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The Lost Journals 
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Evil Genius
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Post The Lost Journals
(Author's note: The original thread has been deleted and the compilation of those posts can be found here)

(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Sulem-Ech Mines, Kalidnay, Sept. 10, 725 BC)
Finding the actual mine shown on the maps I bought proved to be a task in itself. Less because of the terrain and more because of the constant patrol for intruders. The wood and flint spears with severed heads on them all along the path up proved that whoever ran the mines did not take kindly to trespassers. But I found out there's more than just obsidian in these granite mountains. The surrounding rock is saturated with magnesium salts. Sadly I can't make much use of it, but if the Athasians had the knowledge they could easily create metallic tools as strong as steel. That I doubt I'll be sharing with them. The last thing the people of Kalidnay need are templars wielding metal weapons and wearing metal armor. At least in lacking metal the common folk are on even footing with them.

At the mining camp itself I found a several dozen slaves--mostly muls and half-giants--working to haul obsidian out of an opening in the cliff wall. The depth couldn't have been more than ten feet, so rich were the deposits. A shaded litter fanned by comely female slaves stood in full view of the mine and a man in fine clothing barked orders to another, muscular human with scars all over his body. This had to be the merchant in charge and his taskmaster. Though he cracked a leather whip in the air constantly to get the slaves to work, it was the kat-o-nine-tails with flint barbs woven into it that caught my eye. Even from a distance I could see dried blood and bits of flesh on it. He must have enjoyed his work.

But it was a strange woman in black and red that made me shudder more than anything. From watching her I knew she was a defiler, and likely a powerful one at that. This must have been the edge the merchant used to keep the slaves docile. Besides the merchant, the taskmaster, and her, I counted about ten guards keeping somewhere near sixty slaves in line. It wouldn't take much to upset the balance of power and spark a revolt. And as I watched the slaves eat a meager meal of gruel and foul water I made my decision.

One moment the merchant and his taskmaster were fine, the next they keeled over as blades of silver-white energy pierced their chests for a brief moment before disappearing. Somehow I missed the defiler and she fled the scene. The two I hit weren't dead--not yet, at least. The other guards ran towards the scene and were hit by arrows of silver energy. The incident was over before it even had time to begin. Only the slaves were left and they looked like they'd just woken up from some sort of a fugue. But once that wore off the true chaos started.

Crates of fine fruits, breads, and meats were torn open as the slaves dove in and fed their starving bodies. Jugs of clean water were likewise cracked and the thirsty allowed to quench their throats. The ill and injured were the last to benefit, but even they got their fair share. Once things calmed the slaves suddenly realized the full gravity of their situation. They were free and could do what they wanted. Maybe not go back to the city since they'd be enslaved once more, but freedom in the wastes is preferable to slavery in the city. And that's if they weren't accused of killing their owner and then killed themselves.

Just as I turned to leave the ledge I was standing on began to crumble. In a reflex I jumped forward and exposed myself. Soon I was surrounded by the former slaves, now wielding the guards' weapons. It didn't take much to persuade them that I wasn't an enemy once I told them I was the one who killed the guards. Neither the merchant nor his taskmaster were dead yet. They were in bad shape but would survive if treated. This is when a half-giant named Julias stepped forward. He suggested we give them a chance: the trial of the desert. Once healed they would be given a day's worth of food and water and then sent into the desert to try and survive. If they did then the Fates had smiled on them; if not, then they got what they deserved.

To speed things up I used my powers to heal both men, smiling and waving at them as they were tied up, blindfolded, and seated on kanku. Then one of the muls led the kanku down and I watched as she prodded the ant-like mounts in two different directions. If and when the two got out of their bindings they'd have no idea where they were. As for that defiler, I plan on looking for her in the morning.

For now I'm aiding the ex-slaves, supplementing the food and water they already had with some of my own. Why not? I have magic items that can produce both in infinite quantities. These people are malnourished and not in any condition to take care of themselves just yet. Once they are there are some among them skilled in the art of survival. Their best bet is to become a tribe in the vast desert outside of Artan-Ak and Kalidnay, away from the slavers and other scum. A few of them have the potential to become powerful psioncisists of some kind, so their chances look good. I wish I had time to properly train them, but I have to find that defiler.

According to some of the slaves this isn't the first time she's disappeared like this. In fact she does so daily, often returning after an hour or so and going right back to her duties. One who dared follow her said she was tending to a tree of all things.

Defilers and trees...why does that ring a bell?
(End transcript)

_________________
"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."


Last edited by High Priest Mikhal on Wed Dec 18, 2013 10:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Sun Jul 06, 2008 12:19 am
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Sulem-Ech Mines, Kalidnay, Sept. 13, 725 BC)
I've been tracking the defiler all through the mountains and even into the wastes below. Her trail is meandering and random, so she must be trying to throw me off. She must not know the spells to teleport, or the fact I only need four hours of sleep is keeping her from resting long enough to renew her magic. Either way I've been closing in on her more and more until today I caught a glimpse of her. Before I could do anything she went inside a series of caverns carved into the rock itself. The sheer perfection of the walls and floors meant they had to be created using magic. And as I looked about before going in I realized I was only an hour's walk from the mining camp. She'd gone to a lot of trouble to try and lose me before coming here; this had to be her lair.

The echoing halls made it hard to pinpoint where she was, but I heard her chanting something that sounded like a ritual. That's when I began to feel very sick, nauseous and achy like I was afflicted by a severe flu. But this was no disease; it was negative energy. So I ran through the halls, finally catching up with the defiler as a gate of grayish-black opened up near a tree that looked blighted and moldy. That's when I remembered why trees and defilers sounded so familiar--Trees of Death! She was undergoing the ritual to become a kaisharga, the Athasian equivalent of a lich. Already the tree was sprouting a single black fruit and she simply had to eat it to begin the process.

It was at this time that her guardians--ashen, crawling claws, and a sand golem--began to converge on me. With a burst of positive energy I did away with the weakest of the creatures, but there were still three ashen and a rather large crawling claw left, along with that golem. Worse there were tormented souls coming through the portal and attacking me along with the others. Surrounded as I was, I manifested an augmented light burst. The undead were vaporized but the golem was largely unharmed by it. I fell back to reshape my mind blade into a bludgeon and began launching psychic strikes at the creature. It took every hit as it walked toward me until, as I was about to be engulfed, it collapsed into a pile of sediment. My relief was short-lived, though. As soon as I went back to look in on the defiler I was hit by the smell of must and decay. She had shed her robe to reveal an emaciated body with gray skin stretched tight over her bones. Her eyes were now empty sockets and her hair had all but fallen out.

I tried to attack her, yet I was stopped cold by a wall of force. Then I was encased in a forcecage. With a thought I manifested disintegrate and broke out, but she was gone. I got up with her as she fled behind a large boulder. Once I had disintegrated that I found myself facing the entrance to a tunnel made entirely of obsidian. These were the mines I'd been told about. The air inside smelled of must and mold like a tomb. The inky darkness was such that only my crystal eye let me see more than a few feet in.

Talk about opening a Pandora's Box.

(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Sulem-Ech Mines, Kalidnay, Sept. 14, 725 BC)
This must be the mine that I was told about. Winding tunnels deep inside of the mountain and obsidian that absorbs light. The air in here is also toxic from a lack of circulation. Only my mask has kept me from choking to death in here. Strangely there have been no undead attacking me. I would have expected this place to be utterly infested. Instead all I've found are the inanimate bones of previous explorers, their flesh now dust on the stone floor.

After half a day of searching I found the kaisharga, though she was in bad shape. She was partially melded into the wall of obsidian and wasn't even lucid enough to answer me when I called out. So I sat down and waited for her to come around, either to fight or talk. She chose the latter after another half day had passed.

Alexander Dreamfire: Who are you?
An-Nut: I was An-Nut, once a preserver and now a defiler.
AD: You were a preserver?
AN: Yes, until I found this place. Its unholy energies seduced me into walking a darker path, showing me the pleasure of pure life force as it coursed through my body. Soon I was addicted to the sensation. When my former mentor found out she tried to kill me. But I killed her instead and used her ashes to grow the Tree of Death.
AD: What happened? What's with the slaves and this mine?
AN: This is a cursed place, a graveyard where a dragon came to die. Only he didn't fully leave this world; his essence remained here and he soon hungered. He whispers to those who come here, teaching them a defiler's path. All he asks for in turn is the undead, their energies feeding him in his prison.

I joined with the merchant and his slave caravan, taking the weakest of slaves and turning them into simple zombies and skeletons. At the same time I also worked to transform into a kaisharga. In exchange I kept the slaves docile using magic. It was a perfect setup--until you came. As you saw I returned to the Tree and completed the transformation when I ran away. Foolishly I thought the dragon here would let me go to further its goals; instead it ensnared me and is even now draining my soul. It's my reward for years of faithful service, my betrayal of my beliefs, and my murdering my own mentor. Only now do I see how far I've fallen. Leave me, outsider. Leave and forget you ever saw this place.
AD: There must be something I can do.
AN: There isn't. The obsidian holds the dragon's spirit here in this chamber, and if it were ever broken he would be free to run across the land again. Forget this place, forget me. I've already paid for my sins.

At this point the kaisharga was pulled into the wall as though it were liquid and she simply disappeared. I didn't stick around after that and made my way back out. By then it was after dark and I was feeling a little spiritually drained. I'd gather up what obsidian I needed from the former slave camp and leave this awful place tomorrow. If I never come back it will be too soon...I wonder how Rudolph's trip turned out?
(End transcript)

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Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:08 am
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Egertus, Nova Vaasa, Sept. 16, 725 BC)
I traced my way back to the Mistway where I'd entered Kalidnay, hoping to return to Mordent. Instead the path has "drifted," as the natives say. In lieu of the chilly forests of Mordent I found myself on the blasted plains of Nova Vaasa. I was literally on the other side of the Core. I could use my psionic powers to teleport back, but like every other time I chose to walk I just can't do it. Such methods require going through the Mists; frankly I'm beginning to feel...unwelcome in the Mists. A pressure, like focused hate, presses on me whenever I go through them lately. I'll have to ask a Vistani seer if she can explain what's going on. All I know is I don't like it and my instincts are telling me to avoid them as much as possible.

With that in mind I went to the nearest town, Egertus, to see if I could hire a coach to take me back to Mordent. Or at least until I came upon a tribe of Vistani willing to take me there. At least with them I feel somewhat safe. Instead I found a town in an uproar. A serial killer in the neighboring town of Kantora had struck again, his victim stranged like all the others. If I wasn't so eager to leave I might have offered to assist. But I loathe this country, especially the state religion. The Lawgiver? What a joke. I know this foul religion by its god's true name--Bane, god of tyranny. I thought I had escaped him when I left Toril centuries ago; I was wrong. Then there is the strong bias against anyone who uses supernatural powers not of the god's origin. Psionics are misunderstood in more enlightened realms; who is to say they wouldn't kill me as a "heretical wizard" if I displayed my powers? I thought it best I leave as soon as possible.

That's when I heard a clamor coming from the center of town. One of the patients from the Clinic for the Mentally Distressed had escaped and was raving in the town square. Two men in white coats, one clean shaven and another with a shaggy beard, were trying to talk him down. That's when I heard two words I'd hoped never to hear: Nightmare Court. Without even thinking I rushed up and grabbed the man by his tattered, dirty shirt, almost in a froth as I asked how he knew about the Court. What he knew. Only the two men--doctors, actually--used this time to inject something in him that quickly knocked him out. I was hailed as a hero, if also a fool, for doing what I'd done.

Orderlies carried the unconscious man back to the Clinic while the doctor with the beard came up to me and thanked me for stopping the patient. He seemed to be a person who genuinely cared about others, the sort of soul you'd want running a mental hospital. He introduced himself as Dr. Gregorian Illhousen. He'd only recently begun work at the Clinic and was trying a new method of treated he called "psychology." I held back a small chuckle; psychology has been known to my people for millennia. We've all but mapped out the living brain physically and emotionally. As a psionicist I had to be versed in the workings of the mind and had explored all parts of my own long before I became an adventurer.

On that pretense I mentioned I was also a student of the mind. He offered to show me around the Clinic. His colleague, a Dr. Douglas Mallard, was one of the first to work there when the clinic was opened almost forty years ago. Traditional methods like exploratory surgery and electroshock therapy were proving ineffective, so Dr. Illhousen began to study how the mind worked through emotions, dreams, and thought. His new methods were actually proving effective and Dr. Mallard was encouraging him to go on with his research. True psychology...such would be a blessing for those touched by madness.

The Clinic itself was a fairly gloomy place, though the doctor has plans to change that. Patients on the first floor seemed to be fairly docile and in control, though more than one seemed agitated. The second floor was the place where the doctor's had their offices and some of the patients lived in small apartments. There was even indoor plumbing for sanitation and a set of showers. I was impressed by this; many sanitariums let the folks in their care wallow in their own filth. Here it seems like they're trying to help them recover.

It was only at my insistence that Dr. Illhousen showed me the basement. I can't say I'm surprised that a dungeon exists; these are violent and dangerous people. They seemed to get riled up at our presence and arms were sticking out of barred windows in solid doors. Of them all only two got my attention--the man from town, another a young woman huddled in the corner of her cell. Dr. Illhousen was able to coax her out and there on her forehead--invisible to mortals--was the mark of the Nightmare Court. I was too late to help her. She had already been claimed by the Court and I couldn't do a thing to help her without violating a pact older than life itself.

But the man from town wasn't marked; I could protect him. Dressed in a straitjacket he'd been unceremoniously thrown into his cell and was only now coming to. As soon as he saw me terror filled his eyes. He must have thought I was an agent of the Court. For ten minutes I talked, convincing him I wasn't a danger. I briefly touched his forehead and left my own mark, also invisible to mortal eyes, saying he was under my protection. The Nightmare Court wouldn't be able to touch him now. He actually began to sob as he thanked me.

As we were leaving Dr. Illhousen asked me about the Court. I can't say if what I know of the Court outside this place is the same here or not, but it looks like they all follow the same rules. The counterpart to my people are a collection of beings known simply as the Nightmare Court. They number in the thousands, each member tapping into the Dreamweb to find dreams they can corrupt and then feed off of. Their touch drives people insane, always to a specific tune that each member prefers--fear, loathing, confusion, regret, sorrow, any negative emotion. My people warred with them countless millennia ago until we settled into a stalemate. At that time the Dreaming Pact was signed by both sides and empowered by the Pact Primeval. Once we, the guardians of dreams, or the Nightmare court, got to a sleeper they would be marked and other side couldn't touch them in any way. Literally those marked for the night were untouchable by the other side, anyone daring oppose the Pact finding themselves paralyzed in place and subject to a variety of punishments outlined.

I told him what I knew as if it were a legend, leaving out specifics and any mention of my kind. Instead of scoffing at it as though it were a joke, he referred to an island east of Nova Vaasa--a place called the Nightmare Lands. I'd heard of it before, but assumed the name was just that. Instead from descriptions it sounds like an actual conjunction of this plane with the Region of Dreams. Crystal spheres, morphing reality, and a people who wandered the forest there. Abber Nomads, no doubt trapped here like the creatures of this Nightmare Court.

There were so many questions I had. Was this a true extension of the Nightmare Court or a bad copy? Were these really the same Abber Nomads that wandered the Region of Dreams? And what was this Court doing here in the first place? Answers would require a visit to the island to see for myself. But that's a trip I'm not eager to take.

In exchange for help in treating some of the less dangerous patients I've been offered room and board at the Clinic for a few days. I really don't have a choice. I won't rest easy until I know for sure whether this is really the Nightmare Court or not. Goddess help me, what have I gotten into?

Editor's Note: This is not the first time we've heard of the Nightmare Court or the Abber Nomads. Readers familiar with Van Richten's Arsenal will remember the Abber dreamcatchers. Uncle Rudolph also mentions his own trip to the Nightmare Lands and holds a copy of Dr. Illhousen's journal detailing his own dealings with these beings. Yet the version we'd heard of has only six members, not thousands. Is it possible there really is another Nightmare Court out there? I'd like to say not, but as Uncle Rudolph used to say, "Nothing is impossible." -- Gennifer-Weathermay Foxgrove
(End transcript)

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Sun Jul 20, 2008 5:59 pm
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Egertus, Nova Vaasa, Sept. 17, 725 BC)
A young girl, Mira, was admitted to the Clinic today, no more than twelve and in the throes of puberty. Her mother explained that she was "wracked by the worst guilt imaginable." The girl would go someplace quiet and weep for hours on end. She absolutely refused to discuss it and, indeed, seemed to be rather embarrassed about whatever was causing her so much pain. No physical malady could be found and thus she was sent here. Dr. Illhousen and I both suspect her "guilt" is brought about by adolescent desires and their contrary nature to the Lawgiver's more personal--I say ludicrous--tenets. Actually this isn't even a concern to the Lawgiver per se, it's just a method of social control that often doesn't work. Still this could turn into a serious mental issue unless addressed now.

Dr. Illhousen talked with Mira briefly in the morning, though that afternoon I had a chat with her. Sometimes the best answers are the simplest. Once I'd explained how nothing bad would happen she seemed to perk up quite a bit. There's some lingering guilt but that's normal. In due time she'll be able to accept this as it is--a natural, healthy part of life. Too bad the priests of her faith can't accept that. Then again that's a part of all too many religions.

As dusk fell I remembered to go down to mark the patient I had the prior evening. If this Nightmare Court is like the one I know then they'll lose interest after a few nights and my protection will be unnecessary. Then it hit me that Mira's guilt would attract the Nightmare Court. I rushed back up and found her eating her supper, no worse for wear. I marked her as one of my wards and retired to my room. Instead of sleeping, though, I let my mind detach from my body so I could dreamwalk. In the past I used to project into the dreams of others to help them with nightmares, but here contact with my mind will drive mortals insane. I'm not sure if it's also the same in dreams, considering what I am, but I'm too afraid to risk it.

As a ghostly, invisible form I wandered the halls of the Clinic, watching the others move about and prepare for sleep. In the basement I saw strands of silk tied to many of the inmates, the Dreamweb drawing off the darker emotions of their nightmares in flows of black energy. Only the one inmate I'd marked was free of this taint, and he seemed to be at peace. This was what the of the Nightmare Court fed on mostly--the horrors of those it caught temporarily. Only a few minds had the potential to be seeded into something greater. Apparently not even the criminally insane were enough to sate this Court.

Thus I returned upstairs, checking on Mira. She was fast asleep with a bit of a furrow in her brow. No doubt the lingering guilt manifesting in her dreams. As I watched her I suddenly realized there was someone else in the room, in the same reality as me. From the corner of my eye I spotted a dirty ballerina's tutu, covered in bloody spatters and handprints. The one wearing it was as white as death, her hair and skin the color of pure snow and just as cold. But her eyes were pools of shadow. Absolute darkness. I could feel her touch me with fingers like ice. She seemed to realize who and what I was, but never said a word. Instead she beckoned me to follow her. We walked on strands of the Dreamweb to an abandoned city that was always changing from moment to moment. The energies of this place were just like home. I was back in the Region of Dreams.

Through the city this Ghost Dancer led me to a cathedral with stained glass windows depicting horrid scenes of pain and misery. Worse was that each moved, telling a grisly story. There I saw a figure wrapped in black cowls and covered in dark spiders--dreamweavers that spun nightmares. It--he was sitting at a canvas with palette in one hand and a brush in the other as it painted what it seemed to see in the windows. As he stroked with the brush his creation began to stain red, even dripping onto the floor. For several minutes more he raged and destroyed all manner of furniture around him, infuriated. Once his frustration settled he turned to face me. Even my crystal eye couldn't pierce the veil of shadows covering his face, though I saw two pinpoints of light that must have been his eyes.

With a deep bow he greeted me and spoke in a voice like fall leaves under one's foot.
Nightmare Man: Greetings, Dreamer. I hadn't expected to find your kind in this place.
Alexander Dreamfire: Nor had I expected the Nightmare Court to also exist here.
NM: The Court exists in all realities, even this cursed place. Ah, but where are my manners? Call me the Nightmare Man. My associate there is the Ghost Dancer.
AD: Call me Alex. Is this it? All of your members?
NM: ::Raucous laughter:: No, there are four others who comprise this Court. The witch, Mullonga. The eternal sleeper, Hypnos. The imp, Morpheus. And the Rainbow Serpent.
AD: I can honestly say I've never heard of any of you. But you are all Nightmare Court members; the Pact still stands.
NM: Yes, the Dreaming Pact. That is why I have summoned you to my cathedral. The Pact, Dreamer, prevents us from interfering with one another directly. But already your actions have disrupted our plans indirectly. You think that inmate in the asylum an innocent victim? Ask the dozens of young women he raped and murdered. We want him. You can have the girl, but we want the inmate. I want him.
AD: Is that it?
NM: One more thing. Consider this an...invitation to our realm. See what we do, what we are, and why we are here. And please, do come in your physical form.
AD: On one condition. ::A scroll appears in mid-air:: A sub-contract of the Pact. Assurance you, and your fellows, won't trap me in this realm. I am a native of this reality, and thus I would be unable to cross a border that was closed. That wouldn't violate the Pact, so I'm not taking chances. Sign it and we have an accord.
NM: Of course. ::Signs the scroll:: We do have civility, my good Dreamer. We aren't savage monsters.
AD: I guess that depends on whom you ask.

At this point I ended my dreamwalk and jolted upright in bed as if from a nightmare. An invitation from the head of this Court? No doubt an attempt to justify their horrid dream snatching. But if that's what they want I guess I can play along. For now, though, I'd prefer to help show Dr. Illhousen a few new techniques that will greatly aid his development of psychology. In a lesser sense, I guess, I'm also a bit scared of going to the Nightmare Lands. Not because it's alien, but because it's so horribly familiar.
(End transcript)

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Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:55 pm
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Egertus, Nova Vaasa, Sept. 19, 725 BC)
Mira has been released under her mother's care after only two days of treatment. Though her mother believes it a miracle, it's really because the girl is perfectly normal. Confused, scared, and feeling isolated about the changes to her mind and body, but then all adolescents feel that way. This has freed up time and room for other patients, though fortunately there are no new patients at this time. Yesterday I spent my time gathering up the twigs, twine, feathers, stone, and beads I would need to create a dreamcatcher. Dr. Illhousen remarked how he'd seen "primitive shamans on the island to the east" making and wielding similar items. This is no coincidence; both of our people can create these items without any sort of training or power. In fact there are several types--one that literally catches creatures and powers that would effect dreams and neutralizes them is only the most common. This is one designed to detect and aid me in using the nether portals. If I find one I may be able to leave this plane and return home.

In the end the dreamcatcher was atop a crooked wooden staff and looked like a web encased in a circle of twigs with small beads snared in its strands, all around a polished stone with feathers hanging down the sides and middle. Besides being a device to aid me when I went there, it was also to be a warning--not all of the creatures there may be aware of the Pact, but most are still subject to it. This would be a beacon saying they'd best steer clear of me. Rogue dream spawn, bastelli, feyrs, and other things not bound to any of the Court members are not subject to the Dreaming Pact. A dreamcatcher will hopefully still drive them off, and even if not it will have a demoralizing effect on them.

Dr. Illhousen thinks me insane for wanting to go there. But then he has yet to realize what that place truly is. It's not just a chaotic realm of living nightmares.

It's my home.

(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, City of Nod, The Nightmare Lands, Sept. 20, 725 BC)
A Mistway to the Nightmare Lands was waiting for me. The influence of the Nightmare Court or a coincidence? I can't say. When I emerged I was on a land as gray as the sky, lifeless and barren with jagged depressions in the cracked ground like the pox. Further in were deep canyons and rocks so sharp they could slice steel. Nothing lurked in this place, not even the dream spawn I was expecting. Yet this place felt no different from reality--indeed, as I walked I saw dream scenes play out in obvious forms. This is the border between the dream world and reality. A wasteland to trap those on the island. Even if they escaped whatever else lurks here, there was nowhere to go.

Following the trail I came upon crystal spheres floating in the air, held aloft in motionless fashion. These were dreamscapes, just like the ones formed by sleeping minds in the Region of Dreams. Yet they were also different in a bizarre way. Normal dreamscapes fade with the dreamer, yet these all seemed permanent. Then it hit me that these were the prisons used by the Nightmare Court. Beyond the swirling colors I could see a myriad of scenes play out, most horrific, grotesque, or morbid in the extreme. They would no doubt drive the minds of other beings to madness. A few even tried to pull me in; I felt their tugging on my body like a child does its mother's dress. I merely brushed the feelings off and moved on. Across the ground I could also spot the shards and pieces of broken dreamscapes buried in the ground. Pure dream crystal, perhaps the only thing in any abundance in the Region of Dreams. My people use it for everything except as food; it can be worked like metal, stone, and wood, or burned like coal, or even woven like cloth or tooled like leather. But few are too interested in such techniques when easier and more readily available materials exist everywhere else. Crystal crafting is very much an art only my people practice most of the time.

I took the time to gather a large batch of dream crystal before moving into a deciduous forest. Yet when I turned to look the scenery changed as if in a dream--to a point. I was surrounded by a "bubble" of stability where the forest didn't change. Instead it remained like I'd first seen it. This was just like the shield formed whenever one of my kind steps outside of Detria. It's an instinctive control of the dream stuff, turning it into a stable area not unlike controlled Limbo. While this wouldn't provide any protection from attack, it did protect me from the constantly changing environment. As I walked I was suddenly surrounded by water and islands at one point, then mountains and valleys, and even an active volcano at one point. Yet wherever I went the terrain returned to its true form, forming a visible division between the outside and the aura of stability I emanate.

Before leaving I was confronted by a red-skinned man with dark eyes and hair, with a lower body that trailed into smoke. He said nothing but instead seemed to try and use his powers against me--or my aura. They flickered out as colorful lights and fell to the ground before disappearing harmlessly. He tried this several times and seemed to become quite upset when I proved immune to his abilities. I left him as he threw a tantrum, an abandoned city in the distance. Here the aura disappeared, instead replaced by the ability to will the city's immediate surroundings to whatever shape I wanted. Streets, buildings, I could literally reshape the place with a thought. By this time I had spent half a day exploring this odd island and was ready to make camp. So I set a comfortable, if morose and bleak-looking, house in front of me and went inside. This place, much less empty and broken down, must appear very out of character with the rest of the city.

Tomorrow I begin exploring this city at great length. The Nightmare Court must have their lairs here somewhere, and I would very much like to meet with them individually.
(End transcript)

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Wed Jul 23, 2008 2:30 pm
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Mordentshire, Mordent, Sept. 21, 725 BC)
I went to sleep last night expecting the night to be one of constant attacks by the untamed creatures of this place. Instead it was quiet, uneventful, almost disappointing in a way. Seeing the things here, knowing they are everything my people were created to oppose, has set my blood boiling. I so want to fight something and vent my growing rage. This place is so like home and so unlike it all at once it's driving me crazy! Damn the Pact for stopping me like this! This is more of a Hell for me than Hell ever was.

Anyway, my first "interview" with a Nightmare Court member wasn't really an interview. Inside an old, decrepit theatre I heard the sound of people--an audience of sorts. When I went in I realized these were undead souls, oblivious to me as they watched the Ghost Dancer perform. I sat and took in the show, finding it a rather enjoyable experience. She may be evil and undead, but the Ghost Dancer is certainly a world-class ballerina. During the show I did feel something tug at my mind for a minute. I think it was the Dancer's powers, but what stopped it--my abilities or the Pact--I may never know. Once she was done she beckoned me backstage where she tried desperately to tell me a story in pantomime.

Her story was muddled and confused. It seemed that she herself no longer remembers her own death and has two very different versions of it. One is where she was a simple ballerina, lovely and talented, who longed for the fame and adoration of being a performer. She constructed elaborate fantasy scenes in her dreams, imagining herself the star to a rapt audience. Finally her dreams came true, and for an evening she was in her own heaven. But things took a dark turn after the curtain fell; her own coach tried to ravage her, finally cutting her side open and letting her blood flow even as she tried to crawl away. He pulled her back with his bloody hands and violated her even as she died.

In another story she was already a renowned performer, and a new mother. But someone killed her child, and when she walked in on them she was next. She ran away, but the perpetrator grabbed her tutu and pulled her back with bloody hands and strangled her to death. Either one could be true, they could both be true, or they could be nothing more than an elaborate delusion. The Ghost Dancer herself doesn't seem to know the truth anymore. In searching nightmares she has tried to understand why she had to die, to know what was going through the mind of her killer. But in the end she found no answers.

I left the theatre and headed for a tower. Once I got there I found a door was open in the face, waiting for me. Within I noticed that everything was slow. At first my movements were like moving through water, strained by an unseen force. What should have taken me no more than ten minutes to climb instead took twenty, circular stairs upward so that I could see the master of this demesne--Hypnos. At the top I found a dapper gentleman in a glass coffin, one eye closed while the other--magnified by a monocle--was open. His voice came but his lips never moved, a sight and sound I never got used to. Even now the whispers haunt me.

This Hypnos may have once been a man of high station, but he was not too talkative about his past. Instead he spoke at length about how he so loved to destroy the self-esteem of others. I noticed a particular delight in his descriptions of finding what people loathed most about themselves and then using that to torment them night after night. From this I can theorize a background: Hypnos was, indeed, once a man of the high class. But his ego, his self-worth, was also his downfall. Whether because of a social gaff or a foe's meddling--perhaps both--he found himself shamed before his peers. He was torn apart emotionally until the only thing left was a cold and unthinking need to see others humiliated and destroyed as he was. Even his coffin seems to be a sort of "buffer zone," something to keep other beings at a distance in the figurative and literal sense. It may be that the hate and thirst for revenge led him to the Dreamweb. He used its power to strike back at the others--whoever they may be--and to fashion a shield so no one could harm him. Truly, he is the most pathetic of all the members.

My last interview was with the witch Mullonga. From her appearance I can only assume she was once an Abber Nomad herself. Her fascination with all things concerning arcane magic may have been what led to her being cast out of her own tribe. The Abbers back home have no wizards or sorcerers and few are ever drawn to the path of divine magic. Indeed they had a taboo against magic in general--those who would try to understand and control the malleable reality of dreams are insane and a danger to the tribe. Paradoxically they also believe madness grants great power, and indeed the exiles were often shamans of amazing skill. But none of them were arcane spellcasters.

Mullonga, on the other hand, seems to be a wizard or sorcerer of great skill. This intense desire to understand the arcane may have been what led her to the Dreamweb. In it she found what she was looking for, but not in the manner she had anticipated. Her fascination with fear is something I can't explain. It may be that she used her newfound powers to strike back at her old tribe using fear. To be condemned to this place she must have truly scared them to death. Even now her only real interests are fear and arcane magic. She was maddeningly obtuse with me and I finally had to give up talking to her. I also found those bizarre creatures hovering around her--arcane heads, she called them--quite disturbing.

When I left the Ghettoes I suddenly found myself back in the Ring of Dreams. There the Nightmare Man met me, showing me a vortex that was capable of allowing me to escape this place. Not just the Nightmare Lands but the Land of Mists themselves. Home was but a step away. That's when it hit me that I can't leave--not yet, at least. If I disappeared who would be there for Maxine? Who would help Ren search for her path again? What manner of horrors that I can prevent would visit those I care about in this place? Could I just abandon them for my own selfish gain?

As far as the Nightmare Man knows I've left this reality. Instead I used the vortex to reappear just outside my Mordentshire estate. Maxine was outside practicing her martial arts, and she was overjoyed that I was back from my trip. All I had to do was look in her eyes to know that I made the right choice. Escape can wait when I have others who need me here and now. As for Morpheus and the Rainbow Serpent, I think I know enough of this world's Nightmare Court that I don't need to deal with them. They are no different from the one I know outside, and I shall treat them no differently when next we meet.
(End transcript)

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Tue Aug 05, 2008 8:04 pm
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Mordentshire, Mordent, Jan. 5, 726 BC)
The charter for the Archer Trading Company has been approved by the Smythe family and we've begun merging our assets into one. Already our efforts have been hindered by the Boritsi, outwardly by throwing up political walls to stop our expansion into Richemulot and Invidia. But in the shadows they've sent poisoned gifts to several managers of the company, though each has been caught thanks to Ren and her simple magic divining rods that detect for such. Since we can't bring legal charges against the BTC for these attacks we've had to sink to their level just to survive. Already they've suffered a series of bizarre "accidents" and had important suppliers tearing up their contracts with them after evidence of record doctoring was shown to them. Money is the only language these people understand.

So far the Boritsi have responded just as I expected, only to find that this new competitor is several moves ahead of them. While I'm not against a little competition, I am against unfair trade practices. Besides, I have a vendetta against the Boritsi and especially their cousins, the Dilisnya. This is also a cover for me to cause them both as much grief as possible.

Editor's Note: For several more months the journals deal only with the ATC. So we're skipping ahead to a more interesting point. -- Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove

(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Mordentshire, Mordent, June 1, 726 BC)
With the slash and burn of the Merchant's Way there's been a significant drop in attacks on caravans by kender vampires. If I hadn't been stuck at the helm of the Archer Trading Company I would have personally led an army to eradicate those abominations. Instead I've been so busy I had no time to do much else. Maxine in particular has been rather irritated by my distraction and inattentiveness. Especially when she's been having strange dreams and flashes of memory. In particular she remembers time spent in a place called Paridon, at a monastery where she trained. Then there were memories of being a little girl in Spiritsvale, something that couldn't be unless the mayor's daughter's spirit had inhabited the body along with her brain. A living soul. That could explain why she's a living construct and not a normal golem.

When I told her my suspicions it all seemed to click for her. But against my advise she traveled to Spiritsvale to tell her father. I couldn't do anything but wait until she returned. When she got back at first it looked like everything was fine, but she broke down in my arms and cried for hours. Her father wouldn't believe her, rejecting her and saying things so vile I cringe to think of them. That was exactly what I was afraid of and why I told her not to go. She looked so different, sounds different, and that's what humans seem to think is most important to identity. It doesn't matter if the soul is the same, if the body is different they're as good as dead to many others. Is it so hard to believe that a reincarnated spirit is the same person they were before?

It tears me apart to see her in so much pain. But this is something she's going to have to work out on her own. For now she seems to have come to terms with her rejection, though she's still a little shaken by it.

On a completely different note there's been some sort of political change in Richemulot. Rumors are that Claude Renier has been killed and his own granddaughter, Jaqueline, has taken control. Normally this wouldn't be an event I care about, but Claude was the lord of Richemulot and that can only mean the mantle of imprisonment has been transferred to Jaqueline. I loathe dealing with such beings, but her new policies are opening up new opportunities for the Archer Trading Company. This means I have to head there and broker a deal to open trading posts there. This actually the first time I've really been there, so I'm eager to see if the stories are true. For her sake I've offered to take Maxine with me for a holiday. The talks won't take more than a couple of hours and we'll have ample time to tour the cities. I hope the change of scenery will help cheer her up. I'm worried about her.
(End transcript)

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Sat Aug 09, 2008 3:32 pm
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Pont-A-Museau, Richemulot, June 6, 726 BC)
Our arrival in Richemulot started off with unseasonable heat. So far from the cool sea and thick forests of Mordent the summers get hot. Maxine had uncharacteristically donned fancy, heavy gowns and dresses for our trip. I get the feeling she's trying to come across as more feminine, if only to me. But once we arrived she was swooning from the heat. I had to use endure elements on her just to keep her from fainting. She seems to be intent on proving something and is willing to risk even her health for it. Just days earlier she was depressed and filled with self-pity, yet now she's full of renewed vigor and determination. I'd try and detect her thoughts to see what's going on, but for some reason I just can't do it anymore. I feel like I'm violating her right to privacy now.

Just walking to the Renier Estate proved some of the rumors true. There is a real lack of people compared to the number of buildings around. Half the town is currently abandoned, though as more and more people immigrate here that should change. Another story proved to be quite accurate about Richemuloise and gossip; even before I came to Mordent I learned not to give out more information than was absolutely necessary. Maxine, as her memories return, has a similar manner. So it wasn't about us that we heard vicious rumors, but rather Jaqueline Renier herself. Rumors that she had killed her own grandfather were being whispered. I wouldn't put such past her; wererats are among the most pathetic and opportunistic of all the known lycanthrope phenotypes.

At the meeting I could see the outline of a monstrous humanoid rat around Jaqueline thanks to my crystal eye. Truly she is evil, but she's also quite genuine about her desires to make Richemulot a thriving country. I had to wonder if there was something more to her renewed nationalism. But she had gone out of the way to get most of the work of establishing a trading post here done. Caravans of Richemuloise goods would be ready to go to Mordent in as little as a week, and a building had already been redesigned to meet our needs. The only caveat was that, like citizens, employees that were stationed there own a weapon and be ready to defend the country in times of need. That wouldn't be a problem; the ATC has already begun to train employees in weapons use to defend themselves from the BTC and others like them.

Aside from negotiations of taxes everything was done. Even the last part wasn't much of a hassle, since she readily agreed to pretty fair rates. Not that Jaqueline wasn't a shrewd negotiator--quite the opposite--but rather it seems she's quite eager to begin business. To aide on her end she offered the services of a distant nephew of hers, Gustav Renier. I didn't sense the taint of lycanthropy or evil about him; he seemed to be a throwback to the times when the Reniers were just and noble. He had already recruited the team needed to transport the goods, but still wanted my approval for folks that were to work at the local warehouse and store. Given that it was late in the day I decided to do that in the morning. Maxine was likewise having a hard time hiding her boredom with these negotiations.

By the time we arrived at the Fat Black Rat inn it was dusk and people had already begun turning in. The innkeeper mistook us for a newlywed couple and offered us a room for honeymooners. Before I could say anything Maxine accepted the offer. This only confirmed something I didn't want to admit to myself: she had fallen in love with me. In the past she'd admitted I was kind of like a big brother to her, a protector that she could also talk to about anything, even a hero in some respects. Now she was ready to go forward with this relationship to the next level. The problem is I really don't know what my feelings for her are. I love her, yes, but in a platonic way more than an intimate one--I think. With all that's been going on I lost track of what was happening with us.

As I right this she's in bed, fast asleep. I know living constructs don't need sleep, but she seems to enjoy it and the act of dreaming. Tonight I'll have to do some serious soul searching as I dream. Facing emotions as they really are can be quite painful, even for a psionicist. Few are truly ready to see what really lies in their hearts.
(End transcript)

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Wed Aug 13, 2008 2:14 pm
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Western Richemulot, June 7, 726 BC)
I woke up this morning with my stomach in knots. Maxine was already up and performing her morning exercises. She looked over at me straight in my eyes. Neither of us said anything as she sat down beside me, I caressed her cheek, and kissed her deeply, passionately. Her entire body began to blush a rich crimson and her breathing became slightly ragged in its sound. Actions clearly spoke louder than words.

As tempting as it was to simply stay there, to know each other as only lovers can, there was business to take care of. In due time, I told her.

Editor's Note: My sister tried to have the previous passages struck from the final print. Every time I asked her why, she just blushed and scowled with indignation. She is indeed jealous! I find that rather adorable myself. -- Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove

The men and women chosen to transport the first caravan of Richemuloise goods to Mordent were of decent enough character, though I wouldn't put them on anything more sensitive. Those chosen to run the warehouse and man the store were certainly cast from a better mold. These were the sort who valued loyalty and commitment over money, unlike the more mercenary caravan drivers. Gustav Renier has certainly earned his pay in helping establish the trading post. From here the ATC can begin to branch into much of the Southern Core, sans Borca. I've no desire to step on the toes of the Boritsis in their own home. Besides which they may take such as an act of aggression. I loathe the Boritsis and their methods, but I'm not about to start a war with them.

Everything seemed to be in good hands. I was actually ready to sign and seal the deal when I heard Maxine scream, followed by the sound of flesh impacting flesh. Someone hidden in the warehouse had tried to attack her and she reacted by punching them square in the face. That same person had since skittered away and into a gaping hole in the floor. A stench like an open sewer meeting a garbage pile was emanating from it. This was a fresh hole, too. Saliva was still visible where the stone foundation had been literally gnawed through. Clearly we were dealing with wererats. The vermin were well known throughout Richemulot, and if Jacqueline herself is one it stands to reason these could be her kith and kin. But if she wants her country to be prosperous why would she attack a vital trading outpost?

The simplest answer was she wouldn't. These were wererats not under her authority. Or they could be and they just wanted to cause trouble. Either way this was a problem I couldn't just leave. Goddess, I hate lycanthropes!

Though the workers offered to go down and flush them out with fire, that was too risky. As the head of the ATC it was my responsibility to take care of these things. I didn't even try to stop Maxine from coming with me; her skills as a monk would be useful in the warrens, and by her nature she was also immune to lycanthropy. Besides which, she'd simply go after me if I did try and stop her. Fortunately she'd packed her normal outfit for the trip. I don't think she'd be able to move too freely in those impossible gowns.

The first thing to hit us was the overwhelming stench. We'd thought it had been bad above, but down here it was just ghastly. I had to manifest breathless on us both just to stand it. I also manifested psionic true seeing on Maxine, so she could see as well in the darkness as I could. I forgot this was the first time she'd experienced such; having the illusions our eyes show us stripped away so suddenly is very perturbing at times. It took her a minute to adjust, especially to seeing my true nature even as I'm disguised as a human.

Not twenty feet in we were assaulted by filthy wererats covered in mud and dung and wearing threadbare robes. One unleashed a cloud of gas on us, but our protection stopped it cold. The other conjured what looked like a water elemental, only it was deep red in color moved in an ooze-like manner. It was a blood elemental. Immediately I opened fire on it with mind arrows and caused it to disperse. The wererat who summoned it was livid and now closed for the kill. Maxine was quicker on the draw, though, and with a kick managed to knock it and its compatriot against the wall. Both were momentarily stunned and I used the precious seconds to bind them in ectoplasm. If we could solve this without bloodshed, so much the better.

It didn't take much to get them to talk. A silvery-white mind blade at the throat was all I needed to scare the truth out: Louise Renier, Jacqueline's twin sister, had ordered them to burrow into the warehouse and ruin the deal by destroying the goods. Only one of their younger members tried to sneak out and spy on us--the same one that had given Maxine a fright. As soon as he returned they knew the plan was botched and tried to seal off the tunnel using walls of stone. Except we showed up and they panicked. If I killed them then their fellows would no doubt attack again in greater numbers. But if I let them live they might betray me. It was one of "lesser of two evils" situations.

In exchange for a few polished gold coins they agreed to continue with their original plan and forget we'd ever met. Maxine and I watched as they cast the spells and sealed the tunnel once we got out. The rumbling of stone continued for half a minute more, so they must have layered things. After all that we were filthy, but I knew a power to clean us up right away.

This probably would have been the end of it had Jacqueline Renier herself not arrived. Apparently she was well aware of what had happened and had a small troop of her own guards ready to watch things so this didn't happen again. If only to mollify her I agreed on a temporary basis; I don't trust her or her lackeys in all honesty. I would be hiring my own guards to watch over things and even had a meeting with the Lock and Key, a secret society known for its honesty and just nature, later that day.

In reality the two of us left Richemulot shortly after that very meeting. The business needs were met and I wasn't too keen on sticking around for wererat family feuds. I'm frustrated with this whole affair, though Maxine is even more so. Despite her nature she is still very human and shares the same drives and urges. That our plans for the evening were postponed has left her...grumpy. We've decided to take non-stop carriage rides back to Mordentshire just to get away from the Reniers and back to some place a little more sane.

...Okay, so she's not the only one "grumpy."
(End transcript)

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Sat Aug 16, 2008 12:42 pm
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Mordentshire, Mordent, July 1, 726 BC)
There's been something of a blowout at Lord Jules' estate, Heather House. His son, George, has never been what I'd call a stereotypical aristocrat; he always came across as someone who would sooner follow his heart than bow to "tradition." Today he announced he was going to follow the path of a ranger. Naturally his father was livid and called me and some other prominent members of society to his estate to try and convince his son to turn away. While I can't speak for the others, I'd be lying if I said I was on his father's side. The truth is I support George and his decision to follow his own path. My own family is of noble blood, but we have a long and distinguished tradition of following our hearts as adventurers. I recall Lord Jules himself was once a dashing swordsman, though he had no real choice in his path--his parents were killed mysteriously in that "accident." I tend to wonder if there wasn't something more sinister behind it.

My siding with George on this matter has strained my relationship with Lord Jules, but the tensions between father and son are even worse. It's a knee-jerk reaction, I know, but things were said both sides will regret for years to come. Thankfully Rudolph is supporting George as well and has offered to help show him how to face the creatures of the night. I think I'll be letting those two play "monster hunter" by themselves for the rest of the year. I have other concerns.

To start with there's Maxine. After introducing her to the world of intimacy and love I've awakened an appetite in her that seems...endless. I forgot that living constructs don't get tired. Further she seems to be quite eager to try new things. I haven't felt like this since my time in the Abyss as a slave. Actually that experience has conditioned me to handle Maxine and her newfound appetites.

There's also been trouble with the Archer Trading Company. Several trade posts in Dementlieu have been sabotaged and the workers there killed by garotte. A piece of glass found embedded in the flesh of one worker was actually sent to me so I could use my powers to discern the killer. Using object reading I learned it belonged to a man named Herschel Manns, a Lamordian expatriate. It didn't take much more digging to learn this was a cover for one Gaius Dilisnya. I couldn't discern much more beyond that, but the piece does act as a nice focus for my crystal ball. I really don't want to go back there just to handle one assassin, but there's no real way to get to the bottom of this if I don't. I need to pick Gaius' brain to find out who is behind this and why. If he's dead I can't use telepathy to dig out what I need if more mundane methods fail.

Finally there's been a woman stalking around my estate lately. No one has seen her clearly, but the description is of a woman with lustrous black hair and violet eyes wearing a voluminous cloak. This has to be the same woman who was involved in the Spiritsvale murders. She seems to be on Maxine's trail. I've been manifesting mind blank on her just to be on the safe side. This has also forced me to take Maxine with me on my trip to Dementlieu. Until I find out who this woman is and what she wants with Maxine I simply don't want to put her at risk.

We leave for Dementlieu in the morning. This assassin is going to pay for making me go back to that aristocratic nightmare!
(End transcript)

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Wed Aug 27, 2008 8:23 pm
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Port-a-Lucine, Dementlieu, July 7, 726 BC)
I'm beginning to believe Maxine has developed some problems since she became a living construct. Foremost among them is a rather poor impulse control. During our five day trip in a carriage she became quite wanton in every sense of the word. Had I not put a mind blank on her I would have tried to use telepathy to calm her emotions. But the price of using a powerful ward like that is no one can influence her mind or detect her presence through supernatural means, even the one who manifested it. As is I'll decline to go into detail, suffice to say that her behavior was lewd at times. Thank the goddess we passed by so few populated areas.

This has implications beyond her carnal lust, though. A monk draws power from intense self-discipline and introspection, yet I see the former in her dissolving rapidly. If this continues she will never be able to achieve the highest levels of enlightenment, a goal she talks about constantly. This is a problem only she can work out, though. Either she brings herself back under control or spirals down a path of debauchery and decadence. Given my time in the Abyss, I know all too well how dangerous that statement is.

I bring all this up because it helps me understand what happened when we went in search of Gaius Dilisnya. Crossing palms with silver and buying the destitute warm meals got me all the information I needed. There was just one little problem: Gaius Dilisnya had died three days earlier. From the gendarmerie I heard he died of a stroke, but that doesn't make a lot of sense. He was in great health and only in his early-thirties. A stroke is as unlikely as a good lich. When I asked to see his body they said that his family had already claimed it and left. That left me with just one choice. I had to break into his home.

As soon as night fell Maxine and I went to his home, a shack in the middle of the worst area of the slums. The little hovel was nothing more than four semi-solid walls and a roof over a dirt floor with a soiled hay mattress and a stone circle for fires. Yet knowing the Dilisnya this had to be a ruse. As I searched I came across a wooden box buried in the ground and covered by a thin layer of dirt. Inside was Gaius' journal and a bizarre token with a picture on it--a human brain. In his journal he details how he took a job to infiltrate the Brain's network and assassinate said mastermind. The truly bizarre thing is the entries were dated over just two days, with the last on the same day as his stroke. Now I know the Brain has psionic powers; only those with the power to read minds could have picked out a spy so quickly. Plus a stroke--it's ironic and ghoulishly poetic that he should die in such a way.

Just as we were leaving a few of the locals began to convene on us like jackals. They just wanted my money, but they seemed to want a lot more from Maxine. I remember seeing one of them cupping her left breast through her shirt, then it was pandemonium. One moment I see a man with missing teeth staring at me and the next I hear this ungodly tearing sound as I realize his head has literally been ripped off of his body and I'm being sprayed with blood. Maxine was already on her third victim by then, kicking the man so hard his body literally folded in half at the waist in a disgusting show of gore. The rest managed to get away and I had to entangle her in ectoplasm until she came back to her senses nearly a full minute later.

By then a mob was forming and we fled, never looking back. After a time we stopped at a pond to clean up. Looking at her reflection Maxine realized what she'd done and was understandably horrified. She said that the man's touch was so loathsome and odious that she lost control. As I've looked back I now realize this is just the latest in a series of losses of self control for her. I wish I'd caught it sooner, but I also won't let myself feel too badly for those people. They were clearly intent on assaulting her and their fate is deserved. However she can't get the images out of her mind and is consumed with self-loathing. Only a few minutes ago did she finally fall asleep.

Not only have I not been able to figure what Gaius Dilisnya was up to when he attacked my people, I've now gotten involved in something that I didn't want to. Plus Maxine is falling apart emotionally over what happened to her. In the morning I'll use my powers to remove the emotional sting before warding her again. I'd do it sooner but there's no way for me to dispel the protection I put on her. It has to wear off on its own before I can do anything.

I have the feeling if I want to solve my mystery, I'll have to solve the one around Gaius' death as well.
(End transcript)

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Mon Sep 01, 2008 4:56 pm
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Port-a-Lucine, Dementlieu, July 9, 726 BC)
Maxine hasn't been the same since her experience in the slums. When I was repairing her mind I experienced what she did--absolute revulsion and terror at the man's touch. The horror has done more than left a few scoundrels dead: it shattered her innocence.

I feel that I've failed her, failed to protect her as I vowed to. She claims it isn't my fault, but guilt is not a logical thing. My only concern was to show her there were still beautiful things in this world. One of those is love, and I spent the entire day yesterday demonstrating how much I felt for her. It would be remiss of me if I didn't mention that she helped me as well. This whole experience has been hard on us both, but it's driven us closer as well. For a time we could both forget why we were there. But all good things come to an end eventually. For us it was a knock on our inn door at sunrise.

The gendarme had gotten wind of what happened and I was to meet with a member of the Council of Brilliance, Dominic d'Honaire. That made my blood freeze in my veins. What was going on that someone of his "status" would want to meet with me? Though I advised against it, Maxine insisted on accompanying me to meet with the man. Just to be on the safe side I released some of the effect on reality, just enough that I was sure d'Honaire would be powerless against me.

No one seemed to be aware of it until we met with d'Honaire. I saw him falter slightly as he stood up from his desk and welcomed us. His fairly portly build and lavish clothing marked him as a lifelong noble, never wanting for anything. He even gave Maxine a lecherous look but got nothing for it. Later she would remark that he was, bar none, the ugliest and most loathsome man she'd ever met. It wasn't anything about him specifically. Just a revulsion so strong she desired nothing more than to flee in disgust. I never noticed anything beyond my own educated hate of this man and his evil, though.

D'Honaire wanted us to investigate the murder of Herschel Manns, the alias Gaius Dilisnya was using. Apparently he had hired the assassin for a hit on the crimelord the Brain. Only his hired blade died before he could finish the job. I got the feeling there was more he wasn't telling us, but I didn't press the matter. He also mentioned the token I'd found, saying it was a sort of identifier used by the agents of the Brain. Showing it to the right people would get me in the Brain's criminal network, a badge that said I was a part of it and thus trustworthy to this person's minions. Since I'd found it on a dead man, though, I had to wonder if the Brain hadn't begun changing things. The token may have only a couple of days left until it became worse than useless--rather, a beacon that I was a spy. I'd have to find someone in the Brain's network and find out for sure.

He was trying to get me killed. I sensed extreme hate just from his body language directed at me. So I played along like a good little drone and told him I'd do my best. That meeting was a waste of time.

Our next stop was the area Gaius used to frequent: the slums. I hated to go back there so soon after the incident, but we needed information on our (dead) man. No one seemed to know who we were, though for the cost of a hot meal or a pair of decent shoes the locals were willing to tell us everything. Gaius Dilisnya, as Herschel Manns, was known as a wastrel and a drunkard. His story was he was a washout from a Lamordian university and traveled to Dementlieu with another student, Werner Maus. The latter had a rather unsavory attitude even by criminals' standards; he was obsessed with electricity and was a known pervert. He was known to take destitute young women and perform unspeakable experiments. The lucky ones died, but most survived with physical and mental scars. That's what prompted his own flight from Lamordia when the local schuttlebot got wind of his activities.

Gaius and Werner came together around that time. Werner was the one to torture people for information, while Gaius kept his hands clean of that particular activity. Where he is now isn't known, but I know I'll be forced to talk to him sooner or later.

Other than his heinous associate, the one thing most people remember about Herschel Manns was him asking around the docks just before he died. So we headed down there to find out what the workers might know. They remembered our man, but many were unwilling to talk. They were afraid of retribution from the Brain. All they would say is "he can read your mind. You can't keep secrets from him."

So Dominic d'Honaire hired Gaius to kill the Brain, only to have his assassin killed in turn. The link to the Brain was clearly going nowhere in terms of what I needed to know. Werner Maus is my best bet for finding out what Gaius Dilisnya was up to. Apparently he moved to Chateaufaux two months ago. It's too late to go there today, so we're heading off in the morning. All I want to know is who hired a Dilisnya to sabotage my company and here I am getting pulled deeper into the underbelly of humanity in search of the answer. Am I dedicated or just plain stupid?
(End transcript)

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Sat Sep 06, 2008 12:43 pm
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Chateaufaux, Dementlieu, July 11, 726 BC)
Two days on the road and we arrived. Chateaufaux is a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of Port-a-Lucine. Craftsmen and inventors are the celebrities here, folks who produce something of lasting value as well as beauty. True art is in that which is both functional and beautiful to look at. Why waste precious resources on something that has no real use? But that outlook is common among my kind. On a plane where the only solid matter is the shards of shattered dreamscapes, you learn to conserve and make the most of what's available. Waste is something to be avoided. As I observed, however, this attitude is likewise felt by many here. At several times I noticed carts of sawdust being taken from woodworkers to other places--butcher shops, mostly--and piles of scrap metal collect outside of metalworkers shops to be melted back down and used anew.

Yet beneath the brimming surface of "respectable" crafts lie stranger and less socially accepted things. This is the world we were shown when we began asking about Werner Maus. Apparently Herr Maus has become a bit of a celebrity among the upper classes for his bizarre and, ahem, "novel" inventions. All too often among patrician society I've found things that the lower classes would be abhorred by. Things like social mores and the law simply don't matter to them. The depravity that some nobles engage in would fit perfectly in Elisime's realm in the Abyss. After a century and a half of seeing such things daily though, I have to admit I've lost much of my objectivity.

To even talk to Herr Maus we had to get an invite to one of the parties the nobles held for their "special" friends. That led us to a woodcarver, Michelle Sutor. Ostensibly she runs a simple business making bowls and pipes for smoking, among other things. But one glance at her shop shows she makes far more than a simple crafter should. Her showroom is one of ostentation with fine elven crafted furniture and display cases. Examples of her work include ivory and gold inlaid carvings, exotic woods like epe and bamboo as possible materials, and silk drapes with silver threads shot through. I could see how such high quality goods would explain how she could afford to be so flashy. But I'm also a trader and know what the costs of a lot of goods really are in the Core's markets. There's no way she could afford such high end materials without a very wealthy patron. Nor could she even get such goods, simply because the traders that do deal in them are so exclusive and selective with their customers.

When no one came from out back to greet us we went in back, only to find Michelle fast asleep at her work bench. A block of wood being carved into the shape of a very lifelike phallus lay on its side. Looking around I saw other, similar "bedroom items" like beads on silk thread, more exotic forms of the toy she was working on, leather and metal masks used in erotic bondage, and an assortment of chemicals and compounds that are reputed to be aphrodisiacs, though some were just plain narcotic.

Slamming my fist on her workbench seemed to wake up our crafter right quick. Although shocked and even angered to see us back there, she let me explain. At first she balked at the thought of betraying her best and most generous customers to some unknown man. A little gold and some offers for future business finally got her to open up about things. There was a party in three days at an estate half a mile outside of town. The Gardeme family was holding a very private ball with Werner Maus as the featured guest. Three days to get proper "attire" and train Maxine in the etiquette of such a party (strange as that may seem). Plus it would offer me a chance to find out more about what was going on. Were those who were involved all there of their own free will? Or was there a little slavery going on?

I already know I'll find examples of both cases. But the Gardeme family is the one I want to focus on. If it's all consensual then fine, enjoy. There is nothing wrong with such practices. Actually I may have to see if I can get into it on a more permanent basis. But if people are being forced then I'll be the first to draw blood.

Editor's Note: My sister and I find ourselves shocked by this revelation of Dementlieuese society. Shocked, and admittedly a little curious. Proper society can take a demanding toll on a person and the need for release is understandable. However I doubt we'll be joining such parties any time soon. We both feel such things should be kept between those who love each other. -- Gennifer Weathermay-Foxgrove

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Fri Sep 19, 2008 1:46 pm
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Chateaufaux, Dementlieu, July 14, 726 BC)
I found out a day after we talked to Mademoiselle Sutor that the part was "invitation only." That meant I had to get a real invitation and copy it (the means of which I won't go into here). Making a convincing forgery took me an entire day of careful craft and psionic manipulation. In the end they proved so effective that no one knew they were fakes, but I still felt my stomach drop whenever we were asked to show our "invitation."

The time it took to make a forged invitation meant I had even less time to instruct Maxine on the unique etiquette of a carnal gathering. I myself had to feel out the specifics once we got there. But, much like every other such party I've attended across the planes, the basics remained much the same. Even down to a system of "cues," using colored handkerchiefs to signal to others certain...ah, tastes. In this system a black and white sign was a sign of non-interest in actual participation, so I made sure that both of us had such handkerchiefs very prominently displayed on our outfits. As much fun as it would be to let loose and join in, we were there strictly on business.

After an hour or so of mingling (and watching Maxine struggle not to show her awe and horror at what she saw), our hosts finally deigned to make an appearance. Tellingly they were more modestly clothed than many of the other guests and didn't touch the wine being served. Instead they got to the business of introducing Herr Maus and having him show off his new toys for the amusement of the crowd. Among them was an example of electrostimulation using a hand-cranked generator and glass tube. I must admit to my own sense of amazement. Seeing something as advanced as that was a surprise for me.

Herr Maus himself appeared as refined young Lamordian gentleman, not the scraggly and wild-eyed monster I'd thought him to be. He was dressed in a fine dark brown suit and carried a wood cane. Although his Lamordian accent was a little thick, he spoke with great eloquence and knowledge of the things he was presenting. The almost detached manner in which he explained how his devices worked--using volunteers from the party--struck me as that of a doctor lecturing about a dissected cadaver. No passion, no disgust, only intellectual curiosity. Just looking at him one would never guess he was really a sadistic monster.

Towards the end of the party I finally managed to talk with the man. Once I mentioned the name Gaius Dilisnya, he was all too happy to talk. While his knowledge of who hired Gaius to attack my interests is spotty, he did fill in some gaps in my own knowledge. Gaius was cousin to Ivan Dilisnya, lord of Dorvinia. Apparently he had served as an assassin for him in the past and had fulfilled requests from Ivana Boritsi relayed through Ivan as well. He didn't know if Gaius was acting directly on Ivana's orders or if she was merely passing along someone else's request. Either way it was the end of my investigation. After hearing the rumors of what the Dark Twins are like I know I'd best cut my losses. Instigating their ire would be more even than I could handle.

So Ivan Dilisnya hired his cousin Gaius, for reasons unknown, to attack my company's Port-a-Lucine post before it could get started. Gaius botches the job and probably drew the wrath of his employer; an assassin who fails is assassinated themselves. If so then working for d'Honaire would be a move to protect himself. An agent of the Dementlieuese government being killed at the orders of Dorvinia's ruler would result in all sorts of trouble. Only Gaius is sent to investigate the Brain and ends up dead anyway when he's found out.

To say I'm aggravated by this turn of events would be a gross understatement. I've run around for almost two weeks in an attempt to trace the source of an attack I can do nothing about! But in the time we've been in Dementlieu, I received word that the female wizard with black hair has since disappeared again. That at least can be called a success. In time I'll be investigating her, but for now I just want to go back to simple Mordentshire.
(End transcript)

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Mon Sep 29, 2008 7:50 pm
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(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Mordentshire, Mordent, July 21, 726 BC)
From the hustle and bustle of Dementlieu to the sedentary calm of sleepy Mordent. I rather enjoy the quiet life here. Maxine wouldn't agree with me on that. I don't want her to leave, but I know I have to let her make her own choices. For now she's staying if only because she doesn't want to be away from me. As our love grows I wonder when she'll be taken away like every other woman I've let into my heart? I don't know if it's a curse or just really bad luck.

For now I've decided to focus on some pet projects of mine. The Archer Trading Company post in Port-a-Lucine hasn't been attacked lately and as a precaution I've hired some experienced adventurers to supplement the guards there. That leaves me free to investigate some of the things I saw at that party--a drug and a wine I've never seen before. Opium was there in vast amounts, mostly in the form of laudunum. Others I recognized as golden haze and osquip root. But people were most heavily taking in a lightly green tinted white wine and putting drops of a clear, viscous substance on their tongues using glass droppers. I managed to pocket a sample of both for later research.

The viscous substance was actually something I've seen before. The toxin exhuded by the crimson jelly is at once bizarre and miraculous. It induces intense feelings of sexual euphoria and triggers the climax. Victims engulfed by the jelly are alleviated of any pain they might have even as the jelly helps disinfect wounds and remove dead tissue. It actually eats any dead organic material as well as metal, but strangely not keratin proteins (hair, nails) still connected to a living body. Its oxygenated body means those engulfed can breathe and survive for long periods inside. This makes crimson jellies quite useful for medical reasons. On other worlds, armies would carry stone vats holding the creatures so the wounded could be relieved of their pain as well as having their wounds cleaned, and some doctors used them as anaesthetic and a way of handling infections. They're also used for waste disposal as they eat even waste and garbage, and they find city sewers to be perfect habitats--also performing a duty for the people above in a cycle that can become symbiotic over time. I used to wonder if these were artificially created beings, but I've also seen them in the wild. The trails they leave are so fertile that new plants grow within hours, even in the dead of winter.

Then there are those who prize the jellies just for their toxin's effects. But they usually just capture one and let it engulf them until it's done eating all the dirt and dead hair and skin off of them and spitting them out. None of the groups that do that have tried to isolate the toxin. Or maybe none of them have the expertise. A skilled chemist (or chymist) could do it. The drug being used was the toxin in its purest, most concentrated form. Such a concoction is potent--too potent, really. The drug increases users' ability to feel pleasure and creates feelings of intense love and affection that only the most potent magical potion could recreate--always towards the first person seen, which is why many users wear blindfolds until the drug wears off. In this respect it can "keep the flame burning" in a marriage of love, since it greatly and permanently increases love and devotion based on hormones. It's readily absorbed into the skin, but taking it on the tongue is common for maximizing how much is absorbed into the body and decreasing the time it takes to reach the brain.

But it has its downsides, besides its potential for misuse and abuse. In addition to being very addictive, every dose lowers one's fertility to the point of total sterility. Using too much at once, or prolonged use of high doses, can also cause psychosis and other mental problems.

The other substance I tried to find in over a dozen books of known wines in the Core. It wasn't even a book that told me what it is. Ren, interested in a game of chess, came into my study and recognized it. It's somnos wine, made from a plant native to Darkon. The berries themselves are a narcotic, but properly distilled the resulting wine can greatly lower inhibitions far more than other forms of alcohol. Azalin serves this wine at his annual parties at Avernus, and has created an antidote that will cause the imbiber to remember their drunken activities. This would be a way to gather blackmail material and help explain some of the lich's non-magical control over the populace. To a group of decadent hedonists this would be a convenient excuse to explain their worst proclivities, whether or not they actually had any of the wine.

With that mystery out of the way I deigned to a few rounds of chess. But I was just not on the ball today. She beat me six times, thrice under fifteen moves. My mind is preoccupied with memories long forgotten. Life as a gladiatorial and sex slave in the Abyss, of seeing and being compelled to do things against my will by true domination, and worst of all, the betrayal by the woman I loved. I was a fool to follow her into that plane, to believe I could redeem her when she was already so lost to her own hate and need for vengeance. Instead she led me into a trap and slavery. Janise Sungrass, once a cleric of Lathander, only to fall when petty church politics destroyed her family name.

These past two weeks have proven rather tiring. As much as I loathed the life of a slave, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I enjoyed certains parts of it. Now I've seen some of those things again and the desire to partake is quite overwhelming. Making love to Maxine helps to quell the hunger for a time, but it always returns. Perhaps I just need time to get it out of my system once more.
(End transcript)

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"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."


Thu Oct 02, 2008 1:58 pm
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