Talia, p. 8

We returned to where Val had fallen. Our party, now smaller and encumbered with our dead, began the journey home in the dark. I walked with Kel in silence. I could not leave her, burdened as she was, both in body and in spirit. I offered assistance but she turned it down. It seems House Thond carries it’s own. On the road, we were attacked by goblins thinking to take advantage of us, and they were cut down. The remains of a wolf pack attacked out of desperation and the smell of blood… and their lives were ended as well (*smudge*) more useless death…

We returned to the temple, and Val was returned to us.

Talia, p. 7

Kel had gathered a group to investigate some ogres. We headed out along the East way… we met with the farmer, who gave us only limited directions. The groups headed out, it was not the most cohesive group, but the conflicts were minor and all worked together. We lost a front line fighter early, not to death; I believe he may have headed back to report after the first encounter… we continued on, which in looking back may not have been the best idea. A larger group of ogres surprised us and broke the line. I remember the huge mass barreling towards the archers… we rolled and ran as the warriors came to our defense… they were stopped, but late… Val had fallen (*tear stain*) the brave Halfling I was only beginning to know looked so fragile. Her body was broken, her spirit fled… (*tear stain*) the blood… I could not tell who’s it was, but it seemed too much to be hers alone. She did not die passively.

We were burdened, and left the body, through Kel saw fit to ensure her belongings were taken care of. We pressed forward, striking out with a vengeance. Perhaps we should have turned back then, but the ogres deserved death for what they had done, and the farmers were counting on us. We found the camp, slew the guards, and completed our rescue… no sooner had we prepared to go then we heard another group returning. Our scout, I didn’t get his name, set traps and we were to lure them in a few at a time… a great plan, but not one we would see fulfilled. The ogres were grouped together, and when alerted we were in their camp, they all charged at once. The traps only slowed them, they did not stop. We were outnumbered and overwhelmed. Warriors stood their ground, but ogres poured past. I scattered… to my shame, while others stood fast, I broke for cover. When the ogres turned to another, I fired. We slew them all, but not without losses. Another warrior, Christina, fell. (*slight smear*) I did not see if it was before or after I ran, for by then they had been surrounded. I wonder, if I had more courage, would she have lived? I sleep less these nights.

Talia, p. 6

The days pass on and my work has slowed. There have been inquiries, but either the client is not ready to purchase, or it is for something I cannot as yet do. I need to learn more of leather working, and increase my time studying enchantments, as this is where the demand seems to be. I feel I’ve gotten closer, but have yet to have a success with the imbuing. I also need to pick up more business somehow. I spoke briefly with Liu Mei of my ideas. She was somewhat interested. I’ll need many more completed before I am ready.

Kel Steeler met me in the market, offering me a tour of the Estate. I was excited, but at the same time had to turn her down. I need better promotional sales that do not tie me to the market. I hope I did not leave a poor impression upon Kel. She did return, when I was finished, and we spent the day touring the Estate and talking. The Thond Estate is immense… and the craftsmanship displayed is something to strive for.

I could spend hours in those halls marveling at the rugs and tapestries. Kel showed me their ballroom… it seemed familiar. It dawned on me I had been there once before. I had once joined Set, to attend a wedding. I knew no one there but Set did not wish to go alone. I stayed near the back, as we had arrived only just before it began. It was a beautiful ceremony and I left soon after it ended. Now, looking at the ballroom, it all returned… Kel looked so different in armor, I was embarrassed that I had not recognized her as the beautiful bride of that day, and said nothing.

We returned to the sitting room, and spoke of the duties of the House and some of what I could bring to it. I think Kel was disappointed that my studies had not been pure as either scout or mage… I came to Arabel without plans, I had limited previous exposure to the arcane, but it fascinated me so… I may never achieve the power that one devoted since adolescence would, but I do increase my knowledge nearly every day.

I began to speak briefly of my goals and business. Kel listened politely for a time, and then stopped me, advising that I should include it in my letter. She says she has little interest in business, I hope that was all; I fear the simple plans of a merchant may be below a House of such achievements. If it turns that I am not chosen, I will redouble my efforts and succeed alone, for I truly believe it can work.

When we left the Estate, it was already dark. I couldn’t believe it had been the entire day. I went to an inn to rest, and later returned to the market. I met Val again, though she seemed sad and distracted.  I tried many times to make conversation, but there were constant interruptions that night.  Some time before dawn, Kel arrived, asking us both if we would accompany her to dispatch some ogres along the east way.

(*there is some ink spilled, and the entry is obviously unfinished*)

The Ogre and the Halflings (Talia, p. 5)

In thinking of my early days here, and some of the troubles that plagued me, I was reminded of a children’s story I learned while growing up.

The Ogre and the Halflings

There once was an old woman who lived alone in a cottage at the edge of the woods. She was known to be a kind woman, and children from the nearby village would sneak out to visit her. She would playfully scold them, but invite them inside for cookies or other sweets.

On some visits, she would go to the cupboard and find it was empty. She would say, “Oh my, the cupboard is empty, but I’m sure I have more down in the cellar.”  The children would brighten.  “My old legs cannot carry me down those stairs. If you were to fetch another bag, I could send an extra treat home with you.” Children are always eager to help when sweets are involved. They would head down the stairs.  “They’re on the shelves near the back” She’d call down. In the far corner of the dark cellar, the children would find the bag, but when they turned around they would be face to face with a giant ogre!  The ogre would catch and eat the children, and the cellar door would close.

This went on for some time, the village growing, and a few children at a time disappearing. Most believed it was caused by wolves in the forest.

One day, three Halfling adventures stopped by the woman’s house. Her eyesight was not good and she mistook them for children and invited them in. They talked for a moment, and when the woman went to her cupboard she repeated the same story. “I’m too old, and my legs will not carry me down the stairs.” Being good folk, the Halflings agreed to complete her task. All three ventured into the cellar. Upon reaching the corner, they heard a scraping behind them. They turned and, faced with the ogre, drew their swords. The ogre was quite surprised. The Halflings quickly dispatched and killed the ogre. They rushed upstairs to check on the old woman, but could not find her in the kitchen. After some searching, they found a trap door leading to the cellar where the ogre had appeared. Seeing this they knew, the woman and the ogre had been the same. The ogre had masked its appearance by some foul magic, and lured the innocent to their deaths. The Halflings informed the town and the cottage was burned to the ground. Today, the town prospers, and children can be seen running freely, playing in the streets, not a care in the world.

Talia, p. 4

I haven’t written of my early days in Arabel, but now that I have this journal, it seems appropriate to do so…

I’ve been in Arabel for a few seasons now. I’ve seen it in sun, rain and snow… as cold as it can be, I think the snow is the most beautiful. Arabel may be the place I can finally call home. I’m ready to stop wandering and finally settle down.

While Arabel has it’s troubles, as all cities do, I’ve found it to be more accepting of outsiders. In the time I’ve been here, I’ve started to think of it as ‘My’ city. (something I cannot say of the other places I’ve passed through.)

I arrived in Arabel to find a city under siege. I had been avoiding the larger settlements long enough I had no current news, and did not realize the wave of Zhentarim was to follow immediately behind. Rather than a city of opportunity, I found a struggle to remove those who had breached the walls in the north. That is long passed now. Needless to say, Arabel survived.

During the war, I met a young woman, almost a girl really. Her story is a tragic one. Seems her father, a priest of Torm, had remained in the siege area. When Zhents broke the line, he barricaded his daughter in the home to save her. They eventually overwhelmed him and he died protecting her. I met her in Central near the North district. Some of the militia had escorted her to safety. The poor girl was still in shock. I was asked to watch over her, I think they were concerned she would try to reach her father’s body. We spoke for a while and I learned of her plight. Emiline, the girl, was despondent. It wasn’t until some wounded were brought back that she made an effort to move. She blessed and healed the warriors as her father must have taught her. It used up her strength, but I could now see the fire of purpose behind her eyes. I escorted her back to an inn where she could get some rest and begin the long process of putting her life back together. I’ve only spoken to her once since, but every time I’ve passed by her around town, I see the strength that has grown out of adversity. I expect she will do much for her faith, and the lives of those she touches.

As peace returned, I had a chance to learn more about my comrades in arms I had fought along side of.

Also, during the war, I witnessed amazing feats of power (by both sides) and that sparked an interest in the arcane. My dear friends have offered me much guidance in this respect. I met a mage, of house Fezznick, Matt, who was kind and generous (and rather charming)… When I expressed my curiosity, he agreed to take me on and tutor me. Our sessions have been limited (he provides texts, but it is mostly studying alone) but a friendship has also grown.

As much as magic, I was also introduced to the fine art of Tailoring. This has become my true passion. My dear friend Liu Mei has gotten me started, and has always been there as a pillar of support. She is also a practitioner of the arcane. This appears to come easy to her (though she claims it is as much work). It was Liu Mei who encouraged me not to give up after the incident in the tower. Seems knowledge gained can also be lost. I nearly cried, and avoided Matt for many days because of it. Once I had told him, he laughed, though kindly, and assured me that such setbacks do happen, advising I shouldn’t give up. I resumed my training with renewed vigor.

Talia, pt. 3

Weeks have passed… things seem to be returning to normal… Aniya and Galandrias have left Arabel, they are to present themselves before Grandmother… I do not envy their position, though she would never have as much interest in me.

Liu Mei met me in the market, she has begun to heal but the wounds are still there… the scars that no one sees are the worst. We only spoke briefly, but she did let me know she was sorry for how she reacted. My words escaped me again, but (**something is scribbled out**) it is good to know I haven’t lost a friend. She doesn’t speak of it much; I am unsure how much she really knows. She needs more time to heal before fresh wounds are added. (**there is a small droplet stain on the page**)

Business has improved… there was to be a Ball, held by the Militia… Wil & Liv approached me about a matching dress and tunic, it was one of the most in-depth orders I’ve worked on to date. It was also one of the most rewarding. Liv, who is always pleasant to be around, shined with beauty. Her eyes lit up so as to overpower the gold and silk. I wish I could make all my clients as happy; the garments are just cloth and thread… but also held together by love. These are friends I have grown to cherish.

Wil let me know today that the Ball didn’t happen… or he had missed it. The orcs had broken into the city again; there is a weakness in the slums that was never patched up. It started the same time the Ball was to, I fear word got to some spies in the city and they expected Arabel’s finest to have forsaken their post for that pleasure. They were wrong. Many rallied to the defense, as did I, until my arrow supply ran out.

When it was over, the pieces were picked up, and we moved on with our lives in the city. Wil didn’t know the Ball was rescheduled and had never met up with Liv, who was also helping to defend Arabel.

Talia, pt. 2

I have not seen Liu Mei since that night. Nor have I seen the others, I’ve mostly kept to my room in the Dragon… but most know they can find here. I shall venture out soon, the orders for Set, Wil & Liv are nearly complete and I can do little more by hand. I need to check Doreta’s supply of dyes.