Kingmaker

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.

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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.

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The Feint

I watched the defeated Pitaxians disappearing on the horizon and couldn’t get my jaw to unclench. I kept trying to understand what it was that Irovetti was after, but his motivations seemed to slip away like oil on steel. Ratboy said that they’d been lying in wait up here for a couple of months, so the whole shitshow could be excused as Irovetti just not knowing what he was up against. But he’d just gotten a few days to take our measure and, armed with this new knowledge, he did nothing to bolster a crew that was utterly unprepared for the likes of us.

Maybe there was something else here that was more dangerous? But if there was something here that was a danger to us, shouldn’t it have eaten those poor devils? Finnegal keeps throwing out the word “haunted,” which is my fourth least favorite word in the world, but the longer we stay here, the more this feels like a distraction. There are armies to break and wars to win.

And yet…

Cayden fucking Cailean. Every time I hear the name, I think of a black hall a lifetime ago and a cask and whether I should have just left well enough alone and I choke back a curse against every meddling god who ever took it into their divine heads to muck about in the affairs of mortals. Is it so much to want to be the master of my own damn destiny? To know that no one put my boots in any direction but my own will? But thinking about that will get you thinking in loops faster than talking to Leilania.

So he set a trap and we walked into it, but we busted that trap to flinders in under a minute, so I count us still ahead on points. The purpose of a feint is that it leaves your opponent’s defenses wide open so you can give him a good stabbing. Funny thing is – what happens when your opponent doesn’t give a shit if he gets stabbed?

I have had enough of this smug son of a bitch thinking he can get by on nothing but wit and lies. In the end, a big brain with no sand is just a bunch of smoke. All the asymmetric thinking in the world won’t save you from the axe that just keeps coming.

Let the haunts come. Let the armies come. Let House Lebeda and the Swordlords and the whole civilized world come. There is no threat they can throw that will turn me from the one thing I do better than any of those poncy bastards.

I will fight.

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Not what we expected

Jacek frowned, and furrowed his brow in annoyance – two things he’d found himself doing with increasing regularity over the past few years, which was, in itself, a cause for annoyance.

He stood out the front of the old abbey, looking down the terraced hill at a view of the Branthend Mountains. The early morning sun cast his shadow in front of him, although illuminated those peaks to his west in a crisp, clear light. He tried to ignore the grasses, which stirred despite the lack of a breeze to move them. Doubtless in other times the view would’ve been enough to sooth troubled thoughts, which was perhaps in part why the monks had settled there. But these were not other times; he had matters on his mind, and the view would have to wait.

It doesn’t make any sense, he thought.

No, stop. That’s not right. Think clearly. Start with the foundations of your knowledge, and build from there.

It seemed that Ray’s intelligence had been incorrect, the witch having been misled. At least, that’s what the available evidence appeared to point to: Jacek had detected no deception from either Ray or the wererat Gaitan. And there certainly wasn’t any suggestion that alchemical weaponry of mass-murder had been developed or stored here. This place was a false flag. But why?

Consider the facts. Irovetti must have known that, hearing of this news, I’d react. Maybe there are other such operations. But what did the Pitaxian want?

He tried to force my hand. If I believed that the weaponry was near to completion, I’d have to do something. Which I did. Either hastily assault Pitax, in which case I appear as the aggressor, and Brevoy’s support of Pitax becomes politically more palatable. It builds into our foes’ biased narrative about our nation. He gets his war, which he’s prepared for, and it seems like Ursundova is at fault.

Or, come here. Knowing that either I or members of my Council would investigate, he has his guards wait to try to kill us. It’s a gamble, but he has nothing to lose by it. If he slays one or more of us, it is a blow which will hurt us in the coming conflict, and might, again, provoke me into aggression. The haunt in this place may be an incidental bonus for him; it seems he chose the abbey as an out-of-the-way location, making a plausible cover. Perhaps Irovetti doesn’t even know of the haunt. And if the haunt were to kill us where his soldiers failed, again, a win for him.

Yes. I see it now. This place is a provocation to me. He doesn’t need alchemical weapons. He just needed me to believe they were here. The gambit costs him very little.

Given that:

Do such weapons exist, elsewhere? Possibly not; we cannot be sure.

Now that we have sprung his trap, and survived it, has some other part of Irovetti’s plan awakened? Again, we cannot be sure. But I will have to assume not, at least for now. Ray says we are not being scried upon. Has Ray been turned? Unlikely. And the Pitaxians were to deliver a report on our assault in person. If they’ve truly been here for several months, probably nothing is happening right this instant. And we’ve warned Kifu, so those members of my government who remain in the realm will be on alert, just in case.

So, these problems of the realm can be set aside, for a few hours at least. Which leaves us with the most immediate problem: exactly how can we rid the abbey of this haunt, if that’s what it is?

He turns, to see Leilania shouting down a well some distance away, Ray giggling while floating in the air near her. Oh, how I wish Davara were here.

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Waning Moon Among Clouds
Leilania’s Misgivings About Ray

The waning moon hides behind banks of ominous clouds as the sun warms the western horizon with slow light. The moon tells me that today will be a hot, gray day, perhaps the hottest of the season thus far. The humidity is thick in the air and the breeze smells like rain. But the moon tells me that the storm is not quite ready to break…not yet.

The moon has spoken warnings to me when I needed them, but these warning were not always enough to keep me from danger. A case in point was a recent scouting trip to a haunted abbey at the base of the Branthend Mountains. Ray had received word that something evil was at work at this abbey, and the King’s council agreed that we should be the ones to investigate it. I was prepared to go, but not yet ready, when Ray teleported us to the hills overlooking the abbey.

Frustrated that I had not been asked for consent, I learned only then that Ray had had no real knowledge of the target of his teleport, and in so doing, had risked both our lives without so much as apology. This was bad enough, but Ray had not thought to bring Nibbs with us and was not inclined to spend the magic required to go back for him. So now I was hundreds of miles from Nibbs, without proper preparation of spells or materials, and with only Ray to get me home. To say the least, I was not pleased.

Despite my misgivings, I proceeded toward the abbey. On the grounds I found a squirrel who told me that the monks looked like people but smelled like rats. Forewarned, and disguised as a tiny beetle, I carefully infiltrated the inner most building of the abbey, avoiding anyone who might have discerned my true form. Inside, Ray’s warning was confirmed. The monks—or whatever had taken their places—appeared to be working diligently on vats of potions that could be deployed in the same method as the spell “cloudkill”. A single vat of this foul ichor could kill hundreds or thousands of people, leaving Ursundovan cities piled with bodies and ripe for conquering. The thought twisted my stomach into knots.

I infiltrated deeper into the building, until I found the evidence of a forgotten murder, perhaps the murder that had given the rat-things entry to the monastery in the first place. It was there that a haunt left from this horrid deed tried to do the same to me. I was able to resist the effect, but it was clear then that it was time to go. I exited the monastery, met back with Ray, and successfully teleported back to Ursundova.

Free of Ray, I reported to the war council. Though we still had not proof of Irovetti’s intentions, all signs pointed toward an imminent attack. Once sufficient amounts of the cloudkill potion could be amassed, Irovetti could use it to lead his armies to victory against any enemy they came across. It was resolved then that we should gather a hunting party and destroy the enemy’s weapon at the monastery before it could be released.

But before I could do this, I was given the chance to go North into Brevoy to meet with the Medyveds for the first time in seven years. Alek was looking quite different than I had remembered him—he had grown a beard and put on not-insignificant muscle. Though not my type, he had become quite handsome. I told him as much and he blushed.

The Medyveds were polite enough in their reception, but when I spoke to Alek in private he told me that they were a reluctant part of the alliance against Ursundova. Alek assured me that he would do anything in his power to stop house Medyved from supporting the war, but I wonder what power he actually has. If Lord Medyved has already decided to go to war against the woman who raised his child, what chance does anyone have of dissuading him now?

I said my good-byes and returned to Ursundova. Today we will go back to the Monastery, this time led by Jacek and his key lieutenants. Nibbs will not be left home today.
I sing to the moon and let her know that I follow her guidance. There is battle to do, but we are ready. Today’s actions may save thousands of lives. I pray that the moon will show herself again as this day wanes, if just long enough to bless our victory.

View
Along the shore

Jacek looked out across the Lake of Mists and Veils from the shore of Acuben Isle. After talking with his parents and brother he’d come here to gather his thoughts. To the South, on the other shore was mainland Brevoy, and further, far past that, his own realm of Ursundova.

Despite it being summertime, there was still a chill breeze in the air and the remnants of morning fog lingered. Fisherfolk and crabbers went about their business wrapped in heavy coats and cloaks, not unlike the one Jacek wore at the moment to hide his identity from the casual observer. He didn’t think it too likely that any would recognise him, but still. His family, the Lodovkas, ruled these parts. Some folk may remember him from his childhood, or as a young man in the temple of Abadar, or when he left as a bodyguard on that fated journey to the Stolen Lands. It would be better for people not to find out immediately that King Jacek Lodovka of Ursundova was here visiting his father, Lord Kozek Lodovka of Brevoy. It could precipitate the imminent conflict that Jacek was still hoping, in part, that he could lessen. It paid to be circumspect.

I wonder how many would be surprised to know, he thought, that my own father has not ruled out sending troops against me. Once a pirate, always a pirate.

Pirate. Even hinting at that word in relation to the Lodovkas could get you a beating if you weren’t careful. Still, if the boot fits.

If he did one truly good thing in his life, it was sending me into the service of Abadar.

Jacek stood and watched the boats casting and hauling their nets for a while. He loved Ursundova, but still missed the great Lake of Mists and Veils. The rivers and lakes of his new realm weren’t quite the same, somehow. He’d tried to explain it to Katya; others too, but all they felt here was dreary fog, cloying damp and the stink of fish. No matter how we try, or where we go, we can’t fully escape where we came from.

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Dulce et Decorum Est
When swordsmen say goodbye

The Gentle Swan was the nicest tavern in Silverhall, with walls and posts of varnished pine that glowed golden in sun or lantern light. The crowd in the early afternoon was convivial and mostly made up of those soldiers who finished first watch and those waiting to go on for third. Armor and blades jingled as armed men and women traded stories and drinks. The castle for which the town was named could be seen out of the large front windows, the banners of House Lebeda flying from several posts.

It was hardly the first tavern Beast had walked into where his towering presence brought a dampening of the chatter, but it struck him all the same. He’d been a regular here for two years, taking a table along the wall opposite the bar and near the center of the room, where his men could easily see and find him. His favorite table was still there, now occupied by a blond-haired man with a full beard that hung down to cover the top of the ring mail he wore. Beast put on his best smile and walked over, and the blonde man rose as he approached. Even the dimmed sound died away into silence as the distance between the two men shrank.

“Edric,” Beast nodded to the blonde warrior.

“Captain.” Edric replied, holding his face carefully neutral.

“Haven’t been that for a while now.”

“Sir Knight, then.”

Beast laughed. “Call me whatever, but let me buy you a drink.”

Edric nodded towards the bar, and the tension seemed to slacken, if not dissipate. Conversations began as the two men sat at the table.

“Watch Sergeant Edric, now?” Beast inclined his head to the amulet that barely poked out from behind the man’s beard.

“Promotions are quicker if you take the jobs no one wants.” Edric paused as large wooden mugs of beer were placed between them. He hoisted his. “What shall we drink to?”

“Let’s make this one absent friends. Get it out of the way now.” The two raised their mugs, but did not touch them, then took deep drinks.

“You’ve already been to the Hall, I take it?” Edric did not make eye contact with Beast.

“I may have been living in the wilds of Ursundova for the last year, but I remember my manners well enough to not insult the Lady.”

“She was always fond of you.”

“She appreciated that I upset the apple cart every now and again.”

“So you talked.”

“We did.”

Edric looked around, “Where’s Finnegal?”

Beast tossed his head back at the door. “Sitting by the exit, fretting like grandma.”

Edric laughed. “Didn’t approve of your plan?”

“When does he ever?” Beast ran his fingers over a set of small holes in the table. “Anyone still do the knife dance?”

“Bailey tried, but hacked his pinky off. Priest put it back on, but everyone kind of lost interest.”

“Shouldn’t shirk something just because it’s dangerous.”

“No money in it.”

“That’s just managing the betting pool.”

“You…so wait, you knew there was betting going on?”

“Of course I did. Easy way to help veterans get their bonuses.”

Edric slumped. “You’re a devious bastard.”

“From time to time.”

The silence between them stretched into minutes.

“Captain, I…”

Beast interrupted him. “Still not your Captain, Edric.”

“Sir,” Edric’s pain was clear on his face. “I want to explain.”

“Nothing to explain. You’ve been given a task. Unless things change, you’ll see to it.”

“It would not be my first choice.”

Beast half-smiled, “I hope not. I’d hate to think I failed to make an impression.”

“Sir? You wouldn’t…Our armies are…”

“Huge, far bigger than anything the frontier kingdoms could cobble together in anything short of another few years.” Beast took another long pull on his beer. “And most of them have never been to any sort of war before. Doesn’t change a thing.”

“But you’ll…”

“I’ll do what I’m paid to do, Sergeant.”

Edric paled slightly.

“Don’t look like that. There was a time you thought you’d test me for the Captaincy.”

“I was an idiot.”

“Yes, but don’t lose your nerve now. Your men are watching.”

Edric blinked. “Still teaching, sir?”

“Good men can always learn more, Edric. And you’re a good man.”

Edric stared at the table for a long moment, then stood and raised his mug high. “A toast!” He shouted, and the crowd turned to face him. “To the Silver Company. I look around and see a score of faces who use to serve under that name. May we never forget where we came from, or who led us to where we are.”

Beast stood and raised his own mug. “Then let me add a note for the men-at-arms of House Lebeda. As I did not too long ago, I take my leave this morning knowing that you are warriors true. Our blood and the blood of our enemies have mixed and mingled over the fields of history. In that we are one, no matter the banner we march under.”

Everyone in the bar stood, and the air grew thick with the unsaid.

Finally, Edric spoke. “May men and women far afield now rest easy in their beds, knowing that we stand ready to do violence in their name.”

Mugs clinked and smaller toasts were muttered. Beast emptied his mug and slammed it to the table. “Good luck, Edric.”

“To you as well, sir.”

The Silver Beast walked from the tavern, every soldier standing as he did so.

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Lem vs. Introspection Round 44
Lem Considers the Odds

Journal,

Things aren’t exactly looking up…they’re actually looking the other way.
Thanks to the Way Watchers, we’ve finally got a good accounting of the forces we’re up against on the western front. What we had hoped might be fairly small warbands of giants, bandits, and soldiers turned out to be just the opposite. I saw the Hill Giants with my own eyes—fifty or so in armor with Mastadons for their mounts. From what the Way Watchers tell us, Irovetti’s main army is even more formidable, consisting of thousands of soldiers backed by wyverns and other monsters. And as far as the Numerian bandits, no one’s been able to get close. Even in a best case battle where we can bring all our forces to bear simultaneously, they will still outnumber us by more than two to one.

Word from Brevoy is even worse. It looks like the Rostlanders and Surtovas have put aside their differences for the time being to focus on invading us. Apparently a deal has been struck that will divide Ursundova territories between the Rostlanders and Pitax if their campaign is successful. It came as no surprise to me that House Lebeda spearheaded the cause of this war. If there is a silver lining in any of this, it will be that I may be finally able to face the Lebedas on the field of battle to pay them the wages of guile.

And if things could be worse, Leilania has found that the enemy alliance has another trick up their sleeves. She has found evidence that they are manufacturing some kind of weapon at an ancient abbey to the west that has the ability to kill en masse. It seems that the enemy intends to bring this weapon onto the field of battle as a way of flushing us out of our walled outposts and fortified cities. Irovetti’s other armies have staged themselves on the border, but are waiting until this weapon is ready to lead them to easy victory. It’s agreed among Jacek’s war council that this is where we must strike first, to attempt to destroy the enemy’s most deadly weapon before it can be brought to bear.

In the meantime, our armies march west with all available haste. We have a little under a thousand men available to go to the western front without leaving our other cities undefended. While well-equipped, many of these men have never been in battle before. They will trust in our leadership to find victory. Given the numbers arrayed against us, we must be more than cunning. The only way we will win is by dividing the enemy armies and destroying them one at a time on friendly ground.

In two days our armies will converge on New Light. Hopefully, with the weapon destroyed, the Hill Giants will cross into Ursundova first without knowing that we are ready for them. If they do, with proper planning we can encircle and destroy them with our combined forces before the other armies can find their way across the border. One clean victory could discourage the others from moving directly to New Light. It is our best hope.

If we fail, I fear that a siege of New Light is inevitable. They city is well prepared in that respect, but we must be wary of putting too much faith in walls and towers. An army behind a wall is well-protected, but it cannot fight as it is meant to. And the enemy has advantages that we do not. We cannot afford to be complacent.

I am heartened at least by Jacek’s leadership in this time. The entire wealth of the Kingdom has been redirected to its defenses—the forges run day and night crafting weapons and armor. Jacek has also made entreaties to the houses in exile in Mivon. If we can have them harry the Pitaxians from the South, then the Pitaxians are unlikely to attempt a protracted siege. Irovetti cannot leave his capital undefended with the Mivonese ready to take advantage.

Honestly journal, there are so many moving pieces to this, so much to consider, that it make my head hurt. I do my best to offer good council to the King with Iomedae’s teachings as my guide. But it’s hard to know what is best, especially with all that is at stake.

I visited dad the night before last and told him what to expect. He took the bad news in stride, as he always does. Of course, he asked how he could help. I told him to do nothing, I told him to keep his head down until it was over. He didn’t like that one bit. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was forming a raiding party even as I write this. I love him for it.
Tomorrow Jacek will lead the attack on the cursed monastery. I will be at his side. We will be victorious.

And then the war will begin.

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Half Moon Above Castle Walls
Leilania Makes Ready for War

The moon only shows half of her face tonight, but I find her light so bright as to be blinding. Alone, I stand on the walls of Tuskendale Castle and consider the task before me. I will send men to war. There seems to be no other choice.

The Rushlight Festival ended on a high note with Ibram winning the joust (with my help as his mount). We followed the preponderance of festival-goers back to the city of Pitax, where King Irovetti seemed happy to continue the festivities with a number of after parties. For the first time in several days, I was actually having fun. Then Jacek summoned us together and everything changed.

It seems that Kifu has been able to read the thoughts of the King and has concluded that war between our nations is imminent. Kifu tells us that Irovetti has created an alliance between Numerian outcasts, Hill Giant raiders, Brevoyan nobles, and his own soldiers to launch an invasion of Ursundova. Against such a wide alliance of enemies, I fear for my people. If we had been caught unawares, surely the damage to Ursundova would have been catastrophic.

But we were not caught unaware. Thanks to Kifu’s intelligence, we have the opportunity to strike first and defuse our enemy’s intentions. Jacek and the others have agreed that it’s the Hill Giants we should go after first, as they are likely to be one of the largest threats, but also some of the easier to scatter should their leadership be destroyed. We will sally forth from here to the West to find the Hill Giants and attempt to defeat them before they ever move onto Ursundovan soil.

From there, things will become trickier. We outnumber the Pitaxians and the Numerians by a large number, but cannot hope to compete with the armies of Brevoy if they come in force. Our only hope there is to convince Brevoy that an invasion would be too costly to be worthwhile. I have told the others that I will contact house Medyed and discuss the matter with them. Hopefully Alek still remembers me fondly after all this time. Hopefully he will understand that war is not the answer. And if only his or his family’s lives can be saved, it will still be worth the trip.

I am faced with the great contradiction of war. To win a war, people must suffer. I must choose to balance the well-being of those I know against the people of a foreign nation which I know less. However, I’m sure that most of those who will go to war, who will fight and die, have done little to justify their fates. We are doing what honor tells us to do, even if honor may be wrong. So now, we must kill them and theirs to keep them from killing us and ours. It is a logic of tragedy and necessity.

For now, I’ve sent my Way Watchers west into Pitax to investigate the reports of massed armies on the other side of the border. These men are already in harm’s way, even before the first declaration of war has been made. Again, there is no choice. They do what I ask not because they have to, but because they know it must be done. My watchers know what is at stake.

I look again to the moon and wish she had some melody for me this night. But this is a somber time, and the moon has no mirth to share. Perhaps it will be different when the fighting is done. Perhaps we all will.

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