Kingmaker

Spilling Blood
Beast takes lives, takes stock, takes another step

There’s blood pouring from a gash on my arm and seeping out from underneath my breastplate. I’m pretty sure one of the cuts yanked on the armor and now the plate is hiding the wound, making me look like I’m hiding jam. I’m wheezing a little bit, but my injuries are minor compared to some. And, of course, the most important question of battle has been settled.

My enemy is dead and I am not.

So far today, I’ve killed a dozen men and women, four trolls, and…something else that I’m sure Finnegal has some poncy name for. I maimed poor old Velimar Koth in a moment that will likely come up in my employment review at some point, but that jackass practically got away with trying to murder Ibram during the festival. Maybe depending on the kindness of strangers to buckle his belt for a while might clear his head. Maybe I’ll just have to kill him later. Could go either way and that suits me fine.

In this moment, we’re in a fighting pit in Irovetti’s palace – It’s not as big as the one in Tymon, but the seating’s a lot swankier. There’s a dead…whatever Finnegal will call it, a dead gargoyle, and couple of really big hellhounds, also dead. The gargoyle did a pretty harsh job of shredding Leilania, but I could have told him that the elf is tougher than she looks.

But we surprised Irovetti and crew on a number of levels. Gargoyle expected the elf chick to be easy prey, the big war dogs probably hadn’t planned to be murdered by a Thunder Chicken (to be fair, who does?), and Irovetti thought his box was a safe place to gloat. We spend a lot of time worrying that our enemies have these perfect counterplans, as though they had the same level of knowledge of our plans that we do. So far, at least, add this little foray to my list of “Reasons Why The Silver Beast Favors an Adaptable Offensive Plan.”

But better not call it that – Finnegal will mine jokes for years from it.

His Scheming Majesty might try and make a break for it. Honestly, if he did, I wouldn’t blame him, but down one weapon, bleeding, and alone, I don’t know if he’d make it to the city walls without one of the trading houses taking the opportunity to get rid of him. More than that, I’m pretty sure I could run his stubby ass down. He’s prey and if he hasn’t figured that out yet, well, he’s in even more trouble than he thinks.

His girl says she can lead us to his chambers, where he may hole up in the hopes of hiding it out or rallying what’s left of his guard to his cause. Either way, the scent of blood is on the wind and this hunt is nearly over, one way or another.

Dying time’s here.

View
Crescent Moon in Azure Skies
Leilania is Pulled in Many Directions

Today the moon calls to me from a thin sliver nearly lost against the monochrome tranquility of a peaceful summer sky. I hear her more than I feel her as she whispers a melody carried on a sweet western breeze. She tells me to enjoy today, for tomorrow will be a day of challenge and choices.

I have been given this day to do with as I please as my companions go off to court the Houses in Exile in Mivon and continue with the preparations for defense of the Kingdom. I considered going to Tatzlford to gather news from my Way Watchers, but I know by the time I arrived at the garrison it would already be time to return. Besides, at this point my watchers know their missions, and most are far afield, patrolling the border with a wary eye turned outward. When the battle comes, I trust they will know what to do.

So that left me with leisure time sufficient to return to the Greenbelt but not much more. I sought out a fey enclave, only to be informed that an elf matching Iliphar’s description had been seen wandering in the woods. I found him in a glade beyond a copse of ash trees, looking as handsome and radiant as when I first laid eyes on him. We did not waste much time talking, which I think was fine by both of us. My only regret is that I had so few hours to dedicate to him.

I’m returning now to Tuskendale bouncing on Nibbs’s back, dreading the conversations and consternation that will come. It’s become clear that our next step must be a direct attack on Irovetti himself. It’s the only way to recover the sword Briar and to rescue Avenda’s shawl. My friends also believe that a strike against Irovetti may keep us from war, but I am less sure. Every action we have taken to this point has taken us closer to war, not further from it. Sometimes I think humans go out of their way to find excuses to fight with one another. The only time they pray for peace is when they’re put on the wrong end of the spear.

I hope I have taught my Way Watchers better. I hope they take their code to heart and put the well-being of the lowest soul as their highest priority. I know Ursundova will need their arms if it comes to war, but it will be a waste of good men and women to have them die on harried battlefields. Any fool can fight…it takes a hero to care.

With luck, when I return Kaydee will have made something out of the blessed water I brought from Avenda’s well. If not, I will have to pass my time with the herb Iliphar had for me as a gift. One way or another, I intend to relax tonight. I will thank the moon for one more chance to celebrate something other than bloodshed.

Now, I thank the moon for her blessing and sing a soothing song to Nibbs. Bless his heart, Nibbs tries to return the melody. He is such a wonderful goof sometimes. I love him so much.

I pray upwards to the moon and ask her a simple impossibility. I ask that love conquer hate and faith eclipse fear…at least for one more day. Her reply feels like laughter.

View
Lem vs. Introspection Round 47
Lem Hates Gambling

Journal,

It’s early morning as I write this. I tried to sleep, but there was no point to it. No point, because I know in a few hours we will teleport directly to Pitax to attempt to end this war before it starts by taking the fight directly to Irovetti. We will storm the palace of a hundred doors, kill whoever opposes us, and hunt down Irovetti himself with the hopes of recovering both Briar and the Avenda’s shawl. This is a mission born out of desperation. Only by striking first can we hope to avoid a war that would kill thousands.

I know this is a noble goal. If war begins between Ursundova and her neighbors to the North and West, the battle will inevitably be carried deep into our kingdom. Even if we were ultimately successful in a military campaign, the toll of the conflict would fall heaviest on the common people—peasants run from their farms, soldiers overrun in battle, merchants cut down as they flee. If we were to forsake this opportunity to avoid greater bloodshed, however slim the chance, how could we ever face the widows and the orphans of the battles we chose to bring? How would we explain our choice to stand by and let the war come?

I know also Irovetti is a wicked man—a man who would literally feed his people to beasts to suit his ends. He has shown capacity for great evil, both in the nature of his schemes and the monstrous allies he has called to his aide. Surely there can’t be a place for such a man at the head of a civilized nation. Surely it is our duty to protect the people of Pitax from a tyrant who cares not for their fates or hardships. Compassion dictates that we must act to right this injustice, no matter what side of the border it occurs on. Iomedae teaches that we should face evil directly. We cannot turn a blind eye. Righteous purpose demands action.

I know finally that the men and women Jacek has chosen for this task are the bravest and best Ursundova has to offer. They all go selflessly, not for glory or treasure, but to do what must be done to protect the kingdom and her peoples. In a world plagued by greed, selfishness, and cruelty, Jacek has assembled an order of light to push back the darkness. We are not conquerors. We are not assassins. We are champions—all of us.

I won’t say that I don’t have my doubts. It seems like we’ve been dancing to Irovetti’s tune since the first invitation to the Rushlight festival, and with each new twist, we get drawn deeper into his plot. Knowing that his armies were already in place at the time of the Rushlight Festival, why would he have invited Ursundova at all if not to let slip that they were there? Why wait to invade if not to provoke us into preemptive action, and is so doing pull our armies away from our northern border so that Brevoy would have an easier path of conquest? Why plant information about magical weapons at the monastery if not to invite us to raid it? And why set a trap there that he had to know would fail, if not to let us know that he had Briar? Irovetti had to know how all of these events would play out, conceited as he is, he’s not stupid or careless. I’ve called Irovetti a gambler in the past, and others have interpreted this as some slight against him. No, in my younger days I lost too much money to people like Irovetti. He is a man who knows the odds before he makes his bet. And so far, he’s playing a winning hand.

So now we go, rushing headlong into a demon-infested fortress where Irovetti has all the advantages. It is the one chance he’s given us, no doubt with malicious intent. But we have to act now, despite the long odds, or risk the kingdom to a far worse fate. If somehow we can win, perhaps war can be avoided. And if we lose, perhaps the odds will become so one-sided as to spare brave men the need to lose their lives for a lost cause. Surrender may be the best option.

I don’t like where we’re going or the odds we face, but I have to have faith in myself and my companions. They risk the same stakes as I for the same noble cause. They think this is the best chance. I will trust that they are right.

View
Moment of Decision
A recap of recent events

Four Minutes Ago

There’s a whooshing sound that some wizard-type somewhere told me was the sound of air being displaced – first by your absence, and then by your arrival. Magic has its own sounds and that particular one is something I’ve gotten a little too used to in the past few weeks. The smooth stone walls of Tuskendale Palace give way to a blur of colors, mostly blue for some reason, and then a set of double doors. Doors one and two of the hundred this palace is nicknamed for are wide open, with a pair of armored trolls looming like an archway of scaly meat on either side.

I am the Silver Beast, and today my job is to kill a lot of people for money.

Ten Days Ago

“I believe that if there is killing and dying to be done, let it be done in Pitax, not here. But, like I said, my soldiers and I will fight where we are told to fight.”

I sit down and Ulgar picks up the thread. This has been, as per usual, my least favorite part of being a mercenary captain – the endless bickering about the hows, whys, and wherefores of the fighting. Say what you will about my father’s people (and I have), but orcs are not inclined to spend a lot of time worrying about how other people might think of them in the aftermath of a fight that everyone agrees needs to happen. For the life of me, I can’t get a sense of what the flag is on about, but maybe he’s just taking his new morals out to see how they gambol in the hills of hard power politics.

I can see how Ursundova’s narrative is shaping up: Oh, all the people who’ve joined with our glorious nation have done so in this magical wave of self-determination and realization of the power of our ideals and laws. If each of those decisions have come after the gory death of this or that former ruler or bandit lord, well, that’s all surely the luck of timing, right? Even the eastern half of the country didn’t become the eastern half of the country until the agitator they’d put in as Viceroy met with an unfortunate accident in the caves of Armag the Twice-Born. I’m not as “let him take who can take” as my father’s people, I hope, but the stories told of the Stag Lord, Hargulka, Vordakai, Baron Drelev, and Armag make it sound to me like among their many sins was being in the way of an expansionist nation.

And you know what, so what? All the good intentions in the world mean fuck all if you can’t successfully resist those with worse intentions. Beliefs need strength to back them up, and part of that is the strength to make hard decisions. I think Jacek’s got that strength. I’m not so sure about Lem. I am sure most of the rest of them don’t give a shit, so whether they have the strength or not doesn’t really matter.

One Day Ago

We’re making halfway decent time down this road, though I can no longer see the Royal Cavalry behind us – the damn barding is slowing down the horses too much, there’s nowhere to put 100 horses worth of barding that could keep up, and we can’t wait for them. Logistics (and its subcategory, food) win more wars than the sharpest swords. Now it might lose us this one.

Ursundova’s pet three-eyed wizard manifests in front of our column and I get this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

“His Majesty would speak with you and your Lieutenant, Captain.” I like to look people in the eye when we talk, but that’s just weird to do with someone with a third eye. I hear tell it used to be a real eye that stayed closed, not some weird crystal that just looks kind of like an eye. I don’t know which would be worse.

I give command over to Galiana and Finnegal and I dismount. A whooshing sound and some blue light later and we’re back in Tuskendale.

Finnegal can’t help but roll his eyes, “Didn’t we just leave this party?”

A thousand scenarios go through my head as we saunter our way back to the meeting chambers. Maybe we all get to go home and call it a day…

…or maybe His Majesty has decided that Irovetti needs to go. Turns out King Irovetti is keeping that nereid’s shawl and Briar holed up in his box puzzle of a castle. If it is a trap, he baited it well. Then we learn about the town King Irovetti gave over to a pack of wyverns as feeding grounds. Now I know it’s time to get to killing.

Lem, as expected, is aghast and sure we’re playing into the wily bandit king’s hands. In fairness, he may be right – this might be a trap – but he keeps seeming to think that everyone around us is going to look at this with same set of moral blinders that he’s strapped on his own head.

Jacek’s having none of it today, though, and Lem doesn’t have an alternate proposal. All that remains for us to do is prepare for a fight…and have one last conversation.

Some people never get around to asking about getting paid. We’re all supposed to do it because it’s the right thing, or the just thing, or the thing the King has ordered us to do. Me? I see right things go flying by every day and the right and noble don’t do shit. Justice is of no comfort to the dead. I do what I do because I am paid to do it, and I get paid a lot because I’m good at it. Luckily, I work for a King who is also a priest of the god of wealth, so it doesn’t take much convincing to add a pillage proviso to our agreement.

One Minute Ago

The first group of them are dead. Leilania turned into a pillar of flame and is now merrily dancing on troll corpses. Almost half a dozen guards lay dead around us, their blood spreading fast on the fancy marble floors. We’re inside, mostly unharmed, and have several dozen guards, more than a few trolls, and Irovetti’s hand-picked troublemakers to go. Ray has found a secret door, behind which I can hear the growling voice of an cranky Velimar Koth.

We used to have this fellow from Tian Xia with us for about a year after we left Daggermark. He had this quote tattooed down his back that stuck with me. “The only reason a warrior is alive is to fight, and the only reason a warrior fights is to win. Otherwise, why be a warrior? It is easier to count beads.”

I lift my sword and put my shield into position. To the hells with beads.

I will fight.

View
Explanations for the dead
Jacek visits the late Baron Rastilov

Jacek had adjourned, as he often found himself these days, to Tuskendale’s graveyard. The Council meeting had – again, as was becoming a frequent occurrence – been a weighty one, with difficult problems and no entirely satisfactory answers. So he came among the dead, in their peace, to seek his own.

The evening was cold, a wind blowing from the north down and to the west. From my old home to my new, and then to my foe’s, he thought. A reminder that we are all caught in currents not of our making and not under our control.

The King found himself before the memorial to the late Sasha Rastilov, first lord of Ursundova. A stark, severe statue, as befit a start, severe man. Although, there had been warmth too, Jacek knew.

“I know Lem is right,” Jacek begun, knowing the statue would not respond, but wondering if perhaps through Pharasma’s strange ways the dead might hear anyway, “but he is also not right. What would you do in my place, I wonder? You were the first King here, even though you did not style yourself as such, and but for a few twists of fate you might still be standing here, facing the challenges I now face.”

The twilight shadows played tricks with statue’s chiselled features. Sasha’s stony gaze seemed to look down at the King. Understanding, or disappointed?

“If we assault Irovetti in his castle, then yes. We did strike the first blow, in the open. And that cannot be taken back. But our opponent is not like us. He has been there, advancing quietly, for months. Like the water that soaks and freezes to crack wood and stone, not noticed until the damage has started. We can let his cracks widen, or we can replace old timber with new and mortar our seams shut.”

“Lem’s way preserves reputation among those men outside our realm who care little for it. And the Gods know the truth. My way, should we prevail, may yet avert the war in part or whole and preserve the lives of thousands of the common men. I do not like it, but it is what the teachings of Abadar tell me I must do. And the Lady that you and Lem serve… I would hope that she would understand.”

The statue, of course, made no reply.

“I must prepare, now. I hope that we will have a chance to speak again. Gods willing. Goodnight, First King.”

Jacek bowed and walked away, feeling Sasha’s gaze – and Iomedae’s – boring into him as he left.

View
Crescent Moon High Above
Leilania Gets More of the Story

A thin crescent moon hovers high above me, her scant light casting the fields around me in shades of melancholy blue and penitent gray. It’s just me and Nibbs here, away from the city, away from the politics, scheming, and bickering. We needed a moment.

Our exploration beneath the monastery did not go as wonderfully as I had hoped. What I had hoped was a water spirit in search of redemption was in fact a vengeful ghost with a band of undead shades as his accomplices. This “Gardener” put up a hellacious fight, one that ended with several of my friends injured and the light of my soul all but extinguished. We all threw ourselves into the battle, but I ended up as a target for many of the apparitions, too many to dodge or avoid. The touch of the shades was like shards of glass reaching into my heart, like noxious acid burning in my blood. I am grateful to have made it through at all, but all the more grateful to my friends for helping to find the magic to restore my lost energy and make me whole again.

After the fight was done, we found what the gardener had been hiding. It seemed that, in life, he had become obsessed with the water spirit that had blessed the monastery with the gifts of enchanted wine—an exquisitely beautiful nereid named Avenda. After the monastery was destroyed in an act of treachery, the gardener took Avenda’s shawl for his own and had used his power to trap her physical form inside a water clock. Once the water clock was opened, Avenda was set free.

But Avenda’s story went deeper. Once free and assured of our intentions, Avenda told us that she had made her home here, beneath the hills, for a time long before the men had come to the River Kingdoms. She told us that she had been given stewardship of the sword “Briar” by the eldest after Narissa’s rebellion. As we discovered from Tiressia, Briar is the only weapon that can prevent the great and terrible beauty from fusing her dark creation to the mortal world. If she can recover it, our world is forfeit.

Unfortunately, it seems Irovetti found the imprisoned Avenda and Briar before we did, killing the Gardener and taking the sword as his own. He now certainly has Briar at his side, and thus, the key to either our salvation or destruction. We assume Irovetti also has Avenda’s magical shawl, an item so closely tied to the nereid that she is all but powerless without it. So now we add two new purposes to our coming war against Pitax—find Briar and recover Avenda’s shawl.

I must confess that Avenda fascinated me, even in her weakened state. It was not just her beauty, it was her otherworldly poise, her effortless grace. Once the shawl is recovered, I’m sure we will be fast friends. She also makes a wonderful bottle of wine. We found several bottles of it in the monastery’s cellars, and while my friends horded theirs, I partook. It was splendid. I also took some of the blessed water for Kaydee to use in her experiments. I can’t wait to see what she makes from it.

Now it seems everything is happening at once. Jacek has returned us to Ursundova, where we must organize a defense against armies from two countries, Brevoy from the North and Pitax from the West. Added now, we must recover Briar and return Avenda’s shawl. And then we will surely face Narissa herself. So many challenges lay ahead, and yet I find there is peace within me.

Looking upwards, the moon shines as my constant guiding light, even when her face is hidden, even when the clouds and rain come to hide her from me, even when she circles to the far side of our tiny green world. Challenge and trial cannot defeat me as long as I have her. Even death could not dissuade me from her purpose. I have faith.

I pray my companions have their own sources of solace to turn when they face the challenges ahead. They will surely need them.

View
Lem vs. Introspection Round 46
Lem Prepares his Stand

Journal,

The raid on the monastery was successful, or at least as much so as could be hoped. We fought our way through a trap laid by Irovetti and made our way into the caverns beneath to defeat a vengeful ghost and his wraith-like allies, in so doing freeing a water spirit named Avenda. That was the easy part.

Avenda told us that she was the guardian of Briar—the legendary sword sought after by the ‘Great and Terrible Beauty’ we’ve been told is intent on returning to our realm and destroying our Kingdom in the process. Avenda told us also that Briar had been taken by Irovetti, along with the magical shawl that holds her life spirit. On the spot I promised to return the shawl to Avenda, as it seemed only right after what she had been put through. It seems clear that Irovetti has both the shawl and Briar, and so, when he falls, both the threat from the other world and the injustice done to Avenda will be righted.

However, we have to live long enough to make that happen.

Our war strategy is in tatters. We had assumed that Irovetti would attack first and that Brevoy would follow into the breach based on the opportunity the Pitaxian offensive opened. It seems though that the reality is just the opposite. Based on Jacek’s communes with Abadar, we know now that King Surtova’s forces will cross the border in just six days. We know nothing more about what they will come with, but if they come in any strength, every city between Varnhold and Tatzlford will be at risk.

I argued passionately before the War Council to have our forces redeployed to defend our Northern Border, particularly Leveton, from the threat of invasion. Though I was opposed by both the Silver Beast and the Lord General, Jacek was ultimately convinced to send what forces we had available to Leveton so that they would be available to mount a defense. But things look grim. In a best case, between the Royal Knights, Silver Company, Talon Peak Commandos, Way Watchers, and Tuskendale Militia, we may put together an army of 600 to defend against the Brevoyan advance. The Brevoyans could easily come with thousands. Best case, we are outnumbered two or three to one.

I know Iomedae supports me in this dark time, I feel more of her power in me every day. But I know this is not power shared without purpose. Iomedae tasks me to go where I am needed and defend my people to the last. With Jacek’s permission, I will depart to Leveton with haste to organize a defense of the city and evacuate the citizenry. Jacek knows, as I do, that it is the place of a paladin to stand between the forces of destruction and the forces of life. Iomedae help me, I will make that stand.

I saw my son last night for the first time in several days. Nina brought him and Alura to Tuskendale, against her better judgment, because she knew I needed to see them. I stayed up with them throughout the night, playing and laughing for as much time as I could steal. Tomorrow Nina will return with them to the Greenbelt to wait out the coming storm. Nina doesn’t want to run, she wants to stand with me, but she knows there isn’t a choice. We don’t know where the hammer will fall or if Ursundova will be able to turn the strike. If things go badly, at least our family will be safe…for a time.

Iomedae bless and keep us all.

View
Waiting to Travel

Finnegal and I sat outside the scriptorium of the Tuskendale Wizard’s Tower. Well, I sat. Finnegal was pacing back and forth like an expectant father while we waited for the wizards to find us a scroll of teleportation. Me? I was humming a tune about making people die.

Finnegal finally lost it at me. “How can you be chipper at a time like this?”

I laughed. “Some reason I should be maudlin?”

“Arithmetic comes to mind.”

“Trog not care for dumb-dumb numbers.” I didn’t bother keeping the growl out of my voice.

“Come on, Captain. Mounted troops is 300 fighters – us, the commandos and the cavalry. 50 militia in Leveton. Oh, and wait – Leveton has NO WALLS. This is a suicide mission.”

“For a guy who wants to live forever, you picked a funny profession.”

That finally stopped him pacing. “Captain, you’ve said a thousand times that we’re not a suicide pact. So what gives here?”

“I don’t find this quite as suicidal as you do.”

“You have an extra thousands swords you’ve been keeping in your pants? Leveton is across the line from old Rogarvia lands, which means no one gets their knickers in a twist if one of the houses marches troops across it. If we’re lucky, Surtova will go after Talon Peak to get at the Rogarvia Heir and the Swordlords will make a straight line for Tuskendale, leaving us just House Lebeda. They’ll only outnumber us three or four to one and have a mad-on to get some Ursundovan blood, if old Miroslav isn’t leading the army himself. If we’re not lucky, they decide to storm the country as one and we get the armies of three Houses, plus whatever Surtova can drum up from sellswords, falling on our heads like that thrice-damned rain of blades spell.”

I nodded. “Sounds about right.”

Finnegal looked about ready to cry. “Captain! Beast…we can’t win that fight. Hell, it wouldn’t even deserve the name.”

“Nope. If they all show up at Leveton, we’ll make a run for it, harass them down the King’s Road. We’ll have to whip the townfolk to keep ‘em moving though.”

Now my lieutenant got his cagey face back. “Okay…so do you have a ‘we have to leave now’ number in mind?”

“Almost.”

“Any idea when that will get firmed up? Not a lot of time to burn.”

“Probably when we get there. Presuming we don’t get turned around for something on the way, we’ll order any residents who can pick up and leave to do so double-quick. They can go to Elkhorn or Tuskendale or wherever, but no one stays, if I have to start knocking people out and loading them on wagons.”

“That will do wonders for your rapport with the people.”

“His Majesty can discuss it with me after the war, presuming we’ve all got things to discuss.”

“Either way, I note you didn’t say we were leaving.”

“Not until we have a troop strength estimate. And if it’s just the Lebedas, not even then.”

“Oh shit.” Finnegal started tugging on his beard. “You have a plan.”

I grinned. “I have a plan.”

View
New Moon Above Mountains
Leilania Meets a Stranger

Leilania Meets a Stranger

The new moon rises above Mount Branthlend. I’m not sure any of my companions can see her in the dim mists of early morning, but I can feel her draw, like a weight that pulls my attention upward. As the day progresses, perhaps I will have time to sing to her. But for now it’s all blood and business.

We have teleported to the abbey where we thought the enemy was carrying out some vile research into poison weapons, only to find a poorly executed trap had been laid for our arrival. Our appearance in the midst of our would-be assassins seemed to catch them completely off guard, and those that did not surrender were quickly dispatched. Their leader, a man accursed with arourathropy, confessed to their plan and the man who had set them to it — King Irovetti. Jacek saw fit to let the wererat leave after his confession, though he did place a geass on him to assure he would not return.

Now, confident that the greater threat has been neutralized, we are scouring the abbey grounds to try to understand what has happened here. We found a hostile plant creature in the graveyard and made short work of it. We’ve also uncovered what appears to be a corrupted water spirit in the abbey’s well. I will not leave here until we’ve done what we can for it.

But strangely, even in the middle of the investigation and fighting, my mind wanders to a recent meeting with a stranger at the edge of the Narlmarches. For some reason, the encounter keeps my attention even when matters of war and state are far more pressing.

On my return trip from Brevoy, I met a silver-haired elf in the forest, one I had never seen before. He told me his name was Iliphar Daegirelle and offered a pleasant smile. I greeted him with my own name and offered to share some of the leaf from Tatzlford’s herbal gardens. One thing led to another, and we had a pleasant afternoon among the trees, one I’m sure he won’t forget anytime soon.

Strangely though, I find it is my thoughts that stay preoccupied with the encounter. There was something odd about Iliphar, something I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on. I invited him back to Tatzlford when our tryst was done, though he demurred and said he had other matters to attend to. Hopefully though, I will have another chance to meet this strange man. He was an intriguing fellow, the kind of person you hope turns up to your party even without invitation. I certainly wouldn’t mind walking in the trees with him again.

Maybe it’s only idle curiosity that keeps my thoughts circling this strange encounter. But the moon sings that there may be something more here.

For now though, we must resolve the corruption of the abbey and perhaps fight a war. To be honest, the entire matter is wearing at my nerves. I know the moon wants me here and I am eager to serve, but I wish the impending conflict had not robbed so many of my friends of their levity. Even on the eve of battle, there is beauty to find and fun to be had. We can’t forget that.

I hum as I walk and turn to the moon to have her know I see her. Tonight, with luck, I will be able to commune at length from the solace of Tatzlford’s gardens. Until then, business calls.

View
Lem vs. Introspection Round 45
Lem Debates Before the War Council

[Written on the eve of the War Council on the 17 Saernith]

Dear Journal,

I worry for my home.

We are at the brink of war and I am ready to serve. But even as we raise armies and position soldiers against an alliance of enemies that include monsters, scoundrels, and nation states, it is the voices of our own people that give me the greatest pause. The arguments I have heard in front of the war council advocate the ends as a justification to the means. They say better to spill a gallon of foreign blood than a single drop of our own. Even if such a one-sided fantasy of war was possible, are these really the values my Kingdom holds?

In this time of crisis, I hear criminal acts justified as right and necessary. The ask, why wait for a declaration of war or hostile act when we know that one is coming? I am told that the rule of law should be overthrown as impractical to the nation’s defense, that an offensive war is the only path to victory. That we might wait for war to come is treated as an affront to the King himself, as if any delay in the commencement of hostilities amounts to an act of sedition. They argue that a preemptive war is the only way to preserve Ursundovan lives and property. I understand their reasoning, but can not abide the conclusion it draws us to.

I do not doubt that Irovetti and his alliance intends us harm. I do not doubt that they will come to fight us and that innocent lives will be lost. But I cannot justify having Ursundova named as the aggressor in a war against our neighbors. If we were to act preemptively, we will justify every lie that has been said about us and every fear our neighbors hold. We will undermine the very moral foundation our Kingdom was built upon. And once the foundation cracks, there is no rebuilding it. Ursundova would fall before this blight upon our honor could be restored.

I argue to the others that our Kingdom’s prosperity has come from the strength of our people’s civility, loyalty, and trust. Together, we have given the River Kingdoms hope that there is a way of governance other than anarchy, cruelty, and subjugation. This is why we have been flooded with immigrants and refugees from throughout Golarion and is why we can look forwards when others can only jealously look back. This is why we must continue on the narrow path of righteousness, despite the perils it exposes us to.

I fear that it may be our own successes that have led us to the precipice. As a nation, we don’t know what it is like to lose. Our people have seen only prosperity since our founding, despite the loss of cherished friends and allies in acts of heroism along the way. Perhaps those who advocate for war see this war as but one more obstacle to be overrun in the pursuit of national pride. No one seems to seriously consider that Irovetti may be purposely goading us into attack for his own purposes. No one seems to wonder if he may have spies passing him our troop movements and exposing our plans. If we cross the border, our soldiers will be outnumbered by four to one, yet the hawks will expect nothing but certain victory. Too many on our side demand resolute action, but pray for a miracle to see it done.

I pray Jacek has the strength of heart to do the right thing, but I worry for him as well. It is in his nature to want a better future for Pitax, but I fear that he has forgotten that the future of Pitax should be in the hands of its citizens, not its tyrants or conquerors. If Irovetti is overthrown, it should be up to the people to decide their path forward. We cannot simply carve the country up like a roast turkey and pass out the scraps to those who please us. Because if we did, where would it stop? Would Mivon be next? Daggermark? Brevoy? How far could we justify the expansion of the realm over the potential threat posed by the Kingdoms that surround us? And what about the Kings that will come after Jacek? Can we say that they will be as wise? As just? As righteous? The actions we take now will be the history they study going forward.

War is coming and I am honor bound to serve. I pray that Iomedae will show me the wisdom to know which battles are justified, give me the courage to face battle when it comes, and grant the strength to stand for my convictions until that time. I worry for my home journal, but I have to believe that the Kingdom we have built and sacrificed for is stronger than this test. Despite my misgivings, I know she will not let me down.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.