Realms of Myth

Blood sucking birds, soul sucking land
This place just sucks - Oaks journal

I have but a moment before we regroup and decide our next move. I guess since we are facing a foe that I can’t harm, there is a chance that this may be the foe to claim my life.

My companions and I were asked by a couple tribal leaders of my people to end a curse and collect items necessary for our upcoming battles… They traveled by tree. I hope someday to be able to pull off the same kind of travel. I will need to study a lot more I suppose to pull that off. I am beginning to see magical connections that I had not noticed in my training thus far. Perhaps someday I will further my studies, I doubt the other tribes would teach me their magic… but then again, I already possess skills and spells outside my path. Even if those things are to be kept secret. I suppose it would not hurt to ask Lady Morgause or Lord Agravane to teach me. Although it is clear that some of my magics seem to be affected. Luckily Arthur helped clean up my messes.

Thinking about it now, I find it strange that the tribe leaders, knowing my oaths to the Fianna, worded the request in such a way that it left me no option but to accept. Nonetheless, they asked my help and being oath bound, I could not refuse it. Normally such a situation would be of debate among the knights. I’m afraid they agreed to come with me because I in turn left them with little choice.

I pray to my gods that Bess is alright. I believe the message the raven spoke informed us that things were in the works to rescue her. I hope this is correct and will keep any doubt to myself.

The Mystics walked hand-in-hand engaging in some sort of chant and between them created a path through the swamp and fens that kept their followers’ feet from the muck as they departed north to find the royal court. Before they departed though, the placed their blessing upon the five of us, surrounded in a corona of glory that washed all color from our sight until they were done. This blessing clearly got us around the trolls I had seen in my vision perviously. I was surprised by this, my visions have never been things I could alter.

Perhaps this shows some sort of personal growth for me.
It did not take long before the next parts of my visions were upon us, however. The dark woods of black trees and bluebells. Black squirrels and acorns surrounded us. It was much easier for me to distinguish between the spirit world and this one. The spirits here were sad and devoid of any interaction. Wandering aimless in their sorrow. It depressed me greatly. It was not long after that when we were attacked by an unseen foe.
Blood sucking birds.

The birds were not noticeable at first but Cawdry and Arthur Miller saw them. Arthur went to strike one that was feeding on me. I never felt a thing. I jumped off my horse when I saw his blade thrusting towards me. It took me quite by surprise since I have felt Arthur my greatest ally at the moment. Since things are so tense between Cawdry and myself, I am glad he did not react first. That could have been messy. Funny how the knight I felt the most at ease with is now the one I feel the least safe with and Arthur is the one I feel most comfortable around. A few months ago, I was sure Arthur might have been wanting my death. I mentioned that I was glad that Arthur was not my foe. He reinforced with his words that he is my friend. Kal does not hate me either. I’m sure it is just a matter of time before this mess between Cawdry and I ends…. My thoughts seem to have been sidetracked. I was writing about the birds.

Kal killed a few and I tried to light a fire to keep the tiny gleaming black birds away but eventually Arthur reminded me of a spell to keep them at bay. It amused me to see the spell eject the swarm away from us. Having a safe distance between us and the blood sucking bastards, we continued onward past one empty tomb after another, lining the path we rode.

I took some of the flowers I have been weaving in Lady Bizarre’s honor and laid them upon the empty crypts and offering dishes before them. I keep thinking about how sad it must be to be forgotten. I figured Bizzare would understand after all she had been forgotten by the very people who once worshiped and loved her. I never want her to feel that way again. I plan to continue honoring her as I do my other gods. Only I am doing this in secret for Bizarre. I don’t want Cawdry laughing at me again.

As I reminded folks about the un-dead and how they were to be killed, Kal found one or I should say three of the rotting abominations in the chamber before us, roused by the touch of the silver luminescence of the Grace of the Light the two of them carry. Arthur was having none of it and instantly called upon the light and the un-dead creatures exploded in a shower of sparks and blackened bones. I suppose this is a better way since now we don’t have to worry about finding so many roses to keep them from rising up again. On the doorway I believed was the way to the oracle, was fixed a brazen mask. The mask had crystal eyes much like the lord and lady described, only the eyes were tainted, black like obsidian. I tried to pry the stones loose but some force took hold of my blade and kept me from my task. Suddenly we were not alone.

These slithering black snake-like centipedes started to gather, crawling forth from every shadowed crevice. Having been feasted on already by the blood-sucking birds, I was not about to let the bugs get me, too. The knights backed off and out of frustration I threw a flame dart at the things. I really should have paid more attention in this; I kinda heated Cawdry’s armor in the process.

The bugs were vanquished, though, so back to the mask. Noting the darkness, Arthur blessed the door and mask. This took no small effort on Arthur’s part, but he valiantly battled the Darkness that possessed the stones. I feel so bad that the knights don’t see things the way I do because when Arthur calls upon the Light… Words could not describe the images that come to my mind. It makes me cry every time. I try to hide it but I don’t think I fool anyone… The Stones turned clear at last and I collected them, although upon closer examination, they were not the crystals of truth that we were searching for.

We made our way through more crypts and searched under the stone benches lining the chambers … I found more bugs … They really started gathering in great numbers all-around us, walls, floor, stepped stone ceiling, and seemed ready to eat us. I warned the knights this time that I was going to burn them all. They ran to the previous chamber and closed the door. I threw another dart of elemental fire and they met their deaths.

The knights rejoined me and we continued up a broad fair staircase, where there was what we believe to be the actual mask of the Oracle. A low, knee-high wall was built in a rectangle around it, but the whole of the chamber and the low enclosure were rent by a great chasm through them and the surrounding rock into which the chamber had been carved, wisps of foul vapor drifted up wards from it to taint the air.
This mask too had the smoky black crystal eyes, obviously tainted with the Dark.
We were about to tend to it when a very disturbing laugh came from behind us.

We ran down the stairs to find a dwarfish-type creature with impenetrable pits of blackness in place of its eyes. The chill of utter dispair and Darkness permeated the room, sending chills of goosebumps and the urgings of primal fear through the core of us. Seemingly unaffected by the blazing corona of Light surrounding the two of them, as had the other un-dead been previously, the un-dead thing lunged for Arthur, but Kal pushed him out of the way and fell under the creature as it grappled him. The creature was heavy as stone and started to crush Kal beneath it. I called to Arthur to bless the creature but he did not hear me. Arthur threw a curse at it but that only made it stronger.
The creature thanked Arthur,
“Ohhhh … do it again, little Light-bearer!”
it chuckled chillingly, and continued to hurt Kal.
I felt so helpless seeing that my companion’s blades went right through the thing. I shot an arrow at it hoping to at least distract it, but it too passed harmlessly trough, shattering against the far wall. Cawdry jumped on the creature and tried prying it off of Kal but it was much too heavy, and clearly much stronger. Arthur was doing something to call forth the Light I assume, but Kal was suffering and I feared was close to being crushed to death under the uncanny weight of our foe. Using the knowledge I gained from our interaction with it, I came to the conclusion it was an evil spirit. Knowing I have nothing in my power to hurt it, I was left no choice but to protect us all from it and cast a circle against evil spirits. The thing was swiftly shoved off of Kal and dissipated into and through the wall even as the charm forced it against the stone. Of a sudden then, everything started to shake, small cracks appeared in the thin stone and plaster facings that sealed the burial niches that lined the walls of the chamber, dust drifted down from the ceiling here and there, and I went to tend to Kal with a poltice of healing while Cawdry helped Arthur find his way back to his body from having Ascended to the Spirit Sphere of Light.

The cracks became fissures as the shaking continued, and one of the thin stone slabs sealing the burial niches yawned wide and crumbled away so we saw that the body inside was indeed un-dead, struggling against the charm of protection I was carrying , and the aura of the Light of Arthur and Kal. That meant that behind all these seals were also the risen dead, trapped in their tombs. The thought of it sent shivers down my spine.

We had a few hours before the evil spirit could return, so we found ourselves with a brief moment to heal the wounded and make our next plan.

Now, there are a few things I am pondering as solutions. One, it is possible that the dwarf spirit is a protective spirit that was tainted by the dark. Two, it may be that the dark spirit just decided to take on that guise. Either way, I still believe blessing it is our best bet. The mystics even said that Arthur is our main weapon. The other thing I am pondering is that the evil spirit and the taint on the crypt may be lifted once the eyes of the true mask are blessed and removed. I think that is how we must remove the curse.

I have spent too long scribbling this down. Time to get back to it.

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Oh! And before you go ...
_Something we were hoping you might take care of for us ..._

It having been decided to leave the Mystics and their followers to their own path in reaching the royal court, the party mounts up and turns to take up the path into the Spithrenduil wetlands.

Of a sudden the raven Mimr caws and flaps up a ruckus, ebon feathers flying, and then settles down on Arthur’s shoulder as if nothing happened.

To the ears of Arthur and Oak his raucous cries seem to say, “They are coming! They are coming!“

Inexplicably, the Mystics Pelagius, Katharos and Waldo approach and stand by expectantly, looking at the trunk of a particular poplar.

A great sheet of bark curls away from the bole of that tree, edged in emerald sparks, and a grizzled old human man steps forth, leading by the hand a stately and statuesque elfin woman.

“Ahhh, there you are. Oak’s grandfather advised us that you were likely to the edge of the Spithrenduil fens already. I see he was right, as he so often is.”

A great light is coming from the moon depicted on the elf’s pectoral/collar so bright that all color is washed out in the immediate vicinity.

The old man shades his eyes and grouses at her, “Dim your moon, would ya, Morgause? None shall be able to see!!”

Clearly it never entered her mind, as it doesn’t seem to affect her in the least. “OH! Yes, of course!”

“I beg your leave, m’lord, I am Agravane, chief of the Govannon for the ancient realms of Albion and Shanria. This is Morgause, She who is First among the Fathi. I’m afraid we weren’t able to make proper acquaintance when we appeared to question Oak at the earl’s court.”
“May we detain you but a moment before you go farther afield, my Lord?”

“There is a task that is no affair of your own, but of great concern to the dwarfs and the dvergar, which could be turned to advantage and become of great import in the future, as the Storm draws nigh, especially where the elfs are concerned – indeed all the pagans, including the humans.”

The dead have always been somewhat restless, since the days of the ancients, before the time of the Valkurs, who actually accommodated the needs of the dead, building homes for them to inhabit in the afterlife, “passage tombs” crowned or guarded with wreathes of blue balefire that marks the edges of the world of Spirit, burial grounds trod by the living only under the threat of death.

But they were never so bold here since the dvergar gifted their brethren the dwarfs with the oracle of the Sithin of Geddin, and it seems that those days are to come again, and to come here, as well, now.

I see no recognition at the mention of the name of Geddin. The within lies beside the foot of the Brass Roar Falls, where the river runs down into the Spithrenduil, part of the headwaters.

The sithin and the oracle within it labor for these past many moons under a dire and dangerous shadow, if they have not actually been claimed by the Darkness.
The dwarfs lie sealed under their mountains – by their own hands it is true – but they have not answered our entreaties that they send help or at least contact the dvergar to send relief to the dwarfish monks resident there.

We are in a position to do them a great service. One which it is highly unlikely that even they will be able to turn a blind eye to, and so be in our debt to stand at our side when the Storm comes at last.

I will speak truth here: None of the huntsmen we have sent, and a couple of the Fianna among them, returned to tell us what they found there after we sent them to go see and perhaps do what they might to succor the dwarfs.

But there are ancient artifacts dear to the dwarfs that cannot be allowed to lie unguarded in the sithin once the Dark curse is disposed of, and we wish you would take them into custody so they might be returned with pomp and gratitude when the dwarfs emerge from their mountain halls again … whensoever that might be ….

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The troubles with Caudrai and a sensitive elf.

Oak seems unusually quiet since leaving Rhiannon’s pool. Every now and then Caudrai would swear that he was just watching him but upon glancing over at the elf, he looks elsewhere. Caudrai comes to realize that Oak usually travels near him on the roads when Oak is not taking lead, but as of late he is staying closer to Arthur. The next time Caudrai look around, the elf is staring at him again and does not look away. He nods and then rides up next to Caudrai.

Oak has an extremely guilty look upon his face that makes you wonder what he did wrong. He makes sure that he is out of earshot from the rest of the party before he speaks.

“um… hey, I want to… I think… I should tell you about your curse. I mean the one on Albion. I figure since you are a private person, I would inform you and let you decide what you want to share with everyone. I hope you know that… What I am… or I should say… and I do mean… You can trust me, I will keep your secrets. “

“I see now, having had that briefest of looks behind the curtains of Rhiannon’s Pool why we seem so strange to one another. I apologize for my… Shanricity, and shall endeavor to be more… plain with you than is my wont.”

Oak looks a bit confused and seems to be looking for words. It is clear that you caught him off guard.

Moments later, his laugh is among the trees. “Evidently I thought I would say that in the most stilted way possible!”

Sobering, "I appreciate your discretion. Your… behavior hadn’t gone unnoticed. I was just working up how to ask what offense I’d given in the Pool, and am glad that is not the case. Or at least, since I’m certain it is the case, that you are gracious enough to have put my foolishnesses aside.

“ you have no cause for thinking your behavior was poor. My grandfather seemed to be quite impressed with you. To be honest you are the only guest who acted in a rational manner.

“So. Albion. Yes. The curse. Would this be the friend-slaying one?”

“Oh no, not the kill people you travel with sword…” Oak tilts his head slightly and looks at you with curiosity. “You find me strange?.. I don’t find you strange. I do have my curiosities about you but mainly because you show people someone who is not really you… I’m sorry… I have an unfair advantage in knowing things about you though, I walked through your dreams.”

Oak stops himself from going further and again has a looks of guilt so intense that it seems even his ears droop a little. His gaze lowers to Albion’s sheath. “ Um.. So the curse of Albion is that it eliminates all armor. If anyone attacks you, you will not have the protection of your armor. This curse is in effect anytime you hold or even carry the sword. If you are to wield it, we will have to be certain that we have extra means of healing devoted to you. You can’t die while holding or carrying the sword on your person, but you can feel pain and get hurt.

“Well, to be fair, I am essentially a crap swordsman anyway, so perhaps abandoning my armor will remind me to take care, and not do things like throwing my only weapon at witches,” he grins at the elf.

The elf no longer seems guilty. He instead looks puzzled and a bit concerned.

Caudraí searches Oak’s face. “Yes, my…other companions I think found themselves tested in Rhiannon’s Pool. As did you, I think. Summoning Lady Bizarre to ask her for help,” he laughs into his hand, “sheer audacity. And quite mad, really. But you did it well, and she seemed amused – if not helpful.”

All sense of emotion leaves the elf. He seems more serious and cold at the moment than you have ever seen him.

“As for strangeness – do you truly not find me strange? Perhaps my provincial upbringing left me shallower than I realize. I mean, to be fair, I find the Cartois equally strange. I think… we shall find great growth in ourselves in interacting with each other’s oeuvres.”

“I do not find you strange Caudrai, for all your provincial upbringing, you are very much the same as any other man. Words to masque the simplicity and delicate nature of your emotions. Quick to use your tongue to throw venom… Quite a common thing to do when faced with a subject to which one might feel exposed. I was not tested in my homeland, I was given instruction about you as well as Arthur and Cael. My gods have never been clearer in their advice. I summoned Lady Bizarre because I was asked by Arthur to do so. She may be your God Mother but… She is more than you currently realize.” He shakes his head as if to snap himself out of current thought.

“I have allowed many of my actions to be determined by you.” He motions to you, Arthur and Cael. “I see that it is probably for the best that I use more restraint in how willing I am to bend to the groups’ wishes. We would have had a way to rescue Bess had it not been for your decision to use my acorn to ask which road we should travel. I would be better prepared for battles and have been able to make greek fire had you not decided that I need to leave my supplies behind. Now it seems that I allowed Arthur and Cael to convince me to FOOLISHY summon Lady Bizzare in front of my family and people. I am glad you are amused at least. I really had nothing better to do than to make a mockery of my beliefs and my station for your entertainment. "

“I guess your venom works well, my thoughts at the moment seem to be poisoned”

The elf, keeping his expressions as emotionless as possible, leaves you and heads to the back of the party. He seems to ignore your very existence. He watches the woods with the intensity he gets usually when hunting for something.

“Well,” Caudraí mutters to himself, “that’s capital.”

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Oak gives Cael some good news and Bad news.

Oak waits for just the right time to catch Cael alone.

“Cael, I have some information that concerns you. I’m choosing to use discretion on this matter and will let you decide what course of action you would like to take. I know what curse is yours to deal with…” Oak makes sure no one else sees him speaking to you.
“The curse of Eligor is that it will inspire one dastardly deed, especially a breach of honor, every time it is drawn.” Oak appears very concerned. “You have so many struggles and inner demons that you battle, I worry that the weight of what deed the sword may make you act upon will be too difficult for you to take on. You are a good man and I fear this sword’s curse will destroy you. I can’t say of how strong this inspiration toward dishonor is or if it is something that you can resist in acting upon, but it would not be a curse if it were not something that will trick you.”
Oak looks around. “I thought it best that you decide how you wish to deal with this information.”
Cael prods one of the last dying embers from the campfire with a long broken stick. The others have gone off, it seems, leaving the two of you alone as the night encroaches upon the fire’s fading light.

He listens quietly, without comment, his face expressionless until you mention his destruction. He smirks fatalistically at that, a soft snort escaping his nose.

“I assume the sword is powerless if it isn’t drawn,” he says finally. A moment’s pause, and then he shrugs. “It was not a desire for power that moved me to claim it. We simply need to keep it out of the hands of Darkness.”

He looks up at you. “Are you sure that is the bearer who commits the dastardly deed?” The question lingers ominously in the air. He turns to look in the direction at the camp, then back at you.

The elf pauses for a moment before speaking. Picks up a couple flowers near where he sits and starts weaving them into some sort of bracelet as he speaks.

‘Unfortunately, I believe that it would be you that would commit or be influenced to commit the deed. If it were a curse for the bearer of the sword, it would be one that causes struggle from within. If a random person were compelled to do things, the bearer of the sword may never know. I do believe that the ego of the curse caster is such that the curse is revealed as the swords are used.”

The once great leader Clovis must have been a great man. Once the curses were discovered I wonder if they had to weigh the risks of the curses in comparison to the task of bringing him back.

“I won’t draw it unless I must. And likely not even then,” he says finally. He stabs the ember; it sparks and goes out.

“Keep your wits about you and focus on the aspects that bring you joy. We are going to be entering into a dark place and it will be easier for thoughts of sorrow to engulf you.” He picks another weed and incorporates that into his weaving. “My gods tell me that in the grand scheme of things, you are important and will do great things in the name of the light, you Sir Cael, will help restore people’s faith and help rebuild the church to a glory beneficial to the souls of countless believers. Do not sell yourself short. There will be tests and you will prevail.”
Oak smiles and pats you on the shoulder as he gets up to leave.
Cael looks up at you, his mouth open and words caught in his throat. There is hope in his eyes, a hope that has been slowly growing since the stay in Rhiannon’s Pool.

“Oak…” he manages to get out before you are out of earshot. “Would you teach me the ways of your faith?” He pauses, looking down. “If the Church can be rebuilt… and if I will help rebuild it… then I want to know more about what we have forgotten.” He looks up at you. “I want to embrace the Light in all its facets. Can you help me?”

The Elf stops picks up another flower and turns back toward you. He continues to weave with the flower stems without even looking. “Cael, I can show you how I worship and talk to you of customs and traditions. I believe it will be important because according to what I have been told and what I have foreseen, My people’s survival depends on this rebuilding of your church. There will come a time in the future where roles will be reversed and it will be the followers of the light who will keep us of the once ways safe.” He smiles “Cael, you have a great sense of virtue and honor. It is a blessing that I was chosen to travel with you. You are destined for great things.”

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Around the Fire
Caudraí makes an appeal

Caudraí looks up from his untouched wine. It’s clear from his eyes that old Cawdry is visiting him this night – the one who suffered great doubts in their first sojourn to change the Kingdom.

“I find myself aching for the irritating company of the mystics – those old wonks,” his impiety seems to be a compress for his fevered heart.

“While we were in Rhiannon’s woods, I think Lunasa found us and kindled us each in different ways,” he looks Arthur in both of his eyes. "I know I was not there to hear Lady Bess’ cries as she flung the sheathe for Albion through the flames. I was, however, graced to spend what I am thinking of as ‘summer days’ with the High Druid, and saw her quiet smile as she used my presence to needle their majesties in a spritely manner I think the elfs would approve of. In the way that my life seems moved by powerful women, she has been no small exception, and I have a deep respect and fondness for her.

“I bow to the urge that has driven you all and your powers to seek her release. I have said no word against it, nor will I. I do think there is a trap and a terrible danger there that perhaps we might best be inspired to pass on to those of her colleagues who might be better able to face such challenges. If you choose to continue trying to save her, I am at your side… unless…

“The plan I have laid before you with the court.. You may see it as one of those ‘Caudraí things’, where I do a little performance with words, and people write things down, and something happens. I sometimes thinks of it that way,” he says softly, so perhaps the Light will not hear him.

“But what I am proposing we bring, along with our new converts and their crimes, to the court, is literal enLightenment, the actual uptake of the true Light into this court of power, to this King who killed so many to hold and spread the influence of the Church. If we do this very, very carefully and very well, we might save the soul of… the Church itself. We might literally save the peoples of the land, and re-waken them to the Light that is not part of the uncareful balance of Flesh, but that is our true source and destination.”

He stands, and raises his glass. “So, I drink a toast to Lady Bess. But I think if you were to ask her if you had to make a choice between saving her, and Saving the Royal Court… I think I can guess which she would choose.”

He sets his glass done. “Thus endeth the beseechment. And I shan’t trouble you with it again. But this is my course.”

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(More) Talk: Arthur and Caudraí

I lean over abruptly as we are traveling.

“Sir Cawdry. I think I did a poor job of articulating things when we discussed your plan earlier. Er, regarding the possibility of Ascension. It is not that I think your plan is poor or unworthy in some fashion. To the contrary, I think it a good idea.”

I smile wryly, "Since you ‘know nothing of magic,’ I figured I should explain more clearly.

“I believe that my Ascending will accomplish what you desire, namely that those around me will be able to observe the state of the souls around them. However, this will be caused by the very fact of my ascending in their presence … as a sort of ‘spillover’ effect of the Light. That is to say, I will not be casting a spell or anything along those lines to cause this effect.

“What I will be doing, in effect, is, uh, opening up a conduit to the Light. In doing so, my … mind/soul … will pass from our world to the realm of spirit. As you may recall from the situation with Sir Cael and the Princess Hesperia, it can be difficult to return from the realm of Light to the mortal world.

“One of the things that helps keep me tied to the mortal realm is the task that I am undertaking with the power of the Light. In the case of Princess Hesperia, I was channeling the Light through myself and attempting to use this power to dispel magic of a sort that was far more potent that I could ever hope to dispel on my own. Focusing on working this magic back in the mortal realm helps keep my spirit tied there.”

I take a breath.

“Thus, when I said (something along the lines of) ‘there is no purpose in channeling the Power of the Ascension’, it was not because your purpose was unworthy, but because the purpose of the Ascension is the Power, not what I’m doing with it.

“Er, does that make sense? I’m not sure if I’m explaining it any better this time…”

Caudraí has the good graces to look abashed. “Apologies for my error,” and then the sly smile, “there are so very many things I do not understand.”

He stares at the passing swamp for a time. “Perhaps you could work to bless the assemblage with insight? Or convey on the assemblage a ward that could keep from them evil spirits?”

“Yeah, I also may have been too hasty when I used the term ‘pretext’ before. I may want to have something in mind for that time, though it may also make sense to play it by ear, to some extent. That is, if it appears there are more villains in the group than we anticipate, I can try to construct some type of ward (or some such). I have a few different options available. If nothing else, a blessing is never a bad thing.”

I consider for a moment before continuing.

“On an entirely different manner, I was wondering if you had any thoughts on … er, I guess I should still call her Lady Bizarre. I spent years trying to gather what information I could on her and the Fae, believing that she was our implacable enemy. This about-face seems curious.”

Caudraí shakes his head. “She seems to have chosen to be my fairy godmother. She is an ancient mother goddess, and I believe that Faery is a transition place for such beings. She is the wife I think of the All-Father, and other fragments of divinity. I think she once had many worshippers and now has few. To be fair, she let the pirates die in a way by their own wickedness, and saved the Marchioness in more ways than one….”

“Fury had told me that she was at one time greater than he was … and that she was the ‘source’ of his wife. That some would say that she, like many of ‘Their Ilk’ had stayed too long. He had also said something like ‘in the Light we are all one,’ and that he was not Odin, though both led the Wild Hunt and that Saint Tarran was but a facet of him.”

I sigh.

“At times I feel like I understand what is going on, while at others …”

I sigh again.

“As to the pirates and the Marchioness … Why would Lady Bizarre help her? Lady Bizarre had just tried to kill all of us, including the Marchioness, in her wrath. I do not (seriously) doubt that she is on (something akin to) our side, now, but back then? Did she change her mind between the time we left her palace and the Marchioness falling into the sea? I guess it is possible. She had no particular reason to wish harm on the Marchioness … I suppose I had always assumed the enchantment was meant to harm you and me in some manner … probably incidentally as part of some greater action that would harm the kingdom … Ah well. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve been mistaken about things.”

Caudraí has that expression he reserves for those he considers foolish as he says, “Do you think a being such as that if it was attempting to kill us would have failed? I believe she is capricious, yes, and self-interested, yes. But a failure at basic intents?”

He grins, "That it was meant to harm us was clear, for what it was. Through an accident, I revealed her awfulness and destroyed the illusion she had built. But for creatures such as this, as with the great Powers of the earthly world, each action serves multiple purposes. That is why they are to be feared: for their slyness, not their power.

“I admit to being just as surprised as any by the Marchioness’ reorientation….” Caudraí’s eyes are full of light as he turns to Arthur, “Let us consider it your first saving of a soul, eh, Master Miller?”

“At first I had thought that … well, at first, I was too busy running for my life to think about anything. After that, though, I figured she was just a powerful faerie, so I was not too surprised we escaped. Then, when I learned she was a diminished goddess, I just assumed VERY diminished. Now? I’m not sure. We were very close to not making it out of the harbor. Where would her plans be then? And how could she know the Marchioness would fall overboard? Did her magic cause that as well? Of course, I suppose if she is capricious, maybe she didn’t care either way. She just took the situation as it arose and bent it to her own purposes.”

I pull a ring out of my pocket and twist it idly.

“I’d dearly like to look in on the Marchioness and see that she is okay. That is, if it weren’t clearly such an inappropriate thing to do. Eh, it’s not as if I can do anything to help from here, anyway. It’s just … with the enchantment, bloody Marion, and the traitors in her midst … I can’t help but worry, as stupid and pointless as that is.”

Cawdry says with great tenderness, “My friend, I pray I find such concerns and love for my new wife as you have found for this newly-Saved woman,”

I continue to stare at the ring for a few moments before replying, “You are a good friend, Sir Cawdry. I am glad to have met you, and, even though it is not the best circumstances, I am happy to be travelling together once again.”

I then give a lopsided smile, “And I will, of course, do my best to see that nothing bad happens to you, so that you are able to return to your wife when all of this is over. After all, I would never leave a lady in distress …”

View
Talk: Arthur and Oak

Close to dawn, I approach the grove where Oak is (likely) located. I thank the elf guiding me and wave goodbye. I realize that I must appear a bit bleary-eyed, but a feeling of urgency keeps me moving forward. I look back over my shoulder frequently.

Oak, covered in runes and a few spatters of dried blood. jumps out of his tree and runs after Arthur. “Arthur Miller wait. Let me get our horses and we can head towards rescuing Bess.” Catching up to the bleary eyed knight he gets in front of him. “I’m sorry… I have been wrong about many things. Saint Tarran is gone and I have acted foolishly. We are heading into a war and I’m dedicating myself to fight for the light. Many of the pagans don’t understand. We need the light to prevail. Without the light, my people will perish. Arthur, I love my gods and i need to embrace the light.”

After listening to Oak’s words, I can’t help but laugh, shaking my head. After a couple of seconds I stop, realizing how it must look to him.

“My apologies, Oak. It is just that … I was coming to tell you that I have been wrong about many things and to seek your assistance. I have spent the night praying and then talking to one of the pagan gods!”

I shake my ahead again, chuckling wryly.

“It is almost as though your words express the exact opposite, yet simultaneously the exact same sentiment I was going to express myself! I am now interested in fighting for Balance. I need to convince my fellow Mystics that battle is necessary … that to save the Light, we must join with the pagans in more than just philosophy.”

I look over at a small copse of trees. I point them out to Oak.

“But come, let us sit for a bit. You look to be as weary as I am. I was hoping to talk with you, before meeting the rest of our friends.”

Oak laughs.

“Some sense of humor, this legion of light, telling two devoted men that they know nothing and everything. "

“Balance is not the opposite of light. the world is dark so to obtain the goal of balance, we must fight for the light… We have the same goals … just as we have all along. "

Oak heads over to the trees.

Just before I take a seat I look up at the bird in the adjacent tree. “There are a number of things I want to run by you, but I would be remiss if I didn’t introduce you to my new friend. Er, I’m not sure what his name is, but … Oak, meet Raven; Raven, Oak.”

I rest my back against the tree.

The Raven looks right at Oak and caws loudly, briefly.

Oak looks up at the bird. “So nice of you to join us this morning.”

Oak studies the bird for a moment. “Perhaps the name is Tarrin?”

“He is observant.”

Oak sits on a rock near you and scrapes a bit of dried blood off his arm.

“I have a new friend also, but I can only summon the dove when I am in need…

“Alright. Let’s see … I should probably start from the beginning of the evening. While we had contemplated the plan to go find the Court of the King (and, thus, simultaneously, a possible link to Lady Bess), I feared that this would take too long … that we need to act more quickly. It struck me that too much concern for my own soul, my personal oaths, might be a selfish luxury. I thought there might be someone who could help us, if I wasn’t too proud to ask.

“I went to a clearing, prepared to make an offering to Odin. Since Lady Bess and Saint Tarran seemed to be quite close, I thought that there might be a connection between Bess and Odin. I started a small fire and began carving a spear (I felt that my eye would be an appropriate offering to the All-father).

“A god appeared and took pity on me, removing the spear from my hands so that I wouldn’t burn my eye out.

“Different manifestations of the god spoke, though the primary two were (what seemed to be) the wind and a raven.

“He told me many things. Some of these I will relate when we meet up with Sir Cael and Sir Cawdry again. However, I wanted to talk with you first about a couple of items.”

I start abruptly.

“Oh. Sorry, I should mention that the god was not Odin, but he named himself ‘Fury’. He did indicate that both he and Odin led the Wild Hunt.

“Anyhow, you know how Sir Cawdry and I have mentioned our encounter in Faerie, with the Lady Bizarre? Fury said that at one time she was greater than he, that (in some sense) she was the source from which his wife sprung, and that, if treated properly, she could become (again in some sense) an ally of ours.”

I fall silent for a bit, trying to organize my scattered thoughts.

Oak appears to be either confused or overwhelmed… Perhaps both.

“Sacrificing your eye would have been bad, We don’t have time to retrain you in the ways of battle to compensate for such an injury. You are the best warrior of our companions… You might not want to mention that to them… I would not wish them to feel embarrassed or that they need to prove something… I … you … Sacrificing … and Your devotion … though …” Oak gets a little teary eyed. " Arthur, you amaze me sometimes. My gods answered your call." Realizing that he may appear too emotional, turns his attentions to the Raven.

Not wanting to make Oak uncomfortable, I suddenly find my hands quite interesting and stare at them intently.

He looks up at the bird and speaks to it “Fury… huh… I suppose since names have power, there is a reason for the use of this one …?”

“Ah, good. I was hoping this would make some sense to you! For Fury, he said something like, ‘I am fury incarnate due to losing my identity to the unfeeling hand of Time.’”

The elf , having composed himself, lays back and looks up at the sky. “SO Lady Bizarre is the earth mother … interesting. I guess we will have to summon her at the pool then … If that is who Lady Bizzare is, at one time this area was thought to be hers …”

“Regarding Lady Bizarre. I would like to mend fences, but I am a little concerned that if we were to call upon Her at the Pool that she might want to smite Sir Cawdry, me, and anyone associated with us. Although maybe it is possible we could contact her in a way that would let Her know of our good intentions.

“Oh, I also wanted to mention that Fury asked me some questions, including something along the lines of, ‘If you could only save one person from the Storm, who would it be?’ I answered that my heart told me one thing (It won’t shock you to learn that this was the Marchioness), while my mind told me another (Here I said Lady Bess, since I think she will be the key to uniting the people and faiths to turn back the Darkness). I won’t say that I would gladly give my life for hers (The prospect of dying at the hands of the agents of Darkness does not excite me), but I would willingly do so. I believe her to be that important.

“Anyhow, a few other things were said, and then, right before he withdrew from the grove, he told me to ‘follow my heart’. I was hoping you might know more about understanding the words of gods. That is, I’m not sure if this is a directive that I should begin working on immediately or a general guideline for actions in the future. Also, given my response to his question, I’m not sure if it relates specifically to that or if it is just coincidence.”

I pause, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry. This is all kind of vague, I know.”

The gods are rarely direct … I suppose if they were clear about everything folks like us would bother them all the time … I am confident we will save both of them … Bess may be the easier save … I don’t know. I really don’t like the marchioness’ situation, but we do have to return there soon. Besides needing to rescue her, I had to leave something of great value behind there.

Oak thinks for a moment… looks over toward a group of mushrooms and speaks to it “quite right , but you would need to be much bigger to pull that off, it’s not that I’m ignoring you, I really need to talk with Arthur.”

He turns on his side towards Arthur. “I’m Sorry, part of myself … My ties with spirit are pretty strong. They don’t always comprehend that not everyone is in on the conversation.”

“No problem … Oh, that reminds me. One of the things I wanted to see is if you could communicate with our raven friend. I think he (or she?) understands us, but I thought maybe you could understand him.”

“Well in order for me to have an actual verbal conversation, I need to make some incense but it will take a couple days. It seems that I am not being given the luxury of replenishing my alchemical stock. When I am given time to work, I shall create some for you and then you will be able to speak with him yourself at great length. Oh yes that is a male bird. What I do know is that he is very attached to you and it is very trustworthy and observant. The spirits I talk with are not attached to living things. I can see plant and animal spirits but cant interact with them so much. I don’t speak their languages so there really is no way of understanding what they are saying.”

“Ah. I understand. That is too bad. Among other things, it was a thought I had on how to locate Lady Bess.”

“Bess is not really… hrm… She is not the key, although she did bring me to you and she is very important to the scheme of things, She is no more the key than you or I.”

He suddenly sits up "The dragon is dying … Fire … Bess can travel by Fire … She is trapped … Iron bars and chains would keep her from being in tune with her magic, so she cannot escape … SO corrosives for the bars … and the single flame from the torch near her cell … that single flame should be big enough … I might have an idea of how to extract Bess … But why are they keeping her alive …?

“Arthur… I might have an idea about how to extract Bess from captivity.”

“That’d be great! What’s your thought?”

“My thoughts on rescuing Bess are thus … We know from Cael that she is in a dungeon with Iron bars and chains … This will prevent her from accessing her magick. There is a single torch outside her cell. Bess is able to travel through fire. My thoughts are that she is not the only one who we know that can do this. I make a corrosive, then we either have someone send me through the fire or perhaps they do it themselves. Use the corrosives to get rid of the iron then Bess can escape through the torch back here.

“The only flaw i have in this plan is not understanding fire travel… But Skathach would since she is also is attuned to the element of fire.”

“That sounds reasonable to me. Hmm. Will Skathach be able to locate the particular fire? I also wonder if they might have up some sort of … wards … or even traps or something along those lines.”

“Regardless, if feasible, it seems worth the risk. Let’s see … acids would probably suffice. Heck, if you had an adamantine charm, you could probably use the reverse to break her free of any iron. Then, either pop back through the flame or, if she isn’t up to that, maybe use a glamour to create anonymity and skulk out of the prison.”

“Well I have traveled with Bess by fire, that is how she brought me to you. Cael was able to reach her in his visions so it stands possible that we could locate Bess and use her as a beacon to the nearest flame source … Iron and my magick do not mix so well but i can use my alchemy.

“Wards and traps … It’s probable, but I would think that, strategically, they would be more likely to have entrances and such trapped but I am not completely certain of how they think yet..

“I think before we get to into planning further, we should find the others. Is there anything else you wanted to run by me before then?”

“No, that should just about cover it … Well, probably. I have to confess that my brain doesn’t seem to be operating at full capacity right now. However, I think you’re right that we should talk to the others. I believe anything else I learned pertains to us all equally.”

View
Talk: Arthur and Caudraí

After Arthur speaks to Oak, and when he is going back out of Oak’s tree, Caudraí is there, sitting in the dappled shadow of the trees.

“Sir Arthur,” Caudraí says in his voice that broadcasts ease, but hides the tight knots of uncertainty, “I wonder if you might have the strength for a word?”

My tiredness has not dissipated, but I cover my weariness with a smile and nod.

In the twilight of a thick grove of redwoods, only ferns for company, Caudraí says, “If there is any way you could assure the solitude of our conversation …?”

I shake my head regretfully. “There is some charm for that, I believe, but sadly, I have not learned it.”

“When we go to the Court of the King in Perambulation, we are going to present the legal case to arraign the false knights for their crimes, but moreso to indict their superiors for crimes against the Realm, the King and the Light… and, the Church.”

Caudraí looks off into the forest as if looking for a dream.

“My sense is that with everything that has passed,” and unspoken lost St. Tarran lies between them, “we must also impress upon the King and the Court the nature of not only the great rising Enemy, but the nature of Salvation to the assembled Court to give the King the necessary strength and impetus to act on what needs acting upon.” If any of the Light lingers with Arthur, there is the tingle of a lie on Caudraí’s lips – or not quite a lie, but a missing truth.

I merely nod my head in understanding, letting this pass.

“I have seen the miracles you have worked, and witnessed the Sanctuary you created. I wonder if you would be able to coordinate with Cael and project a miracle of the Light such that all those present might not only see but also experience as Cael seems to experience the state of the souls of those present. Is that something you could manage, do you think?” And there is fear in Caudraí then.

I hesitate. “I am … not certain. Would you require that all present see? If it were just one or two, I believe that if I were touching the person or persons that we wished to experience this, it could be effective. As to an entire room? … Maybe … maybe if I Ascended? I’m …”

I trail off, thinking.

Caudraí’s fear is replaced by his almost ever present eagerness. “Yes it is something I would need everyone in the room to experience – the salvation of the Knights and the revelation of all our souls.” A leaning-in. A hinging of hopes.

I gaze off to the side, contemplating.

“Hmm. I think it can be done, though there is one potential difficulty: It could be fairly dangerous for me. It can be … tricky … returning to the mortal realm after Ascending. With no express purpose to the Ascension, the mind can wander and be lost to the Light.

“Conceivably, I could have some pretext for the use of the Power, but I’m not sure if that would suffice. Also, the pretext might backfire, in that the use of the Power for an unimportant purpose is … well, I might be better served taking my chances with finding my way back without it.”

Unconsciously, I drum my fingers against the side of my head.

“Alternately, if it wouldn’t hinder your plan, we could try to convince the Mystics here to come with us. As you’ve seen, their divine radiance is ever present. Their combined power might be able to achieve what you desire … without Ascension.”

“I think the ascension would have a purpose,” Caudraí responds. “I am essentially wanting to draw the light down in that moment and open the eyes of some of the most powerful people in Shanria to the possibility of redemption and the lure of the Dark. Is that not something that Ascending could accomplish?”

A beat, then, “And as for taking the mystics with us, well, we certainly could. My intent was to go to them and inquire what their purpose was here in Rhiannon’s Pool and why they were not walking creation spreading the Light.”

“Regardless of the specific circumstances, I’m willing to give it a shot. If you think it would be sufficient to get the King to begin moving against the Church, it is certainly worth taking a risk.

“Regarding the Mystics, I was of a similar mind, though I was hoping to talk to you, Sir Cael, and Oak first.” He nods and smiles at a raven that is lurking nearby. “Since it seems we all may have had some … things happen to us last night.”

“Anyhow, you can count on me, Sir Cawdry.”

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Cawdry and the Fairy Godmother

The golden glare of the sun warms you as you lie amid the soft grasses and bracken … the sweet smell of bruised greenery and the rich loam of the earth. A gentle playful breeze runs invisible fingers across your recumbent body, flipping and tugging gently at your clothing. Rich attire you’ve never seen before … in the most marvelous shades
The wind washes over you, and the gentle susurrus seems to speak
Ahhh … there you are, come again, child of Light …
But I see you are changed. The young man I once knew is grown
No more need for the lessons of fairies, it seems.
Pity, that
Then She stepped forth from the golden light …
At your sharply taken breath, She continues
This form is ancient, lush and robust with the youth of the World, long since faded. I cling to it with the vanity of every woman ever born. Do you find me foolish?
She looked down at you, not unkindly
My dear rabbit … poor, scared little rabbit … You need not answer.
The world is turned upside to your eyes, hasn’t it? You see more than most and even that small glimpse behind the tapestries has cost you. It is very nearly too much.
You are surrounded by a struggle of a nature and on a scale that never even occurred to your waking mind, only perhaps in shadows in your nightmares … among with visions of …me?
She laughed lightly.
You know my true appearance and it is hoary and grisly to behold. Some would say I have stayed too long at the party, almost all of my brethren have said at one time or another
Here (she melted into a gentle vision of golden trimmed robes of snow white silk, fair skin and golden hair down to the tiny scattered bluebells at your feet, wound about with pastel taffeta ribands into a shining golden cable as thick as her arm) does this put you a bit more at ease?
No?
She sighed …
Poor thing

Suddenly she swung about and
was pouring amber wine into a pair of golden, jewel-studded goblets from a golden ewer covered completely in a tracery of engravings of leaf and tree, beast and hunter, flower and fruit, and handing one to you

This contest was a part of nature millennia before your Light was pulled forth, but it had gentler context then. There was no malice in the striving in those days.
The Light is a good cause for the future of the Races of Men, but the Darkness is seductive …
And we are the lingering peal of ages past, and some of us do not fade as gently as others … I am fury incarnate over the indignity of having my identity stripped from me by the uncaring hand of Time.
Do you wish to know what is coming and why?
The Storm.
Yes, you know it. You have seen the signs and portents, heard the spirits wailing. The Wild Hunt labors to collect the restless spirits and return them to Spirit, but in time the tide will be too great for even them.
But what drives it?
The Darkness incarnate such as it has yet to be seen in this world.
What does it mean?
We, the Olde Ones, have stood by and watched as our world faded and this new one grew.
The Light is worthy and shows the true path back to Spirit, but it was not the Light that built the Church. It was a dumbshow from the start, and a masterful one at that. The whole world was duped and drawn in.The Light’s hands in the world warned, and then cried out, but never pitted themselves against the Church that claimed to be their own.
All life is sacred, even that of those that Walk in Darkness.
But the Darkness is ravenous in its hungers, insatiable, greedy, gluttonous
The Light of Spirit fills the sight of the mystics
They would go quietly at the hands of the Darkness, so adamant are they not to waste precious lives. But if they go, the Light will be dead at last, finishing the business it began centuries ago, witnessed and chronicled by the elfs. Their gifts, Chivalry and Courtly Love, will die with it, becoming no more than a naive old-fashioned folly.
The Dark is tired of hiding.
It has set the stage and cultivated Vice, or at least the acceptance and even tolerance of it, in the very hearts of the masses. Hope ebbs ever more lowly. The people do not despair… they are insensate…they are numb. Acedia gains the upper hand in the World of Flesh. They look to the ultimate reward in the afterlife, as they should, but cease to care for their circumstances in this life. But it would seem it is not yet quite ready to claim its kingdom.Your excursions and alarums threaten to bring it into the public eye too soon.
Beside you now walks the first holy man of the Light ever to even consider that slaying the followers of the Darkness might be necessary to keep the Light from being extinguished in the end.
What will you do? What will you?
Finally the peril is perceived and now you race to waken the sleep walkers …
And all those who would aid you are become targets.

If you could have one wish, what would it be?
And what would you give to have that wish?

She kneels down and kisses you lightly on the cheek, you catch a whiff of dazzling sweetness, the rarest and most common of flowers, honey and bee pollen, fruit heavy with ripeness, intoxicating to the point of making you swoon … as something small, hard and cool is pressed into the palm of your hand.

Turn thrice widdershins and toss it into the waters and it shall be yours …

The Dark is like the vast beachhead of a surfacing continent he can sense behind him, like the great escarpment of Albion, which he has also never seen.

The Light behind the Lady is bright, unblinking.

He wonders: Is the Dark tired of hiding, or does the presence of the Light hurt it on some level? Is that what we are doing here?
That is not the question he asks.

Out loud, he looks up at her princess-in-ermine, thinking of all the saints in one little wood like wooden monkeys in a barrel, “Why?” he asks, waving at all her wondrous glamour.

She smiles the smile of someone biting too deep into pomegranate. He completes the question, “Why do you stay, then, Lady? It cannot be for despite. That would never have lasted so long, and there would have been none of the Light left in you if it had. I, and the formerly-silly-Marchioness are part of the answer, I think – if not directly.” He feels the summer day and the ripeness of fruit, holds the question like the ripest of peaches: gingerly.

“Though I rage at my diminishment, fading from the minds of the Races if Man, and my vanity us sorely stung, pieces of me linger so long as the pagans remain faithful. A bit of my ancient purpose yet remains. Give my regards to the Macha if you see Her. Ask Wotan how fares Freya. This makes fading by degrees easier to bear. And tells me I still have a role in all this, even if only as a … how did you put it? Fairy godmother.”

“For the hand I gave taken in things, Shanria is better able to weather the storm. Without the woman who us now Lucinda, Shanria is guaranteed to have been destroyed. Having been broken so many times and in so many pieces, it deserves to survive. As for those nasty swords, if you can get in hand those two you and your friend have claimed – and KEEP – that great dark purpose for which they are sought is foiled. And for those that remain hidden, they lie in the ruins of most ancient days, when Shanria struggled to be born – the Century Wars, the Wars of the Hundred Kingdoms.”

Laughter like the tinkling of tiny silver bells fades as the wind passes and lets you rest … and consciousness fades.

On waking, you find a golden coin in your hand. Old. Very old.

And Caudraí thinks: Me and my big mouth.

There, bobbing in the quiet treesong of Rhiannon’s pool, he feels the truth – and the amusement – of his lack of Talent with the World That Is. He wonders if the Light had a purpose in that.

He remembers Bizarre’s kingdom and sword words from the shoals of dreaming. He thinks of the pale roots going down into the dark.

He thinks of the leader of the Light who lived for a Thousand years.

He no longer sees the broad leaves.

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Oak's letter to his family

Dearest Family,

Apologies that I was not able to spend more time with you over the holidays. I would have liked to have had a longer visit and share stories with each of you. Staying true to my oaths, I’m bound to other tasks though my heart is with you. Grandfather, thank you for the hospitality shown to my human companions even when they were behaving poorly. Great Aunt Tamsey, thank you for lifting Kal’s spirits. This journey has been especially hard on him. Iris and Spruce, when the Gods allow, I would like it very much if the three of us could camp out together. I have so much to tell you both and would very much like to know how you find your current paths. Ma, it was wonderful to hear you sing. The melody will stay with me in my travels and will help me feel connected to home. Pa, many thanks for joining me on my hunt and helping me prepare for my rituals. The most important rituals I have done to date, the ones where the Gods truly answer me, are rituals that you have helped me prepare. Uncle Brier, thank you for taking time out of your duties to help educate the children in combat, they very much enjoyed it and your lessons will be well remembered. Give my love to Aunt Ivy, I did not get a chance to see her before Moss returned and I did not want to disturb them.

The Gods have blessed me with such a family and I am truly thankful.

I will be back before Samhain so that I can prepare for the great hunt with Odin and Cernunnos when the horn is sounded. If you could, please bring some fresh flowers to the pool for Lady Bizarre. It would mean a lot to me and to the Lady. I want her to know that she is in my thoughts. I don’t ever want her to feel forgotten.

I now travel to rescue Lady Bess. I can’t stand the thoughts of her suffering in an Iron cell. I am glad that Skatty was able to point out that my stratagem must be planned out with more thought and less emotion. I feel too deeply sometimes and tend to leave too many things unprepared, which is not very cunning at all. I don’t need to lead the knights to their death because of my hasty ignorance. Although, there is so much debate at times over what course of action we will take, I am forced to take a deeper look at things before responding. I think this is one of the most frustrating yet effective qualities of my human companions.

I wonder if they will actually allow me to meet the human King and Queen. I have many curiosities about them and their strange customs. I am especially curious about their need to consume so much venison that no one else in their kingdom is allowed to hunt deer. Strange right? They must have experienced a shortage at some point. This human law may stem from a fear that they will run out. Maybe if I explained the breeding process of deer, they would be more at ease with their non-nobles hunting.

I should get going. There is so much for us to do.

Love to you all,
Oak

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