Mordulon-Fall of the Crimson Throne

Chapter 5: The Captain and the Oni.


I had a talk with Ares yesterday, and he made me wonder about the stories you told to me.  James Highwind is just a character.  Characters can't die, their story ends until you tell it again.  I don't know if I can be a hero, because I don't know how my story ends.

But Ares makes me feel better.  He told me he thought I was pretty heroic, but I think he's just being nice.  But it makes me smile right before I fall asleep.  He's in my dreams a lot now.

I'm starting to wonder if Captain Tavish is a bad man.  I always saw him as a lawful upstanding captain, and when I found out he was a member of the Bronze I was sure of his stance, but more and more I'm beginning to question him.  He seems angrier now, and his choices and actions are making less and less sense.

Well I suppose I need to tell you about the ogre mage we saw.  There was a bounty on ogres (huge, fat creatures) and we went to go thin their numbers because they are a danger to the city?  I'm not sure, but they hurt and kill people so it can't be too bad.  We didn't see any ogres at first (we fought an owlbear) but then we came across a dead ogre.  Kind of strange, but then Dorn seem to realize all at once what we were dealing with: a magical ogre.  An oni?

Just as he whispered that, it got real cold.  And then we heard an otherworldly shriek.  We opted to run and it gave chase.  I'm too slow because of my short legs.  Nikolai tried to pick me up but he dropped me.  It sounded like it was right behind us- I could feel its icy breath on my neck.  So I ran and hid.  I should have kept running but all I could do was hide.

Suddenly everyone else was hiding and all I could think was that they needed to keep running.  But then Ares was next to me.  I was so scared, grandma, that I was going to get Ares hurt.

Then we saw it.  I was chilled to the bone.  It was blue, grandma.  It had massive, saucer like yellow eyes.  And then it vanished.  I tried to get up to run but Ares stopped me.  It must've still been nearby?  I figured I'd draw its attention while they ran, but Dorn- ever the smart one, distracted it.  It chased after an arrow he fired.  Then we ran.  This time Nikolai successfully picked me up and we ran.

We escaped, and several members of the Bronze were there.  They saw it and I figured, "This is it!  Now we fight."  But we didn't.  And this is why I think Tavish is a bad man now.  The oni came into the city that night and killed an innocent.  Now surely we go hunt it!  But no.  Tavish told us explicitly not to engage it, and we'll deal with it in a couple days.  He wanted to keep us safe because it had found our rooms in the night.  But what can he possibly do against an invisible shapeshifter.  But if we go fight it- we are kicked out.  Why? 

Come to think of it, his Bronze members are always the ones that find us when it comes to the murders and the assassins.  He seems to know about things before they happen, and he responds to them as if he knew it was happening.

I think there is something going on.  But I'll write when I know more.

I love you grandma,


When I Fall Asleep Your Eyes Close

"My grandma used to tell me stories when I was young," Donovan began, pausing in his writing. "Every day before bed. All about the hero James Highwind. He would go on adventures and save pretty maidens. He was tall and strong and brave."

Ares looked down from where he sat on the low wall that ran along the side of the bridge, his feet dangling over the side above the gently flowing river. "He wasn't a halfling?"

"N-no," Donovan stammered. "There aren't many stories about halfling heroes."

"You should write some of your own. You're pretty heroic when you want to be."

"Not like you. You're a real hero. You wield fire and stare down monsters." Donovan sighed. "I'm just a halfling nobody."

Ares shook his head. "Give yourself some credit, Donovan. You fought an assassin one-on-one and lived. An assassin that was after me." He smiled broadly. "Sounds to me like I was saved by a hero."

Donovan blew out a breath and pulled himself up next to Ares on the ledge. "I can't be a real hero until I know what I'm fighting for."

Ares raised an eyebrow at him, but said nothing.

"I thought it would be fun," Donovan continued, "to go on adventures. To fight evil. To save pretty—" he paused, his face turning red, "—maidens. I'm not as brave as I thought."

He stared down at the water, blush still strong on his cheeks. Ares rested his hand on Donovan's. Waiting.

"I was writing a story," Donovan said in a rush. "My grandma told me it once. It was 'James Highwind and the Lost City'. It goes that there was a great war and some coastal towns were being attacked by pirates. In the end there is one last city—the Lost City—and the lord's daughter meets James Highwind and begs him for help.

"James convinces the capital to send help to the city, but the fleet won't arrive for a week. He finds clever ways to stall the pirates and sabotage their ships, but the pirates still arrive one day before the fleet from the capital. That last night, the city is bombarded by cannon fire. James instructs everyone to stand their ground and fight off the pirates because he knows that help is near. The lord had a clifftop castle, so James stood on the highest wall and held a flag aloft through the night. He stood there as the towers collapsed and the port was destroyed, holding the flag emblazoned with the crest of the Lost City. He stood there until dawn when the fleet arrived and defeated the pirates."

Ares still remained silent. He squeezed Donovan's hand, remembering how terrified the halfling had been in the crypt the day before. He glanced back at the river and the run-down cathedral beyond that seemed to hold Donovan's attention more than it should.

"I want to be like that," Donovan said quietly. "I don't think I'll ever be the bravest or the strongest, but I want to hold that flag and bring hope to people. I just don't know what's on my flag."

The visions from Ares's dreams come back to him then. He is always too late to save him, never sees the battle where Donovan faces down his enemies with a determined gaze and shaky hand, always arrives to find the halfling sprawled in the mud of the battlefield with the hilt of his broken sword still clenched in his fist and his green eyes clouded with death mist. And silence. A silence so complete that Ares can see the sound of his own breathing.

This is no place for you, and yet I cannot let you out of my sight.

"Why didn't he fight?"

Donovan jumped. "What?"

"James Highwind. Why didn't he fight with the people in the Lost City? He just stood there as the city was destroyed around him and people died in the streets."

Donovan shifted uncomfortably, moving his hand out from under Ares's.

"Flying your cause on a banner is fine, but if you're not willing to fight and die for it then it's just a picture on a piece of cloth."


Ares smiled suddenly. "Of course, I know that the narrative demands that James survive because there has to be another adventure. But a man who is willing to die for something is far more inspirational than one who stands above the hell of battle to inspire 'hope'.

"That's just what I think. But stories are far different from reality. They have to be."

Donovan grabbed his journal up again and stared at it for a long time. "I don't know what I'd die for," he murmured, his voice hitching. "I don't want to die."

Ares leaned back on his hands, eyes fixed on the horizon. Perhaps he had been too harsh. "No one wants to die, Donovan. I don't, but I would be willing to if it meant fulfilling my purpose."

Donovan's eyes were on him now. "What is your purpose?"

"To keep you safe." Ares answered without hesitation. He leaned forward and rested his forearms on his thighs. "To be honest, I was feeling lost before I met you. I didn't know who I was or what I was meant to do. But you've fought at my side even though you were afraid. You bring this sense of wonder to everything you do—"

He inhaled to say more, but breathed a shaky sigh instead, looking at his hands. "I don't want to lose you."

You are weak, Ares Lumen.

"I don't want you to get hurt any more," Donovan said, then paused for a moment, the blush returning to his face. "You make me brave. I can only do these things because you showed me how. I don't want to—lose you either." He twisted his hands in his lap, clearly embarrassed.

Gods, I'm pathetic.

Ares sat up and looped his arm around Donovan's shoulders, resting his forehead on Donovan's temple, lips inches from his ear.

"You're every bit the hero that James Highwind was," he whispered. "You've given me something to fight for, and there is nothing in this world that I won't do to keep you by my side. Remember that."

He pulled away all at once, hoping that Donovan didn't notice his own face turning red, and leaped off the wall in one fluid motion. "I think the others will begin to wonder if we've fallen in the river," he declared, bowing low and offering his hand to Donovan.

Donovan remained frozen in place for a moment more, then grasped Ares's hand and hopped to the ground, turning only to collect his journal.

Chapter 4: Unwitnessed


I got bit by a vampire.  It bit the Djorn, too.  He pushed me out of the way when it tried to surprise us by jumping down.  It grasped onto Djorn, and when he finally broke free I was dumb enough to get grabbed next.  I stabbed it twice and it just glared at me.  

Nikolai says I won't turn into a vampire.  I was relieved.  I had to sit down for a while to rest.  The worst parts of getting into these fights was the beginning and end.  When you know the fight is coming you worry about whats gonna happen, who's gonna get hurt, who might die.  Afterwards you worry that you are alive because of sheer, dumb luck.  But at least I won't turn into a vampire.

It's getting easier though.  The actual fighting comes easier and easier.  You don't really have time to think, you just act.  Djorn is hurt, so we fight to help him.  Nikolai is being surrounded, so we work to free him.  Gesh is under a spell, so we break him out of it.  Its easy.  I can give myself over to the adrenaline.

Everyone is always so level headed.  We just fought against a wave of undead people (and ogres).  And afterwards I just want to sit down, but everyone else is onto the next challenge.  Gesh found a really cool rapier that he gave me, and I had to wonder which one of these dead people that it belonged to.

Ares always checks on me.  I don't want him to feel like he has to watch me like a kid, but I'm still really stupid.  Djorn is a good leader and Gesh is an excellent fighter.  Ares is a magical hero.  And me?  I get massive holes burned in me and fall into pits of burning, green acid.

We cleared the crypt though.  It felt good to reemerge into the sunlight.  James Highwind always had people who saw his heroics, but I don't think thats how the world works.  We stepped out one at a time, and then we just split up to run errands.  The adventurers life for me!

Ares and I are on the bridge where I met all these people.  He is really nice to me and I think he watches over me.  I feel better when he's around.  Sometimes I wish I was magic like Nikolai so that I could help him more.  I tried learning some magic but its hard and I'm not sure its for me.

We need to go meet Lord and Lady Highwater.  Sounds exciting.  Meeting Lords and Ladies is what heroes do.  

I love you grandma,


Where the Sun Beats, and the Dead Tree Gives No Shelter

"A storm is coming."

It is the same line I hear every night, nearly every time I close my eyes for longer than a few seconds. Sometimes my subconscious embellishes the situation: the storm is already here, howling, and all I can see is the outstretched hand of the cloaked figure in front of me. Sometimes it is just the words over and over, a constant chant in darkness.

That day had been wonderfully cool. An eastern wind was blowing, rustling the trees in full autumnal brilliance, and red leaves had fallen like soft rain.

This is different. It is blistering hot, and the trees are blazing like enormous torches against the blackness of the approaching storm clouds. The wind is harsh and filled with ashes and billowing smoke that smells like tar and flesh.

The man still stands a dozen paces away, motionless save for the dark cloak whipping around him.

"I decided to keep you conscious for it this time," he rasps, his voice almost drowned out by the roaring fires. I can hear screaming now. Dark figures run back and forth in a panic, flitting between flaming buildings like shadows.

"You should be proud—"

"What is this?" I cut him off. He pulls his hood back then, revealing something distinctly inhuman. His skin is rust red, one eye like bright amber, the other sunken into his skull and jet black. A grin stretches across his face, and he gestures to the devastation around us.

"This? This is your handiwork. What really happened after I tugged your power out of you. You're welcome for that, by the way." He winks.

"Who are you? Why are you showing me this now?" I think I am going to be sick.

"I have a proposal of sorts," he says, spreading his arms. "And timing is everything with this sort of thing, I've found."

The scene abruptly shifts, and we are standing in the middle of a battlefield. Bodies litter the grass, stained red, and the air is thick with the smell of blood.

"This is probably what your not-too-distant future looks like," the creature continues, and I begin to recognize some of the dead: Nikolai, curled in on himself, clutching his Kitmoor brooch, knuckles white even in death; Donovan, sword broken and eyes wide and unseeing. I find myself on my knees, and I close my eyes to keep from vomiting.

"You are weak, Ares Lumen." The voice is suddenly low, growling, and right in front of me. "And this will be the result of your weakness. But—"

I open my eyes to find him also kneeling in front of me. "But I can grant you power. Power enough to save them." He jerks his head behind him at my companions.

"Who are you?" My voice comes out in a quiet rasp.

He sighs. "I'm called Nichil, although you probably won't ever come across the name in any mortal literature. I hail from the Nine Hells, and fire," he holds his hand up and flames dance across his fingers, "is my speciality."

"You're a demon."

"Devil," he corrects, holding up a finger. "Don't lump me in with those cretins in the Abyss." Another wink. "So, what'll it be, 'mighty hero'?"

My eyes unconsciously find Donovan's lifeless ones, no longer sparkling with that relentless, contagious wonder that drew me in from the beginning and refuses to let go. I swallow, and turn back toward Nichil. "I accept."


I awoke gasping, as if I had been holding in my breath all night. The room was deserted. Nikolai's bed was neatly made and Nixie's looked as though she had not slept in it at all. Pale sunlight filtered in through the thin curtains, bathing the room in a cheerful yellow glow. I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and sat with my face in my hands, waiting for my heart to stop pounding in my ears.


I found the others eating in the greatroom. Nikolai was chatting with Nixie, and Dorn had his nose buried in Master Liam's ciphered journal, as if they had not been lying cold and unmoving on a temple altar not a day before. I sat down across from Donovan, who made a show of pretending that he was not avoiding meeting my eyes. I watched Mustafa take a bite from his plate that looked as though it held every egg available in Kirtholde, then sat back and eyed Donovan again.

"So," I began, and he flinched, "you fought the other assassin and lived to tell the tale, then?"

Donovan grimaced like a child caught. "Well, yes, I suppose I did." He was still not looking at me.

I gave him a smirk. "Seems pretty heroic, if you ask me."

He sighed, shook his head. "This isn't how I thought it would be."

"It never is." Is all I could think to say then.

The stories never talk about pain, never mention the blood, the fear, the long nights lying awake and wondering if this is even worth it. No one wants to hear about it. All they care about is the happy ending, the mighty hero emerging victorious against all odds. They do not want to know how much the hero had to give up, how empty his victory seems after he has sacrificed everything for a cause that he is not even sure he believes in anymore. They do not care. All too keen to celebrate another crisis averted by an intrepid individual who slowly fades into obscurity as their attention drifts back to Why couldn't you have done more?

It is never enough.

I know now my power is not my own. I know now the extent of my insignificance. I know now my place in this world, groveling at the feet of apathetic gods—please help me, please bring them back, please grant me strength, please, please, please.

I cannot shield Donovan from the evils of this world. But I can keep him alive. I can keep all of them alive. I have sacrificed my soul for it, and I will sacrifice my life as well, if the gods will it so.

Chapter 3: Life and Death


I was able to get the gnome and the human out of jail.  The pain was subsiding in my face and shoulder, and I was kind of ashamed to have them see it.  I lost my weapons, my armor was in tatters, my clothes were ruined, and I wasn't able to subdue the assassin.  I figured I'd do ask the Captain to outfit me again.  I think he could help me out, although I have been asking a lot of him.

We were walking there when there was a loud thunderclap.  The sky was clear, and I thought that was strange.  But I just wanted to talk to Captain and go to sleep.  The Captain wasn't home and we headed back to the inn.  There was another thunderclap, which seemed to be centered over the Temple to Ornkai.

I didn't want to go to the church.  Just looking at the building made my cut ache.  But I have to be brave.  As brave as I can be.  I'm still alive aren't I?  We knock on the front door and this old priest answered and said they were busy.  Something was happening inside and he ended up running back.  When I looked inside I could see that the adventurers within.  The young boy and the dwarf were on a table, gasping for breath.  Ares was within as well.

I couldn't breath all of a sudden.  Had they been killed?  Nixie and Mustafa walked inside but I just couldn't do it.  I didn't want him to see me like this.

I sat on the stairs and started reading the stories you had told me about James Highwind.  I wondered why he was never scared.  He was tall and strong and brave.  He went into dark caves and churches to fight the villains and save the maidens.  No one around him died.  His friends weren't murdered.  He was always there when his friends needed him.  He always showed up at the final moment.

What did James have that I didn't?  I think I know the answer.  He's not real.  You always told me that James was a man you met once, but I think even as a kid I knew you were making it all up.  Its real easy to be brave when you aren't real.

All of the adventurers came out.  Nikolai looked upset but relieved.  The dwarf looked tired but determined.  Ares walked out and saw me.  I saw him look relieved and then concerned.  I forgot that my face was a bloody mess, and I lied to Ares about it, but I know that he knew I was lying.

I don't want to die and I don't want any of them to die.  I don't want anyone to die ever again.  I can't stop shaking when I think about it.  But I'll be like James Highwind.  Its real easy to be brave when you don't tell them how scared you are.

I love you grandma,


Chapter 2: Do Not Deny Yourself

Donovan was startled awake early by a man in polished bronze armor.  It was still morning twilight.  The sky out the window was a streaked with clouds, the morning light bleeding across the sky in vivid purples and blues.  The town was coming back to life with the sound of wagons and chatter.  Donovan sat up in the oversized bed, yawned, and then blinked up at the man.

"Captain Tavish needs to see you.  I'm to take you to the castle." the stranger said quietly.

Donovan nodded sleepily.  He muttered his acquiescence as the man stepped out into the hallway.  Donovan dressed in silence and then stepped out of his room.  The stranger was leaning against a wall.  He tossed Donovan a bread roll, who missed the catch- juggled it around before snagging it in a clumsy grasp.

They set off in silence.  Donovan didn't feel awake until the Eyes were staring down on him.  Once he felt as though he was in control of his faculties he began speaking with the guard.

"What does Captain need with me when he has you?" Donovan asked, his eyes absent mindedly scanning the crowd.

"I don't know and I don't care.  He is speaking to city officials though.  You a noble born?"

"Far from it." Donovan replied, thinking about the brass key pinned inside his lapel.  "Although I am a qualified speaker."

The man grunted in response.  They walked in silence again.  The crowds were still thin this early in the morning, but it would be bustling as it neared lunchtime.  Right now men and women were roaming the markets and the docks buying up fresh produce, meat, and fish.  It was strange to think that any of these people could be a killer.  A devil in human clothing.  You get too used to strangers being strangers.  When they are faceless they seem so harmless.  Donovan kept involuntarily scratching his chest where the knife had imbedded itself.  He wondered what Yohan was doing before he was killed.  Was he also just walking through town when he suddenly looked down and saw the shaft and fletching of an arrow sticking out of him?

The armored stranger put a hand on Donovans shoulder.  The halfling looked up and realized they were at the castle.  There was a line of people waiting for entry to the keep.  A man in a gate house was taking down names and grievances.  Donovan couldn't help but grin when the armored man walked Donovan right past the entire line, receiving annoyed and sometimes outraged glances from waiting townsfolk.  

Captain Tavish was waiting across a courtyard just inside the wall.  He was standing outside a modest building attached to the keep at large.  The armored man patted Donovan on the shoulder and walked back the way they came.  Donovan was too excited about being summoned by his old Captain.  His walk turned into a light jog as he approached.

"Donovan, thanks for being here.  I need your help.  A group of adventurers have been falsely accused of the murders happening in town.  They are part of the group that Ares is with."

"We stopped one of the killers just last night.  Ares burned him to death." Donovan said, he reached into his bag and pulled out an obsidian colored mask.  "See?"

"Put that away." Captain Tavish snapped.  He looked around, knelt, and pushed the mask back into Donovan's small pack. "This is what I need you for.  They are going to release part of the group, but two of them are still being held.  Find the evidence needed to free them."

"Where do I start?  Isn't that what everyone is trying to do?"

"You only need to prove their innocence, not solve the mystery.  I have too much to do and I'm far too conspicuous.  You are still mostly outside this whole mess, so you are the one that makes sense.  You can do it."  Captain Tavish said.  "Get going.  If they finally getting around to charging them they might be executed."

Captain Tavish stood up and brushed himself off.  He nodded at Donovan and set off for the nearby gate.  Donovan stood alone for a moment before puffing himself up and stepping into the jail.

The man inside was at attention and seemed to be expecting him.  He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder.  Most of the cells were empty but he finally found the two he was looking for.  One man was a gargantuan human.  He seemed quite dour.  There was also a short, beautiful red-headed gnome.

Donovan lost his nerve when he made to speak to the human.  He had a look in his eye like he was contemplating turning Donovan into a chuck roast.  Instead, Donovan spoke to the gnome.

"Hi." Donovan said, suddenly bashful.  "I'm Donovan."

"I know.  When can we leave?"

"That's what I'm here to find out.  They want to keep holding you, but I'll try and get you out quick." Donovan said, crossing his arms.  "Got any leads?"

"That's why we came here.  To find the killer.  Uh."  Nixie seemed to wrack her brain.  "They really like poisons.  Maybe they buy it here in town?  There was poison on the bolt they fired at their own man-"

"They tried to kill their own man?" Donovan asked.  "When?"

"Just the other day.  On the large bridge that crosses the river near the temple.  The assassin tried to kill their man by shooting him from a distant rooftop." Nixie said, getting quieter the longer she spoke.  "Our friend caught the arrow."

Donovan inferred that they meant the metal man named Acolyte.  Still a mystery, that one- but they all thought of the thing as a person.

"I'll start there.  Hopefully I'll get you out before the day is over."

Nixie simply nodded.  The large man was still quiet.

Donovan stood on the bridge.  The breeze was nice.  His hair fluttered delicately, and his coat swayed with each gust.  Donovan had turned in a few circles; regarding the surroundings.  There were three buildings that were tall enough to give them an open vantage of the bridge.

There was a square building that was close but seemed too close for a fast getaway.  If the metal man was as fast as they said the assassin definitely would have been followed.  The building was some sort of a theater as well.  Too many eyes with that performing troupe of actors in Kirtholde.

Another building spanned the river proper.  It was a temple to Joquilic.  Donovan had wandered in there a couple times getting blessings for boats.  The acolytes lived on site.  He wasn't even sure there was access to the roof.  It had so many domed peaks it seemed unlikely the assassin would bother trying to shoot a man, prepare to run, and balance themselves on a sloped roof.

The last was a church tower, but it seemed absurdly far away.  The tower was flat topped and would be upwind from the bridge. That meant the assassin would have been firing with the wind.  It would be a hell of a shot, but not impossible, Donovan supposed.

It was painfully hot.  It looked like the breeze was pulling in clouds; it would be cooling soon.  Donovan glanced around at the milling crowds again.  Normal people doing normal things in a normal routine.  And one of them was a killer.  The killer who might've killed Yohan.  The killer who might have killed the metal man.  

Donovan made his way to the distant church.  As he approached it the clouds had finally overcome the Eyes, but the white hot glare still gloweredd from behind them.  Donovan put his hands in his pockets as he walked up the promenade.  He wasn't a huge fan of church and faith.  His grandma was all he had needed.  It never seemed as though a god had even paid him a glance.

If a god had looked at him, it had been only to take but not to give.  Only devils grant boons, gods administer tests.

The massive front doors were unlocked.  If it was consecrated to a god, Donovan didn't recognize any signs.  He closed the door behind him.  The church was old and made of some rich, dark wood.  There were no torches, making every doorway a dark portal, and every parapet cast deep shadows.  Soft, white light was beaming through the windows, brushing white strokes across the aisle.  A massive, circular stained glassed window played colorful shards of red light across the walls and floor. Dust hung in the air, slowly dancing errant paths to the floor.  

Donovan walked up the aisle.  He called out a couple times, but no one answered.  His footsteps seemed so loud, even with the breeze outside rushing past the walls in a muted, pulsing whisper. 

A soft, sifting of dust was all the warning Donovan got as a human man descending upon him from the rafters.  Donovan lunged forward and tumbled towards the alter as two knives stuck in the ground where he had been standing.  He stood and drew his rapier with a flourish.  

A black cloaked man wearing a mask landed in the aisle, blocking the path to the door.  The stained glass window splayed light all over the room.  Red shards of light drew across the assassin as he slowly made his way towards Donovan.  When he stopped, one red slash was across their face.  The halfling could see the light glittering in the mans eyes behind that mask.

Donovan squared off against the man.  Sometimes Donovan wished he wasn't so small, and this was one of those times.

"I've seen you before." the assassin said.  "You were with that blond man Ares."

"Never heard of him." Donovan lied, tightening his grip on his rapier.  He couldn't help but imagine another dagger sticking out of his chest.  "Sounds like you have taken a fancy to someone, though."

"You are just a small man in a big city.  Time to go home to your mother, halfling." the assassin chided.  He hadn't moved, standing there like a black specter.

"I never knew my mother.  But you can go join her since you have something in common." Donovan responded coolly.  His heart was pounding.  "Neither of you matter, and soon you'll be behind me.  Just another waste of my time."

All at once the man was upon Donovan.  He covered the distance in a blur.  The red lights glinted viciously as he threw two more daggers.  Donovan flourished his rapier, fouling the path of one dagger as the other embedded itself in his shoulder.  He gasped in pain.

Donovan reflexively tumbled forward, attempting to trip the assassin as he made his next attack.  The assassin jumped, landing on the stairs to the alter.  Donovan regained his feet.  As he stood though, the assassin spun around and lashed out, a sharp blade dragging itself across the bridge of his nose and cheek, the slash almost reaching his left ear.  Donovan fell backward, yelling in pain, and worse yet- dropped his rapier.  Hot blood poured down his face and into his mouth, making him cough.

The assassin picked up the rapier and deftly snapped the blade from the hilt.  He tossed both away as he glowered down at the halfling.  Donovan was gasping in pain, one hand wiping blood from his eyes, the other trying to pull the dagger from his shoulder.  

Donovan stood up and started to step back up the aisle.  The assassin stomped down the stairs, springing forward and lashing out with yet another blade.  The knife, however, found no purchase as Donovan threw his hurt shoulder into the path, using the protruding hilt as a guard.  The halfling unsheathed his parrying dagger and sunk it deep into the assassins torso.  Donovan hadn't the strength to pull the dagger back out.  But as the assassin bent forward over Donovan's thrust, he saw another knife sheathed inside the black robe.  Donovan pulled it out and then kicked the man away.

Both men backed away from one another.  A halfling with a knife in his shoulder.  A human with a knife in his torso.  Donovan struggled to watch the assassin as he backed up towards the alter and the rose window.  His form becoming a mere silhouette in the crimson light.  

The assassin stared at Donovan- a hapless halfling bathed in the white light cast by the peaked, wrought iron windows.  He could see the pain in the halflings eyes, but there was something more.  The halfling was smiling to himself.

Donovan watched as the assassin stumbled backwards before finding his stride, and ran from the building towards a back hallway.  He tried to give chase, but the pain in his body was stopping him.  He stumbled down a hallway toward an open door.  A blindingly bright portal to the outside.  The assassin was no where to be seen, but perfectly framed by the opening- Highwater Keep.

Donovan sat down in the quiet hallway.  He leaned against a wall, sweat beading down his forehead.  He gasped when he touched the wound on his face.  The hot blood still spilling down onto his shirt.  He looked at the dagger he had taken- and all at once he knew how to free Nixie and her large partner.

The city guard was bored.  He had been posted at this boring, do nothing counter for cheating at cards.  Like those good for nothings never cheated.  He wished something interesting would happen.

He immediately swallowed his wishes when the halfling from before stumbled in.  He had a grievous cut across his face, and a massive puncture hole in his shoulder.  It leaked blood slowly down his arm.  He was dragging a fine looking red coat behind him.

"Just- just sit down I'll call for a healer!" the guardsman shouted.

But the halfling held up a hand.  He pulled a black dagger from the sheath at his hip.  Down the length of the blade it had runes.  

"Take this to the prisoners and ask them to cut themselves on the blade.  If the runes begin to glow, it means they were targets for assassination." the halfling said quietly.  The guardsman did recognize the the blade.  That blond man was attacked with one.  It was enchanted or something.  Needed specific blood to act as proof of the hit.

"You're hurt.  We need to-"

"I already got something for this at the lower market.  Just take me to the prisoners." the halfling said again, weakly.  He pulled a small vial out of his pocket.  It was filled with a thick, red liquid.  "She said it needed a couple hours to reach full potency."

The guard escorted the halfling back to the cage.  The gnome and the human were still in their cell, looking bored.  The large man always gave you that look that said: I let you keep me here.

"Take this blade and cut your arm with it." he handed it through the bars.  "Its just like the one-"

"Just like the one for Ares." the gnome said.  She took a deep breath and dragged the point down the side of her forearm.  She the smeared the blade in the blood and held it up.  It seemed that several of the runes began to glow.

The big man took it brusquely and repeated the process- perhaps a little impatiently.  More runes began to glow.

"Can they go now?" the halfling said.  

"Uh, yes.  Certainly.  I need to speak with the lieutenant.  What happened to you?"

"Come to the tavern sometime, and I'll tell you a story." he said, smiling inwardly.

Chapter 1: Meeting the Heroes


It's been almost a week since Yohan was murdered.  I don't cry as much anymore, but I still wish I could go have an ale with him sometimes.  I regret not being a closer friend.  We didn't see each other that much, but now that I can't see him anymore I regret not making more time to visit him.

I met some people on the bridge where Yohan's body was found.  It seemed as though another person was killed.  I was relieved to see that the body part was made of metal- another person need not have died at the hands of these killers.

But it seems I was mistaken!  When I expressed my relief about the target being a construct of some form (how mysterious, a man made of metal) it seemed to anger several of these people.  I told them I was looking for the killer, and Tavish recommended I find another group he sent on the trail.  It seems I had met them!

One man named Aries was so mad that he caught on fire.  A magician!  I was terrified that he would kill me on the spot, but I put on a brave face and prepared for a daring fight!

I was invited to join them in a tavern.  The small halfling girl, who I learned later was a gnome, left to go collect herself in the forest.  I asked about the metal arm and its owner.  Seems his name was Acolyte.  Like from a church?  Do metal men have gods?

A bunch of armed guards showed up and took most of the adventurers away.  It seems Aries was targeted for assassination!  How exciting!  He must be really important.  When they all left, it was just me and and the blonde haired man, Aries.

I think Aries might be a long lost prince or something, like from one of James Highwinds stories.  He has blonde hair, a very fancy cloak, carries himself with the pomp and cirumstance of a hero.  This might be it grandma!  I might be on my first real adventure, to free the adventurers and stop the killers!

We went to talk to Captain Tavish and see what he might know about the happenings.  I was flattered that he remembered me, he is always so busy with so many people.  He seemed annoyed that the people were captured and said he'd go to the keep and get them set free.  Oh well, we can do a daring escape another time.  Captain Tavish said we might check the lower markets for clues, so we set off- but not before Captain Tavish made me a member of the hidden organization the Brass Keys!

On our way there we were followed by some dangerous looking men!  We weren't sure who they were, but we laid a trap for them.

I killed two men grandma.  They're dead because of me.  I didn't think it would be so easy, or so mundane.  I looked them in the eyes, and with a thrust I watched their books slam close and their final chapters go unwritten.  Is this what it is to be a hero?

I didn't want to look too shaken in front of Aries so I did my best to stay calm.  When James Highwind killed his villains it was never so- abrupt.  It didn't feel like I thought.

At the lower market I bought some sweet rolls for me and Prince Aries (I think I'm going to write a story about him).  James Highwind and Prince Aries.  James Highwind and the Golden Haired Prince?

The assassins seemed to use poison, but we learned that there are no formal apothecaries in the markets.  We did find this beautiful woman, named Lakel, selling herbal remedies that were delicious!  She was even talented enough to create drafts that could cause wounds to close and injuries to heal!  How amazing!  But she had no faith in herself.  She told me that her grandma had taught her how to do it, and in that moment I knew I had to help her find her confidence!

So Aries and I made her a banner sign, and I told stories about how magnificent her remedies were!  She made so much money that day that she gave us a cut of the profit!  That felt much better than stabbing people.

We learned from some guards that there is a dangerous creature lurking around the docks.  Aries decided we would investigate that later, because we had to meet with a shadowy man named Guile!  Guile sounds exactly like the name a villain would have.  Aries tells me he whole-heartedly believes this will be a trap.  How exciting!  Aries trusts me to watch his back- I didn't want to let down a prince!

We met with him, and Aries took on the alias of a noble.  I pretended to be his bodyguard.  I tried to look tough in front of the armed guards Guile had posted.  Guile doesn't seem like he was part of the murders, but he said he thinks that someone in his caravan is the culprit.  He seems suspicious.

We are given permission to investigate his caravan camp.  We go to a suspicious looking tent.  Aries calls out for whoever is inside.  I'm the body guard, so I do my duty and walk into the tent.  And this time- I had sprung the trap!  I opened the flap, and the next thing I know there is a dagger stuck in my chest.  It became hard to breath, and I couldn't move. 

But then Aries was there.  The anger in his eyes was made manifest.  With a flourish of his arms he cast a magical spell that laid waste to the shadowy assassin.  What seemed like three nigh invisible rays of pure heat, the mans soul seemed burned away.  After a minute I regained myself, the poison seeming to wear off.  The adrenaline was still flowing through my veins.  

A real hero grandma!  I've met a real hero!

We returned to the tavern to sleep.  I didn't sleep well.  I kept thinking about the men I killed, and thinking about Aries.  He seemed to calm about everything.  Hopefully he knew what to do.

In the morning I returned to see Lakel, the apothecary woman!  She was in good spirits.  Then Aries and I ventured out to the east hills to recover some stolen trade goods for guile.  The followed some bugbears and ended up defeating them!  It was pretty easy for heroes such as Aries and myself.  We sat down to rest, but then we saw this massive black cat like creature racing towards us.  I barely had time to shout a warning and get to my feet before it was upon us.

It was a vicious battle.  It wasn't like anything I've scrapped with before.  The creature was fast and powerful.  I tries to protect Aries, and then the last thing I remember was its two barbed tentacles lashing out at me.  

I had a dream then.  I was in a dark place, and I had lost your necklace and the book you gave me.  I was crawling around, looking for it.  I was scared and I was alone.  I started to cry and I curled up on the ground.

But then I woke up.  Aries was cradling my head.  My clothes and armor were torn to shreds.  Aries looked worried and relieved.  I had never really noticed how clear his eyes were.  He was bleeding from several lashes he had taken.  Someone like Aries should never have to face monsters alone.

I stood up then, and charged the massive creature.  I slid between its massive legs and stabbed it in the hindquarters several times.  I was running out of stamina.  But then it slashed at Aries, who fell to the ground.

I was terrified grandma.  This creature was going to kill us.  I'm not as strong as I thought.  I closed my eyes swung my sword with all of my might.  It bit into the creatures hide, and then it rounded on me.  Its two tentacles swung for me, but I ran between its legs and made it to Aries.  I poured a healing potion into his mouth, and watched him gasp back to life.  

The creature seemed exhausted.  We all were.  Each of us bleeding, considering our next move.  I tried to scare it off to little effect, and with a gesture Aries conjured a fire bolt that knocked the beast unconscious.

I walked up and looked at the creature.  Thin, gaunt, in pain, and alone.  I wanted to believe that it could go and live its life in peace, but I looked at Aries who had seemed resigned.  The creature probably wouldn't survive.  I put it out of its suffering.  And then I fell back on the ground and cried again.

Maybe I'm not cut out for this.  Being a hero is so much scarier than I thought.  I thought I had died, grandma.  I didn't want to return to that dark place.  I just wanted to spend my life helping the less fortunate.  

But I'll keep trying.  You believed in me.  You thought I could be just like James Highwind.  Or Aries.

So I'll set sail, to meet new friends, to go on new adventures, and to chase that horizon.

I love you grandma,


Acolyte: Chapter 4
A New City - A Brass Key

"Acolyte!" Dorn shouts.

Without thinking I emerge from my hiding place and sprint towards Helor.

Nixie speaks with the unicorn in a language I do not comprehend.  I stand there with my hand raised, trying to appear friendly.  She beams at the beast in excitement, and it acknowledges her.  I had thought I might quell any encounter, but it seems Nixie was best suited for that.

The people who were walking around this late at night flinch as I flow past them.  The bridge lies ahead.  I follow Dorn's gaze and see the dark figure.

The bugbear strikes me.  Two savage blows across my torso which threaten to put me down.  I feel my core flicker dangerously within myself.  Mustafa is upon the creature, and parts it down the middle of its body with one stroke.  I had thought I would defeat the beast, but Mustafa seemed better suited for that.

At the edge of the bridge I see the projectile begin its arc through the air.  I know what I must do, but I fear that I cannot.

The dwarf stares up at me, refusing to tell me what I should know.  I threaten his lively hood with rumors and reputation.  His gaze is steadfast and assured.  He seems angry and demands I leave.  Later, Dorn extracts the information with his camaraderie amongst his kind. I had thought I could acquire the information, but it seemed Dorn was better suited to negotiate.

My feet touch the cobbles of the bridge.  Helor has barely registered what is happening.  My robes flap behind me in the wind as I begin the ascent to him.  I can see, impossibly, the bolt closing in on him.

I try and convince the man in the square to pay us for our services hunting creatures.  He denies my offer.  I try and reason with him, but to little avail.  He tells me that they cannot afford that.  Hugh steps in and convinces the man to pay us what we are owed, and secures a greater payment.  I thought I could reason with the man, but it seemed the Hugh was better suited for that.

I'm not sure I'll make it.  I'm not sure I can do it.  I don't see anyone else near Helor.

The bandits are all gathered around the fire.  I'm not sure how to approach, but then both of our arcane companions step forward.  Half of them fall asleep while the other half are distracted by Aries conjuration within the campfire.  I hadn't known what to do, but it seemed that Aries' bravado was better suited to give us an edge.

Twenty paces.  My hood falls from my head.  Helor stares in horror at his closing doom.  Dorn is lurching into action.  The bolt whispers through the air.

We are trying to follow the killer.  Dorn seems to know the direction, but can't find the trail.  I stand tall and look around.  I see nothing.  But then young Nikolai touches my arm and I feel strange energy fill me.  He adds a wisdom to my gaze I had not known.  He is the strength we do not see and is better suited to guide us.  

With all of these talented and strong men and women beside me, I falter to understand my purpose.  I was created to serve, but amongst these adventurers I do not know what I am suited for.  

I had thought I was stronger, smarter, wiser than them.  But I am not.  What was I created for?

Time seems to have slowed.  My body fully extended in motion.  I leap the last few paces to Helor.

I reach out.

Acolyte: Chapter 3
West to the River

I feel.  A simple sentiment, but new to me.  Anger.  Confusion.  Disallusionment.  

Master Liam was killed and I failed to stop it.  I failed to apprehend the killer.  I am not as strong as I thought I was.  Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, I am bound to a group of strong men and women.

I learn what I can while I'm being healed.  Several days go by.  I inquire about the tome we received, and why Master Liam might have been targeted.  Brother Ivan and Brother Gregor do not know why Master Liam was slain, but it was clearly an assassination.  There are many ways into the tower, and the assassin had picked the most difficult.  Clearly they were seeking to encounter no one else.

Nikolai seems distracted, and I notice after a time that Aries is no where to be seen.  Nikolai tells me Aries went back for something and that he'll return soon.  I wonder if he is safe.

I speak with Brother Ivan and Brother Gregor again, this time pledging myself to what ever cause they seem fit.  They speak to me as if I'm naive, but they tell me to find out what I can in my travels.

The group gathers in the morning and I tell them that I'm not strong enough alone.  Not as strong as I thought.  I need them to join their strength and talent with my own if I am to find Master Liam's killer

Nikolai and Aries remain at the monastary to continue their research into the mysterious Order of the Obsidian Key.  The rest of us set out to the west until we encountered the river.

We travel for a day.  We arrive at a small gathering of buildings to find hulking bugbears terrorizing traveling caravans.  If they had any caravan guards they were certainly slain.  I look to Mustafa and we rush to stop them.

A short and brutal encounter.  Our party made quick work of the beasts.  Mustafa is unstoppable when the vessels in his eyes burst.  His behavior in general seems to shift depending on whats happening.  He speaks with us, laughs, and hatches plans with us, but when blood must be spilled he turns into a raging demon.  Can I depend on him for what I need?

We are hired to route the rest of the bugbear band.  There was a huge on in particular, and I advised a surprise attack.  It likely saved my own life.  My body seems surprisingly fragile.  I must work to make myself more resilient.

We return.  The locals are excited that we have quelled the raiders.  The bar is a rowdy party, with drinks and revelry being had by all!

I step outside into the breeze.  The sun is setting, giving the sky a blueish, pink cast.  I peer around for someone who can sell me some coal.  Food does me little good.

I see a cart nearby when a thin man.  Peddling wares no doubt.  I go to inspect some of his finely crafted boxes when he engages with me.  I expect the normal questions I get.  What are you?  Where are you from?  Why are you here?  

But no, this elf, named Lithowi, asks me more specific questions.  How long have I been active?  What am I consuming?

He mentions that he hasn't seen one of my kind in nearly 300 years.  Elves must be long lived.  He inspects me and then begins offering me various purified ores.  They all burn smoothly, the fuel within me coursing with energy that I have not felt since the Awakening.

Lithowi refuses payment for anything.  Simply inspecting me was enough.  He grants me a charm that I can speak into if I need to see him again.  Lithowi knows something about me, but I have other concerns now.  Maybe when we bring peace to Master Liam, I will seek him out.

Nixie Two
Nixie Bear, Nixie Wolf

The monastery made Nixie uncomfortable. She didn’t like how uniform everyone was. It was like no one had a free spirit. No one smiled or laughed. It bothered her. She didn’t like the colored bands on the peoples arms; she felt like they couldn’t leave soon enough. Two important men came to greet them but they instantly gave Acolyte the cold shoulder. He did them no wrong. Why did they treat him so? She didn’t like them. Their names were Brother Liam and Master Ivan or Master Liam and Brother Ivan. She was unsure but she didn’t talk to either of them. Thankfully the dwarf and the young boy, Nikoli, made a full recovery and soon they were off on another errand. They set off to find missing pages from an old book rumored to be in a cave across the forest. Nixie wasn’t sure what it was for. Acolyte seemed determined and despite her own personal feelings toward BL and MI or BI and ML she decided she would help him. He had healed her arm in the forest after all. She felt like she owed it to him to help.


They left in the morning, the two suns shining brightly in the sky, making them all feel fatigued. They took to traveling in the forest so to escape some of the harsher rays of light. Some flowers were found and someone made a drink for everyone to help fight the heat exhaustion. Apparently it was called “SunBerry BullShit Tea”. It tasted alright. Nixie curiously looked to Acolyte as he was handed the drink. Obviously he was different than anything she had ever seen and she was unsure of how he would be able to consume liquid. Without hesitation he threw back the beverage and splashed it upon himself. She stifled a laugh and turned away so not to offend him.


Soon they arrived at a large clearing; lake spread out in front of them. The surface of the water looked clear and undisturbed. Sparkling leaves glittered all around them and roses grew all along the edge of the clearing each ones petals perfect and crisp. A unicorn emerged from a path hidden from them moments before. He approached fearlessly and Nixie sensed some of the group tense beside her. She quickly stepped forward before Mustafa did something stupid and spoke to the beautiful animal. Such a sight was very rare and she was a little afraid the unicorn may not talk to her.

“Hello, we are strangers here and we mean no harm.”

“Do you come with the men who harm our trees?”

“The trees? No, we have not touched any of the trees. We seek safe passage through the forest to get to a cave on the side of the mountain.”


They learned the unicorn’s name was Eliwyn an he was the Glean Lord of this forest. As Nixie spoke to him she was surprised to see Nikoli step up beside her in awe. He had a depiction of a unicorn on him that she had never noticed before. Was this the symbol of his god?


“If I lead you to this cave would you rid this land of those vile men hurting the trees?” The unicorn asked stamping his foot angrily.

“We will!” Nixie said eagerly. She quickly realized she probably should have conversed with the rest of the group before making a promise to this divine beast but she pushed the thought away. With safe passage to the cave she was sure they would agree to take care of a band of criminals.


They went about their way traveling down the path Eliwyn appeared from. Other unicorns came to see the group as they traveled. A small foul ran up to Nikoli and bumped him with its nose before running off again. Nikoli looked so excited Nixie was sure he would explode. Nixie watched the unicorns, happy that she got to see them with her own eyes. She tried not to stare as she was almost transfixed by the soft look of their fur and the beautiful shiny hair of their manes and tail. She approached Eliwyn and asked shyly.

“May I have a clipping of some of your tail?”

“Some of my tail? Whatever for?” He seemed taken aback by such an odd request.

“I just think its so beautiful I want to braid it into a band to wear..” She replied feeling a bit silly.

“You take care of these bandits and I will oblige to your request.”

She beamed excitedly.


The band found the camp easily and the fighting began quickly after. The Halfling orc cast a spell over the 12 men and a little more than half dropped to the ground asleep. At the same time Aries threw a spell to the fire and a blue flame erupted from the pit and the image of a unicorn appeared above it all. The conscious men stared in awe at the sight. Mustafa ran in and bludgeoned one of the men killing him immediately. The rest quickly jumped into action. Nixie looked about from Aries hands aglow with fire to the dwarf with his deadly weapons of fury. Trying to find someway to be of help she ran over to the men sleeping and started to bind their arms and legs incase they started to wake during battle.  The battle ended very quickly and soon there were only four men left alive. Shortly after three. The men were interrogated and apparently their leader and a few additional henchmen dwell inside the cave with the mysterious book pages.


We enter the cave as shouts echoed from inside. We funneled in from the neck of the cave into a large chamber where a huge orc stood looking pissed. Nixie tried her best to be helpful. She shot fire toward the orc but whether from fear or self doubt she missed every time. One thing lead to another and soon Mustafa and Acolyte stood grappling the massive orc. Her fire was failing but she had another trick she could try. She had never changed into an animal for combat before, her uncle would never allow sparing lessons, but she transformed into a bear. Her skin grew brown fur and soon she was more than twice her old size. She slashed at the orc with her now massive paws but the unfamiliar body caused her to miss as the two men beside her pushed him back. She was unsure who threw the final blow but soon it was all over.


The halfling orc, Hugh Halfner, had the pages safely tucked away and everyone soon piled out of the cave. People were starting to relax after battle and all the pent up stress Nixie felt inside her soon started to dissipate.  Spotting Nikoli, Nixie ran up behind him and stole his hat playfully.  She bounced around him in circles and he frantically tried to chase her and jump up to snatch the hat back. After she had had her fun, she dropped his hat and prepared to change back into a gnome.

“Before you change back do you mind helping me with something?” He asked, fixing his hat and returning to his habit of shining the pin on the front of his robes.

She nodded her bear head and gave a soft grunt agreeing to help him.

“I would like to bring the bodies out of the cave and collectively bury all the bodies.”

Nixie obliged and after it was done she returned to her normal form.


Returning to the forest they easily found their way back to where the unicorns roam. Eliwyn came to greet them and Nixie excited bounced forward to tell him the good news. He seemed very pleased and turned so she could get a clipping from his tail. She carefully cut a few strand of hair and braided them together into a band and tied it around her left wrist.

“Thank you so much!” She said beaming.

He then showed the party to a hidden chest that lay in the forest. He explained that it had been abandoned and they had no use of coin.


The travel back to the monastery was uneventful. As every fell into their various duties or interests Nixie wandered around and tried to find something to entertain herself with. She strayed away from the workers, they still made her nervous,  and watched from afar at Aries who had taking up some fighting/ yoga? techniques. She wandered around outside and found a fountain in one of the gardens. Running over excitedly she leaned over the edge disappointed not to find anything there. Exploring more she eventually discovered a nearby stream and started attempting to catch fish. Spotting Acolyte nearby, she shouted to him excitedly the fish still held tightly in her hands. She asked him for assistance with the fish and he threw her up on his shoulders and ran her up to the fountain to throw the fish in. She giggled happily at the two fish she managed to catch and throw in the fountain. Acolyte seemed confused but didn’t ask questions. She was happy he went along with it. Soon the sun was falling behind the trees and she retreated inside even though the darkness didn’t impair her vision. She was getting sleepy from the long day. Not really wanting to go back to the cots she wandered the corridors and found her way upstairs onto a balcony. She stared up at the stars until she grew tired and fell asleep out in the cool air.


Screams awoke her not long after closing her eyes. She shot up and blinked rapidly as a dark figure disappeared from the monastery into the trees. What just happened? She spotted the dwarf jump out the window in pursuit. She doubted she could make a landing like that out the window and took off full speed down the stairs. Jumping out the doorway, she transformed into a dire wolf and quickly passed the dwarf and found herself catching up to Acolyte, whom she didn’t realize was outside. She eventually overtook Acolyte, and they ran and ran into the night just barley out of sight of the figure. She soon started gaining on the figure and realized too late her mistake. Whether she was gaining from her own speed or whether it was from him slowing down but it didn’t matter. She didn’t see the large pit until it was too late. She plummeted down the hole and hit the ground hard. The figure peered down at her then turned tail and ran. Acolyte soon appeared after and shouted down asking if she was well. She barked at him that she was okay and quickly he was gone also. She changed into a spider and crawled out of the hole before feeling the magic fade and her body changed back into a gnome. The dwarf and Hugh had just arrived and she ran in step with them into the forest. She hated how slow she was and longed to transform again but her magic spent she could not. They quickly came upon Acolyte on the ground. He had a huge injury on one arm. It was almost as though there was something else under the metal… Something organic. Mustafa came back after had running ahead.. The figure had escaped.. Before Nixie could ask about Acolyte’s arm everyone had started to gather up and head back to the monastery. No one said much.. She had gathered that Liam had been stabbed and killed. Acolyte had stolen his black dagger.


What was happening here? This was such a random bunch of events. Were they really this unlucky or was it the people they kept encountering the ones with the bad luck. People around them kept dyeing and everything seemed like one disaster after another. What this figure also a demi god? What was angering the demi gods so? So many questions… So very tired… She longed for a good nights sleep. Again she hoped she wouldn’t have nightmares returning to the monastery.


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