Jade Regent: Forest of Spirits

Sumbitch

Mašaru Kaijitsu, or Moses Karagoš to everyone he has ever known since he joined the Sczarni, grimaced as he heard the cries from the castle up ahead. I hope those aren’t cries of my sister he worries. Some of those shouts of anguish sounded like they were coming from a woman.

She swore she had given up the adventurers life last time we spoke. The time when she visited me in the jail. When she told me about her journey over the crest of the world to the lands of our ancestors. She wished I could come with her, but I was rotting in that cell. Mašaru had escaped that cell, strangled the Sczarni guard and stole his weapons and armor back, then high tailed it out of Sandpoint.

I can never go back now.

When he finally tracked down the caravan outside Brinewall Castle, he was relieved to discover that his sister wasn’t the source of the cry from the castle. What he did find worried him. His sister, Ameiko, had fallen into a coma and Sandru believes that the source of her ailment is in that castle. Some adventurer friends had gone in to find the source but the sounds coming from the castle do not bode well.

They had already lost one of their members. A Kellid named Jaalek. I’ve heard of him. A baddass for sure if there ever was one. I must get there to help before it is too late.

When he got there he discovered the Ulfens-Orc skald that hung out at Ameiko’s tavern had fallen. Well sumbitch. Maybe they’ll appreciate his poetry more in Elysium.

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Blessings of Desna

“Lady Starsong, please hear my prayer,” Oberon muttered. Over the gray, ruined battlements, the winged masked creature flew closer. How could it move so slowly?
Braedo lay in a puddle of blood at the tengu’s feet. Oberon scrambled to staunch his cousin’s wounds, but the blood kept coming. Ostog was dead. Kade was somewhere behind them. He could hear the wizard’s chanting.
Oberon had exhausted his spells. The vial! He scrambled in his pack and pulled out the healing draught. The creature landed on the wall in front of them and stared down at them, its eyes bright behind the strange red mask. Oberon poured the blue concoction down Braedo’s throat, and the man came sputtering back into conscious. Just in time for us all to die.
“What . . . happened?” his cousin groaned.
“Ostog is dead. You were struck down. Now get up so we can die on our feet.” Oberon grabbed his longspear and stood up. Braedo heaved himself to his feet, chak in hand. The creature begin to spin its chained blade lazily.
At least let me die bravely, my goddess. Help me not to turn and run and shame myself in the eyes of my comrades.
Their killer laughed mockingly.
Please, my Lady . . .
The shadowy hound burst from his left and took the winged creature by the leg. It screeched and turned to defend itself. The elven maiden stood in the doorway.
“Can I lend you boys a hand?” Lindill said with a wicked smile.
Oberon closed his eyes. Of course, my Lady, I never doubted you for a second.

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Bird People.

We had a crow-man in our party called a tengu. Face like a crow, body of a man. He was cool though. We had another man who’s name ended in Owl. He wasn’t not so bad either. But those dire corbies. Also heads like crows. Or maybe ravens. Who the f**k knows? They were vicious SOBs, very unlike our friend Oberon. I guess they are the orc version of tengu or something.

I know, hypocritical coming from a guy like me. But I’m a half-orc. I’ve got the best of both races. I’ve got the good brains of my fathers people, the Ulfen tribe called the Frost Fists…ok, maybe not such a good comparison. Those bastards were a bunch of barbarians. And not the cool kind like my ole long lost buddy Jaalek. Poor guy. Village gets wiped out by demons. He was on his own for a while before he hooked up with us. Big mistake on his part. Damned wight got him. Undead horror killed him and brought him back to life so we had to re-kill him. That took a while to get over.

But the worst of the bird people was that crazy f**ker with glowing eyes. He kept shooting us with his bow all the while screaming at us about his damned play or song or whatever. And the second we would get close enough to take him out. POP! He would disappear on us a reappear somewhere else only to ambush us again. But I’ll tell you all about how that turned out tomorrow. I hope I lived.

With a low grumbling chuckle, the old one-eyed skald slowly stood, bracing himself on his knee with his ruined hand.

Well kids. Time for bed. Ole Grampa Ostog is getting tired. Do me a favor and take this to ole Gramma and have her refill it for me.

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Hmmph!

.

Great. Just great. Bad enough I almost got burnt alive by the creature. If not for the Tengu’s prayer, i would have died. Desna clearly had some Now it was moving from place to place, slipping between worlds to do so.

And it was an archer. A flying archer. Just great. Of course, the shadow plane held more eagles, but they wouldn’t last long, the bird creature.was a good shot.

If only i had a sister WHO WAS AN ARCHER! By the lady, I am here only because these were Shalelu’s friends. You would think she would be here, but no. Father’s favorite, the expert archer, and nothing.

Typical.

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The task at hand


*"Catching up to the caravan willnot be difficult," Lindill said, speaking quietly to herself in Elvish. “I ride well enough for that, at least.”

An observer would have seen a thinly settled countryside, only the occasional freehold to break the monotony of the path. A dark horse continued to trot down the dusty caravan track, and the woman in the thistle-colored cloak had ridden before.

Lindill’s knees absorbed the motion easily, allowing her to continue her musings. “The big man had been helpful enough. What was his name again? Ham…, no, Hemlock. He said little, but he knew Shalelu well enough to spot the resemblance, I think”.

“What do I know? Mother wants Shalelu to return, she’s been away from home for too long. Why now? Mother is not without resources, she could have written, or hired a messenger. Why am I the one to retrieve my sister?”

She rode for quite some time, pondering.

“Ah, Mother has written. I am sent because the letters failed. So, the task is not to find Shalelu, the task is to convince her. Shalelu read the letter, and refused. Hmm. I cannot believe that my perfect sister is going to live out her days alone in a forest putting arrows into goblins.”

Lindill thought for a moment.

“There will always be more goblins. Shalelu and I have had our differences, but she is clever enough to realize that. She’s taken on a thankless, unending task. Why? Why does she stay? Why not return to her family and her people? There must be something keeping her with these humans.

Lindill smiled. “My sister has a secret.”*

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Jaalek

After watching Jaalek scale the wall effortlessly and lower the rope, Ostog tied knots into it. Yet still, he could not get a grip. Braedo climbed the rope perfectly, but the half-orc could not make it. He circled to the front of the castle and when he heard the sounds of battle, he tired to raise the gate to no avail.

Once inside, he found that he, Braedo, and Jaalek were great battle companions. The Valkyries will sing songs of praise for this trio, but it was not meant to be that they would all make it.

First, Braedo was set upon by spider creatures which drained his strength to the point he couldn’t even walk with his gear. Jaalek and Ostog carried him to Koya, and she fixed him up right.

Then, Ostog went down to the fat, blubbery fiend. He was bleeding profusely as Braedo tried to drag him to safety and Jaalek guarded their way. Finally, at the last second, Braedo was able to secure a makeshift bandage to stop the bleeding while Jaalek slayed the enemies. They dragged his ass to Spivey and she healed him up quick.

Finally and tragically, Jaalek went down. An undead fiend replaced his soul with an evil spirit; his body withered into a husk before turning on us. He drained both Ostog and Braedo of their vitality before Ostog managed to splice him in two with his battle axe.

What have they gotten themselves into? What is in this castle that is worth all of this?

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Family

It was fascinating to see how the others behaved. Especially the ones that circled around the old woman, Koya. There was Sandru, entirely too pretty for a man, who knew how to keep the wagons balanced like none other. Oberon, who despite his strange appearance, could speak strange languages and heal the sick. And the barbarian, Braedo, with his strange throwing weapons.

And yet, despite being nothing alike, they referred to each other as though they were family. Was this just another strange custom of the city-dwellers, meaning little? Or were they serious? And if so, how had they forged the bonds of kinship from nothingness?

Jaalek resolved to watch, and see if these bonds would hold under strain, or collapse. Perhaps they were merely empty words. But if they were not…

A sharp whistle drew his attention back to the task at hand. “I see nothing but stones”.

The elf woman chuckled. “I look at your head and agree. Look closer, see how some of the stones are wet and others dry? Our quarry crossed the stream behind us, and it’s paws are still wet. Now follow it as best you can.”

Shalelu rolled her eyes as Jaalek slowly started forward. Very slowly.

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Yick

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“Yick. What by Desna’s wings and Gorum’s codpiece is this?” Ostog lifted up the impated rat-faced thing and held in in front of his face. He sniffed it for good measure. “Whatever the hell it is, it was a nasty little sucker.”

“You going to eat that too?” Jaalek the Sarkorin sarcastically asked the half-orc.

“Nah, you?” The barbarian just shrugged.

Ostog tries to think back to some of his own old lessens, then turns to the mage. "You ever seen anything like this?

“Naw.”

“First goblins. Then walking dead men. A pile of muck and a rat-thing with a human face. Oh yeah, sinspawn or whatever that cleft-jawed thing was. And rats! This is turning out to be one great party!

“Party?” Squawked Oberon as he preened his feathers." What kind of barbarian calls this a party?"

“The kind that plans on having tails told of him long after he is dead.” The skald crossed his arms and smiled, thinking on how Ulfen warriors in the future will be crying his name as they run into battle.

Braedo leans close to the tengu, “I think this one is a bit touched, if you know what I mean.”

“I heard that rat breath.”

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Toward the East

Kade knew he had made the right decision. When the eastern blades started turning up, he thought that luck might finally be turning his way. The promise they held – the hints of an Eastern presence here, near Sandpoint – seemed to be telling him that he was on the right path in his quest to restore Tessalyn. He knew that the ring-demon, or djinn, or whatever it was, that had transformed his bride, came from the East. He burned to set out immediately and track down every rumor that he could, but he knew he wasn’t ready. He needed to grow stronger, to gain more power, and to learn where to focus his fury.

Then when the note turned up written in the language of the East, it was as if the rising sun became a beacon. This way. East. Now is the time.

What a group of compatriots he has fallen in with. The Tengu priest is much more… human than he had imagined a Tengu to be after reading about them at the academy. Still a Tengu, still exotic, but with all the same vulnerability, and even compassion and mercy, as a human. He wasn’t quite sure why he hadn’t expected that. Ostog’s music was not a surprise – Kade had seen him and heard him around Sandpoint – but the man’s fighting prowess was impressive. Helpful, too – Kade needed to work on scribing some spells with this man. The new refugee from Sarkoris was interesting too. Kade wondered if he had ever met a demon, and, if so, if Kade could practice his Abyssal with him. Then there was Braedo – the man was obviously at home in the wild. His skills had obvious uses if it came to a journey eastward.

And it would. Kade turned to look at the rising sun. Time to go.

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He Just Couldn't See . . .

Oberon Longshanks picked his way through the undergrowth of the Brinestump. The sounds of the swamp swirled around him, setting him at ease. The birds sang, the bugs hummed busily along . . .
The tengu winced as, fifty yards behind him, he could hear Jaalek blundering along as if he were dragging an entire bard’s company behind him. The savage is going to get us all killed, he thought. Maybe if he removed that bucket from his head . . .
To his left, about twenty yards, the tengu sensed Braedo moving through the brush. Oberon smiled. His cousin was good, but not quite good enough. He toyed with the idea of pranking him, but Braedo would likely not find it funny. The human had always lacked a sense of humor, ever since they were younglings . . .
At one point, he had circled back behind the group and found Ostog creeping through the brush. The half-orc could stay quiet when he needed to. That was good to know.
The wizard. He was almost as bad as Jaalek. He crashed through the brush like an ox. The man only had eyes for that scorpion. His “wife”. Oberon still could not believe the stories. The human was deranged. An evil spirit turned the man’s wife into a bug? The tengu shook his head. He felt sorry for the man. His wife probably ran off, and he lost his mind. That certainly made more sense than the story Kade told.
Oberon slipped quickly . . . quietly . . . back to the front of the group. This was a strange group of companion he found himself with. He glanced up at the noon-day sky. He couldn’t see the stars. He would have to trust in Desna’s purpose. Sometimes, he just couldn’t see . . .

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