They'd undertake the rescue, make repairs out of our half of the value of the cargo (a hundred gold or so - dramatically less than the D'Naufragios were going to charge) and advance us that money, plus five hundred for personal expenses; the remaining advance will wait on approval from the Empire and the nearest representative of House Imholien. That's two to three weeks away, but it doesn't matter; we can hopefully get out of port within a day or two even with the original funds.

Mallion and Lorandara flew off the roof during the last session. They went to see the beastmen that Mallion had spotted doing a ritual sacrifice at an altar near his hiding spot. He killed their leader, became their leader, insisted on protection for his personal slave Lorandara, and attempted to win the beastmen over to his side to serve as a crew. That didn't work so well, and they ended up simply taking off. They hadn't gotten back to Tobaro before my next scene started.

Lady Grimaldi invited Altriona to see her OTHER menagerie. This request seemed different from the last one, and I went along with some trepidation until I realized there were two footmen behind me to force me to go. At the top of the stairs, which were hidden behind a bookcase, I dug in my heels and got an explanation - the menagerie had many creatures, but none had ever been elves. I threw them off, and tried to run. I didn't get into where the party was, Dr. Plith shot me in the head (damn that 1 in 10 000 chance) and I ran for the front door after slashing his arm quite badly.

At the door, there was a Witch Hunter. And that's where the session ended.

Musings ) Proper character journal in a day or two.
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I feel like the lobster who, in trying to escape the boiling pot of water, flipped himself directly into the fire.

While the pig Tibault was dying, throwing the whole city into disorder in the process, Mallion was off murdering Nana D'Naufragios in her bed. I will not be such a hypocrite as to say I am entirely sorry for this. Her family was attempting to fleece us and was succeeding quite admirably. However, the expectation was that he would encourage the D'Naufragios clan to fix our ship faster to get rid of us, rather than convince them to seek revenge upon us.

Lorandara and I left the Prince's palace this morning to seek support at the home of Lady Grimaldi. She was rather non-plussed to discover we had not bidden the Prince farewell. Our reasoning was that we needed to be able to return if Lady Grimaldi would not host us, and we did not choose to give the Prince an opportunity to prevent us from leaving the palace; however I will admit here, in the privacy of my journal, that it was not well-done of us.

In any case, we sought Lady Grimaldi's home and found it, and were entertained by her. Lorandara spoke with her far more frankly than I think was wise about Morethlaine, and both the Lady and her doctor friend leapt to the obvious connection: that our Morethlaine was behind the theft of some goats, and the death of Nana D'Naufragios. Lorandara asked that Morethlaine be accepted at Lady Grimaldi's house as a guest; I heard some other plan in her voice, and am not willing to take that chance. Though our hostess is nothing if not unconventional, she is yet a subject of the Prince and a noble of this city. We cannot presume that her hospitality to us will outweigh her political responsibilities within the city, and her responsibility will be to turn a murderous beastman over to the authorities.

I have also ascertained that our original purpose in visiting this house was for naught. Dr. Plith's experiments are all animals, grossly maltreated, but to the best of my knowledge without human intelligence save one - a cat with the brain of a human child. I had difficulty retaining my supper when he explained what it was. Though Mallion, Lorandara and I had discussed the possibility of freeing whatever beastmen the doctor might be holding, there are none there that could help us even if we should free them. I do not think the Doctor can help Mallion, and I'm not at all sure I would want him to try.

Dr. Plith pointed out another troubling issue. Having left the palace so precipitously as we did, it could easily be supposed that we were the cause of the swine's death, especially as there is only our word for it that the person who administered the poison was in league with the Abbatistas. Once Lady Grimaldi makes a connection between the beastman who killed Nana D'Naufragios and the elves who killed the Prince's mascot, it would not be difficult to sway the tide of public opinion against us.

It all comes down to one truth: we need out of this city as soon as possible. Since Mallion is unable to conduct the transactions and Lorandara has no head for this type of business, it falls to me to secure us funds, a ship, and a crew for her, preferably with enough room aboard to take on our elven crew from the other ship. Though the Lady offered us passage on a trading ship of her own, the fact is, we have no intention of sailing for home.

With Mallion still transformed and hope fading that his elven form will be returned to him, we have two choices: abandon him to his fate and leave for home, or accept a life as outlaws. Neither Lorandara nor I are willing to abandon him, so it would seem the choice is made.

We still need a ship, though, and a cargo for it.

The only saving grace I can find in this mess is that I had the foresight to keep Mallion's signet ring with me. With it, I have the authority to make business transactions in the name of Imholien House, and Valadar (and his puppet) are bound to honour any promissary notes I sign. It is a small comfort, but those seem to be the only comforts I can find. I will take what I can get.
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Politics, how I do love and loathe thee. Strangest of spectator sports, passtime of the powerful who aspire to be more so, amusement of dabblers, life and death reality of social climbers - how much you can change in a few short hours!

It was Lorandara who left the funereal masque to follow our erstwhile host, Prudenzio d'Abbatista, as he made his way into the courtyard off the ballroom of the Prince's palace. She did not hear what he said to the man he spoke to there, but she saw the mask and the bag change hands, and saw the recipient proceed toward the front courtyard near the gate to the palace. He was no gentleman, for his clothing did not fit him well and his manners were too rough to have passed even a moment inside.

My sister of course found me, where I was conversing with a most interesting gentleman, one Dr. Plith out of Marienberg. She told me of the mask the strange man had donned, a gilded pig's mask, and of the bag he was carrying, and a horrible suspicion took root in my mind.

We had already learned that the Prince's power in Tobaro rests on the superstition that the pet pig in the courtyard will remain in good health for the duration of the Prince's reign, but that, if the swine should die, the people will take it as a sign of the gods' disfavour and visit their displeasure upon their ruler. It seems a strange custom, for barnyard pigs do not defend themselves well and are as easy to kill as any infant human. What if this strange man was working for Abbatista, with the intent of bringing down the Prince and forcing an election upon the city of Tobaro?

Lorandara had recounted what she had seen in the elven tongue, thinking it unlikely that any would understand. We are fortunate that she did not mention Mallion, for Dr. Plith replied in the same language, indicating he had understood. As the thought of treason entered my mind, I decided that, slim though the possibility may be, it must needs be investigated. I prevailed upon Dr. Plith, his patroness Lady Grimaldi, and the Prince to attend us as we went for a walk in the courtyard. I made light of the possibility of trouble, not wishing to alarm the guests without good reason; better to seem an eccentric foreigner than a paranoid one.

Alas, my suspicion turned out to be correct. The pig, Tibault by name, was happily inhaling truffles when we arrived, and the man who had emptied his bag into the pen was leaving. I called out in Tilean for the assembled company to stop that man, and ran after him myself with no few of them behind me. I caught him, causing him to turn with a thrown dagger to his arm, but he did not wound me before others arrived to hold him.

Lorandara and Dr. Plith witnessed the pig fall into a deep slumber, and nothing they could do was sufficient to wake the animal. He died within the hour. Within moments of the assembled company (who had followed their strange guests and their ruler out into the courtyard) realizing that the pig was gravely ill, carriages were called and rumours spread; the pig was not cold before the entire city knew the state of affairs. It was Lady Grimaldi who informed us of the political ramifications, that an election could very well be held the next day.

The prince has declared a week of mourning for the pig. The banners for our father have been removed and replaced with more elaborate ones for the pig, apparently insouciant of the implied insult in such an action. The gates have been closed and no one is to leave or enter. Indeed, the palace is on high alert. And despite our information as to the party responsible for this chain of events, the prince did not arrest Prudenzio before locking himself into his gilded cage, and us with him.

Lady Grimaldi had already invited us to spend some time at her home. It seems she and the doctor engage in vivisection, which is the surgical practice involving the taking of living tissue from one creature and grafting it onto another. I am not sure how such a practice might help in Mallion's case, but I determined the description to be promising enough to be worthy of further study on our part. Now that it would seem the Prince may not be long for this world, we may find ourselves taking advantage of the good lady's hospitality in order to distance ourselves from this unfortunate ruler. As is so often the case, those who rely on the powerful are caught in the eddies of political currents. Politics, while fascinating to watch, is all the more dangerous in that its spectators affect its outcomes. Indeed, politics could not occur without consideration of its audience. This particular spectator has no desire to become a casualty of the game. It is time to distance ourselves from it.

I have left a note for Mallion in a place where I hope he will see it, indicating our destination. I am concerned for him. He did not return to us during the night, though we slept little as the palace bustled around us. What trouble has he found in his attempt to secure our repaired ship? I would ask after Nana D'Naufragios but greater gossip o'erwhelms lesser as a whale swallows a shrimp, with nary a thought for, or heed paid to, the life so snuffed.

Lorandara is frightfully worried. She spent most of the night frantically scribbling in her diary. I am worried for her; her vaunted calm has been sorely tried of late and the strain is showing. I took a glass of wine from her when it was clear she was drinking more than was seemly or wise; I do not recall her ever taking more than the barest sips of watered wine ere this night. If Mallion does not return to us by midnight, I know not what her guilt will drive her to do.

It is strange that I acknowledge her guilt now with pity rather than scorn or blame. It would seem I forgave her without noticing, for it is certain she has suffered greatly for her mistake. I nearly let slip the information she begged me not to reveal the other night, but caught myself in time. I do not think I would have said anything, did I still hold her to blame as I did at first. Mayhap there is only so much room for blame in my heart, and it is filled entirely with thoughts of the patricide in my family.

The need to hurry up and wait is strong this dawn. What will this day bring? I suppose there is only one way to find out.
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A great deal happened in game last night, but a lot of the stuff I need to remember didn’t happen to my character, so I’m starting with a third-person narrative, mostly so I don't forget in the two weeks before our next game (drat those holidays that get in the way of good gaming!) I'll follow this with a character journal.

Mallion had gone off promising to ensure that the pirates gave our ship back, repaired, without us having to pay them. His plan was to rough up Nana D’Naufragios a bit and threaten her and her family if she didn’t give in to his demands. Unfortunately, Nana D’Naufragios was a tough old lady who did not surrender, and Mallion was grieving and not thinking straight after days almost totally alone. So when the old lady refused to surrender, Mallion killed her in her bed.

Then, as the house started buzzing with angry D'Naufragios who had heard their matriarch scream, one person separated himself from the crowd and went to a rowboat, ostensibly to row out to our ship with a message. He went alone, so Mallion approached him, too. It was Guiseppe, the man who had taken Lorandara and Altriona to the city two days before. Unfortunately, he didn't surrender either, and Mallion, enraged, killed him too. Then Mallion flew off to a secluded place on the mainland to recover from his grievous wounds.

He roused from his fitful sleep in the crotch of a tree to see some sort of magical ceremony taking place. A group of beastmen were gathered around a crude stone altar, chanting in a language Mallion didn't know that was not Tilean, and appearing to sacrifice a young human man. Mallion was overwhelmed by the magic in the ceremony and fainted. When he awoke, a young beastman with a human body and the head of a goat was watching him from some distance away. They conversed, and Mallion was offered food and wine off the altar. (I missed part of this conversation; Piet, if you could fill me in I'd appreciate it.)

That's it for this part of the write-up. Character journal to follow this evening, since I seem to have used up my early wake time.
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Was there ever a time when emotions were simple? When I was either content or upset, one or the other, with no gray areas to confuse and dishearten me? Thinking back over my rather idyllic childhood, it seems there must have been such a time. And yet the tumult of emotions from this journey seems to be staining backwards across the pages of my life, clouding with uncertainty all that came before.

Last night was our first night in the Prince's palace. We were forced to wait until the palace had settled as far as it ever does, until the small hours of the night, before we could seek Mallion. Even then, a serving girl followed us and Lorandara had to put her to sleep to make sure she would not interfere.

Mallion found us outside, and we told him the location of our suite so he could join us there. He already knew the news from home. I was nonplussed to discover that, while he agrees that Father was likely murdered, neither he nor 'Dara agrees that the crime was necessarily committed by Valadar. They urged caution while we investigated. My inclination was to fly out the door and north to do justice against my father's murderer that very night, but of course that was impossible. We determined to meet at the same time the next night to discuss Lorandara's trip to the Golden Order the next day.

The Prince has staged an elaborate celebration of funeral rites for our father. The whole city is in mourning, but it does not seem to have had a great effect on the entertainments planned beyond simplifying the colour scheme. The breakfast this morning was a flamboyant full-court meal, and the fête planned for this evening is a ball in all but name, though the nobles of Tobaro will be wearing only the finest shades of black known to their clothiers. Indeed, the Prince strikes me as a spoiled child, too young for a position of responsibility such as he has, and too flighty in spirit to ever settle to serious business. It is intolerable to me that lawlessness is permitted to reign both inside and immediately outside the city by this one who calls himself a ruler. He does not walk his own streets in broad daylight without an armed company to guard him, nor would he permit us to do so. Incompetents can be found everywhere, of course, but the incompetence to extend the city's influence to the D'Naufragios pirates is particularly vexing in our current situation.

We received a letter from Nana D'Naufragios this morning at breakfast, informing us that since we had seen fit to leave the home of her agent in the city, the charges against our cargo for her family's help had just increased. They now comprise about nine tenths of the value of the cargo, should we be able to get a good price for it. We consulted with the Prince's chamberlain, who indicated that no help would be forthcoming from the Prince in this matter, nor from the arm of the law in Tobaro. We have been advised by several people simply to pay her demands. Mallion, when we informed him of these problems this evening, got a look of Father at his most stern in his eyes; I would dearly love to see the expression that goes with it on his familiar elven features once again. He named it for what it was: extortion and piracy. He promised he would get our ship back, without paying the pirates. He did not indicate how he would accomplish this, but his talons flexed when he said it. How much I long to be involved in this caper! For I suspect it would be quite satisfying to be the one with the trump cards for a change on this voyage. But of course it was not to be. We went downstairs to the tasteless masque to celebrate an event that yet eats at my heart, while he flew off into the night.

We also went to the Golden Order earlier in the day. While I perused the bookshelves and attempted to engage the Prince in conversation, 'Dara spoke to the head of that Order. It would seem there is a ritual which may work for Mallion, but it is very dangerous and rarely tried. It is also extraordinarily expensive. Furthermore, it requires Mallion to have an interview with this magister and give him a great deal of information. Whether or not we will accomplish this remains to be seen. Lorandara was reticent with the truth, giving the story of Morethlaine instead.

I spent some hours this afternoon, between fittings for gowns, making use of a translator provided to us by the Prince - not to translate but to teach me his language. I now know a few phrases of Tilean. I am considering hiring a Tilean sailor to replace the one Nana D'Naufragios indicated had perished in a burst of tempers on board the ship. I must needs learn this language if we are to sail these southern seas for any time, and a sailor who knows the waterways even a little bit will be an improvement on the probability of sailing into another rock.

I long for the green solitude of Laurnedorn Forest, for the dirges of my people played gently on harps and flutes made from the living wood around us, for the soothing of the soul that comes of being with one's own kind. But the family who remain to me - whom I am willing to call family - are all but one present with me in this foreign land (Mother, what comforts are lacking to you, alone with the man who is no longer brother to me at this time!) and the dirges of the elves on our ship will sound sweeter in my ears for the knowledge that they are not also celebrating the assumption to the family title of an impostor.
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As I sit here writing in the best comfort a human prince can lay out for a guest, my father lies in state in Laurelorn Forest and our people conduct his funeral rites. The only child of his three who is present to perform those rites is the one who killed him.

As is my wont, I am telling the end of the story before its beginning.

The D'Naufragios lad Guiseppe brought us into the city yesterday morn. The boat was a normal longboat, but around us were screens of fabric, designed to hide us from the view of passers-by while affording us some small, veiled view of the city we were approaching. Tobaro is a fascinating habitation. I tried to curb my tongue when remarking on the beauty my ancestors had wrought, but could not, even if I should give offense by it. Seven golden gates lead to a cavern harbour, wonderfully carved about with Elven gods and goddesses though the art was in poor repair, which gives way to the warren of caves and buildings carved out of stone, wherein resides the bulk of the city. How they live in such perpetual darkness I do not know, for I was feeling restless as soon as the sunlight was gone from our awning. Even Marienberg makes me feel closed-in.

Guiseppe took us to a pier deep in the port, up a canal a short distance, to a section of the city where I would not sheath my weapons had I found myself alone in it. There was a small carriage waiting for us. I believe I shall need to study this Tilean language, for it is becoming increasingly unpleasant to be discussed as though not present by parties I cannot comprehend. We were handed over into the care of Prudenzio Attilia Abbatista who bid us enter his carriage for the ride back to his home. He described certain realities of life in a city state like Tobaro on the way. I am unsure whether he realized how much valuable information he was giving us, in particular about politics and the layout of the city. It was clear, however, that he would not allow us to explore the city, even under escort. He insisted that it was not safe until we had been presented to the prince some three days hence. I could see Lorandara growing increasingly agitated at the thought of leaving Malion to wonder about our whereabouts for so long; indeed I felt much the same. I felt more the prisoner after five minutes with him than I ever had on the jutting rocks of the D'Naufragios clan.

The house to which we were taken was of elven construction centuries ago, and showed its age with each crumbling gargoyle. It was carved from the stone of the caves, at least the outer walls, and with the lack of weather in this place was in better shape than it might have been despite the poor maintenance afforded by its current owner. Lorandara explored the house while I kept our captor busy in the library, discussing the books there and attempting to read the wall map of the city whenever he was paying insufficient attention to the direction of my gaze. Despite my lack of facility with the language, it was not hard to determine the location we needed to go. There were two buildings bearing the symbol Lorandara had shown to Mallion; one was on the top level, inside the walls and close to the Prince's palace, while the other was located on the outer cliff face and bore the name "Scholarium."

We did convince Prudenzio to have a seamstress brought in, as we had not brought clothing with us suitable for presentation to a prince. The designs she planned to make were garish by elven standards but seemed quite fitting for a human court. Lorandara chose to wear white, to mark her magical order of Hish. I chose a simple design in the richest blue fabric on offer, claiming the blue was the colour of my House. It is, but I had never before chosen a dress on that basis.

It was during the fitting that our rescuers arrived.

The seamstress told us that the livery, seen through a slit in the shutters, was that of the Prince. There were perhaps sixty men, some ahorse but most afoot. Though we could not understand the words, we heard the name "Imholien" several times, and our host answering back in a very agitated manner. I armed myself and we went to the top of the stairs, where we were met by our host, ordering us to remain in our rooms. He claimed the prince's men were there to kill us, and that he was protecting our interests.

My sister has never been much involved with Elven court politics, as I have. I was quite sure the prince was not going to march into a main square, announce the name of one of the great Elven trading houses, and then kill those so named. I was in favour of marching down the stairs and out the door, by force if need be. But Lorandara has been right so many times during our voyage that when she encouraged me to use this turn of events to escape unnoticed, I at first acceded to her plan. We snuck into our host's chambers and borrowed some men's clothing, better for sneaking and fighting in. She incapacitated the guard sent to find us. When he failed to answer his employer's call, our host came looking for him. We snuck down the stairs while he was searching for us. That was when Lorandara shared her full plan with me: she wanted to invite the Prince's men into the house and then escape in the confusion.

At the foot of the staircase, the servants were attempting to barricade the front door against a possible assault. It was a pitiful attempt to be sure, but nonetheless inhibited our escape. Summoning my best noble hauteur, I ordered all the servants into the sitting room at the point of my blade, and helped Lorandara clear away the makeshift blockage.

As the door swung open, I stepped through, announced us formally, and requested that they take us to the Prince.

Lorandara has looks that can kill. I have witnessed this. I am fortunate that she did not truly want me dead, for her expression was murderous. Our host was less restrained. His shouted epithets at our retreating backs were most unmannerly and marked him for a gentleman in name only. He had too few men to stand against the company who had come to fetch us, however, so he had no further choice in the matter. We were given horses and taken up through the caves to the Prince's palace, where we were greeted in state.

It was the Prince himself who informed us of the contents of the dispatches received that very day from the north. The lord of House Imholien is dead. According to the dispatches, his son Valadar had rescued Mallion from the pirates, and Mallion was now Lord Imholien.

There is treachery at the heart of my family. Mallion's place has been usurped by an impostor who is yet unknown to us, in the thrall of our younger brother. And yet we cannot prove this in any way that will result in its amelioration; for should we return with Mallion in his current state, he will be killed and we two will find ourselves bound about by Valadar, perhaps even dead by his hand or his order.

When we speak with Captain Tidurion on the morrow, we will have the dispatches as proof of the perfidy of my brother. Mayhap he will agree to captain for us directly out of loyalty to his dead lord and that lord's rightful heirs.

Somehow, I will take my family back. This I swear on the family ring, now on a chain around my neck until Mallion, or if needs be, I myself, may wear it openly. This I swear on the symbol of Imholien House, that I, a scion of it, will not permit it to remain in the control of one guilty of patricide. I have this honour left to me yet.

My father will be avenged.
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What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Therefore, an Imholien by any other name is still in his own person complete, is he not?

We are ashore this night, housed in a building of which the best that can be said is that it keeps out more rain than it lets in. The island, if it merits such a name, is a tiny jutting rock in the bay of Tilea, just outside the port city of Tobaro. I could get lost in a reverie while walking and fall right off the island into the sea. I would fain be back on the ship, but the choice in the matter did not rest with me.

Our ship ran aground on a submerged rock off this gods-forsaken coast. The damage is reparable and we would be able to limp into port with only a minimal assistance. The assistance offered to sailors here, however, is not of the minimal variety. The D'Naufragios family, a vast clan of rock-hugging mollusks disguised as humans, controls the revenues from shipwrecks. Their longboats approached us and offered to tow us and repair us, at the price of half our cargo. Lorandara and myself were invited to accompany them to their home as their guests.

We have been treated well, for hostages. I suppose their business would not long survive were they to incur the wrath of the merchant houses by abusing those they hold thusly. We supped with them, and watched them drink, and even explored the island long enough to consult with Mallion. (When the ship ran aground, I slipped the lock, and he hid himself against the seaward side of the ship. When Lorandara and I boarded the longboats, he flew to the island far above and kept track of us.)

Thoughtlessly, during the conversation with Nana D'Naufragios, I mentioned our family name. Her eyes lit up, and I cursed my stupidity. How much more will she now demand in ransom of us? In conference later, we decided that we could no longer use that name on our voyages, for it is too well-known. I wonder already how long it will take for Valadar to sniff out word of our whereabouts. Truthfully, I do not think two lady elves travelling in these foreign seas would go unnoticed even if we stopped using our family name entirely. Word of Mallion's supposed disappearance has reached Nana D'Naufragios, which means it is known amongst the noble houses of Tobaro. Though I doubt our subterfuge will serve a purpose, the fact remains that it may, and so we must try.

Tomorrow we will be taken to the city, doubtless under some form of escort. I must needs write a letter to Captain Tidurion requesting that he deal fairly and quickly with the family members sent to parley with him, and informing him that we have been dealt with fairly thus far.

When Mallion was transformed, it was I who recovered his signet ring from the floor of the library and had it repaired, for it appeared to have burst from his finger during the transformation. I claimed it had been returned as proof of Mallion's whereabouts with the ransom letter, and kept it thereafter, wearing it on my left hand as I have no right to wear it on my right. I will use it tonight on the letter to the Captain, and then I shall hang it from a chain around my neck, there to rest against the day when I can return it to its rightful bearer. Father has his own ring that he can bequeath to Valadar should Mallion not regain his form. Valadar will never wear this ring. I would throw it into the sea before I would see him with it.

I fear the loss of my name far more than I feared the loss of my comfortable life. I fear it like I fear a marriage of convenience to a stranger. I have spent my life ensconced on the firm foundation of an old family. My forebears have taken good care of the family name for generations. Now I must give it up. Who am I when I am not a scion of my House?

OOC musings

Nov. 6th, 2009 10:55 am
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How much of Gallos' importance to Valadar was created through post-hypnotic suggestion? Is Valadar the pawn of Gallos, or are they working together with the full knowledge of both? How much does Valadar really know or suspect about Mallion's disappearance? How much has he told Father?

Valadar has in the past maligned Altriona's character, and Mallion's. Where did that come from? How much does Altriona know about the origin of those indecent suggestions?

Possible reasons for Altriona to leave: With Mallion recently married off, she fears she's next, or possibly that the deal that resulted in Mallion's marriage may have had a footnote regarding her own. She's taking this opportunity to leave town because she's adamantly opposed to being married off, and equally opposed to living as a spinster once Valadar becomes head of the family. She likes her independence, but she's also been raised with the idea that a dynastic marriage would be in her future. Why is she so adamantly opposed to it, to the point of risking her life and social standing in order to escape it?
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How does one bear such pain? The pain of the flesh is quite sufficient this night without the vexation of spirit caused by the events of this day.

I must slow down my racing thoughts, calm my wounded soul, and compose myself to write. Should I fail, I fear my future readers will make no sense of my ravings.

The ship was attacked this afternoon, as we sailed into a deep patch of fog. Norsicans, chaos-tainted and a monster leading them, rammed our ship and swarmed it. Our men acquitted themselves well, taking out many more of the pirates than we lost ourselves. The dirges for those lost yet echo in my ears all the same. It is but one more grief to this night.

Mallion heard and felt the ship being attacked. He must have left via the window, circled around, and attacked the pirate ship from behind. It was he who killed the beastman, though how I know not. Lorandara used her magic to good effect, buying time for our sailors to arm themselves and fight, and indeed dispatching one or two on her own. I did less well, for I saw Mallion appear on the other ship and lost my focus long enough to get wounded. After that the act of parrying new blows was enough to keep me busy until the battle was over.

Gallos disappeared below decks with the doctor when the battle began, hiding in the latter's cabin as ship's doctors and cowards are wont to do. Lorandara and I went in search of him afterward. We had already discussed with the Captain the necessity of finding a way to rid the ship of Valadar's leech, and were looking to create an opportunity if one did not present itself. But before we could truly make his leavetaking seem the desertion it was, Mallion threw a stick into the spokes.

Instead of flying around back to the window, he came to kneel on the prow of the pirate ship, even then taking on water. His bow was a full high court elven bow, such as I have seen him perform so many times before. It was not meant to be performed while sorely wounded, though, nor while balancing oneself with wings, nor while attempting to hide long talons, and I could see how it hurt him. The sailors either did not recognize it or did not trust it, for they brought up their bows to shoot him. My cry stopped them, and it was followed by the Captain's, who bid him speak.

He explained to them that he had been enslaved by the beastman on the pirate ship, and that he had welcomed the chance to kill his captor and escape. As he had once been an elf like us, he asked our mercy and help, that he might be transformed back into himself. The name he gave, Morethlaine, belonged to an acquaintance from many years ago.

After some discussion, and the seeking of the opinions of the doctor and Lorandara, he was brought on board and bound while a cage was constructed for him on deck. He submitted to these indignities with his own gentle composure, mixed with a shame I had not fully recognized before. It broke my heart to see him chained and caged like a dog suspected to be rabid, who though seemingly gentle could turn vicious at any moment.

After Lorandara and I convinced the Captain to take this new development one day at a time, and see where it took us, I returned on deck and stayed close to Mallion, not close enough that he could have touched me through the slats but sufficiently near that any abuse hurled at him would be clear to me. There was little; the sailors who walked past treated him as either a dog, with sharp and simple commands, or ignored him altogether. Mayhap the presence of a lady prevented more? For I had championed him, giving him leave to speak. Who was the poet who said that we are responsible for those whom we have tamed? Am I equally responsible for he whom I seek to tame again, in form as well as spirit?

The doctor offered Mallion a concoction of poppy juice and other herbs, to dull his pain. I beseeched Lorandara to heal him, for I mistrust a concoction designed to make the patient sleep. After some discussion about the effects of white magic on a chaos-tainted being, she agreed to try. Mallion is still hurt, but not as much as he had been.

In one of the brief moments when he and I could converse, my brother told me that the doctor and Gallos had determined to continue their observations while no one was around that evening. I decided to remain close and hide myself nearby in case the doctor and the leech attempted something on my captive brother which would undo our subterfuge or hurt him. Accordingly, after the sun went down, I laid down behind some coiled ropes to wait. It did not take long. the doctor and the leech came on deck, with Lorandara, who apparently had been invited to observe their work. She learned what it was that they were going to attempt, and it made my heart quail to hear it.

They planned to hypnotize Mallion, for they believed he was not telling the truth about himself. Gallos claimed the process was relaxing, a form of induced meditation, but the doctor shared that it could make someone tell a truth they had meant to conceal. Quietly I readied some items in my belt pouch to throw at Mallion should I need to distract him, but he avoided whatever spell Gallos was trying to put on him. Lorandara acted fascinated by the procedure, asking questions and generally interrupting as much as she could; I have no doubt it was a-purpose, especially when she encouraged Gallos to put the doctor into this state of hypnosis. It was difficult to control my mirth when the doctor was intoning a self-satisfied phrase about learned men not falling for those tricks, even as Gallos put him under and asked him several questions. When Gallos allowed him to come back to himself, he did not realize he had been hypnotized. Lorandara enlightened him, with a wide-eyed innocence that I am beginning to deeply mistrust and greatly appreciate.

Gallos asked Lorandara if he could return to her cabin with her to go over some of the notes he'd made about Mallion. She said that she suspected Altriona would be back, so that would be fine. Hearing this, I ascertained that Mallion was fine for the night and followed at a leisurely pace.

When she screamed for me, I ran.

I arrived to find the door to my cabin closed, with Gallos inside the room and 'Dara outside, quite distraught. I sent her for the captain, and guarded the door. Gallos kept making noises that it was just a misunderstanding; I informed him in no uncertain terms that the misunderstanding would get much worse if he dared to open the door. When the captain arrived, Lorandara told him that Gallos had attempted to bespell her to sleep. When he tried to defend himself, I asked him what possible defence he could have for accosting another man's wife. Gallos protested, of course, but Lorandara's word stood, and it is true that he meant to harm her in some way, though not necessarily THAT way. The captain ordered Gallos tied on deck until he could be put off in the morning.

I went to the deck to make sure the leech had been bound far from my brother, for I had no doubt he had overheard the altercation and I wanted to reassure him. He was standing up in his cage, simply staring at the Bretonnian. I recognized the look, for it was in my own eye. I promised him that if any were to hurt Lorandara, I would run them through myself. And I told him that she was acting, and the event had been staged to get rid of Gallos. It was not entirely true, but it calmed him and that was its intent.

I have seen the fever of attack descend upon my brother. Tonight I saw him coldly calculate murder of one who had threatened his wife. There is little I would not give up to know if he would have reacted the same way had he retained his elven form.

And so I sit, unable to take my sorely-needed rest, still wounded in body but more so in spirit. For my brother is curled around his chains in a cold cage on deck, believing that he deserves no better. What right have I to comfort when he has none?
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Who was the poet who said that absence made the heart grow fonder? Is he still alive? If so, I need to challenge him to a duel.

Valadar, my younger brother, is as obsequious, as oily, as underhanded, as ever. Far from an increase in fondness for him, our lengthy separation has only served to underscore how very disagreeable his company is to me. His ship overtook ours off the coast of Bretonnia and he invited us to dinner - us, of course, meaning Lorandara and myself. His purpose was to convince us to let him go find Mallion. This was not done out of any great care for our brother, of course. He knows a noble cause when one is taken up by his sisters. He simply believes that we are incapable of seeing the matter through, and needed at least the appearance of gallantry to save face amongst the noble houses.

I had forgotten that Lorandara barely knew him. He was at sea for all but a few weeks around the time of their wedding, so all she witnessed of him was his charm. She complimented him several times on his gallantry, which was so forced to my eye as to screech in protest at being turned a quarter-notch.

I have never revealed my reasons for my distrust of my brother. I did not give even Mallion the full tale, not out of concern but because the bile rose in my throat each time I tried. But I shall set it down here, and swear here to its truth. Mayhap it will absolve me of some future crime against he who ought to be dear to me.

Many years ago, before Valadar went to sea, while we three were still under the direction of tutors back in Laurelorn Forest, there came a time when one of our tutors needed to take leave of us and no new one could be immediately found to replace him. For a brief time we had several hours free in the afternoon each day, and we used it to visit friends and accept visits from them. Mallion and I were engaged one afternoon in the study of poetry in the library, having eschewed Valadar's invitation to some sport with a neighbouring family. He had attempted to insist, and Mallion had thoughtlessly put him off, in that scholarly way he had that seemed to indicate that no consideration was necessary after he himself had come to a conclusion. I admit to the thoughtlessness of the act, and I could see in Valadar's eyes that it had wounded him, but I was still smarting over some altercation he and I had had earlier and was simply glad to see him go.

After an hour or so of Mallion expounding and me replying, I bored of the discussion and went outside to seek Valadar and his guests, presuming that at least a couple of them would be palatable company for the remainder of the afternoon. I found the party, most of whom were engaged in shooting at targets some distance away. Valadar was sitting with a young - well, I suppose I must call her lady, but understand, dear reader, that the term applies to her parentage rather than her behaviour - who had been swooning after Mallion for months. She had shown her claws to me on more than one occasion, primarily when I would not help her in her quest to trap my brother into marriage. When I approached them that afternoon, she and Valadar stopped talking. Valadar moved away from her on the blanket, ostensibly making room for me. I took the offered spot.

There followed a conversation full of arch references I did not understand, titters of pretended embarrassment, and other behaviours designed to make clear to me that she and Valadar were engaging in a conversation from which I was excluded. Finally, she went too far, asking me if I had remembered to put on a certain item of intimate apparel after my time in the library. I understood then. She meant me to understand. Valadar pretended discomfort, and tsked at her. But I could read what was in his eyes. It was triumph, pure and simple. In one stroke, he had ruined my reputation and Mallion's, dishonoured the family before a neighbour and a peer, and distanced himself from the dishonour.

I would fain have lost my temper, were it not for the knowledge of how such a rumour would hurt my gentle brother, both personally and socially. Instead, I ascertained that the rest of the party was out of earshot, and then informed them both that it would take no effort at all to malign her character far more thoroughly than she had just maligned mine. I warned her that she would keep that lie to herself until her dying day or I would tear her down piece by perfectly-coiffed piece until she was engaging in a vulgar business in the streets of Marienburg for a living. Oh, I painted a nasty picture. Then I turned on Valadar and made similar promises. By the time I finished with them, Valadar's ire was again up, but the lady's demeanour was that of a whipped dog. (Indeed, that is a good analogy for her attitude towards me ever since!)

Valadar tried several other tricks over the years to malign me and Mallion, but he never used that one again, and the other tricks all slid off us, doing more to harm his own standing than ours. As I watched him attempt, half-heartedly at best, to convince us to give up our quest and let him search for Mallion, that he might save face amongst our people, the loathing I had felt for him that day at the family manor rose up again and threatened to choke me.

In any case, we managed to get away from Valadar with only a man of his to account for at some future date. We must needs find a way to put him off the ship before we are much closer to our destination than we are now. I have no trust of this Gallos, for anyone with the skills to become Valadar's most trusted advisor is someone I want nowhere near me in any capacity.

(Note: combat scene redacted until the next journal, because it hadn't really finished at the end of the session.)
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Mayhap I need to revise my judgement of my sister-in-law.

I dozed off in the armchair last night, as the hammock was too much effort to attain. I must have been fatigued, for my ears told no tales to my reason regarding the forcing of the window. I was oblivious even to the search of our trunks for valuables. It was Lorandara's challenge, followed by the burst of white light, that woke me. There was my beloved heart sister, propped on one arm in bed, her nightgown in lacy folds around her and her hair haloing her head, casting a spell that made the would-be thieves reel back, clawing at their eyes and screaming from the pain. It made my eyes water, too, though not so much that I missed what happened next.

Even as I was diving for my foil, Mallion leapt over 'Dara and - the word that comes to mind is one I would never previously have associated with my brother even in the context of a meal at table, for he tore into the thief. Before I could get my foil properly out of its sheath, and certainly before I could put it to good use against the form silhouetted against the window, there was blood spurting from the halfling woman who was attempting to rob us. I know not why he stopped short of shredding her throat. His claws did rip her flesh from her skull. I suspect the throat would not have long remained whole had Lorandara not called out to him.

She cast another spell as she said it, a sentinel of white light that floated around her. She was standing by the bed by this time, and her radiance dazzled me as surely as had her blinding light; indeed, I thought to behold Ishta herself. I was too befuddled to make good use of my foil, and I regret to inform my future readers (I am beginning to develop an attachment to you, who shall be forever unknown to me!) that I did not acquit myself well against the other attacker. I wish I had, for if I had been able to repel the man in the window, perhaps I would never have seen the look in Mallion's eye when the axe hit him in his horns.

He had paused in his assault at Lorandara's word, but the axe brought a light of madness to his eye. Never before had I witnessed such an expression, and I had not truly understood it before; do we ever truly understand that which we have not witnessed for ourselves, even amongst our loved ones? Be that as it may, I understand it now, and will never again use that turn of phrase lightly. He attacked the figure in the window, who avoided his talons with grace and descended his rope into his boat. At 'Dara's and my insistence, we allowed the injured halfling to leave by the same route. Our noise had naturally awoken the ship, and the halfling was killed by the crew's arrows before arriving back at the dock. In mere moments we had the captain and his men banging on our door to see to our safety.

I was still dazed, but Lorandara rose to the occasion yet again. She reminded of the necessary subterfuge, as if someone had frightened the attackers away, and since she was not the least bit frightening, that must needs be me. She uttered a quick spell to clean Mallion and the floor of blood, and Mal hid himself once again under the mattress against the wall of the bed. I stood by the window with my sword and main gauche drawn, making motions as though to clean blood off the blades, though there had been none. (I am already tired of lies. Why must I tell new ones every hour?)

'Dara and I rid ourselves of concerned crewmembers with such alacrity as we could muster, and insisted that we set sail immediately. Imholien House's Marienburg office will be paying a steep fine to the port authority for that predawn departure. I did not relish the task of explaining away the beastman the remaining thief would report having seen in our chamber, were he to be caught alive by the Watch.

Truly, it was Lorandara's quick action and sorcery that saved us from the thieves and Mallion from discovery.

We told Tidurion later in the day. To his immense credit, he did not retreat in terror when we revealed Mallion to him, nor did he insist upon returning to port or killing the beast. With some considerable beseechings on our parts, we were able to exact from him a promise to remain with us and keep our secret from the family and the crew.

It was the first time since the transformation that I had seen the entirety of my brother by light of day, with leisure to look upon him, and indeed the need to do so. My gentle scholar of a brother, he who refused to fence beyond first blood and has never to my knowledge used his hands to hit another being, now bears a truly fearsome aspect. I find myself unable to put words to paper to describe him; in my deepest heart I fear that penning the words will make them real, fix them in this world where they do not belong, and in so doing erase any hope of returning to us the Mallion we have always known. Therefore, reader of days yet to come, you must needs piece together what you can of his appearance from disparate clues in this text; for no more coherent description will be forthcoming.

Tidurion qualified his promise to us. Having seen the state of the halfling after two swipes of my brother's talons, the qualification set my heart to quailing as nothing else had in all these long days. And yet it was as nothing next to Mallion's calm acceptance of it. Tidurion said that he would protect Mallion up to the point where he felt my brother's soul to be chaos-tainted and corrupt, at which moment, for the safety of all on board, he would kill my brother. Mallion did not flinch. I, who know him better than any, could see the knowledge in his eyes, starkly clear. He believes it to be only a matter of time before Tidurion must break his vow to us and kill him. As if that were not enough to strike fear to the marrow of my soul, I am sure of one other thing: that Mallion, the part of him that is yet my gentle brother, would not fight back against that judgement.

Should the Gods will it, we shall restore my brother when we reach the Tilean city states. I must refuse to contemplate any other outcome.

I am discovering how small a spark of hope is enough to keep one moving forward. It is not a pleasant discovery. How far down this road doth madness lie? Is it not madness to hope yet for the impossible? And yet to give up hope is unthinkable.
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(Note: I need to make a couple of changes to the last entry so it fits with this one.)

I find myself to be too vexed of spirit to admit to slumber this night. So, while my brother and sister-in-law rest as well as they can, I will attempt to write in this journal without waking them.

Father's letter arrived with instructions to take the Lainar, a six-gun carrack currently at harbour here in Marienburg. There was a great deal in his letter asking me to reconsider on the grounds that saving his son was not worth the life of his daughter. If the mission were in fact as he believes it to be, I would possibly reconsider. Then again, I might not. How else am I to escape the web of family intrigue and gossip that will be my lot in life if my parents have their way?

After much discussion, it was decided that Lorandara would take two trunks, in one of which we would secrete Mallion for the trip down to the ship. The workers sent by the livery stable were most disrespectful. Though asked to be careful of his trunk, they bumped him around with terrible disregard. They did not know, of course, that there was a person inside. I did not ask Mallion if they were better after I asked them to be careful of the trunk, but he did not volunteer the information, either.

The Lainar is captained by Tidurion, one of Imholien House's most trusted and loyal servants. He has had command of a ship in our fleet for some sixty years and in all that time has never given Father cause for grief. I am rather nonplussed at this. It is a fine thing to have so good and experienced a sailor captaining our ship for this voyage, yet sailing with him means lying to him at least until we are well out to sea. I should think it likely that he will see fit to inform Father of our true mission at his earliest convenience, especially about Mallion's current state. He may even attempt to stop us or make us leave the ship. There has already been some discomfort over the necessity of lying to the port authorities about our likely destination - and we will be changing course again shortly after leaving port, after we inform the Captain of the true nature of our problem. I haven't confided most of this in Lorandara, and certainly not in Mallion. He would likely guess, were he not too engrossed in his transformation to consider such problems, but Lorandara does not have a head for such things.

Master Sepp, of the Office of Weights and Measures, is a most unpleasant human. He came on board in the evening to do his job, weighing the cargo and charging taxes on it. But he also saw fit to leer at Lorandara and myself, paw through our gowns and underthings, and generally make himself as disagreeable as possible. We had mere moments to help Mallion hide himself in our cabin, which he elected not to do, choosing instead to exit via the window and cling to the bulwark of the ship while the official was present.

After Master Sepp had left, I went to dinner with the officers and 'Dara leaned out the window to ask Mallion to come back. As he began to move, it seems some poor fisherman spotted him. The fisher called up to Lorandara and informed her that a thief was attempting to board the ship. She thanked him profusely while Mallion hid under the docks. When the man was gone, she looked for him again.

She watched as he launched himself from his hiding place under the docks and took wing into the night.

Even right after the transformation, she was not so distraught; or perhaps she was, but the emotions manifested themselves very differently. I returned from dinner to find her as white as bleached cotton, her eyes too big in her small face, standing at the window as if nailed to the floor.

"He flew away," she told me.

"He'll return shortly, I'm sure," I answered, though I was far from sure.

"Why would he? It's my fault," she replied.

"You are blameless in the matter of his flight! He probably just needed to test his wings, to see what he could do!"

"It's my fault," she repeated.

As realization dawned, I sank gracelessly into the armchair. "That horrid book. You were reading it. You transformed him." She nodded.

A million thoughts flitted through my mind. I immediately rejected those indicating it was done with malice; no matter how bad a mage she is, there is not a malicious bone in her body. No, it was surely an accident. But how could she have been so stupid? Wisely, I think, I held my tongue, for she clearly felt horrible enough already. I was on the point of speaking when she added, "You won't tell Mallion?"

I stared at her, aghast. "I have to tell him! He's my brother! He has a right to know!"

"I love him, and he will hate me! I beg you, Altriona!"

I gazed at her distraught face and relented. "If he asks me outright, I will tell him true," I warned her.

"Please give him no reason to," she pleaded. I sighed, and swore it.

I am now engaged in a pact to keep knowledge of his condition from my brother, who of us all has the greatest reason to need it. I do not believe I have ever lied to him before. Certainly I have never kept such a huge secret, and one so closely concerning himself. It sits ill with me, and is the likely cause of this white night. How can I have honour when I will lie to my brother, to a family retainer, to my father, not to mention all the servants from whom we concealed the truth?

What if we cannot transform him back? What if the magic to do so does not exist? Am I doomed to spend the rest of my life asking future strangers what other choice I could have made to retain my honour?

Mallion came back some time later, landing gracefully inside the window, seemingly perfectly at home with his new appendages. It was awkward, having to witness the moment of intimacy when they discussed sleeping arrangements. They are now curled up on the bed, and I was in my hammock until I fell out. (Readers of days yet to come, are you laughing at my lack of grace? I hope so - there has been little other humour in this tale so far.)

We sail on the morning tide. Dawn is mayhap two hours away. There will be no sleep for me this night, nor many nights to come if this uncertainty is to be my shadow on this voyage.

What, pray tell, shall I tell Captain Tidurion?

June 2017

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