I awoke in the adventurer’s compound to a knock on the door. It was the knight the others had rescued from some Yoon ruins while I was away, contemplating the box of infinite sorrows. Alges was the name, as the others informed me. None of them seemed too pleased to see the knight, but she was carrying a rather large box. Inside was a plethora of potions- 5 in total- and only two were alike. Feeling courageous, I opened a bottle. The room was filled with the sound of beautiful singing. There was no smell coming from the liquid. The party determined that it was a bottled song, and filled me in on a few facts picked up delving the Yoon ruins about how the Yoon would use songs to do almost everything. It was truly fascinating. Before leaving, Agles offered to help put steel in some of the Artisans should we head back ruin-delving. We decided to take the potions to the scholar, Istan Savas. His butler seemed fairly knowledgeable about ancient Yoon potions as well. On a hunch, I asked Savas if he had learned anything about the Box. He had nothing new, but suggested that it may have been unearthed from a mine behind Fort Prosperity.
Since the locals were starting to point fingers at us, blaming our return from the fort for the plague of nightmares brought on by the box, we decided to leave New Madro and hide the box somewhere near the lighthouse outside town. When we arrived at the lighthouse, we were surprised to find it occupied by a band of outlaws, with a small sailboat tied up outside. Nessa scaled the wall and Tri turned into a beetle and slipped inside. From the front door, I heard two men inside were arguing about the seaworthiness of the vessel, with the intent of leaving for the mainland. It was obvious they were being hunted. I knocked on the door. One of the men gave the command to ready their arms. At that moment, Nessa drew her pistols and charged in over the wall. At the sound of her first gunshot, I opened the door, with the symbol of Alaric the Imprisoned held high. Inside were 5 criminals with branded faces- an arsonist, a blasphemer, a murderer, a deserter, and a kidnapper. Nessa put a bullet in the arsonist’s head just before he hurled a fireball. He joined the ranks of the dead instantly. The blasphemer hesitated when he saw my medallion- the shackle and chain of Alaric, the Imprisoned. I held out my hand to him, and he dropped his cudgel. Tri, in panther form, managed to intimidate the rest into uneasy submission. Nessa asked from whence they came. The deserter, who appeared to be the leader, told us that the wardens in Destiero exiled them. Destiero is the rumored prison colony on Yonon. According to the outlaws, the Wardens live in a fortress and keep watch over Destiero, but only maintain a moderate state of order. A city full of criminals. This group stole a boat from the fortress and sailed out, wanting to go home. Tri asked them for their stories.
The deserter abandoned his army in a war over a useless tract of land.
The murderer used to perform “odd jobs” for a crime syndicate back in Navalle.
The kidnapper held a noble’s son for random.
The blasphemer, also a soldier, saw great suffering during his service and came to understand the true working of the world. Everything good comes through suffering. Prosperity comes through toil, victory through sacrifice, and all to often- true understanding with exile. Even the act of being born requires suffering. It is the price we pay for all the imprisoned one makes possible for us. Alaric came to him in a dream and instructed him to desecrate the relics of the Sunset Walker priests in Navalle. It seems odd that the Imprisoned would ask such a thing. His requests of me usually involve sacrifice, flagellation, and knocking on the doors of the poor and downtrodden, giving unto them the understanding that their suffering and toil is not for naught.
Tri asked if the brands could be removed. The outlaws told us that it is possible with advanced healing and magic, but highly illegal. There are things a criminal can do to re-earn his status and have the brand legally removed, but it takes a truly extraordinary deed. The criminals agree to a truce, and we decide to spend the night here. I cast a Sanctuary spell around the lighthouse and we doubled the watch for safety. None of my companions trust any of the criminals. Of them, only Marilo the Blasphemer slept.
Late in the night, while I was burying the Box of Immeasurable Suffering, the criminals tried to escape! Tri threw her javelin, and pinned the kidnapper to the earth through his leg. I tried to hurl a fireball at the others as they ran, but I lost control at the last minute and hit Nessa square on. I’m still a neophyte at pyromancy, so it only singed her a little. I ran up to the Kidnapper while Nessa and Tri chased down the others. The kidnapper’s wound was terrible, and he spat and cussed at me as I approached. I drew my mace, and petitioned to Alaric for knowledge of his will. I inflicted a great suffering on his legs, and Alaric appeared to me in his bonded glory. He spoke; and told me more of the box. No spirits can be put in the box without an ancient Yoon ritual. It has no use or purpose until such time. He was about to tell me about the Yoon ritual when the suffering of the kidnapper was ended by Lea’s spear. The vision dissipated with a flash. I saw the blasphemer still bludgeoning the kidnapper’s lifeless body, shouting praises to Alaric. This soldier boy must be very new to the way of Alaric, and seems to have only a finite understanding of the balance of the universe. He seems to enjoy the violence for the sake of violence, not as an offering to the Imprisoned. I understand. I was like him once, when I was young and my understanding was small and weak. If he is willing to take the suffering on himself as well as others, he may yet make a true believer. But this will take time.
Lya was less than amused at my offering. She scolded me for my cruelty, and vowed to end all torturing in her presence from now forward. The other, now returning from their chase, were uneasy as well. Non-believers often feel this way, at first, before they come to the understanding. They and the blasphemer are opposite sides of the same coin- he fails to understand the point, and goes overboard; the they fail to understand and ignore the suffering they have already brought into the world, knowingly or not. Even the act of being born has a price in suffering.
Tri flew back to town, Lya buried the dead, and I finished hiding the box. The next day, the only survivor of the band of outlaws woke up. He appreciated his being spared, but does not know what to do next. He told us more of Destiero. It is a penal colony along the southern branch of the River of Good Fortune. The Wardens work for the crown, and their fortress can withstand a siege for quite some time. The deserter broke in to find a ship, but only found small boats. Of the 12 of them that tried to escape, only the 5 from the night before had survived.
I wanted to take the blasphemer with us to teach him the ways of Alaric the Imprisoned, but between the brand of his crimes and the uneasiness of the others, I decided it best if we part ways. I suggested to him that he build a homestead somewhere in the swamp, away from others. Hopefully he will endure enough in the wilderness to come to a greater understanding. Right now, he is too volatile to trust in the public sphere, and I cannot afford to further distance myself from my companions. They may not be believers, but they are able adventurers and trustworthy friends; which are not easy to come by when you worship a god that often requires what my god requires. The blasphemer wanders into the swamp. Hopefully, in the future, I will be able to find him again; alive. The deserter headed North, to look for the remains of Nessa’s old ship.
We decided to head back to New Madro. It was a warm, sunny day; and though only Nessa had experience sailing, we made it back just fine. We even learned some seacraft ourselves! After a brief discussion with Pridya Vidrus, we decided it was time to clear the Saltworks in exchange for a share of all profit it brings. A little extra coin is never unwelcome. We brought Grigas with us. His rifle and spear are valuable in any such endeavor. When we arrived, we found that the saltworks was already humming with activity. Smoke was rising from the smokestacks. A giant bird attacked us outside. Tri, as an eagle, and the rangers managed to wrest it from the sky, and I fireballed two echomen that emerged form inside. I’m getting the hang of pyromancy. We entered the building. It was so full of smoke that none of us could see. The echomen inside were echoing the sounds of the battle that just took place outside. I could just discern two giant boiling pots, one of which had a roaring fire underneath. Apparently, the echomen have figured out how to use the saltworks. For what end, I do not know. Lya shot an echoman as he emerged from the smoke, and I saw a few more emerging from the pot above the fire. I cast a giant fireball at them, and they exploded in a ball of flame. A steam cloud erupted and filled the room. The orange light under the giant kettle grew out sideways through the cloud. The building had caught fire. Tri turned herself into an elephant, and used the water in the cool kettle to douse the flames, while Lea, Nessa and I covered her. I cast a spell on my mace, to make its swings more potent. I heard a echo-man repeat my incantation, only to come at me with glowing, magic claws. Apparently, they can use spellcraft as well as work the saltworks. Tri accidentally tipped over the boiling pot. It doused the flames, and finished the last of the echo-men. Tri decided to become a tiger and take a bite of one. She said she felt horribly sick, and heard voices in her head of all languages. The understanding of a little of some of the languages stuck with her. Grigas points in a direction outside, and signals with his hands- many, many more- that way. There must be a settlement of sorts out there. We decided to head back to town, and visit the scholar.
He stayed up all night, but he has some information about our potions! One has a new kind of magic that needs more study. The bottled song is just that- but the song in particular might have a specific purpose. 2 of them are perfumes that might effect mood. The last one is an eye drop that will render the taker both invisible and blind for a few minutes. It has become apparent that after eating the echo-man, Tri can read Yoon! The wizard gave her a Yoon text- it was just a scathing poetics review. This knowledge is of immeasurable consequence! I’m excited to search some ruins in the future. We headed back to the compound to rest, without nightmares.