The Sidero Lykos; July 4
Lyr did indeed want to speak to Chalazias and immediately launched into long-held-back tirade, laying at this feet not only the reasons his course of action—as we understood it—was wrong, but a list of all the hardships she experienced in her search to reclaim the Effulgent One. There was… a lot to unpack in her statement. Lyr is an impassioned speaker, but rarely the most focused.
As she talked, I surveyed the dark room. It seemed to be kept deliberately dark and smoky, creating an oppressive, ominous air and hiding the guards and Chalazias’ pet direwolves from my view. Any thought of rushing the throne to assassinate the Pirate King was discarded; Chalazias (or one of his advisors at least) appears to have a keen understanding of the mental side of battle.
Chalazias accepted her words with little more than an unsympathetic smirk and he countered with an elaboration on his plans. A region of Rastahl was devastated decades ago by an orcish horde, who exterminated most of the non-orcish peoples of the area, establishing the only true orcish city in Rastahl; he would turn his united forces on the orcs, purging them from the land, and then use the Effulgent One’s power, augmented by twelve saramite stones and the blood sacrifice of the orcish prisoners to enact a mass resurrection of all those slain by the orcs and during the, past and present. The ease with which he discussed the plan, an atrocity on a grand scale, was chilling.
We raised objections, from the ethical implications, to the unknown consequences of a mass resurrection, but he was unswayed. We were in the presence of a zealot and no words were going to change his mind; we weren’t going to get back the Effulgent One no matter how nicely we asked, let alone prevent a war.
A zealot, leading troops with no fear of death, seeking revenge. Such a force would fight brutally; their lack of training as a true army (a naval force with sufficient marines could conquer a city perhaps, but Chalazias intends not only to hold it, but to launch a massive ground campaign against the population of the region) compensated for in determination. Even if they fail, the slaughter will be terrible.
Feng prodded the pirate in what was, I think, an attempt to find some kink in his mental defenses to no avail, until Nessisus brought the subject back to the Effulgent One, mentioning that we had the Elemental Cube. While Feng may have left Chalazias considering throwing us overboard or to his direwolves, Nessisus’ declaration that only he could carry the Cube seemed to be the first sign to Chalazias that we be of use to him, rather than a nuisance.
This thought may have been furthered when Sehera stepped forward, complaining of a pain in her face. She asked to take a closer look at the iron wolf because she felt as if she was being pulled towards it by something under the bridge of her nose. Amused by this Chalazias allowed her to approach the statue, restraining his attendant direwolves. She knelt, touched her head to it, and suddenly what was sitting there was not a statue, but a real animal.
This seemed to brighten Chalazias’ attitude considerably, his joy at seeing “Pringle” alive and well breaking momentarily through his grim façade. He spoke to Sehera in High Elvish, and she responded, completing a poem. (Apparently, Sehera’s non-Zythu parent was a High Elf. I would never have guessed, but now that I know what to look for, I can see it…) He immediately took this as a revelation, declaring that Sehera was “of leaf and sand” and “something the Orcs would never allow to exist,” and ordered his Zythu prisoners remanded to Sehera’s custody.
His attitude on the rest of his orc prisoners was unchanged.
It was Dendera that broke the stalemate by offering an alternative to the Effulgent One’s power: if we could retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone, he could use that for his ritual rather than the effulgent one. With the power of an Al-Exir made with the stone, virtually any cleric could cast this spell, rather than sacrificing the power of the Effulgent One.
Setting aside our collective shock at Dendera’s confidence that Philospher’s Stone was real this seemed an acceptable alternative, with the implied understanding between us that we could not allow Chalazias to have the Philosopher’s Stone any more than we could allow him to have the Effulgent One.
Dendera explained that her organization Al Haddid Jalut was confident that the Philosopher’s Stone, or at least something matching certain descriptions of the stone, was hidden in Zarjasz Al-Ulaq. Chalazias would give us four months to journey there, get the stone, and return. As we are about eighteen days travel to Akkarid, this is not terribly much time, but it is the length of time it would take the Company of the Iron Wolf to obtain a twelfth saramite stone. At that point, they would enact their ritual, using the Effulgent One or the Al-Exir.
A man stepped from the shadows and conferred briefly with Chalazias, confirming to the pirate that this would be a viable plan. I did not recognize him but, later, Indira revealed that she had; the man appeared to somehow be Umaran Comashio, the famous and long-dead alchemist. It seems ridiculous, but I have seen portraits and his features are distinctive. If he was not the same man, he is eerily similar. It is said by some that Umaran Comashio created the Philosopher’s Stone. It would seem he is not able to recreate it or he likely already would have.
After we reached agreement, we requested to see Noza Oda, to assess her health. Lyr and Nessisus went, while the rest of us were escorted to a room where we would be spending the evening, a storeroom that had been converted to temporary quarters.
We had a brief conversation with O’Kalon, covering some basic details of our immanent trip. She seemed less than pleased to be transporting us again. Chalazias’ stated reason was due to his trust in O’Kalon, but I suspect he is punishing her for failing to bring the twelfth saramite stone. Judging by her recalcitrance she might feel the same; there was more than her justified dislike of us in her eyes.
Meanwhile, Lyr and Nessisus were led to the officers’ quarters, where the Effulgent One was being imprisoned in the manner befitting her station.
Upon meeting her, Lyr was profoundly relieved and Nessisus had another fit. Lyr says that he barely spoke afterwards, but seemed entirely distracted afterwards, lost in thought. Lyr tells us that Noza Oda was well, properly fed and cared for, pleased to have her cube returned, and more concerned for the safety of Maram than herself.
They rejoined us, but Nessisus did not enter the room. With little ceremony, he informed us that he was staying on the Sidero Lykos, and left. We were all shocked, confused, and a little hurt. Was he being forced to stay to serve as a hostage? Was he so flattered by O’Kalon’s grudging compliments of his voice? But when Lyr mentioned his seizure, it occurred to me that the reason he was staying was at least in part influenced by a vision. He must feel he has something important to do here, or more accurately, something worthy of his time. I wish him the best.
The Widow’s Blade; July 5
We rose early to catch the tide. The Widow’s Blade’s crew had already transferred the Zythu—still kept in chains—to her hold, resupplied, and recrewed, so we left promptly and with no fanfare.
The day passed with little event. As before, our presence was unwelcome, though they seem to have grown slightly more accustomed to our presence. Maybe by the end of the trip, they will say more to us than “get out of the way,” though I’m not holding my breath.
When my mind is idle, I am consumed with melancholy thoughts. Thoughts of those I know who have died, and not only Maram, Indira, and Lazar.
The priests of Bahamut hold no taboo against restoring true life to the dead, though the costs of such magic are prohibitive to most. The priests counsel the bereaved to be cautious about going into debt to pay for such services, though many an inmate at a debtor’s prison has just such a debt hanging over their lives. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be forced into such a choice.
Despite being able to afford it, my family has a complicated relationship with resurrection. Of my brothers, several have died.
Umar’s death was something of a relief, an end to a life of pain and resurrecting him was never discussed.
Zahi died in combat. Resurrection was attempted but, as the priests explained, one must be willing to return. He is fighting in the armies of Bahamut now.
Hanif died as a youth in a fire; he had raced into a building to rescue several children who had been trapped. They survived, he did not, but the family voluntarily paid for him to be raised, though it put them into debt. He has been insufferably good ever since.
For Latif resurrection was never an option. That truth, their crimes, scattered across the desert with their ashes.
Makram sparked much debate. It was ultimately decided his death was suicide and he was thus not restored.
Salih was slain once, the first time he jousted, in a freak failure of his armor. He was raised from the dead, and has never lost another fight.
And then there is me.
I do not remember my rescue. One could forgive a child for forgetting a traumatic memory, but I remember so much else from that ordeal. Why would I forget that? Why would there be that gap, awaking in my bed, a priest by my side, a healer my mother said. My father has embraced me only a few times in my life, and never with tears in his eyes.
I should eliminate these paragraphs when this journal is copied.
And so I have spent most of my time exhausting my body and mind with training and study. It has been effective.
Sehera and Lyr spent many hours with the Feshtarken, the unusual tribe of Zythu in the hold. One of their number, Murcarth gar’chem proved particularly talkative and spent a good amount of time telling her of their unusual life.
It is a shame the Iron Wolf ended their travels; it would have been interesting to see what became of them in a few generations. One of my tutors often spoke of the adaptability of the races of Soleria. Most peoples have a niche, as he called it, and they do not expand out of it. It is part, he said, of what keeps the world from falling into all-out, continual war. Humans are the exception; humans live everywhere and, aside for some slight variations, are all the same. Variability is in our blood. The other races must change, and do so dramatically, to the point that an anari and a high elf are nearly as different from each other as they are from a gnome. I don’t know how true this is, but it was an intriguing concept.
Would the Feshtarken, in time, have become a new bloodline of orc? It is an interesting exercise of thought…
The Widow’s Blade; July 6
Today has passed with little event, though it began with a strange incident.
When she awoke yesterday morning, Lyr said there was a peculiar light, emanating from her forehead, but that it dimmed by the time she realized what was happening. Today, she woke Sehera as soon as she arose to great the sun. Sehera verified what Lyr suspected, a glowing symbol had appeared on her forehead, where she says the Effulgent One touched her. Tomorrow, we should attempt to transcribe the symbol, so we can determine its meaning.
I write this later, for that evening, the day became interesting indeed. A storm, clearly unnatural, arose suddenly, bearing down on us, fierce with lightning and waterspouts. A great, serpentine being arose from the water and spoke to us. The Dragon Eel Iskaalu, the Pale Water, had come for us.